It’s uncanny that it’s exactly a year and two days since I picked last year’s crop of gooseberries.( In search of Elderflowers.) The glorious sunshine that we had over the weekend has fully ripened the fruit on the first bush. So tonight was the night to venture into the fruit cage, armed with a trug, wondering what this year’s crop would weigh in at.
My helpful husband pruned the bushes last autumn and the grass is a bit wet after heavy rainfall so I had to bend to pick the fruit and not cheat by kneeling. After a few minutes I wished I hadn’t eaten before setting forth on my gathering. Then I suddenly thought of yoga and the squat position malasana or garland pose that we had been practising in last week’s class. Problem solved – not quite the perfect yogi’s version as my feet were hip width apart and my hands were busy picking rather than in the prayer position. But what had seemed like a back breakin, dinner squashing job turned into a relaxing deep breathing moment of calming yoga and with the added bonus of a full trug of gooseberries.
It is quite a relief that the first bush has only yielded a mere 8lb of gooseberries compared with last year’s 11lb but what is even better is that there are none of last year’s gooseberries lurking in the freezer. So tonight as I sit topping and tailing them, sadly not outside on a glorious sunny evening like last year but inside with a fleece on , I will think about what to make. First off will be my favourite gooseberry fool but I wonder what different recipes can I find to try this year?
And of course due to repairs to the fruit cage it is unlikely that the second bush will suffer from the squirrel attack of last year so there will be pounds more of fruit to pick and another yoga moment.
Is there such a thing a as strawberry joy? Well if there is we are experiencing it this year. After years of disappointment due to wildlife attacks despite trying all sorts of cunning ways of beating them- nets, cages, hanging planters …
This year we are enjoying a bumper crop and have a clear conscience as we have not harmed a single mouse, bird, snail, slug or squirrel. The solution is growing the plants in large pots, filled with beech leaf mould, and placing them high on old trestle tables in the polytunnel.
We have enjoyed and shared the strawberries and following this year’s success plans are afoot to increase the number of pots and to try and have a big enough crop to make jam next year.
And our second moment of pride is that the swallows have checked out the new open sided barn and have built a nest – the first we have ever had. So let’s hope next year we will have a gulp of swallows as well as a glut of strawberries.
Geranium,nicotiania, marigolds and nasturtiums are still flowering even though we are in mid November but today was one of those days where it never got light and eventually the rain set in. To cheer myself up I thought it was time to make sloe jelly – one of the richest coloured preserves around.
Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn a common part of traditional hedgerow. The berries are a deep dark shiny purple and cluster round the sharp thorns. Birds love them but don’t be fooled to try to eat them from the bush as they have a dry sharp flesh which makes your tongue shrivel. But use them to make sloe gin to sip at Christmas or sloe jelly for use in winter stews or to accompany game they are delicious
I had picked about 1lb of sloes last weekend and earlier in. the week I had cooked them with cooking apples and strained the pulp overnight but as I hadn’t enough time I froze the strained liquid until today. Gently heating the liquid with sugar and stirring until it came to the boil and enjoying the lovely smell and colour brightened up a wet afternoon.
Testing for ‘set’ before potting up sloe jelly
Now as I write I can smell sausages, chunks of potatoes and red onions gently cooking and once the onions have caramelised I will add the sloe jelly that didn’t fit in the jar and a slug of red wine – should be good!
My first leisurely start to the day for a while so I was enjoying a relaxed breakfast and checking my stocks of dried fruit as it almost time to start the preparations for Christmas – sweet mincemeat and plum pudding are on the list to be made this weekend. The Christmas cake is a mid December job as this household prefers a light glacé fruit cake rather than the traditional rich fruit cake.
As the morning progressed and the sun fought its way through the rain and grey skies I was lured away from the much needed domestic chores to take the dog for a walk. What a beautiful mild sunny day. The grey sky gone just clear blue and many trees still holding their leaves in a multitude of autumnal shades – a good to be alive day!
I haven’t been home much in the daylight recently so hadn’t really had a good look in the polytunnel or veg garden probably for 2 weeks. I expected mildewy tomato and cucumber plants and was amazed to find they are still looking relatively healthy and the tomatoes are still ripening. I picked 6 tomatoes and a cucumber which will add a bit more variety to the cheese on toast I was planning for lunch (food shopping is the final chore for today!). I checked in on the hens who are enjoying a temporary stay in the soft fruit area and there above their heads, and out of reach, were two ripe raspberries which were delicious.
So a morning that started off with wintery, grey and full of Christmas planning has developed into an autumnal day and I’m off to eat my cheese on toast topped with tomato and cucumber in the sunshine in the greenhouse!
It’s been a long and sunny autumn with an abundance of fruit and vegetable. Tomatoes still ripening on the tumbling toms outside, runner beans and cucumbers growing, autumn raspberries and still the occasional blackberry (despite the old wives tale of the devil entering them after the autumn equinox).
Life has been fairly full picking, pickling, freezing and storing but what a shock when the weather turned cool this week. Last night I was eating my evening meal listening to the wind battering the kitchen window when I realised that my beautiful conference pears were at risk. When the last mouthful hand been swallowed off I went with basket and torch to pick the remaining crop and to search the ground for any windfalls.
Apples placed in single layers ready for eating or sharing…
Picking this final crop spurred me on to deal with the previously picked apple crop – mainly egremont russet eaters. I’ve sorted out the best and wrapped them individually in newspaper and placed them carefully in cardboard boxes in a cool store. The rest I have placed in single layers to be eaten or given away as soon as possible – apples keep so much better if they do not touch each other.
Tomorrow I will lead the apple scrumping party in the field near work ready to start using windfalls to make apple jelly and apple and almond cake and anything else appley and delicious.