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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My preserves for the year

I've not got very far off the starting blocks in terms of preserving this year. Truth to tell, we still have quite a lot of jam and pickles from last year and some from the year before but I would still like to make some so that I have things that are useful for gift baskets at Christmas. I tend to make a small amount of pickles and/or chutney each year anyway. My husband is a staunch fan of Branston and eats that only rarely and therefore doesn't eat my homemade offerings. I love them but it takes a while to get through a jar on my own and I like variety and as they keep for literally years. I make some each year so that I can have variety. I also put some in my Christmas gift baskets.

So far this summer, I have made lots of cordial. I had to give up tea and coffee a couple of years ago because they started upsetting me. It was hard to give them up but my insides have been so much happier that I am glad that I did. So I have a good lemon cordial recipe that I was given many years ago and ring the changes sometimes by replacing one of the lemons with a grapefruit or an orange. It is much more concentrated than bought squash and tastes miles better and it is definitely cheaper. It is also very easy so I'll keep making it. I have also made about a gallon of elderflower cordial and have some elderflowers in the freezer for future cordials. When I made the elderflower cordial and had sieved it to bottle it,  the lemons looked way too good to throw out in the compost. So I reused them and the elderflowers too and made a half batch of what tasted more like lemon with a hint of elderflower cordial. It was very nice.

I also made a double batch of elderflower champagne. I found it a little strong this year so I dilute it with a good dollop of sparkling water. This makes it go further so I am happy about that as it will last longer. It is really refreshing on a hot summer's day. Now if only I knew where to get one of those....
: )

I'll add to this list as I make things so that I have a list that is useful to me, come Christmas.



Sweet chilli sauce (present for my son)


Elderflower with a hint of lemon


Monday, July 10, 2017

Missing in action - again

I've been most dreadfully tired recently and struggling to get through what has to be done. No energy left for frivolities like blogging. I'm not sure why I am so tired and just hope that I find a little bit of energy somewhere and preferably sooner rather than later.

Still haven't seen many pictures from my daughter's wedding. I'd rather like to see more....  We've also been to a young friend's wedding. She has been part of our music group at church since she was about 12 and is a wonderful singer and very talented on piano and flute. She is going to live a couple of hundred miles away so we shall miss her - both for herself and for her talents. Her wedding was a lovely day and full of music. I think I have seen more photos of that wedding than of my own daughter's. I shall have to enquire about this!

My husband is busy moderating coursework for the last year (thank you Mr Gove) and also marking some exam papers. The exam board that he works for, likes people who write exam papers to mark some, in order to see things from another perspective. Exam papers are always written several years ahead and it is really interesting to see how thorough exam boards are in making sure there are no mistakes published and that an exam paper is accessible to candidates of every level of ability. But this is definitely busy season with deadlines for one aspect of exams or another looming almost weekly.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017


This weekend we have had my daughter's wedding. Very exciting! My daughter wore a lovely dress and a shrug that she had made herself (the shrug, that is - she bought the dress). It is based on a Shetland lace pattern and was the first garment she has ever knitted - and in mohair too. She is like me and feels the cold so she wanted something special to wear that would help her cope if it was not a warm day. And she and I each made one for the bridesmaids to wear. I don't think I have ever had more trouble with a garment and it was ripped out several times so that I could start again. I did the casting off three times and ended up using needles for the casting off that were six sizes bigger than the ones used for the rest of the garment. They did look lovely, though, when they were finished. And it wasn't just me as my daughter had problems too : )

The girls had little white dresses with filmy skirts, white tights, white sandals with butterflies on them and silver headbands with butterflies and the blue mohair shrugs. They looked really lovely. They carried little posies attached to what looked like magic wands and they felt really special.

My daughter looked lovely and very happy. She had a beautiful dress which looked great with the shrug. It was not a particularly warm day so the shrug was definitely a good idea. Her husband looked a bit nervous as he is not used to being the centre of attention. But everything went off really well. Everybody has agreed to share all the photos so that my daughter and her husband will be able to make an album of all the best ones. I'm looking forward to seeing all the photos : )


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April has been a busy month

Yes, April has been a busy month but my life seems fairly busy this year. I can feel the pace picking up and I'm not sure whether or not I am happy about that.

We went to Cambridge for three days and I pottered around while my husband had business meetings. I enjoyed that! We had a big family get-together for our eldest's special birthday celebration. We went to the Think Tank in Birmingham (the children really enjoyed that) and then back to my son's house and we all had a Chinese meal. The people who ran our local Chinese takeaway are friends of ours and they did us a fantastic meal. My daughter was really pleased with it and delighted when our friends sent her a bottle of champagne with the meal. How nice was that! They were retiring the following week and they knew it would be the last meal that they cooked for us so they wanted to make it extra special for her.

Easter week was filled with church things and I think I must have sung every Easter hymn and song in our music books... It was a good Easter.

We are in the countdown to our daughter's wedding as it is just three weeks away now. Exciting times! I've been out today and bought some shoes to wear with my outfit. However, coming home with them and seeing them next to the outfit, I am not so sure about the colour as I was in the shop. A rethink is needed there, methinks. And then there is the question of a bag. Hmm.

I'm am still souping every week for our church coffee shop. I did have a week off for Easter, though. I do find it funny that I am making soup for a coffee shop. It just doesn't seem right, somehow. I made pea and mint before Easter which people seem to have either loved or hated. It is good to have feedback but now I'm not sure whether to make it again.

I've had a mini clearout of a corner that has not been tidied for a very long time. So that means eight things have gone in the bin, two things are being dithered over, three bags of stuff have gone to a new home and a bag is sitting in the hall, waiting to go to a charity shop. I've got my eye on another corner to tidy and sort through so I'm hoping that the bag in the hall might well become two or even three.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of March already

I've been busy making lots of soup for the church coffee shop, acquiring wood for the woodburner for next winter, looking after grandchildren, visiting friends, knitting little chicks that will contain Cadbury's cream eggs for Easter, knitting little jumpers for "fish and chip" babies in Africa....  and there might have been a little bit of washing and cleaning and looking after animals as well.

I'm running out of ideas for different soups to ring the changes at the church coffee shop. So far I have made tomato, carrot and lentil three times, leek and potato, carrot and coriander, parsnip and ginger, tomato and basil, broccoli and stilton, vegetable (tomato based). I make two to three gallons each time and it gets divided up into boxes and frozen to provide a variety of flavours. It must be vegetarian and not too expensive to make (so I won't be making any asparagus soup even though I love it). If anybody has any bright ideas, then please do tell me. Thank you : )

We are giving little chicks with crème eggs to the children associated with the church during the Easter week. We need around 200 and I have produced 50ish. I've lost count at the moment. The knitting is very straightforward but then they need sewn up, a ball of polyester stuffing put in the head, a gathering thread run round the neck and fastened off to provide the shaping for the head, eyes glued on, a felt beak cut out and stitched on, a flat bow made and stitched on. The finishing takes as long as the knitting does! I am feeling that I am all chicked out now.

We have managed to acquire various bits of wood to squirrel away for next winter. Some of it came from a couple of skips near where we live and some is from a medium size tree that was taken down in my son's garden. It was old and leaning badly and looked like a gale would bring it down anyway. It is amazing how much bigger their garden looks without it. Had it been in good condition, we would not have taken it down but we have not only prevented a lot of fencing being broken (at the very least) but we have also got more wood for next winter. Considering that this winter was fairly mild, I am amazed at how much wood we have got through and so I am happy at having more for next winter.

The hens are laying very well at the moment. Old Hen died yesterday. I shall miss her because she was one of my "characters". She was just a little brown hybrid hen but she was over seven years old. I was chatting to her on Monday afternoon and she looked so old that I knew that I would not have her for much longer . I have another hen that is seven years old but she is a buff Orpington and they are usually longer lived. I've never had a little brown hen older than five years before.

I had a lovely mothers' day. I hope you did too. My son turned up at our church with his family. It was meant to be a surprise so I didn't let on that grandson had let the cat out of the bag during the week when he was talking to me. When the two year old spotted me at the front of church, she ran as fast as her little legs would let her and gave me a big hug and said "Happy mothers' day". Then she went to Grandad and wished him the same : )   In the afternoon, the girls came to call with their families and then my son popped in again too. One daughter had baked me a loaf of bread with sundried tomatoes and parmesan and it was lovely. I do like presents that people have made rather than just going to the shops.

I've been pleased with my perseverance at clearing things out. I do really find it very hard to part with things especially if there is a chance that they might come in useful in the future. A little bit of clearing out leaves me feeling quite stressed. My husband tells me not to be so daft but I don't find that very helpful as a coping strategy...  My total has risen quite a lot now so I am only a little bit behind my target.

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Books and soup

I've been making soup for our church coffee shop again today. I got leeks on offer in Aldi so today I made leek and potato soup. Three gallons of it. I was glad to sit down afterwards!

I've been sorting through another pile of our belongings so there is quite a pile waiting To Go. I've also put a number of things in the bin as they were not in good enough condition to pass on. I haven't made it to the charity shop yet but I'm hoping to get there soon because I'm tired of tripping over a growing mountain of carrier bags.

I'm recently joined Bookbub. They send a daily email of Kindle and Kobo e-books which are either cheap or, more interestingly, free. I've "bought" several of the free books and have finally read a couple of books on my tablet. I reckoned that if I decide that I don't like them, then I haven't wasted anything because the books were free in the first place. I don't think they will ever replace the comfortable feeling of reading a proper book, though.

I've been having trouble with the wires to charge my tablet. My husband sat down on my tablet by accident and bent the wire that came with the tablet - just at the connection into the tablet - so that stopped working. I bought a new one from Amazon and within a month, that stopped working as the connection was so loose that it would not stay connected. So I bought a much more expensive one and that has stopped working this weekend... That one came with a lifetime guarantee so I am waiting for them to get back to me on that one. Fortunately I bought a pair of wires last time so I can still charge my tablet or else I would have to wait a long time to find out whodunnit in my Bookbub bargain : )

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

March musings

Well, March already now.  I've been trying to keep up with the decluttering and am going on alright. I've got a nice little pile waiting to go to the charity shop and another pile waiting to go to a contact who works in a homeless shelter.

And we've been given a tree that was blown down in the storm last week. We've given half to my friend down the road who also has a woodburner. It is ash so it will burn well next winter : )
We've got through a lot of wood this winter so it is lovely to have a bit extra arrive.  We've got plenty for next winter because of the wood we were given last year which was not dry enough to burn this year but will be great next year. There are lots of skips appearing in the streets so I need to keep a look out for any useful bits of wood in them. I would rather that I got it to burn than it go to landfill!

I was reading an article today that was flagged up by the Real Junk Food Project about bread being the number one food item that is thrown away today. They are saying that a recent study by The University of Sheffield shows that the fertiliser used to grow the grains produces 43% of all greeenhouse gas emissions! This is a link to the article on Facebook:

The hens are doing well and it is obvious that spring is on its way because the hens have started their spring mega-laying. At the end of January and early February they were hardly laying any and now they are laying loads. Even my oldest hen has laid four eggs in the last ten days. The middle aged ones haven't laid any and probably won't. they are your typical little brown hen and for them, middle age is the end of laying. My oldest is a Buff Orpington, a really big breed of hen, and they lay a lot fewer eggs each year but keep going for more years. She is my favourite and every time I set foot out of the back door, she hears and shouts to me to bring her a treat. It might only be a green leaf but she is happy with something extra. And she really shouts at me and tells me off if I don't arrive with the requested treat too : )  It never fails to make me smile.

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