Showing posts from January, 2010

Making apple jelly

Apple jellies sound complicated but they aren't.  They are a bit time consuming but it is that sort of time where you just have to be around for a bit, not necessarily paying it very much attention.  So if you can just give it a little time, during most of which you don’t need to pay your jelly any attention at all, here is how to make an apple jelly. The only thing you need which you may have to buy is muslin, either in a ready made bag (Lakeland do one) or as a length of material to make your own. You will also need four or five empty jam jars with screw lids.  I use a preserving pan but a large pan of any kind will do fine. Jellies are easy, no peeling or lengthy preparation, and they produce jewel coloured jars which shine on your shelves and which can be used to accompany meats (apple and mint jelly with lamb, apple and sage with pork), to add depth of flavour to stews (quince jelly in beef casseroles or in gravy) or to have on bread or toast like jam. Start with a co

A quick explanation

Reading a blog from VP (great gardening based blog) I found that blogger has provided the opportunity for you to add more pages.  This seemed a great idea to me as it allows you to provide an about page to say a little about yourself for people who are new to the blog and also to set up additional tabs to create other pages for your interests and passions. So I have had a go at creating an about page and a page specifically for The Blackden Trust, a place I would like to share with others. What do you think?  Does it just seem like wallpaper or white noise?  Are you interested to read extra stuff?


My friend (I hope I can use this word about a relationship in its early tentative real stages but further along perhaps in virtual life) Friko has inspired me with her miscellany blog so I hope she won't mind my pinching the idea. What has touched me, meant something to me, this week, large and small? Last Tuesday I went to a service of thanksgiving for the life of a blogging friend who died far too young.  She was one who had made the leap from virtual to real friend.  A group of us living on the borders between England and Wales (she on the English side, I on the Welsh) met  a couple of years ago and found a mass of things in common.  She had struggled for years with serious ill health but was the liveliest, sparkiest, least self pitying person you could find, looking outward when she could have been forgiven for looking in, fascinated by the world and by people, the kind of person who is quietly, consistently kind.  We gathered in a tiny church in Herefordshire to say farew

Hens and hellebores

The snow has gone and the hens are out and about again.  Here is one of the cockerels at the base of the side garden wall.  Somewhere along the foot of the wall snowdrops are just beginning to show.  I shall not be impressed if they are scratched up but mostly at this time of year the hens are good garden companions and will probably not bother with any good sized clump.  It will be another couple of months before we start the frantic seed sowing which means that every bed needs to be protected until the plants get to a decent size. Here is the little white Wyandotte, still my favourite hen even though she is not as good a layer as the others.  She is so small and fluffy and looks like a chicken from a children's book.  Because she is a bit smaller than the others she has to run to keep up with them and is often to be found flurrying down the garden , a few yards adrift of the flock, trying hard not be left behind. But I do also love the brown hens which look just as hens shoul

The eternal balancing act

I have always been inclined to bite off more than I can chew.  Having too much to do if you get it right is energising and exciting and gives your life zip and zoom.  Having too much to do if you get it wrong is overwhelming and exhausting and makes you want to hide in the lavatories and have a quiet weep.  Mostly I used to get it right.  Then for a few years I tried to do way too much and had a constant battle to keep any kind of balance between my work and my family life and found that niceties like a social life and time for myself disappeared out the window.  Now having given up my job I supposedly have all the time in the world. This is never the case of course.  You just do lots more of the things that you choose to do, and if you are a person with a tendency to load a lot on your plate, you carry on doing that, just different and perhaps more self indulgent things.  Now, however, I think I should admit that maybe I ought to be getting to the end of my glorious time off phase a

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

When I was a child I loved the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, especially "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe".  I also adored "The Magician's Nephew" and "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader".  I remember sitting on the edge of my bed with a brand new copy of "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in a white paper bag on the bed beside me, a present from my mother.  I could practically feel it singing to me.  I took it out, and looked at the cover and turned it over in my hands and put it back in the bag so that I could have the pleasure of taking it out again.  I knew that once I started to read it I would gallop through it, reading on the lavatory and in bed and on the bus to school, until I started to feel travel sick, reading at the table with the book on my lap until my mother caught me doing it.  I was a voracious reader and a fast one and the book would soon be finished, so spinning out the time before I began was a necessary part of extending the


Yes, I know it not the 1st of January.  I'm just a bit late.  One of the good things about blogging is that it is so easy to check what I have been doing in January for the last couple of years.  I see that last year I didn't make any resolutions at all and the year before I tried to make postive resolutions rather than the usual "lose weight, drink less, exercise more" litany that has been following me around for years. Reading them now from 2008 I see   I didn't too terribly well with the ones I did make.  The resolution to cook more interestingly, using my huge range of cookery books, was the one which was most successful.  I can't say I achieved the one about being glamourous on Thursdays.  I do from time to pull out something which is not the ubiquitous jeans and fleece and dress up a bit, but it is more like once every couple of months than once a week - less in winter because the urge to keep my clothes on when I have got dressed is very powerful.

And then the sun came out

And the world glistened white and shining.  It is cold as cold but the sky is vivid and the air sings with cold.  The birdfeeders are thronged with birds who fluttered and twittered in the trees as I filled them.  Even the woodpecker has been swinging and tapping on the peanuts all day long. The valley is perfect and untrodden.  If you watch for long enough you will see a quadbike making its way along the other side, down the steep slopes, a bale of hay strapped to it .  You will see the sheep gathering or the sharp black shape of a horse moving across the field towards the black shape of the woods.  A tractor makes it way along the road in the bottom of the valley but no cars move.  No post comes. The hedges are works of art. We have spent the day shovelling snow, bringing in logs and kindling, tramping down to the pumphouse which controls our water supply, checking and sorting, feeding the chickens and the cats and the peacock.  The weather forecast predicts days of low temper

The world has disappeared

My world has shrunk to a whirl of white. This morning the hawthorn hedge was a sculpture, the stone walls grey and white, the valley had disappeared and the view from the gate was a soft grey smudge.  This afternoon even the hedge and the bakehouse are disappearing into a whirl of falling snow and these pictures seem clear and sharp, when the world now is a blur of falling white.  A tiny wren has taken refuge under the eaves of the house by the unused front door.  I can see the peacock's tracks silting up with snow, gently being obliterated. This is true silence.  When the cat miaowed at me suddenly in the quiet kitchen I leapt out of my skin.  As I close the door again against the relentless soft fall I feel sharply and thankfully what a refuge this old house has been against the snow and the rain for hundreds of years.  Outside is beautiful but cruel and alien.  Inside the lights glow and the fire burns.  I am here by myself and making bread . The familiar weighing out and kn

Silence falls

For the last two weeks the house and the cottage have been full of people.  Younger son's dog (possibly the best behaved and gentlest black lab in the world until you tell me different) has been lying on the rug by the fire.  Elder daughter's baby has spent the fifth and sixth weeks of his life being passed around his various adoring aunts, uncles and grandparents.  There has always been someone to walk around singing to him when he got cranky and to sit with him sleeping on their chest.  He has been fascinated by the pattern of the beams on the ceilings in both the kitchen and the sitting room of the farmhouse, staring up wide eyed at the lines of the brown oak against the white paint. Much food has been made in the battered kitchen, with first younger son and daughter in law, and then as younger daughter arrived and they left, younger daughter, working with me, sometimes taking over completely, sometimes being the vegetable peeler or the gravy maker, working away companiona