Category Archives: Poodles

A Somerset Jaunt

One day last week the sky turned to blue and the birds tweeted and the household was very restless so it got into the car and headed off in the direction of Somerset which isn’t really very far away. We have walked the beach at Burnham a lot recently so thought we would go somewhere else.

We decided to have lunch at the Swan in Wedmore, who had tweeted us that they were dog-friendly ‘downstairs’ and go for a short walk at Ham Wall, which allows dogs on leads in parts, though not in the hides.

As we were driving down, admiring the spring lambs, we changed our minds and thought we had better walk the dogs before going for lunch as that way they would be more likely to be calm and well behaved.

JauntinSomerset.7We went across to Cheddar Reservoir, a huge high reservoir near where Brian lived as a boy and where we have been in the past to do bird watching. People walk around the huge circular reservoir, and admire the sky mostly. It is a big place and the birds are nearly always on the other side to where you are. Big rafts of bald-headed coot, groups of seagulls, overwintering tufted ducks, mallards, pairs of courting grebes, little grebes,  the occasional Northern Diver, all sorts of waterfowl can be seen here, though it is advisable to take binoculars if you are serious. There is also a sailing club that use the Reservoir but on the morning we went no one was out on the water.

JauntinSomerset.3There were two students doing a project, one of whom was dressed in a sheet, no idea why but I thought they were very sweet.

And the sky was blue and the clouds were glorious! I have spent a little time trying to figure out why the clouds looked like this, because although not that unusual, it wasn’t typical and I am not very good at clouds. I think, and do correct me if I am wrong, that the exuberant many -fingered whispy cloud reaching out in a loving embrace to the world (and I must admit that I threw my arms wide and high and tried to hug it back) is a cirrus formation. Cirrus are high clouds that form around minerals, so I guess in this case this was sand. That week the UK had been visited by Saharan sand bearing winds, which had been combining with our local pollution to create noticeable smog in the south-east of the country; we in the West had fog two days later and fine sand deposited by night rain on our car windows.

JauntinSomerset.11The cirrus clouds were moving in one direction and the lower clouds, which I can’t figure out what they should be classified as, were moving in another direction. The whole experience of being there was joyful, expansive and light. I am addicted to big skies and watching the movement of clouds and light, they lift my soul from the gloom that I find myself in all too often.

JauntinSomerset.9

If you can find a place to look at the sky and the clouds and have a walk, well it doesn’t make your unconstructive thoughts go away, but it allows some simpler thoughts to find a place in your mind and maybe balance out some of the others. As they say in all the mindfulness books, pay attention to the here and now, and allow your thoughts to come and go, like clouds they are real but they don’t have to last forever.

Lunch at the Swan in Wedmore was lovely, we had a fine Ploughman’s lunch and two desserts, a rhubarb fool, which the chef customized for Brian so it didn’t have cream in it, and I had their malt chocolate cake with salted caramel icecream. The dogs behaved fairly well, though Mme L decided to bark at a pushchair on its way through the bar. We took dog biscuits with us so we rewarded them for being ‘good’.

Puddings.1

Puddings.2

We then headed off to Ham Wall , down the bumpy road between the drains, the green pastures full of grazing swans, and wandered down the lane to the big viewing platform. We heard various bittern booming away to each other, but didn’t see any flying. From the platform we could see swans and cormorants hanging out their wings to dry, the hedgerows were jumping with great tits and dunnock. Wild plants beginning to flower..

JauntinSomerset.15

A glimpse of Glastonbury Tor from Ham Wall

JauntinSomerset.13

 

It has become quite a busy place and I miss the way it used to be, when I first went there with Brian all those years ago and it felt like we had it to ourselves but I guess that is the way of the world. Everything changes. It was a lovely outing!

 

UK National Fungus Day

Bread in Morning Light

Sunday 13th October 2013

Some bread out of the oven cooling in the early morning sunshine.  The one in the front is in reality very small but because of the way the camera works it looks quite big. Thanks to the kefir and whatever yeast (fungus) we use we have bread and can make our own as human beings have been doing for a very long time now.

Fungi and bacteria work with the building blocks of the living world to create and destroy. The more we learn about how they work the more amazing they turn out to be. Maybe we should have a National Bacteria Day too?

Here are some of this autumn’s crop of fungi photographs, taken at Westonbirt, Glos and in the Forest of Dean, which is on the other side of the Severn Bridge, but on this side of the border with Wales. It is a good year for fungi in the UK, so have a go at seeing what you can see, or go to an organized walk or a talk, lots around ! This is the first UK Fungus Day and I think it is a great idea!

I have had a stab at identifying some of them but as ever warn people not to go by my identification as I am not a mycologist. I used to be quite reasonable at identifying about a dozen or so of the edible fungi, but as the years pass I have got out of practice. If you go on a fungi foray with a group or a self-styled forager be sure to ask them how they learnt their trade and ask lots of questions. In these straitened economic times, people turn to all sorts of ways to earn a living and foraging and ‘teaching’ foraging is one of them.

For most of us, wild fungi are not an essential part of our diet, but rather a treat, a flavour, an aroma, something maybe that one wouldn’t desire if not driven by media hype and an urge for different experiences.

I am not saying don’t or that it is wrong to want to taste and touch new things, just be extremely careful. There are cases of poisoning each year, usually well-documented in the press, of people who eat the wrong fungi, or the wrong berries or plants.

What is fun and completely safe however, is to go out and take photographs and look for them. We are sticking to that this year unless we see the ones that I know I can id positively.

And not to create any confusion, we didn’t bring any of the fungi depicted here home with us, only took their photos. Please do not ask me to identify your fungi finds!

larch Boletus Brian Kent

I am pretty sure this is the larch boletus, with its spongy underside.

Yellow Stagshorn Calocera viscosa

and I think this is Yellow Stagshorn( Calocera viscosa) – because it was growing on wood but it’s not one we see very often, it is very small and delicate but has this outstanding glowing colour.

autumn fungi

Haven’t looked this one up yet…

…and finally the most glamorous one we have seen this autumn which I think is a magpie inkcap but I haven’t found an image exactly like it so who knows?

magpie inkcap?

One of the hardest things is keeping the dogs out of the field of shot, as anything that interests us, interests them and we don’t want them to eat the fungi either!

Anyone want to tango with a wet poodle?

Anyone want to tango with a wet poodle?

So for those of you who miss him, here is your small friend Zeb, following an exciting jump into a mud bath on the edge of a small pool which contained a stick of desire that he had to have, (just had to).  We are taking him and his sister to the beach this coming week. I forsee many early evening baths.

In My Kitchen July 2013

Blackboard in Zeb Bakes Kitchen

Dog Meds and Vetty things

In my kitchen there are two slim dogs.  Mme L has been ill with pancreatitis and is now on a complicated regime of micro meals and vet stuff to line her little tum with so she doesn’t vomit all the time. Zeb is in rude health once more after his leather eating trauma earlier this year fortunately.

In my kitchen is a blackboard which usually says things like, buy chicken, or take parcel to post office. My blackboard was made by Andy at Arcadian Furniture who restores furniture and makes new pieces too. He made this board for us with just the right size ledge that it could hold a board rubber and chalk and made it out of the same wood as the kitchen, American Oak.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will note it says ‘Eat Wed pm’ at the bottom. This is because Brian has had the lurgi for over a week and the doctor said starve yourself for 48 hours and drink Dioralyte.

Dioralyte

We are into 36 hours and I am joining in in solidarity till this evening, when we will partake of ‘clear soup’. Brian has decided we are going to have a Chicken Soup and has gone off to buy himself a chicken. The good news is that, so far today he feels better, so cross fingers the doctor gave him good advice finally.

So what else can I show you?

My neighbour's gift of sweet peas

A stunning handful of fragrant frilly sweet peas grown by my neighbour. We are busily trading lettuce and flowers, cheesy buns and vegetables. My neighbour drives out to visit her mother who is now in a Nursing Home, she who likes my bread, and it is very near a wonderful vegetable grower called Mark Cox who gardens at the Walled Garden at Wrington.

Broad Beans from the Walled Garden at Wrington

Broad Beans from the Walled Garden at Wrington

My neighbour is allowed to pick what she wants more or less and she brings me treasure once a week; last week I had the most beautiful broad beans, chard, cavolo nero, newly dug potatoes, and a perfect artichoke.

I have baked more bread in the kitchen, mostly of the sourdough variety. Here is a particular fetching loaf, which someone on Twitter described as a Tin Tin loaf without the tin. A bread with a quiff!

Tintin loaf of sourdough by Zeb Bakes

At the moment as it is hot here, the easiest way to make the bread is to mix it in the evening, retard it in the fridge, shape and prove early in the morning and bake it.   Works for me just fine!

Pheasant casseroleIn the freezer I discovered three halves of pheasant that I bought from a local butcher in pheasant season earlier this year, so I have made them into a casserole, once I had pulled all the bits of shot and feather out I could find. My casserole consisted of the pheasant, cut into smaller joints, sweet onion and carrots from the Walled Garden, two sticks of celery, herbs from the garden, silver thyme, Greek oregano, sweet Cecily, bay leaves, a few peppercorns, a couple of tablespoons of ancient Pontack sauce (made from foraged elderberries in times of yore) some Chinese rice wine, and vegetable stock. Pheasant is a dry meat to my mind but it is all cooked up now and boxed and back in the freezer for another day.

I also had a crack at making the claypot pork dish that Celia made from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse blog.

Ingredients for Claypot Belly Pork

Here is a pile of bottles that I had to get in order to have a go at it. I already had a kg piece of belly pork from Thoroughly Wild Meat who supplies us with salt marsh lamb hidden in the freezer.

I don’t have a claypot so I made it in my regular casserole. It smelled divine while it was cooking but that too has gone into the freezer as it coincided with Brian and his Lurgi.

Ottolenghi Turkey and Courgette Meatballs from Jerusalem

Ottolenghi Turkey and Courgette Meatballs from Jerusalem

I have also made the fantabulous Ottolenghi turkey and courgette meatballs with sumac sauce, a recipe which is in his Jerusalem but you can probably find written out by someone or other on the net if you look. These little nuggets solve the mystery of doing something tasty with the incredibly boring meat that is turkey mince. I thought they were a bit fiddly to make but if you are set on eating turkey mince and have spare courgettes, then give them a whirl, because the end result is worth it.

Home grown courgettes

In my kitchen were our first veggies apart from lettuce and rocket – three pale green courgettes – which I fried with garden mint in a little butter and oil  about five minutes after harvesting them and had them with some rice and chard while Brian looked the other way.

I have been eating North Sea brown shrimp, odd bits of roast chicken,  and lettuce and bread. Feeling guilty that I can eat and he can’t, though not that guilty that I couldn’t cruelly munch my way through half a bag of M and M’s last night while catching up on the White Queen on the telly box while The Hollow Man averted his gaze.

3IMK

I also had a box of very special chocolates from Haigh’s hand-delivered from Melbourne from a blog friend who is visiting the UK. Lucky lucky me and I loved meeting her and her husband in my kitchen and plying them with cake, more of which another day. (There are no chocolates left of course!)

After watching the White Queen (historical drama based around the time of the War of the Roses)  I always have to spend ages on Wiki looking up the Kings and Queens of England, the Kings all seem to be called Edward or Henry and all the queens Elizabeth. Many of them are a little stressed out.  I have no memory, nor interest in retaining their names and who was married off to whom in political unions but  I am enjoying the White Queen, chiefly because I like the way they roll their eyes in a thoroughly modern way when they marvel and gasp at each other’s Machiavellian ways.

Eat Wed PM

But back to the kitchen –  by the time I get to the end of this post it has indeed become Wed pm and we have made supper.

My grandmother's Willow Pattern soup bowl

The man vet said ‘clear soup’ we translated that tonight into Canja de Galinha  – ‘a soup for what ails you ‘  – as made in the one and only Bewitching Kitchen by Sally.  A Brazilian take on a Portuguese soup, which hit all the right notes for Brian being substantial but super low in fat and super soothing.

Brian's soup

Brian chopped the veggies and I poached the chicken and we cooked far too much rice, but we didn’t care. I invoked the spirit of my paternal grandmother Lily and got out her Willow pattern soup bowls which have nursed more versions of chicken soup than I can remember in their long life and hope that he is cured now. (I added a liberal splosh of chilli ginger sauce to mine as I hadn’t been on starvation watch, but I have never seen Brian attack a bowl of soup with quite such enthusiasm).

I realise it has been far too long since I wrote one of these IMK posts, but if you want to read a whole lot more or indeed join in,  you should visit lovely Celia @ figjamandlimecordial.com whose meme this is and peek at her sidebar as there are lots and lots of kitchens to visit from her links.

Hills, Cheese, Snow, Cake

Grasmor from Harris Park, Cockermouth

19th March 2013

As you can see it is pretty wintry still in England this week. This view of the fells from Harris Park in Cockermouth gives you a feel for the raw and unsettled weather we have at the moment.

Windfarm on Cumbrian fieldsToday we drove in search of Dad’s opthamology appointment to two different hospitals as he wasn’t sure which one it was in, which added a certain frisson to the proceedings, but all went well and we had a lovely drive over the fells, waved at the sea at Whitehaven, and passed the windfarms on the fells as the snow and sleet gusted around us.

We returned via Thornby Moor Dairy Cheese Farm (as recommended by our friend Andrew Auld of the Loaf in Crich) where we sampled and bought some wonderful cheeses.

Thornby Moor Dairy

Cumberland Farmhouse Cheese from Thornby Moor Dairy, Carlisle

Cheeses made with unpasteurized milk from shorthorns, delicious goat cheeses and artisan farmhouse cheeses.

Before being unwrapped and cut

We admired the timeline of cheese on the shelves and then returned to Cockermouth for lunch. Edit: In view of some of your comments I will try and add a bit more here – I may not have understood this in its entirety but the cheese maker who came out to help us expalined that the rows of cheeses on the shelves were all the same cheese, the small version of the farmhouse cheese at different points between 0 – 3 months. The mould gathers on the outside of the cloth the cheese is wrapped in, which is removed before being presented for sale. The dairy produces a blue cheese but this wasn’t it. I apologise if I haven’t got this quite right.

Maturing cheese at Thornby Moor Dairy Cheese Farm

This afternoon we popped out to the New Bookshop for coffee and cake.

Coffee and Gingerbread

The New Bookshop alone has sold more than 200 copies of The Cockermouth Poets, which I think is pretty impressive for a poetry anthology!

The Cockermouth Poets

Zeb has been not very well but we hope he is finally on the mend. He loves it up here usually and he has been very miserable. We love the out of hours vets who gave him pain relief on Sunday night at 10 30 pm when he couldn’t stand up without twisting and turning. Yesterday he managed to produce part of the bag that he ate 12 days ago which has somehow managed to travel through his digestive tract and re-appear as a gigantic Cuban cigar of rolled leather. So lets hope that he recovers fully. He slept in the middle of the bed last night.

Now it’s time to cook supper again: roast vegetables and chicken pieces I think, and maybe sharpen the kitchen knives before I start.

Where Zeb Walks in Badock’s Woods

Where we walk a lot of the time is a piece of old woodland ten minutes away from home. I am not good at reading landscape and seeing the past and using my imagination to see what was and how it looked. I don’t usually see ghosts. This place however has a curious quality to it. It isn’t very big at all but it has steep sides and trees and the River Trym runs through from Filton to where it meets the Avon at Sea Mills. (So named as there used to be tidal mills there). It is another place worth visiting if you haven’t been there and only know Bristol as a busy city.

In the middle of the woods the Trym meets an unnamed stream which comes in under the road and is often full of something nasty from somewhere higher up.

This summer the Trym was almost dry and we wondered why it was so much lower than any previous year. Two evenings ago we were walking through and there were men in big helmets and yellow jackets, clambering about in the water and up the slopes and I wondered what they were doing. Fortunately I met Mark yesterday; he is the wonderful hard working park keeper who looks after the Woods on behalf of Bristol City Council – the man who knows everyone and everything that is going on.

The riverbed has a leak, a large hole in its side and it’s running into the sewers. It’s going to cost lots of money to fix and it’s all a bit of a worry. It’s very unusual for a river to run into a sewer, usually it’s the other way round. When it rains heavily the river rises right up the banks and rushes along in a mad frenzy, it’s very variable.

I was told a bit of the history of the river by Mark and how it has been altered over time.  There is more to be read on the Friends of Badocks Wood site; how it used to be four feet deep but got filled in when some boys drowned in it and how there used to be a pond down from the weirs. Someone else told me there used to be a little tea place by the side of the rocks.

There is a nice pdf here which shows you the layout of the woods, as you can see it really isn’t very big but it feels big because of the mature trees and the hill slopes and you feel a mile away from the city when in fact you are surrounded by it. These images have been put on boards around the woods to help people orientate themselves when they are there.

Dog walkers are a wonderful disparate group of people, the one thing we have in common are our animals and their needs and as we go round and about we love to share our stories and our bits of gossip.  I have met people who came here as children, people who remember the Wildlife Park, now closed, people who remember shimmying up the fences round the Lake and swimming late at night when the Club was closed. In the war there were allotments on the field by Doncaster gate, then pre-fabs which were demolished in 1979. I heard about how it was almost a no-go area full of burnt-out cars at one time before we moved here and now it is a much loved and well used place. Last winter I saw the spotted woodpeckers most days and there are nearly always grey wagtails down by the stream. Wild garlic grows here in abundance in the Spring and there is lovely mixed woodland to wander through.  The Council make changes and not everyone likes them, but that is always the way with spaces with different groups of users. From a dog walker’s point of view it is almost perfect. It is safe, enclosed and peaceful; there are streams to jump in and a mix of woodland and open spaces to run in off lead.

Here is an experiment with WordPress’s Gallery Format, I think you should be able to see all the photos full size in a sort of carousel if you click on one of them (let me know it it works and if you like it).

Photos from my phone yesterday, not an iphone, so they are a bit blurry… Zeb saw a ball in the water so decided he had to rescue it. Poodles like going in water if there’s a bit of a challenge involved.

I looked for photos and old maps today, I wanted to find a picture or a drawing of the rivers and the pond that Mark was talking about but I ended up getting completely distracted by these acoustic pieces by Jono Gilmurray based on recordings of the water rushing through Badock’s Wood. Not only dog walkers are inspired by this lovely place….

Badock’s Wood 11 by Jono Gilmurray