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

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We've been away on holiday. Yay!! I thought we would not get away at all after our plans got flooded out but we've just come back from the Forest of Dean. We've not been there before. It was very nice but there were a lot of trees and not so many mountains. It was our wedding anniversary last week so we went into Wales and found some nice mountains that day. So we had the best of both worlds. We saw a wild deer twice and a woodpecker too. I've only seen deer at a wildlife park or on parkland before - not an actual wild one. We stayed at a cottage on a 17th century farm and it was beautifully peaceful. I really enjoyed it. We only went to the shops and into civilisation once and that was mainly to stock up on bread and milk.

My husband had completed the extra henhouse that he was building so we've moved one set of hens in and are pressure washing their house, disinfecting it and treating the wood with preservative. Needless to say they are repaying us by not laying many eggs because of the moving around. I'm glad to have the extra house because I now have somewhere to put a poorly hen away from the rest of the flock should the need arise - which I hope it doesn't. The last Poorly Hen house was made in a rush from a pile of scrap pieces and weighed a ton and has now fallen apart. This one is designed rather than thrown together and is more multipurpose. It hasn't cost much at all apart from the piece for the roof and also the wire netting for the run.

I've brought back some sloes from our holiday. They seem a little (but just "a little") under-ripe but are much riper than I expected. I thought sloes ripened in about a month's time but I came across these and so picked them. I got some elderberries too and there are some pots of elderberry chutney waiting to be labelled now. It took FOREVER to pick the elderberries off their stalks. And I only got 5 little jars for all that work - but I'm looking forward to trying some when it has matured a bit. I was thinking of doing a "hamper" for some people for Christmas so I put the chutney in small jars so I could manage to spread it round a bit and still have a little bit left for us. I know I'll be able to get my hands on some windfall apples as my daughter's tree is laden this year and we have a little plum tree at the allotment which has a good crop. I just need some good ideas for unusual things to make - and a further supply of small jars - and TIME.

One problem of making our own jams and chutneys is that a suitable supply of jars is hard to come by. Apart from big ones like the occasional mayonnaise jar. I like mayonnaise sometimes but my husband doesn't so I buy myself the occasional jar as I find it too hard to make it in small enough quantities for me to eat before it goes off.

The kitchen timer is about to go off so I must go and check my bread in the oven.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I've been making sourdough bread - three times now. Yesterday's was not exactly a success. The hens said it was fine. We ate some for breakfast because there was nothing else. And then the hens had some. At least it only cost the flour to make. And one teaspoon of sugar. I'll start again with some yeast next time I get to Tesco and see how far I get with it then.

We've had blackberries for pudding twice this week. I only picked the sweet one at the end of the spray of fruit on the bramble. There are not many blackberries about yet but hopefully that is the start of many good puddings to come. I do hope I find enough to do some jam or jelly because that is lovely in the winter.

I'm being summoned. Time to go.

Monday, August 06, 2007

August - we're into August. I'm not very far down that list of jobs that I left for the huge, long summer holidays that are flying past at a rate of knots. I'm done some useful things like sorting possessions. We've got far too many THINGS. Some things I can part with easily but lots of things feel like I am tearing off bits of me that are physically attached. I find it stressful and my husband keeps out of the way... Anyway, there are 4 sacks of things (mainly clothing) in the hall which are sat waiting to go to the charity shop. That takes petrol to get there so will happen when we have another reason to go in that direction. I try to make mostly circular trips which use less petrol than lots of little trips. It probably uses less time overall too.

I thought of selling one or two bits on ebay but I'm not sure whether they would sell or not. If they don't, then I still have to pay the ebay charges. I've not had a huge amount of success on ebay so far although I have a pair of Hotter shoes (that were a mistake) which would probably sell. I'm better at giving things away to people that would use them. I've freecycled some stuff and can cope with that much better. I've also hidden a couple of things that I want for my patchwork stash for "when I get time".

It is far less effort to give things to charity shops than it is to ebay them. The thing is that if I get something back, then that money all goes into the smallholding fund. Every little bit helps. I found a pack of cranberry juice (slurp! : ) ) in the the reduced items section at Sainsburys last week - and I had a money-off coupon for it. I had a coupon for half the price off some deodorant that I found in Boots on BOGOF. All these little bits stretch the budget and at the end of the month, there is more money to sweep into the smallholding/early retirement fund.

Further to this pennypinching theme: I've tried breadmaking again this week with some fresh yeast I got free from Tesco. (The trip to Sainsburys was to pick up something I really needed and that I had forgotten to pick up at Tesco despite it being on my shopping list.) I made the dough with ordinary flour and not bread flour. I knew it would be no good for a loaf which really needs the hard wheat bread flour, but I wanted to see how some small bread rolls would be and also some pizza bases. I had read of somebody else who makes bread dough and freezes it in bags of the right amount for one pizza. The rolls were slightly heavy but really nice toasted. I'd do them again. They would be good fresh with soup. The pizza base worked well too. I've frozen enough dough to make another pizza to see how that turns out and also a couple of the rolls. Plain flour is cheaper than bread flour...