Saturday, 24 September 2011

Is There A Fruit Bat Listening?

 The Crab Apples have their own agenda now....  Skins splitting, exposed flesh going brown and mealy, fruits falling prematurely, and because the tree is leaning so far to the right, with immediate danger of collapsing, my own guess is that the tree has made an Executive Decision to survive, and shedding fruit like a Mad Thing, rather than break its' own back - and I don't blame it.

Ever the helpful little soul that I am, I've been harvesting as many as I possibly can in my spare time..... juicing them in my Magimix (other food processors are available kids), and chilling the juice until needed. This potentially cuts down on the simmering of the acidic little beauties and lessens the making of an almighty mess round the kitchen with pulp and jelly-bags dripping all over The Funny Farm, because that tedious process bores The Pants off me with a capital B, and if there was an incling of further mess in the kitchen, or anywhere in The Funny Farm Children, Trousers wouldn't hesitate to leave home.

So!  I've set up a multitude of dripping jelly bags ALL round the house?

I've yet to decide whether to freeze today's Raspberries, to later thaw for maximum juice, or to bottle them fresh now.  Freeze is my Final Decision.....

 Ever grateful of eloquently being preached to (and at) in English, French and Latin, growing up in Boarding Convent Schools less than ten miles from home, is prolly where I get this kind of Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat Seven Years of 'Feast and Famine', and thinking an amazing harvest one year, may indicate a famine for the next seven.
But I was also A Girl Guide, and I seem to remember that I earned A Robin Badge, but can't for the life of me remember exactly why and what for now?  Was it that I managed to sew the badge onto my own uniform without help?
I deserve A Medal for the decades of Curtains and Roman Blinds that I've made for my own homes since, and gladly not a Girl Guide any longer, so no need to turn up to one of Catherine Tate's Twirling Meetings, eh?

Thankfully, having followed in the footsteps of my friend Gloria, and bought a Waterbathing Wotsit to extend the shelf-life of everything that I preserve from a couple of months to The Full Twelve, if Mother Nature has a bit of a dodgy year next year, I'll have covered my @rse.

Now this next photo shows the 'Invincible' Pear Tree that I planted last year, so-called, because it allegedly sends out Double Bubble Blossom, so that you never ever miss a crop of pears if a late frost happens to bite you on the bottom at the last moment....
There are so many ruddy Pears now, that I've had to prop them, and the whole tree up, and there wasn't even a hint of a late frost - so I'm getting incredibly scared now for next years' crop.

 Talking of fruiting boughs breaking and a plethora of fruit, the Autumn Bliss Raspberries are beginning to wear me down, with 2-4lb. of fruit on a daily basis, and up to an hour of my time to harvest them, most of which is spent bent-double to detect the ripe berries under the uppermost leaves.
Which led me to wonder whether it would 'distress' the canes at all if I stripped them of their uppermost leaves to reveal the fruits as they ripen, as I've done here to show you, because, other than make them more vulnerable to the birds, it would make it easier for the bees to pollinate the blossoms, and easier for me to identify the ripest fruits and pick them in their prime.

I promise you, if you've not tried it at the tender age of 50, harvesting ripe raspberries for an hour semi-upside down in a thicket when you can't see beyond your nose without a pair of magnifying glasses, you'll know exactly why I'm trying to push this particular boundary!

With another Lumbar Injection looming on Monday's horizon for my Prolotherapy treatment, it remains to be seen whether I'm going to please my Doctor, or have cocked it up again?  And I mean that with huge respect, because he knows that by the very nature of what I do, I am never going to sit still.
If I do have to have another Injection, I'll hold my hands up and rest for the rest of the day, for a change.

Monday afternoon, I'll telephone the offices of Ken Muir, Fruit Guru, and put the Raspberry Question to them for an answer, unless there's A Fruit Bat listening to save me the phonecall?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Calling The 'Full Stop Fairy'?!

Such Brilliant Ideas......My frozen Elderberries, stripped already of their stalks, were put with Cider Vinegar into a medium oven for four or five hours this morning, whilst I did The Washing Up, because we have a dishwasher that categorically refuses to do what it was invented for, and if it doesn't start to behave very soon, I'm going to dig a very big hole and bury it in the garden Children, because I'm big enough and ugly enough to squeeze a bottle of Fairy Liquid? 

Personally, getting my head stuck into too many preserving books at once for the same produce or recipe is a very very dangerous thing here Down On The Funny Farm at any time of year.

Largely, because I start off with very good intentions; the actual author's recipe -  and then I make the mistake of looking up similar recipes in other books, which ordinarily doesn't cause a problem, but when I've read every recipe in every book for the same kind of event, I go and get ideas all of my own?!
Telling Wellie to 'discard' the shallots once she's cooked them for a while in The Pontack Sauce is, shall we say, 'less than wise'?.....She's grown these babies from seed, nurtured them and grown them to perfection....Why would I want to chuck my Banana Shallots in the bin when they're now so full of flavour? And if I could use them in another dish resembling the same preserve, shouldn't I?  So I said 'sod the washing up' and just got 'tinkering'....!
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm positive that I could include those aromatic homegrowns into an Onion Marmalade, a Red Wine and Onion Soup, and I'm sure a gorgeous Paul Rankin Pork Sausage in a Casserole wouldn't turn its' nose up at it, eh?!

Unfortunately, The Full Stop Fairy hadn't finished with me yet, because falling headlong into my chest freezer once again to reach to the bottom, (and nothing whatsoever to do with the Creme de Cassis or Framboise from last year that I tasted and decanted before noon today!) I retrieve The Fruits Of My Labour, finding carrier-bags-full of Redcurrants, Whitecurrants, small acidic green Goosegogs, Worcesterberries, Chockerberries, Sloes, Rosehops, Mirabelles, Gages, Plums, Physalis, Damsons and a veritable mountain of Raspberries and Blueberries- all of which are coming OUT of the freezer this weekend, into Lidl OJ bottles in the form of fruits preserved in freshly pressed Apple Juice from The Orchard, and 'water-bath preserved' for the next 12 month, for my utmost selfishness and 5-A-Day on top of James Martin Brekkie Pancakes during the Winter Months with homemade Yoghurt, or I'm A Monkey's Uncle.

 But whilst Toppy'n'Tailing the Goosegogs (which is much easier done Kiddy-Winkies whilst they're still frozen? ), I was daydreaming, and musing on Sloes, thinking "How can I get Double-Bubble" from my Hedgerow Freebies?   I concluded that it'd be much better to stick the mountain of them into the Rumtopf, or Kilner Jar, chuck a load of sugar and Gin at them, steep for months, and given that the berries aren't edible much, to then make an intox.intox.alcoholic jelly from the spent berries at the end of the line maybe.
But my point is this:
When does this beautiful Fairy stop sending you gorgous ideas to ponder?
I will stop loving her when she stops sending me brilliant ideas.X

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Whacky Welsh Fake Off

'The Whacky Welsh Fake Off' is much less exciting than 'The Great British Bake Off' for all of you, but thankfully, taking place in my own kitchen, is much more rewarding for me, less scarey, and I've only got my Gardening Cat looking over my shoulder, rather than Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood, because I can't Bake to save mine, or anyone else's life.  A Spongecake and I can take each other out at twenty paces, but I like to think that I can cook?  Cooking and Baking are completely Poles apart my friend.

With Trousers and I having minimal time to spend 'togevver', (he works for such long hours?) and I decided today, to dedicate my own quality time, to make him a really nice 'Poy' for his dinner, because he'd probably like that.
 I remember from my childhood, in amongst being told that I couldn't 'Have More', because it was 'For Tomorrow', that my mother cooked a Corned Beef & Onion Pie.  And I rather enjoyed it.  So I set out today to try and recreate it.  Personally, if my own Mother knew me now, she might be proud of me, because actually, the 'Poy' turned out to be gorgeous.

Having negotiated my kitchen garden religiously for the last few days in the tipping rain, pin-pointing urgent stuff 'To Do' - one of them was that the beautiful young and tender Brussel Sprouts were starting to be attacked by tiny keel slugs, but otherwise, perfect.  So I made an Executive Decision today, and harvested what was fabulous in front of me, rather than wait.  These tender young sprouts have been blanched and frozen in the utmost prime of their perfection..

I was tempted to put some on to boil to be ready in time for Christmas Day, but thought that was such an old joke that I decided not to mention it today?!
And then, having picked up a Rum Pot in a local charity shop for the princely sum of £6, I'm about to take Trousers by the hand to help me pick buckets of Sloes for homemade Sloe Gin.  To be perfectly honest, if I could find another Rum Pot in the same vein, there'd be nothing stopping me making the same Sloe Whisky again, as the results of which were nothing short of unctious last year, she said, dribbling...

These Globe Artichokes were grown from seed this spring, and have been harvested from my own kitchen garden these last few weeks.

It was a very strange morning, as I sat myself down with the first caffeine of the day, observing a fully grown Pigeon just 'sat' in this birdbath, wondering what the hell it was 'up to'?

Not wanting to frighten it, I left it to its' own devices.  Later, beautifully discovering that the adult was almost 'sat' on the juvenile in the birdbath, and they both then flew the short distance to the nearby fence.
For me, this was a magical moment, because for those of you religiously following my Funny Farm blog, earlier in the year, the Sparrow Hawk stole their first baby, so they finally managed an offspring through adversity - and this, my friends, is the replacement baby!

Ahead of my next blog, the branches of my Crab Apple Tree are audibly nodding, and visibly groaning, and just begging me to take a weight off of their shoulders.  So, perhaps that I've allowed myself the beauty of  'Today Off', to relax and enjoy cooking for my man, I can resume bringing in Mother Nature's Bounty again in the next couple of days.

A warm welcome to you katyH, and hope you'll bring your friends along for the giggle.X.

Love You And Leave You All For Now.
Bless All Of You For Being Here.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Anyone for a Game of Cluedo?

With Trousers having abandoned me once again in search of a treasure more valuable than Moi (No, I do understand that it's possible when Metal Detecting Boys'n'Girls?), I stood in here on my lonesome this afternoon, with all the doors and windows shut against the blustery blight-ridden breezes, harvesting the last of the tomatoes off their vines, and, out of the corner of Wellie's eye, she spied a little harvest-mouse!  So I shut the interior doors leading from The Conservatory to the rest of The Funny Farm rooms, opened the back door, and, quick as a flash, grabbed my trusty camera.

Just as Trousers would be looking longingly through the window of a closed Cheese Shop Children, Squeak was looking through the window of Freedom, without a 'MouseFlap', eventually sussing out how to overcome the problem, by walking the long way round, and over the threshold, back into The Kitchen Garden for my Gardening Cat to catch on a different day than today.

Said Gardening Cat was fast asleep in her greenhouse, where all my Banana Shallots, Red and White Onions are drying, and very nearly ready to plait into a string or two (the alliums - not my cat - pay attention peeps?!)

Grateful for any harvest that I can turn into something fabulous, this is only a small proportion of the green tomatoes now being ripened in the safety of Indoors.  I've also got Conference Pears, Peppers and Chillies under strict supervision.

 It's no wonder that my brain aches sometimes, constantly being bombarded with brilliant ideas of how to solve a particular problem... and thankfully, in the picture below, I had this little gem of a brainwave for storing our magnificent Potato harvests:
The front door, naturally enough...leads into The Hall, which is: The Dining Room, grandly earning itself the posh title of The Dining Hall, one of the coolest rooms in the house, and a through-breeze is obtainable on a regular basis at the touch of a doorhandle to keep the tubers aired, but in the dark.
Clever Wellie, and no mistake...

 It just means that we can't invite friends round for dinner unless we dine them in The Kitchen, or we move the spuds to The Spare Room, which isn't remotely as convenient for me, but gets us out of having Guests stay over, because the spuds would have to join the ranks of the christmas decorations, which have been at the end of the beds since The New Year!

Yesterday, having harvested another 2 lb. of Autumn Bliss Raspberries, not having quite got over the 4 lb. harvest of the previous day.... I got both of my preserving pans out of the cupboard and had a marathon jam and chutney-making session - still leaving me more of my friend Medina's lovely Damsons yet to play with in the next few days from the fridge!

As sure as God made little green apples, I lost my label-writing pen last week, so Trousers treated me to a new one.  Having wrongly accused Himself and The Cat, I found it today, and have to admit that it was indeed:
In The Conservatory
With The Calligraphy Pen
Bless You For Watching, And Thank You For Listening Again.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Hug In A Mug Time?

Where exactly is the person with the white Straight-Jacket with the wrap-around arms when you need them then?......  Because I was only bleeting to Trousers the other evening that I'd meant to pick a few Elderberries, with an idea of trying Pontack Sauce, amongst other things, and was beating myself up that I'd probably lost the berries to the birds already.  But I was wrong, with a big W.  Last year, the birds eat each and every berry.  This year, they seem more interested in the ripe plums, windfall apples and Autumn Bliss Raspberries, 'a hop skip and a jump' above the grass path where they can reach them, therefore, ample time for Wellie to harvest, swinging from limb to limb, grabbing as many berries as she can between branches and showers.   I managed to harvest this many from just the one bush in the corner beside my compost bins.  It took me a while to 'de-stalk' them with the aid of a kitchen fork, but they're safely snuggled up in the freezer for me to deal with at my own leisure now, so I'm happy that I can relax.  Allegedly, Pontack Sauce is best kept for 7 years before I'm thinking that I might be able to squirrel a couple of bottles to the back of my pile of Ironing before I get discovered?!

And to be perfectly frank with you, I think my friend Medina 'Should've Gone To Specsavers', because this is the level of generosity that I spoke about in my No-Photo last blog update..... 4 kilos...and that must of taken an age for her and/or Ian to pick - a punishable offence in my book, with the sentence of a beautifully prepared, and lovingly cooked dinner at The Funny prepare to be very, very punished you two.!

Do you miss Last Of The Summer Wine as much as I do?  Country Folk , and beautiful characters, sitting so comfortably in our own Sitting Room, able to enjoy the show every week as a whole family, without embarrassment, and when I look at Trousers, his bestest mate Jim, and Pippy, these three completely 'embody' every fibre of that beautiful series.  Because they are Metal Detectors.
I'm no scriptwriter,  but there's a script 'waiting to happen' right here if anyone wants to come and get it my friends.....

The Victories for them are  Roman Artefacts in a muddy field .....Coins, Keys and Brooches.
My Victories are in the heart, soul and mind of a middle-aged woman watching Mr. Darcy and his Breeches.   Because British Dramas, every Autumn, have always lured and hugged me into a comfy chair, where normally, nothing else would.... and only when the leaves start to fall from the trees,  with a whole new series of Downton Abbey now magically waiting in the wings, can I contemplate being in front of the woodburning stove once again.

With everything else going on, and not needing ripe Tomatoes for a while, I'd forgotten to just 'check on them', and yesterday, having done so, it was sad to see the definity of Blight.  But with only the beginnings of it, and so much harvestable fruit, I spent the next hour or so making sure that the fruits that I harvested were perfect.

Anything less than perfect, didn't make the grade for the kitchen.
Sad, but true, because you can never make a silk purse out of a piggie's ear.

I'm really enjoying your company, so thank you for being here.X.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Never A Dull Moment...........

I wasn't happy yesterday evening, because I'd seen a few harvestable Elderberries, and hadn't taken advantage of them, and not being entirely sure of our Bermuda Triangular Weather here betwixt the Wye, Severn and Monnow Rivers, you'd be better off licking your pinky and sticking it in the air rather than religiously following a forecast.  Don't get me wrong though... I don't lose sleep over missing an opportunity to preserve, and it certainly doesn't rule my life.  My point here, is that last Autumn, the birds stripped every single berry, and I like to keep an even keel on the 'one for you, one for me' rule?.  It being: One Entirely For Wellie this Autumn I think you'll find.   So today, I harvested, harvested, and harvested - and once I'd taken a kitchen fork to them to separate the berries from the stalky-bits, I'm dead proud of my proper 2 kilos of inky berries in the freezer tonight.  I like to chuck stuff in the freezer for a short while when I'm up to my proverbial armpits in ripe fruit, because whilst you have every good intention of dealing with it 'toute suite', with everything ripening within an annosecond of each other right now, there's a huge window for ripe produce to spoil whilst you're even just contemplating blinking.  (Which, she said swaying, sat here on her kitchen chair, is prolly why preserving fruit in Olcohol actually came into being once upon a time?)
I myself, have got a very fine glass of Damson Wotsit beside me right now on the opposite side of the Laptop to my Gardening Cat, and I call it 'Damson Wotsit' because I had two brews on the go at once - one being Damson Gin, the other being Damson Voddy, and when I'd largely had one glass too much of either, I mixed the two together in a big Kilner Jar, but the resulting tincture is nothing short of Excellence my friend.

My Friend Medina left me about 4 tonnes of Damsons on my doorstep this morning, and I still can't wipe the smile off my face.  I am still laughing my sox off looking at them, and shaking my head from side to side incredulously that anyone could be quite so generous.  And she refuses anything in return.  What an absolute Angel you are sweetheart, thank you so much, and it's a kindness that will not go unrewarded.

Running out of Freezer Space, as you do, I turned my freshly harvested Leeks, Carrots, Golden Beetroots, Parsley, Garlic, you name it, into a kind of Vegetable Bouillon Paste Mix today, and that's now bottled and stored in my walk-in Pantry.   But actually, stop and ponder for a moment in time, because, as every Artist, every musician composes, their brushes and strokes and notes so brilliantly different, so can you too achieve that when you create your own Vegetable Bouillon Paste.  Vary the flavours by changing the veg, by changing the herbs.....Lovage instead of Fennel....Lemon Thyme instead of Thyme, Sweet Marjoram instead of Oregano.  Light your own candle, and have fun.
I am, with knobs on.X.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Wobbly Week for Some Reason.....

 To be perfectly honest with you, my newly re-started Lumbar Injections for the dodgy Sacro-Illiacs again, I don't think, have been the problem, but for some reason, I've not been one hundred percent Top Banana this week on the 'fitting the right shape into the correspondingly correct Jigsaw space'....putting the coffee jar into the fridge, and the hot iron up to my right ear when the telephone rings.... (just joking about the last one, obviously?!).. but I'm sure that you're following my drift!.....I'm not entirely sure why, but I started off my Tuesday, visiting my friend Emma, thinking that I might help her out in the garden for an hour or two.  To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't find it particularly amusing, when I got there, to find that I'd taken gardening shoes that were, right enough a pair, but for the same foot?....and I had an identical pair of those at home...... Unfortunately, when you start a week like that, it tends to somehow 'gain momentum', and before you know it............

You've gone and smashed a window..........The first one in your life.
I'd got a bit of a Bee problem in the sitting room.  The most sensible thing to do, I thought, was to open the window, but again, not having woken up properly for the second morning in succession, I discovered that the window had been 'painted shut' Children, and as I rather stupidly leaned against the statue to try and free it, the statue did tip over and end up in the front garden...

 Remind me to take a photograph of the top of Trousers's Head Children when I get a spare moment to show you how he's losing his hair?  Otherwise, he can apologise RIGHT NOW, and treat me to some Girlie HighLights in time for my 51st Birthday in about 6 weeks time, and no more will be said about the matter..........

However.... Serious stuff happening here, with the last of the maincrop Pink Fir Apple Tatties, definitely having suffered with Blight, unfortunately rotting down to the top tuber or two, but we lovingly harvested what was 'saveable' togevver today to eat fresh, sorted those to store, and buried a hatchet or two, for Wellie to dig up and use later to her own advantage when Trousers isn't looking......

......... With Trousers telling me that I should just get on and plant the Garlics and Jappy Overwintering Onions, or 'I wouldn't feel like I'd achieved anything today'?, I bit my tongue children, as he sloped off to watch Sport on the television, and I continued to cook his dinner once again.

  I'm incredibly mindful of what I want to cook, and with a year ahead in mind from now, I've planted 56 Pink Garlic Cloves, 56 White Garlic Cloves, and so far today 65 Japanese Overwintering Onions.

Normally, I wouldn't dream of subjecting my Capsicum plants to being outside, but I've had a really bad attack of Greenfly, and I decided that I wanted my garden birds to feast on them, and then bring them back indoors, once the worst was over?  Largely, anything in my world gets two chances, and then I bite them off at the ankles.  Man or Beast....  No Prisoners.......

It's been an amazingly 'Wow' time for me in the last couple of weeks, because I've been visiting local shows, and making such very special friends;  Keith Avery, sent me an amazing envelope from Llandogo, and honestly,  I can't begin to thank him enough...My thanks also go out to the  Lovely Lesley, because without this gorgeous lady, I would never have ventured over to Llandogo in the first place

Gaynor and her gorgeous hubby did me dead proud this week, welcoming me into their Hearts, and their Orchard, to scrump from their floor to my content...... thank you so much you two.XX.

And with a 'swopsy' of some of my rather more 'mature' Wallflower Seedlings, with my lovely friend Medina's ' Less Mature Seedlings, between the two of us, I think we can have the Bumblie Bees visiting our crops in 2012 quite nicely on a two-tone level.......

For now, I'm 'Out of Here', so I'll see you next time  Gorgeous.X