Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Boxing Hares

A heavy frost was quickly burned away, by the early spring sunshine, to reveal blue skies and sunshine.     Housework and gardening can wait, so can the spring cleaning, there will be plenty of wet or chilly days when indoor chores can be done.  Conscience salved, I set off with Toby dog.

image from woodland

Not far into my walk I saw four hares cavorting and boxing in a field of stubble.     Toby was busy following a delicious scent;  they didn't spot him, and he didn't see them.    For three or four minutes that sight was mine to behold and enjoy.

This image: the guardian

Then I remembered my camera - too late, they spotted the movement and off they went across the field.  Glorious, beautiful creatures.

I'm  including this lovely photograph, it is exactly as it came off the camera disc.       It was a dazzlingly beautiful morning,   no wonder the hares were out having fun.

We were cutting through farmland, to visit this beautiful little glade.    In a few weeks it will be looking even more beautiful, with lots of new growth and flowers.     Wild garlic grows in abundance here.   

We climbed up a steep hillside, skirted another field and came to this farm. 
Up over another hilltop, down the other side, we came to the village of Swaby, lovely whitewashed cottages, quaint outbuildings, very narrow roads.

There were sheep and goats bleating on one side, a dog frantically barking at Toby on the other side and an oil tanker was blocking half the lane and making a horrible noise.   

It could have been tricky, there were so many scary things, obstacles, distractions, I didn't know how Toby would cope with the overload.     I needn't have worried.         He looked neither left nor right, but trotted beautifully along at my side.     Phew!   

We had to cross the occasional lane, but we didn't see any other vehicles, or walkers.  The track took us along the side of this river.

Nice old buildings, gently running water, and still we had that blue sky and sunshine.

I called in at the church, once again the door was locked.   I must have a chat with the churchwarden, it always used to be left open during daylight hours.    I really wanted to try and take a better photograph of the crusaders statue.    I have almost finished deciphering the 1837 poem which someone wrote about him. 

Down past the old dovecote, through the farms and on to home.   

And the housework.   

Monday, 19 March 2018

Still Standing

Since my early twenties I have had numbness in my toes.       

Without going into details, I was told it would become steadily worse, which it has, but luckily it has done so very slowly.   I can still get out and about and do my six or seven mile walks, so I'm not complaining.     I just have to wear sensible shoes, watch where I am walking, and take extra good care of my feet.

I can't trip the light fantastic, but then I never could. 

There are days when the toes are painful, rather than numb, but other people deal with much worse.

Today the wind had dropped a little, although it was bitingly cold.  I needed to get out and about to blow the cobwebs away, so did Toby.

Our first stop of the day was a visit to this lovely old chap.   I don't know how old he is, but pretty ancient.   He was well and truly snuggled up in his blankets and feeling sociable so we stopped for a chat.

The paddock across the way holds these two and several of their chums.   I think Toby was saying that they are a bit whiffy.

We set off across the fields - a rough ploughed field.     The ground was rock hard, otherwise I wouldn't have taken this shortcut.

Once we cleared the muddy field, the going was much easier.   We went over the next little footbridge and on towards the dark mass you can see on the horizon...that is the Wild Wood.    We only skirted it though, I wanted to head for a particular ditch.   I was on a mission.

I wanted a few sprigs of pussy willow.    They always say "Spring is coming" to me, I hope they are right.     

They were part of my childhood and I want to make them part of my grandchildren's too.

Homemade Cleaner & Wild Garlic Cheese on Toast

'The hilltop hollows still hold their snow
And the wind comes keen and wild.'

That was certainly true of this weekend. 

Come on Spring! 

I am impatient to get out there to pick young nettles for soups and wild garlic for all manner of delicious treats, like wild garlic bread and I don't want to be freeze dried while I am doing it.

Wild garlic bread (totally different to garlic bread)
delicious as bread, or made into sandwiches,
  even more delicious on a cold spring day
when it is made into cheese on toast.
Crisp, slightly garlicky and meltingly cheesy. 
Comfort food.

Wild Garlic Bread recipe can be found on my Cottage Kitchen Blog (here)

I want to pick dandelion leaves for adding to salads and sandwiches,  and elderflowers for champagne,  should winter decide to leave us.

I also want to try making another brew of Dandelion Cleaner.      I found the recipe in one of my old books a couple of years ago.       Intrigued, I made a batch to see whether it was any good.    It worked a treat.   It doesn't keep well, so if you make some,  use it up within a couple of weeks.

Simply boil four or five roots, leaves, flowers and tendrils of the dandelion in about 3 pints of water.  Boil it until it reduces to about one pint, strain and then bottle when cool.   Be sure to put it out of the reach of children and animals!

It can be used for windows, mirrors, paintwork.     Just apply with a soft cloth, then wipe off with another dry soft cloth. I found that it worked really well, leaving no smears or grease marks, everything sparkled. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

From her Shelf to Mine

Image found on Google
Lady Lee Miller-Penrose, in her early days.

Most of the books I buy have already lived a life,
so by the time I buy them they are tattered and worn,
stained and splashed,
 often  wearing only half a jacket
many are totally naked!

 I sometimes find myself idly pondering about the people who had them before me,
what their kitchens were like,
which, if any, recipes they used
who they entertained
where they lived

Occasionally there is a name, an inscription, or a label,
 more often than not, there is no indication at all
as to who owned it previously.

I was very happy to find this pasted inside one of them.
The name Lee Miller Penrose meant nothing to me at the time
 I just thought it was a very attractive bookplate.

This was below it:

My interest was definitely piqued, I had to do some research!

It didn't take long.

What a woman!

She was born in 1907,
was a successful fashion model and fine art photographer
before going on to become
a war correspondent,
documenting the front line,
as well as
the liberation of

She saw some horrific things.

No surprise then
that after the war she suffered from PTSD,
clinical depression,
alcohol became her refuge...

Until she took up cookery,
not just any old cookery though.
She became a Cordon Bleu cook,
training first in Paris
then doing the advanced course in London.

She was married to a surrealist artist, had one child, and lived in East Sussex
in this beautiful of farmhouse.

image found on

This is where she became a legendary hostess
the likes of Picasso and Miro
to gourmet meals.
Cooking was her salvation.

It all makes for fascinating reading.

Lady Lee Miller-Penrose  had a collection of 2,000 cookery books.

They were her bedtime reading
as well as being used for inspiration and reference.

I am so chuffed that I have one of them on my shelves.
Admittedly, it is one of the lesser ones,  donated as part of her collection,
 to WCL,
 then eventually sold on.

It is battered and worn - probably from all those years in the library
at Westminster College...
I prefer to think that she spent many a happy hour browsing these recipes,
concocting menus,
possibly even cooking something from it for Picasso!

A book with a hidden tale.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Miss Read's Wartime Memories

The pile of papers in the corner kept waving to me, snagging my eye, stealing my attention, weighing me down.   Instead of spending some time simply relaxing with a good book I decided it would be easier just to get to work on them.

click to enlarge

They are the reminiscences of "Miss Read", not her real name, but it will suit her admirably for blogging purposes.   She is a retired schoolmistress and could quite easily be the  "Miss Read"  of  the "Village School" books fame.

Over the last months she has been kind enough to give us a series of talks, memories of her childhood -  of growing up in the manor house (the one with the green man) and of going to school in this village and her memories of the war. 

She has helped to bring books like 'Feeding the Nation' to life,  although food was much less of a problem for those living in the countryside than for town or city dwellers.


We have listened, enthralled, to her memories about life in the villages during the war.   

Stories and details about wartime rationing, foraging, transportation, lots of farming history, health care before the NHS was founded, the wonderful village women who cared for people when no other help was available,  community spirit, keeping a pig in a sty - and the rules and regulations pertaining to that, communications... and so much more.

Her recall is astounding.

It falls to me to type up the notes, including the additional ones  (reams of them!) which Miss Read kindly wrote out the last time she was kept housebound by 'The Beast from the East' and the subsequent snowfall.

click to enlarge

Yesterday was a bitterly cold day, in this part of the country, although I believe that it was much milder elsewhere.   I suppose we were having an early blast of those cold easterly winds from Siberia. 

The kitchen was warm and cosy, the big table made the perfect place for sorting out all those notes and pieces of paper...but the main reason I chose to work there is because the cats and Toby hate it when I disappear down the hall to my work room.   They are not allowed beyond the hall doorway.

I typed for an hour, then abandoned it for the day.   It was time to get some food ready for my grandchildren and my back was beginning to seize up anyway.     We (my little animal entourage and me)  took a quick and chilly circuit of Owl Wood,  it blew away the cobwebs and helped relax my back.   Then it was time to get back indoors, rattle a few saucepans and conjure up a meal for two hungry grandchildren.

Once they have eaten, they love to sit around the table a bit longer, not for conversation, they love to play a memory game.   Their favourite is "I went to the zoo and fed..."  predictably, my granddaughter always begins with a cub of some sort, she loves the big cats, her older brother goes for animals with difficult names, he is very competitive.     No doubt memory games like this are doing wonders for us, too!

Luna, these photographs of the kitchen are for you.   I'm sorry to say that I didn't take the time to tidy up or stage anything. 

It is what it is, warts and all.


Friday, 16 March 2018

Rhubarb and Gnomes

Yesterday two sticks of rhubarb were beautifully pink and ready for harvesting.   Hardly enough for one serving, but too good to leave behind. 

I decided to make a tart.

Photograph borrowed from  -  my other blog!

Rhubarb and Ginger Lattice Tart -  I didn't have enough rhubarb...

so I added a large cooking apple to make up the difference. 

The first photograph of a tart is one I took from my other blog (Parsonage Cottage Kitchen)   but these are  photographs of the tart I made yesterday - photography is definitely not my forte.

As you can see, my lattice-work hasn't improved any over the last year, either.  The taste is what matters.

The smell of the rhubarb was so strong that my self control crumbled, so I had a slice, and it was worth every calorie.

I didn't sweeten the fruit at all, the only sugar went into the crust (3oz brown sugar), so the tart was deliciously sweet/slightly tart. 

The full recipe can be found here, on my other blog.

Now that we no longer have any hens, I have to buy eggs. 

Luckily our next-door-but-one neighbour has a young and productive little flock and now sells them at her gate.   

One pound for six eggs isn't the cheapest, but the eggs are so young and fresh, the yolks so beautifully golden,  that they are well worth the money.

I shall miss our little flock. 

They used to roam around the Owl Wood, curious about everything that went on there, as you can see in the first photograph which was taken a couple of years ago, when I made a Queen Mab Pudding, also on my other blog.

A wild wind is blowing and we shall have snow, or so they say.

I'll be hunkering down with a pile of good books. 

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

ps  For anyone who has nipped over from Sue's blog   The Cottage at the End of a Lane    please rest assured, I do NOT own any garden gnomes, nor do I intend to buy any for Owl Wood.   They are not my taste at all, I was joking. 

Owl Wood is not home to gnomes...well, not the last time I looked!