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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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I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
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I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
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This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
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It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
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When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
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The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
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The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
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My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
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Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
Abundance.⁠⠀
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And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
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My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
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So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
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I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
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I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
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It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
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My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
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Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
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Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
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But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
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This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
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This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
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White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
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The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
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Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
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We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
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Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
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Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
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It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
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Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
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Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
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So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
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An attempt to keep momentum.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I 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.

 

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