Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Autumn Days

Next year's plot for growing garlic was chosen a few months ago and has been languishing under cardboard ever since. The cardboard came off yesterday and the soil underneath looked packed and dusty. It needed something. There was a little mound of leaf mould composting under the beech trees which would be ideal for conditioning the soil and pleasing the worms.

That's what a builder's bag full to the brim of autumn leaves turns into. Half a barrow load of crumbly soil conditioner.

It deserved a close-up. Ignore the intact beech leaves, they are this year's drop. The good stuff is the chocolate coloured mulch in my hand.

And that is the 2019 garlic bed, hoed, mulched and watered.

And this is the garlic from which I'll choose my cloves for planting. The biggest ones are best for decent sized plants. Guess what? I don't know what variety they are -  Les will tell me.

Speaking of Les, he kindly gave me the run of his blackberry canes as he's too busy making chilli jam to have time for blackberry jam. I've frozen a big bowl of them for future desserts. They are far too delicious for wine-making. Zoe gave me an enormous beetroot for the pigs and I may well get a gallon of wine out of that and the pigs will still get to eat it after it's been boiled.

I love Autumn, especially when the weather is fine and mild.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In Need Of Cheer

October flowering California poppy, Eschscholzia californica 

One pinch of seeds, one seed tray, perhaps two dozen plantlets, dotted here and there in the flower beds and they just keep giving and giving. Pretty generous with the seed pods too. I've seed left over from this year so shall compare how bought seed does with collected. But only if I remember to label them correctly.

Things like this are very cheering on a day when the only good news is the pregnancy of a television star and a ginger prince. A day when a bigoted right-wing party from Northern Ireland can hold a government to ransom although I actually don't care that much about that, except I think that when Sammy Wilson's utterances seem to matter a fuck then the United Kingdom is DOOMED. Surely he only exists to mock Sinn Fein and be mocked by Sacha Baron Cohen?

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Challenge

 Chilean guava plant or Ugni molinae 

Favourite fruit of Queen Victoria

We have two small Chilean guava bushes, a gift from Les, and they are currently fruiting. The berries are small, slightly bigger than a blackcurrant, and they are delicious. They taste good as they ripen but when they are fully ripe the flavour is sublime. So far, we keep ours in pots in the polytunnel.

Berries weren't the only thing I ate today. It was family supper day again and the family were late because it was also the day when parents get to hear how their children are getting on at school. Apparently, Martha has a reading age comparable to a 14-year-old. I told her that this was great and that when she is sixty her reading age will be the same as mine is now.

Her fine command of the English language must be the reason why she corrected me on my grammar Thursday last. I asked her if she'd ever heard of the proverb,

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs.

Which she hadn't and I chose not to tell her what it meant as I like to keep an air of mystery about myself. What I did tell her was of my very good results in English examinations at all levels and that using incorrect grammar was my personal choice. Obviously, her father had to check hers as she was still learning. But, to console her, I said that she would most likely be very good at English as it is a family trait on all sides. And it looks like I was right. Again.

But I digress from food. Martha started with Bert's pea and ham soup, Evie declined this course. It was still several hours before supper was served so both girls had a couple of pieces of Haribo* then went outside to bounce it off on the trampoline.

I made macaroni cheese and a steamed toasted coconut pudding. The girls tired of the trampoline and went searching for Bert to play with them. They roared and shouted for a while then came in saying he couldn't be found. I said,

He's probably hiding from you.

He was, so for badness I let them call him on my phone. He answered, expecting it to be me.

Bert! Where are you? We looked everywhere for you.
I'm in the woods.
Right! We're coming to get you!

And off they went to drag him back to play with them.

I may have mentioned before that Martha can be a harsh critic of my cooking. Cakes like biscuits, pizzas a bit dodgy. Today was different. The macaroni cheese was delicious and creamy and what kind of cheese did I use? I never mentioned the two big dollops of English mustard and the half glass of white currant wine. Just ordinary cheddar cheese, Martha. Pudding was also received well.

That's two weeks in a row you've made a delicious meal Granny. Last week's meatballs and spaghetti and this creamy, delicious macaroni cheese. If you can just do delicious meals for the next two weeks that'll be a whole month of good cooking!

Oh Lord! The pressure. Evie said she'll give me fifty pence of her pocket money as a prize if I manage it. Guess I'll have to give it my best shot.

Now, I've a confession to make. I write these posts and publish them with only slight editing. Then, the next day I read over them and change words here and there and fix spelling and grammar where needed. Just saying, because those early readers who see posts before I go back to them might wonder how I got those good marks in English examinations of which** I boasted to Martha.

*Haribo - ever since I got the pension I've been buying it wholesale.
**'of which' - I'm not sure about that. I might change it tomorrow.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Things Bert And I Have Argued About

Crabbit - Ireland and Scotland, from 'crabbed' meaning bad-tempered.

Some time ago there was a regular column in The Guardian called Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About. The writer was Mil Millington, (I just googled that) and it was always an enjoyable read. Of course, Bert and I never argue but we used to - quite a bit. Actually, that's a lie. We still do argue but it's different now. Different because I don't take myself as seriously as I used to.

Yesterday's argument arose because he stood too close to me while I was making dinner. This is what happened.

I was making risotto from one of my new Jamie books. It was the 30-minute meal book. I might not know much about risotto but I know it's not a dish to hurry. Jamie was pretty optimistic with his 30-minute timing especially as I was expected to do a salad and a dessert in the allotted time frame. Ridic! I just did risotto and it took forty minutes.

The risotto was supposed to be mushroom but I didn't have mushrooms so I was planning to use smoked mackerel and bits of things from the garden, mostly peas and fresh herbs, flat leaf parsley, rosemary, marjoram, some lemony thing that I couldn't identify and my own garlic. The base was onion and celery both shop-bought. I also used a big glass of my own white currant wine to start it off and all was going well. Especially as I was drinking a big glass of my own white currant wine as I chopped and stirred. Bet you Jamie doesn't do that. Too many kids around for him to be drunk in charge of a high sided frying pan. When it comes to cooking and drinking I tend to favour the Keith Floyd way of doing things.

Then Bert came in from outside. He wandered over to the cooker to see how things were going which was OK with me. But then he didn't go away! Instead, he starts struggling out of his boiler suit and removing his heavy boots whilst standing six inches from me. He always tries to take his boiler suit off first and he's half caught up in it, standing on one leg, trying to unlace his boots and tottering! Tottering six inches from me and my high sided frying pan and my gas cooker! I was raging and I'm afraid I shouted at him. Something along the lines of,

Size of this kitchen, size of this house! Why stand on TOP of me whilst I'm COOKING! Wriggling out of that STUPID boiler suit *unmentionable adjective*, *unspeakable noun*.

Then he retorts, something along the lines of,

Crabbit *unutterable noun*!

Then he cleared off out of my way and said that thing again. Under his breath but I heard. And did not care because my personal space was not being intruded upon. I also did not care because I am a crabbit *unutterable noun*.

The risotto turned out very well. Delicious, in fact. I can hardly believe I've never made one before. Did I mention the Roquefort cheese I added before serving? The argument was over, finito. Mostly that's the way it is these days. Bit of a reaction to an annoyance, some might even say over-reaction, then let it go. It's almost always me who starts it.

A photograph taken a long time ago. That corner is now part of a fifteen-acre wood and that was our very first dog, Danny. We argued a lot more then than we do now.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Very Short Post

Dr Leitrim Sister has left the building but, while she was here, we spent quality time together and ate a lot of cake.

She is with our youngest brother tonight as he is the main reason for her visit. He a great worry for his family right now and can use a bit of sibling support.

Friday, October 12, 2018

It's An Ill Wind

Storm Callum came in the night, knocked over my hen feed bin, scattered the recycling bins (I had failed to return them to their proper place) but, best of all, made the fallen beech from the last storm, fall some more so now it safe again. Bert's rib is almost mended so, as soon as weather and family affairs permit - it's a wooding we will go...

...for Winter is Coming and so is Dr Leitrim Sister and that will be all from me today.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jamie Ya Bollix

Started clearing out my scullery cupboards yesterday using the recommended decluttering method, which is 5 boxes designated as follows,

  1. Bin
  2. Recycle
  3. Donate
  4. Mend
  5. Restore to Proper Place

By far the fullest box was Restore to Proper Place and the emptiest, containing one piece of cardboard, was Recycle. This tells me that I am very good at recycling and very bad at restoring items to the proper place.

I'd hoped to have a really full donation box as the cupboards I was decluttering are the ones where I keep my fancy vintage china. It wasn't easy to part with it. I managed to donate a couple of vases, two bowls and an outsized mug belonging to Hannah. The rest I kept, including three butter dishes with lids in various styles from hand-painted to Pyrex. I toyed with donating the Old Foley but after checking eBay prices realised that it could fetch a sum between £2.50 to £33 so thought better of it.

Today is the day I pick up the girls from school so I packed my box of bits and pieces for delivery to the nearest charity shop. Whilst there I bought four cookery books (50p each) and Evie chose a mug for herself (20p). The cookery books were in very good condition, three Jamies and a Nigella. Evie and I browsed them in the schoolyard whilst we awaited Martha's release. I was especially taken by Jamie's 15 Minute Meals. What a challenge! I can make poached egg and toast in 15 minutes but Jamie can do marvels. Apparently, the secret is having the right equipment and a very well-stocked pantry. He's a helpful soul is Jamie and he provided a list of all the essential store cupboard ingredients a person should have to hand. Just one hundred and twenty-six items. This included 13 types of dried pasta, 11 kinds of nuts and 13 ready-made sauces. Nine kinds of tinned food must be available and as no one is going to have just one tin of anything I'd say that would bring the necessary items to over 150. Either I get rid of all that crockery or a new pantry is needed.

But - Jamie says that there is no point in serving up all this delicious, nutritious food if it's dished up on random, everyday plates and bowls. He advises using painted boards or vintage crockery from flea markets. Doesn't have to be expensive y'see. Now the painted board thing. Not happening in this house. I'd serve the chow on them just the one time and later on that evening Bert would have them in the wood-burning stove. Looks like the vintage crockery is staying and, as I've probably already got around half of Jamie's recommended pantry list, all I need is to shop for the 75 items I haven't got and a two-tier bamboo steamer for all the dim sum I'll be making.