Thursday, 20 June 2013

An "old dog" learning new tricks!!

One of my agility acquaintances the other day was reflecting on the tragic loss of her Mother and it was at that point that I also reflected(with a smile) about the many times I think about my late Mother (who died in 1991) whilst I potter around my French garden.
It would have tickled her pink to see my efforts of gardening for instance. Her father and his family were all green fingered, and Mum liked nothing more than to be out in the garden managing her roses and perennials. I have always had one thing, and one thing only, in my back garden in England over the last 23 years, LAWN, and some pretty patchy, well “rearranged” lawn at that, thanks to the umpteen pups/youngsters we have had over the years, digging and playing and burying stuff,(and each other) countless times. Oh the “joy” my other half had over trying to flatten it out and fill it in when the Estate Agents came to take photographs!.

Now in France, our gardening is what one might call, a “voyage of discovery” mainly as I couldn't tell a weed from a flower, and the ground here, plus the high temperatures, can be hard on everything. I have, therefore until of late, opted for the odd shrub and annual mainstays like Marigolds,pinks, lavenders, and have filled in my borders with succulents, which can take the heat. Everything thus far has been planted on a “it has two chances” basis. We have had surprising victories and losses, but the fact that we have effectively, fought back a French jungle on each and every occasion we have returned, and yet once the debris is cleared, there they all are, trying to survive the odds, and seemingly, just waiting for me to come and give them another chance, to make it another year. But now with the intention of keeping them company year long, I can begin to actually PLAN my garden, buy flower baskets and fill them with pansies,(my favourite) and learn the flowers and shrubs names and mix colours seasonally, in the new feature border I have had dug out, to “experiment” with.(well Richard did the digging if I’m honest).

Similarly, I have discovered over the years that whatever you provide for the birds in the area, be it peanuts, sunflower seeds, fat balls, etc, there is one thing, and one thing only, guaranteed to bring birds to your garden,…….a bird bath!!!.  
Now my birdbath was, you guessed it… my Mothers!!, it’s odd, but I can still remember(and that’s a feat in itself) buying it with my brothers,(and my Dad’s financial backing, one presumes). It was for a Mother’s Day or birthday. It came from Fairweathers Garden Centre in Beaulieu village, just down the road from where we lived in Hampshire. It’s a horrid thing by modern day standards, made of concrete, and well worn, it must have seen 40+ years!. My Mother had it on her patio just outside her French windows, and she used to sit at her dining room table doing the crossword, chuckling over the various sparrows and blackbirds that called on her to have, what seemed like, water fights.   
It now stands on our top lawn and can be seen through the lounge window, I find watching it more entertaining than TV. We have had squirrels, Woodpeckers, Hoopoes, and an array of Redstarts, Serins, Buntings, plus all the usual suspects, Blackbirds, sparrows and Tits who visit it daily. I fill it up two or three times a day in the summer and the birds themselves line up in the walnut tree waiting for me to vacate, so that they can visit their very own luxury spa.

So there we are, when I say I miss my Mum, I truly do, but I can’t help but think she’s somewhere laughing her socks off, that finally I can share a couple of HER passions, and laugh at myself and therefore with her ,at my foray into gardening and enjoying the pleasures on your own doorstep. 

Never mind the gardening though, what’s going on in my kitchen ??. Now jam-making was never a childhood memory for me, cheese straws and Easter biscuits, yes (my brothers will get that joke) but I’m sure Mum wouldn't mind me saying she preferred being in the garden, than AT the cooker. But over here there is such an abundance of fruit and produce during the year,a lot of it free, and food on the shelves being very expensive (French living expenses, cheap, food extortionate) so it would be very stupid to not make use of the opportunity to save money.  

Last time it was Sloe Gin, but this time I was interested in making Jam, mainly as my sister in law has a massive cherry tree at the front of her house, and secondly because I had been given a gift of Jam pots, lids and labels that were too cute not to use. Once we received the phone call that told us the cherries were ripe, it was a simple(!) process of sending Richard up a tree to pick me a couple of bucket fulls (All the lower branches had already been picked) Once we had the all the ingredients (after a quick trip to the supermarket for conserve sugar) it was back to the cottage for the statutory e-mailed request to the “Jam Guru” that is, my brother, for a recipe, once armed with a that and the advice that you need some strawberries as Cherry jam is very difficult to set, it was off to the stove. I’d love to say that it was a faultless process,but some jiggling recipe and some tense moments, ensued, but finally “Tah dah”….. I have…………..probably enough jam for the next 12 years…. And I only eat jam in cakes, so the next day I began my my quest for the prefect Victoria Sponge, there goes my diet. !!!!  


  1. Can I come for afternoon tea.. and cake of course xxx

  2. Seems like I'm there with you too; never thought I'd hear the term 'too cute' come out of you unless it was with reference to a puppy!
    Hope you're going to bring some Jam back with you in August xxx

  3. Yes hun you have a very pleasant habit of rubbing off on people in a very positive fashion. Yes of course you can have some jam,it's not as good as Marks Blackcurrant & Cassis, but it'll do xxx