Denise: Talking over an autumnal lunch of delicious home-made soup with home-baked sour-dough bread. The kettle starts to whistle, lazily and unevenly at first, then working itself up into a very good impression of The Royal Scotsman. J gets up and lifts the kettle off the Aga for our first cup of Aga tea since the cold and wet of spring – it seems an age ago. We flicked down the switch this morning at 7am, and certainly by noon it was up to full temperature, and now the kitchen is cosy, and we could cook, dry, bake, fry, roast, simmer, warm, dry herbs – anything we like, any time, at no more cost than keeping the room warm. A bit too warm, to tell the truth – certainly since we completed the renovation of this part of the house, with the house now sealed, insulated etc. Ironically, it’s at this time of year that we have to keep the butter dish in the fridge. This is – by far! – the latest in the year that we’ve switched the Aga on for the winter. It’s nearly mid November … and it’s still not even cold outdoors, with night time temperatures still in double figures. (There’s no other heating on – just the Aga.) But it’s the wind: because houses suffer wind-chill just the same way as we do (or so J says – and it’s been his business to know such things); and believe me it’s windy!!!
Denise: Monday’s equinoxal full harvest moon meant a huge ‘spring’ tide, and ideal conditions to harvest the greatest variety and abundance of nature’s marine goodness. Three days later, the tidal range is still considerable, and we’ve been down on our own beach exploring. Tilly has been on forward patrol, J watching our rear (with the camera – also watching out for customers coming to the walled garden and finding no-one at home!) and carrying stuff. Here’s me giving a trimming the pile on a shaggy carpet of pepper dulse (it’s very small and fiddly!). We also came home with about about 4oz (dried weight) of carrageen – nestled amongs some of which were sea-anemone with their arms waving about! The stones here are painted vivid colours with some kind of submarine algae or lichen – I really don’t know what it is – which is quite startling through the shallow water. Back home in the kitchen, we started the long drying of the carageen for use in deserts (recipes another time), the pepper dulse as a seasoning, and some sugar kelp for casseroles (par-boil first, then add to the casserole when it goes in to the oven).
Denise: Even before the gooseberry harvest was over, we’d started picking and podding peas for the freezer (and feasting on the sweetest as we worked!), and broad beans too. For about four weeks now we’ve been picking peas steadily, piling them up in big seed trays for Jonathan to pod in the evening whilst watching TV, me knitting. But the legumes are now all gathered in, with 20kg or so of peas and about half that of beans in the freezer – enough to keep us supplied with both right through to next summer. (In fact today I’m using the last of last year’s peas in a pea and mint soup). Friday was the last day of the longest run of dry weather we’ve had since – well, probably last September! : just four-five days, but enough to dry out the onions, and for us to pull them and get them under cover before Saturday’s rain. It’s not been a good year for onion: not sunny and warm enough (after all culinary onions did come from the Mediteranean to Britain with the Romans!), so not many are large enough to store well, but the largest are in the greenhouses to dry further. And the rest? Well, Jonathan’s been busy this weekend making a large batch of pickled onions! The winter weather here is very very mild, so carrots and parsnips stay in the ground, still growing – just – until we need them, even as late as March, but potatoes have to be lifted and stored in bins, safe from wet, slugs and rodents. So next to harvest – our last great gathering of Autumn Bounty in the Big Garden, will be the spuds.