Golden Plover Murmuration

We visited Donna Nook National Nature Reserve on the Lincolnshire coast this weekend to see the grey seals and their pups and found that we had arrived largely before the seals. Only 6 bull seals have arrived and none of the lady(!) seals or newborn pups. Never mind.......we were treated to a fantastic display of murmurating golden plovers. We know they were golden plovers as a warden handily was there to give a running commentary. The reason they were in flight was because of a peregrine falcon out hunting which we saw but unfortunately didn't capture on video. 

Hexagon quilt progress

My hexagon quilt is making progress but is undeniably quite slow since it is entirely hand sewn using english paper piecing technique. I thought I would have had it finished by now, but it is a sort of background task to do of an evening in front of the telly and has been much disrupted by christmas and birthday crochet and knitting. I actually un-sewed quite a bit of it on holiday as my original design didn't look quite right so I bit the bullet and changed it. The reasoning behind changing it was that the hexagon 'flowers' in a granny's garden pattern were not prominent enough, and whilst it looked quite nice it just looked a bit of a hexagon mish mash. See what you think. The picture on the left is as it was, and the picture on the right was how I planned to change it. The photo's are less than perfect, but this actually helps focus on the overall vision of the quilt rather than the detail. The left picture is dominated by the red dots whereas in the right picture you can see the flowers. Anyway, that's how I see it and so I spent a wonderful couple of days unpicking the red dots and replacing with beige ones. Tedious but worthwhile......I hope.

Now I'm preparing a round of bright red flowers with pale red centres and it seems that finally I have a design! I'm not very good at planning to the last detail. My quilts generally evolve with a frisson of worry as to whether I will have enough fabric to finish. As for this quilt I did some panic buying to stock up with (I hope) enough fabric as it looks like it is becoming extinct. I have some enforced sitting around at the moment due to hip surgery so have made quite a bit of progress with the red flowers, although I had to do a huge amount of ironing to prepare the hexagons. Fortunately, all this can be done whilst sitting down listening to Harry Potter - it's all about the simple pleasures in life......... :)

Saltfleet Haven

Saltfleet Haven

I may have given the impression that we have had perfect weather on our holiday. In the main that has been the case, but as I write this thunder and lightening are crashing and flashing all around us, as has been the case for the last 2-3 hours. This has been accompanied by an absolute deluge of almost biblical proportions and we now appeared to be sitting on a freshwater marsh. This morning dawned beautiful and sunny, although by 'dawn' I mean around 8am, which has been our usual lurch out of bed after a cuppa and good book.... well, we are on holiday! Seeing the weather forecast we decided to eat a less leisurely breakfast and get out for a walk. We thought about going to the nature reserve at Gibraltar Point, but that would have meant driving through Skegness on a bank holiday weekend and we really didn't fancy that, so instead went in the opposite direction to Saltfleet Haven. This is very close to the Rimac Nature reserve and is a tidal creek for boats. Today it was a haven for birds and we saw redshanks, curlews, sandpipers, egrets and seagulls. In fact is was our best walk ever for spotting birds. The sea was a long way out so we walked along the creek almost to where it bends to run parallel to the shore before going into deep water. It was a bit muddy so our trainers are now platform trainers, I suppose it makes a change from having sand everywhere:( There was a huge amount of samphire everywhere which I guess is due to the recent spring tides. I picked some to eat but by the time we got home the seaweedy smell was so strong that I didn't fancy cooking it, let alone eating it.

It's a bit shaky but here is a video of sandpipers (we think!) at Saltfleet Haven creek.

Lincoln Castle Poppy Wave

Lincoln Castle Poppy Wave

During our seaside holiday we took a break from the sea and sand and visited Lincoln. The weather was absolutely perfect if a little too warm so we strolled around the marina and shops and visited the castle to see the poppy wave. The wave is just a small section of the poppy display from the Tower of London during 2014 for the 100 year anniversary of the start of the first World War. We decided that the weather was too nice to do the full castle tour so just walked the walls and sat in the castle grounds. Steep street is still really steep which is a good work out on your way up to the castle, although there are interesting shop fronts to look in and catch your breath if you need to. I really liked the enterprising shop front which features a wave of remembrance day poppies.

Gunby Hall

Gunby Hall

We had a family get together weekend whilst on holiday. Two daughters came to stay for the weekend and were joined by the other children, one son in law, one sister in law and two dogs for the day. Before the rest of the crew joined us we decided on a trip to visit Gunby Hall near Skegness. It's been a while since we last visited and it was interesting to see the difference since last time when the hall was only open on Wednesday and had a sitting tenant. Now it is open most days and there is much more to see in the hall. The house had a last hey day in the early 1900's so there was a lot of victorian and early georgian displays and photographs. I particularly liked the William Morris wallpaper in the hall and some bedrooms. Some of the furniture appeared to be William Morris fabrics as well. The music room was also very interesting and the grand piano was played by one of the Nation Trust volunteers who described how the piano had been made with the screw heads showing so that it could be dismantled and rebuilt in India. The garden is really lovely with a walled vegetable garden with lots of espalier fruit trees. It was really tempting to pick the fruit and vegetables as we walked around....... 

Swimming with seals

Sutton on Sea

Actually, it was swimming with 1 seal, but still it made me smile. Whilst on my jollydays at the seaside and after 2 mornings of lying in bed trying to psyche myself up for a swim before breakfast, I managed to overcome the little voice that said "Nah, it's too cold in the it tomorrow" and settled into a routine of morning swims. Every morning I had the sea to myself so was considerably surprised when I glimpsed a head out of the corner of my eye, and when I jumped up to get a good look at it over the waves I could see it was a seal looking at me as I was looking back. It dipped below the sea and resurfaced a little further away and of course I said "Hello" and waved (as you do). It made me giggle for ages.

It was a most relaxing holiday with hexagon sewing in the sun whilst listening to Harry Potter punctuated by cycling along the promenade, visits to the nature reserve and playing with photography. The nature reserve generally seems devoid of birds (we don't call binoculars "bird scarers" for nothing), but I contented myself with picking (and eating) bilberries. 

For a couple of days we cycled as far as we could along the promenade and surprisingly we managed about 3 miles before the path turned into a sand dune. Over the years we have seen the sea defences change from being concrete steps up to the promenade, to big boulders (in places), and then to 'beach nourishment' which is essentially pumping a load of dredged sand onto the beach to form a big bank of sand up to the promenade. This is repeated every year to replace sand washed away by the tides, but now the sand is becoming increasingly populated with dune grass and sea holly. Sand dunes are on their way back! It is still really strange to see so much sand and grass on the beach after years of concrete steps, wooden groynes and sometimes squishy mud flats. Another thing which still surprises me is the sight of all the wind turbines out to sea which seem to be steadily marching nearer to 'our' beach. 

Today is Cherryday (not Sunday)

Cherries ready for jamming

Today has been an almost overwhelmingly cherry filled day. It started with cherry clafoutis for breakfast; a rather decadent start to the day but how perfect can that be for someone who loves egg custard. Next on the cherry list were cherry and coconut cakes, and I decided that it would be a good idea to make two cakes - one for today and one for the freezer.  Both the clafoutis and the cakes used up the cherries prepared yesterday.

The next (and rather daunting) task was to make cherry jam. But I daunted without cause because it went like a dream. I followed a simple recipe of de-stoning 1.8kg cherries (whilst listening to Harry Potter), then simmering them slowly in the juice of 2 lemons until they were tender but not squishy. Followed by bunging a 1kg bag of jam sugar (sugar with pectin) into the pan and stirring until dissolved. Then it was just a case of bringing to the boil, leaving for about 10 mins and then checking the temperature. I went for a full belt and braces approach to check the setting point as I used the mechanical thermometer, and when that looked the right temperature (around 104C), the electronic thermometer to confirm the result and then did a wrinkle test by putting a little jam onto a cold saucer, leaving it to cool for a minute and then pushing the jam with a finger.  Whilst waiting for the jam to boil, I had my clean jam jars in the oven to sterilise and the lids in some boiling water. In no time at all I had filled 4 big jam jars. I probably should have let it cool a little before bottling because all the cherries have floated to the top, but I'm not going to worry about that. I'm really hoping that it will cool enough for tea so that we can have a cherrylicious afternoon tea with homemade sourdough bread, cherry jam and cherry cake. I shall be able to wear my domestic goddess pants with pride.

Cherry Harvest

In the garden of our (future) barn conversion is a rather large cherry tree. Last year we had a load of cherries on the tree before we went on holiday and none when we came back. Typical. This year our holiday timing has been a lot better and we've been able to keep an eye on the cherries. I picked some last weekend that were slightly under-ripe and put them on the window cill to finish ripening. The were ok, but a bit tart and tough - I de-stoned them all this morning and cooked them gently with a little water and honey to be used in some cakes and smoothies. This afternoon we popped over to the barns to get the car ready to take a load of stuff to the tip for the kids and we saw that the cherries must be ripe because a flock of birds flew out of the tree as we drove past. The only thing to do was to get a ladder and get picking! We picked loads and loads and had to stop because the bag was full. I fully intended to give up jam making until we had a proper kitchen but since we spied the jam pan in the storage container, we are going to give it a go. The jam pan was visible but almost inaccessible - we nearly had to give up on our jam quest,  but a bit of climbing and balancing and it was in our hands. Interestingly we had the forethought to keep it with the jam thermometer and bottling jug - it was almost as if we had planned it. The temperature on the thermometer was 100F so it's pretty warm at the moment in the container. Actually, the recent warm spell (after the monsoon season) makes our flat most uncomfortably hot; we must be mad thinking of making jam in our pokey furnace of a kitchen.