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

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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Monday, August 01, 2016

A new jam lover

I've made 20 lbs of gooseberry and elderflower jam over the weekend. Today I made 8 lbs of blackcurrant jam. At least I call it blackcurrant but the bushes are a cross between gooseberry and blackcurrant which produce large currants that taste exactly like a blackcurrant. I've forgotten the actual name of the bush. Maybe you could tell me?

After I had finished potting the jam, I went to sit down for a few minutes as my back was protesting. After a short while I became aware of a strange noise and went back to the kitchen to investigate. I found one of my young cats standing on the cooker enthusiastically washing the jam pan out with his rough little tongue.  He was really enjoying the jam : )

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Holiday time

We've been away on holiday. Yay! We've been to the same farm in Wales that we've been to before and this year, as last year, our oldest granddaughter came too. It was a lovely time and I really appreciated time out from all the responsibilities and jobs at home : )

The farm is a lovely place and there are ponies, horses, Welsh cobs, donkeys, goats, llamas, sheep of lots of different breeds, geese, ducks, hens, 5 dogs and a cat. Just lovely and I'm more than a bit envious.

We've come back to an enormous amount of weed on the allotment and loads of fruit that need processed now. So you can guess what I'll be doing all week : )

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Friday, July 15, 2016

The Preserving Year

Or, to be more precise, my preserving year. I find it helpful to have a list of what I've made. Jams etc keep for longer than a year so if I make a slightly different list of preserves, then it gives us lots of variety during the year. Most of my preserving happens over the summer so a post in July seems appropriate and I can go back and edit in whatever new thing I've made. It also reminds me what I've made when it comes to making up hampers of goodies for Christmas.


Elderflower Champagne
Elderflower cordial


Blackberry and apple (2 batches)
Blackcurrant and rhubarb
Gooseberry and elderflower (2 batches)
Hedgerow jelly
Lemon, ruby grapefruit and orange marmalade
Orange, lemon and ginger marmalade
Plum and vanilla
Rhubarb with a hint of ginger
Rhubarb and vanilla
Strawberry and Rhubarb


Apple and onion relish
Pickled eggs

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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Catch up

I haven't posted in a while.  This time, however, I have an excuse - I picked up an infection and have been rather poorly.  Health is one of those things which you don't always stop to appreciate until some bit of you stops functioning properly. I am so pleased to be back to normal now : ) 

I am so behind with everything.  I am thankful for a couple of dry days so that I can catch up with the washing.  I am pottering through lots of cleaning.  The kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it when I first ventured downstairs again and is slowly coming back to something resembling normality.  My new vacuum cleaner has been earning its keep. And while I was marooned upstairs, the new tv was in use too.

Being poorly also meant that the elderflower champagne did not all get drunk.  It is absolutely fabulous now and we really enjoyed a glass with dinner tonight. I've finished my lemon cordial and am now on the lookout for some bargain lemons. If you haven't tried making or drinking real elderflower champagne, I can recommend it. So easy to make and just fabulous to drink.

I have some new little hens now so my chickenopolis population has gone to 11 from 6. The new girls are young - too young to lay yet. Maybe there will be more eggs next month. The old girls are taking it in turn to lay so I'm looking forward to having lots of eggs. My farmer friend wanted some new girls too so we ordered them and shared the delivery costs. Doing it like that meant that we saved lots in diesel costs, which is A Good Thing.

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