Fecund – a marvellous word and one that sums up the garden and orchard at Meadow Cottage. I am overwhelmed with fruit and the evidence lies right outside my studio window, where every fruit tree, and there are thirty-three of them, have been fruit laden. It has been a good year for fruit. The spring blossom was late, last winter kept us in its frozen grip for so long, and then there were no late frosts. Insects were dashing about pollinating and this abundance is the result. Further evidence is there on my laden Medlar; it is waiting to be ‘bletted’ by frost, whereupon it can be made into a sort of curd. At the moment it looks like an ugly little fruit of no consequence.
Recently I heard that gardener on the radio, the one that grows strawberries in rubber tyres and has a very long plait down his back, tell a lady that she should give up the idea of growing vegetables (too labour intensive) and plant fruit bushes and trees instead as you need to do so little to fruit other than to harvest it. Wrong. So very wrong. I have spent an entire day making Membrillo (quince paste), another day making spiced apple chutney, yet another making various compotes and jellies. I have found myself standing in my diminutive kitchen in an apron scattered with sprigs of flowers, looking the picture of rustic contentment whilst actually feeling quite resentful. Clearly I would never have made a farmer’s wife.
Earlier this week I gifted some of the quinces to my Sainsbury Centre writing students and more to neighbours and friends. One of my students has found some recipes on the internet, Ratafia of Quinces and a Tudor seal made from the paste and embossed with a design featuring a stag (I won’t be emulating that one), another friend is posting me a quince mincemeat recipe and suggested soaking them in brandy; I have taken to this idea. I have also decided to soak some in vodka with lemons, and currently I am wondering if dry sherry might be a winning combination. Alarmingly, I have just read that by not taking the pips out I may be introducing a small amount of cyanide into the mixture. So later today I will be hoicking the chopped quinces from the booze and removing all the pips. Poisoning my family and guests at Christmas was not part of my festive plan. Not this year at least.
The sharp-eyed amongst you will wonder where I am with my writing. Apparently, I am working on the re-draft of my latest novel and a short story about a man guarding a rare stamp, except for the past two weeks my fingers have barely met with the keyboard and I don’t even have the excuse of writers block. I have abundance block; my time taken up with sterilising jars, wrestling with muslin squares, jam thermometers and all the paraphernalia that becomes part and parcel of living in a plentiful rural idyll. In Country Living magazine women, and it usually women, are pickling and preserving comestibles joyfully – who are these paragons? I admit that packaged in their quaint jars with rubber seals and descriptive labelling my jars of preserves, jams, jellies and booze look wonderful. Next year, when friends have dug up and removed some of my fruit trees to their own gardens, these autumnal tasks will diminish and I might then take more pleasure in them. As a writer less is more – less preserving fruit and more creating and writing.
Still, better by far to have abundance block rather than writers block.