Sunday, September 15, 2013


What a hive of activity in my kitchen this afternoon.
After Mr Beehive and the younger two Beehives spending another morning shovelling horsey poo into our compost bins at the allotment, he came home to the spankingly clean kitchen - yes, that's right readers, I had even washed and scrubbed the floors and cleaned out some of the cupboards, it was that "touch my house and you die" kind of clean!
He decided that today was the day to turn this spankingly clean kitchen into a less than spankingly clean brewery!

Two demi johns later and still a good quarter bucket left of elderberries I decided to join him and make some cordial with the remaining.

Elderberry Cordial:

This is a very simple recipe, there are hundreds out there, but this has been the best one I've found so far:

Granulated sugar
Cloves (whole, not powder)
Citric acid
Glass bottles with plastic lids

You need your elderberries in a pan, washed and taken off the stalk. You can do this with a fork.
Put them in a heavy bottomed pan or maslin pan and just put in enough water to cover them.
Gently bring them to the boil.
Then reduce the heat and let them simmer for 20 mins

Take it off the heat and then strain it either using a muslin or pressing through a sieve. I do both.
I tend to push through a sieve first and then squeeze the remaining juice out by wrapping in some muslin cloth.

Once you've done this it's time to put in the sugar.
Sterilise a measuring jug and pour your juice out.
For every 600mls (1pt) you need 1lb of sugar.
Return your juice and sugar to the maslin pan, add around 6 cloves per pint and gently allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Add a 1/4 tsp of citric acid

Allow the cordial to cool a little and then pour it into your sterilised bottles.

I used green coloured bottles because the cordial keeps so much better in the dark. You can keep it in the fridge and it will keep, unopened, for up to 2 years or so I've been told.

I'm not sure about its preservation without proper pasteurising or canning if you don't keep it in the fridge.

However, I really don't think ours will last that long, it's delicious!

My kitchen, on the otherhand, lasted even less time...they do make for a rather beautiful purple hue though do elderberries!

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Term has well an truly re-entered our lives this week. We're back in full flow for music lessons, clubs, parties, homework ad infinitum and tired kids.

Master Beehive the elder is suffering a lot at the moment with his eczema. In short, he suffered a lot as a baby, then appeared to grow out of it. It made a reappearance in year 7, two years ago and has remained ever since. It seems to crawl around his body, once we've got rid of it in one spot, it rears its ugly head elsewhere. I do think it is related to puberty and his body changing and believe it was triggered this time around by stress. As a baby he had a pretty stressful birth, so that could have been a big factor in its initial appearance. In year 7 he had all the stress of a new school, change of friends etc etc and he is an anxious child at times. Now of course it's clinging on to stay.
We have tried it all from a holistic angle: Chinese herbs, dairy free diets, vegetarian diets, he bathes in salt water, this gives him temporary relief, but after a couple of hours he dries again. The dryness isn't the problem, the problem for him is that in areas where he sweats, the skin gets so irritated that it rubs up sore against itself.
He has been through all the prescribed creams on the shelves. His current routine is Cetraben as a moisturiser and Elacon which is a mild hydrocortisone. We're also currently trying Salcura, both the zeoderm spray and the intensive repair. This has had some wonderful results for friends, but we're struggling to get on top of this particularly nasty flare up, thus the Salcura isn't touching the sides at the moment.

Before we went on holiday this summer he had to have a short course of oral steroids to remove the beginnings of an infection that was starting. This is something that I really hate the thought of having to do, but when your child can't see out of his eyes because they're so crusted and sore and his neck is sticking to his collar on his school shirt, there is no conversation.

If you have a child with such severe eczema, you weep to see the pain they're in and your inability to actually help. It's almost as if his body is rejecting the skin he's in.

He's lucky in so far as he has known his friends before his eczema got as bad as it is now, therefore they love him for who he is and however he sometimes looks, so he has a great support of pals. Strangers, on the otherhand, often stare, which is hard for him. I know people mean well, but when you have a condition that affects your appearance, staring is going to happen. I'm teaching him currently how to try to educate people that do ask questions. People are only curious and genuinely concerned for him. I, on the otherhand, feel more irritated when I'm shown a small patch of dried skin on someone's elbow and have to listen to how they have 'terrible eczema too'. Really, don't wish it on yourself. Skin conditions are the utter dogs bollocks.

Tomorrow I'm taking him to a salt cave. I've read some good reviews about the benefits of salt and perhaps this could give him some relief. He also sees the dermatologist again on Wednesday, so if the holistic approach needs a boost, hopefully we'll get one.

Mr Beehive and I are also going to do the Five Peaks in 12 hours challenge next Easter to raise money for the National Eczema society. It seems such a shame that with our expertise in medical science that there just isn't more understanding of the causes of, or successful cures for this condition. We will have a justgiving page up in the near future where we will be trying to raise sponsorship, watch this space.

In the meantime, if you have a child, in particular a teenager, who suffers from severe eczema, please get in touch as I'd love to know how you help them cope with it. You can leave me a note in the comments below.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

She's a' blowin'

It's coming.
I can smell it and I can feel it.
The early mornings now are veiled in that amazing low level mist. I can't even photograph its beauty it's so raw and fragile. When I open the curtains and look over the allotment, a shroud of white, wispy mist that is not even as high as some of the plants, levitates until the day begins to warm.

That first fall of early leaves has begun.
The ancient horse chestnut next to the well in the village has huge fruit on its branches. I wonder if we'll see any this year or if everyone else will beat us to it.

We're starting the beginning of fall clear up. We were granted our allotment last week which we are thrilled with, however, as with most allotments that become available, it is neglected and in need of some tlc. Mr Beehive spent most of today upcycling some pallets to make a three bin composter down there and we began some of the clearing of the plastic and beer cans that seemed to have made their way into this long lost plot.
Our next task will be to have the area sprayed - yes, not exactly the organic start we hoped for but unfortunately the ground is too overloaded with those persistent weeds such as bindweed and stingers and, it's a rule that the allotment society seem to have, that they spray before the next owner moves in.
Once the round up has been applied and has done its job, ours will be to dig, dig, dig.
I'm trying to resist (and failing) looking at seed catalogues just yet as we have so much groundwork to do, however, I also don't want to miss the boat and find that I'm then behind in the greenhouse because I didn't think about the early spring soon enough.

In case you're wondering what we're going to do with the veggie plot at home, we are going to turn it over to herbs and more fruit bushes. We found this year that, for the first time, we had a good crop of raspberries and redcurrants. We didn't have too many blackcurrants as we haven't put so many in, nor blueberries. However, now we've been gifted more space at the allotment, we can use the space at home to put in more of these to enable us to have a realistic crop that we can actually do something with.

Here at home I'm drying peppers and chillis from the greenhouse to then preserve in oil I think, although I need to look up a good recipe after having been put off preserving things in oil on reading about garlic preservation and the risk of botulism. This pdf file is a good read to ensure, if like me, you have a glut of garlic this year, you harvest and preserve safely.

We've also lit the woodburner in the sitting room for the first time since winter even though we don't 'really' need it, there is a slight chill in the air these evenings and there is nothing nicer than watching the glow of flames through a nicely spring cleaned woodburner.

How is your early fall/autumn?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Off to secondary school: take two

Wow, it's a special eve here on 1st September 2013.
It's the eve before my younger son starts at Secondary school.

It's a huge transition for him, made easier because his older brother is already there, but still hard because he is a young 11 and he's leaving all his friends behind once again.

His first day is just the year seven groups and he'll only be in for half a day.
He's been away on scout camp this week, so luckily, he's exhausted so hopefully this will mean he'll crash and sleep without any anxieties or restlessness in apprehension of tomorrow's new adventure.

Whether his mother will sleep tonight is another story.