A potato bird scarer, self set potatoes, apple jelly.

Monday: All was going well until I discovered that all my lovely pears have been stripped from the tree, it was loaded with them and now they are all gone? One of two things, either we have night time visitors picking their own or more likely the bloody rooks are doing it, we have had hundreds of them in the paddocks this week. There is a I’m guessing, unmanaged, rookery up the road and the numbers are increasing ridiculously. Normally they descend on the chicken feed but as that is now fed inside they are raiding everything else. Disheartened is not the word I can tell you, waited all year for those 😀
I don’t know if we are headed for a harsh winter, or if the long dry spell and then hot spell is driving it but they are stripping fruit bushes and trees before the fruit is even ripe. I have covered the small Apple tree that has some apples left on it although they have been eating them while they are still on the branch, the bigger trees hopefully have enough on them still to get a good crop from but I am beginning to wonder if there is much point to any of this at all πŸ˜” I have never had a year with so many different problems! I ordered a plastic owl with rotating head to see if that works, then I remembered something my Dad showed me many years ago using a potato, a stick, some string and some feathers, I have goose feathers lying round from when they moulted so I made a potato bird and we will see if it works. 

So I gave it half an hour wandered down the garden and there was a crow sat right next to it on the fence………clearly they don’t work lol, might have to try a cardboard cut out of me with a gun! 

We moved the geese back to the front paddock, mainly because they are nervous at the back since the fox attack but also because we are getting a few windfall apples now and they might as well be put to good use clearing them up πŸ˜€

Went out this evening to Charlbury to water youngest daughters hanging baskets and put the bins out as they are away, a summer evening drive through the Windrush Valley has to be one of the most beautiful things to do, combines are out cutting the crops, billows of dust in their wake, feeling very lucky to live here. 

Tuesday: Did some picking this morning, got a haul of courgettes again 😜 picked and cooked some beetroot to go in the fridge for eating with my salads, also dwarf beans and runners, and some more self set potatoes, one or two big enough for a jacket πŸ˜€ picked a mix of berries and had a power packed berry smoothie for breakfast 😁Mia is here today so lots of playing lol, hopefully an afternoon nap, eventually! 

John cut the front driveway grass while I got the dinner and that was about it for the evening, waiting for the storms now. 

Wednesday: Well we didn’t have storms, not that I heard anyway, but we did have rain, it’s lovely and fresh out there this morning although the temps are already climbing. I won’t be doing any picking today, I will leave the rain to work it’s magic for a day or so mind you the courgettes may well be marrows by then.

The egg customers seemed to have disappeared this week 😝 over the years I have noticed a pattern, the week before the school holidays begin, the egg sales slow right down, my theory is that as most of our customers are older they take the opportunity to go away on holiday before the kids break up, either because they will be looking after the grandchildren over the hols or they want a child free break. I’ve never actually asked any of them but it seems the most likely explanation. 

I said that we have moved the geese partly to eat up the fallen apples, these are from the June/July drop which occurs naturally to thin out the fruits on the tree but I suspect that lack of rain is also causing fruits to drop, most have been ravaged overnight by insects and early birds but occasionally there is an intact rather nice looking apple. I wondered if it was safe to use such early windfalls and googled it, seems I’m not the only one who wants to know, there are, as you would expect, a range of opinions from a scientific study stating that mould spores on the apples are dangerous and you should only eat/use ones picked from the tree to ‘I use the windfalls bruises, bugs and all to make cider’ I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle. The best answer I found was a practical one that stated it was difficult to peel them for use as they were quite hard, makes sense so for the time being I will feed them to the geese and hope there are still some left come September. While I was looking for info I came across an article by Rose Prince in The Telegraph, and a recipe for apple jelly, it wasn’t so much the recipe that intrigued me but the way the jelly was then used in various ways. 

‘I eat the best of windfalls and make purΓ©e out of others, but apple jelly is the real reason I beg windfalls from friends. I put a sprig of thyme in each jar and add it to gravies or eat a spoonful with roasts and grills. I also make a jar without herbs and use it as a base for fruit sorbets or melt it so I can brush it on to a baked apple tart or fruitcake.’ 

That is my idea of a useful bit of information and I will certainly be making apple jelly and using it as described above and as many other ways as I can think of, the article ended with this statement;

‘Squirrel instincts satisfied, I can look at my stored jars of setting iridescent liquid and foresee a winter of goodness. Pectin may be invisible, and apple jelly not the most essential food, but to me it is the difference between a winter that is interesting and one that is dull.’

Rose Prince – The Telegraph 

A girl after my own heart ❀️ 

APPLE JELLY 

Sterilise three or four half-pint/300ml jars, heating them in a low oven or putting them through the dishwasher. 

Put 4lb 8oz/2kg quartered apples into a large, heavy-based pan. Add enough water to cover one third of the depth of the apples. Bring to the boil slowly and simmer until soft.

Spoon into a jelly bag then hang the bag over a bowl. Let the juice drip through the bag naturally, without forcing, or your jelly will be cloudy and will not set well.

Measure the juice, then add 1lb 2oz/500g granulated sugar for every 1 pint/600ml liquid, boil for about 15 minutes, or until the jam reaches 110C/220F or the right setting on a sugar thermometer.

Pour into the sterile jars and place a wax disc on the surface of the hot liquid. It will set into a delicate pink jelly. Add a sprig of thyme once the liquid has cooled. Add juniper for a gamey flavour, or red chillies for a hot jelly.

Thursday: Rain again overnight, found a dead hen in the hut, she had fallen in the water bucket last night John said, I think it’s the one who has been brooding all this time even though I keep throwing her off the nest, some hens you just can’t break. I had a quick look in the veg garden πŸ‘€ it’s sprouted like a jungle! I need to go and pick courgettes later before they become marrows, yes a courgette is just a mini marrow in case anyone didn’t know that 😜 

Last night I asked John if he wanted to know what I want for my birthday, normally he asks me and I say ‘surprise me’ not the best idea so, I took matters into my own hands and I decided I would like a ‘nutribullet’, ‘where do I get one of those’ he asked, luckily for him I can order it from Amazon which is exactly what I did and it arrived this morning πŸ˜€ I have already had my first nutriblast and I have to say it’s very good, I can see I will be easily able to use up odd bits of fruit and veg in a great way, soup looks like it will be an incredibly easy affair and I’m hoping nuts will easily to pulp into butters. We will see how it goes but I can probably get rid of my juicer and blender leaving much needed cupboard space for other gadgets 😝 

I made courgette (actually marrow but we covered that bit) chutney this morning, a fairy easy recipe, I didn’t follow it exactly but swapped ingredients I didn’t have for ones I did, I also cooked it slowly a lot longer than stated as I wanted a spreadable chutney rather than chunky. 

I’ve been thinking recently about how much I have unintentionally veered away from being eco friendly, convenience is exactly that and it’s easy to fall by the wayside so I will be making a concerted effort to get back on track. A lot of what I do is eco friendly, but some of it definitely isn’t, like the use of plastic for instance, I try to use recycled wherever possible even pegs and I try to reuse but so much of what we use today comes in a handy plastic container or wrapper, and I really wish they would provide paper bags for loose produce like the old days. First step is a bamboo toothbrush I think, I never really gave it much thought until I saw a Facebook pop up for them, now I’ve seen it and thought about it, I need to do something to rectify my years of plastic toothbrushes. I shall take it small steps at a time but I will be thinking a little bit harder when making my shopping choices in future. 

Friday: A squally day weather wise, we have gone from raging sun to wet, windy and colder there is definitely an autumnal feel to the weather, that’s not the only thing, the blackberries are about a month early, are we in for a hard Winter I wonder? 

I prepped some veg I picked yesterday for the freezer, made bread, put some sliced onions in the dehydrator for turning into onion powder, made an onion, potato and bacon bake to go with chicken for dinner and then a lot of visitors descended upon me lol, first Sam and Mia, then the Friday garden help, then Shelley followed by Charlie and then Dad and Sue, full house 🏑 

The rain came down and that was that for the day, dinner was delicious. 

Hold that thought, that was not that as I had stated, it’s hammering down, we finished watching Ripper Street on catch up and John says, ‘you better get your work clothes on’, ‘why?’ I ask, ‘water will be pouring in the chicken run at the back’ ‘what the one you fixed last time it rained and poured in’, ‘yep that one’, ‘why will it be pouring in didn’t you fix it?’ ‘I propped up the roof with wood and it fell down in the week’, ‘you didn’t think to put it back up while it was dry then?’ ‘on your own matey, I would have made sure it didn’t happen again especially when heavy rain was forecast’ so that was that for me but not John 😝😝

Saturday: Wet overnight but a dry start to the day, gave the rabbits and Guinea pigs a good clean out after I had finished the morning feed round, John started work on the fencing at the back of the decking area which will also be the fence for the other rabbit run, we will be concreting the floor of this run so that the rabbit can’t dig her way out. We went out for lunch with My Dad and Sue and that was pretty much it for the day then until afternoon feeding and egg collecting. The egg sales are still flying off the shelf, I wish I could say the same for the courgettes πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ or any of the veg for that matter, last year I couldn’t get them out fast enough this year nobody seems to want them, so next year I definitely won’t be planting as much and will need to think about what exactly I will do with the ground instead, after all there is only so much veg we can eat or freeze. 

Sunday: More rain yesterday evening and overnight and again a dry start to the day, this morning after feeding I cleaned out the duck shed, pick a few veg including cucumbers and then went to sort out the chicken pen that John was trying to sort in the rain the other night. The trouble is once the dirt gets wet the chickens make a real mess, so I scraped it up and moved the water bucket away from the wet area and then Sam and I put a piece of board over the wet soil which will help to dry the whole area up, I think the chickens think it’s a giant mud paddling pool. Dad and Sue called in to see if we wanted to go down to the pub for a pint, John dropped everything very quickly and off we went 😝 

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