101 - BTS - Inspired by Two Fields

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Last September we had the pleasure of stumbling across Two Fields at The Good Life Experience (all our best finds are there pretty much). Two brothers, two fields, the best olive oil you've ever tasted.

We had the joy of meeting Will (one half of the Two Fields brothers) at a Hawarden Estate event again just prior to "lockdown" this year. I can't remember exactly how it came to be but shortly after Will very kindly sent us a tester of some new products - sea salt and oregano.
Now, I'll admit, this doesn't sound very exciting but goodness, it's magic.

"We hand collect our sea salt from the rocks of Kato Zakros. The waves crash into the rock pools where the sea water naturally dries in the sun, leaving beautiful white salt flakes. We forage our Wild Oregano in the Dead Gorge during spring. The buds are carefully trimmed and air dried."

These simple findings transform even the most mundane of meals into a feast.

I had been wanting to send something to Will, a little thanks befitting the beautiful gift that had been given to us. On surfacing from a fairly dense Covid times fog I came up with a fresh take on an old classic botanical illustration (my Botanical Garden range features similarly styled items) of a European Olive.

It perhaps sounds a little narcissistic to say, but I love it. Too much to let his be the only copy in existence and so decided to launch it as the latest addition to my existing range. A happy chance would have it that Will and Harry had been thinking about cards to include in their Christmas gift sets and so a debut edition, specially sized version of the card will launch as a part of their offering.

You'll have to wait a little longer for other new additions to the botanical range to launch (there are a few other new botanicals coming soon), but you can get your hands on an Olea Europaea card as part of a Two Fields Christmas gift set which are available to order now.

There are three gift options and I'll be treating myself to a Limited Edition Gift Set which includes a bottle of oil, salt and oregano. One of my most simple lunch time pleasures is a Dark Woods coffee (local to us and the tastiest coffee ever), some freshly baked bread (sourdough of course, sourdough everything in our house these days since I FINALLY mastered baking bread) with a small pool of Two Fields oil and a little salt to dip into. Day or two old bread calls for scrambled eggs on toast with a sprinkling of oregano and the smallest pinch of salt.

I could honestly go on for years about simple lunches and suppers (I'm thinking of launching a simple supper series on Instagram or over here but that's for another day), but recommend you see the power of simple flavours crafted beautifully for yourself.

100 - Lessons learnt from a curious and sometimes over enthusiastic amateur gardener/produce grower.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Early last year we found ourselves with our outdoors ambitions flying beyond our 4m x 4m patch of garden (living in a mill village in Yorkshire we're pretty luck to have even that).

We wanted to grow our own food, to make a meadow to replace a small patch of those that have been lost in recent years, to grow some trees and to spend more time outdoors with our children.

Through a steady mix of good fortune and persistence we happened upon a rental - 0.1 of an acre. Doesn't sound like much does it? "We'll tame it in no time" we thought. Boy were we in for a surprise.

I think we could be there all day every day and still not re-claim it from the nettle infested compost bin that has overflowed and been straying steadily into the garden like a green stinging estuary, a result of recent years of neglect.

These are some of the things that we have learnt over the past year of trying to grow food and tame our own patch of wild...

1) Don't get too enthusiastic about sowing lots of seeds (too) early in the season. You quickly end up over run with plant babies that are hungry for more space and to set their roots down and will either fall prey to a late cold spell (snow in May anyone) or an unmanageable indoor situation with plants keeling over from lack of space or thirst from neglect.

2) Whilst coffee grounds are a good slug repellent it turns out that too much can make the soil acidic and stop things growing as well as they should (lesson learnt).

3) Learn your local planting and productive seasons. We watch on with envy as people get their elderflower harvests a clear month before us in some parts. Then with glee as our plants are still putting out food long after most other's in the UK's seasons have ended. Whilst most planting instructions state July as the latest sowing time for many seeds, our season usually runs later than most and so I've just fairly recently planted out round two in hope that we might get some latecomers. It's an experiment and worth a go.

4) Ask for help. Even the most introverted of folk will share garden tips with you over the fence.

5) Observe. We thought our old garden / allotment neighbour Keith was a bit bonkers for being on his hands and knees pulling up every single last weed as soon as growing season began. Guess who could focus on their foodie plants and watch them thrive and who was still pulling weeds come July last year! Keith died earlier this year sadly, but I will always think of him as I'm uprooting buttercups.

6) Observe. Yup, same as five, except instead of watching how others treat their plants and gardens, watch for the signs that the plants themselves give. It sounds a bit woo-woo (or whatever you would say) to be in tune with the land, but it really does make a difference. There's also a gentle feeling of empowerment to be gained from it too.

7) The birds will eat every last one of your strawberries if you leave them unguarded. Like it is their earth given payment for ridding you of slugs and having allowed the strawberries to get so big. We didn't get to taste a single strawberry last year.

8) Carrot fly is a very real thing. Last year I planted a stack of seeds in the house because I got a case of number 1 (over enthusiastic seed sowing) and we planted them out with excitement. On telling our parents what we'd done we were met with a sharp intake of breath and "ooooh, aren't you worried about carrot fly?". Carrot fly. Pah! Who heard of such a thing. Not us for certain. We pulled our carrots after a season of nurturing to find that they were indeed infested with the little blighters. The tops were untouched tho and dried for later use as a herb.

9) You've put your energy into growing it, make use of every last bit that you can. Pesto, herbs, ice cubes, preserves, teas, cordials - it is surprising what you can often do with the parts of a plant left over after eating the perceivably edible bit. Make sure with every plant and variety that they are safe to eat though, some are poisonous (rhubarb - stems good, leaves bad for example). has a good guide to garden edibles.

- Being deadly serious about the safety aspect of this one and because we have to say - you accept any risk as being entirely your own.

10) Skinny rhubarb means an undernourished plant we found. FEED YOUR PLANTS! We have taken to brewing a particularly foul smelling nettle brew for ours. There are all sorts of home put together alternatives to shop bought feeds if you worry about chemicals.

I was going to go for a nice round 10, but...

11) Soil is key. Don't stint on the good stuff. To invest in your soil is to invest in the growth of your plants. No good will come from undernourished soil.

12) Don't give up. There are no failures, just lessons to learn and things to experiment with. Keep a journal of what works and what doesn't to save you repeating the same mistakes twice!

I use Instagram for lots of gardening inspo as it's quite a good seasonal helper. Here are some great accounts by people we are constantly inspired by (and sometimes a bit envious of) for their amazing gardens, initiatives, veg patches and green fingers...

@lobsterandswan   @ourtwoacres   @heather.birnie   @alysf   @twofieldszakros  @noughticulture  @anjadunk  @higgledygarden  @xanthegladstone  @the_farm_camp  @gracealexanderflowers  @theethicurean  @dawnyowl  @beyondthefivebargate  @theallotmentflorist  @localplantlady  @theallotmen  @cedarmagazine  @hawardenestateexperience  @thepreservejournal  @quarantine___cookbook  @wilder.botanics  @farmstofeedus  @saturdaykitchenproject   @hackneyherbal @theolivetreesandthemoon

This year our seeds and compost came from Tamar Organics - not sponsored, we were just really impressed with them.

If you have any tips or inspiration you'd like to share, pop them in the comments, we'd love to hear from you.

99 - BTS (Behind The Stationery) - The Jackson

Saturday, May 30, 2020

As a teenager I was fascinated with abstract art (and surrealism and anything else that was non-conformist - teenagers are great like that aren't they?) and truly in love with the work of Jackson Pollock.

The kinetic freedom of it, the perceivable tightly measured passion. Where some see splats and dribbles, I saw magic. I set about reflecting the spirit of Pollock's work on my phone. Literally (that phone didn't even store phone numbers let alone have the capacity to create something on it!). To me it was a daily reminder to seek freedom, passion and to be bold.

That love has never gone away. At times buried by new finds or inspiration drawn from life, but like the warmth of putting on a cosy jumper as the sun drops and the air cools, the work of Pollock calls again. An antidote to wholly computer based design, a small slice of freedom in the lockdown times of Coronavirus. And so, The Jackson was created.

Available in two colour ways. Summer / Autumn is a mix of hot pink and vibrant orange (because nothing says warm times more than those colours, right?) and Winter / Spring (seen above) is a mix of a deep forest vert and a vibrant fluro green that is reminiscent of fresh Spring growth on pine trees. Each and every card hand painted and one of a kind. There is a third choice too, a wild card if you like. The Naked Jackson.

I should have probably gone with something more refined like "The Jackson Canvas" but the chosen title feels a bit more alluring. I want you to be seduced by the simplicity of it. Then I want you to experiment and let your inner Jackson loose. No paints? No problem. Coffee or tea will work just as well. Really. It's a thing. Coffee painting. Look it up. Or look below for a little experiment in Pollock inspired coffee painting.

Cards available here. Coffee not included.

Jackson Pollock images from Encyclopædia Britannica: (jp)

98 - A found Summer

Succulents thriving outdoors. Winding cobbled streets, ice creams that are stolen by seagulls. Glasshouses that are "saved" for the obligatory rainy day. Summer time.

Whilst updating the site and journal I found this unpublished post from a couple of years ago and it is a treat to feel the essence of travel in these lockdown times. I'm so excited to extend our journey distance beyond a 5 mile radius of being again!

97 - Glorious Gorse

Thursday, April 19, 2018

It has felt like the longest of winters this year. Trees stripped bare for what seems like an eternity, the moors turned to that golden brown that signifies a lack of anything much going on for an epic amount of time (I'm talking fairytale princess nap length of time). The first signs of new growth and spring, even just a flicker of that squishy kind of fresh green, feel like oxygen to my soul.

When we were walking recently we stumbled upon an area covered in gorse. All those yellow flowers felt like an explosion of life, the beginnings of a Jackson Pollock on a blank canvas. I've since found that it flowers all year round (particularly prevalent from around January to June in the most common variety) but I'm not going to let that spoil my delight.

Seeing the abundance of flowers turned my thought to picking and preserving (have you clapped eyes on DO Preserve yet? It's full of simple but good recipes, we use ours A LOT - you can buy it here) and I remembered having seen a recipe for gorse cordial some time last year. I didn't pick any flowers to try it out this time as we were away from home for a few days and I didn't think the flowers would keep but here is that recipe, both for safe keeping for me and for you to have a go...


As many gorse petals as you can pick! Ideally, at least a litre jugful.



Juice & zest of two oranges


Pick the gorse flowers on a dry sunny day, ideally when you can smell the coconut fragrance as this will give a more flavoursome cordial.

Put the blossoms in a pan and cover with boiling water. You want to add just enough water to submerge the flowers. Leave to steep overnight.

Strain through a jelly bag or piece of muslin. Add the zest and juice from the oranges.

Measure out the liquid and pour back into the pan.

Add 700g of sugar per litre of liquid and heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Pour into hot sterilised bottles if you want to keep it for a few months, otherwise bottle into clean containers and keep in the fridge.

Recipe found at the Fforest site here. A side note - I found a different recipe that substituted one of the oranges for a lemon, perhaps give both versions a go.

We'll be trying it out as soon as we can. We'd love to see the results of your efforts, you can post on our new community board here or tag us on social media (@alfiesstudio).

Heres to many months of happy foraging, finding and preserving and hoping the birds don't eat everything in our strawberry patch this year!

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