Sunday, 20 January 2013

Snow...the British way.

Snow, snow, snow...!
Being lucky enough to have friends in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, not to mention some of the chillier US states, I feel a little silly making a big deal over a bit of snow, but for us it is not a regular occurence. Some years we have no snow at all and mostly when we do it is not deep and only lasts a few days. So, when on Friday we had 15cm of snow, I'm sorry but it was a big deal. It was the deepest snow Mark had seen in his life (I saw more in Chamonix, but that's in the world that lives with snow, without grinding to a halt). 

I don't work Fridays (thank goodness) but Mark does and could not get in to work. We could not have got out of our road, the A46 was barely passable and the M4 slip road at Bath was closed. There were no trains running from Templemeads, so even walking the two miles to the station and getting a train was out of the equation - and if he had got in, there was no guarantee he would have got home. The Met Office has been saying that global warming is actually likely to make our climate more Scandinavian than Mediterranean - if that's true, we are going to have to learn to live with snow! Maybe one day our transport systems will become snow-tolerant and Winter tyres and snow chains will be de rigueur - but not by Monday, when I have to get to work!!

Actually there was some melt yesterday and if I'm really lucky the snow forecasted for today and tomorrow will not amount to much. I am keeping everything crossed for blazing sunshine today and clear roads in the morning!

However, before the snow disappears, I would just like to appreciate the fun, pretty side of snow. I woke on Friday to a garden reminiscent of Narnia.

our garden in the snow

snowy trees in the garden

our Bath garden in the snow

Anne and John's garden over the fence

snow on the sycamore tree

the driveway

the gargoyle that was meant to go to Sweden but was too heavy for the baggage allowance
red car in the snow

I am sure the neighbours think I am mad (and not just because I spent much time on Thursday out with the cat-tracker-thingy tracking down the collar Max wriggled out of) as I was out before daylight yesterday, practising low-light photos with a tripod...

our road

It always feels like a sign of hope when I see tiny, delicate flowers surviving the snow - a reminder that this is just a seasonal blip and Spring is just round the corner.

Winter jasmine in the snow

Cats in the snow

The cats are not sure about snow. Rio gives it a go; dashing from dry spot to dry spot until his paws get too cold, at which point he runs hell for leather for the cat flap.

Rio hides from the snow

cold paws!

black and white camouflaged cat

Max in the meantime decided there was only one place he wanted to be!

Max keeps warm

Maybe Max had the right idea - a little cat doesn't want to sit still too long in the snow, or who knows what could happen!

snow kitty


It may be a good thing that the cats want to stay out of the snow, as the birds need as much help as possible when the weather is bad. We have been filling the bird-feeders every day for them.

robin on the bird table

we put out meal worms for the robin

next year's Christmas card?

well squirrels need to eat too!
We have a wonderful sparrow-hedge in the garden and it is always filled with squabbling sparrows - rather like the birds in the 'Rhubarb and Custard' cartoon!

sparrow in the snow

sparrow in the snow

I know starlings are not always very popular, but I think their markings are beautiful!

starling on the bird table

starling in the snow

There was also a fox in the garden (Mark saw the fox but I just saw the tracks), and I spotted this animal track in the snow. At first I was convinced it was a muntjac deer, until I realised it was not a single hoven print, but the print of four small squirrel paws leaping through the snow.

grey squirrel tracks in the snow

Of course, when it comes to wildlife, nothing can quite compare with the neighbourhood kids! They have all been having a whale of a time, having snowball fights and tobogganing down the road and in the park round the corner - and to top it all the schools were closed on Friday!

Bath wildlife

Warming up

hot chocolate

All the playing in the snow felt like justification for a big mug of hot chocolate.

hot chocolate with marshmallows


My other indoor, warming activity has been marmalade making. Homemade marmalade tastes so much better than store bought - and I am not a fan of the tins of prepared oranges for marmalade making; I mean, what's the point? Last week I shared photos of my seville orange marmalade, and I thought perhaps I should share my favourite recipe (although I confess, I added too much water and it was too runny, so yesterday I boiled it up again with some extra pectin - now it's perfect).

I have several preserving books, but my absolute favourite is Fruits of the Earth by Gloria Nicol. My mum bought me the book (signed) at The Laundry at Taurus Crafts in the Forest of Dean - which sadly is no longer there (although there are still lots of other lovely artisan shops there). Gloria Nicol has written a load of books about all sorts of crafts and writes a lovely blog - very clever lady! Anyway, here is her marmalade recipe (also published in her column in the Guardian):

Seville Orange Marmalade (makes about 2kg)
1 kg Seville oranges
1 lemon
1.5 kg sugar
1.25 litres water
Wash the whole fruits and place in a heavy lidded casserole or a preserving pan that will fit in the oven. Pour in the water and bring to simmering point on the hob. Cover or if using a preserving pan make a lid to cover the top with tin foil before placing in a 180 C, Mk4 oven. Poach the fruit for two-and-a-half to three hours, by which time the skins will be softened.
Using a spoon, lift the fruit out of the liquid into a colander over a bowl and leave to drain. When the fruit is cool enough to handle, cut each in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon to leave just the peel, placing all the flesh, pith and pips in a muslin bag or a large piece of muslin over a bowl which you can gather into a bag. Collect all the juice as you go and add it to the poaching liquid.
Measure the poaching liquid and make up to 1 litre with water if necessary. Place the muslin bag in a preserving pan with the poaching liquid and bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Leave till cool enough to handle then squeeze the bag to get as much of the liquid as possible from the pulp. Discard the bag and its contents.
Chop the peel into thin strips and add to the preserving liquid. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil until it reaches setting point. (Setting point is when a dollop of the syrup on a cold plate, readily forms a skin when you push your finger across the surface. This takes me around 15 to 25 minutes.)
Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes then stir to distribute the peel. Pour into hot, clean sterilised jars, put waxed paper circles wax side down on each one and seal immediately. Label when cool and store in the larder.
When I follow the recipe properly, this works every time - I only had to add pectin this time because I thought I knew it all and added too much water!

As Ocado had ruby grapefruit on offer, I also tried making grapefruit marmalade  - as one of my old school friends mentioned her difficulty finding it (I will post a couple of jars to her when the snow clears, and hope they get there safely!). I tried the other method of marmalade making (paring the zest from the fruit before cooking):

Grapefruit marmalade (fills 6 or 7 small jars)
6 Grapefruit (pink, ruby or ordinary)
1 kg granulated sugar approx
Wash the grapefruit under a cold tap and dry. Use a potato peeler to remove the zest in strips. Cut the zest strips into match stick size pieces, either with a knife or kitchen scissors. Use a sharp knife to cut off the remaining pith - it's easiest to take a slice of the top and bottom first so it sits flat on the chopping board, and use as sharp a knife as possible.

Finely chop the grapefruit flesh, removing any pips, or blitz in a food processor. Measure the flesh and juice and add to a preserving pan with the same volume of sugar and the prepared pieces of zest. Bring slowly to the boil until the sugar has dissolved (liquid will be clear). Boil rapidly for 15 to 25 minutes until it reaches setting point (use a cold plate like the recipe above).

Ladle into warm, sterilised jars. Label when cool.

I have to say, I prefer the first method (cooking the fruit first), as the zest in the second method is not as soft and yummy - and I think it is also easier to cut the peel when it's soft. My next marmalade making is going to be Gloria Nicol's lemon and fig marmalade, so I will let you know how I get on with that one!


  1. I relly don't like snow!! But your pictures from your garden are amazing with all the snow, so maybe maybe it is ok with snow one or two day a year!

    1. Well one or two days...maybe...not work days though!

  2. My poor gargoyle! He looks a bit cold, certainly :-). Lovely pictures - as always! The starlings are amazing, I didn't know that they are so spectacular.

    1. Well your poor gargoyle would be colder still if he had made it to Sweden.

      I do think starlings are beautiful - and they stand out so well against the snow.