Things are quietly busy round here. Like my garden, I’ve been growing and rooting creative projects behind the scenes through winter; soon everything will be blossoming and I’ll be able to tell you all about it! In the meantime, while the fruits of the (creative projects) garden are still fattening on their vines, what I can share with you are the goings-on in the actual garden.
Spring has well and truly sprung around these parts and just like clockwork, the chickens have come into lay. I find it amazing how their little ancient dinosaur brains interpret the weather and the moon and the light and the temperature and divine that it is time for ALL THE EGGS. Here is the Lauryn. Her eye so beady! Her comb so red!!! And in the background, her pal Becky. The chickens go in pairs; Missy and Lizzo are one pair, Lauryn and Becky are the other. We think we know who lays which eggs by this point, too. Becky and Lauryn tend to do a basic egg each morning by the door without fuss; Lizzo’s are large and pointy and leave her slightly boss-eyed; and Missy’s layings are a grand affair with much faffing and processing in and out of the henhouse (also squawking).
I love the hens so much.
The wild birds – Robins, Tits, Blackbirds, Sparrows, Starlings and a pair of Ostentatious (so SHY!) Jays are to be continually found going in and out of the hedge at the back, and in and out of the mulberry tree. We have espied a nest but think this is an old one and that the real birdlife is happening at an undisclosed location deeper in the leaves.
Have you been watching Chris Packham’s excellent BBC 2 series, “Animal Einsteins”? I particularly enjoyed learning about nature’s builders and it has reignited my interest in the totally fun basket-making craze that started for me last year. It began with finding the amazing and enabling book BASKETS by Tabara N’Diaye, and has quietly rumbled along ever since. I love Tabara’s book; it’s inviting and accessible, and the projects are varied, fun and colourful. The whole book and the projects in it speak with celebration and respect to the Senegalese basket-making traditions lying behind Tabara’s beautiful work at La Basketry. I made a couple of La Basketry projects last year; this one, using a kit of dyed jute twine and cotton rope…
…and I went off-piste and employed ideas from the book to make a little felted egg basket from Neon Lopi wool and Jacb fleece.
…but a dear friend put me onto the idea that I could also explore foraging basket-making materials from my very own garden. We have a tree-stump and a section of fence covered in pervasive ivy; I often cut it back to prevent it from strangling the spot where the squashes and corn like to grow, and this year I followed an excellent tutorial from Foraged Fibers to harvest some ivy vines in preparation to make a tiny basket. My ivy vines are all strung up hopefully to dry out in the dry and windy spot underneath our little outdoors shelter.
Now the most difficult part: waiting for the fibres to be ready! (Are they ready yet) (What about now)?
I also have a tupperware box hidden inside the house near a radiator where some green wood ribs and hoops are drying out as well.
Because you have to strip the ivy vines of their leaves in order to ready them for basket-weaving, I decided that, rather than wasting them, I could steep and boil them to make a weak laundry soap. I don’t know how effective this will be – it’s definitely a bit sudsy because of saponin in the leaves – but only time will tell if this is really a good cleaning product; I’m enjoying uing it on delicates for which laundry soap is a bit much.
I’m loving that there are finally enough flowers in the garden to put together a bouquet for a dear neighbour whose birthday it was recently…
…and grateful for the indestructible chard patch which in spite of chickens, neglect, frost, snow and rain, continues to yield delicious dark leaves and thick fleshy stems which are amazing sauteed in garlic, salt and olive oil, and served with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. My tip is to finely chop the stems and fry them first before adding slim ribbons of the lovely lacy leaves. So tasty! So green.
I was reading on my friend Helda’s social media about her love for fresh Fenugreek leaves in cooking, and so have started sprouting some Fenugreek inside; it’s loving its light little spot under an LED striplight we have installed for the sake of the plants (our house has very few light spots inside suitable for all the indoors plant babies). I’ll have to prick the seedlings out soon as they are quickly outgrowing their little seedling pot!
Maybe, in a few weeks’ time, I can have a tiny ivy basket full of Fenugreek leaves to show you… what’s growing in YOUR garden?
Until Soon –
Yours in THE SPRING HAS SPRUNG,