Where else could you turn right outside the back door, walk an ancient trackway past a Saxon spring, around a prison court used by hanging judge Jeffries overlooking a grassed over Norman gateway Castle to the left and the remains of a Saxon walled town to the right; a rune stone gifted by the Vikings who raided in the 900's and back past a 16th century Inn... All in less than 15mins? Well it took longer as I chucked the ball for Arthur in the tournament arena and chatted to other dog walking villagers about the 'state of Denmark, dog's and the weather..
We are lucky at Town Farm to have two of the most beautiful Wisteria which drape themselves across the front of the house with large panicles of violet flowers in the Spring. After pointing the adjoining Barn (which is now the dining room) with Lime Mortar last year, I have also planted three beautiful climbing roses that were given to me as a 60th Birthday present last summer by an old friend/gardening buddy. One Mme Gregor Staechelin to grow over the porch; and two Mme Alfred Carriere (against the Barn wall) with the hope that they will use the Wisteria for support and provide a succession of highly scented flowers.
Now is the time to prune the Wisteria back for the second time this growing year. The first pruning was after flowering; cutting back the flowering whips to about nine buds. Today I am pruning back to three or four buds and chopping out the tendrils that insist on creeping up and under the guttering. The more you prune; the more they flower
The other job that has been a bit of a pain, is trying to control masses of Montbretia ... I see little pots being sold in garden centres for at least six quid; yet it grows like a weed in my garden, smothering other plants and fixing its brown bulbs into the most inaccessible places against the house wall. I have at least half a dozen bucketfuls of bulbs and have decided to let them chance it in a wild part of the garden with a bit of soil chucked over them. Kill or cure. If there is anyone out there looking for some; I have loads going free if you want them!
Its now December and I reluctantly have to admit that Christmas celebrations are just a couple of weeks away. Don't know about anyone else but since my children have grown up and found better places to spend the holiday it all seems a bit of a commercial and very expensive time of year. I miss the early morning rampage; stockings; making decorations for the tree and the general wind up that precedes Christmas with young children.
However, with all that in mind I decided to make some more Pomanders. I have one hanging in my wardrobe that is at least 10 years old and the scent is still divine. If you haven't made Pomanders with your children then its a simple and fairly cheap present for them to make. Pomanders have been made by countless generations around Christmas since the 16th Century.
You will need:
1 large orange that is pretty fresh and firm skinned
a large bag of Cloves
about a tablespoon of powdered Orris Root (not entirely essential but keeps the pomander preserved for years}
Bodkin (you can just push the Cloves in but your finger suffer after a while)
about a foot of ribbon.
Autumn is drawing in and there is a sharp frost in the air. Town Farm in West Devon is now home and we have spent a couple of years trying to knock it back into the sort of shape it used to be before it was 'modernised'.
Living in an 18th century (or older) house, is becoming somewhat of a habit and we swing into the familiar routine of hacking off cement renders and replacing with breathable limes. The sources of damp are identified and soil is excavated. Lime mortar replaces the cracked brittle cement which has created perfect funnels for rivulets of rainwater into the walls. Limewash is mixed and painted on the vulnerable Northern exterior; and Distemper applied in creamy sweet smelling washes on every paintable interior wall.
We decided to encompass the old calf shed/barn and have converted it into a high beamed dining room with a mezzanine. As always, we have tried to retain it's character and the rotten beams have been replaced with raw rounded Dartmoor Oak from Anton Coker http://www.anton-coaker.co.uk/ ; the mezzanine flooring thick tongue and groove 'Dung Walling' (Mole valley Farmers) and the newly laid Glasscrete/limecrete floor topped with Dijon limestone https://www.mandarinstone.com/showrooms/monmouth. We were restricted by Listings to keep the granite and green elven stone walls raw; but after sandblasting and pointing up with a matched lime mortar it looks great! We have copied the original shutters (that were shot) and they have been replaced over double glazed windows to give extra protection and its original look.
In the main house; we have removed a modern staircase and managed to find a Lutyens original at a local Reclamation yard for the princely sum of £300! That is installed in the old kitchen (now hallway) by a friend who swapped his carpentry skills for sailing lessons.... a year later and he is, at this moment, sailing through the Beagle Channel (near Cape Horn) on his little yacht Aisling ... https://danpisco.wixsite.com/danpisco
So .. for the recipes:
A lot of rubbish and over complication is attributed to simple Limewash. It is just that and has been used until relatively recently by anyone old (or young) enough to pick up a paintbrush. this recipe has been used for hundreds of years on rough walls to 'disinfect' barns and calf/sheep pens. Do not be put off by tales of 'you can't use it over modern masonry paint' or 'you need to put it on translucent or it will crack'.. nonsense.. if you apply in the consistency of double cream it will be just fine. It will go over anything and everything (it clings to plastic downpipes so remember to cover). It won't be patchy (which happens if the paint is too thin) and it will not be powdery. I have even painted over stubborn ivy by mistake.. and the ivy just keeps growing... so you won't harm your climbers.
Just don't apply it in burning hot weather when any paint will crack.. And if it does? Just slap on another coat to seal it.
This recipe is well tried and tested. We applied Limewash to the North wall when we arrived here nearly three years ago and there is not one flake or weather wear. A sack of lime will cover an average house wall... and its around £8-9 a bag. win win.
You will need:
Half fill the bucket with water.
Great credit and thanks goes to our old friend Haydn; without his help and 'it'll just take ten minutes' we would still be at it.
2015 has been a wonderful year for harvests; apples are in glut as are my tomatoes! The neighbouring farmer has experienced a bumper corn harvest and the birds are looking good and fat to cope with winter ahead.
If you have more vegetables than you can cope with, or access to a good market that sells off fruit and veg cheaply at the end of the day; here are some ideas on how to bottle and freeze, so that you have a home made 'ready meal' to grab in a hurry.
packs of foil containers with lids (or recycled from last indian take away...)
kilner jars with screw lids or large jars with screw lids, washed and put in oven to sterilise
medium sized freezer bags with ties
Apples; Blackberries; any foraged fruit:
I have a particular oven dish that is a perfect size for crumbles so I peel the apples and chop. Put a freezer bag in the dish and fill with as much fruit as you would need for one crumble. Don't blanche. flatten into dish shape and tie off top. Take out of dish (should be flattened dish shape) and stack in the freezer.
For the crumble:
I like mine to be almost like crumbly shortbread. If you have a magimix tip in equal quantities of plain flour and cold butter from the fridge. If not, just rub butter into flour in a large bowl with fingertips. Blitz until like breadcrumbs and stir in sugar to taste. Make as much as you would need to top the packs of frozen apples or fruit and bag in freezer bags in generous portions; each enough to top one crumble. Freeze flat.
To put together:
tip frozen fruit into the oven dish and add 2 or three whole cloves and sugar to take away tartness. Microwave until defrosted. Pour over and pat down portion of crumble and put in a baking oven (I have an aga, so its top right) until top is brown and the fruit is bubbling.
Tomatoes and autumn vegetables:
In my local market it is possible to buy heavily discounted vegetables at the end of the day. unless you can eat them all at once, its more economic to cook them in the following ways and either bottle or freeze. I find bottling retains the taste and texture of courgettes and aubergines better than frozen. If you cant get, or afford kilner jars, just use large glass jars with screw tops that have been used for pickles or sauces.
This is a wonderful way of preserving good vegetables and can be used in many ways; added to minced beef that has been browned and then simmered as a healthy pasta sauce. I also cook pork chops or chicken joints or sausages in the oven and pour over a jar of ratatouille about 15 mins towards the end of cooking. Add grated cheese and grill....
To make: As a rough guide, there should be equal amounts of vegetables. Traditionally tomatoes; onions; Aubergine;courgettes and a couple of cloves of garlic. I always use a base of onion, garlic and tomatoes and bung in equal amounts of any vegetable that is available at the time.
Wash jars and put in low oven.
use equal quantities of veg. ie. 2 onions, 2 courgette, 2 large Red peppers, 2 aubergine etc. ....but double the tomatoes...ie 4. I make a vat. of it..
Chop onions (I always use red, but any will do) and brown and soften in a good slosh of olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli flakes or chopped whole chilli. Add in as much garlic as you like and continue browning.
Slice courgette, Aubergine into chunks and layer in a colander with salt. I use Maldon salt. leave them for at least an hour and rinse, drain and pat dry.
Skin tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them and peeling off the skin. chop roughly and add these to the onions. If you dont have access to cheap or free tomatoes, one large tin will do just as well. Add the other veg. and include as wide a variety as you dare.... celery is good... pulses....beans...but root veg dont really work. Add some chopped or dried herbs and simmer slowly. To bulk it all up, just add more tomatoes remembering to add more seasoning, chilli and/or herbs as your quantities increase.
take your jars out of the oven and fill each to the rim whilst hot and immediately screw on lids. They will keep popping nicely as they cool. Voila!
Autumn is upon us again and I have just realised that this year has gone by in a flash without a blog. Spring torrents flooded our home in January; Jess had to be put to sleep when her Trigeminal Neuralgia became too much for her to bear and our planned 'gap year' was condensed so that we could concentrate on putting our home back together.
Your hens are probably starting to go 'off lay' as the days shorten. It is a good idea to take this opportunity to steam clean their housing. This eliminates red mite from all the cracks and crannies and kills bacteria that builds up without soaking the house. Putting a clove of garlic and a drop of vinegar into their drinking water will help with condition and worms and an extra handful of shredded paper (free from offices and without mites..) to help with warmth if they are looking a little bare around the behind.
Our links with the Rucksack project continues and it is at this time of year events are being organised around the country to distribute a Rucksack to the homeless. If you are reluctant to give to charities because of the problems of the effects of 'the middle man' this is a way of doing something which has a direct impact.
Lily & Fitch have recently been commissioned to remove Dog urine odour and stains from the cream carpets in the Hallways and Dining room of a home in Wiltshire; caused by a rather neurotic little terrier. It's important to get rid of the odour particularly because this encourages repeat behaviour in the same spot. Old Urine stains are difficult to eradicate completely from carpet because of the Alkaline effect of uric acid but most can be limited by using the method below. This recipe, incidentally, is one of the ONLY effective methods of ridding the odour of Skunk!
WHAT YOU NEED:
1 litre of white Vinegar mixed 50/50 with water
1 litre of 10 vol (maximum) of Hydrogen Peroxide
1 squirt of mild dishwashing liquid
1 Pot of Sodium Bicarbonate
Nail or Scrubbing Brush.
What I strongly suggest is that you then take the opportunity to Deep Clean and steam the carpets otherwise you will find that there is a super clean and odour free spot or spots on the carpet and the rest remains dirty by comparison. Finish by getting a professional - such as Lily & Fitch - to 'Scotch-guard' the carpet, which helps to protect further urine penetrating the fibres. Logical really!
Finally. If you have left it too late to prevent this behaviour, it might be worth trying to put your dog into a crate with warm bedding when he is left alone - he won't urinate on his bed. Immediately on your return, let him out and reward him when he urinates outside. Obviously, if you have an old dog that finds bladder control difficult it is probably better to keep him in an area which is easily washed when you are not around
Caution/Disclaimer: It is highly recommended that you spot test a small area with the Peroxide mixture first. Do not use a higher concentration than 3% or 10 vols. Bleaching may occur on some carpets with a stronger solution. Read the label on the Hydrogen Peroxide Carefully. The label will state the strength.
The Science Behind the stain:
Pet urine can cause permanent damage to your floors and fabrics. It can also create an unhealthy indoor environment. When urine is first deposited onto a floor or fabric, it has a pH of about 4 or 5, which is on the acid side of the pH Scale. It is easier to remove right then when it is fresh. Once it dries it turns “alkaline” or to a high pH between 10 to 12 on the scale and it becomes more difficult to remove. The warm acid state of the urine offers a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which begin to flourish almost immediately. In this original acid state the urine begins to oxidise and react with the carpet to create a colour change, which will become permanent if the urine is not removed immediately. Some of this colour change can be attributed to the strong ammonia that forms as the urine passes through bacterial and chemical change. If left for days or weeks, depending on the fabric or floor type, it will change the dye structure, therefore causing permanent staining. Even if the soluble deposits are removed, the damage to the dye structure may already be done.
There are two sources of odours associated with urine.
The first comes from bacteria that grow abundantly in dark warm places with a never-ending food source. A pet can feed the bacteria daily! This bacteria growth and breakdown of the urine creates amino acids. These complex organic compounds will often work deep into the fibres to a point of becoming part of the fibre. This can present a challenging situation. The waste materials and gases from the decomposing urine create an unpleasant odour. When dried urine is remoistened, it gives off an ammonia gas. If smelled once it is seldom forgotten.
The second source of odour is chemical, that is present even when the bacteria have been killed. This explains the reason that more than sanitizing is necessary to neutralize odours from urine. Urine also presents additional odour problems when the relative humidity is high. The salts and crystals that are left behind as the urine dries are hydrophilic and draw water to them. Dried urine is often easy to smell in the humid months because the salts attract the moisture, the moisture evaporates putting out a greater proportion of odorous ammonia gas. You must get rid of the urine salts in and under the carpet to get rid of the odour.
It's simple folks ~ you support your local charity shops and buy all you need to make up a Rucksack. Go on to the Rucksack Project Facebook page and find out where the gathering centres are near you. If you do just one good deed this Christmas season do this.
We are over-run by the bi-annual glut of juicy apples and once again the pots are bubbling with chutneys to last the year; sliced apples peeled and frozen to pull out over the year to use in crumbles and sauces and wonderful wafts of Spiced Apple Cake permeating throughout the house. I thought that I would share this delicious recipe which has become a favourite. Retrieved from the History books by Vicky from the 'West Dorset Foodie'; A local Dorset Cake made with Dorset (or Devon) Apples.
Dorset Spiced Apple Cake
225g cooking apples, peeled, chopped, but remember to slice some for the top
Juice of ½ lemon
225 grams plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
115 grams butter
165 grams dark brown sugar (use 50g of this for the topping)
2 eggs beaten
2–3 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
Nights are drawing in; fires are lit and we are preparing to hunker down to semi-dormant state. However, out there in these chilly, wet and windy days and nights are many who are displaced or without shelter or a hot meal. There is an amazing organisation in Exeter who are working hard to place those who have become displaced from their families and homes whom lily&fitch would like to promote as our 'Super Hero' of the month. 'Nightstop Devon'; Devon Smartmove and Resettlement Devon all come under the umbrella of 'Community Housing Aid'. If you would like to volunteer to help or can offer accommodation or a donation - check out their website: http://communityha.org.uk
Sloes are one of the great forage fruits of late summer and a wonderfully easy way to create a perfect aperitif for the winter.
Pick a quantity of ripe Sloes.
Freeze for a couple of days to break down then half fill a bottle with the sloes and top up with a good quality Gin.
Add sugar to taste after about three months. Enjoy or give as a gift for christmas
Dissolve two tablespoons of powdered Ascorbic Acid into bath water or add a couple of fizzy vitamin C Tablets.
One gram of ascorbic acid will neutralize 1 milligram per litre of chlorine per 100 gallons of water. The reaction is very fast.
This helps those with sensitive skin, psoriasis and allergies cope with bathtime. You can also get fittings on your shower which enable the water to run through the Ascorbic Acid before it hits you!
Has anyone else noticed that there have been a lack of Bees and Pollinating insects this year?
When you start looking it really is worrying... I have two Lilac trees, both in full bloom and have only seen ONE Bee in two weeks. No Hoverflies; no beetles - nothing. I went with a friend to see a wonderful Garden that was open under the NGS (National Gardens Scheme) over the weekend and the story was the same there. The Wisteria was hanging in buckets; it should have been literally 'Buzzing' and there was Zip - nothing. What has happened to them - have they all drowned? The sudden drop can't be put down to the use of Pesticides because I live in an area which is predominantly small field systems and livestock. I notice that Friends of The Earth have an Interesting Bee map so if you want to participate - look at the link below
Earth Trust Nilgiris is an NGO started by my mother in Southern India. If you are interested in supporting these communities in our Global Village or finding out more about her work please follow links in the 'Environment' section of this website. There is also a sponsorship vehicle through: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/petchcycles
Sometimes it's just good to stop; sit; and fill a crystal glass with this wonderful summery and homemade Champagne. Add a handful of Ice and lemon for perfection. It's really easy to make and will make an English Summer lunch special.
It's also a wonderful base for Champagne Jelly ~ Just stir into a mixture of gelatine or use a lemon Jelly: melt in a little hot water and then stir in the Elderflower champagne and chill until set.
1. Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.
2. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.
3. Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it's not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.
4. Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilized screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential).
5. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for at least a week before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place
If you want to make life really easy check out the kits on this site: