This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

More jam

I've made some more jam. I got my hands on some sloes and wanted to do something other than sloe gin with them. There is a section of hedge along the perimeter of the allotments which catches the sun all day long and there was about a pound weight of big black golf balls (huge blackberries) just waiting to be picked. So I did. I added in some windfall apples  just to make sure it set. I've made jelly with sloes before but not jam. This jam has a wonderful flavour and I really like it. It is sharp in the way that marmalade is sharp but sweet at the same time. I cooked the sloes first and sieved them to remove the stones. I wondered if it would be too much of a faff but when I tasted the jam I decided it was definitely worthwhile.

So I have updated my Preserving Year post to include this jam. We have some grapes on our vine and they are nearly ready to pick to make some grape jelly. We don't always get enough grapes to be worth doing anything with them but this is a year when hopefully I will get about 5lbs of jelly.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Scary story

This morning I did not feel at my best, so as I did not have to be anywhere, I stayed later in bed with my book. My husband was going to the allotment and was packing his stuff up to go and I carried on with my book.  Suddenly one of cats leapt on to my bed and plonked a rat on my lap. A live rat. It really made me jump! After freezing for a moment, I jumped out of bed and ran for the bathroom bin which I emptied on the floor and ran back to the bed and clapped the bin upside down on top of the rat - and held it there while I phoned for reinforcements. Fortunately my husband had not got very far and he came back and helped to capture it and took it up the far end of the garden. Hopefully it will die peacefully there, unmolested by cats. I am not keen on rats, to put it mildly, but after a fright like that, it probably won't survive.

My cat is probably feeling aggrieved that I didn't appreciate my nice present quite as much as he had expected : )


Monday, October 03, 2016

Lovely lunch

I've mentioned before that I had joined the Orchard programme at Tesco. Well the current activity is to do with pairing a nice meal with a good bottle of wine. They gave me a voucher which meant I got a substantial reduction on a lovely joint of pork. My husband cooked the meal and the pork was cooked to perfection with crispy crackling. We had roast potatoes (homegrown) and roast parsnips and onions and green beans (homegrown) with apple sauce (homegrown) and we had a bottle of Jacob's Creek chardonnay with it. Just beautiful!

The Orchard programmes would like me to review the activity, hence my post. I really enjoyed the meal and the chardonnay went really well with the meal Definitely a five star meal. Thank you Tesco! (and my husband for cooking such a good meal)


Saturday, October 01, 2016

Busy, busy

This has been such a busy month. My son has moved house and there was work to be done on the new house as nothing had been done for a long time - probably 30 years or so.  I also got to look after grandchildren a lot because it is much easier to pack up a house without them "helping". My husband seems to have spent every waking moment in the new house in the last month. Anyway, moving day was last weekend and the whole family turned out to help. We borrowed a (clean!) animal trailer from our farmer friend and moved all the furniture in that. And the smaller things went by car. This week we seem to have slept a lot...

We also had a short visit to Cambridge again as my husband had a meeting to go to. We have another coming up this month and another in November too. It is a lovely place and I enjoy pottering there.

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Monday, September 05, 2016

Disaster strikes

I had great plans for doing lots of things with homegrown tomatoes this year. I bought ten plants, because they were on offer and were advertised by Thompson & Morgan as being really prolific. I was given lots of plants and we also planted the first shoots to grow between the stem and the leaves and they all took and grew well.  All in all, I have 37 tomato plants. I thought it better to have them at the house rather than the allotment because it is easier to keep on top of the watering and feeding. It looks like a tomato jungle in my garden.

Or it did. I've got blight and had to pick the fruit there was and we'll have to burn the plants.

Total crop: 15.6 ozs cherry tomatoes from 37 plants. Gutted!

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Saturday, September 03, 2016

Autumn is on its way

With the weather today being cold, wet and windy it feels like we have suddenly turned a corner and left summer behind. I was hoping that summer would bow out gracefully and slowly. Hopefully we shall have a bit of warm sun still to come.

We went to a bbq on bank holiday Monday and a group of us went for a walk. The person whose house it was and therefore knows the area, suggested the walk.  We went along and took our three grandchildren who have all had birthdays in August and who are now 2, 4 and 7. Seven and a half miles later, we struggled back to the house.  The seven year old coped fine and obviously could have gone further. The four year old managed well for the first five miles and then had to be carried. The two year old managed a couple of miles and had to be carried the rest of the way. My arthriticky knee managed at first but by the five mile point, was protesting loudly and we still had a third of the way to go.  Not fun!

Naturally, as always, I had a plastic bag in my pocket to fill with any goodies for my rabbit as we were walking across fields and public rights of way. I did find various things for the rabbit but I also found some crab apples, elderberries and a few damsons.  I added a couple of windfall apples to this as well as a handful of blackberries and made five small pots of hedgerow jelly to add to my store.  It is a lot of work for such a small return but it has a fabulous flavour. It will be great with meat but will be just as good on my breakfast toast : )

I have more blackberries to pick and will make some more blackberry and apple jam. I'd like to make a little bit of chutney and mayber a pickle or two. My husband likes Branston and not much else but I love pickles and chutneys.  I have tried hard to broaden his mind but it remains firmly set on Branston and pickled onions. The only time I have managed to get him to try anything else (with the verdict of "It's alright but I prefer Branston") was a tomato and apple chutney made with tinned tomatoes. Windfall apples are relatively easy to come by if you know anybody with an apple tree. Tinned tomatoes are currently four for £1 at Asda so it is an inexpensive chutney to make. It also uses just ordinary vinegar, not spiced, and white sugar.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Losing a month

My goodness me, where did August go?  I seem to have blinked and missed nearly a month here.

We had holiday club at church. So that took up a week.  I was working with a group of six year old and my husband had seven year olds. My goodness were we tired by the end of the week! We had over 80 kids in total, aged from three to ten but with a couple of twelve year olds as well. It was a good week, though, and we enjoyed it and the kids did too. We had all the parents in with the kids for a bbq on the Friday. That was very popular. I ended up serving burgers. I don't thing I have ever even seen so many burgers in one place before. Think 80 kids with parent/s and sibling/s...

I have been making lots of jam and also a jar of pickled eggs.  I have been updating my previous "Preserving Year" post so that I know what varieties of jams I have made. The family will be pleased as none of them make jams at all.  I have been dithering about investing in some Kilner jars and trying my hand at bottling. I have got as far as looking up the price of the jars on Amazon and Lakeland. The thing is that the rings or metal discs have to bought new each year and that sounds expensive.  I know the food would be fresh and if grown yourself then you know what fertilisers etc have or have not been used. The food used would have to be cheaply acquired but then there is all the gas used and the cost of the seal not to mention the work involved.  Tins of tomatoes are on offer at four for £1 at the moment in Asda. That is cheaper than the cost of the seal and without any effort involved other than carrying the tins home.  I don't know anybody round here who does any bottling and I would love to have a chat with somebody who does. My freezer is always full and this would be a way of preserving some fruit for the winter without using the freezer.

Do any of you do any bottling?

We have also been trying to tackle our wood pile. In the spring, our chop saw broke. Then the chain saw developed a fault and needed a new part. It was still under warranty and we had a bit of trouble but eventually we got the part replaced and had a working saw again. And we got the chop saw sorted. The thing is that we were into exam season by the time we had the saws working again so my husband had no time at all left over to do anything with all the wood we had collected. So yesterday, our son and son-in-law came round and the three of them spent the whole day cutting up wood with both saws and also with the axe. They got through a lot of wood and we are very grateful to have such help and to have a good amount ready to burn : )

Our granddaughter came round in the afternoon and acted as gofer for the three of them. My job was to keep them all fed and watered. No easy job with the amount of physical labour involved in cutting up the wood.  I went shopping on Thursday evening and was delighted to get some of our favourite bread rolls reduced to 10p a pack. I would have made some nice bread in the breadmaker for them but these were posh rolls for less than it would have cost me to make the loaf. My secret weapon was a plentiful supply of cake and a huge pile of scones served with homemade jam and cream. There were only three scones left by the end of the day so I know they were appreciated : )

And then there is the allotment. Blink and you can't see the plot for weeds. The war is on!

And my little hens are laying well now. And eating for England, just like teenagers with hollow legs. Yesterday was the third day in a row that they have laid an egg each. Hence the pickled eggs mentioned above as it is a means of preserving some for the winter (for my lunches, probably in a salad) without using the freezer. I expect I shall be pickling a few more now that they are getting into a rhythm with laying.

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