Friday, 19 June 2009

Elderflowers, Allotments and a Strange Thing to Say.

It's that time of year again, a time when we are almost inundated with fermentation buckets and demi-johns full off all manner of elderflowery concoctions. As I said in a previous post, the hedgerows are just laden this year and cannot be resisted, so Isabella and I set off to gather some ready for a gallon or three of elderflower champagne as a change from the cordials we have already got underway. In fact, we are only just finishing the very last of the previous year's batch of cordial and will need to make a similarly large amount this time to see us through once more. I have put the recipe for elderflower cordial back onto my website so click if you would like to have a go.

I have such a gatherer's instinct and cannot bear empty cupboards. I positively thrive on stacking the wood away in autumn, scouring hedgerows for anything that can be made into chutneys, jams and beverages or cooked up into delicious meals. I have never been any different and have made things like this almost my entire life, yet the pleasure of it never leaves me. I am lucky in that Dave is the same and also has made wines, etc since he was young and so we share in this love of the countryside and all it offers, creating our own version of it in our garden. The mixed hedgerow in the front is overgrown and desperately in need of a sort through, yet it offers food for goldfinches and blue tits, hedgehogs and slowworms, frogs and toads - why change anything then? Tom and I sat for a brief tea break today and watched young dragonflies and shimmering damselflies of azure blue hover for a moment before darting away.

Before collecting elderflowers Isabella and I had a brief stint at the allotment, digging some new potatoes and a few other bits and bobs after sowing a bed of peas together. Man can that girl throw a long way! This is what we found today: onions


Blackcurrants are ripening ready to be turned into ice-creams and cordials and wines, and to nestle on soft pillows of cream for a summer day's pavlova

Broad beans are almost ready and we picked a few tiny ones to add to the red and green salad leaves from the cut-and-come-again patch. I love to add chive and nasturtium flowers, mint, marjoram and rocket from our home garden too.

At home the figs are looking good again. Last year we ate some for the first time and they were just heavenly with that seductive velvetiness of the ripened fruit mingling with the syrupy juices...mmm.

You know, when I was pregnant with Isabella some poor deluded fool once said to me that I wouldn't be able to have any holidays for years now....this keeps coming back into my mind of late as it was such a bizarre thing to say to someone like me. Firstly, I couldn't see why a child would stop anyone having a holiday if they wanted one. Secondly, are holidays that important (and if so I question the homelife) and lastly, but most importantly to me - child or holidays? Abslolutely no contest as I get to do all these wonderful things every day, every year with Davey all our lovely children (even the older ones who head off all over the place and still love to come back for more, though the pic below is a few years old now as we haven't done strawberry picking for a while, but I am currently eating masses so it seemed relevant!).

Yep, no contest.

And anyway, look where we live!

Have a lovely weekend xx


  1. I remember people saying that to me 'no more holidays, no more eating out'.
    Erm...... excuse me - i love holidaying with my kids and i go out to restaurants with them regularly. X

  2. Read this with the ususal lovely warm glow that your blog evokes, Pip. We had some new broad beans last night, not ours, sadly, although I once grew them - my girls used to love podding them and stroking the 'blankety beds'.

  3. Ah Pipany - you know what's important.
    If and when you leave that paradise, come this way, but first fill your cases with some of that good stuff to bring along!

  4. Pipany, This lovely post reminds me of the lines
    "In search of true pleasure
    How vainly we roam,
    To hold it for life
    We must find it at home"
    While I love to travel, I have cultivated the art of being on holiday in our own home. With the sea, countryside, so many hobbies, family and friends it is so easy to do. This week Muffin & I had a holiday week and did so much, even though I was busy.Having great fun doing it all 2nd time round.I don't know how you manage to do so much.

  5. Lovely blog Pipany...

    Reminded me of when a friend and I made elderflower champagne one year when we lived in the Meon Valley. One night we were all sat in the kitchen nattering when 'pop! pop! pop! all these corks were blowing behind us on the shelf and lots of liquid fizzed out all over us!

    I'm off home to Cornwall this weekend yippee!!

  6. Lovely warm and glowing writing. I enjoyed it very much. The only things ready in my allotment are the garlic and a few lettuces. Surely our potatoes are very early.

  7. I am sure every day is a holiday living in Cornwall, and you do so much with the children. I am the woman who lives in North Dorset and goes to West Dorset for her holidays, with children and grandchildren, they all love it. The elderflowers have been fantastic this year, should be plenty of berries inthe Autumn.

  8. I couldn't of put it any better - absolutely to everything and lovely group photos Pip!

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Nina x

  9. You live in paradise, why would you need a holiday?

  10. I've been trying to concoct a sensible comment, but I'm too tired. Just *happy sigh* at the lovely pictures. It all looks so idyllic. I have plans for elderflower champagne making tomorrow - and cordial too. I love to stash things away for winter. There's nothing better than opening something in the depths of the darkest days and remembering the summer just past.

  11. Pipany, this is a lovely post, with so many ideas sent aloft.

    Your garden and allotment are areas that I would so love to have. Not just the pictures, I would love to get my hands into the dirt, do the weeding, and generally not feel so far away from nature.

    Then I reach your words about holidays, and children, and choices, and ... I begin to think.

    I also live where millions of folks love to come, as tourists, or hopeful residents, year by year. It is so wonderful to have the ocasional opportunity to view my normal terrain as a visitor. That is when I cease my whinging and am so happy to live here, concrete, glass, steel, all of that notwithstanding.

    And ... why I so love to read about your life in Cornwall. xo

  12. What a lovely visit to your corner of the world. I don't think that I've ever had any kind of elderflowery concoction. I will look for a taste this year.

    I feel sorry for the person who made the comment to you about children. Children add such a wonder and spirit to life but maybe not if you're one to worry about rigid schedules and a perfect house.

    I had a 'friend' tell me once that I should not have allowed my young son to buy a yellow flowering plant at the nursery and take it home to plant. She explained to me that my garden was very small and if I let him do it once- he might want to do it again. Which was my idea exactly.

  13. I'm up to my elbows in elderflower champagne at the moment and rose petal, I love foraging x

  14. Wow, what a lovely post!!
    Yes, I know, you live in a beautiful place,I've lived in that very spot!!
    I now live in an equally beautiful place with other things to gather and make use of. Don't have any elderflowers though!!pickled some capers last week!!Up to my elbows in courgettes, even though we planted them only weeks ago...

  15. As for holidays..neither you nor I need them??

  16. People do say silly things. We've always taken the children everywhere since infancy---restaurants, holidays, no exceptions. Their behaviour is fine as they're used to changing environments and routines. I've already finished my elderflower :( x

  17. Lovely post as always Pipany.
    Wish I could do the elderflower things this year as I had plans to and the sugar already bought and put by but other things taking my attantion and physucal self away just now. I will live vicariously through your blog!

  18. What a beautiful, life-affirming post, Pip. Do love all your pictures.
    I felt much the same when the children were small and we used to make wine from elderberries, so full of tannin you could stand a spoon in it. Nowadays I think I prefer the cordial! Great post.

  19. What a wonderful post, I loved it!
    I'm off elderflower gathering next week to make some cordial with a friend, I'll check your recipe before we go!
    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog, hope you spot at least one fairy this weekend

  20. Contentment is true happiness and you have found that, no amount of money can buy it. We too live in the countryside and the daily walks and simple pleasures I have with Twiglet far outweigh the life I had before he came.
    twiggy x

  21. Lovely blog again Pip.

    I envy your early fruit and vegetables - like you I love bringing the produce in from the garden and seeing the shelves stocked for later in the year - as well as eating all those fresh goodies.

  22. Oh my goodness do I have allotment envy now! What a fab plot Pip, amazing crops too.

    Hardly any elder flowers about here this year, not sure why. I shall hang onto your recepie for next year with my fingers crossed.


  23. Visiting you from Exmoor Jane! Loved this post. Life is so mad for me at the moment... your sounds seriously good! Will take a leaf out of your book, if I may, and stop running and look at whats right in front of me. Thanks for that! XX (love your photos... we have made gorgeous elderflower this year, and have started on raspberry jam.... YUM!

  24. What a great post. You look like you live in a beautiful area. I live in New Hampshire, USA where we get a lot of tourist for the ocean or mountains.
    I feel so blessed to live here year around and spend most of our time on vacation at our home.
    Our lives didn't stop when we had our son. Matter of fact we took him up north camping when he was 5 weeks old.
    I wish my garden was as far along as yours. Lovely pictures.

  25. People do say strange things don't they. You are so right though, when life is as good as yours and you live in a beautiful place every day is a holiday. We have hardly been anywhere since moving to Devon. I really don't feel the need.