Monday, 20 March 2017

SUGARED VIOLETS



SUGARED VIOLETS

At the moment we are lucky enough to have banks of violets creating seas of purple along footpaths. I've had a childlike delight at finding them and breathing in their scent. It's a perfume that takes me straight to Parma Violet sweets, I cannot quite believe that these delicate little flowers smell so potent. The girls have enthusiastically joined in spotting them, sniffing them like rooting pigs, the way small children do, and then begging to pick them. So we've become Victorian and have learnt how to preserve them by sugaring them, and inevitably it's the sugar bit that is the most inspiring for the children.
 
 
We chose some violet flowers in perfect condition and picked about twenty which left enough for the bees and were few enough for them to be real treasures.
 
Once home they need to be washed very carefully so as not to damage them.
 

Each flower needs to be coated either in egg white or a cooled sugar syrup (1/3 sugar to 2/3 water) with a fine paint brush.
 
Then each flower can be sprinkled with caster sugar until it is finely coated all over. The flowers are then left to dry on baking paper.
 

Once completly dry they can be kept in an airtight container for up to three months.
 

These were made with Little L's heavy handed assistance; if you want something looking more professional, perhaps it's something to wait to do until after bedtime...
 
If you don't want spend the time preserving them, a lot of edible flowers are beautiful in salads eaten straight away.
 
We take care to only ever pick wild flowers where there is a true abundance and away from roadsides and other sources of pollution, especially pesticides, herbicides etc.

Some other edible flowers suitable for sugaring are borage, primroses, nasturtiums, rose petals, cherry blossom...


 

 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

A CABIN IN THE WOODS

Spring has really arrived here. There is not the lushness of green that I am used to, but instead a brilliant blue sky and warm afternoons. Banks are covered in a haze of violets and blossom is spreading amongst the hedgerows. We're out in the garden or spotting wild flowers in the woods and back to paddling in streams again (although the freezing water takes our breathes away).





 
At the end of last month Little L turned four years old. For the days either side of her Birthday I felt very emotional. Her birth and babyhood suddenly felt so long ago and infront of me is this little girl who surprises me each day with her own ideas and such a force of independence and strong will.


On her Birthday the weather shone bright and warm, not something I ever expected for a February babe. We had a little gathering with friends by the lake with coffee and cake and the children played at throwing rocks and sticks into the stream.





Then we packed up for a weekend (the amount of stuff we take with us on even the most short of trips will forever baffle me) and drove across Ariege to the Vallée du Biros, south of St Girons for a short stay in a mountainside cabin.
Although we live with relatively little and few comforts all of the time, this cabin, made of just wood and stone and without electricity was still a welcome retreat. A ten minute woodland walk to arrive there. Breakfast and dinner by candlelight. Evenings cosied up around a wood burner and quiet moments watching for wildlife from the windows.
 




 
This area of the Pyrennes is bear country although there are only twenty or so living in the mountains and they remain, for the most part, away from even remote human habitation. We very much wanted to find their foot prints and even disected some poo, hoping it may be evidence that one had passed by, but, alas, it was only foxes. The shouting and scampering of small children, seems one way to avoid seeing anything other than the most bold of wildlife. Little L was a champion hiker and managed some difficult and steep climbs whilst Little I sat like a queen on my back, sight seeing the streams, trees and sheep.





 
We've returned refreshed and so in love with this part of the world : Excited by the many valleys left for us to discover and humbled by the idea of the many more we won't. The vastness of this relatively small mountain range puts into perspective our own very small existances.
 
 
THE HOUSE
 
The girls have helped tiling the bath, heralding a very almost finished room! By the end of today there will be a cupboard and the sheets and clothes which have lived in boxes for the past nine months will no longer be piled in corners of our bedroom. I won't write too much about how exciting the prospect of 'storage' is for me because it may just betray how domesticated my life is right now and it's not always something I am too comfortable with (that's a subject for another blog post one day...).