On Thursday we get out our housekeeping money from the bank. It’s not quite straightforward because six of us live here all together, with somewhat different food requirements. And two cats. The cats have their own housekeeping purse and money, and save up when they can to contribute a donation to improve the lots of cats less fortunate than themselves. Cunning choices must be made in selecting their food, to prevent them misreading our circumstances as a shortage to be remedied by them swinging into action to augment the family provision with dead/alive rodents and birds. Frogs, even. This creates a degree of culinary tyranny but we consider it worthwhile.
Anyway – sticking with the humans for a moment – one of us is currently away, so we decided to decrease our housekeeping money by £20 (representing her share) last week. Then last week we got the money out on Wednesday for reasons too tedious to mention – so we had a long week to cover. And the window cleaner came and he costs £15. But when Thursday (today) came round, we still had some money left over – so hooray us! That was pleasing.
Cabbage and beans feature prominently in our diet, which keeps the costs down, but also this has been a good year for fruit. In the last week we’ve been blackberrying several times, and got a good haul. Some to eat and some in the freezer. I looked in Asda and saw a small punnet of blackberries only 2/3 full cost £1.74, so I felt very impressed with our freebies.
We didn’t mean to go blackberrying today – we went for the pine cones. Often people don’t think about pine/fir cones until winter, but they ripen and drop in August, and if you gather them now they make brilliant kindling later – and kindling costs £4.50 for a small bag, so why wouldn’t you?
Up the hill from us the road is lined with Scots pines, so we took our foraging bags and went in search. We got two bags bulging full – and unexpectedly came across a lot of blackberries we didn’t know were there. It was annoying we hadn’t brought a receptacle for fruit – then I spotted someone had thrown away a spring water bottle – one of those that holds about half or three-quarters of a litre. The top was wide enough to drop in the blackberries, and we got a whole bottleful. When we got it home, I cut off the top part so it was easy to get the berries out to wash.
A few years ago we went from mainly vegetables to mainly fruit trees in our garden – because fruit trees also leave space to walk in whereas our veggie beds used to resemble the Amazon jungle. Also we wanted to help the bees, and we grow meadow flowers round the trees with paths mown through. This year has been splendiferous for fruit. Our Worcester Pearmains are just coming ripe, and the Russets too. We have pears coming on well, and we’ve had some lovely plums, and our greengage tree is laden with fruit this year, on the verge of ripening. So we picked a lot of apples and made enough apple and blackberry crumble to have some at lunch time and tea time, as well as stowing another punnet of blackberries in the freezer. This year I also got round to freezing a box of mixed chopped pot herbs – not so essential because the sage and rosemary and bay continue through the winter of course – but nice to have the thyme and mint and marjoram and lemon balm and parsley mixed in.
After we got the first lot of pine cones we went up to the cemetery, where they also have some Scots pines, and found lots more cones – another two big bagfuls. There used to be a couple of trees there that made ENORMOUS cones, but sadly the cemetery people had them cut down. Because – I can hardly believe this – they dropped enormous cones. The human race bewilders me at times.
Then a skirt I bought for a tiny sum on eBay came in the lunchtime post – and (to my immense satisfaction) finally I’d found one that is both the right length and fits me. I would never have guessed it could prove such a challenge to get hold of a simple, plain, navy skirt that fits. I’m not grumbling though because in the course of one of my failed attempts I made a really nice new friend. Buying and selling on eBay and giving things away on Freegle/Freecycle has put me in touch with some lovely people. I recommend.
And every day for a couple of weeks now my little row of pole beans has yielded a handful of runner beans for my lunch. I love runner beans. They attracted the attention of blackfly earlier in the summer, but diligent spraying with water containing crushed garlic and a smidge of washing-up liquid soon persuaded the blackfly an alternative location would suit them better.
It makes me happy when I can achieve the Ayurvedic ideal of eating food that has gone from growing to eating within two hours – but that was true of (some of) what we ate today.
And our Alice has (after months and months of work) finally finished a huge commission of stained glass panels for the hospice, and been paid – which means we can get on with having our floors sanded. Then in a final moment of joy, our Rosie has managed to bag a really good, well-made trombone. Hers is on its last legs, and is a vital tool of her trade. It was made at the end of a trombone-making era, since when the manufacture has been altogether less satisfactory. But there are these few trickling in if you’re in the right place at the right time and able to say ‘yes’ without hesitation. Both a joy and a relief to have found one. It’s just before midnight as I’m writing this, and I can hear her coming in after a long rehearsal – I think if she investigates in the kitchen, there might still be a little bit of crumble and custard left over.