Saturday, 16 January 2010


We are lucky enough to have pheasants living in the fields and woods behind our house; one of them is a large cock pheasant, MrP we shall call him,who has been around for a long time now. He comes and goes as he pleases, but has been around the field behind the chicken run for the past few mornings. Last year he flew over into the run and fed with the chcikens and ducks, or came in before they were let out; he brought his brood on and off too - MrsP and two little hens and a young cock bird. It was lovely to see. At the moment, he's alone, but is obviously hungry. I knew he'd been around, as there were great big prints in the snow - none of my birds have feet that big, so I knew it was him. He's been hanging around for the past few mornings now, and I've been throwing a handful of corn over for him; before, he was able to fly up and over into the run, but this was made harder as we had to up the height of the fence as a fox deterrent, after losing some ducks :(. I was delighted to see him waiting for me this morning, so threw his corn and he came right up to the fence, but keeping a wary eye all the same. It's nice to see him so close up, and no different to feeding the sparrows or robins.
Ironically enough, one of this morning's jobs was processing 3 brace of pheasants I was lucky enough to be given. I hope no-one gets MrP for the pot, though!

Sunshine award

Thankyou so much to Karen at
for my Sunshine award - it's much appreciated. :)



Friday, 15 January 2010

I've got my very own bean!!

I was delighted to get my seeds from the heritage Seed Library this morning, succeeding in getting all six of my choices, plus a free packet as a bonus.
One I ordered is called Sarah's Old Fashioned Black - a climbing French bean - I had to get it with that name, didn't I? :)

So, I'm looking forward to seeing how it does. The rest I got were Lazy Housewife - a great bean, and called so because it is easy to shell when dried. I've grown these before, but needed to reinvigorate my seeds, so ordered some fresh; squash Virginia Rooster - ordered because I like the name, no idea what it looks like though; Yellow Intermediate mangel - for wine making and goat feeding I hope; Striped Bunch climbing French bean - to add a splash of colour; Wild Pigeon bean - again, I've grown these before, but due to a crop failure had no seed saved. I was lucky enough to receive another climbing bean - Bridgewater - as the bonus free packet. I will need to get lots of beanpoles cut in the next fortnight for that lot!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

You know how these things happen..................

I went upstairs to sort some washing out; while I was in the bedroom, I thought I'd look out some more bits of fabric from the stash for a wallhanging I had planned - part of an "along" at Creative Living forum. Found some nice bits, added them to the pile. Took them downstairs with the washing.

Got the iron out, just get them pressed so it's all ready for cutting when I need it.

Wonder if I've got enough? Just cut a few squares for blocks, see how it goes.......

They look nice together! I'll just try these - get the machine out.............

(You can see where this is going, can't you?LOL)

Just another 10 minutes, then I'll put the washing in.................

I think I know where the batting is from last time..............

Ah - that'll do for a backing and binding, I'll use that...........

Four hours later, this was the result - "Cats in a Spring Garden":

Tomorrow - catching up on the washing! :)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


I love wood; making things out of it, sawing it, chopping it, carrying logs, nailing it, building animal houses, being in the woods themselves, foraging for firewood, looking closely at the trees and the numerous life forms they support.
I'm not that good at working with it, though, and definitely need a lot more practice, but it's something I really enjoy. This year, I want to get on with some spoonmaking, some buttons and would love to get as far as building us a pole lathe in the garden and having a go on that. Why not? Anything is possible..........
To this end, my tools are laid out on the kitchen table ready to make a start on my first spoon. I'm looking forward to having a go, and if it's vaguely spoon-shaped at the end of it, then that'll be a bonus!
I have a few books on the subject, my favourite one at the moment is Country Woodworker, by Jack Hill. I've had this book for many years now, and often just sit and look at the pictures - homely, evocative, inviting, inspiring.

This is the sort of bed I'd like for our room when we eventually get around to giving it an overhaul:

This, however, is my woody ambition for this year:

Soem wooden spoons, handmade by me, and a rack to keep them in. A bit ambitious for a novice like me, but I'm the eternal optimist, me. :)I'll have a lot of fun and learn a lot whilst trying.
Hopefully I'll have something to report back soon.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

How to make marmalade

This post is copied over from Creative Living forum; this year, I still have enough Seville oranges in the freezer from last year, so will be using them, in the continuing spirit of Use It Up In January.


January and February is the traditional time of year to make marmalade for the year ahead; lovely Seville oranges are in the shops now. I paid 96p per kilo for mine the other week. This is the tried and tested recipe I've used for more years than I care to remember, so will post it here as it's very reliable.

Seville orange marmalade

6 Seville oranges
2 lemons
4 1/2 pintss of water
4 lbs white sugar

Cut the oranges and lemons into quarters, then slice into shreds; do this with a sharp knife or a shredder if you have one. I'm lucky enough to have a Spong marmalade shredder which makes short work of the job! Take care to catch all the juice, though, and add to the preserving pan with the sliced fruits. You can remove the pips at this stage if you like, for tying in a muslin bag later, or you can leave them in and skim them off as they appear when the marmalade is cooking.

Place all the sliced fruit in the pan and cover with the cold water; leave 24 hours. This helps to soften the peel and makes for quicker cooking the next day.

Next day, put the pan on the heat and simmer slowly but steadily until the liquid is reduced by half - dont skimp on this stage or the marmalade will have too much moisture in it and not set properly. Add the muslin bag of pips if using that method.
When reduced, add the pre-warmed sugar - heat it in an oven proof dish in the oven for 15 minutes or so. This ensures that the temperature of the contents of the pan won't suffer a sudden heat reduction, which would take a long time to recover. The secret of good marmalade making is a quick fierce rolling boil achieved as quickly as possible. Bring the heat up to achieve this...........

Boil fast for 15 - 20 minutes and test for a set - use a sugar thermometer/jam thermometer and watch when the temp reaches the required level and remove from the heat. Alternatively, put a little of the marmalade on to a cold saucer; after a few seconds, if it wrinkles when you push it with your fingertip, it is ready. If not ready, put back on a high heat and re-test.

When it reaches setting point, remove the pan from the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes - this gives the peel time to settle down as the marmalade starts to thicken and set - otherwise all the peel will float to the tops of the jars. Meanwhile, prepare your jars - wash in hot water and place in warm oven for 15 minutes or so. Don't have them too hot or the marmalade will boil as it hits the hot jar.
Fill jars using a ladle and a jam funnel, or carefully with a jug. Cover and seal straight away, or cover the jars with a tea towel and wait until it is completely cold.

Hopefully you will end up with something like this:

Monday, 11 January 2010

Carrot and coriander soup

This is a great winter soup - quick, easy and cheap to make. It can also make good use of winter carrots that are a bit tired-looking - we all have bendy rubber carrots in the vegbasket at some point!LOL

about 2lbs or so of winter carrots

2 pints stock - I use Marigold for most soups, so our resident vegetarian can eat them too!

knob of butter

1 medium onion, chopped finely

ground coriander

Melt the butter ans sweat the onion until golden, but not coloured; add the peeled and chopped carrots and stock, cover and leave to simmer until the carrots are very tender. Leave to cool down, then oput through a sieve or Mouli, or a blender if you use one. Rinse out pan, return soup to it and add coriander to taste - not too much, so that you can still get the wonderful intense carroty flavour, but a subtle enough amount just to know it's there. Heat through to piping hot. You can add a dollop of cream, soured cream creme fraiche, yoghurt if you like, and a good sprinkle of black pepper.
Serve with warm bread or rolls.

I've never made this in the summer, but I imagine it would taste really nice with young sweeter carrots too, and fresh coriander as a garnish, chopped on the top.

As an aside, I read in a book on Saturday that a light green dye can be obtained from carrot peelings, so they are in a pan simmering away as we speak! Must say I'm a bit dubious about this one, but will give it a go and report back.:)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Beasties in the snow.............

I took these this morning; everyone looked cold, but was busy rushing around to get their breakfasts, so that should have kept them warm enough!
This little hen is Dude - the single chick we hatched last summer; she was hatched by Barbara above, but she's now twice the size of her! Her mum was a CC Legbar, and William the Maran cockerel was the father. She's a lovley little hen, quite friendly and very pretty. Will be interesting to see what colour eggs she lays - CCLegbars lay blueish eggs, and Marans a very dark brown. Purple????

Quilting keeps you fit!

I've just spent a couple of hours beside the stove finishing off the window quilt for the kitchen window; now done, it's ready to be hung when I work out the finer details of this part of the project! During that couple of hours, I was up and downs tairs 11 times or so - the only place big enough to spread the quilt out on was our bed lol - it's a big window!


This is the small storeroom off the back hallway, off the kitchen; with the weather like it is at the moment, I'm fully realising the importance of having a well stocked store room if you can. We did get out on Friday for shopping, but there were a lot of bare shelves, very little fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit, no bread...........Fair enough, people have been stocking up, which I think is good under the circumstances. I don't see it as "panic buying" really - some folks don't know when they might be able to get out again. I don't judge people by what's in their baskets - if they have 14 loaves of bread and 60 litres of milk, who's not to say that it's for friends or neighbours who can't get out? Or for their own store room, with "panic buying" not even entering their head. Maybe they're on the same wavelength as me; maybe they only do their shopping once a month? Who knows? I just concentrate on what I need to do.
We live in a rural area, criss-crossed by tiny narrow lanes, with a good number of the population livng on them. I imagine some of them haven't been out or near a shop for days now. I spoke to one lass in the shop who said they'd been cut off completely for four days - they're only four miles from the town, so just goes to show.
I have plenty of breadmaking supplies - flour and grain, yeast. I refuse to rely on electricity and gadgets such as breadmaking machines, so if the electricity goes off, we'll still have bread. There are still fresh vegetables in the garden - I say fresh, that is if they ever thaw out the poor things lol Not unachievable, though.
When I live like I do, in the midst of trying to make the most of every moment, every day, being in the present as much as possible, it is necessary to plan ahead as well, and make sure that my family and I will have enough to eat, be warm and dry, and it's important to me to achieve that by my own hand as much as possible.
It's not always easy to maintain though; stuff has to be rotated and replaced - sometimes the money isn't there to buy as much of some things as I think we'll need, but we always get through; there's plenty of alternatives with a bit of forethought and imagination. A good store cupboard can provide the basis of many good meals. Another issue is space - I'd like much more space for storage of all sorts of things, but again, we manage with what we've got, which is a lot more than an awful lot of people.
I just get on with it, like most people do, without over reacting, playing the drama queen and having a go at others for doing things differently. It's what I'm good at :)