Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam

This is a new one on me. Spotted the recipe in a magazine and thought I would give it a try.


1.2kg of rhubarb cut into small chunks

2 vanilla pods split lengthways

1kg of jam sugar

Juice of 1 lemon


Put the rhubarb, vanilla pods and sugar in a large stainless steel or ceramic bowl and pour over the lemon juice and leave to infuse overnight or at least 12 hours.

Warm your jam jars in the oven.

Lift out the vanilla pods and scrape out the seeds to add to the rhubarb mixture

Tip rhubarb mixture into large saucepan and put on a medium heat, stirring to ensure all the sugar has dissolved.

Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. If you have a jam thermometer it needs to be 105 degrees C. Or wait until adding a small drop to a cold saucer, you can wrinkle the jam and it doesn’t come back.

I used a stick blender/mixer to reduce the rhubarb chunks down into a smooth liquid.

Ladle the hot jam into the hot sterilised jars and seal with wax disc and cellophane circle and add lids if you have them.

Keep in a cool dark place for up to 8 months. Once opened chill in the refrigerator and eat within 6 weeks. I shall let my B&B guests try this in the morning at breakfast.

Note. I only had half the volume of rhubarb so for this batch I just halved all the ingredients.

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The Buckland St Mary fete returns after 3 years, for the Jubilee.

Like so many fetes and celebrations the annual Buckland St Mary fete was postponed during Lockdown and the Pandemic, so what a good excuse the Jubilee has been to restore the fete, but move it into June instead of July.

We were seriously worried about the weather. We had a cloudburst yesterday of really heavy rain in the afternoon and they were forecasting rain again today. But luck was on our side, and although it was cloudy and quite windy, it didn’t rain.

Neil and I were on the book stall again and concerned that the gazebo over us was about to take off. However, Neil firmed it into the ground with some corkscrew type pegs and it did stay in place.

We sold over £60 worth of books, which isn’t bad when selling paperbacks for 50p and hardbacks for £1.00. But we did have a lot over and we will be taking them to the Ferne Animal Sanctuary charity shop in Chard on Monday, and they will sort them out and put the best ones in the shop for sale.

There was the normal cake stall (I made two cakes for that) and a lovely painting and card stall.

You could have afternoon tea and cake, and many did.

AT 3pm there was the dog show and many people brought their lovely dogs along to take part.

You could “splat the rat” or try your hand at “welly throwing”.

Shirley and Gwen were busy on the Bric a Brac stall and took over £100.

I tried 3 times to win the Sapphire Gin on the bottle stall but only won a couple of cans of beer (for Neil) and a fruit shoot!!

The Blackdown Hillbillies kept the atmosphere alive with their playing and singing.

There were tractors and a lovely old car on display, so all in all something for everyone.

The bunting and flags were flying and we celebrated the Jubilee with our fete in style.

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A new way for growing the rhubarb

Although only January and still mid Winter in England, the first of the early rhubarb is starting to peak through. Some of the other later plants have yet to raise their heads.

Our rhubarb bed had become overrun with weeds, so on a cold but dry day this week we set to weeding it, and then we came up with this idea to protect the emerging rhubarb plants by placing old tyres around each plant.

Good quality compost from our compost heap was added to each plant inside the tyre.

Rotting bark chips from our own trees was then placed around the tyres in a thick layer to hinder the growth of future weeds.

We do have a number of plants so that when growing we can pick one or two stems from each plant rather than deplete a whole plant. Last year we made Rhubarb gin and Rhubard and ginger jam as well as stewing some up to have with crumbles or breakfast.

We will have to see how the plants grow in the coming weeks to see if this new method is successful but it is clearer better than what was there before.

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Christmas Tree Festival Churchstanton Dec. 2021

This morning we visited Churchstanton church for the Christmas Tree Festival. Different organisations or people can decorate a tree as they see fit for their organisation. There were some lovely displays.

I liked this one that had made clever paper star decorations.

This one from Corfe church had used white angels.

Our country dance group was depicted with this tree, showing the names of some of the dances plus some “people” dancing. I’m not sure which ones represented Neil and I?

A local butchers had decorated their tree with dried meat decorations – a bit different.

The local bell ringers had aptly used bells and Bells whisky to signify what they did.

We ventured upstairs to where the bell ringing took place,

and there was a cute little door but we weren’t sure where it led.

From the organ gallery you could see right down into the main aisle of the church where many of the trees were.

And this from the other side of the gallery.

A collection was being made for charity, but certainly worthwhile. A lot of effort had gone into the tree decorating and it made a different experience for a Saturday morning close to Christmas.

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Boris the cockerel joins the flock

Neil has been working for some time on a new hen house. He built a level slabbed base to put it on, then constructed the new hen house from plywood base and fencing panel sides, with an internal nest box. It is much more spacious than the old hen house and means we can sweep it out much easier.

One evening after dusk, we took a hen at a time, from the old hen house and placed her in the new hen house. So in the morning the hens would wake to a new run. They took a few days to get used to the new set up and the egg laying went down, but after a week they are fully established and laying again.

Our old cockerel had died a couple of months ago and our friendly poultry producer was growing us a cockerel, a Brama. She decided that he was big enough to move in with the “girls” so we went to pick him up. He’s a bit daft so we called him Boris.

At first there was fistycuffs in the hen run. Some of the bigger older hens had been acting as matriarch and they fought with Boris when he arrived. However it didn’t take long to establish the new pecking order and all is calm in the hen run now. We also bought 4 new hens at the same time, as we need to increase egg production, our eggs are so popular.

So now with a new run, higher up the field, hopefully it won’t get so muddy as the rain will run down hill, and our hens are now happier with a new run and a new hen house.

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A profusion of Bluebells at Otterhead Lakes

The woods at Otterhead Lakes are just so beautiful. Going there is one of my favourite places to visit around here.

As you walk down the path the sun glistens through the trees.

Some recent tree felling had taken place and there was a goodly pile of cut wood. Neil was quite jealous.

Past the first lake we turned down by the waterfall.

The sound of the babbling stream is so relaxing and peaceful.

Then we came across the Bluebells.

Fields behind the woods were abundant with Bluebells

I’ve never seen so many in one place.

In fact this is the most Bluebells I have ever seen at Otterhead Lakes and we have been here many times before.

Neil posed by the little bridge that crosses the stream.

And then of course I had to do the same.

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4th Trip to Budleigh Salterton I finally get to see the sea!

I have been going to Budleigh Salterton to the dentist as my implant crown broke and he has been fixing it and getting me a new crown, that I finally got fitted today. Normally Neil drops me off, parks up and goes for a wander on his own, but today I said I should like to see the sea. So Neil read a book whilst waiting for me and when I was done we wandered down the high street and onto the pebbly beach.

There were very few people about.

The sky was clear and the water was just lapping the beach.

I have never seen so many lovely smooth round pebbles. Someone had painted on one. (Sorry about my feet in the photo).

There was a nice view up to the cliffs and all along the cliff edge were seats for people to rest on and contemplate the sea.

A seagull seemed up close and friendly, but there were no ice creams nor fish and chips for him to steal!

The fish and chip shop was closed for a belated staff Xmas lunch!!. I have to come back in a year’s time for a check up so hopefully we can have lunch out next year!.

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A quick visit to Chard Reservoir

Being a sunny but cold morning we took ourselves down to Chard Reservoir for a walk, which is a nature reserve.

You walk from the car park through a wooded area and play area for children before reaching the water’s edge.

Unfortunately the hides were closed due to Covid so we didn’t get to see any birds up close.

There was a biting wind coming off the water, so although the sun was out, it was a chilly walk.

We think we will go back later in the season when its warmer and the hides are open.

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A knitted floral Happy Easter from Combe St Nicholas

The locals in our neighbouring village Combe St Nicholas have been busy knitting and crocheting flowers, bees and bunnies to put on an amazing display outside the church for Easter. There are several panels of flowers as well as 2 crosses on the gates. It’s really lovely and welcoming.

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Chitting the potatoes in the UK

Now is the time in the UK to be chitting the seed potatoes for growing this Summer. We have bought some 2nd earlies and some maincrop potatoes and these are on the window sill chitting.

Chitting is when the little sprouts appear on the seed potatoes and thus they become prepared for planting.

In the nursery where we bought the seed potatoes, there was a very helpful banner showing when to plant which type of potatoes in the UK, although this does depend upon whether you are in the South or the North of the country and what the weather and therefore the soil is like.

Some people say you should plant the first potatoes on Good Friday, but that date varies each year and this year it is early April so I think we will have to see what the weather is like. We have a couple of vegetable beds all ready for planting.

Last year we had a good crop of potatoes and many of them I cut up and made into Roast Potatoes or Cajun, or Bombay or even Mash and froze them away in 2 person portion sized plastic pots. We are still eating these now.

There is nothing like a home grown spud!. You know what’s gone into it, no nasty chemicals and they taste good too.

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