Have hook will travel

You may remember that one of my goals in 2017 was to meet up with friends I have made here and through other social media channels. Having a target gave me focus and so I easily reached my goal of seven visits – I went just down the road for some, and as far as Manchester and Devon for others. However, one trip that was planned did not come to fruition until a couple of weeks ago.

When I originally mentioned my intention, Jenny from Simply Hooked commented that she’d love to meet up, but that she lives in such a remote part of the UK it seemed unlikely. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I started looking at the possibility of organising a trip and it wasn’t too long before advice had been sought and bookings made. The advice was ‘come in May before the midges and children appear’. However, it was too late for 2017, so it had to be 2018.

So, earlier this month, we set off for the west coast of Scotland, stopping on the way to visit New Lanark for a few days and buy a little bit of wool – you get a discount if you are staying at the hotel, so it would have been churlish not to.

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Beautiful New Lanark and the River Clyde

After staying for three nights, we continued our journey, arriving at our final destination to beautiful weather. Jenny and George kindly provided lunch the following day, and the weather was obligingly good enough for us to enjoy the sun and company in their garden.

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Sunshine and smiles

Later in the week we visited the little art gallery in the village and I was able to snuggle some of the beautiful crochet that Jenny has for sale there:

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Isn’t it lovely?

Sadly we were only there for a week, but we plan to return. More on the beauty of Scotland in later posts.

This is my life: cheese, squares and a tiny egg

Please note the comma between ‘cheese’ and ‘squares’ – this post is not about processed “cheese” abominations.

So, in reverse order…

Lorna and Tiffany's eggs flanking today's contribution

Lorna and Tiffany’s eggs flanking today’s contribution

This morning I embarked on the usual chores. Once it’s light enough (and sometimes well after) I pull on my Wellington boots and venture out into the mud (known as ‘our garden’ in the summer) to let the hens out. I open their pop hole and the door that lets them out of the small run, then I go into the shed to get a handful or two of corn to scatter for them as a morning treat. Whilst they are pecking around in the corn I take a scoop of layer mash from the feed bin and go and fill up their feeder in the run before returning to the shed with the scoop. It was as I was exiting the shed after putting the scoop away that I noticed what I, at first, thought was a small, slightly muddy potato where the hens were eating their corn . I closed the door and stooped down to examine the object, which turned out to be hard and warm. As far as I can think, there is only one warm ovoid object that might appear suddenly in our garden and that’s an egg… but this one was tiny. So clearly, between the corn being scattered and me finishing the feeding (a period of less than two minutes) an egg had very quietly been laid. It’s so small I’m sure the hen responsible barely noticed – she certainly did not announce its arrival. Who laid it is a mystery… such tiny eggs used to be laid by Perdy, but she is no longer with us. Since Lorna and Tiffany are currently laying normally, I think it must be a first post-moult egg from either Esme or Anna. My money is on Esme as the colour is closest to the eggs that she normally lays. For comparison, the picture shows a Lorna egg (left) and a Tiffany egg (right) with the tiny one in the centre.

Beautiful squares from Jenny at Simply Hooked

Beautiful squares from Jenny at Simply Hooked

Not having solved the mystery of the egg, I returned to the dry and got on with breakfast… homemade yoghurt, homemade granola and home-bottled apple (from apples grown by my dear friends at Highbank). I do love the feeling that I am managing to deliver such a large proportion of my diet without using commercially processed foods. I settled down to work and not long after that the doorbell rang… Henry the postman delivering a new insert for my diary, a book about cheese-making and a lovely parcel of crochet squares. Not long ago, I had an offer of some unwanted crochet squares from Jenny over at Simply Hooked. She has been having a love-hate relationship with this particular project and had decided to let it go… offering the squares to me to use for our friendship blankets that are raising funds for Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. The squares she sent are made of gorgeous, soft merino/cotton yarn… I really hope we can do them justice. If you want a chance to win the resulting blanket, or one of our other creations, I still have raffle tickets on sale and you could also win a long weekend at Denmark Farm in the lovely eco-lodge… details of the raffle here.

I must mention, at this point, that despite a lack of posts, my hands have not been idle in recent weeks. Amongst other things, I have been working on a very large granny square in my palette of blues. This is going to have its corners folded (like a traditional envelope) in to form a sofa cushion cover. It’s nearly large enough and has been a lovely relaxing project… easy on the fingers and the brain!

So, what about that cheese? Well, my first attempt at cheese-making has been a success. I was able to turn the cheese on the evening that I made it (this had to be done twice) and it could be handled easily by the next day. I salted the surface and left it to drain further on Sunday. That morning I used some of the whey (non-salted and pre-treated the night before with lactase enzyme) to make raspberry and white chocolate muffins. The young cheese is firm and crumbly, with a mild creamy flavour. Sprinkled with some freshly ground pepper yesterday and served with homemade bread, it provided me with a very acceptable lunch. In the evening, I crumbled some into baked potato scooped out of its skin, then mashed it up and added a little fried bacon. The resulting mixture was returned to the baked skins, topped with a little local cheddar and grilled for a very tasty dinner.

My friend Snufkin tells me that  she does find the unpredictability of cheese-making frustrating and that’s why I’m a little nervous of the volume of milk and time required to make hard cheese, but I shall give it a go soon. In the mean time, I will be settling down with my new book on cheese-making to drool over all the different varieties and try to work out what I might try next…

-oOo-

I’ve had a hard time writing this post today. I heard the news about the shootings in France when I was part way through and I wondered whether to continue as I was so upset. But, in solidarity with all those who write – and draw – about the world around us and continue to have the freedom to do so, I completed my post (with tears in my eyes). Let us continue to prove the the pencil truly is the most powerful weapon.

 

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