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This week: Workshop shelving; Choose your pastry Sir…; Few plants enjoy the heat;

Pre dawn moon
The moon just before dawn with the planet Venus shining brightly below

It’s been another warm week this week. +30º C by 9 am, rising to 34º, 35º, or 36º C by lunch time and cooling to 32º C by tea time.

Overnight temperatures have been uncomfortable inside, with the temperature hovering around +28º C all night long. Just sometimes I think that air conditioning might be a good idea.

Being outside after dark has meant a view of the Perseid Meteors. The maximum shower this week was overnight Wednesday into Thursday.

I saw several meteors streak across the sky, but completely failed to catch any in my time exposure photographs. I think I need a different lens and probably a different technique!

Time lapse meteor shower
Time lapse meteor shower – Photo: Durdle Door by Alyn Wallace

So with hot days and hot nights, it has not been the weather for doing very much at all.

But there are still jobs to be done, whether it is finishing off some already started work, or beginning a new job, I am never stuck for tasks.

Workshop shelving

This has been one of those on-off jobs of the past couple of weeks, which I have finally finished.

Having cut the timber uprights, I then ran them through the thicknesser so they are all the same dimensions. They now have a really nice, smooth surface instead of the rough and splinter ridden edges that as “rough sawn” timber, they come with.

Installing the uprights wasn’t difficult but I also had to cut ledges for the shelves to rest on. Next up was cutting some more shelves to fit, then moving in the heavy equipment, like the hydraulic motorcycle lift.

New workshop shelves
New workshop shelves

I’m leaving the shelf under the windowsill clear, so I have a bit of worktop space at this end of the workshop. Its handy for resting the IKEA boxes on, which contain all my small tools and i have a nice view down the orchard too.

I have carefully grouped tools and equipment together on the old shop fittings, so they are easy to find. But I realised that I could could probably do with an extra shelf for automotive parts and cleaning products.

I don’t have a garage – that place where everything can be stored – so have to make do with the workshop instead.

Dexian shelving
Dexian shelving

I am using some Dexion shelving that just fits against one of the ring beam walls. At 1.5 meters tall and 0.5 m wide it is ideal.

In the Konoba I have one single bay unit, however, if I add it lengthwise, it will stick out too far.

Although I don’t like to destroy things, I decided that if I shorten two legs to 50cm each, I can then bolt these and two shelves to the existing unit. It left me with six shelves and two legs spare.

The uprights are just pressed mild steel so were easily cut with a hacksaw. I dipped the ends in rust proofing paint, to protect the newly bared metal, then simply bolted them onto the existing uprights.

The hardest job was cutting the metal by hand, in the heat. Bolting the extensions to the existing uprights was simple and then adding the two top shelves finished this element of the task.

On impulse I tried adding a shelf at right angles to the row to see how much space in the workshop it took up and if it would impinge on the work area.

It didn’t, so I went ahead and fixed four more shelves in place.

Additional shelves in place
Additional shelves in place

Clearly this Dexian was not designed to have right angle elements in the middle of a run of shelves. I did have to drill a single hole in each shelf to accommodate an additional bolt.

I think I am now about done with making shelving.

What does surprise me, although it probably shouldn’t, is how quickly I have expanded to fill the available space.

Choose your pastry Sir…

With a large quantity of figs on the trees, some of which are already starting to spoil, I decided to make some Galette this week.

Spoiling figs
Spoiling figs

I’m not a graduate of the French school of Pâtisserie, rather I was taught by my Mum and Granny how to make pastry in the old fashioned Yorkshire way. This is using your fingers to feel the texture of the pastry as you kneed it.

Those who have sampled any of my desserts generally come back for more and ask for the recipe, so I’m doing something right!

Galette is a Norman French (appropriate!) word used to describe a round pastry crust, often filled with seasonal fruits. One magazine describes them as “Casually impressive, but thrown together – rustic, inviting. Their imperfections set them apart”.

I like using shortcrust or puff pastry, think Cream Horns here, because it is easy to make by hand. Not for me the food processor to make a light, flaky pastry!

It really is your choice what you put in the centre of your Galette, but I used both common and Brown Turkey figs.

Common and Brown Turkey figs
Common and Brown Turkey figs from my trees

This was laid on a bed of custard cream, made with honey, Mascarpone, an egg yolk and vanilla.

The whole lot cooked for 45 minutes at 190º C. And this is what it looks like.

Fig and honey Galette
Fig and honey Galette

One has gone in the freezer, the second has gone – it doesn’t keep!

Cvjetko did say it was the best pâtisserie he had ever tasted, with every slice accompanied by a glass of Rakija. Perhaps his comment was caused by the Rakija??

You can try this DiY recipe at home, with whatever your local fruits are.

This is my recipe for the custard cream filling:

Ingredients – filling:
Pastry to cover the size of your dish
10 – 15 Fresh figs, tops and bottoms removed and thickly sliced
250 grams Mascarpone
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of honey
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of milk
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons of Turbinado (cane) or granular sugar

Roll the pastry on a floured surface until it is 5 cm larger than the platter you are using. The thickness should be like a 1 €uro coin.

Dust the platter with flour and place the pastry over the platter
Brush the inside edge of the pastry with the glaze and fold over the edges all the way round
In a basin mix together all the filling ingredients, until well mixed and smooth. Spoon into the centre of the pastry.

Place the fig rounds inside the edges of the pastry, to the middle.
Put platter in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove and brush glaze round the pastry edge, then sprinkle the sugar over the edges and the fig rounds.

Heat the oven to 190º C. Put the platter above the middle and cook for 45 minutes until the edges are golden and crisp. Serve warm or cold with lashings of ice cream.

Few plants enjoy the heat

By this point in the year, at least in my bit of the ‘Dol Sv. Ana’ estate, the earth is as dry as dust. There is just no soil moisture left.

I needed to dig a small hole this week in the citrus orchard. The initial digging was easy enough, but by the time I was one spit deep, the surrounding grains of the clay soil were cascading in small rivulets back into the hole.

The wider I made the hole, the more grains slid back in. I eventually finished digging by hand, scooping the grains out. The soil was warm to the touch, even at a spit and a half deep.

This is the growing medium I have and it is why almost everything which I have have planted is being irrigated. This is at least until the plant, shrub or tree has developed a root system deep enough to find moisture in the fissure of the underling bedrock.

There are some exceptions though. The Lantana’s, Lantana camara, are the Mediterranean “butterfly bushes”, attracting huge numbers of butterflies and moths.

Japanese Maple and Lantana
Japanese Maple and Lantana

Their brilliant scarlet, orange, yellow, blue and pink flowers make tired corners, like the area outside my kitchen window, burst with colour and life.

Lantana camara
Lantana camara

This is one of the large butterflies which are regular visitors.

Swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly

As well as the nice, colourful and useful insects, I also occasionally get the pests too.

I noticed this week that I had farmer ants on my lime tree, looking after a colony of the Icerya purchasi aphid. The Icerya purchasi is a specialist aphid, highly temperature dependant, which is drawn to citrus trees.

Icerya purchasi aphid
Icerya purchasi aphid

There is a symbiotic relationship between the ants and the aphids. The ants control and actively “farm” the aphids for food, while the aphids are feeding on the sap from the host tree.

Fortunately, it is easy to kill the aphids with a simple solution of liquid hand soap diluted in water. Two applications later, the ants have gone and the aphids are all dead.

While I am on the subject of Citrus trees, my Kumquat is covered in blossom at the moment. I had a bumper crop earlier this year and if looks as though there will be another one next year too.

Kumquat blossom
Kumquat blossom

So as the days pass, soon the temperature will begin to cool and a more normal work routine can be established. NRC

7 Responses

  1. John Bailey.

    Like you Norman we are desperate for rain. Your Fig and honey Galgate looks delicious . Once again a very interesting read.

  2. John Baileyou.

    Predicted text has spelt Galette incorrectly. Sorry about that.

  3. Brian Homans

    Well written, Norman. We are fortunate to have bred a son who is the Contracts Manager for an air conditioning company. Having formerly worked ‘on the tools’ he spent one of his furlough days a couple of months ago installing a superb air conditioning unit in our bedroom – a permanent installation, not a portable unit. Some may think it extravagant and unjustified in the UK, but believe you me, it has come into its own these past few weeks. We set it at 22C which we find suits us well and we are so pleased we had it done. Luckily, ‘mates rates’ applied.
    The other memory you have jogged is about Dexion. When I was a PC at Hemel Hempstead in the 1960’s, the main Dexion factory was on the town’s industrial estate (it is now at Swindon). Any officers requiring any of their products were able to get staff discount by having a chat with security officers in the gatehouse. Happy days!

  4. Terry Hubbard

    Hi Norman. I am about to add an electric motor to my garage door which has prompted me to revise my shelving. So like you I have spent a couple of days moving and adding shelving sections. Fortunately much cooler here. Keep believing.

  5. Andy Robinson

    I can’t believe that you do all this on your own. I think you have an army of elves who help you. Some enterprising TV company should make a documentary about you. Another great read Norman.

  6. Marcy

    Hi. It’s so hot here too. Death Valley recorded 54 this past week. Flowers are so beautiful and the pie….yummmm. Take care and stay safe.

  7. Hajo

    As usual: vrlo interesantno!!!