Clarity of light and the beauty of winter colours

I am not sure whether the light this year has really been any different to previous years or whether I have just been more aware of it but one thing is for sure is that today was stunning.  The day started with a crisp clear sunrise with the sheep in the back field standing Christmas card like to welcome the new day.

As the sun rose in the sky became a wonderful clear blue a perfect backdrop for winter trees and the recent frost shave heightened and deepened the colour of so many trees and shrubs.  The frost gives seed heads from summer flowers a magical outline and spiders’ webs glisten in the early morning light.

I spent the morning cutting willow of many colours. My labours were interrupted frequently as I was distracted by the sheer beauty of the day and of nature.  The delicate spindle berries with their orange seed cased in a delicate pink fruit which looks like it should be in an exotic garden rather than a Shropshire hedgerow.  The long tailed tits with their pink tinged feathers flitting and twittering in the dark willow – their delicate colours complementing the emerging pussy willows.  Flocks of Redwing passed to and fro stopping to feast in the ancient field hedges with their fine array of different fruits and seeds – spindle, rosehip, haw, alder buckthorn and sloe.

Rose hips and willow in the winter sunshine  20161201_132259

 

 

 

 

 

As I reluctantly decided to head homeward y three swans flew over – the bright sunlight behind them meant that I couldn’t tell whether they were Whooper or Bewick but I like to think they were Whooper.

How lucky I a20161201_175102m to have spent a morning enjoying  the beauty of nature and to spend the afternoon working with the freshly cut willow.

 

It’s been a funny old year

Maybe it shows my age but when I reflect on the growing seasons this year I feel like  Arkwright from Open All Hours as he closes up the shop for the night with ‘It’s been a funny old day Granville…

I think it has been a funny old year this year with seasons merging into each other which has prolonged the growing period for many fruit and vegetables – it’s great that there is  in the middle of October there is still a lots to chose from.  Tonight we had a marrow stuffed with a savoury lentil sauce made with freshly picked tomatoes, green pepper and aubergine topped off with cheese – pretty tasty!
20161019_red-blackberries
This afternoon when I was out gathering autumn berries and leaves I was surprised to see shiny red unripe blackberries rather than wizened and mouldy over ripe blackberries that you would expect at this time of year. And yet when I was checking the sloes (thinking it’s almost time to make sloe gin) I was amazed to find that the laden bushes of last week are almost stripped bare of fruit.

So what else makes me think it’s been a funny old year in the garden?  Well we have been cropping climbing beans from the polytunnel since May and there are still a few stragglers left but on the other hand the runner beans just didn’t grow until the end of August so we have been eating young and tender runners as an autumn vegetable. Sadly that means there won’t be any getting to the seed stage before frost appear so no home grown dried beans to add to chillies this winter.

basket-of-veg

Courgettes have been virtually nonexistent both in and out doors and yet the cucumbers have been like triffids they have just kept on growing p and are still growing. I have developed a taste for cucumber water and along with my new found delight in making flavoured gins I can thoroughly recommend cucumber gin – just pop about 4 slices into a tot of gin and leave for about 5 minutes before adding the tonic.

So a funny old year – but maybe every year is a funny year so that  gardeners have something to talk about!

 

Lovely lemon verbena

I have growing lemon verbena for years, have read numerous recipes but never quite got round to using it until by chance I came across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Verbena Lemonade made with crushed leaves of lemon verbena infused in hot water with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. I gave it a go and it has quickly become a favourite – really quick and easy to make and delicious to drink.  Once made it can be stored in the fridge for about a week or you could freeze it to bring a taste of summer to mid winter.

To drink squeeze lemon or lime juice and add to lemon verbena infusion – I find 2 lemons or limes add the right level of zing for a litre. Not being contented with drinking it  I have also used it to make lovely light summery jellies  served with a skim of pouring cream on the top, a few berries on the side and some shortbread. If you are feeling really organised adding  lemon or lime zest to the shortbread complements the jellies.

And the final use of this easy to make drink is to add a dash of gin for a summer evening tipple or for a sparkling version  pour a little lemon verbena infusion (without the lemon or lime juice) into a glass and top up with prosecco – enjoy!

 

 

Crystalised Thoughts

Well it’s exactly one year and two weeks since my last blog and, even though I haven’t been sharing it, there has been a lot of freeranging thinking going on in that time.  The exciting thing is that the thinking has at long last morphed into action and it feels good!

I’ve made some life changes – jumping from the security of a well paid and demanding job to a very part time job on an exciting project linking young people and the environment AND taking the first steps to start my own small business.

It’s early days with lots of planning, market research and making contacts so there is not much to share apart from my deep sense of satisfaction and the joy of taking the first steps towards a new future and way of life.

Key to this change is stepping up the food growing and self sufficiency and so the greenhouse and polytunnel are full to bursting with plants – it has not been an easy growing season with a dirth of runner beans balanced with lots of climbing  french beans and the anticipation of sweet corn – the first for many years!

sweet corn 2