Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An antidote to Chelsea

It’s Chelsea Flower Show week and one small corner of London is one big explosion of colour. Talk to any exhibitor at the show however and they will tell you that underlying the brouhaha over medals and perfectly timed blooms there lurks the exhaustion of months of poly-tunnels, artificial heat, micro managed watering and grey hairs.    

While I am undoubtedly enjoying all the media coverage of Chelsea, best in show for me at the moment is our native woodland draped with the most sublime mantle of blue.

A year ago I spotted a handwritten sign advertising a bluebell walk through some local private woods. 
And not merely a walk, as it turned out. We met at a farm, climbed onto a tractor and trailer along with an interesting collection of craggy faced enthusiasts and were bumped, to my childlike delight, a couple of miles down-lane and up-field.

Then we were guided on foot into a magical world. Not only of bluebells, swathes of wild garlic were an unexpected bonus.

We had stepped, legitimately, into the territory of the local gamekeeper. He was hovering protectively beside his pheasant enclosure. Hazel stick in hand and with the air of a disgruntled hedgehog he was keeping a watchful eye.

Now I can’t imagine anyone wanting to disturb his birds’ eggs, can you?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Baby-sitting an egg

My husband was busy doing ‘man’ things in the garden at the weekend. Power tools, billhooks, rotting fence posts, brute force and bonfires. Those sorts of things.

In his orbit, nervously eyeing his flamboyant recreation, was a hen pheasant. 
She was sitting on a clutch of eggs, in a not very camouflaged nest. 

Eventually her tolerance waned. Amidst great whirring and flapping, reminiscent of an early incarnation of the Wright brothers’ flying machine, she lurched skyward and so revealed 17 beautiful eggs... much smaller than a chicken’s, with a seductive natural sheen, and in enough neutral shades to compete with any Farrow and Ball paint chart, 

cardamom, beech bark, pebble, rain cloud, sapling, tail-feather taupe... now doesn’t that make you want to redecorate?

The sharp eyed among you will have noticed that there is one egg missing from the bottom photo. Yes, I did steal an egg (we're overrun with pheasants) and it’s sitting on my desk where I can admire it close up. And if mum abandons the nest I’ll be the first to borrow the whole lot! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Long time, no see….

Bank holiday weekend... time for catching up with old friends.

 Just happened to bump into these saucy guys in the Co-Op.

Last time I saw them they were on on my drawing board!

mmnnn.… as good as homemade!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

waste not… want not

Don't forget, when you've eaten the last pork pie, the final mushroom and three sad grapes, those little plastic trays could be very useful in the greenhouse at this time of year.

Ugly… but useful.

Friday, April 17, 2015

When life gives you violets...

April is the leanest time of year in my veg garden. It’s full of promise by way of seedlings in the greenhouse but I can’t find much to pick for dinner! 
There’s sprouting broccoli-a-plenty and some faithful chard but I dug up the last of the leeks this week and the salad leaves have to be carefully rationed. 
Of course rhubarb has flounced its way centre stage with characteristic effusion but there's a limit to how much rhubarb one can reasonably consume. 

Quietly prolific however is my favourite spring flower, the violet. Best appreciated from a hands and knees position, the garden is twinkling with hundreds of these dainty flowers, from deepest velvety purple to pure white. 

So, when life gives you violets.... take a fist full into the kitchen have fun with crystallised flowers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hitting the right note

“Play it like something you hear down by the river” Edward Elgar

Beautiful spring day. It’s warm already.  
I pulled a bucket full of weeds before breakfast as the rising sun leached through the willow and across the pond. 
Now I’m in the studio and have just tuned into Radio 3 which is playing a spirited recording of Elgar’s La Capricieuse for violin and piano. 
A perfect way to start the day. 
Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring has sprung

Wheeling barrow loads of compost the length and breadth of the garden could quickly become tedious and back breaking but with the right attitude and consistently deep knee bends, the monotony is soon eclipsed by the reviving breath of spring...

Past the pond fringed with downy willow buds, duck under the bean tree avoiding trampling the primroses, good time to transplant snowdrops, hug the perimeter of the chicken pen... pause for a quick chat and egg count. The fluffy bantam has surprised us all by coming in to lay again. At eight years old I really didn’t think she had much life left in her. Cross the flagstones, carefully, patches are slippery, hmm, the tulips have been nibbled by deer or rabbits but the irises are looking good, mental note to move the chrysanthemums and to sow stubby rather than elegantly pointed parsnips which never emerge intact from our clay soil 

And so the narrative grows with each gladly shovelled load.