Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Pre-Christmas Catch-up 2


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We might have been heading into December but this rose decided to bloom; a lovely find to cheer the dank dark days waiting for shortest day.

Now stuff I couldn’t post at the time:  In general I find I’m getting more and more disenchanted with the commercialisation of Christmas – I’m sure age is a factor and the fact that my children have all grown up.  However it is a lovely time to thank those who have helped you over the year.

I stared off with straining the liqueurs I’ve been preparing over the year; sour cherry vodka, sloe gin, and walnut wine.  The walnut wine definitely needs much longer to mature and the lack of sloes this year means the sloe gin is for me but this year’s cherry vodka is lovely.

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I also had a go at some sweet treats, these are marrons glace and an attempt at candied satsumas inspired by all the fuss over the Heston Blumenthal Christmas pudding this year.

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I say attempt, in fact they were delicious but even though the sugar solution was strong enough to form jelly, unfortunately the oranges went mouldy.  Not sure why but I will be making them again next year, upping the sugar content and storing them in the fridge.  I also made stuffed dates and vanilla fudge too.

It’s funny how often kitchen disasters can suddenly turn into something good.  Somewhere a couple of years back I had a go at making some cider.  At the time I thought I’d failed and in disgust put the containers to one side to “deal with later”.  As you may have guessed, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind, I totally forgot about them, the airlocks dried out and they were left in the corner of the room.  In a fit of tidying I decided to clean them out ready for another attempt this summer.  As I poured the remaining liquid out,  this came out.

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A Mother of Vinegar

I tried unsuccessfully to grow one of these a few years ago.  Above is only part of the mother, I’ve used a portion to convert over to making red wine vinegar and another portion I’ve stored in the freezer until I make some more cider.  But it shows that I was actually successful in my cider making since vinegar can only be made from alcohol.  Cider making is back on the to-do list for this year.

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This time of year I get through a lot of satsumas and therefore generate a lot of peel.  I usually dry the peel on the back of the cooker, grind it and use it as an anti-ant powder but when I was candying the whole satsumas I added some of the peel too. The resulting candied peel is pretty good so I’m freeing all the peel at the moment and will make another batch of candied peel when I have enough peel.  Waste not, want not as my mother would say.

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Getting back to the thank you’s, the cider vinegar and the cherry vodka looked lovely in the small bottles and I also included for the ladies a lavender wand that I’d made at the end of summer.  Along with the vodka cherries left over from making the cherry vodka and some of the preserves I’ve made over the year I was able to make up some nice thank-you baskets.

Pre-Christmas Catch-up 1



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As November progressed, the next 2 cu m of wood was bought and needed cutting and splitting.  Since the weather here is generally OK until February I stacked the wood in the barn so I could cut in the dry – my assumption proved wrong as I’ll blog later.

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Once cut to length, many of the pieces need splitting; I’ve tried axes and wedges and it takes me far longer than cutting and exhausts me before I’ve barely done enough wood to last a day.  However this year I was lent this tool by G, a neighbour. 

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When he’d gone looking for a manual log splitter he’d been told this was ideal for ‘older people’!  I have to say it’s really easy and effective to use and have now purchased my own.  I’m also hoping it will trim my bingo wings too.

When in the dim and distant past I had the solar tubes installed I saved the polystyrene end pieces they were packed in.  Trimmed of the excess at the bottom which also allowed a drainage hole to be created they are now in use in the pollytunnel as plant modules.  Again, due to the unusually damp weather I couldn’t plant the garlic in the potager but it’s sprouting nicely in the modules in the pollytunnel and will now get planted out in March.  I may have to consider planting the onion sets in modules too but they usually do OK if I get them into the ground in March/April.

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January Already!

Just opened up my blog writer and saw that I’d started a blog entry entitled Christmas Approaches; this is as far as I got!

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December is here already and I’m wondering just where November went.


It’s now well into January and the feeling hasn’t changed, time is flying so a quick catch up is required.

November is when I scheduled the garden tidying.  Usually the month is relatively dry and warm, but not this year.  It rained; not disastrously as we’re seeing in Australia but always just enough to keep the ground waterlogged.  The pottager has just been abandoned as the soil is far to claggy to walk on but one job I could get on with was the annual pruning of the mulberry trees, (ornamental variety not fruiting variety).

I try to get these done before leaf fall as it’s usually heavy rain or a frost that causes them to all fall at once and large wet soggy leaves are more difficult to move.

First up is the ‘before’ picture; all the current year’s growth has to be pruned back.  This is because once the trees have been pollarded this way, the joints between the new growth and the original tree are weak and if allowed too grow further branches there is a danger of them breaking off.  Since my car is quite often in the vicinity of these trees, a branch through the windscreen is not something I want.

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Each trailer load of branches was then shredded and the shreddings used to make a pathway between two raised beds I’ve put in.  I know it will rot down but as I still had one side of the bed to screw in place I needed to put something onto the soggy soil so I could put the rest of the bed in place.

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As you can see it was a lovely day out there and the butterflies were taking advantage of the sunshine too.

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Voila!  The finished trees.

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Spurred on by my success with the trees I set about collecting the other leaves falling over the front lawn.  At this time the grass was still dry enough to go over it with the lawnmower and pick up the leaves that way. 

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The mini tractor and trailer came into their own again – I’d never of got everything done with the tree pruning and the leaf collecting without it, the traipsing back and forth with the wheelbarrow would have tired me out way before I’d finished.  Before I started on the leaves I had to make a leaf cage and although I’d not thought about it before, I somehow managed to make it just wide enough to back the small trailer into, which made unloading so much easier.

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This year’s leaf collection.  I’m looking forward to lots of lovely leaf mould  in a couple of years.

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That brings me up to the 23rd of November but I think it’s long enough for one post so…To be continued…. (I hope Smile)