Tag Archives: harvest

Posted in Haste – Forgot the Title

I spent several hours in the country today, as you may have seen, recharging my batteries and taking photographs. They aren’t great photos, but I managed to come up with some writing inspiration, do some shopping and clear up some odds and ends.

One of the things I did was to visit a local supermarket to check on the recycling situation. The paper and cardboard bins are fenced off and the book bin has been tipped on it’s front to stop people using it. The clothing bin now has a notice on it saying that it is now ready to take donations. I’m not sure why the recycling industry came to a halt during lockdown, and I’m definitely confused by the fact that it remains in such a shambolic state.

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Bee on Honeysuckle

Our recycling bin at home, which is collected fortnightly, is sufficient for our ordinary recycling needs. We do, however, need something for clothing and textiles, and the books are building up.

Something I noticed today was that roadside litter bins are full, and rubbish is spilling on the floor. Again, I cannot see why lockdown is preventing these bins from being emptied.

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Field of Wheat – nearly ready

My quest for wildlife to photograph, was not particularly successful and the photos are an ordinary sort of selection, though one or two will be useful writing prompts.

I managed to get some general shots of the countryside, a few flowers and berries and a bee. I would have liked to have stopped for a shot of a barley field, but the verge I needed to park was already taken by a group of joggers who had parked and were warming up for their run.  Apart from that, there just wasn’t much to photograph.

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Fly on the Road

 

 

The other end of the scale

Two days ago we had five-year-olds, yesterday we had ninety-five-tear-olds. There isn’t necessarily a lot of difference between them at times, though the  older age group is easier to handle as they speak more slowly and don’t run about so much.

They also have better stories.

On the minus side, we have to visit them and this month (for a session on harvesting) we had to work in the conservatory, which is hot and airless at the best of times. Fortunately it was overcast, but even so, I felt relieved to finish, particularly as one of the old ladies kept asking where she was (despite us stopping to tell her every couple of minutes) and nobody offered us a cup of tea. That’s right, nobody offered us a cup of tea. The country is going to the dogs. First we lose the Empire, then we lose our manners and the ability to pronounce certain letters (‘t’ and ‘th’ come to mind). Finally, our tea ceremony (though not so formal as some) seems to be extinct.

Fortunately the Empire has come here, and it has brought a vast array of curry houses with it, so not all change is bad. I’m also growing old, so I’m allowed to be bad mannered and I’m becoming too deaf to bother listening to the inane lisping of footballers and teenagers (did they say ‘four’ or ‘Thor’, you ask yourself?) However, you’re never too old to need tea.

That was actually meant to be a serious post about the joys of working with such diverse age groups, but I was thirsty and I’m never more than a few yards from a rant. (A bit like supposedly never being more than six feet from a rat, though with different spelling).

After the talk we passed the biscuits round. They liked the biscuits. I think they liked the biscuits more than the wheatsheaf loaves, the corn dollies and the fresh vegetables.

There must be a moral in the ability of biscuits to bring happiness.

Though, of course, you can’t attain full happiness unless they give you a cup of tea!

Soda Bread

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but I have a love/hate relationship with soda bread.

It’s simple to make, and it was the first recipe we used with kids when we started doing the education work. Even though I’ve not made it for a while I can still run through the patter without rehearsal and almost make it in my sleep.

The hate bit comes from the fact that I’m not very good at baking soda bread and it often fails to live up to expectations. At times, particulalrly if you don’t get the soda mixed in (use a sieve), it can taste downright unpleasant. Everyone says it’s nice when they bake it but I suspect it’s a case of Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome. I also suspect that the Emperor’s Old Socks would taste better most of the time.

To be fair, the loaf we made today worked well and tasted very good (if a bit salty).

Soda bread uses baking soda instead of yeast as a rising agent and is a lot quicker to make as you don’t have to wait for it rise. In fact the rise starts as soon as you mix the dough (when the lactic acid and the baking soda react to form carbon dioxide) and you have to get it in the oven as fast as you can.

It’s seen as a traditional Irish bread these days but it is first mentioned only in the 1830s in Ireland was once popular in the rest of the country. It is also baked in Austria, Poland and Serbia.

So, you may ask, why am I writing about it?

Well, it all started with us being given a bucket of wheat from the field. Julia decided that we should bake bread using our own wheat (as we did a few years ago) and it went from there.

We even cut a bit from the plot in the allotment to thrash and winnow it. In our case that meant sticking it into a bag to bash the grains free,  then rubbing it between our hands and blowing the chaff away to winnow. We didn’t produce much that way, but at least a small part of it was done from scratch. We also sieved it to take out some of the bran, leaving a nice cream-coloured flour. We didn’t really need to take out the bran but it served to demonstrate a bit more about bread and flour.

Here is the recipe. Julia got it off the internet and forgot to note where, so apologies if we’ve ripped off your recipe. Apologies for the ancient units of weight, she seems to have gone back to the 1950s for the recipe.

6 oz Self raising flour

6 oz plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 pint buttermilk

We used 6 oz of our own flour in place of the plain flour and stuck the juice of a lemon into fresh milk to sour it, a traditional way of making soda bread in the absence of buttermilk. You can also use yoghurt and even fresh milk according to other recipes. I’ve tried them all and they all work in various degrees.

Combine the ingredients and sieve to make sure the baking soda is properly dispersed (or you can get horrible, bitter green bits in the bread. You can also sieve the soda into the mix but that can lead to some uneven results.

Add the milk bit by bit and use your hand (holding the fingers stiff) to stir it all in. #

Pat into a round loaf about an inch thick, slash a cross on the top and put it in the oven. We did 25 minutes with the fan oven at 200 degrees C, though the recipe called for 30 at 200 degrees. I suppose ours was quicker because we forgot to reduce it by 20 degree to allow for the fan.

We checked it by tapping its bottom (cue for juvenile humour) and prodding it with a thin knife because we wanted to be doubly sure.

The cuts are to let the faeries out, or the devil. Or to bless the bread, to make it easier to divide into quarters or to let it bake more evenly. That’s the trouble with Ireland, so many stories.

 

Yes, it would be better if I could finish off with a shot of cheerful people chewing soda bread but by the time I’d grabbed the camera for that bit they’d all finished it.

 

Tantrums and Thunderstorms

It’s been an oppressive day all round, both with temperature, humidity and picky bad temper. We’ve had several arguments amongst members of the group and a variety of bad behaviour. Even so, in keeping with the tetchy atmosphere, it wasn’t that which annoyed me most, it was the reckless use of craft supplies to build Minions. It started with a brief to make an entry for the art competition at Flintham Ploughing Match (theme: Nature). Several hours later (which necessitated not doing any gardening) we ended up with a selection of malformed yellow balls.

You can’t fault the effort that’s gone in, but it’s frustrating to think that it’s all wasted because enthusiasm for Minions seems to have blocked out all mention of “Nature”.

Ah well!

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The chick is still doing well but yet again the mother seems only able to hatch one chick out of a clutch. It’s a mystery to me what’s happening as you ought to be able to hatch more by accident than the one from 12 she seems to manage. She’s still sitting tight but the absence of another chick after three days isn’t looking good. Truth is that we’re not 100% sure where she gathered all the eggs from so as long as she’s happy we’re going to stay patient.

The farm is harvesting at full pelt, thundering past the centre with trailer loads of grain (always when I didn’t have a camera with me) but fortunately always managing to do it when there is nobody in the way. Theoretically I’ve discharged my Health and Safety duties by reminding farm staff that we have a group in and by reminding the group not to cross the yard without us present. In practice we don’t want a flat client so it’s slightly more stressful than that.

It was a fairly flat butterfly day today until I had a walk round in the middle of the afternoon. I managed to get some poor shots of a Common Blue male. It’s not the biggest of targets and now that cameras only have screens, and those screens are always smeared and subject to glare…

You get the picture.

I’m going to borrow Julia’s Canon tomorrow.

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The washing up bowl pond is doing OK, though we keep having to top it up due to the lack of rain. It’s finally got some wildlife in it, though mosquito larvae aren’t really what you want. The water mint is thriving, so that’s another species we have to talk about.

As we walked round the hedge by the allotment we saw what I think was a female Common Blue, which is brown, and then another blue. The latter was by a good growth of ivy, raising hopes that it might be a Holly Blue. I followed, but lost it and got stuck in a patch of thistles whilst a family of wrens tittered at me and a chaffinch looked on in disbelief.

As we got back to the centre my phone rang for the second time of the day (which is unusual, as nobody talks to me unless they really have to). It was the person who had asked me to do the permaculture talk. I’m not needed. I was a little relieved as after agreeing to do it I’d realised that was the weekend we were going to see my cousin in Norfolk. On the other hand my cousin is a doctor and she’s expecting me to have lost weight…

Unfortunately we have a forecast of thunderstorms late tomorrow, which is going to put a stop to combining. Looking on the bright side we may still get some butterfly watching in again.

Catching up

I just added a recipe for Fat Hen soup on the recipe page. It’s slightly misleading as there’s no hens in it, though I used butter to soften the onions so there’s plenty of fat.

We’re going to taste test it at lunchtime with fresh bread rolls that we’re cooking with the kids. (Fourteen kids of mixed age, half a dozen parents and two kilos of dough – what could possibly go wrong?)

Here’s a picture of the “staff”. We’ve been having trouble with the toaster.  It’s difficult getting staff when you don’t actually pay, even worse when you promise them toast and marmalade and the toast bit doesn’t happen because the toaster will only do one side at a time.

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It’s hedgehog rolls today (another misleading recipe title) for the kids and a bread roll for the soup if the parents want to make one. I will be making spares anyway because I need to get back in practice.

I’m slightly worried about the dough. I used a half measure of yeast and put it in the fridge last night. The result is three balls of dough that have risen but not risen quite enough. They aren’t actually refusing to rise but if they were human you’d think they were typical truculent teenagers. Apart from the fact that they are out of bed at 10.25am.

After bread rolls and soup we’ll be making woodland masks and (possibly) toasting marshmallows.

Have a look at @QuercusCommy if you want a progress report on the baking. We also have some pictures of the harvesting that started yesterday, including a shot of the combine cutting between the rows of apple trees in the agroforestry field. I say trees, but you might have to squint a bit as they are only two years old.

I’ll put some pictures up on the farm page to show a bit more of  the field and harvest.

Old cameras and other stories

I’ve recently resurrected my old Lumix. At the time I bought it I thought it was (a) expensive (b) technically advanced and (c) going to last me for a while.

Well, I was correct in one respect; it was expensive. To be fair, it was technically advanced for the time but, as with all modern technology, its time didn’t last long. As for the rest, Julia bought an Olympus that was far better than the Lumix and within a year I’d saved up for a new Olympus (the model that had replaced Julia’s – such is the pace of change.

Ten days ago I decided to charge up the Lumix and give it a run. It’s a lot more solid to hold and the colour is probably better rendered but apart from that the Olympus wins hands down. The zoom is better, the focus is better and the shutter speed is better. Sometimes old can be classic, but other times it’s just outdated. It’s like wine and knees. Wine improves with age: knees don’t.

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The one at the top is taken with the Lumix, the lower one with the Olympus. I was standing within a few feet of the same spot both times, the Olympus shot was about twenty minutes later than the other, with light conditions being pretty much the same (as much as the human eye can tell).

The reason I couldn’t use the Olympus for the first shot was because Julia had mine to take pictures of the combine in the oilseed rape.

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That’s another plus for the Lumix, it’s always available for use (which was good as we don’t get many Commas in the butterfly garden) because nobody ever wants to borrow the old camera!