Raw Chocolate Fudge

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If you feel the need for a bit of extra ‘zing’ in your life, then this super tasty, raw and healthy treat will really hit the spot! It has that slightly naughty, decadent taste of fudge and a definite fudgy texture, but none of the unhealthy ingredients. No refined sugar, no dairy and absolutely deeeelicious. How perfect is that!

Right now, springtime gardening is fabulously full-on, home-schooling is wonderfully all-consuming and keeping the family happy and healthy is a joyful juggling act. Life is crazily busy, but great!

Bring on the healthy fudge…

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Green Tomato Chutney

I bet that someone, somewhere in the world is picking some homegrown green tomatoes right now! This is my recipe for an amazingly delicious and much healthier version of a traditional allotment chutney that contains no refined sugar.

It’s late-Spring here, we’ve just finished our last jar of chutney and the tomato seedlings are getting big. I can’t wait to make some more in a few months time…

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Rye Sourdough Bread

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A few weeks ago I posted the recipe for our rye sourdough ‘starter’ and thought it was high time I followed it up with the recipe for our amazing rye sourdough bread! We experimented for months to get the best balance of ‘crust and crumb’ and I think we’ve pretty much cracked it!

Sourdough bread is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread – made with  wild yeast, packed full of tangy taste and much easier on your digestion than a regular loaf of bread. It contains loads of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, plus uniquely balanced proteins and fatty acids and is massively more nutrient dense than commercially produced, highly processed breads.

We make two rye loaves a week and haven’t bought a loaf of bread in ages. It’s delicious fresh out of the oven or toasted with anything and everything on it! I really can’t imagine life without it…

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Asparagus and Fennel Soup

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I love using seasonal organically grown veg wherever possible, so it’s fantastic to be cooking with freshly picked asparagus and I absolutely love fennel, so that had to go in too! Asparagus and fennel are both great for your digestion, whilst the pumpkin seeds add some protein and essential fatty acids, plus a bit of crunch! Served with our homemade rye sourdough bread, this was a big winner at the table last night. Yay!

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Creating a Garden Pt 4: Sheds and Rhubarb

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I’ve always had a bit of a ‘thing’ about sheds! Apart from being a great place to store tools, shelter from the rain, hide Easter eggs or hang a mirror(!) they can also add structure and shape to a garden design. Sheds can be practical or pretty (preferably both), ramshackle or brand new, but they are always a useful bit of garden ‘furniture’.

Our allotment shed was central to our garden plans and had to be in just the right place – easy to get in and out of and lovely to look at. But we had a fight on our hands. It was shed ‘versus’ rhubarb….

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Late-Spring Gardening

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Spring is in full swing on the allotment right now and it’s a massive understatement to say that we’re pretty busy – lots of sowing, weeding, sowing, thinning out, sowing, hardening off, sowing, planting out and sowing…..busy, but loving it!

The chickens are loving the new grass, the dog is loving watching the chickens(!), the children are loving getting their hands dirty and I’m loving the sun on my back and the prospect of some delicious homegrown fruit and veg!

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Nettle Fertiliser

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Despite their weedy, stingy reputation, nettles are actually a really useful addition to your garden. Yes, they can be a pain to get rid of (and certainly painful if you get stung!), but they’re also jam-packed with nutrients like iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

You can add nettles to your compost heap to boost vitality or make potent fertilisers that your plants will love. The minerals in the nettles will encourage super-strong, healthy growth, making plants less susceptible to disease and definitely less attractive to pests. Hooray!

Here’s how to do it…..

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Root Soup

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Our first ‘al fresco’ allotment meal of the year! Such a treat to be eating a big bowl of hot soup in the fresh air – I’m sure it tastes better! This colourful pot of deliciousness is packed full of root veg and decorated with freshly picked pea shoots.

We used some of our winter-stored homegrown veg, but I love the thought that someone, somewhere could cook this soup with freshly pulled and dug homegrown roots…the fresher the better! Beetroot is really good for high blood pressure and liver health, whilst fennel and leeks are great for digestive health, even the humble pea shoot has masses of Vitamin C! Really yum and really good for you…..

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Mid-Spring Gardening

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By mid-spring most of the seedlings have made the big trek down to our greenhouse, which is now absolutely rammed with fresh new growth. I usually feel like there’s not enough time and definitely not enough space at this time of year….

This is the second in a series of posts about the joys of springtime gardening on our organic allotment. Sowing new crops, hardening off, planting out and the first harvests. Life is good….

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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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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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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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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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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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