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November 2012

Cottage Garden

Design yourself a piece of old England

Garden Bench Make Darren’s brilliant bench

Make Pizza

It’s easy and tastes fantastic!


For gifts, or just for home use!

discover the city cottage online at







Courses in the Cowshed


November in the garden


Design a Cottage Garden


Winter Lawn Care


Potato Blight




Make a garden bench


Marvellous Mushrooms


Easy Pizza


Autumn Fruit


When hens get old


Caring for bees


Fun Soap

NOVEMBER How wet has it been! Everything is either washed out or late and we are struggling to have any produce at all. That said, we are making changes here in all sorts of ways. First of all the garden is getting bigger, and we should have some excellent growing beds for next spring. Another exciting development are our on line broadcasts. We have, at last, been able to set up things so we can broadcast lessons on the internert. You can watch them and interact with us too.

Editor: Paul Peacock Production Coordinator: Diana Peacock Contributors: Darren Wright, Linda McDonald Brown Information is correct at time of press. The editors admit no responsibility for any injury, loss or damage incurred as a result of the advice in this magazine. The opinions expressed in these works are not necessarily the opinions of City Cottage. Check for more details and back issues. Š 2012 City Cottage All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without permission is prohibited. Submissions to:

So if you have a question, part way through the broadcast, you can stop the action and ask it, and we can answer it in real time, and by email too. If you want to find out more, pop along to

Join our mailing Get the City Cottage Mag straight to your inbox every month! Click here


November is a time for settling in all the produce we have gathered over the months for the winter. For the making of pickles, pies, various cured meats and so on. But this year has been such a washout, there is little or no produce to preserve. So this year we have invested in polytunnels and covered growing areas and are redesigning how and where we grow produce in order to be sure to have at least something of a crop even if the weather is awful again. Already we have winter lettuce and winter spinach growing in the Quadgrow - a kind of large propagator. I plan to get them to a size big enough for picking leaf by leaf for Christmas salads. There are broad beans (actually too large) in the inner polytunnel and I am making raised beds where the produce can’t be washed away. Yes! This summer our veg was actually washed away! Where we live there are lots of stone walls, and our garden is full - literally full of bits of wall that have been discarded. At one time it was a quarry, so our raised beds will be made from stone - hard work, but why not use the materials you have at hand. Christmas Cake As I write this we are planning the filming of Christmas Cake baking, and you will be able to find this on the website broadcast pages - just pop along to and click on the broadcasts button.

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Courses Sunday 3rd February 10 am to 3:30 pm This course brings you into the amazing world of making cheese. You will learn how to make a number of cheeses from Cottage Cheese to crumbly cheese. GOOD LIFE DAY ÂŁ40 PER PERSON SUNDAY 3RD MARCH Come and learn some of the skills for living the good life

CHEESE DAY AT THE COWSHEAD ÂŁ40.00 PER PERSON SUNDAY 3RD FEBRUARY Park Farm, Walmersley Bury Lancashire BL9 5NP 206-210 Manchester Rd BL9 5NP Bury United Kingdom

Paul Peacock looks at GM, This Good Life Day will examine following: and the why food Making cheese, curing bacon Preparing toproduction keep bees should be Preparing to keep poultry largely local and micro Making sausages

Once you have picked up the easy skills of cheese making you will not look back, and can go on to a whole world of cheese at home. The Good Life Day will start by starting a cheese which will be ready for the final stages of cheese making by the end of the day. We will look at a number of methods of curing bacon, and explore the simplest, overnight bacon cure. You really will not believe how easy home curing can be and how fantastically tasty the final product is. Those of you wanting to keep bees and popultry in the garden will benefit from this course, you will find out how to set about installing your own colonies, and what you have to do to get started. This day will not turn you into a beekeer overnioght, but will go a long way to answer your questions. And you will be able to get up close to bees too! Click to visit the courses pages


Cheese shop get a great product at the end of it too! And it will come as a surprise to many how easy the process can be - especially for starters. You can make a perfectly marvellous cheese with very little effort, and once bityten, you will find that you will soon be wanting more. On the City Cottage website we have a lot of resources specifically aimed at new cheese makers, and we are adding more each day. Moreover, so you can get your supplies in the UK our shop is increasingly stocking the materials you need, with an ever widening supply of presses, kits, books - and we are currently in production making our Cheesemaking DVD. One of the most exciting ‘movements’ these days is the increasing numbers of people making their own cheese at home.

For cheese materials:

There are people making all kind of cheeses, replicating the major cheese types from around the world, and interestingly, they are finding how close, or even better, you can get a home made cheese to the real thing.

In the UK please visit

Making cheese is such a rewarding passtime, and you

Our friends in America pleasw visit

NOVEMBER IN THE GARDEN The weather has been awful, and it’s not over yet, but don’t let that put you off - there is a lot to do

But November is a lovely month to be in the garIt is amazing how the season changes so abruptly at this time of the year. You can be enjoying an Indian Summer in October, and all of a sudden it’s November, and the light has gone, and the fresh earth rises from the ground as though it was a blanket. But November has it’s joys, mainly in the colour of the falling leaves and the sunsets, and the clearer, crystal quality opf the light, and the dew on the sedum, and of course, the produce. There is a lot to do in the November Garden and for me it involves planning for next year and the

preparation of soil and tools, and a good old read of the seed catalogues. We have been working hard all summer clearing just one bed populated by an enormous old rhododendron, and two other plants. The first was (I say was because it has all but gone) a holly tree of monstrous proportions, and the other was a cotoneaster tree, which is an unusual specimen being around 8 metres tall. All this means that as I write this I can hear the crackle of holly and rhody in the fire, so we did get some harvest after all. But everything else has been a complete washout. No potatoes to speak of, root crops washed away,

flowers exploded by a torrent of rain, which I find particularly difficult to cope with and everything you don’t want to grow in the garden overcrowding everything you do, and no matter how hard you try, the whole season has been, well, scruffy. So in November, now we expect bad weather, we can start to put things right. It starts with the lawn, I’m afraid. When we came to this garden about 12 months ago, it was mostly moss, nice mown, but brown in the drought. The wire rake is gnawing through the shed door in an attempt to get to the thatch and pull it out. !


Cottage Garden Traditionally, the cottage garden supplied the kitchen, the medicine cupboard and the whole house with cut flowers

One of the questions we often get asked is “How much land do you need to be self sufficient?� And the answer comes as something of a shock at times. Cottage gardens were mostly small, but had to provide vegetables, flowers and herbs for families. Consequently the cottage garden is a miracle of making do. The cottage garden is one of the most wonderful gifts the UK gave to the gardening world. Whilst our aristocracy were busy changing whole landscapes, , the rest of us were making ends meet by growing

everything we can in the space we have. Pack them in The cottage garden is nothing if not crammed with plants. In a way it mimics nature in as much as there is rarely any free space, no patches of earth, no vistas of concrete and if there is a patio, it is filled with plant pots. The first rule to take on board is this filling the land with plant material. It goes without saying that this can be an expensive process, particularly if you buy all your plants from the garden centre, and this leads us on to the next important consideration, techniques. Old fashioned gardening Owners of cottage gardens years back,

didn’t have the money to be wasting on plants, they had to grow their own, take cuttings, save seeds, lift and divide tubers and bulbs - everything to keep and increase what you have. The cottage gardener is more than just the creator of pretty gardens, more than a plonker of plants in the ground. To create a cottage garden is the heart of gardening itself, because the cottage garden has an economic side to it. When allotments first came into being, they were used for the growing of grain. It is possible to grow quite a lot of wheat on an allotment, and the growing of vegetables, herbs, flowers and medicinal plants took place at home in the cottage

garden. Strictly speaking, a cottage garden has a central path dividing it into two equal halves. One side for vegetables, the other for flowers and herbs, but modern times have new takes on the whole idea of gardening in a cottage environment. In a way, the cottage garden should, I suppose, be outside a cottage. Actually the style of the cottage garden suits almost any kind of property, from the high rise to the town house and whereas many modern garden designs don’t suit every building in the world, the cottage garden does. Perhaps it’s because of the wonderful amalgamation of colours, shapes and fragrances.


Dahlias are stunning

Above all, the cottage garden is full of aroma. It’s the kind of place you would want to sit in a deckchair, fast asleep in the summer sun taking in all the healing vapours from the flowers - something I miss, because its rained for a year! It’s in the soil The key to a great cottage garden is in the soil - it has to be constantly refreshed and made new by a vibrant and diverse fauna. The separate parts of the garden are rotated annually, and within that various crops are swapped with flowers. I always give good mulches, and an annual layer of well rotted manure to different areas and on top of this some organic pelleted manure, and spent hops to simply improve the water retention. The basic soil for my garden is clay, but

continually working on it, year after year, will improve things no end. One of the problems of all this fertility is the gardens are too fertile for wild flowers. I don’t know why people think that wild flowers are a part of a cottage garden, they might have been hundreds of years ago, but they are always disappointing, and in my opinion they are best in a meadow. The other problem is, over the years, the garden rises with all the added material. This plays havoc with paths and raised beds - which are not strictly cottage garden, but ever so convenient. Flowers for a cottage garden We don’t have room for a complete checklist of plants for the cottage garden, but here are some of my favourites.

Originally, certain plants were money makers. For example, there was always a lot of money in growing large leeks, and these days there still is in certain parts of the country. Dahlias and Chrysanthemums are another example of plants that could bring some cash in if grown and shown properly. Dahlia Where to sow Sow seeds thinly in a good compost in pots or trays under glass at 16ƒC. Cover lightly with sifted compost. Handy tip Do not overfeed as this encourages leaf growth at the expense of flowers What to do next When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick off into trays 5cm apart. As seedlings grow, transplant into 9cm pots and gradually harden off before planting out in the flowering site from late May

onwards. Space plants 60cm apart. Geranium There are so many of them! I find that, if you don’t watch it they are everywhere and you spend your life digging them out! Growing geraniums in a cottage garden, especially where there is little room, is best dome in pots, so you can simply bury the pot in the ground, or keep it on a patio area. I suggest Geranium’Country Garden’ Economical variety which produces excellent quality plants in a wide colour range for bedding displays. Height 4045cm. Where to sow Sow the seeds evenly spaced in trays or pots of good compost under glass at 2124 ° C. Cover lightly with sifted compost.

Handy tip Regular removal of the flower heads will encourage new flower growth throughout the Summer.

What to do next When the seedlings are large enough to handle, prick off into trays 5cm (2”)


Delphinium Where to sow In open ground or cold frame. What to do next Thin out seedlings as they grow to 5cm apart. Plant out during September and October, spacing 30cm apart for flowering the following summer Penstemon This variety has lovely eye catching colour of red with striped throat and an abundance of large, foxglove like flowers. Long flowering and heat tolerant. A tender perennial that will survive in a sheltered and well drained site. Height 40-50cm (16-20’’) Astrantia Masses of delicate star like flowers form a dense head of greenish pink from

June to July. Height 50-60cm (20-24”) Where to sow In pots or boxes in greenhouse or cold frame. What to do next As seedlings grow, prick off into boxes or individual pots and grow on under cover to plant out in early spring. Lupin There is little to rival a mass planting of lupins with their tall spikes glowing with colour in May and June. Height 90-110cm Where to sow Early sowings into pots and trays in a cold frame, or from April in a seedbed 1cm (½”) deep. Handy tip

Lupins are tolerant of most soils and are at their best planted in groups of 5 or 6 plants. What to do next Tray sown seedlings should be pricked off, as soon as large enough to handle, into a nursery bed 15cm (6”) apart. Transplant to flowering site 30-45cm (12-18”) apart in October. Aquilegia One of the cottage garden’s most beautiful flowers, long spurred blooms in a multitude of colours and combinations. Height 75cm. Where to sow Sow the seed in a well prepared nursery bed about 1cm (½”) deep in rows 15cm (6”) apart. Keep well watered.

Handy tip After flowering, cut all stems back to ground level. Most effective planted in groups of 6 plants or more. What to do next As the seedlings develop, thin gradually until they are 10cm (4”) apart. Keep weed free. Plant out into the flowering site in late September or early October 40cm (16”) apart. Night Scented Stock Slender stems of small lilac flowers which need to be in clumps for best effect, but the fragrance is wonderful on a summer evening. Flowers July to August. Height 30cm. Where to sow Direct into weed free flowering site, scattered and raked in. Handy tip The flowers may not be the largest but the scent on a warm evening is beautiful, plant near seating areas. What to do next These simple to grow flowers need no further treatment, no transplanting and no thinning, just enjoy. Dianthus Deliciously scented, even in the daytime. In shades of pink, rose, carmine and white. Ideal for bedding or in patio containers. Fragrant and colourful year after year. Height 10-15cm (4-6”) Where to sow Lightly cover the seed with vermiculite and keep under glass at 18-22 C What to do next Seedlings should be ready to transplant in 2-3 weeks from sowing. Keep at 16-18 C

Alliums You can plant allium bulbs along with agapanthus and get a truly blousy show. There are a number of variations on purple in these plants and we have various heights available too, so the area will look like a fireworks display. Another favourite reason for growing these plants is insects - they are usually packed with them, and on a hot July day you will find bumblebees asleep, stuffed with nectar - you can stroke them.

move it to a third of the way in from one side, the garden will look longer than it really is. It’s just an optical illusion, but it does work. To make a narrow garden look wider If you break the garden into zig-zags, either by layout on the ground with paths, or with box )or other ) hedging, or with fences or shrubs, the garden will look a lot wider. Hidden depths

Cottage gardens are usually small in size. Indeed, modern gardens are a mite smaller - hardly big enough to call them a garden! If you don’t have enough room to grow vegetables, then it’s a poor job. But for flower garden there are a number of tricks to make your garden look more than it really is.

Even if your garden is tiny, if you can set something completely out of sight, the garden will have the illusion of going somewhere it really doesn’t. This is particularly effective with a water feature - something people can hear but not see.

To make a wide garden look longer

Well, just tthe mirrors actually. You can buy inexpensive plastic mirrors that fix to fences, effectively doubling the area really useful with colourful planting. You can pretend to have half of your neighbour’s garden!!

Traditionally , as we have already said, cottage gardens have a central straight path, but it you bend this path in an arc to the right or to the left, and

Smoke and mirrors

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ite s b e w e h t n o W E N Our stock of recipes is growing fast and you can load them onto your ipad or other device and follow them directly in the kitchen where they are needed! New recipes added this week include: Pizza Meatloaf Easy Shortbread Clilck to visit our recipes pages

Each month Darren gives a project to follow, and this month’s just happens to be in the magazine too! The easy to construct garden bench demonstrates a number of simple woodworking techniques which are transferrable to other projects. This brilliant garden bench is such a hit that we are selling it in kit form in the shop, and is easy to put together at home. Made from softwood, this bench doesn’t break the bank, and you can add your own personal touches too! Click to visit the Projects pages

Why do we run a shop? Simple, to help you get the materials you need for the Good Life. All the things we sell, we use ourselves, so we make sure that not only does it work, it is of high quality too. Take rennet, for example. Some companies sell weak rennet, some even sell it with almond essence for junket making - but it’s no good for cheese. Click to visit the shop

Saladgrow Grow salad all year with our Saladgrow and you’ll typically be harvesting within 6 weeks! Our salad planter keeps plants perfectly watered for 2 weeks, so there’s no coming home from work to find your salad is wilting and there’s no need to worry about holiday watering. All you need to do is top up the reservoir! Available in 3 sizes for patios, windowsills or balconies. 'Low-maintenance planter that keeps plants in the best health. Plants grow stronger, healthier and faster. Kitchen Garden Magazine This is the Large salad grow - ideal for the patio or greenhouse and polytunnel Click here to visit the Salad Grow pages of City Cottage Store

Winter Lawn Care Before you forget about it completely, spare a few hours on the lawn this week. Removing moss and dead grass, increasing areation and even giving it a top dressing will give you such a perfect lawn next year. Besides, the energy spent de thatching grass is better than a gym membership anyday! Did you know that lawn, 10 metres square, gives enough oxygen for one person? With all the rain we have been having this year, our lawns are a proper mess. There is probably more moss in them around the country than ever before. So here are some tips about maintaining your,lawn and maybe improving them next year. Why does grass die? Grass is amazing and in your lawn much of the plants you can see are genetically identical, since they divide and grow by rhizomes under the ground. However, leaves only last for so long and die mostly because they have been trampled, are too wet, too dry, or have just been worn out in the sunlight. Dead grass becomes a sponge for water and this created the perfect home for moss. When moss grows the excess water destroys more grass, leaving more room for moss. It becomes a viscous circle. Grass roots also need a good supply of air, and when moss grows the amount of air in the soil reduces. When we walk on

the grass we squeeze out the air,which eventually causes problems for the roots and the grass dies. Winter maintenance Assuming the ground is not waterlogged, we need to get rid of the moss. This is done by using a wire rake, sometimes called a grass rake. Give the grass a good scratch, pulling out the dead grass and the moss with it. Air for the roots To my mind there is no point in using a scarifying machine, the rake is good enough. And the same goes for aerators! They are either little nail type machines that make very little holes, or knife machines that mess up the soil. By far the best tool for the job is a garden fork which makes a series of holes in the ground that measure about half an inch by about six inches deep. Only holes of this size will do, and you make a fresh stabbing every eight inches or so. It’s a big job, but well worth the effort.

Top dressing People don’t tend to do this these days. I recently saw a film of the bowling green Sir Francis Drake played on, and it was layered with hundreds of years of top dressing. The idea of top dressing is to add some nutrients, to level the valleys on the lawn and then make the air holes fill up loosely, leaving room for root growth. I use a combination of 75% finely sieved topsoil and the rest compost. Sprinkle a few handfuls per each square yard and gently brush it in with a stiff brush. In the Spring Another scraping and another aeration will prepare the grass for the summer, and maybe a feed in one of the early summer waterings. More than anything else, water is what makes grass grow! In a later issue we will look at repairing and mowing.


Compost Possibly the most important activity in the garden is the making of compost and it’s a lot easier than you might think! Starting a new compost heap The best compost heaps are almost free to make. You need a pallet sized box and another next to it. Fill one box first and then aerate the material after a couple of months by forking it from one to the other. Use a soil floor which will allow earthworms to enter the heap and reproduce. Layer the base with straw and newspaper and then add a liberal layer of green material. Moisten this layer (as above) and cover with more paper and cardboard. (Always tear the cardboard into small pieces and sprinkle on the newspaper. Cover with an insulating layer: old carpet, bubble wrap, anything warm.

Resist the temptation to look at the compost. You are only allowing it to cool. Every time you add new material, add a little paper/ cardboard as roughage and moisten it before you cover up. Kill perennial weeds before you put them on the heap. You can do this by throwing them on the fire for a few seconds or into boiling water. If you have a fire, sprinkle the ashes into your heap. f your compost is a murky and sloppy mess here is all the information you need to get it right:

Put a little back What you take out of the soil has to be replaced, otherwise your crops will fail to grow.

Making the mistake of adding only chemicals to the soil, year after year, will result in the eventual loss of one vital element that makes soil do its job: and that is glue. Without its organic element soil it will simply was away in the rain. It will either hold no water, or too much, and any nutrients it has will be dissolved away and lost. Adding compost, rich in organic material, glues soil particles together. It provides food for millions of organism, and these in turn release nutrients for out precious crops. The continued use of inorganic

1. Well rotted manure Cows eat grass and the exhaust from a cow is fantastic for putting nutrients and body into your soil. However, if you put it on ‘raw’ it is too strong for healthy growth of plants. The material will eventually rot in the soil and bring with it all sorts of disease problems and finally the seeds that the cows eat will appear as weeds in your plot.

fertilisers can do more harm than good. The best way of maintaining a high level of soil fertility is the liberal use of well rotted compost. The continued use of inorganic fertilisers can do more harm than good. The best way of maintaining a high level of soil fertility is the liberal use of well rotted compost.

Economics of compost There are basically three types of compost that are used in gardens.

You need a huge pile of rotting manure, left well alone for a whole year, to sweeten your manure. The heat generated in your heap will kill off the weed seeds and the disease bearing elements will all have died.

2. Leaf mould Leaves rain down during the autumn and these should be rotted very slowly with plenty of air, in a netted enclosure. Leaves are around 50% wood and as such take a long time to rot down. You can add your shredded twigs to this heap, but if you simply mix this important resource in your normal compost heap it will fail.

3. General compost heap There are four important parts to a proper compost heap. Miss out any one of them and the process stops. Water All life needs water. Your heap needs to be watered at least once a month, Preferably, if you can bring yourself to do it, with diluted urine – but water will do.

Air Oxygen is an important part of the rotting process. If your heap has no air it will become a smelly mess, oozing black putrid liquid with no application in the garden. In order to aerate the material it needs to be turned at least three times a year.

Heat A compost heap needs to be big enough to get hot. Generated by all the organisms in the heap, the heat should be allowed to build up in the heat to kill pathogens and seeds. Compost heaps need to be insulated, especially in the winter.

Roughage If all you compost is salad and grass cuttings you will find yourself with a green sludge and little else. Mix paper and cardboard with your compost a, variety of vegetables and garden waste.


Garden Bench Darren made this garden bench for not much cash, and pretty amazing it is too! Made in preserved softwood, this is a really simple but robust design Welcome to this months fabulous woodworking project. Today I am going to show you how to construct a simple garden bench. It’s simple in as much as it’s a very basic design but sometimes the best projects are not overly complicated. You don’t need a lot of fancy tools for this project. A simple handsaw will suffice but a mitre saw or circular saw will certainly make life easier and the job quicker. It all depends on what you have to hand. Also you’ll need a drill, some drill bits and some screws.

For this bench you only need four 8 foot lengths of 2” x 4” and three 8 foot lengths of 1” x 3”. I managed to build this bench for around £20 which is radically lower than something you might buy in a garden centre, plus you get the added bonus of having built it yourself which is infinitely more satisfying than just spending over the odds for a store bought bench. We’ll start by cutting all the parts needed. Below is a list of the wood and a brief description of each parts function.

2” x 4” x 13” - 4 - Side rails and arm rests 2” x 4” x 24” - 2 - Front legs 2” x 4” x 34” - 2 - Back legs 2” x 4” x 45” - 2 - Front and back rails 2” x 4” x 19” - 3 - Seat supports (The length of these will depend on the space between the front and back rails and can be cut once the main frame has been built.) 1” x 3” x 45” - 6 - Seat slats 1” x 3” x 45” - 6 - Back slats To make this bench you could use a variety of ways for joining all the timber together. I am going to use a method called pocket holes which are holes drilled in at a 15° angle. This method is good for cabinet making and for applications where you don’t want visible screws but for something like this visible screw heads aren’t going to be that much of a problem. You could also use mortice and tenon joins but these require a lot more complex maths than I usually employ when building things. A simple pilot hole and screw is my usual modus operandi and it’s worked out pretty well so far! If you don’t have a pocket hole jig then a pilot hole with a larger hole drilled in to get the screw to the right depth is also good. To do this, first drill a hole roughly halfway through the timber and then drill a smaller pilot hole to accommodate the screw. This way of joining timber is good for when you don’t have the appropriate tools. Another way to join timber is by using a piece of dowel. Clamp the pieces together as required, drill a hole big enough for the size of dowel you are using through both pieces, clear out the sawdust, apply some glue to the hole and pound a piece of dowel in. Cut off the excess and sand smooth and you have a good, solid joint.

To start with, take one of the back legs, one of the front legs and two of the side rails. Mark a line 16” up from the bottom of the back leg and transfer this mark to the front leg by lining them up together and drawing across using a square. Next, join one of the side rails between the back and front leg at the 16” mark and the other side rail at the top of the front leg. This will form the arm rest. Repeat this procedure to make the other side frame. Taking these two side frames, lay them on the ground or your workbench so that the back of the back leg is on the floor. Place one of the two 45” long rails between the side frames and secure it to the same

Poorly hens often need time to recover, so don’t be too hasty when it comes to euthanasia.

place as the bottom side rail which is 16” up from the bottom. Repeat for the front rail. Turn the semi complete frame over so that the underside of the seat area is facing upwards. Taking the three seat supports, and using a spacer of the same thickness as the seat slats, fix one seat support at each end and one in the middle. Now turn the bench over and it’s time to fit the back rest and the seat slats. The slats can be screwed into position but just using glue and some small nails is also as good. Space them apart equally using a shim of about a quarter inch thick or you can space them as you see fit. For the back rest you don’t want it to be vertical as this will not make the bench very comfortable. To set an angle draw a line from the front of the timber of the back leg to the top. This will make the back perfectly comfortable when complete. The angle on the bench I have built is 9º and this is measured and set from the top of the back leg. Screw the back slats into place, spacing them using the same method as the seat slats. Once complete I’d advise you to sand the whole bench down to remove any sharp edges or splintered ends. This will make

your seated experiences in the garden as safe as possible! The bench is now complete. You could coat it in some wood stain if you like and it might be a good idea to do this to all the parts before construction. This is a better idea than trying to get a paint brush in between the seat slats once they’re glued and nailed down. It will also cut down on the swearing and the mess if you wood

stain the timber first! The design for this bench can be adapted into chairs or even a corner bench. Try it and let me know what you create.


Marvellous Mushrooms I love mushrooms of all kinds, from chestnut to oyster or large field mushrooms, they all make delicious dishes. I find I can use less meat in a recipe if I add some mushrooms. But they are worth using as the main ingredient in many dishes. Though they doo cook fairly quickly, sometimes a longer slower cooking is best especially with ordinary open cup field mushrooms, the flavours that come out in the juices initially cook back into the mushrooms for a richer taste. I have made many different mushroom soups and think this is the best ever, it is quick to make and I tend to buy the cheap bulky pack of mushrooms that contains odd shaped ones in the supermarket. So it is relatively inexpensive.

The Ultimate Mushroom Soup *I tend not to like to thicken my soups with flour but if you prefer a thicker liquor, sprinkle 1 level tablespoon plain flour over the mushrooms whilst they are cooking in the butter. Serves 4 generously 20g butter 1 shallot or 2 spring onions, chopped finely 500g mushrooms, chopped fairly small 1 level tsp dried parsley 1 tbsp lemon juice 1 level tbsp plain flour, optional, see note* 800ml warm chicken stock Salt to taste 200ml single cream Black pepper to taste 1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the shallot or onion. Fry gently for a few minutes then add the mushrooms. 2. Fry everything gently, sprinkling in the parsley and stirring in the lemon juice. 3.If you are going to thicken the soup sprinkle in the tablespoon of flour over the ingredients in the pan and stir well. 4.Stir in the warm stock and bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. 5.Turn the heat down and stir in the

cream until it just simmers. 6.Turn off the heat and place a lid on the soup and leave for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with some hot soda bread and chunks of cheese for a very satisfying lunch or supper. Quick Mushroom Toast Topping As a child I went with my Mum and Dad to a local Cafe as treat on a Saturday after shopping, I always had creamed mushrooms on toast and on special occasions a Knickerbocker glory, I don’t bother with the later now but regularly make this for myself as it is easy to make for one as it is for two people. Serves 2 15g butter 200g mushrooms, chopped or sliced About 20g blue cheese, Yorkshire blue is my favourite as it is so creamy and melts well into the mushrooms 3 -4 tbsp double cream or crème fraiche Salt and black pepper to taste, remember that blue cheese is usually very salty so taste before adding salt. 4 thick slices of toasted bread to serve 1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the mushrooms, cook over a gentle heat until the liquor that comes out of the mushrooms is reduced by half, this takes about 5 minutes. 2. Add the cheese and stir until it melts into a sauce. 3.Add the cream or crème fraiche and stir in. Start with 3 tablespoons and add the fourth if necessary. 4. Serve hot on the toast. Pasta with Chanterelles I was inspired to make a simple mushroom pasta dish after watching Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo’s wonderful TV program, Two Greedy Italians. This is very easy and a quick supper for hungry times. Serves 4 2 generous tbsp olive oil 2 garlic cloves, chopped 500g chanterelles or any other you wish to use, sliced or chopped Pinch salt

2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped 50g Gran Padano cheese, grater it just prior to serving the dish 400g tagliatelli or other ribbon style pasta 1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. 2. Stir in the mushrooms and cook over a lowish heat until the mushrooms are tender. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt. Continue to cook the mushrooms until they have reabsorbed some of the liquor. Whilst the mushrooms are cooking, cook the pasta as recommended on the pack. 3.Stir the parsley into the mushroom mixture. 4.Drain the pasta and return to the pan. 5.Stirin the mushroom mixture and the grated cheese. 6.Serve immediately with lashings of black pepper. Mushroom Ketchup This is good if you can get your hands on a lot of mushrooms. It makes about 300-500ml of ketchup. But have plenty of sterile bottles ready. 1kg mushrooms Salt, about 100g ½ tsp ground allspice ¼ tsp ground mace ¼ tsp ground ginger ¼ tsp ground cinnamon 280ml malt vinegar 1.Wash and dry the mushrooms and chop well. 2.Layer the mushrooms in a large bowl with a thick sprinkling of salt in between each layer. Leave for 24 hours. 3.Rinse and drain the mushrooms. 4.Place them in a pan with the spices and vinegar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. 5.Strain through a sieve and pour into sterile bottles. 6.Seal well and leave for 3-4 days before using.

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Easy Pizza

The secret to a good pizza is fresh dough

Diana thinks homemade pizzas cannot be beaten and the family love pizzas! They love the pizzas that are “delivered quickly” restaurants and now can be purchased in the supermarkets. But ones made from scratch in your own kitchen are second to none. This quantity of dough makes 2 large or 3 medium pizzas. 1kg strong flour 2 tsp salt 1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast About 600ml warm water 1 tbsp sunflower rapeseed or olive oil 1.Sieve together the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. 2.Stir in the yeast and make a well in the centre of the flour. 3.Pour in half of the water and the oil and stir into the flour with a long handled spoon adding more water until the dough becomes soft but not too sticky. After the first mixing with the spoon use your hands to bring the dough together.

4.Start to knead the dough in the bowl until it forms a smooth ball. 5.transfer to lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes. 6.Place to one side for 15 minutes. 7.Cut into two equal portions and roll out, as thickly as you like, to fit your oiled trays. I usually use 2 large baking trays or 3 23cm round pizza trays. For the tomato sauce: 300ml passata 1 tbsp tomato puree 1 grated garlic clove ½ tsp dried oregano 1.Mix all the ingredients for the tomato topping in a jug with a fork or small balloon whisk. 2.Smooth about 5-6 tbsp of the topping

over the pizza bases right to the edges and top with your favourite cheese and other ingredients. Always be generous with your topping, but leave about 2cm around the edges as it will melt over if you are not careful. Pizzas are best cooked in an extremely hot oven. So preheat your oven to its hottest setting for at least 10 minutes before baking the pizzas. They take between 15 to 20 minutes to cook - but keep an eye on them after 15 minutes just in case. For the toppings don’t restrict yourself to just mozzarella cheese, try cheddar, red Leicester, Monterey jack, even a crumbly Lancashire is delicious. A mixture is what we prefer. Our homemade crumbly cheese

You don’t need too much tomato base

is great mixed with mature cheddar. Don’t even bother grating it if you don’t wish. Chop into small cubes. For something really tasty, try frying 300g minced beef with a teaspoon chilli flakes for a spicy beef topping. If you like mushrooms, fry them for a few minutes first, as they give off a lot of moisture and you end up with a soggy pizza. If you like a seafood topping buy the frozen seafood cocktail of squid, prawns and mussels. I find a third of a bag is great for 1 large pizza. Defrost and drain any liquid from the fish though before adding to the top of your pizza.


Omlet Organic Feed for Garden Chickens Omlet’scomplete organic feed not only looks and tastes delicious, it also provides your hens with everything they need to stay in tip top condition. Unlike standard feed, Omlet’s complete organic feed has just the right amount of protein for garden hens allowing them to lay more consistently over a longer period of time. Added to this are over 20 natural vitamins and minerals to maintain your chickens immune system, add lustre to feathers and strengthen bones. Carefully balanced levels of carbohydrate and fibre give your hens energy and keep their digestive system working properly. Please note this has a shelf life of approx 6 weeks. It is not waterproof and therefore needs to be stored in a cool and dry place, and should not be kept outside. Click here to buy direct from Omlet £9.00

Easichick Bedding 10kg It is made from clean recycled wood (mixed pinus) and comes in a handy 10kg bale. It is absorbent, and free-draining, allowing your birds to dust bathe as part of their natural behaviour. It is dust and bacteria free and fully biodegradable. It's easy to use and doesn't blow around. Click here to buy from Omlet £5.99


Egg Boxes, Pack of 20 Give your excess eggs to your friends in style with these lovely boxes, holding 4 eggs. Click here to buy from Omlet ÂŁ4.15

Verm-X is a 100% natural pellet for free range chickens that is ideal for controlling all known parasites in chickens, such as worms. Verm-X Pellets are ideal for chickens kept or following organic farming methods. Being a 100% natural herbal formula there is no need to stop using the eggs whilst treating your hens. Doseage: Add 2.5g per bird per day as a top dressing to their regular feed ration. A 250g tube of pellets will last 5 birds over 6 months and an 8kg pail of pellets will last 150 birds over 7 months. Ingredients: Sunflower oil, seaweed meal, dicalcium phosphate, allium sativum, cinnamomum zelandicum, mentha piperita, thymus vulgaris, galium aperine, capsicum minimum. Click here to buy from Omlet ÂŁ10.99


Autumn Fruit Cooking and preserving the glorious flaThe British apple harvest hasn’t been great this year to say the least. Our apples are on the small side and still rather tart, but they will make good desserts , jams and chutney. Plums and pears have unfortunately faired the same, crops are poor and unripe. But they can still be used for cooking and preserves. Raised Pork and Apple Pie I have made this with cooking and dessert apples and it tastes delicious. Make sure you have sufficient apple slices to cover the pork 3 times. This is about 3 bramleys or 4-5 dessert apples. I peel mine but you don’t have to. Serves 8 generously 500g hot water crust pastry, For this you will need: 500g plain white flour 1 level tsp salt 220ml boiling water 220g lard For the filling: 800g pork shoulder, minced 2 level teaspoons salt ½ tsp dried sage 1 very small onion, chopped finely 3 bramleys or 4-5 dessert apples, peeled and sliced, place in water with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them going brown Beaten egg mixed with 3 tablespoons milk, optional 1. Make the pastry: a) Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. b) Pour the boiling water into a jug and add the lard, stir to dissolve. When completely dissolved stir this into the flour with a wooden spoon. c) Bring the mixture together with your hands to make a pliable dough. d) Grease a 20cm deep sprung form tin and line with ¾ of the pastry.

2. Put the meat in a bowl and add the salt, onion and sage. Mix well with your hands or a spoon if you wish, but make sure the flavours are well mixed in. 3. Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. 4.Place a third of the meat in the base of the pastry then a layer of apple slices and continue so you have 3 layers of meat and apple, finish with the apple. 5. Roll out the lid to fit the top and make a seal around the edge. 6. Make a slash into the centre of the pie to allow the steam to escape and glaze the top with beaten egg and milk mixture if you wish. This will give the pie a deep golden sheen. 7. Place the pie on a baking sheet, this not only makes it easy to lift in and out of the oven but also catches any leaks of meat and apple juice that may erupt from the pie. 8. Turn the oven temperature down to 170C/gas mark 3 and bake for 1 ¾ hours. Test to see if the pie is cooked by pressing a knife or skewer through the centre and watching the juices. They should be clear. But a more accurate and much easier way is to use a probe thermometer the temperature should be more than 75C for a few minutes. 9. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Plum and Honey Fool This dessert is inspired by one I used to make with golden caster sugar, but since Paul cannot eat sugar, I have used honey. It isn’t anywhere as sweet as the recipe I used to make but is delicious. If you like it sweeter add 2 tablespoons golden caster sugar as well as the honey. Serves 6 500g plums, halved and stoned 3 tbsp water 3 generous tablespoons clear honey 150g thick Greek style yogurt 130ml double cream, whipped until thickened but not too stiff 1.Place the stoned plums in a pan with the water and honey and slowly bring to the

boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 1bout 15 minutes or until tender. 2.Place the fruit in a blender and process until smooth. Leave to cool. 3.Meanwhile stir the yogurt and double cream together in a bowl and fold in the plums. 4.Spoon into serving glasses and chill for an hour before serving. To make extra special perhaps for a special occasion, after blending the plums stir in a tablespoon brandy and grater a little dark chocolate on the top of the dessert before serving.

Spiced Pears with Ginger Cream A wonderful dessert and very easy for a special occasion, the ginger cream makes a change from serving pears with chocolate sauce. Serves 6 6 ripe pears, peeled and halved and the core removed, place in a pan with 350ml water and the juice of 1 lemon 120g golden caster sugar or 3 tablespoons honey 2 cloves ½ tsp ground cinnamon A pinch grated nutmeg For the cream:

300ml double cream 1 dessertspoon icing sugar, optional ½ level tsp freshly grated ginger 1. Add sugar or honey and the spices to the pears in the pan and place over a medium heat stirring gently until everything is dissolved. 2. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the pears are tender. Leave to cool with the pears still in the syrup. 3. Make the cream simply by whipping the cream and sugar together and stirring in the ginger. 4.Serve the pears with the cream.

AUTUMN FRUIT Apple Sauce Cake This is so easy and very moreish. The cake keeps well in an airtight tin for about 5 days. I usually make this when I make apple sauce for roast pork or goose, I make extra as it doesn’t take much. I tend to use bramleys, but any will do. If the apples are not smooth after stewing then process or mash them with a fork. Makes about 10 portions 130g butter 130g brown sugar 80g stewed apples 180g self-raising flour ½ tsp ground cinnamon ¼ level tsp grated nutmeg 80g raisins 1 tbsp milk 1. Preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2 and grease and line a deep 18cm round cake tin. 2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. 3. Stir in the apples. 4. sift the flour and spices together and fold into the cake mixture with a metal spoon. 5. Add the raisins and tablespoon milk. Stir

into the mixture gently. 6.Spoon into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour or until the cake is well risen and springy to the touch. 7.Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before lifting out and transferring to a cooling rack. Dessert Apple Jam You can use any type of apples for this. The finished jam has an amazing jewel like quality and makes a great filling for tarts and pies. It is good to add a small amount to your mince pies, add about ½ tsp to each one as you add the mincemeat. Makes about 4x 500g jars 1.5kg apples Zest and juice of a large lemon 200ml water 1.25kg sugar, warm in a low oven for 5-10 minutes will help the sugar dissolve more quickly 1. Put the water and lemon juice and zest in a pan. 2. Peel, core and dice the apples and place in the water as you finish each one, stirring to coat in the water. 3. Bring the apple mixture to the boil then

simmer for n8-10 minutes until the fruit is soft. Remove from the heat and add the sugar 4. Stir in the sugar then put back onto a low heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. 5.Bring the mixture to the boil and cook for about 8 minutes until a setting point is reached. 6.Cool for about 5 minutes then stir and ladle into sterile jars. 7.Label and date the jars. This should keep for about 8 months unopened in a cool dark place.

Plum Conserve Makes a wonderful gift if you can bring yourself to give it away. This is my ultimate preserve for serving with scones. This is not a set jam so don’t bother with setting points. It won’t keep as long as a jam but should keep for 3 months unopened. Store in the fridge once open and consume within two weeks. Makes about 3 x 500g jars 1.5kg plums, halved and stoned 100g raisins 250ml water 1.2kg sugar 80g chopped almonds 2 tbsp rum or brandy 1. Cut the plums into small pieces and place in a pan with the water and raisins. Bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes or until the plums are tender. 2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Place over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. 3. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for 1 minute then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 4. Remove from the heat and stir in the

almonds and rum or brandy. 5.Ladle into sterile jars and label when cool.

Leave for 2 weeks at least to mature in a cool dark place.

Autumn Chutney My favourite chutney, it goes so well with everything, but its great with a Cornish pasty. Makes about 4 x 500g jars 1.5kg prepared apples, pears and plums, simply core and stone and chop, peel the apples and pears if you prefer 100g chopped dates 100g raisins 400g onions, peeled and chopped finely 500g soft brown sugar 500ml malt vinegar ½ tsp salt 1 teaspoon mixed spice or ½ tsp each of allspice and ginger 1. Put all the ingredients in a large pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. 2. Raise the heat and bring to the boil then turn down to a steady simmer. 3. Continue to simmer for about 1 ½ stirring occasionally or until the mixture is thick and glossy. 4. Ladle into sterile jars. Label when cool.

Buy Kilner Jars from City Cottage

Mr Digwell Seeds Mr Digwell has been the Daily Mirror’s gardener for two generations and now he has his own range of seeds and books. We are thrilled to be able to offer Mr Digwell seeds , always the best quality and with all the help and backup you need in the packet, and on the Mr Digwell Website - which, by the way, is written by our Paul P!

Don’t forget we have a special offer on Mr D seeds, ideal if you are buying for an allotment site, or a group of gardeners! Clilck to see more Mr Digwell Seeds


When hens get old We have lost a number of hens recently, leaving us with only one, That was quite a surprize, but now we face the problem of getting the old girl some friends to live with - lonely hens get sick! When hens get old I wonder what a good age for a hen is? I have heard a number of reports of twenty year old hens, but for me the oldest we have is about six. We have lost them to foxes, disease and simple conked-out-ness. We are in the awkward situation at the moment to have only one hen, since we lost one to a strange disease that seemed to take the last one very quickly.

Prior to that we lost two to foxes, so within the space of a few weeks we have been decimated. Our problem is that the one we have left is the bossiest hen on the planet, and putting new stock with her is not really possible, and at the moment, there isn’t enough room to have a separate run for some hens. So we have a lone hen. A lone hen is not a happy hen, and we will have to do something about her

shortly, already she is showing signs of stress. The first sign of an unhappy older hen is a change in the way they walk. She waddles more than ever she did, and even on warmer days her feathers are fluffed up and she keeps herself warm. She can be found sitting on the floor a lot more, and her shape has changed. She is not moulting, but she is isn’t laying, but then at six years of age, we don’t expect miracles.

She is eating, too, and when she is allowed the run of the garden she takes great delight in chasing the dog around. Actually, allowing her out of her run has given her a new lease of life, and fighting with the dog an even greater impetus to enjoying life. But we want more hens, productive hens, and so over the next few weeks she is in for something of a difficult time. We will be buying new young stock at about ten weeks old, and housing them next door to her run, where I am sure she will run up and down, get all noisy and bossy and try to be the dominant lady she has always been.

But we have an ace card in our hand. Although we have been saying all the time that where you have neighbours you really could do without a cockerel, in this case the answer is a big butch testosterone filled fella to boss the situation. He will quickly make it known to her that she is really a grandma, and should spend her days out of the way. Slow integration It would be unkind simply to add all the new hens and their new boss to the old girl in one go. They will be separate but visible to each other over a period of a couple of weeks, and only when they

look more comfortable with each other will they be allowed to mix. Then it will be a watching game to see who has a go at who, and how dangerous it looks. Hopefully she will benefit from the company and then live out whatever remains of her days in peaceful nibbling! Who knows, she might even lay an egg or too on the side!


Caring for bees Sometimes you get carried away. It’s not that easy trying to go against what you know inside, but the trouble with being human is you never really stop hoping. Well it’s the same with bees. You look at a colony and wonder to yourself if they are actually going to make it through the winter, but you carry on regardless. These particular bees never really got going, the weather was against them. They were fed from the winter through to July, literally nothing in the stores. On top of that they didn’t grow that much either, a small colony never really getting going at all.

Then, in late July, they literally went nuts, filled a super and grew rapidly and looked full of spirit. There is a well known book in German whose translation I have a copy of. It is a description of what is happening inside the hive from what the bees are doing outside. These bees were growing fast, they were rushing in and out, bringing pollen and nectar in and the queen, who was marked and was the same lady all the year through, was laying like a steam train. So, they had a full super of food, and had been treated for varroa, and everything looked fine. But then,

this last week they had all gone. It was supposed to be a quick check that they were fine for the rest of the winter. I like to check things over in October. I have had a load of brace comb in the winter in the past, and it is a beggar to open the hive in December with comb all over the place, so I like to be sure they are behaving themselves. But when I looked, nothing! No food in the super, not a bee in sight, they had swarmed, in October - my latest swarm ever. Doubtless, with the general frost this next few days they won’t survive, unless they are tucked up nice and warm.

Room for a Warre hive at the back

Where should your bees be now? Asleep, probably. They might fly on warmish days. There are ivy plants in flower, and even now you will see bees on warm days flocking around them, having a drink. But there is not much point because they cannot preserve anything - it’s too cold to evaporate the water from the nectar. They do collect a little pollen when they can, in readiness for egg laying next year. On the whole, though, they are in

winter mode and concentrating on keeping warm.

think we’re about when we just give them sugar solution.

For me, I like them to have a full super of their own honey. I do know of some beekeepers who take all the honey,leaving the bees with only what remains in the brood chamber. The rest is topped up with sugar syrup or candy.

On top of that, I also give them a load of candy, at least three kilos, often more, and then I am sure they have plenty to get them through even the harshest winter. A few years ago it was minus eighteen for a month, and they did fine with this regime. Fr Emile Warre

I do wonder why bees make honey. There must be something in it they need - and I do wonder what we

Next job is more varroa treatment

But so much of modern beekeeping is unnatural. For example, the foundation we use for the bees to draw out their comb is all but arbitrary in the size of the cell and many people are suggesting this has a bee health implication. with that well known wood stain, oxalic acid. It is a bit critical in as much as if you get it wring you can kill the bees, but it’s well worth doing. Natural beekeeping All this talk of giving bees a good supply of their own honey has led to the obvious extension. If you are making sure they have natural food, then why not everything else in the hive? Around the world, a large number of beehives are no different from how they were some thousands of years ago. Essentially a hollow log closed off at both ends with mud. The bees make their own comb and are removed at the end of the season. Well, that might be fine in Africa, where there are no overwintering problems, but in the Uk we wouldn’t be able to work that way. Our equivalent was the skep, a kind of big straw hat in which there is plenty of room for the bees to grow.

Then there are all the chemicals we are using on the bees, even if they say they are organic, they are still not the kind of thing the bees would naturally bring into the hive themselves. There are lots of people who point out the bees are best as they are, it is easy and convenient for the beekeeper and it works. Well, I am trying to make up my mind on the issue. So next season I am going to make a Warre hive, which is the modern version of a hollow log, but vertical, and in many sec-

tions. The bees make their own comb and the brood grows vertically in the hive. Like so many beekeeping innovations, this hive was invented by a monk, and he called it The People’s Hive. It’s cheap and does work. The only difficulty is getting the honey off the comb is quite different! So I’ll keep you posted how it works! The next question is am I able to bring myself to not treat them for varroa? Now that’s another question.


Fun Soap Making Great gifts for all your family and friends, at a fraction of the cost of famous name toiletries. Using melt and pour soap bases, means you can customise soap bars for individuals. They are easy to use and create very little mess.

lauryl sulphate or parabens, both of which can aggravate sensitive skins. Some avoid using palm oils which is more of an ecological issue and use coconut

So what do I need to do first? Soap Base First of all source your soap base. They come in blocks of 500g and kilos. You can purchase as much as you like. I buy mine online, if you type in melt and pour soap you will find quite a few different ones. I use The Soap Kitchen as they are reliable and one of the cheapest I have found. They clearly list what ingredients are in each of the base products so you can choose which to buy. Some are organically made and others contain aloe vera, honey and plant extracts. There are ones that do not contain sodium

or rapeseed oil bases instead. The soap base comes in clear or white opaque, the clear seems to melt more easily than the opaque but they are both very easy to use. What equipment will I need? A large pan and heatproof bowl that fits inside the pan or a microwave oven- to melt the soap A metal spoon-a tablespoon or dessertspoon will do

Some firm plastic moulds-see** about moulds below What other ingredients will I need apart from the soap base? There are many ingredients in your kitchen you may use, but having a small collection of your favourite essential oils and some dried flowers or other dried plant items, either your own or purchased from the online shop you got your soap base from. Here is a list of ingredients I use on a regular basis: Fragrances – you can make your own soap using yours or your friend’s favourite perfumes. You can also purchase fragrances online natural and synthetic ones again from the soap base shop Pigments to colour your soap- I tend to use food colouring as

they work just as well and can be bought easily in the supermarkets. Oatmeal- this makes and excellent skin soothing and gentle exfoliator Ground almonds or coconut- for exfoliation and moisturising your skin Herbs- either fresh or dried- they will go brown after a time in the soap but will still be effective. Dried flowers- calendula petals, tiny rosebuds or rose petals and lavender flowers make very decorative additions. Honey- a real skin protecting and healing ingredient. Powdered milk- good for smoothing the skin Lemon and lime juice- for refreshing and toning the skin and naturally colouring the soap Ground peach or apricot kernelsmake a coarser exfoliator for stubborn areas Plant infusions-rosemary or thyme are good ones for anti-bacterial soaps. Essential oils-often the only thing I add. Oils and butters- these should be added in very small quantities as they soften the soap and make it very mushy. I tend to use a little olive oil or Shea butter. Butters and oils can also usually be purchased from your online supplier. I usually use extra virgin olive oil that I use to make salad dressings from. Moulds- When the soap

base is melted you will need to pour it into a mould to set. Again you can purchase moulds in all different shapes. I tend to keep sturdy plastic food cartons that have an interesting shape or pattern on them. They must withstand heat however, so pour very hot water on them to test if they take it. I also use a strong lidded 1 litre ice-cream carton to make a large block of soap that can be cut to size when needed. This way we always have soap ready to use. Just pop the lid on and store in a cool dark place. How do I start? You can melt your base in two ways: Using a double boiler over simmering water- this takes about 5 minutes to melt around 300g Using a microwave – this takes

about 45-50 seconds to melt 300g 1. Get all your ingredients and moulds ready and if you are using the double boiler method of melting set the water heating up. 2. Chop up the desired amount of base- start with around 300g –this will make 3 x 100g bars obviously. The smaller the pieces the quicker it will melt. 3. Place the soap base in a glass bowl if using the double method or a glass jug or bowl if you are using the microwave. A jug is best as it allows for easy pouring into the moulds. 4. Melt the base over the pan without stirring, move the base around with a knife as stirring it causes bubbles to form and it make the bar of soap look unsightly. Or place in the microwave and heat

SOAP MAKING on high for 40 seconds, check if it has melted then if necessary give it 20 second blasts of heat until completely melted. 5. When the base has melted remove from the heat carefully. Now add your other ingredients, again stirring with a knife to keep the air out of the mixture. This has to be done fairly quickly as the soap starts to set from the surface, it gets a ‘skin’ on it first. You can add the ingredients in the moulds if you wish to make different soaps, but be quick as it sets quicker this way. If you are adding dried flowers to decorate your soaps allow the base to set a little first so they don’t sink into the soap too much. NB. For this amount of base use about half a teaspoon of oil or butter and work in gently. Then add other ingredients such as essential oils and colours. About 30 drops of essential oil is a good place to start and a couple of drops of colour if you are using. Use the tip of a teaspoon to drop the colour into the base as it is difficult to be sparing straight from the bottle. 6. Pour into your desired mould or moulds and

7. When completely set and very firm remove from the moulds and wrap or enjoy straight away.

Lemon and ginger- add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the zest of half a lemon and 20 drops of ginger essential oil. Warming and cleansing on the skin. Add a teaspoon of honey also to boost the moisturising action.

Some recipe ideas: Lavender, thyme and rosemaryadd 10 drops of each oil to the soap base and a small sprig of rosemary. This is a great deodorising bar for after sport.

Rose, lavender and Shea butteradd ½ teaspoon Shea butter 15 drops lavender and 10 drops of rose or palmarosa oil. This comforts and soothes the skin and is also good for mature skins.

Tea tree and mint- add 20-30 drops tea tree oil and 1 teaspoon dried mint leaves. Leave for 48 hours before using as the mint will have time to infuse the soap. This is good for oily or troublesome skin that suffers from breakout of spots.

Oatmeal and Sandalwood- add 2 level teaspoons of ordinary porridge oats and 20 drops sandalwood oil. This calms the skin and the mind.

leave to set in a cool place. They can be place in the fridge if you like they won’t taint food.

Make up your own wonderful potions and have fun doing it!


Learn The Art of Traditional Salami Making ......................... Experience years of Italian tradition with Stagionello® If you are interested in creating your own Salami then this is a one day course that you don’t want to miss. Whether your a hobbist or full time professional this course has something for everyone. Organized by Weschenfelders and Stagionello® of Italy along with Chris Moorby of Leeds City College are ready to demonstrate and answer your questions on Traditional Salami production. Learn how to make classic recipes like Milano, Felino, Chorizo, or how to create your own unique Salami. The one day course takes place at the: Thomas Danby Campus November 7th, 2012 9.30am - 4.00pm For more a detailed course outline please contact: Tel. Robert or Tim on 01642 247524 E-mail. Please ask for a course application form. Limited places available please book early.

Come and Join Us November 7th, 2012

City Cottage Issue 5