September 17, 2012

Autumn & New Arrivals

Autumn is arriving, slowly but definitely. The air is fresh now, even though we're still blessed with good sunny days - we even managed a brief swim in the lake the other day, but it could well be our last for a while.

Saskia was given a rabbit for her birthday by some school friends. We've never liked the idea of caged animals, and she seems intelligent enough not to either: one morning, after two days in her hutch she mysteriously appeared in with the chickens. We couldn't work out how she escaped until we discovered the wire roof can be pushed up in one corner. She goes straight through the fence into the orchard and doesn't seem at all interested in going elsewhere.

She is now in with them every day and manages to enjoy the space and the company of chickens and sheep as if a perfectly normal family! We have a job catching her at night, but will experiment with the hutch in the orchard and see if the hens can perhaps lead a good example for her to head to bed at dusk.

A real surprise this week has been our little peach tree in the front garden! The fruits are ripening beautifully, obviously getting enough sun and content to flourish as if deluding themselves that really this is somewhere further south.

The wife of the tractor man comes regularly now for a basket of tomatoes, along with new offers almost every visit. The latest is a whole host of preserving jars – the old fashioned kind that have rubber rings but no metal circuits, just temporary clips that keep the pressure whilst the preserves cool and are then removed. Some of the jars still have preserved fruit in them that is reputedly about ten years old. Although rather sweet, they actually still taste pretty good.

The other gift her mother had tucked away in her garage is over a hundred and fifty traditional clay bricks. These will be perfect for our bead oven.

Another neighbour up the road responded to our notice in the newsletter with an offer of a 'waschkessel' – a wood-fired drum insulated with fire bricks that holds a large enamelled cast-iron vat. These were traditionally used for laundry but are still used today for making sausage meat and pasteurising preserves.

It is a big beast but fits neatly in the hall where the flue pipe connects directly into the chimney. Although a bit rusted on the outside it is still in good condition and will be so exciting to experiment with.

I finally found the opportunity to knock down a section of the wall of Saskia's bedroom to extend her room and close off the draughty passage. It was such satisfying work and makes a great change from the endless processing of tomatoes.

The cooler weather is also much more ideal for plastering. More and more of our time is now spent indoors preparing the walls of our long awaited kitchen and closing in our upstairs quarters to make our winter nest. 

Weekly column 'A Taste of Earth' published @

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