Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Foraging for Mushrooms

                                                        Field mushroom

                                                       Field mushrooms
              Love the way the mushrooms have grown around the flute playing pixie!

                                                     Puffball mushroom

Check this book out - River cottage mushroom handbook by John Wright.

Collecting and eating wild mushrooms is a potentially dangerous activity.
It should only be carried-out by those with the knowledge and experience to identify mushrooms correctly.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mayonannaise recipe.

This mayonnaise is cooked, so hopefully will prevent anyone getting any nasty tummy upsets, which I think is important when making your own condiments that may not be eaten immediately.

Combine egg yolks, water and vinegar in a food blender, next very slowly add the extra virgin olive oil, I suggest drop by drop, to prevent curdling.
Transfer the mayo into a saucepan and place over another larger saucepan of boiling water.  heat until around 160F - 71oc
Remove from the heat, cool and then transfer to a clean container and store in the fridge, this mayonnaise will keep for up to 5 days.

You can try different variations too to the prepared mayonnaise.
  • tsp of English mustard.
  • 1.2 tsp smoked paprika and 1/2 tsp chili powder.
  • 3 tsp of pesto
  • 3 cloves of garlic pureed

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Italian pesto Recipe

Place all the ingredients except salt in a blender, until it forms a thick paste.
Add a little salt to taste before serving if desired.

There as simple as that, ready to use with pasta, pizza and anything else you fancy.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Sloe Gin recipe

                                                     Devon Sloes  2011

How to make sloe gin.

Collect around 450g of sloe berries
Prick your sloes with a needle. Mind numbing I know!
Tip them into sterilised bottles, fill with fruit to around a third of the way up. Divide 350g of caster between the bottles and top up with gin. 
Place the sealed bottles somewhere cool and dark. Leave for 8-10 weeks, turning the bottle occasionally, giving it a shake every week.

There you go, ready just in time for christmas!!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Autmun Hedgehog Orphans .

Orphaned  hoglets  (baby hedgehogs)

Some hedgehogs have late litters, in September or even October, this will mean that they will leave the nest in winter. They will be faced with finding enough food to eat, which is particularly difficult in winter months. They have to double their size and create enough fat stores for  hibernation.
You can sometimes see baby hedgehogs looking for food in broad daylight.

A baby hedgehog  will need to be at least 1lb in weight to survive, if they hibernate before reaching this they probably wont survive.

I agree that taking them into captivity can be controversial, but once the babies have gained enough weight they can be released, this will need to be done during a mild period and ensure that there is enough dry nesting material so they can build their winter home.

The  website mentioned below really informative and explains what do if you find a baby hedgehog and lots of general information on hedgehogs....so click and take a look!


Monday, 24 October 2011

winter wildlife tips

You and your family need food, water and warm shelter - wildlife do too.
There are lots of little things you can do to help the wildlife in your garden this winter.

  • RSPB advise feeding your garden birds through the winter months as they will be struggling to find food.
  • Place feeders about 10 feet from shrubs, or other places where cats might be.
  • Make sure your bird feeders are keeping the seeds dry. If seeds get wet, remove and replace with new this will prevent mold growth, clean regular to prevent disease.
  • Provide water for wildlife this is almost as important as food through winter.
  • Plan to Plant trees and shrubs that are native to your area and many can provide winter berries, other food sources, shelter and nesting sites.
  • Avoid cutting back hedges and leave a band of un-mown grass along it, this provides shelter and food.
  • Allow some of your plants to go to seed to provide winter food for seed-eating birds.
  • Be careful not to disturb creatures,when you are tidying and preparing for winter or they can waste energy trying to find a new habitat.
  • Make sure there are plenty of places to take shelter - dense shrubs, wood piles, long grass, rock piles.


European hedgehog tips. 
  • If burning garden leaves or refuse use a  incinerator or move the pile just before setting fire to it. This should prevent any hedgehogs that have made a home in the rubbish being harmed.
  • Hedgehogs are getting ready or may have already begun to hibernate at this time of the year . During hibernation a hedgehogs will wake up several times, and if you see one it is a good idea to offer food and water, then, if there are no signs of problems, let the little fella go on its way.
  • Keep a pile of logs in an undisturbed corner of the garden to provide shelter for insects and mammals - if you're lucky a hedgehog or toad may find a home there and feed on all your slugs and snails.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Preparing your garden for winter

                                                              Pictures taken in Alberta Canada

  • Autumn  -it the prefect time to move plants or remove plants .
  • Now is the time to plant bulbs for spring as well as plant bare-root shrubs and trees.
  • Divide perennials.
  • Remove weeds and spent annuals from your beds.
  • Look out for pests and diseases, and take appropriate action.
  • Take root cuttings from perennials.
  • Wrap terracotta pots in bubble plastic or pack in mulch for frost protection.
  • Bring plants that need a frost-free minimum winter temperature into a mildly heated greenhouse or conservatory, or cool room in your home.
  • Harvest winter crops.
  • Wrap potted plants that need protection in low temperatures in layers of horticultural fleece before freezing weather strikes. Move the pot to a sheltered spot.
  • Apply mulch, don't do this to early, I suggest after the first freeze, this will prevent pests and disease.

    Check out my winter wildlife tips!

      Wednesday, 19 October 2011

      Crafting - How to make Mr Grass head

      Let me introduce Gary Grasshead, made by my daugther.  Grass heads are a great fun to make and educational too.

      To make a grass head you will need:-

      Thin sock, or tights
      Plastic cup
      About two tablespoonfuls of compost.
      1 rounded teaspoonful of grass seed
      Elastic bands.
      Things to decorate with (felt, cloth, glue, etc.)

      What to do next:-

      Roll down the sock and sprinkle in the grass seeds.
      Put the compost in.
      Gently press into a rough shape and twist and elastic band around the opening to close it.
      Knead into the preferred shape the head must sit on top of the rim of the cup.
      Add ears and a nose by separating small areas of soil with small elastic bands. Spread the seeds so they are roughly even.
      Pour an inch of water into the cup.
      Sit the grasshead on rim with the excess sock hanging in the water. The moisture will gradually work its way up the fabric.
      The grass should start growing within a week!
      Refill the water regularly.
      Place on a sunny windowsill.

      Friday, 14 October 2011

      Organic Fruit & Veg Tips

      Top twelve non-organic foods to avoid:-
      1. Strawberries
      2. Bell peppers
      3. Spinach
      4. Cherries
      5. Peaches
      6. Cantaloupe melon
      7. Celery
      8. Apples
      9. Apricots
      10. Green beans
      11. Grapes
      12. Cucumbers
      Organic tips:
      • Packages that say pure or natural, is just a marketing tool.
      • Made with real fruit or whole grains, this means it probably has a minute quantity of fruit it in.
      • Enriched just means that it's been messed with.
      • One hundred percent organic - food contains only organically produced ingredients.
      • Organic means that 95 percent of the ingredients must be organically grown and the using 5 percent from non organic Ingredients.
      • Eat seasonal and local - tastes better and kinder to the environment too.

        Twelve cleanest fruits and vegetables which contain the least amount of pesticides
        1 avocado
        2 corn
        3 onions
        4 sweet potatoes
        5 cauliflower
        6 Brussels sprouts
        7 grapes
        8 bananas
        9 plums
        10 green onions
        11 watermelon
        12 broccoli

        My Dear Dad, collecting pecan nuts.

        The Benefits of buying local and in season means fewer fossil fuels are used, so its so much better for the environment.
        Choose local suppliers with ethical and organic practices, or best of all grow your own!

        Thursday, 13 October 2011

        Companion planting

        Companion planting has been used for many years by farmers and gardeners to help with pest control and pollination.

        Here's a list of companion plants, that may benefit the plants in your garden when planted in close proximity to each other.

        My favorites are geraniums and marigolds.

        Aster - repels most insects
        Basil - repels flies and mosquitoes
        Borage  - tomato worms.
        Caraway - loosens the soil and attracts parasitic wasps and bees.
        Coriander - repels aphids.
        Fennel - potato bugs.
        Geraniums - attracts caterpillars, luring them away from nearby plants.
        Horseradish - deters potato bugs.
        Larkspur, protects vines against vine beetles.
        Lavender - attracts pollinating insects.
        Marigolds - discourages most pests.
        Mint - deters white cabbage moth.
        Oregano - repels aphids.
        onions, garlic, chives & shallots - these repel. slugs, aphids, cabbage worms
        Parsley, repels carrot flies.

        Plants to attract beneficial insects.
        Although nectar is collected from any flower, my favourites are the nettle-leaved bellflower, Campanula latifolia, in soft grey-lilac, and Brantwood in deep blue. These are loved by bees.
        Here is a great link from the RHS perfect pollinator list

        Monday, 3 October 2011

        Garden pests - don't let them bug you!

        It is a hard balance to get right, protecting your garden from little pests who want a free lunch and encouraging the helpful little garden dwellers, who pay their dues.

        The usual suspects:-

        Slugs - don’t use slug pellets, some brands can be poisonous to other animals, they work by dehydrating the slug and it if it rains whilst this happening the slug re-hydrates, this defeats the object really and not a particularly nice way to go for the slug. I prefer the beer trap method; put some
        beer in shallow bowls, slugs love beer, I only use in early summer because you might attract bees. Oh yes,  put a stick in so that beetles can escape.
        • Place orange halves out the slugs are attracted to these and it makes it easier when collecting slugs by hand.
        • Put Copper wire or a gritty barrier like crushed egg shells around your plants, the slugs won't like that at all.
        • Cover seedlings with fine mesh or cut the top off an old plastic bottle, but be careful not to roast your plants.
        Plant a few garlic cloves, the plants absorb the garlic and it wards off the insects.  Also you can infuse some garlic into water and spray it on the aphids and you can do the same with Rhubarb leaves, but be careful with this one as rhubarb leaves are poisonous to humans.
        Spray with a powerful jet of water.
        Use the companion planting method.

        White flies
        White flies are attracted to the colour yellow, find a yellow piece of plastic or card and coat with grease, this works like fly paper.

        These little pests aren't really a problem, but if  you really wish to get rid of them, you can use 1:3 ratio of borax and icing sugar, place and cover on a piece of wood near where the ants have been seen. The ants like sweets things and will be attracted the bait, they will carry into the nest, ingest it and perish.
        Please be careful and don't place bait near pets or other animal activity.

        Encourage birds, frogs, hedgehogs and ground Beatles or even get some ducks and chickens, they can help you in your pest control.

        A garden is a happier place, when there is balance like in nature.

        Tuesday, 27 September 2011

        weeding - war of the weeds

        Your mission on war of the weeds is essentially to try and stop weeds of any kind spreading their seed.

        There is a saying "One years seeding is seven years weeding".

        Hand weeding.
        First invest in a pair of good garden gloves and use old towel or kneeling mat, to protect the knees.
        Get hold of the weed as low as can near the base, weeds tend to be less prickly nearer the ground and just pull.

        There are lots of garden tools that can help with your mission too, a garden hoe, use this firstly as a preventive measure, before weeds appear on the surface, do this regularly, ideally when the soil is dry.
        When using a  hoe to weed, try to cut the weed from roots below soil.
        Small hand tools, trowel, forks, these work well for deep rooted weeds, you can get right in there and dig them out, but be extra careful if you have existing plants near by.

        Weeds in your lawn - Turf war
        Dig these weeds out with a narrow trowel or weed extractor, have some soil ready to fill in the hole, and if its a rather large hole, take another section of the same size from the a less visible area of the garden and replace it, water this section frequently until it takes, you also replant grass seed in the area.

        Organic weed killer
        I don't tend use these as they can kill off every plant they come into contact with and interfere with the natural flora of your garden .
        If you choose to go down the route of sprays, can also make your own organic weed killer using full strength white distilled vinegar, the acetic acid draws moisture out of the leaf and any other plant it comes into contact with so be warned. There are lots of alternative to chemical weed killer, but as I don't use them in my garden I cant really comment on their effectiveness.

        Prevention is better than cure
        Cover every piece of bare soil with a something that excludes light, Use coca shells,well rotted horse manure, anything will do the job, including straw, hay shredded bark, permeable plastic, bark, old carpet, or rolls of  white paper mulch. 
        Live mulches are a great idea too; use a fast growing short plant, maybe something like thyme.
        Grow plants densely together, is another tip.

        Stop fighting with nature for the perfect manicured garden. Keep your plants healthy, mulch regulary, weed by hand and remember a weed is but unloved flower.

        Sunday, 25 September 2011

        Watering your garden

        Tips for watering your gardening:-

        • Make use of what nature has to offer and collect as much rain water as you can with a water butt.  Position the water butt to siphon rainwater from the down pipes and raise it off the ground so you can place a watering can under it, also keep it covered so the water stays clean.

        • Keep an eye on the weather, basic I know.
        • Mulch this prevents water evaporation. ie grass clippings, bark, gravel.
        • Compost - this makes the soil hold more moisture.
        • Water with a watering  can in the early morning or evening so the water doesnt just evaporate,.
        • Water at the base of the plants,  and deeply so it can soak down to the roots this will encourage the roots to go deep in the ground and helps in drought periods, the adage goes water deeply and infrequently.
        • Cut lawns less, or raise the cutting level, this will help during really hot weather. 
        • Use a mulching mower.
        • Please bare in mind, the weather conditions, season, location and the plant, when watering your garden.
        Did you know??? sprinklers use as much water per hour as a family of four can in one day.

        Friday, 23 September 2011

        Its a new dawn, its a new day

        Beautiful day's start with beautiful mornings and what a lovely morning it was in Alberta today, the sky, so pink and purple.

        "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love." Marcus Aurelius

        Dawn is the time that marks the beginning of twilight before sunrise.

        Thursday, 22 September 2011

        Compost - Enrich your garden & reduce waste.

        I've decided to do my first post about compost, because everything that grows in your garden will benefit from good nutrient rich soil.

        So what is composting?

        Composting is a process that turns kitchen and garden waste into humus material called compost.

        Here is some ideas for you:-

        Green Materials are rich in Nitrogen
        Ground Coffee & Filters
        Organic packing material
        Flower bouquets
        Fresh leaves
        Fruit and vegetable scraps
        Grass clippings - Make sure you put these in thin layers
        Green plants
        Animal manure, ie horses poultry rabbits, not cats and dogs poops.

        Pruning and hedge trimmings
        Tea bags

        I choose not to put weeds or diseased plants in my main compost heap,I want to avoid reintrodicng seeds and any disease into my garden.
        A good idea is to create a separate compost heap for these items.
        In the majority of cases heat and time will destroy them, I just like to be on the safe side, I do enough weed pulling by hand as it is!

        Did you know?? that seven pounds of hair contains as much nitrogen as 100 pounds of manure, if your going to add this into the mix, moist well and aerate.

        Brown materials are rich in Carbon
        Shredded newspaper
        Dried flowers
        Egg shells
        Autumn leaves
        Old potting soil
        Pine needles
        Sawdust and wood shavings
        Small twigs and wood chips
        cereal, spices, beans
        Straw and hay
        Wood ashes.

        A layer guide for your compost heap:-

        Starting from the bottom up!

        • Twigs or other coarse materials - this helps with drainage and aeration.
        • Dried out brown materials, ie autumn leaves.
        • Wet the above piles, so its just moist.
        • Next add moist green materials, dig these into the pile with a thin layer of brown mater to balance,
        • Add a small amount of garden soil-this introduces enough some friendly little organisms to decompose materials in your compost.
        • Add more brown material, followed by more water.
        • Just keep layering until you reach the top....yeah!
        • After two weeks turn the pile and do so every few weeks, or when is becomes compacted,too wet or smelly.  Some people choose not to turn, but I do and it works for me, so do what works for you really.
        • Compost is ready when it looks and feels like dirt.

        Make sure all items are from organic sources and free from pesticides, this is hard to do I know, but try  your best, this will help you work your way to a totally organic garden, which will benefit you, your garden and the environment.

        Happy Composting!!