Friday, 30 November 2012

Driving Miss Daisy mad...

This post was going to be about a dreadful incident we encountered on the way to school today; 2 white vans and a car damaged beyond repair plus four dead sheep, blood and fragments of their bodies strewn across the rural road. I've decided to write no more than that because it was too sad for words.

Slow down people, particularly on rural common land where gentle creatures graze!

As I began to write this post the 8yo appeared, PJ'ed and clean but with a wobbly lip. He felt sidelined today by pals at school and, though he is big now, tall as my shoulder, he sat astride me and wittered his woes. I remembered advice given to me by a very wise woman.

'When people tell you their troubles don't give them your advice, just say oh dear a lot.' I did just that and the outpourings kept coming.

After ten minutes of oh dearing and stroking his furry dressing-gowned back, he jumped up.

'Can you read to me now?' he asked brightly, his troubles stroked away.

'Sure, but only if your wild, discarded underpants are tamed and herded towards the washing basket.'

His grumps almost returned.

So now I must go to read the next thrilling instalment in Stormbreaker... can't wait.


Thursday, 22 November 2012


I woke at silly o'clock today. I could have just laid there, warm and toasty, but my brain was awake too, listing things I could do quietly with the couple of hours before the household awoke: Read, make cheese scones ('oh, not enough cheese,') rewrite the white board diary in the kitchen, bake with the surplus eggs..... Write.

Downstairs the cats were surprised by me, they blinked in the light, stretching and rubbing up against me hoping it was time for an early breakfast. I busied myself trying to light the log burner, the only source of heat in the kitchen.

After several attempts at the fire I had to admit defeat. I just didn't have enough kindling. I listened and noted that the storms of yesterday had passed by so, donning my new, [well, hand-me-down, Jules Wellibobs donated by a lovely friend,] I firmly tied my dressing gown hitched up my thermals and went out gently into that good, dark night.

There was a stillness to the land, a pre-dawn calm. Even rooster, locked in his box, was quiet, most likely asleep. The stars littered the sky and the distant glow of the city, maybe 50 miles away, burnished the horizon.

It's not far to the log shed, out the front door and up the drive towards the stables. Pink was the first to hear me as she lay in the field over the hedge. I noted her soft needy tone. Alerted to my presence Snowy and Moon, bleated hellos too. I could picture them bedded down in the grass;. big sheep now, not the tiny lambs I raised by bottle.

'Morning girls' I whispered and they bleated again but I could tell they were still in their same positions, they knew it wasn't yet time to get up.

In the wood shed I shone my torch and selected a good box of kindling, prepared by hubby in early Autumn.


And now I'm by the crackling fire, talking to you. Tabby, the bigger cat has a cold and has crawled up to my lap for extra warmth. He sneezes occasionally and nips me on the hand as I type, just to remind me that he's here.

It's 5.10.

Last night the 10yo finished reading my children's book Nancy, Peggy and Susan. First Freedom. [Available at Amazon for Kindle Lulu for ebook download and Barnes and Nobel for Nook.] She'd asked me to read her the last chapter which was a privilege. There's a little twist in the ending and I'd wondered if it was obvious. It wasn't. As I began to build up to the secret she stopped me and excitedly described what she thought was going to happen. As I revealed the plot she squealed and demanded I hand over my Kindle, determined to read for herself. She was convinced I was making up words rather than reading them. She had been wrong and the twist had caught her out. It was exactly the reaction I was hoping for when I wrote the story some four years ago. Priceless. A moment I'll treasure.

Well I'm off to make tea and begin the process of re-reading my long abandoned novel.... a fictional version of The Archers at The Larches with the temporary title of The Perrys at The Berries. I think I put it aside in order to learn more about the land, animals and me as a writer, but now I suddenly feel compelled to finish.

Have a good day, I think I shall.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Draughts and Lizards....

Picture taken Spring 2012

The title for this blog post is not to herald the newest Christmas board game, but rather to act as a literal comment on the need for constant repair to an old house. Where the miners had canaries as an early warning system, we Archers have lizards..... well, newts.

I barely had a leg in a pant this morning before the 10yo burst into my bedroom.


I nearly fainted; she being up and about without my having to scrape her from the bed, being dressed and with kempt hair! Turns out she and her school posse, were planning a pop band rehearsal and she needed to pack bits and pieces which included her guitar. In the corridor leading to the front door she had met another being....


'Yes?' [It's tricky looking stern and attentive in your non-matching smalls.]

'There's a lizard in the hall.'

She's not daft, especially in the animal department, so I generally believe her press, however the lizard reference had me stumped.

Once, long ago, when there were no babies and my arms didn't continue to wave long after guests' departure, my hubby and I played golf. Our foreign (long since forgotten) holidays around the world always included a round or two. On one such trip we took in the Florida Swing. After a particularly gorgeous yet tricky round at Doral, I climbed yet another steep bank of Kikuyu grass, the type of grass that claims your ball For.Ever. Over the ridge I just knew my ball was deep in the bunker and that this bunker was probably nicknamed Miami Beach or somesuch. Cresting the dune, I came face to face with the biggest iguana I've ever seen. He and I shot off in opposite directions, both screaming. Urgh!

Lashing downstairs I had a momentary flash of that scene.

In the hall, near the skirting board was a smooth newt. Phew! As I bent to pick him up, a gust of icy wind bit at my finger tips. Clearly there was a newt sized gap from inside to outside. Our house, built in the 1840s has no deep foundations as we know today, it was built on the ground it stood on and after 150 years, this seems an adequate solution, if a little newty.

Mr or Mrs Newt was taken to new quarters; a winter creature hotel of pallates and straw and warm hidey-holes tht hubby and the sproglets built this summer for drowning wildlife. [Not that we Archers were doing the drowning you understand, rather the creatures were drowning so we built the hotel..... Tricky, this language stuff...] We look forward to his or her re-emergence in spring.

The wind tunnel has been sealed.


Sunday, 11 November 2012

Irish Halloween and Cake.....

When I was growing up Halloween was a huge affair. Being Irish, my parents seemed to have great enthusiasm for fun and trick or treating was compulsory. In Ireland the word fun isn’t considered a good enough word to describe the time you're having under that heading, so they call it ‘the Craic.’ Halloween was the perfect time to employ the craic; the chance to scare children rigid being an occasion not to be missed.

Still in Ireland to this day, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, homes are littered with the delicious treat known as Barnbrack which is an Irish fruit loaf. The title comes from the Irish Gaelic bairín breac which literally means speckled loaf. In traditional Ireland each member of the family would get a slice of the delicious cake but you had to be careful when chewing the delicious treat as there were several charms hidden in it, wrapped in baking paper. Each charm signified an omen for the finder’s future.

If you found a ring  you were sure to find romance. If you got the coin then you were in for a prosperous year, but if you found the rag than your financial future was in doubt. [I must have found the rag ten times over!!] If you find the thimble then it was thought you would never marry! - Tricky if you were already married.... Nowadays many commercial Barnbrack cakes sold in Irish shops around Halloween contain a ring.

Mind you, regardless of austerity, the ring maybe about to get a lot more grandiose if the rumour about the Irish finding oil are to be believed. Check out this fantastic, hilarious journalistic take on the state of the Irish economy by writer and broadcaster Fiona Looney. Click here.

I've made Barnbrack this year and wrapped coins in tin foil as my charms. The children love the moist loaf (though I think they eat the slices to get to the gifts!!) and it’s dairy free. Have a go, it’s so simple. 



380g dried fruit
A pot of good tea, enough to cover the fruit
225g self-raising flour
1 or 2 eggs, beaten
1 or 2 teaspoon mixed spice
125g caster sugar
honey or Golden Syrup (optional – for decoration)

Soak the fruit in tea overnight, then drain. Mix together with the rest of the ingredients (apart from the honey/golden syrup) and stir in the charms wrapped in tin foil. Don’t over-knead the dough, or your delicately re-hydrated fruit will break up.

Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin or 900g loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Grease the tin and pile in the mixture.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170C for between an hour and one hour fifteen minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Check it is cooked with a skewer.

You can brush with melted honey or golden syrup or glaze with a syrup  made from two teaspoons of sugar dissolved in three teaspoons of boiling water.

Source for the post The Evening Herault and Irish Central.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Less than fantastic Mr Fox.......

The 10yo's new chickens are growing well and are now roaming the grounds, having been evicted from their temporary prison in the walled garden. These rare breed Salmon Faverolles have joined my other birds in the main coop with access to the gardens and fields all day. I'm sad to say that the other 13 hens and 1 rooster, haven't been particularly welcoming.

I've never had such difficulty merging birds to another flock and I'm starting to believe this is because the new birds, though just 12 weeks old, have a rooster among them, though he's barely a chap yet.

I've tried all the tricks, locking them all up together for days on end, feeding them together and even giving them access to 'the bungalo', the granny annex on the side of the main coop so that they don't have to bed down with the grumpy elders. Sadly, each evening as I return home in the dark with the sproglets, there on the front door step are the newbies, huddled together for warmth. It's driving me potty. I really don't want to make a seperate compound for them but it's looking like I might have to, especially after this morning's event.

There are pros and cons to having free range chickens:

  1. Guilt free rearing
  2. Eggs, of course!
  3. Less food supplied by you, more grub-gardening done by them
  4. Healthier for the chickens who are exercised all day
  5. No one area of the garden is destroyed
  1. Poo everywhere
  2. Loss of eggs as the girls lay secretly in the hedges
  3. No chance of an early night in the summer months while you wait for the last straggler to pop home so you can lock for the night!
  4. Exposure to predators!

Along with the posh chooks' antics, Archie has gone off the rails too.........
(I'm not sure if the well repeated origin for the word posh is true or not but I rather like the explanation: 'Port out, starboard home'. The much-repeated tale is that 'Posh' derives from the 'port out, starboard home' legend supposedly printed on tickets of passengers on P&O Ships (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels that travelled between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Another version has it that PO and SH were scrawled on the steamer trunks used on the voyages, by seamen when allocating cabins.  Anyhoo, as I was saying, along with the new birds misbehaving at bedtime, our black hen, Archie, has decided coop sleeping isn't for her either. Although it is chilly-willy out there now, (we dipped to 0° last week,) she's decided to night- roost high in the rhodendendron bush! Normally her elevated nocturnal resting place is reserved for hot summer nights, so this is unprecedented.

Animal bonkers-behaviour is considered normal here at The Larches; so each evening we duly carry the new chooks to the coop and, brandishing a torch, shout into the 20ft rhodendendron,
'Archie, get into bed!' This results in Archie flouncing down from her branch, black as the night, chirping her hen swear words before storming into the coop.

I must admit, when you've had a full day, the dark and the damp penetrating your bones and the children are tired, you do begin to wonder; should we just leave them out, teach them a lesson, hope they get cold enough to seek the warmth of the other hens tomorrow night?

I'm glad we didn't do that last night. This morning I got up at the usual time, 6:30am, and pottered to the sproglet bedrooms to commence defcon 5 of waking them, (a process that can escallate as high as defcon 2!)  After round 1 of encouragement and bright lightbulb treatment I made my way downstairs for caffine reinforcement. On the stairs I stopped, hardly daring to breathe. There, passing below me on the gravel outside the front door, was a fine specimum of Reynard, a striking red fox.

I feared for my friends as he ran about, here and there, bold as brass, hungry. Fortunately the chickens were locked in, the electric fence switched on.

'Look out your windows, NOW!' I called to the household.

My voice must have conveyed a certain something as I heard two thuds as small people rolled out of bed to reach their windows.

There was a silence, a horrified awe as we watched him scurry here and there, exploring. He was both beautiful and terrible to us.

If foxes stole just one chicken to eat I could cope with the loss now and again, but the truth is they don't. They kill all the chickens and take just one. I can't comprehend that.

I let all eighteen chickens out later in the morning and worried as I drove to an appointment in beautiful Hay-on-Wye, the used-book capital of the Universe.

All was well today, there was no loss of life and everyone is tucked up again although my neighbour has since told me that he has lost seven chickens in the past ten days. Fingers crossed for our chums.

Over and out.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Salmon and Delilah....

As of Saturday the 9yo will need to be called the 10yo..... Double digits; I must be old. Twelve days later and the 7yo will be renamed the 8yo. Good Lord!

We wracked our brains for a suitable pressie for the 9/10yo. New clothes? Bigger bike? Music player?

'May I have a goat?' she asked.

It seemed like a good idea so I did some research. Surely a goat could join the three cade lambs in the field? Actually the lambs need to be renamed too,.... they don't look anything like lambs now, they are rotund and enjoying the experience of grazing with our neighbour's stock of huge texel and beltex ewes, experienced animals with two seasons' lambing behind them. 

My research made me nervous. Apparently goats do not graze the land like sheep, they prefer to eat your hedges, trees, flowers, vegetables and knickers off the line! While sheep are considered escapees, goats are houdinis, experts in their field. Te he!

Our sheep are well cared for; their water fresh, their grass fresher, mineral licks on tap, their feet checked and worms kept at bay, snuggles a-plenty but we only occasionally offer them a multi-stock feed. Allegedly goats are more demanding, requiring hay and goat feed constantly and a cosy indoor residence in case of the merest hint of rain. They also need entertainment..... I pictured we Archers putting on Shakespearean shows, but I'm thinking that they'd probably prefer a musical but not 'Singing in the Rain.'

Then there's the price. A decent Pygmy goat is upwards of £150, a meat or milking goat is north of £250. [Lamaze breathing.]

On Sunday daughter and I visited The Gobbetts, a rare breed farm in a tiny village in Shropshire. We were there to see the Pygmy goats and I was rather hoping to persuade the girl to purchase some smaller livestock.

Several of the goats came to greet us as we ambled along the grass paths between the chicken runs. As daughter and I continued towards them they pretended we were chasing them, about-turned and, nimble footed, mounted the [high] rail to their enclosure. It was immediately clear that they would easily escape any of the fences at The Larches!

The 9yo went to pet them and two of the younger goats immediately set about eating her favourite jacket. So naughty. She giggled and fortunately agreed that we really weren't up to keeping goats. Phew!

She settled on a pair of gorgeous rare breed chickens; Salmon Faverolles. They are most unusual looking. The rooster, though just 10 weeks old, looks like a mini bird of prey with a ruff head dress like a bald eagle. His mate, also 10 weeks old, looks like a soft tawny owl.

According to the sproglet, she will breed this pair and sell the chicks, she already has plans to make Moo business cards to promote her shop..... just shows the power of advertising!

I tried to get her to call the pair Salmon and Delilah but she wasn't having any of it. Lucky and Lipstick have joined The Archers at The Larches.

Picture courtesy of Stephen Jones and Wikipedia.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Feel Good Food...

It must be my age or an iron deficiency but lately I find myself tearing up when I encounter kindness, good service or 'pay it forward' type stuff.

Today I am trapped in Ludlow. If I was to choose somewhere to be trapped it would be Ludlow or possibly Barbados... My husband's car needed some TLC and so, till 3pm I am camped in the library, writing. (The library is not a quiet zone today.... the baby noises are fine, the ignorant parent noises on mobiles and shouting details from computer screens less so.. sigh..)

I am writing a script for a sit com. Get me! My belief in myself is concerning but hey ho.

Writing makes you hungry so at lunch time I ventured out to get something yummy.

Ludlow is the gastro capital of ..... well, everywhere. There's a plethora of eateries stocked with delicious produce from an unending list of local producers; Monkland Cheese, Swifts Bakery, DW Wall butchers in the high street and AH Griffiths on the Bull Ring with pies and meats and game. Then there's the market in the Medievil square, the cafes and of course the restaurants, including the award winning La Becasse and Mr Underhills.

Today I did not need caviar, walnut bread, home reared pork pie or a Ludlow sausage, I just wanted to grab a little takeaway cup of home made soup and a roll. I stood on the tiny pavement off the Bull Ring close to The Feathers Hotel. Along the street I noticed a little alley called Fish Street and there I found the tiniest cafe in the world, (possibly.)

On the board outside THE CAFE my lunch was advertised: Small Soup and a roll. £1.95. Perfect.

Inside was a joy; four clean little tables and a minute serving area. My order was taken and I stood talking with a delightful boy who told me that he was slightly worried about Friday's weather as he had plans to look into some family history. He also told me that he'd just eaten his lunch, a hot curry. He, like me, prefers his curry to be hot. Quite right too.

THE CAFE is staffed both by learning disabled members and by volunteers. This space provides work, training, and social opportunities and offers a great service and delicious food. Next time you are in Ludlow, pop in for your lunch or a snack, you won't be disappointed, my soup and warm home-made bread was delish and the feel-good factor warmed me through.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Edwina Hayes - A must

Thanks to The Entrepreneur (my good friend) who bought hubby and I tickets, we saw this delightful girl at a concert on Friday. She was actually supporting a v famous singer, Barbara Dickson, who was superb but for me, Edwina was really special, her voice and stage manner so endearing.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Queen of the onions....

It has been a foody end to the week here at The Larches and the weather has been outstanding.

Friday was a gastro-nom-nom-nom treat, strolling around the Ludlow Food Festival nibbling cheese and sipping cider tasters. I met up with Jane Hayes, Ed of Shropshire Life Magazine to discuss my new column with the magazine and was interested to note that she, like me, favours the savoury side of life over the sweet. Funny how our taste buds are. What do you favour?

At 6pm, the children and I arrived back at The Larches at the same time as The Hubby, a very unusual occurrence. The sun was still blazing so we packed up a crate with some wood, some seasoned pork loin chops, local sausages and salad from the garden and cooked our dinner at the firepit in the field.

The sun disappears quick at this time of year, the lovely heat suddenly snatched away, walking back to the house I could feel the damp of the grass on my flip-flopped feet. In place of the sun rises a gorgeous harvest moon and with no artificial light around the property, the twinkling sky is truly awesome.

Saturday morning and a mad panic to deliver The Archer family entries for the Village Show. Everything needed to be brought into the village hall and staged by 10.30am so that top secret judging could commence.  I wasn't hopeful, we've had a mixed crop this year. I couldn't enter half the categories I entered last year; I had no tomatoes, the runner beans are only just emerging and The Borrowers would do well to pop over and borrow a few potatoes. Still, some of my attempts were more successful so the Hubby and I prepped these for show: We finally found 3 onions that looked decent. The rhubarb was ok'ish and the beets acceptable.


I had just one big cucumber (having eaten all the other big ones! Doh!!)

The courgettes were woeful, but I still entered them along with some roses, sweet pea and seed grown dahlias.

The sproglets had entries too: The 9yo made 3 glittery fairy cakes and wrote out 20 lines of a favourite story 'A Kitten Called Moonlight' by Martin Waddel. She'd also made a Jubilee card with a secret envelope inside containing a fold out crown. Jolly handy for those sudden Royal duties.

The 7yo had entered the seed tray category where the theme was 'A Woodland Shelter.' I'd encouraged him to make this weeks ago, on one of the days we were trapped at home with the builders. I don't believe in giving much help to the children for these activities, surely the taking part  is much more important than winning and I'm not so keen on seeing perfect work from children, unless they are very little where Mummy has worked for hours, besides, I'm too lazy. This year I was very surprsed at the work both children put into their entries. The 7yo spent hours cutting little twigs and asking which plants he could have from my garden and the 9yo agonised about her card.

Returning for the Village Show opening later that day, we were delighted to find that the 9yo had a 1st for her card and a 1st for her handwriting, while the 7yo had a 1st for his seed tray.

I had a 1st for my onions (2nd year running!) a 1st for my cucumber and a highly commended for my roses.

And with the sun still belting down and roast chicken for tea, this is turning out to be a bloomin' brilliant weekend.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Gagging to play rugby....

The 7yo is thoroughly chuffed to be in Year 3 at school. He can see the Upper School from his classroom, he's officially almost big.

He has been playing tag rugby for three years now but this is his last year of tag, next year he will begin full contact rugby. In an effort to be bigger faster, he has been nagging for a gum shield.

'Please can I have one Mum?' he pleaded. 'I'll put it in my sports bag [at school] and never use it.'


I resisted until his teacher suggested that he .... might.... use one for matches and that the price of a gum shield was less than new teeth. Good point.

Tonight there was great excitement as a pan of water was brought to simmering point, the 7yo watching every bubble rise to the surface. This was not an insane initiation ceremony for new rugby players.... or at least I don't think it was!! No, this was the molding of the gum shield.

  1. Take small excited boy
  2. Take 1 gum shield (preferably ridiculously coloured)
  3. Dunk gum shield (not child) into decanted simmering water
  4. Whip scalding gum shield out of water and force small child to stuff it in their mouth (none of the namby-pamby 'blow it, blow it' of olden times...)
The 7yo gagged and gagged and had I not yelled 'Take it out,' he'd have vommed the delish dinner of roasted chicken thighs, garden salad and fresh baked rolls, eaten while watching the paralympics.... Not on my watch!

The 7yo is now far less keen on being bigger.

On the subject of the paralympics she, who shall be nameless .... let's just call her Mil-ly, has told us she's been enjoying the spectacle of it all on the TV.

'You should see those paramedics run,' she said.

Must be the go-fast stripe on the green jump suits.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Dr. Doolittles of The Larches......

And with a blink it was all over for another year....... I mourn the close of the summer holidays..... Amen. Yipeeeeee!!!

No, seriously, this was the best (and yet the most frustrating) summer holiday ever. The sproglets, being almost 8 and 10, were fantastic company. We three were at various times trapped under builders, but they were very nice builders and they've pretty much fixed The Larches to its former glory with cracks and rotten woodwork mended. We three escaped to the beach or to pals only on days when the men were busy elsewhere on other jobs, but I suppose that made our escapes all the sweeter.

To amuse themselves at the house the sproglets cobbled together dangerous looking go-karts which they hurtled down the concrete drive in. On most days they took charge of their own lunches, thrilled by my insane relinquishment of the Rangemaster. They cooked boiled eggs or melted cheese onto toast. One day the 9yo heated tinned tomatoes with anchovies, the smell in the house beckoning to every feral cat in Shropshire.

The sheep have been helpful playmates too; they seem to be able to escape the confines of their paddock at least once a day before we capture them while the chooks keep trying to lay siege to the new entrance hall!

We've had a pet-a-thon this summer, petting many creatures we've not previously petted:

First there were our very own lambs now big fat sheep.

Then there were the creatures in Midland Safari Park,

 the cockroach,

The emu,

The camel

and the gorgeous giraffe.

And, probably the 9yo's favourite, the baby seagull in Swanage.

Friday, 31 August 2012

A walk.....

We've been replacing the rotten windows here at The Larches. We thought we might ignore this job till another year but the repairs to the cracked exterior brickwork exposed the sponge like wood and our fate was sealed, or is it unsealed?

The dirt and dust of the past months building and DIY is phenomenal. I'm almost able to block it out, preferring to wipe the kitchen surfaces clean just before preparing a meal. Boy, does black granite love a bit of dust!!

In early summer when friends and relatives enquired about visiting I had no idea we'd be in such a pickle. Last week, at the true height of pickledom, The Entrepreneur (best pal ever) came to stay for a few days and as she waved goodbye, my sis and family were en route.

Fortunately the weather was broadly fine, if you don't count the insane thunder storms on the Friday and Saturday!!

On Monday The Entrepreneur, the Sproglets and I took a stroll out through the local Common Land - Catherton, in baking heat. The 7yo shushed us as we walked through the bee infested heather. 'Shush, the bees are working,' he informed us. I even spotted a common lizard.

We tiptoed on, down a gentle valley to navigate the bog bridge, lethal but funny... and smelly; that boggy sulphury smell. Ugh! Next we reached the stream that winds its way through the trees- a real treat. We followed the water till it limboed under a fence line becoming the transient property of a farmer. Then we climbed the steep slippery clay bank emerging into the sunlight surrounded by Amazonian ferns and surprised sheep.

The stroll back along the quiet road that leads home, turned out to be a buffet of hedgerow fruit; pink raspberries beckoned as did the fat, dark blackberries. Time for pie methinks! Deelish!

Friday, 17 August 2012

A Winner...

Congratulations to Jay of My Family and Other Cricketers who has won the Baobab Superfruit Powder.

Please send your address to and I'll send you your prize.



Fasting at The Larches....

Man (or woman for that matter) cannot live on strawberries, gooseberry jam, raspberries, potatoes and flaars alone!

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit! We've had other stuff like lettuce, rocket, onions, tons of broad beans and leeks, but it's really been a bit of a poor show this year. We were due to exhibit our prize horticulture and our pet lambs at Burwarton Show this year, but sadly the show was cancelled due to the weather/fields/hay. Lucky escape really; the Larches 2012 is a little meagre this year.

In contrast to the fruit and veg the flaars seem to be faring well. For the first time in 3 years I managed to convince the Echinacea that death was not the only option.

Having been cut back twice this year the purple and the blue geranium as well as the orange geum is flowering for the third time.
Along the path, calundula, rose campion, aster, penstamon and feverfew are rampant.

Shasta Daisies the colour of fried eggs, attract all sorts of visitors.

Early in the season the weather was too dreadful to plant all the potatoes in the field allotment so I hastily shoved them into the two year old leaf mold bin and into two of my compost bays. I tucked them in all snugly, covering them with more compost, home-made, rich in horse manure and hemp. I'm glad I did this as I strongly suspect that the field potatoes will be rotten, they certainly seem to have contracted blight.

Yesterday the sproglets and I harvested the leaf bin. The haul was fairly impressive considering..... maybe we won't starve after all.

We won't need to eat the chickens or the lambs either,

today we came home to a rabbit, dead and skinned on the doorstep, a gift from a friend. Not everyone's idea of a pressie but heo-ho, we live in the country. It's a wonder the deceased was still there when we returned - the cats are impressive thieves.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Baobab Superfruit Vitamin Giveaway...

If you'd like the opportunity to take part in my Baobab Superfruit Powder giveaway, (retail £14.69) fill in your email address in the sign up and I'll email you box to your right (this will ensure all new blog posts are sent to your inbox) and add the comment 'YES PLEASE' below and I'll add your name to the draw.

Those who already subscribe need only add the comment 'YES PLEASE' to enter.

The winner will be announced on Friday 17th August. Good luck.

Make a tasty Granola Jar with Baobab Superfruit

Olympic Fever powered by Baobab Powder

The 7yo has graduated out of traditional swimming lessons into lane swimming with the 9yo. I'm very proud. This accomplishment seems all the more milestone-y, (yes, that is a made up word,) thanks to the Olympic coverage of the swimming on TV.

The sproglets are not daft, they've seen the gold, silver and bronze bling being awarded to the race winners and thought they'd ask for a bit of recognition from us, their loving parentals.

'Please can we have some new swimming costumes?' they asked the other day. 'We'd like ones like the swimmers are wearing on the TV,'

Boy wanted a pair of black, spray on Lycra bike short swimmers and girl wanted the black costume with the similar leggings. It seemed a reasonable request. Turns out the costumes are Fastskin3 by Speedo. (Not fatskin, as I thought - without my glasses :) Anyhoo, much as I love the sproglets, I won't be spending upwards of £70 on their cozzies! The girly one was £330!!! Hopefully the high street will react soon and I'll buy something there, that is unless Speedo get in touch soon to kit out my babies, (clearly they are fishy Olympians of the future!)

Thanks to my mum and sister, we were lucky enough to get tickets to the Olympic rowing at Eton Dorney on 30th July. We saw Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins of Great Britain break the Olympic best in the women's Double Sculls. Their 22nd unbeaten race in a row! We had a stunning day with belting sun and I'm so grateful (to mum and sis) that we all  attended an Olympic event.

The sprogs are generally sporty, we're not called Archer for nuthin' y'know! We tried our hand at a bit of Archer-y at The Tenbury Wells' Agricultural Show last Saturday. The 7yo hit the target but it was luck rather than skill, the 9yo was deadly accurate. Remind me not to run away from her in the field if she is armed with a bow and arrow.

We also met this chap (the one on the left) at the show.

He was being hand reared. Soooo cute.

Conscious of the part diet plays in Olympic success, we were happy to try our a new product sent to us by Minivita. Baobab Superfruit Powder is made from the fruit of the 'upside down tree,' an ancient African tree that towers over the savannahs.

Packed with vitamin C, dietary fibre, calcium and antioxidants, we thought we'd see if it was easy to use. The answer is yes! The powder has a fruity, tangy, sharp taste. We added two tablespoons to a banana milkshake for a super, sporty health kick. Yummy.

We also made granola jars, an idea I got from the Cooperative Magazine 'Good with Food'. These jars can be made up a day in advance and used as breakfast or just as a healthy snack. Perfect for summer holiday snacking.

Take some pretty jam or Kilner jars, (not too big, you're looking for a jar that will fit one person's portion of granola.) Then layer the jars with the following suggestions:

Layer 1
  • Muesli
  • Sultanas
  • A few chocolate chips
Layer 2
  • Plain yoghurt flavoured with honey, golden syrup or mixy-round
Repeat layers till jar is full....

If you'd like your own pot of Baobab Superfruit Powder why not enter my Giveaway on my next post. Click here to enter......

Friday, 3 August 2012

The half-way point of the holidays..

It has taken me longer than I expected to get over the loss of little Queenie. The children seemed to bounce back just a few days after we lost her but I brooded and often sat on the bench overlooking her grave. My sister sent me St John's Wort. It's working. (Ta sis)

The other three cade lambs are now huge. Where once they would bleat a delightful hello, now they cry out for us with deep baaas as we pass their latest electrified enclosure. Nowadays these tones sound more like the voices of choirboys well past their sell-by date.

The holidays are progressing well. We three have been camping in Wales and this time we had fantastic weather and a fantastic site. The 7yo was amazed. After last year (where we all spent more time honing our card skills while the rain  drowned out the sound of our portable speakers..) the boy had decreed that he would never camp again and instead would go to work with Daddy. Daddy was horrified, there's only so much slave labour the boy would tolerate before asking to use the fork lift a thousand times a minute! Eventually I insisted and boy came with me, reluctantly.

I found the campsite online and it seemed decent enough. It was near Pennal in the Dyfi Valley and close to Aberdyfi beach. Gwerniago farm Camping is just what we wanted; a small site with enough space for the sproglets to run about without driving other campers potty, decent showers and not to far from the beach. This campsite ticked all the boxes and after the sprogs helped set up the tent they were off marauding with similarly minded sprogs - a weird experience at first for me, being abandoned by one's children, but one I could deffo get used to!

I was much better at packing this year. Last year I took the kitchen sink and spent my time rearranging stuff to make room for us! This year I was more organised. I took essentials and easy prep food. The children insisted on that gourmet of foods (reserved only for camping I hasten to add) Smash. Do you remember the ads in the 1970s? Hilarious. See them again here.

We took our trusty bucket BBQ but most pitches had an open camp fire already, lovely to sit around in the evening with marshmallows on sticks. Still, our BBQ is easy to cook over in pot or frying pan and the 9yo managed to prep, cook and eat 8 pancakes one morning while the 7yo warmed his tinned sausage and beans. Cordon Bleu here we come.

We had some delicious meals, made all the better for the 9yo and the 7yo cooking them. I found a book at the library which was rather fun and it gave me some ideas - The Camping Cookbook. It also gave me a laugh at times, being that Annie Bell the author, must have been cooking all the time while her friends and family had a great camping holiday with restaurant quality food! In any case my children seemed amazed that I was happy for them to cook over the fire and, supervised, there were no accidents. Suddenly it seems the children are really growing up.

Aberdyfi is amazing, made all the better by the gorgeous weather. We crabbed, beached, ice creamed and generally chilled. Such a shame Daddy was at work, he's our expert crabber!

Probably one of the best sights was the 9yo engrossed in a book. To date, reading hasn't really been something she's been interested in, she's more sporty and creative. Suddenly she seems to have added reading to her repertoire and loves to tell you of characters she loves and plots she's enjoying. I'm so pleased.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Of mice and cheese and rainy days...

While Tuesday of this week was awful, (see previous blog post,) Monday had been wonderful.

I opened the curtains first thing to a dreary, rain flooded sky and wondered what I was going to do with the sproglets who were beginning their second week of the school holidays. Usually we would have been off on a camping trip by now; tent loaded in the car, marshmallows close at hand, but this year is just too darn wet. Towards the end of this week I have plans for sproglet entertainment that stretches into August, but this Monday had me flummoxed.

I keep meaning to scribe a blog page with a list of things to do with sproglets on a rainy day... maybe I'll do that later this week, in the meantime we've hosted various playdates and the 9yo has taken to painting watercolours and other crafty activity while the 7yo is excellent at Lego creation and at bombing through the levels of a Wii game, selling it on eBay, buying another and so on....

While making breakfast I had a Eureka! moment. How about a cheap and cheerful outing with educational and gastronomic overtones? Clearly it was time for a visit to Mousetrap Cheese's Monkland Cheese Dairy at Pleck Farm, a few miles to the west of Leominster in Hereford. At an entrance fee of  £3 for adults and £1.75 per child, this cottage industry takes you into the heart of cheese making, up close and personal, (blue cheese smells and all.) Mousetrap Cheese are the producers of the Little Hereford and Monkland Cheese and they also own shops in Leominster, Ludlow and Hereford where they specialise in a range of British farmhouse and continental cheeses mostly made from unpasteurised milk.

By 10:30am we were running from the car to the little coffee and cheese shop, the persistent wet stuff just wouldn't let up! Inside the dairy was all toasty warm with coffee and cheese perfuming the air. We nibbled at taster sized pieces of cheese, loving all of the flavours especially the Little Hereford flavoured with sage.

Our guide and chief cheese maker soon came to collect us. She wore a fetching outfit of white boots, apron, shorts and a T-shirt, along with a retro looking 1970's hat, (probably a heath and safety requirement rather than a nod to The Liver Birds.) We're it not for the text on the back of her t-shirt that read; 'Blessed be the cheese makers,' she could have auditioned for a number of Abba copycat bands.

Our guide was so wonderfully personable that our tour comprising three adults and five children (aged from 7-14)  were soon happy to ask questions and squeal in horror at the origin of French rennet, a bi-product of the French veal industry. Who'd have though cheese making could be so gory - the kids loved it.

We were shown how the cheese was made, stage by stage and stood just a few feet from huge vats of warm, rennet infused milk, gawping at the fact that with 1000 litres of milk, only 100 litres of cheese would be created. This leaves 90% of soluble protein or whey as waste and this needs to be disposed of. This waste is ideally suited to feed pigs, so get in touch with them if you'd like some for your animals.

We were taken into the storage rooms where mold (the good type) encrusted rounds of cheese were sat on shelves maturing. The 7yo was salivating by now and I was surprised to note that he wasn't bothered by the aroma, he was genuinely interested in the process, as was the 9yo.

All in all it was a great adventure and by the time we left, the rain had stopped and the sun was belting hot........ OK, I've gone waaaay too far now... it was still pee-ing down!

For cheese and tasty tours (and to avoid the rain) contact:

Mousetrap Cheese, The Pleck, Monkland, Hereford. HR6 9DB Tel. 01568 720 307

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon