Thursday 31 October 2013

Running ragged and a Hallowe'en bargain

Hello All
I've been a tad tardy with my posts this week but I have been chained to my PC, printer, phone and boards  of all shapes and sizes, while preparing for our Civic Society Heritage Exhibition. There is much for me to do at this yearly event as I do all the organising of people and their exhibits, bake most of the cakes for refreshments and so on and so on. This week our chairperson has fallen ill with some virus and I seem to be the only person in whom she has shared her thoughts and research. It has meant that she will not be leading the heritage walk around the district either. So today I have organised another (different) walk by another member, phoned everybody and his dog to have the info changed and generally run myself ragged trying to patch stuff up.
 Gosh I feel better after having a good moan to my blogging friends!
 So what else have I been doing?
YGD came to stay on tuesday through till wednesday. We made flapjacks, toad in the hole and leek and potato soup. We did all our usual outdoor stuff - mucking out rabbits, picking veg and walking foster dog who was also staying for the day. We then went out for the afternoon with grandad to look at the new boat bought by the canal society and also had a look around Arkwright's Mill.
 A couple of years ago I picked up a hallowe'en dress from a charity shop for a pound. It was far to big for the little princess then, but fortunately I remembered it and pulled it out this week to find it fits her exactly after a few judicious tweeks with my needle and thread. She is thrilled and has worn it tonight at a little Hallowe'en tea with a few friends.  Here she is.

There is still quite a lot of produce hanging around the house which I am doggedly processing. There are beans and nuts drying on all sorts of surfaces around the house, trays of tomatoes in the fridge, boxes of seconds apples waiting to be frozen or jammed and a marrow mountain to be tackled (goodness knows what I shall do with all of the marrows)
When the Civic Society functions are over I shall attack the fruit glut I have frozen and the Christmas Sewing. I am really looking forward to it.
I notice that most people in frugal land know exactly how much money they have in their purse/ bank and how much they have spent/ saved. I think I should have a go at being better organised this way. I AM really careful and frugal to the point of tightness at times, but I don't think I could demonstrate this. So I am determined that over the next few weeks I shall learn from you all and set up a system for the new year. So ideas / methods welcome folks!
After my little rant about wheat the other day, I was pleased to hear from peeps about how it affects them. I received a very interesting comment from Kris, who has put a link to an interview with a guy who believes that the make up of wheat has been changed. As you know, I am rubbish at links (another new years resolution?) so if you go to the comments section of my last post and look at the comments from  Kris you can follow the link from there.
That's all for tonight I'm ready for an early night.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Impending storm and gluten free cake query

Well our loins are girded and we are well stocked up with the ubiquitous Kendal Mint cake! (or chocolate if you are Simplesuffolksmallholder)
Over the last fortnight we have had two power cuts of a minute or so and one of 55mins. Does this mean that we have had our share of power cuts, or that our power system is a bit fragile?! The next 24 hours will test it I reckon, with a storm forecast to hit us over Sunday night. The south is expected to get the full force with the Midlands (us) a little less so. Today we will walk around the smallholding, checking the drains and tying down anything that might blow away. As three of our trees have lost large branches this year (getting a bit creaky, like us!) we have an eye on the others, especially those near to buildings and greenhouses.
 The poor chickens are up to their knees in mud in the orchard already, but at least they can get to the rest of the place now that the gardens are secure. What they hate more than mud is wind as it blows their feathers about. Poor things, they aren't going to be too happy are they?
Here is a picture that EGD took on friday as she arrived at the gate to the field. A goodly few of the chickens are scratting about in the paddock and beyond them you can see D. walking towards me in the distance. I am holding Suzie the sheep who was kicking at her sides, a sure sign of fly-strike. fly-strike is where a fly lays eggs deep in the wool of the sheep, which hatch into maggots, which in turn eat into the sheep's flesh.. Yes I KNOW! it's disgusting and upsetting. We cut away the wool around the infestation and scraped away the maggots (which incidently the chickens love) onto the ground. We then treated the area, which is quite sore as you can imagine.. We will keep checking on them to ensure that they are clear. We have kept sheep for over thirty years and have never had to worry about strike in late October before, but the weather is warm and wet, which are ideal conditions I suppose.
Some of the family will be here for tea today. I have bought a couple of chickens,, which is much more than we will need, I have also done copious amounts of veg - but I have plans for the leftovers..of course!
Two large apple cakes, using maggotty - less the maggots -eaters are now in the oven as I have started baking for the Discovery Days Exhibition presented by our Society next Saturday and Sunday and a dedication service and social, hosted by us on the following Thursday. I made a huge Ginger cake yesterday  and will probably start on the Carrot cakes tomorrow ( a great favourite).
I was wondering about making a gluten free cake as half the world seems to be gluten intolerant at the moment. Has anyone any good recipes to share?
So many people have intolerances nowadays that that  I wonder what is behind it all. As an organic grower and beekeeper I have my suspicions, but something has surely changed.. When I, and indeed and my children, were at school I never heard of a single child who was allergic to nuts and the child who had asthma was rare. In fact when I was at school a child with asthma was likely to go to a special school for delicate children. My understanding is that now many children have inhalers that they take to school. For a staple, like wheat, which has fed this and every nation for thousands of years, to make people ill is a cause for great concern.
It surely isn't enough for us just to change our diets..Are we asking the powers that be what is being done? Why have people who have enjoyed the usual diet of our country suddenly become intolerant of something that forms a major part of that diet?
Rant over.
Off to draw a map for the exhibition now. it is a huge one of the villages that our society covers and it is mounted on ply from solar panel packing  -  of course!

Thursday 24 October 2013


Here is most of the shallot crop.( I wish I had weighed them )  I have used a few already.
They are now completely dry so that I could sort them.

The jar, just out of the picture, is an olive jar from Lidl (or Aldi) given to me by a friend. I used it last year for the Christmas pickled onions and it was perfect, so I saved it for this year.
How I pickle onions - boring!
I peeled the shallots and packed them into the jar, sprinkling salt over each layer as I did so.
I then boiled up some malt viengar with a couple of sliced cloves of garlic, a few black peppercorns and a couple of tablespoons of honey. I put this aside to cool.
Today I poured away the resulting liquid from the shallots and washed and drained them.
I then poured the vinegar over the onions....... I told it was boring!

As you can see, in the picture below, I have sorted and tidied up the smallest shallots into the cage and made a couple of strings, which will keep well into 2014.
With the remainder I made a generous bowl of onions a la grecque. Gosh I'm posh !
This is really onions in a tomato sauce. ....
Simmer peeled shallots/onions in -
 A couple of cups of white wine.( I used half red wine and apple juice, as that is what I had!)
half a cup of tomato puree (home made)
a couple of tablespoons of sugar.
a bay leaf.
The classic recipe calls for juniper berries, which I believe should only be used in gin!
After  approx 20 minutes take the onions out of the liquor
Reduce the liquor by half and then return the onions. You can now add fresh basil if you like.
I don't need this immediately , which is okay because it freezes well.
If I were you I would keep tasting the liquor and adjust to suit.
So ( I've got to say it!) That's Shallot!!

Yesterday, after posting some more Civic Society Newsletters I set to work on the garden as it had stopped raining and the sun was shining.
I covered in netting - The leeks, the silver beet, the perpetual spinach, the beetroot and the last of the marrows and squashes. In the paddock garden the brassicas are already covered in netting.
 So today I have let all the chickens out of the orchard and they will have total free range over our two acres for the winter.
 All for now Frugellers

Sunday 20 October 2013

Slow cooker bread recipe

There has been quite a bit of interest in the slow cooker bread I've been making.
I thought I would give you the recipe I have been using  in case you couldn't find it in Elaine's blog. I have altered it ever so slightly, though I am still plagiarising her recipe!
Mix together -
  20 ounces strong Flour
 one teaspoon of salt
 one teaspoon sugar
 3 tablespoon oil
7g (one sachet) dried yeast
 Add 10 fl ounces of luke warm water and kneed for 10 minutes or so and shape into a loaf.
Place the loaf on a sheet of greaseproof paper in the slow cooker and cook on the highest setting for two and a half hours.
The first loaf I made was a mixture of wholemeal and white and the second white only.
I reckon that just about any bread recipe would do and I'm going to have a go with my usual, not so different, recipe that I  use when cooking bread conventionally.

 My slow cookers have been working overtime over the last few days. Sometimes I have been waiting for something to finish so that I could wash the bowls out and put the next thing in.
 I have made carrot and cumin soup; Tomato Soup; Bread; Lamb casserole; Stock from lamb bones; Chutney; rice pudding.
 As mentioned yesterday Adam was with us this weekend. Here he is sorting through beans. After he has podded the dried runner seed he and I will attack the pile taken from the almost finished climbing french beans (blue lake) Some are mature enough to go for drying a few were young enough for eating sliced and green and the big, lumpy green ones are yielding a bowl of flagolet.

Crikey those windows could do with a wipe!
Adam and D. finally got the guttering up on the workshop and not before time as the heavens opened and we even had a rumble of thunder.
I hope it keeps dry tomorrow as I will start posting the Civic Society Newsletter around the district. I will then try to get some of the gardening done that I didn't do today!
Will be settling down to do some mending tonight. there seems to be quite a sizeable pile to do.

Before I close I want to welcome Angela from Smallholding  Pleasure or Profit. Oooooh lots to talk about ! Good luck with the bread!
Back soon

Saturday 19 October 2013

Meeting new Smallholders

Adam, our guy from shared lives is here for the weekend. For my recent followers/ readers the Shared Lives Scheme is run by Social Services and places adults with particular needs in ordinary homes where they "share the lives".We offer day and respite care to three guys, who I call Adam, Bob and Colin in this blog. D. likes to call them his "work experience guys" as all three like to work on the smallholding, helping and learning and joining in with everything we do. They are in effect members of our family. Adam has been coming to stay with us at weekends since he was 18 and he is now 43, so he really is like a member of the family. Bob and Colin come during the week, staying for the day. D. involves them with the community work we do. Some of this is helping to restore the derelict canal that runs through our village, sometimes we litter pick or cut back shrub and weeds.
Today Adam and D. have been attempting to put up some guttering around the workshop. I say "attempting" as after travelling to a not-so-near suppliers for connectors etc for the guttering, they found that half the stuff they bought would not fit. I think the language would have been bluer had not Adam been holding the other end of the guttering!
Meanwhile I was doing my own cussing while attempting to load and print out a document that the Chair of our Civic Society had emailed me. She had sent it in a different format to the one I usually use when printing out our Newsletter. Eventually, YD turned up and sorted it out for me, loading "cutePDF" that enabled me to start printing out the 250-odd copies of the 6-sided Newsletter. I shall do this over the next couple of days and post them next week.
Yesterday I said that I didn't know that people were going to descend on us yesterday. This wasn't strictly true as we DID expect a couple of women who were considering keeping bees. YD had met them when she was visiting them as potential foster dog carers for the Labrador Rescue . (yes, they were PERFECT for the job) They have been smallholding for a short while now and wanted to talk to someone about keeping bees. So YD invited them to come and talk to us. We really enjoyed talking to this delightful women - mother and daughter -and felt again the excitement and the promise of being new smallholders. I do hope we will see them again.

 Adam's favourite chicken pie tonight (made from left-overs from last time we had roast chicken) with mashed potatoes and cabbage. No room for pud. Phew! Good job - I hadn't made one!

Hello and welcome to Sumdayiwillc and pattyinstitches I'm so pleased that you have chosen to follow my ramblings.
I've had an extraordinary number of "hits" on my blog over the last couple of days. Looking at the stats the referring source is Rhona's "Down to Earth" an Australian blog I have followed since I began blogging. She had put a link to my blog for suggested reading over the weekend after I had made a very short comment on growing garlic on her blog. Rhonda Jean, who is also an author, has five and a half THOUSAND followers! rightly so - pop over to have a look if you haven't already -  she is HUGE.

The weather has been mixed today and it has been difficult to settle to anything outside because of that. I'm hoping that I can settle down to clearing one of the gardens tomorrow, getting ready to let the chickens out of the orchard for the winter.
Back soon.
 Take care of yourselves

Friday 18 October 2013

A day of Guests

Hallo All
What a day ! Just about anybody that could call, has done! At one time there were six cars in the drive and I wasn't expecting anyone!
Fortunately, EGD arrived at 9.00 (with her dog) and helped me bone and dice a couple of small shoulders of lamb for a huge lamb casserole, which we will have as a cobbler on Sunday, with a few portions in the freezer too. I had put a white loaf in the other slow cooker first thing to see how a white loaf  fared cooked this way. As I was processing what was leftover from the lamb (bones for a stock, fat for dripping and residue for the wild birds and a little something for the dog) I realised that we had nothing to serve people with their cups of tea, so EGD made a batch of biscuits. She made a pound of plain mixture which she split into three... some broken chocolate in one third, some ground ginger and  crystelised ginger in another and the remainder plain. What a useful and lovely young woman she has turned out to be!
I managed to finish picking the eaters today between guests and before the wind and the wild birds ruin any more. Three buckets of decent long keepers down for Christmas and the new year. I might even sell a few!
Oh yes I also picked 10lb of tomatoes, which I shall make into passatta (is that how you spell that?) this weekend.
 So it is now 10.30 and I have just sat down to write this post and read a few I follow.

I have a few new followers today, who are from several countries.. How exciting!!
So a really warm welcome to Julie in Canada; Asparagus Pea in Wales; Winklecrazyidea in Norway; Ailsa in Western Australia; and Milow (I don't know where you come from Milow - do comment some time and tell us about yourself) I'm looking forward to getting to getting to know you. please leave a comment some time
I'm going to have a small scotch now and get myself to bed.. busy weekend ahead.
Not the most interesting post tonight... apologies ! I will try better tomorrow.
Sleep well Frugal Friends

Thursday 17 October 2013

Quick Ginger Pud and my secret is out!

The bread I made in the slow cooker was really nice. It was not soggy as I thought it would be. It took 2 and a half hours in the crock, not proving, just a ten minute kneed and then straight in on high. The underside was crispy which was quite nice. I made mine from 2 thirds strong white and 1 third wholemeal flour.
 shall definitely make it again. Along with soda bread, which I am practising with - made with yohurt not a sourdough starter. Both these recipes will give us a nice fresh loaf  to have with our midday soup.

 Many years ago I used to do microwave cookery demonstrations with a group of disabled women. The following recipe is a bit of a favourite, takes little time or effort and is a lovely frugal winter pud for one or two or however many. Today I have used windfall eaters and taken out the wormy and bruised bits. If you have a large perfect eating apple that will do for a single serving.
You will need
 One large eating apple
One tablespoon of Water
One Tablespoon Sugar
Four Ginger Nuts (biscuits) Lidle do the BEST at 35-39p for 30
Make a cup of tea.
Crush the ginger nuts into crumbs.  Slice and core the apple and place in a bowl with a tablespoon of water, sprinkle a tablespoon (or according to taste/diet) of white or brown sugar. Over this sprinkle the crushed Ginger Nuts. Put in the microwave on high for one and a half minutes... DONE!
Sit down and dunk half a dozen of the remaining Ginger Nuts in your tea.! You know you want to!
This pud can have oats or nuts added, which improve food value, but starts to get expensive. You can serve this with whatever you want to or have it on its own

 When we were travelling back from Cornwall last weekend YD made a huge lasagne and a pasta bake for tea (bless her)  As she was putting the pasta bake in the oven I looked to see which dish she was using and realised it was my megga chocolate trifle dish!. I use this dish at all our large parties and it serves LOTS. "I don't think you can put that in the oven" I said. "Of course she can" says D. "It is made of strengthened glass.. the glass insert in washing machines is pretty tough stuff" So my secret is out .. My trifle dish is the glass front to a washing machine !! Here it is....

Watched a bit of Hugh Frearnley Whittingsthall (?) the other night. What WAS he doing pratting around with those goosegogs for a preserve?. What a faff!

I'm actually going out tonight to a charity fashion show ! Yes I know! me! As D. said " I didn't think Help The Aged did Fashion Shows" cheek!
Off to the shower

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Apples and Slow Cooker Bread

Just like The Squirrel Family I've had an appley day today. I have sold all the cookers and windfalls I felt I could spare, so now is the time to look at what is left. Though I do have a Jonagold tree with a couple of dozen apples on, not quite ready for picking (This apple is a very good keeper and will last into the new year)  Below is a pic of what I bought in to sort. In the outhouse there are two trays of eaters and three bags of eaters in the beer fridge. As you can see these are are cookers and a tray of mixed windfalls. I have to say I started with all good intentions to process them all but failed dismally!
The ones in the front -Arthur Turner - were very disappointing and badly marked with bitter pit, which I usually get with my Grenadier but not these, usually. However I did manage to save some. I then looked through the Bramleys and put the perfect ones to keep, some in a tray and some in the beer fridge. Of the rest I par-cooked up half for the freezer and left the rest to attack tomorrow. Of the tray of windfalls I cut up and cooked half with enough water to cover. this I will strain to make a jelly with ...damsons?' Rowan berries? blackberries? Rosehips? dip, dip, dip  Blackberries I reckon.
So I didn't process everything, but did make a start.
What I DID do was make a loaf in the slow cooker. Brilliant!!! You know how it is, you look up the latest blog of someone you follow and then you have a peek at someone they follow and so on and before you know it you can't remember how you came to be where you have landed! Where I did land was at Frugal mum of three, where I copied her recipe and instructions for a loaf made in the slow cooker. It is so easy and the end result looks pretty good. I haven't tasted it yet, as I am waiting for it to go cold so that I can properly assess the success. but it does look BDG !
 Sausage and mash with fried onions, mashed carrot and swede and runner beans for tea.
My back was a bit achey his afternoon so I sat and did some mending and then put a zip in Godson's trousers, taken from some old trousers of mine- perfectly good zip, why waste it?
I am going to have another go at watching "Masters of Sex" tonight. I am particularly interested as I used to give Sex Education classes many years ago and there were not that many useful books on the subject. Can't say as I was that impressed with the first episode as it was very glamorous and pretty pornographic in a titillating, rather than an informative sort of way.
Until next time.
Hallo to those following on Bloglovin !

Monday 14 October 2013

Tomatoes and the grotty veg from the fridge

Hello from a VERY wet Derbyshire.
I spent the morning trying ( and failing) to be creative with tomatoes. I also took the sad looking vegetables lurking in the bottom of my fridge and added them to the pile. Here is the collection - just look at those grotty carrots and pathetic little peppers. On the plus side there is a bowl of pears, gifted from a friend.
 After some deliberation I have sorted the veg into five piles/recipes -  At eleven o'clock are the makings of a carrot, lentil and cumin soup. At twelve o'clock is a baking tin of vegetables for roasting (to go with a cheese leek and potato pie). At one o'clock is a tray of tomatoes for the fridge. At four o'clock is the makings of Chelmarsh Chunterings Pear Chutney and at six o'clock is the makings of a tomato and red pepper soup.
So the Carrot soup is in one of the slow cookers, while the pear chutney is in the other. the roasted veg we had with the pie tonight. It was "scheduled" for tomorrow, but I was so late getting round to making dinner I took the easy option with the pie I had already made. The tomato soup I made in my pressure cooker and have blitzed and put in the fridge for lunches.
 Expecting a few folk for lunch tomorrow. Weather permitting they will continue clearing the river bank of weeds and weed trees and cut down some more willow for the fire. I will try to take some pics.
 Last but not least a very very warm welcome to the Squirrel family. Glad to see you here

Planned Meals for the week

Back from Cornwall - How many times have I started my blog with those words?!
Only a small catch - a couple of pollack and a ling. I processed these and left them with my friend J. We really do have plenty in the freezer to see us over the winter.
Last week I made a fish pie with poached pollack, covered with left over cheese sauce and topped with left over potatoes. With some grated cheese sprinkled on top it went really well with some mixed veggies from the garden. there was still a little left the next day so I heated up the fish and cheese sauce and served it on toast and D. and C. really enjoyed it for lunch. Would you call that "left over left overs"?
Tomorrow morning I will attack the tomato harvest and process some for the freezer. I will try to remember to take pictures this time.
In the afternoon I am meeting with a couple of women from the Civic Society to work on some maps of the village to illustrate a project for the exhibition in the first weekend in November... not far away and still MUCH to do. Must knuckle down.
 Tonight I planned the meals for the week . I feel really satisfied with the list as I will only have to do one very small shop before next Saturday  I need to buy butter, sliced bread, cooking margarine, milk and cat food.
Tomorrow I will make a tomato and pepper soup to last 3 days.
Lunches tend to be cheesy beans or tomatoes on toast or soup.
Evening meals, in case you are interested -
Monday  -  Sausage and Mash with fried onions and cabbage
Tuesday  -  Cheese, Leek and Potato Pie with peas and roasted tomatoes.
Wednesday -  Lasagne , left over from today, coleslaw and jacket potatoes.
Thursday  -  Fish in breadcrumbs, french beans and chips or wedges
Friday  -  Macaroni Cheese with bacon, tomatoes and spinach
Saturday  - Chicken Pie with mashed potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

If not too many extra people arrive we will mange very well this week!
To bed Gill, before you turn into a pumpkin ( Oh yes I have a recipe for spicy pumpkin soup to try next week too)


Thursday 10 October 2013

Baking when It's cold outside

Just a quickie tonight as we are about to set off for Cornwall again in the morning. The penultimate trip this year Phew!
 A very warm welcome to Sandytanyllyn, do I detect a touch of Welsh there ? as you don't have a blog to visit I can only guess! I love meeting new followers and reading their comments
 Had a bit of a bake today. It was bitter outside so I hid in the kitchen while D. cut down some willow for firewood in the paddock with some help from one of our Shared Lives guys. I made them lots of cups of tea. That was good of me wasn't it?!
 I made industrial quantities of pastry and sponge cake mix which I turned into...  ED's birthday cake, a couple of jammy puddings, a couple of dozen mini Bakewell tarts, some blind baked pie bottoms and an apple pie as a gift for the skipper of the boat D. fishes from.
 It really is getting to be a bit of a squeeze in the freezers and we have been eating out of them too as I am trying not to use the shops apart from for milk and butter in an effort to put a bit more away for Christmas.
  Off to put some whites in the washer on cheap rate and then I'll take my book to bed.
Night Night Frugellers
See you soon

Wednesday 9 October 2013

A Chillier Derbyshire

Hello from a much chillier Derbyshire.
Firstly Welcome to new follower Kris. Have popped over to your blog. A bee-lover !!
Looks like the weather is turning and I'm going to get some time inside to finish off the preserving and start some sewing. Though I have much to do for the Civic Society in the next four weeks too so I shall have to knuckle down to map making, press releases and cake making ( for refreshments)
Today I finally got the batch of wine into demi-johns. Fortunately I had taken it off the must and it had languished in a huge bucket for three days longer than it should have. Anyway there are now 5 gallon jars plopping away merrily. The wine  is damson, grape and elderberry.
 Below is a picture of YGD preparing french beans for tea. She doesn't like the runners but she really likes french beans dipped in cheese sauce.. .. and why not?
Next to the tomatoes is a steamer I bought from a car boot for 50 pence. I have since bought another which cost be double that ...oooh the expense!  Fortunately the lids from my two large saucepans fit them so I have double the saving on fuel as well as taking up less space on the top of the cooker.
 Weather permitting, we will be driving down to Cornwall this weekend, but must be back for Sunday tea as it it ED's birthday and we will meet up at our house for tea. Last week ED gave me a full loaf that she didn't need. I had just taken a couple of loaves out of the freezer, so neither did I. I converted the loaf into stuffing for Christmas day and froze it. Will need to make a similar amount to go with it for there to be sufficient for the day. But I guess I have made the very first thing for Christmas!
 Off to bed now
Goodnight All

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Still Harvesting

Thanks to all you lovely Frugellers who have been following how we get ready for winter here on our Derbyshire Smallholding.
Dreamer reminds me of freezers, as she has two like me. As a postscript, I have two 12 cubic foot freezers which contain a few vegetables, but are are mostly used for Fish, Lamb and rabbit. Years ago I used to preserve Eggs for the winter too, in buckets, but I never have enough spare nowadays!
I have been extremely busy over the last few days as we get in the produce that will spoil if perchance we have a frost. D' was saying the other day "Do you remember the year we had a sharp frost in early September and lost all the beans, squash and  outdoor tomatoes?" So here is a picture of the produce from the onion and pumpkin garden. There are still leeks in this plot along with some courgettes, silver chard and a couple of small pumpkins and marrows. In the bags are the potatoes Ed and SIL dug up for us a couple of weeks ago
 If anybody doubts climate change, here is a pic of some of the sweetcorn we have just finished picking. A few years ago we were not getting cobs anywhere near as full or ripe as these. In fact there was a chance we wouldn't get a crop in some years. In the last 10 years the crop has been guaranteed
And here are ED, YD, EGD and SIL and Sam picking and sorting Damsons  this Sunday when they came for tea
And here is the harvest from two trees! We have several more trees, some of which have been picked and some we haven't even looked at!!(nor likely to) So if you are needing Damsons, give me a shout and we might find one or two.
The next pic - I told you there would be more photos today - is of something D. made for me. Can you guess what for?
Not too difficult was it? I needed something to stir some wine I was making in 5 gallon buckets, so I sent D. off to his workshop.
I don't have to tell you that the stirrer was made from a piece of Pallet!!!

Yesterday, we spent 5 hours going through the beehives. There is little honey but the bees are strong and healthy, which is more important. We needed to move one hive, so we took it to Gson's after dark and will bring it back tonight to the re-site. We will have to be quick with this as the weather is set to be cooler and if  the temperature drops below a certain point the bees cluster to keep warm and our moving them could break the cluster and they may die.
That's all for now as I have to go and wash out demi-johns for the wine
A Very warm welcome A Suffolk Girl, so glad you are following my ramblings.

Monday 7 October 2013

Getting Ready for Winter- Part IV - Food

Here we are at the fourth (and final?) part of Getting Ready for Winter at our house.
Today I shall talk about feeding ourselves in the winter.
Those of you that have been following my blog know that I like to keep a stock of food in at all times, so you will not be surprised to hear that I like to stock up for winter! As smallholders we grow as much food as we can through the summer and though autumn is a crazy, full-on time preserving,freezing and drying, we didn't grow it to waste it. So as many of the staple crops from the garden are ready just before winter we work hard to preserve them as best we can. I know that many of you aren't smallholders, though many of you grow as much as you can in your garden or allotment. But some of the stores I would buy and put away even if I didn't grow them.
It's a well known saying in this house "If you've got some potatoes in you've always got a meal"! This year we have grown quite a good crop of potatoes, but in previous years when it hasn't been so good (the dreaded blight) I have still bought a couple of sacks. These I store in a cool, dry frost free place. I also store onions and garlic this way too. Root crop wise I leave parsnips in the ground and keep carrots and swedes in sand in buckets. Mind you I haven't been growing too many carrots of recent years. I can grow much more valuable crops in the same space and buy nets of stock feed carrots for ourselves and the animals. Winter squashes I tend to keep in a cool room in the house (they can give guests a bit of a shock in the night!)  Other veg like sweet corn, I freeze, particularly tomatoes as passata or paste. I dry different beans - Borlotti, flagolet and butter bean and freeze french beans. I don't like frozen runners, they taste SO different from fresh I don't bother - hence last winter's attempt at preserving runners in salt to medium success.
Apples I store in paper in trays in the same conditions as the potatoes or in bags in the outside beer fridge. The rest of the spare fruit goes in to Jams - pound and pounds!, jellies, pickles, chutneys and wine. The copious amounts of sugar needed for processing I buy at the cash and carry.
I like to have something growing in the garden all the year round and it has taken me many years to make this happen. I now manage to have something in the garden throughout the winter, though we would die of boredom if it wasn't for good old Lidl too.  In the garden for winter we have... winter cabbage, beetroot, parsnips, black kale, leeks and brussels.
 So that's the fresh stuff. The "under the stairs" stores are just  as important. Winter means keeping warm inside and out. So I keep in a good stock of dried foods. Bread flour and yeast, Plain flour and baking powder, sugar, dried fruits, lentils, split peas, dried beans, oats, Uht milk, oil, vinegar, salt, pasta and rice are all staples. I also keep a few tins in - baked beans, corned beef, pilchards and tomatoes. With a reasonable choice of herbs and spices there is not much we can't rustle up.
Not all stocks are for us to eat. I also keep a good supply of candles, matches, rough salt, loo paper and cat food. A small amount of cash put aside for if we can't get to the hole in the wall. Oh I almost forgot... Some bottled water. You may remember, my daughter was without water for six days one winter and with the state of the water pipes feeding our village it pays to be prepared.
Just read what I have written so far and realise I sound smug ! Sorry it isn't suppose to sound that way I'm trying to itemise what how I get stores in for winter and I'm droning on a bit..
Suffice to say I grow or buy enough to feed us if we find it difficult to get out because of the weather, illness, transport difficulties etc.
There are many posts on winter food and I won't try to better my betters! In brief, I use my slow cookers A LOT in winter, - soups, casseroles, milk puddings, pot roasts, chilli and curries and much more can be cooked with little effort or electricity. These meals also transfer well to thermos flacks for packed lunches for work or travel.
When I do use the oven I fill it with several dishes, while drying clothes- or warming gloves or wellies- and sometimes feet! in front of it.
When I come in from doing the animals in the morning in winter I like bowl of porridge, the slow release of energy keeping me going until lunchtime, which is usually soup.
I was going to do a bit about safety in winter and asked ED, who works in the Fire Service, for some input. However I think I will do that justice another day as a separate post.
I know that the lists above are not complete, but near enough for now.
I will close with a couple of random gems of knowledge  ----.
If you think you have enough wood in the for winter, (especially if you are a wood stove virgin) you probably haven't! and..
DON'T open our freezer in a power cut.
Don't say I didn't warn you!
I promise that my next post won't be as dry (boring) and will have some photos too. There! How can you resist?
Please note that I now have Bloglovin jobbo in my side bar, courtesy of YD. However, I understand that peeps are followers of your profile with this and not you blog.  eeer what does that mean?

Thursday 3 October 2013

Getting Ready for Winter Part III- Home

Hello ! Glad you are still with me on this one.
Today I shall talk about what I do in the house/home when getting ready for winter. Anybody that knows me would never call me a domestic goddess. I DON'T LIKE Housework. Okay? I like cooking, sewing entertaining and finding 101 things to do with the courgette surplus, but I don't like cleaning, ironing, dusting etc.. This post is about getting ready to cope with running your home when the weather, and possibly your mood, changes.
I suppose laundry is one of the biggest issues, not the washing you understand, but the drying. We don't have a tumble dryer and we can afford to feel clever and frugal about this, but there only two of us most of the time and neither is incontinent (yet) If I had three children and  baby I'm sure I would feel differently and quite right too. We line dry throughout the summer outside (obviously) so winter is just about line drying inside. I get out my over radiator drying racks. These are cheap to buy from any hardware or cheapo shop - £3 should get you one. I have three and hang them over doors, radiators, bannisters, chair backs.... you get the idea. I am lucky enough to have a (rather grand name here) utility room outside. I run lines across here to dry clothes. before I had this I  used to hang lines in the garage. My daughter has lines across her kitchen.
 My clothes horse has broken and D's job, he is bit behind on this task, is to make me another (or two) I suspect pallets will have a part to play here. These will go in front of the fire or the oven when it is on, NOT the jets! I just keep turning things until they are dry. Some things like cotton shirts, I iron wet and finish drying them on the hanger.
Clearly, the best way to keep on top of the laundry is to do less ! My kind of housework! I wear overalls all the time. I have pinafores for cooking, overalls for decorating, painting, heavy cleaning and I have a couple of white overall coats hung on the sewing room door. This really does save your clothes and the amount of washing that you have to do. And believe me smallholding is not a clean way of life and I am a very messy person.
 Now all this line drying around the house is only sensible if you ventilate the house too, otherwise you get nasty mould everywhere and damp living quarters. So during the day we open a window or two, not too far, but enough to ensure some of the water vapour escapes. We then make sure that these are closed again before dusk when the temperature starts to drop.
 Still on fabriccy things, I bring my spare cellular blankets and throws downstairs in winter so that there is always something to put over your knees or shoulders or to wrap around a chilly grandchild.
 While we have double glazing at the windows and two of our doors, the other two doors are not only not double glazed but made of several panes of glass too. In winter I cover these with curtains. These are a double length of material, folded in  half width ways, sewn a couple of inches away from the fold. A curtain wire is threaded through this and attached to hooks at each end. This could also work with a piece of rod, dowling or bean pole seated on a couple of cup hooks. This system can serve as an extra thickness of curtain at any window or door and gives a double thickness without fiddling with a lining.
MORE fabriccy stuff - as mentioned yesterday when discussing recycling old clothes, draught excluders, can keep you extra toasty as they  exclude drafts (never!). Any old sausagey shape the width of your door will do. It can be as basic as an old trouser leg stuffed with crumpled newspaper to an elegant piece of sewing in the shape of a reclining Cleopatra. I have sausage shaped excluders filled with some old cushion stuffing.
 This is really pretty boring, but I soldier on and only hope you will too and stay with me.
 As you have gathered Power cuts happen around here most winters and are usually from a few minutes to a couple of hours. During the day there is plenty to do either in the house or garden or the shed or just enjoying the countryside. However, they can be longer and then the yearning for the computer or the TV starts to kick in. So, what's to do? -
Firstly we have a wind up radio, this is a god send in a power cut and I won't insult your  intelligence by itemising the reasons.
I have a good supply of games to play with adults or children.
I always feel smug in a power cut that I have a treadle sewing machine! Not having the distractions of TV or the computer really focuses me on any sewing jobs.
The last time we had a power cut of any length I actually wrote some letters! I write quite a lot of reports and  always do the first notes/draft by hand, so a power cut is a good time to write my notes.
A good supply of paper, pens, paint and books and knitting wool are a must at any time, especially in the winter.
I suppose a good amount of time is also spent calling on neighbours and checking up on the older folks to see if they are okay or need anything.
If this is your first time living independently, just give a thought to how you would cope without electricity. Would your home resound with the wail "I'm Bored!" because all of you interests are dependent on electrical technology?
 Enough Gill, you've said enough for now.In my next blog I will talk about food and cooking in winter.
Today I fetched I sparkly serviced machine that works like a dream from the sewing machine shop in Ilkeston. As I am half way through painting the kitchen and making copious amounts of wine and jam with the MASSIVE damson crop, I daren't  play with it yet. Tomorrow maybe, after the second coat (paint that is) is on.
 The shop that serviced my mother's machine is called  The Ilkeston Sewing Centre. It is in Market Street. Tel 0115 9307664. As well as servicing machines they sell them too. They also have a huge selection of haberdashery and sewing aids - a little Aladdin's Cave. As important is the expertise and excellent advice they can offer. So if you live in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire they are worth a call if your machine is due a service or you are looking to buy a new one. The guy there has been working with machines for well over 30 years I believe.

If you read the comments to my last blog you will see that Fostermummy has had a disaster and lost her archived blogs and also her list of (400+) followers. She can be found on so get in touch everyone that follows and help her get back to spreading her own special brand of  happiness.

That really is enough for now, except to say a very warm welcome to Frugally Challenged (great name) glad to see you here.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Getting Ready for winter Part II - Clothes

After D's (deceptively) small list yesterday I need to itemise the things that I do to get ready for winter.

Today I am looking at keeping warm and concentrating on clothes.

Firstly I sort out my winter clothes, not forgetting to leave out some summer T shirts to use as vests.
This is also a good time to have a proper sort out. If I haven't worn it for two winters, I ask myself why not? If it is because it is not comfortable  then for goodness sake why am I keeping it? (Frugal doesn't have to mean hair shirt). But before I send it to the charity shop, I ask myself.. can it be recycled/styled/used in some way? Trouser legs make great draught excluders - Cut off the legs, sew up one end, fill the leg with cut up really old clothes or tights that won't make polishing/ cleaning rags. Then  sew up the other end and place at the foot of doors to exclude draughts. You can't have too many of these, though when draught-proofing your home you must always be aware of the danger of carbon monoxide.
The arms of jumpers make great gauntlets to keep your wrists warm, with a stitch at the thumb, or even leg warmers. Now I am not suggesting that I will be a fashion goddess in these, but in the comfort of my own home who cares?! Jumper arms also make good orphan lamb coats.
As well as my fleece lined waterproofs I have a couple of thin folded up waterproofs, one at the door and one in the car.
There are many ways to recycle your own clothes and you will probably know considerably more than I. Also look on Pinterest and other such sites for inspiration.
If it looks as though you are bit short of jumpers, leggings or whatever, get yourself down to the charity shop/jumble sale before you set off for the "proper" shops.
I then check over buttons, zips etc...yes, I do sometimes (nearly always) put stuff away that needed seeing to.
I then make a list of what else I need  - usually thick tights... good for men and women under trousers too.
My attention then turns to hats, gloves and scarvescvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvAWQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQQ  Dixie the cat did that.. thought I would leave it in !
I think you can never have too many gloves. they get wet and/or dirty very often, so spare pairs are a must. I have leather ones for when driving and work gloves and knitted gloves I also have some fingerless ones (quicker to knit ha ha) which are invaluable for the winter when carrying out certain jobs. There are plenty of easy patterns for those who knit or you could ask someone to knit some for you. Aunties, sisters and grandmas are good for this one.
Ditto hats. Never forget that you loose a tremendous amount of heat through your head. Those folk who used nightcaps knew what they were doing. So if it is cold out, or in for that matter, pull a woolly hat on and you will be warmer in no time. I have a few knitted ones and a couple of those lumberjacky ones with flaps.
I have scarves but rarely wear them as a fashion-type statement, as I'm a bit of a fiddler and tend to get in a sprockle with them. However if I cross them over and tuck them in my coat I can keep both my chest and neck warm.
My other must-have are stoles (is that how you spell it?). I have several. I wear them watching television, reading in bed and sometimes in the car. They are the knitted, blankety ones you understand. Not the sparkly, to wear with an evening dress type! Stoles and ponchos are easily made with old blankets.  If I knew how to use my "Bamboo" to draw how to make a poncho from a blanket and then transfer to this blog I would. However.. you will not be surprised to hear that this is a techno thingy too far. Again try Pinterest or Google.
Finally I turn my attention to my feet - not a pretty sight!
I like to buy good shoes that last me years with the help of a friendly cobbler and regular polishing or even a bit of dubbin. These I give the once over along with my one pair of good leather boots. I also check my wellies, which I virtually live in during the winter. I have just checked them over and find that they are still water tight. the tops have ripped a bit though, So I have mended them with gaffer tape and they will do another winter. If you spring a leak in your wellies and it's a few days until pay day, just wear carrier bags on top of your socks and you will keep nice and dry until you can afford a new pair. Inside my wellies go the thick daddy socks - literally, as they do belong to D. I keep a pair by the door as well as a good supply in D's sock drawer. These go over my girly socks.
I ALWAYS wear slippers in the house, or Crocs which are lovely and warm with thick soles and nicely cushioned. These also wash easily. I see that Simple Sussex Smallholder bought a pair for £3 in the charity shops..bargain!! I always take a pair of knitted slippers when I go away. They take up hardly any room in your case and you will be so grateful for them
I would never go bare foot in the house. I reckon if you can go around bare foot at home you need to turn your thermostat down !
Well, that's enough for now. If you have anything to add and this list which is anything but exhaustive, please share.
I  shall tell you how I get ready for winter in the home next time. Mind you Frugal Queen did a pretty exhaustive blog on this the other day.

Lastly, the promised Chicken photo. It seems that Stu in Scotland is not the only chicken photo lover. (Sandie and Shara)
So can you who is lurking in this Photo?
 Give up? it is Uber-Broody, who has bought off two broods already this year ! ( and if looks could kill I would be stone dead)
She is hunkered down at the side of the house. The gas man found her when he was reading the meter. She wasn't there last week. So here she is going broody in October and she was out all last night in torrential rain. D. is finding some sort of board to lean against the side of the house to keep her dry. Mad Bird!!
All for now, back soon with getting the house ready for winter.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Getting Ready for Winter Part I - Man Stuff !

Right! Time to roll our sleeves up to get ready for winter.
While we were travelling home from Cornwall on Sunday D. and I discussed what had been done an what was still needing to be done before winter sets in.
Some of our preparations may seem a little extreme, but as  power failures in winter are not unknown here we like to be prepared. A few years ago we were without electricity for four days and our youngest daughter was without water for six days. Many of you more mature frugellers will remember the 70s when we had the four day week and miners strikes when the electability was rationed. Some of you will have experienced more flooding of recent years and know the consequences of that. There is nothing more sure that it will be colder so, " be prepared" we say !
 I asked D to itemise the tasks he always set himself at this time of year. Here is his list,  given to me while he was driving, so he probably missed a few things.

  • Sweep the chimney
  • Clear out drains and guttering (keep checking, especially throughout the autumn as the leaves are falling and after a heavy rainfall)
  • keep collecting wood, splitting logs, cutting up pallets for burning and making kindling.
  • Ensure all wood is undercover with the greenest at the back.
  • Buy in a small reserve of coal (This is particularly useful if you are unwell and want an easy to maintain, hot fire)
  • Service the generator.
  • Buy in a couple if gallons of diesel for the generator and store in a safe place.
  • Check all equipment that uses batteries,  such as torches and buy in new supply of batteries.
  • Service the Tilly lamps, buy new mantles and a gallon of paraffin. (If you have a camping stove, ensure that it is where you can find it and that you have new gas cartridges)
  • Put torches at the side of beds and at least one downstairs ( a small one by the fuse box too is a good idea)
  • Gather anything needed for inside (i.e workshop) jobs. All the mending of tools, beehives, chicken runs etc.
  • Check the car over and put the winter "in case of" in the boot. You know the stuff, de-icer, scraper etc and  not forgetting the Kendle Mint cake!.
  •  There is also a HUGE list of gardening jobs, most involving oiling and greasing, creosoting, covering up and bonfires!

As you can see these are MAN jobs. Well, I'm quite happy with such an un-PC idea, as I have more than enough to do. (see following posts)
Do you remember Blogchick? D. peeled him/her out of a cold egg, revived it an then we stuck it under Manny Mummy, here is a picture to remind you.
 And here he/ she is today, walking with Manny Mummy, who, as you can see is a very proud and very ferocious mother. Blogchick gets first dibs at the grain and scraps, Manny Mummy sees to that.  Please note that the colour of a chick is not necessarily the colour of the chicken and baby black Blogchick is now half brown and half black.
Those chicken pictures are especially for Stu in Scotland, who apparently likes chicken pictures (Hmmm)
Until tomorrow Frugellers