My Wildflower Border – Year 2.

Last year our verge was dug up to put a pipe in so we saw this as an opportunity to make it into a wild flower area, it was a real success, you can read about it here.

This year I’m keeping an eye on it to see what’s growing, I can see already that it will look different this year. There are the plants that have always been there, forget me nots, herb Robert, alkanet, dog mercury, buttercups, dandelions, docks, thistles etc. There are new plants I’ve not seen before, I think they are from the second batch of seeds that I sowed last year, including teasles, oxeye daisies and knapweed. There’s only one poppy this year and one corn marigold, but it’s interesting to see how it has changed from last year so please do look at my post using the link above. I was pleased to see red clover this year as you hardly ever see it these days and it’s a plant from my childhood, we used to suck nectar from the base of the florets.

I collected some of the seeds from last years plants and sowed them in spring but there’s little sign of any growth. There’s no sign of the viper’s bugloss, borage and cornflowers that were abundant last year.

This is how it’s looking right now, the teasles are doing well as are foxgloves and oxeye daisies. and we have mallow just starting to flower and yarrow to follow soon.

I am looking forward to seeing goldfinches feeding on the teasles later in the year.

I think the grasses have taken over preventing a lot of seeds germinating so next year we will clear some of the grass, sow yellow rattle ( which competes against the grass) and see what happens. It’s really quite exciting not knowing what will grow each year, and it’s lovely to see so many bees enjoying the flowers.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – June

Today I’m trying out some different papers that I’ve not tried before.

If you want to see my ecoprinting posts for the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

June.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin.

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Khadi paper, yupo paper, wet strength tissue paper, Tex Kraft paper fabric

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Cranesbill geranium, red elderberry, herb robert, acer, cotinus, rose leaves.

Cooking time – 45 minutes, turned, 45 minutes.

Blanket -none.

Images

Khadi paper
Yupo paper
Wet strength tissue paper
Tex Kraft paper.

Conclusion – Prints on khadi paper are what I expected as it’s a watercolour paper but it’s not as strong as other watercolour papers that I’ve tried so needs to be used with care.

Yupo is a plastic paper, I wasn’t sure if this paper would accept a print at all. The prints are quite subtle but I might just need that in a project sometime.

Wet strength tissue is used to make carnival costumes, it’s lightweight but strong, it held up well considering how thin it is and the prints are good. I will use this ecoprinted paper for collage work, it will be good for layering.

Tex Kraft paper fabric, this is a new paper for me, I found it on Amazon, it can be used to make items such as bags and book covers. The prints are dull but this paper was brown /beige, I couldn’t find a lighter coloured one. The paper itself held up well to the ecoprinting process.

The End Of No Meat May.

If you read my post at the start of the month you will know we decided to partake in No Meat May. Now the month has come to an end I thought I’d share a few observations and let you know how it went.

I decide to give up carbs and alcohol too as I wanted to lose weight for an event in June.

The first week went great you can read about it here. I lost quite a lot of weight in the first week but I knew that wasn’t sustainable. I have to say by the end of the second week I couldn’t get warm, my body needed more fuel so I listened and made sourdough which felt like such a treat, as did most of our meals actually, we both seem to be savouring our food more, both of us commenting on how delicious our food has been. I’m sure our non vege meals were just as delicious but we didn’t appreciate them as much.

Over the weekend the sun came out, I picked wild garlic and made a sauce and hummus with it, I’m going to try pickling the seeds but they need to be salted for 3 weeks first.

When you have sunshine you have to make the most of it, we had sourdough bread, garlic oil and a feast of mezzes courtesy of Claudia Roden’s book Mediterranean Cooking, and well, it needed a bottle of wine to wash it down. It was so enjoyable relaxing in the garden, we don’t get that many days when the weather is good.

The dishes from Claudia Roden’s book are as follows:

Salatet Ads – lentil salad

Gigantes Plaki- butter beans in tomato sauce

Moutabal- aubergine dip

Panises- lentil or chickpea fritters

I noticed that we had hardly any rubbish to put out for the bin men, no plastic tray packaging from meat, also we compost all our veg waste. Another bonus, our shopping bill was a lot less without meat, fish and wine.

We were loving the food so much we didn’t miss the meat at all, but we do usually eat a lot of vegetarian food. I have been more experimental this month making seitan and lentil and chickpea tofu.

When the weekend came round again I was going to make tapas but my mezze spice kit and cookbook arrived from The Spicery

From the cookbook I chose to make falafel with hummus, Borani Laboo, a Persian beetroot and yoghurt dish, Mashwiga, a North African dip made from aubergine, tomato, garlic and onion, Lavash, an Armenian bread, and a Shepherds Salad with walnuts and feta as a garnish. Adding feta was my choice as I had some in the fridge.

I wanted something to just heat up on Sunday so I made a couple of curries, they always improve overnight, these were Baingan Ka Salan, a Hyderbadi curry with aubergines and roasted coconut and peanuts ( from The Spicery), the soft aubergine in a coconut sauce was amazing but lacked a bit of colour so I accompanied it with sweet potato Saag Aloo ( Hairy Dieters ) and a red cabbage Kosambari for some crunch, which is like coleslaw with spices.

In the third week we had Houston burgers, I wasn’t sure about adding molasses to a burger, I didn’t have any but I did have black treacle so I added that. I didn’t have any BBQ sauce so I used chipotle paste and some ketchup instead. The burgers had a lovely smoky sweetness which was lovely.

Top left- roasted vegetables, dhal and crispy onions. Top right- stirfry vegetables with cashews. Bottom left – Imam Bayaldi with lemon and herb cous cous, Bottom right – Houston burger with salad.

What I have loved about this month ( as opposed to our usual vege days ) is that it was a celebration of vegetarian food, exploring recipes I’ve not tried before. We love our mezze / tapas meals and I will continue making and exploring seitan recipes, it’s so much better than bought meat substitutes.

I found giving up meat easy, I didn’t miss meat although I have missed having salmon. I did slip up once and ate a couple of wine gums without thinking about the gelatine.

Will I become vegetarian? Probably not but I will only eat meat occasionally, and I will only buy local meat from our butchers from now on.

We have both enjoyed this month very much, OH enjoyed it as much as I did, and I lost 9 pounds in weight even though I let my hair down on weekends and didn’t count the calories. This isn’t really the end.

How To Ecoprint On Paper My Way.

There are plenty new leaves now so it’s time to give you instructions on how I ecoprint on paper. I have kept these instructions as simple as possible as I would love you to try this out.

Health and Safety.

You are solely responsible for your own health and safety. Some of the chemicals and plants used could have a harmful effect so please wear a mask and latex gloves when ecoprinting. Work in a well ventilated area, some plants may give off toxic fumes so use plants that aren’t poisonous. All equipment used for ecoprinting should not be used for food or drink once used for ecoprinting. Care should be taken to avoid burns and scalds.

What you need to get started.

(See Addendum below for more information on each item. )

  • Rectangular roasting tin, a bit of rust on it is good but if it’s not going rusty you can add some rusty iron metal such as nails, screws, hinges, to the pan but you don’t have to do this. (1).
  • A cover for the tin (2).
  • Rust water – see how to make it here.
  • Mordant – Potassium aluminium sulphate ( known as alum) or alum acetate. (4) I don’t bother to measure this accurately, I put 2 heaped desert spoons in about a litre of hot water and stir until dissolved.
  • Trays to put the paper in and one to drain it on, also a smaller one for the rust water. (5).
  • Paper a heavier weight watercolour or cartridge paper is best (6).
  • 2 ceramic tiles that fit your roasting tin, metal sheet, wood or thick cardboard would do (7).
  • String to tie the bundle (8).
  • Vinegar– malt vinegar will do (9)
  • Foliage – plants and leaves (10).
  • A hob ring – I used to boil my bundles on my hob indoors with good ventilation but now I use a portable electric hob (11).
  • Other useful items – mask, rubber gloves, old towels, a flat stone, small stones or pieces of pipe or nails to raise the tiles off the bottom of the pan, protective table cover, scissors, tongs, an old spoon, bicarbonate of soda (12).

Method.

  • Put the alum mordant in a tray large enough to take the paper . Add the paper to the tray and push it down, continue adding your paper. I leave it soaking while I go and pick some foliage, for about 15 to 30minutes. Lift it out and let it drain on another tray or old towel. If you aren’t using a mordant then soak your paper in water.
  • Choose your leaves (see addendum 10) .
  • Lay one of the tiles on the table glazed side up, lay a sheet of paper on top.
  • Put some rust water into a container, I have a jug that I use for this sole purpose, and I try not to stir up the sediment in the bottom of the container.
  • Dip a few leaves into the rust water, take them out and arrange on the paper.
  • Lay another sheet of paper on top and press it down gently, try and keep the edges lined up if possible. Lay on more dipped leaves.
  • Continue layering your paper and leaves. Don’t make the bundle too thick, about 10 to 12 sheets will be enough.
  • Put the other tile on top of the bundle, glazed side down. Press down to compact the bundle. Tie up tightly with your yarn or string, leave some long ends tied together to help with lifting the bundle.
  • Put the roasting pan ( with the small stones, pipes or screws in the bottom to raise the tiles slightly) on the hotplate with water and a few of squirts of vinegar and bring to the boil.
  • Carefully add the bundle to the pan, top up the water so it comes up to the top tile, put the heavy flat stone on top if there is room, if not don’t bother and then cover with a lid or foil.
  • Allow to boil gently for 40 minutes but check the water level now and then and top up if necessary.
  • After 40 minutes carefully turn the bundle over, it will be hot so I use tongs and gloves but I have very carefully used a spoon handle under the yarn to lift the tile then turned it over using a silicone pot holder. Take care not to scald yourself. Top up with hot water and boil for another 40 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and carefully lift out the bundle, let it cool a little until you can handle it safely.
  • Remove the yarn and open the bundle, remove leaves and gently wash off in water then rinse in water with a little ( a teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda if you want.
  • Lay the prints on a towel, cover with another towel, remove excess water with a gentle pat.
  • I then lay my prints on kitchen paper ( I save and reuse it) until almost dry, turning occasionally. Make a couple of piles of prints, lay them between kitchen paper and place a heavy book on top and leave overnight. They should be flat but if not they can be ironed. A flower press works as well.

Evaluation.

Hopefully you will have some great prints, notice which leaves print well. Does the top and bottom side of the leaves print differently? What colours did your leaves give? Did some leaves leave no print, or a ghost print? Are your prints very dark, too pale, do they have good tonal contrast?

In another post I will give suggestions on how you can improve or change ecoprints.

I would love to hear from you and see your prints in the comments. Keep experimenting and keep a record of your results.

My Prints.

Addendum.

  1. You want a roasting pan that you can lay your bundle in flat. A rusty pan is good, mine was one where the non stick started peeling off, now it’s gone really rusty. When my prints get too dark I scrape off some of the rust. I also have a couple of newer pans, the non stick coating can be scuffed up to encourage rusting. If you have an enamel pan you can always put bits of rusty metal in the pan when you boil your bundle. A Grundy tin (which are aluminium and often have a baking sheet lid) could be used too. Aluminium is a mordant so you won’t need to use one on your paper but I would probably add rusty metal or rust water to the pan. I haven’t tried this yet.
  2. I now use a metal sheet from my old oven as a lid but before that I used 3 layers of aluminium foil folded over the edge of the pan, however this dripped quite a bit. The foil can be used over and over again.
  3. See how to make rust water here.
  4. You can print on paper without a mordant but the results will be slightly different, see here. Today I am using potassium aluminium sulphate (alum), I don’t bother with accurate measurements, I added 2 dessert spoons into about a litre of hot water and stirred to dissolve. The solution is kept for future projects in a milk container. Label it well.
  5. I use plastic trays that meat comes in/ on but a plastic storage box would be fine. A takeaway container is good for rust water to dip leaves.
  6. Try different papers to see how they print, heavier weight paper is best as it doesn’t tear so easily when wet. I have printed on lightweight wet strength tissue paper so it’s worth experimenting. My favourite paper is Windsor and Newton cartridge paper, 200gsm as it’s very smooth and gives great detail in the prints.
  7. I use ceramic tiles to form my bundles but thin pieces of wood, glass, thick card or metal sheets can be used. I cut the corners off some of my tiles so they fit into the pan. As you can see with use the tiles absorb the tannins and iron, I don’t bother washing them as it helps to get dark prints.
  8. I tie my bundles with leftover acrylic yarn as I always have plenty. Strips of T shirt can be used as well.
  9. White vinegar or brown, it doesn’t matter.
  10. Try to avoid thick plant material and waxy leaves. Don’t use any plant material that may be toxic. Good plants to begin with are rose leaves, cranesbill geranium, blackberry, sycamore, coreopsis, herb robert, cotinus and onion skins are good too. Have a look at examples in my other posts.
  11. I used to boil my pot on my hob indoors with good ventilation but now I use a portable electric hob outside or in the studio.
  12. A mask and rubber gloves are essential safety equipment when working with chemicals. A table cover and old towels are good for protecting surfaces and mopping up. Tongs are useful for turning the bundle but I have used a spoon handle taking care not to splash hot liquid. An old spoon is handy for measuring but not one used for food afterwards. I use small stones, nails or screws, or pipe to raise the bundle off the bottom of the pan, it stops it rattling about so much. A large stone can be put on top of the bundle to weight it down to get good contact and good prints. Bicarbonate of soda is used when rinsing the prints to neutralise them, but I don’t always use it.

If you want to see my monthly posts for the year so far type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

Have fun and I look forward to seeing your ecoprints.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – May

This post is about different pots and how new versus used equipment gives different results, as well as continuing my ecoprinting throughout the year theme.

If you want to see the posts for the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

May.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin, and also a new roasting tin. Also new tile supports as well as used tiles.

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Cartridge paper, mixed media paper, watercolour paper.

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Cranesbill geranium, red elderberry, herb robert, cow parsley, red ligularia, astilbe, beech and rowan leaves.

Cooking time – 40 minutes, turned, 40 minutes.

Blanket -none.

Images

This bundle was left overnight before going in the rusty pot. I don’t think it has made any difference to the prints.

Plants from the rusty roasting pan

The print below was cooked in the new roasting pan.

Plants from the new roasting pan

Below is a comparison of prints, on the left is the old rusty pan, on the right the new pan was used.

A comparison of the rusty pan on the left and the new pan on the right. The new pan print is much brighter but less tonal contrast than the one done in the old rusty pan.

This ligularia leaf is a good example of how some leaves give different prints from each side of the leaf.

A great example of how some leaves print differently depending on which side is in contact with the paper.

Conclusion – The plants in the rusty roasting tin are less vibrant in colour than the ones with new tile supports, cooked in the new roasting tin. The prints done in the rusty pan have more tonal contrast due to the iron in the pot. The ligularia leaf prints show how sometimes each side of the leaf prints differently.

My next post will give step by step instructions for ecoprinting on paper, I hope you will try it for yourself. You need some rusty water so if you haven’t started yours off I suggest you do so now, you can read about making it here. Adding some fine grade wire wool and vinegar will speed up the process.

No Meat May Begins – The Added Bonus Of Weight Loss .

We used to eat a lot of vegetarian food but somehow we have gotten out of the practice of 5 days vege so I signed up for No Meat May There are lots of reasons to eat less meat as you will be aware, my main reason at present is to lose a few pounds and get back to feeling more fit and healthy.

My breakfast consists of banana and low fat Greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of honey. Lunches are homemade soups, or salad with avocado, egg, or cottage cheese. Eggs on toast or Marmite mushrooms from Pinch of Nom are firm favourites, I’m cutting carbs so I served marmite mushrooms in half a roasted pepper instead of on toast. Also cutting out alcohol.

I’ve decided to use my new Ninja 9 in 1 and my slow cooker as much as possible for our main meals, I’m trying to save on the gas and electric bills. Also doubling up a recipe will give us meals for the freezer and save energy too, I did this with the chilli.

Monday.

I took a look in the fridge to see what veg needed using up, I hate food waste. There was a tagine spice mix from The Spicery leftover from Christmas so a tagine was on the menu. I roasted the root veg in the Ninja first, then added everything else and simmered until done.

Tuesday

It was cold so we had 2 bean and sweet potato chilli, with beans I had cooked from dried in the Ninja pressure cooker and frozen. I make this a lot and don’t follow a recipe.

Wednesday

When I’m calorie counting ( I’m eating about 800 to 900 calories a day) I often use a diet recipe from a cookbook or website so I know the calorie count, but I don’t usually weigh anything or follow the recipe exactly. This is Cheesy Aubergine Bake from Pinch of Nom. It looks dark but it was lovely and thick, that’s how we like it.

Thursday

Today I wanted something I could prepare in the morning and cook without much fuss in the evening. I have 3 caulis in the fridge so l made roasted cauliflower with vegan bacon seasoning, a slaw with fennel, carrot, cabbage and apple, with white wine vinegar and a little olive oil dressing. We had sweet potato chips which were air fried, as was the cauliflower. I served this with a roasted red pepper sauce that I had in the freezer. I get a veg box delivery every week and there’s usually a pepper in it, as I’m the only one who eats them I often make them into a sauce and freeze it in an ice cube tray.

Friday

We usually eat fish on a Friday but today we had something different. I made quick seitan yesterday from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken. I’ve never made or even eaten seitan before so I didn’t know what to expect. It was very easy to make, I steamed it in the Ninja. This was used to make Hairy Dieters lemon chicken, only without the chicken, served with cauliflower fried rice. I told you I had a lot of cauliflowers.

Saturday

We have curry on a Saturday, but today there’s no meat, rice or breads. Once again I looked at the veg from my box delivery to decide what to make. I opted for a beetroot and coconut curry from The Spicery, ‘How To be A Curry Legend’ book and spice kit. I used their spices in all my curries. The cabbage curry was inspired by a Youtube video. The creamy vegetable curry is based on Pinch of Nom ‘Oven Baked Pasanda’ but I changed things up a bit using vegies, and my own mix of spices. The sauce is from the book, it’s good, and low calorie. All my curries were made in the Ninja.

I made some chickpea tofu yesterday from Delicious Every Day I wanted this to be crispy so I marinated it in a little oil and spices,with ginger and garlic then air fried in the Ninja. I don’t really like tofu but I love this, they were light and fluffy.

Sunday

I was going to make a roast dinner today with vegetarian sausages and onion gravy but as the other half of the aubergine bake is sitting in the fridge we will be having that with salad. Next week I won’t need to cook every day as there are meals in the freezer.

I said at the beginning of this post that I was taking part in No Meat May for several reasons, two being to lose some weight and get fitter. With that in mind I have been exercising every day, gym twice a week, at least a 3 mile walk every day, and 10 minutes on the exercise bike when I can fit it in. I’ve also been drinking 6 or 7 glasses of water a day too.

We have enjoyed all our meals very much, even OH said he was loving our dinners. I feel great, have more energy and I was amazed when I got on the scales this morning and saw that I’ve lost 6 pounds. I never thought that would be possible in just a week, maybe I can reach my target of losing 12 pounds by the end of the month. I’ll get back to you then and tell you how No Meat May went.

My First Willow Basket.

Having a skill swap with a creative friend is a wonderful way to share our creativity. Last weekend my friend came to stay, I showed her how to make a simple pair of cropped trousers for her holidays, and I made her a boiled wool coat. The next day she showed me how to weave a willow shopping basket, she made me a large vegetable basket as a swap for the coat.

We always share the cooking and refreshments on these weekends, a good time is had by everyone including the husbands. Personally I feel like I’ve been on a residential course and I’m very inspired to learn more about basket making.

This is the base of my basket, it came out quite flat but a heavy weight on top also helps.

The basket started to look like a very large spider.

There were various techniques involved in weaving the basket, French randing and three rod waling. Basket terminology has me intrigued, I wonder how old these names are, they must be very old.

Here’s my finished basket, I needed quite a lot of help with the handle. I’m really pleased with it, I know it will get a lot of use.

Once my friend left I had a go at making a small basket with the leftover willow to see how much I could remember. It turned out a bit wonky, maybe because I couldn’t trim the willow much as I didn’t have enough withies.

I do have problems with my hands and they are quite sore so I will have to rest them before I start my next willow project. I need some more obelisks for the garden, and maybe some plant supports too.

Ecoprinting throughout the year – April

It’s April and there’s lots of new foliage about now to print with. I have deliberately picked new leaves from my favourite plants which I know print well throughout the year. Also I had to try some of the flowers that are out this month.

If you want to see the rest of the year type “Ecoprinting throughout the year” into the search box.

April.

Pot – Rusty roasting tin

Water – Tap water with vinegar.

Paper – Cartridge paper, mixed media paper, watercolour paper.

Mordant – alum acetate

Leaf dip – rust water

Plants – Flowering currant, rose, cranesbill geranium, elder, astilbe, herb Robert, grape hyacinth, dandelion, bluebells.

Cooking time – 40 minutes, turned, 40 minutes.

Blanket -none.

Images

New rose leaves, the top 2 pictures show both sides of the leaf.
Flowering currant, the one on the left was printed this time last year in a different pot.
Cranesbill geraniums showing both sides of the leaf.
Herb Robert and astilbe.
Grape hyacinth, dandelions and bluebells.
Elder leaf.

Conclusion – As I already mentioned I chose leaves from plants I know print well, but a lot of plants are not so good at this time of year, the bluebells, grape hyacinth and dandelions didn’t print so well, but it really depends on what you want to use the prints for, sometimes a delicate print is what’s required.

I used a very rusty roasting tin for these prints which I believe has interacted with the leaf tannins to produce the dark prints. But there are so many variables, which for me makes ecoprinting exciting.

Happy Paste Egg Day! – Ecoprinted Eggs

Happy paste egg day, or should that be pase egg? It depends where you live I suppose. In the north east they are paste eggs but in the north west they call them pace eggs. Both names are derived from ‘pascha’ meaning Easter.

I used to make these with my Gran when I was a little girl. As they are a form of plant printing I thought I would have another go.

Then we used different plants and flowers such as pansies and grasses, bound to the egg with thread, or put in old tights and tied at the top. Then they were put in a pan of onion skins and water and hard boiled. Sometimes eggs were just put in the pan of skins and boiled, giving a nice random pattern, I decided to try both.

I couldn’t get any white eggs anywhere so I used the palest brown eggs. I wanted some onion dyed cotton fabric for a course I’m taking so I used cotton fabric squares to make my bundles.

Please note, the cotton has no mordant, and I used herbs just to be sure there are no toxic substances going into my eggs.

I laid some sage leaves and rosemary sprigs on my eggs and tied them up in a bundle using string. I also put some eggs in the pan and filled with onion skins. I put some pieces of fabric in the pan and I think this prevented my eggs from banging into each other as none of them cracked.

The pan was topped up with onion skins and water and put on to boil for 10 minutes.

Then took out the eggs and I opened up the bundles. The ones in the pan were a little disappointing as they weren’t as marbled as those I remember but the bundled ones were better, especially the sage leaves.

I wiped them with a little cooking oil to give them a shine.

If I was still a little girl I would roll the eggs on the garden path, or Gran and I would do egg jabbing to crack the shells but we shall just eat them in a sandwich.

Happy Easter.

eco dyed easter eggs

When In Rome.

Last week we went to visit family in Rome, we have been waiting since 2020 to go, it was well worth the wait. Rome is such an amazing place, there’s so much to see and do.

One thing you definitely need in Rome is comfortable walking shoes, we walked between 9 and 12 miles each day. We broke up the distance with some people watching and an aperitivo, what’s not to like about an Aperol spritz and bruschetta. The food is amazing, delicious pasta, gelato and pizza. I loved the lighter, crisp, oval Roman pizza called pinsa, which is probably where the word pizza originates.

We planned ahead and booked the hop on hop off Green bus, Colosseum, Forum and Villa Borghese tickets online which saved a lot of queuing. One piece of valuable advice I was given is if you pass a church have a look inside as you don’t know what great artwork you might find.

Rome is an exceptional place, I can’t really find the words so I will let my photos do the talking, if you remember the film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn you might recognise some of these photos. Click on the image to see in full. Enjoy!

Unfortunately not long after coming home we tested positive for Covid, I suppose it had to happen sometime. Fortunately we are ok.

I can’t wait until we visit Rome again, there’s so much more to see and do.