Autumn Afternoon At Doxey Wood Cottage
Any creative person knows the vital importance of good materials to create quality work. And it is also a known truth that often the preparation for creative endeavours takes much longer than you think. If, like me, you like to give Christmas gifts with a more personal feel (yes, I am sorry, I know it’s still September, but I am going to have to mention the ‘C’ word), you need to be super prepared and think ahead. It requires planning to ensure that you aren’t sat awake up to your eyeballs in gold leaf, as happened to me one of the first years I decided to give all handmade gifts to my friends and family.
One of my now annual traditions is to make use of whatever locally sourced produce I can, which most of the time means whatever I can find for free growing in the hedgerows (mainly elderberries and blackberries). I would note, however, there are lots of edible things growing for you to forage, especially in the British countryside, but be extra careful about what you pick and be sure it is what you think; if in any doubt, leave it, it really isn’t worth the stomach ache or worse.
Another option, is if you are lucky enough to know someone who has their own orchard. Fortunately, a very good friend of mine has a nan who owns a beautiful Grade II listed cottage in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside that has many plentiful fruit trees, and after the rest of the family have their pick, we are allowed to go and fill as many bags as we like.
So on a suitably autumnal afternoon we took the trip own the winding country lanes and parked up outside Doxey Wood Cottage to see what was waiting to be harvested.
And we were not disappointed! There was a large haul of eating apples to be had, as well as a deceptively large crop of cooking apples on one of the smaller trees.
But what we were really after was the deep purple fruit of the damson trees that line the perimeter of the right-hand side of the garden. Yes, apples are great and we all love a nice homemade apple pie (especially if you can throw in some foraged blackberries!), but for many years now damsons have been an integral part of our family’s autumn/winter ritual.
The funny thing is, I could not actually tell you what a damson actually tastes like. No, unlike my friend’s nan who eats the whole fruit, and was decidedly disappointed with this year’s small fruits, the destination of our crop is much more decadent and, let’s face it, fun.
These little beauties will be spending the next few months in a small vat of gin (or maybe vodka) ready to be bottled up just in time for, yes, I’ll say the ‘C’ word again, Christmas.
If you haven’t had Damson Gin before, then I really recommend you try it. It has become a popular favourite in our family over the winter. Not sure how to make it? Keep an eye in the blog and in the next few days I will upload another post with my method when I have got mine on the go. If I can bear to part with any, this also makes great gifts. And the great part is it is super simple to make, so even if you are not particularly confident with your creative skills you’ll be able to master this.
To bring me back to the start of this post, creativity requires a lot of preparation, but when it is as enjoyable as this – and freak, but brief, rainstorm aside – what better way to spend an afternoon than climbing trees and enjoying the country air; there really is not much that can beat it.
For anyone interested in joining me in a handmade Christmas this year, be sure to subscribe to the blog, or follow me on Facebook or Intsagram, as I will be posting lots of ideas and tutorials over the next few months as I get started making my own gifts. I’d love it if you could join me, and would love to see whatever you are making as well!