Perfect Tomatoes

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There’s really nothing like the taste of a home-grown tomato and if you’re growing some this year, give your plants the best chance of producing perfect tomatoes. Here are a few solutions to some common problems (text taken from ‘How to Grow Tomatoes’ listed on the Mini Guides page )

 
Blight:
Blight is the worst tomato enemy. If your plants get infected, there’s nothing you can do but pull up the plants and burn them. Ouch. But there are precautions. The blight virus is prevalent during mild muggy weather.
Many growers swear by a preventative dose of ‘Bordeaux’ mixture which is a combination of hydrated lime and copper sulphate. However, although Bordeaux Mix was considered to be organic, we now know it’s not a particularly good product to use in the garden.

*There are some new hybrid varieties of tomato appearing all the time that are blight resistant.
Another way to avoid blight attacking all your plants is to plant them in spots around the garden rather than in lines. A tomato plant on each corner of a vegetable patch, a couple in the flower beds, maybe one or two in containers etc; can help prevent the virus spreading. This does mean the garden doesn’t look so ‘ordered’, but worth trying, especially if you expect warm muggy weather.

Slugs and Snails:
All young plants are vulnerable to slug and snail attacks. Don’t take any chances. Protect your plants with any organic means you can find. An old method was to sink a bowl of beer in the ground at night. Apparently slugs love beer and providing a swimming pool of it will seduce them away from your plants. Slugs can’t swim, as far as I know, so you will have to deal with a bowl of dead drunk slugs in the morning. **I’ve tried this and it worked!
Crushed egg shells, sand, salt and other deterrents around your plants works well, but make sure there are no gaps where the slugs can enter.

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As far as I know slugs don’t usually look like this, but they could definitely be considered as monsters in the garden!

 

 

 

Water-logging:
Too much water sitting in the ground can rot the roots of your plants very quickly. Check the soil after a heavy rain-fall, or if you’re region is prone to flooding. If water-logging is a problem there are a couple of solutions. You could add drainage material to the soil and landscape design it well.

Or use containers. Nearly everything you’ll ever need to grow can be grown in a well-drained container of some kind. Always use good potting or seed compost in pots and containers to give your plants all the nutrients they need.

Drying Out:
Tomatoes will need watering in dry weather conditions to develop fruits fully. If plants dry out, they are unlikely to do what you want them to. The midday sun can scorch the leaves of your plants – they won’t be happy. Shade from a hot midday sun to avoid this. Tomatoes do need lots of water. If you see fruits splitting, it’s generally because they aren’t getting enough water.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

 

 

 

 

Organic Gardening

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Organic gardening was the only way of gardening before chemicals and pesticides arrived to ‘help’ our crops along. Unfortunately there are side effects to many of the chemical products – in fact there are side effects with most of them, although some less harmful than others.

Organic gardening was the way of the past and hopefully it will be the way of the future, as we learn more about the damage we are causing to our environment.

Organic fruit and vegetables can be more expensive than un-organic produce, and it pays therefore to be producing our own food as much as we possibly can. Unless you have a large area of land, including polytunnels and greenhouses, and perhaps an army of gardeners to do a lot of the work for you, it’s unlikely you will be able to grow the variety of fruit and veg you are used to buying.

However, there are many different fruits, vegetables, herbs and even edible flowers we can grow in an average sized garden, and in a few hours every week, organic food can be included in the diet for all the family, however addicted to burgers, fries and chocolate buttons they are!

Plan your organic garden well and buy the seeds you want from a reputable seed supplier. Thompson and Morgan (UK) are online award winning suppliers of seeds and other products and they have some great pictures to get inspired by!

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Organic gardening with Thompson and Morgan UK

Or browse Amazon products – double check reviews and country of origin. I’ve ordered seeds before now that took so long in coming that it was too late to sow them.

Follow the instructions on your seed packets and plan your garden carefully. Make sure you don’t plant tall growing plants in front of shorter plants as they will shade the small ones from the sun.

Keep your fruit and veggies free from weeds, and water well, especially during long dry periods in the summer. Keep an eye on the slug and snail population when the plants are small. A slug attack can wipe out a whole row of carefully planted lettuces in a matter of hours.

Organic gardening worked for our ancestors so try using old fashioned ways of dealing with slugs rather than buying chemical slug pellets. For example, crushed eggshells placed around the plants, making sure there are no gaps, will prevent slugs from eating your young plants.

Many gardeners swear by a glass of beer sunk into the ground next to a new line of plants. Apparently slugs prefer the smell of beer and will happily drown themselves in alcohol and leave your baby lettuces to fight another day! (I’ve tried this and it works!)

Other pests can get into the garden and enjoy the free food you’re providing, and they will particularly love your organic gardening methods 🙂 but with a little vigilance and a regular stroll around the veggie patch, you should be able to keep on top of most of the problems that could turn up.

The cabbage white butterfly will attack your brassicas – and they WILL attack so watch out for them. They lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves and within a couple of days the hungriest caterpillars in the world will munch through your entire crop of cabbages, or any other brassicas.

Remove them at the egg stage and burn or throw them to the chickens. If you miss the egg stage, simply take off the leaves the caterpillars are eating and throw them on the fire, or again to the chickens. This may seem very un-zen like but unless you are intending to buy your cabbages and are just planting them for the fun of attracting caterpillars and increasing the butterfly population, there is little choice.

Always look out for natural products or advice from local gardeners. Some will use chemicals, but many gardeners dislike un-natural products. If you put chemicals onto your plants, the chemicals will find their way, not only into the crops, but also into the soil which wont be as fertile next year, so its really worthwhile avoiding any “chemical” products.

Stick with organic gardening, and the wonderful organic food you produce will feed your family for many years to come from the same patch of land.

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

Feeling Grateful

Since my living off the land days I’ve had many years without a garden. Last year I moved into a lovely house in Cornwall with a smallish but beautiful garden. And over the past few months, my son and I have transformed it into an even more beautiful space 🙂 – we’re growing food …

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and finding all sorts of wildlife in our inherited pond. This dragonfly visited today

 

 

 

and we found a pond salamander laying eggs – too slow grabbing my phone for a photo but such an awesome experience. Loving nature! After a tidy up yesterday, the pond is looking even better.

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I am so sooooo grateful for my garden.

During the last couple of weeks I’ve shared my time between giving the website a makeover and tending plants (and pond) so haven’t written much – haven’t done much housework either but that’s not so unusual for me!

I hope the sun’s shining in your world today.

Stay safe.

Linda x

 

The New Normal?

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I watched an old episode of QI last night and they were talking about average sizes and demographics. After surveying thousands of women in Australia, an ‘average’ person was deduced – hair colour, children’s ages, home owner etc; – the list was fairly long 🙂 and when they looked for this ‘average’ person, they couldn’t find her. Apparantly an average person doesn’t exist.

Well, if there’s no such thing as an average person, is there really any chance of discovering what is ‘normal’?

There’s been loads of talk about nature being more ‘present’ since people stopped getting in its way, and the ozone layer healing because there are less vehicles on the road. How much of this is 100% true is, of course, debatable. But we all lean on the hope that we are slowly healing our planet.

There’s been a huge divide between rich and poor for decades and those workers on the front lines have been continuously denied a decent wage, but the selflessness of those heroic folk on the front lines is now being recognized and applauded.

My hope is that humanity and humans as a species grow from this experience, spiritually, mentally and physically – although no growing sideways please!

When we hear folk moaning about being ‘stuck’ at home, it’s hard not to drop in a comment about homeless families, abuse victims and lonely folk who may be dealing with physical and/or mental issues. I resist because I do believe that what we give our attention to will grow so I only comment on positive stuff. It’s really quite tough sometimes though. I’ve had first hand experience with some of the issues mentioned and my ego often jumps in and wants to berate the moaners … BUT ….

That’s counter-productive because they really don’t know any different and showing what can be done is always more effective than telling.

So what is the new normal? Nobody knows for sure – we can speculate and opinionate but a pandemic on the scale we are currently experiencing is incomparable. Yes, a hundred years ago we had one, but life was different then – not saying better or worse – but certainly different.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a nugget of hope in all the confusion – the hope that helps us evolve as a species, the hope that respects nature and our fellow humans. My word for this is love. Loving and practising gratitude everyday sends out joyful and positive energy to the universe which swirls it all around and deposits those good feelings at random spots. (The butterfly’s wings causing a ripple around the earth.)

I try and incorporate these five practises as far as I can and as often as I can.

Stop to smell the roses
Feel the gratitude
Learn something new
Help someone
Love and care for all sentient beings.

Any of these practised during a day will bring a feeling of joy and abundance to ourselves and the Universe as a whole. I guess the challenge is getting billions of us feeling like that always…. 🙂

Stay Safe and may the force of love be with you.
Linda x

Gluten-Free Success!

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I’ve had some disasters lately with my gluten-free experiments, but today I got something right. 🙂
This banana bread is a recipe I created a couple of years ago but needed adapting to my store cupboard ingredients, so this is what I did…

In one large bowl, I stirred together

125g of gluten-free flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
just over 75g of dried fruit mix (sultanas, dried peel)

 

Then in another fairly large bowl, I mixed (well)

2 large mashed ripe bananas
1 egg
2 dessertspoons maple syrup
4 dessertspoons milk
50g. melted butter

 
Then poured the wet ingredients into the dry and beat for about 15 seconds (just to get the mix well combined and incorporating some air)

Poured into a lined loaf tin and baked in a preheated oven (175degrees) for 33 minutes – 2 more minutes and the top would’ve been too brown. I lifted it out with the baking parchment lining and left it to cool on a wire tray until I couldn’t wait to cut it!

This is a really good ‘filler’ loaf/cake and the ingredients can be healthed-up a bit by using melted coconut oil instead of butter and honey instead of maple syrup.

If you use a non-dairy milk this is a dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free recipe. And it’s delicious. The cut slice in the photo disappeared as soon as the photo was taken!

Bon Appetit!

Linda x

Uplifting Quotes

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We can all benefit from a few uplifting quotes now and then, especially now. I’ve been taking lots of photos of my garden which I am so grateful for. But then when I started looking on Pixabay for some good images, I realised there are a whole bunch of photographers out there who are soooo much more professional than me.

So, I’ve been putting some images with some relatable quotes and popped twelve of them in my latest printable at Etsy.

I’ve also duplicated the quotes for an alternative to heavy printer ink consumption! Those pages have a simple apple blossom design.
I have a whole list of printables to create and they’re all going to be on sale at the lowest price possible for the foreseeable future, so when you have a minute, pop over to Etsy and have a look around. Any requests gladly considered 🙂
Before I sign off, one of my favourite quotes of all time is:
“You don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing” George Bernard Shaw
That suits me just fine! And ‘playing’ doesn’t have to be taken literally, especially if your chosen sport or hobby involves close contact with others. ‘Playing’ means having fun, enjoying yourself, having a little quality ‘me’ time so don’t forget to keep playing!

Stay Safe
Linda x
P.S. The downloadable printables are in my pennywise collection and come out at £1.20 (UK) but are, of course, downloadable from practically anywhere.

Time to Think

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This is for all of us who are forced into lockdown and can’t work from home.

We all have 24 hours in every day – that’s 1440 minutes – and although we could allow 8 of those hours to sleep, there’s still 960 minutes to play with. 960!

(If you need to deduct 8 hours of work time, that brings us down to 480 minutes per day – every day)

One thing about time is that once it’s gone, it’s gone. When you reflect on your past and life experiences, it’s incredible where the time really went.

So, what are you doing with your 960 minutes per day? Obviously there are chores to be done, but they can take up surprisingly little time, especially if you delegate here and there!

Don’t feel bad about treating yourself to some me time – why not? How often have you said ‘Oh if only I had time to meditate, begin a yoga practise or perhaps start your own business’?

Being thrown out of your routine can be challenging, but there’s no reason why you can’t create your own.

If you decide you’re going to de-clutter or spring clean your home, or get the garden ready for planting, don’t try to fit it all in one day.

When you only have evenings and weekends to do these chores, they tend to be just that, chores. But at this particular time in history, you can spread your wings and your workload and enjoy the moments rather than stressing about getting it all done before Monday morning rolls around again.

So, grab a pen, a notepad and a cuppa and indulge in some thinking time!

Before you start jotting down ideas, remember to incorporate all major areas of your life; well-being and nutrition, children and family, home and garden and of course some quality ‘me’ time. Here are a few Well-Being and Nutrition ideas….

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(Photo from Lucy Lou Yoga)

1. Start an online yoga practise. There are lots of them. Check out a few youtube videos before you start and choose a routine that suits you right now – not one that you aspire to that could take you months to achieve. That can be counter-productive as it’s easier to give up.

Choose a routine that will challenge you a little but doesn’t feel like a chore. After all, your well-being is top priority right now. If you’ve never done it before, always start with a beginner class. Get the kids involved. Many schools started yoga and meditation sessions and children adapt really well to yoga.
I’ve started learning how to breathe with yoga practices – it’s amazing just how much well-being is related to breathing properly.

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2. Or an exercise routine to keep you moving. Same rules apply as choosing a yoga practice. Just because you are under forty, or whatever, doesn’t necessarily mean you can do 100 sit-ups and a high-impact aerobics workout. Be aware of your limitations, push them a little but always treat yourself nicely.

And if you don’t have much space at home, allow for that as well. Don’t start leaping about if you are close to table corners for example. Safety must come first.

What about dance? Learn how to jive with your partner if you’re both at home – again though, give yourselves lots of safe space.

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3. Well-being should also include plenty of mental and spiritual time. Get into meditating! There’s an ancient zen saying that rings very true: “If you don’t have 20 minutes a day to meditate, you should be meditating for an hour” – not word for word but you get the idea. 😊. Again, youtube to the rescue here. There are probably thousands of different guided meditations you can use to get you started.

Or if you prefer, sit quietly and comfortably in a peaceful place and allow thoughts to come and go as they will. But to keep on track I would suggest a mantra. There’s a reason that yogis chant ‘ohm’- choose your own mantra that suits you. Make it a peaceful one though. Don’t sit quietly and start chanting ‘I need some money, I need some money, over and over again. Totally counter-productive.

Choose from mantras online – Google ‘yoga mantras’ and see what comes up. If you don’t feel you have the space or inclination to do a full 20minute meditation, be aware of moments during the day. Meditation moments are just as helpful.

When you’re washing up, or washing your hands, be present in the now and enjoy the feel of warm water and clean hands or dishes. Just a few seconds or a minute or two of returning to the moment rather than reflecting on past woes or future worries will help you feel connected and at peace.

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4. Your mental health may be taking a knock at the moment and the above well-being tactics will help you settle your worries. Also a little learning can go a long way. How about learning a language or taking any online course? There are courses in just about everything and many of them you can grab for free or for a small outlay. Check reviews and previews before you buy to make sure it will suit you.

And it doesn’t have to be ‘academic’ – maybe you’d like to learn how to knit or how to draw cartoons? Or play the guitar? Give yourself a little time here and think about all those moments you’ve said ‘I wish I had time to…..’ – well, now you do!

Obviously, learning to drive or taking flying lessons may not be possible right now but there are hundreds of hobbies and pastimes you could indulge in. And, as a side note, many small businesses have been started because someone’s hobby suddenly took off!

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5. Nutrition counts. Educating yourself about food is eye-opening. Do a little experiment for yourself: Jot down everything you ate or drank in a day then take a look at the actual ingredients and, I’m tempted to say components, when it comes to some of the fast-foods we often have in the freezer. Are you really taking in enough nutrients to keep your body healthy?

Check out immune system boosting foods and put them on your shopping list. Avoid fast-foods as far as possible and research some easy recipes – there are thousands upon thousands online. Choose gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free or sugar-free recipes. Whatever suits you and your family.

Allow yourself some of those 960 minutes to brainstorm some ideas. Do it as a family or couple if you’re sharing your space with others. Either way, the goal is to stay sane, and hopefully grow through this unprecedented time.

Stay safe,

Linda x

 

 

 

Late Night Knitting

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Well, it’s up and running. The pattern’s in my Etsy shop as of a couple of hours ago. Pulled a very-late-nighter but so pleased it’s done and I can share it with everyone.

I’ve been asked about this throw for ages and finally got my act together to create the patterns. Getting the ‘math’ head working isn’t always easy but after triple checking everything, I hope I remembered all my multiplication tables correctly!

Here’s the link to my shop – The Heirloom Throw is a featured listing – of course 🙂 – Knits U Love

The nature of this pattern means you can use odd balls of yarn or create a blending design. It’s up to you. I’m not a designer but because I only used three colours, the ‘blending’ seems to work really well.

Size is down to you as well. Make it as big or small as you want. Anything from king sized bed-size down to cushion covers perhaps?

Knitting is such a good antidote to snacking. It hardly takes up any room. And you can often find knitters donating odd balls of yarn if you ask around. Or you could buy a pack of multi-coloured yarns on Amazon. Get your pattern first though – whether it’s for a throw like this or anything else, so that you know what needles and yarn type you need.

And how about knitting Christmas this year! I’ve got a few patterns at the shop designed for beginner knitters, including the Ekokid doll range, that could all be possible Christmas gifts. (The Ekokids are non-plastic versions of Barbie, but much easier to play with for little hands and much less plastic!)

Knitting is an amazing hobby and this is a time we can explore new ways of living and consuming. Millions of people are taking up gardening – like we should ever have stopped growing food! And so many more hobbies and life skills to explore. Start easy though. Enjoy the moment and whatever you decide to nominate as your next project, I wish you pleasure in your pursuits 🙂 Happy Hobbying!

Stay Safe

Linda x

Turning Ideas into Projects

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I’ve been working on a project for about a year – on and off – and had a few teck traumas along the way but I’m very close to finishing it.

‘It’ being a downloadable pattern for a throw that anyone can have a go at. The versatility of these kind of projects is second to none. Use recycled yarn or scraps in your knitting basket or you could go all out and design a beautiful work of art.

I loved making this throw and it gets tons of complements 🙂

Anyway, it’ll be up on Etsy in a couple of days – fingers crossed – so as someone somewhere said ‘watch this space!’

As well as knitting, many of us are getting into different hobbies that have been sidelined for years and although we’re living in uncertain times, enjoying the moment is perhaps the one thing we can all focus on. Even washing up or sweeping the floor can be a moment of enjoyment and perhaps reflection.

When an idea turns up, don’t dismiss it immediately because of outside obstacles – finances, isolating etc; – because, even if you don’t know how to execute it, there’s so much information available and learning is always a bonus.

Although I made this throw nearly a year ago, most of the challenging work to create the digital patterns has been done in the past month!

If the ideas are coming thick and fast, attach a notepad and pen to yourself somewhere – a pocket would probably be best. 🙂 and jot down ideas as they happen. At the end of the day or week, go over your notes and spend a little time with each idea.

If one of them suddenly seems ridiculously off the planet, discard it or scale it down. Anything that seems feasible stays. Then really consider if you would enjoy following through each idea. If you don’t know and it’s not going to cost an arm an a leg to find out, do it. A new experience has to be worthwhile, surely?

What you are left with should be good ideas that you would love to carry out. Then go for it!

Stay Safe
Linda x

Connecting

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Thanks to mobile phones and social media channels, we can all keep connected pretty much all the time if we choose to. Of course, we know there are downsides, but treating your own well-being as priority, should help you drag yourself away from the latest horror stories after a period of time. Try to check in to the news just two or three times a day, but only for 10-15 minute bursts.

We don’t need to know everything. We can google all sorts of theories and conspiracies until the cows come home (?) but that’s your choice. And, where are you going with it? If you’re creating a future book or a personal journal of pandemic events, then fine, but don’t get lost in cyber space too often!

Other forms of connection are showing up all the time. One of my daughters and her partner created several funny short and distorted videos a couple of weeks ago which brought many smiles and belly laughs! Another of my daughters (a yoga teacher) has just made a short video of how she has found more confidence in herself simply by creating a video and some online yoga training. These connections mean so much and reach many people.

Acts of kindness are springing up all over the place and it’s heart-warming to know that not the entire human species are a bunch of idiots. 🙂

Recently, in a need-to-sort-everything-out moment, I found some poetry I’d written and on the same day discovered it’s poetry month and saw a post by Elizabeth Gilbert encouraging people to post poems. Thank you Universe!

So that’s what I did! I would never have dreamed of doing this before but I had a lovely comment on instagram so I thought I’d share it with you here. But before I sign off, this is the time to be thinking outside the box, even if you’re physically inside one….

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(This was my excuse for not learning to swim!)

Keep safe and well,
Linda x

P.S. If you’re connecting with your garden, there are pots of gardening tips posted here