Friday 30 September 2011

Who knew......

Who knew ....... that cabbages had babies .... not me for sure.  That's the nice things about growing your own food there's always something new to learn.

This yucky looking cabbage was left in the cabbage patch seemingly no use to anyone, but closer investigation .....

... revealed it had little babies growing at the base ...

... and when opened up it was perfect inside.  The chickens got all the outer leaves (with their resident slugs and caterpillers) and we had the inner leaves shredded and made into coleslaw with onion, carrot, kohl rabi and mayonnaise ...... yummy !

The little babies, in total there were four, were lightly steamed and tossed in butter and pine nuts and were eaten with our homemade quiche for tea last night.

Sue xx

Thursday 29 September 2011

Thrifty Thursday

Well after missing last week what can I say ......... nuts to you!!

Yes nuts, lovely little packages of goodness that can cost the earth if you buy them in those little 'snack packs'.  But when bought in big kilo or half kilo bags when on offer at your local shop can last until the next offer and give you readily available healthy snacks and ingredients for your other recipes always on hand.

I tend to buy mine from Julian Graves a brilliant shop that always seems so quiet in my area so I can happily browse to my hearts content, and looking up this link for you I've just found out they do free delivery for orders over £50 from the online shop, something to remember for the future.

I stock up about every three months and buy bags of the nuts, seeds  and dried fruits that we love the most and some things that we may not like as much but that are little powerhouses of goodness who's taste will be masked by everything else they are with.

I tend to make up two mixes, an iron rich mix that's more for me and a general mix of nuts fruit and seeds that we both like. Lovely Hubby takes a small box to work each day to pop in his drawer ready for when he feels the urge to nibble, much better for him than nipping to the machine for a Mars bar or Snickers like he used to and so much cheaper.

Of course once I've got them in store I make other things too, a favourite is homemade Muesli, none of the cheap oat dust and a few dried currants that some supermarkets kid you is muesli with the main ingredient being cheap oats.  I start with a base of good Mixed Oats and add dried chopped fruits, chopped nuts, sunflower and  pumpkin seeds and Goji berries anything that we fancy really. We eat this either with milk or some homemade yogurt, really yummy. 


If you are in a rush in the mornings you can pop your dish in the fridge overnight with your muesli soaking in it's milk or yogurt and it will swell and go gloriously soft and yummy by morning. You can also use this muesli mix to add to your flapjacks and have really tasty chewy bars to just pop in your lunch box, so much cheaper than the packs of Muesli bars currently available.

Once I've made up the mix I fancy, it varies slightly each time, I use my jam funnel to decant it all into a storage jar and it sits on the work surface so we don't forget about it.

An ideal breakfast or snack, made to your own specifications.

As soon as you buy your big bags of nuts. seeds and dried fruit decant them into storage jars and leave them lined up in your cupboard, then when you have the urge to snack or make up a fesh mix they are all to hand inspiring you, and looking beautiful at the same time.  Get your jars the frugal way by saving all your coffee and sauce jars, or alternatively watch out at car boots sales for some posher ones,  there are nearly always a box of jars being sold for pennies that folk just don't seem to know what to do with.


My other tip for today is toilet rolls, well the middles to be exact, if you're eating all the nuts mixes and muesli you will be nice and regular and have lots of!!

Now is the time to start saving them for next years growing season.  They make wonderful little starters pots for all your seeds.  Simply cut each toilet roll in half and each kitchen roll tube into four and they are the perfect size.

Pop them in your seed trays and fill with compost.  Place one or two seeds in each one and give them a good water. 

When they are ready to be planted out pop the seed in its little pot straight into the soil.  By not disturning its root system you do not give it the shock that can stop growing for a while and they have their own little band of nutrient rich compost around them.  Excellent for the plant and easy for you.  As the plant grows and you water a couple of times the tube starts to break down and rots easily back into the soil.  I start ALL my seeds off this way now and have family and friends saving me all their tubes all year round, it saves a fortune on the little pots that you can buy and makes for easy planting. 

As I said last time I like to get full value out of everything I buy, so using the toilet roll middles this way is brilliant, I also use the large bag the toilet rolls come in as a bin liner once it's empty.  There's a use for everything if you just think before you lift up the bin lid and throw away something you've paid your hard earned money for!!

Linking this post to Angela over at Tracing Rainbows where you can find all the others that are joining in with Thrifty Thursdays on her side bar.

Sue xx

A sneaky peek at a teeny tiny selection of my cook books, that were hiding behind the nuts in the top photo.   I don't know about you but I LOVE noseying,  taking an interest in other peoples books!!
Click on the picture and it should get bigger.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Somethings just don't work.......

Remember the chillis preserved in oil, well I have to admit it just didn't work with the fresh chillis, so it's back to my old method of drying them first and then immersing them in oil.  I've just finished last years batch of oil so I know that it worked well that way. 

The Chilli plant in the polytunnel is just about at the end of its life so I will harvest all the remaining fruits today or tomorrow and dry them slowly in the bottom oven of the Aga and then start a fresh batch. It makes a wonderfully flavoured oil for using in our Mediterranean veg dishes.

Back tomorrow with my Thrifty Thursday tips, I think I owe you a couple after vanishing without trace last week!  Now I'm off to read my Country Living and see if I can pick up any tips.

Sue xx

Tuesday 27 September 2011

I'm back......

I'm back.  When I got up on Thursday morning I was all set for my Thrifty Thursday blog post, all set to read your wonderful blog posts and generally get everything up to date before vanishing up to Scotland to spend some time with my lovely Mum in law Jessie......

...but the computer decided to be poorly with a nasty virus.

So we had to shoot off up the road with no Blogging, no checking of my emails and generally just feeling as though I'd left everyone in the lurch.

It's lovely to be back now, the farm has been safe and secure in the hands of my Mum and Dad, who as I type are winging their way back up the motorway to home......THANK YOU to you both for looking after our animals, our many feathered friends and for keeping nasty Mr Fox at bay with the help of Rosy the dog.

Now, unfortunately,  although Lovely Hubby managed to anti-virus the computer up to the gills and return us to normal service I am the one with a virus and feel as though I have been run over with a steam roller, so it's a quiet day for me and I'll be back tomorrow when hopefully normal service will have resumed.

Thanks for all the emails and comments of concern at my absence, and thanks to the lovely Bloggers who have awarded me the Versatile Blogging Award, I seem to have acquired 3 in my absence!    But are there really any secrets that you don't know about me?  If you think they are I will attempt it, but I honestly can't think of anythng with this fuzzy head I seem to have on my shoulders at the moment.

* Jessie's Jam went down a storm with both Jessie, us greedy visitors, and with the nurses.  A batch of homemade scones was taken to the hospital to help us sample the lovely stuff, and I must say it was very tasty.  So thank you to Grannys Jam Pan you still know how to work your magic.

Sue xx

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Grannys' Jam Pan

This is Granny's jam pan, given me last year by my lovely mum in law, Jessie.  When she found out about my newly re-discovered love of growing my own and preserving my own, she passed this on to me.  Used by her Mum and then by her and now by me, a real bit of useful family history.  It's fed many generations with many different foodstuffs. All gathered with love and stored carefully away for less fruitful times.

Of course, I had a shiny jam pan of my own that I used regularly, but now I have two, they sit side by side in this photo on my lovely Aga.  Warming up ready for jam making.  For a special batch of jam making.  I had promised Lovely Hubby a special treat for his Mum when we go back to see her this weekend, some homemade jam made in grannys jam pan.  Now I've given her many jars in the past but this was to be special, our homegrown fruit and made in Grannys' pan  rather than mine,  and I was slightly worried that I didn't have any good enough fruit left growing on the farm for this extra special order.

When I walked the dogs yesterday we set off in our less usual direction, and after telling you there were barely any blackberries gowing on the bushes round the farm, suddenly they were everywhere, perfectly shaped large blackberries, gloriously ripe and just waiting to be picked especially for Jessie.  I dashed back to the house and got my bowl and chose only the finest, juiciest fruits, the ones that my eyes alighted on first, the bowl filled rapidly and still they were everywhere, but I held firm to my resolve and left lots for the the birds.

After picking some apples from our old apple tree I took my treasures into the house to wash them.

Now I just have to decide which jam pan to use.

There's really no question is there!!

Sue xx 

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Filling the freezer......

Strictly speaking my Challenge is all about emptying the cupboards, fridges and freezers, but at the moment I seem to be putting more in than I'm taking out.  But all the preserving and making isn't costing me a penny and is making the Challenge last even longer, so it's no bad thing really. 

Yesterday I harvested one of the Rhubarb plants and used the five huge Golden Delicious apples that we got from our baby apple tree (it produced seven but Lovely Hubby snaffled the others while he was working on the tractor on a couple of occasions) to make crumbles.

 Now these weren't like the supermarket Golden Delicious, they were very large and very firm, with a lovely sweet yet tangy flavour (I must confess to nibbling rather a lot while I peeled and sliced them yesterday).  So I decided they would be perfect to cook with and a good accomaniament to the Rhubarb.  In total I made nine crumbles, 2 Apple, 2 Apple and Rhubarb and 4 Rhubarb for the freezer and one slightly larger Apple and Rhubarb for last nights supper.

It was large we were so full after eating it we just lay there grinning at each other!!  SO tasty.

The others are all a more manageable two portion size and are now tucked up in the freezer all ready for when a tasty comforting pudding is the order of the day.

Today I will be picking the remaining rhubarb and most likely just briefly blanching it in case we want to use it for another purpose.  Then I have to start on potting up the Strawberries, we have loads of runners off this years plants and I am determined that when we move they will be coming with us, we had a wonderful crop this year and although moving them might make next years a bit sparser it will be well worth it.

Sue xx

Sunday 18 September 2011

Sale Pictures

Well after all Lovely Hubby's hard work of Friday afternoon and evening, I'm pleased to say the sale went really well with all our pigs arks selling to two buyers for well over what we expected.  We knew they would sell because so many folk are keeping pigs at the moment, but we were unsure of what folk would be willing to pay.

Of course a Smallholders Sale is a good place to meet up with old friends of the two and four legged variety, and who should we find in his own pen in the pig section but our lovely Monty.

Monty was our Middle White boar who went to live with new owners at the start of Summer, after proving himself very well and fathering lots of lovely babies with his Welsh Saddleback wives he was ready to be moved on and found himself a good home after the sale.  He's grown up to be a lovely tempered, well built and happy boar, and you can see why he won competitions as a youngster..

There was all sorts of stock for sale, not as many chickens as usual but a good gathering of geese,

a couple of swans and some turkeys and peacocks.

Also very popular in this area of the country are Alpacas, lovely natured animals.

Lovely Hubby's favourite was this one with the rather snazzy hairstyle!

Outside was all the 'deadstock' including our arks and a good selection of chicken houses, accessories and fencing.

Lovely Hubby was rather taken by the goat milking stand (anything for a sit down), which if I had bought the goat I had my eye on would have been very useful.  But we were good and kept our hands firmly in our pockets while all the bidding went on for birds and animals.  We came home with just an old cast iron feeding trough that will look lovely in chicken world when I've cleaned it up and given it a coat of Hammerite.

Today we were at the Farmers Market all morning, sadly very unsupported by the locals and destined to close down again if we can't do something to get more support, and then this afternoon we are having a tidy up session on the farm and giving the grass in and around chicken world a good cut.  So the girls get to have a couple of hours of freedom as we take down their fence so we can strim under it, they can have a good nibble at the veggies and generally having a good tidy up for me around the veggie beds.

This is the time of year to let your chickens roam a bit further afield as they will eat all the bugs and nasties that will be jumping on the last of your veggies.  But before I let them out I'm just off to check the doors to the polytunnel are firmly closed.

Sue xx

Saturday 17 September 2011

Off to the sale.....

Homemade jam with toast, a lovely cup of coffee and then we're off to the sale.

The Smallholders Sale in Thame is on today and yesterday Lovely Hubby worked like a Trojan (did they work hard?)....delivering all five of our pig arks to the sale ground one at a time.  Loading and unloading the heavy great hunks of pig house mostly by himself.

Today he can stand back and see what they sell for, lets hope it was all worth it.

I think I'll take my camera and you can come too!!

Sue xx

Friday 16 September 2011


I'm loving growing my own vegetables, you never know what you're going to find when you pop into the Kitchen Garden to pick tea.  Yesterday I thought I was picking one courgette (yes, it looks like a small Marrow but they've all been growing SO fast this year, I've had no 'normal' sized courgettes, except this one on the side), it turned out it was rather attached to it's little friend.

Siamese courgettes, attached together from birth and each deliciously formed inside apart from a missing bit of skin where they are formed together.

Gorgeous harvests with beautiful colours, when you've got lovely fresh produce like this you don't mind the funny shapes and laughable cartoony type vegetables.

Thank you for all your lovely comments about my post yesterday.  Alan read it out to Jessie while he was with her  (he's been there all week, she's in hospital at the moment having a course of radiotherapy), she gave me her permission to publish it.

For those of you who are new readers to this Blog I give you two links.... first THIS one  and then THIS ONE,  to help explain slightly.  Jessie has done wonderfully since these posts were written back in March, although now she is on lots of pain relilef and the cancer has spread.  The main day to day care and help for Jessie has been Alison, putting her own life on hold while she helps her Mum with so many things, Lovely Hubby has supported his sister and Mum as much as he possibly could considering how far away we are from each other (we're in Oxfordshire, England and they are in Peebles, Scotland), I been there helping him as much as I could in the background and all the while I've been so very conscious of you, my lovely Blogging Buddies being there for me......THANK YOU.

Sue xx

Thursday 15 September 2011


Andrew and Jessie fell in love many, many years ago and because of them I have my Lovely Hubby, Alan, their eldest child.  They went on to have two more children, next came Sandra and then Alison. Sadly Andrew died before I met Alan, so I never met the man that made Jessie so happy.  But he's alive when you're in her house, his photos are there, he's spoken of with love and pride, although the role of man of the house has passed to his son, Andrew's still head of the family in many ways.

Jessie's lived through many changes and trying times, nursing her husband and other relatives.  She's coped with Alan and his sisters all divorcing and getting new partners, but always she's been there for them taking things in her stride and helping them get through the rough times.  There's always fun and laughter in her house even after long and serious discussions.

She was there when we got married, the photo above shows all the guests at our wedding, taken by the registrar.   The shock still evident on the faces of all our parents, they only found out we were getting married 45 minutes before this shot was taken.  If Andrew had been there no doubt he would have called us mad, impetuous fools, before raising a glass and wishing us well.

Here's Jessie making history in Peebles, three generations of Cornets Lass from one family, together this Summer at the Beltane Week celebrations, Jessie, Alison, and this years Cornets Lass Laura, Jessie's grandaughter. 

Happy times. 

I've never really had a mother in law before, my first husband's mum died only months after we got married, so there was never time to really get to know each other properly.  I sometimes feel that I've still not got a mother in law, Jessie is just 'Mum'. 

A very special lady who came into my life relatively recently thanks to Alan, but who feels like she's been there for much longer.   She's a strong woman who's raised her family well, who is always there for them, who leads by example and who loves life to the full and lives it well.  Fiercely independent, proud and stubborn.  She would put anyone she loves before herself and she always sees the best in people until they let her down.  We're alike in so many ways, but then that's to be expected, we both love Alan and he loves us right back.

It's easy to be proud of your children, but sometimes as grown up children ourselves we should take the time to step back and say how proud we are of our parents.  Alan and me are very proud of Jessie , of her resilience and of all the things I've already mentioned here.  I hope she knows this.

We're family....... and sometimes that's all that matters!


Normal farming blogging will resume tomorrow - today I just wanted to say

 Jessie Hall, I love you lots, thank you for being the woman you are and thank you for giving me the love of my life.  I will care for him always and love him forever.

I love you, perhaps more than I've ever told you.......but I think you've guessed that !

Sue xx  

Thrifty Thursday

Take a tub, an ice cream tub, a margarine tub any plastic tub will do, best with straight sides though.  Use it for freezer storage,  fill with soups, stews, curries, blanched vegetables and delicate items pasties, pies etc.  They stack well and, providing you label them on the top and the front, you can find what you're looking for in seconds.  If you don't have enough tubs stand a plastic freezer bag inside your tub and then fill it, once the contents are frozen you can take out the bag and it will be tub shaped and you can stack that and re-use your tub over and over.  A full freezer uses less electricity to keep its contents frozen and frozen rectangles fill the space well, with less little pockets of air that could get warmer.

If you have too many tubs......

... cut the straight flat section out of the lid, and then cut each side section into a flat rectangle.

Then cut each rectangle into strips and you have plant labels, lots of lovely plant labels all ready for next Spring when you sow your seeds.  You can write on them with permanent marker and re-use over and over again by cleaning this off with a little meths on a cloth.

Better to do this than send to landfill where they will sit for years not rotting away.

A big bundle of labels from one icrecream tub.  I get about 25 from each tub, but you could make them narrower and gets lots more.

You could also make shaped large plant labels to go at the end of rows in your veggie beds, but this way you get less plant labels from one tub, the choice is yours.  But in my mind a nice looking veggie bed makes you want to work it more and look after it better, so treat yourself to big, decorated labels if that's what you want, after all they cost you nothing but five minutes of your time.


Icre cube trays are brilliant for freezing small quantities of foods, here I'm about to freeze the Basil Pesto, I made a while ago.   After a week or so in the fridge, we hadn't eaten it all so I decided to freeze what was left so it would last us through the Winter.  The jar behind is a fresh batch, I was determined not to waste any of my lovely Basil plant that was starting to look worse for wear, so I made some more.

Once frozen tip the contents into a tub, label it well and stack it in the freezer.  These little cubes will keep us going for ages, because they are small they thaw quickly and are each approximately a heaped teaspoonful, so you can dot them over pizzas, quiches etc and have little puddles of lovely Pesto exactly where you want them in your finished dish.

You can use the 'ice cube' method of freezing for all sorts of things, another one is to buy the tins of tomato puree, much cheaper than the tubes, and then once opened put the remainder of your tin into ice cubes trays and freeze, each time a recipe calls for a teaspoonful of puree, simply pop in a cube.  Your herbs can also be frozen this way, preserved chopped in a little water or oil ready for use all through the Winter when your plants have died off.

Pop a raspberry, blueberry or slice of strawberry into an ice cube tray and top up with water, these look gorgeous floating in your glass of chilled water or wine and add a special touch to party drinks.

If you don't have an ice cube tray don't rush out and buy one, first have a think, in the past I've used the plastic liners from boxes of chocolates, the plastic trays that divide piles of biscuits (these make BIG ice 'cubes' but as long as they fit in your jug or hold the amounts you want frozen for your other things does it matter?).  Ice 'cubes' don't have to be cubed  shape!!

So start saving your tubs, before you throw anything in the bin ask yourself, 'What could I do with this?  There's usually something.  You paid for the product inside it AND you paid for the tub/packet/bag, if it goes in the bin your throwing away some of your money...

....THINK before you throw money away!!

Sue xx