Tag Archives: Hambrook

The Ripening Hambrook Harvest

From Little Acorns....,Rocking Dog

From Little Acorns….

I escaped the kitchen and ALL that china for a brief while yesterday. I was surely succumbing to cabin fever or should that be soapy sud kitchen fever! Real Live Rocking Dog provides the perfect excuse to drop the tea towel and  get out on the Frome Valley walkways which hug our fortunate doorstep.

How lovely to walk in sunshine and have blue fluffy cloud skies as a gorgeous last day in July canopy. Along the walk there were burgeoning and ripening crops of sloes, bullace, elderberries and blackberries. I spied a particularly luscious crop of blackberries over a pennant stone wall. Alas, they were unattainable with the river a watery barrier. A host of birds and other wildlife will have a veritable feast with no humans able to access and pick this precarious crop. Other bird food is ripening ready for the colder less plentiful days of late autumn and winter. Haws, rosehip and holly will serve them well.

Family folklore suggests that my fathers maternal family may have been Huguenots. Have you ever witnessed how  many French folk behave on a beach, they are not sunbathing, they are not swimming .. they are foraging! They have pails and spades, nets and lines and going in search of lunch or to find bait to catch lunch! Mussels, whelks, coastal plants, shrimp and crab are simply not safe. I see ripening elderberries and think of their addition in a summer pudding, an apple pie or crumble, ice cube or stew. Sloes and bullace again are destined in my mind to immersion in vodka or gin. I love to use the bloated alcohol soaked berries in rocky road and in ice creams, sorbets and warming winter stews. Just maybe, yes maybe I indeed do have French foraging blood flowing in my veins!

I love the way the Italians celebrate and give thanks to every crop they harvest and every animal they hunt. There are ancient walled hilltop towns close to where we live in Umbria which annually celebrate the bread, the oil, the wine, the saffron, the wild boar, the sweet chestnut, and so on! In the spring we were treated to the most wonderful feast at the little village hall in “our” village. The valley was vibrantly yellow with Mimosa trees and so this tree was celebrated along with World Women’s Day. The men (with undoubtedly some help of the female kind in the background!) of the village cooked for the women. We sat down to plates of crostini followed by two pasta courses (one with a pork ragu sauce and the other a tomato sauce). Lamb, steak and locally produced sausages cooked on a wood fired brazier together with a delicious dressed salad came next. Finally a specially baked mimosa coloured iced cake was proudly bought out and served with Grappa. Throughout the meal we had bottles of very quaffable locally produced red wine and then it was time to dance. Bad dancing translates and is understood in whatever language you speak! The Macarena danced for the final time it was time to wearily and bloatedly stumble home. Each woman was presented with a branch of Mimosa as she left together with hugs and hearty “buona notte’s”. It was such a lovely multi generational community event and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. We do not celebrate anything enough in this country and unfortunately unlike the Italians many British would not embrace a party encompassing all generations.

Back to walking along my favourite Hambrook walk (nicknamed “Mr Badger walk” because of an old sett along its route) the earth was littered with crops that hadn’t quite made it. Amongst the carpet of last years autumnal leaf fall there were conkers, beech masts and cobnuts lying like jewels. They had simply dropped before their time or had been slain by squirrels not willing to wait!

At the stile there was a solitary doe eyed cow with Bully the blooming big bull. I couldn’t help thinking “poor cow!” Perhaps she’ll have her very own harvest in the spring.

Very soon it was time to return to THAT china … but I felt so much better after a brief but wonderful nature filled sojourn.

 

Future Harvest,Rocking Dog

Future Harvest

Ditto!,Rocking Dog

Ditto!

Unattainable Harvest,Rocking Dog

Unattainable Harvest

Too Early....,Rocking Dog

Too Early….

...Too Late!,Rocking Dog

…Too Late!

One For The Pan,Rocking Dog

One For The Pan

Late Summer Harvest,Rocking Dog

Late Summer Harvest

Christmas Harvest,Rocking Dog

Christmas Harvest

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow,Rocking Dog

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow

A Field Full Of Flowers & Sunshine

Flowers In May,Rocking Dog

Flowers In May

Many of you will know about my love of the fields which lie behind the kennel. They were the perfect place to do an impromptu photo shoot with little Douglas. On the 10th May we ran out of the kennel whilst the sun was shining and the little babe contented. He was surrounded by sun kissed buttercups, clover, dandelion clocks, plantain and gently swaying grasses. How much more lovely to be photographed in this natural environment than a stark and expensive photographic studio! The weeks have since rolled on, the little chaps skin has plumply filled out, smiles have arrived, and newborn clothes have been neatly parcelled up. In time we will run through the grasses, hide, eat picnics, chat, sing, tell stories, do hand stands (!), dance, read, build snowmen, and play games in the field.

With the arrival of June the field shows off new swathes of flowers and grasses. The colourful honeyed smell of spring has given way to less showy moon daisies, wild sorrel, hawkweed, birds foot trefoil and a myriad of tall whispering grasses. Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper butterflies flutter in amongst the sun baked vegetation whilst bumble bees enjoy the sweet dying embers of the pink and white clovers. Large metallic lapiz blue dragonflies skim across the field on their way to the wetness of the Frome. Hedgerows burgeon with bramble blooms, sloes, wild briar rose and elderflower. It is simply too hot for the rabbits to graze, they will emerge from their damp clay burrows when twilight brings the coolness of the days end.

A pair of swallows have returned to the field, the late afternoons bring them joyfully and skilfully utilising their mesmerizing acrobatics. They swoop and dive over the high desiccating grasses, mere flashes of inky black forked tail and iconic aerodynamic wings. The buzzard, deer, wood pigeons and the rabbit loving fox who lives in the orchard put in appearances and makes every walk unique. The seasons leech into each other, days shorten and lengthen, rain, cold, wind, sun, grey, mud, frost, sun parched, the field perpetually changes.

Real Live Rocking Dog loves the field it means chasing his current deflated ball. We are lucky that the cows haven’t yet arrived. Until then it is Real Live Rocking Dogs field. It is a place for thinking, contemplating (despite the constant hum of the motorway), revelling in nature, enjoying the seasons and for planning the next photo shoot with the sooooo sweet wee nipper!

Do You Like Butter?,Rocking Dog

Do You Like Butter?

Flowers In June,Rocking Dog

Flowers In June

Nature Table,Rocking Dog

Nature Table

Brambles In Flower,Rocking Dog

Brambles In Flower

Ripening Sloes,Rocking Dog

Ripening Sloes

Where's My Ball?,Rocking Dog

Where’s My Ball?

Watery Walk,Rocking Dog

Watery Walk

Marshmallow Skies,Rocking Dog

Marshmallow Skies

May Blossom & Friends,Rocking Dog

May Blossom & Friends

Dealing With Domesticities In The Rocking Dog Kennel

Hanging Washing Umbrian Style, Rocking Dog

Hanging Washing Umbrian Style

The sun has been shining and I have been dealing with domesticities in the Rocking Dog Kennel! One of my great pleasures in life is to hang out washing, and believe it or not there are a few of us about! I think there is always the promise of sweet smelling wrinkle free laundry after a day on the line. I also love the sound of the pegs clanking into the enamel pail. Where this bucket came from has been lost in the mists of time. Most probably it was picked up at the flea market in the beautiful city of Nijmegen when we were living just over the border in Germany 30 years ago. Dating from the early 1900’s its original purpose was as a vegetable bucket. No fridges, plastic boxes pre-cut, pre-peeled cellophane’d bags for these hardy Dutch folk.

I even like photographing washing on lines whenever I travel. How bizarre to see laundry hung against the mellow walls of an ancient water lapped Venetian palazzo or strung against a brightly coloured fisherman’s house in Burano. I loved the washing hung between gnarled olive trees in the garden at the agriturismo in Orvieto two Novembers ago. Hanging washing in Hambrook doesn’t feel quite so romantic by comparison.

Though I love hanging washing, and get great joy from folding washing I am not the greatest fan of ironing. The paper on our bedroom wall pays homage to ironing, and every morning for the last fifteen years or so I have loved waking up to the domestic images. A can of starch and a good tv drama make the task of ironing somewhat more bearable.

On Friday I had a wonderful man here to sort Beloved Bernina, she certainly wasn’t sewing her best. I can really recommend Mark of Cathedral Sewing Machines. Apparently despite the popularity of sewing there are so few sewing machine service/repair engineers left. We discussed The Great British Sewing Bee and how the programme effects his business. Suddenly people remember a long forgotten Singer treadle machine in the attic, and need it sorted to zig zag, hem, baste and smock. Thankfully beloved Bernina is back on best form and ready to deal with table runners, waiters aprons, wigwam and …. THE wedding coat! There are also some Christmas projects to complete for a pitch. Thank you Mark for weaving your sewing machine magic. Busy times ahead!

Friday night I cooked a simple curry for house guests. I was very indecisive regarding a pudding so I arranged strawberries, blueberries, chocolate covered figs, cantucci, cream and crushed praline meringues on a board. I just said “Dive in” and people did… a dessert in moments. What a lazy cook I am becoming!

Whatever the week brings for you I hope there’s the sun and inclination to hang out a little bit of laundry!

The Venetian Way, Rocking Dog

The Venetian Way

Laundry In Burano...Rocking Dog

Laundry In Burano…

..& In Hambrook!, Rocking Dog

..& In Hambrook!

Vintage Laundry, Rocking Dog

Vintage Laundry

Peg Bucket, Rocking Dog

Peg Bucket

Wash Day Wallpaper

Wash Day Wallpaper

Pretty Ironing Pile, Rocking Dog

Pretty Ironing Pile

Beloved Bernina!, Rocking Dog

Beloved Bernina!

Throw Together Pud'!, Rocking Dog

Throw Together Pud’!

Sloe Gin And Posting Advent Packages!

Festive Tipple, Rocking Dog

Festive Tipple

I could wait no longer for a frost! Sloe folklore suggests that sloes are best plucked following a frost. The seasonal white crystalline dusting apparently helps to soften the skins of these tiny fruits. In turn, the cold helps to release the bitter dark purple juices. Many of the fruits I spied during my dog walk were becoming wizened, action hurriedly needed to be taken if I wanted a batch of 2015 sloe gin!

I therefore spontaneously picked a mixture of sloes and bullaces (small bitter plums) and headed home with my booty.

Sloe Gin
1. Wash fruit, drain in a colander
2. Prick each fruit and place in a large Kilner style jar (Ikea is a good port of call for jars)
3. Add some caster sugar to the jar together with a split vanilla pod (optional)
4. Top the jar up with Gin and stir.
5. Place in a dark place and shake or stir every three or four days. Eventually the sugar will dissolve.
6. Taste around Christmas. You may prefer to leave the brew for a little longer. Strain and decant.
7. Reserve the alcohol soaked sloe berries and store in a jar in the fridge. Stone as needed, and add to summer pudding, boozy rocky road and homemade ice cream

The sloe gin itself can be drunk neat or used in cocktails.

Part of my day yesterday was spent talking weddings and helping a bride choose flowers and discuss styling for a December wedding at No4 Clifton Village. Wow! Katie…. it is going to be Sooooooo beautiful.

Wedding talk done, my day finally became snow sprinkled with wrapping Rocking Dog parcels. Winging its way to Christchurch (UK and not NZ!) one of my 2015 “Twas the night before Christmas” advent calendars. Rocking Dog Advent Calendars are for life and not just one Christmas!

How can we be at the end of another week- it’s gone in a flash. The nights are drawing in and last night I was lucky enough to see some large bats swooping and diving over the brook in our garden. It was amazing to watch, but part of me was thinking “I hope you are not thinking of setting up home in our loft”. As a protected species they are more difficult to move on than squatters!

Today I am learning how to do freehand machine embroidery at “The Makery” in Bath. It’s such a lovely friendly environment to learn a new skill. There are mugs of coffee, laughs, great instruction and a lovely little sewing/craft shop. I hope I will feel confident in showing you my first attempt at free hand embroidery next week.

Wishing you a very happy weekend whatever you are doing- I have left plenty of sloes around Hambrook, so why not get picking!

Colander Crop, Rocking Dog

Colander Crop

Liquor, Rocking Dog

Liquor

Jar Magic, Rocking Dog

Jar Magic

Looking Forward, Rocking Dog

Looking Forward

Twas the Night....., Rocking Dog

Twas the Night…..

Parcelled To Post, Rocking Dog

Parcelled To Post