Archives for the month of: September, 2013

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Late September is often when we get the best weather, foliage colours are rapidly turning and the visit of warm sun gives a kick to the ripening of things that are still hanging on tress or buried in soil.

I just got back from cooking on a 10 day retreat in Wales ( post and recipes to follow) and still benefiting from high energy and open heart, so every detail in the landscape moves me, makes me smile.

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After a day of catching up with friends I have hardly seen all summer, a free lunch at Wagamamas and a round of Maté tea at home, we went to Mariela’s allotment yesterday, where she proudly showed me her wonderful bounty. She has been transforming this big plot into a lush ever-growing wonder of edible plants and flowers, vegetables and the new dug up patch where she and some friends are planning a small orchard.

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I picked borage and marigold flowers which I am currently drying on a colander on top of the Rayburn for some late summer colour in winter dishes…

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Every plant was fat with fruit, some parts turning into seed. Plump squashes loitering  the ground as we walked, basking in the late afternoon sun. Big towers of runner beans which multiplied as we plucked them. Beautiful fragrant celery bunches with deep dark green leaves which tasted of the earth.  ImageImage

We picked giant marrows, and discussed ways of making them taste by stuffing them. Small courgettes  and flowers with their prickly softness. The herb and flower beds she planted to attract bees and butterflies were so alive and inviting.

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Towering sunflowers the colour of autumn. Sweet peas in pyres with heaven scent. Marigolds scattered around everywhere. Bliss.

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The sky light was turning, dusky pinks and blues, the ending of the day.

Beautiful.

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At night, when I got home, I cooked a light supper, using some of the vegetables. I look forward to blanching and freezing some of the beans today. Image

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My affair with farm life began last year, and although I am not deep buried in it, I love to tip toe into the wonderfulness of an environment that is not only beautiful but so actively produces food and energy. From willow harvests to drying up wheat in the dusty yard, to sitting on a tractor ploughing a field with a hundred seagull groupies. I treasure the time I spend there, I soak it up, after all, I get the most lovely company and learn something new every day. I am an observer who is still wondering if I’ve got what it takes, it is romantic, but also harsh. It invites me and at the same time overwhelms me.

When I am there, I love the simple things. I love watching hares with their reddish fur playing hide seek with my dog Pirate, who also mimics and blends with the straw left on the ground after the wheat has been reaped. Being a few good miles away from York helps me notice the way the sky changes, I spend time regarding insects, picking flowers or feathers, experiencing textures, hearing the silence in the early evening broken by the hoot of the tiny owl that lives in the Dutch Barn, or watching the hyperkinetic swallows doing their last dances before flying off to Africa. Hugo, who has been at the farm on and off most of his life, says the day the swallows leave is the saddest day of the year. How lovely, I thought, even in its sorrowful tone, the marking of the change of season, from summer to autumn is not only beautiful, but the most poetic. Image

Yesterday we went to collect fruit so I could take some on retreat. Running parallel to the formal garden there is a Victorian Orchard with some old English varieties of apples and pears. The plum tree which is fairly young was laden with the most beautiful pinkish plums. Apart from the glorious sentiment that picking fruit provokes in me, that evocative action of gathering that connects me  humbly with my humanity,  the place looked like a postcard of abundance, like a sonnet, the trees were offering treasure with open arms, the sun was shining for a while, the light was musical.

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Hugo and Ian brought a big ladder and we spent some time watching a spider eating a moth in one of the steps. Then, we literally went around the mulberry tree, and filled a small bag with ripe and semi-ripe mulberries. We moved to the apples, filling some old wooden vegetable boxes which I treasure and which made the fruit look even more appealing and beautiful.ImageImageImage

Then we found some tiny pears, with very tough skin which are probably good for stewing. A variety of Insects were thriving on the fallen fruit half rotting on the ground, Spiders were making webs in the lower brunches taking advantage of the attraction, Wasps were fighting us for plums, it was all alive and pulsating, vibrant. It was also fun. I love the change of season, I love the smell of fire, making apple crumbles and chutney, fresh savoy cabbages, the produce.

When I get back from retreat the quinces will probably be ready and I will make quince cheese and maybe we will get that cider press we planned last year. Until then, I thought I’d share this beautiful poem which for me, speaks of the transition and all the beauty that is there, at this very moment, in front of our eyes, as the season changes.

To Autumn by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats

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A few days ago we decided to turn the  Rayburn back on. Almost  overnight  the temperature has changed, it feels cold, darker, and we already lit a fire in the living room.  Autumn is here, colours are turning. Rather than sadness, I feel happy about the summer we  had, grateful, a gift and a good reminder that we can all bask in Britain sometimes, drop the coats and woollies, walk barefoot, get kissed by the sun.

So rather than a grim farewell, here are some of my summer highlights…

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Small naps floating on buttercup fields…

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The first borage flowers…

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English Cottage gardens..

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June Wedding at the farm… Wildflowers!

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Summer Solstice

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Sofia’s Prom

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Car Boot Sale!

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The need for Watermelon…

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Quail Egg lunch

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rolling hay…

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visitors…

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more visitors…and peonies!!!

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Siestas…

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Western Zen Retreat…

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Summer in Wales…

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Day at the beach / Devon…

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Someone loves the lovage…

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Double Rainbows in Devon

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So many butterflies…

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Light fragrant lunches

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Foodies in London … Broadway Market , courgette flower tempura, and edible flowers, sister fun.

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An attempt to Glamping…

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Luncheons with eccentrics

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A reading of Feeding Orchids to the Slugs at the wonderful Arts Barge Tent at Galtres Festival

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Biggest Thunder Storm I have ever experienced in England.. didn’t stop Sofia having fun at Leeds festival!

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Harvest…

Not a very good one I’m afraid.

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Awesome late summer evenings, (YORK STATION)

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Birthday celebrations… SUMMER chocolate cake.

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Bale Stacking and clearing fields for Ploughing…

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