Wednesday, 25 May 2011

How Did We Get Here? - by Maslow

You may have noticed that I am not a big fan of the supermarkets and cars but that is not to say that I blame them or their owners. No, like so many other annoying things, they are just a symptom and not the cause.
But is it a sign of general apathy or something more sinister and insidious?
Personally, I blame house prices – which themselves are a symptom of over population, and we all know what causes that, so I am probably just as much to blame as anyone else.
Here is my explanation and I felt a lot better after getting it all down. As with most of my pictures - you can click to enlarge it and see more detail.

Maslow's Hierachy of Needs - Applied to the Uglification of Britain

I feel a LOT better now...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Phantom Limb Fruit Picker

I have been designing fancy, new fruit pickers for the children, in readiness for the cherry and plum season. The cherries are looking fatter and redder every day, so it won’t be long now. I’m salivating like Pavlov’s dog as I type...
The simplest picker I have made is for blackberries.
Blackberry Picker
It’s just a metre of thin PVC pipe sawn off at an angle at one end and cut back into two prongs. The prongs are then curled back using heat, and set like two crooked fingers. This is great for young kids, to help them reach inaccessible fruit. Attach a bag to the end of the pipe with an elastic band and the fruit rolls down the pipe to fill it up.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can try something a bit more dramatic like this...
The Phantom Limb Cherry/Plum Picker!
Who's shoes are those btw?
I scaled the original idea up to make new a cherry/plum picker. I used a prosthetic hand, which I crafted out of PVC by drawing round my own and cutting it out with a coping saw.
A Flat PVC Hand Shape
Then I moulded it into a functional shape and attached it to a small bore gutter down-pipe. I think the kids will love using this, and the hand came out better than I expected; it is actually quite spooky.
Moulded Over the Gas Hob (when I was foolishly left alone in the house)
Wait until the captain of the galley is out of the way before trying this shipmates!  If you are a child, get a responsible adult (if you know one) to do this next bit for you...
If you carefully heat PVC up, on a gas hob it becomes pliant and can be set in a new position as it cools. You can also use an electric (paint stripping) heat gun for the same purpose, the same warnings apply to either method.

The Finished Phantom Hand, Spooky!
I say carefully - advisedly because...
1.       The PVC gets very hot and you can burn your fingers on it.
2.       If it gets too hot PVC catches fire, melts all over the cooker (and you potentially) and gives off highly toxic smoke and fumes.
So be very careful, and then you can make great stuff out of it.
This Is Real, Not PVC. A lovely Stag Beatle I Found it in the Garden...
Look Out It's Coming Right At You!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cordial, Beer and Champagne

After spotting that the Elderflowers were out, we decided to have a bash at making Elderflower cordial and champagne. I also fancied making some Ginger Beer – something my mum always used to do when it got warm.

My son was great at picking the flowers (it’s always best to pick fresh ones without bugs on them) and we soon had a big bagful. On the way home we grabbed the rest of the ingredients, which was mainly sugar, yeast, oranges and lemons from the shops.

Elderflower Cordial being prepared
These are all really simple recipes and we made 2 Gallons of Ginger Beer, 1 Gallon of Elderflower Champagne and a couple of litres of Elderflower Cordial in one afternoon.
For Recipes, Click Here

Elderflower Champagne prepping - this smelled delicious
You need bottles that can withstand high pressure; otherwise they can explode and make a bad mess, so be careful what you use. I wanted swing top Grolsh type bottles but this would have been expensive and I couldn’t drink it quickly enough. In the end I used sparkling water and a couple of old coke bottles, which worked fine and they can be used again.

Lloyd, the Yeast Arab

Most shops now have a cheap home brand of sparkling water and I obtained 4 packs of six 500ml for about a fiver. If I had thought about it before, I could have used the water in the recipes too.

We Made Buckets of The Stuff
When my wife came home the next day, she said the house smelled like a brewery – but Ginger beer and Elderflower Champagne always remind me of Gingham and wicker and English summer picnics!
This looks a lot but I don't think it will last long, my daughter is sampling it already!

I also saw nesting Housemartins and Swifts today, so summer is on the way for sure...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

No Fruit Without Flowers

Even though blossom spotting keeps you engaged during early spring and is a good way of identifying trees, there is no guarantee that fruit will follow flower. So, after dancing round the May-Pole you can go back over your previous observations and check for signs of young fruit.
Baby Apples
I popped out this lunch time to see how the young cherries and plums were looking. I was pleased to see that many of the trees are looking very healthy already and I am hoping that we may be able to get some fruit in time for the school summer fayre.
Baby Cherry Plums
I also noticed that the cherry trees that had the frillier ornamental blossom rarely have fruit on them. Perhaps they put so much effort into their foppish flowers that they have no strength left for the more essential act of reproduction, or making cherries.
Baby Cherries
Cherries, plums and damsons may actually ripen be a bit too late for the fayre, but I will be keeping a keen eye on them. I was pleased though, to spot my first elderflowers of the year and elderflower cordial should definitely go well on the stall. Elderflower champagne on the other hand, will go well down well in our kitchen.
First Elderflower of Spring
Spring is always a good time to start a ginger-beer plant, we always used to help Mum make and consume this when we were kids. Although ginger is not strictly foraged, we are here to have fun and celebrate, not to be pedantic.
Recipe link Cordial