Friday 29 September 2017

In the Polytunnel ... and a Gardeners Friend

It's almost the end of September and our weather has been a strange mix of chilly nights, warm days, some dreary non-stop wet days and some days with quite a bit of sunshine between heavy and prolonged or short and sharp showers.  The dogs and Ginger started to get their Winter coats then the weather turned mild, so now they are moulting them right off again meaning the hoover is seeing lots of action at the moment.

When I'm not hoovering up enough fur to knit a whole new pet with I'm out in the tunnels, tidying, weeding and picking things for our meals.  We still have lots and I mean LOTS of Kale, lots of Spinach and as you can see from this photo the last few tomatoes are still clinging onto the plants. 

Normally I would have stripped the plants of their last few green fruits and used them for chutney but with the warm weather they are slowly and surely turning red on the plants so I am leaving them in situ as we munch our way through cabbages from the veggie patch and broccoli from the polytunnel.

As well as all the veggies mentioned above we have the last of the salad leaves, lots of beetroot waiting to be harvested from both tunnels and large spring onions that I am using in soups.,  The last of the cucumbers have been affected by the colder nights and gone over a bit, so they are being fed to the chickens as a daily treat along with all the trimmings and outer leaves from things I harvest for us. 

Today saw me planning ahead and planting for next year, with 80 red and 80 white onion sets being planted in the net tunnel.  I was going to get the Garlic cloves planted in there too but the rain came and I retired to the house instead.

In other news ... I came across this little chap in the bottom of an empty bucket the other day.  I had no idea how long the poor thing had been there so once tipped out I gave him a drink of rainwater on a leaf.

He seemed to enjoy it.

Black beetles are a gardeners friend eating all the little bugs and critters that would damage our vegetables and plants, so it was nice to do one a favour for once.

Sue xx

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Jamie Oliver - 5 Ingredients

I'd been wondering whether or not to buy this book.

 I've been really enjoying the accompanying television series, but over the course of the Summer I've gradually sold off most of my Jamie Oliver book collection at the car boot sales we've been doing.  I had every that book he has ever written, the older Naked Chef ones were so dated and although good at the time we just don't eat that way these days.

It was quite amazing looking through all the books in the order that he had written them while I was sorting them out for selling, watching him age bit by bit and his family grow in both number and ages.  So when this one came out I was in two minds about getting it, and then Mum mentioned she had debated whether or not to buy it for herself as well.

The deciding factor was finding out I had £8.78 in Waterstones rewards available to use, and as the book was on sale there at half of it's cover price of £26, it would be a snip at just £4.22 for two of us to share ... and definitely too good a bargain to miss.

We have already got one firm favourite of a recipe from the series and the book ... Super Green Spaghetti, it's absolutely delicious and worth the cost of the book alone ... well the £4.22 cost of the book that is   ;-)

I've had a good look through the book and now I'm taking it to Mum's with me so she can have a turn. 
See you later Mum  :-)

Sue xx

Monday 25 September 2017

Poor Rabbits

This rabbit may look like it's happily soaking up the last rays of Autumn sunshine, looking straight at me through the kitchen window ... but in fact it is soaking up the last rays of the Autumn sunshine completely oblivious to anything except the warmth on it's back and hopefully the beauty of the birdsong as it lives out it's last few hours hoping for a peaceful end. 

Myxomatosis has been rife on our hillside this year, beginning in late Spring it seemed to vanish throughout Summer and now it has reared it's ugly head again as we head into Autumn. 

The few rabbits we spot like this one, we try relocate to a safe place, away from Ginger and Mavis, to hopefully end their final hours relatively peacefully, those that find themselves away from the shelter of hedges and trees are easy pickings for the birds ... as the sad little piles of fluff we find each morning testifies. 

In my opinion our wildlife has enough on it's plate to survive the things it survives day to day without also having to contend with the most horrible of manmade diseases  :-(

Sue xx

Saturday 23 September 2017

Sue's Breakfast Mix and Car Boot Results

Whenever I have bananas and yoghurts in the house this is my breakfast of choice.

A big dollop of yoghurt, usually about a third of this large pot, a sliced up banana, a good handful of frozen homegrown Blueberries straight from the freezer and a teaspoon or two of everything from these jars.  The other morning as I was in and out of cupboards adding my teaspoon of this, teaspoon of that I thought to myself ... well no actually I said it out loud ... why the bloody hell do I do this several times a week and why don't I store all these jars in one cupboard which would have been the first logical step.

Then I thought ... time to put this right now

So instead of just putting the teaspoon of seeds on my breakfast I also put six times the amount of each seed into a jar and then gave it a good mix up.

I will obviously have to give it a stir each time before I use it as things like the little Chia seeds will gravitate to the bottom, but it's a million times better than opening and closing cupboards finding what I need so early in the morning.

The only thing I decided not to add to the jar were the flaked almonds, as they would go off much sooner than the other more dried seeds, and there weren't that many left in their jar.  When they run out I will revert to grating a couple of Brazil nuts over my breakfast instead..

I even labelled the jar 'Sue's Breakfast Mix.

One nice thing though, while I was doing my squirrel impression the other morning and gathering in my seeds and nuts, Alan said 'you remind me so much of your Dad when he came to visit us at the farm' ... he used to do something very similar every day with his bowl of cereal and whatever various 'sprinkles'  he could find  :-)

In other completely non-breakfast news, we worked out our final car boot takings after our final car boot sale of the year last week and these are the grand totals for 2017.

Not too shabby at all, over £900 cash that we wouldn't normally have had   :-)

Our plan for next year now that we have got rid of most of the housey clutter, is to move towards selling more of our homegrown and homemade stuff.  So along with one table of 'car boot stuff'  there will be another table with eggs, plants and vegetables and once the workshop is completely up and running which hopefully it will be over this Winter, more handmade small pieces of furniture, bowls and bits and pieces made of wood.

It will be interesting to compare this years total with next years.

Sue xx

Thursday 21 September 2017

Beans, Beans, Beans .... and Some More Bloody Beans

My Lovely Hubby ... she says, between tightly clenched teeth .... picked these for me the other day.  I had been purposefully ignoring the not so little blighters on the plants at the top of the Veggie Patch for a few days, hoping they would maybe vanish or be eaten by squirrels ... but no such luck!!

So I had nothing left to do but set too and start to deal with them.

I bought myself a little slicing gadget, not the best available but all I could get my hands on at short notice.  Lakeland do a better, slightly easier to use one but I didn't have time to wait for delivery with all the beans glaring at me from the bench outside the conservatory silently yelling at me every time I passed  'Deal with us, deal with us NOW!!'

So a bit later the very best of them had been washed, topped, tailed and sliced ...

... spun to get all excess water out and they now reside on open trays in the freezer where I hope they are freezing their jolly green butts off.

The rest, the bigger more bean filled ones, are in baskets and after a day spent sunbathing still on their bench, are going to go into the shed to dry out to give us dried beans for Winter use or seeds for planting next year if they don't get eaten .... or if I leave the door open maybe the squirrels will come and steal them. 

Anyone know how to train a squirrel?

(I Googled it and got THE most random set of images.)

Sue xx

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Tidying for Winter ... and Potato and Onion Soup

Alan is in the process of tidying up around the raised beds on the vegetable patch and emptying some of the beds ready for putting them to bed for the Winter.  The four beds highest on the hill just a few potatoes left to harvest so he started off by digging them up, then after a good weeding the beds were covered in black plastic which he stapled round the edges to try and stop the wind lifting it.

These beds are going to be the asparagus and rhubarb beds for next year, two of each, so we want as much goodness as possible kept in the soil and not washed down the hillside with the huge amount of rain we get here every Winter.  That is also the reason for keeping the little compost bin in place for now so it can carry on feeding the soil.  The rhubarb will be transplanted through slits in the plastic in a couple of weeks when it goes dormant.  That way, hopefully, next year we will have a lot less weeding to do :-)

I brought the potatoes he dug up into the house, after he had very kindly washed them for me, and added a couple of handfuls of my huge spring onions from the polytunnel to them.

They were sautéed in olive oil along with some garlic, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a couple of sticks of celery, before I added lots of vegetable stock.  Then it was all brought to the boil and left to simmer long and slow in the bottom oven of the Aga while we went out for a few hours.

Once home it was whizzed up with my stick blender and portioned out.  A jug full that we had for lunch today.  The glass bowl of soup that has been left chunky and has added peas, is for Alan's lunch tomorrow while I am in Manchester for the day, and the two two portion tubs are now safely stashed in the freezer for future use.

I have to dash now as it's time to deal with a vast amount of beans he has just harvested.  It's hard work this putting the hillside to bed lark .... I'll be ready for mine before he's finished at this rate.

Sue xx 

Monday 18 September 2017

Yummy or Sludgey

My breakfast yesterday was this lovely concoction of colourful yumminess ...

... while todays was this tumbler of greeny sludge.

It might look a bit unappetising but it tasted absolutely delicious.

And the thing they both have in common is that they contain lots of things I have grown myself,  so they are full of satisfyingly homegrown goodness  :-)

Sue xx

Saturday 16 September 2017

Freezer Inventory

I came across this brilliant freezer inventory on a website called Organised Home earlier, after a tip off on Facebook. 


They have the basic one you can just print out and write on, which would be brilliant for me when I'm out in the workshop at the big chest freezer, and also a version for saving onto your computer to fill in with your keyboard ... which would make it much neater and easier to read if your handwritings anywhere near as bad as mine  ;-)

Guess what I'll be doing one day next week then, and this time I'll try and keep it up to date and not let it fizzle out like it usually does.

There are lots of other very useful printables on the site too, including this weekly menu planner with built in shopping list. I've just printed myself one out, ready for next weeks effort to eat through the contents of the indoor freezer.

Sue xx

Friday 15 September 2017

The Lingering Aroma of Vinegar

Yesterday I picked all the tomatoes that had ripened while we were away over the weekend and used them to make this recipe.

I didn't have exactly what the recipe called for but it was near enough.  Red wine vinegar instead of white, mixed pickling spices instead of all the two teaspoons of this, two teaspoons of that, dried chilli flakes instead of the four chillies ... and then I added a couple more onions and a tin of chopped tomatoes as it all seemed too liquidy.  

If this is tasty and I make it again I will definitely reduce the amount of vinegar I use.  It took almost FOUR HOURS of boiling to reduce the chutney enough for bottling.

  If you want to see the recipe click on the picture and it should enlarge.

But what we have got now is five jars of very rich tasting chutney stashed away ready for Winter use, and a house that still smells of vinegar!!

The stores cupboard filling up nicely, and the freezer is looking much healthier again too :-)

Sue xx

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Shopping From the Freezer

It's been a busy few days.  On Friday we drove up to Scotland ready for a family wedding on the Saturday, Sunday saw us hitting the road for home after having a brilliant time celebrating with the happy couple and lots of our other family members from North of the border.

  Yesterday we dashed round like blue arsed flies catching up with things at home, before taking the hire kilt back into Llandudno, doing lots of other  little errands and arranging to donate one of our sofas to the British Heart Foundation in readiness for redecorating the living room later this month (or early next if we run out of time ....which is more than likely).  On our way home we picked the dogs up from the kennels.  So now it's all back to normal at home ... well as normal as it ever gets here that is  😉

One thing I'm determined not to do much of for the rest of this month is shop.   After the last couple of weeks spent filling the chest freezer with homegrown vegetables, fruit and sauces,  and filling the cupboards with jams and marmalades, trailing round supermarkets or shops is the last thing on my agenda.  So to help with this, as you can see from the top photo, I have decided to get back to weekly menu planning.

Fifteen or so minutes spent with pencil and paper on Monday morning means that our evening meals for the whole week are sorted out, so no more standing staring into the fridge hoping desperately for inspiration to strike after a hard couple of hours in the polytunnel.

It also means that after a couple of weeks I should be able to 'shop' once a week from the chest freezer in the workshop and put everything we are going to be using jnto the smaller freezer in the house saving me dashing backwards and forwards looking for things .... well that's the plan anyway 😊

To make space, this week and for however long supplies last, we are eating down the contents of this freezer.   It's a bit like the Challenges I used to do really, and I'm already enjoying myself!!

Sue xx

Sunday 10 September 2017


To balance out yesterdays post  :-)

Yes, I am vegan, or plant based whatever you want to call me.  I don't need a label, just as I don't need to eat meat.  I made a bad choice and ate some fish last week, it took me two days to get over it .... I won't do that again.

I am the happiest with my dietary choices as I have ever been.  It's amazing how much lighter you feel in yourself when you don't consume others, and when you tread lightly on this earth.

Sue xx

Saturday 9 September 2017

Meat, Meat and Maybe a Little Bit More Meat

We called up at Bodnant Farm Foods the other day to partake of their current offer of 'Plenty for Twenty'.  Basically lots of meat products from their butchery department for £20 ...
with a free gift if you took the time to print out a coupon.

As Alan is the only one to eat meat in our house it pays us to look out for offers and make full use of what we buy.  He loves the quality of Bodnant meats and the localness of their suppliers.  Indeed in the next couple of years he is hoping to become one of their regular suppliers himself with pork products.

As soon as we got home I snapped into action and prepared all the meats into single serving portions, individually wrapped so even a single sausage could be taken out itself if needed, and then bagged together.  Alan portioned up the whole chicken for me and that was split into four large portions.  The bones, and the meat they had stuck to them, were boiled up and then simmered with some chunky cut vegetables and provided him with a huge bowl of soup the next day and a stock to add to some lamb shanks that I cooked for him that night. He had the 'free gift'  ... which was a chicken stir-fry pack ... last night for his tea.

Once wrapped and bagged everything else was boxed and taken out to the large chest freezer in the workshop.

While we were out and about we also called to Sainsbury's' with the intention of using our large stash of Nectar points (over £35 worth) to buy more meat for the freezer, and luckily we arrived just as the fridges were being checked for near date items.  We managed to get most of the meat Alan wanted with yellow stickers, making it a very worthwhile shop.

Once again everything was portioned out at home, even the pack of twenty meatballs being divided into little wraps of five.

Just enough to add to a pasta dish or pizza, for a little taste of meat for my meat loving man.

The diced 'casserole steak' was also portioned up, just enough to add a meaty hit to a stew,  casserole, curry, pie or pasty.

I did it by eye, but I couldn't resist checking to see how equal the packs were and I found that I had pretty much got it spot on  :-)

Again everything was individually wrapped, bagged and then boxed to give it as a long a storage time as possible.  Air is your enemy in the freezer.

I also took some homemade soups out to the freezer, which is now filling up nicely ready for Winter.  It wasn't my most enjoyable afternoon of food prep, but one that was really worth doing to get us the most for our hard earned money.

Sue xx

Thursday 7 September 2017

Homegrown and Homemade

It's all about the preservation of food we've grown at the moment and it's a busy time of year. 

A watering session in the polytunnel this morning saw me busy picking all the ripe stuff and bits and bobs of plants that were going over and finishing their useful growing life while the water trough filled up with more water for the watering cans.

So once back in the house everything that I had just picked was washed and prepped.  This tray ready for the Aga has the last of the aubergines, the last of the green peppers and the last few home grown onions tucked in amongst the tomatoes and garlic.  I find it satisfying that everything is home grown. 

Once it's finished roasting and then cooled, it will be whizzed up and put into the freezer joining this stack of ready made tomato based sauces.  We love a good roasted sauce on pasta, pizza, rice or as the base of many a dish.  It can also be watered down slightly and turned into a delicious soup.

Another good thing to come out of having to empty out the flooded under stairs cupboard was finding a tub of my old soap base mix. So over the last couple of days I have made up another 4kg of soap to see us through the Winter.  I cut each kilo block that I make into eight bars, so that's a total of 32 bars of soap now stored in this basket on the bathroom shelf ready for use.   We have Lavender, Geranium, Peppermint and also a Tea tree and Lavender mix.  It smells very good in the bathroom at the moment  :-)

It's all satisfying prep for the season to come .... but bloody exhausting if the truth be told!!

Sue xx