Christmas Day 2019 ... We will unexpectedly rise at 5.19am festooned with over-excited 8-year-old twins and then immediately go back to bed as it's far too early. Our gourmand 12-year-old son will prepare and bring us scrambled eggs with smoked salmon at 9.00am because that's his thing. I will groggily head to the fridge and accompany this with two glasses of Bucks Fizz as it's Christmas, a bit like when you have a lager at Manchester airport at three in the morning because you're going on holiday and ‘opening hours’ go out the window.

Pigs in Blankets, roasties and sprouts will have been prepped on Christmas Eve, so there will only be the turkey to consider in the morning. Please note there can be NO deviation from turkey - I have flouted haunch of venison, rib of beef and ‘Bombay Bad Boy’ Pot Noodles over the years but have been shot down on each occasion by our exclusively octogenarian clientele.

We will head out to the Barbon Inn, an arduous 2-minute walk, where I will sink two pints of foaming nut-brown ale and Jules will attempt to fend off kisses from at least three of the village drunks. I have thus far, managed to avoid joining this plucky group but following six-weeks of Pre-Christmas

The frost arrived at the end of October and I felt happy to harvest the leeks. It’s said that we need a good frost to convert their starch to sugars making them tastier. This applies to parsnips too but I’m yet to dig any up, as I only have a small crop. Visitors arrive from down south soon, so I’ll treat them to a slow roast Herdwick joint, stuffed with garlic and rosemary.

sow it, grow it, eat it! by Annette Gibbons

Talking of garlic, I shall be planting the next raised bed of garlic this month, hoping that we get some decent frost to help them break into cloves. Last years were plentiful, although perhaps a little small. They are still firm, so I can roast them and use them in casseroles and stir fries. Garlic does like a rich soil to sit it out in the winter. I’ve been experimenting with layers of leaf mould, wet newspaper, wood ash and compost over some beds to improve fertility. Luckily for me, garlic thrives in a well-drained soil and that’s just what I have by the sea. I plant them about an inch deep, 4 inches apart and then leave them to


Annette Gibbons OBE is renowned as a champion of local food and whilst supporting Cumbrian farmers and growers, she cultivates her organic vegetable garden on the banks of the Solway Firth

it, as with most vegetables they don’t like to be thirsty.

I had thrown dry grass cuttings around the leeks during the summer and it was good to see the way they had suppressed weeds and kept the leeks moist.

The sight of bright red apples on the tops of the albeit low growing trees in my ‘orchard’ still greets me on a sunny morning. It makes me smile and starts the day off positively. I really must get them picked and packed to store in a cool outbuilding. Once again, our

There’s also a deep dark apple chutney which keeps us going through the year. I’ve been juicing some of the red skinned apples to create a delicious shot of pink juice in the morning. I’m threatening to make apple cake too, but my recent experiment are delicious and nutritious apple crisps. The healthiest crisp in town! I have a Rayburn cooker and sitting these slices in the slow oven has been a revelation. The only problem is that they are very moreish.

Annette Gibbons Email: ISSUE 437 | 21 NOVEMBER 2019 | 17

electioneering, I may have succumbed and joined their massed ranks. She will succeed, I alas, will not be so lucky. I may have to pause to administer a tetanus injection at this point.

We then repair to Churchmouse Towers for a final frantic burst to get everything on the table for the afore-mentioned octogenarians at 3.00pm. This never happens! The food will arrive at the table at 3.10pm and we then spend half an hour tutting about the fact that the food is late and Aunty Beryl hasn't eaten a thing all day and Grandma Marion is diabetic and was expecting to eat at 3.00pm, why the delay? We then segue into two Christmas Days - one which involves the five of us playing games, wearing silly hats and drinking a really marvellous Malbec I have had in the cellar all year. The other, which seems to revolve around who Phil Mitchell is going to murder this year, or if Albert Tatlock is going to be framed for the Post Office robbery. Is Albert Tatlock still around? I've not watched Corrie for 30 years; he'll be about 120 by now! And there will be much talk of arthritis. I will be asleep, in the trifle, by midnight. And, importantly, I would not have it any other way!

But you're here for the cheese and my top tip for this Christmas is Baron Bigod - a raw milk, Brie de Meaux-style cheese from Fen Farm Dairy in Bungay, Suffolk. By the stars, it's gorgeous but keep it in the cellar or an outhouse, or it will whiff out your fridge until Easter!

And incidentally a very Merry Christmas to all of you at home!

John Natlacen, Owner

rodent friends have been eager to nibble them too, so I’ve changed buildings. I wonder if their perfume will give them away!

My apple chili and garlic jelly are now made, giving me great satisfaction using our own produce. This goes with all sorts of dishes as an accompaniment, as well as adding it to sauces and gravy to heighten flavour and/or sweetness.

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