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Often you don’t have to go very far to find Today’s treasures

Often you don’t have to go very far to find Today’s treasures

June is a delicious month, a time of strawberries, new potatoes flavoured with apple mint, and the first broad beans melting with butter.  And the gardens are alive with colours – yellow flag irises decorate ponds, azaleas brighten up patios, rhododendrons mist the hillsides with a purple haze and poppies startle you with their brilliant red blooms.

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Butterflies and damselflies flex their wings and the heady scents of honeysuckle and wild roses fill the hedgerows.  Bees are busy investigating every single foxglove flower and the buttercups dance their golden heads in the summer breeze.

The bird table is alive with hatchlings, families of blue tits and great tits vie for space on the feeders – and the swallows return from far off places, wheeling and diving across our skies.  Alas, gone are the times when the cuckoo called across our fields and the skylarks sang high above our heads – we need to go further into the wilds of Wales to hear these birds now, but we get more visitors to our bird table – goldfinches, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers love peanuts and sunflower seeds.

June is also the time to make elderflower champagne (not really champagne – and in fact not alcoholic at all if you drink it soon enough – but it tastes delicious).  Iced elderflower cordial is the perfect complement for summer lunches – these traditional recipes were handed down to me by two elderly aunts – handwritten on yellowing paper, now immortalised on my website:  visit www.barbararainford.co.uk/recipes

So quite often, you don’t have to go very far for Today’s Treasures, you can always find something new in your own back yard – a blackbird’s liquid notes heralding the dawn, daisies opening up their petals to the sun’s rays, a glimpse of the first wild rose, the sweetness of strawberries, or honeysuckle’s saturating scent – stimulating all our senses.  As our very own Shropshire A.E. Housman said:  “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?”  Take a moment to enjoy Today’s Treasures.

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Published in the June edition of the Whitchurch Gossip

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Poppies in November

Poppies in November

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It’s time for bonfire night but I’m still picking sweet peas, the nasturtiums are going strong – and the poppies are still in full flower, brightening up the garden on these musty, misty mornings.  It’s just as well we had an Indian summer as the runner beans were planted so late, due to a very cold and wet May, that I doubted we would be picking any beans at all.  So maybe the seasons are moving – and we should plan summer holidays in September next year?

Whatever, I have really enjoyed picking sweet peas right through October.  I put some in the lounge where I sit in the evenings but also some on the window ledge near the sink – where I seem to spend an awful lot of my time.  I do really enjoy cooking vegetables I have grown myself – they taste much better and they are so much fresher – but it is more time consuming than preparing clean, bug-free supermarket varieties.

The rabbits are also enjoying the long season as they get a nasturtium leaf (and sometimes a flower) every day.  As the Nasturtium Flower Fairy says, as soon as the frosts come, the nasturtiums are “… gone willy-nilly, umbrellas and all”.

nasturtiums in October

Nasturtiums in November

The Song of The Nasturtium Fairy is from ‘A Flower Fairy alphabet’ by Cicely Mary Barker

 

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Spring is in the Air

Spring is in the Air

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It was a beautiful frosty morning, the sun glinting off thawing raindrops.  I love this time of year when it’s just warm enough – and hopefully dry enough – to get out in the garden but not much is growing yet, so you can catch up with clearing up the vegetable patch.

It’s a rare ‘window of opportunity’;  time to get rid of all the perennial weeds like docks, nettles, buttercups and the perennial grasses.  I give the weeds to the hens – they love scratching though them looking for worms.  By the beginning of February there’s a sort of hopefulness in the air, the birds are singing, showing off their bright spring feathers and busily looking for nesting places and the air is alive with the promise of things to come.  It’s exhilarating just getting outside and living and breathing – and becoming part of – Spring.

 

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Still picking runner beans

Still picking runner beans and it’s nearly November.  There’s no more room for beans in the freezer so I’m just picking enough for two days – preparing them and leaving half in the fridge in a plastic bag for tomorrow.  I pick from one section so I still get some young beans – once beans get full size they stop producing more.  The other section I leave and pick when the pods are fully grown then I pod them and use the beans in chilli con carne.  I made a three bean chilli yesterday from dried red and black beans, and podded runner beans – and I also cooked some sliced runner beans to go with it.  We all like meat so I added some mince as well but I needed a lot less mince than usual as beans are a good form of protein.  There was none left – sure sign of success!

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runner beans