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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