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.

And, talking of tricks this is our latest effort –

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.


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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September news

September and another belated blog.

Firstly, Herman has been consigned to the freezer in suspended animation.  The family were starting to complain about the bubbling beast hogging the kitchen side, and my waistline about all the cakes, – so he had to go!

The Isle of Wight was lovely if a bit wet and cool.  I enjoyed revisiting the memories of 42 years’ ago when I last visited on a Junior school week long trip to Shanklin.  Beautiful as the island is, don’t think I will be visiting in high season – it is definitely very geared up to tourism.  Schools had just gone back at the beginning of September but we got stuck in some horrendous traffic jams.  It didn’t help that the Bestival started at the end of the week.

Our hotel, although a beautiful historic house in idyllic grounds leading to the beach, was slightly disappointing.  It had become tired and needed some love and attention to bring it up to scratch.  It was sad that most of the guests we spoke to said they would not return.  We had a whole cottage to ourselves – although we had our booking confirmed the hotel rang to say they didn’t have any hotel rooms – would we accept the barn for the same price?  Well, of course.  However, lovely as it was our room looked like a nun’s bedroom with not an ounce of colour or soft furnishings other than a white duvet – no pictures on the walls.  The two sofas were holed and had seen better days – the floor was more comfortable!   If they spend a bit of money on the place I would go back – perfect location.

Milo was kennelled during our stay but they couldn’t have him an extra night.  Jess offered to pick him up so, to ensure no problems, we got her to give him a practice run in her MX5.  No problem, straight in for a whizz round the block – he’s obviously a dog who could quite get used a little sports car.  Apparently when she picked him up he hared straight into the car and went a little mental at home in his excitement to be reunited.

We await this week, the arrival of our new Eglu Cube, complete with walk in run.  I have  spent nearly two weeks clearing a portion of my flower bed nearest the house, a patch 5m x 3m.  Jess has given a hand and finally persuaded Nigel to help give it a final dig over and level yesterday.  I now have to source a load of wood chip as a substrate for the hens.  We plan to get another couple of hens.

We joined in with another labradoodle walk at the end of August, to Nyman’s Gardens, National Trust.  I was suffering with a back attack but managed to walk round quite well, with the aid of my hiking stick.  It wasn’t till the car journey home that it decided to play up again.  Mind you I was pretty wary of the many bouncing dogs and tried to keep my distance.  The lake was a particularly dodgy spot – they were just so hyper!

Latest news – Cube was constructed on the piece of ground I had set aside.  We decided the next day to add another 2 cu mts of run so it will be bigger than you see below.


Just left to me to order in some woodchip.  Found a Tree Surgeon and ordered 2 cu mts for £108 total.  They ‘phoned with an earlier delivery date – as I was out – left it with hubby and Jessica.  Two panic phone calls from them – first just panic, second just a bit stroppy!

They had dumped what must have been the equivalent of at least 6 cu mts on the drive. OK, I got a bargain but what to do with it?  This is the offending pile.  Eventually Jess and I cleared the majority of it by 5.30pm – piles everywhere in the garden for future projects and a builders’ bag full in the front garden.

New chickens were the next thing on the shopping list.  We went over to Golden Valley Poultry in Grayshott – a lovely set up with a very friendly and helpful owner who had to put up with our indecision in the face of so many lovely varieties.  We came home with three, not the two we went for. So meet:

Poppy the Bluebelle

Rose the Silver Link

Ace the Heritage Skyline

They are all 18 weeks old and very nervy.  We are taking their integration with the older ones very slowly – they can see each other – that’s about it for now.  They are very timid birds but I got two of them to eat mealworms from me with a bit of clicker training yesterday.

Talking of which, I got Milo to do one skip yesterday (of a rope I mean) – watch this space!

And finally, another unexpected visitor to the garden, very bold and very enamoured with the chickens.  Having taken my fill of pictures I sent Milo out to see him off – I didn’t like the way he was eyeing them up!

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Completely forgot I had drafted this so, very late in the day, this harks back to July 18th!

We have been inundated the past three days.  All good for my garden so I don’t mind.  The poor old chickens are getting little freedom – they prefer to be under cover anyway when its tipping down.

We joined a Doodle walk at Virginia Water on Saturday.  Milo had a ball, plenty of water to swim, around 15 dogs to run wild with.  They were all brilliantly behaved – and we had a complete mix of doodles of every generation and type, as well as a couple of honorary doodles. Boy was it wet though! I honestly can say I have never been so drenched right through but the dogs were having so much fun it didn’t seem to matter.  We visited the local pub afterwards for lunch which had a big sign saying ‘Dogs Welcome’ but we put them all in the cars.

We had bad memories of Virginia Water as Milo knocked a kiddy over when he was a boisterous puppy.  We were threatened with the police and ending up getting a telling off letter from the Park for him not being on lead (which we honestly didn’t know at the time, especially considering he was playing with another Labradoodle off lead).

Thankfully, the rain meant it was only mad dogwalkers out today and we were in bonafide’dogs off lead’ territory.

Bringing things more up to date now that we are halfway through August and as I write this through an episode of killer back pain – hence housework and gardening have been abandoned and I’m not so sure sitting at a computer is doing it much good either.  It needs to improve by Sunday though as we have a Doodle Walk at Nyman’s Garden in Sussex.  I really don’t want to cry off.

Summer holidays will soon be over.  We have not been away but Nathalie has been for her week at Soul Survivor in Shepton Mallet, and as usual, has had a ball, even though camping and getting wet.  She’ll be off again soon on a four day worship leader course at the London School of Theology.  AS results came in yesterday and she did brilliantly with two As and two Bs.  Nat can now stop panicking over whether she is good enough to go to Uni.  The search for the right course and the uni visits now start in earnest.

Jess is now officially out of work, having finished her contract with Codemasters.  She’s thrilled that her name will be on the credits of Bodycount, the video game she has been working on.  For the uninitiated, and I count amongst them as it is definitely not my cup of tea, its a FPS (First Person Shooter) – she’ll be proud of me for remembering that! – killing game.  Lovely!!!!  But heck, I’m proud of her for getting into the industry so quickly and, by all accounts, acquitting herself well in the job.

The negative processing is going apace.  I found another scrapbook full so they have been dealt with – another 200 to go.  My stalking on the web to try and find the folks in the photos, with the aim of passing the photos on, has been semi successful.  I know I would be so chuffed if someone contacted me out of the blue with family photos!

The chickens have had a little blip in production over the past week.  Gwen decided she was going to go broody and has stopped laying.

By being mean and banning them both from their little house during the day and sticking a great big clay plant pot in the middle of the nest at night, after three days she has finally decided to snap out of it.

She was being very insistent on sitting on her nest, all very proud of Mimi’s egg which she had purloined and was sitting on.  If you went up to her she would puff up her feathers and cluck, but thankfully didn’t get aggressive.  A hand up the backside shoving her out of the door was all it needed to dissuade her from the nest.  It seemed that once she was out she forgot about being broody, except for the first day.   I had let them free range in the garden with me while I was weeding, hoping it would take her mind off her raging hormones.  She didn’t want to follow her pal Mimi around as usual but kept going back to the run and house, trying to get back in.  At one point she took a flying leap at the house.  I did however, feel pretty bad later in the afternoon, when she laid an egg in the run.  That meant both she and I were confused but as the next couple of days went by with no eggs and still the broody behaviour I knew I was on the right track.  We are just waiting for her to start laying again.

Gwen has discovered how to jump on the garden chair and also has twice now jumped over the fence – not by design but pure chance.  She likes to have a flap and stretch her wings, which sometimes turns into a full leap – she finds herself slightly surprised on the other side!

The roses have been stunning this year.  This one I found as a root at the bottom of an old apple tree which we took out.  I transplanted it at the foot of a laburnam on the patio and it produces gorgeous, old fashioned deep red roses, which smell delectable.

I am sure that every golfer hankers after a hole in one.  Well, Milo beat Nigel to it!

We held a local Doodles n’All walk at Hankley Common which was really well attended.  Newcomers to the group were the beautiful Thandi, a German Shepherd pup and Kodi – Mastiff/Great Dane Cross – a real gentle giant.  The dogs all behaved beautifully and went home tired and wet, possibly muddy!

Until the next time – looking forward to a stay in a posh hotel in the Isle of Wight for our 25th Wedding Anniversary.  Haven’t been there since I was 11.

Oh, and forgot to say that Herman is still on the go – slightly wearing of him but have discovered it makes the most delicious pancakes!

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Finished at last

Well, the cold finally surfaced – a couple of days of achey stuff but its on its way out now – just a few snuffles still.  Its Nathalie’s turn now.

Took the opportunity to crack on with my needle felt sculpture of Milo and have decided that it is now finished – I must stop fiddling with it for fear of wrecking it rather thanimproving.  So here he is in all his mini glory.  And yes, he is anatomically correct – how could I emasculate him!

I now need to decide on my next project – it will probably be another teddy bear.  A friend has given me a whole bag of her collie’s combings.  Its lovely soft undercoat and looks as though it may work up well.  I’ll give it a go.

Before I start that I need to work on a couple of small items that could be made in a workshop setting.  May be running a taster one next year for the Nexus women’s group.  Much as I fear a lawsuit from women stabbing themselves with the sharp barbed needles it could be fun and a change from doing another beading workshop!



The chickens are still giving us two eggs a day with the odd large one thrown in – 88g was the  last, the largest so far – its from Mimi – Gwen seems to have stopped laying the big ones.  She is the noisiest bird to lay and takes forever to do it, going in and out of the nest box.

They are loving being let out to freerange.  I was worried they would be scoffing all the plants but all they are interested in is a jolly good scratch about and a feast on all the bugs, worms and slugs they find.  They’ve been spooked a few times by Ianto the cat skulking about in stalk mood.  They actually come running to me which is quite endearing or they immediately leg it back to the run.  Milo is still finding it fun to give the odd chase but the chickens just settle back to scratching.  I’m always out with them if they are let out of the run.  At the moment they think Christmas has come as windfall apples are dropping from one of the trees.  As they are not supposed to eat treats until later in the day I clear them from where they have dropped in their run but they are still squeezing their necks through the netting to get to them.

I think this apple tree is an Early Windsor, also called Emneth Early but every July it has an abundant crop of yellowy green apples.  They ripen so quickly and just drop – every day there are about 40/50 windfalls.  Sadly, the apples don’t store – they are very soft but make fabulous purees and bake well.  I just can’t keep up with them and I hate waste.  A rotary apple peeler, corer and slicer is on my shopping list this week.

The friendship cake is proving a hit with friends.  I’ve made two now and a third is brewing away.  Just trying to think of different ingredients to put in this one – I fancy apricot for a change.  From Googling it seems it is an adaptable mix so I may as well play with it.





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When animals show any signs of illness, I panic, always imagining the worst.  I’ve never been good with dealing with the death of any of our pets – all reserve goes.

Don’t panic though – we have not had to deal with any deaths, but yesterday Nigel noticed Mimi the chicken had a large lump on her chest.  I felt it, it was hard and I immediately jumped to the conclusion that she had an impacted crop – something which would stop her eating as no food can pass through the mass of food which has caused the problem – usually long grass.  One home remedy is to dose with olive oil and feed live maggots.  Had the former, not the latter so Jess and I braved syringing about a teaspoon of warm oil down her beak.  It wasn’t that hard to do – I imagined being pecked to pieces but it was actually quite easy to open her beak and she didn’t struggle.    Not sure she liked the taste of the olive oil though.

Anyway seems like I was being paranoid – this morning the lump has gone. Its seems it was just a full crop from the day before so along with my fears of one of them going broody last week I need to not be such a worrier!

We had our largest egg a couple of days ago – 84g – bound to be a double yolker.

An 84 grammer! That's bigger than a large supermarket egg

It seems there are several local people with chickens but have discovered that some roads have covenants saying they can’t keep chickens.  Don’t think we have anything like that – certainly remember chickens being kept in one house in the road when we moved here.  For those unlucky enough to have the covenant it seems a bit outdated – don’t know if you can appeal against things like that.

Missed a great photo opportunity yesterday – Ianto the cat having a dustbath – but in the chickens’ pen in their dustbath!

Have treated myself to a Kindle and loving it.  Yesterday morning took out some me-time, sitting in Costa’s, finishing the only book I had on it.  Have now stocked up with a few more in the Kindle sale.

On the family research front, I have had an old school friend of my dad’s contact me from the States after I did some sleuthing on the net.  I am so chuffed – will be sending over several photos, taken by dad in the 50s, of his parents and friends.

Trawled the charity shops yesterday, not for anything in particular – just like looking.  Found four pretty little tea cups for serving desserts – no saucers unfortunately.

Anyone remember the old German Friendship cake which did the rounds in the 80s?  Mum brought me over some starter and after a 10 day stir and feed process I baked the cake on Monday.  It really is delicious.

My youngest Nathalie is becoming a whizz at cupcakes – the Hummingbird Bakery Book has a lot to answer for as to my increasing waistline.  I suppose I could ‘Just say no’!

Garden is finally being productive.  First potatoes harvested although I can’t remember if they are Charlotte or Vivaldi.  Onions looking good but have thick necks which may not be so good!  The peas have been brilliant although I didn’t sow many of them – need to get those out to plant some dwarf kale.  I actually have managed to grow some Hispi cabbages and they look as though they are forming a decent heart.  My beloved red gooseberries have been got at – a blackbird got in the cage (and nearly didn’t escape the clutches of Ianto) – there are none left.  But he didn’t touch the red or whitecurrants.

All the greenhouse stuff; tomatoes, pepper and chillies is doing really well despite the first signs of whitefly which devastated the house 3 years ago.  The yellow fly papers have gone up PDQ and seem to be doing the job.

I can feel a cold coming on – the usual sore throat and eyes – bit of a sniffle – hope that’s as bad as it gets!


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