Sunday 30 June 2013

Photos of Us - You Have Been Warned!!

You know who this is.
This was us way back when we began our new life in the country and were featured in a farming magazine.
(Aw .... look at the size of Rosy.)
 (photo credit - Lantra)

Away from the farm.

Sleeping off a bad back caused by the farm :-(

My hair is never quite the same colour ....
... but we both look relaxed.
Days out are always wonderful ....... and we always lark around!!

"Oi mate ...what were you and my wife getting up to?"

Dreaming of our forever home ....

.... but ours will be cosier :-)

Windswept and happy.
Thank you for reading my Blog.
Back tomorrow with some of our favourite foods.
Sue xx

Saturday 29 June 2013

Our Vegetables

Cabbage and carrots.

I managed to string the onions - after a few false starts!

Squash, Cucumber and eggs.

Assorted vegetables.

My favourite ever question mark.
Some of this years radishes from the tin bath.
All homegrown - all delicious.
Back tomorrow with photos of US - you have been warned!!
Sue xx

Friday 28 June 2013

Our Animals




An assortment of our Birds

Caldwell II

Back tomorrow with Vegetables
Sue xx

Thursday 27 June 2013

They're here .....

They're here...... one of my favourite crops has finely started to ripen. 
Just in time for Wimbledon some might say but I'm sport phobic, so for me it's just in time for our holiday.   I had my fingers crossed they would, there were lots of little green strawberries last week, hence me buying the pot of double cream to take away with us, and I was right to do so ... 

..... this is what my daily harvest looks like on the way back from feeding the chickens every afternoon.
The hens are in full lay at the moment and all the broody girls are now going about their business and laying again, so it's an average of about ten eggs a day and a big handful of strawberries.
The first few years I grew strawberries I would wait and pick every couple of days but now I pick daily because the more you pick the more you get.   Every day there is another handful and I only have to save two days worth in the fridge to give us enough for a lovely pudding of strawberries and 'whatever'.  We're using up everything in the fridges and freezers as part of the £2 House Keeping Challenge, so up to now we have had them with  Crème Fraiche and with ice-cream and of course a few get eaten just as they are the absolute best way when they are bright red and deliciously fully ripe.
The Geese have just finished laying, they only lay for around 8- 12 weeks each year and then naturally stop.  I put the last four eggs out at the farm gate yesterday ...
... and they were stolen .....  no money left in the Honesty Tin!!
What a sad end to the Goose Egg season.
*** *** ***
Today I am getting everything ready for loading into the car for tomorrow, we can't pack the car until the last minute as the dog beds will go in first and everything else on top but I am getting everything ready to go in.  We're taking our own summer-weight duvet off the spare bed and that will be popped into a duvet cover today to make setting up the holiday flat a quick and stress free job.  We are taking our oldest kitchen tea and hand towels and they will be used to wipe every where down before we leave and then thrown away, always nice to come back with a bit less.
We both take pride in always leaving things as we find them and my final job in any holiday home is to clean the bathroom and kitchen and do everything I possibly can to leave it ready for the next person.  Yes, they employ cleaners and I usually have to leave the vacuuming to them as vacuum cleaners are not left in the flats, but I make sure that is all they have to do.  Why do I do this and not have a break from housework you might ask - well because my very first job when my youngest was only months old was to clean holiday flats on a Saturday morning when his Dad could look after him.  As soon as he progressed to nursery I progressed to cleaning caravans every Monday and Friday, so I do know the sense of relief when you step into a nice clean flat or caravan and all you have to do is put some bleach down the toilet and hoover the floors.  It makes up slightly for the folk that do have a holiday from housework and use every pot and pan in the place rather than wash pots and wipe nothing down all week or tidy after themselves, leaving the mess for the 'paid cleaners' to do it for them.  Yes, I've seen it all and some of it's not nice!!
Well I better get on with it, the menu is now planned -
Salad and Cheese/Salad and Meat Buns for the journey
Fish and Chips for tea.
Strawberries & Banana with Cream

Bacon/ and Poached Eggs on Toast
Salad and Cheese/Salad and Salmon with freshly cooked Baguettes
Garlic Kievs (Chicken & Veggie) with Rice and Salad
Strawberries and Mandarins with Cream 
Bacon/ and Poached Eggs on Toast
Late lunch at Mums
Garlic Bread and nibbles for Supper
Poached Eggs on Toast
Rice Salad for the Journey home.
Large pack of Grapes
Scones with Homemade Jam and Clotted Cream
Large Bag of Kettle Crisps (Approved Foods - brilliant buy)
Twix - 1 pack each
Snickers - 2 each
Sparkling Water
Low Calorie Bitter Lemon
Fresh Orange Juice
White Wine
All this food is coming from home, partly from what I bought yesterday and partly from the freezers and cupboards, I don't think looking at this that we will have to buy anything else, except the Lattes on the motorway to go with our picnic, we could take a flask, but we enjoy the treat of a C*sta Coffee too much so we don't.
I also have to pack a 'doggy bag' with food, leads, poo bags and a couple of treats and toys for them.   Their beds are going to get a good wash today, that's if I can prise them out of them, they seem to be determined to have a bit of lie in this morning, maybe they know they are off on an adventure tomorrow!
And hopefully, if it will all fit in the car on the way, there will be lots more space on the way back.
Well I better get started :-)
Oh, and there will be some of my favourite photos popping up each day on the Blog starting tomorrow, so you don't miss me too much. (Categories -Animals/Vegetables/Us/Food)
Sue xx

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Cows and Food

This picture from Google Images.
Well this post was going to be about the first lot of shopping I got towards our little holiday at the end of this week and our big decision to have £80 of the money for food and drink, a really big decision for folks that are currently spending as little as possible on food.  But we decided what the heck, it's time for a treat and this holiday weekend is so outside the boundaries of our £2 House Keeping Challenge we may as well go for it BIG style.
But ...... then the cow escaped!!
Yep, you're right we don't keep cows!!
In the paddock on the opposite side of our drive, owned by our neighbours are a lovely group of eight black cows (Lovely Hubby was telling me they were I know I'm right, they are mostly definitely girls ... I've up close and personal!) they belong to a farmer who lives way down nearer to the village. 
Yesterday after cleaning out the henhouse I turned round to be confronted with a very interested cow looking over the chicken fence to see what this rather large rear end was doing poking out from a chicken house door.  She bellowed in the most fetching way as I did the most comedy double-take ever!!
Well lots of phone calls later, as our neighbour was out (waiting to pick his wife up from work and go to the opera no less), including a desperate plea to LH to finish work at 5pm instead of 6pm, one of the other ex neighbours turned up, closely followed by LH and then finally the farmer who owned this magnificent cow.  By this time of course she had gone through our fence and into the woods, much scuffling and bellowing could be heard as she decided that she much preferred our paddock and the tasty apple trees, and attempted an about turn through rather than round the bushes. 
With all of us stood in gaps and looking as big as we possibly could to fill these gaps, (easily done, the diet starts next week folks) we managed to get her on the drive, with the farmer and his brother driving her towards the road and LH running manfully through the field to open the gate we thought the adventure was over, but for a brief bit of dramatic licence the other seven cows in the field were making for the now open gate faster than the lone cow was being driven down the road.  But just as their noses were out of the gate, their sister appeared and they turned and walked meekly back into the field.
And how had she escaped ....... through a kissing gate!!
She had lifted it off it's broken and wobbly hinges and stepped through the gap.  Our neighbour has now asked the farmer to remove the cows from the field as they have eaten our landlords trees over the fence and now had this escape and broke the gate, and he can no longer stand the hassle of wondering what they are about to do next.
I'll miss their lovely velvety faces watching us as we walk along the drive for the post, but someone will miss them more than me - little Suky the Pug!!   The first time she saw them she fell in love, they stood face to face as each one introduced themselves to her and when they started pulling clumps of long grass to chew she followed suit, eager to do what these new friends were doing.  She thought all her prayers had been answered yesterday when one of her friends came to visit, and will be so sad when they all vanish.

Oh and the food we've bought up to now, a bottle of Port, a bottle of wine, 3 pint cans of cider (reduced from £5 to £3 in the whoopsie department) and some other bits and pieces, and I 've spent just under £40.  A few more things need buying that will bring this up to £50 and then the other £30 will be for food and drink while we are away, a coffee of two at the services and maybe some fish and chips one night.  Then we have £50 a day for spends.  It's all in cash, so there will be no flashing of the plastic on this mini holiday, we will stay in our budget, which to us seems positively luxurious.

I even used a bit of my personal spending money to do what is traditional and bought myself a new t shirt and a book to read.  I don't usually do this but this t shirt caught my attention as I walked past and I just love the simple stripes and for £6 it would have been rude to say no :-)
Added in - our neighbour has just knocked and said one cow is missing again, so I better keep my eyes open while I'm out and about, she obviously enjoyed her day of freedom so much yesterday she's decided to repeat it !!
Sue xx

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Choosing Our 'Frugalish' Holiday

When you think of a cheap holiday maybe your mind always goes to camping, setting up home under the stars, in a secluded woodland glade, with only the wild life and the sunshine for company, eating sausages and beans cooked over the campfire.  Sleeping in soft down filled sleeping bags with only the sound of a distant owl hooting to lull you to sleep.  Your dogs snoozing at the entrance guarding their masters.
Scratch all that, when I think of camping I think of struggling to erect a tent that's determined to fly away over into the next muddy over- crowded camping field.   Struggling to light any type of fire or camping stove and then when you finally succeed the beans weld themselves mercilessly to the bottom of the pan and you end up with black flecked boiled to death beans with underdone sausages.
  You climb into your sleeping bag with rumbling tummy only to find that you've pitched your tent over the hardest ridgiest bit of land in the place and your sleeping bag is mysteriously wet, was one of the mutts that is currently retching up what looks like a disembowelled rabbit by the front door determined to have an indoor toilet or was it something less sinister.  You toss and turn and finally that bl**dy owl seems to have b*ggered off, oh no there it is again with it's friends having a choir practice for tone deaf owls in the tree directly above your tent!!
With that in mind perhaps a caravan is the answer!
Those cute little tow along homes no bigger than a king size bed that you nip up the motorway with and park in any overnight holiday field.  All your worldly goods hanging in the twee little cupboards, your mini cups and saucers clinking together for the journey. You arrive set in place your little step, unstrap everything that has survived the journey and after hooking up to the electric point put the kettle on and plan your first meal while watching the news on your lovely little portable television.
Scratch that too.  Driving along the motorway at fifty miles an hour with huge trucks whizzing past and creating wind tunnels for your plywood box to be sucked into, arriving white knuckled and hyperventilating at a camp site to find you have the pitch furthest from the outdoor toilet and shower block.  After ten minutes spent reversing your 'home' into the smallest space available because Mr and Mrs Blogs and their gang of unruly children have set up their van with awnings, paddling pools and dog kennels, and commandeered all available space you try and find the kettle, ah yes there it is tucked somehow below the table which then collapses on your head as you crawl under to fetch the now dented kettle.  Balancing it on the little gas ring after fiddling for what seems like an eternity to get a flame out of the thing you realise that the TV ariel is obviously pointing in the wrong direction as all you seem to have is a knitting pattern for a lovely red and pink Fair Isle jumper.  Oh, and once you settle down for the night the dogs decided that yes on top of your chest really is the comfiest place to sleep in this little box their humans are calling home.
I don't think so.

And then of course there's this.
Caravanning for lazy people.  You pull up in your car, park on the neatly manicured grass by your ready to use van, unpack your belongings, put the kettle on and begin your holiday.
Fine ... except I'm married to a 'real man' and his elbows tend to bash the walls of those dinky little showers, he pushes me out of any bed less then four foot six wide when he turns over in his sleep and is known, on occasion, to be accident prone, ie if walking in narrow spaces cups and food leap out of his hands and embed themselves in carpets, furniture and on top of unsuspecting dogs.
And so we've chosen to spend our four days of mini holiday HERE  in the same holiday apartments I had my little break at in March, only hopefully the weather will be a little nicer to us this time.  The dogs will have lots of space, my man will have a lovely full sized shower and all the furniture is full sized and new.  It may not be the complete lap of luxury but it will be a brilliant little break in an area we know and love, near-ish to my Mum for a nice visit and with fingers crossed for a bit of sunshine a patio to sit on and lots of lovely doggy walks along the river bank, one of which ends up at the sweetest little icecream shop. 
Today's job for me now that we're all booked in, is to plan the menu for the four days so I can see what we have in the freezer that will be coming with us and what I need to buy out of our remaining holiday fund.  The apartment has cost us £220  which leaves us with £280 for everything else.
And absolutely no offence to all you lovely campers and caravanners out there, this post is written very tongue in cheek :-)
Sue xx

Monday 24 June 2013

Taking time to smell the roses ......

Yes, I know it's not a rose, it's a flower I snapped off by accident while dragging out some nasty bindweed that was endeavouring to  strangle it.  I'm pretty sure it's a Peony, but I'm not a flower gardener, I love growing veggies too much to ever turn into a flower gardener.  In my garden flowers are only there to feed the bees and draw them over to pollinate my fruit trees and tomatoes, but I think they look pretty in situ.
Well anyway it was brought in and given a drink as apology for it's premature demise and now it has opened out to massive proportions, obviously it forgives me !!

Well anyway back to what I was saying about taking time to smell the roses, peonies. 
The cats know when to relax, they just flop down and snooze the day away, just as the dogs do, although the dogs jump up at every opportunity to bark at real or imaginary 'intruders'.  In their eyes any thing that passes be it bird, grasshopper, small plane flying over head or the neighbour minding her own business in her own garden are intruders to their space and needs a good barking at.  But cats, now they really know how to relax.
Archie loves the chair in the living room ....
... but Ginger has recently gone back to his first love, my washing basket.  The minute I put it down he's in there, getting himself comfy as only a cat can in a hard, creaking splintery basket.

When he's not sleeping he sits watching the world go by in his own unique style.
Well it's time for us to stop for a while, we both need a rest, this house search has been going on in earnest since the start of March this year, with weekends spent whizzing up and down motorways to all the corners of the country and all that started just after we were both really poorly with that horrible flu that struck so many folk after Christmas.
Lovely Hubby has been working really hard at work with an average working week of 50 hours plus, and then coming home and spending time on our computer organising searches and surveys, spending time on the phone organising things with our financial people etc etc etc.  I've been keeping this place going and doing as much as is humanly possible to lighten his load and keep the birds, animals and veggie patch ticking over with as little intervention from LH as possible, although being such a good team we do step into each others roles whenever the need arises.
But we've taken a step back and decided now that we think everything's going smoothly for the first time, we are taking four days to ourselves for a mini break and have given ourselves a budget from the house fund of £500.  This has to cover accommodation and everything except fuel.  The farm will be left in safe hands, as will the cats and geese and chickens, but this time the dogs will come with us.  So this week I will be doing everything possible to save us as much money as I can while we are away.  My first job is to plan the menu and get as much of it from the freezers and cupboards as I possible can.
So it's all systems go to find somewhere and plan our time away which will start at the end of this week, it will be all about reading, relaxing and walking and not much else, and as you do once that decision is made you start to wind down in anticipation of time off to come.
Sue xx

Sunday 23 June 2013

Inside/Outside Day ... and News

Look at the state of that, my messy bits and pieces baking drawer out there in glorious colour for you all to see, it was starting to be a bit of a struggle to get anything out!!
Yesterday the weather did not know what it wanted to do, brilliant sunshine for a few minutes ... just long enough to get me grabbing my trowel and gloves ... and then heavy showers that just made me run for cover.  I gave up in the end and got stuck in to tidying up the messy drawers in the kitchen instead. 
I knew there would be some things that would end up in the car boot box and was determined to get rid of them.
An hour later it was sorted through, cleaned and then the things I needed to keep were laid out neatly and ready for action, so much better and easier on the eye too.
I didn't stop with the baking drawer either, I went through and sorted and cleaned the cutlery drawer, I wanted to double check that we had just enough to supply two houses and yes, I think we can just about do it.  We will just need to buy another one each of our large and small chopping knives, which we both love and then we will be set up in both our houses.
Because yes, fingers crossed that everything now progresses smoothly, but our offer has just been accepted on our new North Wales home.  We have to wait for the results of a Radon Gas report for the mortgage company but as long as that is at reasonable levels we have done it, got ourselves our forever home :-)
Bits and pieces that are now waiting in the car boot sale box ready for the start of July.  I think we're a bit old for Gingerbread men and teddy bear shaped biscuits now, don't you !!
Sue xx

Saturday 22 June 2013

Soooo much information ......

There's sooo much information out there at the moment, and I guess it will only get even easier to 'access all areas', but sometimes you have to  be careful of what you read and remember that common sense is the best thing in the world.
I find all sorts of things when I'm whizzing about on the internet, this is lovely (apart from the obvious spelling mistake) ....

..... but this one really made me smile :-)
I wish my Suky was as slim as these Pugs, but she seems to be breathing calorie laden air!!
My little 'barrel' (her new nickname) always sat by my side.
Sue xx

Friday 21 June 2013

Starting to run out .....

Although our food supplies are still plentiful, aided and abetted wonderfully by the vast amount of salady things we now have coming through in the Veggie Patch and that we are making the basis for most of our meals, we are starting to run out of some non-food items.
  This week it was tissues, now I know lots of you will assume I would use washable 'old fashioned' handkerchiefs, which indeed my Lovely Hubby does, but I don't, I am of the mind that germs are best in the bin not whizzing through my washing machine with my best clothes on a 30 degree wash.
So with the last box being brought into use and it being hayfever season and all, I nipped out to the supermarket and for once I decided to visit Waitrose, a supermarket I love but not one that usually has that many bargains.  Although I must say I was pleasantly surprised when I got there.  I did need some carrots for grating as all mine are sliced in the freezer, and some grapes as well as the tissues so it was worth going out for.
When I got there I wandered the aisles quite enjoying being in a different place for once and I noticed that my favourite brand of Oatbran was reduced in price, so as we were about to run out I bought two bags.  I also spotted these 'Living Lettuces' which were reduced to clear at 69p a pack as the date was just up, so again I got two.  
When I got to the checkout I was offered a Waitrose card which the lovely cashier told me all about, they really are nice the staff in our local branch.  Seemingly as a card holder I now qualify for a free magazine every month as well as additional offers and the chance to win either the value of my weekly, monthly or yearly shopping free in various draws they do.  Ah well the odds of me winning that one (or it being very much if I did) are not very great but a free magazine every month, as long as I'm passing in that direction is worth having the card for.
I spent a grand total of £11.26, seemingly for accepting the leaflet with the card I got 1p knocked off my shopping according to the receipt, so that was then down to £11.25, ah well they say every penny helps :-)

I got my copy of this months magazine, now for free instead of it being £1.20, and I picked up a copy of their already free 'weekend' newspaper as I knew it had an article mentioning the lovely Jack Monroe who's Blog  A Girl Called Jack and exploits I follow avidly, (a really good piece by the way).  Also in my trolley were two poly bags that the previous trolley user must have picked up and then not used, so I popped these in my shopping bag for use at home, if I had left them there they would have ended up in the bin, what a waste!!

When I got home I gave my 'Living Lettuces' a good drink ...

... and then an hour later after a sandwich and a sit down (for me not the lettuces), I popped them out of the tray ...

... split them, and then split them again ...

...until I had 16 separate little clumps ...
... and put them into two empty troughs, and then gave them another good drink of water.
Now we'll have lots and lots of lovely lettuces, hopefully enough to keep us going, along with all the others I have growing, for most of the Summer.  Buying them this way was so cheap and gives us instant baby leaves and at least three re-cuts of each and every plant.  So potentially around 48 lettuces for £1.38, which is around the price of two in the supermarket at the moment.  Every little bit helps the £2 House Keeping Challenge go on for just that little bit longer.
It really made my day, an outing to a different shop, a couple of freebies AND lots of lovely lettuces :-)

Sue xx