We have our pottery back to ourselves again now, so it’s back to the wheel for us. We work at our kick wheels, set either side of the old pot belly stove which has been generating a steady gentle heat to keep us warm on the coldest of days for the best part of 40 years now. I’m amazed at how it has kept on going for so long with only minor repairs.
Throwing pots out of these ground rock ceramic pastes is a slow process. We have to plan ahead so that everything must be thrown thicker than you might like and then there is a lot of turning to be done. Some times we rough the forms out on one day, then let them dry overnight until they are almost completely dry, before finishing them off to the thinner desired cross-section. They can’t be bone dry, or they might break under the pressure of the turning tool, but they can’t be damp either, as then they will chip and tear. Milled rock paste isn’t like ordinary clay. It’s just not very plastic. It needs to be turned just before bone dry. Grinding away at what is essentially sand and water mix really takes the edge off my home made metal strip turning tools. I have to resharpen then after every 2nd pot, just to keep the edge keen.
The garden is starting to respond to the increasing day length and the hint of warmth in the air. I can see a poppy bud starting to show some red colour and there are swelling buds on the blueberries. We have just picked our first asparagus spears as an aperitif before our other vegetable dinner. These are all good signs of the warmer spring weather to come.
The Japanese Wasabi plants have grown well through the cool wet of the winter and are looking good right now. It’s that hot dry summer heat that knocks them around. I planted onion seeds 2 months ago. A lot of it came up on time, but for some reason, one packet of seed, just sat there and did nothing until now. This variety must need warmer weather to germinate. all the other plants are now 100 mm or more high. I hope that these plants can get enough growing season before it gets too hot and dry for them in the summer? Just down the row a little we have a nice crop of Pak Choi, lovely for stir fry, or just steamed with a little garlic, ginger and soy. 2 mins and melt in your mouth, with still some nice fresh crunch in the warm but fresh and crunchy stems.
I have made what is probably the last batch of marmalade for this year. As the citrus season has all but come to an end. I make a batch of cumquat. blood orange, and lemon marmalade. I finish it off with a dash of whisky before bottling. It’s unusual, it looks great and tastes better.
tonight’s dinner is spinach with ricotta, Brussel sprouts, initially lightly steamed, then finished in a pan-fried with garlic and chilli, served with steamed potato and pumpkin.
Another recent meal was pork medallions pan-fried in olive oil and garlic, he deglazed with a splash of a nice chardonnay, served with lentils simmered in home-made marrow bone and veggie stock, then plated up with mushrooms in white sauce.
We have plenty of cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts at the moment, as the winter chill weather draws to a close. I have been enjoying lightly steamed Brussel Sprouts, which are then pan-fried in some home-made stock. In this case chicken stock, and finished with a little sesame oil and pan-fried and tossed for a few minutes. They get a few caramelised spots on them as they roll around, a slight grind of fresh pepper and some vegetable salt. Delicious.
No better way to enjoy the crisp cold of winter.
There was an article in a recent issue of ‘New Scientist’ magazine. (No. 3032, 1/8/15) That told of the health benefits of eating bitter foods like Brussels sprouts.
The Brassicas have several bitter phytonutrients that are produced by the plant to make them unappetising to predators – like us, as well as caterpillars. Sulforaphane is one such protective phytonutrient that gives them the particular sulphur smell. It has anti-cancer functions and is an antioxidant. I usually have a small nibble on what there is in the garden, snapping it off and eating it raw while I wander around, weeding and watering, crunching and chewing as I go. They must be good for me?
I really like the idea of going to the garden each day/evening and picking what needs eating on that day, because it is absolutely ready to be picked, organically grown and totally fresh. This is self-reliance, living with the seasons.
Enjoying the now!
Best wishes from Steve and Janine, who are vegging out in the late winter.