Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Gifts (A Simile of Life)

Mother Nature can play this island a merry tune, and she can be quite heartless when she tries. However, these past few weeks her mood swings have lifted, and she has seen fit to favour us with her dazzling smile, granting the welcome kiss of summer to our shore. My two eldest arrive hastily back from school to pack up their swim suits and towels, I mean, after all, who can resist the allure of an impromptu beach party or BBQ?

It is amazing when the sun waves her wand.

The greenhouse and the garden are burgeoning with produce, It's necessary to harvest the cherries, peas, tomatoes and lettuce daily now. Those peas never make it to the stove - we try, we really do, but they are simply too good to deny being eaten as shelled, raw, sweet and fresh.

I am delighted with the cherry crop this year, it seems since transplanting it to the greenhouse, it's us, as opposed to the birds, who get to it first. Our little pear tree is still in it's infancy, but I have hopes it still may bear fruit before the summer is out.

It's too early for the raspberries and blackberries yet, but the redcurrants will soon be ready to turn into sauce.

And, despite all four children picking a bowl at breakfast each morn, we can't keep up with the strawberries - I must turn some over to jam this coming week.

Our corn is also growing nicely, it will only be a few weeks 'til we can (weather permitting) toss them on to our own BBQ soon.

But try as I might, I find the only thing the gooseberries are good for is to mix them in with either rhubarb or apples, or maybe some other berry or two, to bake them up in to a pie or tart. I don't suppose any of you out there might have any other (polite) suggestions as to what else I might do with them?

The peaches, one of my favourite fruits, are almost always eaten fresh from the tree.

We also have several varieties of apple trees, some good for eating, some only for cooking - they shall ripen soon - the yield is always far too heavy to consume by ourselves, and much as we try we never quite mange to give away the surplus. I try to keep up by making sauce and jam with part of the over spill.

We are blessed with two varieties of plum, but because they only bear fruit bi-annually this works out quite well (I am happy to report both types are equally as succulent and delicious). Exceedingly versatile, they can be eaten fresh, turned into jam or chutney, or even served baked with a blend of other fruits to turn out whatever current recipe is the order of the day.

Our crop of new potatoes are the sweetest yet this year - there is nothing so tasty as plucking them fresh from the earth to drop straight in the pot. All needed is a knob of butter for instant heaven!

I keep threatening to turn the grapes to wine, perhaps this year I might get around to it - we'll see. They are edible enough, but seeded, and so therefore less popular with the children. Supermarkets have a lot to answer for (it took me years to convince my brood apples don't necessarily need to be perfectly round for eating).

We now have cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and asparagus shooting up, not to mention all the wonderful lush herbs by the bay leaf tree, that are ripe for the picking. It's my herb garden that gives me the most pleasure, I love the scents and the flavours they bring. Come the winter, I move them in their pots to the conservatory, ensuring a year round supply.

Even down by the glen, the salmon and trout are happily jumping in the river (though I prefer to leave the lone grey heron to harvest those) Were we threatened by famine, and were I less squeamish, our glen is now rampant in grouse and pheasant for the taking, not to mention all those rabbits that come out to dance at dusk (it's a joy to watch them).

This scene underfoot here will soon transform from it's present green to a bright orange carpet of display. Thousands of wildflowers (of which the actual name of escapes me for the moment) will light up the glen and fill the wood in their resplendent colour.

Most of the bluebells have given up their blossoms now, but the glen is often alight with whatever the changing season brings; come the Winter there will be snowdrops just about everywhere, and ample red berries will grace the holly, armloads of which will deck out our house come Christmastime.

(There are also endless collections of mushrooms and toadstools down here, but as I can't tell a poisonous from a magic (of which I am told there are many), to an edible one, I leave it to the wiser trespasser to hunt out which is what.)

But it is right now, right here at the height of summer, when the grounds preen at their glorious best, and our flower beds, bushes and trees are all dressed in their finest splendour, when the birds are singing long and loud to the background hum of those gorging, gathering bumble bees, yes it is here, right in this moment that for me all is (be it ever so briefly) so perfectly right and good in my world.

Those coming days when the north wind howls and the icy storms twist deep down to the bone, it's this moment I shall unbottle, recall the sun, the rich, earthy smell of our spent summer crops, and find soothing comfort in the promise that everything has it's recurrent season. Much as I may mourn the passing of the hot, long summer days, by nature of it's cycle, winter too, however harsh, draws to a close.

Good times, bad times - none last forever.

Regardless of how far ahead she may be hiding, isn't it wonderful to know there always lies Summer, just waiting in the wings?


Suldog said...

My God! You have a magnificently bountiful garden! Have you tried a gooseberry jam? I suppose you must have and not liked it, eh?

PRH....... said...

Dang Shrinky, I didn't think your part of the world had real summer?


Seriously...the fruits look real nice....our veggies are going full growth spurt as I type.

Les Becker said...

Okay, that's it. You MUST adopt me. You have food that need not be cooked before being eaten already LIVING at your house. I'm SUPPOSED to be there.

Send me a plane ticket, Mom, I wanna come home.

Anonymous said...

There's so much more in your garden than I had imagined. WOW! You don't need Tesco delivery! (giggle) Fresh at room temperature is the best.

Anonymous said...

Love the photo of you, working at ease in your little Eden glass room.

Lover of Life/ Nancy said...

This was a lovely post that had me walking your Garden of Eden right with you! What bounty! When I take a deep breath I can smell all those wonderful fruits and veggies ripening so far away. Thank you for this very special post.

Leslie: said...

My goodness! I thought I lived in heaven, but it sounds like your little island is heaven at this time of year. You're lucky with all your crops - imagine picking a bowl of strawberries for breakfast! Lucky children. Do they know just HOW lucky they are? I have 2 little strawberry plants that have some tiny berries on them now and each day I look to see if they're big enough to eat yet. Soon...But our tomato plants look like they're on steroids, they've grown so fast and already have many many tomatoes on them! I can hardly wait...

Mama Zen said...

What a gorgeous post!

Anonymous said...

Heavens, you are doing well with your crops, aren't you? You don't know what to do with your gooseberries? Give them to me!!!! I love gooseberries! They make great jam though, and it sets really well because they're so full of pectin.

Thumbelina said...

Yours is an enchanted place Shrinky. It has a dream like quality as you describe it.
Goosegogs - oh wow how long it is since I saw those! We used to make jam from them. Plenty sugar though. :)

Alex L said...

You make summer sound nice... thats an english summer though... I think I still prefer winter.

SJ said...

No no adopt me not that other blogger. I will eat more than I can or should I promise!

Gooseberry makes good pickles too.

Shrinky said...

Hi Jim, nope, I haven't - maybe I should, huh?

Hello Pat, well, it is kinda' hit or miss most years over here, guess that's why when summer does decide to grace us we get so excited about it!

Aw Les, BUT, if you come back you have to promise not to bring the cops to our door anymore, is that a deal?

Hi Chewy, we don't have pomegranites or oranges, onions or leeks - of COURSE I need my Tesco shop! Abby snapped me unawares in that photo, she's always lurking when you least expect it. (Smile)

Hey there Nancy, I had fun making this post, I am really glad you enjoyed it.

Hey Leslie, strawberries simply thrive on neglect, but they do take a few years before producing much - hang on in there, soon you won't be able to keep up with them either - you'll see!

Hi mama zen, thanks, I am glad you enjoyed the tour.

Oooh, anonyous - come on, tell me who you are?? (Pretty please..?) I've never heard of gooseberry jam before, guess I ought to give it a go, eh?

Thumbalina, I have learned something here - grin. Watch this space..

Alex, if you had to live through our winters, I'm betting you'd soon change your mind!

sj, you are a genius!! PICKLE, why didn't I think of that? Makes far more sense than jam to me - wheyhey - I'll invite you over to sample some, see what you think, eh?

Brian Miller said...

love it when the sun is out, it soothes out the rough spots. great fruit garden as well. our grapes are plump just not ripe yet, can't wait!

Mushy said...

Nice photos my dear.

Scott from Oregon said...

You guys have sunshine?

Yumm on all the fruit.

Yumm Yumm!

Sandi McBride said...

Oh wow! Those cherries look so good...and the strawberries! Your garden is akin to heaven! Why not Gooseberry Jam? I adore it!

mrsnesbitt said...

Use for gooseberries? Gooseberry vodka, or sweet spirit of choice, possibly bacardi. 1/3 spirit, 1/3 sugar, 1/3 gooseberry. Place in 2litre lemonade bottle and shake bottle daily till sugar dissolves. Drink!

I strangely enough could just eat goosegogs and rhubarb too! I dont have a sweet tooth at all! Call me strange (and my god people do!) lol!

Akelamalu said...

Sounds like you are not only self sufficient but living in paradise! I am so envious. :)

Hilary said...

I thought I couldn't possibly love summer more than I already do, but your beautiful photos and sun-kissed words, makes me loe it all the more. Wonderful post, Shrinky. :)

Daryl said...

Oh Shrinky what an abundance of wonderful veggies/fruits! Lucky I had lunch before I read this or I'd have been gnawing on the monitor!

Janie said...

Isn't summer wonderful?
Your fruit and veggies are amazing. You'll have plenty for the entire year.

Anna said...

Shrinky, you are truly blessed with garden like that. It reminds me my childhood, we had all that - boy I love goose berries. I have small bush on my backyard, but the year I had so much on the branches, next day someone ate it, probably raccoon. Mother nature is wonderful....thanks for sharing. Anna :)

simon said...

yes- I heard there is a "heat wave" in London! 32c!!! :o)

Not quite as hot as 52c I experienced last summer but.... warm enough to enjoy. great post!

LilliGirl said...

Beautifully written. My heart lusts for your home. :)

@backyard_pete said...

Got a serpent for the apple tree yet?

Maalie said...

Will you be looking for the golden scallop thingy, Shrinky?

San said...

Shrinky, you live amidst such lushness. Yes, bottle these memories for wintertime! And enjoy.

Beautifully written tribute to abundance and the goodness of being alive.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Oh my gosh, it's like Eden!! How do you ever leave it? Or at least, how do you ever leave that river?

That first photo of you looks like a book cover-- I'd buy it, wondering what great story was inside just because of the photo.

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Rachelle said...

Someday, someday, I'm going to fly out to see you and revel in your bountiful garden. It looks like heaven on earth!
This year the deer have struck yet again, and last week they came through in the night and devastated my garden- even under a shader and in the raised (4 foot) beds.

Yup, I'm comin to your place.