Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

IMG_1356[1].JPG

Blog

This page gives people a view into our daily lives living in the west of Ireland. It includes posts about our projects in the ceramic studio as well as projects in the garden, home and kitchen. 

 

Blackberry & Bramley Apple Pie

Alexis Bowman

 Picking the brambly apples

Picking the brambly apples

 

The end of the blackberry harvest meets the start of the apple one so its only natural that we should throw them together in a pie. A good pie filling consists of a smooth sauce with chunky bits as well. So I pre-cook the apples and blackberries to form the sauce and then I add chunky bits of uncooked fruit. I also think its important that the filling is not too sweet so I don't use much honey. Its good to let the tartness of the big sour bramley apples shine through, especially when your serving it with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. 

Ingredients

Sweet Shotcrust Pastry:

175g plain white flour

75g butter

40g caster sugar or icing sugar

1 egg

Pie Filling:

Some bramley apples

A big handful of wild blackberries

Some honey

A sprinkle of ground cloves

Method

1. To make pastry just throw everything into a food processor and whizz until it forms a ball. Roll it out and cover the base of your tin, saving half for the lid!

2. To make apple sauce peel and chop apples keeping half the pieces to one side. Add honey & ground cloves. Simmer with the lid on until soft and fluffy. It doesn't take long so watch out, you don't want it to burn.

3. To make blackberry sauce throw blackberries & some sugar in another pot and simmer until soft. Run it all thru a sieve to make a gorgeous smooth & thick sauce. 

4. Pop the two sauces into your pie base. Chop in some chunky pieces of apple and whole blackberries. Roll out the pastry lid. Glue it on using egg wash & pinch the edges to join them together. Brush more egg wash or milk on top and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Pop in the over at 180 degrees Celsius for around 30 - 40 minutes (until golden brown). Serve with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. YUM!

IMG_0965.JPG
IMG_1865[1].JPG
IMG_1866[1].JPG
IMG_1870[1].JPG
IMG_1874[1].JPG

Press Mould Plates

Alexis Bowman

I never got any extensive training on the wheel; just a short introduction to it during a ceramics elective in art college. Back then it was immediately obvious to me that to get a handle of the skill I would need to be totally dedicated to it. I was already immersed in my painting so I put it aside for another day. I still haven't got the chance to learn how to throw a pot so I like to build things with my hands instead. This week Steve showed me how to make a plate using a press mould.

First we made a wooden stamp using plywood. We cut this one into a figure of eight shape. We pressed the wooden stamp into the clay while it rested on a large flat sponge to take some slack.  

IMG_1338.JPG

Blackberry Soda

Alexis Bowman

I am making my way through the freezer - it needs to be defrosted. So I am using up all of last years harvest which includes a huge stash of blackberries. This simple fermented soda can be made with any fruit, fresh or frozen. The measurements in this recipe do not have to be exact. 

Ingredients

  • About 6 cups of Blackberries 
  • About 1 cup Honey or Sugar
  • About 2 tablespoon of Sauerkraut Culture (or another like whey from strained yogurt) 

Method

1. Put blackberries in a pot and cover with water (I use about 1 & 1/2 liters). Simmer for about 30 minutes. Take off heat & add honey/sugar then leave it sit until cool. 

2. Strain out blackberries.  Dilute this syrup with more water (measure according to the flavor strength of your preference). I added about an extra 1 liter. 

3. Add your culture then pour into a sterilized demijohn and fit an airlock. 

4. Leave it sit for around 3 days. During which it will ferment and bubble away. 

5. Move soda into plastic screw top bottles (if using glass be mindful that they can explode with the pressure if left long enough!). Store in the fridge. They will be ready in around 3 - 4 weeks. It will get fizzier and more dry the longer you leave it. But don't leave it too long otherwise you will loose half the soda in frothy overflow when opening it up. 

IMG_1052[1].JPG
IMG_2432[1].JPG

Stretching Slip

Alexis Bowman

Slip or 'engobe' is a form of liquid clay in which colours can be added. It is used to paint onto the surface of pots to give them colour and texture. When we want to create a smooth finish we have to ensure the consistency of slip is spot on (like cream). If it is applied too thick or applied to a body of clay that is already very dry, it can split and crack. These effects can be exaggerated to create textural surfaces. 

We've been experimenting with stretching a white slip over dark clay and throwing it across the table to make it crack. To create an extra thick slip we added dispex to porcelin. Dispex works to suspend particles in liquid. When it is added to slip it makes it extra thick and unctious.

 Firstly we roll out thick slabs of dark clay

Firstly we roll out thick slabs of dark clay

 We paint on thick porcelin & dispex slip. 

We paint on thick porcelin & dispex slip. 

 We dry it a little with the heat gun

We dry it a little with the heat gun

 Steve throws it across the table 

Steve throws it across the table 

 And it begins to crack

And it begins to crack

 The cracked porcelin slip sitting on top of the darker clay

The cracked porcelin slip sitting on top of the darker clay

Some examples of plates where slip has been stretched:

IMG_1330.JPG

Gorse Wine

Alexis Bowman

During the months of April & May the Gorse bushes in Kerry begin to come into full bloom.  

IMG_0959.JPG

On a sunny day the wind picks up their sweet scent of coconuts (which is kinda like a Pina Colada) and carries it across the fields and into our garden.

IMG_9686.JPG
DSC_4838.jpg
DSC_4841.jpg
DSC_4870.jpg

These bright yellow flowers make the most delicious wine with a distinctive coconut flavour and bright yellow colour.

Gorse Bushes are covered in tough sharp spikes which makes collecting them very tricky. We enlist the help of our young kids who use their tiny little fingers to get a hold of them!

DSC_4871.jpg

The recipe we use to make our gorse wine comes from John Wright's book called 'Booze' in the River Cottage Handbook Series. 

IMG_2394[1].JPG

We leave our Gorse wine sit in the bottles for at least a year to mellow out. 

Platters

Alexis Bowman

We have been developing a range of these simple and functional circular platters. They have a wateriness to them; the blue pools of pigment seem to float. Cobalt and copper is also used to create colour. 

IMG_2012[1].JPG
IMG_2019[1].JPG
IMG_0196.JPG
IMG_1209[1].JPG
IMG_1210[1].JPG
IMG_E1203[1].JPG
IMG_3219[1].JPG
IMG_0203.JPG
IMG_E1206[1].JPG

Echiums

Alexis Bowman

Echiums belongs to the Boraginaceae family which include other plants like Borage & Comfrey.  We love them because they bring height and colour into the garden and also because they give our bees lots of nectar. The tall Echium pininana - know as tree echium or giant vipers bugloss - is native to the Canary Islands and is a biennial.

 Echium pininana in its second year.

Echium pininana in its second year.

In the first year they reach around 3 feet, forming a strong trunk with a display of foliage. In the following spring they send up a huge tall column of flowers which lasts for many months. While they are making their reach for the sky they often get hit by some strong winds. A little support goes a long way. 

They tend to self seed effectively in dry gravely areas of the garden. I bought my first seed from Seedaholic.com.

In the early spring when they are making their reach for the sky they often get hit by some strong winds. A little support goes a long way.

 Blue Echium vulgare

Blue Echium vulgare

A much smaller variety is Echium vulgare - know as vipers Bugloss - which is native to most of Europe and acts like an annual here in Ireland. It produces a very high concentration of nectar and so it is one of the best plants to attract bees to your garden. I have a blue and a white variety. Every year I collect their seeds and sow them again the following spring with no fuss. 

 White Echium vulgare with Mother of Pearl Poppies.

White Echium vulgare with Mother of Pearl Poppies.

This year I have sown two more varieties - Echium Russicum https://www.seedaholic.com/echium-russicum.html and Echium Red Bugloss .  

Ash Glazes

Alexis Bowman

We have been developing some new ash glaze recipes lately. Ash glazes are ceramic glazes made from the ash of various kinds of wood or straw. In a wood fired kiln, potters like to create random effects by setting up the kiln so that ash created during firing falls onto the pots; the results of this are seen in Phil Rogers book 'Ash Glazes'. 

We use an electric kiln where the conditions are highly controlled and predictable so in order to get some interesting effects with wood ash we mix it with water, and often clay, and apply is as a paste or we simply shake the dry ash onto the surface of the pot before it enters the kiln.

 Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze pre-fire.

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze pre-fire.

 Finished wood ash dusted Tenmoku pot

Finished wood ash dusted Tenmoku pot

 Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glazed pot .

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glazed pot .

Wood ash is primarily made up of calcium carbonate, which is used in many glaze recipes. It also contains many other components which differ depending on the location, soil, and type of wood the ash came from. Each different ash glaze produces different results.  

IMG_0366.JPG

We collect wood ash from the pizza over at the Cill Rialaig Cafe. We wash it, sieve it and dry it to make a fine dust. 

The ceramic flux in wood ash is calcium oxide. When present in a glaze it promotes running & streaking. Wood ash glazes often run and slip so much during firing that they move down off the pot and onto the kiln shelf below, sticking the pot firmly to the shelf it sits on. In order to remove the pot we have to grind the pot off using an angle grinder; after this process the pot is usually lost.    

 These mugs are held to shelf after this ash glaze ran to far in the firing process. 

These mugs are held to shelf after this ash glaze ran to far in the firing process. 

Some examples of pots where we have used wood Ash:

 A simple wood ash glaze.

A simple wood ash glaze.

 A simple wood ash glaze.

A simple wood ash glaze.

 Wood ash dusted over a cristalline glaze.

Wood ash dusted over a cristalline glaze.

 Wood ash dusted over crystalline glaze.

Wood ash dusted over crystalline glaze.

 Wood ash dust over crystalline glaze.

Wood ash dust over crystalline glaze.

 Wood ash dusted over a crystalline glaze

Wood ash dusted over a crystalline glaze

 Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze.

Wood ash dusted over a Tenmoku glaze.

 A dusting of wood ash helped to create this streaking effect .

A dusting of wood ash helped to create this streaking effect .

 Wood ash was dusting around the rim of these bowls

Wood ash was dusting around the rim of these bowls

Pea & Bean Supports

Alexis Bowman

This year I am determined to make my beans stand strong and tall on dependable supports. In the past my they have collapsed under the weight of foliage. To ensure success I have made lots of different structures using materials salvaged from the garden and workshop. 

 This strange looking wigwam is simply made from branches & rubber ties

This strange looking wigwam is simply made from branches & rubber ties

 And this wigwam is made using re purposed metal poles.

And this wigwam is made using re purposed metal poles.

Bamboo is our most useful material for making wigwams and luckily we have our own patch which we take from every year. Many years ago a small clump of it was planted and since then it has become a forest of bamboo spreading 10 metres across. The invasive nature of the bamboo does prove to be a problem but the benefit of having good strong canes for use in the garden is a big plus. The bamboo forest also serves as a habitat for birds and wildlife and especially our chickens who use it for shelter. The kids love to hide inside it where they have made tracks and tunnels.  

 Our French Wwofers- Roxanne & Romain  - made this curved structure from bamboo to support the Mangetout.  A piece of twine joining the taller wigwams to the poly bars encourages the french beans to climb further.

Our French Wwofers- Roxanne & Romain  - made this curved structure from bamboo to support the Mangetout.  A piece of twine joining the taller wigwams to the poly bars encourages the french beans to climb further.

For the peas I stretched chicken wire across two posts and repeated this process, running several of them side by side. At the end of summer these supports can be pulled out of the ground, rolled up and put away until next spring when I will tap them back in again. 

Lovely new pea shoots are delicious. .

Pickled Beetroot

Alexis Bowman

My friend Colleen gave us some beetroot seeds that she collected from South Africa. They have produced the biggest and juiciest beetroots that we've ever grown. We usually pull most of our beets up in September but this year we forgot a few.  They are a little woody and bitter at this stage so the best way to use them up is in a pickle. This pickled beetroot is great on a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich but it is also great with cold meats. This recipe makes 3 x 400 ml jars. 

IMG_1045[1].JPG
IMG_1047[1].JPG

Ingredients

3-4 large pre cooked beetroots, sliced

200 grams white sugar

350 ml water

200 ml white wine vinegar

Preparation 

To sterilise jars put them in the oven and set it to 180 degrees Celsius. Soak the lids in a sterile solution and rinse with boiling water. 

Meanwhile, put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Hold it for 3-5 minutes then add the beetroot and boil a further 2 minutes. Add the vinegar. As soon as it reaches a boil again turn the heat off. Pour directly into hot sterilized jars and put the lids on. These will keep for months. 

IMG_0353.JPG
IMG_0347.JPG

Caramelised Butternut Squash and Chestnut Pie

Alexis Bowman

This dessert is inspired by the American thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Its texture is just like a cheesecake. 

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash

6 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 1/2 cups cream

3 eggs lightly beaten

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chestnut paste

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 pre baked 9 inch pie crust

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Peel and chop the squash and place it on a baking tray along with the butter and caster sugar. Bake for around 40 minutes or until the squash is soft and the sugar has begun to caramelise. Leave to cool. 

Puree the squash and caramelised sugar in a food processor. In a bowl take 1 cup of pureed squash and mix it with 1 cup of the cream as well as the eggs, brown sugar, spices and salt. 

In a separate bowl combine the chestnut paste with the remaining 1/2 cup cream & icing sugar. Spread it on the pie base then top it with the butternut squash mix. 

Bake until the pie is firm to the touch but jiggles when moved which is about 1 hour. Leave to cool before serving. It's even better the next day after the flavours have had more time to develop. 

A New Polytunnel Door

Alexis Bowman

Our polytunnel door used to swing open with even a small gust of wind. It was a real pain so with some simple changes we made it a sliding door instead. We attached a piece of 4 x 2 above the opening and then mounted the sliding track to it. This was a very quick job and its made a big difference. 

 We mounted the sliding door track to the large peice of 4 x2 timber. 

We mounted the sliding door track to the large peice of 4 x2 timber. 

We got the sliding door hardware from our local co-op.

New Polytunnel

Alexis Bowman

We have finally installed our polytunnel! Its 5.5 metres wide and 12 metres long and it cost us €2,087 from Polydome.ie. Installing it was simple and fun. With many hands on deck from family & wwoofers we assembled it quickly. 

 Clearing ground for the Polytunnel

Clearing ground for the Polytunnel

 Positioning the posts

Positioning the posts

 Slotting in the frame

Slotting in the frame

 Cementing in the posts

Cementing in the posts

 Assembling the door frames. Digging trenches along the border for anchoring the plastic

Assembling the door frames. Digging trenches along the border for anchoring the plastic

 Stretching the plastic with many helpers

Stretching the plastic with many helpers

Studio Furniture

Alexis Bowman

Here are a few images of the things we have made to help us with our daily tasks in the studio:

 A handy trolley for moving big heavy things about. 

A handy trolley for moving big heavy things about. 

 A plywood surround for the wheel

A plywood surround for the wheel

 A cement table for wedging clay

A cement table for wedging clay

 A drying rack for pottery

A drying rack for pottery

Milk Bottle Cloches

Alexis Bowman

The Irish garden gets a huge amount of annual rain fall so slugs absolutely thrive here. We have a huge variety of slugs in the garden. Some of them grow to be the size of your thumb! The kids are in competition to see who can find the biggest one ever. 

Taking a newly emerged seedling and plating it out in the garden is like feeding it to the sharks. So we have devised a system to keep the slugs off. We take an old milk bottle, cut the bottom off it, place it over the seedling and push it down into the soil. It becomes a small protective house in which the slugs generally don't tend to enter. The environment inside the milk bottle is also lovely and warm. When the seedling begins to push up and out of the bottle we remove it. At that stage the plant is usually large enough to handle a few slug bites.  

One of our Wwoofers devised a solution for storing the milk bottles by threading rope through their handles and hooking them up.