Friday, 8 May 2009


It's that time of year when we are awash with egs, but it's never a real problem! I'm lucky enough to have room to keep chickens in a separate decent sized area at the top of our garden. At the moment, we have 2 Light Sussex bantams, 3 Cotswold Cream Legbars, 4 Black Rocks, 1 Warren hybrid, 2 Coronation Sussex, 1 Maran and 1 Maran cockerel. They live in two houses, sometimes moving about for sleeping arrangements as suits them. William Barnes the cockerel does a good job, he really looks after his harem, piinting out tasty morsels with a distinct clucking, and jumping on andoff the roofs to perform hsi crowing antics; I can hear him up the other end of the village when he starts LOL. They all get on very well, apart from the occasional scrap at the food tray or similar. Up until a few days ago, I was getting 7 or 8 eggs a day - not every lady lays every day - plus duck eggs, so that's a good number. Yield has gone down a wee bit due to the weather changing last week to quite warm, but it will go back up soon. Also, one of the bantams is broody, and is sitting very tight in one of the nesting boxes, thereby restricting available room for laying; theylike a dark, private spot with minimal interference, so tehy can get on with their egg laying in peace, although some of them proclaim to the whole neighbourhood when they have laid that all important egg!! I hope to try and ove the bantam and her nest succcessfully this weekend, and maybe be fortunate enough to have her hatch some chicks, we'll see how it goes. The disturbance, although minimal, can put them off big time if they don't feel like getting back on the nest.
In the meantime, there are all these beautiful eggs to deal with........
I've become quite good at finding different ways of preserving them, so they can tide us over when the payling slows down. For the freezer : cakes and sponges, quiches and flans, Scotch eggs, ice cream, mixed lightly and frozen in batches for cooking later on. Preserved: pickled eggs.
Other ideas I use are boiling a dozen or so older eggs (peeling older boiled eggs is much easier than fresh ones) and making a bowl of egg mayonnaise/salad to go int eh fridge for sandwiches; making mayonnaise; egg and milk whisked up in a glass with a good dollop of honey makes a lovely breakfast.
The chickens go off lay more or less over winter, but a few eggs appear each week to keep us going; ducks don;t do this, and lay right through the winter, so I am fortunate enough to more or less have fresh eggs all the time. I think I've only bought eggs on 4 occasions in the last 11+ years.
Occasionally I will sell them,either direct or at a table by the front gate, but I prefer to barter them. Last barter was eggs for a fresh rabbit:)
One thing I did find on the net eysterday was instructions for drying eggs, for storing in powder form, which could be sueful, so I'mlooking forward to giving that a go soon.
In the meantime, here's how to pickle eggs: boil some week old eggs, plunge into cold water and cool. Peel carefully, and pack into jars. Cover with vinegar, adding spices if you like and seal. Leave three weeks before eating, but don;t leave them longer than a couple of months. At the moment I can get malt vinegar very cheaply locally, so am using that. strictlys peaking, the white vinegar gives a beter colour, but the taste is more or less the same. When the eggs are done, don;t throw away the vinegar. Strain it clean andkeep it for future chutney/pickle making.

So - you've used up all the eggs - that's a lot of eggshells!! What to do with them? They have myriad uses. I bake them in the oven, crush them finely and mix in with scraps for the chickens; roughly crushed, they go around delicate plants (eg lettuce seedlings) to deter slugs and snails; use them for fining wine; use for cleaning out the bottoms of vases, decanters, etc; put them on the compost heap; blow the eggs our first, then decorate the shells.
Finally, one frugal tip I read of, which should be standard practice really, is to wipe aroudn the inside of the shell when you break the egg, with your finger, to make sure that every last bit of the egg is removed and used.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Had to share this.................

I just read this on one of the forums I belong to, and made it my quote of the week!

"All hat and no cattle"

I shall use that one a lot LOL

A simple life

I have been pondering this for a while now. Just what is this "simple life"? I read a lot of internet sites, blogs, forums, etc, and there seem to be a lot of folks out there pursuing a perceived idea (ideal?) of a simple life.
To me, a simple life is one that works for you, where you can get rid of the meaningless and superfluous, what you can't or won't make time for, and making room for what is important to you now, at this time, for your peace of mind and long-term contentment.
That's it, for me, in a nutshell.
Some people feel they need land or a big garden, to grow their own fruit and vegetables, have chickens, do lots of putting by and preserving, take up weaving, make yoghurt, sew their own underwear..........not necessarily so. If you have the time and resources and inclinations to do these things, fine and good, but there is a lot of guilt inducing stuff out there where some folks think it's what they *should* be doing to live this simple life.
Not everyone is in a position to have their own garden, or have time to tend a plot of vegetables. In this case, it simplifies their life to buy them in - but with forethought and consideration, buying from a local supplier, in season and in quantities to avoid wastefulness, then surely that is simplifying your life? Taking on a vegetable plot or allotment and not having time to tend it, spending money on seeds and plants, etc, feeling you ought to be out there every "spare" moment you can - only leads to despair, guilt and disappointment if it doesn't work out for you. Same with, say chicken -keeping, which is often seen as almost obligatory to living a simple life - they are a tie; they cost money; take up time in cleaning, feeding, general welfare, dealing with eggs, illness and old age, etc. Simpler to buy good, free-range eggs from a trusted supplier if you don't have time to spend on looking after them, because they *do* take a lot of time and effort.
Again, with crafts - do what you enjoy, can manage, and don't get weighed down by taking on too much - it will only lead to a burn-out type of situation, and quite soon, harbouring resentment, disappointment and feelings of inadequacy.
Do plenty of research - talking to thsoe who know, and read everything you can get your hands on before undertaking such things, to make sure they will fit in with you, your family and your life, or they will become an unbearable, guilt-inducing burden that will haunt you.
I remember reading of Carl Jung's simple life, which he admitted was hard - chopping wood and cooking, etc. A simple life is not necessarily easy, but you can make it easier on yourself by extracting what doesn't work for you and making room for what does. You don't need three acres and a year round productive self sufficient garden; do what works for you, leaving time to just be. We are human beings, not human doings, and if we are doing all the time, there is little time left for the vitally important being. And what could be simpler than just being, and enjoying just being?

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

May giveaway - home sweet home

This month's giveaway is a lovely little hanging plaque bearing the truism "Home Sweet Home"; it's about 4" wide, in lovely vintage colours, with little pansy decorations on, hanging from a piece of pretty gauze ribbon.

If you'd like to take ownership of this lovely little decoration, leave a comment below, or send me an e-mail on Thanks and good luck!

ps - apologies for failing to get an April giveaway organised, but I'm back on track now:)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Lilac time

Time for the lilac again! There are three here at The Deanery, all planted many many years before we came. One single white, one double white and this lovely shade of, well, lilac. Various superstitions attached to bringing it into the house, but I'm not that superstitious, and can't resist piling them into a pot! The scent is through the house already, wish you coudl share it.

Brick oven project

Well, happy to report that the brick oven project seems to be gathering momentum! MrL only slightly twitchy about it, but I did sy I would ask forhelp if I needed it. I have now earmarked the ideal space for it, on the other side of the path from the fire pit. I'm hoping the smoker will fit in beside it eventaully too, but the oven will come first (unless the bits for the smoker present themselves before then!) The area at the oment is just used for piling up "stuff to burn", so not much clearing needed, apart from the Bouncing Bet (saponaria), then getting the ground level. The book above is the one I'm being guided by, and I've just ordered another one from Amazon to give another perspective. It will look vaguely like the one in the photo above, but slightly different. Very simple, with a close fitting wooden door, and an arched space beside for storing the wood.More anon, but it looks like it's going to happen. I need to go off and find out about levelling ground now................

Mummy peas

The May edition of Country Living has Patti O'Brien sowing what she calls "mummy peas" - allegedly descendants from peas found in the pyramids. This reminded me of some I grew a few years back, with seed from the (then) HDRA seed scheme, which is a wonderful way of preserving the older varieties, by passing them around and getting themg rown as much as possible. A bit like the old adage that the best way to preserve rare breeds of farm animals is to eat them - sound s bit odd, but the ultimate truth.
The peas I got were called "Prew's Special"; a small number of seeds gave a high enough yield for saving some, which had been stashed away. I unearthed them from the seed box, and sowed them yesterday.
This is what the HDRA says about them:

"Donated by Peter Feltham of Dymock in Gloucestershire, sent to us with an intriguing postscript at the end of the letter, ".....apparently the peas originated in Egypt." Many ,etter and phone calls later we traced them back to a gardener at Lord Portman's estate in Dorset during the 1920s. The son of the then Lord Portman was said to have been given the peas by Lord Carnarvon, who allegedly found them when he opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. A few months after opening the tomb Lord Carnarvon was struck dead, it was said, by the mummy's curse. Seed Guardain Phillip Hunphrey reports this is a "reasonable pea in both size and quality. Branches out enthusiastically - good taste, heavy cropper"

My seeds are several years old now, but should be fine for producing peas, so I'm looking forward to seeing how they get on. Hopefully I'll have enough to save some more and pass them on to others and keep the variety going.

The story may or may not be true, but I'd like to think it is; it's ncie to grow something with a bit of history, no matter how dubious the facts may seem, and the Dorset connection is interesting for me too. Will try and remember to report back.

In the meantime, this is Patti O'Brien's lovely site:

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Socks 'n' mushrooms..............

Apart fromchocolate cake making :), this is what's been on the go here. I gotmy socks finished;although I've been knitting them for years, it's taken me this long to actually design a pair myself, for myself. These are they, perfect fit, gorgeous wool, nice to wear.
The other pciture shows my first attempt at drying mushrooms; the sturdy metal rack was procured from the tip, and is just right for this job it seems.Teh mushrooms came ready sliced. I don;t usually buy them like this, but they were cheap in the Co-op, and British, so I thought I'd give them a go for drying. One day over the gentle heat of the ticking over Rayburn, and they areperfectly dry and leathery, ready for storing away. Geed up with this success, I want to try some fruit too; will need to get some suitable storage containers sorted out.On another note, literally, it is National Dawn Chorus Day today, the birds are giving it laldy out there, even this late in the morning. A real privilege to hear them, and one of the greatest pleasures known to man I should think.