Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Sturminster Mill

When the sun is out, there’s nothing quite like a waterside setting to make you feel relaxed and on holiday. We toyed with the idea of loading up the little old car ‘Rusty’ and heading on down to the coast, with the nervous anticipation of whether or not we would actually make it up the steep cliffs and safely into the carpark.

It then occurred to us that we had a watery view that was so much closer and so much less likely to cause us to have to phone the RAC before the day was out…

…and that settled it… we decided upon taking a trip to Sturminster Mill.

view through trees Sturminster Mill Dorset 142kB

… view through the ivy …

There is a great mix of things to do at Sturminster Mill.  At certain times, the mill is open for you to explore the working machinery and even buy flour, there are peaceful places to sit and just watch the river and its goings on  and then there is the ‘dice with death’ bridge (or so I have now named it).

The mill wasn’t open when we arrived, but you can find more information on opening times and special events at the Sturminster Newton Museum and Mill Society website, here. I believe there is even a cream tea afternoon coming up soon!

Sturminster Newton Mill Dorset 137kB

… Sturminster Mill …

We would have to come back another day to get the full guided tour, but on this trip, we were happy enough to walk around the various paths and sit for a few moments on the benches, which gave a great view over the river.

River Stour at Sturminster Newton 171kB

… the River Stour, calm and peaceful …

Mr D-F wandered off at one point and I had felt certain that he was floating his way down to Durweston. However, I finally caught sight of him on the other side of a small bridge. Yes the ‘dice with death’ bridge. Although perfectly safe, I’m sure, the bridge resembled (in my terrified mind) lots of small twigs that had been stuck together with prit stick. In order to reach Mr D-F, I had to go over the bridge… and what’s more, it traversed the scariest part of the river by the mill. The bit where it went all fast and churny and white.

The calm, very grown-up walkers were surprised to see a fully grown adult lady squeal with fear crossing this bridge and I’m sure raised their eyebrows when they saw her having to come back over the bridge, squealing once more.

However, I lived to tell the tale and it was enormous fun to stand above the very fast-flowing, angry-looking water and I felt proud of myself for being so… umm… brave.

swimming prohibited sign 164kB

… yes – you wouldn’t get me near that scary water in my swimmers …

Sturminster Mill provided a great morning out, especially with the sun shining.  I would highly recommend it as a place on your sight-seeing list.

Would you dare to cross the bridge?!

Have a great weekend x

Houseplant Focus | Gerbera

Unless you have had a bit of experience, are particularly green-fingered or have a very relaxed attitude, choosing a houseplant for a particular situation in the home can seem like a daunting task.

‘Will it get enough light?’ ‘Do I have to care for it a lot?’ ‘Will it actually do something?’

These are questions I often get posed when being asked to recommend a houseplant for someone.

Today I thought I’d focus on the Gerbera. I was given one for my birthday last month and while I have had lots of experience using them in floristry, as cut flowers, I have never had to care for one as a houseplant before…

…and boy, is it a great little plant!

houseplant gerbera yellow flowers 81kB

In the time that I’ve had this houseplant, it has had at least six blooms and there are lots more on the way. These are the conditions that I have kept it in:

  • On a window ledge facing East
  • Watering every three days (or when the greenery starts to droop – this is very obvious and easy to spot)
  • Cutting back the flower heads as they begin to fade
  • I plan to feed it with a small amount of houseplant fertiliser once a month (affiliate link)

young gerbera flowers 124kB

It’s also a good idea to allow air to circulate around the leaves so that it discourages any mould or disease. When I spot any old leaves turning brown (usually right down at the soil level) I take these out and put them in the compost. Decaying old leaves are always a great place for mould and bacteria to start a party.

yellow gerbera flowers 73 kB

I have been so impressed with this little ray of sunshine and in my opinion, the Gerbera gets a great big thumbs up for being a cheerful and hassle-free houseplant.

To summarise my findings:

  • Easy to care for – not a fussy plant!
  • Needs regular watering but gives clear signals when this is needed
  • Produces lots of flowers and interest
  • Non toxic to cats and dogs – hurrah!

Will you find a place on your sill for a Gerbera? Or perhaps you have something even more exciting? Do tell…

Have a great day x

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Working Glass Jewellery

I know I get to have lots of treats and fun times being the author of The Dorset Finca, but this was an especially fantastic treat! This week, I was welcomed into the studio of Nina Parker who is the creative genius behind Working Glass Jewellery.

Not only was I supplied with a cup of tea (always a winner) but my morning with Nina combined my favourite things on the earth… beautiful jewellery, delicious food and the most adorable dog ever.

nina parker dorset jewellery work station 103kB

… a scattering of glittery treasure in the studio …

I have long been an admirer of Nina’s creations and on many occasions, Mr D-F has been sent off, pre-birthday or Christmas, to one of Nina’s many local stockists with a picture of a necklace or bracelet that I really would like and would change my life so much if only I could have that piece of joy adorning my person!

So on the morning of my visit, while I was entertained with tea and cheese scones (which were AMAZING), we chatted about how Nina first started designing and creating jewellery.  I was amazed to hear about her diverse past, including the fascinating work that she undertook when she worked as a cartographer. After hearing that she produced plans for the British Museum, Natural History Museum and the Brighton Pavillion, amongst others, it was clear to see that she has a clear artistic streak and incredible eye for detail.

After re-discovering her grandmother’s button box and being captivated by the different shapes and colours, Nina took an opportunity to steer her creative talent in another direction.  What I especially love about the story she told me, was that it only took a few people to comment on some of her earliest pieces, before her jewellery was asked to be featured in local gallery exhibitions where it became an instant success!

nina parker spring necklace 90kB

 … necklace ~ part of Nina’s new springtime range …

You can’t help but be captured by the quality of the colour produced by the carefully-sourced glass beads. Each piece of jewellery is original, unique and Nina’s designs reflect the changing seasons. They are classically timeless and I could happily wear every one!

working glass jewellery by nina parker 90kB

 … I love the hints of deep jewel tones in these bracelets …

Not only are Nina’s pieces on sale in a wide range of galleries from the Isle of Wight to Lancashire but she also has designed a stunning website.  The site explains a little more about Nina’s journey to discover her love for jewellery and also hosts her popular online shop.  Many of the items displayed are different to those available at stockists and are perfect for those of us a little too far away from civilisation to go out shopping often.

I really recommend having a look – mainly because the site is so pretty! (I promise I’m not getting a commission)!

Although my eyes were permanently being distracted by pretty bird earrings or jewel-toned necklaces, trays of beads or silver findings, there was another major pull for my attention.  Maisie, the studio Cocker Spaniel, is already quite a famous Dorset dog.  Not only does she have eyes that will melt even the most ice-pick of hearts, she has her own Twitter account! Her online bio states that she is the studio manager and by the way that she captivated our attention – I can well believe it!

Maisie cocker spaniel

 … Maisie the Cocker Spaniel …

 The exceptional quality of Nina’s designs has spread quickly through social media and via word of mouth. If you would like, you can check out her Facebook page here and her Twitter page here.

I have my eye on a pretty silver chain with a little flower (are you reading Mr D-F? Don’t worry, I’ll show you which one I mean later)! 

Which one will be your favourite I wonder? Have a great day x

Spring Garden Update | Going Green!

It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were all wistfully looking at the snowdrops and daffodils, imagining what spring would actually be like when it finally arrived.  Well the last few weeks have been more resemblant of early summer, here in Dorset, rather than spring… but as the sun is shining and the weather is warm I think we’ll happily take it – right?!

This flurry of warmth has given the garden a bit of an adrenaline  boost and has encouraged even the sleepiest of plants to begin to unfurl leaves.

clematis montana flower buds 92kB

The Clematis montana (I think I have the Elizabeth variety) is covered in buds and should be in full flower within a week or two. It creates the most spectacular waterfall of light, dusky-pink flowers, which then gives way to a green-bronze foliage that remains late into the Autumn.  It is a highly rampant grower – perfect for growing over walls, through trees and covering up unsightly bits. Ours is currently growing along the fence and will need a trim after it has flowered, otherwise the hens may end up having their house resembling a jungle.

Hydrangea Annabel early leaves 146kB

Although I was a little worried about the enormous prune I gave the hydrangeas at the end of last year, it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm and their fresh, green leaves are appearing all over the garden. This variety (Annabelle) will end up producing beautiful pale green, almost white, mop head flowers. It’s one of my favourites!

Echeveria flower stalks 93kB

Inside the house, some of the echeveria succulents are producing multiple flower stalks. The sight of this growth reassures me that I have managed to create conditions for them that they like. I breathe a sigh of relief… there’s nothing more soul destroying than an unhappy plant!

I’m off tomorrow for an exciting journey to meet a very talented local lady… which I’m really excited about sharing with you on Sunday (there’ll be lots of gorgeous pictures).

Have a terrific day x

What’s happening in your garden? Have you had any surprises?

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Culpepper’s Dish

This delicious little Dorset morsel was recommended to me a few weeks ago by a friend. Even the name ‘Culpepper’s Dish’ sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

The dish is located just outside the village of Briantspuddle, which is easily found off the dual carriage way leading into Dorchester.

Those of you who (like me) enjoy information concerning the whole car parking situation, will be pleased to know that there is ample free parking just across the lane from the dish. The only thing that you need to be a little bit conscious of, are the two giant boulders that stand, like sentries, either side the entrance. Access to the car park can solely be gained through this narrow squeeze, so it’s best to leave the bus behind and come in a reasonably slim vehicle!

Culpeppers Dish Dorset

 … the view looking down into the dish …

I was quite staggered at how beautiful this hollow is, with the greenery of the trees providing a frame. It looked almost like a scene from the Jurassic era, all primeval and untouched. According to information from the waymarking.com website, this natural hollow is 290 yards round and 47 yards high (approximately 265m x 43m) and is classed as an SSI or Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It is named after the famous herbalist Nicholas Culpeper due to its resemblance of a large pestle and mortar. There is a particularly interesting website explaining a little more about the site and its connections to Culpepper, here.

overhanging branches at Culpeppers Dish Dorset

… long tree branches reaching down, like arms, into the bowl …

As it’s still early spring, we were able to see a good mixture of evergreen trees and new deciduous shoots appearing. We didn’t venture down into the bottom of the dish (although there is a path) as it looked very steep.  Instead, we happily pottered around at the top and enjoyed the view looking down.

new shoots

 … new emerging shoots …

I would definitely recommend having a little mosey on down to this spectacular site. A perfect place to take friends or the dog for a walk and there are lots of adjoining footpaths. The only thing I would mention is that this is good deer tick country, so a firm pair of boots and long trousers are a sensible plan.  In fact, as we were walking back to the car, I had to pick a couple of my trousers – luckily, I think that’s as far as they got. Phew!

Enjoy your weekend x

The Secret to Successfully Growing Supermarket Basil

Ok, so the warm weather arrived this week and if you’re anything like me, you had a vision of mediterranean salads with fresh herbs and large dollops of cool mozzarella. In the excitement, you may have bought fresh pots of herbs from the supermarket to line your kitchen windowsill and stood back to bask in the loveliness.

“Look at this, this is the good life,” you may have thought to yourself.

…and then a week later, the herbs look a little worse-for-wear despite your best attempts at caring for them. Then the realisation sinks in and you remember why you only bought them once last year too.

However, this can change! You can have the dream of fresh herbs in your kitchen to pick at will and add to your spaghetti bolognese or to garnish your soups with flair.

supermarket basil repotted in dip dye pot

The first thing to do when you get home with your new herbs is to repot them straight away. Choose a pot that is at least 3cm bigger in diameter. Fill it with lovely, nutritious compost before taking your herb plant out of the supermarket pot and re-potting it into your chosen vessel. I like to choose really pretty ceramic pots for this purpose, either ones that I have bought or those that I have painted myself. The picture above shows my newest basil plant in a plain terracotta pot that I painted in two colours to give a dip-dye effect. More pictures and a very simple DIY post can be found here.

Give your newly planted herbs a good watering before placing them in your chosen location. They seem to do well near a window with good, but not harsh, light.

repotted supermarket basil

In order to keep your herbs in tip-top condition, continue to pick leaves off to encourage new growth (although take care not to reduce your plant to mere stalks – it needs leaves to survive)! You could also consider giving the plants the occasional feed with a liquid fertiliser such as this one (affiliate link).

In these new conditions and if repotted when they have noticeably outgrown their original pot, the herbs should last a long time. In the case of basil, the green spindly stems will start to get woody and hard (a healthy sign) and you will have a constant supply throughout the summer season.

Hurrah that we can enjoy the good life!

Have a great day x

Happy Easter!

 

Easter sparrow

… lone sparrow …

A huge and chocolate-filled Happy Easter to you! I hope you have a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re up to. For us, it’s a great opportunity to mend the roof (yes, really) and start on a new garden project.  Fingers crossed that the weather will be a little calmer than it has been over the last few days.

The Dorset’s Delicious Bits series will be back next weekend and there are also a couple of very exciting things in the pipeline, which include a new series of posts, some wonderful collaborations and a wild-card surprise!! Are you intrigued??!!

So, for the mean time, here are some photos of Easter at The Dorset Finca.

Pair of sparrows

… oh wait, here’s his lady-friend …

Lambs

… the lambs and their mummy-sheep in the field behind the Finca …

Here’s to a fantastic spring!  Have a wonderful day x

 

Easy Easter DIY | Pom Pom Willow

Pom pom willow

I’ll tell you how this post came about, as it wasn’t planned at all… but I’m so pleased that it materialised in my head because it has really given the Finca a much-needed Eastery lift!

I had planned to take photos of the beautiful willow with its fluffy catkins and talk about how incredible that a 3-year old tree that was a mere twig when I planted it, could now look so robust and happy and have its own catkins. So I was standing there, admiring the beautiful, long, whippy branches with their fuzzy, almost chick-like flowers and wished that I could cut some branches and bring them inside. I often see florists, at this time of year, selling stunning branches of willow for people to take into their homes. However brilliantly my hedge willows have done, they are not at the stage where I can hack swathes of branches off them without returning them to their original twiggy state.

“I know,” I thought. “I’ll make some instead.”

…and that’s where we find ourselves.

So if you fancy a bit of cheap, easy fun, just in time for Easter – give this a try. Here’s how…

(I’ll provide links to all the bits that you may need at the end of the post).

rooster ceramic jug

Firstly, find yourself a nice jug or container. It doesn’t have to be ceramic and it doesn’t have to be patterned, but it just so happened that I was given this rooster jug by a lovely friend and it seemed to fit the Easter theme perfectly! You also need to source some long twigs – I used Cornus, or dogwood twigs as they have fun, twisty shapes.

pom pom on gold sprayed twigs

If you want to give your branches a face-lift you can try spraying them, like I did, with some metallic gold spray. It’s best done outside and not on a windy day, if you don’t feel like adding a new dimension to your shoes or trousers (not that this happened to me… of course not…). As it was a cold, damp (and yes, windy) day they needed a good 24-hours to dry.

pom moms attached with hot glue gun

Using the smallest of my trusty pompom makers, I quickly made twelve mini pompoms in four colours. I chose pastel yarn colours to stay with my Easter theme. I also decided to give my pompoms quite a radical trim with the scissors, so that they were small and compact, as I wanted to make sure that my branches would hold them without bending.

Using a hot glue gun, I attached my pompoms to the twigs at various points. Some twigs held one or two, while the branchier ones looked good with three.

Et voila!

Materials:

Gold spray, Clover pompom maker and hot glue gun (affiliate links).

Have a great day x

Dorset’s Delicious Bits | Fiddleford Manor

Fiddleford Manor

… a section of the original manor house …

Our discovery of Fiddleford Manor was a complete, unexpected pleasure! How did I never know of its existence? I have probably driven past its little, lane entrance about a squillion times and never investigated further.

What I loved most, at first sight, was the massive, free car park. Secondly, I loved that entrance to the house (run by English Heritage) was also totally free. Free! 

…free!

The thing about visiting new places (if you’re anything like me) is that you don’t want to stress about parking. Who wants to venture out into the unknown, only to have to -gulp- parallel park in the only space that is left, leaving you so hot, stressed and bothered that you spend most of the outing working out how to extricate yourself from said parking spot. Mr D-F doesn’t quite see my point on this one, but then, he’d park anywhere… he’s got that sort of happy-go-lucky parking ethos.

Anyway, I’ve digressed.  So after the relaxed parking bit, we walked down a lovely mown, grass track which led us to some farm gates and into the ‘garden’ part of the house. We immediately noticed the incredible detail of the roof (apparently one of the finest in Dorset).  After reading the information, we realised that this was only part of the house, as a large section to the right is no longer there. There is also a large portion of the house that is privately owned and has been carefully fenced off, so that there is no danger of you stumbling across someone happily pottering in their garden or enjoying a peaceful Sunday reading the paper.

river gates

Dorset blue skies

… Dorset blue skies …

Fiddleford Manor is right next to the river and you could clearly see – sluice gates? Are they sluice gates? It really was a beautiful situation. The skies were blue and the river was making soothing noises… I could have stayed for ages and would have loved have been able to have a picnic on the lawn (although I don’t think that it is encouraged)!

sheep with personality

… a sheep with serious ‘tude …

We walked back down the grassy path to the car but I couldn’t stop without taking a picture of this sheep… she had such attitude and personality and seemed to want to know exactly what we were about. Either that, or her tummy was rumbling and she was due some food!

I really recommend visiting Fiddleford Manor, especially if you’re local. It seemed to me, the perfect place to bring people who are staying for the weekend. It’s small (no massive house to trail around here), it’s interesting and it’s free.

For more information, have a look at the English Heritage page on the manor here.

Have a wonderful Sunday x

Four Ingredient Coconut Macaroons

coconut macaroons

… freshly baked …

It felt like a baking kind of a day yesterday and it didn’t take long for the cry of ‘ooh macaroons’ to confirm what I was to make.

I had planned to spend a morning, perusing my beautiful new recipe book The Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home, over a cup of tea. I thought that it might take me a good, restful half hour to decide upon which of the delicious treats to make. However, this was not to be the case. As soon as the page turned to macaroons, all other cakes, biscuits and puddings were forgotten and mutterings of ‘I might hold my breath until you say you’ll make macaroons for me’ were heard. From my husband.

coconut macaroon recipe

… lining up the eggs …

This recipe only consisted of four ingredients: eggs, sweetened condensed milk, desiccated coconut and vanilla essence. It was quick and easy to make, but I was a little dubious about the lack of sugar and chocolate. I’m not a massive sugar fan, but I wasn’t sure where the sweetness of the macaroons was going to come from.

eggwhites

… whipping up some stiff peaks …

Despite my reservations, I didn’t deviate from the recipe. The condensed milk, coconut and vanilla were mixed up before I whipped up my egg whites and folded them in. The mixture definitely looked as I imagined it would and I spooned it out onto three baking trays. There wasn’t an indication in the book as to how many macaroons would be made from this mix but I managed to spoon out at least 20 coconut blobs.

unbaked macaroons

… pre-baked macaroons …

I was pretty impressed that after only 15-20 minutes, the macaroons came out with the perfect consistency and were crunchy with soft centres. Mr D-H obviously took it upon himself to conduct the taste test and the macaroons were given a thumbs up of approval. My thoughts were that they had a good flavour, but I would still stand by my earlier musings that they needed a little something extra, perhaps a drizzle of melted chocolate would add a bitterness to them, which I think they would benefit from.

If you fancy giving macaroons a try, you can buy the book here (affiliate link), or try these links to free recipes on the internet:

Enjoy! x