Rhubarb, rhubarb

I recieved a lovely bunch of rhubarb stalks last week, courtesy of my friend Linda. The stalks were quite thick so I decided I would try a different method of preparation for turning them into jam. I sliced the rhubarb into thin pieces and covered them with an equal weight of sugar. They were then left in a cool place for 48 hours (on the dining room table on a couple of freezer coolpacks since we were experiencing the hottest weekend this year).This afternoon I added the juice of a couple of lemons and two heaped spoonfuls of ground ginger and brought the mixture to the boil. I kept it boiling until the rhubarb slices were soft and transparent and setting point was reached -roughly 15 minutes- then potted it into sterilised jars. The smell was so tempting that after tea we couldn’t resist having a slice of toast and jam each -mmm delicious!


The perfect place

On Saturday I was cooking in the kitchen (I will perfect meringue making at some point) while the dogs played in the garden, after a few minutes I automatically looked out to check that Nino was ok looking for him in his favourite place by the hedge under the cherry tree. Of course he wasn’t there and for a minute I wondered where he’d got to. It was a sad moment but it did help me decide where his ashes are to be scattered. He loved to sit by the hedge, it was a sheltered position and he could see the kitchen window from there and keep track of any interesting food preparation going on. In the summer he often sat and watched butterflies, here he is with Skye not long after she arrived .                                          The sun shines on that little patch from early in the morning to around lunch time so a good part of Nino’s day could be spent there before moving to the patio at the end of the garden in the afternoon or if there was a chilly wind he would take himself inside to a sunny spot on the sofa – he knew how to make himself comfortable!

I have recieved many messages, both here and by email and telephone, from people moved by the news of his death. He was loved by so many people. Even the postie asked about him today.We thought he was a lovely little dog but it is heartwarming to know that so many other people did too.

Skye and Tilly were very quiet all week so on Saturday evening we took them for a good walk in the fields and through the woods. They ran about, jumped the stream, tried to persuade us that the half a tree they found was a perfectly reasonable stick to throw and /or drag home, chased rabbits, got muddy and generally enjoyed themselves. It was so good to see them so happy and full of life. 

Goodbye Nino

Nino died on Monday afternoon, peacefully in my arms at the vets. He would have been sixteen this August and lived his life with such enthusiasm right to the very end.

We got him at the age of ten weeks, he was the puppy of my sister’s dog Hazel. He arrived after a seven hour car journey wide awake and ready to explore. His first attempt took him into the glass fronted bookcase, he managed to squeeze in beside a row of books but discovered he couldn’t turn round and get out and set up such a noise.

He was my son’s first dog and turned him from a nervous little boy into someone who loves dogs of any size.

His early years were mostly memorable for his many many visits to the vet after eating something he shouldn’t have; socks, torch batteries,a large bar of Bournville chocolate (boy was he sick after that one), 2 pars of silver ear-rings, box, ribbon and wrapping paper on my birthday, a tub of Polyfilla (necessitating hourly spoonfuls of cod liver oil so that it wouldn’t set inside his tummy), whatever he could steal from the fridge etc etc. The vet used to greet us with “What’s he eaten this time?”

He broke both his front legs by knocking the wallpaper pasting table over onto himself at four months and sported neon pink/green/orange casts for weeks, the various colours were because he kept chewing the casts so they had to be renewed regularly.

He jumped onto a cupboard under the upstairs front bedroom window, landed on a mat and sailed straight through the open window landing in the Michaelmas daisies – fortunately no broken bones on that occasion.

After swimming in a local brook he developed Weil’s disease and was very seriously ill for months.

At seven years old he became profoundly deaf but learned to respond to sign language. He had problems with his ears all his life and had a number of operations to remove growths from inside the ears.

When he was eleven we began looking after Tilly, a large white GSD, he accepted her into his life and happily shared his family, his home and his toys with her (not his food though, she would be told in no uncertain terms if she got too close to his dish!)

Later when Charlie came to stay (large brown GSD) he shared his life with him too and was delighted to have another retired gentleman to sit and snooze with. After Charlie sadly died Skye came into his life, an eight week old GSD puppy. He was a little less welcoming to her but they soon got along and in the last weeks of Nino’s life Skye was so gentle with him.

His favourite food was banana, even if he was fast asleep upstairs when you took a banana from the fruit bowl he would magically appear at your feet by the time you got the peel off.

His favourite drink was tea, he would wait for unsuspecting visitors to put their cup at a level he could reach and then  potter over and quickly drink it.He could smell a barbeque from miles away and on the odd occasions he disappeared from our garden in the summer he could soon be found by following the scent of cooking sausages to whichever neighbour he had gone to visit.

He loved everyone, and everyone loved him. He was gentle with small children, despite his desire to lick their ears, and came into school with me occasionally to visit the youngest classes.

Recently he developed canine dementia and became very confused, despite a course of tablets his condition worsened and with great sadness we decided that the time had come to let him slip away.                                                                                                                         He spent the morning sitting in the garden with me, at lunch time he managed to demonstrate his true character one last time by stealing an apple from the coffee table. At the appointed time I put his collar and lead on (he disliked wearing a collar so never wore one in the house) and took him out to the car. He sat quietly on the drive up to the vets but brightened up and barked at the sheep in the field near the vets. Laterly he had become uncomfortable with being lifted up and would try to bite but when we arrived he allowed me to carry him inside and snuggled up in my arms. To help him relax I gave him a spoonful of manuka honey and he went off to sleep calmly.

The house is strangely quiet without him, as my sister said he was a small dog, with great presence who has left a huge absence.