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

Monday, March 29, 2010

A bit of good news - my daughter has got a new job and will start in 4-6 weeks time. Her place is closing down as there are three sites in Britain (American owned firm) and they want to downsize to two. A few jobs will transfer to the other sites but most will be made redundant. So she is a happy bunny!

My husband found a small place with just 1 1/4 acres last week and we went to see it on Saturday. The price was right but it is close to the junction of a motorway and a big dual carriageway and the noise is horrendous. My daughter lived close to the M5 for a couple of years and never managed to shut out the noise and I don't think I could either. The place is being sold as a building opportunity to knock down what is there and start again as there is outline planning permission for a new dwelling. Really, I'd like a little bit more land too. By the time you take the space for a house/shed/car space/veg garden out of that area of land, there is not a huge area left for animals. It would be very limiting.

If I write a list of pros and cons of staying here versus moving to a place with a bit of land, I find that there are a lot of good arguments on both sides. I'm all of a dither.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I've had a headache since Sunday and it is just starting to ease off. At times like this, I find that life gets pared back to the essentials because I do not have the capacity for the "frills". I've also been mulling round the thoughts of moving to somewhere with a little bit of land. I'm all at sea in my thinking. I'd hate to live somewhere far away from my little grandson and not watch him grow up. I'd miss my family and friends. People say that they would come and visit but it does not usually happen very often and the infrequent visits dwindle as time goes on. I'd hate my children to think that they had to do a "duty visit" a couple of times a year. My husband's asthma is always incredibly better when we are outside of the city. We just can't afford to move anywhere in this area. What to do?

Monday, March 22, 2010

I went to visit my friend on her smallholding again yesterday to check up on her lambs. She had 4 ewes in lamb and 3 have produced so far. Last week's twins are huge compared to the size they were last week but small cpmpared to the other 2 lambs which are both single lambs. All very, very cute.

On Saturday, my grandson learned to roll over. Last night, when I saw him, he was doing it like a pro. Life will never be the same for his parents again :)

Up until now, my grandson stayed where you put him on the floor - but now he can move and things will have to be moved out of his way as he will be able to get at them. His dad was moving across the floor at a rate of knots by 3 months. He was not up on his knees but could move his arms along and drag his legs and body after him at surprising speed. By 5 1/2 months he was up on his feet, walking along the furniture. I can remember being told off by the health visitor for letting him do this but she did not exactly tell me how to stop him... The three of them are off for a few days' holiday today as my son has a few days to use up before April.

Eight more days at school before the holiday. Yay!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On Sunday morning, at church, my friend came up to me waving her camera. They have a smallholding just outside the city boundary and their first lambs had been born that morning so she had brought me photos. I popped out for a quick visit to see them in the afternoon. They are so gorgeous - all wobbly legged and cute at six hours old when I saw them. Mum is a Zwartble - deep brown and a black face with a white blaze down it. Dad is a Texel - normal white sheep colouring. The twins are deep, deep brown, almost black, with a white star on the forehead. Looking at them, I feel almost desperate to have some of my own. I know that if I do manage to acquire some land and have some sheep, the first lamb born will probably end up as a pet, whatever sex it is. The others, if male, will end up in the freezer but I will have made jolly sure they have had as good a life as I can give them beforehand.

On the way home, we made a little detour. I had been to our local Sainsburys to buy the supplies for breaktime for Saturday school at work and they had given me a 5p off a litre of petrol voucher. I didn't think I would be able to spend it as it is a 12 mile round trip to the nearest Sainsburys with a petrol station and that is not frugal as we pass within 50 yards of a Shell one on the journey to school. However, a little detour on the way home from my friend's home means only an extra 1.5 miles on the trip so going to buy petrol subsidises the visit to my friend's as I knew we could put over 30 litres in. We also passed a big Tesco on the way so I persuaded my husband that he really wanted to go there too. Wow! What a shopping trip! We happened to be there when they reduced lots of the stuff on the deli counter to 30p per packet... Half a pound-ish packs of best ham for 30p. Likewise packs of sliced roast pork. And a 4 portion lasagne reduced to 60p. Bread reduced to 10p. I came out with a huge smile on my face! There are going to be lots of dinners which will cost about 50p total for both of us including veg. I still have quite a lot of veg in the freezer from the time a few weeks ago that my daughter happened on a supermarket that had reduced loads of its veg to 10p per pack. Lots of pennies in my smallholding pot. :) :) :) They do all add up. After Tesco, we just called in to buy petrol and Sainsburys and the petrol was 1p a litre cheaper than our local Shell. Another little :) The only trouble with coming home with bargains is the enormaous 3D jigsaw of squeezing all the little packages into the freezer. But it is worth it!

My son was calling in to see me in the evening for my Mothers' Day visit so he was delighted to be presented with a bag of reduced goodies. My friend down the road liked her bag of goodies and so did my daughter. We have this arrangement that if we stumble on goodies like that, we bring something home for the others too.

I'm not very keen on ready meals and prefer to have my own version in the freezer but things like that lasagne just can't be made for the price I paid. It probably won't taste as good as homemade but I'll think of the price and not the additives. The only time I will buy a readymeal is when I happen on a bargain like this one - and that doesn't happen very often.

My hens are pulling their socks up a bit now that spring is here and we are getting 5-6 eggs a day. More often than not, it is 6 rather than 5. One day we even had 7 eggs from the 7 laying hens. I think that is the fourth time since last Eastertime that we've had 7 from 7. The eggs are pretty big now, too. The 3 older Warrens have laid a total of 3 eggs in 2010 and I get the feeling that they think that they have showed willing and done their bit now. The 2 even older Bantams won't lay any more now.

Monday, March 08, 2010

We have had an interesting weekend. Saturday school started this week and runs for three weeks. That means no Saturday lie in for three weeks and I miss that opportunity to climb back into bed for a bit with a book and a cuppa. It is my time to recover after the ravages of the week. It also means that for four whole weeks, the alarm is set to go off to wake us every morning and I really like NOT having to set the alarm. On the other hand, it is a little bit more in the smallholderwannabe coffers. I can't have it all ways. But I'd like to :)

A friend was driving on a road just outside the city boundary last week and rang us up to tell us that he had passed a for sale sign for 8 acres and were we interested...? So after school on Saturday, we drove there to have a look. It is just the land but there are a couple of houses for sale nearby. However, the road is a busy one with fast traffic and the houses are expensive. The land is up for auction next week so we had to look at it and the nearby houses and decide quickly. So we decided "no". The land is in two flat fields, with a river running between and there are lots of rushes. There is only one house built on that side of the road so that probably means the possibility of flooding. I don't want to live on a busy road. So another bit of excitement and another flat feeling evening. But you have to explore the possibilities when they arise. We wouldn't mind another £100,000 in the pot and then it would be easier to find somewhere... Anybody with that amount going spare and unwanted, please apply here.

This is my 100th post. Another little landmark passed.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

As a celebration of reaching half term, we got the last of our home grown chickens out of the freezer. As the cockerel had been between 5 and 6 months old we cooked him much longer and at a lower temperature than we would cook a supermarket chicken that is probably only 6 weeks old. We had a wonderful roast dinner. Then we froze some slices of chicken to have with roast veg and gravy at a later date - 2 dinners' worth. And then a pack of little bits was frozen to have in a sauce with rice/pasta - 1 dinner. Then I put the bones etc in the slow cooker and made stock for a wonderful soup which we froze because we were going away - 2 dinners.

The rest of the little bits which were not destined for the soup were put into a white sauce with some onion and a pack of reduced price mushrooms. This was intended to make some pies for the freezer. I made 2 pies that would each do us 2 dinners - 4 dinners. However there were a few scraps of pastry left and a bit of filling so I patched the pastry into a very small pie tin that I have, put the filling in with a spoonful of cooked carrot that was in a tub in the fridge and topped it with a spoonful of mashed potato that was also lurking in the fridge. We had that potato topped pie between us last night with broccoli and sweetcorn and it was really tasty.

That makes 11 dinners for the two of us (= 22 portions) from one largish cockerel. The number of meals is so high partly due to not needing so much meat in those kind of recipes as the flavour is superb, to put it mildly. I also feel the need to make use of every particle of the bird that is useful as it is my "fault" that he died. I feel differently about those 4 cockerels which I raised than I do about the ones that I buy in a supermarket. I am certain that mine had a better life and knew the rain and the sunshine as well as good food but the supermarket ready-for-the-oven and all nicely wrapped in plastic on a polystyrene tray type chicken is certainly easier both in terms of preparation and tugs on the heartstrings.

But my husband licked his lips much more last night than he usually does...