Monday 3 December 2012


This is the display we have done this year for the village living advent calender, we have set up our display in the dinning room window A Scarecrows Christmas Dinner, the table has been decorated with all sorts of woodland materials pine cones, leaves holly ivy nuts, we have added some woodland animals as well squirrels, hedgehogs, birds, owls and mice and the centre piece is a goose made from moss and wire and decorated with different wild bird foods, it will go out to the birds at Christmas, as scarecrows are vegetarian the have a feast of vegetables and fruit,
This is all just a bit of village fun and gives residents a chance to socialise, our display will go on show tonight at 7pm and residents can come and see it and join us for hot mulled wine and mince pie. We are number 3 in the advent calender so we have few weeks of various displays to go and visit and many evenings of Christmas hospitality.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Catch Up Time

 Fungi melody

Sorry been away from the blog for a few months so I am now playing catch up, we had a bit of a mushroom forage back end of September, collecting field mushrooms, a lovely giant Puffball and our prize of the day was Beefsteak Fungi, we have never found one before so it was with great excitement that we collected this beauty, I was hoisted up by hubby knife in hand to cut it down from the Oak tree we found it growing on, upon getting home, we checked the identification of everything and had a mushroom melody fried in garlic and butter, it was a large haul so some of it got the dehydrator treatment, and stored away for a rainy day.
 Rose Hip Syrup

Our next foraging trip was for Rose Hips and Sloes, after we had a frost, so it was a nice batch of Rose Hip syrup, packed with vitamin C, a teaspoon every morning to help ward off those winter cold bugs.
Chutney at the start
Chutney after cooking
Clearing out the last of the tomatoes from the greenhouses was also on the list of things this autumn, as there was a fair amount of green ones what better than a big batch of Green Tomato Chutney, it takes a few hours to make up chutney but well worth the effort, it is now sitting in the cupboard maturing, should be ready for Christmas to have with cold meat.

 Vacuum Packing
With the dehydrator going at full steam ahead, I decided it was time to get a vacuum sealer, it helps to preserve the dried food and the food is easier to store and takes up less space. not an expensive purchase approx £40 and it came with a few rolls of bags as well, so it was ready to go as soon as it came out of the box.
 Dutch Oven Bread
I tried a bit of an experiment cooking bread in the Dutch Oven, and wow what a success, whats the point you may ask, well what if the electric goes off and I need bread, I now know i can cook a decent loaf on an open fire using the dutch oven, and with the plan to go self sufficient there may be many occasion were I end up cooking on an open fire, who knows a handy skill to have, we have cooked several meals in the Dutch Oven but not tried it for the basics, something I want to try more of.  So that is just about everything up to date, will not leave so long next time.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Going For Gold

This years honey harvest hasn't been brilliant, poor bees have had a tough year, so we are grateful for any honey harvest we could get, we have take 8 frames extracted and filtered, a bit of a sticky job but enjoyable as well, we hope to have left enough for the bees over winter, there is still honey to come from the top bars, that will be a even sticker job so the 8 combs are sitting in a sealed bucket until my day off.
After extracting its filtered through a course filter then a fine filter then its left to settle before getting jars, we already have a wait list of people wanting honey, so I did think there will be much spare.
This might be the last of our Bow Brickhill honey as things are moving along with our move, this house is now all finished and the estate agent has been out and our house should be on the market in about a week, we have a property we are interested in to go and view next week end in S.Wales, we are busy packing to get things put into storage as well, so its a really busy time as well as all the usual things to do, Tomatoes are still coming on well, we picked the last of the raspberries today some more beetroot harvested to pickled, the kiwis are doing great this year and the grapes are starting to ripen, oranges have set on the Orange tree, my pineapple tops seem to be rooting as well, will report back after our trip to Wales and who knows might have some good news to share.

Monday 27 August 2012

Unfinished Projects

This has been one of those unfinished projects lurking in its box under the sofa, over the past 12 years it has occasionally come out and seen daylight, July 29th this year it came out of the box for the last time as I was determined to clear some of those unfinished projects starting with this Tiger in the Jungle latch hook kit, it was half finished when I took it out, and every evening after work I had dutifully sat down and worked on it, today it has finally been finished and the box has gone for ever, it is a joyous moment when you complete something that has been hanging about for so long, its to be hung on the wall in the front bedroom. My next unfinished project is a tapestry cushion front of a cockerel, quarter of it has been completed now I am going to get it finished and turn it into the cushion it deserves to be to sit on the sofa in the conservatory.

Yesterday was a day spent in the garden, clearing ground from spent crops and getting some winter veg planted out, tidying things in the greenhouses and tunnel, and picking raspberries and plums. We popped to the farm shop as I wanted some vitamin conditioner for the chooks to make sure they are in good shape to get through the coming winter, picked up a tray of 14 bell peppers for a £1 chopped them up and dried them in the dehydrator, I have fallen in love with drying everything.

While cleaning out the chooks I noticed that Gizmo my Silky Cockerel was limping, I noticed his spur had grown to about 4 inches long and had curled round and was catching him on his leg, I was horrified I had not noticed it before but he is so fluffy it was hidden, we managed to catch him and with some dog nail clippers I have taken off about 1/2 inch in a few weeks we will take a bit more off, while we had him we took the opportunity to apply some louse powder, so of course we then had to catch all the others and do the same, we also took the opportunity to trim the spurs of the other cock as well.

So a lot has been achieved this bank holiday weekend, I hope you all had a good one as well.

Sunday 12 August 2012


Yes today I got stung for the first time by one of our bees, and it blooming hurt, we had been doing a hive inspection and took some comb from one of the top bar hives as it was getting rather full, the comb was in a closed bucket, I went to move it not noticing a bee on the handle and of course as I squashed it in my hand it stung me on the finger, it made me feel not too well and gave me a headache, now all I have is a swollen finger and its still a bit tender. We need to take some honey off another two hives so hopefully we will get that done this week.
I got myself a food dehydrator, and today I have been drying out some bananas, I am really looking forward to playing with, I have ordered some books from Amazon about dehydrating food. Jerky is something I like the idea of doingWhen and if we get a glut of tomatoes this year we shall have a go at some dried tomatoes stored in olive oil, I managed to get a box of bananas today for a £1 from the farm shop, and some bags of apples for 50p each so tomorrow I will start drying out apples. I have been looking up about some dried meals, that will be ideal for when we go off walking.
Will report back when I have had a few more trials, The Granola went down well and I have made another batch this time its Maple and Pecan again its yummy, I have been taking granola for my lunch at work.
Once I have some strawberries dried I can add some of those as well. right must dash things to do.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Breakfast Time

Breakfast is something I have been giving a lot of thought to, the processed cereals loaded with sugar and salt don't sit well with me, porridge is fine during winter but Hubby cant stand it, fry ups are not convenient during the week days and we need something to sustain us till lunch so fruit and toast don't fit the bill it had to something good healthy I can make myself and is quick and easy in the mornings and tasty, so I have just had a go at doing Granola, it ticks all the boxes and I can sneak things into that the otherwise wouldn't eat.

This one which doesn't take long to prepare, and there is 10 servings and its really tasty, 2tbsp sunflower oil, 125ml maple syrup, 3 tbsp honey, 1tsp vanilla extract, 300g rolled oats, 100g of flaked almonds and mixed chopped nuts, mix together, spread on two baking trays, bake at 150c for about 12/15mins, tip in a bowl mix in 120g of dried fruit I used cranberries and raisins and then I added 120g of ground up pumpkin sunflower sesame and flax seed, mixed it all up popped it back into the oven for about another 15mins, leave to cool and store in an airtight container.
I tried a portion with cold milk and it was scrummy. Will test it on the others tomorrow morning.
This set me to thinking about dried fruits that could be added strawberries, raspberries blackberries, I know you can buy them dried and kibbled but as we grow an abundance of them if I was to dry them myself, we can use them throughout the rest of the year, so I am researching a home dehydrator. if anyone out theres knows a reliable one to use at home let me know please.

Saturday 28 July 2012

I Had A Littlle Fishy

Tonight's dinner was Sea Bass baked in salt in the Dutch Oven, cooked outside on the fire, so dinner was cooked for free, you would think all that salt would make the fish salty but it doesn't, the salt when baked becomes solidified around the fish and when cooked you have to break the salt open to free up your dinner, The Dutch Oven is great for cooking outdoors it is a big cast iron pot with a lid, we were given it for Christmas a few years ago but never really got round to using it until this year now we love it and have now bought a tripod to suspend it over a fire, proper outdoor campfire cooking. Along with the fish we had Samphire fire cooked in garlic and butter. Samphire is a plant that grows in the salt marshes along the coast, also know as poor mans asparagus, it is a seasonal plant and has a bit of a salty asparagus taste.

Now the summer has finally arrived everything is coming on great in the garden, picked the first cucumbers and the first of the tomatoes have ripened at last, we have planted out some Black Kale and tomorrow we will get some leeks put into the ground, we have Beetroot ready to be picked and the Sweetcorn is coming on great, the peppers and chillies are setting there fruit, we have got more peas to get sown as well for an autumn harvest, tonight we are setting the Crayfish trap baiting it with the fish heads last Sunday grandson manged to haul in a bucketful without a trap that we had for dinner so fingers crossed we will have some for dinner tomorrow.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Wet Wet Wet

Yes we all know its been wet and is still wet and more wet to come, some of the veggie crops are failing fast with all this wet stuff and others are thriving, peas we have had a bumper crop and strawberries, it looks like gooseberries are next to be picked the apples are swelling lovely blueberries and cranberries are doing great as well, the kiwi is laden with young fruit as is the plumb trees grapes and raspberries, so fruit wise its all going well, tomatoes are late coming on fruits have now set and getting plumper, cucumbers have set as well, what we need is that big shiny thing in the sky to put in more of an appearance and things might just balance up, the bees are struggling a bit trying to get out between downpours so I am not expecting anything great honey wise this year.
Despite the weather life is continuing and today we fired up the brick oven and had pizza for dinner I had my first ever pizza, being a none cheese eater its something I have never tried before, so tonight I had a caramelised onion and anchovy pizza, we saw it on Hugh's River Cottage program the other night and it was really tasty, defiantly one to do again.
Tomorrow I am having a day out at Fibre East 2012 in Bedfordshire, lots of spinning and weaving hoping to get myself a spinning wheel, or at least start looking into one, I have a drop spindle but really fancy a wheel, so we will see what tomorrow brings, and lets hope the sun shines for a bit pleasssssssssssssse.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Honey and Strawberries

These photos show how the Top Bar Hives are coming along, we installed the bees about 4 weeks ago now in the two hives, both are working well and both are up to bar 8, you can see from the second photo how they have built there comb, this comb like the others is full of capped brood with food stores at the top, when you consider there have built 8 of these in 4 weeks yet the in the national hives all they have to do is draw comb and fill it but it seems to take them longer in the nationals to reach this stage so the national bees are just lazier, we got another swarm the other night and this time we put them in a top bar travelling box rather than on frames, and already they are making progress, so now Martin has to get making another hive, other advantages of the top bars are they are cheap to set up as you don't need any frames or foundation just a long box nothing fancy with some bars along the top, it makes bee keeping affordable for all. Its not a good year so far for the bees what started out promising hasn't become brilliant because of the weather the bees cant get out and forage as much as they should be, there does seem rather a lot of swarms about this year, my theory is they feel there colony is at threat of starvation because of the weather so they are producing more queens and swarming in an effort to help the colony survive, there is more chance of survival with fewer mouths to feed.
Strawberries are doing great this year although a few weeks later than normal, I picked a good 2lb the other evening from our patch and turned them into jam, today we picked about another 2lb so it was strawberries and cream this afternoon a real taste of summer, we also got our first crop of Broad Beans picked only a small bowl, and the peas are fattening up nicely as well, harvested the new potatoes they were lovely with butter, we must get some more in for cropping this winter, we will grow them on in barrels in the tunnel. The sweet potatoes seem to have settled and are starting to romp away, cucumbers are starting to set as are the tomatoes so perhaps summer will arrive after all in the garden.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

All things Sweet

Sweet Potatoes we first tried to grow them about 8 years ago buying in slips and growing them on we had some sort of success with them, that was when we had an allotment, I grew them in a cloche and in the autumn we had a few to harvest not massive ones but it was a success, we then moved house and I have tried various different slips over the years in the garden but no success, this year I didn't buy any slips and put it to the back of my mind and concentrate on vegetables that did grow well in our ground, all that changed on Sunday we went to the local garden centre and they had Sweet Potato plants, first time ever I have seen then them on sale as plants, they are grown on from Sutton's and cost £2.99 a plant they looked strong healthy and vigorous so I purchased 3 and have planted them according to the instructions an a ridge and they are in the tunnel, so it will be interesting to see how they develop this time.
On the subject of sweet things, sugar or its substitute has always been in the my thoughts, I like sugar and have it in my tea, of course if you are going to be self sufficient you want to try and provide a s much as possible for yourself, well in my world I do, sugar from sugar beet is very lengthy and complex and costly, yes we have honey and it can be used for most things, but I want sugar, Stevia is an option I am considering, Stevia is a herb that is a natural sweetener and zero calories, it is already available as a sweetener in major supermarkets and is 3 times sweeter than sugar, I done a bit of reading up about it and gather if you dry the leaves out you then grind them up to a fine powder and there you have a natural sweetener, so I am going to order some seeds and give it a try, whatch this space for my Stevia experiment and results.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Back from Wales

Martin and Steve discussing the right way to fish

Dog Fish supper

Razor Clam Supper

We have spent the past week in Pembrokeshire, getting to know some of the areas in a bid to see what part we would like to move to, the weather didn't really play ball but we had some sunny spells, we met up with Steve and Rebbeca from Downsizer who took the time out to show us the basics of beach fishing, Steve managed to catch us a Dog Fish that we had for dinner that evening, we spent some time beach foraging as well for Cockles, Razor Clams, Mussels and Winkles so that was another dinner, we visited Wool mills and a Flour mill so all in all had a good week, we have decided we don't like the Tenby area too touristy for us, while we were away a fox visited our chickens and we lost Rocky our golden cockerel, it could have been far worse, right I must get on as I have a lot to do. will pop back later in the week with some more updates.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Top Bar Hives

We now have two top bar hives set and bees are in situ, we put the bees in just over a week ago and have left them alone to settle in, the good weather has helped and there has been plenty of activity, today we opened them to see how they were doing, hive 1 at the front of the picture was the smaller of the two swarms, and they have just started building comb on there 6th bar, and the hive at the back number 2 was a big swarm and they are making good progress as well and are on there 8th bar with comb, I was really surprised how quickly they have built comb and of course pleased they have settled in and it is all working well.
The door way to a bees world.

The national hives we have were checked today, brood is coming on plenty of pollen and honey, one of the nationals swarmed a few weeks ago, we got them back from next door and set them in another hive, that hive is our number 4 has been working like crazy and there super is filling fast so we are ordering some extra supers this week for all 3 of the nationals and frames and foundation, of course with a top bar you don't have any of that expense, today we settled in another swarm that was given to use in a national, so will have to wait a few weeks to see if they are going to settle.

Next week we are off on holiday in S Wales for the week so will check in again when I return.

Friday 18 May 2012

Recycling Those Rags

Last Saturday we had a Love Bletchley Day in our local town to re-introduce people to the high street and to show them what we had to offer, it was a brilliant day with over 80 stalls, selling and promoting goods and services, we had a street theatre , a fashion show put on by charity shops, the sun shone and a good time was had by all, the high street was bustling just like the old days, we had a stand outside our craft shop, and we decided we would take the opportunity to demonstrate old country crafts, I spent most of the day rag rugging, and when our local mp Iain Stewart came along I took the opportunity to have him try his hand at a bit of old fashion re-cycling with rag rugging, then we had him trying his hand at bobbin lace, I explained a bit of the history of both crafts and explained about some of the other crafts we had on show, who says you cant teach an old dog new tricks. An enjoyable day was had by all it took us a couple of months organising it all, but it just goes to show what you can do when you all pull together.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Collecting A Swarm

The other evening we were told of another swarm in next doors garden, this was the second one we collect from there this week and it was an awkward to collect, low down under a deep ledge and the evening was creeping in fast light falling along with the temperature, we tried to encourage them up into the box with gentle persuasion from smoke, we left the box over night and next evening when we checked they were all happily in the box, today neighbours told us another swarm in the hedge, so off we go again for the third time don't know who's hives they are coming from, we now need some new hives desperately as we are full at the inn and both travel boxes are full, we have ordered a couple of top bar hives for the next couple of swarms about the ones we have collected will be going into national hives as they will have settled on the frames in travel boxes.

Monday 7 May 2012

The Good and the Bad

Good  Boy Mushrooms

Bad Boy Mushrooms

We have spent the afternoon foraging for St Georges mushrooms to go with our rabbit dinner tonight, and we got bag loads, if we cant identify a fungi we pick a couple and put them in a separate bag to be identified at home and bubble off Downsizer identified the bad boy ones as Verpa Conica a member of the morel family so after a bit of research we found out that some say you can eat them others say they will give you an upset tummy so into the compost bucket they went, not worth taking a chance.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Busy as the Bees Day

Not a day of glorious weather but decent enough to get outside and catch up on all that the rain has prevented us from doing, today started with finding out our bees had swarmed and settled in next doors garden in the hedge, donning suits and gathering all our bits we set too getting them back, just as well the spare hive was set up last week in preparation of getting a swarm, they seemed to have settled in there new home, we will inspect the other hive tomorrow weather permitting and check that there are no more queen cells. Other half has been busy this week shooting pigeons I think we have had about 6, and today managed a couple of rabbits one had really bad mixi so we settled for one that's it marinading in the yellow bowl for tomorrows dinner, made a mixed fruit pie as well from some of last years fruit, and as we have a glut of eggs again made up a bacon mushroom and asparagus flan that will do for lunches along with some Herman Friendship Fruit Cake.
Everything is coming on great in the greenhouses it will be nice when this cold spell finally breaks and we can get things moved into the ground, we did get some sprouts out today and broccoli last week-end, the sweetcorn has also gone out it will just have to take its chances as we were desperate for the space. The strawberries are all in flower so I got straw put around them, on time for a change, usually I am so busy with all the young plants I don't get the time to see to the strawberries until its too late and the fruit gets all muddy, so while you are held up with some jobs you catch up on others, next week end we are hoping to go to the smallholders show in Wales, usually we go to Ardingly in Sussex so it will be nice to see a different one, that's all for now things to do.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Sprouting Seeds

We have just set our second set of seeds for sprouting, we had a batch of Mung Beans the other night in a stir fry, and we have a nice tub of sprouted Rocket and sprouted Red Cabbage to add to sandwiches through the week, This second lot we have on the go is again a tray of Mung Beans, a tray of Rocket and Red Cabbage mixed as they take about the same time and a tray of Cress as I found a packet in my seed box a few years old so don't know if they are still viable.
Its the time of year when everything is on the go in the greenhouses and hubby has cornered the market in Okra me thinks, he has got a bit carried away with them, I sure we can do some swaps with, them, we are also having ago with Mushroom Spawn again, so we have mixed some with well rotted horse manure in some wooden troughs hubby made, and I have sterilising straw with boiling water so I can try some Oyster Mushrooms, we have had successful crops of Oyster Mushrooms before so fingers crossed for this time.
The chickens are still laying for Britain, and the Bees are busy busy, I have just treated Hubby to a new air rifle so hopefully we can make a demise in the wood pigeon population that seems to be on the rampage at the moment in the garden, I have high hopes for some pigeon pie, his old air rifle he has had for 30 years and just isn't up to the job, so he is like a little boy with all his Christmases come at once, the carcasses from the pigeons we hope to use for bait cray fishing as its crayfish time again, so lots going on.
We have booked a cottage and are off to S. wales start of June to have a look around and make a start getting to know the area, in readiness for our move, we hope to spend what ever time we can there over the next coming year, its so exciting to think our dream is almost within or grasp, in anticipation of this I am having a good clear out, and getting stuff on e-bay, I have two knitting machines to get listed, (I am keeping the other two,) a box of dressmaking patterns and two boxes of knitting machine magazines, stuff is being sent to charity shops and lastly hubby has being making trips to the tip, did have a clear out of the shed this morning although there wasn't much rubbish, I do try to keep the shed organised. Time to get dinner started will be back again soon.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Changing Plans

You know what they say all the best laid plans and that, well it was always our plan dream or whatever to buy a small holding in Dorset and do it all for ourselves, we worked hard and had goals reached them postponed the moved another 3 years to 2013 when the housing market fell making it not viable to sell the house we are in, so next year was to be the big year, now we are not going, we have been watching what is happening in Dorset very closely, and it seems to us that the world and its wife seems to be heading there, city family's have been buying up any little small holding that has come along, stripped them bear turned them into equestrians so little Suzie can have a pony, this has resulting in pricing it completely out of our bracket, so Dorset is off the agenda, I don't want to live surrounded with the pony set who commute to work in the big city's and complain if they so much as hear a cockerel crow in the countryside, so having made the decision to abandon Dorset but not the dream, we are now considering South Wales, similar climate to Dorset perhaps a bit wetter, still within easy reach of the sea, plenty of unspoilt countryside on the plus side its nearer to mountains which Hubby loves, we can get a lot more for our money and its affordable, for example , in Pembroke shire you can get a 3/4 bedroom house with approx 10 acres of land for about £280,000 in Dorset the same money would get a 1/2 bed house with about 1 acre if you were lucky, we are now checking out the various areas of South Wales doing our research and going for visits and plan is back on track for a move we hope next year, 2013. We will keep you updated.
This year didn't get off to a brilliant start, Spud our adopted Guinea Pig curled up his toes and went off to meet his maker, he was getting on his year and we know he was happy living out his years free roaming the garden.
Then Hubby was rushed into hospital and had to have an emergency operation, he is fine now 2 months on but it has taken him a while and is now ready to start building up his fitness, he has though taken a great interest in the growing of vegetables and is starting to call my greenhouse his, a bit of a cause for concern there me thinks, he also has started cooking more so perhaps the trip to hospital was a good thing .
Good Friday we went to N Wales and spent the day ambling around, ended up on Holyhead Beach and went foraging for winkles cockles mussels and limpets that we cooked up into a seafood chowder with sea beet and very nice it was too.
Today has been spent cycling to the garden center for some more pea seeds, also hubby picked up some sprouting seed mixes, so we dusted off the old seed sprouter and have got them all started, we have been potting up in the greenhouse, toms and chills etc coming along a treat, made some lemonade from some unwaxed lemons that where hanging about really easy to make as well, tonight's dinner will consist of, smoked salmon from the freezer (trying hard to clear the freezer out) baked potatoes, salad leaves from the greenhouse and a couple of hard boiled eggs (swamped with eggs at the moment) and some home made bread that is just about to go in the oven, will be back again soon in the meantime hear is the
Lemonade recipe.
3-4 unwaxed lemons, 140g caster sugar, 1 litre of cold water, chop up lemons skins and all roughly throw into the food processor with the sugar and about quarter of the water, blitz it, pour through sieve and squeeze out as much juice as possible add remaining water, stir and serve and enjoy.