Friday, 25 February 2011

shards and fragments..........................

Many years ago , when the railways around this area were still operational, loads of waste from the towns were brought out to the country and spread on farmers' fields.  Presumably there was a useful amount of organic waste which was good for fertility building, but also, amongst that waste there were old bottles, jars, clay pipes and lots of broken china and pottery.

A local, branch line ran alongside our farm and the adjoining fields still turn up lots of interesting bits and pieces even after all these years.  When the fields have been grubbed or ploughed, it's fascinating to walk over them picking up interesting pieces which have been newly unearthed by the machinery.  A good time to look is just after a shower of rain as pottery brought to the surface is washed clean and shows up clearly on the ploughed land.

Over the years I have collected a lot of pieces, and it's interesting to rummage through them  looking at all the lovely patterned shards and fragments and wondering where they came from.  There is a lot of spongeware,  pieces of salt glazed pottery and of course masses of willow pattern in countless shades of blue!

We have a rather unattractive brick pillar which is part of  a shed at the back of our house and I'm planning to cover it with a mosaic created from my collection of pottery.  However, that's a summer project and maybe this year I'll finally get around to it.

I have put together some little collections of these finds and they are always of interest to visitors who are often amazed at what's out there in our fields!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

charity shop finds..........................

While out on a quick shopping trip this morning I popped into a charity shop and found these pretty tea plates and this little tureen for only £1.  

The tureen has lost its lid somewhere along the way, but that didn't bother me as I'd already decided what to do with it.  These hyacinths were in a rather boring brown plastic pot, so I carefully transferred them into the bowl, bedding them in with some extra compost and I think they look much happier in their new home!


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

peaceful productivity......................................

Yesterday seemed pretty hectic, yet it was one of those days when you never really get an awful lot done.  We awoke to a snow clad landscape which came as a bit of a surprise as it hadn't looked or felt at all like snow the night before.  The puppy was booked into the vet for his first vaccination  at 9am and I rather suspect that the roads people were caught on the hop too as there had been no ploughs out and there was a lot of snow building up on the roads.  However, our trusty Subaru soldiered on and we reached the vet (10 miles away) in good time. 

the snow returns.................

This morning I decided to bake some bread and cakes for the freezer as we're down to our last loaf.  The dogs had been racing around the garden for ages and were ready for a sleep in front of the woodburning stove.  The big dogs were comfortably ensconced on the sofa.............   

..................................while the puppy has just discovered the comfort of the kitchen armchair!

There is something very peaceful about being in a warm room with sleeping dogs and some lovely music on Radio 3.  Ideal baking conditions! 

I made two lots of soda bread.  One batch included pumpkin seeds, linseed and sunflower seeds  while the other batch was made with a mixture of oatmeal and flour to which I also added some malt. I made two date and walnut loaves as I had dates that were almost out of date!  Then I made some fruit loaves which always  freeze very well.  These loaves are usually made with sultanas and mixed peel but I had some dried apricots which were also almost out of date so I chopped them up and added them to the mixture.  It's a very flexible recipe and sometimes I incorporate some chopped stem ginger or the grated rind of an orange or lemon.

When I was out with the dogs later in the afternoon I spotted these brave little snowdrops peeping out through the leaves under one of the trees in the garden.  Some bloggers in milder places are already posting photographs of spring flowers that we probably  wont see here for ages yet, especially if we get even more snow!

Friday, 4 February 2011

hello February - where did January go?

I can't believe it's so long since I last posted on this blog!  It's been a busy time and January seems to have flown past.  We have been involved in several Burns Suppers over the last few weeks which is always fun.  I usually do the reply to the Toast to the Lasses or, sometimes I address the haggis.  We also organise our own Burns Supper which is yet to come, so we haven't seen the last of the haggis yet!

I have also been making the 2011 supply of marmalade and it's lovely to have lots of jars stored away in the jam cupboard again.  When we ran out of marmalade last December, I made some Mamade marmalade which was good, but there's nothing quite like sharp, tangy, marmalade made from fresh, seasonal, Seville oranges.  The wonderful, orange aroma permeated the whole house for days  -  a real January smell!

I also mean to make some lime marmalade for special treats, and Katie (Vintage Squirrel) very kindly wrote out Diana Henry's recipe which she swears by.  

This is the time of year when I really appreciate having a deep freeze.  We grow a lot of soft fruit but when it's ready in the summer, I'm often too busy to make jams and jellies, but at this time of year when life is a bit quieter,  I usually get a chance to catch up with these jobs.  I will make a supply of redurrant jelly which is  one of the most useful jellies you can have.  We use it in all sorts of gravies and sauces and it's especially good with pheasant and partridge.  We also have a lot of frozen blackcurrants and I've just noticed that we're completely out of blackcurrant jam, so that's also on the list.  Then of course there are odd punnets of rasps, Worcester berries, gooseberries and brambles so I usually make a "mixed fruit" jam which is always fun as it's never the same twice and it's a great way of using up a variety of small quantities.  

We're still working  through our store of apples.  There are always a few which are starting to deteriorate but at this time of year the birds love them and the other day I strung some together and hung them from a tree and in no time at all the bullfinches and yellowhammers had found them and were  pecking away while clinging precariously  to the swinging garland!

When we had our little farm shop, we were always looking for new ways to use up fruit and veg that were getting a bit wrinkly or that just hadn't sold and that's when we bought a juicer.  It's a Magimix le duo and it's a truly wonderful machine.  Our favourite winter juice is carrot, apple and ginger which is unbelievably delicious.  The carrot and apple  can be a bit bland, but the addition of some root ginger totally transforms it into something very special.  Other combinations which have worked well are beetroot / apple / lemon,  apple / celery / cucumber and in the summer, all sorts of soft fruits with cucumber or celery.  The most unlikely sounding combinations often turn out to be the most delicious and it's easy to experiment with small quantities.  Some people are put off buying a juicer because they think it'll be a palaver to clean it, but I have to say that our model is easily cleaned provided you do it straight away while the components are still wet.  The rule in our house is that no juice may be drunk until the juicer parts are washed, dried and reassembled! 

Another reason for blog-neglect is the arrival of our new puppy.  He has been here for almost two weeks now and is settling in well.  He's a very endearing little chap and very entertaining although our other two dogs ( his father and his aunt! ) are still getting used to his exuberant antics.  They are both almost nine years old and probably a bit set in their ways so this bouncy little intruder  has rather disrupted their peaceful little world.  A friend in the village has his litter sister and the two puppies spent most of yesterday morning chasing each other around the garden in the snow  until they were completely exhausted. 

planning his next attack!

asleep with his father