Category Archives: Keeping in Touch

Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.


For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-

Hedgerow Colours and other Bits and Pieces

Rosehip CordialMy gesture towards autumnal hunter gathering (ha!) has been limited this year to these two little projects.  Rosehip and (assorted friends) cordial and the hawthorn ketchup recipe which comes from Pam Corbin’s book Preserves but can be found fortuitously (and probably not very surprisingly) in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Guardian Weekend column this week along with other fashionable hedgeforagy ideas. More about haws here in Alys Fowler’s column too.

out of focus washed haws (hawthorn berries)

I managed to make one little jar from 500 g of hawthorn berries. Not sure if it was worth the effort somehow!

I barely picked any blackberries and there were very few sloes, apart from a few I found in the freezer, the damsons were almost non existent and the squirrel has stolen and buried all the nuts – so it goes. And I suspect that this is the same for many people, hence the interest this year in the hawthorn berries and rosehips which are plentiful.

I am working my way through the apples from the garden slowly. I spend a lot of time not doing very much and what I do, I do quite slowly. Here is a squishy apple cake, which I made yesterday from a recipe from Cooks Illustrated by Andrew Janjigian. It is made with oil not butter and has a clever construction whereby you mix egg yolks into part of the batter for the bottom and extra flour into the top part thus creating a layered effect in the cake. I am not sure I did it justice as I was working from cups, which as we know is not my strong point. Edit : My apples are for some reason all floating to the top in any cake with a soft batter. I think it is me as it has happened now in a couple of cakes ! I have added a link to the recipe, which I didn’t have earlier and I see there is a video too… if I had known…. ah well there is always next time !

I had better add a slice shot too

I ‘tore’ up the original bright and breezy tra la version of this post as I need to find a new voice. I am not a good housewife, I am not a good gardener, I am just a fallible and imperfect human being who for some reason strayed into the blog world and stayed for company. I like your company. Truth.

Sometimes I think I am channeling the Guardian.   Alys Fowler confirms that it is perfectly acceptable to rehome supermarket basil in this week’s magazine too. I can report that my two are still rampaging away and people come and lop stems off and cart them off. It really is much the easiest way to keep them going with minimum fuss and outlay. I am not convinced by the micro herb thing. Seeds, though not expensive when you grow full size plants from them, do become pricey for relatively small return when you eat the results so small. They don’t always come out nicely either, sometimes very small and a bit stringy and sad, if you don’t have ideal growing conditions indoors.

Outdoors the flower sprouts, which now dominate the raised bed with their dark and purply presence are…. yes they are…. growing flower sprouts – this is quite exciting for me as I have never grown sprouts in any shape or form. They are frilly and they lie in the space between stem and leaf. Ooh! The broccoli rab threw up two leaves, a yellow flower and died in the shadow of the giant flower sprouts. The winter creeping thyme drowned mysteriously having started off quite well. The half a dozen bulb fennel babies are living in their fortress where I shall protect them from the marauding pigeons if I have to sit on the veg bed with a knife between my teeth.

Brian has taken a beautiful photo of the Trail of Tears beans drying on a north facing windowsill.

And what else did I think might amuse you as you dance through the internet? I attempted to clear one tiny corner of the garden yesterday, with much moaning and wingeing and pulled out the cold frame with Brian’s help to give it a rudimentary tidy up before the winter and managed to disturb Madame Frog. She made me scream of course but then I steadied my nerve and picked her up to move her to an undisturbed spot and I swear she is is smiling here. You have heard of Puss in Boots? This is Frog in Glove.

Zeb went to look for the frog but he has some funny ideas.

No frog in here…

NB For Rosehip Cordial.  Pick as many ripe rosehips as you can manage. Put them in the freezer overnight to help soften them.  Cook them gently in water until you can mash them up. They have little hairs inside so you do need to strain them or let them drip through a fine muslin in order to get the juice out, as you would if you were making jelly which is also an option.

A mixed bag of rosehips, hawthorn (haws) berries and blackberries

I added a handful of blackberries and some other bits and pieces to use them up but you don’t need to do that. Then once you have your strained juice, add 325 grams of sugar or so to each 500 ml of juice, heat till dissolved but do not boil. Then bottle in clean bottles and heat in a water bath if you don’t have a canner. The water bath is basically a deep saucepan with a clean folded tea towel in the bottom full of water in which you stand the bottles up to their necks and then bring the water up to a set temperature for a set time, (varies depending on what you are canning). If in doubt freeze your cordials if you have space and then you won’t have to worry about this.

Equinox Garden 22nd Sept 2012

Zeb looks for something important under the sweet cicily

Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans

Hey Doc!

A quickie garden post for you and anyone else who is interested of course. At the moment in the garden we are still eating the fabulous Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, apart from the ones at the top of the vines, which I can’t reach even if I stand on a step ladder, so those ones will have to wait to be grabbed when we get a frost and I will use the beans themselves in a stew. We had a small crop of a nice dwarf yellow bean, but it didn’t do as well as these, which despite losing all their early leaves then took off in a big way a few weeks ago and raced for the sky.

Of the four sorts of tomatoes we tried, all grown outdoors, I think I am the only person in England who hasn’t had tomato blight, for reasons that escape me completely. The only thing I can think of is that we didn’t grow any last year and I don’t grow potatoes either.

Lateh tomatoes, my entire crop of lipstick red peppers, all eight fruits, and some of the figs from my brown Turkey fig tree

I have tried Lateh, Urbikanny and a new yellow millefleur type which has been very productive and is still ripening handfuls of tiny yellow fruits each day. I am thinking that the small tomatoes are perhaps the safest bet if the summers are cool, they seem to take less time to ripen than the big ones. I have one Bulgarian one which has big fruits but they still haven’t ripened and I am not sure they will.

Flower sprouts are go ( a cross between a Brussel Sprout and a kale)

Elsewhere the flower sprouts are huge plants now and casting shadows over the rest of the raised bed. We planted a handful of celeriac plants and some root parsley which I hope will be nice, but only tiny quantities.

Peashoots in boxes

I optimistically sowed some late seed, turnip broccoli, rocket, coriander, chervil, english winter thyme, salad mustards, peas (for pea shoots) and some Asian Green seeds from Joyce my Seedy Penpal, and some little rows of radishes and everything has popped up, though what will come of it remains to be seen. I am also seeing if I can get some Italian fennel to grow to bulb.

Angelica (Year 1)

I sowed some Angelica this year and managed to get some plants to ‘go’ so maybe next year I will be able to candy their stems.


I have oca in a couple of tubs sitting on the deck too.

Elsewhere, the everlasting sweet pea is running riot in a pink sort of a way, the fig tree is wasting its time producing more babies which won’t ripen now, but I had a few weeks of fresh fig eating bliss, no one else likes them so I don’t have to share, some of the perennial herbs and plants are having a bit of a moment, making new leaves, the oregano and marjoram are busy flowering away, they self seed all over the place, along with the weeds.

My apple tree has produced a few boxes of apples and the pear tree is sporting maybe a couple of dozen pears, nothing compared to last year so I won’t be bottling this year I think, though maybe some chutney if we don’t manage the apples.

Repotted supermarket plants

Oh yes and in the kitchen, two repotted basil plants are thriving (from the supermarket) and Brian came home with a chilli plant today so we have repotted that too.

I have bought loads of sweet pea seed which I mean to sow into modules and put in the cold frame next month and I have loads of things to try for next year, just no space. I eye up the lawn and think could we turn it into beds, but I don’t think I have the energy right now.

Cardoon head going to seed

We are letting these cardoon heads go to seed as we want to see if we can start some new plants and take the old ones out. We grow them mainly for the bees who love them.

There is glorious sunshine today and heavy rain forecast for the next three, so it goes.


I have kefir doing its thing merrily in the kitchen, a gift from Carl Legge, and an experimental jar of kimchi too made by me, which gave me the most terrible indigestion I have ever experienced but all’s fair in love and fermentation !

Forums and Bake-Alongs

The Mellow Bakers project of baking through Jeffrey Hamelman’s great collection of recipes in Bread, A Baker’s Book of Recipes and Techniques,  has come to an end.

This is a sort of thinking aloud post, so I’d be interested to hear any thoughts particularly with regard to using wordpress for group baking. You may of course think there are plenty of places already to do that, but I think it is always worth experimenting with different formats, as different things suit different people.

 I was just having a quick read on the Mellow Bakers forum to see what they are up to and it looks as if there will be a brand new group of bakers starting working their way through Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman this year,  so if you wanted to join in last time but felt it was too late to do so, have a look on that forum and see what’s going on.

jeffrey hamelman five grain bread

The principles are very simple.  It’s a free to join, no strings, come and go as you please internet space, run and moderated by Paul.  You can write about your baking there, you can post photos, links to your blog, ask for help, chat. Bake some, all, or none of the recipes.

I began Zeb Bakes because I wanted a home for my bread posts while I was baking along with Paul, Abby, Andrea, Jacqueline, Ulrike, Melanie, Geraint, Doc Fugawe, Natashya, Steve to name but a few of the many fantastic people who dropped in and baked and chatted there. Some people only popped in once or twice, some people baked everything they possibly could. It has been a fairly relaxed affair and I have learnt so much while I was doing it. Thank you all of you!

I really enjoyed baking along with some great people who dropped in and out over the course of the Hamelman project. I take my hat off to the amazing bakers who baked every single one of the recipes.  I managed forty five (I think!) different bread recipes out of all the ones we could have made. You can see the ones I made by clicking on these two pages in my menu bar, here and here.

There are of course other forums to join up to if you want to talk bread, there’s the Real Bread Campaign in the UK, which you have to pay to join. I was a member for one year but it seems more aimed at would be professionals than at people like me so I have let my membership lapse.

There’s also the Fresh Loaf in the US, which has members from all over the world and is a very fast moving and big forum. If you speak German or Spanish these are links to two forums in those languages.

Terry, who I met at Joe’s and Martin’s baking weekend in Yorkshire, runs a wood & pizza oven forum where they talk bread and pizza in particular and is well worth visiting too if you have questions about oven building.

And then there are the one off Twitter bake alongs where people teach you how to make a starter, or how to make rolls like Luc Martin did recently. I made brioche one happy Sunday following the @halfdrunkduck’s great instructions.

Zeb checks the mise en place for Dan Lepard's Dundee Cake

It reminded me of Dan Lepard’s Dundee Cake bake off which was one of the funniest things I have ever done on my own, Sally BR and Gill the Painter were in on that one and we have been great friends ever since –  I wish we could do another one day, though I know they take a lot of organizing.

Thinking along those lines, maybe we could do one using the P2 group theme on WordPress which allows for realtime updates?  If anyone is interested in giving it a go, maybe one Sunday later this year,  do let me know.

For those of you unfamiliar with how (not which is the self hosted side of the business)  works, you sign up as a user (free) and then you have a wordpress name and password and you can be added to a group blog where you can upload text and photos without having to have a blog if you don’t want one.

Of course if you do want a blog, you just opt for that. WordPress don’t charge you for the basic blogs, but they do have fees if you want to keep your blog advert free, like this one, or to register your own name, and various other things, all explained on their site.

I could set one up and see if we could make it work for one-off bake-alongs if there is interest.

If you want me to add a link to any non commercial bread forums or upcoming low cost bread events that I have missed out, please put something in a comment below and I will edit this post.

Happy Baking Everyone!

NB I’ve edited this post a bit since I first wrote it to make the bit about wordpress clearer.

22nd Feb 2012

I have taken out all references to group baking of Dan Lepard’s books as this seems to be causing problems lately. For more on this see Paul’s recent post on Mellow Bakers and if you wish join in the discussion there.

I have left people’s comments on this post as they are.


Neglect, the Garden, Twitter

White peonies in the rain

The garden is a forgiving place, but I have neglected it lately. There are baby plants that need to be allowed to put their feet in the soil and snails to be collected. Lots to do, it’s June after all!

So farewell Twitter, it’s been fun, but you take up far too much time. I’m following Gill and Joanne out of that space for now. See you around!

I am counting down the days to ripeness

On The Table

For Celia  – whose delightful In My Kitchen posts inspire many a blogger.

A basket of sourdough made with French flours, a gift from my sister, a plate of salad, some champagne pink yorkshire rhubarb with home made yoghurt.  Two new and exciting bags of German rye flour and a box of Mozart Kugel from lovely Mandy who eats my bread with great enthusiasm and replenishes the store cupboard when she goes back to Germany from time to time.

Just keeping in touch (1)

Toast bread pretending to be sourdough

Warm milk, bread flour, a little cornflour, a little wholemeal, salt and yeast together yield a soft and tender loaf that toasts beautifully, makes great rolls and has a lovely colour. It’s not sourdough and I’m wondering if you add cornflour to a sourdough loaf whether you will get the same soft crumb… I’ve added the ingredients list at the bottom of the page.

Not had one of these in the garden before!

This little being is a white wagtail – we usually get pied wagtails in our towns, but not these. We get a grey wagtail sometimes, they of course are yellow bellied.  This morning saw one of the jays from the woods come into the garden as well as the usual gang of finches, tits and starlings. The wood pigeons are getting fat, they will become sparrowhawk food if they carry on eating all the food we put out.

Better late than never!

Christmas cake, christmas cake, mix and put in tin. This is Mr Lepard’s caramel cake and I baked it today.  I really enjoyed the bit where the cream hits the caramel and turns to liquid fudge. I quite wanted to stop there and just eat the whole lot with a spoon, but I didn’t…

Glad I used a deep tin and made a cuff for this one

This is an 18 cm diameter tin and the recipe came to the top exactly!  The cake survived baking and I will think of something to put on the top tomorrow. I’ll tell you what it’s like when we cut it.

PS: Someone asked me how to make this bread. It’s pretty basic but here we go….

Zeb’s golden toast bread:

  • 520 grams of full fat milk warmed to at least room temperature (aiming for a dough temperature of about 76 F)
  • 700 g strong white (bread) flour
  • 50 g of cornflour
  • 50 g plain wholemeal flour (not the strong sort, but the sort you use for pastry)
  • 16 g sea salt
  • 15 g fresh yeast or 1 sachet of active instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp barleymalt (optional – gives a nice colour to the crumb and some easy food for the yeast)

Mix dough in your preferred manner. I used a Kenwood this time. Milk in first, followed by yeast, barleymalt, salt and flours. You should have a medium firm dough that is easy to knead. Mix for about 3 minutes on lowest speed. Hand knead briefly and into lightly oiled bowl to prove for ninety minutes. Divide the dough into two, shape 650 g boules, final prove in 750 g size round bannetons, until doubled,  dusted with flour. Bake at 220 C for 30 minutes, reduce temperature to 200 C for 10 minutes more. Cool on rack. This dough will also give you a nice baker’s dozen of 100 g rolls.