Sunday, 28 July 2013

Badger Boundaries

As we have been harvesting the onions from the front garden we have been digging it over and planting broccoli and other such over wintering crops.  The one problem with this is that any newly dug over and planted area will attract the attention of our badger clan, searching for juicy worms.  It is a wonderful problem to have but regardless still a problem we needed to surpass if we are going to go to the effort of planting anything new in the front garden.
We had recently re-strung the main fence between us and the neighbours as our previous efforts of a new fence, using natural hemp rope, had failed in the face of pigeon shit and badger ingress.  The design of the original fence had been a very pretty fan affair but had proved defenceless against the local fluffies and the Cornish elements; lasting less than a year.  Our new design, using a slightly more robust hemp rope, had a more defensive and conventional design and so far it has done the job.
Next was the issue of keeping the black and white visitors away from our veg growing area yet letting them into where we usually leave them a nightly peace offering.  Fishing net collected from the beach offered us the solution here, strung between bamboo poles.  So far it has proved sufficient, although the local cat population needs a little more encouragement to stay away.  In fact they haven't even noticed it's there yet it seems (see the video at the end).
In an additional effort to tidy up our very British need for boundaries, I foolishly decided that it would be a good idea to paint the wall white between us and our other neighbour (a holiday cottage).  Brilliant white was my choice; as I felt it added a real Mediterranean flare right next to our towering fig tree. 
It looked amazing for a few hours after painting.   I didn't count on the Cornish input to my creativity that I would receive from our badger friends come the next morning.  So much for that.  Maybe the paint should have been re-marketed as Badger White instead of Brilliant White.  Luckily we have a sense of humour when it comes to lessons from nature.
When it comes to it, to a certain degree you are a complete fool if you start to try and define boundaries between yourself and nature.  Let's just say you can try but you will never completely fully succeed....and quite rightly so.
Here's to breaking down the  boundaries forever for everything and everything!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Vote for a Vegan Cook Show

Wouldn't you love to see an all vegan cook show?  I would, and that's why I decided to feed back to The Food Network UK.  No harm in asking surely?  So if you agree, go on the feedback page and search for my comment (link below) and vote, vote, vote!!

Have an all vegan cook show!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Strawberry King of Kent


I was in London recently on business and was fortunate enough to be able to escape each night back to the village where my parents live in Kent.   It made the hot, sweaty experience of the 'big smoke' a little more bearable particularly so as my parents live surrounded by woodland, hops and fruit farms.  
I didn't however have to make a visit to the nearest farm to pick my own strawberries as my dad is officially (in mine and Phil's book anyway), the Strawberry King of Kent.  At the top of my parents garden are rows and rows of strawberries glistening in the July sunshine.  I really couldn't believe it this year when my dad rolled back the protective netting (which actually doesn't protect much from the local gang of blackbirds but then my dad really doesn't mind too much).  The plants are positively heaving under the weight this year.
So what's his secret?  Well, I don't think even he knows.  He did originally buy the plants from the local fruit farmer and he does swear by growing them under black plastic.   I also know he does use my comfrey feed but I think he might have run out of that by the time this years crop came along.  He is just good at growing strawberries and I am more that happy to help him make the best use of the surplus. 
I left for home in Cornwall with 8 punnets.  As soon as I arrived home (despite the 5 hour drive) I immediately set about sorting out and freezing half of these for the winter larder.  Then strawberry ice cream was made followed by a strawberry cheesecake.  The rest is to be enjoyed fresh or in smoothies.  I decided against jam this year as I already have a cupboard full from last years crop (minus what I took to Kent for my parents). 
When the Cornish winter throws sea sprayed wind against the window and the fresh produce of the summer is a long lost memory,  I will rejoice in pulling from the freezer these red, summer sunshine trapped jewels direct from the grower; my dad, the Strawberry King of Kent.
 Strawberry Cheesecake
The amounts for this recipe are approximate as I just normally 'bung' it together so I have really had to think hard to try and break it down into a recipe!
200g vegan digestive biscuits (such as Doves Farm Organic) - either half a big pack or a whole small pack
100g vegan margarine
1 tub (225g) Vegan Cream Cheese (such as Tofutti Original)
125g of Vegan Plain Yoghurt
6 teaspoons of Vegeset (or equivalent veggie setting agent such as Agar)- separated
500g Strawberries
A squeeze of agave to sweeten/taste
1.  Whizz up the biccies in a blender until a fine crumb.
2.  Meanwhile melt the marg.
3.  Add the melted marg to the biscuit crumb and combine until well mixed.
4.  Press mixture into greased flan dish (or any dish you want as it isn't baked).
5.  Put cream cheese and yoghurt in the blender and whizz together. 
6.  Add 3 teaspoons of the Vegeset and about 6 strawberries to the blender and whizz until well mixed.
7.  Heat the above mixture in a saucepan until it starts to thicken.
8.  Pour onto biscuit base and smooth to edges.
9.  Whizz up rest of the strawberries, agave, a splash of water and the remaining vegeset.
10. Heat up the strawberry mixture until it starts to thicken.
11.Pour on top of the cheesecake and smooth out.
12. Allow to cool and bung in the fridge until set. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Green Dentistry

As a vegan you are relatively limited by commercial toothpaste options and if you're concerned about artificial and harmful substances, you are limited even more.  Glycerin, for example, can prevent teeth from re-mineralisation and this appears in the ingredients list of even some of the more natural toothpaste products. 

We had bumped into a friend back in April who had been using clay to clean her teeth for a few months.  She said that she felt it had really improved the condition of her teeth.   In fact, she had lovely white shiny teeth.  It was something that I had been meaning to experiment with for a while so it reminded me that I really should have got around to investigating it myself.  With that I bought some green clay powder and started to look into how to make my own tooth powder.  I think our friend had just been using clay on its own but I wanted to make something which had the taste of toothpaste a little more.  Searching on-line I found that a combination of clay, bicarbonate of soda and essential oils were popular so went about making my first tooth powder. 
Muddy Grin Toof Powder
4 tablespoons of clay (I use green clay)
1 tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda (an aluminium free one)
10 drops (or to taste) minty essential oil

Put it all in a ceramic or glass jar (metal can affect the clay) and shake it all up.  Wait a few seconds for the dust to settle!  Dip a wet toothbrush in and brush away.  Don’t worry if your teeth look dirtier than dirty during the brushing as it will all rinse off!  Have a good rinse after to get all the gritty bits of the clay out.

I have been using this powder now for about 3 months and I have to say, I think it has made my teeth whiter and I really like the taste.  I even had a check up at the dentist and he said whatever I was doing (I didn’t tell him for fear of appearing a raging hippy!) that I should keep on doing it.  I think I might reveal my secret next time!

Please do check out all the information yourself regarding the use of home made tooth products as, although I think it has been extremely beneficial (both financially and health wise) to me, I base this purely on my own personal experience.  If you do ask your dentist remember than most of them seem extremely set in their ways and would only advise the use of products that are most commonly commercially available.  Remember that the biggest expert on your own body and mind is an informed you!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Annual Gull Season Dramas

The annual gull season dramas are thankfully almost over with the chicks finally stretching their wings and attempting to  leave their rooftop roosts and learn the ways of the gull.

Every year we are surrounded by pairs of herring gulls on our roof, next doors roof and the nearby church roof. Every year we have the drama of popping them back on the roof when the chicks fall off, as well as keeping the local kids from throwing stuff at them and being woken up in the early hours with shrieking and pecking on the roof above our heads.  We even had one chick that had fallen off the roof and into our garden wander into the house a few years ago and have a right old look around. 

Phil has been singled out, despite his constant rescue missions, by the gulls themselves just because of the gull wrangling involved in catching them and popping them back to safety on the roof.  If I am in the house I know when Phil has returned from surfing merely because the gulls start the 'bad man has returned alert call'. 

I have helped out a bit more this year in catching them so now I am also clucked and swooped at.  I wish we could tell them we meant no harm and were merely helping them out.  Despite this, they have never actually attacked us which makes me wonder whether the horror stories you read of gull attacks are the usual press frenzy.  The worst they have done is regurgitate or poo on Phil, which is not too pleasant but also far from being physically attacked.

When it comes down to it, it's all part of living on the Cornish coast but we do breathe a bit of a sigh of relief when it is all over for another year.  I do also enjoy seeing the babies finally stretching their wings and wonder at what it must be like for those babies to fly for the first time out over the great ocean.


Monday, 15 July 2013

Veganism is Cool

Wow, how good is this?  The sun has been shining now for over a week (hence the lack of being inside writing blog posts - sorry about that!).  So what better way to break my sunshine induced blog silence than with a post about vegan ice cream.

The vegan ice creams on the market are certainly a lot better than 25 years ago, but I find them either a bit too sweet or far too expensive.  A couple of years ago my parents bought us an ice cream maker and I really haven't used it as much as I should have done, but the warmer weather had me breaking it back out of the cupboard and thinking about getting creative with it again.  

I have a really good book of vegan ice cream recipes called Vice Dream but many of the recipes call for cashew nuts which can get expensive (although the recipes are all raw which is a bonus).  Recently though I saw another recipe book where the foundation for all the recipes was a mixture of coconut milk and soya milk, and the process seemed a lot simpler and quicker.  I didn't buy that book as once I had the idea in my head I thought I could just apply any amount of flavour ideas and custom adjustments to that basic concept.   Try different milk alternatives, healthier sweeteners than just sugar, and think outside the normal flavour box.  So I give you my first creative flavour concept inspired by our garden;  Lavender Ice Cream.
Lavender Summer of '13 Ice Cream

500ml milk (soya, almond, oat, etc)
400ml (one can) coconut milk
2 tablespoons of agave syrup (more if you like it sweeter)
8 sprigs of lavender flowers

Put the soya milk (or equivalent) in a saucepan with the agave syrup and the lavender flowers and heat up gently to a simmer for a few minutes then turn off. 

Let it sit and infuse until it is completely cool. 

Take out the lavender flowers  

Whisk in the coconut milk then store in the fridge until you are ready to put it in the ice cream maker.  Alternatively, if you don't have an ice cream maker, you can put in a container in the freezer until mostly frozen, then take out and mix up again before repeating it a few times more, but I must admit I have never had great texture results with this method in the past.


We had ours 'proper childhood summer' style in a vegan ice cream cone.