Friday 31 July 2015

The Gates

The gateposts are finally in.

Yesterday our wonderful builders put most of the tops stones in place on top of the new walls and got the gate posts up at the right levels and concreted in place.  These posts will take the weight of the gates and be hidden by stonework to match the walls.

And thanks to our morning out to the quarry near Caernarvon last Friday ....  yep, we go to all the best places together  ... we now have the stones that will cover the steel posts.  The same company Trefor Granite Quarry supplies the granite that makes curling stones, and some of our stones have the distinct curved edge that shows they were once part of a rock that has been turned into a curling stone.  The curved bits will be faced inwardly unfortunately so this 'claim to fame' will be hidden from view.

That trailer is holding two tons of stone, just enough for the three posts.

And then this morning .... ta da!!

The gates are on .... they most likely won't stay on for long but measurements had to be taken and fittings checked and I couldn't resist getting a quick photo of how it will soon look.  I've just had a quick peek out of the window, and yay ... the first few stones have been placed around the pedestrian gate post.

Next week on Monday, there is a very big delivery expected.  The steel supports that will be the framework of the garage and workshop have been made, galvanised and are almost ready for loading on the truck  :-)

It's all starting to come together rather nicely.

Sue xx

Thursday 30 July 2015

On the Agenda Today

Well the Damson Gin is strained and into it's bottles ready for storing in the cupboard.  Now that just leaves me with the well soaked Damsons.  I can't actually remember when I put these to soak, it doesn't really matter how long you leave them steeping in the Gin as the alcohol preserves them, and actually the longer they are there the better the gin and the jam.  

Now it's time for the next step ..... taking the stones out of the damsons.  It's worth doing this as although they will float out in the boiling process it's a sticky and fiddly job to fish them out then and there are always some that get missed, and you get a much better jam to eat if you don't have to fish stones out of your mouth with every bite of your toast.  The easiest way to do it is to line up an empty dish, or the pan you will do the next stage in (I forgot to do this this time), the bowl full of damsons and your little compost bin.

And with the radio on so you can sing along and bop when the right tune comes on, you can start the process of pick up damson, squeeze out stone and put the right thing in the right container.  When you get to the halfway stage as I was in this photo, you can start to breathe a sigh of relief ... it's not the most riveting job in the world!!

But once you get to this stage ... it's all worth it :-)

Then you simply pour on enough water to just about cover them, bring it to the boil and then simmer for twenty or so minutes.

Once slightly cooled I usually give them a bit of a mash with my potato masher and  then ladle them into the straining bag.  I left this overnight and by this morning my jug was full of lovely damson juice.

As I sit here at the computer typing this my jars and lids are washed and draining ready to go into the bottom oven of the Aga for ten minutes or so to sterilise them ....

.... and the jam pan and bags of sugar are on top of the Aga getting nicely warmed up .... and as it was so wet here this morning when I walked the dogs round the paddock before seeing to the chickens, my jacket is drying too.

So one more cup of coffee, a whizz around blog world to see what you lovely lot are up to and then it will be time to make the jam.  I can't think of a better way to spend a wet, cold and dismal day than in the kitchen making a batch of jam.

Sue xx

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Death to the Food Thieves

If we are to have any chance of self sufficiency I do realise that meat has to be on the agenda.  Not for me I hasten to add, I could no more eat a pork chop than I could chow down on one of little Suky's legs, but Lovely Hubby is a meat eater through and through.

Last weekend saw the first proper go at keeping down the pesky food thieves on the hillside whilst putting meat in the freezer.  Two humongous rabbits were shot with the high powered air rifle and 
using his woodsman's knife (lost since the move and just recently discovered), he skinned and jointed the two 'victims'.  

The dogs had a wonderful supper of cooked rabbit trimmings and four large fillets were prepped for the freezer.  I must say that Lovely Hubby did all this very discretely with me up in the office on the computer while the butchery went on in the kitchen ..... with a rapt audience of dogs.

The only thing is now that she has tasted cooked rabbit I have visions of Rosy bringing her rabbit kills back to the house for cooking instead of eating them on the hillside .....yuk!!

Lovely Hubby's knife was made by Ben Orford who we met at River Cottage way back in 2010 (see HERE). 

As well as buying the knife we bought a couple of kitchen utensils and after seeing us scraping together all our available paper money to pay for the knife (he didn't take cards) Ben made me a lovely Spurtle on the spot.  

It's something I use to this day  .... although rarely for porridge!!

Hopefully in the future as well as rabbit for the freezer we are hoping to have our own chicken, lamb, and pork products as well as other cuts of meat that we may be able to barter for.  If you're doing this self sufficiency malarky you do sometimes have to do things you might not completely like.

Although we have decided to help me stay sane, that the large chest freezer that will be holding the meat is moving out of the house and into Lovely Hubby's new workshop as soon as it is built.  The house freezer will hold vegetables and just the week ahead's meat.

*** *** *** *** ***
Edited to add - After reading my post this morning my Mum sent me an email ......

  Subject: Sex after Death
 A couple made a deal that whoever died first would come
 back and inform the other if there is sex after death. Their
 biggest fear was that there was no after life at all. 
 After a long life together, the husband was the
 first to die.

 True to his word, he made the first contact:

 "Marion . . . Marion . . ."

 "Is that you, Bob?"

"Yes, I've come back like we agreed."

 "That's wonderful! What's it like?"

> > "Well, I get up in the morning, I have sex, I have
> breakfast, and then it's off to the golf course. I have
> sex again, bathe in the warm sun and have sex a couple of
> more times. Then I have lunch (you'd be proud - lots of
> greens). Another romp around the golf course, then
> pretty much have sex the rest of the afternoon. After
> supper, it's back to the golf course again. Then
> it's more sex until late at night. I catch some much
> needed sleep and then the next day it starts all over

"Oh, Bob, are you in Heaven?"

 "No...I'm a rabbit in Shropshire."

Sue xx

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Over in Chicken World

Mother Goose and her babies are back in the hustle and bustle of Chicken World.

They stay by Mum's side most of the time and she takes them off for 'Mum and Baby' time frequently, but they are now brave enough, and more importantly accepted enough, to be able to hang out with the rest of the flock.

The 'chook, chook. chook' call I make when it's time for the daily ration of corn brings them, as well as all the other girls out of the undergrowth and over to hardstanding for their favourite treat.

Once it's all gone you can almost see them thinking "right what was I doing a minute ago?"

And it's back to whatever it was for everyone, and Chicken World goes back to the business of the day.

Caldwell the cockerel has decided he doesn't like Rosy and keeps a beady eye on us while we're in there, she nearly always comes in with me on her mission to find a rat. If he manages to get her on her own and within striking distance he really goes for her, luckily being a quick and nimble Jack Russell she always manages to get out of his way in time and threatens him with a growl and a a proper snarl, but she's a good girl and knows that although she could kill him in one fell swoop he's family .... so it's just not done!!

She's a good girl.

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

Edited to Add

'The One' died last night.  She simply pined away after the death of her friend.  I've put this photo of the two of them together taken from THIS post, she was the darker Hyline on the left.  They were just inseparable and although she rallied every day at corn feeding time, and ran over to get her share, her days it seems just weren't the same without her best friend.  She got her strange name because when we got her she was part of The Mob a group of rescue chickens never individually named and as they died off one by one she became the one that was left, and she chummed up with Angel.

She had a good life and in some ways I'm glad they they are now re-united in chicken heaven.

Sue xx

Monday 27 July 2015

Monday Morning Wash Day 'Blues'

I harvested the Garlic this morning.  All the books I've got and the Google pages I've read say to wait until the leaves have turned yellowish and are starting to go over, then leave the Garlic to dry out in the sun until the papery covering is dry and ready to store.

I waited until the leaves were yellow and were going over, then the sun decided not to keep it's side of the bargain and instead the rain fell and fell and fell .....   

My garlic was going soggy!!  So this morning I dashed out during a lighter shower of rain and rescued the lot.  I had to wash it and chop lots of the stem and some of the roots off as they were decidedly soggy.  As you can see I have laid it on paper towels and trays and left it for a while on the Aga to start the drying process.  Once the surfaces are dry I will move it to somewhere more ambient and leave it to dry out some more.

Most of it will have to be used pretty sharpish as the individual cloves are visible and won't store well at all, no hardship really as I will be making some chutneys with our courgettes and the onions I had to dig up prematurely, so some garlic will give a good depth of flavour.  But I might attempt a small braid with the best of it.

My hands smell gorgeous at the moment, I really don't understand these people that search for 'things to stop your hands smelling of garlic' .... I love it, the longer it lasts the better  :-)

As you can see from the picture the Aga is also busy drying the weekend working jeans as well as the garlic, definitely the Monday morning wash day 'blues'.  

There are no other blues ..... here the washing machine does all the work.  With it raining outside there will only be one other load going in today.  

Image result for washing clothes the old fashioned way

Years ago Monday morning meant real hard labour, I know I've been there, years without a washer and two small boys meant back breaking work over the bath washing, scrubbing and then wringing and hanging out.  Clothes, bedding, towels and nappies mostly done daily but I usually tried to give myself Sunday off, so Monday was always a slightly heavier load to do.  I'm glad those days are past.

One tradition I do keep up with though ... is a slumbering dog beside the Aga.  
Suky knows the best place to be on a wet Monday morning.    :-)

Sue xx

Sunday 26 July 2015

Prestatyn Flower Show

As I am hoping to have a few entries in a couple of the local flower shows next month, when I read on Blogging Buddy John's blog Going Gently the other day, that the Prestatyn Flower Show was on this weekend, I decided we needed to pay it a visit.  Partly to see how to display entries properly and partly for a bit of inspiration.

And look who's exhibits I came acrosss on my mooch about the produce tents.

A First and a Third .... well done John :-)

It was a lovely afternoon, with the sun peeping out from behind clouds every few minutes and the local band playing foot tapping tunes.  

We worked our way around the stalls, had a go on the charity Tombola stall, bought a cake stand from the local Hospice stall ... only we've re-christened it a 'Sandwich Stand', as we no longer really have cakes at home.  We bought quite a few plants ready for the new flower bed that will be going in when the wall and fencing above it is complete, and then we sat on a bench with a cup of coffee and a slice of cake between us ... we do eat a bit of cake when we are out!!

All in all it was a very nice way to spend a sunny July Saturday afternoon.  On the way out we looked at the display of classic cars, lined up gleaming in the sunshine.  Lovely Hubby wanted one of them .... but I reminded him that I have only just bought him a new car last weekend  ;-)

Sue xx

Friday 24 July 2015

Todays Harvest... and a Days Food

After shocking most of you with the top picture on yesterday's blog post I thought I better show you all how we really eat.  Yes, we have some of the crisps, nibbles and even the occasional chocolate bar, usually dark and homemade, but from time to time the odd bought one slips in, but by and large we eat direct from the polytunnel, which is where all of the above food, except the peas which grow just outside the doors, come from.

The Spinach is harvested every few days, washed, spun dry and then laid on kitchen paper and stored in a stayfresh bag in the drawer in the fridge.  This forms the basis of my Nutriblast each and every morning.  A lovely healthy start to the day and one that stands me in good stead in case it all goes downhill from there.  But it rarely does. 

Lunch, as indeed does most meals, usually features some form of Courgette, here I was frying them with some garlic and radish as a topping to some our our gorgeous crunchy lettuce leaves.  Simple but so tasty, and all I needed that particular day after being on my knees weeding the polytunnel for a few hours.

The  courgette plants are producing well, and up to now I've been eating enough to keep up with the supply but  soon there will be more than we can eat on a daily basis and it's then that I can start harvesting, chopping and freezing so that when the plants die back we can carry on eating this lovely vegetable for as long as possible.

My tea is usually salady .... and occasionally fish based.  

Here I had salmon on some homemade coleslaw with half a homegrown cucumber, another plant I'm just about keeping up with.  (Cucumbers and courgettes are also going into my morning Nutriblast.)

If I'm peckish at supper time, I'll have something simple.  A quick scrambled egg with some freshly picked tomatoes is good for supper or breakfast, and is always a lot more filling than it looks.

So despair yea not, I have not returned to the 'darkside' and started eating processed and packaged foods.  Most of what we eat has no food miles, it comes from mere yards away and is produced with my own fair hands.

You didn't really think any differently ..... did you?

Sue xx

Thursday 23 July 2015

Changing Food Habits

I used to blog a lot about Approved Foods and get all excited when my latest order arrived, photographing what I had just unpacked before cramming it into already full cupboards.

I had an email from Approved Foods the other day and just as I was about to delete it I decided to unsubscribe from the emails they send so regularly to stop them bouncing unwelcomed into my email box.   Then I had a sudden thought ... "I wonder if there is any money in my Friends Recommendations account", so I went over to check ..... and there was!!

A whole £16 to be exact, plus I had £6.97 of unused credit (I can't remember why I got that).  So while I was on the site I decided to spend this money.  I thought I would spend it wisely on things that we needed and things that would last.

Although why I thought we needed 5kg of Tagliatelle I have no idea!!

And it's in a HUGE box, the only place for it for the moment was on top of the larder unit, where it is now looking down at me very reproachfully.  If I sort out the gardening bits and pieces and kitchen stuff that is on the top shelf it will fit in thank goodness.

I started this post off with the paragraph  'I used to blog a lot about Approved Foods and get all excited when my latest order arrived, photographing what I had just unpacked before cramming it into already full cupboards.'  because while I was in the process of lining up all the food on the worktop, my heart was sinking.  It didn't look right, possibly because it didn't fit in with the way we eat now, too many wrappers and processed foods, too much colour that isn't in the form of home grown natural goodness, and ..... well just too much!!

Yes I have bought some treats, the crisps, the Twixes, the salted peanuts to sprinkle on Lovely Hubby's salad, the Poppodums that will go with the curry sauces that still linger in the kitchen cupboard.  There is nothing there that is not what we will at some point eat (and Lovely Hubby will love the cakes and custard), but seeing it all together it just looks so wrong.

The only thing I was even half way excited about opening was this, the 'Lucky Box'.  I couldn't resist adding one to my order.  

I loved 'Lucky Bags' when I was little, the big gaudy colourful paper bag that always contained a tiny toy, a few dried up almost inedible sweets and sometimes a mini comic.  Even as a child I knew these were not worth the large percentage of my spending money that it involved laying out to get one, but it was the unknown that you were paying for.  The surprise of purchasing something that you could run home with and slowly savour pulling out item after item that your hadn't chosen yourself.  The disappointment afterwards as you tried not to break your wobbly little teeth on the rock hard 'chew' did not outweigh the excitment you had felt on that ten minute journey home.

As it happens on this occasion I did quite well with my 'Lucky Box'.  For the outlay of just a single pound this is what I got.  a large bag of foreign crisps, reading the ingredients list  they appear to be cheese and onion flavour, the instant noodles will be handy to be added to soups, the drinks have gone straight into the fridge and no doubt will be consumed by Lovely Hubby when he comes in with a desperate thirst from working outside.  And the little pack of Dill dried herbs is actually the only herb I have missing from my collection that we do use.

If anyone is interested in what I bought and for how much this is the breakdown.

Hovis Flour 2 for £1 saving £2.40 - in date.

Sharwoods Plain Puppodums 9 packs for £2.97 saving £13.14 - in date

Lucky Box £1 - saving £3.99 - all bar one item in date

Cake Mix 6 for £1.98 saving£6.96 - just out of date

Ready Popped Popcorn 6 for £1 saving £1.10 - in date

5kg!! Tagliatelle £2.99 saving £4.00 - in date

Custard Mix 12 for £2 saving £2.80 - just out of date

Seabrook Crisps 18 for £3 saving £4.20 out of date

McCoys Crisps 10 for £2 saving £5.50 - just out of date

Nobby's Nuts 12 for £2 saving £6.40 - out of date

Twix 12 for £3.96 saving £3.24 - in date

So I 'spent' £16 worth of recommendation money,  £6.97 of unused credit and £6.92 cash and I got food (and drinks) to the value of £77.63.  Not a bad little shop.  It all fitted easily into the cupboards now that I don't store as much, but still I doubt I will be shopping with them again on a regular basis.

  From now on there will be no more money dropping into my Friends Recommended account to tempt me to spend with them because I have deleted the link to it.  If you want to shop with them yourself simply Google 'Approved Foods' and you will find them easily.  They are still a good site for so many people to use with good products at very good prices as you can see above,  and I do highly recommend their service. 

But things have changed a lot round here food wise.

Sue xx

Wednesday 22 July 2015

Car Booting

As well as wandering round lovely National Trust properties over the weekend we went to a couple of car boot sales.  The first one at first glance seemed dismal, just two rows of cars with hardly any browsers and buyers cars leaving as quickly as they arrived.  But we had a wander round anyway and we were glad that we did.  We got the lovely solid pine handmade cupboard for just £10.  It will be painted and will hang in the bathroom once we get round to finally renovating it.

We also bought a Dvd box set of the first two series of Scott and Bailey for £1, and the book which caught my eye (as they do) for just 50p.

We picked up one of these boxed sets and were chatting to each other about how it was supposed to be such a good series and that we had never seen it, and the chap behind the table piped up with  "you can have the lot for a pound".

Who were we to say no ... one of them is unopened and still wrapped in its cellophane wrapper.  We'll give the first episode a try and if we like it we'll watch the lot, if not we'll sell them on next time we do a car boot sale ourselves, there's definitely some profit there!!

We went on to another one, which looked very promising, lots of cars parked up in row after row basking in the sunshine.  There were lots of buyers bustling around ..... but there was nothing we spotted that we either needed or even just wanted.  So we bought an ice cream and mooched about a bit before getting back into the car and went on our way.

*** *** ***

The house is all quiet, very quiet, so I was wondering what the dogs and Ginger were up too .....

... I needn't have worried.  Everyone was snoozing.

What a pair of cuties.

Sue xx

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Relaxing Weekend - Part Two ... and I Bought Lovely Hubby a Car !!

I couldn't leave you in the lurch after calling yesterday's post Part One, so here's what else we did on Saturday.

We went to Nuffield Place, just five miles up the road from Grey's Court.  It was totally different, but equally magical.  This time it was all about the house.  The home of Lord Nuffield, founder of the Morris Car Company and the most 'normal' rich man ever.  It was like visiting your Great Aunt's house, comfortable and pretty, with everything laid out as though they had literally just nipped out for the day and we were left to browse around.

As you can see from the top picture we have fun when we're out and about, the house greeter loved us playing with the car and came out to chat with a big smile on his face.  I wish I had a photo from the other side :-)

There were no rules here about taking photos of the interior of the house, so we did.

Testing for comfort :-)

Would they notice if I took the wrong car home?

I think they would ... so I bought Lovely Hubby a car all of his own, he chose this one.

He seemed to have dropped a plum in the bag with it, I found it when I got home ... something else to try to germinate.  What better souvenir of a wonderful day out than Cherry and Plum trees.

Sorry if this has been as boring as looking at granny's holiday snaps ... but this is what memories are made of.

Sue xx

Monday 20 July 2015

Relaxing Weekend - Part One

Come with me through a lovely door .....

... and enter a magical garden.

With tiny gates that only a stooping child could pass through, in beautiful old walls that hint at what lies beyond.

I've just arrived back from a lovely relaxing weekend in Berkshire, staying with Lovely Hubby at his weekday digs and visiting two National Trust properties on Saturday.  First we went to Grey's Court,  near Henley on Thames which is described on the National Trust website as 'a family home with delightful gardens in an idyllic setting' ... I couldn't agree more!!

The gardens are interlinked with gates and doors, some kept closed that means you open a door up not knowing what lies beyond, each and every time there is a pleasant surprise awaiting you.

Benches are  dotted around everywhere .....

... and looking closer even these are magical.  

This one is a pair of owls supporting a row of hedgehogs who are making for the centre where there is a plant to nibble for supper.

What lay beyond that little wrought iron gate above?  Well once we had meandered around a few different areas we came upon this and realised we had eventually got to the other side of the gate.

This photo shows part of the kitchen gardens with row upon row of vegetables and fruits, interspersed with flowers,  the greenhouses were laid out with plants ready to fill the gaps as crops were harvested and made me think of home and the progress we are slowly but surely making.

Fruit bushes were heavy with red currants and other delights, and Lovely Hubby may have partook of a cherry or twelve as we wandered through cherry trees lined up as though soldiers on parade and we passed through arches dripping with plums mingled with Wisteria.  The seeds of the cherries seem to have arrived home with me, who knows maybe we will get one to germinate, what a wonderful momento of a lovely day.

We sat on rustic wooden benches and waited for the house to open to the general public, there had been organised tours earlier but we prefer to wander through rooms at our own pace rather than be 'taught' history on our journey. There is always information if you wish to know more, in the form of room attendants or printed leaflets and sometimes we look, but unless you have a real interest in the history of a particular house we like to look and absorb what we see in a more casual way.

We had a wonderful morning and once we had seen all we wanted to see we went back to the car and headed just five miles down the road.

Oh and of course there was a little bit of  .....

 Peeping ....

... and sleeping.   :-)

Sue xx