I like to leave most of my Christmas preparations until December. There are, however, some things that need to be done in advance. Things that need a little time to grow, or mature. This crafty, slow-living, approach to Christmas appeals to me much more than rushing to buy and wrap all of my presents before the end of November.
Now is the time to plant indoor bulbs which will (hopefully) be ready for Christmas. My mother always has a wonderful display of Paperwhites and this year, I’m having a go at planting my own. I have chosen Paperwhites (a variety of Narcissi) because they are quite quick to grow and don’t require time in the dark.
Choose a deep pot and fill with compost (you could use specially prepared bulb compost, but I just used some multi-purpose compost I had left over). Plant your bulbs just below the surface so only their very tips are peeping out of the soil.
Put your bulbs in a sheltered, but cold place (mine are in the children’s playhouse), out of direct sunlight. Once your green shoots have grown to 6-8 inches, bring them inside the house. This should take about 2 weeks. Once indoors, they should flower within about 3 weeks. I’m hoping they’ll be ready in time for Christmas, or maybe even a little earlier.
If you want to approach this subject in a bit more detail, Sarah Raven has a detailed guide to planting indoor bulbs here.
Dithering about indoor bulbs always reminds me of one of my favourite books, The Diary of Provincial Lady….
November 7th.—Plant the indoor bulbs. Just as I am in the middle of them, Lady Boxe calls. I say, untruthfully, how nice to see her, and beg her to sit down while I just finish the bulbs. Lady B. makes determined attempt to sit down in armchair where I have already placed two bulb-bowls and the bag of charcoal, is headed off just in time, and takes the sofa…
…Finish the bulbs and put them in the cellar. Feel that after all cellar is probably draughty, change my mind, and take them all up to the attic.
November 8th.— …Preparations for Bournemouth rather marred by discovering that Robert, in bringing down the suit-cases from the attic, has broken three of the bulb-bowls. Says he understood that I had put them in the cellar, and so wasn’t expecting them.
November 13th.— …Take a look at bulb-bowls on returning suit-case to attic, and am inclined to think it looks as though the cat had been up here. If so, this will be the last straw. Shall tell Lady Boxe that I sent all my bulbs to a sick friend in a nursing-home
As usual, I’m being a bit slap-dash and hoping for the best. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my bulbs as the weeks go on.
Now back to the kitchen….
A few weeks ago I made some sloe gin. It’s happily mulling away under our stairs, getting more and more ruby-like as the weeks go on. There’s still time to make some now if you’re quick.
Or, better still, how about trying to make some Christmas preserves? I’ll be making some seasonal chutney at some point, but first I’ve been making some chilli jam – which ideally needs to be left for about a month before opening.
Chilli jam is perfect with cold meats, cheese or even as a little dipping sauce. It makes a great gift.
I really like this recipe from Nigella. However, be warned, that in my experience ten minutes of boiling is not enough. Use a jam thermometer to make sure you actually reach jam setting point, then boil it for ten minutes. It takes a lot longer to get to jam temperature than you might think (as I’m learning through bitter experience!). Anyway, I still really like this recipe – although beware that it will fill your house with clouds of noxious, peppery fumes!
What are you getting ready for Christmas? Are you super-organised, or a last minute kind of person?