Tuesday 30 September 2014

Catch-up time, and patchwork

We have had a very busy few weeks here.  What with setting up the Unit at the Antiques Centre, and also car boot sales, jam, chutney and cake making, and then the Fleamarket on Sunday, not to mention the monthly trip over to Malvern for the huge Fleamarket there, blogging time has been limited.

Above is a gorgeous applique wall hanging which I bought from the Fleamarket at the weekend.  A lady was selling her late mother's beautiful wallhangings, bags and left over material.  I bought £12 worth of material - some of it in half yard or more remnants - and this wallhanging for £25.  I thought that all the beautiful pieces would have flown out but at the end of the day all that had sold were the material remnants.  The poor woman must have felt like it was a personal insult to have her mother's work ignored.  I was happy to pay £25 for this and if I had made more money, I would have bought a darker hanging for £45, which was black with turquoise, green and blue prints in the centre.  I forgot my camera!, but I am hoping the lady will try again in November, when people might buy these for Christmas presents.  Her mother had been so talented and with such a good eye for colour.  She has truly inspired me.

Here is a close-up of the centre.  All hand worked and with neat quilting stitches and tiny piecing stitches.

I loved this tiny "log cabin" style border.

Margaret W Lewis, up in Heaven, take a bow.

The bundles of oddments.  I am thrilled to bits with them, especially the pretty Hollyhocks print one just below the roll of brown print.  This has to be one of my favourite  prints.  Sharon - you probably recognize it as you sent me some in that wonderful parcel of material which I think is finally going to become a quilt this winter!

Sorry, the  flash has leached out the colours.

I think the bottom right marbled style prints (small pieces!) are Kaffe Fassett designs.

You may noticed that these are all laid out on a sad old beautifully-quilted Welsh quilt.  One I bought at auction for the design on it.  (£10).  Sadly both sides have discolouration from sunlight, but folded up across the foot of a bed it still has style, even though the colours are . . . drab! but doubtless practical at the time!

Meanwhile, inspired by the pretty yellow background quilt I coveted at Malvern last week, I got my husband to make me some small hexagon templates and have been making a cushion cover.  Except that I have got carried away now I have new material and it could end up as a lap quilt . . .

I have just bought a couple of Australian patchwork magazines from Ebay and am heading off to the patchwork shop at Mumbles near Swansea when we meet up with Middle Daughter G today.  It must be autumn as I have picked up my needle again . . .

Addition:  the patchwork mags arrived today (Weds) and one has a lovely hexie runner, with granny's flower garden "flowers" in it, so that is now what I am going to be making.  Only to put on the table when we have guests or it will swiftly be viewed by the cats as a Good Bed!  I'll do a fresh post with yesterday's fabrics in.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Enjoying the sunshine on Llansteffan Beach

It was such a beautiful sunny day on Monday, a real remnant of summer (temperatures were around 21 deg C/70 deg F) and it seemed a shame to waste it, so we drove to our nearest beach, at Llansteffan.  That is about 8 miles from Carmarthen and 18 from home.  As you can see the tide was at a very low ebb.  This is looking inland up the Towy.

Looking across the Towy now.  You can just see the remains of Iscoed Mansion on the middle left.  This was General Picton's home and where he finally retired to in 1814, after the Peninsular Wars.  Unfortunately his retirement was short as after Napoleon escaped from Elba, General Picton was summoned back to the Army and sadly killed at Waterloo on 18th June 1815.  There is a big memorial to him on Picton Terrace in Carmarthen.  HERE is a very interesting link which shows many pictures of the sadly derelict house.  Many many years ago (1972 I think) when I was on holiday with a penpal who lived near Ferryside - which is the village in this photo (and below), we walked around Iscoed - it was completely abandoned at that point and a little scary with its towering brick walls, echoing with Jackdaw flight.

Below - low water, and a smudge in the distance which is Pembrey woods and beach.

The corpse of a rather large jelly fish which the tide had brought in.

As I said, it was a VERY low tide.  This is where the Cockle Pickers go, in season.  In 1994, we had Cockle Wars here, when pickers from out of the area came to pick and there was fighting on Ferryside beach when rival gangs from out of the area arrived.

As we rounded the first headland into Scott's Bay, there were a few people about, some walking their dogs.

What a lovely spot to live.  St Anthony's cottage (there is a well dedicated to him close by).  HERE is a link to Llansteffan in general and some lovely views.

Sedimentary layers (level ones) in the cliffs.

And here a lot more interesting geologically - squeeze up by primeval upheaval.

Wharley Point, which is far as we walked.  Here beyond the rocks are the low waters of the River Taf, and Ginst Point, the very last tip of Pendine Burrows (and the long long beach where the land speed records were held in the early part of the 20th C.   Where, in fact, Parry-Thomas died in his famous "Babs" when attempting the land speed record on 3rd March 1927.

Back later with more photos, as I have bread to make and time has fled by already this morning.

Later . . .

In places the sand was very fine and you sank right in, so we kept close to the rocks on the way out, and returned closer the sea on a higher drier spit.

Carmarthen Bay is very shallow, and although there were stretches underwater from the Taf and the Towy, the rest of the Bay was just wet sand or wet mud.

Above, looking across to where the very end of Pembrey sands is marked by a lighthouse.

Sandstone rock revealed by a rockfall many years ago.

The very top of the remains of Llanstephan castle just showing up on the headland.

Not a soul in sight . . .

There was quite a large area like this, so I wondered if this was where the Cockles were raked up from.

Ferryside in the distance.

Looking back across Scotts' Bay to the headland we'd just been round.

The changing colours of the trees at the beach edge - this area known as The Sticks and mentioned by Dylan Thomas.  I have a book somewhere in the house by an artist who came and painted this area in close-up, noting all the wildlife, but since then there has been a landslip and it has gotten very scrubby and overgrown.

Then back across the sands to the car park in front of the houses.  What a lovely spot to live.

HERE  is a link to a very long but very interesting piece about Fish Weirs off this area, and some maps showing the coastal outline.  I have bookmarked it to return to and read at my leisure - hah, what is that?!

Sunday 21 September 2014

Shattered! Malvern Fleamarket and O.E. placenames

The early sun on the Malvern hills yesterday morning.  We were up at 3.45 a.m. and away an hour later for the long drive to the showground for the latest Fleamarket.  We got to Bronllys before there was a noticable lightening of the sky, behind Hay Bluff.  That was over an hour's drive from home.

We have a slightly changed route now, which avoids driving through the middle of Hereford, and involves joining what used to be the old Roman Road, from Stretton Sugwas  Eastwards.  Fascinatingly, "Stretton" means "farmstead or village on a Roman road", and Sugwas means "alluvial land frequented by sparrows"!!!  Love it.  We pass a turning to the village of Stoke Edith too, and it's believed that the Edith referred to was the wife of Edward the Confessor . . .  The name appears in records as early as 1180.  Stoke means "outlying farmstead or hamlet", a secondary settlement.

We turned to get into the back of Malvern near Cradley.  That was a "woodland clearing of a man called Creoda".  Driving through small fields and orchards, you could almost be transported back in time.

It was very busy there, and many of the traders who usually went inside in the sheds, chose to be outside on such a good day.  We spoke to a trader who had elected to go inside and she said it had been very quiet - people weren't even getting that far - having spent their money outside one suspects.

The textiles corner of one stall - which, when we looked up, we found was manned by a friend of ours!

Older furniture shabby chicced - or something . . .

Sleep in the front and cook in the back.  Great idea!

A Cecil Aldin coaching print I woulden't have minded.  The use of a coloured team is interesting, especially they are horses with a bit of blood about them.  I know that a coloured horse was "permissible" as long as it was the off-side wheeler (I think) in a team of otherwise solid-coloured horses.

What a lovely farmstead and animals - I would have loved this as a child.

I don't know who Mrs Cox of Badgeworth was but this Barge Teapot and set of three jugs was commissioned and made for her in 1890.  Apparently the end of the canal was in Derbyshire, where Mrs Cox would have left her order on one canal trip on her barge, and then picked it up/paid for it when she returned.  Badgeworth is on the outskirts of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire.  I can only assume that Mrs Cox was perhaps widowed, but carried on running her business - and successfully.  These pieces were unique.  Badgeworth was the "enclosure of a man called Baecga", first mentioned in 862. . .

This takes me back - it was dated 1981 and shows butterflies and insects in great detail.

I fell in love with this quilt, and loved the way the background had been hexagons of the same material (rather than the flower garden bits being appliqued to a wholecloth background.  This yellow material had a slight raised pattern on it too.  The price was £50.  I was down to my last £10!  I can't even hope that it is there next time because the next date is in 3 weeks' time and clashes with the Militaria Fair we are doing at Laugharne.  Ah well, perhaps it may be there in December . . . or perhaps I should just make myself one!

Another very pretty quilt, also out of my pocket though I didn't ask the price (stallholder not about).

I had looked at a bright and pretty squares quilt like this on one of the outside stalls, and was quite tempted to offer until I noticed that the maker had obviously just sewn strips of squares together, and hadn't been too accurate in her piecing and although there were slight overlaps in the quilt, right in the middle was a glaring one - about 3/8" out, and I couldn't face unpicking the damn thing to try and put it right.  A lot of work . . .

Two more offerings on an inside stall.

Anyway, after 6 hours on our feet, we decided we would head for home, via Ledbury ("fortified place on the river Leadon" - Leadon being derived from the Celtic meaning "broad stream") so we could get a bottle of wine . . . my monthly treat.

Finally, at Willersley ("woodland clearing of a man called Wiglaf"), the increasingly decrepit Cats' Cottage has recently been auctioned and sold (a breath away from collapse, and possibly as a result of pressure from the Council).  I do hope that it is rebuilt in the vernacular and not flattened and replaced by a bungalow . . .

Saturday 20 September 2014

Time to hang up the jam pan for a while

We have been so busy so far in September, and indeed, the last couple of weeks of August were pretty hectic as well.  Here we are more than half way through September, and finally time to have a rest and a day off tomorrow - although that is a Busman's Holiday as it's a trip to Malvern Fleamarket.

I have more than satisfied my urges to make quantities of jams, jellies and chutneys using produce from the garden and what isn't cooked up is either still on the tree, or else in the depths of my deep-freeze!  All the apples, however, are yet to come . . .

Yesterday we had to go into town to replenish jam-making stocks.  I had to buy the Wilko Jam Kit although all I wanted was cellophane tops to go on some of the smaller lidless jars I have.  Whilst in Wilko's, I couldn't resist their 2 for £4 offer on bulbs, and got these pretty tulips for my pots front of house.

I needed to replace a thick oven glove I had managed to burn a hole in - this was £1 in a charity shop.

Then as we were passing The Works, I thought we could just have a wander round as I'd not been there for ages.

Naturally, I was drawn to a few Preserving books, and came out with this one by Dick and James Strawbridge.  Reduced from £12.99 to £2.99, so a good reduction, and some interesting recipes and new ideas ideas in it.  I am drawn to the idea of the solar-powered dryer but can't see it being of much use in the average Welsh summer . . .

I spent the most money in Aardvark Health Food Shop, where spices and herbs are cheaper and fresher than the supermarkets,  I bought two good size (250 g) bags of crystallized ginger, which I use a lot in baking and stewed up with fruit (rhubarb especially).  Also on my list were Coriander Seeds, Yellow Mustard Seeds, Turmeric,  Chilli Flakes, and four packs of Ground Ginger (a staple in this household).  Most of these were 40p - 50p a 25g pack, so much better value than the big stores.  I noticed they stocked Goats' milk butter, so as I am OK with goat milk in my tea, I thought I would splash out £1.95 on the butter and see if it was a worthy replacement of diary cow products in my diet.  I am pleased to report that it doesn't taste the least bit goaty and doesn't affect my asthma either.

Hopefully my recent makeshift posts will now be livened up with some jottings about the other things which interest me when my jam pan isn't calling!

Monday 15 September 2014

I'm on a roll! Bringing out the inner cook . . .

It is "that" time of year again, when daily gluts from the garden need to be dealt with - and I hate waste - so I have been stringing and cutting and freezing runner beans and French beans by the bucketful.  I take my favourite books on preserves off the bookshelf in the "Library" (well, Junk Room really!) and plan all sorts of jams, jellies, chutneys and preserves.  Some I will never make, but it's the planning which is fun.  Perhaps this WILL be the year when I try my hand at fruit leathers.  Perhaps I will finally be brave enough to try my hand at bottling fruit. . .

I cannot resist picking blackberries to freeze or make jam with.  It's the call of the primitive in me, a nod to my ancestors who felt impelled by necessity to make the most of nature's bounty.  I read a blog post the other day, when I was idly blog-hopping, and the lady said she had picked a kilo of Blackberries, made a crumble with half of it and froze the rest.  So that's just ONE POUND of Blackberries in the freezer to last her a year!  Is she quite mad?!  Perhaps I just have totally different urges when it comes to saving food, especially when it is free.  I am only just finishing the end of last year's frantic picking, and I like to have plenty to look forward to in case next year is one of those years when you are reduced to picking the tiny fruits you would normally pass over, because they are all that is on offer.

First, I chose to make Piccalilli from some of the garden produce (well, courgettes and green beans anyway!) and put it in my wok overnight, with salt sprinkled over to draw out the moisture.   I used the recipe from Pam Corbin's book on preserves, which is one of the excellent River Cottage series.

But I fell back upon my old favourite "Farmhouse Fare", which I bought about 40 years ago now - for the recipe for Damson and Apple Jelly.  I did it in two parts, cooking up the damsons and apples first, and leaving them overnight to cool so I could remove the stones (by hand) the next day.  I hope you can read the recipes if you want to use any of them.  The preserves in this book - as most of the recipes - are simple and straightforward and from our grandmother's and great-grandmother's time.

Meanwhile, outside my husband was splitting the ash tree logs ready for winter.  It is a diseased tree which we felled back in June, and has languished amongst the Nettles and Himalayan Balsam, waiting for a friend with a tractor to come and heave it out.  This finally happened last week.

A job well done - they have had just over a week in hot sunshine to take the final moisture out of them.  Ash always burns quite well from a short period of seasoning.

Meanwhile little Banshee sunbathed on a slate flag by the wildlife pond, and her eye slowly healed - she had to go to the vet last Monday again after her eye was obviously sore and painful - vet reckoned undergrowth had sprung back and hit her in the face.  Anyway, a week on she seems to have healed.

The well-scalded jellybag was brought into action and hung from the main kitchen beam overnight so that the juice could be collected in the bowl beneath it.  I love this bit!

It made a fair quantity of jelly, set aside as gifts for friends, and to use myself, although I am not a great jam eater.  However, I HAVE to make it each year.  It is an absolute necessity to me.

It was a busy day.  I was also bread-making, enough for two loaves and some bread rolls, and my bread dough proved beautifully.

Sunflower-seed bread rolls.   I will admit to eating two still warm from the oven!

Plus two loaves, one to eat and one to freeze.

Meanwhile, the Piccalilli mixture was heating up and thickening.

And the finished product.

A £2 box of tomatoes from Abergwili.  Perfect for chutneys.

River Cottage "Glutney" under way . . .

The finished chutney.

Elderberries, picked when we went to help a neighbour with clearing a fenceline.  Plus I have offered to halter break one of her donkeys . . .

This is George, with his pal Ned in the background.

Elderberry Chutney in the making.

And in pots. . .

Then there were just the Greengages and Nectarines to deal with . . .

At long last, I did bottled fruit - with the Greengages - and I turned the Nectarines into Blackberry and Nectarine Jam.

I slept well last week!!  Sometimes my mind goes back to the visitor who asked me, "Just what do you find to do here all day long?"  (This when I had three horses and was also nursing my mum . . .)  I think my reply was along the lines of "I manage to keep busy . . ."