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Make your own Christmas Wreath at Nant-y-Bedd

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Unfortunately, this workshop is now fully booked.

Our final workshop of this year gives you the chance to make your very own Christmas Wreath for your front door.

The standard to aim for!

Led by Sue, who has many years experience working with her father and more recently her sister to produce fantastic looking wreaths for sale, you will go through the whole process starting with the bare wire rings, then adding moss and locally sourced foliage and cones.  Make up your own slant on the design as you go along. We will be using entirely natural materials, mainly foraged from the garden.

Take time out to enjoy a delicious two-course home-made lunch in Garden Room then, when you are happy with your handiwork, head off home and proudly display your skill on the front door!  When your neighbours ask “Where did you buy that lovely wreath?” you can tell them “I made it!”

With two leaders and only six places, personal attention is guaranteed!   Wednesday 4th December from 10.00 until 3.30pm.   Book early to avoid disappointment!

For more details click here:  Christmas Wreath Making Workshop

Harvest time

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The hot weather at the start of the summer has definitely had a big effect on many of our crops.  Without going into the usual veggies, spuds

onions

beans, beans, beans ….   we have had maybe our best ever returns from a number of different sources.

Let’s start with the less well known.  The Sichuan Peppercorn tree has yielded six spice jars worth of dried peppercorns, three times more than the last good crop.  This might not sound a lot, and in purely monetary terms is only about £15 worth – but ours are organic and come from a happy tree! Very fiddly to pick and even more fiddly to separate the husks from the seeds (it’s the husks we need) the resultant spicy stir-fries make it all worth while.

Sichuan on the left

In the greenhouse, I’ve just picked 30lb of white grapes which have yielded 2 gallons of pure juice

and it looks as though the black ones

will yield at least double that, so there’s going to be a few bottles of wine in the racks in the not too distant future.

Outside, I’ve collected about 240 pounds of our Tom Putt apples , most of which is now either casked up as cider

 or in the freezer as pure apple juice.

Staying on the ‘booze’ front, the Fuggles and Goldings hops overwhelmed me this year.  It takes a lot of hop flowers to make any weight at all.

Hops on the right

One needs about 4oz of dried hops for a five gallon brew of beer.  To get 4oz dried needs around 30oz of fresh hops. Doesn’t sound a lot?  30oz fills a full sized carrier bag to almost overflowing – that’s a lot of hop flowers!  Two brews are already drinking nicely and there’s enough dried and frozen for the rest of the year!

And now it’s time to ‘harvest’ some firewood!

It’s all go at Nant y Bedd!

You might have noticed that it’s been raining!

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Quite a lot actually.  The hydro has 5 days to go in this quarter and it is already our highest single quarter of generation since we started in 2012.  So in my book, that makes it the wettest quarter for 6 years and that doesn’t take into account all the additional rainwater that couldn’t fit into the turbine’s 3kWh limit.

Look how much is ‘going to waste’ here!

All that wasted electricity!

Sue has been manfully (or should that be womanfully) trying to carry on with the Spring (!!??) tasks in the garden, but I’ve found the time to fire up the forge, dust off the circular saw and make some bits and bobs that sunshine stops me from doing.

A couple of our very old cold-frames were falling apart, so with the help of a few recycled (cadged from a skip!) windows, knocked together two new ones; all mod cons, double glazed, half-open and full-open latches and hand-forged lifting handles!

Rolls-Royce cold-frame

curly-wurly handle

Then, for indoors, I finally got round to replacing a number of screws, bent hooks and the like which were making the (newly painted) kitchen look a bit untidy.

I was helped in the motivation to get forging by Sue buying me a day working with a genuine blacksmith for my birthday – so thought I’d better brush up my skills a bit before going along.

Hand-forged hook (and poker)

A ‘nest of hooks’ – deliberately made in different sizes for different jobs, but they just look right all together.

 

And now, something cutesy to finish up with.  These four little ‘rays of sunshine’ appeared.

Two girls, two boys and all supposed to be black!

 

 

Hello Yellow Chip Road!

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Apologies to Sir Elton for the title, but it just seemed perfect!

Those of you who have been here will have trodden – maybe without realising it – on many a woodchip path.  This is just a little insight into how some of those paths come into being.

It all tends to start with a bit of felling or a tree blowing over.  This produces some firewood and lots of useless branches – otherwise known as brash.

something like this

It’s too small for burning, but it’s also too good to put on the bonfire.

What we do is chip it.

Chips – not the potato variety

From some of the branches which came down in the snow I managed to chip about 2 Cu Yds this morning.  I was able to chip it straight into the trailer

lots of chips!

This allowed us to redo the path up to the sheep field from the road and from the rope bridge to the pond gate.   For the technical among you, those 2 Cu Yd equated to about 32 yards on the ground.

After (top) and before

 

Hello Yellow Brick Road – and Sid!

 

Tools of the trade – post-chipping

We have an article about our little woodland and the use of it in the next issue of the Small Woods Association magazine (publication early April).  If you have any interest in woodlands, or even own a small wood, please do become a member of the SWA (www.smallwoods.org.uk).  It helps keep our woodlands alive and working.

Postscript:  It was a case of Goodbye Yellow Chip Road this morning as the snow returned. fullsizeoutput_2105

Starting the new garden year – on video!

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We were very lucky last week to have a wonderful documentary film-maker staying with us. By some sort of serendipity she phoned us looking for somewhere to stay in the area whilst she did some film editing and looked at a property she was interested in.  So we offered her the use of the garden room in return for making a short video for us.

Sophie Windsor Clive, for that is her name, has done a super job, despite having only one day when the weather wasn’t dull, windy, rainy, snowy and what ever else the elements could throw spanners into the works. Thanks Sophie!!

It is, of course, a view of the garden that most people wouldn’t see – the garden in January.  This is an important time in the gardening cycle.  The work done now sets the tone for the rest of the year.

We hope this insight will arouse your interest in visiting us later in the year.

Just click on the arrow button and enjoy!

The garden today

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August Bank Holiday and too busy to compose a blog – harvesting produce, trimming hedges, weeding paths, and enjoying the long-awaited sunshine and our visitors.  Lots of lovely enthusiastic comments in our visitors’ book so they are obviously enjoying the garden too.  Here’s just one from 2 visitors (thanks Pam and Chris) yesterday:

‘Absolutely enchanting.  What a special place.”

Here are some photos of the garden today to whet your appetite if you haven’t visited yet…

Phlox, Monarda and Michaelmas daisy in the cottage garden

 

The Pumpkins and squashes are finally getting away through the Michaelmas daisies

 

Lily African Queen in the cottage garden

 

Calendula Nova and runner beans Scarlet Emperor and Black Pod in the Potager

 

Our visitors love this Monarda in the Potager

Dahlia New Baby planted the year my grand-daughter was born – she’s 6 now. Supports on loan from Kirsty – thank you.

 

Starting to harvest the onions in the Potager

 

Mary’s daisies – I love yellow in the garden even in the summer – some people don’t!

 

Leek seedheads and Munchen Bier radish flowering – because we eat the seed pods

 

Oh and the other thing that’s keeping me busy is preparing a talk which I’ve been invited to give to the Hardy Plant Society next Saturday – entitled ‘Gardening in the Wild’.  Here’s a taster…

Greater willowherb amongst the veg in the Potager

The common name for this lovely willowherb is Codlins-and-cream and is a food plant for the fat grey and black caterpillars of the Elephant Hawk-moth.  Who knew?

Whilst I don’t find time as often as I should to write a blog we do put photos regularly on Instagram @Nantybeddgarden

 

 

 

 

Words and pics

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We thought we would let those of you who don’t follow us on Instagram or Twitter have a quick look at what’s great in the garden and some of the lovely comments in the Visitors Book over the past few weeks.

Rain on the sweet peas (Photo: Lizz Saxon)

My heart feels at ease, my breath deeper. I am so grateful for the love and care felt in this place. 

Honeysuckle Serotina by the small pond

Pure Magic! Thank you for your beautiful, creative and awe-inspiring display!

Wild raspberry – great flavour!

Wildlife is amazing! Scenery is beautiful! Pond epic! Great place for kids!!

Rosebay Willow herb and Kiwi Fruit in the woodyard

What an amazing garden!  Thank you for sharing it with us. 

a riot of colour

A beautiful place to visit. Nature has been captured in this mesmerising and magical piece of land.  I’ll never see ground elder in the same light again!

Lilium Regale on the patio

Tranquil, immersive, relaxing, absorbing, natural, beautiful, encouraging, thought provoking, enchanting. imaginative fascinating, magical, stunning, incredible … the list goes on!   {edited from a much longer list – Ian}

Looking down the potager

Just one word to sum it up ….. enchanting!

Clematis by the tea-room

Every nook and cranny brings joy … Gorgeous!

Primula Florindae with Fox & Cubs in the background

Truly delightful and magical garden gave me a lot of inspirational ideas. 

… and that’s just a few of the comments. Come and add yours to The Book!

 

 

 

Country Homes and Exteriors!

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Yet more exposure for the garden today as Country Homes & Interiors publishes the long awaited article and photos by Carole Drake.

Gwent’s Most Magical!!

I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s part of the double page spread that starts it off (on page 100, since you asked!).

Not so sure about the “Diving”!

And here’s the last page.

The technical stuff

A really big “Thank You” to Carole Drake for persuading us to let her photograph the garden and for getting Country Homes to publish it.

Bringing the garden indoors

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Bringing foliage, berries, cones and seed heads indoors from the forest and garden is a tradition which sometimes gets forgotten amidst the flashing, multi-coloured lights, revolving (revolting?) Santas, talking reindeer and other “bling” which so-called Garden Centres seem to wish upon us.

Not at Nant-y-Bedd.

Seasonal seed head - allium

Seasonal seed head – allium

I like to trim our own holly trees just before Christmas to provide sprigs for a traditional holly wreath – cotoneaster berries this year as the birds have stripped the holly before I got there.

Trimmed holly

Trimmed holly

Poor postman, can't find the letterbox!

Poor postman, can’t find the letterbox!

The trimmings from the bottom of the (Grand Fir or Noble Fir, as they don’t drop their needles) Christmas Tree get recycled into a swag which hangs above the mirror in the sitting room.

Raw material for the swag

Raw material for the swag

Starting the production

Starting the production

Nearly there

Nearly there

Finished article

Finished article

And I always select a lichen and moss covered twig from Jeddah’s tree (so-called because my dog is buried beneath it), a Field Maple, to hang over the fireplace.

All lichen and moss

Seed heads are allowed to stand over winter in the garden to provide some structure and interest, as well as sustenance for the birds.  Some get bashed down by the wind, rain and snow and are harvested for both seed and for indoor decoration.

Some gardeners feel the need to adorn their Christmas windowsills with early flowering spring bulbs – narcissus Paperwhite and Hyacinths –  but I prefer to leave that until the short, dark days of January, when I’m glad to be reminded that Spring isn’t far away.

Windowsill display

Windowsill display

Christmas for me is enjoying candlelight and crackling log fires with the cedar / pine aroma of a real Christmas tree.

Add to that home-made tree decorations and it is more “hygge” than “bling”.

Home-made

Home-made

Fungus Foraging

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Saturday saw 20 or so people descend upon us for a Mushroom Foraging day.  Organised by Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods and executed by Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods, we had an amazing afternoon searching among the trees and along the river bank.

Mark’s knowledge on fungi and how to use them was extensive and amusing as well as being excellent on the palate!

The throng assembles

The throng assembles

After introductions all round, Mark got proceedings underway with a quick dash of elderflower champagne and Sweet Cicely liqueur!

He explained the different ways in which fungi operate and how they work in concert with different types of vegetation and particularly with trees. Different trees have different fungi. Some, such as the highly sought after ceps are impossible to cultivate and will only grow in the wild in the exactly perfect conditions they need.

Setting off into the forest, Mark suddenly stopped and pointed out a couple of mushrooms underneath the Cedric tree sculpture.  These were Cavaliers, edible, but not a great flavour.  The difference in appearance between the newly emerged ones and a couple that had almost ‘gone over’ was remarkable and went to demonstrate how difficult mushroom ID can be.

Cavaliers and Cedric

Cavaliers and Cedric

When doing an ID there are several factors to take into account

habitat

colour

size

type of gills

smell

There are so many types that all these need to be taken into account.

Moving on we came to a big clump of what most of us recognised as Puffballs.  Seizing a couple of older ones Mark flicked the caps and released clouds of spores.  These were no good for eating, but the fresher growths, with marshmallow like interiors are apparently really good in risottos!

Mark with Puffballs

Mark with Puffballs (and foraging cat, Smudge)

As we moved on Liz pointed out various plants like ground elder and Herb Robert which have important roles to play in herbal medicine as well as being good to eat.

Mark had picked up some shaggy inkcaps on the road up to Nant y Bedd and explained how and when to eat them.  Apparently there’s a variety called the Common Inkcap which isn’t actually that common, but shouldn’t be consumed before or after alcohol as it causes a very nauseous response and has been used to ‘treat’ alcoholics!!

Deeper in the woods we found some Orange Grisette under the birch trees, which are good to eat and are often found with birch.  The physical form of the Grisette is very similar to that of the poisonous Fly Agaric, although the latter’s bright red is a bit of a giveaway.  Mark had brought some of these with him and used this as an opportunity to explain the life cycle appearance of many fungi.

Fly Agaric and Orange Grisette

Orange Grisette and Fly Agaric

Honey Fungus is another species associated with birch, among others, and is usually found as the tree dies.  Apparently edible it needs boiling before cooking.  Not sure I’ll try that!

Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus

Heading down to the river, someone spotted a few large mushrooms by the gate under the Lawson Cypress.  Mark had to admit that he’d walked past them twice the day before when he did a recce! It pays to look down when mushroom foraging.  It was a group of shaggy parasols, well camouflaged against the leaf litter.

Shaggy Parasol

Shaggy Parasol

Heading along the river bank we were introduced to the “Native Spice Rack” with plants such as Wild Angelica, Hogweed, Wood Avens, Sweet Woodruff and Meadow Sweet (which apparently cures hangovers – the other way of course is to keep drinking!) In the Spring the very young buds and flowers of Rowan are also useful.  Various tinctures were passed around at this point but I missed most of it as I was lighting fires for the Big Bake Up afterwards.

I did get back into the swing of it just in time to find out about a fungus that may be a cure for prostate problems.  Going by the name of Turkey Tails it is found on decomposing logs of birch and can be made into an infusion.  Mark also showed us something known as Chaga, which comes from growths on birch trees in certain places and is very highly sought after.  (Memo to self: look very carefully at all our old birches)

Turkey Tails

Turkey Tails

Finally we assembled by the pond and whilst Mark and Liz got the cooking pots on the go, we were entertained by Lottie Muir, the so-called Cocktail Gardener, who explained some of her cocktail recipes and asked us to taste them – hard work isn’t it?

Thanks to Mark, Liz, Lottie and all those who came along and enjoyed an excellent afternoon and evening.  Hopefully we’ll be able to host more events like this in the future.

PS:  By an odd coincidence the RHS magazine, The Garden, has just published it’s November issue with an article on “Weird and Wonderful Fungi” with photos by Jonathan Need, who photographed our garden earlier in the year!

PPS:  One of the participants, Ian of FoodiesHeaven blog fame, has also written about the day in more detail than above.  Find it here

 

 

 

A professional’s eye

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We all know how it is when we’re so close to something that we don’t really see it as others do.  So it was a great pleasure last week to welcome professional photographer Jonathan Need to our garden.

Jonathan seemed instantly to understand the philosophy behind the garden and the planting and has very kindly sent us a wonderful selection of his morning’s shoot.  We’ll split the shots into two blogs; this first one featuring the garden as a garden; the second some fantastic close-ups of individual flowers.

Here’s just a few of the pictures which I’ll let speak for themselves.

Looking across the "Cottage garden"

Looking across the “Cottage garden”

Winding through the borders

Winding through the borders

Colour and form on the patio

Colour and form on the patio

An alternative view of the patio

An alternative view of the patio

Outside the "Operations Room" aka the Potting Shed

Outside the “Operations Room” aka the Potting Shed

In the "Potager" - 1

In the “Potager” – 1

Looking down the runner bean arch

Looking down the runner bean arch

In the "Potager" - 2

In the “Potager” – 2

Looking back up the "Potager"

Looking back up the “Potager”

Espalier apples and old tin cans!

Espalier apples and old tin cans!

Sailing on the pond

Sailing on the pond

Through the wild flower meadow to the Shepherd's Hut

Through the wild flower meadow to the Shepherd’s Hut

Cedric, the Seed King

Cedric, the Seed King

Rose bedecked shed

Rose bedecked shed

...and yes we do, occasionally, get to sit and enjoy a cuppa!

…and yes we do, occasionally, get to sit and enjoy a cuppa!

You can see more of Jonathan’s stunning photos on his website and hopefully in print somewhere in the future.