Chilled

We went to a terrific concert at Snape on Saturday, really enjoyable.  Mike and Zoe came to stay for the weekend – they were really Rose’s guests, but staying here as she’s short on spare beds, and they arrived after we’d left.  When we got back, around 10.30, they were relaxing with red wine, so we joined in with a fair bit of enthusiasm.  We rolled upstairs to bed a couple of hours later…

I bought a new fridge.  It was because of the fig preserves, really – so many things need to be kept in the fridge nowadays, as fewer preservatives are used and we cut down on sugar, and there isn’t much room for everyday stuff.  Talking about it, I suddenly remembered that, at one time, we’d had a fridge on the kitchen counter; where the microwave now is.  A bit of measuring and we found that there was room for both, as long as we moved the ice maker, which is only a foot wide so that wouldn’t be too hard.  And, a while later, I’d ordered a fridge for delivery on Sunday and was quite pleased with myself.  We’re pleased with the fridge too, it’s just what we needed.

 

Figs and tomatoes

And apples, though we haven’t tackled the huge bagful yet.

we’ve picked figs most days this week and eaten them for lunch with feta cheese or prosciutto and salad, and I’ve eaten a few more – that is, one every time I’ve gone past the bowl because a fresh fig is a wonderful thing and the season is so short.  We didn’t pick any yesterday though, because it rained in the morning and we forgot.  There were a lot ripe.  Two and a half kilos, in fact – about fifty figs, and we didn’t even try to get those at the top of the tree, nor the ones with clusters of wasps around.  I did grab one, not realising that a couple of wasps were on the back of it, but they were perfectly charming and moved onto another fruit that was bursting with ripeness.  I was appreciative that they didn’t sting, nor even buzz annoyedly, so was very happy to leave them their share.

I’ve made a batch of tomato relish – we made lots last year and it’s a very good recipe as it can be used straight away, unlike most chutneys that have to wait for several months.  The secret is adding pickled onions and gherkins at the last, which have matured already.  And Tim has cooked down several more pounds of tomatoes for sauces.

There are far too many figs for even greedy Z to manage – this is the biggest crop I’ve ever had, by a long way – and I’ve made a spiced fig jam with walnuts, which is meant to be eaten with cheese.  I’ve got more figs marinading for jam and another batch will be a confit, with Marsala.  They’re jobs for the morning though.  I’m a bit tired now.  Bread and yoghurt have also been made – I must go and pot up the yoghurt while I remember.

Early night, darlings.  Bye bye xx

Fame

We went to Snape Proms last night, to see Georgie Fame.  Yes, darlings, he still is going strong and his voice is as good as ever.  It was a great evening with a fabulous atmosphere, everyone went out happy.

I still have no idea whether the chickens have worked out how to use the new feeder.  I took out a few leftovers to them this morning as usual and tapped the bar to get a few grains down, but otherwise left them to it.  When I went back after lunch, the plate underneath was newly covered in dust, but I don’t know if that has any significance.  Chickens raise a lot of dust.  The only way I’ll know is if the feeder runs out of feed, so I scooped out two bucketfuls and only left a small amount, which they should be able to finish in a couple of days.  I threw them some food because it seemed mean not to, and they dashed for it at once.  I dunno.  Blue Witch assures me they’ll learn, so I suppose they will.

I don’t suppose anyone has a steam press?  I’m thinking of buying one, which will be big enough for tablecloths – folded, of course.  The one I’m pondering is 90cm wide.  It’s an absurd amount to spend really, but I’ve reached the age that, if I want it and can afford it, I don’t have to justify it to anyone.  But, if it doesn’t have a satisfactory result on heavily embroidered linen tablecloths, with lace, pulled thread work and all the embellishments, it’s not worth it.  I don’t mind ironing the rest.  Not that I do a lot of ironing, but I think I’m getting tidier in my old age.

Food

Eloise cat woke us up at around 5.30 this morning.  She was scampering about on the landing – which had to mean she’d found a mouse, brought it in and let it go.  She’s rubbish at killing mice and, actually, not that good at catching them.

A minute later, she marched into the bedroom and told Tim to get up.  A couple of years ago, he’d have shut her out on the landing, but now she’s got him trained – he answered her yowl politely and got out of bed.  He couldn’t find the mouse, though.  She ran around for a while longer and then came and sat on us.

I picked a couple of figs the other day, but they’re ripening quickly now.  We picked a bowlful, and several more had to be left for the wasps.  So, of course, they were the basis for lunch.  I went to the deli, bought prosciutto, feta cheese and artichoke hearts and, between them all, that’s lunch organised for today and tomorrow.  We opened a bottle of sauvignon blanc too.

We napped for a bit this afternoon.

RasPutin cat

While I’m still in a photo mood, here’s one of old RasPutin, the father of the barn cats.

RasPutin

He vanished a while ago for some time and, when he came back, he was very thin and so was his coat.  I’m not sure if enlarging the photo will show, but he is half the cat he used to be.  When I stroke him, I can feel his ribs and his hair isn’t patchy, just really thin overall.

I feed him three times a day now, if he’s about, and he eats well but he isn’t putting on weight.  I don’t know if he simply has worms, or if it’s cancer, but at least he’s happy now.  A few weeks ago, he was very anxious and begged for food but now he loves to be stroked and is willing to wait to be fed, as long as I’m making a fuss of him.  I don’t honestly expect him to last the winter and I daresay he just won’t turn up one day and I’ll never know what’s happened, but at least he will have been comfortable.  He used to turn up when he felt like it, but now he’s always about.  And he purrs now, which he never used to do.

He and Rummy have come to some sort of accommodation.  He’s still the top cat, actually and Rummy doesn’t mess with him – he’s been whopped too often.  RasPutin has lost fights, as shown by his torn and crooked right ear, but he still has stature.  His children are fond of him, especially his daughter Betty.

I gave up and now buy Whiskas.  You knew I would.  The five of them eat up to three tins a day.  It costs a fortune.  *Sigh* At that, Betty often turns her nose up and just eats the dried GoKat.  She approves of Eloise cat’s left over food though.

I can do nothing about it.  If being kind turns me into crazy cat woman, so be it.

Frustratingly, I don’t know if the chickens have mastered the new feeder or not.  I put down a bit of food for them under it, because I worry too much to leave them unfed.  Little Yvette, the Serama, seems to get chased away, but she’s being a bit broody anyway and spends most of her time in the nest box.  Interestingly, the big brown hen is also somewhat broody and they are nestled down together – since BBH normally bullies Yvette (who is a feisty little thing and isn’t cowed, though she has to run away as she’s so small) it’s surprising that they are nestbox partners, but that’s that.  The black hens are laying and those two are sitting.  Anyway, though I’m not entirely satisfied by the feeder, which is wildly overpriced for what it is, not having trays of food down does, as Blue Witch predicted, seem to have solved the rat problem.  They don’t come in and scuttle away when I go in the greenhouse.  I’ve been thinking about it – Russell never used feeders or drinkers, but put down bowls of water and scattered them handfuls of feed several times a day.  They were free range outdoors then, of course, unless the weather was too bad – but we never had a rat problem.It may be that the chooks are using the feeder – in a day or two, I’ll not put food down in the morning and watch them.  I’ve been a bit too busy for that, so far.

Pembrokeshire pics

I didn’t take many photos while we were away, but here are a few from Carew Castle.  Tim tells me that it’s pronounced Carey.  It’s a very handsome near-ruin, with lovely views and it would be a great place for children to explore.

Carew Castle

View of the nearby watermill, tricksily taken through a window

Stalactites!

We then went on to have a drink at a pub Tim knew – that also is in a lovely setting.

View from the Cresselly Arms

Panorama

The last was taken as a panorama, so it’s reproduced backwards, as it were – that is, the corner goes out rather than in.

Photos, mostly

I know I’ve told the story of my great-grandmother and the heliotrope here before, though it was probably a few years ago.  That was about the colour, but of course that’s the colour of the flowers.  It’s a half-hardy annual and not hard to grow, with a sweet scent, especially in the evening, but I never see it for sale.  I grew them once, a long time ago – about 35 years, I should think; certainly before we lived in this house.  I bought a packet of heliotrope seeds this year but they were sown late because of the cold weather and I didn’t put them in the propagator because the weather went straight from cold to hot.  Another time, I’d start at the right time in controllable heat, because only one plant came up.

It has thrived, however and I put it in an old sink with alpines – it’s grown bigger than I expected, probably because of daily watering, but never mind, it’ll only be there until the first frost.

This is just the preamble to a few photos.  Starting, of course, with the heliotrope.  I think it should be more grown, it’s a lovely colour and a delightful scent.

Heliotrope

Here are a couple of photos of Eloise cat.  I took the first one because she blended in so well with the garden chair, but the sun had retreated slightly by the time I took it, so you can only see near her tail where the colour is a rich brown.  The second one, she’s lying on the paving and she blends in with that too, without sunshine.

When we arrived home the other day, I went out to pick the first sweetcorn of the year for dinner.  And today, I picked the first two figs – but we scoffed them before taking a photo.

Z looks at envelopes

I’ve been home a day and a half and I haven’t opened the post yet.  Twenty-plus items and they’re just sitting there.  I’ll do it tomorrow – which is what I said yesterday.

I did open one envelope, because I could see it was a letter from the taxman.  And yay, it’s a cheque for over a thousand pounds.  The reason for it is the massive expenses last year, but hey, a tax rebate for … did I mention? … over a thousand pounds.  Quirkily, it feels as if I’m in profit.

I endeavour to find an achievement in every day, because I get disappointed otherwise.  Today’s – it doesn’t matter how small they are, it’s just that they have happened – is that I’ve booked the chimney sweep.  Last year, I left it rather late and he was very busy and it was a bit worrying, as we’d come close to a chimney fire at one point the previous spring.  As it is, the sweep isn’t coming for another six weeks, but that’s fine, he’s booked.  He’s the brother of the chap who installed our splendid woodburner, actually, and he’s very good and more reasonably priced than the man who I used before, who then let me down the next year (the reason for the near-chimney fire was that I hadn’t been able to get the chimney swept as I’d been let down) and actually, possibly, better because he gives an actual certificate, in case it’s needed for house insurance.  Who knew?  I haven’t checked my small print, admittedly, but some house insurers require annual chimney sweeping.

We always did have it done, except that one year, but quite often did it ourselves, or with Jamie’s help.  Chimney sweeping is quite satisfying, in fact … blimey, I can’t believe I just said that.  Bear in mind that I’m a woman who knows how to use a set of drain rods and pity me, darlings.

And now, I’m going to go out and smell the heliotrope.  Because it’s delightful.

Z provides libations for the weather pixies

And… we’re back.  It was lovely there as ever and the weather was actually consistently the best I’ve ever known it there – coastal Pembrokeshire tends to be changeable.  We went out and about a bit and slept quite a lot and read quite a few books.  Pretty well no internet, though it bobbed up once in a while, emails downloaded and I couldn’t reply to them, though I needed to, so trips out were punctuated by my checking the phone to see if there was a signal.

I daresay I’ll learn to switch off completely one day, but I suspect I’ll be sans pretty well everything by then.

It rained at last, once we were home, so I haven’t investigated the garden much yet.  I see that one marrow escaped Wince’s eyes, which I’ll pick tomorrow and give to the chickens.  If I can be bothered to chop it up, they’ll eat it all but if I just cut it in half then they’ll eat the seeds and a bit of the flesh.  What I did pick was the first of the sweetcorn, which were our first course for dinner.  As ever, I started eating at once, so my mouth is burnt, but the young, delicious cobs are worth it.

Having had a good rain, I’m ready for more sunshine now, please.

Z and the feeder

We’re off soon to the western side of the country, so won’t have the heatwave expected here.  Should be pleasant at least, though.

The new chicken feeder arrived today.  I’ve been having problems with rats in the henhouse.  We never used to have this trouble, but the hens were free range and mostly fed outside.  Now they have a very big run but aren’t free range, I have rats.  Blue Witch recommended a rather expensive but, she said, well worth buying hopper, which the chickens peck to release the food. I finally took the plunge and ordered it – not least because my bigger chickens are extremely clumsy and knock over any container their food is in, even if it should be impossible.

BW bought her feeder some years ago and has always been very pleased with it.  I trust ours will work well, but the build quality has certainly gone way down.  Nothing lined up so bolts have been pushed in as far as they can go, but that’s not far enough to add the nut to secure it.  The top doesn’t fit at all, once feed is in the hopper, so that can’t be secured either.  If it were outside, it would be unusable.  I’m very unimpressed.  However, if it’s adequate for the job – that means, in the first instance, that the chickens have to learn to use it – then BW is confident that the rats won’t bother any more.

Rose will look after everything while we’re gone and the house won’t be empty.  She’s under a fair bit of pressure though, as Lawrence started his latest round of chemotherapy last week and, as expected, the fourth day brought all the miserable symptoms.  They’re a stalwart pair and are managing.

I meant to do a lot of cooking today, but I flagged somewhat.  I did make a lot of bread-and-butter pickle yesterday and another batch this morning, and I’ve made stock and cheese sauce, but the moussaka didn’t quite happen, though I’ve minced the lamb.  I sometimes feel that life would be easier if I didn’t grow vegetables, actually.  Once you’ve grown the bloody things, you have to use them.