Monday 31 October 2011

Still Harvesting

Amazingly we are still harvesting lots of lovely foods to eat both from the Kitchen Garden -  Marrows (well they should be courgettes but they just grew and grew),  Spinach Beet, Kohl Rabi, Cabbage, Leeks, Carrots and this weekend I got the last cucumber and from the poly tunnel Radish, Lettuce, Spring Onion, Carrots, Beetroot and Aubergines, so no chance of us going hungry in the near future.

The Pumpkins are all safely stored in the spare bedroom, proper 'Good Life' fashion with the Marrows all joining them today.  The harvested onions are hanging strung up in the utility room and we have just one bulb of our Elelphant Garlic left, it was just so yummy we used it all up.

Of course all this lovely home grown food means that the How Low Can You Go Challenge is going to run for quite a while, stocks just never seem to go down in the cupboards as with all the preserving I'm doing as soon as I make space I fill it up again with jars of jams and sauces.  The same is true in the freezers, the space we have made is rapidly being filled with tubs of homemade soups and stews all made with the bounty of the Kitchen Garden.

Not that I'm complaining of course!!

Sue xx

Friday 28 October 2011

Simple things.....

Simple things......are making me happy at the moment.

The bright jewel colour of the Damson Gin with the autumn sun shining through the bottle, now safely stored in a dark cupboard to mature nicely to be our Christmas tipple.  The lovely pale pink flowers on the Christmas Cacti getting more prolific every day.

Knowing we have four bottles of the wonderful stuff.

Last weeks mini harvest of potatoes, I had no choice ..... Rosy (the Jack Russell) decided these 'balls' were for playing with and dug up all the ones she could see peeping through the soil, still it saved me quite a bit of hard work, and that makes me very happy!   I will have to dig up all the rest this weekend before they rot in the soil.

Of course I had to sample one for lunch, I now cook my jacket potatoes the 'Jamie Oliver way'.  I saw him do it on '30 Minute Meals' and I've done it this way ever since.

Simply prick your potatoes a couple of times place them in a bowl, cover it with cling film and then pierce this in a few places, pop in the microwave for approx 5 mins per potato.  When they are feeling almost soft place them in an oven proof dish, glug over some olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Just 10 minutes or so in a moderately hot oven makes them absolutely delicious.

I had mine with a bit of salad and mayo.....yummy!!

Simple things = happy me.

Sue xx

Thursday 27 October 2011

Snacking on the windfalls.......

See this Poppy it's a windfall....really yummy....

... come over Daisy and have a look it's an apple. You have to peck, peck, peck really fast to eat lots of it before the big girls spot you have it and come and pinch it off you.

What was that noise.....

..I'll rush off and investigate.....

... oops, what was it Mum said about eating it before the big girls come....must get back.

I don't know where Daisy and Mum have gone but I'll guard this yummy thing til they get back.

What did Mum say.....peck, peck peck.

Crikes I'm still on my own!!

Happy little Pekins, with lots of snacks to search for.

All's well in Chicken World.

Sue xx

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Not for the squeamish...or the vegan....or the vegetarian.....

The things I do for love.......

The other day Lovely Hubby came down from the spare room (where the large freezer is kept) clasping to his manly chest a pack of thick cut pork chops (RIP Bruiser) and a pack of lamb kidneys.  How do we have lamb kidneys I hear you ask, where have we been hiding the flock of sheep on the farm, well we haven't, but somehow when our pork came back from the butchers we had acquired two trays of lamb products, I only hope the smallholders that sent their lamb carcasses to be butchered enjoyed their surprise trays of pork chops and sausages!!

Can I have this for tea tomorrow he beseeched with his lovely blue eyes looking pleadingly into mine.  No problem I the time!!

Now before I became a fully fledged vegetarian (only in January of this year), I struggled with things that looked like animals or parts of animals. I was one of those dreadful people who could eat the Chicken Kiev, chomp on the fish finger, even eat the prettily shaped lying on it's tray chicken breast, but could I handle a chop, remove giblets, be-head a fish........noooo !!

And now I was faced with this, admittedly beautiful specimen, of a lambs kidney, I pushed aside all thoughts of the job it used to do inside Larry, I mean the unnamed baby sheep that lived it's short life gambolling about someone elses farm ( oh I do hope it was happy life).

The chops were no problem I just lobbed them into the pan, but the kidneys had white stuff on them which I knew from watching carnivorous Hugh FW ( yes I know he's pretending to be all veggie at the moment but he has a book to sell you know! ). So I gritted my teeth, poked and prodded and got it off, chucking the offending kidneys quickly into the pan to join their friends the chops.

After scrubbing my hands under hot (very hot) water for a few minutes and washing all the utensils that had come into contact with the yuckiness I had just lived through, I had to think of what to do next.

I know I thought I'll cover them up with Bisto......Arrgh Bisto or something like that!!  I honestly thought this would make a strange flavour combination, pork chops, lambs kidneys and the almost beefy taste of Bisto, and this would mean I would never have to cook meat again ....... but LH absolutely loved it. I served it with homegrown sweetcorn dripping with butter.  (If anyone's interested I had Quorn mince with peas and rice.)

The next night I spruced up his leftovers with some homegrown potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn and peas and he declared it yet another success.  Oh well I guess I'll have to carry on cooking with dead stuff then.....oops....I mean meat!! it's  'aah! Bisto'

Did you know Bisto for all it's meaty tastiness is actually suitable for vegetarians, nope, neither did I until I read someones Blog a few weeks ago, I double checked the pack and I was so pleased, for although it has rather a long list of ingredients, most of them are recognisable and it can be a useful standby to have in your store cupboard.


Bisto have not paid me to promote their product......although if they sent me some free samples I'm sure I could think of a few other more veggie friendly uses for the stuff lovely product, instead of just covering up yucky bits of animals.

And on a completely different note - here is Little Lucy with her babies, now named Daisy and Poppy.   Thank you to Iris and Fern for choosing such pretty names for our newest Lavender Pekin Bantam chicks

Sue xx

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Beauty in the ruggedness......

There's a rugged beauty all over the farm at the moment. 

To really appreciate it you have to look past any sense of neatness and orderliness your mind expects, not for a farm the polished surfaces and dust free zones of town living.  You can't sweep out the spiders and flys and not expect 10 more to take their place almost immediately.  Nature is  telling her little creatures to find warmth to tuck themselves in for the long Winter ahead (sorry Mum and Dad you really experienced this for the first time this year).

Under every building and shed, even the old cart there are rustling heard and excavations appearing as the wildlife make winter retreats and builds up their foodstores, just like us.  The bleakness of the harrowed field with the motorway in the distance, the wind sweeping across the flat brings home to me on the doggy walks that it's time for extra jumpers for log fires and warming foods.

The dogs sniff around the stone pile, no doubt some little creature is tucked up warm in the middle safe from their prying noses.

 Once home I reach for a warmth that will last us all Winter, and put to dry in the bottom oven of the Aga a tray of our wonderful fiery chillis. They're not hot as some might consider hot, I admit to being a bit of a 'wuss' when it comes to chillis, but they add a fiery bite to many a stew, roast or curry.

Although they lose their brilliant fiery colour in the drying they retain their heat, and in the middle of Winter that will be very much appreciated.

How are you preparing for Winter?

Sue xx

Monday 24 October 2011

This morning.......

This morning the sun rose slowly over the farm, casting an eerie pink light over everything.

Chicken World seemed strange in this pinkish light, a couple of quiet 'cock a doodle doos' signalled that they were ready to start the day.

As usual I let the four boys out first, they still live in the Eglu as I don't want any fights with top cockerel Caldwell.   They rush to the feeders, with many a minor skirmish as they set themselves up for the day.  'Junior' is head cockerel of this little group and looks exactly like his Dad.

Next I let out all the rest of the chickens, Caldwell and the girl Lavender Pekin Bantams now all live in the big henhouses with the Layers.  This has been done in time for Winter so that they can all enjoy the body heat of the others and keep warmer as the temperatures start dipping at night.

The Hylines rush to check out my boots as usual before I go over to clean out the houses.

Once the papers have been lifted the girls start coming back into the houses to find their place in the nesting boxes.

My reward.

Little Lucy takes her chicks straight to their old Broody house to make sure they get their fill of Chick Crumb, once they have had their breakfast I close the door to it, to protect the food from the big girls.

Then they spend a happy five minutes playing around (see the little film below) .....

... before cuddling up together for a warm in the old crate. 

She is being a brilliant Mum and constantly 'talks' to her babies, and they to her, so they always know they are close.  She rushes to their aid if the big girls turn nasty and always makes sure they have enough food, water and warmth, if for any reason she is seperated from them Caldwell dashes over and stands guard until she returns.  A lovely little family unit.

Now the pinkish tinge has left the farm and the sun is shining brightly,  the wind is blowing coldly from the east but I don't have to worry, today is an indoor job day with hoovering to be done and the carpets to be cleaned......oooh.....lucky me!!

A special message for Fern and Iris.....  do you think you could think of two names for the 2 little chicks they are both 8 weeks old, although one of them is smaller as she hatched out of her egg 3 days later than her sister.  Thank you.

Sue xx

Sunday 23 October 2011

Scone Mix

After yesterdays post there was lots of emails as well as the comments on the Blog about how I make MY mix of Scone mix when I'm not using the Approved Foods big bag that I recently acquired.  Well the recipe is simple, one I learnt at school when there used to be 'Domestic Science' lessons, when children used to be taught how to cook and not just the science behind manufactured foods that my poor sons had to sit through when it was their turn to go through the education system (sorry jumping off my soap box now...).  I've used it all my life and it usually works.

8oz/225g SR Flour
pinch of salt
2oz/50g butter/margerine
1oz/25g caster sugar

Simply rub in the butter/margerine into the flour/salt until it looks like breadcrumbs and then stir in the sugar.  Pour in enough milk/buttermilk or similar to make it into a reasonably firm dough and either roll out briefly or just pat into shape. 

A way of making this even cheaper is to add a tablespoon of dried milk powder to the dry mix and then you can make your scones up with water instead of milk.

The less you handle this mix the better your scones will rise.  Never twist your cutters if using them to make round scones or that will make them rise unevenly. When I'm in a rush I simply make it into a large circle with my hands and then cut this into four.

When we had visitors recently picking up some of our pig arcs, the young boys that came with their Dad had a quarter of one of my 'circles' each and went home to their Mum raving about 'the pig ladys giant scones', she emailed me for details and now they are very happy little boys!!

Of course I usually make much bigger quantities than this at one sitting, whizzing it all together in my food processer and then put the tub full of dry mix straight into the freezer, this way you can make a batch of scones or a pizza base at the drop of a hat.  It is also an ideal way of using up butter/margerine that is nearing (or past) it's use by date.  Once frozen you can keep it indefinitely, if you think you may have trouble getting a rise add a teaspoonful of baking powder to the mix before you pour in the milk.

Of course you don't have to use it for Scones, use it for crumble topping, simply add some oats and maybe some extra brown sugar.

Or use your basic scone mix to make a pizza base...

...or two... if you fancy different toppings.

Make mini Scones to pop on top of casseroles instead of dumplings, they taste delicious and the bottoms absorb some of the gravy in a very yummy way.

Vary your flavours too, either add some grated cheese, or herbs, or fruit for sweet scones just into your basic dry mix before adding the water or milk.

As usual my most important instructions are play with your food, have fun and enjoy!!

Sue xx

Saturday 22 October 2011

Picking up the pieces/Cheats Crumble Mix

We're picking up the pieces of life on the farm, Lovely Hubby is out 'tinkering' with his tractor (assembling from scratch a front loader actually, but I call it tinkering.... much to his, I have been going through the fridges and seeing what foodstuffs we still have to use up as part of our 'How Low Can You Go' Challenge.

Lurking in the salad drawer of the fridge were some very sad looking pears and apples, all wrinkly and tactile, at first I thought of  just chucking them to the chickens, but they have all the windfalls from the old apple tree to eat and I decided that I would use these wrinkly specimens for us.

Still being quite poorly and not in the mood for much time in the kitchen I decided against a pie so I made up a batch of 'Cheats Crumble Mix'.  Simply lots of scoops of Approved Foods 'Scone Mix' (it was just £1.49 for that HUGE bag), some brown sugar and some mixed oats thrown in for added texture, all mixed together in a tub, which can go in the freezer so I always have crumble mix to hand.

The apples and pears were peeled, refreshed in some cold water and then thinly sliced and layered in my litle enamel baking dish, with crumble mix spooned thickly over the top and then popped in the oven for just 20 minutes, it was a lovely warming pudding last night while we tucked ourselves up in front of the tv with a roaring log fire to keep away the cold October night.  The icecream that melted creamily in the apples really was the 'icing on the cake'.

How are you keeping warm on these suddenly chilly nights.

Sue xx

Thursday 20 October 2011

Home Together

The sun rises over the farm for another day. 

A day of promise and fresh chilled air, a day for walking the dogs and breathing in the smell that is the beginning of Winter here on the farm.   Damp wood, frosty grass, wet straw, the scents fill our nostrils and the sounds of the farm ground us.  The dogs run ahead barking with each new joyous discovery in the undergrowth, the chickens going about their business in Chicken World, fill the air with the sound of their crowing and chunnering.  We look into each others eyes and know we are home.

Together, stronger in our love for each other after each pain filled day we have been through. Even more secure in the knowledge of our ability to each lean on the other whenever it has been needed and thankful for the family, friends and Blogging chums that have helped us each step of the way. I don't need to name you, you know who you are. 

We are home together, and the world will slowly start to revolve in the familiar pattern that is our life, there will always be a void but together we have the love that will fill the gap and keep Jessie safe in our hearts forever.

Jessie's Christmas Cactus
 that burst into flower on the day of her death and now lives with us.

Sue xx

Saturday 15 October 2011


Jessie Hall 

 23.12.1929 - 12.10.2011

Jessie died peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her children and grandchildren.  She is now re-united with her beloved husband Andrew. 

Together again.

Thank you for all your prayers, messages and comments, they have really helped at this sad, sad time.

Sue xx

Sunday 9 October 2011

A Blogging Break

It's time for me to take a blogging break.  I am heading up to Scotland first thing in the morning to be with my Lovely Hubby and our family.  The farm is being left in caring, capable hands but it doesn't stop Sophie from missing her Dad, both dogs are on edge, knowing the mood of the farm isn't right, but not knowing why.

There is a sadness in the air that will be with us for a while.  All we can do is huddle close and ride this storm together. 

Thank you for reading, I will be back as soon as I can.

Sue xx

Saturday 8 October 2011

Blogging Buddies

As mentioned last week I have decided to occasionally highlight some of my favourite blogs, and here is the first.

Of course I had to kick off this new idea with Shaheens' blog....... I love it!!  She has given me more recipes and solved so many of my 'what can we have for tea' moments.  Everything I've tried up to now has been a success and so very very tasty.

She started her Blog when she had an allotment and it followed the day to day work and harvesting and then eating of the veggies she grew, then disaster struck and after a fire she continued to grow in her tiny back garden.  How she finds so much time to cook all these wonderful things I'll never know.  I'm in complete awe of her wonderful knowledge of vegetarian foods.

Carrot, Puy Lentils and Parsley Flan

My favourite recipe is this one I got from Shaheen.  She has hundreds of accessible recipes, just type your preferred main ingredient into her little 'search' box on the sidebar and you will have lots of yummy dishes to choose from.

Pop by and pay her a visit, you'll not be disappointed, I know I never am.

Sue xx


Ooops...what else can I say.

That gorgeous sauce I spent all day slow roasting, tasted divine, smelled divine but ended up all over the worktop as the bottom literally fell out of my liquidiser attachment on the mixer.

Never mind oops.....if you have a your bottom!!

Sue xx

Friday 7 October 2011

The Last Strawberries of Summer......

The last strawberries of Summer......that's what we thought on Tuesday when we shared these as a little treat fresh from the polytunnel, but when I went in there this morning to gather some salady bits for my lunch there they were..... four more .... already turning red and looking like we will have some more in a couple of days.  I shall have to think of a suitable dessert that they can grace.

Also picked from the polytunnel on Tuesday were the last of the Chillis and Peppers with a few Aubergines and Tomatoes.

Some Chillis were popped in the bottom oven of the Aga for the day to dry out slowly and are now residing in a jar ready to be used in recipes through the Winter.

The rest have been added to this little hotch potch of ingredients all now cooking away in the Aga to make a rich and concentrated tomato/pepper/chilli/marrow/onion/tomato puree/garlic sauce, now I'll never fit all that on the label when I put it in the jars later!!

These herbs have just been added, Rosemary and Thyme.  I always start my sauces in the top oven, the hottest one, this gives everything a quick blast of heat and starts the flavour mingling and the juices flowing, then I add the herbs and give everything a really good stir to mingle the flavours and then let the heat of the bottom oven, which is much milder, nurture and bring out the flavours for a good few hours.

The 'How Low Can You Go Challenge' is starting to make life interesting now.  In the dish above I had to use garlic from a jar Very Lazy Garlic something I've never used before, so we'll see what happens with the flavour when it comes out of the oven later.  As it is, after moving the dish between ovens the house smells absolutely divine, very garlicky and fresh smelling.

The cupboards are slow to empty because at the moment we are still eating predominately from the Kitchen Garden and using up all the fresh stuff, but the Challenge is just starting to kick in.  I'm amazed at the number of you who are popping by the How Low Can You Go Diary blog to have a peek at what we're chomping threw on a day to day basis.  You're very welcome but I hope you don't find it too boring, yes I DO have the same breakfast nearly every day!!  Spending is being kept to an absolute minimum, but it feels like as soon as I make space in the freezer it is being filled with home grown and homemade foods that I am harvesting for Winter, so gaps are not really appearing as fast as I thought they would.  This is the reason I have not bothered to photograph the cupboards or freezers for a comparison shot yet, it would be too much like a very difficult 'spot the difference' game!

What we have already learnt from this Challenge is how simply we like to eat, and that bodes well for next years main Challenge which will be revealed on the 1st there's a teaser for you...haha !!

Sue xx