Monday, 28 February 2011

Back in business......

As the rain thundered on the polytunnel on Saturday I was warm and dry inside getting back to business.... ~ ...tipping out the bags and bags of toilet rolls tubes that I (and my family and friends) save... ~ ...cutting them in half (or quarters if they from kitchen rolls)... ~ ...filling up some of my trays with them... ~ ...and then mixing the compost, some potting, some general purpose and some of our own farm made compost. ~ Add the two together, pop in some seeds and we are at last properly on the way to growing and eating our own 2011 veggies. ~ We are currently still eating lots of our saved produce from last year and the chickens are getting the freedom to roam the farm at the moment as they work their way around the raised beds eating weeds and bugs to clear the soil ready for outdoor planting in a few weeks. It also means that the ground in Chicken World has a bit of a rest from muddy feet churning it up (yes we are DEEP in mud here on the farm at the moment). ~ The Challenge ~ ~ The Challenge is going VERY well this week. We have had some unusual and interesting meals made out of store cupboard ingredients, and the contents of the freezers are at last significantly going down. I may be able to turn off the big chest freezer for a couple of months soon and save a bit of money on the electric. ~ Last week I spent a total of £34.69. Some of it at the nice little farm shop I have discovered near to our potential new farm and £21.83 of it at the 'bad place', but as I went with the intention of sussing out bargains and taking a closer look at cheap ranges, it was a bit of a fact finding mission, one which I actually quite enjoyed. It was as though blinkers had been taken off my eyes, instead of cruising around popping things 'willy nilly' in my trolley I scanned shelves I had never even noticed before, and found lots of bargains. ~ One of Lovely Hubby favourite bargains of the week was 4 cans of Carling Lager reduced to half price (£1.50 instead of £3) simply because one can had slipped out of the plastic rings that hold them together, they had been held back as a foursome by some bright spark wrapping parcel tape round them. When I got them home I peeled this off and slipped the can back in the ring and it stayed there perfectly, an example of an employee costing the shop money by not taking 2 seconds to do a job (in fact it must have taken longer to get the tape and wrap it around!!), but I benefited so I shouldn't grumble (that's just the ex-shop manager in me coming out...Lol). ~ As it's almost the end of the second month of the Challenge I decided to count up what is in Spotty Jug and I was pleasantly surprised to find I have £209.13 already. Wow....this has inspired me to continue even more, just how much can I get together before our holiday in May. ~ Sue xx

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Baby, Baby......

Aw......so cute!!
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Looking intellectual in The Vatican, Rome.
~ One of the family, on our big family holiday in 2008. ~ Our boy Jason - 24 today. ~ Happy Birthday Son ~ You make us SO proud. ~ Mum and Alan xxx

Friday, 25 February 2011

Upwards and Onwards

This weekend is already looking like it's going to be a busy one. I have just got back from posting yet another lot of Ebay parcels, with a car laden down with animal feed, as the truck was hitched to the trailer ready for a 'poo pickup' we went to town in the little Fiat 500. Three huge sacks of Pony Nuts, three bags of Layers Pellets, two nets of pony carrots and a months supply of dog and cat food later it's looking perriously close to the ground, poor little thing.
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Lovely Hubby has now set of for the 'poo pick up' (manure for the heaps, for those 'not in the know') and I'm off out to clean out all the chicken house (more poo!!) before it starts raining. We have a meeting this afternoon about our future on this farm and then on Sunday we go for a meeting about our new farm and a marathon measuring up session of the house, offices, barn and land.
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The pictures are of the lovely Archie, surveying his territory around Lotties piglets' new pen and taking things in his stride, just like we are trying to do.

I'll be back on Monday with news of how it all went. I hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Sue xx

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Ooop...Forgot the Challenge!!

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Not forgot to do it....just forgot to write about it on here.
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Shopping (or the lack of it) went really well last week, the only things I bought were milk, fruit and veg. Oh, then I accidently went in the Charity Shop and spied a book by Nigel Slater that I didn't have for only a pound so I had to get that. Then of course were the bandages needed for Lovely Hubbys ankle but that was a very necessary purchase.
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Then I had an email voucher for a BOGOF meal at the garden centre and as it was on the way back from where we where picking up the chickens from on Friday it seemed silly not to make use of it. Big mistake I think everyone had got vouchers and the queue was horrendous, but once you promise LH a free meal he is determined to have it so we joined the queue. Not bad food, would have been even better if it had been hot!!
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So at the end of the week I had spent a total of £29.50, not bad at all....and £40.50 went into Spotty Jug.
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Tea last night was yummy!! What do you do when you have just a quarter of a head of Brocolli, why you dig some home grown Cauliflower out of the freezer to keep it company....
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...pour over a bit of Philedelphia soft cheese mixed with milk. sprinkle on some breadcrumbs mixed with grated Cheddar (again from the freezer) and pop in the oven for 25 minutes. Result!!
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Oh.....and if you're married to a carnivore. roast a slice of dead Irish cow (oops sorry...I mean best Irish Rump Steak, half price at the 'bad place' this week), and some mushrooms!
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It looks like the picture at the top before it goes into the oven, I didn't have time to take a photo when it came out we just got stuck in......yummy, and extremely cheap and nutricious as well, what more can you ask.
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Sue xx

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Gloomy Day

The M40 on the gloomy horizon.
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Yesterday turned into a gloomy day. Ebay refused to play ball, so my lovely pile of goodies remained unlisted. The rain trickled down with that unremittingly persistent habit it has got into recently and that meant once the animals had been fed and watered I had to get on with the housework.
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Fantastically coloured dead tree.

Now I like my house to be as tidy and clean as possible, but when you live in a sprawling farmhouse surrounded by muddy fields and paths, with two roaming cats, and dogs that go out on a regular basis to do what dogs do best (use your imagination here), and then they all come in and walk on the cream coloured carpets (what bright spark chose them then...it certainly wasn't me), housework can be a monotonously regular thing.
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We lay towels on the floor by the doors so the dogs have to walk over them to get in and have another one lying handily near each door to wipe any excessively muddy feet. We throw a stick in the pond for Sophie if she has embedded mud on her paws after a doggy walk, she LOVES a paddle, and Rosy is small enough to get dunked in a couple of inches of water in the sink in the utility room, but there is nothing we can do about the cats.
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True they also have to walk over the towels to get in but then Archie takes great delight in running to the desk and finishing his drying process sat on any papers we have accidently left out. We have sent more documents back to companies signed with a paw print than I would like to admit to, I dread to imagine what they think!!
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So with Ebay refusing to play nicely yesterday, I got the hoovering, mopping, ironing and wiping down done, I caught up on paperwork and got down to making some more of my plastic paths, a boring but necessary job, I'll explain one day!! So today, I can, hopefully, get on with my listings, sort out my stall for the craft fair next week and generally do the nicer things because....yes...it's still raining, the mud is getting deeper than my wellies, soon I will be feeding the pigs wearing waders. Oh well....off to get wrapped up and wake up the hungry hoards.
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Have a good day - stay dry.
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Sue xx

Monday, 21 February 2011

Selling my soul.......

...well not quite but I have been very busy over the last few days selling away on Ebay. In line with our Year of Living Simply mantra we are now in the process of jettisoning all unnecessary 'things'.
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With each item that gets posted away the shelves are a little clearer, the cupboards a little more ordered and our lives simpler. If you don't have it you don't have to worry about it, keeping it safe, clean, tidy etc, if you don't have to worry about it your mind calms down. When your mind calms down you can get on with the important things, concentrate on the things you love and love the things you have.
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The added bonus is lots of lovely extra cash to do what you want with. We are using it towards our holiday in May. Not having to take money out of our savings means they can continue to rise while we can still have a much needed break. Hopefully, between Ebay and Spotty Jug we are going to get a holiday for nothing. Well that's how it will seem if our savings stay untouched.
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Up to now I have sold Dvds, Computer programmes and some of my magazines. Lots more being listed each week if you want to find my stuff on Ebay follow this link click on 'see other items' and 'save' me as a favourite seller, then you can keep tabs on all we sell. Today I'm photographing some of the clothes that are now too big for me, so they'll be popping on there soon.
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Off to the post office now to post off some parcels, that's the only downside really but I always combine the trip with other things that need to be done off the farm so fuel isn't wasted unnecessarily. See I'm getting delightfully cost-conscious.
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PS. Well I WAS doing SO well and now I get get on Ebay for some reason....ARRGHH... and I have a lovely little pile of goodies next to me all photographed and waiting to be listed! ~
Sue xx

Lovely Hubby in the doghouse!

Haha.....he's not really.... he's in the pig ark!!
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(For any of you who don't 'get' the northern humour - being in the doghouse means you have been naughty)
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This weekend has been brilliant, busy but brilliant.
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Friday saw us picking up the new 'rescue' chickens and settling them in, it also saw Lovely Hubby twisting his ankle quite badly later in the afternoon, not long after the above photo was taken. So Saturday saw me scurrying off to the chemist to buy him a good support bandage and for the rest of the day he got on with paperwork and accounts. Something he normally puts off for as long as possible, but he got stuck in with gusto as there was nothing else he could really manage.
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Seven of Maud's piglets eating breakfast
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Sunday we finally moved Lottie's babies to their new enclosure (away from Mum and Aunty Lulu), we were going to do it last week but we decided they weren't quite ready then. All the pig enclosures were given a fresh carpet of straw to help them cope with the mud and all the pigs 'helped' us to fill the arks with fresh bedding to their satisfaction.
~ Maud with the piglet that eats with her
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Martha has been moved back to the barn to give her a break from Jack and she will be joined there on Friday of this week by Maud who is getting to the end of her patience with her babies, so they can be successfully weaned too.
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'at last'.. she says....'peace from those pesky babies'
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All in all it's been like Piggy Musical Chairs here on the farm. But for now everyone is settled and although it's 7.30 am everybody, (including the chickens) is still in bed. I'm giving them ten more minutes then it's breakfast time. As soon as I appear the farm will come to life with cockerels crowing, piglets squealing and big pigs grunting for food, so I'm enjoying this unusual quiet.....or of course it could be that they've all left home in the night!
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Now I'm worried....I'm off to check!!
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UPDATE....everyone was okay, but now I'm soaked to the skin, the rain started just as I went out to feed everyone....serves me right for letting them all have a lie in ! Even the dogs have refused a walk, so now I'm having a bowl of oatbran and a lovely hot cup of coffee while I read Blogs and slowly steam away at the computer.
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Sue xx

Saturday, 19 February 2011

All Change in Chicken World

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Norman and Rachel Rock Chick knew something was afoot when we opened up the fence to Chicken World. ~ As the girls made a break for the raised beds to 'help' with the weeding and bug clearing... ~ ~ ...their new friends were installed in the second hen house with some wire over the door until they were acclimatised. ~
They had lots of visitors over the course of the day. This morning they were all let out with our girls to wander around their enclosure. After a few initial skirmishes, disputes were sorted and peace reigned again. The girls are all very friendly and have got down to the serious business of egg laying already with a bumper clutch of eggs now residing in the fridge. ~
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We took the opportunity to move the Eglu and the baby Lavender Pekins out of the polytunnel and into Chicken World, causing much interest with Norman and Caldwell.
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Tonight it has gone dark and still some of the new girls are roaming around, we are off with the torches to see if we can persuade them into the henhouses, if not they are in for a damp and chilly night!!
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Note : The deadline for the slaughter of the free range hens has been extended until 28th March, if you are able to help please follow this link.
There are still almost 4,000 birds needing good homes. While we were there picking up our new girls cars were streaming in to collect birds, 2 here, 4 there, people with cat baskets, cardboard boxes, a few people with larger crates picking up a dozen or so. All types of folk with one thing in common - wanting to help a chicken have a little bit more life. The atmosphere was brilliant. As we all chose the hens we wanted we felt guilty at the ones we left behind, but fingers crossed lots of them will be re-homed before the deadline.
If you can help please do.
Thank you
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Sue xx

Friday, 18 February 2011

Chicken Run

We're sneaking under the gate into the orchard......
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This morning we are off to pick up our twenty rescue birds after reading an appeal that triggered this post.
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....to pinch the piggies water - it taste SO much better than ours!!

Their house has been cleaned out and is all ready for them. I'll see if I can get some photos tomorrow when we let them out for the first time to mix with our ladies. For today they will be enclosed in the henhouse, so we can check they are okay and to give them time to adjust to their new living quarters.

I foresee a couple of nights of rounding them up at bedtime though, our last lot of newbies were determined to roost in the trees and I had to knock them off the branches with a brush to get them into the henhouse at bedtime!!

Sue xx

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Warming up.......

Net tunnels warming the soil in preparation for planting next month.
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Today I'm planting spring onions in the polytunnel, already planted in there are radishes and mixed leaves. I have celery plants rejuvenating themselves and the herbs are looking good. There are also 5 cabbages that were tiny little things at the beginning of Winter and now they are starting to grow. Standing firm all Winter, surviving nights of -10 degrees and still alive. I take my hat off to them.
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I write this as there are folks out there waiting to plant alongside me...you know who you are!! For now my seeds are indoors, either in the PT or on the window sills of the house. On the kitchen windowsill I have a new herb pot just planted up, with Red Basil, normal Basil, Coriander and Parsley, handy for cooking with and warmer for a quick start. I have plans for the spare bedroom window sill. We have no family visitors booked to use it until May so I have a sunny windowsill to start some plants on.
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Elsewhere on the farm there are many stirring as bulbs push their shoots through the sodden heavy earth. There is the start of the magic daffodil fairy ring, planted last year by Mum and Dad under the old apple tree in Chicken World, other daffodils are appearing in the most unexpected places, did we plant them or have the birds been re-distributing things they have pulled up? The pots Mum and Dad spent hours over last year, placing four or five daffodil bulbs to a pot have been fetched from the barn and are lined up at the front of the house, the weak warm intermittent sun encouraging growth, tiny shoots peering above the soil as if to say "is it time?"
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The pigs are manically digging the perimeters of their paddock as weeds start to grow, not for long will they gain a foothold with two big and four hungry baby piggies chomping away.
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All these signs are good, Spring is on her way. If we hold on to the thought it should carry us through these last cold days of Winter with a hope and a yearning for warmer times, more abundant crops and a peeling off of the many layers of clothes. Just when we feel we can take no more Mother Nature steps in with her promises of things to come. We wait with baited breath and tingling, twitchy green fingers.
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Oh........ and another pair of wellies have sprung a leak, I have soggy socks AGAIN!!
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Sue xx

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Next Stage of the Business

~ Last Sunday was Lovely Hubby's first solo stall at the Farmers Market, selling some of his worm products. It created lots of interest with folks asking lots of questions about the process and the products. ~ He sold half of all the bottles of Worm Tea (it's a brilliant fertiliser for your plants) that he took, and more importantly managed to get four orders for trailer loads of compost. ~ Strangely not too many people wanted to handle the samples of worms that he had nestling in his buckets under the table, although he dug in deep to get them handfuls out!! I was really proud he set his stall out very nicely.....maybe some of my retail teaching has rubbed off on him. ~ It was a very successful day for both of us with me selling almost all our eggs and supplying Valentines gifts to all the last minute shoppers. Jason called in on his way back up the road for a bacon butty to fortify him for the journey, and LH managed to only spend a little bit of his takings on a chunk of Stilton (his weakness in life). ~ Most people were really impressed with the packaging, to keep costs right down we decided to use two litre milk carton and two litre water bottles, and for the bags of compost we re-used our pig feed sacks. This way folk are paying for the product and not the packaging, kinder to the customer and the environment. ~ Sue xx.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

'Life is Good'

Thank you to Laura over at The French Country Challenge for giving me this award. Do you really want to know anything else about me? As she was so brilliant with her answers to these set questions, I would be childish not to continue this Award stream so here goes. ~ 1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you are not anonymous do you wish you had started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now? I'm glad I just started out as just as ME, I gave Lovely Hubby his nickname so he had a degree of anonymity, as he has a very serious job. But he's happy to be himself now and appear on the blog and is used to our lives being an open book, his nickname though has stuck and sometimes he even signs little notes to me as LH. ~ 2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side. Well the only thing that springs to mind is something that happened when I left my first husband. I needed somewhere cheap to rent and everywhere said' No Pets'. I phoned lots of agents and they all said this was a definite policy, in the end I didn't mention my cats and went to view a town centre house and went back to the landlords offices to speak to the company owner, got the cash out of my bag for the first months rent and deposit so he could see it and said, looking him straight in the eye, "by the way I have four cats....that won't be a problem will it, you are welcome to inspect the state of the house as often as you wish" He looked at me, at the cash and then just grinned and said "for you perhaps it won't be". He never asked to inspect the property while I was in it although he did come in twice to do repairs. When I left he told me I was one of his best tenants, and the house was re-occupied within hours of me moving out, instead of being re-decorated and re-carpeted as was usually the case. ~ 3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror? I see a direct confident woman that looks me straight in the eye with a grin on her face!! (And I also see my Mother......when did that happen....Lol!!) ~ 4. What is your favourite summer cold drink? Ice cold cider. ~ 5. When you take time for yourself what do you do. I either curl up with a good book or magazine or relax in a deep bubble bath. (I rarely mix the two.....I've dropped so many books in the bath it's not worth the risk!) ~ 6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life? What is it? Yes. I want to live simply, jettisoning all the unnecessary things that I have accumulated over the years. Gandhi had the right idea, we don't need much to be happy. ~ 7. When you attended school were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching. Yes, I was all of those things over the course of my school life! ~ 8. If you close your eyes and want to visualise a very poignant moment in your life what would you see. I would see my new-born sons eyes, deep and blue staring back at me, twice over. ~ 9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people or events? I am happier to share myself, I am an open book with no secrets but lots of pages, and I am what you get, I can't give that much of other people it wouldn't be fair. ~ 10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why? I would sit down and read a book, because you can re-read a good book and immerse yourself in the written word, take it in many contexts and then figure out the real meaning, You don't have the time to do that on the phone. I am also slightly phone phobic prefering to speak face to face with people. ~ Yet another insight into me......are you getting fed up with this yet. I promise more farm talk soon!! ~ I would like to pass this award onto a the writer of a Blog that I have been reading over the past couple of weeks.....Frugal Queen. Her writing has inspired me and re-energised me, she seems a kindred spirit in her honesty and outlook on life. But I understand if she wishes not to do it. ~ Sue xx
I've been given an award from Gem, (thank you so much). Seemingly I have to tell you seven things about myself....are there seven things that you don't know.....hmmm...I'll have to think long and hard about this one!
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1. I learnt to drive when I was 30 years old, and had my first 200 mile round trip on the motorway just 2 days after passing my test.
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2. My only real phobias are......false teeth and Daddy Long Legs, I've cured myself of all my others by facing them head on.
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3. I was the worlds worst daughter for a couple of teenage years....but now my parents are my best friends (along with my Bestest Friend who is Lovely Hubby).
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4. I have a Guardian Angel. It is there for me whenever I am truly in need. (I'm not sure whether it's a he or she...the voice is neutral....it doesn't matter does it, that it cares is enough.)
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5. The last one makes me sound potty.....maybe I am.....I like being a bit wacky and off the wall....it's who I am.
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6. I have 2 tattoos, both mean something special. I will never regret them even when they (and me) are old and wrinkly.
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7. I have trained lots of people to work in Charity Shops, both volunteers and Managers, I could still do the training in my sleep. I enjoyed seeing the difference it made to a lot of peoples lives, finding new skills and overcoming disabilities both physical and mental. Finding out that they could make a difference to someone elses life by helping for a few hours each week.
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There, did you already know any of them? Now I'm off to have a haircut and try and negotiate a cheaper cut for the future, we're seriously into the Challenge now and have decided that EVERYTHING is included in the weekly budget, not just food. Wish me luck.
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Oops...I almost forgot, I'm supposed to pass this on to 15 more people. I know how busy lots of you are, so if you want to pick this up and run with it please do. I'd love to know 7 things about lots of you....but then I'm a nosy sod!! So if you'd like to take part consider yourself awarded, all you have to do is say you got the award from me and pass it on to 15 of your Blogging chums. Just copy and paste the award from the top of this post.
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Normal farm Blogging will resume tomorrow.
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Sue xx

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Challenge

Just part of the order.
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The Challenge....at first glance looks it like it was a bad week.....only £11.88 went into Spotty Jug this morning.....yikes!!
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But I thought I had a party to cater for and went slightly wild in the aisles at Approved Foods
a wonderful online place that sells clearance and end of lines at hugely discounted prices. I only learnt about them last week when I was reading Frugal Queens Blog and I thought what better way to get lots of food for a minimal outlay and hopefully stay within budget. So I gave it a try.... and it's very good. I managed to get £155.36 worth of food for £46.62 and although postage was £7.50 this still meant I saved £101.24 all together. My only other purchase this week was milk, so a total spend of £58.12, not bad at all really.
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I now have cupboards full of pastry, scone, bread and cake mixes, cakes, soups (who can resist 18 packs of Sainsburys Cup a Soups for £2) and assorted other goodies. As our party weekend was cancelled due to little Kyle being poorly with his asthma, I sent Jason home with some of the goodies and have popped everything else into my cupboards which are now once again groaning under the weight.
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So now we have even more food to plough through. Because of this I am going to be EXTRA strict with myself over the next few weeks and only buy milk and fresh fruit and veg. The money I am saving in Spotty Jug is going to be our spending money for our holiday in May. Jason has confirmed that he has a week booked off work to come and mind the farm, so he along with my Mum and Dad are going to farm sit while we have what could be one of our last holidays away from the farm. What better incentive to save money. As it will be self catering, we will need as much as I can get together, so sleeves rolled up I'm off to bake todays bread.
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Sue xx

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Watching the cat on the tele........

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Tonight we are watching the cat on the tele...
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...not entirely sure what it was he was watching though!!

Sue xx

Friday, 11 February 2011

The Last of the Pumpkins...and a Special Day

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Last weekend Lovely Hubby noticed that the last of the pumpkins that we had grown was getting some black spots......so it was time to eat it. We purposely left this one to see how long it would store. It was simply on the bench in the kitchen, an orange ball of promise near the door brightening a messy corner with its reminder of Summer.
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I chopped it up and inside it was perfect, so there was big chunks of peel for the Kune Kunes, seeds for the chickens and the best bit..... ~

~ ...lots of lovely pumpkin flesh for us.

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Part of which was quickly turned into a big pan of delicious soup. The rest was made into a cheats curry, with a jar of Tikka Sauce from the store cupboard. In all we got three delicous, nutricous meals from this relatively small pumpkin....result! ~ ~ And the reason it's a Special Day.....well today my eldest son Simon is 30....yep THIRTY WHOLE YEARS OLD......how did THAT happen!! ~ It was going to be a weekend of celebration here on the farm but unfortunately, my lovely grandson Kyle has had a scary flare up of his asthma and all plans have had to be cancelled at the last minute. A huge disappointment for everyone, as Debbie, Simon's partner had somehow managed to keep it secret for months, booking time off work for Simon and making arrangements with me via Facebook. Still I'm sure we would all rather have Kyle fit and well. ~ So lots of love is sent to Simon and everyone up there in cloudy Cumbria from all of us here on the farm. Have a lovely day and enjoy being thirty, it seem's like only yesterday I was that age and yes, I was a child bride, that's why I have all these wonderfully grown up children and grandchildren !! ~ Kyle and Simon......just two of my special people. Happy Birthday Simon ~ Sue xx

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Can you help.....?

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Watch this....I did last night and I'm doing my bit. I can only fit 20 more hens into my henhouses so that is how many I'm picking up next week. Can you help at all.
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Our first hens were rescued free-rangers (White Star Hybrids) and they were brilliant. You expect them to be unsociable because they have been part of a giant flock of birds with not a huge amount of human contact but the opposite is true. They are desperate to make friends with you, and look to you almost immediately for companionship and love. My girls gave me vitually an egg a day for the first 18 months we had them and they also played a huge part in turning us from hapless townies into the country folk we are almost becoming. We have 3 of the originals still on the farm, Molly, Jemima and Lovely, you learn SO much from a chicken, they are intelligent, family orientated and live their lives simply.
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Hens are quiet, productive and will live cheaply on your kitchen scraps with a handful of layers pellets each day. They love to weed your garden (you will have to protect anything you love though, they will also eat your plants and veggies) and eat all the slugs and pests that would normally eat your plants. They are as good a pet as a cat or dog, they never need walking and give you the bonus of lovely freshly laid eggs. What other pet provides you with breakfast!!
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Hylines are friendly average sized chickens (I already have quite a few Hylines) that lay wonderfully tasty brown eggs.
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If you can help contact the email address in the video, thanks for taking the time to read this, I don't normally do appeals but this one is close to my heart and I know the benefits it brings to both sides.
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Sue xx

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Knowing your onions......

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A couple of weeks ago I was approached by the lovely Gemma, at Phipps representing British Onions and asked if I would like to take part in a Gravy Box Challenge. Of course this ticked all the boxes. Great British produce, tasty homemade food and the chance to play in the kitchen....so of course I said yes! Within a couple of days my box of goodies arrived, complete with some absolutely delicious British Onions (the only sort I buy when I have no home grown ones available).
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So for the last couple of weeks we have been having different versions of Onion Gravy with our meals. Plain onion gravy, made simply by frying onions with a bit of flour and then adding stock, and many variations on that theme using the goodies they sent me to experiment with in the box in the top picture. The only thing I substituted was the Worcestershire Sauce, as a vegetarian I do not eat 'traditional' Worcestershire Sauce as it contains Anchovies (fish) so I use Biona Organic Worcester Sauce instead, almost exactly the same flavour but it spares the little fishes. ~
After much suffering on Lovely Hubby's part......yeah right!! The winning recipe was reached using the ingredients in the picture above.
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75g Butter (not shown)
2 Onions, halved and finely sliced
1 tbs plain flour
400mls Vegetable Stock (homemade, not shown)
Half a glass of Red Wine
1 tsp Worcester Sauce
2 tsp of English Mustard
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
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The onions were gently fried for about 10 minutes in the butter, with the lid on the pan, then the flour was added, cooked for 2 more minutes stirring all the time, and then all the other ingredients were added, vegetable stock, wine, Worcester Sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. The whole lot was then popped in the bottom oven of the Aga for about 15 minutes while Lovely Hubby's Venison Steak cooked. (With a 'normal' cooker you could just continue with a very slow simmer to allow the flavours to develop.) I added the juices from the rested Venison Steak to LH's portion after I had ladled mine out.
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We had this with some of the last of our homegrown potatoes, I was supposed to be having a couple of Quorn sausages with mine, but in my excitement at the developing taste of the gravy I forgot to put them in the oven, and as I had already had a large egg sandwich for lunch I was not too worried about any lack of protein in my evening meal. So I just had the gravy with mashed potatoes, it was a meal in itself.
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Now while I agree it was no oil painting to look at it was delicious, and that's what good home cooking is all about. This is something I will definitely be repeating. Although with a dish as adaptable as Onion Gravy you know you will always get a good result, even if the ingredients you have to hand vary from time to time.
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Thanks to the good folk at Phipps and British Onions for the chance to experiment (and eat some delicious meals) over the last couple of weeks. I am open to doing more of these reviews/challenges if anyone wants to get in touch, but beware I tell the truth and will only recommend the very best!!
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But you really can't go wrong with the great British Onion can you....where would be be without them?
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Sue xx