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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And I visited my friends at the farm yesterday too : ) They had triplets born in the early hours and twins too. The triplets look like they may become twins soon because one lamb was a decent size, one was middling and the third was only half the size of the biggest one. The twins were a difficult birth for the ewe and one lamb (the bigger of the two) hurt its leg and is unable to stand yet. Both the poorly lambs were the ones who suckled best when I was trying to get a bottle of colostrum into them so all hope is not lost yet. I really wanted to take the little one home with me and look after it so that it could have a proper chance at life. I can just see senior management's faces if I turned up at school with a lamb to feed every couple of hours : ) The other one needs to be able to stand on all four legs or it won't survive. A lame sheep is just about acceptable but a three-legged one is not. The leg is not broken but is injured in some way and the lamb can't stand on it. It is a beautiful looking lamb too. I wasn't intending to go to the farm this weekend but we had gone out to get hen and rabbit food from the feed merchant which is not far from the farm... They are good people and very patient with me. I woke up very early this morning and dare not go back to sleep because I couldn't remember if we had reset the alarm clock to BST or not. We hadn't so it was just as well I had woken, although it was hard work staying awake. I did some washing yesterday morning and went out into the garden to peg it on the line. And I couldn't believe my eyes - my tree-loving neighbour has had several trees cut down on Friday while we were at work. The part of the garden closest to the house is soooo much lighter. Well, what a delightful surprise! We might even be able to grow some bits of veg here at the house this summer as the sun might be able to reach us. ps Blogger won't let me have paragraphs today, no matter how many times I try.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Well, I got my invitation back to the farm. The lambs are being born well apart (in time, that is) and there are still 4 ewes to go. There were a pair of black twins whose first-time mother did not have enough milk for them. Would I like to help bottle feed them? Well, I'm just a big kid at heart, despite my age. It was fun! It does cost in petrol with our thirsty car but sometimes a little blowing of the budget does you good : )

I like to go to visit with "something in my hand". Back home in Ulster, you never went to somebody's house without taking something with you and you never left without taking something home with you either. Not a big thing but just something out of the garden or a jar of jam or whatever was appropriate for that occasion or time of year. The first weekend, I took a jar of my jam with me. This time I made some scones very quickly and took them as I had milk on the turn that I had brought home from school. Milk on the turn makes the best scones as the level of lactic acid in the milk is just right for humongeous scones. Anyway, as I handed over the scones, I said that these were to go with the jam from last week. Ah, they said, that is a bit difficult as we've finished the jam and washed out the jar to give back to you. More jam next time, I think.

By the way, where I come from, scones is pronounced with the "con" as in hustle. If you say scones to rhyme with stones, then you won't be getting any of mine to eat because mine are very unstonelike. I usually bake them in the oven but you can do a good job with them in a frying pan with a lid on the hob. Just roll (ie pat because it is less washing up) them into a round, mark across into 6 or 8 pieces and they are done in 10-15 mins.

At my younger daughter's last birthday, she had an at-home thing with people dropping in all afternoon and evening. There was a buffet table with salady things and finger food stuff that would sit happily on the table unrefrigerated for a while. I had a request to take scones for everyone who was coming. I asked how many she wanted and was told that she expected over a hundred people to be dropping in. I made large ones, about 3 inches across as I usually do and duly made over 100 scones as requested. The evening people didn't get any as the afternoon folk scoffed the lot with homemade jam and squirty cream.

Scones are so easy and I can't abide the dry-as-dust things that are sold in the shops. You are probably all experts but I thought I'd post the recipe here anyway:


8 oz SR flour - white or wholemeal or a mixture
1 to 2 ozs marg (1 for ordinary and 2 for rich ones for visitor/special occasions)
1 oz sugar
1/4 pint milk - preferably on the turn

Turn on oven to gas 7/425'F
Rub fat into flour, stir in sugar.
Mix milk in quickly until everything is just mixed together. Too much handling leads to flat scones. If using wholemeal flour, you might need a tiny bit extra milk.
Sprinkle some flour on a board or spare baking tray and pat dough flat to between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick.
Cut into large rounds and spread out well on baking tray.
Bake 15 mins until light golden brown.
Wonderful eaten straight from the oven with butter all melting.

They freeze well, if you can wrest them away from the family's clutches. The scones are best eaten within 24 hours after which they are best toasted. A 15 second blast in the microwave will refresh them but that is not as good as eating fresh or toasted or thawed from the freezer.

Some people add half a teaspoon of baking powder as well but I don't find this necessary, especially if using milk that is just turning. I also usually make a triple quantity and some will go in the freezer in packets of 2 scones. If the family get wind of scones, they will descend like locusts and none will reach the freezer.

-7 ozs white flour with 1 oz porridge oats stirred in with the sugar
-a handful sultanas added with the sugar
-a good teaspoon of black treacle used instead of sugar
-with treacle as above and the sultanas as well

I've mentioned above about cooking them in the frying pan. More frugal if just making one batch. As you can see, there is no great mystery to scones and they are really a plain and inexpensive recipe and really quick to make. Why doesn't everybody make them when they are so easy? Why do those dust-filled supermarket monstrosities have a market?

Anyway, another highlight of my parsimonious week to be told. I'd popped into Asda when I was nearby and ended up with a couple of receipts. Not having done it before, I used the online pricechecker and to my delight, ended up with two vouchers from their "at least 10% less" promise, one for £1.40 and the other for £2.14. I was delighted because, as you can imagine, I'd only bought things that were a reasonable price anyway. Thank you Asda for subsidising my trip to the lambs : ) Also, my daughter called in with two loaves of bread for me. She had gone to the supermarket at just the right time and come away with large loaves at 7p each. Wonderful!!!

The hens are still laying well but not quite so prolific as they were. I brought a bit of bread home from school today so I had happy hens this evening. I'll swear that they can spot a piece of bread in my hand from 50 paces because they make such a commotion. I do like these lighter evenings when I am home from work in time to see them and check them and even play a bit with them if I'm in early enough.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Having been born and bred in Ulster, he is my patron saint - not that I take a lot of notice of such things but I feel kindly disposed towards him as a source of a day off from school eons ago.

I've just taken delivery of my first order from Approved Food and so far, am quite pleased with it. I did a group order, having talked to my son, one daughter and my friend down the road. I found that this helps lots with the hefty carriage costs. I think that the carrier had been playing silly wotsits with one of the boxes as there were two items broken in the one box. The other four boxes survived well. Approved Food seem to wrap everything really well with plastic bags and bubble wrap and each cardboard outer box contained two inner boxes. One broken item was a jar of tomato puree which, although wrapped in a coat of bubble wrap, was totally flattened and the puree liberally smeared over everything. The other damaged item was a bottle of all-purpose cleaner. This was sealed in a plastic bag, thankfully, otherwise a litre of cleaner would have totally soggified all the cardboard boxes. However, on trying to get everything out of that box, a shard of the broken glass speared the plastic bag and... well, you can imagine what happened. Fortunately, everything else was absolutely fine. Being my first order, I didn't know what the firm's policy was when it came to breakages but they were very nice and friendly when I phoned up. They have credited my account with a sum a little in excess of what I paid for the damaged items (thus ensuring a second order...) or they will transfer the exact amount to my paypal account.

Last weekend, my friend asked if I wanted to pop out to the farm for a cuppa. YES!!!!!! This meant that there were lambs and so an hour later, there I was cuddling a very young lamb. They are so cute when they are newborn. All wide-eyed and innocent and woolly. It is hard to look at them and remember that males = roast dinner and mint sauce. There are 5 ewes still to lamb so I'm hopeful for another cuppa soon...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Well, all the folk who stopped for the lunch at church enjoyed it and I noticed that there was very little indeed scraped off the plates into the bin before going into the dishwasher. I was pleased about that but I've been absolutely wrecked this week and in the end no ironing got done. Fortunately my husband found a couple of ironed but ancient shirts in the back of a wardrobe in another bedroom and that kept him going for a bit.

The hens are laying for England at the moment. Even the middleaged ones are laying lots. I've had to go round the staffroom touting for trade this week because even with Pancake Day and the family wanting lots, the quantity of eggs had outgrown the space where I store them. The extra pennies will help towards buying a tin of the expensive "bat-friendly" waterproofing to paint the henhouses this summer : )

Pancake Day was fun. I love pancakes! Sugar and lemon always win with me but my husband prefers syrup. We are going to the BB (Boys' Brigade) pancake party tonight, if I can stay awake long enough. I've been yawning my head off all day today and I haven't been bored in the slightest. Our son is one of the BB leaders and so we are going along. He has been in the BB since he was 5. The fact that my little grandson is also going, of course, might just have helped in the decision : ) and I've got to go down early to help look after him while his parents prepare things.

Saturday school tomorrow again. And jobs to do which most definitely means ironing because there are no more shirts, ancient or new, anywhere except in the ironing pile. And the hens need cleaned out. And the rabbits too. And we've only been to the allotment once since Christmas. And the car is still covered in mud from our halfterm visit to Wales. And I'm tired.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Saturday school today - the first of three. This series is the very last ever as they have been axed due to budget cuts. They said that the autumn series was the last and then decided that since budget had been set aside in this financial year, we could go ahead with this series. I had a lovely group of year 6 kids and thoroughly enjoyed myself. And I'll get paid for it.

I'm about to go down to church as soon as I finish this cuppa. My husband volunteered us to cook a meal for 40ish people tomorrow at church. We went to the supermarket on the way home from work yesterday and did the shopping. Cottage pie plus apple strudel and icecream for pud. And apple or orange juice. And a cuppa for afterwards. I reckon they should be getting at least 3 of their 5 a day for lunch tomorrow and it will cost about £1.50 a head for adults. And I shall feel obliged to peel the potatoes and carrots so the hens and rabbits will get their share too : ) The trouble with today's health and safety rules is that I can't prepare anything at home any more so I've got to go and use the church kitchen. So if I go and prepare what I can now, it will be a lot less work tomorrow. And there is ironing to be done sometime.

At this rate, I'll be going to work on Monday for a rest!