Friday, 23 October 2009

Early morning, autumn

Early morning is probably my favourite time of day, usually a peaceful and tranquil time, especially now the children are older. I wake at just before 5.30am to the Shipping Forecast. I don't suppose I shall actually ever have real cause to use it, but I enjoy listening all the same - the familiar names, imagining where they are around the island we live on, trying to imagine what it's like for people out on boats in all weathers, espeically the winter. OH gets up and is off to work quite early, then I get up, give Bean a shout and come downstairs; water on for coffee or tea, breakfast if I feel like it. At this time of year, it's still dark outside, with the occasional tractor passing, or a delivery of some kind to the pub over the road. The returning daylight brings more traffic, but not a huge amount. One of the first things I do is to stand at the open bedroom window and look out over the Vale - it gives me a sense of peace and connection, a good way to start my day. This is the sight that greeted me this morning:

The clocks go back this weekend, so the early mornings next week will be a little lighter, and it will get darker earlier in the evenings. I have no thought either way on the clock changing debate - I just go with it. It is, however, time to put up the thicker curtains, the weather has become noticably chilled and damper over the past few days, as it should be in mid autumn. a time of waiting and watching, colours of fire, and preparation for times ahead.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Kitchen mantlepiece

I like my kitchen mantlepiece; it's original to the house (1947), painted pine, and sits above the Rayburn. I try to keep it as uncluttered as I can; the clothes pulley is above it, so flapping laundry can soon demolish precious things on the way up or down, and it gets very dusty up there due to the stove. You can see the pulley rope on the right, but I did move the dangling washing LOL
On the left are a couple of bits of pewter, a teapot and a sugar basin; these date from around about the turn of the last century, and have maker's marks on the bottom, so I was able to find out a bit about them. I don't use them, I just enjoy their generous shape which is pleasing to my eye; next along, after the ever-present box of matches, is a small pottery rabiit I found in a charity shop - I'm not usually one for things like this, but I took to her straight away and home she came; I got the little cup with legs and shoes just a couple of weeks back, a nice bit of nostalgia for me as I remember when they first came out in the late 1970s; the little clock was bought in a local garden centre a few years back, part of a very traditional Christmas display - it has a pleasingly loud tick that seems to add to the stillness and peace of the house when it's quiet; the postcard is a picture of Hemingford Grey, brought back from a trip by a friend who went to visit the house earlier this year - fans of Lucy Boston will know of it, and I can recommend her book "Memories"; the little spotted orange and cream dish is French, although I picked it up at the tip - it has a small crack in, but I enjoy its cheeriness against the green; the wee kettle is a peice of family history - one of my great uncles was doing some work for someone and dug up a small kettle lid. Thinking it wasn't much use on its own, he threw it aside and thought no more of it until about 10 minutes later when he dug up the kettle itself! I reckon it's quite old, probably a contemporary of my big kettle that belonged to my great grandmother; I use the big one, but this wee one just adorns the shelf as reminder of my very interesting Great Uncle Colin; at the end is a small glass candle pot, very well used over the years - the paint of the decorative daisies is starting to flake now, but I like the shape and design so it's been popped up here for now; it's full of small silver spoons which need more investigation re age, etc, which I will get around to one day.
The cross stitch picture above bears the following legend:

"The things I sow,
Somehow don't grow -
I'm sorely disenchanted;
But oh what luck
I have with stuff
I never even planted"

Ain't that the truth, now? :)

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Quilted Autumn runner

I've just spent a happy hour with a big cup of tea finishing off this:

It's for the upstairs chest of drawers on the landing. Hopefully, the first of four, one for each season.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

My day is not going according to plan...............

...which it quite often doesn't! I fully intended to get stuck into starting several pairs of curtains today, but my sewing machine seems to think differently; it's catching on the bottom tension, so I need to get in and under and sort it out. I maanged to sew around my runner I'm making, but it refused to go any further, so the rest of the top will be hand quilted - not a problem. The curtains, however, will wait until tomorrow. I know when I'm beaten, and to carry on will just get me het up and frustrated.
In the meantime, I'm having tea and a muffin which I just made this morning, recipe below. After that, and hour on the sofa with my new-to-me Thoreau book should set me back to rights, and a bit of new knitting. The day is never lost, but sometimes flexibility and acceptance are the key :)

Raspberry and amaretto muffins

10 oz self-raising flour
3 oz sugar
4 oz butter, melted
8 fl oz milk
2 eggs, beaten
4 oz fresh raspberries
1 generous tablespoon of amaretto flavouring

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl, add raspberries; melt butter and beat with eggs and milk, pour into bowl with dry ingredients and add flavouring. Mix well, but do not beat, until just incorporated. Spoon into muffin cases and bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes or so until well risen, golden brown, and firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

I got my hyacinths into their jars too, now covered over to shoot in the dark; I'm really looking forward to the scent in the depths of winter now!

It's been pouring with rain here most of the day now, so very wet; I'm glad I got caught up with a few things outside yesterday; it's chilly too, so the Rayburn is left a bit higher after baking, with the tomato and chorizzo sauce simmering on the low end ready for supper.
Henry David beckons from the sofa......................

Monday, 19 October 2009


Last night for supper I picked fresh cabbage from the garden; it was so fresh, vital and green, you could just see and taste the goodness in it. It was steamed lightly with a little butter, and served with cottage pie.

Tonight's freshness will come from the last of the carrots, and some baby leeks which I disturbed whilst removing plants to make way for the garlic cloves to get planted - no matter, they just look really sweet tasting, so I'm looking forward to those! Lots left in the ground for winter use too, yellow ones and blue ones, old French heirloom varieties. They don't get huge and tough, just full of mild leek flavour and an unbeatable fresh green-ness in the depths of winter.

One other of my missions in the freshness department is orange juice; there is so much packaging involved when buying it - plastic bottles, glass bottles, foil-lined boxes, wax cartons with plastic caps........... I've gone back to nature's packaging and am again buying oranges for squeezing at home. The packaging from these was plastic nets, but I'm sure I can find a use for them; they were bought as they were on a good special offer.Next week I'll search out loose ones and use my re-usable net bags for them - they're getting used to them at the tills now LOL. The orange skins go on the compost heap, or get sliced into a wine if I'm brewing at the time, or put on any bed I need neighbourhood cats to stay off.

It's lovely here this morning, quite fresh, but pleasant enough to work comfortably outside in a t-shirt (just). After planting the garlic and wallflowers, I took the opportunity to tidy up the bench outside the kitchen window, which I can see from the sink. I try to have seasonal colour in pots on it - easy and fairly cheap to ring the changes to vary the view whilst I'm washing, or washing the dishes. I potted up cyclamens and a couple of pinks with late flowers; planted pots of yellow crocuses and a couple of colchicums, although it's a bit late for those, probably, but they'll still be there next year. Sorted and watered the auriculas, and re-potted a couple of spider plants ready for putting in the bathroom later on today.

Pleased with my efforts, and now having a well-deserved cup of tea!

I will not pay

- a levy on my electricity bill to pay for nuclear power stations to be built. Not in my name. I don't know how I will get round it if it's introduced, but I will fight so hard against this, so help me God.

I would like to see a choice whereby the consumer can choose where the levy goes - mine, if I had to pay it at all, would go to renewables - research and development, building etc.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The winter garden

It's that time of year again, when my thoughts are turning to the garden in winter.One common phrase bandied about at this time of year is "putting the garden to bed for the winter" - doesn't happen here!! There are living things all year round in my garden ( and I suspect in everyone else's.....) Although the leaves are falling fast now, the fleeting fiery colours of autumn almost over, there is still colour in flowers and branches, grasses, rosehips and raspberries, sloes, leaves of perennials. There are still lots of vegetables growing too - leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes,sporuts, chard, broccoli in the vegetable garden, plus the very last of the potatoes to lift, just a few, but they all need to be recovered or the crop that follows on will have little tatties in amongst it. A garden is a constantly changing evolving entity, and it never stops, and certainly not for the winter. Even with this apparent winding down, nature is at work under the soil - spring bulbs will be stirring very soon. The greenhouses aren't empty and lifeless either - they will soon be filled with overwintering things that need a degree or two of shelter, plus sweet pea seeds sown, onion seeds soon, autumn-sown broad beans.
Animal life is about too - lots of birds, various rodents, insects; also human life. I am out in the garden every single day - livestock needs to be attended to, washing put out and taken in when the weather is suitable, veg dug up for suppers and winter soups, things cut back, raked over, cleared, greenhouses checked for emerging seedlings and open and shut for ventilation, dog walked around when he doesn't feel like going too far in the wet and cold. Hazel to be coppiced this winter too, which is quite a thrill for me, the first time! Even in the depths of winter, the evergreens are beautiful, with or without a coating of frost or a dusting of snow.
Lots to watch too - wildlife, especially the birds - time to get the feeders out and washed ready for filling very soon, and one of the bird tables needs mending.
We went to the garden centre yesterday for a few bits - first time in ages, so that was nice. I bought some new bulb vases for indoor hyacinths, crocus bulbs to stud the grass in the orchard, some autumn crocuses which really need to be put in today, bundles of wallflowers wrapped in newsprint, big fat garlic bulbs for dividing and planting into newly enriched soil, soon to emerge as tiny shiny shoots, so tempting for the birds to tug away at, likewise the overwintering onions, and the spring cabbage plants that also need to be planted out today.
Indoors, constant reminders too - seeds to sort, dry and store, label and share with friends; seed and plant catalogues arriving daily, full of wonderful inspiration; magazines and books to catch up with, dreams to be dreamed...........
It's cold here today, but I'll get outside later and get on with things I hope. There's always a lot to do at every time of year - one of the pleasures of gardening is that it's constant; observation is a big part of it, so even if I only go outdoors to observe and see how things are doing, then I'm making full use of the garden in all seasons. Lastly, ofcourse, there is the possibility of a covering of snow to look forward to and the magical muffled silence that it brings.
So, no "putting the garden to bed" for me here - it works just as hard in winter here as it does the rest of the year, and I feel priveleged to be able to watch and work in it all year round.
I must remember to bring those pumpkins in too..................