Six on Saturday- A Walk Around My Garden and Back Fields- 9th Nov 2019

It’s a cold, misty start to today’s walk around my garden and back fields. Peering through the gap in the hedge, the old oak tree looks golden. We see a fox crossing the field, so brazen in the morning light. Fox and field blend into one. All autumnal tones merge today. The fox heads for the ditch, sending a pheasant flying into the next field. In the hedge where I’m standing, blackbirds and robin start up their alarm call. I think it must be the fox causing the upset. But then a buzzard glides low overhead- silent at first, then making a plaintive mewing cry. I shiver. Magnificent. Deadly. Owning the sky.

We walk along the ridgeway path. It’s been a slow start to autumn here. Field maples usually yellow-up by mid to end of October. Suddenly today, as temperatures dip below zero, the hedgerow takes on a golden hue. It reminds me of a patchwork quilt. ‘Squares’ of black dogwood stitched together with patches of golden maple. Such a pretty view. I gaze at it, and hold it in my memory. A few autumn gales and the magic will be gone. A whole year before we see such sights again.

Blackberries. The bane of my life this year. They have taken over my garden and this winter there will be serious chopping back. Meanwhile, leaves glow a glorious red. Quite pretty, if they were not so determined to take over the world.

It’s been wet here. So far this month there’s been 42mm of rain. In October we had 146mm, and in September, 118mm. The ground is waterlogged, ditches overflowing. We follow a path where horses have trod. The ground is so soft there’s deep hoof prints, full of water. It’s calming following footprints, the sky reflected in the little pools of water.

A dip in the hedge reveals our trees on the left. I can hardly believe we planted them, all those years ago, when I was in my 20s. They’ve been a source of joy ever since. On the right in the distance stands Polly’s Wood. I have a dream to join the two woods together- a corridor for wildlife. One day, perhaps. We shall see. Dreams do sometimes come true.

Back through the garden gate, on our boundary, there’s a green corridor running down past the pond to the summerhouse beyond. Autumn and spring are my favourite times for this part of the garden. In spring, the lime green new shoots are bright and cheerful. At this time of the year, field maples and cherry trees create a golden tunnel.

If you look carefully, you can just see our 1930s summerhouse, hidden amongst the trees.

Thank you for all your kind words last week, following our cousin’s funeral. It’s seems I am not alone in turning to nature as a balm when there are sorrows. Perhaps we all find solace and hope in nature all around us. And gardening is something we all turn to in moments of need. This week after walking for miles, and gardening all hours, I feel restored and ready to face whatever life brings. No doubt there will be many more ups and downs to deal with. Nothing stands still in life, or in gardening, for that matter. Does it.

Links : More about buzzards and listen to their call :https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/buzzard/

Field Maples : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/field-maple/

Apple and Almond Slice- Family Favourite Recipes

At this time of year, my kitchen work surfaces are covered with piles of apples. Little pyramids of golden cooking apples, tiny rosy red eating apples, giant Bramleys. My family complain. There’s nowhere for anyone to put anything down. I usually store them wrapped in newspaper in the potting shed, but I’m still trying to evict the mice, making many trips back and forth to the woods with my tunnel-like humane traps baited with peanut butter. I can’t kill them. They will take their chances in the leaf litter under the trees. I’m trying to ignore the tawny owl fledglings in the branches above, still being fed by harassed parents. I feel slightly guilty. But watching the mice run when I let them out, I think they stand a fair chance of surviving.

Meanwhile, I’m steadily working my way through the apples. My mother always says, if you’ve got an apple, you’ve got a pudding. It can be an apple pie, a crumble, a cake, or if you are pressed for time, just apple purée with lashings of creamy custard, or Devon clotted cream. A special treat.

Today’s recipe is another family favourite, an apple tray bake which is quick and easy to make and tastes of autumn. As usually, I’m recording it here for my children, in case they can’t find the scraps of paper these recipes are written on. It’s so lovely to see my grandmother’s best copper plate hand writing, as she lovingly wrote these recipes for me. Food, and cooking, bring back such special memories, don’t they.

 

APPLE AND ALMOND SLICE:

INGREDIENTS – FOR THE TOPPING

 

30g butter or vegan margarine

30g SR flour

25g golden caster sugar

2 tbsp. Jumbo oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

25g flaked almonds

METHOD

Mix the butter, flour and sugar together. Fold in the cinnamon, oats and flaked almonds to make a crumble topping. Place in the fridge while you make the base.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BASE

150g SR flour

200g golden caster sugar

200g butter or margarine

3 eggs ( or use 6 tbsp. soya oat drink if vegan)

100g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 large apples slices and tossed in lemon juice

100g any other fruit you have; blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums,

METHOD

Mix the flour, baking power , sugar and butter together. Whisk. Fold in the ground almonds and cinnamon. Add the beaten eggs.

Put half the mixture in the base of the tin. Put apples on top. Add the rest of the base moisture. Press the blackberries or other fruit on the top.

Cover with the crumble topping mixture.

Cook for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer come out clean.

Gas mark 4, 180C oven, or 160C fan oven.

You’ll need a 20cm tray bake tin, at least 4cm deep, lined with baking parchment.

Put baking paper on top if it is browning too quickly. Leave to cool and slice into fingers.

Can be frozen for 3 months.

Enjoy!

 

You might also like : Review of Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade here :

https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

 

Also The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

I’ll leave you with a photo of my 1930s summerhouse, looking autumnal today. There’s heaps of blankets to keep us warm when the temperatures start to dip. It’s quite cosy in here though.

Six on Saturday – A Walk Around My garden and Back Fields 2nd November 2019

It’s a rather somber walk around my garden and back fields today. We are mourning the loss of a cousin, taken too soon. It’s shaken us all. Someone our age, who should have lived another 30 years at least. These things are not within our power to change. A feeling of sorrow overwhelms me as I walk under leaden skies, the weather and landscape echoing my sadness.

This is a favourite view from the top of the back fields immediately behind my garden. It’s a view I stand and gaze at every day. You can see for miles. The fields that looked so golden all summer, so productive with wheat and barley, lay fallow today, waiting for the next phase. Waiting, like me, to see ‘what next.’ I’m thinking about my life today, and my cousin’s. I feel as if today is some kind of turning point.

Walking usually clears my thoughts. I make a lot of plans while putting one foot in front of the other. Just along from my garden there’s a ridgeway path. I’m usually in a hurry, marching, heart beating fast. Much better than sweating away in a gym. Today, I’m on a go-slow. Thoughts lost in the mist in the distance.

It’s been so wet here of late. Fields flooded, pond overflowing. We’ve had double the normal amounts of rain. Five months worth in five weeks. My spring bulbs, ordered in excitement and anticipation in July, lay still in their boxes in the potting shed. Waiting. If the ground doesn’t dry up soon, I shall have to throw them all into plant pots.

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope. Nature always supplies something to hearten, even something small and relatively insignificant. I find rosehips in abundance. Glowing red and spangled with raindrops. Food for the birds. I care about the birds and their survival, and am glad to see the rosehips and hedges full of hawthorn berries.

There’s crab apples too. Food for birds and mammals. A tiny mouse scampers and hides under a tussock of grass. We move away to allow it to feast in peace. It’ll need to build up reserves to get through the winter. Just behind the hedge, we see a family of roe deer, three adults and two fawn, this year’s young. They are like shadows, so quiet and calm. They melt away into a tangle of trees, unconcerned by our intrusion. A highlight of summer, we came upon one of the babies, left in the long grass by Polly’s Wood. Such a beautiful, heart-sing sight. Taught to stay still as a statue, it didn’t flinch, and we moved quietly away, knowing the mother was watching nearby.

I find a birds nest in the hedge. A mossy thing of beauty. How do they manage to create such intricate structures, merely using beak and claw. There are many wonders.

The hedgerow provides another message of hope. Hazel catkins or lambs tails. A reminder that spring will surely come. As it always has. The seasons carry on regardless.

Maple leaves are turning golden. Providing ‘sunshine’ – whatever the weather.

Back through the garden gate, dogwood Midwinter Fire is glowing in its autumn glory. Soon the orange stems will be revealed, a glorious sight through until spring.

Here’s a view of the potting shed from across the pond. I find myself standing gazing out of the potting shed window, thinking, planning, mulling things over. Then I set to and fill my grandfather’s old Sankey terracotta plant pots with compost. Thinking of him, and all my much-loved and sadly missed relatives, I plant my bulbs for spring. Spring will return and life goes on. We have to look forward, while not forgetting the past. And gardening thoughts and tasks will help to ease the pain. As it always has.