Monday, 19 December 2011

My job is weird because... I am x-raying joints of pig that have been bludgeoned by replicas of Egyptian weapons (daggers, axes, maces).

What I have learned is that even meat that is only a few days old can permeate your nostrils in an unpleasant way that you'd not thought possible. Barbecues are not top of my list right now.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Of apples and fire monsters

Having lived in metropolitan areas for most of my life, York's embarrassment of apples has come as something of a shock to me. It seems like almost everyone here has an orchard in their back garden. So, having volunteered harvesting fruit with Edible York's Abundance project for over a year now, I've finally got around to thinking about cider.

After an abortive attempt at using a mini home press loaned to me by the project, I was about to give up with only a litre of juice and a busted shoulder to show for it. Fortunately, Saturday was Apple Day at St Nicholas Fields, and I cheekily took my fruit along on the off-chance I could get it pressed by them. It was a lovely day - I stuffed myself silly on a variety of apple desserts, and failed miserably at the longest apple peel competition. To top it off, it just shows that if you don't ask, you don't get, and now I have a gallon of juice waiting to ferment, as well as some left over for normal un-alcoholic drinking purposes.

It wasn't perhaps so cheeky, as I did spend much of the day over a hot brazier making caramelised apples for the general public from Abundance apples. Whilst doing so, I totally fell in love with Bernie, the "Fire Monster" upon which I was cooking. He was made by this chap here who does sell them to the public, but sadly has no web page as yet. Since then I've been hinting heavily that a Bernie of my very own would be a highly appropriate Christmas present.


The best way to get fully matured sloe gin, apparently, is to forget to put enough sugar in it, then not drink it because it's grim, fully intending to get around to sweetening it up, but inevitably never getting around to it.

This is why I have a small bottle that I made last year, which lies undrunk on my shelf. Well, NO LONGER! Today I have actually gone and got off my arse and sorted it. The sugar should all be dissolved by the time we (*fingers crossed*) move into a new and exciting house, and shall therefore get polished off in one sitting come the beginning of November.

So now, what to do with those gin-soaked sloes? Never one to miss an alcoholic opportunity, I'm going to try this recipe for sloe sherry. I don't even like sherry, but I can't not try!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Caution: Actual Archaeology Content

This last weekend me, two colleagues, and some intrepid volunteers went to carry out some geophysical and topographical survey on a prehistoric site up near Lockerbie. It didn't start well, when I realised that my tiny Toyota Yaris didn't fit the Bartington magnetometer in his less-than-capacious boot. Cue a traumatic evening trip to Halfords to purchase roof bars. The next morning we realised that jute twine probably wasn't the best method of attachment for a three hour journey, and that four people, their luggage, Barty, the resistance meter, and the DGPS and tripod would be a bit of a squeeze. Still, to give everyone their dues, we got it all in, and Rolf (Yaris) made it all the way to Lochbrow farm with minimal issues, bar a couple of hills.

Once there the weather was predictably dire, but we braved the cold and wet, and the beginnings of Hurricane Katia for the advancement of science.

The site was found via cropmarks by Kirsty as part of her PhD thesis, and also fell within an area predicted by Dot as likely to contain prehistoric activity. So, we dutifully attacked it with all the methods known to man, in the hope that the timber cursus we already knew about, and its context, would be elucidated somewhat. Luckily for us it was, along with a few surprises, both positive and negative, which we'll be writing up soon for your delectation.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Concrete Jungle

This year I've been attempting to do a better job than I've previously managed in producing edible goods. With a tiny concrete yard this is problematic, but armed with a magical self watering thing kindly given to me for my birthday last year, I seem to be doing okay-ish.

At the side I've got a rogue tomato plant I started growing indoors, but had to put outwhen I buggered off on holidays. It went a bit mad and I'mhaving to support it on our broken washing line. Look - it even has some actual tomatoes, which is a great improvement on my fruit-light-foliage-rich effort from last year!

The tomato plants at the back are just mental. They keep collapsing under their own weight and I've had to rig up a ridiculous string support system. Same goes for the runner beans, which are actually starting to be real beans. Not sure I'll have enough to make this fabulous stuff though.

I thought I'd try something different alongside the standards, so I planted some patty pan squash, which are HUGE and starting to flower.

I also found some potatoes trying to become a new lifeform in the back of my kitchen cupboard so decided to plant them. It's a bit late in the season, but I've already hilled them a bit and they seem to be doing okay.

Meanwhile, indoors, my chili and pepper plants are going for it. The chili is nearly three feet tall. Here's hoping for spicy goodness.

A day in the life...

Yesterday I took part in the Day of Archaeology. This was a great project and I've really enjoyed reading the posts. It was also nice that folks I've met at various points in my life: Rome, Canada, etc, turned up as contributors.

In case anyone wants to hear about the sorts of things I get up to of a day, my post is here.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Things I have learned in the last six months

I have learned that bin liners are waterproof but not breathable, and that Northern Jutland is very windy indeed.

I have learned that I have an unhealthy love of Ukrainian disco pop.

I have learned that, if I were a character in a zombie movie, I would be the one that so nearly made it, but died tragically just metres from safety.

I have learned that a magical world of labyrinthine wonder exists in North Yorkshire.

I have learned how the Asturians pour their cider: po-faced and from a great height.

And, finally, I have learned that I can get vertigo whilst sitting in the gods at the theatre whilst watching Dylan Moran, but not whilst standing on a roof.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Another new addition

January was a bit of a spending frenzy, first Maud then 'Czarrna Malgorzata' (Black Margaret).

I'd been keeping my eye out on Ravelry for a second hand spinning wheel, and when this lovely lady came up in Leeds I couldn't resist. She's Polish - a Kromski Mazurka - and so she had to be called after the only Polish Goth geologist I know.

It's taken me a while to get the hang of it, and here are my first wobbly attempts. You can see them getting progressively better... I hope.

1. My first attempt - plain orange merino plied with an orange/brown/yellow mix. Looks fine until you take it off the bobbin!

2. Duck egg merino, navajo plied. The plying was hard, but it didn't turn out too bad considering.

3. My latest effort, jacob humbug top plied with pink and brown merino. It's definitely getting a wee bit more even.

Now I just need to spin enough to actually make something!


Meet Maud

She's pretty, though it's a bit disconcerting having something your exact shape and size loitering around the house.

It's even weirder when she's dressed.

Monday, 3 January 2011

If in doubt, pour some booze on it

I have to admit that I have a default setting when it comes to foodstuffs. If I have no idea what to do with something, I make it into an alcoholic drink.

This year I've done a few (including my ginger beer and and some experimental elderflower champagne), but it all culminated in a Christmas-inspired liqueur frenzy. I get most of my liqueur information from this excellent site but tend to ignore all their advice and just make it up as I go.

The two main recipes I made this year were an odd concoction of elderberry and pomegranate liqueur plus the filthy-sounding milk liqueur.

I picked some elderberries from the tree at the end of my road, and having never actually tasted them I was loathe to commit a whole load of vodka to its cause. To counteract any possible issues I popped to a local greengrocers and noticed they had pomegranates on sale. Bonus! So two pomegranates, 135g of cooked up elderberries in sugar (it's all I could pick) and vodka sat in a bottle for a few months. I fished out the elderberries after a couple of months, leaving the pomegranates for another few weeks. In hindsight I should have separated them in some sort of bagging device, rather than spend hours individually picking them out of the mush. Still, turned out ok in the end.

For the milk liqueur, I found this bizarre-looking recipe on my travels around t'interwebs and thought I absolutely had to try it. It's really not as disgusting as it sounds! I had a few coffee filter-related accidents, so the final result was a triple filtered amber nectar. Sadly, I didn't really get to try it as it went to other people for Christmas presents. I'll have to get reports back. It certainly looked and smelled good, despite how grim it looked before filtering.