Keep on jammin

This is the first year I have managed to grow enough red currants to even consider the word jam. My redcurrant bush had been looking good, with lots of flowers. “What a great harvest I’m going to have!” I thought. Well, little by little, the green berries starting falling off. “It must be the birds!” was my first reaction. So on went the netting. The green berries turned to pink berries and continues to fall off and just lie on the ground. I never managed to work out what the problem was. In the end, fearing I’d have none left,  I picked the remaining red berries. I weighed them out and wondered what I was going to do with 250 grams of ruby red gems.

Red currents in the jelly pan

Red currents in the jelly pan

The next day I was in my neighbour’s allotment pulling out 6 foot, unweidly and thorny chicory and teasel. I cleared a whole section, unearthing potatoes that had sprouted from last year’s tiny remains as I went. Nearing the end, I had just bent down to pull another teasel out at the root, when the glint of something red and shiny caught my eye. Hiding among the gigantic weeds was a small red currant bush. I cleared the surrounding weeds and discovered a small bush laden with tiny red berries. This was my reward for two hours of hard graft. The berries were smaller than my own, but they did surprisingly well considered how little light they must have had.

I weighed my new red bounty – 120g, bringing my total haul to 390g. Time to consult the cook books. Having found that two of my books agreed with each other on the process, I realised I didn’t have the minimum quantity of 500g. Never mind. I decided to use what I had to make a jelly. I boiled up the berries, added the sugar, boiled some more and then strained off the juice into a jar. I may have been a little ambitious with the jar size, but this was the first jar of jam I’d made from red currants I grew myself (with a little help from a hidden gem).

Red currant cordial and jelly

Red currant cordial and jelly

When I make jellies, usually bramble, I take the pulp and add it back into the pan with some boiling water and sugar and bring it back to the boil. I then restrain the mixture to have a hot fruity drink. It’s my cook’s treat. This time, as the sugar had been added before the berries had been strained, I was dealing with a stickier mixture. I got a full bottle of juice, semi concentrated, which I diluted half with water for a fruity cordial. Delicious!

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Don’t think, just do!

They say action precedes motivation. It sounds counter-intuitive, right? But after taking a couple of tiny actions, I’ve found it to be true. So much so, that I’ve decided to take a bigger action and restart this blog, which I’ve neglected for over three years.

I need to have at least one project on the go at any given time. Without that, I get a bit lost and waste any free time I have. So, when I saw that the Edinburgh Yarn Festival was coming up in March, I decided to take action and go along and see what it was all about. I enjoy knitting, teaching myself via the pearls of wisdom gleaned from the American ladies of YouTube. But when I arrived, I was rather blown away by the size of the event, convinced it was full of super knitters – this was no place for me, I was a mere beginner by comparison. My confidence felt knocked, but I decided to seek out the stall of one of my favourite designers, Kate Davies.

The aspirational hoodie

I eventually found the Kate Davies stand, and immediately saw my aspirational hoodie sweater on display from her Islay book of knitting patterns. I’d never knitted using more than one colour before, so as this one had two main ones and a third accent colour, it was simply a jumper for me to admire from afar. I plucked up the courage to ask about the sweater, and the woman on the stand advised me that I might be better trying my colour skills on a hat first. I bought two colours of yarn – not cheap but very nice wool, so I wanted to make sure I did a good job. In fact, I mentioned I was worried I would waste the wool. Her response – if it doesn’t work, just rip it up and start again. Of course! If at first you don’t succeed try again – and no harm done to the wool. So obvious, but sensible thoughts like that don’t always run through my brain.

Bolstered by my first buy, I hit the Ysolda Teague stall. I saw a five colour hat pattern and balls of wool in a handy package. I was feeling bolder now and up for the challenge, so I bought the pack on a whim.

I left the festival still feeling a little traumatised by the sheer amount of experienced knitters out there, but excited and keen to start the challenge of my two new projects.

Kate Davies Design hat

Back in the house I realised I didn’t have the right size circular needles for the hat, so I ordered them online. As I was itching to get started, I decided to knit a test square to practice. After the first three rows of the colour pattern, I could see the pattern starting to emerge. This was amazing! I couldn’t believe I was making this happen. I continued to test knit the pattern until my needles arrived.

Blue and white pattern hat

As soon as the needles arrived, I was off. The pattern emerged as per the photos and I kept on going until I had knitted the entire hat over the space of a couple of weeks. I was very proud of the results. Without hesitation I started the five colour hat pattern. This was much trickier than the two colour one. I felt pinned to my seat by all five balls of wool. It got off to a shaky start as I didn’t know how to change colours without leaving a hole in the seam area. I should have Googled this, but common sense had deserted me. I cracked on with a ‘twist the yarn’ tip ringing in my ears from a knitting ‘pro’ the year before. I experimented with twisting and the holes became less frequent. Before long I had the hat finished, again feeling rather amazed at my achievements.

Five colour hat – pattern by Ysolda Teague

I couldn’t believe I had put off knitting colour patterns for so long. There really wasn’t anything to be scared of. I gave myself a small goal of just a hat, parked my over thinking to one side, and just took action. I’m now feeling bold enough to scale up my experiment to a v-neck tank top. I won’t over think it next time, I’ll just ‘do’!

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Little Gardening Miracles

I remember the day I discovered spring greens were not only a species of plant, but also offshoots from a number of brassicas after they had produced their main crop. If that’s not an amazing gardening 2 for 1, I don’t know what is.

I’m rather hoping that I can recreate this magic in my own garden. I naively planted cabbages, cauliflowers, purple sprouting broccoli and brussel sprouts without covering them. Now I have a garden of green lace, as the cabbage butterfly caterpillars weave their way in and out of the leaves. It’s going to be a long wait, but I’m willing to experiment rather than waste what could have been some wonderful vegetables.

This got me thinking. I’d seen the term cut and come again referring to lettuces. I think the context was in relation to growing little salad leaves. I had a few lettuce plants ready for the chop. I cut the heads off and left the stumps in the soil. After enjoying my home grown salad immensely (it always tastes better knowing you’ve grown something yourself), I noticed that the stubs left in the pots were sprouting after only a few days. Now, after a month, I have leaves ready for picking and a further row of sprouting stubs. Bargain! Here’s hoping the brassicas follow suit!

Sprouting lettuce stubs

Sprouting lettuce stubs

Lettuce Sprouts

Lettuce Sprouts

Sprouted Lettuce Leaves from Stubs

Sprouted Lettuce Leaves from Stubs

Green Lacy Cabbages and Sprouts Hoping for a Miracle

Green Lacy Cabbages and Sprouts Hoping for a Miracle

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