Thursday 29 May 2014

There's a Moose Loose Aboot the Hoose

There's definitely a mouse in the house (to put it in a slightly more English way), the dogs are going potty, well I say dogs but it's just Rosy really.

Suky would quite happily live with a mouse, as long as it shared it food with her occasionally.

As it is she follows Rosy from one side of the room to the other over and over again, not really knowing what she's supposed to be looking for or actually doing.  After a while she comes back and follows me round again or sits at my feet while I work,  to her it makes much more sense after all Mum doesn't spend half the morning barking at the cupboard door that hides the washing machine!!
By the way mice don't bother me in the slightest, so it's no big deal, as long as it doesn't chew through any wires.  One day in the not too distant future it will either make a bolt for freedom and get back out the way it came in, or end up as a tasty snack for Rosy or Ginger.  Poor little thing, I hope it's the former rather than the latter..
Sue xx

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Back to My Roots

I picked too much Rosemary last week when I nipped out in the rain to grab some herbs from the tin bath.  Rather than using it all and risk spoiling the dish I was making, I snipped off the amount I needed and stood the rest in a pot on the kitchen windowsill.
It got a water whenever I was watering the other herbs, but I didn't have a recipe that I needed it in until the other day when I was making some Mediterranean Veggies.  On pulling the sprig out of the pot this is what I was greeted with ...... lovely healthy roots.  So I popped it back into the water and went and cut another sprig from outside to use in my cooking.
A plant for free, maybe I'll do a few more and try and quell my urge to get seriously planting.
This was how it looked when I first sowed the seeds, now it is a mass of green.
I have cobbled together a makeshift 'greenhouse' to start some salad crops off in since the permission for the poly and net tunnels is taking so long.  Fingers crossed but we should hear next week and it's looking favourable :-)  The seedlings in my 'greenhouse' are doing surprisingly well, because I was using some of my oldest seeds I was very generous with the sprinkling of them and don't you know it virtually all of them came up, so at least there are some edible crops on the way soon.
Back to my roots ..... at last.
Sue xx

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Waiting for Titbits

"Rosy I don't think he can see me will you come over and tell him we're waiting .....
....... anything to oblige!"
Looking at the picture of Suky you can see why we, and our guests, refrain from giving the dogs any titbits whilst we are eating.  It's very hard to resist those big appealing eyes, but somehow most of us manage it!!  With Rosy it's not a problem as she's always on the go and burns off any extra food, but Suky is pretty much a dog that likes to sit and then sit, and then have a lie down before sitting again.
She is pretty fit for such an overweight dog and will run the length of the paddock if the mood takes her or she's playing with Ginger, but as the type of dog that has been bred as a companion dog her number one priority is to sit at your feet and keep you company, something she loves and does so well ....... she's sat on my left foot as I type this.
But even if titbits aren't always forthcoming .....

... there's no shortage of cuddles....

.... for everyone.
Sue xx

Monday 26 May 2014

Views from the Doorstep

I stepped out of the door to take the picture below, but first I simply couldn't resist taking this first shot, a panoramic picture of the view from the side of the house.
Stepping onto the front porch this is almost directly opposite us.  This 'puff' of mist is what we get all over the hillside opposite after it has rained, pockets of mist rising from the dips in the hill.  The first few times I saw this I thought there were little fires burning, as sometimes it is even darker grey and very smoke-like

Little wisps of rising mists evaporating and rising at their own leisure.  Some mornings the band is thick and solid and stretches like a white banded horizon, sometimes dispersing quickly before a camera can be sought out, and other days rising magically until it fizzles out high above the hills.

Lower down the view was different, the gates for the paddock drying off on the grass in the sunshine .... HA!!
Who were we kidding .... they got wetter and wetter, so we carried them over to the field and stood them up to see if they will do any better there.  Lovely Hubby has the 'furniture' already to go on them.  The hinges, catches etc etc.
It will look so neat and secure compared to how it all looks now, another step forward that has not been helped at all by our traditional UK Bank Holiday weather.
Sue xx

Saturday 24 May 2014

A Working Weekend

Well as you can just about see from these photos the sheep have  gone ..... ALL OF THEM!!
Lovely Hubby phoned the owner and told him in a very stern voice that we were having a contractor in to work with us on erecting fencing in the paddock and that we would not be held responsible for the consequences of anything happening with his sheep.
And magically while we were out yesterday getting the car repaired all the sheep vanished.
Today and tomorrow is all about erecting two lengths of fencing, and hanging gates.  These will separate the driveway from the growing area, which will contain the poly and net tunnels and the raised beds along with all the fruit trees and bushes.  The paddock at the end will then be smaller but safely fenced ready for grazing by sheep with permission to be there, and each area will then be more secure and lockable if necessary.
You can just about make out the row of smaller fence posts already knocked into position just after the fruit trees.  There are larger fence posts at the top of the hill to take the strain of the wire and hold everything firm.  If there's one thing LH already knew before we started our new life in the country it was how to fence.  School holidays helping his Granddad fence in the Scottish countryside was time well spent.  So tomorrow will be all about pinning on the wire and stock fencing.  My main job is keeping the workers lubricated with mugs of tea, chunky ham sandwiches and freshly made Madeira cake straight from the oven.
A working weekend, but then they usually are, and seeing big transformations at the end is usually worth the getting wet and tiring long days.  Hopefully Monday will be a bit easier and may even see us walking along the prom with the dogs.
Hope you all have a brilliant Bank Holiday Weekend those of you in this country, fingers crossed that the weather picks up a little bit for us all.
Sue xx

Thursday 22 May 2014

A More Welcome Little Visitor

This happy little chap runs round the fence of Chicken World on a regular basis, the chickens seems fascinated by him and have got used to his frequent presence.  Of course it may not be the same squirrel all the time, but somehow he just seems so at home there and as he only nibbles at a few layers pellets every time he visits he is a very welcome little visitor.
The 'unwelcome visitors',  the sheep are still in the paddock, at least I suppose we are getting the grass cut, but I'm still not happy.  Lovely Hubby will sort it all out this weekend I hope.  We need to really as we are putting up two runs of fences. 
One will be on the far side of the new fruit trees, which will divide the paddock from the food growing area and one is going on the driveway side of where the poly and net tunnels will be.  Both will have a large gate for vehicular access and a smaller one for people, but which will be able to be opened together to let larger vehicles through.  It should make things neater and safer.  We will be able to padlock them and keep our trailers safer until the garages are built later this year.
We have a nice man with a 'post knocker' on his tractor coming to get all the large posts into place, so much easier and quicker than LH having to bash them all in with a sledgehammer like he did for Chicken World.
Sue xx

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Freebies and Sheep

I was in Sainsbugs the other day topping up Lovely Hubby's stash of anti itching, anti inflammatory, anti everything to do with nettles medicines and I spotted the latest edition of their magazine.  I pulled it out to add to the conveyor belt and look it had a free gift enclosed in the bag it was in .... whoop whoop a chocolate bar just for me.  Then when I got home and opened the bag out fell a Peppermint Tea Pig
What a pity it wasn't Nettle Tea ..... hehehe     :-)
On a much less amusing note, yesterday I pulled up the bedroom blind to find three mangy looking sheep in our paddock and on looking up the hill five more chomping away all around the felled Oak.
I was NOT happy :-(
I rang around the farmers we know and none of them were the owners of the sheep,  the only person I couldn't get hold of was the owner of the ewe and lamb we still have in our end field.  For the first hour his phone was busy and then it was going unanswered.
Then I spotted that the sheep had all made their way into the paddock so I dived out and hotch potched together a means of blocking our open gateway ....
..... and then I phoned the Police on the 101 number.
They were really helpful and on speaking to an officer at our local Police Station in Llanrwst he said he was pretty sure he knew who's sheep they would be.  He rang me straight back to say contact had been made and within an hour the owner of the ewe and lamb .... and all the other sheep was here.  He promised to return as soon as possible with a trailer to move his animals.
Then proceeded to admire our trailers!!
Now if he had been as good as his word and had removed his other sheep when we first asked him to I might possibly have offered the use of our largest trailer, even offered to move the sheep for him when LH gets back, even though all our trailers are full at the moment and it would mean emptying the largest one out.
But to get neighbourly things done for you , I strongly believe that first you have to be a good neighbour .... and in my opinion he is not.  If he had been there would be no rush to move the sheep, after all they are giving our field a good grazing and manuring.  But now I just want them gone and FAST!!  I am fed up of the responsibility of something that is not mine.
Am I just being stroppy or am I right?
Oh ... and by the way this morning the sheep are all still here, looking for all the world like they live here, and the dogs can't be walked around the paddock, so I am going to have to take them out in the car to go for a walk as we have no pavements or footpaths along our road.
Sue xx

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Too Many Tools

Our big shed is over run with tools and gardening tools.  We simply have too many, so yesterday I decided to hoick all the gardening tools out and have a good look at what we have.

The Brush Cutter was not amongst the deliberations ... it was just drying off after Lovely Hubby had done another mammoth nettle and weed cutting session, this time with his arms covered up!!
Once I had laid out all the gardening tools on the grass I could see the duplications and called LH over to point out his favourites, those tools that might not seem brilliant to me but that do the jobs he needs them to do and are comfortable to use.  Most gardeners will know exactly what I mean, some things just feel right when you use them and no matter how old or scrappy they seem they really are the tools you would turn to time and time again.
Between us we picked our favourites and yes, there are still some duplications, but they are for when both of us are digging or they have slightly different handle heights, shorter for me, longer for LH.  We also have a lot of sticks with interchangeable heads which are really useful so they were all kept.

The rest were then washed, rinsed and left to dry in the sun ...... half an hour later the heavens opened and we were subject to the most impressive two hour long display of thunder, lightening and torrential rain.
So they got a second really thorough rinsing before being taken up to the shed in a lull between showers and left to dry off before they will be sold at a car boot sale next week.
One more niggly job out of the way.
Sue xx

Monday 19 May 2014

It's the Itchy and Scratchy Show

In our house at the moment, well for Lovely Hubby at least, it's the Itchy and Scratchy Show.
For those of you who have never seen the Simpsons, it's Bart's favourite cartoon show and is on their television all the time, a modern version of our old beloved Tom and Jerry, now not shown in case in incites violence in children!!
It really has nothing to do with being itchy or scratchy ......
My big strong man went out to strim the nettles wearing only his safety helmet and a short sleeved T shirt (well he did have trousers on and wellies but you know what I mean).  Two hours later his arms and neck were a red and weeping mess of itchy and scratchiness.
Both pictures courtesy of Google Images.
After a weekend spent slathering himself with creams and ointments and soaking in soothing cream filled baths he's almost got it under control. 
His bee keeping course went really well and he's now totally inspired to get a couple of hives of his own once he is here all the time.  He has lots of reading to do and contacts to make but it will be all systems go for our own honey for the future, one more thing ticked off our self sufficient list.
And talking of self sufficiency .... I guess I better not suggest Nettle Soup for lunch today, somehow I don't think he would see the funny side ;-)
Sue xx

Saturday 17 May 2014

Damson Gin and Damson Gin Jelly

I have no idea how long my Damsons have been steeping in the bottle of Gin that I poured over them but I know it has to be well over eight months .... and boy oh boy can you taste it.
It is gorgeous!!

On pouring through a sieve and then through some muslin it filled four of my bottles right to the top with just enough left over to give me a nice little chefs perk :-)
Damson Gin
450g Damsons
170g Sugar
750ml Gin
Wash and prick your Damsons (a fiddly job which you don't have to do if you freeze the Damsons for a while first and then thaw them to use for the recipe).
Put the fruit in a large container and add the sugar and gin.  Cover with a lid and shake once a day for at least two weeks or until all the sugar has dissolved.  Taste after 4 - 6 weeks and add some more sugar if required.  Leave for as long as possible.  The longer you leave it the stronger it gets.
You can use any kind of sugar and any kind of Gin, I always use the supermarkets cheapest basic or own brand label.  This is also delicious using Brandy or Vodka .... I know .... hic  ;-)

Then in my usual 'waste not, want not' fashion I tipped all the Damsons into a pan covered with a couple of pints of water and brought it to the boil.  I simmered it for about half an hour and then after a fruitless search for my Jelly Bag Stand rigged up this.  Pouring the water and fruit through the bag and leaving it all to drain overnight.

Measuring out the liquid I had one pint of luscious Damson juice so I added one pound of my preserving sugar to the liquid I simmered it slowly until all the sugar had dissolved and then brought it all to the boil.
For each pint of liquid add one pound of sugar, or in metric for each 500mls of liquid add 500grams of sugar.

It was kept at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes and then tested on a cold plate for a set.

 I did try using my Jam Thermometer .,... but it would seem the mercury has left home!!  Another breakage during the move I think.  :-(
Then I bottled it all into hot sterilised jars, and left it to cool.  It didn't set!!  So the next morning I tipped it all back into a pan realising that I had forgotten to add the lemon juice, rectified this by adding two tablespoons from a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge and then boiled it all again for another ten or so minutes and then re potted it.
This time it has a better set although to my mind not quite firm enough.  But a jelly is usually a bit softer than a jam so it's not too bad.
We had it on toast for breakfast yesterday and it was declared a complete success flavour wise for Lovely Hubby.
Sue xx

Thursday 15 May 2014

Playing Shamelessly to the Crowd

Today the sun is shining and all is well on our little piece of Welsh hillside.  The chickens are basking in the warmth and have themselves draped all over Chicken World (not at all like this empty shot of it).  They looked like lots of little corpses, so much so that when a coach came to a halt directly opposite them (there were surveyors in the road measuring) I decided before the townies returned home thinking that we were displaying dead chickens on a tourist route I would go and wake them up.
So I grabbed Lovely Hubbys grapes from the fridge and went to throw them to the chickens.  Virtually everyone on the coach already had their cameras trained on Chicken World and lots of manic snapping started as the chickens leapt up and ran over to Mum to get a grape.
I played shamelessly to the crowd ..... John Gray would be proud!!
" The things we have to do to entertain the crowds."
What were the surveyors doing ..... hopefully getting ready for the proposed road move, fingers crossed it goes ahead.  It means we will live on virtually a private road instead of a main through route and will take out two very dangerous corners.  The test beds have been in place for a couple of years now and all the signs are at last hopeful.  Apart from anything else it will add a lot of value to our house to be back in the peace and quiet away from the main road, and will help our future plans no end.
*** *** ***
My thoughts and prayers go out to the coach party involved in the terrible crash yesterday in Cornwall, especially to the family and friends of the two ladies that died. 
 My lovely Mum goes on coach outings and holidays with a great group of pensioners on a regular basis, and on one I joined her.  The atmosphere on these trips is amazing with a real camaraderie and sense of fun. Enjoyment at revisiting places seen before and delight at discovering parts of their country they have never seen before. 
I can imagine only too well the horror they all went through yesterday and hope that they can recover enough from the terrible shock to continue with their outings together.
Sue xx

Wednesday 14 May 2014

My New Favourite Jacket

Way back in March I was offered the chance of a lovely freebie, my choice of Jackets or Footwear from GO OutdoorsNow usually I am very quick to say 'thanks but no thanks', this Blog is not for advertising purposes or to earn me money, it's my diary of our day to day lives, but on this occasion I thought a perusal of their website would be interesting.
And I found this lovely 3-in-one jacket, so I said 'yes please' and for the sake of a Blog post about something I really like I got a wonderful freebie.  (It's at a brilliant price at the moment too.)
Modelled brilliantly by Lovely Hubby's gorgeous sister Alison, in the top photo when she needed a waterproof coat for our drizzly day around Conwy.  Gosh I hope her modelling fees are low enough for me to afford, maybe another bottle of Port will suffice!! 
Talk about glamour on a grey day, and don't they look very matchy, matchy :-)
The inner fleece layer is a jacket in it's own right .... struggling with the layers separating either as the sleeves attach firmly to the end of each other.

The zips that hold the two layers together become the zips of the fleece. 

 Am I just easily pleased or is this really ingenious!!

Back together this is how it looks.

And you can find this particular jacket HERE
Modelled not so well here by me in the bathroom, the only mirror that would show all the jacket.  I was thinking 'ooh look I've moved the plant to the other end of the windowsill since this picture was taken' ....... and then I realised .... mirror image ... duh!!
Currently the fleece is free from it's waterproof friend as in this warmer weather the two are brilliant apart.  A waterproof jacket that is not too bulky or warm and a lovely lightweight fleece to put on over a t shirt for that late night walk round the paddock with the dogs.
Many thanks to GO Outdoors for the opportunity to review this jacket
My opinions are all genuine (would you expect anything less from me) and if any other company wants to send me freebies they really do HAVE to be quality things that actually fit our lifestyle and ethos and be things that I do actually need and use.
Sue xx


Tuesday 13 May 2014

The National Trust

This year we bit the bullet and joined the National Trust for the first time.  We thought whilst we have no livestock that needs us to be here all the time or lots of our attention on a daily basis it was an ideal time to explore some of the wonderful old buildings and park lands of both our new adoptive country and over the border in England.
Our membership pack arrived really quickly and with it a free gift ...

... a mini pair of binoculars which Lovely Hubby was rather smitten with.
Aberconwy House
Picture from the National Trust website.
Our first visit was to Aberconwy House which is just up the road in Conwy.  We went their while LH's lovely sister Alison was visiting combining it with a walk around the castle as blogged about here.
View across the parkland to the west front at Basildon Park, built 1776-83 © Rupert Truman
Picture from National Trust website.
And then on the last Bank Holiday weekend we went to Basildon Park in Berkshire, somewhere we lived a fifteen minute drive from before we moved and drove past on a regular basis but had never ventured inside.

There was lots to see and photograph.
The grounds were beautiful just springing to life in the warm May sunshine.

Too warm it would appear for the mixed herd of cows, we spent a few minutes seeing how many we could name .... we discovered we're not very good on cow breeds yet ;-)
Inside the house was lovely, very well maintained and lots of the room had photograph boards of when they were used for filming the Downton Abbey Christmas Special, when the house doubled as 'Grantham House'.  We've never watched this (I know... shock, horror) but lots of folk were enthralled by seeing the rooms they had watched on television.
It was a really lovely day, and so one month in from getting our membership we have viewed two properties.  
Google Images picture.
Our nearest National Trust place is actually Bodnant Gardens which I think will be getting quite a few visits over the next few months as their gardens change throughout the year.   That they happen to have a lovely little coffee shop that serves cream teas will no doubt inspire LH to visit regularly as he seems determined to carry out his plan of 'Cream Tea-ing' his way around the National Trust properties of England and Wales.
Sue xx