Saturday 28 December 2013

Cozy hot chocolate and cozy soil

Winter hue over the back garden

When I was a kid, I used to squat in the back garden, dig up soil and eat it. There is photographic evidence to prove it. Even in a suburban housing estate garden in a pretty dress, I was mucking up in the garden, getting delicious soil under my nails, smelling the chalky earthiness of the soil and delighting in the flowers and colours all around me.

That photo I'm talking about was taken when I was about two years old. Nearing twenty eight, I spent the day in the cold, in jeans and a pink hoodie , mucking about in the soil again. Icy cold hands, clay dipped nails and very probably smudges of winter soil across my face as I tried to keep my hair out of my eyes.

When I was a little girl, it was all about digging up the soil, making room, digging holes, moving muck from one tidy pile to another tidy pile, wheelbarrows and shovels. Things have changed. I have a lot more respect for the earth this time round. Ever since I was introduced to the no-dig idea and that worms are our friends, my outlook on soil, growing and weeding has been completely transformed.

No-dig is as straightforward as it sounds. The best of the soil is in the top layer. The better the soil, the better your veggies, fruits and herbs so it makes complete sense (to this adult version of the little girl) to look after it. Simply put, start following these steps and your garden will transform.
- Don't dig, let the worms do it for you.
- Worms are your friend, not foe. I'm going to write about them more on the blog but take some in
   your hand and realise they're not gross, they are the best little garden workers in the world
- Give your soil a rest-crop rotation and blankets in winter (more about this now)
Very happy, mulched raised beds

It's the strangest thing when you are used to maintaining a manicured lawn or seeing bare earth fields/raised beds in winter but covering over your soil in the winter months or when they are not being used as much in between crops is the best way to keep great soil. It literally, locks the nutrients into the soil and makes a cozy little space for your worms to do their hard work, breaking down the soil.

Sage, still growing

I spent two hours hoeing the weeds that had accumulated (due to neglect on my end) and collecting leaves that had gathered around the garden and outside the front of the house and simply layering it over the soil.

The leaves, dampened with the rain and with the help of the worms, turn into nutrient, carbon rich superfood or the top layer of your soil, making it easier to work with in spring and highly nutritious for your plants.

Best part? When Spring comes-NO WEEDING! The blanket of leaves acts as a barrier, stopping weeds from growing. It also protects the soil and roots from frost. An hour and a half of your life makes your whole year of planting and growing easier.

My little helper, even in winter

Now for the food.
What could be better after being out in the cold than hot chocolate?
I'm not talking about the sugar fuelled brown much you get in the supermarket. I'm talking delicious thick, cinnamon infused dark chocolate.

My sister and her boyfriend came over to say hello and were looking a bit fed up with the stormy weather we've had lately so I made this beauty:


1 cup of milk (regular/almond/rice) per person
1 large bar dark 70% + chocolate (100 grams or 150 grams if you're looking for your chocolate fix)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp. honey (or other sweetener such as acacia)

Optional marshmallows (they went for these straight away "because if you can't do it at Christmas when can you?")

Measure 1 cup of milk per person (I made 3 portions) and pour into saucepan with cinnamon stick
Grate the bar of chocolate into the milk and stir with whisk
Bring to a simmer and when  milk is heated through, add honey
Allow to bubble slightly so the milk froths
Put your marshmallows into hand warming mugs and pour hot chocolate over
Sip/Gulp/Devour your hot chocolate but make sure to enjoy every drop, right down to your toes.

Have a look out the window and look at your handy work.
Just in case you thought nothing grows in winter... :)

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