Saturday 25 March 2017

The Raspberry Patch of Shame

Hello Friends!

Happy Mothering Sunday

for tomorrow, March 26th.  You can read more about how we celebrate Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom here.  Although today we use the day to celebrate our mothers, you will see that it has quite different origins to what you might think.

Spring is officially here! Hip! Hip! Hurrah! For a few weeks now, she has been teasing us with quick glimpses of sunny days, but the Spring Equinox earlier this weeks heralds the official start of spring in the northern hemisphere, while our antipodean friends start their autumn.

We have been blessed now, for a few days, with sunshine and blue skies; lighter winds ~ lighter is by definition, for winds of twenty mph are light by comparison to forty mph winds, of course; birds singing to welcome in the spring; and the garden slowly waking up.

Here is a passage I wrote on my Facebook page earlier this week ~~~
The sun is shining bold and bright in a nearly cloudless blue sky, but belies the cold air that rushes in as I open the windows ~ floods of freezing fresh air to get the spirit moving ~ maybe moving towards the kettle and tea pot rather than towards the bucket and mop? The lawn is lush and verdant, speckled with innocent daisies, golden dandelions, and bountiful buttercups {sighs} ~~~ the chirrups and tweets of birdsong echoes across this Shire garden, as it has done since before 6:00 a.m. ~ the sweetest, but maybe not the most timely, alarm clock of them all ~~~
I have mowed my lawn, and the plaintive springtime mating call of lonely lawn mowers can be heard each day, echoed by the call of more and more as they waken from their winter slumber, but never shall they meet for hedges and walls stand in their way across the Shire gardens ~~~

Laundry dances on the washing lines, bobbing gaily in the gentle breeze ~~~

I love to see my white vintage table linens washed, pegged for drying later to be rolled up slightly damp ready for starching, pressing and careful folding until ready to be used again.

The thrill of the first white Pasque Flower bursting open came this very week. Soon there will be many more, and then the magical seedheads will appear to enchant me once again ~~~

Acid green and brown Euphorbia spikes jut up from the border ~~~

and the Osteospermums, which have not stopped flowering since last summer, are now bursting forth to welcome in the warmer, longer days ahead ~~~

Soon, they will be transplanted from their temporary Growbag home into a waiting border ~~~

The herb garden is waking too with rosemary full of lavender bloom, white comfrey; sweet cicely and more ~~~

Fragrant wallflowers, so freely spread themselves about the garden, with fragrant blooms, an early treat to see ~~~

and now my Raspberry Patch of Shame ~~~ it remained unloved and uncared for all last summer {thanks to two inopportune arthritic flare ups in my spine} so this year is in need of a jolly good sort out!  I've already made a start: hacking away at honeysuckle as it encroaches upon my garden from next doors unattended yard; I have cleared a mass of rampant blackberry brambles ~ which set my back off again and brought a slight halt to proceedings ~ and now am faced with all this matted couch grass!  Plenty of exercise there then, and nothing that a herd of goats couldn't manage in a week ~~~

Before ~~~

and after a few hours clearing ~~~

The once tidy rows of canes are lost, and it breaks my heart to see it in such a mess, but I am determined to clear it all without the use of chemicals!  It is a work in progress, for sure.

I shall leave you with a small puzzle.  I found this 'catkin' or 'pussy willow' on my blueberries ~ there are several of these little fuzzie wuzzies and I have never seen before.  If anyone knows about these, or has seen them before, I'd love to know!

This week I must look to my laurels, for there is much work to be done in the garden, time is marching on, and a gardener's work is never done!  Tomato, chilli, and pepper seed sowing are on the list of gardening jobs for this weekend!

Until next time ~~~
~~~ Deborah xo

Sunday 12 March 2017

Camellias and Daffodils

Hello Friends ~~~

I had not realised that it is nearly two weeks since I wrote a peep! Where does the time go? So, here I am with some photographs ~ I hope you like camellias!

First, I will share with you a little story about how I came to almost hate daffodils ~~~ I certainly went off them for a good while, and I think you will give me your sympathy!

A long time ago I lived in a neighbouring village and my garden was tiny, nay, it was miniature to say the least, so there was not much room for anything. I was determined not to be without, so, amongst other things I bought thirty assorted daffodil bulbs and planted them in pots. They rewarded me well. Time passed and I moved abroad. I brought the pots of daffodils to my parent's cottage and my father decided to plant the bulbs directly into the ground. For many years the daffodils thrived. There were many sorts, from the straightforward all yellow, to some with vibrant orange centres, and some spectacular double ones.

The years went by, the daffodils multiplied into many hundreds of bulbs, and my mother began to tire of looking at so many during late spring when they die back and become quite untidy. They became an eyesore and seemed to hold back all the late spring and early summer flourishes of flowers, so, one day, with permission, I set about digging them all up. I carefully cleaned them, around five hundred bulbs, and put them to dry, ready for planting into many pots to place around the garden the following spring, and which could be removed out of sight when they were past their best. All of this took me several days but it seemed like a good plan ~~~ until, in early September of that year I went to pot up the bulbs and could not find them! Imagine my dismay to discover that, despite all my hard work, my father had found the bulbs just three days earlier and replanted them in the garden! I went off daffodils very quickly, I can assure you!

Later, I decided to dig them up again only this time I gave them away by the carrier bag full to willing takers. I think the Daffodil Karma Gods are now on my tail because the only daffodils that survive are a small handful of the beautiful double ones that are, sadly, so heavy in bloom that the stems just snap, so all I can do is cut them really very short and pop them in a vintage jug that seems just right for daffodils, to the point that we call it the Daffodil Jug ~~~

Last year, I ruthlessly cut the top off my earlier flowering pink camellia because it was getting too tall for the position and when we have strong gales or storms all winter long, it often looks as if it will just uproot itself and take off, so I took the bull by the horns and cut it back to half of its height. I think it shocked the plant because it has never been so full of these pink blooms that bring a vivid pop of colour to the late winter garden ~~~

Previously next door could not be seen behind the height of this shrub

This weekend saw the return of the much missed Gardener's World to our television screens.  Following Monty Don's sage advice, and the arrival of a delightful sunny Sunday afternoon, I shall begin tackling the thicket and mess that is the autumn raspberry patch. It will take a lot of work because my back was too bad to do anything last year so the weeds, mostly couch grass and brambles, have really taken hold. I cropped only what could be picked from the wall edge, so had barely anything to eat by way of fresh raspberries last year.  Here is the before picture, the after ones will follow next time, and I hope there will be a vast improvement.

Please don't judge me for the mess it is in! I suffered in agony for many weeks in two bouts of a very bad back last spring and summer and I am very eager to sort out this mess!

The local Council Garden Waste bin scheme has already started and it took me no time at all to fill it for the first collection, Thursday last!  Already, the next collection is half full and there is nearly a fortnight of clearing ahead of us. I have much more waste than I can feasibly manage right now! Heigh Ho! Such fun ~~~

Until next time ~~~
~~~Deborah xo

Wednesday 1 March 2017

Daffodils, Pancakes and A Patron Saint

Hello Friends!


It's been quite a busy few days in the village as it is March 1st, and that means it is Saint David's Day, the day we celebrate the Patron Saint of Wales.  You can read all about it here and here  where I have previously shared several of our events and a little of the history of David himself.

I was unable to attend in person at any of the events this year, however, I did manage to take a few photographs of some of the many windows that have been so beautifully decorated in celebration of Saint David. Here are a few of them, a bit shaky as it was like standing in a wind tunnel out there today in 50 mph winds ~~~

I love these quirky pottery Welsh ladies

Here are some of my personal things, some table linen, a Welsh lady doll that is dressed in traditional costume that someone lovingly knit by hand, and a few towels and oven gloves with Welsh patterns ~~~

and a plate of delicious Welsh Cakes, a yummy treat to have with tea on St David's Day ~~~

We also have dear friends living Across the Pond who celebrate Wales and they share their lovely pictures and celebrations with us ~~~

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, which you can read about here, however, many of you celebrate this day yourself in one of its many forms as it is celebrated across the world and I'd love if you'd share your stories in the comment ~~~

I don't like calling it Pancake Day as I observe it as Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, and the start of Lent, although, as a child, we sang the following little ditty all day long in school, in eager anticipation of delicious pancakes, fresh from the frying pan, for our tea when we got in from the cold, and often wet, walk home from school ~~~

Pancake Day! Pancake Day!
Mother's Busy Baking 
Toss the Pancakes! Toss the Pancakes!
Turn the Pancakes Over!

I always remember my mother, slaving over the hot stove which stood in the corner of the tiny room where we cooked, ate, and sat around the fire of the evenings, making the pancakes one by one so each of us got a fresh, hot pancake slathered in melted butter, sprinkled liberally with sugar, and drizzled with lemon juice. She would serve everyone first before sitting down to her own, then start again giving each one of us a fresh pancake in turn, ending with her own, until all the batter was gone! My goodness, they were tasty treats with all the sugar and butter!

We sat, in eager anticipation, not only of the delicious pancakes, but waiting for The Toss! No meal of pancakes is proper without the successful toss of at least one pancake!  I pride myself on my expertise in this field!

Here is my recipe for crêpes which I learned in school, many decades ago ~~~

4 oz plain flour, sifted with a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and into this crack two large eggs. Gradually incorporate the eggs into the flour, slowly drawing the flour into the eggs. When all the flour is absorbed by the eggs, slowly pour in 1/2 pint of full cream milk beating constantly using a hand held electric whisk. You may, of course, whisk by hand using a balloon whisk should you require to burn off calories before eating your treat!  Set batter aside for a minimum of 1 hour before using. Immediately before using, pour 1 oz melted butter into the batter and whisk well.
To cook the pancakes, heat a heavy flat based pan and lightly grease with butter. When the butter begins to give off a blue smokey haze the pan is ready. Pour about 1/6 of the batter into the pan and swirl around until it reaches the edges. When the top is dry and the pancake slides freely in the pan, flip using a spatula, or toss if you are brave enough and cook the other side until golden brown.
Transfer the cooked pancake to a warm plate and flavour or fill with your choice of toppings before serving immediately. Repeat with remaining batter, which makes approximately 6 pancakes of 10 inches diameter. Bon Appetit!

Our traditional Shrove Tuesday pancakes are globally called crêpes, those heavenly, paper thin French confections of pure, soft, melt in the mouth delight which I love dearly. Today, pancakes will be made in many shapes, sizes, and filled with all manner of treats.  These are mine ~~~

I don't mind savoury or filled sweet pancakes at any time of year, and love them filled with garlic mushrooms; roasted Mediterranean vegetables; broccoli in a cheese sauce; ice cream and chocolate sauce; fresh fruit and a brandy sauce; you get the idea ~ but on Shrove Tuesday they are simple fare served in remembrance of the day.

Did you have pancakes yesterday, or do you have other ways of celebrating Shrove Tuesday?

Until next time ~~~
~~~ Deborah