Friday, 17 April 2015

Just quickly popping in to say............

Thank you for all the Birthday wishes yesterday. I had a lovely day, just pottering in the potting shed and garden.
Today is library van day, we missed it in March being away on holiday.
This is my haul, most are things I've ordered online to collect and it looks as if nearly everything is crime and several by favourite authors. I'm going to have a good month of reading.
Back Soon

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Summer arrived yesterday and another year older today!

The first swallow was spotted on Wednesday morning, first by Col on his way back from our neighbours and a bit later by me sitting at my desk while making a start on the dreaded Self Employment Short Tax Return. Campsite income was so good last year that I may have to pay tax - Bother and Blow!

The sun was shining and we got the strawberries weeded
 took the fleece off the onions

 Everything started to grow after two days of warmth. The leaves and "candles" on the Horse Chestnut.
This shrub is flowering, I think it is one of the Virburnam family
 After a slow start the Rhubarb is really growing well, the bottomless dustbin is forcing one clump.
The leaves are appearing on the Red Hazel

And look what we have in the poly tunnel - only a few but it's a start, they are in growbags up off the ground but still the ants have moved in, hence the ant powder

Today I had a "bit of a birthday", the rest of my birthday will be on Saturday afternoon when we are having "a bit of a do!"
Col and our children have all clubbed together  to get me a new camera (which will arrive with the family on Saturday) but he also surprised me with a gift of  sealing wax and an S seal which I will be using on my letters - how posh is that! My friend Mary sent me a book with a 'cheery' title, and I had lots of beautiful cards from relatives and pen-friends.

Had I been born a couple of weeks earlier I would now be getting my pension but as the goalposts have been moved I shall have to wait until I'm 66 - At least prescriptions and an eye test are now free. As a famous blogger would say " Hey Ho!"

Just Editing in to say our son was on BBC Radio Suffolk for a few minutes this afternoon, talking about a walk he is leading as part of his archaeology  job at Eighth in the East. If anyone wants to listen to him on their computer with his telephone voice!  its on BBC Radio Suffolk Listen Again  Leslie Dolphin programme. He was on just after 4.30 which is heading towards the end of her programme.

Welcome to new followers - Homemaker Tales on Google and Sarah,Jenny and Lynda on Bloglovin

Back in a day or two

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

How other blog posts inspired me to write today

There was a sentence in yesterdays post that said " Later he went and fetched the baler that makes small bales, so we can turn the giant round bales of straw that no-one wants to buy into small ones that hopefully we can sell more easily."
 It only takes a second to read that but the actual job took us the whole morning. It went like this 6 times.
Take net covering off big bale,
unwrap big bale,  bit by bit
shake forkfuls into the baler,
 wait for bale to come out,
 shift bale into shed.

And then finally clear up all the loose straw and take baler back to the farm down the road.
Followed by - have a shower to get rid of all the dust and chaff that got into every crevice!
 We now have 80 small bales of barley straw in the shed and a sign up at the front gate " Barley Straw £1.50 a bale". Before I was able to help move the bales into the shed I made a batch of Gooseberry and Date Chutney. A lovely dark chutney

  The recipe is here. With some more pictures. I'm trying to use up all the odd bits of fruit still in the freezer before it's time to start picking again.

 I left a comment on Frugal Queens blog the other day where she was talking about stocking up and using food from store to menu plan. It made me think that a lot of our meal planning relies on what vegetables we have available from the garden and what's best to go with them. This is what I wrote

We are coming around to the most difficult time of the year for food from the garden, Parsnips and Brussels sprouts are finished. Stored potatoes finished a month ago. Just a few more onions then I shall have to buy until August. We have a purple sprouting broccoli and some leeks left and a few cauliflowers if only they would grow a bit.The asparagus is just peeping through. Still have peppers and broad beans in the freezer. Pulled the first of the forced rhubarb today - delicious. I also bake bread every week. We still have apples, pears,plums and a few odd bits of other fruit in the freezer, but now rhubarb is available it's time to use freezer fruit up. I do a rough meal plan each week but not for definite each day. I try and bulk buy staples while on offer enough to last until the next time on offer.I like to keep full cupboard.

Today it was a brilliant blog post at Happening upon Happiness  that caught my attention and it reminded me of something I wrote a while ago. I found it HERE. There has been a change since I wrote it as now Col is beginning to feel the same way. We might find our quiet place after all.
I was also reminded of another post earlier this year about living more simply inspired by a new book about the Amish You can see it HERE.
It's the lovely thing about blogging - it makes you think about the past and the future.

Just Editing to say thank you for all the comments yesterday, have now replied to them all

Back soon

Monday, 13 April 2015

Rural Bygones AKA Rusty old stuff! and other news

We popped over to the auction yard first thing on Saturday morning just to have a look at what they were selling in their special Rural and Domestic Bygones Sale. Col had already looked at the catalogue  and  there wasn't anything he wanted but I was curious to have a closer look at this -
"A late 1800s Willcox & Gibbs treadle operated sewing machine". It really looked that old and so very small. Got me thinking about how much smaller everything was in the past. Homes were 2 up and 2 down yet lived in by families with up to a dozen children. The first cars were very little, now we run around in big 4 by 4s. Shops were often in someones front room, now we are used to huge supermarkets, think how small the first TVs were and now? Why is bigger now better?

Anyway, lots of the items for sale was old farm stuff but someone was selling a collection of old spectacles and then there was German militaria and lots of horse brasses, old railway signs, chamber pots and all sorts. When we came home Col listened on line to the bidding just to see what prices things sold for. Why would someone pay £60 for a sign " Public Conveniences 100yds" and a very old wicker potato hopper basket that looked  like this below, only much more fragile - as if it would soon fall to pieces -went for £16.  Surely they would let the light in to the spuds. A new one is the same price!
The Potato Storage Basket hopper  

  I hope whoever paid £220 for this coracle knows how to paddle it, as far as I know coracles are not often used in Suffolk. We've seen them being used on Welsh rivers and visited the Coracle Centre in Cenarth falls in Carmarthenshire with the children a long time ago.

 On Saturday afternoon I was just thinking that I ought to put the new filter, which had arrived in the post, in the hoover and clean up everywhere when we had some visitors pop in for a cuppa, I knew I should have hoovered up earlier! Once they had gone Col went out to do the watering - we had rain before lunch but not even enough to measure in the rain gauge. The beetroot, parsnip and broad beans need watering to get them going and there has been so very little out of the sky for weeks. He is already moving water from the big tanks near the workshop to the small tanks near the poly-tunnels.

Sunday dawned sunny but cold. Col looked at emails and there was a yellow weather warning from the Met Office for high winds. High winds? it was quiet and still outside but on the weather website the winds were due to get really strong just after lunch.An early walk was the decision. I forgot the camera - Duh - but we went around a footpath that we hadn't walked since well before Col's heart problems, only 2 ½ miles but we were pleased. His 'new' walking boots were comfy ( bargain!), mine ( very expensive) are the best I've ever had and we are slowly building up strength again.
It did get windier after lunch and we had more visitors calling in for a while.

We had another whole 1mm of rain overnight but Monday was sunny and dry again. Col went and topped some grass at the second-home-across-the-field then did our hay meadow too, partly to give it a boost and also to flatten the molehills. Later he went and fetched the baler that makes small bales, so we can turn the giant round bales of straw that no-one wants to buy into small ones that hopefully we can sell more easily. My Monday jobs were bread making, seed sowing and plant potting on. BTW our bread has suddenly got a whole lot more interesting thanks to Approved Foods who had sacks of 16kg of Malted Wheat Flour for  £5.49 - Bargain. And a free delivery code- saving £5.99, probably because I hadn't ordered anything from them for several months. I've just looked and they still have it for sale.

Look at this chopping board full of pink lovelyness pulled today. First of the season forced rhubarb.

 Cooked up and then mixed with custard and a bit of cream makes a delicious rhubarb fool. Has to be the best way to celebrate something  fresh from the garden.

Did anyone else get a Thompson and Morgan garden catalogue in the post today. There was a leaflet included about a new tomato -  Gigantomo - " each tomato weighing upwards of 3lb!". It would take a while to eat one of those. I've borrowed the picture from the leaflet so you can see the size. I'm not really tempted to try them as they are selling for around £9.99 a plant. It says each plant produces up to 11 tomatoes but I'm thinking they would need quite a lot of feeding.

Tomato 'Gigantomo'

Solanum lycopersicum L.



 Welcome to Marlene a new follower in the Google pictures

Back soon 




Friday, 10 April 2015

Two years blogging and still growing

 Apricot blossom against a blue sky - it must be spring!

I forgot all about my 2nd blogging  anniversary. I started on Blogspot on April 4th 2013 after trying Wordpress for a few months and not being able to work out how to do stuff that people using Blogger were able to do. I struggled with some things at first, especially when pictures wouldn't download, but that turned out to be a connection problem rather than me being dumb. I didn't know back then that I would still be writing after 2 years. We didn't know that Col would have heart problems and stents done and a small heart attack too and that we would be thinking about moving. Funny how things can change in just 2 years. I changed the header photo a few months ago and more recently the name of the blog - although no one noticed!

One thing remains the same - our enjoyment in growing our own food and at last a bit of warmth has got all the seedlings in the conservatory putting on a growth spurt.

Since my last post Col has been out earning a bit of money over at our neighbours and for his Leiston customer and I've been bread baking, doing housework and we've both been  gardening.

 The first of the early potatoes are doing well and have been earthed up. The gooseberry bushes are now green, and there are a few leaves on the raspberries, Col had put the first of the Climbing french beans into the poly-tunnel. More potatoes have been planted and we've got to the end of the weeding of the long flower border, lots of the annuals from last year have seeded themselves but the whole garden is so very dry.
We are still getting plenty of salad leaves from the polytunnel and the first two or three asparagus spears are just peeping through if you look very hard. Brussels sprouts and parsnips have finished  and the beds cleared.Stored beetroot have finished, over wintered beetroot in the poly-tunnel are sparse, outside seedlings are just coming through. So this would be a hungry season without Purple Sprouting Brocolli, veg from the freezer and a supermarket up the road.
Several more vegetable beds have been prepared with compost from the bins and Col doing the rotovating with our extremely ancient machine (bought second -hand in 1981!) which this year sounds as if its on it's last legs . It's got very LOUD and now refuses to start without a squirt of Easy-Start - I suppose we will all be like that one day!

A few more spring garden pictures.  The sink pond, birdbath, elephants ears ( Begenia) and a conifer. Spot the two model frogs sitting on the stones. All the stones ( and the slate from Wales) have been brought back from various holidays around the country. We don't have any stones like these in Suffolk, just flints.

From the back door one path goes along the back of the house passing the conifer and sink pond and the other path heads to the poly-tunnels. The new small herb garden in the V bit with Col's rain gauge and sundial. That's Mabel on a walkabout. There is a honeysuckle arch at the end of both paths.

The two quinces are in the foreground, leaf buds just showing, with the path that visitors follow from the campsite to the front door to check in when they arrive on site. A fantastic year for primroses, these  have gradually spread by themselves over the last 23 years.

The gooseberry bushes in the foreground with the fruit cage behind, full of raspberry canes, redcurrant and black currant and a few more gooseberry bushes.

After the fog has cleared we've had sunny afternoons over the last two days and we actually sat outside for a while, I even changed from leggings to shorts for an hour ( not a pretty sight!). The forecast is for rain tomorrow - we certainly need it as there has only been 3mm of rain in the last two weeks.
Nothing else to report from this week except I read the Moon Cottage Cats book that I picked up from the boot sale. No car boots this weekend - shame.

Welcome to janzi a new follower in the Google pictures and Cathy a new follower on Bloglovin'.

Back in a day or two

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Three big cheers for the start of the car boot season

Our local car-boot sale sale season started on Easter Sunday. Last year I made a list of what to look out for and what NOT to buy. This year my list of what not to buy is much the same and here is my list of what I am looking out for ( love lists!)

Tee-shirts for either of us
Things that might be useful for Christmas presents
Books that look interesting - they must be cheap
A few trailing plants for the pots and planters on my shabby chic ladder
2 Cushion pads or cushions for less than £2.50 each
Card Paper Craft stuff ? I don't really need anything but I might be tempted!
A full length net door curtain
A necklace for the wedding

Sunday dawned fine, the wind had dropped, there was blue sky in  between the clouds, we got off to an early start, 10 minutes up the road and we were soon walking up and down the rows.

I'm sure much of the stuff there was the same as the regulars had at the end of last season but I had a few useful finds.
2 small things for Christmas pressies were 50p each, a fat cushion pad was 50p and the tee shirt was £1 - Love the colour.
Col had the best value find as he bought a pair of lightweight Regatta walking boots for £2. They are in excellent condition too. If they are comfortable for him it's a really good bargain and if not comfy then they can go with us when we do a car boot and will be sold for more than £2 I think.

The weather was a bit greyer on Bank Holiday Monday and the people selling were much the same as Sunday but I found some Christmas wrapping paper and a few books - 2 will be presents. I spent a grand total of £3.
I hope there will be a few different booters selling in a fortnights time.

A bit of gardening was done over the weekend, we made a start on weeding the long flower border and more seeds have been sown.  In the conservatory squash, pumpkins, more courgettes, more leeks and more Climbing French beans and outside parsnips, just a few carrots, more beetroot and a few broad beans. I'm trying some of the seeds that came from James Wong Homegrown Revolution Seed collection, that I got cheap ( or were they free?) from Suttons seeds late last year. I didn't buy the book that goes with the seeds but borrowed it from the library to find out more. Herb Anise or Anise Hyssop will go in the front flower border. Tomatillos or Mexican Tomatoes have been around in this country for years but I'm growing for the first time. Inca Berries is a new name for something which were called Cape Gooseberries in the past. After I had sown these Col said he had tried them at a friends several years ago and they were not very nice, so we shall see. I'm not growing anymore Cucamelons, people raved about them but they seemed very bitter with tough skins and they rampaged all over the polytunnel.

I think our first campsite visitors of the year all had a good weekend despite the grey and chilly weather. One couple have booked to come again for 2 weekends in May - handy. We had a phone call for a 2 week booking for August too.

Today, Tuesday and finally we have tee shirt weather,  but where were we? Stuck in blinkin' Ipswich for most of the morning, me in town and Col at the hospital. The blood test department have a take-a-ticket system, Col's ticket was 54, they were on number 4! He had a long wait, and he had already been in a seperate department  for an hour.  Anyway, eventually he picked me up again and we came home via Aldi and The Feed mill for chicken food.
My long wander round Ipswich took me into several charity shops but all I found was a necklace for the wedding. I had a look in Waterstones - haven't been in there for ages - and I was surprised at how few books they had, which seems odd for a bookshop! I browsed the magazines in WH Smiths but easily resisted all temptations, most are just full of adverts anyway. Treated myself to a coffee in BHS and looked at the clothes - nothing in my (charity shop) price range!
I really hope that we have  no need to go into town for a few months.

Thanks to everyone for all the comments on the last post and welcome to Judith, a new follower on Bloglovin'.

Back in a few days

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The end of March and the beginning of April

Goodness me, what an expensive month March turned out to be.
 We had a holiday which included several meals out, paid for the cattery bill, bought shoes and clothes for our eldest's wedding, the solar thermal thingy was serviced, electric bill arrived and we paid the campsite/business insurance all in one go instead of month by month over the next year. We managed all this without using a credit card and without dipping into the ISAs. It was done by saving in advance, using money put aside for clothes and  jiggling some money that was available for smallholding expenses and hadn't been used. In both  January and February I underspent on the housekeeping which also helped. One good thing is that our new car ( Hyundai Tucson) uses less than half the diesel of the old Jeep Cherokee.

If you've been reading a while you will know that after several years pet-less, we adopted 2 cats from Cats Protection in February 2014. Polly became friendly straight away but the other one, Mabel, was very shy and disappeared for 6 weeks. She re-appeared but wouldn't come near so  we started feeding her outside and eventually she got friendly enough for us to pick her up, although still she wouldn't come indoors. But a few weeks ago we got the cat flaps sorted out on the two front doors so Polly could go in and out and we now find Mabel coming in for the night and sometimes during the day too, one day she made herself comfy on the old settee in the conservatory. The cats avoid each other and sometimes hiss, which is strange considering when we first saw them they were curled up together in a basket in a Cats Protection pen. I hope they eventually become friends again. Cats are funny things.

So, what's been happening here apart from cat watching?

  I've done a bit of card making

And some baking for Easter treats
 Easter biscuits, a chocolate cake and hot cross-less buns. I'm afraid I can never be bothered with the faff of flour, water and a piping bag to put a cross on top. I've added  the Easter recipes onto the separate page.

A hat for the wedding, arrived via eBay, I look hilarious in a hat, but needs must!

Seedlings and small plants in the conservatory are coming along nicely.
  Tomatoes, Peppers, Parsley, Aubergines, Basil, Cucumbers, French climbing beans, Nasturtium. Tomatillos, Kale and Chard. Still to appear are courgettes.

 We have frogspawn in the old sink pond

The First campsite visitors of the season arrived on the 1st. I like the start of the holiday season and welcoming new people to the site, although by October and 7 months of interrupted mealtimes and toilet cleaning I know I will be glad to close the gates again! We had 3 caravans, 1 motor-home and a tent on site for the weekend which started with a really grey and misty Good Friday and an equally grey misty morning today, when I was the only person up and outside not long after 7am.

Then when it was just about too late to do anything useful, the sun came out and for an hour or so it felt a bit warmer. The forecast is for temperatures rising over the next week, hope they are right as I'm heartily fed up with the cold winds off the sea.

Did anyone else watch the Eurovision Song Contest thingy last night? It's celebrating being the same age as me and was brilliant to see so many winners from the past - mostly sounding just as awful as they did at the time. Graham Norton has grown a beard - I'm sure it makes him look like someone else but can't think who.

And last but not least welcome to Patricia and Susan who are new followers on Bloglovin'. Hope you enjoy my diary from a quiet life near the Suffolk coast.

Back in a few days