Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Goose Eggs....

I love idioms...and the one about going on a wild goose chase is rather apt.  To cut a long story short, we were killing two birds with one stone, (no birds were harmed), when we set out to spend an hour or two in the sunshine!

The first 'birdie' was our need for a little exercise and getting Mr S out on his bike.  I use my bike most days for popping into 'town', that is what I call going into the centre of the smallest city in England!  The second 'birdie' was getting some fresh air and sunshine...and there were several more 'birdies' on our round trip of at least sixteen miles!

The first mile or so from home, involves some free wheeling down onto the Somerset Levels. Hedgerows with ferns but narrow roads with few passing points, mean keeping alert for the sound on an advancing car or tractor, then waiting at the passing point.  We were aiming for the Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve....just to see where it was, to see if there ANY WILD GEESE still around.  We had heard the bitterns at Shapwick Heath a couple of days previously, but not this time.  We did however see some Egrets and other birds...but no geese, but a field full of swans, which were equal distance apart.  I wonder what they were doing: grazing, or speed dating of swans ready for the first year of breeding, then a life time together.

The landscape of the levels is very appealing.  The fields are edged with deep ditches and areas of willow, birch and alder trees punctuate the sky, and even scappings where peat is being extracted give a dark chocolate contrast to the lush green of the fields.   In the distance, rolling hills  with areas of woodland frill the horizon.  The primroses and other spring meadow flowers are out in force, and in the fields cattle and sheep are grazing.  I spied a poor ewe on her back with all four legs in the air.  I wasn't willing just to cycle past, but also not confident enough to jump the electric fence and turn her over, so it was a bit of a detour to Godney to find someone who knew what to do.

On our cycle out towards the reserve we passed a farm with eggs at the gate and made a note to get some on the way back.  There were goose eggs for sale...50p each, we came back with a couple.  Just one is sufficient for a scrabbled egg lunch for two people!  I'm going to try and blow the second egg and decorate it for Easter.  I also now have a source for wonderful hens eggs of many different colours.

The wild geese will come back, and as we get to know the rhythm of the reserves, we shall find things of interest at each visit, whatever the season.  I feel so very fortunate that Mr S and I have have found such a lovely place to live.

Crassula falcata Buddha's Temple

The pot of two large and winding crassulas, and a small one which was just a piece that had broken off last year, is growing well and I feel that there may be some flowers this spring.  There are some bare patches on the lower reaches but lots of nice healthy side shoots.  Once it has flowered, I think it will be time to regenerate by taking lots of cuttings from these side shoots and ditching the two older plants.  I think these plants are about three years old, since they are from cuttings from the plants which I 'refurbished' last time when I posted about them flowering in 2014.  I noticed that some well organised gardeners write the date of propagation on the label...I must get organised!

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Arkatena Bread

I am going through my stores and finding recipes to use up the ingredients which are close to the best before dates, and I have some chickpea flour....Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters Book came up trumps.  I read the recipe and felt that it would take a little too long for me, as well as making a largish batch of production leaven where not all was used.

These ratios and timings suit me.  The resulting loaves are delicious.  I baked them in two 500g oval bannetons and the picture is of the loaf that got stuck in the banneton...hence its rather rustic looking top.

Early afternoon of day 1

50g sourdough white starter..100% hydration
25g chickpea flour
25g white strong flour...my current batch is stoneground organic strong white from Stoates
50g water
150g starter in total

mix and place in a bowl and keep covered on the worktop

Late evening day 1

150g starter from the above
50g strong wholemeal
50g chickpea
120g water
520g total Production Leaven

Mix and leave the bowl covered on the worktop

Day 2 Early morning

100g strong wholemeal
300g stron white wheat flour
10g sea salt
300g water
20g fennel seeds
520g Production Leaven
1250g dough in total

Knead the dough well for about 10 minutes, and then leave on the worktop under an upturned bowl for about a hour.  Stretch and fold, then leave for another hour, repeat again!  Its well worth developing your sourdough techniques.  Thanks to several months working on doughs into the Perfecting Sourdough Challenges on Facebook, and exchanging tips there, I have come a long way.

Divide as appropriate to fit your baskets, then prove for a couple of hours or so depending on ambient temperature until the finger tests show that the loaves are ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 220 C, bake for 10 minutes, then reduce to 190 C fan and bake until ready about 25 minutes for 500g loaves.

The bread is rather delicious...nutty and nutritious.  Nice toasted too...great with cold meats, chutneys, roasted veg and hummus.

With 250g of the dough left after two 500g loaves, I mixed in some soaked fruit, spice, and the soaked bottom of the fruited all bran breakfast cereal bag, and left the mixture to rise in some muffin tins...rather delicious upcycled breakfast cereal, the dusty small bits which would have gone in the bin!  I got six nice fruity breakfast buns.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Garden Wildlife

With a new garden very close to the Open Countryside we are having a lovely selection of birds visiting...and later today I shall be going out to top up all the feeders, clean out the water trays and trying to get closer to the blackbird which visits for his mealy worms.

Caught through the very dirty patio windows is this frequent visitor.  Its wonderful to see his strutting around the garden with the sunlight showing off his wonderful feathers.  The blackcaps are frequent visitors as are the Coal tits..yesterday we saw a thrush and then there are all the usuals!

This is the view I get from the living room bay window, when I stand and stare to see what the weather is like!

San Francisco Sourdough

One of the March bake challenges on our Facebook Webpage is San Francisco Sourdough.  It worked really following the techniques...but I don't have a 1kg basket and for just the two of us two smaller loaves means than I can freeze one.

I was rather happy with the crumb and distribution of holes...and the golden colour is on account of using Stoates Stoneground Organic White Flour.  I am happy to have found a local shop The Good Earth in Wells that sells Stoates flour in 8Kg sacks.

Saturday, 4 March 2017


Some of the first blooms at the start of the year during the dark mizzerly days which seem to catch the light are snowdrops.  Mizzerly weather is a new type of weather not much experienced in the Midlands...a very light rain almost a heavy mist which swirls making everything very wet indeed.  Maybe its the closeness to the coast that brings these fine misty rainy days.  When we get a sunny day it certainly cheers the soul.  However in the absence of sunshine a few white nodding heads in the garden remind me that spring is on its way.

Each year Mr S and I venture forth to admire snowdrops.  This being our first year in Somerset, we had to go to the Snowdrop Festival in Shepton Mallet.  James Allen the Victorian Snowdrop King who planted many different varieties in his garden at Park House.  We went on the Saturday, but I wished we had visited on the Friday when there were many Galanthus growers selling bulbs in bloom.  I did spend my pocket money for the week on a couple of pots of Galanthus Woronowii which has wide shiny bright green leaves, and Galanthus Elwesii as it had such large blooms.

The local Horticultural Club had planted up displays and hope this new festival grows and grows!We followed the walk they had devised and as well as enjoying the architecture of the town, enjoyed visiting James Allen's grave.

 Galanthus Woronowii

 Galanthus Elwesii

In the absence of much gardening, I've enjoyed Charles Elliott's essays in The Transplanted Gardener...a very good and amusing read!