August in Fruit – Nature Notes

We all know what rubbish weather we’ve had for an excuse of a summer this year – but it has taken its toll on nature and the garden. So this week’s nature notes come as a look at fruit.  In our village we are lucky enough to have an apple-pressing business, where you can take your surplus apples and for a reasonable price have them pressed, the juice pasteurized so that it will keep, and bottled.  Last year there were so many apples we had a few extra bottles done – just as well as this year’s apples do not look good at all! In spring I took pictures of trees laden with blossom – and then it rained, and rained!    Some of the blossom was early enough and has set – so we will have fruit from a couple of varieties, other varieties it’s a case of spot the apple. On top of this, some that did set well have now started to split. Whether this is because of a the repeated pattern of a few hot dry days followed by a week of wet I don’t know, but the toll on the apples is high.   Add in that apples which seemed perfect but are unfortunately close to a suitable perching-upon twig, are being attacked by the birds – now, before they are ripe!

And before I move on from apples – fallen ones also provide a feast for other wildlife. First the rabbits come along and nibble them, characteristically leaving one chewed flat side. Then the wasps find this opened juicy treat, then as evening comes on the slugs come out to play gorge. Last summer we also had a glut of bullace ( a wild plum that grows in our orchard hedge) and I created a microwave recipe for making jam from them. This year I won’t have enough to make jam from them that’s for certain, and again, many are splitting before thay are fully ripe.

And even in the green house the trend  goes on – the grapes are a wipe-out as they have split this year too – and though the interior conditions are controlled the ‘watering’ isn’t as the roots of the vine are outside in the ground, as recommended.

 

 

Inside watering is controlled – and even though the grapes are in a bad way the cucumbers are going bananas – and growing like grapes in bunches.  So much so that I have made sweet cucumber pickle from some of the excess. And in my usual way, having an ingredient missing (celery seeds), I substituted another (cumin seeds) and have created a ‘warmer’ cucumber pickle.  If you are inundated with cucumbers the recipe is on the Recipe drop downs from top bar.

The winner of an ecopy of ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ for correctly identifying the caterpillar last month goes to Liz Gentil and the caterpillar was the voracious Mullein Moth caterpillar Cucullia verbasci

And for my FWT cheerleaders the results for the past week are – weight the same and measurements the same as last week. Could it be the picnic party I went to on Saturday? We will see next week.

Again– an urgent message for DeborahKennedy2@….  please contact me back before 10/9/12 after which I must deem that you have refused the prize offered and make a re-draw.

Finally – your last chance to claim a free e-copy of my novella LEAVE TO APPEAL  just follow the link, details near end of page.

What changes in nature have you noticed with the changes in weather? How do you deal with excess produce in the garden? I love to hear from you on the blog – click on the title if you are reading via the email and it takes you through to the main blog where you can add comments!

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In a ‘Mary Portas pilot town’ market

As you will know, if a regular reader of this blog, I make and retail Slate ware – mainly from my website annmade.co.uk – but also through Callington Country market and a few shops locally.  My usual outlet in Liskeard had been one of those shops that had closed in the past year, so when I was approached to have a stall at this new market I was both pleased and apprehensive. Apprehensive because I usually only do a few craft markets a year and this was a commitment of twice a month and because it was the first out-door market I have ever done! So what has this to do with Mary Portas, I hear you ask.

Well, as you can’t have failed to notice if you watch TV, Mary Portas is on a mission – to revitalise some of the country’s failing town centres – and after stiff competition from towns all round the country, Liskeard (a lovely old Cornish market-town, struggling in the economic climate, in a region of low wages, high house prices and with a record number of empty shops on the high street), is one of  her first twelve pilot towns.

For this market I teamed up with a friend who has worked outdoor markets for many years, Christine, of Cornish Creams who makes and sells fine skin care products made using all natural products, and rain-forest friendly ones at that!   Our products are so totally different that they make a nice contrast and the arrangement also covers me not being able to attend all day every time the market is to be run, due to other family commitments.

We arrived very early! Well, Christine said we needed to be there early, especially for the first one. She was right, but anyone who knows me will know that my natural wake-up time is eight o’clock, so struggling out of bed and into the shower at 5.45 was a trial!  And what a day I woke to. The forecast had been ‘overcast’ clearing later. Overcast turned out to be mist and drizzle as I drove to pick up my friend.

By the time we arrived at Liskeard the drizzle was  –  RAIN.

Now, the town council had been trying to get a market up and running again in the town for a while – but the opening co-incides with the Mary Portas initiatives and so her Channel 4 team were there to film some of the day as it unfolded.  As we were one of the first there they asked if they could film us setting up so our hands were filmed as we spread out our cloths to cover the tables – no products out, none of our banners or signs to show what we sell .. ah well – fame for our hands maybe but not for our products 🙁

Christine (Cornish Creams) and Ann (annmade - Slate ware) all set up

And the rain came down, as we arranged our stand and tried to hang our signs.  In a moment, when the rain paused, a neighbouring stall holder took a snap of us all set up.

Actors mix with shoppers in the rain

We were already thinking to ourselves ‘who in their right mind will come out to shop at this new outdoor market in the pouring rain?’.  Well we were amazed and pleased that the Liskeard people took no heed to the rain and turned out in force, in fact, not only from Liskeard but I met up with loads of people from all round the area that I knew from the various other groups I am, or have been, involved with, Poetry, Wreckers Border Morris, Bellydance, WI and other  markets so it was a lovely social time too.

UNintended entertainment

The rain kept coming, even past eleven when it had promised to clear from ‘overcast’ and the awnings were filling with water. Our intrepid town councilors went from stall to stall tipping out the water (all over themselves) and tightening up the sheets. It provided great unintended entertainment with cheers going up from the crowd .

Intended entertainment came later as the sun tried to shine though the now fine rain, in the form of a medieval enactment of a ‘court’ where ‘Mr Bun’ baker number one, accused ‘Mr Pasty’ baker number two, of  selling inferior bread.

The charges are read by the Town Crier

 

Dressed appropriately in medieval garb and addressing the crowd the plaintiffs made their case then samples of bread were distributed for the crowd to taste and judge. The Mayor  took the results by count of hands and the defeated Mr Pasty was led to the stocks to be pelted with wet sponges for selling his inferior bread, much to the amusement of the small children throwing them

Liskeard - on the Parade

Eventually the sun did shine and everything looked much better in the sun – and I ventured out to take this lovely snap of the border just behind our stand – looking positively Mediterranean with its flowers and palm tree!

The town council have taken up an empty supermarket right on the Parade (where this market was held) and it is in there that the New Pannier Market will be sited from September on – so we are saved the trials of the rain next time and hope the fun atmosphere continues as we  do this market every second and fourth Saturday from September to Christmas.

Lastly – an urgent message for DeborahKennedy2@….  please contact me back before 10/9/12 after which I must deem that you have refused the prize offered and make a re-draw.  And for my FWT? cheerleaders – the results on last Sunday were – same weight – but half inch down on both waist measurements!

New events are always exciting but also exhausting – have you ever run a market stall? Or even a stall for a local fete or charity – how did it make you feel to be the vendor rather than the buyer? I am always interested to hear other people’s experiences! Do tell..

 

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One Hedgehog, two hedgehogs, three hedgehogs, four ….

I don’t really collect hedgehogs … they seem to have gravitated  towards me. Ok, so I did buy one once and I will admit to having bought some sticky-backed op-art style pictures once (One of which, at least, was stuck to the door of my room at teacher training college).

The one I bought was purchased at the Ideal Home exhibition, Earls Court when I visited it with school and aged 15.  This first hedgehog was, seemingly, carved from a light grey stone and sat nice and coolly in the palm of your hand. It was a paper weight.  Yet I did not keep it – I gave it to my boyfriend of the time, Ricky.  He lent it back to me when I was taking my exams as a good luck token (and it was great if I got cramp from writing as holding its cool surface eased my fingers and I could then write on). I can’t show you a picture of this one as I gave it back to Ricky after the exams, but here are a small selection of the ones that have arrived to take its place and that I do have standing around (many, many more are packed away)

Ever since then I became associated with hedgehogs – in their ornamental state. People started giving me hedgehogs. They came as souvenirs, gadgets and gizmos, in all sorts of materials and as mass produced or hand made items, in wood, clay and even brass, some made especially for me. These handcrafted ones are the best! From ‘thank you’ carved wooden ones (second from back – left)  to the  one made by one of my boys when quite young (front right)

To be honest, the brass ones are quite sentimental. My – at the time boyfriend, now husband – made these as part of his teacher training course (in Craft and Design Technology) and they represent – us. They were made using polystyrene which was cut and ‘picked’ into the shapes. This was then buried in casting sand and the molten brass poured in. The hot metal would then dissolve the polystyrene and take its place in the mold (letting off pretty obnoxious fumes – don’t think you are allowed to do this now-a-days) The resulting castings were then cleaned up with a file and buffed up on a buffing machine.  Guess which one is me? 

Sometimes I feel as if the hedgehogs collected me, however, I now identify with them as a symbol. The practical hedgehog for my blog – three hedgehogs in a row for my business logo.

In my novel Divining the Line, Liz has a collection of small animal ornaments made from different minerals – a tweak on the idea of my own collection – and Perran, a water diviner by profession and with a geology degree,  is able to identify the minerals for her – creating a link between them.

My sister in law has the same problem with frogs. She collected a few – but then more arrived.

Have you ever had this happen, you take an interest in a design or collection and suddenly everyone gives you them? Or do you happily collect an unusual animal ornament? I love to hear from you folks – do tell!

 

Lastly – an urgent message for DeborahKennedy2@….  please contact me back before 10/9/12 after which I must deem that you have refused the prize offered and make a re-draw.  And for my FWT? cheerleaders – the results on last Sunday was another half pound down – with which I am well pleased 🙂

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Lifting the veil on the FWT

Ok, ok, ok… I have been putting this off since the first of July – that being the half way stage on my FWT journey.

What? You don’t have a clue what I am on about? Ah.. well.. at the beginning of this year – January the first to be precise, I embarked upon a quest to lose weight – steadily, sustainably and using a method I had not tried before, worked out between me and two of my sons.

Summer 2011

I started, as do those who join AA, in stating that I had got FAT. I had been avoiding this, after all with my rose-tinted specs clothes on  I can disguise a lot, even though my clothing size had gone from comfortably loose at a 14 to tight 16 bordering an 18 for certain styles. (UK sizes)  After all, I thought,  there are those around me who are much larger. After all I ate a sensible, well balanced diet – and really, really not too much of it. And I do at least one exercise type class once a week in term time. And it used to be enough before the menopause… which seems to pause weight loss as well. So there are all my excuses and I still had to admit that I had allowed myself to get FAT before I could convince myself that drastic action must be taken – despite photographic evidence.  I look back at photos like this and think ‘How could I have not seen it?’

And by drastic I don’t mean a starvation diet – dieting – silly cutting out of all fats.. or all carbs… is the CAUSE rather than the cure of many weight problems… all that happens is that your body learns it needs to be careful of those precious fat supplies as it might meet starvation again so when you reach your target weight and take your eye off the strict diet (you know you do, you know you will), the result is the weight piles on and it is much harder to lose weight in the future! At least I had managed to avoid that pitfall when I first had to lose a lot of weight.

I blame the Americans. 🙂 Ok, not All of you, but the first time I really put on weight it was in the USA. I had left these shores at nine stone, in fact a couple of pounds under, and had gone to America on a Buna-Camp scheme in 74.

Buna-Camp ran a scheme for students, particularly teacher training students, to go to America and teach in the Summer camps. You had your air-fare covered, plus you got paid a bit too. This meant that if you had the time left after the eight week summer camp teaching, you could travel around and see a bit of America before you had to go back to the UK and the next term.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a great experience! And I shall write a blog about it one day, but the food at the camp, plus the food when we went out, just piled on the pounds. I returned after eleven weeks 2 and a half stone heavier than I left.  My parents didn’t recognise me and I’d had to buy clothes to wear.  Had I pigged out? – it didn’t feel like it at the time – I didn’t seem to eat more than the rest, so , not really, but the high level of carbohydrate in the diet, plus the American beers (when out) certainly had their effect on me – and it wasn’t intoxication!

Luckily, I read up about sensible ways to lose weight slowly and steadily and this also taught me some good nutrition basics and started an interest in scientific developments in understanding nutrition, so I avoided the worst kind of diet trap  the ‘lose it fast – put it back on faster type’.

So, back to post-menopause .. the weight had been creeping on – and on, so,  in January 2011, I tried to recreate this sensible weight-loss pattern – but for the first time it didn’t work. By the time the photo above was taken I had been been keeping an eye on what I ate  as I had done all those years ago, but no weight had come off at all. What was missing if I was by now back to eating a sensible and well balanced diet?

Well, what I didn’t do, and hadn’t done for a long, long time, was hard exercise. I’m not really a sporty type, I  love dancing but get bored with class aerobics or jogging very quickly. I have also avoided doing gym sessions since taking out a year membership about ten years ago and, despite the boredom, using it regularly only to find I built up huge muscles (I build muscle easily) but that did not really help much with weight control, and it is only now I find I was doing the wrong sort of exercise – the type that is good for body-builders or weight-lifters but not for fat burning.

For this I needed to build lean muscle, and to do that I need to work it hard to get it to burn fat even when it is doing very little – so I was told – and so I have been doing.  Basic portion control with an extra eye on the carbohydrates and specific resistance weights exercises. Not too many a day – taking less than fifteen minutes.

Has it worked?? My cheerleaders will have noticed the weight going down in numbers from 12 stone to 10 stone, and will have seen the evidence that what I have been eating is enough for anyone.  They’ll also know that for the whole of the month of June I went on to a maintenance programme (to assess where I was and get used to my new weight), neither losing not gaining anything. As from the start of July,  I returned to the weight-loss method and have lost a further 2.5 lbs to the photo taken on Aug 1.  However, here, now … as I lift the veil on a Fat Woman Thinning …   is the evidence in the raw —

side view Jan1 2012
Side view Aug 1 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both photos taken with stomach muscles relaxed, by the way, and they are the same undies – ones I knew should fit again if I lost the weight, and both taken by me, at my arm’s length (What, you think I’d have someone else photographing me like that?).  Whew, that was scary – posting these photos!

So, a big thank you to all my cheerleaders – and the quest goes on – aiming for the next half stone … now what can I reward myself with when I get there? First target was a beautiful wrap, second was a pair of strappy sandals with more heel than I usually go for…..  Ideas welcome – I love to hear from you!

Finally – would DeborahKennedy2@**** please contact me before 10/9/12 .

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