Sep 14 2006

Food Food Family Friends


Food Food Family Friends



Summer seems to have tumbled over itself in a hurly burly holiday extravaganza. We revelled in a July heat wave and sailed in Bahamian sunshine to the white sand of Bryher on the Isles of Scilly. We walked on deserted beaches, sat silently on hilltops gazing out to sea. We were buffeted by wind and tide, spray soaked, searching for puffins and seals. We followed the sensational Island Gig race shouting encouragement, egged on by the locals. We swam in crystal clear water watching tiny fishes scud beneath our toes. All was relaxation, warmth and wine, wonderful. 

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Then home and the tone was firmly set for the weeks to come. Regattas, large and small, Red Arrows, fireworks, friends and family, birthdays, wedding anniversary, parties, sun, music, laughter, love and happiness. All quite exhausting actually!


After Bryher family arrived from Bath and Tokyo!  Suddenly the house was humming with squeals and shrieks of laughter; five little children from three to eight raced round the garden playing happily despite language barriers. Funny, isn’t it, how language doesn’t matter when you’re small.


We crabbed on the jetty, had picnics on the beach, paddled in streams and played cricket on Dartmoor, had supper at Dartington and suddenly they were gone.

A deafening silence gripped the house. We sat down gloomily and stared at the emptiness.

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Then the Bath  brigade returned, hurrah; more lunches at the café,  boat trips, beach and suppers in the evening sun. At last we celebrated forty years of marriage with, oh, so many of our dearest friends and family and suddenly autumn arrived!   


It’s back to business now. Sheep to sort out; who will stay and who must go, their time up; those difficult decisions. Old ewes who have had there day must be moved on.  I always find that hard. The dreadful Scruff has to go too. He produced nice enough lambs but, alas, his temper is not all it might be, it bears out Phil’s warning on the dangers of keeping young Fly entire. Hand raised rams are not a good idea. Some of last years wethers must go to.


ShropshireOne young Whiteface ram, yet to be named, has already started work in the orchard with a harem of mature Jacob X ladies. Junior is due home soon for his last season with us. He has been on loan to some Shropshire lasses up the road. Hoggs must be booked into the abattoir, customers contacted, chickens “rationalised.” My bantams are still running riot despite the badger’s best efforts! Fields are being topped again, gates mended, fences repaired, hay and straw bought in. All the preparations for winter have suddenly begun.


Donkeys are coming in for tea now as the days shorten. Poor old Dan walks sadly into his stable alone, while Bunty and Luke have taken very quickly to Nutmeg and Frday’s quarters. I have a feeling the boys are fighting with just one female in their midst. But I do have a plan to find Dandy a new companion in the coming weeks. Watch this space!!  I still can’t get used to just three Donks instead of the six. Oh, how I miss the naughty Nutmeg and Friday and the funny old Sweep.


And then of course there’s harvest. The garden and fields are bursting with goodies just waiting to be gathered. I have never seen such sloes, the bushes are bent double, simply glistening with blue black fruit. I shall pick loads and treat them like hard, tart little damsons, maybe make jam. And, of course, I’ll prick some with a darning needle, pack them into jars with sugar and cover with gin or vodka, to warm Christmas guests. I don’t like it much myself, too sweet.

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Huge blackberries wink at me as I pass yet again without a bowl. Hazelnuts hit me on the head in the farmyard reminding me of scrumptious praline and hazelnut meringue cake, yum! Even the pear tree dying by the kitchen window is performing a spectacular swan song laden with jewel like pears. The vegetable garden is beginning to look weather beaten and tatty but it still holds plenty of treats in store. Spinach chard, late peas and potatoes are still to come. Quince ripen, beans still need picking, beetroots bulge from the soil. I’ve grown my best ever sweet corn this year too, great fat yellow batons so sweet and tender, delicious with butter or green, unguent virgin olive oil.


Cucumbers have been amazingly prolific too but tomatoes, unusually, a complete disaster. No more “Heritage” seeds for me! Back to what my dear old gardening book “The Vegetable Garden Displayed” first published circa 1941, I love those black and white photos, calls “trusty cultivars.”


Plums were brief but in abundance. Mildew sprang up on the fruit as it ripened which turned harvesting them into something of a race. But I did manage a plum flan on quince custard which was nice, as well as Plum, Orange and Walnut jam which is wonderful; a great alternative to marmalade.
The orange and walnut seem to cut through the strong plum flavour and really lift it.


My fig tree has suddenly gone into overdrive producing more figs than even I can consume. I found a delicious Fig Conserve hidden away in Jane Grigson’s beloved Fruit Book. Simply cover the halved figs in half their weight of sugar and leave over night. By morning the sugar has drawn the juice from the figs. Bring everything gently to the boil and immediately scoop out the figs into sterilised jars, boil down the syrup. Pour it, thick and sticky, over the fruit and cover in the normal way. I have a feeling a dollop of this figgy bliss on a warm croissant with a large cup of strong black coffee will cheer cold winter breakfasts!


2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Food Food Family Friends”

  1. Tanaon 15 Sep 2006 at 1:41 am

    Thank you for a beautiful post, full of heart and cheer. I almost feel like I visited your farm.


  2. Jenon 15 Sep 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Sally, I hardly know which is more beautiful – your photographs or your writing. Both are so evocative, I always feel as if I’ve been on a lovely holiday myself just in reading your blog. And I always seem to learn something, too – this time, so that’s what ‘sloe gin’ is!

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