Saturday, August 30, 2014

Harvest time inventions


Harvest time, I both love and loathe it in equal measures.

On the one hand there is the gratitude and happiness to see ripened crops, to pick baskets of beans or beets, to be able to share and swap with neighbours.

On the other hand there are the failures or the excess of one particular prolific crop.

Last year for us, that was the courgettes, this year it's the beets and beans.

This year I'm trialling beetroot and gooseberry chutney which, if it works, I will try to share the recipe.

Much as I love making pickles, jams, blanching to freeze until my hands are dry and raw, there does come the day when I scream out "what the heck can I do with yet MORE beetroot" to enable my family to not pull a face as I add jar number 67 of pickled beets to the shelves to add to our meat dishes this winter!
I have plans to make a couple of beetroot and chocolate cakes to freeze and one to give away tomorrow as we have a friend coming over to help us with the honey harvest.

I'm not massively keen on bottling, something that I find a lot of US websites recommend. Canning and bottling at home aren't something that the UK seems to be as fond of, hence the best equipment for this is from the US.

I therefore also try to get a bit more inventive and fill the freezer with slightly more trial and error foods, some of which really do. not. work!!


But, my big question today is:

How does this sound to you?

Rhubarb and chilli jam?  Is it more a pickle or a jam? Savoury or sweet?

My chilli plant has put out rather suddenly and I don't like using dried chillies, so am debating making some indian pastes up to freeze as I make a lot of curries and using some with the last of the rhubarb that I've just picked.

I suppose we just have to see eh?


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thankful Thursday.







So, I am following along with a few of my blogging pals out there to start a Thankful Thursday post. I am going to 'try' and it will be odd weeks when I forget, to post things I am thankful for on a Thursday evening.

So this week I am going to start with:


  • 1. Our bees capping 10 frames for us so that we can, with kind and willing friends to help, extract our honey for the first time on Sunday
  • 2. The earth providing not only nutrition for us but also lots and lots of giggles. Do you like my baby mandrake...he's having a hug!
  • 3. My planning papers are now looking less threatening and all these colours makes me grateful for having been able to take most of today to plan and get on top of next year.
  • 4. The new bed. She LOVES it. See my grateful post number 3. It is because of this that I was able to plan. Today she has read and read and read and read and, when you're that high up, you can do anything...change the world from on high !!
  • 5. My stool. I know, it's a little materialistic, but I'm so pleased with it. Good old Ebay! Now I can park my sore pelvis when my friends are here without being in pain all the while.
  • 6. It's Friday tomorrow: That means Mr Beehive the younger will be home from camp. I have missed him.
  • 7. Not just one job, but two for September and ones I can truly get my claws into (see gratitude number 3 again!!)
  • 8. The enjoyment of preparing and eating tonight's dinner without a single person saying 'ugh' or 'yuk' or 'I don't like x' to any of it!
  • 9. I won the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, carrot cake and lemon drizzle cake at the local village flower and produce show...I am Jill Archer!
  • 10. Being able to make time to run twice this week and go to the gym twice thanks to a willing babysitter!

You can read about Polly's 52 weeks of gratitude here: http://thisenchantedpixie.org/2014/08/28/52-weeks-gratitude-week-seventeen/

You can leave your link in the comments below x

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Village Bank Holiday Weekend...

It's quiet around here.

Curtains are still drawn.

For days now, the conversation has become hushed when the presence of another approaches.

Sideways glances are given.

Pale and ashen faces scurry along the street, head down, a slight nod of acknowledgement but the weather and time remain unremarked upon.

The knowing nod and a stealthy passing of implements in the night.

A stillness has befallen.

The village pub lies still.


Eerie sounds come from behind the closed blinds.

The sound of crunching metal.

Splattering of wet substances splash against solid.

The continual drone of electricity.

The sharpening of knives.

Occasional cussings may cut through the silence.

This is a place no one in their right mind wants to disturb right now.

The eve of the village food and flower show has arrived...BAKE OFFFFFFF!!!





Photo: Mad Hatter's tea party


Photo

Friday, August 22, 2014

Solving the puzzle!



Little Miss Beehive's bedroom has always been something that hasn't sat easily in my sense of order and neatness. It is the smallest room in the house and, whilst small isn't always a problem, the layout of the room has always given us conundrums. As a Montessorian, it's also given me headaches when trying to create somewhere that nurtured her developing needs, such as a quiet place to read, somewhere to draw or create, organised storage with homes for all her things and a 'calming' sleep area.

It is a room that has been 'made up' using some space over the stairs when the two cottages became one and this has created some quirks that have, at times, had me spitting feathers. To the left of the room as you walk in the door there is a raised bit of flooring, presumably to give sufficient head room up the stairs, which reduces the height in the room, but added to this, the ceiling also slants and there is an odd piece of horizontal low ceiling randomly running the width of the room about a third of the way across ! To the right of the room the ceiling continues to slant and there is a window on one wall and a radiator on the other leaving us only one usable wall.
When we first moved in and I realised there was no room for a wardrobe I found a local chap who fitted a great wardrobe and bookcase for us over the stairs side of the room. It has sliding doors and cupboards and is absolutely perfect, giving her a lot of storage space. He fitted it with two rails at different heights that meant she's always been able to reach and choose her clothing and there was plenty of space for storing her crafts and her toys.

Great, but cluttered and no floorspace
Her bed, however, was a different conundrum altogether. To begin with she had her regular bed. It's not a full size single, but not a toddler bed, so we knew it'd work in the space. There was, however, no further room for anything else and when she became an avid writer/artist and wanted somewhere to draw and create we dismantled the bed when my mum offered an old cabin bed that my sister had had as a child and was stored in her roof. This seemed like the perfect solution as it had a desk underneath and more storage.

This seemed a great solution for a while, and as you can see, she had a lovely space to write and draw in. However, there was no floor space to speak of. This wasn't an issue at age 6 and 7, but recently she's wanted her best friend to come over and sleep occasionally and her cousin often shares her room when she stays and when this happens, the door wouldn't open with a second mattress in the room...agggghhhh!

We moved back to the single bed we started with and put a futon mattress underneath. The bed went against the window this time to try to increase space.

It's just 'ALL' bed!

This worked for a while, but the addition of a much needed and loved desk for her birthday two years ago meant that we were playing tangrams once again and just a few books on the floor made the place look cluttered and chaotic.

Space underneath to play/hang out / read
So we bit the bullet and decided to find a craftsman who could create for her the perfect bedroom/bed that would not only give her a proper bed, but also space for her desk and space for her friends and maintain maximum floor space. Not an easy accomplishment. We also wanted something that would last her through her teenage years through minor adaptions and accommodate all her 'collections' of things and Oh My!!! The result has far exceeded our dreams. Our craftsman totally understood not only our practical requirements, but our aesthetic ones too!
Queen of her castle, a calmer area for sleeping
 So, so pleased with it all. He has used the space to its maximum benefit, fought with our demonic walls (all funny angles, lumps and bumps) and created a lifetime piece of furniture that will be serviceable to her until she no longer lives with us. Crudely, this beautifully finished, tactile piece of chunky furniture cost us no more than a good quality bed despite all the personal love and attention to detail and time that he put into it. Oh to be as skilled as he is!!

Her 'sleepover' bed will go in the space against the wall when required and live under ours for the rest of the time, and we will just shift her desk slightly and I will get her a bean bag and possibly a rug, but I'm looking for 'the right one' and don't want something fussy or that causes the room to look chaotic.

I love cottages and old houses, but this room has caused the most hiccups over the three years we've been here, now we've finally solved the puzzle!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summertime...and the livin' is getting easier!

It's that time again. The school bell has finally rung for the final time on this year and they're out for the summer!

Hooray!

No, honestly, hooray!

Whilst I love what they get from school, I have always fought myself as to whether or not we should have continued to home educate; whether school for 6/7 hours a day is/was the best choice; whether life would be less rushed and more present if we didn't have to hurry to school each morning and then sit and do homework for hours afterwards; or whether where they are is best and they are happier that way.  I'd like a pensieve or crystal ball to see our parallel universe...did they turn out okay this way or better that way...but then, wouldn't everyone !

Still, at least we get six weeks now to kick back and relax. The mornings are lazier, the evenings longer and more chilled, there's no homework, there is the music practice, but then there isn't the haranguing to get it done in the only spare 10 minutes of the day.

And then there's the adventures...who doesn't love a warm summer for adventures? The eldest Beehive has just returned from his first lone venture abroad without us. No, of course this mama wasn't nervous or worried or missing him...of course she was chilled and relaxed...ahem...(well I think I did well for my first time!) He has just had a wonderful 10 days with his district of the explorer scouts at a jamboree in Iceland. Yes! Iceland! I know! The best I got in the guides was digging a moat around our waterlogged tent in Exning. How times change!
It has been a wonderful few days by all accounts, so much so that he's actually only surfaced for around five hours today, I think he's making the most of having a proper bed and some darkness to catch up on his sleep!

 Then there is the allotment and the joy in cancelling the veg box for a few months whilst we 'try' to live off the produce and see if we can really do this.  I'm using the word 'try' in the loosest sense here as we've had a mixed set of results this year on our first attempt on the allotment. The carrots have been a disaster what with trying to grow them in a rock bed to start with, then them having eel worm in them, they have, however, helped the compost along! Beetroot has been fantastic, so pickles, roasted, grated in salads...we're beeting all the way here. Beans are starting, corn is coming, broad beans have been amazing and some are frozen for later in the year. Potatoes despite being disheartening from the surface, have actually given a good yield, cabbage was a waste of time...dinner for slugs and caterpillars only (despite covering!), pumpkins are on their way, leeks seem happy, onions are doing well, raspberries and cucumbers were/are fantastic, courgettes are, oddly, slow this year and all the tomatoes will ripen when we're away!

The honey is well underway with us having added a second set of supers to our hives. I hope we'll be extracting in the early autumn.


 Birthdays! Who doesn't enjoy a sunny summer birthday? This not-so-little man turned 12 recently and, as befalls him every year, having a birthday towards the end of term means that his birthday  tends to be broken into parts: the early part with those remaining school pals who haven't already gone away, the 'on the day' part with us and then, this year the 'celebrate with the cousin' part in France in a week or so's time...three birthdays, three cakes...I think that's a win-win situation!!
A trip to see 'Wicked' after spending a night in hospital with a nasty stomach virus and dehydration...that wasn't the intended plan for the start of summer, but the trip to the theatre (a Christmas present finally used!) certainly compensated for the poorly girl earlier in the week.

 Walks in the park whilst my owner tries to figure out how to do a dog/mama selfie and fails miserably!
Plays in the park at the super cool woodland rope course!

And then scrabble. No summer is ever complete without copious games of scrabble in the fresh air (not to mention the sulks and arguments that go hand in hand!)




Soon we're off to France for a couple of weeks. It's always a bit more of a hassle to go away now we have the homestead set up here. I have to rely heavily on friends housesitting and/or neighbours popping round to feed the chickens and ducks or water the crops. However, we have booked a farmhouse with my sister, her family and my folks so we can basically do nothing for a fortnight except swim, canoe, relax in the sun, read some books, drink some wine, explore some mountains, eat some cheese, dream about living there permanently and hang out together (hopefully without too many arguments or falling outs - yes, did I mention the downside to the summer holidays and siblings in close quarters for too long?) so I raise a glass (or two!) to my wonderful friends and neighbours who will hold the fort for us until we return.

Bonnes vacances mes amis xx

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday musings










Lots going on here as we move into the summer months:

I was lucky enough to steward on the Beekeeping association stand at Gardener's World Live a few weeks back. This gave me a free ticket. So I took my neighbour and we indulged in a day of bees and beautiful flowers. 

My gorgeous baby sister turns forty and we went to her party last weekend. I think a great time was had by all. 
The end of term approaches and that's changes for all concerned: Master Beehive the elder waves goodbye to Keystage three as he moves into his first year of GCSE exams! Scary to think he is that old already!
I'm leaving my current job at the end of term. I'm hoping something will come up before September, but I really want to get back into working with older children and sadly, where I am, is not going to give me that opportunity.

I'm also hoping to find more time to create... 


The elder Beehive is off to Belgium on curriculum enrichment week next week and the middle one is doing a variety of things including a day at Harry Potter world! Then, they're done! Eight weeks of summer. Eight weeks of no clubs, no early mornings, no crazy rushing...I'm sure I'm not the only mother in the world who is relishing this prospect and the thought of long sunny, lazy days.
Cider bottling has been going on here, we are quite a production site!

And finally our new queen is laying. We had the first small taster of honey last weekend. Some excess comb taken off and chewed... yum. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

I'm a jogging runner, get over it!

It's been a while...again...sorry...but haven't you heard, I have a hobby...well, if you're pals with me on facebook you're probably tired of hearing (sorry about that, but you can always ignore!).

Since January, since I started on my desire to lose at least a stone of weight from my 'edging towards later life' body, you know, the time when most stuff begins to head south in search of your feet and things are not quite as elastically pingy as they used to be...well, since then I've been at the gym. But then a good friend of mine drew me over to the dark side of life, the side where upon I get up at silly times of the day and haul my frequently tired and lead laden legs around a field several times, or I choose to stand in the cold making life changing decision about my attire on a Sunday morning, debating should I run in a base layer or not.
This is 'running'!
Although, it is debated as to whether what I actually do can be classified as actual 'running' and not more of a slightly speeded up form of jogging. Either way, I'm not sure I really mind.
I know that the purists may argue this with me and I can indeed see their point, after all, if you wear padded lycra shorts and muddy fox attire, swing your leg over what is these days called a 'road bike' (yup, what happened to the good old fashioned Raleigh racers...I now own a 'road bike' and it's more like a tightrope on wheels!) are you no less a cyclist if your speed takes you under a certain distance per minute?
If you strap your canoe to the roof of your car on a bank holiday Monday and head off on the M40 to a local boating lake or one of the many local canals, but you prefer to cruise leisurely through the waterways rather than bombing around as if you're doing slalom, are you no less a canoeist?
How about all those bloody slow lane swimmers? Maybe they're really drowning, but doing it in style, therefore we should think of a name for them too?

Anyway, I really don't care if you call me a runner or a jogger, this new found hobby/sport is keeping my busy and happy and fit. Whereas four years ago when I first ran 10K in Edinburgh it was a HUGE thing, my regular weekend race is now a 10K race and I'm working up to challenge myself to the Brighton half marathon in February. One of the things I love about doing this is the mental hurdles that it causes me to overcome. The voice inside my head who visits me about halfway in telling me to stop, give up, walk, go home...the fact I can beat that voice and make my body do what I want it to do (within age-realistic reason, I am over 40, that isn't going to go away!) rather than accepting that my body is taking over me. Personality wise I have a tendency not to stick at things that take longer than I want to achieve results, or I can take forever to finish a project or if I think I'm not going to be fantastic at it, I quit. The brilliance of running is that the only person you're in competition with is yourself. You 'have' to finish what you've started, particularly in a race, the drive, the crowd, the ...er...bling...(not superficial at all), the calorie loss, the muscle tone, it's a win-win.

So, I apologise if you are bored listening to me prattle on on facebook about personal bests or running conditions. I apologise profusely if you're Mo Farrah (the actual RUNNER!) reading this (he pops in here a lot you know!). I also apologise if I answer the door these days in some rather awkwardly placed padded lycra or you pass me lolloping down the road when you're in your car with my rather heavy over pronounced gait that makes me look like an absorbalof being consumed by the pavement (no, seriously...running/lolloping photos are NEVER attractive!). You can call me a jogger, I won't mind, you can ask me why I bother to run and I'll tell you all the above, you can tell me that my sport can only possibly be a hobby because I'm hardly an athelete and I'll tell you I'm happy I have a hobby/sport after many years of wondering why these nutters did this kind of stuff...I'm happy to be a nutter with them all (if not a slightly slower jogging/lolloping/pootling/healthier one!!)