Wednesday 29 April 2020

Early one morning, just as the sun was rising . . .

I was awake early this morning and up and taking notice as the sun came up over the side of the valley. This was about 6 a.m.

It looked like it was resting in the tree . . .

I think the steam is cows' breath, as they were up for milking and stand just behind these sheds.  There are quite a few of them huffing and puffing.

Just after lunch we three went for a walk down the hill.  The rain seems to have brought the Bluebells on (though Tam says they were like this the other day).  It's certainly brought on the Rosebay Willow Herb, which has grown over a foot in a couple of days (photo below).

Looking upstream from the bridge, everything has gone into Green Overdrive. The rain has made a difference to the river, which is a little deeper but wider and over the boulders and slate slabs and it is the width of the winter river now.

The lane ahead. The copper beech is really tall and looks amazing this time of year, before it goes a deep maroon colour. Right now it is a pinky bronze.

Up by the junction, all the trees and bushes have responded to the rain and thrown out leaves.

My favourite view, with a bit more water and greenery to be seen.

This morning I cut out the batting and backing for the 9-patch border for the Baltimore quilt I am making and pinned the layers together.  This afternoon I sat and started hand quilting (I've done 3/4 of the first short side). I was up in my office, listening to/watching a You Tube video by Fergus Drennan, taken just a couple of days ago, about Foraging in late April in hedgerow and salt-marsh.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and am now eyeing up stuff growing here with a fresh eye!  It's a long video (2 hrs 21 minutes) but worth watching.  HERE is a link.

There are four of these to work on - 2 x  7 block ones, and 2 x 9 blocks.  That should keep me out of mischief for a bit!

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Around my garden in April

A quick round up of what's flowering in the garden (though I forgot to take a photo of my prettiest Clematis (Clematii?!)  

At the beginning of April, the Primroses were still at their prettiest.  They seem to do well about the place, as do the Primulas and Cowslips.

A deep red and yellow Cowslip with the sun shining through the flowers.

A slightly blurry photo of some of the Cowslips which line the front path.  They have all self-seeded from a handful I bought years ago.

Blossom on the main apple tree in the middle of the lawn.

One of the many Welsh poppies about the place.  I tried to sow them for years, without success, then gave up and had them popping up all over the place.

Two apple trees we grew from pips.  One is the big greeny Codlin type, and the other is a sharper red-striped one which I may make Cider from this autumn.  They are at the top of the veg plot.  That just has Peas in (you can see the sticks at the front) and Kestral spuds at the back.  Beyond the breeze block wall are three Rhubarb plants (but only the one on the left gives a worthwhile crop - the other two are very weedy.  We had our first picking yesterday from the main plant, and I cooked it up with slivers of preserved ginger.  In the middle of that bed are 4 or 5 Strawberries from last year's runners elsewhere, and some Raspberry canes.

Above the Raspberry Canes in the long bed, I have managed to persuade my Clematis Montana rubens to stop scrambling up the apple tree, and grow along the top of the wall instead.  Much better than the brambles which hung down there before.

By the driveway, the Vanilla-scented Montana clematis has draped itself over the dead Magnolia stellata.

Roserie de l'Hay has been in flower for a week - she normally flowers in early May.

At the bottom of the yard, the lilac is bent with the weight of the blooms.

The top of the wall which runs between the front garden and the pathway in front of the house.  It has taken me nearly 30 years to get the Aubretia to grow there!  (It was not helped by Bank Voles!)

A gorgeous Geum I bought last year - in fact, I got 4 of them as I loved the colour.  I put them in these black pots and moved them around at the back of the garden to give colour to dark spots, especially when we were having viewings as I wanted the garden to look colourful.  This one began flowering in March.

In these pots I have several home-grown unusual coloured Aquilegias- a pale pure yellow and a pink and yellow and their babies.  Two Delphiniums - one pale blue and one dark (Black Knight), and a couple more small Geums in lower pots. Ghengis and Theo were happy to sunbathe out there.

Well, I think it's Tuesday today.  We had a click and collect order at Tesco, but probably won't shop there again as deliveries are almost impossible to come by even Priority slots which I am eligible for.  However, Asda have been quick off the mark, and obviously had a list with my name/address on and Tam had booked an emergency Click and Collect (which we didn't want to do really as they're 25 miles away in Llanelli) for early May.  Then they got in touch and offered us next day delivery (several spots) and when we booked one for May, they asked if we wanted it every week.  So that's us sorted now! We still have a good store-cupboard so it's mainly fresh fruit, veg, milk and dairy we will need.

Sorry to witter on, but tbh, it was a bit worrying that we couldn't get click and collect spots closer together than 3 weeks!  Right, everything to go in the fridge has been Dettoxed and fruit has had a soapy wash and been dried.  Phew.

I just popped out in the rain to take some more garden photos, and the two Wild Boys were tucked up in the warm in the Big Cat Basket which is by the front door.  Miffy was in the small one but ran away when I pointed the camera at her - I am Too Scary!!

Monday 27 April 2020

Yesterday's walk, and the Real Seeds order arrives

Tam and I decided on another long walk yesterday, so headed down the valley and climbed the very steep hill up to Lady P's stud.  When we first came here we bought a yearling palomino Section A colt from her (stable name Merlin).  Although she is now in a Care Home, friends and neighbours still run the stud for her, on a small scale.  Here is the broodmare band.

. . . and the first foal - very new, and not long born.  Mum made sure she was between baby and us!

What an idyllic spot to live . . .

Above and below:  Lovely views,  On a clear day, a little further along, you can see the mountains.

The lane ahead, with Bluebells . . .

These youngsters belong to Lletty Stud, who breed Thoroughbreds.

These appear to be White Campion (when they open).  Rare in our neck of the woods.  I say "appear" as the Calyx is not normally that deep red.

The first wild Aquilegias - they are mostly blue along this stretch of the lane.

Wood Sorrel.

Our favourite photo spot along the river.

One of several wonderful Copper Beeches at the bottom of the hill, near a neighbour's smallholding.

Tam's Real Seeds order arrived on Friday and she opened it yesterday (out of quarantine).  Green Zebra vine tomatoes (some to be planted today), Organic "Devil's Tongue" Romaine Lettuce, Minnesota Midget Cantaloupe Melon (one to take over the polytunnel), Organic "Godlen Frill" Salad Mustard Green, Organic "Magenta Magic"  Orach, and yellow "Touchon" carrots.  Much sowing will be done today . . .

After our walk I helped Keith clear a bit more wood.  Photo above shows the end of an ancient oak beam, with too much sapwood to save bits of it from woodworm.  Looks like you could pull it apart with your hands doesn't it?  YET - below - inside it was as hard as iron and took some cutting through with the chainsaw.  You would struggle to get a nail in that!

Cats on the patio - Alfie (above)

The "wild boys" Sam and Squeaker, dozing in the flower bed.

The stripey boys, Ghengis and Theo.

Progress - the L-shaped raised bed finally dug right through and with Garlic left and rows of Leeks seeds just sown.  The empty bit will have salad stuff in.

My Magnolia stellata sadly died one hot summer, but it has been clambered over my this wonderfully scented Clematis.  It smells like Vanilla.  I can't remember the name of it, but I can recommend it.

Right, off to do some more gardening before the weather changes for the worse.

Friday 24 April 2020

Wine and beer making

I was asked if I would do a post about wine making and brewing.  My mum used to make wine (her Plum wine was a triumph but I can never look at a Dandelion again without thinking about the vat of disgusting slimy mess that resulted from her using the whole flower head and not just the PETALS!!) 

Anyway, I started making wine in the late 1970s and continued, on and off, until a few years back when I was unable to drink wine as it affected my asthma.  I (stupidly) gave away all my wine making stuff to the charity shop (someone would have been delighted I'm sure).  Anyway, I am able to drink it again now, and decided that it was a good way to use up fruit gluts which we have in the summer and autumn, but of course, the Lockdown had already started and so I had to pay full whack for a basic wine making kit from Wilko's.  £45 including delivery bought me a big plastic fermentation bin with lid, one demi-john (that alone was £8 - I could buy them from any car boot sale at £1 a hit normally), a syphon, a pack of corks, 4 bungs/airlocks and 4 sachets of general purpose yeast, and some Camden tablets.  That is pretty well the basic starter kit, although you will need a BIG saucepan (I use my jam making pan) if you are brewing beer.  I forgot, you also need a big bottle brush to clean out the demijohns - that was ONE thing which had stayed in the cupboard!  

I am very basic with my wine making and try to use as few additives as possible (because of my allergic asthma).  Even the smell of Camden tablets can take my breath away - one crushed in water is what you use to sterilize the items you are using for wine making.  The Blackberry wine used blackberries, raisins, sugar and water, though it did call for pectin enzyme but I didn't have it and have never used it or noticed the lack.

Beer making equipment is much the same, though you don't often use a demijohn (the kit that Tam was given DID, however, need one, with an airlock and we had to sterilize everything along the way. 

I have saved wine bottles for a while, cleaning them thoroughly and taking labels off, and then putting a sheet of folded kitchen roll in the neck to keep dust etc out.  For beer you need Grolsch bottles or 1 litre lemonade bottles - we found the sort Tam's tonic water came in just the right size.  Don't use wine bottles or similar as the glass is too thin and they could explode!

I bought this book for Tam for Christmas (perfect timing!) and can recommend it.  The wee book below has traditional homemade drinks and is where the wine recipe I used came from.  

Below - I found this book on my travels and thought it would be a good one for Tam.  There are lots of excellent recipes in it, including fruit wines, cordials, liqueurs, beers, lemonades, possets and even vinegars.

Tam's beer was one made using the mash shown above.  It was a Thistle Ale Kit which she was given for her birthday 2 or 3 years back (!).  It included the malt bag of wheat, then two hop bags, plus yeast and a steriliser.  It was rather labour intensive and one of us had to stand over it stirring every 15 minutes and making sure that the temperature did not get above 85 deg.   It was strained and put into a demijohn, and the yeast added.  One mistake we made was not to test the yeast first (as it was old) in a separate jug, but fortunately it DID work, but only when we put the demijohn over a box with a lightbulb in it and a rack on top, with a thick towel wrapped round the demijohn to keep the heat in.  We used this heat box when Keith was making his homebrew (the sort that comes out of a tin and you just add water!).  Anyway, when it has finished working you sterilise the bottles you are using and add a teaspoon of sugar to each, and fill to about 1 1/2 inches from the top of the neck, put the lid on and and shake to incorporate the sugar.  These are now on one side for 2 months to mature . . .

P.S. The Chilli seed tray is now on the beer warmer box, so let's hope it works!

It's good to be wine making again, I have to say - seems almost like alchemy!