Friday, 23 January 2009
Here is my latest cyclamen, photographed today in my kitchen. It was raining at the time I took these photos and then just after midday the rain turned to snow - those big fluffy flakes of snow that always remind me of Peanut cartoons when Linus and Snoopy would try to catch the flakes on their tongues.
So evocative were those cartoons that I occasionally try to do the same thing myself! So much fun to be had as a 'grown up child' I think....
Wednesday, 21 January 2009
Elsewhere in the garden I am beginning to see Daffodil shoots emerging from hibernation. It will be a treat to see their sunny yellow flowers after these long, long winter days. I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but here it has been either heavy frost or snow with alternate days of deluging rain. The ground is either rock hard or a quagmire. It's that time of the year when I struggle with the English weather! I long for summer and the welcome return of warm evenings when we can sit outside and enjoy a barbeque with friends... a time of year when I love the English weather. In Australia, sunset arrives early and the sun drops down like a stone into the sea - it's over so quickly and there are none of these gloriously long evenings to savour.
And I'm starting to keep my eye out for fresh nettle shoots as I have been given a lovely Nettle Soup recipe by my friend Sarah. I'm keen to try it - the gardener's revenge on the stinging nettle!
Here's the recipe in case your nettles start to grow before mine do...
Nettle Soup - serves 6.
- 1/2 carrier bag nettle tops/young leaves
- 55g butter
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed
- 1 litre chicken/vegetable stock
- pinch ground nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons cooked rice
- 2 tablespoons cream or creme fraiche
- salt and pepper
- Pick over nettles, wash thoroughly. Discard any tough stalks
- Melt butter, sweat onions, carrot, celery and garlic until soft but not brown
- Add stock and pile in the nettles. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes until tender.
- Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Puree the soup in a liquidiser with the cooked rice.
- Return to a clean pan, stir in cream/creme fraiche and reheat but do not boil.
My marmalade venture was good fun - here's the finished result from batch 1 - batch 2 starts this weekend.
It's a lovely, clear marmalade with lots of delicious peel suspended in it. This recipe is one where the quantities can be changed to suit you - it is just 1 part oranges, 2 parts sugar and 3 parts water. Just make sure that you stick to either Imperial or Metric measurements, keep the proportions and all will be well.
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Marie has the most beautiful blog and I thank you Marie for leaving your kind comment about dear little Fizz, the Moose and for your welcome to 'Blogland'. I hope that you will soon be able to find the time and space to get back to your blog, as from a purely selfish point of view, I so enjoyed reading all your posts and seeing the beautiful photos you have on it.
I will be telling Fizz about your comment too - it is quite likely that he will have a very swollen head because of it! At the very least, he will be pleased as Punch.
I promise not to bore you all with too many photos of him, but here's one more of him in Denmark whilst we were staying at the simply divine Falsled Kro on the island of Fyn.
Saturday, 17 January 2009
These two photos show the 'new' part of our home - this room dates back to the 1860's and it is a real bonus to be able to open those french windows wide in summer...
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
I managed to get through the exam and was pleased with the result.
But perhaps with the excitement and a late meal at about 10 pm when we returned home, neither of us slept well. So today has been a rather haphazard sort of day.
But the wood fire is lit now and when I was outside just a moment ago, getting the hens back into their run, I could smell the wood smoke and see it curling up from the chimney - time for tea and a slice of home made fruit cake! I'm looking forward to a night in front of the fire, curled up on the sofa and reading a good book.
Sunday, 11 January 2009
He came to visit us at the hotel and we had a magical afternoon sitting by the lake, chatting and catching up on all the news.
Of course this has nothing to do with anything really - just me, reminiscing...
We were told that the girls would be unlikely to come out of the coop for some days and that when they did, they might not be able to walk very far or even able to stand for long periods of time. We were lucky. And I guess that by comparison to many others, so were our girls. Clearly they were not in top show condition and had pale faces, combs and what feathers they did have were in pretty tatty condition. They were indeed terrified but they came out of the coop almost immediately. And within about an hour, were already starting to scratch and peck at the grass. (The picture above shows them on their first afternoon with us).
My husband had made a tiny little run for them as we were also told that they would be terrified of wide open spaces and so a small run to start with was 'a good idea'. We soon realised that our girls were made of much stronger stuff and within a couple of days had moved them to an interim run - our old tennis court! And within two weeks, when they were pretty settled and had established their pecking order (not a pretty sight!), we started to give them more and more access to our entire garden.
We had also been told that we should not expect too much from them with regard to egg production. After all, they had had the stuffing beaten out of them every day and would be pretty much 'spent' as far as egg production was concerned. Not our girls! We usually run at 90 - 100% production which means that there is a surplus of eggs. I believe that this is because they are given free range (unless we are away from the house when they are locked in their run) access to fresh grass, lots of good food, plenty of fresh air, clean bedding and water every day, and Mother (me) gives them a cooked meal every day of vegetable peelings and rice/pasta.
Their eggs are delicious and are highly sought after by locals who buy from us. So much for being 'spent'. I wish I could explain to you the sheer joy and delight these little creatures give me - simply knowing that they have had some sunshine on their backs is reward enough. Bless them.
Here is their new home and run which we built especially for them. It is warm and secure with shade from the apple trees and the fencing is strong and dug deep into the ground as well - designed to keep Mr and Mrs Foxy out. You can see some of them here on their 'moving in day' having inspected their new 'palais de poulets' for the first time - the palais is a converted child's play ranch and is perfect for them. Standing room inside for humans and warm, airy and secure for the girls!
In case you're wondering, yes, they do have their own names and personalities to match. I was warned before getting them that they would enchant and captivate me. So I warn you too if you're thinking about it...
Saturday, 10 January 2009
Our local farm shop has the new season organic Seville oranges in stock and I am going to make the first batch of my favourite marmalade. I use my Granny's recipe - very simple and although it looks like it's a bit of a hassle, in fact it is really easy. One of the things that I particularly like about the recipe is that it is spread over 3 or 4 days and so I can do a bit now and then...
- Seville oranges
- Sugar (you can use sugar with added pectin if you like a firmer set)
Day 1: Weigh, wash and cut into 1/4's then slice thinly, removing all blemishes and pips (save the pips, wrap in muslin). Soak the fruit and muslin wrapped pips in water overnight.
Day 2: Bring the water with the fruit in it to boil and simmer until the fruit is very soft. Leave overnight.
Day 3: Add sugar, bring to the boil very gently. Dissolve sugar completely. Once dissolved, boil rapidly until set is reached. Bottle in warm, sterile jars. Cool completely and seal the next day with wax discs.
And it is a great base recipe for other citrus fruits - I use it for my grapefruit, lemon and lime marmalades too.