Friday, 14 February 2020

Wild Garlic Sighted!

I was surprised and delighted to find wild garlic leaves sprouting in Owl Wood today.  Right now the leaves are only three or four inches high, but they smell deliciously garlicky.    I found this photograph on one of my old posts, a wonderful reminder of what the wild garlic will look like in a few weeks time.

It shouldn't be too long before I can forage a few leaves to incorporate into my baking and cooking.  Wild garlic is one of those seasonal delights to be enjoyed for a few weeks and then it is the turn of something else.   Seasonal eating of the nicest kind.

Wild garlic bread will be on the menu - featuring chopped leaves and flowers.   Delicate and delicious!


Perhaps best of all, there will be wild garlic scones - chopped wild garlic leaves, a little English mustard powder, a pinch of Cayenne Pepper, and grated Parmesan Cheese.     Far too delicious to be legal!

I love snow and all the forms
Of the radiant frost
I love waves, and winds, and storms,
Everything almost
Which is Nature's, and may be
Untainted by man's misery.

Stay safe this weekend.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Billy Butlins in the Village Hall

Probably the most attractive things in our little village - are the village signposts!

The train is there because we had a railway station until Dr Beeching closed the line down.

The horse, the blacksmith and anvil are shown because up until a year or two ago we still had a working village blacksmith.

Then we have two horses ploughing a field - around here is all farmland; battered old horse shoes (probably made by our very own blacksmith) still occasionally turn up in the fields.

I know many of you have heard some of this before, but this is for the benefit of  my new readers, to set the scene... the village is very small, no shops now, the school has closed and the church was demolished in the 1600's, we still have a family-run village pub though.

We also have a tiny village hall - it used to be the Methodist Chapel.  In the old days the hall was used almost every day of the week for one group or another.    Women's Institute, Sewing Groups, Youth Clubs, Whist Drives, plays and performances, Talent Shows, Village Shows, Table Tennis, etc.   

Fair to say it was a lively place.

Different times.

Up until a couple of years ago we used to have a wonderful Village Show and a Christmas Bazaar.  Alas, even they have fizzled out now due to lack of support.

All is not lost, however...

Once a month the hall comes to life, okay, it may be merely an echo of times past, but we do our best.

Some of the older residents of the village meet there, to have a chat, eat cake, drink tea, and share some laughter.

Occasionally we will have a guest speaker, or a craft demonstration of some kind, most often we make our own entertainment.   Our local history buff sometimes bring along a collection of documents, photographs, booklets and leaflets of some kind and tells us what he has learned.   It is always interesting. 

His theme on Monday was Butlins holiday camps! 

Just a few miles further along the coast from us,  is Skegness - site of the very first Butlins  holiday camp, opened in 1936.   Part of the reason Billy Butlin chose the site was because Skegness was easily accessed by train from London.     One or two of the group recalled family holidays there, they had a wonderful time, shared lots of happy memories.

We sobered up a little, later. 

My lovely Miss Read (retired village school teacher) confided that she is no longer able to drive, can scarcely see to read, even with magnifiers and lights; she has blind spots and a very limited field of vision.     She will soon be registered blind.

I have a feeling that our little meetings, and the bonds of friendship which have been forged, are going to be even more important to her.   

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Bits and Pieces

As I sit here in Parsonage Cottage, I can see the trees in Owl Wood rocking and rolling as the full force of the storm hits them.  The wind is one thing but, even as I typed that sentence, the rain has arrived.   Not normal rain, monsoon-style rain.  I cannot even see the trees right now because there is so much coming down.   All I can say is thank goodness those trees are not in leaf or there would be tree casualties.

Millie, the little ginger cat, has leapt up onto the back of the sofa and is staring at the window in total bewilderment at the noise and the rain.    I am thankful that I managed to squeeze in a very short walk around the garden (so that Toby could 'stretch his legs') before this lot arrived.

The polytunnel has suffered a cut from falling debris, easily remedied with some tape.   The gate between the vegetable garden and Owl Wood has blown down, along with the fencing and the old church pew we had along there.

A lovely metal archway has blown down, but I am hopeful that the honeysuckle plant and the beautiful old clematis it supported can be saved.   The main bird table pole has snapped and fallen, the birds and squirrels were a bit miffed about that one, but right now they have a bigger problem to deal with, this torrential rain. 

That is the damage so far, along with lots of big fallen branches, of course, fuel for next year.

Ooops! spoke too soon.   The conservatory roof has developed a leak, or three.    Buckets and mops at the ready!   Never let it be said that I don't know how to have a good time.

Yesterday evening was also 'interesting'.     The log burner suddenly started puffing out smoke and fumes, then all the fire and fume/gas alarms started beeping and talking, adding to the drama and sense of emergency.

A back-draught had been created by the strength and direction of the wind.   We were being well and truly kippered.

Windows and doors were flung open, never mind that there was a gale howling around.     Ultimately the log burner had to be emptied of logs and hot ash...  Fun, fun, fun!

A new cowling must be bought to fix the problem, even though the original one has always coped admirably before.  No, the chimney doesn't need sweeping, it was done less than a month ago.

Back to the biscuits, TED's meeting tomorrow, my day to do the refreshments, so I made a batch of Lincoln biscuits from a recipe I found in a 1980 Lincoln Cathedral Cookery Book.     The biscuits are mild ginger, shouldn't be too much for anyone to cope with. 

I have also baked some tiny cheesy scones, for those who don't have a sweet tooth.

They are packed with flavour and are far too delicious.   I will be glad to get them out of the house.   They are such a temptation.   

I can 'hear' one of my old Domestic Science teachers, Miss M, from the Isle of Lewis, telling me off for using a fluted cutter for a savoury scone.   Ah, well!  Guilty as charged.

Tuesday was the day for the monthly visit by the mobile library.   They were ten minutes late, but as it was a dry day I didn't mind the wait.

I had a pile of pre-ordered books waiting for collection and I pulled a couple more from the shelves.   

It seems that the service is changing for this rural route.   No longer will a van trundle along to wait in the village for one and all.

Instead, there will be a transit van (the same one they currently use, but with only the driver) which will trundle along to park up by our house gate.   It will bring any books which I may have ordered, plus I get to have a quick browse.   It will stay for ten minutes, no longer.  If I am not at home then the books can be left in a box in the barn.

I have mixed feelings about it.   Yes, it will save me from having to lug my books all the way along the road into the village (no footpath, so muddy in the winter, but especially dangerous in the summer when drivers have the sun in their eyes) but it feels like a real diminution of the service, even though it will make things easier for me.

This is a photograph of Toby, Sparky and Millie.   I took it a few days ago when they were all on 'high alert' because a lion or, possibly, a tiger had attacked Millie in Owl Wood - which you can see just beyond the summerhouse roof.    It was one of those days when we had bright blue skies, lots of sunshine, and a heavy frost.     

Stay safe.   Enjoy what is left of your weekend.


Thursday, 30 January 2020

Books and Biscuits

A cup of tea, a biscuit and a book.   


Well, normally that would mean happiness, but just lately I have been finding it difficult to find a book which I can really get into.

Time to pull out my old recipe books, especially the ones written by Florence White.     A fascinating woman.   I have been re-reading her autobiography, A Fire in the Kitchen (the red book) click the link if you would like to read a little of what I wrote about it.

I rarely read just one book at a time, so I have also been dipping into that most appropriately entitled book:  Spring Cleaning and How to Avoid it!  A quick glance told me that I stand no chance of ever being a good housewife/cleaner.   Apparently I should possess a wall broom which should be used every day, to sweep the corners of the rooms, tops of doors, windows and wardrobes, and that is just for starters.

"Only dirty, careless, and untidy housekeepers really need to do a spring-cleaning."

That's me told!

I'll stick with her autobiography and the collections of old English recipes.

My collection of Florence White books.

These old books were sent to me by a blogging friend!  So generous of her.   I already have a copy of the book top left, but the one she sent is old, worn, has notes written in it, bits and pieces of paper and newspaper articles, the boards are completely detached (hence the string) and it thrills me to bits.    It is an old recipe book which has been used again and again for almost a hundred years.    The other three books are fascinating, I am enjoying dipping in and out of them.

Thank you, Bovey Belle - Codlinsandcream2 blog, you can find her in my sidebar. 

I really am enjoying these books!

The biscuit tins were empty.   Time to get baking.   

Ginger biscuits, but not just any ginger biscuits!   

Over recent years I have experimented with several recipes for them, all based on an old Victorian recipe for Hunting Nuts.

This time I used:

8oz butter
8oz dark brown sugar
8oz black treacle

all gently melted together.   Then I added 4 oz chopped preserved ginger, 4 oz chopped candied ginger, 4 oz chopped dates, 2 oz powdered ginger, 3 teaspoons of Cayenne Pepper and several decent glugs of cheap brandy.

Stir them altogether, then work in as much plain flour as you can.   I didn't weigh how much I put in, but it was approximately one pound.   You will know when the consistency is right because it suddenly all comes together and the sides of the pan are left almost clean, the dog will be firm and very glossy.

I used my very small ice cream scoop to measure out the portions (approx 48 this time) roll the balls, flatten them with a fork, then bake them at 180C for approximately 22 minutes, the biscuits firm up as they cool, but adjust timing to suit your taste, and the size of your biscuits.

Dunk and enjoy.  Be warned, they are very gingery, very nicely textured with the dates, and two lots of ginger chunks.    The Cayenne Pepper gives a wonderful heat, especially with a cup of tea. 

Of course you don't have to add all the extra ginger chunks, you could add dried fruit, or chocolate chunks, chopped peel, whatever takes your fancy.   Perhaps you would prefer to flavour with cinnamon, or cloves.  The possibilities are endless.

Time for tea, biscuits and a good read before I have to stir my stumps and get some tea on for the grandchildren.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Rural Wuhan

A few years ago my younger son got married to his beautiful wife, Poppy.     Although she had lived and worked in Shanghai for many years, they had to travel back to rural Wuhan, the place where she was born, to get the official documentation stamped for their Chinese wedding.

This red bed is very much a country bed (rural Wuhan) and although I wouldn't want to sleep in it, I do think it has a real charm about it. 

This is 'Poppy', one of my beautiful daughter's-in-law.

Later that year they came back here not only to get their UK documentation sorted out but also because we were hosting a big party to celebrate their wedding.   It was a wonderful day, family and friends came from all over the country and some even travelled from Shanghai. 

Poppy wore her gorgeous red Chinese wedding dress and looked very beautiful, though I think she looks just as beautiful without the makeup and wearing one of my aprons.


A year or two later they returned to live over here, in a village four or five miles away from Parsonage Cottage.    They have settled down to a much quieter life than that in Shanghai.

Those seven years have flown past so quickly!

Why have I written this post?  Simply because Wuhan is in the news, China is in the news, everyone has something bad to say about it.

Well, I am delighted to say that my daughter in law is Chinese, she was born in Wuhan, and she has brought much happiness to my family.x

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Owl Wood. A Battleground.

The owl box is under siege.   

Tawny Owls should have possession, but they haven't been back for a few years now.   

So Jackdaws have been living there, big noisy birds.     The box was vacant and they liked the look of it, so in they moved.       Trouble is, they like going away on holiday several times a year.     They don't ask me to keep an eye on the place, or send me a postcard, they simply disappear and I suddenly notice that the woodland has become much less active and a whole lot quieter.

They were away for several weeks over Christmas and New Year.  The smaller birds have enjoyed feeding in peace and I suppose Mr Squirrel must have noticed that things have quietened down, too because when I was walking around the other day I saw him disappear into the box, then he nipped out and returned again and again.    Not sure if he is simply using it as a store room for food or whether he has decided to call the place home.

I had to smile to myself when I spotted two Jackdaws quietly perching on a high branch, just watching.  I know they are smart birds, I wonder what they are planning to do about the situation.

I wish them all well.   May the best man win and all that, but I would much rather have some owls living there.

Tawny Owl Box