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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Burton Dassett

For our anniversary, my husband took me to Burton Dassett. It is a country park not far from junction 12 on the M40. It is 100 acres of land on what used to be an ironstone quarry. Apart from a "beacon" and some toilets, there is nothing else there - it is just a place to wander. And we did have a good wander round. It is a hill in the middle of a fairly flat area so there are very good views all around. Several hundred years ago, there was a windmill which blew down and was replaced by another which also blew down a couple of hundred years later. The "beacon" looks like the stone base of the last windmill which is now filled in with concrete and is a reminder that a beacon was lit there to warn people of approaching armies at the Battle of Edgehill (a couple of miles away) in 1642.

There is also an old church just outside the park. The original was built in 1086 but only lasted a couple of hundred years and was replaced by a bigger building. The bells for this were cast in 1286. The latest modern addition was added in 17 something...  The floor space in the church is about the same as our church so this one must have served quite a substantial community. The floor slopes upward from the bell tower to the high altar. Never been in a church where the floor sloped like that. There were also the remains of medieval paintings on the walls and all the pillars on one side of the church had stone carvings of animals and head and plants.

It was a lovely day out and we had a lovely picnic. I enjoyed it far more than going out for a meal in a restaurant and my husband knows this : )


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Celebration week

Last week at church we ran a holiday club for 3-10 year olds. We had over 80 kids signed up. I was working in the under 6 group and we had between 34 and 37 each day. That is a lot of small kids! They did great and we all had a good time. We were taking them through the story of Joseph with stories, crafts, drama,  action songs and lots of other little activities too. We also put on a bbq for the kids and their families on the Friday which was well attended. The last day of the holiday club was actually the Sunday which included the usual service. I'm not sure the normal congregation knew what had hit them! suffice to say that the adult leaders slept well last week...!

This week is celebration week in our family. My son's three children all have birthdays in August, exactly one week apart, so they are having a grand joint celebration on Saturday with all the family and all the children's friends invited to a bbq. That will be a busy day and I hope it remains dry because that number of excited kids are not going to fit inside the house... Also, it is our wedding anniversary tomorrow. Not a special one this year, but my husband is actually planning to take me out so that will make it special : )

At church, we have had a girl from Slovakia staying for the last month. She has been helping a lot in the coffee shop and has been making Marlenka - an Armenian honey cake. It is absolutely beautiful! She has written out the recipe for me so I shall have a go at making it.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Hot Summer!

Well, the heatwave has continued and I've only had a few nights when I could sleep without the fan on all night. What a hot summer we are having! I'm not very good with hot weather and think lovely thoughts about all those typical British summers we have had in the past when I needed to wear some sort of woolly every day. I must admit that I've been getting up early on the days when I've had to cook and bake for the church coffeeshop. I discovered that having the ovens and the hob on during this hot summer was not to my liking, to put it mildly.  Fortunately there are only a few soup diehards among our customers, so I've not had to have the hob on for soup very often. I've been packaging the soup in two portion containers and put lots of those in the freezer, in order to stretch the shelf life of a batch of soup. Seems to be working : )

The allotment has been suffering for the lack of water although we did have a deluge in the early hours of the morning a couple of days ago. Everybody's courgettes and cucumbers are coming on in droves after that bit of rain but we could do with a bit more.

I've been given three cucumbers and I've been looking to see where I put the bit of paper with my lovely cucumber relish recipe that was given by Tania at Frugal in Essex last summer on her blog. I made it and gave my family a jar each in their Christmas stockings and it went down really well. I thought it had a lovely flavour. My husband is not keen on any pickles other than onions or Branston Pickle although he will eat Lidl's version of Branston. So this batch of sweet cucumber relish will be mine, all mine : )

Sweet cucumber relish

• 2 lbs cucumbers, peeled, centre row of seeds removed, and finely diced
• 1 medium onion finely diced ( I used red for extra colour)
• 1 large red bell pepper, finely diced (I used half red, half yellow for colour)
• 1 stalk of finely diced celery (or heaped teaspoon of celery salt)
• 1oz salt
• 6oz white granulated sugar
• 400ml cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon brown mustard seed
• 1 bay leaf (optional)

Place the diced cucumbers, onion, and red bell pepper in a large mixing bowl. Combine with the salt and pour water over the mixture until just covered. Let sit for at least 6 hours or overnight.
• Drain the cucumber mixture in a colander, rinse thoroughly with water, and drain well.
• In a large stock pot, add the sugar, vinegar, and mustard seed and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the drained cucumber mixture and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
• Ladle the hot relish into sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and seal tightly with the lids.
• Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (The 3 jars I made fitted  into my deep pressure cooker pan. Boiling water was added to the start of the neck of the jar)
• Sealed jars will store in a cool, dark place for a year. If the seal is broken, the relish will keep in the fridge for a month.

Note from Tania: This is a basic recipe found all over the internet, I did notice that some people add a teaspoon of cornflour near the end of the cooking process to produce a syrupy sauce.

Note from me: I left out the water bath bit as that is more for Americans and it kept just fine.

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