smallholderwannabe

This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Back to school

I've been back in school both last week and this week.  Last week my daughter asked us both to go in for a day to work with Year 4 in primary school.  She was doing an activity with the whole year group which was three classes. We were making those buzzer toys - making weird and wonderful wire puzzles that you have to conquer by passing a loop of metal over without touching the wire or it buzzes. They have been learning about conductors and circuits. We got through all ninety something children but it was full on with no stops other than 20 minutes for lunch. The kids really enjoyed it and were so proud of their creations. When they were told to finish what they were doing because it was two minutes until lunchtime, one of the boys beside me said to his friend that he couldn't believe that it was lunchtime already. In my experience, boys always think it is lunchtime : )

This week, I've been in the nursery school run by our church. They were short of a staff member because of illness and there was one day when none of the bank staff could go in. Since I have a PGCE, I am one of the volunteers that can be asked to fill in. It is very hard work with three year olds! I nearly tore my hair out getting them to eat their lunch. The regular staff must have an inexhaustible supply of patience. Very different to the secondary age boys that I am more used to!

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Apples and marmalade

Life never seems to slow down but just seems to have periods that are either busy, really busy or frantically busy. We've been away to Cambridge for a few days for the last time this year. My husband had several days of meetings and I went too. I love having the opportunity to just potter around and Cambridge is a lovely place with lots of nice places to walk and lovely old buildings to look at.

I've had a birthday and so has my son and we had a family meal which was great fun. I do so enjoy it when all my family gets together.  My son prepared the main course and I did the pudding. We had apple crumble made from lots of the windfall apples I had been given. Most of them were very small and it took me about six hours to peel and cut up enough of the tiddlers to make apple crumble for 17, some of whom have hollow legs where pudding is concerned. I watched two films that I had recorded while I prepared the apples so it felt less like a chore. I did feel quite smug that I had not wasted all those little apples but at the same time,  I had definitely had enough of preparing apple by the time I had finished! I made two roasting tins full of apple crumble. The larger one was left plain and the smaller tin had sultanas added because I really like that. Most of my family don't like dried fruit so I felt that I had chosen the right way round. So which one did they almost all opt for? Next time (with larger apples!!!) I'll put the sultanas in the bigger tin : )

I've used up some more apples in some apple marmalade. I had not come across that before but it tastes really grapefruity and my husband thinks it is lovely so it may well become a regular on my list of preserves. It contains grapefruit and lemon but the main fruit is apple. I got the recipe here:

https://homefarmer.co.uk/recipe-apple-marmalade

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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Even more cooking

My friend gave me the last of her cucumbers when she cleared the cucumber plants out of the ground. She has had a fantastic crop from those three plants this year. I made some more sweet cucumber relish so that is three double batches made this year. The main ingredients are cucumbers, onions, celery and peppers and each batch has had slightly different proportions of these, according to what I had in the house. It will be interesting to see which batch I like best.

However, everybody will definitely have a pot of this in their goody boxes this Christmas! Or else I'll never get through it all... I have tried some from the first batch and I really like it, which is just as well. I have also eaten a lot of cucumber over the summer thanks to my friend. I do hope she doesn't decide to grow fewer plants next summer : )

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

More cooking

We went to the allotment and picked all the rest of the raspberries. I prepared some more of the windfall apples I was given and made jam with the apple and raspberries with a handful of medlars and some late blackberries that were in a sheltered corner and one or two other bits and pieces. Hence the name raspberry allsorts jam. I had saved all the nicer bits of peel and cores from the apples and made some pectin stock which included our entire grape crop from this year (all five little bunches of unripe grapes) so I used a pint of that to help stretch the jam to another pot or two.

I still have marmalade to make and I'll stretch that with a little extra pectin stock too. I want to make some orange marmalade but I've also got a recipe for apple marmalade and I have yet more windfalls to use up... : )

Yesterday I was down at church making soup. Pumpkin soup - seven gallons of it.... Guess what is the "special" for next week? That is right - pumpkin soup for bonfire night. It will go in their freezer in tubs all ready to be taken out one at a time as needed. It took about six hours of chopping etc to produce that quantity of soup. And I was in bed early and slept well!

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bargains and busy-ness

Life just seems so busy at the moment. Since my last post we've had two short trips to Cambridge which I find very tiring. We came back last night from the second. It was rather wet in Cambridge yesterday...... Not much good for sightseeing! Happily I found the library and spent the afternoon there in the warm and drying out. I also read a John Grisham from beginning to end. It is a long time since I had enough free time to read a whole book in one go but I really enjoyed being able to do that.

I was supposed to be going cycling with a friend this morning but the drizzle turned to heavy rain so we changed our minds about the ride. Maybe we are more like fair weather cyclists : )  I've enjoyed going cycling recently. Our local council is trying to encourage people to get out cycling more, both for health reasons and to promote leaving the car at home. I've got my level 2 cycling proficiency now although I feel really insecure on the major roads still. Free classes - my favourite price. I've finished the course now but we are allowed to borrow the bikes and go in small groups out locally for a couple of hours. I'm hoping to acquire a bike now. And Christmas is coming...

It is soup season again so I'm back making soup for our church coffee shop every week. This week I made carrot and leek. They were on offer in Aldi in their super six so it seemed sensible as it makes it rather cheaper to produce 3-4 gallons of soup. Next week it will be pumpkin soup, hopefully, as there are so many pumpkins in the shops right now.

We have a new Lidl in our area which opened today. I've been to shop there this afternoon - by car. For six weeks, if you show the card they were handing out today, they will give you a free grocery item each week on spending £20. I reckon I'll be there most weeks for the next six weeks too. I can stock up on things that I will need for Christmas and the freebies are things that I use.

We called in at Tesco on the way home from Cambridge last night. I've never had so many bargains midweek. We brought back a boxful for our son, our daughter and my best friend as well as for us. We have some things that I would never have paid for, such as venison sausages (40p!) and there were also mega bargains like bread at 3p. All the recipients were thrilled and it was really good to be able to give them all such a nice gift. It cost us very little to give them each their box and it will make a real difference to their housekeeping budget this week.

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Competition on another blog

WIN: A Thermapen thermometer

Janie on the Hedgcombers blog has a lovely thermapen thermometer as a prize in her competition. I've often thought that one of those would be really lovely to have but can't bring myself to spend the money. Maybe I'll win one in this competition. Or maybe you will win it and I can borrow it...... : )

https://hedgecombers.com/win-thermapen-thermometer

Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had a wonderful phone call yesterday - I am going to be a grandmother again around Easter time. I don't think I have stopped smiling since I had the phone call : )

If you knew the previous history of my daughter then you would know why I am so happy about this news but it is not my story to share.

Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Missing in action yet again

I hadn't intended being missing for so long. The time gap just crept up on me because this summer has been really busy. The trouble with being gone is that I forget some of what I've been up to. This blog is a record for me, like a diary,  and now I've got a gap in it : (

I've hardly had a day to myself for a couple of months until today and I am so far behind in all my jobs around the house that I hardly knew where to start. My vacuum cleaner had started emitting smoke every time I use it so I've swept all downstairs with a dustpan and brush. I wanted a sit down after that so I have peeled and cored a mountain of windfall apples that I was given and stewed them. the nice bits of peel and cores are in the slow cooker and I shall leave them there all night and then strain them through my jelly bag and keep the apple juice for pectin stock.  The stewed apple will have some sugar added to it and bottled tomorrow because there is no space in the freezer for it.

I have spent a lot of time cooking this summer. In August the husband of one of my good friends died and I organised the catering for the funeral. It took a bit of pressure off the family. We were expecting up to 300 people at the funeral so it was a lot of shopping and preparing. I was fortunate to have some people at church who helped on the day and set up tables and made sandwiches and obeyed all the orders I issued like a sergeant major : )

We run a coffee shop at our church for six days a week and our manager was ill and off work for almost a month.  I've been the official soup maker since last Christmas but I also got to make vast quantities of cake. I filled their freezer with enough cake so that the manager would not have to bake in her first week back. Then they wanted lots of vegetarian lasagne in the freezer so that they could have it as a "special"...

August is also an important birthday month in this family. My son's three children have their birthdays exactly one week apart in August so we had lots of fun there. With the birthdays so close together, it is important to make each birthday celebration special for that child although the one at the end of the queue found it hard to wait and watch the others' special days. Quite understandable!

Another big job this summer was transforming my son's garden. They have spent the last year transforming the house and now it was the turn of the garden. The house was lived in by an elderly lady who had not done anything to the house for about 20 years and the garden looked like it had been neglected for even longer. The end of the garden had also become a dumping ground for anything she didn't know how to get rid of. My husband and son have spent many happy days bonding over the removal of many tons of soil and rubbish in an effort to level the garden. The height of the soil plus rubbish was over two feet higher than when the fence was put up originally...  That is a lot of soil barrowed to a skip and to fill a huge long raised bed almost the length of the garden. They were given a 5 metre long shed which is now in position on a flat bed of paving slabs. We had a family garden-ing party last weekend and the shed was mended and walked to its new home. I got to look after the children while everybody else did the heavy work : )

The next father-son job is to put on the door and make a roof for the shed so the job is not finished yet. Then son needs to help my husband with some of the big jobs on the allotment which have not been done because of son's garden. We had a big storm earlier in the summer and our little greenhouse was totally mangled and needs to be dismantled and disposed of because it is so twisted that it cannot be mended. The roof on the allotment shed also needs to have major repairs after that storm.

I have done some sorting out of things and have managed to increase my total of Things Gone by a respectable amount. I might even hit my target this year!

I have also added some things to my preserving year post. I made lemon squash, damson jam and two slightly different batches of sweet cucumber relish. I was given two large bags of cucumbers by my friend whose cucumber plants had gone into overdrive. Each food hamper at Christmas will have a jar of sweet cucumber relish in it but there won't be so much jam in them this year as I made very little this summer. We had lots left from last year and I didn't acquire much fruit so we decided to make do with what we had. I was also given a bag of green tomatoes and made some green tomato and banana chutney as I had found some bananas at 10p per kilo in the supermarket. It sounds an odd combination but I had the recipe and the fruit and decided to give it a go. And it has turned out nice!
Thanks to Tania from Frugal in Essex for her sweet cucumber relish recipe. You can find it here if you would like to make it from some bargain supermarket cucumbers.


I'm sure I shall remember more things to add to this account so I'll edit it as they occur to me.




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