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Archive for April, 2008

#3 in what are nettles good for?  nettle soup.

I cooked nettles last year and found they were horrible.. now I realise the trick is to only pick young nettles, and to only pick the tips. a bit tedious, and gloves are mandatory, but they are free.. and free is my favourite price. There are lots of different recipes out there, but I made my own, along my usual soup making methods, keeping it fairly simple. It’s a winner – really very nice.

Also have bottled some nettle beer.. but it needs a few more days before sampling.. but it does look surprisingly promising.

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I remember my mum once telling a visitor that the reason they were insulating the loft was because the garden was falling into the river.

It’s logical really – let me explain.  My parents had chosen to buy  a house with problems, and a large garden, rather than a perfect house with no garden. ( See? it runs in the family). The problem their house had was the retaining wall had been washed away by the small river next door, and the garden was falling down into it.  In order to rebuild the wall they had to dig out the fallen garden. In order to dig out the garden they had to get a hired digger on site. In order to get the digger in, the garage had to be knocked down. Before that happened, they had to empty it of all the stuff that seems to come with you when you move house.  The only place to put it was in the loft.. which had to be floored before the stuff could be stored there.. and before that it was logical to put the insulation down…

Well I think that’s the story.. but hey, I was five. Anyway, my point is, how one job always leads to many more.

Which is why we are going to rebuild yet another wall in our house, because himself wants a wind turbine.

Here’s the logic: Sitting on the hill looking at the moors, himself declares he wants a wind turbine.. free energy and all that.  Boring of me, but I felt obliged to point out a few priorities.  Solar heating was a much more logical way to go, and  more likely to get planning permission (or maybe not even need it with the recent change of rules?), but even better than that is to up the insulation in the house. We have ample loft insulation, but the windows are only single glazed. We are working on that one, hunting down a solution, but it is going to cost.. so saving is what we are doing about that.  Next to that is not wasting energy.. and here the rayburn.. mains gas, is guilty.  Great in the winter, with that on idle and the woodburner we rarely use central heating.  But the summer months and it is a problem.  We turned it off last summer and we will again.. if nothing else it makes the kitchen too hot on a sunny day.  But.. it is our only oven and only hot water supply.  So yes, solar panels would get us out of one problem, but there is no point in getting them if we turn the rayburn on now and then to use the oven.. as it makes hot water as a side line.  So we need to install another cooker which that is on my list of not resolutions for this year anyway. We have another cooker – as we brought the one from the last house… but no where for it to go. 

Major kitchen remodeling. Always difficult doing any work in the kitchen, as you still have to use it. And being frugal/green we are recycling the kitchen we have into a more appropriate set up. Which is a good idea, but there is no buying and putting together of units .. instead its cutting up the ones we have and rebuilding parts. We took down a wall unit, as part of this plan, and behind it found.. vertical counter attached to the wall. Why? because the wall is unable to support a wall unit.. in fact it is barely able to support the revolting blanch mange pink wall paper.. it wobbles with just a tentative prod.

Oh yes. more hardboard.  A little peek behind reveals.. there is no wall. Getting deja vu here.  Not entirely sure what we are dealing with yet.. we need to scrape the terrible tiles off the vertical counter… and take the vertical counter down too, and then peel back the hardboard.  The good news is at least this time it is not a supporting wall (oh no: the death watch beetle eaten beams are what are stopping us arriving in the kitchen whilst still in bed.. the fast way)  – and will be a doddle compared to the last one.

so, because himself wants a wind turbine, we will get solar first and install another cooker, for which we have to remodel the kitchen, which has revealed another wall that needs rebuilding.

I expect we will find something else while we are there. Meanwhile we wreck each and every room in our house.. then go outside as the rain has stopped and the veg must go in now…

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close up of chitted parsnip seedsHaving officially given up on my plans to grow parsnips in toilet roll tubes due to birds, probably jackdaws, ripping them out of the ground again, the parsnip experiments continue, and this time I have chitted them.

I placed them in kitchen towel, kept the paper wet, and folded over the seeds and in a tray to hold the moisture, and kept the lot in the propagator.  Definitely a lot less hassle than all that tube planting, and takes up a lot less valuable propagator space too.  Also you can see which seeds have germinated.

Then out in the veg patch, made a little hole in the ground, picked out a good looking seed with tweezers, popped it in, covered it up, and repeat.

Will it work?  Time will tell.

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#2 Interesting home education experiment: colour changing nettle tea

I got this idea from this site when I was looking for recipes for nettle tea. Actually you don’t need a recipe for nettle tea.. it is  nettles and hot water! … but best to choose young nettle tips. The tea will be green.. darker green the stronger you make it – but interesting, if you change the acidity of the tea by adding a slice of lemon, the colour changes too, from green to orangey-pink. My son and I tried it today, the first go was barely coloured, and although we did detect a colour change it was pretty unimpressive. The tea was ok.. but rather similar to hot water with lemon….  one nettle tip is not enough!!

So with the teapot stuffed with nettles we tried again, the colour was dark green, the lemon went in and the colour changed – yay!.  The tea was disgusting.  So… I don’t think I am set to become a fan of nettle tea, but we did enjoy the colour change experiment.

 

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We have far too many nettles.. in the hedges, in the ‘wild’ areas (such as around the pit of despair), but most annoyingly in the fields. The fields were let go a great deal before we got here and the fight against the nettles seems never ending.  They are out as far as two metres from the hedge in the worst places, and there are clumps all over, and where there are nettles, there is not grass for our sheep. We wont use sprays, so the only answers are either to slash them down with a scythe – quick but they come back.. or pull them by hand.  Yesterday we pulled three wheelbarrow loads in just an hour. We made very little impact on the nettle population!

It wasn’t bad work.. the nettles are not so high they attack the face when pulled and the recent rains has made the ground soft enough to get a decent bit of root with each pull.  Also, physical work frees up the mind to think, and I started thinking that as we have so many nettles.. perhaps it was time they earned their space.  I have a particular objection to them as the sting always seems to effect me badly – I still have painful bumps now on my wrist from yesterday morning’s nettle pulling.. being a clumsy wossit, I always seem to manage to get stung..

So, anyway, what are nettles good for..I thought I would start to count them, and experiment with using them along the way. 

#1 butterflies.  in the UK, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and one of my favourites: comma butterflies all depend on nettles. 

don’t worry – there are always plenty here …

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Lots of flowers out in the garden now, the bluebells are out in force, and we have white and pink ones in the garden, as well as ordinary blue ones in the lane and under the trees. Also see a surprisingly large number of butterflies.. are they early or am I just mis-remembering when they arrive?

As well as the usual tatty looking red admirals appearing on the first warm days a month or so back.. clearly hibernators - We have seen a holly blue, orange tip, brimstone,  and a cabbage white, all today.

Really glad to see all of them.. although have to grit my teeth over the cabbage white: today we planted five rows of calabrese, and four rows of cabbages… before long we will be fighting the caterpillars of the cabbage white for our food.. its a war out there!

Also saw a ‘devil’s coachhorse’ beetle – weird looking large black beetle.. I have since read that encasing this poor beetle in the handle of your scythe is supposed to improve your scything skills.  I can’t help thinking that practise.. might be the answer…

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The sowing continues.. it feels like the big push now to get everything sown.. at the same time not getting carried away and sowing the frost delicate stuff too soon. sowed more carrots, swede (first go at that) PSB, pumpkin (little early but I threw down the gauntlet at my dad.. so the race is on….(hi Dad!)) and starting to put the brassicas out.

A reward is the first salads from the greenhouse.. The line of radishes I sowed back along is overwhelming me now.  “only sow a foot at a time” – they say.. but they are wrong.. because at first you only get one or two out of 4 ft.. but now it’s rather too much radish.. not in quantity.. but size.. one is enough for a sandwich.

Now my lettuce production line is coming into it’s own.  I sow a pinch of seeds in a pot (well for pot read bowl, pot, dish, old biscuit carton or something else recycled.. ) When they germinate, I sow another.  When they are big enough, I pick a few out and pot them on, to eventually be planted in the greenhouse border to grow into a full-sized lettuce.. the remainder I use as cut and come again, until I wear it out… I bought mixed seed this year, containing cos, butter head and iceburg.. next time I might go for an even wider range. The sorrel is standing waiting as always, lending a lemony bite to a salad, and the herbs are making a return, including mint, chives, garlic chives, and the rocket from last year. You have to love plants that grow back, or better still never leave.. and take so little tending.

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Despite Stoney pointing out that chickens are better at numeracy than sheep.. they are still stupid.

We have 4 hens… one is brooding her chicks, and one is not laying (and if she keeps this up.. the word ‘casserole’ might be mentioned a bit more), so that leaves us with two hens laying eggs.  In the hen house, there are three nest boxes.  There are different opinions on how many hens to a nest box you should have.. but three is definitely more than two hens could need.

So – of course.. they have to lay in the same box.  OK.. so that’s understandable.. maybe one is better for some reason.. darker.. drier.. nicer interior decoration – whatever.

Today – when I was feeding the hens, and admiring the fast growing chicks, I realised two of the hens were missing.  Thought I had better actually check.. and peeked in through the pop-hole. and there they are.. both squeezed into the same nest box.  Not the first time I have noticed this.  Stupid,, they have to use the same box.. at the same time

Mind you.. there are stupid people.  There I was today at the local bakers…. picture the scene.. it’s sunny and hot, the door is open, the shop full of the smell of baking… there is relaxed everyone knows everyone atmostphere.. when she came in.  You could hear her for some time before she entered the shop.. as she was on her mobile phone. loudly.  she continued with her conversation into the shop (the floor space must be all of 2 square metres), looked along the shelves… all the time laughing away down the phone.  I had made my purchase, and turned towards her and caught her eye… thought maybe it would occur to her that other people existed if we made eye contact… but nope.. she took it all the wrong way.. she thought I was joining in, and laughed ‘with me’ as she shrieked ‘scotch bonnet’ down the phone (no I don’t know why.. given that I could only hear her end of the call.. and I was trying not to at that.) I give up.stupid people.

 At least my hens gave me two eggs

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