Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn's Bounty

We have nearly 30 kg of Bramley apples to deal with :-S

And the freezer is full :-S

We have given a few to our neighbours on both sides. I have managed to squeeze a few into the freezer.  I have put some in one of the potato drawers in the cellar (strictly speaking, they are apple drawers. The Under Gardener made them for me when I saw a chest of apple drawers in a catalogue - so this year they are filling their real purpose).

I am going to have a bash at preserving the rest as apple sauce. I am given to understand that if you put hot apple sauce into oven-hot glass jars and put the lids on immediately it produces a seal which preserves the apple sauce.  I'll give it a whirl and let you know how we get on.

We also, on Saturday, pruned the cherry trees, the plum tree and the peach tree. The ducks and chooks were a bit puzzled by this but enjoyed playing around the branches and twigs once we had stopped lopping.

We were a bit surprised when we went down into the garden on Sunday afternoon, to find Curry and Udon pottering about amongst the currant bushes.  It appears that the bottom gate into the orchard had blown open and they had taken the opportunity to come out for a bit of an explore.  We have secured the bottom gate but decided that we might as well let everyone out while we were there to supervise.  There isn't much left now for them to get in and destroy in the vegetable beds.  We had hoped to encourage the ducks to come up and discover the fish pond.  But no. They were more interested in ruining the afternoon for a quite surprising number of slugs and snails that they managed to find.  I think we might let them out again when there is someone around to watch them.

We have now emptied the greenhouse on the allotment that had the pumpkins and cucumbers in it. We brought home two 2kg butter pumpkins and a cucumber that was hiding at the bottom of the plant and which we didn't realise was there. There are two capsicum plants in there but they haven't fruited.  Oddly enough, the ones that we plonked outside in a garden bed on the allotment are absolutely covered in peppers. It's a bit strange. I would have expected it to be the other way around!


There is a free little magazine that gets delivered to us about once a month or so and which is more or less a collection of adverts for local shops and small businesses.  I don't look at it all that closely, but both of us tend to flick through it to see if there's anything interesting happening.

Last month there was a voucher for the Marsh Green Farm Shop.  Spend over £50 at the meat counter in Marsh Green and get £10 off.  The voucher was valid in September so on Saturday morning we armed ourselves with it and headed off.  In order to get to Marsh Green we drive past the Nettle.  Alas, it was only 11:00 and much too early to call in for lunch.

We came back via the Nettle as well.  It was still too early to call in for lunch. But we waved at Sanford as we drove past.

We went home and The Builder collected nearly 30 kg of Bramley apples from the tree and I sorted out our haul of meat from the butcher's counter at Marsh Green.  Then we hopped back in the car.  The lure of the Nettle was too much for us.  Off we went for lunch :-)

Ordinarily, when we go to the Nettle for lunch I have a burger.  Occasionally I vary this and have their pie of the day.  On this occasion, however, I decide to throw caution to the wind and have their seafood assiette.  With chips.  And this is what I got:

Fish and chips, Nettle style

It was the nicest fish platter I've had in a very long while. I'm very glad that (i) we decided to head to the Nettle for lunch even if it did mean getting back in the car and (ii) I decided to be adventurous with my menu choice!

I have been catching up with the Great British Bake Off. In the most recent program they had the contestants making Paul Hollywood's fruit couronne.  I have seen Paul Hollywood demonstrating a savoury couronne at the BBC Good Food Show. I have even made the savoury couronne.  A couronne is usually made with a brioche style dough and I found it a bit too rich for a savoury dish. But I had some cheese that needed using up and some tomatoes that were beginning to look a bit tired.  I had bacon from Saturday's adventures in Marsh Green.  So I made this:

But with bread dough rather than brioche dough. And very nice it was too.  We had slow roasted pork for our Sunday roast with potatoes and pumpkin and carrots and sweet corn and zucchini all from the garden or allotment.  I had roasted some apples as well - but we didn't seem to have the room to eat them. Never mind.  They'll do nicely for today!

It was a very quiet weekend, really. We sat outside in the nice sunshine on the patio and watched the ducks and chickens ambling about. We sat inside and caught up on last week's televisual treats.  We pottered about.  I did not get the house ready for the overseas visitors we are expecting over the next little while. It was all good

Monday, September 23, 2013

Weekend Report

They were having trouble finding people to staff Bishops' House at the weekend so The Builder and I thought that we might go in on Saturday morning.  We were heading into Sheffield anyway and it was no great effort to go in a few hours earlier than planned.  And we were quite busy. Some of the local schools are doing projects on the Tudors so children came in with their parents to have a look at our Tudor building.

Then we went to Waitrose, where we ran across Tabitha. So we collected her up and went to her place, where we ran across Gareth and Cally. Then we all went out to Chatsworth to raid the Butchers' counter in the farm shop. Then we went back to our place and drank wine and ate tacos and generally pottered about.

Cally stood on the chook food bin so she can see over the fence and watch the trains

Taffa and The Builder deep in conversation

Gaz and Cally watching the trains

Cally running like the wind, and all a-blur

Sitting outside in the unexpected sunshine

Dinner waiting to be eaten
We all got up and nice early on Sunday morning and had bacon and eggs for breakfast.  We talked to Grandma Stella and Grandpa Tony on Skype.  We also talked to Lindsey and Ian and Lovely Lucy. And then we spoke to Austin and Kaori and Baby Tatsuki, and Cally showed how she can say hello and goodbye in Japanese, and how she can count to four (in Japanese - she can count all the way to twenty in English).

Then Cally rode her new bike into Clay Cross. And Gaz and Taffa and I walked into Clay Cross. And The Builder drove into Clay Cross and picked us all up.  I think that Taffa, Gaz and I could have easily managed to walk home again, but I don't think Cally would have managed to ride her bike back and certainly wouldn't have walked back.  And The Builder couldn't have walked at all - his foot is all bruised from when he fell over last weekend and it hurts when he walks. We sat outside in the sunshine and rank more wine and The Builder watched the Grand Prix (inside). Then we had slow roasted shoulder of lamb with roast potatoes and roast pumpkin and loadsa veg from the garden.  And Taffa, Gaz and Cally went home on the bus and the train and the bus. And The Builder and I stayed at our place.

Marlo enjoying the sunshine (and the lack of small children rushing around!!)

Look at the colour of that sky! (You may admire the grapes as well, if you like)

But this is what the sky looked like when I got up this morning

It's the start of the academic term today. Let the chaos that is First Term commence :-S

Monday, September 16, 2013

Emergency, Emergency ...

I was sat in the lounge room on Thursday evening, minding my own business, not doing anyone any harm - I was, in fact, watching a program about the 2013 UK fruit and veg harvests - when Twitter alerted me to the fact that Freyja was on a train, making an unexpected trip to Sheffield.

I must admit that my first thought was along the lines of: That's odd; Freyja didn't say she was coming to Sheffield this weekend.  This thought was swiftly followed by: But of course, it's an unexpected trip so she probably didn't know in advance.

But *why* was Freyja making an unexpected trip to Sheffield?

Freyja rang me.  But the phone line was crackly and kept dropping out. And all I could hear with any degree of confidence was "Simon"  and "hospital".

Simon's in hospital?  (This would be Freyja's Simon, not any passing brother that I might have with the same name!)

It turns out that he wasn't actually an in-patient. But he had been sent to the hospital as a medical emergency when he had turned up at his GP's surgery feeling not particularly well and the GP had done a blood test only to discover that Simon's blood sugar levels were astronomically, life-threateningly high :-S  He was, in fact, very close to being an ex-Simon. Which would have been a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

Turns out he has type 1 diabetes. Which I suppose is also not an entirely satisfactory state of affairs but it is much less unsatisfactory than being dead. At least diabetes can be kept under some sort of control.  Well - it can once you know you've got it. So Freyja and Simon are learning about diabetes clinics, and counting calories and carbohydrates, and using insulin and stuff.

And I am quite well informed about the state of the 2013 UK fruit and veg harvest. Just in case you were wondering.

I was on my way up to bed on Saturday night when below me I heard quite a lot of swearing, very closely followed by a very loud thump, followed by lots more swearing.  I turned round and went back downstairs, to find The Builder lying flat out on the lounge room floor.  It seems he had stood up to turn off the telly and to go and lock the kitchen door, and his ankle had simply given out underneath him and toppled him like a mighty oak. He had, in fact, nearly taken out the telly!  I had to administer medicinal wine and everything, thus delaying the whole going to bed process! He could barely walk yesterday and had to have more medicinal wine with his lunch.  And with his supper.  Fortunately, I was not incommoded in any way and could drive to the dairy for milk, and could make our Sunday roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, and apple and blackberry crumble.  I could also top up the medicinal wine supplies. So all was good. Well, from my point of view it was.

But I think that might be enough excitement for now.  It's the week before Freshers' Week. Nice and calm and quiet is in order, before the chaos and bedlam of First Semester kicks off.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


... And nor can we complain about the vegetable harvest this year

We thought we had had the last of the cucumbers.  Then The Under Gardener pulled another pumpkin plant and found two HUGE ones hiding behind the pumpkin leaves.  Huge they are.  It's no wonder the cucumber plant had stopped producing the salad (and therefore small!) cucumbers a few weeks ago.  The green tomatoes in the bowl are supposed to be green. This year we have had green, yellow, orange, red and faintly black tomatoes.

The Under Gardener has started on next year's crops (excluding the cabbages and broccolis which were planted early in the summer for next spring). He's put five rows of garlic in on the allotment.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


My goodness but we're doing well for fruit this year.  The plum tree is so laden that one of the branches has snapped right off! It's still a bit attached and the plums are ripening so we have left it for now. We are hoping to pick the plums (which are also being much enjoyed by the chickens, the ducks and the wasps) this coming weekend.  We will also have lots of bramley apples to pick. That tree is also quite well covered in apples. We've already picked a good few bramleys - one of the allotment people gave us a couple of baskets of blackberries. I have made an apple and blackberry pie and combined the rest in packets with some bramley and some sweet apples and put them in the freezer for winter pies.

The sweet apples were being seriously attacked by the wasps, so I have collected the rest of them. This is what was left after I got rid of the waspy ones:

The pink ones are very sweet and juicy.  The little green ones are also juicy, but slightly tarter.  They're the ones from the tree that we thought was dying last summer.  It's still struggling, but looking much healthier.

This year, for the first time, we had peaches on the white peach tree. One went rotten. We ate one straight from the tree. And have been waiting patiently for this one to ripen - watching carefully so the wasps didn't get to it first!

And this year, for the first time, we have successfully grown miniature watermelons in the greenhouse on the allotment. Here is today's lunchtime dessert:

We are also extremely pleased with the pumpkins (which I know are used as a vegetable but which are also a fruit, strictly speaking).  This one weighed 3.5 kg:

and it was extremely delicious. We picked a smaller one a couple of days ago. That was 2 kg. And there are four or so more still growing.

As a reminder to myself: the capsicums that were plonked outside on the allotment because there was no room in the greenhouse are doing much, much better than the ones being carefully tended in the greenhouse. The latter are being eaten by something, are very straggly and are not fruiting.  The outside ones look robust, happy - and have several fruit on them!

I am waiting with interest to see what happens to my little chilli plants, which are in the greenhouse at home. They are supposed to be a mild chilli, small and a reddy black colour. They are small and so far jet black.

Autumn is upon us. The nights are distinctly chilly. The mornings are misty. And we are coming towards the end of the summer veg and beginning to move into the autumn offerings.  Although - the zucchinis are still producing abundantly. It's been years since I've had such a good zucchini harvest!

Monday, September 09, 2013

Mostly doing not very much

I was on holiday last week. A bit of a breather before the students come back at the end of the month and bedlam one again ensues.  And mostly we did very little.

We had lovely weather and sat outside a bit.

We ate and drank and quietly made merry.

We did not go for any of the walks we had intended to go on.  Nor did I deep clean the house or weed the garden.

We did have a meter man come and replace our duel rate electricity meter with a single rate one in the hope that this might finally and for ever fix our Twisted Meter Readings saga which has been going on for three years or so now. This particular chapter has been going on since January and has taken out several members of the Complaints Escalation team. I've had a new advisor every couple of months. But now there is a new meter and someone is, apparently, sorting out my electricity account.

We had to make a quick dash to the vet when Gyoza suddenly, abruptly and with absolutely no warning at all went lame and could barely move.  I would not ordinarily bother taking a chicken to the vet. But she's only 22 weeks old so it seemed fair.  And if she had broken her leg then we needed to do something. But at £23 for a two minute consultation I have informed the entire flock that in future I will remember that it is considerably cheaper to buy a new chicken (or duck) and not bother.  Gyoza came back from the vet suddenly able to trot around with no trouble at all :-S

We went to Salisbury overnight mid-week and had absolutely delicious fish and chips with Jeanette, Matthew, Rebecca and Evie in their new and very delightful house.  We had a not very inspiring breakfast in the Swan in Stoford (a pity, that - we wanted to like it and it was cold, not very good quality and quite salty). We took Gwen to Lymington and had a very inspiring lunch at The Ship by the harbour on a very beautiful day indeed.  And then returned Gwen home via the hospital where she had an eye appointment.

We went to Bishops' House on Saturday morning for our stint as door keepers and then went to Tabitha, Gareth and Cally's place for a Sunday lunch on a Saturday. And we had Sunday lunch on a Sunday at our place.

So lots of food, you will observe.  Lots of wine. Lots of sitting about, not doing anything very much. Lots and lots of sunshine. Quite a bit of staying in bed late and lazing around.  And now back at work, more or less ready for the autumn term.

And autumn is here with us.  It was dark when I got up this morning. I have put the lamp in the dining room back on its timer. And it was cool and misty and quite beautiful when we left at 7:15 for the station.