Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Slowing it down

Phew, life is running at full speed and quite frankly I need to slow things down. It's nearing the end of 2014 and full pelt is the way I'm rolling right now.

I am still in that early transitional turmoil of trying to be everything I was, and some, and then hold down a full time (bar a couple of hours) role outside the home, and maintain our house and homestead.

I seem to spend much of my life rushing and I'm ashamed to say, nagging (although I prefer the word 'cajoling!) kids to get up or do homework or practice one of their instruments. Food gets little thought put into it unless it's the weekend and, although we're not eating crap (yet!), we do seem to eat a lot of soup and pasta these days because it's fast and easy.

Coordinating my own hectic schedule adds fuel to the already ridiculously full agendas of three growing teens and pre-teens, not to mention Mr Beehive's calendar...


This Sunday we caught up with an old school friend of mine. I use the word 'old' lightly because neither of us, I'm sure, would like to categorise ourselves as old, however, 24 years without seeing each other, probably puts us in some kind of antique memorabilia in a museum!

A rather scary picture from 1986 or 87...

It was just the antidote I needed.

A full on smack in the face that life is just going TOO fast and I need to seriously choose and purge things that I don't need in our lives.

We had a fantastic few (dreadfully short) hours to catch up with the last 24 years from our final days in the sixth form through our marriages, babies, trips and years spent overseas and then back to one of our mutual passions, homesteading and becoming self sufficient.

It made me realise that life really is as short as they say and things that we think need to be done probably aren't the things that necessarily make us happy.

My friend made me appreciate the importance of saying 'no' once in a while too for the well-being of our families. I've said 'yes' one too many times this year and this is probably how I've ended up with a little more than I can chew.

I want to appreciate the moment rather than running onto the next all the time even if that just means taking more time to eat as a family, lighting a candle at the meal table, reading a bedtime story to a girl who is in double figures now, taking a few more pictures and I'm going to sign up for Heather's Hibernation seminar

this Winter just to ensure that each day I take some time out of the frenzy to find my calm, reflect and re-balance.

I want to keep my eyes well and truly open for the next 24 years and during this time, my friend and I will see each other far more!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Winter is a' comin' in

Warranting us to begin to start thinking about getting things prepared. Living in the 21st century, life is a doddle. We get cold, we turn on the heating; We get hungry, we go to the store. It's not like we need to prepare for winter in the same way we used to many years ago, but there is something soulfully delightful about preparing for the longer evenings and nights, making sure the pantry and freezer are full with food and that food is to be comforting, starchy pies and warming stews, knowing that all the flowers and plants, even some of the animals are hunkering down preparing to sleep until the spring.

I have always fancied myself as a bit of a bear. In fact, for those of you who have been reading this blog for a longtime will know, I often used to call myself a mama bear. I would feel somewhat of a prannock using that term these days, but my sentiments are there and...well, allow me to hibernate and just come out in the spring, summer and autumn, I'm sure I'd thrive!

My 'hibernation' this year is starting with my needing to purge. I don't spring clean, I'd like to not clean at all, but heck...

The children are growing up so fast.
The outside build is getting ready for the roof trusses this week.
My career has evolved over the years

All these things are meaning that we're needing less of the toys; we can start thinking about moving stuff over to the studio over the garage, I don't need some of the items I used to need for work, clothes are continually being grown out of (at a rate of knots!).

We have decided to do away with our Wii, at least for a while. It sits there and barely gets played. The children have all decided (much to my reluctance - I'm not really very tech-savvy and my fear of technology tends to manifest itself in a dislike, which, for my teens is probably not a great thing and I try hard to understand 2014 through their eyes rather than mine in 1987) that they have outgrown the Wii and want a Playstation instead. We have seen that there is more development with the latter and more games they can get, thus we have decided that sometime next year we will replace the Wii as a family. In the meantime the Wii is going, freeing up a lot of storage space. I also feel a large sense of release, temporarily, even though it rarely got played.

The bees are still out and about, although less frequently at the moment. We have been studying our manual trying to decide what we need to do for them over the winter. Primarily, not a lot I think. It doesn't matter where you look, books, internet or fellow beekeepers, they will all say different things. Some tell you to keep the hives warm by stuffing in some kind of insulation, whilst others say that insulation creates moisture and others tell you that bees don't die of cold they die of wet. Some say feed fondant, others say don't feed! Agghh, it's a minefield of information. I think much of our first winter will be trial and error and a lot of dependency on Mother Nature being kind to us all.

We're also thinking about spring and sorting out around the garden. This is a mess! ha ha ha!
It's a bizarre little area that doesn't make a whole heap of sense. The shed is a 'summer shed' style and is massive. Too big really. It has an overhanging roof that I perpetually bump my head on whilst wearing my bee suit (the bees being behind me in this picture). The roof is growing a lot of moss and starting to fail and one of the windows is also failing. It has been built with a decked area to one side of it which is a death trap when it rains because it becomes very slippery. It also takes up a good 10 x 5 metres of garden.

A project for after hibernation perhaps!

Monday, November 03, 2014

From Farm to Fork

My freezer once more over floweth over with porcine delights!

I have been over to Somerset today to pick up our butchered half pig that has become something of an annual ritual with our good pals. We buy a whole pig, organic Gloucestershire Old Spot, and it's reared, free range on a farm, then 9 months later we return to pick up our cuts. Whilst this is an expense up front, we have found that, long term, this is a good saving. It also means the kids know exactly where our food has come from (as do we, of course). We know where our eggs come from, our honey, our cider, much of our veg, our lamb (I'll get there in a moment) and our pork. It hasn't been sitting on the shelf for weeks and the cuts are the ones that we'll eat, so nothing is lost.

There is always the question about the value/footprint of travelling to Somerset to pick up our pig each year (around 180 miles round trip), but if you've never eaten a breed of pig such as GOS or Oxfordshire Sandy and Black you'll not appreciate that it's worth the trek. I think if I counterbalanced it with trips I might make more frequently to pick up a good joint from the Supermarket or our local farm shop, it could balance out over the course of the year. Then there is also the distance from farm to abattoir to butcher, literally across the road in our case, against the long distances that supermarket meat may have to travel to do the same journey from farm to plate. I think I can rest relatively easy that, at the very least, it breaks even!!

Our lamb is just about as local as we can possibly get it. It comes from our plumber!! Yes, that's right, our plumber moonlights as a farmer, or, perhaps he moonlights as a plumber as I feel that being a farmer is probably a fairly full time job. He breeds lambs and each New Year we take a whole lamb off his hands. Again, beautiful meat and this time within a radius of around 5-6 miles!

We're not huge meat eaters. I know, with half a pig and a lamb in the freezer that probably sounds an oxymoron, but our weekly menu probably includes at least three days of meatless/vegetarian foods. We do, however, love a roast on a Sunday, traditional...us?

Thus most of our meat is in the form of various joints we can roast. We also enjoy sausages and I can specify their filling and whether or not they're to contain gluten and last year I made my own smoked bacon. Although it came with steep learning curves, primarily that of cutting it before freezing it, the lardons that I ended up with made the most beautiful pasta dishes and quiches. I won't be making bacon this year, but that's purely because most of our house is in chaos at the moment with the build and I have no where to spread out or store things, not to mention where my highly adaptable brining container, aka my cool box, has gone!

Obviously a trip to Somerset isn't complete without lunch with the bestie and then a small wander around Glastonbury to nourish the inner hippy (ok, the outer one too!) before heading home.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Rounding off half term

We've had a glorious weekend, blessed with good weather and blue skies, up in Derbyshire on the outskirts of the Peak District National park.

Packing up the car early on Friday we headed up to Winster to stay in a little cottage and get in a couple of good walks as well as a fireworks evening at Chatsworth House.

I have to say that I'm not very familiar with the Peak District being more of a Lake District gal myself, however we were thoroughly enjoyed walking two routes, the first around Linacre reservoire and Old Brampton and the second up above Chatsworth.

It was great for the children, nothing massively challenging bar some very boggy bits and an over enthusiastic child who decided to have a mud bath, but a good long walk that totalled 10 miles by the end, broken up with a fantastic pub lunch in Baslow and collecting pine cones for our bug hotel!

Unfortunately it didn't all go according to plan as the Little Misses condition means that she can be fine one minute and then wiped the next and, with all the fantastic walking she did through the day, she wasn't feeling 100% on the evening, so she and I missed the display. Still, we enjoyed catching up with Strictly in front of the log burner later on.

Fresh air, good food and reconnecting with nature and each other - nothing better in my opinion.