Saturday, 30 November 2013

Autumn's Fall

Holly Cottage roses
It's the last day of November. This is the day - for me - that hails the end of autumn and the true beginning of winter. And what a beautiful November it has been! We've been watching the leaves tumbling down from the high tops of the beech and oak trees that line the Charleville estate wall from the warmth of the Holly cottage kitchen. Some of those same leaves find themselves floating onto the Holly Cottage garden - leaf litter to add to the soil for next year's harvest. The few small tress that we have in the back garden - probably more like shrubs to tall people ;) - provide a hint of autumnal colour too but one more blast of wind next week and all the leaves will finally have tumbled down. And then the long wait begins, again...autumn falls as winter calls. We already had a taste of snow, but that's always lovely, for a day...especially against the backdrop of a red rose...

News here is pretty scant. It's sleep, walk, feed baby, change baby, walk baby (and dog), and then do that all over again and then finally get some downtime once herself conks out for the night - usually around 9:15-9:20pm most evenings. How does she know that it's the same time every night? Baffling really.

Holly on her leafy way
The walking is good - beautiful even. Some days I find myself walking over the fields and wishing that 'it" would never end. 'It' = this time, this phase, this life - you get the message. And the days are so dry  that we get out and into the woods with barely a splash of mud on our leaf kicking boots. The leaves are piled high and Holly is chest deep - she's having great craic altogether sliding around and sprinting up and down the leafy paths. The pictures really don't do her wild spirit justice to be fair - she is a canine force to be reckoned with, especially on the sprinting u-turns. Apart from our usual woodland Charleville haunt, we've made it as far as Dublin's inner city (in a car mind), Belvedere House outside Mullingar and a short stroll about Middleton in Cork - showing herself off to the gran-aunts and cousins. We find different views everyday, different ideas, different perspectives. At this point we're up on 64/1000 miles...what adventures yet to come?

It's been extremely quiet on the garden front and for the first time in two months I made it out for a (blissful) hour yesterday while herself was carried away and comforted by the lull of the car's engine. Jobs done included - pulling dead leaves off cabbages and sprout plants; turning compost; pruning apple and roses back; pulling up sunflower plants (seeds good for the birds); cutting back last of the pepper plants and a an overall general tidy up and sweep. There's still a lot of food out there, and an equal lot in the freezer. The frozen tomatoes are a gift - add garlic, onion, fennel seeds, chilli and a couple of carrots and a delicious soupy treat is at your fingertips.

The other development here is that we've been baking our own brown soda-bread - no more shop bought convenience stuff. It's so easy and it's probably a bit embarrassing not to have been making it regularly before now, although the day job sure can chew a lot of energy and time - the joys of being at home nesting for the winter eh? Anyway, take 400g wholemeal flower, add 50g oatmeal and 50g of whatever you like ;) for example wheat bran, or other 'roughagey stuff', a teaspoon of baking soda and teaspoon salt - mix all together with a pint of buttermilk and one egg. All goes in a loaf tin @ 200deg for an hour or so. Lovely crunchy crust emerges with deliciously wheaten goodness - great with the soup - and we add pumpkin and sunflower seeds when available in the press for more crunch. Beats anything shop bought and freezes well too. And I'm afraid to say it might just even beat the bread my mother has been making for the past fifty odd years...

As for herself - it's smiles all around and plenty of chat. Nearly, teasingly, sleeping through the night. We shall have to see how we go. Twelve weeks yesterday and truly, truly the new boss of the Holly Cottage...not sure who was the old boss.....but I guess that really doesn't matter anymore now ;)

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