Silas shocks audience on his radio debut for Abbey 104 FM

The Blog’s erstwhile gardening and rural affairs correspondent SILAS SILAGE is back from wherever he has been lurking. Although he has not written for the Blog since 2011, he has been sniffing around the media scene, and recently surfaced on the Sherborne/Yeovil community radio station Abbey 104 FM.

He persuaded their star presenter Cat Paterson to accompany him on an all-night badger watch on the Bank Holiday Monday. Armed with just a microphone, she tiptoed into the woods with Silas. . . . .

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(Excerpt from a Radio programme first broadcast on Monday 30 May 2016)

Silas Silage to make a radio comeback -Updated

Screenshot_NormalAppImage(1)Update: The program will be broadcast at 5 pm. Silas is expected to appear around 5.40

Silas Silage, the Blog’s erstwhile gardening expert (see Blogs passim -Ed) is making a comeback on a new show to be broadcast live on Sherborne’s local radio station, Abbey 104 FM.

He will be appearing on Cat Paterson’s drive time show on Bank Holiday Monday at 6 pm. His subject? Badgers.

The old codger has apparently persuaded the lovely Miss Paterson to accompany him on an all night badger watch.  All we can say is “Watch out Cat”.

The Cat Paterson show is broadcast on Mondays at 6 pm. Abbey Radio is on 104.7 FM in the Sherborne and Yeovil areas, or online at www.abbey104. com. You can also listen to the catch up edition of the show during the week following transmission.

Silas Silage used to write down to earth Blog columns on gardening and country life, and many readers were charmed by his pithy advice and homespun humour. Political correctness was not his strong point. He last wrote for the Blog in 2011, and left after a disagreement over fees. (He wanted us to pay him, we wanted him to pay us -Ed).

Listen to a replay

Silas Silage’s Roadkill Christmas

Fed up with turkey? Overdosed on Christmas pud? Do you run for the exit when you hear the dreaded words “all the trimmings”? Silas Silage has a festive antidote for you.

Silas Silage's Roadkill Christmas
Sing a song of sixpence, a tumbler full of rye . . . . .

Mrs Silage and I lead simple lives, and try to live off the land as much as possible, and this applies as much at Christmas as at any other time of the year. So I thought I would share some traditional family recipes, to save your pocket and your digestive system. In these times of austerity it is worth noting that our Christmas generally costs us NOTHING!

Jugged Badger
First catch your badger, as we say in the trade. If you can’t run one over, it’s fairly easy to trap one with a few old honeycombs as bait.

First,  skin it – you can sell the fur to that fancy hairdresser in Curzon Street for posh gentleman’s shaving brushes.

Remove the entrails and hang by the hind legs for a week. Collect the blood and mix with red wine and store separately.

Cut the badger into small pieces and mix with a few bits of bacon. Soak in a mixture of blood, elderberry wine, garlic, paprika, juniper berries Italian herbs and a good dose of Worcester sauce for a few days.

Put the whole thing into a jug, and then place the jug in boiling water for 3 hours.
Serve with parsnips and carrots, garnish with grated beetroot. Wash down with some Purple Death

Stoat, weasel and mushroom pie
Get half a dozen stoats and weasels (trapping is best), skin and throw away the gubbins. Cut them up and braise them in a flat dish with some field mushrooms, some carrots and some kale. Top with a nice pastry crust, bake and serve. Very nice with artichoke sherry.

Slow Crow liver pâté – a nice tasty treat for boxing day supper.
You’ll need a good treeful of crows (about 2 doz) for this. Remove the livers and soak in sloe gin. Mush them up with some butter and cook for about 30 mins. Mush them up again and serve with fresh toast, adding some more sloe gin.

Sweet wood pigeon pastie
Make the filling a day ahead by browning pieces of shredded pigeon (you’ll need 2 or 3) in oil. Then slow cook with more oil with, onions, water, parsley, and spices from your cupboard.

Thicken to form a custard-like sauce with beaten eggs, and leave outside overnight to chill.

In a round pizza pan, add a layer of filo pastry and brush with butter. Pour the sauce over the dough and place two more buttered sheets of filo pastry on top. Add a crunchy layer of toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon, and sugar, and two more pastry layers.

Cook for 30 mins in a hot oven. Sprinkle with icing sugar and perhaps more cinnamon, and serve with a delicious sweet elderflower vodka cordial.

If you’ve been diligent over the autumn you should have ample supplies of the following:
Artichoke Sherry, Beetroot Burgundy, Blackberry Brandy, Blackberry Vodka, Bullace Gin, Cider, Damson Vodka, Ethylated nettle and dandylion, home brew Potato whisky, Parsnip vermouth and good old Sloe Gin.

Isn’t nature bountiful! Spare a though for those less fortunate than you this Christmas.

Good eating and Happy Christmas to you all.

Silas will be back in the New Year, presumably when he gets out of hospital. In the meantime, a very happy Christmas to all our readers.

Some of Silas Silage's ancestors jugging a hare in the days before badgers became so popular. Anyone recognise the dog?

You won’t find this in Morrisons

Wine Label
Health warning: Always read the label!

Or will you? A reader has sent us this example of honest labelling from New Zealand. It sounds like the stuff Silas Silage and Mrs Badger should be drinking.

The “liquor”retails at $NZ 15 – around £7.50 a bottle, plus delivery.

 

 

Silas Silage’s Gardening diary – November

Silas Silage has been hobnobbing with the celebrities at the BBC, no less. Ooooh!
Silas Silage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My loyal readers will not be surprised to learn that eventually, in a busy and eventful life, one earns the respect of one’s peers, and enters the heady world of the respected celebrity guru. So it was, when a few weeks ago I answered the phone and a young female voice asked me to confirm my name and address and then asked “Is that THE Mr Silas Silage the gardener?” I confirmed that indeed it was, and she said she was from the BBC, and looking for knowledgeable people to appear on a gardening programme.

She said “We’ve got Matthew Biggs, Eric Robson and Bunny Guinness on the programme, so I hope you can come along”. “Guinness?” I exclaimed. “Count me in”.

As you can image, Mrs Silage went all in a tizzy when I broke the news, and fussed around getting my old green tweed suit out, trimming my ears and nose with some electric jobbie she got from an ad on daytime TV, and making me have a bath.

The day dawned for the recording, and off I set for the studio in Bristol. I had to leave at six in the  morning, such is the state of our transport system. Bus to Cary, then to Shepton, then to Gurney Slade, Radstock, Bath, Keynsham and finally Bristol. It was thirsty work, but luckily I had my trusty flask of beetroot burgundy, and there was an excellent alehouse in Radstock. And several in Bath. And one in Bristol too. Or was it two?

So I arrived at the studio as darkness fell, tired, but refreshed. The reception area at the studio was very busy, but I found the Gardeners Question Time queue. But surely there would be someone there to meet me? We shuffled forward and I found myself in a large room with black drapes and an eerie silence. I sat down with all the others, but I immediately spotted the mistake. I was in the audience, and I should have been with the experts, who I could see on the stage, shuffling paper and engaging in learned discussion.

I went outside, trying to find my way backstage. An excited thin young woman rushed  towards me and said “There you are – we’ve been looking for you everywhere”, and she grabbed my arm and marched me along the corridor. “Quick, we’ve less than a minute!”

I was whisked into a side room and sat down in a chair. Two girls leapt on me, dapping my face with a yellow sponge, then before I knew it I was propelled into another room with bright lights and a big screen where a hatchet-faced Scottish woman was groaning on and on about something.

No sooner had I been dumped in a chair when she turned to me abruptly and said “Over to Bristol. What do you think is the cause of the problem?” The Thin One, now adorned with headphones and a clipboard pointed at me with a grand gesture.

When I’m stuck in a tight place, I always think it’s a good policy to buy time to think, so I scratched my ear and pulled out my beetroot burgundy flask and took a long, thoughtful, nip. “Well”, I said slowly and craftily, “It depends what you think the problem is. My main problem is that my knees aren’t as good as they used to be, and the moles have been a bit of a nuisance this year…”

“I just want to bring in the Bishop of York”, said the Scottish woman brusquely, with a startled expression on her face. “What do you think Bishop?”

A purple –clad figure on another big screen beside me came to life, but I carried on. “The big landowners are uprooting the hedges and destroying the habitat of rabbits, crows, badgers, and the other things we eat.”

“ An Englishman’s garden is  sacrosanct ” I said, taking another pull at the beetroot burgundy, and I was just about to launch into my prepared speech when the Scottish woman started reading from the next day’s papers and said “That’s all we have time for, goodnight”. Some loud music was played, and the lights dimmed. I fell asleep.

Later I was awakened by the Thin One who said “There you are – we’ve been looking for you everywhere”. I think it’s the only words she knew. She handed me a brown envelope and hurried me towards the exit, and before I knew it, I was out of the revolving door and onto a busy Bristol street.

In the envelope were five crisp £20 notes. I took another nip of the beetroot burgundy and went to look for a bus. Funny place, the BBC. Funny place, Bristol.

Silas Silage’s Christmas special, with seasonal recipes and cocktail ideas will be coming in December. You still have time to leave the country! -Ed

Silas Silage welcomes new wine research

Daily Telegraph Wine research
From "The Daily Telegraph"

Silas Silage writes ” I have always been a keen advocate of the health properties of red wine, and it is heartening to see that this has now been recognised by scientists.

The welcome news that you need to drink only 13 bottles a day to enjoy the benefits means that some people I know will be able to simultaneousely improve their health AND cut down on their drinking.”

Can I have a job as the Blog’s health corespondent/wine correspondent?

No -Ed.

Silas Silage’s October gardening notes

With Autumn setting in, our resident expert SILAS SILAGE offers advice on what to do with your surplus fruit.

Silas Silage
"There’s a loud bang and the roof of the shed has gone"

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is with us, and it’s the latter I’m going to deal with today. Thanks to the warm spring and the late summer showers, the apple trees are laden with fruit, the hedgerows are groaning with blackberries and sloes, while rose hips dance a scarlet fandango in the golden sunset. (Oh please! –Ed).

Most years, there’s so much stuff, it’s always a problem knowing what to do with it. This year, the problem is epic.

Although I’m a countryman , I’ve always been a bit of a scientist at heart. Looking at an old copy of “Whisky News” the other day I had an idea. A quick call to my mates at Porton Down and Aldermaston, and a surplus titanium pressure vessel and plenty of copper and stainless steel piping is on its way to me. A day later, with some help from my neighbour, who knows a bit about welding, we have constructed an “essential oil distillation unit”. Wink wink.

Productivity is vital if you’re going to shift any volume, so I’ve incorporated some ideas of my own. I got an old bath from the scrapyard in which to cut up  the fruit and let it ferment. This is fed directly into the pressure vessel, allowing continuous production.

There’s a super cooler adapted from an old watering can, and the Primus burner is fuelled directly with the unwanted poisonous alcohols which are produced as a by product. No one can accuse me of not being environmental!

Now it’s time to fire it up, and off we go. All that lovely fruit and veg, distilled down to a pure essence, easy and economic to store, nutritious, wholesome, non-perishable,  I could go on. (Spare us, please –Ed)

She fires up well, and has soon reached the operating temperature. Load the fermented fruit and off we go. As soon as steam comes out, we bring on the supercooler to condense the vapour. The first stuff to come out is the unwanted impure alcohol, and this goes straight back into the primus tank. Just turn the nozzle. It’s very flammable, and you have to be careful.

There’s a loud bang and the roof of the shed has gone. Never mind, I’ll fix it later. For behold, out of the nozzle, a few sacred drops are spouting. Collect in a glass, add ice, lemon and dry ginger, and you have the perfect antidote to the coming winter.

Owing to a design fault, (I think he forgot a collecting jar- Ed) the only way I can collect the distillate as it comsh out is in individ… indi… shingle glasses, and owing to lack of a storage vessel, the only way I can keep up with the flow ish to drink it,  and I musht shay it’s very good stuff, have another and, woops, I can see the open shky, coming out fashter now, woops, no way of turning it off, have another, quickly, woops! oh dear, oh dear me, dear me, woops! …..
(To be continued – Ed)

Silas Silage’s Gardening Diary

Silas Silage, our learned (and exclusive) gardening columnist is back from a long summer sojourn. But let him explain…
I had a bit of bother earlier in the summer, and decided to lie low for a bit. In fact I was advised to take up secluded employment, and a place was found for me at a home for the elderly mentally challenged in the next county. Not that I’m mentally challenged. As the owner, a very fit and businesslike lady with piercing blue eyes told me, “We have all sorts here, and if you can fix the garden, then you can stay”.

And what a garden! Rolling lawns down to a lilac fringed rowing lake adorned with lilies; avenues of ancient oak and chestnut; close cropped yew hedges, walled kitchen gardens and orchards, and an orangery. A camomile lawn, giving onto an ancient meadow, cut with a ha-ha fence to keep the grazing cattle at bay.

It was the yew hedge that got me going. I’ve always fancied trying my hand at hedge sculpture, or topiary, as it is known. This ancient craft, known to the Phonecians… (Get on with it –Ed).

So, armed with my trusty Banzai Hedgiboshi trimming tool and a ladder, plus a couple of nips of turnip calvados, I set about an unruly  set of untrimmed branches with gusto. What better than a nice tall lighthouse to look over the lake, and guide the rowers home to their tea?

With the distant memory of a trip to Portland in my head, I began to fashion that structure out of the verdant branches. With living wood, you have to work with the natural contours and angles as they occur, and I took advantage of this to give my lovely tall lighthouse two  nice large round rocks, one each side, which to my way of thinking finished it off very nicely with perfect symmetry.

I was working away and I didn’t realise I had attracted quite a crowd, who seemed very appreciative of my efforts, particularly the ladies, who were all pointing excitedly at it, nudging each other, and giving little exclamations. Some of the male residents too, showed quite an interest.

Just then men in  white tunics came down and shooed them all inside with little electric prodders, which I thought was rather unnecessary. “Bath time”, explained one of them, adding “The Boss would like a word….now!”

Silas Silage
"What better than a nice tall lighthouse to look over the lake, and guide the rowers home to their tea?"

He rather brusquely ushered me into her office. To my surprise, my bag was on her desk, packed. She said some very hurtful things and accused me of all sorts, and before I could begin to assert my innocence, I was outside, trudging up the long drive to the main road and the bus home. Looking behind me, I saw white coated figures cutting down my beautiful lighthouse.

People are strange, and it will be good to be home again with normal folk.
(To be continued –Ed)
New Reader?  Catch up on previous episodes by clicking on “Silas Silage” in the”Categories” list on the right.
Think  we made this up? See the BBC video on yew hedge trimming at Montacute House

Superinjunctions – Silas Silage named!

Horsington Blog - Silas SilageWe promised not to report any more on the superinjunction issue. But in a shocking development, our own SILAS SILAGE has been named in connection with the latest breaking scandal.  Something to do with his last visit to a girls school, perhaps? He denies it of course. To learn more, Click here

Silas Silage ventures into education

Silas Silage
“my unbraced trousers fall to my knees”
It’s never too early to get the young interested in Gardening, says Silas Silage, our resident green fingered guru.
One of the joys of gardening is the opportunity to share one’s expertise with the young. I learnt many tricks and wrinkles from my old grandad, and I never miss an opportunity to pass on my knowledge to the next generation.
A lot of your young people today could be rescued from a life of vandalism and racing around in cars, drinking cider and getting young ladies into trouble if they spent more time in the garden with an experienced older hand. (OK, we get the message –Ed).
From time to time I do a bit of gardening at a local private girls school, which gives me an ample opportunity to educate some very posh young ladies on Mother Nature’s ways. And delightful creatures they are, mostly.
I always dress appropriately when I go there as it’s important to be well turned out. I have some very natty camouflaged battle fatigues which I got from the Yeovil boot sale, and I must say I cut a fine military figure, although you have to be very sharp-eyed to see me, such is the  subtlety of the dappled medley of greens, browns and yellows.
This week the bursar, Major Carstairs, has asked me to have a go at the “bower”, a secluded leafy garden behind the swimming pool. There’s a wrought iron gate covered with ivy and a notice “Private – Upper VI Form only”.
I let myself in and my, what a beautiful sight. A close trimmed lawn,  and beautiful scented arrays of flowers, lavender, sage, elephant grass, climbing roses, neat box hedges  and some nice topiary on the privet, all set about with garden chairs and sun loungers. A statue of a man carrying a spear and wearing a sheet, with laurel leaves around his head stares at me.
It’s a hot day, and the bees are a buzzin’, so I prepare to take my customary pre-work forty winks before getting on with the weeding. There’s no-one about, so I crawl into the shade, ease my braces, take a quick peg of elderflower whisky, and shut my eyes.
I dream I am in heaven, with beautiful angels administering to my every need, bathing my temples and bringing me tasty treats, grapes and stuff.
I must have been asleep for some time, because I awake to the tinkling sound of young laughter. I open my eyes to realize I am surrounded by young ladies reading books and chatting,  and none of them are wearing anything but little string things round their bottoms. Wouldn’t do for Mrs Silage, that’s for sure.
Omigod, they’re virtually naked! Oh dear.  Oh dear me! Luckily they haven’t seen me.
Just then I gets a shooting cramp in my right leg. Must be the damp ground. I leap to my
feet with an agonized howl, grabbing my leg and hopping around like a mad thing. At the same moment my unbraced trousers fall to my knees. “It’s a man!”cries one of the girls, and they all take up the chorus like a treeful of jays. It’s a man! It’s a man!
One of them is on the phone. “It’s a man!” she cries.
Best to beat retreat. I grab my hoe and knapsack and begin hopping to the gate, trousers at half mast. Just then I hear a siren. Must be a fire somewhere.
I get to the gate, which is suddenly flung open to reveal a couple of blue uniforms ,and before I know where I am or can explain I find myself in the back of a squad car handcuffed to a large policewoman who…. (To be continued –Ed)