Ice and Fire

The polar caps are receding at a terrifying rate.   I think I know where all the ice has gone, my fridge.  Today was the day of the big defrost.  This needs to be done so we can fit some food into it for the Christmas period.  Something has gone amiss.  Not only is the freezer ice-bound, so is my fridge.  In fact there may be more ice in the fridge than in the freezer.  Possibly a gumbletock has blown.  Or the like.  A shiny new (properly regulated) appliance is planned for the new year, until then we will have to make do.  With no exaggeration (moi?), so frostbound is my fridge-freezer that members of the British Museum are standing by in case I uncover a woolly mammoth in its icy depths.

In the past few weeks I have been attempting to empty the freezer, all that was left was a tub of Madagascan vanilla ice cream and a bag of peas.  These I gave to the safe-keeping of my neighbour.  Now I am wondering if I should have got a receipt.  For the peas.  She would never eat the ice cream.  Surely.

Whilst the slow thaw proceeded, I thought I would try my hand at making some crystallised ginger.  After a little research, thanks Admin Annie, I found a couple of recipes on line.  Really it didn’t look too tricky.  As I haven’t shared any of my recipes for a while, I thought this the ideal opportunity, think of it as an early Christmas present.

As always, the recipe is in normal font, my interpretation in italics.

Crystallised Ginger


300g of ginger and 300g of granulated sugar

Eeeek!  That doesn’t sound very healthy.  Choose to ignore the fact.


Peel ginger using a spoon

You are joking right?  A spoon?  OK, I’ll give it a go.  Actually this working out quite well.  Who would have thought it?  Smells lovely.

Slice thinly with a mandolin

A mandolin?  I may have a tin whistle somewhere, but not sure I have any stringed instrument at all.  I am going to go off piste here and use a knife and be really really careful.  Most pieces seem to be quite thin and even.  The odd bit is a little rustic.  Rustic is good, right?

Place in heavy based pan, cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes until tender

Heavy based pan.  The pan I have will have to do, heavy or not.  Simmering.  All is well.  Set alarm.  Realise I have to pop up the post box so turn the hob off, just in case.  Return in the blink of an eye.  Turn the cooker back on.  Might have lost a couple of minutes.  Check fridge, little change.  Keep simmering ginger.  Stab after 35 minutes.  Tough as shoe leather.  Turn up a bit.  Check fridge, might take a while.  Complete a 1,000 piece jigsaw.  Check ginger again, what exactly is tender?  Test a little.  Ouch.  Who wrote this recipe? Fridge still Narnia.  Read War and Peace.  Check ginger, surely that will do, getting bored now. Remember why I am not a home baker.

When tender, drain ginger and weigh, reserving a little of the water.  Return to the pan with the same weight in sugar and three tablespoon of cooking liquor.

Did exactly as instructed, except I added a bit less sugar and more water.  

Bring to the boil and stir often until translucent.

It is boiling away nicely, although perhaps I shouldn’t have added the extra water.  Why did I do that?  Idiot.  Check fridge.  Shackleton would have felt at home.  Oops better stir.  Looking hopeful.  

Turn heat down and stir continually until almost dry.

Almost dry, what does that mean?  I know, it means, until you lose the will to live.  What do I do now?  Bit of a gap in the instructions.  Luckily I am an expert at making things up as I go along.  I  will turn it out onto baking parchment (still a mystery as to why I possess any of this stuff) and spread it out until cool.

When cool dust with more sugar.

No I won’t, so there!

The End

The fridge is still not done.  The mummified half lemon has been extracted and disappointingly the British Museum are singularly uninterested.

The ginger is rather lovely, extremely fiery.  I have forgotten about all that sugar already.


Fuchsia arborescens

I’ve decided to go into hibernation for a little while.  I will be in a reconditioned badger sett, lined with cosy blankets and well stocked with good books, fine gin and cheese and onion crisps.  No dramas, no problems, no worries.  See you soonish!

Meanwhile here is the amazing Fuchsia arborescens for your admiration.


Heuchera 'Palace Purple'

Taking photos in bad weather is challenging.  At the best of times I am an inveterate speedy snapper.  My theory is that the more photos taken, the more likely at least one will be in focus.  When it is raining this procedure cranks up a gear.  I wrestle my camera from beneath layers of waterproofs, point it in the general direction of the subject, press the button a couple of times, return it to the relative safety of its pouch and hope for the best.  Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ was one of today’s better results.  Bearing in mind the incessant mist, mizzle, drizzle and torrential rain, I think it worked out quite nicely.

Now I have to find an excuse for the poor fine weather photos ….

Six on Saturday – Letters

red hydrangea

Here we are again, happy as can be, all good friends and jolly good company.  That’s right, it is Six on Saturday time again.  For anyone who has spent the last year lost in The Empty Quarter, or perhaps has been undertaking a silent vigil in a monastery somewhere deep in the Himalayas, and have missed this phenomenon, then I will explain what it is all about.  A certain gentleman called The Propagator has cast a spell over an increasing number of us innocent mortals.  It is not confined to the UK, his power extends across the globe and I have an inkling, even further.  This enchantment compels us to share six things that we find in our gardens every Saturday.  The only way to escape is if you have a note from your mum, a consultant surgeon or Gandalf.  As I haven’t managed to get any of these folk to co-operate this week, here are my SoS.  By the way, pop over to Mr P’s blog where you can not only read his contribution, but also those from his other captives.

First we have a hydrangea.  In the summer this shrub is a cheerful cherry red, small in stature but perfectly formed.  In early autumn it darkens to a deep maroon and now, as the gales have battered and desiccated, it has begun to turn the colour and texture of cornflakes (pre-milk).


Last week I planted some garlic in this trug.  It was a little later than I had planned to, but that is the way it goes in my world.  To some this container, with its invitingly soft compost, might look like a litter tray.  Yes, Fat Ol I’m looking at you!  Hence the sticks.

Pittosporum 'Tom Thumb'

A genera that has (not literally) grown on me is the pittosporums.  We have one in the front garden, it was in place when we arrived.  Luckily it is the diminutive Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’ and has barely grown in the ten years we have been here.  Its glossy burgundy leaves, frill edged, are especially welcome in the winter months.

Variegated Oleander

This variegated oleander rarely flowers.  It produces buds which just sit there waiting for some appropriate Mediterranean weather to open.  Which is extremely optimistic.  However it does over-winter outside with no extra protection.  Perhaps I should I say “so far”, I am a demon for tempting fate.

Bee House

Last Christmas I gave this little bug hotel to my OH, in reality is it more bijou B&B than Hilton.  Every so often I have a peer into it to see if anyone is in residence.  Other than a few spiders, I haven’t seen anyone yet.  Perhaps the leering human is putting them off.

Vinca 'Jenny Pym'

Last of all is the wonderful Vinca ‘Jenny Pym’.  The moment I set my eyes on this periwinkle, on a garden visit a couple of years ago, I was smitten.  Once I found a specimen and planted it out, I duly forgot all about her.  This is my fickle nature.  That is until this morning.  I see that she has done very nicely without my continuing doting.

Thanks again Mr P, for keeping us in order.  Now how about a letter from The Pope?  Does that count?


Babes in the Wood

Euphorbia x martini 'Ascot Rainbow'

Unlike most of its compatriots, there is one planter at The Farm that will not be emptied for the winter.  This re-purposed concrete water trough contains a couple of Euphorbia x martini  ‘Ascot Rainbow’  and a trio of the golden-eyed blue daisy, Felicia amelloides.  The euphorbia is tough as old boots and although might look a little tatty by the end of the winter should resprout bright new foliage in the spring.  The felicia however is more sensitive and may or may not make it through.  However a few weeks ago I took some cuttings and have six well rooted plantlets cosied up in the greenhouse.  Today I noticed that a thick covering of beech leaves had been blown over the plants, covering them in a warm duvet.  Like babes in the wood they should be safe under their blanket until the spring.  We will see.


What Happened Next? – Once More

Carpenteria californica

Well, Weatherpeople, you got that completely wrong didn’t you?  No rain, you promised.  None.  And I foolishly believed you.  After yesterday’s wall to wall miserable mizzle, you said that today would be better.  That much was true, I suppose.  It was better, but by no means best.  Weatherwise anyway.   The rain started mid morning and got progressively worse.

Luckily myself and Max’s dad were shopping.  That was much more successful.   The haul included Cistus x corbariensis and a delusional Rosa filipes ‘Kiftsgate’.  The rose label described it as a repeat flowering climber to 3m.  It can actually reach well over 10m in height and flowers only once, although admittedly spectacularly.   Some other purchaser might be in for a shock when they plant it at the base of a wicker pyramid.

Then we were onto the builder’s merchant for compost.  A short walk from here and we were at another garden centre where we bought two statuesque grasses, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Graziella’, in their full autumnal splendour and a fine specimen of the crested male fern Dryopteris filix-mas ‘Cristata’.  It was also here that we purchased our plant of the day, perhaps even of the year, a Carpenteria californica.  When I spotted this 2.0m tall absolute bargain (£19.99 if you must know) I staked my claim, guarding it like a Pit Bull, whilst MD found a trolley.  No one was going to steal this one away.  And they didn’t get near.  I know some of you will be familiar with this Californian beauty and others will realise that our climate here is far from West Coast USA, however I am hopeful that it will thrive in our care.

Our spoils were crammed into the car and we headed home.  We got back to the garden and waterproofed up to do some work.  After half an hour pretending to do something constructive in the heavy rain Max’s Dad said “fancy going inside for a cup of tea and a chat about plants?”.   What happened next?