Dashed, but not lost hopes

Easter is one of my favourite times of year and this year has been no exception. It is a time of hope – hope of winter really being over, hope for new beginnings, hope for a good growing season with more progress towards self sufficiency, a garden flowering with plants which are a pleasure not only for us but for the wildlife that they attract and support and the ever eternal optimism of longer days giving more time for exercise and physical fitness.

I had high hopes for this Easter break – I had intentionally started sowing seeds in March to get ahead making the most of the greenhouse which is about to celebrate its first birthday. The broad beans under cloches in the polytunnel are now a good 10cm tall and I hope we will get an early crop before the tomatoes go in. So the plan was to get to grips with the herbaceous beds which have not been tended all winter cutting back all the dead stems which have been protecting new growth from late frosts and weeding and mulching and planting out overwintered potted plants.

Well I had not bargained for a completely debilitating bout of flu followed by a chest infection which has left me as limp as a frosted lettuce leaf and all hopes dashed. I have sat in the sunshine in the greenhouse and dozed, I have sat outside when it got warmer and dozed and I managed to pot on the tomatoes and make a simnel cake but that is it.

I was feeling really sorry for myself this afternoon, feeling like my Easter holiday had been totally wasted and annoyed that I cannot shake this bug off and get going. As I sat in the sunshine I caught a glimpse of a brimstone butterfly, my first of the year, and then watched as it returned to hover around the holly hedge. About half an hour later a peacock butterfly skipped up and down the border which the man of the house had tended this morning it looked like it was inspecting the compost that he had used to mulch around the rosa mundi and lavender plants. I sat and watched the butterflies, I listened to the chiffchaff calling and then I sat for about an hour watching Mr Wren preening and strutting and singing to Mrs Wren as they flitted in and out of the Irish Juniper which is a favourite nesting site for them. So I may not have ticked off the gardening to do list this Easter but I took time to listen, watch and enjoy the beauty of the natural world and to be grateful for living in such a special spot.

And hope – yes I hope by next weekend I will be back to my usual self and the borders will be sorted and more vegetables planted and the hope of a lovely spring and summer remains strong in my heart.

Shrewsbury Simnel and more

The second Simnel cake of the year is just out of the oven and cooling ready to have the marzipan topping and the traditional 11 balls of marzipan put on top which represent the 11 ‘good ‘ apostles.

In this house just as important as the Simnel cake are Blackies.  These delicious little treats stretch back into my dim and distant childhood when they were as much a part of Easter as our first swim of the season on Easter Monday on Tyrella Beach in County Down.  ( I sometimes wonder how all the cousins survived the ordeal and in fact I have very fond memories of the swim and the racing on the beach afterwards!)

A real Easter treat

A real Easter treat

The recipe originated from my Mum’s sister and is one of the early recipes in the little red book which is my recipe bible. She used the mixture to top a chocolate cake  – I resist that and just form them into little cakes

They are one of the easiest and tastiest store cupboard treats that you could come across and double quantities will just about see you through Easter weekend but treble is usually the best.  Sadly this year I was a bit late in trying to buy mini eggs so we have had to make do with smarties on top – not that bad really.