Saturday, 28 March 2020

CHANGE, NOW AND IN THE FUTURE - A positive post.

When I look out of my top kitchen window over our little homestead and beyond, where we live, I am eternally grateful for many reasons  However I am even more thankful because, to be honest, just now I can forget about what it going on elsewhere for a little while. 

This doesn't mean I am not considering those wonderful people doing amazing things for us all, but it does my health good just to stop and enjoy what me and mine have now and then. Since my last post, which was just 10 days ago, many things have changed a great deal and we are all dealing with and experiencing a very different way of life. 

The boys have now been off school for 2 weeks, I am coping quite well with their home schooling as the eldest just gets on with stuff but the youngest needs a little more encouragement when it comes to focus. However they have also been making the best of the good weather, as I tell them at any time when we get sun, by going on their bikes but they are careful and keep a VERY good distance because social isolation is not top of everyone's list! Plus they are doing outside chores in between school work like collecting the eggs, feeding the hens and orphan lambs - the three amigos - which we now have in the garden, and they've fixed my wonky main veg bed ready for the growing season. 

Jon is still going to work but practising social distancing which is quite easy when he works in an outside sawmill. Apparently he is classed as a key worker because the company provides important help regarding animal/stock management through timber products. He feels they may close at some point because of the number of deliveries/orders they have coming in and out at times but we will see.

I was very flattered the other day when Tracy of Our Smallholding Adventure suggested I write a post about how I organise my kitchen. (By the way she has a fab new post there; we are two peas in a pod when it comes to this sort of thing.) Some people are comparing life now to how it was in the war years and I agree, but at the same time not trying to tell people who did live through WW1 or WW2 how it was for them. However, I was going to write something a little different but right now I think we're all having to be more adaptable in these challenging times, but I think it CAN be character building, so my post has been adapted, too. When you have to change your life it gives you the chance to realise what you REALLY can do without, how you can substitute items for things you are used to and that in the end it just doesn't matter most of the time. This doesn't just apply to what goes on in the kitchen, I think people will decide what really matters to them once things begin getting back to normal and I frankly can't wait! We can already see pollution has been affected by people not travelling so much, water in the canals of Venice is clearer and maybe the thinking of people will not be so tainted when we come out the other side. 

Back to the kitchen. I'm constantly checking the things we've made and put in the freezer or the supplies of things we have in stock that are fresh or in cupboards etc. Variety in our meals is something we are still achieving; we don't have to eat boring meals as long as we concentrate on flavour and the way we use the ingredients we have.

So, I've mentioned in a previous post that we were lucky enough to get to our local wholesalers before things became really serious regarding #stayhomestaysafe. We stocked up on some great staples which has been a total bonus and along side these as I said before, there are things we haven't/can't get for love nor money, namely plain/bread flour so the self raising flour we bought - 16kg of it..

is being used for everything from bread without yeast, pizza bases, sweet bakes, cakes and makes. I've now used up any bread or plain flour I did have and this loaf was made yesterday with the last of it, half and half of plain and SR - came out well, just with there was more!

Bread products in general are a real issue so I am resigned to making fresh Piadina, which I've been harping on about on social media a bit, but it is fantastic and so easy. 
It comes from one of Jamie Oliver's books which I love and is well used; it is a great book to use at this time showing us how to Shop Smart Cook Clever and Waste Less - full of use it up ideas!

This can be used for both savoury and sweet meals. I'm also going to dig out a recipe I have for biscuits instead of buying more cream crackers when the current supply runs out to go with soups and for snacks. I used to make soda bread a lot but SR flour doesn't come out as well as even regular plain flour... But, if you have curry you can make simple flat bread and those can also be used for sandwiches or with meat fillings for main meals.

I had to fetch a prescription on Wednesday so went to our local farmers co-op and the fruit and veg shop along side which I have used in the past. This was before I had a panic attack at another shop, just getting to my car before I fell into floods of tears after an old man wanted to hold the door open for me. I then broke down again at the fruit and veg shop about which the people were lovely. It was a surreal experience as I'd not been into Aber since March 12 or to anywhere else beyond the village shop and things outside the house had changed a lot at that point. I feel the anxiety came on as it was a shock to me, even though we live within village life that doesn't have lots of hustle and bustle, that things were so eerily quiet. I'm very happy that we must not go out unless absolutely necessary because when I DO need to go out I know I'll feel safe because I don't have to go to a big town and I know the set up of the shops. We're also getting a weekly delivery of fantastic, local meat from the butcher in the same place so very pleased with that, too, for example these chops. It is great to support local businesses just now.

Therefore from my recent shopping trip I bought items to go along side frozen items and dried goods we already have. For example I can always make crumbles and cakes so have bought lemons for a bit of flavour when I don't have fruit to include in a recipe and apples to make a big pudding which will last a couple of days. Shortbread is interesting when made with SR flour as turns out slightly cakey but very tasty topped with jam!

Nothing is going to waste in the kitchen. Veg odds and ends go into a pot to be made into soup; the huge leek I bought had the tops removed to go with potato, some carrots of which we have tonnes! as this is another thing be bought at the wholesalers, a couple of spuds and some seasoning and voila, lunch today was said soup with some additions from the fridge.

Jon is chief pie maker and this beauty was a mince monster he made last week. Due to the meat, veg and spuds in it, a slice doesn't need too much extra veg on the side - a slice each and four in the freezer.

Now to sowing and growing, are you still with me? I've started as normal, no panic here as we have to watch out for that last cold snap of the year but the conservatory is doing a great job helping things germinate - tomatoes, peppers, dwarf beans, annual flowers, marigolds, 2 varieties of beetroot. In the garden the first early spuds are in along with some hardy red and green lettuce and spring onions. The exciting news is that I have today ordered a poly tunnel from feel good uk; this is just fab as I've always wanted one. Jon and I have come to the conclusion, perhaps as a big number of people, that should anything else happen as we are currently experiencing we want to be able to take care of ourselves as MUCH as possible. So I am busy making sure I know what will go inside and out of the tunnel to maximise what we have and what we can produce. The other thing we have had plans for, forever, is pigs; we're lucky enough to have a field which is just over three acres in size and only ten minutes down the road. With getting the Airbnb listings off the ground effort and funds have not been available but we think next year is the perfect time to have them.

So that is where we are up to right now and our ideas to get through the next few months. Then how our plans will hopefully pan out later. It is a difficult time but we WILL come out the other side with renewed vigour, hope and a future changed for many of us.

Take care, stay safe and I would love to hear about how you are living through now and your plans for then.

Bye for now,

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Peace Time, Home Front Feelings And A Change Is Coming.

Good afternoon.

The title of my post is sort of how we are feeling in our house, as much as we are able to empathise with those who lived through the war like our parents. We've never experienced anything like this and seeing images of the UK and European cities without their tourist visitors and general public not being on the streets so much is so strange. The impact the virus is having on every aspect of society is remarkable; the economy in so many ways, social isolation, the NHS obviously and so many others.

My boys are now off school for the minimum 14 days as of yesterday, originally because my eldest developed a new cough on Saturday and we followed the 7 day rule. I'm happy for them to be at home and we are lucky to be managing just fine. 

We're not being lazy. Whilst we wait for access to school resources we are busying ourselves with themes they were covering in classes; ironically Alfie is covering the Black Death and Harry the industrial revolution.They wanted to do something and as far as I'm concerned, and my boys are no different, children like structure and routine.

Although I'm not sure looking after an orphan lamb constitutes routine!

Jon and I have said for a while that the speed of technology is at some point going to make people say no, stop! I think some people will be looking for a simpler life in the years to come. The way we can drop an email, press a button and have what we want at our doorstep immediately is perhaps something people will not want in the future; as Tracy described it, the expectation society - people wanting what they want - now! Pause The System was a demonstration I saw on TV yesterday and I did think, yes!

They are very strange times in which we are living with the new levels of guidance we're now receiving on a daily basis. Talking to Tracy of Our Smallholding Adventure and Jon I said I really do feel after Coronavirus, or AC as opposed to AD as Radio 4 has just described it, the world will be a very different place. I think people will be more prepared for anything else which hits them in the future, maybe learning new skills. Just today I've been baking bread with SR flour because of a trick learned from Jon (former baker/chef) like using a sour dough starter; only bought SR flour as can be used for anything really. The big bag of oats we bought is providing us with lots of oat bakes instead of bought biscuits and we'll be enjoying home made porridge and not 2-minute sachets.
I know a lot of people who will read this already grow their own and are doing their best to be self reliant for reasons other than the current climate. This may be something that will become more popular, if people can understand and come to the realisation that life is not going to be the same for a long time, if what is being said is true. It was mentioned on Twitter yesterday about a new Dig For Victory initiative; not sure there would be a traditional form of rationing but there may be proper restrictions at times.

It is such a difficult time, looking after your own whilst having empathy and sympathy for those you can't help and being there for those you are able to give some assistance to.

Bye for now.


Friday, 13 March 2020

Strange Times Indeed.

Good evening all.

Well we are living in some strange times that is for sure. Not wanting to dwell on the current situation for suffice to say there has been a bit of prepping going on at Bronllan and it is always interesting to see how people are dealing with this kind of situation. We have decided to block any Airbnb bookings for the time being as we do get quite a lot of guests from Europe. Our boys are still going to school but teacher friends say this will possibly change in the near future. We have made the decision to try and stay away from town for the next few weeks; there were 13 new cases over night and non-essential/elective surgeries at all hospitals have been cancelled.

Deciding not to make trips to town unless emergencies after tomorrow means we're stocked up on basic items which we can utilise as much and as usefully as possible.There is a lot of home baking going on and using up things in the freezer like soups, fruit from the summer etc. We're looking upon it as a challenge and also a short term solution in a situation that we feel we can manage for ourselves if we go about the right way. Aside from this is does make me feel extremely lucky that I can be at home if the boys are off school and that Jon works in an environment where social distancing is not an issue. However I do feel very sorry for parents who rely on things such as breakfast and after school clubs and organisations who will not be able to support vulnerable children during this situation.

Aaaanyway, moving on.

I have been outside getting a few jobs done today. I decided to sow some dwarf beans as these are something that I grew really well last year and I over wintered. This year I'm trying variety Speedy from Thompson and Morgan starting some off in a drainpipe...

and a few more in my home made pots; I'm feeling very optimistic about the change in weather and my conservatory is getting warmer each day so this is where the beans are sitting along with the sweet peas and a few other things germinating.

Talking of the weather this is now my little patch of paradise was looking this morning; a bit breezy but very pleasant all the same.

We are popping out late tomorrow afternoon to add to our brood. Yes, we are fetching 10 new chooks.👏👏👏. In preparation for this I have today also cleaned out the hen house and replenished the bedding ready for the newbies. Also, the pond enclosure has had a tidy - I even dragged some of the leaves out of said pond but that REALLY does need a proper job doing on it soon! The chook poo was superbly rotted down as the bedding in there had been sawdust and has turned into luverly compost stuff and is a great addition to the garden prep so I'm ready for sowing and growing this year.

All eight tyres have had a nice covering along with some gently worked into one of the small beds. I just managed to get the job done before the heavens opened and very pleased as the existing girls are in their new abode and the new ones will go straight into a clean new house.

Inside these are some of our preparations but there has been no panic buying by us. Plenty of cheese for snacks, sandwiches and with pasta dishes,  

carrots blanched and frozen so easy for throwing into stews/casseroles or just as veg portions,

biscuits and cakes for the tin and freezer and bread will be added to that. For mains I'm freezing tomato paste in small portions to use in pasta dishes or on pizza bases (easy to make for pennies, too)

and of course spuds which we're mainly storing in the cellar but with some in the kitchen, too.

Don't judge me for getting organised in such a way - just looking after me and mine; I'm upset that the veg side of things are now our own, at least we still have our own garlic from last year! but I am SO on the sowing and growing this year!

Lambing 2020 is in full swing just now. After a few unfortunate hicups in the beginning we are getting a steady stream of healthy twins and singles with about 20 or so ewes to yet give birth. This little one needed some help from Jon to make its way into the world but was up and about quite quickly and is now a healthy boy.

Tomorrow morning Jon and I are going to have a proper count up so we know what we have and what we may have to come.

Well, that is about it. Stay safe everybody, look after each other and hope you enjoyed my ramble.

Bye for now.


Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Mindful Thoughts For Gardeners

Good morning!

I'm reading the book in the title of this post, written by Clea Danaan; I've been dipping in and out and really enjoying it.

This morning over breakfast I came across the chapter concerning harvest. Now I know gardeners in many parts of the country are praying for some Spring-like weather; some let up in the wintry conditions we are still experiencing would be wonderful.

However I found the words about harvest similar to our hopes for the change in the current season, for whatever the reasons are behind the slowness of Spring's arrival, We have to be patient because the ground needs to be ready for the journey from planting to tending and back to harvesting the land to begin. In ourselves we also tend to want life to hurry up! We want immediate improvement in our lives in every aspect because life is now so very instantaneous; we have 24 hr news, constant communication and food delivery right to our doors if we so wish.

As the author says
"The garden teaches us that we cannot hurry...We can only sit and allow things to unfold, meeting them where we are with the watering can".

I can thoroughly recommend this little book and it is perfect to pop in your pocket; when you have a moment take the time to enjoy it and your garden.

Bye for now.  


Saturday, 29 February 2020

Life Is Good!

What a GOOD day to be alive! The sky is beautiful, the air crisp and no rain!

These are the sights which greeted me as I opened the back door this morning as I walked out to feed some keen ladies. 

I love living here so much, but obvs the weather being better always helps.

Jon had let the chooks out for a wander around the garden as he headed down to the style we have between us and our neighbour and I couldn't help loving the sight of daffs, snowdrops, and the odd crocus, showing Spring WILL come soon, promise.

This morning our plans were to help Mansel, our sheep-farming neighbour. He is such a lovely Welshman, uses some failry fruity language at times and was 80 in the summer. We hosted a bbq for him with family, friends and even our Airbnb guests who were staying with us joined in. Due to health problems, now sorted, and his age Jon does most of the work with the sheep for him - he just wants to be a sheep farmer! In the early, dark mornings the sheep are fed to save Mansel doing it and my youngest loves being involved with the lambing so will get up with Jon, plus he loves to walk the field after school to check on the ewes and any new lambs.

So this morning's job was to give the last injections to the pregnant ewes with Covexin 8. 

Me, Jon and the youngest headed out. I was on syringe-filling duties whilst Jon got the ewes into the race, 

and Alf did his first lot of injections, which he loved,

then back out into the field.

This weekend we're not going into Aber, yay! I just want to stay here and sooo love not having to battle with Saturday crowds. Plans for today apart from that? Not sure really, but just looked at the forecast and we're apparently due some fairly strong wind from about 2pm. I think I need to have one more brew and make a little plan! Our one-night Airbnb guest left early, one load is already out of the washer so may attempt to have some of that put out before any rain....

As I write this post the door into the conservatory is open with the sun streaming in, if a little chilly as I am yet to light any of the fires but lovely all the same.

I do hope you are managing to enjoy your little patches of paradise between the weather a lot of us are dealing with just now. Think positive because Spring will eventually arrive and when it does we will be ready!


Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Spuds, Seeds, Storms and Spring.

Bore da, good morning.

It's been about a month since my last blog post so I thought I would have a little ramble and a catch up.

I am gradually regaining my mojo, well I was until Storm Ciara arrived (more of that later) so I have managed to get a few things done inside and outside.

I have bought my first early spuds, Arran Pilot, and these are currently chitting on the window sill in the conservatory.

The main bed in the growing area is FINALLY covered with a mixture of chicken poo, leaf mulch and homemade compost; this has taken me soooo long to do so pleased this is crossed off my list.

I have exciting news about this area, too. We are going to buy a poly tunnel, a domestic one, and we have seen one which is just about the same size as this area, 19 x 6 foot. It will go over the bed, be strongly secured to it and I'm now having to re-jig where I intend to sow/plant/grow things! Tracy over at Our Smallholding Adventure has one the same as we're going to purchase so really great to have a first hand account/review before buying. We hope to have it in position by the end of April.

I'm attempting to turn the bed outside the poly house into a cutting flower bed. For this I ordered some new seeds to go along with the ones I already have. In the same order I chose some dwarf beans, which I love growing, and there was an offer for 24  begonias which I plan on putting in the hanging baskets and maybe the planters outside the Airbnb listings.

Back to Storm Ciara. It began late Saturday afternoon after what what really was a lovely day. I completed the compost job I talked about at the beginning, collected up some leaves to mulch in a corner and put fresh bedding in the chicken house which I had cleaned out on Wednesday.

The chickens were put back in there from having been in the pond enclosure for quite a while. I was really pleased at getting these things done as we couldn't believe how quickly the storm came in. This was on Friday afternoon, before...

and this was yesterday afternoon.

I'm holding back on starting any sowing too early this year, for a number of reasons. Firstly I don't have my poly house, as I am sure you are WELL aware of, so will be using the conservatory in which to start things once I have cleaned the wooden stools and tables I normally use along with the staging . Secondly there is the poly tunnel to be made use of. A big part of it is connected to being lucky enough to  go and hear Charles Dowding talk back in November; this was arranged by Maryline of Rural and Rustic. I dug out, no pun intended, some magazine clippings about the sowing schedule he uses alongside his no-dig approach. Not really starting until March/April time when hopefully the ground will be warm by the time I am planting out; I'm also going to try his multi-sow idea, too.

Jon has acquired a new quad bike, when I say new I mean pre-loved, and it is already showing its worth with jobs around the place and helping with the sheep, along with our youngest having his own beast.

Jon has got back to working on the 4th Airbnb listing/lodging unit getting on great guns with insulation and plaster board.

Again before the storm I saw signs of Spring, if a little early. I do hope the magnolia tree Strellata doesn't flower any earlier than normal as it has a very short flowering season under normal circumstances.

Last night we were supposed to be heading out to take the boys to their Monday night activities but the weather made us think we really didn't need to leave the house. Boy was I pleased! We sat by the fire with a pot of tea, Jon strumming on his guitar and the boys being very grateful for not having to go out in the cold.

I was generally feeling a little overwhelmed yesterday as I seemed to have a lot to do and too many places to go. Mother nature seems to have stepped in to make me slow down a little and I am very grateful for that. Today I have nowhere to go so just plan on finishing this post, getting on with a few jobs around the house, bake a cake and be grateful that we are safe.

Hope you stay safe, too, and have enjoyed my ramblings.