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Recipes, wild food, natural remedies, organic gardening, Irish music, eating and thoughts on life in general

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Recycled Somerset Garden - August 2015

Post author: My daughter Sophie from Somerset, England

"It all started it from a garden of brambles, that is it was full of rampant blackberry bushes and other long term weeds.  

We started clearing it just as I became pregnant with our first child. Home veg was the value we wanted our baby to experience and grow up with, healthy and pure. So it was a real labour of love (excuse the pun).

The first year we lived here, we only just finished the vegetable patch area as we were concentrating on renovating the house itself. Everyone told me it was too late at the end of August to plant veg, but I did it anyway and loads came up !

Our vegetable patch and the recycled greenhouse

This year, 2015, with the new baby on board the garden has become totally green !  

When I began to wean her, her first foods were from our own garden. She started with pureed carrots, and then parsnips, and so on.  

We got other people involved in the garden with the sunflower competition. Once they are finished, we will keep the seeds from the flower heads, to be dried and re used for flowers next year, or for bird seed during the winter and for cooking in the kitchen. Sunflower seeds can be a great snack on their own or in a nice homemade bread. Yummy !

When we initially cleared the old garden we saved some of the plants that were already there when we bought the house. There was a Day Lily for instance, which was beautiful when it came out this summer.

Never waste plants, they cost a lot to replace. We have a grape vine which we recycled from another house. We cut it right back when we got it first. It is now flourishing and is starting to work well in hiding a block wall at the back of the garden.  

In my next Wild Cottage guest post, I will tell you all about the recipes we use for our garden produce, how we preserve things for the winter and the yummy things we cook with it all.

Meanwhile, here are some more photos of this summer's garden (August 2015)."

The beginnings of our herb bed
The bay tree
Mint in a pot to keep it contained !
Runner beans grown up bamboo sticks
Our own chillies from the greenhouse
Red and white onions almost ready to lift
Some of our white onions
Rhubarb patch !
Elephant garlic - this is just one clove !
Normal and elephant garlic
My husband's precious fig tree
Lovely lettuce
Runner beans harvested for freezing and dinner
Sage bush with lots of new growth

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Crochet Washcloth Pattern

I have just completed a second crochet pattern, still staying simple, but being more adventurous and fun in design.

For anyone who loves the traditional granny squares, this will make the perfect shabby chic Christmas present !

Granny Square Crochet Pattern
The pattern has been extensively tested by independent crochet addicts, from both the UK and the USA.  It has many clear photos to help illustrate and explain what to do along the way, making the pattern much easier to use than text only.

Photo sample from the pdf pattern

I am selling the pattern for just under $2, or about €1.75, depending on the exchange rate.  I want to try and keep my pattern prices reasonable.  It's available in both USA and UK crochet terms and phrases, as I am fluent in both.

You'll need double knitting yarn (DK), or light worsted if you are in the USA, plus a 4mm (US size 6) hook.  There are ideas in the pattern about using different thickness yarns and larger hooks.

And of course, if you do buy the pattern, I am always available to help you should you have a problem (hopefully you won't) via email, or message on Ravelry.  I also have a small Group on Ravelry, where anyone can contact me and ask questions about anything to do with crochet, anytime.

Amanda Jane's Happy Hookers - Ravelry group link click here

The pattern is now available by instant download on both Etsy and Ravelry, or direct from myself via email - there are links to where you can get it below.

ETSY: Granny Square Crochet Washcloth, Dishcloth or Flannel Pattern

RAVELRY: Granny Square Crochet Washcloth, Dishcloth or Flannel Pattern

Message me if you wish to buy it direct.  I accept Paypal as a payment method.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Homemade Greenfly Spray

This summer I am growing a few different varieties of chillies on my home office window sill.  They are coming along nicely considering it was very late when I planted the seeds.

However, about 75% of them are infested with greenfly (little green aphids), so I went looking online for an effective organic / natural home-made green aphid killer !  I found a couple of easy options which I will share with you here.

You'll need a spray bottle to disperse the aphid death spray.  Those 1 litre (half a pint in the USA approx) hand held spray bottles are great.  You could always recycle one you have previously used for those household cleaning sprays, making sure that you clean it thoroughly inside or you could have a problem !

I will add my results to this post when I have made and tried each method.  It should be interesting !  I would also love to hear from you if you have tried either of them, or if you have any other great natural aphid killing methods.

Remember, that you should always spray your plants in the evening, preferably after sunset or on very dull days, or in the shade.  This is because wet leaves will burn in the sunlight.

1.  Tomato Leaf Aphid Spray

To me, this is the perfect Greenfly Killer.
The advantage of the tomato leaf spray is that it does not kill the beneficial insects that also inhabit your garden, just the aphids.
Tomatoes, as well as potatoes and all other members of the Nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), contain alkaloids in their leaves, which are toxic to aphids (and to humans also if ingested in sufficiently large amounts, so just in case, please keep this spray away from children and label the bottle clearly).
The alkaloid in green tomatoes, tomato leaves and their stalks is called tomatine, and is the plants natural defence system against invaders that want to eat it or harm it.

1-2 cups of green tomato leaves
2 cups of water
Something to strain it through

Chop the tomato leaves into small pieces, then put them with the 2 cups of water into a container.  Leave to soak overnight.
Next day, strain the leaves out of the liquid using the muslin cloth, squeezing all the liquid out.  You can put the soggy leaves on your compost heap.
Add 2 more cups of water to the resulting liquid, then put it into your spray bottle, ready to use.

23rd August 2015 Test Results
I made up the spray as per the recipe above, and used it on my 4, very affected, chilli plants which had been indoors.
The greenfly struggled and many died.  I wiped of the leaves gently with my fingers, removing the eggs (hundreds of them) as I did this.
There were no greenfly for a few days, but then a few reappeared and I have had to spray again and check for eggs again.  There were a few new eggs already !
So, it seems that the spray 'checks' them for a while, but doesn't kill em 100%.  You may need to reapply it every few days or so to really prevent the aphids getting ahold.

2.  Green Aphid Smoothie

This one is a bit yukky for anyone who is squeamish.

Pick as many of the greenly off the plants as you can, squash them to kill them, and drop them into a cup of water.  Just do one type of aphid at a time, as this method will only deter the same species as you made the smoothie from.

Put the cup of water and dead greenflies into a blender and zap it into a smooth watery liquid.  Pour this liquid into your spray bottle for use on the plants you wish to deter greenflies from living on.

Note:  If you make this smoothie with greenfly, then it will only deter greenfly.. If you have a whitefly problem also, you need to make a separate smoothie containing whiteflies to deter them.

This won't harm your blender in any way, but it may not be the method for you if you are vegetarian !  Unless you have a special blender just for garden use.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How to Rescue Battery Chickens in Ireland

Do you keep chickens for eggs ?  Or maybe you would like to, but you haven't yet taken the plunge ?  Whichever you are, this article is for you !

One thing in this world that I particularly hate is factory farming of any kind.  Here in Ireland both chickens and pigs are kept in battery farming conditions, indoors and often without proper light.  They have almost zero space and can't even move around.  And the saddest thing is that many people who live here don't even realise what goes on to produce the majority of chicken, ham, bacon and pork that they eat.

Littlehill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary annually rescue approximately 7,000 to 8,000 battery hens which are about to be slaughtered.  They then distribute them across Ireland to willing new owners like you and I.  Their next rescue is due to take place in about 3 months time, so you have plenty of time to prepare, or even build/buy that new coop for them to live in !

This is how battery farmed chickens live until they are 18 months old, 6 to 8 in a cage

The chickens are kept indoors, 6 to 8 in a cage, jammed in with no room to move.  They can't even stretch their wings out, ever.  At 18 months old they are slaughtered, because their 'optimum' laying period is over.  However, they will in fact lay eggs for many years to come after that, so in rescuing them you also give yourself free range happy eggs to eat.

I will be taking at least 6, hopefully more.  Can you take a few maybe ?

A Littlehill rescue hen at time of rescue

The same hen as above a while later after rescue !

They fork out a massive amount of money to organise the rescue of these little, bare bodied, hens, and so charge €5 for each hen anyone takes.  This purely covers their expenses.

You can collect as many hens as you want from various drop off points across Ireland, which are notified ahead of time on the Littlehill web site.

When the hens are rescued, they have very few feathers, are weak and not used to wind, rain or cold temperatures.  So they need a safe and snug coop and run, with indoor daytime space if they need it.

Littlehill Animal Rescue also have a Facebook page HERE

NB:  All photos are courtesy of Littlehill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary - many thanks

Monday, 13 April 2015

Crochet Baby Sundresses for 2 New Granddaughters !

I am 54 years old, and this year was the best year of my life since the birth of my two lovely daughters, almost 30 years ago.  Why is this ?  It is because both my daughters have just each given birth to their own baby daughter !  One 8 weeks ago, and the other just over a week ago.  So a truly wonderful year.

The frustrating thing is though, (and isn't there always something to be frustrated about), that they are all in Somerset, England, and I am living in South Galway, Ireland.

So, I spent the weekend making two sweet little sundresses for Evie and Jessica, my two brand new granddaughters.  I have already made a load of cardigans and sweaters to send off to the UK, but I enjoyed making these crochet sundresses the most ! 

Amanda Jane hand crocheted baby sundress

NB I have now added this sundress to my Etsy shop, available as a custom made to order listing.  In the future I also hope to have some ready made ones available also.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Easy Free Crochet Pattern Giveaway

I managed something exciting today - well exciting for me - I finally, after a year or so prevaricating, published my first Crochet Pattern. 

I decided to start off with a very easy pattern for new crochet addicts, and came up with the simple, easy to crochet wash cloth pattern.  I have written two versions, one in UK crochet terms and one in US crochet terms, so everyone should be happy !

I also decided to keep it cheap, so kept the price at $1.99 or about €1.62, depending on the exchange rate.  I'd sooner sell more, than have a big price tag and sell less.

One thing I do need to do is create different photos for the pattern !  The dishcloths I made while testing the pattern, are the ones photographed, and I think they make for boring photos.

I will giveaway a free pdf copy of this crochet pattern to the first 10 people
to comment on this post.  

Please indicate in your comment if you want the pattern, and whether you want the US or UK version.
You may sell the completed cloth, as long as you indicate in the listing that it was 'designed by Amanda Jane in Ireland' and/or link back to the pattern listing on Etsy. You may not sell the pattern or any part of it.

What do you think of the photos below ?  Pretty boring I know, so I am making cuter washcloths to photograph.

 Sláinte, Amanda

Saturday, 13 December 2014

6th Annual Christmas Community Dinner in Gort

This year is the 6th year that I am organising the community Christmas Day dinner and afternoon tea for anyone who is alone (or feels alone).  

Xmas Day 2013
The event is free for everyone and is funded by donations.  It's put together by a team of volunteers and some of the 'diners' themselves.

We have a Facebook page where you are able to message, ring or email me if you want further information, to maybe to book a place at the table or to make a donation.

If everyone who looked at the Facebook page gave €1 it would be easy to fund the event !

Christmas Day Alone? Facebook Page Link - Click Here

Ready to eat !

Xmas Day 2012
Xmas Day 2012