Saturday 1 June 2024

Friends for the hen and U Tube is my friend

 Hello All

Well I'm bumbling on here in the smallholding. Nearly all the veggie planting is done. So far its been a mixed bag of successes and failures. For the first time ever I am having problems with pigeons. They have stripped my peas, so I will have to net them from now on. The slugs are pretty bad this year too and the mice have taken all my sunflowers and beans from the greenhouse. Still time to start again methinks. On the other hand the onions and potatoes are looking good, as are the squashes, cucumbers and tomatoes.

 Quite a lot of things have broken down or given up the ghost too, so in the absence of he who was super good at mending things and keeping them going forever I have found that U Tube is my new best friend! I have mended the dishwasher, re strung the strimmer, unblocked the drains and sort of cobbled the toilet cistern so far. Usually my go-to person, after David to mend things is my eldest daughter's husband P. He is an immensely practical engineer who is useful to have on the team. However, late last year he was involved in an horrific motor cycle accident, that left him in a coma for some time. He also lost his right leg up to and past the hip and his right arm badly compromised. He is now recovering , but has a way to go yet, though goodness knows he is working so hard and already has a new leg he is wearing for longer and longer sessions.

 He and my daughter have bought a new house ( bungalow) as theirs is virtually unaccessable for him and they are moving much closer to me, which I am delighted about. They moved in this week and will be virtually camping for a few weeks while builders make it an even better living space.  Concurrently, my grandson, his partner and their daughter are moving house too. As often happens their buyers want them to vacate last week, while those they are buying from  can't move for  another few weeks. SO.. they are living here for now, with their furniture piled up in the goathouse and our largest lounge. So all change and never a dull moment. (and it's lovely having  an 18th month old cutie around )

 No mow May is going to change into no mow June soon if I don't get the paddock cut, but difficulties with the mower and scarcity of folk it is what it is. Hopefully it will be done next week.

After being wiped out by the fox last month . I was left with one traumatised and lonely black hen. Last week I bought two hems to keep her company. We put them together in their new hut, after dark, hoping they would settle together and they have been fine. I have cordoned off a small section of land next to the orchard that my hens used to live an and with the help of a friend have made it fox-proof ++. I shan't get any more for the time being while I settle into my new role as crazy old single smallholder!

Is anybody else here members of vegetable growing/ allotment etc facebook groups? These groups are so useful for sharing ideas and for new veggie growers to ask for advice. So far so good, but I have to say I am amazed at  how little some folks know about the most basic things that are to do with nature etc. What do they teach in science/ biology nowadays? " Shall I cut the flowers off my apple tree so that it can concentrate on growing the apples?" is the sort of thing I mean. I find myself shouting at the screen. I asked my three and a half year old granddaughter what would happen to the lovely blossom and she said it would turn into apples. 

Anyway this is more mundane than usual. I am having trouble loading photographs atm. I shall ask my youngest daughter this weekend what I am doing wrong. A picture tells so much more doesn't it? She is back from Jersey for a few days. It will be nice to see her.

Back soon, Thanks for reading


Friday 17 May 2024

The best laid plans.....

 Hello All

Just back from a few days in Jersey visiting my daughter who lives and works there. David and I bought our tickets in the new year, timing them so that we would be in Jersey for Liberation Day. shortly after he said that he thought he wouldn't be able to manage the journey and after the last few times when he was using a wheelchair and we had to have assistance and with his deteriorating health I was inclined to silently agree, "We'll see how you feel nearer the time" I said. Clearly, when he died in early March it was never going to happen. Everyone asked if i would go on my own, but I must confess that this feisty old bird is an absolute scardey cat when it comes to flying/ travelling and so I wasn't going to go on my own. Up steps eldest granddaughter, who bought a ticket for her three year old too and ensured I wasn't going to chicken out. So off we set to have a 4 generation get away in Jersey.

One of the issues I have about travelling is leaving this place, the chickens need to be fed, watered and let in and out. Same for the cat. The bees need keeping an eye on for swarming and the gardens and greenhouses need constant attention. Up steps the daughter of two of our dearest friends ( sadly no longer with us) who also had a small holding. This incredible woman is also an experienced gardener and a close friend of my daughters. So I have absolutely no worries when all is in her capable hands.

I made up some waterglass to preserve my excess eggs. I don't have many, but they can be put in the mixture as and when I have them. Here is a picture of a corner of my kitchen dedicated to my frugality and self sufficiency.

So here I am all prepped to get ready for the egg shortage next winter.

Yesterday I went out to the hens just after lunch to check on the egg laying as the Jackdaws have been sneaking into the chicken house and stealing eggs. All good, I collected a couple and returned after tea to lock them up for the night... Carnage! The blasted fox had been and the orchard ( which is enclosed a and suppose to be fox proof)  was strewn with feathers and a couple of headless birds! Goodness knows where the rest are. I couldn't see how he had got in nor carried the hens out. One traumatised little black hen was high up in an apple tree. I went out later when it was dark and rescued the hen and placed her in a small run, Because He will be back! I couldn't really face anymore so I came back in the house and poured myself a large scotch.   This morning only one body was left as the fox had been and cleared up after him. The little black hen is still safe.

Won't be any eggs going in the waterglass will there?!

All for now, back to planting


Saturday 27 April 2024

First "milestone"


 Firstly , many thanks for your kind comments to my last post.

Well , first milestone of "will I manage this place or wont I?"

As the sun came out late yesterday morning I looked down the garden and spotted a lot of activity on the front of a hive.


   So I'm wondering if the relatively rare 2024 sun had excited them or were they thinking of swarming. It's quite early for a swarm, but not unknown.

   Half an hour later they swarmed onto the small greenhouse. They were in three lumps, so for a while i couldn't make out if I had a prime swarm and a couple of casts (small secondary swarms) or a large swarm that had split as it landed. I  already had a hive set up and ready for a swarm, but if there were more I had nothing ready to use. I spent the next couple of hours having a sprockle through my gear  to see if I could cobble something up. Anyhow, two hours gave them time to make their mind up and they gradually started to merge into one.

 I have been the main beekeeper for a few years now as David hasn't been able to do most of the physical actions needed and a couple of years ago had an allergic reaction. However, he and I have kept bees together for over fifty years now and always discuss each situation and how it is going to be approached.   So this year I am on my own. I am perfectly capable of getting organised and catching a swarm independently ( Mind you when they are high up a tree it helps to have someone to foot the ladder or hold a box for me to drop some bees in - it is usually my youngest daughter, though many have been dragged in to help here)

SO, big girl pants on and off I set. I decided to talk to myself as I got ready, which helped. 

I took a couple of short videos that I thought might be of interest to a couple of women friends who are about to start beekeeping. ( I have tried to load these on here, but failed) This swarm is to to be one woman's first colony ..  enjoy Rissa! They are lovely dark bees and very friendly.

 You may have noted that I am observing No Mow May, which can be difficult when your neighbours have such tidy gardens . However, this year I will not have to wait quite so long to mow as the dandelions are early this year and the lady smocks have been out some time too.

   My vegetable patches are about ready to plant. Here is the top patch. Much thanks to my friend Helene who loves to dig... How can I refuse?!

So there we are, There will be much to do with the bees as the year progresses, but I reckon I will be okay. The trick is  " talk to yourself". So I guess I will look and sound even more like a crazy old woman as the year goes on.

If you read all through these ramblings , many thanks. If not no one can blame you!

Love Gill x

Monday 15 April 2024

A BIG Decision

 Hello All

Well it's blowing a gale and hailing out there at the moment. I was going to do a Tip Run but it really isn't the weather for loading up the car with the pile of wet stuff piled outside the garage and then un -piling it several miles away, when I could be sitting in my kitchen cleaning up some bee frames and potting on some seedlings. And let's face it I'm not even doing that now as I am sat at my laptop.

Looking around me, my kitchen is a typical  smallholder's space. The fire is on, with a couple of supers of honey keeping warm to the side, a clothes horse of washing to the front and washed plastic bags, a bunch of dried chillis  and baskets of onions on a line above. 

This reverie is not without purpose.

My husband of 58 years died last month. He had fought several life threatening illness over the years, Being a big strong guy, with a healthy lifestyle and being extremely bloody minded he had fought them all. The last year or two had seen him struggling with that fight and the last few months saw him doing very little other than worry about what he should be doing.  He hated that I became his carer and that he "couldn't knock the skin off a rice pudding" While we knew he hadn't long, he passed away suddenly. I am SO pleased for him. On the day he died he said " I've had enough Gilly" and so he had.

So here I am, sat in the kitchen of the  family home of 43 years, thinking of where I go from here. I shan't make any decisions for some time yet, in fact I am going to give myself a year ( four gardening seasons!) to see how I manage. I really don't want to give up the only lifestyle that makes any sense to me. 

If you will  bear with me I will use my blog to chart those seasons and weigh up the pros and cons of a crazy 78 year woman staying on her two beautiful Derbyshire acres


Friday 5 April 2024



I'm going to start  off with a recipe/method which some of you probably already know, but I have come across only in the last few months. I love learning new things.

 Not only is this a very economic yogurt, I think it is the best tasting, thickest one too!

Slow Cooker yogurt

Place 4 pints of milk in your slow cooker and put on high for 2 to 3 hours until temp is 180.

Turn off the cooker and leave for a further 2 to 3 hours until temp is 110 to 115

In a bowl add a little of the milk to a live plain yogurt I( I used a basic live Greek one) stir and then pour back into the rest. Stir gently up and down, don't whisk in a circular motion.

Take the bowl out of the casing and wrap it in a towel

Leave overnight ( or 10. to 12 hours) at room temperature

Strain into a cheesecloth and leave several hours to remove as much of the whey as you can.

Decant into a bowl and refrigerate.

This is when I go to the freezer and fish out those silly cartons of a few plums, raspberries etc that I couldn't possibly throw away last autumn. A tin of strawberries mixed in  also went down well with the great- granddaughters

Don't forget to save a pot to use as the next culture. 


If this blasted rain would stop I could get more planted in the veg patch. Goodness know what the farmers are going through.

All For Now 


Wednesday 3 April 2024

Back to the blog

 Hello All

After a two year hiatus I'm going to see if I can get back into blogging.

The last two years have been busy in so many ways with many changes to my circumstances, but I reckon I might now be able to give my blog the time it requires. 

I look forward to rekindling our blogging friendships ( if there is anybody still there!) and reading your blogs too

Back soon with updates on  my frugal life on the smallholding.

Gill x

Friday 8 April 2022

Reducing cooking fuel costs II


 Hello All

Continuing my reducing fuel cost posts....

This next piece of equipment that is sparing on fuel is a no-brainer. 

The trusty Slow cooker.

I have three slow cookers. Two large and one small. I frequently have all three on at once if I am preparing for a busy few days and want to be on top of the game.  This weekend I have a large one cooking vegetables (carrot, swede, celery and red pepper) that I don't want to spoil from the fridge with a bag of frozen tomatoes from last year's crop, a cup full of lentils and three pints of veggie stock ( lidl veggie cubes) I will blitz this when cooked and have soup for  lunch for several days,. Obviously this will be heated up a dish at a time as needed in the microwave. The small slow cooker  has a couple of pints of milk I have extra plus a frozen pint of semi skimmed from the freezer, with three ounces of sugar and four and a half ounces of pudding rice. The rice pudding made in a slow cooker is just like the tinned ones ( young people prefer ) If you want to turn it into an old fashioned rice pud, when the pud is cooked turn it into a dish and put it into the oven to get a skin ( best bit) mind you this only makes sense if your oven is already on for something else. The third slow cooker has some neck of lamb with carrots, onions, potato. stock and a generous dollop of mint sauce. I put plenty of stock in this ( lidl beef) so that I can add dumplings later, which will suck up quite a bit of juice.

Using your slow cooker means "one pot cooking" which reduces washing up too. When your slow cookers are simmering away you might consider if there is any heat you can " borrow" . They will certainly heat your kitchen and also produce just the right amount of heat to rise bread or keep your soda bread culture jiggling along. Any other ideas?

So enough of saving energy for this post. A dry subject I know, but things are getting serious with regard to fuel bills and even if you can afford the high bills, considering the impact on the environment  is now leading us to be more careful.

Received  texts from APHA today and yesterday. Four new cases of Avian flu  - Somerset, Devon, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. For goodness sake ! Will those poor hens ever get out of lockdown !?

I'm resisting posting about Ukraine, but goodness it's difficult not to have a view isn't it?

All for now, off to prick out seedlings in the back greenhouse.

Back Soon, now I'm on a roll

Love Gillx