They made me leave

Well, my six month tourist visa has expired, and I am back in the U.S. temporarily. I hate not being with the rest of my family who have stayed in the UK. It is SO strange to be back “home”. Two of the first things I noticed right away, that really struck me: everything truly does look much larger here than in England, and related to that, there is so much space on the roads both for the cars and between towns. Everything is big in the Big Old U.S.A. I’d gotten quite used to the English scale which is really and truly much smaller.

My first day in New York, we went to a Whole Foods shop. There was another moment of reverse culture shock. Now this is a funny one for me – previously on every trip I’ve made to England, the prices have felt quite high, but for this half a year I’ve been extremely pleasantly surprised to find that prices of most things seem actually a good deal better than in New York. Take, for example, organic produce. At Tesco’s in Beverley I can buy a head of organic celery for only one pound (just over a dollar). At Whole Foods, it was $3.49. Huge difference. Many other organic foods have a similar price gap.

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One thing that made me gasp with delight was to see the section of probiotic foods. Ah, now that is something that there is very little of in the part of England I’ve been in. I don’t think I’ve seen ANY “true” sauerkraut for sale in any shops, though I’m sure some must be somewhere. Look at this grand variety of choices at the same Whole Foods market:

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I bought a nice little box of miso and have been having a cup of miso soup every day since. Yum, yum, yum. I would have bought some sauerkraut, too, but it was ridiculously expensive! I usually make my own anyway, unless I go to the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store where they make it and so sell it for slightly better. I didn’t get to the Farm Store yet but might in the coming weeks. They make excellent products.

That’s all I’ll manage for the moment about my UK/US impressions. I’m waiting for a new visa to come through to allow me to return to England, and while I’m “home”, I’m working hard on several projects. Hopefully I’ll get to see some dear friends, as well.

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Falling Foss

Just as our friends from New York left, our relatives arrived at the campsite, for two nights only. What a lovely transition. We spent the full day we had together exploring a part of the Dales that had been recommended to us – a walk called “Falling Foss”. ‘Twasn’t easy to find!

We drove quite a while, spying lots and lots of brambles on the way. We stopped and picked quite a few to eat, wishing we had containers to fill. Finally we found the walking trail entrance and parked our cars. A magical wooded pathway, very different from what we’d been experiencing on the moors. A large waterfall was at the end, with some smaller ones along the way…

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Fairy trees and graffiti-ed grotto-like structures were in the woods…

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At the end of the walk was a tea room, right in the middle of the woods. From the outside it appeared to be a little cottage:

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It was originally a gamekeeper’s cottage from the 1700s, but people did live in it full-time for many years and it was a tea-room in the 1930’s. There was a large placard of history written up about it that I’ve now mostly forgotten. The residents abandoned the isolated cottage in the 1960’s after a particularly bad winter, and it has only recently been taken over and restored into a tea-garden. It is SO lovely! Very modern-looking outdoor-area where the orders are placed, with lots of outdoor seating and really very good food. They even served small bottles of Prosecco of which we partook to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday.

The tea garden was right next to the 30-foot waterfall, but somehow I didn’t get any pictures. This was a coin-filled wishing log that caught my eye, though:

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And while my younger daughter and I waited for other grownups to fetch the car (really, we could have parked right near the tea garden, but we’d parked two miles away at a different carpark), we tried our skills at leaf-identification and then enjoyed the low-level water nearby…

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I’d highly recommend a visit to Falling Foss for a magical woodland walk and a spot of nice lunch.

A Day Out in Beverley

The first day that our NY friends arrived was spent showing them ’round the town. Beverley is beautiful, and there was so much to try to fit in to the eleven hours of daylight. Now I get to show you snippets of that tour.

We started with a quick walk into town to show them how CLOSE our lovely little street is to the thick of things. They needed coffee, so we went to Filmore and Union, a café-restaurant that serves good food and coffee and fresh veggie juices. We sat in the outside garden and drank in the gorgeous sunlight. Most pubs and restaurants have “gardens” here in England, to take the opportunity of the sun and color of beautiful growing things.

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We walked by lots of “snickets”, tiny little pedestrian alleyways that link larger streets. I’m quite taken by both the name and the fact that they exist. I may do a post solely on snickets one of these days. This one had a name pertinent to our NY neck of the woods…

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We visited the Minster, which is a Church of England gothic church, as large as many cathedrals – I’m still not clear on the difference. I think it has to do with whether a bishop is associated with the church or not. Scenes from the TV series “Victoria” and “The Crown” were filmed there, I think. It’s incredibly beautiful. Just one or two pics…

I quite like the trompe l’oeuil design of the marble floor.

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and a close-up of the hand-carved wooden “miserichords”…

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We walked to my new allotment so they could see that quintessentially English system of a collection of gardening plots. On the way there, we spotted another plum tree (not wild this time) within the Minster grounds. So many had fallen to the ground. We sampled them – delicious!

My plot is still bare except for the many berries we inherited from the previous occupants. The good news is that many of the weeds are gone and that there is tons of potential! There is one slightly sad-looking plum tree that didn’t produce much and whose plums are now gone, but here is a shot of the few that we picked several weeks ago. I remember them being sold at Loveapple Farm in Columbia County as “elephant heart plums”. Super-flavorful and delicious. Allotment Plums.JPG

Other plots are quite impressive. Here’s a meticulously kept and organized one:

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I quite like the “wall” of runner beans in another – thick steel poles are holding these gorgeous vines up:

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And one plot is filled exclusively with apple trees interplanted with flowers!

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I didn’t photograph the windmill that is at the center of the allotment area, nor any of the numerous sheds and greenhouses that look both picturesque and practical.

We continued with a walk on the Westwood open pastureland and communed with some cows lolling about the golf course. Cows have free rein, as there are no gates or fences anywhere on the Westwood (that I have seen).

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and enjoyed the more wild windswept look of trees a bit further along –

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We finished our walk with a visit to Nellie’s, an ancient pub from the 1600’s that still has original features like the gas-lighting. It’s a bit dark for me in there. Nicholas loves it. It certainly has a lot of local charm and color and is an excellent spot to show visitors.

It was such a pleasure sharing bits of Beverley with our friends from home!

 

 

A Few Weeks Ago At The Farm

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Yikes, just found this from several weeks ago! I never posted it! Well, here are a slew of posts I’m letting loose to the ether. Here is what I’d written…

A full day this week in Beverley, or at least it felt like a full day! A good five hours anyway. We had a nice crowd of folks in the morning – I think seven volunteers for a while, two of whom I’d not previously met. I worked on purslane first, cutting back the older growth of lusciously full heads to encourage more young growth that is used in the upmarket salads they offer to restaurants. I filled two huge plastic bins full of cuttings! Only a small portion made its way back home with me, and I think it must weigh seven pounds. Heavy, thick lemony stems they have. I need more people in the house who like the same things I do if I’m ever to get through all the food we’ve got. I couldn’t entice any other volunteers to bring any home, so the main farmer Ben may be eating or juicing masses of it. Not sure what I’ll do with mine, other than put in salads and think about all the good omega-3 fatty acids I’m getting.

Purslane Cuttings

We weeded out a large carrot bed, and the chickweed in there was just perfect, for the first time in weeks. Again, I couldn’t resist, and I saved all the beautiful little and longer tendrils, ending up with a large shopping-bag full in a short while. The five of us who were left stopped for lunch after 1pm and sat on wooden benches around the fire. One woman made us all tea, and we talked. Everyone there is lovely, interesting. It’s a pleasure to be around them. For the afternoon, we weeded onions to give them a chance at light and space to grow…

What I really need to do is not to be so tired and preoccupied upon my return home to be able to make a good dent in cooking or preserving these things the very same day I bring them back. But that wasn’t the case for me this week! My younger daughter was very much in need of attention and my own tasks needed to wait. Tomorrow I’ll blanch and cook and chop and blend to my heart’s content. Thank goodness this is a cultivated variety. The wild garden purslane doesn’t last more than a couple of hours once it is picked.

Update: I made two types of pickled purslane stems (fun to say, too), ate a ton of it in salad and also cooked some. It lasted, even out of the fridge, for quite a few days, surprisingly. I found it hard to sell to anyone else to try, but I really enjoyed it! Here’s some being cooked,

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and a jar of preserved purslane.

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This way it will last me for weeks, even months, to come.

 

So sad to have friends leave…

For months we’d been anticipating a visit from our friends in New York. Finally, on August 16th, they arrived! They had flown in to Amsterdam earlier, then took the overnight ferry to Hull and drove to us in Beverley. We hadn’t seen eachother in nearly half a year, and the visit was a very welcome one.

I’ll be backtracking for the next few entries, posting about what we did with our guests and reliving our days together exploring the area.

This scene is of the morning they left us in the North Yorkshire moors. Their daughter and my two had been spending their last minutes together sitting by the stream at our campsite.

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My sentimental side couldn’t bear to move the chairs for the rest of that morning…

Beautiful Burton Agnes

Here is an entry from a couple of weeks ago…

The plan was to celebrate Life today, with our friends who have journeyed all the way from America to be with us. We took the day to explore Burton Agnes, a local manor house and gardens. We arrived and first visited the Norman Church which has been operating as a place of worship since about the year 1220. Just outside the church door is a collection of yews that are 300 years old. Gnarled and not very green but full of ambiance.

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Inside was full of presence and ambience, with the requisite sculptures, carvings, stained glass. Outside was a cemetary area full of ancient-looking tombstones and plants.

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And then on to explore primarily the gardens. The day was spectacular – no stereotypical English weather here. This is a long view of the formal gardens, the far end of which borders on a retaining wall to a lower-level field. What a clever visual effect – the cows seem to simply be in the distance, further away in the main field, but they are actually in a separate field and not able to enter and possibly destroy anything in the gardens area.

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And the koi up close…

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The cafe is nice there – nearly all English manor houses and open gardens seem to have a café to sit at and have some tea and cake or something savory. This one sadly was all out of the delicious-sounding soup and didn’t have any gluten free options, so I just nibbled at Nicholas’s salad. Needless to say, I was quite hungry later. Lucky for me, the walled gardens had lots of edibles growing as well as ornamentals.

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I spent a fair bit of time passing by these beans and sampling them. REALLY good.

And there were fruit trees! The apples didn’t look ripe, but lots and lots of plums were! It’s a plum year here in the UK. I only took a few ripe ones that had fallen to the ground. I felt so much better after a few beans and plums in my tummy.

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Right next to a plum tree were these – look a lot like plums, but aren’t –

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And then I rejoined my group to find the kids playing at Giant Chess and Snakes and Ladders. Much fun.

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So many more pictures from that day, but I’ve posted so many as it is…

Well, just the yarrow. They filled me with delight.

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Last Week At The Farm

Last Wednesday again found me at Frith Farm. I do need to do a post just on how I found this place and give some salient details. But for now, here is simply my weekly farm update.

It was spectacularly windy, and I regretted not having a long-sleeved wool layer on under my fleece. I did already have a wool tank top under my T-shirt. It’s August, and I want extra wool! I also would have loved a bandanna to wrap ’round my face, for the farm behind Frith was burning a wood pile that was sending, via the wind, billows of smoke around us the whole morning. You can’t see the smoke here, but the grasses do look quite windswept.

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It had rained all day Tuesday, so the ground was rather heavy and wet. We lifted mesh off a long bed of celery to have access for weeding. I felt like I was in a physical comedy scene, trying to keep a hat on my head with the wind buffeting me, carrying logs and trying not to drop them, the mesh flying around as we used the logs to anchor it down. I somehow lost two gloves in the process.

All the rain the day before had generated marvelous growth for the chickweed, and there was lots of it in the celery bed. I picked a large bag-full in literally sixty seconds, just quickly skimming the bed to get some out before I managed to get the chickweed all muddy. It’s so satisfying to harvest an abundance of delicious green material in so short a time. Four of us weeded the bed fairly quickly.

We then hoed a long bed just next to that one, to ready it for planting baby celery plugs that were anxious to get in the ground. Planting them was fiddly work in the mud and took the whole rest of the morning.

Lunchtime found us taking refuge in the greenhouse, just to get out of the wind. It was nice and warm in there! We were fairly quiet, sharing our meal and recouping from the morning. Wind can be tiring.

For the afternoon, we were back at the wood chip pile, shoveling the chips into wheelbarrows and moving those to the raised beds, to fill in the trenches between them. These are nice, long-handled shovels. I learned that most shovels in the area tend to be short, because traditionally, shovels were manufactured for use for mining. When mining went out of fashion, the shovels were still fashioned with a short handle, and people are generally used to them. They bend over, creating much more back strain than necessary. That made me think of how people do generally learn very visually. We watch others at their activities and mimic how they do their work. Even though we had long-handled shovels in front of us, we were bending over and using only the shorter half of the shaft. Funny habit. I had to consciously use the upper half of the handle and not strain my back. We must have had short-handled shovels when I was young too.

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A young fellow named Phil (who’d biked to the farm from Hull – it took him 50 minutes going against the wind) was cheerful, smiling and polite the whole time. It was lovely working with him. I commented on how he liked to make the work enjoyable. “Oh yes”, he replied. “You have to make it fun, and a challenge, to get the job done.” So very Fire and Wood of him, slight red-head that he is, with a good jaw. I would like to take pictures of all the folks at the farm for my face reading files – I hope I shall do that.

The raised beds had seas of water between them, from all the rain the day before. I was glad to borrow farm wellies to wear! The drainage is not good in that section of the farm, and the chips are an attempt to absorb a good bit of the water. Four of us did at least a dozen barrowfulls each, filling four trenches. The beds no longer looked very raised since we started this project. A work still in progress. When I left at three pm, Phil and Ben were digging trenches to drain any additional water away from the salad beds.

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Walking home, I couldn’t resist stopping at the plum trees again. I’ve filled nearly all the jam jars I have, but I simply can’t leave all those plums on the ground. I picked up a lot of yellow ones with the plan of trying a yellow-themed jam. By the time I got home, my children were pining for me. No jam until another day. The plums are okay to wait a bit.

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Death, dying and living

I woke up in the morning Tuesday thinking of the lawyer we had used for the whole post-death estate process when my mother had died. I hadn’t thought of that person for a long time and wondered why she was coming in to my early-am thoughts. Then I realized that it was the day before the anniversary of my mother’s death. So funny, how the brain works. Instead of thinking of my mother directly, my mind took me to the subject in a round-about way.

I’d always wanted to read The Tibetan Book of the Dead but never did. It was on my mother’s shelves for many years when I lived with her. Who knows why, but I was interested in esoteric subjects ever since childhood. I wish I’d read it earlier, believe that every person should have more of an education in the topic. A month ago I took this book out of the library in Beverley:

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They talk about the importance of studying death as well as life. Both are part of the same circle, same cycle after all. The author found it astonishing how Westerners ignore death, pretend it doesn’t exist, and says that puts us at a disadvantage. I agree.

I haven’t studied the book enough yet, but find it quite interesting. If we all felt more equipped and had knowledge of how to help our loved ones through the process that is surely going to occur at some point, wouldn’t that be beneficial? It’s not a large part of our culture, but the subject is certainly carefully and extensively explored in Tibetan Buddhism. I think we could learn something from them, that fluency with the language of death.

I’ll see what nuggets of wisdom and insight I can glean from this and how I may use it in my life. I’m thankful this book exists.

Maman

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Anniversaries are certainly a form of a Full Circle. In a few hours, the Earth shall have circled round the Sun six times since the day my mother died. Six years of getting used to the idea of my mother no longer being on this planet. The first three were incredibly hard. Death is never easy, but it came much more suddenly than anyone had thought, and for a long time I was reeling with the onslaught of many emotions – mostly grief, sadness, anger, regret.

Coming to Europe was partially an attempt at a Full Circle experience for me in regards to my relationship with ma mère. My mother lived in France for several years, and I hoped that being in England would allow me to travel to several of the many nearby countries. My mother did love to travel, though particularly to France. In the photo above, I believe she was on her way there from a NYC harbor. She preferred to travel by ship, not being keen on airplanes.

When we went to Paris this past April, I felt so very close to my mother while walking the streets that she loved. In my teen years she brought us to France several times, wishing to share her Francophile nature with her children. Every visit included a chunk of time in the capital city either before or after we spent the majority of the time in Angers, Poitiers, Aix or elsewhere. Our April visit also took us to other parts of France I’d visited with my mother – we came close to Etiveaux and drove through the Limousin countryside, wove by Oradour-sur-Glâne. Talk about the flooding of memories… I wanted to sing for joy, being there in the present, remembering being there in the past with ma mère.

Here she is on the beach of a little island called L’Ile d’Yeu, off the west coast of France. Those were beautiful days we spent there with family.

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I could write volumes about the wit, grace, talents of my mother, a woman of extraordinary warmth, intelligence and beauty. But for now I shall simply remember her, and celebrate the anniversary of her last day living on this plane. You shall live on with and through me, Maman. Je t’aime, tant.

 

 

Yellow Plum and Rhubarb jam

Yellow plums, you shall remain in your full, sunny glory!

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This past month, I’ve been cooking mostly the red plums, and any yellow ones that go in to the pot get stained by their red brethren. But I have seen a recipe for vanilla rhubarb jam and I think it shall do nicely with plums. We shall find out how it tastes and looks soon. The ones with stems look just like yellow cherries, so adorable. I didn’t even realize I’d used a yellow mug for the pits. How unconsciously artistic of me.

The recipe calls for a kilo of rhubarb and a kilo of sugar. I can’t do that, just can’t bring myself to use equal amounts of fruit and sugar. So, I took the stones out of all the yellow plums I had. They weighed in at 1.2 kg. After removing the outer fibrous layer of the rhubarb and cutting it up, I had less than half a kilo left. Together, I had 1.6 kg of fruit.

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I put all of this in to a large enamel pot with two vanilla pods. Certain things are so very different in supermarkets here in England. The baking aisle, for one. A basic supermarket here has tremendous variety of spices and flavorings available – perhaps I never looked for them, but I don’t remember Price Chopper or Hannafords in NY as having vanilla beans. Here, not only are they in stock, but they are not that expensive. Two beans for about four dollars. Speaking of variety, just look at what sugar options are available on the shelves:

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Icing sugar, Fondant Icing sugar, Royal Icing sugar, Jam sugar, Preserving sugar, Fruit sugar, Demerara sugar, Golden Granulated sugar, Golden Caster sugar, Brown Muscovado sugar, Light Muscovado sugar, Brown sugar, Light Brown sugar, Caster Baking sugar, Granulated sugar, Coconut sugar and agave syrup, and then they have all sorts of diabetic sugars and sugar mixed half-and-half with stevia that aren’t in the picture. Egads, what a lot of types of sweeteners! There could be an interesting cultural observation brewing here, but I shan’t quite formulate it just now.

Back to the project at hand, I don’t “do” white sugar any more, haven’t for years, so while I am intrigued by “jam sugar” and the other options, I usually go for honey, or the coconut sugar. The jam sugar has pectin in it, and requires a certain amount of sugar-to-fruit ratio for its use.

At home in New York I used a special type of pectin that could be used in low-sugar recipes. Normal pectin does require a high amount of sugar in the recipe. Actually, I almost never used pectin at all in my jam making, as I enjoy a bit of syrup liquidity rather than a jammy consistency through and through. The two jams I make most often are strawberry (my mother’s favorite) and apricot (my fave by far). I also started making wild River grape jam a few years ago when I discovered the grapes down by the Hudson River. Wow, intense and wonderful flavor in that. But I found all of those to be quite good without pectin.

The plums and rhubarb and vanilla cooked for about ten minutes, and I let them sit overnight for the vanilla pods to steep and release their flavor. Also, it was just late at night and I wanted to go to bed.

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There was a fair bit of extra liquid, so I drained that off through some cheesecloth. The liquid later became some more cordial, and the solids I then cooked up with about 600g of honey for the jam.

Here’s the yellow plum and rhubarb jam. Very small batch, only these two jars to keep and a bit for the fridge. Not as golden at the original plums, but lovely, and hopefully it shall taste good too. On verra.

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