Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Bluebells Blossom & Beltain

I once before wrote a post here called Blossom, Beltain and a beautiful game. That was quite a while ago and then Saint's were moving from the Championship into the Premiership. Since that time they have just about stayed up.
The Bluebells are looking magnificent this year and it's well worth taking a lovely, long walk through a local wood, simply for the pleasure of gazing on this wonder.
I have spotted early Elderflowers, waving their blousy, citrus blooms to herald the onset of Summer. Yes, that's right, the warm season will soon be upon us and I'm already wearing my shorts in preparation.
Plums are gradually fattening on the branches, Hawthorn is flowering in the hedgerows and everything is growing like crazy.
This year, as normal, I will be visiting Butser Ancient Hill Farm, with the children for Beltain. The celebration culminates with burning of their truly massive Wicker Man; the kids have been, quite literally, looking forward to it all year.




Friday, 1 March 2019

Spring Blows Hot and Cold

February was playing games. It was frosty, it was foggy and it has also been unseasonably sunny and warm.
We have been out in hats coats and gloves and we have been out in shorts and t-shirts.
Plum Blossom is filling the hedgerows with a white bloom, Blackthorn and Hawthorn will soon follow. 
Meanwhile Daffodils and Crocus are painting the road sides and gardens. Flashes of colour to fill in between the new growth of trees and bushes.
We have been on some lovely walks, including down Hurst Spit and around the Keyhaven nature reserve. 
When the sun has been hot and the tide good, we have been messing about on the river with boats from St. Deny's Boat Club.
 
March looks set to start with a good old fashioned storm. How it will turn out after that, only time will tell, but I hope the prevailing wind stays Southwesterly.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Signs of Spring

As I ride my bike to work, through the February weather every day, I notice changes, over time, in the roadside foliage. I think about what might be growing there in a few months and I make a mental note to check back on my prospects in the Summer.
Winter & Spring is always a lean time for foragers, especially those of the Urbane persuasion. So to entertain myself during the cold dark periods I like to test out my home made drinks and preserves to see how they are maturing. I was delighted with my Ransom Capers
My Elderberry Wine seems effective at staving off the colds, the Walnuts and Hazelnuts are great for baking or simply nibbling, the Cider and Apple juice is still lovely, and the Grape wine has matured into a perfectly tolerable rose. 
So, to keep you amused during the Winter/Spring months, Dear Reader, here is a fun quiz, to get you thinking about the hedgerows in your own area...
  1. Identify the tree & flower images on this page
  2. Work out if they will deliver anything edible. 
  3. Work out the time of year that you would harvest and produce.
  4. Plan what you could make from the available bounty.



Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Yuletide Traditions

Another Yuletide is looming fast and the stormy weather has been perfectly suitable. We have been busy with all the normal preparations and arrangements. We cut our own Christmas tree from a local quagmire (nursery) and this has been a fun, and inevitably muddy, tradition in our family for years. Then we spent about 2 days in the loft hunting for the lights, which were actually buried, deep in my son's bedroom.
Venus has been shining brightly in the East each morning. I'm far from superstitious, but I'm sure that this will be bringing love into our homes. Although, just in case, we did also pop out and harvest a big carrier bagful of mistletoe, to hang around the house. This also always makes a welcome gift to friend and neighbours.
I have also been siphoning & bottling this season's cider, and I'm pleased to report that it is tasting mighty fine already, and will only improve with time.  We are looking forward to adding some spices and mulling several bottles, to take to parties.
We also have 2 gallons of fine rose wine to bottle, this is the produce of our grape growing escapades this year. Obviously, this needs more time to mature but all the signs are good and I have high hopes for it being drinkable!


Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Sweet Chestnutting

As Autumn progresses, the storms start to blow in, and when the wind comes from the North, we begin to feel the cold again. We have picked most of our allotment goodies now,  the grapes have been pressed and the juice is now fermenting vigorously. 
The wind also brings exciting new things down from the trees for us to eat. Sweet Chestnuts are falling now, and you'll need to be swift to beat the squirrels
We squeeze the nuts out of their spiky husks, with our feet and collect the biggest ones to take home.
There are all sorts of things you can bake and cook using Sweet Chestnuts but we prefer to simply roast them over a fire or BBQ. On a chilly Autumnal evening, there is little that I enjoy more than sitting in the garden, watching for bats, while nibbling hot Chestnuts.
We had a lovely Apple Day at Mansbridge Community Orchard. The fruit was plentiful, as was the juice. The sun did come out, we met new friends and caught up with some old ones too.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Harvest Moon

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is once again upon us. A baleful harvest moon illuminated the evenings of the equinox weekend, and the traditional Autumnal storms came billowing in from the Atlantic. None of this prevented us from breaking out the Apple pressing kit. 
We had been harvesting loads of Apples and on the Saturday, we set about pressing them into 35 litres of juice; I filled my demijohns, and several gallons are now merrily bubbling away, tuning into cider. The remaining juice was pasteurised and bottled up, ready for the forthcoming year.
We also collected enough Pears for me to produce my essential annual stock of Chunky Pear and Walnut Chutney. We still had Walnuts and Hazel nuts left over from last year, and fresh ones are falling already, early, like so many other things this year.

It turns out that the 2018 weather was perfect for vineyards and it promises to be a special vintage - we harvested our own grapes from our allotment and produced several gallons of tangy juice, most of which will be fermented into a new rose wine, Chateau Vin du Witts Hill, perhaps.
Sweet Chestnuts also look like they will be falling soon, we will be out gathering, and competing for the largest, fattest fruits to bring home and roasting them on our fire as the cooler, darker evenings draw in.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Autumn Arrives


This year we have seen one of the longest and hottest Summers on record, but now, finally Autumn is upon us. We are having cooler mornings with dew on the grass, the wind is whipping up and the long awaited rain is arriving, cheering allotmenteers, gardeners and ducks alike.
We have been busy hunting down Hazlenuts, Apples and Pears, in all our familiar and favourite locations. 
It seems that all the lovely snow, bought to us here earlier this year via the Beast from the East, must have affected the pollinators and blossom of the trees because the fruit count is relatively low.

This massive and sustained Spring storm, followed by the long hot dry Summer may have caused the trees to change their normal patterns. Many trees also appear to have smaller than normal fruit that is ripening and dropping earlier than I would have expected.
I'm quite sure that there will be some trees that have managed to overcome the trials of the weather, but a cursory glance around our normal haunts shows a distinctly diminished harvest.
Having said this, we do know where a lot of trees are locally, over time we have located and monitored hundreds. As a result we are still managing to gather enough apples to store for the winter, press for juice and to create a good stock of cider.