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Thursday, June 21, 2007


Today is the Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice everyone: may your fruits ripen and your harvest home before the deepening darkening nights of winter overtake them.

To our friends in the Southern Hemisphere: may the strengthening rays of the returning Sun gladden your hearts and bring fertility to your gardens (and anywhere else that you wish).

The traditional place for Solstice gatherings in Cumbria is the mountain of Helvellyn, but with a forecast for a low cloud base, I opted for the nearer peak of Black Combe, itself of a no mean altitude of some 70,200 Barleycorn Units. So out of bed at 2.00am, I was parked at the base by 2.50 and commenced my ascent into the foothills, hoping for an assault the summit by sunrise at 04.38am.

The notorious trudge through the Cauldron of Despair was a struggle, however the fearsome Devil's Armpit was surmounted without incident, with Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks urging me with their dawn chirpings. But a stumble on the cursed Witch's Bonnet called for a pause for an invigorating swig from the Flask of Ferment to restore confidence.

Black Combe with its head in the clouds

When I eventually mounted onto the Saddle of Turmoil I could see that the summit of Black Combe was in cloud and that I would be denied the sight of a Solstice Sunrise. As I broke through the cloud base into poor visibility I checked the GPS to find the batteries were flat. Ho hum. Never mind, today was not the day to resort to technology; today was for raw brutal Pagan instinct. So, setting my bearings on the song of an eponymous Lark Ascending that penetrated the mist, and fortified with another gulp from the Flask of Ferment, I made my foggy way towards the Summit Plateau.

I was slightly concerned that I might miss the summit in the fog and wander too far and crash headlong over the treacherous Crags of Myrmidon, but with a final push up and over Braithwaite's Step, I was relieved eventually to see the summit Trig Point and the hemispherical cairn of the Arms of Aphrodite, just minutes before the appointed time. Here I set up the Kitchen Instruments in preparation for the Ritual of the Sacrifice of the Bacon Rashers, and the Consumption of the life-sustaining herbal Infusion of Asgaard, strengthened with a measure from the Flask of Ferment.

Kitchen Instruments set up in the Arms of Aphrodite

The kitchen: Red blob: Trangia spirit stove for sacrificial bacon rashers; Yellow blob: Pocket Rocket brewing life-sustaining herbal Infusion of Asgaard; Blue blob: Extra Sacrificial Rashers; Brown Blob: Flask of Ferment

The descent

With all Rituals and Sacrifices duly completed, I packed up the instruments and commenced the descent in strengthening daylight.

The wicked Devil's Armpit

It is convicts that see the first full rays of the Solstice Sun as they appear to focus through a hole in the clouds on H.M. Prison, Haverigg.

Descent into the Cauldron of Despair while a village slumbers.
The Irish Sea coastline in the distance

My first view of rays of the Solstice Sun

I am back at my computer at 7.15 am and I noticed that my neighbours are just about to start their day. I think it's back to bed for me. Oh, hang on, I notice that there's still something left in the Flask of Ferment...


Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Jolly good show Maalie, you must have felt invigorated.
I was working in the rain today so not as happy about the outdoors myself!

There's another Flight of the Conchords clip on my post btw ;-)

10:12 am  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2006 said...

JLS, agreed that it really is indoor weather here too. Supposed to be gale force winds here tomorrow but it feels like they have already arrived.

10:29 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

I am glad you made it back safely, and am now wondering what kind of cauldron you got that Ferment from. :-)
There's a spot here in the Vienna Woods where a Viennese philosopher used to hold some Pagan rituals. I shall do research into it, first I need to finish my solstice housekeeping chores (hope that's it then for the rest of the summer *g*).
(I apologize for hogging all the sun here in Vienna, 32° and it's not even High Noon yet, if that doesn't say summer, I don't know.)

11:21 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

Oh, the heat lets me forget the good manners: Thank for you the Happy Summer Solstice wishes! The same to you. :-)

11:23 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

You are such an enthusiast. I would have joined you for a bacon roll there had I lived closer.

11:51 am  
Blogger simon said...

may the lord bless you and keep you ..may he make his face to shine upon you and give you his peace, now and in the hour of the solstice...( can you share a bit of bacon? I am staving) Amen....

12:10 pm  
Blogger Tina said...

Love the photos. So pretty

5:53 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

How did the beer damper work out for you Maalie?
And the rest of the solstice. I notice a typo in the title too ;-)

10:26 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

Thanks for comments everyone.

Beer damper? *Puzzled*.

Typo? What typo? ;-)

Yeah, had a good day, slept through most of it until W (TCA) arrived for nice bike ride in evening.

11:03 am  
Blogger simon said...

beer damper? I LOVE BEER DAMPER its the best in the WHOLE wide WORLD! ( must be an ANZAC thing)....

11:17 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

JLS: I've gottit! I've remembered! 'Fraid there was too much excitement going on yesterday, it went out of my mind. But it's baking in the oven RIGHT NOW! I'll report back!

By the way, how much is a "cup" (in grammes or ounces)? I guessed.

Simon, I used Castlemaine XXXX, I hope you approve (I got a case ready for your visit). Maybe a darker beer would be better?

11:28 am  
Anonymous Ellee said...

I spent most of my solstice glued to the computer trying to sort out IT problems, it seems you had much more fun.
Have a good weekend Maalie.

3:57 pm  
Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...

Where can one get details on your Lakeland Walks? I'm happy douing15-20 miles a day. Or rather , in a day if you see what I mean.

6:49 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Jeremy, there is an excellent site here

Otherwise many bookshops stock guides to walking in the fells. Good luck.

7:30 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

Beer Damper?

8:13 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Beer damper: Yeh, supposed to dampen your appetite for beer. See J'sLS.

8:57 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Re 1 cup = 8 liquid oz.: The weight depends, in my experience one cup holds for ex. about 200 g of flour. What did you want to weigh?

11:07 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Merisi, self-raising flour to make this!

11:14 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...


thank the gods you have not baked your bread following my wrong directions, for which I apologize sincerly.

In order to make up for my plunder, I have taken out my measuring cups at the unholy hour of seven in the morning (on a Sunday *g*), and proceeded to measure first the liquid and then weigh the bread flour.

The results:
A standard American measuring cup, i.e. eight liquid ounces, is 250 ml minus 2 tablespoons of liquid.

For dry measuring, Americans use single containers for each half, quarter, third and whole cup, measuring by dipping the desired size of measuring cup into the flour container and sweeping off any excess with the flat edge of a knife.

I followed this method and my scale shows that this one cup of flour weighs exactly 146 grams.

Measurements in recipes are usually given for unsifted, i.e. flour right out of the container (if sifted is specified, of course the dry weight would be different).

Have a great Sunday!

6:56 am  
Blogger TCA said...

Hoorar for the flask of ferment to see you through the Devil's armpit and sweaty arms of aphrodite !

We like the kitchen set up it reminds us of a certain day on Old Winchester Hill !

Splendid Blog.


10:13 am  
Blogger simon said...

merisi- thank you for correcting this! I was out of control in the kitchen without this instruction ( smile @u)

11:59 am  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

I'm flattered my rough-as-guts recipe for beer damper has sparked such research, but there's two little hairs I'd like to split:-

1. Simon's right, it's a pretty ANZAC recipe, which means "a cup is a cup is a cup. Find a cup and use it. Preferably after you've finished drinking the beer from it."

2. If it is an ANZAC recipe, why are we using American Cups? Surely neither the Brits nor the Australasians (sp?) use American measure?

6:41 am  
Blogger simon said...

I agree Ju's.

However Merisi has lived in America so I guess we can welcome her measurements.

Its true that to make it the "cup" can really be anything ( including a beer can!)

BTW we have a HUGE sundial made of sandstone.. more like slabs, in our village of Kurrajong and on the solstice they had celebrations around it ( there were tents and music and everything)


7:53 am  
Blogger Maalie said...

JLS: Actually, that's more or less what did. I looked for a sort of medium-sized cup. The variable quantity was the beer - I added enough beer until it looked right (between a sort of batter and dough)and then drank the rest.

Meris, I am nevertheless grateful for you information, I also have an American recipe for Snickerdoodles and you need cups for that. And cream of tartar a baking soda and weird stuff like that! And lots of cinnamon!

7:58 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

What a brilliant way to bring in the solstice. We were in the middle of the Atlantic in stormy winds and big waves. Could of done with some of that Ferment.

11:24 am  
Blogger Merisi said...

I didn't mean to impose any foreign measurements on you ANZACs (whatever that may mean *????*), I hadn't realized the tribal nature of question!

While it's true that yeast doughs are very forgiving, once you get to other doughs, it is, in my experience at least, better to adhere to standardized measurements. Mustn't be American ones. ;-)

Maalie, baking soda isn't used in Ausrian recipes, while Americans use it often (also for cleaning, it's dirt cheap there, while in Austria you have to go the the pharmacy to get a few grams of it *g*), as do they Italians, who love their sodium bicarbonate for all kinds of purposes, too.

And that was the last I'll ever utter about non-ANZAC-approved whatevers! :-)

2:52 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

Maalie, hope you haven't suffered from terrible flooding. We have missed it so far, but it looks like the heavens could be opening any minute.

5:29 pm  
Blogger Clara said...

Lorenzo lama suggested I look in here. Wow, you do get about a bit!

10:54 pm  
Anonymous Ellee said...

I think it is time I put my walking boots on again. I did plan to join one last Sunday which showed us how to use a compass. Only my son spent the night out and I didn't know where he was (he was ok, of course)I didn't have peace of mind to go. Boys!

4:01 pm  
Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Merisi, I apologise myself! I was only teasing about the american measures ;-)

ANZAC stands for Australia/New Zealand Army Corps and was a combined corps in the Great War. Both Australia and NZ remember our fallen warriors on ANZAC day.
Though NZ and Australia are two different countries we have a lot of similarities, such as beer, beer damper and boiling the billy. Shall we not go into Pavlova/Phar Lap/etc Simon? (You can keep Russel Crowe!)
Anyway Merisi, if something is a combination of NZ and Australian it will often be refered to as ANZAC.

Would you like the recipe for Anzac biscuits?

2:03 am  

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