Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Two poorly children....

After proudly telling someone last week that our kids never get ill and are extremely healthy (!) both of them came down with one of the many bugs going around at the moment....sore throats, coughs, headaches..... and two miserable kids! I really don't like the idea of packing them off to the doctors to be dosed up on antibiotics so went for the homemade route instead....

Our first stage was to make Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey drinks   - 1tsp vinegar, 1tsp honey and warm water. The kids are quite used to this as it gets foisted on them whenever I think a bug may be on it's way!! Both of these ingredients are great for loads of things so well worth having this anyway.   

As E's cough just doesn't want to go away we tried a really simple Onion and Honey Cough Syrup - sounds weird but actually seems to be pretty effective so far. It's so easy to make it's ridiculous... 1 white onion sliced, pop it in a jar, pour honey over the top to cover the slices, cover with muslin and leave overnight. In the morning, take out the onion slices and use a tsp at a time. Funnily enough, although you can tell it's had onions in it you don't actually really taste it, just lovely sweet honey with a bit of a oniony aroma on the side! The kids aren't too impressed but they have both managed to take it without too much fuss and they're both asleep and not coughing so that's a result!!

We have had to dose them up with paracetamol but I guess that's a lesser evil than antibiotics, we'll see how it goes......       

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Forest Beckons....

We have had some weird weather here recently, pouring rain, soggy ground, weird glowing skies, rumbles and flashes and even a mini earthquake apparently!! A few days ago the sun was shining and it was one of those lovely cold, crisp days,my favourite kind, so we got over to Grizedale for one of our planned walks which had been postponed about four times this month!
Going over Windermere on the car ferry - see the snow on the mountains....COLD!
  We decided we would break ourselves in gently and start with the shorter walks first so we chose the Millwood Trail, only about 1.5 miles under the Go Ape course.
Start of the trail

Go Ape - can you see someone way up there in the trees?!

 It was a lovely walk of contrasts, the adventure and occasional screaming (!) from the Go Ape course above our heads mixed with the quietness of the forest on a still cold day mixed with the sound of flowing water from the streams.  Just lovely! Once we left Go Ape behind us and headed up into the forest we met very few other people, the forest belonged to us for a couple of hours. We stopped at the top for some 'cowboy' lunch (baked beans and bacon- weird I know but the kids love it, and it's WARM!) and had great views down to the Visitors centre.      
Looking down over the visitors centre
High Street, Grizedale
A hedgehog?

Along the way we passed different sculptures, some hidden up little paths to discover.....

These wood markers show you where to explore..

Didn't know the name of this one, kind of like a half built shelter!


 Then it was down for hot chocolate and a play before we all got far too cold and headed home....

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Life goes on....

We are always on a journey, maybe not always heading in the direction we thought we wanted to go but still moving along. It feels like our journey at the moment consists of warding off people wanting money while trying to figure out what we really want to be doing in the long term!! Meanwhile we just get on with life...

This blog was originally set up as a kind of record of how we are learning to be greener while heading towards our dream of a small holding. This will still be put in here as we discover new things but it is also evolving into a record of what we get up to in our everyday lives as well so I hope you'll keep reading along..... 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

It's official...

We are now very proud 'Review Bloggers' for the Forestry Commission, specifically promoting our local forest of Grizedale, which is one of our favourite places to go! So you will all be seeing quite a bit of this lovely bit of the Lake District via blog posts in the coming year, a great excuse to take loads of pictures....not that I need one!!

Funnily enough we had decided that we would try and get around most of the trails in Grizedale this year when this opportunity came up so it was perfect timing. So to get you all in the mood until we get back there.....

Adventure playgound - good even in the wet!

The huge woodsman..

Monday, 22 October 2012

Grizedale on a sunny Sunday

After all that exercise in the Forest of Dean, we figured it was time to get out & about in our local forest too. So with all the bikes loaded on the best Sunday afternoon in ages it was off to Grizedale for a ride with the family!!
It's only when you as out of touch with exercise as we are that you get to realise why they are called "push" bikes!!

Starting at Moor Top (ominously named) it didn't take long for us to realise that every run down hill had a price, that would be the uphill following it!
all the puffing & panting aside it was a fantastic place to spend an afternoon!

The trees are just at that point of turning where some of the them are still green & holding on to what summer we did have whilst others are golden & dropping all around you. The odd whiffle of wind would create a wonderful flurry of leaves falling more like snow or a strange gathering of butterflies dancing around you, amazing to experience!!

Along with all of that were the amazing scenes & the natural wonders of the forest, with water being an ever present feature in our lakeland vistas this year it was nice to see some that didn't have you running for cover!!

Of course one of the best bits of Grizedale is the visitors centre with it's hot drinks (for the adults) & ice cream's (for the kids!!) whilst not forgetting the playground which entertains the kids & gives the adults some peace & quiet!!

It was great to bump into old friends we haven't seen in years there too, never know who will have the same idea do you!

Yes, we did have a fantastic day!!! Shouldn't leave it so long before going again!! :)

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Back again!

I know, I know it's been ages. Just felt a bit underwhelmed by everything for a while but hey it happens to the best of us....(doesn't it??!!)

We've just got back from a few days down in the lovely Forest of Dean staying in one of the Forest Lodges, courtesy of my Mum and Dad. There really is something magical and calming about woods even when it's wet and soggy under foot! The kids had the freedom of cycling around freely without too much worry about cars and we enjoyed far too much coffee and cake!

Two weeks ago we had decided to cut right down on the amount of wheat we ate and had both felt so much better for it, and whilst we thoroughly enjoyed pigging out on holiday, we feel yucky and bloated now so we'll be getting back to low or even no wheat diet this weekend. If anyone has any good recipes to use, the areas we struggle with are breakfasts, bread and something sweet for evenings.....!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Magical Butter!!

 In our quest to get rid of horrible nasties from our diet, one of Dave's stumbling points was his beloved margerine....he has always insisted he hated butter and would never touch the stuff until I kindly pointed out all the rubbish that goes into marg....only thinking of his health!! We tried Olive oil in the freezer....didn't really work and so he bravely tried some different shop bought butters and found that he could get used to Goats butter and maybe actually quite like it....

Going a step further and doing a little bit of kitchen science with the kids as well, we then decided to have a go at making our own butter to see how that would taste.......well... it's like a little miracle all of it's own (I'm easily impressed obviously!!) There's must be some kind of wizardry that turns a carton of double cream into some very delicious butter...surely? No, actually it's just a bit of effort and maybe ending up with arms like Popeye!

Your own homemade butter in a few easy steps...

1. Half / Three quarter fill a jar or tub with double cream (must be heavy or double to work) making sure it has a tight fitting lid.
2. Shake, shake, shake while doing a little jig around your kitchen...sharing the shaking is a great idea!
3. The magic happens in stages....first the cream goes thick, then gets to the point that it feels like it's not moving at all...keep shaking..
4. Next it starts to loosen a bit and if you open the lid to have a peak it looks a bit like curdled cream or scrambled eggs..put the lid back on and keep shaking..
5. Suddenly you hear liquid noise again and you know that the process is nearly done, this is the cream splitting into buttermilk and butter. You can now stop shaking...hurrah!
6. Pour out the buttermilk to use in baking or drink. B loves this on his cereal.
7. Take out your lovely lump of butter in your hand and just rinse under a cold tap giving it a gentle squeeze to get any more buttermilk out.
8. Pop it in a bowl and add salt to taste.
9. Pile it onto a thick slice of homemade bread.......heaven!!

I know this is probably no cheaper than buying butter but there is something special about making your own....and we can safely say that not many people will beat you at an arm wrestle if you do this every few days!!  

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Strawberries and Cream time....

We just happened to be driving around the other day and suddenly a shout went up from behind me ...'Mum, Mum the Pick Your Own is open, can we, can we??' Of course this means strawberries...I have to admit to never being a big fan of strawberries or soft fruit in general but there is something deeply satisfying about being able to go and pick fruit and then either eat it or make something truly scrumptious from it straight away. The weather up here has been pretty awful in the last couple of weeks so I was keen to get some before the crops were ruined by all the rain! 

The kids merrily picked two punnets full and then spent the walk back to get them weighed concocting some recipes to make when they got home. After a quick diversion to pick up supplies from the supermarket, I was banished from the kitchen and the chefs got to work.....well I was impressed!! E went for the understated strawberry and cream option, nicely sliced with added icing sugar to make the cream thick and sweet....delicious! B went for a more sophisticated shortbread, with strawberry puree and cream expertly drizzled over the top....delicious again!  For someone who claims not to like strawberries very much these were very yummy!! Maybe my tastes are just changing.....
Very proud chef!
The next day we had one punnet left so this was made into 'Quickest Strawberry Jam', a great recipe from the lovely Jamie Oliver. Ours didn't turn out like normal jam, a lot runnier but with the whole fresh strawberry taste still there rather than just a sugary one....delish. On homemade bread, with homemade butter (yes we did make it ourselves, I'll do a blog post on this next!!) it felt really great and tasted even better!!
Maybe strawberries aren't that bad after all!!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

It's a long journey....

Feeling a bit despondent at the moment, the dream of having our own small-holding seems soooo very far away and I know there's lots of people who would laugh if they knew where we wanted to be from where we are now......then I read this.....
Just got to keep remembering...ANYTHING can be....

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Parsley Cubes...

Just for something a bit different, we had our first organic veggie box from our local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme last week (Growing Well ) We were quite excited to see what goodies there would be in our share and maybe find some things we wouldn't normally buy. We had some spring greens, spring onions, rainbow chard, swiss chard, and a rather large bag of parsley.....mmmm what do you do with a whole bag of parsley??!!

After using some in a pasta sauce, some in chard soup (great recipe here..Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup ) there was still loads of it left! So rather than waste any we decided to freeze most of it in little handy cubes, ready to be popped into soup, stews etc whenever needed.
Chopped and put into ice-cube trays, top up with water

Tada...little cubes of herby goodness!!

 I wonder what we get this week......

Wednesday, 20 June 2012 last!

I know,I know it's been a whole week since I said I would put photos up of our week looking after a friends just took over and energy levels dipped out a bit so here we are now!!
Gorgeous old Farmyard

The pony and foal in one of their fields

These were just visiting!!

Daft ducks, followed each other everywhere!

Pinky and Blacky - they were like Laurel and Hardy...very amusing!!

The little one-eyed duckling being looked after by one of the Silkie hens

The mad geese on the rampage..

The evil ram- he had serious issues!!
It was stressful at times and we had a huge learning curve to go through but it was great and we loved it!!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Small-holding week

Well, our small-holding dream has come true......well, only for one week but it's a start. Some friends of ours have gone off on holiday (first in a looong time) and left us in charge of their lovely house and small-holding. It's been an interesting  learning curve with an escaping rabbit and guinea-pig, a ram with serious issues and chickens who didn't seem to want to go to bed! Fortunately the rabbit and guinea-pigs were thankfully caught again after a stressful half-hour and we think we've found a way around the evil ram's field to get to the lambs we need to feed! Mr Ram is not in my good books after charging us and scaring the living daylights out of B and me. He is just greedy and wants the lambs food but he needs counselling!! So tomorrow I will wave the bucket at him while I bypass his field and get the lambs fed another way!!

I'll get some pictures up tomorrow .....hope the weather holds! ...(edit: pictures may be a few days!!)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Wasted Water.

I laughed (secretly!) at Dave's mum when she decided to keep a bucket by her kitchen sink to collect wasted water.....I thought it was a bit of a crackpot idea but I guess I have to admit that she was right!! A bucket suddenly appeared by our sink last week...... like mother, like son...... and I am actually slightly amazed (and shocked) at how much water we would normally waste just through one day. Every time we want hot water we run the tap until it warms up.....every time we want cold water we run the tap until it's nice and cold.....every time we empty and refresh our drink bottles that water goes straight down the all adds up! We've started trying to collect it all in our handy bucket and we must be filling that bucket every day at least.

Even up here in the wet NW of England, our outside rain barrels are pretty much empty already, so this water has come in very handy to water our veggies when needed....water that would have been lost down the plughole! In this country we take it too much for granted that we will always have water readily available.

We haven't got onto all the waste water from washing up, baths etc yet but maybe that's something to look into in the near future. It must amount to a huge amount of useable water that ends up wasted......   

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Wild Garden.... Wild Food!

It has been said that our garden is a complete mess......well, of course, there is a very good reason for this...we're not growing weeds, we are growing food!!

Yesterday Dave decided we would go on a little wild food hunt around our (very messy!) garden and we managed to find three ingredients to try out.. dandelion leaves, ground elder and garlic mustard.

The ground elder went into a very yummy omelette for lunch (recipe from Downsizer ) and eating this is also a good way to get rid of this invasive plant from your garden!

The Garlic Mustard leaves were shredded and put on top of a delicious homemade pizza last night, it can be used a bit like spinach, just sauteed a little to wilt it down and put on top.

The Dandelion leaves are still sitting here.... I know I should have come up with some ingenious idea to use them but they just don't appeal to me at all, probably after tasting an extremely bitter one a couple of weeks ago!!

Of course there are still nettles around (and lots of them here!) so they have been picked and left in a bucket of water to make some organic liquid feed for the veggies.

So out of mess and mayhem came some little yummy, good for you rays of sunshine!! We will definitely be using our little book of Food For Free by Richard Mabey a bit more this year.    

Friday, 25 May 2012

Now on Facebook!!

Just so you all know we've set up a lovely new Facebook page, this is a quick and easy way to pass on information we come across, so if you are a Facebooker please come and join us and share, share, share!!!
Journey To The Green Dream Facebook Page

Monday, 21 May 2012

Sunshine ...... at last!!

We have had a beautiful day in the Lakes today, gorgeous warm sunshine making the water sparkle and the well-watered greenery look lush and lovely...

Lake Windermere

Down by the ferry point

Waiting for the ferry...


and best of all, the sunshine is meant to last all week...hooray!!!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's the pits!!!

Yes today I will tell you all about armpits, the not so smelly, lovely fresh kind I now have without nasty chemicals! Deodorant is one area that has worried me for some time, the scare stories of aluminium and parabens contributing to breast cancer ... (read Livestrong - Health dangers of Underarm Deodorants) These are common ingredients used in most mainstream deodorants that we buy. Of course there are alternatives that can be bought or you could, like me, make your own... It really is sooooo simple, so much nicer knowing what's going on your skin and effective too.

I can't take all the credit for this recipe as I originally found it here.. Surviving the Stores - Homemade Coconut Deodorant but I'll give you a very professional rundown of what I and everything!!

Step 1 -   Find yourself some empty containers, I used some old stick deodorant tubes which my hubby had kindly finished with. Clean out any remaining nasty chemical deodorant and keep ready for the mixture to be made.If you don't have any of these just use a tub as this can be rubbed on with your fingers just as easily.

Step 2 - Gather the rest of the ingredients and equipment... will need:
5 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup of arrowroot powder
1/4 cup of Bicarbonate of Soda
15 - 20 drops of Essential oil of your choice (I used Tea Tree as it has good antiseptic properties)

A bowl to mix in and a spoon to mix with!
(All the ingredients can be bought from either the local supermarket/health food shop or even online)

Step 3 - Put all the above into your bowl and squish and mix it all thoroughly together. I've found that sometimes getting your fingers in to squish it up can help to soften the coconut oil so it mixes easily but don't leave them in too long or it all starts to melt!! It should look like a slightly sticky biscuit dough...

Step 4 - Push the mixture down into your tub or deodorant tubes, this can be a bit messy but don't worry, you can wipe down the tubes later. I always pop mine into the fridge to set for a little while and then it's ready for use. You just need a quick swipe under your arms and you're ready for anything!
If you live in a lovely hot country you many need to always keep it in a fridge. As I live in the very beautiful but very wet and not so hot NW of England we don't have the problem of melting deodorant!!

I've used this recipe for a while now and have found that pains I used to get in my armpit (possibly something to do with the Lymph nodes) have all stopped and it really does work just as well as any mainstream deodorant I've used before.

Go on, give it a try......

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

This is healthy.....right???

Dave has just done the annual Keswick to Barrow walk, 40 long miles mainly on tarmac raising money for a fantastic local charity Alices Escapes (blatant plug!) So being the ever faithful wife I went off in search of healthy, energy boosting, easy to carry foods for him to take along with him. Of course, dried fruit and nuts...perfect! In actual fact he didn't actually eat any of them along the way so we were left with this lovely big bag of reasonably healthy yumminess...
or so I thought.....

Since we started trying to eat healthier I think I've turned into the label police!! What is Sulpher Dioxide and what is it doing on my supposed healthy dried fruit???

Well according to Natural News this is used as a preservative, not only in dried fruit but jams, wine, fruit juices etc etc..... In other words we seem to eat a lot of it probably without realizing!

They also go on to quote.. ' Sulphur dioxide is a preservative that is used to make dried fruits look better by preventing fruits from going brown. It helps to keep fruit moist and extends their shelf life. However, sulphur dioxide has been linked to asthma attacks, stomach problems and lower respiratory tract symptoms. Due to its composition, sulphur dioxide is a major air pollutant and has significant impact on human health when breathed in or ingested.'

Great!! Well... this packet will get eaten in our house but I will definitely be checking out all the so called 'healthy' foods from now on!!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Tumbling Compost

Apparently it's Compost Awareness week this week, so to keep in with the theme I will show you all our lovely compost!! Mmmmm not very exciting maybe but looky we have a new compost tumbler...... These can be bought but seem to be ridiculously expensive, so in true Blue Peter style here's one we made earlier....

We have had a problem with rats in our garden and due to the fact that they are not one of my favourite things in nature (understatement!) we decided to give a tumbler a go instead of the usual compost heap.

We are fortunate enough to have a food manufacturer near to us who get ready made sauces delivered in these big blue barrels and are quite happy for people to take them off their hands once they've emptied them. These make great water butts and of course composters! Dave and the kids  drilled some air holes, put some long screws through some of them to aid the tumbling process and made a stand from an old pallet where it can be spun around like a tombola....voila!   

Every time we have something to compost,we just open the latch door, throw it in and spin the tumbler around on it's stand a couple of times to jumble it all up and in theory this will make us some lovely compost for our veggies. There is some debate whether this process works faster than compost heaps but anything is worth a try and it seems to be working quite well so far... with a little bit of help from some wee of the male variety (a good compost activator so we're told!)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The Dilemma......

Not really relevant but I love Highland cows!!

We're having a bit of a dilemma at the moment... cutting out processed food and eating healthier, more natural foods is great and going well but how far do you go? If you've read our story above you'll know we are pretty much skint at the moment so where do we draw the line between money and good food? To be honest I don't really know the answer!!

The more we read about what goes into our food and how food is produced the scarier it gets, there seems to be critics at every corner, one says to eat only organic, one says to eat only pasture-fed, one says to eat only local, one slams the whole lot and says eat anything you like because you're going to die anyway!! (ok I made that one up but you get the point!) The problem we have is that organic is just so highly priced it's mainly beyond our budget, we are living on very little really and so the dilemma begins......

We spent about ten minutes in the supermarket yesterday (yes we still have to go there sometimes!) discussing the merits and downfalls of cows milk versus goats milk, then organic versus non-organic, then onto local versus not local.....  we'd still be there if I hadn't got stressed and just went for the usual non-organic cows milk we've always drunk!!

So no real decision made yet, this is one that we'll just have to figure out as we go..........

Friday, 4 May 2012

Exciting algae!

We are a bit busy this weekend, so you probably won't hear much from us for a couple of days. Tomorrow myself and E (DD) are off to a training day at the Freshwater Biological Association to learn all about identifying algal blooms! Sounds exciting doesn't it? What do you mean No??  Well, it may not sound too exciting but anyone who lives near lake Windermere knows that every year we seem to have a real problem with blue/green algae which can cause illness to humans and even death to small animals like dogs. That means no lake swimming for the kids and dogs alike which when you're sitting by a lovely lake on a hot,sunny day can be a real challenge!! The Great North swim was cancelled last year because of suspected blue/green algae so it's something that's important and needs to be monitored. That's where we come in! We will be part of a team of volunteers who will monitor a small area along the shore of the lake through the year to collect any samples etc so the very intelligent people at the FBA can figure out whats going on with the algae. I'm actually quite looking forward to it.

Then it's off to a friends party in the evening and walking on Sunday.....have a great bank holiday weekend!

p.s. did you know that some algae can look like beautiful spiral bracelets (according to E!)  

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Peas shoots and Propagators.....

Our two raised beds
The rest of the UK seems to have had torrential rain and flood warnings today, we have had lovely sunshine! This evening we got on with some of our garden and I'll give you a sneaky peek......

The rescued fruit bushes.

It's very messy and a bit haphazard at the moment but we have two raised beds where all the veg is busy growing and lots of bags (with potatoes) and pots with various things in. We are trying to put up a kind of homemade poly tunnel over the raised beds at the moment as the weather up here is being a bit temperamental, hence the weird contraptions in the picture. We are just waiting for an offer of some covering from our local's hoping!

Pea shoots - fast food!

Chuppa chups propagator!

One of our pots has some lovely pea shoots already growing, this has to be one of the easiest things to grow (ever!!) We happened to be catching up on a whole load of programmes on i-player and came across the Edible Garden , and in one of the shows the presenter grew pea-shoots just from an ordinary packet of dried peas...... so simple. Of course we then had to try it out .... and it really is that simple, pop a load of compost in a pot, any size, shape pot will do, sprinkle on a handful of dried peas, cover with a light covering of compost and water.....then wait for a few weeks and hey presto ...pea shoots!! They can be picked and eaten as you garden, or used as a salad leaf and taste goooood!

As a bit of fun we also planted up a couple of old chuppa chup lolly holders which the kids had finished with and they have now become mini propagators with lettuce in..... I think the neighbours think we are completely strange!!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Beautiful Cumbria...

Today I thought I'd just share some pictures of a recent visit to Sizergh Castle . Spring has arrived despite the horrible wet and windy weather we're having at the moment.