Mudlarks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday was wet, very wet. The rain did occasionally stop for a short time but it was as if the weather was hurriedly refilling celestial buckets ready for another deluge. Undaunted six of us gathered at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust to help Phil and Michelle improve the path from the main track through the Trust to the door of their cabin. At one time we think there had been a cinder path but over the years soil had formed and been deposited on it and recently it has been mud except in the driest spells. Some flat stones had gone in as stepping stones and in the worst places cord wood had been put down but everybody who walked along it trailed mud into the cabin and wellies were a must.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy lunch time we had moved the stones and sticks and dug out a wide shallow trench. The sticks were barrowed to an area beside one of the field fences where we are creating a new hedge bank. The mud went on top. In due course hedge trees will be planted into it and as the old wood rots down it will nourish the new plants. It is also a particularly good way of turning a waste material that could be a nuisance into something valuable! Eventually we hope that instead of fencing which uses non-sustainable resources and requires maintenance and replacing we will have hedges which can be laid to give an entirely sustainable stock proof boundary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had noticed a plant I did not recognise growing next to the path and Alison could not identify it either so we asked Phil. It was Siberian Purslane, a perennial salad plant so we both asked permission to take a small clump for our own gardens. Both Alison and I love perennial edibles as they save so much work! The back legs just disappearing belonged to the orphan lamb which Michelle is rearing and which follows her around like a dog! One of the ducks came too to see if we had turned up anything juicy for her to eat.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALuckily for all of us Peter and Alison had brought their soup thermos and a mug of Peter’s lovely warming carrot soup thawed us all out. With quiche and salads followed by tea and cake we were refueled for the afternoon. Our bring-and-share lunches are always a feast.

Fergus, Phil and Michelle’s son, was rather miffed that we then started to move the heap of crushed building rubble which was to be the base of the path. He had been riding his bike up and down it and just got the heap suitably compacted and the slopes to his liking! We tried to be nice to him and take stones from the edges!

By just gone 2pm that first section was filled with rubble and we had formed a chain to pass the bricks from the pile to be laid out beside the path ready for Michelle to lay them tidily on sand. These bricks have been accumulated over the years thanks to Phil’s Dad who was an inveterate Womble long before anyone had ever heard of Wombles. He has collected old furniture, wood, paving slabs, bricks and all sorts of other building materials from neighbours, friends and skips in Weston-Super-Mare and brought them down to West Wales. Whenever he visits he seems to spend time using all this stuff to put up or refurbish sheds and other buildings. He must have saved the Trust a fortune! I am always amazed at what people think of as rubbish and send to landfill but which, with a little imagination, can be re-used.

Laying the bricks was really a one-person job and Michelle assured us she was happy to do it in stages when she has time. So we moved on and did the next section round the side of the cabin.

The cake I took this time was a recipe from Nigel Slater’s ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ – a lovely dark chocolate spice cake. All the chopping takes a little while but the rest is easy and quick and the cake is sumptuous.

2 teaspns ground cinnamon,2 teaspns ground ginger & 1/2 teaspn ground mace (I used nutmeg) sifted with 250g SR Flour

100g dark chocolte chopped, 80g marzipan in small dice, 200g chopped stoned dates mixed

3 balls crystallised ginger (I used the cubes and guessed the equivalent amount) and 70g candied orange peel chopped mied

200g golden syrup, 125g butter and 125g dark muscovado sugar in a pan

2 large eggs beaten with 240ml milk.

Line a small rectangular roasting tin and pre-heat the oven to 180 deg.

Melt the sugar, syrup and butter then add the orange and ginger. Bubble for one minute.

Take off the heat and add to the flour stirring with a metal soon until thoroughly mixed. Add the eggs and milk and the chocolate, marzipan and dates and mix well again. Pour into the tin and bake for 40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin.

Mr Slater says it makes 12 pieces but he is very generous – I cut mine into 20. He also says to top it with melted dark chocolate and more chopped preserved ginger but that felt unnecessary and would have made it harder to eat at a picnic type meal so I left it off.

 

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