The Press Gang

With the latest lockdown rules prohibiting our usual apple juicing squad from visiting, we have been somewhat tardy in getting going this year. However, with the apples determined to demonstrate the effects of gravity, we pulled ourselves together on Wednesday and dragged the apple press out. Lachlan and I had collected the apples in the morning, so we were not left blundering about in the gloaming. Muggins got the job of grovelling under the trees for windfalls and suffered a near heart attach when a rather irate toad leaped out at me. We got a good 13 bottles out of a trug and a bit and repaired to the kitchen for takeaway pie and chips from the Plough feeling very virtuous indeed. Batch two was completed this afternoon – 14 bottles and half a jug from one trug this time. Either the apples are getting juicer or Keith’s pressing arm is strengthening. We are planning for at least one more on Sunday. By then Keith will likely look like Popeye (the wheel on the macerator and the pressing wheel do take some welly). He is claiming the closer resemblance will be to Bjorn Borg (who apparently also had one big arm and one spindly one) but I stand by my initial suggestion. (I think we might need to stop at three or pressings though, as an urgent delivery of beer making supplies has arrived and the pasteuriser will soon be coopted into the mash phase of the Christmas beer.) Keith and Lachlan have gone off to play a celebratory darts match and I am babysitting dinner with a glass of cook’s perk. The potato that looked like Covid/a dinosaur is roasting merrily in the oven in the goose fat left over from yesterday’s joint effort cassoulet, the greenhouse has donated a salad and there are three minted lamb stakes from Foremans hot to trot on the griddle. The press gang looks after itself well….

The last few rainy days have offered an excuse to get on with other aspects of the Autumn harvest. The knobbly quinces mum donated have now been cooked and the juice strained through the jeelly bag in anticipation of quince jelly. I have a few left over and am vacillating between more quince jelly, an asian sauce with quince, chilli and Sichuan pepper and a quince liqueur. If any friends or neighbours wish to express a preference please do – it will be fobbed off on you at Christmas after all…. I have also bottled a big jar of greenhouse passatta using the last of the bell peppers, a job load of tomatoes and some of the chilli peppers. The spare that didn’t make the jar went into the aforesaid cassoulet with some confit duck legs Lachlan made, the last of Keith’s pork roast and some Toulouse sausages and assorted beans from the ever thoughtful Mr Sainsbury. It was a huge pot but instead of “lunch for three” leftovers there was only one sad little portion………….To compensate, despite the on off mizzle, I did a reasonable shifty of weeding and leaf raking today. Sadly I cannot check the damage on the scales as the bathroom light is verboten. Looks like a blocked gutter is sending the overflow rain into the bathroom ceiling. The ever diligent Keith Kerr has been called and it is to be hoped that illuminated bathing will soon recommence.

Recommencing this blog after dinner I can now report that the Covid potato was perhaps allowed to sizzle for somewhat too long, the steaks and salad were excellent and the after dinner argument, on the topic of latin, was as acrimonious as ever. “Odi et amo”, without the amo it would appear for some….. I do wish Mary Beard would come to dinner sometimes, just to even up the numbers.

In other news, I tore a hole (or rather a rose did) in my old down gilet. All was not lost though. I cut it up and used the bits to trace a pattern onto the roll of greaseproof paper the boys brought back from the last time the car went in to have something fixed (long tale – the garage is next to a rather good Pioneer store and the boys returned with an industrial roll of grease proof paper, a case of Gusbourne sparkling wine and some oysters). The deconstruction of the old gilet resulted in clouds of tiny feathers settling everywhere and the garret now looks as if it has suffered an indoors snowstorm but this is by the by. Lyra recently pulled down one of the old library curtains. (not a disaster as a refurb has commenced and new curtains are on the list). The old curtain was therefore promptly reconfigured, using the new pattern, into a winter gilet (with copious pockets of course) The thickness of the fabric (I kept the thermal lining for extra toastiness) was a bit of a challenge for the new sewing machine. I rather suspect the old manual Singer retrieved from Auntie Bobbie’s house would have coped better. At one point I had to have resort to a screw driver, opened it up, removed fluff, waggled a few things, turned it upside down, waggled it a bit more and Bob’s your uncle. (When the lockdown is over I shall book it in for a service….) Anyhow, I finished it off by hand as the addition of t he fleecy lining on top of the layer of thermal curtain liner would probably have been the final nail in the coffin for the poor machine. All turned out well and it is very toasty indeed.

Last but not least, yesterday was a three batches of soap day (seaweed and pine, calendula, hazelnut and grapefruit and basil and avocado). I might sneak in one more if the weather is still rainy next week, but the soap season has, essentially, closed as we need a couple of months for the last batches to prove before Christmas. I have broken into the first batches and am now testing them in the shower. So far so good. The coffee and hazelnut one is a real cellulite buster. The ginger smell hasn’t lasted on the ginger infused oil one, but it is a lovely mild soap so I am now rebranding it as “fragrance free”……..

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