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 | 15 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 #70

When I started my ‘Round the garden in 80 days’ series, I expected to finish it by New Year. Yet here we are hurtling towards the summer equinox and still eleven posts to go, including this one.

One the plus side, I’ve collected a few newsworthy items since the last post. For me, the most interesting is the Ribwort Plantain.

Whilst reading this month’s newsletter from Wildfood.uk, I found the name for a new wild flower which has appeared in my back garden: Ribwort Plantain. You can read the details here but the essential tidbit for me is that the flower heads taste a bit like mushroom when made into stock. So, it looks like some experimenting is on the cards very soon.

I also got a surprise in the front garden, though this is of a less pleasing nature. This morning, I went out to dig up the crocosmia

(they are taking over, predictably, and besides I want the space for something else) and discovered a brown which had previously been green. I wondered if my neighbour had decided to have a go with the weedkiller once he’d done his lawns, if it had been an accident or if urine from a pet might do such damage. Fortunately, apart from one tulip, the rest was growth I would like to get rid of but it is a disconcerting situation, nonetheless.

On a cheerier note, here are two different bird sightings which tickled me.

Ducklings at Temple Newsam. We also saw tadpoles but they weren’t as cute.
I’m not sure what the pigeon was doing on the raised bed but now I realised this may have been the bird who has been digging up bits of sheep’s fleece, which had been added to provide nitrogen to the growing medium.
Posted in Days out, edible flowers, Gardening, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #69

It’s been a while since I wrote a post! Life has been chugging along but there was nothing particularly salient in the garden to comment on. One apple tree lost its blossom on a gusty day but the others are looking resplendent or just bursting into flower.

Aside from the blossom, the honesty is out and, of course, the violets. They even started to poke through the newspaper I’d put down to suppress them

so after acquiring more papers from my neighbour a new layer has been added. It may not do the job either but at least the papers will add carbon to the soil.

I’m pleased with myself for remembering to do the watering. Not only the pots but the new raised bed. As I’ve discovered today, the crab apple tree prevents rain water from reaching the whole bed

or, I surmise, it stops the rain if the breeze is a south westerly.

Other news is that the Nine Star Broccoli has produced again this year. It is a perennial and so this is to be expected

but after the cabbage white onslaught last year I almost dug it out. How resilient is nature!

Whilst I potter about, deadheading dandelions and turning the compost, I have been diverted from work outside to preparing to weave. I borrowed a rigid heddle loom from the WSD Guild and am at the stage of learning how to use it.

I was lent a book to help me set the loom up but some of the instructions seemed impossible to follow through or I couldn’t see why they were necessary. I therefore adapted them and learned two things. One is that the loom is currently dressed the other way round, so I’m working at the wrong end. Dressing a loom is time-consuming but threading every warp separately was the right approach for me.

What have you learned recently?

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

Round the garden in 80 days #68

The last post I wrote on the garden featured snow. The weather couldn’t be more different now with bright sunshine and temperatures edging towards 20.

We are also onto the next phase of spring flowers. The glory of the snow are still in abundance in the back garden but in the front one there is now a blaze of colour from the tulips.

Two years ago, the cluster of three tulips on the back lefthand side of the photo were two pink and one yellow. Last year, the yellow disappeared, leaving just the two pink flowers. Now, as you can see, we have yet another variation on theme.

Another unexpected event is the summer snowflake appearing now. I’d thought it should flower in June, although after checking the RHS website it would appear that it does flower in spring.

Anyway, happy Easter to you all. Let’s hope for pretty flowers and pleasant weather for the rest of the spring.

Yesterday, when I wrote this post, I was unaware that it was the 10th anniversary of this blog. 18 April 2022.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Medieval frescoes

In a departure from musings about the environment and garden observations, today I’m going to show you the inside of Pickering Church. One of the Palm Sunday archers with Towton Battlefield Society had told me about medieval frescoes at St Peter and St Paul’s Church at Pickering. So, as we were in its vicinity on a trip to Helmsley, it was convenient for us to drop in.

Unfortunately, the sunlight made it difficult to photograph the frescoes. They do look better in real life.

Both my daughter and I were actually more taken with this stained glass window, however.

And I read the plaques around the church walls with interest.

It’s a shame that the headstones in the graveyard were not similarly well preserved.

Posted in Days out | Tagged | 14 Comments

Collars instead of fences

I received an interesting email from Yorkshire Wildlife Trust about using collars to keep cattle where they are wanted. These collars would replace electric fences.

I don’t know anything about this subject to say more but I can see the question of collars raises other issues. For example, it could be argued that cattle grazing for biodiversity adds to the amount of methane entering the atmosphere, which in turn could lead to loss of these landscapes through climate change.

I’ve not looked at figures on this issue but my hunch is that the healthier landscapes will absorb more carbon. Besides, if cattle are grazing natural pastures, they don’t need to be in fields, which could then potentially be given over to growing arable crops.

I say ‘potentially’ because not all land is suitable for crops. My local organic farm is, I think, on a flood plain. Certainly, its fields are constantly saturated in winter. Our subsoil is clay which slows down drainage but my garden is towards the top of the hill, so the soil here is only saturated where there is impaction and then only for as long as there is substantial rain.

To be honest, I’m amazed that the farm’s walled garden can be productive but that could be why Jo can grow leeks and I can’t! Still, if you’re like me a diet of leeks and nothing but leeks would soon lose its appeal. So, what could Jo grow in her fields if she didn’t farm animals?

This photo was taken last August in the grounds of a pub. Not intentional rewilding I dare say but pretty, nonetheless.
Posted in climate change, rewilding | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #67

I am probably a bit late to the show here but yes! it did snow here on the last day of March.

All told, this winter we’ve had much more frost than has been usual in the past few years but this is almost the only snow to have laid. Thankfully, nothing in the garden was put out and now I’m moving on with the prep for this growing season proper.

Apart from the customary twiddle with the compost bins, today’s focus was moving the cardoon from its winter resting place in one pot to another, this time by the pond.

The plant fared quite badly when it was in the ground by the crab apple tree but sprang into life when it was transplanted to a pot by the black fence. This spot is just about the only one to get sun in winter but maybe the cardoon simply doesn’t like the soil.

Anyway, while the cardoon adds panache to the pond, its winter home will hopefully become the best habitat for madder*. This has yet to be sown but the deed will be done soon.

*I was pleased to learn the French for madder whilst watching an interesting programne on the Bayeux Tapestry yesterday evening. As it turns out, the ‘tapestry’ is in fact an embroidery. Madder in French, by the way, is la

Posted in dye garden, Pond and bog garden | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #66

When I moved a purple sprouting broccoli bush from one location to another last autumn, it had been more wishful thinking than expectation that motivated me. However, I am pleased to report that fully grown PSB plants are amenable to being relocated, even after a savage caterpillar attack.

The florets were small but not wanting to lose the bounty, we enjoyed them in a stir fry last night. Now I do have the expectation of more, not least because I can see buds continuing to emerge.

At the other end of the scale, the younger rhubarb crown, which was also relocated last autumn, has lost its stems after an enthusiastic start. It behaved in a similar fashion last year, so all being well there is nothing to worry about.

The concern arises from the fact that the compost I fed it from the finishing off bin was not entirely finished. I think one of the reasons for this is that it gets too dry to actually finish decomposing, so watering it may be in order. Further, since this bin would be relatively easy to empty and reload, turning it would no doubt improve matters. So, now I’ve got another regular job to do.

Posted in Gardening, soil management | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #65

I finally made it to a garden centre for dahlia tubers. In my mind, I had wanted the cactus variety but in the event I was taken by others, which I will no doubt report on in due course.

The focus of this post is instead on onion sets, which were an impulse buy at the same establishment. Onions have only once done well for me, so my £2 expenditure could be misplaced. Yet there is now a raised bed with what appears to be a most friable medium for them to grow in. To boot, the cardboard on top of the bed to ward off weeds has helped the soil to maintain its moisture.

As I was planting the onion sets, I was tickled by the glory-of-the-snow which had decided to grow on the ‘wrong’ side of the raised bed wall. No doubt next year more will follow. For the moment, however, there appears to be a lot of space in the bed for crops that I would like to eat.

With all the crops being in one place, I am hoping that it is more likely they will get watered adequately than if they were dotted about the garden. We will see, as they won’t be the only plants that need watering, even so.

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

Round the garden in 80 days #64

Life seems to be taking over my blogging time but I am finally posting a photo I took a few days ago.

Today is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It has been beautifully sunny over the last few days and there are spring flowers a-plenty.

The back of the garden looks so like woodland (albeit with a purple shed) at this time of year, with the glory-of-the-snow, primroses and lungwort. The wild garlic is also growing now and I hope that over the years it will spread into the shadier area by the fence.

One of my apple trees is about to burst into bud. I hope the companion on the other side will not be too far behind, so that there is some pollen to fertilise the Ribston Pippin. Apples or not, however, it will be lovely to see the blossom.

The woad I sowed a couple of weeks ago seems to have germinated. As yet, I’m not sure, though. At this stage, the leaves could be weeds that have been activated by my hoeing in order to create a fine tilth for the woad seeds. However, should it be the hoped-for woad, the leaves may be of interest to the pigeons, in which case netting could be going up soon.

Posted in Crafts, Gardening, rewilding | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Round the garden in 80 days #63

Don’t you find it is easier to get jobs done when you spontaneously decide to do them?

Upon waking this morning, the washing went straight in the machine and, whilst waiting for it to do its stuff, I checked whether I needed to plant my dye seeds now. It turns out that the sunflower and madder seeds are best sown close to the last frost (indoors), whereas woad is more amenable to direct sowing in winter-spring. So, I got the woad seeds out and at first wondered if the contents of the packet had got mixed up with sunflower seeds.

Upon closer inspection, I could see that woad seeds are much thinner than sunflower seeds. Hopefully, they will also germinate well in the soil I hoed as best I could to a fine tilth here:

Fortunately, woad seeds are shallow sown, so the hoeing will have been less likely to disturb the mycorrhiza.

With that job done, I then wandered round the garden looking for other suitable spots for dye plants. This is when I remembered I had been meaning to remove the bird feeder from an apple tree. The birds had never used it and it was impossible to keep clean. It also now needed cutting off the tree, as the branch had divided further along.

I also remembered that there was a fatball maker in the fridge. I can’t remember where this came from but it is a handy way of collecting fat, which can then easily be squeezed out in the designated place. In this case, the designated place was under the apple tree at the back of the garden.

No doubt, the fat will soon be noticed and consumed. At least I hope so – there doesn’t seem to have been much of a bird presence recently. Well, apart from surreptitious digging for worms.

Posted in Crafts, Wildlife | Tagged , | 13 Comments