Saturday, 29 May 2010

Goodbye and hello.

My last day wasn't as awful as I thought it would be, but it was very tiring. After a while I had no idea who I was hugging as I was constantly mobbed by nearly 70 children! The only time I came close to losing it was when the Teachers gave me this beautiful bouquet. Hand made cards followed and I had to chuckle at all the miss-spellings of my name. I think my favourite was Miss Wiss!

A lovely lunch followed and then a couple of quiet hours with the ponies. So what does an out of work gal do to chill out. Well, she makes cheese of course!!!

Boil a stip of muslin and string to sterilise.

Pour 1litre of milk into a large pan and gently heat to 180c. I use goats milk because I can't drink cows milk. Semi or skimmed milk is fine, as the cream from full fat milk is wasted in the whey.
When the milk reaches 180c, stir in a couple of large spoonfuls of natural yogurt, bio is best, and 6 or 7 drops of rennet. You can buy vege rennet and I've recently discovered that you can make it from herb extracts. I may give it a go sometime.
After a while, the milk will Clabber, that is, separate into curds and whey. carefully slice the curds into chunks to let out more whey and after 15 minutes (or so) bring it gently to the boil to firm up the chunks.

Cool a little (mainly for safety's sake!) and pour into the prepared muslin. Hang the muslin over a bowl to let the cheese drip. You could squeeze the muslin to get the fluid out, but then it gets all sticky with cheese and it seems a bit of a waste. You can salt the cheese and add herbs if you want. It will keep in the fridge for a few days, but it rarely makes it to the fridge here as it's so scrummy!

There are loads of tutorials on youtube and I've probably watched them all! I've not had the courage to use vinegar to clabber the milk as I think it might affect the taste, but lots of people do use it! I've had a go at the mozzarella, without much success, so that's still on my list to try.

The whey isn't wasted, I pour it back into the original pot and make a large batch of porridge for the chickens :)

So as I say goodbye to conventional work for a while, I'd like to say a big hello and welcome to the new people who have found their way here :)

Thursday, 27 May 2010


I'm feeling horribly blue today with no real reason behind it! Well, a poor night's sleep probably didn't help. So here are a few things that I am very thankful for.

Acquilegias are one of my very favourite flowers. There are so many hybrids in my garden, just from two original plants. These here, however are from seed that I snaffled a couple of years ago and this is the first time they've flowered.

Charm, darling little rabbit, just beginning to recover from losing his Dad, Bigwig. He doesn't leave his hutch much these days so I take the dandelions to him even though his door is open all day!

My herbs are looking lush and there are a couple of visiting flowers sneaking in as well.

My darling cat Max, still in remission, very thankful for that.

I've scrubbed the base that the hen house sat on and have replanted my apple and pear trees.

Another visitor on the steps of the Studio. The photo has leached out the colour, but these are a delicate pastel pink.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

More changes.

There have been a lot of changes happening at the Retreat lately. I can see some settled times ahead and actually relish having more time to myself as my contract has now come to an end. Telling the children I work with has been very hard and there have been a lot of tears, not all from them :( It's not a closed book though, and so I will wait and see what the future brings.

In the meantime, purse strings have been tightened and the store cupboard has had another overhaul. It's looking pretty healthy to be honest and as my little tomato plants are bursting into flower and the reluctant spinach has started to fill out, I believe we will not starve :) It's worth mentioning that we are not paupers, but feeding and caring for our children and animals does eat into our earnings, and so frugality goes hand in hand with the luxury of having ponies etc... Someone once commented that as I have ponies, I must be rich. I replied that if I DIDN'T have the ponies then I might be rich!

Sarah at Cottage Garden Studios
has been talking about blogging and how much you really know the people you develope a relationship with on line. I agree with her thoughts totally and often wonder why I feel the urge to share the details of my life with people I hardly know. It's something I can't answer easily, I'm afraid.

Anyhoo, as I begin to settle into a new routine, I face the future months with lots of projects to complete, things that were put on hold whilst I was at the school. Some new projects wait patiently in the wings also.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Cramming it all in.

Despite only getting things planted at the beginning of May, I've just about caught up with the sensible people who plant early. Imagine though how far ahead I'd be now if I'd planted in March!

I took these pictures on Friday and already the beans have doubled in height and the leeks look less like fragile blades of grass. Ugly though it is, my incident tent has made a huge difference.

To the right of this picture are my wonderful Monastic Coco french green beans. They are a heritage variety and are wonderful eaten small and green or allowed to ripen and the beans used in stews or casseroles. They can be dried, but I had limited success with this, maybe due to the jar I used. The beans on the left are the Cherokee Trail of Tears that Danielle sent me, thank you Danielle :)

My own courgettes are taking their time, but have doubled in size since this picture, so not too shabby there. They are another heritage variety called Tondo and are small round globes, although if left, quickly become footballs! These are top right and top left are the exploding cucumbers that Danielle sent me. They are romping away. As you can see at the bottom of this picture, I have a couple of melon plants. I'm surprised and hopeful for these, as I found an old packet of seeds among my stash and just thought I'd see if any were alive. It seems that a couple were, yaay!

This beautiful courgette was given to me by my sensible neighbour, so I'll be eating courgettes soon, despite my lackadaisicle approach to planting! I'll be giving her one of my Tondo courgettes in exchange.

Last week the Moomin and I went to a plant sale and managed to pick up some tomato plants at 20p each, not bad eh! I found the curiously named 'Saucey' and a little bush plant called 'Pomodorro', so along with my heritage plants, I should be well covered for toms this year. That is so long as I can protect them from the dreaded blight! These plants will be truly cosseted! I use an old cola bottle with a couple of holes in the lid sunk in the grow bag to water them. The water gets right down to the roots this way. Behind the grow bag is a Ghoji berry plant that I found at a fair a few weeks ago.

The tray to the front holds my whispy leeks and the one behind has a little row each of (LtoR) normal cucumbers, hot chilli peppers and a no show of aubergines! I'll bang some sweet peppers in there instead and either buy an aubergine plant or quickly try some more seeds.

All in all, I'm on track now to make up for lost time so now all I need to do is clear out the vegetable beds at the field. These are pretty full of weeds and looking mighty neglected!

However, what I'm mostly going to be writing about here is how much you can get from a small space. Here is my raised bed in the garden. It measures approx 3x5 feet and is small enough to fit into just about any garden. The mini cloche is perfect for this size bed and helps to raise the temperature enough to encourage your seeds to put in an appearance. This bed is in almost permanent shade due to a neighbours hedge which actually makes it perfect for growing spinach and mixed salad leaves. They have a much longer growing life due to the shade as too much heat makes them bolt. A few root vegetables will do nicely here too, like beets and maybe celeriac.

This corner is where the hens were and gets a moderate amount of sun. At the moment my mini apple and pear trees are there, but I may try some beans in tubs here too. The beauty of growing in tubs is that if something isn't working out, you can move it to another part of the garden.

I'm off to make some homemade grow bags now, which I'll talk about later. Enjoy the sun everyone :)

Thursday, 20 May 2010


I can't believe it's Thursday already! Where do my days go? I've had the Moomin home sick for a couple, and I've become lost in a sculpting book that I splurged on. In the past, I've taught myself how to work out the sculptures, through trial and error. But having a book explain how to shape a head or build up a face is incredible. I suppose some of it is common sense, but I only realised that when it was pointed out on a page!

I've become besotted by the beautiful horse above. He's just so stunning to look at, but so far out of my price range that I just gaze at him over the hedge. It's also not simply a case of finding the money to buy another horse, but funding the monthly expenses. It's a no go, so I'll just have to adore him from afar!

My veggies are slowly putting in an appearance, and I'll have another post on simple living, as soon as I've taken a few pictures.

My laptop is definitely on the blink, and I couldn't connect to the net for a few days! Imagine my sheer horror at that. That's when I realise how much I rely on my lappy!

Sorry for the bitty post, but that's how I am at the moment, running from one thing to another and chasing my tail in the process!!!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Giveaway results.

Here it is! A day later than planned, but all the names were put in a bowl and the Moomin got to pick the winner.

Congratulations to Barbara :)

and because we got carried away and she wanted to pull another name out, Elizabeth Rhiannon gets the runner up surprise :)

Well done ladies, and I'm sorry to the rest of you, but thankyou for taking part. I've enjoyed doing this and will do it again :)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Living Simply.

In this picture, my garden looks quite big and by the standard of most city gardens, it's huge, but compared to a lot of rural gardens, I'd call it modest.

I'm going to experiment with what I can grow here in a plot roughly the size that I used to have in my city garden. The reason for this is time. To fit everything in that I enjoy doing alongside everything that I must is becoming such a juggling act, so I've set myself a challenge. It is this. Can I live simply while working, either at the school, with my art or training the ponies? Of course I can, but it all takes a bit of thought and planning. There are a lot of bloggers with incredibly productive gardens of modest size who are worth checking out. Leanne of Somerset Seasons and Gretel from Middle of Nowhere are just two who cram a huge amount in to a smallish space.

That's not my aim though, not just to dig up my lawn for potatoes. No, I want to create a relaxing haven in my garden while growing a few delicious crops. At the same time, I'm going to explore all options from buying local to organic foods, the best use of local markets and how to get the best deals from your local greengrocer.

I want to live simply and ethically.

My raised bed is quite small, but in previous years has yeilded quite an impressive amount of food. At the moment it has some spinach that is very slowly putting in an appearance.

I did use to keep chickens here, and this is a picture of my original four. The two new girls however, were such a couple of hooligans that nothing in the garden was safe. As their run was collapsing with age, we decided to move the whole operation out to the field. It was lovely having them around though :)

Recently I bought one of those awful plastic greenhouses. It's pretty ugly and we've taken to calling it the incident tent as it reminds me of those structures that go up around crime scenes! However, it's gorgeously warm inside and I think it's the only way I'm going to get any tomatoes this year. I can't afford a proper poly tunnel and at the moment we haven't the space for one, so this seems like a good compromise.

It's all planted up inside, and there are even a few little shoots beginning to appear.

I actually enjoy standing in this tiny space, planning, planning!

So that's it for now, I've left it late for much of my planting, but there's still time to catch up, I think!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Have I told you how much I love nettles? Moomin and I collected a big bagful from the field, and I think we may have overdone it a bit! My big saucepan was full and there was still a sink full to deal with.

I sweated a little onion and garlic in some butter

then added the nettles and a pint of vegetable stock.

Next came two small carrots and potatoes. The whole lot was brought to the boil and simmered for an hour. I can't show any photos of the finished soup, because we ate it all before I had a chance to take any.

Next I fried some more onion and garlic with some tomatoes and a couple of spoonfuls of Pataks sauce. I know it's cheating but Pataks are just so wonderfully authentic (and I'm not getting paid to say this!).

A couple of cups of lentils, a pint of stock and the remaining nettles. So that's tomorrow's supper sorted now :)

Saturday, 8 May 2010


It's done at last.

You can check it out here

Please let me know what you think. I'm far too tired to say much more now as this was a loooong and hard task with a very steep learning curve, having never made a website before!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Gosh, I am so totally wiped out this evening. I've been battling with the website, and although I finally have a page that I'm happy with, I'm still dithering about the header. I've changed it four times today, and even painted a whole new one, which I don't really think I like at all. I'm trying it out on the studio blog, so any comments would be interesting ;)

This website isn't as 'simple' as it's marketed to be, especially compared to the set up on blogger. We have it so easy here!

My job is now coming to it's end and I have very mixed emotions about that. I won't miss the crushingly early mornings but I will miss the children. I'll have more time to focus on my art, but I'll have no money to buy any supplies, however, a couple of modest Etsy sales has at least put that balance in the black! See! A mixed bag for sure!!! I may have the chance to return to the school in September though, so I'm not heading for the poor house just yet :)

After the helpful post on Fairysteps about setting up an on line business (do check it out if your stuck on that treadmill and going nowhere), I've been trying harder with the pictures I've taken. So far I'm modestly pleased and very thankful for her advice.

This is an update for the giveaway, and I think the picture just looks so much better than my normal method of plonking a spotlight over my subject. I've made a Reiki infused pouch (lightly scented) and a tree of life bookmark. The print is mounted and in a protective sleeve.

Right, I must try and get some sleep now, as another early start awaits me!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Gift from a friend.

I'm sorry, but again I've posted two posts the same. Not really because I'm being lazy, but this time because this deserves saying twice :)

A very few weeks ago I coveted this wonderful picture on Danielle's blog. I planned to buy it as soon as she listed it in her shop. It is of the Goddess Eostre, gently craddling a hare in her arms. I can't describe how this painting touched me, the tenderness and trust between these two creatures. Imagine the absolute joy I felt when I opened a mysterious package to find this painting inside. Thank you Danielle, I'm not sure I deserve such a gift, but thank you :)

Do go and visit Danielle for more gorgeous art than you can shake a stick at, plus beautiful horses galore :)

Other news is that after these lovely pictures were taken of our hens settling to their new life,

finding the best new dust bath in THE WORLD!
My oldest and most precious hen, Freya, (top hen in the picture below) was found sleeping forever in her nest box.

I knew she wasn't right the night before and so I sat with her whilst she slept in the sun and then I carefully put her to bed, where hubby found her the next morning. I'm glad she had some fun and seemed so happy just before flying to new fields. Bless you Freya.x