last colour of 2015

Snatched from the teeth of the storm (Barney) I picked the last few flowers in my garden before they succumbed to the imminent frost. This is definitely the end of Autumn, so these colours I'll hold in my mind to keep me going for months to come.

Small packets of hope

A rare sunny moment in November is to be seized upon!  Today I  planted some more spring bulbs; tiny crocuses (not those big bruisers which seem to have flooded the market), fragrant narcissi, iris reticulata, and as a treat some Snake's head fritillaries. Some to line the path to the orchard and some for under the fruit trees to coincide  with fruit blossom (I hope).

I have a small worry that in doing so I have laid out some nourishing morsels for the hedgehog who regularly wanders that way.


After days and days of dull foggy weather finding a solitary spindle tree full of bright orange seeds in their cerise cases encouraged me to sow a few.  It seems as though they are sticklers for the right conditions to break the dormancy, but it is worth a try.


plums and custard

click on image for a larger helping

Still days of Autumn

The season changes and the subtle light of autumn glows low on the horizon.

October begins. Here is my walk one morning - as I go higher, so the mist lifts...

I play a mean game of table football...


Finally decided to cut down my squash plants - a difficult decision when they are still gamely scrambling over the teepee I made for them.  But nights are cold now and very soon they will turn into poor bedraggled things, so better enjoy their beauty in a photo now.


More from the village Garden show

Here's how 5 tomatoes can set your pulse racing....   Cut throat competition in the Tomato category.  What a joy to see a person lavishing affection and pride on their little darlings as they present their garden produce to the world, rather like the Debutante's Coming Out Ball for the very well heeled.  Onions are even polished with a little talcum powder to bring out their silken sheen.

Fame fortune and winning at Lydbury North Garden and Produce Show

The joys of small village life.  Last weekend was the local Garden Show, eagerly awaited by many of residents of our small rural community, it is a major event in the local diary and I was mightily pleased to have got First prize for my vase of home grown annuals.  Here they are afterwards having endured a cycle ride home in my bike basket.


The scouting gene

Something happens at this time of year when even with dubious English temperatures the urge to cook on fires outside is irresistible.  This year it has been in many forms, not just your classic barby.  Today I fancied hot smoking some trout fillets for supper.  I had the fish, I had the newly cut plum branches, so it was the work of an instant.
The fire was not too hot, so on went the plum wood to create the smoke, then the trout, then the lid and in 8 mins it was ready, lightly cooked with a delicate smokiness.

 Along with this an intense dill and horseradish creme fraiche, rosemary and chilli roasted potties and a bowl of salad from the garden.



Preprandial delights

The joy of early summer harvests.  The first broad beans - sweet and tender and totally different from any bought ones (they need to be picked just before eating), pop them out of their pods at the table and nibble along with home made bread sticks whilst sipping a cool sauvignon blanc...


St Patrick's Cabbage

Tellima grandiflora, this one had me going, even Fitter and Fitter only had a squiffy little line drawing, but the joy of trawling the internet finally found me the answer - although I confess I have not the slightest about what St. Patrick had to do with it.  I first saw it growing in a hedgerow a couple of years ago and next year when it grows again I won't be left wondering what is this odd plant. click on the image for a bit more detail.


Early morning walk... blackcap announcing he has arrived in UK


This is a magnificent beast, self sown verbascum.  It currently measures over a meter in diameter.  Soon it will produce a lofty flower spike with yellow buds, then the verbascum moths will arrive (as sure as eggs is eggs) and shred it to a sorry thing.

garden catwalk

What the well dressed water butt is wearing this season. Sashaying in with this fetching little number, equally good for daywear or cocktail hour.  Much as I like the practicality of a water butt next to my greenhouse having sun warmed rainwater at the ready for my thirsty seedlings, its old faded plastic was ugly, so I made it a "dress" out of old roof battens.


Poplar plantation

This has got to be one of my favourite spring sights, the first leaves bursting out from poplars grown in strict rows.  The ones on the right turning a gorgeous gold green, the ones on the left still to catch up.


First to be out in the garden

It marks a special day in spring when I can plant out the first fragile plants.
Safely under cover they look so strong and healthy, but put out in the ground where they have to fend for themselves against any passing pest is a worrying moment!  If they survive this then the promise of delicious tender sugar snap peas beats anything you can buy in a shop. These are called Delikett - I don't think they are available anymore so I save the seed year after year.


Tomorrow's breakfast cooling in the larder

I don't always manage it but home made hot cross buns are definitely worth the effort.  Made on the Thursday to eat Good Friday morning, lightly toasted with butter.


Tardy spring but still some treats

By the end of March I'm just about desperate for spring to get a hold.  Each year brings its own surprises, 2013 was thick snow on 27th, last year was warm early.  This year it's stormy cold winds have the upper hand.  But I have been keeping a beady eye on my favourite patch of wild garlic growing on the far side of our village brook.  Yesterday, clad in my wonderful new Dunlop wellingtons crossed the stream to gather some.  After steaming it and cooling it for mere moments I made a Korean dressing of soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds and oil and serves it with some home made tofu - my new skill!  The wild garlic was sweet, crunchy and tender but packed with a punch.


Beautiful and functional, the perfect combination.

First crop of the year

Purple sprouting, I love it for the name alone - abbreviating it to just its adjective.  But mostly because these tough, winter resilient plants manage to produce the tenderest, sweetest spring shoots which need steaming for a mere nano second or two.  


Progress report

The surprises one is dealt in life sometimes come thick and fast.  A couple of years ago I would never have imagined my working life would have reached these exciting markets.  As one window closes, another unexpectedly opens.  Sadly our manufacturer in Stoke is no longer making our English Creamware.  We still have some items for sale, but they are now in short supply.  They are listed on the right of this page.
Our next designs are now selling well in South Korea and in the future we aim to have these designs available in the UK too.  For a link to our new catalogue, click here.


Armed to the teeth

Armed with my new garden implement a -  wrotter - dutch for "weedy outy" thing, or in Old Frisian "tough worker", no dandelion is safe in my garden.


Too much of a good thing??

Winter snowdrops, am I weird for not liking carpets of them?  I like the few in a group growing beside the village brook just as they come out of bud.


Return of "Frankie"

Many thanks to our neighbours for crucial info on how to make one's weathervane accurate.  Now our sky running hare is absolutely on the button with the wind direction.  Admittedly he is now bolted together with lumps of lead weight to his head - hence him being re-christened after Mary Shelley's gothic character.


how to distract myself from January

Dream of summer and sow some sweet pea seeds.  Snow still lying here, but I am planning ahead. Made newspaper tubes for long pea roots this morning and sowed seeds collected in autumn 2013, here they are on my kitchen window.  Then went out to try lunch at Powis Arms, and PINK BEEF!  Wonderful, why can't all pubs keep their beef rare, who wants to eat boot leather?


14 jan 15

Not even "Fuji Blue", but as it was this morning on my Oakley Mynd walk.  A thin layer of snow defining the fine mesh of branches on an ancient ash tree.  Stunning blue sky, violet shadows in the snow and a brightness we only get here in winter.

The start of a new photography project

This is for some of our new designs launched in South Korea.  Its funny how  nervy I get given that this is my idea of work heaven, but before I begin I feel schizophrenic, then suddenly it all gels and concentration sets in to the exclusion of all else.  This is maybe more of a challenge in that I only really like natural light for my photography and we are fast approaching the shortest day with light levels at their lowest.  Still the request comes from Seoul and I am eager to make it all stunning.


The interloper

Actually there were 2 of them that wandered into my garden this morning, vying for the most sumptuous plumage.  Not exactly subtle or camouflaged, these were beautiful plump sleek birds purple and coppery gold.  Here is one as he reached up to drink from my bird bath.
There is really nothing good to be said about having a cold.  Feeling rather sorry for myself with sore throat and fever, so I'm a bit off my feed - which is never good.  2 weeks left to the shortest day then the wait through the dark months.  Should I be spending winters in the Antipodes?

Sunday morning, view takes your breath away.  After days of fog Sunday dawned clear and we went up the Mynd to absorb the view.


As if we ever wait that long

Our very nice new neighbours have been extremely generous with their apple harvest, knowing I am a total fruit bat.  There has been a wonderful mix of russets and James Grieves, and an unknown one which has stored very well, little but a good sweet acid balance.  And the bashed ones I used to make a very nice spiced chutney.
Here is the recipe
3kg sweet dessert apples, peeled and cored
6 tiny onions peeled and chopped
9 or 10 cloves garlic smashed and chopped roughly
400 ml malt vinegar
500g granulated sugar (could be a little less)
2 good tsp chilli flakes
1 x tbs black pepper corns
Seeds from 8 cardamon pods
2 x tsp salt
1 x big tsp mustard seed

3 x good tbs semi dried coriander seeds
Boil up, then simmer till thick and unctuous (1 and a half hours ish). Bottle into hot jars and seal.



More like this please...

Not the French Riviera but South Shropshire on 5 November - not bad, but still dreaming of cycling through pine woods in Les Landes next summer.
Still I can thoroughly recommend eschewing the GMT nonsense, who want to have afternoon tea in the dark? be like us, stick to BST at least a few more weeks yet.


Food for the soul

Ribeye steak from British White cattle (old variety  - white as you'd expect, with black noses and ears known for their excellent eating).  This one from a Mr Plunkett (I kid you not).  Wood burner stoked in readiness for searing, griddle heating, Tenterden Chapel Down pinot noir airing, rocket leaf salad prepped, potato rosti ready to toast off.  And Autumn Bliss raspberries from the garden.  Can't wait...


How did you get your hands in that state?

Happy weekend my bike chain. Recently acquired and already a beloved part of the family is my new (second-hand) bike, despite the interesting colour. Having great fun  tearing about rough tracks and lanes, falling off in mud, ducking to miss low branches and tall brambles growing across paths not meant for biking and nearly killing myself on hills.  But tomorrow torrential rain is due and I will probably stay put.


Blink and it's gone...

Summer over and now into misty dawns.  Here is today's early walk.  I'm trying to make a smooth transition into autumn, but somehow its always a bit of a struggle to accept summer is gone.  Still walks like this are wonderful and pep the system for the day.


Summer promise

Summer is round the corner.  This is from our first barbie last month - many more to come??

May morning

Sunlight catches in the grass.  Ripening seed heads silvery in the early morning.  Damp ankles from walking through the dew.  The air full of bird song.



Morning dew collected on Alchemilla mollis.


Corner of the room

Sometimes there is nothing in particular to say, but just a sense to feel; spring is here and life returns.  I can see colour again, have flowers in the house and breath again.


Tulpen in the garden

Winter is over and the garden is waking up again.  Swallows have arrived and we have even managed to eat breakfast outside (just once!) in our east facing sun trap. 
And here are some of my favourite tulips this year I'm growing them with a particularly delicious smelling wall flower, its creamy colour reminiscent of its vanilla scent.


Bunyard's Exhibition

Spring is here??  Let's hope it's not an aberration, all the signs are good; leaf buds swelling on the cherry twigs, hearing a chiff chaff (that very accommodating little migrant who sings his name), and a warm-ish wind.

So next comes the seed sowing.  Here is my beautiful new seed box, fashioned by hand for my birthday, complete with dove-tailed joints and movable sections for my burgeoning seed collection.  Where ever I travel I can't resist buying the odd pack of seeds to try back home, plus the old favourites from here with those evocative names; Bunyard's Exhibition, a broad bean, or Excalibur, a parsnip!   


Thrills and spills in Lydbury North

Who says living in a deeply rural place isn't exciting - not only do we have slide shows put on in the village hall, but we have the drama and adventure of power lines being caught in falling trees to boot!
There I was at my kitchen window watching our neighbour's dead tree wobbling in the gale whilst I waited for the kettle to boil, next thing the electric went kaput and when I looked out again the tree was gone too - and no coincidence about it.  2 days later, having survived by cooking on our woodburner and praying that my Kindle wouldn't run out of juice, this brave chappie solved our problem.  Here he is in action splicing together the cables.  Oh what joy Electricity!  I can turn on a light or turn it off again, I can decide at the drop of a hat to make a cup of tea, rather than having to plan half an hour in advance and getting lots of appropriate sticks together, or I can just enjoy that hum of transformers doing their bit. 


Life imitating art

End of January, and admittedly a relatively mild winter, but we have had our fair share of windy, rainy stuff, definitely the feeling of being a very small island bobbing about in the middle of the Atlantic.  Still this is great material for Andrew's paintings.  Here is one - and if you click on this link below there are more, particularly if he updates with his latest works...!
Andrew's paintings


Why I love my village

Here is a classic piece of village life; from forth coming events in our community newsletter. 
"25th April David Evans has kindly agreed to present his slideshow on Lydbury North in Old Postcards.  If you have read his book Border Wanderings you know we are in for a treat."
Actually I can't wait, I will be there and wild horses couldn't keep me away.   


Early morning walk


Now the mornings are becoming increasingly bright early on, we sometimes manage a "hoof up the hill" to start the day.  Today was wonderful atmospheric, trees looming out of the dense fog - beautiful shapes silhouetted against the thick air.  The ash tree here making a wonderful pattern of branches.

A marvellously tuneless cacophony, hundreds of birds chattering away in a sycamore becoming ever more vocal, until we were nearly underneath them, then the large flock of starlings took off,  and suddenly all was quiet again.


Sewing is not my greatest skill, but sometimes my enthusiasms carry me along.  My latest little task was to make this loose cover for a small armchair which used to be a doggy brown horror, but with potential.  It was at times like making a pair of pyjamas for a small elephant, but I got there in the end.  And now it looks perfectly sweet and is very inviting of a winter evening to sit and read in a comfy little armchair.
The oak chest is another story.  Last weekend, with Andrew's logistical capabilities which would have impressed the Imperial Romans we tied it up with sash cord and between the 2 of us lugged the hefty beast up our staircase, taking in its twists and turns and carried it along to our newly finished bedroom.  But having got it there, although the sense of achievement was great, I didn't like the look of it, and so the next day we did the process in reverse and brought it downstairs again.  Ironically it was only after the heaving it about the house that its new place struck me as possible. 

Still, it was worth the effort and fortunately I don't have to confess to my physio that I have undone all the good work she has done on my knee.