Welcome to Lovely Greens

My blog focuses on country living projects including diy tutorials, home cooking, and recipes for handmade bath and beauty products. Click this image to see my project gallery! All the best, Tanya from Lovely Greens x

How to make a Better Strawberry Pallet Planter

Use a single wooden pallet to create a beautiful and rustic planter ideal for planting with strawberries or other edibles.

Getting Started Keeping Honeybees

Linda Tillman of 'Linda's Bees' writes on how you can get started learning about and keeping honeybees. A great guest post for anyone interested in learning more about beekeeping!

DIY Healing Eczema Balm

Learn how to make a healing balm for dry and inflamed skin with this video tutorial. Made with Neem oil, it's a natural product perfect for those suffering from eczema and psoriasis.

Grow your own Beauty Garden

Learn how to create your own beauty products using flowers and herbs from your own garden. This is the first post in a series and focuses on the types of plants you can grow for different types of skin.

How to Make Natural Soap Series

This is the first of a four-part series showing how you can make your own handmade and natural soap at home.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Pallet Project: DIY Rustic Trugs

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

While I was in the States recently I came across an old strawberry trug in an antique shop. As much as I'd have loved to buy it and bring it back to the Isle of Man, it was just too large for my luggage. I kept coming back to it though and in the end came to the conclusion that I could make it myself. And I could probably make it out of pallet wood.

I love making projects out of pallets because A. the material is free, and B. I love transforming simple materials into beautiful pieces. So instead of bringing back the original trug, I brought back a photo of it and an idea. Then this week I broke down a single pallet and was able to make two complete trugs from it - one that I'm now using as a rustic indoor decor piece, and the other I have planted up with Lobelias and lettuces.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

Before I continue on with how I made them, I'd like to first make sure that you're aware of the dangers of using the wrong pallet wood for your projects. Pallets are essentially wooden platforms that are used for transporting goods all across the world. To ensure that foreign pests are not spread from region to region, pallets are either sprayed with insecticides/fungicides or they are heat treated. You definitely don't want to use wood that's been chemically treated if you're going to bring it into the house or use it for outdoor furniture or planters. You can avoid them by keeping an eye out for a stamp that you will find on every pallet. If you see the initials 'DB MB' it means it's been chemically treated and if you see 'DB HT' it's just been sterilized with heat.

Choosing the best pallets for your diy projects

Now on to the tutorial! I also have a YouTube tutorial video for this project so please check it out if anything is unclear. The materials and tools I used are:

1 Wooden Pallet - with seven planks across the front
Additional piece of wood for the handles - width of 13/16"/2cm and a height of 1.5"/3.8cm
Electric screwdriver & stainless steel screws
Ruler / Measuring tape
T Square - this is a tool that helps create square (90 degree) edges
To line the trug to use as a planter: plastic lining and a staple gun. Scissors to trim the excess plastic.

If you'd like to make two trugs, like I've done, find a pallet that has seven or more planks across the front side. Using a jigsaw, cut the planks off as you see in the photo below. At the end you'll have fourteen smaller planks from the front side.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

My pallet had planks of two different widths of the seven original planks, the top, bottom and middle ones were slightly taller than the other four. These taller pieces I've used for the sides of my trugs and the eight other planks make up the bottoms.

You'll see in the below photo that the planks that were cut off only account for part of the project and that the second trug is missing two of its sides. No worries because you can flip the pallet over and take more wood off the back.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

Cut the planks on the back side and you'll have an additional six planks - with my pallet, these were the same height planks as the taller ones from the front side. That worked out perfectly because then I could use two of the best ones to complete the sides on the second trug. The other four pieces are used to create the verticals that hold the handle on.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

Once cut I then measured each piece out and cut it to the specs listed below. The width of my A pieces was 16"/41cm if that helps you to make your own. Your wood might be differently sized so I've just left general measurements rather than exact.

I also need to point out that the handle for my trugs is the only piece of wood that did not come from the pallet. It has a thickness of 13/16"/2cm and a height of 1.5"/3.8cm.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

To create the 'Picket' cutout on your C pieces, center the handle (D) in the C pieces and measure the space leftover at either side. In my case, I had an inch to spare on either side. Whatever measurement you have, multiply it by 1.5 and then make a mark further down the plank. Connect the measurements to form a triangle and you have your angle for cutting. You'll make these cuts on both your C pieces.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

To put the wooden pieces together you have two main options - glue it or attach them with nails or screws. I opted for screws because I wasn't sure at the time if I'd like them both to be outdoor planters. I wouldn't use glue in that case because I wanted to grow edible plants in them and was concerned about contamination. Call me paranoid! If you do go for the gluing option, you'll need clamps to keep the planks in place while they're drying or you'll have a nightmare of a time.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

The first parts I screwed together were the C and D pieces which together form the trug's handle. Align the ends of D into the cut out 'Picket' parts of C and screw it in place. Use two screws/nails on either side if you don't want the handle to turn at all when you pick it up. This entire piece will slip over the edges of the box part when you're finished building that.

Next, screw the box together. Pallet wood isn't perfectly square and can often be warped and bent so don't be too concerned if it doesn't fit together precisely. We're aiming for trendy rustic here right?

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

Slip the handle component over the box, center it, and screw it into place with two screws on either side. Can you believe that your trug is now complete? Easy as pie and it really doesn't take very much time at all.

I'm choosing to leave my trugs unpainted for now but am considering staining the one I'm going to have in the house. My second trug I'm using as a planter so I'm leaving the wood as is so reduce any paint contamination when growing my edibles. Now, if you're planning on planting your trug up with decorative plants, feel free to glue the trug together and paint it up as you see fit. I'll bet it would look lovely in a bright color and it will also reduce the chance of getting any splinters in your hands from handling it.

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

There's just one final step you'll need to complete if you do end up using the trug as a planter. Line the sides and bottom with an impermeable material such as plastic and secure with pins or a staple gun. This lining will help protect some of the wood but also keep moisture in. Because the trug is relatively shallow, it has a high likelihood of drying out, especially in the hot weather we've been having on the Isle of Man recently.

For drainage, poke holes or cut slits along the bottom of the plastic where you can feel the seams between the planks. To plant up, remove any cats from the trug and fill in with compost. Plant the trug up how you'd like, water it well, and then make sure to place it in a prominent place so you can show off your handy work to all your visitors!

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

As far as projects go, this one is relatively simple and I feel that most people will be able to complete it within a couple of hours. Have fun and if you do end up making the trugs I'd love to hear how you got on! Leave me a message below or email me with a photo. I can't wait to see how you decorate and plant up your own rustic pallet wood trugs :)

How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

And if you enjoyed this tutorial, check out my very popular post on how to make a Strawberry Pallet Planter out of a single wooden pallet. It's another project that looks great but that I think pretty much anyone could make!

Strawberry Pallet Planter Tutorial

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How to make TWO rustic wooden trugs out of a single pallet. Gorgeous for indoor display but can also be used as wooden planters #pallet

Monday, 21 July 2014

Blackcurrant Rum Infusion Recipe

While at the allotment today I couldn't help noticing that my gardening neighbour had several bushes of blackcurrants just ready for picking. Sadly I don't have any of my own but feeling inspired, I trekked down to the PYO (pick your own) farm to buy some. It might be cheating but seeing those berries reminded me that I wanted to make a boozy blackcurrant infusion that I'd tried over at my friend's place a couple of years ago. When complete, the almost syrupy liqueur is fruity, sweet, and deceptively potent. Perfect for getting the party started!

Blackcurrant Infused Rum...aka Ribena for Adults

1/2 bottle Jamaican Rum or Gold Barbados Rum
Sugar and/or Agave Syrup

The method is incredibly simple. Start with half a bottle of rum then fill the rest of the bottle with blackcurrants. You want the berries to release as much of their flavour as possible so tear each one open as you pop it inside.

Once full, seal the top of the bottle and allow the berries to infuse in the rum for two months in a dark and cool place. Though my friend didn't mention it in her directions, I think I'll also give the bottle a shake every few days (or whenever I remember).

After the two months have passed, strain the liquid from the berries and add sugar and/or agave syrup to taste. The flavour should be rich, sweet, and delicious when sipped neat.

It's going to be tough keeping my fingers off this bottle or even waiting the full two months. If all goes to plan, it will be ready in time for my birthday in September. I have a mind to mix it into Champagne for a blackcurrant liqueur version of a Kir Royale. Yummy...I can't wait!

If you enjoyed this recipe for Blackcurrant Liqueur you might also want to check out my recipe for Blackcurrant wine. It's a bit more involved but will give you six bottles of delicious, fruity, homemade wine!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Siting a New Hive

This being the third year of being a beekeeper it's only natural that I have three hives. Beekeeping is highly addictive and seems to be the sort of hobby that appeals to hoarders...or maybe instigates cases of hoarding. You don't want to see a photo of my garage. Or attic. Anyway, doesn't everyone have a junk drawer?

Many beekeepers that I know of have at least eight hives if not fifteen or more and are constantly on the lookout for swarms to collect. The main challenge to beekeepers intent on adding to their collection is finding the space to put them. Often times you'll start with a hive in the back garden or a friend's field and then grow it into two and then three and then realise you need to find a second location to put any new bees.

My first two hives are located in gorse covered scrub land near my allotment and I put a lot of effort into clearing space just big enough for the two of them. Then I had a swarm last year and placed an empty nucleus near the hives in an attempt to lure the swarm into moving in. They didn't but I left the nuc box there a few weeks before I had the chance to bring it back. When I eventually got up there, I was surprised and delighted to find bees had moved in on the day I went to fetch the nuc back. Of course my friend I borrowed the nuc from still hasn't been given it back but it's heading in that direction shortly (a full year later!).

The new colony of bees thrived last summer and easily survived the mild winter. I'd planned on moving it to a new location in the spring but I didn't really know of a good location. There's no way I could have brought it back home and the other location I had in mind didn't pan out. Finally I put a request up on my Facebook page asking if anyone had space in the area. I really should have done it sooner because I had quite a few people message me back saying they were keen for me to put bees on their land.

One location in particular really caught my attention - it was in a field owned by the Manx government and was the site of a newly planted orchard. Though the baby trees and fruit bushes wouldn't provide much forage at first, the location was great and my bees could forage from the nearby glen and from the gardens of people in the surrounding area. Honeybees will travel 1.5 miles from their home to collect pollen, nectar, and propolis.

So one night before I left on my holiday I went up to where the nuc was, bound it in straps, and then placed a piece of cardboard over the entrance and duct taped it close. It nearly killed my back but I picked it up in one piece and stumbled with it uphill to my car. I have to admit that I tripped and nearly had a serious situation on my hands though. Fortunately we made it in one piece and after wedging the furiously buzzing box of bees in the boot, I slowly drove to the new site. I wonder what other drivers thought when they saw me driving at night in my beekeeping suit? Normally I'd have been laughing at the thought but the handmade nuc was banging around in the back every now and again. The thought of it tipping over and bees filling my car kept me soberly paying attention to every bump on the road.

Placing the bees in the new hive was simple. I smoked them bees then took the existing frames out of the nuc and put them into the new National hive. I poured as many bees that were left on top of the frames in the new hive and then placed the nuc next to the new hive. The remaining bees would have made their way into the new hive within minutes but it's best to leave the nuc overnight.

A month on and I'm happy to report that the bees have settled in and that they're putting down honey and producing loads of baby bees. I'll likely not take any honey from it this year but we'll see how much they have by the end of August. Maybe I can pull off a frame or two just so I can get a taste of what the new location is like.

So all is well with that little colony and now the only really pressing matter is noticing how much more space I have at the new site. I could potentially place more than a few hives alongside this one! Hmmm...more to consider.

Monday, 14 July 2014

My Trip Back Home

What a trip! It really doesn't feel as if it's over even though I've conquered my jet lag and unpacked my bags. Three weeks in the USA and it feels as if I could wake up tomorrow and go hang out with friends in Queen Anne or drop by my mom's for a barbecue. Modern communication and travel make 4500 miles seem right around the corner and I really wish it were because the twenty-four hour door-to-door trip is killer.

A lot has happened in my personal life since late last year and I've avoided mentioning it online in ways both deliberate and subconscious. The most life-changing factor is that my husband and I separated and are now divorced. I've tried not to let it affect my work and pursuits but I can't escape the fact that I have a lot more on my mind than ever before. Part of the reason for my trip back to Seattle was to re-evaluate and decide what my next steps will be. Even now I'm torn as to whether I'd like to stay on the Isle of Man or to move back home.

Seattle did its best to seduce me while I was there...with more than a little help from my friends and family I might add! Every day yielded gorgeous weather, a new activity, places to visit, and people to see. It's been years since I was back (far too long really) and the city felt both familiar and more exciting than it ever had in the past. I was told that it's now the fastest growing big city in the US and believe it. At times you could literally feel the buzz of a city full of vibrant young professionals.

I was also delighted by the greening of Seattle: regular Farmers Markets, Allotments (called P-Patches) in every neighborhood, open gardens, funky little bars and restaurants, and brilliant music and gigs. Though I do love the peace and tranquility of the Isle of Man I couldn't help imagining myself back in the Pacific Northwest. Being on holiday is a lot different than day to day life though so I'm going to give myself a bit of time before I make a decision.

As far as holidays go it was a blast! For the past few years I haven't been away from work for more than a week and the physical distance from my computer, customers, and stock was extremely stressful to start off with. I even had a moment of panic at one point since I desperately needed something off my computer to send to an online partner. I was going to have a friend stop by the house to send it for me but when I thought about it again I decided it wasn't as imperative as I thought. After a few days struggling with work guilt I did slide into enjoying being away from it all and having a good time.

Almost too much fun...I gained five pounds in three weeks! Have a look at some of the food I had and tell me that you blame me. Tacos, local berries and fruit, wild-caught salmon and crab, desserts galore and mind blowing cocktails. I was teased for taking pictures of food and grocery store interiors but the food choice was "amaze-balls". You'd think I hadn't grown up in the states by my fascination with American edibles.

Though the timing of my trip meant that I'd miss two big events back on the Isle of Man I planned it so that I could be there for the Fourth of July and to see one of my besties who would only arrive back by then. I'm sorry to miss anyone who looked for my stall at Tynwald Day or the Queenie Festival but I was having a ball watching fireworks and travelling around the Puget Sound those days!

Being back in the states for Independence Day was so much fun and the amount of fireworks set off over the days leading up to and after the fourth was incredible. It was like a war zone around my friend's house when we arrived back from Lake Tapps and I even managed to get burned by a malfunctioning Roman Candle at my Uncle's house...it tipped over and shot a charge up my SLEEVE from thirty feet away. What are the chances? A week and a half later and it's healing just fine thanks to an application of raw honey, lavender essential oil, and aloe vera.

Though the sights, smells, and food was amazing, the best part of the trip was seeing loved ones and friends I hadn't seen in years. I feel so lucky to have such amazing people in my life and even though I hadn't seen some of them in a long time, it felt as if no time had passed and we picked up from where we left off. True friendships know no boundaries of time or distance and I'm trying to console myself with the thought that no matter where I decide to live, the relationships that last are the ones that would have always lasted.

Now that I'm back on the Isle of Man I have a lot to think about. I spent the first few days cleaning the house, spending time with my cats (who weren't thrilled at all about being at a Cattery for three weeks!), seeing friends, and settling back into routine. So far I'm only spending the quiet moments when I'm lying in bed in the morning and evening to think about things - I've had almost no other time to do so.

Tomorrow I'm going to visit my overgrown allotment and look in on my bees. Over the past few months I've found myself spending less time doing the things I love and losing sight of my purpose. No matter what I decide as a long term location plan, it's time to get back on track with the things I'm passionate about and I'm going to start by weeding the heck out of my garden.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Juicing for Dogs and You too!

Did you know that dogs can benefit from the vitamins and minerals packed in fresh fruits and vegetables? Alex Kennedy, the brains and creative baker behind the doggy bakery Doggielicious shares a recipe today for a juice that you can drink yourself but also share with your canine companions!

I recently got into juicing and am in fact in the process of doing a 5 day detox (so am surrounded by fruit and veg!) So why am I doing it? Well, one to improve my health - sometimes your mojo disappears and you need something to bring it back into line again. Also it’s a natural way of being energized and it helps you lose a bit of weight. It’s a win-win situation.

However something total unexpected happened the other day when I was preparing a juice. I was putting the produce into my juicer and my dog Amber came over looking interested. Given that she loves food it didn’t surprise me very much. Once I had juiced everything and sat down to drink it she was still interested so I let her have a finger-full. To say she liked it would be the understatement of the year!

So I thought about creating a recipe that you could make for both yourself and your dog to enjoy together. The recipe below is a mixture of sweet and sour and is packed full of minerals and vitamins. Unlike artificial juices, which will give you and your dog a rollercoaster of a ride on refined sugars, this juice will provide energy and nutrition in a very natural way.

The Green Energizer
you may have to double up if you want to make one for you and your dog.

¼ medium pineapple (I remove the skin and cut it into medium pieces)
1 large handful of spinach (see tips section)
¼ medium cucumber
½ medium courgette/zucchini
1 medium carrot
15 sugar snap peas
1 small handful ice cubes (for the human version, not the dogs)

Tips for preparing and juicing

Get the right juicer – There are lots of juicers on the market and it’s difficult to tell which one is the best. The juicer I use is a fusion type which has a low induction motor, meaning you get more and better quality juice. There are a number of other types out there so if you haven't got one at the moment then I suggest you do a bit of research to see which one will suit you best.

Remove the seeds from the fruit and veg if you are juicing for your dog. This is particularly important in the case for apples. Whilst many dogs love apples, which is great, as they contain calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, and pectin (soluble fibre) the seeds and stems in fresh apples contain cyanogenic glycosides which can cause tummy upset and more serious problems if consumed in large quantities.

Juicing leaf vegetables (spinach, kale etc.) To get the best amount of juice from a leaf veg roll it gently into to a ball and then when putting it into the juicer wedge it between two harder pieces of fruit.

Can I grow these ingredients on my allotment?
Yes you can grow all of them bar the pineapple (not unless you live in a sunny climate).

Things that might surprise you about the ingredients:

Pineapple contains calcium and potassium. Frozen pineapple, in small quantities, can be a fun summer treat for your dog. It can also help in stopping your dog eating its own poop – not very pleasant!

Spinach contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin K, beta-carotene and plant crude fibre, which can promote gastrointestinal peristalsis and improve defecation. Vitamin C and vitamin K can promote healthy bones for dogs. If you have an anaemic dog, feeding spinach may be more helpful, because spinach is rich in foliate and iron, which can improve blood circulation and treat anaemia.

Cucumber provides a good low calorie filler with meals and an excellent treat.

Courgette (zucchini) is actually great as it is low in fat, and has many nutrients, it is a great food to give to dogs.

Carrots are safe for your dog and make excellent low calorie filler with meals or as a treat. Only use ever raw or frozen raw carrots as canned carrots are loaded with salt.

Sugar Snap Peas (mangetout) are a great source of vitamins A, C thiamine, riboflavin and niacin.

Other ideas for the juice.

Ice Lollies - If you and your dog are feeling a tad hot you can make lollies or ice cubes!! It’s fun for both you and your dog and it’s also a natural way of getting the vitamins and minerals for you both. Beware of recipes out there that recommend fruit juice you buy in your local store they tend to be full of sugar.

Don’t throw away your pulp! - Make some handmade dog treats with it: mix about two cups of pulp, an egg and a half cup of oats, until you get a reasonably stiff mixture. Press it flat onto a baking sheet and cut it into squares using a pizza cutter.  Bake the treats in the oven for two hours at 100 degrees C or 200 degrees F. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

Warnings Juice is not a substitute for fresh drinking water, which should be available to your dog at all times. As this is a fresh juice recipe it should be consumed pretty much after it's been made. It can be stored in the fridge for a day but any longer and they should be frozen.

Visit this link for more details on fruit and veg your dog should not eat

Alex Kennedy is the owner Doggielicious, an online store dedicated to dogs. She makes all sorts of produce ranging from birthday cakes for dogs to some very scrummy everyday treats. Her websites are www.doggielicioustreats.com and her blog where you can get her recipes, tips and news is www.doggielicious-blog.com.

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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Tomatoes

There's absolutely nothing like the taste of a homegrown tomato picked right off the plant. One bite and all those debates on whether it's a fruit or a vegetable go straight out the window. The flavourless tomatoes you buy at the shop just cannot compare to the sweet and juicy treasures you can grow yourself. Today Kelly from My Soulful Home gives us some tips on how to grow your own. If you think it's difficult, think again and read on! 

Got six hours of sunlight? Got some dirt and a pot? Then you can grow tomatoes! It is almost that simple. Follow my advice and you will have bumper crop of sweet, juicy, red orbs all summer long.

If you are a follower of Lovely Greens you probably already know why you should grow your own tomatoes: better nutrition, better taste & more choices.

But maybe you don't know how. Well then read on! Even if you do know read on... You might pick up a tip or two that will take your harvest from steady to abundant. I also have a wonderful easy recipe to share.

There are 3 basic types of tomatoes fruits:
  • cherry/grape
  • paste
  • slicing
There are two types of tomato plants:
  • Determinate - grows to a certain height and stops ( good for containers )
  • Indeterminate - keeps on growing & vining ( needs to be trellised )

All tomatoes flourish in a well drained rich organic soil with 6 hours of sunlight & plenty of water.

For an all natural way to feed those hungry plants try my three secrets. You probably have them in your kitchen right now.

Tomatoes benefit from deep roots. They just like it that way and it certainly helps keep them upright and in the ground when laden down with heavy fruit.

To give your plants a solid foundation you can dig a deep hole & sink the plant in so only the top several branches are above the soil line.

If you have new gangly plants you can dig a trench and lay them sideways and cover all but the top several branches with soil. They will soon be standing tall reaching for the sun.

When planting deep pick off the lower branches & leaves so only the stem is underground. Also pinch off the suckers as the plant grows. Those are the branches that grow from the V between the stem & a strong branch. These "suckers" will not produce fruit and will suck the energy from the production.

Once your tomato plants are producing lots of fruit, you will need some recipes. Here is my favorite just about right off the vine tomato recipe….my tomato, mozzarella and basil skewers.

Drizzled with olive oil, sea salt & fresh pepper or not, these are perfect little bites and great for parties or just for snacking.

It is truly easy to grow tomatoes once you know what they like & how to provide the best conditions for them to flourish. Just a bit of effort is rewarded with a season ripe with juicy goodness.

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Thanks so much to Tanya for having me over to guest post. I look forward to hearing your comments, answering questions and having you over to My Soulful Home. If you like what you read you can follow me there, on Pinterest or Facebook. I wish you a bountiful season!