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Thursday, 17 January 2013

In my garden now ...

Order online here
As the February issue of 'Grow it!' magazine lands in the postbox, with my second article on 'The Productive Garden', I am out of doors on a very cold (below zero) and icy January day attending to our livestock. First the hens whose water-container had frozen solid, even within their brick shed. Hens are so useful, for without them we would not be able to cook and bake half the meals and tea-time treats we so enjoy; no omelettes or poached eggs for breakfast, no cakes - and in less than a month's time, NO PANCAKES!

Served with sugar and a squeeze of lemon, these are delicious (or maple syrup perhaps)
On page 52 of February 'Grow it!', I mentioned pancakes and Shrove Tuesday and said I would post a recipe on my gardening blog. So here it is (foolproof) I hope: "To make pancakes, put 250ml milk plus 2 tablespoons cold water into a food processor or liquidiser. Add 2 medium-sized hens eggs. Process on high till well-mixed. With the processor set to its lowest speed, gradually add 100gms plain flour and half-tsp salt, then mix on top speed until all is well combined. Transfer to a jug, cover and store in the fridge overnight. 

A proper pancake pan is useful; we bought ours in an old-fashioned 
hardware store in Wales, but the one listed 
on Marks & Spencer's website looks identical
To cook: Stir the batter with a fork. Take a flat pancake pan: melt a knob of lard, add a swirl of butter to the sides; at the first indication of ‘blue smoke’ – it’s more a haze than actual smoke – pour in about half a teacup of mixture, tipping the pan this way and that just above the heat to distribute the batter over the whole pan surface. Cook until a knife inserted at the edge of the pan will lift the pancake away from the base. Flip over with a knife (there’s no need to toss!) and cook the second side. Serve with homemade fruit purée, maple syrup, or lemon."

For a bit of fun, why not do as I suggest in the article and grow your own lemons? Readers who have no access to copies of the magazine (unless you take out an overseas subscription), you can obtain a variety with considerable tolerance to low temperatures: 'Eureka' from Dobies of Devon. The image looks so very tempting; grow it on the kitchen windowsill; or patio, greenhouse or conservatory. I'm planning to try one on the wide sill in our refurbished kitchen, though I am sure it will be some while before it looks as magnificent as the one in the picture.

There's no snow yet, just heavy frost, but the forecast
is for quite a bit overnight. This pic was taken
through the kitchen window a couple of years ago -
can you spot the thrush?
Thoughts of food, and a disaster when the kitchen roof leaked into the larder, has meant an unexpected treat for the birds. Packets of currants and some oaten-and-fruit cereal had become damaged last Autumn and instead of discarding them, I stored them in a small compost bin ready for just such a day as today when the wild birds were in need of some loving care and attention. Mixed with some stale suet (I admit to buying too much!), and the bird-table outside our kitchen window was continuously being visited by tits, thrushes, blackbirds, starlings, fieldfares, sparrows, chaffinches, a pair of collar doves and also wood pigeons happily eating ivy berries, and four greater-spotted woodpeckers. All are worth encouraging for they benefit the garden. It is a joy to have the time to observe them closely and realise that even birds of the same species can quite quickly be distinguished one from another when they visit frequently. Our two thrushes (returned after long absence for the blackbirds drive them off) are quite distinct in their markings, as are the differences between the two male and the two female woodpeckers.