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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  1. mowdrops

    just found your site a few weeks ago, fantastic
    hints and recipes.Got my dehydrator out of the loft and ready to get started. Many thanks for
    getting me going again.

  2. Found it!

    incidentally, I did make blackcurrant cordial as well – I bought one of those fantastic steam-juicers with a little hose tap so that all you have to do is layer the fruit and some sugar, then heat it up and let the cordial flow straight into the sterile bottles. Fantastically easy, and I’ll be doing a Cranberry version this week for Christmas presents. I’ll hopefully end up putting it on the blog.

    I’ll be raising a glass to you and Danny with my kir royale on Christmas morning.

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