Outside the day is grey and dreary, with the promise of icy rain. Inside, the colours gleam under the light. Polished apples, scrubbed carrots, cauliflowers enfolded in their leaves. A bag of potatoes, cream ovals in the open brown sack. The first of the hothouse salad leaves. A cornucopia of colour to brighten the eye.
The autumn sun emerges from behind the clouds
Sending shafts of sunlight to play in the garden
While the dry patch lasts
I head into the garden
To harvest the last of the tatties
They emerge from the ground
Precious jewels of the earth
Tumbled into the bucket
Admiring God’s work
And in a tree
A blackbird starts to sing.
NB : For those who aren’t used to English slang – ‘tatties’ are another word for potatoes.
Up the lane, between the fields. The cows gaze at us inquisitively over the gate, long lashes skimming brown eyes. The hedgerows are laden with berries, glowing amongst the thorns. The late summer sun warms our backs as we pick, stretching to collect best of the crop. Until, bags full and hands stained purple, we head homewards. Dreaming of bramble jelly and drop scones.
Been a slow couple of weeks as I continue to recover. Health gradually improving but not back to normal just yet. Getting there, though 🙂
After a week of wet, the garden has returned to luscious green. Grass springing up beneath my feet. Peas and beans twining their ways up the poles in the vegetable patch. Cabbages bursting their bounds. Beetroot ripe for the picking. At the top of the garden, my Dad’s wildflower patch raises banners of rainbow hue, blowing in the breeze. The sweet peas bless the air with their fragrance. As I pass by the border, there, in the heart of a lupin, a diamond glows.
Down the shore we crunch, stones rolling under our feet. Not far. A couple of steps. And there, within reach of the boat ramp, they lay. Bright yellow flowers wave in the breeze. Raggedy leaves. He stoops and picks a sprig. Sea radish. Tentatively we try it. A hot kick. Goose-grass sticks to our trousers. We sample a portion. A small patch of vetch curls up it’s tendrils – a taste of spring peas. Then on to the next plant – sea beet. A smooth oval leaf. Gingerly I tear off a portion of the leaf. Salad greens for the picking. The scurvy grass lays nestled under the shelter of the beet. Full of vitamin C. Not sure about the taste. Dandelion lies in the shingle. One tug and it comes out, roots and all. We move onwards to the stream that runs down the bay. Otter territory, this is. Usually I look for the spraint. But today we find water mint. And hemlock – much to be avoided! We slither onwards across the shingle. Orache, sea kale, nettle. Getting braver, we sample all. Onwards again. There lies a clump of sea campion, heads nodding in invitation. Try me, it seems to say. Honeyed petals, sweet to taste. Delicious. Suddenly the shore becomes a dining table.
NB this was a guided walk organised as part of world oceans day. It was led by Mark from Galloway Wild Foods. You can find out more about wild foods and foraging on his website, and you can find out about other events he runs. My morning run may never be the same again!
Thursday’s snow flurries turned into Friday’s blizzard. We woke to a white world, snow plastered against the window. A strange quiet. No electricity. No heating. No lights. Small camping stove out. Log fire stoked up. All day the snow continued to fall, hurling itself bad-temperedly at the ground. Tossed about by the wind, clawing at hair and face. A quick dash outside to post a letter became a struggle into the teeth of a blizzard. The path to the door and the pavement is shoveled three times. A losing battle. Inside the fire blazes, the only warmth in the house. Ice dripping from coat and hat. The kettle sings merrily on the hearth. Night draws in early. With candles lit and flames flickering the evening passes quickly. And so to bed, dressed for outside… hat and warm socks. Jumper and leggings. Duvet and three blankets. Hot water bottles top and bottom.
During the dark hours the snow still falls. A gentler dance, but just as popular. The morning light sees 10 foot drifts piled along the roads. The local farmers attach buckets to the tractors and plow the roads in the village. In the heart of the community we are safe. Cocooned from the outside world, an insulating layer of snow keeping us separate. Still no heat or light. The local rescue vehicle pops by, checking up on all. We clear the paths yet again, neighbours working together. Lunch has been cooking since dawn, balanced on the edge of the coal fire. Afterwards we emerge and playtime begins. A new member of the village appears, sitting on the bench. Soon the clouds draw in again, pregnant. Snow flurries occupy the afternoon, as the sun slowly moves across the sky. Darkness arrives and the candles are lit again. With my flickering light I climb the stairs and bury under the duvet.
Palm Sunday begins in sunshine, bringing longed for warmth into the room. A beautiful day. I go for a walk along the shore, sinking up to my knees in snow. Raid the garden for palm leaves, buried in a drift, and make palm crosses. No hope of church today – the road is still blocked to the east. By midday, the road north is finally opened. Electricity vans are seen, raising hopes. But lunch is stew slow-cooked by the open fire, and tea is toast and jam. The kettle still sings on the hearth at bedtime, and candles flicker on.
Dawn today brought relief. Blessed warmth. Sinking through to my bones. The power flicks on and off before staying on. The main wires to the village are still down, but a lorry late last night brought generators. A day of restocking. The thaw has begun, for now.
The coldest day of the year so far. Breath visible on the icy air, we hurry home . The log fire is primed, ready to toast ourselves in the warmth. Gradually defrosting fingers and toes. A pot of tea. Warm cherry scones, with a dollop of bramble jam. An old, familiar book to hand. Comfort food to cheer body and soul.
The serried rows of vegetables remain on guard while the garden hibernates. Winter greens show leaves, ready and waiting, forerunners of the troops. The red cabbage, cannon balls prepared for the battle. Then leeks, standing to attention. Buried in the earth bank are the potatoes, protected from the frost. But among this army are spies. The first of the weeds raise their heads over the parapets, hesitant in the cold. The snails are out in force. The blackbird has launched a successful counterattack – empty remains decorate the grass. Winter’s sleep is undisturbed.
Driven by the wind, the clouds draw in, shrouding the town. The rain splashes up against the side of the market stalls. Awnings bulge under the weight of water. Feet wet and trousers soaking, the store-holders still manage to smile. Last minute presents, a book to read by the fire. Passers-by scurry to and fro, filling their store-cupboards for the coming feast. The smell of fresh bread is carried on the wind, drawing us into the shelter. Warm, crusty loaves. Just the thing for a wet winter’s day.
The sunset seems early today. Closing the curtains on the dark, we settle in for the evening. Crochet hook at the ready, nimble fingers create another snowflake, while outside the frost forms. Inside the log fire blazes. We sit in the warmth. Toast for tea. I stab the slice of bread on the fork and hold it close to the fire. Gradually it browns. My face starts to glow in sympathy as I sit close to the flames. Turn the bread over. This task cannot be hurried. Slowly cook the other side. Remove from the toasting fork. Slather with butter. And eat. Bliss.