Saturday 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas

Revving up to a couple (or more!) days of friend and family overload, which is not a complaint in any way! So in the quiet before the bedlam, sitting in "my" snug with just the parrot for company, I would like to wish you all

PS in case you hadn't already guessed that is my own Santa with his youngest granddaughter on one of his several outings this Christmas.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Apple and Honey Chutney, present making and bird flu update

Hello All
The chickens are getting used to their prisons, but continue to try to push past me when I go into feed them! I am certainly using more food as they cannot find find the extras that free-ranging allows. I am spinning out the apples, marrows etc and David has the workshop oven lit each day to cook up vegetable peelings, which he is mixing with the gash flour from the mill.
 I have been interested to see how people have been approaching the difficulties.  Dawn at "Doing it for ourselves in Wales" seems to have all bases covered, she has even stopped feeding the wild birds, which is something I hadn't considered. Dawn is a smallholder with much experience, give her a read if you haven't visited her before.(I still don't know how to do a link)

A present for the man who has all he needs -
I have written before about my annual quest to find a present for a friend who has all he needs (and more) He always buys me books from a charity shop and I always make him something. For example, knitted dishcloth, dusters from old shirts and home made polish from out beeswax, an apron with a picture of his current house on the pocket, a tea cosy embroidered with a pic of his old house. You get the idea. This year |I have made him a dundee cake which I am putting in a tin on which I have stuck a label that resembles a bookplate. He is a serious collector of bookplates, owning thousands and adding to his collection all the time. Bookplates always have an illustration of some sort, the book owners name and often the words "Ex Livre" - meaning "from my library". My latin is non-existent and I have been trying to find the latin for Kitchen, but have had to settle for "oven". I know he will get the joke. I am also making him some stuffed dates, which I will make nearer the day, though I did make some almond paste yesterday for one of the fillings. I am not in the least bit worried that he will read this before the day as he can't even use a mobile phone!
This guy will also get a hamper from my granddaughter. Each year she makes preserves, cookies etc to put in her hampers which she gives to all the(older) adults in the family and friends. One of the preserves she made this year was Apple and Honey Chutney. This is a new recipe for us, with nearly all the ingredients grown here on the smallholding. Here is the recipe
Apple and Honey Chutney
12 Apples (pippins) we used large jonogolds
6 green Tomatoes
 2 large onions
3 peppers (I used both green and red)
Half cup of dried fruit (we used chopped dates)
one and a half tbs mustard seed
one a three quarter cups Honey
3 cups vinegar (we used cider vinegar)
one and three quarter tps salt
 "  "          "         "       "  ground ginger
  "             "          "       "      "      Allspice ( we didn't have any, so used nutmeg and cloves)
 2 cloves crushed garlic
Chop fruit and veg how you like it (some people like it really chunky)
 Put everything together in a pan and cook slowly until thickens ( so a view of the bottom of the pan can be seen when a wooden spoon is drawn over it) This took over an hour.
Put into sterilised jarts and seal.

Has anyone else had a surge of Russian readers again? At least somebody loves me - I seem to be losing followers on Google again (while the Bloglovin numbers grow steadily) Is it something I said?
Still unseasonably warm here. Off to post local Christmas cards and letters from the Civic Society and won't need hat and gloves methinks.
Back Soon I hope (yes I know I'm rubbish at regular posting)

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Bird Flu!!!

Quick one here. I know I have been away from posting for a while though I have been reading other blogs.
Still incredibly busy here, though it should slack off a bit soon now that  the Civic Society's public consultation is over, with the assessment of results nearly complete.
The big news today is BIRD FLU!
It is the first time that we have been asked to keep our free-range birds in for 30days because of bird flu on the continent. This request (on the news) was really quite robust when in the past it has been more of a suggestion. So today before I let the girls out of their 3 sleeping/laying/fox proof homes, I gathered various pallets, string etc so that I could secure them away from wild birds.
As someone who prides herself on the freedom my girls have, I am saddened that they will not have their lovely lives for a month. Not as upset as the girls you understand, as they are seriously p****d off!
The 6 almost-pullets in the goose house are now restricted to that house and the small run attached. The goathouse crew (new cockerel, a couple of broodys and grown chicks) are now shut in the goathouse. Later today I shall combine these two groups into the goathouse as they will have more space there. The main flock are excluded from the orchard and are in the first run before the orchard where we usually feed them. This run is netted above so should exclude all but the smallest birds, who access this run from all sorts of entry points!

Here are some of the orchard hens. This enclosed area is four times the bit you can see here, The little old house you can see is left there as a place to shelter, with some nice dry soil underneath for bathing. Behind me is a hen house that opens onto this run too, at the moment  no one is using it, though it is available if they want it. Further through the run is the entrance to the main chicken house and through the fencing is the orchard.

Here is a pic of the hens in the orchard (on the other side of the part of the fence you can see above) a while ago, they are crossing the pond that will certainly miss now that they are "locked in"
And here is the empty orchard this morning! A  rather sad sight.
I guess I will be using some of the stores I put by ( to keep them interested in the winter) sooner than I expected.
All for now, hoping to blog again soon.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

The Apple Mountain

Hello from a wet and windy Derbyshire. The river is up and some of next doors sheep are marooned on little islands of grass where the river has burst its' banks. I shall keep and eye on them.
Thank you so much for the comments on my last post. I learnt a lot and hope some of you did too. I will round up with a quote from Aneurin Bevan
"No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means" (I hope I remembered that correctly, but you get the drift)
Update on the apple mountain.
The other day I blogged that I was on my own for the day and not expecting visitors (fat chance- saw quite a few!) One visitor was especially interesting. he knocked at the door and said that he saw I had apples for sale, wondered what kind they were and if I had any not fit for selling ? Erm yes! This guy works for a small local brewery and was wanting to have a go at making cider. We walked around the holding together looking at what we had and I agreed to fill a couple of sacks for him while I was sorting the glut/picking up windfalls. Over the next week I put different kinds of eaters (he already had plenty of cookers) in the sacks and he collected them last week leaving me with a couple of bottles of their beer. I am looking forward to trying his brew.
 I finally have some cider on the way. I used 4 large bucketsful of mixed varieties and got 7 and a half litres of juice. Not too bad.. Eight trays of perfect eaters and a tray of Bramleys are now in cold store and I have a barrowful of Bramleys to process for the freezer. EGD and I made several jars of apple and honey chutney towards the Christmas hampers and our own winter stores. I have put a bucket aside for Cheeky (sheep) before they go off. The chickens have a barrowful of rubbish ones and the really awful ones are on the compost heap.
All sorted tah dah!!!
Still on a bartering/food theme. Godson arrived with some more pallets and a couple of pheasants he went away with a jar of marmalade and some fish. Just how I like to deal.
Here is EGD just starting the prep for the apple and honey chutney. It was great to have all the ingredients grown here. (Including EGD who was born in my bed!)
 Here is Adam just starting the beans sorting. he so loves this job and I so love it being done. from 9 o'clock we have butter beans, black beans, the tray to be sorted,; Borlotti; Lazy Housewife and  Streamline. As you see there are many more Streamline than I will need for seed and we don't eat them dried so will save for the pigs.

A couple of days ago before the rains came I looked into our neighbours field and saw mushrooms. I was very excited as we have had none this year. I collected a bucket and stealthily climbed over the wall to find.... turnips! the farmer had thrown several buckets out for his sheep. (not the only animals feeling sheepish)
All for now
Keep warm and safe

Tuesday 15 November 2016

US verses UK health care

You know how it is, you're on facebook and you hook into all sorts of rubbish. You read one thing and then see another on the sidebar and you're away to another clutch of stories about dogs being rescued or cats doing hilarious things.  Today I have been reading "27 grateful people share the most incredible acts of generosity someone has ever done for them" There were lots of stories about good teachers and strangers paying for food etc, but those that stood out for this British girl were those when people in the US were helped out with medical bills. There's this girl who has type 1 diabetes, who currently has little health insurance because she is a student. She is making her medication spin out as far as possible and a lovely nurse gives her some freebie meds. from the pharmacy to help her out. Then there is this woman whose husband has had a heart attack and has recently lost his job, who is helped out by the kindness of strangers. Similarly a guy who has cancer and little health insurance to cover his months of treatment.  I'm sitting here horrified!
Back in the 80's my husband had cancer, it was over 5 years of chemo, surgery and radio therapy before he was clear. At the time he was employed and would have been able to pay into a health insurance scheme (should he have needed to) though the treatment would have come to tens and tens of thousands of pounds. Years pass, with several health issues such as anaphalactic shock from wasp stings, diseased eye and cataract op, all requiring regular medication, and then the firm he works for folds along with the private pension fund that he has been paying into for 23yrs! It is now difficult for him to get a job, but we have the smallholding  so we decide that we can manage as I am still employed. We started to offer Bed and Breakfast, which did pretty well and then seven years ago while he is putting in the mandatory fire escape(!) he becomes ill again and is told that a valve in his heart is no longer working well and will fail at any time (probably damaged by the radio therapy all those years ago) Back into hospitals, open heart surgery and constant, huge amounts of medication for life. And at no time have we worried about the cost.
A few years ago a college friend of mine who married an American was over here for a visit. The year before she had given birth to her third son who was born with a cleft palette and who had many corrective operations. Whilst she was with us her husband, back in the States, was shot outside a cinema and apart from the obvious concern for his health she was also extremely worried that they had used up all their insurance on the son. What a dilemma!
So my British bloggy friends, as if you don't know it already, The National Health Service is THE BEST! I'm sure you all have examples.
All for now
PS this is not my planned post, but my little foray into Facebook set me off!

Friday 11 November 2016

More animal antics.

Hello All
 Last night was our Remembrance Evening at the village hall. It is lovely to see our mature locals getting together for a gossip and a reminisce. We have a short service followed by tea and cake (more baking!) and we run a raffle, the proceeds of which go to the Royal British Legion. The RBL did us proud with a standard bearer and a representative to read the dedications, reading out the names of local guys who lost their lives in  WWI and WWII and leading the two minutes silence.
Today I shall be printing out 400 x  2-sided 3 pages to be posted to all the houses in our district. We are to hold a consultation evening on the 1st December to gather residents opinions on our Society's vision for a  9 hectare site. The printing includes a questionnaire for people to fill in. Let's see what happens. A couple of the Civic Society guys and myself will be posting this weekend, some of those letter boxes are evil!

Remember me saying that I was hoping to make some cider this month? I have been collecting apples that won't keep and are less than perfect. I have two wheelbarrows full so far and trays (and trays and bucket fulls of perfect ones)........
Is there a young offenders institute for chickens? The pullets are at it again!

 Remember Cheeky and the apples?

When I wasn't quick enough with said fruit, she pretended to be a dog! 
The dogs are actually waiting for balls to be thrown, but are also partial to an apple, which they just steal from buckets in the kitchen.

The only problem with posting these jolly pics is that you can see how untidy our place is, not at all as neat and tidy as most that you see in blogland.
Today is a rare day for me. I am on my own ALL DAY.
The shared lives guys don't come on Fridays and David is on his mandatory first aid course today.
 I have a long list of jobs to do as long as your arm, but I am procrastinating by blogging. My second blog this week. Heavens!

Enough of this. Off to put some soup in the slow cookers and start printing.
Welcome to Di saye on Bloglovin and Jane Austen and Maude on the follower bar. For some reason I can no longer tell if you have a blog. Please comment and let me know if you have so that I can have a nosey!
Love Gillx

Monday 7 November 2016

Winter draws on!

 Hi Everyone
It looks like we are in for some cold weather. Not really suprising as it is November. However, after last years' warm winter it has made me think my winter thoughts! I went into the "occasional" linen drawer to find the heavy curtains that I put at the two unglazed outer doors and realised that I didn't get them out last winter, that's how warm it was.
We have plenty pallet wood and logs in for this winter and one of the Shared Lives guys has been happily chopping sticks and filling animal feed bags to the brim. He sits in the workshop, warmed by the old field kitchen which is fuelled by pallets of course, with a big chopping block in front of him , lengths of wood, cut on the bandsaw by David, on one side of him and an ever growing pile of kindling on the other. Radio Derby is playing and the kettle is continually boiling for the endless cups of tea or oxo. Our other shared lives guy is a very tidy person and loves to sweep up any sawdust or shavings which he puts in bags and takes into the barn ready for muckng out chickens or rabbits. It would be good to take a photo to go with this little cameo, but their privacy is paramount.
I was wondering if any old people in the village might need some help or support this winter, perhaps with a bit of shopping or offering to share a warm meal or just popping in to see if they were okay. I was then reminded that we ARE the old people of the village....really?!.. when did that happen?!

I'm gradually putting produce into store. It has been a pretty good year in the garden, with the exception of the beetroot and peas which have been very poor. I'm still picking tomatoes, which is unusual for November. The marrows have been exceptional, with many huge marrows from one plant. There are only so many marrows a family can eat so I collected a few together to put into store for a while until I can face them again. I piled them against barn wall one day and the next day this is what I found. Vermin came to mind obviously and I cursed myself for being so lackadaisical and leaving food out for them.
 Some hours later the culprits gave themselves away ..
 The other marrows that weren't in this pile are now in store and will be given to the chickens in the winter for a change and something to do. That way I won't have to think of how to cook them too. win win.
Last week I had a whole morning when I didn't expect to see anyone or go anywhere so I set to to process some more stuff. The previous evening I cut up two red grapefruit, four sweet oranges, four lemons and a couple of pounds of cooking apples.  I just cut the citrus fruits into six and then thinly slice these segments. I peeled and chopped the apples and then put the fruit into a clean bucket and covered with seven pints of water, covered the bucket and left overnight.
Here is the contents of the bucket poured into a large jam kettle. This I cooked slowly to reduce. behind the pan is some bread rising (no point if wasting the slow low heat. To the side is a bowl of cookers.
 While the marmalade is simmering and the bread is rising I started on the tomatoes. I cooked a bowlful in the microwave and then pushed them through a sieve into a saucepan. The remaining pips and skins went into the chicken bucket
 I now have two pans to keep an eye on while the contents reduce.
 Meanwhile I bash the bread into shape and cover the tins with a cloth at the opposite end of the cooker. A blolognaise sauce is now cooking at the rear and the oven is on and a bowl of measured (6lb) sugar and some jars are in to warm. I skimmed quite a lot of fat off the mince before I added veggies and put this into the dripping pot, this I placed into the oven to melt it all into one with the older dripping.
 Once the fruit had reduced by nearly a half I added the warmed sugar and cooked to setting before pouring into warmed (mayo) jars.
So, sans bolognaise sauce and starting from 9 o'clock is marmalade and a paltry boiling of beetroot, strewed apples and dripping, a loaf and some cheesy breads and tomato puree.
 Lastly, I thought I would share a pic of the books I am reading or have just read currently. I always have at least four/five books on the go and read whatever reflects my mood. I only read in bed at night, from about 11.30 until 12.30-1.00
The Women Rule the Plot was a present and the others I bought at charity shops.
That's more than enough for now ("too true" you say)
Back soon
PS It's a long time since I did a cooking-type of post, I hope you weren't bored with it.

Friday 4 November 2016

Codling moth, harvests and getting rid of ALL dogs

Hello All
Well I might be a miserable old curmudgeon but my last post saw lots of hits and quite a few comments and I didn't lose a single follower!
Many thanks for all your comments. Looking back at old posts the ones where I "go off on one" seem to be quite popular. You're a funny lot !

And so to Codling Moth. Thanks for ideas and experiences. Rounding these up I have decided on a regime to try.
In the next week or two I shall slather some Vaseline (petroleum jelly) around the trunks of all my apples and plums about two foot off the ground. I shall add to this some Vic or stockholm tar, I've got some somewhere if I can only find it, which should make the grease unattractive to chickens, birds etc. It looks like there is no point to tying an actual band to the trees.
Next year I shall use Pheromone traps. One trap treats five trees within 50 foot. I reckon two in the orchard and one in the front garden should do it. Sue from Suffolk says that the refills work out much cheaper. In another area of the holding that has one apple, two plums and a greengage I shall try one of the homemade traps from the many youtube tutorials that I found. Cro uses a tar oil spray which might be the answer for the odd tree on the paddock boundary.
So wish me luck and if you have a go please share your results

I have been really busy with the Civic Society Heritage Exhibition over the last couple of weeks and we still have our Remembrance evening next week and a public consultation at the end of the month to set up, host and evaluate. We also have a major Planning Application to comment on. I really wish there was more time for the historical research that I enjoy so much, but there is none at the moment.

Picked a few more bushels of apples this week. Goodness knows what we are going to do with them all. We have the signs out but everybody else has plenty of apples. I have one evening free next week when I hope to catch a young person or two to help me press a bucketful or two to make cider.

The beans are about finished and there are many dried pods to collect. I have them all over the house in trays. When I am sure they are absolutely dry I pour them into bowls ready for Adam to sort into colours on his next visit, this is probably his favourite job after having a bonfire!.
 There are many speckled pink/black beans from Prizewinner, which are unattractive cooked so I am going to put enough aside for next years' seed and the rest I shall save for pig food (we hope to get a trio of pigs next year) Has anyone else fed their pigs dried runner bean seed?

We went on our last sea fishing trip of 2016 a couple of weeks ago. The freezer now contains copious amounts of fish, much of which we must eat to make room for the lambs in January. I make that sound like a problem don't I?!
 Any fish recipes to use the pollack and ling ? I'm always glad to ring the changes.
While we were in Looe we went for a meal with friends. I was talking about the labs I look after  that belong to my granddaughter and daughter. One of the company then said that he thought that all dogs should be got rid of. He said that the risk of just one child going blind was too great and that dogs were a scourge and there was no place for them in our society!
Bit extreme eh?!!!
Here are Coda and Sammie. Butter wouldn't melt.....
 Here is Cheeky and Chives eating apples. Chives isn't too fussed about them but Cheeky LOVES them. She comes to the gate every morning and blarts until I throw half a dozen into the field for her (and no, it isn't making any inroads in to the apple mountain!)
 Here is Coda saying "Can I have our ball back?" To which Cheeky replies "Not until I am sure it isn't an apple" I'm afraid she has destroyed quite a few balls this way and poor old Coda have to watch the destruction.

I have lots more to write and a few photos to share but this post is long enough. A warm Derbyshire welcome to a new follower on the side bar and one on Bloglovin, for some reason I cannot see who you are!
love Gillx

Monday 17 October 2016

A couple of rants

Bit of a rant here.
I promise to round up the grease-band advice in my next post.

How do you react to a blogger whose views offend you? There have been a couple of times recently when I have read a blog of someone I follow with a similar lifestyle (self sufficiency, prepping etc) and they have posted something that I really can't agree with, worse than that, I have found it uncompromising and offensive and it has upset me and had me shouting at the screen.
 What to do? ignore it? put forward my differing view? unfollow?
 I'm actually quite good at presenting a different viewpoint in such a way that I don't trade insults nor suggest the person is an idiot for holding a different view. Many years as a Social Worker have ensured that I can be clear and honest  yet diplomatic (I'm the old fashioned kind honest!.. you would have wanted fighting your corner!)
In the last post of this kind all the comments agreed with the person, with increasing degrees of nastiness and sycophancy and what surprised (disappointed ?) me was that other bloggers-in-common who I know to hold lives/views diametrically opposed to the post say nothing.
Yes, I did leave a short comment.

And while I am ranting.....
 Must couples really have to go to some exotic place to get married? My children and grandchildren, who are all employed, are receiving more and more wedding invitations that they have no hope of attending at times of year that they are unable to get time off to weddings in far-flung places. Should they attend they will have to find the air fare and hotel costs and use up their valuable annual leave and savings (house deposit) for someone else's "Special Day". Sorry, I don't get it! Get married abroad, just a couple of you and have a"Bash" when you get home for all, but these folk end up doing both, as, surprise surprise! grandma and grandad have never really wanted to go to Peru and friends with children might not want to take their babies to a warm country in the hurricane season etc
Gosh I'm on one today aren't I? I bet I'll get it in the neck and cries of "bah humbug" for this one.
Back soon with a grease band post and update on the bees (pretty safe stuff)

Thursday 13 October 2016


 I seem to have had a bogging hiatus. I really can't say why. I know I have been insanely busy, but I have still found time in the late evening to read the blogs of others and commented on one or two, (though only in a half- hearted way)  Does anyone else get so that they can't be a***d" with their blog?

So gardening bloggy friends I need advice. We have had a problem with codling moth and probably other moths too on most of the fruit trees. Some years ago we used a grease band on our big old apple and it seemed to help, though I believe grease bands are for winter moth not codling (tell me if I'm wrong) I have counted the trees affected by grubs and it is at least 12 of the apples and all the eight plums and greengages. Difficult to tell with the damsons as we have had hardly any fruit from them this year.
 What do you think about home made grease bands? have you made them ? We really can't afford to  buy as many as we need. (same for those feramone  trap thingys) Have you any other tips, ideas or experiences?
I really, really would welcome your comments on this.

Funny weather we are having here in Mid England for October. Just when you think you will spend a day in the garden the heavens open and you are back inside again attacking the apple mountain!
We were lucky enough to get help (family slaves) with digging up the potatoes after a couple of rain free days when the soil was dry. Within minutes of the last bucket going into the barn the heavens opened. We grew just Sarpo Mira this year. The yield was 153kg  (337lbs) I have now bagged all the decent ones into paper sacks and put them in the dark covered with sacking to keep them frost free. Those that have obvious slug or spade damage I have put into a couple of sacks in the utility room and will use first.
All for now.
Welcome Jada Pfeifer on the follower bar and Bloglover on Bloglovin.

Friday 23 September 2016


Okay, who was it that commented that  "Survivors" was on utube?
I have since spent many hours watching the first then the second and now I'm on the third series ! For goodness sake, I don't have time for this new obsession. The tomatoes are still growing and ripening, The barrowfulls of apples are needing processing, there are onions to be strung and I'm rushing through it all to grab an hour on the computer to watch another episode.
 I am so enjoying the 1970s clothes  - which are all remarkably clean, sparkling white and ironed, not bad considering they are making their own soap with mutton fat and wood ash!  There are also taps working in a farm that has no running water, and a few other bloopers. HOWEVER, It's great!, just as I remembered it. I particularly like the music that accompanies the opening titles and then the closing credits and NOTHING IN  BETWEEN! yes really! I can hear people being upset without the help of mournful cellos and running without a jingly form of William Tell and pastoral music as the camera spans the countryside. Those were the days. Why do we need music to accompany everything, as a sort of clue to those who hadn't realised what was happening?
There are some very posh people and some more posh people who have attempted to master un-posh accents, but the message is remarkably modern and relevant.
 The program was first aired between 1975 and 78 I believe. It was then re-done fairly recently, but the new version did not hold my interest and was very DRAMATIC (totally unnecessary)

 So that is my excuse for being too busy to blog... I have been watching an old TV series !
Back soon with a more sensible post.

 A very warm Derbyshire welcome to Gilly Ann Travis and Michelle Brownshill  on Bloglovin and Wintersend Warbler and Jackie Philips on the Follower bar.
love Gillxx

Sunday 11 September 2016

An Horticultural Post

Hello All,
Back from fishing, with 40lb of fish fillets safely in the freezer.

Some time ago I noticed a seedling growing among the spinach. It looked familiar, but I couldn't quite recall what it was. After a week or two I recognisd it as a Thorn Apple (also known as Devil's Trumpet) and decided to let it grow to show to the grandchildren, as though it is not rare it is quite uncommon around these parts. As they say, like Ttopsy, it grew and grew into this monster plant. The last one that grew here was not nearly so big, as you can see this is as tall as the sunflowers next to it. The white "dashes" that you can see open into large white trumpets towards evening. If you know the greenhouse plant Brugmansia  or Angels Trumpet, it has similar flowers, though I don't think it is the same family as I think that Thorn Apple is of the potato/tomato family.
Here is a close up of the seed, clarifying why it is commonly called a thorn apple. This plant is covered in these seed cases.
All parts of the Thorn Apple are poisonous, so I now have to, reluctantly because it is a beautiful plant, and with care (and rubber gloves) dig up the plant and bag it ready for the tip.
I have just looked up the latin name for this plant it is Datura Stramonim.

While with the tomato family, here is a tomato I grew from some seed which came with my last order from Marshalls Seeds. It is new bush variety called Montello. I don't know how to copy the picture from the catalogue, but it doesn't look like my plant which instead of bushing and bunching has long branches with fruits about two inches apart. This pic show the top two branches, there are more underneath looking exactly the same. Mmmm what happened there I wonder? Did anyone else grow this?
                                                                                                                                                                   A few years ago I lost one of the Victoria plum trees to who-knows-what. I bought a new one and planted it at the opposite end of the orchard. This year it flowered for the first time, the grand total of plums being eight BLACK plums! Four of those fruits are on the left, next to plums from our other Victoria. The fruits are a good size, I should have put a 50p next to them to show how big, I would say 2 to 2.5 inches. Clearly it is not a Victoria. Does anyone know what plum it is?

This last pic is of some lovely plump walnuts. I knew the squirrel would get them first and                  determined to pick them even if they were green when we got back from or fishing week (we got back yesterday) Too late!! they are all gone, apart from a few on the floor that are covered in bite marks. Did I tell you I hate squirrels?!
I reckon that is enough for now
Back Soon

Monday 5 September 2016

"A bit of holiday fun"!

I had a different post to this planned in my mind but Sue in Suffolk posted pictures of she and her sister in matching dresses, which jogged me to post this one.

Here are my girls on holiday in Wales 39/40 years ago.

 The jumpers were knitted in wool that was very cheap, so I bought pounds of the stuff. I remember it was in this dark blue, dark green. dark brown and white. The girls had sweaters and cardies David had a couple of tank tops (well, it WAS the 70s) and I had a jumper and a poncho.
The girls  never complained about  those sweaters so I always assumed they liked them. Fast forward 30 years and the granddaughter says "How come we never got sweaters with our initials on them "? "Because we try not to embarrass you" was her mother's reply!
Three weeks ago we had our rare family holiday in the Wales and an idea began to form.. No I don't have time to knit a couple of sweaters, but thought it would be good to reenact the girl's photo. The memory is that it was taken at Manorbier castle, which was perfect as our cottage was in Manorbier.
ED found some tea shirts of a similar blue on the internet and already had a lot of white felt from some project or other. She and YD cut out the shapes and YD machined them on.
When we got to the castle for "The Shoot" we couldn't find the spot the first photo was taken from. On inquiring it seems that it was taken at Pembroke castle !!
Never ones to let the truth get in the way of a good story we carried on hence 'ta da!...

 Like all our plans when the girls and I get together, this plan had developed into" a bit more fun" (depending on your sense of fun/the ridiculous) So those grandchildren need not feel left out ..

And while we were on a roll and with  two family members dragged kicking and screaming (well actually they just grumbled a little) to join in our"bit of fun" and Memory Making I give you the Von Trapp/Osmands from Derbyshire!
Remiss of us not to make one for Sammie, but those friends of ours who decided this was a difficult game of human Scrabble have used him as a blank (an "s" would have been no help)
 Well, there you have it folk don't get any dafter than us lot when we are together and have inmbibed a few ciders.
Back soon with my planned post
Love from (getting) sunny Cornwall

Saturday 3 September 2016

Off Again!

Hi Folks
This week has been manic. We have gardens full of produce ready for processing, lots of visitors and much to do for the Civic Society and getting ready for another week away! Today we set off for a weeks sea fishing in Cornwall. It's a rubbish time to do such a thing with all that stuff ready in the garden but the date was not our choice. Hey Ho
I'm taking my laptop with me and should have quite a bit of time to myself when I can catch up on blogs and  post a couple myself.
As usual I am staying at my friend's in Callington and we are fishing from Looe. Anybody near there for a coffee?
Off to make the packed lunch and then off!
Back soon

Saturday 27 August 2016

Last preparedness post and some garden pics.

Sorry for the break in posting. This is partly because of our holiday and then because of a garden full of produce that needs attention and also there is much happening with the Civic Society at the moment. I have managed to read a few blogs but that is all I have done blogwise.
So I'm now "back in harness" and have much to write. Firstly I need to complete the Preparedness posts.
Thanks to those who have joined in with ideas and experiences, from surviving hurricanes and floods to 9 months without electricity! Suggestions of work gloves, underwear and identity documents to add to the "Grab Bag" (Sol, Joan and Tricky Wolf). Joan and TW both point me to the SAS Survival Guide. Anon in the US reminds me that in tough times it is more than possible that cash points etc won't be working, so keep some cash with you.
Angela Merkel is clearly reading these posts and is advising Germany to keep some stocks in! Resulting (obviously) in empty shelves etc! Whatever AMs reason for this advice, if nothing else it might help a few more people consider being prepared.
Over forty years ago David and I watched a TV serial called "The Survivors". The scenario was that 90% of the world's population had died from a virus and those who remained had to learn how to survive. We watched it avidly saying to each other "We would do that better" and  ",Why don't they do such and such?".It was the flame that fanned our ambition to be self sufficient. Of all the sudden disaster story lines I've always thought this to be the most likely to happen.
 My guess is that extreme long term survival situations are likely to be predictable. Climate change, oil and world food shortages etc. may well creep up on us, but creep they will, giving us time to realise that harder times are ahead. Armageddon-type situations are far less likely but would also result in a situation where nothing is the same ever again and we will need to pit our wits to survive.
Eventually your food stores will run out (and you can't eat money) which brings me back to.. SKILLS.  Tricky Wolf suggests bushcraft and foraging skills, which I consider to be the most essential skills to practice and hone. I'm not suggesting you go native in the park for a few weeks ( I have a picture here of thousands of people sleeping in the park in the middle of town!) but read books such as the SAS Survival handbook and watch a few prepper videos, just to put ideas in your mind. Nobody can do everything, but we all have some ability to develop. These skills we can take to the table in our group/ family Come the Day.
You don't need to live in the country either. before we moved to our smallholding we lived in a semi-detached house in a large estate. here we kept rabbits for the pot -  just three large hutches attached to the back of the garage and a run on the lawn and foraged greens from the roadside were needed to produce 60 rabbits a year (could easily have been more) We grew great beans against the fence on the rabbit poo, learnt lots of ways to cook rabbit, cured the pelts and made some slippers and a (bizarre) Davy Crockett hat!
Joan from Wales has a great idea that I will personally take up. Like many of you I have bookcases full of "how to" books on sewing, cooking, preserving etc. Joan rightly says that we can't put all those books in our Bug Out Bag. She keeps an exercise book in which collects only those recipes she will use (looking at your recipe books I'll bet you only use a couple or so from each book) or prints out  "How To" blog entries, similarly she copies out basic knitting and sewing patterns. I'm really excited at this idea. I have already photocopied and reduced in size a page on seed saving and a basic hat pattern reduced to the absolute minimum space. I personally have much of this knowledge, but to collect it together for my nearest and dearest to use too is equally important to me.
 As I have written these post I have realised that a 100 posts wouldn't cover all I and others have to say. I would like to discuss the social aspect of survival (of the fittest? - I hope not!) as a retired Social Worker I find this particularly interesting but don't feel I could do it justice here. Suffice to say that being able to get on with others is probably the most important skill you could learn if you wish to survive. I don't subscribe to the hunker down and look after yourself in isolation in the woods type of survival as I believe it only works short term (unsustainable) and even though living with others is difficult it is essential to well-being and future growth.  Anybody disagree?
Finally, how do we defend ourselves when SHTF - "S**** Hits The Fan"?  If you are the only person in your street who has food and heat how long before your neighbours (or a marauding gang) ask and then demand you share your hoard? ooh er. There are many who will not hesitate with an answer and while I know that being able to defend you and yours will require a weapon I hesitate to suggest it as it flies against everything I believe in. I would always want to negotiate, but know that not everything is negotiable and not everyone would negotiate and are likely to be armed themselves. So I guess my answer to my own question must be that should things start to look really bad we would reluctantly arm ourselves. You have no idea how hard it was for me to write that!
As they say at Uni... "Discuss" let's hear it folks!

Only a lighter note (how could it be anything else?!) Here are some photos of part the garden which is so overgrown this year, partly because of the weather but mostly because it has rather got away from me this year. Hope the colours and fecundity lift your spirits!
 The potatoes (Sarpo Mira) have absolutely taken over. I do hope the crop is as big as it promises to be. In this picture you can see that it has grown over the box hedges and onto the path. Sunflowers and beans ( Moonlight, Borlotti, Butter and Prizewinner) behind and entrance to the chicken run/orchard.
 The sweet corn (Lark) is good this year too, with large ripe cobs.
 The marrow patch. While we were away some humungus marrow grew in hiding (photos next time)
 Looking across the potatoes to another bean row ( Emergo, Lazy Housewife, Cobra) with blackberries behind
 One of the Hop (bines?) Fuggle.

That's enough for today.
I look forward to your input/ views/ arguments !
Love Gillx
PS I seem to have lost a couple of followers.. is it the depressing posts or the long gaps between posting I wonder?!
PPS I will probably bore you with a couple of holiday shots next time.
PPPS And I shall start discussing preserving the crop.

Thursday 11 August 2016

 A Short Break                                                                                                                                          Just a quickie to explain a little bloggy break I am about to take.
We have been very busy getting ready to  go on a family holiday. .. ALL of us!!
"We have rented a large house in Manorbier, near Tenby, South Wales. David and I, our daughters, a son in law, the grandchildren and their partners are all going. 10 of us plus Sammie the dog, who cannot be left as he has too many issues. A house sitter arrives as we leave. Getting organised to leave the place in the hands of a non-family member has been challenging, but she is a great person who I worked with for many years and was her manager for my last 6 years in employment. She was a trustworthy worker who used her initiative and worked brilliantly unsupervised. She is also great fun, keeps horses and has a boyfriend who keeps pigs and chickens.
 Isn't she perfect for the job?!
Copious lists and instructions re. chicken, cat and parrot idiosyncrasies have been written and festoon the kitchen. Animal supplies have been bought in, foodstuffs she might like are in the fridge and freezer, bedrooms have been freshened, watering systems for livestock and greenhouses have been simplified etc etc.
So, tomorrow we are off for the week. I am taking my laptop, as are my daughters as they are both studying at the moment.. I hope to finish the prep for my next blog on preparedness and also have a couple of documents to get ready for our civic society ( which I have to do as we are nearly at the deadline for planners)
BUT, I also have my new (yes I actually bought a new one, I had my old one for 10 years and that used to belong to my daughter!) swimming costume and my paints, my flower, insect and seashore reference books, some knitting and we have lots of games in case it rains. Oh yes, and some rather fine scotch I was bought for my birthday in June.
So here we go for a rare event, a holiday to make special memories with those we love
Back soon

Friday 5 August 2016

Being Prepared Part IIIb

So we've started to stock up on items for our bag. It will take a while I'm sure. If money is no object no time at all, if less so, one item at a time and you'll soon get there. That's really the easy part, but you can't always throw money at a problem and it could be argued that there are some circumstances when money will be of no use at all.
What are the practicalities of say, leaving your home for a while? This will depend on how much support available form the community/government, but you should consider the possibility of that safety net not being available for a few days at least.
 Sounds obvious, but can you use all the contents of your bag? If the situation has called for the Grab bag, the contents are pretty basic, if you have assessed that you will need to be away for a little longer and maybe camping out, alone in the dark in the pouring rain with a couple of upset children is not the time to read the instructions to equipment. Perhaps you could have a practice scenario (without terrifying the children, make it fun!)
So what if you don't need to leave your home, but are thrown on your own devices.
If you are "lucky" enough to have the space to  grow and preserve and stockpile  and stack and burn wood and practice self sufficient crafts then so much the better, you have the skills that will be useful, nay essential, "Come the Day" (in America this is called SHTF-  "s**t hits the fan") I know that I don't have to tell Self Sufficiency buffs this
But what if you haven't land/garden/allotment/workshop?  You can still prepare yourself and those you love for tough times by -

                                      Building up your skills set.

Cooking - where do I start with this? If you can't cook, now is the time to start as Come the Day Macdonalds and Pizza Hut will be closed! Don't bother with "posh" stuff like sushi, unless you live by the sea and even then you are unlikely to be able to roll it, wrap it and dip it in a fragrant sauce - rather think prizing limpets off rocks and eating them raw.
For the purposes of surviving you should look at basic stuff that keeps your tummy full, your energy up and with a dose of vitamins and minerals to keep you as healthy as possible. At this stage this can be fun, so learn some cooking skills while you have the luxury of time, ingredients (and money?). As a minimum, learn to make bread either with yeast or soda bread or flat bread. I promise you that once you have learnt this skill you will be so proud of yourself and you will impress no end of people!
Learn to use different carbohydrates, especially as they store so easily- such as rice, cornmeal, oats, quinoa (how DO you pronounce that?) cornflour, pasta and wheat as different types of flour.
Practice some simple meals from scratch that use just one pot. While you are likely to have some ready to use sauces in your stash (and quite right too) these wont last for ever, so learn to make a basic tomato sauce, to which you can add spices and flavourings to make chilli, curry, bolognaise and a basic white sauce to add herbs onion, cheese etc.
 Learn to make these dishes using basic equipment that does not require electricity other than to cook and preferably can be cooked over an open flame. Though I know that there are plenty of people who have kitchens bursting will all sorts of unnecessary gadgets that took a huge amount of environmentally unfriendly resources to make and run these pieces of eqipment are and actually knives, lemon squeezers and mincers by any other name! If you can afford them, why not? but learn how to do those tasks manually too.
 While you are having fun learning new skills in the kitchen have a go at preserves - jams, pickles, wines, juices, whatever, just get the skill theory under your belt.
I could write several posts just on cooking, but what I really want to do is just give you a flavour of what you need to consider and what is possible. As a minimum, practice simple meals that you can make with the contents of your cupboards.

 I know several women who make the most wonderful crafts, quilts and the like who have never made a pair of trousers, a child's  nightie  or a simple top, who have never replaced a zip or darned a hole in a sweater. I guess they have never had the need nor the interest. To these women I would say build on your skills and ensure you have a skill for Come the Day. To those men and women who don't sew, you can either attend a night class, or a knit and natter group, learn to hand sew or buy yourself a sewing machine from as little as £30, with some real bargains on Ebay and then use good old U-Tube tutorials. To be truly self reliant you could buy yourself a treadle or hand powered machine. I remember feeling pretty smug sewing with my treadle machine when we were without power for six days a few years back (I have an electric machine too)

Making skills
Sit down and consider all the things you buy regularly. What would you struggle to do without? When the shelves are empty can you make  these items yourself ? Soap, something to blow your nose on, loo paper, feminine hygiene products. Go on. give it a go and see what you come up with. ( I would really like to know !)

I would also suggest that you use your local library (as long as it is still open grrr) and borrow a few well chosen books about self-reliance, useful crafts, make do and mend, basic cookery/preserving etc. Then you can decide which book you feel will be worth buying. Is there anybody out there in blogland who would like to share a basic list that they have found useful?

Then there are Doing skills.
Seriously consider what you might have to offer if things really do get tough. There are skills that you could develop now that could be so useful in the future. If you are a "townie" what do you have to take to the table if you present yourself at your friends/relatives homes in times of need? I watched half an hour of a new reality programme called "Eden" the other night. I couldn't watch for long as I found myself shouting at the screen, but the programme does demonstrate how difficult it can be to live with others and how people soon resent folk they see as "passengers". This is more a subject for my next post.
This post has been long enough, so-
I thought I would introduce a couple of pictures that have nothing to do with the subject, to break up all this script. When collecting a swarm a couple of weeks ago we found that we already had tenants in the spare brood box we had ready to house a swarm.

Pesky mice!
And here is the swarm taking itself in to join their queen. (once we had cleaned up the frames!)

Back soon with part IV
Hope you will join me and join in.
Welcome to the 3 year Challenge. Great to see you here.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Being Prepared Part IIIa !

Hello All
How are you doing folks?  Are you depressed enough yet!? My daughter  reckons that the posts are a bit strong but she has read nothing yet!
Yes things can get worse, you don't have to believe in global warming to admit to the increased energy in the weather (whatever the reason!) As gardeners and smallholders we are "obsessed" by the weather as it informs our decisions and preparations (will it be dry and warm enough for us to collect  the honey today? Will it be dry enough for long enough to cut, dry and collect hay? Will there be enough rain to fill the water buts? etc) . We have noted changes over the years and have made changes to how we plan and garden . Another issue that is ever present in people's minds, even in good old Britain, is civil unrest and other disturbances. Let's face it, as the population grows, so does the likelihood of Civil unrest, food  and oil shortages and the like.

In this post I was also going to discuss how to prepare for the unexpected turn of events in our finances and domestic life, such as unemployment, illness etc. However this doesn't really flow after the focus of last two posts, so I will address these subjects later and press on with practical preparedness .....
Before I press on, thanks to Tricky Wolf at Fast SOS for the quote, nay mantra..
The rule of 3; 3 mins without of air, 3 days without  water,  3 weeks without food. Easy to remember eh? This can help you prioritise what you might need for a few days to a couple of weeks should you need to leave your home and survive. Obviously you will need to calculate for how many you will be and if you intend to take your animal friends with you

So far, I think you will agree, much of that I have suggested is really good old common sense and can be practiced by anyone whatever their circumstances, be they living in a high rise flat in the city or a farm. In this post you will need a little more space and to spend some money.
Let's start with  a "Grab Bag"  If you live in a small space you will need to find room for a bag measuring say 24" x 14" x 20" Look around your space and see if you can jiggle stuff around to make room for this bag, which you will need to be able to reach in minutes - no point in it being in the loft that is reached by a ladder you have to fetch. On top of the wardrobe or under the stairs is good for example. If you travel a lot you might want to increase the contents of your Car Kit to transform it into an Emergency Bag to ensure that if you break down in a remote place or at a time of severe weather you can be as comfortable as possible and safe.
 The Grab Bag will enable you to leave your house efficiently and quickly and give a modicum of comfort if something like flooding, high winds, lightening strike, civil unrest etc leave your house suddenly uninhabitable. The contents of this bag will vary somewhat depending on your topography, but will contain some essential items. The basic list below can (and will I am sure) be challenged by other Preppers.. No problem, none knows it all (especially me!)
As a minimum-
Three days supply of non-perishable food. (includes animal food if you are taking pets with you.)
Battery-powered or hand crank radio.
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air.
Plastic sheeting and duct tape to make a shelter.
"Wet wipes", rubbish bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Multi-tool -Including can opening facility
Lightweight waterproofs
Lightweight change of clothes.
Local maps
Paper and pencil/pen
Mobile phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Water - As a minimum you should have a 2 litres of water per day for at least three days. This will be purely for drinking.

Tell everyone in the household where the bag is and when it should be used.

I hope that you notice that these preparations are achievable by "Townies" as well as those is rural areas who are likely to have more space.

So the Grab Bag gives you a bit of a safety net if you have to leave your home for a little while. What if the situation lasts longer or is more life threatening?  Cue the "Bug out Bag"! This an American name and I suppose "Disaster Bag" would be more British , though even that sounds a little emotive for us! 
The contents of  the Bug Out Bag is more comprehensive than the Grab bag and is often one of two - one as a Grab Bag at home or in the car and the other hidden at a given place away from home.  I shan't pretend to have assembled a Bug Out bag so I have copied and pasted one of the many UK entries that I Googled when looking for information. ---
A splitting axe
Survival Hatchet Compact High Quality axe for cutting smaller logs and banging in
Bug Out Bag – 50 lt capacity or above
Enough food and water to last for 72 hours.
Water for washing, drinking and cooking. Minimum of 2 litres per person per day for drinking plus an additional 2 litres per person per day for cleaning and hygiene
Toothbrush – this is an essential item
Non-perishable food –MRE’s
Water purification and filtering equipment
Anti diarrhea tablets, insect repellent and insect bite/sting cream
Cooking supplies – drinking/cooking canteen
Cooking stove – an essential alternative to a basic camp-fire is essential
Fire starting tool – water repellant matches
Cotton wool tinder – a few ladies tampax are ideal.!
A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes, etc.
A survival handbook – pre studied, but with full survival information
Map of your area
550 Paracord
Camping equipment, this must include sanitation supplies
Clothing suitable for your climate – include spare boots/shoes [waterproof]
Sleeping bag – Mylar emergency blankets
Medication – allow for much more than the standard 72 hrs
First Aid – Emergency First Aid survival Kit
Your personal medical records and information on your personal medical requirements
Radio – either solar powered or crank-operated
Torch or glow sticks [torch, battery operated, solar powered or cranked operated]
Weapons – suitable for personal protection
Cash [credit cards etc may not be usable in a lot of situations]
Positive identification, such as drivers license
Birth certificate and/or passport
Fixed-blade survival knife and a pocket / multi-purpose tool
Rope/String – paracord – duct tape
Plastic sheeting – different sizes
pellet gun, catapult or other hunting equipment
Wire for binding and snares
Compass – especially if going though woodlands etc.
Radio – Solar powered or Wind Up Type Preferred
Fishing line and equipment
Resealable, waterproof freezer bags [to keep documents, money etc dry]
Gorilla Tape – ideally camo print, this has a 1001 survival uses
The above is an overview of essential survival supplies – it is not the definitive list by any means and you must adapt and change it to suit your personal requirements.

 This post is long enough, so I will close and continue with part II of part III  (part IIIa ?) - practical things to do and learn, in my next post. I guess that as smallholder with an interest and some skills in self reliance  I will feel more comfortable with this. Hope you will join me and keep those ideas coming.
PS Any beekeepers having a good honey year too? Honey from two hives collected, spun and strained into buckets last night yielded 56 pounds of honey and one of those colonies was a swarm in May.  Nine more hives to go!
PSS I wonder why 450 people from Russia decided to visit my one day last week?!

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Being Prepared Part II

Hello Again,
I must apologise for taking so long with this second Be Prepared post. David has been ill with a severe chest infection for the last two weeks, so I have been nursemaid to the poorly man. He is now well on the mend after some antibiotics that were so big, I was unsure how to administer them!

In this post the scenarios for preparedness (is that a word?) are a little less petty.
Are you prepared for a power cut that last a little longer than it takes to change a fuse or re-set a clock after a little surge trips out the power for few minutes, or that means that you miss an hours television?
What is the weather like where you live? Do you often have snow and below zero temperatures? Is flooding a common problem in your area or are you used to temperatures in the 90s for days on end (as if!) Different weather scenarios call for different  needs and plans, but there are commonalities - you might be stuck in your home and you may lose power.
Much of that I wrote in my last post holds as a start. You need to build on this, expanding your preparedness in a sensible way. In the last  post I didn't mention food as I assumed you had enough in for an hour or two! However, being without food for a few days up to a week when all the panic buying has taken place leaving the supermarket shelves empty (was that you?!) or you cannot get out to the shops anyway because you are snowed in, for example, can be a reality.
Wherever you live there is a minimum amount of food you should keep in to last you for a few days.
A well-thought out food cupboard would feed you for a few days if you got rid of any junk that might be lurking there, or re-thought your storage jars/tins.
Each person eats differently so I will share the staples that I keep in at all times and will serve to feed us several days without going to the shops and you can adjust to suit your tastes. I have just gone to the food cupboard to write down all I see and realise I could improve a little on the ingredients that provide protein and vitamins.
 Dry goods - plain, and bread flour; baking powder; yeast; sugar; rice; pasta; lentils; dried peas; soya mince; polenta; milk powder. stock cubes; cocoa powder; oil. oats; cornflakes; dried fruit (dates, apricots, raisins) nuts; tea; coffee; salt; sealed pitta bread.
Tinned and jar food - Jam and honey; yeast extract; tinned potatoes, sweet corn; evaporated milk; uht milk; feta in oil; corned beef; various pickles; pickled eggs; tomatoes; beans - baked, kidney, butter and flagolet; vinegar; tinned fish in oil; cartons fruit juice; mandarin oranges; sliced peaches.

Firstly prepare for the most common scenario.. power loss. At a time like this, it might well be that you have no cooking facilities so you will need to consider foods that need no cooking. As a minimum I would store - UHT milk; sugar; cartons of fruit juice, tins of milk puddings, cereals; tins of corned beef; tins of fish ( I would suggest in oil which adds food value) dried fruit and nuts; vacuum sealed crackers and pitta breads and the like; olive and sunflower oil. Tins of potatoes, various beans and sweet corn (make good cold salads). I would love it if readers could add to this and offer suggestions for no-cook meals
This is a good time to suggest a small camping stove. Used sparingly this could help to lift your mood with a hot drink or tin of soup (it also adds a little heat to the room) My daughter and granddaughter who work for the Fire and Rescue service, will not forgive me if I don't add a word of caution about the use of camping stoves inside, so I must add that the room should be ventilated when this is in use and it should stand on a level metal surface (tea tray?) which should stand on something like a thick chopping board and never left unattended. Don't be tempted to use those charcoal BBQs in a tin. people have died when using those inside tents.
 So you won't starve, but are you warm? If all your heating is electric (this could include an electric pump for another fuel source ) a few days without power can be a long time to shiver at best and life threatening at worst, especially for some vulnerable people.
 When driving at night in the winter and looking through people's windows (don't you?!) I see laminate floors, minimal furniture, flimsy curtaining ( not closed obviously) and folk walking around in teashirts and shorts and probably in bare feet too. I can only assume that the heating is on pretty high and I can't help but think about the cost both financial and environmental. Oh yes, and light floods from every room and every unoccupied corner and kick board is spotlighted for dramatic effect.
When the power goes out you will need to abandon style and go survival.
You will need to build up warmth and exclude cold. Firstly close the curtains if it is cold,  add a layer by hanging a blanket or another pair of curtains up at the windows. Don't forget that if you have doors with glass in these they should also be treated as windows too. Exclude draughts with "sausages" of paper or fabric, those old jeans you saved the zip from can be filled with crumpled paper or old towels or just roll up the towels. These sausages can be laid at (closed) doors - I note that the concept of a closed inner door can be a little new to some young people! If you are a family cosy up in the same room. As the children have no working  television or computer in their rooms they might as well sit with you and borrow some warmth! If you have any spare blankets, quilts or throws you can use them to cover yourselves and them carry them upstairs to put on the beds. If you have limited space You can store this spare linen over chairs, sofas and the end of beds or in one of those plastic bags that you vacuum the air out of, under the bed. Now get some layers on. not so that your clothes feel tight, allow space for air to be trapped between each layer. Put on some socks and slippers if you have them and maybe a loose fitting woolly hat  and then snuggle down under your blanket. you may not be a fashion god but who cares!
 We have already discussed the power outage box in your kitchen drawer. If you are unsure how much battery you have left or will need or how long your candles will last, discuss how to stretch it out and what you might use it for. If you have the room, a tin of extra batteries and candles under the bed prepares you for a bad winter. Go to bed early and rise as it gets light to save power ( it's how it used to be done back in the day!) If you are lucky enough to have the facility to boil water (gas hobs?) half fill lemonade bottles with hot water, wrap them in a towel and take them to bed with you.
 Hopefully you will add to this... I do hope so.
So here you are wrapped up as snug as bugs in rugs looking at each other - No TV, no computer,  and very little light. What to do? You will probably be surprised to hear that those teens who you recognise from the top of their head and the tone of reply grunts can actually adapt very well if they have to. Most teens and all children I know enjoy a board game or a game of cards. Pencils and paper serve many a game or quiz and can also be used for lists, plans and ideas. Perhaps now is a good time to engage the family in your preparedness and plan for the future with them. Now might be the time to talk about what you might do as a family. etc  You get the idea.. you have a captive audience.
At this point I'm going to suggest a little outlay. If you can afford it buy a good quality wind up/solar radio. Apart from the entertainment it enables you to keep in touch with what is going on outside.

 I bet some of you are jumping up and down saying "what about water?" and yes, this is ESSENTIAL. You can go for some time without food, but not clean drinking water and there are several scenarios that could see you without water in your taps. I would suggest you buy a few items each week until you are happy with your stash. While you should buy large containers, say 3 x 10ltrs. if you have the space, you should also have in your stores smaller bottles to keep in the car, your disaster bag (more next post on this) and for a mashing of tea or the like. This ensures that the water keeps wholesome, as once opened it becomes less so. You should store this water away from daylight.

I shall close for now as this post is getting far too large. I shall probably think of all sorts of things I should have included in this part but hopefully you might comment with ideas. In the next part I will continue to write for those who live in built up areas with limited space, but will also start to include suggestions that could only really be for those in more rural areas.

Hope you can join me!

PS A very warm welcome to Anne Morrison and Lee Anne Dezera on the follower bar and Thelma ilcox and Julie Royston Ford on Bloglovin. Please join in with comments.  xx
PPS Has David Cameron only got 48 hrs to pack all his belongings into a removal van and Teresa May the same amount of time to pack up and move into No 10 ?! Now that would take some organisation. Good News tho'... the cat is staying with Teresa!

Friday 1 July 2016

Be Prepared part I

Here we go!
I meant to say that in the spirit of this blog I will not be advocating the spending of large amounts of money and will always strive to help you spend as little as possible.
We can often be surprised and wrong-footed by the simplest difficulties. Those of us of a certain age have probably experienced many of these and learnt from them. Those setting out to live a more independent life might usefully take some time to assess if they are prepared for the niggly things that life can throw at you so that they can throw them right back!
In this part I am going to assume that you don't have a large house with lots of storage so that the ideas are achievable by all.
Let us start with "The Drawer" This is your go-to place to equip you to solve those little problems. Every living space should be able to give up a drawer, probably in the kitchen, for this and should contain -
1) A First Aid box - An ice cream carton will do for this with First Aid clearly written on the lid. As a basic list I would have plasters and plaster strip. pain killers, scissors, tweezers, safety pins, bandages and something that serves as a sling. I might add to this wound cleanser and anti-histamine cream (for stings) I also have some old clean tea towels and pillow slips in a clean plastic bag for mopping up or to be used a tourniquet . I rarely use creams on injuries and never on burns, but I do have an Aloe plant on both the kitchen and bathroom windowsills, which is excellent  - just cut through a leaf and squeeze the jelly onto the sore area
Skill to learn. Basic First Aid.
Snuggling next to your first aid box in your drawer should be your..
2) Mending Box ( empty biscuit tin ?) - In this, as a minimum I would have - Super Glue, PVA Glue, gaffer tape, safety pins, drawing pins, panel pins, heavy duty scissors, a craft knife, pliers, a hammer, screw drivers - cross and Philips. Save any string that comes your way and keep this in a polybag so that it doesn't get a life of it's own and spread all over the drawer.
In this box or possibly in a box of its own are the "power outage" items - Candles or night lights which dont fall over and lighters are a must. When we had a 6 day power cut some years ago my neighbour called to see if she could borrow a candle or two. This woman was all electric  for goodness sake! Not all outages are about power cuts. Learn how to check if your power has been tripped out by a faulty piece of equipment. It pays to look at all your electrical equipment to ascertain a) if it requires a battery and if so what power and 2) what fuse is needed in the plug. A selection of batteries and fuses will take little room, as would two small screwdrivers.
 I would recommend you have 2 torches. one in this tin or on a working surface easily to hand and one where you sleep.
Skill to learn - changing a fuse, wiring a plug, how a trip switch works
3) Sewing box (another biscuit tin or ice cream carton) I know people who throw out a shirt because it has lost a button or a hem has come down. I saw in the news a couple of days ago that 72% of young people questioned could not sew a button on!
In your sewing box you should have pins, a  card of mixed needles, these are to found in many pound and cheap shops. A minimum of three spools of thread - white, back and grey. A pair of scissors ( you could also use those from the first aid box, but you MUST put them back) It is important that these scissors are only used for fabric as using them for paper will spoil them. You might also add an unpicker, a tape measure and some iron-on hemming tape if you really want to push the boat out!
When old clothes really are past being worn even in the garden, cut off the buttons and thread them onto a piece of thread, this keeps matching buttons together for when you start making your own clothes (whoops jumping the gun here!) If you have a pair of jeans/ trousers beyond repair but with a working zip, remove the zip with your unpicker and put this into your box. I usually cut a few squares out of the legs of jeans for patches too. In time you will collect quite a selection of mending materials. Don't forget to recycle the remaining material into floor or dishcloths, patchwork or draught excluders.
Skill to learn - sewing a button, setting a zip, sewing a hem.

 When away from home
This will depend on your individual lifestyle, you may travel a lot or rarely, you may use a car or a bike. I will share what I do and you can adjust accordingly
Bag/briefcase -
Unless I'm just popping out for a short while I always check my bag for a few things that weigh little, take up little space and prepare me for those little hiccups that can spoil a day.
 I have a shopping bag made of that sort of parachute material. It takes up very little room, fitting easily into my handbag or the side pocket of my laptop case. So far, apart from shopping I have used it for carrying foraged wild fruits, pine cones for the fire, discarded outer clothes, library books etc. such a bag is a useful addition for your be-prepared bag (alternatively, a strong carrier bag folded will do as well)
.Have you ever had one of those little mending kits in a Christmas cracker? They are perfect for putting in your bag or briefcase. You can assemble one for yourself in a matchbox or something similar. I keep such a kit in the zipped pocket of my bag along with sachets of sugar, a strip of plaster, a strip of paracetamol, a spectacle cleaning cloth, a thin plastic "poncho" and a small pack of cleansing wipes. In the main body of my bag I carry a small notebook and pen, a little keyring torch,(yes I know I could use my mobile, but I need light to see what I need to do with the thing) said mobile, my purse and my keys ( the heaviest item)
In the car - We have a green box in the boot of the car. In this we carry our comprehensive first aid kit, high viz jackets, a foldable red triangle, bottles of water, waterproof jackets, foil blanket, those little gloves that stretch to fit anyone, a craft knife and a small box with salt vinegar and sugar. In the front of the car we always have a map book, even if using a sat-nav (we don't) you still need to be aware of where you are, what is around you and available alternative routes. We also keep a small pot of change for parking/tolls etc, some fuses for some stuff I don't understand (come on! cut me some slack!) and in the well under the seats we have jump leads, foot pump and the tools for changing a tyre. I'm sure you can add to this as a minimum.
Skills to learn - map reading, changing a tyre for a car or bike if you use one (and what those fuses are for!!)

I am sure there is much you can add to this and I will happily adjust this post accordingly.
You will see that I have suggested, in italics, skills to learn. Google and particularly u-tube is excellent for this. I have used tube for tutorials for all sorts of things from making mead to fitting a walking foot to my sewing machine. If you are looking to be prepared now is the time to start collecting books that you can learn from and refer to.The library is a good way to help you choose which books to invest in.
I think that is more than enough for now... a large post on "common sense"really.
Part II gets a little more "preppy" and builds on today's preparations and skills.
Welcome Sol to the follower bar, great to see you here