Monday, 30 September 2013


The title of this blog refers to me.

 It was my turn to see to the allotment chickens today.  I took some rinsed tuna, and some mealworms.  I gave the tuna to those in Henry's harem who were moulting.  I took them, one at a time,  off to their shed to give them a once-over to check they were OK,

The leftover tuna I put on the ground in front of Henry, who made me smile by picking it up,  gurlgling for his ladies, and then putting it back on the ground and looking at it.  He did this several times with the same tasty morsel.

During all of this, I kept an eye out for the Potential Bully.  In fact, she was one of the moulters, and I put a ring on her so that there would be no risk of confusing her with any of the others.  She had a bit of a pull at the yellow-ringed-and-saddled Girl -YRaSG-(one of the ones she had a pull at on Saturday), but was otherwise OK. No one else picked on YRaSG.

In the other pen,  Spike attacked me, and managed to get my legs before I found a stick to hold in front of me.  It bloody well hurt, and I found myself being quite pleased and relieved that he will be joining the Dinner Boys shortly.

When all was done,  I came home, and emailed OC (Other Chap) to let him know that I had put a ring on the Potential Bully,  and that I had observed only one feather plucking incident.

He replied to say that he had watched them for half an hour yesterday, and she had been having a pull at a number of the others.  

So, she's on the Probably list for joining the Dinner Boys.

If we weren't planning a cull shortly, I'm not sure that I'd be ready to make that decision. However.  Henry was actually only meant to have 3 wives, but we somehow didn't get round to culling the last lot of Girls.  He has plenty.  He may soon have a lot more if we decide to combine flocks for the winter. 

But the real reason is what happened with Milly.  Now she was in a different bullying league, I know.  But it took a long time and a lot of heartache to make the decision,  and it was a decision that I should have made earlier.  Things are much better without her.

The pain and learning from it has made me much less tolerant. Almost intolerant.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Has peace broken out?

I've continued to check each night that Lotti has managed to get inside the Cube.

Tonight marks the ninth consective night that she's been in.

Has peace broken out?

Or is this just a lull in the war?

Chicken trouble, part 2

Having caught Lotti and put her in the run, I went off to do the allotment chickens.

I arrived, opened up, and Henry and his Harem poured out to have a munch on the grass.  One of the harem, NoRing, launched herself at one of the saddled girls.  And a few seconds later, did it again, this time pulling a feather from the poor Girl's shoulder.

I picked up the saddled girl and checked her over.  She looked like she was moulting, but I was concerned that she was perhaps unwell, and the others were attacking her.   She looked OK, so I put her down, and none of the others gave her a second glance.

As I wateched her, I saw NoRing suddenly attack another Girl, pulling a feather from her bottom.

So, the problem was with NoRing, not with the saddled girl.  I picked her up and checked her over.  She was moulting herself, and was quite hot, but there wasn't anything obviously amiss. 

I put her back down.  Maybe she's having a crabby day?

I let OC (Other chap) know that we had a potential problem, and asked him to watch her tomorrow to see what she does.  Feather pecking can become an incurable habit,  and she might draw blood (in which case the bloodied chicken will be attacked by everyone).

If we see more of this behaviour in the next few days, I'll separate her from the others.  If that doesn't work -  well, she'll have to go.  My experience with Milly (my superb*tch chicken)  has taught me that if it needs doing, it's better to just get on with it.  We're culling some cockerels for the table shortly and, if she does carry on,  she'll join them.

Hopefully she only has her cranky pants on today.

Chicken Trouble, number 1

It hasn't been the best of days, chicken-wise.

I got up very very late.  

I'd had a bit of an interrupted night. I'd had cheese on toast for my dinner last night (DH is away, and I end up eating some odd things at odd times), which augered an approaching migraine.   My cheesey induced dreams were bizarre, involving me meeting Tom Kerridge by winning a competition, but incorrecly thinking that the prize was a meal at his restaurant in Marlow but was instead a normal meal in a normal pub.    Actually, thinking about it now,  that dream seems to have been on repeat last night,  I got sutck in it a la Groundhog Day.    

Sorry, I digress. 

I was rescued from embarrassement by hearing Isobel meowing pathetically. I leapt out of bed because this has been a sign that she's had a fit.  I couldn't find any evidence of a fit, and she didn't look like a cat coming out of a trance.

I stroked the cat and went back to bed.

Next, still stuck in my Tom Kerridge embarrassement,  the chicken alarm went off. I woke up with a start, saw it was 7am, and attempted to spring out of bed.  It wasn't really a spring, it was a bit pathetic really.  Anyway, I got out of bed,  looked out of the window, saw them all standing to attention and shrieking.  Dressing gown on, ran downstairs, unlocked the bck door, ran out to see what was happening. Which was nothing.

Back in the kitchen I contemplated staying up, but decided I'd really like another hour in bed, and I could feel the threat of a migraine hanging over me. I drank some water and took some Ibuprofen.

Back in bed, the two cats decided to snuggle against me one on either side, and I fell asleep.  I woke up a few times, but closed my eyes determindly.

Eventually, I decided I really had to get up.  It was my turn to see to the Allotment chooks.   I decided the best thing would be to have my shower,  shut the girls away, go and do the chickens, then come back and have brunch.  I reluctantly pushed the cats away, and got up. 11.15am.

Out in the garden, shutting the Girls away, I coudn't find Lotti.  I called and called.  Nothing.  I looked in all the hiding places.   I decided she was just in another hiding place, and I'd leave her to it...but I couldn't.

I painstakingly looked everywhere, including standing on a chair so I could do a quick sweeo if next door's garden,  and looking through the gate down the driveway.  I combed every bit of the garden. I checked the house.   

I realised that Lotti really wasn't in the garden anymore.

I locked up, took my key, and went to check the front gardens and to check the area that backs on to our back garden.   In the front garden, I caight a tiny movement out o fthe corner of my eye.

Lotti was sitting in a Vinca bed, by the cat flap.  I went over to her, she crouched, and just as I went to pick her up she ran off - straight back through the hidden gap in the trellis that the cats used to get from front to back.  She left an egg behind.

I guess I knew she'd find it eventually, but it's really well hidden.  Trouble is, she knows it's there now, so it's going to be an ongoing problem.

So, we need to decide how to fix it, whilst still allowing our cats access. 

Another catflap perhaps?


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Kitty Update

Izzy had another fit, waking us up at about 5am.
Later, at about 6.30, we had a cacophony of panicked hens at about 6.30am.  I leapt out of bed, as much as it was possible in my sleep-disturbed state, and rushed to the window. I couldn't see a fox, I opened the window and "shussed" very loudly, but they carried on.

I ran downstairs and opened the back door. All the Girls were in Alarm Positions on various perches in the run.  I then saw a cat - the cat - streaking across the garden.

I called it, and it was meowling pitifully. I grabbed cat food and a bowl, and went out the front, calling it.  I put the food down and she gobbled it all up. She was a very hungry cat.  I stroked her, and she purred.  It was tooo early to take her to the Vet, so I went back in the house and left her, thinking that she might come back if she was still hungry.

I googled for tips on integrating a new adult cat with existing adult cats.

At 10am DH announced that "my friend" was back at the front door.  I went out with another packet of cat food, I gave her half, which she gobbled down. I phoned the Vet to ask if they could scan a stray and give me the address if she was microchipped: yes, they could do that.

DH got the cat basket out of the loft.  I gave the cat the second half of the cat food and when she had finsihed, I scooped her up and put her in the basket. She is a really lovely thing.

DH marked his territory by telling me that if she wasn't microchipped, she'd have to go to the local lost cat place.  I said we'd have to see. We then had one of those mini arguments, where arguing is pointless.   We agreed we had to see whether she was microchipped and then take it from there.

She was quite good on the way to the vet. She yowled a bit, but she snuggled down in the cat carrier, and was happy for me to stroke her through the bars.  In the Vet she was scanned, and then the Nurse went off to call the chip company. I was happy (and sad) that she was microchipped.

Eventually she came back to tell me that the cat was flagged as missing, and that they were trying to contact her owner.  I needed to wait while they did so.  I was left on my own for a few minutes, and I felt a bit teary.  I could imagine how I would feel if my lost cat was found...and I was sad that I wouldn't be adopting her after all.

Jess's owner apparently burst into tears when she was told that Jess had been found.  She'd been missing for exactly one month,  and she lives in a village about 7 miles from here.   I was happy to take Jess back to her mum, but the Vet said that I needed to leave her at the Vet, and the owner would collect from there.  (I imagine there are some catnapping/blackmailing scams that go on).

So they took her away to put her in a kennel, and eventually came back with my empty carrier.

I cried all the way home.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Stray thoughts

I came home this evening, opened the front door, and saw a blackish looking cat run down my drive.

I don't have a blackish looking cat.

I made the cat noise, (the one where you purse your lips, pull, and make a squeaky mwah sound. (Isn't it hard trying to describe a sound?).  The cat stopped running, and came up to me, meowing very loudly.

It was a gorgeous looking cat. 

I shouted for DH, who was in the kitchen, to bring some cat food. Quickly.  I picked up the cat, rather surprised that s/he let me do so. It was very light.  No collar.  Didn't look dishevelled.  But I hadn't seen it before - there aren't many (any?) other cats in our street.

Eventually DH arrived with the cat food, which the cat gobbled down hungrily.  One of our cats is permanently starving and would probably wolf down food offered by a well meaning dupe,  so I didn't take this as confirmation that it was a stray.  I did give it the remainder of the packet though.  I left it eating on the doorstep, and went in the house. I thought it best, so the cat could disappear if it wanted.

As I shut the door, I told DH that if it came back for more food tomorrow, I'd catch it and take it to the Vet to be scanned in case it had a microchip.  In the meantime, I put a post on my local village facebook page to see if anyone has lost such a cat, or know who owns one.

I' realised that I'd already made up my mind that if s/he comes back, isn't microchipped and doesn't seem to be owned, I'd see if /he wanted to be adopted.

I am amazed that such a thought could enter my head at all, never mind so matter of factly.

The resident cats would not approve.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fitting it in

Isobel had a fit last night.

I had no idea.   I got up this morning, made tea, fed the cats.  I could see something smeared on the kitchen floor, and I immediately thought that Izzy had had a fit.  I couldn't find any foam, or urine. Just a smear on the floor.   Maybe something had leaked out of the recycling box when I stood it there?

I carried on making the tea, and I looked into the hallway. There were more splodges in the hallway - consistent with something dripping out of the recyliing box as I carried it out the front door.   I went to investigate.

There was a cool bag on the floor,  dumped in the hall yesterday when I emptied my car boot to vacuum it.  The top was saturated.  It didn't smell of wee, it didn't really smell of anything.  Had I spilled something on it?  Then I saw more "stuff",  all over Raymondo. (Raymondo is our ancient Roomba vacuum cleaner, who lives in the hallway). He had only been put back in the hall yeterday, and he hadn't been covered in anything then.

I realised that Izzy must have had a fit in the hallway during the night.  I hadn't heard anything. I hadn't stirred at all.

I got the SD card out of the camera, to see if we'd captured it. I wasn't expecting anything, because I didn't think the camera had been angled to reach the end of the hall.

Actually, it didn't capture anything at all.  The SD card was full, and had been since 10th September.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

I've had to check the Garden Girls every night since Tilda joined them, to make sure that everyone has been able to get into the Cube. Everyone meaning Lotti.   For a long time wasn't allowed in, or to stay in if she did get in.   I'd turn up when it was nearly dark, opene the egg port an d put a torch in , then help her in by making sure the others didn't peck her as she tried.

Occasionally she would get in and stay in without my assistance, but these were one-offs.

Then for six nights on the trot, she was already tucked up in the Cube when I got out to check.  Two nights ago, I was tempted not to go and check, but I did. As I walked down the garden, I decided that if she was in tonight, I'd stop checking.    

So?  She was out on the verandah.  She came charging in as soon as I opened the egg port.

Last night DH was away, and I had been out for dinner with my friend Y.  I got home, a little worse for a little wine.  I went straught out to check on Lotti.

There was a chicken on the verandah.  But it wasn't Lotti. It was Florence.  Florence?  My Australorp?   I checked again, in case it was actually Poppy (who is black like Florence, but that's where the similarity ends). No. It was my enormous chicken, Florence.  

Florence is the secret bully (whereas Custard is the open bully).  Florence is the one that won't let Lotti in, and the one who pecks Tilda. I've caught her doing both things on the run cam. 

I concluded that FLorence was out on the verandah because she wanted to be, so I left her to it.

And I'll resume my nightly checks from this evening.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

What am I supposed to do with....

this mini sweet potato?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Objects of Affection

Where to start this post...?

I had a bit of a blub today.  Over (literally) an inanimate object.   I expect it wasn't just about saying goodbye to said object, it was about saying goodbye to what it represented.

In 1977/8, when I was 11 or 12,a new shop opened in our local town. It sold Yamaha Electone organs.  Such amazing instruments, such fantastic sounds, so clever.   I went in often and tried "playing" them.  They were all hugely desirable, and hugely expensive.

My dad came with me one day.

I'd had premium bonds for years, I had several hundred pounds invested.   We cashed them in  and my parents put the rest of the money (a huge sum, probably four or five times what I had in premium bonds), and bought me a Yamaha C55.  It lived in our hallway.

My mother and I had lessons at the shop for a few weeks, and then we had lessons privately.   My organ teacher had a covetable D85, which had a third keyboard. I loved it.

Of course, no one ever wants to hear you practice, so I learned to play for my own pleasure.   I picked it up fairly quickly. Eventually, I stopped going for lessons and I never started again.  I still played occasionally.

When I was 18 my parents moved away taking the organ with them.  Their new home was damp, so the C55 suffered a bit.     Years later, my parents were raising money for a building project, so  I bought the organ from them. I could have got the same organ closer to home for less than half the price and a quarter of the hassle of transporting it over 200 miles.   

WHen I came to play it, it was in a bad way from the damp.   I got a repair man out, and he fixed a couple of the keys so that it was playable.  I picked it up again, although I never improved from where I was when I stopped having lessons. 

When we moved house 17 years ago it took three of us (DH, me, and my strapping SS2)  to get it up the stairs,   and nearly killed us.    We swore that we would never again do such a thing.  

It got played infrequently,  in spurts of interest.

The odd key would start going.  DH  took a look at it, and provided what turned out to be a temporary fix.   I thought about getting a new one.    Actually I thought about getting a D85.   I watched on Ebay when they came up... they were all so cheap.  But I couldn't imagine how we'd get a new one up stairs, the D85 was even heavier than the C55.  Besides, I didn't play it often enough, it was a waste of money.

As the years passed, I realised that there would be no point in buying my revered  D85. It would be just as likely to go wrong as my C55. If I was going to get a "new" organ, I should get something much newer.  Every so often I would sign up for an Ebay alert, but I always unsubscribed in the end. It was easier to stick to what I know.

Until now.

A few months ago,  two of my C55's features stopped working.  It didn't stop me playing, but it was annoying.  I kept thinking about buying a new organ.  I looked at what was available on Ebay.   I looked at other websites.   I was only interested in a "better" yamaha (using a comparison chart from a Dutch site). 

A few weeks ago, I sat down to play my C55, and knew  that I needed to do something.  I again trawled Ebay, for both the current and completed listings, to see what sort of thing was around, and for what price.    I was aware that my C55 had no value, and that the best I could hope for was that someone would take it away.   I steeled myself for them ripping it apart and taking it downstairs in pieces. 

I emailed a local organ repairer, who specialised in Yamahas.  I offered him my C55, free of charge.  Nothing back.

Eventually, DH and I travelled to see someone who was selling a range of organs, not just Yamahas.  Hew was a lovely chap.  I was amazed - actually a bit horrified -  to see what the more modern organs did.  Pretty much everything I had learned about playing could be thrown out of the window, because the modern synthesiser organs do everything themselves.  I wasn't sure I wanted something like that.

I told the chap that I wasn't ready.

When I got home, I realised that it really was make or break time.   The C55 had to go, it wasn't reliable enough to play any more, so it might as well go.  And the question was,  should I replace it?

And then I had an email from the manufacturer of a particular range of organs, one of which I had seen when we visited the organ chap.   I had contacted them to ask them some questions about whether their organs come apart for transport. The lady who replied was very helpful. Not only did she answer my question, but she told me they had such and such a model in stock;  they offered a long warranty, they would deliver, they would take my C55 in p/ex,  and they would give me a lesson on how to operate the organ.   They were asking more than the organ chap,  but for a slightly better organ.

In the end, the fact that it was the manufacturer's direct site and the fact that they were offering me tuition made me decide to take the plunge.

So today I was clearing the room where the organ lives so that we could get in there when the time comes.  I sat down to play, and while I played, I told my C55 what was happening.  Two of the things that weren't working on it, worked.  

I cried a bit.  And then I gave it a hug (which is why I was literally crying over it). 

I'm relieved that DH wasn't around to witness it.  

I'm not changing my mind though.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Make hay. and all that

Had to be up very early today (for us. And for a Sunday).  DH had arranged to meet someone at 9am, about 30 miles from here.

It was a really lovely day. Was. When I got up.

I decided to make the most of it, and I went straight down to the Allotment to clean out and Poultry Shield the breeding gang's shed.

I worked as quickly as I could.  The Girls hadn't laid, and I knew they would want to.  I cleaned and poultry shielded one nest box, and pt it out in the sun to dry while I concentrated on getting the shed emptied, swept, and Poultry Shielded.   I have quite a big sprayer now, and it's so much easier than when I used a hand trigger thing.

When I'd done, I put the nest box back inside Not ideal, but OK in an emergency. I then got on and did the other nest boxes, leaving them in the sun to dry out.  Next, scrubbing the poo trays, followed by disinfecting the waterers. 

While I waited for everything to dry, I I mucked out the Big Girls coop,  and the Dinner Chickens (DCs) coop.  Both coops were Diatomed, and I put in fresh Aubiose.    

I cleaned and disinfected the DCs' waterer.   It's one of those white bucket things, and it's a pain to clean.   

I checked feeders.

By now, Henry's Girls were wanting to lay.  They'd been in and out of the shed a bit, compaining. Henry had been in to inspect.    

 I put the poo trays back in, and lined them with Aubiose.    Henry tried to show one of the Girls how she could back up into a corner  on the poo tray and lay here egg there.    She didn't look convinced.   She still didn't look convinced when Henry showed her.

I put everything away in my car.  I was tired. I'd been there for hours.  I looked in the shed, and decided it was dry enough to put stuff back.   I put the nest boxes in, Diatomed, and new Aubiose.   Finally, a lght covering of Aubiose on the floor, and it was done. 

I was hot. I was bothered.  I was wearing a plastic showercap which, whilst preventing me getting poultry shield and crud in my hair,  made me even hotter.  

Removing it - bliss!

I'd just finished a bottle of Ecover washing up liquid (thank you Compost Woman for the recommendation), and the bottle cap (and the bottle, of course) looked like it would make a very good Diatom puffer.   It did.  Much better than my fairy liquid bottles, which I'd used previously.

I might have to use some more Ecover, just so I can get bottles for the Stalosan, and some for my Garden Girls stuff.

As I left the Allotments, it started to rain.

So glad I siezed the moment.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Must be Autumn!

I noticed that the Girls' dust bath, and parts of the floor of their walk in run, were looking a bit soggy today.  Made me realise it's Autumn, and I need to do some Autumny preparation things.

Job number 1 was to remove the summer shade from the Cube run, and replace it with the "clear" tarpaulin cover.   This lets light in, but protects that part ot the run from rain.

The summer covers were sodden, so I put them on to a chair with all good intentions of either hanging them up to dry, or maybe washing them.... but they're still on the chair now and it's raining.

I made a note that I need to locate the covers for the bottom sides of the Cube's run.  And I went into the shed to find the clear corolux panels which go on the sides of the main run to prevent the rain coming in.  They'd been properly put away on the ceiling and I couldn't reach.

All jobs for tomorrow.


Still Cornier

Thee dehydratated bits of corn cob seem to have worked really well. I'm rather surprised!

They look similar to the dried corn cobs I've seen in pet shops - although mine are sections of corn cobs rathar than whole cobs.  This as so that I could dry them more evenly.

I didn't dry them fully - no point in that.  I let them cool in the dehydrator, then I put them in an airtight tub, to prevent them reabsorbing moisture fromt the atmosphere. 

I haven't tried them out on the Girls yet, I'll do that next week. Hope they like them.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Would I take the blue pill?

In The Matrix, people who escape the fabricated word are offered the choice of the blue pill or the red pill.  The blue pill enables people to forget what they have learned, and return to the cosy comfort of the fabricated reality.  The red pill means they take the tougher choice of living outside it.

What's that got to do with me?
We've been raising our own chickens for the table for about 4 years now.  We made a conscious decision to only eat chicken we raised ourselves and so we don't have chicken that often.  

Except for when we have a takeaway curry, when we are very weak.

We probably have chicken 4 or 5 times a year and when we do have one,  we stretch it to out.    We haven't had chicken for some months as I only have one let in the freezer, but we decided to indulge on Sunday, starting with roast chicken. It was probably a small to medium sized bird, just over 2kg.

Being a slow matured bird (and not pumped full of water) the meat was full of flavour and one breast between us was plenty.  The meat was dense and delicious.

Monday we had the other breast, with chips.   DH took the rest of the meat off the bones and we vacuum sealed it.  I put the carcass into a stock pot and covered it with water.

Tuesday, I bought vegetables to make stock.   I also used some of the leg meat to make Thai Creamed Coconut chicken, following Delia's recipe.  I machine chopped the lemongrass though, which wasn't a good thing.  We tookth erest of the meat off the bones and vacuum sealed it. I turned the carcass into stock.

Wednesday I made Delia's Oven Baked Risotto, using a very small amount of chicken in place of parmesan cheese.  I used a bag of stock from the freezer, as I like to keep my stock stock rotated.     It was absolutely gorgeous. We didn't really need the chicken pieces because the chicken stock was so full of flavour.

Tonight I want a break from chicken, so I think we'll have fish.

Tomorrow, it'll probably be chicken fajitas - or I might make risotto again (but I have too much chicken left for just risotto).

I think I should probably take the meat off the bone on the Sunday, next time. I can freeze it in portions ready, and  have the same meals but spread over more weeks.

Sometimes - only sometimes - I wish I could take the blue pill and go back to the old days, when I was happy buying free range chicken and could eat KFC without worrying about it too much.

But then it didn't taste as good.



I had a couple of for-drying cobs which I was unable to cut lengthways. 

After my last post, I went into the kitchen to cut the kernels off, with the intention of giving them to the Grden Girls.  I tried a couple - they were so delicious it was untrue.

I then had another idea.  

I went back through the discarded cobs, found those that were the best quality (of the discarded sort) and I decided to blanch and freeze those too.  Not for us to eat, but for the chickens.   

I'm sure I can find room in the freezer for a bag of chicken cobs.


It may have been a great year, weather-wise, for apples and pears, but it's not been good for corn on the cob. 

Last year we had a fantastic harvest of well matured cobs. There are still bags of cobs in the freezer.

I've been trying his year's corn cobs every few days for the last few weeks.  They've been OK, but not quite right.  Yesterday's was showing signs of being overripe, so today DH picked everything.

I stripped the husks and then looked at each cob. Some went in the  bowl for washing,  some were trimmed before going in the bowl, and some went into the trimmings bucket without further ado.  The trimmings bucket was for the chooks.

There were a lot of cobs - as you can see from the pile of husks and stalks (with a decent sized cob in front, to give you an idea of scale).

 However, many of the cobs were badly filled, or were too small, or too uneven, to bother freezing whole.

After I'd washed the cobs which has passed the initial inspection, I grouped them by size.  I then blanched each batch, with similar sized cobs together.  As soon as the time was up, I hoiked them out of the saucepan, drained them, and dropped then into some waiting iced water

The next batch was put in to blanch while the previous batch was cooling. Then the cooled cobs were dried and put into the freezer.

When all the cobs were done, I went through those that didn't make the grade. I could see that a number of them had a few kernels which would be OK, and I knew that I could blanch the cob, then cut the kernels off and either freeze or dry them.  It wasn't worth it though. I had plenty of cobs, more than enough to last me a year.

So, it was going to be bonanza time for the chooks.  It seemed a shame that they would have a few days of corn gluttony and then nothing.   

I recalled seeing some dried corn cobs in a petshop recently, and I wondered if I could dry the less-than-perfect cobs.  My dehydrator book had instructions for drying kernels, but not for drying whole cobs.  Quite unerstandable as, from a human perspective, whole dried cobs are pretty useless.  Still, that didn't mean it couldn't be done.  So I thought I'd have a go.

I picked out the best of the rejects and blanched them (the book was clear that sweetcorn MUST be pretreated before drying), cooled them in iced water. I got the dehydrator warmed up, and looked at the cobs.  In the end, I decided to slice them in half down their length, before putting them in the dryer.    It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I've no idea if it will work, but it's worth trying just so as I know for next year.

I'll let you know the outcome...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Fenced off

We collected the next four fence panels this afternoon, in between me finishing work and the scheduled DPD arrival. 

We've now put those in.  We've taken a walk down the neighbours side of the fence, and we think we have 3 more panels which need replacing, and 3 which are OK.

It all looks

But it's been (relatively) cheap and (relatively) easy to do.  I;m so glad about the concrete posts and gravel boards.

Stand and Deliver

I do most of my shopping online, which means we often get deliveries.   The quality of the delivery services is really variable.  SOme of the couriers have specific drivers on specific rounds, so get to recognise some of drivers. 

One of our common delivery services is via a courier called DPD.   In the past, they've been great: we get an email giving us an hour delivery window, which means we don't have to wait in all day for the courier to arrive.

Lately though, their servicec has got even better.  Not only do we get a delivery slot, but on the morning of the delivery we got an email with a link so we could track the van!

We could see what parcel delivery number he was on, what our parcel delivery number we were,  and so we could see exactly when the driver was likely to be with us.


Sadly DPD doesn't seem to be available from the parcel delivery aggregation services that I use when sending parcels, so I haven't experienced their service from the shipping end. 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Scope creep

We are responsible for the fence between ourselves and our lovely neighbour C.  We put a new fence in back in January 2003, and had the foresight to have concrete posts installed to make future maintenance easier.

Some of the fence panels are looking a little worse for wear, mainly because the cats sit on top of them and use them as scratching posts.  A couple of them got damaged in the recent violent winds.    We did a quick count up, and decided that 4 of them needed replacing.    We decided that it would look odd for our neighbour if we had a chequerboard of new and old panels, so we decided to put the new panels up at the house end where only 1, maybe 2, needed replacing,  and swap the good house end panels with the decrepit ones further down.

So, we went to a specialist fencing place (better quality fence panels than the local Shed DIYs, and loaded the roofrack with 4 panels of  6 foot high fencing.

When we got back, we realised it should have been 5 foot 6 as we have gravel boards.   So, the fence panels were driven back (thank goodness we hadn't unloaded them) and were swapped for the correct size. 

DH started trying to fit them.  The first gap wasn't 6 foot.  We then remembered that the fence chappy had miscalculated, and had started at the end of the garden meaning that he had to do a bit of a botch at the house end.  It doesn't look like too much of a botch job, thats why we hadn't remembered.

DH had to cut the panel down and refix the frame, so rather a lot more work than expected.  The panel we took out split at the bottom as we removed it. No reusing that one then.

Number two came out, and the new one went in, like a dream. We even managed to redeploy the removed panel.  The botttom of old panel number 3 split while DH and I were having an argument about why I couldn't lift it out and hold it at the same time (I'm too short).   No redeploying that one then.  Number 4 - same, although not caused by us arguing, .

So, we have our four new panels fitted, and only one of them was redeployable.   DH looked at the old panels and said he could probably make one, maybe two panels from them.  This seemed like a lot of work on fence panels which were old and brittle anyway. 

I suggested that we just went and bought more new panels.  We don't need to replace all of them -  some of them, those right down the end, are between sheds. No one sees them, so who cares.   

I suggested getting as many panels as we needed, and getting them delivered.  
DH determined to go and collect them, so we'll l probably get another 4 panels - I'm not sure carrying any more on a roofrack will be sensible. That will replace 2 more of the damaged ones,   and we might be able to salvage one or 2 of them to redeploy.

Or, more likely, we'll end up getting 8 more panels and doing 2 trips.

We'll see.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Kilner vs Weck

We've been busy preserving stuff for the last couple of weeks, and I'm getting to the stage where the sight of ripening damsons made my heart sink.

Tomatoes are probably the number 1 thing.   DH roasts them, then we turn them into passata, then bottle and pastuerise them.  So far we have 24  half litre jars in storage, 2 in the fridge, 3 that we've eaten already,  and lots more to go.

I used to use Kilner jars, but switched over to Weck jars a few years ago. I think my local Lakeland had a few in, I tried them , really liked them... and then found Lakeland weren't doing them any more. Fortunately I found a great supplier in Germany.

Kilner jars have a re-usable metal screw ring and a single-use metal lid.  They have a lot going for them. They look good; they are a good shape and size; their shape means that they are  efficient to load into the canner and they make good use of cupboard space; the replacement lids are easy to obtain.   The downsides are that metal screw rings show the wear of being pasteurised and washed, the hars don't stack that well, and it's not easy to tell if there has been a problem in the canning process until you open the jar.

Weck jars have reusable glass lids,  single-use rubber rings,  and reusable clamps (which only stay on until the canned jar has cooled down.    The good things about these are that they look great, they are easy to use,  the lids are interchangeable between sizes,  they stack securely, there's no metal to be corroded, and you can tell as soon as you take the clamps off whether the vacuum seal has worked; they .   The downsides are that their shape means that they don't use space as efficiently as the Kilners,   and I have to get the replacements from Europe.

After I had loaded today's canned tomatoes into the cupboard, I counted my remaining jars. Not enough for one more batch.    If I employ the 250ml jars I normally use for pureed apple, and the 500ml Weck bottles I normally reserve for fruit juice, I've got enough receptacles for almost 2 more batch of tomatoes.    We've got at least two more batches to go, maybe more.

I did find a stash of Kilner jars...I could use those if I need to.
I hummed and hawed, and then I decided to order some more jars.  I wanted to buy some replacement rings anyway, so it's not too bad.