October Letter from The Ferns chatting about Orzo barley ‘coffee’, butter v margarine and the sun

Orzo Coffee


I was given some samples of Orzo ‘coffee’ to try  in nice one cup size sachets.

orzo sachets

Really it’s a barley cup, and if I said that it tasted more like decaffeinated coffee than anything else, well I think that’s about it.

orzo sachet2

Barley has been known for centuries for its health-enhancing properties, and hulless barley has a high content of beta-glucans, which have been recognised for lowering cholesterol and glucose levels. It is like our English barley cup products, naturally caffeine-free.

Apparently,  the company was awarded a gold star in the Great Taste Awards in 2013.
This is what the judges said:
Very pleasant robust and dark, coffee-like appearance. Very well rounded barley flavour, not too bitter with a nice finish – good with milk. Great for people who like a coffee-style drink with no caffeine.

I always have decaf coffee for my B & B visitors and usually drink it myself; saving proper coffee for weekends or treats. Because it is so similar to decaf, if I now see Orzo on the shelves, I shall buy that instead. A very nice drink!

From their website http://www.orzocoffee.co.uk you can find out more and get details of suppliers

Butter v Margerine

I always have a mixture of spreads in our fridge and also for all my B & B visitors. I like to have a selection. For years I have mainly used ‘Pure’butters

This is a dairy free margarine and I also use it for cakes and pastries. I cant  understand why people would still use lard in their pastry. Just now I am thinking and wondering what lard is?

Huffington Post says:


Lard — rendered pig fat — was what people used when they needed to make pastry; when dinner needed frying; and even as a quick breakfast, eaten smeared on a piece of bread. So much has changed in our recent history. Lard is not only out of favor, it’s even considered a derogatory word.

As I have grown older, and looking to keep my bad cholestrol down,  I tend to use Pro Active on sandwiches. It doesn’t work well on toast as it has a lot of water content in fact about half. The plant sterols are sourced from pine-tree oil, and these apparently block the body’s cholesterol-absorbing sites.  It does have milk products in it.

And chiefly for my B & B visitors, I use a butter type of spread. I used to use Lurpak Spreadable but I read that on ‘taste tests’, Aldi’s Norpak  tasted exactly the same, and  was  cheaper. So I am buying Norpak now. Personally I don’t like buying animal products, but I have to say that  Norpak does taste very nice.


Finally what do we reckon to the sun yesterday?


I t was all a bit spooky. I took this from the garden, but there were much better images on the TV.  I think I prefer my sun  yellow! Here is a shot of the garden in summer time. Very nice. Best wishes Linda

from kitchen window

From the kitchen window in July



September Letter from The Ferns chatting about swifts, bees and tomatoes


We have been trying to make our house more bird, bee and butterfly friendly, so to this end I was given a swift box as a birthday present. It was so enormous that we had to get a local building firm – KRM-  to put it up for us.

swift box 2017 a


swift box 2017

We read up about putting this up and it had to have a good space at the front for the swifts to be able to come at it at speed. It also had to be high up from the ground – so this is right below the eves. The box is an RSPB box, so should last for many years. Apparently swifts boxes don’t need cleaning out as they don’t bother much with nesting material , so it should stay there for many years without us having to do anything to it.

We are the Bees & Bee’rs

People who have been reading my blog for some time will  know that I am very keen on the survival of the bumble bee. Since reading Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale (2013), a local man, I have been so interested in bumbles. The Guardian newspaper wrote:

Ketchup. Nothing better illustrates the mess we’ve made of managing the environment on which our survival depends. When you next plop it over your chips, as Dave Goulson points out in his enlightening account of a life studying bumblebees, consider that it was probably made in the Netherlands from tomatoes grown in Spain, pollinated by Turkish bumblebees reared in a factory in Slovakia.

When we think of bees, we imagine stripy creatures producing honey in hives tended by white-cloaked keepers. There are in fact 20,000 bee species. Honeybees – “the anorexic cousins of bumblebees”, as Goulson rather dismissively describes them – have been domesticated for centuries and are drab


Image result for dave goulson bees

Hear him on Radio 4 2014 – a man from Edgmond  – It is so worrying to know that insect life is what does all our pollination from tomatoes to fruit trees, and pesticides can be both  good and bad.

Here are some bees and butterflies  from our garden taken this month:


The white flower is a herb called ‘winter savoury’ which I dried and used in my ‘Mixed Herbs’ jar. The blue flower is borage. I grow a lot of them- well in fact they are all self seeded , so I told have too much input into their lives-  but the bees love them!

(Thanks to one our sons friends who suggested we should be called the Bees & Bee’ers)

 My tomatoes

From July to September we have tomatoes from our greenhouse as part of our breakfasts for B &  B visitors. I think it is lovely to have fresh tomatoes from the greenhouse without any pesticides ( and all pollinated by – you guessed it – the bees). We have a variety of tomatoes from yellow ‘Gardeners Delight’, red Cuban tomatoes which I brought back the seeds of from Cuba two years ago, and another called Gigantico.

We have a greenhouse on a south facing wall; so we have tomatoes from the greenhouse until December time. Great for our visitors and ourselves.

Best wishes and good gardening! Do enjoy the last of the sun!





August letter from The Ferns veggie B & B, chatting about breads, wildflower roundabouts and Heritage Open Day

Breads: Jaspers Newport Cookshop and Waitrose

Although the Co-op closed in Newport, which was where I would get my pastries at 7.00 am for my guests who wanted Continental breakfast, I now have a selection of shops when I  find my breads and pastries. Unfortunately, none of them open at 7.00am as the Co-op did.  So this is a problem to get fresh bread and pastries for breakfast. Sometimes I buy the day before and freeze breads. The croissants and Danish pastries don’t need freezing they keep well in the fridge and I simply warm up at breakfast time

This is shot from today’s Continental breads and pastries offering:



We have croissants from Waitrose (right); chilli and coriander bread from Newport  Cookshop (top centre) and bread rolls (left)  and a pecan plait (centre bottom) from  Jaspers. I hope that I give a fair share to all our Newport shops!

Wildflower roundabouts

We are very lucky to have a borough ( Telford & Wrekin) who decided a few years ago to make most of the roundabouts  bee and butterfly friendly ie most are wild flowers. Here is one from Stafford Road, Newport.



We have one at the end of Station Toad, with a metal sheep sculpture at the centre.



Not quite as pretty but it  reflects our market town status. Usually, at Christmas time, someone decorates them with Xmas decorations which livens  them up a bit!


Heritage Open Day Saturday 9th September

This year we are involved with Heritage Open Day in Newport.  So, any B & B visitors will have to be up early with us, because we shall – well I shall –  be preparing with other members of the History Society and Newport town hall staff to open Newport Guildhall for the public. Normally, the Guildhall is not open the  general public because it is our town hall and council offices all rolled into one – as well as being a 15th century building.



Just taken today  – showing  lovely flowers courtesy of  ‘Newport in Bloom’ group


So we shall be doing guided tours, selling booklets and postcards, having a video showing all day about the history of the buildings, perhaps getting the mayor to sign in with a quill pen and getting involved with a group called Victoria County History Shropshire, who will be joining forces with us to create a new and definitive  history of Newport before long

The Guildhall has a very unusual timber-framed ceiling. Very smart for a little market town!


Anyway the Guildhall will be open from 10am – 2pm on Saturday 9th September. Free entry!

May be see you there! Linda


Our back door. The butterfly isn’t real, but looks good. 











July Letter from The Ferns B & B chatting about mid Wales and, The Hutchison Way and my birthday

Mid Wales


Here at  Newport we are quite close to all the beauties of mid Wales. You could take in Shrewsbury on the way. It takes us about an hour to get to Welshpool. It has  a steam railway.  This is called Welshpool and Llanfair railway and it travels into the countryside to Llanfair Caeirinion.

Image result for welshpool railwayWelshpool is an attractive market town. The indoor market is on every day of the week with a farmers market  once a month. Often you can hear the locals speaking Welsh. Nearby is the National Trust’s Powys castle,  which has wonderful gardens going down the hillside. Only good, really, if you are a good walkerImage result for Powis Castle


We also went to see the ospreys on the Dyfi Valley: two parents – Glesni and Monty and 3 offspring. The site is run by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. As well as the ospreys, they have two water buffalo clearing the boggy areas. There are many pools;  one notice board by a pool  took my attention. See bottom left.


It says: It takes three litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water!

Hutchison Way

200 yards from our house in the start of a shortish- long distance way to Wellington (Shropshire).This is a route linking the two historic towns of Wellington and Newport and the base of celebrated hill the Wrekin via Telford new town; combining modern developments with lanes, trackways, woodlands and open spaces created from old industrial sites.
It was created by Telford & Wrekin council as  a millennium project and named in honour of late former Chief Executive of the council David Hutchison, the original inspiration of the route

It is nineteen miles long, but you can easily just walk to Church Aston (10 minutes)

Image result for church aston newport shropshire

St Andrews church

Image result for church aston newport shropshire

The local – between Church Aston and Lilleshall

or to Lilleshall and the monument to the Duke of Sutherland on top of Lilleshall Hill which has lovely views over the flat countryside ( about 45 minutes)


The monument and trig point

or go to see the Lilleshall limestone workings at the side of the hill. These have recently been restored by a friend of Lilleshall through his own time and money and hard work.


Some of the kilns

Any of my guests who would like to do some or all of the Hutchison Way, just ask me for  walk leaflets.

My birthday

was spent in Borth last week – hence the lateness of my July Blog – at my brother and sister in law’s caravan. My sister brought me a home-made coffee and walnut cake, which was a lovely surprise and very tasty. Mike is looking a bit surprised by it all! DSC05726

Best wishes Linda











June letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about our artisan bread shop, fruit in the garden & food festivals in Shropshire

New bread  shop in Newport – The Cook Shop Deli

cookshop deli1The Cook Shop now do artisan breads, ice creams, quiches, gluten free products, unusual teas, oils and a wide range of deli products.

cookshop deli2

Hannah ( pictured )and Sue  know all about their products and are ready to help with any queries. We have tried  our local Mr Moyden’s Wrekin Blue and  individual quiches such as leek quiche, which were beautiful. Interestingly they had a thin layer of tomato on the base, which is  unusual and I’m sure enhances the taste.

The bread section is currently on sale on Fridays and Saturdays and comes from an artisan Shropshire baker. Here I am buying a baguette and Sue packing it up for me.

cookshop deli3

We have tried their olive bread, chilli  & coriander bread, granary and ‘Shropshire brown’  – an unusual very brown almost chocolate  coloured brown bread. Everything is lovely, I  have ordered the wholemeal for visitors next weekend. Although we have another more standard baker in Newport – ‘Jaspers’  – who bake their own bread from scratch, I shall be torn between choosing between them. I shall have to  have some bread from one and some from the other. The Continental style breads from the Cook Shop’ will obviously suit my continental breakfasters.

Fruit in the garden

Has just been looking round the garden for what’s ready and what’s not, for my B & B visitors  Black currants  are almost ready blackcurrants

Raspberries – because I cut down  my sticks in a certain way – I have early fruiting berries and autumn fruiting from the same stock. Some thing I devised myself , which I am quite proud of. Here you see the currently fruiting plants at the back, and the  autumn fruiting  just with their leaves in the front. They wont be ready for fruit for another month or two.


Artichokes are just coming into flower. We don’t tend to eat them because they are so fiddly, but we do love seeing the bees visit them


My peaches have a good way to go before ripening, but notice how the peach leaf curl has pretty much gone. This is due to covering the tree up before the leaves came out (see  my March and April  blogs). Mind you it’s a good job that it’s not a large tree!


Food festivals in Shropshire

We are blessed with great food   – cooks, restaurants and markets in Shropshire. The chief food festival,  which is an hour from here, takes place in Ludlow. This festival takes is on  8th – 10th September. Unfortunately the ale and sausage trail is for meat-eaters only. It  is lovely to walk around the town anyway and sample some of the delis.


Then we have closer to home Telford’s  Telfood Feastival on 2nd — 3rd September at Southwater  / town park. Not keen on the bug eating bit, but, with the town park


next door, should be a fun-filled event for families in particular.

Then we have our own festival on September 23rd with demonstrations, beer and food stalls including our very own Newport success “Thank Goodness” nut roasts



Lets hope for a lovely day as it was last year. We dawdled down the High Street, which was closed for the day and sampled cuisine from Shropshire to Africa. We bought items that then became Christmas presents. We have our own microbrewery called New Brew in Newport and they had a stall as did Joules brewery of Market Drayton. Lots to eat and drink!

Food frenzy1


food frenzy4

Whatever the weather, we have lots to interest our visitors in Newport.

Have a lovely summer


May Letter from The Ferns veggie B & B chatting about Marmite (again), tomatoes and Newport Show


I am a big fan of Marmite. It has lots of  vitamins and minerals in it. It also tastes brilliant My sister and I stayed at Barmouth, Wales  last week at a self-catering flat and when we  sat down for our breakfasts, what became immediately obvious…… can you see it? or them?


Would you believe it –  we had both brought our own Marmite. How often do you see two Marmite jars on one  breakfast table! I think I shall have to Tweet to Marmite and publicise it some how. It’s not a particularly good photo I took it with my phone on the spur of the moment.


We always have our own tomatoes  available for guests breakfasts. You can see that the greenhouse is full of tomatoes at the moment.

tomatoes may 2017

Some are in the ground, some are in pots. Bottom right – rocket, which provides us with well, yes, rocket, for all of the summer. The planting trays on the left are tagetes and I always plant tagetes between the tomatoes because they ward off whitefly, which I have had a lot of in the past.

I bought a galvanised watering can about ten years ago thinking that it would see me out, but it now leaks. You would think that some thing like this would last forever,.I keep trying to mend it will paint and gunk.

Newport Show and the Great British Bake Off

Hot on the tail of the winning Nadiya of series 6  of the Great British Bake Off, who came to the Newport Show not long ago. We now have Candice Brown coming again to the Show on Saturday July 8th .  


She was taught to bake by her nan, and strives to emulate her bakes aiming to be “even half the lady she was.” She loves everything vintage and though she usually bakes in her PJs, she has been known to break in a new pair of heels whilst baking too.

Probably be best to prepare her wellies though.

deer park 2


The show is set on a lovely piece of land – a deer park on the edge of Newport with an escarpment for views  at the top and a lake at the bottom. its not all just farming, there’s lots to see and do for everyone. From here, the walk would be about half an hour through the town. A great day out!

Have a lovely summer,   Linda




Letter from ‘The Ferns’ veggie B & B chatting about pollinators, St Georges day, my peach tree update and Vegan, Vegetarian and Coeliac Fair here in Newport


I am determined that everything that I plant in my garden from now on will help the bees, the butterflies, the birds and hedgehogs.  I am concerned about how wild life in my garden has deteriorated in the last 20 years despite my best efforts. So I am making a concerted efforts and hope you will too. I will try every month to make an efforts to plant beneficial flowers/ shrubs, or make some sort of hideout/ nest etc for animals and birds , I shall tell you how I get on in future blogs.

This month I have planted hyssop seeds. The seeds are very fine so I simply  put a fine layer of sand on top of them as I didnt have any pearlite available


hyssop seeds

With a bit of luck I shall have lovely blue flowers like this this summer


Generally speaking  blue flowers attract bees.. I have read that hyssop is  one of the top ten bee attracting plants.

One of our Newport local lads has made a famous career in entomology – Dave Goulson. He is now a professor of Biological Sciences at Susses University and studies especially  bumblebees. I have just bought his book  ‘A Sting in the tale’

a sting in the taila sting in the tail 2

Dave Goulson is the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation trust. A ‘Sting in the Tale’ was published in 2013,  and was the BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week”.
He details the life of bumblebees and tells us the fascinating research into the effects intensive farming and what this meas for our bee populations and on the potential dangers if we are to continue down this path.

St George’s Day in Newport


St George and the dragon

We have great fun on the nearest Saturday to St George’s Day in Newport. This years its the 22nd April. Fun starts at 12 noon.


St George with the town crier

Peach tree update

For those of who who read last month’s letter, during which I related that that we covered up our peach tree in early spring as we had read that it would help prevent leaf curl. You will see peach tree leaves that – for now – the peach tree has no leaf curl! Brilliant!

Vegan, Vegetarian and Coeliac Fair

cosy hall

This is a Newport event happening on Saturday 13th May at Cosy Hall from 10.30 – 2.30.

Map another

Organised by A Very Vintage Events

My friend Berni will be there with her ‘Thank Goodness’ range of nut roasts and pies, which I have reviewed and raved over in previous blogs. Delish! I shall be there with a few of my fliers to  support the cause, and maybe nick a piece of roast on the side!luxury-handmade-nutroast-small


Hope to see you all there!!

Best wishes for Spring.