Thursday, 31 December 2009

Here's to 2010!

All best wishes to you all for 2010 - I hope the new year brings everything you would want, and more. Thanks for all your reading, comments and support over the past year, it's much appreciated.
I know I'm looking forward to a new year, I've lots of things I want to try out, and will hopefully get to share them on here with you all.

Happy New Year!



Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Use it up January!

I have resolved that the new month, January, will be Use It Up - this means no more buying of wool, fabric, other things, until I've got through various stashes and collections I already have. It will run to food as well - I need to clear the smaller freezer and defrost it as I have a whole pig coming this month, so need a clean and empty freezer for it to go in, along with all the resulting bacon, sausages, etc. There are various things in the store and larder too that need sorting through and using up, so that's on the list too. This will all hopefully make it easier when I come to De-clutter February - best laid plans of mice and men, and all that, though. I'll see how I go, but I'm looking forward to delving into some bags and boxes to find things I haven't seen for some time LOL
As a taster, I've started a stashbusting jumper, pictured above, using up all odds of chunky-ish wool hanging around. It's going to be very warm, not to mention colourful! :)
Here's to less "stuff" in the New Year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Recycling the Christmas tree.............

I think it's a great thing that councils here in the UK offer some sort of shredding facility for Christmas trees - there's no excuse really for just dumping it. However, we recycle ours at home, there's lots of possibilities. I make sure that every shred of decoration is off it, then drag it outdoors to the back garden. The branches are cut off, then some are shredded to use as a mulch. The pine needles are qutie acid, so provide an excellent mulch for acid loving plants - ornamental ones, but mine tend to go on the strawberries - very good for them. Sometimes I shred, other times, I just lay the smaller branches around them and leave them to rot down. I have a lovely environmentally friendly old shredder, worked by a handle with human power - no noise, no fumes, no fossil fuels for that, and it was at least second hand when I was given it. The rest of the branches are chopped up or shredded and put on the compost heap. This year, some will be added to my new blueberry plants too, to give them a boost. The trunk is left to dry out for a while, then sawn and stacked in the wood shed for burning in the stove or woodburner next winter. This year, I might purloin a bit of it for my wood carving that I hope to get done, thus giving me another option.
We have a very lovely tree this year - a very fresh dark green one; it wasn't particularly cheap, but it was local, cut from the field behind the farm shop. So, these further uses are a good way of adding extra value for money!

Monday, 28 December 2009

MrsL's turkey curry

This recipe is one I use a lot, and vary the main ingredient to put in the sauce - cooked meat of various kinds, boiled eggs, vegetables, etc. It's based on the Hugh F-W recipe for Murgh Makhani, which is a favourite of ours, but takes quite a long time to prepare and cook - this version is a quickie one, but still very good.

Put two tins of chopped tomatoes into a large pan with a scant 1/4 pint of cold water and 5 cloves; put to simmer, and leave to thicken and reduce. Fish out the cloves. Add the following: 3 tbsp plain yoghurt, 1 clove garlic chopped fine, 1 tsp fenugreek, 1tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp salt, dollop of tomato puree, 1 tbsp honey, 2 oz butter, lots of freshly ground black pepper, 1 heaped tsp chilli powder, or more to taste. Stir well, and leave to simmer for about half an hour, covered. Add in your chosen ingredient - in this case, cooked chopped turkey, stir to combine and leave to get very well heated through. Just before serving, stir in a couple of tablespoons of cream. Serve with plain boiled rice. The sauce will freeze very well without the addition of the cream, so a bigger batch can be made and stored.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Nice start to the post Christmas week!

Had this appear out over the back this morning:

What a nice start to the day, even thought it's chilly and showery now lol Christmas os over , we had a lovely time, very quiet, just the four of us as usual; very relaxed, plenty to eat and drink, with a bit left over for this week, so shouldn't need to go shopping, which is a bonus!
I spent a couple of hours yesterday sorting through my seeds - it always re-enthsues me for the imminent growing season. I'm especially looking forward to getting back out in the garden after enforced absence due to a combination of bad health and wet and cold weather. There are signs of life out there, though - bulbs and buds, new shoots. I'm excited about this year as I have lots of plans (in my head...........) for both the front adn back gardens. The year gone was qutie productive food-wise, but I'm sure I can squeeze quite a bit more in with a bit of thought, so I'm going to go for it. We still have leeks, sprouts, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, Swiss chard, parsley, stored squashes.

I recently re-joined the H.D.R.A. (now GArden organic, but I still think of it by its old name), so I spent a happy half hour choosing my seeds from their Heritage Seed Library, so I've still those to come. Having had a really good sort out, I can see what I actually NEED, rather than think I need, so not a lot to buy, but there are a few more unusual things I would like to try and I've found a source of wild asparagus crowns which I've been after for a while, so will get them ordered too. I want to try skirret and cvapers, Good King Henry (again, can't seem to get it going here yet) and some Munchen radishes again, where you eat the pods rather than teh roots - aka rat's tail radish, which I grew a few years back.

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas, I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things again.:)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A very merry Christmas from me

Just a note to wish you all a very happy Christmas - I hope it's all you wish for and more - have a lovely holiday. I'll be back after Boxing Day, and in the meantime, have a listen to this:

Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter Solstice

Time to bring out more candles and decorate the house with greenery - now done, the sitting room looks very festive. The holly and ivy were cut fresh from the garden, the mistletoe bought a while back from the farmer's market. Every year I try to get it to grow in the apple trees by squashing in the berries; no luck yet, but I keep on trying! The Yule log is ready to come indoors.
It's very cold here today; the sky is heavy looking, and it could very well snow, which I would love. I've just turned the stove up for supper - beef stew and dumplings tonight I think - and the woodburner will be lit soon, the curtains drawn, and in for the evening, setled down with some knitting and a glass of something nice.

Blessings to all on this winter solstice.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Knitted mini festive bunting

I'm pleased with the way this turned out; it's for a forum swap, so I'll have to make another string for myself! It's a good way of using up little bits of leftovers - this one used some chunky red, handspun multi sparkly green and some really fun twinkly white, which I think give the whole thing a lift and a fun feel. The little triangles are knitted individually, then joined at the corners and across the tops with crochet; an alternative way would be to just take a couple of stitches at the corners. Add on a string to hang by at each end, and it's ready to hang up, or drape on the tree. Very adapatable - make the triangles any size you like, all different colours, all one colour, anything at all - can be adapted for seasons (eg browns and oranges for autumn), or occasions, eg baby colours for a newborn, pinks for a girlie bunting, etc.

I used 5.5 mm needles and chunky-ish wool, and knitted in garter (plain) stitch.

Cast on 12 stitches and knit 2 rows.
Next row: dec 1 st at each end of row
Next row: knit

Repeat last 2 rows until 1 stitch is left on needle, draw yarn through and fasten off. Darn/weave in ends.
Make as many as you need, then join in one of the ways described above.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Cranberry sauce and winter hats

I like my Christmas food traditional in the main, but I do like cranberry sauce with turkey, and make it every year; apart from last year when I couldn;t get cranberries for love nor money for some reason. Anyhow, I got mine early this year to make sure I had some, and have just made the sauce. Nice and simple, letting the fruit's sharpness shine through - perfect with turkey, I think.

8 oz or so of fresh cranberries
juice of two oranges
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
small knob of butter

Rinse cranberries and place in a pan with the orange juice; put pan over a lowish heat, cover, and leave until the cranberries pop and soften to a puree. Add seasoning to taste and the butter and enough sugar just to take the edge off the sharpness. Add more juice if you like a softer consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then leave to cool. Will keep in the fridge for up to a week or so, or you can freeze it until required.

Now - hats.
I finished the second of these this morning, and they are now on their way to Inverness as presents for my nieces. They are knitted from the Hat Trick kit available from Alice Starmore's Virtual Yarns ( The yarn is pure wool, produced in the UK in the most enchanting set of colours, with evocative names such as Solan Goose, Bog Bean, Kittiwake, Driftwood.......... The quality of the wool and pattern are absolutely top notch, and I can recommend the company to everyone. I now need to order another set, as both Bean and I want one, and MrL has ordered one in a manly style. I certainly won't mind knitting these again, they were a pleasure to work up.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Making the cards

One of my favourite parts of the Christmas preparations is making the cards; I usually do a whole run of one design, but this year I had lots of very lovely bits and bpieces to use up, so made a varied selection. 102 I counted, I think! I spent a happy couple of hours at the kitchen table, taking my time, warmed by the Rayburn and a big mug of hot fruity cordial. I'll get them written this afternoon, ready for posting tomorrow; a bit later than usual, but that's only to be expected. I'm already planning next year's

This one is a bit of fun - not my idea, but I got it from the wonderful, and I borrowed his idea, but made them pink! It makes me smile just to look at them!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Slow Christmas..................

I'm not one for rushing around, but especially so at Christmas - I refuse to be caught up in the rush and hurry, the greediness, the fraught "shopping" binges, the perceived pressure, the competitiveness of it all...........So, here we are at the 16th December, and it's time to start the preparations for next week - ample time in my book, it's the way we like it. I have bought most of the presents, and made the cake and Christmas pudding and mincemeat, but that's it. This afternoon is devoted to making the cards and writing them, along with the annual letter for those we don't see/speak to often. I'll make the front door wreath too, and probably get the cranberry sauce made. Tomorrow I'll be sorting out the decorations for the house - MrL has got the box down from the loft so I can go through them at my leisure; we'll get a tree at the weekend. By the end of the weekend, the house will be decorated, and the wrapping and posting done, preparations for food and drink will be well in hand by then too.
I refuse to rush, to spoil what for me is a big part of it all- the making, the talking to friends, watching the sky for snow ( we had a bit yesterday!), sharing, taking time to enjoy it all, not just the three days holiday. I enjoy taking time to wrap up and wander around the garden for my own greenery - although I did buy a lovely big piece of mistletoe at the market - and use that; find ourselves a Yule log too, in the woods and bring it on home; take time with a hot drink or two to wrap presents and write cards, enjoying the process, not just the results, which is what life should be about really.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

I'm back.................

Thankyou all so much for all your good wishes and kind thoughts, it's very much appreciated.
I've been in hospital for a few days, unfortunately having had to have surgery for a very badly infected and about-to-butst- gall bladder. Op was difficult and "challenging" but luckily the surgeon didn't tell me that until afterwards!
Anyhow, I'm back home with armfuls of painkillers and a few weeks of good rest ahead of me.
I'll be back later.



Thursday, 10 December 2009

MrsL is poorly...UPDATE

Hello everyone, Bean here I'm afraid :) but good news is MrsL is on the mend and will be back with us within the next couple of days, so you should be seeing a post from her very soon :) thankyou all for sending your lovely comments! xoxox

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

MrsL is poorly...

Hello everyone :) Bean, daughter of MrsL here, with a quick update. Unfortunately MrsL has been taken ill and has been in hospital since Monday night. The doctors are performing lots of tests and scans, but unfortunately surgery is required. However she remains her old self, is having a lie down and doing more of MrL's socks as we speak, and is raring to get back and do some writing here :) Apologies if this post is a bit short, I'm only the messenger :) but hopefully I'll be back soon with more news. Take care everyone :)

Saturday, 5 December 2009


Just wanted to say I might not be around for a couple of days as I'm distinctly unwell. Will get back as soon as I can.
Take care, all.



Thursday, 3 December 2009

In Defence of Food

by Michael Pollan, ISBN 978-0-141-03472-0

I've just finished reading this, having requested it from the library.I can thoroughly recommend it. It pulls together a lot of my thoughts on eating, food and the provenance thereof. Easy to read, funny in places and highly informative and inspiring. there are a few things I will change after reading it.

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

by Michael Pollan, ISBN 978-0-141-03472-0

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Bright colours for a dreary day

These have brightened up this morning for me - it's a very heavy sky here, we've just had a bit of icy rain, but to me it looks like snow. The tea cosy is an order for someone, but I'm very taken with the colours in that, so may do one for myself too. The dogwood has just been cut, with a view to Christmas decorations, but it's so lovely I think a basket might be in order instead.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Frosty start to December................

Dark December has now come, and brought with him the shortest day and longest night: he turns the mist-like rain into ice with the breath of his nostrils: and with cold that pierces to the very bones, drives the shivering and houseless beggar to seek shelter in the deserted shed....
Even the houses, with their frosted windows, have now a wintry look; and the iron knocker of the door, covered with hoary rime. seems to cutt he fingers like a knife when it is touched.

(Chambers Book of Days 1864)

Inviting peace

- a lit candle

- the night sky, when it's still and quiet

- a ticking clock

- the rhythmic breathing of a sleeping child

- the moon

- watching snow fall

- early morning, alone

- a walk in the woods

- sleeping animals

- reflecting in an empty church

- moonlight on water

- an empty beach

- a hilltop in autumn

- gentle summer rain

(from a print by David Winston)

Monday, 30 November 2009

A smile for a wintry day

I found this and thought I'd share it again. Hands up who's not smiling? LOL

St Andrew's Day

Today is the feast day of St Andrew - Patron Saint of Scotland, Patras in Greece and Russia. A Galilean fisherman, Andrew was the first-called of Christ's disciples, the brother of Simon. he is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at Patras; the tradition that his cross was x-shaped (as on the saltire, above), dates from the Middle Ages.

St Andrew the King, three weeks and three days before Christmas comes in

Traditional saying.

Well, it's definitely winter here now; there is an icy blast and a heavy sky; bare branches, wet underfoot, cold is in the air, birds wheeling, with their amller brethren seeking shelter in teh evergreens to take their turn on teh feeders. time to turn the stove up and put socks on indoors, make soup and winter puddings, think ahead to Christmas and a bit further to what the new year, soon to come in, will bring.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday morning visitor

We were lucky enough to get another of our occasional visits from a lesser spotted woodpecker this morning; I got a good close look as I keep my bins on the draining board - the feeders are on the snake bark maple just outside the kitchen window, so I got a good look this morning.
What a lovely creature, I'm honoured when he comes into the garden. Hoping to see the babies next year too, as they nest not far away from here I'm told.
I don't lay claim to the photo, it's from the Guardian website. I'd rather spend the fleeting moments watching than trying to find my camera and take a photo.

Made me laugh with my typos, though; it first appeared as a Lesser Spooted doubt it will forever be known thus in the Deanery! lol

Anyone else get woodpeckers as visitors?

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Freedom Manifesto - print your own!

From the rather wonderful Tom Hodgkinson:

Let's hear it for Hester Pinney

I just found out about this amazing and awe-inspiring woman last night; thought I'd share this with you all:

Coconut oil soap

I made this yesterday; stocks of soap are getting a bit low, and I had quite a few bottles of coconut oil to use up. Scouting about on the net, I found a basic recipe here:

Very pleased with the resulting soap, it's now cut and waiting to go upstairs to cure. Looks to be a nice smooth result, and should lather well. By the way, coconut oil soap is the only soap to get to lather in salt water. You may be glad you knew that one day!! lol

Thursday, 26 November 2009

BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year

Farming Today announced its Farmer of the Year last night, here he is:

Take time to have a look around the site if you can, it's wonderful. Organic and biodynamic - doesn't get much better than that for me! :D

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Searching for something "I thought I'd read about somewhere", I went back, in a roundabout way, to one of my favourite permaculture sites:

Take a look - I find it upbeat and inspiring. I then went on to have another look at the uk permaculture forum and decided to join it today - lots to read, lots to learn. They're at

There's also

to look at, and various DVDs available. I find actually physically listening to the people doing it , very inspiring.

I've been interested in permaculture for years, and have been using various aspects in my gardens. There are a few projects I want to incorporate next year, so have been looking about for ideas and inspiration, reading suggestions and information. I'll seek out my permaculture books over the winter and re-read them, ready to get going when the weather is right.
It's nice to have projects and dreams, something to scheme over and plan, and with permaculture, there's always something you can do quickly/easily/make a start on/cheaply or free right away.
With a bit more hard work and diligence out there, I'm sure I can finally close the almost closed loop in the garden, and would like to try for a year buying in nothing for it - we'll see how it goes, but I feel the little germ of excitment already.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Clotted cream and chestnut fudge

200g chestnut puree (I used tinned for this one)
275 g granulated sugar
100g golden syrup - scant measure
225g clotted cream (1 tub)

Put all ingredients into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently to dissolve; increase heat, bring to the boil, then put lid on for 3 minutes. Remove lid and continue to boil to 116C/240F, soft ball stage.
Remove from heat and beat well until thickened and grainy. Turn into lightly oiled tin and leave to set. When almost set, mark into squares. Keep in an airtight tin if you can :)

(This is my adaptation of a basic recipe I found on the internet.)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Isn't it nice to.................

- shut the thick curtains agains the dark and cold night

- have a lovely family and home

- enjoy good health

- have good friends

- have nothing planned for tomorrow

- look forward to an evening's knitting

- have a new book to read

- have a new catalogue *about* books to read

- know you have warm and nourishing food to feed your family

- see the moon

- shut the door behind you, knowing you don't have to go out again today

- have got a difficult meeting over with

- have time to stop and look in the garden even in the pouring rain

- fold clean, dry washing and put it away, smelling of fresh air

- look forward to things

- drift off to sleep having knowledge of the above

- be able to count your blessings

I hope you're as lucky as I am. :)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Quick and easy supper for a Saturday

I wanted something quick for tonight, and ended up with an easy, tasty supper - and frugal into the bargain. Put on a pot of water for pasta of your choice - I used farfalle; meanwhile, drain the oil from some sun-dried tomatoes into a frying pan over a medium to high heat (I got my tomatoes at a rock bottom reduced price last night, using 2 x 150g tubs, in oil and herbs); when hot, slice in some leeks (I went to the vegetable basket for onions, but found a couple of leeks that needed using up soon), and when starting to soften, add in the tomatoes. Cook pasta when the water boils. Drain pasta, give it a good shake and return to the hot pan; mix through the tomatoes and leeks, and add in a good two handfuls of crumbled blue cheese - I used Stilton as that's what I had. Reheat for a minute or two and serve.
So, for under about 4.00 that fed us all(4 adults), washed down with a bottle of gooseberry wine. What started out as a plainish supper of pasta with tomato and onion sauce turned into something really good that I will do again.
It may well turn out differently according to what's in the larder and fridge, but that's half the fun of cooking for me.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Letting go

The older I get, the easier I find it is to say no, and to let things go that I can't or won't find time for. I've done that with a few projects lately, the latest casualty being the Nanowrimo. I really enjoyed it last year, but am definitely not enjoying it this time round, so it's gone. The world will carry on (and possibly be a better without my literary offerings.
I'd rather spend my time on things I'm really enjoying and that mean something to me. I've also learned not to take on too much - better to do a few things well and on time, than struggle with a lot of things and spread myself more thinly. Admittedly it's not always easy to say no, but there are ways of letting down people gently and politely; I'm sure they'd much rather I said no at the outset than have to endure disappointment later on.
Once the final decision to let something or somebody go, it's amazing the weight that seems to be lifted from your shoulders. Maybe I should do it more often!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Making medlar cheese

Not many medlars are grown these days, which is a shame; it's an easy tree to grow, doesn't get too big, is interesting in its growth habits , has lovely foliage in the late autumn and produces the above strange little fruits. Funny little brown things with a star-shaped flat surface opposite the stem end; the French name for them is "cul de chien", which translates as dog's bottom!
The curious thing about medlars is that they are not edible until bletted - this means left to go very soft and squidgy, changing from yellowish green in their unripe state to a mid to dark brown. They can be left on the tree, when the first frost will blett them, or picked and brought into a warm kitchen and left in a warm airy place until ready.
For making the medlar cheese, the first thing you need to do is extricate teh flesh; when they are so soft, a gentle squeeze will break the skin, and you can squeeze out the flesh into a dish; there are five big seeds in there too, so just get all the insides into the dish to begin with. I then put the resulting pulp through a sieve, directly into the weighing pan of the scales. When that's done, the skins are put through a colander, along with the pulp from the sieving; this gets the pulp off that is sticking to the insides of the skins and around the pips - surprising how much more you get. Be warned, it's a very messy operation! The end products should be a heap of smooth raw pulp and a heap of dryish skins etc for the compost heap or chickens:

Weigh the pulp, and put into a heavy based saucepan; add in the same weight in white sugar, stir well, and cook over a lowish heat until dissolved:

Move the pan to a higher heat, and leave to bubble away until really, really thick - you should be able to draw the wooden spoon over the base of the pan and divide the contents, as in cooking chutney. It will plop and guggle like a volcano, and make a mess of the stove top, but it needs a long steady cook to reach the end stage, where you should have a thickened slightly grainy mass that refuses to drip from the spoon. Lightly oil your moulds - I used muffin tins, and I hope to be able to turn them out successfully, and these should give a good shape.

That's them cooling now; I'll leave them until tomorrow, covered, in the kitchen and turn them out and store them for Christmas. Some may be given as presents, tied with cellophane and a ribbon. I'm sure it would be a welcome gift, as I suspect few people have tasted it.
Any other folks grow this? If not, are you tempted?

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Nanowrimo 2009

I thoroughly enjoyed taking part (successfully!) in this last year, so have decided to have another go this year.However, having only started this afternoon, I've a lot of catching up to do if I'm to complete the 50,000 words by 30th November - I will, though, I will.........
It's about knitting, a remote lighthosue and three women. So far.........
I've whooshed out 2,578 words this afternoon in just over an hour, so fairly sure I can make it.
Wish me luck!
Anyone else having a go?

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

October Giveaway - the finished hat!

This is what Karen chose for her prize, the colours chosen by her lad, as it's for him:

Can you e-mail me Karen, and let me have your details to send it on please? Thanks.

This is a nice one, quick and easy, not fancy, economical. Smooth, rather than chunky, as the apples puree themselves mostly.

4lbs apples - windfalls, cookers, etc; peel, core, chop small
3/4 lbs red onions - chop small
1/2lb sultanas
3/4 lb dark brown sugar
1 1/2 pints cider vinegar
2 tsp ground ginger
2tsp ground cinnamon

Put it all in a pan and cook it down slowly until thick enough to draw the spoon through. Pot up when hot, or when cold.Label and store, will be ready for Christmas.

Eve's pudding

This is a lovely late autumn/early winter pudding, served warm with home made custard. Easy and fairly economical, make several at once - saves on fuel for cooking, and the cooked pudding freezes well.

Serves about 4:

4 large cooking apples
4oz self-raising flour
4 oz butter
4oz sugar + sugar for apples
2 eggs, beaten
milk to mix if required

Peel and core the apples and cut into chunks; put in a pan over a lowish heat with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of water.Put the lid on and cook until just tender, but still retaining the shape. If you over cook, and it goes more puree-like it doesn't matter, it will still taste as good!
meanwhile, lightly butter a baking dish; cream butter and sugar together until well mixed and fluffy, and add the eggs slowly. Beat in flour; add a little milk if required, to a soft dropping consistency.
Put the cooked apple into the dish, and spread the sponge mixture on the top.
Bake in a hottish oven for 35 minutes or so until well-risen and golden brown.
This is also good with pears, but I'm not sure what that would be called!

Just imagine..................

...if you had this view to wake up to every morning! Absolutely stunning - I can't stop looking at the picture lol. I'm so, so tempted I am :)

From here:

Anyone want to share?

Sunday, 15 November 2009


Teh weather here in Dorset has been truly seasonal the last couple of days - lashing rain, high winds (for here), chilly, miserable; but it is November after all, and we're on the cusp of early winter. I have no argument with the weather - ever. I never moan about it, as I feel that's a waste of time and effort - there's nothing to be done about it, so I just get on with it. However, I am the greatest respecter of weather and the forces of nature. When the weather is like it has been the last couple of days, I stay put. Only if it was urgent would I venture out; no point in putting life and limb (mine and others) at risk. Like a lot of things these days, some folks seem to think it's their 'right" to be able to go out and about as and when they want to; they'll travel miles in terrible weather just to go to the cinema or go shopping, or whatever.
We did forego our grocery shopping on Friday evening because of the wind and rain. We are equipped to last quite a while ehre foodwise, so one evening certainly wasn't going to hurt. When we got up on Saturday, weather had improved enough to go out, but we were still wary of fallen branches, flooding on the low road, etc. The local brook was very flooded,away out over the fields; seagulls were having a great time!The whole key to coping with the weather is to take notice of what is going on and act accordingly. Stupidity, impatience and a "Must have it now/go there now attitude" can and does cost lives. Why risk it? Teh furthest I venture is to the top of the garden to tend the beasties - that's enough for me.
The weather is bright this morning, but still cloudy; unsure what will follow later, but the picture above was taken this morning looking over towards Bulbarrow Hill. That was nice to get up to!

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Do you make lists? I never used to, but over the past few years I've been finding it easier to amke a list of things to do/get/that need attention, etc. I'm not sure whether it's age, or an increase in the amount of things I need to remember. I suspect it's the latter, but it's probably a combination of both.........
I now make shopping lists every week, and have now even got into the habit of remembering to take them with me! I found a nice blackboard at the tip a couple of years ago, and got into the routine of writing what I needed for the kitchen as I go - it's been immeasurably useful, and the others can write on it too if they finish something/decide they want something different, etc (not that I actually *buy* everything they write down, but that's another story lol). I now do lists for everything - Guild days so I don't forget anything vital; fundraising things, where I need to take eg tea towels and raffle tickets, odd things I have to do on specific days, lists of things I want to look up on the computer, that sort of thing. This last one is now translated into a book, though, as I look so many things up, but it's a useful record of all sorts of things. I really need to get to my Christmas lists this weekend - I meant to do them last week, but didn't get around to it - list for family presents, other presents, card lists, food lists, things to do lists, etc.
I must admit it does make for an easier life for me, but I must remember where I put them, which is half the battle really.
Are you a list person?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

November Giveaway is here!

Well, the computer seems to have seen fit to fix itself, so what better way to celebrate than with the November giveaway? lol
On offer this month is a pair of lapghans; hand crocheted in a variety of colours, just the right size for over the knees in the winter that's almost upon us! It was going to be one, but I popped in another one to save any arguments that might ensue when the colder weather hits!
If you'd like your name in the hat for a chance to win, as usual please leave a comment, or e-mail me on All welcome, can psot worldwide.:)
Good luck and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Just a quick note - my computer has got some sort of problem, so might not be around tomorrow or the next day. Hope to be back soon.

Take care everyone.



The fight for food - please read.

This is taken from Yahoo news, via Reuters:


Claudia Parsons, Russell Blinch and Svetlana Kovalyova

At first glance, Giuseppe Oglio's farm near Milan looks like it's suffering from neglect. Weeds run rampant amid the rice fields and clover grows unchecked around his millet crop. Skip related content
Related photos / videos
A customer stands in a supermarket
Enlarge photo .Oglio, a third generation farmer eschews modern farming techniques -- chemicals, fertilizers, heavy machinery -- in favour of a purely natural approach. It is not just ecological, he says, but profitable, and he believes his system can be replicated in starving regions of the globe.

Nearly 5,000 miles away, in laboratories in St. Louis, Missouri, hundreds of scientists at the world's biggest seed company, Monsanto, also want to feed the world, only their tools of choice are laser beams and petri dishes.

Monsanto, a leader in agricultural biotechnology, spends about $2 million (1.2 million pound) a day on scientific research that aims to improve on Mother Nature, and is positioning itself as a key player in the fight against hunger.

The Italian farmer and the U.S. multinational represent the two extremes in an increasingly acrimonious debate over the future of food.

Everybody wants to end hunger, but just how to do so is a divisive question that pits environmentalists against anti-poverty campaigners, big business against consumers and rich countries against poor.

The food fight takes place at a time when experts on both sides agree on one thing -- the number of empty bellies around the world will only grow unless there is major intervention now.

A combination of the food crisis and the global economic downturn has catapulted the number of hungry people in the world to more than 1 billion. The United Nations says world food output must grow by 70 percent over the next four decades to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people by 2050.

International leaders are gathering in Rome next week for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's World Summit on Food Security and will hear competing arguments over how best to tackle the problem. One of the fiercest disputes will be over the relative importance of science versus social and economic reforms to empower small farmers to grow more with existing technology.


Much of Europe has moved away from an agricultural system of small farms to mass commercial farming, but Italy still retains a base of family farmers who produce everything from olives to mozzarella cheese.

Oglio is one of them. A charismatic 40-year-old, he dropped out of an agricultural school after growing disillusioned with the farming methods being taught there. Today, he lets nature run its course as he grows cereals and legumes on his small family farm in Belcreda di Gambolo, about 20 miles southwest of Milan.

He does not use any chemical, or even natural fertilizers or pesticides. He does not weed his fields. "All you need to do is observe nature, listen to it, do what nature suggests and it will take care of everything," he said.

His fields, in a low-lying plain that has a long history of growing rice used for risotto, replicate patterns found in nature. For example, clover and millet grow together, feeding each other with necessary minerals.

Oglio said his farm is eco-sustainable. He has slashed operating costs by eliminating expensive commercial products like herbicides and by reducing the use of agricultural machinery to a minimum. Such cheap and low-maintenance farming could be adopted in Africa and other regions hit by poverty and hunger, he said.

"Natural farming will not save the world. But it can feed poor families," he said.

But it's unlikely it can do so on the scale that most experts believe is necessary. And therein lies the rub. Affluent consumers may prefer the Oglios of the world to the Monsantos, but their skittishness about high-tech agriculture is making it more difficult to grapple with the mounting crisis over the lack of food.


The last time the world faced such dire predictions of famine was before the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when countries like India and China transformed their agricultural systems to become self-sufficient in food. They did so by harnessing plant-breeding technology to raise yields on rice, wheat and other staple crops.

Through massive state investment in hybrid rice, China, the world's most populous country, raised its yields from two tons per hectare in the 1960s to more than 10 tons per hectare by 2004. Chinese scientists seek further gains -- 13.5 tons per hectare by 2015, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which cites China's rice program as one of the true success stories in agricultural development in a study out this week (November 12) called "Millions Fed."

To be sure, the Green Revolution had its downsides -- environmental damage, to name one. In India, for example, water tables are drying up and the soil has been degraded by pesticide and fertilizers. The movement also contributed to the rise of big commercial farms at the expense of small holders, fuelling resentment from its early days at what critics see as the "corporatisation" of food.

But millions of people were saved from starvation, and the movement's architect, Norman Borlaug, received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize.

With their populations soaring, however, India and China -- not to mention most of Africa -- still face challenges, especially as climate change exacerbates environmental problems that have already slowed growth in food production.

IFPRI, part of a global network of agricultural research centres, said last month lower yields due to climate change would cut "calorie availability" for the average consumer in a developing country in 2050 by 7 percent, compared with 2000.

Higher temperatures reduce crop yields while encouraging pests and plant diseases. For almost all crops, South Asia would experience the largest declines in yields. IFPRI said rice output in the region would be 14 percent lower than if there were no climate change.

"India sorely needs another Green Revolution," said Kushagra Nayan Bajaj, joint managing director of Bajaj Hinduthan, India's top sugar producer, which is importing raw sugar after a drought hit the domestic cane crop.

But a second green revolution would face a strong counterinsurgency, even in a place like India that benefited so profoundly from the first one.

"The point is that chemicals destroy the sustainability of productivity in the long run ... Yes, a second green revolution is indeed very essential -- the very need of the hour. But it should not be the same kind of green revolution that the first was," said P.C. Kesavan, a fellow at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, set up by the father of India's Green Revolution.

Economists and scientists in India are demanding a raft of policy initiatives, including allowing genetic engineering, which its proponents argue does the same job as traditional plant hybridization, only quicker and more efficiently.

India has so far allowed GM seeds only for cotton, which has boosted productivity, but suggestions of allowing such seeds for edible crops have always evoked strong protests.


It's a similar story in Mexico, where Borlaug started his pioneering research in the 1940s at the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program. Mexico issued permits last month for the first time for farmers to grow genetically modified corn.

Considered by many the cradle of corn, Mexico is home to more than 10,000 varieties, used to make the classic tortilla, a staple of the Mexican diet. Corn was first planted in Mexico as many as 9,000 years ago and the grain was adapted by Spanish conquerors in the early 1500s and eventually spread to the rest of the world.

Mexico faces the same dilemmas over GM corn as do many developing countries -- balancing consumer fears with the need to grow more food.

"We see corn as our cultural heritage, our legacy. For us it's not just a question of food, but about conserving our traditions," said Celerino Tlacotempa, who works for an organisation of native Nahuatl farmers in the southern mountains of Guerrero state.

"With genetically modified seeds we will lose our varieties of coloured corn. There will be no more purple corn, black corn, white corn," Tlacotempa said. "Above all, we will be condemned to buy seeds from companies like Monsanto. It's not sustainable. It's a real risk for the wellbeing of these communities."

At the same time, other Mexican farmers in the north of the country have been cultivating GM seeds smuggled over the border from the United States for some time, attracted by the crops' greater resilience to drought and pests and higher yields.

Tomas Lumpkin, director of CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre that Borlaug started in Mexico, said the country now imports about half of the corn it consumes. With climate change and other pressures, he said, it was vital to raise production using all tools available.

"It is a much more complex and difficult world than Borlaug faced, but we have much more powerful tools than he had, and we need to start testing those and deploying those," he said.

"GMOs are just another set of tools in the toolbox, but we need to be able to use those tools," Lumpkin said. "If we could deploy those varieties so that the farmer in the developing world has the same powerful seed as the farmer in Iowa, why should they be handicapped?"


Monsanto launched the world's first genetically modified crop in 1996 and GM crops are now grown in countries ranging from Australia to South Africa, the Philippines and Brazil.

Up to 85 percent of the massive U.S. corn crop is genetically engineered, as well as up 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton, according to U.S. data.

As ingrained as GM crops may seem, a backlash against the technology appears to be growing.

Opposition to genetic modification of seeds has long been strongest in Europe. The European Union severely restricts use of GM seeds on its territory, as well as imports of products containing GM-derived food. Individual countries including Germany ban even GM seeds that are authorized, such as an insect-resistant maize type, MON 810, developed by Monsanto.

Now consumer resistance to what British tabloids long ago dubbed "Frankenfood" is taking root in the United States too.

With North America's industrial farming system, consumers who buy packaged goods from grocery stores are likely eating GM products without even knowing it, according to environmental group the Centre for Food Safety. The group, which was involved in a successful court battle to stop introduction of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa seed, also contends that up to 70 percent of soda, soup, crackers and other processed goods sold under major household brands are GM derived.

"There really is no human health analysis of GM crops," said William Freese, science policy analyst for the Centre. "It's a real result of the policy that our government has put in place, which is basically a presumption of innocence."

A banner issue for U.S. anti-GM crusaders is genetically engineered growth hormones for dairy cows, known as rBGH. Introduced in the United States in 1994, rBGH is a drug to extend milk production after a cow gives birth. It was developed by Monsanto but recently sold to Eli Lilly and Co.

Health Care Without Harm, a global coalition of hospitals and other health groups, believes the drug is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of infection in the cow's udder, which leads to greater antibiotic use in the animals. That contributes to antibiotic-resistance in humans, they argue.

Other critics say it may be linked to cancer in humans, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals.

Proponents have won over a string of big names to reject the drug, including the big yogurt makers Yoplait and Dannon, and have also lobbied coffee chain Starbucks to oppose rBGH.

A Starbucks spokesman said the firm's entire core dairy supply comes from suppliers that do not use the hormone.

"Our core products, coffee and tea, are not genetically modified," the spokesman said in a statement. "We have no plans to purchase coffee or tea that is derived from GM sources, now or in the future."

The industry notes that GM research is supported by a number of august groups, including the Royal Society of Britain and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.


For those seeking to end global hunger, rather than just satisfy rich consumers' craving for cappuccino, Africa presents the greatest challenges.

Monsanto, together with corporate rivals, is working with poor countries and charitable groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife.

At the annual World Food Prize forum last month, Gates warned that the fight to end hunger was being hurt by environmentalists who insist that genetically modified crops should not be used in Africa. He said it was vital to help small farmers there boost production by all means, including GM crops, fertilizer and chemicals.

"This global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two," Gates said at the forum for the prize, which was created by Borlaug, who died in September at the age of 95.

"Some people insist on an ideal vision of the environment," Gates said. "They have tried to restrict the spread of biotechnology into sub-Saharan Africa without regard to how much hunger and poverty might be reduced by it."

Rajul Pandya-Lorch, who has worked for the IFPRI thinktank on food for 22 years, summed it up like this: "I'm a Kenyan. I resent very much people telling us in Africa 'OK, this biotechnology is not good for you.' Well, we have different problems than you do, and if it helps us to solve a problem, we should try it."

Yet, even in Africa, there is suspicion of GM technology. Many countries there, such as Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania, do not allow GM seeds.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a Kenya-based group set up in 2006 with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gates Foundation, targets its programs specifically at small-scale farmers.

Three-quarters of the world's poorest billion people live in rural areas, dependent on farming for their livelihoods.

AGRA's Program for Africa's Seed Systems uses conventional breeding to develop new varieties of maize, cassava, beans, rice, sorghum, and other crops resistant to diseases and pests. The goal is to develop and release more than 1,000 improved crop varieties over the next 10 years.

"We've adopted a small grant mechanism that gets money out to plant breeders on the ground, so that they can, over a period of years, and selections and lots of consultations with local farmers, and access to the world's gene banks, come up with something that's truly novel, much higher yielding and resistant to local diseases and with the taste and texture that local people want," said Joseph DeVries, director of PASS.

"To leap to the GM model at this stage, just seems like it's ignoring a lot of the things that make sense locally, that people can do locally without it," he said.

Kostas Stamoulis, director of the FAO's Agricultural Development Economics Division, said only a few food crops are in wide use in genetically modified forms, and most are not well adapted to the varied and often extreme environmental conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa has eight or more staple crops that are grown in a wide variety of climates and conditions, making it far more of a challenge than in Asia, where single staple crops, such as rice, are grown in relatively homogenous conditions over wide areas. Stamoulis emphasized the need for all kinds of technology, including traditional plant breeding.

He said there should be a balance between "people that, in my view, make the extraordinarily dangerous proposition that you can feed the world with organics, which is absolutely crazy, and those who are fanatic about GMOs without looking at the full balance of options."


The FAO said last month the world needs to invest $83 billion a year in agriculture in developing countries to feed a predicted population of 9.1 billion people in 2050.

To achieve that, both public and private investment on a grand scale is needed, but the trend on the public side has been discouraging. Official development assistance to agriculture plunged 58 percent in real terms from 1980 to 2005, dropping from 17 percent of total aid to 3.8 percent over that period. It now stands at about 5 percent, the FAO said.

Yet, the payoff from agricultural investment, particularly by governments, can be seen in Brazil, a case study in how the Green Revolution transformed a developing country.

Within a few decades it developed from a producer of a handful of cash crops into one of the world's largest producers of food stuffs, with an agriculture business worth nearly 300 billion reais (103 billion pound) in annual sales.

Brazil began its Green Revolution in the mid-1970s, with the creation of the government farm research firm Embrapa, which resulted in increased diversification and productivity of crops as well as the expansion of cropland.

Each year Embrapa measures the return to society from research in agriculture. Latest figures show that each dollar spent on agriculture research generates a return of $13.50.

Last year's food crisis, when fears of food shortages gripped grain markets -- sending wheat and rice prices soaring to record highs and sparking hoarding and riots -- was a wake-up call, one that experts hope will translate into sustained investment.

The unrest was a powerful reminder of the risks of food insecurity and helped spur the world's richest nations to promise to spend $20 billion over three years to help small, subsistence farmers improve their productivity.

U.S. President Barack Obama has launched a $3.5 billion hunger and food security initiative focussed on agriculture.

Back on the farm in Italy, Oglio said an operation like his can be run on a shoe-string budget, without the sort of subsidies that prop up agriculture, even in the wealthy European Union.

The 87-acre (35-hectare) farm that his parents used to run in a conventional way was on the edge of bankruptcy 20 years ago, burdened by high operating costs and competition in the changing economy of Europe.

With his back-to-nature methods, Oglio turned the farm around and now makes profits.

But that is a very European story. His customers, he admits, are willing to pay more for his healthful products because many of them are environmentalists.

The world's poorest people -- 1 billion of them -- may not have the luxury of making that choice. (Additional reporting by Carey Gillam, Himangshu Watts, Raymond Colitt, Mica Rosenberg and Ed Cropley; editing by Jim Impoco and Walter Bagley)

Monday, 9 November 2009

How cold is it?

Cold enough for me to wear my old fleece top and scruffy old earflap hat when I went up to the beasties this morning.

Cold enough to warrant filling a hot water bottle tonight.

Cold enough to get the winter curtains up - at last, should have been done by now.

Cold enough to actually *need* the top quilt on the bed, rather than it just looking pretty.

Cold enough to crave hot soup.

Cold enough for the little brids to come looking for food and water.

Cold enough to see your breath outside.

Cold enough to turn the stove up first thing and keep it there.

Cold enough to start thinking about bringing in logs soon and lighting the woodburner.

Cold enough to be delighted to find 4 forgotten crochet blankets in the chest of drawers on the landing - they only need their tails sewn in, then will come downstairs for the winter.

Cold enough to wear socks indoors - has to be pretty damn cold for *me* to do that!

Cold enough to think that maybe, just maybe we will get a winter cold enough to allow me to wear some of the things I've knitted over the past year!

Cold enough for topping up the animals' bedding every day to make sure they are warm and snug at night.

Cold enough to need to shut the windows after an hour instead of having them open all day.

Cold enough to have thoughts turning to hot toddies rahter than "on the rocks" :)

Winter has arrived.