Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Hello 2015

First off:  Happy new year!  Yeah, okay, we're a fortnight in, but still, we wish everyone a happy 2015.

What have we been up to?

Well, December 2014 was a busy month.  I ended up in hospital for tests but was home before Christmas and am doing much better.  Christmas day was great.  We had a friend over for lunch, had the BEST turkey to date and Jo made gravy from scratch that was deeeelicious!  He pretty much had to make the whole meal himself and excelled.

Among many useful and fun gifts that we received was a soft cheese making kit.  On our first attempt we followed the recipe in the provided booklet.  A recipe that contradicted itself.  It added the acid while heating the milk which causes the milk to curdle...we made 2l of curdled milk.  Alas, most of that ended up down the drain with some in the dog.  I put all the utensils through the dishwasher and the next day redid the sterilising (what a faff!) and followed a recipe from the book we were also sent.

This was the result after leaving it to curdle for 40 min:

 photo CurdsAndWhey_zps78ee09cf.jpg

It looked just like the previous evening's failed attempt and I feared the worst.  BUT, I sliced it up and started spooning out the curds in the hope of at least achieving ricotta (I was aiming for mozzarella).

 photo DrainingCurds_zps10d9a1c9.jpg

Curds!  Actual curds!  Not quite as solid as the ones shown on the recipe but well worth continuing with.  The whey was even relatively clear:
 photo Whey_zps93e2f1f0.jpg

(Turns out you can make bread using the whey, so we can freeze this next time we try)

The steps after draining involved heating the curds and shaping them and putting them into cold water.  When there's only one of you this gets messy so the camera was left alone.

End result:
 photo MozBalls_zps6b67320c.jpg

and wrapped up:
 photo WrappedMoz_zpsd78ed9ce.jpg

It's a bit crumbly and lacking in flavour due to not adding a culture to it, but I made cheese!  We just need to eat it soon :)

Last Thursday (8th) a load of engineers were sent on the boat as we were predicted storms and strong winds.  That night we saw more lightning than I think I've seen in my life!  I did try to photograph it but, as is the way, I mistimed every time.  The gusts got to over 100mph, the roof rolled, and I had a very poor night's sleep waiting for the crash of escaped tiles.  Fortunately an inspection on Friday showed no damage to the roof and no escaped bins or lids.  The only thing that had happened was one of my bird feeders had flown off the bush and been replaced with a feed sack.

We've since been having strong winds; huge swells that keep causing the ferry to cancel, and hail.

 photo ColdWetGarden_zpsa438ef60.jpg

 photo PiledHail_zps977767c4.jpg

Invasive, hail.
 photo GarageInvasion_zps5aab4984.jpg

Stones varying from a mere 2mm across to whoppers over 6mm across.

My poor oak sapling isn't too chuffed:
 photo PoorSapling_zps685c5ffa.jpg

Madam has spent her time doing the sensible thing and staying wrapped up:
 photo SleepyHappyDoglet_zps662a31cc.jpg

The back garden, to quote Jo, "looks like the Somme".  Mud, puddles, dead grass.  The reef doesn't look much better, the cows have already grazed it down and the crofters are having to spend a fortune on supplementary feed and shifting huge bales around.

Speaking of animals, I ordered more bird food and the garage mice tried to steal it:
 photo TastyLid_zps8fe5e701.jpg

Unfortunately I can't get rid of those mice, they steal the food from the ferret's bowl as he has to have food 24/7.  But the house has been mouse-free...so far.  Probably because all our food is stored better than we did in the past.

What else?  Oh yes, we got some money back from the electric people and Jo gave me permission to purchase a second hand DSLR for night photography.  I've tried and tried with both my newer bridge camera and that older Kodak but neither has really managed to capture what we see.

I spent quite a while on EBay and Google looking at cameras in our price range and reading reviews of them for night photos.  Eventually I found one that ticks all the boxes, a Canon EOS 20D.  It's 10 years old, 8megapixels but it does the job.  I admit to being rather daunted when all the bits arrived:

 photo Canon_zps2df7997b.jpg

I spent quite a while reading the manual and still need to get my head around some of it.  I also had to order some extra bits.  It takes CF cards and we don't have those, so two 8GB CF cards were ordered.  It has no internal memory so I had 4 days of not really being able to practice because the camera refuses to do anything without a card.

I'd also ordered a new tripod.  Ours is...okay, but one of the legs has a habit of sliding back into itself under the weight of my Nikon camera and this new (to us) camera is about 3x the weight.

 photo Tripods_zps53d81ffe.jpg

The new tripod is just a bit bigger than the old one.  And far more adjustable.

So now I had all this kit but the weather didn't want to play!  Windy is okay, there's usually a side of the house where it's sheltered, but rain?  No go.

Until last night.  2am I was wide awake and it was bone dry outside.

Moonlit power station:
 photo MoonlitPower_zps1925c778.jpg

Most of the "big dipper/ plough":
 photo StarryNight_zps95a9a6b1.jpg

I had a play with exposure times as well.  The clouds were really zooming so moon shots ended up blurred while stationary points like the power station were crystal clear.  Also...stars!  I actually photographed stars!

So you can definitely expect more starry night photos and moon shots to come.  I even know what lens to get to get even better night shots!  I plan to play with star trails too.


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