Picture updates

We have had a brilliant last week which I haven’t had time to post about so for tonight I will just post pictures showing what we’ve been up to. This includes a very successful and happy party, 3 night UK break, veg plot and greenhouse updates and our first chicken ready for the table. I’ll go in to more detail over the next few days. However for tonight I’m chilling and enjoying my time off. Bliss.

Party plans amongst other things

I don’t know if I am imagining it but I think I can already see the difference in the fields from the rain.  I’m hoping for some sun after the downpours we’ve had and then maybe everything will have a growth burst.  The greenhouse has been firmly shut up to keep the heat in for the last day or two, opposed to the previous week when the doors were flung open along with every vent I could find as things were struggling in the intense heat.  Ah the lovely British weather.  I wouldn’t change it for anything!

Now speaking of the greenhouse, the tomatoes are thriving since I planted them in my well-rotted muck from my lovely horses.  However something else is growing in there too.  Mushrooms!  Lots of white rubbery ones and some tall skinny grey ones.  I said to Grace, my daughter who is 9, that I wonder if we can eat them.  Of course she looked horrified but I will find out and Steven and I will have them if they are edible.  I won’t give the kids them in case I get it wrong, but also they both hate the texture of mushrooms.

We are throwing a big party in a little over a week and I’ve been preparing like mad in between everything else.  I’m going to try and make a few homemade items in addition to the shop bought (sauces etc) to give people a literal taste of what we’re all about.  I was thinking about the following.  Breads – Onion bread, Sun dried tomato bread, Apple Cider bread and a seed bread.  Now granted, these will be made in the bread maker, but all the ingredients will be fresh and there’s obviously no dreaded e numbers in there.  As I will need to make a couple in advance, does anyone have any experience which of these breads might freeze better?

Asparagus is something else we have in abundance, so I am going to make an asparagus quiche as we have a couple of vegetarians.  Is there any other sides or BBQ food that would be doable with asparagus?

Rhubarb – the rhubarb and ginger jam that I made is happily sat in in the pantry waiting patiently to be put to good use.  I *may* use some in the sponge cake I am going to make for Jack’s birthday cake but I need to give that some thought as I’ve never used the flavour jam in cake before.  However for the BBQ if I have enough rhubarb and have time, I may do a rhubarb chutney. 

Eggs.  I’ll also do some hard boiled hen and duck eggs (if the ducks start laying again by then as the ducklings only just hatched) but I don’t think the geese are going to grace us with their eggs any more this year.  If they do I will hard boil some of those too, as I’d like to show the different eggs we have on offer here.

I’m also making frittatas to chop into small squares and serve as nibbles to pick up with a cocktail stick.  We’ve had comments off rude people before about frittatas being pauper food, so I am going to make it stand out and hold its own. 

Now I think that’s all we have edible ready at the moment and reading back, I’m really pleased with it! 

When we’re back from holiday our cockerels will be almost ready to eat so that will be our next test.  I’m not sure I am ready to be there for the slaughter, which I know I should as it’s not fair on Steven to do it on his own, but I will happily take its feathers off and watch as he gets it ready for the oven.  I will do a Sunday lunch for family and we can all have a feast to celebrate him having a happy, healthy life and in return us having a happy, family meal.

Speaking of meat, we have 6 ducklings in total now.  Isn’t that fabulous?  We have learnt from the goose mistake and have secured their water area so that they should be able to get in and out safely.  They may find it hard to get in and out of their house, so we will keep an eye on that and make any changes they need.  As much as I love the ducklings, I can’t help but let my mind wander to what sauce goes best with duck.  Come the winter, we should be getting a nice freezer full of meat (the boys) and some extra eggs from the girls once they’re old enough.

Have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend everyone 🙂

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!?