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

Monday, October 31, 2011

This week has been so busy.  I'm only about halfway down the list of jobs, though.  There are lots of things left to do and here I am back at school again.  Ah well.  My husband got a bit further down his list but he still has lots left over too.

On Friday I stewed up lots of fruit and left it to drip through a jelly bag.  I prepared a couple of bags of nice apple pieces to go in the freezer so that the peel and cores could go into the fruit mix. On Saturday I made 10 pots of Autumn Jelly - otherwise known as apple (several types) and a bit of all the other fruit that was left - 3 miniscule bunches of outdoor grapes (the entire harvest), a handful of late or not-quite-ripe blackberries, a handful of not-quite-ripe loganberries, 10 scrumped windfall medlars, a handful of rosehips, 2 pears.  It is a bit sweeter than I would have liked but it is the most wonderful ruby colour.  Yesterday, I sieved all the must and bottled 8 jars of pink apple sauce. I stewed up a couple of lbs of apple and sieved it to add to the sieved must because that was a bit stiff and not very apple sauce-like.

I've now used up my supply of jars with "pop" tops and have just flat lids left.  I still have a couple of boxes of apples left but they are all good ones - at least, they are right now...  I'll check them over again next weekend.

This week we have had a couple of salads worth of lettuce leaves from the garden and some tomatoes.  We also had a few runner beans with a meal and there are still some growing.  They are small so I looked at the weather forecast and decided to leave them on the plant until next weekend, in case they grow big enough to eat.  There are still some tomatoes left too.  I keep wondering whether to pick them or risk leaving them on the plant for a bit longer.  We've been eating home grown potatoes too.

It was my son-in-law's birthday yesterday so we had a family gathering in the evening.  My granddaughter had made the cakes (lots of little ones rather than one big one) and had decorated some with spider webs, some with orange icing and pumpkin faces, some gingerbread men had skeletons iced on and some chocolate marshmallows had icing "sheets" on with eye slits to look like ghosts.  She had fun!  And we had fun eating them too. My daughter carved a pumpkin for him and we had pumpkin soup. 

I got my Innocent veg pot vouchers (look on the website) and spent them at Sainsburys where they were on BOGOF so that I actually got them free.  We really enjoyed eating them but I couldn't ever bring myself to pay £3.79 for one.  If you "like" Hovis bread on Facebook, then you can print out two coupons to get their new partbaked bread for free.  We got two bloomers and they will keep us in bread for a bit.  We don't seem to get through so much during term time.  This week, being halfterm, we got through loads although as my daughter went shopping at just the right time, she brought us a couple of 10p loaves so that helped.  She actually brought me a full carrier bag of things all at 10p so I was well pleased.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Six pots of apple chutney made.  I'm nearly through all the windfalls - finally.  I've also got a big pan of peel, cores and small apples that is half cooked.  I've got just a few more apples to prepare tomorrow and then I shall add all the other bits and pieces of fruit to the pot and cook till mushy and make an autumn jelly.  I'm just about all appled out and am pleased that the rest of the apples seem in good condition and will hopefully keep for a while. However, I shall have a good lot of jars to make some goody boxes for Christmas as well as a year's supply of preserves for us.  And some spare to use as thank you presents through the year.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

I've had soup in my slow cooker this week - veg and half a pack of soup mix (lentils, barley etc) that I got in my last order from Approved Food. We had some on Monday but it was a bit hearty so I doctored it with more liquid and some more veg and it was better on Tuesday. We still had lots left so I added yet more veg and half a packet of tomato juice that was yellow stickered and which I had not drunk. With a sprinkle of grated cheese it was tasty last night and should be tonight too with half a pack of noodles and still more veg and the remains of a jar of pesto added.

All the veg was homegrown, the soup mix was a good price from Approved Food, the tomato juice was at its date and yellow stickered, the noodles were cheapo and the pesto was just the jar rinsed out really.  We've had a sprinkle of parmesan lookalike cheese (Aldi) with it and a sprinkle of cheddar (b1g2f + coupons from Tesco) on another day.  That will make four days worth of dinners for the two of us for very little indeed.  Will I manage to make it stretch to five?  And the big bonus was that it has been ready when we come home from school.  Two days this week my husband has been home for just an hour to eat and then gone back to school until 10pm for meetings so this soup has been great.  When you have to work fom 8am to 10pm with just an hour off (he had to work through break and lunch) you don't want anything too heavy for dinner.  He is going to sleep for England this weekend because he will be sooooo tired.

The pesto jar is now filled with homemade mint sauce concentrate made from the last of my mint plant.

Just one more get up until half term.  Yay : )

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More apples processed.  Last night I boiled up the 6.5 lbs of apple puree that I'd cooked and sieved on Saturday and Sunday and produced 14 small jars of Potted Apple as mentioned in a previous blog.  However, I did not have the required cloves.  Nor, it turned out, did I have any cinnamon.  So I rootled around in the cupboard and came up with some garam masala, whose main ingredient seems to be cinnamon.  However, I got slightly carried away so I now have 14 small jars of what needs to be described as Spiced Potted Apple........  It will probably taste wonderful with meat but I can't see me using any  with yoghurt : )


Friday, October 14, 2011

The school chicks are nearly grown up now.  They are 15 weeks old this week and they are all lovely.  Unfortunately one of the three is male.  Apparently, I read somewhere, 55% of chicks turn out to be male so to have two of the three female is pretty good going.  However, every time the headmaster meets me in the corridor, he asks when he is getting his chicken dinner.  It isn't funny any more because I have committed the cardinal error of getting too involved and I'm fond of the poor bird.  I'm beginning to wonder if I can get away with buying a chicken from Sainsburys.  Will they notice any difference?  Cockerels can be nice or they can be nasty and this one looks set to be a nice one.  Also, he looks very like a typical little brown hen so he isn't going to provide much of a dinner anyway.  He is a skinny teenager right now.  Laying hens are very thin because all their energies go into egg production.  They are bred this way and you need an all-purpose "utility" bird like a Rhode Island Red or one of the varieties of Sussex to get a cockerel that would feed a family while the females lay a reasonable number of eggs.  Or else a Ross-Cobb or a Sasso or Hubbard or something like which all grow to look like the Sumo wrestlers of the chicken world. 

I'm been busy with apples. Again. Still more to process.  I peeled and cored and cooked enough apple to give me 23 small jars of stewed apple to which I added sugar and lemon juice and then processed in a water bath.  I cooked the peel and core and a few chopped up small apples and strained them through my jelly bag and then sieved the must and added that to the stewed apple before I bottled it. With the juice, I made 6 jars of mint jelly which will be a couple for us and the rest in goody boxes for Christmas.  When I make it again, I will use more mint.  I stripped most of the leaves off my plant and chopped them up fine but the jelly could take being mintier.  I wanted some leaves left to make a jar of concentrated mint sauce to keep in the fridge to go with the half a lamb that we bought, most of which is still in the freezer. Next time, I would also add a small quantity of vinegar (cider vinegar, maybe?) to add a little more piquancy as it is quite sweet.  My husband likes it but then he has a sweet tooth.

We had lamb for dinner (with the spoonful of mint jelly that would not fit in the jars) on Monday night because it was my birthday.  It was a good meal!  Yesterday was my son's birthday so we had a grand family get-together last weekend which was fun.  I do enjoy it when my family gets together for a meal and I would really miss that if we moved out of the area to find a smallholding.

With some more of those apples, I was wondering about trying the potted apple from Tracing Rainbow's blog.  No water bath needed. The recipe was taken from Mary Norwak's "Lark Rise Recipe Book " which was published in 1986.

I'd also like to put a few bags of prepared apple (large size pieces) in the freezer for apple pies.  Then maybe the good ones can be kept a while for gradual using a few at a time.  Considering that I was scrounging around for apples when I starting my annual preserving binge, I've ended up with absolutely loads.  One lady at work has two apple trees and was offering to share her bounty and had no takers apart from me. I had too many little plums and had difficulty finding someone to help with the surplus.  With the current uncertain economic climate, I would have expected people to be more interested in free food, not less.  Nowt so queer as folk, as they say.

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Thursday, October 06, 2011

We got our new(er) car on Tuesday and it went for a trip to Peterborough yesterday and apparently behaved itself.  We need to learn what all the buttons on the front mean.  On the old car, putting the heating on just meant turning a knob.  Now there is an array of buttons and I haven't worked out what they are for yet.  We opened the boot last night and discovered a piece of metal which is some sort of cover for the clutch assembly so we'll have to take it back to get that put on.  One does not normally have to check in the boot to see what pieces they have stored in there when they replace a clutch...

My husband filled the car up with fuel before going on his trip yesterday.  I nearly had apoplexy when he told me that the bill for fuel was £89.87.  Gulp!  I'm not used to that as the old one held much less.  I trust that quantity will last for a very long time.

At least we had a chinese takeaway for dinner last night on expenses and there is plenty left for tonight's meal too. Yum!

Saturday, October 01, 2011

At least the carhunting has now ceased as we have put a deposit down on one yesterday.  It is not quite what  I had in mind but it seems in good condition.  We told the salesman that the clutch was on its last legs and we have come to an agreement about them replacing the clutch.  At least we know that is done and the cam belt has already been changed.  It is also diesel where every other car we've ever had has been petrol so I shall be paranoid about being on autopilot and filling it with the wrong fuel.  I am soooo tired.  We've been spending every waking minute either working, carhunting, looking after chickens or seeing to the allotment.  We had a "tidy up or get out" letter from the committee which didn't help the grumpy feeling around here. Loads of other plots are worse than ours and we've had a reasonable crop off it this year.  I could have put my head down on my desk yesterday and I'd have been asleep instantly.

This morning I'm leaving my husband to sleep until he wakes.  With his asthma and allergies, he needs more sleep than I do.  I'm just having my breakfast with the computer for company.  We don't really have time for sleeping in as we have to go and buy hen food, get down to that allotment, I've got to practise the music for church tomorrow (minister has chosen a totally new song so this will take much longer than usual), my husband is preaching at another church and hasn't written the sermon yet.  If there is time left then there is ironing clothes for work.  And there is a bag of windfall apples waiting for attention. The washing is on doing right now.  Cleaning the house?  What's that? 

On Thursday I took a group of year 7 kids to hear Darren Shan speak.  I haven't read more than the back cover of his books because I am not really into vampires, demons and young teen horror stuff - but the kids are!  I have to say that I was quite impressed by him.  He had a whole auditorium of kids absolutely spellbound.  You could have heard the proverbial pin drop when he was reading extracts from his books.  Not everybody who can write well, can also speak well.  I've heard plenty of authors to whom that applies - but Darren Shan now gets my vote!

Anyway, I've finished my breakfast and the washing machine is beeping at me to say it has finished so I must get back to work.