Thursday, 29 September 2022

Final Tomato Harvest and not such a bargain

 As we have been having night temperatures of 4C or 6C, thought it about time we brought in the tomatoes. I don't have a greenhouse and those temperatures are just too cold, poor things:

The large tray above, have Shirley and San Marzano plum tomatoes.

The above are Ailsa Craig.

We also filled up a 4 pint bowl of Ailsa Craig and Gardeners Delight. I shall let as many ripen naturally as possible, then either cook the rest for sauces, or make into chutney.

DB tried the neck shoulder warmer the other night. It is not microwavable:( Turns out, it has a button you press which sets off a chain reaction to heat the gel. It lasted for 60 minutes but once cold, set as hard as a rock!

The instructions said to lay it in a tray ot boiling water for 15 minutes then it will turn back into a gel. Two trays and 4 kettles later, it was still rock hard so it went in the bin. It said it was supposed to be able to be used 1000 times. We were not happy having to boil a full kettle 4 times, not in this day of expensive electricity. Some you win....


Sunday, 25 September 2022

Two good buys

 The first from Home Bargains, which I found advertised on someone's blog. We used to eat these in Germany and Holland and loved them:

89p per 400g packets as opposed to a Lidl version at 1.59p per 500 gram, equating to 1.27p for 400g. We bought 3 of each to put away as well as try.

The second from Lidl. This cost 4.99p so thought we would give it a go. It is a microwavable gel device. We both get stiff necks and aching shoulders so hope it works but didn't find 4.99p too expensive to try it:



Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Very uncomfortable!

 We had chiropractic treatment yesterday. A regular 3 monthly plan. My left back/hip area has been very uncomfortable for a while. My left leg was 1" shorter than my right. She diagnosed a restricted/fixated sacroiliac joint and began treatment.

Boy was it painful. I thought she might have needed to give me treatment for a locked jaw afterwards, so hard was I gritting my teeth. The treatment involved using her elbow with her full body weight behind it. 1 minute hard and deep push into my hip area, a quick rest, then she repeated it twice more. Then I had to get up, no mean feat, and do a couple of exercises against the wall to check if it had helped.

I will be back in another 3 months unless I need to go earlier. I felt very sore and bruised afterwards. Slept well but woke up a couple of times in pain:(

 


Saturday, 17 September 2022

Dog and flowers

 Poor Ruby came back from her walk with both ears rolled up by burdock burrs, blasted things. DB had a hard job getting them all out but she lay there stoically:

This is what came out:

The dahlia seedlings I bought in spring didn't do well in pots so were transferred to spaces in the garden a month ago. They have gone mad, even if it is nearing the end of the season. I picked a posy of them yesterday:

I didn't realise they would mature into proper plants. As they were transferred, we noticed they were forming nice tubers!




Thursday, 15 September 2022

Some things finished

 The runner and French beans are finished. I got one more lot to freeze then DB cleared them and raked over the soil. The courgette got the same treatment. Now we have access to the soil, we shall once again be doing in soil composting.

Simply dig a trench about 8” deep, half fill with kitchen scraps and rotten leaves if you have them. Cover over. As scraps become available repeat the process.

This worked well last winter in our 3 raised beds and we hope to begin in our 2 new beds as they become available. Yes volunteer potatoes and tomatoes rush up but just remove them if they aren’t needed.

Friday, 9 September 2022

Carrying on

As sad as I am, my garden keeps producing and I have to keep harvesting and doing something with the harvest.

In the past week, I have picked and processed this lot:


The beans were blanched and frozen in vacuum sealed packets. The tomatoes along with a homegrown courgette, onions, garlic and basil, were made into more pasta sauce. I think I got 5 packets, despite only 4 showing here:

That makes a total of 9 sauces, 5 jars of sauce and loads of beans.

I now have another bowlful of tomatoes to process and probably one or two more bowls still to ripen. The courgette has probably had it. Picked the last one this morning. Maybe some soup?



Thursday, 8 September 2022

The Queen has died.

 I am so sad.

At last!

 Finally got to speak to the doctor. Managed to get a cancellation online chat. Will be seeing him next Tuesday after an ECG with the nurse and other stuff.

As ever, things are starting to return to normal but maybe the ECG will show something up.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Been busy!

 Apologies for lack of posts. I have needed to rest more than usual between my list of jobs. My heart has been beating more irregular than normal, resulting in a pounding in my face. Blood pressure is fine and no, it’s not my sinuses.

Rubbish trying to get hold of the GP, lazy lot. Still have to get a phone call before seeing them, if they deem it necessary. DB phoned up last week, first phone appointment on the 15th!

Anyway, face isn’t so bad at the moment so hopefully it is calming down. If necessary I will traumatise myself further by a no doubt prolonged visit to A & E.

Fence painting is still ongoing. Three more gates to do but they will have to wait until after these next rainy days have finished.

Beans and more pasta sauce have also been made and are in the freezer.

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Fermenting ongoing!

Our milk kefir grains are working well and increasing in size:


I am still only making about 1/2 pint per day as I am the only one drinking it every day! Remember the fermented tomatoes (with added garlic and fresh basil)? We had some the other night served over buttery parmesan pasta.

It was nice though a little salty. This might ease off after a few more weeks in the fridge. I might though, try doing it with brine rather than salt directly in the mix.


 

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Preserving today

 Firstly, apologies for the slightly blurred pictures!

Frying half a family bag of bell peppers and one large onion:

2lb of home grown tomatoes and 2 crushed cloves of garlic were added:
Salt and pepper, a few sprigs of fresh basil and one stock cubes added before blitzing:
I ended up sieving the mixture as a few tough pieces of skin were annoying me. I managed to get 3 double servings of a nice pasta sauce which are now in the freezer. Each bag cost about 45p each.


Monday, 22 August 2022

More toms, beans and fermenting tomatoes!

 Having processed the remaining of the previous tomato harvest, more were ready for picking:

There are probably twice as many left but they are still green or just turning red. 

After washing them, some were used to make my first jar of fermented tomatoes. Several were cored then cut into 1/8ths. 3 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced and several sprigs of fresh basil washed and dried and leaves removed from their stalks.

I was a little worried how much himalayan salt was needed (4 teaspoons per quart jar) roughly 2 pints). 

Anyhow, I layered everything in, adding the salt as I went. The lid is screwed on tight and shaken until loads of liquid is formed. It is important to make sure enough is formed to keep the tomatoes under it. A couple more tomatoes were added as there was too much air space. Everything was shaken again.

I then changed the lid for a pickle pipe, wiping the rim and outer ring clean so salt doesn't corrode it. Below is the jar before shaking:

And afterwards with pickle pip to allow fermenting 'gases' to escape without letting air in:

It is now sitting on my counter top fermenting for 3 days. After that it will have a normal lid slightly loosely fitted and will be stored in the fridge.

I will let you know what it tastes like if it doesn't go mouldy!

Hopfully the link below will work to take you to the page on how to do it:

here.




Saturday, 20 August 2022

Harvesting then eating or putting away for winter!

We have a long and ever increasing list of things to do to prepare for this winter, now so more than ever. I think it will be a winter of discontent. High energy bills, ever increasing food costs, and the possibility of power cuts.

Our food harvest this week has been good thank goodness. Below is our first crop of tomatoes, a bit thick skinned due to adverse weather and the few potatoes from 2 compost sacks. I couldn't get on top of watering the potatoes but next year, hope to plant them in large buckets:

Anyhow, they gave us 3 meals. The taste of both was fantastic. Below is the second crop of tomatoes and the first proper crop of runner and french beans:

I don't normally grow runner beans and won't be doing so again. They are hard to set their flowers in dry hot weather and are often stringy even on the so called stringless versions. 

Below are 8 of the 16 red pears we grow on a mini tree. They came off easily but are currently rock hard. They will sit on the window sill for about 2 weeks when they will be soft enough to eat:

The above beans ready to blanch then freeze. My beans took 3 sowings before they began to grow, I now have all 8 up and running (at 2 beans per pole). Should crop a lot, fingers crossed:
We have completed painting and erecting the new fence panels down the drive. Now to start on the lollipop fencing. It will take an age but should be completed by halfway through September. Then the gutters to clean out, kindling to chop etc. Onwards and at times, very much upwards.


Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Darling son to the rescue - again

 After helping me get out of a collapsed bed frame on holiday, it was his dad's turn.

We were with him and our granddaughter at a local small farm play place. In the ride on toys section (in the barn) was a tractor tyre for children to ride around. DB was so busy filming his granddaughter he backed into it.

Down he went firstly on his backside, then on the rim In slow motion, he fell fully into the centre with legs in the air. I unfortunately missed it as I was sitting elsewhere. DS was busy pushing his daughter so didn't notice it either.

He couldn't get up or out so DS, once he realised, had to help him.

They both saw the funny side of it but DB was very stiff by the end of the day but thankfully, no injuries. Good job DDiL wasn't there, she would have dissolved into a fit of giggles.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Coal Miner's Cake - Joint birthday cake

 Just a word of warning, this is way too sweet for us and very calorific!

1 packet of Devil Cake Mix (first ingredient - sugar!)

2 Eggs - medium or large

1 whole can Cherry pie filling

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Mix all the above together and put into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan. Bake at 170C or350F for between 25 - 30 minutes. Mine was cooked in 20 minutes.

HOWEVER....

Halfway through the cooking time, prepare the topping.

Slowly melt 4oz butter, 6oz chopped chocolate and 3 fl oz of evaporated milk in a pan. Boil gently for 1 minutes and pour straight onto the hot cake when it comes out the oven. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup chopped nuts. I didn't have any so used chocolate chips.

Leave to go cold and set. Cut into 16 squares. My cake, once cooled, went into the fridge as the temperature in the kitchen was too hot for it to set!

Now, the original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar to be added to the cake mix and 1/2 cup of sugar to the topping. Trust me, it is NOT needed.

Would I make it again, probably, for a special occasion. However, I would make my own sponge using the weight of 3-4 eggs (and reduced sugar amount) and find a chcolate topping that uses less butter - maybe double cream?

We served ours with vanilla ice cream - it definitely needs something.


Sunday, 7 August 2022

AWOL!

Not been anywhere just been keeping busy, tending to the garden, moving stressed plants out of pots and into the garden. Oh, also been painting 5 x 3' 6" x 6' fence panels, still not done.

Each requires sanding down, painting of both sides black - twice, lifting out the old ones, struggling to put the news ones in. Finished panel number 3 last night, wouldn't fit, about 1/2" too wide. Turns out the person who put the concrete posts in years ago, placed two of them, a smidge too close together - doh! 

This is what the tops of them looked like:

Now without the fancy trellis top - much better:

They are very deep black, just don't look it on the pictures.

Also, aren't some bean flowers pretty, almost as good as sweet peas. These are the apricot coloured flowers of a runner bean called Sunset, new to us this year. Baby beans just appearing so hope they taste as good as the flowers look:



Saturday, 30 July 2022

Jobs for today finished.

 Picked and froze more wild plums, 3lb this time. Easily 50-100lb left but most out of reach, too small or over ripe. Might go for a few more pounds if we remember.

Dug up rhubarb and moved it to the front, where if it survives, it will have more room to grow.

Made a loaf of bread. Stripped bed, remade it, washed and dried on the line.

Popped to local shop for milk as we forgot it yesterday.

We are picking what to watch on the Commonwealth games. Really enjoying the swimming and cycling. So nice to be hosting it as there is no time difference.

DS still recovering from Covid, still just positive but absolutely pooped bless him. Hope he doesn’t pass it on to his family although think they would be showing symptoms now, if they had caught it.

Thursday, 28 July 2022

Where will it end?

 The energy price hike prediction has risen from 54% to 65% and now 78%! It could get even higher by then, who knows. These hikes will affect anyone not on a fixed rate contract. Once your contract ends, you will feel it deeply.

If you are not on a fixed rate contract, add 78% to your current tariff, see how much it will be. If you can find an 18 or 24 month fixed rate contract for less than that, think seriously about changing over to one BEFORE the end of September at the latest.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Kefir pancakes and wild plum sauce!

Exchanging kefir for milk in an American pancake mixture, we made these for our tea one night:

They were delicious!

Our trip to see DS and family is cancelled:( 

We thought it would be but it is so sad when it happens. He has returned safely from the USA (I hate him flying),but Covid symptoms have reared their ugly head again so now, after landing at Heathrow, he is down south with DDiL's family until fit enough to travel. 

We were only a couple of days away from going and it was turning into too much of a rush. They wouldn't have had time to sort the house out, do food shopping etc. Even though he is in good hands, there is nothing worse than a mother who can't tend their unwell 'child' even when it is no longer their job and they wouldn't want you to anyway.

We were hoping to celebrate several birthdays at once and was looking forward to seeing them all. Hopefully another visit can be rearranged asap, but with their busy schedules, who the heck knows.

Karma can be a sod at times. The black dog has been slowly nipping at my heels for a while now and these everyday life events just seem harder somehow because of it. Ridiculous I know but there you go.

Well, on the bright side, I don't have to worry about the garden whilst away. We are due warm weather again and although my neighbour would water it well, I still worry as it is coming into its full stride now.

Just harvested my second slightly large yellow courgette and the tomatoes are growing well.


Sunday, 24 July 2022

Wild Plum Picking

 For the past few years, our wild mirabelle plums have been non existent. Either through drought, very cold weather or too hot weather. This year, we discovered the trees are laden and what is more, we have timed it right to harvest them.

We have a short drive to do so. Our usual place, we couldn't reach them as the lower part of all the trees have been trimmed back.

Off we drove to another nearby spot, where they tend to grow in the hedgerows. Luckily, we found about 8 trees/bushes.

Normally we have only found the larger yellow or smaller red ones. This year we found orange, yellow, pink, red and purple. I think the colour must have been affected by the weather. They were all on the small side so have decided to freeze them, then cook and remove the stones before use (jams, puddings, cakes etc):

We were getting hot and bothered after a short while due to bugs and the heat so came home to wash them. Once bagged we found we had picked 6 lbs!

I was hot and itchy so sat in the bath whilst DB filled up the sink. Two jugs of water over me, washed my hair and myself, 4 jugs to rinse, 'bath' finished. Boy, did I feel much better after that and it was a good conservation of water not taking a full bath.


Saturday, 23 July 2022

A new one on me, storing and harvesting woes

Welcome to two new followers.

For the first time, my blackberry drupelets have lots of white drupelets, as below:


 courtesy of The Farmer Fred Rant link here.

Apparently it has been caused by UV radiation (sun scalding), due to the excessive hot dry weather we have recently experienced. They are still safe to eat thank goodness. If we have similar weather later on or next year, apparently I need to shade them.

My gooseberries were yet again rubbish. This was my entire harvest from 4 medium sized bushes:


On a different note, I recently harvested my rosemary bush before digging it up as it was massive and very woody despite constant trimming. I dried the clippings. Some have been kept whole (left side) to steep in hot water as a hair rinse and the rest was turned into condiment powder, (right) side. Also a loaf of bread was made and some more Kefir:

Busy, busy, busy!


 

 

                                                                                             

Friday, 22 July 2022

Goodness me! Updated

 Martin Lewis is furious with what is happening to us in this country, although to be fair, it is a world wide problem. Please spare 10 minutes to watch this.

I learnt something about the coming price hikes in energy. I knew a big one was coming on October 1st but it is going to be way higher than predicted. Also, they are going to be going up every 3 months after that - say what!!!

Combine those rises with food increases, inflation, shrinkflation etc, we are heading to a world of pain. Many financial analysts already say we are in a recession but most are hoping it really doesn't get as far as a depression.

Stop putting your heads in the sand (those that are) and do anything you can to help alleviate what's coming.

Remember Frugal Queen, she now has a Facebook account called Frugal Queen in France and she is working her butt off give her best advice on how to help ourselves. See here.


Wednesday, 20 July 2022

Too hot to sleep

 The bedroom is 30C making it difficult to sleep. Fan is on, windows are open (cooler outside) but it is still hot inside:(

Ruby enjoyed her first ice cubes today. She had them over 4 sessions. Despite sitting in front of a fan or laying on the cool bathroom floor, she still, given a brief opportunity, shot outside trying to lay in the sun. Daft dog. She was promptly returned indoors.

Plants galore in the garden wilted in the heat. They were watered thoroughly this morning but had to be done again at 9pm.

Monday, 18 July 2022

Poorly Son

 DS flew to the USA last week for an annual work trip. Timeline for infections has determined, either on the aircraft or first day in the office, he managed to catch Covid. He has avoided it here for 2.5 years so probably the aircraft.

Although he managed to do his days in one office, he flew to another one before testing positive and obviously can't go in. He feels rotten but luckily, an Uber driver not only delivered food but also large bottles of over the counter medications. Can't do that here, as our packets of things such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are limited to 16 pills per pack and only two can be bought at any one time. We can of course go to many shops to get more.

I was worried he would be stuck in a hotel room but luckily, he has been put up in a very nice house owned by his work place. He has someone else with him but don't know if they are both having to isolate, I should think so.

On top of that, his internal flight back home was cancelled. Can't seem to pick up another one. Now even if he could have travelled back this week, his international flight home was cancelled just before he tested positive.

He can't fly home until 24th at the earliest and then only if negative AND can actually get a flight home. It is getting ridiculous.

Nowt worse than being ill in another country. I am very worried about him.

Saturday, 16 July 2022

Preparing for the heat

All windows in the house either have blinds or curtains to shut against the sun, except for the inner front door. As the sun moves, these are opened or closed depending on where it is shining.

First thing in the morning, windows and doors are opened to let in the cooler air but in such a way, that insects don't often get in. I hate flies with a passion!

As the sun moves around the sky, mid afternoon, our conservatory starts to get exposed and very hot, often reaching 45C. By this time, all doors and windows are shut with blinds and curtains drawn. However, the inner door, from the conservatory into the house, has no such protection.

This causes a problem when watching tv as we get blinded and don't want to shut the lounge door to see, as it messes up any airflow we have. It also gets very hot, even when leaving the conservatory door to the outside open, so that radiant heat can't build up even more.

We will measure and order blinds but for now, DB found some dark material in the attic, which I sewed into a curtain. He adjusted an expanding pole to fit the door and the curtain is now up. It can be pushed to one side once the suns moves off the door. 

The blinding light is no more and as the conservatory warms up, I shall keep checking the temperature of the glass on the door to see how well the curtain is doing.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Tea

 Our favourite loose leaf tea rose by 20p from last week. We bought 3 packets just in case. Had to go to another shop later in the week. It was still at the previous old price, so bought 3 more. The difference cancelled each other out making them the regular price, if that makes sense!

Berries seem to be very expensive this year or is it just me?

Petrol prices have been the same for over a week -  a mini price win. Still trying though to not travel far.

Monday, 11 July 2022

Shade temperature

 Is currently 32.1C or 90F, as of 14:53 hours. I filled just one watering can up and watered a couple of plants, I could feel my skin burning! Worse is forecast for tomorrow and even hotter at the weekend. No sign of rain for weeks:(

People are still walking their dogs, it’s crazy. Ruby was walked at 06:30 this morning and if lucky, depending on the air and pavement temperatures, she may get a very late evening walk. 

Other than watering and the occasional harvesting, we remain indoors, most curtains and windows shut. Indoor temperature is about 5C less.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Smoke and mirrors!

Despite not being a fan of Boris Johnson, this continued witch hunt by the media to remove him, means we are not looking at the larger picture.

What is she talking about I hear you ask? This article hear explains it, here. 

Even that doesn't take into account the amount of industry, medical, manufactoring and processing procedures we have all handed to them over the years. It doesn't take into account the amount of land they have purchased around the world, the microchip processing and nuclear power plants they have bought or invested in as major share holders. The factories they are shutting down, meat processing in particular, that hardly anyone is noticing.

Where did Covid come from,  C-ina. Who produced most of the PPE and testing kits, Ch-na, etc. 

On a lighter but just as annoying note, dehydrating strawberries. I wanted to do this so we could enjoy a taste of summer in winter but it wasn't to be. 

Two punnets bought yesterday, £1.85 each - ouch. Looked fine. This morning I went to process them (couldn't do it yesterday), and most of them were already turning and going mouldy. I would have been able to only get one tray of potentially dubious slices, which isn't worth the electricity to dry them, nor the risk of them going mouldy inside the jars. 

The slices were covered and put back in the fridge where hopefully we can enjoy them today and tomorrow.

 


Monday, 4 July 2022

Frontier/Pioneer skirt


 I started this yesterday and finished it today. I had a few problems but YouTube helped solve them.

There are many tutorials online for this but the basic premise is this. Measure your waist and add between 20” and 24” which ever gets you to an even number for ease of the maths!

2nd layer is double this 1st layer. 3rd layer double the 2nd layer etc. As each layer is larger than its predecessor, it has to be gathered to fit. Sew into place, iron seams upwards, oversew the edges, iron upwards again to flatten.

Do as many layers as required and do the hem. Make the waistband the same width of layer 1. Height is dependent on the size of your elastic. Mine was about 3” high to accommodate a turn under and the elastic. 

The trick to helping prevent your elastic turning over is to allow for a very small seam around the top of the waist band. Thread the elastic, oversew the ends after making sure it fits.

I didn’t make mine quite this size. Top layer was 60”, next 120” and final layer 180”.


Thursday, 30 June 2022

National Grid will pay households to shift electricity use to avoid blackouts

 This article discusses these potential plans, see here.

 There is no guarantee that this will happen but potential rolling blackouts are being talked about for this winter. Have you done anything to get ready, just in case it happens?

No matter what heating you have, oil, gas or electric, they all need electricity to ignite and pump the hot water around. So heating your home during these times of power cuts may be problematic. What can you do? Think and try to sort something out. 

It's no good thinking about anything that plugs in as there may be no electricity. Calor gas fires are available but then you need to think about ventilation and carbon monoxide alarms. We have just changed ours as it recently started beeping to signal end of life of the device itself.

Do you use gas or electricity to cook your food, boil water for drinks?

Let's all chip in and have a discussion on how we can help each other prepare for this.

Keeping warm  in an emergency involves keeping yourself warm, rather than a room or your entire house. You can buy battery operated blankets and clothing but you need a good supply of said batteries. Start getting these now. Failing that thermal underwear, lots of layers of clothing and blankets. Don't forget gloves, hats and extra thick socks/slippers to keep feet warm.

Woodburners are great for those of us that have them but get your logs now. The guy we ordered ours from recently, says they are run off their feet, and he wasn't sure if everyone would be able to get what they needed before winter sets in. Also kindling, newspaper, firelighters, matches. Get a good supply now. We can make toast, heat small amounts of food and water on ours if necessary.

If you will need to rely on hot water bottles to heat you or hot water to make drinks, how are you going to heat the water? We have a one ring canister low gas cooker, rather than the old fashioned tall camping stoves. It is capable of boiling water in a camping kettle/saucepan. We can make hot drinks, cook simple meals on it. We have bought extra canisters and may still buy more. What about those simple meals, have you got some in?

How about lights? Candles are all well and good and we have those but can be dangerous if not put somewhere safe to avoid setting fire to things nearby. Always have ways of putting out simple fires should they occur. We have several oil lamps although not the kind that have the glass lanterns on them which give out more light. We have oil for our lamps but could get more so must check our supply.

Torches are great but you need batteries or will need to invest in wind up torches for short use. LED lanterns come in handy but again, batteries. If you need to be hands free get head torches. They are safe to use, give out a very bright focused light and are quite comfortable to wear. Again, batteries needed but wind up ones can be bought.

Garden solar lights can be left to charge outside during the day and brought in at night to offer some light. 

Any other ideas that might be of help to us?


Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Ordered our heating oil

 DB ordered 500 litres of heating oil. 98.5p per litre plus tax made it about £520. Unfortunately, the driver arrived this morning and estimated the tank level was too high to receive it, so didn’t put it in. Now, whether that is their policy or because we paid up front, I don’t know. Now to claim the money back.

Petrol price (rounded up) at Asda was £1.90 and another supermarket was £1.93! We bought our weekly food earlier this week, another 10p or 20p up on quite a lot of items. Some things less, some more than last week.

Ruby had a trim and shampoo yesterday:


She had diarrhoea and vomiting a couple of days ago and smelt a bit high! She’s her usual self today and smells lovely.


Monday, 27 June 2022

Fermentation fail:(

 One week has passed since I began the fermentation of some peppers. I checked today and one didn't seem right. I opened it and found blue green mould on the top so into the bin it went.

Whilst I don't like to waste food, I knew some would be wasted as I get to grips with this process and I certainly don't want to poison myself in the process.

One seemed okay but time will tell. I tried a piece from that jar and it tastes salty but not overly so, so am not sure it has gone well either.

Oh well, onwards and upwards. I think I have fathomed out what went wrong so I shall try something else, maybe carrot or onion.

I planted all my cosmos yesterday after giving them a couple of weeks in pots. They were very weedy looking when bought.

My 3 tomato transplants are slowly growing so they too can be planted in another week or two.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Logs and grains

 Our 1 cubic metre (1/3rd of a cord) of logs was delivered yesterday after being ordered the night before. He was delivering nearby so added us in. A very neat tipper truck turned up, with its back divided into 4. The other 3 units had been emptied at the previous destination, the last bit was ours:

They are generally cut 8" to 10" long. Some are too big and they get sorted into another pile to be split further using our electric log splitter. Best investment we made, it is now double the price.

We don't have a wheel barrow so have to haul it by hand. Using one of our wheelie dust bins, I throw about 20 into it, trundle it around to the log stores (no easy feat on gravel and through several gates). There it is tipped out and stacked by DB. Rinse and repeat. Occasionally, we swapped jobs to use different muscles. We can't have the logs delivered any closer to the stores unfortunately.

That took us about 1 1/2 hours with a few rests, boy were we getting tired! After lunch, DB set up the log splitter and dealt with those logs, then stacked them. He overdid it of course and is paying the price today.

My kefir grains are growing slowly but surely:


Angela, these are the grains from the same amount I sent you. They are still small enough to use just 1 cup of milk but as they grow, more milk will get added.

We had more cheese the other day, this time freshly grated garlic and chives, it was quite salty but lovely.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Other fuel increases

 Petrol has gone up another 7p per litre since last week. A different kind of increase is logs for our wood burner.

The guy we normally buy ours from has ceased trading so we have had to find another place.

Last time we ordered, two years ago, one cubic metre was £78. This time, from the new place, it will be £120, hopefully, we fall into the free delivery area!

The next nearest one is selling theirs for £155 plus delivery - blimey.

We could also squeeze another 500 litres of oil into our tank. Last time we ordered, in February, it was 69p per litre or thereabouts. Our neighbour bought hers 3 weeks later for 90p. It currently stands anywhere between 99p and £1.05p per litre. That is the same as the price hike in March. 

I am sure it will get worse but do you go for it now, in case the price jumps? Who knows what is best.

That means, any help we get from the government will just about wipe that delivery out and that is ony for 1/2 a tank:(

Monday, 20 June 2022

Fermenting vegetables

 Trying to learn another skill, this time fermenting vegetables with a saline solution. I did quite a bit of reading up on it and invested in some weighty glass discs to hold the vegetables beneath the solution.

Last week, I bought a bag of 3 large pointed sweet peppers and 1 small bag of chillies.

I washed everything thoroughly and left them to drain. Hope that will be sufficient. The peppers and one chilli were sliced and popped into the jar. I filled them up with the solution until 2 inches from the top. Inserted the glass disc and filled them up a bit more. 

A pickle pipe and screw band were put on top and they were placed on a tray to ferment:

The date has been noted on the calander to try them!


Sunday, 19 June 2022

Oh me of little faith and answering questions from Angela

 I had convinced myself that my kefir grains were not working properly. Every picture you see of grains, they look like milky or translucent mini cauliflower florets.

I was disappointed when I received mine to get a very small packet of milk with a couple of grains about the size of rice pudding before cooking.

Anyhow, I carried on, being very careful to not sieve as they suggest (press hard to get the liquid out), otherwise I would have lost them. Instead I carefully let them drain and used the resulting sludge. This eventually turned into a cream cheese consistency.

However, after freezing some and thawing one cube in milk for 24 hours, there was a difference. The milk had not thickened, so again, I thought it was dead. However, you need to drain and feed daily so I did. I was totally amazed to find 3 very small, firm, translucent florets. Yeah!

Now to answers. Angela asked 3 questions:

1) How much does it cost to make versus buy?

A tricky one to answer. It costs, after the initial payment to buy your grains, the cost of the milk you buy to make it. I started with semi skimmed and the end result was thin and fizzy, like milky lemonade. I changed to whole milk and got a better result. Now, after nearly 2 weeks, I am finally getting the florets.

The best kefir comes from raw milk but I don't fancy that. No milk is wasted, even from the first few batches when you are getting started. It is best flavoured with something such as maple syrup or honey to get used to it and drank in very small amounts. I got tremendous wind the first few days and occasional, thin stools (maybe drinking to much) but that has now settled.

Again cost wise, you don't have to keep buying kefir, the grains will last a lifetime if properly used. A) Drain and feed each day using non metallic items. B) Divide the grains when they get too big. Read, read and then read some more to understand what and when to do things. I am still learning a lot!

2) Has it helped me sleep?

No, but then again, I have not tried it consistently every night before retiring so maybe it will when I settle down to it.

3) What quantity of grains did I buy to start with?

I bought 10g but 5g is the minimum you can buy. Just remember, that most grains come in a sachet with milk and the whole things appears to weigh what you buy. You don't appear to get 5g of just grains, not from what I have ready anyway.

Hope that answers your questions Angela. If you want to send me your address in a comment, it won't be published, I have one spare culture I can send you to try. No guarantee it will work but you might be okay. Be more patient than me and allow about a fortnight for the grains to start growing properly. Anything they make in the meantime, can be drank. 

I am away at the moment but due to visit a friend in Norfolk in a few days.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Kefir cream cheese

Blimey, once these grains start to grow, they really duplicate. I have way to much Kefir to drink or make into smoothies so cheese it is.

After doing the first strain and keeping the liquid for drinking in the fridge, the grains are usually transferred into a new jar, milk added, left on the counter top and off they go. My excess grains are now in the freezer.

After straining, instead of the liquid going in the fridge, it is left on the counter top to carry on working for a second ferment. Anywhere from 6 to 12 hours depending on temperature.

It will seperate into curds and whey. Sieved through a nylon sieve and a clean hankerchief, the whey is stored in the fridge where it will happily stay for a while but is best used as soon as possible.

The curds are left to strain for another 24 hours in the fridge. Flavour how you like, either savoury or sweet. I added salt to taste, fresh thyme and a little black pepper:

It was put into the fridge to firm up. Not sure about a sweet version, maybe for baking? Any way, I have found a version for raspberry, honey and cinnamon.

We had this for lunch on crispy toast. It was quite nice, tart like some Cheshire cheeses. A second batch was flavoured with sun dried tomatoes, garlic and basil:
 

Friday, 17 June 2022

If able to, prepare and try not to ignore the warnings!

Its amazing how many headlines are squirreled away on web sites but often don't appear always on the main news. I found this one yesterday on the BBC Business page - food prices to rise. Just in case the link disappears, I have copied and pasted most of it here:

Food prices will rise quickly this summer due to soaring costs, grocery analysts have predicted.

Prices will rise at a rate of 15% as households pay more for staples such as bread, meat, dairy and fruit and vegetables, the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) said.

More vulnerable people will skip meals, it warned.

It also predicted that prices would rise faster for longer than Bank of England estimates.

The IGD, which provides analysis to major grocers, said the UK was facing the highest cost of living pressures since the 1970s, mainly down to the Ukraine war.

Both Ukraine and Russia are major global grain producers - the countries together account for nearly a third of global wheat exports.

So Russia's invasion of Ukraine is pushing up grain prices as countries around the world scramble for the produce.

Products that use grains directly, such as bread, and products made of animals that are fed on grain, such as chicken, will rise quickly in price in the summer or autumn, IGD said.

Chickens grow quickly, so it will only take weeks for animal-feed price rises to be felt by consumers.

The squeeze on fuel and energy costs will also push food prices higher, because a lot of agriculture is very energy intensive, it said. Fertiliser prices have also nearly tripled since last year.

A lot of foil and wood pulp normally come from Russia, and the war has driven up packaging prices of those materials. Plastic packaging, which is made from oil, is also more expensive.

Ukrainian roads, ports and warehouses have been heavily damaged in the war, and so the volume of exports will be reduced "for years to come" IGD said, putting pressure on supplies of sunflower oil and wheat.

The UK also faces particular problems, it said. Two-thirds of the people on the Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme were from Ukraine last year, but this year, Ukrainian men between 18 and 60-years-old have been told to stay at home and fight.

Gaps are being plugged by workers from further afield, but the new workers need training, and those costs will feed into price rises, IGD said.

The UK gets about 40% of its food from outside the country, so it is exposed to global food price rises.

And since Brexit, European Union producers are less likely to prioritise UK customers, it said.

The Bank of England expects inflation to fall back next year, but IGD said higher inflation could last longer if there are more food export bans or more trade disruption due to new Brexit border arrangements in 2023.

 

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Mustard Wasabino and mushrooms

 My mustard wasabino was starting to go to seed so it, along with a few large mushrooms were dehydrated:

They are 'being conditioned' on my work top. That is, inspected, shaken every day for a few days checking for moisture or clumping. If none found, they will go in my store cupboard.

The mushrooms will eventually get turned into powder for flavouring gravy and other things. The mustard will be added to everything as an additional seasoning.

After nearly a week of conditioning, they are fine and are not put away into my cupboard.


Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Going up

Fuel and food increases from last week. Blimey.

Asda petrol (gas not diesel) last week, rose from £1.69 to £1.74. This week it is £1.80. That equates to $6.81 US or $8.17 UK/Can per gallon.

Morrison’s rose last week from £1.72 to £1.76. This week it is £1.81. That equates to $6.85 US or $8.21 UK/Can per gallon.

Tinned rice pudding up 10p. Semi skimmed milk up 6p. Salad tomatoes (6), up 6p. Cucumber up 3p. 500g Greek yoghurt up 10p. Yorkshire Tea up 9p.

Managed to donate a few items to the food bank. I checked online what they were short of before buying.


Monday, 13 June 2022

Scone failure...

I think I was switched off making these. First, the cheese scones on the right. Liquid in before realising I hadn't added any fats:( Also, didn't even follow my recipe instead opting for just S. R. Flour (all purpose flour with baking powder added):


The fruit scones on the left are slightly better but basically, they all came out the same size they went in. Bummer.

Will we waste them, will we heck. They taste okay and the texture isn't horrible so they will get eaten or in the case of the fruit scones, made into bread and butter pudding, or eaten warm with some custard!

Custard always saves the day in this house!!!
 

Sunday, 12 June 2022

I think hell

 Would have to freeze over before I would think of dumping Ruby. It is becoming rife in some countries due to the circumstances we all find ourselves in. We are lucky in that we can afford to keep her. Anything and everything else would go before that. She has a high meat diet that isn’t cheap. If necessary we would greatly reduce that and fill her up with other items.

We would reduce our meals in order for her to eat. She (like children) didn’t ask to be born, nor bought and we thought of all eventualities before getting her, including current problems. We have been through this before and no doubt will do so again.

It is all very well sounding off at schools for not teaching pupils to cook and learn to budget. I have been guilty of that. I was taught that but still didn’t know how to cook lots of things when I got my first flat. I taught myself to budget and got books from the library on how to cook basic food.

Frivolous buying never entered my head. In those days you often rented to buy things such as tv’s, stereograms, fridge, washing machines etc. I allocated money in jars and the bank for all bills, food, clothes, savings etc.

Holidays (and chicken), were luxuries. Saved up for annually or bi-annually and really enjoyed. 

When DB and I married, we had saved enough money for a tiny house deposit and he had a good job to get us a mortgage. Things were different then. Each era is different and has its own problems. 

We get asked often why we lived so frugally, and continue to be careful, when we had/have money to fritter away. Now you know why.

People think we were/are crazy, especially with our winter/Brexit/emergency food put by. It gives us peace of mind for events such as those the world finds itself in now.

Yes, I do know some people are truly, deeply in their own SHTF scenario through no fault of their own. Others have put and continue to put themselves there. Loan upon loan for the latest this that and the other. Keeping up with others and stupid people on social media sites etc. Eating at fast food places when they could learn to cook and eat far more than the cost of buying it there.

The mind boggles!


Friday, 10 June 2022

A little bit of a bargain

 Anyone who knows me, knows I keep and wear clothes for years. Most of my summer tops are getting beyond use so we went looking for replacements. Blouses don’t seem to be much in fashion and I didn’t want just tee shirts. No joy in most shops visited but eventually we looked at the sales rack in one.

Two pull on loose tops originally £22 each were on the rack for £18 and £16. Not too much less but by buying two (or more), you got another 20% off.

So instead of £44 full price they cost me £27.20, not too bad for very nice tops, suitable for going out in or just wearing at home. I can envisage many years wear from them. Yes, before anyone mentions it, I do know there are charity shops to look in but I wanted something new for a change.

Having said the other day that Morrison’s petrol was £1.72, it has now risen to £1.76.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Kefir on the go

 I am slowly getting used to the Kefir once it is slightly flavoured. I leave it to ferment for about 24 hours as I don't like it too fizzy. However doing it for that time means it stays like a slightly thickened milk rather than a double cream consistency. I am currently using 1 pint mason jars.

Here it is ready to strain. Most of the grains are floating on the top but some have sunk. The purple thing on the top is know as a pickle pipe and allows the fermenting gas to escape without the potential for exploding jars. You don't need these as you can just rest a lid on top:

Strained through a clean nylon sieve (don't use metal anywhere in the process). You can see the grains starting to look a little like very soft cottage cheese. After less than a week, they have grown probably 6 - 8 fold:

The jar on the left is the fermenting jar with the grains and 1 1/2 cups of whole fresh milk back in it. It is best to the fermenting jar only a few times (2 or 3) before cleaning it thoroughly. The jar on the right is the freshly strained Kefir. This jar now lives in the fridge with a cap, resting or very slightly screwed on. It must not be tight as the mixture is still fermenting but very slowly:

Its still the same purple pickle pipe even though it looks blue here!




Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Learning new skills

As well as learning more about dehydrating, I have started to make Kefir. I thought I had killed it as when it arrived in the post. It wasn't opened for about 4 days as I thought it would be dehydrated but nope. It was a living thing in a couple of tablespoons of milk.

Anyhow, I set too and after 24 hours strained the 'sludge' and threw away the liquid as it smelt  yuck and tasted extremely sour. Added more milk and carried on. I was having to use semi skimmed as that is what we use but apparently whole milk is better. We bought some of that today.

After 3 days, it was growing a little and smelt and tasted better so I kept the liquid. Had some in my morning smoothy and drank some before retiring to bed. That is the reason I am trying it, to see if it will help with my sleep.

Today, day 4, it smells okay and tastes okay. Today is also its first go with whole milk so I will be interested to see what it is like tomorrow morning.

The petrol at Asda has gone up 5p per litre since last week and Morrison's by 2p. Maybe theirs will raise more when they have a top up from a tanker, time will tell!

We treated ourselves to a Chinese takeway last night and were given a new price list. The last one was dated December 2021. Almost everything has risen between 20p and 50p with some things £1. No doubt that too will change again soon.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

Extra raised beds finished

Herewith the formation of the largest bed - 8' x 2 1/2' x 1 1/2':


Gravel removed, liner cut away, compacted soil dug over before incorporating the manure, compost and extra soil. 5 tomatoes and 1 courgette in it so far:
The finished smaller semi shaded bed ' 5' x 2' x 1 1/2':

The rain has bedded them in nicely. However, heavy rain is forecast for several days this week so my tomatoes (outdoors) may not make it long term:(

We watched the Platinum Jubilee celebrations last night, the second half for us was more enjoyable. Loved the drone display over Buckingham Palace.