A Homemade Wreath

It’s been a hive of festive activity at the Agents of Field HQ this past weekend; we bought and decorated the Christmas tree, foraged in the hedgerows for holly and ivy and other greenery with which to deck the halls, and created a homemade wreath for our front door. And it’s all looking just glorious!

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This year, we chose a very handsome Nordman Fir tree. We’ve named him Branwell (prompted by a recent discussion about the Brontës) and he’s looking resplendent in all his tinselled majesty. The rest of the house is festooned with boughs of greenery I collected from the fields just beyond our allotment, mostly holly, although I managed to find a little ivy as well. I also stumbled upon some small bunches of mistletoe at the nursery where we bought our tree, so a bunch of this now hangs conspicuously in a doorway, awaiting the moment when I can propel myself at an unsuspecting Ade.

I always think natural decorations are preferable to gaudy tinsel. I mean, sure, the tree looks good with a bit of bling, but we like to keep the rest of the house fairly natural; a poinsettia is the perfect centrepiece for our table, ribbons of holly and ivy deck the mantelpiece, but the pièce de résistance is the homemade wreath that graces our front door.

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HOW TO MAKE A WREATH

As I mentioned in a previous post about foraging, make sure you’re not trespassing on private land when scavenging for natural decorations and don’t deplete the hedgerows entirely; those berries you’re taking are food for wildlife! Only take what you need. I used the following:

A 10″ floral foam ring (£4 from my local craft shop)
Wire
Ribbon
Holly
Mistletoe
Ivy
Rosehips
Pine cones
Off-cuts from the Christmas Tree

I soaked the foam in water for a few minutes to begin with, before curling the wire around the ring and making a hook for the door. I pushed berried holly sprigs into the foam ring at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions and filled the spaces in-between with the rest of the greenery and the pine cones. I finished by tying the ribbon around the wire hook.

Once Christmas has come and gone and the party is well and truly over, I plan to dismantle the wreath and the greenery will be popped in the compost. I’ll rescue any berries and put them on the bird-table and the foam ring will be used again next year.

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Empty Beds

plot photo

How empty our plot looks from a few months ago. Although we’re still enjoying the last of the kale, harvesting the swede and broccoli, and next year’s garlic has started sprouting merrily, most of the beds are now having a breather. Ade has worked hard tidying these up, digging over the soil and enriching the earth with well-rotted matter so they can rest up over the winter. Come spring, the beds will all be super fertile (we hope!) and ready for some serious veg-growing action.

2015, we’re coming for you…

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Carrot and Orange Soup

There’s nothing better on a chilly, autumnal day than a bright and hearty bowl of soup, and this one is a real winner.

This is my own twist on a classic recipe and is a great way to use up your plot-grown carrots, onions and garlic, and even home-grown oranges for those readers who live in sunnier climes!

In my Carrot and Orange Soup, I use only a little of the orange zest as I find too much can make the soup bitter, and I also use the whole chopped orange rather than just juicing it, as many recipes advise. (Why waste the rest of the fruit?)

The result is a thick, sweet and delicious soup.

I have also added a few little flourishes to make this soup a real powerhouse of vitamins and nutrients, so a bowlful of this is the perfect weapon for anyone succumbing to the first sniffles of the season. As well as the vitamin C from the orange,  the onion and garlic have antibacterial and antiviral properties, cumin and coriander have antiseptic properties and  the carrots are rich in beta-carotene which strengthens the immune system.

Soup yourself healthy, I say.
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Carrot & Orange Soup

 

CARROT AND ORANGE SOUP
Serves: 2-4 (depending on bowl size) Prep Time: 10 mins Cooking Time: 55 mins

Ingredients

1 tbsp. olive oil
400g carrots, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 orange
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tbsp. of fresh coriander, chopped
800 ml of vegetable stock
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for 2 mins.

Add the chopped onion and garlic to the pan and sweat them for 10 mins.

Grate the zest from about half of the orange.

Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the chopped carrots and the orange zest. Stir well, cover and cook for 5 mins.

Add the vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then cover and gently simmer for 30 mins or until the carrots are really soft.

Meanwhile, peel the orange (making sure you remove the pith and any pips) and chop into chunks.

After 30 mins, add the chopped coriander and orange to the pan, making sure you don’t waste any of the juice, and cook for a further 5 mins.

Remove from the heat and blitz in a blender. The soup should be thick, but add a little water if it is too thick.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh coriander leaves.

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