A heavy rainfall a week ago softened the ground a little and gave me a good opportunity to dig out clumps of ragwort which had appeared in the paddock. Livestock will not eat it in its green state but if it gets into grass cut for hay the animals do not recognise it and they suffer fatal poisoning. It is essential to remove it before it flowers and sets seed. The seed, like that of the dandelion, is attached to a fluffy umbrella which enables it to be dispersed in the wind over a wide area, making the problem worse year on year.
The elder bushes have carried a spectacular amount of blossom this year, reminding me that elderflower cordial is not difficult to make and is a pleasant drink when mixed with still or sparkling water. My recipe requires about 20 to 25 flower heads, depending on the size of the heads, 1.5 kgs of granulated sugar, 1.5 litres of water, 2 lemons, 50grms of citric acid and 2 Camden tablets. Bring sugar and water gently to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved then remove from heat and leave to cool. Slice the lemons thinly. Place in large, plastic container Add flowers, citric acid and Camden tablets. Pour in the cool syrup, cover and leave overnight. Next day strain the mixture through muslin and pour into sterilised bottles. Stored in the fridge the cordial will keep for two or three months. Have a go!
The current weather pattern, if one can call it that, seems to be favouring plant growth. The hedges are full of dog roses, white clover abounds in the field margins and the field beans have grown so fast that we have had to employ a contractor to spray them, our own equipment being unsuitable for such a thick, tall crop. Beans need a long growing season and are not harvested until September so it is essential to keep the plant healthy until that time. Of course, our honeybees are shut in their hives when spraying is taking place, but that has not been a problem. In fact, at the weekend a huge swarm appeared outside the front door, subsequently settling on a tree very close to the house, practically asking to be captured. Difficult to be sure if they came from one of our hives or not, but they were very docile and are now safely re-housed and working normally.
The Lowdham Book Festival, mentioned in a previous blog, put on, in its varied programme, an interesting and enjoyable talk by the writer, Eve Makis, with her latest book, The Spice Box Letters, a novel based on Armenian history. Entertainment was also provided by a group of dancers in elaborate traditional Armenian dress, made, incidentally, by one of the group? How often would you see that? Clearly there is no limit to the range of cultural interests catered for in the area.