Easier, better or both?


Mushroom walk

We had another wonderful walk in the woods today.  Along ~1/4km length of path, we saw hundreds of mushrooms.  They were spread all over  the woodland floor in clumps, rows and circles. Here are a few photographs to show you some of the species that we saw today.

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Gluten-Free Banana Bread

I made some gluten-free banana bread today, with a couple of  over-ripe bananas that have been hanging round in the fridge for ages. The banana bread was easy to make, it had a super consistency and tasted gorgeous.

Recipe

1. Set the oven temperature to 175 degrees Celsius

2. Into a blender/food processor place:

  • 2 bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 60g sugar
  • ½ cup sunflower oil

3. Mix together until smooth.

4. Add the following dry ingredients to the above mixture:

  • 200g gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt

5. Mix again until smooth

6. Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin

7. Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes or until a fine skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

8. Leave in the tin to cool for a few minutes, then turn onto a rack to finish cooling.

Slice and enjoy.


Pheasants

We have been adopted by two male pheasants, Pherdinand and Phred. This is somewhat of a mixed blessing. They have stunning colouring and are fun to watch strutting around the garden, but a menace when they get into the veggie beds and decimate the plants.

Before the boys took up residence, I thought that pheasants were the stupid. Their lack of road sense is legendary. They rush frantically in front of oncoming cars, then bob backwards and forwards trying to decide which way to run.

However Pherdinand is an altogether brighter bird. He & hubby share a passion for mizuna, which has led to an arms race in the garden. Hubby has been testing all manner of mizuna-defence-devices, and thought he’d won when he constructed a wire cage around his prized leaves. But … a few days later the leaves were in tatters. Pherdi had perched on top of the cage, depressed the wire till the mizuna poked through and proceeded to eat the leaves. We now have a bigger and better cage. For the time being, the mizuna appears to be safe, if somewhat difficult for us to harvest.

Hubby is quite besotted with the pheasants. He started throwing seeds out for them during the summer. As both parties developed confidence in the relationship, this progressed to hand-feeding. Pherdi, however is no longer happy to wait for his food. He now knocks on the back door when he decides it’s time for grub. He’s got hubby perfectly trained to feed him on demand, three times/day. He’s not so dumb, this pheasant of ours.


Tetsubin

We chose a wood burning stove with a flat top, as we thought this surface might come in useful sometime. When the fire’s going, the stove-top thermometer reads over 200 deg C. That’s a lot of energy, sitting (well, not quite sitting – but that’s a topic for another day!) right there. As boiling water in an electric kettle uses lots of electricity, we thought we’d rather use all the lovely heat being generated by the wood burning stove to boil the water for our evening cuppa’.

First we tried one of our stainless steel pots. The water got hot, tiny bubbles appeared on the bottom and we waited, and waited and waited. It never boiled – i.e. no big, enthusiastic bubbles. We repeated the experiment with a teflon-lined pot – same result. Interestingly, we gave up watching this one and about an hour later discovered that the water had all evaporated. This stimulated a debate between hubby and I as to the definition of “boiling”. He said that in order for the water to evaporate, it must have been boiling. I thought it wasn’t really boiling if it didn’t bubble properly. We don’t have a suitable thermometer, so couldn’t settle the debate by seeing if the water reached 100 deg C.

After repeating the experiment using different pots, varying the volume of the water, with and without lids, we decided that pots weren’t going to work and that we needed a proper stove-top kettle for the job.

I trawled all the local cookshops, hardware stores and other likely retailers looking for a suitable vessel. The kettles were all either ugly, badly designed or both. Scalding is pretty likely if you have a kettle with a handle that sits above the lid in a fixed position . This ruled out most options. Poor spout design and bold colours ruled out the rest.

Then I discovered the magical tetsubin –  beautiful, superbly designed Japanese cast iron kettles. I found the perfect one online. When it arrived, it was love at first sight. Petite and elegant, it holds 800 ml water, has a handle that folds down, out of the way, so that you can lift the lid, a spout that pours well and a little hole for the steam to escape. And best of all – when we placed it on the wood burning stove, it boiled!!!!!

Each evening we now gain enormous pleasure making tea using water boiled on top of our wood burning stove in our lovely little tetsubin. A much better way to make tea.


Wood Burning Stove

We live in a rural village and currently use oil to heat our house and water. We moved here from a  suburban house on the gas grid and have been amazed at how much more costly the oil-based heating system is. We are therefore exploring cheaper and greener energy sources.

Wood is a good option for us, as it is a renewable resource and is available at a fair price from beautiful woodlands nearby. No messy drilling or mining required! So we decided to invest in a wood burning stove.

We researched the myriad of models available for months and Clearview stoves stood out as having a wildly enthusiastic owner-base.  After a couple of visits to the gorgeous Clearview showroom in Stow-on-the-Wold and a home visit from their knowledgeable and enthusiastic installer Richard, we settled on a Clearview Pioneer 400, which was installed over 3 days this summer. This is our first wood burning stove, so we’ll keep you posted on our experiences as we get used to life with the “new baby”.