Thursday, 29 October 2009

Up and away

I don't suppose anyone noticed, but we took the opportunity provided by half-term to take a couple of days' leave of absence from the homestead. Things are generally slowing down in the garden, and my laissez-faire, it's such a mess because I garden for wildlife, attitude is, I am glad to say, paying off. The dead sunflower heads are alive with sparrows, and all that weedy undergrowth provides cover for them to sit under my kitchen window and chew on the husks. So at least I needn't feel guilty for not getting round to deadheading and weeding the flowerbeds.

We left the General in charge, fortified by a fridge full of pizza (he did request ready-meal lasagne, but that was a step too far for the food police), and a hefty financial incentive. Ensconced as he usually is in his digital eyrie, I suspect that he barely noticed that we were gone, and as we had emailed his tick list upstairs, he was very methodical regarding the animal husbandry.

We headed up north, and up hill, to the most wonderful bed and breakfast in Weardale - at 400m above sea level it seemed quite a dizzying height to us: we are marsh-dwellers who reside a mere 6m above the rising sea. But this area of the North Pennines is a most beautiful part of the country, with a wild, untamed air, vivdly-coloured hills and dales, and a frighteningly low stocking density for sheep.

We stayed at Slackhouse Farm, off-grid, but amazingly well-supplied with electricity from a wind turbine, and ate the most delicious food cooked by fellow-blogger Ellie, who is a feltmaker extraordinaire. Her felt has to be seen to be believed: she works mainly in the natural palette of wool colours provided by different varieties of sheep, some from her own flock. Sleeping under one of her blankets ensured the cosiest night: it was like a blanket from a fairytale, light as gossamer, but beautiful, too. I also rather covet one of Ellie's fantastic floor rugs, but I am afraid Kep might try to herd it into a corner.

So if you fancy a little holiday with a difference, or want to learn how to make felt, do go and visit Ellie at Fleece with Altitude - I love the picture of where she keeps the children, and also the rather manic-looking animal in the header!

But as fellow smallholders and self-sufficient types will know, a short trip away might mean the bliss of some late and animal-free mornings, but the work doesn't go away, it just piles up, and the shortening days and general slow-down in the garden have been focussing my mind on winter supplies. So I have been a bit manic, too, madly stewing apples for the freezer - I thought when I had finished a wheelbarrow full that was the last of it, but then I turned and saw this big box as well. It looks like more chilly hands from peeling and chopping are in the offing.

And then there are the quinces, and there is still another tree's worth to pick, which are beginning to rot balefully under my gaze every morning when I open the shutters. But they look and smell so wonderfully golden and historic, that possibly I can forgive them their plenty, if we can just find the time to preserve them. And if not, we will just feel guilty.

And to compound our problems of storage over winter, the extra freezer which we were given this summer has proved to be the most greedy consumer of electricity, so I must address myself to some sort of cost-benefit analysis regarding the purchase of a new, more efficient one. (It is at times like this that I start wondering why I don't just give in and buy ready-meals from the supermarket.) But they wouldn't taste so nice, so I think I will just have to get back to my chopping board and saucepans.

Maybe a present would stiffen my quavering resolve - I have just seen that there are giveaways at Lululiz and Lydia's Treasures, so I might just have to go and enter: perhaps I might be lucky. I have also managed a little therapeutic yarn-winding of a beautiful dove-grey skein from the Skein Queen - knitting it up into some toasty handwarmers would be just the thing for chilly, workworn hands, and certainly good for the soul.

And to all those lovely people who have been in touch and sent me such nice comments, I will get round to you all, I promise - I just have to finish off the apples first!


Floss said...

Hello Pomona, I missed you - first we had no internet, and then you went away!

Your time away sounds wonderful, and I will follow that link. Your fruit in the freezer sounds like quite a big committment - to save electricity and space, Ben jars most of his fruit, but then he has a wife to do all the normal kitchen things for him!

Michela said...

Hi Pomona! Welcome back!
Glad you had a pleasant and cosy stay that dizzying height!
It's not true that anyone didn't noticed you were away!!!

marigold jam said...

So glad you were able to get away for a bit of a break and only sorry the work was waiting for you on your return. I remember when we had our allotment I used to sometimes wonder why I didn't just go to Sainsbury's like everyone else but it really is worth the effort isn't it?

Jane x

Lola Nova said...

Sounds like a wonderful get away at a most delightful place!
If I lived close by, I would pop over and lend a hand in the fruit processing. I had intended to can some applesauce this year but, the apples from our one little tree were few and beset with all manner of critters. I believe a good pruning is in order early next year. Oh yes, one more thing to add to the list in the never ending stewardship of our wee lot of land.:)

It has gone all dark and drippy in our neck of the woods and I am loath to get out in the yard and dead head the echinacea, cut back the grasses and all the winter prep that should be done. I am in admiration of your resolve and all that you have to tend to.

Glad you are back with us and take care.

Pixiedust said...

What a lot of fruit, good luck with the preserving. xxx Pixie xxx

Tabiboo said...

Hello again!

A holiday 'off grid' now that sounds very appealing and all those felted goodies in your accomodation - what a holiday treat...

...though all those apples 'urrrrmmmmmmmmm'

happy peeling!

Have a lovely evening,

Nina xxxxx

Cathy said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time in Weardale Pomona. I love the countryside in that area. We have ancestors who lived in Swaledale and then moved to Chesterfield...why? Will check out Ellie's blog. I am entranced by that witty header. Good luck with the apples and quinces.

JuliaB said...

Hi Pomona... have you got one of those twirly apple peeler/corer contraptions? I am going to get one for myself next year, they seem to be a godsend in apple terms! Also, have you tried Quince Brandy? Nigella has a recipie. I wanted to try some this year but the quinces I received from next door's windfall are all rotton already ... :( I do so love the smell of quinces though and they look lovely on the tree. I have planted a quince tree this year in the garden so fingers crossed that by next xmas I shall have my own quince brandy! xx

Serenata said...

Glad you had a lovely break away from the daily routine. Hope you manage to get all the apples done - looks like you have a wonderful stock!

Off now to have a look at the felted goodies.

Menopausal musing said...

Glad you had a break and great to see your post: just how lucky are you to have quinces???? We have a quince tree, but the leaves succumb to a sort of "rust" and then the quinces fall off....... Cathy x

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Glad you had such a lovely time - will click the links in a minute - hope you're not having to work too hard now. Of course, the compensation of the apples is their wonderful smell - fresh and enlivening! Lesley

elizabethm said...

Hi, and really enjoying your blog which is a recent discovery for me. So identify with the piles of things waiting to be dealt with. I have apples, elderly runner beans, squashes, even though I have a cupboard full of preserves I have made already. Love doing it in September, beginning to run out of steam end of October. said...

Glad you had such a lovely time away. I missed you, I love reading your posts! Quinces! lovely. Our quince just dropped dead! Suzie. xx

Country Bliss said...

Glad you had a lovely time away. I don't envy you having all those apples to prep but I'm sure all the effort will be worthwhile, they look delicious.
Yvonne x

Florence and Mary said...

Welcome back!!

Have a great Halloween weekend

Victoria xx

Karen L R said...

What a fabulous place to get away to! And remember that you will appreciate all those lovely apples in the dead of winter, so carry on. Pomona. Hope your weekend is productive and full of Halloween fun.

Barbara said...

Sounds a lovely place you visited. Always good to have places recommended in case the opportunity arises.
I will pop over and take a look.
Frustrating that you forgot your camera though - I know that feeling. espcially when a blogger.

I see you really enjoy your sewing. I am not a sewer but admire what others do.

I have lots of quinces but don't do anything with them these days. I used to make Quince jelly.

Calico Kate said...

used the last of our apples (that I hadn't frozen) just last night. Although they had been sitting around getting elerly and loosing their taste so I jazzed them up with some cloves, ginger, and cinnamon. Mmmm delish ~ if I say so myself! B wants some done in pastry for dinner tonight!
The yarn looks divine.


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