Harvest time

 

tomatoesWas it only in my last post, that I was waxing lyrical about Late Summer colours??  All of a sudden, the tomato plants are brown and crispy, and their fruits are ripening on the windowsills.  Well, some of them are…greentoms

…some of them clearly weren’t going to make it, so I harvested all the ones growing in the  veg beds – which to be honest were always a bit of a long shot!  Since I’m now living back in Herefordshire there seems to be no shortage of apples either, so there was only one thing to be done:tomchutney

Spicy, sweet, apple & tomato chutney – yum!  I know you’re meant to leave it a month at least to mature, but I had half a jar left over and I couldn’t very well waste it, could I?  Great with mature cheddar in a sandwich, I can vouch!  Many thanks to Cook Sister for the recipe, which you can find HERE.

Every year I always grow lots of basil plants, because fresh basil and tomato salad is one of my VERY favourite things to eat!  And every year there comes a time when I have to concede that summer really is over and it’s getting too cold for basil plants, and I harvest all the leaves and make one of my other very favourite things to eat, fresh pesto.  I like to grow lettuce-leaf basil, but these are rather tender, and last year I strung it out until the leaves had started to turn before I finally gave in and harvested them.  The resulting pesto was pretty bleh, so: lesson learned!

With the lovely warm weather we’ve had lately, I hung on til October 5 this year.  How’s this for a great harvest?  Can you believe that all these leaves…basil

mush down to just this much pesto??pesto

Still, it was enough for 2 dinners, a supper, and a small tubful for the freezer.  And I have to say, it was DELICIOUS!  (My pesto recipe: basil leaves, fresh garlic, sea salt, black pepper, olive oil, ground almonds, chopped cashews, grated parmesan.  Whizz the leaves, garlic, and oil with the blender til mushy, add everything else to taste and whizz some more til it looks like this).

The garden’s been full of surprises this year, not least these luscious elderberries which were the result of me not lopping the elder bush in the hedge earlier in the summer because I wanted to the bees to have the flowers.elderberries

Virtue has its own reward, huh?! (And yes, I did leave some berries for the birds!).jam

The jam recipe is from a lovely book that I’ve had since my 20s, ‘A Country Harvest’ by Pamela Michael.  It’s probably one of the most-used cookbooks I own, and if like me you love picking fruit from the hedges and wild foods, I highly recommend it.

So what with my runner bean chutney, made last month, and redcurrant jelly from gift of redcurrants (thanks, Penny!) all that’s left now is to store the squashes and pickle the beetroots, and get good and fat over the winter!preserveparade

Wishing you all a totally delicious week 🙂

I’m Back!

flowergardenHELLOOOO Blogosphere!!!  I’m back!  I have emerged from The Summer of Broken Technology at last!  First, my 3-days-out-of-warranty Canon Powershot (yes, I am Naming Names) camera broke; then my laptop died; then my strimmer collapsed as well.  As you can see from the length of the lawn in the above pic, taken with my trusty 9 year old Sony Cybershot (again Naming Names!).  What a ride!

Anyway thanks to our local Hero of a computer Wizard, my laptop at least has happily been restored & I’m back in business.  Oh, I have MISSED my little blog-world, and reading all my fave people’s blogs, too.  But don’t think I’ve been sat here pining away for Pinterest and iPlayer though, there’s been lots of crochet, gardenening, and out-and-abouting going on.  How about a quick picture round-up? – Go on, you know you want to!

Early in July, I went off for a long weekend retreat at Tir Heddwch led by Val Young.  Val is an incredibly talented artist, healer, and meditation leader, you can find out more about her work here.  A truly amazing, inspiring weekend…

TirHeddwchTeepee…I also finished the Blue Waves Blanket in time for a visit to my folks’ mid-July, so I was able to present it to my mum.  She was delighted with it and loved the colours, even the little bit of purple I sneaked in!  I didn’t get to take many pics due to the camera fiasco, but this is the finished article, just before it got packed up for the journey…bluewavesfinishedthe garden has really come into its own over July & August, and despite the slow start, the flower border has been looking pretty spectacular…gardenborders…while the veg garden has been feeding me extremely well!……veggarden…after finishing a crochet project, I always find there are lots of oddments of yarn left over.  What to do with them?  Well, these little solid granny squares from Attic 24 have used up my Purple Waves blanket leftovers, and were really nice to sit and do in the garden on sunny days…purplesquares…but I have my aunt to thank for another stash-busting inspiration.  In fact, my aunt is an inspiration in herself!  In her late 70s, with arthritis in both hands, she still knits squares for the wonderful orphan charity, KAS (Knit-A-Square).  If you haven’t come across these lovely folk before, do take a look at their website.  It’s not just knitters they want!  You can crochet squares for them too, like these in super-chunky yarn that work up in no time …KASchunkysquares…or why not try making something from one of their free patterns?  See if you recognise some of the yarn I’ve used here to make the pieces for a funky kids’ pullover…bluewavesfront…these are great little ‘portable’ projects to take out & about with you.  I’ve been off on a few dog-sitting weekends for some close friends this summer, and it’s been lovely to sit with a cup of tea, a basket of yarn, a soppy dog and THIS view (even though it’s mostly been raining whenever I’ve been there!)…BrynTeganview…of course small projects are great, but I can’t resist the lure of another blanket!  I’ll save the details for a separate post, but this might possibly be my BRIGHTEST blanket yet…

test&chain.jpgI hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer, and are looking forward to the bank holiday here in the UK, and a glorious autumn.  Thanks to all for bearing with me during my hiatus, it’s very good to be back!

Wishing you all a bright sunshiney week 🙂

May Daze

BluebellTastic

May is one of my favourite months!  I love the energy of this time of year, all the trees coming into leaf and flowers opening, the feeling that everything is gushing with life. The gorgeous scents of bluebells and tree blossom! Going out without a coat!  Warm enough for picnics but not yet for hayfever!  Plus, it’s my birthday month, what’s not to love??  (Apart from being reminded about getting older, that is!)

To celebrate Beltane (Mayday), and in defiance of said ageing, I decided it was time to lop my long locks.  I’ve not had a major re-style for many years and I felt like a change.  Wow, did I feel LIGHTER when I walked out of the salon!  I’m still getting used to it but I think I like it.  In fact I might go even shorter next time…hairbefore&after

…earlier in the month, some friends very kindly came and rotovated the last bit of the garden for me, so that I could get on with making the ‘potager’ beds for the main section of the kitchen garden.  Here it is, freshly rotovated (and pre-compost bin)…rotovation...and here it is last week, just before my back gave out on me…postrotovator

…on what was probably the hottest day of the year so far, two of my lovely friends from the Dyfi Valley came for a visit and we spent a gorgeous afternoon picnicking in nearby Hergest Croft arboretum and walking in the bluebell woods…BluebellTastic2

…I also went to a plant fair, where I met the folk from Broomy Hill Enchanted Gardens.  Annette makes living sculptures out of plants (mostly native, organically grown), natural materials and found objects, called ‘Emplantments’.  These photos don’t do justice to this magical piece, and I’m looking forward to visiting the gardens later in the summer to see some more …emplantment1emplantment2…and then there was my birthday!  I actually came down with a coldy/virus thing that week, so I was feeling a bit flat and didn’t get to go away camping as hoped.  But I was so thoroughly spoiled with cards, pressies, and general loved-up-ness that I ended up having a very good day indeed…birthday...so what with lurgie-recovery and back pain, it’s been a quiet end to the month for me.  I did manage to get out for a short walk before the rain set in though, and in the fields behind our town I came across this sweet little duck pond, although the ducks were not impressed by my presence and declined to be photographed…duckpondAnd finally, this month marks a whole YEAR of picture round-ups!  I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them as much as I’ve enjoyed doing them, it’s a lovely way to remind yourself of your best days and achievements in a month, and I thoroughly recommend it as a practice.  Thanks to everyone, as always, for reading, and for your lovely comments and emails.  I do appreciate it very much!

Here’s looking forward to a long and dreamy summer! 🙂

Things I’ve been making this month

bluewaves#63Aloha, I hope you’re all having a lovely May and managing to squeeze in a bit of creative time, in whatever form takes your fancy!  As well as taking time out from the Blue Waves blanket (stripe No 63 in this pic, but 65 today!) to make some crochet  bunting, I’ve also been playing around with other kinds of making these last couple of weeks.

As reported last month, I am obsessed with my new garden at the moment.  Having cleared a HUGE pile of weeds that got thrown into a heap as I went along, I decided it was high time I had a proper compost bin.  I’d rootled through the ‘no good for anything but the bonfire’ woodpile at Tir Heddwch on my last visit and selected some choice pieces for this project, so with a wobbly hammer, some nails, a bowsaw and my trusty motto “How hard can it be?”, I set about the task!compostbinThe wonkiest compost bin known to Gardeningkind? – Well, quite possibly, but nevertheless I was pretty chuffed with myself and it does the job!

I’ve been getting a bit creative in the kitchen too, but don’t expect to see any baking pictures here!  Instead I’ve been cooking up some lovely rich moisturiser and sun protection balm, using natural ingredients.  Both use a simple cocoa butter/beeswax/oil recipe, there are lots out there but see this YouTube video for a very easy how-to.  For the moisturiser I added lavender and bergamot essential oils, and the sun balm is made using wheatgerm oil (SPF20) and carrot seed essential oil (SPF40), plus some lavender to mask the truly yucky smell of the carrot seed oil!  Really.  Trust me on this.

herbalmoisturiser

And what could be better than garden and kitchen together?!  I picked my first teeny bit of produce last week, which was exceptionally pleasing:  1stvegOK, so it was only enough for a little bit of side-salad, but I tell you what, the flavours in this chard, radish, & chive combo put everything else on my plate to shame!  Yummmm….!1stsaladHave a delicious weekend, everyone! 🙂

 

April Delights

HergestGateAloha everyone, and welcome to my picture round-up for April.  And what a GLORIOUS month it’s been here in the Marches!  It’s honestly been the most beautiful spring I can remember for years.  My little house and (not-so-little!) garden have been giving me so much to smile about this month, but the warm weather has also seen me out and about visiting some of my favourite places and people…

…A million years ago when I lived here in my 20s/early30s and my friend Arainn & I used to work as volunteers for Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, we spent a lot of time at the (then) newly-acquired nature reserve Burfa Bog, making stock-proof fences, coppicing overgrown trees and clearing brambles.  I went back there on Easter weekend, and was delighted to find that one of our toughest bramble-infested areas is now covered in wild primrose…burfa1

…on another glorious day, I went out for a lovely local walk and came across THE most idyllic cottage-spot!  These are definitely my favourites so far…KnillCottages…as mentioned in yesterday’s post, there’s not been a lot of sewing or crochet going on this month, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy…ColdFrameSeedlings

…one of the best things about living back here is being able to pop round to visit old mates and see what’s happening at their places.  About 12 years ago, I helped plant some trees on some friends’ land, including this one that I grew from a conker that had sprouted.  As you can see, it’s very happy in its hillside home!…RowansTree

…I also went back up to the Dyfi Valley for the annual SeedSwap event at Bro Dyfi Gardens.  It was great to catch up with friends there, and to have a look around the beautiful gardens created by volunteers on the site.  And buy some plants, of course…BroDyfiWoodlandFaces…so, hmm, yes: I do seem to have gone a bit garden-crazy this month!  The sunshine has definitely seen my health improving a bit, and it has been so lovely to spend time outdoors, soaking up the spring energy.  And just in case you were thinking this post was a bit short on colour, I will leave you with these amazing plants that grow all through the ponds and streams in our local Park Wood… they’re called Skunk Cabbage, can you guess why??skunkcabbageWishing you all a very colourful holiday weekend, and a magical month of May! 🙂

March from The Marches

HaywoodLambsHello!  Well here we are at Easter, and I don’t know about you but I’m very glad to think that spring is just around the corner.  It’s been a mixed month, the house move certainly took its toll on my health and energy levels, and together with getting things liveable, there hasn’t been a lot going on creatively.  But being here is lovely, and in between the last wintery days there have been little pockets of spring promise!

…it was a WARM sunshiney day when I went back to the Dyfi Valley to visit Tir Heddwch, and we were able to sit outside and eat lunch with a glorious view up the mountain…TirHeddwch…and on the next sunny day, I visited one of my favourite places in Wales, now just half an hour’s drive from my house!  Points if you recognise where it is…PwllYWrach…but it was a rainy day when I sat by the window with some yarn scraps, glue, and card-making things to make a crochet card.  I had great fun with this, have more planned, and will do a full post soon….CardBits…a brilliantly sunny morning for the SOLAR ECLIPSE!  I sat in my garden and had a spectacular view of it all happening, it was amazing to see.  Turns out however that you can’t photograph eclipses by pointing your camera straight at the sun.  Who knew…?

spottheeclipse…and speaking of gardens, I’ve been re-acquainting myself with that favourite old winter/early spring pastime: browsing seed catalogues and seed-swaps with friends!  Not that I’ve had any to swap myself this year, but I’ve been given so many by my lovely friends that I should be a seedionairre by the end of the season!  Thank you so much Jas, Graeme, Mary, Annie, and Helen… seedy…it’s been a wet and windy week so far, but no Spring in the Marches would be complete without going out to say hello to these little cuties, now would it??Ewe&lambs

Wishing you all a very happy Easter and Full Moon weekend, I shall refrain from  making any baaaaad puns (oops, sorry!) 😉