elderflowers and roses

Sparkling Elderflower and Rose Drink

The elder has flowered early this year, no doubt duped by the endless days of sunshine this year. As ever, the flowers closest to home are either too high for me to reach, on the wrong side of a wide ditch or next to a busy track along which lorries thunder past all day.

But, as I walked around the farm, I’ve kept an eye on a lone elder that overhangs the wide ditch running between Lakes Field and Great Forest, the branches dipping down just low enough for me to reach. If I stand on tiptoe. And reach precariously across the ditch. This week I decided the large saucer shaped flowers were ripe for picking and duly collected a small bagful of elderflower heads.


I flip flop each year between making elderflower cordial and a sparkling elderflower drink. I like cordial because it’s concentrated and keeps for a long time but I have to remember to buy soda water to mix with it as I prefer it fizzy. On the other hand, sparkling elderflower needs no soda water but takes up more room because it’s already diluted and needs careful storing so the bottles don’t explode.


This year, my mind has been made up for me. I have no desire to stand in a long, socially distanced queue at the pharmacy to buy citric acid (or more likely, try to buy it as they inevitably sell out), which is needed for the cordial recipes. So, it’s sparkling elderflower for 2020.

elderflowers and roses


This year, I’ve added a few scented rose petals to the mix. I hoped the rose petals would turn the drink pink as they do with the Elderflower and Rose Cordial but I didn’t use enough deep coloured petals so I have the flavour but not the colour. Which is fine by me.


If you’d like to make Sparkling Elderflower & Rose, the recipe is below. Leave out the rose petals for a Sparkling Elderflower drink.


Pick the elderflowers on a dry day, choosing the creamy new heads (rather than old and browning ones) and give them a shake to dislodge any lurking insects. Back home, use them straight away.

Sparkling Elderflower and Rose Drink


Ingredients

700g granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cider (or white wine) vinegar

20 good sized elderflower heads – flowers pulled or cut from main stem

4 roses – petals only (I snip them off with scissors)

1 lemon – juice and zest (use a vegetable peeler)

1 lemon – sliced

Directions


Put everything into a large bowl or a bucket and add 1 gallon (4.5 litres) of cold water.

Cover the bowl with a cloth (not cling film as it needs to breathe) and leave for 48 hours. Stir occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.

Strain and pour into sterilised bottles. Use bottles with corks or fizzy drinks bottles otherwise your bottles might explode (I speak from experience).

Leave the bottles in a cool, dry place for two or three weeks. If you use plastic bottles, you’ll know when it’s ready to drink as the gas will fill the bottles so that the sides are very firm.

Open carefully!



Lockdown Diary Month One

Have shunned all social contact for one month. Every day, thank my lucky stars that I have a garden and that I’m not on my own or worse, stuck with someone I don’t want to be with.

Life much the same as before. Farm work continues as usual and still plenty to do in the farm office after my thirty second commute (which you can watch here). No cakes or biscuits to bake for printmaking classes as they’ve been cancelled. Garden under control with vegetable seeds in ground and some green shoots just discernible. Blossom on fruit trees is glorious.

Paper boat

Fully intended to use this isolation time for number of creative projects. Had brief obsession making paper boats, which led to reading this article about the elderly but relevant to us all at present and pulling out CD (see below) to listen to this song again. Ongoing exercise to print circle on old book page each day and do something with it. Bit weird and may not last. Other creative projects still a list in head.

Haven’t managed to secure delivery slot for groceries so relying on efficient daughter Beth who had booked several pre-lockdown. Trying to keep order to minimum as she is buying for five households so meals are basic and wholesome. Like they used to be decades ago when spaghetti came in tins and avocado was a rare luxury. Or just a bath colour.

Decided to Kondo the drinks cupboard instead of restocking (see above). Finished small bottle of Benedictine given to us c1983 when people had dinner parties and drank liqueurs from tiny glasses with their coffee. Just enough tequila and Grenadine syrup (only nine years out of date and solid in bottom of bottle) for Friday night Tequila Sunrise in reprise of my Eighties cocktail enthusiasm. Moved on to spark 1990s joy of Roger & Tonic.

Dragged out vinyl music collection for evening entertainment. Noticed several albums borrowed from sisters have not been returned. Some records enthusiastically taken from sleeve but not as good as remembered. Others surprisingly good and made me quite nostalgic for my youth. Briefly. Progressed to CD collection and rediscovered much music. Discussed the aptness of our Isolation Songs* -Bill’s is Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World and mine is Woodstock sung by Matthews’ Southern Comfort.

Feel parts of life have slipped back decades. Suspicions confirmed when broadband disappeared over Easter.

Wonder how much life will change post-lockdown. To quote Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock lyrics “I feel just like a cog in something turning”

* Number One in the singles chart on your 12th birthday.

 


Verbal Doodling

A while ago I went for an appointment and as there were nine people in the queue before me, I decided to be one of those people who pulls out a notebook and makes quick, but wonderful sketches. I abandoned it after thirty seconds because it turns out (as I suspected) that I am not one of those people.

Book filled with verbal doodling
 

Instead, I started to write. About parking in the wrong place, about my stomach rumbling, my plans for the rest of the day and then just a stream of incoherent thoughts. I turned the page and wrote on top of what I’d written, which didn’t matter because it was just verbal doodling.

It turns out that verbal doodling is more relaxing than my normal impatient, foot tapping waiting technique.

Just passing it on in case you have a moment or two to fill.

 


Making Wigwams

For no reason other than the promise of sunshine later in the week, I decided to make a children’s wigwam to replace the one that disintegrated last summer after twenty-five years of sporadic use and a strong wind. Normally, I’d just nip out to the fabric shop to buy the requisite three and a half metres of fabric, but of course these are not normal times. A little improvisation was needed.

Luckily, I found an old dustsheet covering up the shelving that’s used for Christmas tree stands out in the barn. It was rather grubby with a few paint spills but it was perfectly suitable for making a wigwam once it was washed, dried and ironed (while ignoring the pile of clothes in need of similar care and attention).

Following some notes that I’d scribbled down from a borrowed book by Jean Greenhowe together with a host of diagrams on Pinterest, I laid out the dustsheet and cut it into triangles. The door triangle was cut in two halves, sewn together at the top and left open below for an opening and then all six triangles were sewn together, making a channel on the inside for a cane to be inserted. The bottom of the wigwam was hemmed, the top sewn across to stop the canes pushing out and tabs sewn on by each seam so the wigwam can be secured by tent pegs.

Once finished, the wigwam was rather plain, which is to be expected if you use a dustsheet instead of some exciting patterned fabric, so I enlisted help from a three-year old to decorate it with foam block and screen prints, though his enthusiasm wore off before mine. I was glad to have had the forethought to trace around the children’s hands to make foam printing blocks instead of inking their hands to make handprints but rather regretted sewing the wigwam together before we printed as it was rather cumbersome to manoeuvre.

I was in a hurry to erect the wigwam in the garden as the sun was shining but alas, the only canes I could find were of several different lengths and mud caked from when they were pulled out from vegetable garden last autumn. Undeterred, I decided they were good enough for the job and up the wigwam went. To be truthful, it was rather lopsided but the three-year old took out a tablecloth from his alien pack (aka a rucksack) and we spread it on the ground in the wigwam and lay there discussing grass, Australia, space and life until he had to go inside for his tea.

childrens wigwam in room

I’ve since taken the canes out, washed them and sawed into similar lengths which is much better. Now all we need are some warm sunny days to enjoy the wigwam in the garden, though it works well inside too.

Once we’re out of lockdown I must remember to buy some replacement canes for the runner beans and find something to cover the shelving in the barn..

instructions for making wigwam

These were my notes, which might be helpful if you want to make your own children’s wigwam. Or indeed one for yourself, which seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. I cut out the triangles with the centre seam of the dust sheet in the centre of each triangle so it was at the same height when they were sewn together.

You may find this article about printing with foam shapes helpful if you’d like to try a simple printmaking technique.