Sunday, March 27, 2016

The point of an Easter Egg

Has anyone else noticed that commercial eggs, eggs bought in shops or from market stalls, lack two important characteristics? None of them are plain white and very, very few have a pointy end. (Hint: if you do see white eggs, check whether they are duck eggs before buying.)
commercial eggs, bought Sunday 27/03 morning - note triangles

To me these seem an important cultural loss, not least because teachers of English, teaching Gulliver's Travels, will have to explain what the Littlendians and Bigendians were on about to children for whom eggs are simple ovals. Secondly, it takes away the fun of hitting a boiled egg on one end or the other, or slicing through in one quick, skilled movement and argument as to which is the best technique*.

last week's La Chaise eggs

My first job, for pocket money, was in a greengrocer's shop, part of a national chain, where I packed up orders for delivery and sorted the eggs, stamped with the little British Lion mark. It was in the days of 'Go to Work on an Egg' advice, long before eggs were declared to be dangerous to health, if not downright bad for the susceptible – cholesterol and allergies. I sorted the eggs into brown and white. The brown went into a straw lined wicker basket, lion stamp inwards, under the handwritten sign 'Fresh Farm Eggs, with a handwritten price.
commercial eggs - note triangle
The virtual disappearance of the white hen's egg, deprives children and adults (usually mothers, of course) of another charming Easter ritual. This one involved interestingly shaped green leaves – clover, fern tops, small but perfect oak leaves – brown onion skins and yards of white muslin bandage.
Children collected the leaves whilst mother washed the eggs. The leaves stuck to the damp egg, which was then wrapped in onion skins, then wrapped in muslin, carefully fixed with a pin and boiled hard. Instant decorated egg.

Two prize La Chaise eggs - with pointy ends!
Later, when safe flavourless food colouring became available to housewives, the eggs were often luridly coloured and hidden in the house or garden for young children to find. When we sold our London house a couple of years ago, I found a mini chocolate cream egg in the garden, lodged in the crook between leaf stem and leaf of a ficus. I decided to leave it – for luck – for the new owner.

* If you must find an argument of this nature – try walnuts. There are those who think they are easier to crack if hit, with boxwood hammer, on the pointed end. Then there are those who think the opposite. Of course, third parties think they should be hit on the join between the two ends....This argument is confined to people hand-cracking walnuts for walnut oil purposes.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A natural question

It is always a joy to return to La Chaise from 'Away' especially in the Spring. The grass and the trees have been washed clean. New grass is lushly growing. Catkins grace the hazel twigs, sway with the slightest waft of air. The stream flows from the ravine into the lake. It overflows. The sheep in the shed complain: they want OUT, NOW.

Of course there is mud, there are puddles and water flows from the woods to join the stream. The sheep cannot be allowed out quite yet for 80 kilos spread over four small cloven feet, probably half the size of your hand, will churn up fields worse than a wild boar looking for worms. We compromise and let them into the fenced woodland either side of the house. The sheep eat anything green, the lambs just rush around being silly.
Hyacinths returned to the 'wild'
And I rush around to see which wild flowers have come out where, whether the rosettes of fat green leaves that indicate possible wild orchids later are in the usual places. Also I like to check whether the 're-wilding' of my former pot plants has succeeded. The answer is mostly, or yes up to a point. It has succeeded with hyacinths liberated from the window boxes and with some primulas. Some of the latter come back with primula flowers – one reverted back to being a cowslip, but a dark red cowslip. I think the sheep ate it.

Daffodils a-drooping
Given the conventional idea that Nature's creations are all 'fit for purpose' (humans excepted, possibly) I wonder why so many daffodil stems break once they carry a flower? It does not seem to vary with the type of daffodil, double or single, narcissus or classic yellow, wild or planted. For three score years and ten (plus)* I have believed that daffodils, like all bulb plants, spread by the division of the parent bulb. Now I learn that they also have seeds but these take a long time to germinate into a bulb then a flower. Not a commercial proposition – but may account for random clumps appearing suddenly in unexpected places.
Rescued daffodils on kitchen table.

Planting daffodil bulbs is not as easy as I had thought.   Some years ago I bought about 100 bulbs from a very respectable Dutch horticultural catalogue and asked Arnold to plant them at the end of the lawn.  They came up two years running then ...I don't know, either that part of the lawn was too dry or the moles had eaten the bulbs.

One worrying observation:  the juniper bushes on the slopes of Fontenelles field( aka 'Greece' towards no 4 green) are all dying.  As these are very much associated with wild orchids - why i do not know -  I was much saddened.   Young juniper bushes are springing up elsewhere - but how long before the wild orchids migrate to join them?

The end of junipers on 'Greece'?

*  Actually I don't think my mother taught me about bulbs until I could read, so deduct five years
from that figure.