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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Almost December

It is almost December already. I have several boxes of Christmas presents that I need to go through and sort to see who I have left out and need to buy for. I collect presents all year round and put them in some boxes. If I see something at a good price that would be just right for somebody, then it makes sense to me to buy it there and then. I also do a stocking for the children and for each pair of adults and I need to collect bits and bobs all year or the cost of filling them would be astronomical. I just need to get the boxes out and make lists.

We have just come back from yet another visit to Cambridge for more of my husband's meetings. That is four trips this autumn. Thankfully it will now be spring before we have to go back again.  It takes a lot of extra cooking for the church coffeeshop to enable me to go on these trips and then when we come back, I have to play catchup.

I have also just had the invigilation schedules for the year 11 and year 13 internal exams. School does them as near as possible in format to the GCSE and A-levels so that the kids know what to expect in the real thing. More pocket money for me too : )


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Catch up and looking forward

It has been a little while since I posted. I could say I have been busy and it is true, but I seem to say that every time I do post. And I could not believe how many spam comments there were waiting for me to delete. I do enjoy it when I find that a real person has commented but these spam comments are a nuisance and I find them really irritating.

We have been to Cambridge for my husband's meeting three times since I last posted. Thankfully, we are not usually so well travelled. It takes a lot of effort to get my coffeeshop cooking ahead enough to go away and then I have to play catch up when I come back too. And our minister has been ill in hospital so my husband has been filling in for him as well. And then there is the exam marking which takes over life at this time of year....

My new little hens took a long time to learn to go up the ladder to the perch area to go to bed but thankfully they have now all learnt. The last two are obviously bears (well, hens) of little brain. They used to sit at the entrance to the run and wait to be shown how to go up the ladder to get to the perch area. I don't know why they just couldn't follow the others. It would have been so much easier for everybody.

One of my new little hens was obviously older than the others and has been laying for almost a month now. Just little tiny "fairy" eggs but very tasty just the same. The other girls are showing no signs of being ready to lay yet a while but I keep hoping. My older hens are not laying many eggs at the moment as we are approaching winter. The youngest of that lot are very middle aged now and the old ones are very old. My oldest is eight years old and she is lovely - a real character but I am aware that we are probably on borrowed time now. She moulted very heavily in September/October and has grown a really lovely coat back. Very pretty. I am always amazed at how warm a hen is. I really shouldn't wonder at it because I would be cosy too if I wore a feather duvet all day, every day : )

I have not got around to making any marmalade yet this year so I need to get to it soon to be ready to go into Christmas presents. I have a couple of people who would be disappointed if they did not get any homemade jams and marmalade from me. I often do a batch of sweet orange marmalade and a batch of Mamade marmalade and mix them at the "boil to a set "stage. The sweet orange marmalade does not have a good set but does have a lovely flavour. Mixing the two batches deals with the problem of setting but still leaves a good flavour.  The Mamade is quite expensive but the cost is offset by a net of yellow stickered oranges for the sweet orange part of it. But I need to get a move on before life speeds up even more with church things in December as it always does.

We are planning a big family Christmas this year and there will be 19 of us this time. We have booked my daughter's church for the afternoon after the Christmas Day service. We did this once before and it worked very well although dinner has to be just a little bit later than we would all like. Everybody is assigned a dish to bring which just needs to cook or reheat. My daughter will do the turkey and just rush it up the road in the car when it is at the "resting" stage. I am really looking forward to seeing everybody on Christmas Day and watching the grandchildren open their presents. The youngest one will be 20 months so old enough to join in a bit. Being at this church works well because there is a room with tables big enough to be pushed together and seat us all. There is also room enough for excited small people to run off a bit of that overexcited energy and space for we older ones to sit on comfortable chairs and watch. I've just got to get those presents organised now...

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Sunday, October 06, 2019

Blackberry cake update

I ventured out into the garden and picked the last half pound of blackberries and put them into a cake as was done by Kev Alviti and mentioned in my post before last. I have to say it was absolutely scrumptious : )

Blackberry Cake

4 ozs marg
4 ozs sugar
6 ozs SR flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
2 tbsps milk
2 eggs
8 ozs blackberries

Cream marg and sugar
Beat in eggs
Stir in flour and baking powder
Stir in milk to get the right consistency
Stir in blackberries

Turn into a 7" x 11" tin lined with baking paper.
Bake for 35 minutes at 160'C fan/350'F/gas mark 4

Absolutely fabulous flavour and so easy. I will definitely be baking this again next blackberry season.


Thursday, October 03, 2019


It has been a few days of firsts.  We have been to Cambridge for the first visit of the new academic year. I enjoyed the break although the amount of rain that we had, meant that I could not do as much pottering around as I usually do. I did go for a few bus rides which keeps me out of the rain but still sort of outside. I had something that I wanted that Boots only stock at their bigger branches so I had been waiting to go to the big one in the centre of Cambridge. And they were out of stock! Grrr. Was not impressed at that, having waited for it. I had thought of ordering it online and collecting it at out local small Boots but they now say that I have to order £10 worth to get click and collect without paying a charge so I had been waiting a while for the chance to buy this item. I shall start looking for it earlier next time I need it. I also popped into Tesco in Cambridge and was amused to find not only Christmas chocolate and other edible goodies, but also Easter hot cross buns...

We lit the woodburner for the first time yesterday as we were cold. Oh I do love my woodburner : )    It is lit again today and I am sitting surrounded by washing that was hung out yesterday and came back in still quite damp so I just hung it around the living room. It is the first time I have had to do that this autumn.  We also changed the bed yesterday and put the medium weight quilt back on - so another first. We have three quilts heavy (15 tog), medium (10.5 tog) and a lighter one (7.5 tog). I found the usual 4.5 tog summer one to be too light and was delighted to find a 7.5 tog in a shop one day when I was looking for something else.

And I ate something which disagreed with me rather and have been feeling under the weather all week because of it. It has been several years since I did that so it is a kind of a first. The upside, if it can be called that, is that I have lost half a stone this week and have very little desire to eat now. I know I am going to put some of it back on but hopefully not all of it.


Monday, September 23, 2019

More blackberries

I've just been having a look at the blogs I follow and Kev Alviti has posted on his blog about a blackberry cake:

That looks so tasty. I must give it a go.


Even more preserving

No jams or pickles this time. I've picked more blackberries. It really has been a good year for them. There are now between 7 and 8 lbs of them in small bags in the freezer all ready for the winter. I love them with plain yoghurt and a tiny sprinkle of honey nut cornflakes or granola for a bit of crunch. I reckon I must have picked about 16-17 lbs of them this year and there are still more to ripen on the bush.

Mind you, my hands do look like I've been blackberry picking. My thumb nails and index finger nails are very stained and the stains will have to wear off because they don't scrub off. And there are more than a few scratches on my hands. I did remember to wear an old microfleece jacket to protect my arms this year and that has worked. I've just got to remember that for next year now...


Saturday, September 14, 2019

More preserving

I picked another 4lbs of blackberries and made another 10lbs of blackberry and apple jam yesterday. That means that I can pop a jar into each family stocking at Christmas. And with stockings in mind, I made a batch of red pepper and chilli jam today. They all love chilli and they had some lovely big red peppers in Lidl today and it is another thing to fill up those stockings. I got the recipe on another blog here: 

A new thing that I am trying is strawberry soda. It seems to be a bit like elderflower champagne but made with strawberries. It is a sparkling fruit drink but non-alcoholic. It is bubbling away furiously in the kitchen so it is nearly ready to try. I am looking forward to that. I got the recipe from another blog here: 


Friday, August 23, 2019

My Preserving Year 2019

I was given a bucketful of plums so I have started on my preserving year - my record of what I made. I find this a useful memory jogger for me, especially if I forget/don't get around to labelling everything. Jars that are given away always have nice labels but stuff that is just for us may just get a piece of paper tucked in the box. And pieces of paper in this house seem to get up and walk away somehow... : ( Hence my list - it gives me a bit of a clue.


Blackberry and apple (21 lbs)


Red pepper and chilli jam


Strawberry soda