Saturday 28 June 2014

Work Hard, Play Hard .... or Maybe Not!!

Dad's Bed looks tiny when looked up at from the bottom of the hill, it's still the most cultivated bed of the plot at the moment, but things are slowly changing.

When you get closer you can appreciate the two metre by two metre size of it and the little oasis of colour that it provides.  The new plants that Mum bought to go in it  have filled it out even more and yesterdays rain has made them bloom even more than in this picture.  It is now a mass of colour.
Barrowful by barrowful the other beds are slowly filling, it had started being really hard to dig out from the mound of soil as it hadn't rained here for almost two weeks, with the sun beating down n the soil it had got more and more compacted and harder to dig out.  But yesterdays torrential rain should ease this problem and make the digging a bit easier again - thank goodness!

The two beds that are already full of earth have now been planted up, just with some green and yellow Courgette plants for now and a few Radishes that needed putting out.  It's a start.

The fence line between the remaining paddock and the fruit trees is now completed.  Basic coated stock fencing with a strand of barbed wire at the top and bottom.  As usual Lovely Hubby has shown his fencing proficiency, he learnt by working with his Granddad many, many moons ago.
The smaller gap between the roadside fence and the gatepost has been filled with horizontal bars and a chicken wire base ... eventually ALL the fencing to this growing part of our paddock will have a chicken wire skirt, dug deep into the soil try to deter rabbits etc from gaining access.  We can't keep them all out but we can make it as difficult as possible for them to get in.
Once all the fencing is in place there will be two gates in each of these gaps, a smaller pedestrian sized one and a larger farm gate, that when opened together will allow access for vehicles to get to the paddock, something that will be needed for the final stage of our plans.
It's all moving along nicely., but the main tasks for this weekend are tidying up ones, mowing, strimming, weeding etc.  Sometimes it's nice to step away from the bigger jobs and create order out of natures rampantly growing chaos.
Yesterdays torrential rain was welcomed by us all, the trees have had a really good drink and all the greenery is looking even lusher than before ... oh and the water butt in Chicken World is filled to the top again just as I was about to have to start carrying buckets of water over to replenish their drinkers.
Have a good weekend, work hard, play hard and laugh lots.
Edited in less than an hour later!!
Just as I was pressing 'Publish' on this post Lovely Hubby took a nasty tumble off these sleepers that hold back the bank of earth at the back of the house. They are around four or five foot higher than the lower level, so when you come off them backwards ... almost followed by a heavy petrol mower that you were trying to push in the other direction it's a bit of a shock to the system.
(The wood isn't there anymore, this is an old photo of the area.)
 He's okay, just very sore ... but one thing we will not be doing any more of this weekend is 'working hard or playing hard'.  He's currently soaking in a hot deep bath to try and take away the aches.  I'm guessing tomorrow he will be a mass of bruises.
And all he said was 'arrrggghhh' !!
Sue xx


Thursday 26 June 2014

Have You Signed Up Yet ?

In just one weeks time, lots of us ex-Harcombers, current Harcombers and people who have never even tried it before are joining in to have a '14 Day Summer Blitz'. 
Fourteen days of eating real foods, no calorie counting, no specific exercises, just move around at your own pace doing what you want to do, nothing too challenging at all really, just being nice to yourself and getting your body into a good place, one it's perhaps not been into before or for a long time.

You can sign up to join in there are no strings attached, it is completely free of charge and all that will happen is that you will receive this free workbook to help you on your way.  Each and every day during the Blitz you will get an email with tips and inspiration and then it's all up to you.
I've signed up printed off my workbook and dusted off my Harcombe books and recipe book (although you really don't need them .... if you do want your own copies they are available to buy on the Harcombe website with a 30% saving between now and the end of the Blitz).
Fancy joining me?
Sue xx

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Maenan Gardening Club Summer Meal

Monday night was the annual Summer meal of the gardening club that I joined when we moved here to North Wales.  Twice a year we have a meal in the hotel that we use for the meetings, I guess it's the clubs way of saying thank you for the free use of the room we use all year.  Usually we only buy one or two drinks while we have the meetings, so takings can't be that brilliant even though there are 25+ people on the premises.
For this years competition we were challenged to find as many flowers in our gardens as we could and make an arrangement from them.  As a veggie gardener I don't consciously plant flowers except to attract beneficial insects to my veggies or to deter others from coming close, of course I will plant more once Lovely Hubby has his bee hives and I am trying to up the number of my bee friendly plants each and every year to help the little fuzzy buzzy friends that we could not live without.   But even so I was pleasantly surprised to find thirteen different varieties of flowers already in situ and available for picking.

I was really happy with my display, although I knew I wouldn't win with only thirteen different flowers.  The winner had over a hundred and her basket of flowers was beautiful.  Our table came second in the quiz, and the food and wine was enjoyed by everyone.
How my jug usually looks on the table.
It was a really good night out, and now the jug is back home on the table I am luxuriating in having a beautiful display of flowers where usually I simply have a jug of mint.  But the mint will return once the flowers fade as it is a wonderful natural air freshener and is supposed to deter flies and as it grows so rampantly in the front flower bed I do have to keep it under control somehow!!
Sue xx

Tuesday 24 June 2014

No More Chicken at the Door

Amber died yesterday, a quiet, calm dignified death. 
On Sunday she was off colour, slightly hunched and wanting to be by herself.  She drank some water when I offered it and had a nibble of corn, but she wanted to be alone and sat herself on a pile of leaves and twigs in the corner by the compost bins behind Chicken World.  At the hottest part of the day she came down and paddled in the drinking water bowl, something I've never seen a chicken do before, she must have instinctively wanted to cool herself down a bit more.
  At dusk she put herself to bed in one of the nesting boxes in the henhouse, strangely facing the back door instead of forward as the girls usually do, it was as though she valued her privacy.  I left her with a small cup of water.
Yesterday morning she trooped out with the others and I thought she was a bit better, her eyes were bright and she was walking much more upright.  After a mooch about in the grass for an insecty breakfast she sat by the water drinker in the sun.  It was lovely to see her basking in its warmth.
Later I looked over and she had moved from the sunshine into the shade of the small tree and there were two birds sat with her.  When I saw them troop away and leave her after an hour or so, I knew she had gone.  So I immediately went over to check and sure enough, she was warm but lifeless.
After checking her all over for any signs of what could have been wrong and finding absolutely none, I knew it was simply the time she had chosen.
They die well do chickens.  They sense when they want to go, they do the things they want to do and enjoy the things they have always enjoyed for the last time.  They chose their place to be and say goodbye to their favourite friends, and then they calmly and quietly slip away.
Oh would that it were that easy for everyone.

She was always one of the flock, accepted by everyone and always in the midst of any action, but she loved us too, I was privileged to be included as part of her gang.
But now there will be no more little white chicken rushing up the steps into the house to tell me when I'm late with the afternoon corn, no chicken doing her amazing vertical take off and nipping over the fence to have a nosey at what we are up to, demanding that we take her back and give her more corn.
Lovely Amber she arrived with us HERE and left when she decided to go.
RIP lovely girl.

Sue xx

Monday 23 June 2014

And the Winner is .......

I went over to HERE and picked up this number generator thingy, I couldn't figure out how to copy it onto the Blog so I just did what any good blogger does ..... I took a photo.
So the winner of her very own copy of A Little Piece of England by John Jackson is .....
Comment Number 56 - Kay, of the Blog 'Deep in the Cornish Countryside'.
Please could you drop me an email with your address Kay and I'll get the book in the post to one day this week. (I have already emailed you using the address on your Blog.)
Sue xx

Thursday 19 June 2014

Book Review and Giveaway

I got a very interesting email last month offering me a free copy of this book in return for an honest review of it.  As it happens the just week before I had bought myself a copy of it whilst perusing the shelves in Waterstones.  Admitting this to Jonathan who is from JJ Books, 'a small independent press in London', between us we came up with the idea of him sending me a copy anyway so I could give one away to one of my readers.
Their description of the book -
A Little Piece of England is author John Jackson’s amusing account of how he, his wife and three children built up a smallholding in a sliver of countryside in rural Kent over a decade in the sixties and seventies. Through trial and much error, the family came to make themselves self-sufficient in meat, milk, eggs, vegetables and some fruit, while learning various country crafts ‘in their spare time.’

The book features pen and ink illustrations by Val Biro, known as the creator of the Gumdrop books and for his covers for the Radio Times.

John, now 84, is an established author, lawyer, businessman and political and constitutional campaigner, as well as being a keen gardener. He is probably best known as a founder of the Countryside Alliance.

A good place to find out more about John may be his blog – such as this recent example looking at the current revival of interest in self-sufficiency:

The book was first published by the Collins-Harvill Press 35 years ago as A Bucket of Nuts and A Herring Net: The Birth of a Spare-Time Farm – the title came from John’s unconventional method for rounding up sheep.
So how did I find it .... well it is very well written and very concise.
 I think I can always tell the difference in a 'lifestyle' book when it is written by a man rather than a woman, somehow there is less of the minutia of day to day life and more facts and accounts of things as they happened.  More specifics and less emotion is how I guess I would describe it, so in this way it is a really good read if you are starting out on a small holding or on the road to self sufficiency.  But saying all that, it is a very good read for most people and one that I would recommend especially to anyone who has a self sufficiency lust or who just loves reading about other peoples struggles with animals.
Reading about how he had to chase his escaping sheep over other peoples land brought back memories of chasing our Large Black pigs as they headed for the M40 when we lived in Oxfordshire.  Sometimes learning the hard way is the best way to learn.  Now we know how to settle pigs behind an electric strand!!
So if you fancy having a copy of this book to add to your bookshelf please leave a comment below. 
 The Giveaway is open to all Followers and long time readers of my Blog as my way of saying Thank You for taking the time to read about our day to day adventures, you being there to confess all our mishaps to and to share the times when we do actually get something right makes it somehow much more rewarding.
I'm now vanishing for four whole days, a day that I'm spending with Mum and her friends down the road in Llandudno, a day being spent with my younger son, just shopping and catching up, a day being spent car booting our excess clutter .... and a whole day of working on the hillside with my Lovely Hubby, so you will have plenty of time to add your name to the comments and give yourself a chance to win this lovely book.
For any of you that can't wait that long I will put a link to the Amazon page so you can purchase a copy for yourself.
I'll be back on Monday with the winner of the Giveaway. 
Good Luck.

(Oh and I'm willing to post to anywhere in the world.)
Sue xx 

Wednesday 18 June 2014

I've Still Got Those Green Fingers

Spurred on my by accidental rooting of some cut Rosemary last month I decided to pop some Basil in the little mug on the windowsill to see if that would root as easily, and yep ... just three days later look what I got.
Potted up in a couple of my vintage pots they look brilliant ....

... and give me something nice to look at while I'm washing the pots.
It smells gorgeous too when the sun shines on them first thing every morning, who needs artificial air fresheners!!
Sue xx

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Chased by a Chicken

There was a commotion in Chicken World yesterday evening.  As I ran to the door to see what was up luckily my camera was at hand as one of the chickens was chasing a squirrel round, clucking angrily at it ...

... swerving and almost keeping up with it as dashed this way and that. 
The other chickens were completely unperturbed by all this sudden frantic activity and carried on their usual evening business of scratching around for insects and tasty nibbles, and grooming themselves ready for bedtime.

Soon she lost interest and gave up the chase and peace resumed very quickly but I had spotted the little chap run under the henhouse so I kept watching.
He had a drink of water to quench his thirst after the unexpected tag game he had just played ....

... he then spotted a tasty snack ...
.... and quickly got stuck in before he was spotted again.
Sue xx

Monday 16 June 2014

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

While we've been concentrating on the hillside, over at the back of the house the Rhubarb patch left to it's own devices was slowly going rampant.  Lovely Hubby spotted how sad it looked, overflowing and desperate for a drink, so he nipped out and had a good chopping session and then gave it all a good water.  It now looks lovely again and there are still lots of stalks waiting to be picked.
One good thing has come about from leaving it alone for a while though, the little Strawberry plants that are in there have been hidden away from the wild birds and from Amber the chicken, who nips over the fence every day to forage for tasty snacks, and so we have a few more Strawberries ripening up in the sunshine that maybe this time we'll get to taste.
Once the rhubarb was washed and chopped I put together a couple of crumbles, using up a couple of sorry looking apples as well from the fruit drawer in the fridge, and the last of the Approved Foods Oaty Crumble mix from the freezer.  I'm going to buy a block of cheap butter and whizz up some of my own to replace it, it's handy to always have some prepared, makes an impromptu pudding or snack much simpler to knock together.
Four trays were filled with the chopped rhubarb and put into the freezer to open freeze for a couple of hours.

A couple of handful were quickly stewed and added to some Scone Mix for a tasty treat for my hard working man.  You should have seen his eyes light up, he thought he was coming in for cup of tea and a biscuit :-)

A couple of hours later I tipped the now frozen rhubarb into a box and stashed it back in the freezer.  So now we have many more tasty snacks to come.
At last something completely homegrown stored away for later.
Linking up to my other Blog, '365 Days - £365' which is also about this Rhubarb today so you can see how my Challenge is doing.
Sue xx 

Sunday 15 June 2014

Father's Day

I was sat at the computer feeling increasingly maudlin, of which the dictionary definition is 'self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental'.  It's Fathers Day here in the UK and everywhere you look, both online and in shops and well just everywhere really there are messages for Dads, gifts for Dads etc etc.
Then suddenly there was a shout from Lovely Hubby who is putting up a run of rabbit-proof fencing in the paddock ..... "look out of the bedroom window".
The top picture is what I saw, and I managed to get almost over to her and record it for posterity before she moved.  Rosy was sat in the shade of Dad's tree.
Dad has had two presents this Fathers Day, the first was from me, this Veronica, 'Ulster Blue Dwarf' and the second .....
.... was from my darling girl, a freshly caught rabbit buried neatly next to mine.
I have dug it up now and returned the bed to it's former state, but she did it very neatly  .... and the thought was there!!
Sue xx

Saturday 14 June 2014

Dad's Bed

This is Dad's Bed.
After a week spent filling it up a couple of barrow loads at a time, it was finally ready and settled enough to plant into yesterday.
It started the day looking like this.

After carrying the plants, tree and bird bath over from the house, I played around with where things would go.

With plants lifted from his previous bed at our last place, a couple of new plants and baby plants, grown specially by Mum all in their chosen places, everything was given a really good drink .....

... before being covered with a good layer of mulch.  The oak chippings from our own felled oak tree.  Dad would have approved, using such special chippings from a magnificent tree that we intend to use every part of.

Dad's view down the hillside and across the valley.  He would have loved it , he would have sat and drunk in every tree, bush, hedge and movement of animal, insect and bird life.  He would have watched the traffic going past, bustling about in their rush to get from here to there, and he would have relaxed and breathed in the calm of the hillside in comparison.
He would have loved it.
I'm sure he does love it.
Because Dad is there .... his ashes, in their oak box are buried snugly beneath the Heuchera. 
He always slept on the that side of the bed, and one day as is Mum's wish, she will join him on her side.  But for now I will savour having Dad safe with us, close to me as I work on the hillside and in the tunnels growing food and flowers just as he loved to do, as we keep our promise to him .... to take care of that which he treasured most in the world Mum.
Sue xx

Wednesday 11 June 2014

The View from the Window

 The view from the window last night was so spectacular I had to grab the camera.
The light was wonderful ....

... although of course I couldn't do it justice.
But I had to give it a go.
It was peaceful, and so calming just standing there and drinking it all in.
Sometimes you just have to be in the moment and let it be all encompassing, feel your soul sing and your batteries re-charge, and you know after a good nights sleep you'll be ready to start another day.
Sue xx

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Revisiting the Past

I've been away with Lovely Hubby down South for a whole three days, I guess you wouldn't have noticed .... the Blog was set to publish every day while I was away, the beauty of technology eh!!
We spent a happy couple of days revisiting our old stomping grounds in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.  Eating out at our favourite places getting free coffees with our old loyalty cards and just generally relaxing after what has been a stressful and busy few weeks.
A gorgeous cottage that I have always admired in Thame ......

... just along the street from the Aga shop where I did the one day course years ago to learn how to cook to the best of my Aga's ability.  Worth every penny.  Fortunately for my purse as it was Sunday the shop was closed.
We had lunch at the branch of Prezzo in the top picture also in Thame and I have finally cured my addiction to 'Penne con Salmone', the new chef just didn't make it as well as I remembered, or maybe he had just changed his recipe slightly, whatever, I wont be hankering after it anymore.  I can do so much better at home now using Jack's recipe for 'Creamy Salmon Pasta with a Chilli Lemon Kick' and yes, it's me she's referring to in her book on the page with this recipe :-)
Calling to the kennels to pick up the doggies (yes they have had a little holiday too), the owner and the kennel manager both accosted me with "it's you isn't it".... err yes I replied "it's me", no they said "you're the couple on the hill just up the road working so hard to transform things", of course I had to admit it was us scrubbing up the Welsh hillside, they were totally impressed with the level of work being undertaken, that we are doing it together and just getting stuck in, and they are looking forward to following our progress as they drive past on a regular basis. 
And hopefully with the order for the polytunnel going in today soon there will be even more for folks driving past to watch and marvel at.  Yes, it's back to normal, everyone's home and there's soil to be dug .... now if it would just stop raining I could get on.
Sue xx