Tuesday, 8 September 2009

How to: Mrs J's Guide to blackberry picking!!!

Depending on where you live in the UK there should be blackberries of varying ripeness all around you now and here is my own little guide to harvesting them....


Find Locations - Blackberries are regularly found in hedgerows, try paths, car parks, waste / scrub land, overgrown allotments and gardens.....If you are too late to pick this year, note where you have seen the bushes and regularly check them throughout next summer for progress.

Supplies - You'll need some pots to collect your berries in. I generally recommend a rag or piece of kitchen towel in the bottom to collect juice / bugs.

Clothing - wear old clothes, ideally long sleeved and trousers too. Don't forget to wear shoes not sandals and you'll be able to get in better areas. This is do as I say not as I do... last trip I wore sandals cotton skirt and white linen top!!!!! Luckily I'm well practiced so couldn't resist and impromptu pick!

Freezer - If you are not using your berries straight away you can freeze them till you have enough for a recipe. Make sure you have enough room to flash freeze them on trays on your return.

Helpers - In my opinion you're best off doing this by yourself, children eat all they collect and husbands even though they can reach higher are quickly bored - yes Mr J I mean you!!!


Blackberries are best harvested on a sunny dry day. Before you start picking, walk up and down the whole of the hedgerow. Blackberries often vary vastly in their ripeness even over a hedge of 50ft. In early September my favourite hedgerow has ripe succulent berries at one end and bushes still flowering at the other!! Pick the ripest berries first, come back regularly (I do every 3 days). A great ti is to look from various angles and heights into the bushes, I discovered my 5 yr old son was getting a great haul because the best blackberries grow under the leaves of the bush, and that's the angle he could see and I couldn't!!!!!!

Beware of:-

Prickles - wild brambles have thorns, watch where you put your hands or wear gloves!!
Foragers Thumb - the juice will stain your finger a lovely shade of purple!!
Nettles - Blackberries often grow above stinging nettles and the nettles intertwine with the ripest fruit. Or to quote Little Miss Jones

" Come to Blackberry World get a free ticket to Stingerland!!!!"

Cover yourself in long sleeves and trousers, and watch where you put your hands.
Wildlife - be careful not to disturb nature to much (nests and other plants) and watch out for wildlife on the blackberries wasps and fruit flies feast on the overripe berries and little grubs can live inside them. If this concerns you make sure you give everything a quick wash when you get home, I can't stop my kids eating shiny ripe ones off the bush!!!!!

What are your best tips for picking blackberries????

Friday, 4 September 2009

A difficult decision.

Nine months ago we took on the challenge of living without a refridgerator. For most of this time we have survived quite well. We progressed from iceblocks in a cool box to an insulated cupboard on an outside wall, regular swapping of iceblocks ensured that for the most our food was chilled and all was well. But, over the summer, things haven't kept so well. Food has spoiled quickly and I've had to throw it away.
At the start of September I decided to reintroduce a fridge to our household. It is smaller than our original fridge, and secondhand from freecycle. When we need to replace it we will buy an A rated one.
Living without the fridge, we kept very little in it and food spoiled. Now I can keep leftovers to eat the next day without freezing them , chill fresh produce when needed and make homemade yoghurt that won't go off before we've finished it!!!!!

It was a difficult decision but I think, for us, at this point in time, the right one.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Community Farm

In the village, we've (Peasedown Area Transition Group) have been trying to form a Community Farm. Before the summer holiday we found a site, but it seems things have progressed from there whilst we've been off!!!

I found this whilst checking the RiverCottage site today....


Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Ditching Disposables - Handmade Money Pouches

I've done a budget for my monthly spending for as long as I can remember, but last year i made the decision to draw out my 'food' and 'petrol' allowances in cash for the coming month.
I kept these amounts in brown envelopes in my wallet to draw from throughout the money.

Unfortunately over time these rip and need replacing so I was looking for replacements. I found several on the internet but they were all quite large and more money then I had to spend!!!
This summer I had decided to make my goal to get out my machine and practice sewing. Well,with only one week left and the sewing machine untouched on the dining table I decided to make this my first project.
Its not perfect and I'd like to make a few improvements to the design but for now I love my new money pouch!!! Just need to make some more now!!!!!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Well, we're halfway through the summer holidays now and have been busy bees, hardly having time to blog at all. We've finally got around to doing 2 things that have been on my list since Mr J moved down to Bath.... First we visited the Roman Baths ( local residents can actually get in for free with a discovery card). We spent the morning wandering around like tourists, but surprisingly took few photos, as we knew we could come back again whenever we felt like it!!

The other was to visit a local wood and find the Waterfall. I'd never visited Greyfield Wood before, we are lucky enough to have so many wonderful woods to walk around here, but friend had told me of the waterfall so we were intrigued.

The map gave no indication of a waterfall at all so we set off to explore.....

It was definitely worth the wait!!! We climbed the rocks to the top of the waterfall and ate our picnic.

Friday, 14 August 2009

That better taste good......

because it looks like a train wreck!!!

I was lucky enough to meet a fellow forum member today, who gave me a pasta maker she had lurking in a cupboard! I rushed home and made pasta for supper. The pasta maker was great and took away hours of rolling out the dough, but i didn't seem to have the knack for the spaghetti attatchment!!!

I faired better with the tagliatelli.....

Add homegrown tomatoes, which have really started producing in good quantities this week!!!! And enjoy in the garden.....
Yes it did taste good!!

Monday, 3 August 2009

They're Quackers!!!

Well I've finally found the camera lead so here are our little ones....
Treacle, Pip and Pebbles

Don't they look all grown up already (only 5 wks old!!!)

Little Jonsey and Mr J built a fab new enclosure for them

which they loved! Along with my Nasturtiums!!

I dug out our belfast sink for them too, to add to the other ponds!

We really love having the ducks, we've spent so much time watching them this week. Although a word to the wise, they do smell a bit and they are noisy!!!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

How to take a Basil Cutting

Today's how to is thanks to my mum showing me how to do this earlier in the week - thanks mum!

To make cuttings from a basil plant select a non flowering shoot.

1.Select shoot and remove the top 4 inches with a clean, sharp knife, cutting under a leaf joint.

2. remove bottom 2 leaves and plant.

Prepare a small flowerpot with seed compost and put cutting in 1 - 2 inches deep

Tip - planting cuttings around the edge of a pot will help to form stronger roots, as roots split and branch when they hit a surface.

3. Alternately, fill a clean jam jar with water and pop it on a nice light (but not hot) windowsill . Put the cutting into the water.

Change water daily and you should be able to watch the roots growing (2 - 4 weeks) Transfer to seed compost when good roots have formed.

When established cuttings should be planted up to a larger pot, watered in a placed on a bright windowsill.

Now you have lots of basil plants why not give some away to friends and neighbours? You might even get something different in return!!!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Simple changes - Reuseable toilet paper / wipes

Photo from One Pink LadyBug

Last week we finally made the move over to reusable toilet paper for no 1's. I'm not sure why I made the change then and not before? All lot of it is the percieved ickyness of using something and not throwing it straight away maybe. But its really not a problem at all! We keep them in a drawstring bag hung on the toilet roll holder until they are needed then have a small stainless steel bin by the loo with a removeable bucket inside. After use they get tossed in there until they are ready to put in the wash.

I havent got anything nearly as fancy as those in the picture, our's are rectangles cut from fleece, a scarf and dressing gown that had come to the end of their useful life. Fleece needs no hemming, is lovely and soft and dries super quick so its a really quick and easy simple change!!!! Towelling, terry sheets and recycled TShirts are also favourites it seems. If thats still to much hassle then one pink lady bug has some nice sets in her shop (click link above) or search the net for other people making them (also called family wipes).

So go on what's stopping you? Try it for a day and I swear you won't look back!!

Monday, 27 July 2009

The ducklings have arrived!!! *warning cute pics*

Yesterday we took another step on our journey to self-sufficiency and became the owners of 3 gorgeous indian runner ducklings. We've been watching them online since they were 10 days old

with the latest picture we saw of them at 2 weeks old *still cute*!!!

Hopefully we've got one male (dark one) and two females (lighter two) but only time will tell!

We went to collect them yesterday from a village an hour away. I felt awful, have flu, but we still went. It was sooo worth it!!
At only 5 weeks they've now started getting their adult feathers so not quite as cute but the parents we saw yesterday were so beautiful in full feather I can't wait to see these! They seem to have setlled in quite nicely into their new home although our cats don't know quite what to make of them!!!

They'll be more pics when I'm well enough to stand up again!!!!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Simple Changes: One for the pot.......

Mr J and I enjoyed a lovely cream tea on our mini-moon, and of course it was served in a teapot for two!!! We returned home and have continued to make our tea in a pot. Not only does it save money.... close you're ears Nanny P, you don't need to add 'one for the pot'!! Infact one bag for two people is just fine! It also bring a sense of occasion to the drink, you sit togeher to have tea, not spread across the room. We've even added a tablecloth to our coffee table for afternoon tea Building afternoon tea into your routine gives you a chance to stop and talk, to reflect on your day.

Take10 minutes out of your day today to share afternoon tea with someone or spoil yourself :) Then head over to patchwork pottery and check out all her lovely tea themed goodies!!!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Handmade wedding goodies



(some of the 3 sets of)
I've had so much fun making these over the past month! And yes, I did design it to match the blind! By choosing a wedding colour that went with my bedroom, I get to decorate the room after with all the goodies, a great bit of precycling if ever I saw one, even if I do say so myself!!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Drowning under a sea of rose petals...

Oh dear, 3 weeks without posting! To be fair thing are a bit crazy around here with Wedding preparations!!!

My dehydrator has come into it's own quickly drying rose petals from the garden into homemade confetti. The bunting is coming along nicely and I'm steadily working my way through a list of cakes to bake for the big day (thank goodness for freezers!)

Kind friends have sent their contributions

Bags from Nita and Handfasting ribbon from Jacky

Oh well, better get back to the bunting!!!!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How to make easy peasy Ginger Beer!!

famous 5

The sun is shing in the sky and its perfect for 'lashings of ginger beer' a la Famous Five but you don't have time to go through the long way, you want it now!! Well you can have it tomorrow with this super quick super easy recipe.

You'll need

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp dried yeast (the sachets you use in a bread maker)

Juice from 1 lemon or 2tbs lemon juice from a bottle

2 good tsp ground ginger

lemonade type plastic bottle (2 litres)



How to Do It

Pop the funnel into the top of the bottle and pour in the sugar and yeast.

Mix the lemon juice with the ground ginger, then add this to the bottle too. Fill the bottle 2/3rds full with water then pop on the lid and shake until all the sugar has disappeared. Now top up with water until there is about 1" space at the top . This is to allow the gases to develop without exploding the bottle!!

Screw on the top as tight as you can then leave somewhere warm ( a warm windowsill or an airing cupboard will do)

24hrs later check the ginger beer. Has the bottle gone rigid?* If so, it is ready, place the bottle in the fridge overnight to stop the fermentation. Strain the beer and its ready to drink!!!!


*If the bottle was not rigid leavee it a further 48hrs, then continue as above.

A nicer way to get there!

I'd love a bike like this one!! I can imagine riding down the road giving flowers to passersby as I cycled :) Ok I may not have the vintage bike - its a yellow mountain bike - but I have ditched the car a few journey's this week in favour of cycling. Easy for me than walking, its great and easy on the pocket too!! I'm bumping into (not literally!) more friends on the journey and stopping briefly to chat. I can get there as quick as a car journey and enjoy the smell of elderflowers on the way!!

I worked out yesterday its a year since I last did this regularily, I don't know what was stopping me!! I even managed to do a small shop on my way home last night and well balaced the bags off my handlebars on the way home!! Unfortunately the bike doesn't have a rack so I need to save for one of those before I can make panniers.

There are some great pannier tutorials here

Take advantage of the weather and get on your bikes today!!!!!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A small break

Apologies for the small break in posting. School holidays and a temperamental PC which won't click links or upload photos has stopped me from updating the blog.

The past weeks weather though has been glorious and I have spent most of it in the garden. Lots of time has also been spent think what I really want in life, cue picture above of not my home now but a local cottage I would LOVE to own (small dwelling on a decent plot of land) and a little bit preparing for these....

As soon as the PC behaves, normal service will resume!!!