Sunday 16 October 2011


Autumn is without doubt my favourite season. There's so much to love:

:: hedgerows abundant with berries
:: cooler, crisper air
:: light fading at the end of the day
:: snuggling up in warmer clothes
:: thinking about the endless possibilities for winter knitting
:: filling the store cupboard with jams and jellies
:: the lingering smell of woodsmoke from autumn bonfires
:: a generally slower pace as the days shorten
:: going to bed early with a good book

It hasn't been very cold yet here in the far south west, and I'm confident I shall hold out until November before I put the heating on. Mostly I'm still getting by with no socks, though I'm looking forward to pulling my boots on!

The leaves are falling off the trees, crunching underfoot as Walter and I go about our daily walks.

I've been raiding the hedgerows for several weeks, supplementing the rich pickings with crab apples from my local WI market and offerings from friends. I recently acquired a fruit steamer (actually, 'invested in' would be more appropriate) and have been making jellies and fruit butters. Nothing goes to waste - and with the fruit steamer you cut out the overnight drip drip through a jelly bag, so you save a little time. My first batch of crab apple jelly was a little sweet for my taste (a ratio of 1:1 so 600ml of juice to 600g of sugar), so my subsequent batches have followed the guidelines in this wonderful preserving book (a ratio of 600ml of juice to 450g of sugar).

I love the jewel-like colours of the jellies. Pink from the crab apples, and pale gold from the pears. In fact, the pear and cardamon jelly is my current favourite, along with its corresponding fruit butter, which is sublime. Rock-hard conference pears have been transformed into something quite delicious and fragrant. However, I still have more jams and jellies to make before I catch up with Sue. I picked the last of the blackberries today - a slow, meditative picking in the warm autumn sunshine. Plenty more sloes too, for another bottle of gin.

What have you been making?

Thursday 13 October 2011

walter turns five

My sweet boy turned five today - a very good reason to sneak off for a long walk around Loe Pool.

The lake was shrouded in mist, so the landscape appeared and disappeared in layers. It was quite beautiful.

Walter was quite happy to go in for a quick dip, chasing sticks, and pootling around in the water. I couldn't get him to keep still long enough for any decent photographs!

By the time we reached Loe Bar, the narrow strip of land between lake and sea, he was ready for a roll in the sand.

Happy Birthday, Walter, you make my heart sing each and every day.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

chicken business

Long time readers here will know that my nephew Ben designs and makes beautiful chicken coops. He recently launched a gorgeous new coop design, the Small Dorking, suitable for one to three large chickens (or bantams) - perfect for the smaller garden. You can find out more about it here.

photograph copyright Ben Grist/Oakdene Coops

Would you like the opportunity to win one? Then hop over to the Guardian Gardening Blog to enter. You just need to fill in your details and answer a very simple chicken-related's that easy!

The draw closes tomorrow night, 6 October, at 23.59pm, so get your skates on!

Saturday 1 October 2011

seascape and skyscape

Sea and sky in the late afternoon light.  Perfect autumn weather.