Exploring Cowden Garden

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Tucked away in the grounds of Cowden Castle Estate in Clackmannanshire, the Japanese Garden was originally commissioned by Isabella ‘Ella’ Christie in 1908, and brought to fruition by the female Japanese garden designer, Taki Handa. The Japanese Garden was closed to the public in the 1960’s due to vandalism, however, a restoration project was undertaken by Ella Christie’s great, great niece, Sara Stewart, and the garden has recently been re-opened.

A path skirts around the pond in the centre of the garden, and the garden features traditional elements of Japanese gardens such as bridges, stone lanterns and a Shinto shrine, which makes an unusual contrast against the Scottish landscape. There were a few gardeners still hard at work on the day we visited – and it’ll be interesting to see how it’s changed the next time we visit – but it’s already a beautiful and tranquil place to explore.

You can read more about the history of Cowden Garden and the fascinating life of adventurer Ella Christie here. Have a lovely week! X

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Growing Together

 

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The heatwave appears to have come to an end in our part of the country, and we’ve emerged from the shade back into the garden. Over the last week, we’ve also enjoyed spending time with my parents in their gardens as well.

I often feel lucky that my husband and I have so much in common with my parents, and we’ve spent many happy hours over the years watching films together, sorting ourselves into our Hogwarts houses on Pottermore, and just chatting over mugs of tea, but whenever we’re together it doesn’t usually take long for the conversation to turn to the subject of gardening.

My parents – both introverts by nature – come to life when talking about gardening, always as eager to share their advice and show off their gardens as they are curious to hear about what we’re growing in our own. Unsurprisingly, I have my parents to thank for my love of nature and gardening, and one of my proudest achievements as a child was growing a fuschia from a tiny cutting, which has since grown into a bush measuring at least five foot tall and three feet wide, and now my dad has offered me another cutting from the very same plant for our own garden.

Gardening often brings out the most generous side of a person, and I never seem to part from my parents these days without one of them pressing a packet of seeds into my hand or loading my arms with whatever fruit or vegetables they’ve had an unexpected glut of.

Families today are often separated by geographical distance, conflicting work schedules and a hundred other distractions, and yet it is lovely that something as simple as our shared love of gardening seems to have brought my little family closer together. Have a lovely week. X

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry

Torrential rain and howling winds prevented us from getting out into the garden or further afield this weekend, and I decided to share one of our favourite recipes as it’s been a long time since I shared the last one.

This is a lightly spiced, creamy curry, which is both vegan and gluten-free. We tend to cook this in bulk and freeze the extra portions for quick midweek meals, so you may need to reduce the suggested quantities.

Ingredients (Serves 8):

1 Red Chili Pepper finely diced
3 Garlic Cloves minced
Large nub of Ginger minced
100g of Fresh Coriander (Cilantro)
2 Large onions diced
3 Large Sweet Potatoes peeled and chopped into small cubes
2 400g tins of Chickpeas (drained)
2 400g tins of Chopped Tomatoes
2 400g tins of Coconut Milk
2 cups of frozen peas
200g of frozen spinach
3 tsp of Paprika
3 tsp of Cumin
3 tsp of Tumeric
3 tsp of Cinnamon
3 tsp of Dried Rosemary
3 tsp of Garam Masala

Method:

Heat a large casserole dish or pan on a medium heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the onions, garlic and ginger and lightly cook for a few minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.

Add all the spices and rosemary, mix well and add a splash of water. Cover, stir occasionally to prevent from sticking and add more water if required until it resembles a thick paste.

After a few minutes, mix in sweet potato, cook and cover for three to five minutes.

Add the tomatoes and coconut milk, stir thoroughly until both have combined. Cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas, peas, spinach and coriander. Stir well.

Cook uncovered for another 10 to 20 minutes until thickened.

Serve with boiled rice and papadums.

 

‘Braving the Wilderness’ by Brene Brown

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I often read books with themes that mirror something I’mĀ going throughĀ in real life at the time, and I recently found myself picking Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown off the shelf. I first learned about Brene Brown’s research through her TED talks on vulnerability and shame, and over the last few years I’ve drawn so much comfort and inspiration from her books that have helped me to navigate difficult transitions and encouraged me to be more authentic, vulnerable and courageous in my personal life and career.

Braving the Wilderness builds on Brene Brown’s previous books but has a distinctly political edge as she explores how we hide who we really are in order to fit in, and how politicalĀ rhetoric has become increasingly intolerant, dehumanizing and divisive as leaders call upon their followers to oppose anyone who disagrees with their opinions or values. This book is very much about being curious and listening toĀ other perspectives, as well as beingĀ honest about our own,Ā but it’s also about having the moral courage to stand up for what we believe is right even if it means standing alone.

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I find it so easy to relate to Brene Brown, and this is written with the same honesty, humility and humour as her other books, yet it’s not an easy read as it challenged me to reflect on the times when my own fear of criticism, conflict, loneliness and rejection lead me to settle for fitting in instead of belonging, and how sometimes the things we do to avoid feeling pain end up causingĀ us more heartache and suffering in the long run.

Braving the Wilderness didn’t haveĀ the profound impact on meĀ that I Thought It Was Just Me or Rising Strong did, but it still feels like a pertinentĀ discussion on how to overcome some of the barriers to communication, understanding and connections in the current socio-political climate. Have a lovely week. X

Summer Abundance

Summer Abundance

We woke up this morning to the first grey clouds and light rain in our part of the country for several weeks, but this has easily been one of the best summers we’ve had for several years and we’ve been reaping the rewards of all the good weather up to now in our little kitchen garden.

As we’ve only devoted a small part of the garden to growing fruit and vegetables and we have a relatively short growing season here (the last frost is usually in April and the first is in October with fairly unpredictable “summer” weather in between), we’re always trying to make the best use of the space with fairly low-maintenance and reliable crops.

We’ve been enjoying lots of salads with our own lettuce and radishes, and we’ve had steady crops of broad beans, as well as yellow and green courgettes.Ā This year I’ve also been growing Hunter, Uchiki Kuri (also known as Orange Hokkaido), Sweet Dumpling and Spaghetti squashes to find out which grows best in our climate and soil. Meanwhile, my husband has planted his own experimental crop of rat-tail radishes, which have been allowed to bolt so we can harvest the edible seed pods.

Unfortunately, our little acer and ornamental cherry blossom didn’t survive the harsh winter, but after careful consideration we’ve replaced them with two little apple trees, Grenadier for cooking and Fiesta for eating. It may be a few years until we get any apples from either of them, but in the mean time we’ve been baking pies and crumbles made with our own rhubarb, which is thriving in a partially shaded bed with the strawberries.

While we’ve had a fairly successful growing season so far, there have been a few failures as well, the birds devoured the spinach before we could pick any of it, and the cayenne pepper plant has only produced five little chilli peppers. I sometimes think it’s the risk of disappointment and failure that makes growing some of our own fruit and vegetables so rewarding.

This weekend we sowed swiss chard and kale seeds, which will hopefully give us some fresh greens through the autumn and winter months. Have a lovely week! X

An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

Sometimes it seems like our gardening to-do list is almost never ending as we slowly cultivate this space and bring our ideas to fruition, but the recent heatwave has given us an excuse to slow down and appreciate all the beauty of summer in our garden.

In retrospect, creating a flower border under the privet hedge was probably a mistake as the roots of the hedge stretch into the bed absorbing the nutrients and moisture from the soil, and the border is in full sun creating a challenging environment for anything we plant. There’s much more bare earth this summer than I’d like as some of the perennials we bought have struggled to establish themselves and I’ll probably have to move some of them elsewhere in autumn, but a few don’t seem to mind the conditions.

The Aquilegias were already flowering when we bought them, but the first of our own plants to burst into blossom was a little Sedum that my mum gave me from her garden, which is thriving in its new location.

Then all at once the annuals burst into flower – though just like last year, I’ve over-seeded the bed causing an unruly tangle of colour, and it seems like there’s something new to see every day as one flower fades and the petals of another start to unfurl. Have a lovely week! X

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

The weekend was spent celebrating my husband’s birthday, and as he doesn’t like too much fuss, we decided to have a little day away together; he suggested cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae, somewhere I’d never visited before.

We took the ferry from Largs to the Isle of Cumbrae, which runs every fifteen minutes during the summer, and the crossing itself only takes about ten minutes. From the ferry slip, we hopped on a bus to Millport, the only town on the island, where we hired a tandem bike for Ā£7 an hour and set off clockwise around the island.

I was a little apprehensive as my husband cycles to work most days and I can’t remember the last time I was on a bike, but it didn’t take us long to find our balance and a leisurely pace that suited us both. The road around Cumbrae is about 10 miles long and relatively flat making it ideal for walking or cycling, and there are very few cars on the road. It took us about two hours to cycle around the island, including stops to enjoy the scenery and a picnic lunch.

The Isle of Cumbrae doesn’t have many tourist attractions, yet it’s one of the most accessible Scottish islands to visit and it’s so peaceful that it feels further away than it actually is; we both enjoyed our little tandem adventure so much that I’ve no doubt that we’ll be back again. Have a lovely week. X