Friday 29 July 2022

Preserving As A Social Activity

 One thing I mention a lot when I give my talks on preserving is how much I think it should be a social activity. It's far nicer to share the tasks and the harvests, it creates community, strengthens friendships and is just a down right productive use of your time. 

I'm lucky as I have a few friends that I can share this passion with. 

This week I did some of the social preserving I preach. My friend Lauren, who farms cherries and apricots, messaged me to say they had lots of fruit in need of preserving and did I fancy an afternoon working through it. 

Monday 25 July 2022

I Have A Pressure Canner!

 I've finally done it and purchased a pressure canner!

It's something I've been talking about for over 5 years so it's great to finally own one.

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Taking Stock - Roger Morgan-Grenvillle - Book Review

I got asked a while a go on twitter if I fancied reading a new book coming out. There was no ties or conditions with it, so I agreed (after all my book addiction is only slightly cheaper than my problem with tools).

This one was Taking Stock - A journey among cows, by Roger Morgan-Grenville.  

It's funny timing as I've been listening to a lot of books while I work wood about writing, my other passion. One book I'm listening to is about the genre of "creative non-fiction" and I don't think I could pick a more perfect book that illustrates what that is than this one. The book is beautifully written and talks about the history of cows and their future in the 21st century woven in a story of a man trying to learn and experience more in the subject.

I found the way it was done was very compelling, he worked on a cattle farm while writing it, gaining first hand experience, as well as traveling around the country to find out more and what ends up on the page is easily digested. 

The history of the cow I found particular fascinating and there is some real soundbites I can pull from the book about how we've changed animals over time, one stayed with me - "Apart, perhaps, from the wolf, no animal has been asked to undergo so much change on man's behalf as the cow"

He also talks about the villainization of the cow and yet how important it has been to some rewilding projects. He talks about our hunger for beef but advocates self control over moving away from eating it completely. He talks about these conflicts and how it's not the cow's fault, they never deserved to live in the unnatural conditions some live in now. 

Basically he talks a lot of sense. 

If you have interest in the food system around you and it's future, in the history of our food and animals then I'd recommend this book as a great read. Well written and well rounded. 

Thursday 14 July 2022


 It's funny how the hot days of July can almost make you completely forget about the cold of winter, not that the one we just had was particularly bad. 

But I think a lot about winter during these hot days. I think about the abundance of summer and about preserving food for winter and spring. Of course this is still on a small scale, and would not be enough to see us through, but it all helps. 

July brings lots of soft fruit. Just two years ago I put in 10 extra gooseberry bushes and 10 blackcurrants and they have produced in abundance this year. It's incredible how much they have cropped. 

The gooseberries have been super sweet and perfect for snacking on raw (the kids take them to school as snacks). But I have also used some to flavour a vodka liqueur and put some with salt to create their own brine to make a salty and sharp berry that I'll then dehydrate. Some have gone into the freezer to be used later as well. 

I've kept on with the canning. Using the water bath method I have canned 15 jars of gooseberries to sit beautifully on my shelf and be used for pies and crumbles later on. 

The children have also used them for baking. I came in the other night and the boy was top and tailing some while his sister made a banana muffin recipe - gooseberries to be used in the place of chocolate! 

Sharp and sweet at the same time, they go amazingly well in baking. It makes me wonder why they have fallen out of favour over the years? Is it the processing time of topping and tiling them? Or have tastes changed so they're too sharp for most modern palettes? These cakes were incredible and we'll be making them again! 

I have about 3kg left that I've just picked this morning, it's the last of them and I think they'll end up in the dehydrator for long term storage. I love them like this, they taste like super sharp sweets and are very moreish! 

What's your favourite use for gooseberries?

Tuesday 5 July 2022

On Another Magazine Cover - Woodworking Crafts issue 75!

 Each month I get sent the magazines I have articles in. I look forward to opening the envelope and seeing my article in there (which I later cut out and keep in a folder). 

But I was utterly surprised when I opened it yesterday to pull out the most recent copy of Woodworking Crafts to find myself on the cover! 

In this issue I'd written a piece about making the rose arch for my garden and without telling me they'd put one of the pictures on the front cover! I was gobsmacked! I have to admit to quite liking this picture, I look like a proper woodworker! 

Two magazines in the newsagents with my mug on at the same time! What an honour! 

Friday 1 July 2022

On The Cover Of Wood Carving Magazine!

Okay, So it's not the cover of Vogue but I was pretty excited to see myself on the cover of Woodcarving Magazine this month! 

I've been writing for them for a while now and when I got asked if I'd be keen to be the guest editor for a month I jumped at the chance. I got to write the welcome page, interview a carver (managed to get Chris Pye to say yes which I was super excited about), as well as a review and an article about making carved butter moulds. 

I was walking on cloud nine until my eldest came back from school, looked at it and said "Looks like you're sucking a sweet!" then flicked the page over where she knew she was in the magazine! Good to have them keep me grounded. 

I really enjoy writing for magazines and this is one I used to buy 20 years ago when I was an apprentice. I have well over 50 articles published now in a variety of magazines but write regularly for Wood carving magazine, Wood turning magazine, Woodcraft magazine and Country Smallholding. I love that it helps make up the weird and wonderful way I can make a living! 

I think starting blogging over a dozen years ago helped me get to this point with writing, although I very much still need my wife for proof reading! 

I also love writing fiction and I'm 57,000 words into my first novel (very grim dark though so might not be to the taste of some readers here!). Funny as I always found English so hard growing up and at school. 

If you buy a copy let me know what you think! 

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