Monthly Archives: Nov 2014

Saturday

Some results are in from last night – including that we sold two wreaths and two Christmas trees so that’s a boost for Quercus funds.

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It’s nice to know that things went well because a lot of effort goes into organising events. Strictly speaking the turkey event is nothing to do with us but what’s good for the farm has to be good for the groups that use the farm. Ultimately we are a community and what is good for the yoga, Shipshape Arts, Quercus or the bread group should be good for all of us.

There’s an ulterior motive in all this, as there always is. As I helped with a bit of bread group tidying on Thursday I had home-baked cookies forced on me. Positively forced! I think the correct term for this working together is synergy, but I’m happy to think of it as “biscuits”.

Meanwhile, I was out and about on family business today, including my mother’s 85th birthday. Travelling along the A 52 to Grantham I saw three buzzards perching on lamp posts in the final stretch. Two of them appeared to be preening so I don’t know what was going on. Normally it’s a good week if you see three buzzards perching anywhere, let alone three in a couple of miles. Even then they mainly just sit there looking for food.

When I was a young bird watcher you had to travel to Devon, Wales or the Lakes to see buzzards. The eastward resurgence has been a welcome event of the last few years, unless you are a partridge. Even then, I’m not sure how many partridge deaths can be blamed on birds of prey.

I can’t say the same for magpies. It was good to see them to start with but can it be coincidence  that their arrival in my garden marked the start of a much decreased garden bird population? You can’t blame cats for it all.

 

Party Time!

It’s the first party of the season tonight, the turkey tasting event. It’s not a Quercus event but we’re involved because we are trying to sell some our merchandise. We also ended up involved in some of the preparation because we’re naturally helpful! Or because we like to know what’s going on.

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On the left is a selection of table decorations made with foliage from the local hedges and flowers from the garden. On the right is a wreath made from strips of cloth: if you look closely you can see the remnants of one of my old shirts. Behind the table decorations is the rammed earth wall that serves as a heat sink – read more about it on the Ecocentre page.

Not sure what will happen tonight, but it will be brightly decorated

Christmas gathers momentum

When the Christmas jumpers start you know that the big day can’t be far off.

Today we’ve done more decorations and we’ve been working for Shipshape Arts, a company describing themselves as an “artistic creation company”. They are based in a barn on the farm and do quite a bit for us – including helping us with the Education tent at Flintham Show and making the quoits we will using for the Christmas hoopla. In return we try to help them a bit, though “help” may be be putting it a bit strongly.

Today they gave people hats. You can see them being worn in the main picture. Of course, not everyone got a hat. For some reason I didn’t, despite the fact that my poor bald head needs some warmth. Just saying…

This is one of the statues that they put up for us recently – looked at from this angle it’s a bit more noticeable than it is when you stand on the back of the Ecocentre looking across the field. The stone that looks like it’s on the right comemorates the air crash in 1944 – it’s actually on the left but there’s a curve in the road.

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This is one of “The Sweepers” that were originally shown at the Southbank Centre Festival of Neighbourhood. We also have “The Neighbours”, who were also at the Olympic Park before coming up here. Did you know there was a market in second-hand statues? I didn’t. It was quite a performance putting them up, with low-loaders, forklifts, power tools and lots of helpers.

This is “The Neighbours” taken from a deceptive angle, inreality they are several hundred yards from the kitchen.

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We’re decorating the Christmas tree now. It’s a bit early for me (though I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas, to be fair) but it’s turkey tasting time this weekend and we are aiming for a Christmas Dinner feel to the centre.

Finally – I nearly got a picture of a bird feeding at the table. We’ve had great tits, blue tits, pigeons, chaffinches, robins, house sparrows, greenfinches, starlings and wood pigeons so far. It could be better but we’re hoping it will build up as time goes on. Meanwhile they are all quick to take flight and added to a cheap camera and poor light levels I haven’t much to show for my photographic efforts. Looks like I’m going to have to borrow my wife’s camera or wait until the butterflies come back in summer.

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At least you can tell it’s a robin, most of the others have been unidentifiable blurs.

Meetings, sticks, stars and crows

We had two meetings yesterday and they generated enough work to fill most of today. They didn’t fill it with anything useful but emails from people at the meetings have comprehensively instructed me how to suck eggs as well as sucking the fun out of the day. If I say the most productive part iof the day was making stars out of willow sticks and garden twine you will see what I mean. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   One tip for making stuff with willow – make sure it’s dry for this sort of work. We normally have it wet to enable us to bend it  and it didn’t occur to me when I originally made these last week that they would shrink and the bindings would loosen to the extent that some of the stars actually fell apart. Not that it was all bad, we went shopping for supplies for the group this morning and had a good view of carrion crows hopping on the tops of cars. Not sure why, and couldn’t get close enough for a really good shot because I always get embarrassed when people start looking at me with the camera.

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Nearly Christmas

Yes, it’s nearly Christmas – just over a month away. You can tell that when the turkeys leave the farm, as they did on Saturday. They will be back in a while, with their giblets shoved somewhere undignified and a complimentary sprig of rosemary. Meanwhile we have cleaned out the chiller (we tend to use it as an apple juice store at this time of year).

My original plan for Christmas was to have beef as the family has asked not to have turkey this year. That was replaced with a cunning plan for a seasonal recipe – reindeer pie. Then I saw the price. Back to beef, I think. Rudolph is safe for another year.

Today we started the decorating in earnest – we’re scouring the hedges for foraged decorations and going for a Victorian Christmas look. It’s sustainable and cheap, and keeps people occupied

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Compost short cut

I used 10 eggs for the Honey and Treacle tart on Saturday. While I was cooking the tarts I dried the egg shells too. That way you can store them and deal with them later without them smelling. I learnt that the hard way one summer.

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After that all you need to do is crush them with a rolling pin and you can throw them in the compost, use them as a barrier to stop slugs or put them in the wormery.

More food

It’s a shoot day on Saturday, though from the casual attitude of the pheasants we saw this morning they haven’t it’s clear they haven’t been told.

I’ve no strong feelings either way – I like birds but I also used to enjoy shooting. The lack of feeling is further intensified by the fact that I don’t find pheasants particularly enthralling. though I am quite fond of partridges in both their varieties. We have a number of red legs about. They potter down to the barns like middle-aged married couples in thee summer evenings to browse through the poultry food.  There were as many as three pairs at one time this summer,

We’ve also raised grey partridges this year. Also known as English partridges they have been going through a rough time over the last  few years with a 91% decline in numbers between 1967 and 2010. Hopefully we will be able to do something to stop the decline.The farm has spent a lot of effort on hedges and headlands and the gamekeepers have been working hard so there is a good chance of improving the population.

As we wait and see at least people won’t go hungry on Saturday as I’ve been cooking Honey and Treacle tarts for lunch. I don’t always get on with celebrity recipes, though I won’t go into it here, but this one worked well. I didn’t have any black treacle and I upped the ginger after my practice run, though that could be down to my powdered ginger being a bit old. I might tone down the orange and have a go with root ginger next time. And I cheated by using ready-made pastry cases. Life is too short to make pastry.

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Nearly forgot to say – the recipe makes a bit too much filling for a bought in pastry case – I’m going to cut it back by around 15% next time and see how it goes.

Soup

There’s been a lot of soup about this week. There’s been a lot of many things to be fair, but I happen to have a photograph of the soup and photographs are important for blogs.

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It isn’t the greatest picture of soup: I clearly need to work on the presentation.  I had intended to take a better one today with a swirl of cream and some chopped herbs but I forgot the cream and nobody wanted any chopped herbs.

We had someone renting the main room for a couple of days and they asked if we could do lunches. Soup seemed a good idea, being warm, nourishing and within budget. What, as they say, could possibly go wrong?

Well, on the first day it turned out that three of the six attendees didn’t like soup. Unfortunately  I didn’t find out until I had made the soup for the second day.

On the second day it turned out that we had two untouched bowls and one half eaten (or drunk?) bowl. Progress indeed.

I would offer you the recipes but with that sort of success rate it probably isn’t worth your time. If you want a couple of imprecise recipes for Carrot and Parsnip soup or Pea Soup feel free to ask.

 

Book Review – Composting Inside and Out

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Composting inside and out – Stephanie Davis

Betterway Home Books 2011 Published at $16.99 but we bought it for £3.99 from a garden centre.

This is a book about composting, rather than a book about the theory and technicalities of composting.

All you need to do is to throw some vegetable waste in a pile. That’s it. no carbon/nitrogen balance, no bin, just a pile of vegetable scraps. It’s simple advice and it’s right – better to have an imperfect compost heap no heap at all.

We currently bury thousands of tonnes of waste. We use lorries to transport it and we allow it to rot and produce greenhouse gases. It’s not efficient. It’s not good for the planet. And it’s a waste of a useful resource. Far better to keep it at home and use it to improve our garden soil. No garden? Use it in containers, or even give it away to someone who can use it.

As you would expect from someone who calls herself the Urban Worm Girl there’s quite a lot on worms. There is also plenty of information on other composting systems. Much of it is American, and for once that’s an advantage. Living in a country with some very cold parts (cold enough to freeze compost) she has a lot of information about keeping worms indoors. Yes, indoors. I always thought it made sense to keep them warm in the winter.

It’s 188 pages with pictures and plenty of space so it’s not a difficult read and it’s well worth it for the information.

Now all I need to do is have a word with my wife about bringing the worms in…

 

Croissants

The community bread group was in today and they were attempting croissants. Considering that the group has only been going for eighteen months and some of them were not confident bakers when we started they have come a long way. We have diverged over that time and I mainly deal with school parties now – pizzas. soda bread and scones. The bread group is an altogether more sophisticated affair where they produce lovingly crafted continental breads, sourdoughs and, today, croissants.

I felt I just had to come along and record it with a few photographs. I wasn’t going to miss this, if there’s one thing I like better than warm croissants it’s people struggling with exotic bread recipes.

It was much quieter than a normal session as there was more concentrating to be done. I’d never thought of it, but there was more measuring to be done too. As you laminate the dough you have to work to certain sizes and then you have to use  atemplate. You don’t get that with the sort of things I do. I’d assumed that you made a shhet of dough and carved out a load of freehand triangles. That is not the case – there is no room for free spirits in the world of the croissant and my deplorable slack ways with triangular scones were not welcome here.

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We’ve always said that the secret with bread at any level is that if it doesn’t look perfect at the end you can call it rustic or artisan – a couple of catch-all terms that cover a multitude of imperfections. That’s why they call me an artisan baker – it isn’t a statement of competence, it’s because I’m lumpy and not quite symmetrical.

In the end we had plenty of croissants to show for the day and though they may not have looked like shop bought croissants there was nothing wrong with the taste and everyone went home happy.

I you want to join the group they meet on alternate Thursdays at the farm.

Sadly, by the nature of the internet, most of you reading this won’t be close enough, but if you ever find yourself in Nottinghamshire we normally have something on every week.

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Now, if you’ll excuse me I have an appointment with a warm croissant.