Wednesday 30 November 2011


Presents.......this is the time of year men HATE, they have no time, no imagination, no idea of what we really want.  We all think we are easy to buy for, surprise me we say.  The two little words men hate most 'surprise me'.

My ex-hubby got it drasically wrong one year, he 'surprised me' with an ironing board, it wouldn't have been so bad (I suppose I did need one), but he had hyped the 'BIG' present up so much and forbade me to enter the shed for weeks, I was in a state of frantic anticipation by the big day.  My face must have been a picture!!

Lovely Hubby panics EVERY year, he knows NOT to buy me an ironing, but he is time short, he works long hours at his 'proper ' job, most other time is spent together.  I try to help, I talk loud and clear about my 'must haves' point to pictures in magazines when we're sat reading together, leave them opened at pages with my ideal gift on, he plonks a copy of Farmers Weekly on top and there goes that subtle hint, lost in a stack of farming implements!!

Well lets see if he reads my Blog this week before he shoots off on his Christmas shopping expedition.... I need....and I want.....warm, cosy gloves.   My little fingers are tingling with the cold after my doggy walk this morning, when I get my main present later this week, sometimes it will need cuddling while we are out, so my hands will not be able to be thrust deep in my pockets.

I want some warm, woolly girly gloves, (a matching scarf would also be really appreciated), I know it won't necessarily be a complete surprise, but the colour and design are all up to you.

Go on ......... SURPRISE ME !!

(What would you LOVE for Christmas or what was your worst ever pressie?)

Sue xx

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Blogging Buddies

Outside the wind is blowing, the rain is hitting the windows as though it wants to come in and join us, it's pitch black and it's 7.45, so what's a girl to do. The chickens don't want to get up yet......would you in these conditions?  So I think its time for another in my all too infrequent series of Blogging  Buddies

And who am I sitting in the spotlight today ..... why the lovely, the irrepressible Penny, from The Henhouse fame.

The reason for the name of the Blog....why she used to have chickens of course, they've all gone now, but they very kindly left behind their house for us Bloggers to go over and have coffee in and we do regularly, sometimes there's even the odd virtual dinner party, you just grab your bottle, your film star of choice and settle in at the Henhouse for a bit of a laugh.

She calls herself a Bad Penny....but in my opinion she's a brilliant Penny, hers is the Blog to go to with a cup of coffee in your hand (please have a cloth of some description in the other just in case you splutter the coffee over your keyboard, you never know what she will be Blogging about), to sit and read, to join in with the questions, to marvel at her dog....who would want to swim in the icy cold water at this time of year....why Dillon of course!  To envy next month as she jets off to Antigua.

So dash over there now before she vanishes to join the rest of her family for her lovely Christmas treat.

Penny's The Henhouse my Blogging buddy of the week/month ,,,,,,,whatever!!

Sue xx

Monday 28 November 2011

One Legged Chickens

We've woken up this morning to our first really hard frost here on the farm. 

The chickens are not amused, they poured out of their nice warm henhouses, to a white frosty world, where the ground was hard and horribly cold.  After feeding and having a run round and generally a good complain to each other, they are stood around like well feathered flamingos.  After all why get two feet cold when you can stand on just one!!

An occasional forray to the food hopper means you have to use both for a while ....

.... but you can always dash back to the nice clean, warm house and thaw one of them out again.

And when Mum brings you more warm water ........ why wait for it to be poured into the drinkers, simply drink straight from the bucket and warm your little tummy....... maybe a teabag would make it even better!!

Hope your day if not warmer, is a least as cosy as you can make it.

Sue xx

Friday 25 November 2011

The day started dull.......

The day started dull as I walked the dogs down the track towards our landlords house, (about a mile away, he's our nearest neighbour), as we turned round at his barn and walked back ...

.... towards our neighbours on the opposite side of the farm (about 3 miles away) the sun came out, slowly and shyly at first, then bright and cheerful filling the sky with promise.  The planes crissed crossed in the sky breaking the perfect pale blue with their white tail streams, making dancing patterns that are wonderful to watch as they slowly disperse.

The Red Kites whooshed and dived for prey we couldn't see, and the birds in the fields took flight with the hollow flapping of Pheasant wings.  A lone Roe deer on the horizon ran to join her friends and the dogs gave half hearted chase, knowing full well they had never caught one yet and probably never would.  Returning to me with grins on their faces and tongues lolling out of steaming mouths they resumed snuffling in the ditches and bushes for any rabbit that had dared stay out too long.

With the sun in our eyes we walked the fields, setting ourselves up for a busy day.  I am driving to Manchester to spend a day or two with my folks and meeting up with my sons there today for an all too brief catch up on news, the dogs.....well they have dreaming to do, re-living their adventures this morning and gathering energy for their magnificent welcome for Dad when he comes home from work early to let them back into their great outdoors.

Somedays are just good, and some days are even better.  Enjoy yours whatever you are doing, take time to sit and stare, to sit and think ... to just be, and if the sun is shining on you, go out and enjoy it or simply fling open the windows and let it in to see you.

Sue xx

Thursday 24 November 2011

Christmas Tips and Ideas from the Top Tip Team - 1

It's Thursday and time to link over to Angela at Tracing Rainbows for the Christmas Tips and Ideas from the Top Tip Team - Week One.

£21.50 to spend in Tesco (I'll not convert these, just use them for foody treats)

My very first tip for Christmas - don't spend a fortune!!  Well not in cash anyway...

£7.25 to spend in the Garden Centre (more food or maybe a nice Christmassy plant for the house)

Christmas should be a time for family, for friends, time to be together, time to relax.  We've all had a tough year one way and another, why finish on a manic rush around, spend far too much money, and feel guilty for the start of the New Year.  Why dread those credit card bills falling through the letter box in January and start our next year on a bad foot.

£15 in M&S - possibly food (always a tin of Shortbread - we collect the Scottish scene tins)

You can see from these pictures what I decided to do,.....when did I plan this.... only last month when my M&S vouchers landed through the door, I went to put them in my purse and discovered I hadn't spent the last quarters yet.  So I decided to see what else came my way before the start of December and use whatever it was to finance treats for Christmas.  Just think if I'd started at the beginning of the year how much I would have had.

£11.63 inAsda vouchers off 2 x £40 shops. (Yes - I went round twice when I used them at the start of the week!)

 I stocked up on pet foods and cleaning products ready for our move and used these vouchers, included in my shop was our alcohol supply for Christmas and some chocolates and nuts, bought while they were on offer, no doubt they will shoot up in price nearer to Christmas.

As well as all my vouchers I also amass points on these throughout the year.  As we spent the Nectar points to buy food for our holiday in May this is a lot lower than usual, but just as welcome, so I have invisible money to spend in these two shops.  There's £19.47 on the Boots card, I usually wait for their 'buy 2 get one free offer' to start and make my points go even further on treats for us and £13.02 on the Nectar card which I will use for a bit of useful stockpiling in Sainsburys.

So all in all a good way to spread a bit of invisible 'saving' over the course of the year and something I will definitely be doing ALL next year, as this is the last time we are having a bit of a splurge, we are tightening our belts next year and beginning our quest to save for our 'forever home' once we have moved so all the vouchers will be even more welcome for Christmas 2012..... gosh for once I really am thinking ahead!!

And finally.....

This year, as I  just said, for the very last time we are having gigantic splurge, something no voucher would have paid for.  Lovely Hubby has a top of the range Air Rifle and all it's accessories, ready for his foray into self sufficiency (I call it murder, he calls it filling the freezer!).  He wants  to be self sufficient in things like rabbit, pigeon etc once we start living extremely frugally next year, so an expensive but useful acquisition.  Me......well I'm getting something that is not really useful, not really terribly practical but something I have wanted for years and years and years......we pick her up next week.....I'll introduce you then!!

Sue xxx

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Making Space

As mentioned over here yesterday, I wanted to make space in my freezer by using up the bits and pieces in lots of tubs that were in there.  So using a dish of mashed potato leftover from the other night, when we had Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy, as my starting point, I dug out some of the half empty tubs.

As you may be able to make out I had breadcrumbs, veggie Parmesan and chopped chives, so as I had a tin of Salmon in the cupboard it could be only one thing really.

Luxuriously chunky fish cakes and as I had some veggie fishcakes in freezer a well, it meant we could have the same tea.  We had them with some homemade potato wedges and mayonnaise and they were delicious.

Of course because I had made so many out of my mix it does mean that a box had to go back in the freezer with some fishcakes in, all ready for a quick lunch or supper another day.  So some space made but not a lot.

Today I am making up a large batch of this dried Soup Mix, soaked overnight (you don't have to do this with just the pack but I have added extra dried ingredients into the mix) and then tipped into a pan with stock and any bits and pieces of vegetables I have either in the Kitchen Garden or lurking in the bottom of the fridge, this will make us about eight huge bowls of super healthy soup and at the knock down price of just 25p a bag you can't really go wrong with that can you!!

I bought it from here and my new order arrived yesterday....brilliant as usual.  Some folk complain about the postage saying it wipes out any savings but when you work out how much you have saved in total it's really not worth worrying about.  My order RRP was £104.89, my goods came to £36.10 and the postage was only £4.85, so I saved £68.79 on the groceries......... not to be sniffed at!

Sue xx

Tuesday 22 November 2011

A Brief Glance Back

Sometimes all you need is a brief glance back to tell you that everything is going to be alright.  So I did just that, picked a couple of photos from each of the Novembers we have been here and had a happy few minutes being reminded of some wonderful achievements.

Above my first ever Melon, grown in the polytunnel and harvested November 2009.....all right I know it fits in an egg cup....but it was my first ever one!!

Making our own pasta sauces and baking bread again November 2009.

Our first ever chicks hatched on the farm November 2010, gorgeous little Lavender Pekin Bantams.

Frost on the ground last year in mid November, no frosty days here yet this year, but seeing the heavy morning mists of the last couple of days I think they are on their way.

Happy family day celebrating Jason's Masters Degree in November last year.

And today........I'm in the process of dismantling all the beds in the polytunnel, ready for our next adventure.

 Sometimes a brief glance back tells you the future will be good .....because the past was..... and life is what you make it.

Sue xx

Monday 21 November 2011

Moving on, using up, making money......

A lovely basket of Hyacinths bought at Sundays Farmers Market.

This Sunday saw me bright and early at the Farmers Market, after this one I have only two Farmers Markets and two Craft Fairs left, then I am hanging up my retail hat to concentrate on our forthcoming move and setting up our new small holding.

We went to view our new property for a second time on Sunday afternoon and talked everything we were planning through with our prospective new landlords.  Luckily all the plans are gelling so well,  they are happy with what we want to do and that we can look after their two lovely cats while they are abroad for three years, and we are thrilled with the little bungalow and the four acres of land that we will have available to us.

In the meantime I have lots of stock to sell off to make moving house a little easier, and this time of year is the perfect time to let my loyal customers have some good bargains.....just in time for Christmas.  These soaps are about to be gift packaged, now I just have to get my thinking head on and figure out how I am going to do this.

The sort of stock I have, if not sold will be useful for us to keep anyway, candles, soaps and cards always come in handy, and our next few years of living frugally while we attempt to save super quick to buy our forever home is a good time to have a little stash in the cupboard.

I'm off to play in my little workroom to see what I can make out of what I have left.

Sue xx

Saturday 19 November 2011

Who knew......

Who knew....that chopping wood could give you a piece of art?

After successfully chopping almost enough wood for last nights fire, I slammed my axe with all my new found wood chopping confidence into the last log to be chopped.........

..... and there it stayed!!

Lovely Hubby managed after much huffing and puffing (and laughing at me) to free his axe from it's new found siamese twin. 

He was mightily impressed with the artwork......briefly, if he had left it complete who knows maybe the Tate Modern would have been in touch!!

Sue xx

Thursday 17 November 2011

Thrifty Thursday

We're still deep into our How Low Can You Go Challenge and this month the emphasis is on emptying the large chest freezer.  To do this I am really emptying all the freezers of some of their stores so that all the remaining food will fit in the smaller freezer in the kitchen.  Then we will be turning off and defrosting the large one ready for moving in the New Year, saving us electricity as well.

Last nights tea was a couple of yummy pies each, with some of the last homegrown carrots tossed in butter with Pine Nuts, not the pies shown above, but very similar, made with a pack of Filo pastry found lurking deep at the back of the freezer, luckily there were two packs because the pies turned out really nice and we want to repeat it.  Lovely Hubby wants to sample the pies that I made for myself as he said they smelled delicious.  I had Cheese and Spring Onion and he had Steak, Mushroom and Cous Cous in Gravy.  Truly a meal made from leftovers.

And this is the first Thrifty Thursday tip .....  if you have any assorted leftovers put them in a pie or pasty and turn them into a feast, if they are dry leftovers make up a bit of instant gravy, onion gravy works with anything and is completely vegetarian.

My second tip is to make good use of your ice cube trays, although I am emptying the big freezer I will continue to use the smaller ones to help me save money and by using the very last of every bit of food we have I can do this.  This was a rather nice bottle of wine that LH was drinking, being a good boy (!!) he decided that he didn't want every last bit so I decanted the final glassful into an ice cube tray and once frozen the cubes were popped in a re-cycled butter tub.  Next time I am making a stew or casserole I can use one or two cubes to add an extra depth of flavour.

I also have cubes of Pesto still in the freezer, both Red and Green, made from our lovely Basil and Garlic grown here on the farm.  I use them whenever we are having a Pasta Bake.  A couple of cubes dotted straight from the freezer onto the bake before it gets popped into the oven adds a gorgeous fresh flavour.  Of course I could also simply thaw a couple of cubes out and simply stir it through hot pasta, with a sprinkle of fresh Parmesan style cheese on top you would have a supper fit for a king.

My last tip for this week is so simple, but when you actually sit down and work out how much it saves you, you would be amazed.  Save every useful bottle and jar you get to use for your own sauces, jams and chutneys.

At this time of year if you have pretty jars you can give them filled with your culinary or other creations as gifts.  If the jar is a bit bog standard pretty it up with a fabric top or simply a pretty ribbon with a handmade tag for a label.

Mayonnaise anyone?

If you don't want the recipient to know you are using old mayo jars simply give the jar top a quick rub down with sandpaper or wirewool and give it a coat of emulsion paint.   Match Pots are brilliant for this and can usually be obtained really cheaply from the bargain shelves at the DIY stores.

A few ideas that I use on a regular basis ......... I've missed Thrifty Thursdays ....... have you?

Sue xx

Wednesday 16 November 2011

A work in progress.......

A work in progress is what Lovely Hubby calls his tractor.  He's worked so hard on it over the course of the Summer, now the colder weather is here he is mostly on the re-assembly side of things.

It's an old John Deere 3130, and LH is slowly acquiring lots of attachments for it.  The one that's taking up all his time at the moment is a large front loader assembly, this will mean the tractor can be used like a fork lift truck or a digger type buckety thing....there you knew I was all technically minded didn't you!

I have to admit I'm quite impressed, when all 'the bits' arrived they looked like the picture above, all rusty and orange with bits sticking out here there and everywhere that had been welded on by the previous owner and meant it couldn't possibly just go straight onto our tractor.  Now all the right bits are mostly green and shiny and gradually are being attached to the tractor.  The hydraulics were all sent away to be stripped and overhauled and are now back and waiting in the barn to be attached so they can make things work as they should.

This is the Topper, used a lot during the Summer to keep the grass in the fields suitably short for the animals and it also kept our roadside verges nice and neat.

This was last years renovation project, an ancient plough brought back to life with lots of love, care, grease and paint.  It did a great job of ploughing our paddock.

Man and mechanical beast in action.

It's nice to see my man enjoying his hobby........but it'll be even nicer when all this is over and I get to use my kitchen table again !

Sue xx

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Keeping the home fires burning........

Keeping the homes fires burning and the house nice and cosy is a priority at this time of year.  Although this year with this unseasonally warm weather we are only have 3 or 4 fires a week at the moment.

We have central heating but we keep the thermostat down at around 15-16 degrees, if it gets cold in the house it will fire up and bring the house back to this temperature, but it is so much cheaper to chop all the free wood we have all around the farm and use that to warm the house in the colder evenings than to turn the thermostat up and have the radiators glowing hot.  Even the radiators have their own thermostats so we have them set to have more heat in our bedroom and the living room, all the other rooms have them set low just to take the chill off the air and keep the room at a neutral temperature. 

Lovely Hubby went out with his chainsaw last week, and with our landlords permission, cut up some trees that had been felled earlier this year (they were diseased we found out, at first I was horrified to see the tree massacre going on).

We now have stacks and stacks of wood in the barn, drying nicely.

Some already chopped smaller to dry out quickly ....

.... and some still in big chunky logs that we thought might be easier to move with if we can find somewhere to rent soon.

We have a big builders bag full of ready cut kindling, that kept LH busy for hours chopping patiently away at pallet wood.  The bag at the back is full of logs from last year which have dried out wonderfully, I get a few out each day and have finally mastered the art of splitting them.  It's good exercise as I have to retrieve lots of logs that shoot off in all directions.  The old saying is definitely true that wood warms you three times, the gathering, the chopping and the burning.  Although the dogs think it's very unfair that Mum comes back from doggy walks with lots of sticks that she just won't throw!!

We have been very lucky recently, all through last year when we had pig feed deliveries we were usually the last farm on the drop off list as we live in the middle of nowhere, so by the time the drivers got to us they usually had our ton of feed on a pallet plus a few extra pallets that the previous customers didn't want.  Of course I always made them a lovely cup of tea and then asked very politely if I could help lighten their homeward load by having the pallets.....I was never refused.   So we have quite a stack of good pallets drying out ready to chop up for firewood or be put to lots of other money saving uses.

Although it makes the living room look slightly cluttered with our baskets of wood and piles of newspaper (also free - courtesy of Mum and Dad) I can turn a blind eye, knowing that come evening with the sidelights on and a roaring fire the room will just look cosy.

A good excuse to keep the home fires burning.

Sue xx

Monday 14 November 2011

World Diabetes Day

When I sat at the computer I had an entirely different post in mind ....  then I found out what 'day' it is today.  World Diabetes Day, a day designed to raise awareness of this condition, that is so prevalent in todays world, one which is close to my heart as my Lovely Hubby was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in June of this year.

We struggled at first to get things under control, but we did, and although we had a bit of a 'blip' through eating ready meals and a bit of junk food while coping with losing Mum we are now firmly back in business and sorting out our lifestyle again.   Lots of fresh veggies and some fruit, low carb meals and basically just good honest home cooked food with the emphasis on eating smaller healthier meals regularly and the most important meal of the day......breakfast. 

 LH loves his cooked breakfast once he gets in the routine, although I do understand that cooking your eggs and bacon at 5.30am in the morning is tough at first, it is the healthiest meal for him and really helps him get his blood sugar balanced for the day ahead.  Who needs 'Sugar Puffs' when you can tuck into home produced Eggs Bacon and Sausage.

If you see lots of folk wearing blue today it's because they're supporting World Diabetes Day, if you need more information on diabetes visit Diabetes UK a brilliant site for info, help and lots of good advice.

Sue xx

Saturday 12 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday

On Sunday Lovely Hubby will be in the village hall for the Farmers Market, running my stall in my absence as I am zooming up the motorway to spend 2 days with my Mum and Dad. 

Being Remembrance Sunday the Farmers Market goes on for an extra hour to allow stallholders and customers the chance to go to church if they want to or to visit the Memorial on the corner where the wreaths will be laid.  It's very poignant in this village as one of our own lost his life in Afghanistan two years ago.  There is also a two minutes silence at eleven o'clock as we, like millions of others all over the country stand to remember our fallen heroes from past and current conflicts and wars. 

 Each and every soldier, sailor, airman and woman is a hero in my opinion.  We also remember those that have returned to their families injured, in body or mind, and pray and hope that these sacrifices will not be in vain, that one day this world will find peace.

I always give thanks that my two brave, brave men came back to us, to rebuild their lives, to move on and to continue loving and being loved by us, their family.

Wear your poppy with pride..........and remember.

Sue xx