Indoor projects

strawberryjamI cheated. I bought strawberries and made some jam. There it’s out. I blame Christine Ferber, the Alsace patissier and jam queen. I had ordered her book of jams and jellies to try and expand my repertoire of preserves.

But before I delved into her book I succumbed to a few supermarket punnets and turned them into jam.

It’s too early for my strawberry and rose petal jam. So just plain strawberry it is. And using my old technique. In a month or so I will write about the one Christine Ferber uses. It is different and fascinating.

I was suprised how delicious it tastes.  Is it because it’s the first of the year? Or just because jam often tastes better than the raw ingredient you buy from supermarkets. Or dare I even admit, at the market?

I love my home grown strawberries as they are juicy and fragile and full of flavour.  But right now they are still in flower and in a very green state. I’m impatient for them to ripen and delight.

Today I thought I’d give you a different sort of Farm Tour. An interior visit to the kitchen and my office. A change of colour from the relentless green outdoors.

For nine years we have been muddling along with an unmodified kitchen. Well, I have painted the beams and the ceiling and the walls and added shelves and all sorts of improvements.

But the wooden work surface was a let down.  Veneer wood. And a cheap pine stained dark brown – except where it was stained even darker when inattentive hot saucepans were placed on their surface.

And the sink was small and had no plug. It’s a disgrace that I left it so long.  But finding a carpenter willing to take on such a challenge – these thick thick walls are very wonky – took years.

kitchen newsurface

kitchenhorizHurah for Tony. He measured not once but four times to get everything just right. And we are now the proud owners of a kitchen that is probably what it might have been a few centuries ago. (Apart from the dishwasher, the odd non stick pan, white walls and a white ceiling. The window probably hasn’t changed much.)

Honest old chestnut planks; thick and gnarled, created as tables to make two freestanding work surfaces. And one long lovely table top that separates the living room from the kitchen.

We coated them with Tung oil; a product I had to bring out from England in litre pots.  Three coats and about two weeks drying in between each coat. Tony is a meticulous man.  And the best place to dry the tables was in our barn – open on both sides so quite airy and also offerring protection from wind and rain.

The smell of the oil was quite pungent as I plodded past on my way to the potting shed and yearned for them to hurry up and dry.

And Dario battled hard and installed a new butler’s sink. Wide and deep and with the novelty of a plug. Wonders never cease.

sinkThe wood is so textural and lovely that we tend to keep it pretty clear.

The only drawback to this new worksurface is I am finding that I can’t mess about with buckets of flowers and floods of water for vases like I used to do every Wednesday before market day.

Now the most daring I get to be is displaying my pots of freshly cut herbs in teensy little vases and keeping them well away from wetting the wood. herbs2

I don’t know how long this careful nurturing of the work surfaces will last; but for now it’s fab.

And continuing with the indoor theme: here is another small obsession of mine. Notebooks.

Internet and electronic media is all very well, but nothing quite beats the notebook. The real thing.  Fountain pens and paper and ideas and lists.

I have a rather sad obsession with these beautiful Japanese papers.  I blame my friend Andrew for introducing me to this wonderful bookbinding and paper emporium in London a few years back.

Every few months (six if I am restrained) I will go and get just one more sheet of their wonderful Katazome-shi or Chiyogami paper.  And then cover a blank notebook and off I go. I like to keep the stacked up in front of me, blank and poised, and then I agonize about which to use next.  I generally take about eight months to fill each book. So unless I get fetched off by a tractor or a bus, I have the next few years sorted. I really don’t need to mooch down to Victoria (in London) and darken the doors of the store for ages.

Ah, and a last shot (you can see I am playing with photo galleries today) of another indoor obsession.  Artur is well and sleeping happily in the potting shed. Just for the fans.