Sunday 31 January 2021

Chit Chat (Watermill, Quince, Books, Betrayal, Art and a Pudding)

Small fragments of my week.   

Lots more rain fell this week making the surrounding fields very muddy and under several inches of water in some places.    The water levels at the mill illustrate this quite well.     The mill race has flooded as has the stream to the right, they have joined to become one large pond.

The bountiful quince harvest of autumn allowed me to experiment in how best to use the fruit.   I made lots of quince marmalade, jelly, quince brandy, quince vinegar, cakes and stewed quince, then I froze the rest.     Just a spoonful of quince marmalade/jelly added to a bowl of Greek yogurt makes a delicious desert.    The brandy I gave away as Christmas gifts, along with small bottles of my quince vinegar.

Best of all was the quince vinegar.     I made several pints of that last autumn, as a trial.    I wish I had made it by the gallon.   It is perfect on winter salads.   I have used up all my supplies now, dash it all!    

I hope the quince trees produce lots of fruit again this year.   I will make some marmalade, etc, however, most of the fruit will go towards making plenty of quince vinegar.

Books have been an important source of  interest and entertainment, useful as my back has been going into spasms.   

Old cookery books, plus the autobiography of an old cook,  Florence White, author of 'Good Things in England' 'Flowers as Food' and 'Good English Food'.   She spent many years researching and gathering almost forgotten regional recipes.  Florence didn't marry but she did live on the Continent for several years, spent quite a while in India, worked as a Cook, Social Worker, Broadcaster and Journalist.   In her later years she relied upon what she could earn as a journalist augmented by a small allowance from her brother and sister.   

She mentions that her work was sometimes plagiarised, as in the case where she made a mistake in the quantities required for a regional speciality.  About a year later she found it published elsewhere, with exactly the same quantities and method (word for word) under a fellow cook's name.    Several times she mentions having been betrayed by women who took her idea (for Good Things in England) and were able to get sponsorship, present the idea in a slightly different format, and made quite a lot of money from it.

Meanwhile, Florence struggled on, working when she was well enough, paying for research, travelling and getting recipes from all over the country, as funds allowed.   It took her many years of careful work and she finally got her book published in May 1932, I believe.

Intrigued, I set out to try and identify who this cook may have been.   It took a while, but I think I found her.   That little task kept me well and truly occupied for many an hour.     There were several candidates and luckily I already possess copies of their books.  Florence was too discreet to name her, so I won't point the finger either.

One dark evening someone tapped at the patio door, it turned out to be my granddaughter, she had done a picture for me.  Crayons on canvas.   A family portrait.  I'll leave you to guess which one I am, the white hair and the huge boots may give it away.  Apparently, my hair is always spikey on one side, I hadn't noticed!!

The following night the same happened and I was presented with another picture.

Yesterday afternoon she gave me this one... Granny and Grandpa with Toby. 

I also have a folder of some stories which she wrote and then printed out for me.  Add to this the large number of letters she has written and I can truthfully say that she has not been idle during this last year with all the time away from school.   Handwriting, vocabulary, and composition have definitely improved, and she is enjoying her artwork.   All this on top of her school work.  

Enough of the doting Gran.

One more thing I have made with Quince - a Quince Pudding.

A sponge pudding, steamed on top of the log burner for one and a half hours.   Quince marmalade was stirred into mixture and a good spoonful or three were put into the bottom of the basin before the mixture was poured in.

A special and indulgent treat on a cold winter's day.

And now I need to go off and stretch out my back again.

Have a good week.


Wednesday 20 January 2021

Three Little Boys and a Vaccination


Three of my grandsons live in London, this was their Christmas gift to me - a wonderful portrait of the three of them with my husband and myself, not forgetting Toby the dog.   Each and every item shown was chosen with care - my husband does a lot of gardening and it is alleged that I do a lot of dog walking and have occasional mad bursts of sewing and creating.   How well they know me!  

The three boys have their favourite toys and activities scattered around them.   The boys are all recognisable, especially the dark haired one.   The picture is a delight, I will treasure it always, boys.

I hardly dare say it but the internet seems to be working well now.    

It only took two visits and a new hub sent through the post.   I confess that I got pretty stressed by the two home visits, especially as one of the men needed to use the facilities.  In normal times this wouldn't be a problem but these are still not normal times.   I did an awful lot of cleaning and beaching afterwards.

Not having the usual easy access to the internet meant that I had to amuse myself in different ways.  Books, books, books, being my first choice, so all was not lost.    When I tired of books I got to work on a silk patchwork cover which has been three or four years in the making so far.  In between times, weather permitting, I walked Toby through sodden fields.    

I hope you are all keeping well and happy during these unusual times.

My husband had his vaccination yesterday.   A sore arm is all he has to report today.

Sunday 10 January 2021

Wassailing the Old Apple Tree

I filled an old jug with cider,  grabbed a couple pieces of toast and an old wooden spoon.  Twelfth Night.  Time to wassail the oldest apple tree.  

One of these days I feel sure that someone is going to see me and wonder why I am wearing a flower bestrewn old straw hat as I walk around an apple tree, pouring cider from the jug, beating the tree with a wooden spoon.   They may catch sight of the toast lodged up in the branches and wonder even more as they hear me recite:

Here's to thee, old apple tree
Whence thou mayst bud and thou mayst blow
Hats full, caps full,
Bushel, bushel bags full,
And a little heap under the stairs.
Hurrah! Hurrah

It was great fun.

The excitement for Thursday was the delivery of the vegetable box.   Keith and Dawn, landlords of the village pub, offered this service way back when Lockdown I began and when it was difficult to get a supermarket delivery slot, they were also able to obtain bags of flour - at that time it was almost impossible to obtain flour any other way.    I make most of our bread, so I was very grateful.

Friday dawned, daughter and son-in-law were both in school.   I kept an eye on the grandchildren.

The internet connection continues to give problems.   Sometimes everything is as it should be, then it disappears.  Worse things happen at sea.  

Wednesday 6 January 2021

Lockdown Life in Lincolnshire

I am not quite sure how this is going to work out but, I am going to attempt to keep an occasional diary of my life during 'Lockdown III'.    Lockdown life is not too terribly different from my old quiet life, but it is different.   I am different.    Are these changes reversible?  Time will tell.

Here goes.

I walked Toby down the old railway line and out to the back of the village, skirting around the old gravel pit fishing lake then along the farm track to the next village.  Home through the fields.   It was cold but dry.  Underfoot was squelchy and slippery.   I had to 'jump' in several puddles to clean about half a pound of mud off each boot.   The day I don't enjoy washing my wellies in this way will probably be the day I hang them up for good.

Toby was so muddy that it was a two-towel job to get him clean and dry.   His reward was a handful of dog biscuits, my own,  a large mug of tea and a bowl of creamy porridge, perfect for a chilly morning.

The supermarket delivery was booked for 10am and he arrived exactly on time.   The virus has changed things, made this simple process so much more complicated. Masks, social distancing, disinfectant.  Nothing too arduous, just time consuming and tedious.

Having trouble with the internet connection again.  This kind of thing often happens here.   BT are sending someone out but s/he won't be here for almost two weeks... Great service.

My next small task is to write a postcard to my granddaughter.  Since Lockdown 1 we have been exchanging notes, letters and postcards.   The pace is entirely set by her needs.   These little notes of hers have filled me with delight.   Messages from her heart.   All the shades of emotion, light through to dark have been covered.   I often think they have run their course but then she lets me know that she is missing our exchanges.

The ones I have received have been tied with ribbon and are placed in boxes, along with old letter from my mother, father, aunt, great grandmother, to be kept safe until the day comes when she will come across them and remember the fun we had.