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

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Easter was a whole week ago.  It was a lovely weekend although very busy.  There were lots of things happening at church as you can imagine for an event that is THE major one of the Christian calendar. I met somebody that I hadn't seen for some time and they asked me if we were at home for Easter.  I replied that I rather thought that we were at church for Easter but not knowing our schedule from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday teatime, they didn't get the joke : )

On Easter Monday morning, I went to a local egg producer that has expanded its business rather.  They have a restaurant and a VERY expensive farm shop now although they do still sell their own eggs. For these two weeks around Easter, they also have a huge display in one of their barns.  They had lambs and calves, alpacas, miniature donkeys and several goats with kids, including pygmy goats whose kids were minute.  They had an area in the middle of the barn with various types and colours of fowl too.  And of course they had a little barn with incubators and brooders for recently hatched chicks. We managed to be there at the right time for my grandson to watch one chick fighting its way out of the shell.  Until you've watched it happen, it is hard to imagine how hard a job it is for the tiny chick to break out of this tough shell that has been its world for the previous three weeks. I love watching a very new chick just collapse asleep in mid stride.  It never fails to amuse me.  Of course, the whole object of going to this place was to let my grandchildren look at the animals....... : )

Then, later in the afternoon, we all went to my eldest daughter's house for her birthday tea.  So I had almost a whole day with my grandchildren, which I enjoyed. The birthday tea was good too.  My other daughter had baked two enormous cakes for tea - one was tiramisu  and the other was chocolate with a yoghurt topping and lots of fresh fruit laid out like a big flower. Yum!

Leon Lewis's photo.

Leon Lewis's photo.

You can't tell from this photo but the tiramisu cake with the chocolate topping was about 12 inches in diameter.  And no, despite our efforts, we didn't manage to finish the cakes. But we did our best!

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Last day of March

Already we are at the last day of March and the clocks have changed making the amount of daylight in the evenings feel wrong until I get used to it.  The weather has been practising for April showers and has been very windy.  In the pockets of sunshine, it has been nice and warm but out of them - brrrrr.

We went out to our minister's farm at the weekend to see the lambs and calves. Being a minister, he no longer has the time to spend on the farm that he had when he was a full time farmer.  They have 9 ewes and 3 cows.  The cows are mother, daughter and granddaughter with this year's calves and last year's calves.  One cow has yet to calve so there are 8 in total in the herd.  Because they are very much a family group, one cow will babysit the young calves while the other mums get five minutes to themselves elsewhere in the field.  The calves are just lovely.  They are Dexters so they are fairly small animals - just over a metre high at the shoulder.  The lambs are mainly white but there are some black ones too because they had some Zwartbles ewes a while back and still have one black ewe left. they are pretty sheep with white blazes and usually white socks too.  On an adult, the fleece fades to chocolate brown with the sun but when shorn, is still black at the root.  The other sheep are Suffolk crosses.  The lambs are just old enough to do that stiff legged springing movement that is so typical of young lambs.  Very cute!

Dexter Cattle
Redgate Zwartbles Flock 252's photo.

I've pinched the photos from the internet but they are both very typical of what I was looking at.

The visit to the farm was a church outing so I wanted to take some form of cake with me to share, preferably a tray bake that would cut up into lots of pieces.  I looked at my online file of recipes that I've saved and chose one that I've not made before.  It will definitely be on the list of ones to make again because it was so easy and tasted really good. I got it from Elaine's blog at MortgageFreein3.

Here's the link for Buttery Oaty Bites:

I didn't have any smooth peanut butter so I used the crunchy that I had in the cupboard and it added a nice bit of "chew". I was a bit unsure because they are not actually cooked other than melting the marg and sugar together but they were lovely and I had lots of compliments.  Definitely a keeper!

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Catch up

It is the middle of March and I saw a weather prediction for a warmer Easter. I think that I would like that! We have used far more wood this winter than we thought so we have already used wood that we thought might well be available for next winter. We have wood that is drying and maturing for next winter and some that is freshly cut that will be ready for the winter after.  We need to keep our eyes open for new opportunities for wood so that we don't have to pay for any for  long, long time.

I had a very nice Mothers' Day.  I hope you did too.  I don't like the family to spend lots of money on me - I would rather see them or at least get a nice, long phone call from them. My son and family brought me some flowers - a pot planted with seed and with three little seedlings poking their heads through. the tag read: for a blooming marvellous mum.  My grandchildren helped plant it and that is fun too. One daughter made a lovely dinner for us (lamb in a red wine sauce) and our other daughter came to eat too and brought a lemon drizzle cake and ice cream for dessert.  It was really nice to see them all.

At church, we have the tradition of sending every lady home with a bunch of daffodils on Mothers' Day so they are sitting in a vase here beside me as I type. They were tight buds on Sunday but now they have opened up into really beautiful double daffodils.  They are such bright and cheerful flowers.

I have made lots of trips to the little local supermarket in the hope of finding reduced groceries that I can pass on to our son and his family but all I have come up with are two packs of lambs liver and some turkey mince.  We will love them and they are now in the freezer but are of no use to my veggie son.

Said son ran a cookery course at his work which had a Mexican theme and brought us home some of the leftover ingredients.  Sometimes the sharing of booty goes both ways.  We were able to cook refried beans which I knew I would love but my husband was very suspicious.  I wish I'd had a video to record his face and tone of voice when he discovered that he liked them after all. He is so determined that he likes good British food best - like pizza and lasagne, I suppose : )

My hens are laying for England now but fortunately I have another new customer to take up the surplus.  I miss my old Bluebelle, though. She hatched in autumn 2008 and had started laying again at the end of February, which amazed me.  She was so old that I had not expected her to lay again but she is gone now.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Aldi again

Just a heads up that there will be a coupon in the Daily Mirror tomorrow (Thursday26 Feb) for £5 off a spend of £40 in Aldi - plus a range of coupons for either 50% or 30% off a range of products.

I've got my list of things that I have been saving to buy in Aldi when we had another voucher : )

I also had an email from Sainsburys today that said if we spend £30 there by Wednesday 4 March then we will get a voucher for 10p off a litre of petrol.  We had a journey of 200 miles last weekend and another of the same length to make this weekend so if we can fill up after the travelling, then that fuel voucher will be very useful indeed.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Bargain hunting

I've been bargain hunting quite a lot recently.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't but this week, I've done well. 

My son has recently had notice that he is being made redundant and with three kids and a mortgage, I've been bringing them bags of goodies when I've found them.  I want to help but not to be patronising.  Anyway, they wouldn't like it if I spent lots of money on things for them. If I bring them a bag of yellow stickered goodies, then I'm just sharing the spoils and it has probably cost me £1 to fill a carrier bag.  It means that they have a little bit saved from the housekeeping that week to put away for what may be lean times ahead.  They are the ones with the baby on special milk at £11 for a little tin.  The baby is taking to solid food like a duck to water so that helps a bit too and the baby's big sister has just come out of nappies so that is also a help : )

This week I popped into Asda when I was passing and got 6 boxes of eggs (free range!!) for a total of 95p.  The eggs had been dropped and overwrapped in plastic so that they would not drip everywhere.  I felt the boxes carefully for solid feeling eggs and chose my boxes carefully. The 6 boxes yielded 22 whole eggs plus two that were very slightly dented but not cracked right through the shell. That is roughly 4p per egg!  Yes, I know that I have hens but the laying has not quite picked up for the spring yet (mainly middle aged hens) and I needed to buy eggs because I had promised to bake some cake for church.  And when I popped into the mini Tesco near me to get some milk, they had reduced the large loaves of bread to 8p : ) It would cost me far more than that to make them, so I had one for us and three for my son's family.  That means a nice lunch of scrambled egg on toast for under 10p per person, ignoring gas costs. That is definitely a winner for our budgets : )

Edited this afternoon:
Just been out to collect the eggs and give the hens some mixed corn. The laying is just about starting to pick up for spring but not reliably and those who are going to lay again (some are too old ever to lay again) are laying funny sized eggs.  Last week there was one egg that weighed about 10g.  Today, poor old Star went the other direction and laid an egg that weighed in at exactly 100g grams.  A medium egg weighs about 60g and that is what she usually lays...

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Saturday, February 14, 2015


I'm sitting at the keyboard trying to type by reaching past a quietly purring cat on my lap.  Not very easy as she is moving her head so I can't see the keys very well. Any typos are entirely due to said cat : )

We had a lovely evening out last night.  The BB (Boys' Brigade but we have girls too) had their pancake night last night and invited the church to come as both a fundraiser and a bit of fun. They had made over 120 pancakes to share among about of us and there were lots of sweet fillings.  My grandchildren were there and predictably, they chose chocolate sauce.  Just as predictably, I had sugar and lemon - my absolute favourite sweet filling - and my husband had honey.

It is half term this coming week  so our three children and their families have rented a house in Skipton together.  I hope the weather is kind to them and that they can get out and around lots.  We are left behind  for cat sitting duty.  We'll be able to go away later on when they can be on animal sitting duty for us. That is a treat I can hold up in front of me and look forward to.

My house has too much Stuff.  I've been reading lots of blogs that say this and I looked around my house and agreed that I need to lose lots of Stuff too.  I made myself a promise at the beginning of January that I would lose 1000 items during 2015.  So far I've lost about 80 items, most of them small.  So I'm a bit behind.  I've just passed on a box of Lego to my son for my grandson.  So can I count the individual pieces...?

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Monday, February 02, 2015

February already and soup time

Here we are into February already.  I don't understand it but I am utterly convinced that time speeds up as you get older.  Remember when days seemed to stretch into forever when you were under ten?

I've been making soup for our lunches for several weeks now. Along with a 10p yellow stickered loaf from Tesco when they happen : ) it makes a cheap, filling and nourishing lunch. And it is easy too.  Cook once and zap portions in the microwave until it is finished.  However, it has taken a while to convince my husband.  I'm hoping that I have succeeded now!  I think that last week's pea and ham (made with the leftovers from the meal we served at church and eaten with an 8p! loaf) did help convince him because he really enjoyed it. He requested a cheese sandwich for today but we'll have soup again tomorrow.

One of my favourite soups is lentil, carrot and tomato.  A tin of tomatoes, a handful of lentils, 2 or 3 large carrots and the obligatory onion, potato and good shake of mixed herbs.  Maybe a bit of garlic if I have any in and cooked in stock made with a couple of stock cubes.  Lovely!  Thick and warming.

If one of my soups (usually the random leftover vegetable ones) turns out to be a bit bland, then we eat them with a good sprinkle of dried Italian cheese.  We usually bought that from Aldi but they seem to have stopped stocking it.  I spoke to the deputy manager at Aldi last week who does the ordering and she said that they don't have it any more.  Sainsburys do but they've changed the packaging and they now sell it in 80g small tubs for £1.  That is quite expensive per kilo but a tub really does last a long time - in fact it probably lasts several months.

If the soup turns out thinner, then I make Jamaican dumplings. I got the recipe out of a borrowed Friends of the Earth mini cookbook about 20 years or so ago. I'm not so keen on dumplings with suet in and these don't use any. Instead, these use 1 tablespoon of flour with one teaspoon of baking powder. Mix together with a pinch of herbs of your choice and enough cold water to make a dough - about the same consistency as scone dough. Drop teaspoonfuls into the soup and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. This produces wonderfully light and fluffy dumplings which my husband loves. When I first read the recipe, I didn't think it would work because I thought I would be able to taste the baking powder but decided to give it a go. I am glad I did! That quantity of flour is plenty for dumplings for two people.

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