|Supergran's monster turnip - or at least half of it!|
I popped in to visit Supergran and Farmpa earlier this month and spotted this monstrous turnip in their kitchen. Bear in mind, as you behold the above photo, that this is only half of the original specimen, which must truly have been a giant among brassicas... My reason for calling was to see how Supergran was recovering from a fall that she had sustained the week previously while on a power walking mission – in her wellies – to cut a few barley heads from a nearby field (for reasons that will later become apparent).
Unsurprisingly, the collision between her fragile septuagenarian knee and the unforgiving tarmac of the farm road saw the aspiring harvester end up in our local in A&E department. Ten stitches and numerous Steristrips later, she was discharged from hospital, bruised and still shocked. One might have expected, therefore, that she would then take things a little easier in the days that followed – at least until her stitches were removed. However, that was perhaps a rather fond hope, given the unpredictable forces that prevail when you live on a farm...
|The latest in designer leggings – not...|
When I arrived in the pitch dark, having driven through torrential rain, it was to find the parental pair (aged 77 and 81 respectively) readying themselves to head out into the soggy blackness in pursuit of some escapee sheep.
A phone call from Farmerbruv had alerted them to the fact that some of the ewes which had arrived at the farm for overwintering the day before had decided that the lure of their own hillside was too strong, and a renegade group of them had sniffed out a weak spot in the fencing.
When I ventured to suggest that perhaps chasing sheep in the dead of night, by torchlight, wasn't a wise pursuit for two elderly folk, especially when one of them has 10 stitches in their leg, Supergran's answer did nothing to reassure me: "Oh, but it was fine last night when we were out chasing the other lot that escaped, as I just carried the torch in one hand and held a stick to stop me falling over in the other."
For some strange reason, her words – apparently intended to put me at my ease – did not have the desired effect...
But back to the reason for my intrepid mother's original failed mission to the field, which had been to source a few heads of barley in order to observe an ancient country custom: making a "corn dolly".
Apparently, this pagan custom (and no, Supergran isn't a pagan – she just enjoys country traditions!) goes back gazillions of years, and the basic idea was that when the corn field was being harvested, this process drove the corn spirits who lived there out of their home. So to appease them, the farmer would save some heads of corn from the last field to be cut during each harvest and keep them safe until the following spring. During the intervening months, the corn spirits lived in the farmer's home, presumably in the corn dolly.
After winter, the "dolly" was then ploughed into the first furrow of earth to be turned on the farm in the new growing season, allowing the corn spirits to return to their home. Evidently, the said corn spirits weren't feeling too charitable the day they stood by and watched Supergran sprawled on the road, as they didn't have the good grace to help her up again.
She's since been along to the field and cut a few stalks of corn, which she then popped in a vase as an impromptu floral arrangement – and that is as near to a corn dolly as the blessed spirits are going to get this year!
|Less 'dolly' and more 'dunked|
However, the real die-hard corn dolly creators do some amazingly impressive things with their handful of barley heads. Just have a look at the fantastic corn dollies in the pictures below and you'll see what I mean!
|Now this is how it should be done!|
Here on the Sparrowholding, the sheep are evidently just as wayward as at the ones back at Home Farm. This week, Yours Truly had to corner the two black sheep (how ironic!) in the photo below and encourage them back through a tiny hole in the fence – a process which involved the rather unfit shepherdess expending vast quantities of both nervous and physical energy. I'm rather hoping that none of the neighbours were out in their gardens listening at the time...
|Black sheep misbehaving|
|The escape tunnel under the fence – just a few inches
of space. Once they've got their little heads through,
escape is a piece of cake!
Since I last blogged, we've harvested our remaining grapes and, as I mentioned in the previous post, we rue the day we opted for whatever breed of vine Vinnie happens to be. Most of the grapes he produces are tiny, and each of them contains one or two pips, which makes eating them frustrating and time-consuming in equal measure.
|The grapes of my wrath|
Mark you, all the hard work does pay off if you turn them into a luscious fruity dessert... Just place the de-seeded, halved grapes in an overproof dish, add a tablespoon of sherry and leave for a few hours. Then top the grapes with whipped cream and demerara sugar, place under the grill for a few minutes till the sugar forms a crust and serve immediately. Recipe for a simple but yummy pud!
Meanwhile, autumn continues to paint the nearby hedgerows a rainbow of orange, gold, red and yellow. Here's a quick photographic overview of the beauty of our surroundings at this time of year.
|A leafy canopy|
|Dandelion clocks – one puff and they're away!|
|The indigenous bird population is well provided for!|
|Anyone for a game of conkers?|
|It's been a good year for hazelnuts!|
|Baked banana-choc cheesecake: just one of the three puddings
on offer chez Sparrow recently...
I seem to remember writing a blog post two years ago in which, while expressing my sorrow that DD1 was heading back south to resume her studies at St Something's, I proclaimed myself almost relieved about her departure owing to the fact that I'd no longer be confronted by the daily temptation of her irresistible cooking creations!
This year has been no different. Since daughter dearest's return from her summer job in the deep south, the kitchen has been filled with a succession of glorious baking smells, and Yours Truly has experienced the rare treat of a scrumptious savoury brunch of smoked salmon with poached egg presented to her on a plate. I could get certainly used to this...
|Perfect way to start the working day - especially when
you don't have to cook it yourself ;-)
Consequently, any fond notions I had of shedding the odd pound (or even the odd stone!) before the said offspring's graduation from St Something's in a mere two days' time are fading into oblivion. Indeed, it looks as though the only option left to me will be to don a generously proportioned hessian bag for the big event. Hmm, wonder which shoes I have that would be suitable to go with that?
On the plus side, keen to take advantage of DD1's culinary zeal, I invited a few friends for dinner - unfortunately, what I hadn't realised when choosing the date of the dinner party was that DD1 would be in Aberdeen with boyfriend T. at an oil company ball that very night. Upon first discovering this tragic date clash, I have to confess that a deep gloom descended upon me as I began to contemplate ways of presenting baked beans (my culinary skills are limited) in a "dinner party" fashion...
|DD1 had her hair put up - before heading for
the ball to let her hair down!
|The canapes were the only thing DD1 trusted
Yours Truly to execute properly...
|Just look at the colour of that spinach! This
Lorraine Pascale recipe looks promising...
The Sparrowholding's very own Delia, however, was not about to pass up the chance to try out some new recipes. Consequently, during the 24 hours before her departure for Aberdeen (complete with 1920s hair-do in keeping with the theme of the ball), DD1 whipped herself up into a gastronomic frenzy and produced a spinach roulade starter, hearty beef bourguignon main course plus a choice of three puddings (yes, my required hessian bag size escalated to XL overnight...).
|More greenery - rocket this time. This starter seems to be
extremely eco-friendly :-)
|Ta-dah! One spinach roulade stuffed with rocket, cream cheese,
sun-dried tomatoes and roasted pine nuts. Yummy!
|And just in case I mucked up the presentation, the chef left
a detailed drawing of how to serve the starter...
So while the cook was dancing the night away in the Grey Granite City in the company of a "platform" (surely that must be the collective noun...?) of oil and gas engineers, the results of her hard work were being duly appreciated by our guests. Better still, Yours Truly was able to give the resident tin opener a night off.
|Gorgeous tender rump steak from Singing Butcher
Ian Hunter in Kinross - perfect for beef bourguignon :-)
|Served with roast veggies and mashed potatoes
(courgettes, carrots, garlic and potatoes all homegrown)
|Squidgy chocolate cake... say no more!|
|Just serve with fresh rasps and cream...|
|A new experience - these gelatine sheets were great fun!|
|Prosecco and clementine jellies -
a low-cal pud option (under 100 cals!)
Outside the kitchen, autumn seems to have come suddenly to The Sparrowholding, and the surrounding hedgerows are laden with berries in every possible shade of red or purple. HunterGatherer (who is a huge fan of snow, despite its impracticality for those of us who don't have a 4X4 vehicle) is hopeful that this heralds a hard winter ahead. He is basing his hibernal predictions on an old wives' tale which suggests a direct correlation between the number of berries appearing in the autumn and inches of white stuff appearing in the subsequent winter months. Time alone will tell!
|The last three strawbs of 2014 - harvested in September...|
|Annie the apple tree is looking good :-)|
|Vinnie the Vine has had a much better year - shame the grapes
have pips, as eating them is a tad time-consuming!
Fortunately, if the snow does end up lying deep and crisp and even, we have a variety of produce to keep us going. Despite worries about a touch of erwinia carotovera var atroseptica (a potato disease otherwise known by the somewhat piratical name of "Blackleg"), our Rooster potatoes produced a great yield and are now safely stored in Dobbies' rather attractive patterned hessian bags - the only pity, of course, is that these bags don't come in a size big enough for Yours Truly...
|HunterGatherer is a great fan of Rooster potatoes|
|Carrots for the soup dragon!|
|Globetrotting Percy Pig birthday cake -
celebrating my 51 years in style!
|Scotland vs Wales - a pretty close-run match,
but Scotland triumphed eventually
|Malaysian rugby players: happy to be part of
the Commonwealth Games - regardless of the result
|Also entering into the spirit of the games were these
kilted buskers outside Ibrox underground station. Who
knew Glasgow even had an Underground?!
|Looks as if this Tayberry must be in love...|
|Our soft fruits were particularly prolific this year - loved
this vibrant photo so much that I've made it the cover
photo on the Square Sparrow Facebook page
|Blackcurrants were in abundance again... Couldn't bear the
waste, so I tried out a blackcurrant cordial recipe
|After the cordial had run through, I started to mash the residue in the
sieve and made some blackcurrant coulis, too!
|Didn't have any sealing bottles for the cordial, so my purple elixir
had to go in a Kilner jam jar instead.
|The last of the strawberries, raspberries and Tayberries
went to make fabulously red fridge jam
|Our babygrapes - currently looking like a 3D scientific model!|
|Home-grown courgette and tomato gratin - mmm...|
|Hessian bags - perfect potato storage|
|Spot the green wedges - shame on you McCain !|
|Yes, your eyes do not deceive you, reader:
he's wrapped it in an empty Cheddars packet...
|But to my delight, the gift wasn't actually a packet of
cheese'n onion cheddars... (much as I like them!)