Lacto-Fermented Wild Garlic Kimchi
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To me, nothing says spring like wild garlic. We spend about 6 weeks every year eating it in some form or another - pesto, in salads, on pasta, with nettles, in soup. We eat so much that vampires would keep a wide berth. I have been planting a few bulbs every year in a shady corner of the garden, dreaming of the day it takes over. For now though, I tend to pull over as soon as I see it and fill every bag I can find with the leaves so that I can use it with abandon.

Wild Garlic and Kimchi are two of my favourite things and this recipe does not disappoint. I may have eaten it for every meal since it was finished!!

Ingredients

500g Wild Garlic Leaves

1 small Mooli (Daikon Radish)

2 small carrots

2 Tablespoons of Salt

1x 5cm chunk of ginger

1 onion

1 teaspoon of chilli flakes

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Method:

  1. Using a mandolin or a veg peeler, finely chop your radish and carrots. I use an attachment on my food processor.

  2. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over them.

  3. In the food processor, blend the onion and the ginger until they are very finely chopped.

  4. Add the onion and ginger paste to the carrot and radishes. Add the wild garlic and chilli powder.

  5. Using your hands, mix the vegetables thoroughly, squeezing the mix to release some of the juices as you go.

  6. Pack the mix into a clean jar, packing it in tightly as you go. Juice should release and cover the veg.

  7. When you have the whole mix in your jar, weigh it down with a fermentation weight or a cabbage leaf. You want to be sure your vegetables are not exposed to the air as this is where mould can form.

  8. Cover loosely with a lid. I like to use a kilner jar with the rubber seal removed. If the lid is tight, you will need to “burp” your jars every day.

  9. Let ferment for about 5 days on the counter and then do a taste test. Once it has fermented to taste, store in the refrigerator.

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The Final COWntdown

I simply can not believe that it was just 3 weeks ago that I we announced the crowdfunder.. So much has happened in that time! The outpouring of love and well wishes has blown us away and left us in complete tears many times over. We secured £2,500 in match funding from Stirling Council and we met not only our initial target of £8,000, but an additional target of £10,500! I spend a lot of my time walking around saying “I can’t believe that happened!!”

See Our Crowdfunder

As we have met our targets, we are secure in getting to keep every donation, which is a huge relief for us. We are, however, still working towards our stretch target of £15,000. The first part of the campaign was about ensuring we can be as accessible as possible. This additional target will help us build in more sustainability for our work, allowing us to add product lines and invest more in our farm shop (both real and virtual) infrastructure. This will mean we can launch products like goat’s milk soap, home grown meat and…GET OUR OWN YARN SPUN!!!

Yes, you read that right, I am in the process of developing a yarn from our own fleeces and those of our neighbours. We are a little while off and there are so many more details to sort out, but the crowdfunder is going to enable us to buy fleeces that would normally be burned or left unused to create a shetland/soay blend yarn. We get to support our local community and make yarn. Quite literally living the dream.

If you haven’t supported our crowdfunder, please consider doing so. Every like and share makes a huge difference. Thank you so much.

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Gartur Stitch Farm - GOat FUND ME Crowdfunder - The Beginnings
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A few months ago, our fireplace in the studio was condemned. It is a beautiful old thing, but something to do with it being too far from the wall meant that we could no longer use it to heat the studio and we had to use a plug in heater instead. As I began looking around for another option, I stumbled across the idea of putting in a wooden cookstove that we could use to bake bread and cook on while providing a sustainable and local source of heat for our main workshop and meeting space. Not only could we cook on it in workshops, but we’d been percolating an idea for hosting farm to table dinners and could you imagine if they could even be cooked on a local heat source?

And then I saw the price.

Far beyond what I had in my budget, the stove was a no go. As I sat in the studio, trying to think of answers, it occurred to me I could email the Forth Valley LEADER team to ask for advice. LEADER is a funding pot of European money for rural communities and our LEADER has a focus on food. While they loved the idea, they said, we probably weren’t a big enough project to justify the lengthy and onerous application process. Had we thought about crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding had been suggested to us many many times. In fact, almost every time I showed a video of my sheep escaping on Instagram stories, someone offered to start a crowdfunder to pay for the fence. However, we were reluctant. It didn’t feel right at the time or to pay for something like fencing. So we sat with it.

This time though, we began to recognise that in order to take things to the next level, we needed investment. The farm is beautiful, but old and not always fit for purpose. We began to really think about how we do things here and how we can make it work better.

For us, making our workshops and farm experiences accessible has always been a key aspect of making things work better here. Kevin and I met working at a summer camp for people with disabilities and he continues to run a participatory arts organisation working with the most vulnerable groups in society. We don’t ever want anyone to feel like an afterthought or that they may not be welcome because we couldn’t cater for their needs. Hosting people, making them feel welcome (and feeding them up) is the Kat and Kevin way, but we recognise that not everyone is able physically navigate or comfortable in a rural, muddy, uneven environment.

We began to ask ourselves “What If”. What if we could improve things so that we could welcome more people and ensure we catered for their needs? What if we could expand what we do to incorporate some of our dream ideas like farm to table dinners, more classes and Green Care Farming practices, because improving accessibility also means we would be allowed to carry out a broader range of activities than we do now. What if we asked for help from the big networks we’ve built up? Would anyone care?

We worked on it for months. Laying in bed, talking about it with everyone we knew. Pieces of the puzzle began to slot together and we began to get a better idea of a project. Our focus is improving the access and shelter so we can host people year round, improving the landscaping and access into the house so people can get up close and personal with animals, (and improving the hand washing facilities so environmental health is a bit happier). We want Gartur Stitch Farm to be a place that welcomes EVERYBODY to celebrate food and making and the beauty of this amazing place.

Our Crowdfunder is currently live. Please like and share and, if you can, donate.

Goat's Milk Soap

One of our favourite uses for our goat’s milk, other than cheese, is to make goat’s milk soap. Great for people with dry skin, this soap is easy to make and makes a wonderful gift.

If you’ve never worked with lye before, in can be scary and we always suggest to use gloves, a face mask and protective eyewear. Also, always have some distilled white vinegar handy in case of spills. However, while lye is a dangerous chemical, it really isn’t that hard to work with once you get the hang of it.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Never use aluminium around lye - it causes a chemical reaction and can explode. Make sure you are using enamel, stainless steel, glass or plastic bowls and utensils.

  • Make sure you have the right safety equipment - rubber gloves, a face mask, goggles and an apron should all be worn. In addition, you should have some white vinegar handy to neutralise any spills.

  • Always add lye to liquid, never the other way around. You don’t want any unnecessary splashes and this is a way to minimise it.

  • Use a recipe that has been tested, or if you are going change the ingredients at all, run it through a lye calculator. This is to ensure all of the lye is neutralised in the saponification stage.

    OK, Safety covered, lets get onto making some soap.

SOAP MAKING EQUIPMENT

In addition to the safety equipment mentioned above, you will also need:

  • A large bucket or bowl

  • A wand mixer

  • A metal spoon

  • Scales

  • Parchment/wax paper

  • A box or another container for using as a soap mould


The only difference between this soap and a basic cold process is that the milk is frozen to start with. You want your milk to remain as uncooked as possible and freezing it gives it more of a chance to stay as close to raw as possible when the lye hits it.

This is a really nourishing soap - shea butter and milk are great for dye skin.

Ingredients

340g coconut oil

425g olive oil

370g unrefined shea butter

375g goat milk (or other milk) frozen

155g sodium hydroxide (lye)

29g essential oils, optional



Method

Note: Make sure that your work area is clean, ventilated and that there are no children nearby. This is not a good recipe to let children help with since Lye is caustic until mixed with water and oils. It is best to have all your ingredients and materials ready before you begin, so you can just mix everything quickly and easily. 

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The night before, freeze your milk. This stops the fats from burning. I freeze it in the bowl I will be working in.

On the day of soap making, start by melting your coconut oil and shea butter. You can do this in the microwave or in a pan. 

With gloves and eye protection, slowly add the lye to the frozen milk. NEVER ADD THE WATER TO THE LYE (this is really important). Stir carefully with a spoon, making sure not to let the liquid come in contact with your body directly.

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As you stir, this will create a cloudy white mixture that might get warm. Let this mixture set for about 10 minutes to cool. 

When you have your melted coconut oil, pour it into a bowl and add the olive oil. 

Slowly pour in the milk and lye mixture and stir.

Quickly rinse the container used for the water and lye mixture out in the sink. I rinse well and then re-rinse with white vinegar to make sure all Lye has been neutralised.

Use the metal or wooden spoon to stir the lye/water mixture into the oil mixture in. 

Once it is evenly mixed, use the immersion blender to blend for about 4-5 minutes or until it is opaque and starting to thicken.

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If you are going to use essential oils for scent, add them now. 

Quickly and carefully spoon into molds. Any container will work, but I like loaf tins lined with parchment paper. I have included instructions for making one out of a box lined with parchment paper.

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Cover the molds with parchment paper and set in a cool, dry place, away from kids and pets.

After 24 hours, using gloves remove the soap from the moulds and cut into bars. 

Leave the bars somewhere to cure for about 4 weeks.  You can test if they are done by sticking your tounge on them (yes this is really what you do) to see if the lye is still active.  It will zing you like a battery if they aren’t ready.

For more natural home and beauty recipes and tutorials, we offer an online course and kit.

 
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Meet Petunia the Jersey Cow
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There aren’t many reasons for my birth state of Iowa to pop up on the news over here in Scotland. While us locals know it for many things, it tends to get narrowed down to the birthplace of James T. Kirk and Bill Bryson, the Bridges of Madison County, the Iowa Primary for the US presidential election and confused with both Idaho and Ohio. Occasionally, we get in the paper for other things, but if it is August, it usually has to do with the Iowa State Fair and its dubious fair food. A few years ago, it was the deep fried butter on a stick that became a talking point on these shores. Oh yes, you read that right. Deep fried butter. This gimmick really overshadowed the long standing and much more respectable Iowa State Fair tradition of butter carving. For over 100 years, Iowa has upheld the traditional display of the butter cow in the agricultural building.

Long story short, the love of butter runs deep in this Iowa girl. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that while goats are great for cheese and milk, cream and butter are a bit of a non starter (at least not without a lot of effort) for milking goats. So plans were hatched and last week saw the arrival of our own butter maker - in the form of one Jersey cow named Petunia.

She is four years old and has the longest eyelashes ever. She has arrived to us pregnany and we expect milk and butter and cream and mozzarella and a calf in June. Kevin, historically afraid of cows, is completely smitten.

We’ve put together a wee video all about her and I will keep you updated on the butter.

Announcing Our 2019 Retreats
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Growing up, we always had a full house. On top of my 5 siblings, there always seemed to be extra people about. If it wasn’t my best friend Nate, it was a gaggle of boys my brothers always seemed to be hanging around with, Jane, my now sister in law who was in love with my brother from the moment she laid eyes on him, or my parents’ friends or the neighbour who just happened to pop by or a visiting relative. It was never just us around our dining room table in the evenings, it seemed. Extra places were easily set and there always seemed to be something going on.

I never realised how much I missed that until we didn’t have it. With Kevin and I both being immigrants and living away from family, we spent a long time as just the two of us. It was fine and we were happy, but we knew something was missing and, in moving here to Gartur, we sought to change that.

These days our house is full of volunteers, extra kids that come up to play or work for us, a revolving door neighbours who come to drop something off and stay for dinner, workshop participants, meet the goat visitors who linger and become friends. There is rarely a day where we don't feed at least one extra person, which is strange considering we live down on one and a half mile road in the middle of nowhere.

Our on farm retreats are really the best version of that. I get to bring people here to hang out and make all the things for a weekend. We get to laugh and drink coffee (or sometimes a bit of prosecco) and build community around fibre and textiles and food in a way that scratches a deep itch for us. We love running them and are so excited to announce our programme for 2019.

All of the retreats will feature good food, beautiful scenery and lots of animals! Retreats sell out quickly, so please book now. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Kat Goldin Comment
The Arrival of BoyBoy
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It will come as no surprise to know that I love a good “back to the land” biography. Especially in the early days of living here, I looked to the experiences of others to find some company on our own journey. I read every book I could get my hands on… from stories about women falling in love with farmers, to itinerant beekeepers, to those stumbling into goat dairy ownership. In amongst those pages, I remember one particular story about a woman who was offered a pig at a dinner party, and, having had a few too many sloe gins, agreed and drove home with a porcine passenger in her back seat.

The way we have acquired each of our inhabitants here at Gartur isn’t quite as interesting (except for the time when my friend knocked on the door in the dark with a trailer full of Soay Sheep), and usually follows a routine where I get an idea in my head and force Kevin to go along with it. Our newest arrival, BoyBoy the KuneKune pig is no different. I’d seen his photo on a Facebook Group (where a surprising amount of livestock changes hands) and messaged his advertiser. A wedding gift to the couple 9 years previously, he had lived his days with them as a pet on their commercial deer farm, until they decided that he needed pastures new - quite literally…as a pet and a grazer, he couldn’t be out with their deer who are part of the food chain and needed some more space.

We were happy to offer him a new home, part as show pig for our AirBnB experiences, and part offensive for our massive problem with invasive rushes in our field. He provides no end of entertainment- from his funny grumpy walk to his rather epic snoring in the barn at night. He loves apples and belly scratches and has decided that chickens are THE WORST (on that he isn’t wrong). The goats are terrified of him and given how Dasha thinks she is the Queen, means that she is very put out (I haven’t mentioned to her that he is now taking over #garturstitchfarm on Instagram. Who knows how she will react)

After we’d had him about a week, the goats managed to let him out of the barn. We don’t know how long he was out for, but found him snuffling in the garden (as opposed to the goats who managed to open the feed bin and finish the sheep’s food). He came back in no problem and we assumed he’d just taken a wander around the courtyard. The next day however, he wouldn’t get out of bed and alarmingly had no interest in food. We assumed the worst - maybe he’d eaten something or he was unwell. After much fussing, multiple stomach rubs and a botched rectal temperature check, he decided that he’d slept long enough and had no further interest in me attempting to stick the thermometer anywhere and happy headed out to the field for the day. It turns out, mid morning naps are a requirement.

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So while his arrival isn’t as dramatic as me driving him home in my car, he’s proving to be a welcome addition to the mix…Well, welcomed by most of us at least.

You can see BoyBoy in action on the little video I made about the farm.

Them's The Breaks

If you have followed me for any length of time you know that I love a resolution. I love the way a new year stretches out in front of you with so much untapped potential. I was ready. I had my resolutions, my word, my E course, my coach. All I had left to do was the ceremonial nesting that this time of year always seems to kindle in me. I just rearranged the living room, mended some duvets and had finally decided on the arrangement of pictures for our bedroom. As I have done 100 times before, I stood on the bed to hang the final picture when I lost my footing, fell with my arm outstretched from the height of 5’7” + a very tall bed and quite spectacularly shattered my wrist. Ambulances were called, a bumpy ride to the hospital was made, bones were set and then reset I was set home to await a call for surgery.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you will also know that I do not do sitting still well. From the minute I get up to the minute I go to sleep I'm making and doing and talking and working. When I had a normal job it took everything in my power to contain this unbridled energy. I was so bored and usually unable to make it very long at a desk. I built this very full life that I love intentionally. I know from experience I am happiest when I am able to make and create all day long. And 2019 was going to be the year we thrived in it.  I was ready. 


And I'm still ready. I'm just in the sad bit of limbo where the plans I had for the start of this year aren't really achievable with only one arm. Today is a good day and I can tell you (with the help of dictation software) that what I need to do is make different plans. I can get help. I can read more books. I can spend a lot of time digging deep into our business plans for next year. 


On the bad days, the picture isnt as rosey. There is a lot of uncertainty and worry and cancelled plans. A lot of laying around in bed feeling pretty sorry for myself. It's scary, this self employment business. But I have to trust that we will get there. 


Of course this means that some things are going to have to change. The natural home and beauty online course will now be starting on the 1st of February, when I have volunteers who can help be my hands for the filming. Kevin will be more hands-on during the upcoming on farm sourdough courses. And there may be a slight delay to sending out kits as I can't drive for the next 6 weeks. 


Thank you all so much for your understanding and, other than a few days I will be out due to surgery, we will still be answering emails if you have any questions. 


I thought I should maybe to change my word of the year from thrive to survive but, as I said, today is a good day, and I'm sticking with thrive. Because if you have followed me for any length of time you know that I am must stubborn old boot who doesn't like her plans to change. 

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Last Minute Shop Update!

How is the season treating you? We are getting so close to our seasonal break, I can almost taste it…well, when I’m not breathing in sawdust from making spoon blanks, that is. The kit shop has been so delightfully busy, I can’t thank you enough for all of your orders. I’ve spent the last few days packing like a demon, getting everything ready to go out into the world.

After today’s packing, I did a quick stock take and there are a handful of kits ready to ship on Monday in time for Christmas. All of the kits will go out via Royal Mail for delivery before Christmas

In Stock Kits

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Online Courses

We have a range of online courses that make great gifts as well. If you order before Monday, we can post out printed vouchers for opening on the day, but we also have email vouchers that are sent out automatically for printing for the very last minute givers amongst you.

On Farm Workshops, Meet the Goats and Bread Delivery!

If you or your loved one can make it to the farm, we also have spaces available on our upcoming courses, our meet the goat visits and in our new Sourdough Bread Subscription service! All of these can be delivered as vouchers, so you can give something a bit more unusual this holiday season.

If all else fails, we still have gift vouchers ready to go. These are all emailed and instant - perfect if need something VERY last minute.

 
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Sourdough Pizza Crust
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Sourdough pizza is, in my humble opinion, the master of all pizzas. There is something about the umami flavour of the dough that pairs so perfectly with cheese. The only thing that would make this pizza better is if I had a wood fired pizza oven, but I hardly miss the smokey flavour with a crust this good.

We have a couple of versions of pizza dough that we make. Personally, I like a bit of wholewheat or cornmeal in my pizza for a bit of bite, but using a pasta flour here gives the base a clean taste that shows off the other ingredients. This is THE base we use when we have some nice homemade cheese in the house.

Pizza Dough:

(makes 4 25cm pizza bases)


Ingredients:

100g starter

200g water

350g Tipo ‘00’ flour (or add 300g ‘00’ flour and 50g wholemeal or half plain and half strong bread)

20g oil

10g salt


Method:

1. The night before, mix the ingredients. Do a few stretch and folds and then refrigerate.

2. About 2 hrs before baking, remove the sourdough from the fridge.  Shape into 4 balls and roll out as pizza bases. To achieve a nice crispy pizza crust roll the bottom thin and oil under it and over it before you put on the toppings.

3. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours and then top. Cook the pizza at the highest temperature, about 220C, for about 25 minutes or until it has browned enough. Ideally you want to use a preheated pizza plate to bake the pizza on, but if you do not have one you can also use a preheated cookie sheet.

4. Tuck in!

To launch our new intro to cheesemaking course, we are offering a special discount if you buy both the Everyday Sourdough and Intro to Cheesemaking course together (because what goes better together than bread and cheese?!?!?!). Use the code CHEESEANDBREAD at the checkout to get £15.00 off your order.

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sourdoughKat GoldinComment
Happy Birthday to Mildred The Sourdough Starter (or how not to kill your sourdough starter)
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There was a big birthday in the house this week. Mildred, our beloved sourdough starter, turned 5 years old!! She is our oldest starter to date - having killed at least two previous incarnations in the years prior. In fact, we almost lost ol’ Millie earlier this year, when I contaminated her with some Kombucha starter and left her on her own for a couple of weeks.

Baking 2+ loaves of bread a day to feed a busy household certainly helps maintain Mildred’s activity levels, but more than that, I have learned that starters are a lot more forgiving than they seem. In fact, they are pretty hard to kill and if you do, it is equally easy to start again. So, 5 years on (and a couple of failed starts before that) here are my top tips for keeping that starter in tip top shape.

  1. Feed it regularly, but find a schedule that works for you. Bakeries like Tartine are feeding their starters 4+ times a day. You don’t need to be that disciplined but feeding your starter at a regular interval helps keep it going and helps you get into a routine with it. Ours is fed every night when I make the next day’s batch of bread. It then sits on the counter until we need it the next evening. While its true that starters are at their peak about 4-6 hours after feeding, if you don’t have time to feed it 4-6 hours before you make your bread, don’t sweat it. A good active starter can be left longer than that and still make beautiful bread.

  2. Think outside the bread box. It can feel overwhelming to make bread every day or every couple of days or it can feel wasteful to throw away part of your starter when you feed it. The good news is starter can be used for many things like pie crust, pizza base, scones and even cake. Search “sourdough discard recipes”. These sourdough english muffins are some of our favourites.

  3. Store it in the refrigerator. If you aren’t baking every day, store your starter in the fridge. It slows down fermentation and extends the life of your starter between feedings. Try to remember to take it out and feed it at least 12 hours beforehand or if you forget, build a levain (see below)

  4. Build a levain. One way to get a more active starter or to build up your starter amount if you only keep a small bit is to use a step called building a levain. You simple build a separate starter about 4-6 hours before you bake, using a small amount of your starter and flour and water. For example, if my recipe calls for 200g of starter, I might add 50g of a sluggish starter and 75g each of flour and water to build a levain of that 200g of starter I need.

  5. Use only a small amount of starter. Some of the most active starters you can use are ones that have been created with a small amount of starter and then flour and water. When I say small, I mean the scrapings of the jar small. This is a great way as well to recolonise a starter that is looking a bit off. Throw most of it out, then add 100g each of water and flour and see what grows back. In all likelihood your starter will reinvigorate.

  6. Give it a good stir. Yeast loves oxygen, so if you are seeing a lot of liquid build up on top without many bubbles before that, give it all a really good stir when you mix in your flour and water. I know some people who whip their starters with a whisk.

Seeing the Wood for the Trees (and the tree for the wood)
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On the same day that I blew out my birthday candles and blew into a new decade of my life, Storm Ali came and blew a 150ft beech tree over into our sheep paddock. I'd received an email the night before, telling us that work on our fencing for the sheep was scheduled to begin in 3 weeks time. We'd celebrated, the end was in sight.  No more chasing sheep across the fields they weren't supposed to be in. No more leading bad goats out of the rose bushes and into the field they jumped out of. No more 'chats' with our neighbour who is oh so very sick of seeing our sheep in his field. And then, just as quick as we could dream of this easier life that awaited us at the end of October, we watched as the storm took out 20ft of the wall that was going to be used for the electric wire, as well as the back door and lintel to the dying studio that we'd worked so hard to set up. As we stood surveying the damage, Kevin and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

There are days where I walk around and all I can see are the things we need to do. The overflowing compost, the veg garden that desperately needs sorting for autumn, the laundry that seems to perpetually be the size of a small island off the west coast, the fencing, the trees needing pruned, the apples needing processed, the emails needing written, the kittens needing rehomed, the hay needing ordering and so on and so forth ad nauseam. It is literally endless, and, except in the few moments of absolute exhaustion that pop along from time to time, rarely feels burdensome. 

The sheer work of this place, of this life we are trying to carve out for ourselves here on this windy hill has shaped us in ways I wouldn't have predicted. As someone who likes to tick things off a list, I would've expected myself to be felled like that beech tree by the unrelenting effort it takes to keep us afloat. I am a runner - things get hard and I am the first to walk away. Somehow though, it's those aspects of myself that have worn away in the last five years.  We've cultivated a keen sense of the ridiculous and learned to always choose to laugh when given the option of laughing or crying. 

We turn up, do the work and choose to see both the hole in the fence and next year's wood pile in that fallen beech tree.  

Kat GoldinComment
The Famous Gartur Salted Caramel Brownies
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Okok, they probably aren’t famous, but above any other recipe I have ever been asked for, this one has been requested the most. They are long perfected, years in development brownies that hit that exact spot of sweet and salty and rich and sticky that brownies really should be. They are what we bring to every single bake sale and retreat and workshop and and and…so finally, I will let you in on the secret…

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Makes 1 9x9in tray of brownies.


For the brownies:

300g butter

500g sugar

165g powdered cocoa

4 eggs

120g flour

2t. vanilla


For the Caramel:

300g sugar

200g double cream

1T. sea salt flakes


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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/360F

  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the sugar and cocoa. Mix well.

  3. Leave to cool until it is just warm. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

  4. Add flour and mix.

  5. Pour into a lined 9x9 pan.

  6. In a clean pan, melt the sugar for the caramel. You will need to keep an eye on it and stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn.

  7. Once melted, add the cream slowly. The mix will steam and bubble, so mix with a long handled spoon.

  8. Add a pinch of salt to the caramel and mix.

  9. Pour the caramel on top of the brownie and swirl it in with a knife, leaving it mostly unmixed.

  10. Bake for 35 minutes. The brownie should be just set. Sprinkle the rest of the sea salt over the top.

  11. Leave to cool completely….if you can.


cookingKat Goldin Comment
Trying Not To Skip A Season
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I saw my first Christmas decorations at the supermarket the other day. There I was, minding my own business when I turned down an aisle and *BAM* there they were - snowmen and trees and the colours red and green.  Not being a huge fan of that particular holiday or the colour red, I immediately turned heel and ran...grabbing a bottle of gin as I went, of course. 

Not only was it an affront to my Grinch like sensibilities, but I hate how the rush towards the C-word seems to skip over a whole season of the year.  We seem to go straight from summer BBQs, pool parties and iced drinks to mass consumption of Baileys and Cheese - not that I particularly mind either of those things, but we are missing an essential period of the year - Autumn. 

Having a birthday in the middle of September and pie being my favourite food group, always made me feel that Fall was MY season. The turning of the leaves, the fires, the harvest (have I mentioned pie, yet?), I love all of it.  The only thing I don't like is that I have to wear proper shoes and socks as the days get colder, but that is a situation that I can be distracted from as I spend every free moment foraging for mushrooms in the woods. 

And while the supermarkets seem to want me to forget that Autumn exists in the race towards the Holidays, the farm keeps us firmly grounded in the here and now of harvest.  A bumper year of apples and brambles have me working in the kitchen day and night to get things put up for the season.  The wetter days mean my floors have taken back their grit layer and the house has the underlying smell of wet dog and wood ash. And I am here for it...all of it. But especially the pie.

Kat GoldinComment
The To Do List
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I'm writing to you from week 2 of the school year. The excitement and euphoria of week one has worn off and I am on my 4th cup of coffee, rushing through a mammoth to-do list and watching the clock until I have to drop what I am doing and run down the road to collect the children. Last week, those 6 hours a day when they were safely at school seemed to stretch into be an almost obscene amount of time to work in. I blasted through the work, even scheduling in naps, giddy with the sheer luxury of working without three children constantly needing feeding/entertaining/a fight breaking up/ feeding again. This week, I am dragging myself through the day and the list - tired already from the routine of getting kids out the door in the morning and feeling the squeeze of 'only' having 6 hours to do all the things. 

No matter how I feel about it though, that to do list still needs to get done. My mantra on these days where it seems like I am wading through it all is simply to "Turn up and do the work". There is no productivity app, no life hack, no cute acronym for achievement, just showing up, rolling up my sleeves, doing what needs to be done and forgiving myself if my list was bigger than I could manage that day.

I am learning that this last point is simply a reality of this 'life in the making' that we lead...the list will always be too big. We will always cross one thing off, only for 3 more to be added to the bottom.  As someone who loves a blank page to start from, to say I find the unending nature of our life 'hard' is an understatement.  But I am learning to develop the vision that allows me to see the things we have done, not just the things that lie unfinished. 

Rosebay Willowherb Tea
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A few months ago when out with the dog, Kevin and I were chatting about our upcoming foraging workshops and he mentioned that he had read something about using Rosebay Willowherb as a tea. I'd never heard of it before, but a quick google and a deep dive into some of my older herbology books showed that he was indeed correct.  

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Rosebay Willowherb, known in North America as Fireweed, is a tall perennial, easily recognised by its purple, almost flame-like, flowers.  It favours waste ground and is a first coloniser plant, so is often seen on roadsides, plantation forest edges and disused building sites. Its American name comes from its colonization in fire-disturbed areas.

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The tea, called in some places Ivan Tea or Koporye Tea (after the area of Russia where it originated), used to be an alternative to Chinese tea.  With willowherb's nature of growing in disturbed or unused ground and its spread all over much of the Northern Hemisphere, it was a cheaper alternative to 'proper tea'. While it doesn't have caffeine, it is oxidised in the same way that black tea is - letting fermentation make its magic to create a deeper, more fruity flavour. It isn't caffinated and has become my bedtime drink. Apparently you can also eat the young shoots like asparagus, so I am looking forward to trying that next year. 

I've done a few batches of the tea now and I am finding the whole process so magical, on top of having a great tea - there is this moment on about day 2 of fermentation when all of the sudden the smell of the tea changes from grassy and green to deep and fruity.  It is such a rewarding process and you get a good amount of tea, quickly...always a bonus when foraging.

Harvesting: 

The leaves are best foraged when the plant starts to flower.  They have quite a long flowering season, so its nice not to have to rush about collecting all of it at once. You want to simply pick the leaves, leaving the flowers for pollinators.  You can do this quite quickly by grabbing the top of the stalk under the flowers and sliding your other hand down, stripping handfuls as you go.

Fermenting:

Once you have the leaves you need, simply leave them in a cloth bag or basket overnight to wilt.  This helps start the oxidation process.

After they have wilted, you will take a few at a time and roll them to help move on the fermentation.  Then pack them loosely into a glass container for 2-3 days.  Once they start to smell fruity, make a cup to check you are happy with the flavour.  Add a few leaves to hot water and steep like you would any other herbal tea.

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If you are happy with it, then you need to stop fermentation by drying the leaves.  I simply emptied my jars onto baking trays and dried them in a low oven until they were completely dry (about 20-30 minutes). For added visual effect, try drying some of the flowers along with the tea.

Store in a sealed container.  The taste improves over time, so letting it rest a few weeks will enhance the flavour. 

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The Middle of Everywhere
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The road that comes up to the farm is 1.5 miles long.  The first half mile has 4 houses and a holiday cottage along it, but the last mile is empty and straight, stopping at a dead end at our gate. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten a call from a visitor, asking if they are on the right track as that last mile seems to stretch on forever. 

When we first moved out here, a neighbour expressed concern about me being here alone all day every day "I worry about you being alone way out there. Don't you get lonely?" I laughed. When we first moved here I had envisioned working all day in my PJs, not seeing anyone for days and building a reputation for myself as the Recluse of Gartur.  However, the truth is that rarely a day goes by that someone doesn't pop in, come for a visit, spend a night, take a class, drop something/some child off, pick something up, take a look around or stay for a meal. And despite my initial desires for the kind of isolation that meant I never had to wear a bra or brush my hair, the reality of a bustling homestead makes my heart so full. Because while I wouldn't have chosen this jam-packed life for myself in the past, the truth is that in the busyness of every day life I seem to have found my thing. 

In pretty much every self help book, there always seems to be an exercise where you imagine your perfect day - mine was always reading in bed with coffee, but now when I close my eyes I see friends and family around my old battered table, eating food from the farm, laughing together. We fill the house with people - from guests to workshop participants, family and friends.  This summer we have so many people staying that the tent has made a permanent feature in the garden so we can squeeze them all in. There is always something going on - extra kids building forts in the playroom, friend and family working at the kitchen table, Kevin giving goat milking demonstrations to anyone that asks. It catches me off guard some times, how different life is from what I imagined, but not even that, just how happy it makes me. 

And with this realisation, we have changed the farm to suit - we are putting the finishing on the studio this week to seat 16 and the refurbished dye studio fits 24. So, I've had to retire the idea of the Recluse of Gartur and instead am adopting the title of Party Director. 

Kevin's Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
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When Kevin and I lived in Windsor, Sunday mornings were for long lie-ins, thick stacks of newspaper and a special breakfast at our favourite coffee shop.  In this life, Sundays start pretty much at the same time as every other day - early - and consist of the same routine as every other morning.  Our one nod to that previous life is a special breakfast, served with a big pot of coffee and lingered over a little longer than the goats would like. 

Most Sundays, Kevin is the one to get up early, switch the oven on and pop in the sourdough cinnamon rolls he made the night before. Sourdough cinnamon rolls are quite different than their commercial counterparts  - a bit denser and they have a lovely depth of flavour lacking in their very sweet counterparts. He's become the pro in our house and has graciously shared his recipe here (possibly in hopes that I will be the one to get up this Sunday and make them). 

Ingredients:

  • 200g starter

  • 160g whole milk

  • 1 large egg

  • 60g butter, softened

  • 1T sugar

  • 360g bread flour

  • 10g salt

For the Filling:

  • 200g brown sugar

  • 1T ground cinnamon

For the Icing:

  • 60g icing sugar

  • 2T orange juice

Method:

Method for Cinnamon Rolls:

1. Mix all ingredients until no lumps remain

2. Rest in a warm, covered spot for 3-4 hours, doing 3-4 stretch and folds in that time.

3. Roll out dough into a long rectangle.

4.Spread 200g of brown sugar and 1T of cinnamon all over the dough.

5. Roll up from the long edge.  Cut into pieces 5cm in length. Place in a lined pan.

6. Refrigerate over night.  

Baking:  

1. Bake at 180c for 35 minutes. 

2. Serve with icing. Our favourite icing recipe is about 60g of icing sugar with the juice of one blood orange. 

New to sourdough baking? We've launched an online version of our popular Everyday Sourdough workshop.  You can find the details here. 

10 Things To Do (Now That The Goat Ate My Garden)
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Last Thursday, we said goodbye to Freya the goat. She and her daughter Cinnamon were taken to live in a field with cows to keep a billy goat company on a lovely hill farm in the Ochil Hills. In the lead up to her going, I did wonder if I would feel sad. She'd been with us for 2 years, since she was 8 weeks old. I was always her favourite...she would lean up against me for scratches, sniff my pockets for the biscuits I knew she liked and always kept tucked away for her. 

As she pulled away, rather than regret, I felt that she had gone one day late. You see, the day before she ate the entire contents of my veg garden.  In the blink of an eye, 3 goats (freya and het two kids) pushed open the garage door, ripped up 2 meters of chicken wire and inhaled a year's worth of dahlias, peas, yarrow, kale, lettuce, beans, pumpkins, comfrey and lupins. I am not going to lie, I cried angry hot tears and used more swear words than I even knew I knew.

Once the red mist of anger cleared, I decided to see it as an opportunity. Rather than mope away the rest of the summer, I put pen to paper to make a list of everything I was going to do with this gift of time I'd been given

This summer, I am going to:
1. Learn the ukulele.
2. Go wild swimming and not feel guilty I should be weeding.
3. Read the stack of books I have by my bedside table and not feel guilty I should be putting up garden produce. So far, I have read Skinful of Shadowsand the Beekeepers Lament (both excellent) and have started the Immortalists.
4. Pick wild berries and not feel guilty that I have veg just sitting in the garden waiting to be harvested.
5. Repaint and floor the studio, kitchen, kids' rooms and playroom.
6. Watch TV and not feel like a lazy slob who neglects their garden.
7. Replant my front garden and window boxes with confidence that they won't get eaten.
8. Really dig deep into my foraging skills to make up for the veg they ate.
9. Have clean fingernails for the first time since March.
10. Explore the 11.2 million ways to eat courgettes...because they were the only plant that wasn't eaten.

Chicken Fried Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms

Chicken of the Woods is one of those treasures of a wild mushroom hunt.  Its tasty, easy to identify and there is a lot of eating on them when you do stumble across one. It gets its name from its chicken like taste and texture, and not in the usual way every protein of an unknown origin 'tastes like chicken', this mushroom really does. 

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Identifying the Chicken of the Woods:

When identifying mushrooms, always check with at least 2 sources before ingesting. If you have doubts, don't eat them.  Even mushrooms that may be considered safe to eat, can still cause poor reactions in some people, so be aware.  Also the general advice is to always ensure that your mushrooms are well-cooked before eating as this helps to neutralise any potential toxins. 

Chicken of the Woods is one of those mushrooms that once you identify it clearly the first time, its hard to mistake for anything else.  In the UK at least, there are very few mushrooms that can be confused with it and those that can, the Dryads Saddle or the Blackening Polypore, are both safe to ingest (and really don't look much like it any way). It is a bracket fungus that grows mostly on oak trees, but can be found on other hardwood and yew trees, so will be found without a stem, growing in a clump off of a tree or stump and it does not have gills.  As a young mushroom, it starts off apricot in colour and then fades to white as it ages.  Like most mushrooms it is best eaten fresh and can be frozen, but this does change the texture. 

Fresh, my go to recipe is the same for all wild mushrooms, fry in lots of butter with garlic and finish with a bit of creme and thyme.  However, you an harness that chicken-like nature and use it in recipes that call for chicken. We've made tacos, stir fry and pasta with our mushrooms and all were lovely.  

This recipe for fried chicken of the woods was inspired my my friend Jeni who loves to batter and fry all the things.  I simply brought my love of fried chicken to the mix and even the kids couldn't get enough. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 large section of Chicken of the Wood Mushroom (about 1kg)

For Brine:

  • 920ml/ (4 US cups) water
  • 3T salt

For Batter:

  • 240g (2 US cups) of plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 230ml (1 US cup) of ale
  • 2 cups of crushed corn flakes (if you want to substitute bread crumbs here, do, but corn flakes really do give a superior crispiness to the batter).
  • 1t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1t salt
  • vegetable oil for frying

Method:

  1. Clean the mushroom, ensuring you remove all tree bark from the mushroom, especially if it was found on a yew tree.
  2. Cut off any dry or flaking bits at the edges and slice into pieces roughly 1cm thick.
  3. Mix up the brine and let the pieces soak for about 5 minutes while you mix up the batter.
  4. Add all the ingredients for the batter to a bowl, except the corn flakes.  Mix into a smooth, thick batter.
  5. Crush the cornflakes and place in a shallow pan.
  6. Remove the mushrooms from the brine and pat dry.  Dunk each piece individually into the batter, then coat with bread crumbs.
  7. Heat about 1cm of oil in a frying pan. Working in small batches, lightly fry off the breaded mushrooms, roughly 2 minutes each side to seal. 
  8. Once browned, place mushrooms on a tray and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 180c/360F
  9. Serve with garlic mayo or in a wrap or taco. 

 


Upcoming Foraging Workshops at Gartur Stitch Farm