500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Cheat’s Marmalade

October25

Mandarinky is the generic Czech name for all small, sweet orange fruit with soft peel, in the UK we could call them Satsumas, Clementines or Mandarin oranges but they do not exist as separate entities here, so you have to scratch the skin of the orange in the supermarket in order to identify what you’re buying.

The fragrant rind of citrus fruit such as the delicious  Mandarinky we have in the shops at the moment can be a real treat with very little effort – and when something has been shipped so far to get to us, isn’t it fair not to waste any of it?
Wash satsuma and/or mandarin oranges before you peel them to eat. Keep the peels. Cut them into fine slivers or chunks. Put them into a glass jar. Cover the cut peel with honey. Microwave the jar until the honey boils – this will not be long so keep an eye on it. Put a lid on it. Let it cool overnight. Put the jar in the fridge the next day to set the honey. Use in place of marmalade.

A glut of apples, or a blessing?

October25

This month I bought a steam sterilising bath and have been experimenting with bottling both apple sauce and juice. The apple sauce is, for Brits, solely the preserve of Pork (ha) – we’d use a small dollop of it with our Sunday lunch in the same way that you’d use mustard. Not so our American visitors – it’s something it’s eaten with relish (ha ha) at many opportunities – just on it’s own, with oatmeal (porridge) or used as a cooking ingredient. We now have enough to see us through a nuclear winter, as my husband puts it. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

One simple recipe I personally love is to melt a bar of (good quality) chocolate into apple sauce.  I absolutely love this as a quick dessert if we’ve been working hard and need some extra calories.

Apple juice!  As ever, I’ve been looking for a way of preserving juice without using additional chemicals.  I’m prepared to live with juice which isn’t the mellow yellow colour of shop bought organic stuff.  To keep it green, you have to process it in an oxygen free environment (unfortunately we don’t have a lab), or add quantities of ascorbic acid or lemon juice – fine if you’re making glasses of, rather than gallons.  So, the juice is delicious, if a little brown. I’m not selling it – so if you don’t want to drink it because of the colour, that’s fine with me.

We have been gathering the apples, washing them, then mashing them with a huge bat – a bit like an oversized baseball bat with a flat bottom (as our American workawayer Reba demonstrates) . We use a metal bucket for this bit as the mashing is somewhat fierce. Every apple is squashed up quite effectively using only muscle power. The mash is then loaded into the press (an old fruit press/sausage stuffer which came with the house) which now lives on the back porch. A piece of sturdy nylon hose (never worn) is used to line the press which makes it easy to take the apple out and rearrange it for a second and third pressing.  We catch the juice that comes out of the top and leaky bottom of the press and then sterilise and bottle it.

Bottling apple juice is a sensitive subject & the method developed by trial and error has caused many broken bottles.  The apple juice is heated to 80 degrees c, and the washed beer bottles are heated in the steam steriliser up to 90. The caps must be doused in boiling water. You need to kill any yeast which could potentially turn bottles of apple juice into little bombs (the fermentation will cause great pressure as the juice is very sweet, causing the bottles to eventually explode).  Once the juice is poured into the bottles, we cap them using a crown capper (a special clamp which fixes on the lids of beer bottles). Up until now I have been returning them to the steamer for up to 5 minutes at this point – however this is a sensitive operation and I have lost several bottles  – I think because if there is too much of an increase of temperature, the bottle will pop, leaving you with glass, juice and time wasted.

With my next pressing, I plan to go without the 5 minutes in the steamer as the juice and equipment should be fine with the temperatures used above.  Currently, we have enough apple juice for us to use a litre and a half every week till next season.

The cider we set fermenting earlier in the summer has now all been racked off into 5 litre bottles which are down in the cellar to mature. It will be interesting to see what is more popular with our visitors, home made cider or non alcoholic apple juice.  Adding to these the apple we have dried in recent weeks, we really have made the most of the extraordinary crop of apples we’ve had this year.

Notes from the garden…

October20

May – the Nettles were young and fresh & quickly provided us with a source of greens. We harvested a lot for the freezer while they were young and good. We’ll see how many packets of these we use through the winter.  They take up space, but are an excellent source of iron. Last night I used them as an addition to a curry, but they work well in place of spinach in pretty much anything. The combination of weeding the garden as well as gathering food is very satisfying – Marigold washing up gloves protect you from the sting until it’s been removed by wilting the greens.

June – Lambs Quarters popped up on beds we’d prepared for other things, primarily where we’d used an old carpet to suppress the weeds. The plants were best in June, and by the end of July had begun to go to seed. By August the plants could be as big as trees, but the branches were too tough to be edible. We had some peas – which we ate mange tout style, however they needed more support & keeled over into a tangled mess. The broccoli was completely destroyed by slugs. The nasturtiums weren’t.

July – we had abundant chickweed for salads, we also planted pea greens (dried peas soaked for a few days till they sprout, then put in a window box for convenience – delicious in salads). The forest berries also appeared – strawberries first, then bilberries and raspberries – these were still going strong through August. Colorado potato beetles were another less welcome discovery. We dedicated some time to removing these little stripy creatures from the potato crop by hand – they excrete a foul smelling goo when handled.  However, the potatoes didn’t seem to suffer. We will have to rotate them next year – into the front garden as that’s as far away as we can get. During early communist times there was propaganda that these crop destroyers were actually dropped over the USSR by Americans.

August – the courgette and pumpkin plants started to thrive. We have enough people here not to have a glut of anything. By the end of August we have many green tomatoes, but nothing ripe yet. The first frost date around here is 15th October – we need to find an elegant way of growing tomatoes under glass as we use them a lot – and I wonder how the pumpkins will get on in this time. We have also realised this month that we’ve planted spring onions, not the large ones we wanted. The apples came into season and we started to experiment with juicing them and making cider, as well as drying slices on racks in the garden.

September – greens such as Ground Elder are now finished – no new plants springing up in shady spots, luckily the Sorrel continues to prosper so we’re using this a lot in salads and other recipes. We have courgettes!  Though we are not inundated, and so far we have only spotted 3 pumpkins – not the masses we though we would be facing. September is peak apple season, so we have been picking and juicing on an almost daily basis. Apple pie abounds. I was upset that August was not hot enough to do a lot of apple drying – as our rationed supplies of dried apple always ran out before it was time to open a new jar during the winter and spring – however we’ve discovered that we can use the oven instead. I have masses of cardboard trays for eggs which I slice apple onto and then put five of these stacked up in the oven, set at it’s lowest temperature, on fan, with the door open. They take a couple of hours to dry.

October – time to get the Geraniums inside. Disappointingly, the tomatoes did not ripen before first frost, and the plants are now destroyed by the frost, though we have a fine collection of green tomatoes inside.  By the end of the month we still have chickweed for salads and sorrel for a cooking green. We’re  using nettle from the freezer, and the ground elder and lambsquarters are a distant memory. Even the types of mushrooms have changed – now we’re onto Hedgehogs and Winter Chanterelle with the very occasional Porchini.  We’re busy bottling applesauce and juice… more on that later.

The willow we planted in the autumn did not take, but the living willow fence we put down in the spring has thrived – so at snow melt in 2011 we’ll be able to take cuttings from this to re-plant our fuel supply. As well as using the land on the other side of the lake, we’ll put a row down the very long strip of land we own down the valley – only a couple of metres wide so perfect. It would also be great to have some hazel to coppice – something to think about for the future.

The miracle that is Air Yeast!

October15

One of the brilliant things about hosting volunteers here is how much they teach us.  Over the summer, Rosie returned. She’s been doing all sorts of interesting things since she was here last year – including working in a free shop in Nottingham, taking over an allotment and teaching Forest Schools – where they take little ones into the woods and teach them skills as well as just how to play outside. Rosie know someone who is running an art project called Exponential Growth. This project encourages people to use a yeast culture that they grow, care for and share.

We were sent a starter culture from Loughborough in the UK which languished in the fridge for a bit while we searched for some rye flour to feed it. Luckily it was adopted by Joshua when he arrived at Nový Mlýn. Joshua has been travelling through Israel and Palestine as well as the further flung outposts of Eastern Europe and acted as our master baker while he was with us.  Bread was hand made on a daily basis.

We were concerned that our pet yeast may not survive without Joshua to care for it, but we’ve discovered that we can make a daily loaf of delicious sourdough bread in the bread machine. If course, it doesn’t quite have the character of the range of loaves produced by Joshua, however it does have the advantage of at least being bread, made at home on demand and much nicer than store- bought loaves.

We keep the pet yeast in a ceramic jug with a knitted cotton cloth over the top and feed it at least every 12 hours, each time adding matching quantities of water and flour – so the end mix is 1/3 starter, 1/3 water 1/3 flour. It doesn’t seem to matter very much which flour we use as the yeast breaks it down into a smooth bubbly batter.  Once the jug is full of a frothy mix, we stir it before tipping most of it into the bread machine – (4 tea cups full, if you’re counting), then add two tea cups of other flour, a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and a flat teaspoon of salt.  We then set the bread machine so the loaf will be ready for us first thing in the morning (so often it has an extra 6-8 hours to sit and ruminate further).

We all miss Joshua very much, especially Bunbury, but he lives on with us in yeast form.

Novy Mlyn and our ABC’s (Katie & Rich)

December3

Apples! The amazing discovery by Nic and Katie of how amazing thinly sliced apples soaked in honey is on porridge ..and how un-amazing it is if you soak cubes of apple and pear in honey…
Baking, Beans, Bike Rides, Burrrito eating contests and…..BUNBURY (Nic and Mikes‘s new little puppy named after our lovely, sophisticated and exciting home town)!
Chopping wood. Excellent form of anger release. Composting toilet. Poo with a view. Satisfying. Constipation. Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese
Digging holes. Composting toilet holes. Who would have knew this was rich’s dream job? professional poo digger.
Eating amazing foods. Curries, Roast dinners, Vegetarian delights and excellent beer and mulled wine. going to be hard to go back to a backpackers diet of crackers and tuna..
Forrest. Some of the most stunning scenic walks we have been on. Nic and Mike are one lucky couple.
Gigantic knitting needles. The talented knitter Nic and her epic needles that knitted the first ever once you start you can’t stop jumper.
Haircuts. Richard received a beautifully crafted Mohawk..with mike’s very short clippers. Henrik’s bullet wound! Shot by a rock in a poo hole!
Indoor soccer matches. Gave an insight into how unfit a few workaways were. Irish Football game – tragedy!
Jams. Henrik on lead guitar, Noel on the ear piercing tin whistle, Richard on deep smooth vocals and Katie with earplugs. Special note to Henrik for his talented guitar playing.
Kitty cats. With both of us not having the strongest of love towards cats we have made a complete turn around. Pavaoc, George and little Zizka made us fall in kitty love. Going to miss the morning cuddles from Zizka and the face plants from George.(don’t worry George..things will be ok without your balls)
Lifting bucket after bucket of rubble from the dining room. Tyre flooring experiment is now near completion. just waiting on that wood! Hopefully it will be a huge success!
Mushrooms. Eating mushrooms, picking mushrooms, cooking mushrooms and Noel drinking mushrooms. think we may have become part mushroom? Middlesborough = SHITE! HAHA
Nights out in Tabor. Epic. How could we not forget the Hoegarden beer, great feed at two cats and foosball tournaments and 12 hour sessions…
Oooooooooooooooo!! The discovery of a real breakfast in Tabor!! This had to be the happiest day of Mike and Nic’s life (ok maybe a slight exaggeration but still, you can’t go past a great cooked breakfast after a few too many beers at the Lev)
Porridge. sweet beautiful amazing porridge. thinking of marrying it rather than marrying Richard. And can’t forget Ping pong. Had our first ever game of epic ping pong. with everyone in the pub…going to bring this game to the Olympics. Pumpkin Pie! James thanksgiving treat. Poker – thanks again James….for your money!
Questionable motives behind Richard’s online dating service for Noel.
Restoration. The marathon restoration of the bookshelf. so satisfying to see it blissfully clean and varnished. Raw meat should also be mentioned here….Rich = thumbs up, Katie = undecided.
Sawing through massive logs gave us both massive guns and a massive need for tea breaks. Stalkers…Clay ones.
Tea glorious tea. Maybe the result of late night toilet runs but tea is VERY important in a days work needed at regular 2 hour intervals (or half hour ones).
Undulating hills on cute little bikes make the bikes seem less cute and more demon like…but so rewarding when reaching the destinations of Cernovice and Czech Castles.
Violent – Noels chopping technique! Actually just Noel in general.
Workawayers..Claire, Henrik, Noel and James. Our stay would not of been the same without the American arsonist, Smooth Swede, Impotent Irishman and the anti-dish American. Wedding of the century – Henrik and Lenke (BFG!).
Xrated on-line dating profiles of Henrik and Noel.
YES!Yes yes yes…the discovery of a hangover cure drink in Tabor. still yet to decide if it actually works or not..
Zizka adorable. We will very much miss Nic and Mike who made our stay so pleasant and rewarding. Thanks so much guys, we will send you a bucket load of cheese from England or maybe we will start a good cheese factory in Tabor.. Summer will most certainly bring upon a return visit to the beautiful Novy Mlyn as I don‘t think we can stay away for too long!

Winter falls early

October17

We have inadvertently stepped through the back of the wardrobe into Narnia. After a brief hailstorm, the snow began to fall… not a flurry as we were expecting, but a blizzard which continued for days, not hours. The temperature dropped suddenly and rapidly… fortunately the day before we’d bought two new fire stoves – one for the bathroom (how nice, to have a bath alongside a wood burning stove) and another for our bedroom. With the old range in the kitchen and giant barrel stove in the upstairs lounge we have been able to keep all the rooms in use at a decent temperature – though the hallway is now down to 12 degrees c.
More worryingly, there are still green leaves on the trees here, and I have heard the sound of migrating birds taking a rest from flight through the blizzarding snow. As with the flooding early in the summer, the locals say that these kinds of weather conditions are seen every 5 years or so in the Czech Republic, but it certainly must wrong foot many species to have winter arrive mid October. I hope this is temporary (we have lots of trees to plant yet, and not enough wood cut by far) however the snow is still falling five days later.
Luckily, as well as chopping wood, we have been insulating in recent weeks. Rosie – a workaway visitor – put her carpentry skills to use by ensuring that all the secondary windows were able to close properly. I also had an idea to use the cheap Ikea Irja curtain poles (29kc) installed directly into the wall* around the windows to hang a secondary layer of curtain (behind the thin, decorative curtains we have in the rooms currently used. As insulating curtains we have used the cheap Ikea single Mysa Gras quilts (69kc) which fit perfectly into the alcove of our Vienna windows. They are lightweight, washable and allow some light through, but substantially thicker than curtain material. We can keep these curtains shut during the longer winter nights, when the temperature outside drops off as soon as the sun goes down. Claire and Emily did a sterling job on Thursday – putting up many more curtain rods so we are now as insulated as we can be until I next visit Ikea for more supplies.
Did I mention the number of pairs of socks the house came with? We have put these to use as insulators of the current (temporary) plumbing system. They look rather like an art installation… I need to think of a good title for it.
Yesterday morning I had to clear a path through the snow to the composting toilet outside… we moved it to the back of the garden because though it was convenient to have it close to the front door, you did feel somewhat exposed when trucks came past the garden. Now we have a fantastic view up the valley… currently a wintery landscape of frost and fir trees, and beautiful white scenes from every window. Definitely not what I was hoping for in mid October.

*The curtain pole goes in via a parallel parking type manoeuvre. We cut the metal curtain pole to 3cm longer than the gap, then on the left hand side of the window, with a masonry drill bit the same diameter as the poles, drilled a hole 3cm deep angled towards the corner of the wall on the right, then again in the same spot, parallel with the glass, and a 1cm hole on the opposite side.

Nový Mlýn Dried Apples

October8

This year, we wasted not a single apple at Nový Mlýn. In terms of sustainable living, the two of us could probably live on apples alone as we have a vast number of trees here. Experiments in the past which failed included storing apples in the cellar wrapped individually in paper in 2007 (out of sight equalled out of mind, and we never got round to using them before they turned bad), cooking apple sauce for the freezer in 2008 (which is still in the freezer), cutting them up and putting them raw into vodka – which created great apple flavour vodka, but not so great vodka flavoured apples which we didn’t use. I tried adding apple to recipes such as West Country Stroganoff – however Mike wasn’t keen, and in general we don’t eat deserts – so though the Tabor Apple Bomb was nice, it wasn’t going to use up even a small percentage of apples.
The process of juicing the apples was really messy (especially before we had water here), and we need a device to crush the apples before putting them in the press. This is something we need to work on when we have a larger apple crop. We plan to make cider in the future – I do hope that the apples are of a good variety for this.
So, this year, as soon as apples started falling from the trees, I began to experiment with sun drying apples. At first I carefully cored each apple and sliced it using a kitchen mandolin from a Moseley jumble sale. It’s possible to prepare the apples really quickly – you need a very narrow sharp blade to cut out the core by cutting a circle the size of a ring around the stalk. As you slice the apple, you can pick off any bits of seed, and the fibrous flakes around the core are no problem as they are sliced so thinly.
Leaving them in the sun directly dried the very thin slices of apple out quickly, but was way too interesting for all sorts of flying insects – a layer of muslin above and below the apples solved the problem. I needed some kind of wire rack so that air could circulate underneath, and came across two wired bed bases in the attic – once we’d cleaned these up, they were perfect. We positioned them in the middle of the garden – for maximum sunlight and apples would dry out within a couple of hours on a hot day.
Once the apples were dry, I put them in large jars with a piece of fabric held in place with an elastic band as a lid. These were placed in the kitchen window so that they could continue to dry if necessary. They have been a great success. We put them out on the kitchen table as snack food in the evening, and they are quickly devoured. I’ve now labelled the jars with the month for consumption so that we can share them with visitors throughout of the year.
A note: the first apples were not so ripe and produced sour apple rings – which were good, but different from the sweet apple rings later in the season. We tried pear, however these dried rather differently – rather thin and lumpy – Rosie & Esther’s Pear Chutney was a far better use for them.

Flourless chocolate cake…so easy

October3

As cooked by Rachel

INGREDIENTS

* 4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped (I USE ¾ BAG OF TRADER JOE’S CHOC. CHIPS… WITHOUT MEASURING…. DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER MUCH. 😉
* 1/2 cup butter
* 3/4 cup white sugar (less is more. not too sweet, brings out choc.)
* 1/2 cup cocoa powder (plus a little bit more to coat the pan with)
* 3 eggs, beaten (by hand)
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch round cake pan, and dust with cocoa powder. (JUST SPRINKLE COCOA POWDER OVER A GREASED CAKE PAN WITH A SPOON. THEN TILT IT BACK AND FORTH SHAKING IT AROUND, TILL THE COCOA COVERS BOTTOM AND SIDES WELL.)

2. In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and vigorously stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

IMPOSSIBLE TO GO WRONG. NOTHING MUCH IN IT. NOTHING MUCH TO IT. EXCEPT, OF COURSE, HOW FABULOUS IT TASTES.

Using a helicopter isn’t eco friendly

October19

I watched an interesting documentary recently about a family involved in an eco home project. In order to speed things on a bit when their home was inaccessible because of road conditions, they USED A HELICOPTER TO FLY IN BUILDING MATERIALS.

Did these people genuinely believe that their efforts could in any way be labelled ‘sustainable’ when, surrounded by forest, they airlifted wood in to build their home? What did they think this would do to their carbon footprint?

In a similar vein – I listened to a radio program this morning about sustainable travel – in which they skirted round the fundamental problem – if you are travelling by plane, it’s not a sustainable holiday. The man interviewed, who runs a sustainable travel website, recommended that we travel less frequently by plane, and, I quote “we should all start taking less frequent, longer holidays, like we used to” – like who used to? the landed gentry?

And if another person tells me that “using a dish washer actually uses less water than washing by hand” – I will scream (at the sheer horror that so many otherwise intelligent people can be so easily ‘greenwashed’). Do the maths. Do you really use a bath full of water to wash up a cup? What research did the marketing department of said dish washer manufacturer base their claims on? (update: the comparison was with people who wash dishes under a running tap). Why would you accept this without question – unless you were looking for a convenient excuse not to modify your lifestyle in the face of global warming.

We’re going to hell in a hand-card, and it’s our own stupidity wheeling us along.

Domestic carbon sequestration

October18

This morning I was thinking about chimneys. A strange thing to wake up wondering about but bear with me. We had our chimneys swept by Vaclav Havel on Thursday (namesake of the first president of the post-communist Czech Republic). It was all very high tech – surprisingly – we had been expecting Dick Van Dyke I suppose. The 21 century equivalent brings with him a camera and lights in order to film the chimney lining to check that it’s safe.
After our chimney fire two weeks ago, I cleaned the sand out of the chimney (filled to extinguish the blaze). With the sand came out big clumps of carbon, solid like soft charcoal. When I had looked into the burning chimney, the walls glowed like a furnace – it was this charcoal like lining which was burning.
Carbon sequestration has been happening in our chimneys for the last 20 years (Vaclav Havel said they had not been cleaned for a considerable length of time.) Currently the science exists to take the harmful carbon out of the pollution from coal burning power stations. The problem has been the cost of including such technology – and seeing as global warming has until recently been intangible – then there is no direct financial benefit to energy companies to include the technology.
Though there is a logical argument for us burning wood as a source of heat – it is a renewable source of energy as the wood is taken from a sustainable source – I wonder how far down the line is development of domestic sequestration.

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