Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Cherry pie...

The GG made her first cherry pie, so we invited friends round for pie, ice cream, and a games night.

Clearing up afterwards we spotted this amazing creature at the window...!

Monday, 29 July 2013

The cherry pickers...

Back to the tree with the best cherries, where the gorgeous girl and C did some tree climbing while I stood below with my heart in my mouth and the occasional cherry dropped down my top. We came back with 2.7 kilos of cherries, and I see there's a list of recipes now waiting to be tried out by the GG over the next week...

The First of the Mohicans...

I always look forward to the first little 'mohawk' on the globe thistles. Clearly this bee had been waiting patiently too!

Friday, 26 July 2013

The bees are buzzin' in the trees...

The bees are buzzing everywhere. Every flower must feel it's the prettiest in the garden with the attention it gets from the pollinator population. There is a hum in the garden, like very low key conversations at a party... 'Do you buzz here often?' 'Oh, we come back every summer!' 'It's particularly busy this year, don't you think?'

The lavender is the most popular place to be seen, of course. We have masses  of the stuff, and the last couple of years I have dried some to put into lavender sachets. Everyone walks across the grass to get to the front door because the lavender bushes are alive with wildlife. I'm happy to brush past the bushes to scoop up the wonderful scent, but also because the bees don't seem to mind too much.

The edible beds we planted up back in June have gone slightly crazy, and they too are filled with bees.

Sadly, when I popped round, someone had decided that the best way to get rid of their parking permit was to shred it into bits and shower those bits over one of the larger plants at one end. I confess to utter bewilderment as to why someone might do that. There have been a few cigarette butts left in the earth, and some of the willow hoops have gone but happily, by and large, it has been left intact - so much so that there are new signs up encouraging people to eat the plants - there is an abundance of edible stuff in there, but I guess people aren't used to taking a few leaves home to add to their lunch!

It's also the time of year to begin foraging. A hint here told us about some particularly delicious cherries and so C and friend P next door went off with ladders and brought back loads. We now have 2 kilos sitting in the kitchen waiting to be sorted out (dry them? freeze them? cook them? just eat them?).

Our neighbours have done much better with their home grown stuff which means, of course, that we get a share!

Some of their redcurrants got sprinkled on my porridge (a little bit too tart, so not a success) and the rest I made into a disastrous redcurrant jelly - Delia's recipe from the 19th Century must've lost something in translation because as K mused, 'Do you have any walls that need plastered?' Better perhaps are the lovely onions, which are small but apparently very tasty!

I don't think we'll have too much to share with them other than pears, apples and apple juice later in the year - but the trees are laden, so it bodes well for the autumn!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow,

You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout 
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!

We were woken at 4 o'clock this morning by the flash of lightning and the crunch and rumble of thunder. For ten minutes we stood by the window watching the sky being cracked open, and listened to the rain pouring down. Back in bed, as the thunderstorm seemed to move on, we were suddenly rocked where we lay, as the thunder crashed into the house. Impressive. Heart-stopping!

One night when we were young, my older brother Colin, seeing that we were scared by the thunder and lightning, pulled the living room curtains wide and enticed me, our younger brother, and mum to stand and watch, and then enjoy the spectacle that nature was providing. Oh, he would have enjoyed this one!

Rumble thy bellyful; spit, fire; spout, rain.*

So, the intense heat of the last couple of weeks is broken, at least for a while. The water butts which were all but empty (not even enough water to come out of their taps without, perhaps, tipping the barrels over) are now almost full. The plants standing in saucers have had to be drained and left to dry out as best they can. The aloe vera plants which had suffered such neglect over the winter, were just beginning to recover in the heat of the last couple of weeks - they're now soaked through and have been brought indoors until the sun comes out for a spell to dry them off and there is no more chance of such heavy rain.

Oh, but the rain is welcome! Our grass is parched and brown - I wasn't going to waste precious water on it - but it might recover a little bit of its colour now. The earth looks black and healthy, and all the flowers that have been neglected have had a much needed drink. The fruit trees, tomatoes, the few vegetables, and the seedlings I've planted are the only things to have had anything from the water butts and then, only when they both ran dry, tap water.

Now, everything is washed clean. The first of the day lilies opened up this morning, a welcome splash of orange after many of the flowers have already gone over. Everything is spritzed with cool water, and is sparkling now in the soft, grey light.

* from King Lear, Act 3 Scene 2

When we saw David Calder play Lear at the Globe a few years ago, the final scene was marred by a mobile phone going off. The owner stood oblivious, trying to ignore it, but eventually reached down, rummaged in her bag and finally switched the thing off (if she hadn't, I think someone would have gone and stamped on the damned thing). Somehow, Calder rescued us, pulled us back in - and the final lines were witnessed through teary eyes and tight throats. Brilliant.

The oldest hath borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Strawberries and cream...

A bit late for Wimbledon, but still... Imagine stuffing your face with strawberries and extra-thick cream out of this particular, nicely inappropriate, bowl. It's one of four bought by my brother and my sister-in-law as gifts for my lovely friend Duncan and me, when we visited them in Paris sometime in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Not quite antique, but definitely vintage.The other one that I still have reads, la plus caline - which might have been more appropriate! It is 88 degrees (in old money) in the shade here, according to my garden thermometer. Scorchio!

Friday, 19 July 2013

You say the 'lido', I say the 'lido'...

Leedo, lydo, leedo, lydo,
Let's call the whole thing off'.

I spoke to a friend the other day about the word lido, which I've always pronounced as 'leedo', but she insists is 'lydo'. However it's pronounced, I like to think of our back garden as a kind of bird spa, with lido, diving boards, sun terrace, breakfast buffet and so on. This morning, for instance, the various bathing pools have been splashed in, drunk from, and generally enjoyed by all the birds who frequent the garden.

The sun is still working its way round the house so the contrast is rather harsh, but I spotted a goldfinch having a drink on the top step, and a sparrow preparing for a bath in the little dish at the bottom - usually used by the baby sparrows, who also use the aloe vera plants off picture to the left as a diving board. There is a slightly larger and more private pool tucked under the lavender bush at the top, which the blackbirds quite often claim as their own. As you can see, solar floodlighting is available for those evening dips. I think of everything.

Over in the rather more exclusive Pear Tree Pool, a blue tit enjoyed having the place all to itself before the junior sparrow rush. If anyone is still not sure what 'drookit' means, observe...

I'm also taking advantage of the weather to wash some linens that will be added to the wedding bunting I've been asked to do. Scraps of tray cloths, unloved because of tea stains (who thought that crisp white linen and dribbling teapots would be a good combination?) and tired and torn lace will be cut up into pennants to add to the mix for a 'shabby chic/country style' wedding. Should be lovely - if I do it properly!

Is it any wonder that allium seed heads feature so often in illustration and design, with their crisp clear silhouettes? Look at this lot taking a bow...

Oh, and yesterday evening, when I was relaxing in the living room, who should poke its head round the door but the big, black moggy? Clearly s/he reads this blog, and took my comment about not chasing it away anymore as an open invitation to stroll in and make itself at home! Ooooh, blimmin' cheek!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Go Wild in the Country...

Over the weekend, C managed to get this picture of a new visitor to one of the water dishes. It's very sweet, but I'm not sure I want to have it, and its entire family, roaming around so close to the house. Let's hope it's just the exceptional heat that's bringing it in to the garden for a drink... but, just in case, perhaps I should stop trying to shoo the big, black moggy away!

We were invited down to share a lovely lunch with friends on Sunday - sitting in the shady part of their garden, eating pasta and cheese, and drinking homemade elderflower cordial. Perfect! Then we walked across the meadows, and along the old railway line, to Long Melford for the summer fair. The weather just now is absolutely gorgeous, and such a contrast to a couple of years ago when it alternated between bright sunshine and torrential downpours, and we got drenched as we walked to the fair for the first time. It was one of our first tastes of the friendliness of the area we'd moved to, as a passing driver took pity and gave us a lift, sodden as we were.

The weather meant that the 'birds of prey' display consisted of completely drenched (indeed, fair drookit) owls and the like, sitting on their perches looking utterly miserable and endearingly comical!

But that also allowed us to see the impressive wingspan of the larger birds, as they spread out their feathers to dry them off whenever the sun came out.

Not so this year. The birds sat, snoozing in the heat, seemingly oblivious to the excitement all around them, and looking rather more beautiful than they did two years ago.

There were some gorgeous reptiles on show, and the children enjoyed holding this tiny creature which looked like something a Pixar animator had conjured up... A Tiger Gekko, I believe.

Snakes were stroked, like this beautiful Corn Snake, which twisted and turned itself into knots and slowly wound itself around whoever was holding it. I didn't hold either of these (too busy with my camera) but I once held a (small) tarantula, which felt like fairy feet tiptoeing over the palm of my hand. Fascinating!

This dog wasn't on show, but who could resist that fabulous face? I did feel sorry for all the dogs being walked around in their great hairy coats, with their drippy, slobbery tongues, panting furiously...

As well as the animal life (some of that in human form...) there were the usual suspects, like the brass band, a Punch and Judy show, stalls selling vintage country staples, food and drink (C went off and bought me a jar of honey) and a general air of bonhomie. All lovely!

On the way home we spotted an unfamiliar use for worn out walking boots in someone's front garden - perhaps it gives out the message that the owners are busy doing far more adventurous stuff to bother with gardening!

And we spotted some more slightly less exotic, but just as colourful, wild flora and fauna on the way home... a perfect day.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Office romance...

Last year, a friend and I embarked on a rescue mission when, in the midst of a torrential downpour, we spotted a skip being loaded up with office junk. It was all from the Co-op, so very ethical I'm sure. I needed an extra chair for the studio/office, so this one was ideal. Bit of a state, but very comfy and perfect for the small space it was going into - as it lets me twirl around quite efficiently to get to the things I need. Or just enjoy the sheer silliness of twirling. I also thought it was a great candidate for re-covering and smartening up. So, yesterday - as if it wasn't hot and bothersome enough - I decided I should get to it.

What a difference! There are loads of blog entries out there to explain how to do it, like this one and this one, so I won't bore you with that. Neither chair in those two blogs was exactly the same as mine, so it's just a case of using the basic idea and adapting as you go along. My chair, for instance, had much more plastic in it, so stapling the fabric onto the back support was very problematical and I needed C's help for that. Even taking the original fabric off was a bit dicey - if you're doing this, take care to keep your supporting hand far enough away from the screwdriver you use to lever off the old staples in case it should slip.

Nevertheless, it all went swimmingly well until I managed to strip one of the screws that held the back on...which wouldn't have been a problem if I hadn't got ahead of myself and put it into the back rest without first putting it through the upright that holds it onto the rest of the chair...  Luckily C stepped in again and, after much huffing and puffing, accompanied by only a very small lecture about using 'the right tool for the job', managed to extract the screw and somehow re-use it to attach the back to the rest of the seat. Phew.

The 'Glory Be!' fabric is from An Angel At My Table - heavily discounted due to a 'flaw', which I've yet to spot!

ps No joy at the auction yesterday. Someone else got 'my' lovely mid-20th century black painted plan chest...