Sunday 30 June 2013

Hot, hot, hot...

First of all, welcome to my new follower Stephanie H. Glad you decided to join us here in Norfolk.

I have a thermometer sitting in the sun and it is currently registering 37C. The one in the shade says it is 26 nearly 27C! I have been doing small amounts of gardening, first thing whilst it was still cool and now, in the shade another large bucketful of weeds has been consigned to the great weed heap! That is all I am going to do I can tell you.

The thermometer in our north facing lounge currently reads 24C so it is positively balmy no matter where you are. Shall I go and read the one in the west facing conservatory - 40C, good job I don't have any plants in there at the moment! It will definitely be a salad based meal, with cold potatoes and some tuna for tea. I had hoped to make some rhubarb and elderflower jam but my rhubarb has been pathetic this year. I could barely pick enough to have with some custard for tea.

More tomorrow when hopefully, I will feel cooler than today - I really hate humidity.

Saturday 29 June 2013


There is something rather lovely about eating things 'out of season'. No, I don't mean summer food in winter and visa versa. I mean the kind of things that grow in one season and are eaten the next. Now we all know that can of course apply to dried, frozen and canned food so what on earth am I talking about?

Essence of summer!

There are only few things that retain their summer smells well. Elderflower's are one such lovely gift. Elderflower cordial, champagne, cake, sugar and new to me this year, Elderflower and Vanilla Jelly.
Here is the strained liquid from yesterday, coming to a simmer with 1 vanilla pod and its seeds scraped out.
I don't normally use sugar with pectin in it so had to buy some pectin, here waiting with the sugar to go in the pan.
An awful lot of scum seems to be forming (and I reckon it was the scum that stole all my vanilla seeds!)
Finished product - however - some fine grains of pectin are present. Whether this will have an adverse effect on long term storage I don't know but all the lids have now popped to show they have sealed.

There was just a couple of tablespoons left which we had on crumpets after lunch. It has an aromatic  Elderflower taste but somehow mingled with a Turkish delight flavour....

Remember the chive vinegar I was making - well here it is in all its glory, 1 litre of chive flavoured pinky-purple madness.

Thursday 27 June 2013

How remiss of me...

Sorry for being so remiss with my posts. We have been busy doing more ancestral research and have made contact with a couple of people on Ancestry who are following some of the same lines as us and giving us new information.

Although I didn't get around to weeding my new bit of garden down by the garage wall, before taking this photo, here is the progress of its vegetables and flowers

The tomatoes are about 2 1/2 feet tall and one of the beans (on the bottom right) is around 3 feet tall. I have broken off and potted on some of the extra growth between the leaf axils of the tomatoes. I find these root really well (normally) and give me plants I can grow in the conservatory well into autumn, that hopefully, will remain blight free unlike their outdoor mates.

Taking a leaf from Tanya at Lovely Greens, I have started to make a batch of Elderflower and Vanilla Jelly see here (you will need to drop down to her article on 22nd June!). Here are my plucked 12 heads of Elderflowers steeping overnight in 1 litre of boiling water
Once that is under-way and the flowers are dry after this latest batch of rain, I shall pick some more to make Elderflower Cordial.

Out on our walk this week (I'll post about that soon), when we came back to the car, this lovely thing was close by
Not sure of the model but it is made by Ford and as you can see, a left hand drive so may well be American.

Monday 24 June 2013

We're back...

Not that any of you realised we had gone I'm sure, as I managed to answer a couple of comments. We have been to see DS & FDiL and our two grand dogs S & M. Really enjoyable visit. DB & DS finally managed to clear their garden and patio of the last of the rubbish whilst FDiL & I stayed home to have a good woman to woman chat. I love having these kinds of chats with her as we both know we can say anything to each other without embarrassment.

We went out for a meal Saturday evening at a nice 'local' Italian place. When it came time for us to leave, the heavens opened and a cloud burst was in progress. Knowing we would get soaked before reaching the car, FDiL & I started skipping and dancing and generally messing about much to the astonished look of the people in the restaurant. DB & DS walked several paces behind us trying to look like they didn't belong with us!

Both S & M needed the fur on their ears cutting as they were beginning to pick up too many grass seeds and other things. Here is a picture of M after being finished. You can just see the back of S in the background having hers done but no picture to show you as I forgot to take one!
We had driven to and from them with very little in slow traffic or hold-ups at roundabouts etc. Whilst they had quite a bit of rain, B. has just been round for a cup of tea to let us know that we have had little rain other than a quick heavy burst Saturday evening. I thought that might be the case as none of my overflow water barrels had topped up!

Might need to cover the plastic milk cartons differently as some has already started to flake off. Mind you, once the flowers really get going this will be covered.

Friday 21 June 2013

More flowers, tick tock and handy tips...

First of all, welcome to my new follower Briony, glad to have you aboard the old Norfolk express!

Had my ECG this morning. Blood pressure is now back to normal but pulse still between 85 and 95 at rest! No doubt, I will hear in a few days what if anything is going on. Odd he didn't do a blood test as my iron levels are always low (anaemia can make you breathless) and who knows what my thyroid is doing (my mum had to have a partial thyroidectomy when she was younger). If he doesn't get in touch I shall go and see him anyway about something else.

No rain to speak of so far, just one quick shower last evening. Here are some more things from my garden. The first of the four Peony plants in bloom with lots more to come.
My two Clematis beginning to flower. Their name labels are long gone so have no idea what they are called. The magenta one grows better than the pale version and I let it wander around its neighbours as it seems to sulk if I try to grow it upwards!

Three 'milk container' planters are done. A fourth is almost finished being painted. I have potted up another 6 plants ready to be potted into them. I am trying Nicotiana, French marigold and Verbena.
I think the Nicotiana at 60cm will be asking a lot of it but who knows. DB is in the process of making and painting a heavy duty bar to thread them onto. When they are done and in full flower, I'll post a picture - watch this space!

Finally, if you want some handy household cleaning tips that don't cost the earth try some of these handy tips

Thursday 20 June 2013

Some flowers...

My beautiful peony is coming into bloom. I have 4 plants, all the same variety and they open in turn from the top of the front gravel garden to the bottom. I always like to pick some as they have a nice scent.
Here is another photograph of my front garden (well some of it) taken through the north facing lounge window.
The poppy and iris have just about finished, although after a hard cutback, the poppy will give a return flower around August. The geranium is in full swing and I am eagerly waiting for some plants I bought last year, to come into bloom. I am hoping to have some more white and yellow in this garden.

Wednesday 19 June 2013


I was very impressed with the work this charity is doing and have made it my charity for this month.
Here is the link to it - Sentebale

Taken from their web site (hope they don't mind), is what Sentebale means and what they hope to achieve.

"The name Sentebale means “forget-me-not” in Sesotho, the language of Lesotho. We aim to give the less privileged and often forgotten vulnerable children a chance of some schooling, and thus a ray of hope for a better future. The primary focus adopted to achieve this dream is not for Sentebale to hand out short-term solutions, but to nurture local communities to encourage them to be able to support themselves, their families and children in the future".

Monday 17 June 2013


DB has worked really hard on his box and at last it is finished.

We had an old rust coloured tablecloth so used it to line the inside. Originally, he used double sided tape but it didn't stay put in places. Then bostik was used and that made it a bit messy. In the end, he used small fine tacks. That certainly made the fabric covered card stay put. Unfortunately, hammering them in, made some of the leg joints where they joined the box, spring apart.

Out it went again into the garage to be glued together. Eventually, with the addition of a nice brass handle, it was finished. Here is the before and after internal pictures.

I think that should be fine. He also placed two small plastic button things on the front corners to make it quiet when being closed. All he has to do now is put things in it! Total cost £30.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Chive Vinegar

Again, this idea was taken from MFT's blog see here
but there are also lots of mentions of it on the internet.

I'm using a 1 litre jar that I used to use for making yoghurt in before I bought a yoghurt maker to replace it. I know, I know, cheaper to use the jar but after a few weeks, it seemed to stop working (although to be fair, it was in the long dark winter we have just had).

Anyway, the idea is to put some chive flowers (after being rinsed and spun in my salad spinner) into this jar, and pour in vinegar. I am using the plain clear stuff that I would normally use for fabric conditioner. The jar until this morning (before the heavens opened) had just one bottle of vinegar in it. After picking more flowers today, I had to top it up.

It is currently one week old and is meant to steep in a dark place for about 3 weeks. I shall leave it for 3 weeks after I put in the last lot of flowers. However, just one week on, it looks like this:

A lovely methylated spirit colour! The smell is similar to pickled onions ...

Friday 14 June 2013

A do dah kind of day...

Not a lot happening today, I am taking it easy due to a bout of tachycardia. I get them very infrequently and normally, within a few hours, everything is back to normal. Last bout was around 5 or 6 years ago when I was under a lot of stress. As I am very relaxed and calm, I don't know why this one is happening. However, it began a day or so ago, so this morning I went to the surgery to get an emergency appointment to have it checked out. As is sod's law on a Friday, all the emergency ones had gone (by 9:30am) but I told the receptionist what was happening and that I didn't feel right.

Just got home when my doctor (luckily) phoned to check me out and told me to come back in 30 minutes when he would squeeze me in. His very posh pulse oximeter with pleth display was put on my finger and after glancing at it also took my pulse - a bit disconcerting. BP taken, within normal ranges but slightly high for me as I have lowish blood pressure. 

He did agree my pulse was up (100) and asked how long I had been sitting in the waiting room (20 minutes said I), checked out my oxygen levels - 98% and listened to my heart. Told me I had sinus tachycardia and occasional arrhythmia (well, I already knew that as I have been monitoring my heart rate and rhythm for a day or so). Did I want beta-blockers - er - no! 

He booked me for an ECG next week to check out the irregular heartbeats that are accompanying the tachycardia (bet all will be normal)  and says I am fine but should anything different happen to go to A & E. Other than feeling spaced out (which is normal when they occur) and having my chest and neck thudding quietly (again normal for tachycardia) nothing has changed. Heartbeat still around the 80-90 mark whilst resting.

So don't panic folks, I am fine (just in case family are reading this!)

Anyway, the sun is shining intermittently, the weather is warmish and a whole line of clothes has been dried and awaits ironing (DB does that!) We have lettuces coming out of our ears in the salad bed, shan't be able to use them all but will give it a go. Bread is rising, yoghurt is made and all is well. We still have the skittish gold finch on her nest. Can't really see any birds hatching the amounts of times she flies off. By the same score, we can't keep not going in the back garden just because she is there! Silly bird.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Coming along nicely...

Remember this
A sewing cabinet we bought second hand from a charity shop needing a little tlc - here it is now (minus its lid) and drawer handle - waiting to have its inside finished.
The inside looks like this
Obviously a wood saving idea! We have made some heavy duty cardboard shapes to fit the sides and base and will be investigating ways to get the material onto it and finish off the inside.

Sunday 9 June 2013

A hanging idea via MFT

Having popped over to Elaine's blog the other day, I noticed she had posted pictures of a hanging garden courtesy of a friend. You can find the link here

This to me, seems an ideal solution on what to do with some of the myriad of plastic milk containers we recycle. I spent a happy time cruising the internet looking for different ways of using plastic bottles (we don't drink pop so never have any of those except those we poach from a friend when we need to protect early plants). More ideas can be found here on Pinterest. I am not a member of this site so have no idea whether you have to join to view the idea's in full.

Anyway, long story short, I decided I like Elaine's shape the best and set out to make one. This is it after drawing the shape as per her tutorial and cutting it out. Try to keep it whole to use as a template for any more you want to make.
Leftover bit
Some bottles, such as certain milk containers in Morrisons, have their handle on the corner rather than at the back but you can still use them but hang them slightly differently.

DB was not at all sure about the aesthetics of hanging them as they were so I decided to try and disguise them. I had some leftover Paverpol (fabric hardener for sculpting fabrics) from my BA days (but you could just as easily use children's glue) and decanted 3 tablespoons into a container. I then sieved in some garden dirt. Allowing for the fact that Paverpol is white but clear when dried, it was difficult to gauge what the final colour would be. I put a little on some plastic and left it to dry. Nope, too pale.

A few drops of gravy browning plus spent tea leaves for texture were added (hubble bubble toil and trouble etc.!). Yep, much darker and with a better texture. A friend called round to bring me a baby aubergine plant and I showed her, she just gave a smile!
Anyway, the bottles were well sanded to give the mixture some grip and I started painting.
It needed two coats on the outside and 2 on the inside of the back bit plus another centimetre or so on the inside of the lip as well as around the top hole of the handle. You could paint them any colour you wish but as our fences are dark brown I wanted them to blend in.

I have no idea whether the first heavy rain will make it slip off, but hey, no pain no gain! The tub Paverpol comes in is plastic and often it sticks to the inside as the dregs dry. It peels off rather like a face mask!

Here it is freshly planted up with a verbena, looking a little sad but hey, it still has to grow. I have temporarily potted on some more verbena, nicotiana and French marigolds for more bottles.

A few holes need to be drilled or poked into the bottom (do this before you start to paint, it is easier), a little gravel, then compost. I shall post some more pictures when the plants are hanging and growing well. As the plant grows it may be difficult to water but there is always the hole at the top of the handle to put water in using a long, thin spouted, watering can (the sort you use indoors on houseplants).

To hang them up, thread a sturdy stick or cane through the handles and attach the cane or baton to a fence or wall at both ends and in the middle. You can grow lots of different things in them including salad ingredients, herbs and such like, but mine will have flowers and hang above the apline garden atop the log store. We can see this when washing up in the kitchen.

Friday 7 June 2013

Hotch Potch...

My post for today is a hotch potch or mish mash of items.

I have made 900mls of plain yoghurt for about 75p - cost is still rising but we prefer homemade despite it not being quite as thick as bought. We are not using Yeo Yoghurt as a starter anymore as it is now around 65p for a small pot. Instead, we have found a cheaper alternation in Morrison's, at 38p per small pot. It is called Longley Natural Yoghurt and despite not saying so on the small tubs, it is live.

I also made 2 loaves of bread - white with linseed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plus some maize flour (around 60p per loaf) - sorry, no pictures but they are v. nice (I know, I know, self praise is no recommendation!)

DB is still working on his sewing cabinet and we have bought some proper wax polish to rub in several layers. Here it is having been sanded and awaiting its polish.
Once the polishing is done, we then have to go through my fabric stash and choose some to do the inside and base line the drawer. Finally, we shall look through his odds and sods for a knob.

Here is a current view of my front gravel garden.
As I said, a mish mash of topics but hope you enjoyed them.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Bees, baking and refurbishing

Remember the post about the bee log DB made me and we attached to our south facing wall. Here is the latest picture - 4 holes now full and sealed with wax (or whatever they use). Many bees are busy entering and leaving quite a few of the other holes so hopefully, more baby bees to come.
DB is busy with his box and it is now being sanded down and he is fixing the one loose leg.
In case you are wondering what the ceramic ornament is behind it, it is my 'journey sun' that I made on my Access to Art & Design before doing my BA in Fine Art. It has been up on the wall in all seasons for the past 6-7 years. Each bit of it had things pressed into the wet clay that I saw on my journey such as leylandii, boot and shoe prints, leaf prints, lines that represent a newly harrowed field, nuts, bolts, buttons and coins that you find whilst out on a walk etc. There are also some brownish spokes but they don't get used as I didn't have time to create a central bit for it. Maybe one day!

Today I made a light as air cake, the recipe for which can be found here sponge cake
It is very pale and I didn't have any cream or jam to fill it with. However, in the back of my store cupboard, I found a jar of blackcurrant and apple 'fruit leather' base so used that instead.

In case you are wondering what that is, it is the mush from making and draining overnight, the fruit for a jelly based jam. I push it all through a sieve, weigh it and for each 1lb of mush, I add 1 lb of sugar and boil it to setting point (very carefully as it tends to spit being so thick). You then store it in small jars for when you want to make fruit leather. Simples!

The recipe said to use 3 room temperature eggs. I only had medium so another time I would increase the eggs to 4 medium. It did however rise well in the oven. A good tip is to raise your cooling tray on dishes, lay one half of a tea towel over it, tip out the cakes onto it, remove the base paper and flip the other half of the tea towel over it. That way, it cools and stays moist. This type of cake needs to be eaten quite quickly and kept in a storage tin as it has a tendency to dry out.

The texture was as light as air (cornflour I reckon) and the taste quite mild but the flavour of the 'jam' made it.

Monday 3 June 2013

Down the drive...

I have just updated my Walks II page with our latest walk.

Here are just a few pictures of the newly planted 'down the drive' garden -  4 tomatoes and one tomatillo
 Then from the other direction - 5 different types of climbing bean, including 2 that I won from Compostwoman.
This is a west facing wall so gets the sun from 12:30 or so until late afternoon, early evening. I hope that will be enough warmth (plus the residual from the bricks) to keep them going. The tomatoes are in special pots so I can feed and water the roots directly, but the rest of the things will be watered normally. All the beans have temporary squash bottle rings around them to try and protect them from the slugs. Judging by the night time weather forecast, I might have to throw a fleece over the tomatoes tonight as they are saying it might get down to 4C or so.

Watching Gardener's World the other night, Monty Don was putting some broken crocks into the base of a large planter and failed to notice a nice black slug on one of them before he filled and planted it. Let's hope it doesn't eat the potful! Nigel the dog, was as ever, his usual lovely self. Did you know Nigel has his own Facebook page?

Saturday 1 June 2013


Welcome to my new follower anonamead. Hope you enjoy the read!

We went to a charity warehouse to drop off two office chairs that we no longer have room for. I wandered around whilst DB sorted it all out. One of these - (sewing/knitting/embroidering cabinet) was standing just inside the door, marked down to half price.

Not the cheapest despite that, but DB never has anywhere to put his tapestry things so I pointed it out to him and thought it might be a good 'job' for him to tackle now he has finished building the under stairs storage space. We came home with it and he has already made a start on stripping it bare and cleaning it.

Herewith a picture:
I'll post more photographs as it progresses. With the nice weather this past weekend, I took some photographs of the back and new side garden to show you some progress. In raised bed number 2, is Moroccan Cress, a type of lettuce:
In the same bed are two different types of red/green lettuce
Bed 1 is currently empty and bed 3 has hardly any growth at the moment.
This next picture shows the left back fence where apple trees and one plum grow. It is also one of two flower borders in the back garden.
This herb planter (built last year) sits on the patio and is in full growth.  Just behind it is our mini greenhouse currently housing tomatoes, tomatillo's, beans and some new lettuce seedlings.