Getting ready for winter

There is something about autumn that brings out the squirrel in me. I am pleased just now every time I go into the woodstore which is in one of our old pigsties to see the logs neatly stacked against the stone wall and the kindling ready split in baskets. Inside I love to see the shelves in filling up with jellies and chutneys to add to the summer's jams. I have been making apple jelly this weekend, one lot flavoured with mint and another with sage. Yesterday's mint was a little cloudy but today's sage is jewel bright and clear. I am on a roll now and could easily carry on every day for a week with more mint jelly, and rosemary jelly too and I wonder what a jelly would be like made with the pineapple sage that smells astonishingly of ripe pineapple when you crush a leaf in your fingers. Work rather gets in the way.

I have also been planting more bulbs. I have just about finished the daffodils today with pots of mixed February Gold and Iris Reticulata Harmony for outside and seven pots, three daffodil and four iris, for the bench in the wooden greenhouse where I hope they will flower early in that chilly gap between Christmas and true spring. It is a time when I am always aware of an almost painful waiting for things to start to grow and I hope the pots will be a flame of blue and yellow to lift my spirits on a cold sunny day when the greenhouse is warm enough to sit in with a cup of tea.

This dahlia, Moonflower, is the only one that has really flourished this year but it is so good that next spring I will do cuttings and see if I can have four or five and some of the deepest burgundy red ones too. I came late to liking dahlias and still feel I am finding my way in learning how to care for them. I went to a garden at Erddig with my parents for an Apple Day a couple of weeks ago and there was a bed of dahlias which made my heart sing, so, must have more.
I have had a weekend where my head has been full of the garden and I have been filling my notebook with this kind of reminder all evening long. Ian has been struggling with a really painful tooth and a potent mix of antibiotics and painkillers to treat it which has made him feel quite rough. I want to bounce around talking about what to do in the side garden when the builders have gone. It is not a big area but it is the nearest bit of garden to the house and scruffy and undeveloped. I want it to be full of flowers and to move the herbs from the kitchen garden so that they are nearer the door. My head is full of what will grow in sun and shade and paths and planting plans but this is perhaps not the time.

Do you remember some pretty hideous compilation CDs in the early nineties called "Now that's what I call Music!"? As I was out this morning with my camera, the hens came belting down from the wooded area behind the house. They were aiming in a giddy rush for a hidden corner where, if you peer through the undergrowth, you can often see them perching in the tree. As they whizzed by I thought "Now that's what I call free range!" The photo catches the sense of their hidden place but doesn't really convey the happy speed with which they were travelling.
I have some work to do in the morning and then the drive to Manchester. I am here by myself tonight. It is very quiet. If I move away from the low hum of the computer there is the flare and crackle of the fire and behind that silence. Occasionally the cat shifts on the rug, almost but not quite soundlessly. It is very dark outside, a starless, cloudy night. Inside it is warm and light and quiet. I love this house when Ian and I are here together or when it is full of people and the children and their friends and partners are sitting round the table or chatting by the fire. But sometimes it is a real pleasure to have it to myself.


  1. The peaceful ambience of your house is almost tangible. I can picture you warm within those solid old walls.

    Alan has made Crab Apple Jelly today and Quince yesterday. I'm making labels....

  2. That was a lovely read and through it, I agree with Mountainear, the ambience of your house and garden is so strong.
    That dahlia is beautiful too.

  3. I love your house as well Elizabeth and the pigsties!

  4. Summer has definitely left. Autumn is thickening, and what you've written so clearly tells how these changes glide into place.

    So much of what you write is timeless, describing what has gone on in you part of the countryside for generations (and not just generations of chickens) and then ... think of what the web allows us to trade back and forth across many miles, time zones, geographies, daily lives. Is it not wonderful!


  5. "brings out the squirrel" in you. what a perfect opening line. i know that feeling, that contentment that all is stocked and supplied, and let the wind blow... as it is doing here today, quite fiercely.

  6. What a lovely post - a glimpse into your world

  7. Sounds like you're nearly ready for the winter to set in; it's finally feeling a bit like autumn here today with an almost freezing overnight low and a high today that will make you glad of your jacket.

    I wish I had you here for the day to help me decide where to put my spring bulbs. On this big and fairly empty lot I can't decide where I'd like them most.

  8. I must admit, after I've taken the little one to school, I love to come back for a few hours to an empty, silent house. It's not like this very often so I don't even put music on.

  9. I love this blog. I am like you in that everything has to be done for winter - as though we were expecting a seige. It is more than twenty years since we had serious snow but I do like to see all the shelves full of jams and chutneys, the wood store full of logs, the garden tidied up - then come the next snowfall I shall be sitting eating home made produce and warming my feet by the log fire!

  10. I'm glad to read about someone else who has chickens who perch up a tree, I was beginning to think that mine were rather odd!
    The apple jelly sound wonderful, I love the smell of sage, and rosemary :0)


  11. I love being on my own too, sometimes. Your post made me feel full of cosy autumn warmth. Lovely, Blogthatmamax

  12. A lovely pottering yet busy sort of blog - I'm going to make chutney today so I know what you mean.

  13. Lovely evocative post Elizabeth. Your blog is always a joy to read and an inspiration too.

  14. Thats a nice Dahlia you have there, I want to indroduce a few more colours to the ones I have at work. All I really did to mine this year was give them a good dressing of bonemeal in the spring and kept on dead heading them. Because the summer was so wet I didn't water them this time at all and they have done really well. Now the frost has had them I will lift a few of each variety and store them in damp peat, the rest I will leave in the ground to take their chance. Bob.

  15. You sound very contented in this post - and very busy, making all those jellies. Hope Ian's tooth is less painful... I sympathise!

  16. I'm glad to be snug and warm inside our old farmhouse tonight, with the woodburner lit and cats in their winter quarters already.

    I treated myself to more spring bulbs last week and didn't get a chance to plant them before a weekend away, and now the weather is anything BUT fit for gardening in!

  17. Umm - the smell of warm cooked sweetness inside and the autumn scent of damp mossy decay outside. Wonderfully evocative.
    I love the hen photo too - we had a hen called 'chicken' who suffered a great trauma one night, the mass murder of her companions, she squawked herself up a willow tree overhanging the pond and we never saw her on the ground again; she lived up there and developed swimming skills - egg laying? Not sure!

  18. Elizabeth, thank you for your picture of autumn. As always you make me feel so homesick!

    I think you 'grow into' dahlias - don't you?

  19. Lovely, isn't it to have the feeling of peace and the house to yourself. You are so industrious! How do you manage to run such a wonderful home and garden (and hens) and still have time to fit in work? You must tell us lesser mortals your secrets.

  20. Loved this - summed up everything autumnal for me.x

  21. I have many plans to make jellies. I have the jelly bag but have not yet put it to use! You have inspired me to get on with it! They sound glorious.

    Funny, I planted the very same dahlia a month or two back in the border nearest to the kitchen whichh is my experimental border. I like to fill it with colour and herbs - just like your plans for the side garden when the builders have gone. I loved those yellow dahlias when I saw them for sale at the Hayfield Show in September and bought several. I was furious that, before I even got them in the ground, a couple of rogue sheep who have been plagueing my garden for months went and munched their beautiful flower heads in half. In fact they are eating everything in site - and I finally understood where my broccoli had disappeared to when I returned from the Summer hols!

  22. Elizabeth - I'm reading my way through your blog, starting at the beginning, dipping back into your journey out of darkness, all the way to October 2008 so far. I can't tell you what a delight it is to me to read about a relationship with life and gardening that is so similar to mine (or maybe I can? I can barely stop reading!) When you pair it with photos of your apple trees in bloom and sweet peas flopping up the netting, I'm almost jealous, but mostly delighted for you that you have created a life so satisfying in such a heart-achingly beautiful place.
    I've been going nightly on what my husband calls "The Walk of Death", with his headlamp on and a spoon and dish, scooping up slugs and snails from my peas and green beans, and tossing them over the wall into the overgrown yard of the unoccupied house next door. It hasn't worked - as you said, I'd have to be on 24-hour watch. They are decimated. My heart tightens as I toss the little critters, and feeling malice saddens me. But I do wish they'd just piss off!
    The poppies, however - that I sowed in a bed on the verge that I had covered with cardboard last Autumn (that I did turn over myself - 2 days of "hard yakka", as they'd say in Australia, where I grew up) - the poppies are thriving, although not yet in bloom.
    And lastly, thank you for your honesty in writing about the difficulty of motherhood. My son is almost seven and the adjustment to being his mother before all else was the hardest transition I've made in my life. I appreciate your openness about a subject that makes so many women feel they must maintain a fiction. I can't wait to get up to date with your blog and read subsequent posts. I hope you are well and that you continue to let us peep into your life on the hillside.


Post a comment

Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!

Popular posts from this blog

Making lined curtains

Running and Spanish and oodles of family time

Resurrecting the garden blog