Archive for July, 2011

New Potatoes

Today we dug up the first of our home grown potatoes, and steamed them with a little mint for dinner tonight.  Yumm

our first potatoes 31st July 2011

It’s funny how home grown taste so much better than shop bought.  They took less time to cook and had taste.  No food miles here, just food metres!! Only had to come from the veggie plot to the kitchen.  Couldn’t be fresher than in the ground one minute and cooking the next!! Love this rural life!!

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Turning Blackcurrants into Cassis

Blackcurrants picked 29th July 2011

This is the first year we have grown any blackcurrants. I don’t like the bother of topping and tailing them, but I do like Cassis. So I borrowed a book off a friend with the recipe for Cassis and set about picking all my blackcurrants. Unfortunately it wasn’t that many and some were past their best, but if they are only going to soak in brandy I don’t think it matters too much.

I then assembled all the ingredients and tipped them into a demi john.  To go with our very few blackcurrants we only had a 20cl bottle of brandy, so I had to scale down the recipe as we are not going to make much cassis.

ingredients for cassis

Here is the recipe for Cassis.

Ingredients:

550g blackcurrants

1 x 3.5 cm pice of cinnamon stick

2 or 3 cloves

6 fresh blackcurrant leaves

600ml brandy

350g sugar

Method:

Put the blackcurrants in a basin and mash with a potato masher.  Put in a bottle with the spices and leaves.  Add the brandy and sugar.  cover tightly and leave in a warm place for 1 to 2 months.  Strain, squeezing out as much juice as possible, then pour into sterilized bottles and cork tightly.

So now we have to wait.  Still, with any luck we will have a glass each of Cassis for Christmas!

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The Morris Men come to town!

Yesterday evening we walked down to the Candlelight pub in Bishopswood as the Morris Men had come to town.  They were performing in the car park in front of the pub.

Morris Men at the Candlelight pub July 2011

What a quaintly English tradition is Morris Dancing.  Grown men with bells on their legs waving white handkerchiefs in the air, and clacking sticks with each other.

Taunton Morris Men at the Candlelight July 2011

These were the Taunton Morris Men who were doing their Summer tour of pubs and locals spots to stop and dance.  Mind you on a lovely evening, it’s a good excuse to sit outside the pub with a pint of best for Neil and a half a pint of cider for me.  I’m getting into these Somerset ways drinking cider.  It’s to be recommended.

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Lovely drains!!!

One of the “delights” of living in the country is not being on mains sewerage, but having a drain at the back of the kitchen through which all our shower water, dishwasher water, washine machine water and sewerage goes, which then has another pipe leading to the septic tank.

Those of you who receive our newsletter will know the fun and games we had last year with the septic tank, which, touch wood, seems to be working OK now.

However, yesterday Neil noticed at the back of the kitchen that water had built up in the drain.  He took the lid off and found the whole drain blocked up.  Lovely!!

So he got his pressure washer out and squirted water up the pipe from the septic tank end.

Neil with the pressure washer in the septic tank

He managed to dislodge some “gunk” and suddenly the drain emptied down the pipe into the septic tank.  So then he got a piece of sturdy pipe and put that down the pipe from the drain end, all the way along the pipe into the septic tank end.

Neil with pipe in the drain

To make sure all was free running again, he then pressure washed from the drain to the septic tank to ensure all debris was dislodged.  This worked fine, so now we have working drains again.  What a lovely job!!  I hope we don’t have this problem again when we have guests for B&B.  It would be aweful to have to say to them not to flush the loo until we have sorted the drains out!!  Yuk!!

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Making Rhubarb Jam, Mrs Beeton’s way

Our rhubarb plants are strong and healthy and we have been picking rhubarb since April this year.  The stems are still plentiful and the beauty of having several plants is that you only pick a couple of stems from each plant, that leaves the plant strong to grow more stems.Plentiful Rhubarb 2011

So I decided as we had so much rhubarb, and I was running out of freezer space, to make some into jam.  But I’ve never done it before with rhubarb, so I asked my neighbour if she’d ever made rhubarb jam as I wanted to get the proportions to sugar right, which depends on whether the fruit is high or low in pectin.

Anyway, Val searches through her books and comes out with Mrs Beetons Cookery Book, 1923 edition.

Mrs Beeton's cookery book 1923 edition

I just love the bit on rhubarb jam, where it says “place the pan by the side of the fire, and let the contents come slowly to boiling point”.  I suppose this was in the days before cookers.

Text from Mrs Beetons cookery book 1923

Anyway, I made my jam using equal amounts of fruit to jam sugar, the same way I had previously made the gooseberry jam.  I made one batch adding the ginger powder – the taste is quite subtle – and one batch without.  Both were delicious and set firm, so a success I think.  I hope our guests at the B&B will enjoy this with their breakfasts.

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Birdie in the nest!

Last year we had a pair of swallows that made their nest in the derelict section of the house we call the pump house.  This year we have kept the door closed so they were not able to get in there.  Ted next door, says they come back year after year to the same spot, so we were not surprised to see they had moved close by to our open fronted garage.

We saw them swooping in carrying bits of grass, and observed as they meticulously stuck the nest to one of the rafters.

Inside of our garage July 2011

It didn’t take long for the little nest to be finished, perched precariously on one of the beams.

Carefully made swallow's nest July 2011

We couldn’t see when the eggs were laid as it is rather high up.  Yesterday, Neil spotted movement and called out to me “there’s a birdie in the nest!”.  It looks like there is just one chick only. So we tried to photograph it, but we didn’t want to stay there too long as we didn’t want to spook it.  After a couple of minutes, it behaved just as we wanted it to, and popped it’s little head up.  You can just see the yellow beak.

The yellow beak of the swallow chick July 2011

So we just hope this little chick survives and we will keep an eye out (from a distance) to see when it takes it’s first flight. Ahhhh!

When we have renovated the derelict section for our B&B extension, and updated and moved the garage, this pair of swallows will have to find a new sight to nest in.

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Swiss rolls in the fields

Our local farmer has been busy, cutting the grass in the fields behind our garage to make forage.  The result has been some lovely “swiss rolls ” in the fields.

View of the fields from our window

If we walk down our lane, these fields are on the right hand side.  If you stop at the gate and peer through the field, the next picture is the view.  Spot the cows in the fields.  What a lovely view!!

View across the fields from the lane

We love watching the changing seasons around here.  You definitely feel more at one with nature than living in a town. You notice things you wouldn’t normally notice such as the fields and the different hedgerow flowers.

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It’s no Yolk!!

When you buy eggs in a supermarket, they come arranged as small, medium or large – 6 eggs all the same size.  But that’s not how hens lay them.  Eggs come in all different shapes and sizes and colours.  It’s a bit like humans come in all shapes and sizes, so do hens.  We have one really big fat hen, and another that is half the size and they are the same breed.

Eggs as they are laid in the nest box

Sometimes we get a really big egg.  Sometimes we get an egg that has a crinkled shell like it was a lot of effort to lay it.

A really big egg in the middle

Today we had a really small egg, the first we have had like that.  And when I cracked it to put into a cake it had no yolk!! And that’s no joke!  so I put an extra egg into my cake mix, this time with a yolk.

a really small egg in the middle

The hens are on a bit of a go slow at the moment.  Today we had 4 eggs, yesterday 6, but the two days before that only 4 eggs per day.  I think I shall have to give them a stiff talking to, and tell them all about chicken fricassee!!!  I need steady egg production for when we open as bed and breakfast.

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glorious goosegogs!

Last year we saw a small advert in the local Londis shop  “Free to good home, 2 mature gooseberry bushes”.  So we phoned the number and the lady said to come round to collect them.  When we got there, she presented Neil with a spade and said “you’ll have to dig them up!”. So he did, and they were big and we only just got them in the car.  We brought them back, dug them into the garden, and over the next couple of weeks, all the leaves fell off.  We wondered if we had killed them, moving them, but thought we would be patient and see what time would tell.

This spring, we noticed the first few leaf buds, then flowers, then slowly the growing of little gooseberries, until they were glorious and ripe and ready to pick.  One bush is red gooseberries and the other the ordinary green.

Red gooseberry bush, JUly 2011

So the other day I picked a load of lovely red gooseberries, sat in the sunshine and topped and tailed them all, then made them into jam.

Glorious goosegogs, topped and tailed

This is how I made the jam:

Ingredients: 600g topped and tailed gooseberries

450g jam sugar (Jam sugar has added pectin and as gooseberries have natural pectin I used less sugar to jam than normal)

Knob of butter (I used Flora)

Method:

Heat the washed gooseberries and sugar in a large saucepan on the stove top.  Mash the gooseberries with a potatoe masher to break them up.  Stir to disolve the sugar.

When the mixture is hot and starts to bubble, add a knob of butter and stir to disolve.

Bring the mixture to a rolling boil (when you cannot stir the bubbles down) and let it boil for 4 minutes.

Take some of the mixture on a spoon and drip onto a cold saucer.  If it firms up then the jam is ready, if not put back onto boil for another minute or two.

Tip the jam into warmed jars and seal straight away.

This mixture made 3 small jars.  for a greater quantity just multiply up the ingredients.    I shall be serving this to my bed and breakfast guests with their breakfast. Yummy!

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Selling to a salesman

Today, for the first time since we have lived here, we had a visit from a door to door salesman.  He was from Anglian Windows trying to sell double glazing, but we showed him our lovely windows courtesy of Mr Ivor Watts of Watts Windows Chard, and he realised we didn’t want any more new windows.

However, Neil and I were sat out front in the sunshine and there were 2 extra chairs so he sat down and started to talk to us about our house.  We told him that we had been here 18 months and the work that we had done, and the work we had yet to do.  We talked about well water, growing fruit and vegetables and our hens.

Suddently he said, “You have your own hens! do you have any eggs for sale?”.  I was slightly bemused, but said “Yes” and went and got him half a dozen. As we are not yet running as a B&B, I did have eggs to spare. “Oh” he said, “I just love fresh eggs, I always stop and buy them when I am in the country”.

So instead of him selling us windows, we sold him eggs.  Funny how things work in the country!!

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