Sunday, 24 July 2011

Light, Shade, Shape, Form, Fun and Flavour

When you see a number of fruit and vegetable species growing alongside each other, sometimes, with the reflection of the light or the dew or whatever, you're drawn to look a little closer.  When the dust settles of an evening, you've finished watering/preparing dinner/cuddling the cat, shapes and forms so beautifully appear, to ease away the stresses of 'your workaday world' (as Terry Wogan would say in the trail for Terry Walton's Rhonda Valley Allotment)... And that's why I like sometimes to step back a few paces, inspired by my friend Gloria maybe, to absorb and let natures' beauty sink in some of the more peaceful moments of my life that I'd otherwise miss, giving thought to what I see through the eye of a lense, and then later, what I've captured in my photographs, because each photograph that I take these days, reminds me of my late father, and what photography actually meant to him, in its' importance, and the importance it is beginning to play in my own life..
And then out of the blue, half way up your three-storey building, one of my adorable garden birds has propagated A Sunflower.  That'll be nice company for the tree sapling that's growing out of our chimney pot in Wellie Towers then, obviously....!
Fert'n'Liza Flobalob are still recovering from their guest appearance on The Itton Village Produce Show Poster this year.  Foot-loose and totally 'hands-free', Wellie, being completely aux fais with all kinds of modern technology,  has banned them from any mobile pheramones, P-pods, U-boats, Z-Beds, U-Tubes, FaceAches or Twatters until they regain their composure and va va vacuum....?!
Just when you thought it was safe to come out of your kitchen......and having visited County Cork specifically to dine at Cafe Paradiso ourselves a few years back, who did I applaude from my very own kitchen once again last week on The Funny Farm Blog?  And my culinary hero has indeedy answered my prayers and written another book, which Trousers kindly bought for me within two days of finding it online after Emma assured me that he'd written a fourth.  Denis Cotter, I adore you.  There.  I've said it...... 

Unfortunately, we made the mistake of staying at a B&B a couple of doors away from his restaurant on that visit, where there was no chair in the room to sit down and put your pants or sox on from.  If you opened the wardrobe door, the weight of the door, without any hangers weighing it down inside, brought it crashing down into your face.  They 'unlocked the dining room' each morning to allure you in for brekkie for the worst case of a breakfast that has ever been witnessed in the history of mankind, and they charged us a fortune for the priv, priv, honour? 

Thankfully, I'm thinking that one doesn't even need to 'Go To SpecSavers' anymore, proverbially, because Paradiso themselves were starting to do B&B, and that should be up and running now so that you don't have to suffer the same fate as Trousers and I? 
What I actually really love about Denis and his culinary expertise, apart from the obvious, that he makes vegetarian food So Ruddy Gorgeous, is that he TALKS about it before he tells you how to do it, because when I bought his 'Paradiso Seasons' I had no idea who he was but read his book from cover to cover, because it was just so dead interesting.  His sense of humour is much like my own, and his writings/witterings intrigue me at every sentence, paragraph or turn of the page.  But the best bit of all, is that he makes your mouth water with every recipe that he creates, and if, like me, you actually grow the stuff outside of your own back door, he's bringing perfectly 'doo-able' restaurant  or homely food  that you're 'itching' to cook, right to your very fingertips, making it a part of your everyday life.
Trousers and I had the pleasure of a few words with Denis when we visited his restaurant, because we asked to, he won't remember, but as one of his biggest admirers, I'd like to pass on our good wishes to him if he were ever to read this, with my utmost sincerity for many more an inspirational book to 'Blow My Frock Up'.
Bless You Denis.X

We appear to have lost a photo or two in the translation of uploading this blog this evening children, which can only be Wellie's fault (!), but there was a rather spesh photo I'd planned for you, which showed, simply a mower, a garden rake, and an Orchard.
The story therein, relies on diligence, everyday 'floor-pickings'.  What I collect from the orchard floor is effectively 'Mine'.  What 'The Girls/Sheeps' see and eat, is 'Theirs'.  And having mowed the orchard floor this afternoon, raked all previously fallen fruit out of the way, anything that falls subsequently, unless into a big pile of Sheep Sh!t, if I get to it before they do, it's got Wellie's name on it.X

You're all very quiet....  Are you still there?!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

I'll come quietly Occiffer......

 Last week, at my friend Emma's, I purposely mowed her Strawberry Bed.  She'd lovingly harvested ripe fruits there for a few short weeks, and I didn't like to rain on her parade at the time, but the plants are truly exhausted, and need 'grubbing out', as us horticultural peeps like to say, because it sounds 'dead knowledgeable', and makes us appear like we know what we're talking about.  Not only that, but after the harvest, you couldn't actually SEE the Strawberry Bed for huge great clumps of grass, docks and nettles?  Unlike my own, of course, which, because of the 100% TLC it's had in its' very existence this year, I'm going to be thinning out our Strawberry Plants to start her a totally new Strawberry TableTop Planter in her Fruit Cage, and also, start her off some very new plants from the runners that you can see dangling here.  It'll save her a fortune, and hopefully, we can buy some 'everbearers' between the two of us with monies saved, to extend our harvests, and buy our Autumn stocks of Japanese Onion Sets, Garlics, Potato Sacks, Sweet Pea Seeds, and whatever else us girlies feel a need to shop for! 'Citing!!

Also, as a talking-point in the same photo, my caribbean Sweet Potato plantlets are beginning to show signs of growth, and it's the first time I've ever attempted to grow these.  They were expensive to buy, so I was tempted to buy another four today at half price, to 'take a punt on', in the hope that they'll come good before the end of year frosts.  I should plant them in the soil of the greenhouse, to extend their life me thinks to be on the safe side.

I own a number of excellent gardening books (surprise surprise) and I did refer to my book on growing flowers to dry this weekend on account of the fact that I've got a shed-load of Poppy Seedheads (none of which I've sown at all) and I thought it'd be silly to waste them.  The Poppies have been much admired by old and young peeps that came to our Open Garden Day at the end of June, and it is only just now that I read: "Even the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), named for the drowsiness produced by its extracts, has been used for arranging on occasions.  Although it cannot legally be cultivated without a licence, it is still found growing in cottage gardens or in the wild and the seeds, which contain no drug, are used for decorating bread and cakes.  I'm still in shock, obviously....  (See Wellie make loads of bread and cakes in the next few months!!)  Have YOU ever been arrested Children?!

 Now this photo below absolutely 'blows my frock up', because I've read about Leek 'pips' before, but never experienced it happening on a seedhead to propagate my own leeks, so I am absolutely delighted, because this will be a true Funny Farm Leek for future years to come.  Horticulture doesn't get tougher than this children?  Although, having said that, I'm going to be spending time researching grafted greenhouse plants like Tommies and Peppers in any spare time before breakfast for next year, because it interests me, and there's clearly huge mileage in that subject if you've got the patience, eh?
 And lastly, this is the very reason that I like to grow our dinner outside of our kitchen door:  Eat your heart out Mr. Birds' Eye.... Wellie's Peas are picked and frozen in less than five minutes.....
She picks a small amount of pods, shells them, freezes them, then picks some more, shells them, freezes them, and so it goes on.  The only way they reach our tummies, other than freshly, is straight out of the freezer in a beautifully simple and tasty Herb Risotto during the darkest days of Winter, or in one of the gorgeous vegetarian recipes from my very very favourite Denis Cotter recipe books, which are so hugely inspirational, even not being vegetarian ourselves. When you need the cockles of your heart warmed with the taste of some beautiful homegrown 'stuff', you couldn't wish for recipes as gorgeous as his from Paradiso in County Cork.

I made Trousers laugh yesterday.  He was being A Grumpy Old Man in the sitting room, and I'd been shelling peas in the conservatory with the cat (as you do....) and it suddenly occurred to me that it'd be a waste to chuck the pods away. The redundant pea pods were suddenly destined to become my first ever Home Brew, namely Pea Pod Wine, (pods frozen till sufficient quantity collected)
Picture the scene Kids..... with a glass or two of Pinot Grigio on board already, my very Pooh Bear brain beginning to kick in, and Wellie just bursts out laughing.  With my humour never readily impressing the cat, I tripped  into the sitting room, and proudly announced to Trousers that I'd thought of a fab name for my first Funny Farm Country Wine:  (Drum Roll......)  : NO PEA GRIGIOT !  I thank you.... see Wellie curtsey, catching thrown bouquet of flowers, and kissing her cat on the head.X

I posted today a Thank You card to Storming Norman, because I've appreciated his time and effort in identifying his thoughts, comments and suggestions regarding The Village Produce Show.
That said and done now, I must put my own expenses in to tally the books for The Treasurer, and then The Show can be put to bed for 2011.

Go out there and sow the last of your Perpetual Spinach, Beetroots and all that kind of stuff this week, because if you put it off any longer, children, there will be tears before bedtime.

My time for bedtime now.  Thank you so much for listening.  Have a great week, and hopefully, if I'm spared, I'll see you here again next Sunday.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Fat Lady Has Sung...

...So that'll be The Show over then?!
I received a lovely letter this week from Storming Norman, who triumphed with trophies once again at the 2011 Produce Show.  He thanked me for a well-organised Show, which was very touching actually, and as  I had a Suggestion Box in The Hall on the day, he'd like to share his with me now:

Very good suggestion to open The Hall earlier 'on the morning' rather than for two hours the previous evening to enable plenty of time to stage exhibits.  Because, instead of me sat there Billy No Mates, hand-writing the name of each class, beautifully I might add, with my Calligraphy Pen on all 100 First, 100 Second, and 100 Third Prize Certificates, next year I can be sat relaxing at home in our beautiful garden with my man, my cat and a cool pitcher of Pinot Grigio instead!

Just a point of information (and he did inform Pat of this a few years ago);  it is a 'Strig' of Currants, not a 'String' evidently.  That suggestion may be ignored, me thinks, on it wrongly being read as a typographical error by The Punters?

Whilst reading his epistle, it became quite clear that my carefully thought-out, new & innovative Show Schedule seemed to disappoint him on quite a number of levels.  And although he didn't enter anything in this category personally, the Cookery & Preserves section was particularly faulty, which he covered in detail for me so that I was left in little doubt.
It's a shame really, because I'd spent months on that bit; shuffling things around, tempting more creativity, researching delicious new recipes to tickle your tastebuds this year, to be interesting for the judges to judge, and visually appealing for visitors to view. All in all, I'd put a tremendous amount of thought into it, and it was the section I was most proud of?

Still, the very lovely Olga Brandt-Bull, Lord of Itton, 90 something, who joined us for my first Itton Produce Show, took my hand and congratulated me so sincerely on my creative and well-put together schedule and show, that I knew I should be proud of what I'd done in taking up the reigns and keeping Itton's Village Produce Show alive for another, and hopefully many years to come.  I shall particularly treasure her hand-written note to me with the respect that it truly deserves.

Not wanting to please all the people all the time, even with one Show under my belt, I've learned an incredible amount about what does, and doesn't work well here, and next year, with The Jubilee, The Olympics, fewer low-flying teddies, and the help of my 2012 Show Possy, I'm excited about it already, so God Save The Queen....

Trousers managed to mow the grass before the wet stuff arrived during the week, but The Funny Farm garden has largely just been admired from the Conservatory windows or from under the garden gazebo-johnny by ourselves and our friends...  I'll paint the picture for you:  Borage, Poppies, Pot Marigolds, Dahlias, Roses, Cerinthe, Nasturtiums, Violas, Flowering Herbs, Sunflowers, Lavender, Candytuft.....  

... and all the fruit and vegetable plants that we're harvesting from are equally as beautiful, in differing shades, shapes and form to add to the visually edible tapestry I aspire to weave for us every season:  We've had the occasional handful of Autumn Bliss Raspberries, the last of this years' magnificent Strawberries, 'Strigs' of Blackcurrants (!), cute little yellow & green Courgettes, the first proper crop of ripe tommies, and half a dozen perfectly-formed Cauliflowers.  The last of the Bored Beans have been anorakly shelled, blanched, peeled and frozen for out-of-season use in Wellie's Winter Kitchen Wonderland.  We've had more Mangetout than we could shake a stick at, with Summer Sprouting Broccoli, second-sittings of Calabrese sideshoots, Carrots, Noo Potatoes...  Oh, and best of all, 500g of Stella Cherries, our first ever harvest!  Last year we had two cherries, one of which fell off before it ripened, and the other went into the tummy of a blackbird I think.
Anyways, all 500g are pricked, pitted and shaken daily in sugar and brandy now.  No, I can see you are children, given that you're the colour of Kermit The Frog?

One of the biggest jobs done has been to relieve my chest freezer of the responsibility of looking after the remainder of last years' Funny Farm fruit for an extortionate electrickery fee, and like my friend Gloria, I've made a Fruit Compote, sterilising the fruit in their preserving jars.  The 'ping' of the lids just now was a sure sign of a vacuum, an excellent seal, and music to my ears.  And the ooodles of scrummy syrup that's left over from that medley is tucked up into Lolly moulds with a generous lick of Vodka.  On a Summers' afternoon, as my friend Lyn and I giggle the hours away on the sun-loungers, Our Beloveds metal-detecting over the fields to their hearts' content, we'll be A Lush Couple of Lollies, and no mistake!

Welcome to The Funny Farm to those of you daft enough to register as identifiable blog-followers lately... More's The Merrier, so if you've been thinking about doing it, go on, spoil yourself!X

Until next time, Love You'n'Leave You.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Put Your Hand Up And Shoot Yourself In The Foot?

The Itton Village Produce Show happened yesterday, (she said, not quite believing that she isn't sporting a major head injury from some quite specific low-flying Teddies...!)

The Stewards I'd chosen to assist The Judges did an amazing job considering that it was their first time. Grace (a spritely 92) took money on the door, for a while...!  Jean and Alex were expertly OC Tea'n'Scones.  Roger Dodger badgered everyone drawing breath in the hall to buy his Raffle tickets, (majority of prize-winners now owning a considerable amount of Wellie's unwanted books, scarves and oddments!) and my huggy mate Barbara, and Gina made the most amazing cakes and sweet treats for The Cake Stall.  Trousers and I rowed our way through The Funny Farm Kitchen to procure lunch for everyone, and I'm quietly confident honey that the blood stains will come out of the curtains on a boil wash?!

I'm still not quite sure how I managed to make such a monumental Cock Up of the Final Hurdle though: 

On the table, were eleven trophies, all of which I'd placed a note inside as to 'what they were called' and 'which section they related to'.  The problem seemed to arise, because the information on the piece of paper in front of me only correlated to four of them, the other seven trophy winners remaining Itton's Best Kept Secret, until I sift through the paperwork in the next day or so.
Have you ever wished the ground would open up and swallow you in without a trace Children?
Wellie has ...

Still, the number of people who sought me out to congratulate me on such a fabulous, and well-attended Show, was the thing that touched me most, all of them saying that it was about time it had 'a bit of a shake up'...

The number of entries in the show, and the overall quality was outstanding, and whilst I pride myself on my Smug Trugs, I only achieved a Second.  All the more wounding, as the judge marked me down because he indicated that I'd scrubbed my vegetables, which I hadn't?  "I rather suspect", she said in a stage whisper, "that the judge recognised Storming Norman's excellent Show Standard Veg he's been judging for the past 7 years, because mine is more, shall we say Kitchen Standard" Doh!

I won a First for my up-close-and-personal photo of a ewe with her two newly-born twins through the garden gate of The Funny Farm, but Paulie's mate Pip only went and won Best In Show Photograph didn't he?  
 So, all evening, whilst we were enjoying a lovely 'Let Wellie's Hair Down' Dinner it was "And WHO won Best In Show Photo? eh? eh?!"  It was hilarious.
All in all the 2011 Itton Village Produce Show was a resounding success, and I'd like to give 'a high five' to each and every one of you who helped me to make it so.