A Country Diary – 37
19 December 2005
THE FRONT GARDEN, while a mess, does at least have some colour in it. The three hellebores I planted last year are starting to flower. The primroses in the bed outside the kitchen window seem to flower perpetually. There is an alpine thing of some sort with lots of little pink flowers that is still flowering. Although I’m not much of a fuschia fan, the fuschia bush in the corner does produce lots of flowers. There are three yellow roses on one of the rose bushes. There’s a little purple flower, and until I took them inside there were a couple of trailing geraniums with dark red flowers that were doing well. With a bit of weeding and the lawn mown (it hasn’t been mowed since August), it could look quite smart. I’m also considering digging up part of the lawn for a vegetable bed, the plan being to to start with salads. It seems to make sense to have some salad near the front door. I also imagine that I could look after salad better if I saw it every day rather than consigning it to the vegetable patch, where the slugs sometimes enjoy undisturbed days on end to destroy all my hard work.. What else should I be doing now? Pruning the roses, I guess. For some reason rise-pruning terrifies me. I always think that I’m going to cut in the wrong direction or cut above the bud or below it or whichever is the wrong way. Or prune at the wrong time of year. Time also to fertilize with cow much or horse muck. My own self-made compost all went on the permaculture mulch which has provided a warm and rich home for a vast slug colony.
WHILE MOST things look weak and spindly on the veg patch, particularly after the sheep attack, the broad beans are all pushing through delightfully, 64 little sprouts, all in neat rows.
I WENT HORSE-RIDING yesterday, and cantered again, which was thrilling. I am beginning to realise what the attraction is and why you get all these horsey people. It really is magical, to be moved through space by an animal, with no seat belts! However, it’s an awful lot of work, having a horse. There’s the mucking out, moving them in, moving them out, putting their blankets on, organising their feeds, looking after the saddles, cleaning the saddles. And the expense! Getting the horses clipped and shoed, the cost of the kit and the food, at least I don’t wear those special clothes — although I quite like the idea of a long red riding coat, 1750-style — well, it’s mind-boggling. And I understand that even a very ordinary beginners’ type horse costs two grand. And all that for a mode of transport that you can’t really use on the roads! Maybe correspondent Graham is right and I should stick with the humble bicycle. The horse thing may just be too much work and too much money, both things that I’m trying to avoid.
HAVE I MENTIONED bread lately? Each week I’ve been baking four loaves using the John Seymour method mentioned in an earlier country diary. It’s incredibly easy, very enjoyable, immensely satisfying, and produces the most fantastic bread for less than 20p a loaf. Baking bread also has the advantage of not involving any travel or driving or supermarkets or tedious blimmin shopping. And by the way, there is absolutely no point whatsoever in buying a bread-maker. You don’t need a machine to do it because it is so very easy to do it without a machine. I’m going to give the recipe again. Once you start making your own bread you’ll never want to buy shop crap ever again. Three quarters fill a mixing bowl with warm water. Mix in a handful of sugar, and handful of salt and a handful of yeast. Mix thoroughly. Pour in a load of flour and mix and mix and mix, till sludgy. Leave to rise for four to eight hours. Dump a load of flour on the table. Pour the risen mixture on top. Spend about twenty minutes kneading the dough, adding more flour when it becomes sticky. You can use whatever flour is around: we buy sacks from the wholesalers. You can mix white and wholegrain flour, use pasta flour. Use a slightly different mix each time. I even got away with using self-raising flour once, in my even more ignorant days. Take four loaf tins, sprinkle the insides with flour and half fill each with the dough. Make any left over dough into little rolls. Cover with tea towels and leave to rise for half an hour to an hour. Score the tops with anarchy signs or your initials. Then put in a very hot oven for twenty minutes or so. Turn out of the tins, allow to cool and put two in the freezer. Bread, bread, delicious bread!