Friday 31 August 2018

Foraging for winter goodness

Today is the last day of summer according to the gardening calendar and the meteorologists.

Although very early this year, I have finally managed to locate and harvest, 1lb 11oz of elderberries:
They have been washed, combed from their stalks with a fork, picked over for any remaining stalks, patted dried and frozen for winter use.

Also picked, were some very, very early sloes. Normally, these are harvested after the first frosts, which help to breakdown their exterior wall of skin to allow for colour and flavour development in whatever you use them in.

Just 1lb 4oz of these were harvested. There were still quite a few left but I don't actually need too many:
They too are now in the freezer and once thawed, will be ready to use.

Although it was a short drive to where we harvested them, once there, whilst I was busy, DB took Ruby for a trundle along a restricted bridleway.

Thursday 30 August 2018


We needed some biscuits for our walk so checking I had all the ingredients, I made some baked Almond bites, not the original title. Not using flour, these are naturally gluten free. The recipe only makes a few but they are very rich:
You can find the proper recipe from Kate's blog here.

I make them plain as we like them like that. Although they might have chocolate dribbled onto them when I remember! Sitting next to them is a loaf of malthouse bread. The flour was out of date but had been languishing in the freezer so today, it got used. Very nice it is too if I do say so myself!

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Tidying the garden - finally....

Whilst DB was busy repairing a gap in the back windowsill, with Ruby being the inspector of works, I set to.

What was left of my few pathetic vegetables from bed one, were put into its worm tower. When I lifted the lid to do so, I was surprised to find it turned completely to compost. A quick shuffle around and I put the new stuff in and closed it again. The bed was weeded, dug over and left open to the elements:

Dwarf runner bean plants in bed 2 were pulled up and disposed of. We tried some for tea last night and they were horribly tough. The parsley was cut down and it too fed into its worm tower. I also weeded and dug over this bed after tying up the French beans, which have finally made an appearance - probably too late but they do have flowers on them now. Also left open to the elements and birds:

Bed 3, the new strawberry bed, had all runners and old stalks cut off, weeded, compost added to its worm tower. It too was left open as I need to keep removing their runners in this, their first year, so they can build up roots for a better crop next year:

Bed 4 on the patio, currently growing tomatoes, was weeded, leaves and old fruit stalks removed, top dead headed, again, then left alone:

My final job was to remove many apples from the Bramley that have brown rot. I found out what it was on Beechgrove garden this week. Never had it before so that is a bit of a bummer.

Ah well, onwards and upwards. At least I have made a start.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Blasted bug damage....

First of all, well done to Andy Murray for winning his first grand slam match at the US Open. He struggled at times but won in the end.

At the start of the season, my fruit trees were covered in blossom and set many fruit. I put up my apple codling moth trap and left the trees to it. In June, they dropped a huge amount of fruit, probably due to our 50 days without rain and very high temperatures.

The Cox apple had 20 left on it. A few more dropped off leaving 16, a good harvest for us I thought. Nope!

The wasps arrived in their droves, the fruits were too immature to pick, the codling moth trap didn't lure them all in and there was damage from those as well.

4, just 4 survived and had to be picked slightly early before their true colour developed. They should be juicy and sweet but being early, are slightly tart. We have eaten two and are enjoying them anyway:

Hopefully next year will be better. I'm just hoping the wasps won't find my few greengages but I bet they do!

Monday 27 August 2018

A baptism of fire and a couple of pictures...

We had just left for a longish walk Friday evening when black clouds rolled in. Thunder and fork lightening followed rapidly, directly overhead. Then hailstones followed by heavy rain.

Ruby jumped when the hailstones hit her as she could obviously feel them (as could we). Neither the lightening nor thunder seemed to bother her. We took shelter under a small conifer tree, during the heaviest part of the storm, before decided we were all so wet and cold it didn't really matter.

It took two towels to dry off Ruby mainly because she kept trying to eat them as well as play with them, so we both dried her as we were cold and wet.

She fell asleep by our feet, as close to us as possible. She wasn't shivering but I think wanted our warmth anyhow. Her coat is lovely and soft now.

I thought I would show some more pictures of my grand dogs. First, Miss M. on the left, Ruby's mum with her shadow Mr. L. In the background almost hidden from view is possibly Miss S:
This picture of Ruby was taken when DB had received some mail from DS. She loves to tear boxes up - it was everywhere:
Ruby has now finished puppy training and socialisation classes and moved up to intermediate training. Boy, we were all brain dead at the end of that. Some of the training session this time was of us all moving at the same time, weaving in and out, sitting, fetching, laying down and waiting etc. It was great fun especially when some people switched off and got completely lost and ended up in the wrong place.

Saturday 25 August 2018


I have just been out to harvest some more of our blackberries (Brambles), 660g:

Some are still of a good size:
The rest are getting smaller, inbetween this size and the size of wild brambles.

Ruby loves them and any that are not quite up to scratch, get eaten by her over a few days.

Friday 24 August 2018

Inane comments

We were returning from our walk up the woods. Ruby was back on the lead as we were getting close to the road. We were walking along the field edge to keep away from some owners whose dogs don’t like an exuberant puppy jumping up to greet them.

Coming up the track, was an older couple walking their dog off lead. As we drew level we said “Good morning”

Their slightly raised eyebrow reply “Don’t you all allow your dog off lead. Ours has never been on a lead in his life”

It was all I could do to not say “Good for you!”

Thursday 23 August 2018

Spoiling Ruby?

People seem to think we are spoiling Ruby where her eating is concerned. I don't think any malice is intended, more a lack of understanding about a raw food diet.

They are always keen to know "what is she on today?" if they are around when she is about to be fed. A general meat answer is usually given as once the protective sleeve is off her minced meat and it is thawed, I don't always know what it is! When she is given something different like chicken necks, sprats or an egg, a similar comment is made.

"Ooh, aren't you spoiled" then usually follows.

I do find it tiresome and explain it all again but it doesn't seem to "go in"!!!

A mixture of meat has to be given as each meat has a different analysis of mineral and vitamin content. Each tube has varying amounts of finely minced bone and different offals included. Each offal give different vitamins and other micro nutrients.

Oily fish gives extra bone and omega 3 and 6. Chicken necks increase her intake of bone which she also needs to be healthy and also help to keep her teeth clean. Dehydrated rolled fish skins do the same.

Eggs give her so many nutrients it isn't true. I haven't yet tried her on a whole egg but she gets the all the inside then the shell is finely ground up and given in with the meat. The shell has numerous benefits and something in it, helps to counteract something in the egg white that isn't quite so helpful (but only if she were to eat huge amounts of it).

Finally fruit and vegetables are given in small quantities, often having been frozen first to break down the cell walls. She adored frozen carrots and broccoli in the recent heatwave. This breakdown of the cell walls helps her digest them better and get anything else she needs from them.

Treats, on the few times she has them, are either cubed vegetables or semi hydrated meat.

None of our food is ever given to her. She is full of beans, dances to her eating place at meal times and her coat is as shiny and soft as can be. So no, I don’t think she is being spoiled. She eats in a different way to a kibble fed dog and beng on a raw food way of eating, is being fed what she actually needs.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Not the evening we had planned...

Our day had been quite busy and after taking Ruby for a reasonably long walk, we had all had settled down. DB had a bath and came out, asking me to remove a tick off his chest - like you do!

We have a proper remover but this one was well in, only its bottom half and back legs showing. Quite small, not drunk too much:(

Unfortunately, the body came off leaving its head behind. DB lay on the dining room table, under the glare of overhead lights for the next hour, whilst I used tweezers, needles and a surgical blade to try and dig it out. We were both hot and bothered by the end of that hour, backs aching, necks strained. No joy so off to the duty doctor today.

She had a good look and probe, concluded most was out and she and DB discussed the best course of action, 3 weeks of antibiotics just in case of Lymes disease. What remains will grow out shortly as skin levels renew but we should obviously go back if anything changes.

Unfortunately the antibiotics are ones that DB has taken before and they have one unfortunate side effect. He has to be totally protected from the sun, even on cloudy days, otherwise he gets horrendous sunburn. Ah well...

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Mini baking

Welcome to Diane Margaret via Bloglovin.

As we needed the oven on for Sunday, we decided to have our tea at lunch time, so I could make some cheese scones for tea:
The cheese on the top is white so they look a little pale. Inside was Parmesan, oregano and black pepper. If I have scones on too high a heat or in too long, the bottom burns so it is a balancing act between being cooked and pale or having burnt bottoms.

Just one ounce of grated Parmesan, lovely strong flavour.

Monday 20 August 2018

Cultivated blackberries...

About 3 or so years ago, we planted a cultivated, large fruiting blackberry (Bramble) in our fruit cage. Last year was its first proper year of fruiting. This year, despite near drought conditions, it has performed well. Below is a pan measuring 12" x 5":
This is the 4th one we have filled and frozen for later use. The one above has a few gaps in it as the bush is now slowing down. It still has lots of red fruits to ripen yet, but they are gradually getting smaller.

After picking, the fruit is soaked for a few minutes in cold water with a good dash or two of vinegar. This usually either kills any wee beasties in or on the fruit and they and other debris rise to the top to be scooped off. A quick rinse finishes this stage of the job.

They are then laid briefly on kitchen roll before being frozen. All this happens within 10 minutes of picking, hopefully keeping as many vitamin in them as possible.

Friday 17 August 2018

Rain and Chinese....

It rained yesterday for a good six hours or so. I am sure the garden will benefit greatly.

Last night was our once a term ‘school’ Chinese meal. We used to do this when our village school was open and have carried on, just the four of us now.

We have a meal designed for three but there was still too much. Leftovers will be thoroughly heated through for our tea tonight.

After that, we settled to watch a dvd - Jumangi -welcome to the jungle. DB and I had watched it a few weeks back but neither of the others had seen it. I think they enjoyed it.

Ruby was a bit of a pain. One guest who loves dogs decided to sit on the floor with her. She got excited and became more of a nuisance, her ‘play-biting’ becoming a tad painful.

The more you discipline her when she is wound up, the worse she gets, just comes back for more! She got put in her crate and let out after a few minutes. After that, she was okay and settled down to sleep. It is the only thing about her, that irritates us beyond words and we have tried everything to stop it.

It use to happen once a day but is building up again to several times a day. I hope she grows out of it otherwise we shall have to seek help.

Thursday 16 August 2018


If you don't like looking at toes, look away now!

If you have any form of toe or foot pain, here is a good link to work out what might be happening.Wearing normal everyday shoes/boots, I can walk around the street for quite a while and not get sore toes. Most days but not all days.

However, even though I have properly measured walking boots, after a couple of miles, the pads on my outer toes start to go under their counterparts, causing first soreness, then extreme pain.

To counter this, I have to plaster the outer toes:
The big toe on my right foot has a similar problem so that too has to have a plaster on.

Also underneath my right foot, just to the right of the pad of the big toe, I have a Morton's Neuroma (a similar thing is Capsulitis). It used to be very painful, felt like I had a grain of rice trapped underneath my skin. I now put a plaster here and if I remember to do so, hardly have pain whilst out on a long walk.

These problems seem for me, to be advancing with my age. I love walking in the countryside so if I end up eventually having to plaster my feet more, so be it!

Wednesday 15 August 2018


I don't know about you but I think the wasps are very bad this year. We must have a nest somewhere nearby as we were inundated with dozens of 1cm long baby wasps a month ago. So far though, not many of the larger French wasps are around.

Getting fed up with not being able to sit outside for long (and eating was impossible), we bought a bottle of cheap beer and decanted it into an old yoghurt pot:
This was just one day and night, should have covered it to prevent the moths getting in:( Anyhow, one wasp and one moth were still alive so I got them out before throwing their mates down the drain. It has now been refilled.

They are still a bit of a nuisance but not as much as before. If you don’t want to kill them, place some honey on a saucer away from where you sit, should help. This is what we normally do but we have so many this year I have had to use this method for a short burst.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Poor Ruby....

We took Ruby to see the vet nurse for her monthly puppy check up. We had a small list of things that we wanted to ask about. She dealt with the first two but made us a vet appointment (for 20 minutes later).

She discovered a very red pinna and inner ear (doesn’t think it an infection, more irritation which could be an allergy). She prescribed some steroid based ear drops for a week.

Next check was her bum which she has been nibbling at for a while. Yep, despite her being so young, her anal glands needed emptying. What an odd pong! Ruby didn’t care, she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

We have to go back later this week to see how she is. A quick £67 spent but at least there will be no consultation charge next time. The vet was new and had tried to charge us for the anal gland job but the receptionist said no, all part of the consultation! She said that hopefully it won’t happen again for a long while as a raw diet should help. Mind you, she also said that some dogs are more prone to it (and Spaniels are prone to ear problems). We shall see.

Monday 13 August 2018


DB and myself recently celebrated our birthdays. We each received nice presents from a few friends and family and we both chose a present ourselves to be given on the appropriate days.

We are at the stage in life where we rarely need anything and certainly don't want anything as such. I chose anvil cutting secateurs and he some walking trousers.

I didn't get around to making a birthday cake for myself but decided to bake a victoria sponge for his birthday, using just one half and freezing the other for another day.

He didn't mind what flavour or style he had but requested sugar strands!

A vanilla sponge was duly made, topped with whipped cream, raspberries and said strands:

We ate it over 4 days also eating the leftover cream and raspberries yum!

Friday 10 August 2018

Another necessary job ...

For the most part, Ruby is house trained. Any accidents she has had, are our fault as we were still learning her signal to let us know she wants to go out (a very pointed stare by the way). This is what the carpets look like in the lounge and hallway:
The conservatory (our main entrance) was filthy from winter more than anything. The kitchen was also pretty grotty. We were going to clean the carpets after her first season but my feet are actually getting dirty after a few days walking barefoot in this hot weather!

We used to get someone in but need a few cleaning this time. DS and DDiL, plus friends, have hired a cleaner before, so that is what we did.

If on her first season she makes any mess, we can spot clean those areas.

We hired the cleaner for 2 days but it took just over a day. Loads of filthy water:
The noise was awful and we had to put Ruby in another room. It also DID NOT take just two hours to dry. The dining room dried all afternoon and overnight. The kitchen tiles took a whole day (guess it is not meant for those). The conservatory tiles dried quickly as the temperature in there was over 42C!

The next day we did the inner hall and front room, where most of the stains were from Ruby learning toilet training. They were still damp by nightfall but were dry by the morning. We wet washed once or twice but hoovered the areas twice or thrice.

Mind you, the carpets are now quite clean and the pile has come up a little. I would give the machine 7/10. It lost the 3 points for noise, taking too long to dry and in not getting some stains out on the first or second attempt.

Have a grand weekend everyone!

Thursday 9 August 2018

Food preparation...

Since putting Ruby onto a raw food diet, she has done very well. Her coat is absolutely glistening.

She has tried most meats and enjoys them all. She loves green tripe and also sprats. She also eats eggs, chicken necks and dehydrated fish skins (to help clean her teeth and under supervision) and fruit and vegetables.

Rather than faff around preparing her vegetables each day, I have taken advice off a site and prepared them in advance. This time around, I used spinach, dark green cabbage (outer leaves after washing), green bell pepper and carrots.

They were chavelled up in my food processor along with a bit of water before being put into bone and paw moulds:
This was a trial to see if they will freeze okay, which they did:
Couldn't quite fit them all in the box but most went in.

She will have one a day in her meat so there will be enough for 4 weeks. The job took me about 1/2 an hour all in, including washing up afterwards!

Wednesday 8 August 2018

It ain't pretty - revamped...

On this post, I was using temporary material to help give us more shade on the patio.

We are now using an old duvet cover, cut open to give us plenty of shade:
This is just one half of it. Although heat may build up eventually under it, the patio is fully in the shade. This will help at least, as the heat from the slabs should not rise up so much and make things unbearable.

It also gives Ruby more shade. Mind you, she spends so much time dashing after butterfly shadows on the gravel, we usually have to bring her in to get her to cool down.

The downside is that on windy but sunny days, neither can be used:(

Tuesday 7 August 2018

Next preparation jobs....

First of all, welcome to Rebecca Pickering via Bloglovin.

Our oil boiler servicing - done!

Sweep the chimney! We do this twice a year every year. The first sweep is when we finish with the wood burner, usually April or May. Here is the burner prepared and first rod in:
The second sweep is late summer before we use the wood burner. We are amazed at more stuff dropping down but drop it does. The picture below is a bit inside the base. More was in the chimney base:
After sweeping, here is what came out - plus more you couldn't see sitting in the base of the chimney itself:

We only burn hardwood as it produces less build up, but our kindling is often softwood - old fences and bits of other wood or small twigs, branches or pine cones occasionally.

Another job done.

Sunday 5 August 2018

Moving on....

It may well be summer but times stands still for nothing and no-one!

We ordered our logs for winter on Saturday and they were delivered the next day, £90 for a cubic metre, same price as last year. We use a relatively local tree surgeon as opposed to a company we used to use, who were situated at the bottom of Norfolk.

As usual, we borrowed an old wheelbarrow from a neighbour and got busy. This was the first time doing this with Ruby. She was going to be locked into the driveway, but as it happens, she was fast asleep in her crate.

We used to give our neighbour a few logs as a thankyou but he no longer uses a fire. He has requested and now receives a jar of his favourite make of jam.

About half of the logs were suitable for immediate stacking. The other half were wheeled into the garage where DB, after a suitable rest, used our log splitter to break them into slightly smaller pieces as we only have a small woodburner.

All in all, about 90 minutes work from start to finish. I needed a very cool bath after trundling that lot around!

Congratulations to Jamie and Bruno on winning the Washington Citi Open.

Saturday 4 August 2018

I am pleased....

That Andy decided to not play his next match, he was physically exhausted after playing until 03:00 hours. He has also pulled out of his next tournament, another good decision. He really cannot afford to keep playing if he wants to play for a few more years.

Our temperature was forecast to be 29C yesterday, it got to 31.5C, way too hot again. It seems to be a situation taking place in many parts of the world at the moment. Glad we aren’t in Spain, where is it 47C!

Friday 3 August 2018

Shopping and menu...

I plan a whole months worth of meals in advance. Here is this weeks in no particular order. The asterisk refers to a previously cooked curry from the freezer:
We often eat out once a week, so on that day, we just have toast.

We did buy a few treats for the week, but here are the till receipts:
A total of £30.88. No toiletries needed so that helped with the price.

Thursday 2 August 2018

In the hot weather....

Ruby has been having the odd water only bath:
She might not look very happy, but she puts her paws on the edge of the bath, watching it fill up with luke warm water, getting very excited. Other than giving her nether regions a quick wash, she just slushes around in there, tail wagging!

It is so good to see Andy Murray playing again. We started to watch his match against Kyle Edmund last night but were just too tired to finish watching it, so shall catch up today. Even though we know he won, I still like to watch him play, even after the event.

Some doubles are being shown but so far, not Jamie Murray:(