Tuesday 28 December 2021

Happy New Merry All

 Hello Friends

As ever I haven't posted more, read other's posts, finished story lines or put up interesting photos over the last year

I usually try to do better and "resolve" in late December to do better.

However, I always fail, so this year I "resolve" not o resolve and see how 2022 spans out!

Happy New Year everyone, see you on the other side

Love Gill x

Sunday 28 November 2021

Wild birds v Domestic birds. An Avian Flu dilemma

 As most of you know (or do you?!) Avian Flu has been diagnosed at several  sites across the UK and the UK poultry flock is now on lockdown for the foreseeable future. I question that you might know this as it seems to be a bit of a secret and several folk who keep chickens tell me that they know nothing about it, when I ask how they are keeping their birds safe. As a registered smallholding, we are informed of such things by DEFRA or APHA and instructed as to what we must do........

 The instruction are to keep your poultry away from wild birds. Avian flu tends to be spread by migrating birds, so it is important that ponds are covered as are feeding and watering stations for your chickens, ducks etc.  and you are instructed not to encourage  wild birds by feeding them. Your hens should be housed, that is kept in totally in their houses or at least to cover their run in such a way that neither  wild birds nor their feaces can come into contact. Foot baths should be placed at the entrance to your hen houses and strict hygiene should be practiced.

Now I  get all of this I really do and am doing my best. However ( you heard that coming didn't you?) Our set-up makes the carrying out of some of these instructions rather challenging. Let us take our relationship with wild birds. Our organic smallholding has been developed to attract and nurture wild birds. Even if we did not fill the feeders dotted around the place, the many shrubs we have planted or left to seed to provide both winter food and shelter and the twenty or so birdboxes we have put up tend to be a bit of a magnet for our feathered friends. Water from our roofs and water drains is channeled towards the pond in the orchard where our hens live, this serves the hens and the wild birds.

We have 44 hens who live in various hen houses dotted around our little orchard, which is allegedly fox proof . The hens adopt a favoured place and friends and that is where they sleep at night, apart from five that insist on sleeping high up in the large plum tree winter and summer, Every night I lock up all the houses, just in case Remus digs his way in  and every morning I let them out of their houses and out of the orchard and off they go the enjoy two lovely acres.

As you can see, this system does not lend itself to lockdown, but lockdown we must. Avain Flu can cross species and can be caught (rarely) by humans as well as other birds. Just what we need in a pandemic!. If Avian  Flu is found in your flock then the flock must be destroyed.. think Foot and Mouth. Non of this do we want, so tomorrow copious quantities of fine mess will be delivered and I will construct an enclosure that I hope will serve. Last week I covered the feeding areas, netted the pond and arranged all the houses in a semi circle around the pond (it looks a bit like a wild west stand off of wagons!)

I am hoping that my grandson, who is six foot three will be here to give me a hand and will take pictures for those interested.

All for now

Love Gill x


Sunday 14 November 2021

Thanks for the seeds Devon Mum

  In my last post I mentioned that I was saving extra seed to give to anyone who might want it at the group I intend starting next year. Devon Mum offered to send some seed to add to mine . And here they are... 28 packets of seed!  Many Many thanks for your generosity DM, Very much appreciated. I'm considering starting a couple of the packets off as small plants to give away too, so long as I time them right.

Apologies for the terrible photo.

All for now. Really  busy time here, but wanted to acknowledge Devon Mum's gift.

Love Gill x

Friday 29 October 2021

Thanks and a recipe

 Hello All

Here I am !

Thanks for the feedback about the proposed group. The word "Skills" will definitely have to be in the group/event/gathering title. I reckon it will be new year when we get started as I have so much to do here and am so far behind with the Civic Society stuff and I haven't even thought about Christmas yet. However, it gives me time to prepare. I have been putting aside all the seed I save as I can give packets of seed to people who are interested. So far I have several types of bean seed, loofah, sunflower and pumpkin extra to my needs. I'm also gathering simple sewing/ knitting etc patterns. 

Today I'm acting like a proper smallholder! I have jarred a couple of buckets of honey, made butter with some extra cream, made tomato puree, peeled a couple more loofahs, chopped and froze bunches of parsley and made some peanut butter cookies , using eggs that I put down in waterglass last summer. Which means I have absolutely no energy left to dig a patch over for the garlic and spring cabbage. Manana eh?! So here I am at the laptop writing another post and trawling through the facebook (Meta) groups I follow.

The biscuits I made were from a recipe I found in a Tesco magazine sent to me by a friend. What caught my eye was it it had only three ingredients, which I already had and didn't contain any flour. I'm surprised that Tesco didn't mention that. Anyway here is the recipe if you are coeliac or indeed like peanut butter.

Peanut cookies

Whisk together one large egg and 200g of soft brown sugar until smooth. Add 225g of crunchy peanut butter until blended well. Cover and chill for half an hour. Heat oven to 180 or 160 for fan/ gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. After half an hour scoop out 10 balls of dough with a dessert spoon, giving them plenty of room to spread. Cook for 12  to 15 mins, leave to cool for 15mins and then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling. 

Those I cooked spread to an enormous size and I wondered if a smaller egg might reduce the size, but who knows. Here is a poor pic of said cookies 

This week I have had my granddaughter's dogs to stay while she has visited my daughter in Jersey. I've really enjoyed having them as they are such delightful kind dogs. ( A yellow Lab and a Bernese) Mind you, like grandchildren, it's good to pass them back too!

Here they are. The Lab is Coda and the Bernese is Hattie.

"Enough" you cry

Back Soon

Love Gill

Saturday 16 October 2021

Ideas please


Hello  again

Its a busy time of year getting ready to  batten down the hatches and prepare for winter. 

Today I looked through  the  bees and fed a hive that didn't have many stores, I have taken only a little honey off the other four hives this year ( still to be spun when I get a few hours free) as I am unsure how the winter is going to span out. The mild winter actually worked against them last year as they were flying a a lot and using up stores that can't be replenished by them with there being no forage in the winter. Next week I shall put the mouseguards on and wish them all a quiet winter!

Along with many of you I am sure, I have been pickling bottling drying wine making etc, This year there seems to be an extra urgency as I feel a little unsure and unsettled for the future. I've always been a prepper and as self sufficient as possible, but there is a different dimension to this now. Recently I have been happy to support a young woman to learn how to make jams/ jellies and make butter and have also been sharing on food growing and self sufficiency sites how I approach certain tasks. Obviously when posting in these groups I am preaching to the converted and I realise that for each group  member who is interested there are hundreds of thousands who care nothing for such things.

Where is this leading? Well two issues have unsettled me, 

Firstly I now have a great granddaughter who I am lucky enough to be trusted to look after  when her mum is a few hours short of support when she is at work. Watching this delightful child eat everything I pick for her as we go round the gardens ( strawberries, peas, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber blackberries and raspberries that I can think of) I wonder what kind of an adult life she will have. What will the world be like in 20 or 30 years time? Will her children have a happy carefree childhood?

Secondly, I have lost several dear friends over the last year or two and am grateful that I am still here and still have my health and am fit enough to lead a useful life, with skills to share with others... at the moment.

I can't shake a vision I have of the near future being similar to that of the second world war, with shortages of food, fuel and materials. The difference being that it won't be for just a few years. Do the generation that will have to live in these conditions have the skills and mindset to manage? I may just be here in twenty years, but may need a little looking after myself by then!

So Gill cut to the chase. My daughter and I believe that we should do what we can to pass on stuff while we can and that we should share our skills, experiences with others. We are planning to set up an event where we invite people who wish to learn skills and others who have the skills to share. Subject such as using a sewing machine , growing things to eat either in a large plot or just a window box, Frugal, wholesome cooking , getting a go-to bag together, mending, knitting, preserving,  seed saving, etc etc A thread that will run through these subject will obviously be the environmental plusses of such skills.  The attendees themselves would decide on subjects

So my question is, when we send out posters, what to call such a group?  My target age group (though not exclusively) would be 16 to 30. My daughter says to avoid titles such as "Knit and Natter" and other such twee, middle to older age  group names and aim more for "Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?" to catch  the eye and imagination of younger people!  

  Thoughts and ideas Pleeeease !    

Love Gill x     

PS hope this doesn't sound too worthy!             


Tuesday 28 September 2021

Of wine and quizzes

 I think that most people have had a mixed year in the fruit and vegetable garden. Some things have done well and some have been nothing short of disastrous!. Clearly the weather .has much to do with this.

Crops that have done well this year are spring cabbage, climbing french beans, courgettes, broad beans, tomatoes,  kale, spinach, spring onions, lettuce, chilli and sweet peppers and sweet corn. For the first time this year the squirrels found the sweet corn and stripped the cobs, fortunately we had had many from them before the squirrels struck. The little darlings have also taken all the walnuts and stripped four cobnut and three hazel trees. I can honestly say that I don't feel a great deal of affection for them at the moment and struggle to subscribe to the words "The wildlife is entitled to its share of the harvest" 

The damson have done poorly for us this year, though someone only a mile away has contacted us to ask if we would like to help them with their glut! I have made pounds and pounds of Damson and (windfall) apple jelly, frozen a few pounds and made three gallons of wine, mostly damson but also a few elderberries and blackberries. I reckon that I really don't want/need any more, so will not take them up on their offer. I have suggested they offer them on freecycle etc, but they don't want anyone else at their trees. I understand this as over the years we have sustained quite a bit of damage to plants from people "helping" us with the harvest. Yes I know that sounds ungrateful;! 

Talking of wine, I ventured into our cellar.. not for the faint hearted....for wine to offer to a group of friends who have been meeting here once a week since lockdown (more later on this group) I bought up a couple of demi-johns, our wine NEVER gets into bottles, just jugs, and the wine was really good. One was a 2017 of a similar mix to the one made this year and the other a 2018 with a higher percentage of blackberries. When we were first married in 1966 we used to forage and make wines, but few people seemed to drink wine then and we were considered a little wierd and folk rarely took up the offer of a drink of wine. Things are very different now with wine being the  favoured drink of many of our female friends and relatives so it really is worth making it now.

I mentioned a meeting of folk here once a week. The local pub was struggling before lockdown and has now closed. Prior to this my husband, who is a keen quizzer used to meet with like-minded people who have become good friends. This group of quizzers has been meeting for 35 years now! At lockdown the group formed a facetime group and continued to hold the quiz this way over  last winter. Once the weather improved we put up a marquee in our family garden and have been meeting there ever since. The quizzers meet at 8.00 and I take out sandwiches etc at around 9.00 when the actual quiz is finished. ( I don't like Quizzes) Beer and wine is drunk and much gossiping and laughing is done with the last ones leave at around midnight. Last week we realised that we couldn't carry on like this throughout the winter and that we enjoyed talking to people in the flesh as it were, so yesterday we cleared the goathouse as best we could so that we could continue to socially distance and last night had our first Goathouse Quiz!

Anyway enough for now. Once I get started I don't know when to finish do I?! 

Back soon. take care all

Love Gillx

Monday 6 September 2021

Where have I been ?!

Nowhere, just here.

Life has been so busy and we are always on catch-up it seems. I suppose the next couple of weeks will be even busier as the produce is coming in thick and fast and I couldn't bear to waste anything I have nurtured.

However I am determined to restart and keep the blog going now that winter approaches and I have more time to apply myself to indoorsy sort of things.

So watch this space I really will be back.

For those who are still reading this blog, thanks for hanging around



Tuesday 19 January 2021

Eschewing Clingfilm - making bees wax wrap


Hello All

I don't know about you but his wet weather is starting to get me down a tad. I have huge amounts of brash and prunings to burn and there is not a chance at the mo. I am also trying to help the lock-down hens be happier, but am slipping and sliding in the mud and making little progress. Pushing a  wheelbarrow about in it is such hard work.

 We are trying to get the fruit trees pruned too, I guess some may have to go without this year. Let's face it, it might be poor gardening but it isn't life threatening so we will be philosophical  and do the best we can.

Continuing  my sustainability theme. Here is a sort of "tutorial (get me!)

I have never been a fan of cling film. Though it is a very convenient, it is single use, and un-recyclable .  An alternative way to cover dishes etc is to use bees wax wrap.  As I keep bees it is s no brainer for me. If you wanted to make your own I would say that an ounce of beeswax would do two dinner plate size wraps. The first pic shows what is needed, Cotton fabric off cut cut into shape with pinking shears., a block of bees wax; a grater to grate the wax ( in the jar) two sheets of greaseproof and an iron and ironing cloth.

pre heat iron to high.
on your ironing cloth place a sheet of greaseproof,  a sprinkling of grated wax, followed by a second sheet of greaseproof
Iron over the greaseproof , as the bees wax melts use the iron to spread ir over the cloth evenly.
The wax  will spread outside the fabric as it melts ensuring all is covered
Peel off the top layer of greaseproof from both sides and hold the cloth up for a minute and when cool it is ready to use. Here is is over a bowl .
The excess wax on the greaseproof can be peeled off and put back in the jar.
Hope that was clear.
Enough for now
Back soon

Friday 15 January 2021

A new gardening year and stopping in


Hello All

A new gardening year starts !  Yesterday I started 70 Shirley Tomato Seeds off in propagators in the front greenhouse. I also started 4 trays of seed onions off. a tray each of Ailsa Craig, Marco, Red Baron and Sturon. There are approx 200 seed to a tray. When they have grown large enough to handle I will prick out into plant pots with 10 to a pot and grow on until large enough to plant outside. There should be some onion plants left over to either give away or sell.

Today I am starting off Sweet Peas. I have all sorts of odd seed which I am going to mix together and grow as a mix with two  to a pot which I will plant  when large enough as they are to one pole and disturb the roots as little as possible. 

Mind you this might have to wait a day or two as I have a really bad cold and rather need to stay indoors to nurse my runny nose and shivery self. As I have been shielding with David and haven't left the holding since  before Christmas (apart from yesterday to post some letters ) I have no idea where I caught this cold!

If I don't go out I have plenty to do inside ( no surprise!) So today I hope to..

  •  Transfer 2020's honey from buckets into jars for sale.
  • Make three birthday cards for the family January birthdays.
  • Knit the front band for a cardigan I am making from my wool stash
  • Find five matching buttons from the button tin for said cardigan
  • Take photographs to illustrate my next blog
  • Do a spot of internet shopping (hacksaw blades/ 2 pint basins/ blue shoe polish and research microwaves as our has gone kaput.

 You will note that there is absolutely no housework on the list !!

On my sustainability theme, I have found that old tea shirts make the best floor and polishing cloths.

Enough you cry.

Back Soon





Monday 11 January 2021

Sustainability and a missing cat


Over the last couple of years I have tried to be mindful of the impact I have on the earth. (gosh doesn't that sound "noble" ?!) Being  a facebook user. it hasn't taken long to find groups of like minded people and I have picked up quite a few ideas and bits of information that I can apply to my own particular circumstances. I do find some of the folk go a bit far for me. I'm an advocate of "good enough" (achievable) parenting and reckon its a good place to start in attempting a sustainable lifestyle. Obviously as a smallholder, who aims to be as self sufficient as possible I'm in a pretty good place to start and have indeed been practicing some of the ideas for years. However, these have been mostly for our- own- little- world -type stuff. Thinking beyond this to the wider good is something else. So my word/ mantra is now Sustainability with a view to to decreasing the amount of waste  and/or pollution we make.. I've always been a bit of an eco-warrier, but there are aspects of being environmentally aware that I hadn't considered .

I don't know how many folk are interested in this but I thought I would share my "journey" on this blog. Just in bite sized bits so as not to bore you too much and if you aren't interested just scroll on by to the rest of the dross I post!

Easy bit first. For a couple of years now we have had our milk delivered in glass bottles. Thus really has made a difference to the amount of plastic that goes into our recycling bin. The milk is from a Derbyshire farm, thus cutting miles and supporting local farmers (and milkmen!) There that wasn't too preachy was it !?

This weekend our cat Baloo went missing. Now I'm not too fond of Baloo as he is half Bengal with full Bengal trait of fizzyiness. He is prone to the odd bite if you approach him from the wrong side, which David calls a love-nip (it isn't!) and has been known to suddenly get hold of your face with his long claws, which David says is holding you close (it isn't!) I decided that he hadn't been stolen as they would have returned him within a couple of hours and would be identified by the scratch marks. He went missing at tea time on Saturday and though I am not fond of the boy I wouldn't wish him harm and really wanted to know if he was well. I don't think we thought of much else but him throughout Sunday and I visited neighbours to ask them to look in their sheds etc.  At 7.15 this morning a cold cat a wailing banshee walked across my face. He was home! Given the time I suspect he had just been let of a shed or garage by someone on their way to work.  Here he is the little love. Incidentally he is a great mouser

Enough for now

Back soon


Tuesday 5 January 2021

Lockdown for Family, Chickens and Santa


Hello Again

Here is a pic of our first great grandchild. She was born mid August and we have only been able to hold her a couple of times, but have seen her on several occasions outside. We are really struggling with this aspect of lockdown and all the Covid restrictions, though we do follow them properly without "cheating". She is wearing her Christmas Elf costume and looks a little serious here.  

Since the new lockdown David is back to shielding again, though in truth he has kept safe throughout the whole time. It is really more of the same for us.
What IS different and not in any way welcome is the Lockdown for the hens! There have been several outbreaks of Avian Flu and now all birds must be kept in such a way that they do not come into contact with wild birds or their droppings. This means we must ensure that they are covered overhead, not an easy thing to do when you have a 40+ free range flock! Apparently this lockdown will be until April. I question the welfare issues with this. Looking at how some people are going to have to keep their birds I suspect they will have issues with pecking/bullying and possibly chest/lung issues.You can explain to humans why they have to stay in with restricted horizons but not chickens! I'll try to get some shots of our set up to share with you.
David normally does several charity sessions as Santa. Obviously this couldn't happen this year, so to give his cossie an airing he sat on our front wall on Christmas Eve and waved at anyone passing. He received many shouts, cheers and tooting of horns. We hope that some children on their way to bed might have caught a glimpse of Santa before he set off on his busy night. For some reason it inspired a couple of blokes from the village to join David with a  socially distanced beer  😉 Here he is..

Enough for now I reckon or will become one of my rambling posts. 
Looks like I'm getting my blogging mojo back.
Love Gillx