Wednesday, 19 June 2013

gardening with children

The littlest Bradshaw and I have been planting lots in our new raised bed. Inspired by Garden Organics square foot gardening concept we have planted crops of peas, carrots, spring greens, tomato and courgette closely together, with the taller plants at the back. In between the rows of vegetables we have planted 'companion plants' of edible flowers, marigold and nasturtiums.  The boy is in charge of watering, and I am in charge of squealing when he waters my feet!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Summer adventures

edible flowers...

Last week, on a gloriously sunny evening, I joined a foraging walk to learn how to identify the edible flowers and plants that can be picked. It was really interesting, I learned absolutely loads, although I'm not sure how well I'll remember everything! We picked salad burnet, ribwort plantain, St. Johns wort, red clover, hogweed, herb Robert, burdock, borage, cleavers and of course ransoms.

Unfortunately as foraging becomes more fashionable, I have heard tales of people uprooting plants in the wild and beaches that have lost all their samphire to the restaurant trade! You would never survive if you had to forage for your food it's simply unsustainable nowadays, we have far too high a population and our tastes are quite different, plus you would never forage for just one plant, you would take bits of this and that and mix what you find. Instead if you want to forage, follow the foragers code below and take little bits or grow your own.

A Foragers Code

  • English law is complicated, you can take 'fruit, flowers, foliage and fungi' but nothing dug up, from public rights of way for your own consumption only, if there is no national protection of the site or species or local bylaw. 
  • Always get the landowners permission first. 
  • Foraging on protected land such as SSSI's and nature reserves can cause damage beyond repair and can be illegal. 
  • Do not collect rare or red list species or those protected by law. 
  • Follow the Countryside Code. 
  • Take reputable field guides with you and fully identify species before picking them. 
  • Minimise damage to vegetation, leaf litter and soil. 
  • Respect and protect other species, including poisonous ones. 
  • Ancient woodland and permement pasture often contain a rich variety of species including rarities.
  • Avoid removing dead wood. 
  • Do not collect species you don't intent to eat. 
  • Be aware that some species may make you unwell and that some are deadly!
  • Some species are only edible in certain seasons or at different stages of its growth, or after cooking. 
  • For fungi, pick no more than 1.5 kg of fungi total per visit, many species other than humans eat fungi. 
  • Don't collect 'buttons' (mushrooms that haven't expanded), giving them time to expand will help identification, allow spores to be discharged and give you more to eat. 

Thursday, 6 June 2013


There is nothing better this time of year than a British hedgerow bursting with cow parsley, herb Robert, a few late bluebells and orchids. The narrow lanes around me are lined with the white lacy umbellifer, cow parsley, that dances in the breeze as you drive past. Our recent trip to Wales, had equally enchanting hedgerows, but with the yellow flowers of gorse in it, which looked amazing against the blue sky.

We have lost so many flower rich meadows in this country, 97% since the 1930s, so roadside verges are now really important habitat. Unfortunately many local councils at this time of year come along and cut all of this beauty down so the charity Plantlife has launched a Road Verge Campaign, to raise awareness and encourage councils not to be so hasty when it comes to mowing. I hope councils will take heed and help protect the hedgerow habitat that remains.

Sunday, 2 June 2013


 A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013

A day relaxing at home and an impromptu pirate ship was made by 'borrowing' a tea towel and taking two clothes pegs from the washing line to make a mast and flag. I love lazy days like these and hope images like these and the sundae making that followed will be etched on my memory for ever. We spent lots of time with Grandad this week, and he gets very muddled with his short term memory, but always has a yarn to tell about his youth. It has really made me value my pictures and I really should print them out and write on the back of them in case, heaven forbid I ever forget all the stories and the people in them. 

Ted: "Argh" he is saying in full 'Pirate' mode whilst winking! Since he turned seven this once quiet boy is certainly turning into quite a character, he is absolutely hilarious. 
Stanley: Not sure why he's been put in the bath! 

foraging fun...

We took advantage of the sunshine to pick the last of this years wild garlic. We picked wild garlic leaves and stinging nettle tops to freeze and also to cook up for a foraging feast. 

Alfie made a green pasta, normal egg pasta recipe with blended stinging nettles and wild garlic leaves added in to add taste and a vibrant colour, which he carefully rolled out on the pasta machine. Then he hand crafted parcels stuffed with ricotta, wild garlic and nettles for a starter, which I garnished with parmesan shavings and a wild garlic flower. Ted made a green spaghetti that looked glorious with meatballs for our main course. 

It was a delicious meal, mainly prepared by the boys who reveled in being hunter-gatherers and always love using the pasta machine too - even though some of the mix ended up being play-doh for the baby! 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

the wild west...

We headed west for a break this week to the depths of west Wales. I love this part of the world with its lanes lined with wild flowers, villages with names we can't pronounce and dramatic coastline.

We stayed in the most enchanting blue cottage and little blue barn next door, hidden at the bottom of a long and winding track. The cottage was lovely with underfloor heating under the wooden and slate floors, a lovely bathroom with slipper bath, a pantry and the largest bed I've ever slept in! There were little vases dotted around the cottage with flowers picked from the beautiful garden outside.

The boys fed apple cores to the pony who lived in the field at the bottom of the garden and roamed the 40 acres surrounding the cottage, looking for adventures. We rowed the little rowing boat around the lake and cooked Welsh cakes on the stove to eat warm.

It was an idyllic hideaway, with no wifi or modern distractions and I dreamed of living in the little barn and writing a book or painting just like the owners, both artists do.

You can find more pictures here.
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