What a nice seat to sit at

Do you notice how sometimes time can be fast and slow simultaneously? August seemed to stretch on for ever and now suddenly it’s September. Hurrah!

Autumn is making its approach with cooler, darker evenings, rosy apples and too many events to attend. Though not strictly an event, we hadn’t been to Helmsley for almost a year and I was itching to pay a visit, so that was yesterday’s main port of call.

Usually, we buy pastries from Thomas the Baker in the market square and find a suitable perch to eat them from. This time, we did indeed by pastries and my favourite Donker bread rolls (a light rye bread). We also made it to Cinnamon Twist, now a stall on the market which sells other unusual bakes, such as cheese and fennel scones. (Note to self, must try scones in our new oven.)

We made a departure from tradition, however, by lunching at Helmsley Walled Garden. My baguette was the tastiest I’ve ever eaten but the waitress was unable to provide a baker I could purchase from, so if I want a repeat I will need to return to the Garden restaurant.

A hardship that will hardly be. The restaurant is in the glasshouses which still have functioning ventilation windows, which fascinated me as we ate. As did the decoration on along the walls.

As you can see in the above photo, the glasshouses not only keep guests warm but enable the growing of grapevines. Indeed these vines have produced an abundance of fruit, which I noticed other guests picking for themselves.

This scene has got me thinking about whether there is any way I could have a glasshouse running along the south side of my house. I’d been thinking of a pergola to grow vines on but a glasshouse would be so much more useful.

Daydreams aside, I was delighted by various sights in the Garden, where we wandered after our lunch. There were a few empty patches waiting for redevelopment (for example, a dye garden) and areas which I had not noticed previously or which had been changed since our last visit.

Ponds have been added.
The composting area was a new discovery.
This fountain and seating area are not new but watching the water is quite mesmerising. On this occasion, I learned that my daughter is going to have a big garden with water features when she leaves home.
These yews have been given a new hairstyle. Don’t they look splendid with their busby hats?
Posted in Days out | Tagged | 13 Comments

First attempt at homemade dandelion coffee

Following my post ‘Herbs for Health’, I duly got my garden fork out yesterday and dug up a number of dandelion roots and, after giving them a good scrub, put them in the dehydrator. It’s a shame I had dug out some of the biggest roots in the summer, as they had now produced lots of little ones where the root had not been completely removed.

The internet threw up a number of recipes, which were all basically the same and none of which I followed. For a start, once the roots were dehydrated, I got the pestle and mortar out

before roasting them.

I didn’t think I could roast them, anyway, since my oven doesn’t work. Then I hit on the idea of using the breadmaker

and was pleased with the outcome. In fact, a whole new world of possibilities has opened up but I will explore these another time.

One of the recipes I’d read on line suggested six tablespoons of dandelion coffee for a cafetière (presumably a big one), which stuck me as excessive. In any case, there wasn’t enough ground and roasted dandelion root, so I decided one spoonful would have to do.

Also, I felt that a good place to start would be to heat the coffee up in milk in the manner I had seen tea being prepared in Pakistan.

Upon taking the first sip, I felt that something was missing and toyed with the idea of adding some sugar or honey. I didn’t want to go down the route of adding unnecessary refined carbohydrate to my diet, though, so opted for ground cinnamon instead.

And most delicious it was. So, where am I going to find more dandelions?

Posted in edible weeds, In the kitchen | Tagged , | 32 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #39

I’d had grand plans for today but hadn’t factored in the rain. However, after I’d been out to collect a brush on a retractable pole from a fellow Freegler on the other side of the village

I decided to do at least one or two outside jobs.

I’d already put the cardboard box which had been taking up a large portion of the living room floor on top of the new raised bed yesterday. It’s weighed down with stones from around the garden to stop it blowing away. I dread to think if it took off and landed on a person’s car windscreen when they were driving the car. I do also want to reduce the potential weeds that may otherwise grow in the bed.

So, onto today. Not feeling in the mood to get muddy feet, I stuck to the paths and shifted more compost from the Green Johanna to the dalek. Then I cleared some wood ash and straw which had been taking up room in the shed by adding that to the latter bin as well.

It’s not a big job but I find it oh so satisfying. Apart from the job of creating a fertile and carbon-filled medium for the garden soil, it’s a relief when the pile of clutter goes down just a smidge. Even if I put something else in its place, on this occasion the ‘new’ brush. But this does mean I can clean parts of the windows I usually can’t reach,

What about your most satisfying jobs? What are they and why are they satisfying?

Posted in Good for the environment, raised bed, soil management | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #38

On the way out to collect this next week’s victuals, I noticed a pigeon feasting on cotoneaster berries across the road. It was oblivious to me, although I didn’t want to chance it being scared off by me getting out of the car. So, the photo comes from within my vehicle.

There was also a blackbird, who was undoubtedly thinking along the same lines as the pigeon, though from a more lowly position.

I had myself being looking at cotoneaster before I got into the car. A plant has started to grow underneath the yukka, so come next summer it may get a shock when there is neither light nor moisture. Or perhaps I will finally get round to sorting out the front garden.

However, today’s jobs list made no mention of this portion of the property. Instead, I managed to both finish topping up the new raised bed with the contents of the old one and to transfer more from the Green Johanna to the dakek compost bin.

The final task for the raised bed is to cover it with cardboard to suppress weeds which might already be present and reduce the chance of others gaining purchase. The box which is to do the honours is out of bounds at the moment, though.

Tomorrow is competition time at the Guild Christmas meeting. When an announcement was made about making a Christmas gift, I failed to grasp this was a competition but I did have some yarn and some ideas. Having spun and dyed Teeswater fleece (pink) and spun flax and Tussah silk which have then be plied together (golden), I designed the bag with the help of a book of motifs for the flower.

You probably can’t actually see the flower too well – or may not recognise it as such. It was proving to be too complicated to do the colour work but I wish I had persevered now. Too late – the bag is being blocked (on the aforementioned cardboard box) and tomorrow I will get some constructive feedback from our president.

Posted in Crafts, raised bed, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #37

Catkins. I really hadn’t expected my hazel trees to produce any catkins this year as they are only three years old.

I’m certainly very excited. Does this mean that the trees could produce nuts from them? And if so, when would the nuts appear?

Although there are squirrels nearby, I’ve never seen them venture into my garden, or the neighbouring gardens. Unless the rat I once saw eating windfall apples was in fact a squirrel. But I have no idea if squirrels would eat apples.

NB After writing this post, I found the following article on the Permaculture Magazine website, which partially answers my questions: https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/essential-guide-hazel

Posted in forest garden, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #36

Yesterday morning, when I opened the curtains, I was greeted with the following view:

Fortunately, I hadn’t planned to do any work today because we were off on a day trip to Addingham for spinning supplies and a meal at The Swan by their log fire.

Before we set off, I noted that the nasturtiums were still standing. It had after all been a warm three degrees.

The same cannot be said for the temperature today. I have managed to get the lid of the Green Johanna off just now but the pond has a thick layer of ice on its surface.

If only I’d had camera to hand when a blackbird was pecking by the foxglove.

Whilst taking a break from grating horseradish (my! I remember the days when onions used to make the eyes smart like this), I looked out of the kitchen window and saw a mummy blackbird doing her best to find water. Or perhaps she’d seen something under the ice.

In any event, she couldn’t access whatever it is that she wanted, in spite of her best efforts. It was challenging enough for her to stay upright. Her partner joined her, though it seemed that he was encouraging her to give up the futile foraging expedition, as they soon flew off.

After this, I boiled up some water and then put it in a bowl which I placed on the ice over the pond. I’d read that it is best to avoid cracking the ice, since this can frighten any creatures living under it. I doubt we have any but the bowl did the trick and now I hope the birds will be back.

Posted in Days out, Pond and bog garden, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #35

On Monday, I ended up being very busy after piling half the contents of the dalek compost bin onto the new raised bed but I made further progress this morning.

Overnight, I remembered I had more sheep’s fleece, this time in the form of felt used in packaging. Since the stuff rots quickly enough, it went on top of the compost already on the bed and, expecting it to be very windy later on, the rest of the compost from the dalek went on to weigh it down. However, I’d misjudged how much compost there was left, so it really is only weighing the fleece down.

Before the few spadefuls of compost went on top of the packing felt.

At least the now empty compost bin could be moved to a new position. It was handy, having the bin so close to where the compost was to be used but I needed space for the rhubarb crown which I was given last year. And, after seeing how the lack of sunlight in the old bed restricted growth, it needed to be somewhere less shady than this, the only alternative spot.

So, the dalek has now moved from here

to here.

And I am now happily filling it up again, firstly with the materials originally intended for the new raised bed and then some of the contents of the Green Johanna with horse manure. I’m going to try to keep this concoction in there for about a year but we’ll see how it goes.

Posted in Gardening, raised bed, soil management | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #34

Yesterday, on a whim, I took a Hebridean sheep’s fleece which had been hanging around the house too long to the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild meeting to see if anyone wanted it. No one did but it appeased my conscience about putting it in the raised bed.

In washing the fleece, it seemed to have felted. Hence, it was no longer suitable for spinning. I did salvage the locks (curls of wiry hair), which hadn’t felted and which can be used as decoration perhaps, but when I got home the rest of the fleece went straight on top of the wood in the raised bed.

Sheep’s fleece is rich in nitrogen and so I’m hoping it will counteract the depletion of this element in the early stages of the wood’s decomposition. Having seen how the water used to wash the fleece had an almost immediately positive effect on the contents of the Green Johanna, it is at its worst unlikely to impede the growth of any plants in the bed next year.

On the other hand, it would have been no good if the fleece had blown away, so to anchor it down I emptied half of what was in the dalek compost bin over the top of it. Then I remembered all the other things I’d meant to put in the bed before the fleece.

Oh well, too late now. Everything else will be composted in the more conventional manner.

Posted in raised bed, soil management | Tagged | 11 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #33

It’s been a while since I posted, principally because I’ve been very busy – and worn out. I did however managed to do some garden-related activities.

One was to give away a number of bay tree branches to a woman through Freegle. I wish now I had a photo of the tree before I started to trim it. No matter, it has in any case been further trimmed at the bottom, which means I can once more see the ground underneath and the new raised bed has even more contents now.

I also noticed that the unidentified volunteer tree in the front garden is looking very autumnal. In fact, it is just about the only red-leaved tree that I have – the rest of my flock turn yellow and generally only briefly before they fall. Anyway, it’s a shame the volunteer is so close to the house, as it means it will have to go.

Posted in Gardening, trees | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #32

Hurray! After what seems like an interminable amount of time, the new raised bed is finally underway.

First, I had to remove some final plants: lemon balm, which has now gone in the pan to make cordial: chives, which have gone in the compost; and the cardoon, which has found a temporary home in a plant pot. Then I needed to put down more newspaper to fill in holes made by the stepping stones as they compacted the soil underneath.

This all done, I laid the bricks out in a square and lined the inside of the bed with newspapers to smother any remaining violets that might be lurking.

Now, it was the turn of the branches I pruned yesterday, along with the broccoli ‘tree’. These were followed by the wood that I dug out of the original raised bed, which was quite a tough job. They were quite far down, which required some rummaging around in the soil, which I noticed was a lot heavier that the compost on top.

This took me till lunchtime but I nipped out just before dark to top up the walls of the raised bed, so now they are two bricks high all the way round. I believe I might have enough bricks for another layer but before doing anymore building, I hope to find a little time each day to top up inside the walls.

Let’s see how far I get.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture, raised bed | Tagged | 4 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #31

It was decidedly lugubrious outside today. Nonetheless, I stuck to my target of lopping the top of the crab apple tree.


I had had a thought about taking the tree out completely. I planted it below the graft, so it is never going to be a petite specimen and, more immediately, the apples are fiddly to process at the best of times. They all fall in September and increasingly are blighted by codling moth.

Have I sold you the tree yet?

The reason I’ve decided to prune it instead is because the blossom is useful for pollinating the Reinette Orléans (cooking apple tree). The other two apple trees tend to come into flower earlier and would therefore be unlikely to help out.

Besides, don’t we need more trees?

Whilst out in the garden, I did a bit more stone shifting, first in order to provide a secure base for the step ladders

and then to make more space to get the new raised bed in.

I could have done more work but would like to reflect overnight on the question of the cardoon and more generally if I have made enough space for the raised bed. I did, however, manage one more small job: chopping the top of the crab apple tree into smaller pieces. Some are now on the bug house pile at the back of the garden, the rest are waiting for construction on the walls of the bed.

All round, a most satisfying morning’s work!

Posted in forest garden, Gardening, raised bed | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #30

Yesterday’s planned work in the garden got shelved as I checked my emails, saw there was a talk on rewilding later in the morning, and that was the end of the time I had available.

However, today I managed to make a little more headway towards constructing the new raised bed. After deliberating over the second of the two purple sprouting broccoli plants, it was decided that it was going in the new bed. Not as a crop but as part of a hugelbed.

The jury is leaning against hugelculture. With my sandy loam soil and relatively dry climate, the wood in a hugelbed does not seem to rot down quickly enough to provide ongoing water for crops. At the same time, as there is plenty of wood in the old bed and a new supply to come from pruning the apple trees, it makes sense to repurpose all this carbon.

So, here is the majestic purple sprouting broccoli plant. It’s as big as a tree!

Once the broccoli had been dug out, I also dug out a few more bricks. They had become embedded in the soil underneath them and therefore needed a bit of extra leverage to prize them up. I then used the spade to carry them to the area where they will next be wanted. Saved me from needing a nail brush on my hands afterwards!

Posted in Gardening, raised bed, soil management | Tagged , | 10 Comments