For some years now, I have with ever decreasing enthusiasm, been growing vegetables. Each soggy summer assisted the slug invasion, the rotting of plants, blight, mold, scab and to add insult to injury - pathetic crops for the amount of effort I put in. So at the beginning of this year when the winter seemed to be dragging and spring was cold and wet, I came to the decision not to grow anything in my alittlement (it is very small - too small to call an allotment!) so I planted only sweet peas, nasturtiums and borage.
Then summer came. Not with a whimper but with a BANG!! Sheesh.
Himself's uncle came to the rescue. His alittlement over the summer got busy and produced copious amounts of vegetables - more than he could soup and freeze so he invited us over for cake and coffee and a share of the spoils!
So far, we've eaten or frozen - leek and potato soup, parsnip and butter bean soup and thick farm house veg and pearl barley soup. (Recipes either used from or inspired by various River Cottage hand books)
Just perfect for lunch on a cold and wet weekend - dunking hunks of bread with lots of licking of fingers - bliss :)
What soups do you make?
Do you dunk hunks of bread? (ooh so naughty)
Do you find it warms you right down to your toes?
Go on spill the beans (or soup them!)
Oh yes - I had a super-bumper crop of sweet peas, nasturtium and borage - thank you for asking......
at this very moment it is a dull, wet and windy Sunday afternoon. Eldest and girlfriend have morphed into couch potatoes on the settee, Himself is upstairs covering himself with plaster dust, Youngest has been doing his homework and I have gone all homestead and been making soups, jellies, pickles and cheese cake.
However, yesterday was a completely differently kind of day!
I was helping/working at the Hodder Valley Agriculture show with the company stall. It was a looooong day but most enjoyable. We were SO lucky with the weather. But let me start at the beginning :)
I had to be at work for 7.30am on the Saturday (what??!) I got there just after 7.50.....oops.
My little car was stuffed to the gunnels with seats, gas bottles, banners, coffee, tea, biscuits, bunting, boxes with my colleague and I squished in the front. Two vets who were also manning the stall had similarly crammed full cars. When we landed at the show grounds I was the only one in a little car, every one and I mean EVERYONE else had 4x4s, landrovers, tractors, gas guzzlers and they just cruised over the field. My poor little car carefully picked his way to our stall (a partially erected tent....) and the only way I could park was to drive THROUGH the tent and hide my dear little car behind. I was cheered by the stewards as I drove through! Our spot was in just the right place, with an excellent view of the showing ring with the cattle stalls behind us.
The four of us then at double time finished erecting the tent and setting out our posters, urn, tea and biscuits and...our crowd puller.....a barrel of beer brewed at a micro pub in our village - a sure fire winner for thirsty farmers.
As the time came closer for the cattle classes to begin, the cow stalls were a hive of activity. Prize beasts were primped and primed, their coats washed at the cow-washing-station then blown dry with a special cow-hair-gel being applied to make their coats fluff up and look curled. I was fascinated!
Then once the bovine beauties were ready, they were haltered up and walked around the ring - with varying degrees of success. Some animals walked sedately while others leapt about, dragging their red faced farmers puffing and cursing behind them.
Some of the handlers were seasoned show hardy folk but there were a few novice ones too.
There was an awful lot of...aaaws and aaaahs when this little tot took her heifer round the ring (with her super protective dad in a supporting role).
There was an awful lot of bull going on!
And our crowd pulling pints (ok ok not quite pints) certainly did the trick, we had a steady flow of farmers and visitors through out the day.
I'm still on with things from the woolly weekend.
This time it a visual feast - so sit back and be prepared for a photo-fat edition!
A fair proportion of the fleeces, wools and garments of offer were the muted hues of undyed sheep fleece but dotted in between these natural tones of the native sheep were spots of fantastic colour, just behind us was a stand just bursting with zingy shades filled with tops and fibres for the felter and spinner - simply candy for the eyes! I had decided not to be drawn into this wonderland of possibility.........
...however, I have to confess my steely determination not to spend wavered at this point - did I buy something? Of course I did! Can you guess what finally made me open my purse and hand over some hard earned cash??? Answers at the end of the post :)
Opposite us hung a 'sampler' of epic proportions! There were a variety of examples of knitted squares, a crocheted one, felted squares and surround the centre, the picture squares were images screened on to fabric then needle felted to create a multi-textured wall hanging. All the wools used were from native British sheep.
I kept visiting (but managed not to spend) a button emporium of unimaginable delights! It was like a sweet shop - only without the calories :)
In between the muted tones of the native sheep fleece were spots of fantastic colour, one stand just bursting with tops and fibres for the felter and spinner - simply candy for the eyes!
On Sunday I had gone to the Harrogate British Wool Weekend helping on the Rare Breeds Trust stall. Well, I say helping, once I'd helped walk in (be dragged by) the 8 rare breeds sheep, all I really did was knit Himself's final sleeve (yessssss FINAL sleeve!!) and chat about the North Ronaldsay wool I was using to any one willing to listen.
For some of the time I wandered around chatting with stall holders, one of which was the Jamieson & Smith stall. I'd originally found out about this company when reading Kate Davies' blog - Needled. So I went over and chatted about their wools (gorgeous) about Kate herself (they adore her too!) and about needle felting (still not something I fancy - looks a bit too like self mutilation with the rather vicious looking tools!)
Any hoo - Jamieson & Smith buy their wool from Shetland crofters and farmers which helps support not only them but also the rare sheep that supplies the fleece. They were such lovely folk, happy to chat and not try and push you into purchasing anything. They were more interested in 'selling' information and encouraging crafting - my kind of 'hard sell' :)
The Rare Breeds stall was diagonally opposite the 'Sheep Roadshow' stand, which for most of the day was quiet but would sporadically erupt into a noisy demo. A loud fanfare followed by music would alert visitors that a demonstration was about to start. A loud and cheerful farmery type came out and his patter would be relayed through over-loud reverberating speakers.....it went something like this.....
Tra la la (the final count down music) la la doo dit doo doo, trall a a a .....blah blah blah whoomwa hummmummubblah blah ha ha ha ha ha!
Then a large ram would come out to more fanfare followed by applause then the shearer boomed happily away explaining in a loud but completely unintelligible waffle about this particular animal. This continued until four rams were in place and then he would get a 5th animal - a female and chat away as he demonstrated shearing.
The rams, so used to all this activity, would just ignore this and cud away until it was their turn to shine. Each ram then had a trick that it performed to music. One nodded his head in time with the beat, another would paw in time with the music, a third swayed from side to side and lifted each front leg and the final would do a sort of 'moon walk' - all to much applause and appreciation. On the second demonstration an hour later, I watched the shearer rather than the sheep and he was guiding their actions by either swinging a bucket of sheep nuts or by tapping his own feet then rewarding the animal with a treat. Clever.
Yes, these really are real sheep -
From L - R: Lying down - Lincoln Longwool (he nodded his head to the music), Norfolk Horn (he swayed and tapped), Scottish Blackface (he 'counted' with his feet) and the Suffolk who did the moon walk and finally Sean the Shearer!
The Scottish Blackface was so laid back - I just had to photo him!
More woolly happenings will follow, once again, it is late and I am off to bed!