God, but this endless rain is grim, isn’t it? I’ve been rained in for the past three days; I really need to invest in some proper waterproof clothing and shoes this year. (A lament that I make every November and then fail to act on in any way. This year, surely, will be the year I purchase some proper leather boots that don’t let the rain in, so I don’t need to get my wellies out every time it drizzles and then end up with blisters from walking too far in them…)
Apart from moaning about the wet weather, I’ve been spending lots of time recently snapping photos for my sister’s Instagram feed. Regulars will probably remember that my youngest sister has a really beautiful Letterpress stationery company, called Wolf & Ink, where she designs and hand prints loads of beautiful things.
I’m giving her a hand on promoting all of her Christmas cards this year (so, firstly, go and visit! Wolf & Ink Christmas cards) and I’ve got a fabulous box of her work that I delve into and grab something to photograph most days.
Yesterday, after dropping the sprogs off at nursery, I took walk to all the good Autumn foliage trees of the neighbourhood and helped myself to a few leaves to put together a rather nice collage (if I do say so myself, ha ha).
But I think my macro lens and plants is turning into a bit of an addiction for me, because I couldn’t resist grabbing my camera and taking a few close up shots as well. Just because.
So, you lucky things, here they are! Glorious Autumnal leaves in wonderful colours.
In other news, I really do have every intention of writing about something that’s not just gardens / gardening / visiting gardens / garden design / photographing gardens sometime soon. Those who started following me when I was purely a crafts blog are probably heartily sick of all this gardening chat (or have stopped following, of course, in which case I suppose I needn’t worry…)
The combo of a big deadline for my garden design course in a few weeks, along with these bits and pieces I’m doing for my sister has rather put paid to my Thursday blogging time that I was enjoying earlier in the Autumn. But I’ll be back in force before Christmas, I promise, with a range of different articles, just as soon as I have time to write up and photograph all of the trillions of ideas percolating in my brain.
‘Til then, I’m afraid you’re probably going to have to put up with a few more photos of wet trees…
The hubby excelled himself with my birthday presents this year. Back in September, on the day itself, I got a gorgeous grey wool winter coat from the littles. (Who are still too little to choose their own pressies, I should note…) It makes me feel as if I’ve stepped into a moody French black and white film when I wear it, as if I should be wandering along the banks of the Seine and meeting with lovers. (Though it’s mostly worn to the playground…)
The crowning glory, however, was my present from the hubby itself: a two day photography course at Kew, getting tips and hints on how to photograph trees. Uh-huh, he knows me well.
I took the course in the tail end of last week, in rather crappy, grey, drizzly weather – nothing like the glorious weekend we’ve just had. (Though that did mean I could wear the new coat.) But even damp and mizzling grey British rain can’t spoil the beauty of Kew, nor my enthusiasm for endless course taking, nor my love of chatting with other people about how nice trees are. Oh, and snapping the odd pic in between.
Our course tutor, Edward Parker, seemed to live my dream life. He is a one time environmental campaigner, turned photographer, learning as he went on his travels around the world.
He’s now photographed or written more than 30 books (including Ancient Trees and Photographing Trees which are both now on my Christmas list). He works with awesome organisations like the Eden Project, WWF, and the National Trust. And – if that weren’t enough – also runs a “rural centre for creative and sustainable living” in Dorset called Springhead. I know, I know, I totally wanted to hijack his life too.
He also had fascinating facts about loads of the trees we visited in Kew. The ginkgo, above, for example is the oldest ginkgo in the country. He told us that the evergreen oak opposite it was uprooted in the storms of 1987. As the Kew gardeners went round trying to see to the many tree casualties, they righted the oak, only as temporary measure before they had time to fell it properly, but were astonished to see that it started growing in far ruder health than before. (The earth around its roots had become compacted over many years of people stomping above. Coming right out of the ground had brought oxygen to the roots that the tree needed to grow well…)
And, of course, rain or no, the stunning Autumn colours round Kew led to plenty of time photographing hundreds of leaves. In fact, this selection are my favourites from, erm, around 500 photos I took in the space of two days.
So, in all, a most excellent few days photographing trees. Incidentally, if you share my tree love, I heard recently that if you use the tag #treesfortrees on instagram, then the Heart of England Forest will plant a tree for every tag they see. Which is pretty cool.
Kew runs hundreds of amazing-sounding courses, there is more info on their website: Kew short courses (I can’t see another photographing trees one at the moment, but there are various other photography courses over the next few months).
You can see some of Edward Parker’s photography on his website: Edward Parker or check out Springhead if you’re in the market for an eco retreat. It sounded really heavenly as he described it.
Finally, take a look at Trees for trees for more info on the tree planting.
Surrounded by cobwebs, the last of the flowers are just clinging on out in the garden at the moment.
Elated by the sunshine, I took a trip out this morning to photograph the few remaining splashes of colour, to try and hold onto them for as long as possible before the garden takes on its winter coat of unbroken green.
Actually, I love all the different shades of green you can find in a verdant garden, but I would like to add a little more colour as well.
I’m currently agonising over whether to cut down a rather large, browning, overgrown conifer that’s moping about next to our pond and planting some dogwood in its place: Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ (you can see some in my post about trees / shrubs with winter colour from the start of the year). The idea is, the bright red stems in the winter would reflect in the pond and bring a bit of cheer (and contrast) to the otherwise green vistas. (Ha! I’m not sure you can actually use the word “vista” if the total distance you can see is probably about 20ft…)
I had just started to write a lengthy essay explaining to you the pros and cons of the decision, but have deleted the six paragraphs on the grounds that it’s not wildly exciting reading.
Anyway, back to what’s actually there at the moment…
The two pink rose bushes continue to bloom: they deserve an award for outstanding longevity as I think they’ve both been in flower for around six months now.
Meanwhile, my new Rosa rugosa hedge has been making the most glorious red hips.
In an equally impressive display, my perennial sweetpea is still (still!) putting out flowers. For the last month or so, I’ve been thinking every bloom I see is the last, only for another to appear a few days later…
In the back garden, there are lots of bright Hesperantha coccinea by the pond. (More usual name? Not a clue, I’m afraid…) I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of red flowers in the garden, but somehow, once the main summer has passed and we’re into autumn, my opinion changes completely and I am delighted to see such rich colours.
Behind them, my Japanese maple is still looking a little unhealthy, but has managed to put out lots of lovely purpley/red seed pods. What glorious colours!
And my lovely pink daisies have just put out a second bloom…
Finally, I just can’t resist sharing this photo of my little photographic assistant. He’s been given use of Daddy’s old camera and has spent much of the past few weeks in poses fairly similar to this one.
I asked him, “Are you taking a photo of Mummy?” and he looked at me quizzically, as if that would be a very odd thing to do, and said, “No! Taking photo of dis plant…” The apples don’t fall far from the tree, eh…
My knitting has taken a bit of a back seat these past five months.
After the knitting-nesting frenzy before sproglet mark II was born, my needles have been consigned to the needle holder, evenings these days not given over to knitting a gorgeous blanket, so much as slumping, weary, in front of the TV, too tired to even change the channel if the remote control happens to be out of hand’s reach.
But no longer, my pretty needles! Autumn is truly here, the days are shorter and colder and knitwear is needed in this house. The elder sprog has outgrown most of his jumpers from last winter so I spent a particularly wonderful 10 minutes last week going through saved cardigan patterns on Ravelry with him, asking him which ones he liked best.
(At two years and two months, he had some pretty firm ideas about which ones he did and didn’t like, which I found particularly endearing. I’m sure in six months or so, it will drive me round the bend when he dismisses clothes out of hand, but for now, his firm, “no like dat colour” makes me want to hug him very tight…)
And so it was the wonder years cardigan by Elizabeth Smith was selected. The sprog liked the stripes, I liked the comfy Grandpa look of it and the leather buttons.
By amazing good fortune, I was lucky enough to win tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show, taking place later this week at Ally Pally, from the very lovely This Blog is Not For You. What better place to choose some lovely squishy wool?
So, with a bit of luck, evenings from now on will be taken up with hot chocolate, knitting, oh, and still a bit of telly too. I’m all talked out by about 7pm nowadays, so vegging and staring is the only option.
I’ll let you know how I get on…
P.S. My knitting needle case is rather lovely, isn’t it? It was my Granny’s, acquired when she went into a home, at the same time as the bronze urn on my mantelpiece. I assume that she made it herself — I think the outer fabric was probably from some curtains she had, and the inner one is, I believe, Liberty print. Most of the needles inside were hers as well; I love their fabulous rainbow colours.
P.P.S. I’ve just realised it’s wool week this week! What a fortuitous post this proves to be. (Well, it would be even more fortuitous if I had actually *knitted* something already, but, still, the thought counts too, right?!)
A few things that have already been actually finished and created fully by the wonders of my needles:
Ah, September, always one of my favourite months of the year.
I say this not just because it is the auspicious month of my birth. (Actually, my birthday was a rather muted affair this year; the sproglet choosing the day to give me two full-on hour-long tantrums and my birthday cake not lovingly made by the hubby, but purchased from the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Not that I’m complaining, as my Mum came up for the day and was the one who bought me the cake, but the hub could do well to take a leaf from Laura’s book, who made this fantastically toothsome looking creation for her husband D’s birthday*: Ginger and pear cake.)
But, birthday ramblings aside, September is usually a month of the most wonderful weather and this year has been no exception. The Autumn light creeps in, the leaves turn, the conkers appear and I thoroughly enjoy sticking on my wellies for a walk to the park.
Of course, this is also the month with the best harvest and I have been so enjoying following our #growforagecook hashtag over on Twitter and Instagram and seeing what everyone has been up to.
My recipe book is heaving with ideas, my “to plant” list for fruit and veg next year is growing daily as I garden vicariously and I am on an ever-more-desperate search for sloes and damsons as I watch others’ gins and jams. (Anyone have any tips for places to search in South East London? Please, please leave a comment below if you know of any good spots…)
Here is a selection of some of our favourites from this month.
All wonderful, aren’t they? And enough to make you reach immediately for the spade, secateurs or mixing bowl!
Thanks so much to everyone for joining in, please do keep on using the #growforagecook hashtag on Twitter or Instagram (and tag either @wolvesinlondon and @circleofpines); or, if you’re not on either of those, do just leave us a comment linking up to posts you’ve published…
And so October approaches, I feel drawn towards winter veg and endless pickling, along with my feet up on the sofa, poring through seed catalogues to plan the veg garden of my dreams for next year… What will you be up to in the coming month?
There’s been a definite chill in the air this week and I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it is still officially August and still officially summer. For one more week at least…
I’m sure I can feel the days shortening imperceptibly each evening and my summer duvet is wrapped more tightly around me each night.
I’m trying not to moan because, after all, we did have a glorious July, but there is something a little depressing about an August that already feels as if autumn has hit.
But, on the plus side, the arrival of autumn a little early this year means the early arrival of harvest time, hurrah!
And what a bumper harvest it has been so far.
It seems to have been an especially good year for plums. My fellow Grow Forage Cooker, Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees) shared three glorious looking plum recipes last week from a basket filled to the brim at the local PYO.
This is a selection of seriously delicious looking plum treats: plum clafoutis, plum cake and plum jam. Head over now if you’ve not already seen the delights: a basket of plums.
This week, I’ve got plums in my hands too, hem hem, since our plum tree has had a rather magnificent bounty this year.
So if you, too, have more plums than you know what to do with, here’s another recipe, this one for a spicy plum chutney, that tastes particularly fabulous at Christmas time with cold meats or cheese.
(I know, I know, despite the chilly weather it’s still far too early to think about Christmas, but this chutney is best matured for a few months, so if you make it now you can forget about it all over again until December…)
And if you’re growing, foraging or cooking anything yourself with seasonal ingredients, do please share it with us. Use the hashtag #growforagecook on twitter or instagram and tag either of us (@circleofpines and @wolvesinlondon) or leave us a comment on our blogs to share any photos you’ve taken, recipes you’ve made or blog posts you’ve written.
We’d love to get some inspiration / drool over some delicious photos.
At the end of each month, we’ll share a round up on our blogs of some of our favourites and pin them to our Pinterest board: Grow, forage, cook.
And a huge thank you to everyone who has joined in so far!
And so, on with the plums…
Spicy plum chutney
This makes 5 – 6 jars. You can scale up or down all the ingredients depending on how many plums you have.
1kg of plums
1kg of apples, cored and chopped
400g granulated sugar (I like to use white sugar as the chutney stays a wonderful pink colour, but you can replace with brown if you prefer)
1 cinnamon stick
1tbsp chilli flakes (or more or less, as you prefer)
fresh ginger, an amount about the size of two thumbs
garlic: one bulb, peeled and roughly chopped
350ml of cider vinegar
Large heavy bottom saucepan, stockpan or (ideally) jam pan
5-6 jam jars
What to do:
1. First of all, get your jars on to sterilise. You can either put them through a normal wash on the dishwasher, or wash them in soapy water and then put into an oven on a low heat. If you do the latter, put them onto a baking tray and then you can pull the whole thing out at once, rather than handling lots of hot glass jars.
You’re supposed to use new lids every time, or sterilise them in boiling water, but – confession – I just stick the lids through the dishwasher as well…
2. Chop the plums in half, remove the stones and weigh them. Incidentally, this will leave you with genuine brown, wrinkled prune fingers; washing them in a bit of lemon juice helps remove the stains…
3. Match the rest of your ingredients to the amount of plums you have, by scaling up or down the ratios. For every kg of plums you want approximately a matching weight in apples, 350ml of vinegar and 400g of sugar. Specific quantities aren’t crucial, so don’t worry too much about matching this exactly. The apples on my trees are only just starting to ripen, so I couldn’t quite match the weight of the plums, but just added what I could… It didn’t matter in the slightest.
4. Core and chop the apples – controversially, I don’t worry about peeling them, since I think the skin softens enough not to be noticeable and I am a rather lazy cook – but if you’d rather peel them, go right ahead.
5. Stick everything into a big saucepan and bring to the boil.
6. Simmer, stirring every now and again for around 90 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced and become a thick gloopy consistency.
7. Spoon into the jars while still hot and twist the lids onto the top. The lids should depress at the top and you know a seal has been made.
8. Put aside for at least a month if you can, before eating, to let the flavours infuse. This should store well for at least a year…
Delicious with meats or with cheese and biscuits.
So tell me, what have you been growing / foraging / cooking recently?
I love me a bit of preserving. Take a look at a few of my other recipes:
The garden in our house is a source of both great joy and great frustration to me.
It was one of the major selling points when we bought the place a year ago: a 60 foot garden! In London!
But (as I know I’ve mentioned before, so my apologies to regular readers) it was also planted up in a way that wasn’t hugely appealing to me. The square of lawn is the size of a handkerchief, surrounded by gigantic flowerbeds too large to weed, filled with bright pink and orange azaleas and (now, anyway) a fair bit of bindweed too.
Of course, when we looked round the house, I cheerfully made plans for how I could change it, imagining it all finished within a month of moving in. A year later, though, and we’ve finally made a start. The azaleas are all gone, two huge beds have been levelled and turfed and the past four weekends have looked pretty much like this:
But now that the garden doesn’t just remind me of all the work that needs doing, I’ve been able to start enjoying some of its beauties. A wander round with my macro lens last week showed off Autumn in all its glory.
I’m linking up today with Mammasaurus’s How does your garden grow, a weekly browse through some gardening delights. I’ve just discovered it and have been having a great wander round other people’s gardens. Do head over if you’re similarly interested…
I’m pretty late with my Garden Moodboard this month (coming at the weekend though), but for some more pics of various plants from my garden, take a look at my moodboards for May, June, July, August or October.
More than a week in to October, but here, finally, is my monthly garden moodboard.
I’m quite excited about my garden at the moment. It’s currently in a half dug state. We’re taking up some of the many (many!) flowerbeds and replacing with turf. The rhododendron bed is going, along with half the width of one of the main beds that was just far, far too deep to actually get in and weed it easily, which meant it was really a dark breeding ground for bindweed and dandelions.
Ordinarily, I’d be a big fan of loads of flower beds, but the amount of grass space we had was about an eighth of the overall garden, and barely big enough to put the paddling pool on, let alone have the sproglet run around…
So, lots of work to do now, and hopefully a much more useable garden come next Summer.
Once the grass is down, planting some more (nice) things in the flower beds is a priority. As you can see from the haul at the moment, there’s not much going on out there right now. The anemone and verbena are both from the front garden, where I planted them last August, along with the green feathery leaf, which is from an Artemisia.
The pink rose is the last one on the tree, which is mostly rose hips by now.
The honeysuckle too is really over, just a few flowers left and a profusion of bright red berries. The whole thing is rather old and leggy now though, so definitely needs a major hair cut, or possibly just replacing. This flower looks nice, I know, but the rest of the plant is rather sickly.
The red schizostylis coccinea is the only real success out in the back garden at the moment, a huge swathe of them growing up round the pond and looking very jolly indeed.
Still, I’ve got say, the whole lot looked very pleasing as I collected everything to photograph in a little wicker basket:
My favourite find of all, though, was this skeleton leaf. So amazing to see all the veins left, while the main body of the leaf has just eroded away. I got a bit snap happy…
Beautiful, isn’t it?
I’ve got moodboards for May, June, July and August if you’d like to take a look at some more. (September I missed. Slap on the wrist.)