Just when we thought it couldn’t get any colder!

Ice formed in a ditch

Looking back to my optimistic post about making 36 hour sourdough in late November I see that I wrote that the temperature outside in the communal hallway drops to about 12C in winter. Well that was then! After record breaking warmth in November we’ve switched to record breaking cold and this week the overnight air temperature has dropped to -6C and it hasn’t risen much above zero all day, and so the hall temperature – assisted by the open window downstairs which our neighbours use to disperse the tobacco and weed smoke – drops to about 6C. This last couple of weeks we’ve used the hall as a large additional fridge.

Living as we do in a concrete block of flats built to 1970’s specifications, we’ve been struggling with black mould on the walls for which the only remedy is keeping the flat warm – which costs about £120 a week; rotating a dehumidifier around each room and spraying the affected areas with bleach. A request for advice from our landlord (Church of England Pensions Board) has gone unanswered for three weeks. Just feel the love!

This morning it was so cold inside the flat that I had to resort to three layers and a woollen hat. Madame thought this was so funny she took this photo from the warmth and comfort of our bed – I possibly look like a miserable old git. But amazingly the sourdough had hardly slowed down during the night and so I was able to knock it back early – hence the grubby apron; not really grubby more spattered with bleach stains (see above). I make all sorts of bread, and the difference in flavour between the slow 36 hour sourdough and a quick four hour yeast loaf is so huge you wouldn’t believe they’re made with exactly the same flour

The kitchen is a real sanctuary during these troubled times. With the allotment frozen it’s the only place I can make things happen. This morning I knocked up some eggs benedict for a breakfast treat. The loaf is proving until this evening when I’ll bake it, and there’s a casserole in the oven – it feels like a small victory against entropy except that when we went up to the allotment to get some bay leaves we discovered that the rats had found our stored squashes and eaten the lot. I can’t get too cross about it though; there are bigger challenges to face.

I read somewhere this week that blogs with a vaguely homestead/self sufficiency feel are doing especially well at the moment. I can’t say I’d noticed it here at the Potwell Inn – maybe because this blog is not about polishing the political turd with a bit of lifestyle blather. We won’t bring about the desired paradigm shift with home made marmalade. Although I loathe William Cobbett’s reactionary politics, I do think that Rural Rides and Cottage Economy are an indispensable record of a period of great hardship in the 18th Century, and I’d be pleased if the Potwell Inn provided a similar account of these low and selfish decades.

PS – The algorithm that WordPress uses to pick similar postings has selected three that mention marmalade. Obviously artificial intelligence has a way to go just yet!

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