Tag Archives: jerry

Ring out the old

Dear Reader, 2016 may have had its ups and downs but here at Margot and Jerry HQ there has been plenty of fun, frolics and feasting and much to be thankful for.  Primrose asked me earlier what my best thing of the whole year has been and honestly, dear Reader, I couldn’t pick one particular thing.  2016 has been the year of piddling pups

piggies (Huff, Puff and Snuff)

then there was Provence

and Potter (of the Beatrix kind).

Not forgetting plenty of beautiful views……dear Reader, better ones you’d be hard pushed to find.

Little shoes joined big ones for the first time at school

(Disclaimer – not in shoes below – Poppy’s not THAT small.  I just couldn’t resist adding this picture from a few years ago when Poppy got her first proper pair of shoes, dear Reader. How time has flown)

and wiping away tears, Margot tried not to lose her cool.

Long held ambitions were conquered and even bigger plans made

not least selling the old cottage where our country foundations were laid.

With dogs and cats each up to two and hens now a four,

you may be wondering dear Reader, in 2017 can there really be more?

With Jerry’s patience reaching its peak, I’d be wise, dear Reader, of no more animals to speak.

So Christmas over, it’s time to bid 2016 adieu

Let’s ring out the old year and welcome in the new.

Apologies for the AWFUL rhyme dear Reader – Jerry tells me I must try harder next time.  A very heartfelt thank you to all you faithful followers for reading, commenting, following on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Jerry is always very pleased when someone informs him what they’ve read on the blog or in my columns as in his words, he’s always “the last to know”.

Happy New Year to you and yours – may 2017 bring you all you desire and dream of, plus the standard gin accompaniment.  Over and out, dear Reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land girl

You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve been swotting up on the good life this month, dear Reader.  As most of you will know, when we first moved here in summer 2013, it marked the beginning of a new life for the four of us – turning our back on the urban sprawl and learning the ways of the countryside.  In fact it was the view above of one of the cottage’s neighbouring fields which convinced us to move.  For a couple of beginners like Jerry and I, the prospect of living the good life was more than a little daunting.  Yet here we are, nearly three years down the line and we’ve raised orphan lambs, adopted a Large Black called Cumberland and an elderly pony named Willow, taken on hens and now have a share in three little piglets, Huff, Puff and Snuff.  We never intended to grow such a menagerie – it just sort of happened.  I often wonder if our friends ever thought that we would turn out to be this animal mad when we left the Big Smoke.

I suppose you could say that it was all Country Living’s fault.  Almost as soon as we had moved in, I stumbled on a series the magazine had commissioned on Walnuts Farm and its owners Nick and Bella Ivins.  Charting life as a family run smallholding, it gave an insight into how the bucolic pastoral idyll we had always dreamed of could be achieved.  I say we, dear  Reader.  Anyone who knows us well will certainly agree that Jerry never pictured washing down a sheep’s backside in his idyllic rural scene.  Country Living’s series on Walnuts Farm shared Nick and Bella’s growing your own tips, how-tos for those brave enough to give livestock a go and many a delicious recipe using hedgerow fodder.  Nick and Bella painted a wonderful portrait of smallholder life and made it seem somehow achievable on a small scale for a pair of Londoners seriously lacking in green fingers.

Imagine my joy, dear Reader, when Nick and Bella announced that there was to be a book to follow the series.  The New Homesteader was an eagerly awaited parcel – thank you to Nick and Bella for the fabulous gift and for the invaluable tweets and replies on caring for lambs, pigs etc when we got a bit stuck.  I very nearly bit the postman’s hand off to rip open the jiffy bag and devour the contents!

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The book doesn’t disappoint.  It is a wonderfully put together tome of self-sufficiency and learning to live the good life.  Leaving the city behind and relocating to Walnuts Farm ten years ago, Nick and Bella have embraced becoming smallholders with their daughters Flora and Peggy, making it work for them and fit in with family life, rather than being slaves to the land.

Their book offers practical advice on a plethora of ‘good lifer’ topics (accompanied by Nick’s beautiful photography) from yoghurt and butter making… Homesteader to the benefits of planting wild flower meadows…

Homesteader2keeping pigs and hens, planning an orchard and getting started in the kitchen garden.  Nick and Bella’s aim with The New Homesteader is to inspire others to give modern homesteading a go whether it’s in the countryside, city or suburbs.  You might not be able to keep pigs in a courtyard garden in South West London but you can grow fruit and veg in pots or try your hand at making your own butter (not as difficult as you may think).  Honestly, dear Reader, even if you have no desire to up sticks for a rural living, I challenge you not to fall in love with the wonderful pictures and story which Nick and Bell tell in The New Homesteader.  It’s a rare treat and the perfect read for those who yearn for a slice of the good life.  The pictures of their delightful home will have you on Pinterest seeking to recreate their country chic in a jiffy!

Taking yet another leaf out of Nick and Bella’s book, Jerry and I have turned all land girl on our little plot (I’ve been channelling victory rolls and khaki cropped dungarees) this spring.  Jerry looks wonderful in a head scarf and pinny…..  He’ll kill me for telling such fibs.  With our veg patch sowings underway, we’ve planted our own wildflower meadow in a patch of long grass bordering the driveway and taken to some guerrilla sowing on our verges too.  We used seeds from a fab little company called Seedball  – thank you so much chaps for sending us a selection of your marvellous seed tins.  We’ve already ordered a few more tins!  The Seedball seeds couldn’t be easier to sow.  Each Seedball tin comes with seeds, compost and a little chilli to put off the birds all rolled in together so that the seeds have the best chance of growing.

seedball

Growing your own wildflower patch is as simple as throwing the seedballs onto the area which you’d like the wildflowers to grow, watering a little and then waiting for them to pop up.  Perfect for the more erratic gardener like me…..  I can’t wait to try the Herb and Tea seed mixes.  Not blessed with acres of kitchen garden, I shall be popping those in a container near the kitchen window.  Now’s the perfect time to sow and you don’t need a huge garden to scatter a few seeds.  The bees will love you forever and you never know, it could be the start of your very own smallholding, dear Reader.

Charles acre

Margot’s 12 Faves of Christmas

With Poppy’s 4th birthday out of the way and a week of cards and cake dutifully observed, Christmas has finally entered the cottage.  A huge succession of large parcels have descended (thank goodness for next day delivery) and in true last minute Margot form, all food bar the main event arrived by the back door in time too.  The postman and I are on first name terms and he brings Monty biscuits.  Keep it between us, dear Reader…..I have panic bought pretty much everything for Christmas.  Every year I promise myself that I will have everything ready by the beginning of December so that I can actually enjoy the lead up to the big festive day and apart from the year that Poppy was born, I haven’t managed to be even vaguely organised!  However, I’ve decided that the best way to combat all the Christmas rush and stress is to take a leaf out of the Danes’ book and embrace ‘hygge’.  Everything else can wait.

candles

From what I can gather, Hygge (pronounced hooga) is all about the art of cosiness – enjoying good things with good people, creating a magical glow with candelight, making time to stop and think, appreciating what we have, rather than wanting more……  The perfect winter antidote.  So this Christmas, I shall making like a Dane, feasting with the people I love, taking a moment to stop and stare at the roaring fire in the grate (whilst sipping sloe gin obviously, dear Reader), remembering that cooking Christmas lunch is only like cooking a Sunday roast and switching off from the world outside to make Lego farms with Poppy and Primrose, sip hot tea, eat crumpets, savour long muddy walks in the woods, scoff Quality Street, finally watch the end of Mad Men and dive into my latest haul of Raffaela Barker novels.

Before I sign off until the New Year though, dear Reader, I thought I’d share my 2015 Christmas favourites with you – my 12 ‘faves’ of Christmas….

  1. Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a pheasant wreath so here is this year’s homemade effort.  Thanks so much to Phil the pheasant who was trapped in the dog proof fencing and as I went to rescue him, decided to fly off, leaving me with all his tail feathers in my hand!  Phil, I do hope you haven’t been the butt of numerous jokes – pop back and I’ll find you a jumper.

Christmas wreath

2. Despite the ridiculously unseasonal weather, I will STILL be snuggling down on the sofa with my favourite people by the fire, even if it means we will be wearing t-shirts and drinking pina coladas in the sitting room.  Letters written to the Big Man have already been laid on the fire and we watched as the smoke curled up the chimney, hoping they reach him in time.

Fire

3. Hot steaming mugs of tea and good books with my beautiful cashmere bed socks before everyone else gets up – Yawn London you have made my Christmas this year so a huge thank you to you.

Yawn

4. Finding out who’s been naughty or nice with Primrose and Poppy at the Long Barn in Alresford – really magical and so much fun. FC Long Barn

5. Our very own handmade pigs in blankets from our first pig, Cumberland.

Pigs in blankets6. How could I forget the Christmas tree?  Ours doesn’t go up until after Poppy’s birthday but I adore it when it is finally in situ – you can’t beat the smell of fir in the house.  I even managed to embrace the tree decoration free for all…….

Christmas tree

7. We always have a new book for Christmas and Christmas week, we read our favourite Chistmas bedtime stories including an Oxford Annual of Christmas I’ve had since I was 6!  Poppy and Primrose love the stories of Victorian Christmases and Mummers.  However, the book that is asked for time and time again has to be The Jolly Christmas Postman.

Jolly Postman

8. Christmas Monty – I promise he hasn’t eaten Father Christmas but he IS terribly suspicious of men in red suits falling down the chimney….

Christmas Monty

9.  We’ve been so busy with one and thing another, that I forgot to tell you about a new four legged friend of ours.  Introducing Willow, the 28 year old Welsh Mountain pony.  A very sweet farmer’s daughter who lives nearby asked us if we could fuss over her old pony, groom her and take her out for hacks.  As you can imagine, it was like all Poppy and Primrose’s Christmases had come at once and now it’s Willow this and Willow that.  Christmas Eve will see us taking carrots to her and her horsey companion.  A complete wish come true for 2 pony mad girls and 1 pony mad Mummy, dear Reader.  Jerry has taken to frowning at the number of riding hats and paraphernalia in the hallway……

Willow

10.  Cheese.  Need I say more.  I have a fridge full and it makes me rather happy, dear Reader.  Oh that and the Christmas Double Issue of Country Life!  I shall be sneaking down the stairs in the dark, Nigella style, to midnight feast on Stilton and Tunworth cheese whilst reading a page or two of this country Christmas treat.

Christmas CL

11.  Winter walks – in between all the feasting and present giving, there’s nothing like trudging up to the woods and blowing away the cobwebs. Can’t wait for a crisp frost to coat our little corner of countryside.

winter leave

12.  Perhaps the best thing under the Christmas tree this year will be our newest addition….  Meet Isadora, dear Reader.  Dora for short.  All black velvet and gorgeous puppyness.  Arriving on an early Christmas delivery, we’ve already been enjoying plenty of cuddles.  Jerry certainly knows how to get a Christmas present right!  However, Monty is still not too sure if it is love at first sight.  He will be taking a view on the whole puppy pulling his ears and sleeping on his bed situation, post Christmas.

Dora

SO that takes us to 2 cats, 2 dogs, 5 hens, 1 pony and a pig in the freeezer……wonder what else we can find a home for in 2016?!!  I would say that we were mad but if you’ve been reading this since the very beginning, then you already know that, dear Reader!  Wishing a very Happy Christmas to you and yours – may your Christmas be filled with feasting, plenty of cosiness and most importantly, love, peace and a little gin.  See you on the other side x

Star

Au revoir Summer

A long summer break has passed between us, dear Reader.  My first summer off in 3 years and I returned completely and utterly refreshed.  So much so that it has taken me a little while to settle back at the writing desk!  I hope you can forgive me for being distracted – France in mid 30 degree heat was just too lovely not to enjoy to the full.  Well, that and Jerry and I had to live without WIFI for a few weeks…we’re lucky we are still married!

First there were the views…

IMG_1168Then there was the house that Primrose wanted to buy and was rather miffed when Jerry told her that unless she asked the owners if they needed to hire her as a housekeeper, there was zero chance of her moving in and calling it home.

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Followed by a great deal of cheese, several hundred trips to the market for ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaaahing’ and much buying of French comestibles.

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Oh and of course, dinner in an altogether pre-sous chef form should one feel brave enough….

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…all washed down with industrial quantities of  a little bit of wine.

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Jerry and I even managed to glean some local wisdom.  Apparently, the best way to learn French proficiently is to take up a lover.  An interesting notion……but not sure we’d find two souls brave enough to take us on to test it out.  Especially after mutual meltdowns over the NO WIFI zone, rows over a hideously expensive phone bill for going over the data allowance AND the fact that I had yet again packed an entire suitcase full of books and nothing else.  In my defence dear Reader, I read them ALL.

Still the sun set on our blissful holiday (apologies for the smugness) and we all agreed that there is nothing better than French food, French wine and spending time just the four of us.

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That was before I returned to name tapes with a few helpings of two small beings bashing each other over the head with Lego, a cottage which had suddenly morphed into a hobbit’s home and to crown the chaos, a broken boiler and no hot water.  Bonjour September……  Maybe I might just pop back to France and find myself a French lover after all, dear Reader?!

 

Get your game on

Great_British_Game_Week_Logo_918Oh dear Reader, this week has had its ups and its downs to say the least.  It started with the car breaking down on the school run (homeward bound thank goodness, otherwise Primrose would have been stranded at school).  The three of us ended up being towed away in the end after the breakdown chap decided that our car was indeed dead.  Arriving home from the school run 4 hours after Poppy and I set off was not as planned but Primrose was thrilled as it gave her something to talk about for her ‘show and tell’!  Never let a 6 year old tell you a joke about a car breaking down at a petrol station on the way home from school……it just might come true.  This incident was quickly followed by losing my watch – something which wasn’t hugely expensive but was irreplaceable sentimentally as Jerry gave me the watch for my 21st birthday.  I’ve spent the last few days searching everywhere for it to no avail so shall mourn its loss.  The last in the series of my Margot disasters happened on my way to talk about all things game on BBC Radio Solent with Blackmoor Game when I had a tonk in Jerry’s Lanny at a set of traffic lights.  They say things come in threes….let’s hope that I am covered now for any further mishap.  Not sure my nerves could take anything else this week, dear Reader.

Still, onwards, and there’s nothing like Great British Game Week to warm the cockles and wet one’s appetite for some gamey goodness.  So I thought I might bring you my week in game, dear Reader:

Roast Wild Mallard, marinated in sloe gin (of course!) and Plum Chazwinkle’s

Wild Mallard

Raised game pie – pie but something very traditional.  Think pork pie only more gamey.  This is a labour of love to cook but so worth it – a perfect Boxing Day feast, cut into thick slices and served with a deliciously spiced pickle or preserve.  Great with a little snifter of something….

Raised game pie

Pheasant terrine –  a quick and easy pâté that can be whizzed up in minutes (literally) and cooked in a bain marie in the oven for an hour and a quarter.  Made the day before, all it needs is some warm bread or melba toast.  Two lovely additions could come in the form of quince jelly or another delicious pot from Chazwinkle’s, this time Rhubarb.

Pheasant terrinePigeon with red wine jus – something a little special for the weekend

Pigeon

Game pie – smoked garlic, chunky smoked bacon lardons, a teaspoon of anchovy essence and a good couple of dollops of Beetroot Chazwinkle’s added to the pot before slow cooking really make this recipe like a huge hug and a kiss.  Just the right thing for bringing cheer to someone who has given the front end of their husband’s car a bashing…..

Venison pie

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 leek, finely chopped

2 cloves of smoked garlic, finely chopped

150g smoked bacon lardons

500g mixed game

150ml port

250ml game stock

1 tbsp of plain flour

1 tsp anchovy essence

2 tbsp of passata

2 tbsp Beetroot Chazwinkle’s

ready made puff pastry

beaten egg

a handful of chopped winter savoury (you could use a mixture of thyme and rosemary instead)

Add a drizzle of oil to the pan and fry leek, carrots, celery, garlic and bacon until the vegetables have softened.  In a bowl, season the game with salt and pepper and add the flour, coating the game in the flour.  Add the game to the pan and fry for five minutes or so, stirring to avoid too much sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Spoon in the Beetroot Chazwinkle’s – this adds an earthy note and touch of sweetness to the pie.  Pour in the port and cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes before adding the stock, passata and anchovy essence.  Stir in the winter savoury, before popping into the slow oven.  Cook at 100 degrees Centigrade for at least six hours before either turning up the heat to 180 degrees for 30 minutes or placing in the top oven for the last part of the cooking.  The sauce should look rich and unctuous and the meat should be falling apart as soon as a fork touches it.

Spoon the stewy mix into a large pie dish and cover with the puff pastry top, rolled to the size of the dish leaving a little overhang to allow for shrinkage.  Paint the pastry with the beaten egg and bake the pie in a hot oven (200 degrees) until the puff pastry is golden and feels crisp to the touch.

Go on dear Reader – get your game on too!  I’d love to hear about your game numbers and if you fancy tuning into my little game stint on BBC Radio Solent, then do go over and listen here from 01:32.

Summer of countryside love

MudefordProfuse apologies, my dear Reader, for my epic summer silence.  It seems an age since I was last tip tapping away a little note to you and I can only blame it on lots of work and plenty of lovely things happening at Margot and Jerry HQ, giving me not time at all to resume my position at the writing desk.  With Primrose and Poppy at home creating mayhem for almost 8 WEEKS of summer horror, I mean holiday, I haven’t had a moment to even hear myself think either!

Days have been filled with exploring our patch of Hampshire, trips to secluded sandy spots, sampling a lot of local goodies (wine, beer, gin…..) so when we finally headed off for our staycation and annual trip to Tom and Barbara’s shire farmstead, we couldn’t be too downhearted when it weed it down with rain.  Lots of time at home too – the spare room has had its bedding stripped more times than a boutique B&B of late!  As anyone who knows us well knows, we’re always more than happy to have friends to stay – any excuse for a good gossip over a large glass of something! Continue reading

Scaling dizzy heights

The Vyne, National Trust, Hampshire  - scene of our big tree climb

The Vyne, National Trust, Hampshire – scene of our big tree climb

As quickly as it was organised, the day came for Primrose and I to complete our biggest country challenge yet.  You know, the one I’ve been dreading……no.1 of all the National Trust’s 50 things project – Climb a tree.  With this year’s summer of 50 Things already upon us and with so many events and adventures to go on in London and South East, it seemed fitting that we should start at the very beginning with no 1. Continue reading