Friday, 27 February 2009

The joys of late winter

Spring is almost here, but the tail end of winter is still with us; frost forecast for some of the country at the weekedn,a nd it's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when the sun shines out there!
Although there is n't much fresh green stuff to be had from the garden - parsley, a couple of other herbs, the beginnings of the wild garlic/tri-cornered leek - it's nice to have a fresh tasting salad sometimes to add variety to the table. This is one of my favourites at any time of the year, but especially about now. It's easy and quick to prepare, very juicy with a nice crunch from the nuts and not too expensive.

Carrot and apple salad

Per person: 1 large carrot, one apple, a few pine nut kernels. Grate the carrot and apple into a bowl - I leave the skins on; if not organic, give a good scrub first. Add the oine nuts and mix well. That's it!

Aanother simple joy is the spring flowers that appear - all of them, I love them all. My very favourite, just coming on now, is the Snakeshead fritillary (fritillaria meleagris). When I was at college in Paisley, I spent a lot of time in Glasgow, and became interested in the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh - the tearooms, art school and Hill House in Helensborough - I visited them all! I love the stylised patterns and flowing lines, especially the flowers in his art. I used to buy postcards of his work to put up in my college bedroom, and my favourite one then was the snakeshead fritillary study he did - simple, perfect, capturing the essence of this unassuming little flower. If ever there was a flower put on thsi earth with a view to be painted, this is it! I was fascinated by this flower - its square chequerboard pattern, the defined lines between the dark purple and greeny creamy white - surely no such flower could exist in nature, with the straight lines and geometry of the patterned flowerhead? Knowing very very little about gardening at that time, let alone spring bulbs and flowers, I came to teh conclusion that this was a design out of his head, a made up one to fit exactly into his style of work.
many years later, when I got my first garden, we lived in a small village that had its own garden centre. I used to spend a lot of time up there in my lunch hours when I worked in a nearby office. Suddenly, there it was. Growing - in a pot. The fabled (in my mind) snakeshead fritillary. It existed. I could buy it. I could have it in my own garden.I have had a lot of tgardening successes and moments since then, but nothing will ever match the complete thrill I got from finding that little pot of gorgeousness! For one pound and twenty nine pence, I could take that pot home and have it for my very self.
I've grown them ever since, both the chequered ones and the creamy white ones, but they don't do well in my heavy clay soil here, so I tend to put them in pots. I have tried many times from the dry bulbs, but am usually disappointed in the no-show. These bulbs can be quite old and stale, with no life left in them when they reach your potting bench - better to buy a few "in the green" to give them the best chance. I bought a couple of small pots at the weekend, and the first heads are beginning to colour up now; they'll go on the stand outside the kitchen window where I can see them whilst working int he kitchen, then when the flowers are spent, they'll get tucked into a little corner I have in mind to take their chance.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Bargain time!!

Literally! Now, I know this clock would never make the Antiques Roadshow in a zillion years, but I couldn't resist it in the shop at Beaulieu yesterday. Could you? I saw it, pondered on it and went off to think about it. After all, I don't really need a new clock, the end I came to the conclusion that I would get home and say "I wish I had...............", so, after a long knitting-fuelled think, I went back and bought it. Obviously menat to be, as when the barcode was scanned, it came up as two pounds cheaper than the price tag! LOL.

So, here it is, sitting on my mantelpiece, awaiting complete redecoration of the sitting room to match it!! :)
It is wooden, with a wee door at the back, to access the workings; I need to get a rechargeable battery for it when we're in town next. Because it's quite big, and hollow inside, it has a big loud tick too, which I like to listen to when the house is quiet............

I love it.

A day out...............

Yesterday was EJ's birthday, so we went out for the day; his choice was Beaulieu again, to the car museum there; right up his and MrL's street! There's plenty of other things to see, though, so I was more than happy to tag along. The museum is within the grounds of the Abbey on the estate - so tehre are abbey ruins, the Domus (monks' living quarters). Palace house, Victorian kitchen, wool/weaving buidling ruins, Victorian gardens all to look at. At this time of year, not much int eh gardens themselves - lots of cardoons (did you know you can make bio fuel out of the seeds? Apparently so, but MrL yet to be convinced. I have one *enormous* cardoon in the garden which he hates with a vengeance for some reason. I don;t think it's tidy enough for him LOL), leeks, rhubarb just showing. Beds neatly dug over and compost spread, paths clear, structures up and ready for beans to come. Well - they do have several gardeners I should think, I told MrL, in response to his raised eyebrows whichw ere saying to me "Why doesn't ours look that neat, then?"

They have lovely Big greenhouses too, with venerable vines in; the one in the picture was planted back in 1870, amazing, still giving a good crop of grapes too. There were several lemon trees too, all covered in lemons; I'd love to have a go at one of those, but the cost of a decent size tree is a bit prohibitive at the moment, so I'll have to wait. There is an internationally famous citrus nursery in Dorset, though, so we might have a wander down to that some time and get fired up with a view to home grown lemon curd in the future:)

The lawns under the trees were carpeted in spring flowers - thousands of pale lavender crocuses mainly, the little daffodils still to come. Teh effect of it all was quite ethereal, but no phot would do it justice. One of my favourite bits of planting is in the moat around the Palace House - full of little spring flowers, looks like it is studded with stars.

I spent an hour knitting in the monks' herb garden - nice and peaceful, as in February there aren't too many folk about.

On the way home we stopped at one of my favourite little garden centres; they ahve a lovely shop as well as good plants - I could have spent a fortune in there, but didn;t. Some of Cath Kidston's wares were on sale, but rather pricy; her Washing Line range is very expensive - 5.00 for a bottle of washing up liquid! When you use as much as I do, then it's not a realistic option, is it? I bought a new address book, and a very simple grey metal tealight holder, plus soem spring flowers for the front garden which I hope to get in later.

There and back takes us right through the New Forest - lovely at thsi time of year; roads not busy, ponies strolling around safely, pheasants, cattle, cottages to yearn after............... We also go through the are where we used to live; I'm glad I don;t live in the village any more, though, it doesn't look that good at present, bit sad looking, huge amounts of traffic, new roundabouts, not what it used to be. They say never go back, but we had to go through!

EJ really enjoyed his day, and he's a pleasure to accompany on such visits, unlike a lot of 15 year olds!Looking forward to going back next year again.........................

Monday, 23 February 2009

The ultimate home made pickle this year?

I made this vinegar a long while back, and have just got around to bottling it up; I ended up with 4 wine bottles full, as per the picture. It really is lovely tasting - not the aggressively bitter/sharp taste of most commercial ones. I will be making some more soon.

So - on the cards for this year, the ultimate homeproduced pickled onions I hope. Make vinegar with own honey from hive in garden; grow onions, pickle them with herbs also from garden, in recycled jars. Can't getter better than that!


I bought a magazine on Friday, for an article that caught my eye and I thought would be interesting. I understand that the magazine uses advertising revenue to fund its publishing, but the amount of "stuff" being pushed by them now is unaccpetable to me. Every magazine I see exhorts us to buy this, buy that, "must have",'"couldn't be without" - all one huge long promotion of consumerism. That's just the mainstream amgazines, but over the past couple of years, I've noticed it creeping into what were more informative, "alternative" titles too. Organic Gardening magazine, a long-time stalwart in my magazine rack is now Organic Home and Garden - buy more organic "stuff", and less of the gardening. I no longer buy that one. Even Permaculture magazine, in the last couple of issues has been, to my mind, pushing consumerism - buy green to save the planet. Er no, actually, saving the planet is best achieved by buying as little as possible, no? That's how I see it, so in my efforts to jump even further off the consumer bandwagon, I am truly going to try and go mag-free for the rest of the year.
Then I'm going to start my own. watch this space.:)
To add insult to injury, the article was dreadful after all LOL

Sunday, 22 February 2009

What I did at the weekend...........

This weekend's productions! Top is my lovely white hyacinth on the kitchen windowsill, blooming well and smelling heavenly.I finished the adult size socks on Friday , closely followed by teh baby socks, trying to use up the Kauni wool - but not quite managing it!! Teh bottom picture is a circular weaving I finally got around to doing, so pleased with that.

The piano debacle of yesterday has kick=started teh spring cleaning a bit earlier than intended, so I've made a start on that. Lots of furniture was moving aroudn to re-accommodate the piano in the kitchen. With its non-arrival, I moved more things about, swapped one chest od frawers for another and completely decluttered and cleaned teh landing. Will look nice up there when I've found homes for the bits till to be put away. Floor needs the rest of the varniching done, and I hope to repaint the walls and make new curtains later on too.

Kitchen next, sort through china, sort out other cupboard, then the store room. Hopefully I'll be all done when teh weather gets a bit better and I'm needed outdoors.Almost spring...............