Friday, 30 March 2012

Full House

5 eggs today from my 5 Garden Girls.

Even littleTilda laid an egg - and it had a perfect shell (last year her egg shells were very thin, and often didn't completely cover the eggs she laid).

Well done my lovelies.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


I made custard today.

The most luxurious kinf: double cream, 8 egg yolks, 2 rich juicy vanilla pods.

I poured some into two ramekins, to chill to make creme brulee.  The rest is cooling in a jug, ready to accompany apple pie later this evening.

I love custard.


Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Decorating continues

My back hurts!

It took a while this morning to mask the skirting boards.  The special tape, with the fold out plasticky stuff to protect the floor, was a great idea. It took a while to do.   Next time,  I'll use "normal" masking tape and tape newspaper to the skirting,  that way  I can do it as part of my "day before" preparations.  I unpacked my Paintstick, set everything up, and got started with the cutting in.

I did all the cutting in in one half of the room,  then painted, then cut=in the second half, then painted.  As predicted, the actual rollering of the walls took less than 15 minutes each time,  but the cutting in took a while.

While the first coat dried, I went to the Allotment to check on the chooks (getting attacked by the cockerel for my trouble.  His card is marked.),  posted aparcel, got some crumpets and celery.  Back home, ate crumpets and then prepared a bolognese for dinner this evening.

By this time, the first coat was dry (at least in the first half of the room), and I could do the second coat.  This time I did my cutting in for one wall, then rollered, then cut in for the next wall, then rollered....  not as efficient, but at least I could tick off a wall at a time as being done.

I stoppwd about an hour ago and have been tidying up.  DH has suggested that we wait util tomorrow before putting everything back, and I think he's right.  i will remove all the masking before I go to bed though (back permitting), so that we haven't got all the messing aboutbefoer we can get started in the morning.

The kitchen needs repainting.  It needs more than the sitting room did.   The kitchen needs some filling-and-sanding;  it needs the ceiling painting;  there is a lot of stuff to remove to be able to paint the walls.    I need to work up the energy to do it.  Right now, I don't care if I never see a paint tin again.

But the sitting room does look fresh and clean.  We've also agreed we should replace the TV stand with something that will hide everything away and be less of a dust magnet.

Off to finish making dinner now.

NIght all.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Still decorating

I'm  procrastinating.

I've almost finished masking. Taking a quick break as I had to find the decorating supplies box and get a new roll of tape.

DH arrived home and helped by unscrewing a book-case from the wall, taking off all the curtain poles and hold-backs, and doing a bit of hoovering. Or Henry-ing, actually.

I have a huge pile of curtains to wash. I'd forgotten that at that end of the room, there are four decorative curtains, not two. They'll have to wait until tomorrow.

I've also moved the logs back out to the log store,  cleaned and Henry's the stove, and cleaned the hearth.  No more fires for us this year then, lol.

Did I mention that I really, really hate decorating.  I love the end result, I just don't really like the process.  Despite this, I'm usually OK about it -  I Pollyanna a bit. "I'm glad I'm having to move the sofas to the middle of the room, because it gves me a chance to clean up behind them";  "I'm glad I'm emptying the cupboard because I can dispose of stuff that I no longer need";     I stop finding things to be glad about, about now

Although I do have one glad left:  I am glad that I'm only repainting, not changing the colour, as we don't have to take off the radiator or take out the picture hooks.


The thing about painting (as in, painting internal walls) is that the actual painting takes minutes, but all the preparation takes forever.

In the winter I had noticed that one of our sitting room walls was badly scuffed.  Closer inspection showed that another wall was similarly in need of a re-coat of paint.  I decided to wait until Spring.

Well, Spring is here.  I've spent a large part of today emptying and moving everything so that I can paint.  It's two rooms knocked into one.  Every time we do something like this (usually it is me deciding to recoat the floor that sets this off) I am amazed at how much stuff we have have in the room. 

I've dusted the ceilings and the walls.  We're a spider-friendly home, and I usually leave the cobwebs alone, for as long as they are occupied.  I've vaccuumed  the solid floors.  I've cleaned dust bunnies off the hidden wires and plugs and bits.  I've created a (admittedly small) pile of stuff to give to Oxfam.  

I've also masking-taped half the room so far.  I'm not repainting the ceiling or the coving, so I've taped those. I've taped round the french windows. I've taped around one of the doors.  It's sooooooo tedious.

I've hand washed one pair of curtains , two pairs to go - but one of them can't be done until morning (we need them up for privacy this evening).    I should be honest here and say that my lovely washing machine has a hand wash cycle,  so when I say "hand wash" - in this instance  - I mean I've run one pair through the machine so far.  This really means Spring, I love it when the lightweight curtains are washed and on the line.

I'm hoping to get all the masking tape stuff done by bedtime,  and to get the TV etc in the middle of the room before we go to bed.  Then first thing tomorrow morning I can run round the skirtings with the  "speed masker" (masking tape with an an attached piece of plastic). We have oak skirtings, and there is no doubt that I will  get paint on them otherwise.  The pack says "remove within 4 hours", so I don't think putting it on this evening and leaving it overnight will work too well. 

I can then do my cutting in,  by which time my "preparation" will be finished, and I'll be ready to spend half an hour rollering the walls.

Then, tomorrow afternoon it'll be ready for it's second coat,  and tomorrow evening we can put everything back.   At least, that's the plan.

Isabelle has been "helping"me empty cupboards....

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Photo call

Took my camera and it's close-up lens out in the garden yesterday.  Took lots of photos.   There were a lot of photos which I really liked, here are just a few.
Florence, my lovely Australorp . She's a big girl, but so lovely.  Her feathers are really, really soft.
A couple of 'Tilda, our special-needs Girly

And a rare one of Milly.  She's hard to snap at the best of times. Even when I do manage to get her in my viewfinder, the images are often blurred because her crazy comb wobbles around so much it distorts the picture. 
This side of her head, you can see her eye. The other side, her face is completely iobscured by the comb.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Springing into Action

Another warm day today, so we decided it was time to deep clean the chicken coops on the allotment.  We normally do this three times over Spring/Summer,  and once in the Autumn.  This means that the Allotment coops haven't had a deep clean since last October.

They are cleaned out completely, regularly.  A "Deep Clean" is more involved.  It means not onlu scraping ythe roosting bars, but actually scrubbing them until they are like new.  It means praying poultry shield into ever centimetre of the house.  It takes a long time.

We started by emptying the large shed, which is the preferred coop of most of them.  DH helped empty, and as soon as it was empty and dusted,  I sprayed with Poulty Shield.  As this also involves spraying the roof,  I was wearing a shower cap, which looked very fetching.

While the  shed ws drying, I scrubbed the poo trays (water with Virkon),  and the roosting bars,  and the roosting poles.   When they were done, I sprayed everything wit Poultry Shield.

I then went to NUmber 1 coop (home of 3 Girls) and found it contained a very broody hen.   I decided to give it a normal clean instead, but I did scrub (Virkon) and Poultry Shield the roosting bars and the poo tray.    This should make it quicker when I do a Deep Clean next week.

Number 2 Coop (home of Norman and her 2 sisters) had two broody Girls in.   They tend to sleep in the nest boxes anyway, so all this needed was a normal clean.  I'll aim to deep clean it next week.

Waterers were cleaned and disinfected;  chicken bottoms inspected and cleaned where necessary (3 of the Dinner Girls have the same pear shaped bottom as Custard). DH fenced off another area, raked it over, and sowed some grass seed.  Not sure that it's going to germinate,  we will need to water it by hand.

By now, the shed was dry,  so sprinkled Stalosan (a Poultry Safe powder dinisfectant) on the floor, put the poo trays in,  put Aubiose everywhere,  and Diatomed the roosting bars, poles & the nest boxes.  Everything looked and smelled lovely., apart from me.  I was platered in stinky water; I had red Stalosan powder down my trousers and on my shirt,   diatom on my shoes.    When I took my shower cap off, my hair was clean underneath - but damp.

I've just had a shower and put clean clothes on.  Wish now I'd hoiked the broodies out and done their coops today.... but it's too late now.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A bit of a blow

So, I ended up with 4 cremes brulee. DH and I ate one between us, before brulee-ing, just to see what the creme bit tasted like.

I bought a chef's blow torch.  I got home, found some lighter fuel, filled it up, and decided to try brulee-ing one of the 3 remaining brulees.  I was surprised that I seemed to be able to control it quite well. The top was fairly evenly toasted.  Then I realised I had forgotten to put the sugar on.  I was "caramelising" the custard itself.  Ha ha ha.

I put some sugar over the damage, and tried again.

It wasn't great, but it looks ok.  when it's cooled, I'll crack the brulee and see how it's come out.  And I will brulee the remaining two cremes for pudding tomorrow.

Kitchen Capers

Butter making today.  Very warm sunny day, so not really ideal conditions...but the forecast says it's going to continue like this, so I might as well get on with it.

I got the cream out of the fridge first thing this morning so I decided to get make creme brulees,  and some hand made bread first.  While the dough was in the airing cupboard, rising, and the creme brulees were in the oven,  I started on the butter.

I've tried buttermaking in warm weather before, and it hasn't always been successful.  Today, I prepared by putting a couple of milk cartons of water in the fridge, as cold water is best for washing butter.

It was definitely slow work,  taking ages for the cream to split.  I think that's partly  because the cream had only been out of the fridge for about 4 hours - normally I leave it out overnight.   My production line went well.  One batch churning, while the earlier batch was being washed. The washed batch went into a big bpwl in the fridge (for salting later on),  and then Irinsed out plastic cream cartons using the butter washing water.

Eventually it was almost all done. The last batch was churning, and  I went into the fridge to get out the remaining cold water. I knocked an open pot of creme fraiche, it leapt off the shelf, did a but of a somersault, and hit the floor.  It spat a bit as it was turning in the air,  but that was nothing compared to the effect of hitting the grounf. It exploded in spectacular fashion.  

The reach of a single, small, tub was amazing. I was particularly impressed with the splatter pattern all over me.  It managed to get all the way from the toes of my slippers,  up my trousered leggs, and up the apron to my chest.  It couldn't manage to get over the top though, so my face was saved.

I cursed a bit, rolled my eyes, and got on with learing it up.  I started with myself, as I had already managed to tread creme fraiche across the floor to where the kitchen towel sat.  When I was reasonably certain that I had got it all up, I consoled myself by remembering that the floor needed a wash anyway.  and I might as well wait until I'd finished potting up the butter before doing it.

I stepped back, turning round  to put the kitchen roll on the worktop as I did do, and I managed to knock over one of the bottles of buttermilk.  Never mind, at least I hadn't cleaned the floor yet,  and I never manage to use all the buttermilk anyway.

I started to get ready for salting and potting.  At this point,I realised that my second mixer bowl is in the airing cupboard with the dough in. Salting the butter is much quicker if I have two bowls - I can be salting a second batch while the first batch is being decanted into freezer-proof dishes and containers. There are only about 20 mins left before the dough is ready, so I thought I'd come and write about my morning instead.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Don't like the menu!

I worm the Girls 3 times a year.

Until last year, I used the "grape" method.  I had some super-accurate jewellery scales, and weighed out the required dose of Flubenvet for all my Girls for a week. Then I would cut up grapes, dip them in the measured  Flubenvet, and individually hand feed each Girl.  Florence, who is an enormous Australorp, had extra to take into account her extra weight.

It was harder on the allotment, as there were more Girls and they were much less used to being handled. It wasn't hard giving them the grapes,  it was hard to make sure each chook got only one dusted grape, and to keep track of who had had it and who hadn't.  Doing it as a 2 person job made it easier.

It was easy to buy a tub (which had enough for hundreds of hens, and a long sell by date) and then share it with other hen-owning friends.    Suddenly, it became illegal to do that.  It was supplying a restricted product, and was banned.

It's now much more difficult to get the original strength of Flubenvet. Instead, a weaker (and therefore more required) dose is available, which definitely needs to be mixed with pellets to ensure a good dose.  It comes in small measures, and works out much more expensive to buy enough for all my Girls than the original strength.

Mixing with pellets is a slow and painful process.  You have to start with a very small quantity of pellets, and mix in the powder. When you are sure it is properly mixed, you add more pellets and mix and mix. And more.  And again.  And again, until you have mixed in the right amount of pellets for the number of hens for the amount of powder.  And it doesn't stick of its own accord, you need to add a bit of oil or something.    Te-dee-us.

One of the feed companies, Marriages, started doing pellets with Flubenvet already mixed in. What a great idea,  why hadn't smeone thought of it before?!  I tried them once last year.  Normal feed is replaced entirely with these pellets, for 7 days.  This ensures that each hen gets exactly the right amount of Flubenvet for her weight.

I don't normally feed Marriages, and none of the chickens appreciated the diet change.On the Allotment,  hardly any seemed to get eaten.  I loved the idea, but it really didn't seem to work for me.

My tub of Flubenvet is now past its use-by date.  It's time to worm, so I searched for a replacement. I did find somewhere that sold the stronger stuff and, because of my Allotment hens, I would have been able to purchase it.   I decided, however, to give the Marriages one more go.

I ordered direct from Marriages. The shipping (courier, next day) made it quite expensive  but, considering it also gave me a sack of feed equating to a week's worth of feed for everyone, it worked out at a reasonable price overall.  It's also more convenient than hand feeding grapes and, of course, it ensures a much more accurate dose.

I've started this morning with the Garden Girls.    They don't appreciate the change of menu.   I'm going to leave them in the Run for longer than normal today,  and I'm going to cut back on treats for the next 7 days.   I will, however, let them free range.

I weighed out 2.5kg of feed and spread it between the two feeders.   2.5kg is between 3 and 5 days feed for my 5 Girls (at between 150g and 100g per hen per day).  I'll top it up in a few days.

I hope the Girls learn to eat it. 

It seems such a convenient way to worm.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Wind Egg

Had a Wind egg (or Cock's Egg) today - you can see how small it is in the picture below.             

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Lay in

Four eggs from five girls this morning!

Milly has been laying a few eggs a week for over a month now.  A few days ago we started to get an occasional brown egg, but we didn't know who it was from.  And now we're at 4 out of 5. What a lovely surprise!

The 4th egg had a weak spot in the shell (despite oyster shell being freely available).  Need to watch out for that, as I don't want any of the Girls discovering that eggs are delicious.

I might be wrong, but I'm assuming that it's Tilda who isn't laying yet:  as her comb and wattles aren't anywhere near as bright red as everyone else.  I don't mind Tilda having a free ride. 

Quick wash

Custard has a funny shaped bottom or,more specifically, the bit below her vent is a strange shape. It's a common trait in her line - her later-year sisters are the same.

It protrudes slightly. It means it's very difficult  for poo to miss.   I was cleaning her up the other day,  and I just couldn't get it all off with (sensitive - unscented) baby wipes. The weather was vile, so bathing it properly was out of the question.

This morning, it was warm and sunny. So, after my shower and before my breakfast,  I cleared down the kithcen, and filled the two sinks with warm water.  One sink had a small amount in - for feet cleaning, the other much more. Then I put on my chicken cleaning gear,  went and caught Custard and brought her in.

She was very patient while I cleaned her up.  Sometimes she spends time trying to escape the sink, but today she seemed resigned to it all. I only got her bottom (and legs of course) wet, so I was able to towel dry and put her back in the run.  I did consider using the hairdryer, the Girls quite like it on its gentle setting, but it didn't seem necessary.

Then I had to clean up the sink areas again.    They weren't actually dirty (apart from the one sink, obviously).  But you can't be too careful.   The sinks are soaking in Milton at the moment,  and I've Milton'd the whole area.

Back to normal now.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Has Bean

Iwas catching up with John Norman's blog the other day, and I read with interest about "Has Bean".  He had been given a 12 week subscription service, receiving 250g of a different type of coffee bean each week for 12 weeks.  The beans arrive with a description, and Has Bean also posts a video blog tasting session to accompany that week's beans. (John's post is here:

I found the idea appealing.  We already subscribe to a monthly odd-ball wine service,  and that is always interesting.    We buy Union coffee beans at the moment, and the "Has Bean" offerings are similarly priced.    I wasn't sure how well it would work with a beab-to-cup coffee machine as not all beans/blends/roasts are suitable for espresso.  Still, it was only as 12 week commitment, so I thought we'd give it a go.

My first pack arrived today. "Brazil Tapera Pulped - Natural". I spent time hoiking the remaining Union beans out of the machine's coffee bean hopper (putting them in an airtight jar to store in the fridge).  Then I went on to the Has Bean website to load up the tasting video.  

Turns out that the videos are loaded on Monday.

I considered whether to carry on anyway, but decided I'd wait. It may be that the videos suggest various ways of preparing the coffee.. maybe we're best off tasting a plain espresso first. I don't know.  

Besides, I can use some pre-ground coffee in the machine, so it's not like I'll have to empty it all again anyway.


Sunday, 11 March 2012


Sun is out fully now and it's very warm, almost hot.

I emptied out Number 1 Compost bin, and started shovelling it into my wheelbarrow before transporting it to the fruit cage.   The compost bins are outside the Girls' free range area,  and the fruit cage is currently (or perhaps I shoudld say currantly ha ha ha) inside.     WIth the first load, I carefully opened the netting, wheeled the barrow through, stopped and closed the fence,  and then wheeled the barrow off to the fruit bed.  Once there, I emptied it out and it was pounced on by four very curious girls.   Seeing where this was going,  I went and got the rake, and pushed the compost into the middle of the fruit bed so that when the Girld started to rook through it, it would get flicked to the outside edge - instead of over the edhge and onto the grass.

As the Girls were otherwise entertained,  I slacked off on my fence shutting routine.   I left the fence open while I filled the barrow, only shutting it behind me.    By the third barrow, I left it open while I went to disgorge the barrow as well.   I should have known it was too good to last.

Florence,  my beautiful and enormous Australorp,  heard the shove scraping on the slabs as I was getting to the bottom of the compost.   She knows that sound.  She knows that where there is shovelling, there are insects and possibly worms.  She came thundering over and was through the open gate before I coud stop her.    

DH's beautiful veg beds are near the compost bins, safely out of the Girls reach. Until now.   Fortunately, I managed to shepherd FLorence off the beds with the gentle swaying of a broom.    I went back to my safe routine after that.

When I had emptied bin 1, I decided to empty bin 2.  To my surprise, it was already empty!  No idea what happened there.    I looked at bins 3 and 4.  Normally, I would take the opportunity to turn the compost, by moving the immature compost into the now-empty bins.  However,  bins 3 and 4 had piles of slabs leaning against them (no idea!),  and we're replacing the fence behind the bins soon so the bins might need to be moved out completely for the day anyway....     I left them.

I then spent some time putting away the stuff from this morning: pressure washer, hose, power supply, cleaning stuff....    Cube still not dry, so I'm goign to have a refreshing drink and sit in the sun for a bit before putting that back together.

Scrub a dub

A slight ray of sun today, so I decided to scrubadub the Cube.  I like watching the bits dry in the sun, and I love it when it's all put back together and I know it is clean and disinfected.

It's always the preparation that takes the time.  Dismantling parts of the cube,  getting rid of all the Aubiose, getting out the pressure washer from the shed, finding the power lead for the pressure washer, unravelling the hose,  investigating why the pressure washer isn't working...

Eventually I was able to get scrubbing and spraying.   Our pressure washer has the delightful habit of continuing to let water through even when it's switched off.  I wish I had a remote control for the hose tap - it's on the other side of the garden, and I was getting mightily fed up of going backwards and forwards each time I stopped spraying to stop the water being wasted.

Eventually, the Cube shell was scrubbed,  and I went off to find the pressure sprayer so I could apply the disinfectant.  We use Poultry Shield, and over the years I have progressed from a hand sprayer to a proper pressure sprayer (non electric).  I haven't quite got to the backpack sprayer level, but I think that will be next.

I made up some Poultry Shield (9 parts water, 1 part Poultry Shield), and started to spray the inside of the cube.  Within 30 seconds, the spray nozzle wasn't working.  I've had this happen before. NOthing comes out.   I pulled it off in frustration and continued with the nozzle-less head.  This meant that the Cube was drenched in POultry Shield, as it was running out of the end really fast.    It was a hollow victory, as of course I used up all the solution within about 1 minute and had to make up some more.

When this was finished, and while the Cube shell was drying in the sun, I went back to the pressure washer.  Hose back on, switch on,  pressure washed all the bits: te back of the Cube, the egg port, the nest box entrance, the poo trays, the roosting bars...     By this time, my trousers (especially donned for the purpose) were soaked through with the splashback,  and I was squelching everywhere.  

This is why I need a sunny dry day.

It was now time to Ppoutry Shield the components.  I realised that I was cutting off my nose to spite my face by not having the nozzle on. It's a power sprayer, and it empties very quickly that way;  I then have to ake up another lot of solution, which is a waste of both my time, effort, water, and poultry shield. My rational head won the day, and  I went  in to the house to try and clear the nozzle. 

Back outside with a cleaned nozzle, I put it back on, and it worked for at least four seconds before seizing up completely.  I pulled it off threw it across the grass (very childish, I know...but I was hot, bothered and cross), and carried on.  I needed to fill up the sprayer three more times just to do the rest of the components,  and I have now run out of Poultry Shield.

DH will look at the nozzle for me later.  I need to do the Allotment coops and shed soon, and I really can't do those without it. 

I'm fine now, although still very soggy.   I think I might try emptying out one of the compost bins next.  While it's sunny.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


Spring must be on it's way.   The Girls are starting to make a racket in the morning.

When we first had chickens,  we were very nervous that they might be noisy and upset our neighbours.  We used to get up very early and let them out of their coop (Cube). As the days got lighter earlier, we were getting up earlier and earlier  to let them out into their run.  In the end, as they have a fox-proof walk in run,  we stopped shutting the pop hole at night so they could get up when they wanted.

But then they learned to crowd around the door of their walk in run, and start burbling and calling to be let out.  We tried letting them out to free range really early,  but this was a big risk as neither of us would be downstairs to keep an eye out for foxes.

 Eventually, we decided that enough was enough, and we went the other way. We started to let them out much much later.  We were hoping that they would learn that they got let out at (say) 12.00,  and therefore start to whinge from 11.00. 

Fast forward several years.   Nothing changes.  In each flock of hens we've had,  one of them has the job of Chief Whinger (CW).  When the CW dies,  another one takes over the role.      Unlike the rest of the flock, who might burble or cackle a bit,  CW has this low, mournful, mooooaaaaaaan,  which gradually increases in pitch, tone, and intensity.

Once Spring is here, CW starts fairly early each morning.  Often, the others join in.  A bit of a "dawn chorus" of the chicken world.  If I look out of my bedroom window,  I can see them all crowded around the door,  like children with their noses pressed against the window of a toyshop.      They ignore the fact that their run has lots of floor space,  is T shaped for interest,  has a big dustbath   has logs, two garden benches,  and several perches running around at different levels.   They ignore their peckablocks.

My bedroom is directly in line with their run,  and we have a small ventilated window which lets the sound in.  We know how loud (or not) the chickens are being, because of this.  We know that our neighbours don't get quite the same level of noise.

It's at its peak when they are full of the joys of Spring. 

If we are going to be out for part or all of the day, we get up and let the chooks out for a bit of a free range before we go.    This is our undoing.

I'm always amazed that chickens manage to learn undesirable habits after just one instance,  but it takes a long time for them to learn desirable ones.

So, after one day of being let out at 7.45 for a leg stretch because we were going out, they decide that 7.45 is the Official New Time and they start whingeing from 6.45.     And we're back to re-setting their free range clocks.

When I'm downstairs in my kitchen,  I can't hear them. I can see that they are calling, but the double glazing protects me from the noise (until one of them has a hissy fit, of course).

As the days go by, they don't keep up with the continual noise making and staring. If they catch any signs of is, they all rush to the door.  This might be seeing me pass the french window in the kitchen,  or hearing water coming out of the drain from the sink.

I must be strong.  If I give in too early, it'll only be worse tomorrow!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

In the Kitchen

Busy morning in the kitchen.

First, I began a "starter" to make a sandwich loaf.   We make all of our own bread, usually with the breadmaker (or getting the breadmaker to make the dough which we finish by hand).   The Shipton Mill newsletter arrived in my inbox a couple of days ago, and I decided to try making their Sandwich loaf by hand.

I was dubious about whether it would really look like a sandwich loaf.  I'm using a standard 2 pound loaf tin. I'm quite happy wit bread made in these tins, saves me cutting the sandwiches in half...  but the picture promised a proper sandwich loaf.

While the starter was getting fired up,  I measured out everything else for the bread.  I then made the dough, and put it in the airing cupboard to prove.

While that was proving, I made some lemon curd.  I've tried the traditional methism and I've tried a couple of fast methods.  The fast methods (Delia and Nigella) I find are fine for turning into dessets, or if I'm going ot eat it all immediately,  but the curd isn't quite as smooth as when it's done "properly".  Last year I got DH and a friend to do a blind tasting,  and they both preferred the "proper" one.    I'd forgotten quite how long it takes for the eggs to thicken!

I also decided to ry making some jellied "sweets".    I drink a reasonable amount of one particular fruit tea - it's the only one I've found where the taste lives up to the smell.  The other day I wondered what it would be like as little jellies,   so I used the water from heating the lemon curd ro melt some fine leaf gelatin,  made some tea (using 6 teabags, as I reasoned that things tend to lose flavour when chilled).   I decided not to add any sugar, so these aren't going to be "sweet" sweets.      I sieved the final mixture, and then poured it into heart-shaped silicon ice cube mould.  

I then did the next step of the dough, and put it back in for final proving,  and got on with making a pork-and-beef bolognese.  I like to give the bolognese a long gentle and slow  cook (in fact, it tastes even better the next day).   There's enough for at least 2 meals for the 2 of us.  Actually, there's a lot more than that - we tend to eat a lot of bolognese with our pasta.

The bread is now in the oven.  I've just taken a peek, and it has risen beautifully above the top of the tin.  It looks sandwich loaf shaped!   Fingers crossed it comes out OK.

Thursday, 1 March 2012


Sorry for the long gap.  Been rather unwell, but am getting better now.

DH decided to mow the grass today.  The back garden instantly looked better and, to top it all, the sun came out when he had finished. It felt instantly like Spring.

I can't stand the smell of freshly mown grass. It reminds me of school - when we were made to have lessons outside, and I associate it with ending up itching and sneezing.  It sets me itching and sneezing as an adult too, and marks the beginning of the hayfever season.

Even so, it was so lovely to feel the sun's warmth on my face, hear the little birdies cheeping,  that I decided to move the Girls' free ranging area around. The area around the Pampas grass has now recovered, and i know they love the shelter that the Pampas gives them, so we dwecided to give it back to them. 

As soon as they saw the first post being moved, theyknew that Something was Up.  They weren't sure whether Something was going to be a good Something, or a bad Something,  but they all decided to watch.   This meant that 5 hens crowded around each piece of netting as we tried to move it.

This is always highly amusing,  whilst simultataneously being a little stressful. The Girls get very excited, and have a tendency to get very underfoot. Near misses are frequent.    Eventually, we just shooed them out so they they were on the outside of the fence and had the run of the garden,  and they all bolted for the Pampas. 

Once it was all finished, we found them having a bit of a Mothers Meeting in the shady bit (of Pampas) nearest the house.   They're having a pamper session under there at the moment, and what looks like a good old telepathic chinwag (should that be "beakwag"? Or perhaps "cropwag" is a better approximation.

I've got the backdoor open to let in the sounds of birds (and aeroplanes, sadly), and to let the Spring light flood in. 
DH has been clearing one of the bed by the fence so that we can sow a wild flower meadow. Well, it's a small bed, so its more of a "m......" than a "meadow".  He uncovered a tree branch in there, which I think we had used to give last year's chicks some amusement.   
I thought it might give a bit of interest to the Girls, and put it under the Pampas. If they sit on this, they might not destroy the bulbs that are trying to poke through.    Not quite sure what the Girls thought it was, but they ran away shrieking.  Hopefully they will find it less threatening when they come back.  Maybe.

Four of them still aren't laying.   I thought that the combs of Roobarb and Florence looked quite red, so I did take a walk around their free ranging area to see if I could find a luck.
Think I might take a book outside and read. I just need to go and find my Beconase spray first.