Friday, 14 February 2020

💛Happy Valentine's Day💛

Valentine's Day flowers from the garden, and a special thank you to blog-friend Gina for her suggestion that I place some of the Garrya elliptica tassels in a vase together with some flowers.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Lucky Horseshoes

Legends surrounding 'lucky' horseshoes have been around for centuries. But how do you hang your horseshoe? Do you hang it with the ends pointing upwards or down? The traditional way in this country is to hang it over an entrance doorway with the ends pointing upwards in order to keep all of the good luck in and prevent it from falling out.
In France, however, they tend to hang it the other way round so that all the good luck is poured out upon those who enter beneath.
A medieval horseshoe story tells of Dunstan (909 - 988) an English bishop who became the Abbot of Glastonbury, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and finally the Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Dunstan was formally canonised in 1029, his feast day being the 19th May. Prior to Thomas Becket's martyrdom in 1170 St. Dunstan was the most popular saint in Anglo Saxon England for nearly two centuries. He gained his fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least amongst which, were those concerning his cunning in defeating the devil. There are numerous English literature references to St. Dunstan and the devil, including the following ditty. 
St. Dunstan, as the story goes,
Once pulled the devil by the nose
With red-hot tongs, which made him roar,
That he was heard three miles or more.
An illustration from a medieval manuscript held in the British Library showing St. Dunstan tweaking the devil's nose with his blacksmith tongs.

The devil entering the small hermitage where St. Dunstan studied, played upon his harp and practised the art of being a blacksmith. The devil asked St. Dunstan to nail a horseshoe to his cloven hoof but in doing so Dunstan caused the Devil great pain. He only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil from his pain after he had promised never to enter a building with a horseshoe placed above the door. 
I have had the above horseshoe for more years than I care to remember, but do I believe in good luck? I can only tell you that I had forgotten all about the horseshoe until I started writing this post. I then remembered that it was outside sitting on a ledge in our courtyard walled garden. It sits alongside several other old rusty ornamental items found over the years that we now use as decorative garden objects.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Garrya elliptica

via wiki
A favourite winter shrub in our garden is the Garrya elliptica, also known as the silk tassel tree. It's catkins are one of winter's delights, and this year the shrub is covered with them.

Garrya is a small genus distributed along North America's western coastlands, from Mexico to Oregon. Garrya elliptica, the hardiest species and the one best suited to the British climate, was introduced to us by Scottish plant hunter David Douglas in 1828. He named the plants after the Hudson Bay Company's Nicholas Garry, who helped Douglas with his forays in western USA.
Garryas enjoy growing in well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. They dislike root disturbance and once planted and established will often die if they are transplanted elsewhere. It is, therefore, important to site them in an ideal situation from the beginning. The protection of a north or east facing wall often proves to be an ideal location for them in this country.
It is best to purchase a male plant as their catkins are far more showy and attractive than the ones seen on a female plant.  The male catkins hang together in elegant pendulous clusters, are about 6ins - 8ins long, and gently swing to and fro in a breeze. 

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Mid Winter

Both December and January have been reasonably mild for the time of year, but also rather damp, and gloomy. However, there have been some lovely sunny, blue sky days, which really do lift the spirits. During the whole of the winter so far, this corner of the world, has received just two early morning frosts - both of which completely disappeared before there was time for me to venture outside with the camera.
In the garden the snowdrops and hellebores are flowering, and happily the hours of daylight grow noticeably longer as each week passes.

In the fridge some Stilton blue cheese was still hanging around from Christmas along with a large handful of shelled walnuts. I then remembered that I had a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer so decided to make a tart. I covered the base of the pastry with some caramelised red onions which I made by gently cooking the finely chopped onions in a little olive oil, and then adding balsamic vinegar along with some sugar until it turned into a 'jam' like consistency. However, I wanted something else to add to the mix and couldn't think what else to use. Luckily inspiration came along in the form of Lorrie's blog where I saw that she had used grapes on top of her blue cheese and flat bread recipe, thank you Lorrie. 

I cooked the tart for 20mins in a fan oven at 180ᵒC - it smells delicious - can't wait to try it later.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Ten Pounds

If you are a British pensioner, did you discover an extra ten pounds sitting in your bank account during December? You may have wondered or forgotten where it came from, but others amongst you probably realised that it was a 'Christmas Gift' which came to you courtesy of the government. 
via wiki
The pensioner's Christmas gift was launched almost half a century ago in 1972 by the then Prime Minister, Ted Heath, but it has remained at £10 per pensioner since then! I recall my mother telling me about the payment at that time, and how delighted she and my father were to receive an extra £10 each. At that time £20 per pensioner couple was enough to cover the cost of a turkey dinner along with all of the trimmings for the whole of the family, and there was plenty of change left over to go towards the presents. In 1972 the £10 gift was worth more than the then weekly state pension which stood at £6.75, so the £20 gift per couple represented 3 weeks state pension at that time. Today that £10 gift is almost meaningless. This Christmas I purchased a large free range turkey breast which cost me £40, so a gift of £20 paid for just half of it.
Apparently giving a £10 payment to every pensioner costs the Government around £130 million each and every year. 
I consider that a once meaningful payment has now become a nonsense and I wonder if you, like me, think that the money would be better spent on schools, hospitals, mental health, or other current issues?