Sunday 20 January 2013

Good evening everyone!

Back again after a blog break.  To be fair, after the last entry which was far too personal, I feared I may lose some of my loyal readers.  Is honestly a good thing?  Hmm, will think about that one as still debating the 'delete' button for that entry.  Seeing as I am the number 2 hit on Google when you type in 'Christian's blog', it can't be all bad.  New year and work, (well a bit of work, don't like to over do it), got in the way of Blogland, then snow (yippee) but am off for a week, so time to write.
(You will be pleased to hear that the results came back negative, so Thank you for that valuable life experience Doctor!  Something I do not wish to repeat).

One of the last things I made before Christmas festivities hit, was a double batch of pistachio fudge.  A friend ordered 5 bags, so I got my trusty Nigella book out and made a mountain of the stuff.  2 hours later and waking up dribbling on the kitchen floor from a sugar induced coma, it was bagged up ready for collection.



The big news (well to me anyway; not much happens in my village) is my new bathroom windows.  I still hate the bathroom, with it's corner bath, bidet (I mean really, why?) and awful tiles, but the wooden aqua-marine-blue wooden windows are now gone.  Replaced with UPVC (as it is the new part of the house) and they have made a huge difference to the temperature of my bathroom.  Water no longer turns to ice on my nipples as I step out of the shower - see, done it again!  Personal stuff!!


Milo has now chosen to sleep downstairs at night.  Not sure if my snoring keeps him up, but, surprisingly, I am missing his mini barks and whimpers when he dreams.  Every so often he will come upstairs when I go to bed, which then involves me coming down again to get his big basket.  He has a bed at the top of the stairs, but that is for 'power naps', not proper sleep apparently.  (He didn't tell me that, I am just surmising)!
He does like to wake me up every morning.  Now, if you have never been woken by a terrier tongue licking your armpit, you aren't missing much.  However, that is preferable to opening your eyes and having a furry face millimetres from your face.  Just staring.  I have actually screamed on several occasions.  
He was at Mum and Dad's for a week as I had a busy roster and I missed the daily walks, as did my body.  After a week of driving to the airport every day, living on crappy food and no exercise, plus the stress of my annual check, my work waistcoat was noticeably, erm, more snug.  

There is no improvement to his recall. I wouldn't say it is worse, but no better. I know he will come back, but it is becoming a game of 'where's Milo'? This is the wood where I like to walk him.  Can you spot him in the distance?  No?  Me either.  That is because when I finished taking pictures, he was sat behind me. He is like a stealth canine.  
When the snow hit on Friday, I couldn't wait to get out and walk him.  I took a Thermos of tea with me just in case I twisted my ankle and had to wait for help.  Sad, but you never know, it is quite remote where I walk him and my organisation and planning skills do well when the country heads for meltdown mode.  Not quite sure how my Elmo flask would have helped, but the thought was there. 
This picture was taken in the same place as the one above.  It was so magical walking around the woods. I almost expected to bump into Mr Tumnus...




We walked for nearly 2 hours and then decided to head back.  For some reason I came home a different way, then realised the road was flooded.  It was a small stream that had burst it's banks and was flowing quite quickly across the road.  It was a this point I discovered a hole in my welly. 
And a hydrophobic dog.  
Cue me, wading through the stream, holding a wiggling mutt with a welly rapidly filling with ice cold water.  Then another mile and a half walk home.  


Once home a quick towel dry and he was happy again.  I lit the fire and thawed my frozen foot out.  Milo got a marrow bone (with a tea towel to save the rug) and was very content.  I love this picture of him.  
 

The hens aren't too chuffed with the snow.  I did put up extra shades to try and stop the snow getting in the run, which seemed to work out well.  The snow was around 6-7" deep when it finally stopped, (I used a tape measure, so no comments about men please) so the roof of the run was completely covered and dark.  They didn't come out of the coop until 10 on Friday morning!  Still no eggs, but moulting is over and they seem ok.  The run needs a thorough-backbreaking clean out this week and then the countdown for eggs in February I hope! 
I bought an electric cigarette a few weeks ago.  Seems pretty good and was helping me cut down, until I threw it out of the window on the M3.  Yes, I actually did that, much to the hilarity of my Facebook friends.  Have since ordered a new one online and loving it!
I planned for an early night tonight, but the lure of a good film, fire roaring, freezing cold bedroom and a box of dark chocolate Lindor has kept me up.  I'm a sucker for Lindor.  In fairness, any cocoa based confectionary will do.  *Ignore previous comment about waistcoat* 
Time for bed, but will leave you with a picture of Furface with one of his favourite treats, a carrot.  He has now developed OCD and will head straight for the tea towel on the rug. I've trained him well....


C x x x 

Since the arrival of our fruit and veg box every week, we have had to be super organised to make …

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Saturday 19 January 2013

Being based at the bottom of the UK a little inland we don't see snow as often as other parts of the UK. In fact as a child I lived in Kent and we saw snow often ( much To Mr H's amusement- he used to think snow only happened in the north!).
Really - snow!
I think I will stay put today- its much warmer in here! I now have immense admiration for my parents who didn't let snow stop them from getting to work. We lived about 20 odd miles away from school and work and I can't remember a day when we didn't attend school and I know they didn't ever miss work!  We didn't have a four by four and in fact we had a VW Beetle - ( rear engined and we had to weigh the front down with cobble stones in the front boot) I don't think schools were closed on snow days in those days! I know I know those were the days and all that!
 Anyway the point of my ramblings is that we have snow here in Hampshire ahead of Kent who will receive their snow dump tomorrow I believe! So Mum and Dad and elder daughter I hope you are prepared!

 Hope you don't mind but I thought I would post a few photos  of the garden to mark this event!

Even Mr H thought this was arty!



Anyone for dinner?

Dinner for two?
And being indoors I thought I would decant the homemade blackberry gin my Dad made for Christmas- the glass decanter which came from Denmark and was a wedding present many moons ago makes an ideal vessel for a delicious liqueur don't you think?


Hoping you are wrapped up warm and those that like the snow are enjoying it!
 Me- I am so looking forward to reading and catching up on other blogs this weekend!

 Part three- still thinking about whether to replace my chickens or not. So on with the story-

It didn't take me long to miss my chickens and so once more I was on the hunt for hybrids again. We wanted friendly non digging chickens (my pure breeds weren't very keen on being handled despite our best efforts). On researching the different sorts I decided an Amber Star would be a good choice, a Rhode Island cross and we went for a  Sussex Reverse ( no particular reason other than my son took a liking to her!) .we've just arrived
Lots to find
Mabel the Amber star ( creamy white) was delight and very calm and loved attention and company . She was easy to handle and would have come and watched Tv with us if she could!.

Mabel
 Edna, the Reverse Sussex( like a Light Sussex but black with white markings and smaller) was always a little flighty and seemed to be the bad tempered menopausal chicken. She hated being handled. However she was the chicken who told us when an egg was being laid- even if it wasn't herself! She was very noisy and I think she may have thought she was a cockerel at times! She took a distinct dislike to Mr H and would shout at him if he came anywhere with a rake or other garden implement-

Edna
 quite unlike Isla Mai  the Rhode island cross who would have had a ride on the lawnmower if it had been allowed!waiting for treatsIsla Mai  ( red and very much like a Rhode Island Red but again smaller) was a lovely happy chicken who enjoyed human company and allowed us to carry her around.

Salad for lunch
We were very sad when we she went on to chicken heaven and she was then followed by Mabel which left us with Edna. Edna seemed to miss the others- especially as she became more and more  bad tempered. We thought the kindest thing for her was to find a loving home for her with lots of chicken company and so off she went too.Ooooh are we being photographed?We now have an empty coop and run and have had  for some months now- and I have been thinking of what to do- I think the ground where the Eglu was needs a little bit of a rest. We are thinking of building a couple of raised beds to grow some salad stuff and things like mange tout, courgettes spinach for starters.

Whats this white stuff?So what to do with the Eglu? I have thought about selling it- and  probably would get about £200  - I'm not sure if thats an over estimate or not ! But on checking the prices of a new one - I'm feel it would be a shame to sell and then have to start all over again - I know it was a lot for us to have had to find when we first purchased everything and I know we would find  it hard to warrant spending that sort of money at the moment. So thats where we are at- I think we will be keeping everything- I'll just have to squirrel everything away in corners of the garden. 
In the mean time I have started to think about bantams- and even Mr H says he would be amenable- any one have any experience?

 If you would like to see what I have been up to, while inside more during the snowy weather, please pop over to my crafting blog

and have a look :-)

Thank you for reading xxx

While we have snow in the UK, I am guessing that more of you will be looking at blogs as you have a bit more indoor time - so if you are here because of this - please do remember to "follow" me and leave a comment so you can be entered into my 1000 post celebration Givaway.

And if you are not from the UK, please do enter as well - I may not send you something  large and heavy but I will send you something, if you win!

Cw xxx



Day two of the snow and the hens are STILL disgusted by it all and won't come out of their run - which is fine by me as I don't want to have to worry about where they are, out in the snow!



I opened the run door and brave Titch stepped into the strange white stuff - of my seven hens only Nutmeg has ever seen snow before - the others were either still inside the polytunnel when it last snowed here ( Feb 2012) or were still in prison in the cages.


She was followed by Babs and Tiny hen but they only stepped out a few inches then went back inside.


Titch ventured a bit further - about 12 inches out of the run door and then climbed up onto the feeder.



But she decided she, too, did not like this strange, cold, white stuff and so she turned tail and went back inside the cosy hen run.

They have had lots of corn and mealworms and warm mash made of pellets, so I hope they are reasonably content.

We have had lots of hot drinks and apart from outside essential jobs we have been sitting by the woodburner keeping nice and warm :-) and reading and crafting.

Hope you are all ok, wherever you are.

Friday 18 January 2013

As I said in my post yesterday, we decided to go into Ledbury on Thursday to do a few bits of shopping - not urgent, but stuff which we could do with in the next 10 days amd which we might not be able to get if we are snowed in...

But first I wanted to make sure the hens would be comfortble if a lot of snow fell and they could not go out of their run.

I decided to put down a lot more straw in the run - previously I have put down some pallets to keep the girls' feet off the nasty cold ground, but as we have a bit of a rat problem at the moment we have removed all but one pallet - the rats LOVE to use them as hiding places and "lurk" under them   - Yuk!

So straw it was. The hens LOVE straw - they cluck and croon and chirp to each other like they were calling chicks - and squabble like mad over "special" bits of straw. (Not quite sure what makes them special but never mind!)


Bunty hen eyes up the camera and wonders if it tastes good.


 Yarrow hen ( in middle) is still looking a bit sad and low but has improved since last week - she seems to be enjoying life, anyway.


We had a light dusting of snow but nothing to worry about, so later we went to Ledbury in the car and visited various shops and then the Co Op - and what a sight met us! Lots of empty shelves!

No bread at all ( even muffins etc had largely gone) hardly any milk, no veg at all apart from some salads and pinapples and grapes - toilet rolls virtually all gone ( good job I have lots!) and to be honest it looked like people were expecting a month of not being able to get tothe sops rather than a couple of days?

Still - at least they will have lots of food, although apparently lots of people came in very early and bought most of the stuff, leaving lots of later people with nothing...which is not so good I guess.

We didn't need any of the food which was not there ( if you get my meaning) so we just got the things we needed and came away home.

We had our evening meal and settled down by the fire to watch some tv and I did a bit more crochet. I siuspect we will be doing quite a bit of this, along with reading etc, in the coming few days.

Update  Thurs night

It started to snow at 8 pm and has kept on snowing solidly ever since - so I suspect the Met Office were correct and we really ARE going to get a bit of snow.

Hopefully you will all be ok, wherever you are. Stay safe and warm!

S xx

Well, they were right! Lots of snow fell on Friday  on us, (well lots for here in the UK, at least)

We are having to keep the bird feeders stocked up - not much else for the poor things to eat at the moment.


Cassi Cat seems unbothered by the snow and came out with me as usual.


Very pretty, very cold.





Looking down into the wood - very Narnia - like.



You can see our roof is well insulated! No snow melt.


Disgusted hens - they refused to come out of the run.


Cassi looking in at the hens

Pretty.


Well today is what you can officially call a 'snow day'. It is far too dangerous to go to work so it's simply a day to bask in the wonders of winter.

It started snowing yesterday at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and it has not stopped since.

So having phoned work and decided to have a walk to see the extent of the blizzards. Instead of waffling on I'll just post the photos and a small sentence here and there.

Ok, so first call was my grandparents house...


The park as we go by..


Coming up to their house for a nice cup of tea..


Off towards the high street now after a nice warm drink..


The very wintery and very beautiful St.Nicholas church.


Perfect postcard scene...


Fields on the way up to the allotment. Very white..


The allotment site..


A nice amount of untouched snow on the way up...


Believe it or not this is our allotment. it looks like the brassica nets have collapsed under the weight of the snow.. sigh!

Time to go home again for another cup of tea..


Thanks for reading as always. Enjoy your very own 'Snow Day'.
Martin

It is absolutely amazing! We’re in the middle of January, all plants are supposed to be sleeping and yet there …

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Wednesday 16 January 2013

Today was the day, much rumour and anticipation circulated on the internet. Last night I was quite excited, but by morning I had forgotten the date and went into work as usual. I realised when I got there, what was 'special' about today and I hadn't remembered to check if...

ready for some serious snow (?)

Today we had temperatures below freezing all day - the hen's drinker kept on icing over and I had to keep on refilling it (and the Guinea pig's drinker) with fresh warm water.

Compostman noticed the rats had tunneled back in to the Mega hen Pen - blast it I hoped we had scared them off - they won't take the bait or get themselves killed in the trap and  so far only Tabitha Cat has caught one rat - well done her but I suspect there are many more to catch!

We had a few flakes of snow but nothing like that which is predicted for Friday and the weekend. Even so, I decided to check that we have all that we need if a lot of snow does fall in the next few days.

Wood - well, yes we have lots! We have to go and get it from the store, but as that is the barn where all things are stored and is on theway to the hens, we would be digging a path out to there as a priority, anyway.
We also have fuel for the Generator, if our mains power goes off as well as torches and candles and oil lamps

Animal feed/hay etc. Lots of that, enough to last a few weeks at least. The hens need cleaning out but my back is pretty bad at the moment so they may just get a top up of bedding and if it is very cold it will be ok for a few more days.

People food. Yes, lots - plenty of potatos, onions etc in store and Compostman lifted a couple of parsnips and some leeks so if the ground freezes we will still be ok. I will still be able to pull some kale leaves and there are more Kale and Spinach plants inside the polytunnel. The freezers are well stocked, we have plenty of flour to make bread and lots of tinned goods.

Milk I do need, but I have some long life and some dried in store.
Toilet rolls - lots as there was an offer on in the CO Op last time I went so I got lots!
Medications, first aid etc - plenty of all that as well.
 
I intend to go and do a "top up" shop in Ledbury tomorrow, but if I don't make it it won't be a problem.And if we can't get out for a week or so it won't be a problem, either. And if we have to(in a crisis, say)  if all else fails we have the JCB and could dig our way out.

So - hoping it won't be too bad but prepared if it is.

Stay warm and safe, everyone.

It was quite a surreal experience this morning when taking my brother to work. We were driving through icy white fields and the hedgerows and trees were like something you could only imagine  reading about in a book - it was spectacular.

Anyway, I haven't mentioned it as of yet but we're on a bit of a health kick at the moment which includes sensible eating and more exercise. Well, I've managed the sensible eating bit so far but I hadn't done much excercise, so seeing as I had a day off I thought I'd make the most of the winters weather and take a walk up to the plot. Now, the allotment is about a 10 minute walk from our house but seeing as we always have something heavy to take there or lots of plants etc. it is always likely that we take the car. It was nice to feel the crispness of the air and it really was a pleasant walk taking in the wonderful views over the cow fields as I went by. I took these photos on my iPhone and they really don't do the wonderful sight any justice. I am sure if you have taken a walk in any part of the UK today then you may be able to relate to what I am trying to describe...



Anyway I had come with a bag of compost material so I slung those in to one of the compost bins. Here are a couple of pictures of the plot and the allotment site on this beautiful Winter's day.



As I have previously mentioned the shed is still covered in tarpaulin ready for erection as soon as the weather changes. It is a truly depressing sight whatever the weather...



Pick your own frozen veg. Do you think there could be a market for that?





This short little visit to the plot has made my day. I think I'll promise to try walking more often this year...

Martin

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Allotment rent paid. Who's ready to go again? I  certainly am!

The allotment has been a complete no go area over the last couple of weeks. Christmas, New Year, Flood and Snow have made it completly impossible to do anything. I still have a good area of land to dig over and I want to get the shed back up again as soon as possible.

Driving past a local garden centre on the way home from work yesterday, I spotted a big sign saying 'SEED POTATOES NOW IN STOCK', so there is some optimism now that things will be back to normal soon. I suppose it is not unreasonable to start thinking about sowing tomato and chilli seeds over the next couple of weeks despite the bitterly cold snap of weather we are having, with even more snow expected at the weekend. I am going to get some Broad beans under way over the next week or so too. It will be nice to have some green shoots emerging from the plot again. That is all weather providing though of course. Last year, I remember sowing broad beans in an old grow bag by the side of the house and moving them up to the allotment at a later date but the plants weren't as strong as ones sown direct, so I won't be doing that again this year I don't think.

I am going to get a bit of rough paper and a pen out at some point and have a quick sketch of what is going where for the year ahead. I also want to make my plot a little more secure so I am going to remove the paving slab path which leads from the road track to the patioed area. I think they must be using the path to get at our plot. Seeing as the site has been so muddy due to the wet summer and winter, I recon that giving them dry access has made our plot more targetable. I am also going to move the patio over and plant some gooseberry bushes on the side where it can be accessed via a grass path between mine and my neighbours plot. Hopefully these prickly bushes will deter them, but we'll have to wait and see.

On another note, I also seem to have amassed quite a lot of gardening vouchers over my birthday and then the Christmas period. I was adamant that I was going to buy a 3x2m polytunnel for the allotment before the last bout of vandalism. Now I am too scared to put it up there and I don't have room at home. Seeing as my mini greenhouses were also smashed I really need somewhere to keep plants warm come the end of February when I start sowing winter cabbage and the like. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them yet as such but I am looking forward to spending them when I do.

I've mentioned before that we enjoy regular trips to Disneyland Paris from time to time, and although we are back there in just 27 days time, I have also been planning a couple of more trips away this year. I really want to take Amy down to Jimmy's Farm in Norfolk to see the pigs and also just have a country break. We are really looking in to keeping pigs and are actively searching for a plot of land to buy or rent to do so, I think that is one of my targets for this year. To be a pig keeper. I'm in one of those moods at the moment where I want to do something and I think, why should I let anything or anyone stop me? I'll keep you updated on that anyway...

 Pig at Hatton last summer..
But for now it'll be dreaming of Spring, seedlings and salads. Roll on March, that's when the fun really begins.

Thanks for visiting as always,

Martin

To celebrate my 1000 post milestone yesterday about   I am going to do a givaway!

So, follow me and leave a comment and in a week or so I will put all the names  in a hat and get Compostgirl to select one at random.

I will then send the recipient a small token of my appreciation and thanks, for reading my blog ;-)

Monday 14 January 2013

Ok this is IT, my 1000 th post on this blog ( cue drum roll!)
I could have blogged about compost, or growing veg  or organics or hens, but I decided to blog about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch as it is coming up very soon and is something very dear to me.
As the RSPB say Helping garden wildlife is fun - and it couldn't be easier. Over the weekend of 26-27 January 2013, the RSPB would love you, your friends and family, to get involved in Big Garden Birdwatch - the world's largest wildlife survey!As an activity that started life as something for our youth membership to do in winter, Big Garden Birdwatch has grown into fun for all the family. All you need to do is count the birds in your garden or a local park for one hour then tell us what you see.
If, like us, you love wildlife and want to do something to help, this is your chance to get involved in something that really counts.
We are really lucky here at Compost Mansions, we have a 3 glass sided porch which looks out onto the bird feeders so sitting there for an hour nets a lot of results!

Pleae join in - it is really good fun and is helpful in so many ways. The birds in the UK really need our help in this!

I had to share this with you all. It’s just too sweet for words. The fab-est garden note-book you could ever dream …

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Sunday 13 January 2013

 The Big Apple Wassailing this year was at  Aylton,  to see in the New Year and bless the fruit trees for the coming season. Compostgirl, Compostman and I went on Sat night  -  it was VERY cold indeed. We met up with a friend and her children and then saw lots of other friends there :-) it is a big social occasion around us :-)

We arrived at about 7 pm and had hot mulled cider (us) or hot blackcurrant (the children) - all locally produced -  and there were hot pork rolls on offer from a local farm's pig roast ( again local and free range and really yum)

We then processed with flaming torches to the nearby apple orchard, ledd by our local Morris dancers the  Leominster Morris Side, faces blacked up as is traditional in winter ( to avoid being identified by thier landlords or employers in times gone by!)




 where the bonfires were lit,  libations poured to the tree to ensure a good harvest, songs sung,

 
shotguns fired (!) to scare away evil spirits or bad omens which would blight the apples


 and dances danced to help ensure the harvest is good this year.





We then went back into the Great Barn and watched the traditional Mumming play, about St George and the Dragon - with many amusing and topical extras!
At about 9.30 the mumming finished and we said goodbye and went home to drink hot chocolate before out friends went home.
I have written about our local Wassail here, and about Leominster Morris and wassailling here
As always it was a fabulous thing to be a part of - one of the local things we do which we really love participating in ;-)


Saturday 12 January 2013

I spent yesterday (Fri) doing this training, funded by Herefordshire New Leaf  as part of a project to actively engage Herefordshire residents in their own long-term household and personal energy descent plans.

The training has equipped me, and other people from around the county as h.Energy Savers, to work with small groups of 5 - 6 local people (friends, neighbours, community members) in order to start to address the energy efficiency needs of our households.

 The training was free of charge, and was provided by Hal Gillmore and Mary Popham of Transition Town Totnes. 

The h.Energy Savers training is based  on an adaptation of a proven, award-winning peer-to-peer model developed by Transition Town Totnes where groups of friends and neighbours meet every few weeks,  with a practical workbook to help seed ideas,  to make easy changes in how they use energy, water, food, packaging and transport.  

I help to get things going in my neighbourhood and go to the meetings to give any support needed as the group works through ideas from the workbook  but it is NOT my meeting and the workbook is NOT a text book which has to be followed to the letter but  more of a general guide, full of good ideas.  I like that :-)
As the h.Energy Savers website says
Previous experience suggests that householders working together in this way will save an average of £570 per annum and reduce carbon emissions by 1.3tonnes, whilst learning more about issues such as water use, waste, transport and food.

In addition to this the project hopes to generate up to 250 home energy assessments, carried out by accredited Green Deal Assessors. These homes will then be regarded as 'Green Deal Ready' - i.e. eligible for finance to support their recommended energy efficiency measures once the Green Deal provider network locally is established (work to develop this network is continuing alongside the h.Energy Savers project).
I know this pattern of engagement works as it is how the Master Composter and Master Gardener schemes work and I know they work really well!

I really believe we need to be building more sharing and resilient communities around us all  as the impact of Peak Oil and other issues begin to really hit home. I already try to help with this as a Master Gardener and Master Composter and the other things I try to do and this looks like a good way as well.

I really enjoyed the day of training ( although it was a very long  and tiring day's work!)  I am very excited to be a part of this.

Watch this space!

Omlet Cartoon