Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yesterday Mimz, our young friend Michael aka Mini Mike, and myself went on a trawl.
Mike had to get new tyres and I was on a mission to get a decent camping table.

We went to the local scrap yard and pre-loved BIG SHED just outside of Leamington Spa.

We had such fun.  Mike got his wheels done much cheaper than at the garage he was very happy about that. He then went on to get a brass, round occasional table, just like the one I had just found.

I got an old 1950  card table that folds flat, a camping bed, 2 fold away wooden chairs, a brass fold away, round occasional table, a lady’s scythe, a miniature shut the box game and dinky little wooden box, oh and a book for Mimz who now owes me £8 worth of jobs around the house! LOL.  Love it.  All for the grand total of £40.

All of these things were cast offs, unwanted, deemed valueless and yet all of these things will be used in our home and when we go camping with much appreciation.
It all depends on the context doesn't it?

Mike was so impressed with the place and commented on the fact that one could easily furnish your whole house so long as you were not after brand spanking new flimsy goods. That’s the point isn‘t it? Brand spanking new nowadays is generally not good quality, with built in obsolescence. The old stuff was made to last and its testimony is that it is still knocking about in old sheds, granny’s back parlour or second hand shops.

We had such fun cleaning stuff up and making it serviceable again.  The little knocks, dents and stains were all part of the story of that piece and made for its character, and added to the clutter ambience of the home.

I will put in some pictures when I get a chance.  Have a lovely day all.  It looks like it’s going to be another hot one.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Real Beauty

I thought you would like this!

Free pop!

Hello fellow wayfarers.  Goodness me!  I had no idea it had been so long… It only seems like yesterday.. well maybe last month, since I last wrote on this blog thingy.  In this household life has a habit of taking one by the scruff giving a hearty good shake then another shake just for good measure.  I am sure I am not the only one.

Any way today I had an unexpected day off, another of life’s little shake ups.  So I decided to make my elderflower pop, well start it anyway.  Then I had some elderflower left over and some lemons, and as it was so hot I decided to make some elderflower and lemon cordial for circle tonight.

Then I thought to myself, as I sometimes do, that it would be really nice to share my two recipes with you so that you can have a go should you feel minded to do so.

So first of all,

Elder Flower Pop!
Cups = UK measuring cups – but I being me just use rough handfuls, it’s not an exact science.

6 cups of fresh elderflowers.  12 cups dried.  Remove all thick stems and leaves.
½ gallon of water.
½ cup of sugar or honey.
¼ cup of whey* You can get this by just draining some off of your natural yogurt.
1 lemon – peel the rind with a good peeler and then use the juice as well.

Rinse the flowers briefly, don’t let them stand, you want all that nectar and flavour in your pop.
drain the rinsing water away.

Boil your1/2 gallon of water, and then in a non- reactive pot/bucket or pan pour the boiling water over your elderflowers.

Now, we are a big family and do all things big so my actual recipe is three times the above amount so I use a clean plastic rubbish bin for this purpose. J

Let this elderflower and water steep for 48 hours.  Cover your pot with muslin or a clean tea towel, I use a clean sling from the 1st aid kit! It’s ok I have a few of these so no one will be bereft if a sling is needed.

After 48 hours is done strain the flowers through your muslin or tea towel, if necessary suspend over your pot/bucket or pan and leave it to drip for a bit.  You can squeeze too… very satisfying.

Discard the elderflower on to the compost heap and put your lemon juice and rind into the elderflower juice, add your sweetener, then add the whey*.

Cover the pot/bucket or pan with a clean cloth and leave it to do its fizz bizz for the next two weeks.

During this time you can have fun drinking and collecting beer bottles… you know, the ones with the spring caps, or if you don’t want such fun, go to Ikea and buy some!  You are going to need this kind of bottle as when the 2 weeks is up you will bottle and seal your lovely pop.  DON’T fill right to the top, just to the shoulder.  Believe me you don’t want to try it!  The larder was never quite the same after one episode and that’s all I am going to say about that! 

Leave your pop for at least a week then serve, cold…. ummmmmm

It’s particularly nice with the tiny tip of mint in it, or on ice.

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained, and is the starter for loads of lacto-fermented fruits, vegetables, and beverages. It doesn't look great I'll admit but it is natural and safe, no nasty chemicals, AND bonus!  In making it you can get another by product, or main product, which ever whey you look at it! lol.

Whey is said to do all these things.. there is alot of research out there so check it out for yourself! 

It has loads of minerals
Rich source of amino acids
No fat, cholesterol or lactose
Anti - oxidant
Contains components that stimulate the release of two appetite-suppressing hormones
Whey protein is nutritionally complete
It is easy to digest and promotes a healthy gut flora
Beneficial for wound healing
High glutathione levels help protect against various age related diseases including: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cataracts and arteriosclerosis. 
May help enhance memory performance in elderly adults
Provides a protective, anti-microbial effect against ulcers and other gastric mucosal injuries, i.e. H.pylori.

So here is a nice natural way to get some whey!
So make some lovely yoghurt (easy peasy), or alternatively get a large tub of natural, preferably organic, plain, probiotic yoghurt.
If I buy it I get my favourite, which is Yeo Valley. It must have live cultures in it!

Put your yogurt in a thin, less absorbent tea towel, or a sling J  tie it up- you can use rubber bands for this - then suspend it over a large jug or small bucket.

When you tie up your tea towel, put a wooden spoon through the knot then this can be suspended over your jug.  Or, tie it up with a longish loop and hang the loop from a ‘s’ hook over a rail or door knob on a cupboard.  I hang mine from the remedy room shelf. Here is one  made earlier. And here is a picture but not a good one I am afraid. The sun was still bright enough to create too much shadow. Blow!  L  Just realised I have used up my breakfast yoghurt.  The sacrifices I go to just to show you how easy it is to do.

Whatever you do the bundle has to be suspended high enough for the whey to collect bellow without touching the bundle. Don’t be tempted!  This is NOT a good time to squeeze.

Let the whey drip through the cloth overnight.
When the bag stops dripping, everything is done, you have made a cream cheese in the cloth and have lovely fresh whey for your fizz.  What could be more simple?
Store the cream cheese in a covered glass container. Save your whey in a glass Kilner type jar.

Kept in the fridge whey can last for about 6 months, so I am told, but sadly, not here.  Nothing lasts long in this house! J

Now then how about a little homemade cordial?

Homemade Elderflower and Lemon Cordial.

1 gallon of water. 
6 lemons, peeled and then sliced in half.
1 ½ handfuls of dried elderflowers or three generous handfuls of fresh elderflowers.
2 UK, level measuring cups full of organic sugar.

Start to boil the water.
Throw in your elderflowers and lemon peel.
Juice your lemons over the pan.  I have a lovely wooden one but you can just squeeze or use a fork.  Don’t worry about the pips they come out at the end.
Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. 

The smell is divine and worth the effort just for that.
Turn off the heat, stir in the sugar, leave to cool right down.
Put into a large jug, or two large milk containers and pop in the fridge.

If it is too sweet use less sugar next time, add more sugar if you need to but it is quite sweet wit the elderflowers.  I don’t think you’ll need to, unless you are a hardened sweet toother.

Drink when cool, with ice is nice.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

All things wool

Ooh it’s so exciting.

We now have an amazing drum carder AND both of my spinning wheels are up and running AND at last I have conquered the use of the drop spindle.

We have got about 2/3 through the fleece and now with the drum carder we can whizz through and yet still be using our own bodies as the energy.  While our lovely Tina had a perfectly good and reasonable argument for the use of the hand carders, there are some of us who find using the hand carders hard on joints and S l o w………

The drum carder is still painstaking but the size of the batt is immensely satisfying and the carder itself is really great.  It is, for any out there who are interested, a “Classic Carder” in oak of course!  Here is the link if you are interested.

Isn’t it beautiful? 

And what about my spinning wheels?  They are both Ashford’s and beautiful too. My older one needed TLC after living in the loft with unruly boys who didn’t appreciate their intrinsic beauty.  Poor thing needed a new orifice bracket, new brake band knob, new flyer, (goodness knows where that could have gone, it is so big after all) and a new leather bit for the footman.  I spent some time looking on the internet for the right bits and supplier of said bits,  then I contacted them by phone.  What a delightful couple they were.  They run a spinning and weaving centre called Hilltop and their names were Sue and Bill Chitty.  You can find them on
I had the most lovely phone call ever and it was more like chatting to friends than suppliers.
Any way, the parts were ordered and duly came along and now it is altogether beautiful and working. 
The other one just needed a good polish up. 
Lovely lavender polish.

Well we had fun…. Well I did anyway.  And here are some pictures to show us using the bits and pieces mentioned.  Now I am the one behind the camera so don’t go looking for me okay?

 We carded using both the hand carders and the drum carder.  We spun using the drop spindle and wheels and I took some pictures.

Heath and Radish also had a go with the drop spindle but I forgot to take pictures and will try to get  some the next time for you. However, here is a great picture of Radish using the hand carders, doesn’t he look grand with my piny on?

Everyone had a go at the drum carder and here is Michael, looking up at just the wrong time.  I was trying to capture him concentrating and of course the fleece has already gone through on to the drum. 
Why am I so pleased?  So satisfied about all of this?  Because who knows when/if the old skills may needed to be used again and of course they are of value in their own right.  These skills at the very least develop a true appreciation for the process and product produced. We so easily purchase goods in the shops if we have the money, but we are totally divorced from the real work that goes into them.

When the energy to produce anything comes from your own body, a part of you is intrinsically integral to its makeup.  This is as true of a garment, or handmade machine, as it is of cooking.

For many years my gran used to say “Better a dinner of herbs cooked with love than a banquet cooked without.”  She is not here to say that any more but I say it now because now I really understand what that means.  I used to often share a simple bowl of bean soup and wholemeal bread with homemade butter with an amazing lady called Molly.  It was always a simple meal as she lived frugally, but do you know what?  I remember those shared bowls of soup with such fondness and a sense of fullness even now after all these years as they were made with such love and the company was loving and enriching in every respect.  Yet I have also been to grand meals where everything was turned out to perfection and looked beautiful but there was no love involved at all, and there was no sense of feeling satisfied.  Maybe a part of the cause of peoples poor relationship to food may be found in this root?  Food has to be satisfying on many levels not just nutritionally and if one is just stuffing the face on the run how can one really appreciate food?  Where is the love?

I love my ‘electric free’ things, I love making and creating things; how grand to think that perhaps in some small way in my doings, and sharing those doings with others, we are not just learning new skills but reconnecting with another way to love, through the creative impulse and work with dignity.

Blessings of all green and growing things.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Turning a wooly jumper into a wooly jumper! Or such similar things

Hi there all.  Once again it has been some time since I blogged, but life has a horrid habit of getting in the way of fun things.

Here I am now though.  Today I have pictures for you of all of us working on carding wool for a later workshop on spinning.  Preparation is all and the wool has to be carded beautifully before we can even begin to spin.  So here are some pictures for you. Sadly, none containing yours truly were printable, but imagine my smiley face there any way. Lol. 

We are so lucky  to have access to a lot of fleeces, and potentially lots of carding and spinning too.  Michael, whose jolly face appears further down the page was able to help us get some, and so was Adam, who does not appear. 

So first of all Tina took out the fleece, after placing a sheet on the floor first.  After all it had just been hoovered. I assure you all it does happen at least once a week! We have lots of cats, and here is Willow showing an interest in all those lovely smells.

The size of the fleece amazed some who were there who had never before seen a fleece up close.  Tina talked about the staple, or length of the wool,and where the finest, softest parts were to be found.

  Then she showed everyone how to load the carders.

Then she showed us how to do it, and what not to do. There was some surprise as it was harder to do than expected.  

But everyone got on with it and we tried to get step by step photo's for all to see.  Here is Michael showing us his 'rollog'.  NO!  I am not swearing, truly that is what a carded roll of wool is called, and you need a fair few of these to make balls of wool.

Here is Jack, concentrating greatly on taking the rollog off the carder, and Mimz with her first ever rollog.
So lots of fun was had by all, but despite the hard work, the fleece did not appear to be any smaller than when we started, although 10 rollogs were made.  We will do more next week as we are determined to have plenty of fun with the spinning. Between us we have three sets of carders and three sets of spinning wheels, plenty enough for my little home to accommodate any way.   However certain kittens have shown a great deal more interest in my spinning wheels than they should have done, and now they need to have the tension band reapplied, and the tension band now refitted!  They are in to all sorts, those kittens, and will no doubt be up for more photo opportunities as the weeks go on!

Any way, we carded and talked and ate loads of Tina's delicious lemoney pie which landed on top of Jack's wonderful grass hopper pie.  Yummy very nice.  Fun was had by all and more fun expected.  

I will keep you all informed. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Snow and flu'

Hi there everyone.  How are you all?  Well at least five of you any way….. lol.

Round here it is getting colder and we have all been advised that the weather is to deteriorate dramatically over the next few weeks, some even saying it may be coldest winter for 20 years, others saying coldest for over 100 years….. Whoever is right, it appears it is going to be cold.

Well, all I hope is that we will have broken up from college by then.  I hate snow.  !!!!!
By the way. That is an understatement. 
I have always heard with surprise people saying how beautiful it looks when freshly fallen.  How magical etc.  Well I grant you it is white when fresh, but let’s face it, it doesn’t stay like that long in this country.  It just goes grey and slushy, and it’s cold, wet and creates problems all round.  Even when predicted it appears to catch those in charge of clearing it by surprise.  I hate driving in the stuff, and even when the police are saying “Don’t go out unless you have to” it feels as if ones bosses are still expecting one in……. let’s not go there. 

Anyway, my natural inclination is to batten down the hatches, go to my lovely full store cupboard and stay in; warm, cuddled up and reading a good book.  I am sure, by evolutionary development that is what are disposed to do anyway.  The darkest days are coming, the coldest part of winter ALWAYS seems to be after solstice and we try to carry on as if the season doesn’t affect us.  Then we get colds etc. as our immune system’s struggle to maintain bodies that should perhaps be resting during the trying time of the year.

Lots of my colleagues have got vicious colds… almost flu like in their ability to knock you off your spot.  Though it is not flu’ thank goodness, it still needs support and care.

If you are one of the unfortunate, as I have been the last few days, here are some tips and hints on how to support yourself without resorting to over the counter remedies, which, in my opinion can actually make your symptoms last longer.

If you have a fever, and your very bones and joints ache…. Take to your bed and don’t eat and don’t take paracetamol.  Yes, the paracetamol will stop the aches and pains and reduce the temperature of your fever, but your fever and high temperature are your body’s way to kill the virus that is making you ill.
Your body does a thermostatic reset, allowing your temperature to rise above normal so that the virus is killed off, and that triggers off a response in your immune system to release proteins to help fight the virus as well.  That is what causes the joint pains.  If you try to work against your body by trying to soldier on, and continue to eat, the body ends up destroying the very protein cells it is releasing to kill the virus and consequently the illness takes longer to get over.

The best thing to do is go to bed or your sofa or easy chair, wrap up and promote that high temperature and drink loads of fluids.  That way you don’t dehydrate and you don’t prolong anything. 

Where children are concerned, it is very unusual for a high temperature to cause fitting, a thing all parents are concerned about.  If this happens it is usually very young children, and not necessarily a permanent feature for the rest of their life.  Of course one has to be aware of the possibility of fits, but where possible allow the body to do what it knows how to do.  Try to stay away from the liquid paracetamol or other similar over the counter remedies. 

If you are concerned about high temperatures and children do look at this very informative and scientifically correct info here.

or find out more about treating colds and flu here at my earlier blog, (which I just remembered I did….Oh I am so daft sometimes….)

Anyway, now you can look at my previous blog about it all and that is full of remedies. 

Another good remedy is blackcurrant tea with cats claw and ginger.  Yumm… And no… not REAL cats claws!  That’s NOT why we have so many cats…. It is a herb from South America and I have found it really useful in the past.  For some it works better than Echinacea or even elderberry, which is my personal favourite.  Get the tincture if you can, it is better, in my opinion than the tablets, which loose some of the herbal benefits in the heat of the grinding process.  Get the tablets if there is no choice.  Grate fresh ginger (about as long as the end joint of your thumb) and make a blackcurrant juice tea, with the fresh ginger and a few drops of the cats claw… lovely taste and it does you good.  You can make the blackcurrant tea with a brand name bottle cordial… I bet you can guess which I mean, but!!!!! Don’t get the sugar free one.  Sweeteners in general and aspartame particularly is BAD, BAD, BAD in my opinion…… look at this and other web sites for further information.
Don’t make it too weak you want that blackcurrant to help ‘cut’ the thick mucus.
Add your ginger and cats claw, sit down and enjoy.  It is almost magical how quickly the action of the blackcurrant takes effect.

Any way darlings… I’m off to watch Merlin with my blackcurrant and ginger tea… I know it is a bit silly, but sometimes one doesn’t want to think too hard.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Five Loads in two and a half hours!

Well all I can say is “For goodness sake!” 

We had a really close shave.  Michael smelled plastic and thought it was the radiator but actually turned out to be the washing machine which had caught fire and then set the tumble drier alight too!  He then proceeded to put out said fire with water from the hose pipe!  The only thing I can think is that the short circuit thingy had cut out and so he was not electrocuted!  He DID put out the fire, but sadly my machines, one of which was only a year old were ruined.

 Now that was distressing!

However my family having been taught well over the years, mentioned cheerfully that at least they would now be able to have a go with my old mangle and green clean washing machine.  Well, we were able to use the mangle but sadly not my green washing machine as that is currently hidden under all the pile of things for the new (second hand) conservatory.  But we DID get to use the mangle. 

Mimz and Jack got up early… now there is something to mention!!! …… and we set about heating water in my huge preserving pan, truly larger than average.  We got my lovely handmade soap powder and duly sorted the washing into piles.  These piles, of course all housewives know about.  However as we wash usually on cold or 30 degrees most washing can go into the machine no problem.  Anyway we ended up with 5 piles of generous size and Mimz’s face fell as she anticipated her Saturday morning disappearing.  So I used the opportunity, ever willing, to increase both knowledge and breadth of experience.  I mentioned the fact that years ago in living memory of some, washing took all day and was usually done on a Monday, never on a Sunday.  That washing would start early in the morning, with the copper or boiler being heated up, and then started with the white wash.  We talked about what people used before spin driers or even mangles.  

Wringing posts were part of everyday life, and washing often was done communally.  Well at least they could chat while they could work.  Mimz’ face fell further.  She was not impressed by a Saturday morning history lesson or re-enactment.  Her face became more and more gloomy as the animated chat went on.

Not Jack’s though.  Oh no.  He was up for the task and couldn't wait to get on with it.  So we did.  The white wash was being pounded away using the wooden tongs I still owned in the absence of a dolly, and then wrung out to the best of our ability to save the hot water.  It WAS very hot.  

Wooden tongs.... actually I have two pairs,
but the others are in the cupboard.
Aren't they great?

Then over to the mangle.  They were most impressed.  The mangle was super-efficient, just as I remembered it, but I did have to tell Mimz to tie her hair back.  I also remembered having my long hair getting caught in the mangle.  Jack was turning the handle manfully and Mimz was gingerly feeding the rollers one sock at a time!  Well I soon changed that approach and reminded her how much we had to get on and do!  Jack was really impressed and enormously enjoyed using the mangle. Later on more strapping young folk wanted a go too and soon it became something that they had to take turns in.

We washed, mangled rinsed, mangled, rinsed and mangled again until one load was done.  Then Jack had a thought.  How were we to get it all dry?  It was raining outside! Don’t worry says I.  We have the wooden lady! 

Wooden Lady... mine is much older,
darker and more wobbly.
The plastic one?
You don't need to see it.
I dragged it out of the cupboard, and a decrepit plastic one and started to show them how to load it so that all the washing has a chance to dry.   Then, no tea break… Mimz thought she had earned one…. on to all the rest.  We went through the above process for all the wash.  However we were running out of room to dry things, so cheated and asked our neighbour if she would mind putting the towels in her drier.  Thankfully she agreed after commiserating with me on our loss. 

 What utterly amazed Jack and Mimz was that after 2 ½ hours all 5 loads were washed and drying, one way or another.  Now our washing machine takes at a minimum 45 minutes per load.  So that was good going.  Yes it was hard work, and we had to be on top of it all the time, but we got a lot done.

Would I like to do it regularly?  NO!!!  Not unless I had to.  But I could.  And now so could Mimz and Jack.  They have experienced a significant lesson in self-sufficiency and have a vague idea of the sheer physicality of the past work load of women.

What a while ago, was deemed by one at least of my offspring as ‘clutter’ was now seen for the value that it holds in my eyes.  The mangle, my galvanised wash tubs, the wooden tongs etc all are now respected not rejected as ‘junk’. 

My mangle and
galvansied tubs.
 As to my green washing machine!  Well isn't it just the way of it that it couldn't be used when it was needed?  There is a lesson there for me I think!