Monday 9 September 2013

Always on the look out for ideas .....

We are always on the look out for ideas, for money saving plans and new ways of keeping things simple, so for our last weekend break of the Summer before we buckle down to weeks and weeks of decorating and moving our things bit by bit over to North Wales we decided to visit one of our favourite places - River Cottage.  That it's usually full of good ideas is a real bonus.
The views are amazing, for us surrounded on three sides by woodland only a stones throw away, anywhere we go that has wide sweeping views makes us stop in our tracks and really appreciate them , we are so lucky that the front view from our new house is open to the Welsh valley beyond.

My first stop was to the kitchens to watch 'Pam the Jam' (Pam Corbin) demonstrating making Lemon Curd and Raspberry Jam to a rapt audience.  She was lovely and chatty, patiently answering the same questions over and over from folk who had never tried their hands at home made preserves before and seemed to find the whole procedure totally scary.
It made me sad that so many people are willing to hand over the making of their foods to the big manufacturers and are really to scared to try for themselves, but it also made me realise just how far I have come over the last four years of our country living.  I knew the answers to the questions, and the techniques she used were exactly how I have been making jams and curds for the last few years.

We met up again and strolled around the veggie growing sections, I love this idea of a bank of boxes in front of the polytunnel to grow various salad leaves, so much easier to keep them away from slugs and snails.

The poly tunnel gave me lots of ideas, made me miss mine even more and made me look forward to next Spring when once again I will be back in action planning, planting and growing under polythene.

I loved the neatness of it, and yes, we did realise that a lot of tidying must have gone on in the run up to the even, and I was inspired to think about late Summer crops planted as late in the season as you can to keep that lean period that all veggie gardeners dread as short as possible for next Winter.

My favourite part was the boxes on their sides used to store pots and all the bits and pieces that you need on your potting bench ...

... while Lovely Hubby's favourite part was the heated and controlled mat the pots were standing on, again to prolong the growing season.  We both loved the very simple idea of holes drilled in the bench edge for the hooped pipes, perfect for throwing fleece over to give plants a double layer of insulation from the coldest of Winter days.  An idea we are definitely taking for ourselves.
We compared the polythene and polythene/net covered tunnels and discussed the merits of both.

We liked the little seating corners and productive sheds, after all every gardener needs a shed, and I'm thinking a 'Girl Shed' as well as a 'Man Shed' is really necessary!!

Then we joined to the queue to meet the man himself and get our latest book purchases signed.

Hugh takes time for everyone and was genuinely interested in our starting again from scratch, after all it's something he had to do when he moved from the original River Cottage to Park Farm where they are based now.  He asked whereabouts in Wales we were moving to and knew the area well.

And told Lovely Hubby that he really must invest in good sea fishing gear to be even more self sufficient.
With a signature and message in both our new books we moved on to explore even more around the farm. 
We listened to a good talk by the HQ farmer on the breeds of animals they farm and why, it was good as quite a few of us in the tent had livestock and knew enough to get a good conversation going.

We listened to a talk by Steven Lamb on Smoking and Curing your own meats ...

..... although through most of the talk LH was coveting Steven's straightforward and simple but very good for the job sausage filling machine.  He took a close up photo of the makers badge and address so we can buy himself one in the very near future.  I see links and links of curing sausages around the place, after all the cool days of Autumn are ideal for hanging your sausages and sides of meat.

We finished our day strolling through the Kitchen Gardens, admiring the companion planting and explaining to some passers by yes, these were Leeks planted alongside Carrots and the reason why, see I told you we have come a long way in our rural journey.  We now know answers where once we asked questions, it's reassuring that things do seep into our tired old brains :-)

Lots of gorgeous crops and we wandered round drinking mugs of coffee and eating homemade Carrot Cake fresh from the farmhouse kitchen.
We got home yesterday afternoon, to the sad and unfortunate sight of our lovely old Apple Tree lying half on it's side having taken down the Veggie Patch fence with it.   It was very old but to see it fully laden with fruit and having snapped in the middle was so sad.
But now we are filled with new ideas, new plans and renewed energy for our impending move.  The time is almost upon us to pack up and set off for pastures new and we are getting rather excited.
Sue xx
Simple September - Top Tip #6
Always, always, always be on the look out for ideas you can use, adapt or make your own, to make whatever you do more enjoyable or easier to accomplish. 
Be it bread making, baking, organising your store cupboards or making good use of things you have, if you are always open to new ideas rather than getting stuck in a rut 'because that's the way I have always done it' you will find yourself moving forward and enjoying what you do all the more.


  1. Oh wow, I've gone green all over now. And only SOME of it is sheer envy ;)

  2. Great stuff. Those polytunnels look so organised!

  3. What a great way to spend a weekend, i have always fancied a trip to River Cottage. You two must be just a bit excited, don't you get the keys at the end of this week? I'm really looking forward to some pictures of your new home and the views.

  4. It all looks very organised! It looks and sounds like you both had a fantastic must be itching to get started on you own little plot :)

  5. Haven't got room for even a small polytunnel but if your new area is subject to wind, maybe a poly/net tunnel (assuming the net is to help hold down as well as shade? Never too old to learn new tricks, it is what keeps a simple life exciting. Wish I was a fly on your walls for your move, soooo exciting!

  6. I really like old wooden boxes used for shelving and those salad boxes look great.
    An exciting time for you x

  7. Wonderful post Sue, thank you for sharing all of the pictures :) Today's top tip goes hand in hand with the phrase, "you never stop learning." There's always a new skill to be discovered or a new hobby to turn your hand to. I can't wait to see how you turn some of the ideas you've collected into actions. Best wishes.

  8. What an amazing day. Hugh is a favourite of mine. So sincere, unlike others.

    Lovely to see you two together.

    Sft x

  9. Love this post, lovely Sue and lovely Hugh... You are so right about trying new ideas, there's a wealth of tips out there. Claire xo

  10. That was a trip I would have enjoyed. A visit to river cottage is on hubby's to-do list :-)

  11. What a lovely outing. It is always inspirational to go to places like that. Glad you had such a good time. What a shame about the apple tree. Hopefully you will be able to save some of the fruit.

  12. A perfect day!! Really interesting to hear and see pictures. Sorry to hear about the apple tree! We had that happen to us with an old apple tree, suddenly one day it was flat out on the ground. Was sad because every autumn it was always full of huge delicious yellow apples. I find it sad and disturbing how so many people don't produce any of their own food. I have had people say to me that they just can't be bothered or can't find the time to fit it in their schedule. A little girl wondered why we go picking wild blueberries when they sell them in the shop. My son replied: it's fun and it's free and they taste better when one has picked them oneself. Quite right, he's getting it :-). Pam x

  13. Sounds like you had an interesting mini vacation. I would love to go to River Cottage, ie, Park Farm. I get their email newsletters every month. Maybe some day I'll be able to fly "across the pond" and go there!

  14. This is amazing. You spent the day with one of my favorite TV personalities. Ive seen every River Cottage Espisode right back to the beginning. How cool to see photos from your visit. If i ever ever made it to the UK it would definately be on my touring program. Since Escape to the Country is my favorite show, the list of places to visit has grown so big i think ill need six months.

  15. Sue, it looks like you had a fantastic time ! So many of us who read your blog and cheer you on appreciate you sharing such a lovely day. Thankyou :)

    Such a shame about your apple tree:(. Was it the amount of fruit that did it? I do hope you get to use the apples though, even though you're going o be so busy with your move. I'm so excited for you Sue.

    Take care, and have a great week lovely lady and LH .


  16. What a lovely day you had, a real relax before all the mayhem start!! It is a shame about the apple tree, but most trees are groaning with fruit this year; I have only 'scrumped' windfalls so far this year, but there are so many trees and plenty of really good apples, I am loving it. Your September tips are great too, sometimes just a little reminder but certainly useful. Look after yourselves and good luck for the coming week. X

  17. What a fabulous place to poke around. Extremely envious of that huge poly tunnel. I WANT ONE!


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