Monday 31 October 2011

Curtain making

What do you do when you can't sleep? After an hour or so, I usually get up and get on with some work - quite often ironing, as that keeps me warm too. The clocks went back on Saturday and I was looking forward to an extra hour's sleep. A black hairy cat woke me a around 3 a.m. (before clock changing). By the time I'd taken her downstairs and got my feet cold, I was fully awake. I tried to get back to sleep but gave up and went downstairs and decided I would make a start on the new winter curtains for the sitting room. I had found some material I'd forgotten buying )when I was searching for Great Uncle George's WW1 medals which OH had decided to "put somewhere safe" and we haven't found that safe place yet . . .)

So, using material I'd bought as a remnant (£8 or £10 or so I think) from the Fabric Warehouse (which shut down a couple of years back, and is much lamented), and a pair and a bit of the orange 50p curtains from a recent Lidl sale, I set to and made a good start on the first curtain. I carried on working on it throughout the day, and it was finished by teatime yesterday.

Seams pinned.

I'll post another picture when they're finished and hanging.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Shopping and eating frugally

Is time an illusion? It feels like it this past week! We're going flat out as jobs need to be done. We can rest after tomorrow . . .

Anyway, one of the things I have been thinking about recently is shopping, and how, when we are trying to prune our grocery bill to as little as possible - as when the bills come in the only place we can take money from is the grocery money - and everything is going up in leaps and bounds. I try NOT to do a one-stop supermarket shop. We have changed to doing the bulk of our weekly shop in Lidl, though there are certain things which we have to shop at another leading supermarket for as Lidl don't stock them or the price is better elsewhere. Fruit and veg we buy from the warehouse at Abergwili, buying the £1 bargain boxes when we can (what's in those varies daily and some is too far gone to be worth buying). We also have a lot of home-grown fruit to fall back on.

Anything remotely in the toiletry line we buy in the £1 shop - it goes without saying it's a daft idea to spend £2 plus on a tube of toothpaste when it is £1 somewhere else. I've never been one for buying ready-made food - everything is made from scratch where possible, although I do get fish fingers, frozen fish, and the occasional jar of instant sauce for a quick bung-it meal when I'm in a hurry or poorly. Home made bread is far better than shop-bought, tastier/cheaper/more filling all round. Home made jam is divine and not just a jar of coloured sugar, like "boughten" stuff. Home made pickled onions cost a fraction of shop jars and taste better. Home made mincemeat costs me next to nothing (just the dried fruit really) as I use apples from our trees, and use no suet in it. Cakes and biscuits and puddings - home made of course - and I usually try and fill the oven and freeze the extra baked. I use any leftover bread to make breadcrumbs for coating fish/chicken or making stuffing and would make bread pudding if it weren't only me that ate it (I'm on a diet!)

The wild birds will have to go without this year as we cannot afford £40 or so per sack of peanuts. We live next to a farm, so there are normally gleanings there and we will put out any damaged store apples if we get Redwings and Fieldfares coming through, although in last year's snow we regularly had 26 Blackbirds in the garden demanding breakfast. We will probably weaken and get a sack of bird seed if the forecast is dire.

Where else I can prune, I don't know. If it's just my husband and me here, we will have just something on toast for supper or omelet or something quick and fill up an empty corner with some fruit crumble.

I am at a loss as to how to prune our bill any further. How do you manage?

Wednesday 19 October 2011

I love Museums - visit to Red House Museum, Christchurch

I have always loved Museums. When I was growing up I used to visit the Tudor House Museum in Southampton almost every week. I can still remember the stuffed Dachshund . . . This particular museum has been beautifully restored now, and is totally different to the room layout I remember from the 1960s.

My husband also loves Museums, and we make a point of visiting any in the vicinity of where we have journeyed. A friend had reminded me how good the Red House Museum at Christchurch was, and so we spent a very pleasant morning in the town, exploring the Museum and the Abbey. I hope you will enjoy the Museum as we did.

The workhouse is remembered in this plaque. I don't doubt it contained many unhappy families and orphans in its time, folk "on the parish" largely through bad fortune. At all events, the old Workhouse now houses the Red House Museum.

View across one of the garden areas at the back.

Above and below. In an age when horses were the main form of transport and had relatively short working lives, this machine made use of the horsehair "harvested" at the knackermans . . .

Various earthenware steens, drainers and Dorset Owls from the Verwood pottery. This round jug with "lugs" was used by farm labourers to take cider or cold tea to the fields with them at harvest time.

Wonderfully set out inglenook fireplace with all sorts of goodies from the past.

A lovely stack of steens (or pancheons as some people know them).

Grimwade's quick cooker for stews or puddings . . .

Above and below. An early "washing machine". I bet washing day was NOT a popular workday in the Convent . . .

This display was to show the importance of home-sewing in the past, particularly when there were few ready-made dresses available.

All manner of lamps too, including a little rush light holder on the right, just in the picture.

I was keen to photograph these as they are relevent to my family history, as my g. g. grandfather was a coachman, who drove the Exeter coach in Devon. These would have been familiar to him. Above coachman's tools; below spare adjustable horseshoe.

Above and below, several of the beautiful period dresses on display.

Isn't this shawl gorgeous? I saw one very like in an antiques shop in town with £85 or so on it.

A selection of bags, fans and hats.

Medieval horse shoes and ox shoes.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Playing catch up

Scarlet wilding apples from an apple core discarded 30 or more years before . . .

Well, much as I wanted to, I didn't go to my spinning/weaving group as I was so behind here so I had a catch-up day, and as I have pretty well ticked everything on the immediate list, so I am very pleased with myself. The day began with a walk up the valley - about 1 1/2 miles in all - I'd have gone further but I had a long mental list of jobs for the day.

I started by making crab apple jelly from the 9 lbs or so I had left of the fruit I picked in the New Forest when we were there recently. I had cut the fruit up and cooked it a couple of days ago and let it drip through the jelly bag overnight. Then it had sat on the stove in a pan with a lid on, reminding me it needed doing. I got about 4 1/2 lbs yield, which doesn't seem much from such a lot of fruit and sugar, but crab apples aren't juicy, although they make divine jelly. Whilst I was washing and sterilizing the bottles for the jam, I took another box of bottles I'd been given and soaked the labels off and they are dried and stored away for the next session.

Then, as I drank a mid-morning cup of tea, I peeled and salted the 2nd half of the pickling onions and have them waiting overnight before I wash them off tomorrow and bottle them using the spiced vinegar I made this afternoon. I think I will probably buy some more onions and bottle them up, so I have a full year's supply (I'm the only one who eats them).

Next it was the wine which needed sorting out. I searched for demi-johns first, but then realized I had recycled half a dozen last summer when we were having a clear out and I thought I would be cutting right back on wine-making as I haven't done much in recent years. Wrong move! However, during my search I found a brand new but dusty 5 gallon plastic fermentation bin (you just fit an airlock) so took that indoors to be thoroughly washed and sterilized. Into that was carefully racked and decanted 3 gallons of gooseberry wine, which is still working but sat on lees which is not a good thing.

Then of course I had to thoroughly clean and sterilize the three demijohns, as I had two further demijohns of Damson wine to rack. So I did that, and washed the other two d-j's. Then it was the turn of the crab apple wine in the wine bucket, which had to have the fruit removed and then be poured through a straining bag to remove all the pips and bits. That is now mixed with sugar and yeast and will be soon be bubbling away. I feel like an alchemist when I make wine! All that took me 2 hours, which was a lot longer than I anticipated.

I made a batch of spiced vinegar for the picked onions, and as it cooled, I put tonight's chicken in the oven to start roasting, and went outside to put the 11 white Geraniums I'd had in a border to overwinter inside (down in mum's). The needed to come in before the first frost.

Then I peeled spuds for the roast, and prepared the vegetables and Yorkshire pudding mix, peeled and cooked up 8 apples for a crumble, made the crumble mix, and cooked it.

So that's crab apple jelly done; pickled onions done; wine done; several lots of washing up done; roast dinner and apple crumble done; Geraniums potted done. I think I have earned a beer tonight!

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Sturminster Newton Mill and an old recipe sheet

When we lived in Dorset, we used to visit Sturminster Newton every Saturday and Monday for the auctions and the Market. We always bought our cheese on the market and then visited the Mill when we needed bread flour, which was stone-ground and wonderful stuff. After stopping at Fiddleford Manor/Mill, we drove the mile or two up the road and stopped at the Mill, for old times' sake. Sadly, it was not one of its open days. (It is now run by the National Trust . . .) Not too disappointing, as we had been around the mill many times and didn't need bread flour. I hope these few photos give you an idea of how it looks, and how serene the spot on the river Stour. Thomas Hardy and his young wife Emma lived a few hundred yards downstream from the Mill and would have known it well. I dare say they walked to Fiddleford too, as there is (I have only NOW found out) a beautiful walk along the river between the two. Amongst my loose recipe sheets, I found an egg yolk yellow sheet with a picture of the Mill and "Sturminster Newton Mill Recipes" stamped on the top. So I shall add a couple of recipes at the bottom of this posting.

We finished our little outing by parking in the market place at Stur (what the locals call the town and we always have too). Sadly, it is much altered from our day, and the big cattle market was finally closed in 1998 and is now covered over with housing and everywhere much-altered. The buildings where old Dicky Burden used to hold his auctions, and quickly sell the best lots to a spot by the door (!) (e.g. himself!) are no longer there. We have many happy memories of days spent there, seeing who bought what (and where it ended up next at auction, often being bid up by the new buyer lurking at the back of the crowd!) and for how much. We made quite a few purchases there, many of them very good bargains. Nothing went unsold - even if he had to drop the starting price to just 10 pence (this was 25 years ago), he would sell it, even if it had to be for 11 pence!

Anyway, I had £10 burning a hole in my pocket when I went through the doors of Hansons, the BIG fabric and craft warehouse. I could have spent it a hundred times over but in the end came out with a handful of fat quarters with which to make pretty borders for pillowcases (some as presents). Money well spent.


Freezer Cakes

1 oz fresh yeast or 1/2 oz dried yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1 lb wholemeal Stour Flour
6 oz sugar
2 eggs
1/4 pin milk
8 oz margarine
1 1/2 lbs mixed fruit

Beat together yeast, eggs, baking powder and milk in a large bowl. Rub fat into Stour flour and stir into yeast mixture. Stir in sugar and fruit and mix thoroughly. Cover and stand overnight. Divide mixture between 2 x 1lb loaf tins (greased and lined). Bake at gas no. 2 (300 deg. F, 150 deg. C) for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. Can be frozen for up to 3 months.


Well, I couldn't leave this one out!

6 oz wholemeal flour
3 oz demerara sugar
2 medium eggs
pinch of salt
3 oz hard margarine

Sett oven at mark 5 gas (375 deg. F or 190 deg. C), middle shelf. Greaase a 7 inch oblong dish or tin. Rub fat and flour together with the pinch of salt. Add the sugar, and the two eggs beaten. Add enough apples (sliced thinly) according to your taste. A nice sharp Bramley cooking apple is best. Put into your greased dish and sprinkle the top with a little more demerara sugar and bake for 3/4 hour. Lovely with a nice drop of cream . . .


2 tablespoons milk
6 oz soft margarine
6 oz soft brownsugar
3 large eggs
6 oz wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 level tsp ground ginger

Set oven at mark 4 gas (350 deg. F or 180 deg. C)

Grease and line a 6 inch round cake tin. Put the margarine, brown sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, ginger and 2 tblspns milk into bowl and, using a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together until they are combined, then beat the mixture for about one minute to incorporate some air. Turn the mixture into the tin and bake for about 1 1/2 hours until it is well risen. When cool I ice it and place walnut halves on the top of the cake.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Fiddleford Manor

Fiddleford Manor, near Sturminster Newton, Dorset, which we visited whilst we were on holiday recently. We were delighted to find that it was an "open house" - no-one manning it, free entry (even better!) and we could wander at will, soaking up the wonderful atmosphere of this ancient property.

I couldn't resist the play of light and leaf colours through the uneven glass.

These information boards show you what it would have looked like.

A small window set in the gable wall of golden hamstone.

It had a stone-tiled roof. If you look at the thickness of these stone slabs, you will understand why such robust beams were needed inside the manor.

As you can see, there was a further wing which was demolished in earlier times, more's the pity. From the Mill mentioned in the Domesday book, it became a Manor House in Medieval and Tudor times, before becoming divided into accommodation for farm workers (who probably didn't appreciate its origins!

The beams in the roof are 600 years old. You can see that in the past a leaking roof has caused rain damage, but this has all been made good now.

Shapes within shapes. We have seen a similar design elsewhere this summer - I think it was at the beautiful Manor House at Tretower (see recent post).

This beautifully carved doorway shows it was a high-status building. You can just glimpse the plank and muntin wall behind it.

The verdant view through one of the windows.

A beautiful hamstone fireplace with herringbone interior.

Just a hint of the original wall paintings remains now, but you can imagine how it must have looked in its heyday.

You can see the water damage clearly on these beams . . .
My husband strolling past the end of the Manor House. As you can see, it is a "semi"!, and has been quite altered over the years. This side has been totally restored in recent years and is now under the control of English Heritage. It is part of the Medieval mill complex and just behind my back was the mill pond. It is one of the oldest buildings in Dorset, dating from the 14th century, and at one time was used to store hidden contraband . . .