Saturday, 15 November 2008

I'm a little teapot.........

I'm a little teapot,
Small and red;
I was found at the tip,
Now I live here instead!

Well - I defy you not to love my little red new-to-me teapot, just right for one. Lots of red in my life recently, so this is another piece to add.

The other bargain I got yesterday for about 50p was this oil lamp; quick clean, looks great,even has paraffin in. I'll give it a light tonight to see how it goes, but the paraffin may be old and need changing. Like the teapot, couldn't resist it..... MrL asks if I'm going to open a lamp shop, but I couldn't leave it there - could I? LOL

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Energy miser

Thanks to aliwood at Creative Living for flagging up this story. What an inspiration!

Sun and moon, moon and sun...............

This is last night's moon and this morning's sunrise, about 7am, looking out over the Vale. My camera's not particularly powerful, and I struggle to get a good shot of the moon, but I quite liked these two.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Shaker moth repellent recipe

Whilst I was in the mood for getting-on-with-things-I should-have-done-ages-ago, such as the vinegar below, I finally got around to making this too. I have a lovely little book called Wisdom from a Shaker Garden by Kathleen Mahoney.

This is what I made:

Perfume and Preventative of Moths

Take of cloves, caraway seeds, nutmegs, mace, cinnamon and sanguin (bloodroot)beans of each one ounce: then add as much Florentine orris root as will equal teh other ingredients put together. Grind the whole well to pouder, & then put it in little bags among your clothes.

Old Shaker Journal

I use lavender bags in drawers and the wardrobe, but fancied something a bit spicier and less floral for the winter months; coupled with the fact I've seen a couple of moths about too. Wish you could smell this:

- it's an amazing smell! I didn't have the bloodroot beans (!), and all my spices were already powdered except the cloves and caraway seeds, so that made it physically easier too; I had run out of cinnamon, so substituted mixed spice. It's also a good way of using up spices that will soon be past their best - they don't keep their properties very long, once opened. Ground them all up in the pestle and mortar, then added in the orris root, also in powdered form. I'll cover it and let it sit overnight, and make some bags tomorrow. Another simple pleasure to round off a chilly winter afternoon.

Making vinegar

This is my vinegar crock; I bought it several years ago in a local shop, but have never used it - until this afternoon. It was made in France, and is a lovely shade of terracotta earthenware, a really lovely thing, but needs using! When I first saw them they were 44.00, but I got mine reduced in a slae they had on , down to 14.00, so I jumped at the chance then.

I sought out a recipe on the net almost immediately, and it lay inside teh crock until this afternoon, when I really got my act together and got on with it. It's an old Amish recipe, but there is no indication on the bit of paper from which site it came, so I am sadly unable to credit it. Apologies for that, or of someone can tell me where I got it from I'd be grateful!

This is the recipe:

Mix together in a crock: 1 quart strained honey and 8 quarts warm water. Cover with a cloth (cheesecloth,cotton) and allow to stand in a warm place until fermentation ceases. The resulting vinegar is white and of excellent quality. Put in jars and seal (Amish recipe)

So - my crock has this in it now, albeit in half the quantities given; sitting ont eh chest of drawers in the warm kitchen, hopefully fermenting away soon. I'm looking forward to seeing how this turns out now I've finally got around to doing it........

Simple pleasures

In all the time I've had my own home, I've never owned a toast rack. Strange - but true :) I found a little vintage one at the market last week, took a notion for one straight away, but didn't buy it as it didn't quite grab me enough, so I set about finding one I loved, and this is it:

It made me smile as soon as I took it out of the box, and will certainly cheer up the breakfast table. What's more, I'm going to use it - a lot! LOL Doesn't take much to make me happy, does it?

Finished wool .....

... ready to knit with! Very pleased with this, it's turned out lovely and soft.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Rayburn

This is our Rayburn - thought I'd post a picture as it certainly plays a huge aprt in our lives, most of all mine, I suppose. It was here in teh house when we moved in, and we converted it back from oil to its original solid fuel capacity. We run it on coal mostly (British coal), but are gradually going over to wood we hope, although it might well need banking up overnight with coal to keep the fire in. It does our heating, hot water and all the cooking. Several people gave us less than 6 months with the solid fuel, saying we'd be converting back to oil - here we are 11 years later, still with the solid fuel LOL Teh turquoise paint was my addition to cheer up the kitchen a few years back, but it will soon be the same apple green as the rest of the walls, and there is a white painted wood shelf to go back up when it's done. The black kettle on the stove belonged to my great grandmother - there is a picture of her in a previous post, sitting outside with my granny. She was given the kettle by a woman name dAlice Cooper, but I have no further information on that aspect of it, save that the kettle is well over one hundred years old now, and I use it daily. It weighs a ton when it's full........... but it makes a great cup of tea!
This view is certainly of the heart of our home.

Spinning in the grease - how to make wool!

I thought you might be interested to see it from start to finish - never amazes me that I can now make my own wool!
As you probably know, I have an - err, abundance of fleeces at the moment! The problem this time of year is washing and drying them; there's no chance of drying them outdoors, so I had a go at spinning in the grease for the first time. This is where you take from the fleece directly, card and spin it without washing it first. first picture is the fleece I was using - three of teh most recent fleeces were sorted, and I had enough to only need to use the very best of them. The carders are on top, not my own ones, but some borrowed ones, finer than mine. My own ones are awaiting repair just now.
Next picture is of a rolag, over the wheel. This is the result of rolling the carded wool off the carders - straightens the fibres and aligns them for ease of spinning. Third picture is of the filled bobbins - about 3 hours work there; following on is them on the Lazy Kate - this holds the bobbins from which you take the yarn for plying together, using the wheel. An S twist is inserted into the wool as it is spun, then two S twisted yarns are plied together in the opposite direction, inserting a Z twist, to form a knitting wool. The last photo is the finished skeins weighing 100grams in total. The wool at this stage is very greasy, bit smelly and dirty, some bits of hay, straw, bramble, etc included. The skeins were then washed in hot water with a squirt of Ecover, left to steep for about half an hour, washed, then rinsed. They are drying now, up on the pulley above the Rayburn, and should be ready to roll into balls tonight I hope. The change in the skeins once washed and dried is amazing, and I'm really looking forward to knitting it up - not sure what into yet, though.

11th November, Armistice Day

They shall grow not old, as we are left that grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon, 1914

Monday, 10 November 2008

Making pickled onions

These are one of the easiest of pickles to make, very popular to eat, and make great presents. If you grow your own, shallots make the best pickled onions, but this time of year you can buy pickling onions and shallots by the pound/kilo from teh greengrocer or market. Peeling isn't the pleasantest job, granted, but i try to do as many as I can all at once, to lessen the pain LOL. This jar in the picture is the very last of the shallots form the garden, and we'll have them on Boxing Day. Brining helps to keep the onions crisp.

Have ready a big bowl or container of brine, using 1 oz salt to 1 pint of cold water.Only use sound onions, top and tail them, then peel them, place directly into the brine. Cover, and leave for 24 hours. Meanwhile, get jars ready; ones with plastic lids are ideal, as sometimes the vinegar can react with metal on the lids. Having said that, I have used Kilner jars successfully in the past. After 24 hours, drain the onions and rinse well. Pack them into jars and pour over vinegar to cover. I use plain, cold vinegar, as that's our favourite here. For spiced vinegar, you can buy ready spiced, which can go in cold, or you can make your own by heating up vinegar to a simmer with spices added. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then remove the spices, leave to cool, then pour over onions. For presents, you can add other bits to teh jar themselves, eg strips of red pepper, bay leaves, peppercorns (pink green and white look pretty), garlic, chillies, etc. Be warned, though, the vinegar and pickling time and action can intensify the heat and spiciness! Seal and label, and leave for 6 weeks before use.

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Yes, I know that's Elmo, not DH Lawrence - read on, dear readers.............

Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in its entirety on 10th November 1960, resulting in a court case against Penguin and teh novel itself, under the Obscene Publications Act. Penguin wond the day, a landmark victory in the case against censorship. I've just re-read a part of it that was held up as obscene, and I think it's actually quite sensitivly and well written, not obscene, not even smutty or titillating, just good writing.

Also, on this day, in 1969, Sesame Street was first broadcast in the USA. I didn'tw atch it, but my children did, and it seems to be as popular now as then, some 39 years later.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Seed excitement

Getting any seeds through the post is always exciting, but I was really looking forward to getting these. I am very interested in old/heirloom/heritage seeds (they ahve various names to describe them, but basically all are old, often rare, open pollinated plants), and grow a lot from both this country and the USA. Sometimes I grow them for the names, sometimes for a particular historical or other association, sometims for their unusual colouring, to keep them going, to save and share seed to spread teh possibility of a plant's survival in a world that is becoming increasingly homogeonised. I found a tiny little company on the net that grows old and/or rare Amish seeds, and tehse are the ones that have arrived. I couldn't resist sending for this lot:

Martin's Amish/Mennonite tomato
Depp's Pink Firefly tomato
Amish Sugar Snap peas
Eva's Amish Stripe Tomato
Vermont Apaloosa bean
Red Chickenheart hot chile/chilli
Amish Gnuddel bean
Amish pimiento sweet pepper
Summer Cider Apricot tomato
Mortgage Lifter tomatoBasque Sheepherder's pepper
Pretzel bean seeds

They were kind enough to send some seed of Eva's Purple Ball tomato for teh very slight delay in getting my seeds out to me, which was very kind of them. I've grown this one before, and it's a good tomato, but all the others are new to me.

I know these are all from a foreign country, but I do my bit for old British seeds too, buying unusual coloured or named varieties, or those as local to me as possible. The Martock bean is one of these, just over the border into Somerset. The HDRA (as was) does an enormously important task with its heritage seed library, and I've had some interesting things from them too. I need to re-join the organisation, though, I am lapsed LOL. I am glad to see several companies, the smaller ones operating on a much smaller commercial basis, taking the lead in preserving these varieties - each and every one of them is special, and I think it's important for the future of our gardens that they be as widely distributed and grown as possible. there is such promise and wonder encased in every tiny seed, they are truly one of nature's amazements. Looking forward to getting them in. :)