Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Sign is Mended

I mentioned the other day that the sign on our grass verge was down, well just an hour or so ago this little highways truck pulled in and the guys set too fixing the sign back in place.

When it came down Lovely Hubby found the fixings in the grass and attached them back on to the sign and stood it against the post, but the sheer weight of it meant that he couldn't get it back up on his own, it really was a two man job.

The grass cutters were out in force last week trimming the edge of all the verges between Glan Conwy and  Llanrwst, they did ours trimming the edge of the verge and all around the sign and then they loaded the sign into the back of their wagon and took it away with them.  Obviously different departments are responsible for mowing grass and fixing up signs (madness that costs us all money, but no doubt due to health and safety and 'jobsworth' reasons).

Anyway within five minutes of them arriving and setting out their traffic cones the sign was back in place and they were gone.  

Back to normal then.

Of course the drivers will continue to totally ignore the sign as they do the one on the other side of the road before the bend, and continue to come pelting round the corner, overtaking each other and sounding horns at all and sundry  :-(

It's not as peaceful here as these photographs would suggest!!

Sue xx 

Sunday 29 May 2016

Tomatoes LOTS of Tomatoes .... Potentially

Today is seeing me a drippy, sweaty mess in the polytunnel, working at 30 degree temperatures to pot on my tomato seedlings and put the larger ones into their final resting place in the Gro-Pots.

I've just started on the 'Gardener's Delight' Tomato seedlings.

And I really wanted to show those of you who are a bit dismayed at the lack of growth on your tomatoes compared to the plants you are seeing in the shops that all is not lost.  I have lots of tiny little seedlings that are only just going into their first sized pots after being started off in toilet roll inners.

The variable weather and chilly nights in the polytunnel has kept the growth checked but they will soon pick up now that we have had a few days of sunshine, even though they do look so ridiculously teeny, tiny now they are potted on individually.

These are just some of my 'Golden Sunrise' tomatoes.  I grew these last year and the flavour is amazing ... and they won me a couple of prizes at the two flower shows I entered with them.

This year instead of staking them I am going back to my 'greenhouse' method of allowing them to grow up strings that I have tied to the polytunnel cross frame bar.  They will need tying in a little bit as they wind their way around the string but it means that there is no mass of bamboo canes cluttering up the polytunnel.  We'll see if it works as well en-masse as it did in a single row in the greenhouse.

I have to admit to sowing far too many tomato seeds once again, and there are lots more plants waiting to be planted.  Some of them will be going in the net tunnel when I have hardened them off slightly,  and some if they put on good growth in the next month will be taken to the car boot sale with us to make some extra cash.

Oh well this has been a nice little computer break ... but now it's back to work.

Hope the sun is shining for you today too.

Sue xx

Friday 27 May 2016

Using The Back Catalogue

The very first photo that appeared on this blog.

When I find a blog that really appeals to me, and I mean really appeals to me, I have been known to go right back to the beginning and read the whole back catalogue.  I find it helps you to learn more about the writer and the reason behind the blog.  Sometimes it's much more interesting than a book, of course like a book there is also the bonus of being able to dip into it when you have time to spare and read forward a few posts (chapters) at a time.

There have been a few people reading their way through from when we originally began our change of lifestyle over the past few weeks, and I have been able to follow their progress on my Statistics page.  Congratulations to the two of you who have just arrived in the present day  :-)

I myself have just spent the last few days starting from scratch with one of the blogs on my sidebar .... and very good reading it was too.  The blog I am talking about is Remembering the Old Ways.  Michelle has a lovely way of living and I simply fell in love with her beautiful cottage.

I've been asked recently how do you get back to the beginning of someone's blog .... well it's really simple.  I'll use my blog as an example, some blogs differ slightly but most will have archives and be similar to use. 

Look for BLOG ARCHIVES on the sidebar.  

First you will see a list of years, go to the oldest (in my case it was 2009)  click on the dark arrow to the left of that year and a drop down list will appear showing the months.

Click on the arrow pointing to the oldest month and another drop down list will appear with the names of all the posts in that particular month.  

You start by going to the very oldest and click on that particular post.  Once you have read this  post at the very bottom, below the comments in my case,  it will say 'Newer Post'  clicking on this will take you to the next post in the sequence and so on and so on.

When I am reading my way through a blog from start to present day I keep a post-it  note in my diary and make a note of where I finish each reading session, so I can click back the next time I want to read on a bit further.  Be warned however ... this is very addictive .... as I have just found out with Michelle's lovely blog  ;-)

Sue xx

Thursday 26 May 2016

Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary

Happy 60th Wedding Anniversary
to Barbara and Norman.

And this is where we were over the weekend last week, helping them celebrate with a wonderful family get together and meal at The Old Hall Inn in Chinley.

And then afterwards at Fran and Colins lovely house just down the road in Chinley for cake cutting and champagne.

It wa a brilliant day, lots of catching up with everyone in the family and lots of laughter .... just the sort of day needed to mark such a special occasion.

I hope today is just as lovely for you both.

All our love
Sue and Alan xx

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Chilly Day

The sunshine has vanished today and there is a real chill in the air, so much so that when I was hoovering near the log burner earlier this morning I thought to myself 'thank goodness it's laid and ready to light'.

I think it will be needed this evening!

In other news .... can you spot the difference between this photo and the one that heads the blog?

I think someone has knocked the bottom half of the sign down ..... I'm saying no more  ;-)

Sue xx

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Green Days

It seems no more than a blink of an eye since the branches of the trees were just budding up,  now the long sunny days interspersed with driving Welsh rain has brought everything to almost full greenness.

You all know my love of the colour green, so this time of year with the freshest of greens all around us is the best for me.  To see fresh new life erupting in so many shades and textures is simply wonderful ... and very restorative to the soul.

Of course it's not all green, take a few steps up the hill into our woodland and you will see a carpet of Bluebells merging into the green and yet holding strong with their beautiful shade of blue.

They are dotted all around our land.  I've been tempted to pick a few many times to bring into the house, but each time I stop and think 'no' ..... they look so wonderful exactly where they are.

Of course there's other colours too, I'm a real sucker for Buttercups and always leave patches of this dainty weed wildflower to grow for far too long.  I'm paying the price for last years delay in weeding the front bed with a glorious display of buttercups near the house, but this lone plant in the veggie patch will be sadly meeting the interior of the compost bin in the next couple of days as I need this bed for the Sweetcorn.

The hillside to our left is looking wonderful, and many evenings after bringing in the washing I stand and look, oblivious temporarily to the sound of the cars whizzing past the house, I drink in the fresh greenness of the newly arrived Spring.

Sue xx

Monday 23 May 2016

Weekend Away

We went over the border to England to celebrate something pretty special at the weekend, and as the dogs already had to be in kennels we thought it was a brilliant opportunity to treat ourselves to a night away before the celebrations kicked off.

So we travelled first to Lyme in Cheshire and had a lovely few hours looking round Lyme house, making good use of our National Trust membership.

As always I whizzed through the main 'fancy' rooms and headed for the servants areas.

There's so much more I find interesting in the nitty gritty behind the scenes look at daily life.

I loved this old range in the Butlers pantry.

Crocks on the window sill, a simple but charming 'still life' ... 
... so much better than the still lifes depicting dead deer and hunting trophies upstairs!!

We had a wonderful afternoon, rounded it off with shortbread and coffee and then we headed along the road to Derbyshire and our hotel for the night. 

 It was lovely at The Old Hall Inn, our room was the white window and doorway you see to the left of the photograph on the first floor (and third roof level).  We had a little outdoor area with a table and chairs., where we sat with cider and newspapers until the cooling evening air drew us back in to the cosy bedroom.

It was so relaxing to be away for a couple of days, but now it's back to normality, cleaning out the chickens, cutting the grass and doing lots of little jobs until it's time to go and pick up the dogs from the kennels.  

It seems Ginger wasn't all alone while we were away ... he had a little friend round!!  

When we got back we found a blue cat collar on the back doormat.  We rang the phone number contained in the little canister on the collar and Eric's mum called round yesterday to pick it up.  She had been searching all over for his collar, thinking he had lost it in their garden .... now she knows how far he roams to visit friends.  No wonder Ginger wasn't that desperate for our company when we arrived home, after walking over to greet the car he made straight for the woods and carried on with whatever it was he was up to.

It's nice to get away for a night but it's always lovely to get home ..... even if the reception we get is very perfunctory  ;-)

Sue xx

Sunday 22 May 2016

Mountain Sheep

Just as it was going dark last night we walked over to put the chickens to bed for the night ... not that we have to do much, they get themselves in the henhouse, bustling and fussing to claim their favourite spot on the perches and all we do is have a glance inside, check for any late laid eggs and then close up the window and the door.  There that's them safe for the night, walking back down the hill we glanced over to the paddock only to see all the sheep, the lambs and their Mums playing on the soil pile.

Much running up and down the mini 'mountain' ensued and a good game was had by all.  It looked like they were having great fun, and luckily I had my phone in my pocket to capture them all looking surprised that we had caught them playing   :-)

Sue xx

Saturday 21 May 2016

The Orchard - Self Sufficient in ... Fruit and Nuts

This is to be part of a series of posts about what we are, or are on our way to being, Self Sufficient In  ...

Everywhere is greening up nicely now, so much so that I am going to start calling the spot where the chickens are currently living The Orchard.  After all according to Wikipedia -

 'An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs that is maintained for food production.'

 Which is exactly what this is, although with the trees appearing to be no more than spindly little sticks until this last few weeks, I was loathe to give it such a 'posh' title. 

So in The Orchard we have:

3 Damson trees - Merryweather 
3 Pear trees - Doyenne du Comice
3  Cherry trees - 2 Stella and 1 Morello 
3 Apple trees - 1 Bramley, 1 Braeburn and 1 Cox's Orange Pippin
3 Plum trees - Victoria

And at the top of the hill espaliered on the fence is another unknown variety of Pear.

All the trees used to have identifying labels on them ... but the chickens have very helpfully removed most of them, it's a good job I have a little notebook that reminds me of everything that we have planted!!

I have temporarily moved the Blueberries out of the Net Tunnel to stand by the back door of it.  The wind has been much calmer recently and as a reader commented recently (thanks for the reminder Kris) they do need to be pollinated by the bees.  It was okay while I was working in there with the door open each day but I have had no reason to be in there for the last week and I doubt many bees would be able to fit through the mesh of the tunnel so (to quote Nellie Pledge) they are stood standing  outside for now.

At the front door of the polytunnel, this week's sunshine and warmth has brought the transplanted strawberries on a treat and at last we have flowers.  The strawberries in the tall galvanised planter on the right of the tyres have now been joined by the start of the Jerusalem Artichokes that also live in this tub.  That's the first one coming through that you can see in the top righthand corner of the tub.

 As well as the fruit trees in the Orchard and the strawberries here in the old tyres and planter, we have the nut trees in Nut Wood, four Walnut, two Almond and two Sweet Chestnut.  This is our wildlife area and also has wild flowers and lots of Borage to encourage the bees.  In the Rhubarb patch there are now four rhubarb different kinds of rhubarb alongside some more strawberries that were hiding when I moved the others.  There is also a hanging basket of strawberry plants in the polytunnel and a tray of Cape Gooseberries that have over-wintered nicely.  

Dotted regularly down the fence of the hillside we have our red, black and white currant bushes and by the Rowens at the bottom of the hill are the four Gooseberries.  All of which were cuttings taken from our neighbour Mary's lovely bushes last year and they're doing really well.  And I mustn't forget the old Belfast sink near the back door that is absolutely full of lovely flowering strawberry plants.  

And of course over in the original Chicken World there are the Plum and Cherry trees and the huge old Bramley apple tree that absolutely dripped with huge apples last year, many of which are still residing in the freezer, sliced and in crumbles and pie bases.  Over by the man-shed there is another old eating apple tree of unknown type, all these were here when we moved in and although we do not know the type we do now know the flavour and that is very good.

So I have my fingers firmly crossed for another decent fruit yield this year, with the amount of blossom that is on all the trees it's looking hopeful.

So one day we will be Self Sufficient In ... Fruit and Nuts

Sue xx 

Thursday 19 May 2016

Saving a Life

After walking the dogs around the paddock this morning I went back to top up the sheep's two water buckets.  There's no running water in the field so this is the only way they can get a supply.  It doesn't take long, I just turn on the hosepipe to the polytunnel and carry over two watering cans full of fresh water.

I always check before I pour into the buckets, indeed I check the buckets every time we walk past them, for any little insects trying not to drown.  Usually I put a stick or a rock in every bucket or any standing water so that anything that falls in can climb out but we can't do it in the sheep's buckets or they'll poke an eye out or not drink out of the bucket at all.  Today there was a bee, floating totally still on the surface of the water.  I found a flat stone and carefully lifted him out.  Leaving him on the warm stone I watched for a minute and sure enough he started to move around.

Clever little bee had expended as little energy as possible and floated calmly on the surface for I don't know how long.  I realised he would be short of energy even though he had been clever enough to stay so still in the water, so I went over to a bush that was full of blossom and pulled off a sprig.

Sure enough after a few minutes of drying in the weak morning sunshine the bee started to feel around inside the flowers.  I don't know how much nourishment it would have got from a bit of blossom but it seemed to help.

I left Mr Bee to his own devices and went back to fetching water for the chickens having replenished the sheep's buckets.

It's always nice to start the day saving a life.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Last Years Bargains

On one of my many girly lunches out with Mum at her local Wyevale garden centre during Autumn of last year, I bought these two half price sets.  One is a galvanised planter and the other a small hanging basket, they've been stashed under boxes at the end of the polytunnel ever since then.  I rediscovered them at the weekend ... and decided to put them into use.

If this had cost me the full £7.99 I might have felt a bit short-changed but at just £4 I was happy.  A half decent, if a bit small hanging basket, a bag of very fine compost and a packet with five tomato seeds ... yes I said FIVE ... you don't get extras here mate!!

The seeds were dated 'Use by 2018' so at least they had a long shelf life.  

I decided to mix the compost in with some of my own as it seemed very dry and almost too fine to be holding on to any nutrients, maybe though that was just after it's long wait to be used.  I also added some of those little granules that swell with water when you wet them, and help to keep plants in hanging baskets nice and moist for longer.

I didn't fill the basket too much as I like to add some more soil once tomato plants start to grow, it helps to strengthen them as they get more roots higher up the stem.

And I've just simply hung the basket under my hanging shelf in the polytunnel, it will be interesting to see if they grow.  It's also going to be very interesting to see how many tomatoes I get in the polytunnel this year, I seem to have gone a little bit mad sowing tomato seeds  ;-)

I also sowed the seeds in the little galvanised planter, they were a mixture of Mixed Leaves and Nasturtium and came with exactly the same little bag of compost.  There were rather a lot of the nasturtium seeds, and knowing how overrun I was in the polytunnel last year with nasturtiums I decided to put a few of these seeds into plant pots as I didn't want to overcrowd the salad leaves too much.

Lets hope my little edible bargains grow well, I always think it's worth buying some of the garden centres reduced to clear things.

Sue xx

Monday 16 May 2016

We Did Something We've Been Putting Off For Years .....

We did something last week that we've been putting off for years .... planted up an asparagus bed!!

You don't get anything from your asparagus plants for the first three years, you have to be patient and let them grow each year and settle down without taking a harvest,  so it's never been wise to get a bed started.  We were on our first farm for three years, our second smaller place for two and now we are here in what is hopefully our last home before we retire to the seaside as pensioners so it was now or never.

There are only eight plants in here ..... I'm not that keen on the stuff, but it's a start.

For more information on growing asparagus for yourself have a look HERE.

And before anyone comes on and laves a comment saying how neat it all looks ..... I'll hold my hands up and show you the state of the bed below the new asparagus bed.  I'll be weeding it tomorrow, I was working higher up the patch today on another even worse bed!!

Sue xx

Sunday 15 May 2016

Tidying Up and Chasing Sheep

It's been a weekend of tidying up.  Cutting grass, strimming edges, cutting hedges and weeding.  There's lots more still to do but the old place is starting to look a bit neater around the edges now.

You can see on this picture that the trees to the right of the polytunnel are starting to grow and the Laurel hedge that is along the fence line is also starting to really put on some growth.  The trees and the Laurels, were what we had to put in place if we wanted to get the permission for the polytunnels granted.  Although if the council think that they are going to shield the polytunnel from roadside view anytime in the next few years they are very much mistaken!!

Yesterday Lovely Hubby was playing working with his tractor, after much messing about he got the grass mowing deck on for the first time this year, and chugged along to the end field that the sheep were in, he needed to cut down the nettles which were filling the centre section.  

Ironically a couple of hours after he had been chasing the sheep around the field (not really ... the sheep soon got used to what he was doing and settled into one of the corners), Will their owner, turned up to move them into the main paddock for a couple of weeks.  They had eaten their way through the grass in the end field.

I picked Rosy up from the vets just after teatime on Friday.  

The x-rays showed absolutely no problems with any of her bones so the vet thinks she has some deep muscle damage or a stretched or torn tendon.  She is on anti-inflammatories and pain relief, and she is supposed to rest for two weeks.  After the general anaesthetic she was very docile yesterday and very quiet after having the tube down her throat ... it's not like our Rosy to be quiet, she can bark more than any dog I have ever known.  So we had a day of peaceful  doggy silence, which felt very unusual, but gradually she's finding her voice again and letting the neighbourhood know that once again she's in charge of this property!!

It's nice to have her back, it's not the same on the old homestead with one of the family members missing.

I hope your weekend has been as productive and enjoyable as ours has.

Sue xx

Friday 13 May 2016

Waiting for the Call

Why is it when you're waiting for the phone to ring it never does!!

I took Rosy to the vets yesterday ... about a month ago she came down from the hillside with a limp, at first we thought she had pulled a muscle or something like that.  We checked her over, nothing broken, examined her paw in great detail there was nothing stuck in it, so we settled back and let time start to heal.

Over the past couple of weeks she has limped more and more, usually just after she gets up from a snooze or first thing in the morning, she was fine when she was out and about walking with us and when she ran around chasing rabbits.  But this past couple of days she stopped putting weight on her foot, standing on her three 'good' legs and just the tippy toes of her back left so I decided I had to get this sorted.

I took her yesterday and after she patiently let the vet prod all over her legs and joints and she really flinched at a push into her hip, so I had to make an appointment for today for her to go back for an general anaesthetic to get it properly X-rayed.

Now I'm just waiting for the phone to ring ....

Sue xx

Thursday 12 May 2016

Ginger ... OUR Cat

After taking the photo of Ginger through the net of the net tunnel I went out to play with him, he was on a 'mooching about' mission and darted here there and everywhere making sure I was never far away from him.  Some days he's like that ...wanting company, and other days he's a real loner, we just 'go with the flow'.

Ginger - 2012 when he was approximately two years old.

We 'took Ginger over' in March of 2012 when we rented our little bungalow in Berkshire.  His owners and their two young girls were going to Singapore for four years and were in a quandary what to do with their two cats, Ginger and Muffin.  We immediately offered to foster them while we rented their house and land and a deal was struck.  They got them both neutered so they wouldn't fight with our two neutered males and we would take over from there.

Archie and Ginger snoozing on Dad's chair and hat!!

It worked out a treat and after a couple of weeks of giving each other a wide berth Ginger, Archie and Toby hit it off, Muffin wasn't as keen and visited the house for feeding but kept himself to himself, living in the woods or spending time with the neighbours that he knew a bit more than us.  After a few months both Toby and Muffin vanished, we never found out exactly what happened to them but there were a lot of badgers in the woods with huge setts that perhaps the cats strayed into.

Ginger and Archie however developed a good bond and along with the dogs, Sophie, Rosy and Suky and the flock of chickens and the three Chinese Grey geese life was lively and fun for all of them.

When we bought this house in Wales in September 2013 we knew Ginger had to come with us, so made an offer to carry on looking after him after our move.  After first suggesting that we leave him behind and the neighbours would feed him every now and then (yeah ... like I would have let that happen!!) his owners relented and said yes we could continue to have him, while they continued to live in Singapore.

So he upped sticks with us in December 2013 and moved to North Wales where he has continued to live like a dog, hunt rabbits, mice and any other little creature that he can get his paws on and walks with the dogs round the paddock at least twice a day, no doubt to the astonishment and amusement of the cars and coaches that whizz pass the house.

He is the friendliest and most laid back of our animals and can be found snoozing with his best doggy friend from early evening to bedtime on the sofa ...

... and during the day on our bed with the same furry friend.

I doubt we will ever give him back even if they ask, they've been back in this country for months now and haven't been in touch, so Ginger is now very much OUR cat.  After all he's spent most of his six years with us and his chums the dogs and chickens, I doubt he could go back to being a solitary cat.

Camera kisses from Ginger.

Sue xx