Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Technology solution...

We have to peel a few apples. There are six 20ft trees and all seem to have a bumper crop after we pruned them hard last year.

I'm the picker, cook and bottler, hubby is the peeler - hideous job! On Sunday, armed with a hand peeler and a lethal gadget from Ikea.........,
....... he watched the Grand Prix on TV, busy about his job.

'I can't stand it.' He announced. 'There must be a better way to do this job! I need a technological solution!'

I left him surfing the net while I picked yet more apples....

Later he was smug.

'I've ordered a gadget,' he smiled.

It's not my idea of a technological revolution, but hey-ho if it keeps him happy!

Here's our first Larches Apple Sauce...

Writer's Cramp.......

I know I'm not fit to lick the boots of Pam Ayres but here's a little ditty I've been making up on the 60 mile round trip I make for school each day!!.....

Writer's Cramp....

If I didn't write...
There'd be knickers in drawers,
Whitewashed walls and
gleaming floors...

If I didn't write...
I'd be ahead of the game,
Not knee high in washing-up,
Scribing in vain....

If I didn't write...
There'd be cakes for tea,
Sparkly bathrooms,
Time for ME.....
....I'd be make-up'ed and smiley,
My children'd be proud
As I waited, in linen,
'Mongst the parental crowd.....

Instead, I down pen
Or computer or book
And scream at the clock
And huff..
"What's to cook!?"
And charging to school
Wonder where went the hours? -
When I could've arranged
A nice vase, filled with flowers....

But instead I choose words,
Put up with mad hair,
And-so-what if my vestments
Illicit a stare!
If I didn't write...
Yes, my hair would be combed
And my choices in day-wear
Would be more honed....
Would they write on my stone
'Housekeeper Supreme...
..and her white linen trousers were fit for a Queen?'

...So I'll stick to my writing
Ignore laundry, in bags,
Leave dust on the iron
And dress mainly in rags.
Put off washing and ironing,
The making of beds.
Rush the cooking of dinners
Pooh-Pooh messy sheds.

I will feed the cats
And I'll clean out the chooks,
But then I must sit
To continue my books....


Any comments gratefully received...... is there anybody there, there, there, there...........?
Wanna buy my children's book? Take a look here.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

MediEVIL Dentist for hire.

I've just pulled the 5yo's tooth out! It's OK, he asked me to, chuckled the whole time... even when the blood came. I feel so guilty about calling him a manchild now, clearly his pain thresh hold is way higher than that.

He's just started Speech and Drama so maybe he'll progress to Conan the Barbarian type films and then move on to be an MP, maybe even Prime Minister.... but maybe that doesn't happen in the UK.

Now he's thrilled at the prospect of financial reward and bragging at school tomorrow.

Yesterday a little boy at school suggested the 5yo might be in for a windfall of £2 or more.... his dad almost fainted...

'If your tooth fairy left £2,...' I said in full earshot of my boy, '...then I'm quite sure he/she expected change as the going rate is 50p!'

Not sure if the tooth fairy will pay extra for trauma counselling after I wrenched the 1st baby tooth from the 5yo's gum!....We'll have to see in the morning.....

Not so smug now....

I had become complacent: The children have been excellent, no real dramas on their returned incarceration at school... dare I say they're rather enjoying it! Plus I'm being very organised; preparing dinners in the morning in my trusty slow cooker or setting the timer on the oven.... Sigh, we're like the Fairy washing up liquid family... perfect.... Hmmmmmm, famous last words!

This week the 5yo announced he has his first wobbly tooth. Awww, sweetums... No! Not sweetums, it's his first wobbly tooth and he's a manchild.... he may die of pain at any moment! Funny how the pain goes away in school but gets saved up for me at home!

Meanwhile the 7yo has had a Vidal Sassoon moment; giving herself a quick hair trim while she sat waiting in the stables. (She waits there for long periods of time like a sneaky spider, cross legged until she pounces on poor defenceless horse owners, sweetly asking if she can groom, muck out, oil tack....whatever it takes in return for a ride.... Very resourceful.....

.....but back to the hair, or lack thereof: What's most galling is that her hair looks better than before! She left the length, choosing just to cut a sweet 1960's style feathered fringe ('bangs' in USA-speak...) Because it looked so good I didn't ground her forever....BUT...BUT... When I found that she had trimmed the curtains in her bedroom too I was far less pleased...



We're back to Easter Egg Hunt over here! Bloody chickens have decided that the holly hedge filled with stinging nettles is a really good place to lay. Deep joy. A farming friend has suggested I impose a few days of 'lock down' to bring them back to the coop to lay. This weekend I'm going to create a compound with the electric fencing and curtail the free ranging for a while.... What a cruel mummy!


I've just harvested loads more tomatoes and combined with my garlic and someone else's onions I've made a pasta sauce for the weekend. Lush!

It's slow cooker ham tonight - cooked with onions and muscovado sugar and spices for 8-10 hours, it's yummy with savoy cabbage and a creamy cheese sauce.... and apple crumble (our apples) and custard for pud. Feeling sleepy already!

Mind you if you really want to read about a Perfect Housewife, you'd best read this post!!! it's called 'Batman works at the Oxfam Shop....'

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Kingdom Year 2....

The scenery is changing: The Kingdom is back.

The Kingdom describes what we three; the 5yo the 7yo and me, mum, see some mornings as we wing our way across the hills to descend towards Ludlow to school. It is the rolling mist that settles deep below us in the valley, lit by the sunlight. It is a spectacular phenomonon that looks to us how we imagine Narnia to look.

Another stunning sight is the sunlit dew on the cobwebs that sit like little hammocks on the gorse. I'll photograph that sight soon and show you.

Monday, 20 September 2010

They say the funniest things.....

I was regaled with tales of who did what today at school by the 5yo. When the 7yo could get a word in edge ways she proudly announced that she had science today. Having announced the fact I watched her face change from smug to slightly confused.

'....well' she said grumpily. 'I don't know why they bother taking us up to the science lab, we didn't do any explosions or anything, we just coloured in skeletons.'

Clearly I'm reading way too much Harry Potter with her!

Sunday, 19 September 2010


Late last night hubby and I sat watching TV, the log burner roaring. We may have gone early on the log burner in the sitting room but it's new and gorgeous and the sitting room is pretty parky without some added heat - even in summer!

Suddenly I heard a squeaking noise and was off my seat, quick as blink, clearly a cat had brought a live present through the cat flap.

I entered the dark kitchen at speed and Tabby must have realised that I was none too pleased with his offering. He and his prize flapped back out the way they came in. I didn't recognise the squeal of the creature he'd caught and as it was still very much alive, so I grabbed the torch and lashed out into the walled garden.

Tabby, as I've mentioned before, is more dog than cat.

'Leave it' I said and reluctantly, leave it, he did.

It was a tiny bat, half the size of a golf ball. As I picked it up it bit me several times without piercing the skin, until it settled on my hand. (I'm pretty sure I don't have rabies this morning - but I'll let you know.) I checked its wings and body. It seemed unscathed.

I put it on the wall and eventually it flew off. Cute. I just can't imagine how Tabby caught it, although I do watch him patiently sitting at the pond, a favourite swooping area of the bats. Must have been one hell of a leap to catch the bat and avoid falling into the murky water!

Brilliant photo care of http://www.impactlab.net/2008/03/16/top-10-photos-of-the-week-5/

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Miracle? Surely not!

Oh joy of joys, a miracle has occurred.... no, nothing to do with the Pope....although maybe I did call out the Lord's name once or twice.... No..... Unlikely..... Anyhoo I found the £20.00 that I thought was in my bra, the sports one, when actually I had thrown it to the bottom of my handbag, not the bra the money, keep up!....

Silly me! Should've looked there all along really, s'obvious!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Naughty Norah. RIP.

Gawd, helluva day so far. I scraped the children out of bed this morning,they were pretty grumpy. When I finally ushered them downstairs I found a kind gift of a mouse in my office, (thank you so much cats!) Then on opening up the chickens I found we had a death in the family.

Naughty Norah died last night. She was a funny little thing, always scruffy, determined, up to no good. When we got her almost a year ago she was the first of our battery rescuees to investigate the fields and always last to come to bed at lock up time, hence her name. She preferred the company of the horses than her fellow chooks. She was a real character.

I'd noticed that her vent was sore on Sunday. I duly bathed her in warm water and applied Vaseline and each day she looked better and better. I suspected she was egg bound. Yesterday I called my husband in Germany to say that she looked lots better. She died in the night.

The children are sad. I'm more philosophical: She was rescued from certain death, delisted from a battery hen farm. She's had one year with us scritching and scratching around The Larches, she didn't seem to be in pain and she died in the coop with all the girls. I'm glad she came to live with us.

This morning I've thoroughly cleaned the coop, given all the girls and Rooster their 6 week dose of mite powder and laid down new soft shavings. Back to egg production I say.

Tonight the 7yo, the 5yo and I will preside over a sombre burial. Rest in peace Naughty Norah

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Swallows up the Amazon....

The last fledgling swallows are getting ready to fly to Africa. Another season is closing. Time to plant spring cabbages I fear.....

Wedded Bliss

We went to a wedding a couple of weekends ago. It was almost 300 miles to Newquay in Cornwall - surfer's paradise in the UK and therefore a packing challenge: The fantastic Esplanade Hotel (an Archer Family recommendation) sat opposite the bay and while we don't usually do beach clothes and posh clothes in the same weekend, we were all up for the adventure. Fortunately the weather was windy but warm, possibly the last truly warm weekend of the season, boo hoo.

We spent all day Friday rock pooling and belly boarding... to be truthful I didn't subject my belly to the board but I did catch the biggest crabs. ..... Shall I re-phrase that?

Friday night had the entire wedding party in the bar with karaoke. In the end I used the children as a human shield and went to bed, hubby held the fort for The Archers with 'Spanish Eyes.' Wish I'd seen that!

The wedding wasn't till 2pm on the Saturday so we were back at the beach till noon then we raced back to change into best bib and tucker.... is that really a phrase?

One elderly guest, an uncle, had a rather good Friday night and only reappeared mid-wedding feast. He could have slipped in unnoticed if it wasn't for the fact that he was seated at the top table! Whoops.

Fab wedding, with sproglets everywhere doing those skids on their knees across the dance floor and an Elvis impersonator to die for. He looked as if he had two hamsters glued to either side of his face but he had a voice like the man himself.

There were pressies on the table for the children, trays of sweeties and a puppet show, allowing us adults to thoroughly enjoy the event.

Congratulations to the bride and groom, (stunning bride) we loved your wedding, best man's speech and guests. Best wishes for the rest of your life. XXX

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Village Fete

Henceforth the village fete will be on my social calendar, I don't think I've laughed quite so heartily in several months.

I have a very good friend, (several actually) but this friend is also my business partner and mentor, don't tell her but we call her The Entrepreneur. She is international, swish, sassy, commercial, almost everything I am not but wish to be. She came to stay for a few days, far from her beautiful pristine home on a country estate in the south. When she arrived she looked shattered.

"I keep forgetting just how far from civilization you really are," she said as she slung her leather cased shotgun over her petite shoulders. Wow she's cool.

I'd quite forgotten that we were due to show our vegetables at the village fete that weekend although luckily I had remembered that I'd invited quite a few people for supper on Saturday evening!!

Saturday morning and the house was frenzied, in order to escape the madness, The Entrepreneur volunteered to vacuum the house, readying it for the guests that evening. I almost fainted when I found her removing the cushions from the ancient sofas, lord knows what she would find. I retreated to the kitchen to prepare the supper while hubby and kids selected champion vegetables.


Earlier in the week I'd got myself into a bit of a pickle. A darling gentleman farmer from the village had appeared in the walled garden carrying three onions and giganta marrow. These he'd grown himself using some sort of alchemy; the onions were the size of melons and the stripey green marrow the size of a baby hippo! He suggested I might like to let the sproglets enter them under their names for the village show. While I was totally impressed by his green fingers and was already flicking through my phone thinking which of my single friends could do with a farmer husband of such talents, I knew hubby wouldn't let us enter veg that weren't grown at The Larches, (very honourable is my hubby.) I was between a rock and a harder rock as I didn't want to offend the giver of such gargantuan gifts!

"You should enter them under your name," I urged. But he just wasn't keen. I took the offerings and fretted.

By Wednesday each entrant must deliver an entry form and entry money to the village school. I decided not to include the marrows (one donated by grandma) or the onions in The Larches entry, instead I listed them under Anon: Mr. Too Shy. Fortunately I'd heard on the grapevine that Mr. Too Shy never went to the fete so I would be fine with the pseudonym unless his veg won.


The morning arrived and husband organised the route march to the village hall with all family members carrying produce; eggs, carrots, another huge marrow/courgette from grandma and poorly spelled jam, runner beans etc. The sight of The Entrepreneur walking down our potholed lane carrying Mr Too Shy's monumental marrow will remain with me forever.

At 9:30am we duly 'staged' The Larches veg in the village hall, much to the hilarity of all. I began giggling when I placed our fat 3" cucumber beside a perfectly straight 18" inch competitor. Comments were passed by several of women friends from the village regarding the bigger cucumber but those comments cannot be printed in the blog!

In all The Archers at The Larches entered 9 categories.

Later that day we returned for the verdict. I'm pleased to say that we only had 'see me' style notes from the judges on 2 of the categories: Apparently our courgettes were too big and our carrots, although large, had green tops. There was no comment on the fact that our tomatoes were green and our cucumber minuscule, The Entrepreneur had kindly made us a tomato and cucumber salad on Friday night!! Nor did they berate my hubby for the grubbiness of the potatoes.

But, and I mean BUT! The sodding marrow got the first prize! Bum!

Being a complete coward I asked hubby to break the news to the neighbour and phew! he was quite chuffed, although he did insist we keep the marrow! Cooking the harvest will be my punishment.... don't tell anyone but I really enjoy it! All marrow recipes gratefully accepted.


Saturday night had me fiddling about for something to wear for my supper party. I still haven't caught up on the ironing from the summer holidays so there were slim pickings in the wardrobe. Eventually I settled on the only option, a chocolate brown silk shirt and dark culottes. The first guests arrived as I came down stairs I was just in time.

I felt particularly smug as we were serving Larches Elderflower Champagne poured over a framboise liqueur. Dee-lish-us!

"It won't explode over me will it?" I asked hubby.

The shower of fragrant fizzy wine mostly hit the left side of my head before cascading onto my silk shirt. As I walked up stairs to change I realised there was nothing to change into. While she watched TV in my bed, the 7yo briefly looked up and offered to lick me - not helpful. It was an eventful start to a great supper party even if I was a bit sticky.

If anyone needs some really strong hair mousse you might like to purchase Larches Champagne!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Preservation on the Reservation

All around us there are signs that the summer is retreating; neighbours are coating outbuildings with dark weather-wearing paint, bales of hay are being wrapped, containing summer aromas in airtight bags.

Taking note that the harvest cannot last forever, I've been busy too. I've frozen kilos of blackberries, runner beans and tried to do the same with the peas. Unfortunately we had an infestation of 5yo and 7yo homo sapiens and the peas didn't make it!! There are enough potatoes to last for several months and the cooking apples are looking good.

I found a lovely book in the library, The Preserving Book by Lynda Brown and I have been steadily working my way through some of the recipes as well as going it alone!

So far I've made two types of plum vodka. I particularly like the one where I stoned and halved the fruit and brought the plums, sugar and vodka to a boil before pouring into a sterile jar to sit for three months. This vodka is a wonderful pink colour. I'm going to find little elegant bottles to decant the liquor into and gift them at Christmas.

Then I made Beetroot Relish, which is stunningly good, even before it has matured. Yum.

Next I made Plum, Rum and Chilli Jam.... (yes we did have a bit of a bumper plum crop!) Truthfully I over cooked it a bit and so it's more akin to a condiment for turkey than a soft jam for toast, so I labeled it accordingly. I wrote

Plum, Rum and Chilli Jam. Also good with foul.

All would have been fine if I hadn't passed a pot to the neighbours who asked whether I was calling their food into question. Oh well only 35 labels to amend... so glad I lovingly drew those plums on every.single.label. in my spare time!

I'm tempted by pickling next, inspired by my friend @ natural selection, all that's holding me back is my spelling.... Wish me luck.

Monday, 6 September 2010

A Deep Breath

They're at school. It's weirdly quiet here.... Don't get me wrong, I'm not compaining, just saying...

The 5yo was well prepared for school, he wore his uniform to bed! Hubby and I sat him up when we came to bed and peeled off his winter sweater.

It's a constant adventure venturing into boy's room. Last week he found an old Virgin Atlantic vanity bag, (from the days when we had holidays.) He was delighted to find the sleeping blindfold, handy really as one does find it jolly difficult to sleep, especially when one leaves all the flaming bedroom lights on!

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon