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

Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm off school again.  There are so many bugs going around school and I've picked one up.  I had such a busy weekend planned and I've spent it in bed instead.  On Saturday, we had to go shopping to buy food to feed 70 a Christmassy dinner at church on Sunday, prepare as much as possible at church, practise music for a special music evening at church on the Saturday, do said music evening, get up early on Sunday and cook the meal, clear up, stay awake during the church members' meeting in the afternoon and come home to put our feet up in the evening before going back to work on Monday.

Well, I stayed in bed and wrote lists and my poor husband had to go and do it all.  He was tired when he got home on Sunday!

And now the good news - the 7 new hens that I got in mid-August laid 5 eggs today for the first time.  That is the most they have laid yet.  It has slowly crept up to 3 or 4 each day.  My older set of hens and the even older ones have virtually given up laying for the winter so these hens' arrival was timed to cover the shortage of eggs from the older ones.  Best laid plans of mice, men and me...  The other five hens that I bought at the same time for a friend have been laying a regular 5 a day for weeks.  I don't understand why mine are so far behind but I'll be happy if they just catch up a bit more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Solomon RIP

The neighbours about 20 doors down were muttering.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I was just reading Angela's blog at Tracing Rainbows and was quite amused at Mrs Beeton's Toast Sandwich.  I followed the links to other articles about it:  This article talks about other austerity/wartime meals too.

This article included a further link to a recipe for carrot jam also by Mrs Beeton:
This promises two jars of jam for every pound of carrots used but uses lots of lemons.  I made carrot jam once and found that everybody liked it very much - until they were told it was made from carrots.  I liked it myself.  John Seymour has a recipe for carrot jam or was it carrot and lemon marmalade in one of his books.  I've made that too.  Next time I happen on a bargain bag of lemons, I must look the recipe out.
This is a link to apricot, carrot and almond jam from Dan Lepard. I like the sound of this one.  I remember carrot jam tasting something vaguely apricot-ish.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I've just about finished collecting leaves now for this year.  Maybe a bag or two more if I run into a mother lode somewhere (bags in the car at the ready) but the leaves are pretty well off the trees where we live.  Total now is 154 and most of them are largish bags.  I'm so pleased that we won't have to ration the leaves this winter in the way we did last year.  I'm pleased as well that a lot of the bags are recycled - either reused or would-never-have-been-used ones such as uncollected charity bags.

The school chicks are all grown up now and I keep waiting for the two females to lay their first egg.  I'm also waiting for an angry neighbour to come knocking on my door because the cockerel is now in fine voice.  He is a lovely lad and very nice natured and has been a pet all his life but this is suburbia and I've only got away with keeping him so far because dawn is getting later.

This morning, he started crowing at 7.20 and I rushed out and kept feeding him bits of various things until it was nearer 8.00 to give the neighbours a lie-in for Saturday.  Like most males, the way to his heart is definitely through his stomach. At dawn, there were no clouds in the sky here and so it got light that bit earlier.  I'm in trouble here because I've become very fond of him.  My farmer friend can't give him a home and the only other person I know who might have him lives 80 miles away.  Between now and Christmas, I just don't have that sort of time free to drive all that way and I don't think he would appreciate being stuck in a cat basket all that time either.   My farmer friend, being a farmer and therefore thinking like one, says to stop being silly, put him in the pot and get over it.  So I am getting in a turmoil here.  Anybody want a really nice, friendly alarm clock?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

We have been collecting leaves.  Last year I collected some and was occasionally accompanied by an unwilling husband.  Two of us together got far more collected in a MUCH shorter time.  We put them in the runs for the hens.  There is no grass left in their half of the garden because they have scratched up every last blade.  When it rains, the water does not drain easily or quickly from our heavy clay soil and I would often come home from work to find the poor things paddling up to their ankles in rainwater. The leaves just keep their feet up out of the water a bit.  Besides they absolutely love turning the leaves over and over and scratching through them in the hope of finding a tasty bug or two. After a week, the leaves are just a big pile of crumbs and we rake them up and put them in the compost heap where they rot down much more quickly than full size leaves.  What you might call a win-win situation.  And leaves are a free resource too.  A fringe benefit is that since the top covering of leaves and any poop is removed every week, the hens are not directly on the ground, so if it is really wet weather at the weekend, we have the option of leaving them on that bit of ground for a second week before moving the runs.  Unless they have a huge space to run around in, the hens need to be moved regularly on to fresh ground to stop the soil going a bit sour which promotes disease.  If it is pouring with rain, sweeping up last week's leaves and emptying a fresh bag into the run takes way less time than moving the run.  If it is raining heavily on the second weekend, then we are in trouble : (

This year, when I tentatively suggested that we pop out and sweep up a few leaves from the pavement by our house (lots of trees nearby) I had an enthusiastic "yes - they've been so useful this last year".  I was struck dumb for at least a second or two.  Mind you, the enthusiasm has worn off a bit now that we have gathered up 115 bags of leaves.  Using them at the rate of 4 bags a week, that will do us six months so a few more would be good but not crucial.  I've been recycling uncollected charity bags as well as some green bags and I've also got some bags left from last year which can be reused.  You wouldn't believe the space that 115 bags take up in the garden. I have happy neighbours because I've swept up the leaves from their housefronts too.

Over the summer, we also collected up all the woody prunings from shrubs or wherever and put them through the shredder.  We have a dozen bags of these shreddings to be kept for sprinkling on top of frozen ground or snow.  The leaves freeze as well as the ground and the hens like something unfrozen underfoot.

So, happy hens and happy neighbours and the only cost involved is a little effort.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Last night we went to a bonfire night.  At least I'm told there was a bonfire and fireworks but I didn't see any.  It was the Boys' Brigade bonfire night and our son is one of the leaders.  I had a phone call this week asking if I had any time free this week because they wanted me to make soup.  I made 6 litres of tomato soup and my son made 5 litres of pumpkin soup and there was very little left over. We also served hotdogs and tea, coffee and squash.  Despite the heavy rain in the afternoon, the bonfire lit and a good time was had by all. 

However, we ended up in the kitchen fulltime and never got out to see the bonfire because my son and another leader arrived over three hours late.  There had been an accident on the motorway they were on and everything was closed down until the air ambulance came and took away the injured and the police sorted it all out.  It occurred to me that it was a bit like the ripples on the pond analogy.  Somebody's misjudgement or momentary lack of concentration caused serious injury to some, lots of money spent in terms of people attending to deal with the result - helicopter, ambulances, police etc, thousands (literally - Friday evening rush hour) of people held up so late home, meetings/appointments missed, dinners spoilt, right down to trivia like a BB bonfire night and me missing the actual bonfire because I was in the kitchen all evening.  Such a small thing but it affected so many people in so many ways from the really serious right down to the minor ripples at the edge of the pond where I was.  This is one of those situations when mobile phones actually prove themselves useful and I didn't mind helping out.  I just hope that those injured will recover and quickly too.

(edit - This was not the dreadful M5 catastrophe but another accident)

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