Welcome To Wild Cottage

Recipes, wild food, natural remedies, organic gardening, Irish music, eating and thoughts on life in general

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Recycled Somerset Garden - August 2015

Post author: My daughter Sophie from Somerset, England

"It all started it from a garden of brambles, that is it was full of rampant blackberry bushes and other long term weeds.  

We started clearing it just as I became pregnant with our first child. Home veg was the value we wanted our baby to experience and grow up with, healthy and pure. So it was a real labour of love (excuse the pun).

The first year we lived here, we only just finished the vegetable patch area as we were concentrating on renovating the house itself. Everyone told me it was too late at the end of August to plant veg, but I did it anyway and loads came up !

Our vegetable patch and the recycled greenhouse

This year, 2015, with the new baby on board the garden has become totally green !  

When I began to wean her, her first foods were from our own garden. She started with pureed carrots, and then parsnips, and so on.  

We got other people involved in the garden with the sunflower competition. Once they are finished, we will keep the seeds from the flower heads, to be dried and re used for flowers next year, or for bird seed during the winter and for cooking in the kitchen. Sunflower seeds can be a great snack on their own or in a nice homemade bread. Yummy !

When we initially cleared the old garden we saved some of the plants that were already there when we bought the house. There was a Day Lily for instance, which was beautiful when it came out this summer.

Never waste plants, they cost a lot to replace. We have a grape vine which we recycled from another house. We cut it right back when we got it first. It is now flourishing and is starting to work well in hiding a block wall at the back of the garden.  

In my next Wild Cottage guest post, I will tell you all about the recipes we use for our garden produce, how we preserve things for the winter and the yummy things we cook with it all.

Meanwhile, here are some more photos of this summer's garden (August 2015)."

The beginnings of our herb bed
The bay tree
Mint in a pot to keep it contained !
Runner beans grown up bamboo sticks
Our own chillies from the greenhouse
Red and white onions almost ready to lift
Some of our white onions
Rhubarb patch !
Elephant garlic - this is just one clove !
Normal and elephant garlic
My husband's precious fig tree
Lovely lettuce
Runner beans harvested for freezing and dinner
Sage bush with lots of new growth

Friday, 24 July 2015

Homemade Greenfly Spray

This summer I am growing a few different varieties of chillies on my home office window sill.  They are coming along nicely considering it was very late when I planted the seeds.

However, about 75% of them are infested with greenfly (little green aphids), so I went looking online for an effective organic / natural home-made green aphid killer !  I found a couple of easy options which I will share with you here.

You'll need a spray bottle to disperse the aphid death spray.  Those 1 litre (half a pint in the USA approx) hand held spray bottles are great.  You could always recycle one you have previously used for those household cleaning sprays, making sure that you clean it thoroughly inside or you could have a problem !

I will add my results to this post when I have made and tried each method.  It should be interesting !  I would also love to hear from you if you have tried either of them, or if you have any other great natural aphid killing methods.

Remember, that you should always spray your plants in the evening, preferably after sunset or on very dull days, or in the shade.  This is because wet leaves will burn in the sunlight.

1.  Tomato Leaf Aphid Spray

To me, this is the perfect Greenfly Killer.
The advantage of the tomato leaf spray is that it does not kill the beneficial insects that also inhabit your garden, just the aphids.
Tomatoes, as well as potatoes and all other members of the Nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), contain alkaloids in their leaves, which are toxic to aphids (and to humans also if ingested in sufficiently large amounts, so just in case, please keep this spray away from children and label the bottle clearly).
The alkaloid in green tomatoes, tomato leaves and their stalks is called tomatine, and is the plants natural defence system against invaders that want to eat it or harm it.

1-2 cups of green tomato leaves
2 cups of water
Something to strain it through

Chop the tomato leaves into small pieces, then put them with the 2 cups of water into a container.  Leave to soak overnight.
Next day, strain the leaves out of the liquid using the muslin cloth, squeezing all the liquid out.  You can put the soggy leaves on your compost heap.
Add 2 more cups of water to the resulting liquid, then put it into your spray bottle, ready to use.

23rd August 2015 Test Results
I made up the spray as per the recipe above, and used it on my 4, very affected, chilli plants which had been indoors.
The greenfly struggled and many died.  I wiped of the leaves gently with my fingers, removing the eggs (hundreds of them) as I did this.
There were no greenfly for a few days, but then a few reappeared and I have had to spray again and check for eggs again.  There were a few new eggs already !
So, it seems that the spray 'checks' them for a while, but doesn't kill em 100%.  You may need to reapply it every few days or so to really prevent the aphids getting ahold.

2.  Green Aphid Smoothie

This one is a bit yukky for anyone who is squeamish.

Pick as many of the greenly off the plants as you can, squash them to kill them, and drop them into a cup of water.  Just do one type of aphid at a time, as this method will only deter the same species as you made the smoothie from.

Put the cup of water and dead greenflies into a blender and zap it into a smooth watery liquid.  Pour this liquid into your spray bottle for use on the plants you wish to deter greenflies from living on.

Note:  If you make this smoothie with greenfly, then it will only deter greenfly.. If you have a whitefly problem also, you need to make a separate smoothie containing whiteflies to deter them.

This won't harm your blender in any way, but it may not be the method for you if you are vegetarian !  Unless you have a special blender just for garden use.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How to Rescue Battery Chickens in Ireland

Do you keep chickens for eggs ?  Or maybe you would like to, but you haven't yet taken the plunge ?  Whichever you are, this article is for you !

One thing in this world that I particularly hate is factory farming of any kind.  Here in Ireland both chickens and pigs are kept in battery farming conditions, indoors and often without proper light.  They have almost zero space and can't even move around.  And the saddest thing is that many people who live here don't even realise what goes on to produce the majority of chicken, ham, bacon and pork that they eat.

Littlehill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary annually rescue approximately 7,000 to 8,000 battery hens which are about to be slaughtered.  They then distribute them across Ireland to willing new owners like you and I.  Their next rescue is due to take place in about 3 months time, so you have plenty of time to prepare, or even build/buy that new coop for them to live in !

This is how battery farmed chickens live until they are 18 months old, 6 to 8 in a cage

The chickens are kept indoors, 6 to 8 in a cage, jammed in with no room to move.  They can't even stretch their wings out, ever.  At 18 months old they are slaughtered, because their 'optimum' laying period is over.  However, they will in fact lay eggs for many years to come after that, so in rescuing them you also give yourself free range happy eggs to eat.

I will be taking at least 6, hopefully more.  Can you take a few maybe ?

A Littlehill rescue hen at time of rescue

The same hen as above a while later after rescue !

They fork out a massive amount of money to organise the rescue of these little, bare bodied, hens, and so charge €5 for each hen anyone takes.  This purely covers their expenses.

You can collect as many hens as you want from various drop off points across Ireland, which are notified ahead of time on the Littlehill web site.

When the hens are rescued, they have very few feathers, are weak and not used to wind, rain or cold temperatures.  So they need a safe and snug coop and run, with indoor daytime space if they need it.

Littlehill Animal Rescue also have a Facebook page HERE

NB:  All photos are courtesy of Littlehill Animal Rescue & Sanctuary - many thanks

Friday, 19 September 2014

Apple & Blackberry Crumble (incl Gluten Free Option)

We adore apple crumbles, and at this time of the year both newly fallen apples and blackberries are available and plentiful - at least they are here in Ireland.

Fresh apples and blackberries, prepared for a crumble

Today I used apples that had fallen from our apple tree yesterday. We just have 2 apple trees, one is a very old cooking apple (the tree is at least 70 years old), and the other is a 12 year old 'Russet' (a traditional old fashioned small English eating apple, which tastes slightly nutty).

This recipe for apple crumble can be used with either gluten free flours, such as Dove Farm's gluten free plain flour, or normal wheat plain flour.  I make the gluten free option, as I am gluten intolerant.  Whichever type you use, the result is pretty similar, as the butter is there to bind the flour and sugar together.

Today I added a large handful of blackberries to the sliced up apples.  This not only adds a very yummy taste, but alters the colour to a gorgeous dark pink, depending on how many blackberries you use.  

I also love cinnamon in the fruit part of an apple crumble - but this is easily left out if you aren't into cinnamon.  I add flour to the apples as this gives the juice a slightly thicker, syrupy consistency, which is heavenly.

Anyway, here is the recipe I used today - This makes a medium sized crumble which is plenty for two people, including copious seconds !

Blackberry and Apple Crumble

(with both gluten free and standard flour options)


Crumble mix:
6 ozs  plain flour (or 6 ozs gluten free plain flour - I used Doves)
4 ozs  butter
5 ozs  caster sugar

Apple and blackberry mix:
8 medium apples
2 tablespoons blackberries
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon caster sugar
1 flat tablespoon plain flour (or same amount of plain gluten free flour)
lemon juice from half a lemon


Apple mix:
1.  Put the lemon juice into a large mixing bowl.  Peel, core and evenly slice the apples, removing any bruised or damaged bits.  As you are slicing them, put them into the lemon juice, mixing with a wooden spoon to cover them.  This helps to prevent the apples going brown, as well as adding to the taste.

Cooking apples and blackberries, covered in lemon juice

2.  Into the bowl with the apples, add the cinnamon, sugar and flour.  Mix this around, gently, until the apple slices are all covered fairly evenly.

3.  Put the apple mixture into a high sided, ovenproof, pie dish - I use Pyrex casserole dishes.

4.  Sprinkle the blackberries evenly across the top of the apples.  Cover the dish with a cloth, or a lid if you have it.

*** Preheat the oven to 175C, which is about 350F

Crumble mix:
5.  Put the flour and butter into a large mixing bowl,  making sure that the butter is in no more than 1/2 inch lumps.

6.  Using your fingertips, 'rub' the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.

7.  Mix the sugar into the crumble mix, gently.

Gluten free dry crumble mix, ready to sprinkle on top of the fruit

Putting it together:
8.  Spoon the crumble mix evenly on top of the apples which are already in the ovenproof dish.

9.  Place the dish into the centre of the preheated oven.  Cook for 35-45 minutes (the crumble is best when just turning a light brown, but you may prefer it darker or lighter).

10.  Serve hot from the oven, with warm custard.  Also great cold the next day with cream !

This crumble recipe will also freeze extremely well for up to 4 or 5 months.  Alternatively, you can freeze the sliced apples covered in lemon juice in a bag, and the washed blackberries in another bag, for future use.

Also, why not make double the dry crumble mix, pop half into a plastic bag or container, and freeze it !!  Remember to label what is gluten free what what isn't !

Friday, 12 September 2014

Elderberry Recipes & Remedies

If you are looking for various Elderberry recipes to experiment with, look no further than Wild Cottage.

Elderberry & clove cordial  (also similar recipe here Elderberry cordial )

Blackberry & elderberry jelly

Elderberry wine

Elder bush remedies

Elderberry & ginger cold and flu remedy/cure all

The magic of elderberries

I'd love to know if you have any unusual elderberry recipes please.

I am adding new recipes all the time - please visit again.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Elderberry & Ginger Winter Remedy Recipe

(The recipe is at the bottom of the text)

Storing quantities of this 'Elderberry & Ginger Winter Remedy' for when required, should be a staple of all natural health loving households.

Elderberries have long been known by wise old women to be an excellent natural all round medicine (probably a few wise old men too).  This is something I was born and raised with, and still continue to practise today.

I found several ideas for a medicinal version of the popular elderberry cordial, but they all contained sugar and none contained ginger.  So I ended up concocting this recipe, which embodies everything I consider good for combating colds, pesky sore throats, bacterial and viral infections, as well as creating something you can take daily to help combat cholesterol, improve your vision, as a diuretic, boost your immune system, help with allergies, as an antioxidant, and much more.  Elderberries are also slightly laxative in nature, and so will help regulate a sluggish bowel, in a very gentle way.

In Chinese medicine they is used to treat rheumatism and bodily injuries.

Some studies have also begun to indicate that Elderberries have a role to play in combating cancer and some other immune diseases - the anthocyanins help to rebuild damaged cells, as well as protect them via the immune system.

It's a new take on the old saying about an apple a day, "A spoonful a day keeps the doctor away" (sorry apples).  But this is something I have done for years throughout the winter.

The compounds found in Elderberries are many, and include vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, amino acids, tannin, rutin, carotenooids, flavonoids (anthocyanins), viburnic acid, and a lot more.

Elderberry & Ginger Winter Remedy Recipe


(The exact quantities are not important, but are more guidelines)

2 lb Elderberries - measured when de-stalked so just the clean berries remain

3 teacups Water

3 teacups Honey

Organic whole Lemon

2 inch piece fresh root Ginger


1.     Put the clean berries into a stainless steel saucepan, add the water. 

2.     Add the juice of the lemon to the berries, and the peel also.  Making sure to NOT include the 'pith', which is the bitter white layer beneath the peel/skin and before the actual lemon segments.  It is important that the lemon is organic, as non-organic lemons have wax and other nasty chemicals on the skins.

3.     Chop the fresh ginger root into small bits, and add them to the berry mix also.

4.     Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 50 minutes.  Keep the lid on the saucepan, so as not to loose any of the precious juice by condensation and evaporation.  If it looks like the water is too low, add another cup.

5.     Turn off the heat and mash the berries with a potato masher, until as much juice as possible is extracted from the berries.

6.     Strain the juice and mashed berries through a muslin cloth, or another suitable fine meshed fruit/wine making strainer.  Return the liquid to a clean saucepan.  The remaining squished berries, lemon bits and ginger are great on the compost heap, given to chickens, or maybe the birds would enjoy them.

7.     Add the honey to the mixture in the saucepan.

8.     Turn the heat back on, slowly bringing the mixture to the boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Again, keep the lid on the saucepan so as not to loose any of the liquid.

9.     While still hot, pour into sterilised bottles and screw the lids on immediately.  Tip each bottle upside down for a couple of minutes to ensure complete sterilisation of the lids etc.

This will keep for at least a year, maybe more.  But obviously, making fresh batches each year is best, as you will then have fresh berries each year.

Please note:  The above recipe is recommended as an aid to good health, combating a cold, sore throats, coughs and the flu.  It is in no way intended to be medical advice - if you are at all worried, see your doctor.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Seedless Blackberry Jam

The perfect blackberry jam - seedless, no pips and smooth !  

However, it isn't quite a jelly as you use a setting point to create a spreadable jam, rather than leaving it a bit longer and creating a jelly that sets and wobbles.  If you would like to make jelly, just let it boil a bit longer until your setting point test tells you that it's at 'wobble point'.

This is the ultimate taste of Autumn, and if you make enough of the jam, you can have it all year round.

I adore normal blackberry jam, but I also love smooth jams, as they have that extra special, melt in the mouth sensation...  Although not as good as Galaxy chocolate !

Seedless Blackberry Jam Recipe


6 lb / 2.75 kg  Blackberries
1/4 pint Water
2 Lemons
6 lb / 2.75 kg  Sugar - roughly


1.   Put the cleaned fruit, the water, the lemon rind and lemon juice into a large jam making pan.

2.  Using a potato masher, mash the blackberry mix well, to extract the juice.

3.   For every pound (lb) of blackberries, use 1 lb of white sugar (0.5 kg).  Put the sugar into the pan and stir in thoroughly.  Leave it, well covered to keep tiny winged critters out, for a couple of hours, until the sugar has drawn the juice from the blackberries, and you have much more liquid that when you started.

4.   Simmer gently until the fruit is soft, not too long or it will start to boil and begin to thicken.  Don't let it boil at this point.  You may need to stir it to check for, and prevent, sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan.  Keep the pan lid ON, to prevent any loss of your precious juice via evaporation.

5.   Pour the now sweet mushy fruit mix through a small holed sieve, (or through muslin cloth for extremely smooth).  Return the pip free, seed free, skin free juice to the saucepan (make sure it's cleaned from earlier to remove any stray seeds, insect body parts, bat wings and so on).

6.   Turn the heat up (but not on full) and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. (I use the cold plate in the fridge setting point method).  Remember to remove the pan from the heat each time you do the setting point test, otherwise the test won't be accurate and you'll have a much thicker jam than you maybe intended.

7.   Once setting point has been reached, remove from the heat and skim off any foam etc.

8.   While the jam is still very hot, pour it into sterilised jam pots.  Put the (also sterilised) lids on straight away while the jam is still very hot.  This is so that, when the jam cools and contracts, it will take up less space in the jar.  The shrinkage will create a vacuum at the top of the jar, between the jam and the lid.  This will help to keep the jam long term, as bacteria cannot live in a vacuum (no air, nothing).
Just remember to NOT tip the jars at all, so that you keep the vacuum below any remaining air.

This will make around 8 or 9 jars of jam, depending on jar size.  Well made jam can last for years, and this should be fine for at least 2 years.  Jam tends to thicken with age, but the taste can improve sometimes.

This recipe is excellent for making early Christmas presents, or a gift for a friend.  It's not everyday you can use one recipe to make both blackberry jam and blackberry jelly.