Posts Tagged With: gardening

A million miles from partial, self-sustainability (but trying!) – Beach House garden pics and update

Enjoying a cuppa at the Pant Du Winery (just down the road).  Yes, Richard is making wine in Wales!  Very nice tipple as well (the cider is especially amazing)

Enjoying a cuppa at the Pant Du Winery (just down the road). Richard and his family are making wine up here in North Wales! Very nice tipple as well, red, white or rose (the cider is especially amazing).

Here we are again, challenged by our beautiful hill side climate. The Beach House Garden is a wild place to be. We’re 400 metres up Tiger Hill, staring out towards Ireland and Angelsey and the weather so far in 2015 has been unrelenting and way too chilled.  The veg patch is not very photogenic at the moment, the plants look a little timid, not sure whether they’ll bother this year.  But, when the sun is out and you’re lying on the grass, watching the apple tree dance; the world seems bountiful and ever generous.  Thank you nature, I’m not complaining.

The back of the garden, where the wild ones live.....growing freely for all the little critters, bees and hedgehogs.

The back of the garden, where the wild ones live…..growing freely for all the little critters, bees and hedgehogs.

Now Buster (our semi-feral part-time cat) seems to have found a better deal, small birds are flocking to our garden. Its wonderful. Goldfinches and all sorts of busy tits.  We even have a robins nest directly opposite our kitchen window in the dry stone wall. We can see the little Mum robins head poking out of the nest when we’re washing up. I have to say, the Dad robin is working a hard shift getting the twigs sorted and gathering fat worms.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Mrs Robin keeping an eye on us.

Jane bought me a very cool, Snowdonia Pear Tree for my birthday, so that will be going into the earth very soon. We have a lovely little sunny spot ear-marked for Percival (2.5/10 for originality there!)  I’ve always thought an orchard would be beyond me, but it seems we’re getting a nice little gathering of fruit trees together.  Even the cherry tree has decided to burst into life.

The herb garden is doing well, we have some funky varieties of mint growing, I’ve gamble on some tough ‘bush’ basil and of course, the rosemary, thyme and sage are doing well (they’re toughies).  Mint is such a trooper, we now have ginger mint growing in our grass.  A nice surprise!  I’m in charge of edibles and Jane loves to work with the frillier plants.  The colourful ones that look nice.  Jane’s favourite plant is a ‘Lady Shallot’ Rose, beautifully peach.  It gets favourable marks from me just for having an onion in its name.  Our Acer tree is loving it this year and has doubled in size.  Acers always remind me of Japan.  I love the little red guy for that.

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Our noble red acer

When the sun does get out and we are both at home, we chop wood.  The chainsaw gets cranked up and we fill our garage full of scavenged trunks and branches.  There is something very reassuring having a garage half filled with logs for the fire.  Jane’s brother in law, Paul, will be coming up soon to help us get one of our years biggest projects finished.  A new woodstore.  Knowing Paul, it will be a work of art!

Choppin'  logs

Chopin’ logs – Feeling warmer already

I think one of the highlights of our garden is the succulents. They are an interesting plant, like a cactus meets a rose, normally on a stony wall. I planted a little succulent and couple of years ago, wedged it between a few stones with some soil and it now looks like a perfect, crimson, lotus flower.

The Lotus Succulent

The Crimson Lotus Succulent

Our apple and plum trees went wild with blossom, which is now blown all over the garden. Hopefully the bees did there work and we’ll have some fruit again this autumn. This year is, so far, nothing like last, which was a bumper year for fruit and berries. Come on plums!

Plum blossom going strong.  Last year we had a festival of plums.  This year will be more like a quiet get-together.

Plum blossom going strong. Last year we had a festival of plums. This year will be more like a quiet get-together.

We are growing our own lettuce this year and have trays of seedlings all over the place, we’re also going for plenty of rocket. Our veg patch is sporting tiny shoots of cauliflower, cavolo nero, beetroot, fennel, potato, chard and savoy cabbage. We’re realising that the veggies we grow up here on Tiger Hill need to be the equivalent of a very enthusiastic SAS commando to even stand a chance. If Bear Grylls was a carrot, he wouldn’t last long in our veg patch!  Anything like a creeping bean will soon be blown over to the curious sheep (or horses) next door and turned into a tasty bite.

Orange, gold and black, at sunset, Tiger Hill lives up to its name.

Orange, gold and black, at sunset, Tiger Hill lives up to its name.  Overlooking Nantlle Valley.

One of the advantages of the plants being small, is that the slugs seem to have followed suit. They’re tiny little guys, still doing a slugs-worth of damage, but in smaller nibbles than usual. I have built up some of the edges of the veg patches, but have generally given up on slug traps/ assault courses. I think the best way is patience and surrendering a decent portion of each crop to the greedy little critters.

Eeking out a few veggies is more than a hobby though, it helps to keep me connected to the seasons and what’s going to be good on the BHK menu and the menu at Trigonos. When the weather is beautiful I feel great for the garden, when the storms set in, I just hope they survive another day!

Pond ferns

Pond ferns

The pond is doing brilliantly.  We rarely touch it, which seems to do the trick.  Everytime you walk past you can hear small amphibians throwing themselves into the safety of the overgrown water feature.  We have many newts living there, and frogs.  We have also noticed baby red dragonflies.  I think this all points towards a nice clean pond.  Again, since Buster left us (we miss you little man) the frogs especially are thriving.

At this time of year sorrel is really doing its thing.  We’ve tried growing it in beds, but our sorrel prefers to grow through the slates in the front garden.  It seems very happy there and is thriving.  Its one of my favourite leaves, full of bitter apple twang, I’m happy to see its found a home.

Sorrel is a star

Sorrel is a star

It looks like the garden this year will be more play than productivity, I can see the fire pit being cranked up later in the summer.  Apparently, September is going to be a stunner.  Only another three months to wait then!

So after four years of Beach House gardening adventures, we’re still roughly a million miles away from our wonderful goal of partial self-sustainability. But I know we are on the right track!  If all else fails, maybe we can dive into the world of poly-tunnels.  We’ll keep experimenting until we figure something’s out, we learn a little more each year and for that alone, the Beach House garden is ever valuable and fertile.

Some blue skies......

Some blue skies……

Categories: Healthy Living, photography, Summer, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Autumn’s End at the Beach House Kitchen

A very belated Happy Samhain/ Halloween to you all!  We spent it packing up the house, soup bubbling and preparing the garden for winter.  Here are a few images of the last days of Autumn, a week ago, in the Beach House Garden.

We have flown the nest again like migrating birds.  We’re in Turkey, up to our necks in ancient ruins and scrumptious kebabs and salads.  Looking at these pictures makes us feel privileged to live in such a special little corner of the world.  More news from Turkey, Spain and India soon…..goodbye Beach House until AprilXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The Beach House Garden bracing itself for the Welsh winter

The Beach House Garden bracing itself for the Welsh winter

Our Hawthorn tree all red and sparkly

Our Hawthorn tree all red and sparkly

Last of the blackberries, still fruiting into late October!?

Last of the blackberries, still fruiting into late October!?

Autumn sunset off the Llyn Peninsula

Autumn sunset off the Llyn Peninsula

Late Autumn and the chills are setting in.  Soup tonic, Pumpkin, Fennel and Leek with Soda Bread.

Late Autumn and the chills are setting in. Soup tonic, Pumpkin, Fennel and Leek with Soda Bread

Kindling ready for the fire

Kindling ready for the fire

Potato patches covered with manure and compost, ready for next year

Potato patches covered with manure and compost, ready for next year

The source of great potatoes, our neighbourly horse who lives next door.

The source of great potato manure, our neighbourly horse in the next field.  Not the friendliest, but quite a quite prolific manure provider

Stash of funky rocks from the beach

Stash of funky rocks from the beach

Steamy kitchen action, Welsh cottages not cut out for heavy wok action

Steamy kitchen action, Welsh cottages not cut out for heavy saute action

Wake up, 3oC, warm Banana Bread cookie time (recipe to follow)

Wake up, 3oC, warm Banana Bread cookie time (recipe to follow)

 

Categories: 'The Good Life', Autumn, Garden, photography, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Step-by-step planting recipe for the perfect apple tree

We’re in the process of turning the Beach House garden into an orchard of sorts.  Each birthday and christmas I will be hopefully getting a new fruit tree to plant, I have my eye on a rare pear tree (pink inside and tasting of fennel) which has been discovered by Ian Sturrock who has discovered many different rare fruit trees all over North Wales and the UK.  Soon we will have pears and peaches to add to our gorgeous bounty of garden fruits.

Our latest tree is called Johnny (named after Johnny Appleseed, a very interesting American folk hero who basically spent his whole life wandering around planting apple trees) and it is a Bardsey Island Apple Tree (see here for more info on this almost extinct apple variety).  My Mum bought it for me in May for my birthday and its been sitting quite happily in the front garden and even produced quite a few very tasty apples.  A few weeks ago, just as the warm, light nights began to taper in, we knew it was time for Johnny to find a more permanent home.  We cleared away a hidden rockery, unearthing some lovely little heather plants, and planted Johnny in a nice big hole, filled and surrounded by rich soil.  If you are looking at planting trees this autumn (its a little late now I know, but still very do-able) here are the basic steps in a successful fruit tree re-location.  These steps apply to most ages of trees and sapling, ours is roughly 2-3 years old.

Potted fruit tree, the type you buy in garden centres etc

Potted fruit tree, the type you buy in garden centres, from orchards etc

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Find a suitable spot, reasonably shelter with plenty of deep rich soil, dig the hole two times the volume of your tree pot

Gently loosen your sapling from the pot

Gently loosen your sapling from the pot

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Check that your roots are nice and white (alive!)

Loosen and untangle the majority of the roots

Loosen and untangle the majority of the roots

Lower gently into your ample hole, laying out the roots gently

Lower gently into your ample hole, laying out the roots gently and filling in as you go

Find a suitable spot, reasonably shelter with plenty of deep rich soil

Once the tree is settles and looking comfortable, cover with plenty of soil but no compost.  We’ like the roots to seek food, expanding outwards and not spiraling around the base.  The roots will naturally for a wide anchor for the tree.

Water well, we used two watering cans worth

Water well, we used two watering cans worth

Always have a glamorous assistant nearby

Always have a glamorous assistant nearby

And a mascot

And a mascot

Marvel at one of summers last sunsets

Then feel free to marvel at one of summers last sunsets

If you are planting the tree in a windy location, you will need to support it until it is established.  A tree blowing around in the wind will form a well in the base of the trunk where water will gather creating what is called ‘butt rot’.  Which doesn’t sound like a good thing!

It really is quite straightforward and incredibly rewarding.  To think of the pies, crumbles and unadulterated apple fun that Johnny is going to provide us and hopefully future generations with can only make you feel very wholesome and satisfied.  Planting trees is surely one of the finest hobbies anybody could have.  We are planning on starting small nurseries or rowan, oak, hawthorn etc all over Tiger Mountain (the hill that we live on).  Queue guerrilla tree planting sessions all around North Wales, where much of the forests and woodlands have been cut down to accommodate huge amounts of sheep.  We’re bringing back the trees!  One ‘Johnny’ at a time and when they happen to provide delicious fruits, it seems that nature is surely spoiling us!

If you like the sound of planting trees and making efforts to reforest the planet, you may like the book ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ a beautiful little story about one mans life time quest to reforest a barren area in the Alps.  I read this book in Auroville, India.  A experimental township with over 5000 inhabitants where the entire area has been completely reforested, taken from a barren, dusty land to a thriving verdant forest where monkeys and big cats are moving back to and where a state of natural equilibrium has returned.  It is stunning to think of what we could do, in a generation, if we planted a few trees along the way.  It only takes a short time and will definitely have a very positive effect on the earth and future generations.  Just like ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, bury a few acorns the next time you wander around some tree-less areas and in a few years, you may  have your very own saplings to be proud of.

For a proper professional in action and a very interesting site relating to all things orchards and fruit trees, see Ian Sturrock and Sons.








 

Categories: Autumn, Garden, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney plus the Tale of Johnny Appleseed

 

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Bardsey Island Apple and Plum Chutney

Its that time of year in the Beach House garden, when you step outside, you’ll probably find some form of fruit landing on your head.  Its raining fruit! Jane very sensibly converted a load of our plums and apples into small pots of gorgeous chutney, I have to say my favourite bit is the label, all hand designed.  Family and friends, may we introduce you to your Christmas pressie!  Chutney bubbling is such a British autumnal pursuit, it seems heavily engrained in our consciousness, we were born here; on this fare island to conserve and pickle at will, then spread it all on a seeded cracker…….with a brew (cuppa tea).

Mum bought me a Bardsey Apple tree for my birthday back in May.  We are preparing a rockery out the back for it to live, but it has thrived this summer after missing the storms and gales that robbed the blossom from our more established apple trees.   Bardsey apple trees are very special, all can be traced back to the ‘Mother’ tree on Bardsey Island, off the rocky tip of the Llyn Peninsula (the eyebrow of Wales when you look on the map).  The Llyn is like Devon or Cornwall 20 years ago, especially the North Coast and Jane and I love to camp over there on the beaches and do some seal watching (they’re massive and quite sociable).  The Llyn is a special place and all roads over there lead to the mythical Barsdesy Island.  I wrote an article on my other blog about it, Bardsey Island – Island of 20,000 Saints and there is plenty of info here about Ian Sturrock and his single handed resurrection of the Bardsey apple tree.  Ian discovered it growing beside an old house on the isolated outpost and ancient pilgrimage site.  After testing the tree, he realised that it was completely unique, nothing like it in the world.  Since then Ian has grafted and grown probably thousands of the trees and exports them as far a field as the U.S. and Japan.  It amazing to think that we are eating almost extinct apples!

The original Bardsey ‘Mother’ Tree

The Bardsey Apples themselves are succulent and golden and a very good ‘all rounder’.  They go great in a pie and a have a lovely sweet and sour twang to them, nice crunch too.  Our little tree has done a great job this year, its young branches heavy laden with apples for most of the summer, it has even survived the regular gales we get up here (even in summer!), Jane and I have had to pick it up a few times after finding it blown across the front garden!  Proper gales up here on Tiger Hill!!!!

Other than the apples, this year has seen a bumper crop for fruits of all varieties.  I have never seen or tasted blackberries like it, huge and super sweet and fragrant.  Our plum tree has gone made, its branches full of plums, reminding me of an abundant Mediterranean grape harvest, not a craggy, long suffering plum tree cowering behind a dry stone wall.  Add to that a huge raspberry harvest earlier in the year and from a fruity perspective, we’ve had a ball!!!!

I’m not sure how Jane dreamt this chutney up, we have been experimenting whenever we have gluts of things in Spain and Wales.  Whatever happened in the pan, it worked, this chutney is well balanced between sweet and sour and had gorgeous occasional chunky surprises like the soft raisins or a lump of plum.

Good organic apples are essential here as apples grown non-organically are normally treated with high levels of pesticides which you cannot get rid off, even after a good rub on your jumper.  Heres an article we wrote about the ‘The Dirty Dozen’ – The 12 worst foods to buy non-organic, not exactly a light read, but worthy information that we regularly incorporate into our fruit and veg foraging escapades.  Organic apples also have a habit of tasting loads better.  As usual, we are lucky sorts, having a bumper crop down at Trigonos has also meant that we can keep things local this year.  I absolutely love apples and Judy’s Discovery’s are up there with some of the tastiest, crunchiest apples I’ve ever scoffed.

I think its probably worth making this all organic actually, especially if your giving it to loved ones as a gift (that seems to be what we end up doing with chutneys and jams).  Our bodies love organic food and non-organic food puts serious pressure on our digestive systems, liver and kidneys, to try and deal with the poison. Its a strong word I know, but pesticide is undoubtedly a poison and when we eat non-organic, we have to deal with it somehow.  We fully appreciate that unless you are rather wealthy, very devoted or have an organic small holding/ farm, being 100% organic in life is a tall order.   We are mainly organic and there is something intangibly wonderful about starting the day with a 100% pure organic juice/ smoothie.  It probably all in the mind, but I am (almost) literally floating around the place after one of those beauts, charged with energy, it certainly cleans out your tubes.

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) - Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

Our little Bardsey Tree (thanks Mum!) – Awaiting a proper home in the back garden

If you live anywhere near a farm or even better, someone with an orchard, knock on their door with a hefty chocolate cake and get into some gentle chatter about how you enjoy apples and wondered if they liked cake.  Trade could happen and you may end up with bags filled with proper apples to make into things, eat whole or have a go at Apple Hooch (basically crush or juice the apples, leave in a clean bucket with a light covering and taste after a week, then everyday after that.  Eventually it will ferment and become alcoholic and you have just made the easiest and probably one of the healthiest forms of booze known to humankind.)

You can buy pickling spice from most shops, even the supermarkets have it.  If you are just making this as a one off, you can use roughly 1/2 teas of the following whole spices (namely, not ground): coriander, cloves, mustard, dried ginger, chillies, all spice and wrap them in a bit of muslin.   If you don’t have them all, add a little more of the others although I would go easy on the cloves and all spice unless you love ’em dearly.

If your planning on keeping this chutney for a while you will need very clean jars.  We keep a stash in the garage, a decent jar for us is a real gift!   Janes method of jar sterilising works every time and we regularly keep chutneys for months without any obvious microbial issues.

Big BHK Love to all happy chutney bubblersX

Gorgeous plum-age

Gorgeous plum-age

The Bits – 8 Medium Jars

750g tomatoes (peeled and chopped)

500g apples (hopefully from a local tree – chopped into small chunks)

120g Onions (chopped)

400g plums (stones removed)

15g pickling spice (tied in a muslin bag)

15g mustard

10g salt

150ml apple cider vinegar

110g sultanas

130g light brown sugar (unrefined)

 

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Some of the lovely assembled bits

Do It

Put tomatoes, onions and apple into a pan and stir, on medium heat, until they start to soften. Add a little water to stop it sticking if you need to.  Then wrap the pickling spice in a muslin bag and add to the mixture, stirring as it simmers.

Blend the mustard and salt with a little vinegar and stir it into the mixture. When the ingredients have softened add the sultanas, sugar and remaining vinegar.

Continue to simmer, stirring often until you have a thick smooth chutney.

Chutney bubbling

Chutney bubbling

While that is going on, sterilise your jars.  Give them all a good wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry.  Put your jars on a baking tray and place in an oven, turn on the heat to 180oC.  Leave for 10 minutes and then pop in the lids (make sure the’ye not plastic!) and leave to warm up for between 5-10 minutes.  Remove them and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

The jars will still be hot so use a kitchen cloth to handle them.  Pack the chutney into the hot jars, wiping away any spillages around the lip.  Screw the lid on tightly, pressing the ‘button’ down on top.  This should make an airtight seal as the chutney cools.   Store for 2 months or longer before opening.  If you can resist its fruity charms!

Serve

Chutneys go with almost anything, but we found that this went like a dream with home-made loaf toast, or a breakfast pan-bread. Try it on the side with salads, or generously lathered on crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes and salad leaves as a midday snack!  We have also paired this chutney, with great success, with a Goan style curry (one with tamarind/ lemon in to make it a little tarty).  Bascially, you’ll find any excuse to eat this type of chutney!

We Love it!

Sweet and sour, can be eaten at anytime of day on almost anything, we can find little to not like about chutney, especially when its falling from trees!   Money does not grow on trees, but chutney does and it tastes alot nicer than a fiver (that’s 5 British pounds).

Danger - Plums falling!

Danger – Plums falling!

Foodie Fact

“An apple (or two) a day……..”

Apples are part of the rose family, a surprisingly comprehensive family of fruits and nuts including almonds, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, pears and….roses.

We all know that apples are beautifully sweet, but this does not mean that the sugar is doing us harm.   Apple contain phyto-nutrients that actually regulate our blood sugar levels.  Apples have good levels of fibre, but due to the unique mix of chemicals within apples, this decent level of fibre is transformed into benefits that would normally be associated with foods containing vastly higher levels of fibre (long winded description, but cool non-the-less!)   Apples also allow us to absorb more goodness from our foods in the large intestines.    Apples do contain vitamin C, but not loads, they do however boast a load of polyphenols (which actually act as a sunscreen and are the main reason why apples brown so easily) and most of these chemicals acts as strong antioxidants.  Regular munching of apples will also lower bad cholesterol.

JOHNNY APPLESEED

The coolest story we know about apples is that of Johnny Appleseed (aka Johnny Chapman) who lived in the U.S. in the 1800’s.  He spent a large portion of his life wandering barefoot around the country, some say 100,000 sq kilometres, sowing apple seeds as he went which provided early settlers with food.  He was a generous and caring nurseryman who placed huge significance on the symbolism of the apple and conservation of nature.  Folk who plant many trees and conserve nature are surely worth remembering, in our eyes they are the real heroes.

Categories: Foraging, Garden, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Redcurrant and Chia Breakfast Pots

Redcurrant and Chia Breakfast Pot.  Ready for action!

Redcurrant and Chia Breakfast Pot. Ready for action!

All you need for this easy and gorgeous vegan breakfast is a food processor and a fridge.  It’s that super easy, lightning quick and totally nutritious.  What a lovely, healthy start to the day.

Chia seeds are one of the healthiest foods known to man and are the nutritious seeds of a plant related to the mint family!  Funky grass never tastes this good!! This tiny little seed acts a little like a sponge – becoming slimy and swelling up when soaked in liquid.  Because of this, chia is best served mixed into something creamy and delicious…. in this case coconut milk!  It can also be sprinkle on things liked salads or smoothies, like little seedy nutritional bombs!

This treat breakfast is also a perfect way to use up all those inevitable fruity autumn leftovers you (hopefully) have lurking in the corners of your fridge.  We had some mango bits and some red-currants that worked perfectly, in a very random way.  Sweet and sour…..bhom and mmmmmmm!

Any autumn berries would be find here, blackberries and elderberries spring to mind (as I can see them growing outside the window!)  We have an awesome little project planned for the next couple of weeks when we make Beach House Garden Jam for the first time.  Our plum tree has sought shelter under a dry stone wall, all the protected branches (from the vicious gales we get up here) are flourishing and its looking like a bumper plum crop this year.  Add to that a healthy Barsdey apple presence from our new apple tree and the ubiquitous blackberries swathe that is taking over parts of the garden and we’re looking good for tasty, sugarfree jam this year.  Does anybody know any good sugar free jam recipes?

For a more local/ accessible sweet fruit, why not go for a plum.  Oh, plum and blackberries, now we are talking in a sensation and seasonal fashion.

With bags of redcurrants at this time of year, what better way to use them?!

With bags of redcurrants at this time of year, what better way to use them?!

The Bits – for 4

1 cup of vegan yoghurt
1 small mango (or sweet fruit of your choice)
4 handfuls of seasonal berries (whatever you have in your fridge)
500ml coconut milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 date (optional added sweetness)
1/2 cup of linseeds
4 drops vanilla extract

 

Do It

Blend the yoghurt and mango and pour into the serving glasses.

Make a berry layer on top using half of the berries.

Next blend up the coconut milk with the date (it sweetens the milk a little), pour out into a bowl, and mix in the chia seeds, linseeds, and vanilla extract. Put this in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool and swell (or for as long as you can resist it’s charms for).

When the chia mixture feels thick-ish, pour it on top of the fruit layer in the serving glasses. Finally top with the remainder of the fruit.

 

Serve

Can be kept in the fridge for a couple of hours but better served straight away – dive straight in!

 

Foodie Fact

The benefits of Chia seeds are far and wide, with vast quantities of Omega-3 good fats and fibre being particular highlights.  Try drinking a large mug of lukewarm water with a chunk of lemon squeezed into it while you are preparing this breakfast, the perfect de-tox first thing in the morning.

Enjoy Xxx Sending you love this happy morning, Jane X

Cor!  What a pleasant way to start the day.

Cor! What a pleasant way to start the day.

Categories: Breakfast, Healthy Eating, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Autumn Photo Scrapbook – Garden, Flowers and Buster

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On the funghi hunt, lost and wandering up the Nantlle Valley, we’ve had magic weather even in October.

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Pleasant views abound – from the Nantlle Ridge (behind our back garden)

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The man with a sock on his head – harvesting our potato crop. Smaller potatoes this year but more of them.

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Busters fancies a hike too……lovely little punk!

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A small tree in our garden suddenly started to sprout apples. It’s an apple tree!!!!! Wahee. Lucky us, this is part of the windfall apple bonanza.

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We’ve had so much sun this year even the sunflowers had a growth spurt.

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Part of our winter preparations, HEAT! Scavenged logs meet Mr Chainsaw = cosy nights by the fire. Time consuming, but free.

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We’ve had some gorgeous beetroots this year, three varities and all of them awesome and sweet.

Our local waterfall where we sit sometimes and watch water fall.

Our local waterfall where we sit sometimes and watch water fall.  Then POW tofu inspiration strikes!

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A Great Beach House Bake Off!

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Love CoconutsX

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Your Gracious HostsXXXXXXXXX  At Jane’s parents gaff

So the clocks have changed and we’re plunged into darkness for another year, still, plenty of swedes and parsnips to look forward to.

HAPPY WINTER EVERYONEXXXXXXXX

Categories: 'The Good Life', photography, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Blooming Marvelous! Garden Update

The Queen of Salads!

The Queen of Salads!

Well, well, well……I mean really.  We had a summer, a proper stint of sun.  We woke every morning expecting it to be sunny.  How rare, how brilliant!  The garden has appreciated the warmth and light, things are blooming like never before in our little mountain abode, we can’t keep up with the progress, most of the time just letting nature do its thing and appreciate what comes from that.  This generally hides our lack of discipline with gardening and confirms our inherent feeling that nature cannot be contained in a plant pot, or bossed around.  Our potatoes seem to appreciate the approach!

The Potato Patch

The Potato Patch

Courgette Flower

Courgette Flower

The Beach House Garden is quite big and wild, after not strimming for a while it was resembling a Welsh jungle and wild things lurked out towards the horse field.  Fortunately they were just frogs and the occasional mole, although the rabid sheep have been making unwanted appearances in the garden.  Feral lot that they are.

So this year we have some decent looking beetroots, rhubarb chard, cavolo nero and even courgettes coming along.  The herbs have gone wild (which we always enjoy) and as I said, we have three varieties of potatoes leaping from the ground at an alarming rate.  Come early August and freak storms permitting, we should have a reasonable bounty to play with in the BHK and share amongst our nearest and dearest.

'Erbs running wild

‘Erbs running wild

Raw Earth Month marches on bathed in sun and good vibrations.  I have to say, the food has been grand and we are trying our best to post more recipes.  Our month of total raw/ vegan-ness ended yesterday, no booze, coffee, consuming, chemicals, lights, washing machine etc for over a month now and going strong.  Once you start this and feel good about it, it’s always hard to get back off it.  I am sure one day a scone will come along and that will be it!  Until then we are thinking another two weeks are in order.  There are two bottles of cava primed for the closing ceremony, we’ll have a picnic in the back garden on the stone circle and eat sandwiches and a lemon drizzle cake (Jane’s favourite) and get slightly sozzled in the sun (hopefully).

Yellow Lilly's (I think) growing in the pond

Yellow Lilly’s (I think) growing in the pond

Cavolo Nero, Beetroots and Chard

Cavolo Nero, Beetroots and Chard

We are so lucky to have wild strawberries growing this year, if we can grab them before the birds take their share!  They are the sweeetest, fragrant little things.  Just one tiny strawberry can change your day, much better than their big brother variety.

Wild Strawberries

Wild Strawberries

My hayfever has taken a back seat now that Jane’s magical herbalist friend has sent some little sweet pills through.  I can now enjoy the garden without fear of pathetic dribbles and sneezing fits taking over.  Hoorah!  This has made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the dramatic transformations in these green and golden hills.

We are being battered by odd humid, tropical storms at the moment, but somewhere behind those grey clouds, there’s a sun waiting to get busy.

On a walk near the Beach House

On a walk near the Beach House

Some classic George (you saw this one coming surely!):

Hopefully you’ll be seeing some of our garden produce in our recipes very soon, there is nothing quite like cooking with your own veg.  I am lucky enough to be working at a wonderful retreat centre at the moment and cook with alot of veg grown on the land.  There is something intangible and whole heatedly enjoyable about cooking with such produce.  It makes all the difference and the flavours are spectacular!  Eating the stem of a rhubarb chard recently is a food experience I will never forget!

Enjoy the heat wave (while it lasts)!

Categories: Garden, Raw Food, Summer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Spring arrives in a blizzard – The Beach House Garden

Spring  hits the Beach House Garden

Spring hits the Beach House Garden – Dark and Gloomy

Well Spring is here and we’re hanging on in the middle of a blizzard. The Beach House is a sturdy little cottage, but the garden is looking anything but spring-like.

The whole of North Wales, and Britain in general, is getting a good covering of springtime snow.  This day last year the temperature was 21oC.  You may be British, or know Brits, we talk about the weather alot over here, mainly because we have such interesting weather!  You never know what to expect, which doesn’t help a novice gardener.

We have planted a few seeds already, granted very prematurely and they are doing well on racks beside the fire!  Rainbow chard is beginning to sprout and I fear for these little things when they are thrown into the garden, open to our mountain elements.  Maybe we will have an indoor garden this year!

Last years gardening adventures, in sunnier times

Last years gardening adventures, in sunnier times

It is so cold at the moment, even our semi-wild cat Buster has come inside, to shelter from the winds (see below).  Buster is our gardening companion and an expert at getting in the way.

Last years attempts at growing had mixed results (to say the least). Slugs had a field day in the very damp conditions and we became more a slug diner than a organic veg patch. We had some success with a variety of potatoes and the occasional leek, but really, most things flopped.  We have new strategies and fresh energy this year to quell those slimy critters and hide our plants from the wind.  Our green beans ended up mainly in the opposite field last time.

This year we are going for alot of beetroot, some leeks, many potatoes, some green beans and greeen and red leaves (rocket, raddichio etc).  We’d also like to grow some squash and plenty of kale and chard.  We’ll let you know how it all goes.

Thankfully, we have little expectations this year and even in this small garden patch, are now fully aware of the difficulties of approaching a ‘self-sufficient’ lifestyle.  There is so much to learn and only so many seasons left…

Hope you are all nice and warm and cosy wherever you are.

Buster checking out the bin

Buster checking out the bin

More from Buster (the worlds coolest creature)

More from Buster (the worlds coolest creature)

 

Categories: Garden, Spring, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beach House Garden – Summer Update

The Beach House Garden

Well there has been little summer to speak of really. The clouds parted today, so I went outside and took a few pictures, but really this summer has been very strange.  Even the old timers down the farm say they cannot fathom what is going on.  The soil should be warm and it is cold and damp, meaning the plants don’t know what to do.

White Rose

Our lonesome Kori Squash and Rainbow Kale

We have had a few minor successes, mainly down to raiding our neighbours horse field for massive piles of poo.  It’s like magic dust. One sprinkle and the plants shoot up. The potatoes love this environment and sprang up, they are just starting to flower and we may have a look soon to see if we have any tasty little tubers.

The Potato Patch

Rampant Foxglove

 

 

After an epic battle with slugs and snails, we have managed to get one squash plant through the madness. We have been trying all sorts, beer traps, gravel and jagged rocks, I have been on many stealth nighttime missions to snatch them off our precious green friends. Sometimes it felt like a losing battle, but now things are established and semi-blooming, all these efforts seem worthwile. The squash is growing nicely and we hope to have our first Welsh kori squash soon. Beetroots, rainbow kale, runner beans and hannibal leeks are all holding in there.

The Beetroot Jungle

Flowering Succulents

We have also diversified in the herb garden, with some different types of thyme and our new favourite, ginger mint. A wonderful thing that has its own bed to go wild in. We have been loving wandering out to the herb garden and cutting our own fresh herbs. A real cooks treat (even in the howling gales).
We think it will be a late summer (we hope!) and in late September, we will be cooking with our first batch of Beach House Veg. We will keep you posted.

Beauty Beets

Kori Squash and Runner Beans

Tomato plants (hiding in the green cupboard)

 

Categories: Garden, Healthy Living, Organic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Apricot, Avocado and Kiwi Smoothie

Apricots

Today’s smooth one came out rather nice. The richness of avocado and the zing of kiwi, with the touch of sweetness from the apricot. A well-balanced cup of goodness.

Jane and I had just taken a long walk down to Trigonos Organic Farm in the nearby Nantlle valley.  It has been an absolutely stunning day in the hills.  We popped down to see Pete and the gang and also managed to pick up some delicious little onions, carrots and potatoes.  Pete grows some really interesting, rare varieties.

Down on the farm, Trigonos (taken in April with snow on the hills)

It is all go down there at this time of year, as it is in our own garden and we are picking up many tips from the wise bunch at Trigonos.  Today we learnt to always water your seedlings at night, especially when sunny.  There seems so many do’s and dont’s when it comes to gardening, I have just been sticking seeds in pots and the earth and hope for a bloom.  We shall see…

Nantlle Valley and a black pony

So smoothies.  We needed something filling, I was shooting off to work , so this is a nice thick one, reminiscent of a milkshake with its creaminess, but without all that fat.  Avocados are excellent for this, creaminess without the cow.  I’m sure all vegans will agree!

Happy blending!

The Bits

Makes enough for two cups:

1 avocado (seeded and scooped out), 4 apricots (de-stoned), 2 kiwis (peeled and quartered), 1 cup of soya milk (or milk of your choice)

Do It

In the blender, blitz for a short time until smooth.

Serve

In the nicest glasses available, will also make a delicious smooth topping for a fruit salad or dessert (ie CAKE!), you may need to add a little something sweet to the mix, maybe honey or dates would be nice.

Foodie Fact 

Avocados are technically berries and are sometimes called alligator pears.  They contain a wide range of vitamins and fat (good fats, they’re full of fibre), which is actually a good thing for raw foodist.  We will be needing alot of avocados in a few days (see raw June)!  Avocados actually help your nutrition absorption by up to 300-400%.

Apricot, Avocado and Kiwi Smoothie

Categories: Desserts, Garden, gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Local food, Raw Food, Recipes, Smoothies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homemade Nettle Tea

Nettles

Nettles are here and we are loving them.  They are like a cross between mint and spinach and one of the first green leaves of the summer.  Some call them weeds, we call them feed!

Nettle leaves can be dried and enjoyed later in the year, or just thrown straight in a pan of boiling water.  They can also be stir fried to great effect as a spinach substitute.

Nettle tea can also be made for your garden, it makes great plant feed.  You just need a load of nettles in a large container covered with water.  Every day, stir them.  This will stink after a while, keep going for 4 weeks and you have some seriously good feed that can be used on tomatoes.  Great natural fertiliser.

You can even throw some nettles leaves in a bath of hot water, it apparently helps to relieve aches and pains.  We haven’t tried this one out, please check that the sting is long gone before diving in!

Brewing the nettles

For the drinking variety:

The Bits

Nettle leaves (1 cup of leaves makes 2 cups of tea), Water

Do It

Boil water in a pan, add leaves.

Homemade Nettle Tea

Serve

In your finest mug.

We Love It!

It literally grows on trees (well bushes).

Foodie Fact

Nettle is a natural elixir, invigorating the body in preparation for the busy summer time. It is a strong blood purifier and helps to dissolve kidney stones.  It is ant-inflammatory and can help with arthritis, high blood pressure and helps to clean out the digestive system.

Learn more about nettles and sustainable living on this great site, earth easy.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Budget, Detox, Foraging, Garden, Healthy Living, Infusions, Local food, Recipes, Tea, Vegan, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Beach House Egg Benedict with Asparagus

Morning bluebell

This is our version of the famous Waldorf Hotel breakfast dish.  It was originally created by a man named Benedict (surprisingly!) who wanted something to cure his hangover.  I have almost completely changed the dish, made it a healthier delight, and served it for supper.

That seems to be the BHK style, take a classic and meddle with it until it is almost unrecognisable!

Asparagus is a very beautiful thing, so fleeting, which makes you appreciate it more. I have recently looked into growing them and it really is a labour of love. They are quite tricky and only give you good spears after a few years. Hootons Homegrown have been selling some delicious packs of asparagus, so we’ve been using it in many recipes. Simply pan-fried is my favourite and topped with a local egg makes it something rather special.

This is a gorgeous light dinner or lunch and quick to prepare. The layered effect and combination of creamy dressing, runny egg and crispy vegetables give it a ‘complete’ restaurant dish feel. We added a little toasted oat bread for some ‘packing’. We’ve been in the garden for most of the day, doing loads of seeding and planting; transplanting and spreading of horse manure. We needed a good feed.

We loved to use the last of our wild garlic here, picked from the roadsides of Anglesey. The extent of our foraging consisted of opening the car door and leaning out. Not exactly Ray Mears, but just as satisfying. Who doesn’t appreciate a little free food?

Broccoli Florets

The Bits
Glug of olive oil, half a handful of pumpkin seeds, 1 big handful chopped wild garlic, 1 big handful chopped mint, half a large head of broccoli, 5 handfuls of spinach leaves, 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, splash of water.
Bunch of whole asparagus spears (take of the tough tails, normally one inch from base)
Mixed salad leaves
2 free range, organic eggs (with vivid yolks)
For the Dressing
(these measurements are slightly larger than a teaspoon)
1 teas honey, 1 teas dijon mustard, 4 teas olive oil, 1 teas white wine vinegar, salt + pepper (s+p), 4 teas creamy natural yoghurt.

Do It
Make dressing, add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix together thoroughly. Taste and adjust to how you like it (sweeter, saltier, not quite mustardy enough, more bite, smoother etc).
In a large saucepan, on a medium heat warm the olive oil then add your pumpkin seeds, roast for a few minutes until slightly golden, then add the cherry tomatoes and scorch a little, then add the wild garlic then broccoli.  Add a splash of water (roughly 2 tbs). Season with s+p. Cook for a couple of minutes then add spinach and mint.  Put to the side with the lid on, keeping warm.  This will steam the broccoli.
In a separate small saucepan, bring some salted water to the boil with a splash of white wine vinegar and poach your eggs (crack them into a tea cup and pour low and gentle into boiling water for a neater shape).
As that is happening, heat a glug of olive oil in a small frying pan and flash fry the asparagus spears for three minutes. Do not overcook, they should be nice and crunchy. You may add a splash of truffle oil here, if you are feeding people you love very dearly. It’s a decadent touch.
Give your salad leaves a quick wash and drain.

Beach House Benedict

Serve
Place a flat pile of green salad on your serving plate, add the broccoli and wild garlic fricassee (posh word for something fried), then spoon over the dressing, top with a neat pile of asparagus spears and place the egg on top and season with a little s+p. We had it with a piece of toasted oat bread.

We Love It!
Jane loved it so much she actually licked the plate clean! It wasn’t pretty!

Foodie Fact

Asparagus has been enjoyed by folk for thousands of years and has also been used for its medicinal properties.

Asaparagus is brilliant for digestion and helps to regulate our blood sugar levels.  It also contains very high levels of Vitamin K.

Categories: Dinner, Dressings, Garden, Healthy Eating, Local food, Lunch, Organic, Recipes, Welsh produce, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The B.H.K Garden Photos – Spring and Seeds

We hit the patch. 4 types of potato in furrows, blue, white, red and knobbly.

April in the B.H.K. garden has seen much activity.  Mainly we have chopped wood for next year, but we managed to squeeze some gardening in also.  

We are following organic practices , with a little biodyamic thrown in (new moon and all).  The veg patch has been turned several times, with piles of local horse manure from the adjacent field and four different types of potato have been planted.  Pete at Trigonos Farm, Nantlle, kindly donated the seeding potatoes (some just sprung to life in our veg basket!).  We have blue, red, white and knobbly.  One day I will learn the names of them.

The front garden is full of herbs and four different types of latin american bean.  We hope for great things from the latin bean patch this year.

We also expect lots of flowers, some wild strawberries and the regular marjoram infestation.  The slugs are happy, but we plan on trapping them in underground cups with beer in.  Slugs like beer!  Get them tipsy and they seem to lose interest in plants.  Probably opting for a kebab instead.  

The newts have returned to the pond and the frog spawn seems to be wriggling even more.  Bring on the frogs!

We have a dodgy looking gang of sheep hanging around our back wall, but we have reinforced the defenses and hope to keep them out this year.  Apparently they like to walk along the walls and eat all things green.  The are also very dim and noisy.  

Breaking news – beetroots, green beans and leeks are rumoured to be on the way.

We are keen amateurs at best in the garden, any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Here’s hoping for zero food miles soon! 

Happy plantingX

Beach House herb garden circa April '12

Our seed trays (formerly traffic cones)

Jane puts her back into the spuds

The local beige tree frog

Happy cook with the sun on my face.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Garden, Healthy Living, Local food, Organic, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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