Late Summer Days

We’ve had a week of rain, some torrential – the kind which wakes you up in the night, the water butts are now brimful. A week and a half ago they were nearly empty.

It was such a relief to get out at the weekend to walk. To feel the sun and wind, without having to dash to seek cover under a tree. What a novelty!

Stowe National Trust, Buckinghamshire

If you want to see a bit more here’s a post from Stowe at Christmas a few years ago.

Look at those gorgeous bullrushes! What a place to rest and listen to the leaves rustling in the trees behind. We sat listening and chilling for ages.

The water’s really high – I think you can see how near it is to the line of trees.

After all the rain we then had 45 mph winds on Thursday, so found lots of conkers prematurely blown down. You can’t resist opening the cases, even though it’s way too early. Unripe of course, but deliciously smooth and as white as a milk chocolate.

Poor osteospermum (aka African Daisy, so my friend Jill tells me) nearly drowned in all the rain so came inside to dry off. Poor thing was flourishing and flowering a second time – go me, the deadheading Queen! – but started to look bedraggled and as if it was going to wither. I don’t blame it to be honest. I was starting to feel the same way.

I picked nearly all the tomatoes. There’s also a big dish full on the shelf at the bottom of that table. Umm and some on the kitchen windowsill. And 4 large dishes full on the lounge windowsill. And many cherry tomatoes still on the vine as they needed more growing time. Some 3-4 clumps of Money Maker I missed in the middle of the plants. And 2 large Marmande beefsteak tomatoes I noticed this morning! I worried about all the rain and Blossom End Rot getting to my lovely tomatoes so dashed out in a rare patch of dry. They’re all ripening well and taste great. I can’t tell the difference between ripened on the vine on the plant, or on the vine inside.

The jalapeño plants are groaning with peppers too. I’m feeling very green fingered this year…

I crocheted more rows after snapping these pics. The pieces now just need to be joined with a hanging loop added too. I always use my pot-holders. They’re so handy….groan.

The Lucky Dip thing was quite a cute plan for a little series of projects to get on with and as a blog focus, I thought. It’s not – oh bloody hell, guess what?! It’s raining! Again! Hard too. Can’t believe it. At least there’s no washing on the line – happening now though, because I fancied a rainy day sort-out on Thursday. I went through my long neglected craft bags and undid three or four makes that I’m not worried about finishing. Either they’re not that much fun to make or I don’t particularly like the yarn or pattern. Time’s moved on. I’ve got enough to be going on with for the rest of the year at the speed I knit and crochet now. Oh, and it occurs to me as I type that I’ve got sewing on the go too. I’d forgotten all about those bits and bobs. Let’s talk about something else, shall we!

We did a 7 mile circular walk yesterday and came across harvest in full swing. I love seeing combines, tractors and trailers gathering in the wheat.

It really feels as if we’re on the cusp of autumn now, doesn’t it? If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere do you feel Spring’s beckoning? What’s it like where you are in the world? What’s growing around you? Can you see harvest in progress or are you in the middle of a town or city? Are you green fingered? Eating anything you’ve grown? Bragging about it?

Around here the hedgerows are absolutely groaning with crabapples, sloes and blackberries. I’ve been googling recipes for sloes and crabapples which aren’t gin or jellies. There aren’t any, so far, which really appeal. We won’t use cordial or syrups and both grew up on sloe gin and can’t face it now. Doesn’t that sound dodgy. Can you imagine me clutching a bottle of liqueur in my pram?!

Today’s homegrown basil and tomatoes for brunch on dark Ryvita with Philadelphia cream cheese. A good grinding of sea salt and black peppercorns. Delicious!

Want to tell me a few things? I’d love it.

Autumn colour, apples & whisky 

I really love autumn! There’s so much colour still and we keep having bright blue skies and sunshine, which really makes for my favourite type of autumn days. Even when it’s grey and murky there’s always something comforting to do: soup to make, apple cake to bake and hot chocolate to turn to, or a brisk walk through crunchy leaves, pausing to pick up shiny conkers and special leaves.

The asters at Waterperry Gardens have been superb. We visited in September which was between the two ‘Aster Weekends’ when visitors are encouraged to go and see the glorious long-border full of autumn colour.

Asters are also known as Michaelmas daisies because they bloom around the same time as the Christian festival. ‘Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days’ (according to Google.)

This year has been a bumper one for berries. Apparently it’s to do with the mild winter we had, followed by a dry spring and summer. They are everywhere in abundance, adding such a cheery splash of colour.

Upton House and Gardens looks after a National Collection of asters so it seemed a good plan to go and see them there too. The following pics were taken there last Tuesday. My Mum really loves asters, so she and I went to see them at both WPG and Upton. Looking back at my photos though, it’s not asters which dominate, it’s dahlias. I really like them. I have a vase-full of scarlet and peach asters downstairs, picked by her for our table. They are gorgeous. I should try to get a few photos of them in her garden to show you. I’ll try and remember to do that when I pop by later.

Waterperry have an annual apple weekend, celebrating the picking of their many varieties, you can sample and buy many varieties of apples, juice and cider. Unlike the supermarkets who offer the same scant half dozen varieties, if you’re lucky, WPG has many old varieties. Most of which I’ve never heard because 65 varieties of apple are grown there, although only about 25 of these are available commercially. The others are being trialled for juice, or preserved to ensure heritage varieties don’t die out. I bought bags of Egremont Russet and Ribston Pippin. Slices of both went very well with the cheese board we had at a family lunch on Sunday.


I also went to another type of autumn festival at the weekend: a Whisky Harvest Festival at Cotwolds Distillery. We went to pick up a pre-ordered (3 years ago) bottle of the first batch of 500 bottles of their whisky. Admittance to the festival gave everyone a free dram, so pretty soon most people were singing along and having a little dance to the live bands. A little measure of whisky is good for loosening people up. It has such a good flavour for a brand new whisky. You don’t have to take my word for it; Jim Murray writer of The Whisky Bible was there and pronounced it excellent. If you want to see his impromptu talk see here. He’s an entertaining soul. Prue Leith (she of the new Bake Off) also spoke and it seemed as if she’d enjoyed her dram rather a lot, ha ha.

The distillery also make a very tasty gin, a cream liqueur, similar to Baileys, and various other drinks. The cocktail tent was doing super business, though the gin cocktail bar was definitely favoured over that of the whisky. Personally if I’d been drinking, not driver for the day, I’d have chosen a whisky sour…

What are your favourite autumn things? What do you eat, drink and make? Do you also love it, or have flagging spirits at the end of summer? I really hope it’s the former.