There are areas of both the south west and south east of England which are famous for their fruit growing prowess (not for Ali's lovely kiwi fruit and avocados) but for apples and most particularly apples for making the alcoholic drink of cider.
Herefordshire is the county we lived in when first married and DD1 was born, Gloucestershire where the other two came into the world, Somerset where we now live and it's neighbours Devon and Dorset all like to claim themselves as the Cider Making Capital of the UK.
We have some very dear friends, Pearl and Jon, who run a farm providing bed and breakfast and self catering holiday accommodation about half an hours drive the other side of Hereford, heading towards the Welsh border. We got to know them when we attended the same ante-natal classes with Sarah and their eldest Heidi. Subsequently they did us the great honour of standing as god-parents to our youngest Louise.
Over the past few years they have had a very tough time - they narrowly missed losing their herd of cattle during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. However as all traffic on and off farms in the area was severely restricted they watched their holiday business dwindle away to almost nothing. Then a short while later they lost half of their herd to an outbreak of Bovine TB. Pearl also had a nasty bout of viral meningitis followed by a long episode of Post-Viral syndrome making coping with a business and a young family very difficult indeed.
To top all this off Pearl's father lost a two year battle with bladder cancer last autumn leaving her mother who suffers from alzheimers in a very distressed and confused state. Pearl is their only child and lives over half an hour from them so with the responsibility of dealing with his illness which included regularly taking him over 100 miles away for treatment has taken its toll.
Louise had a letter from them last week apologising for not sending a christmas gift - as if we minded :o) - and the writing between the lines spoke volumes.
So I spotted an appliqued apple tree as part of a pattern the other day and adapted it to make into a wall hanging to cheer her up. Their main crop on the farm is cider apples so I thought it rather fitting.
I think I shall add some plaid/homespun borders to match round the edges and get it off in the post to her soon in a bid to bring a smile to her face for a little while at least.