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Friday, 27 June 2014

The calm after the storm

We had a short but violent storm while we were getting ready to go to a friend's 60th birthday barbecue party. Dave was chatting on Skype when there was a sudden wind and the garden brolly went off for a trip around the village. There was a crash as a tile came off the roof and smashed where we had been sitting earlier. The small greenhouse, full of the red onions put in there to dry, was ripped to shreds and the onions scattered around the garden. Fruit and nuts were flying everywhere and we lost a few branches too. Our bathroom window had been open and the wind took it and it smashed, scattering glass all over the bathroom and through into the bedroom. There was then a deluge of rain before it all petered out as suddenly as it came. We felt so sorry for the chap who's birthday party was ruined, Dave went over for a while and I stayed with the quivering Bonnie, bless her. She got over it fairly quickly though.
Bits of tile under the chair......

....and on the roof

Windfall apricots

Fallen sweetcorn
Bye bye greenhouse

Flattened sunflowers

So we now have no greenhouse and it has joined the leaky pool in plastic heaven. At the moment it is the pool that I am mourning most, when the sun comes out it is blistering and I have trouble picking my legs up. We have solved that problem for now by turning back to the water trough filled up with icy water from the well. I can sit on the side and cool my legs before Dave gets in and dunks himself.

On Wednesday Dave went into town to try and get some glass for the window but was told by a local that they were shut and might be open in the morning. We had a breezy night and with no window and a door catch which doesn't work, the door was being constantly blown open despite a heavy weight against it. So he took the window down next day and came back with all four panes replaced and sealed, in tinted, textured glass more suitable for a bathroom. But the amazing thing was that this window was made almost new for less than £4! Bargain! So all fixed.

A scoot around the apricot tree showed some ripe fruit just begging to be used just sitting in the grass, so the chutney pan came out again and apricot chutney is added to the store. Dave picked plums for Jordan's rakia making...they don't come into the garden because of the dogs. last year the tree area was fenced off so they came in every day to pick the plums which fall, presumably they need to be properly ripe to use for rakia. The branches which have fallen are very heavy with fruit, both from this tree and the black plum with fruit I use myself. I think the branches we lost from that tree have as much fruit on them as we got from the whole tree last year.

In the veg garden the weeds continue to grow as we are still restricted on how much time we have between rain to get down to it. We are concentrating on clearing around plants but they come up over night. The courgette plants are still growing, and although we left a good space between plants they have now merged, making it difficult to find the courgettes. The chickens and geese are getting a bit fed up of them now, as are we. I have masses of small ones frozen, I am picking them tiny but there are always the ones you miss. The French beans are the same, miss a day and they are huge! The yellow beans I am not a fan of and I will not be growing them next year, they easily go soggy and I prefer the runners and French which keep their bite while being tender at the same time. I will try making some bean chutney with the yellows...a small batch to start with. I am very pleased with the carrots. I have never grown 'proper' sized carrots like these. In the UK I grew them in bins  due to carrot root fly problems so they got used as baby carrots. These are huge in comparison, but fairly thickly planted so there are a good few babies coming up with them which I am freezing for winter stews. I have been picking at night when there are no carrot flies about, being careful to bruise the leaves as little as possible and scattering fennel fronds to disguise the smell. But Bella has found that, because of the bushy leaves of carrot and parsnip, it is a cool spot to lie when the sun comes out, I am wasting my time!

Awww Bella!

I must admit that the crop I am most worried about are the tomatoes. There have been reports of blight being a real problem this year, again because of the weather, and I really do not want to lose the mass of fruit on the plants as we rely on bottled tomatoes so much in winter. The cherry toms are still doing well in their tubs, giving masses of fruit. The cucumbers have got going again (as have the neighbours', we have been given a few already) and yesterday I pickled a good few using a recipe given to me by a friend, the lady I turn to if we have any problem with the birds. I had to adapt it slightly as I did not have any mustard seed, so used pickling spice instead. I think I should have taken the tiny chillies out of the mix though...they pack quite a punch! But a good use of excess cucumbers, very nice.
I'm saying nothing!

Ready to pickle...with our first pepper

We had our first raspberries yesterday. There were only six (after the first one last week) so being creative I made a nectarine almond tart and added the little bundles of flavour to the mix. Very tasty. We even had cream since we found little packets of UHT whipping cream in Kaufland! Lovely. The nectarines, bought from the market on Wednesday, are delicious, a real taste of sunshine and incredibly juicy, so cheap at around 80p a kilo.

While I am busy in the kitchen preparing for the car boot sale at the weekend, Dave has been sorting out the bedrooms ready to recieve some very special visitors. Dave's sister and her other half are coming for a visit next exciting. Our first visitors and despite speaking to them on Skype regularly it is not the same as a hug and chatter in person. We have tried ordering some decent weather for them and keeping fingers crossed.
Lemon curd, expensive to make but if it doesn't sell I'm sure I will make use of it....yum

We had to go for chicken feed the other day so risked a small detour to the river. We couldn't get too close as the water is still well over the banks, but we saw many white and black storks, herons and cormorants. Unfortunately, although we had both taken cameras, we hadn't checked the batteries and Dave's was dead and mine was nearly. So few photos and just typical that we saw so many birds!
The village vines shading the paths, a lovely day

The babies have grown!

The black stork hiding in long grass




The yellow of rape has given way to the yellow of sunflowers

But he took my camera with him when he took the dogs out this morning and took some snaps of recently fledged little owls. Aaaahhhh....

The chicks are doing well, Mum is a feisty one and she puffs herself up as big as she can to scare you off. She is keeping the babies inside, which is sensible given the weather, and only ventures out to get any treats which Sevi calls her to. He is such a sweetie. The other day there was Mum and babies, two laying in the boxes and Sevi in with one of them keeping company. Bless him.

The bee man called in the other day with two mini helpers in their mini bee keeping outfits. It seems everything Dave does is meeting with his approval. The frames are all in place in the hive now and the bees are busy making lots of honey. Pics coming time Dave checks them. But there is definitely honey in there! Mini beekeepers went off with little pots of ice cream, happy.

A couple of recipes. 

 Easy Lemon Curd

Juice and zest of two lemons (or one nad a half large ones)

175g caster sugar

3 very fresh eggs

125 unsalted butter

Whisk the eggs and put through a sieve to make sure there are no stringy bits of white. In a heatproof bowl which will sit on a pan of simmering water, put all the ingredients and stir until it thickens. Pour into a sterilised jar and seal immediately. Store in a fridge and use within a month. Yum.

Almond Nectarine Tart.

Line a 7 inch flan tin with shortcrust pastry (or sweet crust if you prefer) and blind bake.

Peel and chop one large or two small nectarines and scatter on pastry case. Add a few raspberries if you have them.

Make up a basic sponge mix with....

55g ground almonds
85g self raising flour
115g butter or spread
115g caster sugar
A few drops of almond extract
2 large eggs

Cream fat and sugar, add eggs one at a time, mix in extract and fold in flour and almonds. Spoon over fruit and sprinkle with flaked almonds if you have any. Bake at 160c for about half an hour till sponge springs back when pressed lightly. Serve warm with cream or cold if you can wait.

It will be quite moist inside due to alonds and the juice from the nectarine.


  1. That gorgeous field of sunflowers would make you feel like the sun was shining all the time! Glad your window was an easy and inexpensive fix, and better than new.
    I love all the baby bird photos, and your horse trough cooling off pool! Way more picturesque than the plastic one that flew away. :-)
    I'm making rhubarb jam and sauce for the freezer, enjoying a few strawberries, and watching the bumper crop of raspberries grow. No cherries this year -- they are small and far between, not worth dragging out the ladder so the birds can have them.

  2. The trough, Dave informs me, is for washing rugs, you learn something new every day!

    I have some more rhubarb ready for picking but I think I'll freeze it and worry about it later. I rather fancy trying rhubarb and strawberry cordial, but soft fruit is generally seasonal in the market so I might have missed the boat. I will not pay supermarket prices. fresh or frozen, for preserves, though I did once add a small frozen bag of currants to some strawberry jam to help it along a bit. We will not get a bumper crop of raspberries this year so what we do get will be staying with us. Cherries have been good here, those that weren't blown off or hailed on.

  3. A special trough for washing rugs? Well, I never!
    I added chopped ginger to my rhubarb jam this year and it is sooo good. I never buy jams either. Way too much sugar.