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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

There is such a thing as a free lunch!

When we were in Cambridge just recently, I popped into Waitrose because I had a till-spit coupon for a half price jar of coffee. They didn't stock the brand of coffee I needed at that branch of Waitrose so I was feeling really disappointed. I had a £2 off a spend of £10 coupon as well and I had planned something else to buy so that I would end up in profit and they were spoiling all my carefully thought out plans. So there I was still stood in front of the coffee shelves when a Waitrose lady stops beside me and asks me if I would like to have the sandwich she was carrying. I must have looked startled because she had to explain to me that she meant to give me the sandwich and I would not have to part with any money. So I did not get my jar of coffee but I left with a sourdough baguette filled (generously!) with roast beef and horseradish and rocket. It was absolutely delicious and I've been feeling quite kindly towards Waitrose ever since.

They are quite an expensive shop but often their special offers bring the price down to the same as everybody else's special offers and you do get a free cup of coffee, if you bring your own cup and a free newspaper if you spend over £10. We don't have a branch very close to us but we do pass one every so often and I always check their offers and the coupons they send to see if it is worth calling in. It is one shop that my husband doesn't mind shopping at because he gets the cup of coffee..... : )


Saturday, November 10, 2018


My chickens are like the rest of us - they are getting older.  And when chickens get older, they don't lay so many eggs. So we now have some new chickens. Just your typical little brown hen. And the first one has laid an egg. Just a little egg but so lovely because it is the first one. Now if the others would just follow her example, I will be well pleased.

I still have most of my old hens although we have lost several over the summer, which is why we have an empty hen house. Chicken Nugget is still with me and must be eight years old now. She is a buff Orpington which is one of the biggest domestic fowl breeds. She is a real little (big!) character and will sit comfortable in my arms because she is very tame. She was hatched at school and has been used to being handled from day 1. The boys named her and the others who hatched with her, all after some chicken dishes that they all liked. From February and all over the summer, she laid two or three eggs every week. My other old hen is a little brown hen of about the same age but she stopped laying eggs a couple of years ago. I still have two of my white hens from the last lot of new ones and four from the little brown ones who came before that. So I have 13 hens now in total but it is the new ones who will earn their keep and pay for the food for the others.

And when I got my new layers, I also got six who are destined for the freezer. Their appetites are enormous and I think I am going to have to buy more hen food to keep them supplied. The nearest reasonably priced feed merchant is now about a forty mile round trip (which is a lot of diesel) since the Countrywide chain ceased to trade earlier this year. I buy as many sacks of hen food as I can fit in the car and store them anywhere I can but I don't think I bought enough on the last trip. I can, of course, buy hen food closer to home. I can think of three places but the hen food is almost 50% dearer. A forty mile round trip at 17p per mile (elderly diesel estate car) costs £6.80. Local hen food costs at least £9.50 and some places £10.50. At the cheaper feed merchant it costs £6.75 per sack. So it does not take many sacks before we are winning as just three sacks more than cover the cost of the diesel. so I'll be taking a little road trip soon : )


Friday, November 02, 2018

Preserving year 2018

This year my preserving year has been the smallest in many years. We have things left from last year and even a few jars from before that. so we didn't need much to be made this year.  Really my chief aim in doing any preserving was Christmas presents.

So this year I have made:

elderberry syrup
elderflower champagne
elderflower cordial
blackberry and apple jam
cucumber relish
cider vinegar

The elderflower champagne and cordial have turned out really well this year. I still have a bottle of the cordial left and I will need to use that a little more sparingly as shop bought stuff is not only horrendously expensive, but doesn't taste anywhere near as nice, even when made up with sparkling water. I still need to make some marmalade as that is one thing we are nearly out of and also some is needed to go in Christmas hampers. So that is it for 2018.