spring has sprung

primrose polyanthus violets

It seems that spring has sprung. Trees are bursting into leaf, there’s a froth of early blossom in the hedgerow and the grassy banks of the ditches are a covered with violets, primroses and cowslips.

In Grove Field, the land has been pulled down and the beans have been drilled and rolled in. I love it when we have beans growing near the house as the scent of the flowers is wonderful. These field beans look like broad beans as they grow, but instead of being picked green, they’re left on the plant to dry out. When the stalk is black and everyone thinks that we farmers have gone mad and left the crop for too long, the beans are dry enough to harvest with the combine. Our field beans are used for animal feed or exported to the Middle East for human consumption. Sometimes, I pinch a few to make a bean and tomato dish that we eat with a fried egg.

While work on the land is going full tilt, the outside landscaping around The Barley Barn has become a frustrating exercise in balancing the constraints of an old building with the regulations concerning public access.  Decisions can no longer be made on aesthetic merit or practicality but have to be referred to the “manual”. Railings have to be erected to cover the actions of the stupid, paving installed for  visually impaired visitors, ramps built for physically disabled people, everything measured to the millimetre, checked and rechecked to make sure we have it all exactly right before the official inspections by various authorities. Obviously, we want to provide safe and inclusive access, it’s just very time consuming making sure we comply with every last rule and pushes the finish time back further.

rose jelly in mould

As ever, I work out my problems by taking a long walk and making something frivolous in the kitchen. This week it seemed appropriate to celebrate with a spring like jelly because somehow, jelly is the thing for spring. It’s easily made by adding dissolved leaf gelatine to diluted rose syrup and then adding the juice of a lemon to the amber liquid, taking the edge off the sweetness and miraculously turning it a vibrant pink. Similarly, the violet liqueur that I make soon turns a slightly browner shade of violet than is desirable, but squeeze in some lime or lemon juice and it takes on the hue of methylated spirits (but thankfully not the smell). The jelly is made in layers, with a few primrose and polyanthus petals encased between each layer.

rose jelly

With a spoonful of sweetness, a few pretty flowers and spring sunshine, life’s not bad.

30 thoughts on “spring has sprung

  1. Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse says:

    Sorry you are having such an uphill time with the health and safety lot. What a world we live in! But your Spring jelly is so, so beautiful that all annoyances must fade into insignificance! I too have done a little kitchen chemistry with violet syrup over breakfast before school one morning. Fascinating! According to H who knows more about these things than i do there must be some kind of universal indicator pigment in the flowers that reacts when the ph of the syrup shifts from alkali to acid or the other way round, or both! We were both mesmerised anyway watching the colour change before our eyes! Who thought the joys of Spring could be chemistry by another name! E x


  2. Glenda says:

    Hi Anne, I am so glad spring has finally arrived for you. Coincidentally, it rained here today for the first time in months and months. So we are both happy.


  3. thegardendeli says:

    Love the idea of adding fresh flowers to jelly to celebrate the arrival of spring… and to take your mind off the health and safety issues. Do the field beans taste like broad beans when you cook them?


  4. Christina says:

    Dried field beans are a delicacy in Switzerland (personally, I can’t bear to eat them). My gran loved them, preferably cooked with pig trotters and other delightful animal bits. I thought they would be dried after harvesting but apparently I am wrong. Your jelly looks very delicious, I think I am off to the kitchen to make some, but with less fancy flavours for my offspring is a little conservative when it comes to jelly.


  5. dianeskitchentable says:

    Those jellies are absolutely beautiful. I’m so glad to hear that you’re finally realizing spring there – ours has to be just around the corner. I know the frustrations of opening up a business having had one years ago. Some regulations are reasonable & others just foolish and out of date. I ran into a situation with a board member where my lawyer had to call & just mention, that he was “sure that the intent wasn’t to imply a speedier process by making a payout under the table, but that it must just be a miscommunication”. My license was approved within days of that call. It’s such a shame that they encourage people to open & run small businesses yet you need a team of lawyers to check that you’ve complied with every law on the books.


    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      Sounds like rules and regulations are onerous in lots of places. One of our problems is that as farmers we’re pretty independent and tend to just get on with things. We’re not used to waiting for people to approve this and that and then tell us to do it differently. Still, with spring here, everything is on the up. Hope it soon reaches you.


  6. andreamynard says:

    Such lovely jelly! So pretty with the primroses, can’t believe I haven’t used them in any dishes yet. Made primrose curd last year – partly promoted by the vast amount picked one day by little girls!


  7. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial says:

    So glad spring has sprung in your part of the world, Anne! I always wondered how dried beans were grown – I thought you were going to tell me that the beans were tilled back into the soil to enrich it! 🙂 Sorry to hear bureaucracy is driving you bonkers – it can be right arse, can’t it?


    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      Usually we start things in the hope we’re doing it right, in the knowledge that someone is bound to tell us if we’ve done it wrong. This time our builders are keen to do everything by the book – I suppose they have to cover their backs but it just seems like overkill.


  8. Jane @ Shady Baker says:

    Hi Anne, spring looks good at your place. Those beans sound interesting and your jelly is gorgeous. I sympathize with your health and safety issues. It is these exact things that stop us from ‘going public’ with bread making days, woolshed dinners etc. Our livelihood could be threatened if the wrong person happened to fall over or worse. As you said, this is frustrating when we are used to getting on with things and relying on commonsense.


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