Monday, 30 June 2014

Checking finances

The first half of the year has gone so it's a good time to look back and check that all is well on the financial front.

I keep good records of all money in and out each month. When you are self employed it's necessary to know for things relating to the business but my records include what more or less every penny of the housekeeping etc has been spent on.I round up or down to keep things simple.
I can look back for several years and see how spending has varied.

When C stopped working full time for the County Council in March 2012 we had to increase chicken numbers and the amount of things we sell, as well as him doing odd jobs for people, to replace lost income. If we did nothing our income would be nothing! except for a bit of interest from investments made with money left to me by my step dad in 2009 which  covers some of our direct debits. We have also cut spending since 2012 without noticeably changing our lifestyle except for going  without holidays.

Looking back at the first 6 months of this year I can see that total income is down by £1,500 on the first 6 months of last year. C only did a few days work for the council this year before they ran out of money. 
Luckily spending is down by about £3,300 overall in comparison with the first 6 months of last year. The new mens toilets on the campsite didn't cost as much as doing the shower and ladies toilets last spring and there has also been less spending on smallholding machinery etc.
 Food spending is slightly down on the first half of last year.
 One thing that's gone down a lot is spending on diesel etc for the jeep and last year we had some repairs done. With  C now working only at our neighbours or other places locally and we are  trying harder to combine several errands in one trip out, I can now save less per month for the jeep part of OUR BUDGET.
 Spending on the chickens is up as we have 40 more than this time in 2013 but of course there is now more income from them.
 I have cut my personal spending by a good amount, perhaps feeling more settled and better control of the spells of depression  has helped with this.
Electric is up - prices increased in January.
Spending on the garden is up on last year.
Spending is much the same as last year for postage,clothes/shoes,health,gifts,household,
Spending on things in the bathroom is down by £40 over last year - very odd!
We have saved a little money most months so that total savings have increased by over £2,000 since the end of last year.

Overall things seem to be OK ( something will breakdown now I've said that!)

One interesting thing I discovered when looking at old diaries for Saturdays post was that I'm spending the same on food as I was 5 years ago. Now I know that food prices have increased in this period by between 12% and 15% ( I thought even more than that) which means in effect I have cut spending on food by that amount.

On a similar financial subject, do you look at your bank statement? We are old fashioned and don't use internet banking so  we have a paper statement in the post  each month.
 I check it when it arrives to make sure everything is the same as what I think it should be and there are no odd deductions. ( The chance of finding an odd addition? - none!)

I've heard that some people go on paying for things by direct debit - phone contracts or insurances for instance - that they no longer need. Imagine that - so much money that they don't notice £20 or £30 disappearing every month.

So onward into the second half of 2014. We shall keep spending as low as possible and try to increase savings in case we have any unexpected expenses.

I shall be back tomorrow with my review of the month .
PS Welcome to new followers on Bloglovin' and to Alison and Pennywise who have appeared in the little pictures on the right. Thank you for clicking the button and I hope you enjoy reading about the Simple Suffolk Life.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

New shed - Finished........or is it?

Whoopee do! I've moved everything into the new shed. It didn't take long to fill the extra space now available, and there's room to turn round without tripping over something. Quite a lot of rubbish was discovered in the old shed and has been chucked out and a few things have gone back to where they belong. My horse shoe and hag stones have been hung up to protect us from witches etc!

Almost Empty

Almost Full. The crate isn't for booze! but has a carpet tile wired on the underneath and makes a good seat for gooseberry picking and gardening.
  Yesterday when we had a downpour we realised that we've hit a problem with this new shed as the door faces southwest which is where the weather is most likely to come from. It would be OK if the door is always shut, but that is so unlikely here, it's more likely to be left hooked open. I wondered if it would be a good idea to extend the roof out a bit over the door and C said there was enough roofing and wood left to do it and we would only need to buy two tall posts.
 So there is a bit more work to do before we can do the kerbs and  paving outside the door. We already have everything we need for that job as C got a big job lot of paving stones, kerb stones and blocks from a local farm sale 2 years ago.

This morning was fine so we went off to the car boot sale and I came home with a few treasures.
Several metres of red cotton material with geese and flowers,  this was £4 and I will use some to make a couple of covers for my food mixer. ( We have lots of red in the kitchen but my present food mixer cover is blue and green- made from a tea towel). There will be a good amount left so I may do a giveaway sometime!
2 packs of Blue Cross Charity Christmas cards were 50p each,  an UGG hat was 50p and the carpet beater was £2. The watercolour painting looks like Walberswick - a seaside village just up the coast, that was £1.50 and the beautiful book " For the love of an orchard" was £1. A fantastic bargain as it's original price in 2010 was £25. I also bought something that will make a small present for someone at Christmas, but that's not in the photo for obvious reasons.

I just managed to get back from going round the field for egg collecting after lunch before a really heavy downpour started and went on and on. So I'm going to settle down with Athletics on TV, plan tomorrows blog post( Half Yearly Financial report) and then a bit of reading.
C said he has been waiting for rain so he can't work outside to give him time to clear up the workshop, but it looks as if he's changed his mind! Polly seems quite happy with this too.
Thanks for comments over the last few days
Back Tomorrow

Saturday, 28 June 2014

This day last year (and the year before and the year before that!)

If you have a diary or a blog do you ever look back to see what you were doing on the same day last year..............or is it just me?

We were wondering when C had his first stay in hospital last year because of the heart problems so I looked back and there it was ....27th/28th June. He had a BP monitor which went off the scale so after getting some advice, an ambulance took him up for tests. He was back the next day, but little did we know that he would be back in hospital later for a 2 week stay waiting to go off to the heart hospital.

So as I had the old diaries out I thought I would see what happened on the 28th June going back.
( It's one way to fill a blog post on a damp Saturday afternoon!)

Thursday 28th June 2012 . The weather was fine and humid with some showers later. C was gardening here, I picked strawberries and got to the end of the gooseberry picking. I was also watching tennis and doing some cross stitch.

Tuesday 28th June 2011. C ( who was still employed full time) was doing computer work at home. There were thunder storms early. We were starting to clear things out of part of the house ready for our builders to knock through into the new kitchen extension. I went for some advice from physio for my back ( still doing the exercises and they really do work).

Monday 28th June 2010. I picked the first 12lb gooseberries and put out for sale and biked to Leiston for some black DMC cross stitch thread ( I must have run out in the middle of stitching.) C was out at work.

Sunday 28th June 2009. Cloudy and humid. I weeded the patio and C was moving fences to give the goats more grass.

Saturday 28th June 2008. A fine day. After picking gooseberries I watched tennis. C was out most of then day turning hay on the 3 fields and then cutting some wood so it could be moved out of the way.

Thursday 28th June 2007. I did housework after biking to the post office.Picking gooseberries to put out for sale. C was out at work and moving some fences in the evening.

Wednesday June 28th 2006. A lovely sunny day. I cut the grass and picked gooseberries. C picked up chicken feed on his way home from work and the turned some hay. later he went to collect the baler.

Tuesday June 28th 2005. The first lot of board and lodgings money from our  youngest (who had just left school and started work). I made some jars of gooseberry and date chutney and did some weeding. C was out at work doing bridge inspections by boat, so he ate out.

Monday 28th June 2004. I picked gooseberries  for sale and went shopping in Saxmundham. C was out at work.

Saturday 28th June 2003. Shopping. Willow butter 29p so I bought 10 ( 29p!!! for a pack of butter - it's now £1)

And that's as far back as I can go. Before then diaries were just for noting down school events and dentist appointments!

So as you can see, nothing much changes here. This has been interesting for me to do but  probably very boring for you to read, so I'll be back tomorrow with  New Shed news and hopefully car boot sale bargains.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Tennis and tomatoes

Usually Wimbledon tennis is on at the same time as gooseberry picking or haymaking but with the first of those almost finished and the second waiting for more settled weather I seem to have more time to watch than I've had for years. Which is a treat that I'm finding  difficult to get used to. I keep thinking I ought to be outside doing something. Although knitting dishcloths is useful I suppose.

We had some showers overnight  and some heavier thundery downpours this evening but most of the day has been cloudy which was ideal weather for getting into the poly tunnel for weeding (me) and tying up tomatoes (him). Later another good lot of raspberries were picked and we even have enough tomatoes to put a couple of punnets of small plum shape ones out for sale.  I had a look on the supermarket comparison site to see how much toms were selling for this year. Did you know that Mr Ts supermarket has 15 different ways to buy fresh tomatoes!  Although I bet if I went into our local shop there would only be three or four, which is probably enough I guess.

C decided to put some floor paint on the concrete shed floor rather than PVC so I wasn't able to move in today after all. Tomorrow hopefully. 

I was looking through a folder of Suffolk Smallholders Society pages that I wrote for the newsletter for several years and I came across this poem that I wrote in  1995 as an entry for a competition. It was just a few years after we moved here. The poem won the competition which was sponsored by a local Building Society. I think I won £40 which was handy for us as new smallholders.

Recipe for a Successful Smallholding

Take a 1 x 5acre smallholding
Untidy and overgrown.
The buildings sad and sorry
The weeds and grass un-mown.
Add a 1 x 5 people family
1 small, 2 medium, 2 big,
3 cats, 3 goats, 5 sheep,
Some chickens and a pig.
Mix then all together,
Add sunshine, snow and rain.
Many hours of backache,
Some sweat and tears and pain.
You'll need some extra money,
Some patience, love and trust.
A pinch of caring and
a sense of humour is a must.
Allow to rise early in summer,
But not so soon when it's cold.
You'll need to add new skills,
Some friends, new ideas - be bold!
Allow three years to settle,
Take time to stand and stare,
Enjoy yourself each moment.
Then you've made it, You are There!

Bloglovin' has finally let me see who the new followers are so welcome to Rosemary, Julia, Kate and Liz, hope you enjoy reading about our quiet life here.

Back Tomorrow - perhaps something exciting will happen!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Over packaged

The postman brought a parcel this morning, it was nearly shoe box size, what was inside?

Three tubes of lip balm! Slightly over packaged I think. This Yaoh hemp oil lip balm is the only one I can use without my lips stinging like crazy. I've tried all sorts including natural ones made with bees wax but they always end up being chucked out as they've irritated too much. Because of spending so much time outside I use lip balm summer and winter. Thank goodness for the internet because the shop I used to get them from closed down a few years ago.

I thought I had better do something useful while watching the fascinating game of tennis between Rafael Nadal and Rosol this afternoon so I got another dish cloth finished.

And What else has been happening here today?
C has got the shed finished ( apart from being short of guttering and shelf brackets), I'm just waiting for the coat of PVA that he has put on the floor to dry so I can move everything in.

Two tents arrived on the campsite - very unusual for us to have more than the odd tent now and again, building the shower has made all the difference.

Out for sale today just 5 bags of potatoes, 15 boxes of eggs and 2 punnets of raspberries.
Home produced eaten today - Raspberries, potatoes, salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, cauliflower, calabrese and broad beans.

Welcome to a new follower on Google, I can't seem to see who you are but welcome anyway and there are 167 on Bloglovin which I think is also one more but Bloglovin seems unwilling to let me in to see the followers list.

Thank you to everyone for comments yesterday and yes the flowers will turn into Aubergines as everyone knew. We have 10 plants in the polytunnel this year and they are looking very good. We will eat some  but sell several too.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Frogs Legs

There are still dozens of tadpoles in our little sink pond and for weeks they didn't seem to be changing but at last I spotted legs.  What a dreadful photo! but you can just see legs, back and front.

Today 1lb of red gooseberries and 2lb of green have been picked, topped and tailed and put in the freezer. There are still several on the bushes but they are all small. We need some more rain like the good downpour we had yesterday afternoon. It went several inches into the soil and filled one of the big 1000 lt tanks on the back of the workshop.
 A good lot of raspberries were picked too and a couple of punnets plus 1 punnet of Tayberries went out on the stall.

Things are still quiet here, so not much to post about , C is doing the shed, there are 5 caravans/motorhomes on the campsite and I'm watching tennis and thinking that I really ought to be cleaning or ironing or something useful!

I thought I would give you an easy puzzle picture.
What will these flowers turn into?

Answer tomorrow.

Then I will leave you with this information.
If ever you get the urge to find out if you can make Paneer cheese from powdered milk. I can tell you it doesn't work!

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Selling or freezing

Several times every year there is a decision to be made. Do we sell or freeze?

Last year I froze a lot of broad beans, lots of fat pods but with only one bean in meant that  the quality wasn't really good enough to sell. I'm not keen on broad beans, I think I went off them when I was pregnant with child 2 or 3 and never really got keen on them again. I eat them but given a choice I choose something - anything - else. C loves them but as I do the cooking I choose what veg we have! That's the reason there are still some of last years beans lurking. So I shall sell them this year and the 50p a bag we get will go towards the frozen peas I buy.

Then there's the raspberries. We eat as many as we can and I will freeze some but how many? A punnet of raspberries sells for £1.50 which makes 2 bowls full. Can I make a dessert in winter for less than £1.50? Should I take up all the freezer space with raspberries when there will be ( hopefully) pears, plums, apples and other fruit to go in later?

I don't want to go down the bottling route, been there, done that, had the failures!

I was looking at the walnut tree the other day thinking that this might be the one year in 5 that there are enough nuts to beat the squirrels so that we get to enjoy them too. A day later what hopped onto the front fence and up the plum tree? Yep, grey squirrel, the first one we've seen in the garden for several months. I went and chased him out, don't want him anywhere near that walnut tree.

Other trees with a rare good crop are our two apricots, we should have pruned them, they are far too tall, fruiting just on the ends of branches. I hope we will have enough for jam. The wasps will ruin them as soon as they are ripe enough to eat.

Thank you all for comments yesterday. I think there is a new follower on Bloglovin' but I've not been able to access the list for several days for some reason.

My posts seem to be a bit dull at the moment, I'm sadly lacking in ideas for writing anything interesting .

Back tomorrow

Monday, 23 June 2014

Life is just normal here

Bread roll baking was the first job of the morning as we were short of bread for lunch, then I did a couple of loaves too.

C did all the raspberry picking today and I put 5 x 250g punnets out for sale at £1.50 each. I looked on the supermarket price comparison site and see that Tesco have 250g for £2.50 and Asda have 150g at £1.50 so ours are cheaper but that's OK as customers who know they are getting value for money will come back for other things.

Also out for sale were gooseberries - we are heading towards the end now. Potatoes - we are just starting to dig the 3rd bed from the garden - Charlotte - really good size. 2 Cucumbers, a small cabbage and a bag of courgettes. Not forgetting 18 boxes of 6 eggs of course.

C did some hedge trimming at our neighbours until the battery ran out, her bigger hedge-cutter is away getting repaired so he can only do an hour at a time. He cut our grass here this afternoon and put a coat of wood preserver 'Seagrass', a turquoise/blue/green, on 2 sides of the new shed. I'll post a picture when it's had 2 coats all round.

Life seems to be settled into a summer routine, unlike this time  last year when C had all the heart problems.

I spent a while online looking at prices of 100% recycled loo-rolls. I'm feeling guilty for not using recycled like I once did. Nouvelle was the best - Ecoleaf,  Suma and Co-op seemed to block the drains. More recently I've been buying Tesco value packs of 6 which of course are not recycled.
There seems to be 101 ways of feeling guilty for purchases nowadays!
 I quite like bulk buying things like this, I usually send for Ecover Laundry Liquid and Washing up liquid in large amounts when Natural Collection have a special offer. I stick by these as they are better for septic tanks and the Eco-system, they don't smell nasty like some brands and they are concentrated so can be used sparingly. When I've seen costings for home made cleaners, Ecover comes out well in comparison.

I've answered the phone 3 times today, just to have it put down at the other end when I say " Fareacre Camp site" but luckily the other 4 phone calls have all been bookings for the campsite.

The rest of today has been spent watching the first day of Wimbledon. 3 big cheers!

Back Tomorrow

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Proper sunshine on a quiet Sunday

Just a quiet Sunday and at last we got the sunshine other parts of the country have been having. The North-Easterly wind which has made it chilly and sometimes brought in cloud off the North Sea had gone and we spent a while  sitting out side between various odd jobs.
Other than that not much of note so

Back tomorrow

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Is there anything worse than shopping on a Saturday?

I never choose to go shopping and certainly not on a Saturday at 11 o'clock in the morning but we went out to  a smallholders yard sale today and it seemed sensible to call in at Mr Ts supermarket on the way home to save a trip mid week.
I shall avoid doing that again!
It was packed full of large under-dressed people buying stuff for their BBQ's.
The queue to get in and out of the carpark was dreadful and it's only a small market town. Heavens knows what it was like anywhere bigger.

Anyway, we survived to tell the tale.

The yard sale was being held at the home of some smallholder friends who are moving away soon. Being a bit of a hoarder and wheeler dealer he has lots of stuff to clear out. We came home with a watering can, a dustbin, a corn scoop, a big box of flower pots, two new rolls of baler twine, 50 new jam jar lids and 2 buckets all for £25.
And as every smallholder knows, you can never have too many watering cans and buckets.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Green beans

Occasionally on TV food programmes the discussion will get around to the rights and wrongs of flying in green beans from Kenya ( they are probably grown elsewhere but Kenya seems to be the place most mentioned).
On the down side is the food-miles, pollution etc etc etc
On the pro side is the fact that growing and exporting things like this keeps many small farmers in business.

I have been unable to join in this debate because I've never ever bought green beans from a supermarket or from anywhere else.
I've never seen the need to eat them out of season and in season we have our own and the first few from early plants put into the poly-tunnel were picked today.
We have a bed of them outside which are growing slowly and a dozen more sown a couple of weeks ago - they will be put in the poly tunnel and will give a later crop ( hopefully).

We are not having a good time with runner beans. I planned to grow all one sort this year so that I could save the seed and know exactly what they are. The bed full that were grown in seed trays and planted out are all OK. The second bed sown straight into the ground just vanished. So we put some more in ( a different variety picked up at a car boot sale)  and about half are OK, the rest nipped off just above the ground. So in a desperate attempt to get enough to sell, I have used up the last of a jar of saved seed from about 2 years ago, putting 5 or 6 beans at each cane.
The Cucamelon plants have gone into the poly tunnel today. It will be interesting to see what they are like. 

With a bit more log splitting yesterday and with help from our son who came round for dinner, plus another hours work this morning, we now have a huge heap of split logs in the shed and 6 builders bags full to store for another year.  The log splitter has gone back to the farm.

I picked the last of the strawberries today, but now the raspberries are beginning to be ready so we still have fruit. Someone asked if we actually eat any of the gooseberries we grow. I do make jam and chutney with them and some will also go in the freezer for winter but they are my least favourite fruit and we have other much nicer fruit to save for winter, so selling them works well for us. With 16 punnets selling today at £1.50 each it is well worth the scratches. Also out for sale today were 4 bags of potatoes at 50p each, 3 bags of broad beans at 50p each and 3 cucumbers also 50p each. 1 punnet of raspberries at £1.50. Plus 18 boxes of 6 eggs, making a total gate  income today of £48.50. Not too bad! Expenditure today = £0 because we've not been anywhere to spend anything.

Back Tomorrow

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thursday already?

Blimey, time flies when you're having fun....................... or gooseberry picking!
What's been happening here since my last proper post?

Tuesday was bread making and gooseberry picking
Wednesday was gardening and gooseberry picking
Thursday was odd jobs and gooseberry picking

Total of 500g punnets of gooseberries sold is now 154.

I said it was a full time job  once I get  started.

There are some other things going on here. We've not had the hot sunny days that some parts of the country have had ( BOO! Although we've not had much rain either.) which has made it easier for getting into the poly tunnels and doing some weeding, de-shooting and tying up tomatoes etc.

Every evening there are 3 poly-tunnels to water. We've tried automatic trickle watering and overhead watering but find that a good old watering can or 4 is the best way to put water exactly where it's needed. The tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines and peppers are also being fed with comfrey 'tea'.

Then C wants to get the logs split just in case the borrowed log splitter has to go back at short notice.
Quite a lot of the logs have been laying there for several years so after splitting they've gone straight into the shed. Other logs came from the oak branch that blew down on the road last year. So when they are split they've gone into builders bags to store. Being dependant on wood for heating the whole house and water in the winter means that thinking ahead 2 or 3 years is quite common.

We've moved the oldest batch of chickens from the 'old-loo-block-shed' to the 'sliding-shed'. It's so handy having 4 sheds and 3 groups of chickens as it means they can have a proper clean out and the grass gets a rest.

C has been doing a bit more of the shed. It's looking good. I was up a ladder inside today pushing the bolts through after he ( up on the roof) had drilled holes down and then screwed the nuts on the bolts.
He has found a bit of plywood for my work bench. See those windows? The frames were bought for 99p off ebay - what a bargain.

What we've not been doing is watching football, although I loved going to watch Ipswich Town play back in the 1970s, I'm not ever so keen on sitting through 90 minutes plus the agonizing by the commentators afterwards or pundits or whatever a bunch of retired footballers is called.

But come Monday I will be watching as much TV as I can as it's the start of Wimbledon. I hope C doesn't suddenly decide it's time for haymaking.

Welcome to Sue K and Donna who have clicked the Google button and Wren and Julie on Bloglovin'.

Back Tomorrow

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


That's what it says on the new sign  I've just made for the campsite.

Yesterday I had just got started on bread making when I looked up to see a large brown dog bounding into the garden from the campsite. I was a bit concerned as I knew Polly ( our small black cat) had just gone outside and I had no idea what reaction she would have to a dog in the garden.
So I went out and ushered it back onto the campsite expecting to see someone coming from the tent to find out where their dog was.
No sign of anyone.
I called out to say one of their dogs was running around
No reply
I walked right up to the tent and said a bit more loudly
"Did you know one of your dogs is running about the field".
Eventually a sleepy lady emerged  and said " sorry, I was asleep, I thought my husband was looking after the dogs"
No sign of husband or other dog.

I later found out that he had taken their other small dog INTO THE SHOWER WITH HIM! and thought the big dog was safely inside the tent.
Honestly, you couldn't make it up.
Or maybe it's normal to take dogs into the shower on other campsites?

Many Thanks for comments yesterday, I keep forgetting that not everyone shares our sort of Suffolk humour!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


There's nothing like a bit of blog reading to cheer you up.

Before I started blogging and reading other peoples blogs I thought we were fairly good at self-sufficiency, not too bad at green issues, successfully frugal and pretty good at growing fruit and vegetables, and I thought I was a decent, perhaps somewhat unadventurous, cook.

Since reading blogs I have realised I'm a failure!

And  today even  some of the tomatoes in the poly-tunnel have got blight!

Back Tomorrow

Monday, 16 June 2014

Bit chilly here today

The weather here in east Suffolk has turned a bit chilly and grey over the weekend. Not exactly flaming June.

We've had a good weekend, with a trip out to a WI table top on Saturday morning and a quick dash to the car boot sale first thing yesterday then friends visiting for the day.

At the table top sale in Snape village hall I found a small garden sieve " it's very old - vintage actually" the lady said when I asked how much it was , so I thought she was going to say some silly price. Luckily she only wanted £2, so I was able to buy it.

The car boot sale was better for C than for me as he found a pair of new Caterpillar work boots for £8 and picked up a sack barrow for £5, it had one wheel off which took him 5 minutes to repair. We have got a very old sack barrow here already but this one has a wider platform so easier to get things on. We might advertise the old one in the Smallholders Newsletter or keep it just in case.
I came home with a couple of bird nesting boxes for £2 each as C said he couldn't make them for that price and a pack of brand new stack and store boxes  for £3. These are one of the few things that Lakeland sell that are actually worth having, as some of their things are what I class as useless gadgets!

When not preparing food and eating it I've been gooseberry picking.............and more gooseberry picking and then topping and tailing some for the freezer. By the end of the day  today we had sold a grand total of  117 x 500g punnets! and there are still plenty left to pick.

One of the things I made to eat is classed as posh nosh!, we were given some quail eggs so I turned them into mini scotch eggs for tea yesterday, a bit fiddly to do but very tasty.

Today started with a trip to the dentist ( my worst thing). I only go once a year unless I have problems in between and  even that is once too often. She said I may need a filling next time. Oh heck.

While I was killing 5 minutes before heading down there I looked at all the magazines in the Co-op and saw that Kitchen Garden were doing 6 packets of seeds free including some watercress which I wanted to have another go at after someone mentioned it on their blog. I last tried it about 10 years ago and although it was OK the plants soon gave up, but in the meantime I hope progress has been made on seeds for home gardeners and the plants might last longer.
So after not buying any magazines for ages I've had  3 in the last month. Tut Tut.

Back Tomorrow

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Too full up to blog!

Friends around for the day, we ate too much and nattered!

Back Tomorrow

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Yesterday was library day + first raspberries

By getting the library books all ready on Thursday night I remembered to bike down to the mobile library on Friday morning, so we didn't have to chase after the van like last month. This was my haul, mostly pre-ordered but a few from the shelves.

A really good collection this month, although I think I nearly always say that.
'Rain Later, Good' is a book full of paintings illustrating all the shipping forecast areas. 'Woodsman' by Ben Law  is the story of how he came to Prickly Wood and built his Grand Design house.  There are a few crime by authors I've read before and one or two books by new-to-me-authors.

 I've started to look through Homegrown Revolution by James Wong and it's solved something I've puzzled over for 50 years! when I was young we had a  home built play shed and a patch of grass at home that we played on ( My Dad was a builder so most of our back garden was a builders yard, workshops and storage etc), and along the side of the grass were some small trees that had lovely coloured leaves and we called them Vinegar trees. I never knew why. Many years later C and I had a similar tree in one of the (many) houses we've lived in and a friend told me it was a Sumac or Sumach. And there it is on page 168  - " In Middle Eastern cooking, sumac is treated rather like lemon juice, vinegar or tamarind to add a bright fresh zing to all sorts of food".

And look what a treat we had today. The first raspberries! Yummy Yum Yum.

Thank you to everyone for comments yesterday and apologies( again) for not having enough hours in the day for replying individually.  Also welcome to new followers by bloglovin' - Vanessa, Jibbajabber, Shannon and Coleen.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Growing to make a (small) profit

The other day Dawn asked  how we work out the prices to sell things and a while back Kev asked if I could do a post about growing to make a profit on a smallholding. So this post is the answer to both.

 Just to explain that we've never wanted to be a nursery  business so we only grow what we can sell at the gate and we also don't want to spend every minute of the day growing to sell either.
So I can only tell you what we do. Mainly we grow for ourselves with just a bit extra of things we know will be easy to pick, pack and sell. We are also not young anymore! so don't have the energy to do growing on the field on a big scale.

First, if you live on a very busy  road don't try and sell at the gate or the council will call it a traffic obstruction.
Secondly if you've got neighbours who you don't get on with they'll probably object!
You could try selling at a Country( formerly WI ) market if you are unable to sell at the gate.
In our area as long as the selling is only on a small scale the council seem to ignore it. I wouldn't advise selling anything you haven't grown yourself as that is a different thing altogether and has all sorts of legal and safety regulations.

I would advise buying in some decent packaging to sell things in. People are not likely to want to buy things in old carrier bags and if your stall is right by the road it offers a bit of extra protection from traffic fumes. We have a local company in Suffolk we collect from but there are lots of online places. I buy large brown paper bags for potatoes and cooking apples. Small perforated clear plastic bags for tomatoes and peppers. Large perforated clear plastic bags for anything bigger and 250g and 500g punnets.

Whatever you sell has to be good quality. NOT mouldy tomatoes or green potatoes! Don't give anyone cause to complain.

If your sell by weight you have to have proper scales tested by  Council Trading Standards.  We sell by the punnet, bunch or bag. For instance I'm selling new potatoes, I weigh them so there is a good 500g in the bag but then write on the paper bags ' Fresh Dug Potatoes 50p bag'
Make sure you have the prices of things labelled clearly or people will be put off buying or they will be constantly knocking on the door to ask.

If you live in a village or town where people can walk to buy from you then you will probably be able to sell more and at a better price. We are on a quiet back road used by people going to and from work or to and from town for shopping, so it has to be worth their while  to stop. That's why we sell eggs all year round so that folk are used to looking  and stopping.

I price things to sell and to make a small profit, I don't want to be left with stuff and the end of the day. I often have a look on supermarket comparison sites to find out what things are going for. I also try and sell for 50p or £1 which people put through the letterbox in our front door. It keeps things simple and avoids people knocking on the door for change.

It's probably best to start small, to see what will sell in your area and a good idea is to find things to spread selling throughout the season.

This is what we grow to sell

Daffodils and Alstroemeria - Just a few. Daffs are the first things we sell each year. Not a huge profit if you take into account the cutting, bunching, elastic bands, a pail of water to stand them in. But they add a bit of colour.

Early Potatoes - We grow just a few beds of early potatoes in the garden to have enough for us and to sell, usually at the same time as gooseberries. We don't sell maincrop potatoes, they take up too much space and there are lots of places locally to buy by the sack.

Gooseberries - On a profit per square foot these give us the best return. We have gradually increased to 20+ bushes. Many grown from cuttings. These sell really well as they are not easily available elsewhere. Not much fun to pick though! I pick and sell for about 3 or 4 weeks until they are finished.

Raspberries - Another good seller and they follow on from the gooseberries. They take ages to pick but good profit per space.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, aubergines. Now we have 3 poly tunnels we grow around 75 tomato plants, which will give about 3 - 6 bags of tomatoes everyday for several weeks.  8 cucumber plants should give 2 - 4 cucumbers per day. I put lots of peppers in the freezer so sell whatever we don't need. There are around 15 sweet  pepper plants and a few chilli pepper plants. 10 Aubergine plants this year.
Of these tomatoes are the best sellers.

Courgettes We grow about 2 beds of courgettes, so only double what we would use. Some years they sell well and other years not so well in which case the chickens get any we don't use or sell.

Runner and Climbing French beans.  Really good profit per square foot especially the lovely pencil thin Climbing French beans. I was able to sell for £1 a small bag last year.

Onions These sell well but we only have the space to grow two beds ( double what we ourselves would use) We sell by the bunch. People don't mind them tied up with baler twine!

Squash and pumpkins. We grow to sell because we have the space on part of our field and because they come right at the end of the season when everything else has finished. Not viable otherwise as they take up so much room.

Brassica crops We grow just a bit more than we need in early summer and then autumn , just to add a bit of interest to the stall. I don't grow any to sell over winter as they would need more space( and energy) than we have. We protect with enviromesh to avoid caterpillers. I wouldn't recommend selling anything that is pest damaged.

Cooking apples - We sell only if we have enough from our two trees.

We don't sell root crops as they are not good enough quality here. ( Except for a few beetroot if we have enough ) Lettuce doesn't sell here for some reason ( plus they have a very short life once cut and bagged). We also don't sell leeks or sweetcorn as we use all we can grow.

Other things we sometimes sell.
If we have enough of decent quality we sell Broad beans, Strawberries, Cherries.

I think that has just about covered everything and I hope this is useful to someone!

Back tomorrow ( library book photo)


Thursday, 12 June 2014

Just another manic.............Thursday

I have a post in preperation to answer Dawns question from yesterday about pricing stuff to sell and Kevs question about what to grow for making a profit.
But today has been very busy..............and HOT
So I'll be back tomorrow

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Wednesday Weeding

C was busy this morning in the fruit cage and round the back of the gooseberry bushes. He has been weeding and then trimming back the hedge/trees along the boundary. We cut this hedge right back to ground level maybe 10 years ago and now it's back to 12 feet tall, a mix of Ash, Elder, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. It's taking all the moisture from the raspberries in the fruit cage. We will need to do a proper big cutting back job in the Autumn.

I picked the first Broad Beans for our dinner tonight, another thing to add to the list of fresh food available. The pods are very long but only about 5 beans in each. I noticed some blackfly on the tips of some of the plants so they have been pinched off and destroyed. We will need to keep checking from now on.

 The last of the first bed of early potatoes were dug and sold today so C quickly ran the rotavator over the bed, raked it down and we got the Sweetcorn and Leeks out.  Some of the leek seedlings I had sown in pots and the others C had sown in the garden. The garden ones looked better. In the space where the leek seedlings were,  swede have now been sown. Although they never do well here, it's usually too dry, but we keep trying. We will cover them with fleece later to keep the flea beetle off.

My Cucamelon plants have arrived in the post. They were on offer with seeds from the James Wong Homegrown Revolution collection at Suttons Seeds.  I've potted them up so they can get a bit bigger before  going into the small poly-tunnel where we had the very early potatoes. Most of the seeds (bargain 50p a packet) are a bit late for this year so will be saved but I have sown the Bergamot. I shall be picking up the James Wong book from the library van on Friday to find out more about the unusual varieties.

Not much excitement here today unless you count a large party of  Ipswich ramblers who stopped to look at and discuss everything on the stall ( two came back later by car to buy gooseberries) and the men in the motorised hanging cradle thingies zooming along the high voltage power cables to replace the spacers, presumably power must be off at the moment!. Here is the photo I took in June last year when they did the other side. Plus lots of helicopters rushing about. They didn't look like the big ones Prince Harry piloted when he was based at Wattisham in Mid Suffolk, so I don't know what was going on.

Sold today at the gate;- 1 small cabbage 30p, 2 small heads of calabrese 40p each, 1 pot of Basil £1,  18 boxes of 6 eggs at £1 each and 16 punnets of gooseberries at £1.50. Plus £8 for eggs from 2 regulars who came to collect and £24 for 1 campervan for 2 nights.

Many thanks to blogging friends for comments yesterday, always appreciated.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tomatoes on Tuesday

Yet another lovely sunny day here in Suffolk, we've been very lucky, missing out on the rain and storms that other places have had.
The first tomatoes from the poly tunnel were picked today, just 5 small ones, but it's a start.

We also picked 6lb of strawberries and I've been picking gooseberries on and off between bread baking and other jobs.

It's been a day of interruptions again, junk phone calls, people coming to the door for change and an elderly man on the campsite needing his car jump started and then the battery charged. Now we are happy to help with everything, but a please and thank you would be good. And they say it's the younger generation who have no manners!
One interruption I didn't mind at all was from our archaeologist son letting us know that a job he applied for  about 6 months ago - and didn't get,  has now become available again and he's been offered it. It's a community funded  project connected with the wartime airfields of East Anglia. His Uni. dissertation was all about how wartime airfields changed the landscape so this is right up his street, and as it's a 2 and a half year contract rather than the 8 month one he is on at the moment it will give them a bit of stability over where in Suffolk they can live.  Good news indeedy!

 I was doing a bit of blog hopping last night and found some which looked interesting that I'd not seen before and which made me wonder how I could find the time to read more than I do at the moment, so just a couple have been added to my blog roll for reading.  I may have to be like Cro and get up at 5am to do computery stuff......................or maybe not. Perhaps the connection would be better at that time of day, we are having some really slow days, especially when I come to add photos

Welcome to Connie and Mamasmercantile who are new followers on Google Friends and to new followers by Bloglovin'. I had a play around and managed to find the widget to say how many people are following by Bloglovin' too.

Back Tomorrow

Monday, 9 June 2014

Mondays catch up

Goodness me, there were  23 comments on the Cost Effective Self Sufficiency post. Thank you to everyone for reading and commenting. It's interesting to find other people who have had a go at various ways to be more self sufficient. For so many years we thought we were odd!, now it seems we were not the only ones :-)

On Saturday morning we had decided to take a trip to a car boot sale that's only held once a month from May to September. The weather was a bit iffy and we had some thunder early but we thought we would go and have a look anyway. Unfortunately the uncertain weather had put off lots of people so the sale was smaller than usual. All I bought were 5 packets of seeds for £1 the lot.
2 of the packs were runner beans which we have put out straight away to replace a whole bed that have been eaten by mice ( I guess, as there is no sign of any beans anywhere under the ground). We will be short of beans for selling if this new sowing doesn't grow. Next year I shall have to put the whole lot into trays inside. I did 5 big seed trays full this year which is enough to fill one bed. The one bed planted out are looking really sad with yellowing leaves, as are the climbing French beans.
This year seems to be a constant battle with disease and pests in so many areas. We have an invasion of huge black aphids on our big Christmas Tree, these are producing lots of sticky excretions which I think is called Honeydew and it has attracted every bee and wasp for miles. As this tree is right next to our sitting out patio it's all a bit off putting. Our neighbour said it's a good thing she no longer keeps bees as they will swarm to any tree where this happens.

Our son and girlfriend were here overnight on Saturday after going to yet another wedding of one of his school friends. He has kept in touch with so many of the lads he was at school with and being a popular fella has been invited to what seems like dozens of weddings. Next year he will be a best man to his best school friend just two weeks before his Sister gets married, busy boy!
Our youngest daughter  and her bloke came round to join us  for a family lunch on Sunday and, having picked more than 4lb of strawberries, of course we had enough strawbs and ice cream for 6 people ( plus some to spare for us for today and a couple of small punnets out for sale). The children were reminiscing about the years here when we grew even more strawberries than now, and how after about 3 weeks having them every day they would begin to go right off them. I love it when they talk about things I've long forgotten.

We ( mainly C actually) got some bits of weeding done early Sunday morning, we are slowly catching up on that never ending task. We've run out of space for planting out the sweetcorn and leeks until  the first potato bed has been cleared. 

Did anyone else watch the mens Tennis Final from Paris? It was a good match I thought, although I was a bit worried about Rafa  who looked just about all in due to the heat. Probably a good thing Andy Murray didn't get through to the final, with his fair Scottish skin he would have been frazzled.

 Today C has been doing some more work on the shed, it's coming along nicely and I have been
The roof is half plastic and half metal sheets over felt.
  catching up on housework and having a go at Elderflower Jelly which was one of the recipes in the Home Farmer magazine that I picked up last week ( also on someones blog recently but not sure who - apologies, let me know and I'll edit and link you in here). The Elderflowers had been soaking in water since Friday. I hadn't got special jam sugar but I did have sachets of pectin, which I thought would do the same job. But maybe not! Even though I boiled for several minutes after adding the pectin the blinkin' stuff still didn't look like setting. So I potted it up anyway to see if cooling it would work. Mmm, No it didn't!
Then I had a choice, I could pretend that I meant to make Elderflower Syrup which I think will be lovely with some lemonade added or poured over ice cream. Or I could tip it back into a pan, bring it back to the boil and add more pectin.
I tipped most backed into a pan, brought it back to the boil added half a sachet of pectin and then waited for it to reach setting point, which it seemed to do ( tested on a cold plate). So I poured it all back into the jars and guess still didn't set. I give up!

In between everything else I've been picking gooseberries, just a slow start this year because although they are huge I'm still not at all sure they are really ripe enough. So I pick about 4 punnets full and put them on the stall without putting out my blackboard sign with GOOSEBERRIES writ large. (Once I do that the cars stop to buy so many that I have to pick all day to keep up).
 12 punnets sold today at £1.50 each, plus 4 bags of potatoes at 50p, 3 bunches of flowers at £1 each, 2 small pointed cabbages at 30p each and a couple of small calabrese heads in a bag for 50p. Not forgetting 16 boxes of 6 eggs at £1 each.

I caught a few minutes of tennis from Queens Club - the build up to Wimbledon had begun.

Back Tomorrow


Sunday, 8 June 2014

7th of the Month Following a tree link ( a day late)

Whoops, should have done this on the 7th

This is linking up with Loose and Leafy where you will find lots of other people who are recording the progress of a tree throughout the year.

My tree is the Horse Chestnut that stands in our garden just on the left as visitors come through from the campsite to go to the front door to check in.
It has pink flowers rather than the more common white.
Now heading into summer the flowers have almost gone, changing into tiny fruit that will grow and look slightly like their conker relation but not so prickly.

The arching branches come right down to the ground so underneath is a very shady place.

 Lovely sunny Sunday here in Suffolk
Back to normal posts tomorrow

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Cost Effective Self sufficiency or Self Sufficiency at any cost?

I try not to write posts that tell people what they should or shouldn't do, there are plenty of other bloggers doing that.

This is just about what happened/happens here.

22 years ago we fell into the trap of believing that we could be as self-sufficient as John Seymour in his books- whatever the cost.

 We had just bought this  five acre smallholding and thought we ought to try everything. Back then the plethora of gadgets and gizmos to make you more 'Self Sufficient' were not on general sale (and before internet) So if you wanted to make your own sausages or press your own apples the machinery to use was difficult to find and expensive.

We had goats and sometimes had some spare milk but goats milk is naturally homogenized so it takes a cream separator  to make the cream. Of course we bought a secondhand electric cream separator. This is a gadget that uses lots of cones of metal, which after use all have to be washed and the amount of cream we got from our goats milk NEVER EVER equaled the cost of the separator. How often do we use cream? - Christmas and Strawberry time. We would have needed to keep goats and make cream for 100 years to have paid back what that machine cost!
We sold it.
I bought a cheese press and quickly discovered making hard cheeses is an occupation which needs space, more milk than we ever had to spare, a cool room and lots of practice. ( Soft cheese is much easier )
I sold the cheese press.

One year we had loads of apples and C kept spotting apple trees when he was out at work. So we bought an apple crusher and a press. We spent hours crushing the apples and pressing them to make juice and cider. Which was so sharp it was undrinkable. The next year we used only eating apples, but it wasn't a good year for apples so we only had a few pints of juice. The next year there were even less apples, everyone decided they didn't like the sharp home made brown murky apple juice. When we next had lots of apples we stored the apples or sold them. It made much more sense.
We sold the apple press.

We began to understand that we couldn't do everything - we couldn't afford the cost or the time. We also learned that John Seymour wrote a lot about Self Sufficiency but didn't always practice what he preached.

That's when we started looking more  closely at what we were doing before investing large (or even small) sums of money on things, and when our family shrunk to just the two of us we had to re-evaluate things again.

Here are the things we've thought about and  do because they really are cost effective.

Growing everyday vegetables that we know we will use/sell
Keeping chickens and selling the eggs   
Baking bread.
Making meals from scratch.

And some thing we don't or won't  do because we believe our time/money is more efficiently spent elsewhere

Making soap, washing powder or liquid
Making clothes
Growing winter vegetables to sell. They need too much space for the return.
Keeping other types of birds/animals. Been there, done that.
Freezing too many vegetables ( taking up freezer space better used for more expensive fruit)
Planting any more  trees. We've planted several hundred trees, many planted for the future, but now we think we've done enough here and we won't be here for ever.
Investing a lot of money in  exotic vegetable or fruit growing until we know we have room/like them/can sell them.
Take up pottery and make our own plates as I think John Seymour suggested in one  of his books. There are enough plates in the world already - you only have to go to a car boot sale to see them!

Another thought.
When people talk about self sufficiency they are usually meaning in food.
 Here are a few other little ideas employed here

The clothes prop that keeps my washing line up in the air is a long branch from a Rowan tree with the bark peeled off.
Hair cutting with clippers.
Heating the house with wood
House repairs and building

I think the right way to self sufficiency is not trying to do everything. Sometimes knowing how to do something is a good idea but if doing it will cost you more money or take up time better spent elsewhere perhaps the actual doing of it doesn't matter.

I've just re read this and it's not well written.
Apologies, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

Back Tomorrow

Friday, 6 June 2014

Tennis or sitting out?

A beautiful sunny day here, completely different to the last few days. A big decision needed to be made - Watch the mens semi-finals from the French Open or sit outside in the sun?
I decided to do both and sat out for a while then came in to see Andy M thoroughly beaten by Rafa.
Oh well, it means he has more days to rest before Queens club next week.

Kev asked how many Gooseberry bushes we have, I think about 21 although a few are really old - more than the 22 years we've been here and are too close together so that I always forget how many. One is a red gooseberry which never does very much. And he asked if I could do a post about growing for profit. Yep - could do. I will add that to my list of drafts to do if only I had more days in a week.

C was hedge trimming at our neighbours this morning, weeding and enjoying the sun with me this afternoon. I'm not sure what I've been doing, must have got a bit of housework done and all the usual egg and campsite jobs.

Stats on selling and  self sufficiency today:-

Out for sale on the stall-by-the-gate today were 3 bags of fresh dug potatoes, 3 bunches of Alstroemeria flowers, 1 cucumber, 1 pointed cabbage, 3 pots of Basil,  4 punnets of gooseberries and 16 boxes of 6 eggs. Most sold.
Total income £28.50

 Homegrown  food eaten today - potatoes, beetroot, lettuce and salad leaves, herbs(in potato salad), peppermint (in tea) strawberries.( Just 2 and a half pound picked today)

Home produced and homemade eaten today bread, eggs, quiche, gooseberry and apple crumble.

2 caravans on site tonight and one tent due in later.

Washing dried on the line

Water heated by the Solar Water thingy on the roof.

NOT self-sufficient- using electric to watch tennis!

Money spent today £0

Back Tomorrow

Thursday, 5 June 2014

New shed stage 3 and first Gooseberries sold

Welcome to some new followers on Bloglovin. Sue ( another Sue) has a new blog called Cornish Chickpea - love that name! I have added her to my blogroll for reading.
Thank you to blogging friends for comments yesterday.
Sue ( another Sue, at Our new life in the Country) said she was taught to train cucumbers to grow on slanted supports. Our problem is that we've never been taught anything! so we plant them beside canes and then put baler twine between the canes. The cucumbers grow up then along the twine and we twist them gently over and under. Hopefully the cucs hang down  and grow straight.

 Despite it being only early June some of our gooseberries are Huge and the branches are bending down to the ground so I decided to start picking for sale. My fear is they will still  be a bit sharp and put people off from coming back for more. Last year I sold  more than 200 punnets. What we  need is more sunshine to sweeten them up. I put 4 punnets out and they sold straight away. Once I really get picking it's almost a full time job.

C has been working on  the new shed. The frame was brought down from the hay shed on the trailer and my help was called for to assist with the lifting off and holding upright while he clamped, then screwed together.
 He's now started to cover the frame with felt and weatherboard. The right hand side of the shed already has weatherboard on it as it's the 4th side of the toilet block shed that we built last year, we didn't need this side because the loo block has four doors instead.

 I've been meaning to do a update on the two shy cats we adopted from cats Protection in February. Mabel is still around outside, she appears in the evenings and sits up the path waiting for her food to be put in the shed. If she sees anyone watching her, even through a window, she's off like a shot to hide in the wood shed or over the road to our neighbours stable. I'm not sure if there is anything we can do to make her more friendly.
Polly now behaves like a normal cat, that means she brings in small live mice and then promptly loses interest in them when they run off and hide under something. Such fun!

Back Tomorrow
Sue ( Yet another!)

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

4 days diaries

There were so many comments about the book shelf pictures, so thank you to everyone. 'Anexactinglife' said they look like custom built. I would have loved to have had real wood, purpose built to fit in better , but we certainly couldn't have afforded anything like that. So they are just cheapies  bought on-line from Ikea and then C cut some down to fit under the stairs and used some spare bits for extra shelves.
The reason they are tidy is because of my 10 years of straightening books in  Libraries! And also being in the hall they are walked past all the time and I would soon be fed up with seeing an untidy collection.
*          *          *          *

What with one thing and another I've not mentioned what we've been doing since last Saturday. So this post is four days diaries.

On Sunday I went to the car boot sale - of course - although C said he seen everything over the last few weeks and it was bound to be the same old, same old, so he stayed at home.
I bought 2 herbs for £1 each. One was a Red Veined Sorrel which looks interesting and has filled the space in my new herb garden and the other a Cat Mint. I found a cushion for £1 to replace one our youngest begged off us " I love cuddly feather cushions and we haven't got one at home!" A bundle of 40 sheets of  new peel offs - pictures, words and borders for card making, spent £6 on those, which was a lot but the woman wouldn't accept any less. That was the first craft stuff I've found this year, and I found this book which I hadn't read for £2.
Francine Raymond lived in Suffolk for many years and started The Hen Keepers Association. She wrote several slim books about keeping hens, ducks and geese and this is a story of a year in Suffolk. She is a Sunday Telegraph columnist.

The weather was lovely on Sunday afternoon and we sat out for a while, everywhere was quiet, not a lot of passing traffic because it was the last day of half term holidays  and no one on the campsite.
The only thing missing was the sound of the sea lapping gently on a sandy beach * sigh *.

*          *          *          *

Monday we trekked to Ipswich town centre via Sainsburys ( cheap bacon and a few other bits), Aldi  (specially for flour - a lot cheaper than elsewhere and a few other bits) and home via Morrisons ( red diesel from the petrol station and yes you guessed......a few other bits from the supermarket). Poundland, Wilkinsons, The Grape Tree and Superdrug were the main reasons for going into our 'capital'.
In town I treated myself to a copy of Home Farmer magazine which, unless you have it on subscription, is only available at W.H Smiths in our area. I hadn't seen a copy for a while and it had a packet of free Inca Berry seeds from the James Wong Homegrown Revolution range on the front. Inside was an offer of 24 Strawberry plants free except for postage and 2 Cucamelon plants also free just pay P & P. Several articles about Elderflowers and salad crops. Nothing in it to tempt me to subscribe again.  C looked at an article about building a workbench for a potting shed which had so many huge pieces  of wood in that it would have taken a crane to shift it!

We picked nearly 4lb of Strawberries in the afternoon after I had spent ages putting all the shopping away and dividing all the bacon packs before freezing and vowing not to go to Ipswich again until September!
*          *          *          *

On Tuesday C was working at our neighbours in the morning and sorting out everything needed for the shed building in the afternoon. I did the weekly bread bake and lots of other catching up housework jobs.  For dinner we had a couple of the bacon steaks from out of the cheap bacon packs, home grown new potatoes and homegrown salad. Cost of meal per person about 40p - bargain.
*          *          *          *

On Wednesday morning the weather turned wet and chilly. I had a doctors appointment a.m. and also went to the Co-op to spend my divi. vouchers on some decent sausages from Lane Farm . I usually look out for yellow sticker reduced meat in the Co-op but haven't spotted anything for months, although using Divi  vouchers makes me feel  they are free.
C was in the workshop making up the door for my new shed.
We picked another 4lb Strawberries once the drizzle stopped and decided to put a some of the best out for sale. 3 small punnets went out at £1 punnet ( approx 250g) and were gone not long after  I was back indoors. I'm still selling the Alstroemeria flowers at £1 bunch and also some Aloe Vera plants that our son brought here before he moved house. He took a Aloe Vera baby off the plant I had here about 2 years ago and then potted up lots of babies from that plant. It's a handy plant to have in the house as it can be used to sooth minor burns, plus it seems almost impossible to kill which is useful as I am normally hopeless at keeping indoor plants alive.

I've planted the last two cucumber plants into the polytunnel. These were the ones bought a couple of weeks ago from the carboot to replace the two home sown that keeled over. Our other 6 plants are looking good we've had 4 cucs off them so far, but I'm still taking off several of the teeny babies so the plant keeps growing. They've been fed once with a commercial feed and several times with the home made  Comfrey 'tea'.
A good use for baler twine and all the broom handles rescued from amongst a whole heap of pallets brought home from a local factory.

The early tomato plants are also doing well and we will have a few ready to eat in a week or so. The forecast for tomorrow is good and I hope to start gooseberry picking - 3 weeks earlier than last year.

Back Tomorrow

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Pictures of book shelves for new blog readers!

I often mention library books that I'm reading but I ought to read some of the hundreds I have here. Bovey Belle commented on my blog a few days ago and mentioned a book she had just found and was enjoying and I knew I had a copy as yet unread. There it is ....'Island Farm', straight ahead, right hand column, third row down, immediately above Victorian Farm.
Then I had a thought.
As there are lots of new people reading the blog now, I'm re-showing my book shelves.These are pictures first posted last spring.
This is just part of the collection in the alcove bit of the hall under the stairs.
And here is another part along the hall, the 5 shelves on the right are full of canal,train and sports books, that's  Cs collection, which has also expanded since this was taken, so that some random books have been moved from the bottom shelf to give his books more space.

And here is the alcove again but from further out, you can see books have escaped onto the top of the shelves too, and since this picture was taken last year there are even more along the top

And here on this little bit at the end are my Persephone books on the top, poetry,classics, bibles and dictionaries.
There are also cookery books in the kitchen, craft books in the craft room and a few other odds and ends on some shelves by the front door. One day I will count them all.

Have you read Susan Hills book " Howards End is On The Landing"? It's about her year of reading and re-reading books already in her possession.
I think I ought to do that, but then I wouldn't be able to post my Library book picture every month!

Thank you to everyone for comments yesterday and welcome to Deborah who is a new follower in the Google Pictures and Layla, Lynda and Stephanie who have clicked the Bloglovin' button.

It's several days since I did a proper daily diary post so I must remedy that when I'm.........
Back tomorrow.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Review of the Month - Looking back at May

Here is my regular look back at the ups and downs of life here on the simple Suffolk Smallholding.

  1.  Enough money  was earned to cover what we need for Junes budget
  2.  Food spending under budget
  3.  Other general household spending well under budget with £50 left in my purse, so.........
  4.  The Roberts radio was sent for and arrived.
  5.  A steady stream of campsite visitors all month 
  6.  21/31 were no spend days ( 5 spend days were car boot sales)
  7. We didn't travel far so no diesel put into Jeep all month
  8.  An offer of free delivery resulted in getting £63 pounds worth of goods for £27 from Approved  Foods
  9. 6 Jars of mixed fruit jam made using fruit from the freezer
  10. Lots of good books enjoyed
  11. Poly-tunnels  planted up
  12. A gift from a new blogger friend
  13. First potatoes and beetroot from poly-tunnel
  14. Peppermint tea from own plants
  15. Pumpkin and squash plants were planted out onto the field.
  16. New shed base done and framework started
  17. Several useful  things found at car boot sales
  18. C collected 6 more IBC water containers and sold 3 straightaway -quick profit
  19. Spare income saved to cover standing orders etc during the winter
  20. Able to borrow log splitter
  21. First strawberries of the season

Wind and heavy rain damaged the climbing French and runner beans, setting them back by a few weeks.
I made some Garlic Focaccia bread from a mix and burnt it!
The Camping and Caravanning club upped their prices for adding extra words to the entry in the Big Sites Book which I found extremely annoying.
Lots of nasty critters damaging plants this year.
Very few campsite bookings for June

I think I can say May was a good month for us. June brings Gooseberry picking and more Tennis on TV and the end of the hungry gap when the garden begins to be more productive.

Back Tomorrow

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Year In Books Link May/June

Linking in with Circle of Pine Trees - A year in books 

I planned to read some of my own recently acquired books in the first half of May.
 I'll just mention a couple that I finished. First read  was D.E Stevenson - The Two Mrs Abbots. First published in 1943 and featuring Barbara Buncle, who was the subject of two earlier books - Miss Buncle and Miss Buncle Married. I found a whole heap of DE  Stevenson paperbacks for pennies at a car boot sale and this was amongst them. It was chosen to read now simply because Persephone Books have recently republished it and it's set during WWII.  I enjoyed it as a  light read, very much of it's time although they were still  popular when I worked in libraries in the 1970s.
Neil Ansell - Deep Country. I first read when it was originally published a few years ago. It describes the Authors time living in a remote cottage in Wales. Mostly about the wildlife of the area. I enjoyed it second read too.

These were the library books I collected in Mid May
So far I've read
 Sue Grafton - Kinsey and me. Sue Grafton is the author of the American crime series of ABC murders featuring Kinsey Malone PI. This book is half short stories about Kinsey Malone half short pieces about the author.

Anna Quindlen - Still life with breadcrumbs. I think this was on someones book link last month, I liked the sound of it and ordered it from the library. A good read which I enjoyed. I'm no good at writing reviews so find out more about it here

Rory Clements - The Queens Man. This is the prequel to his series of 5 historical crime books about John Shakespeare (brother of William). Set in the time of Queen Elizabeth 1st when "England is a Judas Nest of Conspirators ". According to the cover " a TV series based on these books is in development". I shall look forward to that.

Edward Marston - Ticket to Oblivion. This author churns them out. Historical crime (Victorian) written to a "recipe" about a policeman who is known as The Railway Detective.  They are readable.

Strangely I just couldn't get into the James Oswald book - Hangmans Song. I don't know why. Maybe it was just the wrong book on the wrong day. I enjoyed his previous two in this modern crime series.

If you like cats then I can recommend the Doreen Tovey books.

The others are still awaiting more hours in the day to read!

Back Tomorrow with my review of the month- looking back at May on the Simple Suffolk Smallholding.


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