January’s Bird finds friendship

Look who I found in the garden today!

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I haven’t seen a thrush for years!

 

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She was very shy and quiet but she let me take a couple of photos

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She was on the alert all the time, looking for danger

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Always make sure you have plenty of water out for the birds in your garden and remove any ice if its as cold as it is at the moment

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Maybe put out some worms or fruit or seeds as it can be very hard to find snails in the snow.

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Look! she found a friend! Titania will befriend anyone whether they want a friend or not!

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I bought myself a calender for Christmas, knitted birds by Nicky Fijalkowska. I already had her amazing book which you can look at and buy here.

I am hoping to knit a bird each month. I actually have enough patterns and kits to knit a bird a month for 2 and a half years! Nickys patterns are so easy to follow and if you have any knitting skills at all you can produce an amazingly realistic bird for very little effort!

I would change the feet on this one as i used pipe cleaners wrapped in DK (because thats what I had) but they have come out a little chunky, but i dont think it spoils the look of the bird.

Please have a look at Nickys shop and show her some love on Facebook 

I’ve been very busy this month already, the first day of February will be spent making a cosy new home for 5 more beautiful Hens who are coming to join my family, more on that later.

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Wet Nellies

Sorry for the absence, I certainly haven’t abandoned my lovely blog. I’ve been studying Astronomy and because I wanted to do really well, I spent most of my time with assignments, past papers and revision. Its over now until September so there’s time to catch up with the baking and knitting and gardening.

These are what my Grandad called Wet Nellies 🙂 Mum loves them. Yesterday she said she wanted cake, so I asked if she could wait an hour while I whipped up a batch 🙂

The tin I always use is probably 80 years old, or even more, but I’ve seen nothing like it in the shops. Its deep and has a lovely pattern on it. It’s the wet nellie tin, simple as that.

I’ll pop the recipe at the end, but you start off with a sweet pastry. I bind it with an egg and I put granulated sugar in to help rub the fat into the flour. It makes a lovely buttery, soft pastry that’s easy to shape.

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It was a lovely afternoon to bake, the rain was pouring down. I would usually be in the Gazebo in the garden, but I had to take it down in a gale on Tuesday :/ I watched the rain from the kitchen instead.

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This tablespoon was also Ninga’s,  Its an essential when baking, especially when making rice pudding in grandads pudding bowl 🙂

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Raspberry jam, it should be homemade but this isn’t, although I did eat the first raspberry from the garden today. Gosh, it was delicious.

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Top the pastry cases with macaroon mixture and smooth it with a wet finger. Top each one with a flaked almond and bake.

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They don’t last long once they are out of the oven. As you can see, before I could get a photograph they were sampled 🙂  They look nice, but I’m not a cake fan so I couldn’t tell you how they taste, I have to rely on the official cake taster and she says they are lovely 🙂

To make 9 Wet Nellies –

For the pastry you will need
4oz SR Flour
1oz butter
1oz Lard
a pinch or salt
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
1 free range egg

for the macaroon mixture

2 free range egg whites
4oz ground Almonds
6oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Blanched, flaked almonds to decorate

Raspberry jam.

They take about 20 minutes on a medium heat oven, about 375F or 190C gas mark 5

 

Merry Christmas!!

From my home to yours, Merry Christmas 🙂

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The Girls have got their stockings up ready for santa

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My beautiful Dining room Tree

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The table ready to set for Christmas Lunch

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I’m hoping for some of this….

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and lots of this 😀

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Merry Christmas from Phoebe, Margot, Mabel, Hilda, Rosin, Mimi, Poquito, Bertie, Alfie, Lola, reg, Min, Squirrel, the fish, my fabulous mum and I. See you in 2017     xxx

Soup for the soul

One of the nicest things, for me, about the cooler days is the warm, hearty meals you crave. This is one of my absolute favourites. Carrot, Potato and Parsley soup.

its so simple, there isn’t really a recipe. You just chop up some potatoes and carrots. I like to use slightly more potato than carrot. I find too many carrots too sweet for this soup.

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Next chop everything into small chunks and add a large bunch of chopped parsley and a stock cube. I use chicken or vegetable.

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then all you do is cover everything with water, bring it to the boil then simmer it for about 30-40 minutes. I like my soup quite thick and mushy but with chunks still in it. You can add more liquid, blend it smooth or just bash it like i do.

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Serve with a chunk of fresh bread, lots of butter and then go back for seconds 🙂

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Spring in October??

The world has gone mad!

After we had a heatwave that dessicated almost everything in the garden, all the leaves fell off the trees, all the fruit ripened and either fell off or we ate, we then had a cold spell, which seemed to simulate autumn then winter. Now the weather is warmer and sunnier again and blow me! if the trees aren’t in full spring blossom again!!!20161002_151023

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The Pear tree in with the girls, beautiful new leaves and pretty blossom.

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Apple Blossom

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Where there should be none….

I’m not too sure where this is going to lead, nor how it will end. Maybe the winter will be mild enough for the tree to survive, maybe the frost will kill off the blossom and any developing fruit and the tree can gather its energy again, I will let you know!

The girls are loving the weather tho. Poor Carmen is moulting and is taking it really hard.

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But her and Poquito are enjoying a sunbathe

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Ahhhh the sun is beautiful mummy 🙂

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The beautiful Margot having a stretch, Hilda B sitting in the shade behind her.

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The weather might be crackers but we are loving the blue sky 🙂

Migraine Relief, believe it or not

Migraines are something I’ve suffered from for years, I was diagnosed with Chronic Migraine Syndrome which basically means I live with a headache of some sort every day.

I’ve tried everything, if you suffer as well you’ll know what I mean. i’ve tried all the over the counter migraine tablets, i’ve tried prescription drugs, I’ve had acupuncture and even gone cold turkey and spent a month medication free. The theory behind that one is that you can take too many pain killers and get what the doctor called ‘a pain killer headache’, nothing shifted my headaches. The more stress i was under the worse the migraines and the more frequent.

Then one day I was talking to my friend Becky Bee and she asked had I heard of the daith piercing for headache relief? Well, no… so i looked it up, it is still in its early stages so there doesn’t seem to be any scientific proof, but people seem to have good reports. Bee has suffered really badly and has even been hospitalised with her migraines, and she hasn’t had a headache for FOUR MONTHS since having her piercing!

Acupuncture is a common alternative approach.  Supporters claim the daith piercing is effective because it occurs on the same pressure point on the ear that is used by acupuncturists to treat migraine. There are at least 22 trials that have investigated acupuncture in treating migraine headache. 6 trials have looked at adding acupuncture to an existing treatment regime. The findings showed those who had acupuncture had fewer headaches.

So, How does it work? The upper insertion point of the Daith piercing seems to correspond with the large intestine point used in Chinese auricular acupuncture. Large intestine channel points are often selected for the treatment of headaches and migraines, and other forms of head pain, due to that channel’s pathway across the face.

There doesn’t seem to be conclusive proof that it works or not, but my view is that if you are in pain constantly, and are willing to try anything, then for £25 you can get a cool ear piercing that may or not help you.

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I took the plunge and as of today, i am exactly 19 days post piercing and I still have to check myself, because I haven’t had a single headache since…..

Nearing the End of the Summer

The garden is in that strange time of year between everything fruiting and flowering and utter desolation!

There are still lots of flowers. The Black eyed Susan is lovely at the front of the house.

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This Agapanthus is flowering away in its first year, It has only just been planted so hopefully next year it will come bigger and better, but I love the colour.20160806_103610

Its a terrible year for my fruit trees. There are hardly any apples, some beauties but nothing like as many as usual.

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The Dahlias are flowering and they are stunning this year 🙂

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The Lupins are on their last flowering. I’ve let a couple go to seed, a beautiful dainty purple, an orange and a deep purple, so I’m hoping to grow some more next year. I adore Lupins.

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The Rhubarb needs picking and making into something delicious. I like it stewed and served with a delicious home made vanilla ice cream.

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Little Tomatoes ❤

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This is a ‘Sungold’. My favourite.

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The best place to sit on a summers afternoon…or in a rain storm, or a thunderstorm…

I love to grab my book and sit here and just feel the breeze, watch the birds and listen to the peace and quiet. until the neighbours start making a noise that is….

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The runner beans – something happened to all but one of my seedlings this year, this is just one plant!

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As well as the regular fruit trees, I have one lemon, one lime and this…. an orange 🙂

Look at those beautiful buds….

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I will soon move the citrus into the greenhouse for the winter. The grape-vine will he dying down so that makes way for these beauties to overwinter safely.

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Osteospernums

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yellow roses are my favourite. We don’t actually know what this one is. there are 2 beautiful yellows, Arthur Bell and Happy Birthday, but this one seemed to appear from nowhere! Its gorgeous tho.

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I forget what this is called now, Barbara has it in her garden, she brought over this piece and its very happy in my garden. I believe it spreads so hopefully we can transplant bits all around.

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And finally…..

My girls and I at the end of our day. I always sit with them first thing in the morning and last thing at night, no matter how much time i spend with them in the day, these are the important times. Time to check crops, bottoms, make sure everyone is eating and looking happy. I think they look pretty good to me 🙂

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L to R – Mimi, Margot, Hilda, Rosina, Evadne, Poquito, Mabel and Carmen.

 

After the rain

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Gosh! everything has shot up after a week of torrential rains.

The pond is full to bursting

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This is Nemesia ‘Wisleys Vanilla’ There are 2 pots each side of my chair in the gazebo, and gosh it smells divine!20160622_111736

The Raspberries are ripening almost by the minute. I pick one for me, one for the girls, another for the girl, try to get one to Evadne who loves them and smacks her beak after eating them, then take one in for mum.

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These Violas have been stunning for months now. I make sure I deadhead them as often as I can, and they flower for ever.20160622_111835

The Blackcurrants are starting to colour20160622_111951

These are Loganberries. I had never tasted them before but I had one yesterday and they taste exactly like delicious blackberries, but look like raspberries! Madness!20160622_111957

The Gooseberries arent doing very well this year, They seemed to put all their energy into reproducing, we had several ‘pups’ that have been repotted, these are all we seem to have, I wont be making many pies with those 2.20160622_112016

Plenty of flowers20160622_11202820160622_11221220160622_11220320160622_112237

The first apples 20160622_112259

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Jim Snail eating the broad bean leaves, you can have the leaves Jim, but stay out of the pods!20160622_11262020160622_112703

The first strawberries ripening20160622_112817

Dahlias, Ive no idea what colour these are, I grew them from dried up tubers last year, i think one is pink but it will be a lovely surprise when they flower.

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Lupins are my favourite summer flowers, the purple ones especially as they are beautifully scented.20160622_112139

These are the plums the girls are raising for me.

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There aren’t so many cherries this year, the wind thinned them out very early on.

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My constant companion, my love, my Phoebe girl ❤

20160622_111845and last, but by no means least, look closely at the centre of the lower part of the photo…baby bluetit just fledged 🙂

20160622_112327Gosh, I do love my garden!

Calendula Ointment

This wonderful ointment/cream is my all time favourite ‘go to’ magic potion.

It’s amazing for so many things, you can use it on dry skin as a moisturiser, on sunburn to hydrate and protect from infection, on bites and stings, on excema, any spots or blemishes, you can use it for any sore or inflamed or itchy skin conditions, to heal wounds, to help with rashes, prevent bedsores, soften hard skin on the feet… the list is pretty endless!

I always make sure we have a great supply in the garden. They have to be a certain species tho, Calendula officianalis, the pot marigold, NOT the african or french marigolds (although they are great for growing next to tomato plants to increase the yield)

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They come in all different shapes and sizes, single flowered, double,

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even multi flora with rows of petals.

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They come in all shades of yellow and orange, pale milky yellow to dark burned orange, and they are a joy to see in the garden in early summer. They are so easy to grow from seed too, just toss the seeds on the garden and they will do their own thing. They are fantastic self seeders too, so once the flowers are all finished, the plants will start to dry up, you will see all the seed heads, once they dry and start to shed seeds, just pull the whole plant up and leave it until spring does her magic next year.

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So, to make your own magic ointment you need very few items, but plenty of time.

Harvest your marigold flowers and use them straight away for the best results, but you can pick your flowers and pop them into a freezer bag in the freezer to use later on. I do both, I make a batch of cream in late May/early June and also freeze some flowers in case I need to make it stronger or if i need to make another batch.

You need a big pile of flowers, no stalks, a jar of petroleum jelly (you can buy big jars like this in the £1 shops usually)

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A pan of water with a clean bowl on top, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water or your ointment can burn.

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You can add in other herbs if you want, lavender to aid sleep and ease headaches, camomile to aid restful sleep, I’m using mint to help with the itching and provide  a cool menthol to the cream.

I’m using a mix of peppermint for the cooling and spearmint for the scent.

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Start by melting the petroleum jelly in the bowl

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While you are doing that, take all the mint leaves off the stems, and all the petals off the green stalks, you don’t want anything but the leaves. Throw the rest away.

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as soon as the petroleum jelly has melted

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add the petals and stir, then rip up the other leaves and add those.

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Give it a good stir and keep it on the heat until the petroleum jelly becomes liquid again, it will cool down as you add the flowers.

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Now comes the waiting…

Heat the jelly til it melts, then turn off the heat, stirring for a while to bruise the petals, then leave it to set again, then repeat…all through the day. You can leave the bowl out in the sun, just cover it with a net, not cling film as that encourages condensation and you get water in your cream, and not a tea towel because that blocks the sun, I use one of those fly covers, like a net tent. You can leave it out in the sun all day.

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Once you have done this for 24 hours, you can check the colour of the cream, it should have turned a lovely golden colour, depending on how many dark flowers you used.

Heat it up once more, until it’s really hot and liquid. While you are doing that, clean some glass jars, ones without metal lids as the metal can react with the cream and it can go off.

Take a piece of muslin cloth, I use the face cloths I get with Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish 🙂

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Pour the liquid through the muslin into another bowl, it might take some time to fully seep through.

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You can then either pop that bowl on the pan to warm it again, or just pour it straight into the jars.

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The muslin cloth will then have all the petals stuck to it along with a healthy dose of cream. This makes a fantastic poultice.

IMG_3352Wait until it has cooled down a bit still warm but please be careful because it can be really hot, then bandage it to any stubborn patches of excema or dry skin or sore patches you might have, leave it overnight and I guarantee the next morning you will have soft skin, keep using the cream 3 times a day for a week and you should be almost clear of the problem.

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one tip I would give, don’t attempt to make this on the stove when the heat outside is over 100 degrees! *PHEW*

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OUCH!

bites

If you are anything like me, this beautiful summer weather has a downside…gnat bites.  I seem to be a magnet for the bitey things, and I’m not very good with them. 2 or 3 and I’m ok, any more and I feel really ill, sick, headache, aching all over, itching all night long and then not healing very well. It’s all to do with not having the antibodies to cope with too many at once.

SO, what can you do? well, sadly there’s not much you can do to avoid it, I get bitten at night when I’m sitting with the girls while they get ready for bed. Gnats are attracted by standing water, so you can make sure your water butts are covered, I have a pump and fountain in the pond to make sure the water is moving, you can wear long sleeves and long trousers but they seem to get under those somehow and then that makes them mad so they bite and bite and you get a cluster of horrible bites.

There are many remedies for relieving the itch and reducing the swelling.
You can try essential oils, or fresh herbs or other household items like toothpaste.
Here are a few I have tried

Apple Cider vinegar – I always have this on hand, the girls have a spoonful in their water every morning. All you do is soak a cotton ball in ACV and place it on the bite.

Aloe vera – straight from the plant, just cut a leaf and rub onto the bite. Its cooling and Aloe has amino acids which are good for the skin, helping to repair damage.

Baking soda – make a paste with baking soda and water or with witch hazel, dab it on the bites and leave to dry.

Calendula – I always have home-made Calendula cream on hand, it’s very soothing and has antibacterial properties. I use it for everything from excema to bites, dry skin, cuts and bruises. I will post my recipe soon as i will be making a new batch.

Chamomile – very soothing, you can use the whole plant, crushed up and rubbed on the bite, or use a chamomile teabag and rub that on.

Cooled tea bags – use chamomile or black tea, place the cool, damp tea bag on the swelling and it will soothe and reduce the swelling.

Cucumber – also soothing but can be quite sticky

Hot tea-spoon – this is supposed to act on your pain receptors. Hold a tea-spoon in hot (not boiling) water until it is hot but not too hot so it will burn then place it on the bite. You could do the same with ice cubes or a spoon kept in the fridge. It works by ‘confusing’ the pain receptors, so instead of creating an itch, your body will think it’s in pain and concentrate on that, so relieving the itch

Oatmeal – if you have a bath, get a piece of muslin or the toe of a stocking, fill it with whole oats and tie it over the bath taps, run a cool bath (through the bag of oatmeal) then tie the bag up and drop it in the bath and just soak for a while. Oats are excellent for dry and itchy skin.

Peppermint – really good for soothing the skin, you can use the fresh leaves and rub them on, or essential oil, just pop a drop onto the bite.

Plantain – this is a wonderful ‘weed’. You can use all the plant, crush it up and rub it on, tie the crushed leaves over the bite like a poultice or make a plantain salve. (I will share the recipe for making infused oils soon)

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Tea tree oil – this is long used for relief of itchy skin but a word of warning, some people can react badly to it. I tried it on Phoebe once for her itchy skin and she cried, it seemed to really hurt or sting her.

Toothpaste – just pop a tiny bit on the bite. Mouthwash with menthol works as well.

Calomine lotion is usually the go to treatment for small children, but I read up about the ingredients and there are quite a few harmful things in it, Parabans, alcohol etc so if you want to keep to using natural ingredients, I found this great recipe.

1 Tablespoon of Bentonite clay
1 Tablespoon Baking soda
1 Tablespoon Sea salt
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
15 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
add water if needed to make a smoothe creamy paste.

Place in a clean, glass container in the fridge and it will keep for several months.

You can get Bentonite Clay from health food shops or from amazon.

I hope some of this helps, I shall be covered with calomine and tea bags tonight in the hope of getting an itch free night 🙂