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Archive for the ‘Life issues’ Category

Home-made yoghurt

We’ve started making our own yoghurt again.  I’d forgotten how EASY it is to make, although previously it used to share the airing cupboard with the cats until they worked out how to get the cover off the pot.  This time around we are avoiding such problems.  Lakeland on George Street in Edinburgh have furnished us with a basic yoghurt heating machine, and all you do is scoop a couple of dessert spoons of good natural live yoghurt into the container, boil up full fat milk and let it cool to just under 50C, then add that to the yoghurt mixing very gently (do not whisk or beat!) and switch on the machine for 8 hours or so.  Really very good.  Use the last of that batch to make the new batch.

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Herbal courses

I’ve been seduced by the wonderful herbology courses run by the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh – since January I have spent Thursday evenings studying ‘Medicine from Trees’ or ‘Herbs of the Highlands’, and making remarkably potent (and sometimes bizarre) remedies, lotions and potions after picking the herbs themselves from the Botanic Gardens here in Edinburgh.

This September I have signed up for ‘Herbs for Healing’, in which we make MORE herbal remedies and – this is very, very exciting – ‘compile an individual herbarium of medicinal plant specimens’.  Oh my word.  Who would have thought that this could provide so much fun!  Then I’ve shifted my clinic times – must be serious! – to allow me to attend an afternoon course at the RGBE ‘The Art of Herbs’, exploring connections between art forms and medicinal herbs, physic gardens and herbaria.  We shall be making our own artefacts and getting to know plants and herbs in yet another non-academic way.  Even though I love deepening my knowledge about herbs, I’m looking forward to something entirely non-academic.

I have set myself up for all this by becoming entranced by Stephen Harrod Buhner’s erudite yet practical books on our relationship with the plant world, and David Abram’s philosophical works on healing our disconnection from the natural world.  Both seek to shift our perception of the world from that of regarding nature – or anything non-human – as there to be exploited, to seeing ourselves as part of a symbiotic whole with the rest of the natural world.  Ecology for individuals.  Stephen Harrod Buhner is also an excellent herbalist and writes on such subjects as making healing herbal beers and herbal antibiotics to take the place of  Western medical antibiotics where they  so obviously fail – for example in cases of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains.

Some of my favourite Stephen Harrod Buhner books:

The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in Direct Perception of Nature

The Lost Language of Plants: The Ecological Importance of Plant Medicines to Life on Earth

Herbal Antibiotics

David Abram’s two spellbinding works:

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (Vintage)

Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (Vintage)

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Everywhere I look our green spaces are sprouting a banquet of wonderful herbal spring tonics.  Just around the corner from us, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh has a thankfully haphazardly maintained area of grass and bushes and just passing by on the way into the city I see in one glorious clump nettles, dandylion, chickweed, ground ivy and plantain.  This is a wonderful time of year for dandylion tincture, made from the roots, leaves and flowers of dandylion.  this mixture helps with liver and kidney function, strengthening and increasing their function, thereby acting as a cleansing force.  The leaves are a potent diuretic but contain enormous amounts of potassium, something that over-the-counter diuretics strip the body of.  No need to supplement here.  The roots are a very gentle laxative.  Fortunately we have dandylions growing by the dozen in our garden 🙂

Our beautiful communal gardens are very tidily maintained, but every now and again there is a rebel outbreak of chickweed, and I head for the gates with bags and scissors to snip up a harvest before the gardeners arrive.  Chop this up very fine, pack it into a jar and cover with cider vinegar.  Then tip the whole thing out into a bowl and whizz it up with a hand held food processor to make finest quality chickweed vinegar.  Left for a few days it will turn from dark green to light, light moss green and is fabulous in baths for hot, itchy, drying skins, arthritis or general aches and pains.

Last year’s Plantain tincture is still going strong, but I am thinking of harvesting some more for this year’s supply.  Back up to Arthur’s Seat for the best windswept plants.

Lemon Balm calls from the garden pots – seems to be doing incredibly well at the moment – but last night I made Calendula and Lavender lotion from Calendula infused oil, Calendula infused water and a few drops of Lavender essential oil at the end.  This was supposed to be cream, but I underdid the beeswax component.  In fact I completely forgot the beeswax until it became clear that the mixture was not going to thicken any more… then I reheated the mixture and added beeswax at the same temperature and all was well 🙂  it is now the ideal consistency for a massage oil.  Happy conincidence as it’s Joolz’ Birthday tomorrow 🙂

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Frogging and reknitting

I’ve started a version of Shaelyn – gold stocking stitch with various lemon yellows for the lace parts.  Then I added a longer lace insert, knitted several more pattern repeats and cast off.  Two weeks later, I realised that the reason I hadn’t blocked the shawl was because I didn’t like the longer lace repeat.  Off to the frog pond!

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Settling in with the cats

So pleased to say… the cats seem to be enjoying themselves.  There is deep purring all round and enough sofas to satisfy most demands.  Also some very high cupboards in the kitchen onto which there is access via the mantelpiece from the back of a dining chair.  Very satisfying 🙂

The journey up from the South with Mike and Emma was fairly uneventful, but their (the cats’) parting shot was to catch a pheasant the night before – well done girls!!! – and Phoebe kung foo kicked her way out of her cat box in the car on the way to the station.  I would have had someone sit with them to calm them, but this obviously wasn’t an option.  Anyway, they caught her and she arrived at King’s Cross very cross but otherwise well.  They then had to wait an hour and a half with us for the train to Edinburgh, and then spent nigh on five hours on the train itself.  Cleo had her nose stroked until she was comatose and slept all the way, and I held Phoebe’s paw.  She managed almost all the way and had a little panic / strop in the last twenty minutes.  Enormous joy when they got to the flat and could explore.

We kept them in the playroom for the first couple of nights (until I was sure they knew exactly where the litter tray was!) and now they are free ranging everywhere night and day.  They haven’t tried to get out yet – well, the weather is wet and cold – and seem very happy.  None of the yowling that was driving Mike and Emma mad, just a lot of purring.  Phoebe has recovered her ability to do somersaults and was entertaining Joolz with them last night 🙂

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Bringing the cats home

Joolz and I are off to London to pick up Phoebe and Cleo.  My ex-husband no longer wants them, so although they will miss the countryside, they are much better off where they will be loved and cherished, in the way those with an oriental feline persuasion like best.  We are working on Monday until mid-afternoon in London, then we’ll meet the cats (in their travel boxes, and accompanied by ex-husband) at King’s Cross for the 6pm train up to Edinburgh.  I’ve been informed that they are in very good voice, so the journey should be interesting 🙂  We have invested heavily in cat nip.

We are SOOOOO looking forward to having them with us, and despite my not having lived with them for over 18 months now, I’m hoping they’ll settle in fairly swiftly – the first week or so just in the flat, then we will have had cat flaps installed so they can make their first tentative steps out into the great beyond of masses and masses of back gardens back to back – two crescents effectively, all with small walled gardens.  They will encounter more cats than they have ever met before and absolutely no deer or badgers, but probably the odd fox here and there.  We shall endeavour to keep them away from the road at the front for as long as possible.  They haven’t seen 5 storey buildings yet, but I’ll wager Phoebe will give it a go.

Goodness knows how they will respond to a highly restricted outdoors playground in terms of space… but more interest per square inch than they have ever dreamed of.  At least they will be allowed in the house at night, which should probably go down very well.  We are thinking warm, soft, radiators, sofas, beds, airing cupboards, that sort of thing.  In fact I shall be encouraging them to lounge around in the flat as much as possible.  In terms of inside interest, I think the rope bannisters up the stairs will provide good climbing facilities, and the flat lends itself nicely to being developed as a race course 🙂

In the meantime we are sitting on the train on our way down to London, and I am revelling in the ability to mess around with my laptop, check out ravelry, and get some knitting in at the same time, all of which is impossible when flying.  It does bump around, though!

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Cats

My cats, Phoebe in the picture above, and Cleo, her sister, will be joining us in Edinburgh on February 1st.  My lovely ex-husband is not prepared to keep them and so they will have to get used to city living!!!  We have a small back garden which backs on to masses of other small back gardens… so they will have to work out their new territory.  Hopefully without too much ado.  There are also very large gated communal gardens for the crescent, but they will have to cross a road for those and I am reluctant to let them do that.

The flat, however, is rather more fun for cats than the house they are coming from.  It sports a very inviting, enormously thick rope as a banister along the wall down the stone stairway from ground to garden floor, so I expect they will have fun chasing each other at speed along it upside down.  They will also be able to hurl themselves off the iron banisters from the top hall down to the bottom hall.  Then there are the very high ceilings and equally high shutters inviting a climb and a rest atop to enjoy the view – bliss for orientals!  Raw mince and the promise of plentiful Edinburgh mice may well help too.

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