I’ve decided that the first winter as a greenhouse owner is a bit like having your first baby – you are really keen to do things right but a little scared that things might go wrong. I realise that plants are nowhere near as precious as children but over the last few days when we have had our first really hard frosts I’ve felt the concern of ‘new parenthood’.
Until November we had very few frosts and (as you will have read) I was picking tomatoes until late in the season. I did an early winter tidy of the greenhouse and wrapped the most precious plants in lovely warm horticultural fleece. Being concerned about freezing roots especially for the orange tree, three little home grown lemon seedlings and the jasmine, I lined boxes with sheets of polystyrene to stand the pots in.
No real frost arrived until the 27th when the skies cleared,the stars shone and the temperature plummeted. At that point I unearthed the large candle purchased in October. Following Dad’s advice I went outside to light the candle and place it in the greenhouse – he relies on the heat generated by the candle to keep the temperature above zero.
I woke early, about 4am, on the 28th and could see quite a glow on the hedgerow – was the greenhouse on fire? I shot out of bed and popped a coat and some wellies on and went out to inspect. It was bitterly cold outside but inside the greenhouse it felt relatively warm and the glow that I thought was fire was just the candle flame reflecting on the glass. So back to bed happy and relaxed and the candle has been lit and done its duty every night despite frosts hard enough to cause one of the water butts to split!
Today the bright crisp weather had disappeared,it was above zero by dawn and felt really quite warm outside. This afternoon I took a deep breath and unwrapped all the plants to see if jack frost had done any damage. Amazingly under the fleece wraps the geraniums and the orange tree were still in flower and so far there is no sign of frosting on any leaves. I picked chillies and sweet peppers and then carefully tucked the plants back in their fleece wraps. As the temperature is not due to drop there will be no glow of candle light from the greenhouse tonight.
I may not have finished buying all the Christmas presents but I have made the second batch of Christmas ginger biscuits. The first batch disappeared with mulled wine following the carol service so batch two has been made tonight.
I started making these biscuits, in a variety of festive shapes, to occupy small children (and adults) after lengthy festive meals. I would make batches of the biscuits and serve accompanied by tubes of icing, and glittery bits and so that each person could decorate their chosen shape to their delight. The Christmas cutters have been around a long time too and they include an angel, a snowman, star, Christmas tree and Father Christmas who really looks like a burglar as the top row of the picture proves!
The little children are all pretty big now but I still have to make the biscuits and buy the icing. And despite wanting to concentrate on pretty stars and trees the festive burglar still is in demand.
As I was weighing the fruit for our glacé fruit Christmas Cake (or colourful Christmas cake as it has been known for many years in this house) I started thinking about stir up Sunday and various Christmas traditions – some of which have been around for centuries and others are very much our family traditions.
Stir up Sunday has links to the Anglican Church being the Sunday before Advent and has its special prayer dating back to the 1600s to stir up people in their faith but as with many traditions there is modern secular version of stir up Sunday which links to making the Christmas pudding. Probably due to the fact that a Christmas pudding should mature quietly in its pudding basin for around 4 weeks before being eaten.
Well this year the stir up Sunday tradition was broken I didn’t get round to making our Christmas pudding until the 1 December! Making a Christmas pudding ( or as Mum calls it Plum Pudding) is fairly new to me as Mum used to make a pudding for each of us. Bringing back the Christmas pudding from Ireland in my hand luggage often caused discussion at security but fortunately I never had to forfeit my bomb shaped pudding.
Several years ago Mum shared the recipe which originates from a friend’s Mother. But not only did she share the recipe but she came over to Shropshire to teach me how to make it. I think I fairly proficient at it but obviously don’t have the number of puddings under my belt that Mum has – it’s a delicious recipe and it’s always good to make a big one so that it can be enjoyed throughout January .
Sadly the other tradition that will be broken this year is each member of the family stirring the Christmas cake mixture while making a wish. We usually manage been at three of us – last year all four but tomorrow it will just be me and I shall have to wish extra hard. And my wish – well that never changes I wish for a happy, peaceful and healthy Christmas for all our family.
Mum’s Plum Pudding recipe
It’s been a week full of many meetings, a growing number of end of year deadlines which are creeping closer as is Christmas and a mind that seems to be getting very busy. That’s why an afternoon outside in the fresh air under the clear blue sky gathering goodies for a creative morning in our local village hall was the best medicine that could be on offer.
I spent the whole afternoon cutting willow, dog wood and ivy as well as trimming branches off our enormous Christmas trees and pulling wild hops out of the hedgerow. The trailer is a treasure trove of goodies ready to be taken up to the village hall in the morning.
The final joy of the day was creating a few example Christmas rings with willow, ivy, and teasels as well as giving the advent ring, created very quickly in the semi dark last Sunday, a bit of a facelift.
Tomorrow’s ‘event’ is something I have never done before but I just wanted people to come together to use their hands and create something natural to take home to start their Christmas and who knows perhaps they will feel as much benefit from the morning as I have gained from preparing for it.
I also hope to raise some money for Crisis at Christmas
Update after the event…
We raised £50 for Crisis and had a fantastic morning with 17 people creating beautiful rings out of natural materials.
Early new year’s resolution to organise more craft events in the village!