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Showing posts from November, 2010

Rank and Class

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I realised this morning that despite my having worked for the last two sundays at Blenheim palace, I have not told you anything about it.  Goodness where do I begin?


Firstly, I am still very much in training.  There is a lot to learn.  I have a script which I must know by heart, it contains lots of information about the palace, about the Dukes of Marlborough and about the beautiful artifacts that they collected and the great works of art kept at the palace.

Lets make no mistake here - there are lots of names that are unfamiliar to me.  Historic craftsmen that I had not previously heard of but to be sure everyone was at the top of their game and the best of their kind, because the Marlborough's only commissioned the best. 

I spent the first day mostly in a kind of information and sensory overload.  The place is oppulent and a lot of it is not what I would call tasteful - of course tastes change and it is hard to imagine living with these things nowadays... but the Duke of Marlboroug…

Meet Fred

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This is Fred, he lives in my fridge.


I should be more accurate and say 'they' live in my fridge because Fred isn't one single organism, he is 
thousands of them.. he's a culture...  but he isn't very evolved so he couldn't be described as 'cultured'.


Fred and his kind are all the rage at the moment because he is used to make sourdough and since Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall featured bread and sourdough in particular on his river Cottage Everyday programme, Fred and his ilk are flavour of the month.  I got Fred from a baker who lives locally and all I have to do is keep him fed and he will live quite happily for ... well... forever.

Every week I use about half of Fred to make a sourdough loaf and then add some more flour and water and stir it in and Fred's colony rebuilds itself over the following week ready for me to take away half to make bread on a weekly basis.  Even if I am not making sourdough I still have to take away half the mixture and disca…

And Now for Something Completely Different

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A new Victorian Living History, Costuming and Re-enactment Group
Are you interested in historical fashion?  If you would enjoy strolling through the streets of Oxford wearing crinoline and cape or if a meander through the Pit Rivers museum in a top hat is right up your street then we are the group for YOU! You do not need to have a costume already - just be willing to research and make or construct one, (lots of help given if needed). All ages welcome (children must be accompanied by a suitably costumed adult).  Steam-punk enthusiasts need not be left out.
The Informal Society of Oxford Ladies and Gentlemen is very keen to hear from you.
If this sounds like fun to you... contact us:[email protected]

Alas the pictures don't do it justice... oh and cold

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Hasn't the weather taken a turn?  All the lovely gold and yellow leaves are now sodden and dirty underfoot making the paths slippery and unpleasant... the trees are starting to look very bare and winter-like and my bedroom was a chilly 11C this morning at 4am.  We do have heating but I have turned it down in an effort to save a few pennies and to experience the seasons again... central heating has very much cushioned us from the outside world and I have a sneaky feeling that it is not good for your wellbeing.  I only turned the heating down to 17C but the sensor is placed in the sitting room just under the ceiling (stupid place to put it if you ask me) and since heat rises we usually find its a degree colder on the settee at least.  So we have some snuggly blankets to keep us cosy while watching the telly.

The bedroom is another story... the radiator I think is broken, or turned off, it's hidden behind a chest of drawers (the room is too small to place the chest anywhere else)…

Getting up to Date

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I had so many posts planned, and took some photographs in expectation of several really good blog posts, alas... this is such a busy time of year.

I had not really thought about how much time everything takes.  I mean, it's all very well, setting out to be as self sufficient as possible.  Learning all the skills that will be necessary once we make our momentous move abroad.  Growing all our own food, learning how to preserve them for eating during the winter.  Re-learning old fashioned skills, knitting socks, making my own clothes, herbal remedies, soaps etc... but it's the amount of time that all of this takes.  My admiration for our ancestors grows with every task I attempt.

So, what have I been doing?  There was the mass of grapes...

That we turned into juice.  It took 4 days to do half of them (the other half are vacuum packed and frozen for future use?)  Only 9 litres of juice but what a palaver! 

I washed the grapes and pulled them off the stalks.  I then brought them up t…

Apples and Apologies

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I am so sorry for those of you waiting with bushels of apples for my step by step guide to bottling them.  It's been a while and I have been soooo busy and when I have had a moment I really did not quite feel like it.  Anyway, this step by step guide is a little short on photographs but I hope that you will get the idea...


Firstly... if you want to bottle your apples as whole apple pieces then it has to be the type of apple that holds its shape when cooked.  Some apples simply disintegrate to fluff almost immediately that you apply a little heat and that is not good, it's good for making apple puree or apple butter - which can be bottled too of course.  As it turned out nearly all of the apples that I have are only good for puree or apple butter, but I have managed to get one bottle of whole pieces in syrup so I will explain how to do it.

You need to peel and core your apples and remove any brown bits or blemishes.  They should be pretty perfect or they will not keep well.  If…