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Beautiful morning today - a perfect Autumn day.

Sadly Bil is no longer up to running with me anymore, and if I took Lunil and left Bil at home he would be unnecessarily upset. So I went on my own this morning, and came home to two sulking dogs. Lunil hasn't even the blackberries I brought back for her.

The willows were just starting to shed yellow leaves, the oaks were dropping acorns, and jays were collecting them already. The air has changed completely in the last few days, much cooler and less heavy with dust and pollen.

And after Thursday evening's talk by Mike Clarke on the planning and building of the Leeds-Liverpool canal (this year is the 200th anniversary of its completion), Mark and I took the pupz to see the Kennet shortboat at Apperley Bridge's canal heritage open day.

(This link is a year old, but is more-or-less the same event)

The pupz were allowed on the Kennet so great interest was taken by them (and in them by others).

The blacksmith's was open and working, so we went in and watched with fascination (Mark and I) and utter boredom (Lunil and Bil),until a tiny little candlestand had been made from wrought iron.
Blacksmith, Apperley Bridge

Wish I'd taken more photographs of the boat and the canal and the birds, but it was almost too lovely to try and capture.


Bright blessings to you all as we balance here on the Equinox, hanging for a few moments before we tip down towards the cold and dark of Winter.
But we have the richness of colour and smell and texture of Autumn first, and the new life and light of Spring on the other side.
And in the meantime I'm finally sitting down with a nice hot cup of tea, having made a big lump of spelt dough to rise slowly in the fridge all day, washed and blocked the Hoodie-inna-week I've just finished, and hung and sorted laundry. A day at work will be almost restful.
And Goblin didn't wake me up til after five, and not very convincingly either - I managed my usual morning listen to Farming Today and Tweet of the Day before getting up.


Pizza Bianco

We really enjoyed Rick Stein's last telly series, From Venice to Istanbul. Not only do I enjoy his style of cooking anyway, food of the Eastern Mediterranean to the Middle East is really where I feel at home.

This recipe was where I got too last night, when I put the spinning wheel away. (yes, I do spin and read simultaneously). This is my adaption of his recipe - I don't do quantities, so if you want something exact you must get the book.

I made a good strong bread dough as soon as I got in from work - mostly organic strong white flour, about a third khorasan flour, fresh yeast, cold water,salt. Even with cold water, the weather's so warm it rose rapidly. The dough was softer than I'd use for a loaf, as I needed it to flatten easily.

While that was rising, I took the three largest of the new potatoes that Mark's parents brought over today (so straight out of the ground), sliced them finely with the mandolin, and popped in a pan of boiling water for about two minutes. Not cooked, but nearly there.

I also sliced a small onion with the mandolin, and rubbed it into separate rings with olive oil (a nice strong Greek extra-virgin).

So, pat out the dough until really thin. Sprinkle with a little finely grated strong Cheddar. Lay some of the potato slices out in a single layer. Cover that with a handful of onions, some Taleggio cheese sliced as thin as possible (just scattered over, you don't want too much, it liquidises quickly), crushed black pepper, sea-salt, a few rosemary leaves, a few grano padano flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake in a really hot oven for ten to fifteen minutes.

My quantities gave me two medium and a large pizzas. I've eaten one and a bit.
I came back on Sunday's run with the pupz along Esholt Lane, so past the allotment site. The walls are all still down and very little repair has been done apart from clearing the road, but at least there is no longer any standing water even in the lowest part. So the pupz and I had a rest while we investigated what was left, and took photos.

The ground was strangely spongy underfoot - still saturated. It felt very strange. And much of the grass had been scoured out as well as plants and soil. It'll be interesting to see how quickly everything grows back (or otherwise) once we have some sunshine and warm weather. But we're still having almost incessant rain.

This was a circular raised bed, more or less flattened. And the strange lumps in the foreground are the remnants of my lovely blue kohlrabi.
Raised bed and kohlrabi

My James Grieve apple tree. It's over six feet tall - you can see how high the rubbish has caught in its branches.
Water six feet up the apple tree

The chives seem to have survived happily (it was too soggy to go over to my main herb/dye bed), though both the old and new rhubarb crowns are looking very unhappy.
Chives survived, where's the rhubarb?

This was our coldframe - the two huge railway sleepers have been swept away (without damaging the trees!) leaving behind the bricks and the glass.
Coldham gone

The caravan on the neighbouring plot is still there, and slowly sinking in the soft ground. (The other three, two on the neighbouring sheep field and the other on the cricket pitch, are still there too). The ground is so soft it would cause too much damage to drag them out.
Slowly sinking caravan

One compost bin survived in situ, though it lost its lid. There may even be some of our other compost heaps (carefully constructed by Mark with old pallets) under that collapsed wall.
Fallen wall, compost

A couple of these bins are ours. The leeks have given up, along with the kale. And that raised bed in the foreground was full of compost and soil layered up with cardboard sheets, weighted down with strawberry tubs. All gone.
Remaining butty, scoured out beds.

The bean canes are still there, and amazingly the sunflower heads are too - I must have tied them up very securely. Very sad and dead cabbages the other side, and the cardoon hasn't survived.
Stalks and frame left.

It's odd what seems to have been discarded by the floodwaters and left behind, often quite light things, and what's been taken - the whole shed, the shelves inside, the tools (although the latter may have been nabbed by looters shortly afterwards).

Apparently the council has been to inspect, and all the plot-holders on our site are going to get a free year, and the repairs will be done at some point. There's no real rush for repairs, and there are damaged houses and more important things all over the district, so we're not holding our breath.

Anyway, as we won't be able to harvest anything to eat this year (the river's probably contaminated) unless the trees fruit, the plan is for Mark to organise and dig and build - more raised beds, maybe buy in a bit of top soil, and plan for next year.

And we're still wondering whether to replace the shed. I have suggested a really sturdy gazebo type thing on a concrete base, so that if we flood like this again the waters will go through rather than over. And a padlocked box bolted to the ground for tools and stuff.

Allotment after the Boxing Day Floods

Yep, we got clobbered in the Boxing Day Floods. It rained on Christmas Day, and kept getting heavier and heavier on Boxing Day. At one point, it was over 6' deep and a full river current straight over the site.

Shed gone. Everything in the shed gone. Compost heaps swept away. No idea what's happened to the raised beds and plants under the water. The water's been here since mid November, but that was only rainwater - this is full-on river water, downstream from Keighley and Bradford and Skipton and several sewage works and probably contaminated.

My young fruit trees are still there. As are the bean poles. And one compost bin that seems to have been sheltered by the wall.

Apparently the Council is going to inspect next week and decide what it will do - the walls will need replacing, the two caravans (the caravan site was the other side of the next door cricket pitch!) removing, and I don't know what other debris has ended up here. Or the state of the soil with all the mud and sand on top of it.

I really mustn't complain - lots of people here in Yorkshire and Cumbria have lost businesses, homes, furniture, irreplaceable belongings, had Christmas ruined - all we've lost is a shed and tools (and my workmate which I used for the drumcarder!)

Poor Mark - he worked so hard. (He took these photos on his phone a few days ago. I haven't been down yet. And the road keeps being blocked as the cricket pitch is pumped out to the river (they have two caravans on the pitch that can't be moved until it's dry because of the damage they'd do to the wet ground) or the river comes up again.)

End of season Allotmenting...

Sunflower heads tied up so the birds can reach the seeds
Sunflower heads tied up for birds

Cabbages and cauliflowers

My beautiful cardoons

The last of the raspberries went in last weekend's apple cake

We had a surprising number of strawberries, to say the plants were so late in
Last of the strawberries

Four boxes of potatoes stored away safely, and we've eaten lots and lots already
Mark digging spuds

Just a few bramleys,but the trees should do better next year
Bramley tree

We'll leave the big bean pods on the vine to dry
Runner beans

Allotment at the end of August

Quick update on what's happening down at the allotment. We haven't got quite so much late summer produce as last year, but we seem to have spent more time doing structural things rather than planting.

Mark admiring the work of the sweat of his brow:
Mark and his work

I don't know how many of these will ripen, but they've grown well:
Strawberry baskets

My little patch of woad, and some red cabbages (the ones we bought at Tebay Services!)
Woad, red cabbages

My cardoons!

Various cabbages:
Cabbages, various

The sunflowers are ramping up as high as the runner beans:
Sunflowers, beans, courgettes

And Japanese Indigo - must do something with these before they keel over in the cooler weather
Japanese indigo, grown lots

Leeks going strong, some Italian cabbage, temporary lavender:
Leeks, lavender, kale

Kale and kohlrabi:
Kale, kohlrabi

So yes, we're rather pleased with our allotment. It's showing how much work we've put in to it.
I keep having to look this recipe up online (and spending more time than I'd like finding it) every time I want to make my special chocolate cookies, so I've finally copied it here.

The original is in a particularly splendid fanfic set in the Hellboy II: The Golden Army 'verse. Great fun, but a rather bleak ending - at least, if you're human.

I tweak this recipe rather a lot now, but this is the original. I use spelt flour, various sorts of unrefined golden and dark sugar, and often add either cinnamon or chili. Have fun

Elven Painkillers


2.5 cups wholemeal flour (Do NOT offend your lord's sensibilities with your bleached human filth!)

.5 teaspoon baking soda

.5 cup butter, softened (margarine acceptable only when lactose intolerant)

.5 cup packed brown sugar

.5 cup granulated sugar

1 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)

.5 teaspoon vanilla extract / essence

1 large egg

4 tablespoons dark unsweetened baking chocolate (powder)

1 ounce dark chocolate of at least 60 cacao

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, powdered baking chocolate, and .5 cup granulated sugar. In a larger bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until homogenous-looking. Add the egg, then beat until homogenous-looking again. Add the flour mixture to the larger bowl a few spoonfuls at a time, mixing completely with each addition. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit, because you're about to need the oven. Crumble the dark chocolate into the mixture, place the mixture in the freezer for 5 minutes (or until the oven is preheated). Remove the mixture from the freezer; place rounded chunks of dough on an ungreased baking sheet in a size that makes you happy- the smaller the cookie, the more evenly and faster it will bake. The larger the cookie, the more likely the middle will be all gooey. Bake until they look done (or, about 8 minutes). Please note- if you wait until they look completely dry on top, they will be overdone.

If your painkillers appear to be burning around the edges faster than in the middle, lower the temperature of the oven by 25 degrees Farenheit and start again.

For my Swedish interesting-character-who-talks-to-me:

.5 teaspoon is equal to approximately 2.5 mL

.5 cup is equal to approximately 118 mL

1 cup is equal to approximately 237 mL (trust me on that one)

5 tablespoons are equal to approximately 59 mL

1 ounce is equal to approximately 30 grams

375 Farenheit degrees are equal to approximately 190 Celsius degrees

Next chapter tomorrow. I'm going to eat these cookies and pass out. Hopefully, I will wake with both my arms!

Solstice at the Allotment

We had a bit of a late start with the allotment this year, which resulted in us getting a letter from the Council saying that we didn't have enough ground cultivated. Oops! So a rotivator was hired and we had at it all day yesterday.

There was a big patch in the middle of the allotment that we haven't really cracked so Mark spent hours yesterday trawling over and over this until eventually he got through the heavy weed and grass topping and got into the soil beneath. I strimmed down all the weeds, tidied up behind and through the herb patch, and weeded and earthed-up the potatoes. I also sunk a plastic bowl to act as a pond if any passing hedgehogs or toads need a drink.

We put a shed up last weekend - this will mean it's much much easier to get down and do things there, as we don't have to trawl the tools down each time. It also means we can open the door at the flat without rakes and shoves falling over each time.

Today, after work's 20th Anniversary bbq at Ilkley Rugby Club, we got the raspberry canes, pumpkin and courgette plants, and a few broad beans in.

Mark and his new shed. I'm very proud of my lovely neat corners on the roof felting.
Mark and his new shed

From the SE. The large bare area in the middle is the freshly dug patch. He's also rotivated under the apple tree.
Allotment, from SE

From the SW. The small cold frame in the front will be moved soon, and look how many fruits on the morello cherry sapling! That's garlic behind it - two varieties - and various brassicas under the tunnels.
Allotment from SW

From the NW. The ordinary sage and chives have done fantastically this year. I moved the hyssop and purple sage yesterday, they were getting a bit swamped. And we had rhubarb pudding for tea tonight.
Allotment from NW

And this view, from the NE, really shows how big an area Mark has cracked through. I've tidied round the little gooseberry bush in the middle, and there are still a handful of the original strawberry plants left around it. There's a rowan sapling in the middle - I'm planning to leave this so I can rig a drying line between that and the shed for when I dye with indigo.
Allotment from NE

There is a heap of rubbish in the middle of the plot - it's dead roots, weeds, rubble, and really nowhere for us to put it. I may have to grow a climber over it next year.

One of the ancient and longstanding currant bushes we've left.I gave them all a very hard prune last year, and this particular bush looks as if it's going to reward us.

And I'm leaving the nettles between the old fruitbushes and the wall - we can't really clear and plant behind there - it's mostly rubble and rubbish, it's overshadowed by an overhanging tree and vigorous ivy all over the wall, and I am planning to harvest nettles to try spinning with them this/next year.

Nine Ladies, Stanton Moor

We seized the opportunity of a sunny Bank Holiday Monday today, and toddled down to the Peak District for supplies and walking. However, foolishly it didn't occur to us that other people might have thought the same thing; after an early start and a good journey through Leeds and Sheffield, we ground to a halt going down to Baslow. But once through there, we queued through Bakewell (stopping briefly for a visit to The Olde Bakewell Pudding Shoppe) and got to our destination of Caudwell's Mill a few miles the other side of Bakewell by 11.

This place has an excellent shop that sells various varieties of flour, and we've bought some before. The malted bread flour is excellent, and we stocked up on several varieties this time. Sadly, though the mill is a working Victorian water-powered mill, it's too expensive and difficult to get the permissions to actually grind their own flour.

From here, we left the car and walked along a farm drive, through the splendidly 17thC Home Farm for Stanton Moor Hall, and up on to the top of the moor and the Nine Ladies stone circle up on Stanton Moor.

Fascinating area. Lots of Bronze Age remains, and then the high ground itself is chipped away on all sides by quarries, some small and ancient and overgrown, one huge and modern and a raw scar on the hillside.

The bottom half of the walk up was through the Home Farm fields - some beautiful old ironwork was on disused gate posts.
Wrought iron gate catch

Another wrought iron gate catch

These two lovely gate latches were at either end of the long disused driveway from the upper road to Stanton Moor Hall.

Look at the work that went into shaping this gatepost:
Stone gate post

From our lunch spot, we had an excellent valley down to the valley and the steam train was busy today.
Distant steam train

Some of the quarries were for millstones - there's a layer of Millstone Grit in this bit of high ground. These ones were nearly finished when technology or price overcame the makers, and the discs were abandoned where they were.
Pupz on millstones

This stone was right on the open ridge above the quarry - a very long sheer drop just to the front. But beautifully carved, stamping ownership on an ancient landscape.
1826 Crownstone carved

Mark, just before he realised he'd been having his lunch while sitting on an ant nest.
Mark and map

The stone circle itself was heaving with young families, children running around, lots of dogs, and a few people camping in the woods nearby. So we just walked through quickly, and I stroked a couple of stones in passing.

Look at this - a proper Spring day:
Blue sky, new leaves

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October 2016



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