Men at work

Last weekend I filled a few holes in the driveway but there was one serious one left.

This one required serious muscle power and strength which was a bit beyond my physical-abilities. A chap who rents one of our buildings arrived and set to work on the hole which is in the entrance to the farm.

Meanwhile there was an issue with the broadband at the holiday cottage. I couldn’t quite understand why the network name wasn’t even showing up. I pushed all the leads in, restarted the router, all the lights were green… I needed help. Fortunately my only neighbour is a wizard with this type problem.

I was flitting between jobs outside and checking to see if the daughter in the cottage was ready to use our house broadband so I could settle her in. It was just all go.

wp-1488110581762.jpg

We had a few concrete blocks which were smashed up to make the base.

wp-1488110581759.jpg

Then a mutual friend and local farmer happened to be driving past so he was collared into helping too.

wp-1488110581760.jpg

Then all was done, the driveway and the broadband was all fixed. I felt guilty as not lifted a finger really. Although I did collect all the breeze bricks, loaded them into the barrow and wheeled them around. One heavy load…

So now I owe everyone a few bottles of beer for their help.

 

Working Weekends

It’s been a pretty full on all weekend to be honest.

Guests left our holiday cottage on Friday so I set to work changing beds on Saturday and sorting the linen out. Often we have a tight turnaround but our next guests are due in a day or two. This enabled me to do a couple of jobs in the cottage whilst it was empty.

The weather was gorgeous and it was lovely being outside. I filled a few holes in the driveway and cleared a couple of soak-away drains out too.

A few youngsters appeared with rucksacks and tents attached. An adult had seen them across the road to the ‘Right of Way’ track that sits opposite our farm. They were full of excitement. The chap drove off and they disappeared just out of site and I could hear them chatting and laughing as they’d obviously sat down to their packed lunch. It was a definite ‘extended’ lunch break which made me smile. The horses in the paddock opposite stood with their heads poised in their direction too.

An hour or so later my job was done and I offered to take my neighbours spaniel out for a hike. The sun was shining, it was an amazingly feel good factor of an aftewp-1487521652332.jpgrnoon. Daisy was in her element and we headed off up the track opposite. You can walk for miles without hitting a road, it’s fabulous and I feel very lucky. I spotted the same group of kids at the end of the track and greeted them all with a smile and ‘hello’. They seemed quite chirpy still. I assumed they were awaiting a lift but thought it a little odd as they hadn’t really walked that far.

For most of the walk Daisy would run backwards and forwards checking I was still following. Then once we’d reached the chalk pits I popped her on the lead. Just as well as she picked up the scent of something. She was scouting to and fro owp-1487521626974.jpgn each side of the track with her tail wagging at 90 times to the dozen. Further on I chatted with another local farmer further on who was filling holes on an unmanned road. No one really owns it but he occasionally takes it upon himself to fill in the pot holes. Must be the day for hole filling.

After an hour and half I reached the track home and smiled as I heard the same youngsters. I could hear one of them saying ‘Look it’s that same lady and her dog.’ I stopped to talk to them this time asking if they were alright. They’d got lost basically and were supposed to be up at a local common camping with the rest of the ‘scouts’. I told them the track they should have taken but said they should stay put as they’d rung their scout leader who was coming to find them. Further down the track I could hear ‘the whistle’. I knew the scout leader was just around the corner, I grinned. I told him where the group were. He said he’d never done so much walking with one group. Another group who’d left after them had already arrived at camp. He said ‘Ahh they told me they’d seen a lady with a dog twice.’ He’d suggested the first time they’d asked me the way. They were undergoing their orienteering badge. We both laughed at the whole saga and we went our separate ways.

wp-1487521593285.jpgLast weekend we moved a 14 foot gate from one location on the farm to another. An extra piece of sheet metal has been added and a new catch. So today I used the wire brush and rubbed the whole gate down and painted it.

 

The day is drawing to a close but I’m cloaked in a feeling of satisfaction.

Quarantine creates boredom

wp-1486905428940.jpg

Back in November 2016 the Ladies had it all. They could roam wherever they fancied which occasionally included my kitchen, if they managed to sneak in. They especially enjoyed unsuspecting guests dining alfresco during warmer times.

Then on the 6th December, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the news about Avian Influenza (bird flu). You could see it was going to happen. I’d been following stories and new it wouldn’t be long before we’d have to lock all poultry indoors. Now it was here initially until 6th January 2017.

Avian influenza – DEFRA UK

We only have half a dozen hens at present so I can’t complain. I felt for those who have larger numbers especially those who raise them for commercial purposes. It doesn’t matter whether you have 2 or 1000 poultry, they all need to be housed with no roaming outside. Pens need to be covered to stop other wild fowl from depositing their possible contaminated droppings into the pens. Also appropriate disinfectants should be used on footwear before entering the pen.

Signs to look out for are:-

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality

More can be found on the website DEFRA

To begin with the Ladies were quite content but slowly over the weeks some are becoming quite bored. I’ve introduced logs with grubs, a couple of structures for different heights to stand on, even a traffic cone as they supposedly like florescent strips to peck at. Two of the hens rarely go into their covered outdoor pen and they all go to roost earlier than ever despite the daylight hours increasing. They’re just bored.

Today I threw a load of straw for them to sort out and scattered a little mixed grain on top. I don’t want to encourage rats so I didn’t scatter too much. My partner suggested mealworms – what a great idea! They were delighted with the new treat; “Thanks Hun.”

At present the deadline is February 2017 but it’s soon to change again. I don’t want to tempt fait but in our area it maybe being lifted as a temporary measure but this has yet to be announced.

My kitchen window

20160329_085611.jpgI just love the fact that this Amaryllis begun to flower on Easter day and since then two more have opened up. There is also a new shoot coming out from the base of the bulb.

This probably isn’t the most fascinating story but having taken this over from my mum it tried to flower last year. However, the flower head dropped off before even opening. The other plant had never flowered before either. Mum had it for a few years but so far this year it hasn’t stopped producing flowers for three months!

In the background spring is definitely in action in the flower beds. It’s almost time to give the lawn a trim with the cutter set on high I feel.

Mum has an enormous amount of gardening knowledge – I’ve heaps to learn yet (daughter in training).

A different Easter?

20160327_102620.jpg

The clocks changed today – summer time officially begins. Ahh that explains the torrential rain and incredible clattering of hail that followed shortly. Is this a typical English Summer?

A perfect day for a spot of Easter baking!

I’m not making the traditional Simnel cake but some Easter buns instead. They’ve grated marzipan inside to make them that little bit special. Cherries, vanilla essence and grated orange and juice add to the overall flavour.

20160327_104026.jpg

5 eggs used!

I’d got to this point when the heavens opened again! Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Lucy one of the new trio of hens we were given. She was trying to shelter under a bush. Everyone else of course (8 other Ladies) had been sensible and headed for proper shelter a good half an hour earlier.

Lucy likes to be different.

Between a bit of laughter and unbelievability of her cowering under this bush. I grabbed my raincoat, wellies and ran outside to rescue her.

20160327_104726.jpg

She resided in my kitchen next to the Aga where she preened and dried off.

Once the sun shone again, off she trotted back outside. She’s proving to be quite a character. I’ve even found her asleep in front of the fridge freezer whilst I was outside potting up pots with primroses on a sunny day.

 

 

The finished product should really be iced and have small coloured chocolate eggs dotted over the tops. However, I’ve decided to admit these today as I’m not sure whether chocolate caused a migraine I had a few weeks back.

I can’t exactly call these healthy because of the marzipan but a treat at Easter doesn’t hurt does it? 😉

20160327_112637.jpg

 

Peach and Blueberry Clafoutis

2016-02-20 15.03.54

 

This is a great little healthy pudding and I should think any fruit could be used as alternatives. I’ve used apricots before…

Ingredients

4 whole peaches or a tin of peaches – stones removed and cut into pieces

1/2 lemon – juice

Vanilla essence or pods

2 tbsp light brown sugar – less if tinned

2 eggs

75g caster sugar

100g self raising flour

100g greek yoghurt

100ml semi-skimmed milk

200g blueberries or other fruit

1 tbsp flaked almonds – just enough to sprinkle across the top

 

Method

  • Grease a 1 litre dish2016-02-20 14.37.58
  • Add peaches, lemon juice, vanilla (if using) and the light brown sugar to a pan. Heat through until peaches are soft.
  • Whisk the eggs and caster sugar until light
  • Add the flour and whisk until smooth
  • Stir in the yoghurt

The latter produces a batter based consistency.

  • Line the base of container with fruit but save a few blueberries for the top if using
  • Pour the batter and remaining blueberries on 2016-02-20 14.37.43
  • Scatter the flaked almonds over the top
  • Cook until the top is firm about 30 minutes at 180ºC, Gas 4

 

Serve with either Greek yoghurt, ice cream or custard whichever is your preference.

 

 

Scales or Cups in the Kitchen?

20160220_074533.jpgI hadn’t really given much thought to the difference in recipes between the Uk and the USA until yesterday. My closest American friend asked me why are there so many conversions for different liquids and solids from cups to grams?

My immediate response was I didn’t know and in fact after researching a little I’ve still no idea. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to using scales I’m unable to see ‘outside the box’ on this subject. Although I came across this article (baring in mind this isn’t necessarily my view) Confusing Measurements.

As a child my mum used imperial measurements for years, so I learnt about ounces and pounds for weights. During my school years I had to learn both metric and imperial and be able to convert freely between the two. Whilst my children grew up I used just metric with them. However, we still talk about a pint of milk rather than in litres. Also when I pick the fruits from the trees I weigh in pounds and ounces but I do convert it. I have this image of when I was about 4 or 5 and weighing the most enormous cooking apple we’d picked on some red scales in pounds.

My parents (who live next door) tend to use imperial still but mum will claim she uses metric. Dad is amazing at being able to convert yards into miles, inches into centimetres and feet into metres within seconds.

Yesterday my daughter returned from University and took over in the kitchen with her friend. They’ve both worked in kitchens waitressing together for a year or so. They grabbed the digital scales and set to work in metric measurements along with the odd tablespoon measurement.

I’m still none the wiser when it comes to weighing in cups and all the conversions.