February 2009


I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been re-exploring the garden after the snow melted. This weekend in particular so many things are springing into life. This is our first spring in the garden so there are allsorts of hidden surprises we missed last year, only moving in the July. We have stunning displays of snowdrops at the base of the hedges and huge clumps of daffodils, bluebells and I think probably hyacinthes and tulips are popping up all over the place. You have to be careful where you step for fear of tromping on them, especially as all our wellies have double to footprint due to all the mud!

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Of course the downside is that I am slowly being reminded of the battle we are going to have with the weeds. The ground elder was horrendous last year and I can already see the fresh leaves starting to emerge. I pretty much ignored it last year and I’m sure will pay the price this year – if anyone knows any brilliant ways to get shot if it then please let me know!

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I have had such a good weekend after a blinkin awful week. I was going to post earlier in the week but it was turning into such a rant I thought better not to. In brief it involves an argument with my daughters head about the gritting of pathes around school (or lack of), getting home from a weekend away to find we had run out of oil (such an embarrassing novice user error), spending 4 days trying to get an oil delivery and then getting a failed delivery because ‘the roof is too low’ – its not like they haven’t delivered to us before? Anyway we now have oil (from a different supplier) but still no central heating as the boiler now needs bleeding. The best thing about this whole palava is that it didn’t happen the previous week in the middle of a minor ice-age.

Rant over – I had a great weekend! We had friends visiting, spring was present in abundance and we spent the whole weekend in the garden, not entirely 100% productive, especially on Saturday due to some pretty sore heads, but today we really made some progress. The boys got stuck into some digging and the girls continued the mammoth pruning and we even managed to plant something. Spent hours deliberating where to plant the gooseberry bush we got for Christmas. We seem to have fruit bushes randomly planted in various locations, so the dilema was whether to try and keep them all a bit more together or to put it in the best position? Went for the best position (I hope) and decided to just accept that everything will be a bit jumbled.

Planting the gooseberry

Planting the gooseberry

 

Gooseberry bush

Gooseberry bush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PS Edited to add some photos

To distract myself from the mingin’ cold I seem to have developed, I thought I’d tell you about my marmalade. It was very nearly a disaster when I bought the wrong kind of orange – how can there be a wrong kind of orange? On closer inspection of the recipe, after I bought a delicious looking bag of big juicy oranges, I noticed the crucial reference to retaining any pips which contain pectin and makes the marmalade set. Mine were apparently the very best eating oranges – with no pips! I then scoured the house for marmalade recipes and mixed and matched until I came up with the following:

4 navel oranges
2 unwaxed lemons
500ml apple juice
2 1/2l water
2kg jam sugar (with added pectin!)

I followed a pretty standard method involving juicing the fruit over a seive lined with muslin, scooping out the remaining flesh (pith and pips an all) into the muslin. Spend hours finely chopping all the skin and leaving to soak overnight in the fluids with the muslin bag of goodies. Following day I simmered for about 3 hours til the skins were really squishy then removed the muslin and added the sugar.

making-marmalade-sm

This is where it all got a bit scientific, but I tried my best to be professional, dolloping gloop onto cold plates in the hope it would wrinkle. I have to say it never really wrinkled as such, but I decided after 25ish minutes, once nearly everything in the kitchen was pretty sticky, it must be about done.

Getting it into the jars was not easy. There was quite alot of scolded  fingers and another whole layer of stickiness to contend with, ooo and I didn’t let it cool enough before putting in jars so all the peel floated to the top and I had to try and redistibute when it cooled some more… but, in the end I got 9 jars (not sure the exact quantity as they’re all different sizes) of what looked suspiciously like marmalade!

This morning, I cracked open the first jar – it is sooo delicious. Definitely worth the effort!

eating-marmalade-sm

I meant to come straight back after the last post and show you just how severe my prune was, but got completely distracted because it snowed! Really, really snowed more than I think I’ve ever seen in my life before. SO here is a picture of my pruning…

Hedge prunings

Hedge prunings

  but much more interestingly here are also some really snowy pictures!

Snow storm

Snow storm

Is this a whiteout?

Is this a whiteout?

And the sun came out

And the sun came out

PS It turns out chickens hate the snow. Ethel and Vera just about braved a quick roam when the sun came out yesterday afternoon but Gilbert wouldn’t even step foot outside the henhouse. He is such a woose!

Our new garden has the feel of a huge unloved beast. It has obviously been subject to a master plan at some stage but the plan is long lost and we are left with with a wildly unruly beast. The first thing we did, when we moved last summer, was attack the main thoroughfairs so that we could at least navigate our way around most of the garden. Further than that it’s quite hard to know where to start so I’ve started in the only way I know how, a complete massacre! I’m working on the basis that if it doesn’t survive its probably not worth having. I am a little concerned that my lush and voluptuous garden won’t be quite the same this summer, but remain confident that anything thats got that big is probably going to recover pretty well.