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.

Friday 3 June 2022

Shout Out to DB

My dearly beloved (DB), is an absolute trooper. The economy being what it is (and probably going to get worse), I wanted to squeeze two more raised vegetable beds into the garden. He cut the wood after delivery, I painted it twice. Once dry, he assembled the beds and between us, we filled them to halfway.

I will post pictures once both are finished but one is up and running, the 8' x 2 1/2 foot bed. It now has another 5 tomatoes and one courgette in. There is still room for a few more rows of other vegetables as well.

The other bed in semi shade, once done, will have some leeks in it and something else, undecided yet. The problem with that bed is it is sitting on an old gravel garden and we can't get it all up. I think as long as we don't grow carrots in it, other things should be okay. I am trying to grow more so I can dehydrate some and am also planning on trying out fermenting vegetables. Another way of preserving for later use.

Inbetween doing all that, he is also adjusting my 'under stair' pantry. Shelves that were too far apart have all been removed and placed closer together. This gives us another 2-4 shelves, depending on what I store on them.  Each shelf can take anything that is no more than two tins high, so a much better use of the space. The bottom two shelves will be slightly higher.

We are both tired and can tell we are not as young as we used to be. These two news beds, will cost us, 0.028p per square foot, per week, over 10 years.