Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Lost Cornish Garden

I have a Cornish 'bucket list' of things I want to see and do, I have crossed off a good deal of them but  one of those things was to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan.


We woke up on Sunday and as is our custom, we watched a gardening program as we sipped our tea before getting ready for church. We usually watch Gardeners World but this past week they did not record an episode as they were all at the Hampton Court Flower Show. Instead, BBC screened 'Heligan: Secrets of the Lost Garden'. It was the most delightful look at the gardens and the wildlife within them over the period of a year. We decided right there and then that we were going to hop into the car as soon as we were ready and drive down to Cornwall and spend the day at Heligan. We live about an hours drive so it's not very far.

Those kind of spontaneous trips are just the best don't you think? There is an air of excitement as you all bundle up into the car and set off on an unplanned trip. We haven't done one of these in a long time so we were well overdue.


The Woodland Walk was something I've always wanted to visit because they have these really interesting features. Above is the Mud Maid, a sculpture of a sleeping woman looming out of the ground. Ivy grows on her head, torso and legs, clothing her in living garments.


Then there is the Giants Head, part of which was originally a fallen tree that was just too hard to dispose of. I thought that these creatures that reside in the Ancient Woodland would be my highlight but you will not be surprised to hear that my favourite part was, in fact, the Kitchen Garden.


No matter which National Trust property we visit or which splendid garden we walk through, it is the kitchen and the kitchen garden that totally captivates me every time.


I love seeing fruit and veg growing because they are the very things needed to nourish and nurture your family, and that's what I'm all about, my family. I would adore a walled kitchen garden where flowering, medicinal and edible plants all grow happily together.


To harvest not only food but also plants that can ward off ills deeply appeals to me. It's been a while since I visited such a beautiful garden and while since I have felt so inspired. Visiting Heligans kitchen gardens seriously sparked that old familiar pull to dig in the earth, plant and grow. It awakened the urge to create and explore.


Something as simple as seeing the gardeners potting shed, or a stack of terracotta pots standing against a sunny wall waiting to be used is very comforting to me. I think it's because when you are in a potting shed, or in the garden, you are usually left alone to your own thoughts. It gives you time to ponder and think. As you fill your earthen pots with life-giving soil and drop a tiny dry seed in, you are connecting yourself with a life-cycle that really is quite marvellous! To grow something from seed and care for it, watching it grow and producing food that is good is a wonderful process to be a part of.


I love that the birds join you in your garden, often it's a little robin (my favourite) who hops near to see if any worms pop up as you dig over the earth. Look at this sweet little fellow above, it's a fledgling robin and he was not afraid of us at all - robins are generally known to be the gardener's friend because they love to be around as you did the earth, hoping for a juicy worm.


Look at these ladders propped up against the wall to make harvesting the fruit easier. I love that they popped boards painted with blackboard paint into the frames to prevent curious little ones from having a climb. Brilliant idea.


Now tell me you wouldn't want a green/glass house like this to grow your tomatoes or peaches in! I love that the shelves and walls are used to display little posies of sweet peas or a squash or two from the garden. 


I haven't grown nasturtiums for years! Why I wonder?? It's too late to grow them this year but they will certainly be a feature in next years garden!


After walking around the kitchen and flower garden we stopped at a tea room for an ice-cream and came across two baskets outside filled with picnic rugs. I LOVE this idea. I have a pin on my Autumn Pinterest board that is quite similar except it is filled with warm blankets. This winter I will definitely have a basket of blankets with a sweet sign as part of my practical decor.


Last little snippet before I sign off, this (above) is the head gardeners office - I mean seriously!!! How adorable, I totally want an office like this. In the eves just before you enter this office look who is living in a carefully constructed mud nest...


A family of Swallows! Mum and dad waited patiently while people popped in and out to have a look at the office, as soon as we were out they rushed to the nest to feed their little ones with insects gathered from the garden. These little babies were so curious about the stream of visitors though, they peered over the side of their nest, standing tall as if craning to watch us. What a delight!

If you would like to see the rest of the pictures from our trip to The Lost Gardens of Heligan then do visit my Flickr page where I have many more pictures from our visit. If you are ever in Cornwall I highly recommend visiting the gardens, they are simply magical.

Monday, July 09, 2018

A Round-up of Summer Harvest & Preserving Posts


We are hitting our garden produce stride at the moment and when you have an abundance of something, whether it is homegrown or in season and available in the supermarkets, I believe in taking every opportunity to preserve the harvest.

This is one of the great summer rituals that stretches into autumn. My preserving year usually starts with making Elderflower Cordial at the beginning of June and finishes with an abundance of apple, blackberry and pumpkin preserving marathons in October. By the time Bonfire Night comes round the preserving season has drawn to a close and I begin to look forward to making Christmas cakes and mince for mince pies.

Over the years I've written quite a few posts on making preserves and harvesting from my garden so I thought a single post with a roundup of those posts would be nice. I like revisiting past posts sometimes don't you? So as we once again ready ourselves for this season of abundance lets take look at some of those posts.



Summer Harvesting and Preserving Posts From the Archives:

* Late August Harvest 2017
* Storing Summers Bounty 2017
* Summers Bounty: Harvested and Preserved 2016
* Of Hearth & Home: Preserving Seasonal Produce 2015

This link is not from my blog but it is an excellent post to read if you are new to preserving or canning. Read 4 Ways to Preserve Your Summer Harvest

Recipes

Strawberry Jam
* Lemon Curd
* Elderflower Cordial

Most of my recipes and ideas come from the wealth of inspiration on Pinterest so check out my Preserving and Canning board for lots more ideas.


Recommendations


I have built up a lovely collection of necessary tools over my years of making jams and chutneys. I started off with a really good preserving pan and some recycled jars collected over time or foraged off friends. Slowly, I added some really nifty tools that I wouldn't be without now so if you are new to preserving and wanting to buy the basics this is what I would recommend:

1. Preserving Pan

A really good preserving pan is a must. You must use either a stainless steel pan or an enamelled one. Aluminium can react with ingredients like vinegar which can give your preserves an 'off' taste. You will also want one that can hold volume so something like this pan below would be perfect. For those of you who live in the UK, you will find places like The Range usually stock a great preserving line around this time of year.


2. Jam Funnel

This is such a help when bottling your preserves. Before I added this nifty little thing to my preserving tools I would spill sticky preserves all down the side of my jars and have to clean it up once it cooled. Using a jam funnel makes the whole process much more civilised.


3. Sugar Thermometer

I have to admit that I don't own a sugar thermometer. I'm sure that if I did it would make my job a whole lot easier and perhaps that will be this year's addition to my preserving tool-set.  I usually use the cold saucer method to check for setting point. Most often it works but last years jam was tipped over setting point and thus it is a stiffer, harder jam than I would have liked.



4.  Jam Jar Tongs

These are a must for handling hot jars! I use them to move around just sterilised jars as well as for handling filled jars while in the process of sealing them in a water bath. My first two years of preserving I did not have them and was trying to move hot jars with tea towels or oven mitts. I can't tell you how many times I tipped the jars over with this clumsy method and created a lovely mess for myself. Get the tongs!


5. Jars

Of course, this is a pretty important item to have. I usually recycle my jars like I mentioned but for chutney's and pickles you need to have new lids as the vinegar tends to eat away at the seals and lids. Don't reuse those. The glass jar is fine to reuse but buy new seals and rings if you are using Kilner jars, otherwise, you will need to invest in new jars each season for those more corrosive preserves


6. Wax Discs

This is used as an extra seal. You place them wax side down on the jam when it is still warm. The wax then melts slightly forming a wax skin which then hardens when the jam is cool. It is supposed to keep out the spores that can cause mould.


I hope that you have found this post informative but most of all I hope it has inspired you to give preserving a go. Remember, you don't have to grow all your own fruit and veg to preserve, take advantage of what's in season in the supermarkets.

Blessings to you all...

Saturday, July 07, 2018

The Joys of Summer

I'd almost forgotten the thrill of seeing an 'Etsy Transactions' mail land in my inbox! I think that the little break from running my own business was just what I needed to ignite the spark once again. I'm beginning to see that I need to schedule in time annually to take a break from my yarn dying and knitting. I seem to naturally have stages of being very involved in these activities and then really needing a break. 


I suppose that must be one of the keys to running a successful business at home. It is so easy to just go full-tilt 356 days a year. In the outside working world, people make sure that they have time off for holidays and weekends are reserved for home/family/hobbies - not seen as the time to get more work done. That's a sure-fire way to burn out which is exactly what I did!


I am slowly building up my yarn stock again so hopefully, my shop will be well stocked with favourites and new colours soon. I feel very blessed to be able to have this little business and the way my customers have welcomed my dying efforts back has been touching. Every Skein I dye will end up going to someone who will invest time and effort into transforming it into something lovely. Isn't that a nice thought?


Gosh! Let me tell you...it has been super warm this summer so far. Ugh! I definitely don't function to my full potential in this heat. That's not to say I'm not enjoying it because I am. I'm just noticing that I'm not running at optimum levels 😁. I'm not generally a weather-whinger because I always try to appreciate each season and what it has to offer to the fullest. And look what it has to offer us in our very own garden... the raspberries are doing so well. We are harvesting at least a handful a day and they are delicious. I will never buy shop-bought again. They are incomparable to homegrown. So where ever we are I will make sure I have a raspberry bed.


My pergola is heavy with climbing roses intertwining with sweet peas and clematis. The scent is just heavenly, especially late in the evening as the sun is setting and things are finally cooling down. I lie in bed with the windows flung wide open and the mixed floral scents drift in on the cool breeze. What a little summer joy!


The apples are coming along rather nicely too. I wasn't sure we would have many apples this season because the tree wasn't exactly laden with blossom in the spring. It's an old tree riddled with canker and is living on borrowed time to be fair. So any fruit would have been appreciated. I do love an apple tree in the garden, there's something about it. I think it might be since reading the most delightful book called The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill. It has nothing to do with magic, rather the apple tree in her country garden forms the anchor in a year-long narrative of the country year. It's one of my favourite books to read. I'm busy reading it for the 2nd time, it's just lovely!



Another summer joy is being able to sit out until 9pm and watch the garden still buzzing with life. The birds and insects seem to make the most of these long summer days. I wonder if this rather warm summer will mean a cold winter for us this year. I love country-lore, you know, that wisdom that country folk used to have that came from observing nature and the patterns of the seasons. 


I hardly see my cats at the moment. They like to stay out all night and then mew at my window in the early hours to be let in so they can catch a few hours of sleep in comfort before heading outdoors again. One can hardly blame them, there must be so many interesting things to silently observe whilst hiding in the hedgerows and meadows.


I love to have flowers in my home and late spring and summer provide me with an abundance of cut flowers. It's only from late autumn through to early spring that I have to buy flowers from my supermarket, although I do try to plan spring bulbs in the autumn to force and enjoy during the Christmas period and into the dark days of January. My favourite has to be hyacinths. 

This week we are enjoying bouquets of lavender, sweet peas and delicate heads of cow parsley. I have some daylilies about to bloom so they will make their way into a vase indoors next week sometime.

I know I missed my Frugal Friday post but that was by design. I'm thinking of rather making it a monthly post, I love living a frugal life and looking for ways to better utilise what God has blessed us with so I want to keep this little series going. I don't want to run out of ideas 😉. If you have any frugal questions or topics you would like to hear my thoughts on then please do leave them in my comments.

Have a lovely weekend all. I'll be back here next week.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Frugal Friday :: Planning Ahead


We are a hop, skip and a jump away from July. More than halfway through the year already. The school year is drawing to a close, summer is stretching out ahead and as we stand on its doorstep it seems that summer will last forever. I don't want to be fooled by this illusion. I know that before we know it, we will be rushing around getting children ready for the new school year, we will slip into a new season as we hurtle towards the end of the year. 


 I've been watching my local farmer over the last few weeks. Do you know what he has been doing? He's getting ready for winter. Seems ridiculous but he is. I've watched up cut, toss, dry and bale the silage, fodder for his animals this coming winter. It got me to thinking about the cold months that will come sooner than we think and how I could be better prepared.

Usually, I don't give this much thought but this past winter changed that a little for me. We moved into an older, less heat-efficient house. Our heating system, like a lot of rural homes in England, runs off oil so I need to monitor the oil tank levels and make sure that I have enough to run the heating. It is rather surprising how quickly we can deplete our oil tank! I was rather horrified at our heating bills over winter and determined that I was going to put a plan in place for the next winter.

The second incident that has given me cause to pause and think was the unusual occurrence of snow in Devon. The snowfall caused a power outage in our area, thankfully it was only for about 10 hours but 10 hours can seem an eternity when you have no heating or way of cooking. We have a wood burning stove and if I had been more prepared I would have had ample wood on hand to ensure a warm home and a way of being able to at least make a cup of tea. As it turns out, I was NOT prepared and after a few uncomfortable cold hours knocked on my neighbour's door who very kindly had a whole lot of wood pallets that they gave us. A true and rather embarrassing story!

And finally, I seemed to struggle with finding a good cost effective way of getting all my washing dry. I started off hanging everything on clothes horses and using a blow heater directed at the wet washing. This sent our electricity bills through the roof. Then I moved the clothes horses into the orangery and had to re-wash everything because the plants that reside in the orangery make wet clothing take on a rather yucky aroma.

My Winter Prep Plan


1.  Our boiler pretty much gave up the ghost after the power outage and is running on borrowed time. This is a bit of a blessing in disguise as we are having a new boiler installed in July - a more energy-efficient boiler. I'm hoping that will help keep winter fuel costs down.

2.  Purchase a full tank of Oil now and keep putting money away monthly to fill it up again mid-way through winter.

3.  Collect firewood & Build up Coal store - I saw a man down the road today advertising free firewood. I will pop in over the weekend to find out more about that and load up as much as I can. What I can't forage I will have to buy in. I've found a good supplier to I will order a pallet of wood in August. I will also buy in coal in September. Spreading the cost of winter fuel throughout the year eases the financial burden over the long cold winter.

4.  I've already purchased a bigger clothes horse and I will be purchasing a few radiator hangers. I am trying to avoid buying a tumble dryer as these add to the energy consumption. Ensuring that the washing does not build up and making my heating sources work for me is what I will be concentrating on in this area this winter.

5. Winter curtains. In order to keep the heat in I will hang a curtain in front of exterior doors. These can be pulled aside in the day but will help keep out cold drafts.

Do you have any winter fuel saving tips? If so I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Yarn News

On Monday I dyed up the last 5 skeins of yarn that I had left. I quite enjoyed doing so. I'm not 100% sure that I will continue dying yet, I'd like to but it will depend on how they sell I suppose.


Summer is usually a slower time for yarn sales anyway. Perhaps I will just buy in a smaller quantity of undyed yarn to be on the safe side and stock my Etsy Shop for the autumn. 


I've dyed up some favourite colourways such as "Blackberrying in September" and "Fireside".


And a new colourway called "Summer Freckles" which is basically just loads of speckles in various colours.


All are sock yarn/fingering weight, the Blackberrying and Fireside colours are on a Superwash Merino/Nylon/Stillena base and the Freckles is on a Superwash Merino/Nylon base. 

Happy Wednesday to you all...