Celebrating small things – country life

Today, yes, today, I was at a village celebration!     …..    Excited? 

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People gathering before the start

Well, if I told you this was a celebration for the opening ceremony of a LAY-BY – would you still be excited?

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Getting the new lay-by ready for the ribbon cutting

Yeah – I know it sounds weird … but this is country life… and when they say things move slowly in the country this lay-by is a prime example.  The post-office corner is a good right-angled bend and the road is just wide enough for two cars to go round it carefully. Opposite the post-office village shop used to be a fairly high bank, seemingly grassed, but as we all know, grass banks in Cornwall hide a slate and granite hedge! There has always been a bit of roadside parking up the little lane leading down towards the ‘main’ road through the village, but not much, and you were always aware that tarrying too long meant others could not park. Then there are the Mobile Library days, when all that space it taken by the Mobile library for half an hour. Or deliveries to the shop, or the postman collecting the mail.

All in all, many would stop on the corner, against that high bank… and thus prevent the bus getting round the corner much to the consternation of the bus drivers ( Yes we are lucky enough to still be on a regular bus route – and I imagine each time the bus is prevented from keeping to schedule the likelihood of keeping the service diminishes)

So, for years … and I mean Y E A R S …….. the idea of having a small carpark opposite the post office village shop has been mooted.  However, up until now, nothing has ever come of the ‘idea’. It has taken a savvy person on the parish council to work though the ever tricky procedure of applying for grants and permissions, others to plan and oversee the works, for a community group to put forward some of the funds to show willing and for the grants to be actually awarded and in the end we have it!

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Two, of the three, vintage cars, parked in the lay-by

It was part of the stipulation of the largest funding body that there should be a formal opening ceremony with press – so it became an event – with posters drawn by children from the village primary school, with official ribbon cutting, with tea and cake, with a procession of vintage cars, one carrying the oldest village resident at 101, and a vintage bike against the bike rack with its basket filled with bunches of flowers for various people handed out by children from the village school and with speeches (short ones!) of thanks to all involved!

And so, it turned out to be a really nice country-style village celebration of something both very small and significant at the same time.  There is now room for 5 cars ( if they park tidily) plus the space for three up the side lane remains, and no excuse to block the path of the bus (or any other large vehicle that needs to turn the ‘post-office’ corner).

We all hope it makes a difference inside the shop too, with more people using it – as we are also very lucky to still have a post office and village shop and that needs the village people to use it and buy a significant amount every week to keep it going.

Lucky people!

The first lucky seven people will be getting their choice of my already published novels arriving in their email inbox on Friday!! There is still a chance to get in on the first draw if you enter before noon on Friday 7th June… but even if you enter afterwards you will be in the draw for the next three weeks draws. If you’re not sure what this is about .. just click on the link to go to my   **Pre-Launch Party** where YOU CAN WIN a copy of one of my novels. (if you haven’t got an ereader these are available as pdf – or download kindle for pc and ask for a mobi version – to read them on your computer) 

I’M GIVING AWAY ONE eNOVEL A DAY ALL THROUGH JUNE!!

Do you live in a village or tight-knit community?

What makes your community special?

Do you find pleasure in these ‘small things’?

You know I love to hear from you – do share 🙂

 

AND NOW.. the next excerpt from THE ANGEL BUG ……

Gabbi has returned to the Foundation building…

   Andy and Naomi were heralded by their voices, obviously in heated discussion, followed by their persons as they came up the central staircase into the light and airy office space.

‘But it could be Thrips Palmi,’ Andy was saying.

‘What, with the quarantine measures all in place? Besides it isn’t as if it came from some dodgy place.’

‘Well, Kew has been known to have its own problems with diseases and vectors.’

‘Do we have a new problem?’ I cut in.

‘W04, some die-back co-incidentally right beside the new introductions.’

‘Which were quarantined for three months as usual!’ Naomi retorted.

‘Anyhow, we’ll know soon, samples coming over pronto.’

‘Well we’re going to be busy then, I’ve asked for you to see some from the Moringa as soon as they come in. It’s a bit tricky, it’s the last tree we want to have a problem with just now,’

‘Why? Any time is bad for any of them isn’t it?’ Naomi said, shrugging.

‘Ah, but Luke Adamson’s coming and he’s sure to make a bee-line for it.’

‘Why’s that?’ Andy said as he sat down.

I looked at Andy and Naomi, both of them looked puzzled, and young all of a sudden. I smiled, ‘Well back when you two were in nursery school, Luke made his name with the first comprehensive ethnobotanical study of the Moringa.’

‘Oh dear!’ Andy pulled a mournful face, waggling his head in a mocking way.

‘Oh dear, indeed,’ I almost laughed, Andy, at least didn’t seem in awe of the superstar.

The three of us busied ourselves in the portacabin laboratory at Watering Lane, Eden’s nursery a few miles west of the main site, each wearing the standard kit, lab coat, latex gloves, and, when we were cutting, goggles.

‘So,’ I said firmly, looking up from my microscope, ‘it’s definitely not a dehydration problem, these cells are as turgid as we could wish for.’

‘And so far I have found no signs of microbacterial infection,’ added Andy. ‘So I’m going to culture some sections, especially of the red cells.’

‘You just do that!’ Naomi said to his back as he went into the second half of the lab.

‘Nothing?’ I asked, looking across to her. There was an atmosphere between them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, though it might have just been the cross accusations over the source of the plant infections.

‘Nothing, certainly on this sample, I’m off to take a good look at that tree and the area, put down a few sticky pads to see what insect vectors I catch.’

‘Okay. I have to admit I’d rather we found something concrete before Adamson turns up.’

Naomi turned and gave me a quizzical look as she hung up her lab coat. ‘I don’t know why you’re worrying, Gabbi, that new senior botanist will be here tomorrow and she can talk herself out of any hang-ups Dr Adamson has about our trees.’

Naomi just about slammed the door behind her, leaving me wondering what had ruffled her feathers. There was something in the way that she had said ‘senior botanist’ that suggested that the new boss was a problem, but, as I had not been in on the day of the appointment I’d not met Dr. Ananias. I had heard that she had made an impact on all of them in different ways, some by her looks, some by her ‘air’ and some by her obvious intelligence, however, perhaps not all opinions were favourable. I recalled that Naomi had been unusually reticent at the time.

I turned the leaf over again; the under side was a definite red, not unlike many plants that have a red underside to reflect light back through to the chlorophyll-bearing leaf tissues. I began to wonder whether the Moringa had the ability to adopt this red pigment in reduced-light circumstances. After all the ETFE bubbles of the domes did not allow a hundred percent light through them, then add to that, the fact that many of the largest of the trees in the tropical biome had grown so fast, faster than had been expected, that they had already needed pruning to prevent them reaching the skin of the dome, and so they were cutting out even more light.

‘Hey, Andy,’ I called. ‘I’m going over to reception to see if I can chase up anything on Moringa and low light levels.’

‘Okay, catch you up later.’

I cleared and washed up, then hung up my lab gear and left the laboratory. I glanced up at the vast range of glasshouses that had brought on the bulk of the trees and plants needed to create Eden, and now continued that work, with the sideline of producing plants for sale in the shop. Reception was a building that looked, appropriately, like an overgrown garden shed. Inside, it had the appearance of belonging to a set of artistic hippies; six foot butterflies hung lazily on fine threads from the ceiling, a foam rubber and papier-mâché tree wound itself around a central pillar, and collection boxes for all kinds of recyclable stuff were everywhere. The reception desk itself was little more than a bare board and unmanned as usual, yet above it hung the ubiquitous picture of Luke.

‘Hiya, Jim,’ I called as I circled round to a spare computer.

‘All right?’

‘Will be if we can sort out this blessed Moringa before he comes.’ I nodded to the picture.

‘Yeah, I heard you had a problem. Anything I can help with?’

Jim was one of those truly green-fingered horticulturalists that make you believe in such things; anything he touched grew.

‘Not unless you can tell me why these Moringa leaves should turn red with no obvious reason. I’m just looking up the likelihood of a change to utilise reflected light, though there was nothing in the Forestry guide’

‘No watering problems?’

‘Nope.’

‘Hmm, light sounds like a possibility then, and that guide’s not infallible. I’ll leave you to it,’ he added as he left the building.

Half an hour later Andy broke through the trance that I’d sunk into as I flicked from article to article dealing with plants that utilised the red underside of their leaves. There were no cases where Moringa had exhibited this pattern of adaptation and the only plants where the colour changed, as opposed to always being red, had a well documented histology that demonstrated that they were always ready and willing to change as soon as the light levels decreed it.

‘Ready to go back?’ he asked.

‘Yep, might as well, not getting anything useful here. Of course I might be on to a new research paper,’ I grinned. ‘The adaptation of Moringa to life under ETFE.’

   Andy grinned back; he knew how little I wanted to do any such thing, even though progress in the scientific world was made just that way. I’d said often enough that I was so glad I didn’t have to jump through those hoops as I had no ambition now to be a botanical high-flyer. After all I’d seen at first-hand what it meant. James had been at the top of his field for decades and it had driven him to despair at times, especially when out ‘scrounging’ for research funds, yet it still amazed me when he threw it all in and retired at fifty, many of his colleagues were just getting into their stride at that age.

   We were no further on when I left for home. I drove my mini quite sedately, there being no need to hurry home, and the twists and turns of the high-banked hedges and the road between them meant that being ready and able to stop within a few yards of spying another vehicle was a distinct advantage. My mind wasn’t on my driving however; it was still on the problem of the Moringa.

 ….. to be continued

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Frogs, Fungus and Fat-balls

NATURE NOTES AT THE END OF JANUARY 2012

Winter still has not really had much of an effect on this little corner of Cornwall, it has been exceptionally mild and pretty wet too. I missed taking a photo of a row of early daffodils blooming against the backdrop of the Ginster’s Christmas tree outside their Pasty factory in Callington  (I didn’t have my camera with me and the next time I passed it was after 12th night)  But I have a shot of our first daffs to bloom – not an early variety but they were blooming by Wednesday of last week (25th Jan) and the snowdrops that line the bottom of the Cornish hedge these grow on were also blooming well.   The first snowdrops however had been those in the new wood, where these (see photo) were out before the end of December. In between I have noticed the usual spring blossoms, the camellias are already putting on a great show and primroses peeking out amongst the grass,  however there are also roses still in bloom in both the front and back gardens.

I couldn’t resist these two examples of fungi – amazingly attractive, one bracket fungus and some toadstools, which I believe to be a honey fungus but must check it out as it was close to one of our apple trees!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The frogs have returned to the water-feature (a run of very small shallow ponds going down through the new wood, fed by spring-water that runs into the main pond near the house) I tried to capture these on camera but the vibration of walking, even ever-so carefully, sends them scooting under the leaf-litter debris in the bottom of the pools. The frogs that inhabit here vary in shade and markings, from the usual green and gold, brown and gold to a dark liver red colour.  Their great clumps of frog-spawn, are, however, quite visible and, as they protrude above the shallow water, are also vulnerable to frost if we get one.

In the main pond (which also holds numerous shubunkin type goldfish, ranging from dark brown, through speckled to gold – none of which we have see at all since late November) the newts have reappeared.  I have tried to capture these on camera but being under-water means I always get a ‘light refraction’ shadow – so they are not that clear. If anyone out there can tell me how to take these photos in a clear way (using a simple old digital camera) please do!  Our newts range in shade from a dark olive green to a basic brown, through a russet red to a pale pinkish colour.  As the water warms up I expect to see more of them as they start their mating behaviour – where a female will  be followed around the bottom of the shallow shelf on the pond by a number of suitors.

My father has a new bird-feeder, it looks like a log with holes cut in the sides and you fill it with ‘fat-balls’ which are, much as their name suggests, balls of fat with seeds and grain in them. This has attracted two varieties of woodpecker, the green woodpecker and the greater spotted woodpecker,  to the garden where we can see them from the kitchen window (we often hear them in the area). They have been accompanied by the long-tailed tits, which usually fly in a group of about a dozen and flitter round the trees where the feeders are, feed briefly but then swiftly move on, however the fat-ball log seems to keep them here much longer.

Lastly a picture quiz: What is it? I took this photograph in very late December in our garden. A click on the picture will enlarge it for you. Can you identify the plant these fell from? Answers in the comment please – I’ll give the correct answer next week!

Clue 1: These came off a tree.

Clue 2: This tree belongs on the other side of the world – native of Australia.

Clue 3 This tree has silvery green leaves, round on young stems and elongated and pointed on older.

FIRST PERSON TO POST CORRECT ANSWER IN COMMENTS  WINs AN E-COPY OF  Divining The Line

And if you want to know more about the novels by Ann Foweraker ‘Divining the Line’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ and ‘Some Kind Of Synchrony’ just click HERE to be able to the first 3 chapters in pdf FREE !  Answer and Winner?? – See the comments!

SEE ‘Old Bottle – New Treasures’ post for February Picture Quiz!

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Fat Woman Thinning? Sunday breakfast to The Big Breakfast

If you are new to the FWT? blog-posts, welcome to Fat Woman Thinning? – a 52 week blog, which I started as pages to keep myself on-track and so my ‘primary cheerleaders’ (my sons) could keep up with my progress. Then two weeks ago, I felt brave enough to post it as a blog!  If you are one of my new cheerleaders ! Yay! Great to see you again!

Sunday 22 /1 – week 4 of 52 week blog

Weigh-in 11stone 7lbs  (161 lbs or 73.2 kg)  belly-button measurement : 42 1/2 ”  relaxed  40 1/2 ”  pulled in

So, a 1 lb drop – that’s 7lb over the three weeks – but more impressive this week was the waist measurement. Yes, I did check that the measurements were ‘level’ and in each case, relaxed and pulled-in there is a 1 inch difference from last week (and that was half an inch down on the first week I measured) All in all I am happy with the results from this week… it does so help to motivate when there is change.. I don’t know about you but it is when I have a week with no change that gives me the biggest challenge. However, with you, my new cheer-leaders and monitors on board I am sure I can beat it!

Having a ‘moan’ to Son#2 about it only being a 1 lb drop this week and he said “One pound is a one pound – if you drop one pound a week for the whole year that’s over 50 lbs.”  Whoa! That’s massive! So whenever I find it’s ‘only’ a pound then I shall be glad that is still moving and remember that quote!

Sunday Notes:

Sunday is Sunday – and the tradition in this household is for a proper English breakfast, that looks huge compared to my daily breakfast, followed at dinner (lunch) time by a roast dinner – come cold weather, come hot weather. Again, this appears to be huge and we have dessert, though I have been cutting down the carbohydrates on that down by substituting stewed fruit and custard for the usual Fruit Crumbles or Pies. No one has complained ….yet.

Monday Notes:

Decided to time my weights sessions… I knew they weren’t taking long as I do them to music and they only took 3 tracks, but it’s good to know because one of my criteria is that they shouldn’t take too much time as I am quite a busy hedgehog and I really can’t afford to take much time out to do the exercises. This is one, but only one, of the reasons I don’t go jogging* or cycling for exercise. The other reasons will have to wait for a post of their own as from last week as I realised my notes over the week created a bit-too-long post in one bite. (*see 7 random things about me in Oh MY! oh my! Versatile Blogger Award post)

Tuesday Notes:

Still finding the lunges really hard work – just making it over the 15 – though I guess if I ended up doing a lot more it would take more time – 11 mins today  – not too much of a time suck! I suppose I should explain what I do for my aerobics and stretching sometime.. in case anyone wants to know!

Wednesday Notes:

Having found the triceps extensions difficult to get right without hurting my elbow a new way of doing these was suggested.   http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/Triceps/DBLyingTriExt.html   if you want to see it- I don’t have a fancy bench so I used the bed with folded a pillow supporting my head so it projects a little beyond the foot of the bed (had to be that way round – can’t do this where you have a headboard!)

Thursday Notes:

I was a bit short of time – so missed out stretching from the half hour workout I usually do in the evening  as had just done belly dance class  which includes a great stretching warm-up

Friday Notes:

Saturday (tomorrow) is the Big Breakfast – so all exercises will have to wait until the afternoon, if I am still standing – will be cooking from 9am to 1pm!

Saturday Notes:

Stood helping to cook about 200 Big Breakfasts in the Village Hall today from 9 to 1.30, then cleaned ovens and tidied up, drove all round village collecting all the roadside notices in ….. felt as if I had already done a workout – but stuck to the schedule even though the resistance training that I usually do in the morning was completed at gone seven in the evening. *virtuous feeling*

TO BE CONTINUED       ****************

Don’t forget if you want any of the details of exactly what foods I am eating –  certainly not on a diet, most certainly not starving myself or going hungry between meals and yet it is working so far .. but will it work for the whole 52 weeks? Or what the exercises are that I am doing, then go to the Fat Woman Thinning page on the cross bar and each week is on a drop-down. These are updated daily.

Last week I asked you what were your greatest temptations and how you stopped yourself from falling for them, this week I’d love to know your best excuses for not doing the exercises you set yourself.

I know I use ‘lack of time’ mostly for mine – and aware of this I am getting used to telling myself that this is ‘just an excuse’ . Name it and shame it — then I’m less likely to use it again!

Most of all I just love to hear from you folks, questions, experiences whatever –  looking forward to hearing from you all.

Thanks for all the cheerleaders that have joined me in this challenge, please keep sharing this as there is plenty of room in the grandstand!

And if you want to know more about the novels by Ann Foweraker ‘Divining the Line’, ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ and ‘Some Kind Of Synchrony’ just click HERE to be able to the first 3 chapters in pdf FREE !

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Belly Dancing – for fitness, friendship and fun – not to entertain men

Ok, so I love belly dancing! It always leaves me feeling so good. Your whole body gets a really good workout without you even realising, as you are just having fun.

Let’s put a few myths to bed, 1, Belly dance was not created to entertain men, nor is it lascivious or meant to be sexually alluring. It probably originated in the women’s tents, the women entertaining each other, dancing to express themselves in times of joy and in times of sorrow. There are traditional dances for the harvest safely gathered in, for the loved one leaving, or coming home, for any major happening in the community or life. There are those that believe that the dance actually originated as a fertility dance, the movements representing stages of giving birth. Whichever it was certainly a folk dance and as such, when it left the tents, it was a dance shared with the community, where men also danced and it wasn’t called ‘Belly Dance’ then, it was probably just ‘dancing’ known as Raqs Baladi (folk dance) it was probably thought of as about erotic as Barn Dancing or Morris Dancing in the UK (incidentally also believed to have started as a fertility dance). The ‘sexy belly dance’ (and its costume) it seems, we can blame, first on the romantic Victorians and then on Hollywood

2, Belly Dancing is not just shaking it all about. Belly dance is about control, about isolation. Isolation is where you focus on moving one part of the body but keeping the rest still, to circle hips and keep your whole top half still is no mean feat, but try circling your top half and keeping your hips still – so still that the coins on your coin belt don’t even shiver, that’s hard! To shimmy your hips and keep shoulders still, to circle one hip and keep the other leg still, the arms and upper body still… it all takes practice…but it is fun and strengthens core muscles in a weight bearing low impact exercise – so is good for you too.

So, every Thursday in term time you’ll find me, and a lovely group of women, all ages from teens to sixties being guided through our paces by the beautiful and graceful Jules in Gunnislake, where we take over the primary school hall for the evening, dressed in our finery with barely a belly on view (what to wear is a whole other blog) and having fun getting fit and flexible. I took a snap-shot of Jules for this blog .. but as I didn’t have the camera set to ‘sport’ it came out blurred… so I may add one later.

Obviously I am just a participant and an amateur at belly dancing, though I calculate that I have been learning it for ten years or so, what aspects would people like to know more about? Speak now or I shall just blog on in my own sweet way.

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autumn-spiders-and-a-16th-century-house

Spiders (arachnophobes look away now)

It is November and the spiders making their annual autumn invasion of the house. Now you have to understand that our house is a spider’s heaven, having been built in stages from the 1500s onward to the late 1600s it has lots of beams, to make webs between and the ceiling, hundreds of nooks and crannies, nice places to sneak away into to hide, and a housekeeper (me) who, 1, quite likes spiders and doesn’t want to harm them and 2, likes important things to be clean (kitchen, bathroom) but is not overly anxious about a few cobwebs here and there – especially there.

Now when I say I like spiders I have to qualify that with I like some spiders more than others. I am not fond of the very dark short-legged varieties and on the infrequent occasions when they do arrive I arrange their safe and harmless transition to the great outdoors (clear plastic cup and sheet of paper work best for me)

My favourite house spider is the Tegenaria gigantea . (It maybe that the ones in my house are actually Tegenaria saeva which is very similar and found more often here in the SW of England) These are the large beasties with equally large legs and beautifully chevron marked abdomens. If it sat in a dessert-spoon its legs would reach or overlap the edges. It is often spotted as it makes a mad dash across the room, pauses, then runs on! The females are quite long lived and can live a number of years as adults and, as is usual in the spider-world are larger than the males. They make quite small webs (so not too much of a nuisance) We used to have one that lived behind a large larder cupboard, where the cupboard didn’t quite fit tight against the wall (not one of the walls in our house is straight). She would come out in the evenings, sitting boldly at the edge of her small web. The boys used to drop flies they’d swatted into this web during the day for her to find later. After about two years she just disappeared. tegenaria from my workshop
This one is fairly small and lives in the workshop, high up above the racks that hold the tools etc, for size reference the base of the jar she is sitting in is a good 3″ or 7cm across.

The next and the most prevalent spider in this house is a thin cylindrical bodied, long thin legged variety that I call the cobweb trembler. It makes annoying strandy cobwebs all over the place and hangs in this mess waiting, so while I tolerate these I am not keen on them.  If you disturb the cobwebs it trembles violently shaking back and forth over as much as ten centimetres, so that it is hard to catch (if I were a bird or something) If you touch the spider itself it drops, suddenly, to the ground…. and scurries off inefficiently on its spindly legs. These belong to the Pholcidae and are probably phalangioides but I am not sure. They manage to raise armies of young and so each year, twice a year, I brace myself and armed with the vacuum cleaner, try to remove as many as I can from the building.

I often wonder if they survive the vacuum treatment, I hope they do and immediately go and empty the cleaner out on the compost heap (it doesn’t have a bag so the dust and stuff doesn’t get compacted at all) – in the hope that if they have survived the suction and having landed in the body of the cleaner they have curled up and waited until release.

Along with many others I find beauty in the cobweb made by the orb spider and many orb spiders are beautiful in themselves with interesting colours (saw a bright lime green one this past Summer) and patterns. When these decide to make a web across an open window it is with great regret that I destroy the web just to close the window (making sure the spider is safely outside before closing) I really don’t like the thought of hurting them.. maybe growing up with the  ‘If you wish to live and thrive, let the spider run alive’ rhyme?

Spiders aren’t the only creepy crawlies that I have a soft spot for. Many, many years ago when at teacher training college I did my biology thesis on Lepisma saccharina (the small primitive insect known as the silverfish) A harmless creature (except if they get into old libraries in numbers – they eat the sizing and glues on books) I had always seen them around but could find very little out about them. After eighteen months keeping them, studying their life cycle, behaviour patterns, preferences for diet, humidity, light, temperature conditions and nearly four hundred pages later, which included sheet after sheet of hand-drawn and coloured graphs (pre-computers!), I think I knew more about them that most entomologists back then, but not now . I was particularly curious as to what the ones that live in the bathroom ate, (as the only information available at the time suggested they ate carbohydrates and sugars – not often found in bathrooms) and discovered that among other things, they eat up all the shed scales of skin we leave behind as we dress and undress. In fact, if they did not get certain levels of protein from this or moulds then they lost their shine. I was awarded a high grade for my research and hence, in this house, these creatures are always rescued from the bath.

Enough of creepy crawlies for now….. I think these have to go under Other passions. Anyone else like spiders and other creepy crawlies?

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Making Jam and writing this blog at the same time!

I am making Jam! Right now… while the bowl of fruit and sugar bubbles safely in the microwave I am using the eight minutes, until it is ready for a stir and to reset microwave time and power to simmer, to start this blog.

Jam making is one of my ‘other passions’, it takes hold of me when I find beautiful free or cheap fruit and I have a bit of time. I have my regular jams to make, the blackcurrant which is the staple jam on our table is made from fruit harvested from our garden and frozen, so this is often made as required, five jars at a time (this being the maximum quantity I can make in the microwave in the largest Pyrex bowl I have). I cannot resist making apricot jam when in France in the summer and boxes are being sold cheap in the markets and supermarkets, we eat apricots, make desserts out of apricots and then make jam from the rest – enough to take back to use at home for the rest of the year, each spoonful crammed full of the flavour of summer.

Right now, hang on… ok stirred and set to simmer for another 8mins…right now, I am making Bullace jam. This year the small semi-wild trees in our orchard hedge that bear these slightly smaller, slightly sharper, damson like fruit have been heavy with their glossy bloomed and black fruit, so I mused that I might try making some jam with them, perhaps just one batch of 5 jars as I haven’t made jam with these before and as I adapt my WI preserves book recipes (WI recipes are the best!) to make them suitable for the microwave as I go, I usually do a smaller sample first, however, M immediately went out and picked a box full – about 7lbs (yes I still work in imperial when cooking) which was enough for 15 jars!

So, problem… not enough sugar, in fact not enough even for the first batch (I was only musing remember) and it is Saturday afternoon. So, I hear you think, just go and buy some. Well, I always buy my sugar from my village post office and stores and that is closed on a Saturday afternoon – it’s part of my effort to support this shop in the hope that it will stay viable, so I don’t want to buy it elsewhere and elsewhere would also mean a drive into the nearest town, when I would prefer not to take a car journey for just one thing, part of an effort for the environment.

So the fruit goes into the cold room until Sunday morning, when I can pick up the sugar at the shop and take it into church with me (opposite the shop) and bring back after the service.

Ok…I’ve just put a small spoonful on a plate in the fridge to see if its ready to set and poured boiling water into recycled jam jars and put them in the microwave to boil away happily for a few minutes.

Already… the jars are done, I’ve put the jam back in the microwave to bring it to the boil again, the test shows a decent set…bullace are high in pectin and so I was on to a winner there.

 

Continued 2 days later…. it didn’t take 2 days to make… just 2 days to get back to my blog!

Fifteen jars of gorgeous looking jam now stand on the shelf in the cold room, alongside this year’s apricot. Yum!

 

My Microwave Recipe: makes about 5lb of jam.

2 ¼ lbs damsons or bullace – washed, stalks removed

3 tablespoons of water   (this is the main ingredient difference in using a microwave)

3lb sugar.

Butter – walnut sized piece (it really makes a difference to the finished product)

1, Place bullace and water in large* Pyrex or similarly heat proof microwave safe bowl, covered, 10 mins high power to soften fruit. (*large enough to hold at least twice the amount of fruit you are putting in it)

2, Stir and squash fruit to help release the stones, further 6 – 8 mins until stones come free of the flesh.

3, Using a slotted  spoon lift out as many of the stones as possible and drop into large-hole colander to squash off as much of fruit and skin as possible to return to the fruit pulp – discard the stones ( a few stones remaining in the pulp do not matter and adds to the home made feel of the jam)

4, Re-heat for about 3 mins to bring back up to simmer.

5, Add sugar and stir in well, add butter and make sure it melts.

6, Lid off, bring up to the boil again in MW – about 8 – 10 mins.

7, Stir well and put back into MW to simmer for 8 mins

8, Stir well, and put back into MW to simmer for 8 mins and check for set (place a teaspoon of jam mix on a cold plate – pop back in fridge – will show a set if the jam skin forms wrinkles and feels thick when finger is pushed though it when cool)

9, Into well washed jars pour about 1 cm (half an inch) of boiling water, place in microwave on full power for 3 – 4 mins until the water boils in the jars. Take care and tip them out well and stand to evaporate the last bit of water while you re-heat the jam mix

10, If a set is demonstrated by your test – return jam mix to microwave and heat until bubble appear then remove from microwave and ladle into hot jars. (if no set then simmer for another 3 mins and retest, continue until a set is demonstrated)

11, Cover with clear jam-covers as per instructions with the packet, and label.

12, Enjoy!

 

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New Goats!!

The last of the new goats arrived today, a kid called Nougat, she joins our other five new British Boer Goats, all brown and white blotches and floppy ears. Jasmine, Splash, Snowflake, Tallulah and Blazey.Some of the new Boer goats

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Fox amongst the chickens!

I hate foxes! Until you see the decapitated bodies of your own hens strewn around the farmyard in the middle of the afternoon you could be forgiven for thinking them attractive creatures, but their wanton killing is not on, nor is coming in the afternoon, it’s not playing the game. If we’d left them out late, after dark, it would have been our fault, but the middle of the afternoon is not on!

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