Tuesday 31 March 2015

Chickens, Eggs .... and my most unusual Giveaway Ever

The birds are building up to being in full lay now, I actually have a couple of dozen eggs in the fridge, the first time this year.  (Yes, Mum I'll bring you some tomorrow.)  For once supply is keeping up with demand and it feels good.

The lighter and longer days suit chickens and help their little bodies to get back into a natural laying rhythm, not for me the commercial egg producers trick of keeping a light on in the hen-house and making the poor little birds lay day in day out throughout the Winter.  Going with nature rather than fighting against it or pushing it to it's boundaries, is what keeps hens happy, healthy and alive for much longer.

The blue eggs are laid by this lovely trio,  Ethel, Dolly and Enid who's names were picked by Blog readers in what must have been my most unusual Giveaway ever.  

See HERE for what it was  :-)

The third blue egg is almost green in colour as you can see from this photo, but I didn't find one when I collected the ones in the top picture yesterday.

And something rather special is going on at the moment, and yes it is always special to me no matter how many times it is re-enacted.  

Poppy and Caldwell II seen together in this photo are parents-to-be.  Little Poppy laid a clutch of twelve eggs over the course of the last few weeks and started sitting on them a few days ago.  Well she laid fourteen actually but I took two of them away as she is only small and for her to try and keep any more than a dozen eggs warm would have been too much of a struggle.

So in a couple of weeks we should have some new little chicks, the first to be born in Wales.  Welsh Lavender Pekin Bantam cross Mille Fleurs, and rather magnificently they are due on my birthday which is when I got my first ever Lavender Pekin bantams in 2010 and Poppy along with her sister Daisy are the last two descendants of the original family.

How wonderful is that :-)

Sue xx

Monday 30 March 2015

Successes and Failures

My new favourite gorgeously tasting snack of choice at the moment is one of Deliciously Ella's Raw Brownies.  I admit to being sceptical the first time I made these but my worries were obliterated the first time I bit into one.

The recipe is on her blog HERE and of course is also in the book.
You can also watching Ella making them HERE.

I tried adding some different dates to the Medjool dates, just as a trial to see if you really do need to splash out on the Medjool variety which are usually the most expensive.  This pack of chopped dates made into block form works out as the cheapest way to buy dates and I got this one from T*sco.  

 In my honest opinion if you don't mind adding more of your liquid sweetening agent these work almost as well, but for richness of flavour I think I will move back to all Medjool dates in future.  As I only eat one of these brownies at a time .... and if I can hide them a bit from Lovely Hubby who thinks nothing of polishing off three at once .... one batch of the brownies actually last me well over a week, so the additional cost is really neither here or there.

The brownies are just the job when the urge for a chocolatey rich treat is too much to resist, and are a good filler with a cup of coffee if you get a rumbly tum between meals.

Another success, tried for the first time this week, was a salmon fillet, topped with Garlic and Herb Philadelphia ...

... flipped over wrapped in puff pastry (so the seam is underneath as it cooks), brushed with beaten egg and cooked for thirty minutes.

This is what comes of using up things found at the bottom of the freezer.  I found a large tub full of salmon fillets the other day, obviously bought when they were on offer and individually wrapped and boxed as is my way.  The frozen puff pastry was lurking under the bags of veg in the chest freezer (as were three more packs of shortcrust pastry ... all ready rolled too ... obviously another of my bargain buys).

The only thing is ... I forgot to take a photo of the finished dish ... we ate the flaky pillows of deliciousness with a leafy green salad.  Something I'll definitely be making again.

I did however take a photo of this weeks 'failure'.

There should be nothing wrong with it, these were also found in the freezer ... a bargain pack of raviolis stuffed with cheese and herbs and served with a jar of homemade sauce, topped with Parmesan style grated cheese. It just tasted wrong ... so shortly after this photo was taken the whole lot was tipped in the bin.  Now normally the chickens would have had these as tasty snack but as they had long since been tucked up in their henhouse for the night and I didn't fancy this failure hanging around the kitchen or the fridge until the following morning .... into the bin they went.

To end on a success and to keep up with my accountability on Weight-loss Monday, here is a photo of the scales this morning.

Yay ....  I'm in the twelves at last.

Sue xx

Saturday 28 March 2015

It Just Says It All .....

My favourite magazine 'The Simple Things' dropped through the letter box last week, the back cover just says it all doesn't it  :-)

There's something else I need though and I haven't got at the moment ..... my poor little car.  It developed an oil leak last week and it took 6 litres of oil to get me back from Berkshire last weekend.  It is currently in the garage being made better by a man who can.

As you can see in the picture, Lovely Hubby tried .... but couldn't   :-(

Sue xx

Friday 27 March 2015

Taller Daffs, Mr Mole and Noisy Traffic

Just to prove that some of the daffodils I planted are taller than five inches :-)

Mr Mole has been back in action, this time coming up directly under the chicken feed hopper.  I wonder if he had a bit of a snack when he popped his head out of that particular hole!!

Meanwhile over in the polytunnel ..... some poor neglected plants have been re-potted, it was lovely to work inside while outside the rain fell and the wind blew.  

Although this polytunnel is nowhere near as peaceful to work in as my last one was.  We used to live in the middle of a huge 600 acre farm on our own little rented 10 acres.  The nearest road was almost two miles away so noise and disturbance was a rare thing.   Here at the bottom of our hillside I am literally a few yards away from the main road with all it's traffic noise, emergency vehicles whizzing by on a regular basis and the roar of trucks and motorbikes.  Peaceful planting it most definitely is not.

But at least I'm planting again and that is the main thing.

Sue xx

Thursday 26 March 2015

Hills, Holes and Buried Daffs

We have mole hills appearing here, there and everywhere at the moment, not many but just enough to surprise us.  And he likes to get about this little chap, these two appeared the other night in the soil pile, he must have felt as though he was 'reverse mountaineering' if he came from below ground level, this particular soil pile is about four feet tall ;-)

Further along on the doggie walk I thought I would take a photo of our dwarf Daffodils and Tulips.  They are not meant to be dwarf at all .... we just planted them WAY too deep!!

To give you an indication of size, here is my foot, next to an emerging bulb.  The ones with flowers on have reached the dizzy height of about four inches :-)

Here is a Tulip, coming through and already starting to flower ....

... and to give you an indication of size here's my foot again.  

I may be good with veggies but I seem to have a blank-spot when it comes to flowers ;-)

We also have lots, and I really do mean lots of these little holes around the place.  At first I wondered what was causing them .....

... then I saw a cheeky little fellow leave his nut shells behind.

Yes, they are where squirrels have buried their stashes of nuts all over the place.  How they manage to find these little pockets of stored food I have no idea, I ended up opening all the cupboard doors in my kitchen to find a tin of chickpeas the other day and I only put them away a week or so ago.

Clever little squirrels.

Sue xx

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Seeds and Comments

Yesterday was all about sorting through my rather large seed collection and making plans ....

... although I got a bit waylaid, not just by the view from our conservatory window but also by reading through my old planting handbook.

It's nice to look back over notes made in the past, especially gardening notes.  There are so many variables to consider.  Where you planted, the weather, the sort of seeds or growing medium you used previously.

I'm not really following any previous planting plan, last time I had a polytunnel and a kitchen garden we lived 'down South', here on our wild, windy and exposed Welsh hillside the rule book will have to be totally different, if indeed I can have a rule book at all,

This morning started icily cold after a night of hard and persistent rain, now the sun is shining and everywhere is steaming nicely.  It looks like a line full of washing will dry very well today, so that was my first priority this morning, but soon after I was in the polytunnel putting in the first of the seeds.  Tomatoes and Mixed Leaves seeds are now basking in a tray full of toilet roll tubes filled with compost, watered and luxuriating in the warmth of a cold propagator and the nicely warming up polytunnel.

This was my Kitchen Garden plan from Jointers Farm, our rented place in Oxfordshire.  Lovely Hubby did me an all-singing, all-dancing posh plan but funnily enough it's the scribbled permanent marker copy that was the one I found tucked in the back of my planting book.

As I thought I had a LOT of seeds.  Well I have my collection, the remnants of my Dad's collection and now my new freebies.  I went through them all carefully, noting on the front of each packet the year the seeds had to be planted by.  

The seeds that should have been planted in 2009 have obviously been put at the front of each pile to be used first.  ;-)

This is one page of my book that I can and will be taking notice of and using again.  My companion planting reminders.  Luckily I bought a packet of French Marigold seeds and also some Nasturtium seeds the other week, they will brighten up the polytunnel and work for their living.

To sort of reply to a couple of the comments yesterday, my seed box admired by John of Going Gently fame is an old drawer ....  not even one of my old drawers.  I spotted it at a car boot sale about five years ago, it was full of bits and pieces of tools, I just loved it's rustic simpleness, so asked the man how much he wanted for it.  He hadn't even considered selling it, but when I said I'll give you a pound for it those tools were tipped out and he had the money in his pocket before you could say Jack Robinson.  Once home I washed it, left it to dry in the sunshine and then gave it a coat of varnish.

Yesterday before refilling it with the seeds as you can see above, I did a few repairs with some superglue and it's ready for another few years of seedy action.

And Happening Upon Happiness asked if Ginger and Mavis had been brought up together.  Actually of all our animals they have known each other for the least length of time.  Ginger has been with us since we lived in Berkshire, so for about three and a half years.  He is actually our 'foster' cat, the people we rented the bungalow off were going abroad for a few years so we offered to look after Ginger while we lived there, when we found our 'forever home' they were not due back for over a year, so we got permission to bring him with us.  

Mavis, the Jack Russell came to us on 31st December 2013.  She had been found wandering in the road on a dark wet night, when her original owner was traced he refused to take her back, so the guy that found her asked us if we could adopt her as he couldn't.  So of course we did.  So the lovely two-some have known each other for just 15 months.

  Ginger is just so laid back, the most laid back cat I have ever known.  He accepts each of our dogs and chickens for what they are and acts accordingly with them.  He will cuddle up to, sleep with and lick Mavis, will sleep with but not touch Rosy as he knows she likes her own space and if ever the dogs get cross with him, he simply sits and looks away from them until they make friends again.  If in the distance they mistake him for a stranger in the paddock and run at him barking, he simply sits and waits for them to get to him and realise their mistake.  A very clever cat.

Sue xx

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Snoozing the Night Away

These two cutie pies took to the cushion on the sofa at about six o'clock last night, straight after their evening meal and their evening constitutional around the paddock, yes Ginger the cat comes on doggy walks too.

They snoozed and snoozed the evening away ....

... until my bedtime, by which time they were oblivious to all around them, totally flaked out, but still sharing their favourite cushion..

This morning, thank goodness we are all much more awake, and my job for the day is to sort through my lovely large seed collection to plan out what I will be sowing first in the polytunnel.  I meant to do it yesterday but I got waylaid with other things.  If I'm not careful today ....

.... I may get waylaid by the view from the conservatory window.

It's real April showers here today, a few weeks early I know but one minute we've got sunshine and the next the heavens open.  Which at least means there are lots of rainbows colouring up the sky.

Not a bad day to be sitting inside playing and planning.

Sue xx

Monday 23 March 2015

Seeds Up, Pounds Down

My special offer free seeds arrived this weekend, how quick was that then!!  

I only signed up for the magazine subscription that meant I got £36 worth of free seeds for spending £36 on the subscription midway through last week.  It's nice that a gardening magazine realises that getting promised seeds to a gardener with itchy green fingers quickly is positively vital.

And yes, I did check that I got my £36 worth  ;-)

I am now going to spend a happy hour sorting through ALL my seeds and I have a lot.  I have my own, my inherited seeds from Dad and now all these lovely new ones.  It's going to be a very happy hour indeed.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

In other news ... it's Weight-loss Monday, I refuse to call it anything other than that, I must go down.  It will happen every week until I get to my first target of 12st.  I apologise for those of you who don't really care what I weigh but I am determined to hold myself totally accountable.

Just 2lbs down this week .....

... but it does mean that this is the last time that you or I will see the number 13 appearing on these scales.

(If it subsequently all goes to pot I will now have to purchase some new scales to make that statement the truth!!)

Sue xx

Sunday 22 March 2015

Holding Fire .... but Tempted

You can only imagine how much this picture means to me.  To see the polytunnel filling up with all my growing accoutrements is good for my soul.

Little by little everything is being cleaned and moved over ready for action.

And believe me it is taking all my strength not to plunge in and get planting.  We have had a couple of mornings of really hard frost on this patch of hillside, so I am holding fire for another week before I tempt fate and begin putting those defenceless little seeds into compost.

Although I have just treated myself to a couple of propagator lids to fit my large green trays, so I will be in action very soon.  Then at last these green fingers will stop twitching.  :-)

Sue xx

Saturday 21 March 2015

Food On My Mind

I feel as though I have got food on my mind all the time at the moment.  I have just signed up for Live Below the Line I've done it a few times now, in fact I think I've done four out of the five years it has been going.

The other day I made a huge pan of Ratatouille and while I was dishing up my meal for the evening ..

... and then portioning up one for the following evening and five for the freezer I wondered if this would be feasible as a good evening meal for during the Challenge.

Nope, I don't think I would be able to manage it, an Aubergine alone is 75p, then two Peppers, three Courgettes, three onions, three tins of tomatoes ... it all starts adding up.  But I do think that I'll do something along these lines for my evening meals during the challenge.

At least I know I'll be eating well this week and next :-)

If you're interested in getting involved yourself this year, and it now runs in the UK, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada and Columbia ... wow this thing is growing nicely, you can follow the link in the first paragraph to take you to the general page to learn more about it.

This year I have decided to try and raise money for Action Against Hunger, they help hungry people wherever they are in the world in times of real emergency.  My donation page is here and I'll put a permanent link on the sidebar once I'm properly into things.  In the meantime you can pop over and take a peek if you want to.

I'm not sure how I'm planning to do it this year, but as ever you'll be the first to know.

Sue xx

Friday 20 March 2015

Sitting Pretty

I took all the recycling out to the boxes we have outside the back door, .... 

... and we have our nice new trolley boxes now, so much better for wheeling down the drive to the roadside every week.  Then I took the dogs for a wander around the paddock.

While we were gone Ginger made himself very comfortable in the basket we put the recycling in during the day, that I had just plonked on the table ... it's a good job it wasn't any nearer to the edge!!  

He just looked too cute not to take a photo of.  :-)

Sue xx

Thursday 19 March 2015

Planting on my Mind

I've obviously got  planting things and growing my own food on my mind.  I slipped this magazine in my supermarket shopping trolley yesterday without even giving it more than a cursory thought.  

I had spotted the free seeds and gift on the front cover, and although the little plastic things look nothing, I have a little plastic dibber just like this that is hiding somewhere in amongst all my planting stuff over and over and it's the most used bit of kit ever for making holes and lifting seedlings carefully to re-pot ... and you just can't say no to more Kale and Chard seeds can you.

Then before I knew it as soon as I got home I was signing up for a full years subscription.  Well it would have been foolish not to ..... with thirty six pounds worth of seeds free for a £36 years subscription,  I'm either getting the magazine totally free of charge or a heck of a lot of free food for next year.  Did I mention that I have more than enough seeds for this year without any shopping.

But sometimes you just HAVE to treat yourself don't you  ;-)

Sue xx