Wednesday 30 April 2014

Ants in my............. strawberry bed

At last the strawberry beds have been weeded, I've been wanting to get them done for the last two weeks. Every weed that came out of the new bed had an ants nest underneath, no wonder that we've lost several of the small plants. Ants may be small but they do a lot of damage.

I also got busy in the kitchen this morning  doing things with the last of this months carrots. Each month I buy a bag of value carrots from Tesco for 89p ( except when we have our own in the summer, but they don't do well here so we don't grow many). I take them out of their plastic bag, check them over and put them on a clean tea towel in the salad drawer with another tea towel on top. This will keep them dry which is the secret of keeping them without going mouldy. Sometimes at the end of the month  there are some left and today they became some vegetable soup and carrot cake.

Our son who has just moved from Buckinghamshire to Suffolk because his Partner has a new job in Bury St Edmunds is on an 8 month contract with an archaeology company based in north Essex. But by a strange coincidence he is supervising a archaeology survey on a plot of land which will be used for new housing down the road in Leiston. So we had one extra for dinner, luckily it was a vegetable curry so I was able to stretch it.

C's  irrigation work has come to a temporary halt as the pump in the borehole ground to a standstill  yet again. They are hoping to get a replacement although we may have rain tomorrow anyway. He was able to get a bit of work done at our neighbours instead.

Many thanks for comments yesterday

Back Tomorrow with my Review of the month

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Must get some work done ......... Tomorrow

Do you know that tomorrow is the last day of April, how did the month fly by so quickly?

We were out this morning to Framlingham to collect feed and deliver some pallets to a Suffolk Girl on her new allotment. I thought about popping into the Charity shops for an Ed Sheeran Hoody but decided not to bother, probably wouldn't suit me really!
We went into the Country Market to beg a couple of cultivated blackberry runners off a friend before he moves and will collect when he has framed a small tapestry for me - it's been sitting there for about 15 years waiting for me to decide what to do with it, but with our picture framing friend going off to Yorkshire soon I thought it's now or never.

This afternoon I walked past the onion beds and thought " must weed the onions". I walked past the strawberry beds and thought " still haven't weeded those strawberries". I opened the fridge and thought" must use the last of this months sad carrots and that half tin of tomatoes to make some soup".

So I really must not spend long blog reading and writing tomorrow and get some work done instead.

Back Tomorrow - Briefly!

Monday 28 April 2014

Catching up after a day out

Welcome to new followers on Google friends :- Morgan Spacky and Primroses Attic bringing the total there to 165 and Hannah and Mary who have clicked the Bloglovin' button.

Kev asked about the book Deep Country by Neil Ansell( pictured on Saturdays blog) I borrowed it from the library when it first came out and enjoyed it, but like Sue ( New Life in the Country) I wanted more information about the house and what he ate etc. I put it on my wish list to pick up secondhand when the paperback was available so I could read and enjoy again. I think I wanted it to be more like The Hovel books and of course it isn't.

Him Outsides' irrigation work is taking longer than it should. On Saturday night he went down the road at 6.30 and didn't get back until 9.30. The pressure on the system wouldn't hold up and he had to keep going back and forward on the quad bike between pump house and irrigator trying to find out what was wrong. As the pump is on one farm and the irrigator was a mile away it took a long time. In the end it was abandoned for the farmer to sort out yesterday, but he couldn't get it going either. So C was down there again after lunch today trying to track a possible leak in a pipe running underground for a mile. No sign of a leak so he started the system up again and off it went with no problem! 

Yesterday we had a day out visiting friends. In the afternoon we went to see their allotment where they  struggle with some VERY heavy clay soil. A lot of their soil is like concrete blocks and no one else in their village persevered with these new allotments so they have the place to themselves in a glorious location. They often take lunch and spend the day there. No traffic noise, just skylarks - beautiful.

Today between bread baking and hoovering, planting out the last two cucumber plants and potting up some squash plants, I've been swinging a pick axe, which is a daft thing for someone with a slightly dodgy back to do. I wanted to start getting rid of the concrete that was under our old patio slabs. We built this patio not long after we moved here, but it was never used for sitting out. Either too hot or too drafty, just not in the right place. So it will go and we already have our new sitting out area that we finished last year.
C brought the tractor round so I was able to tip all the lumps of concrete into the tractor bucket for him to take to the rubble heap. I've done enough to see where the new line of the path will go, but I guess it will be easier to do the whole lot now so will carry on tomorrow.
While standing up to catch my breath between shifting rubble I noticed the the Apricot trees are loaded with fruit - unfortunately most of it is way out of reach because we've never got round to pruning the trees and keeping them under control. IF we get a crop (possible frost and North winds predicted for the weekend) it will be only the second decent crop we've had in 7 years.  I couldn't take a photo - flat battery.

Back tomorrow - if my back doesn't seize up overnight.

Sunday 27 April 2014

A Day Out

We had a lovely day out visiting friends today. I took my camera to take a picture of their allotment, then when we went to see it I left the camera at their house! Duh!
I'll be back tomorrow to reply to yesterdays comments.

Saturday 26 April 2014

NOT a Library Book Photo

Before I forget I must say a proper welcome to a new follower in the Google pictures - ShrimptonandPerfect and on bloglovin' Nikki, Sonia, Janey and Carolyn.
Also thanks comments yesterday about "The Flow".

How did we get round to Saturday again already?

Yesterday was a grey misty, drizzly sort of day. Not enough rain to fill any water butts or to penetrate far into the soil. Today started out much the same perhaps a wee bit wetter. Just as I told the couple who arrived on the campsite yesterday " we are usually the driest part of country". It rains. Typical!

As it was too wet to work outside I played in my craft room instead. But before I could get started I had to clear my desk of things that get dumped on it on their way elsewhere. Then I shifted a couple of cupboards to see if it gave me more room. So by the time I actually got down to card making it was nearly lunch time.
It was slightly dryer after lunch so I biked down to the village hall to have a look at a Spring Bazaar that someone was having to raise funds for one of those charity things - Climbing Kilimanjaro I think. I'm afraid my donation to their cause was poor - only a £1 for a pack of six Christmas Crackers.
C was out much of the morning, yes you guessed, he was moving the irrigation stuff again. Then he used the tractor bucket and trailer for clearing out two of the chicken sheds.

With no Library books this month because the van was due on Good Friday, I've been reading some of my own books from my shelves and some of the ones I had for my birthday.

A picture is needed I think
I'm currently  reading  The Two Mrs Abbots by DE Stevenson which is a VERY old copy I found at a car boot sale it is in the pile  because Persephone Books   re-published it a while back. I'm a great fan of the company who republish old "lost" books and would love to buy lots from them, but they are a bit pricey, so I use their catalogues for ideas.Their books have wonderful endpapers that feature prints of material available at the time the original book was published, and a matching bookmark is always included if you buy a book from them.

Back tomorrow

Friday 25 April 2014

Having Faith in The Flow

In  my picture at the top of the blog are two books by Patrick Rivers.
When Patrick and Shirley Rivers  moved to an almost derelict house on steep overgrown land in the Wye valley, they were already nearly 60 years old and found some of the work really hard. Often just as they were on the verge of despair something or someone would turn up to help. Later, when he researched the other book, he spoke to many people who had also found that if they had faith in themselves and the way they were living simply, things often happened at just the right time. He called it The Flow.

That's how it's been for us. We've never sat back and waited for something to happen but when we've worked hard and trusted in ourselves to manage, everything usually turns out OK. All the house moves we did to work our way towards a smallholding always went well, we never lost out but we had to work hard to improve the properties.

When C had the heart problems last Autumn he wasn't able to do the 3 day-a-month council job but then the unexpected extra council work when he was well again in December and January filled a gap which would have meant dipping into savings.
When Council cuts in this new tax year brought his work with them to an end our income  fell but   our neighbours'  gardener  has now retired so C will fill that gap to do her grass cutting  for her, which means a regular job with no traveling.
With Easter being late this year our April income from the campsite has been a bit more than usual, which will help us through until we start to sell our produce again.
Last year the irrigation work didn't start until June but we had the Sizewell Outage men on the campsite early in the year before our opening time, which was an unexpected bonus that saw us through.

My part in this Flow thing is to manage the finances and make sure there is always enough for what we need. And also to do as many things as I can for ourselves to save us money.

I'm sure I've written about this before but I make no apologies for  repeating myself because if it works for us it might work for others too.

Thursday 24 April 2014

5, 6, Pick up Sticks and Yet Another List.

The weather forecasters told us we would have showers overnight and wake to rain this morning, but they were wrong again. The sun was shining merrily when I let the chickens out at 7 am and we had no rain at all.

C was off early down the road to Friston to sort out the irrigation system on the fields there. He had to move some of the pipes too so it was a 2 hour job today. He also had to go back and find all the valves that get hidden in the field edges during the winter , ready to go back again, turn things off, move the big reel thingy and connect everything up again just before dark. It's a good thing he only has to drive a mile down the road to do all this. And of course he will get paid which will include our diesel costs.( My description of the big watering system is a bit vague - I really have no idea how it all works These are the pictures I took last year which don't do anything to explain it !)

After coffee this morning we got the front fence sorted, after 4 months with a broken fence all the boards are fixed back, so we are nice and tidy again.

 We always have plenty of pallets that I can chop for kindling so I don't really need to pick up sticks and fir cones from the garden but it's nice to do it now and again as it makes me feel just a weeny bit as if we really are " living the simple life!"

I didn't really spend all day yesterday writing lists as I also got the big chest freezers sorted ( and all the usual house and egg jobs too of course). With so much of our stored fruit now eaten I wanted to squash everything back into one freezer. It does make it annoying when getting stuff in and out but running one freezer instead of two for the summer saves several pounds I think. We have also got the usual fridge/ freezer indoors for keeping things used regularly and small packs that get lost in a chest freezer. Our chest freezer shed is several steps up the garden and when it's raining it feels further away!

Frugal Queen was blogging about using frozen food as it is often cheaper and sometimes better quality than fresh. I do agree with her about peas and fish but not the green beans she had served up. They lose all their colour when frozen and if you've grown your own in summer and cooked them quickly so they are green  and full of flavour then there is no way you could eat the sludge coloured frozen ones!
So as I don't have green beans in my freezer, what do we have?
Last time I did a freezer list (in January) it was just the meat but this is everything that is squashed in.

2 packs of Sainsburys value Salmon Trim
1 pack of 2 value salmon steaks
1 pack of 12 fish fingers
2 thirds of a pack of fish pie mix
2 loaves of Aldi Multigrain sliced bread
1 loaf of extremely cheap white sliced  bread for making breadcrumbs
1 loaf of home made bread
1 loaf of yellow ticket gluten free bread ( for a friends visit)
1 pack of 4 "        "      Burger baps
2 packs of 700g minced beef ( divided before freezing into thirds)
2 packs of stewing steak
2 Home made beef and beer pies ( feed 4 and feed 2)
4 Home made meat pasties
8 Home made cheese,leek and potato pasties
2 Packs of 2 bacon chops ( Sainsburys value  bacon scraps sorted before freezing)
4 x half pound packs of bacon ("            "              "         "                      "          "   )
2 Packs of 4 sausages ( Co-op yellow ticket - divided before freezing)
1 Pack of 8 pork chipolatas ( "       "      "           "            "        "        )
Half a pack of sausage meat - Divided before freezing
3 Packs of 4 chicken wings
3 Packs of 3 chicken thighs
1 very small chicken ( all chickens look small now, because in the past, when we could get them easily for finishing, we always raised them to about 7lb or 8lb)
Lots of bags of home grown peeled and sliced cooking apples
Several various small bags of home grown fruit including 2 bags cherries, some redcurrants, raspberries and a bag of strawberries that I didn't know were there !
Rather too many small bags of gooseberries.
A few small bags of home grown broad beans
Ditto of sliced red peppers
4 boxes  of home made cakes
3 Home made pastry cases
A tub of  value vanilla ice cream.

In the indoor freezer are things like frozen peas, home made Naan bread, Ice cream that's in use, boxes of home made pizza topping and tomato sauce for pasta, the very last small bag of home grown sweetcorn, a bag with a few lemon slices ( left since Christmas?) and some Basil frozen in ice cubes that I keep forgetting to use.

It's good to have a sort out and write a list now and again because now I know I've got enough fruit to make a batch of Tutti Frutti Jam and I need to make Tomato and Herb bread rolls next week.
We also have enough of a variety of meat so that I don't need to buy anything unless I see it reduced .
As you can tell we have no intention of starving!

Back Tomorrow
PS Thanks to blogging friends for comments yesterday

Wednesday 23 April 2014

The spuds are planted

With a bit of help from our friend we have 6 rows of potatoes on the field.  3 rows are second early spuds, mainly Nicola and these will be dug bit by bit as we need them and for selling. The other 3 rows are different sorts of maincrop, some bought  and some saved from the sack of spuds we bought when what we grew last year ran out in January ( if you can follow that long sentence - well done!).

 We just have to take the potatoes from the hopper, put them into little cups as they go round and then each one is tipped out into the row and covered by the ridger behind.

Planting them is easy - getting them up is harder, and does my back no good at all which is why we don't grow as many as we did when we were 15 years younger and had three children at home.

So that's another job crossed off the Short Term this week/next week Job List.
That list has things like
  1. Weeding the onions,
  2.  Cutting the awkward bits of grass with small mower,
  3.  Arrange collection of the oldest chickens
  4.  See if we can get a cutting of a cultivated blackberry from our friend before he moves
  5. Weed strawberry beds
  6. Check gooseberries for sawfly every other day( month earlier than last year)
  7. Dig and pot up the blackcurrant bush seedling that I spotted
  8. Dig up all the raspberry runners that are in the wrong place 
  9. Water everything if we don't get rain

C has been busy shifting the irrigation system down the road, after the 3 times yesterday it was 2 moves today. Each move takes about an hour. Apart from that and driving the tractor for the spud planting, he has also got the rails back on the fence posts ( the one blown down in December) and cut some grass over at our neighbours.
Finishing the fence is the first thing on the Big Jobs List. This is the list that has had things added on and crossed off for 22 years! But the list does actually look as if it is coming to an end.
"Only"  15  things to do
  1.  Finish fence repairs by putting all the boards back on
  2.  Alter the slab path that goes between back door and polytunnels
  3.  Bring some soil round to fill in the bit that was concrete and will now be herb garden
  4.  Finish breaking up and shifting the concrete and rubble that was under the old patio
  5.  Dig out the roots from the old overgrown herb garden
  6. Clear the old weed suppressant and shingle, level and sow grass seed.
  7.  Take the turf off the place where the new shed is going and move it to the old patio space
  8.  Lay a concrete base for new shed
  9.  Build new potting/garden shed
  10. Move everything from old shed to new
  11.  Take down old tatty potting/garden shed
  12.  Break up and remove concrete from under old shed
  13.  Bring some soil round from the field to fill up the space
  14.  Sow grass seed on it.
  15.  Build a verandah along the back of the house.( I've always wanted a verandah!)

So what have I been doing today?
Well, it's obvious..............., I've been making lists!!

Back tomorrow

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Going out and coming home again, and repeat......and repeat?

Anyone keeping a watch out for us today would have wondered what the heck was going on. C had a early dentist appointment in one direction but also needed to move the irrigation equipment down the road in Friston at about the same time, and to buy some screws from the builders merchants in the other direction and I needed to go to the bank and they don't open until 9.30.
This resulted in him going out at 7.30, moving the irrigator back to the farm ( half the job) coming home and getting changed to go to the dentist (and I went too to go to Tesco), coming home and getting changed to finish the other part of the irrigator move, coming home for a coffee and  then going to Leiston for the box of screws  (and I went too and popped in the bank). What a good job we are only two and a half miles from everything!
I think I'm staying at home for the rest of the week.

In between times I also made a couple of loaves of bread and a quiche.

I gave in to temptation in Mr Ts shop and bought a small tray of French Marigolds and a small slow growing conifer. It's actually quite a treat to have somewhere locally to buy plants. Before the supermarkets  there was only a small local nursery - very expensive, or a few plants at the fruit and veg. shop in Leiston. With the arrival of Tesco selling plants out in their foyer, the fruit and veg shop have increased what they sell, another local farm shop have started selling plants and now Waitrose have  plants outside too. So with them and the car boot sales we at last have a bit of choice.
The French marigolds are for the poly-tunnels to encourage hover-flies which eat aphids and the conifer is intriguing as apart from being bright lime green it has a citrus fragrance. I think it will go in a pot by the back door.
Goldcrest Cupressus Wilma, a lime green conifer reaching 2m over 10 years with a citrus fragrance.
I know, I should have grown my own marigolds and am now marked for life as a hopeless failure at self-sufficiency! but I can't think of everything.
Even worse - I bought some small new potatoes. We've run out, with a gap of a few weeks until the ones in the polytunnel are ready. Although we have got our own asparagus for dinner. Mmmmm!

Thanks to everyone for comments yesterday.
Back tomorrow

Monday 21 April 2014

Ticked off the list

The temperature today felt about 10 degrees warmer than yesterday as the nasty East wind had gone. We were up and about early and got to the boot sale by 7.30, but even then it was very busy. Loads of car boots there and we went up and down and round and round. C found nothing but I got two things from my 'looking for' list. A nice big mirror in an oldish pine frame for only £2.

  The Hosta I wanted ( green leaves with white edges) was £1.75. A couple of fly swats for 10p each and two new navy blue pillowcases for £1 were the other things I bought. We were home by 9am and after a coffee and doing the jobs we hadn't done before we went - like washing up- it was straight on with gardening.

So much to do! I always start to panic at this time of year, I don't know why because we always end up with something to eat and to sell.
There were Purple sprouting broccoli, calabrese and white cabbage plants to go out.  Then I had  small trays of nasturtiums, sweet peas and snapdragons that needed planting and some parsley plants. French climbing beans were sown in pots and squash plants potted up from modules into pots.
I think the purple sprouting is a bit too early so I've sown some more plus red cabbage, cauliflower, winter cabbage and more calabrese. That leaves sweetcorn to do in a couple of weeks time.
A friend sent a packet of perennial verbena seeds in with my birthday card so those have also been sown.

 It is nice when people appreciate our eggs and the campsite. I found a note through the door yesterday from someone called Suzanne ( not sure who this is) to say she always bought our eggs when passing and they were better than any others. Then this morning I was cleaning the campsite loos when a caravan was just about to leave and the man said we had a really good site, one of the best small sites they've stayed at. It makes all the loo cleaning worthwhile!

C has been sorting out the big IBC  thousand litre water containers that we fill and take up the field for the chickens. One had got a faulty tap so has been swapped over. We have them on a couple of old trailer chassis, such an easy way of moving water round the holding.
We are really short of water this year already, despite catching several thousand litres during the rains earlier, the dry weather over the last few weeks has meant quite a lot of watering has been done. In fact C got a phone call from our farmer friend  W to say they are starting to irrigate the wheat and C will be needed to move the irrigation equipment during the day when W is at work elsewhere.

I have another two followers on Google friends and one is another Suffolk blogger with a brand new blog. So welcome to Musings From a Mid Suffolk Meadow. ( I can't find out who the other new follower is, but welcome whoever you are). Mentioning Mid Suffolk reminds me of a news item on BBC Look East yesterday. The reporter was in the village of Wyverstone which is next door to the village of Bacton where C lived and went to school, and where  we lived  for  several years and where I was Cub Scout Leader for many years. He was reporting on a police 'incident' involving assault and some firearms being found in a cottage, where a 49 year old man had been arrested. " Goodness me" we said "wonder if that would be anyone we knew".  Although as C is 57 it wouldn't have been anyone he was at school with. Then I got a shock when we heard it was someone who was a cub in the pack just at the time I started helping. It seems odd that I thought I was really grown up when I became a leader and yet the cubs were only 10 years younger than me.

Back Tomorrow

Sunday 20 April 2014

Changed plans for Easter Sunday

Today the plan was to pop to the car boot sale, come home, do a few jobs in the potting shed and then drive down to Essex to visit friends for an Easter lunch.

I cancelled the visit on Friday as we both had colds and thought it wasn't fair to spread them around. We abandoned the car boot idea for the same reason plus the weather was grey, with a very cold East wind and threatening rain.
I didn't bother to stand out in the shed potting up plants and sowing seeds because it was so cold  and the forecast is better for tomorrow.
Instead I did the Tax Forms. OH SUCH FUN!
We both do self-employed short forms as we earn less than £79,000! - A lot less! And we can keep them simple because all we have to put down is what comes in, what goes out and any other income from investment interest and paid work other than self-employment. It's not a difficult form to fill in as long as you've kept receipts, records of income and worked it out month by month through the year. Which I do.
So they are ready to post and neither of us will pay income tax this year as our profits were under the threshold.
Meanwhile C was working in the poly-tunnels out of the wind

Then we lit the living room fire and settled down for a quiet afternoon. I had fun spending my birthday gift voucher on Amazon. C watched the highlights of the Grand Prix.

There is another boot sale tomorrow so hopefully it will be less cold and when we get back I shall get busy potting up the squash plants, sorting out the small brassica plants and planting the nasturtiums, sweet peas and snap dragon plants into tubs and the garden. Should keep me busy.

Come back tomorrow and see if the day went as planned.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Growing towards Self Sufficiency in the Veg and Fruit garden

Several folk out there in blogland are interested in growing their own fruit and vegetables, which is something we've been doing on a gradually larger scale since 1979.

Several years ago we held a training day here on this subject for the Suffolk Smallholders Society and I printed out some handouts with ideas. Luckily I found I still had this on a memory stick, so a bit of copying over, some deleting and up dating and here we have it. You are welcome to copy any of this if you think it would be useful.( Transferring some of it has left strange spaces that are not on my editing page - no idea why)

 Firstly a Few Ideas and Tips based on our experiences

  •   Only grow what you like
  •  Trial and error will show what does well in your garden
  • Start small, with a little of each. (For instance it took 6 house moves and a tractor before we could even think about growing all our main-crop potatoes)
  • Some things are much easier to grow than others are and you might find some veg.  are just not worth the effort. For example carrots are hopeless here, we grow only a few. They are very cheap and good quality when bought so our time and land is best put to other uses. We also sometimes have problems growing some brassicas from seed so regularly buy starter plants by post as well as growing from seed. We no longer grow peas as we would need several beds to grow enough. Frozen peas are often better quality than you can grow yourself. At one time we grew lots of beans for drying but neither of us can tolerate them any more.
  •  Find ways to protect from pests, this will save a lot of frustration! For example rabbit netting, fleece, insect netting. Organic sprays and slug pellets.
  •  Find a good book on vegetable gardening. Borrow lots from the library and see which you think is best for you.
  • Ring and order lots of different seed catalogues. These are usually out in October. The information in them can be very useful
  • We have found that a greenhouse is handy, two ( and now three because we sell so many tomatoes) polytunnels are better than one, self-watering systems are good but not in our hard water area and an electric propagator is really useful. BUT it was 18 years before we had all of these and we were successfully growing lots of vegetable without them.
  •  Growing in beds makes planning and all work easier. We have grown in the traditional way but find beds much better for us.
  •  Most soft fruit crops are easy to grow. If you buy from a reputable company they will send you growing instructions with the plants.

Growing for self-sufficiency means eating with the seasons so in a “perfect year” this would be our vegetable menu. ( In brackets are other things that could be available)

January - Onions and potatoes from store, leeks, parsnips, swedes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbages from the ground. Broad beans and sweetcorn from the freezer. Winter lettuce from the poly tunnel.

(You could also be harvesting celeriac, celery, kale, turnips, chicory and eating dried beans)

February – As above

March – Onions and potatoes from store, leeks, chard, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbages from the ground plus lettuces from the polytunnel. Broad beans from the freezer.

(You could also be harvesting celeriac, chicory, kale, spinach)

April – Onions and potatoes from store, leeks and the last of the winter greens from the ground plus first of the over wintered cauliflower. The first asparagus. Chard and spinach. Lettuces, beetroot, spring onions and radishes from the polytunnel. Broad beans from the freezer. 

(You could also be harvesting celeriac, chicory,)

May – May is the real hungry gap month so only over wintered cauliflower, the last few leeks, asparagus, chard and spinach from the garden plus potatoes and onions from store, lettuces and radishes and spring onions from the polytunnel.

(You could be harvesting  spring cabbage, chicory.)

June - First half of the month as above. Then towards the end of June all the following start to be ready: - Broad beans, courgettes, cucumbers, carrots, peas and beetroot. The over wintered onions and the first of the early potatoes replace the old stored crops.

(You could also be harvesting chicory, kohlrabi)

July – All vegetables above plus runner beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers.

(You could also be harvesting globe artichokes, summer cabbage, chicory, kohlrabi, turnips.)

August – As June and July above plus sweetcorn, aubergines, chilli peppers

(You could also be harvesting globe artichokes, summer cabbage, chicory, kohlrabi)

September – Marrows, tomatoes, calabrese, chard, cucumbers, lettuces, beetroot, carrots, aubergines, peppers, runnerbeans, pumpkins, squash, maincrop potatoes and onions.

(You could also be harvesting globe artichokes, celeriac, celery, chicory, kohlrabi, late peas, turnips)

October – Potatoes and onions from store, last of the runner beans, peppers, lettuce, autumn cauliflower, chard, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, marrow, carrots, beetroot and pumpkin.

(You could also be harvesting early Brussels sprouts and cabbage, celeriac, celery, chicory, fennel, kohlrabi, turnip)

November  - Potatoes, pumpkins, onions and squash from store, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks and cabbages.
(You could also be harvesting Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, swedes, turnips)

December – Potatoes onions and squash from store, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, leeks and parsnips and swedes from the ground. Broad beans and sweetcorn from the feezer. Dried beans from store.
(You could also be harvesting Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, swedes, turnips)

 A Year round fruit supply?

This is more difficult to achieve. Here is our list in a perfect year.

January – Cooking apples from store.( fruit from freezer)

February- as above

March - Rhubarb – forced by covering (  plus any fruit  left in freezer)

April  - as above ( plus any fruit left in freezer)

May  - Rhubarb ( plus any fruit left in freezer)

June – Strawberries, gooseberries and early raspberries

July – Gooseberries, redcurrants, late strawberries and raspberries( sometimes cherries)

August – Blackcurrants, redcurrants, plums, wild blackberries and early apples.(sometimes apricots)

September – Wild blackberries. Autumn raspberries, apples, figs, pears  and late plums

October – Apples and quince

November – Apples from store

December –Apples from store

The variety of fruit available could be  extended  by growing some late or perpetual strawberries or growing early strawberries in the polytunnel.

Apples are the most easily stored fruit. Choose ripe fruit with no damage, wrap each individually in newspaper and layer into a large cardboard box that has been lined bottom and sides with hessian sacks. Cover with another sack and then something that will stop the mice climbing in.

Store in a dry but airy shed.

I make several apple pies to freeze and also freeze bags of gooseberries, raspberries and any other spare fruit.

Many of the seed companies have fruit trees etc. Also there are specialist fruit nurseries

Including Ken Muir 01255 830181  


 Growing your own herbs

Pots of fresh herbs are now available in supermarkets but it is so easy and much cheaper and definitely more satisfying to grow your own.
Basil and parsley are grown fresh each year from seed. Most others can be grown from seed but if you only need 1 plant it is probably better to buy a plant of each of those that you want to start with. There are several specialist herb growers including  Jekka’s Herb Farm 01454 418878. If you want something much cheaper then go to a car boot sale or a farmers market.

My first four suggestions are Basil and Parsley, Mint and a Bay Tree, none of which are grown in the herb garden.

Basil.  Grown for its wonderful flavour, to dry to use in meat sauces and fresh in pesto sauces and in salads, quiches etc. A tender annual, the seeds need heat to germinate, so sow in seed compost in a propagator in mid March. Prick out in clumps into pots and keep frost-free. They can then be potted on into larger pots and kept on the kitchen, conservatory or porch windowsills. They can be susceptible to green fly when kept indoors so I prefer to plant out into the polytunnel beds in-between the tomato plants. There are many varieties and colours to try but I have found the ordinary green Sweet Basil (Genovese) to be most useful although Purple Ruffles is very decorative.

Parsley. Mainly grown to use in potato salads, omelettes, and quiches. Sow anytime during the spring, in compost that has been warmed by hot water. Keep in a very warm place in a plastic bag until the seeds germinate. Prick out in clumps into pots. I always then transplant parsley into several different places around the garden, into pots by the back door, and into the polytunnel border. In this way I have some to use right through until the next years young crop is ready. Parsley is very hardy and will even stand a covering of snow.

Spearmint or garden mint. For home-made mint sauce, which is much nicer than shop bought. Mint is very well known for spreading everywhere out of control and books often suggest it is planted into a buried bucket to confine the roots. (Which in my opinion either kills it or it escapes anyway). I prefer to plant it somewhere where it can spread without being a nuisance,

Bay.  Essential for flavouring meat dishes and bread sauce also for bringing into the house at Christmas to scent the rooms. A Bay tree can grow to 26 feet tall and 12 feet across so either keep it trimmed in a pot or plant somewhere out of the way. The leaves are very easy to dry.

My other choices are all grown in a special herb garden area.

Chives A mild perennial member of the onion family. It is very hardy and easy to propagate. Just dig up and replant in groups of 6 – 10 bulbs. Only the green tops are used and they can be snipped into soft cheese or omelettes and salads. Although the flowers are decorative, they are best removed to stop the green stalks going tough. There are also garlic chives which have flat leaves compared to normal chives whose leaves are hollow tubes.

Rosemary. Essential with lamb, just push sprigs into the skin when roasting.  Rosemary tea is also good as an antiseptic mouthwash and gargle (don’t use when pregnant). Rosemary is an evergreen perennial with a height and spread of 3 feet. It is best replaced after 5 or 6 years as the plants can get very straggly. If cutting back, do so only after all frosts have past. Rosemary is hardy if grown in a sheltered spot but can be damaged by prolonged spells of very wet and freezing weather.

Thyme There are many species coming from various parts of the world. Common Thyme and Lemon Thyme are my favourites. Thyme is a low growing evergreen hardy perennial. Propagate by layering. It prefers a warm dry situation in poor, well-drained soil. Cut back after flowering to prevent it getting woody and straggling. Pick fresh all year round or dry it and take the tiny leaves off the stalks to use in stuffing for chicken or tomatoes.

Fennel A hardy perennial growing up to 7 feet tall. It dies back into the ground in winter and although hardy it needs replacing after three or four years. The feathery leaves are good snipped into salads or used with fish. The seeds are also useful for medicinal purposes and 1 teaspoonful can be used to make a tea to aid digestion or used to soak a pad as a compress on the eyelid for sore eyes. It usually germinates well from seed and often seeds itself over a large area.

Sage Again there are many species, with different colours and scents. Common sage is a hardy evergreen perennial growing to 2 feet tall with green leaves and purple sage is similar but with purple leaves. Very useful used in stuffing. It can be dried but soon loses its flavour and turns musty. Sage is easy to grow from softwood cuttings taken in the spring. It should be trimmed back after flowering in the summer, but don’t cut back in the autumn as this could kill it. Sage tea made from the leaves is good for sore throats but must not be used for more than one or two days.

Oregano.This is sometimes also known as wild marjoram. I also like the golden leafed variety. All these are low growing hardy perennials with purple flowers. Propagate by cuttings, as it is difficult from seed. They need a sunny site in well-drained soil. Pick to use fresh in salads and meat dishes. Also very useful dried.

Friday 18 April 2014

Good Friday

Welcome to some new followers on Bloglovin and our eldest who has clicked the follower button, Hi H!
Yesterday C took his nasty cold over to the other side of Suffolk to help our son and his partner move into their new home, I hope he hasn't passed it on to them.
Before he went he managed to get the tomatoes and peppers out into the poly tunnels- saving my back,  which is still being a nuisance. I made some hot cross-less buns, a fruit cake and a few other bits and bobs.
Today C went to work for one of his customers that he should have done on Wednesday and I potted up some courgette and pumpkin plants and sowed a few more seeds.
We've had mainly fine weather here today though with a chilly wind and now have our full compliment of weekend visitors on the campsite.

Not a lot of news today - hope everyone out there in Blogland has a good Easter break.
Back Tomorrow

Thursday 17 April 2014

A playdough recipe

I promised to look up my playdough recipe for Kev at An English Homestead who is about to become a stay at home dad.
This recipe works well every time is just right for small hands to play with and even my after school child minded kids- aged 8 and 10 still had a good play given half a chance.


2 Cups Flour
1 Cup Salt
2 Tablespoons Cooking Oil
2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
2 Cups Water
 A Few Drops of Food Colouring

Mix everything together in a big saucepan, then cook over a low - medium heat - STIR ALL THE TIME.
Remove from the heat when mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, it takes a while.
Knead well when its cool enough to handle and store in an airtight container.
It keeps well.

Find some cutters - often in charity shops, some plastic plates, a small rolling pin  and you will have happy small children.

Thanks for the Happy Birthday wishes yesterday. Also Thank you to 'someone'  ( I think I know who you are) who has sent me a envelope full of card making bits. That's so kind and I will have great fun playing with them.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

April 16th

More poly-tunnel pictures.

Despite suddenly going down with a grotty cold yesterday afternoon ( the first one either of us has had for several years) Him Outside was determined to get the door and window finished on the poly tunnel. So Ta Da!

Covered in mesh on the outside of the frame, inner plastic rolled up for warm days
Here it is with the plastic, which is fixed to a batten at the bottom to weigh it down, rolled down for cold nights. I should have waited for C to trim off the excess plastic before taking the picture!

Nice wide door
 Now all we have to do is get it planted up with tomatoes and peppers.

I had a good collection of cards for my 59th. Lots of books and an Amazon voucher ( for more books!) from the children. I decided that framing the painting was my birthday pressie from C although he also got me a cross stitch mag. We are not big on birthday celebrations here so it was just a normal work day.
 For Christmas as a bit of a joke I  made my brother-in-law a birthday book and noted in it all his nieces, nephews and other family birthdays  and included a whole bundle of cards. He is a single bloke in his fifties and has always been hopeless at birthday cards. It didn't work! Still no card!
Thankfully I have some lovely penfriends so lots of pretty cards and penfriend letters.
 One other item of news, Mabel the missing cat is still around. C spotted her disappearing into our neighbours bit of woodland. He called her and she looked but was soon off at a fast trot. Maybe she was never an inside cat at all. There are plenty of mice in our hay shed and probably more in the stables at our neighbours and far too many small rabbits, so I'm sure she is OK for now. We will put some food out for her  in the hay shed later in the year when the weather turns colder and see what happens.
That's me done for today.
Back tomorrow

Tuesday 15 April 2014

P Day

P Day = Putting Plastic on Poly-tunnel.

The plastic and frame of our middle tunnel were damaged in the gales on December 24th.
The plastic was taken off straight away so the frame wouldn't get more damaged.
 Then the trench all around the bottom where the old plastic was held down, was dug out. C repaired the frame and new plastic was ordered from a poly-tunnel supply company and arrived safely. We put the hot spot tape on the metal frame yesterday. This will be the second time this plastic has been replaced on a secondhand frame first erected in 1995.
 We were just waiting for the right day - a bit of sun, no wind and both of us at home for several hours.
When you get proper poly-tunnel plastic it is folded and rolled to make it easier to find the middle and to unfold both sides. Here it's over the frame and roughly held down with clods of the dug out soil.
Then starting at one corner put more soil in the trench and stamp it down. After taking this photo I then went round to the back to pull it tight as he back filled all the trench down one side.
One side done.We then left it for a while to get warm in the heat of the sun. The heat helps the plastic expand so we can pull it tighter.

The other side with spare plastic being cut off. We had to buy slightly wider than we needed. Which is better than not having enough!
After side two trench was filled and stamped in we pulled the back tight and held that down in the trench in the same way. Later the oblong will be a window covered in mesh, with plastic inside that can be rolled up and down.

C at the front with both sides and back finished. The door frame is there and he will make a door to fit which will be covered in plastic and hinged on one side.
Considering the frame was secondhand and not particularly even to start with, we've done quite well to get it nice and tight. Ideally it should have been done in warmer temperatures but we needed it finished to get the tomatoes in ASAP.

C said that if we had the proper frame with the proper fixings what we would do after putting the plastic on would be to adjust the hoops up from the inside to get everything tighter. 

After shoveling in dirt  and bending at a funny angle for several minutes while pulling the plastic tight my back seized up! Time to sit down for lunch.

Thanks for chicken and egg comments yesterday to Out My Window, Pam, Paid in Chickens, Kev, Stephanie, Gill, Cro, and Sue also Dawn who has a blog called Doing it for ourselves. I was fascinated by Dawns blog as they are REALLY self sufficient. I thought we were pretty good but what we do pales into insignificance compared to all the interesting things on Dawns Blog. I hope she will continue to write regularly after her house move too.

Back Tomorrow

Monday 14 April 2014


This morning turned into one of those times when I want to move away to somewhere quiet and peaceful again.
 As usual for a Monday I was baking bread - 2 loaves and some rolls. This always makes a morning when it's difficult to get anything done outside and I wanted to weed the asparagus bed, but every time I tried to get out either the phone rang or someone came to the front door wanting change for egg buying.

Talking about eggs, we had some good luck with getting new chickens. We buy our hens at point-of-lay, that's about  18 to 20 weeks old, from a farmer who has them available four times a year in March, April, July and October. Our plan was to have 60 in March but it clashed with the time C was away at our daughters and the grass in the chicken run hadn't really got going so we decided to wait until his April batch. Then last week we had an email from him to say that he still had some of the March batch left, they were already laying, he needed to get them shifted and did we want them for £6 each? So that's how we come to have 60 chickens without having to feed them for a month and wait for them to start laying. C picked them up Saturday, they laid 32 eggs yesterday and they produced around 40 teeny eggs today.
Clipping the long feathers on one wing stops them being able to fly over a fence. This doesn't cause any harm to the hen.
  My special blackboard sign has gone out the front " LOOK - Small Eggs Going Cheap!"
Our oldest group of chickens, whose eggs are often thin shelled, wrinkled and not good quality will be sold on to someone we know. We will move their shed, give it a good pressure washing  and the new hens will go out onto the field as soon they've eaten their way through the grass  in the chicken run in the garden.

We are hoping for sunshine and less wind tomorrow so we can get the plastic on the poly tunnel.

Thanks to everyone for comments yesterday.
Back tomorrow

Sunday 13 April 2014

What a weird coincidence

On the 4th of this month I did a post with a list of the things I was looking for at car boot sales this season. I've been carrying round a picture of some wine glasses that I wanted to add to 4 I had already.
Lo and behold there at the car boot sale today, a box of 4 just like I found at a boot sale about 3 years ago. I snapped them up for £2 and the piece of card I've had in my purse can go in the bin.
If writing a list on my blog makes things appear I need this to work for everything else, so here's my new list.

A few new tea towels  as long as they are less than 50p
Card making bits, although they have to be cheap and I must be really choosy as I have shelves full already.
Things that could be Christmas presents.
A Hosta that has green leaves with yellow edges.
New cheap ( less than £2) T shirts.
An old ( but decent) rug with a traditional pattern in beige and reds  for in front of the wood burner
A large old fashioned square shaped mirror
Books( of course)

There are two boot sales next weekend..........I'll let you know if this list-on-blog magic works again.

Back tomorrow

Saturday 12 April 2014

How we survived this week without a salary.

A regular monthly income, that's what most people have. Maybe every week or fortnight, 4 weekly or once a month, the majority of people have something that goes directly into a bank account. Even people on a pension or benefits - as long as nothing goes wrong with the system - have a regular income.
We lost our '24th of every month' income when C gave up working for the County Council in March 2012. Now our income arrives in bits.

This week has been a very good week
Sunday:  Eggs £18          C pay for grass cutting  and odd jobs £55
Monday: Eggs £14          Selling Sheep keeping books and equipment £30
Tuesday: Eggs £13          Interest on investment bond £80
Wednesday: Eggs £13    Rhubarb £3  Campsite £98
Thursday: Eggs £16        Herb £1    C pay for Rotovating a small paddock £20
Friday: Eggs £11              Herb £1     Selling hay £125. Campsite £36 + £20
Saturday: Eggs £12

A grand total of £566 ! Goodness me, if every week was like this we would be millionaires in no time!

There is a problem.............This weeks outgoings  =  60 New Point of lay hens £360. Chicken Feed £125. New Energizer for chickens electric fence £60. Shopping £20.  A total of  £565.
So that's OK - There's £1  to spare!

C went to the Bygones ( Rusty Junk) Auction but the pig troughs went for silly prices, so he brought our money home again. He has a special message to Cro - a fellow old tractor enthusiast. " The Howard gem rotovator that was on yesterdays photo sold for £220"

The little Gypsy caravan sold for £550! That's quite a lot to pay for a very small play house.

Back Tomorrow
PS Welcome to Kate a new follower on Google Friends

Friday 11 April 2014

Gallivanting around Suffolk on an April afternoon.

Thanks to Janice who still has 3" of ice over her rhubarb and Jennifer who has temperatures of over 80 F for comments yesterday, I love the way blogging opens little windows to other parts of the world. Cro in France would like a tractor with rotovator - must be a man thing! Thank  you also to Paid in Chickens and Kath, who are not so far away.

This morning when the sun shone it was warm, when it disappeared behind a cloud it was blinkin' cold. I was shifting a few hyacinth bulbs from the small back garden ( which is going to go back to grass) round to the front border.Also potting up a some more self sown herb seedlings. C.was sorting out the poly tunnel frame and getting the hot-spot tape on the metalwork. We also put the netting over the top of the fruit cage - that's a fun job! it gets caught on every single thing and we spend ages unhooking it.

This afternoon we did a  circular tour of a  small part of Suffolk. We needed to go to the mill for chicken feed  and as usual  we managed to combine that with a couple of other errands. C dropped me off in Framlingham so I could pick up some leaflets for the campsite tourist information shelf, I also returned a couple of library books and popped into the bank. After collecting the feed he picked me up and we went to our local Auction House at Campsea Ashe. This has recently been taken over by a different company who have livened things up ( and tidied it up - it was a mess before) by having more sales. Today was the viewing for their first Rural Antiques and Bygones Sale.
Oh my, what a load of rusty old junk - well that's what it looked like to me! Though I'm sure it will all be sold.
 Outside amongst the larger bits of vintage farm machinery was this dinky little child's gypsy  caravan. It's been newly made and has a little bench and table inside. I bet someone will pay a fortune for it.

There was nothing I wanted, even the few items of kitchenalia were rubbish. C might go back tomorrow and see how much the pig troughs go for. If he can get some cheap enough he'll buy them to sell through our Suffolk Smallholders Newsletter.  (Although Saturday Sales are notoriously more expensive than the old fashioned weekday ones).

After the saleyard we came back via Snape to call in at the Concert Hall and shopping complex to pick up more leaflets for the campsite. We didn't bother to look round the craft  and other shops or the big Antiques Emporium. Their prices are aimed at the holiday makers and second home owners, not for us poor country folk!

That's me done for today

Back Tomorrow


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