Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Enclosures

We're doing a bit of enclosure, with one of the Croft's communards - who has a lifetime of experience in fencing - building the most solid sheep fence I've ever seen, including this clever box brace: 

Crofting and enclosures are uneasy partners - the Crofter Act of 1886 (source: was the result of street protests in the 19th Century by the Highland Land League against the injustices of the Highland Clearances (Fuadach nan Gàidheal, the "expulsion of the Gael", source: Wikipedia.) Land was enclosed by wealthy or hereditary landlords, and people driven from their smallholdings. 

Now, ironically, we're enclosing in order to stay, more efficiently, on the land.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Whether or not to have a Bellwether

Yesterday, I started training the bellwether, Button, using the long rope technique recommended in Tim Tyne's book on sheep keeping "The Sheep Book for Smallholders."

What's this rope thing?

OK. A step closer. Just to keep the old guy happy.

Hmmm. I can see he has some grain in his hand but I'm NEVER going to get to it...

Ça va, savarin

My Christmas surprise was a savarin, made in our wood-fired bread oven (baked in a slightly too hot oven, it was done in 10 minutes):

Syrupy savarin
300g flour
4 tablespoons warm water
15g fresh yeast
4 eggs, beaten
5g salt
25g sugar
150g unsalted butter
Some brandy

For the syrup
250g sugar
600ml water
Peel of one lemon
3cm piece of vanilla pod, or a chunk of root ginger
Juice of half a lemon

Make a dough with the flour. Make a well in the centre of the flour and crumble in the yeast and add the water. Leave until the yeast goes gooey. Then add salt, sugar and eggs (NOT the butter) and stir together. Now start a process of lifting and dropping the dough with your hand (it makes a good slapping noise) to get as much air into it as possible. Keep this going for 5 minutes until the dough is really elastic.

Cover the bowl and stand in a warm place. I allowed mine to rise overnight, and then beat it back in the morning.

Warm the oven to 200ºC (or, in my case, start a fire in the bread oven and leave to burn for about 3-4 hours.)

Warm butter so that it is soft, and beat the butter into the dough. It will go quite shiny.

If you have a circular baking tin - the type with a hole in the middle - then use that. Otherwise aim for a relatively shallow tin so that your cake ends up wider than it is tall.

Butter the tin generously.

Spoon dough into tin, and sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise again.

Bake for 20-25 mins, or until the savarin is brown and shrinks away from the sides of the tin.

Remove, cool a little, remove from baking tin.

Meanwhile, prepare the syrup by boiling the water with the sugar, the lemon peel and the vanilla pod for about 5 minutes. Cool a little, and add the lemon juice.

Now place the savarin into the syrup (that's what's happening in the picture) and spoon lots of syrup over it. Keep doing this until the savarin has swollen a lot.

Pour a little brandy over the top and serve to ooooohs and ahhhs of your satisfied audience.

Galling, for the Holm Oaks

I saw this gall on the leaves of one of our Holm Oak Quercus ilex:

Insect gall, I think...


A Christmas walk today up from the Croft to Turó de Samon. Found a wonderful example of owl pellets - egagròpila in Catalan;

Could this be Strix otis, the long-eared owl? Or Strix aluco, tawny.

and what I think might be a Beech Marten's droppings - Martes foina

From behind a Marten