Monday nights are going to be a little different round here.

This week’s menu plan is up and running and you can access it here.  
Before I wrote it, I tidied out the smaller kitchen freezer last night as it’s becoming bare (which is a good thing as you can get organised).  I have a good amount of mince beef in there and some chicken pieces for the meat to keep us going.  
I’ve taken out a mince and onion pie filling to use the pastry I have in the fridge from this weekend’s quiche.  Also I have taken out what I think is fishcakes filling! Time will tell.  Also an English muffin that Ste can have with his breakfast.  Every now and again it’s worth taking a good few things out of the freezer otherwise it ends up full of items you don’t use.
The veg box was great this week, as always and I’ve included it’s contents in the menu plan page.  I’m starting to get in to a routine with the new way of life now.  
On a Friday morning the milkman brings our milk – 6 pints of semi, 1 pint of whole and 2 litres of cream (only size he has and freezes, goes in to loads of recipes).  

Also on a Friday we get the chicken pieces from my Mam’s chicken that she doesn’t use, as well as the carcass.  That goes in the freezer in a bag purely for carcasses as I’ve decided to start making batch amounts of stock every 6 weeks, to coincide with supermarket shopping, as I don’t always have the right things in to make the stock.  The pieces go in bags too, ready to use in bulk when we have enough.   I make a loaf of bread or buns on a Friday night for Saturday morning and/or lunch time.

The veg box comes on a Saturday, the shop’s last drop off I think, which is around 5:30 to 6pm.  As sad as this may sound, every week I get excited by its arrival! Not as excited as eating our own produce though!

Before that though, first thing on a Saturday after opening up is to make another loaf of bread for my parents, plus some scones which we have either for a snack or with lunch and again to share with my parents.  

We also give them veg from the garden in exchange for the chicken (not that they ever ask, it’s just nice to work like that).  Saturday sees me making quiche or soup for lunch which I am trying to double up on to have some spare in the freezer.  I do it early on the morning to make sure I have plenty of time outside during the day.  Saturday suppers are still work in progress, I wonder if taking something out of the freezer is best on a Saturday.  As the veg box arrives 5:30 onwards, I tend to plan the following weeks menu plan early evening on a Saturday so I could do that whilst making supper I guess.  We shall see.
Anyway – to the point of the post.  Here is out latest YouTube video, where Grace and I explain what we are going to start doing on Monday nights from now on.  

Those who have been here a while will remember I used to do Monday night preserves, which I shall be picking up again on a different day, but for now, Monday nights are dedicated to recreating Grandma’s wartime recipes.  I have 2 of her handwritten books, which I am busy working my way through, deciphering some of the words and deciding what we can recreate over the coming weeks and months.  I will update my blog from next week to reflect what we have done too.  I do hope this is something people can relate to and can enjoy watching our family recreate these special recipes.  
For now, I’m off to take a look around the veg plot – early June is such a busy time!
Stay safe everyone.

Can we be mortgage free?

Should you feel bad for enjoying the lockdown?  I don’t think so.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel for those who are suffering from it, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be enjoying it where we can, learning from it and adapting or changing our ways.  It has given us plenty of time to think about things, even more than normal and some great foundations for the future are coming out.

Whilst making this week’s scones, which were blueberry by the way and I say were as they are all gone already!  I’ll pop the recipe up shortly.
Anyway, I was mulling over financial thoughts and it dawned on me that when we moved in here, 4 and a bit years ago, we never thought we could be in a position to consider paying our mortgage off early.  We were just so grateful to have one and be able to buy the smallholding.  Now, 4 years on, we are putting plans in place to become mortgage free in 10 years!  Yes, that is a VERY stretched target and it may be longer but today it’s 3 times that amount.  Yes, really.  We always assumed we would have to work full time as we do now, not be able to be on the smallholding working and be stuck in the paid employment cycle until retirement.  
So what’s changed?  Research, people, experience, lifestyle, finances.  We have adapted our lifestyle, which we always intended to do when we moved here.  The main areas are the grocery bill, owning cheaper to run vehicles, cancelling luxuries like cable/sky and having a strict entertainment budget.  
As I said before, being in lockdown we haven’t spent anything on entertainment and we have missed it all over 0%!  Yes once the kids are back in school and I have to go back out every day, it might be nice to eat out every now and again or to take them to the trampoline park etc but this should be minimal cost. 
After all, who would not want to cook on an Aga in the kitchen with a poorly duck?
We have also created our own little beer garden, also known as a picnic table in the front garden which catches the evening sun.  
We can have the dogs running round, get to see the fabulous flowers come through along with the animals in the neighbouring field, and if we are lucky, get to see a baby deer run by.
Finally, one other thing I am working on personally right now is working towards less and less wine.  This sounds like I have an issue!  

Define issue haha.  
However drinking 1 or 2 bottles a week between us does not fit in with trying to reduce our outgoings so significantly to help pay off the mortgage, nor getting up early on the smallholding to tend to the animals that get up when it is light.  So I am on a challenge right now to only drink what we either make or what people gift us….so our address is…. 😉

We last went shopping at the supermarket at the end of April and won’t be going again until 25th May.  Remember that we get milk delivered (20 pints a week) along with a weekly veg box (£11) which supplements our home grown items.  We plan to eek supermarket items out to be 6 week intervals then 8 and so on.  This time we have ran out of butter, honey, juice so far.  There is an argument for doing without certain things on a permanent basis, more on that another time.  
I cook all of our bread from scratch now, having got a great delivery of flour from amazon.

As we move in to late Spring and Summer, we will most likely (hopefully) have no need for the veg box.  We are already starting to see lots of salads, greens including this beautiful kale and hopefully won’t be too long until we get our first courgette as look what we saw a day or 2 ago.
Here’s the newly transplanted brassica bed, right after planting when the plants went in a mood at being moved.  Hopefully they will pick up, they usually get over it quite quickly.
On the smallholding we have now got most of the laying hens in one place as Ste moves on with his next project of changing where the pens are that they have, to ensure we cover some of the overgrown areas.  Some hens are more cheeky than others.

The pigs are thriving and the (newly sheared) sheep and cows are only a tad jealous of the pigs having hard feed 🙂

Grace is busy rescuing animals.  This duck drowned in the pond.  Yes, ducks can drown.  She has a poorly leg and couldn’t get out.  We literally brought her back from the brink of death and Grace has done her usual and looked after it since then.

 Right, I better go and get on with some of these jobs I keep talking about.  These buckets won’t fill themselves!

Please do take the time to comment and stop by, we read every comment and love to have you along for the journey.  Thank you.

Marvelous Muffin Scones – Bacon, cheese and chive – recipe

Marvelous muffin scones – Bacon, cheese and chive

You have to try these! They are SO nice.
Makes 8 good sized scones. 
This is quite a wet dough so I cook them in muffin tins, hence their name.
Ingredients:
100g butter
6-8 rashers bacon (or as just many as you can spare.  I also use left over ham)
275g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk
50 ml sunflower (or vegetable) oil
1 egg
Chives
150g grated cheddar

Method:
Sift the baking powder in to the flour as I find it always lumps.
Combine butter and flour with fingers until resembles breadcrumbs.  If your butter is very hard, I grate it.  It works!
Beat your egg and add to wet ingredients.
Combine everything.
Spoon in to greased muffin trays.
Cook for 15 mins in moderate oven.  Check after 10.

Yum!  Enjoy 🙂

Before baking 

Isolation picture update….pigs, ducklings, GYO, Easter – exciting updates!

window.dataLayer = window.dataLayer || []; function gtag(){dataLayer.push(arguments);} gtag(‘js’, new Date()); gtag(‘config’, ‘G-Y9GF4HGD49’);

Hello everyone! (Firstly sorry the text is so small, it won’t accept changing to larger for some reason).
Well I am busier than ever, I don’t know about everyone else?  I think a lot of people who are at home are struggling for things to do which I sympathise with greatly, I can imagine it driving them insane.  Here things are the opposite as I am working from home and the kids are being home schooled by me as Steven is still at work and will probably continue to be, given that its supplying food.  
I have been thinking about what to cover in this blog and as I’ve been undecided, it’s taking too long to get out there, so I thought I would just show you in pictures and update you with each pic.  Who doesn’t like pics after all!
I have to say, raising our own meat is so rewarding, health wise and financially!  This bird was over 2kg and has made 4 family meals for 4 hungry, chicken loving people.  The roast was Sunday, curry with shredded chicken Monday, chicken, leek and bacon pie tonight and then the carcass made stock which will make an abundance of other meals, so more than 4 really!  I do one chicken a week and every time, I can’t get over it!  I am finding I am missing having raw portions to cook from and we could always joint them but then I find it a bit of a waste, my own enemy!  
I was in the veg plot, beavering away as you do, when I literally turned round and look what was staring back at me!  We don’t normally get asparagus for another month I don’t think, regardless I am thrilled and we had some for tea last night 😀  It was DELICIOUS.

Something else we have started doing with great zest is selling eggs.  We have increased our poultry numbers significantly and now get around 40 eggs a day, which we sell.  The money we get from eggs is used to feed the poultry and the rest goes to our pot which we will use towards the 2020 goal of saving money for the whole paying your mortgage off project which we are kicking off next year.  Hugely exciting times!

Ooooh look, whilst in isolation I’m obviously needing to make 3 meals a day, which I did before really but it feels like I am doing more now.  We used to eat out once a week so maybe it’s that?  Speaking of which, we’ve taken the decision to carry on the lockdown lifestyle once it is all over as we actually enjoy it and it suits our plans and dreams very well.  Silver lining?  Anyway, I was showing you the below picture which is a quiche I made from 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cheese, spinach from the greenhouse and tomato.  It was SO nice.  I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying cooking right now.
Below is the area we had pigs a couple of years ago (it’s rested for 2 years since) and guess what?  WE HAVE PIGS again!! There’s a pic futher on but the below pic is to show you the work we have been putting in to part of the area that we have agreed to grow more (yes, more) food in.  As it’s had pigs on it, the ground shoud be great but there is a lot of grass, weeds and stones in it.  Rather than spend months trying to get it perfect, we have covered in thick mulch on the left, just out of this photo and shown below we have used weed suppressant.  Hope it works!  We have fruit bushes and potatoes in there for now.  I am planning on putting brassicas in to the mulch which is rotted horse muck as I researched and found out that anything leafy like cabbage, kale etc will do best in the muck this year.  If something needs to form, like a cauliflower head, that may not be too good.  Will try a couple though just so I know.  Really pleased with this area and now it’s to keep it up and stay on top of it.

 Two of my favourite recent photos, after a hard day’s work, we had a fire to burn through some items, which Ste being a man, loved.  I LOVE to see him stood, surveying his land and taking it all in (hopefully thinking what other jobs he can do).  The photo below that is when Grace came over to see us as by this point we were sat by the fire having a much earned drink.  She has so much love for her Dad and I love to see them having a good time together.  It makes all of the teenage tantrums easier to deal with.

We found this log which Ste has since kept to turn in to something, but look at this natural pattern.  Maybe by woodworm?  Fabulous to look at though.

Something else I have been doing is making scones every Friday or Saturday and leaving them, with a bunch of others things, out for my parents to collect.  Sadly it is no contact collection and along with a veg box from Ste’s shop, is their only source of food right now, so it is essential to them.  We do miss them hugely.  Anyway, here’s last week’s scones, done in a muffin tray.  They were bacon, cheese and chive and were so nice.  They froze great and Ste had one for breakfast this morning.  I heated it up a little in the Aga and served with butter – yum!

Ooooh the veg box, look at this.  We stopped the veg box deliveries a while back, along with the milk.  A few reasons which I am not going to delve in to now but I just wanted to share how excited I was when I got this delivery on Saturday – it is amazing and we have used everything except a few parsnips.  I will maybe do them for tea tomorrow, or freeze?

I mentioned my parents collecting things with no contact.  It is their Wedding Anniversary today, 42 years, and this picture shows the card and gift we left outside for them to collect.  

Just because I can’t do a post without showing the dogs, here’s Rodney showing off his balancing skills and how he now likes to sit.  Annie and he have had a few disagreements lately and he tends to hang around higher up these days!  He also likes to sit and watch the pigs, how cute is that?

Ducklings!!! We have ducklings!  Am I allowed to be excited about something else!  We hatched our own and have more hatching now.  These are for eggs, meat, sales but regardless are my favourite animals!  Look at the one in the middle.

Here’s the cake my Mam made for us for Easter – how lovely and thoughtful, left on our doorstep!

More cooking – just cheese and chive scones now but I love making these!

Whoop whoop, we managed to acquire some flour!!! I am making ALL of our own bread now and will continue to, so flour is key to us.  Also we came across a large bag of mince for £12 so this is now either eaten, cooked and in the freezer or in portions.

Finally a picture of what we’re having in abundance and are selling too.  Rhubarb and eggs!  I’d love to hear your rhubarb recipes if you have any to share and I will link and share on one of my next posts.

That’s it for now everyone, take good care of yourselves and stay home if you can.  

A productive and wet weekend

The weekend forecast had one word – wet.  We decided to make the most of the rain and go to the cinema!  We rarely do this as a family, so we took the kids to see one of the kids films that is out and then went for some tea at a near by “diner”.  A treat that was enjoyed by all.  Given that it was going to be raining or snowing for pretty much all of the weekend, I hadn’t expected to get many outdoor jobs done.  However we managed to get a lot more done than originally thought.
Ste made me a potting bench, a counter top one so I can move it around as needed.  As usual, he used wood that we had to hand and in this instance, kept a part of the house alive using an old fireplace.  It’s perfect and does the exact job I need.  So I set about to use it.  I had lots of seedlings that were getting leggy, so I pricked them out and replanted them as deep as possible, so they grow nice and strong again, like they did last year.  It is huge, the reason it looks small here is I had my glove in my hand which got caught by the camera.

Below I have kale and spinach in the left hand tray – spinach hasn’t germinated yet, if at all.  Kale shot up so I won’t sow these 2 together again.  Then aubergine and beef tomatoes in the bag.  They’re next to my indoor peas which I sowed at the same time as the ones in the greenhouse (which are just starting to germinate so a week or 2 behind these).  The tray to the right is tomatoes, different varieties and 2 or 3 of each.
I made a bold move this weekend and binned the weaker seedlings and only kept a few strong ones of each.  I felt like I was doing something wrong throwing seedlings out!

I made a start on the plastic bottles that we had saved (Ste uses them for water in his gym) and am keeping them to use as mini greenhouses/cloches for when plants are put out or maybe for direct sowings to help germinate.  I’ve cut the bottom off so canes can be put through the hole in the lid, to support the bottle from flying away.

I sowed some sprouts and some flower seeds (sweet pea, cosmos) as I’d like to do my bit for the decline in bees and welcome them to my garden.  Not the wasps though, they can b****r off 😉 
A few more broad beans went in. These are the dwarf variety “Sutton” whereas the others are “Jubilee Hysor” left over from last year.  The Sutton does not need support so I will bear that in mind when planting out and just plant in blocks instead of rows.

 My bare root comfrey arrived.  I ordered 5 from ebay and to be honest when they turned up, I wondered what on earth they were!  However after a quick chat with Dawn and an email from the seller, I filled a container with damp compost, placed the roots in and covered with a touch more compost then wet newspaper.  I’ll see where to roots grow from then plant them up when the weather warms a bit.

 Speaking of warming things up.  I was like a kid in a toy shop when Ste bought me this beauty for Christmas.  Now I know some people aren’t fond of paraffin heaters but let’s give it a try.  It was recommended by UK here we grow on one of their You Tube videos.  I got it up and running and it had it’s first night on last night.  I’m pleased to say it kept the greenhouse at 6.3C.  I also got the heat bench up and running thanks to Ste, who rewired things so there is now power in the greenhouse! 
The bench heated wire works, so I will be starting to use that over the next couple of weeks.  Between the paraffin heater and the heated bench, the seedlings should do pretty well.  Just as well, as we’re running out of window sills in the house !

One thing I was really excited about was the piquant seeds Dawn sent me when she offered them on her blog.  The seeds originally came from Dani on Eco Footprint South Africa and I shall be offering mine when they are ready too.  I think it’s a lovely way of keeping this little pepper family going.

I have decided to try and get some batch cooking done on a weekend to start giving myself an easier life for week days.  This is my first attempt and scones in a long time.  These have blackberries in from the summer.  The blackberries were past their best when we picked them, so I froze them for use over the winter in puds and things.  They turned out really well so I buttered them and froze them individually for lunches.
After a weekend out in the cold and wet (and by gum it was both), Ste and I succumbed to a sore throat each.  Grace had a bunged up nose, but she hadn’t been out in the elements, so I think it’s a bit of a cold virus too.  I made Ste and I a Hot Toddy each using the following recipe from the internet:
Hot Toddy
1 shot whisky
1 tsp honey (I had 2)
2 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
off the boil hot water
slice lemon
lemon juice to taste
It was lovely actually and I felt fine this morning.
After lots of family time on Saturday afternoon, we watched another film last night.  Pirates of the carribean – you can see Jack with his telescope!  It was lovely to have the chill out time together.
The dogs enjoyed it too. 
I’ve lots more to write, but that’s enough for today – I’ll update you with other goings on shortly.
Happy Monday 🙂