Madi's mum is an expert diary-keeper and although we meant to post this a couple of months ago we thought we'd share the notes she kept documenting our journey to relocate our business from Scotland to Wales while expecting our first child! You can read the first chapter here.
Our move to Wales was complete on Monday 15th March. We bade a fond farewell to the city where we met and fell in love with each other and also with fermentation. We have so many great friends and memories and there is no doubt that Scotland will always have a special place in out hearts. Madi's mum and dad met at Aberystwyth University in the 1980s and they return every year, a practice we hope to emulate. Madi had to drive as Arthur has to re-take his driving test to be allowed to drive in the UK. He has been on a provisional license since January 2020 - just another (annoying) detail of moving to the UK! You knew Arthur is American right??? And just for context Madi is pregnant with our first child (due 19th June 2021).
So on Tuesday 16th March we finally got to see our new kitchen for the first time. Obviously, we had had many video calls but to experience it in person was very different. First impressions were that it's bigger than we had envisaged (not a bad thing at all!). We also met our landlord Robert for the first time - he is a real character and has been doing this leasing of business units for such a long time we feel safe in his hands. The flooring had been completed before we arrived (organised by Robert) and was perfect for our needs, all beautifully sealed and easy to clean. Arthur had been obsessing over auction sites for some time and had secured three sinks and one dish washer which Ron and our next door neighbour had picked and manipulated into place. Some initial cleaning had been done but there was a lot more to do! Would the limescale ever come off and would they actually work being the two main concerns?! Turns out the cheaper of the two has been a godsend but the other was a dud - you live and learn.
We realised that in order to complete the relocation to Wales we would also have to do quite a lot of admin - probably having to re-register our business in Wales which would mean closing down The Crafty Pickle in Scotland. There are many reasons for this, mostly concerned with funding and grants etc. We are proud to have a company conceived in Scotland and now growing up in Wales - this will be the same for our baby when they arrive in June!
Quite a lot had to be accomplished, we had a lot of research to do to find all the contacts in Wales that we had left behind in Aberdeen. Plus a place to live, maternity services, doctors, dentists the whole shebang. Our first weekend we inspected and bought a huge fridge and glass washing machine from a pub in Avonmouth and put in some bids for some stainless steel tables up in the Midlands. Those auction sites will miss Arthur once we are set up.
Robert very kindly organised for his on-site electrician to move the electrical sockets and hard wire in the dishwashers so the walls would be cleared ready for the cladding and plumbing to go in. The next task was to get the unit cladded in plastic cladding in line with the Environmental Health guidance. We did have a quote for this but Madi's auntie Kim is a builder specialising in kitchens and bathrooms who was able to offer some invaluable advice. With her secret tool recommendation (an electric oscillating cutting tool - get one you will not regret it!) and some very sound instructions she felt we could do this ourselves and so we did! Ron watched many, many Youtube tutorials and on the day the Prince of Edinburgh died we were encased in the unit getting to grips with plastic cladding, plastic sealant and the simply marvellous oscillating tool. In the end we were pretty pleased with the results. It looks pretty professional if you don't inspect too closely and the bit we cut too short has ended up covered by the sinks. It is a bit like wallpapering with wobble boards.
Next we had to find a plumber and once again Angharad was able to help and Rob from Bulwark in Chepstow managed to get everything plumbed in and ready for us. Water pressure was a bit of an issue but we can make do and this will see us through the first few batches of production.
Heads whirling with the move we took the opportunity to take a few days break in Pembrokeshire in an effort to re-orientate ourselves to our new Cymru environment. It was delightful (and Zi's and Madi's birthdays) and helped us to get a bit of perspective on the whole situation. One task at a time we hoped to be ready to produce by the end of April but our fancy fermenting vessels on order from Italy and our giant food mixer (lovingly named Dougal) have yet to arrive. I guess we can blame Brexit and Covid but whatever the reason it is beyond our control. On our return Arthur passes his theory driving test and is booked in for his practical test in July - there is a crazy backlog after the pandemic!
Back in Aberdeen, Andrei has been delivering to the local Scottish suppliers and sending out parcels of ferments to those buying off the website. We will run out in the next few weeks which is daunting! It is frustrating that until we begin to produce we can't push on with The Crafty Pickle but we are having to be patient and wait for the planets to realign in Wales.
So many things to do!
Not least sorting pest control, food waste pick ups from our production and sourcing food that would otherwise be wasted for our fermentation. One main obsession is finding suitable weights to place on top of the ferments to ensure they stay submerged beneath the brine. What would be the most effective and safest? Granite, glass stainless steel, Pyrex bowls?!
To source the last few bits we need Arthur has made extensive shopping lists and Zi searched for them on Amazon to get a rough idea of how much they would cost brand new. Then the goal is to source them from local suppliers or second hand if that is possible. We are enjoying finding items from markets - Malvern Flea Market provided a giant potato masher (it must surely have been army surplus - who else would be making such vast amounts of mashed potato?) which we use to tightly pack the kraut and kimchi into our fermentation vessels. We had originally set ourselves the target of beginning production in Wales by the end of April, but we hadn't factored in our weeks holiday or the delays to the concrete mixer and fermentation vessels and so the target date has shifted now to Thursday 20th May.
There has been a lot of cleaning going on and many, many last minute jobs! Iris, Madi and Arthur's niece aged four, found it all very exciting and got thoroughly involved in sweeping and mopping in the unit. Arthur and Ron's thermostatically controlled storage area looks pretty impressive and Arthur has been carefully monitoring the temperature remotely - all seems well so far. Another visit to Aberdeen is scheduled to pick up the last of the fridges and equipment for week commencing 24th May. Ron will then speed back but Arthur is taking the opportunity to see a few old friends and try and persuade them to visit South Wales in 2021. Madi is grounded as baby pickle is due on 19th June so it is a bit close to delivery day, Zi will stay with her. We had a surprise Baby Shower Zoom meeting on 15th May organised by Madi's friend Hollie and it is all becoming very real by now. Madi and Arthur have seen plenty of baby Casper their nephew and have been practising their baby skills and picking up plenty of advice from his parents, their baby gurus.
Much hard work and effort led to our two production days producing 4 large fermenting vessels of the 4 core ferments ready for market. Crafty Kraut and Reclaimed Red Kraut on day one and Katz Kimchi and Not Your Nana's Piccalilli on day two. Both days entailed a very early trip to the vegetable market in Bristol to pick up all the vegetables we needed. In time, we will hopefully be a able to move to deliveries and also to source local producers who will be able to help us find vegetables that may otherwise be wasted so we can return to our fight on food waste. We did managed to get cauliflower leaves from BrewDog in Cardiff and are working hard to make contact with any growers and producers in the area who will be able to help us going forward. Our experience in Aberdeen tells us that it will take time but is a worthwhile aim!
With four workers rather than just the two of us we made good time despite the novices needing plenty of help and guidance. By day two things were going a lot more smoothly and we can see where the bottle necks are. We could do with a second Robot Coupe to shred the vegetables for the ferments. On the first day that was the main problem but by Friday we got going a lot faster and it really helped. Zi really enjoyed the shredding machine, there is something very satisfying in filling up containers with shredded cabbage. The new mixer (the one that looks like a concrete mixer) did a brilliant job and saved everyone from tired hands and wrists doing that mixing task manually. As with all food production cleaning before and after it is meticulous affair and we had long but very rewarding days. Our landlord was slightly alarmed by the powerful smell of garlic on day one - he arrived just at the wrong time when the garlic had just been minced ready for use. We ventilated better on day two and avoided cutting any onion roots until the very last minute to avoid any smells. There are two other food producers on site having similar problems. Obviously, we don't want to cause a problem to any other businesses but as with all cooking there are bound to be odours. Thankfully, in our case ferment production and the subsequent packaging, usually occurs only once a month and for the rest of the time the unit is sweet smelling and as spick and span as a new pin. As more and more small scale food producers set up their local operations there is a crying need for units suitable as kitchens in all areas of the UK. Our advice would be to make sure ventilation and extraction is taken into account before production begins.
Did we mention that three of the vessels arrived from Italy damaged? But this is just part and parcel of running a business and we reached an agreement with the Italian company which suits us for the time being. Having made a list of everything we now need to smooth over any problems we went home and had a take away Chinese meal to celebrate! Ron and Zi have learnt a lot and should continue to be of help until we are back up and running and possibly able to employ someone (perhaps an apprentice) who would like to work in the food industry.
Packaging is a lot easier with three people and three of the four core ferments were done very quickly. Crafty Kraut was taking longer to ferment than usual, this is where the art of fermentation comes into play. We were ready to jar it on Wednesday 16th June but the pH still wasn't right and so we planned it for Friday 18th June. However, as these things go Madi went into labour on 17th June! Our lil pickle was born at home (not planned!) and unfortunately got into some difficulties so was rushed to hospital where he stayed for 18 long days. This meant everything Crafty Pickle went on hold while we stayed with our wee one, but since he's been out he's done amazingly so we're now juggling parenting and working on the business! Not that this is an excuse, but if we're taking longer to get back to you or sort things out, this lil guy is probably why!