Saturday, 31 May 2014

Colours of May

Bleeding Heart over the pond

Bachelor's Button

Pale Purple Lilac

White Lilacs - the scent is divine

Dame's Rocket - a glorious splash of garden colour

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Bumper Crop of Rhubarb

Three days ago, the rhubarb was only 6 inches tall.   The next day I pulled seed heads from it, to prolong it's harvest period, because 1 day just really wasn't enough.  It sure is playing catch up rather quickly,  from the cold spring weather.   Yesterday I made rhubarb apple crisp.   I made a 9 x 13 pan, for three of us, which lasted mere moments and might I add, I had only one small serving!

  Our rhubarb is a mix of a soft, pale red and white types.  I've thought about digging it up and planting some of the deep red varieties, but having an already established rhubarb patch, which is growing well, seems better than putting in the time to establish a new patch, even if it would make prettier, rosy red baked goods.

Today I started picking rhubarb to freeze.  I took off the leaves outside.  The leaves contain oxalic acid, which is a bit toxic. It makes an interesting mordant for nature dyeing but not something you want in the house or to risk eating.  I tossed the leaves into the compost pile.

 I rinsed the stalks in cool water to remove grit and critters.  Luckily there was only one little beetle-like bug on them.  I actually measured it out yesterday when I was making the crisp, and tried it again today.  Two stalks chopped, measure about 1 cup in volume.   Skinny stalks a little less, but close enough.

Of course I started all this before I checked to make sure I had freezer bags.  I did, but only the large size.   I grabbed some regular sandwich sized bags and portioned 2 cups of chopped rhubarb into each.  I did first try it in the large, heavy weight bags, but it seemed like such a waste of space and materials, so I dumped it into the smaller bag.   I had 7 cups of rhubarb.  I'll go out later and harvest a bit more to make up the last little bit to make a 4th bag.   I squeezed out as much air as I could from each small sandwich bag.  

Then I zipped them shut and put them into the freezer bag.  I keep a handy indelible marker in the kitchen junk drawer for marking items with dates.  In this case, I also put quantities on.  I find this important because while I remember most of the quantities, there is always something which makes me wonder what was I doing when I tossed these items in the freezer without any details.  I didn't mark the month down as rhubarb has such a short season that it shouldn't really matter.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Master Spinner 5 Dye Day

Fibre reactive dyes are for cellulose fibres.  Cottons, Ramie, Linen, Rayon, Tencel, Bamboo are the types of fibres which fit in this category.   Fibre reactive dyes require soda ash, salt and urea as additives.  Interestingly, it seems to be the percentage of salt which affects the Depth Of Shade (DOS).    Dye days are always hectic and this year was no different.   Small groups and knowing what we are doing should help, but as always, the human element rules.   Despite that, it has it's fun moments and as always, the results are at the very least satisfactory, and usually intriguing.  The nice thing about fibre reactive dyes is that they require low temperatures and the actual cooking time is fairly short.   They are set afterwards with either a simmering hot water bath or several days sitting in the dye.

Here are my results on cotton and ramie.

Dyeing multiple colours in one pot, with plastic bag containers.

12 step colour wheel

8 skeins from yellow to blue. 

fun techniques in rainbow and varigation dyeing

Monday, 19 May 2014

Master Spinner 5 and FOOL

It's been a wild week.   The level 5 Master Spinner course was last week.  It was probably the worst possible week for me, since it's the week before Fruits Of Our Labours, a rather intensive SCA Arts and Sciences event held in the Kingdom of Ealdormere.    It takes a lot of work to pull it together and the week before tends to be busy.  Throw in 5 days of intensive spinning instruction and I was a bit of a wreck.  I hardly had time to pack, let alone check for last minute pre-registrations etc.  It was an interesting exercise in stress and time management, that's for sure.

However, I survived.  The course was fabulous.  I learned much as well as had fun.   Donna Rudd, our instructor has a unique way of presenting techniques and fibres which I might not normally bother with.  But I try them and I learn and I produce samples that I'm pretty happy with.   I had trusted people to open the event for me, but I was able to duck out of the class early because the instructor is a pretty awesome person that way.  I'd  borrowed my son's car for the week and when I got home, I tossed my spinning gear in the middle of the living room.  I loaded up my camping gear and kissed hubby good bye as I headed out the door for the event.  Yes, I've lots of unpacking to do today, from both event and course.

Period hose class - Leg Bags

Fruits Of Our Labours is a whole weekend of classes on various medieval or medievalish arts and sciences.  Our crew, whom I refer to as Team FOOL, because without them, we wouldn't be able to pull off this event, has to be the best group of people ever to work together.  We get a great variety of classes from people who donate their time to teach.   We had classes from blacksmithing to Making a Viking Apron dress and everything in between. I was able to teach two classes, including a cotton spinning class.  I had a 13 year old girl attend who blew me away with her skills and ability to just pick up a not so easy technique, really quickly.  It was totally awesome.
Blacksmith's tools and toys

 There were three woodworking classes.  One made games, another made a drop spindle and the third made flax distaffs.
Flax Distaff- woodworking class
I was able to take the distaff class and while I ran out of time to finish it, as I had to prepare for a class I was teaching, magic elves finished mine and presented it to me.  It's beautiful!

Bowl turning on a pole lathe.
I had a great time, though by last night I was pretty tired, but after a nap this afternoon, I feel back to normal.   Now to start planning next year's event.  And Master Spinner Homework.  Always, Master Spinner homework.................

Monday, 5 May 2014

Economical Housekeeper

In 1845, The New England Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt Book was published and sold for the grand price of 25 cents.   Interestingly enough, the inside title page says the name of the book is The American Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt Book, written by Mrs. E.A. Howland.  The copy I have access to notes that it is the second edition, reprinted after brisk sales as the original 1500 copies sold out in a mere 15 weeks.  The second edition has those recipes with no practical utility removed and more than 50 new recipes added, which they tell us have been tried and approved.

The cake recipe which struck my fancy was recipe number 103, Bedford Cake.   It's a simple cake and the recipe looked to be not horribly expensive to make, not overly rich, flexible and I had the ingredients on hand.  

One pound of flour.  It's easier to weigh it but depending on your flour and the humidity, it's between 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 cups of flour.    I'd start with about 3 cups if you don't have a scale.  It's a pretty flexible cake.   One pound of sugar is 2 cups.  A quarter pound of butter is 1/2 cup.   Four eggs are what the chooks laid the day before, so the number was quite hand.    A tea-cup of milk is about 1/2 cup.   If you don't have sour milk handy, add a couple of teaspoons full of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk.  I used skim because it's what was in the fridge.   I also used sour milk because the rising agent called for is saleratus, which is another name for baking soda or sodium bicarbinate by this time.   Spice and fruit to suit your taste.   That took a bit of thought.  I had currants, so about 6 oz or 1 1/2 cups.   I also put in 1/2 cup of candied citrus peel because not only was there some in the pantry, but it really adds a nice zing to the sweetness of the currants.   For spice I added a variety of spices commonly used together in these types of cakes, a blend of cinnamon, mace, allspice and nutmeg.

3 cups flour (454 gm)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cups butter
4 eggs
1/2 cup sour milk
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup candied citrus peel
1/2 nutmeg, grated (about 1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mace
2 tsp cinnamon

cream butter and sugar together.  Stir eggs in one at a time until they are well blended.  Add milk and stir well until blended.  Mix spices, fruit, baking soda with flour.   Combine the flour mixture with the wet ingredients, stirring together just until smooth.   Pour into greased 9 x 9 pan and bake at 350 until done.  Start checking about 25 - 30 minutes.    I've not done this in my home oven yet, only the bake oven, so I'm sort of guessing at the time.  The bake oven was cooling down and that adds a bit of extra time to whatever one is baking at the moment.

This was really delicious!  I was a bit worried about the amount of sugar because it's twice as much a lot of recipes with these sorts of ingredient ratios have, but it was fine.  Definitely a sweet cake, but the citrus peel did cut that a bit and the amount of spice countered the sweetness as well.