smallholderwannabe

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Blogger problems

Is anyone else having problems with blogger?  For over a week now, I keep getting the message that I am not currently following any blogs.  This is not true!

I'm not sure what to do about it.  Anyone got any ideas?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Day out

We wanted to go for a day out for our wedding anniversary but it got postponed because of the arrival of our new little granddaughter.  So we've been now.  We spent a happy afternoon pottering around Ryton Gardens not far from Coventry.  Ryton is the home of Garden Organic and the Henry Doubleday Research Association. It was a lovely afternoon - warm but not too warm for walking.  There were hardly any other people there so we could potter and chat undisturbed. They have changed lots of things since we were last there so it was good to see some new displays. I have to admit that we skipped a lot of the flower gardens and concentrated on the vegetable areas, although they did have a couple of areas where all the plants were edible, even the flowers.  When we left, we drove to a series of lanes where we knew we could pull in and sit relatively undisturbed and enjoy a cuppa and a slice of homemade cake (banana and cranberry - one of our favourites).

While we were stopped there, we picked some blackberries to have with yoghurt when we got home.  I also picked a bagful of hawthorn, sloe, hazel and various other weeds that my rabbits love and which are not so readily available at home.

We drove home by a circuitous route that took us along lots of little lanes.  We saw lots of pretty villages and thatched cottages and fields of animals which we would not have seen had we stayed on the main roads.  It is one of our ways of stretching a day out a little longer before having to come back into "civilisation".

Our road home was going to take us past the large Tesco that I rarely get to and I was very pleased to find that they were doing their second reductions just as we got there.  So we came home with some reduced bread, fruit and veg and some chilled Quorn products.  We brought some home for our son and his family and called in to deliver it.  Any excuse for a cuddle with my new granddaughter! They were delighted with their pressie and it cost me less than £2 to give them enough food for all of them for a couple of days.  They were particularly pleased with the Quorn as these particular varieties of Quorn are much liked but out of their normal price bracket : )

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Oops

Oops, my information was wrong - sorry. The Sun had only a coupon for £3 off a shop of £13 in Poundland.  My son ran into the paper shop and grabbed a copy of the Sun (embarrassment in case he was seen buying the Sun...) and ran out without looking at it (it always has a picture of whatever coupon on the front).  He was really disappointed not to get his free veg because they are a vegetarian family with a new baby and skint, to put it mildly.  Fortunately, I hadn't gone to get my paper so I bought it off him. I've never spent £13 in Poundland as I seldom find more than one or two things that are useful but I'm sure I can do it this once if I put my mind to it.  They sell plastic cups that we use at church, for example.  I would like to go back to making my own greetings cards as I used to really enjoy that and I know they sell packs of ready folded cards with matching envelopes. Actually, my eldest granddaughter might well like a pack of those in her Christmas stocking.  And the other grandchildren might well find something from Poundland in their stockings this year too... Sometimes they have the shampoo that I like in stock and just occasionally they have a food item that is cheaper there than elsewhere. But I too was looking forward to a free £5 of fruit to make some more jam for the coming year and am disappointed.

I am told that the voucher is in the pipeline so if you are interested, then check out the Sun each week, usually on a Thursday. 

On Thursday, our farmer friend was free to come with us to school to teach us how to take down a tree as there was a dead one and we had permission to do it.  It saves the school the cost of a tree surgeon and definitely benefits us!  The tree was not close enough to a building to be dangerous, which is why they were willing to let us have a go.  I was amazed how quickly it came down.  There was just the trunk as the branches had been cut off at some time in the past. However, my job was to clear up afterwards...  I spent a good four hours sweeping and raking the grass where the tree had been cut up.  We filled 6 sacks with the chippings and sawdust which, once dried, will be used to fill strong bags like flour or sugar bags or small boxes to make wooden "logs" to burn. There was still more but we had to be creative in hiding that in the bushes as we had no more sacks : ). 

Our friend cut the trunk into big slices with his ginormous chain saw and then left us to it. (He holds this chain saw steady in one hand and sharply pulls the cord to start it with the other hand - I can't even lift the chain saw...) Our job was to ferry the the wood to the car in a wheelbarrow, make the trip home, unload with a wheelbarrow  and go back and start again.  My husband did the ferrying while I cleared up.  I was SOOO tired.  Still, for the cost of some diesel, several cakes for our friend and a LOT of tiredness, we will have a nice stash of logs.  When we were just about ready to go home for the last time, one of the caretakers spotted us and said that he had put three pallets aside for us.  We thanked him kindly but I have to admit that it just about finished me helping to lift them on to the roof bars of the car.  We did not get to our lunch until after 4pm as my husband didn't want to stop to eat and I was so tired that I just wasn't hungry.

And I've seen my new little granddaughter four times this week since she was born.  Definitely a biased grandmother here.  I'm extremely partial to my other three grandchildren but there is something special about a very new baby : )

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Free food : )

I read a post on Facebook that says that there is likely to be another coupon in Thursday's Sun newspaper for Morrison's - for £5 worth of free fruit and veg with no strings attached.  I shall be popping round the corner to have a look on Thursday to look at a copy of the Sun to see if this is true. 

I do hope so! I've told my son so that he can get his copy as, with another little person in the house, anything that stretches their budget will be very welcome. And we've been out with them to the park this afternoon to run a bit of energy off the children and get a breath of fresh air for the grown ups.  They let my daughter-in-law out of hospital yesterday at 9pm(!) and she has had both the doctor and midwife visit this morning so she really wanted a gentle saunter in the park for a few minutes before sitting on a bench to watch the rest of us run after the older children and push swings etc.  It was lovely and sunny and probably did her a bit of good after four days in hospital.

I got some more blackberries and was given a bag of windfalls so I've made some more blackberry and apple jam.  I've also diced up the cucumbers I bought for 24p from Lidl and have them sitting in salted water before I pickle them tomorrow.  I've got marmalade to make and hopefully jam from the little not-quite-damson tree we have that a squirrel kindly planted for us.  I've also got some half price peaches and nectarines from Lidl and want to make some jam from them.  Guess what is going to be in the food hampers for my friends at Christmas? I've got a recipe for apple marmalade (with some grapefruit and lemon in as well) that I'd like to try.  My son has a small apple tree and I can't see that he will have the time or the inclination to do much with the apples this year. That is where my bag of windfalls came from and I'm hoping for more.  Mind you, I was sat for ages with the bag of windfalls, a bowl for the nice bits, a bowl for the reasonable peel and cores, and a very large bowl for the bits for the compost heap - and when I got to the bottom of the bag, I'd filled the compost bowl, got a decent pile in my "reasonable " bowl and a measly 16 ozs of prepared apple to go in my jam.  I cooked the peel and cores to mush and sieved it, measured it and added that to my jam too with an apprepriate amount of extra sugar.  I do like some apple in with my blackberries because it ensures a good set, the apple takes on the blackberry flavour and as well, it kind of spreads the pips out, if you know what I mean.  Small blackberries can mean that there are an awful lot of pips in the jam and I don't like too many pips.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Granddaughter!

My newest granddaughter who was born today.

Rebecca Rose Law, born today by planned c-section at 11:38am. Weighing 8lb 1oz, both Mum and Baby doing fine. With Peter Law.

She is about two hours old here.

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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Jam!

I've been picking blackberries.  Yum.  They have got to be one of my favourite fruits and they are free too - my favourite price.  I got some windfall apples so I've made blackberry and apple jam today.  That is the first for 2014. I won't be making so much this year because I made such a lot last summer.  Two summers back I didn't get my hands on any fruit at all so I didn't make any jam.  So I went a bit overboard last summer in case this summer was a poor harvest again.

I find homemade jam to be a versatile commodity.  It is good to eat but it is also good for giving to somebody as a thank you present or to put in a hamper as a Christmas present.  And it keeps for years - literally.  Earlier this year, we found a small number of pots which my husband had decided to store at the back of the shed, for reasons best known to himself, and they had been completely overlooked. They were dated 2001! But they were absolutely fine and have now been eaten.

Still on the subject of food, I had a lovely find in a charity shop when we were away last week.  I found a cast iron griddle and I was so pleased.  I shall be using that on the top of the woodburner to cook soda farls in the winter. I'm not sure that the lady in the charity shop knew what it was because she looked quite bemused when I took it to the till and was obviously delighted with it.  I used my frying pan on the woodburner last winter but I was a little worried in case I damaged it as it was quite expensive.  Griddles were invented for the sort of job I have in mind and a cast iron one will last me the rest of my life : )

Lidl had their cucumbers ar 29p this week so I've bought 5 and my next project is cucumber pickle.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Holiday : )

We've been away for a few days and we are back now.  My older granddaughter wanted to go and stay on the farm in Wales where we've been before.  She wanted to help with the animals and her parents didn't really want to stay for a week so they took her down, stayed for a weekend and then we went down and took over and then brought her home.  Not that there is very much work involved - it is more a case of being around and then providing meals. My son and his family went down on the Sunday and stayed one night so their children got to see the animals too.  They love being there.

We managed to go for a walk on the moors on three of the days and we loved that. There are a lot of areas of moorland around there and I love a quiet walk with just a few sheep to talk to. I am not surprised at the lack of people in February when we last went, but I had expected to see a few walkers in July/August.  I suppose because we work in a school and are always coping with teenagers that I really value the times when we can get away and be a bit antisocial : )

One of the oldest goats is losing her teeth and can't chew hay any more so we were asked to save any veg and fruit peel/cores to supplement her diet.  That goat is very knowing (and very friendly and gentle) and when she sees anybody coming her way with a tub in their hand, she is suddenly very interested.  It was fun! I could cope with a small goat in the garden if the council weren't so dead set again anybody keeping cloven hoofed animals...

In the last week of the term, my hens just about went on strike and I had hardly any eggs.  Lots of my work customers were asking for extra eggs to start them off for the school holidays and I hadn't enough to give some of them their normal ration let alone extras. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw how many they had laid when we were away.  Perverse creatures!  Let's just say that omelettes won't be off the menu for some time yet.

We went down to the allotment yesterday.  The warm weather and the rain we've had recently meant that we couldn't see the crops for the weeds. There is plenty of work there to keep us out of mischief! However, the autumn raspberries are showing signs of flowering and it looks like there will be a reasonable crop of little purple damson-y plums, so I reckon I will be making jam and maybe some plum chutney. One of my summer jobs is to increase our stock of marmalade which is getting low. I haven't got my hands on any fruit for jam yet this summer but the blackberries are ripening nicely in the hedgerows...

Today we went to a house not far from us where a kind lady had said that we could have her shed as she wanted rid of it.  Not having seen it, we thought it would end up as firewood with maybe some of it being used to make another shelter to keep wood dry.  Now, however, as it was in pretty good condition, we are thinking of swapping it for the old shed up the garden.  We had to take this shed to pieces and that took some time.  Lifting the two halves of the roof off the walls proved to be a problem.  The second half slipped and I ended up briefly with the full weight of it and banged my shoulder rather so I'm a bit stiff now.  After that, I knew that I would not be able to help get the sections of shed up on to the roof rack so I sent for reinforcements.  Fortunately my son-in-law was at home and although he was in the middle of some DIY himself, he came and helped load the car roof rack and then came to our house to help unload again.  They need to do two trips so I was very grateful to him for dropping what he was doing and coming to our rescue.  The next job will be to put the shed together (after we've decided how to shift things around to fit it in because it is bigger than our current old one) and I think we will be calling on his help again, bless him.

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