Friday, 3 July 2015

More foraged, frugal and free food ... and some vintage bargains ... !


I'm enjoying foraging at the moment, as well as providing free food it's keeping me occupied.
Today I'd like to tell you about one of my very favourite wild greens, it's Jack by the Hedge, or Garlic Mustard.  I really love this, lightly steamed it tastes like the freshest of spring cabbage.

This is what it looks like growing in the wild:


Apparantly the whole plant is edible, even the stalks which can be chopped and fried and added to stir-fries, the flowers can also be added to salads, they are only tiny, but add a little interest.  I only use the leaves.  I made a pasta bake dish yesterday and added some chopped steamed Garlic Mustard into it before putting it in the oven to brown, a layer of grated cheese made a high protein meal.


I also added a couple of dollops of pesto and it was lovely with a mixed green salad.  The salad consisted of dandelion leaves, baby turnip leaves, assorted lettuce leaves and a couple of the tops from Rosebay Willow Herb, just dressed with a little oil.  A couple of tomato's would have been nice but I didn't have any so did without.


Also in the salad was wild Plantain, here it is soaking in some cold water with the Garlic Mustard, I'll tear the leaves up before steaming.  The plantain can also be used raw in a salad.

 
This is what it looks like growing in the wild:
 
 
Dessert was my own strawberries topped with plain yoghurt and raspberries, red and gold.
 

 
Here are some sprigs of watercress that have rooted, you can just see the roots.  In the absence of a freshwater stream at the bottom of the garden I will plant these in a pot and place the pot in a bowl of water which will be changed every 2/3 days to prevent the build up of any bacteria.
 
 
Do you like the pots ?  they are vintage French cast iron, they have been used and loved and I love them also.  A whole chicken with vegetables will fit into the white one.
 
They're from the local charity shop for only £1 each.
 
Just a word about foraging if you are new to it.  Start with something familiar i.e. dandelion leaves, nettles etc., and introduce a new taste into your diet gradually, i.e. chopped wild green in soup or stews or a pasta dish like I have done.  Leave two days between introducing another 'new' vegetable so your system can get used to it.
Check Youtube for foraging videos, there are some excellent ones on there with loads of information.  They are now referred to as nature's 'superfoods' so don't let them go to waste.
 
 




Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Please don't forget your pets in this warm weather - and one 'very' clever cat ...

Yesterday was awful as far as weather is concerned, we were all sweltering in the oppressive heat so think how uncomfortable it must be for our pets with their fur coats on !

I had an 'incident' yesterday that scared the **** out of me, especially in the wake of losing Sopicat, I thought I was losing another.  Itty (the kitty) cat gave me a scare.  I found him upstairs breathing very rapidly, mouth wide open and panting.  He is a long haired tabby so must have been very hot.  I picked him up and his body was so hot !  I syringed some water into him, as much as I could, then got the fan and holding it close to his body, kept going over and over him hoping to cool him down.  He lay there and let me do it.  He stopped panting after about 15 minutes, I carried on cooling him for about 40 minutes.  He was worn out and he fell asleep.  I left the fan still trained on him about 12" away.

Itty the Kitty on the bed with Sopicat.

He came downstairs after about an hour looking much better but exhausted.  This was definitely a case of overheating, heat stroke in fact.  Thank goodness he responded.

It's so easy to just put water down and think that out pets will be OK, but in severe heat such as yesterday they need monitoring just as much as old or young people.

This scared me and I will be watching him and the others like a hawk now.  At the moment he is sitting on a cushion in the kitchen with the fan trained on him.  Last night, he sat in front of the fan and fell asleep, he knew he had to stay cool, now that is a very 'very' clever cat !

 
 
The kitchen was cleaned up after I got Itty settled ! and yes, I do let them sit on the worktop, it gets wiped down in bleach afterwards, so anyone worrying about germs need have no fear, if I was going to catch anything from my cats, I would have done so by now !  You can see the fur on his back being blown up by the cool air.
 
 
Panic over ! settled in front of the fan and keeping cool, the fan is working by the way.  Now that is a 'very' clever cat !
 
Don't forget your furry friends when you are sorting out the suncreams, floppy hats and light clothing for yourselves and families, they need extra attention too !

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Free healthy greens ...

I'm sure you will know that I am interested in foraging for free food especially when I don't get anything reduced or like now while I'm waiting for my vegetables to mature outside.

I've not been in the mood for bargain shopping for a while, but having had several days of eating hardly anything because of 'circumstances', my stomach started to complain.  I had in the freezer a large bag of casserole veggies, root veggies, I put them in the slow cooker with some stock and a cube

 
I added a tin of chopped tomato's and some dried herbs and was surprised to see how much I had - a pot full ! obviously most of this was going to be frozen.  Anyway no room for potato's in there so I decided to steam some separately, but had no 'greens'.  I do however, had a small 'stand' of Rosebay Willow Herb growing at the back of the garden
 
 
I'm sure you've all seen this growing in the wild.  Try not to gather it from roadsides though.
This is a fantastic weed wild edible plant, the leaves are a great substitute for cabbage/spinach, the tender stalks can be chopped and added to stir fries and even the flowers can be eaten, the seeds are also supposed to be nice dry fried and can be ground or eaten as a snack although I haven't personally tried eating the seeds yet.
 
 
Anyway, I picked 6 stalks about 18" long, stripped off the leaves and put them to soak in cold water for a while.  This turned out to be too much for one person, 3 stalks is enough, it doesn't 'cook down'.
 
 
After draining them, I chopped them up ready for steaming
 
 
I steamed them on top of the potato's
 
  
You can see I'm never very far away from a cup of tea ! but I have to confess just lately it has been something stronger to help me through this difficult time.
I wasn't sure if the greens would need any extra flavouring, so I added some freshly ground black pepper and some of this spice from the £1 shop with a built in grinder
 
 
When they were tender I mashed the potato's and added the 'greens' with a knob of butter, a bit like Bubble and Squeak, well exactly like Bubble and Squeak really.  I don't like my potato's well mashed, that's too sloppy for me, so I 'crush' them as Jamie Oliver would say, whack them about a bit, chuck in the butter and smash them up, so suitably whacked, smashed and crushed, I ended up with this, and very tasty it was too
 
 
At the back are some left over 'crushed' potato's and greens, which I used as a topping for a pie made with some of the veggie 'stew'
 
 
There's 2/3 portions here as well as half a pot full of stew left, I will sprinkle this with grated cheese before heating it up.  And if that isn't stretching food to infinity and beyond, I still had some potato mix left to which I added an egg and some cheese, formed it into patties and put them in to the freezer.
 
 
Just one more picture showing the steaming water, it contains the goodness from the potato's as well as nutrients from the willowherb.  This will be used either for gravy/sauce or as a stock base for soup or a slow cooked dish, nothing is wasted.
 
This has been a fantastic experiment in frugality, and when I tried to put a price on each meal, I couldn't because it came out as a - price !  I don't count things like butter, an egg or a pinch of herbs etc., in the costings, most people have those in the house anyway.  So all in all - result !
 
Thank you all so much for your kind comments, they have helped tremendously (and still are).
 
Here  I am with my Dearest Boy, just after he collapsed in pain in the kitchen
 
 
I had called the vet at this point, I knew what I had to do.  I picked him up carefully at put him on his favourite velvet cushion while we waited, this is the last picture ...
 
 
I can't write anymore about this, it chokes me too much.
 
 

Friday, 26 June 2015

I have a magic paintbox to paint away the pain ...

concealer to hide the black circles under my eyes
foundation to cover the blotchiness from too much crying
whitening eye drops to take away the bloodshot from my eyes
lipstick to paint on a smile
a little cheek blusher to make me look like I haven't been up all night


there, now I'm ready to 'mind the shop' again.

How do I stop being overwhelmed by this choking sensation ?
Good job no one can see inside, there is a hole where my heart once was
and my brain cell has all but shut down, unable to face the reality of what has happened.
The emptiness inside is expanding and suffocating me.
I'm pacing the floor at night unable to sleep.

I keep looking for 'him' listening for him to call me
I won't sit on certain parts of the sofa because it's where 'he' sits sat
I keep preparing now unwanted medications
Also extra bowls of food

I want to thank all of you for your kind messages of sympathy, it really does help knowing that there are kind friends out there who really know what I'm going through and have experienced it themselves.
Thank you.


Thursday, 25 June 2015

I don't have the words ....

Rest in Peace my Sweet Angel, my dearest boy, my devoted friend. 

 
My heart is broken.  I love you.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Sopicat is not good ....

I haven't posted for a few days because my heart's just not in it right now.  My beloved Sopicat is not good.

I  know what's coming ...



I'll be back soon

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I like it so far ...

I'm talking about The Lord of the Rings that I'm reading right now, and am thoroughly enjoying it.  I love to lose myself in the mysticism of books like this, I'm actually there with the characters  ! so this book won't be used for propping up a table, and so far, there are no traces of 21st century language in there to spoil it for me.

I'm at the shop again today, number 2 Son is very busy I'm glad to say, he and his partner work hard and hopefully will reap the benefits.  Their dream is to have a country place (like his Mom) where they can keep their horses and have some goats.


I've started gathering a few soft fruits from the garden, some strawberries which are lovely and sweet, and some Honeyberries, now these are new to me, it's a Honeysuckle with somewhat insignificant pale yellow flowers, but you can eat the fruits (berries) they look like a small damson and taste fantastic, just like eating Honeysuckle flowers. 

 
  So pud last night was a large strawberry with a couple of Honeyberries and plain yoghurt.  There's more to come.  I've taken some cuttings from the Honeyberry, I would like to increase my stock of those.  Some I have treated as normal soft wood cuttings, covered with a plastic bag to keep up the humidity, and some I have pegged down whilst they are still connected to the Mother plant, these have the most chance of survival of course.   I got the original plant from Ebay, it wasn't cheap, well nothing is when you are terminally frugal, so it will ease the blow if I get some free plants.

 They seem to be subject to 'attacks' of Cuckoo Spit though, so each morning I find I'm wiping it off with damp tissue before the grub gets chance to emerge and eat the leaves.  When I was young I actually thought that this was literally Cuckoo Spit and that Cuckoos went around the countryside spitting all over the place !  Somebody must have had a laugh when they told me that.


I wanted to do some sewing over the weekend, but couldn't find the cable that connected from the machine to the power supply - duh ! very frustrating, so I ordered a new one from Ebay, it came this morning, it cost £10.  I must wade through my stock of fabrics before I disappear under it, never to be seen again !


Well I have time today to work on my (very amateur) Youtube channel, my first video is in production (MGM have nothing to fear), but I'm hoping to improve, and it will be another skill I hopefully will master.  You have to keep the old brain cell moving when you get to a 'certain age'



Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A bit of chat and two job opportunities ...

It's a lovely morning and I'm 'minding the shop' again today and loving it.  I have time to surf the net to my hearts content, learn stuff on Youtube, find out how to start a Youtube channel, and get going on my first video.  I also have a book or two here, today I'm starting on 'The Lord of the Rings' by Tolkien, I love anything mysterious, the book I have is part one- The Fellowship of the Rings' and it's about two inches thick !  I hope I make my way through it.  If not it will be great for propping the table  up !

 
The Hobbit was on TV here in UK over the weekend, also by Tolkien of course and I was looking forward to watching it, but had to switch off 15 minutes in !  The modern slang expressions and other corruption of the script were too much for me to accept.  I'm sure Tolkien didn't write 'look what's just come out of me 'ooter' did he ? and other stupid similar lines.  I think this must have been 'edited' to appeal to the masses, perhaps I'm wrong, if you've read The Hobbit please let me know if these modern expressions are in the original script.  Anyway if I come across anything like that in The Lord of the Rings, it will be sent to the charity shop.

The baby plants and seedlings are all looking good in the garden, it was really hot yesterday and the beans I put out have had their leaves 'bleached' by the sun !  they look healthy enough though and have flowers on, I expect they're just getting used to being outside.

Are any of you getting an error message when you check your stats in Blogger ?  I'm getting it all the time, it doesn't say what the error is but I just click on the 'x' in the corner and it goes away, it's just irritating while having to wait for it to disappear.

I'm always looking for ways to earn extra money and like to pass them on to you here, they may be of interest.  I have found these two, they are not paid links, I just thought someone out there may find them of interest.

The first is www.EmployerMatch.co.uk  - if you or your significant other are looking for work, check this out, you enter your locality and give your email address and details of daily jobs are sent through to you, today's include packers, delivery drivers, retail workers etc. etc., it may be of use to you.

Next, if you love dogs and like walking, is a dog walking site:  www.dogwalkingnow.co.uk/jobs
I would love to do this but for two reasons, a few years ago I had my leg in plaster after a car accident and every now and then I have a 'flare up' of pain and my leg frequently gives way beneath me, so I couldn't say for sure if I would be available for dog walking, the second reason is fear ! years ago, when I had my first smallholding, I started an animal boarding business, and a hamster died whilst in my care, I was distraught and fraught with guilt, so I can't now take on the responsibility of caring for anyone's animals.  The owners were very good about it, they bought me flowers because they could see the state I was in - 'they bought me flowers' - it should have been the other way around ! anyway, I've never got over it, so dog walking is out for me.  I know lots of you out there are dog owners and would like to do this 'work', it's approx. £10 an hour - that's worth having, so good luck with that.

Take that a step further and you can apply to be a pet/house sitter, where you live in someones  house taking care of their pets whilst the owners are away.  Just Google 'house/sitter'. it's great, because it saves on your own fuel, heating, etc. and most times the owners leave food in the fridge as well.  This is something else I can't do because of the reasons stated above.

OK todays waffle over, have a good one ... oh and can I just thank all of you who have clicked on ads on my blog over the last few days, I've earned some pennies, not a lot, but it all helps and adds up and I'm very grateful and I hope you found things of interest.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Gardening update ...

Well here in Shropshire, Saturday was a total wash-out, a deluge no less, non-stop rain for 24 hours.   It wasn't driving rain, actually it was quite pleasant, refreshing, but very heavy, resulting in my already drainage-challenged garden turning into a lake !

So Sunday dawned bright and sunny so I set to in catching up on many overdue jobs to be done.  First I actually moved my legendary runner beans from the conservatory, here they are by the door waiting to go out, at full stretch they measured 10'/12' - now I know they should be well established before going out but that's ridiculous right ?  I've been thinking they're too well established now to get acclimatised outdoors, but I wasn't going to take them out of their pots, so their roots wouldn't be disturbed and they'll have a better chance of survival.

 
There's more light in the conservatory now that the Triffids have gone.
 
 
Here they are 'in situ' - I love that phrase, it makes me sound educated.  I will use that 'cut down' tree to train more beans up and around.  You can just see my sickly courgettes at the front of the  picture, I don't know if they will survive or not, I took a chance putting them there, I expect it's the soaking soil that will finish them off.  It's not too late to start some more though.
 
 
There's a good crop of gooseberries, they're in the opposite corner of the garden where it's not quite so sodden.  A bit of sun on them to sweeten them up and I'll be making pies for the freezer.  I don't 'do' jam, too much sugar.  I do however make a simple fruit puree with soft fruit, basically just heated through enough to soften it and used 'as is' over pies, yoghurt, porridge etc.,  it's a healthier version of  jam.
 
 
Here are some of the pallet collars I got from Preloved, some are already occupied, I potted up a load of spinach plants yesterday, and just covered them at angle with that cloche cover until their roots settle.  I won't be digging up the lawn inside the frames, as I am moving, I don't want to have the hassle of levelling it off and re-seeding, plus any extra soil/compost will be wasted.  I'm just going to line the bottoms with sheet plastic (free of course) to stop the weeds from growing, and sheet cardboard (also free) to give a little insulation.  When I leave all that will be left will be rectangles of dead grass - and that will grow over quickly enough.
 
 
This is the cattery.  It's been sited at the side of the house and this is just the end sticking out.  It measures approx. 25' x 15'. I've just cleared it out, it was full of plants 'overwintering' out of the cold wind.  It has chairs, an old wooden stepladder, logs and bits and pieces to keep the cats amused, plus an old rabbit hutch on it's side for them to climb on.  The 'old guys' don't go out any more, they prefer sleeping and eating indoors.  I carried two of them out yesterday while I was in the garden, and they didn't like it at all, so I had to carry them back in !  There is a cat flap from the conservatory, so they can go in and out any time they like.  I live on a main road so I will not let them out, I won't take the chance.  There are always signs around here of missing cats, and I don't intend that mine become statistics.  Where I used to live, they only knew of the odd passing tractor - so absolutely no road sense at all.
 
Here is The Cat From Hell in the cattery looking down on me as he always does.
 
 
He's broken three cat flaps already, I'm on the fourth one now. 
 
 
Another view of the cattery going down the side of the house.  They have more space in there than I do in the house !
 
Some might say that it isn't natural keeping them indoors, it probably isn't but at least I know they are alive and I won't be scraping them off the road any time soon.  They have a good life, spoiled rotten with the best food money can buy and regular veterinary care.  This is borne out by the fact that my cats have all reached 20+ years old.
 
Anyway, that's my daily waffle, the sun is a-shining, so I'm off out to play in the garden again.
  

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Woo Hoo - another milestone reached ... !

I've just realised I've got 100,000 page views - Woo Hoo !


Thank you all for visiting and reading my ramblings.

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