Thursday, 30 April 2009

Loving the Aga

My lovely Aga (Aggy), the heart of the kitchen, radiating heat and hot water at all times. She's a two oven, oil fired Aga and we're learning to love her.
Well it's taken a while to get around to it (I missed the last course by a couple of days), but last week I went on a one day Aga course. 'A Day in the Life of an Aga' in the local Aga shop in Thame. I can honestly say it's the best £10 I've ever spent.
The lovely lady demonstrator (Marcia, I think her name was), started with a breakfast of toast and coffee, then added, a full English, done in two different styles of pan, she fried eggs and made pancakes directly on the top of the Aga, then put them in the warming oven to keep warm. After that she went on to cook lunch of meatballs in a casserole, she did an alternative lunch of lemon sole, a traybake of nutty shortbread, a traybake of lemon drizzle cake, she had a tray of meringues secreted at the back of the warming oven.
For dinner she had cooking, a full leg of lamb with rosemary, as a vegetarian alternative she had a head of cauliflower in one pan and cheese sauce to smother it with in another, she had loads of veggies in separate pans, including new potatoes and carrots. On the top of the Aga she did a spring cabbage and garlic stir fry to complete the meal.
All this was in the Aga AT THE SAME TIME!! To say we we're all impressed with it's capacity and her control of timings was an understatement. And one of the best bits of the day........we got to sample everything, it was all served up by the lovely ladies in the shop as a buffet for the by now drooling 13 people sat around the kitchen.
The taste was amazing, I don't even like cauliflower cheese!! yet it was gorgeous. The flavours were intense and yummy. To say we were inspired would be an understatement.
After the demonstration we were let loose in the shop to purchase anything we wanted, we were all aware that this is one of the main reasons behind the day but the 10% discount was never mentioned and we never felt pushed to buy the utensils and pots she used. But getting some of them made sense, so I did my bit for the economy and purchased some useful bits and pieces and a good book of basic Aga tips and a gorgeous Portmeiron dish to make yummy crumbles in when our rhubarb grows into the big strong boy he's promising to be.
Just a couple of my purchases.
I have now stocked my cupboards with the ingredients for homemade bread, puddings and cakes and I will experiment away. If the Blog goes quiet for a while we will be recuperating from food poisoning........haha!!
Happy cooking.
Sue xx

Monday, 27 April 2009

800 miles of Family Weekend

Playing in the garden with Sophie.
This weekend was a complete change, no digging, no planting and no work. Just us the motorway, a couple of vehicles, and lots of stops to visit and enjoy our families. We travelled on Thursday night to Barrow in Furness to drop off our car for its service and MOT and then after a night in a Travelodge it was up the motorway again to Peebles in Scotland for an overnight stay at Lovely Hubbys Mums house.
We sat and talked, and ate and drank on Friday night and caught up on all the family news, what a lovely relaxing evening and then after a good nights sleep, we got lots of little jobs done that she had saved for us, and then she and Hubby visited Dad in the cemetery and after a spruce up and a fresh pot of flowers we felt he had joined in our little happy weekend together too. Then it was time for sad goodbyes and back to the motorway.
We drove back to Cumbria to pick up the car, then we tootled down the road to a lovely little hotel just outside Ulverston. After a gorgeous meal and a couple of drinks it was off to bed (in yet another bed, in another town).
Highly recommended. On the A590 just outside Ulverston.
The Sunday dawned bright and sunny and after the BEST scrambled eggs (for me), and a full English (for Hubby) it was off down the motorway to Manchester and the next family get together.
We drove from Ulverston, Simon and Kyle drove from Seaton and Jason (and Sophie) drove up from Oxford. So we all met up at Mum and Dads and once Graham (my brother) had arrived we all piled into 2 of the cars and went for a lovely family meal. Four generations sat around the table catching up on news and having fun.

Poring over the menu.

Then it was back to Mum and Dads house for coffee and loads of cake, and then fun and games in their lovely garden with Sophie, she loves playing with young children and is the perfect dog to keep youngsters entertained.

Sophie keeping a (not so) youngster entertained too.

You think you can hide from my camera Hubby?

After a wonderful day we all set off for home in various directions, feeling proud that we are one big happy family, and we all appreciate and need each other for all the right reasons.

Special, so very special.

A truly wonderful weekend, and one we needed to energise us and keep us going. Now I'm off to plan a stall for tomorrows Farmers Market in Aylesbury.

Sue xx

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Wow!!

An apple for the birds.
The sun shone and WOW!! the signs of life were everywhere yesterday. As the tractors hummed in distant fields I decided I had to be out there, out there were things were busy growing before my very eyes.

Chives in a bucket.

I spent the day, planting things, some things in bigger pots, somethings in buckets, some things in their own little areas around the wood and somethings in surprising places. I seem to have overdone it with the courgette plants this year. I thought only a percentage of the seeds would geminate, but, guess what....they all did, and the courgette plant when its a baby is a lovely sturdy little chap, and it would be cruel to thin out such healthy babies, so I have planted some in the tyres, a couple in pots and the rest are now dotted around the farm in interesting places. We will see which ones survive best.

An area for flowers in the wood.

I like a mix of plants, flowers and veggies and I think the plants do too, they seem to thrive when mixed about a bit with each other and it also serves to confuse some of the nasty little insects that think my food is their food.

Cauliflower patch on the edge of the wood.

Oxfordshire is looking so lush, green and alive and the sounds and smells of nature are all around. This is why we came here, yes we work hard (very hard) but when you stop, you realise why you're doing what you're doing and it's worth it.
One of the Apple Trees (still a twig really, in blossom).
Enjoy your day wherever you are.
Sue xx

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

New goodies in the shop

Thank you to all the wonderful people who bought from the first 'delivery' to my little blogshop. Nice to know some of the items have gone to new homes. I have just updated the shop with some more lovelies. If you are interested please just click on the little shop door and come on in.
On the home front I am still at war with the Jackdaws trying to build their nest in the chimney, since we had the Chimney Sweep out last week I have burnt the equivalent of two more nests that have plummeted down the chimney, they have upped the ante and are dropping down anything that fits, branches with buds, branches still with leaves attached, I half expect a full bush at any moment. Everytime they see us go out, they are there, house building at speed, it is a shame if only they would go to the barn there is loads of space in the rafters for a lovely little home, and they would be left in peace to raise their young. Me, I need my fireplace and I'm willing to defend it to the last!!
Sue xx

Monday, 20 April 2009

Antiques for Everyone

Yesterday, for my birthday, Lovely Hubby treated me to a day off from pondside clearing, housework, animals, decorating and all the million and one jobs we seem to find to keep ourselves busy here on the farm. We donned our gladrags (well, our clean jeans!) and jetted off up the M6 to Birmingham to the NEC to the fantastic Antiques for Everyone event that was on there this weekend.
Lovely Hubby said I could have my hearts desire, and what was my hearts desire I hear you ask, well apart from Lovely Hubby himself, it turned out it was the sweetest little, well-loved rabbit, now christened Mathilda, wearing her original 1930s dress and bloomers, a lovely blue spotty jug, perfect for spring flowers and, last but not least, an adorable little set of oak shelves, soon to be placed on the wall to the side of the Aga to hold all my many little jars of spices and culinary goodies.
We had a brilliant day and met lots of lovely people. It is a few years since I have been to this particular event and I had forgotten how much I loved the atmosphere.
Many years ago, I used to have a shop called Home from Home that sold lots of little antiquey bits and pieces, but since that time I have steered away from vintage and gone all lavendery, now I think the time has come to combine the two slightly more.
Sue xx

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Something nice for my birthday.......

My birthday present to myself is optimism, hope, love and the knowledge I have a wonderful family who love me as much as I love them. What more can you ask.
Click on this link to see something that makes you think the world is a wonderful place. The words at the very end say it all. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiGKWoJi5qM Thank you and I hope you enjoy this day as much as I intend to. Sue xx (The 49 year old version......yikes!!)

Friday, 17 April 2009

My Swinging Days are Over!!

Haha....not the kind of swinging you thought.....naughty!!
Lovely Hubby decided to make full use of the old swing set left here by the previous occupiers and remove the swings so he could use the frame for our peas and beans to grow up. Not that he removed all the swings, first he took down the see-saw type thing that was on, then the stand-on platform swingy thing, then just as he was about to remove the little plastic swing seat he looked up and saw my face.......yes, my secret's out I love to swing, and have had many a cup of coffee sat on the swing, deep in thought and planning our next project. So it was spared, although I can't really use it at the moment for obvious reasons, but everytime I see it there I know he loves me and that's as good as swinging.
We have also made use of the old climbing frame for our peas (we love peas and are growing quite a lot). We simply wound some garden wire around the whole frame and then put some bamboo canes in at approriate intervals, we have left a little entrance way at one side of the climbing frame, so Archie the cat can have a little shady den in Summer.
The plants in the tyres are coming on nicely each one in its own little pop-bottle greenhouse, although the other day when it was VERY windy, I spent quite a lot of time chasing the half bottles around the field.
Sue xx

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Sue 0 - Birds 1

Eviction complete. (The contents of our chimney.)
A few weeks ago I mentioned (I think) in my blog that I had to light a mini fire every morning to deter the birds from nesting in the main chimney. Well guess what....I missed a couple of days and they won!! Luckily we called the chimney sweep in yesterday and he was able to sweep the chimney and clear it of a beautifully constructed nest (all lined with wool and soft things) before Mrs and Mrs Bloody Annoying Bird could take up permanent residence. Although I am quite sad that all their hard work was in vain, the sight of our living room full of smoke last week and the three of us smelling like smoked kippers takes away a smidgeon of the regret. Sue xx

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter Everyone

My stall.
Hope everyone is having a very Happy Easter. The weather is miserable here in Great Haseley, but the folk aren't. We've just had a lovely morning at the Farmers Market in the Village Hall, and the atmosphere was amazing, the children bustled about finding the painted eggs hidden on the stalls and claimed their Cream Egg as a prize once their score sheets were full, the grown ups drank multiple cups of coffee, ate yummy bacon butties and caught up on village gossip (in the nicest possible way).
Took this photo while there were still some cakes left!
The cake lady sold out of all her gorgeous creations by the end of the morning and the plant stall looked so very Eastery with masses of homegrown daffodils, and lots of young vegetable plants amongst the usual flowery loveliness.
The easter bonnet competition was judged.......and guess who the winner was? Yep, Lovely Hubby won with his master creation, everyone loved the little duck waving from the top of his hat, although it did mean he had to duck(!!) everytime he went through the kitchen door to fulfill his bacon butty making duties. I'm sure he'll share his prize of the yummiest looking Easter egg I've seen for a while with the master designer!
A wonderful morning was had by all and in the usual tradition we retired to the Village pub to put the world to rights over a pint (or two) of cider. This week the main topic of conversation was comparing our Agas (lots of proud owners in the village) and recent charity shop finds.
Enjoy the rest of this rainy Bank Holiday.
Sue xx

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Brambles, brambles, brambles

They're everywhere, these pesky brambles. Every day we sally forth armed with secateurs, rakes and wheelbarrows and stumble back to the house a couple of hours later torn to shreds and dreading that first imersion in the bath when every little scratch and cut lets you know EXACTLY where it is...............ouch!!
But things are looking better, each and every barrow load of bramble, weed and dead wood leaves the pondside that little bit clearer and we are starting to see a real difference. Today, however, I feel it is an indoor day, the skies are grey and the first spatters of rain are hitting the windows. Luckily (!!) I have lots to do, I am preparing for this months Great Haseley Farmers Market in the village hall. Lots of lavender loveliness and a few easter treats too.
I've been busy this week in every spare moment doing my annual stock take for Lavenders Blue, how did I get SO much. The only saving grace is the delicious aroma as I count the bags of pot pourri and lavender heads..............mmmmmmm.....lovely.

Our lovely little wood at the back of the house bursting with blossom.

Sue xx

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

My new baby.......

A basket of lavender loveliness.
To all my lovely blogging friends, and all those who have been waiting in eager anticipation of my website, an invitation to my new baby.........Lavender's Blue 2 Blog Shop.
At the moment the shelves are bare, but I'm armed (and dangerous) with my camera and raring to go, so who knows by tomorrow there could be some loveliness gracing the shelves of my new baby.
Me - Back in action and raring to go. (Taken at the North Lonsdale Agricultural Show with a selection of the lavender goodies usually available from Lavender's Blue...
See you very soon.
Sue xx

First potatoes in.

Potatoes - tucked up and ready to grow!
Yes I know we're probably late in getting them in, but at least they are in. At last. A full bed of potatoes, our first proper planting. We also have all the tyres planted with courgettes, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, beetroot, spring onions and mixed salad leaves. So at last the potential of our very own food. Yesterday the sun shone all day (contrary to all weather forecasts) and more pond edge clearing went on. Its coming on quite nicely now and we have almost got one side clear. The brambles are winning and we both have sore arms from all the nasty thorns, but when you step back at the end of the day and look at what you have achieved you do get that special 'buzz' that almost compensates!! The sun is out again this morning and as we are about to have a power cut, (planned for necessary maintenance work) I will sign off, pick up my gloves and get back to the pond. Have a lovely day. Sue xx

Monday, 6 April 2009

Work continues down on the farm.

Just a pretty bear that brightens my day (she was supposed to be for sale on my website, but I've STILL not done it!!). Our highlights this weekend were a lovely meal out on Saturday night at The Lamb, a gorgeous little country pub with big beams and low ceilings (much stooping and ducking for Jason). And then on Sunday morning a trip to the car boot at Warborough,a truly lovely venue on the village green surrounded by lovely quaint cottages some dated as far back as 1666, with loads of stalls, virtually all proper car boots not dealers which makes for a much more fun filled time and plenty of bargains. Of course I had to make a few purchases! Then it was back to work, one of my first jobs this weekend was to stain some more wood for posts and sides for the raised beds and then my main achievement was to get all the tyres planted out with the first of the veggies. A tyre full of compost. Then filled with baby courgette plants.
Then topped off with their very own mini greenhouses. Jason valiantly carried on with the pond clearing and is getting on magnificently. Far pond starting to look clearer at last. Alan did loads of earthmoving with his favourite big toy, and then he completed two of the raised veggie beds. They are pretty big and look even more so now with their sides on. They are 3 metres by two metres wide. Hopefully they will hold lots of potatoes and onions. We are about to start digging one more large one and then three smaller square ones for the salad crops. Sophie the Border Collie ran herself ragged and summed up a tiring weekend for us by crashing out on the grass and refusing to do any more. Hope the sun shone on you too. Sue xx

Friday, 3 April 2009

Planting Weekend

The picture above is from last week, we got our tulips in around the trees on the edge of House pond. At the back of the house we planted some of the fruit bushes, all encircled with little rings of stone so we can see where they are.
Stone circles, where fruit bushes have 'landed' not aliens!
This weekend (hopefully) will be all about planting some more. Planting the potatoes currently 'chitting' away on the kitchen windowsills, planting the courgettes, carrots, leeks and the salad crops that are all stretching their pretty little heads towards the sunshine from their base in the toilet roll tubes. Of course they will have to be slightly protected still from the occasional extremely cold nights we have been getting, but thats where the 'pop' bottles come in!

We're ready for action!

Have a good and productive weekend. I'm off to start mine now.
Sue xx

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Pond life

Yesterday we started to tackle pond number two, Far Pond. It's about the same size, we think, as pond number one (House Pond) but even more overgrown with horrible prickly brambles.
Still the sun was out and it seemed as good a day as any to get stuck in. Amazingly the brambles were overhanging the pond by quite a lot and what we thought was solid ground turned out to be bramble and weed. So maybe, by the time we've finished (this is going to be a long and painful job) the ponds will be the same size.
'After' pictures will be posted when we finish...................by next week hopefully!!
The building in the background of the pond shots is the barn. Currently divided into 4 stables and a storage room but soon to be the home to our vermiculture business (that's worms to you and me!!).

Just in front of that and completely covered by brambles and weeds (much more so now than in this picture) is Tumbledown Cottage, just three walls left and a big pile of stones. Once we have cleared around the pond we will be starting on this area, hopefully.

Sue xx