Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Christmas wish list....

Lots of Winter plants which I think would survive a West of Scotland winter, and cheer up the grey drab garden throughout the darker days.....

Scabiosa japonica 'Blue Diamonds' (Pincushion 'Blue Diamonds')

Christmas Rose 

Winter Aconite 

Winter Jasmine 


This window bird feeder

Friday, 4 November 2011

Confused garden?!

Just what season does my garden think it is?  If you thought I was mad when I said before that my garden shows little regard for the time of year and how is ought to be behaving, then read on.

Bit late for Gladioli isn't it?  Only bloomed this week.  And in my bedroom my extraordinary hibiscus burst into one solitary bloom this morning - usually a good omen.  Let's hope so as I could certainly do with it this month.

Should I tell this Aster that November is a bit late to consider blooming?

I rarely get to my strawberries before the creature features do, maybe this will be even harder in winter months?

And I am still doubtful that I'll harvest much sprouts from this poor half eaten alive creature!

Does your garden display any oddities or stubbornness?  Is it perhaps a sign of the changes in climate that only my garden is willing to show - none of my neighbours gardens are so bonkers!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pumpkin Muffins

I kept it simple and just carved the one pumpkin this year, I think I was too overwhelmed by the choices and dazzling designs on my previous post!  In the end there wasn't much time left over to go wild with Halloween displays, and I knew that ultimately with it falling on a wet and cold Monday this year, there would be few Trick or Treaters calling by.  Hence I am also left with too many sweets leftover from a poor turn out this year!

I just treated myself to Ed Roth's 'Stencil 101' book after lusting after it for some time and so used one of his stencils to make a more contemporary pumpkin this year.  I think my carving skills need a lot more practice, maybe next year Baby Wild can paint them instead.

Bad carving aside, I now had a reason to bake.  I've been in a bit of a fug the past few days, and generally been moping around the house seemingly unable to achieve anything.  I like baking on dark evenings so set about whipping up a storm in the kitchen last night to cheer myself up.  I got a bit carried away and made a few batches of meals for the rest of the week, with the excuse of maximising the oven whilst it was switched on.

I used this recipe from The Curvy Carrot as my starting point for the Pumpkin Muffins, but strayed far and wide as the original states American measurements rather than grams and ounces.  It was the healthiest and least complicated recipe I could find in my warped and miserable state.  At the best of times I'm not very technical when it comes to measuring ingredients so it's always a bit hit or miss!  Here's my interpretation using Daddy Native's Granny's china tea cups to measure the dry ingrediants...
  1. Cream 100g butter with 1/2 cup normal (or half & half in this case) sugar with 1/4 cup soft brown sugar.
  2. One by one slowly add 2 eggs, a generous drop of vanilla essence, then continue to whisk or beat for a few minutes before adding pureed or mashed & roasted pumpkin, about 200 mls.  This will provide the moisture and negate the need for adding any further oil or butter to the mixture.
  3. Sift together 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, some freshly grated nutmeg, & a pinch of allspice for good measure; and gently mix it all into the creamed butter.
  4. Stir in a handful of raisins, and either pumpkin seeds or walnuts depending on what's open in the cupboard and divide the mixture into muffins cases (already lining the muffin tin of course).  Alternatively you could pour the mixture into a greased and lined loaf tin.  I did both, and got 6 muffins and a small loaf with these measurements.  Muffins to give away to family and a wee loaf that slices well to fit into lunch boxes. 
  5. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, before baking for about 20 minutes at something like 180 degrees with fan oven.  Like I said, I was cooking 3 separate meals in the oven at this stage so I'm guessing with the temperature.  Best to follow your usual muffin recipe temperature!
Voila! Yummy scrummy healthy muffins that I don't feel guilty about giving to the toddler.  Following her behaviour after staying over night at her cousins and eating a pile of sweets, I am adamant she'll not be seeing much more sugar for a long time!  #terribletwos
Zombie family
PS - for an even easier and cheaper dark evening baking session, check out my wild apple tart recipe on the other blog.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Hallow'een Collection

I'm BACK!!

Do forgive me, I've been a bit preoccupied with finding new jobs, entertaining visiting family, having the cold, dreaming up business ideas so I can become rich and stop job searching, and generally being busy with an increasingly demanding and cantankerous almost 2 year old.

I will also admit to falling out of love a little with my garden and being more than a little pissed off at the lack of autumn fruits to collect and eat and share recipes with you!

But that's all over now!  So as a treat I thought I'd share some seasonal ideas with you, the best of Halloween as it were....  I love this daft festival.

I had planned many months back to share my amazing little squashes that I grow every year with you, but they totally and utterly FAILED this year, so I only have some pumpkins awaiting decoration this year.  I'm not quite sure what to do with them this year.  I know I should have some decorated for this evening all ready as many kids will probably be trick or treating tonight as it's a Saturday, but I'm using the excuse that we'll be at the annual Halloween party at Daddy Native's sister's tonight! 

Inspired by the wonderful Tiffany at  Easie Peasie who posted these exquisite pumpkin ideas a while back which I just HAD to share with you, I also found these on American site Womansday (let's face it the best ideas are going to be American)-
Halloween Craft How-to: Candle Pumpkins

Halloween Craft How-to: Spider Web Pumpkin

Craft Project: Mr. and Mrs. Gourd-geous

The site also has some rather fabulous Halloween templates for decorating and these party ideas have me thinking maybe I could hijack the party next year and throw it myself!

Fanged Pumpkins

Vine-and-Leaf Carved Pumpkin

And what to do with all that pumpkin flesh?  Bored with Pumpkin soup?  Well how about making a Pumpkin Curry, or Pumpkin Hot Pot, a healthy Pumpkin and Sweetcorn Risotto , Pumpkin Muffins with mulled apple juice, or a devilish Pumpkin and Apple Meringue Pie from River Cottage.  If you're really feeling adventurous and want to show off to friends and family The Guardian has this collection of recipes from top chefs.
Roast pumpkin with cream, thyme & Parmesan
Check out this Halloween Vodka idea from the fabulous blog Scary Mommy.  Jill, you rock!  Hic!

This year we're dressing up as Zombies as its the easiest cheapest idea I could come up with. And I kinda like it that we always go as a family theme.  Last year we were boring and tired new parents so lazily went as cowboys.  The year before I was heavily pregnant and the only clothes that still fitted were my pyjamas so Daddy Native wore his Fireman's uniform (aren't I a lucky girl!) and I went as the rescued heavily pregnant damsel in distress pyjamas!  But we have yet to surpass the year we went as the guys out of the 118 TV ads.  Very funny. 

Here are some very clever ideas that would take way more planning than I'll ever manage!
This is a pretty comprehensive list of costume ideas & instructions.

Well my friends, I think that's enough inspiration for this year.  Do please share what you got up to and dressed as this year!

Happy haunting!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Medicine Woman - Ayrshire style

One of the things that make up for our horrid winters in Scotland, is the sheer enjoyment of watching the change of the seasons.  I think that's why Spring and Autumn are my favourite times of the year.  As well as looking forward to the annual Eurovision Song Contest party every Spring, and my birthday falling in Autumn!

I wish I could say that the reason I've been so quiet on here of late is due to being busy collecting berries and making huge batches of jams, cordials, crumbles & jellies.  But I'm sure you'll have noticed that there are very few berries for the picking!  The blackberries were so late to ripen here, that only a few have survived, meaning that the autumn walks I've been looking forward to are offering only a handful of berries which Baby Wild immediately swipes from my grasp!

I managed to scramble around a wild apple tree nearby and collect some fallen fruit & had been hoping to turn them into an apple and blackberry crumble but it's clearly not to be. And I'm not paying for fruit at this time of year if I can help it!

I've exhausted my resources of rose hips locally, leaving behind all those not in perfect condition for the birds.  We have plenty of rose hip syrup bottled away, and if I find another bush somewhere I'd like to make more jelly as we demolished September's batch almost instantly.  I wonder how the birds are getting by on so few fruits to feast on before winter?  There are no rowan berries either I've noticed, as I had been hoping to make rowan berry cheese for the first time too.  Check out these plentiful rowan berry recipes I found on line... tempting aren't they?

Yesterday Baby Wild & I managed a walk between showers and found a happy elder bush in Spiers Park, complete with a handful of large ripe blackberries underneath! Must be blessed by fairies I imagine!  So we treated ourselves to just enough elderberry heads to make 2 small bottles of cordial which taste fantastic.  Since we have plenty of rose hip syrup, I'll keep the elderberry cordial for soothing colds and sore throats later in the year.  Am loving making my own medicines this year!  Elderberries are packed full of vitamins, but be sure to cook them rather than eat them raw, as uncooked they can contain traces of cyanide!

Elderberry Cordial (for juices, sweet treats, drizzles and sniffles)

To make the cordial, collect and wash heads of elderberries, before removing the berries from the stalks with the help of a fork.  Don't worry about getting every bit of stalk removed, life's too short for that!  Pop in a pot & add just enough water to cover the berries, bring to the boil & simmer for 10 minutes.  Once that's done squeeze all the juice out through a doubled muslin cloth back into the pot.  Ramp up the health properties by adding finely chopped ginger & cloves to the juice, along with the juice of 1 lemon (from a bottle in my case) and 1lb of sugar for every pint of berry juice you squeezed out.  Bottle into jars or bottle straight from a hot dishwasher to make life even easier.  You can also freeze the cordial - as it doesn't freeze solid I'll be eating it straight from the freezer by the spoonful to sooth a sore throat later in the depths of winter.

We're gonna be a healthy family this winter!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Blogging in a storm

Or more simply put - "Those who plant a garden, plant happiness".
Isn't that grand! I love it.  I think I'm going to inscribe it across the arch of my shed, since I doubt I'll have anything grander to display it for a while yet!
This month I've started planning what improvements I'd like to make for next year's garden, and started choosing what plants I shall move around in the coming weeks.  The most important thing to remember I find, is the fact that I have learnt so much in the past few months, and therefore not to be saddened by plants that haven't worked for me, or sowings that were badly timed, or crops that I couldn't keep up with. 

The main thing is to keep notes and these photos, and remember that this time a year ago, never mind two years ago, I was so much more clueless!  It was my choice after all to try to learn and enjoy learning as I went along, picking up bits of advice and wisdom here and therefore, but mostly through trial and error.  I must stand by that idea, and appreciate the mistakes to learn from as well as the successes, as I'll learn better this way.
Not that I've managed to do much last weekend with the end of Hurricane Katrine that is whipping Scotland at present.  I'll be very grateful if I manage to keep a hold of my Eucalyptus, which is mostly horizontal in the wind but for the post we have tied it to as support.  Some of my hardy herbs that I planted out last week having grown from seed, such as Russian Tarragon to rejuvenate the herb garden, have been clean blown out of the soil roots and all.  Daddy Native's flimsy plastic PVC greenhouse thing was annihilated, and all his lovely tomatoes that were threatening to fruit any day now are in a pile waiting to meet the compost heap.  Never mind, once the storm is over we'll hopefully get a chance to build the proper greenhouse, and make sure it's secure enough to stick with us on top of the hill here throughout the wild winter.
And next year, it'll be even better, and the garden shall be stronger and more organised as I continue to learn a bit more each month.
On a foraging note - I had hoped to collect mushrooms this weekend as it's been so wet yet mild. But the severe weather put pay to that idea. Hopefully I'll have a hoard to show you soon though, I'm not giving up hope!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Test the pH of your soil for free

If, like me, you've wondered how to find out if your soil is acidic or alkaline without having to splash out on a test kit, read on.
All you gotta do is take some soil from your garden and put in a clean container. Then, add a half-cup of vinegar. If the soil bubbles or fizzes, it's alkaline.
If there's no reaction, try again with a fresh soil sample into a second container. Add a half-cup of water and mix. Then, add a half-cup of baking soda. If the soil bubbles or fizzes the soil is highly acidic.
If your soil is acidic, you could add wood ash or lime and give it some time, to try rebalance.  If it's alkaline, use sulfur or pine needles.  Much easier than you thought, isn't it?

I like free and I like simple.