Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Autumnal Witterings

Autumnal Witterings, because I decided that the garden is way too weedy, and you've witnessed too many Smug Trugs already.... so:

On visiting the Dentist for a check-up this afternoon, I parked in the same vicinity as six months ago, and discovered, to my utmost horror, that there were kilos and kilos of wild rosehips on a pickable-height hedge in front of my bumper, that had gone over and were now way too soft to harvest. What am I LIKE?!! (mental note to oneself: next dental visit end of March.... the one after that'll be end September, so keep an eye on the garden ones' and do a drive by Luv to the dentists' a couple of weeks earlier, no?!)

It's all the fault of my paternal grandfather, I seem to remember, because he was the one that nurtured my horticultural interest, by showing me and explaining the theory behind shaking the tomato plants in his greenhouse to help the pollination happen. From then on in, I was very quietly hooked....

Many years later, when I eventually met my maternal grandfather, I discovered that he and I also shared an interest in horticulture, and I remember wishing that I'd met him much earlier in my life.

However, whoever which one of them, or both, keep sending me these brilliant 'Ping' Ideas, or snippets of knowledge from that garden in the sky, consider yourselves well and truly adored Gentlemen, because it is turning my life around so beautifully.

Talking of which..... Trousers and his mate Jim went detecting with Pete last weekend, and the three of them went detecting on a Rally, with another sixty or so like-minded enthusiasts, somewhere over towards Cardif evidently. Either that, or they devoured a whole tin of homemade Biscotti Bickies on their own, and sinfully, neglected to bring the empty tin back. Although I'd settle for a very valuable piece of Roman jewellry instead of a replacement tin, if truth be known.

I know, credit where credit is due.... but allegedly, Wellie's Cheesy Sheep biscuits (made for a previous detecting rally) are now in high demand, so my culinary experiments are indeedy paying dividends somewhere along the line, eh?

My 'best friend' Gloria came over yesterday to take more photographs of produce that I'm still growing, produce that I've harvested, and produce that I've preserved/stored.

And it's rather a lovely thought, that one day, one of her photographs of something that I've grown, harvested or preserved, may end up being published in a book on the shelves, and admired by me, one of you, or one of your children, or childrens' children in years to come. Because, like my own late father, she proffers them for use to Photographic Libraries, and has had a lot of her kitchen garden work accepted very recently......
..... or who knows, I might get a book of my own published one day..... with
Photographs by Gloria Nicol.
I'd still got some SweetiCorn Cobs producing in The Funny Farm Kitchen Garden, from a successful experiment of successional sowing this year, and I was amazed that Gloria had never eaten a freshy picked and cooked corn cob. So whilst she did what she's best at with her photography, I did what I'm best at. Five minutes later, a healthy lunch was served. And then completely ruined half an hour hence, with a square of Chocolate Truffle Brownie, fresh raspberries and cream, and a shot of Wellie's newly decanted wickedly-homemade Strawberry Rum 'a la Bob Flowerdew', if you please!

Now then. With the pure symmetry that Gloria and I share of cooking and preserving, with new recipes that we've found, new books that have just miraculously fallen out of the sky, landing on our cookbook shelves - last count totalling One Hundred And Thirty Five, ouch?! (until Trousers notices at The Funny Farm, obviously!), I would just like to say a very heartfelt thankyou Gloria, for the gift of my 'Preserving Tongs' Sweetheart.

I'm not in the least bit worried that people reading this will think that I've taken to curling my eyelashes between Jam Making Sessions, because I'm way too busy for that, but because there is nothing quite like being given the right tool to do the right job, whilst the raised James Martin Pancakes are on the stove, I shall multi-task and 'flick' my hair a little, or do I mean Paul Hollywood?
Unless you are here in my kitchen, you will never know, my friends.
But bless you for listening.X

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Bring It In.....'n' ..... Bring It On !!

I've been systematically banging on all week long to anyone that will listen about the weather closing in of an evening, because largely, I'm having to put a woolly pully on whilst I'm preparing His Lordships Supper, and I'm finding that I've got an affectionate gardening cat draped over my shoulders whilst I'm trying to have 40 winks of a nightie night-time on my pillow as well, which is a sure sign that Her Ladyship is also feeling the cold.

And so, I decided that it's time to harvest as many of the Summer Herbs as you possibly can, as quickly as you can now, in order to preserve their fragrance. If you miss it this month, you're not likely to get a decent hint of a harvest until the hottest rays come out again next year.

I used to hoard great quantities of broths, casseroles, stews, crumbles and stuff in our freezers, making vats of stuff at a time? Not no more I don't.... because I'm largely getting wise about amalgamating into small quantitites of flavours, preserving in oils and vinegars, bottling, and capturing herbs in sauces, to THEN add to a breast of chicken that I just bought yesterday, or a Tenderloin of Pork for a special Saturday Night Dinner.
Get my drift? That way, I'm only preserving (by whatever means) the barest minimum in an electrical appliance wot's costing precious pennies for months on end.

I'm still only learning, because it was only a few years back that I actually started to grow stuff to eat, even though it seems like a lot longer.... time flies, obviously, and Trousers does indeed feel like it's been A LifeTime Sentence, obviously, because he was just shaking his head to someone just recently about 'what is it that she just does?'. no, actually, I'm lying to was more insulting than that... he was shaking his head and asking the question of MOI?! (Do Mothers actually imprint that pained look on blokes foreheads at birth? or do they get that tattooed later as a hormonal teenager?)

So, my mate Pigletwillie came up complete and utter trumps last weekend, and allowed us to snaffle away about a thousand of the jars that Trousers originally picked up from some factory for him in the South, transporting them up to him at his home, and now (if you're still following and haven't dropped off to sleep), we've brought a goodly amount of them back from Pigletwillie's place to The Funny Farm again, for Wellie to put her own Funny Farm Produce in.
So basically, these Jars are sporting some serious 'Go Well Go Shell' Miles under their screwtops.

Bless you Piggy, a truck load of jammy jars in the truck, and, miraculously, not a single dollop of chicken poo in there at all (quality shot mate!), and thankfully, no-one forgot to put lids in the truck too?!

And anyone that actively hates photographic shots being put together, will absolutely hate this, but......
I like to grow it, bag it, and harvest it ....

And when the Orchard/Garden/Hedgerows are just bulging with stuff to 'snaffle away', I'm the first person there with A Trug (or fifteen....!):
Rosehips, Goosegogs, Cobnuts, Borlotti & Serbian Climbing Beans, Peppers, Courgettes, Sunblushed Tomatoes, Dried Pot Marigold Petals, Baby Aubergines, drying herb seeds, freshly chopped herbs for the freeer, unctiously infused oils with herbs from the garden.....

Personally, I don't know where I find the time.....!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sowing, Reaping, Harvesting and Saying Thank You.X

I was always taught not to speak with my mouth full, and so I won't, and you'll just have to wait until I've finished....................................................................................................................................

How do you even begin to describe how gorgeous life is at home with a mouthful of homemade crumble with Physalis, Plums, Bramleys, and Greengages in? And that not being gorgeous enough, to go and stick a goodly dollop of custard on top.
Honestly, forget Nigella and Sophie, respectfully, The Pope would be wise to stop off at The Funny Farm this week, and no word of a lie.

Not wishing to dis Trousers in any way, shape or form......but since we moved into The Funny Farm, he has caused me no end of disarray Children? Sometimes He gets out there himself and takes the pictures, but a lot of the time I do, because I'm here more, and kind of notice things more as they happen..... The Cat never does, and nor should she, because she should indeed ask for our permission before she borrows the camera, obviously....

But this time, Trousers has posted the photos up in a hugely sensible order for me to talk about, because it's kind of all about Reaping and Harvesting, and quality time spent, and just properly appreciating the gorgeousness of what you've been allowed to enjoy.

After such a hard Winter, it was brilliant to be able to get out into the Kitchen Garden, and try and make some kind of sense out of the chaos of trying to 'settle in' last year and define paths and borders and compost heaps, and what the livestock would 'half-inch', given half the chance..... And so it has been beautiful to just allow ourselves the occasional snatched moment of pleasure, and sometimes, in the form of a simple photograph for the blog that we then appreciate more than any of you watching from afar, if that makes any sense.

Trousers is spending now much more quality time doing just what he adores, metal detecting, albeit away from home sometimes, but with like-minded souls,....but surely, that's the nature of the game, because afterall, if you're in your own back yard, on your tod all of the time, that would become a tad tedious after a while, no? And I'm having a lovely time now meeting his new buddies when they come to visit, cooking a nice lunch for them, or my speciality Cheesy Sheep Biscuits for him to take to one of his 'Take Something From The Wife, But Don't Bring Her With You Buffet In A Field Somewhere'?!

Which suitably brings me onto the subject of Don Juan here, this Big Bloke in the field of very girly sheeps outside of our kitchen window.....
Momentarily he's just resting, until he's identified his 'Today Girlfriends'...
The other morning, he was completely prostrate on the grass and we had to go check that he was still alive, but thankfully, he was just resting again..... Personally, Trousers being a Painter and Decorator, tried to 'gloss over' what Don Juan may or may not have been up to during the dark hours. You can't pull the wool over Wellies eyes, and I'm expecting there to be many bouncing baby baa lambs before the spring is out next year, and no mistake.

Concentrate now Wellie? Where was I......Oh yes....

I've been harvesting that much produce from the Kitchen Garden and greenhouses, that I
decided to finalise my plans of turning the Conservatory into a proper working Summer Kitchen, at completely nil expense, and with Trousers superbly collecting me odds'n'sods that he finds at work in this or that skip, it's enabled me to organise myself there for ripening possible 'Blighty Tommies', drying beans, sunflower seeds, bringing in pots of fresh garden herbs, etc. etc

Don't get me wrong, the Funny Farmhouse Kitchen works brilliantly for me, but out here in the Conservatory at this gorgeous time of the year, when the light is bright, but there's a nip in the air, I still feel like I'm right out there in the garden itself, and that's what I set out to achieve when I planned it, so Thank You Angels....X.
And whilst the boiler isn't switched on in this corner of the conservatory, the undercover and sunny quarters are helping to ripen what I hope will be our winter wonderland of produce for the kitchen table at a much later date.

I've never grown Summer Raspberries, so I'm of the Autumn Bliss Prince 'Raspberry Beret' Brigade, and I kinda like it that way actually.... because they have the potential to be bigger and better, and being much later, you have more available time to squirrel them away in whatever shape or form you choose to.
On a daily basis now, I'm picking between 55 and 75 raspberries.
I only know that, because I count them into my little basket, and it's a very silly game that I play with myself, because depending on how you position them, that's how many you can fit into a 500ml bottling kilner with sugar syrup, if you're dead gentle with them.
I rest my case?
No point in telling Trousers, because he laughs at the merest thought of me in a pair of Onion Goggle Glasses at forty paces, let alone with a pinny on and counting raspberries in and out of a weeny trug tied to my pinny strings.
With the fruits that don't make the grade, as it were, I freeze them every day, and when I've got enough to do something sensible with, I either make jam or juice them. The idea is largely to get anything that doesn't NEED to be in the freezer OUT of the freezer, to make room for shed-loads of homemade chilli, moussaka, lasagne, curries, stews, casseroles, a huge array of inventive homemade sauces/pestos....

..... sometimes I wonder how Trousers would cope living with a boring person?
I need him to multi-task when he's out Detecting now Boys if you're reading this, because I now have room in my freezer for a woodcock, a partridge or two, pigeon breasts, a brace of peasants, a Wild Boar or a whole collection of conjoined Venison Joints.
And I know how to cook them to perfection.
With just six weeks until I disgracefully turn 50 years of age, I can't quite decide how I would like to spend that special space......
For now, thank you for being here.X

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

Two very well-fed and watered members of this household, I think you'll find, and if I hadn't taken the laundry basket upstairs myself, when he faithfully promised that he would, you'd be staring at it in the next blog update as well, and no word of a lie my friends......

As Trousers discovered for himself this Saturday morning, Wellie has had her trusty toolbox out this week, and done absolute wonders with what blokes call Dee Eye Wye.
Because it isn't Rocket Science, and they're embarassed to see that you've done it without them, let alone the fact that it's days and days before they've even noticed that you have?
Girls - Don't be remotely afraid of it. It's Common Sense with a capital C and a capital S.....

I adore Rainbows, don't you? and this one turned into THE most magnificent double rainbow, which just 'blew me away' (metaphorically, obviously, or I wouldn't be writing the blog now...)

You see, the thing that I'm learning with having a productive Orchard in The Sick Sheep Field, just over the fence from your back garden, is that it's a complete Free For All.
Not only do the Bluetits think that they have 'Carte Blanche' over your yet unripe Pears...... the truth is, that they DO have Carte Blanche over your yet unripe Pears, the young Steers WILL scratch that annoying itch on the underside of the already struggling Pear Tree that's desperately trying to creep over our side of the fence for some kind of survival respite, and basically, you have to witness it, smack your forehead with your right hand, get over it, and just mentally move on.
Not content with hoovering up the Orchard Floor twice a day of the Bramley Seedlings Children, the Steers are wrapping their salivating tongues round whole dripping branching of Plums, and whilst I've got a tap in perfectly good working order in both the kitchen, and the conservatory, I'm making a mental note to pick my plums from much higher up already.

But that's only because I'm a stickler for hygiene when it comes to cooking and preserving stuff.
Give me a worm sandwich or a mud pie as a child, and I was happy as Larry (whoever Larry was back in those Good Ol' Days, when we were actively encouraged to, eh?!....)
Nowadays, I'm up to my Proverbial Armpits in produce, and I only have myself to blame for that, thankfully.
I've got THAT much to do, and not enough hours in the day to do it all in, and then I calm down, tell myself to just 'Get A Grip Wellie', not to be such a ruddy Drama Queen, give myself a good slap, and just get on with it.

And, to be perfectly honest, that normally works.
However, if Himself or The Cat start.... I don't muck about... I just get the Paint Balling Kit out, no?!
You're very special for being here, so thank you, because I know you enjoy reading this from many corners of the globe. X.