Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The annual Bilberry haul

Nipstone Rock
The Stiperstones

Mountain Ash


One of my favourite foraging outings is bilberry picking. Probably because you have to go high up in the  hills to go bilberry picking, and that's where I love to be.
Our regular bilberry spot is Nipstone Rock, which is part of the Stiperstones just over the border in Shropshire.
The pink of the heather and the deep purple bilberries in the late summer light...
The boys enjoying the juicy feast, and searching for the plumpest berries. When they tire of that, they enjoy practicing their rock climbing skills on the (lower!) craggy peaks.
K and F use a berry picking comb to reap their harvest, while I carefully pluck mine by hand. My method is incredibly slow but without the twigs and leaves that the comb also seems to collect! K does deserve the credit for picking 90% of our haul with remarkable speed and efficiency!
On our return, the berries are put onto trays and picked over, (by me!) to remove any of the said leaves and twigs, and popped into the freezer. The bilberries are bagged up the following day. This is a great way of ensuring we have lots of bilberry pies, crumbles and muffins over the coming months.
Not all are frozen though, as the fridge is full of bowls of fresh berries, for a week of bilberry delights!

Friday, 23 August 2013

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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Friday's Flowers... I must change this title!

 The colour of the garden has moved to a more vibrant pallette with the Helianthus (a perennial sunflower) coming into flower. The plants grow steadily from ground level in the spring, to at least 1.5 meters high now. They do rather shade out their neighbours at the moment, but they do shout out 'summer'... and the bees love them too.

The oregano is also in full flower and when I walk into the garden a cloud of butterflies (mainly Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns) rise up from it. I love the red stems too.
Both of these plants were given to me, so I don't know the exact varieties. They do give the garden a new lease of life, when a lot of plants have done their thing by now.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Show Day!

Village shows are a great summer's day out and they are even more fun if you take part! Guilsfield Show
is our nearest show and this year we decided to go along, and what a great day it was...
Vintage tractor display
Horse competitions


Son #2 and I entered a couple of the 'tent' competitions. The most exciting part of the day for me is setting up our exhibits in the morning, ready for judging. The tent is full of people busy arranging and adding the final touches to their entries and eying up the competition! It's a wonderful atmosphere.

'A beach in a shoebox'

My pride and joy... success!

And later in the day there is the rush of nerves as you enter the tent and make a bee line for your exhibits, pushing through the crowds... quickly scanning the area for a red, blue or yellow card anywhere near your exhibit! And the joy when there is one!
Son #2 was thrilled to discover he had two cards by his photographic exhibit, as he was awarded a Special Cup!

Winning the 'Chris Evans Photographic Cup'
However, I was defeated by the jam and chutney makers of Guilsfield!
The afternoon was spent enjoying the show... looking at all of the other exhibits, bumping into friends, having a go on some of the rides, and having the obligatory icecream!

Guilsfield Show
A great day, and a great show, with a lovely friendly atmosphere and full of community spirit. We'll be back next year... trying again for that jam title!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Exploring Lake Vyrnwy


Why is it when you have a tourist attraction on your doorstep, you tend to overlook it and don't really appreciate it? As part of our 'Montgomeryshire holiday' this summer, visiting the RSPB reserve at Lake Vyrnwy was high on my list.



Access to the reserve is free (fantastic!) and after visiting the information point, where a very friendly and helpful volunteer gave us a trail map, we set off on the 3 mile Craig Garth Bwlch Trail. It took us along lanes through woods with some gorgeous views. And we didn't see another soul... fantastic!

Rosebay Willowherb

Wood Sage

The boys loved looking out for foraging opportunities. Raspberries and bilberries kept them going, a healthy change from Jellybeans which is their normal walking fodder! But we did decide that woodland bilberries aren't as sweet and juicey as the hillside ones.


Small Tortoiseshell

Enjoying the spectacular views... just before descending into the village to have an icecream.
We drove along the lakeside to reach the start of our second walk, the Rhiwargor Trail.

Rhiwargor Waterfall (Pistyll Rhyd-Y-Meinciau)
A gentle riverside walk with the feel of the mountains, which was just gorgeous in the afternoon sun. The waterfall was a lot more spectacular than I expected - how have I not been here before!
Time was running out on us, but we shall definitely come back to explore here further...

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Turning a glut into chutney


The courgette glut has begun... I love courgettes and they are one of my favourite vegetables to grow. I always sow too many seeds, thinking they may not germinate or get munched when they do. But there were minor losses this year, and now nine plants are fruiting well.
I've grown Defender and Romanesco and Son #2  is growing Picollo, which are round almost like baby marrows.
It was the courgette and marrow glut a few years ago, that prompted me to try making chutney, and I loved the process so much that I've made it ever since. Courgette chutney remains my favourite too.


To make courgette chutney you need:

2lb courgettes, cut up into small chunks
12oz chopped onion
1lb demerera sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbs ground corriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp mustard seeds
a sprinkle of dried crushed chillies
1 tsp salt
500ml white wine vinegar

Put everything into a heavy based saucepan. 
Bring gently to the boil.
Simmer for 2 hours or so, until it starts to thicken up, stirring occasionally.

Pour into warm, sterile jars and seal.
Label when cool.
Leave for a couple of months to mature before eating.

Lovely with bread and cheese.

I'm afraid I can't remember the original source of this recipe... however I have tweaked it a bit!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Friday's Flower - catching up

Two weeks into the summer holidays and already any sort of routine has gone out of the window and I barely know what day it is. Friday's slip by before I realise that I have yet to take a photograph of a flower in the garden.
So in an attempt to catch up, here are two Friday Flowers, on a Sunday!
I love Hydrangeas, and this Hydrangea Arborescen 'Annabelle' is perhaps my favourite of all. It has beautiful compact flowers and I love it's white simplicity. Over the winter the flowers dry and their fragility is beautiful all over again.
Next is Hollyhock which I grew from seed from a packet named 'Old fashioned mixed'. I particularly like this antique yellow/peach one.