Friday 05 April 2013

One of my favourite things to do at Easter is to bake. In fact I do love to bake at any time. It fills a Mother's need to provide, care, nurture, and feed your children- in return the empty plate implies happy  satiated customers- a win win situation in my book! This is my stash of biscuit cutters. I have collected these over many years ( see I have always liked baking!) and even include some of my Mother's old cutters that she didn't want some years ago. There are a decent number of Christmas cutters amongst stash I do have  some Easter type ones too! I particularly love metal cutters ( we do have some plastic ones  which I am not fond of and I am trying to replace these with the metal ones when I find suitable alternatives)
 I haven't made Easter biscuits in a while  but I did some research - ( how I love the internet!) and used this recipe- Easter biscuits - the Mary Berry way. I liked this recipe because it included cinnamon and mixed spice and it was a mix that could be divided into two lots to make iced biscuits and ones with currants in. I didn't have any currants in the house so we made some iced ones and the some plain with caster sugar sprinkled on the top as they came out of the oven.


I had the cat and the rabbit cutters already. The girls and I treated our selves to two new cutters on a trip into Canterbury recently and the chick was one of our purchases! Isn't she cute?
 Half the mixture made quite a lot of biscuits-
 I love seeing them all cut out ready for their turn in the oven!
 The second cutter we bought was this happy dahlia - sun type cutter- It makes me smile and  makes me feel that summer is on its way - ( judging by the recent weather I think we maybe skipping Spring and head straight into the next season!)

 Second batch already to go!
 See - half the mix makes  a good number of biscuits!
 Already for icing:
 There was a little time between baking and icing and some were devoured before they were completed -this is all we have left for now!
 Younger daughter iced these - I just love the butterflies all jostling for the nectar!
 So we choose some pretty plates from my collection- Ones that reminded us of Spring and Easter!

 Daughter also baked and iced some cupcakes yesterday.
 Is your mouth watering yet?

 Already for tea time tonight!

Hoping your week is bringing you lots of lovely Easter treats to eat ...................

Thursday 04 April 2013

Oh how I love this song, and oh how I wish I had seen them live! I'm finding old videos of great songs on Youtube at the moment, so forgive the indulgence! If you like rock, you'll love Phantom Blue, ladies who can really rock. unfortunately, lead guitarist, Michelle Meldrum,...

Finally we have a broadband connection reliable enough for me to post this! It is very frustrating when I keep getting "timed out" part way through the upload.

Since I posted on Good Friday we have had several days of sunshine here - but it has still been bitterly, bitterly cold. The hens are now on egg strike - we have had 3 eggs in four days which is not very good - I am thinking of getting a few point of lay new pullets so we can have a more reliable source of eggs.

Not sure what the old girls will make of new hens - especially if they are not ginger!

Compostman made a new Guinea Pig run this week, as the old one finally fell to bits, but despite the sunshine it is still too cold to put the piggles outside  so they are still snug in their large hutch  but hopefully they can go out to nibble some grass soon.

I have been hoping to plant out the chitted potatoes but have not yet done so because the soil is still too cold - but have covered the beds over with geotextile to warm the soil up a bit and hopefully I will be planting in the next day or so. I have also sown more peppers and tomato seeds for later cropping, as well as the cucumber and melon seeds. I need to pot on the first wave of tomato plants as the porch is full to overflowing!

Compostgirl had friends over today, and they have been running around the garden looking for the chocolate Easter bunnies I hid earlier on this morning. We had much fun at lunchtime as I served up home made soup and cheese and ham toasties - we bought a (cheap) toasted sandwich maker at the weekend and I realised it is 16 years since we last had one! We used to use it a lot but when it finally died we never replaced it - I had forgotten just how much I like toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. The three children really enjoyed them as well so I guess they will be on the menu at Compost Mansions a lot, now.

The fine, dry weather has meant  I have done many loads of washing - since we have dismantled the guest bed room (and bed) to start the renovations I have had to put away in storage all the spare king size sheets and blankets -  this good weather has been a boon as they have been washed, line dried very easily and stored away.

Crafting projects have also taken up a lot of my time this week as well as trips out with the family.

Hope you are all enjoying the Easter break :-)

A large pot that started out with 5 crocuses in, is now completely covered with them. It looked a little …

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Tuesday 02 April 2013

The hens have been looking extremely grumpy. I put it down to all of these cold, icy blasts getting right …

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Monday 01 April 2013

If you regularly use social media websites such as Twitter or Facebook then there is a very good chance that at some point over the last 7 days you would have come across a picture of unknown Lizzie Batchelor's 'Cadbury Creme Egg' Brownies. The recipe has become insanely popular and over 60,000 people have shared or tweeted a picture of her creation.

I do usually spend Sundays in winter/spring watching the football but this week due to the Easter break and also the unbelievable amount of snow still covering the garden and allotment we were left a bit stumped regards how to spend our time. But having seen the results of this creme egg brownie recipe there was only one place we would be this Sunday, in the kitchen (after the football of course)!!


Here are the results and I can say that if you like creme eggs then this recipe is a must, they are mind blowingly delicious!

Alongside the brownies we also made a lemon drizzle cake a chocolate mine egg nest too!! After losing over 2 stone since the turn of the year it was quite nice to have a day off over Easter!! But I'll be back to rations again tomorrow - that is for sure!!


If you hadn't stumbled across the recipe for the creme egg brownies then here it is. You must have a go!!


I can't believe that this time last year we had onions, beans, lettuce, raddish and potatoes on the grow already. So far this year nothing is actually in the ground and we have been restricted to growing a few bits in our. Pop up greenhouse!

Anyway, the cake was good so I am happy!!

Enjoy the rest of your Bank Holiday and thanks for reading!!

Martin


 Happy Easter! Its been a strange one this year. My daughter is still at Uni and isn't back until later in the week. My elder son went out to watch the touring cars with friends. Younger daughter worked in a local cafe which left Mr H, myself and younger son who said he had too much college work to do.
 So we have delayed the traditional Easter Egg Hunt until later in the week when we are all back together again.
 Mr H and I took advantage of escaping to our local National Trust place _ Hinton Ampner
 It was a grey old day though- it had started off with blue skies and plenty of promise!
 the vegetable garden looks ready for the new season!

 The daffodils were trying bravely to bloom!
 I just love the shape of the aged and gnarled espaliered ( I think as opposed to cordonned) fruit trees
 The forsythia is on the verge of flowering - just waiting for a warmer day
 This garden is king of hidden vistas - surprising you at every turn
 Some happier daffodils!

 The topiary was cut and standing to attention!


This little rabbit keeps appearing every where - telling me its time for tea !


It was a shame it was so grey - I took this about 2.15 pm


 Thses were the plant of the week Primula crescendo- very cheery - just a little tooo bright for me. I prefer softer yellows but they did add a lovely splash of colour
 There was a fun easter egg hunt going on with plenty of happy excited children chasing around!

 I just love these gates!



 I think these maybe  Chionodoxa  - aren't they pretty!

 Another vista with an obelisk at the very far end - you can just see if you squint a little!)
 View from the ha-ha away from the house
 View back up to the house from the ha-ha
 I spy another egg!
 and another child hunting an egg!
 and a lovely ginger cat bird hunting!
 I think he has spotted the blackbird ahead!

 The sheep were baa-ing away
 I so love these wire chairs and table _ they would look lovely on my little patio by the back door!
Hope you enjoyed the tour and you had a lovely day - We're celebrating all week - I read on someones blog that Easter wasn't just for one day - and for us it certainly isn't - have a great week !

Saturday 30 March 2013

We still have snow here in Brum, not loads, as today was thankfully really sunny, but enough. I found footprints all over the garden, they are actually quite small, but hey, with a bit of imagination I could've had velociraptors running around out there!! Yup, the chickens have been out...

Friday 29 March 2013

Welcome back to Hen Corner! As featured in Country Living Magazine So it’s Easter weekend and I’ve just received an email from the Nation Bee Unit warning us that due to the cold weather our bees are at risk of starving, we were due to go on an exciting camping holiday with Feather Down Farm [...]


Welcome to my new followers Scarlet and Lana Nichole :-)

The snow has nearly all gone here now - just a line along  the bottom of the hedge boundaries up on Marcle Ridge remains. It is still very cold here, though - it has only just  been up above freezing here all day and out of the ( oh so welcome) sunshine it was very chilly indeed. I did get a load of washing dry on the line, though - this cold dry weather is excellent for line drying.

The hens were moaning like mad at the cold wind ruffling up their feathery knickerbockers. They did not want to come out of the run today and we only had 2 eggs- they really are obviously very displeased with things! They spent most of the afternoon hanging around under the bird feeder, waiting to mug passing chaffinches for niger and sunflower seed. The arival of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker to eat peanuts caused a few rufffled feathers though - and even more so when the Cock Pheasant turned up - he tolerates no nonsense from the Hens and he pecked at Yarrow hen  - after that the hens gave up and all moved away to skulk in the orchard.

At least the sun is shining, :-)

This time last year the daytime temperature was 22 C here - I was in T shirt and shorts, planting my potatoes. This year I hope to get some potatoes in the ground this week end  but I am not holding my breath! I have a load of tomato plants waiting to be pricked out into individual pots and normally they would be in the polytunnel in a cold frame by now. It is too cold to even contemplate doing that at the moment, so the porch is bursting at the seams with plants.

Clocks go forward tomorow night remember! It was still light at 6.30 here today, so I am looking forward to the light holding up until 7.30 pm on Sunday, even if we do lose it at the start of the day ( I am an Owl, not a Lark, so prefer more daylight at the end of the day.)

Hoping you all have a lovely Easter weekend and celebrate in whatever way you wish - I will be eating eggs and welcoming signs of Spring into my home, even if I have to look very hard to find some at the moment :-)

My daughter and I just sooooo love porridge in the morning. Porridge and oats are so good for you. Porridge is rich in fibre which is good for bowel function  ( including soluble fibre which is also good for helping reducing cholesterol levels) and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is also classified as a low glycaemic food which means that it releases sugars slowly  and so keeps you satiated longer.

My new job means that some mornings I am at work ridiculously early and so need to have my breakfast there. I have tried eating before setting off but I end up ravenously hungry all day. I have since realised that sticking to normal eating patterns is the best way forward.

I have tried taking the little sachets of quick cook flavoured porridges ( and my what a selection there is of them, a lot  are very sweet and some taste very artificial) but I started to think that I would be better off making my own mixes and taking them to work.

 I had a quick look to see what there is on the internet and I found quite a lot of interesting posts about precisely this.  Having read this article  How to make perfect porridge from The Guardian I decided to opt for pin head or steel cut Irish oatmeal as it seems to give better flavour and texture.

Once in the supermarket it was quite difficult to see which oats were going to be the ones I wanted as most of the boxes didn't have transparent windows.  In the end I went for The Oatmeal made by Rude Health  which is a mixture of pinhead and medium grade oatmeal. I'm hoping this will give a creamy porridge with some texture.
 Today I thought I would prepare a no cook overnight porridge oats and having looked online, this is what I did:
Ingredients:
1 cup of pinhead/ medium oatmeal
2 cups of milk
A sprinkle of cinnamon
A sprinkle of ginger
A teaspoon of runny honey
Some chopped dates

I placed all the ingredients in my new microwaveable mug which has a handy clip-on ( no spill so far) lid and will leave it  overnight. Hopefully the oatmeal  will absorb some of the liquid and will soften to a slightly chewy texture- I do hope so as it will be my breakfast tomorrow. All I need to do  now is to remember to pick it up in the morning. I will take some extra granola and raisins to sprinkle on top just before serving.

If all else fails and it is still sloppy in the morning I will  probably microwave it for a couple of minutes- to turn it into a hot porridge.

Later this weekend I will have a go at using the oatmeal to make a proper hot porridge and I will let you know how it goes!!

Today would be the usual day to get our potatoes in the ground but the truth is that the ground is still completely unworkable and the weather is so unpredictable. After a week of snow - we thought spring and sunshine were finally on the way yesterday. However to see it start to snow around lunchtime today, it has slightly dampened our spirits.

Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely Easter and are able to get growing soon!!

Martin

Thursday 28 March 2013

Parents night comes round far to quickly for my liking. Having two now at university  does allow us some relief . However we do still have two at home and although they are at college we are called- no-"invited in" to see the tutors when there is " cause for concern".
My Spanish Exercise book circa 1974- in the days when covered books with wallpaper remnants!

We even used real ink!


 We also wasted nothing - this book is full of spanish, and in the spaces : Richard 11 notes, Silas Marner notes and even  genetics for biology !

 I think my fear or dread of this most tortuous of nights dates back far into my past - where comments were often- Miss O ( my maiden name) could do better......... It would help if Miss O concentrated and didn't gaze out of the window............or even if she brought in her homework...........
I positively detested those evenings- I did so hate disappointing my parents.



These days I still hate them but now from the view point from the other side of the fence.  How often I have attended all happy faced and smiley wondering what wonderful things my precious child has done only to hear that history is sort of repeating itself! In fact if a teacher reports something wonderful or is glowing about my child ( and this does happen despite my previous comments) I positively fill up with tears as I become immensely proud. It is an evening of roller coaster emotions.

A  hand drawn map of where we were going to meet on a trip- no sat nav then !
 Does the term "Parents Night " give you nightmares or did you or  have you  had better experiences ?

Also French!

 For my part this is one evening after which a large glass of something cool white and made from fermented grape is called for! and I am off to find my glass and the fridge!

Monday 25 March 2013

I started a new job at the end of February and I am still settling in. It means longer days  at work  and more time at home. Its the early starts that I'm still getting used to - I am slowly getting to trust the alarm clock to wake me up in time to get to work. I am having to be firm with myself not to check the clock every hour!
I have found the last month pretty tiring - not only due to the long days but there is also the initial adrenaline rush and the subsequent  dip in energy. Other members of staff also started at the same time - most of these hadn't worked in this environment before and so there was a lot of learning going on. Needless to say we are all settling in nicely  and with the days getting longer - getting up shouldn't be a problem!


I have also made trips to see the young people in University - one to Coventry and one to Canterbury. Both trips are do able in about 2 hours each way.   I just point my little car in the right direction and off she goes!
We also have had some bad news in the family, my uncle died ( My Dad's  brother)  It was lovely (obviously sad) in that both my sisters and I and my Mum and Dad attended. I hadn't seen my cousins in about 20 odd years and it really hit me that this was an end of an era. It was quite apparent that we were no longer young twenty somethings despite how we may feel like  inside. It was a good do and my Uncle had a good send off. My funereal antenna must have been working on overtime because everything this week on T.V and radio seem to  have alluded to funerals and dying.

On a happier note I did however manage a trip down to the poor old allotment. I say poor - because every time I plan to spend some time there either the weather or another event puts a stop to my trip!. On Thursday - the weather forecast wasn't looking good. I desperately needed to get out in the fresh air and so I took a chance. The raspberries didn't do well last year. They were choked out with couch grass  and very neglected. I managed to clear the whole bed of the grass and just finished in time for lunch and rain!
Started- all that grass has to go!
Getting there! The middle area of the raspberries is looking very depleted and so I think I will try replanting some of the new outer growths there- after I have dug in some good well rotted compost and manure. I am mightily relieved that I have managed to clear the area. Hopefully we will have better rasps this year!
At long last finished
My next task is to sort the strawberry beds - these are also blighted by the encroaching couch grass. I think I will lift the strawberry plants out, remove the grass and the roots, add manure and compost ,  use weed suppressing membrane and replant the strawberry plants through it. Hopefully I will be able to cover this with straw or bark chipping. A job for over the Easter weekend I think.

 Hoping the weather isn't too bad where you are and fingers crossed that this week brings warmer weather.........


When we first moved in to Compost Mansions, 16 years ago, one of the things which made us fall in love with the place was the pond (the other was the wood!)


The view from the Study window as it used to be.

Having a pond or a pondlet ( that's my word for a very very small pond - think a sunken Belfast sink type size) in your garden creates so much scope for enjoyment - attracting wildlife, helping birds drink, bathe and collect mud for nests, the joy of watching the changing plant life as the year progresses -

We used to have so much wildlife here which was only in our garden due to having a body of water for it to hunt over, lay eggs in and live in. We had wild Ducks, Geese, Coots, Moorhens all nesting and feeding, Herons came regularly and we even saw a Kingfisher one summer. Swallows swooped low over the water on hot summer days, catching insects and scooping a drink.


Huge Dragonflies used to hover and zip over our heads, wanting to see who had entered their territory - did you know Dragonflies have their own territory, and hunt in the same places?



See how huge this one is? It came and sat on the kneeler when I was working in the garden.


Every spring we had hoards of Frogs and Toads all over the drive, all looking for a mate  - and making their desires heard VERY loudly - Frogs in particular are very vocal!


I once counted 128 Toads on the drive at the same time!


And of course after the Toads and Frogs had mated would come the tapioca-like blobs of Frog and ribbons of Toad spawn - in this picture we have carefully taken out a bucket of water from the pond so as to show Toadspawn ( and a Toad!) to children at a local school


Water adds a whole new dimension to a garden - here I was mesmerised by the sunset over the pond.

Our pond  is fed by natural drainage from water running off the surrounding fields and welling up from the ground as well as water falling from the sky.  We spent a lot of time, effort and money in the first year we lived here, making sure we could manage the water levels properly and could divert the inflow from over filling the pond by putting in a large bypass pipe and weir system. This made sure that even if it was very wet the pond would not overflow onto ours or our neighbours land.
However our pond was constructed as a large (20 x 40 metres) man made dug out depression in the clay soil with no pond liner and not even puddled or lined with bentonite - so in the very hot summer of 2003 it dried up completely and the bottom clay cracked open. Over the next few years, although it filled up with water in the winter and spring, as the summer progressed the water slowly drained away through the cracks in the bottom. Even in the very wet summer of 2012 it  filled up but rapidly drained away again into the soil. We could not do much about this - we can control too much water from going in but not stop it draining away through the soil. You can't repair cracks in the soil.
This meant there was no longer a reliable water level for Frog and Toad spawn to survive - often the water level would drop in Spring leaving the spawn to dry out and die on the newly exposed mud. Aquatic plants which need to be either in the water or in the mud could not cope with the changing water levels and slowly but surely our Pool began to wither and die.
For the last few years we have no longer seen or heard the Frogs courting, we have a few adult Toads around but they now spawn in the pool up the lane - the sight of a Dragonfly is something we now exclaim over with excitement because it is so unusual and the pond area itself is just a bramble filled weed infested hole in the ground for most of the year. Even the wild flowers which liked to grow beside a body of water have gone - smothered out by the brambles. In order to stop the soil from becoming waterlogged around the Pool area we actually now divert the inflow water down the drainage pipes most of the time.And we have to spend a lot of time and effort in clearing weeds and brambles.

So - we want to do something with the area to bring it back to life.We also would like to be able to look out on a pleasant view again



Part of the reason for buying the JCB was to re generate and bring back the pool meadow to how we remembered it at its best when it was teeming with wildlife and a beautiful place to sit and watch the world go by. 
So the plan is to dig out a smaller pond (10 x 15 meters),at the inflow end where the pond is now, and put in a pond liner , then allow any water left from the old pond into the new one. Putting in a liner will allow the water  to stay at a fairly constant level and we can hopefully soon welcome back all the Frogs, Toads, Dragonflies etc which used to call us home. We will also move as many of the surviving aquatic and pond loving plants as we can.
This pond will be fed by the same means as before (rainfall and a natural water feed)  and it is designed as a nature pond rather than a more formal, ornamental pond so we probably won't need a pond pump  or a pond filter but if we did need either I would not use mains electricity to power them but would use one of the many solar powered versions available. 
We can then start levelling the man made rise at the far end of where the Pond used to be - filling  in and lowering and levelling the ground to create a meadow area next to the new Pond, which we can re seed with native wildflowers to restore what was once there.
We wanted to get on with all this work last year - we bought the JCB and Compostman restored it with this in mind - but we all know what the weather was like in 2012! And it was just too wet to contemplate using the JCB in the area. 

But IF ( big if) we get some drier weather this year we maybe can get on with the earth moving and suchlike. And then we can welcome back the wildlife we have so missed in recent years.

 

If you are thinking about adding a pond (ornamental or more natural)  in your garden a very good guide can be found here, along with all manner of equipment available to do with ponds. You can also get lots of advice about wildlife pond making and planting from the Wildlife Trust  here , from Pond Conservation here,  from the RHS here and The RSPB here.

As part of my review of their site I was paid to add the link to Bradshaws Direct in this post, but had already come across them during my Internet trawling on pond related items. As always here in The Compost Bin my words and opinions are entirely my own :-)


Phew! I am finally back in here! We have had no Internet connection worth speaking about for the last week or so,  so it has all been a bit quiet around The Compost Bin. Thanks to Tony the BT engineer we seem to have at least an occasional connection at the moment - how long it will last I don't know. Snow - do you have some? We do! I am getting very fed up with the lack of Spring - I want to be out in the garden digging and I can't as it is too wet and too cold just yet. Even in the Polytunnel it is really a bit too cold to be sowing the seeds I normally start about this time of year. Oh well, I hope we will all be able to catch up in the next few weeks.  I have a post coming up about ponds and how lovely they are and why it is such a good thing to have one ( even a tiny pondlet) if you can possibly manage it, but for now I will just say a huge "Hello and welcome  to my more recent new followers :-) 
fostermummy Tasmanian Minimalist the Closet Blitz Woman sunnybeachjewelry Fiona Moss Kadeeae Nikki Wall Melanie Walton bunny mummy Seed Sava erickett124 Fi Vickers Frugal in Derbyshire The Squirrel Family Glenn Linda Claxson Karen Astri Jan pattypan.2 sft Thank you all for following me and I hope you find something interesting, entertaining  or thought provoking, here in The Compost Bin.  All comments are very gratefully received as well and I do try to reply to all the comments. ( when I have a connection, that is!) 

Saturday 23 March 2013

I think Mother Nature is having a little laugh at our expense, it isn't funny. It is the week before Easter and we are ankle deep in snow in Birmingham. It has been snowing since Thursday evening, and hasn't stopped yet. Woke to this, this morning Couldn't get down the...

Friday 22 March 2013

Last night I really, really fancied a piece of cake for supper. I haven't any cake in the house at present so whipped up a ginger cake out of the storecupboard bits and bobs. Here it is Here is the recipe: 5oz eggs, 5oz self raising flour, 5oz demerara sugar,...

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Welcome back to Hen Corner! As featured in Country Living Magazine Well it’s still pretty chilly and our bees are too cold to venture out of the hive but Spring is officially here. Today, 20th March, the sun has crossed directly over the earth’s equator giving us the same amount of day and night meaning [...]

Tuesday 19 March 2013

This is brilliant, it was posted on a forum I visit frequently, and I understand is doing the rounds on Facebook, (which I don't do!) It is a blast from the past for those of us who grew up in the 70's and 80's. Click on the link below to...

Omlet Cartoon