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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Beechgrove Garden

I've been reading Frugal in Norfolk's blog and she recommends Beechgrove Garden from BBC Scotland.  I never really took to Gardeners' World as it was never quite practical enough for me.  I've just watched last week's episode on BBC iplayer.  It was really interesting.  They publish (online) a fact sheet to go with each episode and last week there was an extra one on keeping fruit and veg fresh.

There were loads of hints and tips which I had not come across so I'm giving this Keeping it Fresh booklet a plug.  Unfortunately I haven't quite managed to work out a direct link to it.  So google Beechgrove Garden and click on the website link for episode 20 which went out on 11 September 2014. Next to the factsheet link, there is a link to this booklet.  Sorry this is long and convoluted but I promise that it is worth the search : )


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pickle recipe

This recipe is for one of our favourite pickles.  It is not expensive to make and you can play around a little bit with the quantities and it will still be fine.  I found the recipe originally in a book from the 1970s by Alison Burt called "Preserves and Pickles".  I thought I'd share it because it is so easy.

It is a recipe that gives an amount of "prepared apple" which I really like because you can use windfalls.  If you only have a box of windfalls then it is a bit difficult to judge how many bits of reasonable apple equal the amount of whole apple in the recipe.  My ancient jam recipe book (HMSO book from the 1960s) also tends to take the "prepared apple" approach. 

Sweet Pickle with Apple

2 lbs apple (prepared)
2 cucumbers
4 large onions
1/2 pint brown malt vinegar
8 ozs white sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger and turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Peel cucumber and cut into 1/4 inch dice.
Peel and chop onions finely.
Place prepared apple, onions and cucumber in a pan with all the remaining ingredients.
Bring to the boil, stirring all the time to make sure the sugar is dissolved.
Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Put the pickle into hot, clean jars and seal immediately.

Notes on how I did it this time:
I didn't have any turmeric so I left it out.
My celery seed has a price label of 40p and it must be ancient - so I was generous with it.
One of my cucumbers had gone off so I just used one.
My onions were what I would have called "medium" so I used five.
I had a small amount of spiced vinegar left from last autumn's preserving so I used that.

I've had a bug and am off work so I couldn't face standing to do all that chopping and I used the food processor to chop it all.  Next time I might use the grater attachment as processed cucumber was a bit of a mistake...  All the previous times I've made this pickle, I've chopped everything finely by hand and it does give a nicer looking pickle but the key thing is the taste.  After all, when the pickle is in a sandwich, I can't see whether everything is neatly chopped or not : )

This pickle will be ready to eat before Christmas.  It is sweet and tangy and is wonderful in a cheese sandwich.  If you like your pickle hot and spicy, then add something to pep it up.  It is a very tolerant pickle. It also keeps well.  I've got a jar from the batch I made three years ago and it is just lovely.

Edited to say that this quantity made 8 jars this time.  The jars were all smaller pickle jars that would have held about 12ozs or a little bit less.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Ice cream

I've joined the Orchard Community at Tesco.  If you are accepted on to one of their programmes, then you receive a coupon that allows you to buy a free product or at least at a greatly reduced price.  Then you have to tell other people about it.  So this is what I am doing in this post.

I received a coupon for £3 off any Tesco icecream - from everyday basics to a posh variety.  When I was in Tesco, they had the medium range on offer at £3.50 for any two tubs. So I bought two - Tesco vanilla ice cream 900mls and also Tesco cherry vanilla 900mls.  My favourite ice cream is always a good vanilla so I thought I was on to a winner here especially as cherries are a favourite too.

However, the ice cream was not smooth as I had expected, either in the vanilla or the one with cherries.  It was evening when I bought the ice cream and it takes about 25 minutes to drive home from Tesco so it is not a case of the ice cream staying out of a freezer long enough to thaw and refreeze.  It was also the last thing that I put in my trolley on the way to the checkout and was packed up against other frozen/chilled food in the boot. 

I was quite excited about the ice cream and getting to try some for a mere 50p for two tubs. So I was disappointed with the texture which has spoiled it for me.  I'm not saying that I didn't like it - just that I was a bit disappointed that it didn't live up to my expectations. I thank Tesco for the opportunity to try these and hope that they will include me in other programmes.  I'm afraid that my unfavourable response is also my honest opinion.  I'm not going to lie just to be included in other programmes - what would be the point in that?

Maybe I should just have gone for the most expensive variety of ice cream, which I will probably never bring myself to buy...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Another electrical item for the list

My next electrical gadget has died and this time it was my iron.  I said earlier this year that this was going to be one for replacing electricals.  So far, we have replaced the microwave, vacuum cleaner, fridge, chest freezer and now the iron.  I've bought it from Tesco because they are doubling up the clubcard vouchers and it is free delivery to the usually useless little Tesco Express not far from here.  I paid for the microwave with clubcard vouchers but doubling the value means I got the iron for halfprice but also free because no extra money has changed hands.  And free is definitely my favourite price : ) I wonder which gadget will go next?

I've just finished day 3 of the new school year.  Where did my holiday energy go?  Why has it evaporated so quickly? The new year 7s look so very small and last year's year 7s who were "normal" in size just 6 weeks ago, now look enormous.

And just to add insult to injury, my husband is going round to my son's house tomorrow while I'm at work and will no doubt have a cuddle with our new granddaughter - and I won't.  Grrr.  Ok, so it won't be totally a social call.  "Dad - our toilet has started leaking and I can't see why.  Can you come round and help me fix it please?"  On the one hand, it is nice still to be needed - but he will still get a cuddle with both our little grandaughters and I won't.

I got a flyer from Farmfoods through the door this week and it seems that they are still selling a 1Kg bag of sugar for 59p.  If anyone is passing near a Farmfoods shop and still has jam to make, then it might be worth a call.  They also have two x 1 litre packs of orange, apple or pineapple juice for £1.  now that I have discovered a Farmfoods shop not too far from one of my occasional routes, I think I might be calling in more often. Every little helps.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blogger problems

Is anyone else having problems with blogger?  For over a week now, I keep getting the message that I am not currently following any blogs.  This is not true!

I'm not sure what to do about it.  Anyone got any ideas?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day out

We wanted to go for a day out for our wedding anniversary but it got postponed because of the arrival of our new little granddaughter.  So we've been now.  We spent a happy afternoon pottering around Ryton Gardens not far from Coventry.  Ryton is the home of Garden Organic and the Henry Doubleday Research Association. It was a lovely afternoon - warm but not too warm for walking.  There were hardly any other people there so we could potter and chat undisturbed. They have changed lots of things since we were last there so it was good to see some new displays. I have to admit that we skipped a lot of the flower gardens and concentrated on the vegetable areas, although they did have a couple of areas where all the plants were edible, even the flowers.  When we left, we drove to a series of lanes where we knew we could pull in and sit relatively undisturbed and enjoy a cuppa and a slice of homemade cake (banana and cranberry - one of our favourites).

While we were stopped there, we picked some blackberries to have with yoghurt when we got home.  I also picked a bagful of hawthorn, sloe, hazel and various other weeds that my rabbits love and which are not so readily available at home.

We drove home by a circuitous route that took us along lots of little lanes.  We saw lots of pretty villages and thatched cottages and fields of animals which we would not have seen had we stayed on the main roads.  It is one of our ways of stretching a day out a little longer before having to come back into "civilisation".

Our road home was going to take us past the large Tesco that I rarely get to and I was very pleased to find that they were doing their second reductions just as we got there.  So we came home with some reduced bread, fruit and veg and some chilled Quorn products.  We brought some home for our son and his family and called in to deliver it.  Any excuse for a cuddle with my new granddaughter! They were delighted with their pressie and it cost me less than £2 to give them enough food for all of them for a couple of days.  They were particularly pleased with the Quorn as those varieties of Quorn are much liked but out of their normal price bracket : )

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Saturday, August 23, 2014


Oops, my information was wrong - sorry. The Sun had only a coupon for £3 off a shop of £13 in Poundland.  My son ran into the paper shop and grabbed a copy of the Sun (embarrassment in case he was seen buying the Sun...) and ran out without looking at it (it always has a picture of whatever coupon on the front).  He was really disappointed not to get his free veg because they are a vegetarian family with a new baby and skint, to put it mildly.  Fortunately, I hadn't gone to get my paper so I bought it off him. I've never spent £13 in Poundland as I seldom find more than one or two things that are useful but I'm sure I can do it this once if I put my mind to it.  They sell plastic cups that we use at church, for example.  I would like to go back to making my own greetings cards as I used to really enjoy that and I know they sell packs of ready folded cards with matching envelopes. Actually, my eldest granddaughter might well like a pack of those in her Christmas stocking.  And the other grandchildren might well find something from Poundland in their stockings this year too... Sometimes they have the shampoo that I like in stock and just occasionally they have a food item that is cheaper there than elsewhere. But I too was looking forward to a free £5 of fruit to make some more jam for the coming year and am disappointed.

I am told that the voucher is in the pipeline so if you are interested, then check out the Sun each week, usually on a Thursday. 

On Thursday, our farmer friend was free to come with us to school to teach us how to take down a tree as there was a dead one and we had permission to do it.  It saves the school the cost of a tree surgeon and definitely benefits us!  The tree was not close enough to a building to be dangerous, which is why they were willing to let us have a go.  I was amazed how quickly it came down.  There was just the trunk as the branches had been cut off at some time in the past. However, my job was to clear up afterwards...  I spent a good four hours sweeping and raking the grass where the tree had been cut up.  We filled 6 sacks with the chippings and sawdust which, once dried, will be used to fill strong bags like flour or sugar bags or small boxes to make wooden "logs" to burn. There was still more but we had to be creative in hiding that in the bushes as we had no more sacks : ). 

Our friend cut the trunk into big slices with his ginormous chain saw and then left us to it. (He holds this chain saw steady in one hand and sharply pulls the cord to start it with the other hand - I can't even lift the chain saw...) Our job was to ferry the the wood to the car in a wheelbarrow, make the trip home, unload with a wheelbarrow  and go back and start again.  My husband did the ferrying while I cleared up.  I was SOOO tired.  Still, for the cost of some diesel, several cakes for our friend and a LOT of tiredness, we will have a nice stash of logs.  When we were just about ready to go home for the last time, one of the caretakers spotted us and said that he had put three pallets aside for us.  We thanked him kindly but I have to admit that it just about finished me helping to lift them on to the roof bars of the car.  We did not get to our lunch until after 4pm as my husband didn't want to stop to eat and I was so tired that I just wasn't hungry.

And I've seen my new little granddaughter four times this week since she was born.  Definitely a biased grandmother here.  I'm extremely partial to my other three grandchildren but there is something special about a very new baby : )

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