Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, walking on Dartmoor, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could share with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!

Elderflower Delight

Goodness me – have we got a delicious treat for you this week! Writing pal and foraging guru Julia Horton-Powdrill has come up with this absolutely gorgeous reciped for ElderFlower Delight. What a lovely change from the usual Turkish variety and another great use for wonderful edlerflower. Thank you Julia!

Elderflower Delight

You will need: 

  • 25g leaf gelatine
  • 25 heads of elderflowers
  • 700g granulated sugar
  • 400ml water
  • 130g cornflour
  • 30g icing sugar
  • Juice of two lemons 

Soak the gelatine in a shallow dish of cold water to soften. Strip the blossom from the stems and tie loosely in a piece of muslin leaving one piece of string long.

Put granulated sugar, lemon juice and 300ml water in a heavy-based saucepan, heat gently until sugar is dissolved, then leave to cool.

Mix 100g of the cornflour with the remaining 100ml water until smooth, then stir into lemon/sugar syrup. Return the saucepan to a low heat. Squeeze gelatine to remove excess water, then add to mixture. Whisk until dissolved.

Bring mixture very slowly to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring almost continuously to prevent the mixture sticking. Suspend the muslin bag in the mixture and simmer, still stirring, for a further 15 minutes. Give muslin bag an occasional squeeze with back of spoon to release Elderflower fragrance. The mixture will gradually clarify and become extremely gloopy. When ready, leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Mix remaining 30g cornflour with icing sugar. Line a shallow baking tin, about 20cm square, with baking parchment and dust with a heaped tablespoonful of the icing sugar and cornflour mixture. Remove the muslin bag from the gloopy mixture, then pour it into baking tin and place in a cool place (not the fridge) to set.

Refrigerate for a few hours until it becomes rubbery. Cut the Elderflower Delight into cubes with a knife or scissors and dust with the remaining icing sugar and cornflour. Enjoy!

To see more of Julia’s wonderful recipes and foraging tips, go to: www.facebook.com/WildAboutPembrokeshire

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Velvet and Lace

My favourite cards always involve something feminine and this example is definitely a favourite! I love the effect you can achieve with the lace stamps (there are several to choose from on the web site) and the mixture of parchment, velvet, lace and flowers is wonderful. Those hydrangeas from my garden look pretty too don’t they – thank you photographer!

The way to get one of the best effects from the lace stamps is to choose a “detail white” embossing powder, stamp with a Versamark pad and then sprinkle with the embossing powder – tap to clear any excess and then heat emboss. This is an easy task once you have the hang of it – using parchment I always heat from the back so I can see the changes taking place and move the heat along to prevent burning/overheating etc.

Both the backing paper under the parchment and the main image come from the Jane Shasky CD – “From the Heart of the Garden” – if you haven’t had a look through the contents do go to the website and click on the videos section where you will find a wander through all of our videos – worth looking before you buy!

So I will go back to admiring my hydrangeas out of the window and see what we can come up with for next week’s blog!

 

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A wonderful walk right on my doorstep!

Morwenstow on the north coast.I know I do tend to go on about how lovely Devon is… but it just is! This week, I thought I’d ramble (excuse the pun!) on about the South West Coast Path.

Not only is Devon blessed with lovely rolling countryside and dramatic moorland, it also has two stunning coastlines to the north and south. The north is rugged and exposed, while the south is softer with more sheltered bays. Devon is the chunky ‘thigh’ of the south west ‘leg’ of England that delicately dips its toe out to the far south west and the Atlantic ocean.

The South West Coast Path National Trail goes right round this leg taking in Devon and Cornwall and more – starting in the north, at Minehead in Somerset and going on for 630 miles – to Poole in Dorset in the south

It is regarded as one of the top walks to be found anywhere in the world. The heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery along the way are stunning and every day spent walking it brings new experiences.

The lovely harbour town of Dartmouth in south Devon.You don’t have to be super fit, and you obviously don’t have to do all of it! Some areas, especially in Cornwall, are very steep and challenging (and very beautiful) but lots of other sections are gentle and make lovely seaside strolls.

Some people spend years walking small sections of it, ticking off the miles until they’ve done the whole thing. Others – heaven help them – tackle the whole thing in a couple of months, often for charity.

There’s a rather nifty scheme that lets you stay in B&Bs, while some obliging people will drive your bags on ahead of you so that, when you arrived footsore after a coastal canter, your bubble bath and slippers are ready and waiting for you.

There’s a very good website: www.southwestcoastpath.com which shows you everything you need from amazing photos that will inspire you, to walks that are interesting for children, or include pubs on the route (count me in!).

The coastal path in south Cornwall.

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Herby beautiful

With all the herbs growing like mad, I thought it was time we had another herby pampering session!

Rosemary Hair Tonic

Rosemary is an excellent substitute for mildly medicated shampoos, and this tonic also helps control greasy hair and enhances the shine and natural colour.

You will need: 

  • 250ml/8fl oz fresh rosemary tips
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints bottled water.
  1. Put the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, then allow to cool in the pan.
  2. Strain the mixture and store it in a clean bottle. Use after shampooing your hair. 

Feverfew Complexion Milk

Feverfew grown prolifically in the garden, self-seeding all over the herb beds, and this is a welcome use for some of this over-enthusiastic plant. The milk will moisturise dry skin, help to fade blemishes and discourage blackheads.

You will need:

  • One large handful feverfew leaves
  • 300ml/½ pint milk
  1. Put the leaves and milk in a small saucepan and simmers for 20 minutes.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan then strain into a bottle.

PS. Feverfew flowers

If you haven’t got feverfew sprouting everywhere like I have… it can be cultivated easily; it is especially pretty grown in tubs and pots in the greenhouse or conservatory.

Hang bunches of flowers upside sown and leave to air dry; use as a decorative addition to flower arrangements.

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‘Fedge’ your bets!!

When I went visiting my hen-pal Julia Wherrell the other day (see pics of me bravely holding a chicken!) I noticed her ‘fedge’ (cross between a fence and a hedge – cute name eh!) and remembered she had not long been on a willow course. I thought you might like to hear more about her fedge so I aasked her to write a bit for us this week …. over to you Julia!

“Predictably, after I came home all enthusiastic from my willow course in early May, it’s done nothing but rain! It took a few weeks for me to get into the garden on a dry-ish day and plan and plant my ‘fedge’ – I’d kept the living willow sticks (about 12ft long) in a large tub of water and the roots were looking impressive… leaves were already starting to sprout!

“I wanted a ‘division’ between two areas of garden to replace some old trellis that had rotted away. I didn’t want anything too structured or intrusive, so thought a willow fedge might work well. Normally, they are quite formally constructed, planted straight into the ground and then crossed over near the top and secured forming almost ‘gothic arch’ shapes.

“However, I’d decided I wanted to go all arty-farty and have a ‘flowing’ design that swooped down and then up again over an archway. Oh dear!

“After a few false starts, I armed myself with a large hammer and a crowbar – yes, really. I found if I whacked a hole about 8” deep in the ground, I could slot the willow in without harming the rootsIt’s surprisingly hard to photograph to show any detail! too much. I could then carefully bend and weave the sticks to my heart’s desire. They are amazingly flexible and I created roughly what I’d envisaged. I used the soft rubber covered wire garden tie stuff to hold everything in place.

“It’s now about six weeks since I planted the fedge, and it is growing really well. The huge amounts of rain have been a great help in making it take root. I have several established clematis (formerly on the trellis) growing over it and I’m pretty pleased with the result!

“I really would recommend a living structure, provided you have the room and the roots wouldn’t be too close to your house and/or a watercourse as willow is very invasive. It’s great fun to play around with and very cost effective. It doesn’t have to be willow either, I am told hazel is good too. As the fedge grows, I will need to clip it back and tie in shoots and my ‘artistic’ design might prove tricky, but I’m optimistic!

“Of course, you could just make a conventional shaped fedge, they are lovely too. I’d recommend going on a willow course – there are lots around the country (have a look on Google), to feel more confident in what you are doing, and there’s lots of information on line too about how to plant and care for willow.

“With some spare bits of willow, I made my spoiled chickens a ‘living igloo’ for their run. They have, of course, done their best to peck it to bits, but it seems to be surviving. Resilient stuff is willow!”

 

 

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