Wednesday, 19 April 2017

How to make a bottle cloche

 We were told, here in Oxford, that there would be a -4 frost. So I went down to my plot to protect my crops form this frost.

I was mainly concerned about my apple blossom. So I covered the trees with netting. They are all small trees, so I could do that.

I have tomatoes growing in my polly tunnel, so I put plastic bottles over them.

Large large plastic bottles are very good to use to protect seedlings and young plants from   early spring frost, as well as damage from pest.

To make a bottle cloche carefully cut off the bottom of the bottle, then place the plastic tube over the plant, pushing it gently in the soil. Put a short cane in the top and push it into the ground to help hold the bottle in place and stop it blowing away.

What I am doing on my plot

Not a lot really, keeping the weeds down, trapping rats. I caught three this week and watering.

I have also spend a lot of my time up at the local hospital. A family member has been ill and we have sat up there for hours.

As far as I am concerned, the NHS is the best. The staff are so caring, day or night.
The UK government, to their shame, treat the NHS staff, as less then human.
There are two doctors who have an allotment near mine and as they have so little time, I try to help them when I can. I feel that is the least that I can do, as a sort of pay back..

Thoughts while working


I am disgusted at people who are moaning about another UK election. People died for the right to vote. 
Lets get on with it.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Salads

It is time to turn your mind to salads. There is so much more to salads then just lettuce leaves. You can add flavor and crunch with colorful extras and now is the right time to make a start.Get Sowing




I do not know if you have been to the city Granada where you will find  the Alhambra. It dates back to time when the Moors controlled Spain and inside this palace is a mosque whose walls are so ornately carved that if you were to try absorb them in a single glance, you will inevitably fail. You have no choice but to study the details instead.

And so it is with God. You try to see God all at once and you will not succeed.

The only way to see God is to focus on details knowing that you cannot see God as a whole.You cannot grasp the vast complexity of those thousands of fragments of God. 


Monday, 3 April 2017

How to grow potatoes in a bag:

To my mind, to day is a very sad day. Wednesday 29th of March; The day the UK starts to leave the EU.
How we can say we will be better off outside the biggest market in the world, is beyond me.
We must just wait and see.


I do not know if you have every tried to grow potatoes in bags or bins. It is a fun way to grow them.

I do it every year, the reason is that my plot is on the banks of the Thames and we some times get floods. So by growing potatoes in big pots I can put them on my bench which is four feet above the ground and well away from any flood water.

  1. I find that early varieties work best. It is best to chit your potatoes, you do this by standing the tubers upright in a tray somewhere war and light. After a couple of weeks you should have small shoots on them.
  2. I then third fill a potato planter bag or bin with compost. Put in 4-5 chitted potatoes and cover them with compost to a depth of three ore four inches. The place the pot in a warm bright spot.
  3. When the plants start to grow, cover the plants until the bag is full.
  4. This is the important bit; keep watering the bag/pot and harvest when the flowers have died back.

What I am doing in my garden:

Early Spring, to my mind is always so full of promise. Get busy planting, growing and caring for your crop.
It does not matter what other people are growing, only grow what you are going to eat.

I have Tomatoes, rhubarb, potatoes,beans,cabbage,salads,mint,basil,parsley, on the go at the moment. I am cutting my grass and weeding my beds

What I am thinking about while digging 

And note that some who despised now will be greatly honored then; and some who are greatly honored now will be despised then Luke 30.13
Does this mean that the people on the edge of society might well be the center and the people in houses will be on the circumference?




Wednesday, 29 March 2017

How to care for your lawn:

There is story that goes around Oxford about some visiter from the USA who looked at the wonderful lawns in St Johns College here in Oxford and asked the grounds man how he got his lawns so fine.

The reply was: Well, cut it and roll for about 500 hundred years and they turn out looking like this.

Well, how do you get a great looking lawn?
There are four steps and they start right now.

Mow the lawn: Make sure that you set the blades high for the first few cuts, slowly lowing the blades gradually through March and April.

Scarify and Rake: Lawns can look tired this time of the year, so rejuvenate with a thorough raking, using a lawn rake. Doing so will help get rid of dead plant matter and moss. If you lawn has a lot of moss it is a good idea to treat it with some organic mosskiller and then rake out the moss when it has died. 

Weed and Feed: This is a very important step and best done at this time of the year. Spread lawn feed by hand unless you have a big lawn in which case  use a wheeled applicator.Spend some time removing dandelions.

Seed bare patches:You might have some worn ares on your lawn, well do not worry. Loosen the soil surface and sprinkling on grass seed and then spread some compost post on it. 



What I am doing on my plot:

Still repairing my raised beds. After six years they need a bit of maintenance.

Looking after the seedlings.

Planting more potatoes.

Cutting my grass.

What I am thinking about when digging:

A wall-eyed pike is put in a aquarium. He is fed for days with little minnows. Then in the middle of the experiment, a glass partition is placed down the middle of the aquarium so that the pike is now confined to one side.

Then the researches drop the minnows, on the other side of the glass. Straight away the pike goes for the minnows, but he hits himself against the glass. He circles and hits again. He tries for a third time, but now he is hitting the glass a little less hard..

After a few more times, he just sort of nosing up against the glass. He is feeling that he is not going to get those minnows. Petty soon, he just swims around in circles and ignores the minnows on the other side of the glass.

At this point those doing the experiment take out the glass. The minnows come right up against the gills of the pike and he does not even try to eat them.

Th experiment ends when the pike starves to death. He is sure that he is not going to get those minnows, so there is no point in wasting this time or hurting his nose. again.

To my mind that is the human story, people spiritually starving in the midst of plenty. We would rather have wars and droughts then learn how to eat.  



Sunday, 26 March 2017

This sign was seen on the London Underground this week; I think it sums things up nicely.



This sign was seen on the London Underground this week; I think it sums things up nicely.



The following was seen on the London Underground this week; I think it sums things up nicely.

Service Notice:

Date:22/03/17

TIME: 14 45

All Terrorists are politely reminded This is LONDON and what ever you do to us:

We will drink tea and jolly well carry on.


Friday, 24 March 2017

March is the time to dig at the allotment

March is the time to dig at the allotment.

A days work on your plot will pay dividends  later. If you weed and prepare your site now, you will get much better results for the rest of the year.

Start by  going over the soil little by litter, going down to about two spades depth and make sure you take out any weed roots that you come across. Dandelions and docks are the ones to watch out for.

Then rake the soil over to give it a fine tilth and you are all ready to go. Little weeds will come up after a few days and it is the easiest thing in the world to hoe them down.

I am always amazed how few people turn up in march to do do this. The allotment site that I am on in Oxford has 250 plots and over the last few weekends I have only seen about twenty people working on their plots.

As to what you grow...Grow what you are likely to eat.

What I am doing on my plot  

I am putting supports in on plants that may need it later.

Dead heading my daffodils

Helping my neighbor repair their shed that got some gale damage

Hoeing round my spring cabbage.

Repotted my mints; which are not doing very well at the moment.
Digging out nettles which seem to double in size overnight.

What I am thinking about while working:

What is my core and how can I heal it...if indeed it needs healing. To what do I belong?
I am part of every problem.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Equinox

We are half way through March and your garden has endured long dark winter days, frost,rain and maybe snow as well. and then suddenly nature decides to time for a change and it is spring.

So you will see your plot, after lying semi-dormant and glum through the winter, wake up and ‘spring‘ into action.

Its like being a young child waiting for your birthday counting the days until the frost has disappeared.....However caution is advisable. As I write this snow, has return to New York and a cold snap has returned.

Get your sowing wrong and you will lose your plants to a late frost. Get it right and your plants  will crop earlier, extending the growing season.

Be in touch with your garden and learn how to listen to nature. Your instinct will dictate when the time has come to plant.

For myself, I watch the grass and the hedge rows...When I see growth there; I go for it because I know that  Nature has got going, the birds nest, the soil warms, sap rises and life springs forth all around you .

21st of March is an important milestone because it is the equinox which means ‘equal night‘ a time when day and night are of equal length. It is a significant turing point
in nature.Get your willies on and get out there.       
  You will find that being outside puts life’s niggles into proportion...even if you are grumpy, you will find it hard to remain so under the blue sky.

What I am doing on my plot:
Cutting my grass because it has started to grow.

Making my first move on weeds that are coming up. I notice that nettles seem to double in size  overnight this time of year. So I spent half an hour digging them up.
I once made some nettle soup...it was awful, so I will not try that again.

I have a small glasshouse full of seedlings which need looking after.

Pulled  my first rhubarb this week...it was lovely. I reckon that rhubarb and my soft fruit pay for my plot. My wife Jean and I have a bowl every morning for breakfast and if you reckon that is worth 50 pence bowl, that is one pound a day which is well over 300 pounds year. My two plots cost 84 pounds rent year. ( they are 11 pole plots ) So I am quids in really.   

And as always tiding up and watching. 

I have also resigned from the allotment committee this week. I have done my five years, it is time for somebody else to have a go.

What I am thinking about when digging:

Another famine in Africa....how and why have we come to this again. It just makes me so anger and sad. I spent much of my life in Africa and understand a little of what goes on.

We in the West have so much. If you just think of water on tap any time of the day or night...Am I thankful or just take it for granted? 


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

How to clean your pollytunnel

Over the years and winter months, your polytunnel will have been subjected to a great deal of damp weather. This will have left deposits of algae and other dirt on the tunnel, which will cut the light that gets through.

It needs to be washed. This is quite easy to if you have access to a hose pipe with water pressure. However, if you are on a allotment like I am then you will have to find other ways of doing the job.

I use soapy warm water and a very soft broom. I simple stand on a pair of steps and wash the tunnel gently. I try to do this when there is a light rain, which I find helps to wash of the dirt as I loosen it with the broom.

The soap that I use is Aloe Vera MPD

MPD is multiple detergent for cleaning.  It is just a one multi-purpose product  that I use for the laundry, dishes, floor, bathroom,garden pots, car, garden tools, pollytunnel and the glass house. 

A liquid detergent that is highly effective and very economical to use, made by Forever Living Products

  • environmentally friendly.
  • safe
  • great for lifting grime
  • cuts through grease
  • concentrated liquid detergent
  • phosphorus-free
  • biodegradable ingredients

non-abrasive formula contains mild aloe vera to soften and condition your hands and clothes. This revolutionary, multi-purpose cleaner is available only through Forever Living Products.


I also use this to keep my plants free of ‘bugs’ using a mild mix in a spray.

What I am doing on my plot.

I have sown spring cabbage and broad beans. I always sow my seeds in little pots or plugs 
in my glasshouse and then I plant them out when they are bigger enough. I feel I gain time by doing this and get stronger plants.

My winter onions are coming along fine and I have given them a hoe. There is still time to make a plantation of Eschallots, however the work should be done this week. On soils where it is difficult to grow onions from seeds, onion sets may be well substituted, and now is the time to plant them, allowing 15 inches between the rows. If not already done you have still time to make a sowing of leeks.

I have also sowne my sweet peas. Once again they are in pots and I will plant them out  when they are ready. I love sweet peas, they fill the house with wonderful scent.
Thoughts while digging


When am no longer here what happens to what I have done.....what I have started cannot be stopped .......  too many moving parts are in motion.


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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

How To Go Organic

Organic growing:

Many pesticides and insecticides that were in use to fight pest and diseases last year have now been banned. Over 100 hazardous active ingredients have been taken off the EU market for health and environmental reasons. The list is far too many to record here. This is going to make it more and more difficult to garden and use sprays to control your problems.

So maybe it is now time to start gardening organically, even if you have never thought of doing so before. Knowing the basic principles of the organic way of doing things will stand you in good stead and the Spring is a good time to start.

The whole idea is to use the strengths and characteristics of your garden to get get the most out of it. That means only choosing plants that are suitable for your garden conditions and avoiding growing anything that requires extra work and artificial help.

There is nothing to be afraid of, people have been growing so called organic food since the dawn of time. It was only since the Second World War that chemical options were available. There are still a lot of good growers about who know what they are doing. Ask around you are bound to find one who will be more then willing to help you.

The most difficult thing is too start and give it a go.

Weeds are the easiest thing to start with. Stop spraying them and get your hoe out every week and hoe round your beds.. I have two full size plots and it takes me about half an hour a week to do them both. I have one rule on my plot as regards weeds and that is:  Do not grow them!

As for bugs I check my plants every five days and spray them with a mixture of Aloe Vera MPD and water with a bit of washing up liquid thrown in.  

Obviously there is a lot more to it than that: a lot is learnt just by starting. When things go wrong, which they will, find out how to fix it and do so.

The easiest way to start is to plant some potatoes and follow that with leeks.

Growing Organic isn’t a quick fix to acquiring freshly grown fruit and vegetables but is a life changing activity that is well worth the time and effort dedicated to it.

What I am doing on my plot:

Sowing  hardy annuals right now. I make a fine surface by using the rake vigorously and thinly broadcast the seeds on it.

I am cleaning up and putting compost on my Asparagus. 

If you are thinking of putting in Asparagus now is a good time. Make sure you get it right because the plants will be there for a long long time. 
The importance of trenching, or at least doubling -digging the site ,need not be overemphasized. A bed of about five feet wide is ideal, because this will contain three rows of plants 18 inches apart. Allow one foot from crown to crown in the row itself.

I grow a lot of potatoes in large pots and so this week I have been renewing the soil in them. This is just a question of emptying the pots onto one of my beds and putting the soil from the bed into the pots.

A neighbor of mine two plots down from mine has given up and he said I could take anything off his plot that  I might need. He has quite a lot of useful wood and some paving slaps which I would find useful. So I am moving it onto my plot.
Very kind of him. 


Thoughts while digging:
If you read scripture you can clearly see that God is not nice; God is not your Uncle in fact God is an earthquake which does rather pull the rug out from under me and I wonder just where that leaves me?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Sunday, 5 March 2017

What to do with your Parsley:

Parsley

Parsley is a multi-purpose herb that no kitchen should be without. As it is so versatile it can be used not only as a garnish but for flavoring food and as a vegetable. There are two main varieties of parsley: curly leaf and flat leaf. Both can be used for the same purposes although flat leaf parsley has a slightly stronger flavour and tends to be favored more in Mediterranean cooking. One of the great easy dishes that uses parsley is  Tabbouleh. This makes a great accompaniment to meat or fish dishes or as a stand alone salad.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients:


25g/1oz bulgar wheat or packet of couscous
2 large, ripe vine tomatoes
large bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves only, washed, dried, finely chopped 
small bunch fresh mint leaves, washed, dried, finely chopped
1 small red onion, peeled, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes

Method:




1.Place the bulgar wheat or couscous into a mixing bowl and either follow the packet instructions or cover with 50ml/2fl oz of boiling water. Stir, then set aside covered in cling film for 20 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water. You can always add a little more water if it is too dry. 
2. Skin the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, peel and discard the seeds. Cut into quarters and place in a serving bowl.
3. Add the mint, onion and parsley to the tomatoes and mix well until combined. 
4..When the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, remove cling film and  fluff it up with a fork until the grains are separated. Add the bulgar wheat to the tomato mixture.
5..Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil and add the salt flakes to taste. Coat all the ingredients well in the liquid. 

This is delicious served with hot crusty bread or flatbread.


What I am doing on my plot:

I have put in my early potatoes. I have put them in deep and covered  the bed with a plastic sheet to keep out any hard frost that may yet turn up.

It is my experience that the frost has got to be at least -3 and last at least eight hours to go into the earth, so the potatoes should be quite safe were they are.It will be at least three weeks before they are showing above the ground anyway.

I am tidying up my soft fruit and checking the fruit cage for damage. We had gales a few days ago.


Thoughts while digging:

I am a Black Coffee Drinker. I drink plain old French Coffee, strength 3.

Now all of a sudden most Cafes here in Oxford have “Coffee of The Day”. It seems to me that there are now hundreds of kinds of coffee and I have been trying a few, making up for all the years that I have been sheltered. I do not know why it is that alcohol and tobacco are now bad, but jolts of caffeine are suddenly good.. It is beyond me and makes me feel old.

After all my tastings I am sticking to my French Coffee...black in a cup and Jamaica Blue Mountain at Christmas.




Wednesday, 1 March 2017

How to make Mint Sauce

 Continuing with my Cooking With Herbs hints 

Mint Sauce

Mint sauce is a thin savory sauce made from chopped mint, vinegar and sugar. It is traditionally served in England as an accompaniment to roast lamb. 

Ingredients:


25g/1oz fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method

This sauce could not be any easier, but makes all the difference to a lamb dish.

1.Place all the ingredients in a bowl together and leave to steep for 30 minutes to allow the mint flavour to develop. 

For a finer sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender for a few seconds.

I also make my own Mint Tea. I just pick leaves and pour water over them and leave to brew.

Make sure you cut back your old mint now and give it a bit of a feed. I use chicken pellets and grow my mint in pot.

What I am doing on my plot?

I have seen a lot of white fly on the plot this last week and it brings to mind what am I going to do about these pest this coming season.
 I know that I never going to get rid of them but that is no reason not to fight them. A couple of facts:

White flies are not killed off by cold unless it is a long period of extreme cold like we had in 2010 here in Oxford.

Native species of Ladybird do not eat whiteflies and if you buy in ladybirds to eat them you will be supplied with foreign species which will also eat the local ladybird, which is not helpful.

What I do is use a two prong approach to the problem.

The first method is: You can mix up a simple recipe for an insecticide spray for whiteflies right in your kitchen. First, make a base mixture with 1 tablespoon of regular dish soap (not one with added bleach or an antibacterial soap) and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Pour it into a bottle that can be sealed, and shake well to mix. Note: This recipe must be diluted before using it on your plants.

Diluting the Recipe
Now that I have my base, I mix it with a pint of water of water. I mix this in a spray bottle, and shake it well. The washing up liquid is to help the mixture stick to the plant.

Using the Spray
Once your spray is properly diluted and mixed, you can spray your affected plants. Be sure to spray the undersides of leaves, since this is where the whiteflies tend to be. This mixture kills adult whiteflies and smothers the larvae and eggs as long as they are covered in the spray, so be sure to apply it liberally. Reapply every five days or so after rain or watering your plants for the best results. Be sure to spray plants early in the morning or late in the day when temperatures are cooler, as the heat may cause an adverse reaction in your plant.   

The second tool I use to keep the whiteflies down is to vacuum them up using my battery powered, hand held vacuum machine. This works very well but only when it is dry like in the mid summer.

It is always a good idea to try your mixture on one plant and wait for a few days to make use what every you use if safe and does not kill the plant.

Never use vinegar as a pest spray as it will kill the plant.

Be warned it is against the law in the UK to mix your own mixture to spray on plants. But what does the law know about Aloe Vera! 

Thoughts whilst Gardening:
Lent starts today: what am I doing about it?


Monday, 27 February 2017

How to Use Basil

Herbs are an essential ingredient in cooking to add flavor as well as a garnish. Many top chefs recognize the importance of fresh herbs in their dishes to the extent of having their own herb gardens from which they can grow and pick only the freshest and best herbs for their cooking. Every country has it's favorite herb that is used extensively in their cooking and often becomes synonymous with that style and flavors of that country. For example Basil is recognized for Italian dishes while Coriander is often used in Indian dishes. So I am going to look at a few methods of cooking with herbs  which can  give dishes their unique flavors.

Basil

Basil is a versatile and widely used aromatic herb.  There are many varieties of basil; some have scents reminiscent of pineapple, lemon, cinnamon or cloves.  In Mediterranean regions, basil and tomato is a classic combination. However, one of the most popular uses of Basil is for making the classic Pesto sauce. This can be used on pasta dishes, fish or meat, pizza etc. It is an extremely versatile and easy to make sauce.

Recipe For Pesto. 

125g pine nuts
125g parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks
1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
200ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of lemon juice

Method

1. First toast the pine nuts by placing them in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until just browned.
2. Put the cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and basil in a food processor and blend until all the ingredients come together in a smooth mixture. This should only take a few seconds.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Your pesto can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a week if not using straight away. Pesto can also be frozen for longer life by placing it in ice-cube trays and freeze. 


What I am doing on my plot.

Well, I cut my grass for the first cut of the year...makes it look much tidier.

I have also dug up all my raspberries. The problem was they were becoming full of bindweed, so I dug down as deep as I could and removed as much as I could and replanted.

Hoed and tided up my raised beds.

Went through my seed box and sorted them out in order of sowing. I got rid of a few packets that were well past their sow by date.

It has been quite mild here in Oxford...17c the other day......however do not be fooled for it is still winter. It is very easy to be fooled and rush out sowing seeds all over the plot.

There are one or two problems with early sowing: your seeds will rot in the ground because of the wet and cold and your seeds will grow because a short spell of warm weather and be knocked over by a late frost.

I want sturdy, strong plants that will give me a good yield and be more resistant to pests and diseases and to get that : I wait a while yet




Thoughts while digging:

What is the question to ask to get the right answer?


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

How to grow Lavender

In tending my garden I seek three things: Wisdom,courage and truth and I some times feel that God only allows me to find how much I can take at any given time.
___________

Culinary and ornamental herbs are a very welcome addition to any garden, but most will grown with equal success in pots on your windowsill or patio. Most herbs prefer dryish position,and develop and scent when grown in poorish soil. Many, also like semi-shade.

I have chosen to look at Lavender this week, because quite a few people seem to grow it around me on their allotments; however very few people seem to harvest it, maybe because they do not know how or what to do with it. 

Lavender 

Lavender derives it's name from the Latin lavare, meaning to wash. It has been a favorite herb for centuries and has been in documented use for over two and a half thousand years.

The Egyptian's used Lavender for mummification as well as perfume. The Greeks and Romans used Lavender scented water to bathe in, which is where it first took it's name from. The use of Lavender spread across Europe from Greece and is now commonly found and used around the world both in cooking and for medicinal purposes. 

One of the most widely used types of Lavender is English Lavender. This was developed in the 1600 about the same time the first Lavender plants were making there way to the Americas. It was to gain royal status when Queen Elizabeth I of England commanded that the royal table should never be without Lavender conserve. She also valued Lavender for it's perfume and drank Lavender tea to help ease the pain of her migraines. 

Another royal to favor Lavender was Queen Victoria of England. She was known for having it in every room and to be used in a variety of ways such as cleaning the floors and furniture as well as an air freshener. This in turn gave rise to it's popularity across the country. A bit like Christmas trees!

To demonstrate how important an herb it was considered for it's medicinal qualities, it was used during the First World War by nurses to bathe soldiers' wounds. It has a long established tradition for being valued not only for it's scent, but as a remedy for many complaints and ailments. It is generally regarded as one of the most versatile essences therapeutically. 

Lavender has a powerful calming scent that is now used in a vast range of perfumes, cosmetics and soaps or in it's natural state in Lavender bags or as dried flower decorations. The essential oil in the flowers has a sedative, calming effect. This is why it is widely used to relax muscles, calm the nerves, ease anxiety and help to promote a good nights sleep. 

Lavender For Medicinal Use

As an essential oil, Lavender can be used to treat a huge variety of ailments and should be an essential component of any first aid box. It is one of the most useful skin care oils. Not only does it have excellent antiseptic properties but it is also very mild to the skin. Due to it's healing as well as analgesic properties, it can be used to bring instant relief to sunburn, preventing blistering. it also relieves heat rash or red and sore skin.Lavender contains many volatile oils that repel insects, especially mosquitoes



 By using a lotion of 12 drops of lavender essential oil in 1 tablespoon of distilled water dabbed gently onto the area it is very soothing. It can also be applied neat to insects bites and stings.

Taking Lavender as a tea or tincture  has soothing effects on the central nervous system. It is thought to help to slow nerve reactions, ease pain and irritability and calm nervous tension. It is most effective for sleeping disorders. Drinking a cup of Lavender tea an hour before bed acts as a mild sedative. It can also aid digestion, relieving intestinal spasms. Lavender is also has sedative properties and is very good for calming anxiety and tension. A massage with lavender oil will relax muscles and ease pain. 



Lavender is very useful for use with children as it has such a pleasant smell. It is particularly useful in the treatment of head lice in children as commercial products can be very harmful and unpleasant to use. To treat head lice, dilute 5-10 drops of oil in water or use neat on a fine tooth comb. 

For painful muscles dilute 1ml Lavender in 25ml carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, and massage into painful muscles. For relief of a tension headache or the first sign of a migraine, dilute 10 drops in 25ml of carrier oil and massage into the temples and nape of the neck.

These are only a few of the many ailments that Lavender is used for. The list is vast and includes many skin problems such as eczema, (although I prefer to use Aloe Vera for this athlete's foot), wounds etc. It is also used for muscular problems, respiratory conditions, digestive and nervous system complaints. It is no wonder that Lavender has remained so popular throughout the ages. 

Lavender In Cooking

Although thought of mainly for it's medicinal properties, it is also an incredibly versatile herb for cooking. Fresh edible flowers are making a comeback in many fashionable restaurants as well as being used as an ingredient. It can both enhance the flavor as well as the appearance of the food. Adding Lavender to a dish or drink as a garnish can give it that 'wow' factor.  

Both flowers and leaves can be used in food preparation. They can be used fresh or dried. There are many different varieties of Lavender but English Lavender has the best and sweetest fragrance of all the different types. It has a sweet, floral flavor with lemon and citrus notes. 

If using in cooking note that dried Lavender increases in potency, so less should be used. If new to cooking with Lavender start with a small amount and experiment, as adding too much will be like eating perfume and make your food taste bitter.  

The flowers can add a beautiful color to salads and other dishes. It can be used as a substitute to rosemary in recipes such as bread. To use in cakes or custards, grind the Lavender in a coffee or similar grinder and place in a sealed jar with sugar. This adds a wonderful flavor to your baking. 

Apart from Lavender being one of the most versatile and useful of herbs in both cooking and for medicinal purposes, it is also a wonderful herb to grow in your garden for it's scent and beauty alone.  It can provide an attraction for bees to your garden as well as create an all year round supply of home remedies. This is certainly an herb that no home should be without.

News:

There has been a very interesting development caused by floods and snow in  Italy and Spain - a shortage of broccoli, lettuce and courgettes which has seen supermarkets rationing supplies. I have been round most shops in Oxford and this appears to be true.

There is also a reported a boom in people growing veg.How they work that out I do not know. The allotments that I am on have eight empty lots and cannot fill them for love nor money.

Thoughts whilst digging

Do we love God out of hope  or out of possibility?






Saturday, 18 February 2017

How to use Basil

Basil 

Basil is a very popular herb used in cooking, mainly associated with Mediterranean cuisine. However, Basil is also widely used for medicinal purposes, much used in Far Eastern medicine especially in the Ayurvedic tradition, where it is also known as tulsi.  

The name of the herb "basil" comes from the Greek word meaning "king" or "royal", reflecting that this herb was regarded extremely highly. In Italy, basil is a symbolic for love and was sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps explaining it's wide use today in Italian dishes. However, it originated from India and was introduced into Europe in ancient times.

For medicinal purposes, it is widely used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, colds, asthma, flu and emphysema.

 Basil is an expectorant, making it good for treating upper respiratory symptoms.  The plant has also been used as an antidote to poisonous insect or snake bites as well as being used in the fight against epidemics and fever, such as malaria. 

Basil improves blood circulation and the digestive system. It is considered a 'cooling' herb with anti-inflammatory properties and is used to relieve symptoms of rheumatic pain, irritable skin conditions and soothe the nerves. It is good for rubbing the leaves on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. 

The leaves can also be used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion or any cold condition. You can do this  by pouring boiling water on to the leaves and inhale the steam. It smells lovely. 

Like most other mints, Basil is often recommended for digestive complaints. When drunk as a tea after a meal it can enhance digestion and dispel gas. 

To prepare the tea,
Pour 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water over about 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped Basil leaves    

steep for 5 minutes.

 Strain and drink. 

Honey can be added if a sweeter taste is required.

A basil infusion (tea) is recommended for treating vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation. 

As Basil also has slight sedative properties,  this makes the plant very useful for headaches and anxiety especially in combination with other sedating herbs like chamomile and catnip.

Basil is an excellent natural insect repellent, sprigs of basil burned on the barbecue will repel mosquitoes and a pot of basil in a windowsill will discourage flies, they will go elsewhere as they cannot stand the smell of this lovely plant.

You may be surprised to know that there are many varieties of basil, each one has their own distinct flavour such as Lemon or Clove Basil which are used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. 

Although Basil is native to India and Persia it is also commercially cultivated in the Mediterranean,however it will grow outside during most English summers. Basil is a member of the mint family and is very similar in appearance only with a broader leave The most popular type of basil that is used in cooking is sweet basil.

Basil is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. It also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin A, magnesium and manganese. Along with its medicinal value, basil is nutritionally rich in anti-aging antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  As it can be consumed in fairly large quantities compared to some herbs, it makes it a very beneficial health food. 

Basil is easily available from your local supermarket, fresh, dried or even frozen. Fresh basil sold already cut, will keep for a few days if refrigerated and wrapped in a damp paper towel. 

Basil  grows very well in pots and can easily be kept on your windowsill This is the way that I keep myself  suppled during the winter months with fresh Basil. The plant will keep going for weeks even months if cared for properly and work out very inexpensive compared to regularly buying ready cut Basil. 

As with most herbs fresh basil is much more aromatic and flavour some than dried basil and gives a completely different taste to your dishes. I always use fresh basil where possible. 


Basil is an exceedingly versatile herb that may be used in an abundant variety of foods. It is especially excellent in tomato-based dishes, spinach, and all types of squash. 

I find that Basil gives a great flavor to my winter soups but do not add it until the last few minutes of cooking as it will destroy the flavor. It can also be used in cream cheese for sandwiches, dips, and pasta dishes. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto. 

 Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of your pizza or sprinkle torn basil over a tomato and mozzarella salad. Add to stir-fried vegetables. Use in a marinade with garlic and olive oil. 
Add fresh leaves of basil to your salad. 


Basil is delicious, nutritious and an effective natural treatment for many common ailments. It should therefore be an essential feature  for your outdoor or indoor organic herb garden. 



Thoughts while weeding my garden:

I find that we live in strange times and I often ask myself “What can I do to get rid of the evil?’

But then I think: How to use the evil for good.

How can I learn discernment so that I can say, yes; this is the weed and this is the wheat, however they must both grow together to make life.  That is the question...that is the true challenge for life today...how to live in darkness and light at the same time?
only then will evil be used for good.