Pricks … Jam … And Nuts In My Bra!

Not been around for a while. I’ve been lost in the darkest, deepest depths of my garden. That is, until the secateurs were taken in hand and used to clip, cut-back and chop away anything that broke boundaries.

I blame this, to a certain extent, on my OCD tendencies.  Do you know what I mean? All tins have to be facing the same way in the cupboard, anything square has to be placed exactly squarely, blinds have to hang dead level …I won’t go on.

So, when broccoli leaves brown at the base they have to go. When the manic gooseberry bushes have had their precious fruit picked, straggly bits have to be chopped back so that they look balanced, and I can’t cope with plants that ‘overlap’ into each other, either. Everything has a right to its own ‘space’ in my opinion. However, I digress. . .

Regarding the blackcurrants.

This year I had the help (?) of my two grandchildren. Schools out and so they came to spend the day and help me (?) in the garden. First on the list was the picking of the blackcurrants. It didn’t matter how many their little fingers dropped on the ground because the bushes were weighed down to the ground with them – blackcurrants not little fingers!

It took a good ninety minutes to pick them (taking time out to apply plasters to thorn pricks as the ‘littles’ became side-tracked into picking and eating gooseberries), but eventually we toggled back to the house with our harvest. I had to carry all the bowls, obviously, because the killer chucks were patrolling and anything that resembles food, treats etc. turns them instantly into velociraptors on the hunt. I, of course, understand this and so do Jake and Grace and cling to me like second and third skins.

Then followed another hour of washing the fruit, and flooding out the kitchen, and dropping blackcurrants that became squashed beneath bare toes. The work surface resembled an approaching tsunami at one stage. Eventually I stopped moaning at them and settled with the thought that, like usual, I would put the house back to normal after they had gone. ‘Cos this was fun, wasn’t it? Doing cool, big-person stuff with Grandma Gail? Yeah – whatever.

There was no way I could actually make the jam with the kiddies there, way too dangerous, so we left the washed blackcurrants in bowls and went off to ‘mini monster hunt’ in the garden. This necessitated using my lovely plastic containers (with lids) so that the ‘monsters’ couldn’t escape. I did question if we would be releasing these creatures afterwards and Jake assured me that we would. As it turned out they were too scared to turn over logs and bricks, and I refused to, on the grounds that I didn’t think we should be catching ‘monsters’ in the first place, so the game only produced one woodlouse and a sick looking slug. But they had fun…

The following morning, and still slightly hung over from child minding two very loud little people, I set about making the jam.

There was so much fruit that I had to use both jam pans, but that was fine, I’m a woman, I can do two things at once!

Pan one bubbled nicely.

Pan two bubbled nicely.

Thermometer was held precariously in pan one for a while, until it confirmed that the temperature was perfect and that the jam would set. Off went pan one.

Thermometer was held precariously in pan two, and ditto, done and ready.

As I removed the thermometer I noticed that it looked slightly odd. Scowling, I realised that the sodding thing had broken …in the jam …in pan two. At least, I thought it was in pan two. Did it matter? Really? There was only a bit of glass missing. Just the bulby bit. And Richard had scoffed soup with the bouquet garni paper bag left on, and absent-mindedly blended in, if you remember? And perhaps I could sieve it? Turn it into blackcurrant jelly? Give it to people I didn’t really like …mind I’d have to have a bloody lot of jam! I’m joking. Sort of. The decision was taken out of my hands as, at that precise moment of indecision, Richard walked in.

I won’t say we argued the point but the jam was outta there and tipped down the drain before I could draw breath. So …20lbs of jam ditched, pronto. I still have far more than I need, cos that’s me, the great ‘hunter-gatherer.’ The birds and insects can have the remaining blackcurrants … and the gooseberries …and the raspberries.

I’ve never thought of myself as particularly accident prone but since smashing the thermometer (I   now realise it was my fault because I’d clipped it on the side of the smaller jam pan and it had hit the bottom) I have trapped my hand in the ironing board, dropped the iron on my heel and opened-up the side of my finger picking gooseberries.

And …this morning, the piece de resistance!

Mrs OCD wanted the newly purchased cereal boxes placing neatly on the top shelf of the cupboard. Straightforward enough? Yeah, except, like a big-bottomed girl the bag of Crunchy Oat Granola – with raisins and almonds – had settled, and I couldn’t get all the boxes in so I reached up, lifted out the bag, turned it upside down, so that the contents would settle in a level manner, and some idiot hadn’t closed it. Before I could do anything about it half a packet of muesli showered down on my head, all over the floor, in the toaster, on every shelf, and down my shirt. I uttered, ‘shit,’ – a bigger word, and said with more force, would have resulted in me choking on the stuff. Even little Chea removed her face from her feed bowl and came to have a look at the lovely new flooring. I actually had to free my … er…breasts from my bra and shake the wheat out of it, to say nothing of the nuts and raisins.

I was bloody annoyed because, for one thing, I had no intention of vacuuming today!

So, I guess it is official. I’m OCD and accident prone. Never mind, it could be worse. I could be insane. It’s these little things that we have to be grateful for…

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Take care my lovelies x

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Mange Tout Much Of A Good Thing?

Hi All

Just as I am starting to reap my bountiful harvest I have to question myself.

Whacking in seeds right left and centre and finding a bit of spare ground, here and there, to slip in just one more row of Brussels plants might, in retrospect, have been a bit over the top.

Richard is almost being force-fed mange tout peas and broad beans on a daily basis. He questions, now and then, albeit very quietly, if mange tout peas go with oven chips and baked beans? You can see I’m a jolly good producer of balanced meals?

It may have been the broad beans with the omelette that caused him to politely ask, ‘Are there many more of these left?’ Well, yes my little sweetie there are. Hundreds. Millions in fact. The mother plants are standing so close together, laden with swelling pods, that if you venture down the rows you may well disappear and never be seen again. Yes, it has most certainly has been a good year for the bean.

Billions of fat gooseberries hang, ready to be picked. They are jolly nice just to pluck from the bush and eat in passing. Although, once I start plucking and munching I fail to pass or to stop at the sensible stopping point and spend half the night in the loo, holding my lower gut and moaning to anyone who will listen that I’ll never eat another half-ripe gooseberry ever again. I’m not good with gut pain. All severe bellyache brings back the memory of the pain of giving birth and that is not something I wish to revisit. Dear God they really do need to invent an easier, less painful way of giving birth. Anyway …moving on…

The blackcurrants will need picking by the end of the week and that means resurrecting the jam making equipment, washing out jars, purchasing endless bags of sugar and suffering third degree burns to my lower arms. This year I am jam making at a weekend. This is so that Richard can help. He eats half a jar at a time so he can witness, and be part of, the hard work that goes into it.

I’ve actually started looking forward to things dying off. The first to fit this category was a tub of early mange tout that I’d started off in the greenhouse way back at the beginning of the year in my attempt to have a longer fruiting period. Had I known that Richard wasn’t that keen to have them with pizza and oven chips I probably wouldn’t have bothered.

So, dead keen to remove the spent peas to the compost heap, and the potting compost back to the garden, I grabbed the peas and attempted to yank them from the tub. They wouldn’t budge. Obviously they wanted to hang around for a bit longer just to pee me off. Not to be deterred I carried the whole tub over to the compost heap by the plant tops. Once there I gave it all a good shake and covered myself in compost. Still they held firm. I cut a bit of string and pulled out a few pea sticks and tried again, this time lifting the whole tub, with peas intact, up to waist level and shook it.

Something leapt at me. As it passed my head I recognised four legs and an open-mouthed look of horror on the frogs face as it missed my mouth by coat of paint.

Had I been cussing at the time my mouth would have been ajar and I would really have had a frog in my throat. As the creature from hell landed in the rhubarb I screamed, ‘Godddddddddd, for fucks sake.’

In retrospect I wish I hadn’t, as it alerted the neighbour – the one who lives under the conifer hedge waiting to ‘catch me’ for a chat. I then had to stand there nodding and smiling and contributing to the conversation with a smile on my face. Not only that, when I got back to the house the said face was covered in black compost, and with the odd greenfly thrown in for good measure. Don’t you just hate that? When you have a bug on your nose and the other person fails to mention it? You realise, in retrospect, that it wasn’t your riveting conversation that was keeping the other person glued to your features, but the insect that was halfway up your snout!

I love my garden. It is my escape. My little Shangri-La. I just wish the sodding frogs didn’t love it as well. And I could also do without half of the slugs and snails in Leicestershire congregating and planing their killing manoeuvres on all things green.

Oh well, off to dead-head the roses and pick a few hundred mange tout and broad bean pods. Might be kind and cook them with a piece of salmon tonight and give the old love a change.

20150708_101347Take care my lovelies x