Tuesday 25 November 2014

European Lime and Cider Apples

3.93 kg of red cabbage.
With Liz back from her latest 'errand of mercy' down to the Silverwoods, the kitchen is once more its periodic whirlwind of activity. The Christmas Pud stir-up, postponed from the proper day (Sunday 23rd) went ahead with the usual lavish spread of ingredients packets all over the dining table and of course we both got to do a stir and make our wishes. I was instructed to bring in from the garden my finest red cabbage which we had been saving for the making of the Christmas 'spicy red cabbage' recipe. This had grown and grown and even took me by surprise by being 3.93 kg and as big as my head! Liz was suddenly scrabbling around all the fruit bowls and fridges for enough apple to go with it and raiding the onion 'ropes' in the car port for enough onions.

I love the sight of red cabbage shredded up.
The mix is now gently brewing in the huge slow cooker and in our big gumbo pot and will give us frozen portions nearly through to next Christmas. That is just from the one cabbage. While I was out there, I also lifted some more spuds (Sarpo Mira) and a few carrots. These crops seem to store best left in the ground, as long as you do not have too much of a slug problem. I found a few small clutches of slug eggs but nothing to worry about and the spuds are coming up nice and clean; it is just a cold wet job in the drizzle and I am happy that I can walk on the paths between the ridges to dig and also that we have a nice warm house to retreat to for a coffee.

The 2015 pigs are not even born yet, but a little old lady
we know of in Leeds jumped at the chance to name them!
Our pleasure, Olive!
The 'errand of mercy' was Liz staying at the parents' new place over the weekend keeping an eye on Steak Lady and Mr SL (the latter not long back out of hospital) but also able to nip round to the Silverwoods' and dog-sit their three Westies while the family de-camped to a hotel in Bray for a baton twirling competition (mentioned in an earlier post). This also gave Steak Lady a chance to abandon Mr SL for tasks like a 2 hour shed-clear-out, or any shopping, knowing he was well looked after, and chatted to by, Liz. Mr SL is thriving by all accounts and is up and about, shaved and out of his PJs looking much more like his old self than a patient. He has always been a very dapper chap and happiest in his suit. He was hating the unshaven, just got out of bed look.

A first rack of lamb and a good dollop of
home made crap apple and rosemary jelly
Exciting news this week when I got a text from our main tree supplier, FutureForests.net to say that 'our' trees were now out of the ground and ready for 'shipping'. I had seen on Facebook that they had had a fire at their premises but were hoping to get back to business as usual and they obviously have. These trees will be some European Limes (Tilia cordata x) which we are mainly buying for the bees. These limes flower in June which is a bit of a hungry-gap between the main flush of spring flowers (dandelions, horse chestnut, fruit blossom, blackthorn, hawthorn and the like) and the full flourish of proper summer flowers, the bramble and so on. A friend in the Cotswolds tells us that they are much loved by the bees and that a tree in summer can 'hum like a hive'. The writers in our bee keeper Federation mag (An Beachaire) also recommend them, so we are giving them a try. The rest of the trees are our first dip into cider apple growing and possibly cider making. We have bought traditional old Irish varieties (we love the names - Dabinette, Camelot and Dunkerton Late Sweet). We read that Irish cider is normally made with a 50/50 mix of the actual cider apples and what ever dessert apples were to hand. . These should arrive here either tomorrow or Thursday, so watch this space on that one.

Mk 3 sheep shelter (now with sides!)
Our old sheep man, Kenny, laughed when I first erected a shelter for the sheep back in 2012 when we had them in the orchard. These were tough Mayo sheep, he insisted, used to being out in all weathers on scruffy mountainsides. But they seemed to like it and use it, hiding in there when the nights were frosty or one of our mighty Atlantic squalls came driving through; this even though the shelter was a rudimentary affair with just four posts and a roof, with a 'back' made by tying an opened out builder's bulk-bag to the sheep-fence. I have done a shelter ever since, moving the old corrugated sheeting, the builder's bag and door-frame timbers around to which ever field the sheep were in. This week I got hold of Sparks's brutal diamond-cut angle grinder and cut out some bits for the sides. We are positively palatial and the sheep which should also be coming soon will be well protected. Mayo sheep they might be but 2 of them at least will be in the family way and will get, even if they don't need, a higher standard of pampering. The third sheep is too young to be got in lamb yet, but she can also enjoy the shelter while she watches and learns from her 'aunts'.

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