Category Archives: Permaculture

Cold frames


Dean has remade bits of the greenhouse into a cold frame, so we can extend our growing season for a couple of months a year.  The greenhouse was really just a big cold frame anyway, as it didn’t have any heating.

This works very well, but we had a battle with the mice who ate all the peas that were just sprouting.  So Dean made a seedling box with a mesh bottom and a lid from another pane of the greenhouse that fits in the cold frame.  So far so good.

I think we’ll make another couple of these for the herb garden.

Over before it’s begun

The day before yesterday I announced how much I loved our greenhouse.  Then yesterday in the space of five minutes it went from this:



To this:

Destroyed greenhouse


We had quite a storm, the usual rain along with not so usual blasting wind.  Just after Dean left to take Elaine to the airport I noticed that a panel had come loose in the top of the greenhouse.  I went in the cabin to work out what to do about it and it was all over.

I was a bit upset yesterday.  It’s not the end of the world, but all my little seedlings that were coming up have gone.  I managed to salvage some rocket, peas and four broccoli and two spinach out of hundreds of seedlings.  It’s still early in the year, so that’s not too much of a setback.

The greenhouse is history though; we won’t be getting another one.  We’ll salvage what we can to make cold frames this year and when we build the house and have a digger here, we’ll put in a walipini.  A walipini or pit greenhouse is like a big hole n the ground with a roof on it, which maintains its heat due to the thermal mass of the earth. Here’s the building manual.

Clearly, the construction of the greenhouse wasn’t good enough for our environment.  It was a nightmare to put up with even a slight breeze and even though it was supposedly guaranteed for five years – that didn’t cover ‘unusual weather’.  Think twice before you buy a Palram greenhouse!  We bought it instead of a poly-tunnel, because we thought it would last longer. Hah!

But what a metaphor for life.  It really can all be over before you’ve even lived it. That’s why I’m not upset anymore.  I’m still here and living to the full – I haven’t got time for misery!


Rosehip syrup

This week I made rosehip syrup.  Our hedgerows have masses of wild roses and at this time of year the hips are bright red.  Rosehips are an excellent, natural and local source of vitamin C through the winter, much of which is retained in the syrup if the hips are prepared immediately after picking.

It’s been raining here for the past week, so I picked the hips in the rain and quickly stopped being too selective and just picked bunches on the stem to sort out inside, out of the rain.  I don’t have any scales, so son’t know how much I picked. It took around an hour and it is not as easy as it looks.  These little berries hide amongst the thorns very well.  Maybe a kilo?


It took at least another hour to cut off all the stems and top and tail each one with kitchen scissors.  Then I ended up with about half as much by volume, but that filled the blender so was just the right amount!

Topped and tailed rosehips


I’ve never made rosehip syrup before, so I looked up a few recipes on the internet.  Many suggest chopping the hips by hand or in a food processor.  I haven’t got a food processor, but I’ve got a blender so I used that and it worked fine.  I just added a bit more water as the pulp mushed down.

Blended rosehips

It’s OK to guess at amounts for recipes if you are making something relatively simple and you can taste it as you go along – I thoroughly recommend this approach as this helps develop your intuition.  So I put the pulp in a large saucepan, added about half as much raw cane sugar as pulp and topped the pan up with water and brought it to the boil.  I then simmered it for around 15 minutes, until the flesh began to break down.

Simmering rosehip syrup


The next stage is straining the syrup.  All the recipes talk about using a jelly bag, I have no idea what that is and doubt whether I’d be able to find one here, so I used a piece of clean white cotton from a pillowcase.  (I save the IKEA pillowcases that come in a set with a duvet cover just for something like this, as the pillowcases don’t fit our pillows.)

Straining rosehip syrup


The strained pulp then goes back into the saucepan with a bit more water and a bit more sugar and is brought to the boil, simmered again and strained again, through a fresh piece of cotton.

That’s it.  I then bottled it in bottles and jars that I’d kept and sterilised by boiling them for about 20 minutes in salt water.  I ended up with about a litre of delicious syrup.  It tastes sweet, fruity and slightly exotic.  Well worth the effort!

Bottled rosehip syrup


Lessons from water

In the developed world we take water for granted; we don’t appreciate it and we brutalise it, alternately contaminated it and then treating it with harmful chemicals.  We barely stop to think that without it we would not exist, many of us don’t even like to drink it.  This is the result of our deep disconnection from nature, from life and from ourselves – we are after all at least 70% water, just like our planet.  This disconnection has allowed us to pollute the oceans and poison our fresh water supplies with toxic chemicals, while we pretend that somehow this is not causing any harm.  I’m writing this a few days after the news about the continued and escalating emergency at Fukushima and the commencement of fracking at Balcombe in the UK.  The water systems of the world need our help.

Water has been communicating with me for several years.  She (water is a feminine being) first came into my consciousness through the work of Dr Masaru Emoto who showed how water formed different shaped crystals according to the intention underlying specific words, thoughts or music.  Then I began dreaming about water and this led me to meditate on water.  I became more aware of water. In the shower I found myself saying, “Thank you beautiful water.  I love you.”  Often before drinking a glass of water I’d hold it to my heart chakra and simply breathe in and out.  In the technocratic disconnected world of illusion, this is pure looney tunes, but Dr Masaru has shown that water forms the most beautiful crystals of all in response to love and gratitude.

Love and Gratitude

Water crystal after receiving Love and Gratitude

In London I began lasering our drinking water with the Quantumwave laser.  I used kinesiology to test what was best for our water at the time (Thames Water) and found that it needed 4 minutes on the Unwind setting followed by 4 minutes on Quantum.  Unwind dissolves cellular memory and the new biological sciences are discovering more and more amazing properties of water, memory being just one of them.  Quantum setting is for de-stressing.  I found that the water tasted softer and had the slippery, silky feel of softened water, so it was easier to drink.  Clients who had not previously liked to drink water sucked it down.  I felt more hydrated, like my thirst was being quenched for the first time.  When we moved to Spain I continued to laser our water, but our water came from a well and it only needed the 4 minute Unwind.

I still had lots more to learn about water though.  Learning about things isn’t enough these days.  It’s a good start, but real learning has to be coupled with physical action; it has to be learned in the body.  So in the midst of the rainiest winter in 40 or 70 years (depending on the age of the person telling us) our well ran dry.  At the same time the roof leaked, directly onto our bed.  Yet we were having to buy bottled water to drink and had a hose pipe from the neighbours for household uses.  When we bought our land and moved here we were determined to get the water issue under control.

We moved here in the rainiest spring in living memory.  The access road was like a river.  It was impossible to get the cabin down here for a week.  Eventually we managed it with 14 loads on a trailer with a neighbour’s tractor. There were two wells already on the property and we were told that this is a good area for water – it certainly looked as though it was.  We rigged up a pipe to the well that was in the field, so that we could have a gravity feed to the cabin; no electricity and kinder to the water.  For three weeks we just had a stand pipe outside; more learning on the importance of water.  Luckily the weather was warm.

The first shower inside with water from our well was glorious, just like warm gentle rain.  However, we’d lost quite a bit of water from the well in putting in the pipe and as summer rolled on the level was dropping and we knew we wouldn’t have enough water to last until the next rains.  We decided that we needed a new well as we weren’t sure how deep the other existing well was and it was also contaminated with bacteria.  So we have had a new well drilled, but the pump hasn’t arrived yet and we are on water rations again as the other well is nearly dry.  How many times do we need to learn this lesson?

The new well is deep and we need a pump to bring up the water, so it’s not quite as ‘natural’.  I decided to ask the water what it needed, so I went out and laid in the field next to the well with my question and waited.  The answer came quickly and clearly.  We’ve bought a tensor ring from The Energy Garden to go around the well head and I will be making three triskelions out of granite to go next to the well and where the pipe joins the cabin.  The triskelion is an ancient symbol with the ability to raise the vibration of water and neutralise harmful energies.  I didn’t know this before, but the water communicated with me so clearly that I was able to Google the spiral shape with connection to water.


Triskelion anticlockwise

I then downloaded and read Dancing with Water.  This is probably the most important book I’ve read in the past 10 years.  It honours water as sacred and life-giving and provides references to the hard science that provide evidence of its extraordinary properties.  It is also very practical and reviews the wide range of devices that are available to help restructure water back to its full, living, spectrum.  Full spectrum, living water is not just more hydrating, it is actually healing.

The last step in this stage of my learning about water was from a documentary:  Water: The Great Mystery  This is a wonderful film, well-made and wee-researched and both informative and enjoyable.

We are still waiting for a pump and our well to be connected, so perhaps we still have more lessons to learn.  Only time will tell!








The Garden


The cabin field, next to the main house field, is an old vineyard and clay -really deep clay.  It’s a quagmire when it rains and concrete in the sun.  It would take a lot of work to make beds and that’s not what we want.  So we’ve gone for hugelkultur.  This way we get to use the rotten wood from the house that we’ve half-demolished, the cardboard and all the packing from the cabin and it will also be our compost heap.


The first bed laid out with chestnut beams from the old house

The first bed laid out with chestnut beams from the old house

We ended up dismantling one hugel as we’d have to dig it up again to run water from the cabin to the house, but the other is almost finished as of December and has garlic planted in it.

We’ve also made another veggie patch outside the fence and planted beans, lettuce and chard.  It is a veggie patch with a view!

Salad patch. IMG_1253

We’re trying no-dig gardening, so have simply put a thick layer of mulch from the woods over the ground and we’ll see what happens.