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Reminiscing over last year’s writing retreat to the farm

Autumn storms run, jump, toss and rumble over the farm the peaceful breaks of silence and sun make you startle – wondering if you just had imagined the noise, if you jumped in vain to close the window. Yet a tiny spill of water on the windowsill affirms – the peace is limited, the silence passing. The smell still clings in the air – autumn, finally.


I am trying to get into writing all day long – yet in vain, procrastinating with chores I have to run. Appointments to make or to go to, so I think it was right judgement to say the first week here will not be a week of writing. Still some paragraphs emerge, some structure becomes clearer, some pages are added.









One gotta love ones neighbours, not in the biblical sense – or so I assume as I never quite understood in how far neighbourly love is supposed to stretch. Yet, ours we can truly admire for their patience with our rather demanding granny. Yesterday the neighbour showed up and dragged me out, helped me harvesting 15 kg of Elderberries, which now sit happily in the steam juicer. Or I should say, half of it, making more then 7 litres of juice – hot thick sweet soup to be during the winter months. Today I dragged him out and we harvested about 9 kg of wild plums, most of which I plan to make into Pflaumenmus with cinnamon and lemon peel, again for use in winter and I could go on and on there are the soap plant roots to harvest, and Rosebuds and Spitzwegerich, green Walnuts to put into honey so they can start the fermenting and and and –


Knowing the smell of everything, knowing when to harvest, when to seed, when to wander, when to rest – somehow living in the city cuts off all the senses the constant noise and smells and colours become almost unbearable a perpetual intrusion no room to escape.

Here. Nothing. No noise, no colours, save the ones the plants wear and the New England red of the garden hut, and no hurry of life rushing by right outside on the busy city motorway again and again. No wonder neuroses are so plentiful – there – and here. Solitude comes with its own traps. One crazy granny with a cat obsession; loneliness is not good for obsessive compulsive behaviour disorder it filters it, it channels it and puts a sole focus on something that becomes the new centre of the universe, life and beyond. This centre is called Kalle or Karl or rather Karl Martell (the emperors’ creator, the master of puppets the most august figure in medieval Germany). He (the 21st cent one) is too, master of a she-puppet, called granny, and sweet as he is with an oral fixation from being cut away from his mother too early, constantly suckling available fingers, or respectively his own leg. He is a copper cat. He is a Schlawiner and one got to love him – as thou shallst thy neighbour – which reminds me I will have to cook kilos of Pflaumenmus.

It is fun trying out diverse writing styles – reading “A Room of one’s own” by V. Woolf, by the way with a description of Oxford that made me almost keel over, nothing has changed, well maybe the gender issues, else it remains as it was one hundred years ago, two hundred or three – it does not seem to matter. The gargoyles still watch from the same spires. We pass by floating, running, dancing, laughing or in agony and distrust and still it does not matter.

However her writing reads almost like a free writing exercise. Floating from one association to another making sense, in not making sense by association, but sentence by sentence the picture shapes nevertheless.


Plum Jam (Pflaumenmus)

This is a Czech recipe for all those who find normal plum jam too sweet.

Czech in the sense that it originates from the German settlers in Bohemia which is part of the Czech Republic. Please don’t involve me in political discussions about this statement 🙂


  • 3.5 kg plums (gross weight)
  • 700 g sugar (you can use more according to your taste)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 7 cloves


Cut plums in half, add sugar and spices, mix up and leave overnight. No problem if the plums are a bit bruised and soft – that makes the jam even better.

Put into pan and boil for 1.5 hours with a lid on the pan. Then take out the cinnamon sticks, pass the whole lot through a sieve to get rid of the skins – if you can find the cloves in that process, take them out as well. If you want to, you can add a bit (20 ml or so) of Slivovic (plum brandy) if you happen to have any of the stuff.

Pour into large tray (you want maximum surface here) and put into the oven at 170 C for 1.5 hours, leaving the oven door just slightly open so that the excess water can evaporate – this is the secret to make the jam set even though you haven’t used a lot of sugar. Stir every half hour.

Best with …

Fresh rye bread and butter

For More:

Mind you I used 9kg of plums so had to bake them for 7 hours

Categories: Teaching

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Nathalie Sheridan

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