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Friday, 6 February 2015

Our pathetic excuse for snow, garden jobs, flowers and getting out a bit

First of all Harry would like to say thank you for your healing vibes as he is feeling much better now. It certainly took a few days for the medication to really kick in but he's now bright eyed and bushy tailed and by tomorrow I expect he'll be back to racing around like a loony with the others. Phew! As for me I've been feeling fine this week and have been getting out and about. We had a teensy bit of snow on Tuesday morning, the most pathetic excuse I've ever seen. I could see photos all over facebook from people in Brittany and they all got far more than we did (not that I mind! I like a good snow cover once a winter but that's about it because we can't get anywhere when it snows here).

At least there is grass over the septic tank now!

Despite the cold I've managed a bit more garden clearing up and you can see from the following photos the sort of mess you get that needs tidying up before new growth starts to sprout. There's a fine line though between tidying and leaving shelter for the bugs, but I reckon most of the tall dead stalks can be cut off without that being a problem for the overwintering insects. And the reason I'm trying desperately to do as much as possible now? Because I saw my surgeon last week and he told me I wouldn't be allowed to do any gardening for THREE MONTHS!!!!! I nearly fell off my chair, I was horrified. :-(

Irises and Golden Rod.

Taken through double glazing but my front bed has been irritating me for ages cos it was such a mess!

I haven't finished but after a couple of hours out here the day before the snow
(yes that's snow) it looks a lot better.

One plant I won't chop back yet are the Sedums,
as they still look really decorative.

And I need to leave some of the Verbena bonariensis. I was amazed to see these Blue Tits still
eating seed as I'd imagined the seed would have long gone after months of rain and wind!
Not good pics as it was about an hour before dusk and I had to take these through double glazing.

Just another pic taken through the living room windows.
It's warmer indoors. ;-)

OK I did brave the cold and took a few photos of new flowers and Hydrangeas which always look great when the flowers have dried out.

Japonica or Flowering Quince.

Heartsease Viola, Primroses and a Hydrangea petal.

Dried out Lacecap Hydrangea which is another plant
I don't prune back until about April.

Snowdrops under my Wiggly Hazel.

And some bulbs coming up in pots.

Just for fun, this is what happens when you've got a macro lens on and a cat comes too close...

I said I'd been out and about. What I got up to on Thursday afternoon I'll tell you about in another post. Today though we went to Decathlon which is a large sports store because it occurred to me it would be a good idea to get some more trackie/dance pants for after my op, because I'll want something nice and loose and soft around my middle! The fact I came out with another fluffy fleece and a tee shirt has got nothing to do with it, and quite how my OH came out with a bag full of clothes and shoes when it was me who was supposed to be shopping I do not know..... and they say it's us women who are shopaholics!

And because in about 10 days I've got to go on a really boring low fibre diet for a week before my op, and who knows when I'll be able to get out again after, or even when I'll be able to eat spicy food again, I've persuaded my OH (it wasn't difficult, funnily enough) that we should eat out a couple of times beforehand. This Chinese resto is an all you can eat buffet place and we always come out absolutely stuffed. :-)

Left is my starter and right my main course. I forgot to take a pic of my dessert, but most of it
was that Chinese nougat which I always steal and bring home in a napkin to munch on at home
in the evening, as I don't need any dinner! As you can see, I've got my appetite back.

And this is just a church taken through the windscreen
in the small town of Melesse on the way home.

I still have most of last year's fruit in my freezers, most of which can go hang as I really can't be bothered with making any jams and jellies. But we do both love blackcurrant cordial which is easy to make, so I'm currently simmering 2.5kg of currants with some water which will be hung in a jelly bag overnight, then the juice reheated with sugar tomorrow. I follow the River Cottage recipe, although if you use the amount of sugar they suggest it is overly sweet and sickly, so I only add about half the amount in the recipe. As I'm freezing the cordial I don't need the sugar as a preservative - but even if I was bottling and needed extra sugar I still wouldn't add as much as they suggest!

(from River Cottage cookbook)

2kg Fruit

Place your fruit in a large saucepan. For each 1kg blackcurrants add 600ml water. Bring to the boil crushing the fruit with a masher or wooden spoon.

Cook gently until fruit is soft and juices flowing - will take anything up to 45 mins depending on fruit. Remove from the heat.

Scald a jelly bag or fine tea towel and suspend over a large bowl. Tip the fruit in and leave to drip overnight.

Measure the resulting juice and pour into a clean pan. For every litre juice add 700g sugar (or to taste). Heat the mixture gently to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat. 

Pour immediately into warm sterilised bottles leaving a 1cm gap at the top. Seal with screw-top or cork.

Will keep for several months (if want to keep for longer you will need to sterilise the bottles in a water bath immediately after bottling).

Blackcurrants before simmering.


  1. Nothing wrong with your appetite if you scoffed that lot back Mandy.{:))
    Its lovely to see the Snowdrops poking through again.
    I know what you mean about those Decathlon Shops. We visited the one in La Defense in Paris when we stayed there. Talk about 'Kids in Sweet shops'.
    Good luck with the boring diet.

    1. I'm quite amazed I ate that much myself, looking back at it, Roy!
      As for Decathlon, they ought to rent out golf carts for driving around the store. :-)

  2. So enjoyable, as always! Very happy to hear both you and Harry are feeing fit as a fiddle these days :-)

    1. Thanks Marianne, makes a nice change to feel well! :-)

  3. Wow, what a meal. I'm salivating and it's only 10 o'clock!

    You might not be able to do any gardening for a while but you should be OK for directing the help! It's lovely to see the garden come alive again. We have snowdrops too, but they are under several centimetres of snow this morning....proper snow!

    Lovely photos as usual

  4. I am always salivating looking at your blog and all the yummy things you bake! Hope your snow doesn't last too long. We've got an evil NE wind which has started to freeze the lake over, but luckily for the ducks it's due to warm up a little so shouldn't last. I'll try my best giving directions with the gardening but I know but will get frustrated and impatient!

  5. So glad Harry is feeling better, looking at your posts on the garden has got me itching to get into mine, but going to save it till half term when I have a few days off. Like the look of the area with your Stone Trough, have you posted photos of this area during summer when in flower ? Photo of the Hydrangea's is lovely.
    Amanda xx

    1. Hi Amanda - I think with a little garden there is no real rush to tidy. I have to start early because normally there is so much to do here and I'm usually still doing winter jobs like clearing brambles at this time too. Thankfully it's a little bit milder now (just a bit!) so should get some more done this next week.

      I have shown my front bed quite a bit over the years - it's the one I call my butterfly bed because it's got lots of flowering herbs and nectar plants and it gets photographed a lot (though most often it's the bugs that get their photos taken, lol). I had a quick look and the last picture from this post back in 2012 shows my front bed looking good.

  6. Hi Mandy I managed to get in to the garden on Sunday we have had a few good days of sunshine, and it's felt quite warm in the sun.
    Had a look at the post on front garden bed, (had seen it). Like you I tend to take quite a lot of close up photos and not stand back and take in the whole area, so I had not realised it was the same place. It dose look wonderful with all the flowers in.
    Amanda xx

    1. Lucky you, it's been freezing here with a NE wind! Somewhere I have a better photo showing the entire front bed plus thyme bank in summer but I couldn't find it, so that's the best I could find without spending hours looking. :-)

    2. Well I can see a blog post coming on this summer (as you should be all better by then), a big full photo of the front bed :)
      Amanda xx

    3. OK you are on! Photos of it in all its glory! :-)

  7. Really pleased that Harry is feeling better.
    That food looks very tasty, glad you enjoyed it.

    Philippa x

    1. Hi Philippa - yes he's completely well again thank goodness! Going to eat out again this week and make the most of it. I've put back on the weight I lost and now weigh about 1lb more than I have done for a whole year, haha! xx

  8. Glad to hear that Harry's better and that you've got your appetite back. That Chinese looked tasty. :-) We usually make jam with our blackcurrants, but i think i'll have a go at the cordial next time.Thanks for the recipe. :-)

    1. Thanks Deb. I often make blackcurrant and apple jelly but I've still got tons left from 2013 so there's no point making more. Then I've got this year's harvest to look forward to.... help! But at least they are good in the freezer for a long time so no rush. :-) Harry says miaow by the way. xx