Friday, 31 October 2008

"A little bit of Monica in my Life"

Feeling all pleased with myself today as I managed to get through most of “My list”. Those of you with a “bit of Monica in them” will appreciate how rewarding this can feel as you strike a line through the item, especially the ones where you have refused to procrastinate and just “got over it” and did it! The only things left off were “endeavour to do some Pilates” (ha!) and BSL homework which can wait a bit….

So here I sit in the gloom with one solitary spotlight for company because I am not going to answer the door to any little kids who want “treats” and would prefer to let them think I was not at home…but then that means I have the dilemma of wondering who it is (in case I am ignoring a friend or family member who has forgotten their keys…..) which would then entail me having to peek surruptiusly (spell check suggests scrumptiously…um no…but I can’t be bothered to get the dictionary….) through the curtains without being seen (perish the thought…) Am I the only one that does this?! Yeah, yeah, I know I could get out there and do lots of positive opposites etc, but tonight all I can think of are the old ladies who will be scared witless.

Today then was another good day in the life of Julie’s jelly jamborees!!! Wahay! But now no more crab apples and garden apples left so I will have to switch my attention elsewhere! Having watched Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall create a squirrel casserole last night, I spent the morning trying to dissuade Ramzi from planning a trap. What do you do when you have a frustrated hunter as a lodger? All he wants to do is shoot stuff! Thankfully the deer he photographed in the field behind us this morning were simply admired…He has informed me that we have “an animal that cannot see” making hills in our vegetable patch…If he gets his way, the aforementioned mole will be lured by an onion concoction (made by chef Ramzi, who needs Gordon?) to the surface where it will receive a hard blow to the head and thus our carrots will live to see another dawn….sigh….You see with these Urban Warriors….”life really is like a box of choclits”….but I’m glad we got him!!!! Tomorrow, I believe he will be emptying our pond with the device I purchased online that siphons off the water. It is really meant for our bath water but that’s another story for another day!

This week I eagerly anticipated the arrival of our “Farmer’s Market order”. I was not to be disappointed. Having not ordered on line for a while, we have decided to make more effort to buy our meat, vegetables and other bits and pieces from farmers in the local area. This also sorts out my milk dilemma as I have been told that 75% of the cost of the milk goes back to the farmer if I buy it this way. Okay, the milk is more expensive, but that wasn’t my concern as you know. We hope that our supermarket bills will decrease and that we will be investing more into the local economy in a small way.

I am still refusing to begin any Christmas shopping or even to entertain the thought…much…except that to say the Christmas cake is ready to be taken to the garage where it will stay for about 6 weeks in the Roses Chocolates tin, The Christmas pudding is soaking in Newcastle Brown Ale overnight and will be cooked in the Slo Cooker tomorrow. Yet again I know I will fight the urge to run as far as I can from all “I must have it for Christmas” hype, when I know the important stuff is being with the people you love (and possible those you don’t….) as we celebrate Jesus’ birth and what that means for us and in turn how that affects the people we rub shoulders with on a regular basis through the year. So this year I will celebrate well and decorate the house, probably with a monster tree (because I can….in my hallway) but the gifts will be thought about carefully and simply and I will try and I mean really try not to be a bah humbug!!!! So perhaps I have started thinking about it after all…….

Do you think it is safe to put the lights on yet? Surely no one is going to come at 8:30…I shall in a bit, I don’t want the others to come back and the place is in darkness…Ramzi suggested wiring up the doorbell so that people would get an electric shock…the boy has an evil streak…..

Now I have to attack the kitchen which looks like the proverbial bomb has hit it…albeit in an industrious sort of way and then I shall wend my way bedwards with all my gardening, cookery and green lifestyle books, my “to do list” book, don’t even go there,,, read a bit of Ezekiel…these prophets had a rough time, just finished Jeremiah, now I know why he was called “the weeping prophet” Blimey I would have been suicidal…..anyway, now I’m getting flippant, so that’s me signing off. Night allx

Monday, 20 October 2008

Kitchen carnage and lessons learned...

After yesterday’s disaster of toffee apple consistency crab apple jelly behind me, I have learned a few lessons, the first being why I didn’t make use of the thermometer in the drawer and the second why I didn’t insist that Dick, who has made it before, come and peer into the saucepan whilst I was apparently “making such a big thing out of it” by asking lots of basic questions….Husband forgiven and actually the other saving grace was that I also made some “to die for” (she says modestly) Rosehip syrup which for me holds childhood memories of my mother producing it at regular intervals along with the cod liver oil and malt and abidec vitamins in warm milk. Pauline and Stuart (friends of mine) tell me that the aforementioned Rosehip syrup is particularly tasty drizzled over Yorkshire pudding with gravy…so methinks they will have to come over sometime soon for a grand tasting….

Today has been “Take 2” crab apple jelly which (drum roll) looks like what it should, although probably wouldn’t win any prizes at The Bath and West”. I could go into the clarity and the aroma, taste, consistency etc but would sound just a tad like Andy in “fragrance selling mode” so I won’t but suffice to say I keep tilting the jar and doing a little “pleased with myself” dance which incorporates a punch into the air….sad….

The Quince cheese, why is it called that, it has no dairy products in it, is bubbling away on the cooker. Apparently, I should have a Spanish speciality sweet snack” by the end of its bubbling 3 hours during which I have to stir it frequently until I can drawer a line in the base of the saucepan and it will be thick enough to separate. This time I am taking no chances and I am bobbing up and down like a Meer cat to stir it every 5 minutes! At the moment it is spitting red hot syrup at me reminiscent of Vesuvius and the cooker hob resembles hardened blackened spreading circles that will need a chisel to rectify, and I am not wearing an apron….

Monday, 13 October 2008

Of Milk and Hens...apologises to John Steinbeck

So a new week begins and all my intentions for a regular blog have stayed that way…..but today I am in a quandry, so hear goes….It’s about doorstep milk (okay those of you yawning already can leave the room, but I know there are others out there who will be riveted to this subject, and others like it!) I don’t like to think of the dairy farmers having a hard time with the pitiful amount they get paid for supplying milk to the supermarkets, I think it is an injustice, however how can I buy milk in a way that is convenient to my lifestyle, yet know the farmer is getting a fair price? Is doorstep milk the answer? Is that fairer to the farmer, how can I find out? The concept behind doorstep milk ticks many boxes for me; I like the idea of glass bottles over having to take my plastic ones to the tip every week. I know it is more expensive but I wouldn’t mind if I knew the farmer was getting his due and not the dairy pocketing it all. If that was the case, the idea of doorstep milk probably isn’t as attractive. We buy at least 16 pints a week and freeze them (it works, don’t knock it) but that means taking up freezer space as well as remembering to thaw them overnight. I think that having someone in the community who is regularly noting if milk is not leaving the doorstep is a positive thought in today’s culture where some people live alone and live solitary lives. Perhaps I live in a little sentimental bubble and I belong back in the 1950s! But I digress, I can’t go toddling off to a farm shop to buy my milk all the time because a) it means using the car more, something I prefer to avoid b) it is probably in plastic containers which means I haven’t eliminated the tip element and c) it means a special trip out somewhere regularly. So that’s my thinking on that one…..

All is well with the Hog hens as we call them! Hattie (of Tattie Hattie fame) is the only remaining exbatt of the four we rescued last November. Funnily enough, she was the one who was henpecked and we thought she would be the first to go as she took longer to grow her feathers and look healthy. So she has outlived the others and is demonstrating her personality in an enchanting way. If chickens could purr, that is what she does when given grass corn apples, whatever…She makes this contented little “buk buk buk” noise and talks to you if you “buk buk” back at her! If she sees me trundle off down the garden and I feed the other hens, who are kept separately from her, first, she creates such an indignant racket; it is quite comical to hear! When Mr Fox paid a visit last week at 06:45, she saw him off in no uncertain terms! I will try and get a recent photo of her. Every morning I wonder if she will come out when I open her door, every day is a bonus, I shall be so sad when she dies. Having said that plans are afoot for more exbatts following her demise, we can’t bring ourselves to get any yet in case it spoils her peaceful life and she doesn’t seem lonely. Squirrels and various birds pop by and pass the time of day with her…now I am losing it and turning into Beatrix Potter……

The weekend found us spending most of Saturday in the garden which, believe me needs so much attention. Ramzi is convinced all I do is “destroy things” as all he ever sees me do is hack stuff down at the moment. I look as if I have spent the weekend self-harming as I having bramble slashes up my inner forearms. I am already planning next weekend’s jobs….greenhouse clearance for starters!

This enough for now, perhaps bite sized pieces of my “I’m trying to live more simply and embrace greener living” lifestyle is enough! I do have other things that occupy my thoughts believe it or not, so perhaps another day it will be a different topic in the life of me muttering to myself…..

Friday, 18 April 2008

Can i bow out when it gets tough?

This week we had a rude awakening from Mr Fox, it must be about a year since our last encounter when Xena fought him off and raised the alarm in the early hours. This time he was outside the Pen frightening the living daylights out of the girls who had only just skipped down the drawbridge for breakfast. Dick was down the garden in a flash and the fox legged it out of the garden. We have made considerable improvements to their security since the last episode, although I know you can never become complacent, I took comfort in the fact that there was no evidence he had been digging or trying to gain entry. I think the exbatts, who are housed separately, were oblivious to this, although I noticed that the fox had obviously been sniffing around their house as he had left his “calling card” deposited at their back door.

These sorts of episodes always leave me tense and edgy. The temptation is to think that it is all too much hassle having to be one step ahead of the fox, always alert to his ways and possible schemes. I entertain the thought that I could protect myself from all this worry if I didn’t keep chickens…and that got me thinking about life in general, the fact that I can’t hide away from the harsh realities of what life may throw at me. I can’t say that when life gets tough, I am bowing out and looking for an easier option where people don’t get hurt and the ones I love are always cocooned in a protective bubble. We all need to get out there and live life. Sometimes I need to get my risk assessments in perspective and stop my over fertile imagination giving me unhelpful images! I wonder how many of us let fear rule what we do with our lives…or more likely, what we don’t do with our lives. You see I don’t really want to be the sort of person, who says “No” for the wrong reasons. So I look at my life, I put strategies in place where I am weak, I ask for help and encouragement and I use my commonsense! Every day I am becoming more prepared to take on this adventure called LIFE and I am determined not to allow “stuff” to get in the way…but to get out there and live life…but sometimes you may have to be a bit patient with me!

Monday, 7 April 2008

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got”.

Today I walked to work past the usual red brick houses all self contained, in neat little predictable rows and I felt trapped….No that’s not exactly true, it wasn’t me that felt trapped, it was the lifestyle they represented that made me what to run and shout “It doesn’t have to be this way, get out, Live, Learn (new stuff) experience the adventure, the excitement of new beginnings, challenges that beckon! Let’s not settle for mediocrity, a half life, a “what if I had have done that” life.

So why am I restless? I feel as if I am being birthed into something new, does that sound weird? Probably to some of you who will read this, it will seem a little wacky and you will put it down to the fact that I am approaching a big zero number next year and am having a mini mid life crisis, but I think there is something else going on here. Whereas some of my friends are looking ahead to settling down to pottering around their gardens, enjoying the thought of grandchildren in the next few years, I want to be out loving the unlovely, the hurting, vulnerable and marginalised. I want to get my hands dirty and care for the dying, the poor, the people whom nobody wants to hug…I feel that if I can’t soon hold someone who hurts so bad or feels so alone I will burst. It is growing in me, yet I have moments when I’m cool and I can compartmentalise these feelings and put them on hold for a while…yet all the time knowing that “something needs to be dealt with”. It’s this “hands on “thing, it won’t go away, and yet I know there is timing in all of this. Something has been put into motion, something that excites me because it all sort of makes sense from things that have been said, dreams that have been dreamt. Yet, I feel no apprehension, merely an awareness to listen and observe. Sometimes I feel like an onlooker in my own life, wondering what will be said next, what emotion will rise up, what phrase will be blurted out unchecked, something from deep within…

I am travelling light, unencumbered; I am learning what I need for my journey, Simplicity and Focus

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Curious Incident of the bulge on the chicken in the Greenhouse

Today I bought live maggots and fed them to my chicken with the weird bulge…

Tatty Hattie, one of out exbatts arrived in November with a small bulge on her front. Didn’t really think much at the time as exbatts often arrive looking a bit worse for wear and to be honest, one eyed Aggie gained more of my sympathy at the time. However, this bulge doesn’t seem to have gone away, in fact it has grown and on certain days she would look like a buxom Maiden Aunt except the rest of her remains looking pitiful and scrawny whilst the others are feathering up and looking quite attractive. I made up my mind to keep a watchful eye on her today. This is an unfortunate phrase as my varifocals have been knocked recently and I am having a hard time getting one eye to “feel right”, but anyway, it has given me something to think about and I have momentarily stopped squinting and adjusting the frames at various intervals during the day….I digress…

I decided to go on my “chicken forum” (don’t mock) and do some research into bulges, impacted crops etc….it’s all there, I tell you! It appears that olive oil and live white (and they have to be white…not dyed or it looks like they are bleeding internally…a few hours later (ooh l’ve learned so much today…) maggots. The former helps to soften an impacted crop, the latter munch on the contents and help reduce it, assuming they haven’t been pecked and mashed first, by said beak…but some get through apparently.

So armed with this info, I march off to fishing supplies shop in town. Well, oh my word, I stood looking down into this open cabinet which contained 6 washing up bowls that were moving….well the contents were squirming.. Each bowl contained a different coloured breathing and mobile mass, I was memorised in a appalling way… A young lad offered to serve me with a grin on his face. I sounded confident, paid my half pint order and returned home with the knowledge that he had secured the bag tightly and I wouldn’t have live maggots crawling up my leg on my way home. I didn’t stop me looking to see “if the bag was moving though”.

So home I came, Hattie was separated into the greenhouse with everything she needed and I created my delicious porridge of oats, poultry spice, olive oil and maggots…yum. Well she evidently thought so because she went crazy for them, her little beady eye missing nothing and flicking her head back showering my face with the contents, which wasn’t a great experience.

Well she seems happy enough, although a lot smaller and frailer-looking than the others. She didn’t like me trying to feel bits and peep underneath her…oh the indignity of it all. It may be an impacted crop or it may be a tumour, I fear the latter, but she doesn’t seem bothered. The others ere beginning to peck her, so I think she is probably better off separated for now and we’ll see how she goes with a bit of individual attention…Meanwhile I am getting photos of her bulge for the forum to peruse…and the maggots are in a bag, within a bag, within a plastic container within the fridge…like a controlled drug behind many doors. I only hope no one ignores the fish stores bag and thinks “hmm what shall go in my sandwiches today” and can anyone tell me how long maggots stay as maggots before they become flies….in my fridge……


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