Saturday, 23 August 2008

Autumn morning

I love this time of year, just as summer tilts over into autumn proper; the morning light is beautiful, the temperature just a shade this side of chilly, lovely to be out in. Up early for a bath this morning, so watched the morning grow light through the wide open window. The picture is of the village church, just up the road from the house- the photo was taken out of the sitting room window. Hope the weather stays good, we are off to the Stock Gaylard Oak Fair this morning, will probably take up most fo the day I should think. It's a lovely , local, small event, with top quality demonstrators, animals, crafts, local food and drink, music, etc; we've been to all three so far, this being the fourth. A bonus is that it's about 3 miles down the road from us too.

In the meantime, I might just fire up the kettle and make some tea in my new-to-me teapot! What a wonderful find at the tip,a real retro 1950's Midwinter teapot. Not eprfect, but I couldn't resist it, and it'll get well used.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Proud mother alert!

I've just had a call from Bean, who has gone into town to collect her exam results. She got A* for her English GCSE, which is a great achievement for her. She has just turned 17, and this was the first exam she has ever sat, having been home educated her whole life. She did the course as a part-time evening course at a local college and thoroughly enjoyed it; she had the support and encouragement of a great tutor, whom she took to straight away. Always looked forward to the classes, worked diligently and handed in all work on time, and it's paid off for her.
She did a single course and exam to ease her into the system of which she has never been a part; at the beginning of September she starts two courses - Moving Media & Image, and GCSE maths.

So - a great result, very chuffed mother here.:)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Squashes are some of my favourite vegetables to grow - the squashes and pumpkins - you get so much for your money!! Easy and quick to germinate, they grow away fast, sending out dozens of trailing tendrils, stems as thick as your fingers and, ofcourse, the wonderful dinner plate leaves. All this - and flowers too! First the male ones, usually lots of them, standing on their own slim stalks, well proud of the stems. Next, hopefully, lots of female flowers with tiny swellings behind them, destined to become the gorgeous voluptuous fruits with promise of winter meals of soup and baked deliciousness. Colur as well, in all the hues of autumn; Turk's Turban with its orange and green stripes; Sweet Dumpling in retro green and cream; Hundredweight in bright child's crayon orange; teh smart stripes in sophisticated greens of the slim courgettes; yellows, golds, greens. browns, blues, creams..........Even if they weren't edible, I think I'd still grow them for their colours.
The squashes in the picture were planted on the edge of the potato bed this year, in almost pure goat manure. Rampant doesn't even begin to describe them......... :0) The yellow one is very visible, having hooked itself over the lower bar of the fence and growing away nicely, like a beautiful lantern, a rich shade of custardy yellow. I caught sight of the green striped one lurking beneath the leaves, unknown and secret until now, but there it was, almost the size of a football already! Freshly green with subtle striping around its plumpness. I have no idea of variety - they came out of a packet of mixed winter squash from Real Seeds (, just labelled Mixed Winter Squash. I have some more young plants to set out int eh greenhouse ;quite late, but I found a few odd seeds, and might get a small crop of fruits under glass before winter. Some I let trail over the compost heaps - an easy way to grow them as the compost and manure is already in place, teh leaf cover helps with weeds, and there is plenty of warmth generated by the heaps. My top two heaps are a bit awash with nettles at the moment, but I know there are squashes in there somewhere, so it will be a joy to uncover them when we cut down the nettles to dry for the goats. I think I have Turks Turban and Sweet Dumpling up there, but another trait of the squash family is its promiscuity - such a scarlet woman of a crosser that you can never be quite sure what will eventually turn up!

Monday, 18 August 2008

Of sourdough and spangles............

I've been meaning to master the art of sourdough bread for a while, but not done much about it since my first attempt a couple of years ago. However, never daunted, I unearthed my well-thumbed copy of By Bread Alone by Sarah Kate Lynch, and a while ago made a good go of the apple juice starter. Well, it was ready to go today, so here's the result

I hope it tastes as good as it looks! I love teh sharp tangyness of the crust and the chewy texture. Could easily become hooked on bread making; I make basic loaves quite well, but would like to be a bit more adventurous - watch this bread-shaped space!:0)

While the above was proving and baking, I hoiked out my lace making starter kit and got on with spangling the bobbins - very enjoyable, and I'm please with the result, but another 12 to go! Looking forward to getting soem thread on the bobbins and getting going.

Trying to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, and hopefully removing them from the house all together, we are starting to run the Rayburn on more logs and wood; I always wanted a wood-fired stove, but thought it would be more like the big cast iron ones from Little House on the Prairie! Our Rayburn seems to run quite well on wood though, and it makes the fire very responsive, but we'll need to practice banking it up at night for the winter as it's the only source of ehating in that side of the house.


If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world

Chinese proverb

There is so much wisdom in this little quote, one of my favourites. If each of us took the time and effort to keep our souls and selves in order, the knock-on effect would be immeasurable.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

My day in pictures................ part 3

I could only upload 5 pics at a time, so have had to show the pictures over 3 posts :0) Nice enough weather to get outside in a sleeveless t-shirt; we went on a forage, ostensibly to search out some edible mushrooms, but it's a couple of weeks early, I think. MrL and Bean found some giant puffballs in one of the fields, but they were well past their best. We found various little fungi in the woods, and the remains of a well chewed wood mushroom; one I was able to identify by book was the poison pie fungus; a couple of large logs came back with us, plus a few smaller sticks, and we found some worthwhile nut trees to go back to in a few weeks' time. Three roe deer spotted - two together, then a single one sitting very still in the wood as we walked alongside, around the wheatfield. Came back over the fields behind teh house and surprised the goats by jumping over the fence into teh chicken run.........:0) Inside for tea and chocolate and courgette cake, then sorted some wool out and made a rather good tea of mutton stew with parsley dumplings and runner beans, followed by poached pears with blueberry yoghurt. Off out in a minute to get the limoncello to round the day off nicely.

My day in pictures.................part 2

My day in pictures.............

The monthly seduction..............

I am a weak woman. I cannot resist it, I have tried and failed, time and time again. The monthly seduction that is the new issue of Country Living magazine just gets me every 3.50 it's not cheap, and I try to walk past, but always go back. "The complete lifestyle magazine" on the top banner is trite and twee, pandering to those who believe a "lifestyle" can be bought. The creations offered for sale inside are habitually expensive, the houses impossibly tidy, the creators impossibly creative. Still I go back every month. So - why?? For me, it's the images - the colours, the arrangements, the tidiness, the possibility that I could have a tidy and sparkly house, dripping with vivid and stylish colours, freshly baked cakes on the table and beautifully arranged knicknacks on a side table salvaged from a skip while out blackberrying...............

Now, I know, having done some magazine shoots for various publications, that it's not real life - just out of shot is probably total chaos with the furniture piled in one corner, empty coffee mugs and a pot plant that desperately needs watering...........However, I get to see the best bits, and am temporarily transported to that cottage by the sea, decorated in seductive pastel colours, where it looks as if all the ironing is done and the garden is weeded, giving up copious amounts of luscious home grown vegetables in season (no slug damage here.......), the shoes are clean and lined up neatly, the dog is well behaved and sitting cutely on an antique French cotton ticking cushion.......... Most of all it gives me inspiration; although I live in the country, and am very familiar with local food, events, seasonal livng, wild foods, cookery, etc, there is always something in this magazine to learn from and inspire me to have a go at cooking, making or baking something else. Monthly and seasonal, it means that the time is right, so do it now, get out there and have a go. I might not be able or willing to shell out for the eco holidays, or the beautiful china plates, but it opens my eyes to possibilities. Soemthing I have been getting keen on over the past few months is "retro" - fabric (especially), crockery, clothes, the lot, and Country Living this month has an article on the retro revival. Instead of reaching for the plastic, though , I have been searching out things at the tip, at the market, charity shops, etc - it's all out there for the seeking and finding, and CL magazine just helps me with ideas along the way. I have had a few problems with their forum, and their "tweeness" and their "lifestyle" side of things, but I still get sucked in every month. In a world that is becoming greyer and more threatening by the week, it injects a very welcome splash of colour into my life, which only seems to add to and enrich the colourful vibrant life I have built for myself here in the countryside. Next month promises a restored wall garden, quinces, and a look at a silk mill in Hampshire. How am I supposed to resist that, then? :)


Foraging is one of my favourite pastimes, and I've always done it. Memories of goind out in the Morris Traveller and filling plastic picnic mugs with succulent brambles for a penny a mugful, stained faces and hands, and my granny turning them into what seemed like hundreds of jars of pippy, sweet jam.........Nipping over the garden wall into the field (with permission) for the freshest of field mushrooms, fried up on a Sunday morning by my father for breakfast...........pulling sheep's wool from the barbed wire, washing it and hanging it out to dry for stuffing doll's cushions, the evocative smell of wet sheep's wool never fails to bring that memory forward.......... the tiny sweetest wild strawberries on the roadside approaching the church, eaten on the hoof, never getting as far as the kitchen........
These are all memories from a childhood in SW Scotland; where I am now, on the edge of a rural village in the Blackmore Vale, the ooportunites for foraging are many and year-round. It's almost time for the brambles now, and OH is off down one of the lanes later this morning to check on the bullace tree. In addition to foodstuffs, we forage fallen wood for burning, branches and sticks; strangest forage we ever had was a wheelbarrow dumped in a hedge. It had a burst tyre, but we only needed the actual metal wheel, so we tied it on the roof, took it home, used the wheel part and disposed of the rest in the correct manner. I am hoping to get up to the woods some time this week, camera in hand, to see what fungi are about - it's been wet and warm, so feeling optimistic.
Those of you who know me know I am a great fam of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall; there is a good page on foraging in the September issue of Country Living by him, and the quote here sums it all up neatly:

"For me, learning how to raid nature's larder has never been an exercise in survival. The shortages I mean to address are not the urgent ones of nutrition and shelter but the more widespread modern social famine in quality of life. I happen to believe that our lives will be better if we can achieve some closenesss to the natural environment, and some understanding of the nautre and origins of what we eat. Growing your own food fosters these aims to a considerable degree. But a knowledge and appreciation of wild food completes the picture...................

Wild food is much more than something for nothing. It's something for everyone"