Pert sparrows and tutling robins

Continuing John Clare’s delightful description of autumn, and we are with t’he poet as he walks the fields’; he sees the old ladies with their wicker baskets out and about gathering fruit from the hedgerows, elderberries, and blackberries hanging in ‘swathy bunches‘ and there are the little sparrows, their beaks black from the juice, and  the ‘tutling‘ robin… I can’t discover what Clare meant by this but I can guess it might be his chattering song!

In such lone spots these wild wood roamers dwell
On commons where no farmers claims appear
Nor tyrant justice rides to interfere
Such the abodes neath hedge or spreading oak
And but discovered by its curling smoak
Puffing and peeping up as wills the breeze
Between the branches of the colord trees
Such are the pictures that october yields
To please the poet as he walks the fields
Oft dames in faded cloak of red or grey
Loiters along the mornings dripping way
Wi wicker basket on their witherd arms
Searching the hedges of home close or farms
Where brashy elder trees to autum fade
Each cotters mossy hut and garden shade
Whose glossy berrys picturesquly weaves
Their swathy bunches mid the yellow leaves
Where the pert sparrow stains his little bill
And tutling robin picks his meals at will.

Maybe a little late for hedgerow sauce this year…

For some reason we haven’t collected any blackberries this year, except from the brambles growing wild along by our garden wall. I think it is maybe because we no longer eat desserts so no pies or puddings or crumbles – it isn’t for health or diet reasons, I’m not particularly sweet-toothed, and my husband doesn’t seem as pudding-oriented as he used to be. In the past we’ve gone out and picked other hedgerow fruit, hips, haws, elderberries, rowan berries, crab apples for chutney and pickle, and sloes for gin… this year we just haven’t.

I love making jams, jellies and chutneys, but again, we don’t really eat the, and i have a store cupboard left from previous years. However, I still get tempted by recipes, and if I had seen this from Ruth Drew in her little book earlier, I may have been tempted to go out foraging!

Hedgerow sauce

  •  1 pint of ripe elderberries
  • 1 pint rowan berries
  • 1 pint haws
  • 2 pints vinegar
  • 1 lb demerara sugar
  • 2 large onions chopped fine
  • spice bag of 2 oz peppercorns, ½oz cloves, ¼oz allspice
  • 4 oz salt
  1. dissolve sugar in the vinegar
  2. add all the other ingredients
  3. stir gently, bring to the boil
  4. turn down the heat and simmer for 3 hours
  5. rub through a sieve
  6. bottle when cold

Serve with roast meats or poultry

Doesn’t it sound delicious? it doesn’t say what type of vinegar, I guess Ruth would use malt, I might use cider i think!

Sunshine! Warm sunshine!

This afternoon we have had the most glorious sunshine… and it wasn’t just nice and bright, but it was warm too, so gardening gloves on, secateurs out, and into the garden.

We have a wall and fence on one side of our garden, and the land on the other side for about five foot is ours and then there is a path leading to the other pt of the village. We have hedging and other plants along the outside of the wall and all the rain we’ve had has set them growing already. I hacked away at the pyracantha which has gone mad, prickling myself mightily in the struggle. I attacked the brambles which seem to grow all year round, and trimmed the holly and Japonica and a plant which I thought was a guilder rose… but isn’t! I thinned the bamboo which was over-shading the flowering currant, murdered a few more brambles, and then with an aching back, ripped hands, but a virtuous heart, I tidied up and went inside, opened the windows to let the lovely air in, and made a cup of tea.


Look out brambles! Secateured and ready!

The sun is shining, the bitter wind has dropped, I have a free afternoon and I’m about to attack the brambles which are running through our hedge. The hedge itself has gone rampant and is also tangled with ivy. It makes an effective barrier against intruders, something prickly is much better than most security devices at keeping unwelcome visitors out, but I don’t want it to overwhelm the new climbing roses we’ve planted, or the pretty berberis (also spiky but very small) or the new Japonica.

We are lucky to have a very good recycling system in Somerset, so all the stuff we can’t compost ourselves, turn into mulch or shred can be piled into green bags and will be collected by the dustbin men every two weeks… I know they don’t collect dustbins any more  in fact there probably aren’t any  dustbins, only wheelie bins and coloured boxes… but I don’t know the current name for the bin men. Garbage disposal operatives, maybe, heroes whatever they are called, always so cheery however beastly the weather!

So – to the garden, to the hedge, to work!