Friday, 11 September 2009

Hedgerow wine

This is a great wine to make at this time of year. Quite often, not all the wild/foraged fruits are ripe at the same time, so you often end up with not enough of one or even two kinds to make a full gallon of wine. This recipe ensures you don't miss out on anything, and all sorts of things can be put in the mix - just make sure you know what you're picking ofcourse, and if you're not 100% certain, my advice is to leave it alone and find something else, just to be on the safe side.
The wine in the picture was started this afternoon - rowans, rosehips, elderberries, white elderberries, crab apples and bullaces. Technically speaking not a true wild hedgerow wine, as all the fruit was gathered from the front and back gardens - all part of the plan to have a closed - loop self-reliant garden, though, and it's all coming together :)
So..........for one gallon:

about 4lbs or so of mixed fruit - pick over, remove stalks, insects, etc
2 1/2 lbs sugar
1 gallon of boiling water
2 lemons
1 heaped tablespoon dried yeast

Put prepared fruit into a clean bucket with the sugar and pour over the boiling water. Stir well to dissolve the sugar, add the sliced lemons. cover, and leave to cool to blood heat, then stir in the yeast. Cover again and leave in a warm place for 4 - 5 days, then strain into a demi-john and ferment out. Rack off after about 6 weeks, leave another 3 or so, then bottle and (try and LOL) leave for 6 months before drinking.

Why not give it a go, and we could have an online wine tasting next year? LOL

ps - there's one sliced tangerine in the bucket above, as it was going a bit squishy in the fruit basket - waste not want not, get it in the bucket!! LOL

Hop harvest

It was a beautiful sunny, dry and warm day yesterday - ideal for the annual event that is the harvesting of the hops.
To be honest, it's not the most pleasant of jobs! The bines are scratchy, and my arms are always covered in angry looking red scratches and weals for a couple of days; the pollen from the flower heads smells very strong and "hoppy", staining my fingers a yellow-green colour, and taking several good hot handwashes to completely remove it all. However, the evidence in the picture above shows that it is indeed worth the effort. Not the best crop in terms of amounts that we've had, but teh qulity is good this year - big fat hops - certainly enough to keep us in beer for a while, as I only use an ounce or so per gallon. These will be transferrred to a drying net and hoisted above the stove for a few days on the clothes pulley to dry off before storing. The variety is Fuggles, and drinking beer containing your own hops really is one of the great pleasure of self-reliance.
Commercial hop growing has changed an awful lot even in the last fifty years - comparatively few are grown in this country now, and most of the work is done by machinery. No longer do hundreds of people travel from the cities down to Kent for the harvest; no longer do the men walk on stilts as they tie up the bines reaching for the sky. I don't know the cold hard facts of the English hop industry today, but I would guess it's nothing like it used to be. We planted four bines about 9 years or so ago now, and they do well, but we'll have to replace the supports in the next couple of years I reckon - the strength of the plants, and the amount of growth they put on in just one day is amazing! They are easy to grow and require little attention apart from an annual mulch, and tying in the bines out of the way as they grow, cutting themd own int he autumn and tidying them up. I don't do anything else with my hops apart from the beer, but I know hops are valued for their soporific properties, and put into "sleep" pillows, to promote a good night's sleep. I reckon a day outside in the sunshine picking them would have the same effect! Another use is cooking the young hop shoots, said to taste like asparagus, but I grow that too, so leave the hop shoots to themselves. I need to look and see if there is any use for the leaves, and possibly the stems as they are so strong - possibly some form of basketry weaving maybe?
As usual, one thing leads to many others, and there's so much to learn and be interested in. Hopefully with a glass of home brewed beer in hand................ :)
Anyone else grow hops?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Another birthday..............

Today is my birthday - I'm 48. I feel 48, but that's fine, I don't mean that in a downbeat, depressed way, it's just that I seem to be comfortable with the age I am - which is right and good. I thought I was in for a bad day, as I got a sudden hit of flu-like symptoms yesterday. This is how bad I felt - I took Ibuprofen and went to bed for two hours!! LOL I know my body very well, and the best thing for me when I'm ill is to stop "doing things" straight away, unless they are very urgent (like the mobile library yesterday.............:) ) It gives the body time to rest and regroup, and left fitter to fight off anything lurking around afterwards. I took honey and lemon and elder rob too, so plenty of vitamin C and goodness there. As a result, I'm fighting fit this morning apart from a sore throat and a bit of a cough - ready to tackle another 48 years I reckon.
I got some lovely presents from OH - they were chosen by me, which suits us both - he never knows what I've got already, so it's easier this way.

Teh books are two very new ones from Permanent Publications (; Through the Eye of a Needle by John-Paul Flintoff argues that "the way we look at our clothing influences the way we look at the environment, the economy and life itself". The second one is Patrick Whitefield's new book, The Living Landscape - how to read and understand it. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into those.......... I also chose a music CD - Gaelic Women, and a set of handmade bronze sock needles.

Very content.

Now I'm off to muck out the goats. As Jack Kornfield says - after ecstasy, the laundry LOL

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Our heritage and our future

Now, please indulge me on this one!It's wool, so technically speaking should be on one or both of my knitting blogs, but I had to share this one with you. I am passionate about the old breeds of British sheep and supporting any efforts to ensure they survive. The best way to ensure this survival is to use them - for meat, for wool, good breeding programmes, etc to secure their future. Any breed lost is a domestic tragedy.
So, I was delighted to find this at the County Show at the weekend:

Not a breed local to Dorset, but from the Isle of Man - Manx Loaghtan wool. It is just so tactile and beautiful; although I haven't started the knitting yet, a ball sits out for me to touch and stroke as I pass LOL. I know some of you will understand.
I sold two o fmy hats from the Guild tent to a delighted customer, and that moneyww ent straight into the pocket of these good people:

The wool is grown in Dorset, only a few miles from my house, and spun by The Natural Fibre Co in Launceston. Also hugely important is the fact that the sheep are reared organically, and that this entitles the wool to be labelled organic as well. The natural colour when spun up is a very beautiful shade of mid-brown; comes in 4ply ( which I bought) and Aran weights. It was on sale at the show for only £2.50 per ball. I bought £30 worth, and can't wait to get it on the needles! I have an idea I'll be ordering some more. :)

As I said, thankyou for you indulgence, here; it's really, really important to me to make sure that small producers sucjh as Eggardon Hill Natural Foods get all the publicity and promotion they can, and deserve. It's both our heritage and our future.

Edited to add later:

I've just come across this whilst looking for something else, ended up watching the whole episode (about an hour).
A very salutory tale, I think, and an improtant piece of film on mnay levels, apart from some of the patronising commentary. Well worth a watch and very, very thought provoking.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Life without television.............. turning out to be even better than I imagined. The house has settled into (relative) peace. There is still the noise of guitars, the occasional phone, radio,CD, but the intrusion of the television is well and truly gone. It gives a very different feel to the house for me. I haven't missed it one jot, and the others admit they haven't either. I listen to the early news on the radio in the morning, after the Shipping Forecast and before Farming Today and that's it for news. That's all I need; I don't want or need to be bombarded with doom, gloom, despair and despondency for hours every day, so having only one news slot is wonderful for me.
Although it possessed an off-button, I've always felt less in control of television output than I ever did with other things - radio, CD player, etc - for some reason.
This evening, for instance, we were all occupied with other things - writing, spinning, and MrL and EJ collaborating on EJ's latest electric guitar project. Yes, I know that will be rather noisy LOL, but it's a noise made by one of us, not some intrusive noise bombarding you from a source completely unconnected to us or our house.
I feel that I can set my own standards for entertaining myself now - not having to be content with some half hour programme just skimming the surface of a particularly interesting subject where it's "dumbed down" and shallow, ending in sheer frustration and disappointment for me.
I don't necessarily "get more done", which is the usual assumption when dispensing with television or a computer, etc. I just seem to be doing things differently, the evenings seem longer, more productive and definitely resulting in a more peaceful end to the day.

Preserving jars

I have a lot of rpeserving jars of various sorts, but these two are my favourites out of all of them. I found them at the Steam Fair at the weekend, for only £1 each, complete with rubber rings in good condition. The make is Holmgaard, which is Danish I believe. There is a circle with an arrow on the back, but I need to try and find out what this signifies. The clips are in reasonable condition, still usable. They are just nice things to hold - very straight, utilitarian, no-nonsense jars.
The only jars in my collection I have bought new were half a dozen Le Parfait jars from France, when a friend brought some back for me, but I ended up bartering for them, so didn;t actually pay in money! The rest I have acquired over the years - from people's sheds, jars their older realtions no longer wanted and neither did they, the tip, boot sales, jumble sales, etc. I have a selection of makes - Kilner, le Parfait and others. Some of the Kilners are quite old, and sit nicely in your hand as you're working with them; I find the new ones a bit chunky/clunky, but they're still useful. I have found a supplier online for lids for the old, narrow necked ones. These have integrated rubber seals, and pop when the seal is activated - very easy to use. My favourite is the traditional three piece top - glass or metal disc with rubber ring and screw on band in metal; I'm not keen on the bright orange plastic screw tops at all.
Most of the jars are full now, which is good for the coming winter - bottled fruit, tomatoes, jams, etc. I still have a boxful waiting to be washed out and tops sorted for them, so hope to get them done this week ready for the apples coming in. It's lovely to have your own fast food ready for heating up or cooking - the ultimate in food storage - no energy to store it, reusable jars that last for years with care, easily got secondhand, full of good food. Another bonus is you don't have to remember to get it out of the freezer to defrost in time for supper! :)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Show business

Some pictures from the County Show this weekend:

Show business II

These from the Guild pitch at the County Show; it went very well, a huge amount of interest in it all, lots of contacts made, much talking and laughter. I only bought one lot of wool (but what wool - Manx Loughtan, bred in Dorset, local and organic to boot) and one fleece, which I watched being sheared.

Show business III

These ones form the Great Dorset Steam Fair; the machine is an antique Belgian lace machine - very tempted, I have to say, but it didn't come home with me!