Monday, 25 February 2013

The perfect Monday wake up!

Should, I'm guessing be something along the lines of flowers and breakfast in bed but not in our house.

It's been cold the last couple of days; lovely, with bright sunny days and snow flurries, but biting Artic winds cold.  You can't completely escape it in the cottage, especially in the bedrooms, so it was a welcome surprise, when Megs' paw landed on the bed, to wake up this morning all lovely and toasty.  The dogs, however, were cold.  Toasty bliss lasted all of a nano-second as Finn sucker punched me in the chest, jumping over the boyf to burrow down under the covers beside me.  He is a mole masquerading as a small, scruffy mutt.  Megs, instead of her usual dobe-appropriate spot at the end of the bed, curled up, all of a shiver, on my pillow, stuck her face under the duvet and hugged my arm with her paws.  And there we stayed till the alarm went off, snug as bugs in a rug.  I haven't yet lost the smile from my face.

Now if someone could explain to my beautiful dobe that chicken coop poop or, for the purposes of the photographic evidence, the woodshavings in which they sit, is not a good look.... at one point I think her whole head was in the bucket!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Fruit, glorious fruit!

A guilty pleasure of mine is flower and seed catalogues: luscious pictures, exuberant descriptions, a good catalogue is gardening porn!  My favourite two always arrive in January and I can while away many a happy hour with a cup of tea making all sorts of fanciful plans.  

Following our trip to Wisley, I couldn't resist a quick trip to the garden centre and came home with a magnolia, blueberry bush and apple tree.  I've never attempted to grow fruit before, but following my dismal beans and tomatoes last year, I decided, on a whim, to try fruit in the growing bed by the garage.  It's amazing what you can fit in a Smart car with the roof down, I have the weekly shop in there as well!  

I have to admit to loving the idea of growing fruit, it looks the perfect combination of beauty and use... that's if the fruit will grow!  I have had a happy and productive week learning a few new things; my apple tree is now sat in a copper-lined membrane to restrict it's root growth and improve its crop and the blueberries are mulched with pine needles from our Christmas tree, which we are leaving to dry for burning next winter.

Back to my catalogues and I have found both my apple tree and blueberries.  I was picking through the old stock at the garden centre (they're good, so you know the plants are good, just maybe not exactly what you're getting!) and had only a couple of pretty faded labels to give me any clues.

The blueberries are Bluecrop: hardy, practically unkillable (though they've not yet me yet...!) and bountiful.

The apples are Katy, don't they look lovely?  A "very attractive cross... bright red fruits... firm, finely textured flesh."  Noted for being "Sweet and very juicy... with a hint of strawberry... excellent for juicing as it produces beautiful pink juice."  I could go on...

See, what did I tell you, gardening porn ;o)  

Monday, 18 February 2013

Orchids at Wisely

And last, but not least, the Orchids.. I am passionate about Orchids. They are, quite simply, magnificent.

Enough said!

Wisley Butterflies

The butterflies were just stunning!  Walking into the exhibit, you couldn't help but feel a sense of wonder as you stepped into a sea of colour and movement... they were fabulous, huge, stately creatures who seemed utterly unfussed by our intrusion and cameras.  When they did settle, long enough to pose, I didn't like to get too close for fear of scaring them away so relied on my lens and am blown away by the depth of detail that it captured.  Sorting through the photos was punctuated by all sorts of murmurings and mutterings: "But just look!  Look at the detail!  How does it do that?" All much to the amusement of the far more technically minded boyf!

See what I mean?  I was 6ft away!  How does the camera pick up that level of detail?!

On a more prosaic note, we learnt that butterflies both poop and have sense a humour ;o)  If you ever get the chance, they are well worth it, the Wisley Butterflies.

RHS Wisley Gardens, 16th February 2013

It's half term, the first hints of spring, sun and warmth are in the air and, to celebrate, we met my parents and Godmother at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley.  It was a lovely day out.  We were there, really, to see the butterflies, which for a couple of months at the start of the year take over part of the 18thC greenhouse, but the gardens were fascinating too.  Even at the end of a pretty bleak winter, there was interest and beauty all about and it was the perfect opportunity to test the D90 out on something other than the dogs and fields! 

I may have gone a little overboard, all 270 odd photos later... and then there was "deletegate" where I turned the air blue and had a crash course in SD card recovery programmes.... but, finally, here are some of the shots that I am truly happy with.  I warn you now, there are still quite a lot (30ish?!) but, for all our sanities, they are posted in separate groups; starting with the Gardens and Greenhouse.

I rather love cacti, who would think that lumpy green spiky things could be so beautiful!  Shame they don't grow in Essex...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

My Funny Valentines, Wordless Wednesday 13th February 2013

Hope you all enjoy a day with your loved ones tomorrow.


My #imapiece jigsaw pieces have been on the to-finish list for such a long time.  They started off easily enough, the fabrics are leftovers from quilts that I made for the 11yr old when she was a baby, lined with felt for stability and rigidity.  Blanket stitched together, they then languished at the bottom of the sewing basket waiting for inspiration.  In the end it was far more simple than I had been thinking, three of my favourite words and some decoration care of the 11yr old.  

I have enjoyed making my three pieces and I love popping over to the Craftivist site to see the other pieces that people have been making, there are some truly beautiful ones... I am looking forward to seeing how the final complete "piece" all fits together. 

The Meal Worm Baguette

(it sounds like something Roald Dahl would come up with)
Chooks like meal worms, luckily for me (as I am really not a fan) they are at least dried.  I'm still not a fan.  That said, in an attempt to find a use for half a baguette that was hard enough to cause serious bodily harm, I decided to see if I couldn't make a meal worm toy for the chooks.  

Using a screw driver I carved out some holes, stuffed them with as many worms as they would take and threaded a wire through the top.  Hung in the coop it was ignored as only chooks can ignore something, until I was safely out of sight and no longer trying to see if my efforts were appreciated... a couple of hours later it was wormless.  It even lasted a couple more refills before being completely demolished.  All in all, a good effort.


In the meantime, we have a mole.  He has completely destroyed my herb patch and was aiming for my hellebore; something had to be done!  A friend once told me that the vibrations caused by plastic garden windmills put moles off, the little one that they gave me to prove the theory certain seemed to work but didn't survive the winter.  I found these fabulous bursts of spinning colour and couldn't resist, the chooks also rather like to watch them. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Vegan Granola Bars Recipe

I found this on the Epicurean Vegan - one of my favourite cooking sites - and was immediately in love with how these little bars looked. 

As it was something of a last minute scramble, and we don't live Stateside, I had a bit of a play with the ingredients (the italics), otherwise I followed the recipe as is.

3/4 C quick oats - porridge oats
2 Tbs brown rice flour - Linwoods milled flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds with goji berries (an all time favourite and available at Sainsburys)
2 Tbs quinoa flakes - Great Scot dried quinoa
1/2 C nuts, chopped (I used peanuts and pecans) - mixed, pre-chopped
1/4 C sunflower seeds
1/4 C chia seeds & 2 Tbs flaxseeds - mixed seeds selection from Asda (pumpkin, sunflower, hemp and linseed
1/2 C dried fruit, chopped (I used Craisins) - Asda's Orchard Dried Fruits (prunes, apricots, pear and apple)
1/2 C dark chocolate chips
3 Tbs almond butter - soya margarine
1 small avocado, pitted
2 Tbs brown rice syrup - agave nectar
3 Tbs almond milk
1 tsp vanilla - cinnamon

They are utterly addictive and delicious, even the lovely boyf has taken to them in all their vegan goodness!  We've since made a second batch to which I added cranberries and took what is my only picture so far;  I think that there will be plenty more opportunities to take more though ;o)

The week that was....

Goodness it's been busy lately and although the days are slowly getting longer, a very welcome sight, it doesn't feel like there is any more time to be had.  I am looking forward to some longer summer days when sleep isn't quite so necessary and we can enjoy the light!

The upshot is, in all the busy, that there are half a dozen half written blog posts waiting for the publish button to be hit.  I hope to get them finally finished and then back on blogging track...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Drying Gourds

It has been 93 days since the gourds went out to dry which, according to the handy app that told me this,  is exactly 3 months into their drying cycle.  They don't look very pretty, though I'm fascinated by all their mouldy yuckiness.  Annoyingly, the instructions that I followed made no mention of their needing to be in a dark place, and now I discover that they probably should.  I will see if I can find a spot in the garage to move them to, but I may be too late?  It's certainly an experiment, in the loosest sense of the word!
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