Friday 28 September 2018

Indian Summer

Each golden day must be cherished to the full, for one has the feeling that each must be the last. 
Elizabeth Enright
The perfect weather of Indian Summer lengthened and lingered, warm sunny days were followed by brisk nights with Halloween a presentiment in the air.
Wallace Stegner
"Indian summer comes gently, folds over the hills and valleys as softly as the fall of a leaf on a windless day."
Gladys Taber
".....and all at once, summer collapsed into fall."
Oscar Wilde
"By all these lovely tokens September days are here With summer's best of weather
And autumn's best of cheer."
Helen Hunt Jackson
"One can follow the sun, of course, but I have always thought that it is best to know some winter, too, so that the summer, when it arrives, is the more gratefully received."
Beatriz Williams
I planted a fruit pip outside in the garden almost 20 years ago which has grown into a fairly substantial tree with large leathery leaves. Possibly as a result of the long hot summer, and now our Indian Summer, it has decided to bloom for the first time. Although the flowers are not appealing the fragrance is lovely and is attracting much attention from the local bee population. Apparently this is the tree's normal flowering period, and presumably if it was growing in its natural habitat with mild weather on the horizon rather than facing our looming winter, then it would set and bear some fruit.
When I had a visit earlier this year from Wendy, an Australian blogger, she said "gosh is that a ...... tree you have growing there", and she was correct. Do you know what the name of this tree is?

Monday 17 September 2018


I had almost given up hope of finding any Damson plums this year, but happily discovered some a couple of weeks ago at a farmer's market.
 Damsons have much more depth of flavour and colour than other plums, and their taste is so good.
I used them on my return home to make an extremely quick and easy Damson Conserve.
Simply wash the fruit, make cuts in the skin, then cover the fruit with half its weight in sugar. Leave this overnight to macerate and then boil it up the next day adding the juice of one lemon (I used one kg of fruit). Once the mixture reaches the boil, turn it down, and let it gently roll, keep on stirring - it should then be ready for bottling at the end of 12 - 15 minutes. I tend to scoop out the stones whilst cooking - at this stage they come away easily from the fruit.
Once cooled it is ready, not only to have on crusty bread or scones, but to make, what in my opinion, is the best ice-cream in the world.

🍦 🍦 🍦 🍦 🍦 🍦
Damson & Sloe Gin Ice Cream
Use 300 ml double cream gently whipped into soft peaks, 
then added 300 ml creme fresh &
100 ml Greek yogurt
300 grams damson conserve
gently fold all together.
Place in your ice cream maker - whilst mine was churning I added a liqueur glass of Sloe Gin, but you can use plain gin; adding alcohol makes ice cream softer and smoother, and gives it that little je ne sais quoi. If you don't have any just leave it out.
If you don't have an ice cream maker place in a container and put in the freezer. Churn with a spoon from time to time, adding the alcohol should you wish. 
This makes one litre but you will very definitely want more.

Friday 14 September 2018

Dummy Boards or Silent Companions -

This is the answer to the question I posed on my previous post. But what are they?
They are life size painted wooden cut-out figures of soldiers, serving maids, children and animals etc. The oldest date back to the c17th. However there are question marks surrounding exactly what they were used for, but the general consensus is that they were placed in grand homes to deter the entry of burglars or intruders. From a distance, the figures could be mistaken for people especially when they were placed in such a way that they cast flickering shadows around the room in firelight. 
Two people answered the question correctly, so really well done to them. The first correct answer came from
1. Lorrie
followed by
2. Mary
Interestingly, Mary said that her answer was complete guesswork.

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Canons Ashby House

Canons Ashby House in Northamptonshire is an atmospheric gem of an Elizabethan manor house that was once the ancestral home of the Dryden family. It was built from the remains of a 12th century medieval priory following its dissolution in 1537 by Henry VIII. 
The Priory and its Church were established in 1147 by a group of Augustinian canons, and although now modest in size, the church originally resembled the size of a small cathedral. It was one of the first religious houses to be recommended for dissolution by Henry VIII.
The house contains contents accumulated over four hundred years by the Dryden family. Tudor, Jacobean and Baroque elements blended together to form a rich backdrop of panelling, tapestries, wall paintings and decorative plasterwork. 

The floral beds to the front of the property were inspired by a style of garden first seen during the Victorian era.
Flower island beds and borders offset by manicured lawns came into being with the arrival of a new machine in 1830 called a 'lawnmower'. The planting schemes employed at first were very precise and regular but as time past, and under the influence of Gertrude Jekyll, flowerbeds eventually became more loose flowing, and painterly.  

As Puritans, the Dryden family were supporters of Cromwell and Parliament. Lady Dryden was treating a platoon of soldiers to mutton pies and ale in the great kitchen, when a young shepherd boy posted by her as a look out, blew a warning call on his flute. The soldiers rushed out of the house in the direction of the church and were then chased by a party of Cavaliers. The Roundheads dashed inside the church and barricaded themselves into the tower. This proved to be a mistake as the Cavaliers set fire to the church to smoke them out. The Roundheads were left with no choice but to surrender, and were captured and imprisoned in Banbury.
They were eventually released unharmed, but the poor shepherd boy lost his life as a reward for his loyalty. A sacrifice never forgotten by the Dryden family who raised this statue to his memory.

I am showing an object from inside the house and would love you to answer two questions. I will switch on 'comments moderation' and then reveal the result at the end of the week. If you answer either one of the questions correctly I will hold on to your answer until the next post - this will give everyone an equal chance.
This is a two dimensional wooden figure, the date of which can be pinpointed almost precisely to 1716, so it is 300 years old. It shows a Guardsman and the initials GR painted on his hat date it to between 1714 when George 1 ascended the throne and 1717 when it was included in an inventory for the house. The date can be narrowed even further because of the Scots Guards uniform that he is wearing - the Scots Guards were first formed in 1715 at the time of the first Jacobite rebellion. These figures appear in various guises - cats and dogs, children, women or men all dressed up in their Georgian finery. 
1. Do you know what they are called? - they have two titles either of which will be acceptable and
2. What was their purpose?

Monday 3 September 2018

Creswell Crags

A family of swans glide gracefully through calm waters at Creswell Crags, but suddenly the silence is broken by a mélange of ducks dipping and diving around them. This gorge, however, has not always been home to such benevolence, but is keeper of a long held history; a hidden secret which until the dawn of the 20th century was untold. 

Creswell Crags is an enclosed limestone gorge on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and is known as an outstanding Ice Age archaeological site. 

Over fifty thousand years ago its earliest occupants were Neanderthals who lived in the gorge during what was a warm period in the earth's climate. They were accompanied by exotic animal species including lions, hyenas and wallowing hippopotamus. However, when the climate cooled and turned into what we know as the 'Ice Age' only the hyenas were able to adapt to the colder conditions using the many caves as their dens. Eventually they were join in the gorge by woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceros and reindeer. 
We know all of this from the remains that have been found over the past 100 years, some of which include a Neanderthal flint hand-axe dated 60,000-40,000 years old found in one of the caves. A 80,000 year old wolf's tooth, the skull of a Hyena 30,000 years old, and a Woolly rhinoceros tooth 50,000-38,000 years old.   
Ten thousand years ago during the late stages of the Ice Age, our ancestors travelled long distances to hunt and live in Creswell Crags using their caves as shelters. They travelled across Doggerland (now hidden beneath the North Sea) an area of land which once connected Britain to Europe. These ancestors were great hunters and well adapted to surviving the harsh climatic changes towards the end of the Ice Age.

A carving of a Bison done 13,000 years ago. This was found on one of the cave walls as recently as 2003. 

If you are interested to know more about Doggerland and its significance I wrote a post about it here.