Renovating a lovely, old (ex) park bench…

When we moved to Wales nearly 13 years ago we brought a park bench that had “arrived” several years before, maybe in the 80s, at the flat TOWPCOE had bought off a friend of ours. I had lived there too, in the past, so the bench had been part of our lives for a while.

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It has sat in the garden looking lovely and being used in the dry, summer months… The surface had become covered in lichen, really beautiful and a fabulous little eco system, however the lichen made it uninviting to sit on when damp, and lets face it that was almost all of the time! (We do live in Wales after all!)

I’ve been trying to take it a little bit easier in the garden, sitting down and enjoying it sometimes, not always rushing about, (as is my wont!) So I decided that it would be good to have a bench that was more inviting to actually sit on. I started with scraping off the lichen, feeling very guilty about it. However we do have a lot of lichen on the trees around the garden so there is still plenty of all the varieties that I scraped off.

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I then found that the grain of the wood was looking very lovely, and felt that it would really look good with a bit of work.

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So I decided to take the bench into the polytunnel over the winter, I could then keep it dry and work on it whenever I had the time.

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I started with sandpaper, but found that I wasn’t getting into the grain enough so I went backwards in the process and used a wire “brick brush” to lift as much of the lichen and algae and whatever other wildlife was existing in the wood. I finished it off again with sandpaper. I used the brick brush on the metal, and removed most of the loose rust, although it was too tricky to get into some of the gaps between the metal. Both of these processes took quite a few hours, I’ve no idea how many!

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bench 3.5

I put one full coat, and a second in some places, of Hammerite rust busting paint on the metal, getting a bit on parts of the wood, unfortunately. Then I treated the wood with Osmo WR basecoat, which is supposed to stop blue stain and mildew, then 2 coats of Osmo UV protection oil, satin finish.

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The colour is a little darker than I would have hoped, I have no idea what kind of wood it is, it certainly doesn’t look like oak, TOWPCOE says it might be elm… It looks ever so inviting, I had to hold myself back from sitting on it as it was still wet!

bench 1

Now we have a very posh looking bench that should be drier, or at least able to be dried, so that I can sit in the garden and enjoy the products of my labours.
Let’s hope the weather is good this year!

Sourdough revived (sourdough no. 4)

You may have read my previous sourdough posts. I have killed a previous starter, in fact twice, I got some back from my brother and killed that too!
Last time I was in London my brother in-law gave me some more, this time from a pizza restaurant, it made very nice bread. I made a few batches, have left it two weeks and it was fine. Then last weekend I forgot to start it off on the Friday night… oops, then forgot to start it off on Saturday night… oops again. I work as a supply teacher and didn’t have work booked on Monday so I set a batch off on the Sunday night.
Sods law I got a call on Monday, worked, got home and found the starter bubbling away, now I had work booked on Tuesday and Wednesday and nearly threw it away, but the fridge had room so I put it in to see what happened, I do hate throwing food away.

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On Thursday (so it had been 24 hours out then 2 days in the fridge) I had a day free, so I looked at the starter, it smelt fine, (kind of sour!) I mixed 50g of flour with 100g of boiling water and then mixed that into the starter from the fridge. I wanted to get an answer as to whether I would be able to use it as quickly as possible so wanted to warm it quickly. After about half an hour in a very low oven (about 40 degrees Celsius) it was obviously alive and well so I went ahead. I took away the flour and water that I had already added from the recipe. This time I also added about 80 g seeds, a mix of sesame, poppy and sunflower, I added them with the olive oil after the one hour proving.
I also tried the bread in a loaf tin for a change, that also seems to have done well, tin oiled and floured and dough proved in the tin.
I do use the oven to prove it, as the house is pretty cold at the moment, I just leave it less than the 3-6 hours recommended in the original recipe I was given, yesterday the loaves had doubled in size in about 1 1/2 hours.

So a recap of the recipe (with experiential changes)

24 g of the starter you keep in the fridge,
add 150g of tepid water and add 150g of flour,
mix and leave covered in a warm place overnight.

To the remainder of the starter add 10-20 g of flour and up to 10 g tepid water mix well, leave out of fridge for a couple of hours to allow the yeasts to get going on some of the new flour/food then put back in the fridge. (I left it overnight once and then had very active starter that kept trying to escape from the plastic pot in the fridge).

Next day (or some time later!) to that add;
250 g tepid water and mix
add 500 g flour (1/2 white, 1/2 brown)
5 g salt and mix.

Leave for 10 minutes in a warm place then mix by dragging the edge into the middle with your hands, repeat twice.
Leave for an hour.

Add 20 g olive oil and 80 g or so of seeds if you want.
Mix as above then tip out onto a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes, divide in two, prove, either in a basket lined with a flour dusted tea towel or in a tin, oiled and floured.
Leave in a warm place until doubled in size (1 1/2 to 6 hours depending on how warm it is).
Bake in a hot oven 220 degrees Celsius, (put a roasting tin with 1/2 pint of water in the bottom of the hot oven, this gives a better bake) for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

It freezes really well, lasts well and is supposedly easier to digest than “normal” bread.

I read (probably in McGee on Food and Cooking) that oil can inhibit the gluten release from the dough, hence adding it right at the end, salt on the other hand did something good, can’t remember what, so goes in at the beginning…

Chillies in Wales.

This is the first year I have grown chillies, I picked up a free packet of seed from a local garden centre, (I can’t bear things going to waste!) I started them off in a heated propagator and grew them in the poly tunnel.
cayenne peppers ripening in the poly tunnel

We had a slow supply of chillies in the late summer, I used some and froze them as they ripened, (chopped without seeds), they weren’t as hot as I thought they might be, considering they are cayenne! As the first frosts approached in early December I thought I’d better pick the last of them that hadn’t ripened on the plant, and was going to freeze them green… I put them on the side and then got waylaid doing other things, as is my wont!

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There were some lovely horned fruits, couldn’t resist a picture.

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They started to ripen and shrivel and after a month sitting in a warm kitchen they are looking lovely, now I’m thinking I should roughly chop them and put them in a jar, try to keep the heat, for some heartwarming winter meals…

A view from above…

Last September we eventually had the fascias and witches peaks on the house painted. Looking at old photos we can’t imagine that they have been painted since the railway closed down in 1964! It was an expensive business we hired a cherry picker and on the last day I went up in it to look down… What a view!

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To compare, 2 pictures from ground level… (not taken at the same time)

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First batch of green tomato chutney this year.

So I started, one of the baskets from previous post was 4 kg so the recipe is as follows (for variations see previous chutney post).

4.4 kg green tomatoes
1.2 kg onions
1.3 kg small apples
70g fresh root ginger chopped very small
2 pints vinegar
50g chilli powder
500g sultanas
1kg sugar
2 tsp salt

I have shown the method in pictures. For more detail see previous post. This batch made 20 jars in a selection of sizes.

Chopping the tomatoes first

Chopping the tomatoes first

The tomatoes and onions are in the pan, now the apples, this year half from my trees, sharp and half from my inlaws trees, sweet, 1.3 kg down to just over a kilo peeled and cored, you could of course leave the peel on.

The tomatoes and onions are in the pan, now the apples, this year half from my trees, sharp and half from my inlaws trees, sweet, 1.3 kg down to just over a kilo peeled and cored, you could of course leave the peel on.

All "veg" in the pan, I put on the heat when I'd finished the onions.

All “veg” in the pan, I put on the heat when I’d finished the onions, the ginger is in too.

Stir it all up and add the vinegar. Up to that point it had taken one hour.

Stir it all up and add the vinegar. Up to this point it had taken one hour.

After about half an hour simmering, added all the rest of the ingredients and stirred. Keep stirring every 10-15 minutes to stop it sticking too badly to the bottom of the pan.

After about half an hour simmering, add all the rest of the ingredients and stir. Keep stirring every 10-15 minutes to stop it sticking too badly to the bottom of the pan.

After about half an hour with everything in.

After about half an hour with everything in.

After two hours of simmering it's a deep orange/red. I used 50g of chilli this time, I think it's a bit hot, but as it will fade with age (who doesn't!) I'm not bothered.

After two hours of simmering it’s a deep orange/red. I used 50g of chilli this time, I think it’s a bit hot, but as it will fade with age (who doesn’t!) I’m not bothered, no molasses in the cupboard this year so it’s not as dark as usual.

Messy jars, with jug and jam funnel, as you can see I'll use any old jar, some are on their 4th or 5th use.

Messy jars, with jug and jam funnel, as you can see I’ll use any old jar, some are on their 4th or 5th use.

Cleaned lidded and ready to label. The last bit that wouldn't fit in a jar on a plate, really quite pokey this year!

All cleaned with a damp cloth, especially the thread of the jars, lidded and ready to label. The last bit that wouldn’t fit in a jar on a plate, really quite pokey this year!