Hello...

Hello.
I knew at the beginning of the year that I wanted to let go of the blog. I am in a different place now and I need the space to work through a great many things. I intend to keep the archives up for a time, although I have removed the comment function.
If you have landed here - welcome and feel free to dip in to what was our life - once upon a time...
J xxx

Friday, March 29, 2013

Heading home




So happy to be joining in again with Soulemama - capturing a moment that I want to remember and share.  Wishing everyone a relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Real Souperfood!


I posted a photograph of a bowl of Scotch Broth a couple of weeks ago, and mildly threatened that I would do a recipe blog. Well - tada! -  here it is - fabulously rich and filling and delicious.
Another of the tastes of my childhood - normally made by my Dad on a Saturday night, in time for Sunday dinner - in fact, it is still called Papa soup in our family, because we all associate it with him. He still makes it and has a bowl every day for lunch. He, in turn, remembers his Grandfather crumbling an oatcake into his daily plate of broth.


 The basis of any good Scotch Broth is the stock (or broth, as US peeps call it). I have here a pile of good beef bones (a Highlander bullock from the next door croft), but you could use lamb, pork or ham bones,oxtail, or a chicken carcass. I put them in a large stockpot of cold water and sloshed a bit of cider vinegar in, as this helps to draw the minerals and goodness from the bones into the stock. I might have actually roasted the bones first, but I didn't have time, so in they went as they were. Let them sit in this acidulated water for an hour and then bring  to a simmer, strain off any scum, and let them burble away for at least 6 hours. Some people let it go for days, but I cook on LPG, so tend to worry about my cylinder running out.. Anyway - after several hours, we have a rich gelatinous stock, ready to make our soup. There is a good article here on the amazing health benefits of bone broth.


What makes this Scotch Broth, rather than just vegetable soup, is the addition of grains and pulses. We can buy a bag of Scotch Broth mix here, which has a mixture of pearl barley, lentils and split peas, but you can also make it with straight barley. I try to remember to soak my broth mix over night, but if I forget, then I would use plain barley, and soak it until I needed it.
I have one and a half cups of broth mix soaking here, I find that half a cup of barley or broth mix to one litre of stock gives a nice consistency to the soup.

So - bring 3 litres of strained stock to a rolling boil and add your drained broth mix or barley. Let it simmer away while you prep your veg.


Leeks first - I have three medium sized ones here, cleaned and sliced, and there is a small onion in there too The secret of a good Scotch Broth is to cook the leeks and the broth mix well, so let them simmer  together for a good ten minutes on their own. Add some salt to taste - about 3 teaspoons to start with and you can add more later.



Then add 4 large-ish carrots and  three quarters of a small turnip/swede/rutabaga* diced. Not too small, as you want this to be a good hearty pot of  soup. Add pepper, a spoonful of sugar (secret ingredient) and more salt if needed. Let it cook until the vegetables are tender.



Grate the rest of the turnip and another 2 carrots, add them to the soup with a handful of chopped parsley -  taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, until all the veg and pulses are nice and soft.


And there we have it - Traditional Scotch Broth -  the elixir of life. What more can I say?



More please Mum?



If it lasts long enough, you can freeze this soup, or it will keep in the 'fridge for a few days. Like a good stew, second day soup is delicious. It is one of those soups that  there is no definitive recipe  - you can add whatever you have celery, potato, cabbage, kale -whatever.You can make it a thin delicate broth or a rib-sticking stew by adjusting the quantities to your taste. Just check the consistency and add more stock if necessary.Everyone has their own version - this is mine.  Here are the quantities without the added blurb.

Scotch Broth
3 litres (quarts) stock (broth) made from bones
1 1/2 cups broth mix or pearl barley (soaked)

3 leeks
1 small onion
4 carrots diced
3/4 small swede/rutabaga, diced

2 carrots grated
1/4 swede/rutabaga, grated
chopped parsley - handful
salt, pepper, sugar.

* In Scotland we refer to the swede as a turnip, tumshie or neep. Swede is the English term, and rutabaga is the US name.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Seven Days
















Seven days past. A week in which we have had:

  • Golden Mornings
  • Breakfasts of home produced bacon and eggs - truly the best start to the day.
  • Some little crafty moments
  • Special friends for tea.
  • New earrings for Hope.
  • An excited boy shouting "My tooth's fallen out!!"
  • And some sunny yellow daffodils - because - surely Spring will be with us soon.
Have a wonderful week - wishing you some sunshine and warmth, wherever you are. xx

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lost in this moment




So happy to be joining in again with Soulemama - capturing a moment that I want to remember and share.  Wishing everyone a relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wandering in Spring and Time


 It's a fine day for the beginning of Spring - a brisk East wind- the best kind for drying laundry. I have two lines flapping away on the line this morning, but it is so nice that I feel like taking a little wander around. Come along - its not too far.


 Most of my pictures around the croft lately have tended to show just the field closest to the house, as that is where the cows and hog lambs have spent the Winter. There is another field on this croft - further down - I tend to refer to it as the" bottom top field." It slopes down towards the big drain that serves all the crofts in this part of the village. Its a nice place to wander around. What I like best about it are the remains of the old blackhouse that was once the home of the original crofters, probably in the 19th century. Lets explore!


There is not much left of the house now - many of the stones have been used in other projects over the years, and the original layout has been lost. Originally it would have been a long low building with a thatched and turfed roof - built to withstand the weather - thick  double stone walls, packed with earth and turf in the cavity.  One end of the house would have housed the animals and the other end was where the family living space and normally a separate sleeping room were. The peat fire was in the middle of the floor in the living space and the smoke would drift up and disperse through the thatch - it was kept burning constantly and never allowed to go out. Every year the straw from the roof was renewed and the old peat smoke infused thatch was spread on the fields before the crops were planted. It was a very functional and sustainable way of living.


I just remembered this picture of Kenneth, Louise and James in front of the fire at the Arnol Blackhouse. (well worth a visit). This has a stone floor, but I think our one would have been of beaten earth. It is such a pleasant, cosy fire - and really not as smokey as you would think. I wonder what stories were told, songs sung and conversations were had around the hearth here. Children would drift off to sleep, lulled by the glowing peat embers, and soft Gaelic voices.  The people who lived in these houses were, in the main very healthy. It was only when the Health Officials made them put fireplaces and chimneys in that  TB became a problem. It was found that smoke blackened thatch actually had antiseptic properties. Creosote had been widely used as a disinfectant before carbolic acid was discovered to do the same, and the roof thatch and timbers were saturated in creosote residue.  So once the bug killing smoke was removed up a chimney, its bug killing properties drifted into the atmosphere. (Even then the authorities thought they knew better.... I've just been watching Farmageddon and getting mad - and don't even start me on horse meat!!)

There seems to be three "rooms" or areas here, but it is hard to tell if the layout has been changed.  The family would have moved out into the more modern White houses which began to be built sometime in the early 20th Century, and this would have remained as a storage space cum barn. It may have been modified to suit changing purposes, but now it is tumbled down, used as shelter by the sheep.


Oh - but it is still a great place to poke around - imagining how the family would have lived. Hoping to uncover a small forgotten treasure left behind - maybe hidden in a hidey hole somewhere!


And wondering what they would have seen, stepping out of their door. Of course the land would be the same, but there would have been a string of blackhouses running all the way down to the loch - and all the way up to the hill - the remains of the original" street" can still be seen in every croft. It would have been  a busy scene - people fetching water, tending livestock and working in the fields, children running around and hens squawking.


You can still see the rigs where the crops were grown. This is a sheltered south east facing slope, and would have produced a good crop of barley or oats  - corn, as we call it here. An elderly neighbour has told us that not so long ago, he could stand down near where that white house is, and see fields of corn all the way along here.



Looking to the South - there is such a wonderful view of the Cailleach na Mointeach over on the way down to Harris. The landscape is much more open here than up at the house - it is a lovely place just to escape, or take in a different perspective, for a wee while.


Today, I found a large stone with a hole ground into it. Who made that? Why? With what? It is just a small cup-shaped hole - not big enough for grinding grain, I would imagine. Maybe it was  part of a gatepost - a latch hole perhaps? Always something new to wonder about.


Sitting here, musing on my discovery, I hear a scrabbling. Sally, our pet lamb from last year clambers over the wall to say hello, although I suspect she still harbours a vain hope that I might have a bottle of milk with me.


But time is getting on now, and I need to get back to some work. Lets head back up to the house. See- told you it wasn't far - only about 150 years! xx

I am linking up today with The Magic Onions for Friday's Nature Table. Do visit and see some very inspiring nature- themed posts.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seven Days


 What a wonderful week it has been here. With this view from the kitchen window - how could it ever be anything else? Yes, the clouds and piercing cold winds are never far away, but these sparkling blue moments make up for them.



Early in the week had us preparing for our first visitors of the year. It is always exciting going into Stornoway to wait on the ferry arriving. Here comes the MV Clansman steaming into the harbour and we are full of anticipation as we get ready to greet the arrivals.


The visitors are my sister and her husband, over from Canada. They are only with us for a few days, and we have a lot to catch up with. It is always nice to have guests who haven't seen the island before, as it means we can show off our favourite places. Here they are having just crossed the Bridge over the Atlantic to the island of Great Bernera. How good it would be if we could cross  right over the ocean as easily as we did there.



It was lovely to take a couple of days out and enjoy being tourists. We visited Bosta beach (another paddle) and the Iron Age house- Such a stunning setting, sea in front and hills behind.  It is still closed for the winter, but is well worth a visit if you find yourself here in Summer.



At the end of the week, James and I tried out the new footpath being built round the villages. it was another lovely day, and we were even out without coats!





Oh yes - I did shovel a lot of (ahem) manure this week. Still - all good stuff and i will benefit twice - once from the exercise and again from the fabulous harvests that will result.



And - I won a basket of fruit in a "Guess the Weight" contest! 

Just a few random snapshots of my week. Another Seven Days ahead - what fruits will they bring? Wishing you all the sweetest of blessings in the days to come. xx

Friday, March 15, 2013

This Moment


So happy to be joining in again with Soulemama - capturing a moment that I want to remember and share.  Wishing everyone a loved filled weekend - and so does Babe!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Around the croft



I seem to do nothing but apologise for the lack of blogging, lately, and here I am after another break.. I keep trying to get back into the rhythm of it all, but time flies, jobs begin to accumulate and we are almost at the vernal equinox already! We are really noticing the difference in the day length now, and the rising sun is moving steadily back along the horizon. A bitterly cold, but drying East wind has been around for a couple of weeks, but we have had some beautiful sunshine too. Apparently we were the warmest place in Europe, so that cant be bad.




The animals have come through the Winter well, thank goodness. Hope is thriving! She is growing so big, running and jumping around, trying out some hay, making friends with the others - checking out this strange new world she is in. We haven't managed to get any milking done yet, though. I am really quite disappointed about this, as it is the main reason we wanted to keep cattle. We just don't have a suitable place up here to do the milking. Originally the plan was to use the old barn down at the bottom croft, but, because Fiona was due to calf in the middle of Winter, we needed to have them up near the house. So that is the reason, - well, that and the fact that I might be a little bit scared! I got on the wrong side of Fiona one day not long after Hope was born, and she was rather annoyed with  me. I know Dexter's are small cows, but when they have you up against a wall, their heads are quite powerful! But -  we are working on the problems, and I am hoping that we can begin our dairying adventures very soon.


The in-lamb ewes have been moved to another croft in the next village. it belongs to a friend who had not been using the land for a while, so the grazing was pretty good. We will be lambing later this year - probably around the first couple of weeks in May, and will bring them back a month before then to begin feeding them up. The hogs ( last year's lambs) are in the top fields,near the house and we are giving the bottom fields a rest, letting the new grass grow in.


The polytunnel project, is, at last moving forward, and we are ready now for a still dry day to get the polythene on. I am really looking forward to this being complete, as it will make such a difference to the growing season.



The kitchen window is chock full of tomato, pepper and chilli seedlings, and the propagator is constantly full. I have various vegetable and flower seedlings on several tables up in the attic, and trays of chitting potatoes covering the floor - my favourite time of year!



And even though the new season leek seedlings are just peeking up in their trays now, we are still harvesting last years leeks from the garden. A bit wind swept and bedraggled, though I trimmed them straight into the compost heap before I brought them in.to make a pot of Scotch Broth with.


How delicious it was too! In fact -  I might do a recipe post some time soon, then I can make some more.♥



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