Thursday, 16 October 2014

Dog Proof Fence: the Sequel

The second dog proof fence has been erected, at the bottom of the garden.  It's on the wall that separates us from the Church offices, once the Old Rectory stables, I think.

BF - Before Fence - Our Side
BF - The Other Side
And then the lumberjacks arrived again, to remove the huge pile of debris that you can see in the first photograph.  It was all the vegetation that we have removed from around the garden as we have excavated and macheted our way through the overgrown plants.

Once they had cleared the heap, we could at last access the final corner of the garden that remained hidden.  It is overlooked from the Churchyard.  The youths gather in that corner.  And drop their litter over with gay abandon.  I filled the wheelbarrow.

I've been dying for ages to excavate the area beyond the Rector's Steps.  And this is what emerged.

Once cleared, the space looked huge.  Sprocket went to investigate.

Note the beauty of the new dog proof fence.  And the fact that the dog is this side of it, which proves that it was well worth the money.  The red bricked area that you can make out down the pathway where Sprocket is standing used to be the access to the stables.

Sprocket investigates the area for squirrels, ever vigilant, while I uncover a low wall that borders the garden, which we will reinstate.

I revealed the wall along the length of that flower bed.  Exciting.

And once I had excavated the end of the garden, we needed the lumberjacks back with their shredder!

Oh.  And how about a picture of some logs?

Including some neatly stacked logs in the log store.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Lumberjacks at Dawn

The lumberjacks were too jovial for eight o'clock in the morning.  There were four of them, three men and a woman.  "He's Ben and he's Ken," the leader of the pack introduced his team.  "And you can call me Jen,"said the lady.  "And I'm Zen," said Nigel.  The humour was almost too much to take at that time of day.  "We'll have four cups of tea, white, one sugar.  That's not how we take our tea but it makes it easier."

They were here to despatch the Leylandii.  A difficult decision, as I have said before.  They shielded us and absorbed the traffic noise, providing homes for wildlife and a widdling post for Sprocket.  But they were dead and raggedy on the inside.  The arboriculturalist didn't like them and nor did the lumberjacks.  We'd plucked up our courage and given the word: off with their heads.

We were out a folk festival that day.  Yes, we're that kind of people.  But before we left we were sat in a row in the breakfast room watching the spectacle through the window.  Who needs 'Tumble' when you can have lumberjacks at dawn?  (BBC programme about gymnastics.  No, I didn't watch it either!) Ben dangled from the thinnest branches, hauling his entire body weight up by his arms.  The trees weren't easy.  Not a single trunk but numbers of trunks, like a very complicated candelabra.  They strimmed the trees of twigs first.  Then began cutting back the trunks until we were left with a cactus-like structure made of wood.  They left it standing, to be 'timbered' later and started on the second tree, but it all took longer than expected so they had to leave the job half done to return another day.

In the meantime, Ben had a virus which caused vertigo.  Not great for a lumberjack.  So it was a couple of weeks before they came back.  Again, I was out so didn't get to watch.  But I came back to piles and piles of logs, massive rounds of wood and so much space and light.  As it turned out, both trees were dangerous with branches rubbing against one another and wearing away so that a gale force wind was highly likely to bring one down and, along with it, the current kitchen.

With the trees gone, we have a large space for a kitchen garden and, of course, more fruit trees.  We have two damsons-in-waiting, ready to be planted.  But a lot of work to do first.  S is going to cut the logs into usable, storable sections.  Then we have to find somewhere to store them.  And move the stones that we piled there following the wall saga.  Then we can start work on the soil, trying to replenish it ready for planting.  And dig up the concrete under the gravel to give a straight line across to the 'orchard'.  The loss of the trees is a step forward in terms of creating the garden in my head but there is still so much work to do.

Preparing for Action
Did I Leave a Lumberjack up that Tree?
Strimming the Tree Down to Basics
Revealing all the Trunks
A Closer View
The Bare Bones Revealed
Starting on the Second Tree
Both Trees Strimmed
The Cactus Tree
And More Logs
A Half Cut Tree
Can You Guess?
About 35 Years Old
Hard to Grasp the Size - About Three Feet in Diameter!
Add caption
The Cactus Tree with a Pigeon on Top

And Logs

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Not Winning but Taking Part

It was the local Produce Show on Saturday.  Normally, it wouldn't have dawned on us to take part but the organiser had been to dinner, tasted S's bread and then applied pressure for him to submit an entry.  So, he's been planning and practising for a few weeks.  By Friday, he had bought in extra supplies of flour, yeast, honey, walnuts and dates and spent the afternoon and evening making bread.  Still up and running at half one in the morning, he made four loaves: two walnut, date and honey and two multi-grain.  We chose one of the multi-grains for entry as, although the walnuts taste great, they don't look that beautiful.

Not Budget Day But Produce Show Day!

Entries were being accepted between nine and eleven.  We headed up just after ten with the completed admission form.  We were sent to put the bread on the appropriate table and so had a quick look at the other entries.  "Hang on!  Look at this stuff!  We can do as well as this!"  We raced back home and hastily labelled up and prettified a jar of mum's plum jam whilst ramming some cut dahlias into a jar.  We just made it back in time, ten minutes before entries closed.

The Show opened to the public at two o'clock, after the judging had taken place.  S got third place for his bread.  An outrage.  However, as he noted, he did seem to get the popular vote, with many viewers admiring the look of his loaf (far right below in the E44 section).  Thankfully (thinking of my poor waistline), he gave the winning specimen away to an impressed neighbour.

The Competition

Third Prize for the Bread
Mum got a third for her jam.  An outrage.  Nicely sharp and nicely jammy.  It should have won.

Third Prize for the Jam

And I got a first for my dahlias.  An outrage.  I had plonked them in a weed-free bit of garden, then left them to it.  I had then cut them hastily and plonked them in an unsuitable vase.  Some of the entries suggested that other people had tended their dahlias lovingly, put effort into their arrangement.  And I, with my fast and furious flower arranging, had taken the prize.

First Prize for the Dahlias!

It was de Coubertin of Olympic Games fame who made the point about it not being about winning but taking part.  Not in this house.  We are already planning our attack for next year.  There was no heaviest apple, for example.  We could have won that.  And only one entry in the Leeks Section.  My grandad, the prize leek grower, must be turning in his grave.  We can make cakes.  And scones.  And he or she who gets the most prizes wins a cup.

Game on.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Stuff of Life...and More Assemblage

I know that it's meant to be a blog about renovation but I can't resist the occasional guest appearance of a cooking blog.  I do, after all, aspire to be Nigel Slater.  So, as I was saying in an earlier post, I am an assembler.  Yes, I admit it.  My cookery is OK but I am best at salads.  Of course, I took these pictures a while back and can no longer remember the recipes that I used but will endeavour to describe them as best I can.

For this first one, I sort of borrowed from two Waitrose salad recipes and added halloumi.  Roasted tomatoes, then a dressing made by softening celery in a frying pan with olive oil then adding lemon juice.  Then mange tout, asparagus, lots of parsley, black olives and spring onions.  Probably other stuff too.

Of course, I must also mention the bread in the picture above.  It is S's world renowned walnut and honey.  Delicious.  Here it is in all it's glory.

Note the beautiful concentric patterns of this loaf.  Now that S has moved beyond Baking 101, he has started to think about his presentation as well as content.  It's a bit like maturing as a teacher really.  Note the beauty of these examples below.

I should mention that, on the rare occasions that bread is leftover (i.e. when H and D aren't here), then the squirrels enjoy it too.  It must be the walnuts.

Back to assemblage, this was a table arrangement that took my fancy for a photo.  Olives, tomato, cheese and bread from the local Deli (S's day off), asparagus from the man with the stall in the alcove by the butcher's (which I should have taken out of the plastic bag for the purposes of art!) and some lemon drizzle, also from the Deli.

And this was some roasted veg that I thought looked pretty and rustic.  A sort of ratatouille with courgettes, peppers, onions, aubergines and herbs from the garden.  Perhaps next year it will all be from the garden.  We live in hope. 

This was a torta di pistacchio, again courtesy of Waitrose magazine and Giorgio Locatelli.  I had three goes at the pastry.  The first time I used shop bought.  You had to bake it blind.  I dropped it when I was checking to see if it was cooked.  Very Great British Bake-Off.  The second time, I used shop bought and decided that the instructions didn't really mean bake blind by putting beans (or pasta in this instance) into the case while it cooked initially.  Not that I'm saying Giorgio's recipes aren't clear, of course.  It collapsed.  The third time, I had to use my own pastry.  And go back to the blind baking plan.  It worked. 

Stuffed peppers.  Prepping in the garden again.  What a great summer we've had.  Even though the temperature has plunged to single figures now - late August - and I even thought of putting the heating on last night.

And a yummy cheese board to finish.  Coffee anyone?