A warm winter really

Our alarm goes off at 6.30 am. It has been dark at this time for a couple of months, but the days are lengthening and it’s getting to be dawn. Which is always pretty on the farm, even with heavy frosts.

Not that it has been all that cold this year. We have had just a few shockers of down to minus 6 degC, but generally the minimums have been within 1 or 2 degrees either side of zero. More nights have been cloudy, and it just hasn’t been as consistently cold as last year, when the skies were clearer. The wwoofers have been lighting our fire each day before we’re home, so we have been pretty comfortable.

The Weather Bureau says that Australia is heading for another El Niño this year. I follow the source statistics, and I’m not yet convinced. I reckon we’ll get reasonable rain.

On the issue of international global warming, I’m still convinced that we’ve entered a cooling period. The temperature records are ambiguous so far. I’m watching a couple of interesting stories here. One is that about 10% of the apparent warming in the last century appears to be an artefact of some dodgy computer code in the calculation algorithm. Another is that statistics in recent years have been heavily skewed towards airports, which have generally become more built-up with heavier tarmac and bigger jets, so accentuating the “heat island” effect.

(OK, so I’ve said that our winter has been mild, but then I’m saying that the world isn’t getting significantly warmer. Can’t I see the contradiction? Well — humans are very good at spotting patterns in things, even when they don’t exist, so we overestimate the importance of basically random weather effects. Plenty of places in the world are having record cold at present.)

Another issue is that the raw temperatures don’t really show much increase at all, but the experts do all sorts of adjustments, for all sorts of often good reasons. However, the UK won’t release their adjustments for scrutiny, and in the US they have the overwhelming effect of making the trend appear warmer. It looks like any adjustments that will reduce the apparent temperature don’t get included. Why?

As far as I can work out, the real world-wide temperature change over a century is something like about 0.5 deg, which has mostly been beneficial to humans, and which is unremarkable in the context of past climate cycles. And now we appear to be cooling again, as happened in the 1940s and 1970s.

Last night, we trialled some of the dishes for our upcoming Agincourt feast in October. This will be our first SCA feast in Goulburn. We always try out new recipes, to work out any rough edges and to help us estimate bulk quantities.

We made sorrel tarts, which were pleasant enough — sorrel is a kind of sour, lemony spinach. We perhaps didn’t put enough sorrel in, but our sorrel bed has been struggling since the Light Sussex chooks got out one day. They love it.

We made blankmangere, a chicken and rice mould that is the ancestor of the blancmange dessert. It was perfectly edible without being very exciting. But it is a classic medieval dish so we’ll do it anyway.

We did “compost of pasternak and of peeres”, which is a weird sweet and sour vegie dish made with turnips, radishes and pears. It was pretty good, perhaps not quite as nice as when our friend Jane made it. The feeling around the table was that we’d overdone the anise, though I would have been happy as was. We might have boiled the vegetables just a little too long.

I had a go at porray, an absolutely commonplace medieval vegie dish made of leeks and silverbeet. It was OK — I don’t think we could score more than that.

We also had douceytes, which are little honey custard tarts. I bought the wrong type of shortcrust pastry, which was a bit thick. The baked mixture was delicious.

The main meat will be roast lamb, which we’re doing on Wednesday night. We plan to serve it with camelyne sauce, which involves mostly vinegar, cinnamon and a little ginger. We’ll try two versions, one boiled and one not, and see which we like best. (In period they had the same variations.)

The full menu (as two courses) is planned to be:

  • Verjuice paté with bread cobs (chicken livers with a reduction of red wine and verjuice … yum)
  • Roast lamb with camelyne sauce
  • Sorrel tart
  • Castles of blankmangere (chicken mould)
  • Compost of pasternak and of peeres
  • Leche lombarde (date and fruit mixture rolled up to set then sliced)
  • Rabbit in ale
  • Douceyte tart
  • Hedgehogs (spicy rissoles shaped as hedgehogs)
  • Shrewsbury cakes (traditional shortbread cake)
  • Macaroons (using spare egg whites, no coconut)
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Okewaite website released

Our Korean wwoofers Sean and Alice have left us now.  They were with us for several months, and helped us in so many ways.  In recognition thereof, we all headed off for dinner at the Astor Hotel in Goulburn.  Great food there.

We still have Pat, our wwoofer who stayed four months, went around Australia, and has come back.  He counts as family now.

Pat is working on some medieval armour, and we have another wwoofer coming today to give Pat some company: Silvan from Switzerland.

Our other guest, Sarah, has bought a house in Canberra, nearer her new job, and will be heading off in six weeks.

We’ll miss our weekly Korean food night.  Sarah and Pat have been cooking great things every week too — hope Silvan is as handy in the kitchen.

Otherwise this was a quiet weekend, just a (delicious) Christmas in July at the home of our friend Jane.

Apart from that, I released the new website for Okewaite, our proposed SCA group in Goulburn.  It is at http://okewaite.wordpress.com, and there is still a little polishing to do.

I’m pleased with it, though I had to learn CSS coding which I was trying to avoid.  If you spot anything that needs correction, or can fill in any gaps, then please let me know.

Christmas in July

Saturday was the Medieval Christmas in July feast we ran for the Goulburn Club.

Our start was delayed because the heifer came back to the property, in the form of 160 kg of beef.  We had to repackage the meat into smaller lots, for freezing.

This was a bit like Christmas, as we dug out successive packages of roasts and scotch fillets and osso bucco.  Vast amounts of mince and sausages.  We had some of the sausages for lunch, and they are delicious.

After that, we started cooking in earnest.  Our wwoofer Alice had made some shortbread during the week, but we had a lot to do on the day.  Not really a problem, as ticket sales had been poor and we were only catering for 40 people including the kitchen staff.

Wwoofer Pat had made up ten trestle tables, which we’ll use again for the Twelfth Night kingdom event being held in Goulburn.  The table tops are 1.8m by 0.9m, cut from flooring chipboard.  The trestles are 50×35 pine, very solid.  We carted them all up the stairs of the Goulburn Club to the feast venue.

During the afternoon we moved to the Goulburn Club.  There are actually two kitchens there, but both are unsatisfactory and we only had partial access to one of them.  Apart from wwoofers Pat, Alice and Sean, we had help from Sarah (staying with us at present) and Jane (a friend from Canberra).  We happy few.

Everybody started to arrive.  I welcomed them, and Sarah helped with costumes as required.  It soon became apparent that people had heard that our numbers were low, and many people brought along a friend or two.  So we ended up with 60 people, and no room for the kitchen staff in the hall.

We started with the Boar’s Head Carol, and carted all the dishes up those daunting stairs.  The food was really well received.  Our medieval bagged christmas puddings were very well received (and delicious), and Sarah lit each one in turn with heated brandy. 

After the second course was served, one table was moved away and somebody brought out a fiddle.  He got lots of people up for some Irish folk dancing, totally not organised by us!

It was a very successful event, and raised $1293 for the Goulburn Club, plus bar sales.

We got back rather late, and crashed into bed.  The next day most of us were sore, especially from going up and down the stairs.  We were able to finish the packup of the Goulburn Club on Sunday, and brought back our trestle tables.  We had (and still have) lots of dirty dishes which we are working through. 

 <trying to track down some photos>

The Mad Cow – part 2

As I wrote last week, our misbehaving heifer was terminated with extreme prejudice, and will soon be returned to us as mince and sausages.  Lots of mince and sausages. And steaks, roasts, osso bucco etc.

We got to keep the hide (skin) of the heifer, and spent a couple of days scraping it clean of meat and fat.  Alas our kitchen knives weren’t really up to the job; next time we’ll buy some specialist skinning tools.

We covered the hide with salt, and have changed it a couple of times already.  We need to keep it salted for 2-3 weeks, until the hide become quite dry and the natural bacteria give up.  Then we will wash and clear the hide, then put it in pickling solution for a while.

We also kept the horns, and Allison has been researching the best way to clean and polish them.  She put a message on the Shambles, the SCA’s national email list, and got a number of suggestions back.

This weekend, Allison and Owen and I went to Melbourne for the SCA’s Midwinter Investiture.  The food was good, and the outfits were spectacular.  I got to spend a lot of time in meetings, but all were productive.  We stayed with my sister Glyn, which was great.  Allison and I snuck off to Montsalvat, a medieval-theme artist village built in the 1940s, which Ally had never seen before.