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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Update on Artisan Bread Recipe! Adapting to a New Climate

   It has come to my attention that recipes have to be tweaked for locale. An example of this is the difference in boiling water (or cooking eggs, potatoes, rice, or cakes) at high altitude versus low. It takes longer to bring fluids to a boil at higher altitudes. 
   Well now I have learned about the difference in adding water when living in a humid climate versus the edge of a high desert location. For those of you who live in Pullman,Washington, you can keep to the Artisan bread recipe two posts previous. For those of us who live in the UK (and maybe Portland and Seattle) here is an update:
Adapted Artisan Bread Recipe
3 cups of flour
1 Tablespoon of dry fast acting yeast (I use Alinson's in a small tin)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/4th cups of warm water (down from one and half cups)
This is a wet dough. That is why kneading isn't necessary, except briefly before the second rise. I discovered the cup and a half of water was too wet over here in England, although it worked find in Pullman. My latest loaf made today with the change in water came out perfect. This is a small, round loaf with the best texture and lovely taste. Try it and let me know how you get on.

Friday, July 25, 2014

3 2 4 G EE What a view, Kestrel and Osprey

How do you like the blog title?
About 3 weeks ago my phone contract ended on what was my first smart phone the Samsung. Now my usage allowance included bonus loyalty minutes and just a very small data package as my use of apps for Facebook, games or anything other than incoming E Mail or a little bit of web browsing is almost zero. My last upgrade brought me into the smart phone world with a decent camera and wireless technology that enabled me to connect to the boats wi-fi.
Most recent on the right. I did like the flip phones as I had a tendency to squash screens in my pocket against lock beams. Now I just buy a leather flip case.
This time it was the attraction of upgrading from 3G to all the bells and whistles of 4G. The phone company EE, running Orange and T-Mobile, attempted on the phone to sell me a fancy expensive package. Jaq had picked up a catalogue in the high street branch of EE and it contained a 4G smart phone with more usage allowances than my so called loyalty package so this was my choice. Oh! plus it was 20% less per month. Morale is always check what they are offering to anyone on the high street and don`t bank on loyalty for the best deal.

Less than 3 weeks later and our mobile Internet wi-fi contract ended and another decision to be made. Our contract with T-Mobile was for 5GB which we found to be inefficient as we both had laptops and Jaq also used hers for work. Some months ago we had trouble with being charged a lot when we went over our allowance. This I sorted out and had the charges squashed and the fair use policy re-instated. The last 3 months we have gone over the allowance but have not been cut off but just been restricted to not downloading films and music.
Starting on the left the first two connected to the laptop. Then came two upgrades to mi-fi, wi-fi, horse fly, now we have the 4G all singing and dancing Osprey Internet.
So this time we decided to pay a bit more and triple our allowance to 15GB and get the new 4G wi-fi box of tricks. The extra allowance will allow catching up on some missed TV via the net. We now have a much better phone/Internet deal  for a very small, £1.42 ($2.30) monthly increase.

I have been using Orange for about 20 years and T-Mobile perhaps 8years. Important thing is they have been the two used on the boat since my beginning life afloat. Coverage has been good with very few places nationwide on the canal system that the signal has been painful. Now the two company`s are one (EE) the extra masts might make even those painful times better.
I did do some research with a view to changing the Internet provider and learnt about deals tethering, sim only and various other ways but decided to stick with that which I have proved works for us.

The phone is a Kestrel 4G on the £13.99 ($22) package.
The Internet is Osprey 4G+ on the 15GB £20 ($32) package.

I remember well before 4G surfaced in the UK I saw it advertised in the U.S. Deals in the states will probably differ to here and if any U.S. readers want to share their deals, anonymously, with folk here please let me know and I will blog the figures. The deals I have listed include the phone and wi-fi equipment hence my collection of gadgets. Terrible throwaway society we have become.
For the first time I am seeing 3G/3G+ on my phone signal. Is this a result of the introduction of 4G?

So to the last part of the blog title, the view from our current mooring. Please don`t complain you can`t see a Kestrel or Osprey in the picture.
Every time Nb Valerie has passed this spot it has been taken. Above to the left and below to the right. Just a pity we have to move tomorrow as Mr. Tesco will be delivering to the boat and we need to get near a road.

Just came across this in the picture folders. Remember the houses being put up at Marsworth the start of the Aylesbury arm. I commented on the metal framework looking like some industrial units. Well now the brickwork has started the style can be seen. The inner white blocks are within the frame and the dark brickwork forms the outer skin. The gap will be filled by the insulation that can be seen at the back of the site. I wonder why this framework is used instead of the traditional brick built walls.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dutch Ovens and the World's Easiest Artisan Bread

   In response to Carol Palin's (WB Still Rockin) comment to my post about our cooker, below, I am posting several pictures of Dutch Ovens and the recipe I use for Artisan bread. 

Original Dutch oven
   "Dutch oven" was originally a term for a large cast iron pot with three legs and and tight fitting lid with a deep rim and a large wire handle. They were designed for cooking on an open wood or coal fire. One put the ingredients inside, pulled the lid shut, tucked the pan down in the red hot coals and then placed six or eight red hot coals on the lid along the indented rim. This essentially provided heat like an oven. 
   In the American West of the Cowboy era the cook in charge of the Chuck wagon on the cattle drives would have had a whole set of these in his Conestoga wagon. Click the link above to see how that was done. One can cook anything in an American Dutch Oven--stews, roasts, vegetables, biscuits, bread and even dessert!
   Now days this term is used for any cast iron enameled cook pot with a tight fitting lid. These pots can be very, very expensive. For example the British department store John Lewis sell the typical Le Creuset cast iron enameled Round Casserole large enough to bake this bread for £165.00. I purchased mine from Ikea for £40.00 three years ago. It is the large 5 quart cast iron enameled cooking pot which is a staple of their cookware.
My model assisting in the photo shoot!

   My friend Chrisi Kincaid back in Pullman, Washington brought this Famous NY Times No knead bread recipe to my attention back in 2006. I've never been a fan of bread, using it mainly for the occasional piece of toast and a sandwich but that's it. Then I tried this bread recipe and I was hooked! It comes out every time and the round boule has that artisan flavor and texture so beloved and so difficult for home bakers to achieve--browned crispy crust that shatters when you bit into it and a lovely, yeasty, chewy texture with air holes throughout. REAL bread! 
My Ikea cast iron enameled "dutch oven"

   I usually sprinkle the top of my bread with a mixture of mustard, poppy, and sesame seeds, but over the years I've also mixed shredded cheese and diced green Chiles, various seeds, and three cheeses into my dough while prepping for the final rise (freshly shredded Parmesan, extra mature cheddar, and Asiago) and brought it to table warm and sliced to accompany a good meal. It makes excellent crostini and we like it for sandwiches too. It doesn't last long so I usually bake a loaf 2-3 times a week which is no hardship when bread is this easy to make and tastes this fabulous.
   My recipe differs from that of the original above in the link because I add 1 Tablespoon of dry active yeast to my flour. Otherwise it has trouble rising  in a home (or boat) with varying temperatures. I also put my rising dough bowl on top of my fridge as that is one of the consistently warm places on our boat. I would even wrap the bowl in a towel if necessary to keep it warm. 

3 cups of extra strong bread flour or plain flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of active dry yeast
1 and 1/2 cups of warm water 

Mix dry ingredients with a spoon, add warm water and mix well until all the dry ingredients are wet and well incorporated. Cover and let rise minimum of 12 hours-maximum of 18 hours. Plastic shower hats work great to cover bread dough.

Scoop out dough onto well floured counter top and give it about five to eight gentle kneads. Now is the time to add any extras like seeds, raisins, spices, cheese, Chiles, etc. Shape into a round boule or ball, and set it on a large sheet of baking or parchment paper and cover with a dish towel. Let rise for 30 minutes. 

While the dough is rising put your dutch oven with the lid on, in your oven and preheat both oven and pan together to thirty minutes at 450F or gas mark 7. 

When the 30 minutes is up carefully pull your very hot pot from the oven, remove the lid. Take the dish towel off your risen bread dough, (wet the surface with a brush and sprinkle with seeds, cheese or salt now), score the top with a sharp knife and place the dough and the parchment paper in the hot dutch oven. This is why its good to use a large sheet of baking paper so you can grab it by the corners. Put the lid on (it doesn't matter if paper is sticking out as long as the lid is on tight) and place your pot back inside the oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on and then remove the lid and let the bread finish baking for another 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, remove the bread from the pan, peel the parchment paper away and allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. 

Crostini recipe
Slice bread into long slices about a in inch in width, and then slice each piece in half. Cut at least two long slices for each person (four half pieces). Butter one side of each piece. Either sprinkle garlic powder over each buttered slice or fresh minced garlic--depends on how garlicky you like it and how upscale you want it to taste. Sprinkle each buttered, seasoned slice with liberal amounts of grated Reggiano-Parmesano, Asiago, or Grana Padano cheese and place the slices under the broiler. Broil on high for about two minutes--long enough for the cheese to bubble and brown a bit. Serve hot or cold--either way its addictive and satisfying. Crostini is great with soups, stew, or gravy--anything needing a mopped up plate. It is also a wonderful way to use a bit of bread that is a few days old and beginning to dry out.

Viola! A New Cooker is Installed

"I don't like to say that my kitchen is a religious place, but I would say that if I were a voodoo priestess, I would conduct my rituals there." ~Pearl Bailey, American actress and singer
Cook top on right with small grill and oven underneath
   After thirty six months of doing my best to produce alchemy in the itty-bitty boat stove aka the Barbie camper oven (or Suzy Homemaker oven for American women my age who remember them), and making do with a cook top that took fifteen minutes to boil a half kettle of water for tea and could never do justice to a stir fry, I am thrilled right down to my socks to say we have a new cooker (kitchen stove for our U.S. readers) and boy does it cook!
   In the Home Pride camper oven it took over two hours to bake a cake, which inevitably was overcooked on the outside and barely cooked in the middle. The recipes indicated an average cooking time of 32 minutes for two 9 inch round pans, up to 50 minutes for a 12 cup tube cake pan; the times reflecting the average in a typical kitchen range in a house. While taking much longer to bake anything in the old oven on board, it was so small I could only put one pan on the middle rack--the other one had to go on the bottom which was way too cool to cook anything all the way through, so every fifteen minutes I had to switch the pans from one shelf to another and also give them a half turn. Anyone who knows anything about baking knows that disturbing a cake while it is baking will kill the rise and the cake will fall. I never could produce a decent loaf of bread in the Home Pride oven either. Cooking casseroles in it meant doubling the time and escalloped potatoes never did cook in the middle of the baking dish--even after nearly three hours. If I had turned up the heat sufficiently to cook the middle--the sides would have been burned to a crisp.
Out with the old...
  We took possession of our slightly used Cannon Connemara cooker last Thursday and by Saturday at 5 p.m. my lovely husband had stripped out the old oven and cook top, cut out the counter top, walked to B & Q no less than twice for bits and bobs, and had our new cooker installed. My Best Beloved lets no moss grow on him--or any projects which need doing, bless him!
padding out the sides and adding the anodized aluminum edge.
Les opened this space with a jig saw and a crow bar.
Sides straight, cables and pipes pinned and the space is clean and ready..
Voila! Our new cooker fits like a glove.
   Water boils in five minutes, stir fries come out perfect--the meat is crisp and browned quickly and tender inside, the veg are browned on the surface and crisp to the bite and the sauce comes together 45 second after adding to the pan. Now it was time to test the oven and grill. 
Glazed Applesauce cake and freshly baked artisan bread!
  I baked an Applesauce cake and it took exactly 40 minutes to cook, rising to a lovely browned, tender crumb, evenly cooked sides, ends, and middle. Perfect! Potatoes Au Gratin came out of the oven cooked all the way through with a lovely browned crust after 50 minutes and pork chops cooked in the grill to perfection as did crostini. 
   I dug out my glass covered bowl which I used to use to raise bread dough, and mixed together 3 cups of flour, a sachet of yeast, one tsp. of salt and one and 5/8ths cups of water, covered the bowl and went to bed. Twelve hours later I slid the dough from the bowl, kneaded it about five times, shaped it into a round, l slid my cast iron enameled dutch oven with lid into my new oven on the second shelf, closed the door and pre-heated it to 450 F (Gas mark 7) while the dough rose again.
   After 30 minutes I slid the round dough on the baking paper into the smoking hot dutch oven, slapped on the lid and slid it back in the oven to cook for 45 minutes. Out came a lovely round loaf of delicious bread just like I used to bake at Cloudhouse. The browned crust cracked as it cooled. The interior crumb was yeasty and chewy with the lovely air holes I like. At last--I can finally cook and enjoy it once more instead of feeling like I am camping out and making do. There is lovin' in that there oven! Thank you Les.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Into Aylesbury

The cruise into Aylesbury basin from Marsworth is 16.25 miles but our destination was the Aylesbury Canal Society marina at Circus Field 0.7 miles before the basin.

The ACS were originally located in the town centre canal basin where they had a lease until 2018. Back in the days of British Waterways Aylesbury council who had a £4.3 ($6) million grant from the department for communities and local government to develop the canal basin area.
In 2007 B.W. sold the basin to Aylesbury council on a 200 year lease and for much of the time since negotiations have been ongoing.

In 2010 planning approval for the marina was granted, bet that was the fastest on record, and the council stated the cost to be £2 million. Now all the `who pays what` is not very public but I did hear the ACS got £2.5 million for their lease. The 2010 figure must have increased so the small amount I heard ACS had to find sounds about right.

Now by coincidence, if you believe in such a thing, immediately next to the marina the council released some more land for a housing development of 74 homes. My thinking is this might be the income to pay for the marina development.

Anyway forgetting all the rumors and theories the Aylesbury Canal Society now have a 40 berth marina with a clubhouse with a hall on the first floor for hire. Also within the building are wet and dry docks.
The ACS welcome boats to stay free for up to 14 days. Electric hookups are available using £1 cards. Also there are washing and drying machines at very reasonable prices. Just moor by the bridge and look for the boat with the rooftop `welcome` sign and Bryan will give you a big warm welcome.

Jaq raises the bridge to let Nb Valerie into her temporary home.
View from bridge. Nb Valerie is the 3rd boat from the left. The new housing can be seen to the side of the marina.

The new clubhouse nearing completion

Dry dock is the blue door to the left and wet dock on the right.
Dry dock boat winch

Interior of dry dock    
For boaters wondering about the latest stoppage on the Aylesbury arm this photo by our friend Robert on WB Wind in Willow shows the beam at lock 2 within the staircase snapped and resting on the lock side wall.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Time and the Livin' is Easy..

"Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them." ~Francesco Guicciardini 

   Since we left Bulbourne after seeing Mikron Theatre three weeks ago we have upped our cruising pace, similar to old times before Les fell ill. It feels so good to be on the move once more!
Our lovely Ozlem
Grandsons Teo and Batu
   We really enjoyed the trip down the Aylesbury arm we were quite pleased with our stay in the Aylesbury Canal Society's beautiful new marina facilities. They are conveniently located two locks outside the town center, near a Tesco, an NHS surgery, good bus stops, and other amenities. It was easy to catch the two buses required to visit our lovely daughter in law Ozlem in Thame and enjoy family time with Les' grandsons Teo and Batu. We've been trying for nearly six months to get there for a visit but the buses out of Aylesbury stop early in the evening, making it difficult to get back to the boat from anywhere else. 
   We stayed on a bit longer than we planned in the ACS marina as I put my S-I joint (Sacro-Iliac--commonly thought of as one's hip) out and needed chiropractic care. I've seen four different chiropractors on our journeys along the canals but  the first one ever is my favorite. His name is Jeremy English (DC MSTAT) and he is truly wonderful. Jeremy has a clinics in Watford, Hayes, and will also see some clients in Berkhamstead. He understands living aboard a narrow boat, and he is thorough and kind. He was willing to fit me in at his home in Berko and I was soon right as rain. Jeremy emailed me a week later to ask how I was feeling too. Now that is a healing professional who cares about his patients. 
The Aylesbury Arm
   After chiropractic care last Saturday at 4 p.m. we said goodbye to the friendly folks in the ACS marina and cruised back up toward Marsworth.
   This arm is a different world from the Grand Union in general. Sixteen locks over six miles drop boaters down from the fields lapping the base of the Chiltern Hills through the vale of Aylesbury--a world of flat land bordered by grasses and reeds taller than most men. In a boat the view is reduced to a wall of slowly passing reeds below a dazzling blue sky. This arm is shallow so one must reduce speed and cruise slower than usual. Doing so also means one is privy to the most amazing wildlife. 
   Les was astonished to see a ten inch Pike grab a smaller fish in its jaws and swim off into the darker shallows of the reeds for dinner. Tiny fish fry swarmed in the thousands; four inch Perch visited the surface, their red tipped fins giving them away. Large blue, green, and red dragonflies continually buzzed the boat, providing an escort along the canal. 
   Damselflies gathered in mobs to mate amongst the grasses, and Moor Hens walked across the yellow flowered Lilly pads with their clown sized feet, as we traveled by. 
   Dozens upon dozens of Purple Martins swooped and dived joyously all around us, feasting on early evening insects hovering above the water. By 8:30 we were moored up at one of our favorite spots just above lock ten. We enjoyed bowls of homemade minestrone soup on the veranda (I've nicknamed the bow the veranda, and the wardrobe, back steps and stern are the bottom-of-the-garden) as the sun began to set and the spinning world slowed down.
Bothered by swarms of  midges? Swing the mooring line above your head like a lasso! Don't forget to yell "Yeeeha!"
   Six pairs of nesting Red Kites wheeled across the fields, settling down for the night, their eery high pitched calls sounding like a soprano cat meee--iiiaoow, repeated three times in every call, echoing on the cool evening breeze. Across from NB Valerie the reeds were shaking and rustling. Suddenly two small Reed
Reed Warbler hunting dinner
Warblers appeared flying in and out of the reeds, perching on the low tips of grass only to throw themselves in the air after insects while doing the most amazing maneuvers--sometimes upside down in flight! they make tiny cups of woven grasses attached to the reeds as nests.      Finally dusk faded to night, the growing moon glowed in the sky and we were off to the land of Winken, Blinken and Nod.

 Tiny Plums
   Sunday morning was muggy and partly sunny with low dark clouds threatening in between which shafts of golden sunlight played on the water.  Thunder rumbled in the distance; still it was eighty degrees and hot! 
Cherry plums with Nectarines for scale.
   Before long we were rising higher again, back up the Ayelsbury arm with the Chiltern hills spread out before us, fields glowing gold and green. Plum trees hung over the towpath, dressed in green fruit awaiting the sun's kiss. Finally we reached the staircase locks at the top bring us back to Marsworth.
   As Les filled the lock I looked up to see a large tree bowing over the towpath waving round, green leaves over my head. I looked again and the the branches were studded with small, fat red fruit! I jumped off the boat as it rose even with the towpath and sampled a bite: cherry plums! Yummmm! I picked a colander full and took the tiller as we cruised out of the top lock, around a wide beam moored on the off side, and I spun NB Valerie a three quarter turn toward the water point. A boat was just leaving, so I slowed, brought the bow in toward the side and as the other boat left I eased NB Val's stern alongside the towpath.
   "Nice steering," called the man on the other boat.
A boater fishing near our mooring at Little Seabrook lock.
   After taking on water we headed North. We had a date on Thursday with a new cooker! Before that though Les had to catch a bus to Luton to our daughter in law Jo's to pick up his new smart phone. We moored up above Little Seabrook locks which is another quiet favorite of ours. I worked grading course activities, did a spot of boat cleaning, washed a load of clothes, and baked a carrot cake in my Barbie sized camper oven. Isn't it amazing how much can be done when a man is not under one's...well you women know what I mean!
Who Da' Boss
   Monday we set off again, just as a hire boat came around the curve out of the lock behind us. We were going to ask to go into the next lock with them; we hadn't seen the second boat behind them, so I hovered near the towpath as Les took off with the windlass to offer a helping hand at the next lock. I followed the flotilla at a respectful distance, and hovered mid canal for nearly twenty minutes as a lot of faffing about ensued. Finally the two boats went down the lock, Les refilled it and in I went.
   The very lovely, beautifully shiny, glowingly painted private boat with masses of perfect fresh flowers spilling rambunctiously out of pots along the entire length of the otherwise spotlessly clean roof was crewed by couple who proudly boasted they too were live aboard boaters--for two years--in a nearby marina. They took their boat out for short cruises to Tesco in Leighton Buzzard, or up to the Marsworth Reservoirs every now and then.
   Slow as molasses in January, it was clear they had little clue what they were doing. Every time the husband brought the boat into or out of a lock, the wife, with windlass at the gates cried out, "Clear???" and the husband shouted back, "CLEAR!!!" Only then did she close the gates. Paddles were forgotten and left wound up on the way out; her hubby got out of the boat to stand uselessly with rope in one hand and windlass in the other, only to realize the lock was going down and he had to climb gingerly down the lock ladder to access their floating home. One would have thought that living aboard for two years would have afforded more practice at dealing with moving a boat through a lock than was apparent to us. We followed behind them, slowly poaching in the relentless summer heat as they crawled along the canal at a snail's pace for three locks which felt like eight.
   The hire boat finally broke free and was gone from site. Eventually we ended up sharing a lock with them during which the husband spoke not one word to me but reached out continually to stroke his very clean and neatly gathered midline--almost like an obsessive compulsive strokes his next fresh bar of soap. I suspect the very fact the tiller of our boat was staffed by a competent woman boater bruised his tender male ego.
   At every lock Les always went up to help with the gates and he had a chance to chat with a woman who was traveling down to the Kennet & Avon canal along with her husband.
   Les asked, "Where are you headed from here?" (Here being Church lock.)
   "We are going down to the K & A. Once there we will put the boat in a marina through the summer school holidays."
   "Why in a marina?"
   "Well, the canal just gets too crowded and we don't want to wait in long queues for the locks." 
   "Why not just change your cruising times? You could start earlier in the morning and be moored up by noon, or wait until late afternoon--say 3:30--and cruise until  8 P.M. There's still plenty of light in the summer to cruise late. Cruise from Tuesday-Thursday and sit tight over the crowded weekends. It just seems a shame to waste the summer sitting in a marina when you could be enjoying the canal." At this the woman shrugged unhappily. 
   "I have to do what I am told, " she replied. 
   Really??!!! It's a good thing I am not married to her husband. The first thing I would do is buy several T-shirts with slogans such as "I never do what I am told," and "You are NOT the boss of me." Then I would cruise off a leave him in one of the local pubs to find his way--if he could--back to our boat moored at least fifteen miles away. All this just goes to show it takes all kinds and there are all kinds out there.
  We stopped in Leighton Buzzard for groceries and quickly moved on out of town to a quiet spot for the night.

Ya' Got to Have Friends
   We were up and away early Wednesday, looking at suitable places to moor with road access for Joe and Lesley on NB Yarwood whose cooker we bought. They graciously offered to deliver it in their car so we didn't have to cruise for our lives from Marsworth to Braunston. We were headed North as quickly as we could to meet them somewhere halfwayish. We fetched up on the offside of the canal right next to a layby (American's think rest stop) just south of Willow Bridge marina.
Still Rockin' glides through the bridge hole
   As we sat on the veranda eating our lunch, Les piped up, "Look Jaq--a wide beam is coming through the bridge hole." I turned to watch as very s-l-o-w-l-y a huge boat managed to make the tight turn and cruise under the small humped brick bridge. It was like watching a bridge give birth to a boat. Suddenly Les said, "Jaq it's Still Rockin'!"
   Sure enough, dear friends George and Carol cruised in a stately fashion alongside NB Val in their gorgeous new floating home. We haven't seen the Palins since October of 2012 when they asked to see our Airhead marine composting loo and decided to make the switch as well. Since then they've sold their narrow boat Rock 'n' Roll and had a lovely new wide beam boat built as a home for life. With daughter and granddaughters aboard, they hovered to chat a couple of minutes, and wow was it great to see them again! I was gobsmacked at how quiet the engine is on their boat.
George at the helm, Carol smiling goodbye. 
   Later that afternoon my cell phone rang and it was Robert from WB Wind in the Willows (no blog). We rescued his boat one cold March morning in February 2012. It had just gone into the water the day before and Robert had left it moored up to go and get the license and paperwork sorted. We came around a bend in the canal near Leighton Buzzard and his boat had come un-moored at one end and was floating across the canal. Les and I worked together to get the black wide beam back to the towpath and pinned tightly once more. Since there was no name, no license number, and no one at home on the boat, we had no idea whose it was. 
   Months later Robert came across our blog and the picture we took of his boat, and emailed to say thank you. He has since stayed in touch and become another friend along the cut, lending me a favorite book of his to read. Now we were moving again and it was time to return the book and have a good natter over a cuppa and a piece of carrot cake. 
   Robert knew exactly where the layby was and he appeared for afternoon tea. We had a lovely time catching up. Thanks Robert for the book loan and for making time to visit with us as we passed through. Keep your eyes on those Robins!
   This brings us to yesterday which dawned hot and muggy once again. I expected rain and wind in England; I did not expect 75, 80, 87, 90, and 97F heat with extra moisture on the side. It makes me ill and miserable and sucks the life out of this Alaskan woman. Never mind...I was in for a double treat today for I would finally meet Joe and Lesley. I found their blog when they were living aboard NB Caxton, back when I lived in Washington State and dreamed of a life on the cut. I've loved their blog for its tongue in cheekiness, and general good writing style
      Lesley mentioned in a recent blog post that their cooker was for sale. A Cannon Connemara stove--a house stove--not a Barbie camper oven--a real cooker, and they were planning to flog it on Ebay. I sent an email immediately letting Lesley know we were interested and after several emails back and forth, she said it was ours.
   At 11 am their car pulled into the layby, backed up and out popped Lesley and Joe. The fellas brought the stove inside and we spent an hour and a half chatting and getting to know one another in reality instead of virtual reality. As we say in the States, "Salt of the earth," those two. Fine folks indeed and kindred spirits. We look forward to catching up with them again when they are at home aboard Yarwood. I promised back in 2010 in a comment on their Caxton blog that I would stand them a pint when I finally met them. Long overdue now and something to look froward to...
   And why one might ask are there no pictures on this blog post of Robert, Joe, Lesley or the cooker arriving? Because like the dunderheads we are, we get so caught up in meeting, chatting, cups of tea, slices of life, and before we know it everyone has gone, the dust clears and then I remember and say, "Oh S****, we forgot to take pictures!"
   After parting, Les and I cruised to Fenny Stratford, and in spite of temperatures in the sun soaring to the high nineties and my comment that it was not necessary to begin the project this minute, Les worked all afternoon to remove the old stove, suss out the gas connection fittings, walked to B & Q for a couple of bits, and by dinner time there was an odd space in my galley where the Barbie oven used to live. Les had cleaned it all up nice and tidy and hooked the gas top back up for me. I fixed steak Fajitas, and we fell into our respective recliners shortly after a late dinner, to fall asleep. We finally threw in the towel and went to bed at 11:30 p.m. which is early for us.
   In the middle of the night a cracking great thunder and lightening storm swept through, clearing the heat and humidity for a couple of hours as we lay cuddled in the dark, listening to the storm above us. 
   Today we cruised until we reached Stanton Low, past Milton Keynes; ever more permanent floating communities seem to have sprung up in the last year along here. Last April we moored directly across from the old church ruins here and we were the only boat on this entire stretch; today we passed no less than a dozen boats jam packed along the curve of Stanton Low, moored up nut-to-butt. We kept going...just beyond the overflow we found a quiet stretch with some shade and no one else on the towpath side and nothing but tall grasses and shrubs on the offside. We are headed for the Leicester Arm at our own pace, in our own way...
I know what it looks like...and that's why I took it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Onto the Aylesbury Arm

We came down the Marsworth flight of locks and settled just for one night by the reservoirs. A boat about two boat lengths (100 feet) away decided to run his engine at about 11pm and then about 7 the following morning. The noise was just a distant drone so we ignored the ignorant *astards. Just one night before we set off down the Aylesbury arm so not worth getting into a row but why!. Are these very few boaters just lacking in any form of thought or consideration for the rest of humanity or do they have a mental block, my guess is it`s probably is an alcohol block.
Beauty of living afloat is if your neighbors are not good you move on and that`s what we did. The short little video below shows Jaq taking the boat into the staircase lock leading into the Aylesbury arm. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A little further into the cruise

Not our usual speed of cruising but although for now having some freedom of hospital appointments  we still feel the tug of the hospital umbilical cord. Our journeys must take into account my traveling back, probably by train, to attend appointments. Also when the time comes for the last operation we need to be moored preferably at Cow Roast again. So our cruising is slow over short distances.  Our intention is to go up the Leicester arm but we will see how things progress. Our next adventure will be back down the Aylesbury arm to visit family. This time our journey will not be curtailed by floods.
 A few days along the Wendover arm and down the Marsworth lock flight.

 Building has started on what was formely the concrete piling works and then a CaRT maintenance yard at the Aylebury arm junction.
The metal framework gives the impression of industrial units being built but time will reveal the final type of build these residential units will be.

Above on left the dry canal bed acts as an access to the current work site and the towpath to the right is in good condition.

The benches along the canal have had their commemorative plaques replaced in plastic after the original Brass versions were stolen
 The relining of the Wendover arm canal has made progress. On our last visit it was back around the bend by the tree line in the right hand corner of the picture.
Hopes are this section will be in water at the end of 2014. It is still about a mile to link up with the present navigable section where we moored at Little Tring. That is a lot of lining and still leaves other work including a low bridge but at least progress is visible.
Newsletter link.
The view from the footbridge taking a footpath over the canal bed. Wilstone reservoir can just be seen through the trees on the right.

The footpath takes us along a field of Wheat that has been patterned by the wind and the farmers tractor wheels.         The next field has a gate bearing a notice, that I suspect is now old, warning walkers of pregnant ewes and to keep dogs on leads. Animals, pregnant or not should mean all dogs to be on leads unless they are so well trained they can walk freely. Only two I have ever met that can be under that umbrella. Bet a lot of you know the ones. Virtual hug for the owner.              
Most stayed put as we wandered through their home but those choosing to move did so without panic.

Keep up young Jaq almost back at the Little Tring mooring.

Just a two mile walk but we have in the past taken in the reservoir that adds a lot more.

Technology allows you to trace your route on a map and it gives you the miles. I know it`s old hat tech` but to an old`n like me it`s great.
Did you know they have bread slicing machines in the bakers now? Just follow this blog, new advances are revealed on a regular basis.
Back at the Little Tring basin and the Dragon Fly has to much on it`s mind to worry about us passing by.
Well that was just a few hours out of our busy lives aboard Nb Valerie.