23 May 2015

Day One Without a Car

Well today is day one without a car and as the weather this morning was lovely and sunny, I decided to get on with potting on my veg plants. Yesterday, before the car's MOT expired, I topped up my compost supply and I was desperately hoping that the 6 bags of compost would be enough to re-pot all the veg I have been growing and also the veg plants I fetched from my friend at the market yesterday, which would also need potting on. 

Because of my knee problem, digging over the veg beds has been near impossible so, with raised bed planting not an option this year, I really needed to come up with a plan B. Luckily, I don't throw anything away and have a decent plant pot collection of all shapes and sizes so planting the various veg into a collection of big pots and tubs became the plan B. I also had another dilemma. My garden looks a lot like a field at the moment and I have a terrible slug problem so I wanted to avoid standing the pots on the lawn in order to keep them as far away from the buggers as possible. I also wanted to keep the pots on the patio so they're close by for watering a weeding and suchlike so in true wilderness, pioneering spirit, I built myself a bench from 2 old raised bed stood on top of each other with a couple of planks of wood across the top to stand the post on. I love it and I'm hoping that it does the job and keeps the slugs and snails off the plants. It also gives my back a bit of a rest too :-)

I also got a bit creative when I ran out of space on the bench for my tomato plants to go. Two of the plants were "Tumbling Toms Yellow" so I planted them into a couple of old red hanging basket pots that used to have strawberries in them and hung them onto 2 shepherds-crook-type posts which originally had hanging lanterns on them but which had gone missing several years ago ...... I told you I never throw anything away, I've had those hanging posts sitting in the shed for almost 5 years and I knew that eventually they would be useful for something :-)

I haven't missed the car today at all but I'm guessing that as time goes on and I run out of more things I'm going to start feeling it a lot more. I discovered this morning that I have run out of soft toy stuffing which I usually get from a shop about 7 miles away so I'm having to look on the internet for some and work out if it's more cost effective to order it that way or whether I should just bite the bullet and get a taxi on payday and stock up on all the stuff I need from that shop all in one go. Dilemma dilemma dilemma ......

Anyway, the potting on is done for now and in my little veg garden I now I have 3 different types of tomatoes, 2  squash plants, some French beans, some spinach, some sugar snap peas, some cut and come again lettuce, some courgette plants, an aubergine plant and a whole lot of herbs including basil, parsley, thyme and sage. Plenty to be going on with.

22 May 2015

Life Without a Car and a Little Announcement

Ok, first for the bad stuff. My car failed it's MOT on Wednesday. It needed 2 new tyres and it failed the emissions test. The garage suspected that it was an engine mis-fire that was causing the problem and after doing all the obvious stuff to sort it out, and failing, the garage finally came to the conclusion that it's not going to be financially viable to find and fix the problem and that the car is now basically only good for scrap. As you can imagine, I am really, really REALLY upset about this, not least because I had to pay the garage for the work they had done trying to fix the car and now I am £170 poorer and I still have no car. 

For most people, although it would be an inconvenience they would at least be able to hop on a bus or a train to get to where they needed to go but as I live in the middle of nowhere, it's a 20 minute walk to my nearest bus stop and a 45 minute walk to the nearest train station. Ok, I know there will be people out there saying it's my own fault for choosing to live where I live and I appreciate that fact but nevertheless, with no money to buy another car it's going to be a difficult time over the next few weeks until I have scraped enough together to figure something out. Anyhow, as I have said before, I'm all for making lemonade when life chucks me a bag of lemons and with this in mind, I thought I would write a few blog posts about how I manage to live without a car living in the depths of Cornwall.

As my MOT doesn't officially run out until midnight tonight, I have spent the morning running around trying to get a few things sorted that I probably won't be able to do when the car is gone. I fetched 6 more 56ltr bags of compost so I can get my veg potted on into their final tubs, buckets and beds and I stocked up on loo roll, bread for freezer, milk, pasta and pesto and a few more essentials that I thought might be useful but from now on, all my shopping is going to have to be done online from the supermarket and delivered by a man in a van. I am going to have to be super organised too so I don't run out of anything because there will be no nipping to the shops if that happens. Not ideal I know, but not much I can do about it.

The main problem is going to arise when I try and do my monthly animal food shop. At the start of each month, on payday, I go and I buy everything I will need to keep my animals fed and happy. This means enough llama food, chicken food, dog food and cat food to last a whole month along with cat litter, dog treats, sawdust and hay. I know it sounds a bit bizarre but I at least have the peace of mind then, knowing that if things go a bit pear shaped financially, the animals will all be cared for. I also then know exactly how much I have in the kitty to budget with for that month. I have no idea how I am going to manage to get to the 4 different shops it takes to sort all this out. The bags of dog food weigh 12kg each, the llama food bags are 25kg each and the big slabs of cat food I buy have 12 cans in each and I buy 9 slabs each month .... and that's just for starters. It's going to be a total nightmare but it will be interesting to see how I manage. So ........ tomorrow will be day one without a car. 

And now to the announcement. 

Yesterday, I became a Granny for the first time :-) My daughter and her husband welcomed little Archie into the world just after lunchtime yesterday and although my poor daughter had to have a cesarean after being in labour for 36 hours, both mum and baby are doing brilliantly. 

He weighed in at a healthy 8lb15oz :-)

16 May 2015

Car Trouble, Lemon Curd Muffins and Exciting Happenings in my Flower Bed

I'm having car trouble again. A couple of weeks ago I had a problem with one of the callipers on my hand break sticking and while driving to the shop, my back wheel started to smoke alarmingly and I had to pull into the doctor's surgery car park so I could call out the RAC. The lovely recovery man un-stuck the calliper and sprayed it with all manner of stuff to keep it unstuck and I was hoping and praying that it would be fine for a couple of weeks until the car goes in for it's MOT next week so I could get everything fixed at the same time. Unfortunately, despite not putting the hand break on when the car is parked in my driveway and not using the car very much, it seems that the sticky calliper on the hand break is stuck on again which means that the hand break doesn't release properly and when I drive the car, it gets stuck in the on position and the back wheel gets hot so it starts to smoke. I now have to figure out a way to get the car to the garage for it's MOT next week without driving it and without it costing an arm and a leg for a tow truck!! Anyway, for the moment, I'm stranded at home in the middle of nowhere, with no transport and the nearest bus stop a 25 minute walk away. Now I don't mind this so much usually but I'm getting a bit low on food so yesterday, I spent an hour online doing a food shop from a supermarket that will deliver. Problem one solved, a delivery slot booked for Saturday evening between 8-10pm, the cheapest one available at such short notice. Problem two ...... last night, after ordering the shopping I really REALLY wanted something sweet to eat but with my cupboards looking a bit sparse, it had to be something I could make that used what I already had in the house and that didn't use a lot of butter because I didn't have much left. I also had half a jar of lemon curd that needed using up so after a quick trawl through my cook books I found a recipe for Lemon Curd Marble Muffins from the River Cottage Everyday book and whipped up a batch. They're totally delicious, especially warm from the oven with a dollop of cream on top :-)

Lemon Curd Muffins
225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
A good pinch of sea salt
100g caster sugar
1 medium egg
125g plain yoghurt
125ml whole milk
75g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
150g lemon curd

Put 12 large paper cases into a muffin tray. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar in a large bowl and whisk lightly to aerate and combine.

Mix the egg, yoghurt, milk and melted butter together in a jug. Pour them into the dry ingredients and mix lightly, stopping as soon as everything is combined – it's essential not to over-mix or you'll get dense, cakey muffins.

Spoon a some mixture into each muffin case and top with a generous ½ teaspoonful of lemon curd. Add a final spoonful of muffin mixture to encase the lemon curd and three-quarters fill the cases.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Eat on the day you bake them, ideally while still slightly warm.

And with just a couple of tweaks, you can also make 

Jammy Muffins
Replace the lemon curd with your favourite jam, first beating it lightly to soften slightly. Thick, fruity jams work best – a strawberry jam containing whole strawberries is perfect.

Chocolate Marble Muffins
Replace the lemon curd with 150g chocolate hazelnut spread (warm it gently first, so it's easier to marble).

Fruity Muffins
Replace the lemon curd with 1 large, or 2 small ripe bananas, thoroughly mashed; or 75g blueberries; or 75g stoned and halved cherries; or 75g raisins or other dried fruit, such as chopped dried apricots. Stir the fruit into the mixture lightly and quickly, just before piling into the cases.

I'm also very excited...... I know, it doesn't take much and I get excited about the smallest of things ..... anyhow, I mentioned earlier this week that I had liberally sprinkled wild flower seeds all over one of my flower beds. It was only 5 days ago so you can imagine my surprise when, while out doing a bit of gardening this morning, I saw this. 

At first I thought they were weeds, in fact I know that some of them are .... like the spiky leaved plants which are definitely weeds because I'm forever pulling them up and there are always nettles , dandelions and grass growing in this flower bed, which I also have to remove on a regular basis but, the others are absolutely not the usual weeds that I get growing in here. I am therefore reasonably confident that the seeds that I sprinkled on there the other day have germinated and are well on their way to becoming a lovely mass of wild flowers. I can't wait to see what happens next.

13 May 2015

Chickens on the Fritz!

I don't know if I have mentioned it but my chickens are on the fritz! They are not laying AT ALL! They seem fine in themselves, they are running around, scratching up the ground, eating and drinking well, they have bright eyes and their combs are a good colour and not at all droopy. I have checked their house for mites and other beasties that might be causing a problem but try as I might, I couldn't find anything to explain why my chickens are defective. And this is not a recent thing, they haven't laid an egg for about 5 months now. I have a slight suspicion that it might initially have been because over the winter we had a bit of a rat problem. I'm not the only person where we live that has chickens and I know that my neighbour had a rat problem too but his chickens were obviously ninja chickens and clearly made of sterner stuff than my two wimps because their chickens are laying like mad. Fortunately, as the weather has warmed up the rats seem to have stopped bugging the chickens and I haven't spotted a rat in my garden for about 2 months. I know they're probably still around, despite the traps, but I'm guessing their usual food source is once again plentiful so they now have no need to come onto the lawn any more and steal the chickens food. But still no eggs! Anyway, the lovely Sue from Our New Life In The Country gave me some advice and recommended a seaweed based chicken tonic and also some garlic granules and very helpfully supplied a link so off I went and ordered some. It arrived this morning so, today the chickens have had a dose of the tonic in their water, some garlic granules mixed in with their food and I also read on-line that a little bit of probiotic yoghurt can be beneficial as well so they have had that too! 

Frankly ..... they are better fed than I am at the moment! 

Here is a spectacularly grubby Pepper Potts covered in yoghurt :-)