Big decisions take time (but not too long I hope)

Every so often I come across posts on other blogs that I follow which resonate strongly with my current personal situation. One such recent example is Back to the land which is on a blog from Devon – a place which has assumed mythical proportions in my head because  I’ve been told we can’t buy a smallholding there as it’s too far away from the kids!

That particular blog post dates from August so it’s not exactly recent but it echos many of my own thoughts and even more so after watching the episode of The Audience last night about a guy deciding whether to give up farming.

For me it seems obvious that working on (and with) the land must be more fulfilling than sitting in an office but of course the grass is always greener – at least I hope it will be when we eventually get around to buying somewhere! I just don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t want to be working outside…

I know it’s important to carefully consider this kind of decision and occasionally it’s sensible to stop and think about other things than just the day to day grind. However I’m also very conscious of the well-known John Lennon quote:

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans

(After a quick check on the web I find that this quote was originally attributed to Allen Saunders  and it actually appears in a 1957 edition of the Readers Digest!)

I blame Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

I probably wouldn’t have thought of trying to bake soda bread if I hadn’t seen it mentioned during a an old River Cottage program I happened to watch recently.

If I’m honest I would have guessed that soda bread must be something like sour dough which I believe takes some time and effort to make and that is not my sort of thing. It’s possible that I have this wrong as I’ve not made sour dough (yet) but I can’t usually be bothered with recipes that need leaving overnight or bursts of activity every so often – it must be an attention span problem on my part!

Soda bread on the other hand seemed to be just my sort of recipe – easy to make, no particularly special ingredients, very little preparation time and most importantly almost impossible to mess up! What could possibly go wrong…

I found this handy soda bread recipe on the web which also describe what to do when there is no buttermilk. This  is essential for me as we never normally have that and certainly didn’t have it when I decided to try making this! It all seemed fairly straightforward so away I went and a short time later a nice looking loaf of soda bread was cooling on a rack.

The only minor catastrophe was (I think) a misreading of the quantities when not using buttermilk but I managed by just adding more and more flour until the consistency looked about right!

Completed loaf of soda bread
My first loaf of soda bread

As can be seen, the final result was pretty impressive to my untrained eye and by the morning there was only enough left for a couple of slices of toast!

When the whole loaf goes that quickly it can’t be all bad, just imagine what would have happened if I’d made a “proper” soda bread rather than this first test run.

Sliced soda bread
Sliced soda bread

Next on my list of breads to try is maybe adapting this focaccia recipe on the BBC website which I might attempt to make into a garlic/cheese “tear and share” to go with some pasta.


Cutting it fine

Excuse the pun in the title but last weekend I had a spate of taking cuttings from various plants around the garden because I get the feeling that autumn is approaching fairly quickly up here in the North East.

First batch of cuttings
First batch of cuttings

It’s possible that there may not be enough decent weather and sunshine but we’ve had a good couple of weeks so why not try. If they don’t make then there is nothing much lost.

The main reason was so that we can take some plants with us if/when we eventually move but there have also been requests from No. 1 and No. 2 daughters to have some (free) plants for their gardens.

As with most things in the garden, I am no expert on taking cuttings but I do have an old copy of The Tree & Shrub Expert by Dr D G Hessayon so what could possibly go wrong?

In the end the plants that I “attacked” with the secateurs for the first batch of cuttings were Philadelphus, Rose, Euonymus, Hebe and Lavender.

It didn’t take that long to get these prepared, dipped in rooting hormone, firmed into the pots and lightly watered. I find that there is something very satisfying about planting up pots whether cuttings or seeds.

There were still some spare plant pots and I had  a few old compost bags each with a little bit left. It made sense to keep going at least until I run out of space to put them all but maybe mixing old houseplant compost with the  old other slightly dried out left overs was not the best approach.

Fuschia, Lonicera and Cornus
Even more cuttings

Next to receive an assault with the secateurs was Fuchsia, Bay, Lonicera and Cornus. In the case of the Lonicera for example I already had some success a few years ago with another cutting so I have high hopes for that!

Most are still alive for the moment and they are happily zipped up in the cheap plastic “greenhouse” I bought in the spring.  However I’m definitely starting to notice the days getting shorter and I’m not convinced that all of them will make it.