Chance of a snack supercedes all other senses for the dogs


John is flat out in an effort to finish drilling winter wheat this week. The dry spell has broken just in time to germinate the new seed.

The weather has been exceptionally helpful this backend. Dry when he wanted it for ploughing and harrowing, and now wet when we need the moisture.

As John and I sit in the front of the Land Rover where I have taken him a cup of tea and some buttered scones for a mid afternoon snack, a dull persistent thump at the door indicates that Millie, our Jack Russell wants to join us. Now.

All three dogs come with me whenever I take John refreshments.

They love these trips and have extra sensory perception that this time when I walk out of the back door I am going in the Land Rover rather than walking to the hen house. Could be the jangle of the Land Rover keys and the basket full of tea things.

Or maybe it is ESP. But the chance of a snack supersedes all other senses.

After ten minutes hanging around outside the Land Rover waiting for a crumb or two to be thrown out the window to them, Fizz and Pip wander off to explore hedgerows, rabbit holes, new smells. But Millie wants to be in. Then as soon as she is in, she wants to be out. Never satisfied.

Down the fields there is no chance of any blackberries as John has trimmed all the hedges back, but recently a neighbour introduced me to bullaces.

I had never heard of them but he described them in lyrical format as blue, velvety, luscious looking treasures of the hedgerow. Excellent for making jam and a cousin of the damson.

Our sloes are pumping up nicely. Soon I shall be at the supermarket for industrial quantities of gin to make that primary requirement of every shooting party, sloe gin. Last year’s brew is ready for decanting but we need to lay down next years liqueur very soon before the sloes disappear. We do not need many and also do not want to deprive farmland birds of a valuable food source. We shall share them.

At home my apple store is now full. Sounds grand but is actually old wood pallets lined with newspaper and stacked off the ground to deter rats and mice. It is a bonanza year for apples.

You cannot give them away. I would love to know a really original culinary use for them.

Apple pie, sponge, crumble, croustade, charlotte, jelly, jam, cheese, chutney, cheesecake, sauce, soup, ice cream, sorbet, fritters, flan, crunch, tarte tatin, salad and plain baked... I’ve done them all and want something new.

The trees are still groaning with fruit and if I keep on freezing apple purée for pies, I shall soon have no room left for game. But as it seems so wasteful to let the apples drop and rot I have left an open invitation to friends to come and help themselves.