Raw Chocolate ‘Mini Eggs’

With Easter fast approaching we’ve been having great fun in the kitchen making (and taste-testing!) healthier alternatives to traditional sugar-laden and dairy-packed Easter eggs. These raw truffle-esque chocolate balls are amazingly delicious and really hit the “I need a chocolate” spot …. plus there’s no refined sugar or dairy in sight. Hooray!

Incredibly easy to make, my 12 year old daughter whipped them up in 15 minutes! I suspect it won’t take us quite as long to eat them….

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Creating a Garden Pt 3: Raised Beds and Fencing

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Having planned out the space for our allotment garden and cleared most of the weeds, we were now ready to tackle the beds and fencing. Luckily our children were on hand to help…

Raised beds: To raise or not to raise, that is the question?! We knew right from the start that we wanted to build raised beds, mostly because our allotment garden sits on a heavy clay soil and raising the beds would help with any drainage issues, but also because they’re easier to weed, there’s less bending over (slightly!), watering is more efficient and we could fill them with top-notch soil to get our growing season off to a flying start. Although raised beds would be an extra expense, we knew we’d also get a longer growing season and that eventually the outlay would repay itself in homegrown veg! Plus they’re really fun to play on….

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Apple and berry crumble

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After a day of hard graft at the allotment garden, this is the perfect way to recharge! Packed full of natural energy and goodness, this super healthy and incredibly yummy crumble has no added refined sugar, is gluten-free and dairy free to-boot. Woohoo!

I’ve used apples in this recipe because they’re currently in delicious abundance at out local organic farm shop, but you can change the recipe to suit your taste or use up whatever ingredients you have in the house. Equally yummy with pears or freshly picked blackberries!

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Biodynamic Gardening Book

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How exciting is this! Last year we were approached by publishers Dorling Kindersley and asked if our allotment garden could be featured in a new biodynamic gardening book. And here it is…..

We spent 6 months working closely with the publishers and other hugely inspiring biodynamic farmers and gardeners to produce a simple yet comprehensive book about the wonders of biodynamic gardening.

It covers all sorts of fantastic topics from the principles of ‘BD’ gardening to specific planting tips, teas and tinctures, sowing guides, compost heaps, preparations, tree care, natural pest control and more. Practical step-by-step instructions make the book very easy to follow and the photos are brilliant! The book is available in bookshops, on Amazon and the Dorling Kindersley website.

To celebrate its release, we’re giving away one lovely copy of the book. For your chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post. I’ll put your names in a big hat and draw the lucky winner on the 11th April 2015. 

Results will be posted on my blog and Instagram account, so remember to check back with me then! The competition  is open worldwide.

Best of luck and happy gardening…..

Rye Sourdough ‘Starter’

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I’m a big fan of homemade bread. There’s something really magical about the process of rising, bashing and baking and nothing beats the smell of a freshly baked loaf wafting around the house! Smells great and tastes even better….

We started making our own rye sourdough a couple of years ago, when we chose to cut back on the amount of wheat in our diets. We felt so good for it and it tasted amazing…there really was no turning back! We now make two loaves every week using the same ‘starter’ that we created all those years ago.

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Biodynamic gardening

 

A little film about our organic allotment and some of the biodynamic gardening methods we use to enhance the health and vitality of our crops. Nettle tea for overall health, the ‘cow pat pit’ for incredibly potent, life-giving soil improvement, ‘mausdorf starter’ for maintaining the perfect compost heap……

There are loads of other amazingly effective organic and biodynamic methods that I’ll write about and film at a later date. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this little Autumnal video tour of our allotment garden.

Homegrown happiness!

Sweetpeas

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Sweet peas have to be one of my all-time favourite flowers. They’re so easy to grow, look amazing and smell heavenly. A jam jar full of sweet peas on the kitchen table just says Summer!

I’ve been growing these flowers and saving their seeds for such a long time that I can’t actually remember our varieties, but something similar to Cupani, Lord Nelson, Hi-Scent, Heathcliff and Anniversary. All long stemmed, with an incredible scent and ranging from deep purple to pinky-white in colour. Sweet pea seeds and seedlings are widely available to buy and are a brilliantly abundant addition to any garden! I wouldn’t be without them……

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Potatoes

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‘Chitting’ or sprouting potatoes is one of those early Spring jobs that makes me feel that the growing season is finally underway. These little beauties are quietly doing their own thing in a light and bright spot on our windowsill, full of promise and high hopes for delicious roasters, bakers, mash and new…..

This year we’re growing two varieties, a lovely waxy ‘1st early’ called Amandine and a floury ‘main crop’ called Remarka. These varieties pretty much cover the whole season and will keep us in ‘spuds’ from May to November.

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What is Biodynamic Gardening?

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Biodynamic gardening is really just a fancy name for a method of gardening that’s been around for thousands of years – practical gardening wisdom handed down over time and widespread before the arrival of chemicals, pesticides, fertilisers and the intensive farming practices of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is the ancient art of watching the skies and using the rhythms and patterns of the sun, moon and stars to guide the sowing, tending and harvesting of crops. Our ancestors used this knowledge to their advantage, so that their crops were stronger, tastier, healthier and more productive. Afterall, they completely relied on their homegrown produce, so it had to be good. A quick trip to the supermarket was not an option!

Thankfully, these days you don’t need to be an expert in the solar system to work it all out! Biodynamic gardening calendars are widely available and suggest the best times for all your gardening jobs.

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Early-Spring Gardening

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I love every season, but I think Spring has to be my favourite. There’s just so much anticipation in the air, from the first bulbs of early-Spring to the luscious blossoms of mid-Spring and the definite ‘no-turning back’ growth of late-Spring. Everyone and everything has an extra spring in their step….

This is the first of three posts about the joys of springtime gardening on our allotment. It started out as one post, but was just getting crazily long, so I decided to split it – early, mid and late spring. Happy days and happy gardening everyone….

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Wild garlic soup

It’s that wonderfully smelly time of year again, when garlic is wafting through the woods! Wild Garlic or Ramsons grow in shady, damp woodlands and along hedgerows and usually start appearing in early Spring.

Although the smell is strong and garlicky, the taste is milder and not as pungent as ‘normal’ garlic. You can eat the bulbs and flowers, but we really love the leaves because they’re seriously tasty, very good for us and don’t cost a penny! Hooray for delicious free food.

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Creating a Garden Pt 2: Clearing Weeds

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What is a weed? There are some weeds that I really love, like nettles and others that I’m definitely not so keen on, like bindweed! Weeds are really just vigorous plants growing in the wrong place at the wrong time, but if they’re in the way then I’m afraid they have to go. Sorry weeds! However, this can be easier said than done, especially in an organic/biodynamic garden where no chemicals are used. There are other more natural ways to clear weeds that involve a little more work and a little more patience! In our case, we chose to clear the weeds by hand before we could begin planting.

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Free Range Children

Footloose and fancy free….

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‘Free range’ children? What ARE they? I put this question to a group of parents, who said it conjured up images of children running around in the fresh air, nature, fun and laughter. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree. I think being a free range child is about fresh air, connecting with nature, rain, sun, mud and water, but I think there’s more to it than that. For me, free range also means FREEDOM. Freedom for children to think for themselves, freedom to be themselves, freedom to discover themselves and their place in this complicated world and, crucially, freedom from the concerns and worries of adulthood. So how can we as parents support and encourage this type of freedom?

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Walnut and Goji Granola

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This is such a great way to start the day and will give you loads of energy for hours. Packed full of nuts and seeds, with the natural sweetness of dates and the massive nutritional benefits of goji berries. We have it with homemade almond milk for breakfast, sprinkled on yoghurt for dessert or a sneaky handful grabbed as a snack! I guess you could have it for lunch too if you wanted, so it pretty much covers all bases…..a brilliantly versatile recipe.

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Natural Henkeeping: The Coop

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This is the first in a series of posts about keeping chickens. The coop, the run, food, water, natural health and happiness will all be covered.

We’ve been keeping chickens for years, first in our garden at home and now on our allotment. I just love their quirky characters, their feathery good looks and their delicious protein-packed eggs. What a gift! We currently have 5 chickens, all rare breeds, but in the past we’ve raised chicks, re-homed ex-farm girls and given a final home to old unwanted chickens that don’t lay anymore. We’re not allowed to keep a noisy cock-a-doodle-doo cockerel on the allotment, so it’s an all female environment! They give us fresh eggs and in return I think we give them a near perfect life

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Winter Gardening

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I love the allotment garden in Winter. I go down every day to feed the chickens, collect eggs and gather winter greens to eat or juice and always enjoy the feeling of quiet hibernation in the garden. It’s the only time of year that I feel as if I’m on top of things! Of course there are still jobs to do and the over-winter crops to care for, but there isn’t the fabulously frenzied planting of Spring, the constant tending of Summer and the busy harvesting, storing and preserving of Autumn.

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Ready, steady, grow

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Aren’t gardens amazing places! Full of vibrancy and colour, intoxicating smells and hardworking veg, chickens and wheelbarrows, fresh air, fun and full of wonder. There really is something magical about seeing the first tips of spring bulbs appearing in the depths of winter or planting a seed and watching it grow – so much awesome potential in such a tiny thing! Picking peas, eating them fresh right there and then, harvesting greens for supper, juicing homegrown carrots. Nothing beats it!

I’ve been growing things and gardening for years. Window boxes in gardenless flats, pots on tiny balconies and then ‘proper’ gardening at home and on the allotment. There’s loads more info on my blog about our organic allotment garden, as well as building a garden from scratch and the principles of biodynamic gardening.

Happy reading, happy gardening, happy growing!

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Allotment garden planting plans 2015….

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I think this is my favourite time of year! Sitting around the kitchen table with my family, chatting about what everyone wants to grow in the garden….perfect. So here we are. We’ve pretty much decided on our planting plans for the allotment garden 2015 – lots of old favourites and some very exciting newbies. We saved loads of seeds from last years crops and still have many left over that we bought, so we are in fact buying very few this year, which is brilliant when you’re on a budget and exactly what being self-sufficient is all about.

As many of you will know, we garden organically, but have also been experimenting with biodynamic gardening techniques for many years. If you’re not familiar with the concept you can read a post about it here. Our seeds come from a biodynamic company called Stormy Hall, but if they don’t have what we’re looking for then we use Tamar Organics or the Organic Seed Company. All excellent suppliers and their details are here.

We group our plants into 4 categories – leaf, flower, fruit and root, similar to regular plant groups, but with a biodynamic twist! We have 9 raised beds on our allotment (including 2 new ones for 2015) and every year we rotate our crops for the health of the soil. We’re also great fans of companion planting, so you’ll see lots of herbs and flowers in our crop lists. So here goes……

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Creating a Garden Pt 1: First Steps

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Neck high brambles, rampant bindweed, stubborn grass, broken fences, piles of rubbish and a random turf mound! Sound familiar? That was the state of our allotment garden when we got the go-ahead from our local council in April 2014 and it was very daunting to say the least. Where to begin? It was already mid-Spring and ideally, we wanted to use the space that year as a productive fruit, vegetable and flower garden.

We already had one allotment tucked down at the end of the row, surrounded by fields and opposite an overgrown patch of woodland, but we decided, very much against common sense, that we’d like a bit more space for our chickens to roam and to plant more veg! Hence the request for a second ‘plot’.

In the coming months I’ll take you through the practical ins and outs, the ups and downs, the highs and lows of creating a beautiful organic fruit, veg and flower garden from scratch. As well as this being a personal record of our sweaty endeavours(!), I also hope that you can find some little nuggets of inspiration and learn from our mistakes!

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In the beginning…..

 

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We got our first allotment in April 2011 because our own back garden was being outgrown by children, fruit, vegetables, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs! It was a 5 minute walk from our house, which was perfect as we needed to keep things as simple as possible. And if I wanted some lettuce for my salad I wanted to be able to run down and pick it, almost as easily as if it were still in my back garden! We decided to move all the fruit and veg growing down to the allotment, plus the chickens and got stuck in straight away.

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