Sunday, 29 September 2013

Of Steps and Stones

We continued digging out the herb garden/knot garden a week ago, in order to get the elephant garlic and normal Pink Germidour garlic into the ground, but couldn't get any further in the time, because it's such hard work digging out all the stones. We went back to it this weekend, and spent both Saturday and Sunday mornings on the task. I'd already lifted sufficient turf, so we just had to dig over the ground to make space for three more 'diamonds' of the design, in order to plant out the Radar over-wintering onion sets (36 per diamond). There were a few massive stones, and a lot of middling and small ones: red bricks, and dressed stone as well as random field stones.

Finally, we had the ground ready, and in went the onions. Yesterday afternoon was then a plumbing/electrics session for me: replacing the instantaneous water heater, which blew up while Ann and Alan were with us, with a new 10l storage heater. Although this requires a bit more notice (about 20 minutes to heat through), it has the big advantage of only drawing 2kW, instead of 9.5kW: 2kW can, realistically, be provided by the solar panels a lot of the time, which means hot water for free. (Obviously, 4kW of solar panels would only rarely make a contribution to 9.5kW, and never meet it.) It's also rather well insulated, and the water stays hot for a few hours, so it can be run off the solar panels mid-afternoon, and used that evening.

While I did that, Liz made two chutneys: the Windfall chutney we made two years ago, and a date and apple chutney that's new to us. Both seem tasty, but of course most chutneys improve (sometimes considerably) with 12-24 months maturation.

This afternoon, we finally got round to building some terracing steps from the back patio (outside the workshop door) down to the middle lawn. The grass slope there, aside from being impossible to keep mown, becomes impossibly slippery when muddy and wet: given that it's my route from wood shelter to boiler, this was a problem. I cut level bases for two sleeper sized risers, and filled the tread with a stone/brick retaining wall (so the sleeper isn't taking the weight) and topped with soil. We've then spread weed-proof membrane over the top, and put down chipped bark. It looks an awful lot smarter, and should be much nicer for walking over. At the same time, Liz sorted out the main path through the kitchen garden, where the uncovered membrane had rucked, and spread a few barrows of chippings on that, which has been planned for years.

Lastly, this evening, we've cooked down 4kg of elderberries to 4l of liquid, as the first part of making spiced berry cordial. We've only used elderberries this year, as it's a whatever-is-to-hand recipe. In the morning, I'll add the pectolase, and then we can strain, spice and sugar it. The recipe's for 500g of sugar per kilo of fruit (so, 2kg), and two cinnamon sticks, 27 cloves, and 9 teaspoons in total of ginger, allspice, and nutmeg (proportions as I see fit!). It's simmered for five minutes, and bottled.

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