Spring Brights

Spring FlowersMy poor little plastic greenhouse didn’t survive the high winds and neither did the pots and trays of seedlings. I’m not too disheartened though as the remains of the greenhouse was found next to my car and luckily there was no damage to the paint work! I’ve scooped up the soil and battered seedlings (RIP) and decided to wait a couple of weeks and plant directly as I can’t risk growing more seeds indoors (crious cats) and the greenhouse is now modern art.

Forced Rhubarb

I uncovered the rhubarb that has been forced (don’t think me too cruel) and was amazed at the beautiful colours of the leaves and stems. The rhubarb plant to the rear in the photo above is the same variety – this has been left to grow normally so I’m going to do a taste test at the weekend to see if the forced rhubarb is really sweeter… or just grateful to see daylight at long last!

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Snow Scones

There’s nothing nicer than watching the seasons change and relishing those foods that are oh-so-soon-gone. After a poor, rainy Summer the Winter seems to have gone on forever so I was eagerly anticipating Spring. Unfortunately Mother Nature has decided to delay Spring for a while longer. Instead of cold, sunny days and daffodils we now have 6 inches of snow and biting winds. What the heck, if Mother Nature can be contrary then so can I… Summer fruit scones and homemade strawberry jam for afternoon tea!

Fruit Scones and Jam

Scone Recipe
350g self-raising flour, plus more for dusting
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
85g butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp caster sugar
75g sultanas
175ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
squeeze lemon juice
beaten egg, to glaze

These are so simple to make! Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and then add the butter, rubbing between fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the caster sugar and sultanas then combine well into the crumb mixture. In a jug combine the milk, vanilla extract and a squeeze of lemon. Don’t mokey around once you add the liquid to the dry ingredients – the secret to a light scone is to handle the mixture as little as possible. Gently roll the dough on a floured surface and cut out the scones out with a small cutter. Glaze with a beaten egg and put the scones on a baking tray into the oven at 220c for approx 10mins.
These are best served slightly warm from the oven with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. As a Summer treat they are great but as an antidote to a snowy Spring day with a nice cup of Assam tea they are amazing!

Fruit Scones

Snow has a particular beauty. A beauty that is perfect for a dark January day when the fires rarely go out and mittens are stuffed into pockets. This beauty doesn’t extend to March however when the birds want to build nests, the hares want to box and the plants want to grow. Mittens should be safely tucked away again… so safe in fact that they can’t be found again in Winter!
The chickens seem very confused (and this wasn’t helped when I gave them a little taste of fruit scone in what they consider the depths of Winter!).

Snow in MarchAs for the kittens; they refused to go outside this weekend. I can’t blame them. They stared out the open front door for a few seconds, sniffed the snow and then ran back indoors. Milo did step outside once and very quickly leapt back inside when the cold stuff hit his paws.

Warm Inside

I look forward to the snow thawing as I’m pretty sure Milo only went outside to bury his collar. You see, Bella has taken to her collar really well and parades around as if she’s wearing a diamond necklace. Milo unfortunately has worked out how to get his safety collar off and hide it from us. This hide and seek game was quite endearing… only this time we can’t find it!

March Garden

 

Early March

The days are noticeably longer and there is a whiff of Spring in the air. When I went outside this afternoon my mind was set on scratching about a bit but, in all honesty, there wasn’t that much to do. I pulled up a few weeds, did a spot of sweeping and then spent the rest of the time wandering around having a good look at the plants waking up from their sleep. Unfortunately, all the weeds are waking up from their sleep too so I’m currently trying to stay ahead of the game.
The sun was out for a few hours this morning and I once again had to restrain myself from sowing seeds – it’s still too cold and we don’t have  a greenhouse yet! The seed box is laughing at me but I won’t play it’s games 😉

Kitties

The kitties are growing so fast… they’re being neutered tomorrow and I already feel anxious. I know that it’s the responsible thing to do but it doesn’t stop me fretting about them. I just have to keep focused on them being able to go outside, chase rabbits and fall sleep in the Kitchen Garden. It will be lovely to hear the cat flap swinging to and fro again… I just need to get some collars with bells on to give the birds fair warning.

My Thinking Place

The lid of the seed box barely contained the multitude of packets inside and I had a familiar feeling when I peeked in… you know that feeling when you finally open the Christmas decorations box? You’ve not seen these things for a few months and yet instantly know the magic is about to begin! This time last year I didn’t even have a seed collection which just shows you how far (or obsessed) I’ve come in a year!
I’ve spent quite a lot of time over Winter looking through various seed catalogues but before ordering any more seeds I promised myself that I’d sort out the packets of seeds from last year.

Seed Sorting

1. The seed packets were spread over the table and I discarded any empty packets and those well past their expiry dates. I managed to spill some delphinium seeds so if these start to sprout up from between the tiles at least I’ll know they’re not weeds!
2. They were then sorted into vegetables and flowers and packed away by grouping them into beds. If I was properly organised I’d file them in order of sowing but in truth I like shuffling seeds like a deck of cards and rummaging through them.
3. The lid was so much easier to put on… but I’m sure this won’t be the case when the new seeds arrive!
4. Mmm…. don’t kitten’s have the sharpest little teeth?
5. I highly recommend Mark Diocono’s book “Veg Patch: River Cottage Book 4”. I used this to help me plan what veg to grow this year. The rough plan is as follows:

Kitchen Garden Plans

There are a disproportionate amount of sofas in this house… especially when you consider how much time we actually sit on them. A really nice place to relax is on the chaise longue in the garden room. Feet up, a good book, mellow music and furry friends….. purrfect (well it was until I noticed my bum print on the seat!!). The only problem with a thinking  place is that it provides opportunity to change one’s mind so the 2013 Kitchen Garden plan has already been altered!

Winter Kittens

The view out of the window (as seen from the chaise) was taken a few days ago after another day of snow but it’s all green again now and the sun was out today… it must be very confusing for the wildlife. I managed to spend a few hours in the garden today, tidying the beds and smiling to myself. Spring is nearer than ever.

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Where’s your thinking place?

February Blahs

February is my least favourite month. It has the fewest days compared to other months but somehow seems to drag on and on. Even when February seems to be trotting along quite nicely… bam! an extra pesky day sneaks in. Admittedly, this extra day only occurs once every four years but (come on!!!) couldn’t it happen during Summer when an extra day would be nice?!!
Maybe my aversion to February is because I hate having to wait for Spring… I have a whole list of things I can do in March but February delights in taking it’s sweet time :-). Am I the only one to have an unexplained aversion to a month? Surely not, but I confess that I also dislike Tuesdays (but that is less logical than the February saga)!

Feb View
The snow has finally gone, and although we’re expecting more during the week, it was lovely to be able to enjoy the green fields through the Garden Room windows again. It’s great to watch the storms roll over and try and guess what time the rain will arrive.
In the Garden Room, high up in the rafters, is a little carved wooden snail called Brian who looks down on us as we pass by. He moves extremely slowly so he’s usually not a problem to catch and dust.

Brian

Whilst I was wobbling on tiptoes with a duster in hand, I happened to glance across at the windows. The sun was shining through the glass and shaming me into wanting to clean the windows but for once I wasn’t too concerned because there was, quite obviously, a leftover Christmas sign!!
Eek! The question is – do I leave it up for the rest of the year (it has taken me until February to notice it!) or take it down and hide it in the rubbish drawer?

The One That Got Away

Where Did All The Birds Go?

RSPB BirdwatchOn Sunday morning, armed with a cup of coffee and trusty binoculars, we settled down in the Garden Room to count birds for an hour as part of the RSPB Big Birdwatch survey. We usually have all sorts of feathered visitors and so we were quite disappointed at the low turn out from the birds. We had to document the maximum number of birds seen at any one time (rather than the total number of birds in the hour) and the ones that could be bothered to show up were:

Robin 1
Pheasant 1
Sparrow 6
Great Tit 2
Blue Tit 3
Woodpecker 1
Chaffinch 1
Thrush 1
Crows 4
Coal Tit 1
Blackbird 3

We expected to see quite a few birds such as wrens, gold crests, tree creepers, collared doves, long tailed tits and dunnocks but there was no sign of them (not even in the 10 minutes following the survey when they inevitably all come back out to play!). It’s not as if we expected to see a Golden Eagle or Pheonix rising from the ashes… just a little wren would have made us happy!

The RSPB forums indicate that the low number of birds have been a nationwide problem and the staff are urging people to send their results in even if they don’t seem representative. I’m not sure if the birds were scarce because of adverse weather conditions or a re-run of Downton… whatever the reason the results should be interesting!

Footprints In The Snow

Snow in Kitchen Garden

Hopefully all the plants are tucked up safely and enjoying a nice sleep. I’m trying to enjoy the snow whilst it lasts… people grumble about the snow (I realise it makes life more difficult, travelling is a big worry and it will ultimately turn to a brown, messy slush….) but there’s really magic in each snow flake, you can see it sparkle, so I enjoy it while it’s here.

Garden Snow Collage

I love to see different footprints in the snow and I try to follow where the rabbits and foxes have been. It’s interesting to try and work out  who the little footprints belong too… although with my over active imagination I imagine following prints around the back of the shed and unexpectedly coming face to face with a Yeti!

Winter views

There’s not too many outside jobs to be done at the moment so I started to put together a wish list of  plants for the kitchen garden this year. I’m a huge fan of Sarah Raven so I’m starting with her catalogues as she has a great range of products and her customer service is brilliant. After what seemed an endless task of chores today I finally sat down with a cup of apple & ginger tea and started to paw over the catalogues… but more of that next time!

seed catalogues

This weekend is the RSPB Big Birdwatch so I’ll be spending an hour tomorrow counting our feathered friends (chickens not included) to see how they’re fending. I’ve never done this in the snow before and I’m hoping it will make the process easier! The results are sent into the RSPB and the information gained throughout the UK provides a useful snapshot of which species are in decline or booming!

SnowChicks

I’m sure Bella and Milo will want to join us in the garden room for a spot of birdwatching too but I somehow think that their furry minds may not be on conservation!

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