Make Do Monday – Gardener’s Diary – January – Part I

GARDENER’S DIARY – 1st Week of January

garden 2

At the top of every gardener’s list of New Year resolutions should come the determination to make the garden tidy and keep it tidy. Not just for the sake of appearances, but because of the hard fact that rubbish left lying about makes a perfect breeding-ground for pests and diseases. All healthy rubbish that is soft enough to rot down fairly quickly – weeds, leaves, herbaceous refuse – should be put on the compost heap. Do not burn anything except diseased material and hard woody prunings.

garden 1

New plants of potted chrysanthemums can be raised from cuttings taken now. Choose sturdy, short-jointed shoots, about 2 inches long, springing from the soil – not those growing from the old stems. Cut off the shoots at ground level and remove the two lowest pairs of leaves. The cuttings should be planted 1 inch deep round the edge of a pot containing a mixture of equal parts of loam, peat-moss and sand. Allow four cuttings to a 2-inch pot or six to a 3-inch pot. After planting stand the pots in a deep, glass-topped box and spray with tepid water daily.

Urgent. In severe frost, protect celery from damage by placing a layer of straw or bracken over the tops. When the frost is over, remove the covering.

GARDENER’S DIARY – 2nd Week of January

At the first opportunity beds containing bulbs and other spring flowers should be lightly hoed to break up the surface. Do not go deep, and be very careful not to damage any growing shoots. If any wallflower plants have become loose, tread garden3the soil down firmly round them. Pick off dead and dying leaves from the primroses. Examine border carnations for signs of rust disease, which causes brown spots and stripes to appear on theleaves; affected plants should be treated with sulphur or with one of the proprietary sulphur-containing fungicides.

If you intend to grow potatoes during the coming season order them at once to make sure of getting the best seed. As soon as they arrive they should be sprouted, either in trays or in seed boxes. Stand the tubers upright, with the ends containing the eyes uppermost, and put the trays in a frost-proof, but light, place. The idea is to get plump, green shoots. Tubers sprouted in darkness or in feeble light put forth long, pallid, unhealthy looking shoots that snap off at planting time.

Urgent. Prepare the rock garden for the early flowerers by removing all weeds and decaying leaves and surfacing the soil with compost or leaf-mould and sand.

Alec Bristow’s tips from the 1940s

Workshop Wednesday – The Switcharound

At the weekend we had a shuffle in the ‘clean workshop’, AKA the Running Shed. It’s planned to keep this shed for restored and serviceable vehicles as it’s a good environment, relatively clean and bright.

The opportunity was taken to sort out parts for various trucks and group them on pallets, then into the racking. The little Toyota forklift was great for this.


The Fox armoured car came out first.


Parts removed from the crash damaged Fordson Wrecker earlier this year were palleted and stored.

Up on the shelf
Up on the shelf

The old sawmill forklift, a Conveyancer, was to be removed. With a bit of air in the tyres, and the Matador cab frame moved out of the way, James picked it up with the Toyota and removed it to the Mill.

The AEC Matador in the middle was acquired as an unfinished project, while it’s not a running vehicle at the moment, it’s staying in the shed until another home under cover can be found for it.

The trusty QL is now under cover where it can be worked on, it needs a manifold gasket change, canvas tilt repairing, and a replacement window for the drivers door. Having spent a few weeks in the mill it could do with a clean too!

Make Do Monday – Festive Forties – Wartime Christmas Baking

Illustrated recipe by Lara Lockwood
Illustrated Wartime Christmas Cake recipe by Lara Lockwood

In our household we are preparing for a 1940s Christmas. The tree is

1940s Christmas Decorationsdecorated with homemade creations and we are all very much looking forward to the Christmas dinner. Here is a recipe for a simple Christmas cake that is sure to please the entire family.

Simple Christmas Cake

 1/2 lb. self-raising flour; 2 ozs. sugar, 1 good tablespoon golden syrup or preferably black treacle; 1 level tablespoon cocoa powder; 3 ors. margarine; 2 level tablespoons dried egg powder; 1/2 level teaspoonful mixed spice; 1/2 lb. mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, currants, dates or prunes); a pinch of salt; 9 tablespoonfuls of milk to mix.

Sieve the flour, egg powder, spice, cocoa powder and salt into a basin. Chop up the prepared fruit. Cream the sugar and margarine and beat well. now add alternately, and a little at a time, the flour mixture and the milk, and finally the warmed but not hot treacle. Lastly, stir in the mixed fruit, put the mixture into a lined cake-tin and bake first for an hour in a moderate oven (375 F) and then in a very slow oven (300 F) for an hour and a half.

Wartime Almond Paste

4 ozs. semolina; 4ozs. Castor or granulated sugar; 2 ozs. margarine; 2 small teaspoonfuls almond essence; 2 tablespoonfuls water.

Just melt the margarine in a saucepan, add the semolina and stir over a gentle heat for five minutes. Add the sugar, water and flavouring, and keep on stirring together for another five minutes. Let the mixture cool a little and use it for the cake while it is still warm, otherwise it will get too hard to handle.

  Wartime Icing

12 tablespoonfuls milk powder; 12 level dessertspoonfuls castor or granulated sugar; 12 dessertspoonfuls water; any flavouring design.

Dissolve the sugar in the water on a very low heat. Put the milk powder, free of lumps, into a basin, and pour the syrup into it, mixing into a smooth paste. Add flavouring, and mix well again.


                                                     Housewife – December 1945

Housewife - December 1945

For an alternative Christmas cake recipe and some wartime food inspiration please have a look at the lovely Gordano Home Front blog.

Workshop Wednesday 3 – Bonser!

To break up the endless grinding and painting on the Jeep tub….

Edging closer to finishing....
Edging closer to finishing….

On a crisp Saturday morning we also spent some time on the Shopland Sawmills Bonser fork lift truck.

This tired old workhorse is an invaluable part of the fleet. It helps us keep the workshops and yard running, especially in the run-up to the show. It has a hard life and was very much in need of some TLC.

Manoeuvring the Staghound Armoured car out of the workshop in 2014
Manoeuvring the Staghound Armoured car out of the workshop in 2014

The truck is currently in the workshop, engine having been taken out and decades worth of crud and sludge removed. The internals are being rebuilt, so hopefully it should run like new.
It also needed a lick of paint, so we’ve been rubbing back and priming the panels.

The engine block arrived back and was heaved into position, then the cylinders were fitted.




Make Do Monday – Vintage sewing patterns

Tape Measure

Merry Monday sewing,

Before you can get started making your piece of clothing, it’s a good idea to get a pattern. So today I thought I’d share some of my tips when it comes to finding sewing patterns!

deargolenpicture source

I like to buy my patterns second hand, mainly because it’s a bit cheaper but I also like the challenge of finding a pattern for say a skirt and then figure out what fabric you could make it from and what details could be changed. The best places to look for vintage sewing patterns is at fairs and markets. If you’re lucky you might even stumble upon a completely unopened packet in a charity shop, or even closer to home, why not ask a friend or a relative if they’ve got some lying around?

I like using pattern books as they often offer a lot of sizes and a detailed how to guide as well as variations of your pattern-this is great if you are just starting out.


Vintage sewing patterns always beautifully illustrated and wrapped. The instructions can be quite basic and more often than not the packet that you are buying is just for one size, usually the bust and waist measurements for the finished dress is printed on the pattern.


Now if you have the intention of making a certain kind of clothing you would probably have more luck asking your local fabric store or haberdashery for a look in their pattern catalogue. I would also recommend to search online; and are good for older patterns, make sure that it says in the description that all of your pattern pieces are included though!

What are you making next?

Workshop Wednesday 2 – Filler, Lumps and Sumps

Admittedly I’m writing this Workshop Wednesday post on a Thursday, but we were working until late last night!

Work on grinding back the Jeep body tub is proceeding , nearly the entire ‘top’ half is done, then we can flip the tub over and work on the underside.

Importantly, the flathead engine was on the bench and in the process of being disassembled in preparation for a rebuild.