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Nothing Gold Can Stay

It feels like only a few days ago that my garden was awash with golden dandelions. All of a sudden the golden flowers are gone, only to be replaced with white seed heads. These incredibly intricate seed orbs have always been a fascination to me. When we were kids we used to blow them apart to tell the time – whatever number of blows it took to take all the seeds off the stem was inferred to be the current time. It never worked, of course, but that didn’t stop us from blowing flower after flower, in effect helping nature to spread the seeds and thus ensuring more dandelions the following year. Beautiful and effective. Read more

Of Bees & Apple Blossoms

Bees amaze me. The amount of work they do is incredible. I keep some chilli plants in my sun room. I recently read that when keeping fruiting plants indoors where there are no bees you need to cross-pollinate the flowers yourself by gently sticking the tip of your finger into each flower in turn. The process takes a bit of time, but my plants are small and I only have a few of them, so it really doesn’t take too long. Then I look at our apple trees, completely covered in blooms. I can’t imagine how long it would take if I had to cross-pollinate all those individual flowers myself. Thank goodness for the bees, who tireless make their way from bloom to bloom, ensuring my tree is heavy with delicious apples later in the season. Seeing the bees enveloping the stamen with their tiny legs, clinging on as they extract the nectar for honey, is really quite fascinating. Read more

Ground Elder Pesto [Recipe]

Ground elder is growing profusely in our garden at the moment. It is quite an invasive plant and can be very hard to get rid of once it takes hold. I only recently discovered that the leaves are edible. They taste a little like parsley but with the bite and consistency of spinach. Rather than bemoan the fact that my garden was full of weeds I decided to get inventive and use this natural bounty to make some tasty meals. Read more

Forces of Nature

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s weed is another man’s wildflower. Dandelions are in full bloom at this time of year. To me, they are beautiful – a sea of gold as far as the eye can see. All parts of the plant are edible – leaves, petals, seeds and even the roots. They are an all-in-one superfood and they’re free, yet we’re mowing them down at a rate of knots. Quite apart from their beauty and their use as food, dandelions are incredibly important to plant life in general. They are a key source of food for bees in early spring when they are just coming out of hibernation. Bees are essential to growing food and vegetables as they cross-pollinate flowers, enabling fruits and vegetables to develop. To me, perfectly manicured lawns devoid of daisies and dandelions are lifeless and insipid. I prefer my garden to be wild and free. Give me a host of golden dandelions any day. Read more

Planting a Greenhouse

I tend to divide vegetables into three broad categories – those I love, those I can’t abide and functional vegetables that I’m nonplussed about in their own right but which are essential flavour builders, such as carrots and celery. I guess I’m quite lucky in that there aren’t too many vegetables I can’t abide. Swede (rutabaga), or turnip as we always called it when we were kids, is one of them. Boiled onions (especially if swimming in a white béchamel sauce) and puréed carrots will both send me running. But for the most part I love vegetables and I try to eat as wide a variety as I possibly can. Read more

Building a Polytunnel

In our village almost every house has a small greenhouse. Sometimes they are sturdy constructions made with metal frames and glass or hard plastic windows, but mostly they are hand-built with frames made from either off-cuts of wood or PVC piping, covered with a sheet of thick, clear plastic. Read more

Man in Motion

Whatever about me being a big kid, Arūnas is an even bigger one. He doesn’t do stationary – he likes to be on the move. Despite the motion blur you can still see the determination on his face to get higher and higher. It’s all part of his boyish charm, I guess. Luckily the swing was well cemented down – otherwise there probably would have been an injury. Read more

Saving Water (and my Sanity)

Ah, marital bliss. It can’t be beaten. It’s a myth, though – right? Like perfection – something to aspire to but never quite achieve?
In our house we have a deal – one cooks and the other cleans up. You’d think that this would work well for someone who loves to cook – all the fun and none of the drudgery. Alas, it’s not so. Read more

Afloat

In the early morning sunlight we watched as the boat pulled away from the shore, leaving Ireland in our wake. As the coastline slowly faded and disappeared we turned to look ahead. Wales would be first, we knew, then England and France. After that we had no plan – we’d just have to see where the road took us. So far, so good. Read more

Death of a Ladies’ Man

We both knew it had to be done but we had been procrastinating for weeks. Months, if I’m honest. He was a menace and he needed to go, but somehow neither of us had the heart to do it. Read more

Blur

When do you stop being a kid and start being an adult? Eighteen? Twenty One? Read more

Easy Homemade Mayonnaise [Recipe]

Mayonnaise is my favourite condiment. It seems to go with just about everything. A thick, creamy dollop on a hard-boiled egg. Spread thickly on sourdough toast and topped with a slice of ripe tomato for a quick and tasty lunch. Combined with gherkin and pungent capers for a piquant tartare sauce. Mixed with your favourite ketchup for a perfect seafood dressing. The possibilities are endless. Read more

A Bright Pink Cock

As some of you will know, I live with a feisty cock who causes me no end of trouble. I have tried a number of approaches to keeping him at bay, including whacking him (judiciously) over the head, but nothing seems to work. Read more

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Picture the scene. You arrive in the world’s smallest airport on the world’s smallest plane and step out into sweltering heat. Your guide arrives to take you to your campsite and you look forward to your first glimpse of wildlife. Read more

3-Ingredient Chocolate Mousse [Recipe]

When trying to live self-sufficiently it is important to make good use of ingredients and not let anything go to waste. I make a jar of mayonnaise about once a fortnight. It takes 5 egg yolks to make the full jar, which leaves me with 5 egg whites. During the summer I use these egg whites to make my no-churn chocolate chip ice cream, but in the winter (when I also have no milk for cream), I make this easy chocolate mousse. Read more

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