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Autumn Garden Diary

We shall bring the three seater swing seat in from the deck next week and leave the two seater to over winter outside.  The gravel garden has high hedges all round so it will be protected from high winds. We tried this last year and it worked well, the swing seat took no harm whatsoever, the overall covers really do their job of keeping cushions, awning and side panels dry and on those mild, sunny, winter days, we will still have somewhere to site and enjoy the garden; there is a bird table not far away so there is plenty of theatre to enjoy. 

The fruit bushes have been heavy laden this year, both wild and cultivated.  The ones we planted last year are still finding their feet.  The apple tree bore the grand total of 2 apples on one branch one of which was grub eaten so, no bumper crop on that one! The gooseberry didn’t fruit nor did the plum, greengage or pear which looks decidedly unhappy.  Pear tree leaves are rather droopy anyway so I am leaving it to sink or swim, I have a suspicion that the long, dry summer put a temporary stop to growth and all the trees have simply concentrated on straying alive.

Last  month for the first time for many a year, the ‘jam bug’ bit, mostly due to the heaviest of blackberry crops which produced berries as large as fat thumbs and which were so heavy with juice  they were falling off the branches into the bag. We now have 8 jars of blackberry and 4 jars of hedgerow jelly.  Haws, rosehips and rowan berries lined the lanes so I added them to the blackberries, the resulting jelly was a conserve of the most beautiful dark, ruby red, tasting delicious and good enough for a sneak spoonful on its own! 

With an abundance of courgettes which quickly morphed into marrow, I searched for a recipe for marrow and ginger jam, really easily to make and extraordinarily pretty.  Tasting will be in another couple of months as it needs time to mature. Onion marmalade came next which is good with cheese and biscuits and a tablespoon adds a bit of oomph to stews.  Then a present of a bag of quinces arrived which made me find out how to make quince cheese.  We had quince jam at school which I loathed it and, holding our noses and making nauseous faces, we spread it on slices of hard brown bread; the disgusting taste still lingers…. So It was a huge surprise to discover a sweet, lightly perfumed, delicious jam – goodness knows what the recipe was they used at the convent, they certainly successfully ruined a lovely fruit.

About 20 sheep from the field next door got into the garden last week; they leapt, crashed and nibbled their way through from one end to the other. Bushes were flattened and the last of the autumn blooms disappeared.  We managed to calmly and gently guide them towards the field and all was going well until the dogs decided to help out by racing down yapping like a couple of machine guns and the terrified sheep flew in all directions. With the utmost patience and no shouting (which, I might say requires huge self-control) calm was restored they were shepherded back into the field. 

The hole in the fencing has been mended and the animals are all back where they should be and the sun is shining!

Down again to the field to sort out the water for the cows, the trough has a suspected leak and needs replacing so the farmer brought over an old bath and filled that up.  Filling buckets with water is useless, cows are clumsy creatures that push and shove their way over anything in their way and buckets of water get knocked over and trampled on.  Of the three cows in the field two are black and white and the other one is black, the two Frisians are best friends and the black one grazes on its own and is not allowed too close to the others; the animal kingdom can be as cruel as  the human one. 

We are surrounded by oak trees here and the ground is covered with acorns, ever resourceful I thought they would make a good fuel for our multi fuel stove in the hall, it didn’t work, they burnt through at an alarming rate filling he grate with thick, chocking ash which needed to be cleaned out twice a day, that’s not for me so it’s back to solid fuel.  We have no central heating here, the Aga warms the kitchen and the hall stove keeps the front of the house above freezing.  Convector heaters add the boost when needed otherwise we spend our winters are well padded with layers of wool making us look like plump pigeons.

I have discovered that kiln dried logs, which burn through at an alarming rate, are not an economical fuel and now buy seasoned logs from the local wood yard.  Naturally dried, their logs burn at half the rate and with better heat and more importantly, are no more expensive. 

A family of Mum, Dad and three young boys stopped at the field gate the other day to feed Nutmeg (the goat) with leaves and grass, they live locally and their favourite bike ride is the ‘Nutmeg Run’ where she obliges them with gently nibbling their saved apple cores and crusts of bread, I think she has a fan club we didn’t know about. 

Nutmeg continues to be lonely without her horse companion who died in the summer and I have moved the hen pen down to her patch and three white Wyndottes have arrived to keep her company.

Today is lovely and sunny again, every morning I look at the three seater swing seat on the deck and see the cover frosted over so make a note that as soon as it has dried off, we will take it down and pack it away.  The next time I look it is 5 o’clock, the moment of opportunity has passed and the resolution is put off until tomorrow.  By the next time I write, I hope to be able to say we have finally got round to packing it up and putting it away until the Spring.