Sunday, 22 April 2012


So here is the proof - did make marmalade - albeit with frozen oranges - but it worked.

So the day I made Marmalade Bert Weedon died - did I use his tutor - well actually, no, I was too lazy and just mucked about with chords (which is all I can do now). Only good for jam sessions - Ha!
Did 4 lbs raspberry jam with old fruit today - yum!

Saw first swallow yesterday
and we had siskins on the birdfeeders, sir to the left, m' lady to the right.
Still no nuthatches but one can always hope.

In the garden a banking has been cleared by covering it for three years with black porous plastic sheeting - actually this was part of the great pumpkin and squash, oh! and marrow plan but this year I have scattered wildflower seed.

And there are bees in the garden - honey bees. Hardly saw a single one last year.

So to the celandines -
I no longer dig them up - have conceded defeat and now say how lovely they are. Anyway they will have disappeared by summer.

I have planted some parsley and three rows of leeks, the latter in their trenches, in the protected vegbeds.

There is this thought that runs through my head - Shall I mow? Shall I not mow?
I pondered so long the heavens opened and my dilemma was resolved.

One great success has been the ranunculi - never did well before so I emptied an old sink in the autumn and stuffed it with compost. R then put in the ranunculi and they are doing so well.
Is it rununculi or ranunculusses or, if neuter Latin, ranuncula?
Does it really matter?
Even to the ranuncs?

Thursday, 19 April 2012


but it is - explain later.

It is tulip time (and forget-me-not time and wallflower time) and, hooray, asparagus time. First steamed asparagus with a little melted butter due this weekend.

Clumps of tulips always give a good display as here by the sundial. It is a pity they tend to diminish over the years - some are worse than others (and I am not a lifter and storer) and one of the worst is Angelique - great first year but then phut!

I experimented this year by underplanting winter pansies in pots with tulips and this has been a success and will be repeated next autumn. The pansies have flowered most of the winter and now we have both.

In the garden the wood mice are busy under the feeders, Senor Blackbird still chases his Senorita (Senora?) around and around, rabbits dine on what they can get - two big fat ones this morning - and other inhabitants thrive - squirrels, mallard, goldfinches - and a heron and myself scared the ******* out of each other by the willow tunnel.

So to marmalade - out of the freezer came the forgotten Seville oranges, out of the shed came the jam jars.

Here is Sadie Howarth's Marmalade Recipe.
(Even a man can make this!) (It helps to have a Kenwood - I bought ours in 1973 in Kendal)

9 Seville Oranges
8 lbs sugar
2 lemons
1 sweet orange
9 pints of water (this can be reduced to 6 pints if the fruit are softened in the oven - Aga simmering oven)

Halve fruit and squeeze out juice. Save pips and put in muslin bag. Tie with string.
Put peel, with pith, through mincer.
Add water to peel etc, tie bag to handle and leave for 24 hours.
Boil up without sugar and simmer till peel transparent and soft - about one and a half hours.
Warm sugar in oven and add. Stir over gentle heat till all sugar dissolved.
Bring to boil and boil for 10-12 minutes.
Test for setting - cold saucer in freezer, take out - put drop of marmalade on saucer, let cool and push with finger. If it wrinkles it is done.
Unless you have a whopping pan you may need to do this in 2 lots in which case remember to split pips etc into 2 bags.
You should have put jars in oven to get warm so marmalade can be potted quickly. We, also, put the lids on a metal baking sheet so the heat of the oven will help sterilise them.
With modern jars there is no need for waxed paper discs. As the jars cool they will pop ensuring a good seal.

ps. Do not spill orange juice on a travertine limestone floor or it will be etched for life!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


The grass is wet, is wet, is wet.

Hence the mower is in the shed, is in the - well you get the idea. The garden is shaggy with grass.

Colour is everywhere, magnolias, blue sky (intermittently), red young sycamore leaves, yellow-green euphorbias (out of control and spreading wildly).

I have too many plants - bad habits have caused this - every time I prune a blackcurrant I cannot refrain from sticking in a couple of cuttings. I did the same with buddleias and when I pruned the red leafed
maple I thought, well why not, and jammed in a few sticks to overwinter.
They are all sprouting!

If you then add in the 27 bay trees I got in a pot from the market for £1.20, 23 have survived the winter, a couple of redcurrants, suckers off the raspberries - well - WHERE DO I PUT THEM?

R has said, no more flowerbeds, we have enough weeding to do.

So I have stuck some of the stuff in the far corner by the wall to fend for themselves in the couch grass. At least the birds will enjoy the currants.

R has been manfully, no, womanfully dead heading daffodils. So many of their flowers have been damaged by slugs - cannot blame that on the bunnies.

After the warmth, the rain - ducks on the pond, king cups (marsh marigolds) out and flowers coming on the ash trees. Yes, they do have blossom - purple clusters of anthers etc before the leaves.
Tree colour is something, apart from autumn hues and the obvious like the cherries, we do not often consider. The flowers on sycamores are like small versions of laburnum, more green than yellow but very beautiful.

Time for a pontificate.

I have just been reading Simon Sebag Montefiore's Biography of Jerusalem. Nothing seems to change much in that part of the world (or never stops changing) - so many deaths, all related to power and religion.

I am so glad I live in this beautiful backwater,
The goldfinches are back outside my window and a small mouse had just scurried around the wall by the shed.
What do these creatures know of power and religion - a man made thing?
Perhaps there is nothing wrong with religion as long as men are not involved?

Sunday, 8 April 2012


go out and buy a sit-on mower, well a lawn tractor actually.
I have found that as soon as I was ready to mow the lawn with it, it began to rain and the grass has been wet ever since and the weather forecast is for more rain all week so it hulks in the shed waiting . . .

Todays pictures were all taken before the cloudy skies arrived - and now we have had our summer it is time to think of the rest of the year - gloom descends.

The daffodils at the top of the garden by the big ash tree (it has a Rambling Rector rose up it) are now bent and flattened by the rain.

So, what have we been up to - R has been taking candelabra primula seedlings and spacing them out so the triangular bed by the Wendy House will be only the primulas and some veronicastrums.

And moi?
I have been putting in some purple sprouting broccoli and broad bean plants raised in the shed, making a second compost bay and widening the garden's narrow areas so that I can get around with the new mower - when the grass is dry.
(By then it will be ten feet high and we will have to join the Wherearewe Tribe.)

The last image is looking over the top pond down the boardwalk to the Wendy House. The shrub on the left is an amelanchier and this is now in flower.

We must have gold finches nesting nearby as two have suddenly become regular visitors with their call of Coo-ee.
I must get into the garden and check who is now living in which nesting box - when the rain stops.

Finally here is a photo I took two days ago from the window of a B&B in Oxfordshire before breakfast. Stunning, isn't it.