Having started this blog back in late October last year when there was not much to do in the garden apart from a bit of leaf sweeping and general tidying, I must have somehow overlooked the fact that come Spring I was going to have a serious problem.
Since October I have been happily firmly ensconced in my kitchen, cooking daily, as I have always done, but now posting pictures of my resulting meals and dishes on Twitter and Facebook and writing about them here on The Eating Tree. Having been a total technophobe before the blog launch, I am pleased so far the way the blog is evolving and am delighted that people appear to be appreciating my writing and photography, both of which I am really enjoying and would like to develop further. My Twitter account is galloping towards its first 1000 followers and it seems like many moons ago when I posted my first tentative Tweet out into the ether and wondered how on earth people were going to find me, let alone have an interest in my recipes and food.
I am now writing a regular cookery column for The Diss Express newspaper and if things continue on the same upward trajectory for the next six months, hopefully the first anniversary of The Eating Tree will give me some cause to celebrate. I might even bake myself a Birthday cake.
But now the Spring sunshine has come along and is trying its hardest to put a spanner in the works.
At the first hint of a bit of warmth in the sun I feel the pull of the garden, beckoning me to don my wellies and brandish my Felcos as determined as Wyatt Earp walking into the O.K. Corral, albeit fighting against nettles and ground elder rather than wayward cowboys. After I have made a cup of tea in the morning but before I do anything else, mug in hand I take a leisurely stroll around the garden to see what little gems I can find sprouting and pushing their little heads above the soil. The transformation from bare brown earth to a riot of colour in the space of a few short weeks never ceases to amaze me and I revel in each new bud that opens and green shoot that bursts out of a bare branch.
That leaves me with a dilemma. As I can only be in one place at one time I can already feel myself being torn in two. The lure of the garden has won this week as we have had two or three of the most glorious days imaginable for April and after being stuck indoors for the best part of a month with ill health I could not let the opportunity to get out into the warmth of the Spring sunshine pass by.
The weeds have been cleared out of the vegetable patch, a thankless job that needs undertaking on a regular basis as they quickly take hold in both the beds and the gravel paths if they are left unattended for even a short period of time. In view of the fact that I try very hard to be as organic as I can in the garden, I will not resort to using any type of weed killer or bug spray, preferring to do the work myself or with a little help from mother nature. I have already had a rant on previous posts about my loathing for slug pellets so I will stay clear of that subject today.
The sight of a pair of little brown toad’s legs hopping off into the undergrowth always brings a smile to my face and I prefer to leave the job of slug clearance to them and the hedgehogs who seem to do a pretty good job without hurting anything else in the process.
I have pulled up countless wheelbarrow loads of nettle roots from the chicken patch which has become a little overgrown since Mr Fox cleared out all the chickens last year. Now neat and tidy and with the fence repaired it is all ready for some new chooks which I am really excited about. I love chickens, they fascinate me with their funny little ways and I have sorely missed the delight of collecting fresh eggs every morning. The constant need to buy eggs has been a bugbear over the winter months, I really don’t mind buying them locally from the various villagers who sell fabulous, fresh eggs from honesty boxes outside their front gates. But when they are in short supply I really do begrudge having to buy them from the supermarkets where I find myself teetering on tiptoe (I’m only 5ft 2′) to get to the boxes at the back with the freshest sell by dates and even then these are too old to cook a really good poached egg, a favourite breakfast of mine on a slice of homemade toast.
Next time you come back hopefully you will find some photos of the new hens, we still haven’t decided what breed to get this time round and whether to get another cockerel or not so it’s very much ‘watch this space’.
The garden was planted from new when we moved here twelve years ago and it seems that some of the plants have reached their natural lifespan and I have pulled out several dead or dying shrubs which were making the borders look untidy. To save money I have filled the gaps by dividing some well established perennials and moving some huge clumps of sisyrinchiums which grow very easily in my sandy soil.
Unfortunately it does look like all of my parterre box hedging has succumbed to box blight. What started out as a small brown patch on one triangular border has spread very quickly to the other three beds and they are now appear unretrievable. They will have to be dug out which will mean a total re-working of the garden. Not something we can afford to do in either financial or time terms at the moment but a task we need to start thinking about.
Apart from the box, which I shall try to put out of my mind for the moment, the garden is now coming into its Spring best, with just a few more warm days needed before the majority of the tulips come into full bloom. The vibrant colours of April herald that the warmer months are on their way, with the bright yellows of the narcissi, primroses, cowslips and crocuses vying for attention with the blues of the hyacinths, pulmonaria and muscari. The best of the tulips are yet to come and at the moment my favourite bed is the cool white and green woodland area which is brimming with white hyacinths, anemones, pulmonaria, hellebores and the teeny tiniest narcissi I have ever seen, planted last Autumn and forgotten about so a beautiful surprise this year.
So folks, I am going to have a very tough time splitting my time between the indoors and outdoors. I shall try my very hardest to keep up to speed in the cooking department, perhaps the BBQ will come to the fore so I can make the most of both worlds.
Like most people, I naturally veer towards salads during the summer months, hopefully using vegetables from my own vegetable patch so you can expect some fantastic, fresh healthy meals, made quickly and without much fuss, perfect for supper in the summer garden.
Before all that happens, no doubt we will have frosts, downpours and a varied assortment of good old British weather to keep us in check. Something tells me it’s not quite time to put away the woollies yet.
This lovely little traybake is very quick to make. I made it at the drop of a hat yesterday as there was no cake in the house, something very unusual around here. Looking at my son peeking in every cake tin, fridge and cupboard for a sweet treat, I started to feel rather guilty that I had spent two whole days in the garden and this raspberry cheesecake bake hit the spot. He ate it slightly warm with ice-cream. I had a big slice cold for elevenses this morning and it is very delicious and, as with most of my cakes, not too sweet.
- 175g Softened Unsalted Butter
- 175g Light Brown Sugar
- 200g Self Raising Flour
- 4 Eggs
- 200g Cream Cheese (like Philadelphia)
- 3 Tablespoons Caster Sugar
- 1Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 200g Fresh or Frozen Raspberries
- Preheat the oven to 170c (fan)
- Put the butter, brown sugar, flour and 3 eggs into the mixer bowl and beat for a few minutes until soft and creamy.
- Whilst mixing, in a separate bowl whisk together the cream cheese, caster sugar, vanilla and remaining egg. Don't worry if it is really runny, it will still set in the oven.
- Spread half the flour mixture in the bottom of the lined tray.
- Pour or dollop on half the cream cheese mixture and the raspberries.
- Dollop on the rest of the flour mixture (it will look a bit messy but don't panic).
- Finish with the remaining cream cheese.
- Place in the oven and cook for 35 minutes (40 if using frozen raspberries) until springy to touch.
- Leave to cool in the tin or serve warm.