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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The council planted trees along our road about 10 years ago. Since the weather has been dry for the last couple of days, we went out and swept up the dry leaves at the front of our house and filled 3 bags. Our neighbour came out and started sweeping up the ones at the front of his house. He asked if we were going to have a bonfire, like him. I thought the leaves were actually too damp to do more than smoke but I have other plans for them. We have very heavy clay soil and a couple of wet days sees the hens literally paddling in liquid mud. A couple of bags of leaves in the run helps to keep their feet a bit dryer. They love picking through the leaves in case any tasty tidbits lurking there and by the time they are finished with them, the leaves are no more than a pile of crumbs. Then we put the leaf crumbs in the compost heap where they finish breaking down and end up helping to grow our veg. My neighbour said that we could have his leaves too and as his far side neighbour came out just then, they said we could sweep their front for them too.

There is a slight gap in the houses opposite us but lots of trees in the pavement, so we started gathering leaves there too. Both neighbours on the far side of us came out of their houses, saw what we were doing and indicated that we could sweep the leaves from the front of their houses too. They were actually joking and were quite taken aback when we said we wanted them. So we ended up with 15 absolutely overflowing sacks of leaves... and a great desire to sit down for a bit with a cuppa. And there is a long swept area of pavement in our road with no leaves. And a lot of happy householders who didn't have to sweep up.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It was below 10 degrees in my living room yesterday and I nearly caved in and put the heating on. However, a rug and HWB saved the day (or rather the evening) - and the weather is warmer today so it is now 11 degrees in my living room. Our house gets the sun in the front for half an hour after dawn and in the back for 45 mins in the middle of the afternoon. Every time I want the heating on, I think of last winter's gas bill and that helps lots : )

This week Lidl have a tray of 12 assorted tins of Felix cat food in jelly for £4.80. That is 40p per tin and I haven't found it this cheap since I can't remember when. Yay! I could only carry 2 trays to where I had left the car but every little helps!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I've just come back from a lovely weekend away. My daughters and their families had booked this week away on a barge and asked us to go along with them for Saturday and Sunday nights. It was really good fun! The weather helped because although it was showery on Saturday when we went to collect the barge, it was absolutely glorious on Sunday and Monday.

The girls had worked out how far we expected to travel in a couple of days and so we parked the car in a suitable place that distance up the canal and one of them transported us back to the barge. Then we travelled up the Shropshire Union canal until we reached where the car had been left and we hopped off and they went on their way up towards Chester.

As it was such a lovely day yesterday and as we had passed traffic at a standstill for miles and miles on the M6 on our way to collect the barge on Saturday, we decided to come home slowly on smaller roads. We found a lovely spot for a picnic lunch and travelled through lots of villages we had not been to before, stopping at some of them for a look round, then got back just in time to give the hens some corn before it got dark. My son had been popping round to look after my animals for me while we were away.

One daughter cooked dinner on Saturday night and the other on Sunday. My contribution to the culinary side of things comprised 2lbs of flour worth of scones, a very large pot of homemade bramble jelly, a banana cake and a dozen fresh eggs. Neither the scones or the cake lasted very long... So we had nothing to do but enjoy ourselves at 3 miles an hour. I could cope with life at that speed!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I realised that I haven't mentioned my menagerie lately. My hens are not laying quite so many eggs because it is autumn and the days are getting shorter. They are very light dependent. The two bantams are still going strong. I thought that the cold weather last winter would finish them off because they are very old - but they are tough old girls. The middleaged ones are moulting and look a right scruffy lot. They are taking it in turns to lay an egg now as their energies go into making new feathers and not into eggs. When they do lay, the egg is very large and must have caused a bit of stress to produce... The younger ones that I got this year are laying about the same number of eggs still - so they are the ones who are supporting the others financially as I sell their eggs. Next winter, there will be a lot fewer eggs and I will have to go back to rationing my customers again.

I am doing quite a trade in eggs at the moment and am able to sell all that the hens produce. Over the summer, the hens cost a lot in wood preservative for the henhouses and in treatments for red mite - probably towards £100 extra if I added it all up. Normally, averaged over the year, I would reckon to cover the cost of the food and a contribution towards the other expenses. This year, having the new hens, I think I'll end up with a large contribution towards this summer's extra costs.

The cats are loving having Whiskas again, thanks to Asda having one of their varieties still on offer. I was on foot when I managed to call into Asda this week so could only buy a few tins. I have a wrist that is not cooperating fully so I can't carry much. But every little saving helps! AND the cats are happy.

The rabbits are doing what they always do. The big one just loves a big pile of grass to munch her way through. She does not like the winter when there is no grass growing and thinks cabbage or any other greens make a poor substitute. Maybe I ought to put a little bit in a couple of pots and grow it inside so that she can have a weekly treat over the winter. I do notice that we get through a huge amount of bought rabbit food (pellets/muesli mix) over the summer as the big one always eats the grass first.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I thought I would post the recipes for the flapjack and the banana cake. They are both wonderful recipes - never failed for me yet. I like recipes like that, especially when they taste so good.

Coconut Flapjack - recipe from the Dairy Book of Home Cookery courtesy of one of the ladies from

4 oz butter or marg
3 oz golden syrup (2 good tablespoons)
3 oz soft brown sugar (I use 2 oz white granulated and 1 oz muscovado bought on offer)
1 oz coconut
8 oz porridge oats (may need to adjust quantity slightly)

Put marg, syrup and sugar into a pan and melt over a lowish heat until sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat.

Add coconut, stir through and then add oats. Stir well to coat them all - if not enough (depends on how much syrup you add) add some more until a stiff mix.

Put into a greased, shallow 6 inch square tin and spread using the back of a spoon. (I don't grease the tin but line it with silicone paper so that I don't damage the tin when I cut it up.)

Bake for 20 mins or so at 180/350/gas 4 until lightly golden.

Leave to cool slightly , then cut into squares and leave to go cold in tin.

You can also add a handful of sultanas, chopped walnuts, chopped cherries or chocolate if you want. Or even coat the top with melted chocolate once it is cool and leave to set.

I carefully take the squares apart to put in a tub, holding them over a board so that I can easily collect the crumbs to keep as a crunchy topping for icecream.... Yum!

Banana Cake - courtesy of one of the posters from

Makes 2 cakes - I like to use 2 lb loaf tins so that they cook easily side by side and they are also easy to slice and freeze. I can take out a slice or two at a time and let them thaw.

6 oz marg
9 oz sugar
3 eggs
4 mashed bananas - riper the better (I have on occasion used just 2 and it was fine)
12 oz SR flour
1 1/2 teasps baking powder
3 tabsps milk

Preheat oven to 180/350/gas 4. Grease and line 2 x 2 lb loaf tins.

Cream marg and sugar together, then add the eggs and mashed banana.

Next add the flour, baking powder and milk and fold into the creamed mixture.

Pour the mixture into the lined tins and bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 mins or until they are a light golden colour.

Turn on to a cooling rack, remove papers and leave to cool.

I like to add a handful of sunflower seeds or sultanas. Last Christmas, some people were given one of these cakes with cranberries in - that tasted lovely!

I didn't make a note of the names of the people who originally posted these recipes but I wish I could thank them because I have used them over and over in the last few years. These recipes have become family favourites and they are so easy - and tolerant too because you can change bits around, either by accident or design, and they have always turned out well. I've even forgotten the milk in the banana cake so that the mixture was too stiff and it still worked.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It was my birthday this weekend and it is my son's in a couple of days so we had a family get-together yesterday. It was really fun. My grandson was in good form as he had all these people willing to play with him. They all clubbed together to buy me a digital photo thingie which I'll have to get to grips with.

I spent Saturday afternoon baking flapjack and banana cake to bring into work today. There are just a few crumbs left in the tins so I think they enjoyed them. I made my normal flapjack mixture x6 and cut it into small, neat squares. The 2 banana cakes were made in loaf tins and cut into thick slices which were then cut into two chunks. I love it when somebody else takes the time to bake and bring in something nice on their birthday rather than a tin of sweets so I had to do that too. I probably spent less than I would have on a big tin of sweets, too.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

I'm beginning to get a little bit panicky about always being a smallholderwannabe. We just can't seem to find a place that we can afford that is vaguely in this area so that we can see our family and grandchildren. We have got to find somewhere either this year or next or we might not be able to afford a mortgage after that. Besides, if we leave it too long, we'll be too old to start over. So..... the idea is to maximise income and minimise expenditure while at the same time leaving enough on the planet for my grandchildren's grandchildren and hopefully theirs too etc.

I would like to write about some of the ways that I use to find extra pennies. Mr Tesco says that every little helps and I know that lots of pennies don't sound much by themselves but added up over a year, they come to a useful extra sum. I'm hoping that others will add their tried and tested ways of finding a bit extra too.

Quidco - For doing searches through Quidco, Kelkoo pay 1p a day and the highstreetweb pay 4p for each of two searches. That is 9p for me and 9p for my husband = 18p. Sometimes the second highstreetweb search doesn't register even though it might be hours between the two searches so I reckon on £1 a week here which is £50 a year. Two years out of the last three, we have found the cheapest quote for both car and home insurance through Quidco, which brought in anything from £40-70 a time. They pay straight into your bank account every month even if you have only earned 50p although it sometimes takes two or three months for Kelkoo etc to pay Quidco.

Cashback rewards - not as rewarding as Quidco but the cashback opportunities vary. At the moment one can earn about 10p per day from searches but occasionally (like last autumn) it can be over £1 per day which was quite lucrative while it lasted. I admit that once I've done Quidco, I don't always have the patience to do searches here. They pay out quite quickly once you have £25 earnings "banked".

There are other sites but of all the ones that I've tried, these are the two that I've found to be the most reliable at paying up.

There are lots of sites that offer surveys but I get very frustrated with most of them. They send an email, then halfway or more through the survey, they suddenly decide that you don't fit the profile that they wanted and you have wasted your time.

yougov - If they send you an invitation to a survey, then you get to do the survey and get paid for it. The one drawback is that you "bank" your earnings until you have £50 and then get sent a cheque very soon after. I find that I get a cheque about every 18 months.

Harris International panel - These people pay in Amazon e-vouchers which can be very useful for birthdays and Christmas. You get points for each survey and 100 points = £16 voucher. If they decide that you don't "fit the profile" then you get two points as compensation.

Has anybody else got any favourite ways of increasing income please?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

We spent this morning at church as there was a children's activity morning and we were providing the music. My grandson came and thoroughly enjoyed himself painting and playing with the toys and doing some of the actions for the songs (a beat or three after everybody else when he tried to copy what he had seen the other kids doing). He wasn't interested in sitting still for a story so he and I popped to the shop next door where they have a haberdashery stall. I needed buttons for a little cardi I've knitted for a friend's baby. I was so chuffed! My little grandson took my hand and we walked to the shop and back. He is 13 months now and is so steady on his feet and walks quite fast. He says quite a few words now too.

One happy grandma here!