Flowers in my garden that the bees love the most

Bees need flowers all summer long.  Millions of them. So we need to plant flowers we know will flower in early spring, right through summer and as late in the fall as possible. The wonderful thing about growing flowers for bees is that it seems that the ones they love the most are the ones that love to grow. And weeds, you will find a lot of weeds in this list. And there are a lot more that you will find in your area.  Some of these pictures are taken from stock, so some will be out of season but they are all in my gardens. This is a shot from today though. 

BEG the farmers  and neighbours around you to cut back a wee bit on their mowing along the roadsides when the dandelions and clovers are in flower. Clover is the biggie. Of course you have to be good too and not knock all those lovely flowers off with your own big fat mower.  It may look a bit raggedy for a while but try not to mow your own lawn when it is flowering.  Bees can comfortably fly two miles to forage but have been known to go as far as six miles if something tasty comes on the menu. So let people know that you have bees.

Before I start I must say that I sowed a whole lot of bee balm which is a great spreading plant. But I have never seen one bee on these flowers. Not one. Butterflies love it though. The flower itself is more suited to a humming-bird I think.  But no bees. Weird.

From some plants the bees get nectar and some they gather pollen. So make sure that your flowers are from  heirloom seeds or the pollen will be inert and therefore useless to a bee.  This is important.

Pussy Willow. This is the first flower on my property that the bees find. It is a small tree that is fairly dull for the rest of the year, but mine was heaving with bees in the early spring.

Fruit Trees. As many fruit trees as you can cram into your property.  Fruit feeds everyone.  Now I realise that the picture below is not of a fabulous apple blossom. This is an hydrangea. And no I have never seen a bee on a hydrangea. But it is just so gorgeous and we are having a bit of a flowerfest today so I indulged myself and popped it in anyway. This is from this morning as well.

Forsythia.  Very early spring. Comes out at around the same time as pussy willow so is a good staple. Prune after it flowers and it will flower from the new growth next year.  You can dig up and tear the roots apart quite rudely to propagate. It is very hardy.  This is an early spring shot. You can just see the new meadow beginning to sprout. 

Dandelion. If you have these in your lawn then REJOICE.  They flower early. The bees love them AND you can pick the little leaves and throw them in your salad. My father believes that dandelion tea, mixed with a little honey  and cider vinegar is good for what ails ya’.

Hollyhocks. Another easy care plant. Mine are quite out of control and bright pink (shudder) but they are so popular I am loath to dig them out. As if you can get rid of a hollyhock after it has got itself dug in!

Chives.  Just common all garden type chives. No winter can deter them and they flower madly, also of course great in the kitchen. Divide your plants after they flower every year, the bees will love you for it and so will your salads and summer soups.

Poppies. Throw piles of seed out for poppies.   Sow in the autumn/fall. They will not transplant but you can grow them in pots if you are clever.  Sometimes you will find them in a garden centre. Grab a couple – it will save you time. Once established they love to grow. Remember that they will flower in their second year.  And forever after.

Catnip and Catmint. White or Purple. These are brilliant great big weeds.  Though remember a weed is only a plant in the wrong place and there is a place for this weed. It attracts thousands of bees and when it goes to seed is full of little yellow finches. This is a protected plant around here. You will see it on the left of the first photo. Not photogenic, but prolific!

Lavender. These flowers were the major bee feeding spot for quite some time. My lavender hedge is right along the garden path leading to the kitchen door so you can imagine how gingerly my visitors would walk up that buzzing path. In areas with very cold winters plant early in the summer. If their root systems are well established they should survive. I grow Munstead. 

Salvia. All of them, especially the blue and purple ones  And sage, especially Russian Sage so the bees tell me.

Lilies.  The bees seem to loll about drunkenly in the base of these flowers, quite the picture of decadence.  This is a scented day lily. 

Borage is the top seller for bees. These plants are always heaving with bees. And in high summer when the flowers are over, you can yank them out and the seed it has scattered  immediately takes off and it  will be flowering again before the end of summer. So they start early, end late and are very popular. A very good trait in a bee flower. You will only need to sow these once.  And they fall all over and make a proper mess. You can eat the little leaves in salads if you like. And for the cocktail lovers you can freeze the flowers in little blocks of ice! Who knew!

Thistles. I know you have seen this picture before but I do like it. It seems that as bee keepers we need to ensure that some areas of our properties just go to seed and weeds and all that.  My gardens at this time of the year are so weedy for this very reason. (laughter) . The thistle is a great forage for the bees.  Hopefully you can keep them down the back though. Not even sheep will eat them.

Your vegetable garden zucchini, pumpkins, melons, beans, etc. Your whole vege patch and your bees will have a lovely productive relationship.

Lambs Ears. This plant has the most unappealing flowers on the planet.  So I only shot the leaves. But the bees are endlessly crawling all over the flowers. Plus Lambs Gars grows with such a dense pattern that is locks out weeds which is so helpful to the lazy gardener.

Sunflowers of all kinds. This is a small native sunflower. next spring we will bulk plant huge sunflowers for both the bees and the chickens.  (We are breaking in another two acres this autumn.) Also Our John wants to sow a quarter acre in Buckwheat which evidently makes the best honey. So I will try to find some seed.  I understand that it is not a wheat really.  I need to do some more research on this crop.  

Coneflower. A staple. once again choose a space where they can spread and just go for it. Fantastic native flower and grows like a weed.  All my wild garden visitors love it. Butterflies, birds and bees are all attracted to the coneflower garden. 

Anemone. My favorite flower. It comes late in the season and grows like a weed. Loves to spread, very easy to divide.   Flowering late is wonderful as most everything else has closed up its petals and just died from the heat and dry. The Anemone is a tough little number.  As you can see it is not quite flowering here yet. But soon it will be humming.

So that is most of the flowers I have for bees. Have fun. Now it is time for me to get back outside and get on with the fencing.  We are building the internal fences in the new meadow.  Actually this is my job as it is much lighter work that the others.   But I am not very good with wire. Or straight lines for that matter. Though it looks like it might be a little cooler day today.

We will visit Queenie tomorrow.  And make pesto.  I will leave you with my lovely anemone.


Farmers Market and Shocking Sheep.

I will let these images speak for themselves. These pictures were taken at the Evanston Farmers Market. The vegetables were from a stall called Henry’s Farm.  If you have a farmers market close by you that has food like this then you are SO LUCKY.


Well I was working away and I could hear this thumping  and bashing coming from the yards out by the barn. Went to investigate and there he was.  The Murphy (you will remember that we call the sheep being raised for meat The Murphys.) Jumping up and down on one of Our Johns old cars.   Just for fun!  What shocking behaviour!

Pop in tomorrow. I am going to have a wee think about the flowers you need to plant before you get your bees.  And we need to catch up with Queenie Wineti. She is growing. Such a sweet calf.  Now I have got to go out there and SHIFT that Murphy.  He is in Daisy’s ‘Flerd’.  I cannot believe she is letting him behave like that.


Hi Honey I’m Home.

Well, we looked inside all the hives and there has not been a huge escalation in much of anything.  I would say things are just puttering along slowly. Much slower this year due to those two hives swarming  at the beginning of the month and all that rain in the spring.   A couple of the hives will barely make enough honey for the winter, so these two I am going to start feeding with sugar water to help them along – we will not be taking honey from them anyway.  I do not want to eat honey made from sugar so i only feed non producing hives at this time of year. We want each hive to have two big heavy supers full of honey for the winter. There is often a lull in flowers during high summer.  The Blog bees have almost filled their two supers. When their top super in about 80 percent full I may put a little honey super on.  But not yet. They have to get all their own honey in yet.

However I have two hives with honey supers on and I was able to cadge one frame of honey off one of them.  The scent from this tray is heavenly.  I brushed the few stray bees off it.   Hurried it inside while it was still hot. Heated a knife. Gently cut the caps off the honey and let gravity do the rest.

Initially the honey and wax are strained through a sieve.  I was left with  quite a bit of wax this time. I will render the wax, store it and make candles in the winter.  Then I strain the honey through a brand new silk stocking (I know that is a terrible waste of a good stocking but it is sacrificed to a good cause). This is the result.

Lovely color for so early in the season.  Also you will see that the honey is a little cloudy.  This is raw organic honey.  It has not been heated or treated and it is ALL honey. So sometimes it is a bit cloudy.  The flower origins of the pollen/nectar can result in a more opaque honey too.  We have so many flowers around here it would be hard to tell which combination has  given us this honey.  It tastes just divine.

The plundered frame is out leaning on  the hive and soon the bees will begin to rob the rest of their honey back.   When they are finished I will store the cleaned frame ready to swap back in next time I collect some honey.  It has what is called drawn comb on it,  (I dripped the honey out of the comb) which saves the bees a lot of supplies and energy, so it will fill up faster. At the end of the season I remove the whole honey super and they will all retreat back into their larger frames and get ready for winter.

When the frame is clean I will show it to you. It looks amazing.

And look Mary’s Cat is learning to share!

So sweet.

I want to show you a few of the farmers market shots tomorrow. So I will get those sorted. They will make you feel hungry for good food!  Whats for dinner.. any suggestions?

I had tomato halves fried in butter and topped with pepper and basil for breakfast. YUM


Utopian to Utilitarian in the city

I am back. In my cool study. No one is any worse for wear due to my absence. Though Daisy set up such a racket of bellowing when I appeared that I had to go out and visit. She then commenced to try to get her tongue INTO my drink as I patted her bony head.   Which was not a pretty sight. Too young to drink though. I will show you a few pictures of the City then I must get out and get busy.

So I left the green country to take the train up to the city in a massive storm. Mercifully the train was fast, the wet tracks hissing as we travelled.   Wooshed us through the storm and spat us out the other side with very little drama.  Unlike this motorcyclist, who was riding past the train,  I was safe and dry as I travelled.  And so to Chicago. This is one of the ceiling skylights in beautiful Union Station. Then into the city.  I love Chicago.   My brain can download, save, sort its files and reboot in the anonymity of the big city.  The Loop had been washed clean by a torrential downpour earlier that day, so it was clean, sweet,  steaming and in order.

I have a dreadful affliction when it come to associating words with songs. And then the songs get stuck in my head.  Worse i even catching myself humming them as i work. After taking this shot I struggled with that old 70’s disco song – Car Wash.  So I had Rose Royce shrieking it into  my subconscious soundtrack for the day. 

Then as I rounded a corner.  Lost again of course.   I have NO sense of direction.There was a message from home!  Ah, Cheers!

Beautiful.  The design of these buildings by these long dead architects with such vision is still  simply beautiful. 

And then onto the Metra to go to beautiful Evanston to visit with my dear friends and see their farmers market (tomorrow I will show it to you) but Nothing could have prepared me for the Metra. It is raw, industrial, deeply depressing and NEVER go on this epitome of No Frills without an incredibly interesting book or a smart intelligent friend.  Though incredibly as we were packed into our silent rows, even after shooting enduring grandeur in the streets of The Loop, the rawness and toughness of the Metra train car was strangely comforting.  Of course my miserable subconscious soundtrack switched to Pink Floyd at this point with “We don’t need your education,  We don’t need your forced control”. Over and over and over again) Awful.   So maybe a hip flask would be in order for the Metra as well. And why is it that the subconscious soundtrack is always stuffed with songs you never ever  wanted to hear AGAIN!?

And now I am off to don my hat and veil, make like a nun and see to the bees.

Welcome to all the new readers who joined in while I was away.  I will make sure we get plenty of good bee pictures for you.  Maybe even HONEY!  The city was great.  And now I am  back to country living, with a vengeance, picking all my overgrown cucumbers and zuchinni, oops.   Oh and we now have tons of basil so I will make pesto later in the week.




Rude Railway Men and Roasted Chickens in the Heat

In the blog world there are no days.  Time has lost meaning as I write. People read my words and navigate their way around my site while I sleep. When the flag counter says yesterday the date is today.  I file as people are rising from their beds and I rest in yesterdays night planning tomorrows morning.   It really is quite an extraordinary thing.  When my mother died, she sent letters in envelopes with stamps and had her milk delivered to the gate in glass bottles.  She died when I was a young woman but she could never in a million years imagine that her daughter would be able to show pictures and have her words read simultaneously in countries that she had never even hard of.

I can file work here at noon and within seconds Senior Son can be reading it on an IPad – very early in his morning waiting for his car to warm up before he trundles off to work in New Zealand. And at the exact same time Beautiful Daughter is checking it out on her phone, in the early evening light right there in the center of  London. Eldest son reads it while he eats his lunch on top of a mountain in yet another country. Soon I am going to get a dozen clocks and put them on my wall with the name of a city under them just like they have on the big hotels, to anchor me as I slide further and further into the blurry fuzzy timeless space of the internet groggy bloggy world.

Well, I wrote that little piece at 5.30 this morning, I was feeling contemplative and a little sleep deprived.  As usual it was already hot and humid. 78F/25C and 84% humidity at 5.30 am. Except for that one rainy day, it has reached a hundred almost every day for AGES.    But,”what do you expect,”  Our John says,” it IS summer!”

Anyway this morning I went out to the corn field as I usually do to chop down a ute load of corn stalks for the farm family. I took the white truck.  Wearing whatever I was wearing, which was one small step up from a nightie.  It is usually quite deserted out there. I became a little apprehensive as we drove up, when I saw a Great Big Locomotive idling on the railway lines that run through the field.  About 20 feet from where I was to work.  Its motor was running and ticking.   I mean I was wearing the afore mentioned short skirt, the really short one (well It was HOT and I never wear it in public!) But there is lots of bending to chop and throw and lift  and .. well you know what I am getting at.  I don’t want to appear uncouth.  TonTon and I stood and stared at the train engine for a wee bit to check for inhabitants  there was no-one around and we saw no movement.  It was just parked or moored or whatever you call a locomotive left to sit. They do that sometimes in the season.

We were reassured. So I began to work.  Started chopping. At one point the engine let off steam with such a loud woosh that TonTon took off through the field and leapt straight back into the truck through the open passenger window. Coward. I must teach him to ride on the deck.  So I worked and bent over and  hauled and worked and dragged and sweated.  All alone out there in the field. Very hot by then and sometimes I would lift the hem of  my singlet  to wipe the glow off my face, watching the locomotive occasionally for signs of movement.  No movement.  I was working with my back to the train and once I heard voices and turned but then realised that it was just the train radio talking to itself.

I kind of day-dreamt to myself that any minute now a whole stream of clean lean handsome railway workers would stream out with cold drinks and and an umbrella to protect my complexion,  take the machete from my hand all courteous and gallant.  They  would fill the truck up in seconds,  then see me off down the road with a wave and maybe a rousing chorus from Oklahoma or something.  But no. It was hot. I was alone.  So I chopped and hauled and chopped and hauled. Gradually getting filthier and filthier.  The bed of the truck getting fuller and fuller.  Finally I  threw my machete on top of the last load and wiped my face on my T-Shirt one more time  ( thinking when would I remember to bring a towel and some water) turned to get in and there at the window of the locomotive was a MAN WATCHING ME!.  With a railways cap on his head!  I gasped.  (as you would) Where had he come from? Is there a downstairs or something in those engines?  I watched him back for a minute.  We were close enough for him to see me raise my eyebrow at him, (well really) which made him turn and look out the OTHER window so he could see me drive off.  Which I did. I tried to do a squealy when I hit the road but I have never been any  good at those so my exit was just a bit wobbly and dusty, not quite as indignant as I had hoped.  WELL of all the cheek. How Rude!  I should write a letter. That nasty little man had been WATCHING me work.  I hate people watching me work especially when.. well ..(splutter splutter) .. especially this morning.! Can you imagine?!  Chivalry is DEAD!

Anyway, just quickly to get everyone up to date. and our minds off that dull little man. Farm stuff. . .

Daisy, The miserable Hairy McLairy , and the two Murphys care a Flerd (flock and herd).  I am considering sheep therapy for Hairy, he is always miserable. I have never seen a smile on that sheep’s face.  But his ewes have multiple births so we cannot just let him run with the girls willy nilly (willy being the operative word,  I am not even sure I know what nilly means).  I need to plan that kind of thing.

Murphys.  You will remember that any lamb we raise for the freezer is called a Murphy. Unfortunately these Murphys are eternally cheerful and optimistic sheep which might make it difficult to eat them, but maybe not.  They have taken to sleeping in the root cellar in the heat of the day. I wish we could get Hairy down there. I am sure he would be happier in a cool dark concrete cell under the ground!  In fact it is probably the perfect place for him. He is such a miserable sheep.

Mama and Mia are together in the salad bar field.  I have planted everything in there, all the left over seed goes in there. Squash,  lettuce, borage, lemon balm,  onions, chives,  chicory and mint.  Poor mama is so hot.   That little field has a lot of shade too but she is really not doing well with the heat.  In that big wooly coat, that she has to keep because she will need it in the winter.

Queenie and The Baby Bobby are out in the 2 acre meadow, quite lost out there in the long dry grass.  But doing nicely.

So there you are.. everyone where they should be. Bees still humming along. I am looking forward to what we find on Sunday.   And I am hoping that I have some good shots of The Loop for you for next week.  Back soon. Have fun. c

Nothing much happening out here in the Boonies Today

Damn. Thought it might have rained. Nothing much happening out here in the Boonies today.  That is how we like it. 
Thank you for dropping in. I am getting more and more readers every day and I love that you are all popping in each day.    My intention is to write daily for one whole year.  Except on the days that I don’t.  And then I won’t. But mostly I will write and load images for you every day.  And I am loving this Blogg thing.  It sharpens the mind. You readers are my motor.  Driving me along.  Just for the record NZ and US are neck and neck for the top spot of the most readers.  With UK, Turkey and Aussie galloping up behind in that order.  I am VERY impressed.  Oops, Canada though is winning at the wrong end. After a year we can create a forum  and you can help me decide what we do next.
I will be in tomorrow but Friday and Saturday (Sat and Sun in NZ)  I am jumping on the train and taking the cameras to Chicago.  ( I love trains. You get to see the backyards of a country on a train).   I know, just as I discuss writing every day I take a few days OFF! Fickle thy name is woman.  I will wander the dirty streets a bit and do some farmers markets.  If all goes well I will be bringing back  images from the Big City ( I love the city)  and hopefully a few tasty ideas from the markets.
 But before I leave, you and I will tour the whole block and make sure everyone is settled in and ready for Our John to take over for a few days.  And on Sunday after my city sojourn, I will don my bee hat and give The Silent One the camera and we will have a look inside those hives.  I might even steal a frame or two of honey if there is any there yet.
Now in this hot weather don’t forget to get a bottle of cider vinegar, put in a clove of garlic,  and a chilli.  Pour a tiny slug in all the water containers every day until it is gone.  Especially chickens, sheep and cows.  It helps move parasites off the stomach walls. When Daisy sees me coming with the cider vinegar bottle she rushes over and tries to drink it OUT of the BOTTLE!  I could do with a drop as well!!.
Have fun. See you tomorrow

Ignore Everything and Make Bread

White Cat in the tree house, yesterday evening.

I am ignoring Mary’s Cat who is sleeping in one of the Silent Ones caps looking incredibly cute. And I am not listening to Mama who is crying because I am trying to wean her lambs AGAIN. I am trying not to think about the fact that I found THE RAM  (Hairy MacLairy) in the barn with Mama this morning! Dirty Rotton Scoundrel. (I have noted the date on my Animal calendar just in case something naughty occurred in the night.. Better not have!.)  She didn’t seem to care when I chucked him out.

Mama sternly peering out, hoping for a glimpse of her ungrateful children. 

I am blocking out the sounds of a yellow top dressing (aerial spraying) plane that is buzzing all over the neighbours fields (fungicide) and trying not to worry about this new threat to my bees.

I have cut a truck-full of sweetcorn stalks. Distributed it amongst my stock. Queenie is being so sweet this morning.  I have watered the new seedlings in the  garden and picked MORE cucumbers. Daisy is beginning to look like a cucumber she eats so many! Now we are going to make Bread.

No Recipe Bread. I know that sounds weird but it does work.  I make bread like this about twice a week.  When you read about No Recipe Bread you will read words like pinches, dollops, handfuls, shakes.. stuff like that. You’ll work it out.

OK, in your small size pot/saucepan, half fill with milk, scald. (heat to almost boiling).  Add a good dollop of honey and a few pinches of salt. Stir.  Add cold water almost filling the pot. COOL to hand warm. Add 2 sachets or 2 tablespoons of yeast.  Give one  cursory stir and leave to work where it is warm.

In your biggest kitchen bowl. Pour in about 4 or 5 cups of organic unbleached white flour. (I just tip in a little over a third of a 5lb/2kg bag of flour) , then about 1 cup of wholemeal flour.  Shake in a handful each of  Flax seeds and flax flour, and wheat germ. Depending on how wholemealy, (Yes I know that is not a word but I bet you know what I MEAN!) you want your bread.  Basically none of these measurements matter as long as you err on the side of less flour.  This will make sense in a minute.  Mix all your dry ingredients, make a well in the center.

When your yeast has risen and looks nice and bubbly, stir and pour into the well in the flour, it should look like too much fluid.  Stir from the well until you have mixed in all the flour, sometimes it looks like a batter. Then using your sieve sprinkle more flour in and stir and repeat and repeat until you have a lovely ball of dough.  At some point you will have ditched the spoon and you will be using your hands, and then with the dough still  IN the bowl – knead and turn, knead and turn for about 10 minutes or whenever your arms get tired.  Keep your hands floury.  Your dough is good when it starts pushing back up after each knead.  Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl and cover (I usually just tie a clean supermarket bag over it) , then place in a warm spot to RISE and double its size.  At least an hour. 

Punch down.  Divide into portions, place in greased tins, rise again until it looks right  and cook on High.   I make small loaves and these take 19 minutes. A bigger loaf I leave in for about 25 minutes. Knock on your bread –  if it sounds hollow it is cooked.  Turn bread out onto rack.  Cool. 

I have made bread using every recipe know to man and my bread was marginal at the best of times until I threw away the measuring cup and started looking at what I was doing.  Getting in tune with the bread! (laughter). Seriously it is much more successful for me to start with a wet mixture that you add flour to,  than a dry dough that you are trying to add water to.

You can add either: Rosemary, lavender, nuts, or raisins, olives,  seeds or  Cheese (roll the cheese in)  and onions. Whatever takes your fancy.   I usually wait until after I have risen the bread the first time before adding the extras. 

Tomorrow we will take one of these small  loaves  and make a stuffing for a chicken I will be cooking  for dinner. No.  Not one of my own chickens.   I am not eating one of those tough old birds.  I have not quite got there yet with my new age old fashioned farming!!


That Bad Thing

Munch, munch. Morning miss c.

Who dat?

“Oh…um..  (gulp)                                                                                                                                 Which Thing are you?  Thing One or Thing Two.                                                                     Are you the nice Thing?”   (hopefully)

“I’m new. I’m the orphan.                                                                                                              Miss c said be nice to little kitty.” (rising terror)

“You’re not going to take my breakfast are you? Thing.. Um..” (stricken, panic beginning)     Thing One? or Wha..? Help!”

“AAAHHH. You’re the mean Thing!  Oh no.! Don’t touch my stuff!                                             Mine! Mine!”   (baby hiss, baby roar, baby cat expletives,  etc)” I showed that Thing. (munch  fast)  I Learned him.  Bad Thing. Bad, Bad Thing. I am just a wee kitty. (munch much faster)  An orphan! I hate that thing. (mumble mumble mouth full) That was the Mean Thing Two.  White cat told me about that Mean Thing Two.” (munch much much faster until popular processed cat food treat all  gone).

“I am going to tell on that Thing….”


Salsa in Spite of the Hungry Chicken

Anger is a brief madness”    Horace

The chickens have been banished to the hen house for the duration (they have a great big run and it is cool in there) because it was discovered that they have discovered the Tomato Garden.  Some naughty chooks have been feasting on big fat  tomatoes.   Very Wayward behaviour.  I think we have already established that these chickens are NOT ALWAYS NICE.

So they were not let out yesterday at lunchtime and retaliated by only laying 5 eggs. Though I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt with the eggs because yesterday we were over 100F/38C again and that was the 7th day in a row. The humidity is sitting at around 80 percent + all day and night. And the thunder storms are lighting the skies every night but NOT A drop of rain for me.  Over a month with no rain now. But there you are. I wanted to have a lifestyle with no roof.

Our John  was cross as two sticks when he saw the damage to his crop. ( Is anyone else  interested in the world-wide tendency for tomatoes to be a MANS crop?) Anyway every year he carefully times the planting of sweet white onions, cilantro and jalapeno so that they all start to ripen together then he can make his fresh SALSA every day.


Peeled and chopped Tomatoes, Cilantro, Squeeze of Lime, White Onions finely diced, Jalapeno deseeded and finely chopped, crushed garlic clove,  salt and pepper

You and I will have to decide how much of what. I have gleaned the above ingredients with careful spying. I will go out and pick it all shortly and then we can have a go at making it.

Oh, as I was writing it slowly got darker and darker and now after all my complaining about no rain we are overcome by quite a powerful little storm.  Fingers crossed for precipitation. So here it is 8.30 am,  quite dark with massive thunder and lightening and very strong winds. The screen door swung open in the wind and TonTon took this as an invitation to come in, and who should stumble in on his heels but Mary’s Cat, looking quite surprised to have discovered ‘inside.’  Hey, it has started to rain now. Excellent.  Anyway kittens are not allowed in the house until they are 6 months old and even then only for the occasional supervised visit so Mary’s Cat has been placed back out in the lovely dry cats corner  under the hammock where the others are sheltering on their bright red blankie. She is fine!

Rain through my study window. So cool how it catches in the screen outside the glass. 

Well,  I cannot go and pick all our ingredients now,  so lets look at making CROSTINI to go with the Salsa.  You saw a picture of crostini on an earlier page. If I could work out this link thing I could show you, lots to learn.

Crostini can be made like a ciabatta, just smaller grilled toasts. But I make it in the oven so that we can store it in a jar and eat it for days like crackers.  I have been making it like this for so many years that have NO idea who taught me.

If you see some tasty long french sticks at the supermarket grab them and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil in a glass bottle.. no cheap stuff.  Let the bread sit for a day or so.  We only make this crostini out of stale bread.

Turn oven on to a medium heat.

Slice your french sticks about 1/4 inch thick. Or at least slice them all the same width so they cook evenly. I pour oil into a big plate and very quickly dip the bread  on one side, then I pile the little crostini up so a wet side is sat above a dry side, osmosis  and gravity does the rest.  You may choose to brush the oil on.  Spread the little breads out on baking sheets.

Place in the oven and TURN THE TEMP DOWN TO LOW.  Turn over when one side is golden. They will take a good 30 minutes or so to bake until crunchy. Raise the temp a little if they are not browning.  Cool on paper towels.  You may choose to shake a little salt on them when they are still hot.  Just a little.  I have no problems with  a little added salt from my kitchen. 

Well, I am going out into the rain to  gather the ingredients for Salsa and talk Our John into making some for lunch.   I will be watching. Domestic espionage!  Still dark and stormy.  I love thunder and lightening.  And Rain.


Sustainable in the city, while making cream cheese.

My beautiful daughter who lives and works in London called me the other day. She wanted to remind me very gently that not everyone who wants to live a sustainable life lives on a farm.  Could I maybe write something that  she and her friends would find applicable to their lives too. And she is absolutely right. Even though I would like you all to rush out and buy an old house with a barn and a couple of acres and get to it. Most of you just cannot do that.  I cannot believe MY luck having an old house, a barn and a few acres.  So I am thinking of you guys in your apartments, sometimes without even a doorstep to put a pot of rosemary on. Oh no that is so sad!

As I am thinking( out loud) I am making yoghurt.  So excuse any mistakes today, i am multi tasking. But sustainable.  I think it comes down to how my children and I used to live when we were young. We worked hard and our life was more subsistence that sustainable. But I think there is one big similarity. Sustainable lifestyles do not waste anything. Subsistence lifestyles cannot afford to waste anything.

So  sustainable really is available to everyone.  We all need to think about making sure we can use the majority of what we bring  into our homes and properties.  That includes the packaging.  I buy a laundry powder that comes in a big bucket because the bucket can be re-used.  Old tins for nails and flowers. Yes, yes we all know about recycling.  I won’t lecture.  Mostly I think we need to somehow find local growers and eat that fresh food.  And arrange our lives so that we have time to cook and eat it.

If you don’t have a garden which is growing food for you. Go to the markets and see what is fresh and cook that, instead of taking a list and buying imported out of season foods.  Throw the hamster out of its cage and put a chook in there instead, she will eat all your food scraps and give you an egg each day.   Actually a lot of those little London gardens are a perfect size for a couple of hens when you think about it. You can have chickens up in Chicago but not roosters which seems fair.  Or have a worm farm in the carpark of your building to gobble up all the paper packaging.  Hang your knickers to dry on the shower rail instead of using the dryer – that always pleases the flat mates!!  Wear gumboots when you go shopping.! Hitch your pants up with baling twine!. Cut the sleeves out of your winter Tshirts for the summer and no hemming! Live for a day as though you are your grandfather. Only buy stuff grown or made in the country you live in! (Maybe that one is a bit difficult.)

Mostly slow down. Some things take a few days to make, like yoghurt. Let yourself take a break and get back to what is important to you. Decide what is important to you.

Now here is something you all can make.. it is very slow, very good for you and it takes two days to make so plan ahead. Lovely creamy cheese.

Making cream cheese is actually pretty easy to do in any kitchen. You can even make it with the pasteurised organic whole milk you buy at the supermarket. Try not to buy anything that says Ultra Pasteurised though.

Today I am making the first step which is the yoghurt.  We will be eating our creamy yoghurt cheese tomorrow. This is why I do not have a photo of that yet, I will do that tomorrow. If all goes well. because sometimes it doesn’t.

Heat 4 cups of milk  to 185F /85C (almost boiling) then cool to 115F/46C (warm).  Cool it properly, any hotter than 115F will kill the culture, so sometimes it is a good idea to have a thermometer handy. I pour my mixture into a jug, fill the pot with ice and cool it that way. I know, I know, I am not supposed to be impatient.

Now,  stir in 1/4 cup of fresh organic, plain Greek yoghurt (I use Danon). Mix a little of the warm milk with the yoghurt then pour back in and stir for one minute until thoroughly mixed in. Pour into  very clean glass jars with lids. Place the jars into a chilli bin (cooler)  with hot water in the bottom  and close the lid.  OR on a day like today (very hot again), wrap the jar in a little blankie and stand somewhere warm out of the sun.  OR if you have a yoghurt maker, then do what it says to do. 

After about 6 hours it should be thickened, after about 12 hours it will be set and a little tart.

The next step will turn your yoghurt into a very tasty creamy cheese dip or spread. Now, empty your jar of  yoghurt into a bowl and stir in 1 tsp of salt.

Line a colander with muslin, or an old pillow case, or a big piece of very clean very white very thin fabric and pour your mixture in.  Careful, pour slowly.  Gather the fabric up making a bag for your mixture, tie it at the top  and secure it above something so it can drain into a bowl.  After most of the fluid is through I drain overnight in the fridge.  The left over fluid is whey which is loaded with protein.  Mary’s Cat will have that.   Tomorrow -scrape the cheese from the fabric and EAT! You can store it in a container in the fridge for a few days as well if you like. 

I add pepper, a little chili, finely chopped onions, or spring onions, maybe salami and onions. My mother would have put in chopped apricots and walnuts and sometimes dates I think.  Eat with crostini or crackers or lovely fresh slices of cucumber.  It is also a great top layer for your quiche, or middle layer in the lasagne.

Remind me to give you the lasagne recipe.

Now that my yoghurt is working I will go back out and slowly check on the fencer.  He prefers to work by himself.. Well he does!!