Planning for Spring!

Over the last couple of years my bulb-planting has been quite enthusiastic. I think it was some tulips that inspired me a few years back. And since they don’t always return, either due to uprooting by squirrels, nibbling by mice, or lack of care on my part, I realised I must plant more every year to sustain a decent show.

This year I have gone mad on daffodils after deciding there is a distinct lack of their cheery faces in my rockery each spring. My order included the large flowered “Carlton”, then a white daffodil called “Thalia” which is also called “Angels’ Tears” (an experiment for me as I’m not sure daffodils should be anything but yellow!), two small botanical ones “Tete à Tete” and “Rip van Winkle”, and the sweet little Jonquil “Suzy” which has lots of flowers on each stem.

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Photo from Wikipedia

Parrot tulips were also a must after such beauties as this one (Estella Rijnveld’) over the last two years…

Estella Tulip

The ones I chose for this autumn’s planting are called “Rai” – a deep violet with green “highlights”.

I have also re-ordered some old favourites… these tulips Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Heart’s Delight’ truly do delight…

Tulipa Hearts Delight

And I love these almost pure white ones with a purple-blue centre too – Tulipa humilis var pulchella  ‘Albocaerulea’

Tulipa humilis var pulchella 'Albocoerulea'

I shall be trying a few new things too, including Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus: a hardy gladiolus – with small and delicate pink flowers – that apparently loves poor soil and dry conditions. Perfect for the rockery.
And Allium “Silverspring”, which is silvery white with a purple speck at the centre of each tiny flower.

With a few crocuses and snowdrops thrown in I have a lot of work to do…

😉

Are you planting any bulbs this autumn? Old favourites or new ones? Would love to hear what you’ve chosen!

Apples, Plums, and Peaches!

My neighbours have been so very generous again this year – lots and lots of plums from one, and bucketfuls of apples and a huge basket of peaches from another. Several days were spent preserving, chopping and processing the fruit, but oh so worthwhile! I’ve frozen some apple sauce and plums for baking in the winter, but also made plum and vanilla jam and peach and vanilla jam, apple strudel, apple compote (till it came out of our ears!), plum tart, apple turnovers, German pancakes with apple sauce…. you get the idea!

Today I’m sharing with you one of the most successful uses for apples I found – Apple and Spice Muffins with a crunchy walnut topping. They were so light and fluffy and full of flavour and will be made again very soon.

Apple and Spice Muffins

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Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and prepare 12 muffin cases.

In one bowl, sift together the following ingredients:

  • 200g (1 3/5 cups) SR flour
  • 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 115g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice

In a second bowl mix these ingredients:

  • 175g (1 cup) apple, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) milk
  • 90ml (6 tbsps) vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Add the wet to the dry ingredients and fold in. Divide between the muffin cases.

Topping:

  • 3 tbsps brown sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 40g (1/4 cup) walnuts, chopped

Mix the topping and sprinkle over the muffins. Then bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch…. make sure the walnuts don’t burn. If they look very dark turn the oven down a bit.

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These taste of autumn, and stay really moist for a couple of days too. I loved the topping!

Enjoy the taste of autumn!

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What do you like baking in autumn?

“The voice of the natural world”

Not long ago I visited a friend in the city and we spent a lovely evening sitting outside on her balcony soaking up the last warmth of summer… I listened to all the sounds around us. A baby crying, a siren on the main road, voices, cars, the distant sound of a festival in the city centre. It was a change for me. And an interesting reminder too; I’ve been living out in the country for 8 years now, and there was something I missed while sitting there… a sound that is so normal in our garden that I hardly notice it any more… until it is removed: the crickets.

“…our ears tell us that the whisper of every leaf and creature speaks to the natural sources of our lives, which indeed may hold the secrets of love for all things, especially our own humanity…”   

Bernie Krause

~~~

Bernie Krause made a name for himself in the music industry back in the 60s, when the synthesizer was still young and electronic sound was new and exciting. But later he turned his talent to recording the sounds of nature – including many sounds that are slowly vanishing – from all over the world. Some of these recordings are in museums, others have been used in films. They are living archives of precious habitats. Wikipedia says “… it is now estimated that over half of these habitats have been destroyed or so compromised by human intervention that Krause’s recordings are all that is left of their original bioacoustic density and diversity.”

His website is fascinating and definitely worth a look at: Wild Sanctuary

I found his talk on TED Talks absolutely amazing. I was particularly stunned when Mr Krause showed us how a habitat appears visually completely undisturbed after forestry work… but our eyes can deceive us…

“careful listening gives us incredibly valuable tools by which to evaluate the health of a habitat across the entire spectrum of life”

His recordings and his work seek to exhibit the impact of resource extraction, human noise and habitat destruction.

Listen to the talk. It will make you listen more carefully next time you go outdoors, I’m sure.

Two Years and a Day

Yesterday WordPress reminded me that I put my first post out on September 18th, 2011.

Happy Anniversary Words and Herbs!

Inspiration

Two years of blogging later… well, I have enjoyed reading your blogs immensely and have learnt so much from you all. Fellow bloggers and readers alike have also inspired and motivated me to go out into my garden and take photos, to look for interesting flowers, creatures and recipes to feature, to look up the names of plants and the origins of those names, or to read great books – with or without a gardening theme.

I appreciate each and every friendly comment from you all -what a great network of supportive “blogging buddies” I have found!

THANK YOU!

Autumn

Tuesday at Two (September 17th)

I can’t believe how fast September is flying by. Do you feel the same?

We’ve had a lot of weather today – rain, hail,  wind, but also lovely sunshine!

TuesdayViewSep17th

Two minutes earlier it looked like this…

TuesdayView2Sep17th

And five minutes later I was running for cover! I managed to get lots of planting done, as the ground was nice and damp, and then everything was watered in perfectly without me needing to help. 😀

My next job is to write down where I planted what…. trying to keep a record now by simply listing new plants with a description of where it is. An example; Alyssum has been planted “where the previous Alyssum was, in front of the rock in the top bed”. Well, I hope I’ll know what I meant in the spring when I’m looking out for it to send up green shoots!

Have a great week everyone!

Mini Victoria Sponges

A couple of years ago I helped my Mum clear out her kitchen cupboards and as a result became the proud owner of this:

BakingTin

I have made chestnut cake, banana bread and giant muffins in it, but somehow this baking tin needed a different cake recipe of its own… Now I have found it!

Mini Victoria sponges!

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Last summer I posted the traditional Victoria Sponge Sandwich Cake, so this is just an adapted version to make six mini cakes instead of one large one. And this time I used fresh cream in the filling – a revelation. Can’t think why I never did that before!

Mini Victoria Sponge Sandwich Cakes

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  • 175 g (6 oz) butter
  • 175g (6 oz) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tbsps milk
  • jam for filling (I used blueberry, strawberry and lemon curd)
  • whipped fresh cream for filling
  • 6 mini cake tins, greased and floured
  • A little icing sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 190°C. Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Gently fold in the sieved flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk if necessary to achieve a “dropping consistency”, i.e. the mixture drops slowly off a spoon. Fill the cake tins about 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Slice the cake horizontally into two. Spread the lower half with jam, then add a dollop of whipped cream and put the second cake on top, like a sandwich. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar as decoration. If using fresh cream, eat on the same day, or refrigerate.

MiniVictorias4

ENJOY!