Tuesday 26 February 2013

Home made Seed Packets, Saving Seed and Broody Mavis

Yesterday I sorted my stash of seeds and discovered that I only need to buy Tuscan kale, Sweet Corn, another packet of maincrop tomatoes ( probably Alicante) and early Brussels. No doubt I will discuss these in more detail at a later date.
Below is an illustration of how I make my seed packets -
Starting from 11o'clock and moving clockwise - The first stage shows a magazine page folded diagonally, The excess paper is cut away so that you have a square folded diagonally. Next fold the bottom corner to the opposite side at 90 degrees to the edge. Fold the top corner likewise crossing over the previous fold. You now have a sort of envelope. Part the two sheets at the top of the envelope  and fold the top sheet over, level with the crossed over sheets. You will now have a little packet. Place your seeds in the packet, fold over the back sheet and seal and label. In this illustration I have used beans and have sealed the packet with a sticky label  For smaller seeds you will also need to sellotape the packet around the top of the packet so that they don't escape. You can make these packets whatever size you want, so long as you start with a square it will work. I use magazine pages as they are sturdier than newspaper. I have also recycled used envelopes this way.

I NEVER throw seeds away, seems almost like sacrilege to me! Some seeds have a longer life than others and if a certain seed is getting towards the end of it's viable life I tend to sow more thickly, hoping that at least some will come up! If you are not too sure about the viability of seeds and/or would like a book that gives you no-nonsense guide to growing vegetables, Hessayon's  "Vegetable Expert"  is a good place to start. He discusses the how-to of each vegetable and includes the life expectancy of  the stored seed too. Hessayon's Expert books are affordable and easy to use (The Fruit Expert is good too) These books have been out for years.

Below is a picture of a cute little chick called Mavis. She was born 18 months ago and is the offspring of the love affair between a Black Maran Cock and an Apricot Favorelle Hen  called Fi Fi (oo la la !)

Now though Fi Fi was not too posh to push (obviously) she had no interest in mothering and didn't hatch this rather cross looking chick. That job fell to Marjorie a legendary broody bantam, who sadly died last summer, but who hatched many many broods - she couldn't resist raising chicks and was always sitting on eggs whenever she could steal them!

 Now Mavis has decided that she too wants some chicks and started to sit on a couple of eggs. We placed a few more in front of her today, which she instantly "stole". So the first broody of the year is ...MAVIS.  Below is a picture of her, taken last summer, talking to Hugh the Orpington cockerel , who is looking at her lasciviously. Mind you Hugh looks at all hens that way!

I seem to have quite a few things to discuss this week, so I will be back blogging soon. Thanks for reading and a very warm Welcome  to my new followers.
Gill x

Monday 25 February 2013

Hens, Seeds and Egg Shells

Hello All !
Well it's still very cold out here but at least it's not wet. I forgot that I had taken this pic of some of the hens in the snow. They love this part of the front garden as it is below the bird feeders! Not all the hens will come out in the snow, but this lot seem particularly hardy, the Buff Orpingtons especially so.

 This next picture was taken a few days ago, showing two happy Black Marans on the roof of the workshop. 

While I have already started some seeds off under heat or glass I haven't got organised yet for the major planting time. So today I have emptied the main seed box out to see what I've got. I have been saving a lot of my own seed for some years now, which accounts for the hotchpotch of containers, packets etc. I also have several jars of bean seed. ( We grow a LOT of beans!) So today I will be sorting the seed out and hope that I don't need to buy many more for this year.

The next photo accompanies my quick masterclass on how to use your egg shells to deter slugs ! I believe it is important that you cook your eggshells. Firstly, to ensure that the yolk that provides food for vermin is cooked out and secondly to ensure that the shells are really hard. 
I keep an old baking tray at the bottom of the oven and place egg shells in it as and when. The shells are then cooked whenever the oven is on. I use quite a lot of eggs so it doesn't take long before I have a tray full. 
When the shells are cold I put them in an old bread wrapper ( I always save these for re-use - especially good for collecting dog poo!) and and crush them with a rolling pin. I then have a bag of really sharp, fine shell that is sterile, not unattractive to look at but not attractive to vermin.

The hens are laying much better now. When I work out how to do it I shall start recording the egg totals in the side bar.
I have been finishing off some projects over the weekend. I have FINALLY finished my jumper .. Hurrah! and very comfy and warm it is too. I have also reseated and covered a chair, two stools and a couple of benches.....Pictures to follow.
That's all for now. thanks for reading.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Frugal Pornography and Unsalted Beans

I've not been a blogger for long and so I still find the "Stats" interesting and usually go to them whenever I am in Blogland. I'm always fascinated to see in which country someone might be reading my blog and how they found their way here.
Last night was no different. I went to Stats, then Traffic Sources, where I saw that some people had used google or some such search engine or as the follower on someone else's blog or website. There was one I didn't recognise, so I clicked on the source and..........Heck!!! naked women! copulating couples! and more!! A page of pornographic photographs! I immediately came off the page, while looking over my shoulder to see who might be there, judging me as some sort of  over-sexed Hell's Granny, surfing the sex sites. As I was alone in the room at the time this was unlikely, but I still felt guilty for looking, albeit unintentionally.
I asked my computer-savvy youngest how the site had got there. She tells me that sometimes people can log onto your site by accident, especially if your blog name is similar. .."Frugal in Derbyshire" ?!!!! the mind boggles. The guys came up with a few ideas, which are best left I think.
Has anyone else had a similar experience ?

On a more positive note. Re. the salted green beans. I tried Angelsey Allsorts suggestions for getting rid of the saltiness and ... success!! the saltiness has gone and they are much crisper than frozen ones.
 I rinsed the beans a couple of times and put them to soak overnight  This morning I changed the water and left them to soak until teatime. I then rinsed them again  before putting them to boil in a saucepan with a quartered potato. We had them as a side dish with our Spanish omelette tonight.
So thank you Vicky. I shall now happily salt my beans this summer!

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Wedding Anniversary, cooking from scratch and other stuff

D and I have been married for 47 years today (I was a child bride!) We don't celebrate it as we are not very lovey-dovey sort of people. On Valentines Day I looked at all the posts re. "We tell each other how much we love each other every day etc etc " and thought that maybe we should be more demonstrative. Then I thought  "Nahhhh....Why changed the habits of a lifetime ?!" So here we are 47 years married,  knew each other 6 years before that and we bumble along in our own way, knowing each other inside out, arguing over politics and how things should be done, watching different television programmes and liking different books .... I could go on. So I reckon with all that "trouble and strife" it's a doomed relationship that won't last!!!
As the the calender from youngest daughter says under a picture of us on our wedding day..." 47 years married + two daughters + three grandchildren = a couple as mad as a box of frogs"  To complete this picture, tonight, as happens every tuesday, he will go to quiz night at the pub tonight without me and I will join him and our friends after it has finished, as I hate quizzes.

Another lovely day today. The usual gang of six for lunch, with a couple of extras (school holidays). Thank goodness for Cheesy Beans on toast.. unless you want egg of course! We've  moved  two large, high-sided containers into the front garden and will be growing carrots in them in the hope that we will beat the carrot fly. Sowed some more "Shirley" tomatoes, parsley, broad beans, Cosmos and sweet peas today. A friend bought me 6lb of raspberries as she is tidying up her freezer. I have cooked them today and put to strain and I will make raspberry jelly tomorrow (D. doesn't like the pips in jam)

  Curry from the freezer for tea for D. and bubble and squeak and 2 types of cheeses for me.

  I have put my salted runner beans in to soak overnight ,as suggested by Anglesey Allsorts. I will change the water in the morning and cook them with a potato tomorrow night. Worth a try eh?

 Iv'e been worrying about how some people will be able to improve their diet, as suggested by everyone in the wake of the Horsemeat Issue. As a smallholder-bought up on rationing-passable cook with a well equipped kitchen, I know that cooking from scratch is (usually) cheaper than buying ready made. However, when  I worked  for Social Services I worked with people who didn't possess a potato masher or sharp knife, who had one frying pan and no saucepans and whose electric ran out so regularly meals were often half-cooked and their tiny freezer compartment threatened to defrost. They, their partners and their children never saw a vegetable as " you can't fill hungry bellies with a cabbage" (but can buy a sliced  loaf with the same money) They often had no money and few skills. How do we help such young families?
 Anyway, the bubble and squeak is calling....or should I say Squeaking?!
Thanks for reading and for following

Sunday 17 February 2013

Salted Beans - Help Needed!

Hello out there in Frugal land!
Last year youngest GD and I salted some runner beans. I had tried before, some years ago and they had gone bad. So last year as part of my studies into preserving without the use of electricity  I had another go and they have been looking PDG.    HOWEVER... No matter what I do they are Soooooooooo salty as to be inedible. I rinsed them under running water for several minutes, then boiled them up and threw the water away, then boiled them and poured fresh boiling water over them after draining. To no avail ! Is there something else I should be doing? Please help as I have two very large jars of the things !

Thursday 14 February 2013

A Sunny Day and Sewing update

A Lovely sunny day and there are bees flying from all three hives. That's VERY promising. I know that winter isn't over yet, but a goodly part of it has gone, so fingers crossed!!
Grandson and I have been preparing to plant some fruit trees and strawberries. We opened up the old compost heap and the compost is BEAUTIFUL! So D will make a large sieve  and we can start getting the greenhouses ready too. D and the shared lives guys B and C have been doing some hard pruning and bonfire building in the front garden, they've really worked hard..
 The weather has been awful up until today. This has meant that I have been able to attack the sewing again. This was fortunate as the youngest granddaughter wanted a rock and roll outfit for this friday. She particularly wanted red and a full skirt, but I hadn't enough red satin, so the outfit shown below is the compromise. I just put a couple of scraps of the red satin on the tie, which I made out of lining. The blouse is only just big enough too as I had very little white satin. I would have had  more red and white satin, but I had cut out (and nearly finished) an upsy-daisy skirt for a young relative , which had used up quite a bit.
 YGD looks a little tousled in the pic. as she had been twizzling round to show off her flared skirt!

below is the bag I have made for when I need to carry papers and files when out walking. This is mostly when I am with the Civic Society. I find heavy tote bags a stress on my shoulder and neck, so I have made this more of a rucksack style. The body is made of  upholstery  fabric ( which has already made an appearance on this blog as a chair cover!) with the wide straps made of corduroy. I have sewn a fabric pencil case with a front zip pocket on, to the front to keep my mobile and keys in. 

Other things on the go are the giraffe which is nearly finished now and a jumper, which I am excited to say is "on the home straight". I'm not the quickest knitter and it must be at least six months since I started it. I found the wool in some of my mother's stuff and am making myself a jumper.. yes ! something for ME!

I have been unable resist starting to make ready for the quilt  as demonstrated by Frugal Queen a few weeks ago. It is such an easy pattern and method , especially for the largish quilt I hope to make .Thank you FQ!x

It's not too late to make nearly new resolutions is it? Oh good! I resolve to make a present each month towards next Christmas. Will let you know if I manage it.

Lastly I want to show you what happens when you leave candles in the window in the sun (  My firefighter daughter will tell you you should NEVER have candles near curtains - but that's another issue) I showed this to the 4 guys who were sat round my table this lunch and they are still laughing!!!!

Sunny days 

Sunday 10 February 2013

Sea Fishing... What I did with the catch

D and I travelled down to Cornwall on friday so that D could go sea fishing from |Looe with friends. We are now home so the first "Great Fish Processing " of 2013 starts!
 The first picture (below) is of the catch. To the front are two pollacks, the large one weighing 5lbs. On the two large trays behind is the Ling catch, with the largest weighing 10lb
I thought you might be interested in what I did with the catch.

I filleted and skinned  all the fish ( you can't see the pollack in this pic as it is already in the freezer as six fillets) and cut the majority of the ling fillets into cougon-size pieces, The fish hold together better if you cut the fillets at a diagonal, as on the cutting board. To the rear of the board are several thick fillets of ling, to your left are the offcuts which will be made into a pie. To the right are more cougons ready to be tossed in flour,

The next pic shows the process of crumbing the cougons. Starting from the fish pieces and working anti-clockwise I floured the pieces in plain flour with a pinch of salt and pepper added ( for a bit of a bite you could also add paprika or garam masala at this stage too) Next, after shaking off any excess flour the fish is dipped in egg and milk  (again, shake off any excess) Finally the fish is rolled in crumbs and then laid on a tray that has been covered with cling film. I recommend that you use one hand for dipping in the egg and the other for rolling in the crumb, otherwise you will soon have VERY crumby fingers and need to keep washing them ! The crumbs I have used today are a mixture of breadcrumbs and cornflake crumb. You could use cornflake only or mixed with oatmeal or polenta if you are wheat intolerant, or just breadcrumbs or a mixture of all of these. Whatever appeals.

The cougons are then covered in a layer of clingfilm and put in the freezer to be open frozen. When they are completely frozen they will come off the under cling film easily to be put loose into bags so that you can take out the exact amount you need.
  The final picture is of the fish ready to go into the freezer. There are 94 good size cougons here and 14 fillets, the pie will feed 4 to 6 people. Not in picture is the pollack and the fish heads and tails that I have boiled in a small amount of water to give to the chickens tomorrow.
 I weighed the catch, which weighed 46lb, and realised 20lb of fish for the freezer, a pie and breakfast for the hens.

Tonight, for dinner we had toad in the hole, carrots, cauliflower cheese, cabbage and mashed potatoes. I made extra cheese sauce, potatoes and cabbage. The cheese sauce I poured over the fish pieces ( after I had microwaved them in a little milk and seasoning for 5 minutes) and then topped this with some of the extra mashed potato. The remaining potato and cabbage and a few carrots will make bubble and squeak to go with cougons tomorrow. I have frozen the pie for another day.
Bit of a serious post today eh?  I hope this has been helpful to anyone who hasn't worked with fresh fish before. This, line-caught fish is the only fish we eat, it is sustainable, which given the state of our food stocks is extremely important.
Next week I will share this fish with our elder daughter, one of the guys that fishes with D and with our godson. As this is the first fishing trip of several D will make this year, there is plenty to go round !

I'm off or a shower now and believe me... I need it!
Bye for now

Thursday 7 February 2013

Wine, Percy the Parrot and Sea Fishing

Youngest has just left after helping with the wine stash that needed sorting.  The first picture is of everything we could find in the cellar that might be ready, which is wine made over the last three years. Some was already racked off, a couple needed racking. Some were REALLY good and others not so good. We have done some blending of the latter and come up with some pretty good stuff. The ingredients were (in differing combinations) Damsons, Elderberries and Blackberries from our land and Grapes from a friends greenhouse. She does exceptionally well each year and brings me carrier bags full to make into wine. Last year I put 10lb down in the freezer too as there was more than I could deal with at the time. The grapes are usually a deep pink colour but never got beyond a greeny-pink last year because of the lack of sun.
There are a few demi-johns still in the cellar working away for next year.

 The next picture is of the finished item. We don't put much into bottles because we tend to put a large jug, filled from the demi-john,  in the middle of the table and let people help themselves. That's my excuse anyway!
I reckon there is enough wine here for most of the year...(we do entertain quite a bit and both daughters are partial to a glass of red)

The picture below is of Percy, our Africa Grey Parrot. he is trying to remove D's glasses! He loves D and once he has made him take his glasses off he will groom him but combing his eyebrows and ear and nasal hair with his beak!! 

Tomorrow after my friend has been to cut D's and my hair and had a spot of lunch ( how would you like your eggs?!) we are off to Cornwall for a spot of weekend fishing. We stop at our friend's in Callington and travel down to Looe which is only 30 mins away. We are very lucky that our youngest will decamp to ours to look after the animals and the house while we are away.
 After my last post about the Ox Hearts I have been asked if I eat horse meat ? Yes I have, when I was 14 and in France. I thought it was braising steak that was a bit offish. After the meal I was told it was horse meat! As a typical 14 year old who loved to ride, you can imagine how I felt.!
Off to pack for tomorrow.I can keep up to date with blogland from my friend's PC if I get withdrawal symptoms!
Sweet Dreams

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Pies, leaking taps and on-line banking

Thought I would let you know how I got on with the pheasant pie and Ox hearts. Having trouble with photos at the moment so hope to post something tomorrow.
 The raised game pies went well...until I  made holes in the pie crust when I took them out of the tins and so couldn't fill with jelly ! The pie filling is extremely tasty, but perhaps a little dry because of the lack of jelly. D reckons a good dollop of chutney should help with that! The jelly wasn't wasted as I covered the containers of animal food I had made with it, which look quite attractive for Dixie and Prickly Pete.
 The diced heart in the slow cooker tasted a bit "strong" ( sort of offally and horse meaty !) at first and was a little tough. However, a further few hours slow cooking and the flavour mellowed to just beef flavour and was tender. I have halved this and made one large and one small meat and potato pie with one half and added vegetables to the other to make a stew. Having a little pastry left over I made a cheese and onion quiche.
Used the last of the leeks from the garden in a leek and potato soup for lunch. Line caught (by D) pollack with potato wedges, green beans in tomatoes and brussels for tea. Nearly the last brussels too, we are coming up to a poor time in the veg garden now, so will be using more frozen stuff, though I also buy a lot of fresh veg from Lidl. ( I will post my recipe for green beans in tomato sauce another day)
Managed to find a washer for the sink tap in the bathroom, so D. mended it this afternoon. Hurrah! the dripping has been driving me mad! I suspect that if our water was metered it would have been mended sooner! Apparently if I had had to call a plumber it would have cost me about £50. I did try to get to grips with what D. was doing so that it is something I could do myself next time. (not sure I will be able to though)

Early tomatoes and maincrop onion seed sprutting in the propagators. No sign of the early broad beans yet.

I must confess that unlike most of you (I suspect) I have no idea how much money I have in my bank most of the time. So I am determined to change this and so with help from my youngest I have set the wheels in motion to start on-line banking. Yes, I know, I know, that's nothing new! .. it is to me!! I'm a current account with a cheque book and using the Royal Mail sort of girl.
Enough of this rambling for now. Peace

Monday 4 February 2013

A Meaty Day

 Had a bit of a "meaty" day today, so my vegetarian friends probably won't be too interested !
  Firstly, I was given two pheasants last night. I'm not a great game fan so have decided to make a raised pie. with them. I have chopped the pheasant meat with some of our rabbit meat, some cockerel breast some fatty pork (from our local butchers) put the lot into a bowl with seasoning, spices, herbs and a splash of home made wine. This is now in the (beer) fridge until tomorrow. The bones and bits are stewing away gently so that I can a make a jelly) Tomorrow I will make hot water crust cook the pie for about two and a half hours, cool it an then pour the jelly in the hole in the top. That's the plan!!! Hope it works!
  Below is a picture of my godson, who is  keen on self sufficiency and VERY frugal, which I am always pleased to see in the younger generation (younger than me that is!) He has been experimenting with Ox hearts,which are extremely cheap as few people want them. He bought a goodly quantity and has processed them in several ways - mince, steak, stew and burgers. The picture shows him and his children organising the meat. He also has a good amount of waste i.e fat, gristle and pipes which he has made into meals,  both fresh and processed for his dog, ferrets and hawk. Not to be outdone at something I have never tried in my many years as a from-scratch cook I have bought two hearts myself today ! From one heart (cost -£3.00) I have three and a half pounds of extremely lean, cubed meat in the slow cooker, which I will turn into stew and  meat and potato pie tomorrow while the cooker is on for the game pie. I also have a large pan full of the off-cuts etc which I will cook tomorrow for the animals and some fat to render down for beef dripping. I will let you know how it all turns out.

It is the Civic Society Committee Meeting here tonight. They really will have to take me as they find me as I have been too busy processing to do any housework. After a few glasses of red they may not notice!!
Note to Moonwaves - I replied to your post about the freezers, but don't know where it ended up. Hope you can find it. I'm not too good at this blogging lark am I ?!
Take care and thanks for reading

Saturday 2 February 2013

Cornmeal and Prickly Pete the Porker

I have been having a little discussion with Shara and Lizzie about cornmeal and cornflour. It seems that I can't assume everyone knows what I am talking about with certain ingredients I use here in  the UK.  Below is a picture of cornflour on the left of the plate and polenta (coarse cornmeal) on the right of the plate. I haven't any fine cornmeal in at the moment to show. Does this help or confuse even more !? Lizzie talks about Panko Crumbs, which I have never heard of, interesting isn't it?
The recipes we were discussing were for fish in crumbs and I hadn't realised how lucky we are in England to be so close to the sea that we can always get fresh fish. 1,000 miles from the sea is difficult to conceptualise Lizzie !

I have had a request ( happy to oblige Clarissa ! ) for a picture of Prickly Pete. 
Prickly was weighed today and he now weighs  800g.  I reckon we should call him Porker Pete !
Here he is with my youngest granddaughter.

Same granddaughter needs a rock and roll skirt for a school "do" so we have had a bit of a sort through the stash, a quick measure up and grandma's projects drop down a place on the project list again! I wouldn't have it any other way.
 Home grown lamb again for tea tonight. The family were round and they usually choose lamb with apple crumble to follow.
I have arranged with youngest daughter for a get together around the demi-johns next week. Looking in the cellar I see that there are 8 demi-johns (each holding a gallon) of red wine of different ages and from different fruits. We need to rack off and taste and blend if necessary. She tells me that it will have to be when her daughter is not at work and can drive her here and back... I wonder why!!!
I reckon that is all for now. The temperature is dropping here again, keep safe all

Friday 1 February 2013

Lemon Curd, Foster Dog and Fish for tea

   I have been asked about Foster Dog and am pleased to say that he is settled and loved. They have been working hard at socialising him and he is responding much better now to other dogs. We are so pleased for him as he is such a loving dog.
                                                                                                                                                                  I I thought I would cost out the lemon curd I made the other day.  I made 7lb of lemon curd.
 12 unwaxed lemons.......£2.80
 1lb unsalted butter..........£1.80
 2&half lb  sugar.............£1.30            all ingredients bought from Lidl
1 dozen free range eggs ( must be fresh) these cost me nothing, but I sell them at £2.40 per dozen, so I will cost them in to help anyone who doesn't keep chickens.
Total.....£8.30.     which works out as £1.18 a 1lb
I don't think this is bad for a seriously good quality product, which tastes heavenly.

Lemon curd on toast is about as good as it gets , though lemon curd tarts are popular, but probably our favourite here is lemon sponge pudding made in the microwave.

Lemon Sponge pudding - grease a pudding basin with butter and put 4 tablespoons of lemon curd in the bottom.
In another bowl make a sponge mix with 6oz Self Raising flour; 4oz margarine; 4oz Sugar and two eggs (if you have a lemon grate the rind into the mix and the juice from the lemon - but you can do without this if you want) If no lemon juice, add two tablespoons milk.
Spoon the mixture on top of the lemon curd. loosely place a circle of paper on top and microwave the pud for 5 minutes. Done !

 We looked at our three hives yesterday. Two seem pretty strong but the third doesn't look too good. Fingers still crossed for them. Fondant sugar given to all.

I shall be cooking fish tonight. As I said in a previous post  D. Is keen on sea fishing and we make frequent trips to Looe in Cornwall where he fishes with a group of like-minded friends. My favourite way to cook fish is in crumbs which I make with (Lidl) cornflakes ( either in the food processor or in a plastic bag crushed with a rolling pin). Dip fish into flour, then beaten egg, then the crumbs and fry in a small amount of oil. If you are gluten intolerant you can use cornflour instead of flour.
 If you have young people who say they don't like fish, try cutting the fish into strips before coating and frying as above. serve with bowls of mayo or a favourite sauce and call them Cougons  (don't mention the word fish !)
The fish I cook this way are Pollack, Whiting, Cod (rarely) and , my favourite, Ling.
Started cutting out my new sewing  projects last night.. What a treat !!
That's all for now