Glut busting…

It was only this year that I learned that you could eat the carrot greens – there’s a myth I had heard that they are poisonous, but apparently it is just that – a myth.

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I’ve had a lot of produce to eat lately, including these thinnings, so I made a simple chick pea salad, with diced carrots, halved cherry tomatoes, finely chopped carrot greens and a rapeseed oil and lemon juice dressing. The twins and Dapper all wolfed it down – unfortunately before I had a chance to photograph it… so you’ll just have to try it yourself to see the end result!

I also made up a batch of these yellow squash crisps using a glut of patty pans, salt and black pepper, and without parmesan (as I had none in). These were also a massive hit! I recommend the recipe.

Re-useful #4: old banana skins & egg shells

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Of course, you can just add these to the compost too. We eat a LOT of bananas in this house – a LOT – so we have plenty of skins. I put these on a tray in the bottom of the oven, allowing them to air dry until I bake something, then heat dry for the rest. Then I grind them in a coffee grinder, with any (washed, dry) egg shells and last year’s red clover harvest (as it turned out, I didn’t like it as tea!). Store the mixture in an old antibacterial wipes container, sprinkling a good handful in the hole before planting out plants, or mixing through my own compost to boost it. I’ve also occasionally dissolved a spoonful in the watering can to give the plants a kick!

Re-useful #3: pallet project the second

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My second pallet project was another very simple no-brainer. Simply cutting half of the pallet off left me with a much-needed outdoor welly stand. Taking out the second rung from the bottom allowed me to fill the bottom with some chard seedlings I’m hoping will take before winter kicks in. This will look great too come spring, when I replace these with daffs/tulips!

Persevering with preserves

It’s that time of year. The fruits of the year’s labours are filling up the kitchen, the fridge, the freezer and our tummies, and I’m looking towards this year’s Christmas hampers of homemade goodies!

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So far this week, I’ve made elderberry vinegar and Elder Rob, mixed tomato chutney, apple chutney, blackberry jam and marigold jelly. The latter is something of an experiment: I’ve plenty of calendula oil warming through and a full jar of dried petals for future use, so have been looking for edible uses for these gorgeous, vibrant flowers. I found this recipe and, loving floral flavours, thought I’d give it a go. On my walk to the post office on Monday, the boughs overhead were laden with apples, and the pavement with windfalls! I filled two carrier bags with 2.7kg of cookers and 1.8kg of crab apples. The cookers formed the main part of the jelly! The recipe yielded four jars – one has made its way into the kitchen cupboard already!

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And the crab apples? They’re soaking in vodka with sugar and cinnamon sticks for Yuletide liqueur! Roll on winter!

Stength in numbers

I had felt sure that this blog post would be very different. It was to be titled “So long, and thanks for all the fish” a reference to West Coast salmon and Abroath smokies. Perhaps it should still be titled such, referring instead to every red herring, every big fish story and every wet-fish-slap-around-the-face that Westminster has dealt to the rest of the UK over recent years.

I stayed up all night on Thursday, a night fraught with nerves and more than one tearful moment, to watch the results of the referendum come in. I spent Friday in a state of happiness, shared with family and friends, utterly relieved by the outcome.

I tell you this not to gloat or rub in the defeat. I tell you so that you understand how important Scotland is to the United Kingdom. I can’t speak for the rest of the UK, but here in the English Midlands there were Saltires flying all last week. The BBC showed interviews with folk in the street distraught at the thought of a line drawn across the North. The interviews since have demonstrated the importance of the decision, and the referendum, to people across the rest of the UK.

As for the changes promised by Westminster, I cannot but think that they will be forced to follow through by the sheer strength of our numbers. If Scotland had voted for independence, the English, at least, would have felt bitter. The knee-jerk reaction, even amongst Scotland-lovers like myself, was to say “Well, if you think you’re getting the Sterling you can think again!” We would certainly have reacted as we felt – as a jilted nation. The ill-feeling would have bred resentment and hatred where it had not existed. But because of the no vote, we once again feel solidarity. We are all in the same boat – we all hate Westminster, we all want a degree of devolution. Thanks to the Scots we actually have a chance to change the way our country runs.

A Yes voter on one of last week’s Newsnight programmes said that Britain wants to rule, whereas Scotland wants to lead. I think we have always been leaders in Great Britain. Many of the first world’s democracies are based on our model, and here we have a chance to create a brand-spanking new one! Once again we can show the world how a great nation can move forward without the need for division – something which, in light of issues in the Ukraine, in the Middle East, in a divided Syria and in the face of Islamic State, is much needed. We can demonstrate how a civilised country can effect change without inflicting violence on its own people. We can show, once again, that democracy can win – indeed, with an 84% turnout, has already won out amongst the Scottish people.

It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a LOT of work, and it’s going to cause some heartache. There’s no instant fix – to be calling for changes three days later is simply ludicrous! But I hope I am right in my belief that we can move forward together as a great nation once again.

So thank you Scotland. Thank you for staying with us. Thank you for returning our good will. And thank you for giving us all this great opportunity. Let’s make the next great leap forward – together.

Re-useful #2: pallet project the first

I was lucky enough to be offered a pile of pallets a few months ago. I’d had a few already, and used them to build my compost bin system, but I’d always fancied trialling a few of the ideas for pallet upcycling on pinterest. I asked for 10, maybe a dozen, and was delighted when the carpenter turned up with 17.

Three replaced the shoddy doors on the compost bins. Two will be raised beds in next year’s plot. The rest have been allocated future roles in and around the garden, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you what exactly they’ll be doing until my trusty drill-driver has been put to work!

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But this was a no-brainer. I knew I needed some sort of potting station, and had the old TV cabinet set up already.

Screwing a couple of pallets together and to the worktop and sawing out a couple of slats to slot in a couple of Poundland picture frames with the backs removed took an hour tops. And it has worked really well, clearing the worktop of seedling trays so that I can actually work there once again.

What I wore for weekend shopping

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Dress & belt: Dotty P’s; cardi & leggings: Matalan; shoes: New Look

More and more of my dresses are coming out to play again!

I have been finding wearing dresses something of a challenge when out and about with the boys. There’s a lot of bending lifting and carrying, and seldom a free hand to pull a skirt down, or defend against gusts of wayward wind. I wish I’d cottoned on to leggings at the start of the summer rather than towards the end – the whole season could have been much girlier!!