Tuesday, 30 June 2009

More celebrations

Just a quick one (apologies have lots of photos to post but no time as run off my feet with work). After 5 years of study and alot of pain and tears I have finally managed to achieve my MSc. I started this so long ago had lost the will to live with it, but because I had paid the Uni lots of pennies decided to at least try and it was worth it.

Next step PhD (NOT).

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Scone recipe

Now I cannot make scones and M loves them especially as cream tea. We have such lovely local clotted cream and our own strawberry jam I made last year I really had to find a recipe that worked.

A friend gave me this recipe and certainly the first time I made them they exploded and were lovely and fresh and light and yummy. For some reason (and I think I have some ideas, ie left them in too long and put them too close to the bottom of the oven) the last two attempts haven't been that good, but still very edible, and after all they are really only an excuse to eat clotted cream!!!!

8oz plain flour
2oz butter
2 level tsp baking powder
1 rounded tblspn caster sugar
pinch salt

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz to a crumble. Add 1 egg (free range of course!) and 100 - 15oml milk. NOW, the thing with the liquid ingredients is that I find you need to put the egg in first and the with the food processor whizzing, slowly add the milk until the noise the processor makes changes, otherwise you end up with a mixture that is too wet and then you have to add more flour and then it all goes wrong (another mistake I made once). You want a mixture that you can roll out and is not too wet so that you can cut out the shapes.

Place the scones onto a greased baking tray in the middle of an oven heated to 180oc/gas mark 4 for 10 minutes. I think it is nice to lightly glaze the scones before baking with milk or beaten egg and you get a nice top to them, but you don't have to. Leave to cool (if they don't get eaten first) on a rack, then cut in two, spread with a good dollop of clotted cream and strawberry jam and eat and enjoy and worry about the waistline another day.

Happy eating :)

'Hob Nob' recipe by request

As requested by one of my readers here is the recipe for 'hob nobs' which comes from a very kind poster on the 'Creative Living' Forum. I usually make half the amount as there is only two of us!

Apologies for the amounts in imperial measures, it shouldn't be too difficult to convert them to metric but I still like the old measures and that is how the recipe was written.

8oz SR flour
8oz sugar
8oz porridge oats
8oz butter
1tbsp syrup
1tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

mix flour, sugar, oats and bic of soda in a bowl, melt butter with the syrup and hot water very gently, don't let it get too hot. Pour the liquid ingredients onto the dry ingredients, mix well and form into balls the size of walnuts (where I went 'wrong' as I was obviously used to very large walnuts!!!!). Put onto a greased tray and flatten with a fork dipped in cold water (I use my fingers!).

Bake at 180 degrees c, gas mark 4 for 15 minutes, leave on the tray for a minute then put on a rack to cool.

Honey can be used instead of syrup, the lady who posted this recipe said that she sometimes adds chopped almonds, cinnamon or ginger. She gets 45 biscuits from this recipe.

For my last batch I think I had a too little syrup so they are now rather hard!!! The first ones went rather flat and were a bit too sweet for our taste but on experience with reducing the syrup I wouldn't do this next time but might reduce the sugar a little bit. I guess you could use brown sugar instead of white which would be nice.

They are so easy to make, take so little time and are so much more 'cost effective' than the bought ones I would make these every time now and not bother with bought biscuits (not that we eat that many anyway). They seem to keep well for a while in an airtight box.

Happy baking and eating.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Have you seen missing animal

Ok, another new one for me (perhaps not for M as his office used to be on a farm). Round here you occasionally get a notice about a missing pet, but animals that go missing more frequently are sheep and cattle (and occasionally our hens). Last year some neighbours came round looking for 2 missing lambs and today another farmer from across the river (about a mile away) turned up looking for 22 missing yearling heifers which (it appeared) has escaped from their enclosure, forded the river and are now (allegedly) somewhere near us. We haven't seen them but have taken his number. We have also heard of a small herd of young cattle who managed to get from a farm near here to the village along the road (2 miles) without anyone spotting them! We also have friends who managed to loose a bullock in the middle of our nearest town when taking him to market. He escaped from the trailer and was found munching on someones front garden!!!!

Will keep an eye out for these cattle, as if they get in our garden will cause havoc and frighten the life out of the cats and probably me too. Ah the joys of country living.

Edited 18.41 to say that apparently the farmer who grazes his cattle on the fields surrounding the house lost some of his beasts today, must be something in the weather!!!!! He was busy going round the fields banging in new fence posts (thought it was an earthquake).

Flying lessons

No not me or M, the swallows.

When I went to let the hens out of their run yesterday for their 2 hours of free ranging I noticed a lot of swallows flying around in the open sided barn where we keen the hens most of the time now (not really fox proof but close to the house and stops them running off down the lane to the pub). About 3 or 4 of these swallows didn't have the long tails and were a lot smaller than the ones with the long tails; they must be the babies and they are learning to fly and eat on the wing. It is very funny to watch.

There seems to be an adult bird in the lead with the little ones following behind in an avian 'follow my leader'. They appeared to be practicing the 'lets fly as fast as possible and then stop suddenly before we crash into the barn' maneuver and the little ones were getting it. Every now and again they all congregate on the roof girders for a 'pep talk'. Great to watch but impossible to capture on film. I am quite surprised as I didn't think they would be ready yet, but adding to the belief that the young are out of the nest is the fact that we don't get dive bombed anymore when we go into or near the barn where the swallows were nesting.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The traveller returns

Well that was an experience and proof positive that trying to be a good citizen and keep my carbon footprint low by using public transport is a waste of time. I was going to take the train to London on Sunday only to find that my train had been cancelled and I would have a 2 hour wait for the next train, I am sorry but I wasn't going to sit around in Exeter St David's station for 2 hours when in 2 hours by car I would have been the other side of Bristol, so I am ashamed to say that I drove! Not too bad a journey until Reading and then the M4 stopped, I suppose it had been a nice weekend and so folks were coming home after a weekend away or a day out. The M25 was worse and at one point had to turn the engine off. At least there was nice cool glass of water (!) at my destination. The return yesterday was much better but it is a dreadfully long way and today I am shattered.

Something that caught my attention on my crawl round the biggest car park in the country was that the John Lewis Partnership seem to be taking over the world. They have recently opened a Waitrose in our nearest town which isn't exactly a posh place but it does seem to be very busy and at least they have a nice fish counter, but I am afraid it won't be my weekly shopping venue as rather costly. Anyway, as I crept round the motorway I noticed that the services at the A1/M25 junction is now a Waitrose! I have seen M&S ones but never a Waitrose one before, they must be doing something right if they can afford to open up all these new branches and good luck to them. Beware you may find a Waitrose opening near you but at least it is better than Tescos as at least Waitrose do seem to try to source local produce and do seem to try to always source British were possible.

It is strange going back somewhere where you have lived for 20 years, I do still get a lump in my throat (and did drive past our house which probably wasn't a good plan). I do miss our friends but it is so busy up there and so many cars. We used to go to Scotland a lot for holidays (we originally wanted to move to Scotland as mentioned in one of my early posts) and I always breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed the border, there was something about just being in Scotland that made me feel better. I now feel this coming back here, as soon as I crossed the Devon border I breathed that big sigh too; mind you, I still had one and a half hours still to go before getting home; it is such a big county. But the thing that really brings a smile to my face and makes me shout 'YES' is seeing Dartmoor, it feels like a friend now, I suppose because it means I am nearly home and it is our familiar view.

So good to be home if a little shattered, next time I will try to fly up from Plymouth as there is now a twice daily service to City Airport (and that is not an airport for the faint hearted to fly into or out of). Back to work again and hopefully some more pictures to take to post on here for my next one.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

End of another week

Its been so quiet here now they have finished silaging, we almost miss the rumbling tractors, but it is nice to have the cattle roaming round all the fields now. M has been brave and has been for a walk round the fields with the cattle. They can tend to be a bit friendly so we have been nervous of doing this before but he wandered around slowly and they were well behaved, although at one point he could hear a rumble of hooves behind him so was a bit worried he was about to be stampeded!

The foxgloves are coming out now and are absolutely breathtaking, photos to follow.

Been a busy week for both of us with lots of work, which is good, but after a 12 hour day on Thursday I just might have to get our new very cost effective sun loungers out and examine the inside of my eyelids in the garden (after planting out the sweetcorn and more peas as they just don't seem to want to grow). We also had a nice visit from my big sister and her husband last week which was lovely.

The excitement for next week is that I have to go 'up country' (as they say down here) for a meeting north of London tomorrow. Having got used to the peace and quiet here the thought of going back east is a bit daunting. I always used to drive, but really cannot face doing 10 hours driving over 2 days for a meeting lasting 5 hours, so... I am going to try out our wonderful public transport system. Train tickets are booked and it should be fine except for the little bit in the middle which involves the underground, I was never good at this even when I lived in London as a student, I always get on the wrong train going on the wrong line or going in the wrong direction! Hopefully I will get back in one piece to write another day.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Wet Saturday adventures

Well the boys are back! After the silaging had finished W came and let the boys into the field next to the house (there isn't much grass but he did leave some for them and they are making short (!!!!) work of it. It's lovely to have them back again, they have freaked out the chickens but I don't think the cats have noticed them yet - in bed all day yesterday with the weather. The boys seem pleased to see us too, I got quiet an audience when I started to sing to them and one of them seemed rather interested in my glass of wine! The only downside to them being here will be the flies when the weather warms up again, but all part of country living.

Other excitements yesterday - what to do when it is raining so hard, is that I made some more 'hob nobs' and this time with chocolate on top! Dark chocolate ones and milk chocolate ones, next time I will do some white chocolate and try to do double chocolate coverings! They didn't spread out as much as the last two times I made them, so are much smaller in diameter but they are thicker, think there was less fluid (was all measured out of course, but something must have been different - unless I got it wrong previously). Still very nice though and so so so easy to make.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Silage update mark 2

Well they did it, but only just. They worked until dark last night (a bit of drizzle but no rain as such). We went to have a look in the shogun (saw Mr Fox too!) (first time we have explored 'our' fields by vehicle, a very different perspective). What we hadn't realised it that one of the big fields which we though had cattle in, didn't so in fact they had more enclosures to cover than we first though.

It did rain overnight and was drizzling when they came back at about 9 this morning. They have gone now and I think have managed to get it all in, but the last 2 hours or so have been in drizzle (and now heavy rain). Do hope it will be OK for silage. The farmer only rents this land as grazing and silage, his family run another farm and it looks as though he got all that grass in on time, so he should have enough. Presumably they also do a second cut later in the year.

Very strange to be all quiet now after the rumbling of tractors and trailers for the last 2 days.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Silage update

Poor W (the tenant farmer), he was cutting the fields until 2.30 the other morning (we were fast asleep of course and never heard him leave), he finally managed to finish yesterday (he also had his family farm to look after and silage). The weather (as usual) seems to be against him as the forecast was for rain today but now it looks as though the forecast is for rain tomorrow night instead (mind you better than the sleet that Scotland might get today - in JUNE!).

Anyway the tractors (5 of them, plus the trailers that the grass is collected in and the amazing machine that actually 'scoops' it up off the field and chucks it into the trailers) finally arrived at lunch time today and it really is a race. It's a bit like Piccadilly Circus here with tractors roaring past the house at a rate of one every 10 minutes.

The eastern sky is dark and the wind is picking up, will they get it done before the rains come...? I feel for W, if they don't get it in it will be wasted and that would be dreadful as is the winter feed for the cattle, it is vital that they get it in in time. I am reminded of those old black and white films with the heroine tied to the railway track with the train coming and the associated music, sure you can imagine. The biggest enclosure is done now but they still have another 6 to do, another 40 acres. I wish we could help, but neither M or I have ever driven a tractor with one of those big trailers on the back and you have to keep up with the tractor gathering the grass in, you have to get the timing absolutely right (actually I have never driven any kind of tractor). We did suggest yesterday that we could get out with the wheelbarrow and some grass rakes but it would take a while! Fingers crossed that the dark eastern sky does not herald rain for us today. Updates to follow (ooh the excitement of the countryside!).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Sunset time

Its that time of the year again when the sunsets are at their best, mainly because the sun is now setting to the North West of the house so we get a better view of it and mainly because we have had such clear evenings. The sky is still light in the North at 11pm. The colours are truly amazing and sadly I don't have a camera which will do them justice. The sky seems to have been painted using horizontal stripes, deep red at the bottom, rising through the colours, orange, yellow and then (and I had never seen this before coming to Devon) green, before turning to light blue to dark blue. The green is quite clear and is a sort of pale colour, possibly that pale apple green colour you see in the flesh of a granny smith only slightly darker.

The swallows are having a lot of fun especially trying to dive bomb us if we go near the outbuilding where they are nesting. They have also made rather a mess of M's car but it is parked in their flight path.

Charlie cat has taken to sleeping in the long grass in the field next to the house when it is hot, luckily he wasn't there yesterday as the farmer has now started silaging and came to start cutting the field yesterday, he does leave a border round the field so Charlie wouldn't have been mowed but it would have given him a shock. I did feel for the farmer last night, he was still cutting when we went to bed and clearly was still at it very late into the night. He is very thoughtful and didn't cut the field next to our neighbours, who are older, so as not to disturb them. He apologised to us for cutting so late but we don't mind at all, it is all part of living here, you can't live in the country and especially in such an agricultural area without tractor noise every now and then. I think when and if we ever manage to have holiday cottages it is something that we will tell people to be aware of, as some folks don't realise that the country isn't always quiet; March and April - lambing, so beware of where you walk and letting dogs of the lead; end May and June - silaging, lots of tractors on the roads and possibly working late into the night.

The tourist season seemed to start well with half term last week, the beaches were full and although it was hot, there was a cool breeze so it was nice, mind you easy to get burnt if you weren't careful. Some friends made it to the beach last week with M, but sadly I was working - typical.

Work is very very busy now for some reason, I am almost having to turn work away at the moment, but don't want to do it, as I don't know when and if it will dry up again. M is busy too and people (despite the recession) seem keen to buy the garden furniture. I think the local nature of the furniture is a good selling point and it comes direct from the Sawmills which is near here so limited miles on it (apart from delivery of course).

No piccies today, but once they have finished cutting (it doesn't do my hay fever any good), I will try to get some piccies of the fields and the bales, as although they are now in black plastic it is a pretty sight.