Sunday, 13 January 2013

Day 13 -It is important to have a neat back!

Sunday 13th January

Lets us talk about herbs. If I could be remembered for one thing it would be my passion for herbs. For those of you who haven't grown your own this is the year. We have grown herbs for the best part of ten years with great success. We sell potted herbs to local businesses but we do so much more with them than that. A signature product of ours is the dream pillow. It is a small pillow filled with a mix of dried herbs that you place under your pillow at night. As your head moves in your sleep the pressure releases the aroma and sleep comes much easier. Over the years I have created different recipes to evoke different type of dreams drawing on the traditions of the North American Indians.

It is often the case that dried herbs have more potency than fresh and when you grow your own it is easy to harvest on a regular basis and dry. My favourite dried herb is oregano and it is probably the easiest to dry. Wait until it flowers and then cut long stems and bind them together with string making a loop at the base. Hang the bundles out of direct sunlight and wait. When dried place in an air tight container use in Italian cooking. Easy.

Using fresh herbs in salads is a real summer treat. My personal favourite is fennel leaves. Just harvest the tiny leaves and add to salad to give it a bit of a punch. I also adore fresh mint tea. Just harvest a few leaves from your garden mint plant and add boiling water.

Storing herbs beyond drying is also easy. If you let your parsley grow and grow chances are it will bolt in dry periods and the crop is wasted. Instead, harvest tops reguarly and pop in a bag and put in the freezer. You can use it from frozen by crumbling a few leaves into your cooking.

I am hoping I am persuading newbie herb growers to give it a go. You can't go wrong by ordering from Rocket Gardens in Cornwall. They are a fabulous family run organic growing business that I have dealt with for years. An extra tip would be to position your herb garden in a sunny place by the back door because, in my experience, you don't want to treck down the garden just to pick a few leaves.

Today has been one of those liberating days when I have had a good sort. After the disappointment of no snow I decided to tackle my pattern books. Over the years I have collected piles of patterns and I certainly not used them all. I decided that I need to remove the ones I am not going to tackle. I then did the same exercise with my fabric and trimmings store. I have invited a couple of local girls to come and see if they want anything before I send it all to charity. I thought we might swap sewing stories and have the perfect excuse to eat cake.

Over the years I have taught all four children to sew. Molly is a lovely hand sewer and can be persuaded to do some of my finishing when she is home from university. The boys are all really good with the sewing machine. Harry, who is 17, is better than I am and that makes me very proud. He is accurate and fast which is the killer combination. The children have also designed and made their own sewn products from pattern making to hand finishing. Home school allows us so much time that we can happily work on a project intensively for a few days without the artifical breaks that school imposes. It has meant that the children have all experienced that feeling of achievement that comes from seeing an idea turn into reality.

My grandmother taught me to sew. She was a professional sewer and her attention to detail was amazing. We would be happily sewing our own projects and every so often she would ask me to turn my work over so that she could inspect the back. It is important to have a neat back! Even today when I am sewing I turn my work over to check the back is up to standard. Grandma never believed in waste; an outcome of living through the war. 'Make do and mend' was a wartime slogan invented by people like my Grandma. Our generation is so guilty of replacing rather and fixing. My grandfather had a workshop that most men dream of but never achieve. Everything had a place. After breakfast he would put on his work brown coat and head off to his workshop to fix something and grandma would get the sewing machine out. She loved to use up scraps of fabric to make new blankets. The inside layer was old army blankets which she backed and then patchworked the front. As I write my daily blog I am sitting on one of her blankets which is still going strong today. An obvious next step for me would be to make my own clothes and thankfully my mother already does that so I have my teacher all booked. Mind you, my mother has a testing relationship with sewing machine. She only has to look at it and it breaks. It may be a long lesson.

One of my readers asked me if I could share some pictures of the animals. This one is George with the two collies, Rex and Fly.

The next picture is of one of our biggest all time seller - the simple lavender sachet. Go on, grow your own lavender this year....xx