20.07

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1. Sleepy cuddles with Ottilie first thing in the morning, when she wanders into our room at sunrise and climbs into our bed. She often falls back asleep tucked under my arm just like she used to when she was a baby, and it melts my heart.

2. When the ice lolly I eat each evening after dinner as ritual does its job and gets rid of my heartburn. Magic, and it tastes a whole lot better than Gaviscon too!

3. Homegrown beetroots! I’ve never been the biggest fan of beetroot, having only ever tried the limp, vinegary, pre-cooked supermarket variety, but freshly picked and then roasted in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and honey? They’re incredible! I’ve just sown a whole new tray of seeds to see us into the autumn months…

4. Endless discussions about baby names with Jason. It’s making me so, so excited to meet this little one in my tummy and find out whether it’s a boy or a girl!

5. This glorious, endlessly hot summer we’re having. I’m enjoying every minute of it!

6. Seeing baby cucumbers forming on the plants in my greenhouse. I’m beyond excited to taste the very first one!

7. Having my sister come down and stay with us this weekend just gone, and seeing how much Ottilie outright adores her! ‘Auntie Chessa’ is her new best friend, don’t you know <3

8. Working outside in the garden with Jason in the evenings. He’s usually (read: always) there under  orders, creating new beds for me or helping water whilst I plant out or weed or sow seeds, but it’s just so lovely having some quality time together outside in the balmy evening air. I love it so, so much!

9. The sweet, orangey-red apricots I’ve been buying from the farm shop non-stop, that are so juicy and delicious Ottilie’s been demanding them one right after another!

10. And finally, writing this blog post sat up in bed, with an empty plate just next to me that once was filled with a stack of toast and homemade jam, and the sunlight streaming through the curtains. Bliss.

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17.07

Cider-with-Rosie-Vegetable-Patch-July-9

And all of a sudden, the vegetable patch is bearing fruit!

Well, it’s bearing vegetables, and that’s good enough for me right now. In fact, I don’t think I’ve bought a single vegetable from the supermarket in a good month now! We’ve had three kilos of Charlotte potatoes from just six plants (I forgot to weigh the harvest from the first row!), an endless supply of courgettes, the first of the runner beans and our sweet, earthy beetroots (my new favourite crop to grow, they’re delicious!), a slow but steady trickle of sugar snap peas, and more than a few ample handfuls crisp, peppery radishes.

And the lettuces have finally taken off! I think Jason and I might actually start turning green and leafy any day now, because we’ve been eating lettuce every day for weeks and still have masses of plants growing down in the vegetable beds. You won’t catch me complaining though, especially since it took them a while to get going!

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The radicchio plants that were just tiny seedlings in my last garden diary post are now planted out and thriving, and will turn deep red and deliciously bitter once the weather turns cold later this year. They’re destined to be turned into winter salads, perhaps with honey and balsamic-roasted beetroots   and some walnuts from the tree growing just down the lane from our house…

Meanwhile in the brassica bed, I’m just days away from taking a knife to my prize Savoy cabbage! It’s now got a lovely firm heart and looks just perfect with not a bit of pest damage to it, which is truly a miracle what with an army of cabbage white butterflies now on the march! Thank goodness for Enviromesh, is all I can say. And its bedfellows, the ‘Beaumont’ broccoli plants, are  F I N A L L Y forming lovely green heads, the first of which will be ready by the end of the month, I hope.

Who knew it was possible to get so very excited over cabbage and broccoli, hey?! But I’ve been tending to these brassicas since February you see, and so the anticipation has grown and grown over the last six months!
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Now that the summer vegetable plants are all away and thriving, I’m turning my attention to planning, sowing, and growing winter vegetables that will take us through the colder months. I’m challenging myself to grow enough food that we’ve something to harvest each month right through to next spring, so we’ll see how I get on!

The butternut squash plants that went in immediately following the First Early potatoes have begun to romp away, and though one is looking decidedly healthier than the other, if I get a couple of decent squashes from them to store for winter I’ll be chuffed to bits!

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Purple sprouting broccoli above, and below a main crop ‘Sarpo Mira’ potato below that decided to pop out of the soil a few weeks early plus the first ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ borlotti beans that I’m letting dry on the plants ready for winter soups and stews! Yum!

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But as ever at this time of year, there’s still lots to sow! So if you’re keen to get outside and grow some food, there’s a plethora of seeds you can be sowing during the next few weeks to provide harvests in the months to come.

Here’s what’s on my own ‘to-sow’ list from now until the end of August…

- Pak choi.

- Spring cabbages: a variety called ‘Jewel’, for overwintering and enjoying early next year.

- Winter lettuces and leaves: ‘Winter Density’ lettuce (a ‘gem’ type that copes with frost and can last through winter!), Mizuna and mustard leaves, and wild rocket.

- Spinach: ‘Medania’ is supposed to be an amazing variety for both cooking and salads that gets sweeter in cold, frosty weather!

- Beetroot: ‘Chioggia’ + ‘Boltardy’ varieties both can be sown up until the end of July, for picking in October. I’ve read that they can store in a cool, well-ventilated place for a couple of months too so we could have enough to last until Christmas!

- Turnips: I’ve never even eaten turnips before I don’t think but they’re supposed to be delicious, so I’m planning on sowing a tray and giving them a go!

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I’ve been busy in the garden this month, not just harvesting, planting, and watering, but creating new growing space too! Jason’s built two new beds in the last few weeks, one for strawberries (which I’ll be netting against toddlers and birds next year!!) and the other that’s currently got swede and kale in, but next spring I plan on using for peas! With a couple of barrowloads of well-rotted horse manure in from the yard plus a few bags of compost, they’re away and earning their keep already!

On the bed-building agenda for the rest of the summer (read: before this growing bump of mine gets so ginormous I can’t do much any more…) are a couple of long beds for the raspberry canes I just ordered from Marshall’s that arrive for planting in November, and two smaller, square beds for next year’s squashes and carrots.

Maybe one day I’ll get round to bark-chipping all the pathways around the beds…

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Oh, and I can’t round off this post without a quick trip to the greenhouse! Still just as jungle-like, but beginning to offer up a promise of fruit to come…

The tomatoes have been forming a little patchily thanks to my slightly shoddy watering schedule, but the cucumber vines are covered in baby fruits which makes me so excited! The ‘Crystal Lemon’ variety are my most-eagerly anticipated, with promise of rounded cucumbers that have a lemony tang.

It took me two rounds of failed seedlings to get these babies on their way, so the very first taste of homegrown cucumber this year will taste like pure determination I’m sure!

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On final recommendation before I go, for anyone looking ahead to next year already (I know I am!) and planning what to grow- James Wong’s wonderful book ‘Grow for Flavour‘!

Jason bought it for me a couple of weeks ago on a whim, and it’s absolutely brilliant. It breaks vegetables and fruits down into categories, explaining about the varying flavour and nutritional characteristics of different varieties, and how to get improved flavour from the crops you grow. It’s been the most fascinating read, and I’ve taken so much away from it in terms of what I want to grow myself next year!

It would be a brilliant read for anyone looking to get started with a veg patch, allotment or just some container gardening next year, alongside Hollie Newton’s ‘How to Grow‘ which I always recommend to beginner veg-growers.

~ ~ ~

What’s growing for you, this month? And is anyone else dealing with an army of aphids and cabbage white caterpillars trying to eat your brassicas down to stumps before they even get going?!

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Posted in GARDENING, KITCHEN GARDEN

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09.07

Cider-with-Rosie-zero-waste-9

There’s been a huge upswing in the amount of press that the ‘Zero Waste’ movement and issues around single use plastics receive in the past year, and it’s a conversation that we definitely should be having. With collective consciousness growing about the negative impact our throwaway culture has upon the environment, it seems as though more and more people, myself included, are committing to making changes to their lifestyle in order to reduce the amount of waste we produce. As I mentioned in my last post, my New Year’s resolution back at the start of 2018 was to reduce as much as possible the amount of waste we produce as a family, and that started on the 31st December 2017 when I placed a big order for some cloth nappies! And it’s been a good start!

There’s currently a challenge doing the rounds on social media called #PlasticFreeJuly, encouraging us all to take a look at the amount of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste we produce and challenging us to cut back in any way we can. And I’m here for it! So I thought today, in honour of the Plastic Free July challenge, I’d share a small round up of the successful ways in which I’ve made changes this year that have reduced the amount of landfill waste coming from our house! We’re by no means perfect- I cringe every day at the large plastic tubs our dogs’ Natural Instinct food comes in (we go through two every 2-3 days!!) and in the toddler/nappy bag juggle I often forget my reusable shopping bags when nipping into the supermarket, but I’m trying. We’re all trying. And that’s all anyone can ask for!

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~ ~ ~

1. Switch to biodegradable or cloth nappies, and biodegradable nappy sacks.

I’ve already done a full blog post all about our cloth nappy use, and a few more months down the line they’re still working really well for us! It makes me feel so proud that it’s had such a major, positive impact in cutting down our waste, and it feels good knowing we’re all set with nappies ready for baby number two as well! The only change we’ve made is that we quite often now use biodegradable nappies too, mainly so that I don’t have to rush to get all our cloth ones washed and dried in such a hurry all the time but sometimes also for convience when out and about. We had also gone back to using Pampers overnight as I found that cloth just couldn’t go right through the night without leaking as Ottie got older, but now I’ve discovered how brilliant and reliable biodegradable are, I’m phasing them back out. I’ve tried two brands, Naty and Kit & Kin, and the latter are by far my favourite! But both have great absorbency, take Ottie right through the night with no leaking, and are a really great choice if cloth isn’t convenient.

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2. Buy in bulk, and opt for loose produce over pre-wrapped.

You can’t even imagine my joy when I discovered the bulk section at my local farm shop earlier this year! With a really decent range of bulk dry goods like oats, rice, grains, dried herbs, and spices, it makes it so much easier to avoid constantly buying plastic, non-recyclable packets of every day staples. They even have little paper bags for measuring your produce out into, which I just chuck into the compost bin when I’m done with them. Perfect!

Since most pre-packaged fruits and vegetables are in non-recyclable film packaging I’ve also been trying to buy loose as much as possible, but I find the choice of what’s actually available unwrapped in the supermarket so limited. Again, our local farm shop is the best option (Secrett’s in Milford, if anyone’s in the Surrey Hills area!), but though the quality of most things is fantastic and I love the huge range of upwrapped produce they have, I do find it significantly more expensive than the supermarket and I can’t get an entire food shop there like I can in say Waitrose or Sainsbury’s. It’s tricky, so I just do what I can, when I can.

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3. Try homemade bread!

And see my previous post for a how-to! ;)  Instead of buying a loaf that’s often pumped full of preservatives and whatever else and then wrapped in plastic, I’ve been DIYing and loving it. The only ‘wasteful’ part are the sachets of yeast, but I just found that the supermarket sell dried yeast in little fully recyclable tins instead of individual sachets. Win win!

4. Read packaging labels well- children’s snack food is the worst!

It drives me bonkers that heading down the children’s snack food aisle, most things come wrapped in several layers of film plastic that’ll be headed straight for landfill once used! I never even noticed until this year that so many of the packets I would buy without thinking in the shops are made from non-recyclable packaging. I do still buy some of the bits that Ottie likes, but try to keep it to a bare minimum and make swaps wherever possible. The farm shop does bulk raisins that cost way less than picking up plastic-wrapped multipacks in the supermarket, and I’m trying to find a better alternative to the little packets of popcorn she likes as snacks. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how unavoidable plastic is in the supermarket, but hey. Baby steps!

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5. Switch over to bamboo or biodegradable toothbrushes

I recently just found a brand of biodegradable children’s toothbrushes from a brand called Jack and Jill, which are lovely and chunky and easy for small hands to manipulate. They’re slightly more expensive than the standard plastic ones in the supermarket, but I’m happy to pay a little extra knowing they’re not going to end up littering a beach somewhere! For myself, I use a bamboo Humble Brush! Again, fully biodegradable and bamboo has natural antibacterial properties which is a bonus too. I love it, but Jason can’t stand the texture of the wood whilst brushing his teeth (it does feel a bit odd at first) so prefers to stick to a regular plastic one.

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6. Carry a water bottle.

This seems such an obvious one, but I’ve finally got into the habit of carrying my water bottle with me everywhere I go, and it makes me realise quite how often I would get thirsty when out and about and end up buying bottled water. And never more so than in the middle of a heatwave like this, and with a whole extra person hanging off my front!! I bought this Black + Blum charcoal bottle in TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago, and it’s so light and easy to carry around. And with another couple of months of summer left to go and then the inevitable insatiable breastfeeding thirst on its way later this year, I can see it becoming my most used purchase of 2018!

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7. Reuse, reuse, reuse.

It’s become a bit of a running joke in our household now that before Jason throws anything away now, he always turns to me and says ‘do you want this for anything?!’ I’ve become a tad obsessed with washing out and squirrelling away empty jam jars, if we ever have a takeaway I save all the plastic tubs that our food comes in to use as Tupperware (they’re the perfect size for small toddler portions or keeping veggies from the garden fresh!), and even things like the zip lock bags that frozen berries come packaged in at the supermarket I wash up and reuse for storing homemade bits in the freezer!

I think my most successful ‘upcycle’ though this year has been empty plastic berry tubs as seed trays! The plastic tubs that blueberries and raspberries come in are just the perfect depth and size for filling with compost and sowing seeds into, and 9 times out of 10 have drainage holes already built into them. I’ve got dozens of them kicking around now, and they’ve been helping keep my garden filled and flourishing all season long!

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8. Grow your own! 

And last but not least, of course I have to champion growing your own as a way of reducing waste! I think it can be especially valuable to grow things like lettuces, which so often come wrapped in wasteful plastic packaging AND can be quite expensive in the supermarket too! Jason and I eat lettuce from the garden every single day now, and with just £3 worth of seed we’ll have a season-long supply.

Even in a very small space it’s possible to grow plenty of food, and you can pick up cheap ‘up-cycled’ containers by giving your local wine shop a call and seeing if they’ve got any old wooden wine crates for sale! Last year I picked up three decent sized ones for £5 per crate in our local Majestic, and the money is donated to charity.

My only major, MAJOR bugbear with gardening is the tide of waste plastic that comes in the form of empty compost bags. I dread to think about the amount we’ve gone through this year, and though I’m saving them to use as bed covers over the winter and weed suppressants for the pathways in the veg patch next year, it’s still a horrendous quantity of plastic that I’m not certain is recyclable.

~ ~ ~

 All in all, I’m by no means perfect, but trying makes me feel good! It can feel overwhelming, and let’s be honest, quite costly at times trying to avoid plastic and make more sustainable choices in our day to day lives, but I truly believe that it’s an investment in the future of our beautiful planet.

Have you made any changes this year in an effort to reduce waste that have been positive for you? I’m always keen to try new things (and right now am on the hunt for a decent block of solid dish soap!) so if anyone has any top tips, do shout in the comments! <3

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06.07

Cider-with-Rosie-homemade-bread-recipe-15 Cider-with-Rosie-homemade-bread-recipe

A   R E C I P E  .

One of my intentions for this summer has been to make more bread. Of course bread is, in my opinion, one of the easiest, tastiest, and most rewarding things you can make yourself at home, but setting that simple joy aside, I had just got sick of buying bread wrapped in plastic.

This year I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of non-recyclable waste our household produces, and I’m currently writing up a post all about the small changes I’ve made so far that’ve been a success for us as a family. I’ve found it so frustrating seeing how the vast majority of bread in the supermarket is wrapped in non-recyclable packaging, and figured I’d have a go at getting into a routine of making bread myself in an effort to cut down on that element of waste.

Surprisingly, it’s been such an easy change! I actually find bread to be such a low-input bake- aside from the initial 15 minutes or so of mixing and kneading, it’s all about  r e s t !

And that I can get on board with!

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I’m going to share with you now the honest truth behind these photos, which is that I was so busy making sure I got this shot of water pouring into the bowl completely in focus, I actually forgot to monitor the amount of water going into the bowl and so totally overdid it!

But it just goes to show how adaptable and imprecise bread-making can be, because I just heaped in a load more flour to bring the mix back to a kneadable consistency and added in a pinch more yeast, and all was well!

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I always abide by the ratio of 10% yeast, 20% salt when making my bread, as I find it gives the tastiest results. So, for 500 grams of strong white bread flour you’d add 5g yeast (I used dried fast action yeast) and 10g of salt. Generally I do 1kg flour, 10g yeast and 20g salt for a really big loaf that keeps us in toast for the best part of the week!

The downsides? Being made without preservatives and softeners and whatever else is added to sliced bread, it won’t keep soft for all that long, and so isn’t all that great for sandwiches beyond for the first 24-48 hours. We don’t really tend to eat sandwiches very often, but if we did, I’d probably go for making a smaller loaf more regularly that will keep fresh and be used up more quickly.

Amazingly though, no matter how tough it seems after a few days post-baking, it always toasts up to the most incredible texture!

And spread with some a slick of butter and some jam? It’s the most delicious breakfast imaginable.

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So, to the recipe…

I N G R E D I E N T S :

1 kilo strong white bread flour
10 grams fast action dried yeast
20 grams salt

M E T H O D :

1. Tip the flour into a large bowl, and add the yeast to one side of the flour and the salt to the other. I’ve read that if the salt and yeast mix straight off then it can kill the yeast, so it’s best to put them in separately.

2. Get a jug of warm water (it should be about body temperature, warm but not hot), and slowly pour the water in whilst mixing with your hand. When the dough has formed to a soft, sticky but not wet consistency, stop pouring! It will be of a consistency where it’ll stick to your hands, but don’t be tempted to add in lots more flour. A sticky dough makes delicious bread!

4. Stretch, pull, squidge, and work the dough between your hands along the work top, for at least 10 minutes or so. It’ll begin to homogenise and gradually stop being sticky, coming together to form a smooth, springy ball of dough. To check if the dough is ready for proving, poke it lightly with your finger- the dough should spring straight back out again. Stretch the dough out a little and pinch the edges together underneath to form a tight ball with a smooth top- this will help the rise!

5. Put the dough back into your mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave somewhere warm to rise. I find I usually give mine about an hour and a half to rise, but check it after an hour- it should have doubled in size and filled the bowl!

6. Press all the air out of the dough gently with your hands, and then form it back into a smooth ball. The dough should feel much lighter now, a sign of the lovely airy bread it’s to become!

7. Shape the dough into whatever takes your fancy and transfer it to a well-floured baking tray (you can leave it as a a round as I’ve done here, form little rolls, pop it into a loaf tin…) and then cover and leave to prove for another half hour.

8. Dust the top with top with flour, carefully cut a couple of shallow slashes into the dough to control its rise during baking, and put into an oven preheated to 200 degrees. I always add a small dish of water into the bottom of the oven at this stage to help create stream, which bread likes whilst baking!

9. My loaves always are done after about 1 hour, but check it after 50 minutes or so. When cooked, the top will be golden brown and the base will have a lovely hollow sound when tapped.

10. Resist the urge to slice is straight away! Let the steam inside cool for a good hour or so first, and then dig in!

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I can’t say I’m any great expert at bread making, but I hope that how relatively imprecise the recipe and method I’ve shared here is shows how adaptable and relatively failsafe bread making is!

And that first slice of warm, crusty bread will make it all so very worth it.

Let me know how the recipe works for you, if you give it a go!

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Posted in BAKING, RECIPE

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