Sunday 31 March 2013


Happy Easter everyone, hope you have a nice day.

Where we parked the car after our walk on Saturday, was a tree with pussy willow's coming out, so I snapped a few off to use as my (slightly late) Easter tree.

On Good Friday I made Hot Cross Buns using Paul Hollywood's recipe (well, almost). For some reason I misread 50g butter for 75g and having got the recipe off line, everyone who had tried them said they needed more spice so I increased that as well. I made 12 but they didn't seem to rise as well as mine usually do. Taste wise they are nice but wouldn't go so far as to say 'the best ever'!
I haven't bothered with an Easter cake as we are still finishing off the Stollen from film night and also the shortbread I made the other day.

'Invested' in one of those half price legs of lamb which we shall roast with potatoes for lunch. Haven't had a roast for many weeks so shall look forward to it as well as making meals from the leftovers. 

Saturday 30 March 2013

Film night and other things...

Cinema in the house Thursday night we watched Skyfall. Quite good but wasn't sure if it was as good as other ones. Everyone bought things to nibble such as crisps, marsh mallows, mini pretzels, grapes which were set out on a coffee table. We then chose our drinks of choice and settled back.

The film finished around 9:30pm so we had a hot drink and a slice of defrosted stollen followed by lots of conversation and laughs.

Before everyone arrived I had made us a lamb stir fry using half a piece of neck fillet. The other half was used in a lamb and vegetable curry on Friday night. Lunch that day was the remains of carrot and lentil soup and home made granary bread.

We went for a walk this morning (Saturday) to test out another part of a larger route we had previously walked. This time, it started and ended in Ringstead. It measured 4.8 miles and as I had forgotten to strap my toes (a couple on each foot ride under the other toes), had to stop half way around to strap them up with some tape I had taken just in case. 
Once home I soaked them in salt water, rubbed lavender oil on them then re-strapped. They are very sore and I only hope will heal well enough for our next walking day. I won't post about the walk now but will do so when we do it as a group. 

I have at last finished my other sock and here they are, nothing too special but they do keep the old feet warm.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Walking around Ashill

Welcome to my new followers, No more spending, Miss Ipie and gordonhouse1. You are all welcome and apologies if I missed you earlier.  

Our walk this week has been put on walks page II above.
After getting home, we invited T. to join us at our house for coffee and freshly made shortbread and made our arrangements for tonight, another cinema night – will post about it tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Checking out the utility usage

The wind these last few days (not of the bean variety), has been bone chillingly cold. We have been for two very quick walks and got a headache on both occasions. Just nipped out into the garden to do some cutting down of dead stuff – didn't stay out long. My hands got so cold I was in danger of snipping off a finger!

Back indoors, I decided to sit down and work out the the cost of our utilities for the winter period.

We last topped up with oil in July 2012, filling the tank but only 600 litres was required to do so (1000 litre tank). Quite a few villages in Norfolk do not have access to mains gas and oil is very expensive. We paid 50p per litre to fill up. 2 months later it was 78p and then 85p. Two tonnes of logs were purchased a few months later and as we still had a few fires worth left over from last year.

Finally, we pay £20 per month for electricity which will go up due to the introduction of a standing charge.

All in all, that works out at £71 per month for all utilities during the winter time (usually November to April for us, but it does move a little either way). That means those 6 months will cost us £423 in total. I know others can do it cheaper still but that is as low as we can get it.
Friends of ours filled up their oil tank at the same time but they have just ordered another 500 litres (65p per litre). Like us, they have tried to watch their overall usage. So what is the difference as we both have log burners?
They like to keep the rest of their house warm all day at around 15 Celsius whereas we only put our heating on for quick bursts of around 10 minutes or so and then usually no more than 4 or 5 times a day. Other than that, the oil heats up our water for baths 3 times a week and the heating and hot water is on for just 40 minutes per day first thing in the morning, still on cheap overnight rate. The wood burner is usually lit around 4pm but if we get really cold, we warm up bean bags in the microwave and carry those around with us.

On bath nights, the bathroom can be cold, but we just rush from there to the lounge and the wonderful heat of the log burner – a matter of steps.

Overnight, our clothes sit on the radiator in the bedroom and are still warm when we get up. At night time we hang our jim jams safely near the wood burner to warm through and get undressed in front of it – bliss.

Most clothes dry on airers in the front room overnight or over two nights. We usually tumble dry towels and duvet covers as they are either too hard dried on the airer or take too long and can smell musty.
We are lucky that we have what used to be called Economy 7 on our meter. Overnight use includes those 40 minutes every day but not top up bursts or bath water - we don't have a shower. It also includes the odd time we tumble dry overnight. 

Our night time bill is far cheaper than the day time units and on average, the split is about 3/4 night time use.

Monday 25 March 2013

Bean and bacon bake

I am currently experimenting with re-jigging a new recipe that sounds as though it might be a little bland. It is another one on a packet of dried butter beans and is a butter bean and bacon bake.

Overnight you need to soak 12oz of dried beans in enough cold water to cover them (they will swell enormously and may rise above the water so cover them well). Next morning change the water and cook until done. It suggests boiling for 10 mins which I didn't do as I believe it is only dried red kidney beans you need to do that for, then cook for another 25 – 30 until beans are tender. Drain and return to the pan.

In a frying pan cook 10oz diced smoked bacon until beginning to turn brown, then add one whole diced leek (my addition). I think you could probably use an onion instead of a leek. Continue to cook, adding a little oil if necessary until the leek is soft and the bacon brown. 
Add one can of chopped tomatoes - then one stock cube and lots of black pepper plus a teaspoon dried basil (my additions) - or parsley as the original recipe states. Stir this mix into the beans and put in the bottom of a dish.
The recipe is for 4 people so I have divided it above, between two enamel dishes as shown. The original recipe now suggests covering with breadcrumbs and splashing a little oil over the top.

However, I cooked 1lb 4oz of potatoes which were left to go cold then sliced and layered on the top. 
The potatoes were dotted with butter, salt and pepper and baked at 200 Celsius for 30 minutes.
We shared the one we baked and the other was put into the freezer for another day. It was quite nice and we both think we shall look forward to the other one where the flavour should be better still. As always with beans, there is the usual side effects which lasted the whole of the next day!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Frugal living part II

We had about 1 1/2" of snow yesterday so consider ourselves lucky and hope that is the end of it. Elaine over here talks about Earth Hour which to be honest, I hadn't heard about. I was however working in the 70's during the 3 day week when we had to use hurricane lamps in the building society. It was hard work and often scary but it became normal and we got through it.

Anyway, to carry on from yesterday. My wardrobe falls into two parts, winter and summer – sounds grand doesn't it – but it isn't. 
Winter - which is worn for around 8 months of the year, consists of one long coat for 'best' - visiting, funerals and weddings!, one fleece and one hooded cheap thing for everyday use. I have 3 pairs of trousers, 2 jeans (after buying them this week), 3 cardigans, 4 jumpers, 5 tee shirts and 2 long sleeved shirts.For my feet I have one pair of ankle boots and a pair of longer boots.

Walking clothing consists of a windproof coat and outer trousers, one of the pair of jeans above, hat, gloves, walking boots and socks. Other than underwear that is it.

When summer eventually arrives, most of the winter clothing goes back into a suitcase and is replaced by summer clothing as I only have one main wardrobe and share another which holds everyday items. 
Can't remember off the top of my head what I have for summer, as it is all still in the attic, awaiting the return of warmer weather. Number wise though, it won't be much different. The tee shirts and shirts stay in my summer wardrobe as do the ankle boots which are joined by 2 pairs of sandals. I'm sure I have 3 cotton tops such as jumper's and cardigan's. Then a couple of blouses and 2 pairs of lightweight trousers. The jeans will stay in here as well.

Most of my clothes are at least 4 or 5 years old, some older, one or two younger. Some only get worn when I am going out (not often) and will last many more years yet. Oh yes, just remembered, I have two cotton short coats similar to a blazer.

DB has slightly more shirts and trousers but doesn't put his away, choosing to use whatever the weather dictates. Neither of us follow fashion, choosing comfort every time over looking fantastic.

We have one set of clothes suitable for wearing to a funeral and very little for a wedding – although DB does have a suit. If something were to be bought for a wedding, it would have to have more than the one use for me to buy it.

When we finish with an item of clothing and it is not fit to donate, it goes into my rag bag for future projects such as rag rugs, bags, pan mats or dusters or other cleaning related tasks.

So there you have it, a little trawl around my frugal clothing store.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Frugal living part I

Welcome to my new followers Faye Henry, Jennifer Taylor and Frugal in Bucks, you are all most welcome.

No snow here yet but if anyone is affected, please take care, keep warm and eat hot food. If rain or floods are affection you, my heart goes out to you. Not much use I know, but I am thinking of you.

My thoughts of late, have turned to frugal living and how those two simple words have such a diverse meaning by those who try to live such a life style. There are a myriad reasons why each of us choose to be frugal. Most of us also find a different way of doing so. There is no right or wrong way in any of our decisions, only what is right for each of us.
Many frugal or simple living blogs are in existence where we can all find helpful advice, regardless of where we are on our journey. 
Some have no choice but to be frugal, due to their limited finances, lack of job etc, but who still want to lead as good a life as they can whilst paying off a mortgage or other small debts until either their finances improve or they find a job. Even finding a job doesn't mean you have to give up being frugal if there are other goals to aim for. Others are deeply in debt and hope/need to find a way to begin to deal with their finances and address their style of living. 
Some are now free of big debt but still want or need to be frugal to get where they want to be later in their lives. Others (and we probably fall into this category), have no or little debt, some savings, are where they want to be but trying to live on a pension. In our case as well, being frugal has become a way of living and quite frankly, we enjoy both it and the challenge - don't think we will be changing any time soon!

This blog often shows how we cook from scratch, or attempt to keep all our utility bills as low as possible by constantly adapting what we use. We've changed what cleaning products we use and forage for certain items such as wild fruit and berries, or pine cones and twigs. We have been known to pick up veg from the side of the road such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes and onions, after they have fallen from trailers at harvest time!

Clothes are another expense we all have to deal with and is what I would like to address over two posts.
Some use charity shops, others shop on eBay, some knit or sew and some, like us, buy only when they really need to buy but buy new. Again, there is no right or wrong way of doing things, each to their own.
For example, I was brought up wearing others cast off clothing. This is not new. My mother in law used to say about her own childhood, first up best dressed! I am not against second-hand clothing, and if I have finished with something after several years and it is still in good condition and has life left in it, will donate it. Nowadays though, and possibly due to my upbringing, I prefer to save up and shop for new if possible, but only very occasionally and only when needed.
As some of you know, I have some scoliosis of the back - nothing too bad but it does affect me. My right shoulder drops down and right hip is up and forward, making me look out of line, so all items of clothing have to be tried on before purchasing - that rules out all on-line shopping. 

My back also affects my feet with each ankle turned inwards between 11 and 16 degrees. Shoes have to be tried on and over the years I have found I can only wear expensive ankle boots, such as Hotter which support both foot and ankle – again that rules out on-line shopping otherwise I'd spend all my time sending things back. Most shoes and supportive sandals are worn until they fall apart – often many years.

It would take me a year or longer to knit a jumper or cardigan so I don't. I can sew and hope to begin making some clothes in the not too distant future.More tomorrow.

Friday 22 March 2013

Weather and what not

I have put the walk for this week on the new Walks II page tab above – Walks I tab is from 2011 when we first started walking. I never know how much info you can get on a stand alone page so once it started playing up saving stuff, I started Walks II page.

It seems some of you have or are going to get some snow. Just been on the web cam to check on my grand-dogs and it looks like they have some snow there. So far we are clear and if we get it, it is not expected to reach us until either overnight or tomorrow. Even then, we are supposed to be lucky and get only a light covering.

For those of you with snow, drive carefully, keep warm and have nice hot meals throughout the day. I have taken some chilli out of the freezer for tea tonight and will make leek, potato and barley soup for lunch.

Thursday 21 March 2013


I shall need to spend a little money on clothes this year. All 5 of my tee shirts are years old, tired and baggy. They will be utilized into rag rugs or something similar when I replace them.

My one and only pair of jeans are covered in fence paint and as I use them for our weekly walks, am beginning to feel a little embarrassed when we go into a cafe to eat. Yesterday saw us briefly in Matalan – briefly as their music was driving us mad

Stopped at the Falmer's section (whose clothes I love but rarely buy) although I will sometimes treat myself to a cardigan or shirt from them. I always buy one size up as their measurements are a little tight.

Their jeans were £28 a pair and I pondered on whether to buy them. Then I found some of their own brand. Tried a pair on and they fitted well although they were straight legged. I had long socks on at the time and they were too tight down the calves.

Trundled back and managed to find boot leg ones which are supposed to be 29” long but seem a little short. No problem though as if they shrink too much I will add a decorative band onto the bottom of the legs and also somewhere else. They will then look as though they were always that way.

They fitted better and were £10 each so I bought 2 pairs. Now my old pair of jeans can be used for dirty jobs.

Went to check on my wormery the other day and a few of the worms have begun to find each section of the food I have put in there. Looks like I'll soon be able to feed them properly. Might hang off as long as possible though as they are in the conservatory at the moment and I don't fancy having fruit flies in there.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Do the dates of Equinox move?

I was a little confused on the weather forecast this morning when the announcer said that today was the first day of the Spring Equinox.

Although DB doubts me somewhat, I am positive that when at school, I was taught that they were March 21st, June 21st, September 23rd and December 21st. I know this because I could never get a straight answer from the teacher as to why September was the 23rd and not the 21st like the other three!

I understand that from a gardening point of view, March to May is Spring, June to August is Summer, September to November is Autumn and December to February is Winter.

Mind you, after nipping out to do a little shopping this morning as well as returning some library books, we came out to a snow shower. So, regardless of whether it is officially spring or winter, the weather is currently cold enough to indicate to me, that it still feels like winter.

We began eating the bread I made yesterday using Paul Hollywood's recipe. Verdict - delicious. We had an egg sandwich for lunch with a bowl of piping hot sweetcorn soup. Tonight we shall have pulled pork Shepard's pie. 

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Rejigging the blog, baking and fence panels - updated again...

I am currently in the process of re-vamping my blog – just a little. 

A new page has been added to the top called 'Walks' – and each walk that we have done and plan to do in the future will be added to it rather than as a post with a label. The old posts are gradually being deleted as I do this which means any associated comments will also go. Sorry to those of you that commented on them but you will be able to do so on the new page, although it seems to be at the very bottom of the page for some reason. 

Whilst I am busy doing this, DB is carrying on painting the back fence panels. He is currently sitting outside (nicely warmed up from his work), sipping a strong cup of tea and eating a Kit Kat.

I really enjoyed Paul Hollywood's new series about bread last night. So inspired was I that 2 portions of his recipe for a Bloomer were made. The first was baked in the style of a bloomer, the second was put in a tin to see how it behaved. They haven't been sliced yet as we are waiting for them to go cold. I loved his tip about spraying the top of bread with water before baking to give a nice shine. I knew about throwing water onto the bottom of the oven to create steam. Each loaf below cost about 63p and weighs around 700g. I think that is probably half the price in the shops and I don't use the cheapest flour.

Off both portions, I pinched a little to make us a pizza for lunch. This pizza for all ingredients came to £1.60 which is not bad considering it measures 12 inches!

Friday 15 March 2013

A bit of bread - oh yes, and worms...

Welcome to my new follower kristieinbc.

I am looking forward to the bread making programme in this coming week by Paul Hollywood. In the Radio Times magazine for said week is one of his recipes for Stout Soda Bread. I haven't got in stock some of the basic ingredients he has used, nor do I like stout in things, so what has a girl to do, yep, adapt.

He calls for 1lb 4oz wholemeal plus 7oz white (normal not strong) flours, mixed together, along with 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar and 1 tsp salt. I currently only have white flour but have some S.R. Wholemeal flour which was sieved to get out the bran. Then I added wheatgerm to make up the 4oz in the first part. I could only use 1lb 7oz of white flour so for an extra 'kick', I added a tablespoon of linseeds.

Brown sugar – none so I used just 1 tablespoon white. Bicarb and salt were added as instructed – see, I do sometimes follow recipes!

This dry mixture needed to have 1/2 pint stout (I used cider hence only using half the sugar) plus 8 fl oz buttermilk – nope – only had plain home made yoghurt. I did need to add a little extra cider as it was too dry and wouldn't come together properly.

I really should have realised by the quantity of flours, how big a loaf this would make (he says to oil a 2lb 4oz bread tin). Don't have one of those either so the mixture once made, was distributed between 2 x 1lb bread tins.

He suggests you leave the mixture in the tin to rise but can bake it straight away if required. I did mine straight away as I wanted to get it cooked so I could roast some old vegetables in the oven to make soup for lunch. The dough was baked as he suggests at 230 Celsius for 10 minutes before turning it down to 180 Celsius for another 25 minutes or until done.

The bread needs to be left in the tin for 5 minutes before tipping out (obviously have to temporarily remove it to tap its bottom to see if it is hollow which indicates it is done). After that, leave it until completely cold before slicing. I checked my loaves 10 minutes before the end of allotted cooking time and they were hollow but left them in until the end. They were fine.

As this bread is yeast-less, it won't keep for more than 2 or 3 days, so as I still have some bread left, both have gone into the freezer. Mind you, we did try a slice before it was frozen. Verdict -as good as my normal recipe, which when you think about it, it isn't far off my normal recipe but with the addition of cider instead of milk! :) 

Silly me, I forgot to say about the worms. I had read the instructions incorrectly. I thought I had to feed them once a week for 4 weeks AFTER the initial 2 weeks routine. Now, having re-read them, I know I have to feed them every other day with a small amount of chopped up waste. If they aren't eating the first lot after a few days, I have to wait. 
Well, only a few have found the first lot so I am going to give them another week and see how they are doing after that.

Thursday 14 March 2013


Certain citrus fruits are most definitely seasonal and mandarins, are one of them. We recently bought 5 (a bit hard to peel unfortunately) and the smell as they were eventually peeled, was wonderful. 
I know some people save all citrus peelings, which are then dried and used as fire lighters. Luckily for us, we have some free fire lighters in the form of taken out windowsills (from DS) and dried twigs from B's garden.
We wondered if it was possible to use the peelings in some other way, perhaps as a flavouring in food. We dried each of the peels over a couple of nights in front of the wood burner, then they were processed in my spice mill (which came free with my new liquidizer). 

A few whizzes later and they were more or less in powder form - I can always sieve it before use anyway. Next, where or how to store them. I have no idea how long they will last so an old Oil of Ulay pot was utilized and they are now stored in the fridge. 

I can't tell you how fantastic the smell is every time I open the jar. There is no reason why oranges, lemons or limes can't be processed in the same way.Mind you with oranges and lemons, I would suggest using a vegetable peeler to peel the fruit so not much pith is left behind which can be rather bitter.

Haven't used any yet, but when we next make a cake or pudding, I shall put some in and see how it goes.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

General chit chat...

Welcome to my two new followers, Closet Blitz Woman and h.graham.33.

At the moment we have lovely blue skies with fluffy white clouds but I am sure it won't last, it is certainly cold in the very brisk wind. This photograph was taken first thing yesterday morning and luckily, no more snow settled despite frequent snow storms.
Have just got back from the post office, sending off a large parcel so that helped blow the cobwebs away!

We are so glad about picking pine cones the other week as the wood burner is messing about when first lit and the addition of a few of them gets it going again. We think the current batch of logs may be heart wood and that it can be quite hard to burn, certainly when starting the fire.

I thawed (what would once upon a time) be a one person portion of curry and rice. The curry had 2 tomatoes, a few mushrooms, a bit more curry paste and tomato paste added to it and it was enough for us both. We finished off a little more of 'that' chocolate cake with custard.

Fed the worms in the wormery yesterday, they certainly seem to be jiggling around well so I think they have accustomed to their new home. They had a finely diced banana skin with a small handful of chopped potato peel, both of which had been left out a few days, to begin de-composing. Apparently I now have to do that once a week, in each of the 4 corners (providing they have eaten the previous amount).

Once they have eaten 4 corners worth, they should be able to tackle everyday stuff in small amounts. The wormery is still in my conservatory. The windows get opened and it gets a shading of newspaper if the temperature rises above 20 Celsius. It's like having pets!

I can tell that Spring is almost here (despite the current weather) as the sun is now getting onto my kitchen window sill. Thought I'd show you a photograph of my 10 potatoes chitting (don't have room in the garden for anymore but like to enjoy the taste of freshly picked new potatoes). The old margarine tub is being used to grow my 2nd batch of cress. 

Had the first batch the other day as cress sandwiches to go with a bowl of soup, tasted so fresh. Just outside the window, sitting on top of a half size log store, is an alpine bed made with some re-used fence posts. 

The soil level has certainly sunk over time but as they are alpines, they have probably got more than they would have. Again, this picture shows the remains of snow from yesterday.

Monday 11 March 2013


It's that time of month again to donate. Although it is Comic Relief this month, I am not going to give to them simply because I know many others will.

Instead I want to donate to a more local charity, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, whose web site can be found here

Last month, they had the all too frequent job, of taking in yet more rescued horses. Such a job is not only distressing but costs a lot of money. Some similar sanctuaries have gone under in the current economic climate and I don't want Redwings to be one of them.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Baking and making - CAKE UPDATE INFO!

The rain finally reached us sometime in the night. Don't know when exactly as it is coming from the north and is therefore, missing the bedroom windows. Hasn't taken long though to see large puddles forming in the garden, indicating that the ground water is still high.

Such weather (4 degrees Celsius), sees us BOTH in the kitchen, baking and making. Yesterday, taking a leaf from Frugal Queen's book, I managed to buy a pork shank for £2.48 from Morrison's (the only supermarket so far that I have found one in!). Should have noted that she said to cook it overnight in the slow cooker. 

I started mine at 9 a.m. and it took until 9 p.m. for it to be falling from the bone. Being so late at night, we decided to shred it and this is how much we got.

The liquid turned to jelly overnight in the cold conservatory and was used to make and freeze gravy.

Today, I have lined two dishes with the pork, cooked some carrot and swede and placed them on top. This afternoon, I shall make enough mash for them both to be turned into a pork shepherd’s pie. We shall have one as it (the gravy is already inside) and the other once cold will be frozen. Not bad methinks for maybe a total of £3.20.

DB is in baking mode and has decided to bake a rich, moist chocolate we read over at Rhonda's blog chocolate cake

Here it is upside down freshly turned from the tin and now the correct way up. The white line at the bottom is a dusting of flour from the tin and will be brushed off.It may look burnt but isn't. Just a very deep chocolate colour.

We had months ago, bought a nice combination tin from Ikea, that can either be used as a normal 9” cake tin or as today, have the insert put in which turns it into a ring cake. 

We have just had a piece with some tea. Rhonda adapted the original recipe and halved the sugar. Now, we really don't like sweet cakes but to us, this was almost sour. Nowhere near sweet enough, next time we will have to have the 2 cups of sugar rather than the one Rhonda recommends. Each to their own I guess.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Painting again ...

Even though today was overcast, the sun tried in vain to make a bright appearance, it did stay dry. We were able to get another 3 1/2 fence panels plus one 6' x 6' trellis painted. After those, we stopped as we were aching again. Still, that is the entire side panels painted. Just the back and down the drive.

Here is a before and after picture (plant was taken off the fence then re-tied) of one panel outside the dining room door. Quite a difference isn't it and it will get better once this quince flowers against a darker background.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Bed sock number one!

Although it is probably too late now for wearing bed socks, I have decided to have a go at knitting some anyway. Unlike Elaine, the lady whose blog I got these from, bed socks I can't knit them up in a day or so, they have taken me around 8 days, doing them every now and then.

So far, only one has been knitted and I've done it with a rib ankle and stocking stitch foot. It is very easy to do but as I only had Aran 100% wool, it may well shrink in the wash if I am not careful. The stitched together seam can be felt (by me anyway with the princess and the pea syndrome!), so I am wearing it to the inside of my foot where it is not so obvious. 

Anyhow, I will knit up the other, trial them and if I like the feel of them on my feet overnight, shall look in the attic for some softer wool and then knit some for next winter. Be prepared, that's my motto!

It looks like an extra long mitten with no thumb and indeed the pattern is knitted on normal needles rather than in the round - very simple. I adapted it to have a ribbed top and stocking stitch foot, rather than the garter stitch in the original pattern.

Herewith said sock modelled on my right foot.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Fence panels

The sky is blue and the sun is shining. After a rather chilly start when we had to double dress to keep warm, the temperature is now around 11 Celsius outside. We actually managed to sit out in the sun to have a cup of tea and a biscuit – wow!

With rain forecast for later in the week, today had to be a gardening day and the annual, sometimes bi-annual task we hate. Painting the fence panels. We have around 18 in the back garden and 9 or so down the drive.

We started on the 10 that line the back left between us and our neighbour and managed to complete 5 before lunch. They are his but he doesn't paint them and we only paint our side. 5 as it turns out, is quite enough for one day. DB rollers them and I fill in any gaps, of which there are quite a few even though he is using a radiator roller.

As we both had chiropractic treatment yesterday, we probably shouldn't be doing it and my back is aching like mad so we have stopped. DB also gave a first coat to the tops of the raised beds as they are in a bit of a state and it may help keep out the rain a little more. The two long trays of pine cones are back outside again, drying off a bit more, almost fully open now so they will be ready to use soon.

Here is a before and after shot to give you some idea of how green they can get despite being west facing. The last two show the panels from either end.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Sorting out the fruit cage and sowing seeds!

The other week saw us busy inside our fruit cage digging in gravel, ericaceous compost and moving the odd plant around. We wanted to make space for a strawberry bench. 

In reality the best plan would be to move the door from the end left to the end right, that way we wouldn't be trying to squeeze around said bench. Ah well, can't have everything.

DB and I still have to design and build the base part and as we have 4 x 1 metre troughs (for a 4 year rotation from babies to mature 3 year old plants, it needs to somehow accommodate those, gradually sloping backwards and upwards from the front. 

Although strawberry plants live well for 5 – 6 years, they are at their best in years 2, 3 and sometimes 4. The troughs will physically be moved up the stand rather than digging out and replanting each plant.  At the end of the 4 year rotation, the old strawberries will be disposed of, including their soil and that trough moved down to the front. 
Anyway, sorry to say, no pictures yet but thought I'd let you know about ours plans. However, I do have some pictures of the daffodils that were removed from the cage and put temporarily into pots to flower this Spring. 

For those who can't quite visualise our raised vegetable beds, we have 3 of these measuring 1m x 1m x 3/4m. They have adjustable and removable net covers.
Finally, we have one of these raised beds on legs measuring roughly 1m x 3/3m x 0.3m. It has had two overlapping perspex lids on it to warm and dry the soil. Now it is warm and dry enough, I have sown my first row of peas and broad beans. 

These perspex lids normally sit on the other beds when trying to warm up the soil or overwinter any crops. All the net and perspex tops store around the back of the garage when not in use. 
In the conservatory I have also sown some beetroot, lettuce cress, corncockle, tall white aqualegia and red rudbeckia. In a couple of weeks, I shall start of my tomatoes and tomatillo plants.  

Friday 1 March 2013

New critters on the blog

Welcome to my new follower, Frugal Mammy.

Earlier this week, we took charge of some new critters to our home. Eventually they will live outdoors but as the weather is so cold, it is recommended they stay somewhere indoors for a while. As we don't have a greenhouse or garden shed and the garage is only really big enough for the car, they have been given a temporary des-res in the conservatory!

What are you talking about I hear you say, indoor critters. Well, let me explain. I had read on another blog, The Squirrel Family over here
that they had invested in Wormcity a new style of wormery. I had previously had another make and it had failed. From reading the comprehensive instructions that came with this, I now know why. I have just won £50 on the premium bonds so that, plus a little extra bought us a Wormcity 75.

So let me take you through building it, within one hour from it arriving. 30 minutes of that time is soaking the coir compost brick so had I got myself properly organised, it would have taken around 30 minutes in total.

This is what it came in, other than the tape holding the box together and two small plastic bags inside, everything else is usable. That is a great start by this company in my view.
Once opened and the top of the wormery removed, here is what you get to start it off:

1 coir compost brick to be soaked in 3 litres of warm water for 30 minutes, 1 bag of worm food, 1 x 500g bag of live and wriggly worms (plus babies and a few un-hatched eggs), a tap,two nuts and bolts and an instruction sheet. As we may be moving this around for its first few months, DB put in another 2 nuts and bolts but it doesn't really need it.

I won't discuss the build too much but show pictures as there is a link to their web site here

We used the front of the box to line the first tray (plus damp newspaper) and decided to stand it inside the box once built as sometimes, the worms have wanderlust in the first few days! 

A few days down the line, this hasn't happened. Indeed, when I lifted the lid, cardboard and top layer of newspaper, the are nowhere to be seen. They must have dug down deeply into the compost.  

Our conservatory is west facing and this time of years stays between 8C and 20C, which apparently is within their happy range. We have to leave them for a week then give them another feed of the worm food. After another week, they should be ready to begin feeding on a small amount of chopped kitchen waste. Fingers crossed.