Hi-tec haybox’s green flavour

IMG_3203 It’s centuries old but climate change and carbon emissions have made it highly relevant now. I’ve just completed our new hi-tec haybox [Internal dimensions: 53mm x 34mm x 30mm] and it’s passed the proof of concept stage with flying colours. Two slow cooked dishes, a lamb and mushroom curry (see recipe) and a steak and kidney stew, have got friends clamouring for construction details – and invitations to dinner!

It’s a good recycling story too. A schoolboy’s sturdy tuck box in the 1920s, it was converted into a traditional haybox in the seventies and then re-purposed again into a cluttered toolbox in the nineties. Neither of these uses had worked that well (hay is not a perfect insulator!) and a recent purchase of two smaller wooden toolboxes got me thinking of a greener future for the old family friend.

I found the ideal insulation material at B&Q for maintaining the existing heat in a casserole dish – a sheet of Polyfoam XPS 222551 Space Board (Dimensions: 1200mm x 500mm x 52.mm). Designed for lofts, it has the same energy saving capacity as 270 mm thick mineral wool insulation; and subsidised under the Government’s Carbon Emissions Reduction targets, it costs under £4 a sheet.

With a ruler, tape and sharp knife I soon had a central chamber created with two small cotton bags full of polystyrene packing chips to cover the lid of the 2-litre Le Creuset dish. A precisely cut piece of Space Board (with handles provided) is eased down to form the final sealing panel for the cooking chamber. It’s a simple way to cut energy use and save you money! (See photos below of the haybox in use).

Making it work is easy too. Prepare the stew or curry in the morning, fill the Le Creuset dish to within ½ inch of the top and bring the contents to a bubbling heat in the conventional oven. Then transfer it (Photo No 2) to the chamber of the Hi-tec haybox in the bootroom at The Larches and leave for 7-8 hours. There’s plenty for six people.

The verdict from Petra and Diana, our visitors this week from Schwerin in Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania? “Why’s it so hot after 8 hours and the meat so tasty and tender? …we need our husbands on the job next week to bring out a German version”!

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Season of mists …. and sun!

We’ve been up to The Larches several times this month doing maintenance and gardening work; and have been reminded of Keats’ poem, Autumn:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness;
Close bosom friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how …
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees

Autumn’s a great time to be in the Lakes and more people seem to recognise this. It’s good value with lower rates for staying and plenty of sun for every kind of activity – including apple and damson picking!

The pictures below were taken earlier in the month. The first is an early morning view from the Belvedere of the sky lit up over Keswick while a thin blanket of mist lies low over the marshes with Latrigg and Clough Head keeping watch beyond.

The second of the cottage with recently painted windows and exterior shows a beckoning Skiddaw in the background. When it is calm and clear like this, it’s hard to resist the urge to set out for the summit!

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Fair Trade in Keswick

moot_hall1 It was interesting to see Keswick in the news again last week as one of the towns in the country most actively engaged in supporting the Fair Trade movement. The Guardian article Lakeside shopping (10 October) in its special feature Section “a positive change: Celebrating the Fairtrade Foundation” described how nearly 300 bodies including hotels, shops and cafes in Keswick have signed up to providing Fair Trade drinks, food and other items as a way of helping poor farmers and producers out of poverty.

There’s also a readers’ resources area and a useful graph in the Section showing the growth of the Fair Trade movement in the UK over the last 15 years. Total Fair Trade sales are up from £2.7 million in 1994 to £712.6 million in 2008, of which bananas now represent £184 million and coffee £137 million. It’s still a small part of this billion pounds sector, but a very encouraging development.

At The Larches we provide Fair Trade tea for visitors on arrival and we’re exploring how we can obtain introductory packs of Fair Trade coffee. More information about the very successful local campaign is on the Keswick Fair Trade website.

Garden gets autumn review

earthbox2 We’ve wondered for a while about the small unused plot of grass beside the garage at The Larches. Now it’s been given a new lease of life as a raised vegetable plot, adjoining the recently planted Himalayan rowan tree (The top photo shows the box in the process of construction). Two inch thick tanalised timbers to a depth of 18 inches should give it a long life and plans are afoot on the planting front.

IMG_2926 Note also the pile of stones in the second photo. Rescued from an old building undergoing renovation, they’ll come in handy with a fellside rockery we’re designing for 2010. This will be on the left of the flight of steps leading from the Breakfast terrace up to the Belvedere. We plan to clear the ground of any bracken first. Let us know if you have ideas of particular alpine plants you’d like to see there.

IMG_3161This summer’s been warm – and wet at times – so plants and trees have grown rapidly. That’s not so good with the bracken which always needs pulling and cutting back, but the grass of the new south lawn (see photo opposite) has had a great start.

With the new containing walls, acer tree and seat it’s already looking like it’s been there for years!

Our users generate content!

img006Comments about people’s stay here are already included in our Guestbook, but we’re always keen for more contributions from guests and from visitors to the website.

We’ve also had this last summer holiday period interesting comments on the blog section and some eye-catching drawings and a photo. The small line drawing (top picture) shows The Larches from the south with the fellside and trees behind and was sent by the Reavley and Atkinson families visiting in August.

nina-pic2The second sketch by Nina Birnbaum is a small section of a larger colour acrylic painting showing Skiddaw mountain from the Breakfast Terrace. To see the full picture with a flower pot in the foreground see the Home section.

The third contribution from John Brookman is a photo (below) of the half-frozen rim of Bassenthwaite just beyond St Bega’s Church. This will form part of the photo gallery for this low level walk in the Walks section.

IMG_0036Many thanks to our contributors who’ve shown how User generated content (UGC) can enhance the lakelandbelvedere.com site! Please keep the contributions flowing as well as ideas of what else we should include on the website – just send an email to ian@lakelandbelvedere.com.