Sunday, 22 September 2013

Desperate housewife

Rich pickings from the tumble dryer filter...
Not being an avid TV watcher, I’ve never seen the programme “Desperate Housewives”,  and  I suspect from anything I’ve read in the press about the said series that my current plight doesn’t quite register on the same scale as these ladies’ desperation.

However, I am nonetheless a desperate housewife of sorts this afternoon, and the reason for my despair is the health and wellbeing of my long-suffering tumble dryer – not to mention my weary washing machine. Why, you might ask?  Well, just take a look at the photo which I snapped this morning of the muck, stour (*) and metallic objects that had accumulated in my stalwart dryer’s filter.
*stour is a Scottish word meaning "dust"

You could plant potatoes inside the dryer...
Needless to say, I didn’t need to search too far for the culprit in a household that comprises one student (who seems to spend most of the day in bed when he’s not at College or playing hockey, and whose only washing is thus mainly comprised of soaking hockey socks and a motley selection of sweatshirts); one editor (whose  most heinous laundry sins tend to involve red ink stains); and one agricultural worker who gets up close and personal with muck and stour on a daily basis. Yes, no prizes for guessing that HunterGatherer is guilty as charged!

Now, of course, I am extremely grateful that he is considerate enough to put his own working clothes in the washing machine as he sheds them (not least because, in all honesty, I wouldn't want to touch them with a barge pole!). However, it would be even better if he remembered (as he has been asked to do at least six million times during the 23 years of our marriage) to remove all foreign objects from the pockets first...

For some reason, at least five million of those times he has managed to forget this apparently simple request, with the result that reading glasses, penknives, spanners and myriad other intruders regularly sneak into our wash cycles, either to emerge pristine on the other side or to lodge themselves somewhere in innards of the unsuspecting machine. If their presence is not detected in time (loud thumps usually give the spanners away pretty early on...) then they can even make it as far as the tumbler dryer – hence this morning’s “rich pickings” (see photo above).

I have resolved that if, at some future date, I were ever to win the lottery (not that we actually buy tickets, so the chances are pretty slim!), I would not be even remotely tempted by a snazzy Porsche or a three-month world cruise. Instead, I would cast financial caution to the wind and splash out on an industrial-strength washing machine and tumble dryer that could swallow entire toolboxes – and perhaps even the odd sheep – whole, without batting an eyelid.

Still on the subject of things domestic, I’m pleased to report that the culinary offerings at the Sparrowholding have soared in quality and variety this past week following the return of DD1 from her summer internship activities at the legal eagle company. Always a keen cook, she is a breath of fresh air in our kitchen, and in recent days we have breakfasted on oeufs Bénédicte (with the Hollandaise sauce made from first principles, bien sûr...) and dined on chicken and leek pie, fish medley pie, and courgette gratin (with courgettes from the polytunnel).

Courgette gratin - with homegrown courgettes
DD1's purchase in Belgium - fabulous basil oil
Eggs Benedicte - don't mind if we do!
Blueberry Bombe - HunterGatherer's elevenses this week!
HG and DD1 visited relatives on Mull last weekend - and
brought back this gift of delicious cranberry cheese
As I seem to remember writing in a blogpost around this time last year, it’s probably just as well that in 10 days or so, the resident chef will be heading back to Uni, or I’d very likely be resembling the Michelin(-starred) woman by Christmas!

Mention of the “C” word reminds me that the other evening HunterGatherer was poring over the first Christmas catalogue to venture through our letterbox, and he was astounded to note that you can now buy a plastic snowball maker mould. Makes you wonder how on earth we managed to manufacture our icy ammunition in the good old days?!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

And suddenly it was September...

The Class of '81 - looking fab at 50!
Good grief: where did the second half of August go?  Personally, I have to confess –  without a soupçon of shame –  that the past two weeks have flown by in a flurry of further birthday feasting! First there was a luscious lunch (courtesy of a very generous friend) at one of my favourite “perches”, The Roost Restaurant in Bridge of Earn. As ever, each of chef Tim Dover’s dishes was perfection on a plate; however, if I had to single out a favourite, it would certainly be the tangy lemon risotto, which I think I could happily dine on every day if I lived to be 100!
Lemon risotto - simply sublime (no pun intended!)
Then just one week later, I was off to the fabulous Crieff Hydro Resort to meet 25 former classmates (including just one brave chap!) for a Class of ’81 reunion buffet lunch to mark the fact that we all turn(ed) 50 in 2013. For many of us, it was the first time in over 30 years that we’d either spoken to or set eyes on each other – and what an action-packed afternoon of collective catching up ensued. 

Years literally fell away as multifarious news was exchanged and myriad memories recalled. The only slight blot on the horizon came four days later when Yours Truly was suddenly smitten by shingles – an experience which I would not wish on an insidious enemy far less 25 good friends! My fingers are still firmly crossed that I didn’t unwittingly pass on any poxy germs during that happy afternoon’s festivities...

The other members of the family have been equally busy, with HunterGatherer wielding his welder at just about anything that crosses his path at the farm (watch out Farmpa!). Meanwhile, the end of August saw the daughterly duo finish their respective holiday employs. DD1 (the French student) has completed a month’s internship with a law company – first in London, then Brussels. During this time she’s tackled everything from researching intricate international mergers and acquisitions to riding a Brussels “Villo” bike in a pencil skirt, which was (in her words) “harder than I thought it would be”.

Music student DD2, fresh from the rigours of managing 50+ fractious foreign teenagers, had applied successfully for a place on a radio/TV presenting workshop at our local station, Tay FM. One of her assignments was to make up (virtually on the spot) a short news report inspired by a single word, and to then present her report to camera. By good luck, DD2 was allocated the word “jewellery”, so she quickly concocted a tale about a new breed of interactive jewellery that hissed at you if you made a bad fashion decision when getting ready for a night out. I reckon the idea could catch on!

No doubt thanks to the unseasonably warm weather in July, 2013 has been a prolific year for most fruit (and veg) in the garden, with blackcurrants being particularly copious. Unfortunately, none of the Sparrowholding incumbents is remotely interested in eating blackcurrants (apart from potentially the sheep – but they were not offered any), so Yours Truly issued a “glut alert” and invited a few local foodie friends to help themselves.

Burgeoning blackcurrants
Within 24 hours, one of our local medicine men plus son popped round to snaffle sufficient berries to flavour a bottle of gin and one of vodka (purely for medicinal purposes, of course!). Another friend (also, by chance, a doctor) converted her pickings into blackcurrant crumble. It was great to know that the berries had gone to two such good homes!
Raspberries plump and ripe...
And ready for the freezer
Second crop of strawbs from the polytunnel

Poor grape pickings - a single bunch from Vinny Vine this year
But at least there are over 40 tomatoes :-)

As the season of mellow fruitfulness progresses, I suspect  judging by the volume of green "eggs" currently weighing down the branches of Victoria our plum tree  that I will soon be eating, breathing and dreaming Prunus domestica ssp. Intermedia. Not that I’m complaining, as fortunately I’m particularly partial to plums.

Plums aplenty waiting to ripen

The potatoes were rather tasty
As was the beetroot!

The next couple of weeks will see this year’s crop of male lambs head off to market, so the dreaded weaning (or “spaining” as it’s known in Scottish farming circles) process will be taking place very soon. As a mother myself, it breaks my heart to hear the ewes and lambs bleating sadly for each other for the first 24 hours. 

Mark you, with Son+Heir having left school in June and currently flat-seeking in Edinburgh, DD1 soon to be heading back to St Something’s College in distant Oxford for the final year of her degree, and DD2 setting off to do an ERASMUS year in the even-more-distant south of France this Saturday, I may also be doing some bleating soon (though I don't expect any of my “lambs” will be bleating for me...).

Looking a bit sheepish - one of this year's lambs