French fig

I’m currently staying at the French house in Brittany and having a really relaxing time. I am also for the first time learning about what my parents have here in the way of fruit trees and foraging materials. They have a beautiful orchard which has 3 sloe trees(I am drinking sloe gin as I write- my new vice!), a few crab apple trees, a fig tree, apple trees(need to learn which varieties), various oak trees and walnut trees.

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This is the first time as an adult I have been here and enjoyed the orchard and it’s fruits.
I didn’t know anything about fruit trees 2 years ago, I was more focused on my 4 month old son. But now he can run around and help collect and identify plants it’s a lot more relaxing. A year ago I talked about wanting a fig tree and my parents said they had one here in France…. Great! Although it’s never produced fruit.

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My quest is to make this new baby of mine bare fruit! So I have done some reading and there are a few factors that could contribute to this problem…
1. My parents hack it back every year as it looks so wild. I love the fact that it needs taming.
2. Something to do with PH balance
3. It’s not in a container
4. It needs a specific bee to pollinate it?
So the first step is to start with no. 1- pruning it right. June is the perfect time to snip the ends off the longer shoots, leaving 3-4 leaves per stem. Done! Now just have to wait a year and see what happens….
XXX

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Elderflower wine update.

Yeast has been added, although I’m not sure how long it takes to show signs of life?? At the moment the yeast is kind of sitting on top of the wine. I have placed the bucket next to a radiator which is now on quite high, so hoping this will kick start the yeast. Before adding the yeast I sieved the liquid and then put it through a muslin cloth to get rid of any tiny bits. It all went back into the bucket and then added 2 heaped teaspoons of yeast as I have 2 gallons of liquid. Photos below but will add more tomorrow to see if it’s active.

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My wine is bubbling away beautifully this morning!! 3 more days and then I can put it in Demijohns.
Xxxx

A pressing evening.

While my elderflower wine is brewing I need to keep myself busy. I’m an impatient soul! Flowers are blooming so now is the time to start pressing before they die off. I had a craving in winter to get creative with pressing flowers, difficult when the frost has kill most of it off! I will gather what I can from the garden and keep an eye out when walking and foraging, you just have to be careful of squashing the flowers before you can flatten. The method I have using is simple…. Cutting as much of the stem off as possible, spread them out on paper, put it inside a book and squash it down with something heavy- simple! Violas work great, trying hydrangeas. White flowers normally discolour a bit, I tried clematis but it’s turned a nice rustic antique colour. A nice surprise.
Xxx

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A blank wall

I have recently moved and want to decorate the rooms in specific styles- I have never done this before as my last place was a flat and it was all open plan so it was all one style/merged together. I have 2 rooms I want to concentrate on…. The Living Room and The Family Room as we call it. The Family Room is a dining room but because I have a son I wanted a room that can get messy and put his toys in, that’s why for this room I wanted white and bright colours. So when his toys are in there they won’t look out of place. The Living Room is more whites/creams/pastels against darker woods, I wanted to make it cosy and rustic. To be honest they both still need a lot of DIY and TLC which will take time and money so certain things like decor I will be making myself, which I enjoy. So starting with The Living Room…..

I love different sized frames scattered on walls and thought this would fit perfectly in our living room, so recently in a charity shop found dark wood frames with a gold trim- which seem to be extremely popular in charity shops. They were £1 each, I only have 2 but will keep buying them and building the up. I have been wracking my brain to think what to put in them a few ideas I loved were quotes, flower identifications or just photos. I finally decided on pressed flowers. When I went into a shop recently they were selling old frames with pressed flowers inside for huge amounts of money…. as always I had the moment of ‘I could make that so easily’- so here I am! Flowers gathered so far are : Daisies, Dandelion, Clematis, Violas and Hydrangeas. I am going to collect more as I see them, but it is also a test of what you can press and you can’t as I have tried it in the past and some just go mouldy as they have too much liquid. I have shown the progress in pictures below, once I have bought more frames I will update progress etc.

XXX

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And it begins…. Elderflower wine

 

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So it starts… I have used Andy Hamilton’s recipe from ‘Booze for Free’.  The quantities I’ve doubled as I have 2 Demijohns and thought I would make the most of it!  I already think I made an error- this happens a lot with me with recipes…. I read things too fast and mess it up! It says to add the rind of the lemon at the beginning and then the juice after 4 days with the yeast.  I added it with the rind, can anyone advise me if this will completely ruin it? I really don’t know the science, will have to investigate?

STAGE ONE:

Ingredients: 500ml/1 pint of Elderflowers, 1.3kg/3lb sugar, 3.5litres/8 pints of boiling water, grated rind of one lemon and 1 Campden tablet(optional)

Put the flowers into a fermentation bin and mix with the grated lemon rind and sugar.  Pour over boiling water, add the camp den tablet(if using, which I did), and allow to stand or 4 days, stirring occasionally.

I am going to stir twice daily – morning and evening.  It smells amazingly sweet and crisp, I just hope it works as this is my first ever wine! Eek! So on Sunday I will sieve, add the yeast and leave it for another 4 days to ferment.  Once its stopped fermenting stir and let it settle for 3 days. Final step before bottling is transferring it into a demijohn to ferment fully for 3 months. We need a shed! Anyway all looks ok I think, so now I need to plan the next task…. I’ll sleep on it and report tomorrow.

Night night

xxxx

Long time no see…..

Hello all!

We its been a long time since I last posted.  Its summer again and I have had a creative fire inside me re-lit. I guess it never really went out but priorities do change.  Recently moving has inspired me to get going again and make make make! Elderflower has flowered on the week I moved so its been awkward being organised, but I’m all moved in and I have 10 bags of elderflower heads in my freezer, I have never used frozen Elderflower but had to try it this year.

my kit is ready!

The wedding has been postponed and made ten times smaller(daytime only) so I am now making the alcohol            for the day to save lots of money.  As a birthday present I received a Demijohn and all the trimmings to make wine.  Elderflower wine looks like my first experiment! The recipe I’m using is from a book i bought called’Booze for free’ by Andy Hamilton, its AMAZING- really simple to follow and get you inspired about making different alcohols.  I have to plan it well as you need to leave the wine in a Demijohn for 3 months to ferment.  So my first task is Elderflower wine – 2 Demijohns, Elderflower champagne- 6 lots = 25 large bottles?  the Demijohns will then be free in september where I will make Elderberry and Blackberry wine and Elderberry Liqueur.  I also have a bag full of sloes in the freezer to make some sloe gin…. I’m guessing I will be an alcoholic by the end of the year?? To be honest I don’t drink wine, but my dad loves it so he will be the test.

I will be buying my sugar tomorrow and I will do my step by step on here as I go along if you wanted to join in too?

 

Let me know what you think?

 

XXX

Fallen figs

I found a fig tree that is accessible! Walking along Pembroke road eyes on the pavement and there were figs all over the ground. I look up and there is a squat half bare fig tree! The leaves have nearly all dropped off and a few figs still clinging on to the tree for dear life…. They’re mine!
Next job is trying to grow from seed, which will take a bit of research but I will get there. I watched Grand Designs on C4 last night and they had built a beautiful Eco house and also added an orchard and vegetable patch- my dream! They also got paid by the council as their house produced so much solar power they were putting energy into the grid! Amazing! …. One day, one day!
Xxx

I’m poor, homemade christmas it is!

My first christmas back to work, so sending my child to nursery and paying for bills make it a homemade christmas!  I love christmas! I really want to make it feel festive and homely in the flat so I am going to go all out for christmas this year….. but december is approaching! eek! First things first…. Christmas decor! I have experimented with salt dough already for me chat decor at my wedding and it works a treat, so now I am going to make tree decor and candle holders out of it(this first post is about what I am planning, then a future post will be results).  Another thing I really want for my son is an advent calendar and stocking, I am going to buy some felt this week and going to make myself, my fiancé and my son stockings and then finally a Xmas tree advent calendar with pockets so I can put something in each day. My son is only 18 months and probably doesn’t understand Xmas, but start them early hey?! We are also as a family only giving each other 1 present each(or a few little presents for my son) as we know he will get spoilt rotten by the extended family that I don’t want him to expect huge amounts every year.  Christmas candle holders are important as they can add festive ambience in a room.  Two ideas for this- 1. Jam jars decorated with glitter/paper snowflakes.  2.  Using salt dough to make taper candle holder bases (cutting them thickly out of christmas cookie cutters)

 

A few really good websites I have found to make your own ornaments and christmas……

HP have created a printable christmas! I love the ornamental bird.  Remember you could use any paper you want just use it as a template.

http://www.hp.com/hho/hp_create/themes_holidays_christmas.html

How to make a stunning Christmas paper snowflake.

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-3D-Paper-Snowflake

 

The other part of a poor christmas is the presents.  I have been making chutneys and jams for my wedding favours so I have LOADS of it! So I am making christmas hampers for everyone(immediate family will receive requested homemade presents).  The list will include….

1. Jam or Chutney

2. Sloe gin

3. Christmas biscuits

4. Mini Christmas cake

5. Bath Bombs

That’s it so far.  I am still trying to think about a few more things as I need more generic things people would like (for my fiancé’s family etc).  I will be updating this further over the next few weeks, with photos! let me know if anyone has any good ideas i can add!

xxx

Crab apples

I found a crab apple tree! Super happy! It is in someone’s front garden but it’s mostly hanging over the pavement so I took a few. I have already taken the seeds out and left them on the side to dry them out and then they go into the fridge for their winter.
There are pumpkin seeds and apple seeds already in the fridge, which is where they’ll stay for 2 months – Complete experiment but worth a try. I am going to record everything I do to see if it works, if it doesn’t I’ll try again!

Sloe Chutney

My parents have a house in France which they are renovating and behind huge amounts of brambles and weeds they found an apple orchard and Sloe trees.  I am currently learning as much as possible about these so I can grow and look after them myself one day.  I hope to go out there next summer for as long as possible so I can harvest the fruit and possibly plant more fruit trees I have grown from seed.  This is why I want to start now as I have heard it can take up to 2 year for a seed to germinate…. Patients is not my most redeeming feature!

So for now my mum and dad brought loads of sloes back from France, when I mean loads I mean 5 shopping bags full and apparently this wasn’t half of them! The last time I went to france was when my son was 3 months, so didn’t get to do much exploring, now he’s 18 months he would happily explore by himself and I can keep an eye on him from a distance.  So I am hoping to go there next year to figure out the different trees and fruit they have there.  But I made a Sloe Chutney with the fruit brought back to go towards my wedding favours and I managed to make 8 jars of it with second-hand jam and sauce jars I had collected, which I thought was impressive as Jam doesn’t seem to stretch very far.  The recipe is listed below, but i left out the chilli powder as I am not a chilli fan.  The jar will be opened in December as it needs 3 months maturing, so perfect timing.

Enjoy!

xxx

Sloe Chutney
1 lb Sloes
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 medium sized onions, sliced
1lb raisins
1 teaspoon of hot chilli powder
2 inch piece of fresh root ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
12 cloves
juice and grated rind of 2 oranges
1lb of soft brown sugar
1 pint of organic white wine vinegar

Put the ingredients in a large cooking pot and stir, using a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil and stir occasionally. Reduce the heat so the mixture simmers, stir occasionally, for 3 hours or until it is thick. Ladel into clean, warm jars. Cover, label and leave in a cool place for a couple of months.