Sunday, 29 January 2012

Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines?....

Trust me... this is A Bridget Jones Moment..., and I'd hate to lose it at the expense of you thinking that I look ridiculous?  and I hate it now that you've laughed out loud  and don't trust that I could make it big in movies??
Wot?  You don't think I look attractive?........And to be perfectly honest Kids, I don't think it's a laughing matter.  However, Trousers does wet himself laughing when I put these Allium Glasses on, because he can't remotely take me seriously.  Nor can I?  Reminds me of that fabulous Welsh actor, Rees Efan (?) in 'Notting Hill', the tall one in the wet suit, reading the paper with a snorkel mask on, or indeed.....Hugh Grant in the cinema.  (In danger of going off on a tangent here, the assistant in the travel bookshop in The Cardi will never be comedically topped for me).
But when you do grow your own garlic, shallots, onions and leeks, the garden variety of allium tears, seem to be a hundred-fold in strength compared to shop-bought allium tears.  And I needed these homegrown leeks to be very finely chopped, to experiment with a recipe for The Itton Village Show at the end of August - only because it's a variation on a recipe, and in my experience, if you haven't cocked it up on your own doorstep first, you'll find it very difficult to control the Village Riot on your hands at a later date if the recipe ain't right when it's too late to placate!  Ordinarily, these would be Welsh Cakes - for which The Welsh are famous.  Wellie then found a variation on that recipe for last years' show with grated Apple in, which brought some annoyance in the village, and huge amusement to me.  Medina, being a girl after my own heart, thought it would be dead funny to 'drop me in it' even further on The Welsh Cake front, and leant me a booklet with a recipe for Leek & Cheese Welsh Cakes. And having tasted them, we're unable to ween ourselves off them now!  I'm refining the recipe a little, but they are a fabulous brekkie accompaniment to Ultan Walsh's Missus's Chestnut Sausages, chucked onto the griddle with a rasher of bacon.

 Medina usually bringing 'sustenance' to our Village Show meetings, and it being 'my turn', I thought I'd surprise her with some Almond Danish Pastries.  Everything went well, until I was ready to add the Quick Action Dried Yeast, and discovered that I didn't have any.  Always, always measure out all of your ingredients before you start Children!
 And, as the saying goes: if you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen!  So I did, to individually pot up a few of my First Early Potato tubers. Whilst you've got 5 of each variety still 'Chitting', you can have 5 beginning to make roots, and grow into small pots to give you an even earlier harvest of New Potatoes.  Once they've outgrown these small pots, you plant them into bigger individual pots, or say 5 to a much larger 'Patio Container', keep cool in a frost-free environment, and you'll be harvesting by the end of May or very early June.  The Cutting Edge, eh?

 Then as the remaining 5 'Chitting' of each variety get ready to be planted out in your veg patch, they will give you a successional crop of New Potatoes, ready for harvest when you've used up the Patio Potted ones.... Get my drift?
These little Fairy Buns are another experiment for The Village Show, and contain grated raw Parsnip & Lime Zest, topped with a zesty-lime cream cheese frosting. Well, one of them is! And I can just see you now, convinced that I've turned into dotty old Letitia in The Vicar Of Dibley.  I've only decorated one 'to try', as the rest will be frozen and then thawed, for M and I to test their 'freezability', then another batch will be made with Beetroot, another with Carrot, another with Courgette - some iced, and some not.  All, hopefully, to enable us to procure a multitude of edible or saleable cakes at the same time as Growing, Picking, Arranging, Photographing, Crafting, Painting, Cooking, Preserving & Brewing our own Entries for The Show to try and keep numbers and finances up in the face of adversity.
When you take over the reigns after 20 years of an established Show, it's a dangerous game to play when you're faced with trying to please all of the people all of the time in an established Village community, because there are so very many Chiefs, and not enough Indians!... Whilst I was hit by a few superficial 'Low Flying Teddies' last year, I've learned a thing or two, and Medina and I have had less KinderGarden Fingers burned so far this year on the strength of that, with moving the date, total new produce, new judges, new schedule.....
and I just absolutely know that all of you are wishing us the very best that we hope for our own success.

Now I have an apology to make to you:  I purposely abandoned you for a whole week, making no blog updates whatsoever.  Largely, because I've recently just told my Mother that I have A Blog, and whilst I'm sure her hearing aid is in perfect working order, she has 3 years of blog-updates to read, and I wanted to give her a fighting chance of catching up?!

And, as you can appreciate by what I've wittered on about above, I've had my heart'n'soul where it was needed more for now.  But TODAY, I threw the covers off my bed, scared the living daylights out of my cat, and raced down The Funny Farm stairs, flinging the conservatory door open in my Jarmies, and filled up the Bird Table, Nut Feeders and scattered seeded breadcrumbs over the entire Allium raised bed.... Birdbaths to overflowing, because today was my last chance to RSPB Garden Birdwatch.
Immediately, a flock of 16 Housesparrows, 3 Dunnocks, 1 fat and 1 thin Robin, who still can't make up their minds Who's Boss! male & female Blackbirds, 8 Bluetits, 2 Greattits, 2 lonesome, for a change (!) Starlings, normally thousands of the Bu@@ers, 1 Magpie, my little darling Jenny Wren, who clearly is feeding for more than just herself lately/hopefully! 2 Chaffinches, male & female Spotted Woodpeckers, 1 Thrush, very fat - and absolutely gorgeously for the first time seen in 3 years here, a pair of Coaltits.
(EDIT: Monday midday.  It's a pity I'm not doing the RSPB Watch today.  It's trying to snow here, and, if I told you there were nearing 75 Redwings, or are they Fieldfares? in the Orchard and surrounding trees, I would be underestimating.  There's 22 just in one tree!  Probably the most amazing personal wildlife moment of my life, apart from when I went Badger-watching in the dark as a small girl....)

In case I haven't thanked any of you latest joiners of The Funny Farm blog from around the world, recently, with a total of 51 countries now, we've been joined by Denmark, Indonesia, New Zealand, Nepal, Serbia, Taiwan, Mexico - and just why I'm wanting to run out into the garden and hang out The Funny Farm Bunting I'm not entirely sure, but I'm very excited to be joined by Brunei.
Respectfully, I hope that it IS your Royal Highness, and that you are more 'amused' by what you read here than maybe Queen Victoria might have been in her day.

And to finish my latest tardy Blog update, (through the amazingly comfy earphones that Paulie's mate Pip gave him today for his Birthday, as Trousers says they won't fall off my head when I'm upside-down Gardening My Sox Off in the next couple of months!) I shall MOSTLY be (dribbling) listening to: 'Some Kind Of Wonderful' by Micky Bubbles from his Crazy Love Album on my P-Pod this week.   If any of you know him, tweet him regularly, love this space, 'Some Kind Of Wonderful' is what I've chosen to share with the rest of my world this week, and if he himself would like to leave me a message here on the strength of that, I'd be eternally grateful.
Bless you all for listening.
Until next time, Stay Safe and Keep Warm.
Wellie. X

Sunday, 15 January 2012


Trust me... Just ignore the pastry for now?
Down On The Funny Farm this week Children, Wellie has been working very very hard on the 2012 Village Produce Show.  She's importantly booked the Village Hall, written to invite all her Judges, and emailed (I know, don't faint...) the Parish Magazine, giving the date of the show along with Art & Photographic Titles.
However..... I nearly had heart failure this morning, because one of my new Judges telephoned me saying that she wouldn't be able to judge for me on that date, because it was the same day as The Llandogo Show, and she (as well as my other six new Judges) would be judging there?  Well see the blood drain from Wellie's face why don't you...  Luckily, she checked with her friend, phoned me back, and confirmed that she'd got her dates muddled - by which time, I'd called for an Ambwlance, (Welsh for Ambulance), received a bit of Vinny Jones on my Sovereign to the tune of  'Staying Alive', and located my calender. Joking about the Ambulance, but wish I wasn't about Mr. Jones?!...The blood eventually returned to my face as I poured my first glass of Pinot Grigio later in the afternoon.  And Eileen, if you're listening love, you'll be getting one less square of homemade fudge than the others on August 26th?..Nothing personal Sweetheart......

Just because it's no threat to national security, I'm going to tell you the Subject Titles I've chosen for Art in this year's Show.  What I personally know about Painting & Drawing, would quite comfortably fit onto the back of a British Postal Stamp.  However, I do know from previous Show Schedules that Artists are guided by things called Portrait, Still Life, Nature, Landscapes, Seascapes, and the like.  So I chose: 'Portraying The Likeness', And this one, I am so dead proud of : 'It's Still There!' - it honestly makes me cry laughing? (oh do grow up Wellie!), 'Drawing from Mother Nature's Bounty', 'Distance Lends Enchantment to The View', 'From The Water's Edge', and a thought-provoking extra entitled 'In My Mind's Eye', which could also cover any unforseen Abstract eventuality.

Then in the Photographic Section, I've tried to cover the following for 2012: Special Events, People, Old, Emotion, Activity, Animal, Weather, Colour, Shape and Water.  In that order: 'That Was A Day I Will Never Forget', 'Face to Face', 'Garden Tools', which I've stolen from last year's Llandogo Show because it was so beautifully portrayed by their own entries, 'My Magical Moment', 'Every Picture Tells A Story...', 'Country Companions', 'To Everything There Is A Season', 'The Sky's The Limit', 'Enchanting Circles' (London Olympics -see what I did there?!), and lastly 'Still Waters Run Deep'.

Now thankfully, all of that will make the February edition of The Parish Magazine, so people can begin pulling Artistic and Photographic Rabbits out of their Hats.

I've emailed Medina (no, don't faint again...) and asked her to suggest a date for our next 'Pecan & Maple Syrup Danish Pastry Meeting', when, if we get time, we'll be able to knuckle down and discuss The Fruit & Veg, Floral, Cookery, Crafts and Ankle-Biters' Sections of The Schedule.

Okay, you can look at The Pastry now.  As you can see, My Gardening Cat helped me make this this afternoon....for what I'm calling A Pauper's Pie (I'm saving my pennies for Bird Nuts to feed the, not one, but now two whole Spotted Woodpeckers in my garden eating me out of house and home)   Just because Trousers and I aren't sick of the sight of Turkey anymore, I defrosted some of the leftover Christmas bird, which Trousers put together with leftover Christmas Ham and the meat off last week's brace of Peasants.  Wellie pulled a 'bolted' Leek from the kitchen garden, and with some roasted Pink Fir Apple Potatoes, that was our magnificently tasty Sunday Lunch - BC just had Peasant.

To explain what I mean in that 'Every Picture Tells A Story', I'll give you an example: Not only does this picture tell you that it's a sunny day, that Spring is on it's way, that my little garden friend has not yet woken in the 9 years of living with us, but that there's a broken pane of greenhouse glass on the grass.  The Jackanory here, is that it's a 10'x8' greenhouse, falling apart, the Nectarine tree isn't a posh one on a dwarfing rootstock, it has grown through the roof for the third time in three years, and because the greenhouse glass wasn't replaced earlier to keep the rain off, it's now going to suffer from Peach Leaf Curl, meaning that Trousers is in a lot of trouble.......

Now don't you dare laugh at my Savoy Cabbages!  We had a very respectable one on New Years' Eve, and I have witnesses!  These babies will hopefully be ready in what us Kitchen Garden Cheffy-Peeps call 'The Hungry Gap', when most other homegrown veg have all been harvested, and there's nothing new ready yet.  I'm getting dead 'cited about The Purple Sprouting Broccoli though.... one of my absolute favourite vegetables - but aren't they all! And Denis Cotter's Paradiso Seasons Cookbook (ISBN 0-9535353-4-7) is well worth getting, just for his 'Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Dried Tomatoes and Garlic on a Corn Pancake of Leeks and Puy Lentils', with A Rosemary Cream, if you beg my culinary pardon!

Just ONE of the reasons, as a gardener, that I love Kitchen Gardening so much,  is that even if you tried, you couldn't come close to being as professional as Mother Nature at grouping together such magical combinatioins of colours, shapes, sizes, and textures.  The sheer beauty of the purple Kale and Purple Sprouting Broccoli in the picture below, with the similarity of hue in leaves and florets of two very different-tasting crops.......was a complete and utter accident on my part, but magic to look at.

But just because something's pretty to the eye, it doesn't mean it has to stay there and be admired until it's useless for the table, whether it be Vegetable, Animal, or Mineral.

Now then, my i-pod nano choice for this week, (Wellie's "p-pod"), is Tony Christie's 'Is This The Way To Amarillo'.  It makes me Smile Out Loud to think of Ronnie Corbet in that brilliant video of  Peter Kay's Charity 'Amarillo' Spoof a few years ago.
Keep Safe, Stay Warm, and Thank You For Listening.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

2012: Love ALL Of It....

...Because the things that don't go to plan, sometimes are the 'blindingly obvious', which you've neglected to take notice of, or do anything about, which is Completely Bonkers, if you'd only given it a moment more thought.

If you are now completely hooked on Funny Farm Blog reading, of Wellie & Trousers' Adventures Down On The Funny Farm, you will  be familiar with The Satsuma Sparkler Park, The Big Ben Bubble Bongs and The Forest Floor of New Years' Eve.
If you're not, you'll think Wellie has finally 'flipped' and needs securing in a white coat with the wrap-around arm-thingies....with people on call to come and take her away.
Far from the truth my friends....
What you are yet UNaware of Children, is that in the following wee small hours, after we'd all retired to The Land of Nod, there was a bit of  Kafkaesque happening in the Kitchen...?
Lucky for Wellie, Herself gets up far later than He, and Friends in The Guest Room, so Trousers got to clean the mess up Himself.  I don't know about you, but in this particular household, my Gardening Cat and I do a 'High Five', and collectively call that: 'A Result'...?

Wellie's four 2 litre bottles of  homebrewed Ginger Beer were on the floor between the warm Rayburn, and the outside of the old pine dresser, which, quite frankly, makes her 'A Muppet of the Highest Order', because one of the bottles did indeedy explode, all over the kitchen (See Exhibit 'ExGB')

For the 'film buff' in you: "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"
But thankfully, it only blew a small hole in the side of the dresser, losing me an only bottle of Elderberry & Rosehip Cordial, and not my precious Wellie/Tamasyn-Day-Lewis unctious Tomato & Saffron Quiche Tomato Sauce Mix - Phew!!
Now though, for Elf'n'Safety reasons, the remainder of the Ginger Beers are in The Kitchen Garden (Mother Nature's own refrigerator)....
...which half reminds me to tell you that yesterday, through the Great British Postal Service, I received my Certificate for passing Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene Course back in October last year?!

 And that brings me to the second Noo Year Disaster (go on, go on, go on.... say it like Craig Revel Horwood: disASSter dAHling!): because the tabletop planter with the Wallflower Seedlings in has had way too much rain, and the bottom has fallen out of its world.  Never mind..... Wellie will pick up the pieces in the next week or two!, like she's short of things to do....Doh!

With the annual RSPB Garden Birdwatch Survey, normally the last weekend in January, and my constant adoration for my own, I've brought the dilapidated feeding station closer to the kitchen, as it keeps getting blown over in these high winds, wrecking it even further ('Wellie Workshop Wonderman' to the rescue jolly soon to make a new one, I promise you girls?)

And because not all of our New Years' Eve Dessert; 'The Forest Floor' was enjoyed by Ian (see Wellie shake her head - a joy to cook for is 'Our Ian'....), some of it got recycled and elevated to 'The Bird Table Floor'.  Wellie's Robin wasted no time, but it took a while for the delicate darling bluetits and bolshy great-tits to remotely cotton onto what it was and how to attack it, but since then, it's been like Kids in a sweetie shop with a whole year's pocket money.  Even ground-feeders like Dunnocks have been up there!  One cutesie little bluetit was so excited, it kept popping over to look at itself in the kitchen window, so I filled a small bowl with birdseed for it, which was ignored, until the Robin found it later.

 My Gardening Cat worries me sometimes.... Anything Wellie wants to do, she wants to do too...
and my gorgeous garden birds don't just have HER to watch out for in The Kitchen Garden,
as you can see from Trousers' spectacular photo of this Sparrow Hawk yesterday.

Thankfully, even though there were a handful of HouseSparrows, not three feet from it hiding in the Shrub Rose, it misjudged it badly, getting tangled up in the stems, and falling rather unceremoniously to the ground, looking round like a wounded cat, who "meant to do that?"!
Trousers also spotted a rather lovely Fieldfare, and our resident Spotty Woodpecker spent a leisurely 10 minutes on the nut feeder this morning for breakfast, which'll be one reason why Wellie's not got two brass farthings to rub together anymore this month?!

Incidentally, I'd just like to welcome Taiwan and Mexico, and.... ALL OF YOU new to the blog over the festive season because it really makes me smile to know that more of you around the world are here for the fun that I'm having now.

And.....Just in case you'd quite forgotten, in amongst my more recent other passionate pastimes, that I grow all our own fruit and veg as well, I shall be bringing more of our Kitchen Garden exploits to you once again as the 2012 Growing Season unfolds.  Some of you are under the impression that I know what I'm doing?  Once again, I'll let you be the judge of that!

Medina and I had our first 2012 Itton Village Produce Show meeting in The Funny Farm Kitchen on Friday, and if she keeps bringing 'sustenance' with her (read Pecan & Maple Danish Children?), Wellie will have to choose a completely different posh frock to fit into for the Show in August?!  No word of a lie, it is going to be an 'absolute cracker' of a show this year - SO exciting......  And I owe a huge service to those of you who helped steer me in the right directions last year.

Wishing You Every Single Goodness That You Wish For Yourselves This Year,
and may I suggest that you listen to my very favourite Adele this week from her 21 album, entitled:: The One And Only?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Absolutely NO New Year Resolutions

And there's a very good reason for that Boys'n'Girls?

I kid you not, Trousers told me that I played my Kid Rock iTune download 38 times on my iPod over Christmas and New Year....and I've played it many more times since, because it's a song that actually inspires me, but every time I hear it on BBC Radio 2 it's different, because I think of  'the bigger picture'.  Is that Sad or Special to you?

I started my own New Year with no New Year Resolutions completely on purpose.  And I'll tell you for why:

I want my 2012 to be completely unadulterated, so that I'm not setting myself up, unnecessarily, for failure before I even start?....
I want to start 2012 with a much more Positive Attitude, and attract many more positives into every minute, every hour, and every day of my life, because I truly believe that I deserve that in my life.

Kid Rock's 'The Least That I Can Do Is Care' is a positive song, and everyone loves music, so it's a lovely way to share a simple message with those of you who love to read my blog.
No more, and no less.
Bless You for watching.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


There's nothing quite as festive as a beautiful and richly-laid Dining Table, completely 'on fire' with church candles and such excellent company. The chatter and laughter only punctuated by the sound of silence, boys'n'girls, as the Funny Farm Merlot mysteriously disappeared from the decanters.....

Medina and I had braved Waitrose  for my list of last-minute ingredients during the week, excusing ourselves through blockades of Monmouthshire Wrinklies wishing each other 'The Compliments of The Season Darling', and latterly, whilst Ian and Medina went 'Ooop North' for a day'o'two, Wellie put her proverbial pinny on:

To start, I combined chopped Smoked Chicken Breast with a little cream and mayonnaise (for the boys), and a Smoked Fish vegetarian version for Medina, which I also enjoyed to keep her company.  Both of these I served with a medley of braised fennel & puy lentils, Funny Farm sunblush tomatoes, a drizzle of their oil, lambs lettuce and melba toast on the side.

Followed by a little Denis Cotter number of Haloumi with a sweet pepper, chilli & caper sauce, (turn of phrase I think you'll find, and not suggesting that Denis is little, obviously....!)

With men having 'hollow legs', and the sheer price of a decent-sized Steak these days, Medina and I decided to go with Venison Steak, padded out with thick Venison Sausages, and for ourselves, Asian-spiced Tilapia fillets.
Both of which were served with roasted root vegetables, Funny Farm savoy cabbage, but no Funny Farm red cabbage, because Wellie forgot to serve it....doh! and gorgeous Denis Cotter Wild Rice, Parsnip & Potato Rosti, which I absolutely adore, at any time of the day, or night (and yes to the gorgeous, with huge respect to Maureen.X)

Afterwards, Marmalade Queen and I, discovering  that we're both huge fans of the Irish singer, Juliet Turner, excused ourselves from the table, to 'Burn The Black Suit' and  'Take The Money And Run' whilst throwing together a few Wellie 'shapes' in the form of her innovative and creative dessert: The Royal Forest of Dean Woodland Floor - 'as ya do' if you live on the edge of The Forest, and bordering the beautiful Welsh countryside.

And don't ask me why the two of us are acting like identical twins with a guilty pleasure, playing 'this little piggy' with our pinkies, because I have ABsolUTEly no idea what's going on there, other than that MIGHT be where some of the Funny Farm Merlot disappeared to Children?

Medina was 'blown away', because during the week she'd asked me if I'd ever made my own Petit Fours before, and how she loved them.  So with that in mind, Wellie made the Forest Floor as one big rectangular Florentine (milk chocolate on the underside), and two lots of Chocolate Crackle Cookies, because the first batch didn't 'do' what I wanted them to do - which then worked out brilliantly, because the first batch became the dark chocolate mushroom 'stalks' quite by accident, with the second batch magnificently sitting on top.  A scattering of homemade Toffee and a handful of homegrown Physalis (Cape Gooseberries) dipped in chocolate.....mmmm!
And lastly, I'd wanted to make James Martin's  'Coffee Mushrooms' dessert as well, but didn't want Coffee Icecream as the stalks, so decided to make Coffee Creme Caramels, and continue with his recipe using shaped Tuille Biscuits for the mushroom caps, and actually, even I have to give myself Smartie Points, because that worked and tasted like a dream.
And with a little help from Janet Reger, dessert was served!

The four of us somehow managed to pop the cork on a bottle or two of Bubbles somewhere in time to The Bongs of Big Ben, each of us holding a numerical sparkler (2, 0, 1, & 2).
So..... depending on who was standing next to, or hugging who at the time, as you'll see from the chaotic Satsuma 'sparkler park' on the table, we're not entirely sure what Century we welcomed in?
And as lovely as Trousers and I are to our friends, we'd invited them to stay the night at The Funny Farm, with Brekkie kind of  'thrown in' to make it more of a magical experience.
Ian and Medina donated their own home-farmed Piggy Sausages, and freshly laid eggs, I'd made some of Ultan Walsh's Missus's Chestnut Sausages (honestly - make them, they are 'to die for'), along with Denis's brekkie pancakes.  I had no tofu for my 'Chessages', so what us cheffy peeps tend to do is 'wing it', and substituted homemade vegetarian dumplings instead, which worked a treat.
  And Trousers excelled himself by taking charge of it all from The Rayburn end of the kitchen.
It was GOR-GEE-OUS Darlings!

And there I am going to love you and leave you, because I've got Ham, Chips & Pineapple waiting with my name on, a Morgan Freeman film, a nice fire, Trousers, and a cuddly cat just waiting to cozy on down with.

Bless You For Watching once again.  A Very Happy New Year to all of you.