What’s in your dinner?

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potatoes

At this time of year I feel particularly lucky to have access to growing space. We don’t have a very big garden and we have chosen to prioritise food production, so that means we don’t have flower beds or a lawn, just space for fruit, vegetables, chickens and compost, with some paved sitting space that we share with lots of pots of plants. We used to have more space for outdoor sitting, but the limery took that over.

My reasons are partly because I love growing food – being connected to the seasons, eating food fresh from the garden and clocking up food metres not food miles. However, I also like knowing exactly what sort of chemicals go into my food. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publish a ‘dirty dozen’ each year – a list of foods with the highest levels of pesticide residues. Although these data are collected in the US, the list is of interest wherever we live in the world. In 2015, the list was as follows:

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (Imported)
  12. Potatoes

Closely followed by Hot Peppers and Kale/Collard Greens.

From this list, we grow Peppers (hot and sweet), snap peas (we call them sugar peas or mange tout, I think), potatoes, kale and some apples. The bulk of our apples come from friends who do not use pesticides on their trees, and the other items on the list we eat rarely or not at all. Of course you can buy organic produce and avoid issues with pesticides (and we often do), but growing your own delivers so many extra benefits.

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red salad bowl lettuce growing in a container

One of my particular favourite crops is salad leaves. I don’t think that there’s any substitute for freshly picked leaves. By growing your own, you can avoid packaging, the threat of salmonella, exploitation of workers and the use of chlorinated water for washing them – all issues that have been identified as being linked to bagged leaves sold in supermarkets (details here). And you don’t even need a garden – you can plant cut-and-come-again varieties of lettuce, along with oriental greens in pots, in window boxes, or in trays on your windowsill. Let the leaves grow up and then harvest them by trimming with scissors and allow them to grow back. If you plant a few trays in succession, you can supply yourself with a regular harvest for several months. And honestly, the taste just doesn’t compare with leaves that have been encased in plastic for a couple of weeks in a modified atmosphere so they don’t go off.

Herbs are another great windowsill crop and it’s lovely to pick your own fresh seasonings, even if you don’t have space to grow anything else.

So, however small your space, I encourage you to plant something to eat – you won’t regret it!

A bit more scrappy

Following on from yesterday’s post, I’m happy to report that the parcel of unloved yarn arrived today.

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a mixed bag of fine yarn

Some of it is very fine, and clearly intended for weaving, but that is no obstacle. I immediately set aside the sock I was knitting for Mr Snail (it’s summer, he doesn’t need new sock right now, right?)

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temporarily abandoned sock

and wound some of the yarn into multi-coloured cakes of two or three strands:

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cake, anyone?

But I couldn’t leave it there, and had to test it out by making a square for the scrappy blanket:

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behold, a square!

I think I’m going to be able to create a fine big blanket now and still maintain the basic colour scheme:

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looks like it belongs, doesn’t it?

ScrapHappy June

OK, OK, everyone else did their ScrapHappy posts last week, but events conspired against me and mine did not happen. That is not so say that I haven’t been working on a scrappy creation, just that it didn’t make it onto the blog.

In fact my current scrappy project is a continuation of one you have seen before – a blanket using old crochet squares and unwanted yarn given to me by Wild Daffodil. It has progressed from this:

to this:

and on to this by the beginning of this week:

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The outer squares and the edging were made from wool left over from some of my old projects and some from Freecycle. And I thought that might have to be it, as I’d almost come to the end of my brown/beige/green scraps. But, no! Someone in the 60 Million Trebles group has a load of old cones of wool and other 4-ply scraps and oddments and these are now on their way to me, so that this can be made into a full-sized blanket. I am really enjoying this collaborative effort and hoping that eventually it will keep someone warm and let them know that there are people in the world who care.

-oOo-

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

Three Things Thursday: 22 June 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, bees. Although there is deep concern in the UK about pollinator populations, our garden has been buzzing with bees and hoverflies recently. They seem to have been particularly enjoying the raspberry flowers and the comfrey. Here are two that I spotted recently:

If you want the first, you’ll need to plant some flowers to attract them (the one in the picture is resting on some borage flowers after I removed it from the limery), but if you want one like the second, Helen has a fabulous free pattern over on her Beastie blog.

Second, a hair-do. Just in time for the heatwave (now over – it’s drizzly today), Max went to the groomers. He always looks lovely when he comes home…. you’d hardly know it was the same dog!

Third, money from the tax man. Now, I don’t generally discuss doing my accounts and how much I dislike the process. Fortunately, however, we have a good accountant and we just hand over our paperwork and he fills in the forms… and this morning the outcome was a small cheque for me from HM Revenue and Customs… now that really is worth a smile.

So, those are three things making me smile this week. What is making you happy?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

This one is for Tammie

It’s very easy when posting on the internet to show only our successes – the beautiful children, pristine kitchens, the perfect meal, the Shetland lace shawl, the abundant garden… ah, yes, the abundant garden.

Well, it’s true that my garden and the limery do contain lots of lovely crops. Currently there’s lettuce, piles of raspberries and the promise of peppers, chillies, courgettes, lemons, limes, red currants, blueberries, apples, mange tout, kale, broccoli, ginger and potatoes…

BUT… there are also dead bean plants, dead rosemary, rocket and mizuna that flowered before we had a chance to eat any, the world’s saddest sage plant, brassicas munched by caterpillars and huge swathes of weeds.

So, Tammie – fear not, we all have gardening disasters… we just don’t often ‘fess up to them!

And, just to make you all smile, it takes lots of effort to get all those perfect shots of a life…

We have a winner!

What with one thing and another, I’m a little behind with blog housekeeping. Maybe you have been waiting on tenterhooks to know whether you are going to be the lucky recipient of the ‘Ditch the plastic bag‘ bag and wondering if I have completely forgotten. But fear not, all the names were entered and Mr Snail acted as the independent adjudicator and made the draw.

Just to remind you, it was the chance to win this ‘bag with a message’, which I made for our craftivism exhibition in Manchester in May:

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the prize

So, drum roll please … the winner is…

Laurie Graves

Congratulations!

It’s lovely that Laurie won, because she contributed a captioned picture to the craftivism exhibition . Laurie’s flower photographs are just beautiful and I love reading her descriptions of life in Maine; you can check out her blog, Notes from the Hinterlandhere.

Laurie, if you let me have your address, the bag will be winging its way to you very soon… I hope that it gets plenty of use for biscuit/cookie transportation!

As for everyone else, sorry you weren’t lucky this time, but I have plans for another give-away quite soon.

Three Things Thursday: 15 June 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes. Anyway, here are my three things this week…

First, a big cone of wool. Cambrian Mountains, 2.5kg.

I don’t think this does justice to its size!

Second, some little balls of wool. Various colours, all British. 50g each.

lovely colours… I chose them specially

Third, a new project. It’s called Sophie’s Universe and it’s  going to be beautiful, and it’s going to be mine!

All that I need to get started

So, those are three things making me smile this week. What is making you happy?

Why are we all here?

The world of blogging is a funny old place. You write stuff and people, somehow or other, come across it. They read it, and then what? Some people hit the ‘Like’ button, some people leave a comment, some people wander off to another part of the internet never to return and some people sign up to follow you. Some people become regular commenters/likers.

Here at The Snail of Happiness I do my best to respond to all of the comments. I don’t always manage it and occasionally I return to a previous post and notice some comments without responses, in which case I generally respond there and then, however old the post. I think that because I engage with you, my readers, you feel welcome and maybe that encourages you to return. I know this is the case for blogs that I follow – getting a response to my comments makes me feel valued and part of the community associated with that particular blog. In fact this sort of interaction does lead to genuine friendships away from the blog, via Skype, letters, emails or even meetings in person. However, those sorts of things only happen with the minority of readers and I’m intrigued about everyone else.

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don’t be shy…

I’ve been blogging quite a lot recently and simultaneously getting quite a lot more followers. I’m really not sure whether the two are linked – and whether, if they are, the increase in traffic is to do with the number of posts or the subject matter.

 

So, I’m wondering whether you’d be willing to tell me why you are here? Why do you visit this blog? And how did you arrive in the first place? Please don’t be shy… I’d love to know, no matter whether you are a regular contributor, have just arrived or have been lurking in the background in silence for ages. You don’t have to have a WordPress blog to be able to comment… just write something and click on the button…

Go on… you’ve been reading my words, I’d love to read some of yours! And then maybe I’ll tell you why I’m here…

Sticky

The reason that I first acquired my carnivorous plants was to keep the flies under control in the limery – a natural solution that is also fascinating. The pitcher plants, which featured in last week’s Three Things Thursday are good for controlling large flies, but when it comes to fruit flies and little black compost flies, you need a sundew or two.

The most common and easiest to grow in a UK conservatory is probably the Cape Sundew (Drosera capensis). The plants have linear leaves and either pink or white flowers, the former associated with leaves with red highlights. Mine are always covered in little flies:

And then, if you’ve got some hanging space that’s high enough so you won’t walk into it (and honestly, you really don’t want a face full of this), there’s my favourite – Drosera dicotoma, the leaves of which can reach 30cm. Mine had a bit of a set-back earlier in the year when I was on holiday, but has now grown some new fresh leaves which haven’t had much time to catch many flies, although it is capable of snaring big ones.

So, who needs chemicals or fly paper, when nature can solve the problem for you?

 

Soiled

Yes, I know there’s all sorts of huge things going on it the political world today (we had a general election here in the UK yesterday, in case you didn’t know), but I’m going to distract you with my first bash at a soil-themed inky doodle. It came out more blue than I expected and the addition of silver did not really work, but this is what I created to begin with, just using drops of alcohol ink on yupo paper:

not sure it looks as much like soil particles as I had hoped

And then I started drawing bugs… completely randomly and just to play around with. I got a bit over excited and didn’t allow the ink to dry completely, so some of them are smudgy, however, this is starting to resemble what I had in mind.

My next attempt may involve a base wash and a felt applicator…. and allowing the inks to dry overnight before I doodle. Eventually these are going to be used to make cards, I hope.

And before I go, just a quick reminder about the give-away. If you want a chance of winning the ‘ditch the plastic bag’ bag that I made for the Manchester craftivism exhibition, check out the post here.

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