Saturday, 22 November 2014

Second to last- better luck next time?

For  2 years up until March 2013 we went to charity quiz nights that are held in local villages to raise money for churches etc. We were part of a team with our farmer friend and his wife M and a couple of other people. Then one night, for some reason M seemed to take offence because I volunteered to write the answers on the quiz sheet, she didn't join in the discussion over answers as usual, just whispering to her husband, it was so obvious to everyone else in the team that it was ridiculously embarrassing.
That happened to be the last quiz of the season but in autumn 2013 when the next quiz was advertised and C mentioned about quizzing they didn't seem keen. One day I happened to meet M walking her dog as I was biking home from the library van and decided to apologise for whatever I had done that had upset her. She wasn't very nice at all and said she found me really rather nasty.
After that I didn't particularly like the idea of spending an evening with her so we didn't volunteer to book a table for a quiz again. As far as I know they haven't quizzed anymore either.
But Hip Hip Hooray!  we now have two parts of our family in Suffolk, enough for a table of 6 people so I suggested a family night out at the quiz last night.
We were almost hopeless! 10th out of 11 tables.
But it was a lovely way to spend an evening with two of our children and their partners.

Heaven knows how C managed to chop our youngests bloke in half, but he hates having his photo taken anyway.

Our son and his partner stayed overnight and this morning he helped me barrow some soil down to fill the hole where the old shed base was, that was a great help as it would have taken me weeks on my own. We just got done before the rain started at 11.
Now we just need to level it out and chuck a bit of grass seed down.

We saw the first Christmas lights in someones front porch in the village last night, a wee bit early I thought. Although this afternoon at only 3 O'clock it is almost dark and we could do with Christmas lights here to cheer things up a bit.

Back Tomorrow

Friday, 21 November 2014

November 21st -Opening the 5p tin

If you were around on frugal Blogland in April 2013 you will remember the 30 ways to save a £1,      ( You can see my list here if you are so inclined) , that lots of people did and earned £30 on Paypal, I can't remember who it was running this and giving away the £30, but I don't think they will do it again as there were rather a lot of entries.
 I redid   my list  one a day for each day in November last year and when I got to number 21  "save 5ps that you get in your change, they are small and fiddly and you won't miss them". I thought I really ought to listen to my own advice and  do that!
That's when I started putting every 5p into my telephone box money box. It was a bit slow at first, then there were more during the summer through the letterbox for veg, but not loads as we sell things in round numbers of 50p or £1.
Eventually it got quite heavy when I lifted it down from the shelf to add another one.
Now one year on, 21st November 2014, today is the day for tipping them out and counting.

 First clear space on table, tip out, round up the ones that got away and start piling them up in heaps of 10 and the grand total was £32.45p. The £2.45 has gone back in the tin, the £30 will be changed at the bank and that will be our meat money for Christmas. A nice big Gammon ham and 2 big chickens or if I can't get them I suppose it will have to be Turkey. We have 10 meat eaters  here for Christmas day and I like to have plenty left over so that I don't even have to think about what to eat for the best part of a week.
I didn't miss them from my purse so this was a good way to save a bit of money.

Thank you for comments yesterday and a warm welcome to Irene who has clicked the Google followers  button.
Back Tomorrow

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Stretching one of Frugal Queens recipes

I do hope Jane at Frugal Queen doesn't mind me sharing my idea for one of her recipes.
I noted it down from her blog a few weeks ago because it sounded good. The idea is a pie filling using bacon, potatoes,onion, leeks and a tin of condensed chicken soup. It sounded very tasty and I finally got round to making it today.
I had a thought that making pasties instead of a pie would make it easier for me to put some in the freezer for another day.
And this was how many I made

Because it was being divided up into more meals I used a bit more bacon than Froogs, 250g rather than 150g which was fried gently then 1 diced onion added and stirred around for a while. Two big leeks chopped small and 4 medium sized peeled potatoes diced quite small were then added to the pan with half a cup of water. Lid on and cook gently for a few minutes until soft. Finally stir in one can of condensed chicken soup , mix really well and let it go cold. Spoons full into centre of shortcrust pastry circle, seal up using water brushed round the edge then top shelf of oven 'til brown and lower shelf for another few minutes.
Very delicious but of course more pastry so more fattening than the original recipe.
We decided they are even better than my usual pasties made using minced beef.
The 8 we didn't eat were wrapped in foil and put in the freezer.
I might do a vegetarian version  sometime using mushrooms instead of the bacon and a can of condensed celery soup  or  maybe fresh celery and condensed mushroom soup.

The Christmas cakes made yesterday ( the recipe is on yesterdays post, and BTW I use cold tea for soaking the fruit, sherry or brandy would be extremely extravagant !)

  were wrapped in foil when they were cool and put away in the cupboard in the unheated dining room.
 I will feed them with a few teaspoons of brandy a couple of times over the next few weeks. Then add marzipan and ice much nearer to Christmas. The small one just has a circle of marzipan and icing on top, nothing around the sides that would make it far too sweet.

It's typical that the day I'm in the kitchen all morning - I also made 3 loaves of bread and an apple meringue pie - we have  had the best weather. I want to get biking again but haven't had a chance this week either too busy or too wet.
C went over to our neighbours and swept up leaves with her sweeper thing that goes on the ride on mower and he put some wires up for the Tiree Honeysuckle ( sent all the way here from my penfriend) and trained the blackberry canes around their wires. I thought he was going to be fed up during the months of recovery after the Hardly-a-Heart-Attack but he is pottering around getting everything done but with more stops in between for a cuppa. We said that when we were 20 years younger we did 2 hours work and then sat down for half an hour, now we do half an hours work and sit down for 2 hours!

Welcome to J  George who has put the number of Google followers back to 230 and also to someone on Bloglovin' which today won't let me in to see who you are.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Christmas cake making and technology creeping in.

I put the fruit into soak on Sunday so today was the day to get the Christmas cakes all mixed and into the oven.

My Christmas Cake recipe is here  if you are interested. This year I did 2½ times the recipe and that's made one very large cake for us, one small and a mini one for gifts.

We watched and enjoyed the " Secrets of the Castle" on BBC 2 last night.. The bloke who does the reviews for The Guardian ( which I found on line and pinched the photo from ) wasn't sure it could be interesting for 5 one hour episodes, we will see.What I liked was the fact that they hadn't made everyone wear bright blue/orange/ whatever hard hats. Though I did notice some people had goggles and they all seemed to be wearing proper work boots.
Secrets of the Castle
Peter plus chisel
  Gill and Kev in comments said they would do series record. " What's that" I had to ask C.                 " Something we don't have on FreeSat" was the answer. We are so far behind with modern technology.  I supposed we will be forced to join in eventually, when people are swapped for machines as they have done in Barclays Bank in Ipswich. I went in to pay in a cheque and the whole place had changed, where there was once people was a row of computers. I turned round and left and paid the cheque in a our local branch. But I'm sure the same thing will happen there before long. One of the girls in there asked me recently why I still needed to use cheques. " To pay for things by post I said" she looked amazed. We get people coming to the campsite without cash and they want to pay by card but as far as I know it still costs a lot for businesses to have one of the card machines, so I have to say cash or cheque please.
The ads for all the different sorts of tablets/phones/things I don't understand on TV, all make them look amazingly clever, with apps to do all sorts of useful things and even Ilona at Life without money has got a Hudl and I don't even know what one of them is. I'm not sure my poor brain  could cope? It took me weeks to get the hang of blogging!
Although I do like the Symbols  thing I've just found so I can do ☺ or ✌ or ½ or ✔ or ☕ it's added a whole new dimension to the blog!

I've just noticed someone has vanished from Google  Friends, that's unusual, and the weird anti-women bloke is around leaving his rant on comments  again - boring.

Back Tomorrow
Sue ☺

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I say Hello and you say Goodbye.

Hello and welcome to Sooze, Northsider Dave and Frugal in Essex who have clicked the Google follower button and Goodbye to 2 people who've disappeared from Bloglovin'. Your loss!

My post yesterday stirred up lots of comments - all good fun. Thank you to everyone for joining in.
I'm back to normal today.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *

We are getting some grey, damp depressing days over this side of the country at the moment and no sign in the forecast of much change. To avoid the black dog of depression creeping up on me, we have gone out for  a short walk every day in the odd fine spell.

C covered a few of the vegetable beds with black plastic, held down by metal pipes of the kind you see on bridge railings, all county council chuck outs and very handy, though I wish some were a bit shorter so I could move them more easily.
 Talking Suffolk County Council, we have had discussions lately with 2 people who still work for CC Highways  now working  with Kier Group .The CC passed all maintenance onto the private company to save money and it now costs more for the work to be priced up than it does for the actual job. They (Kier) are getting rid of road workers left, right and centre, heavens knows what happens when the roads need gritting, the poor blokes will be on very long shifts, just to add to the nonsense of it all Kier went and spent a few hundred thousands on new gritting lorries ( claiming the money back from the CC or rather us, the council tax payers) even though the CC already had enough and they stand unused for 40+ weeks of the year anyway.
We are just glad that C is out of it all, talking to his ex-colleagues is so depressing.

I spent a while hauling some more stuff out of the polytunnels and found more late peppers left than I thought, all this lot in fact.

Several have been sliced and put in the freezer and I wiped and wrapped the rest in kitchen roll and put them in the fridge salad drawer on an old tea-towel with another one over the top. Hopefully they will keep perfectly for quite a while.The kitchen roll and tea towels absorb moisture which is what makes veg go mouldy.
Also brought in today- and isn't it brilliant to still have these available from the poly-tunnel and garden - tomatoes, mixed leaf and beetroot.

 Before Halloween when we sold all the pumpkins, there were just 5 green ones left. These have now turned orange so yesterday they went out by the stall with a sign saying 'last pumpkins £1 each' and much to my surprise 3 have sold already. I  thought we might end up feeding them to the chickens.

Ruth Goodman, Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold are back on TV tonight. They've moved away from farming through the ages and are over in France taking part in a 25 year archeological experiment to build a medieval castle using only tools of the period. Might be interesting, we've been turning off the TV every Tuesday night for weeks ( and Wednesday and Thursdays too come to think about it) so we shall probably watch and see what it's like.

Back Tomorrow
Sue ☺

Monday, 17 November 2014

The truth about country living

This post comes with a large wooden spoon, as I like to stir things up!!

Living in the sticks is not always as wonderful as people think. Roses round the door, peace and quiet,  yes you might get those but what about the other side of the coin.

If you are in a village with a railway station or on a bus route you are probably in the minority. Even if there is a bus service  buses may only be once a week to take people to the local town for market day. Perhaps 4 a day for getting to and from work but there's unlikely to be anything after 6pm.
That means its almost impossible to manage without a car.
Once you have a car then there will probably be no choice about where to get your fuel. Not many villages still have petrol stations.

Think yourself lucky if your village still has a shop. If it does the prices are sure to be more than a supermarket. Ah, I hear you say, there's a farm shop or farmers market but if  you have one of these then the prices there will be even higher. Put the word Artisan in front of your loaf of bread and the price doubles. Where do you go for cash? There is no bank and even the nearest small town probably only has one bank with the threat of it closing hanging over it. The village Post Office is long gone. In the nearest small town the Post Office will have moved into the back of a shop, the shop is closed for stocktaking on the day you have gone to post an urgent parcel. Tough! You'll have to travel to the next town.

Very few villages have cable for TV and computer. You might be lucky and have good fast connections but more likely things will be very slow, difficult for running a business and impossible to watch a TV programme.

Village schools do exist but often taking children from several villages all around, you might have to pay for a school bus or take them yourselves. Narrow roads with no footpaths might have been OK for walking to school in the 60s but back roads are often rat-runs for people driving to work in the 21st century. So you have to drive and become part of the problem of traffic chaos around so many village schools that were not built with car-parking spaces 100 years ago! Village schools may have less facilities than larger schools. In affluent country areas many people choose to send their children to private schools so less money goes to village schools. Once children are old enough for secondary schools it probably means a bus journey. They have less chance to join in with any out of hours activities or to meet up with friends. If you want to choose which secondary school your child goes to, there may be no choice or only choices involving long journeys and no transport - yes you definitely need a car.
Your nearest college might be 25-50 miles away, how will your children get there for further education if your school has no Sixth form.

Health care.
You might be lucky and live in a village with a doctors surgery, if not its a trip to the nearest town. Hospitals are likely to be 20 to 50 miles away. Once again you do not have much choice about where to go for your operation. Nearest or 50 -100 miles away.

Heating your home
Oil or electric are the usual choices, Natural Gas might be available in larger villages but huge areas of the countryside are bypassed by the gas pipes. One plus is that in the country you may have more access to wood and maybe no neighbours to complain when you are cutting it up for your woodburner.

Of course you have beautiful countryside for walking in all around.
Well no, not necessarily. Footpaths may not be maintained and if they are then they are likely to be a sea of mud in winter. Country roads are often narrow, no street lights obviously. Right to roam may be relevant in upland areas, but you try walking through anyones land in arable country and you will soon have a farmer asking you what the h*** you are doing crossing his land. Try walking through woodland used by a local shoot and the gamekeeper will be after you in no time. Private Property notices abound. Large areas of countryside are owned by RSPB, Wildlife Trusts or National Trust, they charge you to get in or to park your car, so that's another large expanse of countryside that is closed to walkers.

Peace and quiet
If you are in the heart of a village you will still get people cutting the grass, dogs barking just like a town. Housing associations sometimes move "troubled" families from towns to village in the hope they will cause less problems!There may be less traffic but sound travels further so 3 miles from a motorway and you may still have the background roar of trucks all day and night. Out in the country you could find yourself woken at silly a.m by bird scarers, farmers working through the night on the field next door, large lorries roaring down tiny roads to farms, second home owners having all night parties - why should they care, they're off back to London tomorrow! Or your local farmer may suddenly get permission for building 6 large chicken sheds and then you have the joy of horrible smells when the sheds are cleaned and thousands of flies or maybe he decides to liven things up by holding 3 day music festivals. You might be a couple of miles away but the thump of the base will make your house vibrate.

Community spirit in a village may be sadly lacking when half the houses are second homes or holiday lets. The people who own them contribute very little to the local area and without enough support suddenly there is no shop and post office, nowhere to meet anyone for a chat.  Village halls are often old, lacking facilities and needing large sums of money for upkeep. If half the homes in a village are second homes and half of the other half are elderly people there's not many fit young folk to look after village facilities.

Ha Ha. It's stay at home with the TV or get that car out again. Often village events are not advertised so if you're new to an area you might not know about something 'til after it's happened. Village organisations can be a bit clique affected, especially in villages that have not had new estates with an influx of new people. If everyone knows everyone else and you say something to the wrong person you might find you're suddenly not welcome.

Lots of generalisation  here I think.
Your village is probably not like this at all.

Back Tomorrow

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review of Home Farmer Magazine

What a horrible grey nasty Sunday.

We did almost nothing except cutting some wood and watching Gareth Malone's Children In Need celebrity choir thing, which we didn't see last week.
Therefore nowt to write about so it's handy that  the very nice people at Home Farmer Magazine seemed to have put me down for a regular subscription which is a surprise as I was only expecting one copy to review. However  I shan't complain and it gives me something to blog about once a month. ( And I apologise to any fellow bloggers and commentators who  don't like people reviewing free things on their blog posts.)

The December copy arrived here two weeks ago but what with one thing and another I only got round to having a proper look yesterday.

As usual lots of articles on many various subjects of interest to smallholders, gardeners and anyone interested in " doing their own thing".

There are two more cheese recipes to make at home, this month Camembert and a Creamy Lancashire Blue and to go with them some recipes for various crackers which look very tasty. ( Has anyone else noticed cheese making kits for sale everywhere for this Christmas?)

The magazine often features small scale food producers and this month have visited " Totally Fudged"  who make what sounds like very delicious Fudge in West Sussex.

For gardeners the Author John Harrison has a piece about choosing what vegetable seeds to buy for the 2015 growing season. There is a very handy chart showing how long seeds will keep. Most are viable for several years, so don't chuck them out just because you didn't use them this year. The only things I always buy fresh each year are parsley and parsnip. As John says " the fun bit is settling down with the seed catalogues ( or computer) to see what they are offering."

If you have a poly-tunnel there is a timely article about First Aid for getting the tunnel through the winter. You may remember what happened to one of ours last year!

It needed more than First Aid!

The second part of "Diary of an incompetent smallholder" is at the end of the magazine and once again it is full of stories of things that shouldn't happen if you are more careful than Mr Barr. I was horrified to read about his sheep escaping and eating rhododendron leaves. A good shepherd checks boundary fences every day and I didn't find his description of his sheep foaming at the mouth very funny. Sorry HF editors but I'm afraid items like this "don't do what I do" are not amusing.
'More money than sense' comes to mind when I read bits like this.

Completely opposite to this is Dot Tynes diary from her Welsh Smallholding - they DO know what they are doing.
For crafters there are pieces about making bird boxes and a rag wreath.

All in all lots of reading with few adverts and this months special offer is for a free book - choice of chicken or pig keeping- you only pay postage. Bargain!

Back Tomorrow