I hate hot weather, golden beaches, blue sky touched with a whisp of fluffy clouds. I hate cocktails by the beach bar, especially hate large Mojitos with fresh smelling mint and cool, crushed ice. Hate not having to work, hate dancing too, especially to Gold Digger. Hate having the time to read a great book and hate visiting new countries and meeting new people. Hate not having to get up a 5.45am each morning just to get everything done in a day and hate the smell of bougainvilleas and jasmine flowers - much prefer the aroma of wet, soggy Golden Retrievers.
I was woken very early this morning by a strange noise. At first I thought it was a dog barking in the distance - unusual because other than my dogs, there are only the farm dogs and it didn't sound like them. Then I heard a chicken noise. So I got up to see what was happening.
As I got to the chicken pen, the mother hen was out in her run, which was thankfully closed. She was in a real panic and running round the pen. Then I just caught the colour and tail of the fox disappearing behind the bushes. I couldn't see it very clearly and it just disappeared in a whisper. I checked and all three chicks were in their house - I had forgotten to put the hatch down last night, but luckily had secured them into their pen.
I'm so lucky so far not to have had any chickens taken by a fox, but after seeing that, I'm now worried. The hens are out all day and I put them to bed each night, but you can't guarantee the fox won't come during the day.
'Scrumptious' by Fyberspates. I bought this wool at the Wool Fest to make a crochet scarf. It's hand-dyed and a silk-mix. I can't wait to finish crocheting my blanket so I can start using this gorgeous wool.
I have never been able to make a good redcurrant jelly. It's always been cloudy and never went through the muslin process very well. But today I've made the best batch I've ever done by using a different method.
Boil up the fruit in water until the fruit is pulpy. Sieve it through a metal sieve, squashing the juice from the pulp. Drain the remaining liquid through a jelly bag overnight, discarding the pulp. Return juice to the pan with 1lb of sugar per 1lb of liquid. Dissolve sugar in juice very gently and when all sugar is completely dissolved, boil until it sets (using the wrinkle method/sugar thermometer) Pour into warm, sterilised jars, seal, cover, decorate and label.
Perfect, beautiful clear nectar, a glorious colour and I made about 6 jars from about 3.5 kilos of fruit. I've always only got one or two jars in the past. I'm so proud of it!
I give my homemade jam and jellies as Christmas gifts. Each time I go to the hassle of making jam or jelly I just think of it as Christmas shopping. Rather than go through all the horrible crowds in the cold and wet at Christmas for presents, I just think of summer days picking fruit and making jam.
I couldn't resist it - I went fruit picking again. Redcurrant Jelly is making its way through the muslin. I'm not sure I've got the recipe right though. I've tried a different method this time. I've followed Delia's recipe before where you add the sugar before you strain the currants. This time I'm straining them first without the sugar and will bring them back to the pan and add the sugar later. We'll see if this method works. I picked the cherries for me to eat. I couldn't bear to cook them.
Today I should be writing more for my new book, but I'm being tempted away. I'd really like to go fruit picking and make some redcurrent jam and eat fresh cherries off the trees or crochet more squares for Kym & Mark's blanket. I'd also like to plant more seeds in the garden, this is probably the last chance. But I need to mow the lawn and write and sit at the computer. Thank you Lynn for this photo - I came across it this morning and it's luring me away....
I have been forced to look at soil the last few days. The deadlines and strains of working on a book sometimes force you to look at things you wouldn't usually think about. I've realised that I take for granted the soil in which I grow my vegetables. I certainly don't treat it with the healthy respect it deserves and have a rather sloppy attitude to growing: throw in the seeds and hope for the best. I've taken three days to write just a couple of pages on soil - much of the time being broken up with distractions on selling my house and teenage angst about getting (or not getting) a job throughout the summer before the onset of university.
I am now determined to look after my soil, which in turn will look after my vegetables which in turn then looks after me and my family.
Today we had a photo shoot for the book I'm currently working on for Cico Books. David Merewether is the photographer on this book and he took some beautiful shots of all the vegetables and some step by steps on how to make strawberry jam. I made raspberry jam yesterday and strawberry jam today. Barney arrived and when we finished we all had tea out of pretty china cups with freshly baked scones strawberry jam and .... greek yoghurt - a much better alternative to cream.
Fruit picking today at Maynards Farm in Ticehurst with Camilla. Camilla climbed the cherry trees to get at the branches dripping with plump cherries. I've eaten so many that I can't move. This is heaven in a box:
Yesterday I taught an excellent group of women how to crochet. Emma and Sue organised it and it was held in a beautiful barn near Ipswich, Suffolk. We learnt to double crochet, trebles, how to join a seam, circles, squares, create a frill edging and a double crochet edging.