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?
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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

A week in pictures

After a week which I was glad to see the back of, I’ve just had one of annual leave and managed to pack quite a lot in, although very little gardening is in the mix. Most forays into the garden have been to collect windfalls.

On Monday, I went on a Heritage Open Day walk from Leeds city centre along the River Aire/Aire and Calder Navigation. Amongst other pieces of information, I learned that these water courses are at times one and the same thing. At other times, they are separate entities. It’s to do with making the river more navigable in the time before trains in order to transport goods to and from Leeds and the east coast.

Once a dock, now a lily pond.

An amazing mural near the Royal Armouries.
Eco-housing – it is being made on-site, on the side of the river we were standing.

Yesterday, I also walked part of the Navigation: Woodlesford to Methley. A friend wanted to show me a café in Methley which has recently opened and sells good coffee. The heron in the photo below must have been very interested in some fish, as it let us get up unusually close to it as we were walking along.

At least I wasn’t stealing its food when I went foraging for elderberries near home. As I was picking them for my first attempt at natural dyeing, a walker had a chat to me about some other foragers who he’d thought might be depriving wildlife of blackberries. I do, however, think there is enough wild food in our area for all to share.

Teeswater fleece, spun 4-ply diameter and dyed with elderberries.

There was more dyeing at Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild meeting today. We were blessed with a warm and sunny day, so were able to carry out the process outside. I did, however, only observe this process, whilst others produced beautiful blue yarns and fabrics from the indigo dye vats.

In addition to observing the dyeing, I took the opportunity to have a look round the farming museum. The most interesting parts were replica dwellings from the time of the Danelaw.

These huts make my house look very big!
Posted in Crafts, Days out, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A puffer ball

The title of this post is a new word for me. At Helmsley Walled Garden last week, I’d seen the flowers on globe artichokes

and decided to touch them. Immediately, the thought of puffer balls came to mind, as the petals on the flowers were quite rubbery in texture.

To be honest, I could have done with a real puffer ball last night. A cat had got locked in the house while we were out yesterday and this morphed into a nightmare, where I heard an intruder whilst working in the garden. No doubt this is in part due to my choice of reading matter.

I’d meant actually to write a post about globe artichoke flowers at the beginning of the week but a Monday morning call from one of my best friends stopped me in my tracks. It looks like cancer – which had been misdiagnosed as silent reflux for quite some considerable time. Fortunately, I heard from my friend yesterday and she’s doing okay following surgery.

Unfortunately for me, I also had a massive bout of anxiety yesterday and tinnitus in my right ear was driving me crazy. We’d seen a friend to celebrate her 80th birthday – she cycled to the venue no less – and so the day started well but too much caffeine, I suspect, sent my mind spiralling.

So, returning to the subject of puffer balls,

aka globe artichoke flowers, I admired the one in my garden as long as it lasted, even going so far as to get spiked by its thorny exterior (yes, globe artichokes really are related to the thistle family!). However, not only has the flower withered but so has the whole plant.

This is a disappointment, especially as I thought these were perennial plants. Perhaps it just needs a rest and will be back next year but I am thinking of getting another and planting it in place of the raised bed, once this moves. More sun in this position might help.

Posted in edible flowers, Gardening, perennials | Tagged , | 14 Comments

One tomato plant down

The tomato plant in the large pot, sandwiched between the dalek composter and the raspberry canes, was doing really well. No doubt in part because it had lots of compost to dig its roots into. Perhaps it also benefitted from its sheltered position.

It seems that this sheltered position was also its undoing, for I noticed the other say that it looked like it had been attacked by blight. Or perhaps it is botrytis due to the damp summer we’ve had.

Whilst this is hardly good news, at least none of the other tomato plants appear to have been affected. Which is just as well, considering these are only just starting to show any signs of fruit.

The afflicted plant was laden with tomatoes, so on the one hand, it was hard to dispose of it. On the other, I have salvaged quite a big tub of them to ripen indoors. But the plant itself is no more in order to reduce the chance of anymore plants succumbing to whatever maladie has led to its demise.

I have coincidentally been thinking of moving the pot to a slightly airier location for next year. The current compost it contains is going on the new beds by the back door, where I won’t be growing tomatoes for the foreseeable, so I don’t see an issue with contamination. This compost isn’t exactly spent – or at least it will add some carbon to the rather thin soil in the new beds – but it was too far gone in any case to be used again in the pot.

So, overall, I’m not especially disappointed.

Posted in Gardening, soil management | Tagged , | 11 Comments

A faint rustling

A comment to a recent post of mine about the heat in my south-facing bedroom when temperatures rose resulted in my buying some emergency foil blankets. Actually, I thought I was purchasing one but five came through the door.

As tends to happen, this prompted the weather to turn cooler. Until Monday gone, when it seemed warm and sunny enough to do a test run.

Whether or not they keep the heat out is hard to say, as my daughter and a friend of hers decided to do some baking in our stove/heater that afternoon. The upshot was the discovery that the emergency blanket is wonderful insulation for keeping heat in. In short, I thought I was having a hot flush from hell.

The blanket could have come down at this point but ever curious I kept it up to see what happened next. The temperatures came down both inside and out, so regarding my estival physical comfort the jury must remain out.

On the other hand, the blanket also blocks out a certain degree of light. Coupled with curtains at night this in turn means my room is truly dark, which means I have slept very well for the past few nights, notwithstanding the faint rustling caused by the breeze coming through the trickle vents. On these grounds alone, it is therefore decided the impromptu blackout blind shall remain.

I was also overjoyed to see this butterfly (name anyone?) on my customary walk round the farm where I have a veg and egg box share.
Posted in Good for the environment, Health, Wildlife | Tagged , | 17 Comments

The waiting game

It has now become the norm that most of my substantial gardening endeavours take place during the autumn and winter months. That doesn’t stop me from itching to get on with the tasks I’ve got planned, though.

At least, I’ve got crafting to keep me from going up the wall while I wait. On Monday, I went up to Ripon to do a morning’s spinning with one friend and then at long last on Saturday the York District Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild held its first face-to-face meeting since the start of the pandemic.

The Guild holds these meetings at the Yorkshire Museum of Farming just outside York. I’d passed the signs for the museum on the A64 on countless occasions and yet surprisingly had never considered venturing inside before.

Now, I have, albeit only on the periphery. So, here is a small taster of what you can see.

What you see as you approach the museum from the car park. I was on the first floor, where the Guild has its equipment and book store.
Once you have entered the museum through the shop, this is the first exhibit, which also happens to be by the rooms we weavers, spinners and dyers were ensconced in for our morning, afternoon, day of chatting and crafting.

I had actually done a little work in the garden earlier in the week. Yet more strawberry plants have now gone in the Green Johanna and so the path leading up to the shed is clear.

When we moved into the house, there was a path along the side of the garden, where the shed now stands. It was a highly inconvenient space, as the stepping stones were interspersed with pebbles over a decaying membrane to keep weeds at bay. This all made for a difficult journey to get the bins out on collection day.

Once I’d taken up the stones, pebbles and membrane, I discovered that the soil was impenetrable by spade. In other words, it was the best place to site the shed. However, the path had been longer than the shed, so a few feet of garden were still uncultivable.

This did not deter the strawberries from making in-roads onto this patch of ground. Their deep roots have broken up the soil and if I could find a suitable replacement for the strawberries, cultivation might be possible.

I’ve not thought about what I could do with this part of the garden, so for the moment, I’ve put some newspaper down to suppress/discourage unwanted vegetation. I’ve also added a stepping stone from my stash courtesy of various Freeglers, which makes it more comfortable walking to the shed.

Perhaps one day, I’ll make a more permanent path. After all, much as I hate to admit it, one day I might not be quite as nimble-footed as I am now and fewer trip hazards would be a bonus.

Posted in Crafts, Days out, Gardening | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments


I had been to Kingston-upon-Hull a couple of times in my life but a friend had suggested it as a destination in view of my daughter’s interest in buildings. I’d not been aware that there remained any of the Old Town from the days when the city had held more prominence. So, this in itself was an education for me.

If you’d like to know about the city’s history you can find out here. Suffice to say in this blog post, we only saw the smallest glimpse of this history, in part because I’d managed to get exceedingly cheap train tickets and we were on a time limit.

Notwithstanding, we found the old part of the city and were dismayed that it was crumbling away – literally.

This was in what appeared to be the legal quarter.
Fortunately, not all the older buildings were in the same state of disrepair.

Part of the rationale for walking round the Old Town was to find a suitable venue for lunch. I wanted to support the economy in this area and felt saddened by the limited choices available to us. That is, we found a fair number of pubs and cafés but the menus gave us a choice of burgers – or burgers.

Finally, we found a pub which looked more upmarket, with a clientele that I didn’t think we would leer at my daughter in her fashionably under-dressed state. The burgers were called something else and weren’t all of the meat variety.

View from the Atom Bar, where we ate our lunch. My daughter praised the coleslaw and I would recommend the onion rings in particular. The portion sizes were more than ample.

After a leisurely lunch, we then spent the rest of the time trying to locate a shop selling shoes my daughter would wear to school. In the end, this required an Ecosia search for Clark’s, which stocked a more durable version of the shoes she’d got elsewhere last Christmas. I hope they will be more durable.

To cap it all, I was so pleased to see water on the train heading out of the city. Thus, we have the River Humber.

Posted in Days out | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Garden revamp #1

A conversation with my dad the other day prompted me to seriously consider moving the raised bed. Currently, it is by the western fence between an apple tree and raspberry bush to the south and a bay tree to the north. Right in front of it is a rhubarb plant.

This year, because of the purple sprouting broccoli growing in it still, having only latterly started to produce florets, even less light is getting to the bed than usual. Thus, I doubt the spaghetti squash will amount to anything. Yes, I know the weather has not been the best, but when I see what others are producing, I know there is something seriously wrong with my technique.

Now, I’d already started taking the strawberry plants out from round the crab apple tree, since they were way passed their best. And something was needed to fill the space. What better then than to move the raised bed to the middle of the garden, where it will get much more sunshine and be easier to reach?

At first, I had been reluctant, not least because it means shifting the hugelbed contained within the current raised bed. On the other hand, the crab apple tree is not to my liking (more about this on another occasion perhaps), so rebuilding the raised bed could provide a useful repository for its wood.

Since the rest of the strawberries need to be removed as a minimum before the work on the new raised bed can commence, there is time for an evaluation of this plan, but unless anyone has any better suggestions, it is more or less certain to run.

Posted in Gardening, raised bed | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Picking from the jungle

Oh, I wish I had more space in my back garden!

As soon as I started gardening in earnest back in 2010, I yearned to have a bigger garden than the one I actually had. I was reading like mad, picking up all kinds of ideas about designs and plants. I also learned tidbits from gardening programmes on TV and of course since starting blogging I gleaned a lot from your posts. So, I quickly realised it wasn’t going to be possible to fit it all in.

Moving forward to today, 7th August 2021, I have decided it is time to sit down and seriously consider what I want moving forward. What you can see in the following photo is not it!

Actually, the photo makes the garden look better than it makes us feel. We can hardly find the stepping stones to work our way along the garden and one day, who knows what kind of accident there could be.

That is the number one concern: paths need to be visible, stable and big enough for feet.

Less prosaic perhaps but nonetheless important is aesthetic appeal. When I look out the back door, there are few moments of joy. I am pleased with the amount of height in the vegetation this year but there is too much clutter and what I know I really want already is being swamped by all the stuff I don’t.

At first, it was fun to see what flew in with the wind – or indeed the pigeons – but if you can hardly harvest your beans because of mint and the violets are killing the strawberries, it can be somewhat disheartening.

I did however end up harvesting some mint to get at the French beans this morning. The roots were too firmly fixed to pull the mint up but the top part of the plant came away and will do nicely with courgettes in a side dish.

There were also a couple of apples. One was a windfall. The other was broken off as I endeavoured to circumnavigate the relevant tree.

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Inside the compound

The first muck-in at St Aidan’s Nature Reserve since the start of the pandemic took place yesterday morning. The plan was to reduce the amount of ragwort, so that the cattle which graze on the site are less likely to consume it and become ill.

The section of land we were going to clear was in a section of the reserve which had been fox-proofed.

To be honest, I’d never actually taken any notice of the fences protecting ground-nesting birds but it was a privilege to get the opportunity to see the site from the middle outwards. Normally, visitors to the site see from the edges looking it.

The ragwort is the yellow flowers which look a little like tall daisies. There is another yellow flower in the photos, which is bird’s foot trefoil.

Gavin, RSPB Community Engagement Officer, explained that a number of people had written to complain about the removal of the ragwort. Whilst it is a valuable native species, however, the RSPB deems it better to remove the plant from some sections so that the cattle can graze. This in turn increases the biodiversity in the area where the cattle have grazed.

It was clear, in any case, that no matter how much work we put in with our special forks – these lift the ground and then enable the user to more easily pull a plant out by its roots – we would never clear all ragwort from the compound area.

Whether or not the Canada geese appreciated our efforts, as we were walking out of the compound at the end of our session, we saw a gaggle of them by the path. Can you see them, too?

Posted in Days out, Good for the environment | Tagged , , | 16 Comments