New Year – New Blog

A Happy New Year to you all!

2013 is over.  Not been the greatest of end of year’s on the family front.  Illnesses and accidents involving close family have been very worrying and still are.  Here’s hoping that the New Year will bring better news for all concerned and, where necessary, peace and comfort.

We did have one big celebration this year – mum’s 75th – the week before Christmas.   I decided to get all the big kids together – a rare occurrence!  So, catering for 10 – all prepared in advance – a huge Boeuf Bourguignon followed by Petits Pots de Chocolat, Roasted Pears with a cranberry and date compote.  It was a surprise party and mum was visibly taken aback.  She was thrilled with her present of a mini ipad from all of us.   I just need to give her a few lessons now.  Big thanks went to sister Ali for making a stunning cake.

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The extraordinary weather we have been having, high winds and heavy rain has meant chaos here in little Godalming and indeed, over large areas of Surrey.  We had lengthy power cuts 23 24 and 25 December.  Christmas dinner was very nearly a write off but power appeared at 2.30 which gave us time to throw the turkey in the oven (hastily removed after 10 mins as I forgot to stuff it) and get organised to eat by 7pm.

Its a sad state of affairs that we rely so much on our electricity that we just can’t cope when without.  No communications – phones were out and we don’t have a landline phone, no internet (horror of horrors!) and no radio.  Our neighbour kindly lent us his battery radio so we could keep abreast of the local news.  As for letting anyone know our predicament – tough!  The two girls were bereft without their electronic devices.  If truth be known me too!

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Three times we had to fix back the chicken run tarpaulins – the metal hole reinforcers just ripped out with the sheer force of the wind as it got under and just lifted it.  The bungees just tore off and the run just ended up a mudbath.

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One advantage was that the Golf course where Nigel plays was shut and we were able to take Milo on his favourite walk which took him swimming in a flooded bunker.  The course was just squelchy all over but the bunker attraction has already taken us there three times this week.

Today being New Years Day we have just endured another mini power cut.  Just long enough and worrying enough for us to abort our NYD dinner – a smashing forerib of beef. All being well that will be for tomorrow now.

My day today, aside the soggiest dog walk imaginable, was spent in the kitchen, making Paul Hollywoods Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes.

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They turned out brilliantly bar the fact that I mixed high percentage cocoa dark chocolate with milk chocolate.  It was still too high and caused the white marbling.

Anyway enough of the food now – need to get back to a decent way of eating – far too much sugar and carbs this Christmas.  5:2 here I come again!

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Oh dear!

Well over a year and I’ve not written a sausage!  I did say it would be a while didn’t I?

Well, at popular request, (well – one, thanks Emily), thought I’d give it another go.

I can’t go over what has transpired over the past year in depth – that would bore the pants off everybody.

However, in brief:

Nathalie has now spent her first year and a third of her second at Kent Uni in Canterbury, reading Film Studies.  Of course she is loving it, gets stressed over essays but seems to come out smelling of roses in the end so I have no worries about her degree.  She has become very involved in a local church, singing and leading worship and also taken on a Committee role in the Film Society.

Here is a link to some of the songs she has recently posted on SoundCloud.

https://soundcloud.com/nathalie-grace-saunders

Jessica is still creating weird and wacky sounds for the Video gaming industry.  Now, living in a flat in Brixton with two chaps and three cats – one of which was rehomed from me to be with her best buddy – long story which I won’t go into!  They seem to be happy even though they are indoor cats which I am not totally comfortable with!  Sorry Jess.

I’ve finished the graveyard project – Busbridge Church is now in possession of all the photos, a document with every grave transcription and a database.  However, that is not quite the end – my next task is to research, as far as humanly possible, all the occupants to see what noteworthy stories lie within those graves.  Aside the famous people buried there, such as Gertrude Jekyll, there are others mainly unknown to the Community and other tales yet to be discovered.  One story was recently written up by me and published in the Church Magazine.  Once it is online I’ll post a link.

Still volunteering with Phyllis Tuckwell and still massively enjoying it.  Lovely staff and volunteers – we all get on and all muck in.

Now, the chickens….  Sadly I lost one in July – had to have her put to sleep.  The vet thought she had a tumour.  She was my absolutely favourite so the promise to myself not to blub at the vet failed miserably and I was ushered out of the door with instructions to pay the bill next time!  I am currently down to one egg a day if I’m lucky.  They are all getting on a bit.  However, on the plus side they all have bottom feathers –  the fact that all four were bumper bitted helped the problem a lot.  That is a huge relief but not sure how long it will last.

Nigel had to give a paper at a conference in Montreal at the end of October so I tagged along.  Probably not the best time of year to go – cold and damp but I’ve now been there. Not too impressed – I didn’t find it the most attractive city but I do want to return to Canada and see more more of the country.

As for for the cooking front and what would be a blog be without a recipe – this ginger cake was just the best – from Rachel Allen

Ginger Cake - Rachel Allen

Ginger Cake – Rachel Allen

8oz (225g) golden syrup

3 1/2 (100g) oz butter 

3 1/2 oz  (100g) caster sugar

3 oz (74g) stem ginger in syrup, drained and chopped – reserving 3 tbsp syrup

7 fl oz (200ml) milk

2 eggs, beaten

8 oz (225g) self-raising flour

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) – line base and sides of 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Place golden syrup, butter and sugar in saucepan and melt over low heat until mixture is smooth.  Set aside to cool then mix in ginger, milk and eggs.

Sift remaining ingredients into a bowl.  Make a well in centre then tip in wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pour the runny mixture into tin and bake 50-60mins until skewer comes out clean.

Remove from oven and drizzle over the 3 tbsp ginger syrup while hot.

Cool 10 mins then remove from tin onto wire rack.

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Can’t remember..

exactly what I’ve really been up to over the past month or so.  I’ve certainly been occupied .

Primarily I’ve spent a lot of time at the Phyllis Tuckwell Charity Shop in Godalming.  I’ve been volunteering there every Friday afternoon for the past couple of months and I love it.  So much that they find me popping in every now and then to do a couple of hours.

Since this starting this particular post (and abandoning it) I’ve now been at PT a further few weeks. Still loving it.  I’m constantly amazed at the generosity of people in the goods they bring in.  Some stuff goes to auction to fetch a proper price and some is researched and valued to sell in the shop.  I spent a pleasurable few hours sorting a carrier bag of disassemble Playmobil which, once researched on the internet, and reconstructed, formed 17 different sets.  As some pieces were missing I contacted Playmobil and they supplied most of those missing pieces free of charge.  So we were able to sell most of the sets complete raising a decent amount for the Hospice.

Highlight of the month was the stunning gramaphone which was brought in and which sold quite quickly for £300.

Here it is:

I wish we could have kept it in the shop – it was quite a talking point – many children had never seen or heard one.  Thankfully if I ever get the urge to listen to one my my mum still has Uncle Fred’s at home and a good assortment of 75s!
My current project is making a few cakes stands which are very much in fashion at the moment.  I’ve yet to see how they sell.

Hand crafted cake stand using vintage plates

The chickens are still knickerless.  Nearly every day I spray them with an antipeck spray.  The good thing is they are getting so much better at being picked up and suffering the indignity of a spray on the posterior.

We had a brief and mildly amusing episode of broodiness from Ace.  She had got it into her head that she needed to occupy the nest and got quite aggressive about it, attempting to peck and growl at me when I turfed her off.  I had to block her entry three times which she found mildly stressful, pacing around, going up the ladder and when I did the evening spray, as I put her down and went to pick up another chicken, she decided I was worthy of some payback and stabbed my foot with her beak.  That was a surprise and she did actually break the skin.  Next morning…. back to her usual, squawky self, but no sign of broodiness.  Weird!

My garden has been decimated by slugs.  Even the potatoes which have been successful this year have no leaves to speak of.  Runner beans – well, of about 20 planted I have 4 – never enough for a meal in one go.  I planted two courgettes in a wheel barrow which has worked well, except one has somehow turned into a butternut squash.

The fruit in the fruit cage was ravaged by birds.  I really need to find a way of stopping them getting in under the netting.  So, no gooseberries, a few redcurrants and blackcurrants.  For some reason they don’t seem to like whitecurrants.  The tomatoes are growing apace in the greenhouse but the fruits are not bulking up and ripening.  I’m sure I was already eating tomatoes this time last year.

I’ve taken on another project too on the back of volunteering  for the Gravestone Photograph resource, http://www.gravestonephotos.com/public/about.php, – to photograph the graveyard at Busbridge and record names and dates, except now it has grown into a project for the Church itself to help document the graveyard.  I do like a project!  I am battling with the ravages of time and weeds though!

This week is A level results week so Nathalie is a bit on edge, trying to bide the time by watching lots of films.  All being well, she’ll be off to Kent Uni to do Film Studies.  She is just back from a fabulous week at Soul Survivor and off again on Friday to the same place for the over 18 equivalent, Momentum.  Let’s just hope it stays dry as she is camping.

Jessica has had a good and bad past few weeks.  Firstly her little car died on her on the slip road of the A3 onto the M25 which meant an AA call out.  It was subsequently found to be really dead so a new car hunt ensued.  She found one over the weekend, a newer and limited version of the MX5 but two weeks later she was shunted by a a tailgater on a country lane and the car is now an insurance write off.  Although, she has been given the opportunity to accept a payment, get it fixed and MOT’d and its back on the road, rather than a larger payment and scrap it.

The good thing was that she has been offered an extension of contract until next June by Microsoft so she will be staying in Twycross.  She’s now on the hunt for accommodation.

Am feeling a bit lazy about this blogging,  mostly I suppose because I’m so busy with other things.  So …it may be a while until the next one!

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Success (hopefully!)

Both the girls’ bumper bits have stayed on and there doesn’t seem to be any feather plucking.  After some initial head shaking and beak bashing they seemed to have settled to wearing them and don’t seem to be in any discomfort.  Just the way they are worn made me feel that any pecking would hurt but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Admittedly they are not finding it that easy to peck off the ground or at hard vegetables but they don’t go hungry as they wait to pick up the leavings on the ground kindly pecked off by other three.

I have substituted layers mash for the pellets in the hopes that they will be able to shovel their main food more successfully and, in fact, all the birds seem to prefer it.  The mash which is basically all the seed ground into a coarse mix rather than formed into pellets is supposed to take longer to eat and also help to prevent feather plucking.  At least I have not had to douse the girls in the smelly stuff again and they all seem really content.j

The extraordinary amount of rain we are having is doing wonders for the garden, although its cutting down on the amount I can do out there.  Nevertheless have bought some new shrubs: an olearia, flowering raspberry Red Bross, a miniature lilac, Coprosma Pacific Sunset, as well as a pretty Japanese painted fern.  Oh, and a new Rosemary bush to replace the one I had to rip out to site the chicken run.

The greenhouse if getting fuller by the minute:  so far the tally is; 66 tomato plants (four different varieties)!!, sweetcorn, cabbage, pumpkins, runner and French climbing beans, dwarf French beans, romanesco cauliflower, leeks, sweet basil, Thai basil, dill.

In the ground the potatoes are just showing through, the onions are about 4 inches high, peas are up.  Carrots, turnips and parsnips have come through but slugs have been making their mark so may have to resow.   I gathered a load of birch tree twigs from the ground on our walk this morning – they will make good pea sticks.  I also need defences for them as the chickens are a bit partial to nice young leafy growth.

I had to take Milo for his kennel cough vaccine yesterday – a job I hate – I get really nervous taking him.  Mainly, because he hates the vets and tries to bolt out of the door as soon as we get there.  I keep him occupied with clicker training and took the opportunity to do a bit of muzzle training.  As he gets really stressed I muzzle him to make the whole process, quicker, easier and less stressful for all.   He has to be held down which makes him buck wildly and air snap.  Don’t think he will bite but I’d rather the vet didn’t find out!   Did I mention the vaccine is syringed up his nose? – perhaps you can now see where I’m coming from!  Sheena the vet, is great with him.  She is very compassionate to nervous animals and takes her time to greet him, gives him treats and put him at ease.  OK the procedure puts him straight back into fear mode but no sooner was it finished then he went straight to her for a treat.  Then I breathed a sign of relief.

Very coincidentally I bumped into an old dog agility friend.  Her dog had had exactly the same operation on her elbow as Milo had two years ago.  So her dog will be in rehab for a few months now.

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Being ribbed here!

Nigel and I have a trip planned to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks.  I have a family tree contact coming over from Australia who has some documentation to give me so we decided to meet up, as it had been on our list of places to visit.  My two girls are ribbing me about meeting a stranger from the internet!  It will be a good break.  Milo will have to go into kennels while the girls get to look after the rest of the menagerie.

Over the past few weeks we have been catching up with the first series of the Danish TV detective programme, The Killing.  We’ve really enjoyed it – to be recommended.  The language fascinated me, as a linguist.  It seems a very slack language – every word just melted into the next but I found it a delight to listen to.

Chickens – the ongoing saga of featherplucking.  Rose has been in solitary for nearly four weeks but each time I let her out to free range with the others she eventually succumbs to her old habit, so back she goes to her run.  So, the time has come.  I have come to the end of my tether.  The final straw.  The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Time for the Bumper Bit – a medieval looking type of scold’s bridle which passes into the beak keeping it slightly open and then a couple of prongs go into the nostrils.  Eating and drinking are possible but pulling out feathers shouldn’t be!

Fitting one, besides it seeming cruel, was not going to be a picnic.  I chickened out and got Jess to do the deed.  We got Rose out after she had gone to bed so that she would be calm, wrapped her in a heavy towel and took her into the conservatory.  Jess managed to get it on but within a minute of her going back into the run, with lots of head shaking and head banging, she had got it off.  It has to be quite precisely placed so it was obviously not quite right.  A second go, quickly executed with a pair or circlip pliers did the trick and it has remained in place.  She was obviously distressed by it, wouldn’t take a mealworm from me – poor recompense for her trials – and spent some time headbanging in her house but she settled.  We checked on her a couple of times.  In the morning I put her straight in with the others.  She soon sussed out how to feed and drink but the others kept giving the bit a quick peck – looks like she was going to be on the other end of the harrassment.

Returning home later in the day Rose seemed settled but I found two of the chickens had been plucked again – the culprit this time being Ace, so she has just been bumper bitted too.  A slightly harder job as she has such a big, floppy comb which was making it hard to see the right bit of the nostril.

I am not happy to be doing this to them but it is a habit which is hard to break.  It is not an act of aggression but the problem is that if any blood is drawn it can turn into a bloodbath as chickens can be cannibalistic at the sight of blood!  Who’d have thought it!

Ace in her Bumper Bit

On to the next wildlife feature – frogs.  It has been a bumper year for them – at least half the pond covered and this year they have not been killed by frost.  Loads of tadpoles swimming around at the moment.  The heron has been paying us a visit – whether or not he is hoping for fish – there aren’t any – or frogs, I don’t know.  The chickens aren’t too enamoured with his visits though.

Resident frogs

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Easter is upon us

And well do I know it – school holidays and yet again have children climbing up the steep bank in the woods to my back fence, invading our privacy and upsetting the dog.  I politely ask them to go back to the park, informing them that it is private land but I have obviously upset a couple of toerags and twice now have had raw eggs lobbed into the garden.  The first lot during half term narrowly missed me as I was gardening.  Today I heard the thud as a missile hit my greenhouse to find egg running down the glass.  Not much fun trying to clean it off before it dried in the sun.  Of course, no culprit to be found.  Strangulation is on my agenda!

Aside from dodging eggs, the garden has had my full attention lately.  Its starting to look good, especially as it has now had a mow and I’ve cut the lawn edges.  Weeding still continues apace.  The chickens are great at keeping down the little weed seedlings although some of my plants are looking a little ragged from their ministrations – not too much damage though.

I usually let them out while I garden.  It so amuses me to have five greedy little pigs bustling around my fork, squabbling over every worm and bug.  I have to be so careful not to spear one of the chooks – they literally stand over the spot where I dig, heads bowed in eager anticipation.  Mimi is the worst as she is the bravest – I once lifted her up on the spade into the air.  She was totally unpertubed.  I am hoping they will be keeping the slug and snail population down, although I’ve already had a couple of rows of turnip seedlings munched.  My prevention tactics involve baking all the empty egg shells (and we have plenty!), then crunching them up to sprinkle them around the plants.  The jury is still out on whether it works.

Still sowing vegetable seeds – today was sweetcorn, peppers and dwarf beans.  I created my bean frame a couple of weeks ago, digging a trench first and burying a bucket of my bokashi waste.  Hope that works – have never tried it.

Rose the chicken is still in solitary confinement although she had time out for good behaviour today and had a good few hours free ranging with the others.  No pecking, and at one point her and Polly had a very pleasurable sun and dustbath together – really cute to see as they rolled over and over, purring and nuzzling each other.

In fact, this is her second outing.  Jess needed record chicken sounds for her work so Rose was drafted in to provide them.  We brought her into the conservatory which proved a bit too noisy so decamped to the lounge where she took up residence on the arm of a leather armchair.  Her burblings were recorded and she was put on the ground, immediately flying up to land on my back as I knelt on the floor.  As Milo had already had a good hard peck on the head as she walked past I was expecting the same (or something worse!) but she just stood up proud as punch, seemingly quite settled with her new vantage point.

Rose and me!

Rose in the lounge

More antics today from the chooks whilst freeranging.  Rose found a dead frog so a game of chicken relay commenced, taking it in turns to grab it and leg it across the garden, the others in hot pursuit.  So funny to watch but I couldn’t have beared to see it torn apart so had to do a rescue and lob it over the back fence.  Not long after that I hear tremendous squawking and Milo barking, to find a beautiful heron standing next to the pond looking for fish.  It didn’t stay too long, once it had discovered the pond doesn’t have fish!  Although it could have had a feast on tadpoles.

Nathalie has returned from a few days in New York with college.  By all accounts she had a good time.   Apparently she was drafted in to do some stand up improvisation at a comedy club and couldn’t get out of it – so threw herself into the job with gusto – what happened to shy little Nathalie?!  Shame no-one got some video – would have loved to see it.

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Spring is in the air – or is it summer?

Finally, some lovely warm weather.  I’ve hit the garden big time in a bid to get some seeds going and the garden cleared of the weeds which have accumulated since the autumn.

I finally got round to cleaning out the greenhouse, giving it a good scrub and disinfect.  I feel so much better for that, everything organised now in plastic boxes as snails have been patrolling, eating anything in sight with a paper label.  Hence seed packets with holes, munched instruction leaflets and fertilizers without labels!

A crafty idea came to me when I was shopping in Waitrose (November I think) and saw their little boxes of lettuce seedling for cut and come again lettuce.  Bought one for just over a pound and split the contents up, planting them in the greenhouse border.  I think every single one took and I now have about twenty healthy lettuces.  Thrifty or what!

Tomato seeds are in and just coming up.  Cabbage and leeks sown alongside them in the greenhouse.  In the ground are parsnips, turnips, spring onions, radishes and peas.  The last of the leeks were lifted – quite pathetic ones – but still edible.  Potatoes are next on the agenda  – they are currently chitting in the conservatory and are just about ready for planting.

Did I tell you about the mice?…  We are inundated with them.  I can only assume they are residing in next door’s garden which has been left to grow wild.  Ianto is obviously element and the tally is roughly one a day, sometimes two.  Little Selphie is quite excited by this and has presented Jess with a couple of dead ones at night.  Not sure if she has hunted these as she hasn’t yet (as far as we know!) ventured further than halfway down the garden.  We’ve had live mice, dead mice, half a mouse, just the innards of a mouse and the last straw for me was coming down one morning a couple of days ago to find three piles of mouse thrown up on the kitchen floor, including frog spawn!!!  I then walk into the conservatory to a squelch underfoot and yes, there on my brand new kilim carpet is half a mouse.  Whether or not it matched the half in the kitchen I don’t know – was gagging too much to care!  Steve, if you’re reading, I desperately need my cupboard door and plinth on – the mice are taking refuge behind the fridge which means dragging the whole lot out – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!

Jess and I spent a merry half hour chasing a mouse under the sofa, for it to find a piece of escaped popcorn and sit there munching, out of reach.  Unfortunately, we never found it and have to assume it was the dead one found the next morning.  Not only mice, I found a dead bat on the grass too, but not sure if that was a cat kill or not

Rose the chicken has now been put in isolation in a bid to stop her feather pecking.  She is back in the Eglu Go, her penance being to de-moss the lawn as I move her run around.  She doesn’t seem too bothered and when I let the others out to freerange they gather round and chat to her, commiserating obviously!

Selphie and Willow investigate Rose

The four girls sunbathing

 

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Mmm – what to call it?

Each time I blog I get stuck on the title, hence the above!

Anyway at the request of little bro a short update on what has been happening chez Saunders.

The snow was fun for a short while and then it palled as we realised just how icy our roads were – no gritters in Busbridge, other than on the bigger roads.  We are effectively marooned up here.  Thankfully the VW Tiguan has 4×4 so we are able to get out but even off road walking was treacherous.  The chickens were not impressed – I let them out to see what they would make of it but they wouldn’t even venture onto the snow – it made me feel a little less guilty that they weren’t getting any freeranging.

The feather pecking and eating continues apace.  Yet another product being tried, called Featherite which is supposed to apply a bitter taste.  Have only put it on one chicken so far, Mimi, the easiest to pick up.

I can’t believe I didn’t mention Selphi, the lastest addition to the menagerie, in our last post.  Jess and her friend have decided to jointly buy a Scottish fold kitten.  They fell in love with it, basically a rescue nearly 9 months old.  The lady selling it dropped into the conversation when they say it that her vet thought it was pregnant!  So I get the call – mum will you look after it and get her through having the kittens while we look for a house to rent.  Mum says yes, takes the cat for a check up and vet says, ‘Don’t think so – if this cat is about 5 weeks pregnant I would be able to feel it – let’s do a scan’.  Thankfully she wasn’t so she was immediately booked in for spaying.  She is a cute little thing – a Scottish Fold without the Folds!  Painfully shy but over the past few weeks she has come out of herself – loves cuddles, gets on well with the other cats, hisses at Milo.

Jess is still househunting but she had relatively bad news on the job front two days ago, namely that Microsoft will not be keeping her on.  On the good side she’ll get a sparkling reference as it is not her work at fault.  So the job hunt is on again.

I’m itching to get on with planting in the garden.  Potatoes are chitting – have all my seed – just waiting for mid-March to get on with things.  Meanwhile I’ve been having a good tidy up – still loads of Autumn leaves around.  The compost heap has been turned.  I must say the chicken poo and the Bokashi bin are doing a great job of speeding up the composting.  I have loads of well composted stuff to spread.

Our usual Sunday walk is over Hankley Common and a few weeks ago we found building going on in the central bowl.  It turned out to be the building of the set for the new Bond film, Skyfall.  A ten week project with only a week of filming.  Its been fun watching it progress – we suspect it will probably be blown up!

Karen and I took the dogs over last week for a change and as we arrived two coach loads of soldiers pitched up.  So I tried to take the widest route round to avoid the dogs getting spooked.  As we went down one track there was a loan soldier at the end, beckoning the dogs.  Archie bowled on down, followed by Milo and then by Molly the Tibetan.  While the chap is fussing the dogs, Molly (amazingly not Milo!) was helping herself to his sandwiches.  Redfaced and mortified we left.  He very graciously said it was his fault for being more interested in the dogs.  They were there to do some IED practise before deploying to Afghanistan in a couple of weeks.

Nigel and I took a trip up to Birmingham to pick up a few of my dad’s effects and visit step-mum Josie.  Dad was definitely a bit of an anorak where trains were concerned – I brought back a few books and pamphlets – mostly on trains.  One book was rivetingly titled ‘Preserved Railway Carriages – the Complete stock-book of all known standard gauge carriages and passenger-rated vans preserved in Great Britain and Ireland’

I also came back with a load more slides so have had to take delivery of a new scanner to cope with copying them.    Its good for photo and negative scanning too so Nathalie will be able to use it for the film she has developed from her Lomography camera.   So she’s happy.

My family tree research is becoming all encompassing – so hard to leave it alone as I’m on a roll with it.  My membership of Ancestry and Findmypast has been well worth the money.  I get a big kick out of making contact with very distant cousins!

 

 

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Has it really been that long?

Busy, busy, busy – Christmas got in the way with all the panic buying that that entails.  Thank heavens for the internet – I got very little in the shops – just couldn’t face hacking into Guildford and battling with crowds.  Anyway, that’s done and dusted now.  Hope everyone was pleased with their presents – I try to put thought in it but always have the fear that I’ve duplicated something from a previous year!

As usual too much food was made – I am still in possession of half a Christmas cake at the beginning of February and there is a home made Stollen in the freezer and a bought one in the conservatory just begging to be opened.   I decided to try freezing semicooked potatoes this year ready to pop in the oven for roasting – forgetting they would take longer and lower the oven temperature.  Christmas dinner was late this year!

I am trying to be good though – a little dieting needs to be done.  I don’t think I do badly on exercise with all the dogwalking I do, but a hip problem is rearing its ugly head, and very long walks seem to set it off.  I rashly decided to head off on my own with Milo to Hydons Ball a couple of weeks.  Lovely walk – exactly 5 miles door to door but I did suffer the next day.  I am however trying to do a 3 mile walk most days.

The wrist is still giving some trouble – have to be cautious about certain movements and I still can’t bear full weight on it.

I’ve had a bit of a splurge on needle felting.

A couple of Christmas decorations:

Have made three more bears -one was made from fur given to me by my friend Karen, combed from her Collie/Rough Collie cross Archie.  It took a while as I wasn’t initially confident it would work – it was quite slippery to work but in the end I was really pleased and I think Karen was too when I gave it to her as a keepsake.

Another was made for the winning bidder in the Labradoodle Trust Auction.

The latest bear was finished in the nick of time for Nathalie’s 18th Birthday.

On the garden front, although I know there is still much to do I feel more or less in control of it, unlike last year at this time.   I have managed to clear the vegetable beds ready for the new growing season – they have been richly manured with chicken compost so I am expecting great things!  There is still a bed of leeks to dig – they are not the hugest of things but tasty all the same.  Other than that the parsnips are finished – they weren’t brilliant – had to cut off numerous legs to get to a small amount of parsnip.  My gardening chickens seem to have done a pretty good job on the weed front – they will be set to work again soon when the weather is better and I can supervise them.

We have had a big feather plucking problem with the chickens starting with Gwen manifesting a splendidly bald backside.  This happened back in November and she still has no feathers to speak off.  The malady has, however spread to three others leaving just the one, Rose – guilty as charged.  As she is the only one in possession of a full set of feathers the blame is lying full square with her.  Various internet research gives the reasons as boredom – could be, as they haven’t been freeranging as much, or lack of protein in the diet – hence plucking and eating the feathers.  So, entertainment is the name of the game – more greens hung up to peck.  I made my own boredom buster pecking blocks which have been a hit, taking at least a couple of days to devour.  Mind you having baked them for about 3 hours they were like rocks.  Still, much cheaper than spending £3 on a single commercial one.

They also get lots of mealworms, both live and dead, chucked in the run for them to seek and find.

As I write we have a few inches of snow and this morning I decided to let them out but they weren’t having any of it – snow and chickens obviously are no match.

Our other plan of attack is to spray each chicken with an Anti Peck spray.  Easier said than done.  We only have one chicken who willingly lets you pick her up.  The others involve blocking the Cube run and then just using the ‘grab’ technique, accompanied by frenzied rushing about, swearing from me and squawking from them.  Once got hold of they have to submit to the indignity of being sprayed with the most noxious, foul smelling, tarry substance which ends up all over my clothes and the smell stuck in my nostrils for the rest of the day.  I now have to wear just one particular fleece which goes straight in the washing machine or else the house just reeks.

Jess is now gainfully employed at Lionhead (Microsoft) in Guildford, just up the road from her dad.  Loving the job – would just be great if she were kept on at the end of her contract.

Nathalie is on the path to Uni.  She has offers from all but one which she is still waiting on.  We took a trip up to Kent Uni in Canterbury for the day yesterday for her interview and to view accommodation etc.  That entailed leaving at 7.30 to get there for 10 am – with her interview at 4pm.  Nigel and I passed the time in Canterbury doing lunch, shopping and visiting the Cathedral (which was stunning).  The interview was all of 10 minutes!

I continue to train Milo what many people see as pointless tricks and behaviours!!  The following article explains why far more eloquently than I could.

http://rosemont.patch.com/blog_posts/teaching-your-dog-tricks-whats-the-point

And, talking of tricks this is our latest effort – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-kZ722Stgo

We still have to perfect and video skipping rope!

Right, woffled on enough – have just munched on some excellent Rich Ginger scones made by my own fairhand.  Give them a try.

RICH GINGER SCONES

9oz self raising flour

pinch salt

1 level tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

2oz caster sugar

3oz butter

2-3 pieces stem ginger in syrup, drained and chopped

1 med egg, beaten

4 tbsp milk or buttermilk

 Oven 220°C/ 425°F/ Gas 7

 Sift flour, salt, baking powder and ginger into large bowl.  Add sugar and butter and rub in. Stir in chopped ginger.  Make a well in centre and add egg and milk or buttermilk.  Bind together – you may need a little more milk.

 Pat out to 1″ thickness.  Cut into 2″ rounds.  Brush with a little milk or buttermilk or dust with flour and bake for approx 10mins until well risen and brown.  Serve with clotted cream and honey (or not)!

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What have I been up to?

Well this particular post may be a bit shorter as I’m slightly handicapped by a badly sprained left wrist.

October 12th seems to be a bad omen for me.  Last year on the same day I was in A&E getting my knee stitched up after a fall.  Same venue this year, having taken a flyer tripping over the garden hose.  Really thought it was broken and two weeks on I’ve just had it re-x-rayed.  Some debate over whether is a healing fracture of a small bone in the wrist or just some degenerative changes which haven’t taken kindly to a huge whack.  They’ve leaned towards the latter and I’m just nursing it in a Tubigrip and waiting it out.  My lack of grip and strength and inability to use it is taking its toll on my patience.

But so far I’ve managed to do some weeding one handed, typed one and a half handed and made pastry one handed – so one can do!  Driving hasn’t been possible though.

This all happened a couple of days before flying up to Glasgow for a short break with Nigel – he was giving a couple of papers at a conference so it was a good excuse to go – I’ve never been to Scotland.   Despite wet and windy weather I very much enjoyed the city.  Such grandeur and totally unexpected.  We went with the totally wrong impression, expecting dark tenements and a drab city.  The Hotel was lovely, very grand and huge as befitted its Victorian status but it formed part of the Central station.  It had a chandelier hanging in the stairwell which must have been 50 feet long!  The only drawback was that we looked over the enclosed railway concourse and had all the station announcements to listen to from  7am – 11pm!   The conference had delegates from all over the world and I got the chance to practise a little rusty Russian with the Estonian delegates.  Embarrassing how much I’ve forgotten.

Mimi seems to be top chicken and has taken the prime spot in the Eglu house, perched in the little entrance to the nest.

The new chickens are now fully integrated with the other two in the new Eglu Cube.  Still a small amount of pecking from the older ones, generally around food time but they are getting along fine.  They are getting bolder but the babies have still not laid any eggs.  Nigel thinks they are not paying for their upkeep!

Free ranging together

Melting Moments - but I think they are Viennese Whirls

Zebra biscuits

 

 

 

Jessica is using up her free time learning to bake – we’ve had some great cakes and she has been taking up the challenge of some fairly complicated recipes.  This is a selection.

 

 

 

 

 

For a girl who has never been that interested in cooking she’s done really well – hasn’t needed much help from me.

Millionaire's shortbread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The downside is that these sweet delights have to be eaten and my waistline is ever expanding with my lack of willpower.

White chocolate and strawberry cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STOP PRESS – Today, 8th November, just over 5 weeks after getting them, Rosie and Polly Pudding have laid their first eggs.  Just Ace to go now.

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