Books are unbelievably great.
Today, I have learned that the majority of hops used in the Belgian brewing industry are produced in the UK, because Belgian hop production is very limited, and because the varieties produced in the UK are much better suited to matured beers than hops produced in central europe, because the latter produce undesirable flavours after a period of time.
This is two-times pleasing.
It’s pleasing first-off because as the author points out, hops were first introduced to the UK by Flemish weavers in the Middle Ages. Nice to give something back, I thought.
It’s secondly, and more profoundly pleasing personally, because of serendipity.
The plan had been to build a natural swimming pool, but we quickly realised that we didn’t have enough space, or the funds to build one, so settled on the idea of a pond that we can sit in.
Luckily, the only available spot for it happened to be the most naturally placed, and easiest to construct on, a mini-cutting running away from the house. This meant that we could get away with building retaining walls for the water, rather than having to dig down into very rocky ground.
I don’t mind admitting it, this project hurt. Generally, my main form of exercise is tapping on a keyboard. Although since moving here we have spent much more time outside doing things, I cannot claim that hard physical graft is one of my preferred activities.
Because the soil is poor in these parts, we decided to build deep boxes to create a rich, fertile growing medium for the vegetables. The beds are sited on a slope, and so it was necessary to terrace the ground in order to keep the boxes level.
All of sudden, the sky fills with huge, drifting flakes. Grab the camera, open the kitchen window, see if the pixels can capture any of the soft whiteness wafting in the breeze …
I pour a second beer and sit back in the easy camping chair. The scrawled label says 6.5%. The rapid mellowing, soporific effect suggests that it has developed greater potency in the bottle since being brewed 18 months ago at our previous home in Cornwall.
The sun disappeared behind the trees an hour or so ago. I gaze up at the uncountable pinpricks of light slowly emerging from the increasing darkness. A double flashing light emerges from behind the roofline of the house. After a noticeable delay, the dissipated jet roar follows from the same location. The cocooned passengers make their way leisurely across the night sky.
This is our version of a 100% rye sourdough bread using the three-stage Detmolder method, as described in ‘Bread’, by Jeffrey Hamelman. The book describes a 90% rye recipe, which we have adapted to suit personal preferences.
When feeding a sourdough starter culture, it is normal practise to throw away the portion of culture that is removed and replaced with fresh flour.
We have a thing about waste. The prospect of throwing away something that could be turned into food grates, and so we set about trying to find a way to utilise this redundant mixture.
There are several aspects of humankind’s activity that contribute towards defining the feel of an area, a region.
Architecture is one of the most obvious. It is a particular kind of joy to witness the shifts in building styles that are influenced and dictated by the changes in materials available, and local customs and quirks that have manifested themselves over generations.
As well as these obvious elements, there are many other subtleties that take time to filter through to one’s conscious appreciation.
Fence posts, for example.
We had a few basic requirements when searching for a new home. On my list, towards the top, were (A) the possibility of leaving a decent-sized meadow area to grow wild, and (B) an interesting hedge. I’m fairly low maintenance.
This small shed was constructed to protect our grass bales and Hazel faggots. We found a just-right length of galvanised steel guttering in a nearby reclamation yard, and were struggling with how to connect this to a downpipe; practically and aesthetically.