Tuesday 31 December 2013

Review of the Year - Looking back at 2013

So here we are on the last day of 2013 and like everyone else in blogland I've been looking back.

For us it has been a record year in so many ways.

The largest amount of gooseberries we've ever picked and sold
The best crop of apples we've ever had
The best crop of pears we've ever had
The most figs that have ripened
The first year we have had 3 poly tunnels
The best income we have ever had from the campsite
The best income we have ever had from selling vegetables and fruit


 The most times a member of the family has gone to hospital by ambulance!
Which resulted in the longest time I've ever spent here on my own.

Here are some of my favourite pictures from 2013
Good series of books recommended by a friend
My best ever hot cross(less) buns

My 58th Birthday

Poly tunnel  3

View of the garden taken from the top of a pile bricks on on a trailer

Early summer colour



First strawberries

Gooseberries ready to sell
Surprise nomination for friendliest welcome

First Raspberries

Flower Show entries

Lots of eggs and veg for people to buy

Best ever crop of pears

Delicious figs

Best ever crop of apples

Him Outside restored to full health and strength

Winter sunrise

Christmas afternoon at Aldeburgh

Thank you to everyone who gave advice when I started blogging in April
Thank you to everyone who has read and commented on the blog.
Thank you to everyone who wished us well when Him Outside was in hospital
Thank you to everyone who writes blogs that I enjoy reading

Tomorrow I will be doing my regular review of the month for December and then we will start to find out what 2014 will bring for us all.

Happy New Year

Back Tomorrow - 1st January 2014

Monday 30 December 2013

Planning the budget for 2014

Two Days to go, so time I got this post finished. We are ready...............

How do we know how much money we will need to live on next year?
How do we know what our income will be next year?

The answer to the first question is found by looking at how much was spent on everything this year and then adding a bit for inflation.

The answer to the second question is that we have no idea. We cannot rely on good weather bringing lots of people to the campsite nor can we rely on good crops from the garden. We will be buying new point-of-lay hens next spring so should have good egg sales through the summer, we have a bit of income from bonds using money that was left to me by my Dad but other than that it's in the lap of the Gods.

So it's a good thing that we were able to save some money into the ISAs during this summer.

A while back I did a blog about everything we need to save for so that we can live comfortably. Looking ahead to 2014 these are my rough estimates of what we will need.

1. Council Tax. Because  we have lived here for 21 years our Council Tax is based on the tax bands when they were first set in  1991. I believe tax bands are re-calculated when houses are sold. We are also in a very rural area, so our Council Tax is a lot less than that paid in towns. We pay by direct debit over 10 months.  I'm not expecting the cost to go up very much as County, District and Parish councils have pledged to keep costs down.

2. Water Bill. We have a meter for the Campsite and farm buildings. The house is not metered. We have no mains sewer here, so septic tank drainage. The water bill for the house is direct debit over 12 months and is also based on the 1991 Council tax band. We pay the metered bill twice a year, this varies - the more campers we get the higher the bill. But the more campers the bigger the income anyway.The usage for farm/garden is low as we have huge rainfall collection tanks ( 8000 litres total!) on the farm buildings  and move the water around to water tanks in the garden.

3. Electric Bill. This varies a lot, again depending on how many campers come to the site. We pay quarterly for both. Eon have just announced a 3% price rise in January and have taken away the prompt payment discount. We have checked comparison web sites but because of the variations it's difficult to work out. I wonder if being able to change companies is necessarily a good thing. Does it increase  costs for the companies? Don't they all put their prices up anyway? We may try direct debit again now that they have to pay it back  when you get into credit. At the moment we save up each month, By saving the money into our account means we get the little bit of interest on it.

4. TV Licence. I budget £15 a month, for 10 months. This allows for price increase.

Total needed for those 4 things is approx £290 per month ( less for 2 months with no council tax)

The Campsite and smallholding businesses

1. Public Liability and Business insurance. We have to send a copy of this to The Camping and Caravanning Club. Without it we would be unable to run the site. We also need it because of selling eggs etc.  This seems to go up by a few pounds every year. Direct Debit £51 a month for 12 months at the moment.

2. Campsite electric inspection and test. Every year we have to have an electric test on the hook-ups and a certificate to say it's been done. A copy of this goes to the Camping and Caravanning Club. Without this we wouldn't be able to operate the campsite. It's around £75 each year.

3. Chicken feed. Range Layers pellets direct from the Mill. £8.65 a sack at the moment. We go and collect it and fetch 12 or 14 bags at a time. With the number of hens we have this lasts a month. We also need to buy grit and oyster shell. Even though they are free range they need these as our soil is heavy clay.

4. Buying new point-of -lay  hens. To keep a steady egg supply for our customers, we replace the very old hens with new young hens each year. About 60 each year at £6.50 each.

5.Egg Boxes, Egg wash and cleaning cloths. We use plain grey boxes as they are the cheapest  and we buy them in big packs of 300 collecting 1500 once a year direct from a farm supplier. I use a sanitizing egg wash for cleaning muddy eggs and a clean cloth ( J cloth type) every day which then goes in the wash.

6. Diesel for the tractor. We are allowed to use Red diesel for the tractor BUT nowhere locally sells it. We could have 1000 Litres delivered! except a tank costs a fortune and that amount would last us for ever. So we get a can full whenever possible from Morrisons in Ipswich as they are the only garage that we know of that sells it.

7.Petrol for the mower and chainsaw. Neither uses a huge amount. We need both, one for cutting the campsite and the other for cutting our free heating wood.

8.Campsite requisites. That's Loo rolls, paper towels, cleaning stuff. I usually buy these out of the housekeeping except for the paper towels which I stock up on when Viking mail order office supplies have a sale.

9. Multi purpose and seed compost plus Seeds and plants for vegetables. I always check through several seed companies catalogues comparing prices. The total is usually around £140 each year. We sell probably 70 - 80% of what we grow so easily get our money back and earn a good income from June through to October.

10. Smallholding repairs and maintenance. There are always expenses when you own land and want to earn an income from it .Machinery repairs and replacements and maintenance and even small things like sticky labels for selling things at the gate, the list is endless.We also pay a rent for two hayfields but as we sell all the hay from these that covers the cost and makes an income for us.

Approx £440 a month needed  for the above

 The jeep

1. Diesel for the jeep. We try not to waste journeys and  do lots of  errands  when we are out. Luckily for most of our daily requirements we only need a 5 mile round trip. I cycle whenever I can. Our nearest petrol station is the local one in Leiston, who have now started giving Tesco Club Card points. They are often no more expensive than the supermarket filling stations and the nearest one of those is  over 20 miles away.

2. Jeep Insurance. This is the almost the cheapest bit of running our gas-guzzling 4WD that we couldn't do without on the smallholding. As we are over 50 we get it via Saga and they will match any quote we can find elsewhere.

3.Jeep MOT. Him Outside is able to do most of the servicing so checks the jeep out before taking it to the garage.

4. Jeep Tax = Too Much but unavoidable! £270 last year.

5.Bits for servicing, tires, oil  etc

Approx £200 a month in total

The things we need for everyday life

1.All  Food and drink ( including Christmas)
2. Clothes and shoes
3 Personal Hygiene (  Loo rolls,- Toothpaste,soap, shampoo etc etc)
4.Cleaning and Laundry
5.Pre-payment prescription cards, opticians and dentist.
6. Phone and computer.
7.Bottled gas for the hob  and coal to keep the Rayburn alight overnight          
8. Birthday and Christmas gifts for family and friends
9. House and contents insurance
10. Smaller Things for the house
11. Postage

Approx £550 per month for all above

We have money in savings for replacing household appliances, the expected expenses like pumping out the septic tank and the unexpected. These need to be added to regularly as there are always unexpected expenses!

So we will save whatever we can in the good months of summer

Then we want to have some money for the things that make life interesting
Christmas treats
Days out
Craft materials
Feeding the birds

Whatever we can spare from not spending so much in any of the above categories.

Goodness me, all that lot added together totals too much! Can we earn more than £1480 a month averaged out over the year?

Hopefully we can.

Our income comes from several sources.

The campsite between April and October.
Egg sales every day
Monthly income from investment bond
Sale of hay after haymaking and throughout year
Sale of fruit, vegetables and a few flowers mainly from June until November
Income from Him Outsides odd jobs. Varying from half a day to two days a week through most  of the year.
Income from His County Council job.Previously this was 2 days a month. Since December it is 2 or 3 days a week until Mid January. Possibly continuing until April.( There may be some work after April, but unlikely as Council funding is being cut again in the new tax year.)
Any smallholding items he can buy at farm sales to repair/clean up and re-sell for a profit via the Smallholders Society.
Occasional income - Election duty ( not sure if there are any elections in 2014?)
Car boot sale?

So that's our budget for 2014. If things go as planned we will be OK, if not we will use some of the savings

No mortgage, No Debt and savings - Makes for a simple, self sufficient and Happy New Year!

Sunday 29 December 2013

Lovely sunny Sunday at the end of the year

We should have been out for lunch today but our host was poorly so it's been put off for a while. But we had to go out anyway across to Mid Suffolk to return part of Father-in-laws wheelchair that had been left in our jeep on Christmas Day. Luckily he hadn't been anywhere to need it between then and now as he gets around the house OK with a couple of sticks. Of course as we were passing a place that has a small regular Sunday Boot Sale we stopped for a quick look.

Him Outside found 3 new hosepipe connection thingys for £1 and I bought a bundle of new Christmas  and Birthday cards for 40p.

 I've decided to have a huge clear out of my card making stuff in the spring, there is so much that I know I will never use. I'm far from being good at card making and I'm not often happy with my results, on the other hand I love fishing through boxes in charity shops and car boot sales to find cards for a few pence. So it seems silly to keep so many odds and ends just-in-case. I shall keep all my cross stitch threads, aida and charts and all my card blanks, peel off labels, 3D decoupage sheets and themed craft papers, but there are lots of odd toppers, kits and bits that need a new home. Maybe we will do a boot sale ourselves again next year after all.

Thank you for lots of interesting comments after my blog yesterday about our simple living plans for 2014 here on the Suffolk smallholding. It's a shame that there always seems to be someone who wants to make us feel guilty for choosing to live the way we do. I have to say it wasn't always a choice. Our income when we first married was the below average wage of a council road-man who worked overtime in winter on the gritting lorry and in summer on the tar and chippings lorry to make enough to pay the mortgage and  have a weeks camping holiday with our two small children.
When we decided to save for a smallholding we moved house 4 times, each time working long hours to do up, decorate, improve, repair so we could sell at a profit to go up the housing ladder. For a year we lived in a caravan ( with 2 under 5s) fixing a house that had been declared unfit for human habitation. Now we choose to live simply so that Him Outside doesn't have to do a job that had changed so much so that it was just driving miles and miles around Suffolk every week which he didn't enjoy. We still work - cleaning toilets on Bank Holidays wouldn't be everyone's idea of fun!

Apart from filling in the birthdays etc in my new kitchen diary and drawing lines in the back of an A4 paper pad ready to fill in all the expenditure in 2014, I've also prepared the garden growing plan for next year. It's just lots of oblongs for all the beds at the moment but Him Outside will look back at the old plans and work out whats going where. He will pencil them in as a reminder  and then write them in with the date when the beds are filled.
We try to leave a gap of a few years between growing the same family of veg in the same beds and use compost on some of the beds each year. Somewhere around the house we have these plans going right back to 1993! Although we have managed to squeeze in more beds than we had then.

Well, while I've been fiddling about on the computer  the sun has gone and evening is closing in. I see there is a new Miss Marple on TV tonight so that's what we will watch after the Countryfile Weather forecast  for the week. What happened to the dire warnings from the Daily Express for the longest, coldest winter since heavens knows when?  Today we had the first frost hard enough to freeze all the outdoor chicken drinkers and we are nearly at the end of the year.

Back Tomorrow - Keeeeeep Frugalling!

PS Welcome to 2 new followers recently, hope you enjoy my ramblings from Suffolk.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Simple Living - The "rules" we will live by in 2014

 MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL We don't want to be miserable so simple living must make us happy.

We will think before we buy things. We will use the internet if it's cheaper. We won't go shopping just for fun but on the other hand we will visit charity shops and car boot sales on our days out.

We will know the difference between wants and needs.

We will keep an open mind when looking at advertising and new ideas. We can look and read without buying.

I will avoid going anywhere that requires new clothes. Our clothes are often from charity shops, they last ages because we wear old clothes at home. We don't need to follow fashion.

We are self employed so any day can be a holiday. We don't need to spend a fortune on going abroad to find the sun as we can catch the sun anytime we have a sunny day.

We won't suddenly feel the need to spend money on hair cuts or things to make us beautiful ( too late for that!)

We will not start keeping up with any Jones or anyone else.

We will always know what money we have. We will save all that we can on the good days to use on the bad days. We will check bank statements, we will only use the  credit card when necessary and pay off every month. We will make our savings work for us and try not to dip into them unless we really have to.

We will grow and use as much of our own fruit and vegetables as we can, we will eat with the seasons and keep our food simple.  This means that a take away and Christmas food becomes a special treat.

We will have faith in ourselves in being able to manage  on what we can earn.

We will enjoy ourselves- LOTS

In other words exactly the same as 2013!

Friday 27 December 2013

Another Library Book photo

It was a windy cycle ride down to Friston this morning to get to the library van, but I was blown home again with this lovely bagful of books. 3 or 4 are new books by favourite fiction authors, there are a couple of new authors to try and some non-fiction too.
 Once again I've borrowed the book about The Building of the Green Valley to have another look through, after being reminded of it because if Monastery Farm being on TV. Then I found the information about  an older TV reality re-inactment - Surviving The Iron Age. I remember the programme but I'm not sure if I've seen the book before... it was published in 2001 ....so maybe several years ago.

The overnight storms have caused more damage here - another bit of fencing blown over.
  All due to using some rubbishy posts ( obviously we didn't know at the time that they were such poor quality!). So that's another expense and another job for Him Outside in the New Year.
He went to work for the County Council this morning and then got a phone call from one of his gardening customers to ask if he could go and do a temporary repair to some of her fences which were also blown down last night.

We are still eating our way through the Christmas day leftovers, all delicious except for the Aldi 3 bird roast which we thought had  very strange flavoured stuffing as well as some really tough meat. I certainly won't bother with one of those again. The Christmas cake only had a small slice eaten on Christmas day so that will be a treat with an apple and piece of cheese for many days to come.
This Christmas we were given a total of 6 various boxes of chocolates! Never had so many before, I think they will last us until mid summer.
Apart from milk we will not need to visit a food shop until well into January. Our own eating apples are still keeping well so I've managed to  avoid buying fruit apart from some clementines for Christmas.

Now  I'm going to fill in my new diary with all the birthdays to remember and dentist appointments etc.

Thanks to everyone for comments yesterday.

Back Tomorrow

Thursday 26 December 2013

Boxing Day already.

Christmas Day whizzed by, we ate, we opened presents and we went down to Aldeburgh - leaving all the washing up in the sinks - to have a walk along the chilly prom.
We wrapped Dad C up in his wheelchair and got some fresh air.
We ate a bit more and I tried to teach brother in law how to do Sudoku and how to read my blog and Him Outside tried to persuade him of the benefits of watching large tractors and machinery on You Tube. I don't think either of us made him want to rush out and get himself on-line!

The best news was hearing that our eldest daughter H had woke to find an engagement ring, as her bloke J had finally got around to proposing. They've been together years, so after the congratulations we said"about time too!"

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Oh what a night. Late December in 2013

There's windy weather and then there's VERY windy weather. I can't remember a night when it's been so windy for so many hours. I kept turning over to see if the clock was still going and then trying to work out how I would do a Christmas dinner for 6 with the Rayburn oven and the gas hob if the electric did go off. Thank goodness  it stayed on so I needn't have worried. Some parts of the country were not so lucky.

Our thoughts go to those who have lost family members in the storms just 1 days before Christmas. Loss of electric would have been a minor thing compared to that.

At day break we could see that our middle polytunnel had collapsed at the front, with the plastic tearing along the top and at the back.Everything else around the smallholding was OK. This is the first time in 22 years that we've lost a tunnel to storm damage.

Christmas Eve has chugged along with lots of list ticking and jobs done. Not too much left  to do really.
So tomorrow we will have
An Aldi 3 bird roast ( never had one before so hope it's OK) £9.99
Roast potatoes - Home grown - effectively free as we sold lots earlier in the year.
Roast Squash - Home grown -  "   "  "  "  "  "  "  "     "    "      "      "       "     "   "
Roast Parsnips - Home Grown - almost free
Brussels Sprouts -  Home grown - almost free
Swede  -  Home grown - almost free
Red Cabbage - Home grown - almost free
Carrots - Part of a value bag from Tesco approx 20p
Aunt Bessies Yorkshire puds 12 for £1 on offer at Tesco
Pigs in blankets in Honey mustard glaze - good sausages on offer at Co-op + value streaky bacon
                         from Tescos glazed with wholegrain mustard and honey.       
Bread Sauce - oddments of bread saved in the freezer over the last few weeks + home grown onion
                       Milk made from value powdered   + home grown  bay leaf +pepper+ bit of butter.
Cranberry Sauce - Value from Tesco, warmed in microwave with 2 teaspoons of port 50p + ?
Gravy - Chicken oxo cube plus thickening with cornflour - 10p + few pennies
Bottle of wine - A gift
Co-op pressed apple juice 75p

Desert - choice of ( or both!)
Christmas pudding - Home made - not sure how much it cost
Custard Made with Birds custard powder and milk from value powdered.
Single cream
Chocolate Meringue Gateaux - recipe is here  about £3. - 2 portions still in freezer - YUM

For anyone still hungry ( Brother in law!)
Cheese and biscuits  £ 1 savoury biscuit mix from Poundland + cheeses
A decent cup of coffee.
"After Eights" A look-a-like box from AF. 2 boxes for £1 - I think

Believe it or not some people will still want something at around 6.30 or 7pm 

So Christmas tea on the table for those who will want it ( Father in law, brother in law and Him Outside) will be the delicious ham, celery, tomatoes, bread rolls, chutneys, cheeses. Christmas cake, mince pies, scones. I shall be on the settee watching TV with a ham roll, scone, jam and clotted cream.

Back tomorrow

Happy Christmas to all out there in blogland


Monday 23 December 2013

Our Christmas food treats

With all the dire warnings for stormy weather I decided to head out early for the milk, fruit and cheese I needed to finish the Christmas shopping. So had everyone else in this part of Suffolk!
I got to Tesco car park just after 8.30 and it was filling fast. By the time I came home an hour later there were queues waiting to get into both Waitrose and Tesco car parks, and we are only a little town.
Him Outside went off early too, luckily he was working out in the countryside so didn't have to venture in to any towns, although he had been listening to local radio and said that Ipswich was jammed solid.
Now we are both home for a few days, no need to go anywhere until Friday - brilliant!

The joy of simple eating for 51 weeks  means that at Christmas it doesn't take a fortune to buy a few tasty treats that we don't have at other times of the year.

A few different cheeses including Red Leicester for the cheese scones I shall make tomorrow, some clotted cream for the fruit scones also on the job list, Pringles, now priced as a luxury food when a few years back they were much cheaper, tomatoes - something we never buy normally as we manage without them when we haven't got our own, chocolate biscuits are not usually on the shopping list and neither are lemons and tonic water which is my Christmas drink as I don't drink alcohol and am not keen on fruit juices or squashes either.
A good sized ham from a proper butcher will be cooked with some festive poultry. Celery, carrots and cream are in the fridge. Bacon and sausages are in the freezer. We've been given a bottle of wine already.  Everything else - potatoes,parsnips, sprouts,swedes,red cabbage, butternut squash, the bread sauce, the stuffing, the Christmas pudding, the chocolate Meringue Gateaux, the Christmas cake, mince pies and the scones and jam are all home made or home grown.

Back Tomorrow - Keep Frugalling!

Sunday 22 December 2013

A glimpse of a hot country + a trailer makes life easier.

First, before I forget, welcome to a new follower TrishWish, who has just started blogging.

Yesterday we went to visit Him Outside's sister to do a present exchange before Christmas. On our way we called into Ipswich to pick up Him Outsides new toy- a trailer to fit on the back of the ride on mower.
Between his diagnosis for angina and having the stents done he found pushing a wheelbarrow very hard work. It often needed a puff of the angina spray to get to the top of our field ( where the chickens live) which is only about 100 yards. Since the stents he is back to full health and strength except that pushing a loaded barrow still makes him feel out of breath. So he had been looking on ebay for a small trailer that can hook onto the mower. When he has been working at our neighbours he found that using her little trailer saved a lot of hard work. Persistence paid off and one came up on ebay in Ipswich which he got for £82 - about half the price of a new one - and in good condition too.

Here he is on the way up to the chickens with a dustbin and bag of wheat. Another good thing is that this combo is much lighter in weight than the jeep or tractor for running over our soggy field. ( More rain this week just gone than we've had since last April.)

I've just finished reading this library book - the latest in the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.
It's good to read about hot sunshine on a grey December day.

Now I have a dilemma. All library books have been read, the library van is due next Friday bringing me at least 8 books that I want to read and I have 2 books in my Christmas present box that I'm really looking forward to, so do I
a.) just dip into a favourite off my book shelf until Wednesday when I can legitimately look at the new books but won't have time to read them properly because of cooking dinner and having visitors?
b.) take a book out of my Christmas present box and start to read it before Christmas?
c.) read something off my book shelf that I've not read before so taking me until Friday when I can then start reading the library books and save my pressies until I've run out of reading in January?

Who knew that life was so complicated!!

We watched and enjoyed the Strictly Come Dancing Final last night and agreed that the best dancer really did win. There have been years when we were not so sure.

Thank you to everyone for comments yesterday, much appreciated.

Here is something  I've been meaning to do occasionally and keep forgetting:-
Home made/home produced/home grown food eaten today.
Bread, eggs, cake ,lettuce, salad leaves,radish, beetroot,apples,pears.

Back Tomorrow - Keep Frugalling!

Saturday 21 December 2013

Greenery for the winter solstice

Many thanks for interesting comments  by Gill at Frugal in Derbs, Angie, Dc at Frugal in Norfolk, Em on Dartmoor, Sara at A frugal Wife, Buttercup and Michelle H. after my number crunching blog yesterday.( Edited in - Whoops forgot AlisonB43 - sorry)

 My way of doing a winter arrangement is to just plonk a few bits in a jug. So from the garden I cut some variegated holly, a bit of bay and box, some cotoneaster  and a bit of conifer.

This planted basket was a present from my sister and we wanted to put it somewhere we could see it from the kitchen window. So Him Outside has wired it to a bracket and to the fencepost where it can catch the sun and be at eye level to be seen by us from indoors.

I will also be lighting some candles tonight to see us through the longest night of the year and to look forward to spring, just a bit of pagan country thing!

There is a saying " As the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens".  Proper winter weather will be on the way in January!

I've been looking for an interesting way to sign off the blog.
 Ilona says Toodle Pip, Lots of people do kisses xx, but I'm not really a kissing sort of person!, Frugal Queen signs off with Love Froogs and even more kisses, lots of people just end abruptly - like I  usually do.
Then I remembered that sometimes I say "Back Tomorrow"  and at the end of Strictly they say" Keep Dancing!"

So how about

Back Tomorrow - Keep frugalling!

Friday 20 December 2013

Playing with numbers - How little could we live on?

Although I love the Hovel books by Elizabeth West and the Good Life TV programmes, there is one major flaw in both their lifestyles- Lack of Income.

So out of curiosity while I was fiddling about working out next years budget, (blog will appear about this some time) I wondered what would be the minimum we could live on if we still lived here but didn't have the campsite and smallholding businesses. ( I like playing with numbers and obviously have too much time on my hands!)

We would have to pay the Council Tax, the Water bill  for the house, Dentist, Optician and prepayment prescription costs. We could manage with secondhand clothes but would need shoes and underwear. There would be some sort of electric bill even if we used as little as possible and did every bit of cooking in the wood fired Rayburn. We would still need to buy food and  seeds to grow our own vegetables. I don't think I would like to be without house insurance.  Living here we would need the computer and phone  as we are too far from the library or a phone box.  It would be very difficult to manage without a car too, although we would only need a small cheap one if we didn't have the smallholding to run. Could we do without TV? Probably but I wouldn't want to. There would still be expenses for bathroom and cleaning etc.
So I added all those up and came to about £800 a month.
That's with no extras. No gifts for other people.Nothing over the very, very basics. Worst of all NO MONEY FOR BOOKS!

So it's a good thing we have got the smallholding, the campsite, the chickens and a bit of savings.

Thursday 19 December 2013

There's a hole in our polytunnel + the parsnip experiment

This hole in a poly - tunnel door appeared overnight.

  " I'll take the door off and put a new bit of plastic on" said Him Outside. He unscrewed the door, carried it up to the workshop, stood it down where it promptly collapsed into 7 bits of rotten wood.
So the door space has a temporary cover of another piece of plastic and awaits repair until he can buy a bundle of battens from Jewsons. Lets hope we don't get any gales before its fixed.

Going against advice in all the gardening books an experiment of starting parsnips in pots and then planting them out was tried this year. They germinated well, looked wonderful in neat rows with good leaf growth but the dry summer means that under the ground they look like this.

They taste fine and as we are not selling them it doesn't really matter.

We watched the last of The Monastery Farm series last night ( although there is a Christmas special). Our Conclusion = satisfactory but only fractionally better than the Wartime one but  why oh why do they try and film a year on a farm over 6 months. It was obviously NOT autumn at the end of the programme. The Bullaces were NOT ripe. Shall I cross the book off my wish list? No, I'll just wait until it's only a couple of pounds or less.
I wonder if they can think of any other historical periods to do or perhaps it's just reached a natural conclusion. If you want to watch a REALLY good historical farm series I can highly recommend TALES FROM THE GREEN VALLEY. It was on TV back in 2004 or 5. I expect the DVD is still available.

Nothing Christmassy done today, we didn't even have any more cards in the post this morning.

Welcome to follower number 107 in the pictures ( I'm not sure who you are but welcome) and a few more people have clicked the bloglovin' button too. Hope you enjoy my ramblings from Suffolk.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Just a quiet Wednesday

Him Outside was away even earlier this morning as his manager asked him to call in at the bridge in Snape where all the tidal surge flooding was a couple of weeks ago.  See floods in Snape.
He needed to go at low tide which was 8 am, and cast his expert eye over the road bridge to make sure it was still looking OK.
As he is back working for the Council just before Christmas he was able to join in their Christmas Jolly- which was actually just a Christmas lunch in the staff canteen in Ipswich today! They know how to live it up!

I made a double batch of Naan breads for the freezer and searched all through my recipe folder for a red cabbage recipe that I know I've used before. The red cabbage is cooked in port which helps it keep its colour and I was sure it's possible to make it now and freeze for reheating on Christmas Day. I found the recipe eventually and cooked up a small cabbage and popped in the freezer. Just one red cabbage left now still hanging in a net in the shed.

When I came home from shopping yesterday morning I found a brace of pheasants hanging on the back door handle, which was a nice surprise. So another job today was to sort them out and see what they were like under the feathers. Sometimes they are so badly damaged that I don't fancy eating them. But these two were OK and have gone in the freezer to make us a couple of free meals.

I remembered today to put my usual sign out on the stand by the front gate to tell folks that eggs will be out for sale everyday as usual over Christmas. The problem with Christmas holiday is that everyone wants eggs before the day and I can't squeeze any extra eggs out of the chickens on demand! You might wonder who on earth would be wanting to buy eggs on Christmas day but surprisingly they usually sell well.
 I couldn't think of anything interesting for a Christmas photo today. It was a toss up between a picture of two dead pheasants, some cooked red cabbage or  the sign for our customers. Gee Whizz!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Into the unknown! - actually just shopping in Waitrose.

I was quite miffed several years ago when Somerfield in Saxmundham turned into Waitrose. I went in to look when they first opened but except for the odd time I've not been in since especially once  Tesco opened a couple of years back.
People kept telling me that they had more of their value range in stock now than in the past and then the other day Sue over at Our new Life in The Country was blogging about freebies at Waitrose so I thought it was time I went in for another look. I  signed myself up for a card on the way in and found that out of the ten things I needed today 4 things were the same price as Tesco, one was a 19p more ( tinned plum tomatoes) two were less because of the 10% card discount, two things they didn't have at all and I forgot to look and see if they had milk  at 3x4pints for £1 each. I'd parked on the Tesco car park so went back there for my milk anyway.
I might  use the card for free coffee another day but I'm not completely swayed to park on the other side of the road and do all my shopping there.

Nothing of interest to write about today. Him Outside  was working at our neighbours and after shopping I was fiddling about with various odd jobs.

Back tomorrow

Monday 16 December 2013

Mincepies with sweet pastry

Welcome to erbitrude, a new follower who has clicked the button over there on the right and also to Karen and AlisonB43 for comments yesterday.

As usual on a Monday morning I made a couple of loaves of bread and also managed to do 2 dozen mince pies without burning them this time.

I expect everyone has a recipe for mince pies but just in case you need one this is mine

Mincepies with Sweet shortcrust pastry
8oz plain flour
5oz butter
1oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
few teaspoons very cold water

Keeping everything as cold as possible
Rub butter into flour
Stir in sugar
Mix in the egg yolk and just enough cold water so that it all binds together.
Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for an hour.
Roll out half at a time as thin as possible
Cut out with a big cutter should make 12ish
Gather the trimmings and roll out and cut small circles or stars for the tops.
Ease the big circles gently into a bun tin, fill with mincemeat and cover with the small circles pressing down the edges gently
Cut 2 small slits, with the point of a sharp knife in the small circle to let steam escape.
Brush the tops with a little beaten egg and then sprinkle on a pinch of castor sugar. 
Bake at about 180 in fan oven for 10 minutes. Check and turn the tin around then another 5 to 8 minutes until golden brown

This was double the mix and I used my home made mincemeat. I "tested" one and it was delicious so they have gone in the freezer for Christmas day and several days of January desserts for Him Outside.

Sunday 15 December 2013

What a grey day but brightened by unexpected visitors

After a brief glimpse of sunshine this morning the day turned grey, windy and miserable.

Him Outside has been making a start on building a new stall to put out by the front gate for selling eggs etc. He's had the plywood for nearly a year so just needed the time. Our old stall has a serious list to the right back corner and is pretty rotten at the base too. The new one will be a bit taller with room for an extra shelf.

 Now that all the Christmas cards and presents are done, I've tidied my desk in the craft room and also had a sort out of the dining room cupboard. Other than that I've been looking at our 2014 budget. I will do a post on it ASAP. The way some things have gone up in 2013 it seems that we need to either find an extra £150 a month or drastically cut some of our current expenditure. I did a rough total of Christmas spending and was horrified to find that although I thought I'd spent less, I had actually spent about £20 more on gifts etc., and that's not counting home made gifts like chutneys! Although I have spent a lot less on food which is why I still have £100 left in my purse on the 15th December! * sounds of cheering*!

Him Outside had just gone through to the kitchen to wash up after lunch when he called back to say that he was putting the kettle on as my sister and brother in law had just pulled into the driveway. We had been planning to pop up the A140 to visit them next Saturday but they beat us to it.
We had a good natter but as she reads this blog she knows what we are up to anyway!
We did a pressie exchange and as always her presents are beautifully wrapped works of art while mine look as if they been chucked together by a blind man!

Beautifully wrapped Christmas work of art
Thank you L and J. Happy Christmas!

Saturday 14 December 2013

Which Christmas Tree?

We have a 10 Christmas trees around the smallholding, so which to dig up for Christmas?
1. Half eaten by deer

2. The one we had indoors last year,still struggling to recover and survive

3. The one we had inside in 2011.Two years on and looking a bit sad

4. Twenty years old - Rather Large!

5. 6. 7. Three more that were got at by Muntjac deer

8. 9. 10. The one at the front was also half eaten, the centre one is much too big  and the one on the right has got really tall but with very few branches except at the base where they are very wide.
Centre and right were possibles but maybe now too big to replant. So I would rather leave them growing here. If we do have one with roots, we have to put it in the conservatory which means we don't get to enjoy it as the  curtains between living room and conservatory are closed after dark. Buying a cut tree means needles everywhere and we don't want to spend a small fortune on something that is just for 2 weeks. A Christmas tree is my favourite decoration and I wouldn't want to be without one.

So................... while we were at B&Q earlier this week we splurged £20 on their cheapest artificial. I think it will probably see us out!

Friday 13 December 2013

Chocolate meringue Gateaux -A scrumptious desert for Christmas.

No red sky here this morning, just grey all around with heavy rain by 11am.

Him Outside was away early working for the County Council. I was doing boring housework. Floors washed or hoovered. Ceilings and skirtings dusted.Everywhere tidied.
Then some present wrapping- job finished.
Kindling chopping - enough for another week.
Freezer tidied and sorted.
By which time Him Outside was home again and it was lunch time.

One of the things I did yesterday was to make a delicious frozen desert as an alternative for Christmas. It's not very frugal, but for 8 - 10 people for a once-a-year treat it's not ever so expensive either.

Chocolate Meringue Gateaux
2 boxes of 8 meringue nests ( or equivalent homemade meringue )£1.60
2 value bars plain chocolate, broken into small bits 60p
Large pot double cream about £1.50

Melt the chocolate gently and leave to cool ( I do it on medium heat in the microwave a few seconds at a time.)
Break the meringue into small chunks
Whip the double cream until just forming peaks.
Mix everything together gently
Spoon into a lined, loose based cake tin, ( or individual ramekins) press down gently.

Melt a little white and plain chocolate for the top and sprinkle with any chocolate decorations. (The photo is taken before doing that). Then wrap and freeze for as long as you want.

 Remove from tin and stand at room temperature for about 10 - 15 minutes before serving.
Needless to say,It's extremely  rich and extremely delicious!

Thursday 12 December 2013

Shepherds warning

Red Sky this morning- shepherds warning

The shepherds needn't have worried as it's been fine and mostly sunny all day.

Him outside was working at our neighbours this morning- pulling weeds and reeds out of a pond. He came home at lunchtime slightly soggy! Good thing it's not too cold today. This afternoon he was using the tractor bucket to scrape all the mud out of the driveway onto the field and then using some of our large rubble heap to make a firmer entrance.

I went into Leiston to the butchers. We are so lucky to have two butchers shops in our little town. I'm not sure how they manage to keep going but they've both been there for years.
I got our Christmas ham which has been popped into the freezer then into the Co-op to use the last of the £5 off £40 vouchers that came with their calender. They had some yellow ticket chicken wings at £1.33 for a pack of 12- very handy. Then around to the fruit and veg shop for some winter vitamin C.
 I only buy oranges at this time of year when they have the lovely big navel ones in the shops. A special winter treat.

Thank you to everyone yesterday who said that the wreath looked good. It's a good job it wasn't a close up photo!

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Finishing the Christmas cakes and another picture for Christmas

Hello and welcome to a new follower - Sally, and many thanks to everyone for comments recently.

Yesterday morning we went to Ipswich. I'm pleased to say that  it wasn't too busy and we got around the charity shops and the other places that we needed to visit and then we headed out of town to B&Q.

Over the weekend while our son was here our shower packed up.We've only had it 2 years  but it's been a bit temperamental for a few months. The problem was the inbuilt thermostat which wasn't always letting enough  hot water through and then stopped completely. The REAL problem is our blinkin' hard water. We really ought to have a water softener. We've managed without one for 20 years and never had this problem before but now that showers have to have a thermostat built in ( 'elf and safety!) we may have frequent trouble. So no point in spending much money on a new one. I'm just so glad that I married a man who could fix almost all the things that go wrong in the house! New shower is fitted and working, it's nowhere near as nice as the old one, but it was "only" £80 instead of the £200 we forked out when we had the extension built and moved the bathroom. If only we had known then what we know now - and how many times have we said that!

Him outside was out early to work for the County Council this morning then this afternoon he was using the borrowed muck spreader and the borrowed rotervator to put some well rotted horse muck onto the big area on the field where we grow pumpkin, potatoes and squash.( It's a good thing that we can borrow all these bits of useful machinery as it would cost an arm and a leg to buy them all ourselves.)Then he came in to do all the computer stuff linked to this mornings inspection work.

In case you don't know what a muck spreader looks like!
I've had a busy day too. Started with the ironing. Then making a wreath for the door ( I found the foam base with decorations already  attached for 99p in a charity shop in Ipswich, so today I just wired on some conifer and holly bits to fill in the gaps) Followed by cooking up a vegetable curry for dinner and putting the marzipan and icing on the 3 Christmas cakes. 1 for us and 2 for gifts.

Several Christmas cards in the post this morning including a mystery one . We didn't recognise the Christian names on the card and can only assume it's from someone who comes to the campsite, mostly I only know people by their surnames as that's what gets written in the bookings diary.
So thank you to Andrew and Irene- whoever you are!

Back Tomorrow.

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Christmas on the telly

Our once a year purchase of the Radio Times happened today.
AND I got reduced price Christmas cards from ARC charity shop ready for 2014.

Monday 9 December 2013

Thoughts of Christmas Past.

Christmas Day in just over two weeks time and I really should be doing something useful like putting the marzipan on the cakes. At least the cards are all in the post and the majority of presents wrapped. I'm vaguely organised this year.

At some time I expect most people will have bought a magazine with one of those count down to Christmas charts in, you know what I mean:- 28 days to go = stock up on toilet rolls, 24 days to go = put the sprouts on! |That sort of thing.
I wonder if anyone actually follows them?
I can remember 2 years when I should have been more organised.
The first was 1981. I had a H. a toddler of 19 months and M. a 2 month old baby and hadn't done much planning at all for Christmas and then we had snow in mid December, quite a lot of snow in fact, so that instead of Him Outside being home at 4.30 each afternoon to look after things while I went shopping he was out working on the gritting lorry early and late. I think we managed on what we could get from the village shop that year.
 The second was maybe about 18 years ago. For some reason I had got rather behind and not many preparations had been done with only a couple of weeks left. Then me and the children all went down with an awful flu type colds and I spent a fortnight in a muddle headed fug trying to look after them and sort everything out including making the Christmas crackers.   Since then I've always tried to have things done by early December, just in case!

Christmas was great fun when we had 3 little ones looking forward to the arrival of Father Christmas. When they were a bit older I did after school and holiday child minding so often had 7 under 12s in the house on the days after term ended. Happy Days! Then there was the Cub Scout Christmas Games evening to plan and enjoy and the day itself meant Mum-in-Law, Dad-in-Law and Him Outsides brother round at our house for the day.

Now our children are grown and have plans of their own, which is how it should be, Mum-in-Law passed away on a November day more than 10 years ago and Christmases are quiet. I can no longer cope with a big crowd of people or  several days of family staying ( poor old woman!) so it's just a small celebration,  6 on the day and the other two children plus partners for a weekend get together  in January.

Sunday 8 December 2013

The joy of finding a new author

Many thanks to lots of people for comments yesterday. I seem to have got very lax at replying individually. So thank you to Twiggy at Twiggy Peasticks,Vicki at Anglesey Allsorts, Jan, Janice, Cro and Sadie.
As you know, I read a lot and I love to find a new author.
This lady is my latest find

Only two books so far, I shall keep a look out for more. These are modern crime about a newly ordained vicar who had previously been a police officer. Lots of details about her parishioners, Church affairs, family, ex work colleagues. I think they are well written.
The second is set during advent in the village so counts as my Christmas picture of the day!

We are having a lazy day as Him Outside was awake during the night with indigestion and I was awake with back ache. We feel like a couple of old crocks. Just need to rustle up dinner tonight for son and partner and youngest daughter and her other half.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Picture of Christmas

This morning we did a bit of wood cutting, he wields the chainsaw and I do the positioning of wood onto sawing horse and the wheelbarrowing the cut bits to the wood heap. At the moment we are using a lot of dead elms that he cleared from a friends farm last year and some leylandii from one of the trees cut down here a couple of years ago- using free wood for our heating is our biggest frugal money saver.
Late morning I hopped on my bike and cycled down to Friston to visit their mini Christmas Fair, its a really small village with an aging population and lots of second homes and  the Christmas Fair has got smaller each year since we moved here. I spent 50p on something that will go into the Christmas cupboard for next year!
A few more presents have been wrapped and things ticked off the list.
Here is another picture of Christmas given to me by M and R when they arrived yesterday. Hope I can keep it alive a bit longer than the last one I had. I'm not very good with indoor plants.


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