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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Fewer Hens

I've lost two hens in the last two weeks, both little brown Warren hybrids.  I'm always sad when I lose them because they are my pets as well as my egg providers. One hen was one of the old age pensioners and the other was one of the youngest group.  When I say 'youngest', they are actually very middle-aged but they are the youngest that I have. I could do with a few genuinely young ones so that there is a reliable supply of eggs. The girls are laying right now because spring is on its way but that won't last and I doubt if some of them will lay any more eggs after this.

I went to visit my farmer friend yesterday to see the first of the lambs. Very cute! Lambs are always very appealing and innocent looking. One of the mother-to-be ewes is so wide that she is wider than she is tall - maybe triplets? They lost one ewe last night because she had a prolapse. Being a smallholder is sometimes difficult.

Their hens are getting old too although they are not as old as mine. They are going to get some day old chicks after Easter so we are thinking about getting some with them and sharing the cost of delivery.

On the way to the farm, I called in at the large Tesco at yellow sticker scrum time and came home with a nice bagful of goodies.  Still nothing for my son but I got three meals of fish for my friend and enough things for lunches for us for over a week (some went in the freezer) but just one dinner this time. In Tesco, I was just bending over to lift something from the lowest tray of goodies when a lady came up and literally pushed me right out of the way so she could have whatever she had spotted. I was appalled at such behaviour. There was plenty of goodies for everybody there to go home with a bagful.  I obviously need to sharpen my elbows before I go there again although I probably won't be out that way until the calves are born on the farm. But a bagful of such goodies really makes the housekeeping str-e-t-ch : )
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Daily bread

I went to a teaching session yesterday given by the Love Food Hate Waste group.  While I didn't learn anything new for me to use, I did learn some facts that utterly appalled me. For instance:

24 million slices of bread are thrown away EVERY DAY in Britain alone. And the number of people who need to use foodbanks is growing. And how many starving children could Oxfam or Tearfund feed with that bread?

I realise that the total number of slices thrown out per head of population is small - 24 million slices thrown out by just under 65 million people. It is just that this happens every day and it is the sheer enormity of the total amount of bread.

How can we teach people what to do with bread if they have more than they can get through before it goes mouldy? It is not just the bread itself but also the work that goes into producing it and the fuel  used for transport and carbon footprint. The wheat has to be grown by the farmer, harvested, taken to the mill, ground into flour, packaged, taken to factories to be made into bread, transported to shops, bought, carried home.  Some of the flour is packaged into small bags to be sold to homebakers, but just think of how much work,money, time electicity, oil and gas etc etc gets used so that we can waste so much.  There must be something we can do to get the message across to people.

ps The Love Food Hate Waste  group say that the best way to store bread is sealed with a clip and put in the breadbin.  Apparently it dries out SIX times faster if it is stored in a fridge...

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Oops. I forgot...

... to update how many things I've lost out of the house this year. And I've actually had a bit of a clear out too.  I've been feeling guilty about the total moving so slowly this year too.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bargains and busyness

I seem to have been busy this week doing lots of different kinds of things and I'm finishing the week feeling tired. I'm glad that there is less in the diary for the coming week.

Last weekend we went on a romantic Valentine's Day outing to a big Tesco - 12 miles round trip and not my usual store. I was hoping to find lots of yellowstickered goodies so that I could take a big bagful to my son and his family. I don't seem to have been able to find much for them recently. They are all veggie but I didn't find anything for them. There wasn't even any bread or fruit or veg suitable for taking to them. However, for us meateaters, there were most definitely goodies to be had. In fact I brought home enough meat and fish to do us  dinners from Sunday night through to Thursday night. And I brought the same home to my friend. Both households were well fed this week even if I had gone with the intention of feeding my son's household rather than ours.

We seem to have had lots of meetings at church this week. Sometimes it is like that and everything seems to happen in the same week.  We were at church this morning and had a breakfast meeting before the music group practice before the service itself. guess who was down to prepare the breakfast? Yes, us - so we had to be up early and get there in good time to get breakfast ready before the others came. My husband set the alarm clock. In fact  I was stood beside him when he set it. I don't know when he set it for but it wasn't for the time we needed this morning. Fortunately I woke up a mere 30 minutes late and with a mad rush and the benefit of all the others being late, we managed to get everything done. But I feel like I haven't quite caught up with myself all day and am definitely heading for bed early tonight.

On Friday night, we went to my daughter's for dinner.  My SIL's mother and a couple of friends were there too. It was a really pleasant evening.  All we did was natter but it was a lovely meal and pleasant company and was really enjoyable.

If you use Quidco, they have the new Yeo bio yoghurts with £1 cashback and they are on offer at Sainsburys at £1.50 ( = 50p for 4 lovely yoghurts AND you can claim for each of the 3 flavours available)  .  Quidco also have various Tate & Lyle sugars at £1 cashback and they cost £1.99 for Demerara and others that are useful to have in the cupboard. Quidco are also offering  a free 100g of smoke and fire turkey slices from the deli counter at Tesco - if you are fortunate enough to find a Tesco that stocks it. I've been to five Tesco stores on two towns and nobody working at a deli has ever heard of this type of turkey. If you find it, please tell me.

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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Days away

We've been away for three days and I really enjoyed it.  My husband had to go to Cambridge for a two day meeting and could stay at a (cheaper) hotel on expenses.  As the charge is per room and not per person, I went too and my son looked after the menagerie. Cambridge is a lovely place, full of old buildings and I loved wandering round looking at them.

M&S had sent me some vouchers that I probably won't use, but the one useful one was for £2.50 off the bill at a their café. So I went and had a lovely sit down with my book for an hour and sipped at a smoothie (costing £2.50) full of vitamin C and which they said would contain 2 of my 5 a day. I really enjoyed it and the break in my wandering was welcome too.  It was mid-afternoon and the place was more than half empty so I didn't mind staying for a while as I was in nobody's way.

This is my second visit so I am sussing out places where I can sit and eat my lunch. It is not yet the weather for sitting in a park or by the river. I went to the Tesco near the hotel and bought a pack of rolls and a bag of leafy salad to put in the rolls with some cheese spread. This made a tasty and moist filling which was not expensive. Certainly it was cheaper than buying a sandwich. I never go out without a bottle of water with me, either. So that was lunch sorted for both days with some leftovers to be eaten really quickly at home as cheese spread really shouldn't be out of a fridge for very long. My husband was sorted too as he had a cooked lunch provided for him. We shared the provided (and generous) meal in the evening so the lunchtime rolls were the only cost for my days away. Nice!

The one thing that I am missing in Cambridge is visiting the charity shops. I've only spotted three so far. There must be more than that somewhere in a town that size. Sometimes one can spot something in a fresh lot of charity shops. I've been looking for a new warm winter top/jumper for several months but I haven't found anything in my size that I like. I didn't think that I was very fussy but maybe I am after all. Or maybe there are loads of people in my area who wear my size and they always get there first.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Mincing matters

I popped into the supermarket after a meeting at church the other evening and found a 750g pack of reduced fat beef mince for just 74p. There were two packs so I brought the other one home for my friend who was absolutely delighted. She was going to the market later on the following afternoon so she paid me for her mince with almost a kilo of mushrooms bought as an end of day bargain. So we were both happy. Bartering works!

The thing is that the freezer is full to bursting so I couldn't divide the mince up into meal size packs and stash it there. And I couldn't do my usual and stretch it into umpteen meals because I couldn't freeze the extra meals. So I had to cook it and we've eaten most of it as is, without any stretching. I find that I feel almost cheated because I quite enjoy the challenge of seeing just how many meals I can get out of a pack of meat.

After my surprise party on Saturday, we went to church on Sunday and cooked dinner for 60 people.  We served slices of cold gammon with wedges and vegetables followed by strudel (choice of plum or apple) with icecream. The gammon was cooked at church while we were at the party on Saturday. This meal was a great deal easier to cater than the three course meal we served at the church members' meeting before Christmas. I have to say that there were no leftovers! I had been hoping that there would be a couple of slices o the gammon left (cooks' perks) but no such luck.  The gammon was beautiful and just vanished before our eyes along with all the wedges. It was definitely a popular meal. 

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Monday, February 01, 2016

Happy Christmas : )

On Saturday, we were due go to lunch at a friend's. I had wondered why she had invited us about three weeks ago as we usually have a soup and a sandwich kind of lunch which is not difficult to prepare and leaves plenty of time for chatting.  Anyway, we got there and she sent me into the front room to collect something - and there was my entire family sitting on the floor and they all sang "We wish you a merry Christmas" to me.

This was a surprise Christmas party for me because I had spent the real Christmas ill in bed and missed out.  Everybody was wearing their Christmas jumpers and the grandchildren were wearing the outfits that they had worn on Christmas Day.  And there were lots of crackers and we wore paper hats all afternoon. We had a buffet because there was not enough space to seat 15 around a table but we did have Christmas pudding and later on, some Christmas cake.  They had a meeting last weekend to plan the details and shared the catering out between them. They even planned to park cars somewhere that I would not spot and they were sitting on the floor so that I would not see their heads through the window on our way into the house.  My husband was obviously in the know but had managed not to inadvertently let anything slip.

I had a great time and was so pleased that my family had planned such a nice surprise for me. Aren't they a lovely lot!

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