Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Autumn in and around the Sparrowholding

Several folk on Twitter have commented recently how much they're enjoying the photos that I snap randomly in and around the lovely rural area where we live, so I've gathered a group of these photos together for my latest blog post. For once, I'll let the pictures do the talking (mostly!)...

Somewhere over the rainbow... or in this case under the rainbow: newly cropped stubble fields around Loch Leven.

Our local hamlet's book swapping "library" is housed in an old phone box.  It's perfect for the job and, when it's lit up at night, looks rather inviting - not to mention pretty darned cool :-). 

Last week we had so much rain that an impromptu mini-loch formed in the pony's paddock.  When I posted this photo on Twitter, one tweep suggested that all I needed now was a "puddock" (Scots word for frog for any non-Scots reading!)  for my paddock.

And lo and behold - what did we find on the track next to the paddock coming home that night: a puddock!? (Fortunately son+heir spotted the poor wee soul in the headlights before I flattened it!)

Of course, autumn in the sheep fank (Scots work for "pen or fold") means it's time to wean (or "spain" in Scots) last spring's lambs from their long-suffering mamas. Three of our male lambs headed off to deepest Fife, where they are official orchard lawn-mowers.  Their new owner (who kindly sent me the photo below) also has alpacas, and when I asked her how her new trio of ovine incumbents were doing, she texted back: "They are settled well and have recovered from thinking that alpacas could be morphed mummy sheep!" 

When I was wee, my granny used to talk about the autumn crocus flowers in the garden as "naked ladies", which (as a child) I thought sounded very rude. Now I think they are such beautiful, delicate flowers and appreciate that this pseudonym is derived from the fact that the flowers appear all on their own, with foliage following later. 

The crocuses have been far more productive this autumn than Vinnie the Vine.  Perhaps the sensitive chap didn't like the fact that our polytunnel was ripped to shreds by the high winds in April? Whatever the reason, the grapes below were the sum total of our crop this year :-(. HunterGatherer can forget any wine-making plans!

The local bramble bushes were much more bountiful in their fruit bearing, however, and there are still berries left which make welcome autumnal pickings for hungry birds. The vibrant hue of the turning bramble leaves below caught my eye while I was out jogging one morning last week - how I'd love a dress this colour.

FatCat certainly does not believe in going jogging - or indeed even moving a paw when it can be avoided.  While I was out pounding the country lanes of Kinross-shire, this is what he was doing. Evidently he is oblivious to the autumnal delights that lie outside...

Monday, 15 October 2012

A mysterious Hallowe'en package arrives at the Sparrowholding...

“Season of mists and fudgy fruitfulness...” OK, perhaps that wasn’t quite how Keats captured autumn – his version was similarly alliterative, but distinctly more lyrical. However, the reason for me misquoting the bard and committing this literary travesty with the opening line of his famous Ode to Autumn is because fudge has been front of mind this week.  Why? Because something extremely exciting happened... Yours Truly received her first ever product for review on this blog.  Funnily enough, there are no prizes for guessing what it was. Yep, got it in one: fudge!
However, be assured that this was no ordinary fudge. It was a sample of seasonal ‘Halloween Fudge’ from burgeoning Scottish food company Berry Scrumptious, who are based in Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire. What’s more, as I was rapidly to discover, its unique zingy taste is guaranteed to make even the scariest witch or spook stand up and take notice.

Fudge with a seasonal kick!

Fortunately, having a home economics teacher as a mother, I was trained – from the moment I could first differentiate one letter of the alphabet from another – to pore over the ingredients list of any comestibles before letting them within an extendible fork’s length of my lips. This meant that after a quick glance at label on the back of the packet, rather than anticipating the usual intense sugary explosion that tends to accompany a mouthful of commoner gardener fudge, my palate was primed to expect a rather different sensation from this special seasonal variant which arrived through my letterbox this morning. 
Indeed, with tomato puree, celery salt, Tabasco sauce and (wait for it...) vodka on the ingredients list, this ‘confectionary from the cauldron’ boded to be more like a Bloody Mary than a mundane sweetmeat. 
When I first sank my teeth (or perhaps I should say “fangs” to sustain a suitably ghoulish theme!) into the fudge, it was actually sweeter than I’d anticipated – but a mature, autumnal sweetness rather than the usual sucrose rush.  So far so good...  There was a tang of tomato as a slightly savoury, yet also faintly fruity, flavour developed (hardly surprising, since tomatoes are, of course, technically a fruit!). Then, at the very last moment, as the fudge fully dissolved in my mouth, came the Tabasco kick – somehow unexpected, even though I’d known it was in the mix – providing the perfect sweet'n'sour Hallowe’en twist for refined adult taste buds. 
Fancy trying something a little different this Hallowe'en?
So this year, if you’re daring enough to try something a tad different from the ubiquitous orange foil-wrapped chocolate pumpkin lookalikes and tasteless ‘horror’ jelly creations, think Bloody Mary fudge – but it’s a limited edition, so you’ll need to get on your broomsticks fast!