Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Washing up or Dishwasher

I am very lucky in that I have a dishwasher and under normal circumstances it is OH's job to feed it and mine to empty it.  If he emptied it I would be looking around for stuff for weeks.  So this little regime seems to work for the best part. Funnily enough he is not keen on handwashing.  

The other problem is that I have a lot of vintage pieces of china and porcelain which I use on a regular basis.  These are definitely not dishwasher proof or indeed Geoffrey proof.  He will bung anything and everything into the dishwasher.  I therefore have to segregate out what he can happily deal with and then I set to with the hand washing up to make sure that  my porcelain lives to see another day.

The dishwasher is a boon, especially when I am working and in a hurry to do this or that.  It is an absolute boon for sterilising my jam jars or preserving jars.  That I really do appreciate it for.

Washing up by hand though has its own particular charm.  I used to have to do this of an evening after tea and at the weekends to earn my pocket money.  It was a discipline and I and my brother had chores to do within the household.  I also used to clean shoes for everyone as well.

Hand washing up though treats each individual piece with care and even with a dishwasher I still feel a need to do the handwashing up especially when it is a particularly older piece.  It helps protect the integrity of the item and lets it live to see another day.

For the handwashing up I have cotton tea towels which I can boil up to get them really clean.  They are only ever used the once and then placed into a bucket until I have a stash to put on the boil wash.  No point in putting on said wash if it is half empty have to get your money's worth.  A lot of people do not use a boil wash.  There are some things in the kitchen such as my dish cloths as well which need that kind of programme. The dishcloths are boiled either in the washing machine or on a pan on top of the cooker.  I re-use them until they are falling to pieces and because they are cotton they then go in the composter. I do use lower temperature washes as well, but the boil wash is important.  I am old fashioned I am afraid as I was bought up with carbolic soap, lots of washing soda and boiling water and plenty of elbow grease to get something clean.

As long as the washing up gets done one way or another, I am quite happy.  I see a need for both types of washing up in this household for practical reasons more than anything else.  Whilst the dishwasher is on I can usually get on with something else as well which is also a time saver.

Do you have a preference, hand washing or dishwasher or like me do you appreciate the need for both.

Catch you soon.



Quiet day and Bread Flour

It has been a wet and cold day here in Peterborough.  The rain has flowed all day gently, giving the earth a good watering which it sorely needed.  I had hoped to do gardening again today but that was not to be.  Instead I have been sorting out stuff, getting it cleaned up and sorted.  I have stripped out four fermenting bins today in readiness for further action on the wine front.  I will also have the ginger beer plant to make up on Friday evening.  The plant has been working beautifully.  I have also made some more plain yogurt as I really use this a lot.

I have also placed an order for bread flour with Shipton Mill as I was getting very frustrated in not being able to source any bread flour.  I think it has been about but I just have not been there when they have had it.  The link for Shipton Mill is  They are exceptionally busy and you will need some perseverance and patience in accessing a link to a delivery slot.  You cannot place an order without having access to this link.  Once you can access it, they will email to you a code which you have to click on to gain access to the website and place your order.  This link is only active for 24 hours under the current circumstances. I have been back on the site for the past three days and eventually managed to get a delivery slot this afternoon between 2:00pm and 3:00pm. So stick with it and you will eventually get through. I have ordered Canadian Strong White Bread Flour a 16kg bag together with a 1kg block of fresh yeast.  I intend to freeze the majority of the yeast.  I will probably look again in a few weeks time to have a proper look at what else they do.  Probably some speciality flours might end up here at some point.  This is my first order with them.  Sixteen kilogrammes is a lot of flour but you could always place an order and go halves with someone else to ensure you have a reasonable supply.

I have heard very good reports of the quality of their flour from friends who bake bread on a regular basis.  The recipe section on the website looks good too and I am looking forward to trying some of the recipes.  I am not the greatest baker in the world when it comes to bread but if you have a go and keep practicing it does get better.  If you do not have the base ingredients however that becomes a bit of an issue.  It is a very good discipline to try something new on a regular basis as this makes you grow in practical terms and also gives you knowledge and experience.  I consider myself very lucky in this respect that I have been able to access the flour but that I have had opportunities to do so in the first place.

I am really looking forward to being able to play.  I have some nice large stone crocks that I can store the flour in.

Fingers crossed that the weather is better tomorrow

Catch you soon.



Monday, 27 April 2020

A Little Gardening for the Soul

It has been a lovely day here in Peterborough today, too nice to be cooped up in the house and so I decided to do a bit more in the garden.  Did not get into the garden until after 1:00pm and then started to re-arrange things.  My mini grow houses were down the bottom of the garden.  I have brought them further up so that I don't have to go down the garden in the dark as there is no lighting.  Before then I had to move the patio table and clear a load of self-set weeds out of the pavement, and then sweep up the path.  The pavement is to get a sprinkle down the cracks where the weeds grow with some white vinegar to see if it will get rid of them.  Am not keen on using weed killers per se. 

I have four growing houses.  I put new covers on  three of them as the old ones were ripped.  The fourth one at the moment is used more like a cold frame or pot/tray store.  That took a little time but eventually got them all nicely sorted.  It feels good when you get something dealt with that has been bugging you for some time.  Equally I am getting a nice store of rubbish bags, mostly old broken trays or pots, with a few bags of pernicious weeds as well.  I am hoping that the tip opens soon so that we can deal with this and get it out of the way.  In the meantime everything is double wrapped and literally is just ready to go when the time comes.  I have also started placing some of my fruit trees which are in tubs on the cleared part of the pavement.

I had hoped to get my new rhubarb plants potted up today but that again will have to wait until tomorrow as I just did not get there.  They have started to sprout but I want to start them off in pots first to get a little growth on them before planting into their permanent bed.

We have had Chinese pork ribs for tea this evening, followed by a bowl of Strawberries and cream (English ones) which I bought from Waitrose on Saturday.  They were absolutely delicious.

After tea, I started doing some housekeeping on my trays, pots, cloches and covers. Quite a few have been scrubbed up in hot soapy water (something I do every year) but I have another load to deal with tomorrow weather permitting.  The clean ones can go into one of the growing houses for now.  I am going to have a sort out on the plant pot front in any event as I seem to have quite a few at the moment. Another job for the to do list.  It is nice and peaceful of an evening in the garden.  We have a long house (terrace) and the garden is reasonably long.  When we are in the back of the house, we cannot hear anybody at the front at all and if we are in the garden you have no hope.

I had to nip to the shop earlier on and whilst in there they had a few plants including some Strawberry plants so what they had came home with me (four).  I think that they will be going into hanging baskets which I also found down the garden.  They are supposed to be having another delivery of plants on Thursday so I shall go and have a nosey then to see if there is anything that will be useful including more Strawberries which are a firm favourite here.  I am also doing miniature tomatoes in hanging baskets as well as we have fencing down both sides of the garden which I can hanging baskets off the wooden posts (extra growing space).

The area of the garden which is going to be the permanent bed for the Rhubarb, currently has invasive ivy growing all over it and it also needs a good dig. Some of the ivy is designated for the planters that I wish to use as window boxes and also in some other hanging baskets I have. By the time I finish I should have six Rhubarb plants.  Rhubarb is very useful and I have plans for all sorts.  Probably will not get much this year, but there is always next.

What is referred to as the Herb garden currently has a sprout of growth with wild Strawberry plants which very much seem to like that bed, and which are starting to throw up tiny blossoms for the miniature fruit. I am going to encourage them and also put some of them into planters as well.  Fingers crossed I get to them. I think the herbs will have to go into planters and pots this year rather than in the bed, apart from the sage that is.  My two large planters are also in the herb garden filled with violets.  I am slowly expanding the stock as I have plans next year for those too.  I have another small planter which is to be planted up tomorrow with a couple of freelancing violets, so as I say I am doing my best to expand my stock.

My grape vine seems to have thrown up another plant so I now have two grape vines in the herb bed.   The vine I bought the other day is to go down on the patio area behind the shed.

Tomorrow I need to plant my gherkins - not really grown these before so I will see how I get on.  OH is rather partial to them unfortunately I do not share his persuasion.

My other plants which I rescued from the jungle and planted into individual pots are all doing extremely well and seem a lot happier.  My Hollyhock has really taken off as have the Clematis (three different ones) and the Honeysuckles and my trailing rose also seems a lot happier and is throwing up a lot of new growth.  Unfortunately I have lost the label so cannot tell you what colour the flower is or indeed the name of it.  I suspect it is a pink one!  One day I would love a rose garden.  I like all the old fashioned flowers especially the scented ones.

I also have to re-pot some of my fruit trees into larger pots which I already have, but until I can access quite a bit of compost they are going to have to make do for now.

It is my birthday this coming Sunday which will be celebrated quietly at home, if the weather is fine possibly pottering in the garden again.  Under normal circumstances I would be paying a visit to a garden centre!  Never mind, you can only do what you can do and at the end of the day we are all in this together  Reminds me of the Frog Song by Paul McCartney and on that note, I hope you have a lovely evening.

Catch up soon.



Sunday, 26 April 2020

A Little Shopping

This morning we had a bit of a lay in, not by design just overslept.  We then had some fish and chips for dinner together with mushy peas.  Not too bad at all.  I had already sourced Chicken Kiev's for tea tonight.  They are a firm favourite.

I needed to top up on food shopping and so walked into town with my trolley.  I cannot carry things properly these days so despite the loss of street cred I opted for a small bright purple butterfly decorated trolley which is enough for me to manage.  The bonus is that if it is empty it will sit quite happily on a shopping trolley on the central hook under the handle.  I walked in as I needed the exercise and the day had been a lovely bright warm sunny day.  I only got as far as Waitrose and despite me planning on shopping there later in the day I decided to shop whilst I was there and get OH to come and collect the shopping trolley so that I could then go into town.  They were operating a 2 metre allowance and there was a queue but not a massive queue.  I had been hoping that they would have some herb plants in their herb section which I tend to stick into the garden; I was predominantly looking for chives, sage and rosemary.  However they did not have any of these.  Basil yes but it is too early to stick it in the garden at the moment.  So I will keep my eye out another week.  I am hoping to build up a large stock of herbs during the summer months.

I was lucky to find two bags of wholemeal flour (there were only a few bags of these when I was in there) and two small white bread mixes.  I therefore snaffled these up.  This is the first flour I have seen in weeks. I managed to get yeast the other day.  I also was able to buy large bags of sugar for £1.25 a bag rather than 79p for 1kg; I bought a couple of these home as I have wine making in progress and plans for more as well and despite having some sugar in stock it is always healthy to keep a stock pile in as I frequently use this in jams and jellies also.  

I also was able to get my fresh root ginger which I am quite pleased about.

I have today been lucky in that I was able to take advantage of a lot of green vegetables as well.  I bought Little Gem Lettuce, a lacy edged lettuce rather than mixed leaves.  I also bought Cavalo Nero, Spinach, Kale, Fennel, and some Chantenay carrots.  Some of the leaves will be dried some will go into meals and some will be made into green powders.  I also bought large Portobello mushrooms which are intended for a British Fry up tomorrow morning for breakfast as well  as some reduced mushrooms which are also going into the dehydrator for adding to soups, stews etc. during the winter months. So I am starting to put stuff by for use in the winter months even now.  There is a lot to do and a lot to achieve before then though.  However, I am determined to bring my Pantry, Freezers and food stores back up to scratch and back to being more than serviceable.

I bought pears (some for savoury meals) others for eating. I also have some blue cheese Stilton for OH and Gorgonzola for myself.  I also have walnuts, goats cheese, and honey to accompany these. We often snack on these mid-day for a bite to eat. I also bought Strawberries and some cream as we both like simple puddings.  

For dinner tomorrow, I also bought a small beef Topside joint which should do very nicely for the pair of us.

On the vegetable front I managed to get a whole range of different veggies from Waitrose.  Sometimes a change is as good as a rest. I still intend to visit the veg shop during the week though.  They are not open every day at present, but I have in mind to make this year's batch of Souper Mix as per Pam Corbin's recipe in the River Cottage Preserves book. I make this every year, and use it a lot.  They usually have a better selection on the root veg for this recipe.  I also need some eggs for baking and some oranges for making orange wine and the Christmas wine. 

After OH fetched my bags and the shopping trolley (yes I had bags too) I went on to Wilkos.  I use a stain removal powder which costs £2 a tub.  I think it is called Astonish, but I use it to top the washing powder up and also as a general all round stain remover. I have found this to be the most effective stain remover on the market.  It can also be used for other cleaning projects throughout the house. That is what I primarily went to Wilkos for, however unfortunately they did not have any in.  Will have to pay another visit during the week.  I have half a tub left but that will not last me long.

I needed some soap powder as well so I ended up bringing some Persil back with me  which is not the size I usually buy will get me through a week or two until I can get my usual larger sized box which lasts me usually around four months.

I did however manage to get some King Edward potato sets, which I intend to sow in tubs and sacks, four Rhubarb plants - I already have two so this will make six plants, (you never can have enough rhubarb it is so useful for puddings, preserving, freezing, making jam and chutney); a little white grape vine for further down the garden, two potted blue flowers (the name escapes me at the moment).  I am very pleased to have been able to bring these home.  

There were some kitchen bits and bobs that I needed (a new rolling pin and a couple of knife racks), two measuring jugs and four small bowls. Oh and I also got some gherkin seeds two packets.  They did have some Charlotte potato sets and some red and white onion sets.  If they still have any later in the week, I may well get some of these too.  I was primarily after some fruit bushes, some Loganberry and Tayberry bushes. I have plenty of Blackberry bushes at the moment. Unfortunately today I was not able to find the Loganberry or the Tayberry.  I am hopeful that I will be able to source these as I go along.  Today on the plant front they did not have as much choice as they normally do.  

I also bought a couple of Lever Arch files to use to store my recipes and experiments in.  Very much a Work in Progress with lots of my handwritten scrawls which if I am happy with them will be typed up properly.  The recipes are in plastic sleeves, to keep them clean when I am working.  I really did need to do something like this though as I am forever losing everything.

Whist I was in town, I had intended also to pop into M & S however time ran out on me so this will also have to wait until later in the week when I go to town again.

When I got home I nipped to the Co-Op and bought some stewing beef, some mince and was lucky enough to find two packs of chicken breasts (quite large and thick ones) for the princely sum of £1.63 per pack.  As they were in the reduction counter we have cooked both of these trays of chicken up and will use them in sandwiches or with salad.  That was the bargain find of the day.  I also managed to get a tub of Coffee Mate and also some dried milk powder which I use in my bread machine.  So very chuffed with these finds.

Also, whilst in Waitrose I ended up buying some sage, tarragon, lemon thyme and thyme.  Some of the herbs are to end up in a batch of Four Thieves Vinegar for bathing and cleaning the house.  The recipe can also be turned into a vinaigrette for dressing salads.  I take this to be the more modern recipe rather than the traditional recipe which includes Woodruff and Camphor.  I don't think that they would be very good in a vinaigrette.

Four Thieves Vinegar

The first link I understand is a more recent recipe.  The second includes the original recipe plus options to make your own tailor made Four Thieves Vinegar


and the Third gives a recipe for making Four Thieves Vinegar but does not access any blog or link etc. but is a good way of having a receipt at your finger tips.

So all in all not a bad day and I was lucky enough to find a few things I have been after for a while which is also a bonus.  It was a lovely day to get out into town and to stretch my legs and get some exercise.  Town was deserted and most people kept their distance which I was grateful for.

Catch you soon.



Friday, 24 April 2020

Ginger Wine

I plan on getting a couple of gallons of this on the go for Christmas this year for this month.  We are rather partial to ginger at the best of time and especially ginger wine.  A few years back this used to be a regular on our itinerary when were making a lot of wine and I am keen to get back into the habit as it were.  I have plans to do a lot of wine this year.  Having been bought up in the practice of being able to have a glass of wine on Sunday dinner I am keen to be able to do this again.  Not that I am a massive drinker but I do like country wines - they add something to your meal.  My Nan made a lot of wine as she had the vegetables and the fruits available to her as they had over two acres of land most of which was planted with fruit trees.  She also used the "Wild Larder" extensively as well.  At the moment I cannot lay my hands on my recipe book, but have found this one by John Wright which sounds very much the same. Ginger Wine Recipe

I intend to get some fresh root ginger on Saturday from the shop; I have some sultanas that need using up so they are already here; sugar is in the pantry just need to be able to get on and get things sorted.  I also intend to do a couple of gallons of house orange as well to add to this year's house wines.  I am going to try and do a little bit every so often so that I end up with a flow and not all the wines maturing at the same time.  We used to make Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit and mixed citrus wines from carton juice and PLJ lemon juice.  Fresh fruit was also added.

I am very lucky in that I have a lot of wine equipment in the house.  I don't do things by half at the best of times.  We used to make a lot of wine at one time but slowly got out of the habit of it. I have made a few gallons here and there since but nothing on the scale that we used to. However I am keen to get stuck in again.  Fortunately, I did not get rid of my equipment.  I had always planned in coming back to it.  I also inherited my Nan's winemaking equipment and had added a few more Demijohns from the Charity shop as and when I found them.  If you are considering having a go at making wine for the first time start with a kit as this will teach you the basics of wine making and you can then take it from there.  You can source wine equipment online or Wilkos sell winemaking equipment but Demijohns cost about £8 apiece brand new.

Since Ginger wine is traditionally served at Christmas as it needs a few  months to mature, I was looking out for other drinks that can be prepared for Christmas.  I have come across an old recipe for making Christmas wine which I also intend to have a go at.   It does have ginger in it.  Read the notes on each video as well. The recipe was posted by a lady who by her own admittance was not a wine maker.  Using toast spread with yeast is the traditional way of activating wine and perhaps need updating a bit.  The recipe however is an interesting one.

I am slowly getting all geared up in readiness to take advantage of the Wild Larder and also using items that are usually regularly available.

Catch you soon.




I started sorting out the innards of the kitchen cupboards.  I am a short person some 5 foot 3 inches in my stockinged feed (used to be 5ft 5 inches) so I cannot feasibly reach up to the kitchen wall cupboards without assistance from a step stool or a ladder.  As the ladder is in the kitchen from something else I did earlier in the week, I used that.  I was sorting the tea and coffee cupboard out and adding in some new bits and bobs as I am attempting to get everything in its proper place.  I was dangling on one foot on the ladder when I lost my balance.  I popped my hand out to steady myself but fell and caught hold of the kitchen cupboard door which was open and ripped the cupboard door in half.  OH has had a look at it and thinks it can be repaired if he takes it off glues and clamps it.  Fingers crossed and toes plaited that it can be fixed.  I think I may be a bit of a liability.  Fortunately I did not  hurt myself.

One of the cupboards I have sorted out today is a thin very narrow cupboard. I use this cupboard basically for keeping all my yeast sachets, active yeast and granular yeast in.  There are boxes in there for the yeast sachets to go.  I also keep in a mixed seed mixture and some sesame seeds which I sprinkle on the top of bread when I make it.  The bread maker is directly below this cupboard. This particular cupboard also holds all my wine making yeast, sterilization cleaner, grape concentrate, Certo, Glycerine and Rennet.  So this also got a good sort out.  When I have it, it usually stores my jars of malt as well.

I also sorted out quite a bit of the wine making consumables and got them all into a box.  This includes my rubber corks and my fermentation locks.  I seem to have quite a few of these of both types so I think I have enough  to cover all 18 Demijohns.  I still have another box of winemaking equipment to locate which I suspect is under the stairs.  However, I am very slowly getting like with like, and a modicum of organisation is falling into place as well which is going to be brilliant when I get back into full swing again as everything will be easily findable.

We had a good walk with Missy last night.  She did well walking but she was hot so the walk did not take too long.  She did better on her legs tonight than she has been doing.

The next cupboard on the list is the condiments cupboard.  I did this a little while back but it has got into a bit of a mess.  Since I last did it I have found some jars in which to store my cornflour and also my Arrowroot both of which I use for thickening gravy.  The Arrowroot can be bought quite reasonably from Holland & Barrett in 1lb bags.  I really need to go and get a top up of items from here.  I also use another store which is called Grape Tree (successor from Julian Vine) my nearest branch is in Spalding as they tend to have different items yet again which I quite like.  They do have a website.

My cheesemaking box is all sorted as well.  It is nice to be able to locate the muslin I bought in when I need it rather than searching high and low for it.   I had to use it the other day (the muslin) to start the ginger beer plant off.  I am pleased to say that the "plant" seems to be living and I should have my first batch of home made ginger beer sometime next week.  One of the things I have noticed differently to every other recipe I have seen is that this recipe refers to a good pinch of yeast rather than a teaspoon of yeast which seems to be the modern equivalent.  I know when I have used the 1 teaspoon of yeast recipes that the beer becomes far too explosive, so I am hoping that this will work out well.

I also made a jelly this afternoon and popped a tin of mandarin oranges in.  This is for pudding today and makes a nice simple pudding.  Will just need some cream dribbled over it.  It was not quite set last night.  Might even turn it into an Eton Mess with some crushed meringues and ice cream.  Yum.

For tea last night we had fried egg, bacon and a tin of tomatoes.  I quite like the Italian tinned tomatoes which usually cost an arm and a leg.  However I have found that I actually prefer the tinned tomatoes from Aldi.  Not very expensive and full of flavour.

I also watered the garden up last night with my watering can.  I did add a good splash of the tea bag mixture and will do this regularly from now on.  Will see how it goes but I don't think that there will be any problems.

Catch you soon.



Thursday, 23 April 2020

Making your own Green Powders

I have long been interested in producing my own green powders for keeping the family healthy during the year.  I had looked at buying them but they cost an arm and a leg.  This is one of the subjects I have been meaning to look into further, and then a post came up from a favourite blog of mine exploring this topic and indeed giving instructions as to how to produce your own green powders and giving a selection of leaves to use.  

I have learned a lot from this particular post.  Sarah Head of Tales of a Kitchen Herbwife 

Sarah has used violet leaves, nettle leaves, and various other wildings leaves to produce her green powders.   I was particularly interested also in the use of violet leaves as I have been slowly increasing my stock of these lovely little flowers.  It will therefore be very gratifying to be able to use some of the leaves as well.  

The original sweet violet plant came from my Great Grandmother's garden.  When she passed, my Granddad transplanted some to his garden which was there for about 60 years.  Mum took some plants and transplanted them in her garden and when we were in the process of selling the family home I took a clump and brought them home with me.  
One of the reasons I have been cultivating my violet stock is that I want to be able to crystallise a lot of violets in the future for cake decorating and this is one of the reasons I have been increasing my stock on these.  The violets seem to like my current garden as from a small clump I now have two big planters full, and the violets have self-seeded on several other pot plants as well (these are going to be transplanted into bigger tubs shortly).  Sarah has also used Sorrel, Kale and Spinach to create powders as well.  It strikes me that this would be a very useful way in which to get "greens" into littlies without them knowing it.    I had also thought that the sweet green leaves which surround a cauliflower might also be used in the same way.  I already steam these with the rest of my veggies as they are also full of goodness.  I have plans to shortly do a bulk make of cauliflower cheese and cauliflower and broccoli cheese with garlic for the freezer.  I intend to dry any such leaves then.  The something extra element the bonus of preparing something else.

The post from Sarah falls in very nicely with something I was going to do in any event.  I have a foraging session planned for this week to collect nettles for making nettle wine, nettle beer, nettle cordial, and drying leaves for use throughout the year to make nettle tea.  I was also considering freezing chopped nettle leaves to use with pasta as well.  (Need to do more research on this and I was also thinking about nettle pesto). The drying of the nettles is where the post falls in with post prepared by Sarah as I had planned to dry a load of nettle leaves in any event to make a herbal tea.

I do think that this post is extremely informative and extremely useful.  It will also help save pennies, whilst ensuring that the right vitamins are being added to the food we eat to help give our systems a boost, especially during the winter months.

As I have arthritis and various other immune conditions it also struck me that the nettles dried in this way might actually help me manage the ordinary osteo-arthritis more successfully.  I will need to do more research on this also.  I am aware that when I get the flare ups in my system and a lot of pain that this is usually down to my auto immune system fighting off an infection.  I am not treated specifically for Osteo-Arthritis as the medication I have which is Hydroxychloroquinine (Quinine) is aimed specifically focused on dealing with the anti-bodies I produce in my system.  I produce too many and the body ends up attacking itself. I have a condition called Scleroderma.  For the best part this has worked well and from an out of control situation when they first diagnosed me, the condition has been brought under control.

I was always taught to harvest the tops of young nettles from the end of April to beginning of May as this is when the plant is at it's sweetest and tenderest and has no tough bits.

In any event, producing your own green powders will give your system a boost especially in the winter months, and if you can make them cheaply yourself - even if you only use the well known vegetables i.e. Sorrel, Kale etc. It will help  maintain your system in a much more natural way and can be added discretely to lots of different food to give more flavour.  

I am looking forward to a small foraging trip out of the way of everyone else.  I am looking to go when it is quiet and no one is around armed with my carrier bags.  I will see how I get on.

Catch you soon.



P.S. Since drafting this post Sarah has come back to me with some very useful ideas for the control of arthritis and also the pain.  If you check out her post as above you will find the details.  Thank you Sarah for your assistance.  I will certainly try the cider vinegar  with nettle extract.


Feeding the Plants from What is around you - Tea Bags

What do you do with them.  Compost them.  Put them in the bin.   At this time of year once a week I start feeding my plants with them.  All the used tea bags are popped into an old tall Kilner jar with a lid. The teabags are popped in and then water added on top.  I keep adding water until the tea is a medium colour.  Then I discard them and add fresh used bags.  This also sits on the kitchen windowsill.  The used bags are then composted.

This was a tip passed on from my Aunty Betty (my uncle Basil's second wife).  They for many years ran a busy bed and breakfast on the Skegness Road about six miles out of Lincoln, called "The Blackbirds".  The property was always surrounded by fantastic flowers in hanging baskets, window boxes and tubs and the flowers and plants in the borders of the garden were also stunning.  

My uncle and aunt ran a smallholding from the premises as well. They had a house cow, chickens and a big vegetable plot.  (My uncle had to give up his Dairy Farm as he developed Angina) but he just could not give his animals up.  He was as soft as grease with animals but not necessarily humans!  He would rather talk to animals than to people.  My mum could not get over how lovely their flowers did until Aunty Betty revealed her secret that she just used the used tea bags.  Apparently the plants like the tannin.  Whatever the reason the plants always do well with the feed.

For many years I had window boxes on the front of the house and hanging baskets.  I used to do them myself.  I loved doing this and got an awful lot of satisfaction from this.  I stopped doing the baskets on the front of the house the year someone pinched my hanging baskets off the front of the house in broad daylight.  To make matters worse that particular year OH had asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I had said plants for my hanging baskets.  So he had bought me all the plants I needed, I had done what was necessary and had really got them coming on lovely and then they were pinched.  I was annoyed and heartbroken and since that time refused to put them on the front. However, I was considering doing them again this year, but with some security additions added,

At one time I used to grow the seeds for the baskets myself but in the end I started buying the plants ready grown as it seemed to give the plants more of a foot forward.  I normally still do them for the back of the house.  I have plans this year for OH to put up some shelves under the windows on wrought iron brackets.  I have six deep planters which I have never used yet and I thought if I had the shelves and then screwed them on to the plank (shelf) bottoms that they could not be nicked so easily.  Due to the current circumstances I am not sure I will be able to source any plants this year which would be a pity as I really enjoy doing these.

Do you prepare your own hanging baskets, window boxes and tubs and what sort of plants do you pop into them?  Would love to hear from you.

Catch you soon.



Using your fridge to plan ahead with meals

I need to get more organised on the food front.  I cook most days but I think I can be better organised than I have been.  I am looking to rescue more time so that I can do more preserving or indeed crafting and sewing.

I had thought to make up a couple of good meals and store them in the fridge and so in effect batch cook every third day.  I will however need to locate some of my very large kilner jars and also some of my storage containers and some of my pyrex ware to do this. 

I had thought to keep a couple of jars of ready freshly prepared soup in the fridge so that if OH and I are ships in the night that there is something decent in the fridge for him to snaffle and warm up.  He is not so fond of soup although will eat it.  I however am quite content with some nice bread and a bowl of good soup which I always find very filling.  I have since found my jars and there is fresh mixed veg soup and chicken soup sitting in the fridge ready to go.

I had also thought to keep a batch of plain batter mix in one of the Kilner jars so that I could make up pancakes for dessert or indeed Scotch pancakes for a snack or indeed Yorkshire puddings.  I quite like pancakes for breakfast occasionally and if I am doing a two to three day turnaround nothing will go to waste.  Making the mix like this also saves on washing up, as I will only have to drag a bowl, whisk and scales out once rather than every time by making up a bulk mix and keeping it in the fridge.

I had also thought to put up some Caramel custards and also jelly and chocolate mousse to provide quick puddings also.

I have also seen some small individual dishes which are in the £ shop which would be very ideal for preparing something like this for both the fridge and the freezer.  Hopefully they will still be there after Lockdown is over.

I also have a gammon to cook up for use in a meal with chips, or with some mustard in sandwiches. I quite usually buy in a couple of ham hocks for this purpose but the bonus is that you get plenty of stock from this as well which can also be frozen and used in gravies and soups which always add much more flavour.

Another favourite here is Cottage Pie.  The other day I made up one from frying onions until caramelised, then adding the mince a little at a time, then chopped fresh carrot and frozen peas, a couple of bay leaves a beef stock pot and a chicken one, pepper and a little water to make a little gravy and some Bouillon vegetable powder for a little extra flavour.  I topped this with plain mashed potato and this time did not put any cheese on the top (I did not have any cheddar in) so opted to leave it plain.  It kept in the fridge for a couple of days and was a quick meal all in itself.  It went down well.

I also have some Easy Yo Yogurt Sachets which need using up.  The sachets are very good but expensive, but are okay for a treat now and then. I have decided to mix up a Strawberry one (the Rhubarb one has now gone), which in turn we can have with some tinned Strawberries or with a Strawberry jelly for pudding.  Just a little something to finish a meal off.

It is therefore very handy to have stuff ready to go in the fridge, ready prepared by you.  At least this way round there are no nasties or additions you do not want added to the food.

Catch you soon.



Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Fermentation Shelf

Is back in production.  I have started off starters for Sough Dough, have natural live yogurt on the go (plain yogurt that you can add your own fruit, jam or sauce to), have an Easy Yo flavoured yogurt from a sachet on the go (Rhubarb) as I have plans to use some of my home grown Rhubarb from the garden stewed and then served with the accompanying yogurt. That should make a nice simple pudding to finish off tomorrow night's tea. I also have wine on the go, have located a beer kit which will be prepared later on in the week.  It seems to have come from Wilkinsons although I cannot remember buying it.  Last night I also started off a ginger beer plant to make home made ginger beer.  The recipe is more or less as my Nan and Mum used to make - I just have a notated list and therefore thought it would be easier for everyone if I gave a link.  The link is here:

Ginger Beer Plant 1920s recipe

I am also after locating water and milk kefir grains, Kombucha Scoby and an older sourdough starter as well. That may well have to wait for a while though, unless I spot some on Ebay that would be useful.

All natural processes without anything being done to them apart from a little TLC and a feed in respect of the Sourdough and Ginger Beer Plant.  Much better for the digestion and your health in the long run as so many of them are probiotic and so good for your system. 

Perhaps the current crisis does for some of us have practical benefits in that it is making us all think differently about our lifestyles, and what are our real priorities.  I have always been considered an oddity because I preserve so much and normally keep a well stocked pantry.  I am hopeful that the current situation will bring back an interest in these traditional skills.  

If I can get hold of some cheap apples I may also start off a batch of Apple Pop as well. I used to babysit a couple of sisters under the age of eight on a regular basis and indeed Susan and Claire were two of my bridesmaids when I married my first husband.  They were lovely girls and I was very fond of them.  Their mother and father were from Somerset and this was a drink that Janet used to make on a regular basis.  Janet gave me the recipe and it is a lovely drink to have especially on a hot summer's day especially if it has been chilled first.  The drink is more or less the same colour as home made ginger beer but a totally different flavour and well worth the making.

I am also interested in Water Kefir and Milk Kefir grains for making drinks and for using in yogurts and cheese (Milk).  We are very fond of Pepsi in this household but it is something that we could well do without and so I am ready to explore the Kefir aspects a little more and perhaps more cheaply at home.

Two of the things I have not been able to locate easily are yeast and proper Bread flour during the current situation.  I mentioned the other day that I had managed to find a packet (of yeast (8 sachets) some four weeks after issues started arising) and so for me having the sourdough starter(s) on the go would be insurance for making sure that we had bread on the table or at least the option of bread if it was needed.

Yogurt is something that I make regularly in any event and as long as I can get hold of milk and some natural yogurt for a starter I can carry on making that.  Alternatively there are the Easy yo sachets which although a little expensive are very good.

Recently I have also come across a dry Sourdough Starter which I think many of you may find interesting.  It is from a blog I follow called Elliot Homestead.  The link is here: Dry Sourdough Starter  Although I have not tried this starter yet, it is on the list, but I thought that I would share with you as I had come across it.

If I can make a lot of the products myself long term it will for me mean less reliance on the supermarkets for finished products and will be able to just buy ingredients which is something I try and do in any event.  I am also hoping that this reflects more favourably on my pocket as well.  I can but try.

Catch you soon.



A little wine making

Now that I have the Elderflower kits under way (two of them and the demijohn's are sat on the bathroom windowsill) I am keen to get other types of wine on the go too.  A nice beverage or two I think enhances whatever meal you might be having and so much the better if you have made it yourself from scratch.  Not that we are big drinkers but we do appreciate a glass of wine with the Sunday lunch.  I am speaking of country wines here, rather than specialised wines made purely from grapes.  I think they have far more personality.  In my youth (and over the age of 18) I used to enjoy the occasional glass of red wine - usually with my Dad, but as I have aged (not like a mature wine I hesitate to say) my tolerance levels for red wine have diminished somewhat.

I have plans to get some Nettle wine, Hawthorn blossom wine, some orange wine on the go as well.  On speaking with my friend BB she is looking to make some Gorse wine, so I will try and keep a look out for some Gorse as well.  When the Elderflowers come out I shall be looking to make Elderflower Champagne, Elderflower cordial and Elderflower wine as well as drying plenty of Elderflower petals for making wine and cordial later on in the year.

I have Rhubarb growing in the garden at the moment.  I am tempted to make a couple of batches of Rhubarb wine from it, as Rhubarb is a really delicious wine to make. Jury is out at the moment though as am tempted to do some crumbles for the freezer also and then of course there is Rhubarb Syrup and Rhubarb Vodka and Gin, Strawberry and Rhubarb jam which is one of my favourite's and lots of other goodies too.  Might have to invest in some more Rhubarb plants.  Better add these to the list as well.

I remember my mum made Rhubarb wine and was terribly disappointed in it.  She had made a couple of batches and when straining off the lees had been very put off by the sourness of it at that stage.  Mum and Dad then went out for a meal with friends ant an expensive restaurant and had an expensive wine, which made mum think that her wine was not so bad after all.  She re-tested it later in the week and it tasted the same as the wine that they had had.  It had matured in the bottle.  Mum only ended up with the one Demijohn (not the two) as she had thrown one away.  That wine will always stick in my memory as will the Nettle wine. Mum added dried root ginger to the brew (recipe was C J Berry recipe) and the delicate flavour came through in a very sweet white wine that was superb.  However what sticks in mind more than anything else is the foraging trips we had looking for the wild ingredients and the fun that we had as a family along the way.  

I also have a tin of Ma Made Marmalade pulp which is also getting to its use by date.  Might turn that into some wine as well.  Waste not want not and I have made marmalade this year from scratch.

I have also found a cheap beer kit (in my sorting out) that I had forgotten about so may well have a go at that too.  Have saved some beer bottles de-labelled them and scrubbed them up.  They are currently in a box ready to go although I have a few more to scrub up from out of the shed.  I am a bit like my Nan in that I tend not to throw jars and bottles away as I can nearly always find a use for them.  I have crown caps and a crown cap corker as well as a corking machine in the wine making/preserving armoury.  I also have a beer warming mat (plug in one) that has never been used.  There is also the Apple Press in the shed.  Have not used that yet it is a brand new Vigo press that I treated myself to.   I suspect that this year it is going to be "pressed" into service for apple juice, cider and Perry.  I do love a good glass of sweet Perry especially if it has been chilled.   It is the Country part of me coming out and looking to escape!

There are a lot more wines that I also want to add to the list and hopefully will be able to get into full swing soon utilising the veg shop and their fruit reductions.  It will be good to get back into full swing on the drinks front again.

Catch you soon.



Tuesday, 21 April 2020

A little off colour

I started with what I think is a bit of a head cold on Sunday evening.  I felt quite out of sorts yesterday and although today I am a lot better it is still hanging.  I have no cold per se but have rested up and not done much for the past few days.  It is as though my head is disconnected from my body and is a separate entity entirely.  I just feel a bit out there if you know what I mean.

I had to ring the Doctor's surgery this morning as our prescriptions which are on a repeat service were taken to the wrong Chemist's.  I managed to get this sorted out on the phone though, which has helped.

I did go for a walk with Missy this evening.  Nowadays these walks are brief as she is suffering from old age and arthritis.  She does not know it yet but she is due to go to the Vet very soon.  She had a better day for walking today but it has been warm and the sun out although the breeze still a little cold.

I have been out in the garden and hung my washing out which now smells lovely and fresh now it is dry and I have also watered up my plants.  I love for the washing to go outside if I can but it is not always possible. 

At the moment I have a gammon joint gently simmering on the cooker, with some celery, onion, carrot, bay leaves, white pepper and a sprig of Parsley to give it a little flavour. It smells really good and my taste buds are activated and I am a tad hungry.  Sandwiches with mustard for me I think. Once cooled the ham will be used in sandwiches and maybe with some chips for tonight's tea.  Will see what his highness fancies to eat.  Might even include a couple of fried eggs.  The stock is due for some soup and for gravy.  So nothing is going to waste and will be used up one way or another.

I am a regular watcher of Escape to the Chateau or Escape to the Chateau DIY.  In tonight's edition one of the families is putting in a lavender garden in front of their chateau.  The husband's family have owned the chateau for over 200 years and his wife is English.  Instead of planting French Lavender or what is referred to as Provence Lavender, she has chosen to plant English Lavender as a slight twist.  Must say I think it is going to look stunning once it has grown out a bit.

I love Lavender and I would love a drying garden for the washing surrounded by Lavender bushes.  My Aunt had a drying garden which was in a quadrant.  She did not have Lavender in that section.  I understand that this was a plant that was much favoured for this type of environment as cottons and linens also used to be dried over the lavender in the summer months which also made the clothing smell fantastic.

Now even though I still do not feel up to much I am going to look for some seeds that have gone missing after tea.  Hopefully I will find them, and that way round I will have been doing something useful.

Hope you all have a lovely evening.  Keep safe and take care.



In my absence I have managed to .....

In my absence, from blogging, I have created a long list at present consisting of some 189 Items of things to do.  I have for the time being closed the list, but will create a separate one to carry on with.  I have managed to do the following: 
Planted up three herb planters consisting of plants in the garden already; these include:

  1. Planting up three Herb Planters/Troughs from plants already in the garden consisting of Curled Moss Parsley, Chives and Garden mint.
  2. I have sorted out some of the boxes for the kitchen equipment and made a list of the boxes yet to be sorted. Four boxes in total sorted.
  3. Have sorted out a full set of pasta bowls in three different sizes and popped them into the dresser in the dining room.  There was also a Wedgewood Wild Strawberry platter as well.
  4. I have sorted out the Herb bed, have weeded it, turned the soil and got rid of all the rubbish.  Have also got the dustbin slab sorted courtesy of OH as this had collapsed.
  5. Have potted up a variety of plants including Clematis, Honeysuckle, blackberry plants, etc.
  6. Planted up about 6 date pits and waiting for them to sprout before being potted up.
  7. Have sorted out a few more of the potted plants in the garden, weeded them and given them a good feed.
  8. I have recycled a load of old compost and sieve it and re-used this mixed with fresh compost.
  9. I have washed the front room windows.
  10. I have washed the front door, the step, have dettolised the handles.
  11. I washed all three of the wheelie bins and dettolised.
  12. I removed dead holly leaves from gravel together with street rubbish.
  13. I weeded and swept tge fribt path.
  14. I re-organised the wheelie bins so no one could shove rubbish down behind them.
  15. I swept the path in the street as a load of bits had travelled from the front path.
  16. I de-spidered and cobwebbed the passage with a sweeping brush.
  17. I swept the passage.
  18. I slightly trimmed the privet hedge to allow the gate to open properly.
  19. Washed the Perspex sheet attached to the gate and dettolised.
  20.  I started to declutter the back door.
  21. I scraped and tidied the window ledges in the back as the Sadolin had lifted.  Needs redoing with Sadolin but it has  been prepped.
  22. Started to strip the shed door.
  23. I despidered and de-cobwebbed back of house windows.
  24. I set about restoring a batch of brass and copperware that had water to leak into it and which had gone rusty.  Looked far from salvageable but three items reswotred another seven at least to deal with,
  25. Bought in a large sack of potatoes.
  26. Bought in a large net of onions.
  27. Made a batch of orange cleaning vinegar,
  28.  Sorted those items outside the back door, washed them and brought them into the house.
  29. I started sorting plant pots, planters etc in back garden ready for use this coming season.
  30. Cleaned 12 of 18 Demijohns.
  31. Dried some fresh parsley (home  grown);
  32. Dried some bay leaves (HOME GROWN).
  33. Washed windows at the back of the house.
  34. Washed and cleaned an old mirror.  Sanded this down and then gave light coat of stain.  Unfortunately did not take properly as water had got into the staqin.  Will need to get fresh stain and re-do.
There have been a few more items done as well which are not quite completed.  Will only make the list once finished.

So all in all I am quite pleased with how well I have got on so far.  Need to keep up the good work.

Catch you soon.



Monday, 20 April 2020

Sorting out the Kitchen Sink and cleaning with vinegar/personal toillette

One of my bug bears is an untidy kitchen sink.  Unfortunately I only have a tiny kitchen sink in this house overlooking a tiny window.  Up to now I have had far too much stuff that needs to be in the kitchen windowsill  and as a result has tipped out onto the sink itself.  Not a good result look or very practical.

So an idea started to form quite soon after I had made my batch of orange cleaning vinegar.  I had found a drinks dispenser container which I had purchased from Asda last year.  I am hoping that I will be able to find something similar for also making Lemon vinegar, Rosemary Vinegar, Thyme Vinegar, Spruce Vinegar as well as Four Thieves Vinegar.  Some of these can be used for food as well as there are no other additives in them, but initially I just want these for cleaning.  

As I use the cleaning vinegar quite regularly in the kitchen I wanted easy access to it and that for me is for it to sit on the windowsill.  I also have a white porcelain crock for cooked food waste to go into with a filter in it.  That needs to go on the windowsill as well.  It can then be decanted into the recycling bucket outside one for compost waste and the other goes to feed the local electricity plant.  All very green and environmentally friendly so I may as well use this to my best advantage.

Whilst sorting out the stuff outside of the house last week I came across two porcelain containers which I had forgotten about.  They are both white with an embossed design on them.  They will be ideal for storing my washing brushes, bottle brushes, fine cleaning brushes, dishwashing brush and
old tooth brushes for cleaning those fiddly bits.  The other one is destined to keep my dishcloths and scouring pads in. I use cotton dishcloths which can be re-used and which get boiled up regularly to sterilise them.  I have a special pan for doing this. Both are quite large containers and so have plenty of scope.  There is room for a small plant and that is it. I might also be able to have a hanging plant in the window. However, at least it is going to tidy the windowsill up, be practical and clean in the process.   Hopefully I will be getting a new kitchen unit, sink and taps soon. I am after a set of mixer taps which are more practical for a kitchen and filling buckets. The window will have to be retiled then as well.  Just plain white tiles to tidy things up.

I only have a very tiny galley kitchen, but I do try and make the best of it despite there not being enough room to keep everything in there.  Oh for a bigger kitchen and a bigger kitchen windowsill.  One day.

I am also considering making up a batch of vinegars to use all year round for personal bathing/toilette.  I am thinking primarily of Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme vinegars for this.  The Rosemary vinegar I know is a good one to use in rinsing your hair properly, but more on that later on.

Catch you soon.



Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)