On April 4th, Charles, Felix (a German university student who is working at Homeacres with Charles for four months) and I travelled to Axminster, Devon for the River Cottage ‘Meet the Experts’ Day, where Charles and I were two of the experts giving talks.
My talk explained potions for the home and garden made from plants which can be grown or foraged in the UK. I brought some examples of some I had made and some plants including the soapwort that you can see on the table in the photo. Soapwort has been used to make a soapy solution for washing and cleaning for centuries.
The speakers each gave two talks – as my first was during the opening slot it was a bit worried that it would just be attended by Felix, but I was happily mistaken: the room was full with every seat taken, with many more standing at the back. (Photos of my talk by Felix)
Charles talked about no dig gardening in the barn, a larger room – that talk was so packed I could hardly get in to take the photo. It’s great that there is so much interest in no dig growing, many people inspired to give it a go themselves.
I caught the end of a talk about growing by Ashley of nearby Trill Farm. He’d brought a huge selection of delicious leaves which they’d grown for their salad bags over the winter. They had not been able to grow over wintered lettuce due to the failure of their Grenoble Red seed: the quality of some seed sold is so disappointing. One wonders if some seed companies rely on people thinking it is their fault if seeds germinate poorly, rather than blaming the seed companies for selling old and poor quality seed. Grenoble Red is one of the plants we save for seed, to ensure good germination and healthy plants.
I thought I knew quite a lot about growing pulses in England, but Josiah from Hodmedod’s fascinating talk revealed many other varieties which grow well in our country. I’m going to try chickpeas this year – not to dry, but to eat green – and these ‘beans’, which are really Carlin peas. Josiah gave us some to try so I am going grow some this year. They taste good. Josiah also gave us a packet of wasabi peas. These are amazingly moreish – my sons adored them.
The vegetarian lunch was huge and amazing, about 10 different dishes so of course I tried all of them and ate two helpings! I was so busy eating, I forgot to photograph it. There was also plenty of time to explore the gardens:
Here is another blog post about the day, written by some of the visitors there.
One of the recipes I shared was for this gorgeous smelling cleaning vinegar. Here is how I made it:
SEASONAL HERBAL CLEANING VINEGAR
What you need…
A large glass jar with a lid
White or cider vinegar
Herbs – herbs with good cleaning properties include mint, rosemary, lemon balm, thyme, sage, lemon verbena, parsley, basil, eucalyptus
The recipe changes according to the seasons. I usually have rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley available all year round, but mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena and basil are more abundant during the warmer, lighter months.
Unlike manufactured cleaners, this homemade vinegar does not contain artificial fragrances or peculiar chemicals (these give me headaches) – it is natural, smells great and is so cheap and easy to make.
How to make it
Gather sprigs of your chosen herbs and place in the glass jar until it is loosely full. Next, pour the vinegar over the herbs until the jar is full, replace the lid and put somewhere that you will see it every day, such as beside the kettle. It looks very pretty on the counter!
Shake the jar every day for two weeks.
After two weeks, remove the lid and strain the liquid through a fine sieve or muslin. This can be used immediately or stored in a jar. It lasts indefinitely.
The vinegar can be used neat to clean surfaces and toilets, or diluted 50/50 with water in a spray bottle as a general purpose cleaner or effective window cleaner. Add two cups to a bucket of warm water to add freshness and sparkle to floors.
As with all cleaning products do be careful and make sure that it doesn’t get into eyes or cuts.
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