Friday 26 June 2009

Beware the bottler........

The jam making went surprisingly well, I simply followed the instructions on the bag of jam sugar, but added the juice of half a lemon to take a bit of the sweetness away. And the results five lovely jars of strawberry jam for the store cupboard, well four Lovely Hubby dipped into one this morning, I can't blame him, it tastes GORGEOUS.

It's also good value, as all I used was three punnets of bought strawberries and one punnet of homegrown ones with one bag of jam sugar. So, cheaper than five jars of quality jam and I know exactly what went into it (which I am getting obsessed about recently, have you read some of the labels?). This is going to be repeated and repeated.

Then whilst I was busy tending the veggie bed and chicken proofing some of the young veggies I got to thinking if jam making was easy what else could I bottle?

Chicken-proof baby potato plant in the bucket that I rescued last night when the ladies decided the red potatoes needed digging up, and tiny radishes in the tyre just peeking their faces to the world.

On looking in the courgette bucket I knew straight away ... there were loads of ripe courgettes and as Hugh F-W says if they as big as your biggest finger they can be used. So they were added to a couple of onions, a couple of cloves of garlic and a tin of tomatoes with loads of freshly ground black pepper and cooked gently in the oven for 2 hours. After trying some over fresh ravioli for tea it was deemed a success and the rest was bottled.

So, if you fit into a jar watch out...............the new bottlers about!!

Sue xx

Thursday 25 June 2009

Beetroot, soil baths and jam....

Well I cooked the beetroot......for 5 hours!! 

Ha ha, I put the beetroot in the Aga to cook away for an hour and promptly forgot all about it. That's the problem with an Aga once you close that door there's no cooking smells to remind you that somethings ready.

I popped it into the oven after bringing it to the boil on the top of the Aga and then tootled out into the veggie patch yesterday morning to salvage the veggies that haven't been eaten or just trampled all over by the chickens and to make them a space at the edge of the large bed for their dust baths. Very clean ladies my chickens they spend more time getting ready for their day than I do!! I sieved them some fresh soil for under the chicken house, so they had their en-suite available too and guess what........they decided that the tyres full of compost that the beetroot used to live in were their preferred bathing area for the day!!

After shooing them out I replaced what compost I could salvage from the stones around the tyres and went in for a well earned cup of coffee and YES the ladies had beaten me to it, now where would you say would be the best place to shake all that pesky soil and compost out from under your wings, yep you've got it the kitchen floor!

No wonder the beetroot was the last thing on my mind!

Still the it seems to have survived.......just! 

Of course much sampling had to be done and although it is soft, it is yummy. I've still pickled what was left (only enough for one jar!) and we can only wait and see if the pretty looking results are edible or will morph into a lovely vinegar mush. (Beetroot flavour vinegar anyone?) Now I will be planting some more seeds to plant out into the poly tunnel to see if I can get another crop in before autumn. One jar will not see us through the winter!

Today I'm having a go at strawberry jam. The lovely chap on the next stall to me at the Farmers Market was selling freshly picked (he was up at 4am!!) strawberries from his farm just outside Wallingford. At the end of the day he was selling the few remaining punnets off for the amazing price of 3 for £5, and these were beautiful strawberries, not your supermarket well travelled variety picked young to look good in the punnet.  The aroma I had next to me all day was GORGEOUS, fresh and inviting. He sold me some even cheaper, for watching his stall whilst he went to fetch his van, and a lovely punnet of raspberries thrown in for good measure (which went down a treat for dessert last night smothered in strawberry and cream flavoured yogurt.....yum yum!!).

So today I will be adding them to the all the ripe strawberries from my planter and making my first ever batch of strawberry jam. Wish me luck, if it works I may even take a photo!!

Have a good day.

Sue xx

Wednesday 24 June 2009

In a pickle.....

Some of the beetroots (the bigger ones) that today I am having to pickle.

 Those pesky chickens have eaten every leaf, off every beetroot and rather than let the poor beetroot go to waste I am going to pickle them all, not that there will be that many. I usually prefer to pickle only one or two jars and eat the rest fresh in salads and lightly roasted in the oven.

When I first saw these beetroot I thought something had gone drastically wrong with the shape, but after referring back to the seed packet I saw that they matched the picture on the front, I don't know why I picked this funny shaped beetroot, I usually grow the standard round ones. But they taste as good and, because they have had to be picked so young, they taste lovely and sweet too.

Hey ho hey ho, it's pickling I go.......

Sue xx

Tuesday 23 June 2009


Just a little post to show you what we had as part of our tea last night, the first of our potatoes.

The leaves had some spots on so we thought we would lift these to see if the potatoes were okay, and yes they were, they were gorgeous. Served simply with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of parsley, they went lovely with some salmon and homegrown beetroot.

Well, I'm afraid that's it for now, I'm off to finish loading the car for the Aylesbury Farmers Market, it's a glorious day here in sunny Oxfordshire, so fingers crossed for a good day at the market.

Have a good day yourself.

Sue xx

Sunday 21 June 2009

Farmers Markets and Sheds

This Saturday found me at the Farmers Market in Tetsworth and Lovely Hubby at home putting together our new shed. Jason jetted off up the motorway to Preston to help one of his mates celebrate his 22nd birthday, and then he was heading even further up the M6 to visit his Dad for Fathers Day on Sunday.
After a couple of hours at the Market I nipped into Thame to buy LHs reading material for the week, all the Farming weeklies and then it was home to lend a hand with the shed, how he had managed to get so far on his own amazed me....clever boy!!

By the end of the day we had a recognisable shed (that could stand up all by itself).
After a quick inspection by Jemima it was deemed safe to leave until Sunday for the finishing touches.

The picture at the top of this post is of a little egg that we found next to the chicken house, I think someone is going into miniatures!!

Next to a pound coin it gives you an idea of it's size, I'll be keeping this one for posterity.

Sue xx

Friday 19 June 2009

I've been tagged!!

I've been tagged by Blueberry Heart (whose blog is divine and you simply must visit!). Sorry for not doing this sooner BH but events this week drove it right out of my mind, thank you for tagging me.

Seemingly I have to tell you 6 unimportant things that I love ...

1. My early morning walks with Sophie and Archie.  To see a dog walk through cats eyes is completely different, he jets off after butterflies, lies in wait for Sophie to scare her and I swear she laughs when he jumps out.

2. The colour green, especially a lovely retro green, I end up with it in all my houses, the shade of our outer doors here is what made me know this house was the one to start our new life in.

3. The sonnet by William Shakespeare that starts -

'Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day, though art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and Summers lease hath all too short a date...'

4. Blogging - it gives you a glimpse into someone else's life and lets you invite them into yours.

5. That Lovely Hubby and me have the same wacky humour, we were meant for each other.  He fits into my family (and we are REALLY wacky) like he has been here forever. (Don't get me wrong, that I love him is important, that his humour being the same as mine is unimportant, but lovely!!)

6. Porridge - in my little spotty bowl, only a little portion cheatingly cooked in the microwave with just a quarter of a teaspoon of brown sugar, it fills my little tummy in a delightful way. (And no, I don't put vinegar in it, that's there waiting for my beetroot pickling session...haha!) now you know me so much better....haha.

All I have to do now is tag 6 other fellow bloggers to do the same, and they are, in no particular order.......

All you have to do is link back to me, list 6 UNIMPORTANT things you love and pass it on to 6 fellow bloggers. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. (All this tagging has taken me back to playground language.....haha..!)

I hope you enjoy doing this, but no pressure if you don't want to I understand. If anyone else would like to join in - consider yourself tagged too!!

Sue xx

Thursday 18 June 2009

A Sad Day

The 'Three Lovelies'

This morning I am sad, so very sad. One of the 'Three Lovelies' has been taken and killed by Horrible Mr Fox. I didn't even have time to name her, she was one of the last three to be named and hence, they were nicknamed the 'Three Lovelies'. Identical in looks, temperament and silkiness of feather.
She was gorgeous - one of my girls and I miss her already.

If you don't have chickens you may not understand, but my girls are a 'unit' and the unit is part of my family already. They run to us when we go outside, they are always interested in what we are doing, even if they have to break off from eating to come and have a look, as you have seen from pictures they are always in the house, yesterday I accidentally locked one in the house when I took Sophie for a walk and the clever little thing went up to Jason's room to let him know.

Yesterday afternoon we heard their calls of distress and rushed outside - but we were too late there was no sign of the fox only a trail of feathers which we followed until it vanished. We did a head count and discovered only 8 girls remaining, so they were locked up whilst we searched again, of course it was pouring with rain at the time and we were soaked to the skin, pushing through fields high in grass and crops. Eventually after much searching and calling of my little 'chook chook' call we heard a response, and a scared and bedraggled Jemima popped out of the log pile.

The poor thing must have been terrified and just run for
cover - clever girl.  After a stroke and a warming cuddle she was put back with her family and we knew it was no longer worth searching for my missing Lovely.

At locking up time last night all the girls put themselves to bed - as they do each night and after I put the side on the chicken house, a frantic little Molly ran down the ramp and looked under the house as if to say 'one of us is missing'. It broke my heart - but this is the country life we chose. At times it is a cruel and nasty one, but that has to be outweighed by the good things surrounding us.

Today though I am being a softy, and crying inside for my missing 'Lovely'.

Sue xx

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Sunday, day of rest and relaxation........

Heading down the drive in the sunshine.
Sunday was a glorious day here in sunny Oxfordshire, the sun was out and about early as were the inhabitants of Jointers Farm. After the excitement of yesterdays lovely family get together it was back to Sunday normality.

So after feeding the chickens and giving Sophie a quick stick fetching walk, (we walk a hundred yards and she runs for miles chasing her favourite sticks and finding new ones), Lovely Hubby and I tootled down the village lane to set up shop at the local Farmers Market. For once LH's culinary skills were not required in the kitchen, so he helped me set up shop and then settled himself down with the Sunday papers and a bacon butty (all the tastier for being cooked by someone else).

After a couple of hours of playing shop, we counted our pennies, packed up our stall and our purchases, a yummy looking spinach and feta quiche, a carrot cake, a beautiful bunch of mixed colour cornflowers and of course an obligatory lavender plant and wended our way back home.

Here we decided that work HAD to be done, so while I released the chickens from their quarters LH went to fetch the lawn mower from the barn. Then it was into action for me cutting the grass and LH putting the sides on the last of this years raised beds. Two little square ones, about 2 metres square and already full of onions (planted without the sides and looking quite forlorn). Now they look like they have a house and I can get on with weeding them and taking proper care of them.

Then after potting on a couple of my tomato plants (lots more still to do). Then LH decided it was time to assemble our new patio table and a couple of the chairs in readiness for our first outdoor meal.

So without further ado while he got the furniture, ready I prepared a veritable feast of freshly bought and homegrown goodies, and we settled down to an hour of yumminess and Farmers Weekly for him and Country Living for me.

A quick photo before we got stuck in.
  And of course a little snack of trimmings for the chickens!! 

 After clearing away the tea things it was back to grass cutting, a general tidy up and a good watering for the vegetables and then there was only one thing left to do, curl up in front of the television to watch a couple of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's fantastic River Cottage series and discuss what else we can do here on the farm over a glass (or two) of cider.

Hope your weekend was brilliant too.

Sue x

Monday 15 June 2009

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad...GOTCHA!!

I bet you've been wondering where I've been, I seldom leave almost a full week between blog posts, but last week was different.

Me and my brother have been busy organising a surprise 50th Wedding Anniversary party for my parents, it was all hush, hush and top secret and as preparations came to a climax it was imperative that I did not give the game away.  And if you know me (and some of you do, only too well by I had to stay away from my beloved blog so I didn't mention any snippet of what the coming weekend had in store.

Well guess what....we did it!!

The lovely pair that are my Mum and Dad didn't have a clue.

Reserved my Mum......don't believe it for a minute!!

Graham (my brother) drove them in the opposite direction to the restaurant to cleverly throw them off the scent of the venue.  Me and Lovely Hubby decorated the restaurant with balloons and photos, and the restaurant staff pulled out all the stops with a fantastic buffet and bottle of yummy fizz to toast the happy couple.

Friends and family, who had all kept the secret SO well, partied and caught up on news, everyone was brilliant, the atmosphere fantastic and (hopefully) a lovely day was had by all.

Reminiscent of 13th June 1959, my parents cut their cake.

And then tired but happy we went back to their house for coffee and the opening of their cards and golden envelopes. Their only task chose themselves a lovely gift with the generous amount of money given by all their friends and family.

Mum with most of her men.

Happy Anniversary Mum and Dad.

50 years an achievement and a challenge, and YOU DID IT!!

Sue xx

Tuesday 9 June 2009

On Our Way to Self Sufficiency?

This morning.
I think it's about time I did a round up of just what we've got growing in and around the house at the moment.

Food for the future, one of the 15 fruit trees and bushes planted a couple of months ago.

On the kitchen window sill we have tomatoes, garlic, parsley, coriander and basil.

Around the old swing and climbing frame (picture above taken on planting) we have peas and beans.

In the three main veggie beds we have an assortment of potatoes ... earlies, late earlies and one bed of main crop. The first new potatoes should be on our plates by next week.

(This picture taken a couple of weeks ago.)
In the smaller mixed veggie bed above we have 1 solitary cauliflower (where did all the others go?), radishes, lovely strong cabbages, red onions, 3 curry plants, 2 heads of rhubarb, a raspberry bush and peas planted around wired edges. Also in the corner of this bed is the strawberry tub, housing 30 strawberry plants and now showing the promise of fruit to come on the top layer.

In the tyres we have courgettes, lettuce, mixed leaf lettuce, carrots, cauliflowers, beetroot, spring onion and Pak Choi.

The chickens are not doing some weird ritual in a circle, they are eating some treats and corn on a tray that Lovely Hubby has just given them!

In the orange buckets we have new potatoes and chives and more beetroot.

And of course fresh every day from the ladies, we have brown eggs.

We have already been eating the mixed salad leaves, Pak choy, lettuce, radish and spring onion. I am about to pickle some of the baby beetroot and I think on the menu tonight will be the first of the baby carrots.

In the week since we have had the chickens, we have used the cracked eggs to make a lovely veggie omelette, we have had three breakfasts of scrambled egg on toast, one breakfast of soft boiled eggs and I have 38 eggs in the larder.

All in all I think we have dipped our little toes in the pool of self sufficiency nicely, and it looks set to expand with the delivery of our new shed today, which has a lovely large glass window so seeds can be grown on a shelf out there too.

Sue xx

Tiling Complete

Our tiling is will the sunshine come back please so I can stop decorating for a while!

Lovely Hubby used the changeable weather over the weekend as a chance to finish off the tiling above the kitchen units. We have just gone for tiles between the base and wall units and a single run above the sink and Aga.

No, they are not the tiles we would have chosen in our 'dream home', but they match this kitchen perfectly and make everything look clean and somehow 'finished'. 

Hubby's next job in the kitchen is to address the wonky lights, we have recessed spotlights in the ceiling and they are the wrong sort, so moisture in the air has corroded some of the fittings and they flicker and go out, now LH and Jason can reach to push them back into place but me (being only a smidgeon shorter) I have to get a wooden spoon and use the head of that to 'adjust' the bulb. Jason is usually in stitches because by the time I put the spoon back in its utensil jar the light has usually gone off again!!

Now once this has been done all we have to do will be to paint the ceiling, walls and woodwork and the kitchen will be complete. But I think that will be a job for a later date when the weather is colder and wetter, I'm hoping for sunshine and more outdoorsy work for a while. Although these jobs slow right down when you have such entertaining ladies to watch!

Milly, Molly and Big Lovely supervising the tyre planting.

We have scoffed the contents of a couple of the tyres now and they need replanting, others we are still working our way through and the lettuce seems to replenish itself the more we eat of it.

Two buckets of new potatoes and carrots in the tyres.

I think I'll try and do a list of what we are growing and eating from the land tomorrow.

Until then, take care.

Sue xx

Monday 8 June 2009

Free furniture

After all the excitement of chasing foxes and rescuing our lovely Latte, it was time to rescue something else, a not very lovely but extremely useful piece of furniture. So while the weather decided what it wanted to do, I settled down to a spot of painting.

I had other jobs I could have been doing but there's something calming about transforming an old unwanted piece of furniture into a pretty and useful item and the fact we got it for free made it seem doubly satisfying. 

The colour is a mix of cream, white and a little bit of the door colour we had mixed for the farmhouse exterior doors.  I love it, but I'll never be able to replicate it exactly so it was nice to have enough to finish the cupboard and a little bit left over for a side table and a plant stand.

I'm off shopping today so I'm going to look for a roll of flowery wallpaper in the charity shops to line the drawers and the cupboard doors. I'll take another picture when I've finished.

(Update on Latte - she is alive and well and looking in fine fettle, although she gave me a heart stopping moment a few minutes ago when she vanished - I was searching everywhere outside and she was in the kitchen eating the dog food!!)

Hope you had nice weekend.

Sue xx