a busy domestic blog of knitting, sewing and all kinds of needlecrafts, cooking my garden produce and preserving it

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Frost details

 It's an accepted thing that a touch of frost will turn anywhere into a winter wonderland. 

Well, I wouldn't quite claim that for my garden this week, but the frost has certainly brought out the beauty in plants that would usually pass unnoticed.

Even this ordinary winter cabbage suddenly becomes 'art'.


Icy edging turns oregano into lace.

Is this a skeleton tree or a river system revealed on this foxglove leaf?

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


I've been busy recently up-cycling a couple of t-shirts. Both had 'problems' but I didn't want to throw either away.

The first had got snagged on something, and a small hole developed. Now, I'd hate to throw a perfectly good T away just for that, but I couldn't wear it outside the house in such a state - so a little applique was needed.

Oddly when I started to hunt through my accumulated scraps of material, I found not only the perfect shades to 'patch' with but they were already cut in flowers shapes and ironed to Bonda-web! Obviously they were part of an abandoned project - but I can't remember what!

So some quick work with the iron, then a little machine sewing to make sure they stayed in place, and looked more 'flowery', and this favourite has a new lease of life.

The second project was different. I have several t-shirts exactly the same, bought because they were organic cotton, but over the years I'd decided the neck-line was too high for me. I tried experimenting with one - cutting the neck lower but then it gaped too wide and fell off my shoulders! So that didn't really work.
I realised though that I had another t-shirt which was definitely heading off for re-cycling; it had dropped completely out of shape, and just looked like a sack when worn. So with nothing to lose, I cut a strip from the bottom hem of this grey T and sewed it around the baggy neck of the purpley-blue one. It worked!
On a roll, I then decided to take another deeper strip of grey, fold it in half to give a finished hem, and sew it to the bottom. Personally I think it worked really well. It makes the contrasting neck trim look a deliberate design feature, and makes the shirt a little longer which is better with jeans.

In fact, I was so pleased with my efforts, I showed my teen. 
"You know," she said, "I could have loaned you some cash to buy a new top."

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Oops ... back in October ...

Well, here's an embarrassment - a blog post written in October, but never posted! The jam's probably been eaten by now, and the tomatoes ripened before I made any chutney!

We've had a few days of clearing out things at the allotment - picking apples before they all fall, and collecting tomatoes before cold weather and/or blight takes the plants.

I intend making chutney with the tomatoes but started preserve-making with the apples as some were damaged by insects and birds.

Apples on their own don't make very appealing jam so I hunted out blackberries and raspberries from the freezer to add to them. I always have too many berries to use fresh and the leftovers can end up lost at the bottom of the freezer ... sometimes for years! I could, of course, make plain blackberry or raspberry jam but then I'd either have to put up with the masses of pips, or sieve the pulp.

So not only does mixing apples and berries give a fantastic colour to what would otherwise be a bland-looking jam, but it's also comparatively low in pips unlike jams made solely with berries.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Autumnal Hues on a Sunny Sunday Afternoon

After a dismal start to the day, with proper autumnal rain lashing at the windows, 
the sun appeared during the afternoon giving me time to potter around in the garden

Leaves have started to turn and drift down from the trees
but for now 

from Michaelmas daisies, through the leaves of blueberry shrubs and red salad-bowl lettuce,
 kaffir lilies and fuchsias, to ripening apples

the predominant colour in the garden ranges through red to purple

Friday, 30 September 2016

Friday Flowers

 Summery flowers cut for indoors - sweet peas, nasturtiums, montbretia

while autumnal michaelmas daisies are coming into flower, and keeping the bees happy,

and it's time to cut and dry the sunflower heads
with their wonderful geometric pattern 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

How did we manage without freezers?

An allotment trip last week saw me bringing home bags and tubs filled with a variety of fruit and veg - tomatoes, runner beans, corn on the cob, peppers, beetroot, apples, raspberries, and rhubarb.

It's all good stuff, hopefully helping us eating a healthy, varied diet, and probably costs less than buying the same vegetables from a supermarket, BUT anyone with a vegetable patch, even the smallest, will know how crops always seem to arrive in a rush - one day nothing is ready to pick, the next there's a glut!

Most of our home grown crops won't be eaten fresh, so
having grown and picked it, now comes the dreaded task of preserving it somehow.

Some veg comes in handy ready-to-store packaging - one of the reasons I love pumpkins is because they store over winter with no effort; onions only have to be hung up somewhere dry and frost free; beetroot, carrots and apples will be fine in a cardboard box for a while.

There are still tricky things though - runner beans, peas, corn, any and every kind of soft fruit.
I know there are lots of clever ways involving salt, sugar and vinegar to save produce, and have something to eat in a few months time. I could make cordials, jam, chutney, passata, pickles, marmalade, fruit leather ... the list seems almost endless. But really most of that should be done within a day or so of picking, and I feel too busy at the moment to start making whatever.

Thank goodness for the freezer!

Seriously, how did people manage without one?
By late autumn my freezer will be full of home-grown fruit and veg, all stored with very little effort.
I'm definitely a lazy cook, and the quicker and easier I can get vegetables into the freezer, the better.
So, I love fruit which is just washed and drained, or tomatoes which are wiped clean, maybe chopped, then bagged and frozen, but I'm not so fond of runner beans which need preparing and blanching first!

Even so, it has to be SO much better than standing over a hot stove, stirring hot bubbling jam or chutney.
Sometime over winter, on a cold, wet day, I'll get the raspberries from the freezer and make jam, or tomatoes and prepare passata, and it's like the return of summer.

But for now, everything surplus to dinner is going in the freezer!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bread and Butter pickle

I first experimented with bread and butter pickle a couple of years ago, when I had a glut of cucumber from the allotment, then last year I had a surplus of courgettes and tried using them as the main ingredient. Both worked well,though I think maybe the courgettes lasted longer without going soggy. 

waiting for salt to draw out the moisture

This year though I don't have either crop in sufficient quantities to make pickles, but I so loved them to liven up winter lunch-time sandwiches that I bought a net of cheap 'odd shapes' courgettes specifically. 
These really are the simplest pickles to make - draw out moisture with salt, drain, cover with hot spiced vinegar, then stand for a couple of weeks.
So easy!

sugar, mustard, turmeric + half a chilli
 to spice up the vinegar

Friday, 4 March 2016

Using up pumpkins and apples

Last week turned out to be a busy one making jam and chutney. First I discovered the end of the pumpkin turning frankly quite disgusting, so I salvaged what was left and made chutney.

 It's another of those 'adapted' recipes that I came up with a few years ago when I had a glut of gooseberries, and then altered slightly to make use of pumpkin instead. It's spicy (ginger and chillis) but fruity (orange juice), and my favourite even though it never turns out exactly as the previous batch.

 I still didn't use the whole pumpkin up but had a chunk, about 8oz, left over, enough for goulash.

Then the apples - I thought all our home-grown apples had been used up, but then we needed a cardboard box and checked what was in the one in the back porch ....and found some apples! Some were only fit for throwing straight in the compost bin, some were still fine to keep a little while but most were best used straight away.
I also have too many frozen raspberries, so I combined them, about 50:50. It's a lazy way of getting round the 'pip' problem of raspberries. I prefer jam made solely from raspberries to be sieved, but it's so time consuming. This way, with raspberries  making up only half the fruit, I don't bother.
I still have some left-over apples, but for last autumn's crop they don't look too bad and will soon be used in apple sauce or as stewed topping for breakfast cereals.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Weird marmalade

 In a combination of pursuing my New Year resolutions and avoiding a horrible mess in the fridge, I decided in was time to make marmalade. I've been using bits of this huge home-grown pumpkin in various chillis, soups and goulashes, but not really using it up quickly enough and it's starting to show signs of rotting.

I don't have a very precise recipe for this marmalade. The original recipe came, I think, from Farmhouse Fare, a compilation of recipes sent in to Farmers Weekly but I've altered it here and there, and I just rather throw in what I've got available.

This time I've used 3lb pumpkin, several frozen lemon husks and a lime previously 'juiced' for mojitos.

So, five jars of marmalade, and I still have at least 2lbs of pumpkin left!

Friday, 22 January 2016

New year - new projects

 Part of my list of New Year's resolutions was to cut down on all the clutter I have around the house. A lot of it is the pile of old clothes and off-cuts of material that I hang on to 'just in case'. Well, I'm starting off the year by turning at least one small piece of the stash into something useful.
My old peg-bag, made from a tablecloth off-cut, had seen better days - in fact at points the material was almost worn through. Time for a new one!

Hunting through the many piles of material I've hoarded, I came across this quite sturdy IKEA fabric leftover from covering cushions a few years ago. It's probably a better weight than the tablecloth material I used last time and its slightly odd shape encouraged me to try a different design.

There were two matching pieces with a big, cushion-shaped, curve taken out so I joined them together (you can just see the central seam on the finished pic below) and bound with bias strips to make an opening through which to grab the pegs - it maybe would have been better with elastic threaded through as it looks a bit gaping, and I don't want to lose pegs all over the garden. Other than that it was basically a case of joining bits together to make the right-sized square, with a hole for the hanger at the top. The project was finished in an afternoon, and a little bit of material stash used up - both of which have to be good!