I’ve been trying to eke out and make the most of the last days of summer. Over the weekend we went to a chilli festival. One of us ate a bratwurst and the other a brownie for lunch, while sitting, then lolling full and content on the grass in the warm sun. (Well, calling it grass might be exaggerating rather since most is closer to hay, after the hot summer we’ve had here.) We chilled listening to a mariachi band, who made us laugh and cringe at the same time! I’ve always loved Don’t you Want me Baby? by the Human League, but I’m not sure I ever need to hear a mariachi version again.
The photos above are from another garden visit, on Sunday, to Cerney House Gardens. It’s the time to go while there’s still some colour. As you see, the dahlias and sunflowers are absolutely stunning, vividly coloured and a real shot of brightness amongst what was mostly over and overgrown borders, as you’d expect at this point. The calendars and school terms are now telling us it’s the beginning of autumn. Today it’s pouring and it does feel like it. But that’s the meteorological point of view, the scientists’ neat way of dividing up the year.
In the astrological calendar autumn begins from 23rd September this year. Normally around 21st September the first day of autumn is marked by the equinox – when daylight and dark hours are equal. The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). This year here it’s Friday 23rd. There’s other info about autumn on the Woodland Trust website, here.
I’m so glad that yesterday evening it was dry and warm, so walking trainers on and up to the fields for a 2 1/2 mile loop. Ambling along, we stopped to pick the last few tart juicy red plums which are high up on the little trees, but we turned our noses up at the damsons which looked quite withered, and anyway are always too tart to be enjoyable eaten raw. The blackberries are a mix of mostly sweet and juicy, but it’s a real lottery and sometimes they shock the senses. The brambles must go down deep into the soil. They don’t seem to mind the lack of rain. They’re abundant as usual. I lamented the lack of a tub and suggested chugging down the last of our water on Sunday, thinking we could fill the water bottle with berries to freeze. Apple picking won’t be far off now and I fancy baking an apple and blackberry pie, or crumble.
I’ve just started reading a summer holiday type of book, although I love the change from summer to autumn I still have this feeling that I don’t quite want to let summer drift away. I’m in denial though; right now I’m standing in the conservatory dictating this into my iPhone and I can see the buckets and bowl we put down to catch rainwater are absolutely brimful. It seems a pointless exercise as the flowers and plants have been well watered already, with the terrific thunder and lightning rain storms we’ve had the last couple of nights. And it’s due to rain all week anyway.
We paused what we were watching last night and came in here. The lightning lit up the whole of the dark garden, while I shrieked “Don’t touch the edges of the conservatory, in case we get struck by lightning!” It was really dramatic as the storm raged overhead. Stood in a little metal and glass box, alternately light and dark, it was a little bit scary.
I feel so sorry for the fairs which are coming for their annual visits to the towns and cities around. Torrential rainstorms are going to be terrible for business, but I am glad it’s finally raining. Maybe the grass will be green again.
I really didn’t know where to begin with this post. July has been a mixed month. A lovely holiday (go to my Insta to see the seal) and then an evening a week or so later, I went to sing and suddenly found myself croaky voiced. I also sang a completely different melody to the rest a few times and wondered why. The next day my throat felt like there was a golf ball stuck in it sore and I felt on the odd side, although not exactly unwell. I was about to leave to go to the city, but thought it might be wise to do a test. It’s pretty obvious to you what I’m going to say, isn’t it? I had my first ever positive. It finally got me.
I tested a few times during the first week and within 2 1/2 minutes that blinking red line appeared. So many people have said it’s akin to having a mild summer cold. Not for me; I felt really unwell for the first four days. Apparently new very contagious variants have developed and here 1/17 have Covid, according to the BBC news app. After the worst part I felt really quiet, not wanting to talk or move much. I read a lot, did some crochet and adult dot-to-dot pages from a book that I found in a charity shop for 50p last month. When I say adult I mean tricky, tiny numbers to 400, sea themed pictures. Not ‘adult’. That would be an interesting book…
So, rather than wade through many photos from mid-June onwards I’ve selected some from the last week*.
I finally got my first negative result at the weekend, after ten days. I’m still coughing well a fortnight later, have a blocked up head and ears, can smell and taste little. It will all pass. I’m dealing with the post-viral fatigue by doing some activity, following by quite a lengthy sit-down-and-read. I’m very lucky to have chance to quietly recuperate.
Bread making continues unwell or not, this is a slightly flat loaf because I got very involved in my book (or maybe it was tv?) and it over-proved one evening! It tasted good, I’m told, which is the most important thing. I use locally grown and produced organic flours: dark rye for the starter, then a mix of white and stoneground wholemeal, often more wholemeal than white, sometimes half and half. I keep reading about the benefits to the gut of fermented foods and have a glow of satisfaction as sourdough is always included on the lists.
I found a new mustard recipe online, it’s Beer Mustard. Tomorrow it will be a week since I made this batch and we will try it.
A few months ago I made my own mustard for the first time, maybe I mentioned it? It was Spiced Honey Mustard from my Good Housekeeping Preserves book which I’ve owned for years. It was made to give as a gift and tasted so good that I made a few more jars for us. One came on holiday as we couldn’t bear not to have it for 10 days!
The giftee liked it so much that he kept sending pics of his lunchtime cheese and mustard sandwiches. That made me grin.
I’m working through the book, I have been for years. There are very few that I wouldn’t want to make. (Harissa and a lemon pickle are probably next.)
Lots of wandering around the garden and admiring my pots, picking up stray fuchsia petals and watching the progress of the very late planted gladioli. Finally razor sharp leaves have appeared above ground. I’m not sure that we’re going to get any flowers, it may be too late, but it’s exciting watching their progress.
I’ve kept the plant saucer of water cleaned and topped up for the birds, patio mouse and next door’s cats. Last week we had some of our highest ever recorded temperatures in the country so sat outside until after dark, reading our Kindles, in the relative cool of the garden. And several nights running we heard a loud rustle and movement behind the shrubs at the back of the garden. We have a hedgehog! On Tuesday evening, when it was furnace like, as the heat had accumulated from the previous days, he spent a long time noisily slurping the water. We were spellbound, holding our breath watching the dark rugby ball shape at the end of the garden. Then he was off, to the ferns and under the silver birch tree. They always move more swiftly than I expect. Magical.
The gifted jalapeño plants in the conservatory are coming on fast (from the cheese and mustard sandwich fan.) No sign of my Thai chillies or sweet peppers yet, sigh. (Isn’t that potted hydrangea outside a thing of deep pink beauty?)
I’ve made a plum crumble and also stewed some with orange juice and zest, cinnamon and star anise. I’m told they tasted good. I am eating, although I can’t smell or taste anything. But I do appreciate the colours of summer food.
A little trip out to a garden centre after my first negative result. Current guidance is to isolate for five days and stay away for ten from vulnerable people. But feeling poorly (and still testing positive) I didn’t really want to go out after five days anyway, and who can tell who is vulnerable? I really didn’t want to pass on the virus to anyone at all, it’s nasty even after vaccinations, especially those who might be really adversely affected. Interestingly none of the people I saw leading up to my positive result have caught the virus. Even the 2 guys I hugged. Someone I live with hasn’t either. Good, but it’s odd.
So refreshing to be out. I drank it all in. This is a posh garden centre where the staff are super creative; you never just see a plant stand with …umm plants plonked on it. There are sculptures and carriages, old cars and even merry-go-round horses. The flowers are grouped into attractive displays of colour and form. It’s a lovely trip out, no purchase necessary for enjoyment. The next morning I woke and discovered that I had slept for 11 hours! Post-viral fatigue is real, this was after a 40 minute wander at a garden centre. Oh dear!
A visit to Waterperry Gardens Sunday late afternoon. Still using the Gardeners World 2-for-1 card, so it was £7.50 for two. What a bargain.
On a quest to use up food in the freezer I roasted my first guinea fowl on Sunday night. It was a yellow sticker bargain I picked up a while ago for a mere £5. I cooked it very simply; with half a lemon in the cavity, olive oil all over the skin and a good grinding of black pepper and sea salt, sat on a trivet of slices of onion. I ate it too, with roasted summer vegetables and puy lentils, but sadly couldn’t taste or smell a thing. I’m told it was absolutely delicious. (Sorry, definitely a lot of repetition here.) The third portion was eaten cold with salad on Monday night, while I had a homemade Spicy Black Bean soup. If I could have tasted it I would say it would have blown my head off! I used *a lot* of red chill flakes and hot smoked paprika, along with cumin and mixed herbs. As it was I could taste a very nice buzz which was the first thing in ages. I loved it.
Still trying little trips to be somewhere other than home for a while, I popped to another garden centre on Monday. (My third in as many days, if you count WPG which has a nursery and shop.) They’re good places for recuperation.
The jackdaws and starlings appear within minutes of the mealworm feeder being refilled. Do they have lookouts using tiny binoculars? This means the little garden birds are not getting any of the good stuff. They are ruddy hooligans (if you get the ref? I’m listening to that lots while I do my dot-to-dots!) So I’m on the lookout for a protected small-bird feeder that would be suitable for holding mealworms. Squirrels aren’t an issue in this garden, I’ve never seen one.
More plums! 2.5kg this time. Another gentle walk around the —— on Tuesday evening. (Avoiding whipping or hard labour.)
I’m looking up plum recipes while Someone is lobbying for jam. There are a lot of very, very small plums and it’s super fiddly removing the stones. I could leave them in and fish out as many as I can, I’ve done that before when making damson chutney. But it’s not much fun hanging over a roiling pan….
Lunchtime Spicy Black Bean Soup leftovers. Bliss, I can almost nearly taste it, perhaps things are slightly improving. Catching up on back issues of Inside Crochet and Good Housekeeping magazines as I eat.
Yesterday I had baked beans with masses of curry powder, sriracha and Colman’s mustard powder and a couple of fried eggs. I took a friend to the hairdresser and that protein packed lunch kept me going until dinner at about 8pm. Pasta, lemony salmon fillets and half a pan of roasted veg topped up my 5 a day.
This morning’s loaf, much better shape. It’s a beauty! And with that I’m off to poach a couple of eggs to eat with a few slices, for lunch, or maybe I’ll just spread some with salted butter and leave it at that. Followed by half a dozen small plums.
Tell me a few things about your last seven days?
* apart from the crochet picture, that was taken when I was on holiday
Making: lists for August, mostly walks, visits, trips
Cooking: Jamie Oliver’s Falafel patties I used mixed beans and a can of borlotti, with rose harissa because it’s what I had open in the fridge.
Sipping: Jasmine tea
Reading: I’ve read some v good books lately, including The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans. I gave 5 stars for slow building tension and menace. A cracking story, it’s due to be published on 19th August
Waiting: for normal life to resume, it’s much better than last July (see post here ) but we are most definitely still in the grip of the pandemic and I’m cautious. The mask, distancing and sanitising is still very much in place and I don’t think I’ve been into a city since last autumn
Looking: up at the tv, it looks like Team GB just won another Olympic gold
Listening: to the rain falling
Wishing: for my library reservation to come quickly. It’s the first printed book I’ve requested since last winter. I’ll show you when it comes…
Enjoying: dipping in and out of Instagram, my enthusiasm for it goes in phases. I’m still loving Alex Hollywood’s account, so many good foody ideas and recipes
Appreciating: all the colours of summer, currently dripping with water but withstanding the onslaught of rain and wind (not sure the local farmers will be feeling the same way. Have you seen Clarkson’s Farm on Prime btw? Recommend)
Eating: lots of salads, fish and I made my first plum crumble last night. I’ve always preferred raw plums, but since we’ve found an excellent source of plums for scrumping I promised Someone a crumble
Liking: Nigel Slater’s crumble mix: 150g plain flour & 80g butter mixed together, then stir in 50g ground almonds, 70g demerara sugar, 75g rolled oats. I sprinkled in a little cinnamon too. Not much, because I’d already sprinkled cinnamon, ground ginger and freshly grated nutmeg into the plums, with a 2-3 tablespoons of sugar and a dash or two of water. 180 fan / 200 c for 30-35mins
Loving: cold plum crumble eaten with extra thick cream
Buying: a new top and trousers from Seasalt. Love Seasalt!
Managing: weeds, sort of. Gardening is like housework, it’s never done
Watching: the phlox begin to flower, there’s a stunning pink one flowering, but now the white are beginning to appear. Next the purple and white one I hope
Hoping: an influx of visitors aren’t going to spell disaster for the area
Wearing: I’m not saying!
Noticing: it’s much, much colder. I’d folded up my Tilted Squares blanket and put it away upstairs, but have found myself snuggling in my Spice of Life blanket in the evening instead (FYI: Black Sheep Wools asked me to take part and publicise the CAL, in return for free yarn back in 2015. I chose my own colour combo.)
Following: which vegetables and fruits are now in season
Sorting: spiders into tissues
Coveting: a cottage by the sea, where it’s never affected by severe weather
Feeling: impatient to start new crochet makes, if I undo previously started things I can, right?!
Hearing: sighing and breath exhaled – he’s tense watching people either run around, or leap over bars. I did enjoy watching the BMX race on catch-up, that was exhilarating but that’s the extent of my viewing. I hope we continue to do well, but don’t feel any need to watch
I’ve seen Three Good Things lists around quite a bit lately. Stopping to think about the good things means you’re focusing on positives.
They can be big things or small things, even really tiny things. I think that’s probably the point – noting even ordinary things for which you are appreciative and grateful; such as a perfect cup of tea, the smell of clean laundry or a funny shaped cloud that drifted by. It’s valuable practice, particularly during these strange and worrying times as it anchors you to what’s good.
Actually, I have a FB friend who has posted her ‘Happies for today’ for literally years and years. They’re nice to read as well as well as helping her.
I’m going to post mine here whenever I fancy. So here’s today’s:
I look out for these plums every summer. They aren’t around in the supermarkets for long and when I see them I snap them up. These are the first I’ve seen this year.
These were grown in Kent (England.) So sweet and tasty.
Just a few from my garden, it’s absolutely full of colour and buzzing. It’s bee paradise out there!
Hydrangea – this was taken in late June. It’s now changing colour but just as lovely
Lace hydrangea – perfection!
Finally the agapanthus flowers have begun opening – I always loved seeing these along a part of the Thames Path in London. This is the first time I’ve had any in my garden. There are more too.
First Japanese anemone to open
Osteospermum. I bought this in June. You see how it’s trebled since I repotted it? It’s now absolutely covered in buds again too. A close up of the flowers – all different shades of purple.
So kind – I was offered this bunch of dahlia straight out of someone’s vase. She has grown herself a flower garden and said she could always pick herself some more. Aren’t they beauties?
3: Being able to do a bit of crochet again!
Not too often and very carefully, but you can imagine how much I’m enjoying it. This was yesterday, sitting on my garden bench while listening to some music.
That’s the second side of my pot holder. Then when that’s done I’ll be pulling out my next Lucky Dip from my craft box of mystery long-ago started items!
Would you like to post your Three Good Things somewhere? With or without photos, anywhere you fancy. Even in a notebook or on a scrap of paper no one else will ever see. It’s for you. But if you do fancy sharing – tag me! I’d love to see yours.
As we started off on our walk earlier I was saying how twee I find the ‘Come for a walk?’ kind of blog post. I always find myself involuntarily wincing, but then usually really enjoy the pics; especially when they’re from another county. Yorkshire or Cornwall are definitely in the top five locations.
During the first part of lockdown when we were at home, making essential journeys only and going out to exercise once a day,￼ I started recording highlights of my walks for my friends on Facebook. Apparently that inspired some to do the same. I loved seeing where they’d walked, run or cycled that day. A change of scenery is always welcome.
Here’s this morning’s walk for you, from The Cotswolds.
We’ve walked a mere 10 minutes and found a small plum tree. I picked half a dozen to share. Result!￼ Tasty and sweet. Someone thinks they are mirabelle, do you agree? They’re bigger than damsons, smaller than victorias.
That sky looks ominous, doesn’t it?
Plenty of sloes all the way along the path and fields around. I might have a try at making sloe and blackberry jam or something else new. It used to be a family thing to make sloe gin, but actually none of us really like it anymore. I now think it tastes like cough medicine, too syrupy and far too sweet.￼￼ The thought of sloe gin has nudged me into remembering there’s a bottle of unopened damson gin given by friends the Christmas before last, somewhere at home and still unopened.￼
I’d paused again and said I must take a picture of the vine (my brother and I called them Tarzan vines when children.) Are they part of very old ivy plants?
Lesser or common burdock￼￼￼. So pretty.
I’ve been trying to identify this using the Butterfly Conservation￼ site. I wondered if it’s a moth, rather than butterfly, but haven’t come up with anything on that section either. I sent the picture to a friend whose husband is apparently a moth geek, presumably he’s also a butterfly geek.
More future foraging opportunities; a tree laden with crab apples￼. I bet there’s plenty you can make with these too.￼ Have you ever?
Ahhh fields of barley, it’s the feathery rippling in the breeze that gets me. I also like the log. It looks like it’s been carefully placed there for people to perch on and admire the views.
I’m sure I’ve taken photos here several times before, it’s like looking out of a picture window.￼ It had started to rain, but because we were in a tunnel of trees, with deep hedges either side we could hardly feel it. My jacket was still tied around my waist, as it was rather on the humid side in fact.￼￼￼
Uh-oh here we go!￼ Out from the tunnel of trees appraoching what I always call the Crossroads, where the footpath and bridleway cross, and it was raining on us a little more now.￼
I had stopped for a drink of water and we put our jackets on, there was no ignoring the rain now, but it was refreshing and I always like the sound as it plops on my raincoat’s hood. ￼
The view was now wheat fields all around. The combines have started harvesting crops around the area this week; so I have to make the most of the golden views while I can.
The rain had become torrential at this point and so we were sheltering under a large oak tree when suddenly I saw something going up and down in the wheat field, about 20 feet away. Another bounce and we realised it was a pair of very straight ears: a hare! ￼￼When we stopped talking it seemed to stop bouncing. So I sang ‘Oh I do like to be beside the seaside’ (I’m not sure why that song) in a gentle bid to get it moving again. If it was, we could no longer see it.
Thunder had started crashing overhead. It was definitely time to carry on. ￼
Ten minutes later in the torrential rain I took this photo of a beautiful thistle under a tree and we decided the wisest thing would be to turn around and go home; we were soaked through to the skin. I realised my coat must need re-proofing. This is the first time I’ve ever been properly wet during a rainstorm, it’s served me well in the three or so years since I bought it￼. We squelched along the field edge, kicking up muddy spray.
By the time we got home we’d walked over five miles and were so wet through that we had to peel off our sodden and muddy clothes￼￼￼￼ in the kitchen, to put them straight into the washing machine.
I stood in my underwear eating a few Big Hula Hoops and sipping cold lager out of a can before going up to change. That’s a pretty good ending to a walk!￼