Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Basket-making, Wind- damaged Daffodils, Australian Ginger Beer, Simnel Cake

Yesterday we had a basketry course held here on the farm. Last summer I spent time trying to teach myself how to make baskets with  reasonable success, but I really needed someone to show me how to do the thing properly, so when I met J., a professional basket-maker and basketry teacher, at a  local Transition Group meeting,(, it seemed the ideal opportunity to ask her do a short one day course. We offered the use of one of our sheds as a venue and a small of group of us spent yesterday in a very cold & damp shed with bundles of willow and sharp secateurs and made some rather good baskets, not perfect but attractive and useful.
I love making baskets. Once the willows, which come in lovely colours, are sufficiently well soaked to become pliable it is very satisfying to make practical items using a ancient skill. Even my first attempts, which are to say the least pretty 'rustic' looking, are useful. The Farmer uses them for collecting potatoes and currants and gooseberries and I keep my clothes-pegs in one of the smaller ones.
Of course one does not need to use just willow; I've used cotoneaster & ivy and I've been given some wonderful red dogwood wands which I'm looking forward to using.

Both the Farmer & I are very interested in tradtional rural crafts. The Farmer has made most of our furniture from wood harvested on the farm and we try to encourage the making of things as much as we can with visitors to the farm.
One of the favourite items with visiting school parties is when the Farmer demonstrates spinning sheep's wool with a drop spindle and explains how a sheep's fleece becomes a pullover. To see the children make the connection between sheep & clothes is encouraging, though of course most of them will be wearing synthetic fabrics. However, the explainations and demonstrations may make them think about natural fibres just as the tour of the farm makes them think about real food.

The weather today is quite hideous. March has lived up to the old saying this year with a came in like a lamb so beautifully but is certainly roaring its way out.
 I don't think I've ever picked daffodils in falling snow before. So many of my lovely golden host were dreadfully battered by the strong winds last night that I've brought them into the house rather have to look at them laying flattened on the garden.
I was going to put 'Battered daffodils' into the title of this posting but then realised that it might look as though I had a recipe for deep-fried daffs!

I do have recipe that I must try which was sent to me by a friend in Australia, for Ginger Beer.

Queensland Ginger Beer
8 sultanas
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tspn. lemon pulp
4 tspns. sugar
2 tspns. ground ginger
1 pint cold water

Put all the ingredients into a screw-top jar for 2-3 days while it starts to ferment.
For 7 days add 2 tspns. ground ginger and 4 tspns. sugar.

2 pints boiling water
Juice of 4 lemons
14 pints cold water
800g. sugar

Pour the boiling water over the sugar to dissolve it, add the lemon juice.
Strain onto the plant through a muslin, squeeze the cloth dry.
Add the cold water.
Bottle and keep for 3 days before drinking.
It is mildly alcoholic.
I think the making of this tipple is to be kept for long summer days such as we dream of at the moment.

I have spent the morning making Simnel Cake, rather late for it to have time to mature, but nonetheless with its lovely sticky marzipan in the middle it will be delicious and with my family's passion for fruit cake it will not last long once Easter comes.
I have a lot of baking to do over the next few days as I have all the family coming on Easter Monday. We will be about 14 for lunch I think. I do hope the weather has improved by then.


  1. Basket weaving can be fun. I weave with reed and have taught hundreds of classes. I've put a series of YouTube videos up on my blog with free patterns that you can watch at your leisure to help you get the techniques down correctly.
    Have a wonderful day!

  2. Nice picture of the ladies and the baskets. Are you one of the ladies in the picture?
    I have made a border edge from planetree branches this year using the same basic skill. Had lots of fun doing it.

  3. Hi Jinsy, I am looking forward to visiting your farm, it is not long now. I hope the weather warms up. It has been a beautiful 24 degrees C today. Jane PS I hope you have a lovely Easter. We are heading to Taronga Zoo on Sunday.