rhubarb crown

Rhubarb, like so many things I adore, requires more patience than work. You can plant a rhubarb crown through March – though November or December is best – so we squeaked in a quick bit of transplanting.

rhubarb crown © elisa rathje 2013

My mother’s well-established rhubarb is coming along nicely. Next door to this raised bed, we needed to move some rhubarb to another spot.

rhubarb crown

We gently dug it out, just as you would if you were dividing it. I can see what it is called a crown, the roots are majestic.

rhubarb planting

The crown needs to be planted with the growth at or just above the soil level, and some good compost tipped in first will help it get a good start. Here’s where the patience comes in. Aside from watering in well, the rhubarb isn’t harvested in its first year, and only lightly in the second. Yet for a good ten years, the rhubarb should provide nicely, without much attention at all. A bit of fertiliser in midsummer perhaps, and then cutting back the leaves in autumn when they’ve died off. Not much to it.

rhubarb crown © elisa rathje 2013

It seems happy enough, though it might have preferred moving earlier in the year. One day I’ll be settled enough to put in my own rhubarb and look forward to years of pulling rhubarb for kiiseli, rhubarb tarts, rhubarb anything. Perhaps I shall give in to a Victorian impatience and try forcing it with a rhubarb pot! I anticipate it each spring as the first local fruit of the season.

pomander

Late in the autumn, just before we turn our thoughts to holiday plans and wintry things, we like to make clove oranges. Some very sweet clementines arrived in the farm shop, so we took them home and set about making pomanders.

clove-oranges © elisa rathje 2011

The oldest pomanders were used as spiced, perfumed necklaces, often held in amber, ‘pomme d’amber’, but through the Victorian era their use was more firmly in the home, much like potpourri, to freshen the air and drive away pests. Oranges and other fruit studded with cloves, sometimes rolled in spices, and allowed to cure, can keep for years, releasing scented oils. Like a lavender sachet, these are very functional, as the strong scents truly do deter moths, and clear the air. No old wive’s tale here – or only the best kind.

clove-oranges © elisa rathje 2011

If the oranges are quite thin-skinned, even little hands can press the cloves in easily, and make a design of one sort or another. Such a glorious scent! Inspiration to bake spice cookies. These can be set in a bowl, tucked into muslin when dry, or tied up with ribbons in a closet.

clove-oranges © elisa rathje 2011

I’ve set one beside another of my little homemade sprigged pots. Soon we’ll set about our winter decorations. It’s still quite mild, if a little stormy, in the south of England, but even the oak over our cottage is nearly bare-branched. Little lights and a bright wreath would be very welcome.