Monday, 20 October 2014

Making ready

Hello All
 Welcome to Rose and Sam on the follower bar and Julie on blog lovin. Do join in the conversations and discussions (which can get rather interesting at times as my followers are interesting people!)

Usually we let the hens our of the orchard when the gardens are finished for the summer. We empty the greenhouse and leave it open for the chickens to use a clubhouse, where they gather to dustbath and have a bit of a chin wag, especially when it rains. In the gardens, we pull up the old plants, give it a bit of a weed, firm up the netting over the brassicas and then throw compost, muck and grass cuttings over the lot and let the hens out . They scratch about and aireate the grass cutting, eating the slug eggs and other critters while activating  the compost with their droppings. This is a time that we look forward to and is part of the cycle of our smallholding. However, this year the gardens are still producing and chickens don't carry little books identifying the difference between veggies and weeds.
 The greenhouse is still producing tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers  and in the garden we still have beetroot, courgettes, corn salad, lettuce, celeriac, beans and squash as well as the winter crops of parsnips, leeks, cabbage, brussels and kale which we expect to cover against the chickens.

 Last week I cooked a bacon joint in the slow cooker. it wasn't at all salty so I used the cooking liquid to make a lentil soup. I had made a large ratatouille too. this weekend I blitzted the remainder of this and added it to the remainder of the lentil soup and have frozen the result in individual servings in plastic pint glasses. EGD has already taken a couple away for her and her boyfriend's lunch today.

 One thing our chickens hate as much as rain is wind (it ruffles their feathers). and it looks like we are in for some doesn't it? The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo is on it's way to us and should reach us as high winds.We always have candles and torches throughout the house and I just checked they were where we could find them as we can lose power around here when we get high winds
 D. has been clearing the barn gutters out today. Last time there was rain the ones facing the house overflowed, so up the ladder he went and found that the gutters  had been distorted by the wisteria. So a pruning job was needed and then the bracket thingys had to be adjusted. While he was having a "barny " time he checked the drains that go under the barn. All is now sorted in this corner of the smallholding and ready for winter. He will check on the other areas tomorrow.
Another job that needed doing with some urgency before any winds arrived was to move the swarm that we had we had collected and hived on the woodshed roof. We thought it might just be caught by a gust and dislodged. As we were going over to see our friends last night we planned to take it down from the roof, take it with us to our friends (four miles away) and leave  it there for a few days, returning it back to ours in the position we have made ready for it with our other hives. The hive was very heavy and it started to rain as we set up, but we persevered and got the job done. Here is a picture of the day we housed the swarm (July) Image the scene last night in the dark and the rain. D. up the ladder and me standing behind the smaller hive ready to receive the hive from him.

 Adam has been here his weekend and was in seventh heaven. Firstly  D. was cutting  and splitting some seasoned wood in the pile down the paddock and it needed ferrying to the house. Adam loves using the wheelbarrow so he has been barrowing  logs up the paddock and stacking them against the
alcove outside the lounge door. He didn't make too bad a job of stacking either. I only needed to tweak the position of a few logs when he wasn't looking.
Next , I fetched some cement from B&Q  and he was there at the car with the sacktruck before I was parked up, waiting to ferry the bags into the shed.
 The girls were here for tea yesterday. YGD was very excited as she had a present for me.... A huge bag of mushrooms! They were growing in a field at the stables where she keeps her pony and she and her mother had spent half an hour picking. Apparently they had not made a dent in the crop which was mammoth. Here is the mushroom party sorting out the bounty. Adam looks a little bemused doesn't he?

 We fried the really open ones and steamed the less open ones and put them all down  in the freezer. The just opened ones we have put on racks to dry and the button ones I have put in a paper  bag in the fridge to eat during the week. I'm not a great fan of mushrooms but can eat then when they are included in dishes like lasagna, D. on the other hand loves them in any way and out Eldest Granddaughter is a fan too, so they are very welcome.
 I made the baked apples that I mentioned couple of posts ago for pud.
With help from YGD I made a pound of shortcrust pastry and put in the fridge. We peeled and cored 8 large Jonogold apples
We then made a mixture of currants, sultanas cherries and brown sugar,  and a mixture of chopped hazel nuts and honey. We rolled out the pastry and cut eight circles round around a side plate and placed an apple in the middle of each round,  We put the fillings in the hole with a knob of butter on top and gathered the pastry up around the apple. We then turned the apples over so that the join was underneath and placed them on a floured dish . YGD cut a couple of leaves for each apple from the pastry scraps and placed these on top and sprinkled a little brown sugar on top.   They turned out very well and we served them with custard.
Enough for now. Bit of a random post today.
Back soon
Keep safe all

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Wood, munchings and apples

 Hello and welcome to Dani fro  Eco footprint South Africa and easy Stitcher on the follower bar and another follower on Blog lovin. I can't work out who you are.

This post will be of a lighter nature than the previous ones. and quite right too you might say. I think I might resurrect the subject of Child Labour another day when I'm up to it!.

We had most of this week planned but, as ever, it was not to be.
The central heating broke down. (pump ) The house is on total disarray while carpets have been rolled back and floor board lifted to get to the blasted thing. While doing this D. thought it was time that he replaced the three way valve that had been "iffy" for some time. All this has entailed me running from sewing room to cellar to corridor and back again.shouting "YES" or "NO" to questions and pushing buttons on request. Such Larks! Anyway all fixed now. I guess the most difficult bit was getting the parts, but D. ever-inventive sorted that out.
  We were offered two lots ( and I mean lots) of logs between a foot and six foot long and very thick, which we have collected in the rain and the dark as they had to be taken that day. Thank goodness for our trusty Berlingo. We were then told that there were some chippings for us if we took them away within three hours ( Berlingo and trailer this time) The trailer, which is not small was filled and two tonne bags of chippings were strapped on top of those.
The chippings are for the "Bee garden" at the bottom of the front garden, which we are making easier to maintain and access. Winter is the perfect time to do this when the bees aren't active. Mind you they have been flying in between the showers as it is not particularly cold and there is quite a lot of ivy flower around.
 It has been a good apple year for us this year, with the exception of the Russett. The Jonogold in particular has given a huge crop of very large eating apples.

 I have been looking at recipes for baked apples which don't involve dried fruits as half the family don't like raisins etc. Next time they are all here I shall bake some with dried fruit and some with ...Rolos!! Good idea eh? not mine. I googled it. If you have a favourite recipe for baked apples ( I will bake them in pastry) please share.
 Here is the crop from our oldest tree, which is proably 15 years old
I bucket of wormy ones had already been given to the chickens.
And here is the crop from the youngest tree (5 years), minus half a bucket still to be picked.
The green apples to the left are Bramleys.  I also put a vase of flowers there for you to see. These are the flowers of Jerusalem Artichoke. The stems were over ten foot high with these little beauties right at the top. You can see they are  sunflower family.

As mentioned before we are still getting lots of veggies from the garden
Here is our evening meal on Monday.
Stuffed marrow on a bed of vegetables and tomatoes with jacket potatoes. I used a little minced lamb with the stuffing of minced onion, squash, carrot and bread.
Last night we had jacket pots again  with a ratatouille thingy, roasted Crown Prince Squash and grated cheese. ( I didn't grow the cheese)
Well that's enough bragging for now.
Off to barrow and spread munchings.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Beyond their means

 Hello  Frugellers
And Welcome  to Deb and the Pensive Pensioner on the follower bar and Jane on bloglovin

I take the Independent on Sunday each week. The finance section usually does a "Health Check" on someone who wants advice to sort out their finances, usually for a particular reason, such as saving for a house, world tour, children etc.
This weeks "patient" was a woman who wanted to clear her debts and focus on being able to provide financial support for her family. This 46 year old single mum with two dependent children  ( aged 20 and 16) earning £18,000 p.a owed £14,000 personal bank loan; £6,000 overdraft; £7.000 credit card and £1,500 on a post office card. The cards were both on 0% deals, due to end  on March 2015. She bought her house in 2001 for £42,000 on a repayment mortgage which she had remortgaged to get some work done., her outstanding loan now standing at £77,000 Unsurprisingly she has no savings to fall back on.
The reason for the health check.. "Once I have paid off my mortgage, I'd then like to help my children take their first steps on the property ladder"
How does this woman sleep at night? What circles does she move in that have inspired her to believe she is in a position to help her children to get on the property ladder and what example is he setting these young people anyway? If she concentrates on just paying  off her cards/overdraft, cutting up her cards and living very frugally, it will be well over  ten years before she is out of debt, when her children will be over 30.
I've been thinking about this woman ever since I read the article yesterday.
Am I in a minority believing that children should be taught the value of money and encouraged to pay their own way as much as possible. If they are in full-time education there are always paper rounds etc. ( e.g my youngest granddaughter used to do washing up in a local resteraunt when she was 14 to make a bit of money, my eldest did a paper round from 14 to age 17 when she started work)
 Just before I retired I asked a colleague why she wasn't retiring yet as she was older than I? She told me that she wouldn't be able to retire for another four years as she was paying her grandchildren's university fees so that they had no debt when they qualified. Her worry was that she was not made redundant before this date. I'm trying to imagine my daughters "allowing" me to work beyond retirement age because of their children.
I know it's horses for courses and some of you might think I'm harsh and judgemental but I'd still like to hear your views anyway

Friday, 10 October 2014

You get what you pay for?

Just back from town.
 My first port of call was the shoe shop.
 A few days ago I went to Clarkes for my bi-annual shoes. The choice wasn't brilliant but I did find some that looked sturdy enough and at £55 the amount I would normally pay for my best going to town/ pub shoes. I have always thought that you get what you pay for with shoes and unless I get lucky at the charity shop I am happy to pay for shoes that last. I asked the guy in the shop why they didn't make shoes that could be cobbled any more. He looked at me in a pitying sort of way and said that cobbling was expensive. I replied that it was not as expensive as a new pair of shoes and that I like to mend and keep things going as long as possible and did not like the throwaway society I was forced to live in. ANYWAY off I set with my new shoes, which I expect to last for two years if I look after them. I polish our shoes each Sunday and do the odd stitching job and generally nuture them.
 On Wednesday I wore them for the first time to the Memories afternoon at our village hall which is 50 yards away. It rained while we in the hall and when I got home and took my shoes off my socks were wet along the outer front left foot!
  I took my shoes and receipt back to Clarkes. I explained that I had worn the shoes for first time and walked on 50 yards of wet pavement and had wet socks.
 "Well they are not waterproof you know" he informed me
 " I didn't jump up and down in puddles, I just walked along the pavement" I told him
  "Shoes will let wet in" he imparted " These shoes I am wearing now (pointing) if I walk around in the wet for a few hours, I find my socks get wet"
 "And if you wear them for 2 minutes"? I asked " I suggest you get your shoes from a reputable shoe shop" I advised
 "Sometimes its the way they are"
"I have spent £55 on shoes to keep my feet warm and dry. That is the purpose of shoes, This is England. It WILL rain. maybe I should go to live in Spain to ensure my feet will be dry"(getting a trifle sarcastic now)
. Would you like your money back or a replacement?" he asked as though doing me a favour.
 He then told me how his children often come in with wet shoes/ feet and he has to put newspaper in them to dry them. The inference being that maybe this is what I ought to have done rather than complain.
 "As I need shoes, not being the sort of person to buy something I don't need, I will try a replacement" I replied.
 So I looked at the shoes and found another pair that fit. These shoes are not made by Clarkes, but then neither were  the first pair, they were £10 cheaper, hopefully not £10 less waterproof, We shall see... watch this space!

 My next port of call was the printers to get  a copy of a wonderful large photograph that was bought to the Memories afternoon. I finally found somewhere to park, walked back to the printers to find that they were closed and a notice telling me that to provide a good service they would now open from  8.30 until 12.30 Monday to Friday. So back on Monday morning then. Terrific!

 A quick whizz around Lidl went pretty well and an even quicker whizz into Sainsburys to buy "One Particular Thing" for ED's birthday next Tuesday went according to plan too.
 I then dropped some pamphlets off at a  Society Committee members house for posting and my round trip was complete.
 Time for a cup of tea methinks, but before I settle down I will collect the eggs. D.had been pressure washing the barn (chickens) and I slipped and crashed into the wall banging the arm that I had had my Pneumonia jab in this morning and bending my thumbnail back in a rather grotesque fashion. It is a now a very pretty colour and I am feeling a little shaken.
 So here I sit in the safety of the room that houses my laptop amid the comfort of my bloggy world and I plan on staying for some time yet!
All for now

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Waiting for the oven engineer

   Hello All
 Hello especially to Bob, Jane, Tania, Jenny, Kim and Retiredwannabe on Blog Lovin and Chickpea, Angela and The Saver of Suburbia.                                                                                                               I noticed, with embarrassment that I spelled Licence wrong in my last Post Title. I know I often spell stuff  incorrectly, but in a post title! How come good old spell check didn't spot it? I have only just realised .. it's American! Slow aren't I, I bet you all knew that already.

Well the last post seemed to strike a chord, in no small measure due to SSS sharing my post on her post! Not everybody agreed with me which I have no problem with, but many did and there were lots of interesting comments.

  Been baking as best I can this week, for our memories afternoon at the village hall. We held similar afternoon n for the ex- workers from a local factory that closed in 1995 earlier in the year. It was such a success that we were asked if we would do another and we thought "why not". We have many photographs to share and will provide tea and cakes. The problem I have is that the thermostat in my oven is playing up and the oven man could not come until today and the meeting is today!. So I have been peeking into the oven and putting an oven thermometer in and out. Not the ideal way to cook sponges! Unsurprisingly, the date and walnut and the carrot cake are faring better than the lemon drizzle which is less forgiving!. So I am sitting here waiting for my knight in shining armour to arrive, hopefully this morning.
 I don't know about you, but I like to look through the blog stats each day to see where readers come from and what they are reading. Yesterday I noticed that someone was reading an old post entitled "Growing Willows" from February this year. So I clicked onto it to see what pearls of wisdom I had imparted.  mmmm Oh well! One thing I did write about was about starting off this years sweet peas. I was really glad to have found this because the sweet peas this year have been wonderful, with a beautiful fragrance. Lots of people have asked me where I bought the seed and I haven't been able to remember and there is was in february's post.... Lidl!!!
 The phone has just rung.. The engineer will be here between 10 and 12 and as the Society Committee members will be here at 11 and we have to be at the hall by 12.30 I had better get my skates on.

 Back soon

Thursday, 2 October 2014

I WILL be spending this month AND paying for myTV license

 Folk have been discussing going a month without spending/buying, using up stocks and what is in the cupboard, emptying the fridge and so on.

I can't think of anything worse than using up my stores or having an empty fridge.

I spend a great part of my year growing, cooking and processing food. I rarely just eat what I have grown with no thought to the possibility of putting some by for a time when there isn't much coming out of the garden. I spend a great deal of time planning a garden that produces something each month of the year.  Granted there is less available in the winter and spring, but I have preserved, dried, pickled and frozen from the Summer and Autumn glut for times like these. I cannot grow all we need, some years I have enough onions for a whole year, the next year I only grow enough for a couple of months. That's okay, I go to the shop and buy them. What I would struggle with would be not having a couple of onions in at all times.
 I struggle to see how using up the stores saves any money. It will mean that for a given time you won't spend and therefore you will have money left over. Okay so far.. Do I take it that you won't replace the items used up?
Now I'm as guilty as anyone of having stuff in my cupboards that has been there for months because I haven't got around to using it up, probably because I really don't fancy them. Some weeks I will make myself use these up and may never buy that item again, but usually I will use up and buy again to ensure that I am rotating stocks.
 Note my use of the word "stocks" I suppose this is telling. I see my blog as about frugality and self-sufficiency, with some (too much?) family stuff thrown in. Some might call me a "Prepper" and to a degree that is true - I do like to be prepared! A few years ago when we were without electricity for six days and water for two, the people in our village didn't think us quite as weird as they had before!. We fed several people and provided flask upon flask of hot water. We gave away candles and matches and shared what we had .We were comfy, warm and fed and were able to keep ourselves entertained without any power. There are those who eschew TV, but laptops, mobiles and ipad need recharging for continued use too. I must admit to feeling extremely smug that I had a treadle sewing machine and a wind-up radio (the sin of Pride I know).

 Incidently, talking of TV, I do watch TV like most of you I am sure, I hand sew and knit or I un-knot string, or crack nuts or plait garlic etc. while doing so as I am not too good at just sitting. I watch programs that enrich and teach me . I also watch programs that make me laugh. If I assess my viewing I guess I watch BBC programs most of the time  I do feel that I should pay to watch these programs and do not subscribe to the idea that it is okay to not have a license because I am watching it later on my PC/laptop. That is just expecting someone else to pay for a service which is then "stolen" by people who think it is clever to steal something paid for by another. That is more mean than frugal! oooh controversial Gill!

 Guess I must be in that kind of a mood tonight and it certainly isn't "That time of the month" just cussed (almost) old age.
 All for now

Putting down for Winter

Hello All,
Especially to Jane on Bloglovin
It's been a week of processing the harvest and starting to get the bees ready for winter.
Over the last few weeks I have been drying various bits and bobs around the place. This week I have been putting these down for the months ahead.
Here is one corner of my kitchen. ready for sorting. The buckets are full of honey, which are here to keep at a warm temperature to enable us to pour easily into jars, when we get time. Elsewhere in the kitchen there are baskets of onions, chillis, more herbs and hops and winter squashes and buckets of apples to sort.

 It has been a good nut year and I have been looking into what I can do with them apart from shelling and drying them and putting them away for baking. So how's about this for an idea?....toasted cobnuts in honey. Bob, one of the Shared Lives guys has been helping me shell the nuts, which has been great as it can be a bit of a strain on the old arthritic hands. Surely there is a better way of shelling nuts than the old nut crackers?

 Here are three jars that I think might do for Christmas presents. Sorry about using the "C" word, but today is the 1st October and if you make your own presents it is time to get started.
  Top left of this picture is a super of honey.
  This week we have started to go through each bee hive to put in the Antisan strips. These are strips of plastic that are infused with a chemical that kills the Varroa mite that has been wiping out colonies world wide. The strips are hung between the frames and left for 6 to 8 weeks before removal. As you may know we do not use chemicals here on our smallholding, but we do have a duty to do everything for the bees, who battle so many demons over recent years. Until a non-chemical Anti-Varroa treatment is found we will use this one. We are a little late doing so and have to hope for a warm interlude when the strips need to be removed, so as not to chill the bees.
When we took off the honey a few weeks ago we returned the spun supers for them to clean up on each hive. Whilst going through the hives and removing the cleaned supers we have found that a couple actually have stores of honey over and above those we leave for the bees for through the winter. So we have an some unexpected extra honey!
I have put  morning aside to sort the apples before the next lot become ready. There are quite a  few that are bruised or wormy, The cookers I shall peel and freeze and the wormy and bruised eaters I will probably give to the chickens and rabbits, who LOVE them. The perfect apples I shall wrap in paper and put in trays. I will also put a few in polybags in the bottom of the fridge for the next few weeks. The apples are - Eaters - George Cave and Sunset. Cookers - Grenadier(not a good keeper) Gilly's Pippin (named after me by my husband ) and some early Bramleys.
Still to come are eaters, Jonagold, Braeburn and Russet and the main Bramley crop.
  Off to get ready for an Appley Morning
  Back soon