Category Archives: family

festELVI 2015 a garden celebration

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Last summer we had our first garden festival, FestELVI ! celebrating all that is good about summer, food, birthdays, veg patches and sick making hippy nonsense. Tents were erected, bunting hung from the trees and a bar built from 100% recycled wood dealt out summer cocktails all night long with a merry bunch of revelers partying into the wee small hours.

Elvi is my Barbara in my ‘good life’, a stubbornly creative, fiercely talented woman who has brought a ray of sunshine to my life, don’t say anything but I’m quite smitten. 

the naked garden

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I wish I had a greenhouse, I wish I had a patio for that matter, the area directly outside the house is more Steptoe than Gardeners world. The house and garden are still in a state of flux, extension possibilities, renovation work unfinished and a general accumulation of stuff all make for a rather stressed area. Money is a major factor, could I do it myself? possibly, can I afford it? no. Materials are another, I want to produce a house and garden than has been sustainably and holistically designed, however sometimes that means waiting longer to do something as that material needs to researched and sourced. The only way I can keep positive about it is to keep it productive, if it’s producing food then at least it’s doing something. I’m not looking for homes and gardens perfection but I also don’t want it to look like an allotment, I do have to look at it everyday.

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Drying sage to make tea

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It’s a good time of year to cut back sage stopping it getting woody and lanky, it’s also a great excuse for drying sage. We just cut the plant back to a few inches from the ground, remove the most woody stems then blitz in a mixer and leave out to dry. Chopping it up first allows it to dry quicker which is useful if you are air drying it. You can also do this in summer meaning you’ll get a fresh flush of leaves for autumn.

This year it is going to form part of my wild and garden teas experiment. We drink loads of tea, black and fruit but we make very little of it ourselves which seems strange as we have a go at making most other things. I’m going to be trying out different herbal teas and also experiment in making my own black tea. I can see the sower faces I will be pulling in the near future but hopefully I can find some alternatives to shop bought teas that will become new favorites.

Sage Tea (Salvia Officinalis).  As a herbal infusion it has many medicinal properties. Sage acts as a relaxant for nervous disorders and depression, also as a disinfectant / antiseptic in the treatment of mouth ailments and stomach pains, it’s also good for brain function.

http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-sage.html

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The taste is not as strong as I’d first thought but I can’t seem to get the taste of a roast dinner out of my head, not entirely a bad thing. I shall wait for the brain function to begin.

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Kale Yard soup

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I I feel that finally I’ve cracked winter and spring green growing for years I’d had a few successes but never enough to make more than a token gesture at dinner time. Its the end of February and we’ve had Leeks, Artichokes, Salad leaf and 5 types of brassica all ready for the kitchen for the past few months. In a bid to celebrate this bounty I decided to make a ‘half the garden soup’ with what I had to hand in the veg patch.

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5 Cabbage Kale Yard Soup

Bunch of Cavolo Nero

Bunch of Russian Kale

Bunch of Curly Kale

Bunch of Spring Cabbage

Bunch of left over Wild Cabbage or you could use Purple sprouting Broccoli leaves

5 Leeks

4 medium Potatoes (the last of my pink fur apples I had in store/had forgotten about)

5 cloves of Garlic

Veg or Chicken stock

Sprig of sage and thyme

Wash and chop the leeks, Crush the Garlic and add to a large pan with a knob of butter and the chopped herbs, let them all sweat. As that’s doing its thing wash and remove the tougher stalks from the Cavolo Nero and the Curly kale but the others should be fine as they soften quicker, chop then add them to the pan. This allows them to wilt. Next add your stock. At this point I put the soup into a food mixer as we don’t have a hand blender, with the potato and blitz keeping a bit of texture. Add a vigorous twist of black pepper and a pinch of salt and simmer for 10 mins. You could add chilli which would have been good but I wanted the taste of the garden.

Serve with cream if your greedy like me, and a huge crusty bread. done grew it ate it!

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Suburban fuel foraging

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The gas bill arrived today and for the first time I didn’t tut, it was in fact cheaper than last year, partly to do with a so called ‘reduction’ in prices but the exact amount of gas we’ve used is half! from 5625 kWh to 2509 kWh. I put this down to two things, 1 we didn’t use the central heating until November and 2 we’ve been using the wood burner more than last year. Using the stove not only to heat the house but cook on has made a massive difference.

Having a wood stove is seen by some as a middle class toy or only for those lucky few who live in the countryside but if you care about your environment and want to save money I’d say you can’t go wrong. After the initial cost of instillation your next issue is fuel cost, there’s no point saving on gas if your spending hundreds of pounds on fuel, that’s when they become a toy.

I used to think that the only way to be totally self-sufficient in fuel was to live in the countryside because where else did wood come from? However having spent a year living in a small hamlet I realize the country mouse is not always better off than his townie cousin. If you live in a house surrounded by fields it might be beautiful but your access to fuel is limited to your nearest woodland, which may or my not be private or even someone’s livelihood, on the other hand living in the town opens up a mass of free fuel opportunities.

You don’t have to walk far in the suburbs to find a skip, these are the suburban foragers friends the trick is to see whatever’s inside as a potential fuel. As long as it’s not MDF or chipboard it’s free warm for you. I used to walk past skips that didn’t have pallets in but now a broken chair, carpenters off cuts, anything wooden gets brought home and chopped up.

Pallets are an obvious one and many places are more than happy for you to take them off their hands, just remember to ask first some companies reuse them. It’s surprising how a few pallets can heat your house for an evening. Another place to look is charity, junk and auction houses they often have things which are unsellable or broken, most places will happily give you something that’s destined for the tip.

Last year a neighbours tree blew down in a storm so I offered to saw it up for them if I could keep the wood he was only too happy and we ended up with about a weeks worth of fuel. Every time we go out for a walk in a park or in the woods around the city I make sure I at least pick up one piece of wood however small, if you do it all year you’ll soon have a ready supply. I’m going to have to get a trailer for my bike or perhaps a trolley so that I don’t miss out next time I leave the house, having set my foragers eye for fuel as well as food has made me realize I should never need buy fuel again.

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Next years fuel is stacking up nicely we are aiming to fill this by the end of the year.

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