Thank you and harvests have started!

Thank you to everyone who commented on Buddy.   I really did take comfort from your words. 
Here’s the puppies happily sharing a bed in front of the Aga which is there new sleeping place.
So far this year, we’ve had 2 pickings of rhubarb.  One lot was froze for the freezer and dehydrated.  Another lot was used to make rhubarb Bellini (cocktail) per The River Cottage Yearbook which is my bible at the moment.
Here you go Cottontail Farm – as requested 🙂

We harvested our first salad leaves.  Ste said it looks a sparse harvest, but salad leaves I shall just take enough for that meal, as they are at their best when just picked.  These are oriental ones and were lovely, as far as salad leaves go!

 We had them with some radish which I seem to have arranged in size order for the photo!

Remember the big green thing in the rhubarb?  Well thanks to Amy and DC who commented and told me it was a rhubarb flower, this mammoth thing has now been removed.  There was also one on another rhubarb too. 
 

 Guess what?  The PSB is coming through too.  Literally appeared over a couple of days.  This was sown in August 2016 and takes up to a year to mature according to Monty Don but these are a quicker cropping if I recall, so hopefully we’ll be having some soon with a melted blue vinny sauce….yum.

The asparagus is also starting to show so in a few days we will harvest this too!  Things are really starting to take off. 
The elderberry flowers are showing, next month we will be making Jack’s favourite cordial with the flowers.

 I’m also going to make some rhubarb cordial and vodka with my next pickings.  The vodka is the start of the Christmas hampers, which I’ll do more on nearer the time 😉

A weekend away

So it’s Monday!
Steven and I spent Saturday lunch time until Sunday lunch time away from the smallholding.  This is the first time in ages that we’ve been away without the kids and from home.  We went to a murder mystery event with a group of friends and stopped over at the hotel.  We had a lovely time (though the murder mystery theme was rubbish) and came home feeling very relaxed, so it was worth it.

A friend who has her horse with us looked after all of the horses and my parents kindly stayed at mine to look after the kids and the smallholding animals.  Everything was all fine when we got home and we even managed to get some Christmas tree lights up on the big outside tree on Sunday.

We settled down late on Sunday night to find we were being watched with a face at the window.  Ste said it made him jump out of his skin!  As you will notice, there is a tree in this photo too, also decorated for Christmas.

We love celebrating through December, especially as it is our first one in the farmhouse.  So from December 1st, there will be a flurry of posts showing you what’s happening that day for us.  Not everyone celebrates Christmas, especially not as early as this, but we do :).  I’m not getting in to politics or frugal arguments.  It is what it is and I hope it makes you smile. 

Preparing for winter.

When we moved in, we set up a housekeeping account which we use for any house related income and outgoings.  One of the unknowns that I try to budget for is heating oil.  Each month we put away £125, ready to fill the tank when we need to.  It also pays for our coal.  The amount we have left in the tank, we’re hoping, will last us until the end of August and then the money we’ve saved will buy us 1000 litres of oil and also another car full of coal.  This is the start of our preparing for winter. 

We have log burners which we use as a heating source for the main house, but they aren’t linked to the central heating system so they only warm the room they’re in, plus a bit of escape heat into the corridors.  Our heating in the new house isn’t great, it merely takes the chill off and given that our house is 100’s of years old, it’s glacial inside during Winter, so taking the chill off simply brings it up to a zero temperature opposed to a positive temperature (or so it feels like).  Therefore I begrudge putting the heating on as I don’t think we’re benefitting enough from the amount of oil we’re using.  We do however have the Aga which is on constantly and heats the kitchen so it is lovely and toasty.  We’ve taken the decision not to turn it off for the summer.  We use the two plates on the top to dry a multitude of clothes, boil the kettle and keep it warm, toast our bread, cook our eggs, plus use the main ovens for all of our meals.  At present, with oil prices being so low when we last bought oil in January, this wasn’t a difficult decision to make, however if oil prices go back up to their sky high 50p+ a litre then we would switch it off over the summer.  Maybe.

Another expense of the Aga is to get it serviced twice a year.  Now I don’t know if this is overkill, but that’s what we were advised.  It’s an old solid fuel conversion which now runs on the oil and it’s circa 45 years old so I want to take good care of it.  The service is £80 a time *gulp*.

In other planning ahead news, we’re having a housewarming party now the main jobs are done and the weather is being kinder to us.  We’re combining this with my son’s 6thbirthday which has resulted in catering for around 100 guests!  I am really looking forward to it but by the same token must plan, plan, plan.  I’ve been good and accepted all help where it’s been offered, from bringing food & drink, to coming to help set up the night before and also an offer of a gazeebo to be prepared for the weather, umbrellas, tables for food and so on.  We have some lovely, helpful friends which we would struggle without, so thumbs up for them!

Throwing a party means that this month’s grocery budget will be stretched out to cater for everything, however I think we can do it and I love a good challenge (plus it’s ‘Bring your own boose’ so that expense is gone straight away!).

Finally for today, dare I say this, once we’ve had the party, I shall be planning for Christmas.  Now don’t shoot me, I love Christmas.  However this year is obviously hugely important as it’s our first Christmas in the new home.  We’re inviting all of our family over who want to come and I’ll do a traditional Christmas lunch for everyone, play games, have family time, drink mulled wine and generally enjoy how blessed we are.  I would like December to be full of Christmas cheer and that does not include stressing over cards, gifts and food.  I would like to do a get together/open house for the neighbours and some close friends but I need to think about how I’d manage that to keep numbers down, where do you draw the line!? 

2 weeks, 3 days to go!

Is anyone counting down with me?  We are all super excited here and have got over the lull of feeling like there is aggggges to go and now are starting to think practically as we are down to 17 sleeps.  For example, I have sorted the home insurance and the best deal we could get for what we need (which includes £5000 cover on outbuildings) is with Admiral.  The first payment has been made and the direct debit set up.  I have been in touch with the council re the extortionate council tax – let us see what we get for our money! Also I’ve found out which oil we need for the oil tank which supplies the Aga and the boiler. 

The TV, electricity, water and phone line/broadband etc will all be done on moving in.  When I looked in to the phone and broadband, they set you up within a day or two.  Also we won’t be paying for any TV packages at the farm but will pop an aerial on and get Freeview with our current TVs.

We are wondering what to do re heating the water as the boiler heats a huge water tank which is a lot bigger than a standard tank tat we have been used to in the past.  The showers are electric and the washing machine heats the water as it goes.  Therefore the only water we foresee needing is to wash the pots and wash our hands which makes me think it is a complete waste of resources to heat a whole tank just or those reasons.

Aside from this I am planning for Christmas 2016.  The cards from this year will be recycled to make tags for next years presents.  This will work two fold in that I will use them to create my list of people to send our cards to.  I’d like to do home made cards for family so will give some thought to the design of those. 

This whole process is a lifestyle change for us.  We know it won’t all happen on day one, or even day two, but by day three we should have it sorted 😉  and with that thought, I’m off to drink my merlot and do some more dreaming and planning.