Wednesday 24 July 2019

Damson jam

Making jam in this weather?!!!*** I know, but tell the damson tree, the fruit is ripe and dropping and my freezer has no space, it is already crammed full with other fruit. We switched the Aga off days ago in order to keep the house cool, something that happens only rarely. Himself is happy, he loves stir fries and the small wood-fired barbeque has been set up outside where he creates impressive displays of cooking in the wok. (A man, food and fire - my, what a thing to behold!)
Anyway, back to the grind, I had the job of processing a bucket load of damsons before they spoiled in the heat.
With the Aga out of action I had to resort to the electric ring and cooked my damsons in batches using 3lbs of fruit per batch, leaving plenty of room in the pan so that I could get a good rolling boil. I use just over 2lbs sugar to 3lbs damsons to get a good sharp flavour and it is a fruit that always sets well.
It's a sticky business!
But the results are worth it.  12lbs made today, with more to come tomorrow.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Picking peas

Is there something that you do that acts as a short circuit to a specific other time? Whenever I pick peas I recall being in Auntie Jo's garden. I was sent out with Crawford to pick enough peas for lunch; two households sitting down to eat meant a lot of peas. Auntie Jo and her husband were GPs in the Scottish borders and we would call in on them when we were on our way to visit relatives further north. Their surgery was in the home, as was usual in those days and it was busy household. They employed a cook cum housekeeper so Crawford and I needed only to gather the pea pods, the cook would shell them. She was probably wise to the fact that if two small children were shelling they would also be busy eating! Fresh raw peas taste delicious.
My peas are now on stream and today I had a good picking. My mind goes straight back to my childhood and to Auntie Jo.
Its funny how strong some random memories can be. People who came to our wedding fifty-two years ago recall me throwing off my shoes to dance in my bare feet but I don't recall doing any such thing!

Monday 15 July 2019


About twenty years ago we made a small area of gravel garden. I was pleased with the result and it has needed very little maintenance since its construction. But I looked at it yesterday evening while wandering about and there was hardly any gravel left to see, I'll have to do a fair bit of pulling out and re-establish some easy spaces to walk through.

I sowed a packet of the small grass, stipa tenuissima at the time and it provided me with plants that are still going strong.  It's well behaved and gives movement to the garden, waving gently in the slightest breeze. Yesterday the evening sun shone through the fronds making them look especially lovely.

The garden is in full summer mode.
Lots of colour!
The foxgloves are going over and the hollyhocks taking their place. They are all grown from a packet of white seed, not that you would know as they come in a variety of pastel shades!

It's St Swithin's Day, gloriously sunny- no sign of rain. It wasn't like this fifty-two years ago on our wedding day! I'm going to put on a summer dress and then we'll saunter out for a celebratory lunch.

Thursday 11 July 2019


No one is posting letters in the village for now. Bees have taken up residence in the postbox and are flying in and out through the letterbox. (It's the perfect entry size for them but has always been very annoying if the letter or card that you want to send is anything other than small.) Attempts have been made  to remove the bees but so far without success.
We called in on our neighbours three doors down the other day. They've removed their border hedge in order to have a borrowed view of the surrounding fields. It looks lovely. HOWEVER, now the deer can make a little leap into their garden, wander at will and nibble at whatever they fancy........and they fancy a lot! If you're wondering what the little building is,  by the way, it's the old outside lavatory!
They've planted wildflowers and left the grass to grow in their orchard in order to attract pollinating insects. It is noted that we have a sharp decline in the number of swifts in the country, a direct result of the loss of wildflower habitats and the consequent reduction in insect life. Tomorrow's Gardeners' World programme is going to feature what gardeners can due to alleviate the problem.
The deer have wandered into their orchard as well, and there is a line of cropped foliage at the comfortable height for nibbling!
In our own garden the scarecrow seems to be working well. It certainly scared Maeve, a friend's Irish terrier. Hackles up and barking until I removed the scarecrow's hat and gave it to her to inspect.
I shall try to plant wild flowers in the grass for next season.

Meanwhile the garden is rioting!

Monday 8 July 2019


On Saturday lunchtime we heard the unmistakable sound of a steam lorry trundling down the road. Ah, yes, at two o'clock the annual summer féte would start. A warm, dry day, reliable weather for a walk down to the village and back without getting a soaking - we would go!
The field below the church was set out with stalls. The choice of games made me smile, they were all very appropriate for what had formerly been a farming community; splat the rat, welly throwing, duck racing, milk the cow!
Music played and people a queued for ice-cream.
The tractors were a big draw
for boys both big and small.
Himself liked the cars.
A good place to  sit and watch the welly throwing!
I liked this 1939 Austin tourer in British racing green with its lovely green leather seats. I don't imaging it raced but pootled gently around country lanes, hopefully with a picnic hamper strapped to the back.
probably borrowed  from the pub. 
Spiderman seemed very popular at the face painting stall.

This duck didn't go anywhere near the race.

The church tower was open
so we paid our £1 and prepared to climb.
First level was to the bell ringers gallery with this rather fine window. The story goes that it was removed for safety from the fire of London and was never returned.
Second level, the clock-winding mechanism.
Then up again to the bells.
And finally, through a VERY small door, out into the fresh air at the top of the tower where we had a bird's eye view of the countryside about us.
and the féte below.

A photo of the recent re-gilding of the weather vane - our own mythical beast! A good head for heights needed for that job.
Somewhere in the distance, beyond the field in the centre of this picture, is our cottage. We fortified ourselves with a slab of home-made cake and a drink from the village hall before walking back up the hill.