Friday, 29 March 2013

Cathedral Window

This piece of work was made from felted Llama fibres using the fleece in the original colour. The fibres are extremely light and warm and produce a felt with a beautiful sheen, lovely to work with on these snowy days! I sewed shapes for the window originally with gold metallic thread in a zigzag stitch and then cut out the desired areas. Hand stitching in coloured cottons was added followed by sewing a piece of blue metallic  organza to represent the stained glass window. I am at present working on a larger version around 3 feet in length to be displayed in the Creative Network Open weekend in Peel in early May. I have just washed some white Llama fleece to use for making a second large hanging for the same event. I will post photos of them when they are ready to hang. The work shown above has now been sold.
I had a huge quantity of frog spawn laid in my pond a couple of weeks ago, a bit later than usual. I thought that as it was so late it would be safe from frost for a change. The unexpected severe frost and snow has damaged it but I still hope to have plenty of tiny froglets to hop around my garden. MyJapanese contorted cherry tree is full of thousands of tiny flowers, usually covered in bumble bees, but it is too cold for the bees to venture out. In fact, a few weeks ago with Spring looking near, butterflies had started to emerge. It is difficult times for the wildlife. I had an old feather pillow which had burst open so I let the feathers blow onto my lawn. Today I have spotted a sparrow filling its beak with them to line a nest. I make sure that I don't hang my washed cashmere and Llama fibres outside at this time of year. I am sure that they would be most appreciated as bedding for nestlings, but it is a bit too precious for that.!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

February and March U3A

Christopher gave us a spellbinding talk and slideshow about plants seen on one of his trips to South Africa. In particular the photographs were taken in the Fynbos a natural shrubland or heathland in a small area of the Western Cape.The word Fynbos means Finebush. It covers 0.08% of the world's surface but has 3% of the world's flowers. some of the plants he showed in his photographs were Proteas, Heathers and Buchu, the latter cultivated for their essential oils which have medicinal properties. Hottentot tea, the Coral bean tree and Euphorbias were also shown. The wood from Camphor trees is used to make chests to store blankets as it protects against moths.
PlantZAfrica is a useful website to learn more about the indigenous flora of that region.
In the March meeting I gave a description of plants that are perennials but which many people do not know are edible. I shall be trialing out various ones and keeping you posted on what I think of them.
Useful books on the subject are: How to Grow Perennial Vegetables and Creating a Forest Gardening both by Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust. He has an excellent website where you can purchase trees, plants and seeds. You can find it at

Spring nibbles

I am busy in the greenhouse at present sowing my new batches of seed, always an exciting time.

I have also been using some of the new spring growth for eating. One of the main plants that I eat at this time of year is Alexanders. It grows along the roadside in the Isle of Man but I have a well established patch outside the door of the greenhouse. I use the leaves chopped up in salads and also in stir fries or as a steamed vegetable. It has a slight celery taste if slightly oily. I use it in bulk as it grows so luxuriantly. In fact, because of the mild winter we have had I have been using it for the past four months, and it has not suffered in the heavy frosts we had last week. It produces large black seeds in the summer which apparently can be ground up as a pepper but I have not tried that yet.
Previously I have nibbled on the flowers of Columbine while walking round the garden, they are very sweet, but today I tried eating the leaves. They are my new favourite leaf to eat, peppery to begin with but followed by a lingering sweetness. Above left Alexanders right Columbine.
I purchased a Hemerocalis plant last year (Day lily} and am intending to get a clump of them established, slugs permitting. The flowers are edible. Pick the buds in the morning and flowers at the end of the day. They have thick, sweet, crunchy petals which provide good substance in a salad where they are eaten raw. They can also be battered and deep fried or stuffed. The buds taste like French beans.
Soon it will be time to try out some emerging shoots such as hops and bamboo. The young shoots of hops are like asparagus and can be cooked slightly and used with a sauce if so desired. The shoots of bamboo are cut close to the ground and split to reveal the tender core. This can be then stir fried in many different dishes. Cutting the emerging shoots also prevents unwanted spread.