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Custom Folkestone, East Yard, Folkestone Harbour Arm CT20 1QH | hello@customfolkestone.co.uk

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Don‘t try to work, don’t try to home-school, don’t try a new recipe, don’t garden, definitely don’t write a blog. Just lie down on the sofa (or in my case, my mum’s lovely floral number). Tomorrow is another day.

#giveyourselfabreak #mentalhealthmatters #sofaday #anxietyisnormal


https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/coronavirus-covid-19-anxiety-tips/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwybD0BRDyARIsACyS8msGOI5gjJPqHOAngB_gE47QaCbttin3ZY8j7iJOl2k03e8MwcjLLZgaAkLVEALw_wcB





In my first post on this blog, I shared this article about how soil works like anti-depressants - it's real science folks, the internet says so. I suspect it is true, however - how else could I have spent an hour and a half yesterday digging a small ditch about 2ft long, 1.5ft wide and less than 1ft deep and come away happy?


Yes, there was an element of disappointment when I discovered that the area of scrub land at the back of the studio that I have earmarked for a forest garden is about 95% compacted builders rubble... but I persevered and hacked away at the lumps of brick, flint and broken tiles until i had just enough space to plant my rather sad looking rosemary bush. I even sieved through the rubble with my hands to rescue the small amount of soil amongst it and dug that back in to the hole with a load of compost. A bit of a rethink is probably necessary now if I am going to be able to get a garden going any time before summer, but what a buzz nonetheless just to get started.


We're so lucky to have outdoor space - even if it is a pile of rubble - but even if you don't have it, you can still get a bit of soil under your fingernails. Don't buy herbs from the supermarket, buy some seeds and plant up your own, then you can make my dish "across chalk grasslands: wild herbs grow and birds’ eggs nestle" which I created for "A Meal over 6 Landscapes" at Delfina Foundation last November (see recipe below). You can plant seeds in just about anything. If you're going to move the seedlings outside eventually, you can even make 'pots' out of newspaper tied with string and plant the whole thing out. If you don't have a garden, try growing thyme, chives and oregano in an old pan on the kitchen table, plant basil and coriander in a loaf tin on a sunny window ledge. Plant up a big pot of mint at your front door and grow chillies in a tea pot in the living room. All you need is drainage (smash that mug you always hated and put the bits in the bottom of your planter), compost, seeds and a good memory or alarm on your phone for watering. Use your bokashi 'tea' as plant feed and stick your finger in the soil occasionally to check it isn't too wet or too dry - it's good for you, remember?





Across chalk grasslands: wild herbs grow and birds’ eggs nestle

from "A Meal over 6 Landscapes" at Delfina Foundation


This dish was part of a narrative meal, a sort of love story for the landscapes of Folkestone.


Ingredients:

A selection of eggs, preferably bought from your neighbours - quail, chicken, guinea fowl, duck

All your favourite herbs - wild and homegrown. I used dandelion leaves, mustard leaf, mizuna, alexanders, chives, wild fennel tops, herb robert, mint, chickweed, garlic mustard - depending on the season

2 free-range egg yolks

1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard

500 ml good quality locally produced oil

1-2 tablespoons local cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon

sea salt


Method:

- Boil the selected eggs as you like them (I like the yolks to be very soft, so that's about 6 mins for hens' eggs, 1-2 mins for quails) and then plunge straight into cold water.

- Whilst they cool, make a mayonnaise by whisking the mustard into the egg yolks, then slowly adding the oil, whisking constantly. As it starts to get thick, loosen with the vinegar and then add the rest of the oil as before. Add half of the lemon juice and salt to taste. The mayo should be quite thin, almost pourable - if too thick, stir in the rest of the lemon juice.

- Chop half of the herbs quite finely and stir into the mayonnaise.

- Peel the shells off the eggs and arrange on a plate or board, drizzle with the mayo and scatter the rest of the herbs and salad leaves over the top.

- Serve at a communal table if you can.


Updated: 3 days ago


Helen and Mary in Custom Folkestone's Locavore Garden last year

The last thing I want is for this little series to become one of those aspirational things that makes people feel bad for not achieving enough, so for full disclosure I want you to know that:

a. I did not pickle that beetroot or make chutney specially for this blog, I made them months ago and am reviving them to give some ideas and inspiration and to make me look good.

b. I have never made Bokashi compost until 2 weeks ago and I got all the info off the internet.

c. I am about to preach to you about gardening, having had pretty limited success myself except when I had Custom's garden guru Gini by my side. However, I am genuinely mesmerised by the way the earth generates food for us and I am determined to develop the level of focus needed to create a proper garden. So in that spirit...


The joy of growing is in the eating - a salad made only from Locavore Garden produce


You might have a garden, a yard or a little patch of land, maybe a balcony or even just a windowsill, whatever it is I recommend growing something from scratch. Ideally grow something really easy that isn't going to disappoint you - unless you are already an expert. The point is to take something as tiny and inanimate as a seed, put it into a nourishing environment and watch as it transforms into something extraordinary. For every herb or vegetable you grow from scratch, you'll think completely differently about it when next you see it in a shop. Even cress in a jam jar on a bit of cotton wool will do - in a way it's the best, you can see the whole amazing process unobscured by soil. In fact you could probably get away with telling your friends you've started a hydroponic food growing system. They're in lockdown too, they'll never know.


I'm going whole hog. I've started planning a forest garden. Our new studio has amazing countryside around it and a small sliver of it is attached to the property. Joyfully, there is no fence or other physical boundary between that sliver and the woodland and stream beyond. This garden is an idea that has been brewing for a while. The artist Jorge Menna Barreto talked at our Mouthing Symposium at Custom Folkestone last year about agro-forestry in Brazil and it sparked in me a season of reading and learning about interdependent growing environments. Have a look at this video which explains the whys and wherefores of the forest garden concept very neatly. My little garden will be a very miniature version of this, but my hours trawling the internet assure me that you can even make a forest garden in pots on a balcony, so I'm going for it. If like me, you are taking this enforced gardening leave a little too seriously, then I really recommend this brilliant website which is where most of my current planting ideas have come from: Plants for a Future.





This is where I've got to so far. Tomorrow I'm going to a bit of investigative digging - until the last few days, the ground has been far too wet to work with, but I'm going to start germinating seeds on window ledges this week and I'm hopeful that by the time my first batch of bokashi is ready, I'll be able to dig it in to start enriching the soil!




LAB NOTES

daily ideas and musings on how to cook and eat in ways that support the planet and the community