Showing posts with label preserving. Show all posts
Showing posts with label preserving. Show all posts


Uncertain Harvest ~ Ray Lovegrove

(C) K and R Lovrgrove

In the dictionary of any gardener, grower or farmer the words 'Spring' and 'hope' are almost synonymous. I'm one of the old school who don't think of Spring as starting at the equinox, nor at any date on the calender, but simply when the soil is warm enough to sow. That time is soon upon us, and for some folks who live further south and at lower altitudes than me, it may have come already. Some of you may think that we in the British Isles spend too much of our time talking about the weather, that may be true, but then we do have good reason, our weather is hard to predict! We don't have the deepest snow, or the hottest weeks, we miss out on hurricanes and tornadoes and most other examples of extreme weather; but we do sit with the vast Atlantic ocean to our west, the Arctic circles not too far to the north and our vast Eurasian land mass to the east; all of these possible influences make our weather fickle. Although most of our weather comes from the south-west, that can change overnight to the north-east. It might be springlike today, but tomorrow it could be back to winter, and the next day...who knows? The spouting seedlings can be taken by the frost or washed away by rain. Some years our plum trees give us such a harvest that we are working late preserving fruit for weeks, but one night of late frost, in early Spring, when the blossoms are out results in no plums, no greengages and (worst of all) no damsons that summer.

The poet Robert Frost had a wide experience of weather, born in sunny San Fransico he later moved to the chillier climes of New Hampshire, but it was in this land, where England and Wales meet, where he would have come upon the unpredictable 'stopping-and-starting' kinds of spring that I am used to. This poem tells all;


Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.


Robert Frost 1915

That 'uncertain harvest' is a difficult thing, we don't think, as we sow our seed, of drought, of storms and pests and summers that don't quite work out as they should. As with so many things in life; starting a career, finding a partner, having children, buying a house ~ we live in the hope of what might be and don't give too much thought to that harvest which seems so very far away.

  • To find out more about simply enjoying the seasons click here.
  • To find out more about simple growing click here.
  • If you have no land to grow crops, but still want to produce your own food click here.
  • For some ideas on cooking what you grow click here.
  • And to provide some ideas for simple eating click here.

(C) Ray Lovegrove (aka 'Hay Quaker') 2015


'A Jar of Amber' ~ Ray Lovegrove

For much of I my life I have been involved with a wonderful, and for most of us mysterious substance; glass. I should explain that before my life as a homesteader, I was a chemist and worked first in pharmaceutical chemistry and then as a chemistry teacher. Cabinets full of glassware were my playground and I never lost my love and respect for retorts, conical flasks, delivery tubes and bell jars. Even before them my childhood was filled with what we call in the UK 'jam-jars' (and what I presume are called 'jelly jars' in North America) filling my bedroom with tadpoles, caterpillars, germinating seeds and slowly growing crystals.

(C) K and R Lovegrove

My love of glass jars continues to this day and I spend much time in the summer and autumn, quickly filling them with preserves, pickles and bottled fruit; then, over the winter and spring they are slowly brought out, and their contents appreciatively consumed. You can freeze produce, it's true, but nothing looks so beautiful, or tastes so good, as home 'canned' produce. You can, of course, buy jars for the home preserving of produce, but my simple home policy of 'recycle, reuse, repair and reduce', leads me to reclaim used jars and reuse them time and time again. In fact, it is cheaper in the UK to buy a jar of Polish pickles, eat the pickles, then wash and use the jar, than it is to buy an empty jar!

(C) K and R Lovegrove

My rules for jar reuse are simple;

·         Only use those jars which have labels stuck on with water soluble paste. Reject all jars in the store if the labels are stuck on with 'science fiction gum', it is too difficult to remove these gummed on labels, but you might have some luck by filling the jar with warm water, leaving for a few minutes then peeling slowly from one corner. Most jars with heavily gummed labels can only be sent to the glass recycling bin. If possible determine the way the label is stuck on before buying the product, wrinkly labels are generally pasted on and are the easiest to remove by soaking.

(C) K and R Lovegrove

·         Even if you cannot reuse the jar always save the lid. Lids, as a rule don’t have as long a useful life as the jars themselves and it is always useful to have spares.

·         Keep a store of empty washed jars. Keeping them with the lids on prevents dirt and dust getting in and stops spiders making a home in them. You need to wash the jars before you store them and again before they are sterilised for use.

·         Always gently lever off jar lids, if you pierce them with a small hole they will be of no further use to you.

·         Never buy gummy labels to put on your own produce jars, always use paste which is easier to clean off for next time. You can make a paste from flour and water (adding some salt acts as a preservative), or buy decorator wallpaper paste and mix a spoonful with water. Keep your made-up paste in a jar.

(C) K and R Lovegrove

How to use your Jars

·         Buy dried goods in recyclable paper, polythene or ‘cellophane’ bags and empty them into appropriately sized screw top glass jars. Don’t use a jar too small or you will be left with half a packet that won't fit! Label your jars and store them out of direct sunlight.

·         Use them for preserving your produce, jams/jellies, chutneys, pickles canned/bottled fruits etc.

·         Salads can be made directly into a jar, with a little dressing, and placed in the refrigerator for later in the day, packed lunches or picnics.

(C) K and R Lovegrove

·         Jars make excellent vases (in fact, I like them better than vases).

·         A jar with a candle in is a perfect table decoration, outside or in!

·         Drinking from a jam jar always makes the drink, taste more ‘rebellious’

·         Cloches made from jars are excellent and the weight of the jar makes them fairly windproof. In my garden I raise runner beans, French beans and sunflowers in this way.


·         You can keep some frog-spawn or tadpoles for a few days to give your children, and yourselves, the joy of watching them grow. Choose somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight and then put them back in the pond. You can take some from the pond every few days to watch their development.

(C) John Stokes

And if you or your children paint, then what do I need to tell you!
To find out more about simple growing click here.
If you have no land to grow crops, but still want to produce your own food click here.
For some ideas on cooking what you grow click here.
And to provide some ideas for simple eating click here.


"My earliest childhood memory is watching the sunlight through a jar of amber full of wasps."

Amanda Harlech


(C)  Ray Lovegrove (Aka 'Hay Quaker') 2015
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