Category Archives: Gardening

Spring In our English Country Cooking Garden.

First daffodil to flower. © Sue Todd 2015

First daffodil to flower. © Sue Todd 2015

I don’t know about you but I don’t do Winter.  The idea is just great, warm house, roaring fires, lovely food.  But old English Country Houses are NOT warm, they tend to be draughty, and so keeping them warm is a full-time job, so while the idea of the English Country House in Winter with roaring fires is just fantastic reality falls a little bit short especially if you are no longer 20 and have Raynaud’s Syndrome.   So how cheery is it to see flowers and leaves bursting out all over?  It’s fantastic!

For all that I’d not swap English country living for the world. But how folks live near the North Pole with little to no daylight hours all winter I’ll never comprehend.  I ‘need’, ‘crave’ sunlight and lots of it.  Having said that I can’t do extremes of heat or cold either – there’s no keeping some folk happy I know!  I am ‘that’ person!

As its Easter and the Good Friday here has been so cold, wet and grim I thought it was a good time to look at what is going on in the garden and take some comfort from the fact that things are changing in the garden.

Spring’s arrival shown by flowers in the garden at last.

Daffodils to brighten up the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Daffodils to brighten up the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Hellebores by the back door © Sue Todd 2015.

Hellebores by the back door © Sue Todd 2015.

A clump of primroses hiding at the edge of the wood. © Sue Todd 2015

A clump of primroses hiding at the edge of the wood. © Sue Todd 2015

So while Autumn and its vibrant colours was my favourite season for many years, it’s now Spring when it’s really ‘sprung’ closely followed by summer which I long for all year round.  My ideal world would now encompass an England where there was sunshine from now until the end of October, the rain fell overnight, and the wind would stop until November.  I suppose that’s a tall order but, you must have dreams you know!

It’s our first Spring here so it’s lovely to discover all the flowers coming through and the Hellebore’s above are just outside the back door so we see them each time we come and go from the house.

With the clocks going back, at last the nights are truly getting lighter, the days are longer, temperatures are slowly getting warmer and green is beginning to burst out everywhere.  I’m writing this as the log fire crackles and we’ve got the heating on full blast, but I do so knowing that today I was out in the garden viewing the changes and loving every minute of it.

There’s so, so much to do in our garden now, it is almost overwhelming but we’re both still here and almost in full despite our various accidents/illnesses over the past 12 months.  So instead of feeling there’s little point in starting what we can’t complete, we’re full of enthusiasm and delight – we’re just a bit slower than we’d like.

I’m out almost daily (depending on the level of cold and rain obviously!!) to inspect and look about the garden.

The Vegetable Garden

Luckily we managed to get the vegetable beds cleared in March and the onions and garlic are coming on well.

Onions and Garlic coming away quickly now. © Sue Todd 2015

Onions and Garlic coming away quickly now. © Sue Todd 2015

We’ve bought some new fruit bushes, two blackcurrant, one redcurrant and a red gooseberry, all we have to do now is keep the deer off them!  We’ll have to protect the cherry trees this year too.

Blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes for the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

Blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry bushes for the garden. © Sue Todd 2015.

And tomorrow we’re looking forward to our first rhubarb of the year.  I was delighted to find more coming through too.

First Rhubarb of the year. © Sue Todd 2015

First Rhubarb of the year. © Sue Todd 2015

Time to prune the roses. © Sue Todd 2015

Time to prune the roses. © Sue Todd 2015

Thankfully I finally managed to prune the rose bushes as they are throwing leaves out now at some pace and I think if I’d left it any longer it would have been a major fight (which I’d have lost) to trim them back.  However as shown below, keeping a hold on them is will be a fight as the deer have already started grazing the garden!

Deer eating our garden! © Sue Todd 2015.

Deer eating our garden! © Sue Todd 2015.

We’ve planted the first seeds, we have rather a lot of tomato plants on the windowsill now,  along with some courgettes and lettuce, the cucumber have begun to come through today.the potatoes are chitting and waiting to go in shortly.  So while there’s lots still to do, progress is underway.  How are things going in your garden?

For now,

Sue.

 

We took delivery of six Quail today!

Our Quail arrived today.  © Sue Todd 2015

Our Quail arrived today. © Sue Todd 2015

Today we have taken delivery of our little group of Quail and we got our first egg!! How amazing is that?  I didn’t expect to see an egg for days yet after their upheaval.  In this first picture most of them got the hang of going in and out of the house really quickly but this little one at the side was on for ages trying to work it all out, bless her.

We were due to get some last year but with Gary’s broken leg there hasn’t been time or inclination to add to the task list until now.  We have five hens and a cockerel so in time we may even have little Quail too!

"You can't see me I'm hiding" - new Quail © Sue Todd 2015

“You can’t see me I’m hiding” – new Quail © Sue Todd 2015

We are settling them into an old hen house and run to start with and while we worried it may have been too large, actually I think it will work a treat.  They are extremely timid little things and startle very easily, so when both spaniels escaped this afternoon I was very worried.  However the spaniels made a beeline for the wood and totally missed the Quail – phew!

Quail © Sue Todd 2015.

Quail © Sue Todd 2015.

We had to add planks of wood all round the outside of the pen and underneath the house as they are quite nimble and within seconds of being in their run one of them had made her way under the house.  Luckily we got her back and they are all safely installed now.

We had to re-assemble the run today, of course that took longer than we could have dreamt of, and we did manage to connect the wrong parts to start with doh!

I’m rather excited by their arrival and I’m looking forward to more Quail’s eggs coming into the kitchen.  I suspect posts this month may be rather Quail based … Sorry.

Sue.

We have Onions and Garlic – Garden update

Onions and Garlic © Sue Todd 2014

Onions and Garlic © Sue Todd 2014

I’m pleased to report that all the onions and garlic that Gary planted are not only still present where planted in the garden but are thriving.  We are delighted.  Given that most other produce from the garden was devoured by visiting wildlife it is good to know that we will be getting something out of the garden in 2015 despite the competition.  So our English country garden will have produce for the kitchen next year, phew!

I spent a little bit of time looking at the garden today and actually made it outside into the garden too.  No mean feat at the moment with Gary out of action.  I realised this morning that while the back garden is bathed in sunlight very early in the summer months now in December its at least 10am before the sun makes its way there.  More interestingly is that the sun no longer makes it all the way across the garden now and the beds nearest the house were still covered in frost at 2pm today.  Guess little would have overwintered there then?

Its very good that Gary got those onions in when he did, I can’t see me finding much time for gardening before the new year dawns, so at least a start has been made.  We’ll have to have a couple of evenings planning beside a nice log fire I think.

Deer in the garden

It's not every day a pair of antlers saunter past your window.  © Sue Todd 2014

It’s not every day a pair of antlers saunter past your window. © Sue Todd 2014

As you know I’ve been bemoaning the fact that the wildlife here at our new home have eaten most of the produce from the garden.  Here is one of the culprits caught in action eating the roses this evening.

I was sitting at my desk, checking email and Facebook as you do, Gary had just given me a link to Dave’s fantastic recipe for Kapparberg Braised Venison when I looked up to see a pair of antlers saunter past the studio window! A little uncanny don’t you think?

There followed a great scramble while we got camera and tripod and I managed to grab a picture before the spaniels spied the deer and started barking!  Thought it would be nice to share so here you go above.  Poor soul looks very thin and not long for this world, despite not being all that old.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy,

Sue

Autumn

Like it or not Autumn appears to have arrived with some vengeance.  Saturday was such a lovely day, and now feels so far away as we’ve had fog almost consistently since.  I don’t mind a bit of fog, I love the mysterious air it gives, but days on end of it, is a different matter. Today it’s another grey foggy start with a decided chill in the air, indeed the fog has increased since I sat down to write.  There are plenty of leaves under foot as the colours all change and the first frost can’t be far away.  It makes me think of log fires, huge meaty casseroles and warm filling puddings.  Autumn for me is all about comfort foods and lots of them.

I’d been looking forward to a lovely harvest from our new garden but that hasn’t quite been the case.  We have plums which are going to give us some lovely plum chutney later today, we have apples and blackberries.  The potatoes were delicious but are all eaten. Oh and we have rose hip syrup which we have yet to sample.  Now that sounds like a rice pudding is needed, doesn’t it?

I’m looking forward to an evening by the fireside soon where we sit and plan out the garden for next year.  There’s plenty of tidying up to do, pruning and clearing gutters before the winter sets in.  Pruning will be a whole new world of adventure.  We’ve room for more vegetable beds, and the two little poly tunnels we have, but, we need to get inventive to keep the wildlife from eating it all again next year.  So any suggestions on what to grow or how to protect our little garden are welcome.

So despite the small harvest there is plenty to do and so we’ll be sharing a host of things shortly from the rose hip syrup through to venison stews and chutneys.  I’m also going to be drying some fruit in the AGA for some little sweet treats I have in mind. Then I guess we’ll be at the end of September and that big ‘Christmas’ word will come into play and all the preparations for that! Sorry I’ll try not to mention that word again for a while yet.

Not sure what the weather is like where you are today, but if you are in thick fog like us then the picture below taken just at the weekend is a tad more cheery than the view outdoors, I thought we all deserved a bit less gloom.

Autumn harvest of fruits from the garden © Sue Todd 2014

Autumn harvest of fruits from the garden © Sue Todd 2014

We finally got food from the garden!

Plums from the garden © Sue Todd 2014

Plums from the garden © Sue Todd 2014

We’ve been fighting a loosing battle since we moved in June against the wildlife in our garden.  The deer have eaten anything they can reach, the wood pigeons really enjoyed the cherries we were so looking forward to, the hare has regularly invaded the raised beds and the slugs and snails have polished off anything that remains.  It would seem our garden is the slug and snail capital of Northumberland.  However finally we have something to harvest, we have plums!!

We were hoping for damsons too, and to be fair there were about five remaining on the tree the other day, but somehow I don’t think that’s going to be sufficient for Damson gin or damson anything.  So winter is going to be all about preparing for next year and finding a way to extend our garden and actually get produce from it.  Quite the challenge I think.