Monday, 21 August 2017

Visitors

I'm generally a fairly sociable being and I like cooking and entertaining. Mr D also loves having guests. Good job too. Between moving in last August and the end of the following March, we had 33 sets of visitors. That's approximately 1 set per week!
It will be great when we can move our bedroom across to the extension, thereby creating a guest room.
It's the summer holidays presently, so we have had several sets of visitors already with more to come this week. I'll be a bit busy so will blog again soon :)
Meanwhile let me leave you with some photos of my second eldest daughter's room. We decorated it ages ago, but it was at that point that I couldn't seem to upload photos, so here you go....

 
The wardrobe was free from my sister in law. I swapp d it for some chicken run panels

These are how it looks now. It's west facing so only really gets sun in the late afternoon/evenings. Fortunately, my daughter wanted white walls...


 And this is how it started. The walls were deep purple and deep pink! I honestly didn't think I would ever get it covered!!

And this is how the previous owners had it when we came to view the house. Quite a difference from before to after! 



Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Polytunnel - part 2

Welcome to my two new followers. Sadly I am absolutely rubbish at the technical aspects of this blog and can't work out how to see who you are to welcome you personally, but you are very welcome regardless 😁

This is the view of the tunnel right now. It's coming along quite nicely. We have been amazed at the speed with which everything grows in there and sometimes it seems quite hard to keep up with it all.

We have six raised beds, 4 single height and 2 double height on the left. The right side is south facing so we put the taller beds on the left so as not to block too much light. We had 4 scaffolding planks left over from the beds, so I made four hanging shelves and hung them from the crop bars. On those, I have peppers, chillies and aubergines. The fourth shelf is in amongst the Jerusalem artichokes on the left so only has a pot of lemongrass on it.

A very early photo to show the growth

I have planted oca, artichokes, first early potatoes (all eaten now), pumpkins (too many!), yellow and green courgettes (also too many), summer squash, melon, beetroot, chives, oregano, Rosemary (in a pot), lettuce, salad leaves, rocket, mizuna, parsnips, spring onions, red onions (pulled now and drying on the staging), yellow onions (also pulled and drying), garlic, leeks (went to seed but the flowers looked great), yellow French beans, green French beans (both dwarf), sweetcorn, peas, sugars nap, purple mangetout, three varieties of tomatoes, basil, turnips, kale, cabbage, sprouting broccoli and Brussels, Chinese cabbage, pak choi, chard
 A view in the brassica bed which I netted whilst they were younger. I obviously have some caterpillars but I'm picking them off as fast as I can. 

I planted cauliflower but they were rubbish and got thrown on the compost. I planted carrots, but they didn't do anything. I tried cucumbers twice - once was too early and by the time the tunnel was ready they were too leggy and etiolated and the second time the slugs ate them whilst I was on holiday. Fortunately my sisterinlaw has plenty and is happy to share. I had wanted to plant sweet potato but by the time I had a bed ready, they were out of stock - next year....

We thought we would try strawberries in guttering as I don't yet have an outside bed for fruit. My verdict? Completely pointless! You win some, you lose some. It's now a case of keeping the plants alive until I can plant the. Outside next year. 

I also had a pot of nasturtiums to decorate my salads and a pot of sweet peas and grew marigolds. On my staging I have some ginger growing in a pot and seedlings of perpetual spinach and winter lettuce ready to plant up. I'm also growing some flowers even though I don't really have a garden much yet to plant them in! 

Most things have been fairly successful, but it's obviously a huge learning curve and I guess each year will be different anyway. I'm constantly reading to see what I should be sowing now to keep a continuum of planting and trying to find different recipes to use any surplus. I did drown in courgettes, but gave a whole load to a local start-up restaurant which serves only vegan food. I believe she used them to make courgette schnitzel, a recipe I tried myself.

So that's a whistle stop tour of the inside. As and when I will add some specific photos, but I've got a house to paint today so need to get going! 

Monday, 14 August 2017

The polytunnel - part 1

One of the reasons for moving was to start the process of becoming more self sufficient...mostly in fruit and veg, with the addition of eggs. When we bought the house, it came with a three acre plot. The plot isn't flat and can get very wet in places. It had previously been used to graze sheep, although they had also had pigs and turkeys on there too.

There was a fenced off area at the bottom of the field which was one huge bed of nettles. Now I know all about keeping nettles for butterflies, but this was totally excessive. Our neighbour helped by strimming. I then sprayed with glyphosate and then we membraned the whole area and covered it with scalpings, except for the site where the polytunnel would go which was left just membrane.

The builders put up the hoops - we didn't trust ourselves to get them level!

  

We then set about building a series of six raised beds from old scaffolding planks within the skeleton of a frame. An order of 15 tonnes of topsoil was delivered and barrowed into the beds πŸ˜“

It took us weeks to build the beds and the frame. My brother had bought an identical tunnel, so every weekend we would build some more of his, then come to ours and build the same section. The instructions with the tunnel were good, but the concept stated on the front page, that "an extra pair of hands would be useful" was an extreme understatement!! They are a project that's for sure. If I ever did it again, I might cough up for the experts to build it for me!

Finally at the end of March we were ready to put on the super therm cover. Suddenly it felt huge! Mind you at 14 by 42ft, it is quite a size :)


We added scalpings to the pathways. I set up a working corner with my potting bench and some staging and added a couple of picnic chairs. I had already grown a lot of seedlings in the utility room so I could start planting straight away.

View from higher up the field. The area with pallet sides is a double compost bin. 

We moved the greenhouse from the garden to be next to it and the builders set me up with mains water - a godsend with a tunnel, especially as it's water from a borehole so free. 

Tomorrow's post will move inside the tunnel...... 

Friday, 11 August 2017

Jam making

Once again, I have been busy making jams.

There is a very old blackcurrant bush in the garden which is smothered with bindweed and interspersed with nettles, but it bravely battled on and produced enough currants for me to make six jars of jam. Sadly it will be its last harvest as that entire bed will be dug up soon.

I have also made 10 jars of plum jam from the windfalls. I'm not sure which plum it is, but boy are they sweet! It didn't set the first time, so I had to faff around reboiling, but hopefully I'm there now.


When we started the ground works for the extension, a very large rhubarb plant had to be removed, but bless the builders, they chopped off all the stalks for me first, knowing I'd want to make something from them. I froze half and made rhubarb and ginger jam with the rest.

I really need to practice putting the labels on straight! 

Today I have made marrow and ginger jam. Like everyone who grows courgettes, you always end up with the odd monster, so I thought I'd give it a go. I only made a small batch of 5 jars initially but after tasting, everyone judges it to be a success, so I might make another batch. I used a huge yellow courgette and because I didn't think it would set without, I added liquid pectin. It did take an age to boil to setting point, but we got there eventually!

I also made about 7 jars of cucumber relish. The slugs ate my cucumber plants but my sister-in-law had loads, so I said I'd try making a relish similar to the old Cubitt's relish for those who remember it. I haven't tasted it yet as I feel it will improve with time, but it looks good. It took my flipping ages finely chopping everything but I think the end result was worth the extra effort.

A photo from the reverse to show you the finely chopped vegetables, mustard seeds and dill 

My next project will be a spicy summer squash chutney to be served with curry. Oh and the sloes will be ready soon for another batch of sloe gin. I might try a beetroot ketchup and I have lots of tomatoes to make tomato ketchup too. Blackberries will have to be foraged as well......still I have a large larder to store it all in now!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Also new in the kitchen

You might remember the pink tiles behind the stove and the fact that I wanted to replace them with more appropriate white ones...


Tad dah!

So much nicer than this ......




I painted the base cupboard with "Mole's breath", the same as all the other base cupboards in the kitchen.


We also had a slightly useless alcove behind the rocking chair, so our builder built me a large deep cupboard, which now houses the contents of the dresser, two book shelves for all my cookery books and a cupboard above,  in which we will keep little used items. I'm going to have a spotlight fitted in the base of the cupboard which will then light up the area with my rocking chair. I love the fact that
I'm sitting in my mums's chair. The weigh scales behind belonged to my  grandmother as did the platters above the stoves. These items help to ground me in my own past and make me smile every time I see them.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Toilet to larder

Thank you for the 'welcome back' messages - you really are a great bunch :)
Oh and apparently I missed off a horse - there are 6! Oops. We went for a celebratory drink with our neighbours last night at our local and they reminded me about the poor equine I had forgotten!

Chronologically, this is not the first thing to share, but I'm ΓΌber excited about it, so here it is....

Welcome to my new walk-in larder..






Once upon a time, this was a hideously pink downstairs shower room where you could sit on the toilet and look out directly on to the dining room table. 

This is the end of the room that will form the entrance to the extension, but it shows you the colour.... 


Three quarters of that room is now a larder and the final section will eventually become the entrance to our new extension. We had to lose the dresser so we could create an extra door, but it looks great
now. Obviously the door is reclaimed so it all matches. 


Looks as if it's always been there

I used black card and paper fasteners to label the baskets in the larder. It takes some of the fun out of watching Mr D searching through every basket to find where I have 'hidden' the food, but I am so very happy with the organised feel of it. Before, our food was split across multiple cupboards and I was finding it hard to write sensible shopping lists. Now I know exactly what I have and there is a place for everything. Happiness can be found in an organised larder... 



I used some beads to cover the light pull which should help keep  it clean.



Tuesday, 8 August 2017

One year anniversary

We have lived in our lovely new house for exactly twelve months today.



I am sorry to have been absent for so many months. I'm not even sure I can say quite what happened - it was most likely a combination of the utter frustration of not being able to put photos on, being super busy and just losing the plot a bit in the winter months.

Anyhow, I apologise if I gave anyone cause for concern. We are all fine, especially Jet who is still like a pig in clover! He cannot believe his luck, adopted from a second floor flat with working 'parents' to free range living with multiple furry, human and feathered friends to romp around with. As our house is the original farmhouse, it sits in the middle of a group of houses created mostly from the original farm buildings at the rear of our house. We therefore live in a cluster of five houses - four of which belong to members of the same family. Within this cluster are 32 bullocks, 5 horses, three sheep and a ram, 5 dogs (including Jet), about 8 cats and numerous ducks, chickens and cockerels - so Jet is never short of someone to play with. We too often have visits from his mates so it's all very friendly.

As you can imagine, a lot has happened in the last 8 months and I will try to update you on some of our progress in upcoming posts. In brief, the house has been completed re decorated, we now have a large polytunnel, the start of an orchard, the start of an outside veg plot, a new chicken enclosure and the house will be almost a third bigger than it was....not bad for a year's work!

We still have loads to do of course. The garden has had nothing done to it; we started an outside vegetable plot, but it's in a sorry state and needs lots of work before it can be truly productive; the building work is still ongoing and will be for some time to come yet and we have no shed so our tools are crammed in every nook and crevice. We have lost three chickens along the way, but recently gained an adorable Peking cockerel named Odin. He will eventually be big enough to keep order, but not big enough to 'do the business', which suits us. We haven't done anything about animals as we cannot agree on what the best plan is. Best not to rush in I feel.

Waking up here one year on, is still an absolute joy and I don't imagine it fading anytime soon.