Sunday, 18 December 2011


from this...

to this... bliss.

Now all we need to do is the Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Icky Pond

Today I finally had a day off work (after 27 days straight!) and decided to end the gardening drought by heading off outdoors to see what needed doing. There was so much it nearly sent me screaming back inside to call in and beg my boss not to let me have any more holidays. But then I gave myself a good talking-to (and bribed myself with a gin at 4pm on the dot) and headed off to tackle the most hideous job: the icky pond.
I started it four years ago with fond hopes of it becoming something like this

But it hasn’t. Instead, here’s the slimy, leaf-ridden mess I’ve just spent an hour and a half clearing out.

There’s leaves, leaves, and more leaves. And the water mint which just took everything over and smothered all the nice marginal plants which I’d carefully sunk round the sides in pots. Not that the frogs seem to mind, in fact one of them happily sat and watched me yanking all the knotted tangle.
The pebbles which were put round the liner have all fallen into the pond and needed hauling out, to be replaced by slabs to cover them. And hurrah! There’s a marsh marigold which has survived and a yellow flag water iris underneath all of it, as well as a water lily which was thriving.

Finally, it’s done. The plan is to have loosestrife - yellow and purple - and meadowsweet around the sides, and lots more marsh marigold.

Pictures of plants in summer are ALWAYS cheering, aren't they?

Sunday, 30 October 2011


I’m hopeless. There, I’ve said it. My life is full of things which I started in a rush of enthusiasm, only to abandon them a couple of months later - or weeks, even - in favour of something shinier and new.
There’s the garden journal, which I faithfully pledged to keep updated. I found it the other day - I managed to write most of January before it got forgotten. There’s the stepper I bought from QVC. It seemed brilliant. Step my way to fitness while watching the TV, I thought. Where is it now? Gathering dust under the spare bed upstairs.
There’s this blog. Ooh, I thought. A Blog. I will write all about our herb garden, our sales, soaps, recipes, and my herb projects. And what’s happened? I’ve put up a few - admittedly cute - pictures of our cat. It’s like looking at the snaps on my fridge door.
All this is a very roundabout way of admitting how remiss I’ve been on the blog front. No more. From now on, there will be lots of posts about all things herb related and our continuing efforts to turn this hobby into a way of life. And if anyone reads it, it’ll be a bonus.
Here's a picture of a marigold, for no other reason than it looks cheery.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

daisy, daisy...

"I love daisies. They're such a happy flower". So says Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail and I agree. Our herb patch is full of plants with daisy-like blooms at the moment and they are, quite simply, a delight.

This one's a double chamomile. I love its shaggy appearance.

This is a camphor plant. Its leave smell of, yep, camphor. I'm hoping to dry a few and use in pot pourri over the winter.

This is a poor picture but it is a wonderful flower. Creamy white petals surrounding a neat, butter-yellow centre. This is English Mace and it has grown tremendously well this year. It's an often overlooked herb, we often get bemused looks from people at our plant markets but it's actually great in soups and warming casseroles.

And now for something completely different....

Viper's Bugloss. The bees have been all over it today (in between the downpours). It's a biennial so we'll soon be collecting seeds.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

You wouldn't know it to look at her....

When I bought the Observer Book of Birds earlier this year as a present for Richard, I rather fondly hoped we would finally be able to identify the birds we spot while walking around the canals and countryside.
Some hope. It is, instead, being put to macabre use identifying exactly which species has been brought in today by our Myrtle.
For such a small cat, she can drag in surprisingly large birds. She has now broken the cat flap by hauling a blackbird and a toad in, at the same time. It is impressive, yet sickening. Not helped it has to be said by Richard feeding her and being delighted at the “offerings”.
This year she is averaging at least one a day. The alleyway across from our house is becoming an avian graveyard. At least it is not like Pet Sematary and the birds come back to life and make their way over here to extract revenge.
If only she could graduate to pigeons, currently savaging our young cabbages and, worse, munching my sweet peas which have so far failed to flower. I wonder why.
Happier news on the fruit front: we have finally had a bumper crop of cherries this year, four years after planting it. The gooseberry bushes are groaning under the weight of all the goosegogs and the blackcurrants are flourishing.
We’ll be giving this recipe for gooseberry wine a whirl at the weekend. I don’t have much of a track record with home made wines, normally I end up pouring them down the sink, but we shall see….

6lb of gooseberries
3lb of sugar
1 tsp of yeast nutrient
1 tsp of brewers yeast
1 tsp of pectic enzyme
4 ltr of water approx

1. Wash and crush the gooseberries, place in suitable sized bucket.
2. Then pour on the water, stir three times daily for three days.
3. Strain the liquid through a sieve into a demijohn, then add sugar.
4. Mix thoroughly until all the sugar has dissolved, then add the rest of the ingredients.
5. Fit airlock and leave until fermentation has stopped.
6. Rack off when clear, then rack again 3 months later.
7. Bottle or drink

(with thanks to

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Swarm

And everything was going so well. There we were, happily chatting to the bees, watching them flitting about on our herbs, dreaming of all the honey they'd produce, and then they've gone and swarmed.
I was out in the garden yesterday when all of a sudden I realised there were bees buzzing. Rather a lot of them. They were swirling around and around, flying here and there, in a spiral pattern. Then they left.
Stupidly, we had not bothered to artificially swarm our colony - a process where you get another hive and trick some of the bees into moving there and thinking they have swarmed. No, we blithely thought, we don't need to do that, we'll do it later.
And the result? The queen has legged it, taking most of the bees with her. We have had a look and left a couple of queen cells to hopefully hatch out and become new queens.
In the meantime, I've had a couple of shame faced chats with bee experts who were lovely and full of advice. Although I couldn't quite shake the feeling they were inwardly tutting.
So we have to wait a week now and find out if the little bees have made another colony. Fingers crossed!
Looks like that honey will have to wait.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

the big smoke

Road trip for us yesterday to London, for the Herb Society's herb festival at the Garden Museum in Lambeth.
It is a gem of a place, in a converted church with a churchyard garden crammed with herbs and wildflowers. You couldn't tell you were in the middle of London.
The herb festival was lovely and instructive too. We met Judith Hann and had garden envy at her immaculately designed garden with mature plants and 150 varieties of herbs; made tussie mussies with wonderfully potent southernwood and lavender sage (I'm hoping they will all make cuttings too); and once again spent far far too much on plants and seeds. But hey ho. I finally managed to get hold of some tree spinach, which I've heard lots about and am keen to try - and I've set my heart on getting some Rosa mundi for the garden. They are gorgeous.

After, we visited the Old Operating Museum and Herb Garrett near London Bridge. Here were the old apothocary treatments, bowls of dried herbs and flowers hanging from the ceiling. My favourite picture was this one, with all the bottles glowing in the sunshine. Fab.

Friday, 15 April 2011

oh happy day

Went out this morning and found seedlings! Lots of them. Eyebright we had had already, and borage, but now we have angelica, purslane, par-cel, betony, wormwood, clary sage and lots more, including, best of all, comfrey.

Add that to lemon grass indoors, and mandrake, which has been in our bathroom for the past month - to the bemusement of the fitters putting in our new kitchen.

Tarragon has come up everywhere, cuttings of southernwood have taken well and we are well-stocked with beautiful old favourites such as lady's mantle and viper's bugloss.

Stock levels are beginning to build up, which is crucial commercially as well as gratifying personally.

It has been particularly satisfying to talk to customers from last year who have reported how well plants they bought from us survived the winter and are thriving in the early warm weather.

We are going to have our widest and most interesting range of herbs yet this year - just as well given we are doing more plant fairs and markets than ever.

We will be at plant fairs in Market Harborough throughout the summer, the University of Leicester Botanic Garden and - the furthest we have ever been - Market Deeping, as well as our usual Leicester and Kibworth farmers' markets and Leicester Food Festival on May 29.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Time to wake up

The garden is beginning to emerge from hibernation and it feels as though we are, too. Mints are starting to send up shoots, so is the tarragon and the elecampane. The sweet cicelies are starting to push up from their shady spots and we are on the lookout for the first of the ramsons.

We are sowing like mad, including quite a few new species that we are trying this year, such as horehound, mugwort, motherwort and red orache. We are also adding a new type of basil a blue, to go with the African blue that went very well last year. This new variety is supposed to have an excellent flavour. We will report back.

To give us the space we need, we have taken on a Victorian greenhouse at our friend Sandra's farm. This is a very exciting development for us - a major expansion that means we might finally get our patio back!

Sales are being finalised. We will be at Leicester Farmers' Market on the first Thursday of each month and Kibworth Farmers' Market on the third Saturday. That's a change of date and there is also a new venue - the old Grammar School in the centre of the village.

We will be at the University of Leicester Botanic Garden plant fair on July 3 and a range of fairs and events to be comnfirmed.


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