Thursday, 26 February 2015

Airstream Baking

Sometimes it just doesn't make sense to 'pop out' for bread, especially if we're staying miles away from the nearest shop and the cost of fuel consumed would be more than the bread itself. One winter, when we knew we wouldn't be moving for a while, we bought a bread machine and got into the habit of making our own bread that way (but the machine is a bit of kit you can easily do without when moving around more and being conscious of the trailer's weight and having to pack up and batten down). The result is a bit of a bread hybrid though. It comes out a funny shape, a bit inconsistent in texture and with a hole where the dough hook was. But, If we make sure that we always have flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, milk and lemon juice (for making fake buttermilk), I can knock up some soda bread with very little effort, should the need arise.

Baking in the Airstream is something that we both enjoy but it can be a bit messy. Which is one of the reasons why we don't do that much of it. There just isn't the space for flicking flour around. Well, to be accurate, there is just the right amount of space for covering everything in flour and gloops of dough. The limited amount of horizontal surfaces means that ingredients inevitably become airborne. My previous attempt at soda bread turned into a huge mass that grew and spread in the oven with a will of its own. This week's one is simpler in its ingredients, which I also scaled down, and the result was perfectly manageable, although I'm not sure if I was supposed to be so coated in sticky dough at the end. Homemade soda bread is irresistible while it's still warm. This time we had a good old go at spoiling our dinner by filling up on it generously spread with our favourite Danish lightly salted butter and some blackcurrant conserve.

So, yum, and obviously infinitely better than a tasteless, squidgy, sliced, brick-shaped lump of disappointment from the petrol station. Plus, you get the added frisson of that ridiculous, self-satisfied feeling that goes with making something yourself instead of buying it. That never gets tired.

I followed Paul Hollywood's recipe here and reduced everything by a third (or near enough, you try measuring two thirds of a teaspoon of bicarb!).

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Enchanting Encounters

As a contrast to the previous post which was a bit, Tales From The Septic Tank, I will share some heart-meltingly enchanting moments I have experienced whilst waiting at the fresh water tap. All three of these stories occurred at the same spot, and all involve sweet little birds. (I don't have a photo to illustrate so I'm sharing a random wintry one)

The tap is situated right up against a Hawthorn bush which is of course quite bare and skeletal at the moment, so you can see right into it. One morning I noticed some activity moving through the bush towards me, so I slowly turned off the tap and stood very still. A flock of about ten Long Tailed Tits progressed systematically until they were right in front of my face, hopping from branch to branch and picking at tiny morsels. I could look straight into their sweet faces with those little black dot eyes. They were just so tiny and round and soft looking. One was just a little more than arms length away. And then they were off, to work their way through the next hedge.

I had a similar but less frenetic encounter with  a Goldcrest. Again, a tiny and sweet little creature, about the size of a wren but with a bright yellow flash on top of his head. Even closer to me than the Tits this little fella bobbed about for ages, oblivious that I was right there.

And my third encounter of the avian kind involved me rescuing a Great Tit that had got itself trapped inside the hollow metal gatepost next to the water tap.

I could hear a fluttering sound and pinpointed it to this post. It is right in amongst the Hawthorn, with an oval hole for the now disused gate to engage with. It must have been an inviting, ready made house for building a nest last Spring. But it must also have been too deep and narrow for the bird to move in freely. I found a long and reasonably pliable stick (this campsite is a great source of twigs and sticks, thank goodness!), very slowly and gradually fed it down the inside of the post, hoping not to distress the bird any more than it was already. Once I could feel that the bird was either fluttering against it, or climbing onto it, I stood back a little and waited. And within moments there was a little black and white face looking out at me. Of course it wouldn't come out whilst I was there, so I left for a minute or two. When I came back I got chirped at by an irate but freed Great Tit. "You're welcome" says I.

So, these are the little precious moments that can make your chest fizz like a bath bomb while you're just going about your normal daily chores. But you have to be out there in the first place, and you have to keep your eyes and ears open and be prepared to slow down or you'll miss it all.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Campsite Feminist Ninja

We are still in the midst of the off-season, which makes it sound like the equivalent of a mouldy cheese hidden in the back of the fridge. The reality, for us at least, is that we can enjoy some privacy and seclusion for a while, until the first hints of Spring encourage the other caravanners to emerge.

There are occasional visitors during the Winter. And, since we find ourselves sharing this tiny, weeny patch of planet Earth some civility would seem to be the acceptable mode of behaviour. I am sure that I have shared before that I am not in the habit of trying to make every random stranger into my latest bezzie mate. I am more than content with a greeting that includes a reference to the time of day. I might be pushed to mention the weather, or enquire about a new arrival's journey if they look like they're expecting more of me.

Now, when I have gone to the effort of this hugely exuberant engagement it can be a bit peeving when you get nothing back. I am sorry to say that I am talking about the women caravanners, or wives. Do they object to me talking, albeit very briefly, to their husbands? Mostly, I see nothing of the wives at all. On arrival they'll often hover until it's safe to go inside the caravan, and then maybe pop their heads out of the door to see who the hubby's talking to. I will only catch a glimpse of them each time they move from caravan to car to go out for a spot of lunch in a Cotswold tea room before returning about two hours later and going back indoors for the rest of the day and evening. They're like timid creatures that have to be tempted outside with the promise of a jacket potato and salad.

This doesn't apply to all of the caravanning couples, obvs, but quite a lot actually. It's not that I blame the women for leaving all the outdoor, fetching and carrying chores to the men, it's just that I can't think of a good enough reason not to get involved, at least to fill the fresh water. When I'm out there getting on with it I get ironic comments from the guys like, "Ooh, you get all the best jobs." But here is the dirty truth...

The outdoors, water carrying and waste disposal jobs are not particularly pleasant but they don't take any time at all! If your other half makes out that they're a hero for dealing with this stuff, they're treating you like a mug. There are no good jobs, just jobs.

Mr Nomadic Knitter used to do the black tank emptying because ours is a chemical-free system, it used to make me gag and Mr N.K is a gent. Then he put his back out and I had to figure a way to breathe through my mouth, not get a whiff and just get on with it. Since then I've been lumbered with the campsite version of female emmancipation and there's no going back. I have seen things I wish I hadn't. I recently allowed my mind to wander and promptly dropped the cap down the three foot drop to the septic tank. I foraged for two long sticks and, like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible I focused like a shitty-stick-wielding ninja and I retrieved that sodding cap! (Mr N.K. saw my efforts, and after an initial delay during which he must have assumed I had it covered, he came out to observe, then caught the pesky cap before it fell back in. I am not alone in this world of slurry!)

I have had our 'landlord' show me the inside of the full and backed-up septic tank whilst patting me on the shoulder with his vinyl-gloved hand. I knew where that hand had been, so obviously was not listening to a word he said because my own thoughts were bellowing inside my head, "WHY WOULD HE DO THAT?!?!!!!!!!!?"

So, if you can get away with avoiding any doings with the doings, good on ya. I am not a better person for having seen the things I have seen. I usually want to hit anyone who says, "I'm not a feminist." but I can tolerate such brainlessness if it relates to not emptying the toilet. You hang on to your innocence, keep your mind unsullied. I'd like to have mine cleansed like Kate Winslett in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. 

Friday, 23 January 2015


The thickest of frosts have been layering everything with a glistening veil before gradually melting in the morning sun. The Airstream warms quickly when there is sunlight shining in through the side windows. Without the sunlight, and when the temperature drops to zero or below outside, we rely more on the gas. I'm off to refill it today. I should have a stunning drive through the Cotswold countryside with the sparkling frost and slowly lifting mist.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Knitting Rekindled

I knitted this cosy for my Mum, as a Christmas prezzy. I haven't made anything at all for absolutely ages (much too busy simply dealing with 'real' life, which is all too dull to bother writing about, hence the lengthy silence). It was a soothing pleasure to get back to it.

The colours blend with, rather than match her home (I hope!!!). The golden colours appear in a painting of straw bales in a harvested wheat field, and the blue and deep purple are a nod to her middle eastern rugs. Not literal, just a suggestion. Plus, a tea cosy should turn out jolly in the end. I look forward to seeing it on my father's head. I believe it's compulsory?