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Category Archives: August

A Challenging Challenge

A new challenge has come my way courtesy of Tanya over at Chicandaluza.Thank you and l hope not to disappoint.

The rules are that I should have published a link related to the categories I´ll mention below, and that I should pass the challenge on to at least 5 other bloggers. Mmmm…this is out of my comfort zone but then l suppose that makes it all the more challenging. This is also difficult because most of my posts are on a set theme ie. a weekly post based on the advice written by Mr Middleton with comparisons to my garden so l suppose its the best of the bunch.

Deep breath, yoga breathing, count to ten, here goes……

The Most Beautiful Post: This award has to go to June- 4th WEEK. A few reasons why this post stands out for me because a) we had our son and his girlfriend stay with us that week and, although the weather wasn’t up to much, we got out and saw things together including La Roche Jagu which is just up the road, and b) it was when everything in the garden and the countryside was at its absolute best. May and June are such fantastic months to be outside and the garden was still full of hope and anticipation.

The Most Popular: Mmm, l suppose this has to go to Last Day of July. I had just got back from the UK and was full of self-doubt as whether or not l should continue with this blog. I was totally amazed at the responses l got asking me to continue. Your comments meant a huge amount to me and, even though l don’t really know any of you, l’m sure if we met in ‘real’ life we would be the best of friends.

The Most Controversial: Difficult one this as l try not to be too controversial here on, what is essentially, a gardening blog but the post that comes closest to controversy must be my criticism of the Chelsea Flower Show on Our Little Chelsea Flower Show. Ha!

The Most Helpful: It’s always nice to get feedback on any post but particularly nice when you ask for some help because then you know people out there have actually read my problems. So this has to go to June-3rd WEEK for when l asked help on protecting my carrots. I’ll be honest now, l still haven’t given them any protection and there isn’t a trace of carrot fly in sight.


The Post That Was Surprisingly Successful:
As most of you know, l love cooking and will try my hand at most things, apart from pigs trotters! So when l tried my hand at bread-making again and posted it on Bread Making it really got me fired up to get back into the fine art of baking. So l suppose you can say that by posting it on my blog then, yes, it was a success for me.

The Post That Did Not Get The Attention It Deserved: Ohhh, another difficult one because of reasons already stated. This being a gardening blog there is a wartime theme that runs alongside and now and again l will include historic moments that are relevant to that day. The D-Day landings was such a post and although l got some great responses to it l feel it is one of those dates that bypasses a lot of people but should really be better remembered.


The Post I Am Most Proud Of:
this is a no brainer. It has to go to my latest post My Sourdough- Creator of Life. I was so pleased with the results on a first attempt and that l had kept a photographic record of it so l could share it with everyone else. I often find myself doing something and regretting l hadn’t taken any photos. Yes, the sourdough is a small triumph for me.

Well, in the words of Bugs Bunny ‘That’s All Folks!’ It just leaves me to nominate 5 other bloggers. I have to admit to being a bit lazy when it comes to following others so l don’t have lots to choose from but lets see:

Plot 52

Plantalicious

Two Chances Veg Plot

The Anxious Gardener

Ramblings From Rosebank

The gloves are off. Time to take up the challenge!

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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in August

 

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My Sourdough- Creater of Life

Sourdough, what does that conjure up in your mind l wonder? Unless you have eaten sourdough bread l should imagine it would be something like me; a heavy,yeasty, horribly sour tasting loaf that is best left to the extreme foodies of this world who have far more ‘cultured’ taste buds than me.

Well, when we returned to the UK recently l called in to Leakers Bakery in Bridport and bought one of their sourdough loaves. We had it toasted the next morning and it was delicious. In fact, it lasted nearly all week. My next step was to buy the River Cottage Handbook No.3 on Bread by Daniel Stevens.For the recipe just click here. If you are into making bread, thought of doing so or even just slightly considered it then you MUST buy this book. It will gently hold your hand throughout the whole process of choosing flours, which yeasts to use and the beautiful process of making your first or even your 50th loaf of bread. I am sure this is the process they must have used back in the war years when yeast was unavailable.

Having made a few loaves already from the book ie. White Loaf, Wholemeal Loaf and Malted Grain, which is excellent by the way, l decided to go for it and produce my own sourdough ‘starter’.

This magical process is a way of making your very own yeast from the natural yeast spores that are all around us by mixing flour with water and leaving it in a warm room for a day or so and wait for the first tell tale signs of tiny air bubbles to appear on the surface. At this stage you know you have just created a life form!

My Baby- 3 days old

Happy Birthday- 1 week old!

Ohh, scary…a new responsibility has just arrived and one that can, quite literally, stay with you for the rest of your life! Some starters have been around for 30 plus years! Anyway, having just created your new life you must throw half of it away and replace with more flour and water. This is called feeding the starter and has to be done everyday for the first 6 or 7 days. By the end of the week you should have a lively starter that is positively frothing.

Kneading my Baby

You are now ready to make your first loaf of sourdough. The recipe calls for making a ‘sponge’ with flour, water and a ladleful of the sourdough starter. Give it a good mix and leave in a warm place overnight. The next morning add the remaining flour and salt and stir up well. Then get your hands in and scoop the lot out onto a floured surface. Knead well adding a little more flour from time to time until smooth and silky.Place in a clean bowl and cover, leaving to double in size, about an hour. Then turn out and press with your fingertips to get the air out. Shape into a round and place back in the bowl and let it double in size again. Repeat twice again.

After the first proving

 

Place dough on a floured surface and again, using your fingertips, press it flat. Cut into sections and shape into loaves or place into tins. Cover, and leave to rise until double in size. This could take up to 3 hours. Get your oven up to a high heat, something like 240 or 250c.

The Final Proving

I place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to imitate the proper professional steam bread ovens that give the bread a good crust. Slash the tops of the loaves and bake for 10 mins . Check on the crust,if it is browning quickly turn down to 180c. Bake for a further 20 or 30 mins. Let it cool on a rack before slicing.

Look what my Baby has done!

A tin loaf

Well, l couldn’t resist a quick slice. Verdict: It is quite amazing really. To think this has been made with just yeasts from the wild is incredible. It has a nice slight tangy after taste, moist, and l can’t wait to toast some with a dollop of home-made blackberry and apple jam. Let me know if you try this too. Note: This is a labour of love really. It takes up a big chunk of your day but if you have things you can do in-between proving then its not so bad. I managed to sort out all my old CD’s ready for packing!

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in August, Cooking

 

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Chant de Marin…and a big shock!

So this post has absolutely nothing to do with gardening or Mr Middleton, but who cares when just 10 minutes down the road our local town of Paimpol is hosting the 10th Chant de Marin which is the biggest Sea Shanty music festival in France. Our small harbour town of just a few thousand suddenly swells to hundreds of thousands over 3 days of music and merriment.

This year the theme is Celtic Seas and the line up includes Simple Minds, The Chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, The Waterboys and loads of other acts. As well as that the small port becomes crammed with old sailing vessels from around the world some hosting acts on their decks. We have our tickets for tonight to see The Cheiftains and Simple Minds. What a line up! Just hope the weather holds as it has been grey and miserable this morning. Will let you know later so l will save this as a draft and publish it tomorrow and include some snaps.

The morning after the night before!

Hey, the weather was kind to us again, the sun came out and it was really warm. The harbour was buzzing and had some amazing boats in the quayside. So, with my sea legs on we took a walk about.

Ye Olde Galleon

There were boats of all shapes and sizes:

More old boats

There were some great acts playing around the harbour too:

Cool Kats

There were some lovely typical Breton Girls too:

Breton Girls

And then there was the music. The festival is held every two years with a different theme attracting some big names. This year The Chieftains got things started. These guys have been going for 50 years now! Incredible. Their music is beautiful as well as traditional. Paddy Maloney must be getting on a bit now. But he held things together and gave us a great show.

Paddy and The Chieftains

We were lucky and got right down by the stage for a great view. Later in their show they introduced us to someone who l remember as being a ‘spirited’ girl with Attitude! Her shaved head and elfin features have been replaced by something that must have shocked the whole audience.

Shock of the Year!

Any idea yet? In fairness to her she is pregnant but nonetheless not what l was expecting at all. Here’s another…maybe the tattoos will help you….

The new 'Mumsy' look!

Drum roll…………………..May l introduce you to Sinead O’Connor! Open jawed and staring in total disbelief the only thing that was recognisable was her voice. Well, she still has the ability to shock but not for the same reasons!

Moving swiftly on, we held our places to watch Simple Minds perform a brilliant gig. Being so close was incredible and the atmosphere was brilliant. Jim Kerr has changed, of course, but at least he is still recognisable.

Jim Kerr

They played all their hits and stuff from their latest album and nearly burst my ear drums.

Simple Minds

That’s all for me this year. It goes on for the weekend with the Mumsy Sinead O’Connor if you would like to see her. Meanwhile l think l need a soak in a deep bath to ease those pains from last night. Guess we are all getting older!

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2011 in August

 

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London Pride

I’m a long way from London but over the past few days l have been appalled at what has been going on there and, in recent nights, in other cities too. I remember the riots back in the 80’s.Back then these people were angry, let down by the government and their communities and needed to vent their frustrations the only way they knew how. I’m not saying this was the right way to go about things but at least there was a reason as to their behaviour.

Unlike the mindless acts of violence and vandalism we have all been witnessing on our TV’s the past few days. It is a crying shame that a small bunch of idiots in various towns and cities are allowed to destroy people’s livelihoods. In fairness to the police they have their hands tied. They are damned if they go in hard and they are damned if they don’t.These idiots are only ‘rioting’ because its a warm August evening, boredom has set in again, ‘it’s som’at to do in’it’ and there is every opportunity to smash the hell out of anything and anybody along with the chance of grabbing a flat-screen TV to boot. There is no rhyme nor reason behind this spate of violence other than greed. People of all ages have been involved including children as young as 11 years! Where were their parents? What were they thinking of? I have my own thoughts of how we should tackle these problems but it’s not in the conventional way!

So it was so uplifting to see on the TV men, women, children banded together through Facebook and Twitter armed with brooms to help clean up their neighbourhoods. It reminded me of an old wartime poster with the women marching along ‘Up and ‘At ‘Em’. The same fighting spirit lives on all these years later. And l for one was proud to see it. I felt this sent a stronger message to these thugs than anything else. “Yes, you might smash things up but this is our town too and we are here in force to clean things up. We have pride and respect for our neighbourhood, even if you don’t!”

Long live this Pride and thank God there are still people out there that are not frightened to show it. The true spirit of London lives on just as it did in the Second World War. Your forebears would be truly proud of you all. Well done!

Someone said to me ‘Heck, makes you want to come back, doesn’t it?’ Well, yes it does because l know it was a very small minority and that the vast majority do have pride in their country and for as long as we have that balance then l still have hope. I love my country but despise anyone, whoever they are, behaving in this way. Crack that whip, and crack it hard!

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in August

 

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A Quiet Holiday

Mr Middleton on Holiday

It seems fitting at this time of the year to share another extract from one of Mr Middleton’s books ‘Village Memories’, this time on holidays:

Choosing a holiday is always something of a problem; in most cases the family opinions and desires have to be taken into account, but in my case economic considerations narrow down the choice somewhat, and this year l found it more difficult than usual to make up my mind. Should l go abroad? I could probably find a cheap ten-day tour to some uninteresting place or other, get a number of impressive looking labels stuck on my suitcase, and come back worn out and kidding myself l had had a marvellous time; but somehow the idea didn’t appeal to me. I stood on the main road and saw and smelt the roaring procession of cars making for the sea; l watched the stream of sweating cyclists with their heads bent low and their coat-tails flying; l pictured the crowded beach, shimmering in the glare of the sun, and smelt the cockle stalls and the peppermint rock; and a feeling of laziness came over me. Any kind of travel seemed to demand a greater measure of energy than l possessed, so why, l reasoned with myself, should l do anything at all?

I possess a pleasant garden, complete with shady trees, a hammock and comfortable chairs, and rarely do l get the opportunity to enjoy them for more than an hour or so at a time; and the more l pondered the more the garden called me, until at last l decided to stay at home and rest- to enjoy a good book or two in the company of my beloved roses; perhaps to work or play a little as the spirit moved me. To forget the clock and be absolutely free- free to follow my own immediate impulses; free from the daily grind and the restraining hand of time and convention- and thus it came to pass.

Mr Middleton goes on to tell us about how he enjoys sitting back and watching two gardeners that come to help him in his garden share banter between themselves and how the day slowly slips by:

Later in the day the good Mrs Osborn appears on the scene with the tea trolley, and we all down tools, or books, for another social half hour. Towards evening a friend looks in, and we discuss matters over a bottle of something or other. Then a walk round the garden to gather a bunch of sweet peas, a round of clock golf, and back to the seat again to watch the twilight fall, and hear the blackbird sing vespers from the top of my wire-less pole. Finally to bed, with the windows wide open, and the breath of jasmine, night-scented stocks and tobacco flowers as a sweet sleeping-draught, and so ends a typical day of my holiday.

I thought at first l might soon get tired of it, but not a bit of it; the less l do the lazier l get, and the more l enjoy it. I had planned one day to go to the Test Match, but the day was hot and the honeysuckle smelt extra sweet. It seemed a pity to leave it and mingle with a sweating crowd, so l read about it instead. I have a loud speaker in the garden for special items, but it annoys Henry intensely, so it doesn’t get overworked. Cracker seems to think it ought to be in the kitchen garden to scare away the birds.

The holiday is nearly over now, but l have no regrets. Soon l must be back in the hurly-burly again, but never mind, l have learned how to know and to love my garden better than ever before. Among the roses and the robins l have found rest for body and soul, which no amount of excitement could have given me, and the cost has been practically nil.

For a fortnight l have not worn a collar, and have entered neither tram nor bus. My car is silent in its garage. I have not greased it nor washed it, as l solemnly resolved to do. But never mind. I’m not sure that l haven’t enjoyed my garden holiday than any other. There is only one snag about it. I feel rather less inclined to work than l did before.

I remember several years ago now when l was in a highly stressful job having several short holidays at home, just because l could. It was wonderful wandering out into the garden and taking my time to just flit from one area to another, some pruning here, cutting of flowers and gathering some vegetables. To be able to sit with a coffee in the garden with the sun on your face and know that l didn’t have to leave it all behind in a minute to face another days madness was so calming.

We sometimes have a habit of forgetting what is on our own back doorstep in a desperate rush to ‘have a great holiday’. For those of us fortunate enough to have our own gardens l say, take your time this weekend to sit and enjoy what you have got. I have been looking at some pictures on here of other people’s gardens and they are amazing. Other people would pay good money to go and sit there so enjoy it yourselves.

Soon, just a matter of weeks, l will be leaving my garden for the last time. I am proud of what we have achieved here over the years, but more on that another time. Have a great weekend everyone…and enjoy your gardens. I’ll leave you with some pictures of the past week…..

Perks of the job...having the use of a client's swimming pool!

Lovely runner beans...averaging 3lbs every 2 or 3 days.

Cheers everyone!

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in August, Mr Middleton

 

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