Wednesday, 27 October 2010

going, going.................

I think this is the last we'll see of these lovely flowers.  We've had a few frosty nights which have more or less finished off the annuals and the remaining lupins and verbascum were looking decidedly droopy this afternoon.  Not to worry though, because this is the season of spectacular seedheads, teasels and wonderful skeletal shapes which make exciting arrangements especially in big stone jars and funny old bottles.  Seedheads are a recurring theme in a lot of my artwork and I have jars of them all over the house.  I love big allium heads which can be hung from the ceiling with fishing line and create all sorts of amazing shadows in different lights.  I'm not a great fan of rosebay willow herb, but I do love it at this time of the year with all its curly little tendrils forming almost complete circles and it's particularly striking in the frost as you can see in this photograph taken last winter. 

I spent a lovely, peaceful hour in the greenhouse this afternoon potting up some young plants which will overwinter in the greenhouse or the polytunnel.  I sowed some rosemary to replace the plants lost in last winter's severe frosts and the new little plants look very strong and healthy.  I also have hollyhocks, everlasting pea, michaelmas daisies and honesty.  Honesty usually self seeds, but again, I think last winter was too much for it as it didn't appear as usual this spring.   

Sunday, 24 October 2010

felt like writing........

Felt is uppermost in my mind right now as the Handmade & Vintage Fair looms ever closer and a mild feeling of panic begins to set in!  After a work-free weekend which included a jolly evening in our local pub AND a wedding, the week ahead will have to be a productive one.  I've already made a few of my hedgerow scarves and here is one being worn by a really gorgeous male model!


food from the wood

One of the most exciting things about this time of year is the wonderful variety of food to be found in the hedges, woods and fields.  We had some lovely mushrooms growing in a corner of one of  our fields, and  we also gathered chanterelles in a friend's wood.  They tend to flourish around birch trees and we found enough to use in several meals including a delicious risotto washed down with lots of Three Choirs Midsummer Hill white wine.  If you haven't tried an English white wine, I would certainly recommend the ones produced  by Three Choirs  Vineyards in Gloucestershire. 

We have an amazingly good apple crop this year cosidering our little orchard has been rather neglected in the pruning department!  These Discovery apples are perfect for eating right now, but don't store very well.  There are also quite a lot of damaged ones which we must use up quickly.  This is where the juicer comes in.  It is one of my favourite pieces of kitchen equipment and we use it regularly throughout the winter.  Our favourite juice combination is apple, carrot and root ginger, but we also juice beetroot, celery, cucumbers and lots of other fruit when it's available.


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

beans, beans..............

We've been harvesting the last of the broad beans and there are a lot more than I expected!  (and there are still more to pick)   I boiled up a massive pan load to make broad bean pate, which, thankfully, freezes well and we've also frozen several bags of shelled beans which will be welcome in the depths of winter.

I went out to the garden yesterday between showers to look for some flowers for the house and came back with all these lovely things.  We have a tremendous crop of Discovery apples which have an excellent flavour and I  also found a few remaining pods of peas.  The flowers are fading fast, but we do have some lovely Michaelmas Daisies, and some hardy stems of mullein.  The cornflowers have been battered down by the rain, but I managed to salvage a few for the kitchen table.  In August I planted out some late sown snapdragons in the polytunnel and it looks like they're now about to flower, and we still have sweet peas flowering beside the door along with a big tub of lovely pink geraniums.    

who knows where the time goes? quote the late, lovely Sandy Denny.  If only I could sing like she did!

It's only five weeks until the Handmade, Vintage and Antique fair in Kinrossie Hall and although that seems ages away, I know that the time just disappears and there is so much to do.  Last week I visited Twist Fibre Craft Studio in Newburgh to stock up on wool for my felted scarves.  It is a wonderfully inspiring shop and I always leave with my head full of colours and new ideas.  I often look at wool on websites, but I prefer to see it for real and feel its texture before buying it. 
I also use wool from our own sheep for felt making and am about to start washing and carding a Hebridean fleece to work with.  The Hebridean sheep are funny little characters - very lively and a bit difficult to pen!  When they first arrived they kept very much to themselves and didn't mix with the other sheep, but now they generally all flock together except when you try to pen them, and that's when they revert to their old ways!  Oh well, it's all good practise for the dogs.  
Speaking of dogs, our working beardie dog is getting a "bidie in" for a few days.  We're hoping for a successful mating with perhaps a puppy for ourselves.  The lady arrives tomorrow so it may be an action packed weekend!

this house smells like a pickle factory!

This was my sister's remark this morning as I brought my courgette and coriander chutney to the point of perfection.  The words glut and courgettes automatically go together at this time of year but one always feels duty bound to rescue the last remaining few before the first frosts turn them to mush.  I have already frozen some (both chopped and sliced) and I've made several batches of Katie's lovely soup ( see Vintage Squirrel's blog ) which went down very well with one of my most "foodie" friends who appeared today just in time for lunch.  She even had seconds!                                                 

Walks with the dogs at this time of the year tend to turn into foraging expeditions as our beautiful hedgerows are laden with sloes, brambles, rowans, rosehips and elderberries.  I have already made some sloe gin, and I'm making bramble gin for the first time.  Sloe gin is usually ready for Christmas and is particularly lovely with a big slice of fruit cake!  I haven't made elderberry wine for years so that could be a possibility for this year, but apple and elderberry jelly is also very good so I might make that instead.  It's delicious with venison and pheasant as well as on toast and scones.  There are still quite a lot of brambles around so we should make an effort to gather some more before the frost finishes them off.  We've had a couple of lovely bramble crumbles this autumn and I must make bramble jam as it's one of our favourites.  Our apples are also ready to harvest and this year we are going to try and improve our apple storage methods as I'm sure that if we looked after them properly we could be using our own apples well into the spring.   

meandering in mixed media

 from an original work on mixed media

Three days after the end of Perthshire Open Studios, and I'm still trying to clear the last of my "art debris" from the kitchen table in an effort to restore a bit of order to our fairly chaotic lives.  Over the last three weeks I (and my clutter) have managed to spill out of the caravan and into the kitchen, spare bedroom, bothy and anywhere else not already strewn with the  treasures of two incurable hoarders. 

This was the second year that Lisa, Katie and I showed our work  together during the Open Studios event and we all agreed that it was a great success.  Lisa has a delightful studio in her  garden where she creates and sells her wonderful textiles to the background music of a rippling stream and the accompanying chorus of  hens, ducks and geese.  It's truly idyllic!   Katie  brought along her lovely felt and porcelain and I  had my cards and felted scarves (more about them later) and we  had a lovely time selling our work, catching up on all the news and consuming vast quantities of coffee and cake.  Katie made a particularly delicious version of lemon drizzle cake with home made lemon verbena syrup for the drizzle - I think I ate three slices!