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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Today is the last day of freedom for ages. Back to school tomorrow on 1 September. I feel slightly hard done by as we didn't quite get 6 weeks. The fact that we got slightly over 6 weeks last year is absolutely nothing to do with this year's feelings :)

We spent today not doing all the jobs we should have been doing and might well regret this later but the sun was shining so we went to the allotment. A friend called in this morning and we went to her house so my husband could fix something on her computer, stayed for a quick lunch and then all went to the allotment together. Her plot is just down the path from ours. It was a lovely afternoon and much more fun than the post-woodworm jobs that I had planned. We lifted one root of potatoes to see what was there and were amazed. The usual question of 'how many potatoes do you want for dinner?' is going to have to be reshaped into 'how many dinners do you want from this potato?' They are HUGE. I do hope they taste as good as they look.

One of the older plotholders told us today that this summer has been an exceptionally good one for potatoes. This gentleman is on the committee and asked if they could take a bowlful of plums from our tree as they looked so good that they want to use them as the plums representing the site at the annual show in this area. I am swelling with pride as I type. Other people have often been asked for produce to represent the site but this is the first time in 10 years that we have been asked for anything. Tonight I am going to stew some more of said plums to go in the freezer for winter puds. I do love them! My friend filled a carrierbag full to bursting and there are loads still to pick. We can't honestly take any credit whatsoever for the delights of these plums. A squirrel (probably) dropped a plum stone in our garden and one day we realised that we had a little plum tree growing and moved it to the allotment since our garden gets no sunshine and is totally overhung with the neighbours' trees. We put it in a nice spot and have done nothing to it since - and it has rewarded us with beautiful plums.

Dinner tonight is the second half of a homemade chicken pie from the freezer (made from homegrown chicken) served with fresh homegrown courgettes and homegrown beans and homegrown potatoes with onion (homegrown) gravy. And followed by bought Greek yoghurt with homegrown raspberries. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I've been given a bag of actual damsons so I am into jamming mode. Anything to take my mind off woodworm! I've made damson jam and then went down to the allotment and tried not to look at the weeds as I picked a bag of plums. They are small purple plums which make a nice jam but without the depth of flavour of a damson. There are loads more on the tree but one bag was enough to pick. I shall stew them, remove the millions of stones and pop them in the freezer in little bags to have in the winter with yoghurt.

The one downside to damson jam is removing the stones. After standing there forever with spoon in hand and still there seems to be lots of stones surfacing, I usually am heard to say that next time, it will be damson jelly, not jam. I filled a pint jug with the stones I removed... However, my husband loves it when I make a jelly with the leftovers - as in gelatine 6p from Tesco strawberry jelly. Raspberry is better but strawberry was 6p and therefore won. I tip the stones and any clinging bits of damson into a saucepan and add half a pint of boiling water. Bring back to boil stirring vigorously and simmer for 5 mins. Then tip into sieve and stir to drain liquid with lots of bits of damson and make up jelly with this. If there is not enough liquid for the jelly, then I pour a bit extra water through the sieve to make sure I get every bit of flavour out. Lifts a boring jelly into gourmet class : )

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I've calmed down a bit since the last post : )

My husband has replaced one (side) panel of the third wardrobe with a piece of the wood from his in-case-I-need-it pile. The wardrobe has been treated with some woodworm treatment liquid (incredibly pongy stuff and so were his clothes afterwards). We need to buy some more of the pongy stuff. £14 for a litre bottle at our local diy place. His bedside table will also be getting a new panel and has been treated. My bedside table seems ok. We don't seem to have any more woodworm in our room but getting around the girls' old bedroom/storeroom is going to take a lot of weeks because there is too much repair work and other jobs that have got to happen before school starts next Wednesday. Woodworm seem to be most active in early summer apparently so I'm hoping we can work methodically through everything.

Allotment? What allotment?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Today is not a good day.

Yesterday, we found woodworm in the little wardrobe that my husband uses. We've had that all our married life and it is sad to see something like that go. It is currently up at the end of the garden awaiting a nasty fate. But we have two more wardrobes in the house so we thought we could just move one up to our room for him to use. Today, my husband ploughed his way through what used to our daughters' bedroom and is now a storeroom - a very full must-keep-it-in-case-we-need-it-for-when-we-move storeroom. After much moving of boxes, he emptied the wardrobe of everything stored inside - and discovered it had woodworm. So he moved more boxes to get to the other wardrobe - and discovered it had woodworm too. It has by now taken all day to get to this stage.

I phoned my son-in-law to see if he could come round and help get the heavy, fullsize wardrobes down the stairs. Bless him, he came round as soon as he had eaten his dinner. Can they get the wardrobes downstairs...? No. Can they get them apart (as in "unscrew") to bring them down in bits...? No! They are currently hammering and bashing them apart as I type. I've checked Freecycle and there is not a wardrobe in sight apart from one which is broken.

Meanwhile, the dishwasher has flooded the kitchen. It is very old and rusty and is held closed by a net curtain wire since the door latch broke but up until now it has not leaked at all. After sorting out the flood, I then went to the fridge to get a carrot for the rabbits' evening meal and as I opened the door, another flood of water poured out and I realised that the drain has blocked up again. So I mopped up again.

The fridge problem is actually pretty easy to sort out but right now, it feels like the last straw. Too many problems for one day. Problem overload!

They have just announced that one wardrobe is in bits in the yard and that is enough for one day. I know the feeling.

The one upside that I can find is that decisions have been made about some of the things that we were keeping and there is now a pile of bags and boxes of Stuff outside waiting to be taken away on Bin Day. I got to find something positive from today!

Friday, August 20, 2010

We've been away on holiday for five days and got back last night. We stayed with family in Plymouth and it was good to see them and catch up. We took my mother-in-law out twice. The first time we just drove up on Dartmoor and sat with a cuppa from our trusty flask and looked at the wonderful view and then went on to Burrator reservoir where we bought an ice cream from the van and went for a little walk along the flat road there in the sunshine. The second time we went to Tavistock and looked round the pannier market and then went up on to the moor for a picnic lunch but only a short walk because the ground is uneven. On our wedding anniversary we went out by ourselves and spent the day pottering up on the moor and had another picnic. Dartmoor is lovely and you can always find a spot with nobody else around so the peace and quiet can permeate.

On the Tuesday, we went to meet Frugal Queen and had lunch at her house. It was really lovely to meet up and chat. Lunch was really nice and I thoroughly enjoyed it - all home made and frugal and very, very tasty (well, what else would you expect from Frugal Queen?). I felt we could have kept on chatting for hours. I was given a pot of sloe jelly to bring home. I will enjoy that and in the winter, it will be a reminder of a very pleasant day in the summer. We went for a potter around Liskeard after leaving Frugal Queen before going up to Minions for another potter and a cuppa from the flask again. Minions used to be a favourite spot for a walk when we used to stay with mother-in-law at Callington before she moved back into Plymouth.

So we got back last night and slept like logs. There is nothing quite like the feeling of "just right-ness" of your own bed after being away. However, we had to be up early for the central heating engineer was due at 9 am and I had to empty out the airing cupboard so that he could get into it without knocking everything over. The boiler is not heating the water and we quite like hot showers... Another bill! We paid the home insurance the day before we went away so between that bill and knowing we would have a bill for the boiler as soon as we got back, we were especially careful not to spend much at all when we were away.

About a week before we went away, an insurance firm rang up and offered to give us a quote. Fine, we said as it was on their phone bill. They quoted £100 more than the renewal quote so we said "no". Just a moment, they said, and I'll have a word with my manager. So they brought the total down to £50 more than the renewal quote. We said "no". We'll put the quote in the post for you in case you change your mind, they said. Please don't, we said, as it will be a waste of resources and we will definitely not be taking out insurance with you as you are still quoting £50 more than our current insurer. So they sent it to us by post. It is no wonder insurance is expensive whan they waste money unnecessarily. And we got another quote which beat the renewal quote by £50 and were happy with that. No Quidco cashback this year, though, but you can't have everything.

Monday, August 09, 2010

We had a lovely day yesterday at my grandson's thanksgiving and birthday party. The weather was good so lots could happen outside. There were two paddling pools which were well used by the littlies and the slightly bigger kids played with other outdoor sit-on-and-ride or climb-on toys which had been borrowed from friends and from a toy library. A good time was had by all!

I think we are winning the war against the red mites. I am sooooo thankful! We have treated the last hen house now and also coated them all with wood preservative while we are at it. The rabbits' hutches have also been deepcleaned and treated with preservative. With them all being done at the same time, they all look very smart. We have spent a fair bit of money on it all, though, not to mention time and effort. I hate red mites! The animal housing would have been scrubbed and treated with wood preservative over the summer anyway but it has been a problem to do so much in so short a time with alternative clean and mite-free accomodation for each lot of hens and the rabbits. Anyway, job done. And we have just to respray the houses with the special liquid a couple of times more but that only requires the hens being moved out for a few hours at a time so won't take a lot of effort.

Now we have to tackle the allotment. I'm sure that by now we shall have a good stock of marrows rather than courgettes even though they hadn't grown very big before..... :)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

My grandson will be one year old tomorrow. He is also the subject of a thanksgiving service at his family's church tomorrow with a party lunch afterwards. I'm looking forward to a good day.

He started walking this week and it is really fantastic to watch him teeter across the room and wait expectantly for the well earned applause. He has even conquered the art of turning round in midstride and not losing his balance and falling over. Grandchildren are fun!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

We have red mite in the hen houses. Yeuchhhhhh!!!! These are tiny mites that are white, almost translucent and measure less than half a millimetre across. When they have just fed on your hen's blood at night, they are bright red - hence the name. They breed at a speed that is unbelievable. When you put your hand in to collect the eggs your arm comes out covered in the things. Try picking off something that is almost too small to see... I am itching just typing about them. We have dusted the hens with red mite powder and are in the middle of pressure washing the houses, scrubbing them out with Jeyes fluid and doing what we can. Poor hens!

Seems to be a lot of red mites about. Must be a good year for them. The horrible things can live in the ground for 35-40 weeks without feeding. Bleuccchh!!!!