A story of currant buns, mice and permaculture

currant buns- cityhippyfarmgirl

currant bunsWhen I was a little girl I used to have a poster from Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge (by Jill Barklem). I don’t know where I got it from and I don’t know where it went, but it had embedded in my mind, and was still remembered fondly as an adult. I loved that picture. Every part of it spoke to me, on a level I couldn’t explain as a kid.

Decades later as a mother now, my own children have several of these books by Jill Barklem. I knew I still loved, and was more than happy to read them whenever I was asked to. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when it all finally clicked.

I loved these stories, loved these pictures and was drawn in a sentimental way to the seasonal themes. Not because I wanted to be a mouse, with long held dreams of having a tail. But because they were living a life that I aspired too, (and strangely enough, seems I’ve always aspired to.) It was a kind of ‘duh’ moment, where I frowned a little, and the light inside my head clicked well and truly on.

brambly hedge

Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge

Let me try and explain…

First up a description of what the Brambly Hedge books are about, “…a community of self-sufficient mice who live together in the tranquil surroundings of the English countryside.” Self sufficiency on a community level…damnit, these mice were surely permaculturalists!

With adult eyes, I look at the beautiful pictures in these books. I see kitchens full of preserved goodies, dried seasonal foods hanging from ceilings and berries being collected to make sweet pastry lined pies. With busy tables full of bustling family members,   seasonal festivities, crafting, natural earth building, hell…they even had laden cake stand with hand made tea cosy.

brambly hedge

So many things I held dear, had interest in or aspired to, was right there…in a mouse book. It was hard not to smile and get a little bit excited when I explained it all to Mr Chocolate. By this time, I know he’s well used to odd thoughts and conversations flying from me, but even he agreed that yes, on closer look they did indeed seem to be living a life that I often speak of. With a happy heart, I suggested to my boys, that we read them, one more time before bed, and possibly again the next night. (I never know, it might in turn create a long held dream of their own to have an interest in permaculture, seasonal living…or at the very least, to grow a long tail and a pair of small pink ears.)

currant buns

So what do currant buns have to do with mice, permaculture and childhood books? Well if  I’m going to let myself get completely absorbed in the books, I should have the appropriate food on the table, don’t you think? Currant Buns seemed liked a good choice, and one that a small community of rural living little mice might also enjoy, don’t you think?

Currant Buns

300g starter

2 tsp dried yeast

150g currants

100mls hot water

300mls cream

750g (5 cups) flour

50g brown sugar

250mls water

2 tsp salt

Soak your currants in 100mls of hot water for an hour or so beforehand. Add all your ingredients together except your salt. Mix well, and leave for 40 minutes. Add salt and mix again, (I use my mixer) or knead on a lightly floured surface until well incorporated and dough is smooth. Leave to prove for a couple of hours, with a couple of knock backs in between.  Shape into rolls and place on a lined tray, allow to prove for another hour or so.

Bake at 220 for approximately 15-20 minutes.

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43 thoughts on “A story of currant buns, mice and permaculture

  1. Reading this was something of a lightbulb moment for me too Brydie! It explains so much about where the dreams came from which fuel this life I am working towards now in adulthood – certainly it wasnt from my city dwelling childhood.Though I have to confess I dont recall coveting the tail and ears ;-)

  2. I had “The Secret Staircase” as a little girl and always wanted to go live in that world. In fact, I drew mouse houses all the time when I was little. I guess I still want to live in that world. Thanks for bringing up some lovely childhood memories.

  3. I used to LOVE Brambly Hedge! I spent hours poring over those books, inspecting the beautifully detailed little pictures (it’s so wonderfully illustrated!). This is a fantastic tribute recipe to the series. Love currant buns… definitely reminds me of the English countryside, spread thick with country butter! Glad that your children are enjoying Brambly Hedge also Brydie. Must be special to pass on your love for the series to the next generation xx

    • Laura I get ridiculously happy being able to read my kids lots of the same books that I enjoyed as a kid. I truly love it. Watching their little faces reacting to the words and pictures makes it doubly enjoyable.

      • Ah, hopefully Aaron and I can do the same thing for our kids one day. Hairy Maclairy, Grug (remember Grug?!), Little Miss and Mr Men, Angelina Ballerina… so many good stories :)

      • We have got a pretty big collection of Grug, both the older ones and the republished ones. Such a simple book , but my middle boy especially loves them to bits. Oodles of amazing books! :-)

  4. Great post Brydie. I used to love Brambly Hedge too and the pictures you have shared bring back a few memories! They are books I had completely forgotten about. Those mice were onto something good weren’t they? Your currant buns look magnificent…happy baking and reading x

  5. What a great moment that must have been when it all fell into place! I can see how well matched the book and you are :-). Thanks for sharing this story! Buns look yummy btw!

  6. You are so gorgeous Brydie. I have never seen the books (although now I want to) but I would so love to sit down with you over a plate of your currant buns and talk about permaculture and community and stuff!

  7. Oh I LOVE those books too… I love them for the illustrations and I just ran off to find our one and only copy and ah… yep… you are spot on. Can I come join your community of mice one day? I love current buns!

  8. Currant buns sound perfect for the Brambly mice! I loved these books when I was little. In the woods across from our house there was an enormous tree with a hole in the trunk just at the roots that I was convinced had to be the door to a mouse house – I used to check it diligently every day in case I saw them :)

  9. Currant buns sound perfect, but ……I never make a “starter” so… how about dried yeast only???
    How can I adjust the ingredients and the recipe????
    Big thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Should be fine Ale, maybe just bump up the commercial yeast a little by half a tsp more, or a whole tsp if you want to be totally sure, and the rest of the recipe should be fine as is. Happy baking!

  10. Brydie, isn’t it interesting how we can look back on our childhood favourites now and see how they influenced the lives we now live? I was a Little House on the Prairie girl, and the notion of making everything from scratch was sewn in those books, I think.. xx

    • When I sit back and think just how many childhood books impacted my life as an adult, it’s quite amazing. I loved Little House on the Prairie as well… Dry grass land sounded incredibly appealing for a kid brought up on the beach!

  11. I know exactly what you mean- and feel Brydie! There always seemed to be a feeling of security and satisfaction with the kitchens stuffed to the beams full of seasonal goodies and I wanted to feel that way too. Nothing went to waste, nothing was taken for granted, and it all was delicious!

  12. I love the illustration you have featured. It’s just gorgeous and you could look at it for ages and always see something new. How lovely that these books have turned out to be such a source of inspiration xx

  13. I’ve never read the books as a child or adult but now I wish to – gorgeous illustrations – oh for my kitchen to look like that (though I don’t think I fancy big ears and a tail)

    The currant buns look beautiful and would be right at home in that kitchen – now that I am finally nursing a starter (actually it is a bit off colour but I think it will survive) I have to ask if the starter is prefeed or bubbly?

  14. To the city mouse,
    I think there are so many inspirations out there that can really affect us as children and then into adulthood.It makes me wonder what my own children will aspire to after all the books we have read and the inspiring people that we meet. Those illustrations are so beautiful I can see how it would have seeped into your subconscious. I can just see you with a little mouse tail and with little mouse ears living in Brambly Hedge baking your bread.
    from the country mouse.,

    • Dear Country Mouse,
      Problem with living in Brambly Hedge, is my tail in the kitchen- it would knock over the bags of flour, sending clouds of white into the air and then in turn tickling my whiskers….atchoo!

      (they are stunning pictures aren’t they :-)

  15. Pingback: Treasures from the library | The New Good Life

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