Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sad News

Morning All
 I was going to answer the comments from my last post and do a more upbeat one this time. However sadness at the news from London yesterday, coupled with my ambivalent feelings about the lauding of someone who was responsible for so many deaths in Ireland have now been compounded by the news of the death of the husband of one of the sweetest bloggers.
I am sure that those who follow the Weaver of Grass, and there are many, are as upset as I and are thinking of her and sending virtual hugs.
love Gillx

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Us selfish smallholders

Hi Everybody.
I'm sat here making my daily list of things that must be done today, those that I will do if I have time, phone calls and emails to that I must make, what we are having for dinner tonight and how many will be here for that and adding to the shopping list for when I go to the shops next ( I shop approx. twice a week)
I do this each day as I am not organised by nature and it helps me to use my time well (and I do love a good list!)
I lead a pretty busy life and realise that I can come over as smug because of this. I think smugness is something smallholders lean towards. "Look at us aren't we good?.. saving the planet, living a good life, cooking good food, not eating junk and generally being more interesting and better than some!
 This is the life we chose (which isn't for everybody thank goodness as there isn't enough land to go round!) and because it is a way of life it can be all consuming and can make us SELFISH!!. What do we do for others? Do we find time to look outside our "rural idyll" at those who are frailer, struggling, in need? I suppose I mean in a proactive face-to-face way. For example, giving to charity shops, while absolutely necessary for those charities, is still a rather passive way to help and let's face it is a way of getting rid of stuff you don't need (which is hardly philanthropic) so I don't think it counts! While taking half an hour to call on (or phone) a lonely neighbour, helping out at a local luncheon club, delivering leaflets for a local cause or maybe walking a dog for someone temporarily incapacitated is giving of your most valuable asset.. time and takes you out of yourself for a little while.
So there is my thought for the day... not that you asked for it!
Goodness what a random post.
PS Welcome to Pauline Williams on the follower bar and Kathy on Bloglovin. Good to see you here x

Monday, 13 March 2017

Good Morning Sunshine!!!

Doesn't it make you feel better? Coda thinks so too! (rubbish pic)
This weekend has been dry and mostly sunny.With great help from H. who is EGD's boyfriend, David has taken down an old damson tree that was quite rotten. This tree had grown between three outbuildings and supported a tree house covered with ivy. As the house, tree and even the ivy was crumbling it had to go. Once this was dispatched (a BIG job) and onto a big bonfire, apart from the good wood for logs, the rest of the family arrived and did a great job cleaning up. There was a huge amount of well rotted leaf mould which was a bonus.
Here they are. Note that the girls are cleaning and the boys are watching!
That was Sunday, when all the family and the occasional friend (yesterday it was EGD's friends and their baby)come for a roast dinner. On Friday David and H. attacked the wisteria on the front and side of the house. It was good to have the help of a young man who is happy to scramble up a high ladder. David is extremely good at pruning wisteria for flower and was able to teach H. who is a tree surgeon this skill. Here is ( a very small part) of the pruned  plant.
And the bonus bye-product of the pruning... weaving material!
Some of these are 20 foot long and I hope to make a couple of log baskets with them, with fresh cut willow as stakers.
I looked in the pond last week and saw a large lump of frogspawn. Hurrah! I looked again on Saturday and there was none and the water was disturbed. Our neighbours saw a heron on the chicken hut that that overlooks the pond. Would a heron eat frogspawn?
Yesterday I looked again and there were at least eight frogs having an orgy, so I will find some sort of netting to put over the pond and we will hope to keep any frogspawn.
I have been tidying up my followers list as there were several bloggers that seem to have disappeared. I'm quite sad at the loss of some of these bloggers who have just fallen out of blogland. I often wonder what happened to them, don't you?  I've asked my family to close my blog with a quick explanation if something awful happens to me. Is this morbid?!
Well I started off all happy about the sunshine and have ended up on a negative! So to move this on, the damson is in bud and with all the bulbs and catkins in flower there seems to be plenty of forage for the bees which have flying with gusto over the last few days.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Skills courses and Frogspawn anyone?

Hello  All!!
Well! A whole month since I posted! So many reasons I won't bore you with, suffice to say I'm back to the blog and will try to be more frequent from now on. I realise that I use this blog as a sort of diary and when I  don't keep it up to date I have nothing to refer to when trying to remember something. (gets more difficult with age)
I have some new followers but am struggling to work out who, so will say Welcome and hopefully name you in my next post.
So far the winter has been really mild. The winter door curtains have hardly been used and we have seen the bees flying several times. I'm pleased to say that we have seen live bees from every hive so far.
When my friend J. from Cornwall came to stay a couple of weeks ago we cleared out the pond that is in the orchard/chicken run (while the chickens were ensconced in the barn. It looks awful and bare with absolutely no sign of life. Several people i know have frogspawn, but not us. I do hope we haven't messed with it too much and killed the frogs. Anybody else waiting for frogspawn?
I have invested in "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn. Oh my goodness, she makes me look like a spendthrift! You have to convert it from American to English as with Carla Emery but there are some good ideas and you are never too old to learn.
My Eldest granddaughter and I organised a basketmaking course at the village hall  for a few friends last saturday. We had such fun and each of us made a basket. We are now off to cut some fresh willow from the paddock and hope to make baskets for fruit and vegetable gathering this summer. My old baskets (which I always use) have finally broken and it will be good to replace them for free. EGD thinks she might make some small low sided ones to put the preserves in that she makes and gives as presents each Christmas. Great idea.
The success of the "course/get together" has inspired us to host a few more, so we have invited a friend to teach us felt-making and I have been asked to do a make-do-and-mend day and thought we could also do a "things to make with and old tea shirt "day. Goodness knows when we will find time!
Talking of make-do-and-mend, has anyone been on the site of that name on facebook?(with attached blog) It's a great site with ideas from all over, with a big emphasis on the environment and repurposing. It is good to see so many young people on the site. Us old fogeys can't keep going for ever and the need to consume less is now critical.
Earlier this year I was quite unwell and had another period of nauseusness. I found my usual sweet drinks weren't helping so cut out the sugar (I usually take two heaped spoonfuls in each cup!) Once I felt well again I decided to stop taking sugar in my tea altogether, reckoning that as I drink approx. 10 mugs of tea a day I was consuming over half a pound of sugar daily, which is pure junk really.  Six weeks on and I still hate this sugarless tea! I really can't get used to it and found giving up smoking easier!, but will persevere as I am determined not to revert.
While not exactly bringing us up to date at least I've broken my duck and got back to blogging. So I'll sign off and wish you all ...
love from Gill

Monday, 30 January 2017

The bacon cure recipe and prisoner hens

  Hello All
Firstly here is the recipe and method for the home cured bacon (courtesy of Cro)
Mix 2 parts sea salt to 1 part brown sugar some crushed black pepper and a good pinch of dried herbs.
 Day 1. Rub this mix all over your pork joint and place in a shallow dish (reserving a little of the mixture).
Day 2 Pour off any liquid and rub in remaining mixture.
 Day 4 wash off the salt mix , pat dry and wrap in muslin. hang in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.
I left the rind on for the curing  and removed it for cooking as it was very hard.
I used a piece of belly pork from half a pig I bought from a friend, but see no reason why you couldn't buy  a piece from the butcher to have a go.  Good Luck if you give it a go.

The chickens are still "cooped up"( I suppose that is the origin of the expression) I have put duct tape over the words"Free Range" on the sign by the road, but am sure that few people understand why. The news reports by Defra, the newspapers and the TV have been dire and sketchy at best.. How many people know (or care)  that we have had more cases of Bird Flu in the country? I wonder what we are suppose to do after 28th February, the date set in the new year for keeping the birds in. We have had four more cases since then but no notification of extending the deadline.
Anyway, I thought I would share the plight of my girls, and goodness knows they are better off than many. The goat house (which hasn't housed a goat since Annie died 4 years ago) is now given over to them. Three breeding doe rabbits now share the house, but we have had to cancel the piglets we ordered and the early cade lambs.
Here is the door to the house, The top is usually open, but the girls can easily jump out when it is. Our major concern is that the swallows arrive in April/May and use this entrance to come and go from the nests they build in the eaves here every year.
At the entrance is a tray, usually used to stand plant pots in, which has a sheet of carpet in the bottom and Jeyes Fluid diluted at the rate of 20 to 1 with water. The container and brush at the side is for cleaning boots etc if necessary.
I'm really chuffed that Jeyes Fluid is approved for footbaths etc for Avian Flu as it is so easily available. I bought 1 litre for £5.45 at Lidl last week.. bargain!
I have turned the small hutches, usually used for young chicks or kits into laying places, stapling black material over the netting an gaps between hutches to encourage the hens to lay in clean bedding.

 Towards the rear of this picture is an large hutch. I am using this as a vermin-proof place to keep some stores. ...Apples, marrows, pumpkins and onions in particular. I'm a little worried that the number of chickens will be increasing the temperature around the veg and they will not keep as well, so I have started to use this particular store. As you can see they birds are eating some soft apples here
 Here we look towards the door. You will notice that we have perspect roofing, which means that we are getting eggs now ( with some artificial light from 5 until 7) While I am complaining on behalf of the birds, the set up actually helps me as there is both electricity and water in the goathouse, meaning I can do all I need to do for their comfort in one place.
      The "bushes " you can see against the wall is a bamboo that I have tied up there to dry and was going to process into canes before the Avian Flu overtook us.                                                                                                                                                  
If this post has done nothing else it will have heartened those who thought THEIR smallholdings were untidy !!!
Back soon

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Hurrah for Harry Potter

Hello All.
Just starting to feel better after back-to-back lurgys!  While I'm getting a new post together with the bacon solution recipe and some bird flu update, here is a post I wrote before Christmas and never posted
There is an awful lot of literary snobbery about the Harry Potter books. I understand that they are not "classics" nor "worthy" and I know of many people who say they are trash and they wouldn't deign to read them.(mmm how can they know they are trash?)
Some years ago my grandson J. aged 7 (who has Asperger's) who could read exceptionally well (ever since a fantastic teacher found a way to make him sit still long enough to teach him the rudiments of reading  - thank you Mr Collinson!) would often stay with me overnight. I would read to him each night even though he read as well as I, as it calmed him and was part of a lifetime ritual. He liked books on Mythology, space stories and dinosaurs  and some other random stuff. I was always on the look out for something to read to him, or for him to read.
One particular weekend I was watching the news and saw a line of boys and girls queuing outside a book shop. They were waiting to buy book two of a series and were SO excited they were jumping up and down. What really caught my eye were the numbers of boys in the queue and I wondered what phenomenon had captured their interest. It was Harry Potter Book two (I hadn't heard of book one) Sometime in the next week we went to the library and borrowed Book One. I read the first chapter to J. and he then took the book off me and began reading. He read for hours and hours until he had finished it. Needless to say I set off to buy Book Two which he took away and read likewise. These book he read and re-read for the next year, while he waited for the next book to be released. One night when he was staying with me I said. "If you like Harry Potter I think you will like The Hobbit. I read the first chapter and he again took the book off me and read through the night until he had finished it. The next time he stayed I gave him the Lord of the Rings (my mother's favourite books, which we replaced each year for her as she wore each copy out!) He was in heaven, but had to be restricted to his reading times with these books obviously. He would walk around with one of the books under his arm (he still does this age 24) so that he could lose himself (and not have to interact with people either!).
I'm not sure that I would have thought to introduce J. to Tolkien so early without Harry Potter prompting me to do so.
I know of so many parents who say the HP has awakened an interest in reading in their child which can only be for the good and we all have to start somewhere,
So Hurrah for Harry Potter!
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Sunday, 8 January 2017

Home cured bacon - The Results!

Hello All
This morning EGD and myself were getting ready to brave the grey damp weather to watch YGD compete in a (not very) local show. She was competing in the Dressage and Jumping. We thought we ought to have a little something inside us to keep us warm and decided on egg on toast until we remembered THE BACON. Only a day early, so off I trotted to the outhouse to bring the joint in.
We discussed how to have it and decided that simple was best so we had it fried and in a sandwich.
Here is the joint  after a few slices cut off

And here is is fried and crispy
Oh MY! it was Delicious!!!!!
Thank you Cro for the recipe and the method, we will be doing it again most definitely.
Back soon