Friday, 26 September 2008

Distant hills

Over the years we have lived here I have found it enormously difficult to photograph our view from the garden – it's all wide and flat, with lots of fields and few features. Today, in the lengthening shadows of late afternoon, I have a picture I am reasonably pleased with, recording the autumn landscape, with the Cheviot in the background. On many days each year, the Cheviot is simply not there, hiding behind rain or snow clouds, and its smooth green curves are rarely sharply defined; usually, as here, it's a misty presence against an expanse of sky. A good Protestant upbringing has left me with a store of psalms that are in my head whether I want them or not, and my favourite begins:
I to the hills will lift mine eyes
From whence doth come mine aid...
It was the luscious red of this cherry that drew me away from the accounts today. It's very tiny – both in habit and in size, so the impact is relatively small, but I'm growing very fond of it. In spring it has delicate bronze-tinged leaves and a scattering of tiny pink flowers, so it's a delight all year round.

(prunus incisa Kojou-no-mai)

Sunday, 14 September 2008

A-Z of Homemaking

I found this meme on Codlins and Cream, where it had arrived from allybea's blog. I always enjoy these little insights into other people's lives (I find it very hard not to look through windows as I'm passing houses – at the very least I content myself with a good stare at someone's garden), so I thought it would fit here, though I don't think I would ever have described myself as "homemaker". "Slut" would be more to the point!

If you decide to have a go, do please leave a comment and a link here.

A ~Aprons--y/n If y, what does your favourite look like? If I can find it, red and white stripes; more often these days it's a teatowel tucked into my waistband.

B ~ Baking--Favourite thing to bake? Puddings, although we don't eat them very often, maybe once a month. The thing I make most often is apple crumble, both at home and at my parents' house – my stepfather loves puddings, but the range is limited because he is diabetic. Oh, and I love making soufflĂ©, it's just so satisfying to take it out of the oven all golden and risen.

C ~ Clothes line? No, it's usually too windy. I hang things over the fence on good days.

D ~ Donuts--Have you ever made them? Once, and they weren't bad, but I resent using all that fat once only, so I haven't made them again.

E ~ Everyday--One homemaking thing you do everyday? Bleah, washing up. My husband cooks, so I have to do the clearing up after a meal, it's only fair. Oddly, if I cook, I still get to wash up.

F ~ Freezer--Do you have a separate deep freeze? Just a fridge-freezer, and it's always so full I can't get anywhere near it, which is a pity, because I make passable ice-cream.

G ~ Garbage Disposer? Yes, 5 chickens, 2 dogs and a compost heap. Oh, and a bin full of reluctant worms.

H ~ Handbook--What is your favourite homemaking resource? That depends. I have various favourites among my cookery books – Mary Berry's Fast Cakes is one of the most frequently used, and there are several books of farmhouse cooking I like very much. Best of all, I think, is a gardening book: Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom. It has beautiful pictures and she's an inspiration.

I ~ Ironing--Love it or Hate it? Or hate it but love the results? Hate it, don't do it, except for absolute necessity, i.e. for work.

J ~ Junk Drawer--y/n? Where is it? Junk everywhere. I'm quite tidy, my husband categorically not

K ~ Kitchen--colour and decorating scheme. Our kitchen is tiny, and open-plan with the living-room, so it's cream walls to match. Which reminds me that I never finished painting the cupboards. I'll get round to it one day.

L ~ Love--what is your favourite part of homemaking? Cleaning out the chickens! Obviously, I prefer it in good weather, but they are so appreciative, and sing delightful little crooning songs to me while I do it. I used to like making butter, but I don't do that any more because we can't get farm milk.

M ~ Mop--y/n? No, dog towel.

N ~ Nylons, machine or hand wash? Only wear them when I'm in the office, so they mostly get handwashed in hotel rooms.

O ~ Oven--do you use the window or open the oven to check? Using the window would mean cleaning it first.

P ~ Pizza--What do you put on yours? Tomato, basil and mozzarella.

Q ~ Quiet--What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Usually, read, or if it's warm I take the dogs to the other end of the paddock and just sit quietly.

R ~ Recipe Card Box--y/n? What does it look like? Yes, my card index box has been on the go for over 30 years, though these days it is supplemented by a file on the computer. My sons and I share recipes with each other, so if one of us can't find something it just takes an email.

S ~Style of house--What style is your house? It's a farm cottage and much too small for 3 adults, but I would rather put up with lack of space than move because I love where it is. We did some refurbishing a couple of years ago, and there is still work to do, but it causes so much upheaval (my husband has chronic fatigue and finds the process very stressful and tiring) that we can't face finishing it, so we live in a degree of chaos that I can't quite cope with. Ho hum.

T ~ Tablecloths or Placemats? Tablecloth.

U ~ Under the kitchen sink--organized or toxic wasteland? Tottering piles of baking tins and trays, but sort of organised.

V ~ Vacuum--How many times per week? Not often enough. Senior Dog sheds constantly and I sometimes wonder if the dust clumps won't spontaneously transmute into a third dog.

W ~ Wash--How many loads of laundry do you do per week? At least one a day.
X's--Do you keep a daily list of things to do that you cross off? No, but if there is anything urgent I have to leave myself a reminder. List-making is reserved for work.

Y ~ Yard--y/n? Who does what? Husband does the grass-cutting and hedge-trimming and has sole access to the garden shed, so obviously he's "in charge". This extends to the pruning because he thinks I don't cut things back hard enough, so he always does it when I'm not here and can't protest (come to think of it, that's true of anything he thinks I won't like). I do the vegetable garden, with help from both sons, and all the fiddly stuff – sowing seeds, potting on, planting out and so on.

ZZZ's--what is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed? In summer, letting the dogs out and shutting up the chickens. In winter the chickens can be shut up much earlier, so it's just the dogs.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

One fine day...

...and only one. Amid the rain the sun emerges for the occasional brief spell. Monday afternoon offered a brief respite, during which I planted spring cabbage and winter lettuce, praying that the ground - which I had protected with black plastic - would not be too waterlogged. We shall see.

Today there has been a drying breeze, and the grass could be cut, though not the paddock, which is too wet. The chickens are sick of the rain and welcomed the chance to get outside and luxuriate in a bath of dry sawdust.

I expect rain at this time of year anyway: my hibiscus Blue Bird has struggled all summer to produce a few buds in our northern climate, and as soon as its flowers open, so do the skies, battering it into a bedraggled blue wisp. This year I thought I would celebrate its efforts by sharing a picture with you. There are more spectacular blossoms in the garden, but nothing else has tried so hard.