Tuesday 31 March 2015

Holiday Charity Shops, Clothes for a Wedding and Book Reviews in one sentence

Thank you for all the comments about our vegetable garden, that's just part of our 5 acres. I must go round and take pictures of other parts of our smallholding. They have been on the blog before but probably a couple of years ago and there are lots more new readers since then.We got another bed of potatoes in yesterday but the job I really need to do is weeding the front flower garden if only the wind wasn't still too cold and strong to work out there. March has really been a very windy month from start to finish and today has been the windiest of all, no chance of apricots as the wind has taken the flower buds right off the trees. The first visitors to our campsite are due tomorrow and yesterday we swept out the loos. This morning they were full of dead leaves and dust again - blown in under the doors and the mats and dustbins have all taken off!

 While we were away on holiday we managed to visit a few charity shops, although we were so sad to find that the brilliant charity bookshop on the quay in Watchet didn't open for the season until a couple of days after we were home- How annoying is that !

These were my Somerset finds
Old mixing bowl and jug,  paperback book: - Derek Tangye - Sun on the lintel ( a book that the library no longer has in stock) and a cushion cover very similar to the one my daughter got me for Mothering Sunday. My total spend on these = £7. I also got a tee-shirt for £1.79 but that's gone in the wash and Col found a good quality lightweight jumper for £6 which seems a lot for a charity shop but then anything over a couple of quid seems a lot to me now! Hence the difficulty buying clothes and shoes for our eldest's wedding, which is why we went to the outlet shopping place.

I managed to find comfy smart wide Clarkes' shoes with small heels for £24.99 instead of £40.00       (shoes with heels do feel odd after wellies and crocs!) and Col (who moans loudly at the proper price of shoes and usually  buys cheap ones which then fall to bits or hurt) was persuaded to spend £50 instead of  the proper price of £75. His new suit came with 2 free shirts - handy. Men are lucky - he will be able to wear the same suit for all 3 weddings of our offspring but I will have to have new each time I guess. While at the Outlet village I also got a couple of cotton jumpers.They will replace my decent jumpers which means the decent ones can become working here ones and the two scratchy, cheap, old jumpers can go- Good! I've spent all winter searching charity shops with no luck so the bullet had to be bitten and new bought. Really goes against the grain but at least the new were not full price.

The books that I read while on holiday have been added to my  separate page ( click on Books Read 2015 on the blog header). Hens Dancing by Rafaella Barker is the fictional diary of a woman with two young children whose husband has gone off with his masseuse. Although it claims to be the modern version of Diary Of a Provincial Lady by E.M.Delafield it is much shorter and not as funny. Still a good light read. The Bean Tree by Barbara Kingsolver is about a girl getting away from her rural home in Kentucky, becoming the guardian of a baby she names Turtle and making a new life in Tucson. This is the  second of Barbara Kingsolver's fiction  books that I have read and enjoyed but I still prefer her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about her families year of eating local. The Trip to Jerusalem by Edward Marston is the third in his Elizabethan Theatre historical crime series, from my book collection .A Christmas Odyssey by Anne Perry is a Novella, again historical crime, which I grabbed off the mobile library shelves last month. A quick read by this prolific author.

I've copied all my recipes that are on the blog onto a separate page, also on a tab under the header photo, this will make them easier to find. I found an anonymous comment there asking about the Onion (Marmalade) Chutney and have answered it and added a bit I missed off when I copied it over from the Recipes under Labels.

Welcome to Andrea and Faith, new readers following on Bloglovin', and also to Joy, The BUTT'RY and BOOK'RY and Shirl who are all over there on the right in the Google pictures.

Back in a day or three

Sunday 29 March 2015

A picture to cheer me up

We returned from our holiday to find a few signs of spring in the garden. The 2 gooseberry bushes which are always ahead of the others have a few leaves starting to show. Worryingly the apricot trees have some blossom unfurling, I say worryingly because today we have had really strong winds, heavy rain and sleet with just a few bits of sunshine in between. The weather has to be perfect for apricots blossom to set and it's definitely NOT perfect. Still no sign of asparagus and the rhubarb is only a fraction taller than it was a week ago. BUT almost worst of all, the tomato, aubergine and pepper seedlings in the conservatory haven't grown a bit, just sitting there with their two seed leaves. I decided to pot them on anyway and   the temperature on the little heater we have in there has been increased, I need fingers crossed that they do something fairly soon.

I've been going back to old blogs and deleting lots of photos because I know there is some sort of limit on how many you can have on your blog before you have to start paying and came across this photo from May 2013.  I'm sharing it again to remind me what our garden will look like if ever spring arrives and we start growing outside.

Back very soon

Friday 27 March 2015

We had a holiday

We have just got back from a holiday, the first for nearly 3 years. We spent a week in a cottage overlooking the West Somerset Preserved Railway line, the harbour and town of Watchet in Somerset and very nice it was too.

 We looked without any luck for fossils on Helwell beach
The cliff formations all around this part of the coast are like the above.

 To prove we were still vaguely fit we walked up Dunkery Beacon, 1,703 feet or 519 metres -slowly  - it's the highest point on Exmoor. Last climbed by us in 2004.
with views inland to Dartmoor and out to sea too, shame it was a bit misty.
No Purple Heather yet

I dragged Col ( not quite kicking and screaming) to the Clarkes Village shopping outlet place in Street because, even if  we normally avoid all activities that require good clothes, when you have a daughter getting married  you have to have something decent to wear. We are both now sorted and he agreed that it was much easier than going shopping in Ipswich. I resisted the temptations of the Le Creuset  and Denby outlets and also avoided the Cadbury's,Thorntons and Lindt shops. I know........ how virtuous!....... you can almost see the halo!

We walked around the medieval village of Dunster, over the old packhorse bridge
(Once a Bridge Inspector, always a Bridge Inspector!)
 and into the Yarn Market

The West Somerset Preserved Railway had a special Steam Gala on Thursday so Col turned into a train spotter, going in and out to see them passing by.
And then we came home again.
Next holiday in about another 3 years?
Thank you for all the comments after my last post and welcome to Janice and lostinhonkers (?) who are new followers.

Back in a short while

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Missing out............or not?

Living a quiet simple sort of life and keeping to a budget means we miss out on things that many other people take for granted......
Foreign holidays
City Breaks
Christmas Market Shopping
London Theatre trips
Designer clothes
Hand tied bouquets of flowers
A beach hut at Southwold
Owning a yacht
Top of the range boxes of chocolates
Fine Dining
Attending Film Premiers
Regular take-aways
Frequent kitchen makeovers
New electronic gadgets
Ladies Day at Ascot
Music Festivals
Mediterranean cruises
Top of the Range cars
Designer Watches
Expensive jewellery
Going to Grand Prix Racing

Yes, we miss out on all those.........Thank goodness!

 Welcome to some more new followers Juliet, Wee Breeze Farm and rlrforrest who are in the Google pictures on the right. Jean, Edith, Vivianne and Susan are following via Bloglovin' Hope you enjoy reading about our quiet life.

Back Soon
( PS Happy Birthday Little Sis)

Friday 20 March 2015

Baskets, Buckets and Trugs

First of all Bonjour et Ca Va? to Frugal in France. When I learned a minimal amount of French at school ( and failed O level) I think we had to say"Comment allez vous?" but somewhere over the last 40 years that changed to Ca Va ( I think- or I might be talking total rubbish!). Anyway, Welcome!
Also welcome to Undomestic-Diva, Both folks have clicked the Google button.

We have had some really cold weather here over the last few days. A strong North-Easterly straight off the sea, colder than most of the winter. The front flower border desperately needs weeding but it's just too cold to be out there and STILL nothing much is growing outside.

The post about baskets and basket making by Cornish Chickpea ( the pictures of one of the lovely baskets she made are here)  got me thinking about about how many baskets we have around the house and whether they are new or old.
This is the oldest by far
it belonged to my mum and I used it for taking ingredients to school Domestic Science ( as it was called back in the day), so it must be at least 50 years old - maybe more,
then we have a couple of log baskets, one in the kitchen and the other in the living room
and two of those baskets on the right which we keep  newspapers in for lighting the fires, but my favourite is this one
which Col got me many years ago from a local basket making man ( sadly long gone). I've only ever tried basket making once, at a local craft day, but I found it really hard on the hands and wrists.

I went from pondering baskets to thinking about buckets which reminded me of this piece I wrote way back in 2002 for the Suffolk Smallholders Newsletter. ( So many things have changed since then - no goats now of course and no more wine making, but we still have quite a few buckets!)

 If only the number of buckets you possess measured success as a smallholder, we would be champion smallholders!
I don't remember bringing any  when we moved here in 1992 but now, at a rough count ( no I'm not sad enough to actually go around counting buckets)  I think there are about 30 in various locations and performing varied tasks.
First there are the perfect buckets, those with proper handles and no cracks. These include two rubber un-destructibles, which will surely outlast us, probably because the darn things are so heavy that they are rarely used. Most of the proper buckets are used for their proper job, that is, carrying water to and fro to animals and birds.
There are buckets with good handles but cracked at the bottom, "useless" you might say but No! one has straw in  the bottom and is used everyday for collecting eggs, another collects weeds to carry them to the compost heap.
Then there are buckets without cracks but no handles - no problem, they become feed buckets for the goats or are stood on the field inside tyres to become drinking buckets.
Some are special buckets, like the bright red FIRE bucket on the campsite, and the compost bucket outside the back door or the fermentation bucket used for wine-making. Lurking in the shed, awaiting grandchildren, is a bright yellow sandcastle bucket leftover from when A was little .
Colin has buckets too! Stood in his workshop in various stages of yuck, they hold waste oil or a mixture of nus and bolts bought from a farm sale "just in case".
Like he says, whenever I suggest throwing out an old bucket " it might come in handy one day".

There is another item here which is used for carrying things, my lovely trug, handmade by Col several years ago.
I had found the measurements and instructions in a craft book and persuaded him to make a few to sell on our stand at a Suffolk Smallholders Annual Show in about 2007. He doesn't mind making things but these were much more complicated than his usual bodged gates etc and he got crosser and crosser with each one. I painted them, distressed and waxed all 6 and thought they looked really good. But when we came to work out the cost for selling we had to price them at £15 each and we didn't sell a single one. Col was NOT pleased. We gave some away as Christmas presents and I kept two here which I still have and I still love them even if no one else did!

I think the older I get the more I appreciate beautiful old hand made objects.

Thanks to everyone for comments
Back in a few days

Tuesday 17 March 2015

The Middle of March

First, thank you one and all for the 33 comments after my last short post about the weather in the West and that obnoxious bloke on TV. The interesting thing about blogging less often is that I seem to get more readers for each post and more comments. Sorry I didn't reply to any of the 33 but there wasn't much to say really except..... Thank you!

We have had some nice bright weather here since that last post, but more very grey cold days too, the first few daffodils were brought indoors but other than that it is still quite quiet in the garden. In other parts of the country people have rhubarb several inches tall, we have just the first signs of it growing through the compost, I've told the asparagus to hurry up but it's ignoring me!
 At least we have got 4 nets of onion sets planted and covered with fleece and still good quantities of salad leaves from the poly-tunnel.
And at last the Purple Sprouting Broccoli has enough spears to make a meal -Yum.

   The pots of crocuses that I had flowering in the kitchen last month have  been transferred to the garden and 2 small tree seedlings that were popped into pots last year have gone out on the edge of the campsite.

More preparation has been done for opening the campsite, mainly Col grass cutting and turning the water and electric on to check everything is OK and I've ordered the leaflets about local places of interest for the information room/library. Our first visitor is due on the 1st of April and we have 4 caravans booked in for Easter Weekend...... fingers crossed they all turn up.

Mothering Sunday fell smack bang in the middle of the month and I had cards from our 3 children and a lovely cushion cover from our eldest daughter, while the youngest daughter treated us to a takeaway on Monday night.
Just need to find a fatter cushion pad to fill the cover
  We didn't  go out on Mothering Sunday, not even for a walk - the East wind was just too darn cold, instead we got the dining room back together again after it's coats of paint ( found matching emulsion in the cupboard that we didn't know we had so didn't need to buy any) and did an hour wood cutting in the shed. I'm pleased that we are getting the house looking smart in case we sell. Just a bit of filler to do in a couple of  cracks in the new plaster of kitchen and living room, and a touch up with paint. Plus the back door needs painting when it's warm enough to leave it open all day.

In 1994 Col bought an old Grey Ferguson potato planter for £50, we've used it for years and it got gradually more rusty but it's now been sold and delivered -sight unseen- to another smallholder for £150. Maybe that's the difference between old and vintage! It was one of the things that made the weekend of the 14th/15th a good weekend for income, because apart from the bit of  tatty machinery we also sold 18 bales of hay for £45, 13 boxes of eggs = £13 and Col earned £30 for working at a neighbours. That's how our income arrives, in small bits, but it didn't stay here long because the electric bill also arrived, followed closely by the bill for business insurance and the bill for the solar thermal service - an expensive time of the year!

Talking about expensive- did you know the price of postage stamps goes up on the 30th of this month? I've invested in £20 worth  to beat the increase, which should last me most of the year. Now I come to think about it, the Post Office are missing a trick here by having stamps marked with 1st and 2nd instead of the price. In the old days it was necessary to go and buy a whole lot of 1p stamps to add to old ones when the price increased.

I've not mentioned books that I've read for a while but two more have been added to the list on the separate page on this blog.
 One from my own book shelves - Dorian Amos - The Good Life up the Yukon - Panning for Gold.

 This is the second book about a young couple who moved from England to the freezing forests of North Canada to live in an off grid cabin often cut off from the nearest town by a river. It is fascinating to read about coping with the sort of cold that means getting up several times during the night to keep the fire alight and having to don 6 layers of clothing before stepping out of the door. Brrrrrrrrr!

And Finally for today......... welcome to Melanie, a new follower on Bloglovin' .

Back in a few days

Thursday 12 March 2015

Worried about the weather in the west.

I'm very worried about the fact that so many bloggers have mentioned that they have just got their washing dry outside for the first time this year.
We have often thought about moving west to Wales or North Devon but the thought of having to wait until the second week of March before hanging out the washing is worrying me.
BECAUSE I've been hanging the washing out and getting it dry or almost dry right through the winter. We have had NO measurable rain in March so far and only 33mm in February spread over just 6 days and only 13 days with rain in January!
Yep, we really do live in the driest part of the country.

On a totally un-connected thought -- am I the only person who would willingly sign a petition to have Jeremy Clarkson permanently removed from our TV screens?

Back in a few days

Tuesday 10 March 2015

10th March -3 years ago today

3 years ago today Col gave up working full time for the County Council and launched into an unknown world of self- employment.
Actually it wasn't quite as drastic as that sounds because he carried on with his old job of bridge inspecting for 3 - 5 days a month and had several part time things lined up and of course we already had the campsite up and running and  planned to increase  our eggs and veg to sell.
That first spring and summer of 2012 was an unsettling time. Ever since our youngest started school in 1992 I had been used to being at home on my own all day for most of the year. It took a while to get into a new routine. Col still felt he had to be working at something all the time whereas I had been gradually slowing down since our youngest moved out in 2006. Everyone thought he had a pension to live on, which we didn't, but I had been juggling our income for 30+ years, through many tight times and knew we would manage while Col thought he needed to be doing dozens of different jobs to make ends meet.
3 years and two  heart events later and everything is much calmer, he is 58 tomorrow and so glad he finished work when he did. We are a long way out of the rat race and have settled into a  laid back routine. We don't need to earn "loads-a-money"  because we live such a simple quiet sort of lifestyle and  I no longer feel guilty reading instead of doing!

Well, what have we been up to over the last week on the Simple Suffolk smallholding?

Thursday morning was a wood cutting morning followed by a walk. Later I cleared all the small things from the dining room and brought the dust sheets in to cover the table and carpet ready for decorating. I'll get the prep work done bit by bit over a few days.

On Friday Col took the car to the dealers garage for them to look at the wheel bearings as we have a humming noise. The car came with a 3 month warranty - handy. They couldn't get it done Friday so lent Col an old Mondeo for the weekend. Later we shifted a load of shingle mixed with cement into some low parts of the campsite driveway. This sounds hard work but was mostly done with the front bucket on the tractor so not as energetic as it sounds.
Thanks to a reminder on a blog ( sorry not sure whose) I have taken cuttings from my money plant and shoved them into a pot in the hope they will root. Some pepper seeds which had been sitting in the propagator for  weeks suddenly decided to grow. Now I have 13 pepper seedlings - much better.

On Saturday morning our son came over to get the battery  from his old car to put on the newer car. I was doing a bit of baking including the mincemeat cake from Bovey Belle's Blog ( declared very tasty by Col later. I used ordinary SR flour as I didn't have wholewheat).
 Saturday afternoon was a quiet one on my own stitching, knitting and watching the Davis Cup tennis as Col went to Leiston to work for his customer on her allotment.

Sunday morning and spring sprung for a few hours, we lost the cold wind that seems to have been plaguing us since the beginning  of the month. Col wanted to check out that it was OK to borrow the muck spreader so we walked down to Friston by road, then across towards the church,
called in on our friend  and then back along the track, oil seed rape on the right and wheat on the left.

Lots of darts on TV during Sunday - and more tennis. By the end of the day the dining room walls were ready for emulsion after odd bits of filler, sanding down and washing down. We just need to go and get something - pale lemon I think.

Early Monday morning Col set off down the road in the tractor to fetch the muck spreader and was soon flinging all the old chicken muck all over the bit of the field that will be used for pumpkins and squash ( no main-crop potatoes this year.) He will be swapping the muck spreader for a big rotovator to turn it all in.
My Monday jobs were bread baking, ironing and cleaning windows.

Reading all my favourite blogs on Monday evening I saw that many parts of the country had a wet day, whereas it was dusk before we got rain here, and then it was just a shower - the driest part of the country again, so often the clouds have broken up before they get here - I do sometimes  wonder why we are thinking of moving west?

Another book has been finished, and once again it's something written in the 1930s. ( Angela Thirkell - Summer Half, first published 1937, reprinted by Virago in 2014) If anyone had told me a few years back that I would enjoy all these old books I probably wouldn't have believed them!

The new system for car road tax refunds works well. Now you don't sell a car taxed but get a cheque refund automatically  from the date that you transfer ownership to someone else. The road tax on the Hyundai is a bit less than the Jeep Cherokee, (which we had  only just taxed before Col decided on the Hyundai) and on Monday we got the cheque for virtually all the old tax  - enough to cover the new car - handy.

Which brings me back to today.
 Col headed off early for a mornings work in Leiston for his customer finishing the work on her allotment, coming home later with a cheque for £100. I had to stay close to the house as we were waiting for the plumbers to come and service our thermal-solar-hot water thingy

(that's it, on the flat dormer roof of the back bedroom- heating our water for free - as long as you don't count the couple of thousand pounds it cost to install it in the first place!!)

  It's been chugging along nicely since it was installed just over 3 years ago, but when the sun was shining the other day and the temperature of the water was high enough the pump didn't come on as quickly as it should have done. The men arrived eventually and did various complicated things in the airing cupboard to check it. I thought I would rustle up a coffee and walnut sponge for Cols birthday and also made a big batch of shortcakes ( recipe here) to squeeze into the freezer.
When Col got home he brought in a bowl full of salad leaves from the poly-tunnel for our lunch
(some of this yummy stuff) and after it had been rinsed and dried and put in a bag, I weighed it....... 350g, that would have cost us around £3.50 in a supermarket. Yes, growing your own IS worth the effort.

Welcome to Simon a new follower on Google and Kath on Bloglovin'. Hope you enjoy the ramblings of an old Suffolk gal!

Back in a few days

Wednesday 4 March 2015

March Winds

Well, March really did come in like a lion with some rough weather overnight between Saturday and Sunday and strong bitterly cold winds ever since. One gust on Monday blew over a wheelie bin, a small tree in a pot, a wheelbarrow and an empty water butt all at once - I wondered what on earth was happening!

We celebrated the start of March with our once a year trip up the A12 to the Car Boot sale at Kessingland. (We have to wait 'til Easter for our local car boots to start ). Usually this boot sale is huge but there were hardly any boots there. I bought nothing but Col got a big bundle of sandpaper sheets for 50p. After checking our March shopping list on My Supermarket comparison site I found Asda had several of the things we needed cheaper than anywhere else, so after a walk along the sand on Lowestoft beach we shopped there and saved several £ over Tesco prices. 

My favourite March weather saying is " March- month of many weathers". You never quite know what it will be like, there are bound to be a few days that say spring is here yet on the other hand we could still get some snow. My mum always used to tell us about the March day she got married  back in the fifties when they had everything - snow, hail, rain and sunshine too. Does nature know that we might have snow? The reason I ask is outside in the garden things are just so slow this year. Thankfully the seedlings in the conservatory are doing well except for the blasted peppers, three sowings and only 6 germinated! I've got  50+ tomato ( 4 different sorts) seedlings and 8 Aubergines. I'm hanging fire with cucumbers until later in the month. Col has sown beetroot, lettuce, salad leaves and radish in the poly tunnel and these are the first beetroot harvested this year from the late summer sowing in the poly.

and look what else was spied in the poly-tunnel.............
our bargain strawberry plants in the bargain grow bags, and the first one on flower. ( There's no sign of flowers on any of the other plants so it will be a very small early harvest!)

 This is one of 4 items  found in the jumble sale we went to on the last day of February. Lucky for me that someone bought a new hardback book in 2014 for £16.99 and then put it into a jumble sale, where I came along and found it for 50p.  This book isn't part of his Isle of Lewis crime series but a stand alone novel which I didn't know about. It kept me glued to it through the first few days of March.
( All the books I have read so far this year are listed on a separate page - click on Books Read in 2015 on the header picture)

One of my first March jobs was to sort the chest freezers and squash everything into one. The other is defrosted, cleaned and turned off until fruit growing season. We have also tackled the campsite recreation room/library, it's had a dusting and been swept out and books put back on shelves. I'm waiting for the company that supplies tourist leaflets to email with this years list of what's available. There are just a few jobs to do before we re-open, dustbins to go outside, signs to go up, the toilets/basins to have another wipe-down and loo rolls added. We have 3 bookings for Easter weekend already. Fingers crossed for not too much rain between now and then.

Tuesday was shopping in Saxmundham - nothing exciting - just the stuff that Asda didn't have or things that are cheaper in Tesco. I went in a bit later than usual so as to go to the library which doesn't open until 10. I found another of the books that the British Library have recently published in the British Crime Classics Series and........ great excitement ...........for 30p, off the For Sale shelf a copy of Paths Of The Air by Alys Clare to add to my collection. ( 2 books have been moved to the car boot boxes to make up for this extravagance!)

We always know when our neighbour is away because when her bird feeders don't get filled, all the blue tits and great tits come over to ours. Col hung all the feeders in one place and sat for ages trying to get a good picture ( that man has too much time on his hands!) My camera doesn't really do it justice.

One of the things we definitely decided after Col's  hardly-a-heart-attack last October was to stop keeping hundreds of chickens. Cleaning out 3 big sheds was quite hard work. So on Tuesday, after a friend had the some of the oldest ones we just have one shed of hens left.  Col's job  was to clear up the electric fence and all the other bits and tow the shed down the field ready to be cleared out, pressure washed and then probably sold. There are still so many things about the future that we need to decide - the big one being do we stay here and see how we get on with just the campsite  and a few other bits of income or do we move to somewhere smaller and also buy another small house or flat  to rent out for an income. The best time to try and sell would be during spring/summer, but this year or next? ( I did a couple of posts about this last year and we are no further forward than we were then!)

We will just keep thinking about it for a while longer.

 Welcome to a new follower on Google Friends - DebShireGardener who has a blog called Rustic Pumpkin's garden in the shire and also welcome to Debbie on Bloglovin'.

The weather is supposed to be a bit warmer by the weekend, I hope it is.
Back in a few days


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