Friday, 31 October 2014

Nom nom nom

One of the things I look forward to at this time of year is pumpkin soup!
I even save all the insides of the Halloween pumpkin I scoop out before carving it as I can't bear to let an opportunity for soup to pass by ...

This is a Valentine Warner recipe - although the sherry is optional, if you have any knocking around it is worth trying as it gets the soup an extra lift!

You will need: 1 x 4kg pumpkin, 125g butter, 2 finely chopped medium onions, 1 cinnamon stick, freshly grated nutmeg, 1.7 litres chicken or vegetable stock, 3 tablespoons sherry.
Remove and discard the seeds and fibres from the middle of the pumpkin: remove the flesh and roughly chop it. Melt the butter in a large pan over a low heat and add the onions. Cook gently for around 15 minutes until softened and golden-brown. Add the pumpkin flesh, cinnamon and nutmeg, season to taste: increase the heat slightly to medium, and cover with a lid. Cook for around 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until pumpkin is cooked through. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor in batches and blend until smooth. Return to a clean pan, bring to a low simmer and cook for a further 30 minutes. Before serving, stir in the sherry if you are using it.  Enjoy!

If you are expecting any trick or treaters tonight, make sure you keep your dog safely shut in another room before answering the door - and check that all garden gates have been properly shut once they have all gone. It's a good idea to walk your dog early as well, and a little later than usual in the evening as meeting gangs of trick-or-treaters in spooky costumes may be a little unnerving for some dogs.
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Friday, 24 October 2014


The days are getting shorter, and it is definitely feeling more chilly. 
I know this because Archie and Angel are not keen on lingering longer than necessary outside, and have been asking to have their coats on when going out at night for a before-bedtime pee. My Mum also commented on how nippy it felt the other day and went to look out her winter woollies. I checked the temperature - 14 degrees, so not actually as cold as all that. If it had been an early Spring day with the sun out and primroses and crocuses blooming everywhere we would all have been exclaiming about how lovely and mild it was ... but because it is Autumn and leaves are falling, it is apparently, 'chilly'!

What the well dressed whippet will be wearing in the garden this year

Friday, 17 October 2014


Archie quality checks the apples to see
if they are ready for harvesting
It was a bumper year for my apples and pears this year: the first lot of pears - a dessert variety - are all picked, poached and safely in the freezer. I'm still waiting for the next lot to ripen, and then the freezer will be fully stocked for the winter months ahead.
The apples are all in too - or I thought they were.
And then I spotted this: two which I'd somehow missed picking off the apple tree in the garden.
It was a nice surprise and best of all, as they are eating apples, I won't have to toil over a hot stove cooking them for freezing!

Friday, 10 October 2014


No-one sleeps while there's still a crane fly at large ...
There has been an invasion of crane flies lately - apparently due to the weather conditions. A combination of a hot summer followed by heavy rain showers and then a warm, dry period have seen them thriving in huge numbers. 
Crane flies - also known as Daddy-long-legs - start life as larvae called leatherjackets, which live in the soil feeding on decaying plant material. Unfortunately for lawn-proud gardeners they are also rather partial to healthy grass roots and can be responsible for creating yellowish brown dead patches - so don't be too quick to blame the dog! Check to see if there are leatherjackets at work by lifting a section of the affected turf and looking for them in the surface soil levels; alternatively soak the area with water, cover with a sheet of black polythene and next day roll it back to look for grubs on the surface under the cover.
There are no chemical controls for them - which I'm very happy about as there are already far too many chemicals to be found on the shelves of garden centres - but you can try using nematodes. And crows, magpies, rooks and starlings love the grubs and will search for them in the turf, stabbing down into it with their sharp beaks - so don't chase them off or let the dog scare them away while they are at work! 
When the larvae  hatch in the autumn into the familiar adult daddy-long-legs stage, they mate, competing ferociously with each other, during the remaining fortnight they live for. This is when they also move indoors and seem to be everywhere: no sooner have you shepherded one outdoors than a dozen more take its place. Archie hates them: at night I have to check around the bedroom while he sits watching me from his bed. Only when he is sure I have removed every last one will he then settle down to sleep. Really, it's true!

Crane fly trivia!
Crane flies have been voted the world's scariest creature in a recent poll - although personally I can think of a lot more scary ones I'd prefer not to share house space with: and it is thought there are around 14,000 different species.   
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Friday, 3 October 2014

Late bloomers

Checking out the self-seeded nasturtium
Snapdragons looking good:
the geraniums didn't quite
make it into the shot ...

As I write this, the weather is lovely and mild and we've all 

Snapdragons coming back for more ...
been enjoying a bit of pottering - and in the case of Archie and Angel, snatching a bit of sunbathing - in the garden.  I'm glad I wasn't overscrupulous about tidying up the beds while weeding a few weeks ago, since as well as the seasonally appropriate bloomers like the Sedum, there has been a burst of flowering as plants make the most of the weather too. Second helpings are always nice as well as value for money!


... and this geum ...

and the Sedum is supposed to be flowering now!

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