Loose ends

Don’t worry, it’s not a post about umbilical cords! Although I will quickly report that Zara insisted on getting in on the birthing action and delivered five puppies into the world on Wednesday the 19th, so plenty of umbilical cords in my life at the moment; it seems I was destined to be a dad!

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Talking of new life it’s also worth mentioning that the chilli’s have germinated and the first few leaves are reaching for the sky.

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I’d also like to say a big thank you all for your kind words, wishes and poetry, Gosia especially liked the poetry. A few more photos can be found here, for those of you who like looking at baby photos! It also gets a few hits on my website which I am hoping to develop over the coming weeks to replace the blog (or maybe not)

Ok, back to the post, the loose ends that I am referring to are the posts that I meant to write in the autumn but never seemed to get round to, but as my camera is now my best friend again I found myself reviewing old photos and stumbled upon pictures that I had taken specifically for a post, so rather than waste them I thought I’d cram them into a catch up of sorts.

Elderflower beer! Do you remember that? Well I almost forgot about it, that was until we started the clean up and clear out  as we prepared to leave the land for the winter last year, and then I found it hiding in the back of the pivnica, bottles containing a golden yellow liquid, almost fluorescent.

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Not one to shy away from the unknown and casting away the slightly cloudy appearance and sediment in the bottles, I grabbed a jar and tried the homemade tipple. Light, probably about 4% in strength, fragrant with the elder and tasting slightly of the oranges that were used in the brewing process. Mildly effervescent, reminding me of a homemade lemonade and as such perfect for hot summer days; ideal for quenching your thirst after a hard days graft. I will be making it again that’s for sure.

My second loose end is the one coming out of the end of a plastic pipe.

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In the words of Mr Harris, ‘can you tell what it is yet?’ Well, it’s a compost thermometer of course, available from Amazon, www.humanure.com  and occasionally from garden centres for around £20,  except this one only cost me a couple of quid for the standard household thermometer and a bit of invention.

First check that you thermometer will fit in your pipe, then cut the pipe to the desired length (about 60cm or 24 inches in old money), attach string to thermometer, plug the pipe one end with a cork and drop in your temperature guide. Take to the pile, insert, leave for a while and take a reading by pulling on the string to reveal the poo free metron. I look forward to reporting on the spring temperature next time  we visit; next week I hope!

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Phew, that feels better, two loose ends tied in a bow and just in time as my Polish family is congregating downstairs to say hello to Malina; no doubt Vodka will be involved. Na zdrowie!

Elderflower beer; my first attempt!

About three years ago, soon after we bought the land, I also bought a chain saw; the brambles and brush were so thick that the strimmer just wasn’t up to the job. I also had big plans about clearing some of the trees to provide firewood in the future, but that’s another post in itself.

One thing we did have lots of was elderflower, most of it overgrown with wild vines, so out came the chainsaw and I did my best to clear an area round the old house to provide access to the orchard. One thing that I hadn’t anticipated was the elders survival instinct. Every one of the stumps has since coppiced and sent out multiple new trunks and now, three years on, we have more elderflower than we know what to do with.

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So what to do with all of this elder? Why not try some beer 🙂

Elderflower beer, a work in progress recipe based loosely on the words I found in a book at a garden centre many years ago; who knows how it will turn out!

First of all you need a hot sunny day as that’s the best time to pick the flowers, when they are fully open and dry; pick about one litre of flowers. I pick them on the stalk then use a fork to strip the flowers off.

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Six oranges, lemons or grapefruit; ideally a mix. I used two oranges and three lemons as that’s all we had.

A kilo of sugar.

Chop up your fruit and put in a pan with 4.5 litres of water, bring to the boil adding the sugar to dissolve, simmer for about half an hour and leave it to cool.

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Once cool add the flowers and leave to steep for a couple of hours then strain the mixture into your chosen receptacle to ferment. There should be enough natural yeast in the elder flowers, but you could add yeast if you wanted to be sure of fermentation. Leave to ferment at around 20c for three or four days

Once fermentation is over, bottle it up and leave in a cool dark place for three or four months.

What does it taste of? I have no idea, I’ll let you know when I crack open the first bottle 🙂

Or you could try this great recipe for cordial http://underthelindentree.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/time-for-elder-flowers-and-strawberries/