Saturday, 25 February 2012

Signs of a spring to come

Although I wouldn't go as far to say that spring is in the air, today feels as if it is at least possible.  We spent the morning in the lovely market town of Romsey, enjoying the sunshine, and exploring the charity shops.  We found a really interesting pen and ink drawing which we think must be 1930s or thereabouts.

A trip to the gardening centre on the way home got us thinking about planning changes to the garden.  We bought a holly bush to add much needed structure and greenery, a red currant bush and raspberry canes.  Mr C also got some shallots to add to his veg patch.   I also bought a lovely bunch of tulips to brighten up Hazel Cottage

Looking around the  garden at this time of year fills me with hope that spring will come - the green shoots of the bulbs are poking through the dead leaves, it wont be long until the daffodils arrive and the garden comes back to life again.

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance,
the wise grows it under his feet
James Oppenheim

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A weekend at home

With the ground still hard and frosty, the thought of attempting anything in the garden is out of the question. The garden is looking very forlorn and the heap of manure which is waiting to be dug into the vegetable plots will have to sit where it is for another week. So instead a pottering weekend around the house and planning what we will grow when the weather does improve.

After a trip out for flowers (see picture) and food for the garden birds, Mrs C set up in the dining room with her new sewing machine. She's not had one before so it's very much experimentation and a few simple projects - a draw string bag and a lavender bag with lavender we bought in from our garden and dried.

Meanwhile I rummaged through the seed box to see what vegetables I already had and decide what to grow. Last year was the first proper year in our garden and very much a learning process on the veg front. War was waged on the slugs and snails, beet leaf miners and blackfly and while victory was not always mine, we had some lovely veg. This year we're hoping to try much more and also try some things we've never eaten let alone grown - salsify for one!

We were extremely pleased to see a jay in the garden this afternoon. They are usually very shy birds, rarely straying from woodland. So to see one in the suburbs was a great surprise. They never stay around long so had gone before we could race for the camera. It can only have been the very cold weather of late that's made the jay come this far in search of food. The garden has certainly been teeming with birds lately - collared doves, blue tits, great tits, thrushes, blackbirds, robins and the blousy pigeons stupidly trying to squeeze onto the bird table despite the nuts. seeds and bread scattered on the ground below.

We really must get out into the garden next weekend though!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The absence of snow

Last winter was filled with inches of snow, even as far south as Hazel Cottage.  This winter, whilst the rest of the country is covered in at least a dusting of it, we are back to our usual absence of snow.  It seems that because we are on the south coast and seemingly also sheltered from the worst excesses of weather, we are only used to very occasional, fleeting and insignificant snow.

Our garden this winter
Our garden last winter!

Despite the absence of snow here, the weather has been cold and bitter and the birds in the garden seem increasingly ravenous.  In addition to our usual regular visits by blue tits and robins, we have seen more of the blackbird population and some great tits have appeared and even possibly a song thrush at the top of the hazel tree.  Collared doves and  pigeons are often in the garden until they are startled by the crows and magpies.  We are only in the garden to feed the birds at the moment, everything looks slightly desolate and abandoned and only than the tiny green shoots of daffodils indicate that spring will come, eventually.

Whilst we are waiting for spring (or at least more light and warmth) to go back into the garden, we are still busy in the kitchen.  I made my first batch of marmalade recently, using the wonderful bitter seville oranges that are in season for a short time in January and February.  I used a recipe from the River Cottage Preserve book which seemed to work well, although I must learn to be more patient when it comes to jam and let it boil for longer than I think I should and not decant and have to reboil it again later.  Despite my initial impatience we now have seven jars of very thick cut seville marmalade in the store cupboard, hopefully to last us until we have fruit to make jam.