Thursday, 22 July 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes......

Two days ago the 5yo needed to see the doctor for a minor repair, he ate his lunch extra slowly not wanting to go.

'That's it,' said I; a phrase I'm fond of. '......your lunch (tuna mayo and toast) is going into the fridge and you can have it later.

..... But lunch was forgotten, for a very good reason: In a little town nearby there is the most evil shop, an olde fashioned sweet shop with tall glass jars filled with smells and promises and things to rot your teeth. After a well behaved doctor visit, we visited the den of sin and I purchased two traffic-light gobstoppers the size of the sproglet's heads! We almost had to return to the doctor after the 7yo put hers in her mouth but struggled to get it back out again. We three had a deal; they would only lick the candy (.... hopefully for the entire 9 weeks of the holidays! A bargain at 50p each.)

Later that night, long after the babies were scraped off the ceiling from their sugar-high and put to bed, I rediscovered boy's lunch and fed it to the cats.

Mid-day yesterday, as he munched a sandwich, the 5yo turned to me and said,

'Mummy, don't forget, I need the lunch I had yesterday tomorrow.'


I'm off now to shake the cats.

Picture courtesy of The Pink Sweet Shop

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Sorry about the weather....

Just a quick apology! Last week, Monday to be precise, I put a tent up. It was my cunning plan to keep the house clean for the summer. We lasted one, lousy night, as that was the night the monsoon started. It hasn't stopped raining since. Clearly that is my fault and therefore I'd like to grovel at the feet of the UK and say,

'I'm sorry! OK?'

I really can't be arsed to take the soggy tent back down at the moment so it'll have to stay up till at least next Wednesday. Please be advised to expect pants weather until this time.

Actually I feel really cool having a weather-making tent. Might sell it on ebay.... Oo, can't, it's not mine!!! A. if you're reading this, you've got a really magical tent that I'm carefully minding for you...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Garlic, Auctions and Giganta-Ants....

It is official: I am a derr-brain! Last year I planted food-stuff in an effort to have some crops for Spring. That didn't really work but hey-ho! My onions just didn't seem to be growing. Last week I clocked my neighbours onions (that's not a double-entendre btw!!) Blimey they were huge. Today I stood looking at mine, they are OK but not a patch on his.... As the top leaves were dying off I decided to end my pain and torture, (and competitive growing,) so I pulled them up. Bugger me! ('scuse the french,) they aren't onions at all; they are garlic - massive garlics..... The kitchen pongs a bit now. I'm not a champion onion grower, I'm a champion garlic grower. Yeah!


'Oo Oo Oo,' she said, bouncing up and down with excitement like a child needing a wee! We've been to the fine art auctions again in Ludlow, on the lookout for old tat to replace the newish tat we arrived at The Larches with. The cheap Swedish stuff from the blue store looks so out of place here. I'd rather have Agneta (also from Sweden) design my home....

Hubby was like a boy trapped in a sweet shop. He bought 4 spurious little oak tables for £5, exceptionally good for drinks and family snacks in the sitting room! He bought a short chest of drawers and yet another table for £8!! I bought two old school desks with cute inkwells for £12!!! He countered with a pink striped sofa in really gorgeous condition for £20!!!!

But the pièce de résistance was the dresser: Victorian, Welsh dresser-like, it is pine and veneered with two glazed display cupboards, flanking shelves, 3 wide drawers and a lower cabinet to hide away my occasional crockery. At 72" wide there is a slight hitch, we can't get it in the car and Dizzy Disco needs a new clutch so we can't tow it back home just yet...or the sofa for that matter. But soon, soon....... I've got such plans for the kitchen now, can't wait to get started.


I'm not sure the children will last the summer. Having been out of school for almost 10 days their brains have rotted: Today they thought it might be amusing to jump up and down on the dung heap, deliberately disturbing a giganta-ant colony (they're big up here in Shropshire.) The little creatures fought back, running up the inside of the sproglet's clothes, biting all the way. Fair play really.

I heard the screams several fields away and raced to find the 5yo hysterical, tearing off his clothes on the top of the poo mountain. The 7yo was less eaten and was spitting on a doc leaf and rubbing at her injuries.

'Good job I didn't show them the wasp nest yet...' commented hubby. Hmmmmmmmm.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

A Pod A Day Keeps the Boredom at Bay

One of the best pressies I ever did get from hubby was an iPod, a Classic I think it's called. It matters not, the important thing is how you use it.

I use it for podcasts mostly, free ones!

I use iTunes to download a library then I synchronise to the iPod. The BBC website is filled with pods for casting... great fun. I personally love Gardener's Question Time, Books and Authors and the Friday Night Comedy which is always topical.

On other sites you can also subscribe and download mini episodes of children's programmes: The Sesame Street podcast still amuses my two when bored shopping or the like and they are 5 and 7yo! Lately it has been my pod of choice as the cuddly characters have shared the screen with David Beckham, Jack Black, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal to name but a few... Check it out, it may save you for a fractious time during the long summer holidays....

The countryside and the Fighter Planes

My heart races occasionally, it's not angina (I hope) it's more likely the low level military aircraft that zoom over the house en route to sneak up the valley, over Ludlow and under the radar at Clee Hill. The sound of them penetrates your entire body. If I'm gardening it can make me tearful; so awesome the sound.

Sometimes I briefly consider what it must be like in a war-torn environment with the sound of these aircraft approaching; seconds to spare as the metal monster bears down on its target. I push the thought from my mind as soon as possible.

Investigating these planes I found a brilliant site, its pictures exquisite. Take a peek if you have the time:


Rain rain go away,
Come again another day...

.....Alternatively if you could just come at night when I'm asleep that would be great!

It's monsoon season, no, not the dress shop sale, BIG rain. The tent we erected is lonely.

At least our guests are dry in the barn.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Camp Out.....

Husband always winces when I say; 'I know: I've got a good idea.....' No trust, no faith!

Home Field is our play field; there was a football pitch and golf hole there earlier in the season but now its a meadow on fertilizer drugs: Sky high with feathery grasses, it desperately needs to be harvested and made into hay.... If only I could locate Land Man and his tractor, but he's super-busy managing nature on his patch. However, in line with my new plan, hubby mowed a play-lawn near the bonfire and paddling pool............

A long, long time ago my pal lent us her tent. It's two-man tent but she seems to have lost the men, as all I can find in the bags are the tent poles and the canvas.. boom, boom! Geddit? It's early in the morning, bare with me....

....... It was still about 23°, late in the afternoon, when hubby and I started to put up the tent on the newly mowed grass. It is really cool, shaped like an igloo with plenty of room for one adult and two pint-sized sproglets .... Oh, the adult will be me then?!! (Hubby's more 5* than tent!!!)

By 9pm they were scrubbed and, military style, were on parade in the house.

'Blow up Beds?'

'Check,' they saluted



'ONE Toy?'

At this, a squabble erupted: Apparently the 5yo was smuggling in lots more duty free than his allowance permitted. The 7yo, was incensed, purely because she hadn't considered contravening the rules and was furious with herself.

Finally we got to the tent.

'You've chosen the chilliest night for ages,' Hubby helpfully noted, before zipping us in and abandoning us for a night of peace in the house.... Grrrr.

....We sang, we told jokes, we discussed life the universe and everything and then, when my eyes could stay awake no more, I screened some cartoons on my iPod.

All was well until about 10:30pm: Hubby had mislaid a chicken, probably Happy, our disabled girl. Back out of the tent we searched and searched, only to find her in the coop all along! *This is exceptionally good news actually, as it means all our new rescued battery hens have finally sussed how to put themselves to bed. We'll just lock up and turn on the fence each night from now on. Yipeee...

Back in the tent the children had a wobble.

'We want to go into Daddy now.' The 7yo began to sniff, weeping would shortly follow.

'Nope.' I bellowed. 'Go to sleep. Right now!'

Remarkably, they did! Then the rain came, and came, AND came! I'm pleased to say that the tent is waterproof, my bed was beyond uncomfortable, and later in the night the 5yo and 7yo both abandoned their beds, in favour of sleeping on me! But: We have overcome another 1st - Sleeping in a tent. We are now cheaply portable.

Back in the house this morning (it's still sodding raining) I'm shattered but happy.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

How do you like Your Molotov Cocktail... ice and lemon?

Wow. The Elderflower is exploding..... A glass bottle with a metal and ceramic stopper blew itself to kingdom come in the dairy!

Trying to burp the bottles proved equally hazardous to life until I suggested we freeze them.

'After all Champagne doesn't fizz up if it's especially chilled..' she said smugly to the hubby, as she reminisced back to the time when she was a Stolly-Bolly girl in London, selling art....... ah bliss.

So we stuck them in the deep freeze and when they were really cold we burped the bottles.

They are now being stored in the cellar and require burping once a day.... Poo! it's like having 30 children!! Still it will be worth it in the end...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Let the Summer Begin...

Kids broke up.... not literally, (I'll volunteer for that activity by week 6 of the holidays.) There will be very little writing time now with the sproglets home. We're going to venture out to explore; there's the Welsh coast and mountains, a myriad of pretty towns, forests and rivers around us.

I also need to decorate. Note the I, not we. I am the painter; possibly having a BA Hons in Art didn't help my case when I claimed to be less inclined towards painting and decorating, look at Michelangelo, Pope Julius II had him doing ceilings!

So now I need to decide where to start........ I think already know the answer, but lets see if you concur. Answers in the comments box please. [Mandatory Warning: There isn't a prize and no animals were hurt in the making of this blog post. Please note that investments can go up and down (although in my experience they only seem to go down) and smoking can damage your health.] There, H&S will be soooo proud.

Please find the contenders below:
(Images taken before we moved our clutter in!)

Sitting Room

Landing Hall and Stairs.... scary height, where the 5yo fell.



The Office

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Sense of humour failure....

It is the third day. I want to go to bed. Instead I chase sodding pre-cooked roast dinners round the garden.

Tonight I have had a humour shortfall. The new girls are really confused by the 'get into the coop and go to bed' thing. My original 8 troop in, but the new girls just pace, stressed. I'd really feel more sympathy if I wasn't so blinking tired.

I walked into the football room, sorry I mean sitting room, and asked for help. Apparently THIS football match is a BIG one. Derrrr! that's why we have that Sky+ thing where you can pause live TV, (if you can get your hands on the remote control that is!) Anyhoo, dressed in his best business clothes, hubby came to help.

We chased, we waited, we herded, we clucked (CLUCKED!)

Finally 1 out of 6 got it. I nearly cried.

A blackbird started its incessant chirping in the half light. You know the one; the chirp of stress, on and on and on, flying towards us over a deep meadow.

'What is making that noise?' said hubby.

'Blackbird,' said I; nature woman.

We looked up to see a blackbird chasing a silent owl across the field beside us, perfectly visible against a violent pink-grey sky. Bats swooped in their wake. Gosh! A moment of calm..... ......before I remembered to be grumpy again....

'Get in the bloody coop!'

One by one we pinned them down and chucked them into bed. Hubby caught the most elusive of the bunch; he's my hero. I flicked the switch for my nightly electrocution and we were fox-proof.

Back indoors, supping a deserved glass of wine.... life is unpaused and the football persists...... I'd rather be chasing chickens.....

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


...Found her.

She was hunkered down in the grass near a holly bush. Good job it was warm last night because she is one of the raggiest new hens. She needs to re-grow her feathers, especially across her neck and chest. She is also the bravest of the 6, having ventured the furthest yesterday under my watchful eye.

She didn't even flinch when I bent down and picked her up. I think she wanted to be rescued.

Phew! Phew! Phew! We are complete again.

Might have a nap today after my chores....

Off to wake babies for school run. Have a good day.

Monday, 5 July 2010


.....Previously on the east wing of the house..(sorry I shamefully love The West Wing)..... dusk was fast approaching and the two white hens were being a pain, acting like a couple of bulldog Bri'ish doormen standing in the doorway of the coop!

'Sorry, if yer not on the list, yer not comin' in!'

Clearly the 6 new girls, looking a bit shabby rather than top totty, weren't on the 'A' list! Bit of a cheek really as all my hens looked shabby at one time, all having been rescued from battery farms. I viewed the scene from the office. Furious, I grabbed the torch and headed off to the little stone cottage's attic to search out the cat carrier.

Back to the coop with the carrier, I snatched up the two beastly hens and shoved them in the carrier for a 'time out.' Life suddenly got calmer.

Back in the office I watched to see if the new hens would enter the coop unaided. No bloody chance! Why, oh why did husband decide to visit Poland today!!! Deep breath...

I went back outside and herded, chased, cajoled chickens into bed alongside their adversaries. By now it was pitch dark. Four of the six were shoved through the door, the fifth was spied in the Rhododendron tree. I'm scratched to buggery, but I got her and popped her into safety too. Phew!

But, one girl is missing. I've searched everywhere. I know she's secreted herself in a bush or tree but I can't find her and at almost 11:30pm, having searched for almost 2 hours, I have to go to bed!

Next episode tomorrow, when we see if she has survived the night. Poor girl, I'm going to worry now, fingers crossed for her.

Night, night, speed the morning please.

New day

I opened the coop a little after 6:30am. 8 hens and rooster shot out. 6 terrified new girls huddled together inside the coop, fearful of adventure. I encouraged them out and they stood about looking in wonder at the world.

I could see the full extent of their captivity; bare patches of skin, flopping combs, white faces and legs and one chicken is hobbling about with what looks like an old injury of a dislocated leg and deformed foot. I worry that she might not be able to make the climb up the ladder back into the coop, but time will tell. We thought we might call her Hoppy but decided she'd probably suffered enough so we're calling her Happy.

After returning from school run I took a million cherries... re yesterday's post... into the garden to stone. One new hen hid between my legs as Whitey and Snow Pink tried to peck her. I soon put a stop to that! In fact I've been very Joyce Grenfell all day!

'No, no.' I say wagging a finger, glasses on the end of my nose, sticky red blood-like juice dripping down my arm, cherry stones stuck to my jumper.

They are operating as two groups of hens; the original gang of 7 and the new gang of 6. Rooster runs between the groups unsure of how to integrate them. I'd liken today to a 5yo's Birthday party. The new 6 are shy, clinging to me while the confident gang play all the games and eat all the sweets.

It's now 9:15pm and dusk is falling. From my office window I can see the coop, the hens are starting to retire for the evening but the white hens aren't letting the new hens in.... I'm really concerned that the new hens will be outside all night, fox fodder. I'm off outside to act as bouncer, I'll blog more later or tomorrow...


Ooooo I've been tagged by Victoria over at hibiscus bloem and need to answer 5 questions... being that the questions are not too scary I have acquiesced...

BTW, I love Victoria's site, a British girl living in the Netherlands, she has an eclectic site, filled with things that take her (and my) fancy.

1. What's your favourite season?
Spring without a doubt. My spring starts in February and ends in July. This is my personal planting season.

2. Best holiday/vacation you've ever had?
Possibly the one where I went to Corfu in 1986'ish and came home in 1987'ish!!! Shirley Valentine eat your heart out. I was young and unattached'ish!

3. Would you consider any form of cosmetic surgery?
OMG! I consider it EVERY day. Bosoms need to be lifted about 2 storeys, oh and reduced. Stomach flattened. Bingo wings pinned up. Waddle neck stretched back. Witch chin amended! .....(Can I just say that I would never get these things done as I'm too chicken, but a girl can dream. Also, although I joke about wanting this restoration work done, I'm utterly happy in my current body. Poor hubby.)

4. Do you have a favourite recipe you'd like to share?
Slow Baked Lamb. Get a shoulder of lamb (it's a cheaper cut and has a little marbled fat = more flavour.) Turn oven to 170°. On the skin side score into it, making diamond incisions. Anoint the meat with olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt, lime juice and some vegetable seasoning. Place in a deep roasting tray over washed, halved potatoes (I leave their skins on as I'm lazy.) Drizzle more oil and salt on potatoes, place a sprig/bunch of rosemary on top of the meat and roast for about 2 hours or until the fat has turned crispy and the meat runs clear. Serve with mint sauce and a big cold salad. Juice from the roasting tray makes great gravy.

5. If you won a million (euros, pounds, dollars etc) what would you do?
Wotstheexchangerate?! I'd mend the house, buying in original features from c.1840 and ripping out THAT hideous ensuite!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

A bit of a glut....

Sunday was going reeeealy slooooowly. It was lovely. Hubby slept in front of the tennis, tired from work. Children amused themselves helping me to gather a bit of a harvest from the walled garden. The 7yo appeared with a little wicker basket and we filled it with baby courgettes, a cucumber and 5 fat strawberries. The mange tout never made it to the basket!

I set about making pasta sauce, with onions, garlic, courgettes and tinned tomatoes a ton of olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes. I zuzzed it with my hand blender and hey presto, pasta sauce.

Then I set about making a huge batch of ragu sauce for the freezer....

There was a knock at the door.....

Our neighbour brought round a serious glut of strawberries. Yummy thank you.

A little while later he was back, this time with a bag of fresh cut spinach for me. Delicious thank you.....

I carried on with my cooking and the door went again....

It was a farmer friend with a massivo glut of cherries! Cherries for goodness sake! Wow-wee, strawberries and cherries and spinach! Morello Sauce, strawberry jam here we come...

It's heaven here!

The Egg Farm...

We were up and out early this Saturday morning, off to collect more rescuees; 6 more hens from an egg farm.

We parked in the farm yard and as I got out of the car two sheep dogs approached me. I'm never sure of farm dogs but these two turned out to be adorable, offering their tummies to be tickled by the children. We walked down further into the yard towards a series of wooden sheds. Inside was a snaking conveyor belt laden with eggs.

The farmer appeared smiling, he was expecting us. 6 Warrens were quickly plucked from their restrictive nest boxes and placed in our equally restrictive cardboard boxes. Apparently, just a little over a year old they were due for the chop shortly. They'll still lay adequately for us for another seven years.

As my husband and I looked in awe at the eggs mechanically passing us by, (the kids couldn't care less as they were playing with the dogs) the farmer kindly asked of we'd like to see his new free range operation. We jumped at the chance. Soon his old battery production will be closed due to legislation and all his eggs will come through free ranging birds, so in order to accommodate this change he's spent almost £250,000. Gosh, but I'm pleased for the hens.

We walked down a steep track, dead ahead was the most enormous modern looking building; a little like a giant modern airplane hangar with an office-like building (the technology/packing unit) attached to the side. The farmer asked us to wait by the electrified fence as he was off to push the button to open the hatch to allow the chickens out for the day.

It was like something from Thunderbirds: As the doors opened to the 20 acres, hundreds of identical brown hens popped out for a day of scratching. We thought the majority were out until we followed the farmer indoors! The huge body of the structure held thousands of chattering girls. The smell, though noticeable, wasn't revolting and we were shown how the building is cleaned, robotically of course, the muck deposited into troughs to be taken away as manure.

Several of the more adventurous inmates had fled the confines of the nesting area and were happily sitting behind the air conditioning shutters. These intrepid girls were obviously planning a Chicken Run, but I fear it was soon to be thwarted as the farmer and his wife made plans to return them to their friends!

It was fascinating.

Our six girls are home with us now. Sadly we've had to lock all 14 of our flock in the coop for the weekend. This is to ensure they imprint their new home on their memory and hopefully the new gals will bond with the existing 7 and Rooster. Monday morning they'll roaming freeeeeeeeeee. Can't wait.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Last night I planned to go to a Pampered Chef party at a friend's house. (Allegedly Pampered Chef is like a Sloanie Tupperware Party) I had the whole evening planned out so I could drive the 30 odd miles to the party as soon as hubby returned from work. This was the plan:

1. Put a big cow pie in the oven. Set the timer to cook it to be ready to eat at 6pm (planning see, ahead already!)
2. Take kids to swimming lesson after school (and tire them out, yeah)
3. Feed them said cow pie and steamed veg from garden. (Holy aren't I?)
4. Put kids to bed (ahead of schedule by lying to them, telling them it's really late)
5. Shower and change. Apply make up!
6. As he walks through the door, hand responsibility baton to hubby, mentioning to him that his cow pie is still warm'ish in the oven and then I'm OUTAHERE! Party!

Hmmmph! What actually happened:

1. Set oven timer and temperature but FORGOT to actually put cow pie IN the oven... (grrr)
2. Picked up kids to be told that 7yo had a growth on her head that needed investigating by the doctor asap... (bit scary)
3. Broke it to the 5yo that there was no swimming, (he bawled and bawled, he is The Man from Atlantis.... god do you remember that?!)
4. At doctor's, head pronounced fit and healthy (phew!)
5. Got home to find invisible cow pie cooking.... put a new visible cow pie in oven whilst muttering profanities!
6. Fed the kids... Yes, it was visible cow pie and steamed veg, (at least I can tick one box on my plan)
7. Put babies to bed, where they didn't stay. ('We're hungry, can we have water, can you look at my toe, what time is Daddy home?.....')
8. Get phone call from hubby saying he would be v. late... (sigh)
9. Had a gin and tonic; a big one!

Decadence of country life....

It was pandemonium here the night before last. The sheep from next door, on noticing that the grass is always greener, escaped to our patch. Our neighbour was out, so hubby and I tried to catch the blighters, fearful they'd wander away off our land and over the common; our fields are not sheep secure.

It was hot and humid as we lashed up and down a buttercup and clover meadow... so pretty. so D.H. Lawrence, till I noticed that hubby was carrying a tin of Strongbow, supping between bouts of chasing! Chav, and he wouldn't even give me a sip!

Defeated, we waved at a friend who was off to the pub in the next village, asking him to check the hostelry for the official shepherd of said sheep. Pretty soon our neighbour reappeared with his crook. Jesus like, he ushered the prodigals back to their own field.

Later, when the kids were in bed, I wandered out to the garden to start the nightly plant-watering ritual. Coming towards me up the gravel drive was Willy the Shetland pony! He was dressed in his fly suit, complete with face and ear mask. In this get-up he looks like he's wearing armour; off to a short-person joust at any moment.

He was clearly fed up with his lonely field, (the other ponies had been taken to a show jumping event for the evening) and delightfully he'd found the gate to his field open!!! (School boy error that one!) Fortunately he was on a mission, not to escape, but rather to enter the field nearest the stables. I obliged, opening the gate for him and shutting it firmly behind his little bottom.

The animals on site are certainly full of personality.

The chickens have been on a go-slow for a little while and I've only been reaping 4 eggs a day instead of my usual 8 or 10. I cook a fair bit and swap eggs with pals at school, so I'd really like at least 10 eggs per day. Today I received a call from a friend of a friend who owns an egg farm: They have 13,000 chickens and have agreed that we can pop over on Saturday morning to pick up some of their older girls at £1 each. I'm going to let the sproglets choose two more chickens each, giving us 12 in total. Can't wait.

We finally bottled up the Elderflower champagne. It smells great but looks like scrumpy cider. We await the results. I don't think we'll even try it for about a month, although by all accounts we'll need to burp the bottles once a week, in case they explode!

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon