Made from scrap

Made from scrap
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Thursday, 30 June 2011

June 2011 In Collage

The Month Of June

The month of June
Doesn't wait for me anymore
Because it comes and goes 
And everyday is a different day on the June calendar
But I don't mind it at all 
Aldo Kraas 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Fresh Blackcurrant Muffins

I set myself a goal to try Five Recipes to Make with Fresh Blackcurrants.  I have made the Blackcurrant Marbled Cheesecake twice.  I made some 'Blackcurrant No Bits Jam'.  I will look on the bright side and make the 'Blackcurrant Curd' next year when the Hens are laying as it requires 10 eggs!  I may squeeze in a Blackcurrant Fool this week, who knows.   Finally with some of the last few Blackcurrants I have also made:

Blackcurrant Muffins.
100g Butter
100g Sugar
100g Self Raising Flour
2 Eggs
2 tbls milk
200g Fresh Blackcurrants

Cream together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the eggs and milk.  Fold in the Blackcurrants.  Fold in the flour. Place mixture into paper cases and bake in a medium to hot oven for 10 - 15 minutes until the muffins are golden brown.  I love the way the deep blackcurrant purple 'bursts' in to these muffins.  The sweet cake is just the contrast to the sharpness of the fresh fruit.  I love my paper cake cases I received them in a Swap Parcel all the way from Pittsburgh USA and I knew the blue would be perfect for these muffins.  Very pretty.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Making Homemade Raspberry Liqueurs

It is so lovely this year to have some help harvesting the Raspberries, although my helpers are not trained yet to pop the berries in the basket!

I only have a few Blackcurrants left hanging on the bush.  The Blackcurrant glut is officially over for another year.  However the raspberries are still coming thick and fast.
They are growing all the way up one side of the garden with the solitary Blackcurrant in there somewhere.  I have made jam, eaten a lot and given some raspberries away but they still keep on growing.  The chickens love them and get so excited with gratitude when I throw them a handful.  Today I had another load so I decided to put them to good use I have made Raspberry Vodka and Raspberry Gin.  I am sure in the winter I will sip away and look forward to another Summers abundant harvest.
I used 1 litre of spirit to 350g of Fruit and 350g of sugar.  I squished the raspberries into the bottles (obviously sampling a good few for quality control) added the sugar and then the spirit.  Now all they need is the occasional shake and a good few months patience.  Like so many things they improve with age.  They will actually keep for years, but not in this house.  I have used a brown bottle and a green bottle, if the glass bottles were clear I would need to wrap them in brown paper.  I will be sure to share a tipple with you when they are ready.  I am really looking forward to judging which one will be the best, Gin, Vodka, Vodka, Gin?  To be honest they tasted pretty good already!  If you don't grow raspberries these recipes may be worth tracking down a 'Pick Your Own' farm' on a Sunny Day.  If you would like my helpers to help with your harvest I will gladly hire them out!
I have just noticed a post over at 'Sheep Spinach and Strawberries' where 'Strawberry - Mojito' has been made in the 'Shepherdess Kitchen' It looks delicious.  Between us we will have you using up your Summer Fruit and getting rather Squiffy!  I believe in the medicinal qualities of such concoctions. 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Impromptu Picnic

My youngest son told me he had a Teacher Training Day on Friday.  I didn't believe him I thought he was trying to trick me into giving him the day off school.  I asked his teacher and he was right.  No school on Friday.  We decided after I did some errands in a local town to go for a picnic at the park.  We did not have a picnic basket though.  We bought some Cheese Scones and Welsh cakes from the Country Market, run by The Women's Institute.  We then got some vine tomatoes, peas in their pod and a bag of cherries (and crisps).  We popped in to a Charity shop, looking for books and look what we found...
 It still has it's price attached, it felt like Sale of the Century and we bought it for the princely sum of £3.25.  My son was over the moon with its perfection and totally against my ideas of revamping it.  I would like to reline it with cute, pink, cupcake fabric.  I am also on the look out for prettier cups and plates.
We promptly filled it and put it to use.  The Green Gingham even contrasts with our Green Picnic Blanket.
We went to the park at Bidford Upon Avon.  A nice little town on the river.
We played some Football, Basketball and Catch, but I drew the line at Rugby, I fear I may have squashed the little fella with an over zealous rugby tackle.
While Euan was busy at the park I even managed to crochet peacefully away, working on my 'portable project' another pair of socks.  You would be amazed how much hooky time I spend in the car waiting for kids when I play at being a taxi driver!
We have four more weeks of school then we break up for the six week Summer Holiday.  We are definitely on countdown.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

How to Prepare a Raw Fleece for Spinning

Please don't worry nothing got hurt in the making of this Blog Post!  The red is ID dye that the sheep was painted with!
Hmmm, there is a saying isn't there...Be careful what you wish for!  An ex colleague of mine dropped off four raw fleece today.  We don't know what they are, he rears a few sheep and I think they are the mongrel equivalent of the sheep world.  My Mom and I were rather squeamish about the two we tackled.  Not a pleasant experience.  We work together like Laurel and Hardy 'Hmmm That's another fine mess you've got me into!'  These fleece were fairly clean too by sheepy standards.  Bleurgh!  First you need to 'Skirt' your fleece.  Pull off raggedy bits and remove soiled areas!  Then they need to be 'Scoured'.  Some spinners spin a raw fleece 'in the grease' unwashed, but that really is not the way to go for me!  To 'Scour' a fleece you can use Washing Soda Crystals and soap.
 Then you need some containers to soak the fleece in a mixture of two or three tablespoons of soda crystals and a really good squirt of Ecological Washing up Liquid (soap) and very hot water.
To scour a fleece you need hot water and soap.  To felt wool you need hot water, soap and agitation.  So when scouring you need to be careful not to agitate the fleece too much so it doesn't felt.
The water from the first soak was stinky!  I soaked each section of fleece twice with soap and soda crystals then they were soaked again two or three times in clear hot water to rinse them.
I then tied the fleece into an old pillow case and put it in the washing machine on a spin cycle twice.
One of the fleece is grey.
The others are 'Sheep' colour.  Two and a half hours hard labour later they are hung in pillow cases on the washing line to dry.  They smell much better and I can work with them now without feeling squeamish.  So far I have washed half a grey fleece and half a pale fleece!  My Mom has concluded she likes to buy prepared wool and thinks it is all insanity.  The washed fleece will need a fair amount of 'Picking' removing vegetable matter and debris.  Then it will need to be carded to open up the fibers and prepare them for spinning.  It amazes me that we do this for fun and leisure, in days gone buy this was done out of necessity, without hot water on tap!  They must have been made of sterner stuff in those days.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Digging for Victory Update

Fathers Day Offering :)  A days Harvest and some local Beer.  I love the name of the Beer.

The Little Apple Tree Looks Promising

Potatoes are taking over!  There are Parsnips and Courgettes in there somewhere. The parsley is still going strong.

Broad Beans, I can't wait.  There are also Onions, Turnips and Beetroot in there, oh and another Courgette.

Runner Beans, Kohl Rabi and Peas.

I love raw peas in the Summer.  Not many make it to the pot.  I have to stop myself from eating them like this Mangetout.

Lettuce is interspersed among this lot, I should stop photographing it and start eating it.

Note to self:  Must try harder next year with Cougettes!

Tomatoes are coming along nicely in the Greenhouse, you can't beat a homegrown tomato.  I also love Tomato and Chilli Jam.

Some of the best things in life are happy accidents (Ask my sons!)  Isn't this self seed Poppy beautiful?  It has taken up residence with the peas and beans, it will be brilliant to attract the bees to set my runner beans.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Lavender Wands: The Scent of the Summer

The Lavender in the garden is almost in full bloom, the scent is absolutely gorgeous.  It reminds me of my childhood, making lavender bags and lavender wands.  I love Lavender.  We buy Lavender oil regularly for sprinkling on pillows and bed linen, we also use it on insects bites or for minor skin complaints.  It is a fantastic plant and I consider it to be another garden harvest.
Today I made my first Lavender Wand of the year.  This is another craft that my Grandmother taught me to do.  She used to make them as a child.

You need an odd number of freshly picked lavender stems, that are dry and just before the flowers are in full bloom.  I used nine.  You also need some scissors, cotton, a needle and about a metre of ribbon.

Remove all of the leaves from the stems and bind together just under the flowers.
Carefully bend the stems over the flowers, try not to break them.
Starting of can be a little tricky but you weave your length of ribbon around the stems, going under and over.
Until you have covered the length of the flowers.  Don't worry if Lavender flowers poke through, they look pretty.
When you get to the end of the flowers bind your ribbon around and stitch it securely.  Tie a bow to the stems.  The end of ribbon you started with may stick out, just gently use the needle to tuck it in out of sight.
I will be using my 'Magic' Lavender wand to help me sleep.  I am hoping to make a few more this year too.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Design For The Terrified - Creative Spinning Workshop with Alison Daykin

Spinning can be quite a solitary activity so it was lovely that my wheel was one of fourteen in a room today.  There is always so much to learn by sharing and comparing with others.  We hopped Guilds and went to Stratford Upon Avon to their 'Creative Spinning' Workshop.  We were made very welcome and everyone was so kind and friendly.  Guilds are a great place to learn with members of all ages and ability.
 I view Alison Daykin as my 'Spinning' Guru, I have been to one of her workshops before and I really admire her work, so I was very enthusiastic about taking part in today's workshop.  Alison demonstrated slub yarns, snarl yarns, making 'creative' batts with hands carders and drum carders and we had a demonstration with the Ashford Wild Carder.
The Ashford Wild Drum Carder is a seriously desirable piece of kit.  It is robust enough to cope with large quantities of various fibres and materials.  It has a hefty price tag though in my opinion.
Last night Alison gave a two hour talk about her 'Methods for Designing' yarn or woven cloth.  The key skill is observation.  She gave us many ideas and examples for enlarging, collage, working out colour and texture proportions, mark making and recording.  The above piece is my Mom's work.  She chose a greetings card with Sweet Peas on it.  She then made written notes recording any of her thoughts about the colours and textures in the image.  Using water colours she then created a colour palette to work from.

There was a huge stash of fibres to work from and we didn't travel light.  We did not have the messiest work area though but we tried hard to get this accolade.  I think my Mom did a fantastic job and I really loved the sample of Yarn she created, I think it is very pretty and an excellent colour match for the picture.  It is a confidence boost to have your work admired by others.
This was not our work space but I think it is fantastic.  This was also my favourite wheel in the room.  I have no idea what it is but I thought it was beautiful, it has been painted with a delicate Holly design and it had some enormous bobbins.
Here is my trusty little wheel, oh and my shoes!  I like to spin barefoot or wearing my special 'Spinning Socks'!  I chose a picture of some orange Iris, I did not paint my palette but blended my fibre to match my colours using my handcarders.
I experimented with three yarns, one colour blend, one with snippets of the first yarn added to the rolag and spun into singles and finally my first slub yarn.  I managed to use some of the fibre from my Adventures in Dyeing.  Slubs are great fun for adding texture and effect to the yarn but I found it tricky to do.  I understand the method now though for future reference.
Here is a closer shot of my slub yarn (Sorry it could be clearer I know!);
Alison also dyes her own yarns and sells a wide range of natural dyes, Pure Tinctoria.

After last weeks 'Birmingham and District Guilds' Dyers Picnic I decided to treat myself to some Natural Indigo and Red Lac.  I wonder what colour I can turn my hands with those!  I had a really enjoyable day and took on board some new ideas and skills.  I hope to tag along with the 'Stratford Guild' again sometime.