Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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Making healthy herbal vinegars

We are used to the idea of herbal and floral vinegars in cooking but their use as preventative medicine has largely been forgotten. In fact they are one of the earliest medicines – the vinegar itself is full of amino acids, vitamins and minerals and it also extracts these from any herbs and flowers you use. All through my 20s I suffered recurrent bouts of tonsillitis. Since beginning to take a shot of apple cider vinegar every time I felt my throat begin to tingle I haven’t had a single episode.

Here there are recipes for two kinds of herbal vinegar…

The first is a floral one which can be taken every day, the elderflower helps build immunity to colds and the rose is anti-inflammatory and also makes the vinegar a beautiful colour.

The second is a cold fighting one, full of warming and bug fighting things – possibly not as nice to taste, but much better than a cold!

You need:

  • Wide necked sterilised jar with a non-metallic lid. I find it is better to make small amounts of things before you work out whether you are going to use them up, rather than going into full production and ending up with things that don’t get used.
  • These instructions are for large jam jars/small Kilner jars. You can scale up or down the ingredients, as there is no need to be precise.
  • Weight of some kind (small saucer, washed stone) to keep everything under the liquid.
  • Apple cider vinegar – preferably unpasteurised.
  • Fresh or dried ingredients.
  • Sterilised bottle to decant into; label.

Elderflower and rose vinegar

Ingredients

  • 10 elderflower heads – all stem removed
  • Petals from 3 full red unsprayed roses
  • 500 ml apple cider vinegar (or as much fits in your jar)

Method

Put the flowers in layers into your jar.

Pour in enough vinegar to cover.

Put a weight on top to keep the flowers under the liquid.

Put the lid on top – if your jar has a metal lid, use waxed paper/beeswax wrap and an elastic band instead.

Put in kitchen cupboard for 4-6 weeks (put note on calendar) check every no wand again that the flowers are under the vinegar.

Strain out the flowers with muslin.

Decant into bottle and label.

I keep mine in the fridge and use it for cooking as well as for medicine – if you don’t have a sweet tooth, it works well with fizzy water and some ice as a refreshing drink.

Cold busting hot vinegar

Ingredients

  • 2 red chillis split vertically
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 2 inches ginger grated
  • Rind from unwaxed lemon
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • I sliced onion (optional, as I find that adding in the
  • onions reduces the number of people who will drink this, as it then smells of onion)
  • 500 ml apple cider vinegar (or as much as will fit in your jar)

Method

Layer up all the ingredients in your jar.

Pour in enough vinegar to cover.

Put a weight on top to make sure everything stays under the liquid.

Put lid on top – if your jar has a metal lid use waxed paper/beeswax wrap and an elastic band instead.

Put in kitchen cupboard or fridge for 4-6 weeks.

Strain through muslin and decant into bottle.

This can be mixed with honey as a cough medicine or drunk neat. A shot glass amount should be taken three times a day at first signs of a cold/sore throat.

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The sun room table, an old enamel basin, hazel twigs and pure glamour from green tinged white trumpets.⁠⠀
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I looked up yesterday lunchtime and the garden was full of sunshine. ⁠⠀
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There are a few places in the (very messy) house where keeping a bit of negative space, clear surfaces, a sense of breathing out pays off.  This white table is one of them.⁠⠀
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I took this on Sunday, disappointingly it is currently cluttered up with things (a nest, two candles, a box of matches, some receipts) to take down to the Studio.
Over the past year I have become increasingly uncomfortable about how we talk about the seasons to the point that I feel I need to say something.⁠⠀
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I'm particularly uncomfortable about how we talk about using the seasons as a life guide.  I can understand why this has happened - it is great, easily understood marketing, it is a ready built structure, I'm sure it helps the people who are desperately in need of rules and timetables at the moment.⁠⠀
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But it is rooted in a very particular idea of what seasons look like - particularly the 4 defined seasons of the UK, Europe and North America;⁠⠀
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Which would be fine if people were talking about their local area, the view from their window.  But that doesn't seem to be the case - this seasonal structure is built up into a programme to follow, the language is very much that 'this is the correct way to think about life'.⁠⠀
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But, if you are saying that the dormant season is the time to rest and recuperate, what does that say about countries where the seasons don't look like that.  Is there to be no rest? Is everyone to adopt the seasons in the UK as the 'correct' version? ⁠⠀
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Language matters, because language is where our assumptions lie.⁠⠀
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⁠The photo is of a rose hip - rose hips are the only berries left in the hedges now.  I used to think that it was because they tasted spiky that the birds left them till there were no other options but recently I found that they have the least calories.  The ivy, rowan and hawthorns produce the Kendal mint cake of berries - perfect for seeing the birds through the cold - so get eaten first.⁠⠀
There is a lot of talk at the moment about what 'seasonal flowers' means - the wonderful @wolveslaneflowercompany have been addressing the issue and they have a great story thread exploring the issue saved in their highlights.⁠⠀
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It was a thing that used to bother me a lot when I grew flowers because I only ever sold flowers that grew here, that was the whole point of the business - and in Scotland seasons are very late. I spent a lot of time explaining to brides that not everything is available at every time of the year. ⁠⠀
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I didn't ever have cut flowers until April.  I missed both Valentines and Mother's Day. ⁠⠀
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This is what I have as flowers in my home through January and February - glamorous, long lasting, amaryllis bulbs are on every surface. ⁠⠀
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Elsewhere cut hazel twigs in jam jars are taking over the windowsills. next week I may add in some snowdrops.
Yesterday I sent out a newsletter about extractivism - about the human tendency to push and exploit and keep extracting until we end up with a husk.⁠⠀
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It was sparked by conversations I had after the Oxford Real Farming Conference and a realisation that there is a thread that ties colonialism, industrial farming, privatisation of services and the way we often treat ourselves.⁠⠀
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I've been having such interesting conversations with the people who replied.⁠⠀
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I resend my newsletters to new subscribers on Sundays so if you want to sign up you can click through my profile to the website front page.⁠⠀
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We have been frozen here for a while - the top inch of ground thawed yesterday, but under that was rock hard.  Most of the garden is a low flood of slush floating on ice.⁠⠀
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The hardy annual plants I sowed in late September and transplanted in October are currently under snow but looking pretty terminal.  The temperature in the polytunnel went down to -6 last week and the salad crops turned to mush.⁠⠀
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Were I remotely self sufficient it would be proving a hard winter.⁠⠀
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But I'm not, so I just add more plants to my sowing plan - sowing seeds is my favourite thing - and admire the beauty of the hoar frost, and feel happy that I have food in the store cupboard and logs in the woodpile and a big pile of books by me.
'See a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'.⁠⠀
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I have been embroidering a tiny run of linen needle/pin cases to go into the shop tomorrow - and I have embroidered this rhyme inside them - a reminder of the time when pins were made by hand and were to be treasured and looked after. ⁠⠀
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It gives a new appreciation to the term 'pin money' too - the modern kinds of pins, shiny in their plastic box that have made us assume that the term meant a small amount, left over change for fripperies. ⁠⠀
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In reality it was used as an alternative name for a household allowance - the amount of which was often laid out in the marriage contract - and was the money that a woman had complete legal control over. If it was unpaid a woman could sue her husband or his estate for back pay.
Allium Chistophii are rolling around under the espalier apple trees in the vegetable patch. ⠀
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I always hope for a little light self seeding as they go. ⠀
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Now they are like glittery tumbleweeds in the frost. ⠀
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In truth we bought the airstream to avoid a divorce.⁠⠀
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We bought it on Ebay late at night after sharing a bottle of wine.⁠⠀
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At the time I was running a business from the house - from a house that was about half the size it is now, a jumble of tiny rooms, painted plywood floors, two small children and a high level of sticky chaos.⁠⠀
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I am not a tidy enough person to run a business in a home - even had it been a well run home with storage space - and those years were not remotely well run.  My invoices always had cereal stuck to them, my sewing machine was parked at the end of the dining table, 90% of my working time seemed to be spent looking for something that I was sure had been left 'just there'.⁠⠀
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So we looked for something that we could afford so I could move the business out of the house - we priced up a chalet style home office from B & Q - and then, on Ebay, we saw the airstream, badly damaged, vandalised, forlorn.  It came in cheaper than the shoffice . . . .⁠⠀
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For a few years - before I built the Studio - this was my workspace and since then it has become a storage area and been sadly neglected while I tried to save the money to repair the damaged back window and the sagging floor.⁠⠀
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This weekend we began clearing out all the fabric that was stored in it so that the renovation can begin.  I am very excited.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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