09 July 2016

The Barrel of Stink

It's nearly the end of summer term, which means nothing else but getting really excited about the long summer holiday! And so that life is not boring, I decided to stench up the neighbourhood with some good, honest, organic, all-natural, wonderful, brilliant and stinking-like-cow-dung organic nettle brew/fertiliser. We do it every year when the nettles become abundant, leaving some of the plants for insects but making sure we benefit from them, too.

I originally got the idea from an episode of "Edible Garden" by Alys Fowler that I saw on YouTube.

It really is simple. Cut up some nettles, pour water over them and let rot for a couple of weeks. It is suggested that you cover it as the mixture can smell quite badly, however once it is done, the smell will mostly go away and the liquid should be almost see through. Diluted with water 1:10 it will be nitrogen, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium and calcium-full feed to kick your plants into growth.

Less is more here, I think, so I tend to add a small cup of the feed into every watering can I pour over my plants to feed them small amounts of minerals gradually, as large concentrations of these minerals might cause water to move out of the roots by osmosis and eventually kill the entire plant.

Happy stinking!


25 June 2016

Elderflower Season and the Taste of Summer

Summer really is here now. Okay, so it's mild British summer, but it has started! Over the past few weeks, I have encountered several tutorials on how to make your own elderflower, how to fry battered flowers, how to make this and that using elderflower... All I could think of was there aren't any elderflower bushes around!

But then... As I was walking home from town with my shopping bags, I smelled the sweetest smell there is. It took me about 15 seconds to locate the bush (which could not be seen but could be smelled) and in spite of the fact that it was right near the road, I decided that a little cup of fully leaded town centre finest will not kill me. I went home with three massive blossoms, stuck them upside down into a tiny jar with a lot of sugar and lemon juice and here it is!

A couple of days later I enjoyed two glasses of delicious homemade elderflower cordial.

My recipe for elderflower cordial (it's SO easy!):

  • A lot of washed flowers (just to remove the insects and the biggest dirt)
  • A lot of sugar (I use regular white caster sugar)
  • A lot of lemon juice (some people add citric acid but I find it works fine without it as well)

  • Leave stand for about a day, then remove the flowers and sieve the liquid to remove lemon pips and any fallen off flowers.
  • Fill bottles and store in fridge. When drinking, dilute with water to taste.

Cheers! (May contain traces of aphids)

Since I first wrote this, I have located another bush of elderflower near our place and made more cordial. Most of the flowers are gone now, but there are many berries developing, promising another interesting foraging opportunities for later in the year.

05 June 2016

Isle of Wight Adventure

It was shortly before October half term that we got an offer to stay in a little seaside apartment on the Isle of Wight owned by one of our family members. We eagerly accepter and, hoping for good weather, we embarked on our first Isle of Wight adventure. We took a ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde and from there took a three-mile walk along the beach with our backpacks, stopping for a warming cup of tea at Dell Café near Appley Tower as it was really really cold.

It remained cold, windy and overcast for most of our stay but I felt that it only reinforced the small seaside town atmosphere that Seaview has. Having grown up in a landlocked country and dreaming of the sea, I still find it absolutely fascinating that there are places like this, where people just casually lean their boats against the fence.. 

However, we were also lucky. On the day that we have planned another 2.3 miles long walk to St Helen's (this time without the backpacks), the weather has cleared and in spite of it being October, it felt like summer. We walked along and explored the Priory Bay, which is surrounded by Priory Woods owned by National Trust.

From the shade of the forest the water looked beautifully dark blue, with mysterious shades of trees dipping into the waves.

At St Helen's we had a look at the Old St Helen's Church on the Duver and had lunch at the seafront at Baywatch on the Beach where I tried a crab for the first time.

My evenings were filed with beachcombing back in Seaview, getting really cold but enjoying the solitude and the wonderful views. As the sun set, the blue gave way to reddish and orange and at low tide the coast looked like some kind of post-apocalyptic wasteland. I could have walked in the wet sand and peek into rock pools until it was too dark to see, when I would have to pace back to the cottage and get in half frozen but insanely happy, with a soaked canvas bag full of cuttlefish bones and shells.

One of the most interesting beach finds has been this piece of crab exoskeleton that I found in St Helen's. Completely dry, bleached by the sun, with one leg still attached. It was so thin and fragile and breakable that I left it there for someone else to find and take home.

What I took, however, were quite large quantities of cuttlefish bones, as my snails just love the ones I brought from Devon in summer. They were hiding in all sorts of places and on an almost shell-less beach, hunting for cuttlefish bones was my main form of entertainment.

It was also entertaining for my fiancé as he saw me get soaked by an unexpectedly big wave about two seconds after I took this picture.

Sea life aside, one of the most amazing creatures we saw was the red squirrel. They seemed to be quite abundant on the island. Every time I see one, I cannot believe how tiny they are compared to the North American grey squirrels that jump around our garden. No wonder they didn't stand a chance in competition against them.

I love these holidays where we just relax; walk, talk, cook, eat and read books. They bring a bit of calm into our busy lives. I hope we can return to the island soon for some more adventures.

03 June 2016

Our Day at Surrey County Show

Bank holiday Monday has been the day when Stoke Park in Guildford hosted the Surrey County Show. The only one I have been to so far was Devon County Show back in 2005 and I was totally thrilled, so I was really excited to go to a similar event in a different county.

The venue itself was quite well organised and full of tents, shops, rings and arenas. One of the first ones I wandered into was the pygmy goat tent. Being there really reminded me of working with goats at the petting zoo. The smell of hay and straw, the intelligent looks of the goats as they quietly munch on their hay and the overall calm atmosphere really made me feel like being on a farm. 

Apart from the cheese that was on site for tasting, there were also angora goats from "New Forest Mohair", fleece of which is dyed spun into lovely yarns. I adored their cute little display of all stages of the yarn making process and of course the real goat and her cute kid. There were several weaving stands at the show as well and many lady weavers were very nice and talkative. For example, the Women's Institute weavers have explained the difference between 1 ply and 2 ply wool and how they are made.

My next trip was to the poultry tent. I do like the idea of having a little flock of hens one day, just like my family had at our cottage when I was little, so seeing all the varied breeds of chickens just really got me daydreaming.

Even more thrilling was the egg competition! I actually got to see some real judging - a thing that I have only seen on TV until now. The variety of eggs was stunning: white, brown, blue, green and sort of a cappuccino-coloured. All were carefully examined by judges in white cloaks, then cracked and examined again until they were sure which one deserves the prize the most. I would really like to know the judging criteria for eggs.

Overall, in spite of the cold, wind and constant threat of rain it was a very successful day. There was hog roast, cups of hot tea and coffee that warmed us up and many show events that kept us busy until it was time to go home.

26 May 2016

There are days ...

...when I feel a bit bleak. That is when I start comparing myself to others. Normally I am quite content with my little self, the way I look, the way I act or how I do my job... But then there are days when all the people are smarter, more professional or better looking and with much more adventurous lives and many cooler pictures on Facebook.

Cosmos, radishes and chamomile seedlings. Aren't they wonderful?
And that is when I need to take a walk, go home and have a look at my bathroom windowsill and I know that this is my thing, that not everyone gets to grow vegetables in their flats and that even though this is not the norm, this is my little happy corner and yes, I am quirky, but that is just another way of saying "awesome". Life is good.

12 May 2016

The Morning Light

Every morning I pass the most amazing display of wild bluebells. It's just a tiny English corner left to itself that comes to life in this part of the year.

The light of the rising sun is blinding, the smell is enchanting and every single morning it reminds me how really nice it is to be in the world.

09 May 2016

Colour against Stress

Last weekend was the first since September (yes, you're reading correctly!) that I had no work to take home (I mean, you can always find some work to do, but nothing was really that urgent). So I was fully resolved not to do anything job-related. And... it felt weird! How sad is that ?!

Even worse, I "celebrated" the worry-free weekend by having a panic attack over the state of our crockery. And I am not exaggerating, it was a full-on panic attack, sitting on the floor, hugging my knees, crying and shaking front to back unable to speak because "how are we ever going to sort it out?" Sometimes my serotonin-deficient brain can play cruel tricks on me.

Luckily, there is almost always that lovely man of mine, who picked me up, took me to the living room, sat me down on a sofa and wrapped me in three blankets like a baby whilst talking to me. Men are often so under-appreciated and complained about, but  I don't know where I would be without mine.

This bit of stress has also brought me back to one of my lovely hobbies, which is colouring. I loved colouring books as a little girl and I love it still. Luckily, it's becoming more and more popular and available. I still remember buying my first colouring book of mandalas. It was during uni and I remember being totally drained after several long panic attacks, my head wouldn't stop crunching down on all the impossible thoughts that were sprouting in my brain. I had to get out of my room and almost frantically got into the tea house with a little shop full of spiritual books. By then I knew about relaxation via colouring, so I decided to try it. I still have the book, but since then the collection has grown. So has the collection of pencils, although most of them are old sets dug out from elsewhere. That does not stop them being beautiful and totally amazing though.

Page 37 from a Czech book "Antistresové omalovánky pro dospělé" (Anti-stress colouring for adults)
by Jolana Daňková and Lenka Tréglová

 Since my first book I have gathered these three more. Most pictures are left blank and some are only partly coloured, so they still promise many hours of free entertainment. Yay!

07 April 2016

Tasty Looking Crochet

It goes without question that a new baby in the family totally changes the life of his of her parents. It is also quite understandable that they change the lives of all the relatives and friends of the family closest to them. However, I was quite surprised, as an almost-Auntie living a thousand miles away, to see how much my new niece changed my life. When I got the text message about her birth two years ago, I couldn't stop being happy.  I loved her since she was born and there is nothing she can do to make me love her less.

She is the sole reason why I got into making crocheted toys. Many kids have benefited from it since then, but it all started with her, the first weird-shaped, poorly-embroidered attempts at toys are hers. Luckily, I am getting better and better. These are the Christmas presents that she got, along with her brand new IKEA kitchen from her parents. Now she cooks steak and chips in the pretend oven and fries the carrots in her little fake frying pan.

As her birthday approached, I was very busy, but managed to make these pieces of sushi and a kiwi for her. I wasn't there, but I was told that the kiwi was tasted immediately :D

15 March 2016

Spring Thoughts

Hello again. It has been such a long time since I have been in touch with my blog that I almost feel ashamed of myself.

Having started teaching, my days are full of work and social interaction and there simply isn't enough time for blogging. But there are a few blog posts which have been lurking in the back of my mind, pushed into a little dark corner by all those thought of lesson planning, photocopying, seating plans and effective behaviour management (I am sure all the teachers who read this know what I mean).

Time to spend with the family and fiancé has been scarce, but that only made it more valuable. We watch TV, have cups of tea, do the washing up for each other, go for breakfast on Saturdays and this weekend we took our first spring walk in the park. Things are becoming sunny and lovely and pretty again.

02 January 2016

Our Merry Little Christmas

This Christmas has been both merry and little. It has also been a bit chaotic, with some stress, but full of food and warmth and love.

On the 23rd December we have finally flown out of the nest and moved into a cozy two-bedroom nest of our own together with a teeny tiny Christmas tree. There suddenly wasn't enough time for all the Christmas cards, baking cookies, shopping for presents and tidying up and organizing and preparing for the new working year. But phew, we did it.

Well, did it about 70%. The remaining thirty are left for 2016. Merry Christmas, everyone :)

08 November 2015

Nasturtium Joy

English garden does not offer much joy in autumn, it is dark, wet and cold. However, one thing that makes me really happy on a daily basis are my nasturtium plants. Even now, in November, they are flowering and producing seeds. I am collecting them as they fall off the plant and letting them dry to make sure that we can grow some nasturtiums next year as well. It is the first time I have grown Nasturtium, but oh, what joy!

07 November 2015

Meeting Tortoises

African spurred tortoises grazing outside are not exactly a typical sight in England at the end of October. However, when you go to Clandon park, that is exactly what you might get to see :) Whilst visiting the Clandon Park reptile centre and admiring their bearded dragons and snakes and Horsfield's tortoises I almost did not notice these great animals grazing outside. I could spend hours just watching them eat and walk and eat and walk. Tortoises are one of the most amazing animals on this Earth.

19 October 2015

Beginnings of Autumn

The last couple of weeks have been so full of work that I have barely had the time to appreciate this wonderful season of autumn that has come upon us. Morning chills and mists, scarves and warm coats, waking up in the dark and reading on the bus to work in an early morning twilight.

Some days are grim, yes, and I am busy, yes, but there is always a little bit of time to appreciate the little things in life that make me comfy and happy. The nice woolly jumper that I wear in the evenings to keep me warm, the soft lighting in our bathroom, going out to have late breakfast on Saturday mornings and sipping a flavoured latte whilst discussing the events of the previous and following week or just sitting in front of the computer screen reading other people’s blog posts whilst stuffing my face with boršč soup and nice dense bread.

We had some friends visiting earlier this month and even though it was incredibly hard to fit everything into our busy schedules, I am incredibly happy for those couple of days that showed me that friendships can still thrive even when you're hundreds of miles away from people.

24 September 2015

A Sad Weekend for One Sick Pigeon

I was repotting my succulents on Saturday afternoon when I noticed a single woodpigeon sitting on a paved area near the house. It just sat there, looking unscared, blinking occasionally.Immediately, I saw an opportunity to take a good woodpigeon picture and ran for my camera. But something was wrong.

 The pigeon did not move, not even when I came really close to it. Its head was tilted to the back, as if in a cramp. I intentionally stumped my feet to scare it and that's when I definitely knew something is very very wrong. The pigeon tried to fly, but it flopped backwards, flapping around in circles, looking utterly terrified, showering the floor around it with little feathers.

I saw this at the zoo while I worked there, lots of the domestic pigeons suddenly started behaving weirdly due to a virus and had to be out down. So I phoned Wildlife Aid and asked them what to do. Based on their instructions, I put on gloves, transferred pigeon into a box and off we went to a wildlife hospital in Leatherhead. I have not held a pigeon in my hands for twenty years, snce I was seven and visiting my great grandfather in Czech republic who kept domestic pigeons. I remember the little pigeon babies trying to peck at us from the nests when we tried to pet them.

The hospital took it in and gave me its diary number so that I can call to check on how it's doing. Unfortunately, when I checked on it on Sunday, I was told it had to be put down.
I am not too sad though, as the disease was most likely pigeon paramyxovirus, which is highly infectious among pigeons and can lead to slow death by starvation. It does not harm humans but I feel better without sick animals around our home. Hopefully this means that other pigeons in our garden will be safe. Even though we complain about them eating out our birdfeeder and leaving poop around, I do not want to see them ill. 
And I know that this might be going a bit too far, but I think that maybe this bird came so close to our house because it knew that we could help it out of its misery.

Radish Seed Pods

Radishes this year, apart from a couple of first good ones, have been a complete failure.I planted them in several different places and the only ones that actually grew nice red radishes were in a rubbish sandy soil in a very small container on the terrace. Others, including ones in the shady spot in free soil and in a nice sunny spot in a big container full of rich compost, turned thin and woody, basically like a bit thicker stems and not radishes at all.

So I let them be, since the snails quite enjoy eating their leaves, I saved them as a fresh food source for my pets. They went into flower and then produced juicy-looking seed pods, which, according to Alys Fowler, are edible!

So I tried one and I was pleased to discover that they have a really nice gently radishy taste, but not as spicy as radishes. I actually prefer the pods.

I added them to salads that I made for my lunch and we made one delicious stir-fry with them as well.


A little article about radish seed pods from Mother Earth News here

Garden Betty's blog post about pickling radish seed pods with beautiful photographs here

22 September 2015

Potato Harvest

I haven't been to the garden for two weeks. The new job has really sucked out all of my energy, but on Saturday I wandered out and saw that all of the King Edward potatoes have died down and I knew it was time to dig them up.

I ws very pleasantly surprised. I finally felt like a proper gardener.

The harvest was really plentiful, there is enough for at least three family dinners. It might not sound much, but it is more than I anticipated after last year's failure.

Always must take a feet selfie!
This year's largest.
This year's smallest.
This year's weirdest. 
All of the harvesting and photographing happened under supervision of Birdybird, now fully grown and with adult feathers.

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