Good morning dear reader. I hope I find you well in these early autumn days. All is well at Chez Comb in the Yorkshire Wolds. We have been keeping calm and carrying on and best of all, I have not been buried under a new fruit tree, (as we have not come to the point of planting any yet), nor was I carried off in our skip.
It has been a very quiet and pleasant week in our neck of the woods for a change. With the arrival of autumn, the gathering in of the fruits must be done and then frozen, bottled, jammed, jellied, made into chutney or just darned well eaten. This can be a very manic time as so much fruit ripens at the same time.
And not only my own fruit. My friend's plum tree had plums in abundance this year and she was desperate to donate them to anyone who would have them. I don't recall being given a choice in the matter and found myself the proud possessor of a large quantity of plums. What to do with that lot? Well in our house, when enough fruit has been frozen, bottled, eaten, etc. we turn our attention either to making it into wine or liqueurs. Mmm, these plums were crying out to be made into a liqueur. So off we trotted to the supermarket to purchase quantities of gin and port. The young check-out assistant could not contain her curiosity. I think she thought we were the newbie alcoholics on the block. 'What are you going to do with all that gin?' she asked. 'Are you having a party? Cocktails? Or do you just like gin?' I hastened to reassure her that we would not be consuming all that lot, but would be making a plum liqueur with it. The young lady's eyes it up at that idea and we staggered laden up out of the supermarket with her blessing on our endeavours.
Plum liqueur aside, this week has been devoted mainly to converting the cooking apples from our tree into stewed apples and combining them with elderberries picked from the bushes growing among the hedgerows. Yes, the apples were hard work. I didn't even bother peeling them, otherwise I would still be there now. I just chopped them up and cooked them, with as little sugar as I could get away with. Meanwhile my dear spouse had ranged far and near collecting bags full of luscious red elderberries, bearing them home triumphantly with hands like Macbeth after a particularly gruelling day on the battlefield.
The thing with elderberries is and I suppose with any soft fruits is that they don't keep for long. Something has to be done with them sharpish or they will go to waste. And as we love our elderberry and apple compote all through the winter months, this could not be allowed to happen.
Elderberries are messy berries to work with and somehow they get everywhere, so preparations have to be made before going anywhere near them. The kitchen floor was swathed in dustsheets and also the chairs we sat on. Clean buckets put down to decant the berries into and old clothes on us, as sure as anything, berries would be going in all directions and certainly over us.
It should be a straightforward job to detach the berries from their stalks, but believe me dear reader it is not. Have you tried it? Half of them land in the bucket and the others bounce wherever they please, over the floor, under the chair, up my sleeve - you get the picture.
In spite of all the mess, I like elderberry time. The busyness of life gets put on hold for a a few days as the job has to be done. Spouse and I sit companionably in the kitchen. I know - don't fall off your chair in shock, but we do and we chat, or listen to music as we ping berries all over the place. Somehow it's very peaceful and restful, a real oasis in our lives. By the time we have finished we are completely unwound and it is very difficult to wind up again, which I have to do as the elderberries need a little softening in the pan and then combining with the apple.
At this point spouse disappears about his own business and I spend another couple of peaceful days ignoring phones, emails and everything whilst I fill every container known to man with fruits for my freezer. The job is now almost done now dear reader, only some late pears left on the tree, which I may turn my attentions to this week.
And then? And then spouse will be chasing me back to my desk in the hopes that I might actually put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in my case and magically a novel may eventually emerge. Ah, I could wish autumn fruit gathering lasted a bit longer - how I love a displacement activity! Ah but, unknown to spouse I will be working on the next phase of developing our library garden this week, as the liner and gravel is being delivered for a long herbaceous border and my services are required for that.
Maybe I won't tell him just yet, sufficient unto the day and all that. I think you can imagine his reaction to that news dear reader. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth as his efforts to get me to my desk have been frustrated yet again. Have a good week dear reader. I'm sure I will, happy as a sandboy/girl playing in the garden and I hope, in the sunshine.