Sunday 30 September 2012

Chickens On The Move

Here on our little patch of land we have two paddocks, one is nearer the road and is just laid to pasture, with a wonderful old tree in the centre complete with two swings. we 've nicknamed this Far Paddock, the other is nearer the house, so it's name to us is obviously Near Paddock.   They are split  by old rickety fencing and the old tumbledown stable block where we store our wood pile and fencing supplies and tucked away inside the stable buildings themselves are some of our landlords outdoor belongings, stored safely until his return.
Chicken World is situated in Near Paddock which is approximately 2 acres (as is Far Paddock) in size.  Every couple of months (depending on the state of the grass) Chicken World is moved up a quarter of the field, so that we have four moves possible in the field, this gives the grass time to recover from the assault of chicken digging and hungry geese.
The birds love moving day, the fence is taken down, the houses are cleaned out and then attached one by one to the back of the truck to be dragged slowly to their new positions.  The girls don't mind any of this, in fact yesterday Lovely Hubby did the move with three girls sat a laying their eggs in the nesting boxes.
All the feeders and drinkers are scrubbed clean, as they are every week, but somehow on moving day it always seems right that everything is spotless and checked over,  then they repositioned in new Chicken World.

All the houses are re-inspected by the girls to make sure that we haven't changed their actual accommodation.
The Eglu now has it's full length rain shield in place, it offers a permanently dry patch of grass for rainy days.  The girls always look like little old ladies huddled together in a bus stop when they shelter from the rain in there.
This time with the weather getting steadily worse we have re-purposed our old patio table, it was getting rickety and wouldn't have lasted until next Summer for our use, so it's been requisitioned as another wet day shelter by simply stapling heavy duty polythene on top and weighing it down with a couple of tree offcuts so the wind doesn't take it across the field.  Rather handily the bars underneath make an ideal perch for the girls and they tested them out immediately.  We placed this over the site of an old bonfire in case some of them don't want to sit on damp grass.
The far end of the paddock, which is the position for the next couple of months rather handily has a large old tree stump so this was turned into an 'adventure playground' for the girls with their usual tree perches being leaned up against the stump.
The final jobs include getting all the electric fencing back up around the new site, and then enticing the girls back behind it to safety.   Rounding up the stubborn ones sometimes takes a while although the majority come running to my 'chook chook' call knowing that Mum must have some tasty food if she's shouting 'dinnertime'.  The final task is to put in the tensioning corner posts, which LH hammers firmly in and then he attaches the battery to the corner nearest the gate to keep the fence 'live'.
While he did that yesterday I scooted back to the house to make a start on some well earned lunch....
.... and the girls all settled down to a little afternoon siesta in the warmth of the September sun.
*** *** ***
What did you get up to yesterday?
Sue xx

Saturday 29 September 2012

Buying a Kindle?

If there is anyone out there that is thinking of buying a Kindle Touch from Amazon over this weekend, leave me a comment with your email address, (as soon as I pick it up I will delete the comment for you so it will only be visible briefly).
 I have an offer from Amazon that I can forward an email to a friend and get them £10 off the cost of a new Kindle.Touch.  (The voucher expires on 2nd October.)
First one to respond can take advantage.
Off to move Chicken World now, they have eaten nearly all their grass.....greedy little birdies!  I'll check back on here later.
Voucher now taken - thanks.
Sue xx

Friday 28 September 2012

Simple Food

Sticking to our Not Spending in September Challenge when we ran out of bread in the freezer this morning I decided to have a quick baking session and make some homemade bread.  And with the oven on it's always making enough of something to really fill it to capacity.

Our  central heating isn't working at the moment and the earliest date a plumber can get to us to fix it a couple of weeks away the house so the house is pretty cold, but believe it or not I found the warmest spot to leave the bread to rise, even though it's not working properly, is still on top of the central heating boiler, so there is sat for the first rise, covered in clingfilm and then draped with a tea towel.

After the second kneading I shaped the loaves and decided a few buns would be nice to go with lunch, once they had risen sufficiently to be cooked they were all brushed with milk and then sprinkled with an assortment of seeds and oats.

Fresh out of the oven and looking very tasty.

As I am doing the Dukan Diet at the moment, I made myself a loaf of 'Dukan friendly' bread, made with oatbran, wheatbran and eggs instead of flour. 

 It's a very dense bread but brilliant with soup.

And that's what was on the menu for lunch.......vegetable soup for me .....

... and Beef and Vegetable soup for Lovely Hubby.  He likes his 'with bits' and I like mine whizzed up, so we each had our favourite.
Nice simple food and the house warmed up nicely with the oven being on for a while.
Sue xx

Thursday 27 September 2012

The Brewery and Production Line

The living room is beginning to resemble a brewery, the 'burlup burlup' noises that had just died down from the demi johns are now sounding out again from the new bucket of cider fermenting on it's little stool.
We had another marathon chopping, blitzing and pressing another batch of apples from the old tree on Tuesday night our production line in full swing for a couple of hours.  Then last night Lovely Hubby did the sterilising and bottling stage.
Again we have cider and some apple juice on the go.  The bottles of apple juice are now sat in the freezer, giving us the promise of fresh homegrown apple juice in the depths of Winter.

While he was bottling I kept him company in the kitchen, for a couple of hours during the afternoon the beetroots that I picked in the morning had been roasting away in the oven. I picked the entire bed to make it worth our while to have the oven on for such a length of time, and now we have another batch of homegrown beetroots pickled ready to go with cheese and homemade bread over the Winter.  The rest were eaten hot with tea last night.   
Tomorrow it will be the turn of the Spinach to be harvested completely and then wilted down and frozen in handful sized blobs ready for using whenever we have soups or stews or goes with so many things and we both love the healthy dark green taste of it.
Simple meals with the taste of homegrown and homemade - you really can't beat it can you.
Sue xx

Wednesday 26 September 2012

The Last of the Toms and Batch Cooking

Here they are in order of size, the very last homegrown tomatoes of Summer.  I've had a poor tomato year this year, as have many folk.  The weather, combined with me trying to get used to a draughty greenhouse has scuppered my plans on filling the cupboards with jars and jars of tomatoey goodness.  The few we have managed to get have been added to various dishes as and when we've cooked them to enjoy them at their best.

I had a bit of a batch cooking session on Sunday while Lovely Hubby was 'playing' with the computer.  I had some packs of mince in the freezer that had been there for well over a year so I decided to turn them into something for tea and a few future meals.
I always think it's as easy to cook in bulk as it is to make each and every meal when you need it.  The Mince and veggie Quorn Mince was cooked with onions, tomatoes and all the odds and end of veggies that were lurking in the fridge and freezer, with lots of tomato puree and some garlic puree for good measure, Worcestershire sauce and sprinkles of this and that the kitchen was soon smelling very good.
Needless to say the portions destined for tea were eaten at lunchtime instead, just popped into the oven for the tops to brown before we tucked in.
The rest were left to go cold, one portion with a potato topping and a sprinkle of cheese for LH to tuck into while I am on holiday with my Mum in a couple of weeks and the others left with just mince, so we can decide on a topping when we thaw them out.
It's always satisfying to get a few homemade 'ready meals' tucked into the freezer ready for those nights when inspiration is thin on the ground or there simply is no time to cook from scratch.
Sue xx

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Homemade Dog Food

Thanks for  the comments yesterday and the emails, as I had two emails asking how I make the dog food I thought I would devote todays post to that.
 (all approx amounts)
1kg of beef mince
1.5 cups of raw rice (brown or white)
1 cup of raw Barley OR Lentils
1 cup of raw Pasta
2 cups of chopped Vegetables (anything you like but NOT onions or leeks)
1 tablespoon of Vegemite or Peanut Butter
Place all the ingredients into a large stock pot.  Cover with water and stir to break up the mince.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 45 minutes.  Turn off the heat and fill the pan up with some more cold water, stir and leave to cool completely.
When it's completely cold portion up to suit the size of your dogs.  I get 12 meals for our two small dogs, I add either a handful of their usual mixer or half a slice of brown bread to the food when I serve them. 
I always put that nights tea into their dishes, put a two portion tub into the fridge and the rest get frozen.
Label it carefully, because although it would be fine as a supper for your husband, it's not really to human tastebuds.....very bland according to Lovely Hubby!!
I spent ten minutes trying to get a shot of Suky licking her lips, because she was between each mouthful and I didn't manage it once!




It works out as 23p per portion if you have to go out and buy all the ingredients from scratch,  if you use the supermarkets value lines for the mince, dried goods and value frozen veggies.  Of course if you have all these things already in the house it's easy to use some of them for the dog food and keep the rest back for your own use as normal.
Pretty good value I think for a dog food that is not full of nasty additives and preservatives.
Sue xx

Monday 24 September 2012

Not Spending in September

The not spending in September is going pretty well, last week I spent £32 out of my housekeeping budget, so that's the £18 saved straight over into the £2012 in 2012 fund, which is also doing pretty well. (Added in - I just remembered I also spent £2.69  on a coffee at the motorway services at the start of last week, so that's a bit less to the fund!!)
I had a voucher for Sainsburys so decided to top up the fresh stuff from there.  The cheapo mince is for the dogs, two packs mixed with the other cheapo ingredients for homemade dogfood keeps them in food for 6 days at a cost of just 23p per meal, a bargain and I know they are getting good food.  On alternate days they both love cheapo tins of tuna mixed with either a slice of bread or their usual dog mixer.
The freezer is starting to look bare, but I think we should be able to see this month out and maybe even into October before we run out of meal ideas.
I love the feel of not shopping so much and of course it gives me more chance to actually have a sit down and read through some Blogs........ when my computer will let me!!
Everything seems to be working at the moment, thanks to Lovely Hubby spending virtually all of yesterday fixing things, it's a good job it was raining or he would have been sulking, he's halfway through painting his man shed..... that lovely shade of green that we both love so much, and rain unfortunately had stopped play yesterday just before the computers went on the blink.
Sue xx

Sunday 23 September 2012

If you called by on Sunday......

It's a good job Lovely Hubby didn't do this to the computer!!

If you called by on Sunday...... you might have spotted all my Blogs were missing for quite a while, sorry for the scare.
We have had massive computer problems here, I did manage to get online briefly with the laptop and then that went kaput as well.  Lovely Hubby with the aid of a brilliant tech guy on the end of the phone from BT, spent nearly all day twiddling this and playing with that (computer terminolgy is not my strong point) and between them they managed to re-instate everything.
Blogger for once was brilliant and recognised that things were not all they seemed to be and temporarily suspended all the Blogs thinking they had been hacked into big style.  I then simply had to go back on and prove I was me and whoosh here I am.  Up and running and back in action.
Unfortunately it is now almost bedtime and I feel a glass of wine and a good book beckon before my brand new dietery start tomorrow.
In true Facebook stye, I wish you all a  very goodnight and hope you had an enjoyable weekend.
Sue xx 

Friday 21 September 2012

My New Toy

With some of the money that we raised through selling my Dad's hoarded goodies at this summers car boot sales I decided to buy myself something that seemed very fitting.  After all, the stuff we were selling was clutter and this will cut down on lots of the clutter in our house and make our next house move even easier.
I am also allowing myself a small allowance to put some books that are my forever books, those by my favourite authors and books that I love to read and re-read on to it.  The hard copies will then be sold either on Amazon, Ebay or saved for next years car boot sales, to raise yet more money.
Now I'm not a very technically minded person and it took me ages to even realise how to turn the thing on.  I had charged it up overnight and I was sort of waiting for it to announce that it was ready, but no, it just lay there.  The instructions that come with is are only about charging it up.  All the other instructions are on it!!  It's a good thing there is a page of instructions actually on the Amazon Kindle page online.......phew!
I have downloaded about ten of the classics that are available free of charge and a couple of books that I really wanted, so now I am slowly getting used to it.
But you know what....nothing really replaces a good old fashioned book, that you can hold in your hands, smell the pages of and look at the lovely cover when you put it down, and I wouldn't dream of having any of my recipe books on it.
Have a good weekend everyone.  I'm gearing up for something on Monday, so I'm having a quiet weekend for once.
Sue xx

Thursday 20 September 2012

Apple Juice, Cider and Happy Chickens

The big old apple tree is chucking apples at us at a rate of knots.  We gather the windfalls every day, leaving a few for the passing deer that seem to like to take a bite as they wander through our land.  I feel a bit guilty for fencing off all the veggie beds (but not guilty enough that I would take the fences down just yet!!) so an apple or two will keep them going as they pass on their way to the woods and wilder pickings.
The others we fetch back to the house and leave in big baskets in the utility room until we have enough for a pressing session.  Then it's all hands to the deck (I am married to a sailor you know!) for a chopping and squishing time.
My main role is to blitz the quartered apples in the food processor, this makes for a much quicker and juicier press.  Time consuming but easy to do.
Lovely Hubby manfully mans the press, turning it tighter and tighter until all the juice pours out in a very satisfying trickle.  His bucket fills up with lovely brown apple juice and the smell is delicious.
It's nice to see a man happy in his work.
And so he should be, we've now got three demi-johns of cider on the go and around eight bottles of pure apple juice.  Delightfully tasty chilled and then diluted with sparkling water.  A glass each evening with our tea makes all the hard sticky work more than worthwhile.
And the squished apples don't go to waste either the chickens absolutely love them and you can't beat a happy chicken!!
Sue xx

Wednesday 19 September 2012

My Son - Car Thief

My son drives a Heavy Goods Vehicle for a living, he was a Tank Transporter Driver in the Royal Logistics Corps before civvy street beckoned, driving the biggest of loads in the most dangerous of places.
You'd think he'd had enough of driving all day.
Oscar looks on in amazement as Daddy attempts car theft right in front of him!!
So why would he come home and attempt to drive off in my Grandsons lovely little car?

I'm having a non-computer day today, I have reading, playing with my new toy and some thinking to do, but I couldn't resist coming on to post these pictures.
Have a good day Simon, but stick to the big vehicles they look a lot more comfortable to drive.
Mum / Sue xx

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Menu Planning

I find the best way of saving money and running down the cupboards and freezers in a logical way is to menu plan.  Thirty minutes on a Monday morning gives me time to check out what I have lurking in all the cupboards and freezers and write down a basic menu plan.
It saves time on the other days as I don't have to stop what I am doing and start rummaging for what I fancy eating or making for that nights tea.  I can also defrost the main component of the meal during the day rather than worrying it might not thaw out in time or having to zap it in the microwave. 
 It also means that if I do have to nip to the shops I can have a shopping list of any necessary items needed to add to a recipe or meal for the week ahead.  I always have a list on the side of the fridge and the minute I notice I need something I write it down (not that I always remember to take the blasted thing with me....I am only human!!).  If you don't write what you need down when you think of it, you can guarantee you'll walk round the shops to try and jog your memory and buy all those tempting 'must have' bargains that you don't really need instead.
This week however, I am trying very hard not to buy anything and so our meals are coming exclusively from the cupboards and freezers.  I purposely planned all the meals to make use of everything we have already in stock.
*** *** ***
Menu Plan for this Week.
Steak Burgers/Veggie Fingers with Buttered Cabbage and Pine Nuts, served with Onion Marmalade
Garlic Kiev/Spicy Lentil Wedge with Brown Rice and Sweetcorn and Mixed Leaves
'Linda Mc' Cheese, Leek and Red Onion Plaits with Cheese and Tomato Orzo Pasta and Mixed Leaves
Meat/Veggie Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy
Quorn Chicken Style Pieces in Tikka Masala Sauce served with Brown Rice and Naan Breads
Meat/Veggie Shepherds Pie served with Sweetcorn, Carrots and Gravy
Salmon, Rice and Vegetable Parcels
*** *** ***
This should all leave a nice sized gap in the freezer as most things are from there, the veggies we have grown ourselves, both last year and this and blanched and open frozen as I talked about the other day.
All these meals are Harcombe friendly for me with the exception of the Salmon and Rice which is mixing, but I'm not being terribly strict at the moment while we are running stocks down. 
One plus side of running down the freezer is that you find packets of things you had forgotten all about, so last night Lovely Hubby had a tasty little starter before his tea of Prawns.  He likes them just as they are with a little dollop of mayo on the side, and I'm not telling him yet but there are two more bags lurking in the depths of the big chest freezer!
Do you menu plan on a regular basis, and what forgotten treasures have you found lurking in the depths of the freezer?
Sue xx

Monday 17 September 2012

My Visit to Manchester

On Wednesday afternoon I tootled up the Motorway to Manchester (see Simon....I'm finally saying UP instead of DOWN) to visit my Lovely Mum and have some well earned girly time.
She'd signed me up for Line Dancing, something she did very well with my Dad for many years, so well in fact they have the medals and certificates to prove it.. 
So I valiantly ho de ho'd this way and sashayed that way, obviously everyone else in the class choose to go the wrong way on purpose just to confuse me!!  The lady with the form of Tourettes  that makes her leap up in the air and clap her hands at every opportunity really helped me stay synchronised whenever I had the luck to turn in her direction (I kid you not here!).  And when I fell over my own feet and got soooooo dizzy I had to sit down for five minutes I think my Mum and the class finally came to the sad conclusion that I am not a born Line Dancer, and that I have most certainly not inherited a single dance gene from either of my parents.  I wonder if my brother has them all.......Graham I pass you the dancing baton.....NOW!

Bringing the class to a halt with our giggles.

So we caught the tram and went and did what we do best.....had a coffee and a giggle in good old M & S.  Mum refused point blank to buy this lovely hat .....
...... even when I showed her in the mirror how bad a hat can look....on me!
After a lovely day we returned home to make some tea for my brother and younger son, Jason, who both descended on Mum's to be fed after hard days work at their respective jobs. So a lovely day was followed by a lovely evening, lots of laughs and chat and advice handed out to all there.
Next morning I helped Mum load some photos off her camera onto her computer and these two were among them, so they we quickly emailed home ready for todays post.

This lovely man, Victor and many others on the Allotment Society Committee decided that on my Dad's death earlier this year they should put up a plaque in his honour.  Without Dad the allotments would have been bulldozed to the ground and houses built in their place.  He campaigned tirelessly, and rallied the other allotment holders to visit council meeting and put their case forward, for once, unusually in this day and age, they were actually listened too and the allotment site lives on to bring many happy hours of fresh air, gardening and good nutritious food to an area of Manchester that really needs it.
Well done Dad, the honour is well deserved.
I had a wonderful couple of days thank you Mum, and next a warning to Bognor Regis......we will be heading your way in a few weeks for a whole week of girly giggles......Bognor you have been warned!!
*** *** ***
I'm off to the vets this very minute to take a certain little lady to have her stitches out.  Sadly there will be no little Pug puppies in this house now.
Sue xx