It’s in the air

Following on from yesterday, I did indeed go down the rabbit hole investigation for sourdough starter. It’s really interesting and also very important in human history as it has provided since at least Egyptian times bread to eat. According to Wikipedia modern yeast as we know it didn’t come about until 1871. This seems melodramatic but sourdough starter has quite literally saved millions of lives during most of the course of human history by providing us with something to eat.

Wild yeast which is what creates the sourdough starter is everywhere. It’s on flowers, trees, plants, skin. It’s on every surface virtually we touch. It’s different from the commercial yeast we buy. Each molecule of wild yeast is different from the next. That’s why no two sourdough starters are alike. The artisan bakers all produce slightly different bread flavours. If you produced a starter now you’d have your own unique sourdough bread, no one else would be able to reproduce that exact same one.

Here’s an interesting piece of sourdough history from the BBC website: https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20220711-the-worlds-oldest-sourdough

GOLD RUSH SOURDOUGHS

Sourdough’s history can also be traced to the gold rushes of the 1800s in the western United States, Alaska and Canada. Miners were known to keep sourdough starters with them and would sleep with the starters at night to keep them warm for making bread the next day. Rumour had it that they even began to smell like their sour dough and were then nicknamed “sourdoughs” as a result.

Sourdough

However, whilst doing my research I came upon something even more interesting. Apparently the father of the Xbox Seamus Blackley is also a bit of an amateur baker and decided he would try and make bread from wild yeast molecules still stuck to ancient Egyptian pottery. Having a lot of money he rocked up to a couple of museums and purportedly managed to capture some wild yeast off the said pottery. He then created an ancient loaf of sourdough bread in his own custom made ancient Egyptian style bakery. I must admit that if was incredibly wealthy this is definitely something I would be in to trying.

So all in all I think sourdough is pretty interesting.

My breakfast today. Beans on toast with cheese. On wholemeal bread…I don’t like sourdough 😆

In woodland news today, my chonky finch Mr Chunk is looking more and more like a Godfather gang boss by the day. Definitely got the touch of Marlon Brando about him. He’s a very big boy and is clearly leader of the finches. His favourite food is lettuce believe it or not. I definitely had him down as a salad dodger but I was wrong.

“Do what I say, capice”. Mr Chunk, leader of the finches.

Down the rabbit hole

Good news after that heatwave last week, everyone in the woodland survived the hottest U.K days on record. It was a battle keeping everyone cool, but the woodland with its leafy trees kept everyone reasonably cool.

There’s a new cockerel in town now. That brings the total to 4 cockadoodle doos. A family member contacted me after he’d been dumped in an enclosed fenced patch of green belt near her house. Fellow animal rescuers and friends Vanessa and Maria went straight over and after a bit of runaround he was eventually caught. He made his way to my woodland and to be honest he’s a lovely chap. My other cockerel Loftus ( don’t know if you remember Loftus, but he was the one who it took four months to catch in Loftus woods last year) has not been happy and has been crowing nonstop. How the neighbours haven’t complained I’ll never know. They say it’s just like background noise to them now 🫣. Anyway, this lad was found in a place called Browney Lane. I wanted to call him something similar so settled on Brawn. He was in isolation for a quite a few days and now he’s out with the rest of the gang enjoying the good life.

Brawn with his new girls.

Now this has nothing to do with the woodland but I do like to research frugal living and ways of living an off grid lifestyle. It really appeals to me to be self sufficient. I’m a vegetarian so the animals I have would be safe from being used as meat! I had toyed with the idea of buying a plot of land in Shetland and moving there. But in reality it’s probably just a pipe dream. Anyway I digress, the reason I mention this is I always fall down the Google rabbit hole and end up researching something else. For some reason I’ve been into researching what the Royal Navy sailors used to eat in the 18th and 19th century…salt beef and weevil biscuits mainly. This then somehow led onto how the American cowboys used to eat during the cattle drives of the mid 1800s. A chuckwagon seemed to be the mobile canteen for cowboys on long trails. Built by Charley Goodnight in 1866, it was originally an old army surplus wagon. He added drawers, a water barrel and Dutch oven to create this kitchen on wheels. The chuckwagon quickly caught on. The cook or Cookie was only behind the trail boss in seniority and his word was law. He’d manage to rustle up three meals a day working from the wagon. Apparently he was also a Jack of all trades and provided dentistry, veterinary services and barber services. Also probably many more….whether he was any good at such services is open to debate.

The food eaten was slightly like the Royal Navy in those times. Salted meats and hard biscuits. However, a never-ending coffee pot was always on the brew as opposed to the rum rations in the navy. Below are a couple of recipes from the American National Park Service website which includes Chuck Wagon beans and a sourdough starter. Both recipes can be found on https://www.nps.gov/grko/learn/historyculture/upload/chuck%20wagon%20recipes%20web.pdf

CHUCK WAGON BEANS
1 lb. dry pinto beans
Bacon or salt pork (optional)—a handful or several strips cut in small pieces 1 can tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or to your taste)
2 tablespoons chili powder
Salt to taste
1⁄2 cup rice (optional)
Pick through the beans to remove rocks or dirt then wash in cold water; at this point the beans should be in a pot for cooking. Cover the beans with water; the water should be two knuckles above the beans. Some let the beans soak overnight then cook them, while others cook the beans without the soaking. Cook the beans until they are soft, if salt pork is used, put it in with the beans at this time—anywhere from 1 1⁄2 to 2 1⁄2 hours—then add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes for the flavors to blend.
For a bigger crowd, you can use 2 lbs. beans and increase the other ingredients to suit your taste.

SOURDOUGH STARTER
Hundreds of recipes for sourdough starters exist and all are wonderful to work with. For our purpose, a simple recipe is to take 2 cups flour, 2 cups warm water, 1⁄4 cup sugar, and stir together. Set the mixture in a warm corner and stir daily for 4 to 5 days. The mixture will bubble and double in size as it ferments; it will produce a strong odor. If the mixture is not stirred or used for several days, a dark liquid will form on top—this is known as hooch, and is a alcohol, drunk by many of the old miners—but the mixture will become fresh again by simply stirring and possibly adding a small amount of flour and water.
The thing to remember about using sourdough is when some of the starter is removed to make biscuits, replace the amount taken out with the same amount of flour and water. For instance, if 1 cup of starter is removed, then put 1 cup flour and 1 cup water in with the starter in the crock.
SOURDOUGH BISCUITS
2 cups flour
1⁄4 cup butter or shortening 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 to 2 cups starter
Place the flour in a mixing bowl, add the soda, baking powder, salt, and butter—the butter or shortening can be melted and stirred into the dry ingredients or added cold then cut into the flour mixture with knives or fingers until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Finally add the starter—if it is liquid enough the starter will serve to form a soft ball of dough. Break the dough in small balls about the size of eggs and place in a warm Dutch oven with melted butter, flatten the dough to biscuit size. Cover the Dutch oven and let stand for about 10 minutes before baking.

Now sourdough starters are interesting in themselves as some bakers stated that they have been keeping certain types of sourdough starter alive for decades! Down the sourdough rabbit hole I shall now go….

Heatwave

Wow it’s hot today. I’ve had annual leave in for these two days so I can care for my animals in this heat. It’s been a battle I can tell you. I’m in and out with frozen water bottles, refilling paddling pools and water. I’m lucky that the woodland is well shaded with the trees but even in shade it’s unbearably hot.

Shady woodland but still blisteringly hot 🥵

My North Sea coast dwelling skin just can’t cope with such worryingly high temps. It’s currently showing 38 degrees Celsius on the mercury. It’s virtually unheard of such temperatures in the Northeast of England. There’s no air conditioning here other than supermarkets and some newer office buildings. The houses and businesses are built for the cold. I’ve got a fan on but it’s just blowing hot air. I need all the ice cubes and frozen water bottles for my animals, so there’s none left unfortunately to stick in front of the fan.

To help stave off the heat I bought myself an Australian bushman’s hat I found in a charity shop. It was actually made in Australia, it says so in the hat. Bargain buy at £5.

Trying to prevent sun stroke

There is some relief as my old house is made of old thick stone so it is cooler indoors. My kitchen which is partially underground as it’s been built slightly into a hillside is very cool. It also has Mediterranean type tiled flooring not due to heat but due to flooding as it’s easier to dry and clean. It’s currently 19 degrees in the kitchen which is lovely and cool. I’ve put my hamster in there and brought Nutmeg the baby turkey in. She was struggling with the heat being so young.

Decided to jump on the worktop the little scamp. But at least she’s cool
Mr peanut the hamster chilling on the tiled floor

I’ve been giving my bunny Maxy frozen bottles of water to cuddle into. He’s a fluffy lad and I am worried about him. Luckily he’s embraced the frozen bottles and is snuggled up beside it. I’ve also been spraying the ground he’s laid on with water regularly to keep the area cool.

Maxy with his frozen 🥶 bottle

Excuse me everyone, I can hear crashing noises from the kitchen downstairs…sounds like nutmeg is rearranging the kitchen. Must dash!

Nothing happened here

Last Sunday myself and Mally decided to have a walk around the lovely fishing village of Staithes which is around four minutes drive from our abode. It is a beautiful village with quirky cottages, snickleways and a harbour. Apparently Captain James Cook had his first job there as a teenager working in one of the shops in 1744. We walked in from the village next door called Cowbar. It’s connected to Staithes via a little walkway bridge. I saw one of those little blue historical information plaques on the side of one of the cottages. I did chuckle when I read it. I’ll let you see why in the pic below.

Another amusing sight met my eyes just a few steps further down the way. A group of garden gnomes were rock climbing . No I haven’t gone insane nor had the sun affected my visions of reality…I don’t think. Here see for yourself.

Pirates by the looks of them. Trying to take over the village 🏴‍☠️ I think at the bottom there is a member of the royal guard contemplating stopping them.

So into Staithes we went and it was as expected packed with holiday makers and day trippers. Mally had an ice cream…£3.80 for a couple of little scoops and a cone. Ah well can’t complain I guess as you need to remortgage your house just to buy a tub of lurpak these days.

Looking at Staithes from Cowbar
Cowbar bank

On the way out of Cowbar up the bank, I noticed a nice little bench. It too had a little plaque. I’m a sucker for a plaque. I pottered over to read it and smiled. It was a memorial plaque to clearly a very popular and now sadly departed feathered friend. It read “Have a sit with Wiggy The Cowbar Jackdaw” why thank you Wiggy I think I will.

I should be so lucky lucky lucky lucky

We also had a new addition to the henny flock. Big gorgeous hen Lucky. She was the sole survivor of an allotment fire. A lovely lady rescued her and she recovered beautifully. However, the lady’s garden was set up for pigeons so she needed somewhere to roam with other hens. She absolutely loves just pottering around the garden looking for bugs to eat.

Lucky!

I’m other exciting news, Mally has been hard at work fitting a proper metal farm gate to the woodland entrance. The rams kept jemmying the old one open with their horns. I kept hearing the sound of hooves and crashing and banging downstairs during the day. Every time I came downstairs there were muddy hoof prints everywhere. Now I was either being visited by the devil or it was the rams……spoiler alert it was the rams trashing the gate. Anyway the new gate looks fab and the rammers have been unable to use their jemmy horns this time. I’m sure they’ll find a way using their hooves as lock picks to open the gate soon…..

New gate!

With the jubilee just passed I had decided prior to buy a proper tea set off eBay. I needed to do the jubilee properly. Anyway, anyone who even passes my house now has to have a cup of tea with my set and a cream cake. I haven’t spent money on a tea set for it to go idle. I will get my monies worth I tell you! Eventually the novelty will wear off and it will be pushed at the back of the cupboard, never to be seen again until the house is being fumigated/ransacked after my death in hopefully many many years time.

Tea set from eBay…it has duckies on 😃
For the all important cream cakes 🧁

Mr Gobbles esquire

Been a bit quiet for quite some time as I’ve been run off my feet working and also looking after quite a few of the local wildlife orphans that needed a helping hand.

A new turkey arrived last week to make this woodland his forever home. He’s a gorgeous boy and has already lived an interesting life. He was living on a boat before he came here. He was rescued by his lovely mam from being made into Christmas lunch. So yes he resided on a boat before his mam could find him a safe home with other turkeys.

Now I don’t like to talk about fight club…but I am going to talk about fight club on this occasion. Mr Gobbles the new turkey came in strutting his stuff and this upset my old turkeys and they were like “oi, who do you think you are coming in here?” Anyway. One turkey at a time took on Mr Gobbles in a fight that can really only be described as handbags at dawn. They pushed and shoved each other until Mr Gobbles became head honcho. No injuries occurred and now everyone follows Mr Gobbles around. Fight club will never be mentioned again.

Mr Gobbles
The start of fight club…oh no I’ve done it again, mentioned fight club…oh and again!

I also hatched a turkey egg and 28 days later out popped Nutmega. S/he is absolutely gorgeous and is now enjoying time in the garden along with my other critters. She likes to bounce into the kitchen from the garden when I have guests and sit on their knees! Nutmega was originally called nutmeg, but a good friend of mine’s daughter decided Nutmega was better and so do I.

Nutmega. Baby turkey

We live next door to a pub, so we decided to pop in for a couple the other night as Mally’s brother was staying with us and we wanted to show him the local sights! We went outside into the beer garden which looks up into our garden and shed. Unfortunately we noticed a huge hole in our shed roof. It’s never ending the repairs on such an old house. But the night was a really good one as my neighbours came in and one had a present for me and Mally…a Christmas tree decoration! Yep I love quirky tree decorations. A lady was in the pub, another local who joined us all. She was blunt and to point with some off piste comments. After she left my neighbour said not to mind her, I said oh no I didn’t mind her at all and commented that she probably had autistic traits. My neighbour replied “oh no she’s German”.

Christmas tree decoration!
Pub beer garden looking onto the wall. Behind which is my garden.

It’s been a while

My birdies are still in avian flu lockdown. Hopefully this will end soon. It’s been boring without them all hopping around free ranging and causing mayhem. The rams are still ramming and I’ve bought myself a metal detector. I am determined to find Roman gold or Viking I’m not fussy. About a mile away from my abode an old 7th century Saxon burial ground was uncovered in 2005. Amazingly the burial ground of a Saxon princess was also found there along with gold coins and jewellery. I can only hope I may find something monumental buried in my woodland.

That’s what my digging uncovered…not the trowel but the round metal thing. Plus loads of nails 🙄
Lil Lacey decided to sit in an old chiminea and supervise my metal detecting

You know I love a good ghost story but I do get a little unsettled when things start getting spooky in the house. The house is around 300 years old so has seen its fair share of people and drama. However, I’ve been awoken the last few nights in the early hours to the sound of a female’s voice singing what sounds like a humming noise but almost operatic. I can’t tell where it’s coming from. It might be coming from somewhere outside, maybe someone likes playing music during the early hours, maybe I’m going insane. Who knows. I don’t hear it during the day only around 5/6 in the morning. I’ve set up cameras previously and never caught anything apart from the cats mooching around. Just going to have to put this down to another mystery this house has.

As it’s a Saturday night I’m having a glass of wine and hoping I’m not suddenly awoken again by strange singing. To be honest it was like a mythical siren calling sailors to a dangerous sea. It was such a bizarre but strangely alluring sound. I hope this doesn’t mean another flood is on its way!

A storm approaches

The weather was awful last week. It’s probably the worst storm I can remember. Gales, rain and snow hit Scotland and the north east of England. I was awake all that night worrying about my animals and constantly checking outside. Thousands of people are still without power a week later. I know how awful it is to be without power for a few days after my flood. Trying to keep warm during a very cold winter is draining. You can feel your health being sapped away. I just hope those still without power get it back on soon.

This power outage map from the website of the Northern power grid shows how devastating the power outage was for the North East this week.

I was in the woodland and noticed my white little bantam hens were in the farmer’s field next door. I desperately tried to climb over the cattle fencing and barbed wire as the hens seemed to be wandering even further away. Mally told me to leave them as he was sure they would come back. He said he thought they’d probably been doing this for weeks. I wasn’t so sure. However, by bedtime all hens were accounted for and safely tucked up in their coops. There is no danger of this happening again soon as all non-wild birds including pets have been placed in lockdown again this year by the government. A few bird flu outbreaks across the country has meant that all birds must now be inside or under cover. Last year this lasted for four months. The gang are not happy, especially the turkeys. We had to buy a 6metre poly tunnel to put them in due to their size. They are not amused!

Erecting the poly tunnel. Still a few extras to go in to make the turkeys enforced flockdown bearable

A new addition to the flock last week…a wild cockerel. A group of young cockerels had been dumped in some nearby woods. A young lady who walked up there everyday noticed them and has tried desperately for months to capture them. We all tried so hard but they just ran into thorny bushes and over fields when we approached. Anyway, the lady has been carefully feeding them everyday trying to gain their trust. Over time only one cockerel was left. Just a few hours before the storm started on Friday, the cockerel approached her and she was able to capture him in a dog crate. Maybe he sensed the approaching storm and thought he’d like to be indoors on this one. Success after four months of dedication by this lady!

The wild cockerel was brought to me…I’ve now named him Loftus as he was found in Loftus woods. I placed him in a covered isolation run on his own to assess his health. However, the turkeys decided they didn’t like the look of this new guy and by the time I had returned to the run with food they had given him a good slap. They had managed to poke through the netting with their beaks. Blood was pouring down his face. I quickly grabbed him and brought him into the house. I held a towel against his wounds and sat by the fire. I was devastated and felt like the worst person on the planet. This lady had spent months gaining the trust of this lad and I’d let my naughty turkeys assault him. I was sure he was going to die. How was I going to explain this!! However, the bleeding stopped quickly, I cleaned his wounds and placed him on a heat pad. He was completely fine as if nothing had happened. He’s been in the house with us for the past week and has been singing us awake with the song of his people at 6am every morning. He also decided he liked camping out in front of my tumble dryer for some reason.

Loftus in his favourite spot

Loftus has now moved up into his brand new coop and run with two of my hens as company. He’s safe from the turkeys as they are all in flockdown now!

Remember remember the 5th of November…..

To me bonfire night is a mixed bag, I hate it because of the loud fireworks and the stress it causes animals. But I also like the warm bonfires on a chilly evening, jacket potatoes and hot chocolate. I’ve put all my animals to bed early today. Filled all their abodes with straw and tried to bed them down before the fireworks start. As I’m typing I can hear a few going off. As a kid I loved watching fireworks but as you get older, wiser and I think more progressive as a society, I think do we really need loud bangs and flashing lights that bring misery to animals, people with anxiety and those who have to look after said animals and humans. Maybe just a garden party with a chiminea kicking out heat would suffice?

A Facebook memory popped up on my screen today from five years ago. I went with Mally, my sister and brother in law to York on the 5th of November. Now as everyone knows, it is bonfire night/Guy Fawkes night in celebration of the fact Guy Fawkes was prevented from blowing up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 in the gunpowder plot. So because of this we place a guy on the bonfire. However, in York they never put Guy on the bonfire as Guy Fawkes was born and raised in York. It is said his ghost makes an appearance on bonfire night and he sprints from the pub he was born in over the road to the York minster.

Anyway, five years ago we decided to visit the pub in which Guy Fawkes was born and on the very night his ghostly spirit is said to appear. Unsurprisingly it’s called The Guy Fawkes Inn. It’s a very old and traditional pub and it was packed. We sat in the beer garden and there was a very interesting mural on the outside wall.

Guy Fawkes Inn
That famous verse. On a wall in the beer garden of the Guy Fawkes Inn

Anyway, as with all my “ghost” stories, we sat, we drank beer and we waited. But no sign of old Guy.

All Hallows’ Eve

I’m sat up in the attic just for the hell of it, waiting to see if any spooks appear on this the spookiest day of year. So far nothing apart from a black cat slinking around the various boxes of bric-à-brac and piles of books. Sound from the street below is amplified in the attic. Rather than trick or treaters singing merrily from the street “Gis some sweets or I’ll egg your house”. All I can hear is the sound of sirens and someone shouting that the meat raffle in the pub next door was a fix….to be honest on the pub Facebook page it had a pic of the said raw meat platter sat on top of a radiator…most off putting I thought and also the fact I don’t eat meat..that also put me off.

It’s a pretty awful night weather wise. It’s been windy and heavy rain most of the day. It’s kept the trick or treaters in. I got Mally to limp up to the local shop earlier today to buy some sweets in case anyone did knock. But no sign of anyone. What a shame I shall have to eat all those sweets…it’s a tough job but needs must.

The attic is not looking particularly spooky tonight in all honesty
Attic stairs
Cagney has seen something in the corner!

Cagney one of my black cats 🐈‍⬛ loves the attic and she’s always looking towards the ceiling. I’ve looked but can’t see anything untoward….as far as I can tell.

Cagney has decided to make the effort this Halloween and dress up as Salem the cat from Sabrina the teenage witch. I think she’s done a great job.

See you can’t tell which is Salem and which is Cagney. Just for reference though, Cagney is in this pic 😁

I’m off downstairs now, bit chilly up here.

I just remembered I have a witches broom. It’s located near the front room fireplace. It came with the house…think they heard a witch was moving in 😂.

The broom came with the house. That’s the real reason I bought the house..the free broom 🧹

I can hear Harold the swan shouting from upstairs. He doesn’t like to be left alone. If I sit beside him then he’s happy as Larry (I wonder who Larry was and why was he so happy?).

Happy now I’m sat beside him

As you can tell, thus far it has been a most uneventful Halloween. However, I hope I haven’t spoken too soon……..🎃 👻