country dance

Not so long ago, when we first thought of leaving London for a tiny village in Sussex, a village fair (with Buster Keaton playing in the hall!) and a barn dance persuaded us that we’d found our community. Glorious fiddling, young and old dancing round a barn at the local farm, beautiful food on the tables from the land around. We met such fine friends there, and we miss them very much. So, here in the tiny community surrounding our new island home in the forested Highlands, with great joy, we went to our first country dance at the old schoolhouse.

country-dance-twirl

Some of us were so excited, we began before the accordion started, even as the potluck was being packed away.

country-dance-caller

Here is the caller, stepping in to dance with my small one to round out the pairs. Later she danced with our beloved village elder, now in his nineties, youngest and eldest.

country-dance-pairs

These are simple dances, and deceptively so. We were astonished at how flushed and tired we could get! Country-dance workout. We’ve been reading Austen all winter, and watching films of her books, so a dance like this echoes stories across history. “A ball? I long for a ball!”

the old schoolhouse

Out of the old schoolhouse, back into the world of snow and ice.

tug-o-war

Over at the autumn Highland Heritage Fair, not so far from our little cottage, they held a tug-o-war.

tug-o-war

Such an entertaining bit of fun, suspenseful, silly, everyone pulling together. The tug of war dates back at least to ancient Egypt and China, and was made popular in Britain in the 1600’s by an enthusiastic Lord Simpson. It is at once Olympic and yet requires little skill to thoroughly enjoy.

tug-o-war

My girls prefer to sit in a tree and watch this sort of thing, but somehow it wrapped up a day at the fair (of fiddling, a hay-toss, pottery, the opening of a new local museum, and of course, fabulous tables from the likes of a local stonecarver, an old-time photographer, jam preservers and bakers, a fuller & beader, and yours, appleturnover) just perfectly.

planting garlic

When I choose what food to grow, particularly in a small space, with limited time, I like to choose something that is expensive to buy, keeps a short time, or comes from a long way away. Astonishingly, garlic is one of those foods that seems regularly to be imported to this country! Considering how effortless it is to grow here, and that it does perfectly well along the latitude that I seem to frequent, both in Canada and in England, it is a perfect crop for me. Have you grown your own garlic? It’s easy – let me show you.

garlic-beds.jpg

My mother let me devote one of her raised beds to a bit of garlic. Any pot or sunny-ish spot between plants will do.

garlic-compost.jpg

I topped the bed up with some good compost. No need to dig it in, the worms will have the amusement of that job.

garlic-clovess.jpg

Like other bulbs that you might be planting at this time of year (if the ground around you isn’t yet frozen, nor yet under snow) you’ll want to notice where the roots are, and where the neck is. We’ll separate the cloves and plant the garlic root-side down. It is a bit flat on that end, and pointier at the top, in case you’ve bought garlic specifically for planting and cannot see any roots on the bulb. Buying ‘seed garlic’ may be a good idea, but I’ve never had a problem just using whatever organic garlic I had left in the kitchen.

digging-garlics.jpg

Also like other bulbs, you’re going to be planting garlic at a depth about 2 times its length. Press the earth around it so it is well tucked in. You can mulch over the top if your plants will need that kind of protection. It tends to be far too wet here for that, and mild, at sea level on the coast.

garlic_planteds.jpg

To amend a verse from The Giant Radish: Grow garlic, grow big; Grow garlic grow strong!; Grow garlic, grow huge! I might put some more in another pot or two, as I aspire to grow enough to braid my own garlic. Such satisfaction, a ten minute task done, and in it I’ve won a tiny victory for eating local. I’ve been wondering a little about the true costs of transporting our food a very long way. They aren’t just ecological, and economical, are they? I wonder if these problems are very much about our own connection to our food, attachment to the seasons and the harvest, and a sense of one’s knowledge and self-reliance, too. There’s still time to plant your own garlic.