Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.

Journal

Learning about fermentation at Gartur Stitch Farm

sourdough bread

One of the hazards about having your own business is that everything becomes about the business.

I knit a blanket and I'm suddenly charting the patterns out for newsletter subscribers, I want to learn to hand letter and I am sharing the results day by day on my business instagram. . . it is insidious, it is pervasive, it is really not very good if you want hobbies that take you away from the cares and stresses of the business.

So this year I am making the effort to learn about things - for I love learning, I have a great wish to know lots of details about all kinds of things - that have nothing to do with my business.

I started with fermentation.

Because I take steroids every day the natural helpful bacteria in my body is a bit underpowered and I am prone to yucky infections, especially when stressed.

I decided that I needed to up my intake of good natural bacteria.

I had been meaning to learn how to make fermented foods for ages but the worry of it all getting a bit too funky and out of hand and a genuine fear of poisoning people was holding me back.

I even had a couple of books, both excellent - Liz Earle's The Good Gut Guide, Sarah Raven's Good Good Food - but something was stopping me from actually trying.

Then I saw that there was a course at local Gartur Stitch Farm dealing with all kinds of fermented foods - from sourdough bread and sauerkraut to kombucha and kefir - so I booked a place.

It was such a great decision to go - Kat Goldin who runs the courses is a natural teacher, she is so down to earth and fuss free that you become confident in your own ability to do things.

Over the day we learned to make sauerkraut and fermented carrots, sourdough bread and kombucha, we had a delicious lunch featuring lots of fermented foods.

We got to take away the things we made along with starters to set us on our way when we got home and a pack of recipes.

Now I have kombucha brewing away on my kitchen counter, there are fermented vegetables in the fridge but the real revelation is the sourdough bread.

I had tried making sourdough before, but I had felt that I was a slave to it - making a loaf seemed to take days and days and I was always feeding and worrying about the starter.

I only eat bread at weekends (because I can't seem to stop eating it if it is in the house) and with my previous attempt I seemed to be constantly making loaves and loaves - none of which was that great if I am honest.

The bread we made at Gartur - from Muriel the starter - was simply mixed up, stirred about a bit and shaped on the Saturday and then taken home to be put in the fridge and baked on the Sunday morning. It was a revelation.

As was the fact that I can use the sourdough starter to make pancakes and scones and don't need to be its slave.

I baked another loaf this morning. Making it took 10 minutes tops.

It looks like this and is scenting the whole house with bready goodness.

sourdough bread

You can check out the courses at Gartur Farm here - there is everything from bread making to crochet.

If you are wanting to have a day away from it all, in beautiful countryside, with great food, good company and to come away with a new skill - this is your place.

Tags: recipe

Comments: 2 (Add)

Sally on February 4 2018 at 18:02

Hi Jane, that looks amazing and I'm sure smelled & tasted wonderful too. I found this post very interesting as I didn't realise that there were fermentation courses running so nearby. I am hoping to attend one in Glasgow this spring with a lovely lady that I met last Autumn but this has definitely put Gartur Farm on my radar, thank you. Encouraging our good bacteria to thrive is vital to our health & wellbeing and it is good to hear that it can be straightforward too.

Jane on February 4 2018 at 18:06

You would love it at Gartur Sally - J x

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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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