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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Shirley Goode

I was saddened to learn of the death of Shirley Goode this month. The following was posted on her blog by a family member:

Sadly, after a long illness Shirley passed away peacefully on 6 November. The funeral will be next week.
The blog will remain open to comments until the end of the month after which it will be closed to new comments. It will remain online for the foreseeable future as a reference. The family wish to thank everyone who has posted their kind comments on her blog to date.
I first came across Shirley Goode back in the eighties.  She wrote articles in Family Circle magazine and was on Pebble Mill at One on BBC1.  I also saved up for weeks to have enough money to buy her first book "More for your Money" which she wrote with Erica Griffiths.  Shirley taught me a lot about stretching the budget and feeding my family well on very little money.  Apart from the "Pauper's Cookbook" by Jocasta Innes, there was not not much around to teach a novice like me. I was delighted when she wrote several other books on the same theme and then I found her blog a couple of years ago.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Shirley for all I learned from her and am sorry to hear of her passing.
ps I've just spotted that "More for your Money" is almost £45 on Amazon at the moment.  Should you happen to find a copy in a charity shop, you'll find it a good read.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I've been given some goodies in the last week. Isn't it nice when people share their gluts of food : )

1. A marrow.  Actually just saying "a marrow" does not do this monster justice. It weighs in at nearly 35 lbs! A friend at the allotments won a prize at the local show with this one but it is so big that he didn't want it so he gave it to me for the hens.  It is in really good condition so I won't cut it yet but when I do then everybody I know will be getting a piece. And the hens will get a bit too.

2. A small green pumpkin.

3. A frilly edged green squash.  I've no idea what kind it is but it is really pretty looking.

4. A spaghetti marrow.  I'm not sure how to cook this one but I'll do my research - the wonders of google.

5. A Chinese marrow.  I've not come across these before so I don't (yet) know what is different about it.  It is a pretty speckled green so it wins on looks but it is the taste that counts.

6. Two overgrown courgettes that were still just small enough to be able to be cooked without removing the seeds. We've eaten these now.

7. Two small orange marrows.

8. A box with about 20 lbs of green tomatoes. I love fried green tomatoes. I gave almost half the box to my friend down the road because her homegrown tomatoes all went brown.  She was very pleased. My son and daughters have all called in and gone home with a little bag of tomatoes too.  They have a wonderful flavour - so much better than the ones from Lidl. I've been eating tomatoes with almost every meal since they turned red very quickly - and enjoying them .

I've also had a medium size pumpkin free courtesy of Topcashback. I think our winter menu is going to have a lot of pumpkin and marrow in it : )

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Leaves and pumpkins

We are busy collecting leaves again as we have done each autumn for several years.  Since the hens have scratched up all the grass in their half of my garden, we put down leaves in their runs.  We have very heavy clay soil and when it rains, the ground turns into a quagmire.  It rained very heavily all day recently and when I went out to the hens in the afternoon, you couldn't see their feet at all.  They need wellies! Failing that, they have leaves which keeps them out of the mud a bit.  Leaves are also very good at keeping their feet off the frozen ground when the temperature plummets.
A couple of Christmases ago, our son gave us a thing to help us fill bags. I've looked it up on Amazon and apparently it is called a bin bag loader. We just call it "that plastic thing to help us fill bags"...   : )
Bosmere G185 Bin Bag Loader
You put it into your bag, then fill it and remove the plastic thing and there you have a bag filled with leaves or garden rubbish  - and the bag is not torn by all the little twig etc.  Not only that but the bag stays nicely open for you to put things in it.  It more than halves the time to fill 20 bags with leaves. In fact I would happily buy shares in the firm that makes them because it is so useful.
Today we filled 20 bags with leaves. We really only have October to collect a year's supply of leaves so we need to get out there when it is dry. 20 bags is pushing it and our backs are tonight reminding us that 20 bags is more than we usually fill in one day.  We must have about 60-70 bags filled already but that is not enough yet. The bags we use are the charity bags that come through the door and are never collected again.  We have not yet used all those that have come through the letterbox this year....  We are fortunate to live in a road lined with sycamore type trees.  Our neighbours don't tend to use the word "fortunate" during October but they don't mind at all when they see us out sweeping them up : )
Any Topcashback customers around?  Have you spotted in their Snap and Save section that they will refund you the price of a pumpkin up to the value of £3 until next Tuesday?  I feel lots of pumpkin soup coming in our future. Yum!

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Cake : )

It was my turn to take some cake to church for a particular event.  My hens are quite old now and are moulting.  Hens can either put their energy into making eggs or making feathers but not both. So as I am really short of eggs, I wanted a cake recipe that didn't use eggs. Sue from The Quince Tree published a recipe that she had found and a couple of others had posted that they had tried the recipe and liked it so I tried it too.  It is a really easy recipe and it was indeed lovely.  There were a couple of pieces left over after the meeting at church so I brought them home and forgot about them. It was about five days later that I found the tub with the cake tucked behind something else and to my surprise, it was still really moist and lovely.  So I commend this recipe to you:

I made one and a half times the quantity in the recipe and that took about 45 minutes to cook.  There are also some variations at the end of Sue's blog post.  You can be sure that this cake, or a variation, will be made again soon : )

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Birthday time

I've been having fun recently.  My younger daughter and my son and I all have birthdays very close together so this year we had a joint family "do".  Everybody came as well as a few close friends and we had fun just chatting and catching up.  My daughter organised the food and everybody was detailed to bring a particular dish so it wasn't too much of a chore for anybody.  The grandchildren really enjoyed themselves as there were lots of people willing to play with them.

I've also had a couple of days away in Cambridge this week. My husband had a meeting there and the hotel charged per room and not per person so I went too.  I've never been to Cambridge before so I got to wander round while he was in his meetings.  I loved looking at all the old buildings and colleges in the town centre. My one complaint is that there were very few places to sit down and give my weary feet a rest.

I'm still processing fruit. There are still quite a few blackberries on the bramble in our garden and I'm still stewing windfalls with either blackberries or sultanas and putting bags of stewed fruit in the freezer along with another bag of plums that I was given. I still have sloe and apple jelly to make and I have citrus fruit in the fridge for marmalade. I'd quite like to make some sweet apple chutney too.  I've made piccalilli because I know my daughter would like some for Christmas - and when it was all bottled, I realised that I had forgotten the mustard.  So I'm not quite sure how that will turn out...

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?

Covent Garden are offering £1 vouchers off their soup at the moment and right now this soup is on offer in Asda for £1.  Offer is limited to one coupon per person.

Free New Covent Garden Soup

I think that Covent Garden soup may be on our lunch menu next week : )

I've fallen behind with my task of losing 1000 items out of our house this year. With the allotment and being away for a week and filling the freezer and jamming, I've lost the momentum of getting on with sorting through stuff. I need to find where I put that particular mojo!

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jam time again

I've been busy making jam again.  So far I've made:

blackberry and apple
blackberry and plum
blackberry medley
four fruit marmalade
apple and sloe jelly
autumn jelly

No pickles yet.  Our little tree has excelled itself and I have processed about 50lbs of damson plums.  I have 16 bags of stewed fruit in the freezer and many lbs of jam.  We have a bramble in te garden that I would not let my husband get rid of until I had picked the fruit.  So far I've had about 4lbs of fruit from it as well as picking blackberries from any other place that I find them.  I've managed to scrounge apples from a couple of people to add to the jams and have four (so far!) bags of stewed apple with sultanas in the freezer for winter puddings.  I love stewed fruit with yoghurt for pudding. Yum! I've also bottled 12 small jars of apple sauce.

We lost our big freezer and also our little one in the last year. We've replaced the big one but not bought a little one.  I was trying to do without it but I answered a Freecycle ad last week and have now got a new (to me) small freezer again. Yay!  The theory goes that the small one gets used to house the harvest and gets turned off when empty.  My last little one never got to be empty because I would fill it with yellow stickered bargains.  I was so upset when that one died because we didn't notice until there was a funny smell and so we couldn't rescue anything.  Right now, having extra freezer space, I feel like a squirrel putting away a good food store for the wintertime : )

Talking of jam - has anybody else spotted that Lidl have their sugar on sale at 39p?  It is only just a year ago that sugar was nearly £1 a bag!  I shall have a few packs in store for Christmas baking and further marmalade making. I suspect Aldi will have their sugar at a similar price too.

This post has been edited to keep my list of preserves up-to-date so that I know what I have made.

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