A blue and gold autumn day, balanced between the warmth still in the sun and the wind's slight chill. This morning I took my basket out to pick quince. I am stretching up into the branches of the little tree when Ian shouts for me. Amazement and excitement - the hens have laid! I was entirely resigned to having no eggs until the Spring but Ian looked in the nestbox this morning (instincts of a countryman he claims) and there were two perfect, but tiny eggs. Here they are in the dish with our walnut crop. We had bacon and tiny egg for lunch and they were orange yolked and delicious. I suppose the trouble with bantams is that they will produce small eggs, the upside of not tearing your garden to pieces. The bantam hens had been looking much more henlike for the last couple of weeks, their combs properly grown, their tails high and full. I would love their presence without the eggs, but with eggs as well, what's not to love?
When our friends came recently S and I decided that the beautiful little tree which sits on top of the bank overlooking the valley was a medlar. On the day of the Shropshire/Wales lunch mountainear had a look and was not so sure. She thought it was quince and after much trotting around on the internet so did I. SBS said I would know it was quince if I made jelly with it as the colour and flavour is so distinctive. The fruit is not large but knobbly and golden, like a misshapen apple.
All afternoon the jelly bag dripped gently into the pan while I pottered in and out, gathering all the red onions, planting the japanese anemone mountainear had brought, podding the borlotti beans. Late in the afternoon the juice went back into the pan with the sugar and then boiled away for what seemed like hours. The children from the farm came down to see the chickens and I wandered in and out of the kitchen, dropped teaspoons on a cold plate, left it in the fridge for a minute and pushed gently at it with my finger to see if it would wrinkle.
Now there are six jars of quince jelly glowing like jewels in the kitchen and it is time to get changed to go out for an invitation to eat booked weeks ago when the thought of England making it to the Rugby World Cup final would have made you choke into your glass of wine. Will we watch it? who knows. We are playing it cool.