Sunday 12 May 2013

So we are finally fully installed in our little house. Who knew buying and renovating a house could be such work!? The boyf has worked his socks off and inside the house is stunning. We need to work on our green-ness but as we settle down it will get easier to remember the recycling regime, water saving ideas and composting. Here's a sneaky peak inside... Now that the sun is out and the exam classes are gone I am no longer hiding inside by the fire marking of an evening but racing out of school to get home and enjoy my beautiful garden. Unfortunately, spring has sprung and the garden has gone mad! The site of the garden last summer when we first viewed the house was terrifying but the boyf worked hard to clear the end garden (henceforth know as the orchard despite its teeny tiny size) so we can loll about in the evening and drink wine. This is where my greenhouse is (minus 2 panes of broken glass) and my raised veg beds will live, it also homes a huge, beautiful and very old apple tree which after a bit of pruning looks like it will be fruitful. The Orchard is separated from the rest of the garden but an ancient grape vine arch which was so overgrown we though it was dead. Clearing through here has revealed many treasures including a well established Clematis, roses and lilac tree. We have decided to develop the screen that the vine produces by adding an espalier conference pear and a plum- can't wait to get them in the ground! As the garden grows it is kicking up some amazing surprises. The neighbours warned us that a lot of money had been spent only the garden but it's been hard to see where in the last few months- although now it is clear. We keep finding little gems, from hellebores to peonies, roses to clematis. In the last week we have uncovered a magnolia tree (my favourite) 4 gooseberry bushes, 2 loganberries, a lilac tree, a dwarf peach, sweet Cicely, a bank of chives, roses, japanese quince, 3 clematis, raspberries and loads of other little bits and bobs. This garden is amazing! The front garden is becoming a jungle and I am hacking my way down the path in the morning to get to work. I kind of like it though as it's full of forget-me-nots and bees. The boyf spent an arduous afternoon cutting back the wisteria that was covering the front of the house and now there are flowers budding.... Life is rampant in the garden, it's such an exciting time! Now if only we can get rid of the less savoury resident...Rattigan the enormous bloody great rat! Ewww...

Friday 04 January 2013

Happy New Year one and all! There is so much to be miserable about at this time of year: the rain, the lack of money, the taking down of the twinkly things.. but I bloody love the first few weeks of January. Nothing gets me going like the annual clear out, the new stationary to be filled and the return to crunchy food after a good month of existing on cheese and chocolate. With my new house nearly ready for furnishing (after the boyf's many many hours of toil) my favourite part of the new year, resolutions, take on more importance. So here they are: 1. Be less wasteful 2. Buy second hand or swap where possible 3. Be more organised (I make this every year it NEVER happens- but this year, there's stationary!) I have got off to a pretty good start. The skater boy and I vowed to deck the house out second hand and the kitchen is coming along better than I could have hoped. We bought this unit and another like it from a charity shop for under £200 for both. These will form the basis of our kitchen units and we're reclaiming stuff from skips and my parents kitchen renovation to do the rest. The de-clutter resulted in 3 bin bags for the charity shop and a bag for ebay. The money from flogging the more valuable stuff will go into the allotment fund. Whilst selling on ebay it seemed rude not to peruse the goods on offer and I have nabbed myself 2 brand new dresses for work for under a tenner for bot- one woman's unwanted Chrimbo pressie is another woman's back to work wardrobe! During the clear out I found a tonne of unopened make-up and in the spirit of New Year I offered them for swaps on a beauty forum I am addicted to. So, one unopened dusty foundation bottle has got me 2 stunning vintage necklaces. I am feeling inspired and hopeful for the new year- I just need to start the diet...maybe I'll wait till back to work times next week....hmmmm What are your resolutions?

Sunday 18 November 2012

After years of saving, months of hunting, days of stress and countless sleepless nights, we finally have our very own little bit of green. Our tiny cottage is in the middle of National Trust woodland with streams and ponds and fields and hills and comes with a massive overgrown jungle of a garden. The house has been lived in but unloved by the same couple for the last 30 years and the neighbours have confirmed that they never took so much as a tin of paint inside. Needless to say the house needs a bit of TLC. The grey muddy living room carpet, the brown wallpaper, the dingy, grimy kitchen and the asbestos kitchen floor all need a lot of attention- as does the 14 foot crack which runs the height of the house... (no nails?) The problems are these: our combined salaries (teacher and skateboard shop dude) do not amount to much we want to live our lives with as little impact on the environment as we can The Solution: Our little bit of green is going to be furnished with entirely second hand/ vintage/ antique furniture (including the kitchen which the boyf is building with a selection of old chest of drawers- more on that later) We are going to do all the work ourselves (mainly the boyf- being a skateboard dude totally doesn't take up as much time as inspiring young minds and indoctrinating teenagers towards feminism and away from David Cameron...and marking) We are going to make all our selections based on choosing the products with the lowest environmental impact within our budget (obviously on our budget farrow and ball throughout might put back the fixing of the crack by a few years) We are going to grow as much of our own food as we can (this part of the plan wont come into effect until we have attacked the garden in the spring) We are going to heat our house with a wood burner and try as hard as we can to resist putting the heating on (blankets and an open fire- terribly romantic..right?) Easy right? I'll keep you up to date!

Thursday 26 July 2012

So, the sun has come out? After three month of solid rain and misery I come to you live from my garden where the temperature is currently 32 degrees. I know gardens up and down the land are in disarray. I have practically given up on the allotment. Every seed I plant is washed away, the slugs have eaten everything that made it out of the rain soaked ground and the only thing thriving is thistles. If you could eat thistles I would be completely self sufficient right now. The only things that have given us anything are the rhubarb and the raspberries. Now everything is dying of thirst. I am not talking to the allotment. I have retreated inside. I have never been one for houseplants, not when I've been lucky enough to have a big garden and an allotment- who needs indoor plants? Well three months stuck inside has led me to a new addiction. Every windowsill, shelf or cranny I could claim has now been crammed with plants. I have even bought school plants home for the summer holidays. I have had more success growing and even propagating indoor plants than I have with the veg this summer. These are just some of my growing collection... This is a flaming katie which I reckon is one of the best indoor plants. It's a cactus but as far as I can see it flowers constantly- its awesome! I have revived a few plants from my mother, the notorious plant killer. I repotted, fed and loved this fella but I have no idea what is it! It's doing incredibly well in a pot on a sunny windowsill but I would like to know what it is....any ideas? I also have this little fella, which I revived from another crusty pot...any ideas? The flowers are great! If you've always been an outside gardener, I urge you to have a go at indoor gardening, if only for the fun of collecting pretty pots. One statistic that shocked me is that the air in our houses is often worse than the air in our towns. Plants = oxygen! Look at this guy- I can taste the fresh air!

Sunday 20 May 2012

At last the rain has stopped. That was scary for a while eh? For nearly 4 weeks I woke up fearing I would see the chickens floating past my bedroom window. The rain has had an impact on my seed sowing. It's been too wet and I have been too miserable to sow much. In the short bursts of dry we have had I have done something I rarely do and bought plants- actual proper little plants, not seeds. I have stocked the allotment (for the time being)and nearly nothing I have planted has been mine from seed. The exceptions to this are flowers,I have grown my favourite flowers, sweet peas, from the seeds of the beauties I had last year and some extra packets I bought online during the dingy winter months. I have also had a go as some cosmos and asters and some lupins, we'll see how they go. On the home front things are looking promising. During a particularly miserable Sunday afternoon I commandeered the conservatory (much to my mothers pleasure) and bought a selection of tomatoes to grow in it.I have never seen tomatoes grow so fast or so strong. They are doing marvelously in there. However, now they are nearly finished growing up, and starting to grow fruit they looked a little sad. I resisted the urge to chuck some shop bought fertiliser on them and went nettle picking instead. The neighbours already think I'm mad so me fumbling through nettle patches on a Sunday afternoon is nothing new. Having retrieved a bag full of lovely nettles I chopped them up a la Jamie Oliver and a bunch of basil and have left them to steep in a bucket full of water. Hopefully they'll start to rot and once it warms up a bit the toms can go outside and enjoy the stinky fertiliser and all its goodness. The cut and come again salad is good eating already, I keep promising myself to grow more as it really is one of the most cost effective things to grow. I have also been on a bit of a cutting rampage recently. It started at school where I had my eye on a rogue lemon balm plant for a while- last week the caretakers strimmed it so I had to think fast and dug up some root cuttings (they were transported home in my lunch box- much to my student's amusement!)I've also managed to nab a cutting from a friend's beautiful peppermint. Can't wait for them to grow! Now I have had too much gardening fun- it's time to get back to this pile of marking I've been neglecting... do you think I could buy a little more time with the promise of a nice mint tea?

Saturday 03 March 2012

As my alarm goes off at 6am and I stumble through piles of unmarked exercise books and books I should be reading for the essays I should be writing, I am heartened to see that the sun is starting to rise. And as I make my journey home from school, eyes held open by match sticks, lesson plans swirling through my head I am relieved to know that there is still time to walk the dog and see the chickens before it's too dark. Spring is nearly here.

As I get used to this timetable of teaching and learning and planning and evaluating, I am determined to keep up the hard work of last year in terms of my growing. My visits to the allotment have been few and far between this winter but to keep up my spirits and remind me why it's worth it I planted some Sweet Pea seeds in February. They are now lovely strong little plants which need a sunny day to be potted on and even more sunny days to have beds prepared for them. But we will get there.

Is there anything more restorative after a miserable, dark winter than to see your favourite plant emerging and realising that soon, there will be flowers again. Flowers and fresh food. Roll on spring!

Wednesday 23 November 2011

It's been too long, far far too long. Who knew that teaching would take so much time! It's going well but with so much work to do my hobbies are suffering.

Now its dark when I get up and when I get home, I barely see the gorgeous Maude and Mildred during the week. I have taken to waking them up for a cuddle by torchlight but I don't think they appreciate it. I make it up to them at the weekends with plenty of time free ranging about and lots of snacks. Now the leaves are falling, they are in scratching heaven and a bucket load of leave in the run every few days keeps them occupied! Luckily the weather hasn't got too cold for them yet. Don't tell anyone but I've pinched a big box from the boyfs shop to let them sleep in by the fire when the winter really kicks in. Slightly better option that the mother's original idea to astroturf the spare room...questionable.

The allotment is being wound down for the winter. I've managed to find a spare couple of hours here and there to get things done. The compost heaps are heaving, the leaf mould bin beginning all over again. Things are looking tidy. I know it's wonderful when you have a mess of fecundity in the summer but I do like it bare neatness of it in winter a little bit.

The boyf and are making use of his shops waste cardboard (not only in chicken beds) by lasagne layering the newly cleared bed. Laying up peafmould, carboard, compost etc until the beds are heaving and then leave to rot down over the winter. The idea is that by planting starts in spring things are rotted and ready to go! We shall see!

It's nearly time to start thinking about next year's growing. The seed catalogues are out, I have already spent a small fortune on seeds in the end of season garden centre sales! I am going a bit mad for flowers next spring, I sense I will need pretty cut flowers and things to keep myself sane during the long spring/summer term and the job hunting phase. Also, I am looking for some unusual but easy to grow fruit or veg. I don't have a green house but with the success of the mystery goldenberry/ tomatillo-y plants this summer I am still keen to experiment. Any tips!?

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Last week I started my PGCE, thats post grad certificate in Education for those wondering. This basically means that someone somewhere decided I am allowed to teach children English. This is most exciting. But a lot of work. With all the PGCE work I have been undertaking I have unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) been a little slow on the shopping front. But today in a brief break from essay-ing I hit the highstreet, well the charity shops. The town I live in is in middle class suburban Surrey and you would not believe the stuff that people give to charity shops- it definitely beats the days I spent trawling in Leeds believe me. With a positive mental attitude and an open mind I quickly slipped back into my former charity shop shopping ways.

I came away with a gorgeous brand new polka dot dress (for when I’m a teacher dontcha know) for a mere £6 (as much as I would normally spend on a sandwich in my lunch break) and a brand new pair of M&S leopard print pumps (I’m a little bit obsessed with leopard print...) for a fiver! Amazing. I will definitely be hitting the charity shops again soon- what a fabulous way to save pennies and reduce the amount I consume! Keep your eyes peeled guys!

I hope you are all well my lovelies- I promise to try my best to keep up to date with you all this year, but stand by I think it's going to be a toughie...the chooks already feel neglected!

Thursday 08 September 2011

What with starting uni (again) next week and signing over my life and mental health to the teaching profession- I have decided that now is the time to get all my fruit and veggies in storing mode. I am yet to master the art of chutney ( I think I just don’t really like it and I still have jars of the bloody stuff from last years’ marrows going ignored at the back of the cupboards) , jam I am very good at (if you ignore the ill fated rose petal jam which ended up going mouldy and was rejected by most of the family at first sniff). I’ve had a go at drying, I have loaded the cupboards with little jars of herbs from the garden which look very pretty but again will probably be ignored in favour of ketchup (don’t blame me!). Freezing is where I really shine. I have commandeered a drawer in my mother’s precious freezer and explained how the new system will work, she seems ok with this now but my beautiful courgette patties will probably be moved out in favour of oven chips by my brother some time soon. I’ve filled the drawer up with raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, peas, courgettes, a tonne of marrows and whatever else has come back from the lottie to be received with groans of “oh god not again”. My family may not share my enthusiasm but when I’m eating lovely organic veg right into the winter they’ll be singing a different tune I’m sure!

I was lucky enough to come across some gorgeous crabapple trees outside The Boyfs mum’s flat (apparently 1960’s council blocks were always planted with fruit tress- result!) Anyway, as I tend to do I got a bit over excited and ended up dragging a few massive carrier bags full of the little fellas home with me- never having tried them before. The helpful Boyf bought home a huge bag of cooking apples from one of his gardening clients as well so the house is a little over run. I have made (and frozen, naturally) the standard apple pie/ crumble filling to be used at a later date. The little crabapples are actually quite sweet so I’m pretty happy with the result- their pink skin turns the whole mix a lovely girly colour too- I am definitely looking forward to a pink pie to cheer my autumn evenings! Do any of you have any recipes that could use up my glut? I mainly like puddings...

I also thought you might like to see my little kitchen helper. Maude and Mildred my chicken children have taken to coming into the the house to demand food and attention now rather than just screeching in the garden. In truely unhygenic and nosey moment, Maude has discovered this is the best place to scrounge....

My mother would be horrified to know this is going on in the house, let being posted on the internet! Obviously I do not cook when she is on the oven mum, it would be VERY unhygenic and well...a bit dangerous for little Maude.

Thursday 01 September 2011

So, making the most of the long weekend, The Boyf and I headed to Kew Gardens for the Start@Kew exhibition, encouraging sustainable and green living. It was a great day out, the sun was shining as we sat in deck chairs on the lawn and watched sustainable fashion shows, a musical about bees and talks from some of London’s leading eco lights.

One of the most interesting talks of the day was from a group of people who run an amazing network called Project Dirt which is a community of smaller groups who work together to make London a little bit more green. This brilliant scheme includes an amazing project called Food From the Sky, a community vegetable plot on top of supermarket Budgens in Crouch End. These guys not only grow their own fruit and veg but sell it in the supermarket. I’m hoping to get down there soon and have a proper look around so keep your eyes peeled.

We staggered home with more reusable bags than we could carry, samples of green washing up liquid and fabric softener and a head full of ideas. On the way home The Boyf and I established our own Guerrilla Gardening group, we later gained an extra member in the form of my Old’s a small group but we’re working on it!

Our first hit was a verge outside our house. This is Resident’s Association territory- living in a private road is like living next door to the Gestapo...(verges to be trimmed, gutters to be cleaned and swept, cars to be cleaned- you get the picture!) anyway we started by using some of the tonnes of seeds we’ve been collecting over the last few weeks, everything from blousy hollyhocks to dainty poppies in every colour from black to pastel yellow. I also threw a couple of butterfly wildflower seed mixes in there for good measure. My initial plan to also plant a few veggies in there (I’m always over run with courgette plants, those buggers are just desperate to grow) and turn the verge into an edible snack spot for the kids walking to school (and REALLY annoy the residents association) was shot down by the rest of my group (Old Pa and The Boyf) but I haven’t given up on it yet! I am now on the scrounge for spring bulbs and new places to plant. My horizons are broadening beyond my front verge!

Come of the Hollyhocks seeds...

Our first spot...

Thursday 25 August 2011

If like me you are a blog whore and are always looking for more to read can I recommend a new blog to you...

I found Jo through twitter and he chicken chat never fails to make me giggle. She is a big fan of chooks especially ex batts and I know a lot of you are too. She has a lot of interesting things to say and lots of sweet chicken photos for those like me who love to oggle a hen. And don't miss out on Chicken Cuddling Wednesday!

She's at

Wednesday 24 August 2011

I never thought I would be so proud to share this with an online community.

On August the 5th I turned 23. This is old. I know. I feel the presents I got just about sum up my life- a pair of vintage diamond earings from The (lovely) Boyf and a compost wormery, the can-o-worms. glam.

As this was also the day I was unchained from my desk and allowed to go on holiday, I got an "IOU" for the actual worms from Wiggly Wigglers.

Naturally, I sent off for the worms as soon as I got back from holiday and the little loves will be winging their way to me soon. Of course, as soon as I get them settled in I will post and show you all my gorgeous new pets! Anyone got any tips for a novice?

Monday 22 August 2011

Last night, after two weeks away I decided to brave the allotment. Whilst we were in France The Boyf's mum had been looking after the plot, watering and harvesting so we knew nothing would be dead...quite the opposite in fact. Everything from the broccoli to the chard has gone to seed.

Now, I feel the normal reaction to this would be disappointment but the hippy in me was pretty pleased. Who knew broccoli turned into such beautiful flowers? It almost seems a shame to eat it. The bees were absolutely mad for it and that makes me just as happy as having a plate of steamed broccoli...well almost.

Interestingly, for those who are inclined to neglect their veggies, chicory also transforms from a horrible hairy bitter vegetable into a lovely flower...although I won’t be wasting space with them again as they’re yicky.

My chard, another vegetable I have been particularly uninterested in this year has grown to absolute mammoth proportions, at least 6 foot. Do you think I could enter it into the tallest sun flower competition?

I also found this beauty growing up my runner beans...I think it could be a beetroot or a radish gone wild...pretty though eh?

My wildflower section, which is my favorite part of the plot was absolutely blooming when we got back. Full of bees and bugs and lovely things. I cut lots of little bunches of flowers to take home and fill the house. And the sweet peas are still going!

I have decided next year to focus more on fruits at the allotment as I think it’s the most value for money and I get the most pleasure from them, jams, pies, compote....yum yum yum. Alongside the usual raspberries and strawberries I have also been growing goldenberries, which taste like a cross between a tomato and a pineapple apparently- they’re the things you sometimes get on the side of your pudding in restaurants, in the Chinese lantern like leaves. Mine have been falling off the plant too early which is no good, but at least the chickens are enjoying them. I have collected and frozen a few but I’m not really sure what to do with them! I have also picked up a goji berry for a couple of pounds in a garden centre sale, I don’t know if it will grow but we’ll see. Does anyone have any recommendations for interesting fruits which are fun to grow and productive?

Sunday 21 August 2011

Never fear dear readers, I am back. I nearly stayed in Provence but I was dragged cruelly from my pool side lounger when the wine was dried up, the cheese finished and all the fruit and veg eaten.

Eating has been the theme of my fortnight- it’s so easy to eat constantly when all the food is so absolutely beautiful. Even the most simple dish of pasta becomes a gastronomic delight when you add freshly made sauce, herbs straight from the garden, locally produced cheese and a carafe or two of wine from the vineyard down the road. I was in food heaven.

One particularly beautiful restaurant, where we sat nestled amongst lavender flowers and surrounded by butterflies and hummingbird moths and later bats sticks in my mind as some of the most beautiful food I have ever eaten. Most small French restaurants don’t do so well with the old vegetarian option, the veggie main option on a very limited menu, explained at great length by the owner was- “tomato”- I wasn’t expecting great things. How wrong I was. The starter of summer salad was bejewelled with stunning edible flowers, miniature mushrooms and interesting leaves. Even The Boyf, the ultimate salad dodger was impressed. The “tomato” main blew me away as I was presented with a platter of more types of tomato than I could count, in every colour from black to green to yellow, interlaced with a mixture of fresh and smoked mozzarella. I ate so much I had to be carried back to the house.

The town we stayed in had some stunning markets -it was easy to see where the restaurant got their produce from. Tuesday morning is the big one, the whole of the town is taken over by stall after stall of homemade bread and crafts and home grown fruit and veg. For next to no money you could fill bags full and spend the next few days eating nothing but fruit, veg, bread and cheese. Returning to the tomatoes, I was completely baffled. How can one farm produce so many different types of tomato every week when Sainsbos and Waitrose can only deliver watery red tomatoes whose variety extends to small , medium, large? I think we’re being diddled! (I am, needless to say, already drawing up plans for a greenhouse where I can gow my own!)

There was also a small, more local market on a Saturday morning. Here old farmers from the small holdings and farms around the town bought their weekly wares to sell. There was everything from cut flowers to olive tree saplings- including one very elderly man selling tiny little bunches of Parsley and nothing else. They won’t let you buy anything until you have had a taste so you come away feeling as if you’d eaten dinner. It was absolutely stunning.

I am still in my sunny foody day dream, despite arriving at St Pancras international in the rain last night and being plunged right back into the madness that is London on a Saturday night. To go to work tomorrow seems like a complete travesty! Tomorrow it is back to reality, the post holiday diet must begin and I must venture to the allotment. But for now, I lie back, eat a tomato and dream of Provence.

Tuesday 02 August 2011

This weekend the sun has been shining and I had four long sunny days off work...bliss. So I decided to get my creative hat on. The last time I dusted down my creative hat the experience ended in a paddy that the ingredients I wanted for my gruyere and asparagus quiche had not magically found their way into the fridge. I was left holding four eggs and a smashed up quiche tin. Bad times.

Taking it easy I decided to go for one of my famous “allotment” prefixed recipes...allotment soup, allotment jam, essentially anything I can get my hands on mixed together. Now I have a new one to add to my list, Allotment Coleslaw. An assortment of raw allotment veg covered in mayo. No quiche tin involved. Despite almost losing a finger tip in the onion cutting process- this came out lovely. A massive bowl of Coleslaw for lunch and dinner yum. I used one of my amazing red cabbages (which have really taken me by surprise this summer), a red onion, some of my lovely little French market carrot (a little tricky to grate- I really am surprised I came away with 10 fingers after this...) and one of my many many courgettes.

During a particularly productive internet recipe porn session I came across and recipe for Rose Petal Jam. The whimsical, Enid Blyton sounding name of it was enough for me to head out with my secateurs, determined to serve it with lashing and lashings of cream and ginger beer.

I think the essential recipe is to match whatever you have in rose petals with sugar and a squeeze of lemon. I kind of blagged it. But a word of warning- 5oz of rose petals is a lot of roses! I ended up going feral and collecting wherever I went- it took me about 3 days to get enough petals. You have to cut off the white bit at the bottom of the petals and then boil the rest with sugar. I did read somewhere that you should only use white, red or pink petals. I haven’t yet got a nice photo of the jam. I think that says quite a lot- it’s not very pretty. The texture is a little strange because I used fairly big petals, next time I think I’ll cut them up and mix with some fruit. It didn’t taste that bad though- just not as good as my lovely raspberry lovely.

With a slightly different creative hat on, The Boyf and I travelled up to Oxfordshire on Sunday morning to build a Princess Fort. Oh yes indeedy. I say we, obviously I was supervising from the sidelines whilst The Boyf and my cousin my lovely baba cousins Tabitha and Scarlett their castle, complete with slide. What talents that boy has!

Tonight I am going blackberry picking- I can’t stand the thought of going on holiday and leaving all that lovely fruit lying around to go off by the time I get back. I will pick as much as I can, with the help of the long suffering Boyf and his massive blackberry picking boots and stick (flip flops will not cut it on this mission!) and freeze them, ready to make jam and compot when I get back from France.

I hope you’re all out enjoying the sunshine!

Wednesday 20 July 2011

I feel as though I have let the side down a bit in the fashion stakes. During lent, I managed to avoid buying anything that didn’t have top notch ethical and/or green credentials...this basically meant that I managed to avoid buying anything. This was fine then, I was still in the new chicken love haze and happy to mong about the house in dirty dungarees and old pyjamas covered in feathers and mud. Eco living was easy...

Since then, my ethical conscious has been ignored by the greater need to buy clothes that will allow me to pass for a teacher come September. Admittedly I haven’t tried that hard. A quick wiz round a charity shop here, a browse of People Tree there...ultimately I have ended up relying on and Zara for their wonderful, cheap, fashionable work clothes. At what cost? I feel bad, but the stress and panic of starting out in a new career and wanting to look professional and maintain my fashion credentials have momentarily outweighed my desire to buy green.

I have come to my senses. I vow to start again. Sales do not count as eco shopping. I must buy better. I am going to start doing a bit of research for good value, fashion led brands which have the same focus on people and the environment as I do. I also intend to find some high end charity shops and finally get my head around E-bay.

I will, of course let you know how my hunt goes and what I end up with...if, that is, I can stop myself posting pictures of the chickens...

Tuesday 19 July 2011

I guess we shouldn't have complained when there was no rain back in May or whenever those glorious sunny days were... As soon as the words "hose pipe ban" or "drought" get banded about you can almost guarantee the entire summer will be a wash out. And here I am, in July, with my raincoat and wellies at the ready. Forget your new summer shade chickens...

Last Friday, on my lovely, well earned (I might add!) day off- the sun came out!I dust down the sun cream and hit the garden. I was not the only one enjoying the brief warm spell... lovely Mildred was also out enjoying the sun. If you have never watched a chicken sunbathing you are missing out- Mildred is a pretty dedicated sun worshipper. She walks around the garden with her wings out, finding the spot with the perfect sunshine to shade ratio before collapsing onto the grass where she lies cooing. Not even the dog can move her on!

Even lovely Maude, who normally dives straight under the hedge and sets up camp, was out in the sun. She likes plonk herself right on top of my wonderful chamomile- She even picks the flowers and places them carefully on her back. She is such a hippy chicken!

Apart from the glorious fortnight in Provence that awaits me at the start of next month, (11 days of sitting at my desk away...) I am pretty much writing this summer off. I am turning my attention to Autumn/ Winter before it's too late. I may not be ready to buy my annual winter coat and boots but I am ready to buy veggies.

I normally lose interest in planting vegetables at this time of year, as I'm too busy trying to eat what I've grown, so once again lovely readers I turn to you for advice. What should I be planting right now? This weekend? That will bring me a full tummy and a bit of sunshine through Autumn and most importantly winter...

Brussels Sprouts are a given, they are my favourite...but what else? What works for you lovely lot?

Thursday 14 July 2011

Hello lovelies-

I have a problem that would love you to help me with...

Maude the Chicken is laying soft eggs. I don't mind her not being productive, she is after all, my pet and I love her whether she's laying me delicious breakfasts or not (obviously I would prefer the egg ended up in my tum rather than the run floor though!)but I just want to be sure it's not something that I am doing wrong. I don’t mind her being useless if she’s just going to be one of those awkward types but she looks like she’s in so much pain when she’s laying a softie...

So here are the clues-

She laid one wonky egg a couple of weeks back, since Sunday she’s been laying eggs with paper thin shells which obviously don’t hold up and the eggs end up being eaten to smushed about. She laid a hard shelled egg last night, in the run, but it was really rough and the colours were very patchy.

Mildred is laying fine, she doesn't like doing it as it interferes with her "pretending to be a human" activities and reminds her of her poultry status, but she's laying good eggs.

We recently moved the run from grass to bark chippings.

I changed their brand of layers pellets a few weeks ago, they haven’t noticed.

My dad has started feeding them bits of bread in an effort to train them to sit on his shoulders, I suspect this is a reaction to his narrowly missing catching an escaped parrot to keep as a pet a few years ago.

She is now laying softies in the evening, out in the run. This is not like her. She loves hanging out in the nest box. She has always been a bit of a funny one for this, when we let them free range she immediately makes herself a little nest under the hedge and stays there cooing.

I know lots of my lovely followers are chook mad too so if you have any ideas as to what’s up with my little Maudey and how I can help her I’d be dead dead chuffed and send Maude round in person to thank you with one of her special cuddles.

Monday 11 July 2011

It feels like I'm always starting these posts with an apology- but I am, once again, sorry for taking so long to post. Work is taking up more and more of my life and I'm dreading going back to university again next year- no weekends! agh!

Anyway- an update from my weekend:

New Chook House:

Maude and Mildred's rampage of the lawn is over. We can no longer sustain their destructive digging tendencies by moving the eglu every day so we have built them a permanent patch. Normally, this would be a precision engineered, long time planned and expertly carried out Boyf job- not this time. The dad and I took a little trip to Wickes and built the whole thing ourselves- we're feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. The chickens weren't too impressed at first but seem to have settled down now. I'm so impressed with my handiwork, if that Ground Force was still about, I'd no doubt be employed to take over from Tommy Walsh...

We're a little worried about Maude chicken who has generally been looking a little down in the dumps and is laying soft eggs. I'm starting her on a regime of calcium supplements and cuddles so hopefully she will improve- watch this space!

I spent a bit of time at the allotment and came home with the usual bounty. We're pretty over run with chard, but I have no idea what to do with it- any tips? I bought a griddle so I can cook and store some courgettes in oil according to a recipe I found ages ago- again any tips welcome here!

I can't get over how many sweet peas we're bringing home! Once a week I totally strip the bushes and I come home with pots full and then a week later the bushes are full again. They really are the most wonderful flowers- I'm going to try and grown perennial ones next year as well as saving the seeds from these fellas.

I've also been taking cuttings from next doors hydrangea- with permission of course. I absolutely love these plants and the cutting a took a couple of years back is growing well in the garden.

Of course, alongside all this hard work and harvesting there was a bit of time for some rest and relaxation. Although not for my old dad...
...every time he sits down, his little friends appear waiting impatiently for snacks!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend too! Monday comes too soon eh?

Friday 01 July 2011

Last night whilst out walking Alf the dog with the Boyf we came across a hedgerow full of raspberries. This particular spot is always overflowing with blackberries in late summer but I've never seen raspberries growing wild like this before. The hedgerow lines an allotment site so I assume that the bushes have escaped from someone’s fruit cage and grown like mad!

The school children had got there before us and munched their way through the easy to reach berries- no worries, I sent the boyf and the dog deep into the nettles in search of bounty.

We came away with a fair few, topped up with some of the strawberries from the garden we had enough for a jar of yummy jam!

I’m very pleased with my free hedgerow bounty! It was yummy on my toast this morning!

Omlet Cartoon