Cake update

After my post yesterday about the unusual apple cake, I though I’d better let you see the results:WP_20171208_22_54_12_Pro

and the recipe:

Dutch apple cake*

Makes one loaf  or use double quantities for two (see picture)

  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 225g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 75ml orange juice
  • 225g cooking apples, diced – in this case my own Howgate Wonders but I’m sure any apple variety would work
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar
  2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla essence
  3. Chop the apples, leaving to soak in orange juice to stop them browning
  4. Sieve the four and bicarbonate of soda and fold into the mixture
  5. Add the apples and the orange juice
  6. Tip into a large loaf tin
  7. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees (gas mark 4) for about 50 minutes

*Based on a recipe from ‘A Harvest of Apples’ by Ruth Ward

I usually make double quantities as it seems an awful waste to heat the oven just for one loaf. The things about the recipe that I was unsure of were the quantities which didn’t seem quite right and the volume – this almost overflowed two loaf tins but they turned out ok.  I line my loaf tins with baking parchment to make the business of getting them out easier. I used wholemeal flour and some quite dark sugar (that’s what was in the cupboard) which makes the whole thing rather darker than was probably intended.  The cakes were also a little ‘well fired’, a euphemism in this house for leaving them in the oven a little longer than planned – but there are more stories to tell about that another day.

One loaf has travelled southwards with an assistant gardener, en route to various family members.  The other is here at home for me to finish with my remaining assistant.


Puddings and cakes

but first an advent calendar update.  Here’s what the garden store cupboard has brought us in this first week of December.  In no particular order (because there is no order in the world), we have had apple gingerbread, peas, marrow pickle,

tomatoes, rainbow chard, chillies

garden apples and purple radish seed pods


In honour of the apples and, since it’s Friday night, I made some apple cake. It’s in the oven now.  It was a new recipe for me and at several stages looked most unlikely to work. I’ll let you know.

Earlier this week I made the Christmas pudding – it was a little late but it should be fine.


Once I’ve made the advent calendar and the Christmas pudding, I reckon I’ve got the festive season sorted,  even if I do nothing else between now and the 25th.  Meanwhile; the garden is frozen over.  We don’t have snow or wind but we do have ice and darkness so not much is happening out there.

Advent calendar

2017 Reclaiming Paradise advent calendar revealed

Advent calendarAnd in today’s window we have:

WP_20171126_17_40_28_ProA jar of marrow pickle!

You’ll find something from the garden in the store cupboard on the twitter account throughout December and an update every few days on here.

Cheering things in November

I was looking out at the garden this morning, surveying the overgrown things, the dying off plants and the general mess and had an ‘isn’t November awful’ moment. So I went out into the front garden which still gets sun at this time of year to see what might cheer me up. These things did

Rowan berries against the blue sky

Cotoneaster berries and leaves in full technicolour

WP_20171126_12_47_41_Proand I can’t replicate the scent of this viburnum – it only has a couple of flowers but if you get up close they are overpowering.

That was my little trip into the garden.  Otherwise I’ve been lurking inside, trying to shake off a fluey thing.  So I’ve spent most of the day playing with paint

WP_20171126_17_56_21_Proand working on the advent calendar.  This is all I can show you today – otherwise you’ll have to wait until December

WP_20171126_13_32_06_ProWell that’s taken up a huge part of the day but it has cheered me up, along with the rowan berries and the viburnum

Planning a 2017 Advent calendar


Despite my concerted attempts at delaying thinking about Christmas, this weekend is my best hope of making an advent calendar on time for 1 December. I’ve been making my own advent calendars since my children were small, and last year I made a garden one for the blog.   Instructions here  and final results here (warning contains some – but only some – festive images)

But what should I do this year? I sought the advice of my co-residents, using a carefully designed and statistically representative survey on the possible options: :

  1. make one for all of us
  2. make one for the blog again
  3. forget that hippy nonsense and go and buy one from a proper shop, complete with chocolate, lego, ‘beauty products’, chocolate sprouts, socks, cheese, crisps or rare whiskies, *
  4. don’t bother

The results were conclusive: ‘do whatever you want’.   I confess that I didn’t include Bella in the survey and she might well have had strong views on the value of buying some expensive cat food thing or even helping to create a wildlife calendar, with a different delicacy behind the window each day.

Time to get out the (non garden) tools I think

*According to the BBC (and a quick glance at other internet sites) the contents of advent calendars have moved on from chocolate to these increasingly bizarre consumerist nonsense products.  I wouldn’t know.

More usefully, and less cynically, charities have developed the idea of the ‘reverse advent calendar’, where you donate something (often to a food bank or similar) every day in December.  They seem to have taken off this year so you can find one locally if you look.


Sky paintings

I’ve been away for a week or so – family and work in equal measure and mostly pleasurable and productive too.  But that means not gardening and not blogging.  Now I’m home and have been doing a little bit of catching up.  The assistants have been battling the leaves in the front garden and informed me that the compost bin was overflowing.  Well the leaves don’t usually go in the compost bin but it was well meant and provided me with the joy of a big compost bin turnover this afternoon.  It was a nice crisp day, perfect for this glorious job.  I forgot to take any photographs but compost isn’t very beautiful anyway.   I stopped to look up at the sky and what a joy that was:

I did a little more tidying up and cutting back.  There hasn’t been much rain so I added some water from the water butts to the pond. Bella joined me in the garden and sat under the watering can, drinking straight from the spout and getting her ears wet.  It’s good to be home.

November blooms

Someone, or something, has ripped up the cardboard on the raised beds:


I suspect Bella, though there was rather a bigger hole than she normally digs, so perhaps it was an urban fox.  We do get them from time to time.

Anyway, I had planned to spend the day doing something else, but fixing the hole and replanting a few broad beans led me into the garden and onto doing more pottering. The leaves are falling fast from the monster sycamore in the front garden so, having dealt with the cardboard, my attention was turned to the front of the house, where the sun was shining. Mainly I cleared up leaves and rearranged things in the pots in the hope of a few wee flowers over the winter before the bulbs come up.

I had a look around to see what was flowering in the front garden today.  I found:


Lavender with lots of flowers and some bees,

Primula and osteospermum,

Rose Benjamin Britten, and rosehips on the wild rose and, then, totally out of season but blooming optimistically, a broad bean:

WP_20171105_14_42_53_ProMaybe that one will produce a bean or two if the ones under the cardboard don’t.

Having failed to get out to do the other things I needed to do, I made some apple gingerbread from the Howgate Wonders:

wp_20161218_0021Photo from a previous occasion, recipe here

Cheerful stuff for a lovely autumn day.




I cleared the courgette and marrow bed this afternoon.  They have been fantastic this year but all good things come to an end. I put down some compost in the raised bed and raked it over:


This of course created a perfect cat playground so I made an emergency visit to my local DIY store to buy broad bean seeds and pick up some cardboard boxes:


and noticed that some of them had faces:


Back to to the raised bed, I laid out all the cardboard, cut a few more holes, and sowed broad beans in half of them:


and red onions in the other half:


It may be a bit too late in the year for this, and I’m not sure the cardboard with the holes will work, but I’ve had a bit of fun:


and so has Bellawp_20171029_15_39_05_pro.jpgBefore the darkness descended, I also cut back the runner beans, leaving the sweet peas in case they manage a few more flowers.

WP_20171029_16_20_24_ProThen I sowed a few more sweet pea seeds in pots in the seedhouse to get next year’s supply going.  So the seasons turn. To a gardener, autumn is about new beginnings as well as endings.

Harvesting in the dark

I’ve come home in the dark these last few evenings and the clocks haven’t even gone back yet.  So I had to forage in the dark for some salad, a torch in one hand, a plastic container in the other, and a black cat trying to trip me up in the dark.  Bella thought it was great fun.  I found all this lettuce, spinach, oriental saladini, nasturtium flowers and radish seed pods:


Add a few tomatoes that have been slowly ripening inside and it almost compensates for the dark nights:



Bees and ivy flowers

I’ve not done much gardening this weekend, but yesterday I was out and about, looking for inspiration from the natural world to cheer me on my way.  I passed a little garden with huge pink sedum flowers:


(Photo of sedum from a previous occasion) – those should be covered in bees, I thought but there were none.  Then I saw where the bees were – on an ivy bush, growing against a wall, covered in ivy flowers, not the most stunning blooms but absolutely buzzing with bees (and wasps but that’s fine).  There was a very fat bumblebee which I tried to photograph but failed.  I did manage to catch one bee though:
DMq1ynJX4AAPmvEIn case you can’t spot the bee, here is a clue:

Bee and ivy 2It’s quite hard to capture bees on camera but I had a lovely time watching them and they cheered my day.  Must remember to be more sympathetic to the ivy in my garden.