The Damson Gin I made for Christmas last year was such a success that I just had to make some more. My Dearest wants two bottles for us and the rest for gifts. I have three 2 Ltr Kilner jars at the moment each of them containing nearly a kilo of fruit and a bottle of gin. I can assure you that we won’t be drinking 2 out of the three of this particular brew, but I’ll break it to him gently, once the other bottles are gift wrapped and given away. He thinks My Damson Gin is delightful, so do I but not two bottles- that’s just greedy, and besides, there are people I know who now know there will be more Damson Gin this year, how could I not share?
last Saturday, the sun shone unexpectedly and so we took my little sports car for a spin. We drove to our favourite place for buying Damsons in the Lyth Valley and bought 4 kilos. Most of them went in the gin, there were some which were too ripe, they got eaten just as they were. The rest were cooked with a little sugar, and put in the fridge to be eaten with yogurt for breakfast, they tasted wonderful.
So this year I have put 900 grams of Damsons pierced all over with the tip of a sharp knife, in each Kilner clip top Jar with a 75cl bottle Gin, and covered with a 400g of caster sugar, and sealed the jars. I have given them a good shake every day till the sugar dissolved.
This Damson Gin will sit in a cool dark place for 3 months and then the contents will be strained and the gin bottled, ideally I’m told we should allow it to mature for another 6 months, but I doubt it will Survive Christmas.
This spring I was looking to make another brew from the hedgerow, I love the fragrance of elderflower, but didn’t want to make more wine, and elderflower cordial although lovely is readily available in supermarkets which one can buy and use without the fuss and effort of making it at home. But I had read about St. Germain an elderflower liqueur which apparently is currently very fashionable in cocktails. Well, I had to have a go at that.
A short walk in the lovely countryside with a carrier bag and a pair of secateurs, and a trip to the local supermarket for a bottle of own brand Vodka, a bag of sugar and a lemon, and I’m good to go.
A pint of elderflowers were picked from the umbels, put into 1.5ltr jar with 75cl of vodka, and topped with several pieces of greaseproof paper weighted down with slices of lemon to prevent the flowers rising to the top and going brown with oxidisation.
I did not agitate this brew but allowed it to steep for 3 months, on the cool windowsill in the downstairs loo, then strained off the elderflowers and added sugar.
It then stood for another week or two while the sugar slowly dissolved, before I strained it again and bottled it… and wouldn’t you just know it, yet again there was just a little over to taste it. It tastes divine, I put aside what little was left to take to my sister to share a little tipple with me, but next time I looked it had gone, about three shots of Elderflower liqueur necked by my Dearest ( written with gritted teeth) in one go. And then he has the brass neck to tell me he doesn’t like elderflower, grrrrr. I’m making more Damson Gin, He likes that.
An idea has been bubbling away at the back of my mind, I want a shed. I’m loath to admit it, but I have shed envy.
Having seen many magazine articles and even TV programmes about people who have their own little outside space, garden room, beach hut, pavilion, Hobbit hole, garden shed, I have developed a yen for my own little space, another room to furnish and decorate without the need to move or build an extension. A space I can furnish on a shoestring, from charity shops and boot fairs, and use to sit in when I want to be outside but it’s not quite warm enough. That’s most evenings in a typical British summer.
I want a little summerhouse with roses round the door, a place I can sit and sew with the doors and windows open, garden smelling wonderfully, birds making their evening chorus, hedgepigs snuffling about in the undergrowth.
My only difficulty was where on earth to put it, my garden is lovely, but very small, any kind of wooden building would be intrusively large and would take up space where currently plants are flourishing. And why would I want to replace flowers with walls?
But I also have a dirty little secret, an overgrown patch behind the garage, where I have foolishly planted a rampant rambling rose which has grown way beyond its allotted space. I had intended it to grow through an old Elder tree in the corner of my plot, but one winter maybe 8 years ago the old tree fell, and the rose just kept on growing… and growing, it has grown into a tree in my neighbours garden, it has encroached upon two trees in my garden and it overhangs the garden of the folks on the other side of the fence. In fact last summer I spied them lift up the fence panel, climb into my garden and cut a whole bough from the rose, the cheek of it! I didn’t object, they took away the remains and disposed of it, and they would have been within their rights to throw the dead branch back over the fence. The rose has grown so high over the garage roof it must stand a metre higher than the roof line, and shades my garden. Despite romantic reminiscence of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale; sadly it has to go.
Despite the fact that it smells divinely in the spring, I have to cut it down. I’ve made a start but it’s a lot of work. When it has gone, and the fallen tree cleared, and a Holly tree too, I think I will be able to make a space big enough to accommodate my little garden shed. Of course I will be referring to it by some fancy name like “the garden room” but we all know in reality it will be a shed.
I’ve already been shopping for my shed, I think I know what I want, but I can consider it all winter while I get the site cleared, no rush, plenty to think about, …ship lap…log lap, tantalized or not… should it be painted…do I need to run electricity… what type of furniture, will it be insulated so I can use it in winter…how to heat it, safely. Curtains…rugs…comfy chair………bed? ( well that’s another story entirely)
I want a shed, my sewing room shed, my peaceful place.
Our Garden furniture has been looking rather tatty for a couple of years now so we decided to treat ourselves to new ones; a table, chairs and a parasol to afford shade or shelter according to the weather. Getting rid of the old ones presented a greater challenge than expected, we couldn’t get the table down the side path; too wide, and it wouldn’t go through the house either, same reason. The bolts too rusted to easily take apart we came up with a canny solution… wait till the neighbours went out, then passed the table over the fence, past the too narrow place, and back over the fence…shhhh, don’t tell. The new ones all fold up for easy storage, so we won’t have that problem again.
I’m not sure what we planned to buy when we began looking but we did shop around before we bought, did we want rattan… no, too likely to get dirty given the secluded position under trees, did we want glass and steel…Nope, too fancy and likely to rust in our damp climate. Wood then…hmm, maybe, maybe not, which wood? What about mosaic topped and painted metal? We finally decided on wood, but teak, not a cheaper alternative and something which could be easily stored indoors for the winter to extend its potential life. My Dearest insisted on an HUGE parasol, so that he can sit in the garden even when it’s raining and not get wet. I have to say there is something wonderful about sitting in our garden in the summer rain, paradise is a garden.
Being teak, I decided to give the furniture a coat of teak oil to help preserve it, my Dearest having determined to have nothing whatever to do with any noxious substances, said that was my job…as ever.
Next task making cushions to go on the furniture, we could have bought the cushions sold with the furniture, and I did like them very much, but I could not justify the expense, four small chair cushions and a bench cushion would have cost as much as 2 chairs! How much!!!
So off to town on Saturday for some upholstery foam, and to a local factory shop for suitable striped fabric, now all I need to do it cut the foam to fit, and cover with my chosen fabric.
With what’s left of the fabric I may make some more bunting or some softer scatter cushions. All told I think I will have saved £40 or more, if I don’t cost in my time, but then I didn’t have anything else to spend my time on now did I?
One thing I did find time for, down at the bottom of my street runs a little stream, and on the bank the City Council has planted the most beautiful cherry tree which is in full bloom, so on Saturday when the sun shone all day in a clear blue sky, I took the time to walk down to the stream with my camera.
So now I have finished the embroidery on this piece, I need to decide what to use it for, I have two embroideries each a different size. I think I want to make one cushion from the two pieces, so I need to size them up. Putting wider borders on the smaller piece and a narrower border on the larger piece, but a definite border on each.
I already had a piece of plain red, but it was a little too dark, not a good crimson like the gingham; having put so much effort onto the embroidery I didn’t want to use the wrong red for the borders, it would niggle me, forever.
So off we went to my local fabric shop hoping but not expecting to find a good match… I was in luck, not only did I find a fine crimson 100% cotton fabric which was an excellent match, I also found a bolt of 100% cotton blue and white gingham £2.99 a metre in the sale, I bought the lot, £15 for 5m of fabric, bargain!
That morning we had planned to go to the Lake District, on a recce to find suitable holiday accommodation , but we opened the curtains to sunshine and hailstones…big icy chips of frozen rain, so the trip was off. To cheer myself up and remind myself that spring really is just around the corner I took my camera out to the garden, to find a few spring flowers.
spring is going to be earlier this year than it was last, I hope.
I recently bought a collection of embroidery hoops, £2 for 5 at my local charity shop. I’m making a collection, not that I do embroidery you understand, the idea was to use them to showcase some of my beautiful fabrics, the ones I can’t bring myself to cut up, by using the hoops like picture frames and hanging them in groups on the wall of my studio.
See this one with a piece of patterned silk which my mother gave me.
I also had two pieces of red and white gingham, which had been languishing under the lamp table beside the sofa since Christmas, it had been used to wrap small gifts and being an avid recycler I could not bring myself to throw it away.
Then on Pinterest the other day I stumbled upon Broderie Suisse, (or chicken scratch) and thought….hmmm.
Embroidery silk… no problem, I have a large tin full under the bed… backing, because the gingham is a bit flimsy… no problem, I have some old sheet which will do… embroidery hoop… what size? I have plenty in varying sizes. Working from the photographs I found on Pinterest, because most of the tutorials are not in English, I made this little heart shaped embroidery.
Then I began something more ambitious …
When it is complete, I think I will make it into a cushion, perhaps a hop pillow, or a sleep herbs pillow, with herbs cut from my own garden, and dried.
I have been going to the same hairdresser for more than 20 years, every 5 weeks I go and get my grey roots covered, I often see the same fellow customers who have also been customers for years, it is like a self help group. We have shared our ups and downs getting sympathy and advice, and giving it in return, sharing knowledge or simply a sympathetic ear. No doubt I am talked about when I’m not there but I don’t mind, if my experiences can be of help, or dire warning to others all well and good, and if it merely gives folks something to laugh at that’s OK too. It’s certainly cheaper than therapy, and I get to give as well as receive.
People also give what they have and don’t need, to those who might make use of it, and this is how I came to acquire some furnishing fabrics. They are multi coloured samples of a heavy silk weight, probably polyester, which I think I can use for foundation piecing.
When I was emptying my cupboard , in order to move it without doing ourselves an injury, I found these pre-printed foundation patterns. I think I will make a rainbow coloured quilt from the silks. It will turn out quite stiff, so it may end up being a wall hanging or maybe it could be a bag…… decisions …decisions.