Spring Shades

Two years ago, Mini-Kraut and I had great fun colouring our own eggs for Easter:

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Mini-Kraut is now more into more technical creations and I am lucky enough to be involved with our local community supported agriculture initiative where Gerhard, our “summer farmer” (who delivers organic, free range (i.e. normal!) eggs throughout the winter – his hens sometimes take their winter break in summer) – has hens who lay blue eggs:P1190772

Perfect for our Easter decor this year!

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And if you want to know what determines the colour of a hen’s eggshell, here’s the answer, click on the link: The Colour of a Hen’s Eggshell.

 

 

 

 

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Spring in the South

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Orchards and groves: close relatives, worked, or working, trees, they occur throughout Europe as both rich habitats and heritage features in the landscape.

Meadow in May P1200053

 

 

 

 

 

I am paraphrasing Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University here – a man far more knowledgable than I on the misunderstood and threatened resources that are orchards and groves. (Orchards and Groves: Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology and Ecology, Vol. 7, 2008, published by Wildtrack Publishing).

I do know how to appreciate them, though, and was privileged to be able to visit the almond, citrus and olive groves of southern Spain’s Andalusia at the beginning of March – a pre-season dose of spring for this traditional orchard fan(atic) from north of the Alps!

In fact, with elements of spring, summer and autumn all happening at once, it was a real feast for the senses!

Some almonds in blossom, some already fruiting, depending on location and elevation.

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Citrus, ripe for the picking and on your doorstep, literally…

Magnificent, majestic symbols of the heritage of which they form part: olive trees,

many still resplendent with olives as the harvest season draws to a close.

The feast for the senses continues at Malaga’s main food market: olives, almonds and so much more, by the bucket load!

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With many elements of local distinctiveness on offer too!

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Carrot Jam

This is a recipe that has grown out of a task I took on last autumn: volunteer vegetable photographer  for our community supported agriculture initiative here where we live in Germany. A nice gallery of veggie photos we have built up in the process too: Veggie Gallery.

And, while the orchard is enjoying its winter rest, I have been pickling and preserving my way through the produce 🙂

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Carrot Jam

 In the Orient a classic, for us, something different for the breakfast table

1kg carrots, peeled and grated

Zest and juice of 1 untreated lemon

Zest and juice of 2 untreated oranges

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds

500 g brown sugar

250 ml apple juice (naturally cloudy i.e. unfiltered)

 

  1. Combine the grated carrots with the sugar in a bowl, cover and leave to draw overnight.
  2. The next day, place the carrots and sugar in a large saucepan together with the remaining ingredients and stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, remove the lid and boil for 30 to 60 minutes until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of jam (test for a set if you want to be sure).
  4. Place in sterilised jars and seal immediately. Keeps for several months if stored in a cool, dark place.

 

Makes about 1.3 kg

The Return of the Light: A Gallery

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Imbolc 2017

“Lichtmess”, or Candlemas as it is known in English, is the Christianised name for an age-old European festival celebrating the return of the light in the northern hemisphere, its roots going back to the Celtic festival of Imbolc celebrated on the evening of 1st February.

As of February, the increasing hours of daylight start to become more noticeable and the day’s work again begins and ends in daylight.

In the country calendar “Lichtmess” or Candlemas also marked the end of the annual employment contract for farmhands and maidservants: traditionally presented with a farewell gift of a new pair of shoes from their farmer employer, come Candlemas on 2nd February, farmhands were free to seek new masters for the next year.

Neither farmhand nor in need of a new master, Imbolc always lightens my spirits, just knowing that the light is back. Be it with candlemaking or a ritual “back to the light” hike or bike tour, it is cause for a personal celebration:

 

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Twelfth Night in the Orchard

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night, depending on which strand of this ancient European tradition, marks the end of the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…

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It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…

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The English tradition of wassailing in the orchard on Twelfth Night has its parallels in other European traditions as well when the remains of the Yule festivities (bread and cake) were laid at the foot of the fruit trees as offerings in return for a good harvest. The English tradition sees the fruit trees showered with cider while bread and cake are hung from the branches. The tree trunks were sometimes beaten with sticks in a symbolic act intended to encourage the sap to flow, while the villagers would sup on mulled cider and serenade the trees with the Wassail song:

Old Apple Tree, we wassail thee

And hoping thou wilt bear

Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls

And a little heap under the stairs

Hip! Hip! Hooray!

(Source: Orchards, by Claire Masset 2012, Shire Books)

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We refrain from beating our trees from sticks, but the mulling and the cake … and perhaps the serenading … do feature while the winter pruning is going on!

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Gingerbread Rescue & Recovery

Not quite as accomplished as last year’s efforts, perhaps, but there is a whole lot more dramatic effect involved when the gingerbread tree house collapses …

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and the building material is transformed into a Forest Hideaway (“Waldversteck“):

And the village on the hill survived intact…

Same rules every year: it stays standing – no touching and no nibbling – until Christmas Day when it is then free to be plundered…

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Advent

It starts with a wreath :

Typically featuring four candles representing the four seasons enjoyed during the course of the year, the candles on the Advent wreath are lit one at a time on each of the four Sundays preceding the “Wend”, the Winter Solstice, now ‘Christianised’ as Christmas Eve (in Germany) or Christmas Day (in the Anglo Saxon realm).

And the first week of Advent is going to be about:

Mulling Syrup, Meadow Orchard Christmas Mincemeat and The BEST Gingerbread Biscuits

for Advent in Germany is about “Plätzchen”, the bright side of the dark time of the year!

Plätzchen with copyright

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