Winter’s last icy blast

Winter’s last icy blast

Here in Poland, the 12th to 14th of May mark the Ice Saints.

The Saints – St Pancras, St Servatus and St Boniface of Tarsus – are collectively the cold gardeners, or zimni ogrodnicy. Their days coincide, more often than not, with a brief spell of colder weather and the last night-time frosts. 15th May is the day of St Sophia, cold Sophia, or zimna Zośka.

ice men

In the Czech Republic, just 20 miles south of us (though a bit further, as the road wanders) they go by the rather snappier titles of ice-men and ice-woman.

And it surely was a last gasp for winter.

We had, since the middle of April, seen temperatures climb, – lovely warm sunny days and we’d even packed away the winter quilts (it’s a heck of a lot easier to get the summer quilts into the covers!). Even John had started wearing shorts and short sleeves.

 

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TeaPot enjoying the afternoon sun before the ice-men came

Then came the 12th and we were plunged into a chilly mist that did not clear for four days. We lost sight of the bottom of not only the hills but also the bottom of the garden. A thick, wet mist that condensed on the porch roof and drip dripped of . Yeugh!

Thankfully, St Sophia did her stuff and the 15th saw clear blue skies and lovely warm weather return. John was back sitting on the porch with his CAR magazine, keeping an eye on TeaPot and listening to music played through the window – without the music and the odd car, the only sounds are the buzzing of the insects, the singing of the birds and the occasional rustle of the leaves when the breeze gets stronger.

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But, though at one time we had planned to start on some gardening this year, the garden remains undisturbed – we may have seen the last frost, we may have warm weather going forward, but the gardeners days will have to wait for next year – this year we’ll be keeping it to building a chicken house, composting, some modifications (there’s a bed of flowers and shrubs that gets in the way) and a few flowers to brighten the front up. And, of course, Rajmund will be regularly weed-whacking the grass.

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John? He’s working on the baking – latest treat was boiled fruit cake … yup, boiled fruit. It’s delicious:

  • 200g dried fruit
  • 250ml milk
  • 200g sugar
  • 125g margarine
  • 250g flour*
  • 1 egg

*In Poland, flour packs in the supermarket normally carry a picture of what they’re intended for  – bread, cakes, donuts, bagels – but that’s just the fine-ness. All flour sold here is “plain”. So to this recipe we add baking powder.

Step 1 – preheat your oven to 160 degrees.

Step 2 – put the fruit, milk, margarine and sugar in a pan, bring it to the boil stirring all the time, then turn the hob off and set the pan aside to cool for ten minutes.

Step 3 – fold in the flour and mix well, then add the egg and mix again.

Step 4 – Pour the mixture into a loaf tin and pop it into your pre-heated oven for 1 hour. (Do the knife trick to make sure it’s cooked).

We like this with a handful of chopped nuts sprinkled over the top before it goes in the oven – it’s almost like a variation on a dundee cake, but the boiled fruit is so much moister.

There’s also a “soaked” fruit cake John wants to try – starting with soaking the fruit overnight in tea then using the remainig liquid in your cake next day – we’ll report on that one later!

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