The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Impromptu holiday

garden flowersWhen I was a child my mother would sometimes wake us and say,
“We are going on holiday today. Your clothes are on the chair and the cases are packed.”

It was wonderful. My mum knitting opposite us on the train. The first view of the sea. The dunes and ice creams. The beach hut and the ridgy sandy flats that led to the massive sea. Hunstanton was awash with shrimps, soft beds and sand between my toes.

Yesterday I woke at seven. The house was strangely silent – I’d forgotten that Danny was away for the day. I snoozed and, although the dogs were keen for breakfast, they finally settled. The duvet is very large and irresistible. Then I dwelt on all the things that I’ve been planning to do in the garden. I’ve been working a lot at weekends recently and the garden has suffered a bit. As The Contessa and Inca bickered I reached for the telephone and booked myself out of work for the day.

Having put some duck breasts and bacon up the chimney over a smoking apple wood fire, I spent the morning beavering away in in the garden in just my nightshirt and Wellington boots. Had breakfast at midday (toast) and lunch at four (toast). In fact I had my favourite meal – deluxe cheese on toast – in the evening. Danny returned late and exhausted and turned down the chef’s choice of homemade chicken and mushroom pie. All he wanted to do was flop and curl up in bed.

It was a perfect day. 12 hours in the garden with no diversions. It’s probably a year since I’ve enjoyed this solace. This sort of gardening and fixing often needs you to be alone to focus on the jobs on hand. If you are in the mood they are a pleasure.

The Min Pins joined me in the garden, tagging along all day. Fast asleep after supper they had enjoyed a super active day too.

Now there are no seed trays of wilting, slim, pleading plants in the greenhouse. They are tucked into their beds, still waif like but they will perk up. The bee shed finally has guttering and down pipe that feeds a water butt in the centre of the garden. This has been a mini desert for plants for several years as the butts were all located at the top and bottom of our patch. The butternut squash plant is happily settled in a large tub at the front of the cottage. A sunny spot where it can ramble down the drive. If it really gets going it will challenge our parking but I’m sure that it can be corralled at the edge of the drive. Some hope as it’s still only six inches high.

I spent some time fiddling with the guttering that feeds a massive water butt at the end of the chicken run. Some of it had eased apart and it’s now watertight.

I was involved in short, sharp sniper fire with Thunder, on and off all morning, trying to keep him from harassing the ducklings. The water pistol worked perfectly. Initially he was bemused by the water and stared up at the sky. By the end of the day he knew that it was me and the ducklings were no longer constantly in his sights.

I discovered that our massive redcurrant bushes are in fact blackcurrant bushes. Ah, the joys of a fruit cage! I do have three smaller redcurrant bushes, so all is well. I had been thinking that it would be good to grow blackcurrants, having read about the Swedish liqueur. Suddenly, overnight I have an organic blackcurrant harvest. Beginners luck? I finally had the time to ogle the fruit in both the cages and picked some raspberries for jam. Not much jam as I devoured most of them in transit.

Racking last year’s greengage wine I discovered that it was very gluggable. Fired up by this I examined the ten demi johns in the barn and discovered that the rhubarb wine was ready. Drinkable but probably best left for a while. In amongst the plump containers I spotted a thin red necked bottle. Could it be raspberry gin? I made a lunge and discovered that I was holding a bottle of the best homemade liqueur that we make. Somehow this treasure had been passed over.

I ended the day happily digging in the kitchen garden. The excited shrieks of swallows made me glance at the sky. Blue, edged with pink and filled with darting birds.

A great day. Almost as good as those Hunstanton holidays.


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12 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Clare

    I love kir too. Haven’t sampled it for years but at Christmas 2008 we will, thanks to the excellent link that you provided. I’m so pleased with this. I would have added sugar to the mix and now we’ll be glugging a version of the real Danish grog. Thanks so much for pointing me in the direction of the recipe!

  2. Clare

    I love drinking both kir (white wine and creme de cassis) and it’s upmarket sparkly cousin, and creme de cassis isn’t easy to come by.

    I found this recipe online, thought it might interest you?
    http://www.danish-schnapps-recipes.com/black-currant.html

    It suggests putting a couple of young leaves into the bottle too, to enhance the flavours.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Clare

    I’m going to be making blackcurrant vodka too! Hadn’t thought of using it instead of creme de cassis, so thanks so much for the tip.

    Inspired by your comment I’m now sitting beside a vast 1.5 litre bottle of vodka. Raspberry is a must, then the rest.

    Great to hear from you.

  4. Clare

    Inspired by blackcurrants and home-made grog in one post, I just thought I’d let you know that I’m intending to try making some blackcurrant vodka this year. It’s so nice to put a glug of creme de cassis in a glass of cheap fizz on a hot day, and thought I’d give a go at home-made.
    We’ll be going berry picking next week, hopefully (not enough space to grow our own) so there’ll be another BIG batch of raspberry vodka and another of raspberry gin going on as well. Just hope that all this rain hasn’t ruined the raspberry crop!

    If there’s lots of fruit I might make some blackcurrant cordial too.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Serena

    When you finish your thesis you must take some time off to indulge yourself!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Yes when the sky is blue it seems to be a much deeper blue than years ago. 7 hours at the computer – poor you, tiring stuff.

    Hello Pamela

    That’s a lovely memory, beautifully described.

    Hello Kate(uk)

    That early evening drink after a long day in the garden, can’t be beaten.

    Hi Wendy

    The Min Pins love a day in the garden. Dr Quito and Inca follow me about and settle where I’m working. The Contessa lies in her special spot in the sun and enjoys an occasional tummy rub!

  6. Wendy

    Just what you needed – a lovely day of doing what you WANTED to do. The Minpins must have been in heaven with you being in the garden with them, not so Mr.Thunder! Loved the bit about the nightshirt and wellington boots – and the deluxe cheese on toast sounded like heaven. Bet you went to bed tired but happy. x

  7. Kate(uk)

    It is always so nice to get to bed knowing all the plants are happy in bed too!I’ve had some days like that this past week- so good to catch up with everything and as for the joy of crossing all those tasks off the list while sitting with a drink of an evening listening to the swallows…

  8. Pamela

    We used to go to Blackpool to see the illuminations when we were little. My parents would wake us up gently, put on coats over our night-clothes and load us into the car where we would fall back to sleep. On arrival in Blackpool we were woken up and would go each way along the front so that the two of us in the middle could sit by the windows on the way back. Sometimes we would have a supper of fish and chips, sometimes not and then we would sleep all the way home again and be tucked back into bed.

  9. magic cochin

    After hard work and toughs days that was a well deserved perfect day. Wasn’t the sky a perfect deep blue! I managed to snatch a lunch break sitting in the veg garden under the crab apple tree – between 7 hours at the computer.

    Hunstanton – I remember those innocent holidays! We went every year.

    Celia

  10. Serena

    Sounds like a great day, especially the wines and liquer. When I finish this darn thesis, I would love to have a day like this.

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