31 October 2013

A Bit of a Rant and a Loaf of Bread

Yesterday afternoon, I was watching TV when I saw an advert for Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser which claims to " get rid of the bacteria that survive and can be transmitted within the wash when you wash at low temperatures". Now, I'm really sorry but is it me, or is the answer simply to wash your laundry on a hotter wash!?? I realise that what with everyone being encouraged to consider energy efficiency and with high electricity bills just now, it's recommended that we use a lower temperature in our washing machines but I'm sorry, rather than wash my clothes in even more chemicals, I would much rather hike up the temperature and kill the little buggers that way. Maybe I'm totally missing the point?? I really don't know. I realise that nowadays, parents are encouraged to blast everything with chemicals and sterilise things to within and inch of their lives in order to keep their precious darlings safe from germs but I have to say, the majority of kids today are growing up to be a generation of cotton-wool-swaddled-pale-faced-indoor-computer-playing clones. They don't play outside any more or run around in the fresh air and heaven forbid they should actually get dirty and they always seem to be ill. I have a theory. I personally believe it's because their lives are so sterile that they don't build up any immunity to anything. I might be completely wrong but, my kids always played outside, they got muddy, they rolled on the floor with the dog and they were hardly ever ill. Even now, as adults, they are robust, healthy human beings with well developed immune systems and I can say, hand on heart, that I have never used an antibacterial spray in my life. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we should let our kids run wild like savages, a-la Lord of the Flies, but come on people, use a bit of common sense, there has to be a middle ground between keeping them in a hermetically sealed bubble and abandoning them in the woods to be raised by wolves! Anyway, rant over. Sorry but I do sometimes wonder what the world is coming to.

On a much nicer note, I just thought I would show you a loaf of bread I made last week, inspired by The Great British Bake Off. As you know, I am now a lean, mean, bread-making machine and love nothing more than transforming flour, yeast, salt and water into something totally delicious and as I was feeling daring, I decided to make a plaited loaf.

Eat your heart out Paul Hollywood :-)

30 October 2013

...... and I thought my seed collection was big!

Today I began the mammoth task of blitzing my house. I have lived here for almost 10 years now and I am not used to living in one place for such a long time. This means that periodically I have to paint a room or move things around and today, I decided that it's time to do a major re-shuffle of the furniture. While cleaning out one of my moveable cupboards in order to make it light enough to actually move without giving myself a hernia, I came across some packets of seeds. I have to confess, I'm a bit of a hoarder. I don't like to throw things away if I can possibly put them to good use and seeds that are still within their plant-by date definitely fall into that category. Even if they will be just a bit over that date by the time I come to plant them next year, I just can't bring myself to throw them away. As a result I have a fairly substantial seed collection. 

Two boxes of junk later, I was bored and was checking my emails while flicking through newspaper articles online, when I came a cross an article in the Daily Mail that looked interesting. When I say interesting, what I actually mean is an article about something other that a vacuous, celebrity air head with a bust size bigger than her IQ. It was an article about the Global Seed Bank in Svalbard, Norway. So, as I usually do after reading any Daily Mail article, I did a bit of on-line fact checking and geekiness and I have to confess, I found it fascinating. Deep underground, 130m above sea level is a storage facility blasted out of the permafrost, where up to 4.5 million seed varieties and up to 2.25 BILLION seeds can be stored at a constant temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius.

Inside the Seed Bank

All that is visible From the outside

The aim of the Global Seed Bank, which is even able to withstand a nuclear strike, is to preserve crops in the face of climate change, war and natural disasters, which means that if the human race messes things up completely, there will be some hope of re-starting agricultural practices should the worst happen. Not a very cheery thought but good to know nevertheless The seeds have been deposited in the seed bank by gene banks all over the world and will only be used in the event of all other seeds in these gene banks being lost. Storage priority is given to crops that are important for food production and sustainable agriculture which is vital for developing countries where food security is of the utmost importance. Apparently, more than 7,000 plant species have historically been used in human diets however, less than 150 species are today used in modern agriculture and only 12 plant species now represent the major vegetable source in today's menu.

Another fun fact, there are over 100,000 varieties of rice!! Who knew!?

Seed Storage Inside The Seed Bank
At the last count, I had 52 packets of seeds in my seed tin sooooo quite a way to go before I need to start digging myself an underground storage vault. Maybe next year ......... :-)

All data taken from the Global Seedbank Website.

28 October 2013

Everything is Still Standing.

Well, Storm St Jude thankfully seems to have left my house, garden and field pretty much intact. There were a few small branches broken and a lot of leaves got wrenched from the trees and plastered all over my windows but other than that we are all fine .... thank goodness! Even the trains up to Bristol were running fine at 11ish this morning and my youngest daughter was only delayed by a few minutes on her journey North. The house is very quiet now that it's back to being just me though and Indie is sulking again as he always does when she leaves. Still, a quick blitz of the house tomorrow and then I will be on a mission to finish painting the ceiling of the living room which I actually started over a year ago. That sounds terrible doesn't it but the living room is 32 feet by 16 feet with lots and lots and lots of beams with hideous artex in between. I can't afford to have the artex skimmed because the quotes I had were quite high so painting it in a flat matt white paint to make it look better and less obtrusive  has worked quite well. Its a mammoth task though and it's really hard work and I managed to get two thirds of it done last year before I hurt my back. I am now determined to finish it off and get the house sorted before Christmas. This is in addition to all my sewing for the market and now all the bread making I have rather rashly volunteered to do but hey ho, life would be very dull without a challenge! 

Fingers crossed that everyone else came though the storm in one piece.

27 October 2013

The Calm Before The Storm??!!

With a storm force weather warning in place for Cornwall and the rest of the UK, I have spent the last couple of hours sorting out the garden and the field in order to try and keep the animals safe in case this storm turns out to be anything like the one in 1987. I have moved anything that could get blown around or blown away, I have brought in the feed buckets after the llamas had finished their breakfast, I have tied the tarpaulin firmly around the hay, I have fetched in a bag of coal and I have found out a whole pile of candles in case the power goes out. The chickens should be ok as their chicken house was hand made by a market friend of mine and weighs roughly the same as a double decker bus and is much less manoeuvrable and their large run should be pretty wind proof as the wind should just rush through the mesh so hopefully the animals are sorted. This afternoon I'm going to bake some bread so if the power goes out we can at least have sandwiches to eat with some quiche that I made yesterday. 

Taken from the Met Office website this morning.

During the storm of 1987, I was living in Gosport in Hampshire. It was awful. The devastation the next morning was unbelievable. As I walked into Gosport town the following day, there were boats and yachts literally just dumped in the middle of the road by the strong winds and high tides! Roads were blocked because trees had blown down all over the place and hundreds of homes were damaged. I'm just hoping that they have got it wrong this time but judging by the met office website I think we could be in for a rough couple of days. I have to say, at the moment though, the weather is eerily calm. There is hardly any wind at all and it's sunny!

Taken from my front door at 8.41 this morning (Sunday 27th Oct)!

On a much nicer note, I just thought I would give a little mention to my daughter Lucy who has recently started her own blog called Retro Kitchen Corner. She has some fabulous recipes on there and this week, I decided to try and make some focaccia bread from a recipe she gave me a link to. It was absolutely fabulous, although, as I discovered, focaccia dough is nothing like normal bread dough. Normal bread dough is smooth and silky, focaccia dough is wet and gloopy and a bit like wrestling with an uncooperative jellyfish! That aside, I took some along to the market for the other stall holders to try this week and they absolutely loved it. Lucy's blog is HERE so if you want to nip on over and have a look at her delicious recipes, the hazelnut and chocolate torte tastes amazing and yesterday she posted a delicious looking recipe for cinnamon buns that I'm going to have a go at making this week. 

Now I'm going to sit and watch the news and hope that the weather forecasters have once again got it wrong and if not, take care everyone and fingers crossed that everyone out there stays safe.

23 October 2013

Foul Weather Alert!

It's official ...... I think Autumn has really arrived. It's not cold but the weather is absolutely awful. It's windy, it's bucketing down with rain and has been for the last three days, and I'm miserable. I don't mind cold weather, I don't mind windy weather but I really don't like wet weather. There is nothing worse than squelching through the mud to feed the animals with rain dripping down your neck. Perfect weather really for being indoors so, while the weather has been so bad, I have been sewing like a maniac to put things on my table at the market. I have also finally given into demand and I have put a few Christmas things on there too. I have mixed feelings about it really but if people want to buy Christmas stuff and I don't supply it someone else will so I might as well make a few extra pounds. 

 Christmas Bunting
 Christmas Cards
Spice Scented Christmas Decorations

On one of the few nice days we have had recently, I was taking some things out of the boot of the car which was parked on my driveway in front of my shed and out of the corner of my eye I spotted something in the grass. it turned out to be this little chap.

I grabbed my camera, which being the sad person I am I always have in my bag, but by the time I had got it he had tucked his head in and was just a little ball of spikes. I crouched in the grass behind my car and sat quietly waiting for him to pop his head out and as I was doing my very best David Attenborough impression in the undergrowth I spotted another little ball of prickles.

I know that we have had hedgehogs living under my shed for a few years now and I'm guessing that these could be this years babies. They were sooooooo cute. I sat and watched them for about 10 minutes until they both snuffled off under the shed. There seems to be an awful lot of wildlife around at the moment. There are buzzards in the trees across the river which the llamas eye with great suspicion and there are cute little toads hopping around all over the place. I keep a pile of rotting logs on top of an old pallet as a toady hotel and they seem to love it. They return the favour by munching all the slugs on my patio and garden and in my opinion, that's a very agreeable arrangement. The bats that live in the wall at the back of my house are still very active at night, swooping around and eating all the bugs that are attracted to the porch light when I take the dogs out and the owls are hooting up a storm each night as they glide down the valley hunting for their supper. 

One of the good things about the weather getting cold and the nights drawing in is that I now have the perfect excuse to cook comforting casseroles and delicious rib-sticking pies. I'm also baking bread every day and this time of year, all my favourite winter veg is now on sale at the market. Food-wise, I love this time of year ...... weather-wise ...... NOT :-)

Chilli Stuffed Marrow 

Freshly Baked Bread

9 October 2013

An Update on my Horrible Neighbours.

For the last few years, my immediate next door neighbours have made my life completely miserable. They have done everything they could think of to make life difficult. They parked their cars in my field entrance so I couldn't get in to feed the llamas which meant I had to resort to climbing out of the kitchen window to get into the field, they made horrible comments over the fence when I was in the garden, meaning that even the simplest task such as hanging out the washing or mowing the lawn was turned into a complete nightmare and they they made the whole place look untidy with all the rubbish and junk they just piled outside their house. And their nastiness wasn't only reserved for me. All the people who live in our little community have suffered at the hands of these horrible people at some time or another and at one point, a community liaison officer was appointed to try and bring peace to the neighbourhood. Sadly to no avail. 

About three weeks ago, however, a miracle occurred. A white van appeared and over a period of about five days, they packed up their belongings and left. At first I couldn't quite believe that we had been so lucky .... that they had really moved out, but it's true. They have left. I have heard from a very reliable source that they will now be turning the house that they converted from two flats back to two flats and renting them out. This is a huge relief. I will now be able to actually go into my garden. I will be able to mow the lawn, play with my dogs, plant some veg or simply just sit and have a cup of tea without worrying about what they will say or do next. I won't have to peek through the kitchen window to see if they are out there chain smoking before I open my door and I won't have to run the gauntlet of their abuse when I feed my chickens. It's going to be very nice.

Today, however, is NOT going to be as nice! Today I am finally giving in to the demands of the market and I'm going to begin making Christmas things to sell on my stall! I'm not looking forward to it. I have put it off for as long as I can but I can't really put it off any longer. Today I will be making Christmas cards which means that today I will most certainly be very BAH HUMBUG!!!!! It's not that I don't like Christmas because I do, I love it in fact but I love it in December, NOT October. It goes against grain to make Christmas cards in October and it most certainly makes me twitchy when I see toys and Christmas decorations appearing in the shops in September! Still, I have to think like a business woman and if people want to buy Christmas cards in October who am I to say they can't! It's still weird though!!

6 October 2013

Time to start getting on with things again .......

I haven't posted anything for a while because recently, my Dad died. I haven't felt like blogging and I really don't feel like it now but I know what my Dad would say about me getting on with things so I think it's time for me to start again. I will be back and blogging again regularly from tomorrow.