Saturday 30 June 2012

A Working Weekend the Simple Way

This weekend is a working weekend at home, last week we were sorting out Mum's garage, we got a real sense of accomplishment from that, it's always nice making space.   This weekend we are catching up at home.  No rush to do any jobs, just going about things at a nice gentle pace.  Lovely Hubby is putting down the base for a car parking area at the side of the house, hard work, but broken with long cold drinks and the occasional throw of the stick for Sophie to fetch. 

There is the hustle and bustle of work going on on our landlords oak framed garage, he is staying with us for a week to oversee the roof going on, but we have no part in this, other than supplying the occasional drink for the workers.  It will look lovely when it's finished.

I am transplanting some pea plants to replace the ones that have died in the Veggie Patch, generally pottering in the greenhouse and house,  catching up with all the little jobs that have evaded being done during the week.

Getting round the housepipe ban, it makes life easier for me to have a short hose ran from outside the house into the greenhouse, so I can refill my watering can whenever I need to.  I hope it's legal....I am trying to be good!!

We don't expect to have weekends 'off' every week, we chose this lifestyle and we work hard towards it, everyday we work at it but in a gentle way, we save heavier jobs for the weekend when LH is home from work all day and we can do them together.  We do do some things during these lovely light evenings like cut the grass and other jobs that might have been left until it's cooler in the day when we are lucky enough to have sunshine.

But when you live simply you do slow things down, you take the time to prepare your meals, to plant the plants that give you the ingredients for those meals and to look after them as they grow.  Just thinking about what we do calms my soul, doing it sometimes tires me out completely, but you have to learn to pace yourself.....something I'm still learning!

Lots more planting has been done over the course of this week.

And open freezing of some bought green beans, a bargain at the greengrocers, two large packs for just one pound.  Now open frozen and in tubs in the freezer.  This way I can grab a handful to add to meals or soups and not waste any.

I have two bags of carrots in the fridge that I got for the same price, that I will blanch and freeze later today while they are at their best.

Tomorrow we are (if the weather is okay), doing a car boot sale at our favourite venue, on the village green in Warborough.  The truck is still loaded from last weeks sorting at Mum's we just have to add a couple of boxes of our stuff and the paste tables,  make ourselves a flask of coffee and we are ready to go.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever you're doing, calm it down and think, take time for yourself.

Sue xx

Friday 29 June 2012

Keeping it Simple

Keeping it simple is the only way for me now.  Slowing life down is so easy in the hotter weather, and yes, we get the occasional hot blast of sunshine even though this Summer has been a bit of a wash out up to now.  So many areas pretty close to us got terrible weather yesterday with torrential rain threatening to wash things away......poor Compostwoman springs to mind for a start, see her post over HERE.  But in our little corner of the world we basked in gloriously hot sunshine, dare I say it.....just too hot to work in.

I strolled over and collected the eggs from the henhouses early so they didn't sit in the heat for too long, of course this means lots of trips backwards and forwards to check for more later in the day, but it's no hardship to wander over to Chicken World and watch what the girls (and boys) are getting up to.

Then it was back to the cool of the kitchen for a drink, keeping an eye all the time on the shade creeping round thanks to our giant Bay tree so I could get down to some serious weeding in the flower beds near the house.

The kitchen is looking simpler too these days, we are getting back to a minimum of what we need, no extras or excess just enough to live simply......... the way we like it.

What have you done to simplify your life recently?

Sue xx

Thursday 28 June 2012

The Young Un's

As promised yesterday here are some pictures of the Goslings as they are now, getting bigger literally by the day.  When they stand upright they are as tall as their Mum, she's a Hyline Hen by the way, their adoptive Mum.

I wanted to get a picture of them standing up, but what happens when you want to take any picture of any animal standing up......yep....they sit down,

They look all independent sat there on their own guardng the newly filled water hopper, but in reality Mum was just under the henhouse next to them and so they were happy and relaxed.  They were having a preening session as Geese do, by throwing water over their backs and then sorting out the feathers, or fluff in their case.  It's a good job some things are instinctive, as a hen, their Mum would not have taught them to do this.

Other developing news one of our Lavender Pekin Bantams (the one at the back of this photo), bought at the same time as the Goslings is not what she appears.  It would seem she has a bit of Frizzle blood in her genes, and what we thought of as a bad hair day is simply her style of feathers.  She looks very cute with it though and her name has become 'Fluffy'.  Aren't we a soppy lot here on the farm (inserts big cheesy grin).

Sue xx

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Our Animals and Their Spaces

I've been thinking a lot about animal spaces this week, mainly because our three adorable goslings are now almost as tall as their Mum, who is a chicken, so they will need a more suitable place to call their own very soon.  We've looked up the cost of Goose Houses and can't really commit to £440 to buy one to match our current henhouses.  So plans are being drawn up by Lovely Hubby to replicate them using the wood that we currently have at the side of the shed. He's even promised me a little heart shaped window!!

Geese don't like to walk up ramps to get to their house and even if they did they would not be able to duck down low enough to get through the henhouse door once they are older.  As it is they have been moved back from the Eglu to the Broody House as it has a bigger sleeping area.  (The Eglu has a nest like bowl for a Mummy bird and her chicks to sleep in, the Broody House has the whole space of the interior floor for sleeping....and boy do this little trio need space.) During the day they are now free range with the chickens and have been accepted with open arms wings!  I'm really pleased about this they will be perfect 'guards' for the chickens when they are fully grown, as geese can be very aggressive to outsiders, they make wonderful 'guard dogs' and are used on many farms as such.

One thing the Goose House will need that they don't normally have is a roosting bar, after all Mum will most likely still want to join her babies in their new home at night.  LH hopes to start making this at the weekend and then they will move in the week after that if he can get it finished.  He's a bit of perfectionist this lovely man of mine and likes to do a job properly, thinking, planning, sorting, designing and then the making.  Very unlike me with,' I know I have an idea, lets do it NOW!!

Together we get most things done, it's called teamwork.

The other animals have claimed back their spaces after being away for the weekend,  Rosy sleeps by the boiler, she loves the background warmth she gets and the privacy of her little corner.

Suky likes her cooler corner sometimes, yes, I know her bed seems much too small for a big Pug, it's her puppy bed but she loves it so much we've left it out for her to use when she wants to.

Her 'grown up' bed is on the other side of the boiler to Rosy and she does sleep in there when she wants to. 

Sophie has her big doggie bed next to the tall fridge freezer and can be found in there occasionally, when the others haven't all climbed in to sleep together.  But Sophie likes to sleep on a hard cool floor, so the laminate is perfect for her, how she sleeps comfortably with her old doggie bones on such a hard surface I'll never know, but each to their own I always say.  She knows what she wants, but when she is feeling off colour or simply feeling her age (she's 13 now, a good age for a Border Collie) she will plonk herself into her bed and not let anyone join her.

The cats of course have 'Cat Terrace' although at the moment only two are occupied on a regular basis, Toby went missing just after my Dad died and hasn't been seen since, and Muffin, our other 'adopted' cat is preferring to spend his days living with the lady next door and her animals.  Ginger loves his little bed in the terrace and can be found most days curled up in number 4.

That is of course when he's not set up temporary home in a box!

Do your animals have their own space?

Back tomorrow, hopefully with some photos of the Goslings.

Sue xx

Monday 25 June 2012

Sometimes it's worth getting 'crunchy'.....!!

If you read my post yesterday you'll 'get' the post title today !!

On Friday we headed off up the motorway for a weekend with my Mum, it wasn't for a nice social time, of talking and enjoying ourselves, it was for a weekend of work, hard work.  Mum kept us fed and watered and helped in every way she possibly could, but it was a weekend of lifting and shifting.  Of blood, sweat and tears, a sobering weekend that left us all drained both physically and emotionally.

The top picture of this post is of my Dad's garage, it's not even a 'Before' shot, my brother had already taken at least 26 large black bin bags to the tip and Mum has been constantly filling her wheelie bin each and every week since my Dad's death in March.  But it is a 'Before' shot of this weekend.  The one immediately above this, is what's left that was worth keeping to sell, not all 'good' stuff but stuff that will be interesting to some folks at car boot sales and should make us some money.

Over the course of two days we filled one medium sized skip to capacity and took a truck completely full to the top and back with broken up furniture and wood, my brother drove backwards and forwards to the tip with more bin bags and smaller items in his car.

This is the same view 'After', when our large truck is full to the roof and back with the things to sell.  There are still things tucked in the cupboards and drawers at the back which we will be picking up soon.  We have never once left Mum's house with an empty car after a visit since Dad's death.

Another view towards the garage door before we started sorting on Friday afternoon.

Almost the same angle at the end of the weekends work.

Lovely Hubby did some minor repairs to the garage door when we had almost finished, this was after all the first time we had been able to open it in twenty years, yes you did read that right 20 years of the garage being inaccessible from this end.  And why did I call it Dad's garage earlier on, because in the whole of this space the only bit that was ever Mum's was a tiny corner of the top of a cupboard near the side door where she stored a a handful of gardening things, oh and the freezer that she used to store their harvest in from the allotment, but when that broke down a couple of years ago it couldn't be taken out and disposed of because there was no way of getting it out of the space it occupied, so instead it was used as a cupboard and more 'things' were stored in there.

Do I sound slightly bitter here, yes I guess I do, someone asked in the comments after Saturdays blog post about 'Things'  how I could 'get in the mindset to get rid of things' and said that they would keep things 'just in case'.  I get in the mindset very easily, I have seen and felt the pain my Mum has been through over the last 20 years because of  'things'. 

It started gradually with my Dad, worked it's way into their lives almost imperceptibly when I left home to be married at eighteen.   There was suddenly a spare bedroom, he filled it with 'things' gradually over the course of a few years.  When they moved house his things and the others that he had added to them suddenly had more space, a loft, a garage, a shed, and then came the allotment where 'things' are almost expected, after all you had to hold on to useful things there for re-using, re-purposing and re-cycling.  He moved things from the garage to the allotment to make himself more space for more things in the garage.

What you have to be aware of though, so very aware of, is that 'things' can take over.......and in my Dad's case they did.

This problem is now widespread, my Dad was of the age when he and countless others like him saw their mothers scrimp and save and have to make use of every morsel of food, every inch of ground to cultivate and every item of household goods over the war years and after.  That is understandably hard to shake off, now however, the problem is different, we live in an age where it is almost a national past time to go shopping at the weekend, for food, for clothes, for things to possess.  Why things make us happy?  I know from personal experience they do not.

A jokey photo, but we were shattered!!

So why do I find it easy to get rid of things.....because I never want or need to own more than I can use.  I do see the pretty things I have and I use them.  Nothing lurks in my cupboards that needs sorting out and deciding over.  I have what I need and I like it that way.  When something breaks I fix it, if  I can't I will replace it, I don't mind where from, it can be secondhand or new, I do buy what I need and I occasionally I buy what I want, but what I want are usually things that I need so there is never a conflict.

I will not depart this earth leaving work for others, yes, there will be some sorting, there always is, both financial and physical but it will take a couple of days not a couple of months.

My name is Sue, my Dad was a hoarder, my Mum loved him dearly and helped keep his secret, but now it's out and almost sorted through and we are all absolved from the guilt and the pain it caused.

I loved my Dad dearly and I still do, he loved us all too and this was his illness.

Don't let it be yours.

Sue xx

Sunday 24 June 2012


Today's most definitely a crunchy day.

I'll show you why tomorrow!

Sue xx

Saturday 23 June 2012

Living Simply

I'm hoping that by the end of Summer this year we will have jettisonned completely all the unnecessary clutter in our lives, and have left in this house just enough to let us live comfortably and happily.

In the back of my mind I am already planning the next move and I am determined that we will be able to pack up and move so much more easily with just all the necesary things we need to make our lives enjoyable.

Even after the clutter busting season we had last year there still seems to be 'things' that just sit there, grinning at me from the back of cupboards, some things that are just pretty but do not seem to have a use. 

Well let me tell you 'things' ....... sometimes pretty just don't cut the mustard!!

Sue xx

Friday 22 June 2012

Birds and Cats

The bird feeding station has been full of families of birds for the last few days, as all the chicks reach adolescence the mummy birds are bringing them to feed on the peanuts and fat balls that they are still needing due to this strange weather at the moment.

On warm sunny days the place is quieter with the birds gettng their fill of insects and other wildly gathered food. But on cooler, wetter days they reappear again.

And get their fill of the yummy things on offer. That is until a certain someone shows his face....

... Archie knows exactly where to hide to wait for a tasty snack. I am jumping up and down like a yoyo in my office chair at the moment, so I can bang on the window to give him a shock every now and then, so he jumps and looks round and gives away his position, and then the mummy birds can gather their young and retreat to safety.

Sue xx

Thursday 21 June 2012

The Longest Day

Today is the 21st June, the Summer Solstice, well traditionally the Summer Solstice, officially it was yesterday this year because of the Leap Year.  But I always think of today as the longest day of the year.

It's a day we should be out in the garden harvesting the veggies, trying to keep the weeds under control and taking things just that little bit slower. An hours work, a coffee in the shade of the parasol on the patio and then straight back, refreshed and raring to go to more jobs.  Instead we are dashing around in the sunshine one day, trying in vain to keep things as much under control as a garden can ever be, knowing, just knowing in our hearts that the next day could be rain and we would be stuck indoors ....yet again.

Today is miserable and grey, as the drizzle falls past the window I sit and think of things I should be doing out there, but I have no desire to get as wet as this fine mist like drizzle gets you, so I sit and ponder what I should do indoors.

I ironed and hoovered yesterday while it was dry outside, mad misguided fool that I am, so today the place looks clean and tidy and the wardrobes are full.  So I have, just this minute as I type, decided to blitz the spare room, pull out the last few bits and pieces that are lurking in there that could be Car Booted.  I am determined to reach my £2012 in 2012 by hook or by crook, or in my case by unused items that we no longer need.

Off I go to see what I can gather.

Are you Car Booting this Summer, buying or selling.......or both?

Sue xx

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Slicing the Meat and Pocketing the Pennies

I mentioned yesterday that I went to the supermarket to stock up on meat for the freezer, so here's a little round up of what I bought.  The joints above were for cooking, as they all took around 2 hours to cook I wanted to fill the oven to get maximum benefit of the heat and cost.

As it was Monday I got some good bargains, this is usually the case as the shops want to get fresher stuff on their shelves for the week ahead.  You do have to have the time when you get home though to process them in whatever way they need as usually the date is up on the day or only a day or two away. 

Some things were full price and pretty expensive at that, but you get what you pay for and I prefer (whenever possible) to either buy the highest welfare I can or not at all.

As soon as I got home the things that just required packing away into the freezer were processed.  All the chops and pork loins wrapped individually and then put into labelled reused icecream tubs.

The joints were popped into the oven and left to cook nice and slowly.  By the time they were done Lovely Hubby was home for work and he sliced up the Lamb Joint, some for his tea, scraps for the dogs and the rest wrapped and frozen once it had cooled.  The other joints were left to go cold and then popped into the fridge.

Then yesterday morning I got out my electric food slicer (I got mine from here and it has paid for itself over and over). 

 Because the meat was chilled from it's night in the fridge it sliced beautifully, lots of nice even slices.

I wrap mine in Easyleave because I have a great big roll of it at the moment, but you can use whatever you have to hand, greaseproof paper, cling film, re-used cereal box inners etc.

Once everything was sliced I labelled it clearly, although you can see what is in each wrap now it doesn't mean you will be able to recognise it once it has lived in your freezer for a while and got a bit frosty.

As I was doing all this I weighed and then counted out how many portions I had, to double check it was the right way to go.

Beef   8.07 -  made 5 packs @ 1.04 per 100g -  price bought ready sliced 2.99 per 100g
Gammon  5.99 -  made 7 packs @ 78p per 100g -  price bought ready sliced 2.41 per 100g

This is just a sample of the facts and figures.

Watch out when buying the ready sliced meats in supermarkets the pack sizes vary so much, so always look for the price per 100g on the shelf edge sticker.

So my total haul of meat for the freezer cost me £41.91 and works out to make around 35 meals, so a cost per meal of £1.19.  (As I don't eat most of this only one portion is usually required per meal.)  So using home grown veggies straight from the Veggie Patch or from the freezer, or our own eggs etc  to accompany a pack of meat for each meal, this means that a meal for two averages out at less than £1 a head.  Just what I was aiming for.  I say around 35 meals because if I defrost say a pack of Gammon slices I may sneak a couple of slices out and use them in another dish, so that portion would in effect go into 2 meals creating even better value for my money

If you are wondering why I decided to go down the 'slice it myself route' (apart from the obvious saving in money) it was because when starting the Harcombe way of eating I discovered (by reading the ingredients lists of everything I bought) just what additives there were lurking in an ordinary pack of sliced ham or chicken.  Even when copntemplating buying the most natural looking product I found that it had additives to aid preservation, colour and taste, and it made me suddenly stop and think.  Be very aware though that even some of the joints I found had some extras added in.  So if you want to go down this route get used to reading all the ingredients lists, soon it becomes second nature.

Now that I have a good stock in the freezer I am switching back to using the local butcher, his meat is fresh, trimmed just the way you want it and you get good advice thrown in on cooking methods if you need it.  Oh, and another reason to use him is that I don't have to go back to the supermarket, and witness mass consumerism on a grand scale.

Sue xx

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Living Simply

Last year the subheading for the Blog was the 'Year of Living Simply', just because that particular year is over doesn't mean we've changed in any way.  This year we decided it would have a subheading of  'From Simple to Frugal....and Beyond' (one couples journey to jump off the consumer bandwagon and live more simply),  to continue on our living simply lifestyle path but also to encompass our need to save as much as possible for our future 'forever home'.

This living simply really is the only way.

I played a Joker yesterday and went to the supermarket Mr Sa**sburys to be exact.  I needed to stock up on meat for the freezer.  Lovely Hubby is a dedicated follower of fashion I mean meat eater and the prices at the local butcher were just too much to be absorbed by my self-imposed £50 a week housekeeping budget.

More about this tomorrow, I'm mentioning this today because suddenly stepping back into the world of huge supermarkets selling everything under the sun at 'bargain prices' and seeing folk filling their trolleys up to the brim with over packaged and over processed foods made me so glad that we are living the life we are living. (The lady in front of me spent over £400 pounds how she even fitted it all in the one trolley had me baffled!)

Before setting off for my retail exercise I had already shopped at home.  I pulled up some radishes,  some lettuce and some mixed leaves, I cleaned out the chicken houses and found 2 early laid eggs.

Popping these into my bowl I checked the little broody house, left in Chicken World for the girls to sit on or in, and shelter from the sun or rain and found another egg nestled inside.

I added this to my bowl and went back to the house. 

 I actually fancied a soft boiled egg for lunch and put it on, but got so engrossed in someones Blog that I forgot all about it and so it was cut into eighths and eaten as a hard boiled egg along with my mornings 'shopping'.

Later in the afternoon I went over to give the chickens their daily corn treat and spied some lovely red strawberries lurking happily in the shades of the leaves, so these were brought back for an afternoons nibble with my coffee.

Now this is my kind of 'shopping'. 

Fresh, and simple.....and oh so  lovely.

Sue xx

Monday 18 June 2012

Meet Mother Goose.......

Meet Mother Goose (the hen) and Harry, Larry and Mo, her little Gosling children.

Lovely Hubby let them out of the Eglu for the first time yesterday, and sat on a log drinking his coffee in Chicken World to supervise the reaction of the other chickens to the newest babies on the farm as they mingled together.

He need not have worried, Mother Hen  is a fantastically attentive Mum and she always protected her babies when the others got too close.  The only birds she backed down to were the Hylines, my only idea about this is that probably as the oldest chickens in the flock she didn't see them as too much of a threat to her motherhood, they are secure in their position at the head of the pecking order so they were just curious and then left the goslings completely alone.

Harry Larry and Mo, and no we don't know if they are boys or girls yet.  I hope they are all girls as I've been told Goose eggs are absolutely delicious and twice the size of hens eggs, but knowing our luck they will be boys, if so they will be still welcome here as guard geese and lawn mowers.

 To be honest we don't know much about Geese, these are Chinese Grey Geese, but in our usual have a go fashion we are simply staying one page of the book ahead of their development and needs.  We do know that in a couple of weeks they will be needing a bowl of water for them to paddle in and wash and waterproof their feathers, but at the moment they are all fluff, so they just need lots of drinking water.

They are brilliant lawn mowers and have a preference for all the weeds and clover that is lurking in the grass, we have to move the Eglu to a new position after half a day to give them access to more,  hence LH's idea to get them used to mixing with the big birds.  Although at the moment this can only be when we are home and the dogs are around as they would be very susceptible to predators, especially the overhead sort.  We have Red Kites and other birds of prey around here.

You can see Mother Hen holding out her wings slightly here as LH approached to take the photo, this is what a hen does to protect her young from danger, in a frontal attack she stretches up her neck puffs out all the feathers and holds out her wings to make herself as big and as aggressive as possible. She looks very impressive when she does this.

Luckily she is a very big bird, bigger and heavier than all our other Hylines so she is coping well with looking after these large babies.  It's lovely so see them all cuddled down for the night with the goslings cuddled under Mum, just their heads peeking out to see what is happening as we check them last thing.

When they start to sit down in a little cluster and fall asleep we know it's time to herd them back to the safety of the Eglu after an exciting half hour or so playing out with Mum, it also means Mum can relax again too and not have to be so alert.

It's so nice to have new, young life here on the farm again.

Sue xx