Notes From my Yoga Journal – Paschimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend)

I’ve finally done it! After years of research and at-home practice I am finally registered on a Yoga Teacher Training Programme and I couldn’t be more excited! Those of you that have read my post A New Path to Wellness you will already know my affinity to Dru Yoga – a soft, flowing form of yoga which teaches the asanas as continuous movement or, to quote their own phrase; ‘stillness in motion’ and the effect it has had on my life. In short, I’ve gone from feeling empty to feeling utterly fulfilled, spiritually, mentally and physically by the virtue of yoga.

I spent yesterday on day one of my course (although I’ve actually missed the first few sessions so have a little catching up to do!) and woke up this morning inspired to roll out my mat and practise what I learned. The learning materials that accompany the course have given me deeper knowledge of asanas that I thought I was familiar with and my journal has served as a great reminder of quotes, conversations and my own feelings from the day. One asana that thoroughly stood out to me yesterday was Paschimottanasana, or ‘sitting forward bend’ to you and I! I had no idea that such a seemingly simple and everyday pose held such greatness. It can certainly be described as a ‘master pose’, with its positive effects on attachments and stress helping to fulfill the Yamas of Brahmacharya (Self-restraint) and Aparigraha (Non-grapsing). ‘Using the senses wisely’ was the turn of phrase that I felt really encapsulated the benefits of Paschimottanasana.

When done correctly Paschimottanasana:

  • Helps to release fear and amplify courage
  • Controls dominating desires
  • Calms the swadhisthana chakra
  • Awakens the spirit

Plus has the following physical benefits:

  • Stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles
  • Tones abdominals
  • Strengthens pelvic floor
  • Stimulates the kidneys, liver, pancreas and adrenal glands
  • Helps with conditions such as diabetes

How to do Paschimottasana

Sit upright with your legs outstretched in front of you. Focus on sitting on your sit bones (You may need to physically hoick your buttocks out from under you!) and extend your spine upwards towards the ceiling.

Breathe in and bring your arms up above your above your head so that your palms face down and your fingertips just meet. Exhale and re-engage your core whilst relaxing your shoulders.

Inhale and stretch your spine upwards towards the ceiling and then on an exhalation hinge from the hips (Not the waist!) bringing your chest down towards your legs. Keep extending (Inhale) and lowering (Exhale) until your torso is closer to, or resting on your legs. You may not get this far comfortably so do not over stretch or fold at the waist in earnest – it is better to ensure an extended spine and hinging from the hips, than to force your body down by curving the spine over.  Stop where you naturally reach and grab hold of your feet or further up your legs and rest here, continuing to extend and lower discreetly as you inhale and exhale.

Paschimottanasana-forward-fold

I would recommend this pose as something to practise regularly – perhaps as part of your daily yoga or to heal and de-stress when you need help with something overwhelming.

I hope you enjoyed this extract from my yoga journal, I hope to write more posts like this as I journey through my training. Please let me know how you get on with Paschimottanasana in the comments below.

Jaime xx

 

Image credit: Care2

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Recipe: Sweet Potato and Broad Bean Risotto

Ahh sweet potatoes! They are simply so good for you and so full of flavour that they don’t need much fiddling about with in order to make a delicious meal out of them.  Sweet potatoes pack a punch in the nutrient stake too; providing energy like a typical carbohydrate but containing the nutritional density of a vegetable, making them a wise choice for those adopting a healthy diet this summer!

Paired the season’s best broad beans, this risotto is an easy, filling and nutritious recipe, perfect for all the family. My two small people devoured this and then asked for seconds! Happy mummy 🙂

Serves 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

200g arborio rice (I used the quick cook kind)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 cup broad beans (mine were frozen!)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

A small handful of fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

A couple of pints of good quality veg stock

2 tbsp cider vinegar (or 1/2 glass white wine!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Get your stock going in a small pan and leave to simmer quietly.

2. In a heavy-based pan, gently fry your onions and garlic in a knob of butter (or your choice of oil)

 

 

 

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3. Add the rice and sweet potato and fry gently with the onions and garlic (if you’re not using quick cook rice add the sweet potato later)

 

 

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4. After a minute or so, add the chopped sage leaves, broad beans and cider vinegar and reduce down a little.

 

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5. Begin to add your hot stock (keeping it simmering gently is the trick to risotto rice that cooks efficiently!) stir each glug of stock in well until the rice begins to absorb it and then add another until all the liquid has gone, or the rice is tender.

6. Season to taste and if desired, swirl in some natural yoghurt or top with your favourite cheese.

 

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This is a very simple dish so feel free to play with this recipe! I just love pairing fresh sage (I have a huge plant growing in the veg patch) with hearty vegetables such as sweet potatoes or butternut squash, but equally, change the herb to your own taste. A grating of nutmeg into this risotto would make it even yummier!

Don’t forget to share your tips and tricks below!

Jaime xx

 

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Salad Jar tutorial recipe

The Ultimate Salad Jar Tutorial

“Have you seen the amount you’ve spent on snacks this month?” I caught myself berating my hard-working husband again when looking over our account for the month.  Truth is, who could blame him? As a commuter he works long hours and several of those are spent navigating Kent trains and London tubes, leaving before the sun is up and returning in the dark- no wonder he needs to pick up snacks along the way. My full time job as a teacher at my children’s school not only means I’m often too busy or tired to make my husband lunches for the next day (And part of me wonders why  should I suppose, when I work full time too) but also, my children and I get fed very well during the week; hearty cooked lunches at midday, plus the little ones eat ‘afternoon tea’ at 4pm.  Yes, afternoon tea! When the girls and I get home during the week we often only need a bowl of porridge or a slice of toast to fulfill any enduring hunger. If we do cook during the week, it’s usually once the girls are in bed and always something light and easy – omelettes, baked potatoes, soup. These weekday suppers are nearly always vegetarian (Suits me, and even my carnivorous husband can’t be bothered to prepare, cook and clean up after a meat dish on a late Wednesday evening!) I began to worry though, that a clammy sandwich (If we’d bothered to make any the night before) and a simple supper in the evening were not enough to sustain my tall, meat-eater of a husband.  As a non-vegetarian, he clearly wouldn’t be getting the nutrients he needed to stay healthy and strong – as he wouldn’t be making the right choices for his diet in the way that a conscious vegetarian or dieter would; he’d already lost weight and so I needed a way to fill him up, with maximum nutrients and some meat to sustain him during the working week.  And that’s when I stumbled across the salad jar idea!

I can’t take any credit for this original idea – I stumbled across the first tutorial on the amazing website Organize Yourself Skinny, but a quick search on pinterest reveals a plethora of mason jar food ideas.  These salad jars enable me to make five lunches ahead of time and pack in a full spectrum of the vital food groups; vegetables, carbohydrate and protein, meaning that at the end of the week I can be sure my hard-working husband has eaten well and we’ve saved money on cafe snacks at lunchtime. Its now been two weeks since I began making these (Hubby even had a go!) and we’re so impressed with the results.  My husband tells me he eats “like a king” everyday and is the envy of the office at lunchtime.

The Ultimate Salad Jar Tutorial

I opted for 1L Kilner jars from my local budget store at £3 each, which is a fair price for these preserving jars. They have the typical metal seal and screw lids which keep everything inside really fresh and crisp.

You will need:
5 x preserving jars
500ml vinaigrette (approx)
Hearty vegetables of your choice: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers
Less hearty vegetables: mushrooms, peas, avocado, fruits
Grains: pasta, noodles, cous cous or rice (Cooked and cooled)
Protein: Meat, fish, eggs, beans (Cooked and cooled)
Greens: lettuce, spinach, watercress, light cabbage such as pak choi
Extras: such as chopped chilli and herbs to increase flavour

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First, mix up your dressings – I like to vary the flavours to make it more interesting. This week I did a honey/mustard, an oriental sesame oil/soy and a Mediterranean balsamic/olive oil dressing and paired them with chicken, prawns and tuna respectively.

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Add any ‘extras’ to your dressings and let them sit, covered. Next wash dry and chop any vegetables. I like to leave them chunky – especially the baby plum tomatoes which I leave whole. The larger the chunks of veg, the better they will keep and the more nutrients you will retain.

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Chop your meats or eggs and have your grains ready.

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Layer 1 – around 100ml of vinaigrette

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Layer 2 – Hearty vegetables
Layer 3 – Less hearty vegetables

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Layer 4 – grains

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Layer 5 – protein

IMG_3735Layer 6 – Finally, add your greens of choice.

The layering process is really significant to the longevity of your preserved salad. The vegetables at the bottom of the jar ‘pickle’ slightly by the end of the week in the dressing and act as a barrier to the grains, which in turn act as a barrier to the meat and greens, which you really don’t want sitting in any moisture. The salads will keep for at least 5 days in the fridge – we’ve not tested them after this but I’d even suggest they could be stretched to 7 days, based on the freshness on day 5. The jars are strong and will withstand a perilous commute across counties in a rucksack, although do try to keep the jar upright! To serve, tip out on to a plate where the dressing will cover the salad or, eat straight from the jar with a fork – just give it a good shake first and voila! Lunch is served!

I hope you enjoy this tutorial – let me know what you think of the salad jars and add any variations or suggestions in the comment box below.

Jaime xx

 

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Homemade flapjacks.

Recipe: Coconut & Honey Flapjacks

Making homemade flapjacks is a great way of filling up family members during the busy working week and although they can be fairly sweet, making them with honey as in this recipe, adds to the nutirtional content and lessens the sugar impact.  Oats are a well-known superfood and as well as containing multiple nutrients; they are easy to digest, can help to control insulin and even lower cholestrol! With the addtion of nuts and dried fruit, homemade flapjacks really can provide a healthy, but satisfying snack.

This recipe makes around 18 small flapjacks, which you can wrap individually so they are ready to grab-and-go or leave unwrapped in a cake tin (Just hide said tin from the children as in my experience they don’t last long!)

Ingredients

200g coconut oil
200g honey (Or half honey/half maple syrup)
300g whole oats (Not ‘quick’ oats)
100g chopped nuts
100g dried fruit of your choice (Chopped if necessary)
1 tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 165° C/gas mark 3 or 150° C (fan assisted)
  2. Grease a large rectangular baking dish or line with greaseproof paper.
  3. Heat the coconut oil and honey in a large saucepan and stir together until hot, but not boiling. Set aside.
  4. Mix the oats, nuts, cinnamon and raisins in a large bowl.

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    Chopped walnuts.

  5. Pour over the coconut oil and honey mixture and mix until well combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and distribute it evenly, pushing down firmly with the back of a spoon to create a smooth surface.

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    Use a spoon to create a smooth surface.

  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the oats are golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely in the baking dish.
  9. Once the flapjack is cooled down lift it onto a board and cut into rectangles.

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    Leave to cool in the baking dish.

Wrap thr flapjacks individually for tasty lunchbox treats or snacks on the go! But remember – hide the tin! Please feel free to comment below with tips, questions or  suggestions.

Jaime xx

 

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Homemade Snack Sticks

Recipe: Homemade Pizza Sticks

When you’re trying to feed a busy family of four, there comes a point where you’ll need more than a handful of carrot sticks or some fruit to satisfy the hunger of your growing children and husband. We’ve recently been trying to overhaul our expenditure on food and are trying to minimize our reliance on pre-made, packaged food which is bad for the environment, highly processed and often contains obscene amounts of sugar and salt. It makes sense; the food that we are sold in big supermarkets has got to survive long-haul travel, freezer storage, shelf stacking and then the journey home from shop to cupboard – is it any wonder it’s packed full of chemicals to keep it looking and tasting good! It can be difficult to refrain from relying on shop-bought goodies, especially when you’re a busy working Mum so here’s a simple recipe for a tasty snack that’s high in carbs and low in carbon footprint. Psst, its also really really easy!

Homemade Pizza Sticks  

Ingredients:

 

1 cup self raising flour (or 1 cup plain white flour + 1 tsp baking powder)
a pinch of sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup warm water
2 tbsp tomato puree or passata
1 garlic clove, crushed
A handful of grated cheese

Method

  1. Preheat your your oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  2. Cover a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  3. Mix together the crushed garlc and tomato puree in a small bowl and let it sit.
  4. Meanwhile, tip flour, baking powder, salt and olive oil into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the water and fold everything in until it starts to come together.
  6. Gently knead till it forms a smooth ball. Dust in a little more flour, if needed.
  7. Roll out to a basic rectangular shape, it should be fairly thin, around 1/2 cm.
  8. Spread the tomato sauce thinly over the dough and sprinkle over the grated cheese.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut around 12 strips into the rectangle with each strip around 2cm wide.
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  10. Carefully lift each strip and as you lay it down onto the baking tray, gently turn it at each end to form the twist.IMG_0529
  11. Cook for around 10-12 minutes until crisp and lightly golden.  Allow to cool completely before storing in a tin or mason jar,IMG_0530

The pizza sticks should keep for around 3 days and work great in packed lunches or for feeding hungry children efficiently after school! Please comment below with your tips, questions or suggestions regarding this recipe.IMG_0537

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 7

Running = endorhphins = happiness.

I’ve recently got back into running again and alongside my tri-weekly yoga practice, running keeps me incredibly fit and allows me to enjoy the outdoors in a purposeful way.  Need an excuse for getting out and exploring the local area? Go running! I love discovering new routes and tracking my progress with the Run Keeper App, it truly is a great way to get those happy hormones flowing and the perfect compliment to any yogi’s fitness schedule.

Week 7

1. New running kit!

A friend recently recommended Asics as a good start point for decent running shoes.  My old Nikes were not providing my weak arches with enough support and I was getting referred pain in my knees every time I ran, and so it was time to replace them with something more effective. The staff in my local Asicis store were knowledgeable and helpful and along with chatting about my running regime and history they provided a gait analysis, which allowed them to match the footwear perfectly to my needs.  The trainers I chose had built-in arch/ankle support and good shock absorbency for my knees, and I’ve really been enjoying getting out for a run in the fresh air again.

2. Lighter, brighter evenings.

Arriving home from work in daylight is just so relieving. The heavy hug of Winter darkness is finally waning, and just like Spring bulbs which are sprouting everywhere here in Kent; I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – It’s the 1st of March and Spring is almost here! That also means its time to get into the garden and get ready for a fruitful Summer growing season.

3. A growing blog – progress at last!

This week since the big migration I have seen a vast improvement in my stats, more followers and the beginnings of a pinterest following.  Its been really inspiring and whilst I still struggle to balance the home/work/blog balance, I have lots of exciting new ideas in the pipeline to improve Green Dreams and Yoga – thank you all so much for the continued support! As a relatively new blogger I need your help more than ever to grow and improve – don’t forget you can also find and follow me on  facebook, twitter, pinterest, bloglovin and please keep sharing with your green friends!

What are your #reasonsforbeinghappy this week? Please share them below for us all to enjoy!

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Cous Cous Salad

Recipe: Roast Beetroot, Walnut and Feta Cous Cous Salad

Eating the Ayurvedic way means that crisp, cold and raw salads are not always the best way to get your five-a-day.  Raw foods can be difficlt to digest and according to Ayurveda, cool salads should be reserved for the heat of the Summer months, when we will benefit most from the crunchy, refreshing goodness. Luckily for me I LOVE warm salads and adding cooked ingredients and healthy grains can really improve what can sometimes be quite a boring meal option.  Salads are the ultimate customisable meal so ditch the lettuce-cucumber-tomato combo and look to more inspiring ways to enjoy salads.  Healing Foods talks about food variety being of optimum importance when eating for wellness and that adding dressings, chutneys and spices to your dishes increases the molecular variety of the food your body digests, thus increasing the health benefits.

“Including more spices and herbs in your food can also boost it’s flavour and nutritional density: adding a handful of chopped fresh herbs to lettuce in a salad, for example, can add upp to 75 percent extra antioxidants to the food.”

– Neals Yard 2013:13

This recipe is perfect as a vegtarian main or as a filling accompanying dish to meat (For my carnivorous husband!) and works great as a nutritious packable lunch too.

Roast Beetroot, Walnut and Feta Cous Cous Salad

Serves 4 as a sidedish or 2 as a main.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked Cous Cous
1 1/4 cup hot vegetable stock (I use a kallo organic stock cube)2 medium beetroots, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes
1 cup spinach leaves, washed
A handful of walnuts, chopped and toasted slightly
A handful of fresh chives, chopped
100g feta or goat’s cheese, chopped into 1cm cubes
2 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 4, 180 or 160 (fan assisted)
  2. Place your chopped beetroot onto a baking tray, season and drizzle over 1-2 tbsp of rapeseed oil. Mix well and spread into a single layer. Roast for around 15 mins until tender, checking regularly.
  3. Meanwhile, place the cous cous into a large glass bowl and pour over your hot stock. Cover with a plate or tea towel and allow to sit for around 10 mins, until tender. Stir in the spinach leaves and cover for a further 5 mins to allow the spinach to wilt slightly.
  4. Once the beetroot is nice and tender stir into the cous cous and add the chopped feta, toasted walnuts and chives.
  5. Give it all a good mix and drizzle over a glug of rapeseed oil and balsamic vinger, season to taste. Serve onto warm plates and enjoy!

This recipe keeps really well in the fridge and is so versatile.  Use any nut you like and why not substitute the beetroot for other root veg such as carrot, squash or parsnip? Supplement the spinach with any of your favourite greens – just adjust the method by lightly cooking hardier greens such as kale, prior to adding to the cous cous.

Question about this recipe? Feel free to comment below with your questions, suggestions and tips.

Jaime xx

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#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 6

Happiness is our natural state – the human default if you like.  Just look at the children around you; unaffected by learned cynicism, prejudice and judgement, they are free to enjoy life and all that their world has to offer them.  Children aren’t bound so tightly by societal norms, niceties and routines; they are free, to an extent, to be who they are and express themselves as such. When you consider how life begins, it’s such a monumental shame that we as society, strip our children of their default state; their happiness, by squeezing those happy little individuals into clearly labelled boxes and packing them off for a life built on adhering to ‘the norm’.

It’s a difficult cycle to break! We need society and modern life with its rules,regulations, niceties and comfort, of course, but we can relish in snippets of childhood wonder and punctuate our lives – however normal – with those things that make us most happy. Those things that bring us back – even if just for a moment – to our default state.  Happiness.

Week 6

1. Roses are red

Its more than a week after Valentines Day and the beautiful deep red roses which arrived, husband-in-tow, the evening before the 14th are still flourishing in their cream-enamel jug. Flowers maketh a happy human.

2. Catch up with a close one

My beautiful friend Naomi came to visit this weekend all the way from sunny ‘saaf’ London. Being a busy mum and teacher, 24 hours of high-quality adult company and help keeping the small ones entertained,  was utter bliss. We get so caught up with the drudgery of everyday life – especially if family and friends are far away, so visits like these are the perfect antidote to sadness.

3. Blogging like a pro…almost!

The big site migration! I feel like a wildlife trekker following migrating birds as they navigate their way across hemispheres in search of warmer climes. Except it’s not the natural world but the virtual one, that has had me on the edge of my seat this week.  Yes, I have finally taken the plunge and in addition to my new domain name, I have now moved away from the wordpress.com platform and am officially self-hosted at Godaddy! (Yay!) I must say, it wasn’t without its hair-pulling moments and flashes of gritted teeth, but lots of tea, a Twitter plea, plenty of phone calls and two square eyes later – I have just about finished rebuilding my site. I’m sure it’s not without it’s hiccups and I’m still updating/adding my widgets – please let me know if you come across any errors when viewing the blog!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from across the blogosphere!

@007nai: “I’m happy that despite having an exam next week, I know exactly what to do to relax – great friends like you and the gym!  ”

@amyloves_: “For some quiet time on my own so I can enjoy long meditation ” (www.amy-loves.co.uk)

Indulge in your #reasons this week and find that default setting. Find your happy.

Jaime xx

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How I Brought Nature Back to my Urban Garden

I am so proud to say that the birds are back! We currently have a jolly little resident robin and a pair of inquisitive blue tits, who although have yet to move in; have been exploring our homemade bird boxes and feeding in our food-draped tree for a while now. Starlings and blackbirds battle for space at the feeders and the ever-rare sparrow, perches cautiously at the fence as though mustering the courage to descend and enjoy an afternoon treat. This hasn’t been an overnight success, it’s taken around five years to get to the point where wildlife is finding us as well as us finding it. I live for nature and although my garden is a modest, postage-stamp, urban space, I have managed to create an environment where even the freest of birds are happy making their homes here and here’s how it happened.

Years 1-3

We bought our home in 2009 through a new-build home scheme. We were impressed by the sound eco-standards (Bonus – cheaper bills!) and although the outdoor space was small, it was infinitely better than our previous London dwelling where the ‘garden’ was a concrete slab by the communal bin store. Although by London standards, we felt pretty lucky even then! When we finally moved into our new home the front garden had been turfed and was bordered by a bee-friendly hedge which was good, so we turned our attention to the back garden – and goodness did it need some attention!

My eldest at aged 2, helping to weed the mud flat!

My eldest at aged 2, helping to weed the mud flat!

So we got to work improving our little slice of England and set about de-weeding the barren mud flat we had inherited. The soil quality was so bad and when we explored under the earth later on, we found tonnes of rubble and concrete left by unscrupulous builders. This in addition to a typical Kentish clay soil left us with a compacted, solid and unorganic piece of land from which we were hoping to create our very own piece of outdoor heaven. It was going to be a tough road! We began by using the neighbour’s rotivator (Tip: Beg, borrow and steal!) to turn the compacted land and then ordered a truck-load of organic soil from a local company, which helped to enrich the ground before laying turf. As a wildlife lover, I’m not a huge fan of masses of pristine lawn, but in order to create a space where our daughter could play, camp, kick a ball, it was necessary for us at the time. As you’d probably expect, our lawn has now shrunk quite considerably in order to make room for lush borders and a couple of raised vegetable beds.

A lawn to kick a ball around on.

A lawn to kick a ball around on.

The next job was planting an ornamental tree for rich spring blossoms and I went for the Cheal’s Weeping Cherry, which gives an early pink/white show of flowers in March (Usually just in time for my birthday!) before sweeping branches drip with lush dark green leaves in Summer. The leaves turn a beautiful deep red colour in Autumn before dropping in Winter and providing the ground below with a rich leaf-mould. This was no mean feat as when we began to dig the planting hole we discovered the soil depth was only about four inches – less than the depth of the spade we were using. Several telephone complaints, lots of organic matter and one determined hubby later, we finally got the tree in the ground – and going by the land it was planted in, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it’s still thriving! I had hoped that by installing a tree, its roots would help to break up the compaction that still existed under the soil. If you are doing the same in your garden – make sure you do your research and choose a tree with the appropriate final growing size! A fruiting cherry tree would have swamped our tiny garden – and house! A mistake no-less, made by our neighbours who had to hastily remove their new tree a year after planting on realising their error (Cue large sighs of relief from neighbours either side!)

The marshmallow pink of the 'Prunus Kiku Shidare blossom.

The marshmallow pink of the ‘Prunus Kiku Shidare blossom.

We then began to mark out and dig our borders and this is where the magic of time shows the most amazing results. For the the first few years I needed to build up a lush backdrop and began by planting flowering evergreen shrubs such as Choisya and Hebe and then began to experiment with wildlife-encouraging perennials. Lots of these failed of course and as an amatuer gardener I was learning along the way, but still each year some plants would come back and I was inspired by this and simply kept up a routine of filling the spaces with more flowering perennials each year, hoping to create a burst of bee-attracting colour and scent in the warmer months.

An early scabious proving endless joy for a little explorer.

An early scabious proving endless joy for a little explorer.

We began to use a compost bin to increase the nutrient content and bio-diversity of our garden and its soil and also installed a basic water butt to enable us to water our flourishing garden ecologically. It became a labour of love and soon I began to see a difference. The garden was beginning to feel like that little slice of outdoor heaven we were after.

Years 3-5

In the last two years we have expanded our borders and installed two raised vegetable beds. The small, round picnic lawn that remains is enough for us and our wide borders actually give the sense of more space, more depth. It’s funny how peering through thick green bushes at the back of borders, actually deepens this sense of space, this sense of mystery, it begs the question; ‘what’s behind there?‘ So even in the tiniest of gardens, don’t be drawn in to cutting perfectly straight, thin borders – go wild and create a deep, lush backdrop for your outside space. For really tiny gardens, bamboo canes work brilliantly for this; adding depth, height and texture, whilst taking up as little room as possible.

We built our vegetable beds from two basic raised bed kits bought for pennies from the local DIY store. Raised beds were a necessity for us as our soil was so bad, but they also help to contain your planting zone and help to structure and plan your planting. I usually operate a square-foot gardening technique rather than growing in traditional rows, and this is a great way to maximise variety in your useable space. Having them raised also brings them that bit closer to you when gardening (sore backs anyone?) and means you can easily target your soil, fertiliser and feed. I filled the first raised bed with homemade and shop bought compost and some left over top soil from when we cut our turf. The new bed was ready to use immediately and that was treat but it was also rather expensive to fill! We prepared the second bed a year before using it and in this bed we started by using as much ‘filler’ as we could, before topping with finer soil and compost. Into the void went; left over straw, some large pumpkin carcasses left over from Halloween – which had been two big for our little composter, some shredded paper, ‘rough’ compost from our own bin and some wicker strands which had come from a disintegrated old basket. It was only after the main volume had been filled that we topped this with soil and finer compost and then we covered it with tarp and left for a year, or perhaps longer, until when uncovered, a rich planting bed had been established. This way is so much cheaper than buying in a tonne of crumbly compost and is so much more friendly for the environment, increasing your own biodiversity as you do so.

Next to our vegetable beds we have a herb patch to die for, although it really does need sorting and investing in. At the moment we grow lavender, rosemary, marjoram, sage, mint and two varieties of thyme, as well as having some recent success with annuals such as dill. Moving forward, the herb patch is my next project, it needs expanding, organising and improving – any tips or inspiration from other small-garden growers? Might try barrels or pots next? Although it’s a productive patch its scruffy and the plants are definitely not at their best.

Our tree has really come into its own now and as well as solar-powered fairy lights, is strung up with all sorts of feeders for all sorts of birds. At it stands we have; peanuts, seeds, fat balls and a mealworm block. We also have two bird ‘houses’ for smaller, wild birds and of course, the seed heads left on in winter from all of my flowering plants. This ‘messy gardener’ method really works and makes you so much more time efficient! As the proverb advises with dogs, let the autumn leaves lie, and they will in turn give you a rich leaf mould to seep into your borders or to spread on your vegetable garden. As mentioned before, don’t snip and prune your summer plants at the end of their life – leave them be and their seeds will spread to double your stock next year and the birds will feast on them in the coldest of months, when abundant food is all but a sun-filled memory. Plus, hydrangea flower heads look beautiful on frosty mornings!

As well as the herb patch, I also have aspirations to grow more fruit; berries in particular and so this year I am going to try to find a spot for a burgeoning fruit cage; again if anyone has any tips for doing this on a small scale do let me know! I do have a new blackberry plant behind the veg plot now, which provides good cover for the birds and hopefully some yummy fruit this year for our jams and pies.

So, there you have it! A feast for man and beast alike in the smallest or urban gardens. I’d love a vast plot one day (wouldn’t we all!) but for now and at least the near future I have built my little slice of outdoor heaven and I hope this inspires other small-space gardens to do the same! Please share any questions, comments tips or tricks below! I’d love to hear from you.

Jaime xx

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Samphire Hoe – Dover

It’s crazy to think that we’ve been living in Kent just over five years now and we still have so much to explore and see! It’s a huge county, and Ashford; where we currently live, feels like the perfect epicentre between London to the north, the coast to the south, the downs to the east and the Weald to the west. It’s the nature lover’s dream!

I’ve been wanting to visit Samphire Hoe for a while now – I’m always looking for rugged new spots for Sunday afternoon walks, and so when the sun began to shine brightly this weekend, we quickly donned our boots and thermals and headed down to the coast.

Samphire Hoe is a beauty spot located at the famous white cliffs of Dover, and in the low sun this Sunday, these majestic white cliffs certainly provided a magnificent backdrop. The Hoe has a plenty of metered parking and also a tea room/info centre, which is – according to their website- open everyday during peak season and every weekend year round. We couldn’t find anyone serving tea but we did speak to a friendly gentleman in the site office, who let us park for free when we had run out of small change, for the rather old fashioned pay machine (no pay by mobile here!) Located just of the A20 heading to Folkestone from Dover, it’s easy to find and makes a great place to stop for a quick stretch of legs or rustic family picnic.

Hope our photos give you a taste of what to expect at this lovely Kentish beauty spot.

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Jaime xx

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