Not the only fruit

A week or so ago we took delivery of sixteen kilos of organic seville oranges. As you do… Keith, who instigated this foray into wholesale fruit, had first dibs for his marmalade. He lined up a friend to come and enjoy a “marmalade masterclass”. Alas, delivery date confusion meant that Anne’s visit preceded delivery of the oranges by several days and she had to be diverted into a Christmas pudding masterclass instead. We are now stocked with pudding to take us into our dotage. Undaunted, the master marmeladier pressed on solo. After the essential Spicy Caribbean and Dark and Stormy Hebridean, new ground was broken with St Clements instead of Four Fruit. Eyebrows were raised. This left a good eight kilos to play with. Friends and neighbours were press ganged into taking some (though as I have pointed out this distinctly reduces the scope to give them some of ours for Christmas. Perhaps a swap?). Keith rolled out pork and seville orange casserole, I countered with ceviche and halibut in seville orange sauce. At around five kilos to go the roads department kindly intervened by closing the Birgham to Kelso road and diverting me onto the meandering route via the egg farm in Stitchill. Seville orange curd followed. With the bottom of the box in sight I took to drink. Orange vodka will be featuring in this year’s stockings. I have seven left and as soon as I can lay my hands on a box of salt flakes I shall be salting them away. (I’m a huge fan of preserved lemons and limes and I rather think the oranges might just work – I shall report back in the autumn when they should be done.). I find myself now wondering – was sixteen kilos really enough…

The prevailing westerly wind has been ferocious. I have taken to sporting a cast off hat of Lachlan’s with furry ear flaps when gardening. Appalachian chic – it is the coming thing… Life is really beginning to stir in the garden now. Down in the pond the lilies are unfurling and sending up exploratory feelers and the tips of spring bulbs and early perennials are poking through. I’ve breathed a sigh of relief to see the tender leaves of the alstroemeria moved to the stream beds from the abandoned cutting garden (it can be a sulky mover) and finally the late sown lupin seeds have germinated. No sign of any primula seedlings though – I’m thinking I might try a spring sowing as a fall back – can you really have too many? When not grovelling under the plum trees planting yet more hostas (I found a huge one under a bag of compost) I roam around looking for overweening clumps to break up and enticing gaps to fill. If I’m lucky I think I’ll have a few more weeks of splitting and shifting before spring is seriously underway and the “trample hazard” is too great. Judy has donated a sack of pots so any surplus splitees can find a temporary billet until the great summer opening when I do my best to convince unwary visitors that they really do need more hemerocallis and bergenia is sadly underrated.

The daily quest for a ‘tresting photograph on a latin theme continues. Invariably the word prompts are either cryptic or at odds with the weather calling for much lateral thinking and grovelling in odd places. The “cor” (heart) prompt led me to the new leaves of winter heliotrope and then the quest for the elusive cherry bakewell flowers. This, and my ongoing snowdrop fancier activities, brought us close to disaster a few days ago. We were on the home straight of the long circular route through the Hirsel woods and back via the golf course when I missed the comforting flying saucer of the mini keys in my pocket. After five pat downs and repeated turning outs it became clear they were not going to reappear in the manner of Mr Ben’s shopkeeper. We turned back and retraced our steps, alerted the shop, passing dog walkers and the lady of the manor (all of whom were lovely) to the quest. At the half way back point I phoned home to consume humble pie and alert mission control to the possible need for rescue. On the final stretch of the “dangerous footpath” there they were, nestled in the clump of snowdrops next to the ones I had been photographing. Having previously lost and found the car keys in two other locations (the home field and along the riverside) I have now admitted defeat and attached them to a tasteful fluorescent lanyard (orange, naturally) and developed the tick of patting them through my jumper intermittently, muttering the words “Asda price”.

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