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If You Build It They Will Come...

There's a froggy in my garden

There’s a froggy in my garden

I love the new RSPB ad on the telly at the moment. The message is simple; if we don’t make a home for nature there will be no nature. It is sad that in 2013 there is still so much short sightedness where nature and wildlife are concerned. Fortunately there are many organizations and individuals who are dedicated to protecting wildlife and making a ‘home’ for nature. Wildlife gardening is an easy way to provide sanctuary for all manner of creatures, from woodlice to hedgehogs.

The great thing about it too is that you don’t need to have acres and acres of land. A simple flower box filled with nectar rich flowers will attract bumblebees and butterflies to your garden. An upturned bin lid or washing up bowl will provide a wonderful habitat for frogs, newts and dragonflies. Wildlife gardening is also relatively fuss-free in that the less you disturb your garden the better. Forget fancy topiary and well-manicured lawns – this is definitely my kind of gardening! Plus there is nothing quite as rewarding as looking out the window to see wildlife happily going about it’s business.

For the past 3-years I have entered the Kent Wildlife Gardening Award Scheme. When I first applied I really had no idea what I was doing. To be honest I still don’t, but every day I learn a little bit more. My first year I remember talking to the Kent Wildlife volunteer who came out to assess my garden. I told her that eventually I wanted to have a garden big enough for a pond as I really wanted to create a habitat for dragonflies, frogs and newts. Her words, “what are you waiting for?!”, still ring in my ears. She gave me the tip about filling the base of a large flowerpot with water and putting it in a place where it would be undisturbed. The area next to my little greenhouse seemed perfect.

Within months I noticed a little frog sitting in the middle of it. This year I have put another flowerpot base down and within days a young frog was spotted sitting on the rim. It really is true what the new RSPB ad says: If you build it they will come! Please consider giving a home to nature in your garden, our wildlife really needs all the help it can get.

Here are some great websites to help you start gardening for wildlife.


Kent Wildlife Trust

Natural England





Either side of my greenhouse seemed like the ideal place to put my makeshift ponds. It is well protected by plants such as Virginia Creeper and Borage.  



Froggy close upHere is a close up of one of the frogs in my garden. I actually have no idea how many frogs there are but I have seen at least 3 of varying sizes. As far as I know this is a common frog.


If you haven’t seen the new RSPB ad campaign here it is (it always makes a little weepy…)


Apple Seedlings On The Rise...

A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible

Welsh Proverb

Apple Seedlings

Hurrah! My apple orchard is finally taking shape – although it is still very early days. I guess it may be another 10 years or so before I can walk out into the garden and pick fresh apples for a pie, but my dream is becoming reality.

These wee seedlings got their start by being lovingly placed in a Tupperware box filled with soil. They were then positioned near the back of the fridge where they were pretty much left to their own devices. Every few days or so I would take them out and open the lid to let some fresh air in. It was August 19th 2011 when they went in and on Dec 28th 2011 I planted them out. So they were in the fridge for roughly 4 months.

This is not my first attempt at growing apples from seeds. Everything had gone to plan with my original batch of seeds until I planted them out and put them in the greenhouse. Small and weak they didn’t stand a chance against the cruel Kentish winds and terrifying snail infestation. The day I went out and saw their withered forms was a day of sadness and bitter disappointment… (sniff sniff)

Never mind it was a lesson learned!

These sweet little beauties are staying in the house. Under my watchful eye I trust they will thrive, blessing me with many beautiful apples in the hopefully not too distant future. I will of course have to source apples from elsewhere until that magical moment arrives – but hey I live in Kent, also known as ‘Apple Central‘.

It feels good seeing the seedlings everyday. It’s a reminder of all the things I hope (and intend) to accomplish this year. So it’s kind of a New Year’s thing too I guess. Like my teeny apple seedlings I will nurture and nourish my dreams until they become strong enough to stand on their own.

More updates will follow as they grow! You can read about my first attempt here.

Growing An Apple Tree From Seed...

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

Martin Luther

I have become obsessed with the idea of having my own orchard. There are garden centres all over Kent selling a wide variety of apple, pear and cherry trees and I could easily buy myself a ready made orchard. However I don’t want to take the easy option. So I have taken the bold (and very possibly insane) step of growing my very own apple tree from seeds.

Now seeds and I don’t tend to get along. We definitely have a love hate relationship. I lavish them with love and attention and in return they either do nothing or they sprout and then promptly rot. So I know I am doing something wrong.

This is my 2nd attempt at growing my own apple tree. The first attempt ended in bitter disappointment. I managed to get 2 seeds to sprout and then in my youthful exuberance planted them outside (way too early) where they withered and died. I learned my lesson and spent more time doing research on the best way to grow apple trees from seed. This article by Steve Snyder is one of the best I have found.

For this attempt I am using local Braeburn apples.

What I have done so far:

– Enjoyed eating 3 lovely, juicy Braeburn apples – cut into slices

– Used the tip of a knife to carefully extract the seeds from the core

– Placed the seeds on wax paper in a small dish so they can dry out

My next steps:

– Wait patiently for the seeds to dry out (this can take 3-4 weeks)

– When they are dry enough they will have a light almost grey/silver colour

– I will then add them to a small Tupperware box filled with soil and place in my fridge for 3 months

– Every 2 days I will open up the box to give them some air and extra TLC

– Keep my non–green fingers crossed and hopefully start to see some sign of growth after the first 2 months

It really doesn’t matter if I am successful or not (although I would love for this to be a success). What’s important for me is the process and learning more about my garden and how plants grow. I will keep you posted on my progress – wish me luck! (and please send some loving thoughts to my apple seeds)

Thanks Everyone!

Luna xx

Bird Baths and Brownies...

I haven’t been writing as much over the past few months mainly because my mum was visiting from Australia. During her stay we had a great time scouring charity shops for treasures, visiting the lovely town of Faversham several times and of course cooking up many delights in the kitchen.

My mum is a master of organization! I, however am the complete opposite – although I do have ‘a system’ (it usually doesn’t work very well and results in mega tantrums). Anyway, while she was here she very kindly took it upon herself to sort through and organize my collection of recipes. There were clippings from newspapers and magazines as well as print outs from websites stuffed and stacked in various cupboards and shelves in my kitchen. It took a full 2 days (and 3 bottles of Pinot Grigio) but she did it and the result is;

• I can actually find the recipes I am looking for

• I rediscovered some long lost recipes I had always wanted to try

One of these rediscovered recipes is a Jamie Oliver one, snipped years ago from a magazine. It’s for chocolate brownies, something I enjoy eating but have never made. Well this past weekend I gave them a go and they are absolutely scrummy! However they are definitely NOT low in fat. I doubled the recipe so my husband could take some into work and let me just say that when you see a whole pack of butter disappearing into your brownie mix you know you’re in trouble!

So to balance things out (in my own mind anyway) I have been putting extra time into my garden. Over the past few days there has been a lot of pruning, re-potting and general sorting out. I was actually just enjoying one of these brownies in the garden (with a large mug of tea) as a reward for assembling my newly acquired bird bath. It was bought from the RSPB and I also become a member at the same time. Wildlife is very important to me and I love watching all the life going on in and around my little garden.

In fact I think I may have another brownie and watch to see if any birds decide its bath time!

And Thank You MUM for all your love, help and support!

Here is the original Jamie Oliver recipe:

Chocolate Brownies (Serves 4)


• 100g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

• 125g butter

• 4 large organic eggs

• 300g caster sugar

• 100g self raising flour

• Pinch of salt

• 125g shelled walnuts

• Icing sugar, for dusting


• Preheat the oven to 190C (375F, gas mark 5)

• Grease a 20x20cm baking tin with a little butter, then cut a square of greaseproof paper to fit neatly in the bottom

• Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and set aside

• Mix the eggs, sugar, flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Sprinkle in the walnuts. Stir and fold together being careful not to over-mix

• Spread evenly into the cake tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 – 18 minutes, or until a crust has formed but they are still a bit wobbly (you don’t want them to be really cooked through like a cake)

• Allow the brownies to cool slightly and then cut into squares. Serve with icing sugar dusted over the top

Jamie’s top tip: If you don’t like walnuts, try the recipe with dried cherries, apricots or pecan nuts.

Luna Note: As I doubled the recipe I used 125g of walnuts and 100g of dried cranberries. It was a great combination!

If you are interested in the RSBP then please visit their website to find out the many ways you can help protect our natural world.

Sweet Peas: First Bloom of the Year...

    “Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight: With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white, And taper fingers catching at all things, To bind them all about with tiny rings.”

    -John Keats

    Botanical Name: Lathyrus odoratus
    Family: Leguminosae
    Ruled by: The element of Water and the planet Venus
    Magical properties: Friendship, courage & strength

      This morning I awoke to the sound of rain. Along with the rumbling purr of a happy cat, falling rain is one of my favourite sounds. As I pulled back the curtains to look out on the day I was delighted to see my sweet pea is now in bloom.

      This was especially important to me as last year I bought some sweet pea seeds from a local garden centre. I planted them and was shocked when sweet peas actually emerged! Not knowing how the whole propagation thing worked (duh!) I assumed I would have to buy more seeds this year. Imagine my delight when 2 months ago I started seeing the beginnings of a whole new sweet pea poking through the soil.

      It has now shot up to almost 1.2m and is a beautiful sight in my garden. Basically the seeds from some of the late blooming flowers last autumn went into the soil and presto….a whole new life began. Hurrah…….the magic of nature! Not being much of a gardener I am really pleased at how easy it has been to grow sweet peas. They are stunning plants which can bring magic to any garden.

      Here are some important and interesting Sweet Pea facts:

      • It is an annual climbing plant that can reach heights of 1-2 metres. Make sure you have something to support it. I have a stick but it has also wrapped itself around my Kilmarnock Willow Tree
      • Sweet peas come in a wide variety of colours; pink, red, white, purple and lavender
      • They like full sun and good deep, well drained top-soil
      • They benefit from regular deadheading but towards the end of the season keep some of the flowers to seed for the next year (that’s what I unknowingly did and it worked)
      • Sweet peas have been cultivated since the 17th century and the first sweet pea was introduced to England from Sicily in 1699
      • Their sweet fragrance is what gives them their name
      • There are different varieties including;

      Old Fashioned (these should be very fragrant)

      Spencer Cultivars (hardy with bright, bold colours but not necessarily fragrant)

      Bijou Group (Sweet scented variety that are suitable for containers)

      • Many gardeners call Sweet Peas the Queen of Annuals
      • Sweet Peas are long lasting as cut flowers but personally I prefer to leave mine in the garden!
      • They help attract bumblebees and butterflies to your garden

      IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike most peas, the seeds of the sweet pea are poisonous, and should not be eaten. Sweet pea flowers are also not edible and are poisonous. According to the brilliant book ‘100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names’ by Diana Wells ( Published 1997 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) , there is a medical term to describe sweet pea poisoning – lathyrism. Symptoms can include convulsions, paralysis in the legs and unconsciousness.

      So best leave the sweet peas to the bumble bees and butterflies!

      If you are interested sweet peas here are some helpful and informative sites:

    The Autumn Harvest: Last Tomatoes Of The Year...

    Well it’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in. There’s a noticeable chill in the air. Leaves are falling from the trees. Chestnuts are strewn along the ground. Birds and squirrels are busy fattening themselves up for the winter months. All of nature is readying itself for winter.

    My garden is beginning to show signs of the cooler days and nights. Leaves are turning brown and my once prolific tomato plants are no longer producing the lovely juicy tomatoes that we enjoyed so much these past few months. This is what I believe to be my final tomato harvest of the year and I would like to do something special with them.

    When I was younger I had an allergy to tomatoes. Fortunately this was an allergy I ‘grew out of’ because I adore tomatoes. I have a few favourite recipes for fresh tomatoes.

    One is a simple – VERY simple pasta sauce that I sometimes make for lunch when I feel the need for a Mediterranean boost.

    Luna Raye’s very simple tomato sauce for one.


    A handful of cherry tomatoes (approximately 8-9).

    1 clove of minced garlic.

    Drizzle of olive oil.

    Pinch of salt.


    Heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 1- 1 ½ tsp) in a pan over moderate heat.

    Add the tomatoes. You can put them in whole or chop them in half if you prefer.

    Turn down the heat, add the salt and allow the tomatoes to reduce (10 minutes or so).

    Give them a stir every so often and about half way through add the minced garlic.

    It will smell fantastic!

    Meanwhile put on some water for pasta – Penne is a good choice for this sauce – and cook the pasta according to packet directions.

    Once the pasta is cooked drain it and add it to the pan with the tomatoes and garlic and give it a quick mix on the heat.

    Season with black pepper and more salt if desired.

    Tuck in and enjoy!

    Tomato Sauce Extras

    The thing about this sauce is that you can keep it very simple. However you can also add some extra ingredients such as caramelized onions, a splash of red wine, fresh basil leaves or parmesan shavings. It does work extremely well though with just the fresh tomatoes and garlic.

    Another dish I like to make with fresh tomatoes is a chunky salsa sauce for corn chips. This is a great Happy Hour snack. It is tastier (and healthier) then store bought brands and is once again a very simple recipe.

    Luna Raye’s very simple chunky salsa served warm (for two).

    Homemade Chunky Salsa and Tortilla Chips

    Homemade Chunky Salsa and Tortilla Chips


    A handful of cherry tomatoes chopped in half (approximately 8-9).

    ½ Spanish onion chopped in long thin strips.

    1 tsp brown sugar.

    1 pepper chopped in bite sized chunks. (green or orange peppers are great for added colour)

    ½ fresh chilli (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes).

    1 ½ Tbsp of frozen sweet corn.

    1 clove minced garlic.

    Drizzle of olive oil.

    Salt and Pepper to taste.


    Heat a drizzle of olive oil (about 1- 1 ½ tsp) in a pan over moderate heat.

    Add the onions and the brown sugar. Mix well and allow the onions to caramelize. Make sure the heat isn’t too high.

    Once the onions have softened gradually add the minced garlic, a pinch of salt, and the chilli.

    Stir until mixed in and then add the tomatoes and pepper.

    Cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    At the last moment add the frozen sweet corn and mix in well.

    Season with salt and pepper is desired.

    Turn off heat and cover the pan.

    Allow the mixture to rest while drinks are prepared.

    Serve on individual plates with a side of plain salted corn chips.


    I am still undecided as to what to create with this final harvest of tomatoes! Sometimes however, it is nice to just enjoy the simple flavour of something as beautiful and perfect as a tomato grown in your own garden. I may just eat them exactly as they are while dreaming of what next year’s harvest will bring!

    I wish all my fellow Canadians a happy, peaceful and abundant Thanksgiving weekend.

    Final Tomato Harvest of 2010

    Final Tomato Harvest of 2010

    Showing Kindness To Snails: Let Them Eat Beans!...

    As I went out into the garden this morning I spied a few snails happily munching away on my beans. My basil, which is finally doing well, was also under threat from a wee baby snail.

    Most gardeners would think I am crazy but I actually don’t want to harm the snails. To be honest though I also don’t really want them eating all the beans or terrorising my basil.

    As a kitchen witch it’s important for me to find a balanced solution. Killing them just because they are eating my plants doesn’t feel right to me. After all they are only doing what is natural to them.

    So when I see them on my plants I pluck them off and move them much further down the garden. This morning one snail was so engrossed in eating a bean that I cut the bean off the stalk so he could finish his breakfast.

    I actually love watching the snails. I find them very restful and they are also quite amazing little creatures. While they are welcome in my garden it’s important that we have an ‘understanding’ about things. For the most part they do leave my plants alone but every so often I catch 1 or 2 having a sneaky snack and that’s when I have to take them on a journey to the end of the garden!

    Summer Solstice: A Time of Reflection and Thanks....

    It was 15 years ago, on the Summer Solstice – the longest day, that I had an accident that changed my life. I won’t go into the details but the result was that I spent a good few months bedridden in hospital and then a long time after that hobbling about on crutches. It was a challenging time for me, but it was also a blessing. Leading up to the accident I had been feeling extremely angry and frustrated at where I was in my life.

    Although I was studying one of my passions, photography, I felt financially limited in terms of being able to fund the basic necessities of my course. Film and processing alone were very expensive and then adding to that props and accessories I was gradually starting to fall into debt.

    My job was not a rewarding one either. When I first moved to the UK as a recent University graduate with top marks in Art History and Classical Studies, I had high hopes of starting work in a museum or art gallery. My hopes were soon dashed when I wasn’t even able to find a volunteer position. In the end I did find employment in an Art Gallery, but it was in the gift shop. The pay was barely a living wage with the expenses of London and my photography course. I did my best to stay positive but everything seemed to be caving in on me, and then the accident happened.

    It was a shock and I spent the first few days scared, crying and feeling very sorry for myself. Fortunately my mom was able to fly over to be with me and that helped me more then I can say. It gave us a unique opportunity to really bond with one another again and I can honestly say that it was a very special time for me (and I think it was for my mom as well). My mom has a great sense of humour so we ended up laughing a lot which really does help put things into perspective. Laughter really is the best medicine!

    I was also fortunate enough to work with a manager who was caring and also sensitive and understanding about my situation. If anyone else had been in charge I could have easily been out of a job and out of pay. He made sure I was looked after and that all I had to worry about was my recovery. Although I disliked my job I realized that there were loving and kind people around me who were doing what they could to help me through this difficult time. That meant (and still means) a great deal to me.

    When I say that the accident was a blessing most people look at me like I’m an idiot, but really it was. It gave me time to reflect on my life. Where was I headed? What did I want to achieve? Was I truly happy doing what I was doing? And if not, then What action(s) will get me on the road to happiness and fulfilment?

    It was because of the accident that I finally had the courage to study Massage Therapy. Aromatherapy and Reflexology soon followed and I now practice professionally. It also gave me the strength to finish and make the most of my photography course. I graduated and worked for a time as an assistant to a photographer and an assistant to a photographer’s agent. Neither of these career paths felt right to me, but instead of putting pressure on myself to carry on with something I didn’t enjoy, I felt strong enough to let them go without guilt or fear. The accident also got me on a more Spiritual path and I began to work actively with Angels and Fairies, which has completely transformed my life.

    This year on the 21st of June, I sat in my beautiful sunny garden surrounded by flowers, tomato plants and Fairies. I thought back to the accident and reflected on the many blessings I have to be thankful for and how that one day, 15 years ago changed my life for the better.

    Fairy Hiding Amongst The Fuschias.

    Window Box Flower Fairy

    Window Box Flower Fairy

    Summer Solstice Crystal Heart I found this on my early morning Solstice walk.

    Bruschetta: A Delicious Half Time (Or Anytime) Tre...

    Like many people this summer I will be watching the World Cup. I am not an avid football fan but I do enjoy the bigger matches and the World Cup is always exciting. During the England vs. USA game we needed some cheering up after Robert Green allowed the Americans to score an easy goal.

    During the half time I decided to make a quick and easy bruschetta. This recipe is slightly different from traditional bruschetta recipes as I didn’t heat the tomato mixture before spreading it on the bread, but it is still full of flavour and goes very nicely with a chilled beer. We had Maple Moon Ale, an award winning ale from Joseph Holt’s Derby Brewery.

    After our half time treat we felt slightly better about the match. We didn’t score another goal, but we didn’t allow another goal in either – which is something.

    Luna Raye’s Half Time Or Anytime Bruschetta.

    (If you want to make this at half time make sure you put the oven on 10 – 15 minutes in advance. So approximately 30 – 35 minutes into the first half of the match)


    15 – 20 organic cherry or plum tomatoes.

    1 clove of garlic, minced.

    1 banana shallot finely chopped. (You can use any shallot but I prefer banana shallots as they are milder)

    3 – 4 Tablespoons freshly chopped herbs. (I used Parsley, Coriander, and Sage) I would have loved to use some of my Basil but it’s struggling at the moment.

    Pinch of sea salt.

    Black pepper to taste.

    Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

    2 – 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.

    1 small baguette cut lengthways and then halved.


    Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

    Place the cut baguette slices on a baking sheet and put in oven to slightly toast them. (You can brush a little virgin olive oil on them at this stage if you wish).

    While the baguette slices are gently toasting in the oven. Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a medium sized bowl.

    Add the minced garlic and chopped shallot and mix well.

    Add the sea salt and some black pepper and gently blend in the chopped mixed herbs.

    Take the baguette slices out of the oven and spread the tomato mixture liberally over each slice.

    Finish with a light drizzle of virgin oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

    Place back in the oven for a further 5 minutes or until the Parmesan has melted and the tomato mixture is slightly bubbling.

    Keep a close eye on them as you don’t want them to burn.

    They should be on the plate by the start of the 2nd half (although it does help to have a kitchen assistant to speed things along!)

    Happily serves 2.

    Half Time or Any Time Bruschetta

    My Poor Basil

    Beltane Celebration: Get Out In Nature And Don’t...

    Despite the dark gloomy clouds and bouts of torrential rain we had in most parts of the UK we still managed to have a wonderful Beltane weekend. Beltane is the Celtic festival of fire and light and it is celebrated on April 30th – May 1st.

    It’s a wonderful time of year. The days are lengthening, flowers and plants are starting to blossom and bloom, butterflies and bees are making an appearance in the garden and everyone has a slight spring in their step.

    One of the best ways to celebrate this time of year is to get outside in nature. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a 10 mile hike, a visit to your local park or even just pottering around in your garden, make the effort to get out doors. This weekend I stayed away from my computer and spent as much time as I could (rain permitting) in the garden.

    We sowed some seeds, Rocket (Arugula) which is a wonderful peppery salad leaf and some Genovese Basil. My mouth is already watering in anticipation of a Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Salad. The pots are all lined up in our little greenhouse and we hope to see some spouting soon.

    Last year we bought some herbs from our local farmers market and they have really taken off. I have really enjoyed being able to cook with fresh Sage, Rosemary, Lemon Thyme and Tarragon. This year we decided to add a few more herbs to our garden; Coriander, Curly Parsley and Apple Mint. Although we had problems previously growing tomatoes and chillies we thought we’d have a go at some sugar snap peas. Our not so very green fingers are crossed!

    Beltane is also a very special time for working with Fairies. There are many things you can do to honour them and show your commitment to nature:

    • Look into recycling schemes.
    • Support animal and environmental charities.
    • Buy more organic produce.
    • If you’re in a park or on a hike and you see some litter then (if it isn’t too disgusting) pick it up and dispose of it properly.
    • Give away unwanted clothing and goods to charity.
    • Use gentler more natural cleaners in the home instead of harsh scary chemicals.

    Perhaps one of the easiest ways to honour the Fairies and to celebrate this wonderful time of year is to get off the couch, get away from the computer or television and go outside! You may also want to leave a little treat for Nature’s Angels as a thank you for all their hard work.

    For the Garden Fairies I like to put out seeds (sunflower and pumpkin are good) as well as chopped fruit (apples, pears, plums, blackberries and blueberries). For my House Fairy I like to leave out some milk and honey or mead as well as something sweet like organic chocolate, cookies or cake. If you have an animal companion please make sure they can’t get at any Fairy Treats you leave out, chocolate is toxic to many animals but especially to dogs.

    The leaving of a gift is a lovely way to acknowledge the Fairies and thank them for their continual help in watching over your garden and plants, protecting your home and animal companions, and to celebrate the beauty and abundance of nature. Breathe some fresh air, listen to the birds and don’t forget the Fairies!

    Fairy and Violets

    Sage, Lemon Thyme, Rosemary and Tarragon

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