Tuesday, June 30, 2009

End of June report

We've been up to the allotment and planted four rows of Canoe peas. There are enough left for another four rows, though they will have to go on the edge of the sweet corn bed.

The sweet corn is poking through.

My one soya plant, the two cape gooseberries, two pepper and 6 tomato plants are all doing well in the greenhouse.

There are nearly, nearly, nearly peas ready to eat.

The kidney beans and sweet potatoes were all looking a bit despondent. It has been beautifully hot and dry lately - but perhaps a bit too hot and dry for quite young plants. We bucketed loads of water on them and fed them some seaweed meal.

Back in the kitchen garden, I've planted seeds of a variety of different brassicas and some (late!) cornflowers. The raspberries and strawberries are ripening with enthusiasm. I'm not unhappy at all about having a raspberry glut. But I'm not sure quite what to do with a huge strawberry glut. They don't freeze well and I dopn't much care for strawberry flavoured things (though I like strawberries themselves). The Builder can't eat them and there are only so many strawberries one person can eat in a day! We are also munching on carrots from the first carrot box which I rather oversowed. I have undersowed the second one and they are coming along nicely. The beetroot (also in a box this year) is also coming along well. We have started pulling the autumn sown onions. The potatoes are coming on splendidly.

It might have been a good year for raspberries and strawberries but it hasn't been a particularly good one for cherries. Lots of cherries set, but they have nearly all fallen off or shrivelled. The few that we have had are lovely. Perhaps there will be more next year. The apple trees all still have quite a bit of fruit on them.

The Builder has pulled nearly all of the wheat and oats from the flower bed. But it is all still very dishevelled. I am hoping for some fine weather this weekend to get in and start clearing it up. It has to be said, though, that the flowers are all looking very cheerful and very colourful.

We harvested the red currants last week and got 500g. Not bad for two small bushes. I made 1.5 jars of jelly with them. Not sure what I'm going to do with the white currants though!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elderflower fizz

Last year I made some elderflower fizz using a recipe which had been handed down to an internet acquaintance by her grandmother. It was quite nice after a month, rather nice after 6 months and extremely nice 12 months on. It's gone all fizzy and refreshing. The only thing is that it is a bit cloudy and has quite a bit of sediment.

This year, having discovered the existence of a happy elder tree at the bottom of the allotment, we have made some more. I've left about half the flowers on the tree so we can do something with elderberries later in the summer

Ingredients:

8 elderflower heads in full bloom (but not once they've started to go brown, carefully rinsed to remove dust and small creatures
1 lemon/lime sliced
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
680 grams sugar (I used a mix of white and soft brown)
4.5 litres cold water

(The quantities are odd because the recipe is over 100 years old and therefore uses gallons and pounds! I had to ask how many pints there are in a gallon so I could measure using my pint jug!!!)

Method

Put all the ingredients in a large container with a lid (I used a plastic box that I bought for curing ham, but haven't yet used for this purpose)

Stir around carefully so everything is mixed in. Put the lid on the container

Leave for four or five days (You may find that it has gone a bit manky when you come to strain it. I don't worry, cos it's about to be strained!!)

Strain through muslin and pour into bottles with hinged lids, leaving room at the top for gases to accumulate.

You can drink this after a month but it is very much better if you put it aside for 6-12 months

Monday, June 22, 2009

A weekend in Worcestershire

We had a fantastic time down around Malvern at the weekend.

Or, at least, I had a fantastic time. Everyone else showed every evidence of enjoying themselves.

We went to the Three Counties Agricultural Show on Saturday. Big, black, dark clouds threatened. We had our rain kit. We carried the golfing umbrella. Fortunately, we had no reason to use the umbrella :-) Rain threatened several times but kept drifting off elsewhere. We were not complaining. And the umbrella made an excellent walking stick. Once I’d convinced The Builder to carry it!

We had, on the whole, an excellent day. It was a proper agricultural show with tractors and animals and everything.

There were lots and lots and lots of chickens. Remarkably expensive chickens. Some entirely impractical chickens. There was one that looked like an electrocuted cotton wool ball. You couldn’t possibly have let that outside in the rain. There were lots with fluffy, fluffy feet (ditto outside and the rain). Some very, very beautiful ones. But I think that my chickens, when they come, might have to be just ordinary ones. Not chickens that need brushing everyday! And who would have thought that there would be show categories for collections of eggs! I plan to eat the eggie offerings from our chickens.

There were some beautiful chook houses at the show.

And there were alpacas, and cows and horses and sheep and pigs. Alpacas are very soft.

Quite fortuitously, we were there for the pig judging. The pigs are supposed to walk around nicely, the boar following the sow, so the Severe Judge in a Bowler Hat could admire them. The pigs didn’t want to do that. They wanted to run around and to look at the other pigs and to bite their ears and to snuffle for tasty treats in the grass. One pig made a bit for freedom. And actually did escape from the ring! She had to be rounded up and brought back in again!

There was a bee tent with jars and jars of honey that had been judged (Think how many triangles of toast the judges must have had to eat to taste all that honey - and what would you use as a palate cleanser between each sample!) Beautiful wax candles (although I vastly preferred the third prize winner to the first prize candles!) and bees in "hives" so that you could see what they were doing.

We had a not very exciting lunch from one of the vending vans (although, my jacket potato and beans weren’t too bad) and we watched the sheep shearing.

*Then* we found the food hall. Had we but known … Although The Builder and I managed to find room for a subsidiary spot of lunch (crayfish tails in a cup for me; cockles for The Builder.)

(In reply to Richard - I did know there was a food hall but had rather assumed that it would be full of things being judged, like cakes and jams and onions and carrots rather than stalls of things to take away and eat.)

There was a medieval village with jousting and archery and stuff. We all know rather more than we might have wanted to about the life of a medieval archer. A man working as a fletcher was kind enough to tell us all about it. At length!

We stayed on Saturday night in a village which goes by the fabulous name of Upton Snodsbury, near Worcester. The pub was lovely and the bedrooms are in converted barns. The food at dinner was absolutely wonderful. Breakfast was equally wonderful. In addition to all the egg, bacon, sausage combinations you would expect to find, you could also have smoked haddock with poached eggs (which I had) or kippers, or all sorts of things.

Then we wandered up the road to find the village proper (the pub is right on the very edge and we had reached it before needing to pass through the village). The Post Office and store are in the front of an old, old house. The church is gorgeous. There are beautiful houses and gardens. And there are farms and fields. We called at one of the farms, which as a shop attached. And around the farmyard there were chickens and geese and ducks. There was a pen with some ducklings being mothered by a chook. There was another pen with a mare and her day old foal – which was still quite wobbly on legs which were way too long for its body! In a horse box there was a sow with some minute, tiny day old piglets. And there was a woofy dog which really didn’t want us to look at the piglets in their horsebox. I think he thought Bea might be tempted to slide one into her back pack! He might have been right :-)

We went to Upton upon Severn (so many Uptons!) for a walk along the river (yes, of course the River Severn – much, much less wide than when it reaches Bristol) and lunch in one of the many, many pubs Upton has to offer. So many that it was extremely difficult to select one in which to have lunch. It had to be a riverside one, of course. But *which* riverside one? We eventually settled for the King’s Head because it had an outside eating area next to the river, across the road from the pub. Except that you can’t eat hot food there; only cold. So we went into their smokers’ courtyard, there being no smokers and it being possible to eat hot food there. And it was just as well for while we were eating, under the cover of a HUGE patio umbrella, there was a shower. Didn’t last for long, but it was Very Heavy while it did last.

And then we came home along country roads and not the motorways. It was all very civilised.

Bea and Steve carried on to Sheffield while we pottered around in the garden and sorted things out and talked to the cat.

It was a lovely weekend. Except – nobody seems to have done the ironing!

Planning now for the autumn show at the end of September. Fewer animals, more produce. It’s sort of a harvest fair as far as I can tell. I must remember to buy the program when I buy the tickets - makes it easier to plan when to go!

The Lady who lent me the money for a sandwich during last Monday’s rainstorm has been in a car accident. She’s in the hospital, all broken. Legs, ankles, sternum, shoulder blade … Think it will take them quite a long time to glue her back together again :-(

Friday, June 19, 2009

So the paperwork for this here wedding needed to be collected from the Chesterfield Registrars’ Office so it can be sent to the Bakewell Registrar’s Office. I’m still not sure why this can’t be done electronically, or even in the County Internal Post (I assume the county has an internal post). But it can’t.

It just so happened that my diary for this morning was unusually empty, so I arranged with Peter-the-Boss that I should come in late this morning and took myself on the bus into town, dodging the rain showers, presented myself at the Registrars’ Office and collected the paperwork. Now I have to work out how to get it to Bakewell. They don’t seem to think it would be a good plan to commit it to the post. If it gets lost – the Wedding Cannot Take Place!!!!!

I came into Sheffield on the bus. Usually if I’m not in the car, I come by train. But the bus station is right opposite the Registrars’ Office and I thought it might be fun. It was especially fun because the usual route the bus would take is closed for the next phase in Tesco’s Take Over The Whole Known Universe Plan (The big roundabout is having a development on which incorporates a Tesco – opposite and existing Tesco – a KFC, other things and, bizarrely, a football stadium). This meant that the bus had to go along roads that were entirely new to me. I rather enjoyed it.

I was surprised to find there were about 20 people on the bus. I was even more surprised when we stopped at the bottom of the Moor in Sheffield and about half the passengers got off. Two headed off in the general direction of Waitrose, which makes a kind of sense. The rest went in the direction of the Moor. I can’t help wondering what you can do on the Moor that you couldn’t more conveniently do in Chesterfield (if you live in Chesterfield). All the same sort of shops are available there – and there’s a much better market in Chesterfield.

Then there’s a bus stop near the station. That’s where I got off because it happens to be the closest stop to SHU. But most of the rest of the passengers also got off and appeared to head in the direction of the station. I can’t think of any reason at all why you would come from Chesterfield to Sheffield on a bus and then head to the railway station!!

I have just looked (somewhat forlornly) to see what the opening hours of the Bakewell Office are. And have discovered that they are open until 5:30 on a Friday. I think we might make a dash to Bakewell after work and see if we can get there before the office closes. Doesn’t matter if we miss it – we can always have a wander around Bakewell. And I’ll have to come up with another cunning plan for getting the paperwork there.

The Travelling Hippoberries have arrived, ready for a weekend jaunt in and around Worcestershire/Gloucestershire

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chicken gratin

I made a version of this last week with chicken breasts. But last night I had some boned chicken thighs and decided to use them. The thighs worked really well - they were more succulent than the breast version

I used my individual sized lasagne dishes and layered the bottom of each one with slices of fresh tomato. Then I added some chopped mushrooms and some chopped fresh asparagus. I spooned in some brie cheese (I found some brie "innards" without the rind in a pot in the supermarket and bought it to try it) and added some fresh marjoram, chopped up. Then I covered everything with the chicken thighs (two per person), covered the dishes with foil and put them in a moderate oven until the chicken was just cooked and the sauce was bubbling. Then I covered both dishes thickly with fresh breadcrumbs, dotted with butter and toasted the dishes until the butter was melted and the breadcrumbs were golden.

We had the chicken gratins with boiled new potatoes and baby carrots from my carrot box, together with just a little gravy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It was really rather a pleasant weekend.

The sun shone, mostly.

The birds sang.

We saw a sparrow hawk being chased away by a couple of swallows.

We pottered in the garden.

We went to Chatsworth and pottered about in the usual shops in Chesterfield.

We had lunch in the Nettle (and a magnificent prawn and sun dried tomato risotto it was too) and checked Pat’s booking for July. She and her brother and sister-in-law will be around for a few days at the beginning of July. She had asked me to find them an interesting pub to stay in. I booked it back in February and thought perhaps I ought to check that they had remembered she was coming. They had :-)

We put the beach hut frieze up in the bathroom and began thinking about floor coverings. (The frieze looks lovely).

The Builder went a dig-dig-digging and made his back cross.

I put together the makings of next summer’s elderflower fizz (Memo to self: must remember to get more hinged bottles and some straining muslin!)

We sat out in the still dishevelled garden and drank wine and plotted and planned.

And the summer plans are slowly, slowly, slowly starting to come together. Austin will be in the UK from July 28th to August 20th. Lindsey and Ian will be here from 31st July to 30th August. I am looking to see if I can find somewhere for us all (including Taffa, Gaz and Freyja) to go for the week we all seem to have off together. This is complicated by the fact that it is getting a bit late to book places for 8 people in August, and by the fact that I want somewhere Monday to Friday and very few places do short breaks in August. But I shall persevere.

Ian and I need to start thinking about menus!

Monday lunchtime. I begin to ponder the need for a sandwich. But before a sandwich can be acquired, I need to lay my hands on some cash. There is a cash point in the Owen Building. It was raining. So I picked up my large umbrella and made my way to the foyer. It was absolutely pouring down. The concourse was like a lake. The rain was like a very large waterfall pouring into the lake. I stopped to wonder if I really needed a sandwich. Fortunately, at that point one of the Acquisitions people ambled past and lent me the money for a sandwich. I remained in the building.

Mercifully – by the time I had to go out in the afternoon to a meeting in a building on the other side of the campus, the sun had come out and the weather was lovely.

On the way home we stopped at the Yorkshire Tile Company showroom to consider floor tiles.

Off we went, heading home, occasionally running into the very edges of what seemed to be quite a strong rain storm. Certainly the clouds were Very Black Indeed. But mostly, we were only on the edges very briefly and had a fairly dry run home.

We approached Tupton. The slow moving, dark, dark clouds were moving in a ponderous manner towards our place.

We got out of the car just as the first big fat raindrops fell.

As we shut the door behind us, the heavens opened and the rain fell in vertical sheets. Our courtyard began to fill with water and the satellite television signal ambled off.

After a few moments, It crossed my mind that I should check the windows. Just as well. As I walked into our bedroom, the water which was gathering on the window sill began to cascade off onto the ottoman and the floor. Most fortuitously, I happened to have the seaside buckets, which are usually in the bathroom, in the bedroom. I caught the water in those while The Builder moved very slowly and cautiously (bad back – remember) and brought the (clean :-( ) towels from the bathroom to mop up. The bathroom window was leaking too, but that needed re-sealing rather than closing. As the storm passed, The Builder got his sealing gun and re-sealed it.

Then the storm went away and the evening cleared to be lovely and the courtyard dried out again.

It’s lovely again today too. And I think I might have found us somewhere to stay in August. I am waiting to hear if my booking request has been accepted.

Monday, June 15, 2009

We had quite a productive weekend, garden-wise. The Builder went up to the allotment on Saturday and slashed down the above-waist high grass, nettles, docks and other stuff. We can see where we're going now!

He has also finished digging over the bed at the very bottom of the allotment. I have planted 8 rows of sweet corn seeds down there. I also planted another 4 rows of Hurst Greenshaft peas. There's room for four more rows of peas on that bed - but I have 500g of pea seeds left. I think I may need to plant the rest of them in what's left of the sweet corn bed. The sweet potato slips are in the bean bed. Everything is looking quite cheery except for one of the melon plants which is struggling a bit.

The Builder has made a start on digging the next bed. But it is heavy going and he had to stop because his back was beginning to complain. So we went home and he started clearing out the bed which has cabbages in it. His back really objected to that. He had to stop altogether and sit in the sunshine and drink medicinal beer.

I have made a start clearing the wheat and barley and stuff out of the flower bed, and began cutting back the intractable grass which is covering the strawberries. There is a great deal more clearing to be done, though. I figure half an hour each evening (when it is not raining) should do it.

The red currants are oh-so, oh-so nearly ready. A pot or two of red currant jelly is in the offing.

And we discovered that there is an elder tree at the bottom of our allotment. With loads and loads of flowers. The Builder harvested about half of them - which are now in a plastic box with all the stuff necessary to turn them into a sparkling elderflower drink for next summer. The other half we'll leave for making elderberry cordial later - or maybe even elderberry wine. So no need to sneak down the lane to the sewage farm at the crack of dawn and nick their elderflowers!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Weather Dogs at play

Well somebody certainly poked a big stick at the Weather Dogs yesterday!

I hear there had been some Quite Interesting weather down in the south during the morning, but up here it had been quite a nice day. A bit overcast, perhaps. But nothing to take note of. I had had a pleasant walk up to Collegiate at around 9:30 (for a meeting, grump, grump, grump) and a nice walk back. I had trundled over to the public library at lunch time to get a book about potatoes (I’m going to take it back today and change it for another one. It had lots of pretty pictures but no useful information). Not a drop fell on my head.

At about half past four, the clouds darkened and there was the sound as of a hundred pigeons tapping on the office window.

Shortly after, everything went black, and there was a bright lightning flash and then big, loud claps of thunder.

At twenty to, I went up to the foyer, ready to meet The Builder and Oscar for going home purposes. Sally, from upstairs, was sat by the door, reading a book. “You don’t want to go out there,” she opined. I looked out the door. She was right. It was raining in torrents. But how wet can you get, going from the door, down the ramp to the car? Answer: very! Water was dripping off me as I threw my basket in the back of Oscar and leapt into the car.

Visibility was almost zero.

Arundel Gate was like a small river.

Shoreham Street was like a very big river indeed.

Slowly, slowly, slowly we made our way along down to the main road which goes down through to Heeley, Woodseats and thence on to Chesterfield.

It was flooded.

Excitement reigned as a taxi decided it was sick of sitting about on flooded roads and came barrelling through a red traffic light and nearly took us out. We were, naturally, going very slowly so managed to stop.

The police, having obviously learned a lot from the Great Floods of 2007, had closed lots of the roads, including the Heeley Bridge on the main road near Freyja’s place. Inconvenient, but it drastically reduced the traffic chaos levels.

We found an alternative route – actually up along Abbeydale Road which wasn’t too bad.

The rain slowed. The roads where we were cleared of water.

Phew!

Then we got to the Dronfield bypass. The heavens opened again. The rain torrented down. The roads filled with water again.

We made our way slowly and gingerly to Chesterfield.

And decided to go along the round about back roads. There are roadworks on the Brimmington roundabout, so that is always slow. The railway bridge by the big roundabout always floods. Hady Hill always floods because of the volume of water pouring down the steep hill. Best to avoid all these places we thought.

And it seems we were right. The local news showed flooding in Dronfield, flooding in all the places in Chesterfield where we had thought it would be, traffic chaos all around.

Mind you – it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Great Going Home Flood in June 2007. It only took us twice as long to get home as usual, not weeks longer. And at least the roads were mostly passable.

There was no sign of Marlo when we got in. Ordinarily he is sitting by the gate when we get home. Not surprisingly he wasn’t yesterday. I went out and called him. He emerged from the shed, where the door wasn’t properly closed, and GALLOPED up the path to the house. He was mostly dry. Clever cat! (Although I'm not sure why he wasn't in the house.)

Woke up this morning to a glorious day. Sun shining. Birds singing. The Builder tells me there was a jay on the fence when he went down to get the tea.

And the back fence was steaming like a sauna!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Since it wasn't raining on Tuesday evening


... we went up to the allotment. I planted some extra tomato seedlings and two tiny capsicum seedlings in the greenhouse. The direct sown tomato plants are doing quite well. Also, the cape gooseberries in the other greenhouse are ticking along nicely and ONE soya seed has come up!

I very thickly sowed two rows of soya seeds, which had been soaking in a beer glass for two days, down from where the kidney beans are. This is their absolutely last chance before I reluctantly give up on soya beans!

In the meantime, The Builder was constructing a trellis for me, made from bamboo canes, on the next bed down. Along this trellis I have planted two cucumber plants (one with a tiny cucumber already forming!), five pumpkin plants, two melon plants and one zucchini plant. If the rest of the zucchini seeds and the watermelon seeds come to anything, I shall plant them on the alternate posts, which have been left empty. This will make for a very crowded cucurbit bed, but I'm sure they'll sort it out.

And I think I have worked out why our brassicas haven't been doing very well for the last couple of years. I was watching a DVD on growing vegetables from Heligan. The gardener there (surrounded, it must be said, by MAGNIFICENT cabbages and kale and broccoli and sprouts) was saying that they should be grown in small pots, then planted as you were lifting the potatoes later in the summer, into ground which has been trodden down hard (I knew about the hard ground bit) because the potatoes have used most of the nitrogen which had been fixed by the legumes previously, leaving just enough to keep the brassicas growing. Too much nitrogen and fertiliser - and you get blowsy, leafy, useless plants which don't flower, fruit or heart. And where have I been planted my brassicas? Between the rows of peas and beans to keep the pigeons off them. It has worked from the point of view of keeping the pigeons off - but has most certainly led to blowsy, leafy, useless plants which haven't flowered, fruited or hearted! I can do brassicas in pots until the potato beds are ready!! I shall get to it this weekend.

We had our first serve of potatoes from the garden yesterday. They were some of the Salad Blue potatoes we planted in the potato bins. They are almost black - and an iridescent, speckly purple inside. I'm not sure quite how to cook them, though. They are a floury potato which I suspect will disintegrate when boiled (although they are apparently extremely good mashed - not sure how you get them to get soft enough to mash!) I roasted them and they were extremely delicious. Although they did go a little way to support Paul's largely discredited theory that humans find it instinctively difficult to eat "blue" food. They did look a little as though they had gone off or were poisonous

Here are my bean plants. And the Under-gardener:


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Early June

We have had some lovely, lovely weather lately although it was also extremely dry. I was beginning to despair of the broad beans ever germinating! Then the weather changed late last week and it turned cold and wet and windy.

Naturally - it did this two or three days after I had planted the kidney, zebra and rattlesnake beans out on the allotment! We didn't have a frost but it was a near run thing. Fortunately, they seem to have survived unscathed. But I put back my plans to plant out the cucurbits. Alas - they are still in the propagating tent. It's been too wet and cold to plant them out. But they're going to have to go in soon. They're beginning to look a bit cramped in the tent. Only one of the courgettes has really flourished. So I've planted one each of the six varieties I have seeds for. This is rather more courgette plants than I really need. But we can have lots of very tiny courgettes - if they all survive. I've also planted some watermelon seeds. Two of them have germinated. I've never grown watermelons before!

The garden is looking still quite dishevelled. It's been a good growing year so all the weeds and seeds from the bird table are doing just as well as the plants. I really must get out and clear it all up. I have flower plants to plant out! Mind you - the wildflowers along the brick path are looking extraordinarily cheerful.

Last year I bought at vast expense some sweet potato slips, only half of which survived and none of which did well. This year I planted a tuber I bought at the supermarket in a pot. Eventually it pushed up leaf stems. Last weekend I pulled some of the stems and found they had nice, well-established root systems (unlike last year's slips). I put half in pots with potting compost and half in a jar of water. They all look remarkably happy. I shall plant them all out on the allotment this weekend and see how they fare. I am hopeful that this year, if we have even a half decent autumn - we might get some sweet potatoes. But even if we don't, the expenditure of one out of a packet of tubers is hardly going to break the bank!

The Builder has planted out his runner beans. They look happy too. I think everything is very pleased to see some rain

Lamb and kidney casserole

On Wednesday of last week, Jayne the Pig Lady turned herself into Jayne the Lamb Lady and delivered a lamb, ready butchered for the freezer, to The Sidings. The small freezer is now over three parts full, which is nice. I now need to source a supply of beef and chickens and we'll be sorted (although Chatsworth is a reliable source of both beef and chickens so there's no real problem).

Anyway. Amongst the packages was one with three reasonably sized neck chops, together with two butterflied kidneys. The Builder loves kidney (and I occasionally remember to buy some for him for his Sunday breakfast). I don't eat kidney myself. Not for any particular reason other than that I can't get it past my nose. A piece of kidney approaches my mouth on the end of a fork, my nose declares loudly that this is NOT FOOD and my teeth clamp shut. There doesn't seem to be much I can do about this. I have also noticed that when we are out, he will frequently select steak and kidney combinations that he never gets at home. So I decided to make him a lamb chop and kidney casserole as a treat, rather than keeping the kidneys for breakfast.

And this is what I did.

I sauteed some chopped onions and minced garlic until the onions were soft and starting to blacken a little around the edges. Then I put them into a casserole.

I added some roughly chopped carrots, mushrooms and turnips (the turnips were a gift from one of the allotment holders - The Builder loves them almost as much as he loves kidneys) and some small, whole new potatoes.

I chopped the kidneys (having removed the sinewy white bit) and dotted them around the vegetables.

Then I browned the neck chops and put them on top of everything. I have filled the casserole with chicken stock (I didn't have any lamb stock) with a glug of low salt soya sauce, a couple of glugs of white wine and a few sprigs of thyme.

Then I put the lid on the casserole and put it in a low oven for about four hours. I left it to cool.

When it was wanted for eating I heated it in a medium oven until it was bubbling. Then I thickened the sauce (which had reduced quite a lot) just a little and served the casserole with leeky mashed potato and peas and broad beans (it being the start of the pea and broad bean season).

The Builder reports that it was absolutely lovely. He had the left overs for Sunday Supper.

(You could easily do this in a slo-cooker - although I would finish it off in the oven to reduce the rawness of the wine)
And it more or less rained all weekend. I did manage to get the the allotment to grab some rhubarb for a rhubarb cake and for the freezer, but that was pretty much it in terms of gardening or other outside activities. We didn't go to the Belper steam fair, or to any of the open farms. We did go to Chatsworth.

So The Builder made steady progress in the bathroom. He has now put the cabinet up and painted the walls. He's put skirting up. Yesterday (Monday), he took advantage of a late afternoon break in the rain to cut the tiles to go around the bath. They are now laid. All he needs to do now is to grout the new tiles and to put up the frieze and the decorating is more or less done. Well - except for the flooring which we haven't got yet. And we are still planning on a new door. And then, of course, we'll need a new window. The old one is looking very, very tatty now!

Otherwise, I think that mostly we ate. And drank. The Three Horseshoes for Sunday lunch - despite the fact I had bought lots of lovely Sunday food at Chatsworth. We had that on Monday instead!

All in all, it was a fairly lazy weekend. Apart from The Builder's efforts in the bathroom.

So I wonder why I was quite so tired yesterday. I was in bed by just after ten last evening. It wasn't even properly dark.

The Builder has broken one of my dinner plates. It dropped out of his hands this morning when he was putting it away after our Sunday-lunch-on-a-Monday-evening last night. The loss of the odd plate is not a catastrophe. They are quite expensive but readily available. Alas - when it escaped from his hand it fell onto my sea-globe (like a snow-globe only filled with blue rather than white stuff). That side of the dining room is now absolutely COVERED with blue sand. You wouldn't have thought there was so much blue sand in one sea-globe! I can see Henry coming out for an unexpected tour of duty this evening!! Still, at least the plate didn't take out the meat platter as well. That would be almost impossible to replace. They didn't make many in the Cambridge blue - though I suppose I could always have replaced it with one in black. Fortunately - the need has not arisen!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Saturday morning

It is slightly disconcerting when you are peacefully sleeping at 3:00 in the morning to be abruptly awakened by the arrival of four wet and cold paws on your bottom. It is probably this which accounts for the fact that I've been awake more or less since then and dispatched The Builder down to make tea at 04:45! Mind you, he was awake too. The arrival of a cold and wet cat snuggling up next to him at shortly after 3:00 had seen to that :-)

It is cold and wet, wet, wet this morning. Were it not for the fact that the trees are a gentle, early green you might be excused for thinking it was early November. I am giving serious consideration to turning the heating on. I blame The Builder. He bought a summer dressing gown this week and alerted the Weather Dogs to the run of sunny, warm weather we've been having.

So a rethink of the weekend's plans. Probably no gardening. We almost certainly won't go to the Belper show. Not sure about the Open Farm Sunday tomorrow. Depends on what the Weather Dogs do.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Trying to organise to get married is very much like trying to organise to have a plumber around or to have a parcel delivered – only more protracted. But what these activities all have in common is the assumption that someone, probably me, is going to be at home with time on their hands and be ready, willing and able to run around to collect things or deliver them or receive them.

In the first place, you need both to be free at the same time to visit the registrar in the district in which you live to declare who you are and demonstrate that you live where you say you live and that you aren’t wishing to marry for fraudulent reasons or even bigamously. OK. That makes sense – though it is frustrating that the latest appointment you can have is at 3pm. But then, two weeks later someone has to find the time to go back to the register office and collect certificates authorising you to be wed. And THEN, someone has to deliver the certificates to the register office where you are actually going to be married (which in our case is in the county but not the same district) so they can do whatever it is they need to do to process them.

The Bakewell Register office is only little and only open part time hours.

This would seem to require that someone (probably me) is going to have to take two half days off in order to chase pieces of paper around the county.

You would think they could do all this subsequent stuff electronically. They’ve got computers. I’ve seen them using them!

I decided (not realising I was going to have to go on the paper chase) to have all of yesterday off. I couldn’t see any point in going all the way to Sheffield at the crack of dawn just to turn around and come back again at lunch time. The Builder did go in for the morning. But he doesn’t get paid when he takes time off (apart from his annual leave) and I do.

So he trundled into Sheffield and I trundled into the garden where I had a lovely time pottering about. When he got back we went to the Wingerworth library and into Chesterfield and trawled around the market and generally mooched about, visited the Chesterfield Register Office, mooched about some more and went home. It was quite a nice day – for me at least.

Wasn’t a nice day for poor Tammy next door. One of her school chums drowned in a disused quarry on Sunday afternoon. Now you can understand a bunch of teenagers pushing their way in through a hole in the fence and ignoring the padlock on the gate and all the signs warning people not to enter and emphatically not to swim in the quarry. That’s what teenagers do. The wonder is that so many teenagers survive to adulthood. But it seems to me to be reckless in the extreme when grown ups do the same thing – and take their young children with them. But this is what the news reports say had happened. The disused quarry was positively bustling with illicit swimming it seems. Poor Tammy’s young friend was very unlucky, given that so many people were around him. But I am told that by the time people realised he was really in trouble and not just larking about, it was too late. Tammy, BTW, was not there at the time. She was at home revising for her GCSE exams which have just started.

I keep being asked how old other people are. How am I supposed to keep track of how old people are? They keep having birthdays!!

Monday, June 01, 2009

You would have found us, for most of this weekend, in Cambridge.

Taffa and Gaz had a yen to go to the Cambridge Car Boot Sale and sell all their junk at a massive profit.

Clearly to do this you need to have a car boot.

They don’t have a car boot.

But we do. So we took it down to Cambridge on Saturday evening for them to use.

It might have been a mistake on Saturday evening, when you need to be ready to leave the house on Sunday morning at around six, to go on a pub crawl!

But we were ready, on a bright, sunny Sunday morning to head off to the Car Boot Sale – if a little tired!

The Builder and I wandered around and looked at the stalls. I bought a shirt. We bought some veg. We bought an extension for the garden hose and a few bits and pieces. Taffa and Gaz were doing quite well in the selling stakes.

The Builder and I wandered into town and had breakfast at Don Pasquale’s (where we usually go in the evening for pizza) and pottered around in the market and bought a few more things.

We went back to the Car Boot Sale.

It went on FOR EVER!!!!!

Actually, it runs from 7-12 and is very well attended. And I had quite a good time. But I would have had an even better time if it had run from 9-12. It was Sunday morning for heavens sake!

We took things home again. T and G had made £40 or £50 profit. And we strolled off down to the river, to the Green Dragon for lunch, and then back along the river and through the park and back to their place.

Then The Builder and I went home again. T and G took their bikes and went back to the Green Dragon. The sun continued to shine.

Freyja, on the other hand, went to Leeds to be a zombie