Saturday 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween

I've never really done a lot to celebrate Halloween.  When my boys were younger it wasn't the great big thing that it is these days.  'Trick or Treating' had only just started to be the big thing that came over from America, and although we had a few children knocking at the door it was mostly fun and few tricks.   The village Co-op refused to sell any eggs or flour to children ... which helped a lot!!

My younger son never wanted to get dressed up and trawl the neighbourhood for buckets full of sweets, instead he stayed home watched the Simpsons halloween special and hoped that not many children would come a calling.  He knew if I only gave away a few sweets all the leftovers would be shared out equally between him and his brother the next day, the older brother who  went out with his mates, knocked on a few doors covered in fake blood and scars and ate any sweets he managed to acquire before he got home and shared out our sweets with his brother.

It's a wonder either of them have any teeth left!!

My halloween this year has been spent, weeding and re-planting in the polytunnel, labelling the jars of Apple and Cinnamon that I made the other day and trying to squeeze them into the now full to bursting preserves shelf of the larder cupboard.

And knocking up a batch of Orange Marmalade, just the cheats version from a tin of Mamade that I had in the cupboard, but it tastes absolutely lovely.  The little bit in the small jar was spread over two slices of toast and sampled by us both.

All the sweetness we need this halloween ....

.... almost  :-)

Sue xx

Friday 30 October 2015

A Productive Day

Yesterday I finally got round to prepping the Bramleys harvested last weekend.  I was going to do it much earlier in the week but I cut the base of my thumb opening, of all things, a bottle of sparkling water.  There was a nasty piece of plastic sticking out on the thread of the bottle that I didn't notice until I twisted the top off with full force and it got me!!

So apple prepping was put off for a few days as I knew it would sting, as I worked my way through the huge pile of apples yesterday I managed to get right to the last half a dozen before the cut opened up and yes .... boy oh boy did it sting  :-(

Still I managed to get them all cooked down, into jars and then canned, so they should last us for quite a while.  I added some cinnamon to this batch and used up some powdered sweetener I found in the cupboard in place of sugar.  I'm trying to rationalise what I have in my cupboards and odds and sods of what I won't be buying again are being used rather than wasted.

The jars are just waiting to be labelled and then they will be added to the stash of chutneys, pickles and jams in the cupboard. 

Talking of jams I got fed up with all the little pots and half jars of jam in the fridge this week, so the other day I whipped up a few simple Jam Turnovers.  A totally cheaty, but delicious snack, I managed to eat my way through two last night but the others I stashed in the freezer.

I have another sheet of 'yellow stickered' ready rolled pastry to use up, so the half jar of Apple Sauce will make another batch of turnovers today.  I usually make them triangular, hence the filling being off centre in the top picture but decided at the past minute to go rectangular, purely because they fit better in my freezer box that way.

Ready rolled pastry, a dollop of jam .... I'll never win the Great British Bake Off will I ... but then again I'd never enter ... even Nigella Lawson has admitted that she doesn't have the precise baking skills needed for the competition these days, so I'm in good company :-)

Have a good weekend everyone, if I can push Lovely Hubby of the computer for a while, I'll be back with another post on Sunday.

Sue xx

Thursday 29 October 2015

Blogging Inspiration

Blogging inspiration .... where do you get yours?

Yesterday while the eggs in the picture were cooking for my breakfast I dashed to the bathroom and did my make up for a day out at Mum's.  I completed my usual routine in the time it took the eggs to cook, I like mine with just a touch of runniness in the centre ... so four minutes!!

I did a post about streamlining my makeup bag a couple of years ago ... it's been streamlined even more since then, gone is the brown mascara and the foundation and in has come a Touche Eclat concealer pen to join the clear mascara and pressed powder.  I just rock the' natural look', it's me down to the ground :-)

As I dashed back to the kitchen with thirty seconds to spare I thought to myself  "now there's inspiration for a blog post".

Yesterdays post about photogenic animals was brought about by deleting lots of unwanted photos off the computer. A couple of blogging buddy John Gray's posts this week were inspired by comments left on previous posts and triggered whole pages of him learning more about us than we about him.  It made for very good reading.

As bloggers we bounce off each others ideas and lives and learn as we do so, it keeps this wonderful world of blogging fresh and interesting and yes, inspiring.

Sometimes of course the opposite happens and lots of us dry up or fizzle out for a while only to come back, usually re-energised and reinvigorated after a blogging break, sometimes with new blog names or a fresh new look to an old but favourite blog.  We all need a bit of space sometimes and the energy to try out new ideas, and mostly all it takes is a break or a flash of inspiration.

I get my inspiration from all sorts of places.  A chicken doing something unexpected or simply keeling over and dying, flowers on a bush that should be closing down for the Winter, a dog walk that has my lovely trio fascinated by smells or sights unusual to them, new shoots coming through in the polytunnel emerging from dark, moist, home produced compost.  It doesn't take much to spark my imagination ...  a make up routine done in the time it takes to boil an egg .

Where do you get your inspiration, and if you don't blog yourself which sort of blog reading inspires your imagination and perhaps makes you think it was time you did?

Sue xx

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Photogenic Animals

I was looking through some old photos on the computer the other day, deleting lots that really didn't need keeping and I found myself looking at photos of all the animals  .... I have quite a few (animals and photos)  ... of course not many of them were deleted :-)

I love this picture of Suky, showing of her 2 kg weight loss over the last few months.

And my Yin and Yang best buddies Ginger and Mavis curled up together as they so often are.

Rosy looking like a perfect little pooch as she snoozes on Mum's bed.

Gosh .... even Gingers rear end is a thing of beauty  :-)

I'm not quite as photogenic ..... I think I'll stay behind my cabbage for as long as possible   ;-)

Sue xx

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Squirrels, Dogs and Roses

The clocks going back an hour at the weekend has normalised my days more.  Getting up as it goes light is natural for me, and for most other folk I assume, except poor shift workers of whom my son is one.  It must play havoc with your sleeping patterns if your working day alters on a rotating shift pattern, I know it does for Jason, who when not at work is either at the Gym, or crashed out on his own sofa snoring for England.

Anyway me and the dogs were up bright and early yesterday morning, so early that as I was putting on my jacket and pulling on my wellies ready for the damp and chilly morning circuit of the paddock, I glanced out of the window and caught this little chap still having his breakfast.

I got the camera off the shelf in the kitchen and he was still tucking in when I came back and took this shot.  He carried on nibbling his way around the rosy red apple that he had clutched in his tiny little paws just looking so cute I had to stand and admire.  Wouldn't you love a fluffy tail like that to keep the draughts off your back while you sit eating a fresh apple.

The dogs were getting restless, after all when Mum has her jacket and boots on it should mean the door magically opens and they can run out into the fresh air ..... not stand waiting in the conservatory. So when I saw the squirrel had virtually finished his tiny apple I made a noise with the door handle, which of course sent the now over excited Rosy into a frenzy of barking, which Mavis soon joined in with and this gave little Mr (or Miss) Squirrel time to make a swift exit completely unseen by my excited little canine companions, back to the safety of the apple tree and with no doubt chance to choose the apple which would make the next meal of the day.

Walking round the paddock I was surprised to see these lovely little Dog Roses flowering on the bush that is full of Rose Hips.  I don't remember ever seeing both on a bush at the same time!!

So pretty on this cold, damp October day.

I could have harvested some of the Rose Hips and made a syrup, but I thought that this year I would leave them all for the wildlife, we have plenty of stores this year.  Maybe I'll have a go next year.

Sue xx

Monday 26 October 2015

Another Harvest of Bramleys

We went out with the apple picker yesterday and managed in five minutes to get this little lot, a total of 8 kgs of lovely Bramleys.    Which according to would have cost us an average of £1.75 a kilo, which means our five minutes of fun with the apple picker stick thingy saved us a grand total of £14.

We had lots of fun because the trees are tall and the apples are still firmly attached, and the only way to get them down was with the pole at full stretch and whacking the apples with the end of it.  Meaning of course, that the person doing the picking up of the apples off the grass had to duck and dive to get out of the way of these falling missiles.

I'll be processing them later today into some more jars of chunky apple sauce, which can be used for pies, crumbles etc throughout next year and a few Apple Turnovers to pop into the freezer, as I have a packet of pastry in the fridge that needs using up.

Over the weekend we had a couple of salady style meals and instead of serving them with 'normal' mayonnaise I decided to pep things up a bit with some garlic mayo.  Totally cheaty and easy to do with a squirt of  garlic paste stirred into normal mayonnaise

We also on occasion have 'chilli mayonnaise' by adding a squirt of  Sweet Chilli Sauce.  Mayonnaise can also be mixed with tomato ketchup to make 'Marie Rose' sauce, just mix it to taste.

Hellmann's Mayonnaise with Garlic (250ml)

After all why have lots of different flavours of mayonnaise opened in your fridge at once when you can simply have one jar of mayo and use the condiments in your storecupboard to pep things up from time to time.

Tesco One Pot Marie Rose Sauce (130g)

Buying any of these variations ready made will cost you more than the total sum of doing it yourself and you don't take up extra space, or risk things going out of date in the fridge.  

Hellmann's Mayonnaise with Chilli (250ml)

I simply buy whatever Hellmann's mayonnaise is on offer at the time, sometimes it's the squirty bottles but it's usually I try to stock up with the big jars which are so much easier to get every last little bit out of ... and of course I get the jar to keep for preserving. 

Of course I could make my own mayo, but with all the busyness of harvesting and preserving that has been going on here just lately I have completely gotten out of the habit of doing it.  Although it doesn't take long, just a couple of minutes to gather together your ingredients and then whizz up for 10 seconds with a stick blender .... if you follow the recipe that is on my 'Recipes I Use Regularly' page at the top of the blog.

Sue xx

Saturday 24 October 2015

The Nut Harvest is in .....

The nut harvest is in ..... all three Almonds have now left the tree ;-)

In other news .... we are also eating the last of the large cucumbers tonight with our tea, and the ex-bread bin full of carrots has now been upended.  I also picked the last four stems of Rhubarb while I was out cleaning out the bird bath earlier and they have been stewed with some of the Bramleys and are now awaiting a crumble topping.

Well you need a Fruit Crumble after a salady style tea on these chilly Autumnal nights don't you !!

Have a good weekend.

Sue xx

Friday 23 October 2015

Little Billy No Mates

Every evening as I walk the dogs round the paddock to stretch their legs after tea, and before we settle down to a cosy evening in front of the fire, we get to witness a wonderful display of birds settling down to roost for the night on the wires that run through the pylons behind our land.

They swoosh around, chattering and chunnering as they do, finding a spot that they are happy with before briefly it goes all quiet.

Then one more bird will land and virtually everyone takes off again disturbed by the late-comer and the whole process starts again.

You might not even be able to make him out...  

... does a circle help ...

 ...  but way down the wires high over the river one bird always sits totally by himself.  Neither part of the flock on our pylon nor part of the smaller flock that sits on the wires at the pylon by the river.

I've christened him 'Little Billy No Mates'.  

I wonder what his story is, is he waiting for a friend, for his partner in life ... or does he simply want no part of this settling, scattering and settling again that repeats itself over and over until darkness falls.  He cuts a lonely image in a great big sky, but hopefully before they all depart for warmer climes he will join in with some friends and be part of the flock again.

Taking photos of the birds made me notice in more detail just how quickly the ferns are now dying off.  The patch of brown on the hillside is getting bigger each day, soon there will be ground visible again where only a couple of weeks ago lush ferns filled the space.

We're out of British Summer Time this weekend, with our clocks going back by one hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning.  The evenings will be long and dark, but hopefully cosy and relaxing.  It's nice once all the jobs are done, the chickens are safely tucked up for the night and we can relax with the dogs and Ginger in the cosiness that is home.

Sue xx

Thursday 22 October 2015

Just One Day Later

Just one day later we have 45 solar panels in place and ready for action, and the only worker left on site is Rob the painter, all by himself painting in the workshop.  I had to nip into Llandudno and get him two more 10 litre tubs of masonry paint this morning, he had used up the five we already had.  I was shocked to find out they have gone up from £35 each to £43 each ... an £8 increase in just a couple of weeks!!

The top photo was taken on the panoramic setting on my camera, it kind of makes it all look a bit weird but shows the garage and workshop roof in relation to the things around it.

Then I backed off up the hill a bit more and got this one, which makes everything look much more normal  :-)

The animals seem to get into most of my photos don't they, I really didn't see Ginger approaching until I clicked the camera!!

I was asked yesterday if we will be off-grid now we have these panels.  Well once these are connected they should be supplying all our needs electricity wise, we have also installed a battery backup system that kicks in when they aren't generating any electricity for any reason (night time, excessive fog etc) and the workings out show that we should also be generating enough power to be able to feed it back to the National Grid to generate a small income. 

Lovely Hubby is a stickler for workings out and planning ahead, it's the engineer in him,  and now this system is in place he's worked out that it should pay for itself completely in the next ten years and then give us some completely 'free' years of power before we sell up and retire to a love nest by the sea.  After all even Hannah Hauxwell gave up her rural lifestyle before it finished her off completely  :-)

Yesterday on the way back from Mums I called in to Tesco to pick up some dried dog food and of course I had to have a quick glance at the reduced to clear shelf ....

I was in luck.

Four packs of cheese at much less than half price and a pack of two Salmon En Croute, saving me a total of £6.66  (oooh the mark of the devil).  The salmon went straight into the freezer and I'll grate the cheese later on today and do the same with that.

I love a bargain .... whether it be electricity or cheese  ;-)

Sue xx

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Working in the Rain

Suky, Mavis and Rosy are refusing to leave the warm of the kitchen.

In this picture it looks as though Rosy is sadly left out of beddy cuddles but it couldn't be further from the truth  ..... she had just run in from the living room to see what was happening and immediately this picture was taken she was off again.  She does the  forlorn, woe is me look so well :-)

Meanwhile, outside on the garage roof the roofers are busy fitting the last of the protection round the studs that hold the bars that hold the solar panels to the roof, and which were drilled through from the inside, this should seal the roof from leaks.  I'm sure all the components parts have proper names ... but I don't know them :-)

While they do this the solar installation guys carry all the panels up the slope alongside the workshop, up to the roof ready for fitting.  It's a shame the weather turned nasty last night and all this is being done in that persistent drizzle that we are so famous for here in North Wales.

Rather them up there than me.  

I'm off to Mum's for a bit of a natter and a day spent indoors, apart from a brief walk round the park with Suky to stretch her legs after the car journey.  Hopefully by the time I get back the majority of the work will be completed and we will be one more step nearer being more self sufficient .... once that dratted electricity meter is moved and we can actually be connected up.

Sue xx

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Spot the Difference

After clearing the shelves in the kitchen yesterday this was how my living room window sill ended up looking, I must admit I quite liked it :-)

But this morning I decided to put everything back.  I don't know how long it will be until the electricity meter is moved to it's new position outside the house but I couldn't live with ....

... the barrenness of the shelves for even another day.

I take everything down and give the jars and shelves a good clean every few weeks, either when I'm in the mood to do it or if I'm completely honest when moving a jar discloses a little bit too much dust for healthy living :-/

Then while reading my Kitchen Garden magazine this morning while drinking that all important first cup of coffee, you know the one before the dogs wake up properly and the workers arrive, and well before the day really starts to get going, I came to the page with the Spot the Difference competition.  I don't know about you but these always hook me in.  I don't like doing them ... but I always get hooked and have to find every last difference.

So today a little game for you ...  first an easy one ....

Yep .... jars and then no jars  :-)

Then a slightly harder one ....

The kitchen shelves in July ......

... the kitchen shelves just filled up again this morning.

I'm quite pleased ..... I almost got everything back in the right places.  

Meanwhile outside the house ...... the main difference is that the garage roof is full of equipment and men.  We currently have seven (I think) workers, including two painters working inside the workshop, and four transit vans blocking my escape.

Sue xx