Thursday, 27 August 2015


Amongst all the daily chores, getting the business up and going and keeping Monkeychild amused over the summer hols, I managed to find time to do something I haven't done for years: make some chutney.

As we're now experiencing our first year's glut of apples in the orchard, I reckoned that a batch of chutney would be ideal and would make some thoughtful Christmas presents, as it'll have matured by then.

As the orchard's got a mix of cooking and eating apples, I decided to use some cookers - and you can see the size of these bad boys from the photo above. We've also got a couple of damson trees, so I thought I'd add these to the mix too and also a couple of courgettes that had growth spurted into marrows.

For you home preservers out there, the recipe that I always use is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Glutney' as its a good one to tweak to add your own mods.

find the whole process of peeling and chopping everything into small pieces very relaxing, especially when its all tipped into the pan. Afterwards comes the best bit of the prep: mixing the fruit and veg together with my hands - I don't bother with a spoon!

Next, the pan is popped onto the stove to come to a boil then as the heat is dropped down, its left on a steady simmer for the next 3 hours; with a regular stir to make sure the bottom of the pan isn't starting to burn. 

The pan I use is a Victorian brass one that Mum used when I was little, to make jams and chutneys; so the whole process is one that's very familiar to me and reminds me of being a kid and hassling Mum in the kitchen!

To sterilise my jars I wash them on the highest setting in the dishwasher and just before bottling, I place them in a warmed oven for a few minutes and...

...voilĂ  - the August 2015 batch of damson chutney, cooled off and ready to be placed in the dark recesses of the pantry ready for autumn and winter.

My next plan is to make damson gin - 1.5 litre bottle of own-brand supermarket booze already brought and waiting...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Gnoming Around - A Garden Trip

Come into the garden, Maud,
     For the black bat, night, has flown,
Come into the garden, Maud,
     I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
     And the musk of the rose is blown.

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Well, its safe to say that a virtual trip around my garden won't be as lyrical as the above, but I thought I'd do a post about said plot as for a short time, everything is in full bloom and then as summer continues it all starts to go downhill and tatty. 

I love a garden that's a bit unruly and full of quirky features; manicured lawns, tidy beds and tasteful statues aren't my thing at all. For me anything goes, from the glazed pots that I used to decorate the tables on my wedding day... a rather hefty drainpipe hopper that I've planted with herbs...

...and an old Singer sewing machine trestle that fits in nicely with the O-So-Silkie needlework enamel sign on the back wall of our house...

For me a garden has to be colourful and that's not just restricted to the plants, so thank goodness that exterior paint for sheds and fences etc. now comes in a vibrant range of colours, not just the usual 'tasteful' muted greens and browns.

When it comes to borders I hanker after big beds crammed to the gunnels with cottage garden flowers such as hollyhocks, foxgloves, big bosomy peonies and old fashioned roses...

And I reckon that a garden isn't complete without a gnome or four or more to keep each other company and get up to garden tricks when I'm not about...

But the garden has been loosing out to the orchard as I've been spending time at the weekends strimming the grass down and trying to keep the bindweed, ground elder and nettles under control. Although, I have left large stands of nettles as they're good for wildlife and also give us a bit of privacy from neighbouring gardens.

It's the perfect place to sit with a pale ale on a warm evening and watch the bats dart about.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Procrastination & Charity Shop Karma

Procrastination: I know you so well

I recently decided to finally give myself a kick up the butt and actually get on and do some much neglected chores around the house, such as clearing out years worth of clothes - including Monkeychild's baby and toddler clothes (she's eight now) and giving my wardrobe a much needed de-cluttering. However, its so easy to become distracted and start doing something else, thinking "Oh, I'll do that clear out tomorrow", but when tomorrow turns out to be a lovely sunny day and the garden beckons, then all thoughts of tidying up go out of the window.

It's the same with my job. I recently decided to go it alone and become self-employed. So involved was I in building a new client base and reading up on technical stuff, that I kept putting off all the necessary (but boring) things like word-processing my own document templates and creating a filing system for the hard-drive instead of just randomly saving everything in one place. Yet the other week when I had to produce a report for a client, I instead spent ages trying to devise a decent looking report template; whilst if I had made one earlier I could have had my report finished in plenty of time for the client's deadline....and saved myself from a lot of last minute stress.

So now I have decided to turn over a new leaf and try not to lend an ear to Procrastination whispering in my ear "You could do that tomorrow, go on - forget about it and do some more knitting - you know you want to!" But saying that, Procrastination did have a silver lining last week, so I can't completely write her out of my life.

I did two runs to my favourite charity shop, dropping off seven bags that had been mounting up over the past couple of weeks that were full of mine and Monkeychild's old clothes and unwanted books. When walking back to the car after the final run I found a £20 note on the pavement. I like to put that down to 'Charity Shop Karma', with perhaps a little help from Miss Procrastination!

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