Friday 30 August 2013

Do I Give a Fig ......

Do I give a fig ..... yes I do .... to Lovely Hubby with virtually every meal.
They're good with porridge, sliced into cereal,  eaten with little lumps of Feta for an impromptu snack ...
... but best of all he likes them in salads.
Any salad will do as long as it has a minimum of three figs.  It's not a bad obsession and it's one I'm definitely encouraging because I hate the things, they're much too sweet for me and they somehow just look wrong!
I know that sounds daft but ....... YUK!!
It's a good job one of us likes them, this is how many we've been getting every other day for the last two weeks.
We are trying to get branches from the huge plant growing at the side of this house to root, one of them  definitely has roots on (I pulled it up to look ...... hehe, and then quickly replanted it) and the other two look promising, the fourth pinged back up out of it's pot determined that it would not stay held down for neither love nor money, thank goodness is all I say.
If we are getting this much fruit from one plant how many would we get from four?
Sue xx

Thursday 29 August 2013

The Year of Less ???

'well, I think you should change your slogan "the year of less"... these days you're going to be the proud owner not only of a house and a farm and a garden, but even of some woodland! how can you call all this "less"? '
I had this comment the other day from someone called Rosa, and I thought I should maybe explain to some of my newer readers who perhaps are also mystified that a Blog with the sub-heading 'The Year of Less' seems to be written by someone who is about to be the owner of one house whilst renting another, who has two cars in the family and seems to have so much going on.
Well we used to have more!!
Not by design, or from any collection addiction, we just moved from a small town house to a huge farm house.   We had town cars when we needed country cars, we had going out clothes, work clothes and found we needed to buy clothes that were more suited to working with animals.  We had cupboards full of crockery, drawers full of cutlery.  Four bedrooms with furniture, beds and bedding to go on them. 
We had so much and then the last two years hit us, hit us hard.  We each lost a parent and family became so much more important than things ever could be.  It made us re-evaluate who we were and what we wanted.
We decided we wanted to tread lightly on this planet, to be able to move us and our animals quickly and with as little fuss as possible.  We didn't want to leave a houseful of things to be sorted if the unthinkable should happen and we should be gone before our time. 
We wanted to breathe .... and be.
So this year we got ruthless, we started jettisoning everything that we didn't need.  Things we thought we loved we decided we could live without, and once some of these things go you realise how much more can actually follow, and follow they did.
Things from the kitchen cupboards to suitcases under the bed, and then we sold the suitcases, well we though we might as well, we have nothing to store in them and as long as we have one for any potential holiday, that's all we need.
I pared back makeup to the barest minimum, all jewellery except sentimental items that get worn regularly has gone.  Broken chains and charms were sent off to a gold recycler and made me almost £120, which I have decided will pay for a weekend away for us just before we start with all the decorating of our new home.
Even the emails I get, and I was getting a lot each day, have been pared down.  I unsubscribed myself from most of the daily notifications I used to get and now if I have to I can get away with 30 minutes on the computer each morning and know that I am up to date with important things .....  things that matter.
And that's the crux of it, we needed to find out the things that mattered and let go of those that didn't. 
And we are almost there, during the course of my sorting this week I have decided there are enough things for me to do one more small car boot sale this weekend.  It is the final car boot of the year at our favourite location and although Lovely Hubby will be resting after having his eyes re-lasered tomorrow, I will be able to have one final stall.  I have two boxes full of things already sorted, with a value of around £50 and I've decided if I can get this figure up to nearly £100 it will be well worth me doing one.  It will round off our total figure for the years sales very nicely.
For this year up to now we have taken £927 at car boot sales. Money made from things that were in our house and are now being used (or sold on) by people that needed them more than us.  They may have really needed them or merely wanted them or simply saw them as a bargain.  We saw them as things that we no longer wanted, and there were other things that we needed more.
The money is being spent on things for our new home, all the bitty bits that are expensive to buy, but we wanted to buy most of them new, after all they will hopefully be lasting us for a long time, we do not change things for changes sake and have made choices together based on this idea.  We have new curtains, new towels, new bedding, it's going to be a fresh new start and it has been paid for with our old things.
So  ... 'The Year of Less'? 
Yes it has been ... when we move this time there will be even less than when we moved last time, when I can finally show you pictures of our new home you will understand and hopefully approve.  It is a simple house that needs simple things, totally different from any of our previous homes, it is the home we will grow old in together, with our necessary belongings around us and nothing else to worry over.
There are still some things left to do during this Year of Less but there is no rush, the final few things that leave will leave naturally and in their own time.  We are happy and that sometimes comes from finding the space to breathe and the time to Be.
Sue xx

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Bread, Bread, Bread

The picture that sums up our Bank Holiday weekend in one shot.
A bit of shopping, with a coffee to linger over at Waitrose, lots of eggs gathered off the chickens who are all doing so well without the large cockerel and geese to bother them, the new girls have settled in brilliantly well and are all laying good eggs.  Leisurely breakfasts including homemade bread.
And I think the bread was the real success of the weekend.
Made to my usual  recipe, but as it was a rainy day I had more time to play so I decided to have a little experiment for a change.
Adding cheese and red onion to half the mixture, and chopped nuts and grated apple to the other half, well I say half the mixture but I also added a bit of extra flour as I do most of the time to the basic bread recipe and made us two pizza bases for tea that night.
(My usual bread recipe is on the 'Recipes I Use Regularly' page at the top of the Blog.)

I didn't have any block cheese left and the grated cheese although tasting fine for flavour would most likely have dissolved completely into the mix and I fancied being able to see the cheese so I chopped up a couple of cheese slices I found lurking in the bottom of the fridge.  They were like tiny doll sized cheese slices when I had finished chopping - very cute!!

The two were added to the dough after it had proved for the first time  ......
... the apple and nut mixture co-ordinating beautifully with my bread bag - so I just had to get a picture!!

Then shaped into loaves and put into my 1lb bread tins, left until they had risen above the height of the tins and then popped in the hot oven.

Cheese and Onion
Apple and Nut
They both tasted lovely, well homemade bread usually does, but the added flavours and textures made for a really good change.  We had a few slices of both with cheese and chutney for one lunch, had some with homemade veggie soup for another and had two slices each with our poached eggs for breakfast on Monday morning.
We had the final two crusts last night, they were cut into cubes and had these ingredients added to them to make croutons to go with our Caesar Salad.  I meant to take a picture but we had eaten our tea before I spotted the camera - oops!!
So it was a good and tasty experiment and a brilliant use of a rainy few hours of a Bank Holiday weekend.  We both love simple home baked and home cooked foods and I think that bread really is the staff of life even if we have both consumed in one weekend more carbs than we have in ages. 
And then last night I sat down to watch The Great British Bake Off and what should they be doing but BREAD!!
Sue xx

Tuesday 27 August 2013

What Do You Usually Expect to Find in Your Watering Can?

What do you usually expect to find in your watering can?  Well in mine there's usually water ... I like to fill them the day before especially if I'm using tap water, to let it sit and be at the same temperature as the plants and soil that I'm going to be using it on. Occasionally it's a tomato food mix or 'worm tea', or now and then 'nettle juice' that I've made myself, on occasion it's fresh air when I've been to lazy to get ready for the next day.
What I'm not used to finding is a little frog, sitting waiting to leap out of the spout!!

Lovely Hubby spotted our little amphibian friend first.  The watering can was under the kitchen window and as LH went past to get to the Manshed he spotted a little nose peeking out, at first he thought it was the edge of a beak and thought a little bird had somehow ended up in there, but a closer look proved it to be a little frog. 
He, being a true Bloggers husband, shouted out "come out here quick ... and bring the camera".

We carried the watering can over to the pond, so the dogs or cats wouldn't catch our little watering can sitter as he popped out and LH carefully began tilting the can (it was half full of water) so that he could pop out gradually ...

... and then with a bit of a swoosh he was out.  Not at all surprised by his gentle eviction.

He was a gorgeous little thing.  We can only assume that he had leapt into the watering can for whatever reason and had managed, thanks to the water level to get himself onto the base of the spout on the inside and gradually work his way up.  Poor little chap, a lesson to me there I think and from now on ALL my watering cans will be either covered at the top over night or left on their sides for little creatures to explore and escape from.
Still at least this lovely little boy is safe and well and back near the pond.
(How to tell the difference between Frogs and Toads.)
Sue xx

Monday 26 August 2013

Gazing into space .....

Like Ginger I've been caught gazing into space on many occasions over this past few days. 
There's lots on my mind at the moment, obviously we are really busy with our diaries needing to be updated and co-ordinated on a regular basis so we each know what the other is doing and what we are doing together.  Planning the dogs visits to kennels when necessary, visits to Wales, to Solicitors, to family, planning time when we can just 'be' and yes, that is just as important as all the other things.
There is so much going on at the moment, it seems that after months, nay years of planning everything is neatly coming together, but it melds so seamlessly there would be little time left for the simple things if we did not make it so.
Ginger can be snapped back to the here and now so easily with a simple 'hello  boy' or an even more simple 'shh shh' and he turns and looks, acknowledging your presence with those beautiful eyes .......

... but then his attention wanders and again he sits this time staring into a different space.
I know the feeling well, one minute I can be on my hands and knees weeding in the Courgette patch (the nettles and me are fighting an on-going battle this year), the next the trowel is lightly held and I sit back and think, sometimes it takes only a butterfly skimming low in front of me to snap me out of the trance like state other times I need a barking Jack Russell to bring me back to the here and now.
So many lists, so many compartments filled with information and all tucked neatly inside this little old head of mine.
I think I need to take Lovely Hubby's lead and start committing things to paper.
I have plans for September, if I didn't make plans for it I think it would whizz by in a flash, there's so much to do.   We have a weekend away all to ourselves at the start of the month, with friends coming to look after the farm, we should be the owners of our new house by the 13th and that will involve lots of travelling backwards and forwards, plans have been laid already for the first few major jobs. 
We need to make the driveway safe and install gates to protect the dogs from the busy road that runs parallel to our land.  Luckily we are backed by our woodlands  (oh how good it feels to say that 'our woodlands') and that should entice the cats at least, to the back of the house and upwards, away from the danger of the fast flowing road, they are both used to the excitement and hunting opportunities that the woods can bring them.  We need to get the kitchen slightly redesigned to make way for the reconditioned Aga that we are currently looking for, and we are making full use of the cupboards that we will be needing to move around.  The vendors are taking away a cooker, dishwasher, washing machine, and tumble dryer, of these we need only a washing machine so the spaces the other appliances filled will instead be accommodating the units we are moving to make way for the Aga.  It should work.  We have just this morning decided that the last remaining space, the breakfast bar will have a double sided bookcase underneath it to house my lovely collection of cook books.  How often would we sit at a breakfast bar when the table will be only four feet away!!
This is just a snippet of what we have planned, there is so much more, and I have decided to call this September ....
'Simple September'
... there's an irony in there somewhere, but my foggy brain is not quite getting it.
Sue xx

Saturday 24 August 2013

Top Tips

Just how brilliant are some of these tips :-)

Well worth a look, there's a couple I'll be using for sure and I love the 'Bagel Tote' an inspired idea if you love bagels for lunch!!
Sue xx

So sad ....


We're so sad, we've lost two of our little chicks in the last two days.  One died last night and one has just been found dead in the run.  We don't know what has caused it but so many things can go wrong with such tiny little lives.
We know nothing about where they were hatched or what start they had in life, but we do know they had a very good Mummy who kept them cosy and looked after their every need.
She keeps the Broody House that they are living in absolutely perfectly clean and is always with them and aware of everything that is going on around the run.
Hopefully she will be able to continue looking after the remaining chicks, they seem healthy and alert and are running around and feeding and drinking beautifully, as were the other two until they died.
It's sad, but it's the way it goes I'm afraid when you have babies on the farm  :-(
Sue xx

Thursday 22 August 2013

We've Given All Our Money Away .....

We've given all our money away .... but in return we now almost own half of the very first house that we will have bought together.  Yes we have managed a whopping 50% deposit.  But our bank account is now a windswept and barren place.
Knowing our pockets are empty .....
... that we cracked open our piggy bank of savings for such a fantastic reason is brilliant. 
We now just have all the formalities to finish off but until the keys are grasped in our own hands I don't think either of us will fully believe that everything that we have worked towards is finally coming together.  The picture at the top of this post is the back of our 'soon to be' house, when you see the front of it heading a Blog post you will know that we are the proud owners of the keys to the front door
Of course it does mean that from now on ...

... we have to clamp down on the spending.
Use every voucher ....

... every money saving tip ...

... all of them ....

... yes really every single one that we know of.
We will have to grow as much as we can ....
... make as much as we can ...
... make full use of everything we have,
and find all the best bargains .... we can save all the pennies ...
... to feed our bank account back up so that we will be ready to pay off the allowed 10% overpayment that we can make on our brand new mortgage each year for the first two years and at the same time save like mad to be able scrape together by hook or by crook the means to be able to pay it off completely as soon as we are out of the 'penalty if you do' period.
But of course while we do all of this we will hold in our hearts and minds these very true words.
We will be rich, very rich because we will have -
each other
our families
our furry and feathered family members
hopefully - our health
a wonderful place to live
clean air to breathe
clean water to drink
and YOU
our dear Blogging Buddies, Followers and readers.  
All of you that take the time to read and comment, that spur us on to greater and better things, commiserate with us when it all goes pear shaped, laugh with us (and at us) when it all turns out hilarious and have rooted for us every single step of this monumentous search for our Forever Home.
I now accept my Oscar for best leading lady ..........  oh sorry wrong speech.
All I want to say is THANK YOU
Sue xx

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Chicken Stocktake

Yesterday I decided to count the chickens and find out exactly what we had, the numbers shift and change slightly and I do need to keep refreshing the numbers in my head especially after a sale.  The most frequent question we are asked by any visitor to the farm is "how many birds do you have ?" so I like to have the answer in my head.
Of course getting them to stand still while you count them is impossible, a handful of corn does the trick for a few moments so you have to be ready with your paper and pen to hand.
It doesn't help that on a hot day after a quick nibble they all scoot straight back under the henhouse to rest in the shade ...

... nothing for it but another handful of corn, this time mixed with some meal worms, now that always gets their attention!!
So posterity we now have -
1 Cockerel - Caldwell II
1 Light Sussex - Harriet
8 Hylines - Mother Goose, Angel and 'the Mob'
3 Bluebells - Belle Beauty and Brandy
3 Skylines - Dolly, Enid and Ethel 
3 Black Marans - 'the Gang'
1 Amber White - Amber
2 Black Maran Bantams - Titch and Tiny
2 Lavender Pekin Bantams - Poppy and Daisy
1 Black Pekin Bantam - Ebony
6 Silkie Chicks
No names yet but they are 1 ginger, 1 yellow, 1 'tabby' and 3 black and grey (one of which is teeny tiny)
*** *** ***
So we have in total -
1 Cockerel,
 24 Hens  (19 full sized and 5 Bantams),
 6 Chicks
= 31 Birds
*** *** ***
So we are at full capacity in the henhouse :-)
Caldwell is really coming into his own again as the one and only cockerel, even though most of his wives are much bigger than him.  The damage done to the birds by Harold is slowly healing and they are all growing their feathers back which is lovely to see, we still have the odd bald back and elbow but on the whole they are recovering quickly.  Caldwell is a much gentler cockerel and the girls are fast enough to outrun him if they are not 'in the mood'.

Ebony and her chicks are doing brilliantly, she is a fantastic little mother, rounding her babies up at any sight of danger and quickly herding them into their new house for security.  Her first sighting of a helicopter, (we have a lot flying low over here as we are quite close to RAF Benson), made her very wary but now she is used to them and after a glance above carries on with whatever little lesson she is teaching them. 
The black shallow tray in the run is a mix of soil and sand, yesterday she was showing them how to take a dust bath, I'll take it out later today I just wanted to make sure she could have one if she wanted one but she seems fine after a quick flutter and clean of her wings and it is just taking up space.

Of course when it's crowded under the henhouse they can always find other little patches of shade and these four birds, Daisy, Titch, Tiny and one of 'the Gang' were following the shade around the feed hopper for ages yesterday afternoon.
It was lovely to spend an hour cleaning, counting and photographing the birds yesterday, I had been packing boxes all morning ready for our move and the fresh air was a brilliant antidote to 'cabin fever'.
We exchange on the our new house next week and we will be completing on Friday 13th, which believe it or not is a lucky day in our family and a number that crops up over and over in things that are meant to be.  There have been lots of spooky little coincidences to do with this purchase that makes us think other forces are at work, the name of our vendors solicitor for example is LH's Dads name and his Mum's maiden name put together ..... Twilight Zone music plays out this post ..... der der der der, der der der der
Sue xx