Finding flowers a new home

I’ve been promising myself Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) lessons for a few months and I finally got round to booking a course of six via Zoom.

I’d watched a couple of videos by Junko on YouTube and decided to contact her.

She is now back in Japan after living and teaching in London.

She’s been practicing the Ikenobo form of Ikebana since her teens.

I ordered a couple of large white chrysanthemums and some much smaller purple ones from the local florist.

I cut some variegated willow from the garden – along with some other stuff that I didn’t end up using.

The lesson went really well. I’d bought a kenzan (the steel pin flower holder) and used a wide bowl as my vase.

I followed Junko’s instructions and was very content with the result.

During the lesson Junko-sensei said a couple of things that made an impression on me.

You have to talk to the flowers and plant material as if they are human beings.

You must ask them where and how they’d like to be arranged.

They all have a shady and a sunny side.

And your job is to find them a new home!









Merry Christmas

I’m cheating this year and sending you all my love and best wishes via this blog post.

I’m afraid I didn’t get round to cards.

But I received some stunning handmade ones as well as some others that are beautiful and adorning the shelves in our kitchen.

The recent news that we are back in full lockdown has made this Christmas seem grim but knowing that you are thinking of us and we of you is uplifting.

Thanks for reading my blog and encouraging me to continue.

So far my best and surprise Christmas present is a new pair of boots sent to me for free by Blundstones after the soles on my previous ones disintegrated.

I’m almost as excited by the box they came in which will serve very well as a container for all my seeds!

As I write on Christmas Eve afternoon I’ve just had my first mulberry vodka and tonic! Hic!

Cheers! And I hope we can meet in 2021!

Love Cath xxx







Borlotti and Squash Soup

I’ve made it my mission to use up my home grown dried borlotti beans!

They’re my favourite bean. They’re eye-catching.

Dried Borlotti Pods
Dried Borlotti Pods

And they dry and store really well.

Beans drying on a tray
They quickly return to their former plumpness after soaking for about six hours.
Dried and soaked beans
Dried  (l) and soaked beans (r)

I based this soup on a Diana Henry recipe but I only put in half the winter squash/pumpkin and used arborio rice instead of farro or spelt – because that was all I had to hand. I guess you could also use cooked pearl barley instead.

I used half of one of my Turk’s Turban  squash. It’s the first time I’ve cooked with one and I was shocked to find out how impenetrable the skin is.

Usually I leave my favourite thin skinned Hokkaido squash unpeeled but this rogue needed pre baking in the oven for ten or so minutes before I could cut the skin off and render it edible!

It tastes delicious though and I may grow them again as they are pretty and a good size for a small household.

I added twigs of thyme and a couple of bay leaves to flavour the soup which I then removed.

Diana suggests sage leaves fried in a little olive oil or fresh chopped parsley.

Borlotti and Squash Soup
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins

A substantial rich soup in the Italian style.

Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 people
Author: Cath
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery finely chopped
  • 450 grams pumpkin or winter squash, discard the seeds and peel if the skin is tough before cutting into small cubes
  • 1 tin drained borlotti beans or 300g of cooked borlottis
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 litre vegetable stock I use marigold bouillon powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50 grams arborio rice or spelt grain or farro
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley or eight whole sage leaves fried until crisp in olive oil
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add finely chopped onion, pumpkin cubes and diced celery. Cook until the vegetables have a little colour then add a splash of water and some salt and pepper - cover the pan and let the vegetables cook over a low heat for five minutes.

  2. Add the tomato purée, stock, rice (or spelt grain/farro) and bay leaves. Simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the grains are cooked), adding the beans five minutes before the end. Check for seasoning.

  3. If using sage, fry the leaves whole in a little olive oil - be careful they crisp up quickly and can burn easily. Then add to soup. If you prefer parsley add it directly to the soup. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.

Recipe Notes





I tied up some herbs into little posies and put them out the front of the house today.

I didn’t want to waste the bay leaves from the prunings of a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve had one taker so far…a dog walker who was in a real strop with her canine because he’d just rolled in some manure!

We joked that it could be a nosegay to keep the smell away until she got home!!




Building a Dead Hedge

This forgotten corner of the garden has been nagging away at me for ages.

What should we do to make it deer proof?

I was all set to plant some hedging…I had some sort of prickly saplings to go in and then I changed my mind.

I remembered making a wildlife friendly hedge-cum-barrier when I used to volunteer at a community garden.

It’s called a Fedge and is usually made with willow cuttings.

We didn’t have any so we improvised.

Alex and I created it out of two rows of 1.5m stakes diagonally staggered with a 60cm gap between them.

The stakes were a metre apart.

After banging those in with a mallet we filled the gap with dead wood and freshly pruned buddleia branches to create a wildlife friendly barrier, treading them down initially to create a firm base.

We moved a pile of old apple and pear prunings and used them.

But then we started running out of material.

I happened to see piles of woody debris in the paddock next door and phoned the owner who said he’d be delighted for us to use them as he was only going to burn them.

How fortuitous.

Here’s a little video of me at the beginning of the project.

It only took two of us half a day to complete!

This dead hedge is a superb way of composting material that is too big for a conventional heap or shredder.

It’s also a green alternative to burning debris or making numerous journeys to the tip or local dump.