Erskine Newsletter

Erskine newsletter

November 2014

Putting the finishing touches to homemade preserves

Filling the pantry has been the order of the day – proof, if proof was needed, that the old adage of storing away heart-warming goodies for winter still applies in today’s fast-paced way of life. We’ve been making jams, chutneys, jelly and piccalilli with our produce from the garden – cucumbers, rhubarb, brambles, rosehips and the last of the tomatoes. We were also able to trade a jar of piccalilli for a bucketful of windfall apples from a friend’s allotment.   Making best use of our glut of tomatoes, we made a selection of mixed tomato chutneys including one with chilli and a more aromatic version with a mixture of spices and ginger. Then it was around the table to clean the jars, sterilising them, filling, labelling and finally topping with festive fabric and ribbon.

Sitting here listening to the rain on the windows is a reminder, too, that it’s soup making time again. We’ve had fresh tomato and chilli and also good old leek and potato so far. We’ve started saving our recipes in a folder so that we can make notes and use them again.

We’ve had some new faces at Glasgow this month – veterans and volunteers – which is lovely so welcome to all ! Our morning and afternoon sessions have been full, partly because of our newly introduced system of ringing round veterans if we have a free space and also doing our ‘pick-ups’ has helped. It is well documented that some veterans find it difficult to travel on public transport so by collecting them it means we are able to bring veterans in who might not otherwise be able to get to us.  The veterans often tell us how appreciative of this service they are which is nice.

Tasting at Erskine Hospital

Preparing the garden for winter is a big part of our daily task list now – the polytunnel has been cleared of all our tomato plants and the sweetcorn.  At the beginning of the growing season we made a framework system to support our tomato plants with the intention of making tops so that we can use the space over winter. We will be pushing ahead with that now which will give us a valuable undercover working space during inclement weather.

The new shady wildlife garden is developing into a naturally quiet area – sitting behind our main building, and surrounded by a high fence and the trees, the space lends itself to sitting just taking some time out if anyone needs it.  We’ve had our first baby frogs move in too – the guys from our friends at Froglife will be pleased and, very excitingly, a visit from a sparrow hawk! We still have our daily visit by the squirrels (not red ones unfortunately) but their antics on the fence and hanging bird feeders often brighten up the day.

A regular feature on the calendar now is our fortnightly sale across at the main hospital building. We’re again sold out of jam so for next week’s sale we’ll need to get busy with the jelly strainer and the preserving pan.  Also selling well, our chutneys and piccalilli are always popular. We decided last week to do a taster session – quarter oat cakes with a sliver of cheese – topped with a selection of our goodies went down a treat. Next week we might try some nice brown bread with our jam and jelly. We already have our ‘regular customers’ which is just the nicest thing and some of them have started returning our jars (and theirs) too. And of course it’s always nice to get feedback on our products.

Clearing out our woodwork workshop

Looking forward to the month ahead, we have a presentation to the local camera club and several Christmas sales, including the Erskine Hospital Christmas Cracker so we will be busy making our Christmas themed stock for those.  We’ve been planting some spring bulbs and harvesting and packaging up our honesty seeds from the garden too. The resulting dried pearl white honesty plants make a beautiful seasonal display in a vase especially if sprinkled with tiny white fairy lights. On one of the recent rainy days we spent a lovely afternoon harvesting and listing our bounty of wildflower seeds from the garden so those are now squirrelled away for springtime.

We’ve had a big push on clearing out and organising the woodwork workshop – not only does it make for a much more pleasurable place for the veterans and volunteers to work, but it’s a safer and more roomy area for everyone.  We have set up two dedicated areas with tables and chairs giving us an extra quiet meeting area should we need it.

Wendy and Karen

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