We’re all very stressed right now. The plague, Lockdown 3, Brexit, and now snow for the new year. It’s a lot! I don’t have any words of wisdom on this, other than to listen to the news only when necessary and follow government and not internet advice. Social distancing does work. It’s easy for me. I went to an all girls secondary school, I need just channel my inner first year at that first school night out. There was more than enough room for the Holy Spirit with girls on one wall and boys on the other. Things are a lot more serious now than that shyness I soon got over. We know how to social distance here, we just need to remember to do it (properly).
I was an emo teenager. Or as emo as one could be on a broke teen budget and without access to the internet. No embarrassing myspace or bebo page to make me cringe! I had the heavy liner and the fringe in my eyes, blasted MCR and thought the world didn’t understand me in my outrageous colours! (Getting serious flashbacks as I type!)
Adulting is annoying. It’s really just cleaning things around the house until you die. Trying to make it sustainable can often seems like more effort than it is worth.
Nevertheless she persisted. Continue reading
Or the little greenhouse that could
It’s January. It’s that time to make promises that seem great in a post toasting haze and reflect on how your old ones went. Last year I didn’t really make resolutions. Not any big ones so instead this will be a reflection on my larger goal. If my tagline and badly updated bio aren’t all an obvious indicator, I am always trying to live more sustainably. Part of this incorporates self-sufficiency. I think sometimes self- sufficiency is seen as cutting yourself off from the world, just me here alone making my wine coolers for one. But really in my journey to be that neighbour who is just throwing food at you every time you pass the door (in a nice way) there have been a lot of peeps helping me out. Doing it myself comes on the back of lots of help. This is a post about community, sustainability, and a successful year in the garden told through the medium of making passata.
Zero Waste, Zero miles and all the delicious.
What would I be if I didn’t blog my utter failures? It’s not all happy hippy floating around here. Sometimes you almost wax your eyebrows off making a homemade mask (Shout-out Mies who was right there trying to frantically scrub it off)
This is a story of failure, even if honestly it was the best choice. So as haircare hippys, we like to confuse people with weird abbreviations, like poo for shampoo. Shampoo, low poo, no- poo- what the poo? Confusion for days! This post is dedicated to green hair care and demystifying some of those random words thrown about to scare you. There will be awful selfies and stolen (with permission) product pics.
Why was it recalled?
Well in summary the recipes in the book were reportedly unsafe. Having not read the book I can’t really comment but it highlights a common problem as foraging becomes more hip.
How does one avoid poisoning oneself and loved ones? Continue reading
So this weekend I had a glorious Sunday where I was surprisingly, not working. I had a lie-in. Well ish. As in I stayed in bed reading up on bamboo and didn’t bother putting on pants. I even had time to update you all. A good friend had her hen party this weekend so I blocked it off to celebrate with her. Now of course, when one thinks of an Irish hen one imagines a lot of drinking. And seeing as this week I had no wildflower walk to prep for I thought I would share another foraged recipe, with alcohol for the weekend that is in it.
Introducing Gorse wine!
And now for a not so regularly scheduled update. This post is, as always a little late. I had promised to have it up the week after our last festival where I gave a workshop about how to clean your house. Mainly using what you have lurking around your kitchen. Anyway! It is here now!
I have always tried to be a green cleaner. Over the years I have tweaked and experimented and I like to share my findings. It scares me how few people are aware that most of their cleaning products carry serious warnings. On the label! It’s always thought to be a journey to sustainability and I still have so much to learn. Even when it comes to the things I am great at. Despite all this experience I have hit a road block. I am currently planning a tiny eco- house. And part of any eco house is a compost toilet. No brainer! Here lies the problem.
How do you clean/ deoderise a compost toilet?
Because this is a bathroom. Here the idea that all bacteria must be killed, it must smell like a herbal essence ad looks, wins out for everyone. Nature and fish be damned, no one wants their bathroom to embarrass them. Right now I am friendly. Nothing that I don’t have in my kitchen and a few essential oils. Right now I have a wet toilet though. I use toilet fizzies.
Toilet fizzies disinfect and deodorise my toilet, as well as tackling that limescale that comes with a wet toilet in a hard water area. The fizzies can be used like a pumice stone by employing the toilet brush before it completely dissolves. No need for heavy cleaners or massive amounts of elbow grease. Win! Honestly, the idea of using a pumice stone makes me nervous, although I have in the past. I’m back with my parents though now, saving for that tiny house and the toilet is not mine to scratch. I’ve never had an issue but there is a first time for everything and it is probably better it is not my ma’s toilet. When dropped in the toilet they fizz. It’s kind of entertaining to watch and the smell is better than what was there before. Baking soda is a deoderiser and whatever scent you are adding should also be killing the baddies in your toilet.
The recipe is simple.
1 part citric acid (half cup)
2 parts baking soda (1 cup)
Essential oil of choice (about 30 drops)
Enough water to form a loose crumb (less than a teaspoon)
The brackets make about 12 tablets when pressed down hard into a silicon ice cube tray.
Some notes on this. Firstly think outside the box on what essential oil to use. My go to are lavender or lemon:
Lavender doesn’t maybe seem like an obvious choice for a bathroom but it is antimicrobial. As is lemon. More importantly I like the smell. I can use the dried herb or zest to boost the scent more naturally and to make them prettier in the jar. FYI, I am that person who gifts these! Bathrooms don’t always have the most storage but these can be left on the cistern. There they will look pretty and gently remind people to drop one in if the bathroom smells like someone just died in there. So go forth. If like me, you hate the scent of eucalyptus/tea tree then what do you like? Is it also good at killing off nasties that may be lurking? Then see does it work in the bathroom.
So the consistency of how much water to add. Too wet and they won’t fizz and you will have a mess. (It will still smell amazing just use immediately). You should add just enough water so that it sticks together when you press it but still looks dry.
Confused yet? It takes a bit of trial and error but you will get there. Honestly I have been making them at least once a month forever and I still get it wrong sometimes. Don’t panic! Press it hard into your trays, leave to cure for 24 hours and voilà. Toilet tabs. In a variety of fun shapes- lemon scented citrus slices anyone? Flowery lavender?
Note the lack of fizzing over here. They were a great batch!
When they are ready pop them out. A silicon tray makes this easier. I have never gotten them out of a sturdy one with out destroying them and making my counter a powdery mess. Think scenes reminiscent of Scarface but lemony fresh. Store them in an airtight jar where moisture won’t be making them fizz prematurely. How you encourage people in your house to use them is up to you. We do frown upon torture though…….
Now to research my dilemma. How do you keep a compost toilet smelling lemony fresh? Feel free to help me out!
My resolution this year is to become more self sufficient. I have procured a second hand greenhouse, decided on which veg I like and researched to within an inch of my laptops existence! I have always enjoyed foraging, and there is something satisfying in being able to be a wild survivalist, even when walking the dog. Eat your heart out Bear Grylls! Obviously this fits in great with being self-sufficient and with everything I do, I will be posting little bits about it here. There isn’t much happening in the garden right now, so let’s talk foraging.
Foraged dining can go two ways, jam or bog water tea. People generally aren’t used to cooking with or eating foraged flavours. It can be super easy working with blackberries or elderflowers, but making various green things appetising is not always easy. Generally I like to make desserts or drinks. Enter, stage right, sloe gin. Raw sloes are horrifically sour. Leave your mouth feeling furry for a week sour. But with a little sugar and a lot of alcohol? Mmmmmmm. Sloe gin is super easy to make and all it really need is time in a quiet corner. And because you are just flavouring alcohol not making it- no explosions! Win!
Gin is having it’s moment in the limelight right now, with artisan makers popping up like daisies all over the country. I learned at a gin workshop (the things I do for my reader
s) that basically gin is just flavoured vodka. I mean it’s a little more complicated than that, it is technically a clear spirit flavoured with natural botanicals. Mostly it’s juniper and you are left with a sharp alcohol that goes great with tonic. If you aren’t a fan of gin, give this a try. It is thick, heavy and sweet. I recommend serving mine over ice, neat with a lime twist. Like a grown- up! It warms you up! It probably still has some vitamin C. If nothing else you can gift it. I first made this as a wedding gift for 2 gin lovers, as it would be aged and ready to drink on their first anniversary. That’s right, guys. It takes a year to be ready. Like most things self suffiency related, you are playing the long game. I made this years batch up in November and look forward to drinking it in the summer. At the earliest. Stick with me it’s worth it!
Why am I talking about sloe gin now when you can’t make it til November? I’m not just behind on my posting. Well I am, but there is also method in my madness. Sometimes anyway. Sloes are found on the blackthorn tree, a common hedgerow shrub. And in late October when you are looking for them in the wet, and the cold, and probably the wind, everything is going to look the same. But in a few weeks, the blackthorns in your area are going to be obvious. Blackthorn flowers before it even has leaves, before anything else.
Thanks to Wildflower Walks for letting me steal the photos!
This dark, thorny, little tree will be covered in creamy, 5 petaled flowers. Note where your blackthorn trees are. Now you know where to look for those sloes come winter. I can’t help that the weather will be terrible but I can minimise your exposure to it. You’re welcome! One more thing. It’s blackthorn for a reason. Watch out for those spikes! Onto the gin!
Sloes should be collected after the first frost. The frost tempers the bitterness and makes them much more palatable. If you can’t wait, pop them in the freezer overnight to imitate this.
My recipe is simple:
- 350g of sloes, pricked/slit
- 175g of sugar (any is fine)
- 700ml of vodka
I use vodka because it leaves a cleaner taste, but you can use gin if you want, just remember that the flavours will come through. Play around with the measurements: if you like a sweeter/sharper taste adjust the sugar. Put all your ingredients together in an airtight container. The sugar won’t all dissolve so you should shake it daily for a few weeks until it does. The longer you leave it to infuse the richer the colour and flavour. I left mine over 6 months. I think it ended being about 8 months, because honestly I kind of forgot about it. Look at that colour change:
I then strained the fruit off. I used a fine mesh strainer but if you want to use a muslin cloth to insure the smoothest drink. The now very boozy berries can be eaten, made into jelly, or you can pour cider over them to fortify and flavour it. Thank you to River Cottage for giving me that idea, and convincing everyone I am actually an alcoholic. Zero Waste wins, guys.
Decant the gin into smaller, sterilised bottles and leave it to ‘mature’ for about a month. I’m not sure what the maturing actually does, but the result was better tasting booze so….
Then drink and be merry!
P.S. As with all foraging please ensure you know what you are collecting. Death is like the worst kind of hangover. Invest in a good book, a class, or grab a more knowledgeable friend.