Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bangers, and bunny burgers - but no pancakes alas

Eggs - Total to date: 258 - Day 115

KoKKo 86 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best weight
Adelaide 86 (80grms) 26.02.2006 *New Personal best weight*
Ginger 86 (78grms) 22.2.2006 Personal best weight

As forecast it was bitterly cold and we have had snow showers - a day for staying indoors if you can.

The chooks laid a couple of eggs first thing, and didn't seem too perturbed by the snow showers, and still ate all their cage of greens in such cold weather - and left some of their nice warm porridge to do so!

This morning I vacuum packed the bunny burgers which looked and smelt delicious. Pat wanted us to have a couple for lunch tomorrow - no way - not after all the hassle I had with making them yeterday - they will be frozen for at least a week before we eat one.

I made three batches of sausages today. I made up the mixes late last night and left them overnight to bloom, so we just had to put them in their skins this morning.

Pat helped - as it is a bit of a palavar with the attachment to my food mixer. It was probably designed to make just small amounts - rather than 2kg at a time. I am seriously thinking of getting an electric purpose made one for the job.

There is no way that I could put the meat mixture into the machine and poke it down with the wooden instrument, and hold the sausage as it feeds through the other end! So Pat does the pushing and I do the technical stuff.

They taste so different when you make them yourself with your own ingredients - and I no longer think of them as something that you might have for just breakfast.

Today I made, Firecracker - a spicy, peppery, sausage that is really tasty. Apple with 100% pure apple juice - smelt wonderful, and garlic and herbs - again and lovely tasty sausage that is a meal in itself almost.

We should be having pancakes tonight but Pat is out bowling - might have them tomorrow instead.

The chap who services and repairs my mechanical gardening machines delivered them back to me late afternoon - and I really did not want to go out in the cold and snow showers up the allotment to put them in the shed. I did the opening and closing of all the gates, and Pat helped lift them off the trailer - too cold and wintry to take pretty pictures of snow covered allotments today - the wind was so cold it took your breath away!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Third post today! The bunnies revenge!!!!!

I feel like a sulk - but I am not good at sulking.

Everything aches as usual - so I decided to do my rabbit sausages. I got a lovley recipe from a chap on another site, so having assembled all those ingredients off I went up to the village - I upset the butcher by asking for a kilo of belly of pork minced.

He said that he had just used the machine for beef, so would have to strip it down and wash it and it would take a while.

Probably did the wrong thing by saying cheerfully - 'That's all right, I can wait'. So I did. I felt a bit guilty so ordered 2kg to try and cheer him up. It cost enough for a holiday in a tent for a week, so he should have heen happy! But on no - I got a lecture on what would happen if one tiny bit of beef got mixed up with the pork and vice versa - 'Well' he said. 'What do you think would happen?'

Flamin heck, I thought, Mastermind on a Monday morning! I also rely on lip reading, and as he often talks with his head down and softly too, I mainly smile at him and say, 'Oh right', or 'Great, that's good' which I had obviously said in the wrong place as he seemed none too happy when I left!

-Or maybe it was because I said that I was making bunny burgers (Didn't dare say sausages, as he does every variety known to man, and this week's is Lincolnshire - just thought you might like to know!). And remember I have to live here, so can't really say anything out of place - even if it is,'Oh right' as it was probably wrong!

Anyway - I digress........

I put cut up bunny meat in the freezer for 20 mins - like it said in the recipe.

Blooming bunnies rebelled. There was no way that they were going to be minced to make sausages.

My electric mincer got bunged up and stripped down and restarted 8 times - I am the worlds most patient person some times.

We got out the hand mincer that I recently bought off another forum, and we tried - oh how we both tried. Pat thought it was me! So he had a go - but it did not want to be minced.

It is lovely soft meat too. So the 931grms in now reduced to 708 grms due to all the bits we had to waste - unbunging said machines.

I resorted to cutting it all up into little pieces with my dressmaking scissors. (I don't do dressmaking - so they get used as kitchen scissors.) I almost cut the top of my finger when Pat distracted me with a silly question - as he does bless him. But I just missed. Still shaking when I think about it - those scissors are so sharp.

Will you stop laughing your heads off - this is serious.

So................ I gave up and put rescued bunny bits in a sealed container in the fridge. We had rabbit stew for lunch (made from the carcasses with loads of home grown veggies) Pat was in charge of fishing out all the bones, whilst I cleared up.

Yes you've guessed it. I had all the tiny bones, and I thought I had broken a filling yet again, but it was just a chip off a tooth.

So apart from my back ache, shoulder ache, and now face ache with a head ache I am fine.

I would go back to being a vegetarian but I can't let three bunnies win can I?

So has anyone got the River Cottage Cook Book that has bunny burgers in it?

Off for a choc ice - Pat should have done the washing up by now.

Well I feel a whole lot calmer now and decided that my fight with the rabbit sausages was due to the fact that I told fib in the butchers - hence - what goes around comes around - so I have made some bunny burgers after all.

I made up a kilo with the rabbit, some minced pork belly and added sage,onions,thyme, salt and pepper. I have now put parchment paper on top and bagged them up and they are in the fridge for the night to bloom before I vacuum pack them tomorrow.

There was an orange in the animal box which I have sliced up and is drying, and I have got some white grapes drying too.

I thought that you might like a laugh at my expense - especially if your Monday was a bit stressful too!

Fingers crossed that tomorrows sausage making goes more smoothly!

I can't be doing too badly if................

Eggs - Total to date: 256 - Day 114

KoKKo 85 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best weight
Adelaide 86 (80grms) 26.02.2006 *New Personal best weight*
Ginger 85 (78grms) 22.2.2006 Personal best weight

I can't be doing too badly if my triplets are laying big eggs. Adelaide's last personal best was on 13th February and it was 77grms. Today she laid one 80grms, and KoKKo's was 81grms - I doubt that she will ever exceed her massive personal best of 86grms, though.

I don't always weigh them, as I can tell what they weigh by just holding them in my hands. They usually weigh around the mid 70grms mark with KoKKo's usually hovering around 80grms. When I get one that feels a bit weighty then I check it.

Mind you the world record is 12oz so mine look tiddly compared with that - but are large compared with ones you get in the shops. I only know this as mine bulge in the egg boxes and I have a job closing the lid

I am feeling a bit worn out from all my latest activities, and snow is forecast for the rest of the week - so perhaps being snowed in will do be good. I can get on with indoor things - like makeing soap and face cream etc. But before then I have sausages, and yohurt to make!

Best be getting on with things then

Back this evening with an update.

BYW - I forgot to take a photo of the bread - one is in the freezer and the small loaf is now half eaten. Pat had the whisky marmalade on his and I had my lemon curd. I can really recommend adding toasted pumpkin seeds to the loaf - it really adds a new dimension. I usually put them on top, but a lot fall off - and Pat often got those bits before me - so not wanting to miss out on anything - the perfect solution!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Busy Sunday. rabbits, chickens, bread and new gadget training

Eggs - Total to date: 254 - Day 113

KoKKo 84 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 85 (77grms) 13.02.2006 Personal best
Ginger 85 (78grms) 22.2.2005 Personal best

8am and it is cold and dull. But the chooks were happy enough when I let them out. The wood chips are all dry in their big pen - and of course are permanently dry in their covered Eglu run - so they were as happy as Larry when I left them practising flying in the breeze, and scratching about.

It is great to see them first thing - they really lift the day in more ways than one. They barge out of their pen and really look as though they enjoy having an early morning run and exercise.

Just like we would go out the back door take a deep breath and thing 'Ah what a lovely day'.

Ginger had laid an egg which was still warm and weighed in at 72 grms.

The others will lay later.

I have got a loaf on its first prove - wholemeal made with treacle, my favourite recipe and so easy, even though I don't have a bread machine. I adapted the recipe for my daughter in law for her machine and they all love it too.

It is a lot darker in 'real life' the treacle gives it an amazing colour, perhaps I should not have used the flash. This is it in the first stage and it is now in the airing cupboard with a clean tea towel popped over the top proving.

If you haven't been reading my blog for long - this recipe is one that 'Mike' gave me, and appears on his blog - the link is to the right - he shows how to make it stage by stage. If you can't find it get back to me and I will print it up.

I use the basic recipe and add all sorts of things to make various loaves.

I am going to have a go a pumpkin loaf recipe this week.

I toasted a handful of pumpkin seeds in the frying pan whilst I was weighing out the ingredients and tipped them in before I added the warm water - you should smell my little kitchen - and that is even before the bread gets cooking.

I need to do the rabbits this morning, (OH is squeamish so stays out of sight until they are cooked an on his plate!). I hope to make some sausages out of them, but I need to add a bit if pork to them apparently so will wait until the butcher is open tomorrow.

I am going to add what the rabbits eat up my allotment - sage and onion or sage and leeks! I brought back some leeks and have some sage in the garden a variegated one which did not die back over the winter, so that should look colourful.

Off for breakfast OH has finally surfaced, then after the bread has cooked, the rabbits done, I am emptying the compost bin in the garden, it is now lovely and mallable and ready to spread - then the bin will be destined for the allotment to add to the other three up there - as well as all my home made ones.

Have a good day and I will catch up with you all later.


Sure enough Adelaide laid an egg an hour ago. I had a lot of leaves from the January King for them and they ran helter skelter when I hung it up. Then complained loudly as they were jumping up and down and not getting much - I had hung it on the wrong 'notch' - clever things chickens. I had resited it, and Ginger followed me to the pen gate, and as I stood and watched Adelaide and KoKKo really tucking in - she still stood at the gate complaining. I told her that she was being silly and to look and see the others were tucking it. Probably a coincidence but simultaneously she looked around and you couldn't see her fluffy rear for dust as she dashed off to join them!

I have finished preparing the rabbit, and have 1kg or lovely meat for my sausages. A huge rabbit stew cooking in my bottom oven slow cooker. I added garlic, sage, onions, leeks, tomato puree, sweetcorn, shredded cabbage, broad beans, runner beans, and some roasted pumpkin - and lots of pepper - it looks lovely and colourful and should taste nice too tomorrow.

The bread is cooked and as Mildrew suggested sealed in a plastic bag - and not vacuum sealed - still the chooks really benefitted from the bread soaked in warm milk and it was full of sesame and sunflower seeds as well as the organic flours - which I am sure they were not the least bit bothered about.

I have just put on the new steamer and it was like using the controls of Concorde! When you read instruction books they seem to make them so complicated - and like most things these days the instructions were printed in a multitude of languages - and I think that some of it got 'Lost in translation'.

My how they have improved since I bought my old one. A couple of the basket bottoms are non stick metal - so they will not break in the middle where they were moulded. The bottom tray is now all one basket - so ditto that! It has a clock and a programmer and a vitamin sealer/saver and when the things are cooked it even keeps them warm and then turns itself off! It even has an alarm if the water level gets low! Must be idiot proof - once I learn how to pre-progamme it to come on later. Pat said not to bother as I am always here to put it on anyway! But it is good to know these things.

Our old one you switched on at the plug (which we often forgot to do if we had loaded it with vegetables earlier), and just had a manual timer - which from the conservatory where we sit, we could not here. It would also work without water in it - only my acute sense of smell alerting me to the burning! I shall not mention who had these mishaps as I am very grateful for any help I can get in the kitchen. Suffice to say that this should prevent all the latter though.

Pat got a fit of the guilt complex whilst I was doing a large number of things at once, so he has emptied the compost bin - the contents of which are now on various flower beds awaiting my spreading. Not today though. It is now dark and gloomy and as I have just sat down for the first time since writing this blog this morning, my back is protesting loudly!

Might find a sitting down job to do instead this afternoon. Snuggled on the sofa with Pat watching the Cup Final (yawn) but eating a choc ice. Bliss

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thank you 153 times - a new daily hit record!

Eggs - Total to date: 252 - Day 112

KoKKo 84 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 84 (77grms) 13.02.2006 Personal best
Ginger 84 (78grms) 22.2.2006 Personal best

Firstly a huge thank you for all those that logged onto my blog yesterday. I had 153 hits – no one out clubbing last night then? Or was it just one person with nothing
to do so kept clicking on to see the counter spinning? I was rather shocked when I saw the number and double checked from the day before and it definitely was 153. Actually Pat keeps a record, he started asking me every night how many hits and it has now become a habit. (You can tell he worked in material planning and logistics can't you?)

It takes me hours to do – but if someone is out there reading it apart from me then it is all worth while.

So back to earth – well literally today – despite the plummeting temperatures, the sun decided to shine so I just had to be outside – well you do don’t you. You are a long time in a box so have to make the most of it!

I started off the day by making a nice mixture for the triplets – that hard vacuumed packed loaf with all the air sucked out of it, made a nice porridge on it was mixed with warm milk and the cores from last night’s pears. The chooks just loved it, and I didn’t even get a cluck out of them and it was petticoats up, heads down, and peck as fast as you can to get the most!

Pat offered to come up the lottie with me to dig out one edge of the path. I had been along it with my edging tool a couple of weeks ago, but when I had a spare hour or two the weather was awful so it never got done.

Here are a series of pictures to show you what I did – easier than lots of words – especially if you feel as sore as I do!

Pat did this long edge

And this one too.

I did all these

And these - three beds 28 ft long and 6ft, 8ft, and 10ft wide. (I didn't do the front edge that is piled up - Pat did that and buried my first row of strawberries - but didn't complain - I will rescue them next time I am up there!)

And the nearest bed is 28ft by about 50ft. And the rhubarb, and other fruit bed which you can't see which is 25ft x 8ft. All with my little lady spade - it was hard work I can tell you. I wanted to put the onions and shallots in but the soil is too wet.

Here is a picture showing the bird scaring canes in action - you can see the broad beans in the foreground that got pecked and those further back that I protected with cloches.

Here is the posh compost bin on Mike’s plot next to mine. Now that it has been rained on, I see that it is made out of the top and end panels of a lovely old bed – nice isn’t it compared to mine……………………

In my defence – size matters in this case and I had to use what was available to me and which was physically possible for me to make! The wind was truly gale force up there and had almost flattened my big bin so I made some hasty repairs.

I also picked a huge sack of broccolli leaves for the chooks, and a January King cabbage for us, and a row of leeks too! There are still some healthy parsnips left - two rows, spread out though, about 25 roots? And the broccolli plants are just sprouting - yipee - I am so thrilled and I have 2 lovely great romanesco heads to pick too, and they all look so healthy - my friends remarked upon that last week when they visited. They flipping well should be shouldn't they - all the hours I have spent fighting off all the pests!

We spent two freezing hours up there in all, and I was glad that I had an organic beef casserole in the oven cooking gently and all the home grown frozen veggie were now defrosted in the steamer. So whilst that was doing we had time for a quick shower, and relaxed.

Not for long though – a phone call from my friend needing my manuals for some of my machines he was servicing, meant a hunt around the house and a return trip up the allotment to get the rest from my shed.

It was even colder up there this afternoon, as the sun had gone in. You should have seen me, dressed once more in my ‘lady’ clothes, but wearing my gardening clogs to walk up the tracks to get to my allotment. I met Geoff on the way back, and he looked a bit bemused until I explained! My shoes were in the car, as we had to drop the books off at the village shop so my T (my friends daughter) could take them home. She ferries things back and forth between her mother and father and me.

I looked for some almost out of date cheap cream and there was none, but apparently there is some in the freezer ‘with my name on it’ so I shall be heading back again on Monday to get it. I also got a small animal box, a nice plastic one that I can use for flower pots and T also gave me a pile of bigger trays. She had a pile of plastic sacks that came back to me from her mum (the ones that went filled with chrysanthemums,) and three rabbits in her boot too if I wanted them.

Have you known me to say ‘no’? She obviously has Pat down to a ‘T’, as she mimicked exactly his reaction when he saw us laden with these black trays and opened his boot. And when I re-appeared with the rabbits – it was word for word what ‘T’ had said – which made me laugh.

I think that I shall turn these into rabbit sausages. I have put a posting on a forum for a recipe.

These were humanely trapped and dispatched by the way.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Adelaide's Chicken Page


My name is Adelaide, and I am the head chook around here, so if you want to take any photographs you have to get my permission first.

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This is what mother hen served up for our lunch, in the vain hope of keeping us amused whilst she got on and cleared out the run.

Today's selection consisted of chopped tomatoes, green grapes, chopped brussel sprouts, and come of mother hens bread - which she had shrunk in her vacuum packer to a small hard lump.

I am at the back head down eating a grape, KoKKo is in the middle, and Ginger is having a peck at the back.

Mother hen probably told you that she did some weeding, well this is what she gave us - nice fresh clumps of grass, and dandelion weeds from the gravel paths - lovely stuff. We soon polished that off!

I am in the front - don't you think that I look good? It was a really lovely sunny day, and I think that we looked beautiful and gleaming!

Look at this cheeky bird - I knew I shouldn't have left a bit of pear lying around!
Best get rid of it quick or Mother Hen won't be too pleased. She is a bit fussy about eating off the floor!

So this is KoKKo - she has got another leg! She is just standing funny!

This is Ginger.

And this of course is me - Adelaide - not a bad looking bunch of hybrids are we. And we laid three eggs again today! Not impressed? Well you want to try doing it in freezing conditions!

Happy but weary - a great day

Eggs - Total to date: 250 - Day 111

KoKKo 83 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 83 (77grms) 13.02.2006 Personal best
Ginger 84 (78grms) 22.2.2006 Personal best style="font-weight:bold;">

I sit before my computer a very sore woman. I have done too much today (you don’t get me confessing that too often) and tomorrow I might not be able to move – but I got so much done.

Firstly I have to mention that I did not sleep from 2.14 am until gone 6.23 am when I last looked at the clock, and I had read a book in bed up until almost midnight.

Pat wanted to go into the city – but I couldn’t be doing with it on a sunny but freezing cold day.

Instead I looked up on the web a couple of the things we needed and ordered a new steamer from Argos. I have used an electric steamer for more years that I can remember. This last one lasted 6 years and still works, but as usual it costs more money to replace the baskets which have literally broken in two, than it does to get a new one. The old one’s reservoir is pretty stained too – just from the juice of carrots etc. I hate throwing something away that works. Still that’s the way of the world these days.

Our electric toothbrush finally died too before Christmas – hence the need for a trip to the city – but I found a chemist that sold them in the same town where I was able to order the steamer for collection (13 miles away) so I was persuaded to go there. Apparently I don’t get out enough! But I know what he means.

So, apart from getting the steamer and now toothbrush, I got some plastic lawn edging, and some bedding for the chickens. It was way too cold to go looking around. I did go into a health food shop in the hope of getting cocoanut oil and a large bottle of eucalyptus oil for my soap – but no luck again.

Lunch was home made sausages – Somerset apple and pork – will have to make some more as they were the last! We had parsnip, carrot, roasted pumpkin and potato mash – so bright and colourful and tasty.

After yesterday’s soaking allotment experience – whilst Pat was sitting in the car – I did not want to miss a minute of the sunshine, so soon changed back to Worzel Gummidge, and went out to do a bit of gardening – just for an hour – well that was my intention.

I ended up on my hands and knees 'installing’ for want of a better word, 27 metres of lawn edging. It involved a lot of work, but you can imagine the digging, weeding, hammering etc that went with it – all in the biting wind – but the sun shone.

The chickens were so curious to see what I was doing when I reached the other side of their pen.

They took it in turns to be at the front of the fence to have a look, and then reported back what they saw.

When they saw me digging along the edge of the grass, they decided to 'help' me and started digging their side of their pen.

They do their funny walk forward then shuffly back scratching the soil as they go and repeat the same thing over and over again. I never tire of watching them!

I also cleaned out the chickens and put in fresh bedding – with them jumping all over me as usual (here is a photo just to prove what I am talking about)

Here are Adelaide and Ginger doing their inspection.

Adelaide inspecting the shredded woodchips that I had emptied out and refusing to get off until she was ready!

I then had the silly brain wave of clearing out some of the woodchips in the pen, as they have gone dark now – not smelly – but I thought I would clear them out and let the girls have a scratch in the soil before putting down some fresh bags.

The wheel barrow is up at the allotment, so I had to fill up a large bucket and carry it to the flower beds and empty it and rake it. The girls kept getting in my way all the time and got so excited at every shovel full. They scratched away looking for insects and stuck their heads in the bucket and just in front of the spade. With hindsight I should have just locked them in their Eglu run, but they were having so much fun. It made it a really hard task and from all the rain yesterday a heavy one too.

I did 100 buckets full, by which time I could hardly move a muscle. The flower beds that I have mulched (weeding as I went) look fantastic! I then saw one more bed to edge before coming in – and did something unheard of – I actually asked Pat if he would put away the tools for me, as I could hardly walk! Which he did bless him, then I swept all the paths and patio so it looks great.

I can't get any more photos to load for some reason, so will do them on a seperate page.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A truly cold, wild, wet and windy day here today.

Eggs - Total to date: 247 - Day 110

KoKKo 82 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 82 (77grms) 13.02.2006 Personal best
Ginger 83 (78grms) 22.2.2006 Personal best style="font-weight:bold;">

It has been rather a wild day weather wise – but the girls didn’t seem to mind as there were three warm eggs in the nest at 8am. They came out of their run in a gush as usual, but as I hadn’t taken any extras, just their usual food, they were not in a hurry to eat it – preferring to run up and down flapping their wings in the wind, and totally relishing the heavy rain! They really did seem to be full of the joys of Spring – but it was freezing cold and dreadful.

I left them to it as I had to get ready as friends of mine were coming to collect my rotorvators, lawn mowers, and strimmer to give them their winter service.

By the time they came it was hammering down with rain, and I was in the garage making up something warm and tasty for the girls. Sheila, my friend, came out to look at them and watch me feed them, and she was tickled pink to see their orange ‘peanut’ shaped feeders. The girls showed off a bit, and made sure to get her looking into their run and home, then they came out and showed her how they chase each other around the big pen, and lastly under the shelter which is their dust bath – and finished off with a happy chatty dance at the gate when we walked away. Such charmers.

We loaded up Ric’s trailer with the stuff we had here, then it was up to the allotment to collect the rest. What a day to go up there. Like a raging storm but without the thunder and lightening!

The tracks were puddled mud. I got the job of opening and closing all the gates of course – (I know my place) – and slid and slithered up was used to be recognised as the grassy track, but is now a muddy track.

Les’s first allotment right inside the gate, had been ploughed and was positively glistening like black rivers of coal in the torrential rain. I got my camera out, but it was raining too hard to take any photos.

Old Geoff has scrounged one of those tall and long plastic green houses from somewhere and it was all assembled and already full of junk! Probably came with it I should imagine.

Mike with the allotment next to mine, has got a very posh compost bin – complete with finials! I reckon that his wife Pat who is a carpenter made that. I will take a photo when it is not raining! It doesn’t look very smart though. I am beginning to get an inferiority complex with my corrugated iron ones. (Joke) Still they do the same job whatever they look like. He might need one a tad bit bigger though for an allotment the size of ours. His is the size of a small pallet I reckon. Very nice though.

I got out my machines, but let Pat and Ric to load them on the trailer as I headed off down the end of lottie to talk to Sheila. She is like me about gardening, and it was Ric who rotorvated some of it last spring with his big beastie one.

She was very impressed with all the work that I had done and the grass paths and the bottom meadow. The only bit of weeding is around one small bit of the autumn fruiting raspberries – and that won’t take me more than a day to do. I have a lot of muck to spread though. She really laughed out loud at all my muck bins and compost bins.

Whilst down the bottom I noticed that rabbits had been getting into that area again and started eating the roots of some of the strawberry plants. Pesky animals.

I don’t know where they are getting in – it is just since last Wednesday when I was up there planting the chrysanthemums. They must be jumping the fence! Unless it is pheasants scraping at the roots.

When I looked at the chrysanthemums rabbits had eaten all the green shoots off them. I didn’t put them in an enclosed area, as I didn’t think that rabbits would be interested in bits of stick with a few green shoots. So all that work I did in the sleet and snow and rain was in vain.

Sheila and Ric left and Pat agreed to wait (he sat in the car) whilst I took emergency measures until I can get up there on a dry day.

I took the cloches off the broad beans, and made up bird scarers of cd’s hanging from canes, and placed them intermittently across the two rows of broad beans – I really hope and pray that it does the trick as I will be so disappointed if all my hard work is lost to the pheasants.

I then used half a dozen cloches to cover up some of the strawberry plants; I did not have enough for all the rows. Then I used the remainder cloches to cover up most of the chrysanthemums. The rabbits can get inside them if they have a mind too, but I hope that they don’t – I have put them in different ways to try and confuse them – so that they are not tunnel like.

Literally soaking through to the skin, I got the job of opening and closing the gates one more time, and was rewarded at the last gate when Pat drove quickly through a muddy puddle and covered me in yet more water. – ‘It was an accident’ he said, as usual – he does make me laugh. To add insult to injury I had to take off my sopping we coat before I got into the car and turn it inside out to stop it making the car seats wet. I drew the line at taking of my waterproof trousers!

Once home I soon thawed out to cook lunch – yes our usual Thursday treat of eggs from the girls and wedges from our rapidly diminishing potato crop. (I must remember not to be quite so generous next year sharing them out to all and sundry. We never would have believed that we would get though some many amongst ourselves and family). We had some bacon too – not used at the weekend, so the girls were particularly pleased to see me a short while ago with their ‘supper’ of a Yorkshire pudding and fat off the bacon.

Now I am sitting here suitably tired, and catching up with all my emails.

I wonder what tomorrow has in store. Pat wants to go to the city (Norwich) for the day as there are things we need that we can’t get locally. I told him that as long as he gets up early and we can leave by 9am I will go. Otherwise it is so packed later.

Japanese Doves

My daughter in law’s parents came to the UK for two weeks when Luke, our grandson was born.

We usually exchange little gifts – I like to give them things from Norfolk or places that we have visited and try to get something unusual too if I can.

In Japan, the shops wrap up what you buy – and so daintily too. This is what they bought me this time.

I was given this lovely carrier bag.

Inside was a gift wrapped in white and silver paper and sealed with two little dove stickers – which I opened to reveal...........................

This lovely tin – which is bigger than an A4 sheet of paper to give you an idea of the size. I couldn't bear to throw away the little stickers so I stuck those on the tin.

I opened the tin to reveal this………………

Wonderful biscuits – a cross between shortbread biscuits and rusks. Really tasty. They are really huge doves about the size of my hand, and each sealed in its own wrapper. One is the equivalent of more than two ordinary biscuits. We are rationing them to one each a night as they are so delicious.

I shall be saving the tin, wrapping paper and carrier bag – all of which will be useful with my hobbies.

Haruko translated the story - which I hope I get right.

Travellers came to Japan and brought with them biscuits which the Japanese in this particular region had never tasted before.

The Temple in the region was called 'Dove Temple' (or was famous for its doves) so the Japanese living there made a biscuit in celebration. It is a recipe they made up themselves to suit the ingredients they had and to their taste.

And believe me, they not only look and smell wonderful (a bit like vanilla) they taste it too!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Chit chat, garden and chooks - and a new personal best - This is my 300th Blog! Wow, what a lot of typing in just a few months

Eggs - Total to date: 244 - Day 109

KoKKo 81 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 81 (77grms) 13.02.2006 Personal best
Ginger 82 (78grms) 22.2.2006 Personal best *New Personal best today 81grms

Gosh if I thought yesterday was cold – it was mild compared to today and the wind chill factor.

Arum Metallica Pictum - Lords and Ladies - just coming through

I am going to intersperse the text with some photos which I took today of plants in my garden.

Thought it might add a bit of colour to an otherwise dull day.

I think that Adelaide and KoKKo were a bit miffed at me not putting their greens cage into the pen before I went off to see the physio today, as they have not laid an egg as at lunchtime. Ginger did though a new personal best of 81 grams, that is three grams bigger that her biggest egg so far which was in December.

So I wrapped it up in bubble wrap to take with me. (The torture was worse than usual, and as an afterthought involved needles stuck deep into ligaments, must be because I said that I would take two eggs. Subtle ways of getting their own back some people – joke – she is lovely really).

The first daffodils to starting to bud underneath the patio door.

Pat dropped me off near the charity shop where the lady works that has the bantams for sale. Sadly she didn’t have any photos but we did have a nice chat about her animals. ‘About’ twenty chickens including a blind hybrid that lives in a rabbit hutch, a Buff Orpington that was an accident, her daughter bought some eggs to blow, and her brother liked the look of it so persuaded her to put it under a broody hen and got the Buff Orpington! The rest are all sorts of bantams – cross breeds.

I asked her where they all lived, and the bantams just seem to live around the garden – ‘oh and they fly’ she mentioned as an after thought. ‘How high?’ I asked. Apparently high up into the trees to roost. She told me not to go to any expense buying another house or hutch for them as they are really hardy and roost anywhere – and outside in all weathers.

Cream and purple sage that did not die back during the winter

All this means that I shall have to firstly, get the bird netting over the pen sooner rather than later. I was going to do it later for when they formally introduce keeping domestic fowl under cover away from wild birds. Which means that the runs have to be netted to keep any wild birds from getting in and more importantly leaving their droppings.

I could do that now by just putting netting across the top, but I want it higher so that I do not have to stoop. It is about 5 feet 9 inches now, and I am an inch shorter in bare feet, so I want to raise it up to the height of the pergola. Just need a few mild and dry days – some bits of wood and some netting! This will also ensure that the bantams don’t take off over the neighbouring gardens and cause problems!

Snowdrops that just appeared in the raised bed

Talking of potential problems, there is always the pecking order to sort out – so introducing new chickens will mean more pecking. The lady I spoke too, said not to worry about it, just to let them get on with it. The bantams are tough, and if I put in a branch that they can fly up on to – they can keep away from the others when they need too. She said that they also run really fast and are used to looking after themselves – so that is good news. I now know that when they all settle down, they will all fit inside the Eglu to roost, but if they decide not to, I will provide alternative arrangements, but I am sure they will be fine. I think that I will look out for a small tree that has been sawn down, or cut down one out of my cherry tree hedge to put into the pen.

A Christmas Rose

When I came back from town, the chooks greeted me excitedly as usual, which really makes you feel good inside. I took them their greens cage filled with the leaves from another cabbage and some green grapes, and some more layers mash made with warm water – although they don’t seem to mind the cold at all, and stand there with the wind ruffling up their ‘petticoats’ which looks rather fetching.

KoKKo kindly laid me an egg, but Adelaide is being a bit snooty about the whole thing, so will hang onto hers until the last possible minute before she goes to bed no doubt.

I fixed the new door bell that had conked out again, and Pat chose a new ‘tune’by Glenn Miller, but I still rather like the sound of a barking dog!

I am off out to give the girls a leftover Yorkshire pud for their supper.

They always have to take it all out of their food container and throw it around first

Then of course they have to see if anyone has got a better selection than they managed to grab for themselves

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The vacuumed bread! -

I was telling you yesterday about my exploits with my new gadget and how I vacuum packed the left over chicken slices, some dried grapes and two loaves of bread.

I was telling my son last night how the large loaf of bread had been reduced to a third of its size and he was laughing his head off on the other end of the telephone.

As the instructions said that bread was suitable for packaging in this way, I am fully expecting it to inflate back up to its full size as soon as the bag is cut and the vacuum released.

My son reckons that now all the air has been sucked out of my lovely light loaf, it will stay flattened as it is not like an artificial sponge.

Here is a photo of the now frozen as well as deflated loaf - what do you think?

What are the odds of it returning to its full size - has anyone done the same thing?

By the way there are more pages posted below this - In my back garden today, and a Chicken Page. More photos to cheer up a dismal day.

A few plants in my garden today - taken in the sleet! - A chicken page update is below

As I was getting soaking wet anyway - I thought that I would snap a few of my favourite things at the moment in the back garden.

A self sown wild primrose that has been flowering its little heart out all winter - for months, depsite it getting trodden on because it has picked the most incovenient of places to grow!

Dripping with water in my 'Woodland Garden', a fern in the middle, Patchysandra to the right (a ground cover plant), and wild spurge.

The cardoon has started to grow again already which is such a suprise

This geranium survived the winter too - an even greater surprise - having lost some of its leaves to reveal a really pink stem - pink with the cold like my face this morning!

Chicken Page

Eggs - Total to date: 242 - Day 108

KoKKo 80 (86grms) 29.11.2005 Personal best
Adelaide 81 (77grms) 13.02.2006 Personal best
Ginger 81 (78grms) 14.12.2005 Personal best

I awoke to the surprise of a dusting of snow over the garden and it was bitterly cold, so I decided to treat the chooks to a nice porridge made with warm milk and raisins – they haven’t had it for a while so thought it would make a lovely surprise for them.

They were already up and about and queuing up at the door to the run for me to unlock it and let them out in the pen. It still makes me smile, even though they do it every day – they push right to the wire, the face of the first one in the queue flattened firstly, then beak first through the bars to peck at my wedding ring. Before I have even taken out the pin they are trying to ram the door open – and burst out in a flurry of happy squawks and feathers, then realise the error of their ways when they see me putting the food container in the run, and they try to barge me out of the way to get to it first!

Then peace and happy contented sounds as they all tuck in, commenting to each other about the breakfast menu. I left them to it as the sleet hurtled down and I needed a warm breakfast inside me too!

Later I went out to see them – the snow melted and more sleet coming down – I filled up their greens cage with leaves from January King cabbages – and managed to get a few photos of the pecking order shuffle before they settle down to eat.


Adelaide barging Ginger out of the way

Two's company, three's a crowd!

Not in this case fortunately

Posing for the camera

There was just one egg there when I looked – but one more would be nice as I promised a couple for the physio tomorrow! Perhaps later! But I am not venturing out as it is still tipping it down and so very cold.

Well I did have to venture out later to lock their run - and say goodnight to them - and there was another egg in the nest box. I knew I could count on them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I saw this and thought of you

And a Valentine Food For Thought

Cabbage always has a heart; Green beans string along.
You're such a cute tomato, Will you peas to me belong?
You've been the apple of my eye, You know how much I care;
So lettuce get together, We'd make a perfect pear.

Now, something's sure to turnip to prove you can't be beet;
So, if you carrot all for me let's let our tulips meet.
Don't squash my hopes and dreams now, Bee my honey, dear;
Or tears will fill potato's eyes, While sweet corn lends an ear.

I'll cauliflower shop and say, Your dreams are parsley mine.
I'll work and share my celery, So be my valentine.

Jeanne Losey

I am still an old softie - and if you are too - this is for you

Click on it to enlarge

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My favourite Flap Jack Recipe

75g Butter - my own now of course - I prefer unsalted in cooking
75g Sugar - I use and demerara or muscovado or any natural sugar - not white
1 teaspoon of syrup - a heaped one, if you know what I mean
150 g of Jumbo oats - I get these from a health food shop - organic if you can or use porridge oats if you like a finer texture.

Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan (this will appeal to you Mike)

Stir in the oats. Spoon and press into a baking tin - a small one for this amount of ingredients.

Cook on 160c or 150c fan oven for 20 minutes.

The above is the basic recipe but I add whatever takes my fancy or what I have in the cupboard. It was some of my dried apple rings this time. And I poured melted dark chocalate over the top to set!

The first time I made them I forgot to cook them in the oven - so put them in the freezer for 20 minutes for the chocolate to set hard - and they came out perfectly!


A picture of just plain ones - they taste nice and sweet and chewy - but not crunchy like the muesli because of the smaller syrup content. But I love 'em

Easy crunchy cookies

4 oz butter/margarine
2 oz light muscovado sugar
2 oz demerara sugar
1 egg
4 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 oz porridge oats
1 oz desiccated coconut
6 oz chocolate chips (it's nice to use a mixture of white, plain and milk choc)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg then the flour, baking powder, bicarb and oats. Stir in coconut and chocolate chips.

Take walnut sized balls of dough and place fairly well apart on greaseproof paper lined baking sheets. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C Fan oven 170C for 15-17 minutes. Cool on racks.

I made a lot of these for Christmas presents and they got scoffed really really quickly.

Well ditto all the cookie biscuits here.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

4 oz butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz caster sugar
2 oz light muscovado sugar
3 oz peanut butter
5 oz plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Cream butter and sugars together.

Beat in peanut butter, flour and bicarb.

Roll dough into walnut sized balls and place on greaseproof paper lined baking sheets.

Flatten the biscuits slightly by pressing down with your fingers.

Bake at 180c (170c fan) for 15 minutes and cool on the baking trays. Check after 10 minutes though.

I omit the peanut butter and use 6oz of butter instead and add broken chocolate to this recipe too, and I have added lemon curd.

This are lovely crunchy biscuits with a soft centre.

When you cook cookies, they often rise and although lightly brown they feel soft to the touch, but if you take them out and leave them on the tin tray, they tend to sink and go nice and crunchy

Choc Chip Cookies

Choc Chip Cookies

6 oz butter
8 oz caster sugar
1 egg
8 oz S/R flour
2 oz choc chips
2 oz chopped nuts
3 oz desiccated coconut

Cream butter and sugar together. Add the egg and stir in the flour, choc chips, nuts and coconut.

Roll dough in your hands into walnut sized balls and place well apart on baking sheets. (I use baking parchment - they just slide off)

Bake at 180C for 10-15 minutes and cool on the baking sheets.
Fan oven bake at 170c

Nuts can be replaced with extra chocolate or coconut or raisins - dried cranberries are nice too. Omit the coconut and add dried fruit or leave plain with just the chocolate. I don't by the choc chips - it works out cheaper and you know the quality if you use a bar of 75% cocoa plain chocolate. I just smash them in a bag with a rolling pin - you get a mixuture of nice thick gooey bits and a chocolatty flavour.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Todays foodie things

Yesterday I was given some frozen double cream. It said on the tub 'NOT TO BE FROZEN' so it was a bit of a gamble if it would make butter. Probably an experiment is not the best idea for one's first attempt at it but there you go - I am all for an experiment.

The internet was playing up first thing so I couldn't to the forum I like - Mrs L's to get the instructions, so I just 'went for it'.

I got it straight out of the fridge and it looked really grainy not like smooth double cream should look! But as it was free and I was in a ‘couldn’t care less’ type of mood, I just stuck it in the food mixer, put it on to the slowest setting, and went off the feed the chooks. Had a shower – then remembered it!

Oops, there was buttermilk everywhere! But lo and behold in the stainless steel bowl was butter! MAGIC

Not a very good photo as the glare came off the stainless steel bowl, but it was a lovely yellow buttery colour all over - those white bits are just photo glare and I don't know how to fix that!

I strained off what little buttermilk was left (half a cup) and pulled off bits and rinsed it under cold water. Then I put it all together in my now freezing cold hands and squashed it into a ball.

I added a few twists from the salt grinder, squished it up to mix it a bit, and patted it with spatulas to look like this…………

It weighed in at 4.75 ounces - but it was only a small tub of cream, and there was lots of butter milk - over the floor, the walls, the work top - so next time there will be no waste. And it was free food this time!

Later when I looked up how to do it on the forum………..the cream had to be at room temperature………etc etc. I broke all the rules – except the hygiene ones of course!

Clearing up all the splashes of buttermilk was not a chore as I was still on a high at making the butter. It is now in residence in a plastic tub – from Tesco’s – which hardly befits such a work of art. Perhaps I should search the charity shops for a proper butter dish next. I don’t suppose anyone out there has an old butter mould or butter pats they want to swap or sell – or knows of someone who does?

Lunch time was our once a week treat of eggs and home made fat free potato wedges – and I had a doorstep slice of my own wholemeal bread with my own butter which I dunked into my own very golden and soft egg yolks – happiness is slow food – with every mouthful tasting divine.

As I am typing this, the aroma of my latest batch of two wholemeal and jumbo oats loaves is wafting in here – and they are topped with roasted pumpkin seeds. Who needs a bread maker when you have a food mixer and an oven? So much quicker.

In a moment I will get them out of the oven, and when I turn them over to tap them out of the tins some of the roasted seeds will fall off, and I won’t have to fight Pat for them either as he is out bowling.

The other thing I have just done is to get some of my frozen raspberries and layer them with the thick yoghurt I make. This is what they look like now – but by tea time the will have thawed and the juice will have made lovely marbled patterns into the yoghurt, four pots in all. Yummy.

Best be off - the bread smells done, and there are some lovely toasted pumpkin seeds with my name on them!