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

Day lily flowers

The other day, I noticed that not only the globe artichoke was in flower but that the day lilies had also added their flowers to the tableau.

I got these plants as seeds – nine altogether, of which three germinated three years ago. The next summer, the three plants went at the back of the garden and survived. What I didn’t realise was that pigeons find them a delicacy. So, last summer, they got eaten to the ground and one of them didn’t survive the onslaught.

Fortunately, my net cloches saved the remaining two. But once again, this year, I nearly lost them, since they started growing and then being eaten before I was aware of their emergence. And this time round, I had only one cloche, so the second plant had to fight its own battle against the beaks.

Interestingly, of the two plants, this unprotected one is not only bigger but has started to flower first. Now, perhaps this is due to a determination to withstand the pigeon interest or maybe it gets a tiny bit more sun. Whatever the cause, I’m really pleased that the perseverance has paid off. I would be nice to see if the plants spread but that will of course be a story for another year.

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A flower on the globe artichoke

One of the joys of growing a plant I have no horticultural experience of is the suspense. What will happen when?

Thus, early this morning, whilst out with the watering can, I saw the beginnings of the first globe artichoke flower. ‘First’ may be a tad presumptuous but I am hopeful that the plant will continue to flourish and produce more in the future. This is after all only its third summer.

What surprises me the most is that the plant itself is still relatively small. All the globe artichoke plants I am aware of ever having seen were towering structures. So, now I’m wondering if it simply takes many years for these great edifices of the herbaceous world to reach their full potential.

Of course, I could do an internet search to find the requisite answer. That would be spoiling it, though, in more ways than one. It is tiresome that search engines frequently fail to throw up the most reliable source. It is also a shame to circumvent the eventual surprise. Or disappointment.

Posted in edible flowers, Gardening, perennials | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Backdoor strawberries

I went for a lovely walk with a friend in Meanwood Park yesterday. Whilst rhododendrons are no longer encouraged, I can see why they were once all the rage.

Suffice to say, I wouldn’t think it wise to plant any myself, considering the miniature jungle which has emerged in the garlic bed by the back door.

The upside to this growth is that the strawberry plants along the wall have been shielded from the blackbirds and, to my surprise, a few of them were ready to eat when I went out in the evening to start clearing away the unwanted vegetation round the garlic.

They weren’t the tastiest strawberries, it has to be said, and I’m wondering if this is because of the virtual sand the plants have been growing in. No matter, they were enjoyed for supper.

So, now we wait for the main crop in the middle of the garden to ripen and in the meantime eat up the ones I dried last summer. We’ve discovered that these taste best when rehydrated.

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Grow your own jeans

This morning, my ears pricked up when I heard the final news item on the Today programme. There is a project in Blackburn, where flax and woad have been sown with a view to showing the world that we can return to a world where clothing and textiles for other purposes can be produced here in the UK.

Now, I’m not intending to grow my own jeans just yet but I do know people who are growing both flax (makes linen) and woad (produces an indigo dye). I also know that if the environment and working conditions are to be respected, British-made clothes will have a more elevated price tag.

The sharpness of the elevation will depend on a number of factors. One of these is who exactly is making and selling.

A friend and I started discussing making money out our own endeavours during the first lockdown. The common denominator is our mutual love of knitting socks, though after this our interests diverge and ultimately we are looking at different markets from each other.

I do have one pair of socks, currently languishing in a box, which I have been meaning to sell for some time now. For over six months, in fact. However, I am edging towards a decision concerning the look and feel of my ‘business’.

Overall, I would like to source materials from the UK as far as possible. Avoiding air-miles matters to me a great deal, as does supporting a healthy economy around me.

Materials which are natural, preferably organic, is another cornerstone. Man-made fabrics shedding non-biodegradable fibres into the environment is a no-no as far as I’m concerned. Medical grade face masks is one thing, plastic in your pants is quite another. We don’t need to be drilling for oil to kill sea creatures when there are better alternatives.

I think that I may fail at the first hurdle with some of the wares which are almost ready for sale. For example, I have several cotton flannels and towels but the yarn comes from Turkey and goodness knows how much water and pesticides were used in growing it. However, at least they will biodegrade at the end of their working life.

A towel I’m crocheting for my daughter. It’s cotton from my local haberdasher’s – not organic or grown in the UK but it does support my local community.

Anyway, I hope to be launching the ‘Growing out of chaos’ brand soon.

Posted in Crafts, Good for the environment | Tagged | 18 Comments

Retting

I recently bought a collection of non-wool fibres to experiment with. The first one I chose to spin was ramie (from a type of nettle not found in Europe).

I really enjoyed spinning this fibre. Something about the activity hit the sweet spot in my brain. So, I was delighted when the latest Permaculture Magazine had an article about preparing fibre to spin from European nettles.

My local organic farm has a plentiful supply of Urtica dioica and the farmer was more than happy for me to pick my own. So, once the stems were a reasonable length I got my shears and did a bit of chopping.

Now, the stems have been stripped of their leaves and are sitting on my drive, retting. This means they are being exposed to rain/dew to make it easier to remove the bast (outer layers of the stem) in due course. There are other methods of retting but this one is not only the most environmentally friendly, it is also the most convenient.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll put the stems in the airing cupboard so that they can be dried before the next stage in the fibre preparation. Removing the bast could be a messy job, so all being well the good weather can continue so that I can do the job outside!

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What to do with the wool insulation

After a degree of searching I came across an organic farm shop which sells Cumberland sausages that to boot contain no nasty nitrites. It was also great to be able to get some organic Brie and feta cheese, so for these reasons I will be shopping at Gazegill Farm again.

The packaging used is another incentive. In this case, it is sheep’s wool, albeit in a recyclable bag. No doubt this is in part for reasons of hygiene but soggy fleece might not be the most wanted part of any transaction.

The instructions on the packaging suggest that the wool be composted. This I could do but it seems a shame not to use it for something else. The wool has been felted, which takes spinning out of the equation, but perhaps it will become stuffing for a cushion or even dining chairs or… there are many uses for felt if only you have the skills – and the inclination. One of my friends is going to do a needle felting course, so may be able to turn it into ornaments or jewellery. But if all else fails, it can be used as mulch round my fruit bushes.

Posted in Crafts, Good for the environment, soil management | Tagged , | 7 Comments

A not-so-impressive flower

Last week, I noticed a huge flower bud on the yukka in the front garden. Then we went away and I completely forgot about it. I didn’t even look up when we returned from our travels on Tuesday evening.

So, tonight is the great reveal. Not much of a sight I don’t think but no doubt nature has a reason for it.

It’s certainly big, if nothing else.

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A weekend in Suffolk

At last, we were able to go far away from our village and explore a completely new part of the world for us. With my daughter being on her half term school break and my having an extra day added to the Bank Holiday, it was the perfect opportunity under any circumstances but, after the last year we’ve had, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

I’d originally earmarked the same Bank Holiday in 2020 to make this trip. Of course, we know what happened to those plans without having to be graphic about the details. Suffice to say, we needed a real holiday rather than more days at home, albeit without work or study.

Even though in the back of my mind I already knew where Thomas Wolsey came from, I was nonetheless surprised to see a statue of the man in Ipswich. Here he is, close by the street where he was born.

Sunday evening, with free parking in Ipswich, meant we could take a walk round some of the streets which still had houses built during the medieval period. My daughter is interested in architecture, so this was possibly a highlight of the holiday for her. In particular, she loved the colour of the buildings.

We both love history and the motivation for choosing Suffolk as our destination had primarily been Sutton Hoo. After being intrigued, I have to say, I was actually a little disappointed by the exhibitionand the landscape where the Viking burial ground was found was not especially to my liking

but I was pleased to find a dye garden, which demonstrated plants that the Vikings would have used to dye their garments back in the day.

Having joined the York District Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild, I am interested in using such plants for my own craft eventually. In the meantime, I am gathering information and ideas, so the dye garden was a fortuitous discovery.

In order to maximise our time in Suffolk, we were going to visit a wildlife garden set up by the RSPB but this turned out to be at Flatford Mill. On a different day, when it was not over 27 degrees, and my daughter was feeling more predisposed, we may have ventured on to the site. However, we instead found somewhere to park in the nearby village of East Bergholt. This then led to a walk round the outside of its imposing church

and along the road to look at houses, which once again appealed to my daughter.

We’ll have to pay another visit to Suffolk as there is so much to see. However, it’s back to work tomorrow and my garden needs me.

More about this another day!

Posted in Crafts, Days out | Tagged , , | 32 Comments

A distraction from work

Somehow my ironing board, aka my desk, has repositioned itself across the front window. This means the curtains need to be closed if I am teaching, so the students can see me on the screen, but otherwise it gives me a view while I think.

It is thus that I looked up the other day and noticed something I’d never expected to see.

I had heard that yukkas can flower. Well, logically why wouldn’t they, considering they are not ferns? However, it seemed unlikely that the one in my front garden would do so, since we live in a cool, (usually) dry climate.

This year, the inordinate amount of rain must have tipped the balance. It’s only in bud in the photo but was starting to unfurl this morning. My daughter actually noticed it and was quite taken aback. It doesn’t currently look the most amazing floral exhibit but should the look improve, I will let you know.

Other surprises this week include the following.

A flowering hosta. I didn’t know they flowered so early or could have such a long season. This variety supposedly flowers until autumn. In fact, I think it might have done so last year, when I bought it.
An indoor mushroom. The squash seed in the same pot, on the other hand, has shown no inclination to germinate. The other seedling is a ‘weed’.
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Hirst Wood

On Friday morning, I was out of the house for three hours, which felt such a novelty. I have actually been out for as long as that on other occasions but clearly I needed more. So, the chosen spot for a walk this Sunday was Hirst Wood, near Saltaire (Bradford), though my phone camera does say ‘Bingley’.

At first, I thought I’d put the wrong address in the satnav, as we ended up in a residential street which looked decidedly unlike a wood. It being after lunchtime by now (I’d taken the long way round Leeds), we decided to have our picnic in the car, where we found ourselves, anyway, and then reflect on what we do next.

By good fortune, this turned out to be a smart move. I had a loaf of bread on the back ledge of the car, which attracted the attention of passers-by who thought it was a cake. This led us into conversation and I found out about a café round the corner.

It seemed a good plan to at least go for a coffee/hot chocolate to make the journey seem more worthwhile. And just as well we did, upon turning the corner towards this café there were suddenly trees.

The café had a very pleasant atmosphere, though we did sit outside and admire the view. Then we explored a ‘wildflower’ garden, which sported a huge patch of gunnera

and had a bug house which put the one in my garden quite to shame.

By this point, my daughter’s interest was starting to wane but then we found a tree swing, after I’d persuaded her to explore the woods ‘just for a short while’.

View of bluebells near the tree swing.

The day would have been perfect, had it not been for the fact that I might have driven into a bus lane. Bradford really isn’t my favourite place to drive and getting to Saltaire is on my list of nightmares to be avoided. However, as the wood and café turn out to be only a mile or so from Saltaire Station, a future trip here seems very doable.

Posted in Days out | Tagged , , | 14 Comments