This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hard decisions

I haven't mentioned it recently but I am still beavering away at getting rid of unused items.  I have now binned or given away or taken to the charity shop some 385 items. There is a bag with 30 more sitting in the hall waiting to go but they are not gone so I can't count them yet.  I promised myself at the beginning of January that I would part with 1000 things during 2015.  I reckoned that even if I failed, then I would still have won if you see what I mean.  Well at 385 at the end of May, I am a little bit behind because I have sorted all the easy things ( like giving away the videos which can't be played because the video player died). I need to average 84 items a month.  I'm beginning to find it difficult to remember what number I am up to so I'm going to put a number at the bottom of my blog post to remind me because then I shall remember where I put my tally : )

I am in trouble with my animals again.  Sally cat is old - she'll be 17 in early autumn.  Like many other cats, she loves you rubbing her chin.  Well last Wednesday I found a little lump on her jaw.  I thought it was probably an abscess under a tooth.  On Thursday I had an upset tummy so I took her to the vet on Friday.  She didn't like me poking at the lump but was not unduly upset.  However the vet said it seems like a growth. I just can't believe how quickly the lump grew. They gave the cat an antibiotic injection and sent me away for a few days.  I went back yesterday and the vet is more certain that it is a tumour in/on the bone.  She can have antibiotics every day to keep infection at bay and then painkillers to help.  Obviously she is too old to go down the biopsy and operation route.  It just wouldn't be fair to her to put her through all that at her age.  But I'm not sure how fair it is to make her live on painkillers either. It is an awfully hard decision to make and I just can't make up my mind.

385 items gone´╗┐

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sourdough - yet again

No, I haven't made any more bread yet but my starter is ticking over in the fridge and I'll be making more in the near future because we are getting short of bread.  We found some very nice yellow stickered bags of rolls so we gave our son half of them and have been working our way through the rest of them.

This post is because Sadge commented and pointed out that the link I gave you for sourdough no longer exists - thanks Sadge. I've had a look on the internet and found the same article saved with different address.  So here it is:


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More sourdough

I've made another loaf of sourdough bread.  I wanted to make two and freeze one but there was not enough sourdough starter for two so just one loaf got made.

The recipe I used (link on previous blogpost) is easy and very tolerant.  It also cooks in 30 minutes at 350'F (gas 4).  The author makes a point of stating that you turn on the oven and put the bread straight in and count the 30 minutes from that point.  Usually I bake the bread at a higher temperature and have to preheat the oven.  So this bread uses less gas -something I am rather keen on at the moment.  I need to build up the starter so I can make those two loaves at once. 

I part baked a couple of potatoes in the microwave and finished them in the oven while the bread cooked and also made a farmhouse omelette at the same time so good use was made of that gas : )

The thing about this particular loaf is that I prepared the starter on Saturday and tried to bake it on Sunday. I got up a few minutes early and kneaded the bread and set it to rise before I went to church for 9.00am.  The dough had not doubled in size until teatime (sourdough is very slow) so I knocked it back, kneaded it a bit more and put it in a loaf tin to double in size again.  By the time I wanted to go to bed, it still had not doubled again so I left it until the morning - our house is really cold so the dough was not rising very quickly.  By morning, the dough had overflowed the tin so I took it out, knocked it back again and put it back in the tin to rise yet again. I was wondering what the bread would be like after rising three times but it was probably the best loaf I've ever made.  I said that sourdough was tolerant and it most definitely is : )


Friday, May 08, 2015

Bread and jumpers

It is almost a month since I posted so bang goes my resolution to post just about every week.  The problem with not posting for a while is that I forget the minutia of life that I wanted to record so that I won't forget...

I'm still knitting the "fish and chip" jumpers for babies. See this link:

Angela from Tracing Rainbows has also written a post about them.  I've knitted a pile and given them to my friend down the road who added hers to the bag and passed them on to another friend of hers who passed them on - and so it goes.  That way, we don't have to pay the postage to get them to the charity who are sending them to Africa.  I have nearly finished the yarn that I was given.  It is machine knitting yarn really so I'm using four strands at a time with a coloured stripe in the body of the sweater to make it a bit more interesting.  I've knitted 27 in the last 6 months and have enough yarn to take it up to 30.  I'll stop then because it is a nice round number and my enthusiasm is definitely waning.  I need to be knitting something else for a while to make a change.  Although it is very useful to have a pattern that is so straightforward that I can do it while watching a film or a whodunit on the tv on a winter evening.

The friend that I pass these jumpers on to, was given a sourdough starter just before Christmas. She put in at the back of the fridge and forgot about it as time went on.  So she brought it up to me to see if I wanted to have a go with it.  She thought it was probably done for but wondered if my magic touch might resurrect it. I let it come to room temperature and fed it a couple of times and it started bubbling away merrily.  I've made my first loaf with it this week and given my friend back a good jarful of the starter.  The bread is lovely and I had a slice of it toasted for breakfast this morning spread with some homemade marmalade. Yum! I was surprised at how well it rose. 

I've experimented with sourdough before but not with a starter like this.  Before, I did it the way that Shirley Goode talked about in the early days of her blog.  She made a  loaf in the ordinary way, with yeast, but kept back a piece of the kneaded dough about the size of a small apple.  This is put into a bowl and just covered with water and left (covered with a teatowel) on the kitchen side. After 3 or 4 days, the lump of dough collapses down into the water.  Stirred up well, this is used as the liquid to make a loaf with a bit extra water to make it up to the right quantity if needed.  You keep a piece of dough back to prepare the starter/liquid for the next loaf and so it goes on.  Obviously, yeast is used for the first loaf, but there is not much of the original commercial yeast present in the next loaf and even less in the next etc.  I found this way of starting the bread to be very straightforward but our house is very cold and in the winter half of the year, it was taking forever for the wild yeast to work.

The bread takes a long time to prove when made by either of these methods but that means that you don't have to be around all the time but can go out and leave it.  It is very tolerant as regards time and this is another point in sourdough's favour.  Normal yeast bread doesn't like to be left to prove overlong.  It can even be left to rise overnight in the fridge.  Anyway, I'm pleased with my bread and my friend is pleased to have a fresh starter although we are both amazed that the starter hadn't been killed off by neglect. On the frugal side, each loaf only costs the price of the flour (bread flour in Aldi is 65p for white or wholemeal) and a bit of salt and sugar (and oil if liked) and oven time as the yeast is now free because of the starter. That is several pence off the cost of each loaf for a while.  Every little helps.  My next thing will be to make two loaves at a time and freeze one so that will halve the cost of the gas. The freezer is going to be in use anyway so the cost of the electricity doesn't really count.

There are a lot of articles available on the internet about sourdough and some of them are rather fancy.  I like plain and straightforward methods of doing things and this is a link to one of my favourite articles about sourdough.  It is American and the chap obviously lives in a warmer climate than is found in our house : )  He also has a useful FAQ section.

Mentioning gas reminds me that I sent in our meter readings and had the bills back this week for gas and electricity.  Apparently our use of gas has almost exactly doubled in Jan-April as compared with the same period last year.  I am puzzled by this as I just can't think of anything that we were doing which would account for this. One of life's little mysteries albeit an expensive one.

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