The trees are starting to turn now and the first leaves are falling. The coating of spice brown leaves on the rich dark soil after the recent rain is redolent of gingerbread. Lyra and I finished this morning’s walk kicking through the leaves on the Hirsel forest tracks and whilst she thought of squirrels (which are everywhere) I thought of and Hansel and Gretel. This tale from my big book of bedtime stories, with its picturesque images of autumn leaves and gingerbread houses and underlying theme of child abduction and cannibalism, terrified me witless – it was worse even than the Three Billy Goats Gruff, which caused the crossing of small bridges to be filled with dread (there are many small bridges around Selkirk but only one family of goats (Ozzie’s) so the chances of being rescued from a troll were slim to my mind).
In the spirit of just diving into the gingerbread vibe, after a recent walk I dug out the treacle and spices and set to baking. I was well through the process, with the butter and treacle melted ready to go in when I made the dread discovery that the last of the eggs had been committed to a bacon roll the day before. I legged it down the road to Raymond’s only to find Anne had been baking and the last egg was ensconeulated that very morning. I could have got in the car and made for the coop, but decided instead to try out a trick I had read about on the electrical interweb. The cake was finished off with three tablespoons of mayonnaise instead of an egg and, in case of a lingering salad aftertaste, I bumped up the usual quantity of clove and ginger. The end result was slightly softer than my usual, with more of a carrot cake texture. If I was doing it again I’d add more walnuts and reduce the butter by an ounce I think, but overall it worked fine. I knocked up some butter icing to complement the carrot cake feel and it was pronounced highly satisfactory by a broadly based jury of Raymond, Keith, Mum and Dad. Dad is the clincher here as he is not one to hold back on baking critique. So there you have it, if the chickens refuse to lay break out the Hellmans.
Harvest time on the homestead continues. I have been bottling away at the fruit and several jars of pears have been added to the plums and the blackcurrants. The winter porridge shall not go ungarnished. Yesterday I did a first pick of the beans for drying. This year’s are white not purple but a very good size so I think some jumbo jars of Ruthven Baked Beans may be added to the stores on the next rainy day. This year’s wild card harvest item is the honey we have extracted from the library chimney pots (which are wobbly and being rebuilt). There was a hive in there of quite epic proportions. No one has, as yet, a clue for how to extract the honey. Modern extractors assume the bees have obligingly built their combs into the wooden frames in a proper hive. Suggestions thus far have involved the use of a swinging bucket and a salad spinner. Further recommendations would be most welcome.
The weather remains generally patchy, which suits me perfectly. On fine days I am heaving to with the fork and trying to carve some holes into the overstuffed borders, so that I can restuff them. The territory of the copper lysimachia is being savagely cut down. I do love it, so I don’t want to get rid of it entirely and I am wondering how on earth to keep it in check. My usual tactic for a plant with Napoleonic tendencies is to plant something equally invasive next to it but this stuff combines straightforward expansion tactics with a guerrilla like infiltration into the roots of other plants. I may need to bring on the big guns…the orange euphorbia takes no prisoners. I had thought to take out some of the sedum, but it has been so lovely, instead, I’m going to split the clumps and dot the spare bits all over. It positively glows at this time of year. This is all heavy work, however, and the slightest hint of rain is enough to justify declaring the game a bogey.
Work on the regency blade cardigan continues. Two Shetland murders have pretty much seen me through the sleeves and the time has come to decide what on earth to do about the front. Having reviewed the stocks of dark wool and consulted extensively with my mum we have resolved against cutaway. Mr Darcey has been shelved in favour of Captain Poldark by way of style inspiration. Thankfully, as this is winter wear there should be no chance of Keith modelling it sans shirt. Further updates will be forthcoming in due course. I am also trying to clear a space in my garret so I can gather in and arrange up the flowers I have been drying over the summer in the garage and kick off a few other Christmas sewing projects. This means finally finishing Ishbel’s scrubs/pyjamas (which in turn means sorting out the tension on the sewing machine) and so that, dear reader, is the plan for this afternoon……