Hardcastle Crags, Easter Monday

We haven't been to Hardcastle Crags for years, so it was a nice treat to go on Easter Monday. We stuffed Mum in the back, left early, and walked right up to the top end and back. It didn't even get busy until we were nearly back at Gibson Mill - where Ma and Mark braved the fray for tea and cake.

And time to get home and do some more sorting for Wonderwool

Banana and peanut cake!

I've made this cake a few times and it's slowly shifting from the original recipe in Jack Monroe's A Year In 120 Recipes. It's an excellent book, and very much written from an economical view point, given Jack's background. (And she's very good on Twitter too).

Anyway, her original recipe was for Sticky Salted Banana Loaf Cake. I've usually got a large tub of peanut butter around the place, which I think makes an excellent combination with banana. So this is what I've done with the original recipe.

Start off with a food processor, and stuff into it 200g of sugar (preferably golden caster sugar or, as I prefer, Billington's Light Muscovado) with 100g of olive oil (not extra virgin), sunflower oil, or very soft butter. Whizz until the mix is creamed and paler.

Add four eggs and a couple of tablespoons each of greek yoghurt and peanut butter. Whizz up a bit more.

Add bananas - the recipe says two. I've used four successfully. Whizz up again.

Add spice here if you want - I use a bit of ginger or vanilla, the original recipe suggested cinnamon. Then add 200g of good quality SR flour, or plain with 2 rounded teaspoons of baking powder. Just whizz enough to mix properly, scraping down if necessary.

Now, this is a fairly big amount of cake mix. So it takes two normal loaf tins (lined with greaseproof), or a large round/square cake tin. Last time but one I made 24 muffins. Sprinkle a few salted or otherwise peanuts over the top.

Medium oven, 45mins to an hour, depending upon sizes of tins. Only 20ish for muffins.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival

As this isn't a specifically dyeing/shop post, it seems to me a blog post about last weekend in Edinburgh and EYF are better here than over on the Dyeing blog.

We stayed in the same apartment on Easter Street that we did last year, even though we hadn't brought the pupz with us - two long flights of stone stairs and a 400m walk to the nearest bit of grass didn't appeal to Lunil. We found an excellent parking spot in an adjacent side street and the car didn't have to move until we left! And it's within walking distance of everything in the middle of Edinburgh - we're about ten minutes brisk walk of Calton Hill.

Rather a splendid view for the 1o'clock gun. #Edinburgh #eyf17

Rather a splendid view for the 1o'clock gun. #Edinburgh #eyf17

Going up a day earlier this year, we had time for a bit more touristiness. A whole morning in Edinburgh Castle (excellent value, as we're SH heritage cardholders). It was a cold windy day, but brilliantly clear. The views everywhere were astounding. And then the National Gallery in the afternoon, where I finally got to make the personal acquaintance of the Raeburn's Skating Reverend, as well as the Rembrandt self-portrait and other treasures in there.

And on the way home we met a friend at Waverley station and I picked up 6 cones of Shetland yarn to dye for the shop. It saved her carting it around back to her accommodation and then arranging a meet up for us both at EYF tomorrow. On the other hand, it was a long walk back for us. But Mark carried the bags of yarn. There's about 6 kilos.

I abandoned Mark to his own devices and caught an early bus to the Corn Exchange on Friday morning. Having been pre-warned about road works and traffic jams, I caught an earlier bus than planned and ended up being one of the first twenty or so at the back, by 8am. But there were queues within a few minutes. Someone kindly lent me some handknitted (what else?) mitts as I had dressed for a hot inside hall, not a cold outside queue.

Absolutely heaving within a few minutes, and even busier once we got past 10 o'clock and the ordinary ticket holders got in (everyone doing a class got early entry at 9). I visited Blacker straight away for two skeins of Samite (vastly expensive, but I did have a discount!), two extra dark blue Buachaille from Kate Davies stand for Mark's Ardmore, a skein of Daughter of a Shepherd hebridean and one of her Foxen yarns too, six Ullcentrum 3ply from Midwinter yarns (I'd hope to find some lopi but didn't so this was the replacement), nine skeins of ridiculously cheap Polo & Co undyed French wool (six of which I left with another dyer to dye for me as she does a particular colour I can't), a bag of lichen-dyed Shetland wool, and a few books. Plus cables for my Chiagoos interchangeable.

At this point the crowd was getting a bit overwhelming, so I managed to find a table to perch on in the sitting area, and had a quick chat with Jayne who'd come down from Orkney. But I didn't really speak to many people apart from Jayne and stallholders, and took hardly any photos.

My class that afternoon was with Nathan Taylor on shaping doubleknitting. Rather fun, and some of the paired/mirrored decreases and increases were immensely satisfying. And it was a lovely peaceful walk from the Corn Exchange to the Water of Leith Centre, and back afterwards. The bus from back to our flat (it's the same one all the way door to door!) was packed to the gun'les as we left, but hardly anyone on when we got home.

It was a bit of an odd EYF. I had lots of friends there, but they were either busy teaching or it was too crowded or they weren't around when I was, so I caught up with only one person who wasn't a stall holder. And they were all busy too, so it was a case of brief hugs and chats. I didn't take any photos, and don't seem to have been in any either - my invisible EYF.

And that evening, (no ceilidh after the booking fiasco) we went to a late night visit at the National Museum. Drinks (prosecco with rhubarb gin is divine), live music (a bit on the loud side to be honest) and a viewing of the new exhibition, plus all the usual stuff, including some things we'd missed on last year's visit. A pity it was such a long walk home.

And Saturday we had booked tickets to Edinburgh Zoo and a timed slot to see the pandas!

Let sleeping pandas lie...

Let sleeping pandas lie...

One of those moments when it's rather strange to realise you're looking at a real live panda - and yes, he did move!

There were otters and koalas and zebras and funny cattle and deers and wallabies and warty pigs and birds of all sorts and TIGERS AND LIONS AND BEARS and a rhino and all sorts. But also lots of screaming children - it was a Saturday after all.

And once again the excellent bus service (£1.60 no matter the distance) took us straight home.

We had our second meal at The Mash Tun - downstairs and two doors to the left - so I sat and knitted and ate an enormous burger!

And on Sunday we drove home early - back down the way we came up, the scenic A7 which was gorgeous, even though we only had sunny weather for half the way home. We diverted to a quick visit to The Hermitage castle, which Mark took Bil and Lunil to on the day I was teaching on Hadrian's Wall, the day Dad died.

Canals, shortboats, iron, industrial heritage

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.

The survivors - and otherwise - on the allotment

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.