Thursday, June 28, 2012

Foodie Penpals and the Scottish selection

Funny how things happen. Ms Tagalong was reading a foodie blog written by her second cousin, or is she her first cousin once removed or even a third cousin? Seems we're supposed to share the same great-grandparents but that can't be right as she is a different generation...anyway...

Great restaurant blog about the Northwest and an interesting initiative called Foodie Penpals caught Ms Tagalong's eye. Send a box of food, receive a box of food. Sounds good. Collecting bits and bobs for my penpal from Two Weddings, onebride, was fun and the anticipation waiting for the box from Jen'sPlace was palpable.

Mr Ideasman asked why Ms Tagalong jumped up so quickly when the postman came to call. Her writing was faltering as she drifted off into a daydream of delicious delights from faraway Scotland. Does Miss Jen know Ms Tagalong is not too keen on haggis?

Near disaster when Miss Jen misses the post and has to send the parcel first class so that Ms Tagalong receives it before she zips off to Cornwall. The Royal Mail did their stuff and the anticipation was over.

Miss Jen's delights were a pack of oatcakes, (great with cheese advises Miss Jen) a pot of local chilli jam, a pot of onion marmalade, sweeties reminiscent of a Scottish childhood. Very sweet, warns Ms Jen, they will probably find Ms Tagalong's fillings and a jar of rock. Another childhood confection!

Scooping up the products into her camping box Ms Tagalong vows to try them at the earliest opportunity.

Sitting outside Cotehele a lunch camp was made, some ripe avocado spread on the oatcakes topped with some Dorset blue cheese and a blob of chilli jam. Delicious! Ms Tagalong loved the onion marmalade ,'Bit too much like Branston,' said Mr Ideasman. What does he know? The chilli jam was a tad too sweet for Ms Tagalong's taste, she the one liking a bit more oomph to her chilli.

As for the oatcakes..Ms Tagalong could eat them until the cows come home, digestive biscuits having been an all time favourite, the extra oaty texture in these was sublime. Such a shame they are all gone!

Read all about what I sent to the lovely Sonja on her blog or read more about Foodie Penpals on either this link for the UK or this one if you are in the US. What, not one in Australia, ah well, there's a project for me on my return? 

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Littlebredy – in an English Country Garden

Not strictly a community garden says Ms Tagalong but as this once derelict walled garden is now run as a not-for-profit venture manned by volunteers it is certainly one for the community. 'Not far now,' Ms Tagalong encouraged Mr Ideasman as they cycled past the cricket pavilion in completely the wrong direction. A chance encounter with the laird pointed them in the right direction and they sailed back down the hill.

A cloudless blue sky, rare in this wettest of Summers, showed this Summer garden at its best. A real English garden with flourishes of roses, foxgloves, lavender, and clematis filling every corner. Old fashioned blossoms sweetened the air with their scent and made Ms Tagalong want to wend her way down every small path.

'Why is it walled,' asked Mr Ideasman? Not wanting to remind him of the vagaries of English climate Ms Tagalong muttered something about giving stonemasons something to do and changed the subject! Well tended vegetables with ripening blackcurrants and other soft fruit made Ms Tagalong want to volunteer too. Perhaps she could make a willow crown as well to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, or having a Republican husband, maybe not!

Bridehead Estate founded these gardens in 1796 and they supplied food not only to the 'big house' but to the surrounding population. Many gardeners toiled to grow vegetables for all. Ms Tagalong meandered her way through the orchard to the lake with Mr Ideasman in tow. 'I should be called Mr Tagalong,' he grumbled as they sat and ate their picnic in this exquisite location.
The Waterfall by the lake
The Jubilee Crown and old implements

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Scarecrows are Us

Especially for those of you who have been enjoying the posts on country life in Dorset I have managed to persuade the lovely Maddie Grigg from The World from my Window to guest blog and this is what she wrote:

Behold the humble scarecrow.

In The Enchanted Village, various weird and wonderful figures come out once a year to compete in our annual scarecrow competition.

We’ve had monks and kings, cartoon characters, clowns and corgis. We’ve had cowboys and Indians, Cavaliers and Roundheads. We’ve had all sorts.

And occasionally, some stay in situ, scaring off the birds and becoming a permanent fixture until they rot away into oblivion. This one was on our allotments for some time.

Our scarecrow competition is a relatively new fixture on the village calendar. However, the keeper of our village history, the late Leonard Studley, who was born in 1909, tells us in his book, My Story, (ISBN 0 9514849 0 7) it’s nothing new:

As soon as the corn was sown in spring (or autumn) my father would construct a ‘mommett’ to keep the rooks off. Mother would have to supply a hat, preferably a straw one, ladies or gents didn’t matter, an old jacket, and if it was to be a posh ‘mommett’ a shirt, and a linen flour bag which would be stuffed with hay or straw to form a head.

The eyes, nose and mouth would be put in using the wet cork of the ink jar. He would then cut two sticks about 6ft long, one would have to be sharpened at the bottom end to enable it to be driven into the ground, the other would be tied across it to form the arms, and the clothes would be draped over the form.

Sometimes his nakedness would be hidden under a pair of trousers, sometimes not.

Leonard Studley says in the ‘earlier days’, boys were employed to scare off the birds and were known as bird starvers. This is the bird-scarers’ song his grandmother told him:

Heigh Ho Old Jack and Jennie Crow,
Let’s lie down and have a rest.
‘Spose my master was to come,
Thee must fly and I must run.

Sow four grains in a row,
One fer the rook, one fer the crow,
One fer to rot and one fer to grow.

It’s lucky for our children the practice has fallen into disuse. Or, if you’re inundated with birds on your patch of ground, maybe it’s something worth reviving…

That’s about it

Love Maddie x

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Jubilee allotments!

All lanes lead to the Enchanted Village. As Ms Tagalong begins her fifth month in the old country she is gradually feeling that she is being allowed back into her former life. Villagers don't suffer 'strangers' gladly and it takes time to ease one's way into the antics and goings on of this very special place

All thoughts of local produce and gardening had taken second place to the fervour and fevered run-up to the Diamond Jubilee weekend.

Ms Tagalong felt very honoured to attend a local book club evening this week where the highly-spirited conversation about 'Made in Britain,' developed into conversations about allotments and stuffed corgis.

Unlike most other villages, allotments here seem to be available but not readily allotted (excuse the pun).

'Well, when I asked I was told there were none available,' one disgruntled member commented while another recounted how difficult it was to garden on the steeply-sloping site and yet another that they be sold as a building site and a more suitable location found.

'I just couldn't find a stuffed corgi anywhere,' floated down from the end of the table as Ms Tagalong's ears pricked up. A plethora of royal scarecrows with accompanying corgis had caused this unprecedented dearth.

But back to allotments and the Jubilee. Did you know that produce from allotments is not allowed to be sold commercially (cover your ears NNUTS) and that of course organic status cannot be certified due to possible drift from other plots?

That said, the allotments dressed themselves up in tidy rows and flags; one of the vacant plots became the venue for the lighting of the Queen's Beacon. ' Good job the nation's security doesn't depend on it', muttered a bystander and later for the startling firework display. Certainly startled one or two of the youngsters as a catherine wheel look-alike careened down the furrowed rows before exploding around them.

With stars in their eyes the villagers made their way back to the square checking that the allotment stall had sold all their produce and seedlings. For charity not profit of course!  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Flourish Community Garden

Surveying the garden from the activities shed

“It's not truly a community garden but a garden run by me for the community,' Kate Turner said as she enthusiastically told me all about Flourish, the community garden in Frimley Lodge Park near Camberley, Surrey. Ms Tagalong had stumbled across this garden whilst strolling along the Basingstoke canal with Mr Ideasman and having waited a while to speak to Kate, the instigator, was glad she did.

Kate has been working on this garden for just under a year and despite talking herself down has achieved wonders with a condemned playground in the council-run park.

As in Australia grants are hard to come by but she is funded for 15 hours a week with a local grant and the kindly Marks & Spencer helped set up the garden supplying raised beds, a large shed and other resources.

Kate's background in horticulture as a researcher for BBC Gardener's World and a stint as Head Gardener at a public school has left her passionate to work with both adults and children with special needs. With this in mind the raised beds are wheelchair friendly, of differing heights for young and old. 
Basingstoke Canal

But Kate has found she has generated funding by teaching Army wives, many of whom live in the area, how to begin gardening, how to grow in temporary containers, to grow portable things to accompany them as they move around.

Her biggest success was a Valentine's workshop and an Easter Hunt which generated a huge response with families queueing outside the gates before opening time! An idea for THCG to take on board.

Kate was slightly despondent that her 'Grow your own salad bowl' course didn't seem to be taking off but she said publicity hadn't been the best and the council 'had got things wrong and it had been quite tough.' It had been tough too in the garden with foxes scrabbling in beds, magpies teaching their babies to thieve the new seedlings and other small failures. This said, her successes have far outweighed the perceived failures.
Seedlings planted by local children

Ms Tagalong's head was spinning to hear all the ideas Kate wanted to do and had incorporated into her garden, a watercolour group, photography group, willow workshop, pumpking carving, Christmas wreath workshop and pre-school mini-beast trail.

With a 7 year waiting list for allotments in the area this kind of community garden makes sense and like THCG Kate has found that many families want to be involved, to have a social outlet and a place in which to play and nurture.

How lucky for Ms Tagalong to have met such a motivated young woman with ideas to share and knowledge to give.