Monthly Archives: March 2010

making an axe handle


My partner brought me an old axe head that she’d liberated from work and in true style I threw it in a tool box and forgot all about it. Finding it recently I thought it would make a good project. I used a piece of Willow for the handle, I’m sure that it not suitable at all but I wanted to practice cutting the shape and that was the only wood available.

I roughed out a blank on the shave horse with the draw knife then drew round an existing handle to get the shape. I then went back to the draw knife and roughed out the rest. The straight grain of the Willow was a great help. Other than some sanding to get a smooth finish it was all done on the shave horse with the draw knife.

With it being green wood, I then brought it in and placed it by the fire for a few days to dry it out. Next I cut a little notch in the top to take the wedge. With a little work with a knife I managed to get the shaft to fit into the head of the axe. (this was harder than it looked as the hole was irregular shape) I then drove an seasoned Oak wedge into the grove.

I was pleased with the shape of the handle but felt I made a bit of a mess with the wedge, I’d not cut the notch long enough I don’t think and the split did not seem central. A few weeks later the handle came loose, this time I used a larger wedge and that seems to have done the trick but I’m not trusting it yet!!


Saturday’s full English -a spiritual experience

unbeatable breakfast

Saturday morning would not be the same without this beautiful scene. It might not be the most healthy- even though it’s all organic- or the most original but it’s become an institution.

Opening the fridge on a Friday creates conflicting emotions, on one side there’s the excitement of some great ingredients sitting there waiting to be fried grilled or in someway warmed to release their captivating aromas and flavors but then you remember it’s Friday. You can’t cook these little beauties at six on a friday night, nor can you split them up, there a team, a tribe waiting to set saturday off to a flying start.

Coming down to the kitchen on Saturday morning is like a six year old coming downstairs on christmas morning, it’s exciting. I lay out the ingredients on the table, fetch the eggs from the coop and make a cup of tea. Now even though I like many have cooked this meal many times, perusing the separate ingredients with a brew in one hand is necessary not to decide how each will be dealt with, no that’s set in stone, it’s to give thanks.

Next my two favorite skillets come out, cast iron beauties there like my Sunday best. The kettles back on and so is the grill and two hobs, once butter hits the pan the song of frying begins. Bacon’s on, sausages under, tomatoes and mushrooms sliced, beans and eggs waiting. The song gets louder the smells intoxicate the senses and a trance like state is reached and then what would seem to the uninitiated to be a frenzy of scrambling, kettle reboiling, peppering, burning, fat spitting and bubbling chaos ceases, the fat quietens the kitchen cools. It’s done.

Like a monk illuminating pages I arrange the what until now have been separate ingredients, into a meal I make then one. All that is left for the eater to decide is their personal choice of condiment, it’s not fundamentalism after all.

It’s not about whether you believe in hash browns or not, or accept fried tomatoes as a second helping, it’s that your there letting it into your life. Monday could be poached eggs Tuesdays I’m open to some experimental thing with leftovers but Saturday’s full.

full english

making cider vinegar


I’d love to say that the reason that all the cider we made in 2008 still is to be drunk is that we are only modest drinkers but that just not the case, it is and I’m thinking in gastronomic terms here, a bit cat pissy. Now that’s not to say that it’s undrinkable but it seems to have positioned itself in the emergency booze category along with that stuff in the strange bottle that I don’t know where it came from but gets that funny stain out of the toilet.

I digress, as I’m from a long line of waste not want not’s the natural thing to do is turn it into a superior product. Now I have in the past transformed what is an acquired taste cider into very pleasant apple brandy, by freeze distilling-which actually is my most popular post- but I wanted to have a go at something different.

Cider vinegar is a must in our kitchen so I having a go at making my own and at about £4 for an organic bottle, I’m hoping to save money too.

Now there are many ways of fermenting alcohol into vinegar some more complex than others but I was coming from the point of ‘if you build it they will come’ or if you let the air to it, the Acetobacter, the vinegar bacteria present in the air, will attack the alcohol in the cider and convert it into acetic acid or vinegar, with just patience and without needing Kevin Costner. That’s a ‘Field of dreams’ joke, sorry never mind…

Here’s what I did,
Nearly fill a large jar with 6% cider, (about 2.5ltrs) this cider is completely natural, just apple juice and time.
Leave enough space for adding a little cider vinegar, at 6% or more and unpasteurized, this so I’ve read, should aid the fermentation as the natural bacteria should still be present. I used Aspall organic cider vinegar. I added about 200ml.
Put a piece of cloth over the top and secure with an elastic band.
Leave in a warm place out of direct sunlight, mine is in the cupboard above the oven.

I’ve read that you need to add this and that or keep stirring but I’ve not. I will check it every month, I’m thinking it will take two to three months. It has already become a little hazy and there’s a white mold on the surface as there should be. I think if you brew any type of alcohol you should have a go at vinegars too.