Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Done a runner

In Tuesday I wrote an update about Wash, including a picture of him zonked out on the rug in the living room.  

He's a very naughty boy.

Shortly after I posted my Tuesday entry, DH and I were in the kitchen, discussing New Year's Eve dinner and looking in recipe books.  DH popped his head into the living room to check on Wash, to find that Wash wasn't there.  He quickly checked the living room, before shouting to tell me that Wash had gone.

I checked the utility room. I checked the kitchen.  DH checked upstairs,  I went outside and looked for him.  We couldn't bleep him because he wasn't wearing a collar.

We realised that he was probably sitting quietly out of the way somewhere, and we recognised that in a panic one can look but not see. So, we started again.  I checked the living room, pulling out the sofas and checking in the cat tree.  I checked our bedroom, and the spare room, and (what I could of) the box room.  I went back outside and checked again.  I checked under the hedge. I checked under the cars.  I checked by the bins.  I checked next doors driveways.  

No Wash.

He could not have vanished into thin air.  I stood in the street, wondering where to look next.  I couldn't believe he was really out there, so I went back to the house.  Then I saw the hydrangea, and thought I'd better just look.  

And there he was. Curled up, quite comfortable thank you.  He looked at me with those "Oh hello, were you looking for me?" innocent eyes. 

He was back in his Pen quick smart.  We just hoped that he hadn't done any damage to his leg.

Yesterday he was back on supervised time out, and he was as good as gold.

His dressing was changed today, and the Vet is very happy with how the leg and foot are coming along. We didn't mention his escape.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015


It's that period between Christmas and New Year.  Sometimes we clear the decks and put eveyrthing back to normal at this time,  some years we leave things as they are until New Year is done.   This year, we're leaving things up.

We finished the goose, which remained very moist (despite Nigella's assertions that it wouldn't) for several days.  We still had a fair chunk left after a couple of days of cold goose, so we made an enormous Rogan Goose, which was really rather good.  We've frozen the leftovers for later.    I made a banoffee pie for my dessert yesterday, without the pie. And without the offee.  Well, I had bananas and double cream whipped with a little sugar.  

The tree is still looking good and has shed hardly any needles.  The wreath is wearing well.
 The "new" table is looking lovely, but part of me is itching to put my embroidery machine back on it.  I'll leave it until the new year.

The guest bedroom is looking OK, although the box room is now living up to its name as a result.  It is full of boxes, and I had to fight my way in there to retrieve DDIL1's birthday present, card, and wrapping paper.   A lot of it is boxes for the Christmas stuff. Honestly.  It'll be better once we've taken some things down. Really it will.

I could sleep for a week.

Wash, again

Wash has now been home for a week.  He's been back to the Vet every 2 days to have his dressing changed and for them to test his urine for glucose.   He hasn't had a blood test for a week (due to his stress levels), so I guess they'll do that next time he goes in.

The foot is, apparently, looking good.    He's looking really good, and is putting on weight.

He's on cage rest, and we have the biggest dog crate we could find for him. It's huge, it's big enough for Weimeraner, Pyranean Mountain Dogs, and Great Danes (although probably not all at once!)

We let him out for a cuddle every so often, and yesterday he had a bit of a hobble around before sleeping in the sunshine streaming throught the french window.

This morning after he'd been pilled, we let him stay out and he's gone to sleep on the rug
We're so lucky.

Thursday, 24 December 2015


The dumping ground that is the guest bedroom has had to be cleared again. 

In my defence, each time I have cleared it I have been brutal (ish) in my decision to bin/give away, so the amount of stuff left has got smaller each time.   In my defence, the first time I cleared it was when we sold the wardrobe and chests of drawers, and I had to relocate everything to our room, just for a few days.  The build up since then has been cosmetic, mainly stuff piled on top of the ed rather than being stuffed under the bed and in the wardrobe (mainly becasue we don't have such things at the moment).

The building work, that might happen at short notice, hasn't happened yet and I decided that after Christmas I'd get on with properly sorting out the rest of the room in anticipation.  Then DH suggested asking my DB1 if he'd like to stay over Christmas Night, so I had to clear the bed anyway... and I'd already bought the sample units from Ikea so we could put a couple of them up... which meant we might as well get on with turning the enormous and very heavy bed around... which meant that the last remaining piece of storage had to be emptied....    It's been a busy morning.

The room has had its first vacuuming, the bed has been turned round, a couple of storage units made up.   I've started to put ctuff back under the bed.  It's going to be very controlled and boxed,  so that when the short notice building work happens I can whhip it all out quickly.   The bedding is organised into separate bankers transfer boxes, clearly labelled.   The suitcases, which probably should go in the loft but that's another stor(e)y (ha ha), have been nested and are under the bed.   The few items that will go into the new hanging storage (when it arrives) have been hung up in the corner.   It's getting there.

I'm just having a bit of a break.  My break involves getting on with the advance prep for tomorrow.   I made a bit of a blunder by putting the Ipot on to make yoghurt this morning, I should have waited until tonight.  In the meantime I have plates all over the kitchen with the weighed out ingredients for various stuffings and accompaniments.

I've done the prunes braised in armagnac (I have an uneducated palate and I suspect that brandy would have been just as good) and they are cooling ready to go in the fridge.

I'm waiting for the goose giblets to finish defrosting so I can put them on to make stock.  Ideal candidate for Ipot, but that's just tough. I want to try making the braised red cabbage in the slow-cooker function of the Ipot rather than the oven, so that's taking precedence.

I'm waiting for the sausages to finish defrosting so I can make the forcemeat stuffing.

Actually, I suspect that they're defrosted, so I'm going to go and do somethign with that and I'll come back later.

Wash has a Vet appointment at 3 to have his dressing changed, and we're hoping it'll be OK so he can stay home with us.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015


I went to Ikea yesterday, not realising that their sale had started.  DH was horrified when I said I was going, and only stopped looking horrified when I said I was going on my own.   We rarely manage an Ikea trip without something on the range from a minor disagreement to a bit of a row.

I knew it would be busy - even not knowing about the sale -  so I was well prepared. I had my list. I checked the size of the flat packs and measured the car. I decided to take my tiny car rather than DH's estate because,  well, it's small. It's easier to manouevre on some very busy roads, easier to park and unpark.

 I got there in good time, wound the front seat down (manually, took ages) ready for my return, and went into the store. I didn't go round the showroom, I went straight to the downstairs bit.  I picked up some bits I hadn't put on my list,  I found some of the big bits I needed.  I then spent ages trying to locate everything in the warehouse.... I got most things quite quickly (by asking the chappy on the desk, as the self service screens weren't helping me), but it took me a while to dfind everything and I gave up on a couple of bits. Some of the boxes were heavy,  a lovely customer offered to assist me but I declined... if I couldn't get it on the trolley, I wouldn't be able to get it in the car.

I then joined the queue. It was long, it was expected. We slowly progressed. It took forever.   The pleasant chap in front of me had multiple trollies, he was kitting out several new flats.   It took a surprising amount of time, as they had a lot of items.   Eventually I got to the checkout and got through reasonably quickly.

It was raining when I got out of the shop. At the car, I flipped down the back seat. Only it didn't fold flat.   Sigh.  I opened the passenger door, and wound the seat upright, and then wound it forward. Only it didn't go very far forward.   I tried one of the long boxes. Nope.  I tried it diagonally-ish.  Nope.  Another sigh.

I wound the car seat back to the upright position, and wound it back down.  By now I had someone waiting to park in my space.  I ignored them.    I took the head rest off. I tool the head rest off the back seat. I folded it down. It was flatter, but not flat.. I put some of my non-breakable purchases at both ends to try and make a flat surface.  I then womanfully lugged the heavy long boxes into the car and, in a flash of inspiration, flipped them on to their sides. This would avoid them sliding over to me when I went round a bend.  I'm an old hand at small cars packed with Ikea furniture.

Eventually it was done.  I put my trolley away, and set off.  I was late home. DH had waited for me so we could visit Wash together.

Furniture unloaded later that evening, and a couple of items put together.  Well worth it. 

Another trip needed now to get some more.   

After the sale.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas Cakes

I finished decorating two home made Christmas Cakes yesterday.

One was a fully iced cake....

..and the other was a glazed nut topping for a Creole Cake.

I've got another Creole Cake which I've cut into 4.  I then realised I didn't have any cake boards of a suitable size, and I didn't have enough nuts to cover 4 cakes prettily. 

I'll do those later. After I've been out to get the missing bits.

Wash, continued

We saw Wash on Saturday evening, and were lucky enough to see the Vet who had performed the op.  He showed us the Xrays, and explained that the damage was even worse than the xrays suggested.

They've put pins in,  which will remain in place for about 6 weeks. The bandage is enormous. They'll then need to xray him under an anaesthetic and, if all is well, they will remove the pins.

front leg=IV,  back leg is the damaged one
He was trying to move about, and was very pleased to see us.
Hopefully he will be home before Christmas.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Long Friday

Eventually Friday came around.  The Op was scheduled for the morning, and we could phone at 1pm to get an update.

In the morning I busied myself with wreath making and the endless attempt at getting the downstairs into some semblance of order.  DH had a long standing arrangement, so left at 11.

At 1.05 I phoned the Vet.  Wash hadn't had his Op, he was just being prepped. Phone at 5.I texted DH, who would - because of the  circumstances -  have considered no news as bad news.

I spent the rest of the day putting up the last of the decorations, not really in a Christmassy mood.  I idled away on Facebook.  I made progress in the house tidying.

I phoned the Vet. Wash had come round from the anaesthetic, his temperature was OK, he'd eaten, he was awake.  I left the house immediately to go and see him.

He was fast asleep when I got there. I burst into tears when I saw him, relief I guess. He stirred but didn't wake up when I stroked him.  I texted DH. I was going to attach a photo but decided against it..

Thursday, 17 December 2015


The Christmas tree arrived yesterday. It's bigger than I expected!

My Christmas tree of choice is a Fraser fir.   I love these because they are bushy (as in dense), but are compact, a very neat triangular shape.   The Nordmanns and the like were lovely, but so...wide. When I discovered Frasers, I really started to love having a tree again.

We used to like getting our tree on the 21st-ish of December, but found that everywhere was sold out of Frasers by then.  I learned to phone round the various Christmas tree farms and suppliers before making a journey,  and we started getting our tree a little earlier... but still we often had problems getting one.

I decided in advance of last Christmas to try getting a tree by post.  I was dubious, to say the least, but a friend recommended someone she used every year, so I gave it a go.  

My tree arrived on time, and was beautiful.  It was on the smaller end of the size range, but it was beautiful none-the-less. I missed the drive out to the Christmas tree farm...but, at the same time,  I didn't miss the drive out to the Christmas tree farm. I didn't miss the pang of guilt at picking up a tree and rejecting the poor thing.

This year, I ordered the next size up.

When it arrived yesterday, it was obviously at the top end of that size, and it seemed HUGE. It was actually too tall for the room, even before we put it in a stand, and after we'd sliced the bottom off so it cold have a good drink.  DH had to prune the top a bit, and take out some of the lower branches.  We left it overnight to relax.

This morning, the house smells wonderfully of Christmas Tree. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Wash date

So far the Vet has been unable to operate on Wash because he's got jaundice, likely a symptom of liver problems, and they can't risk giving him a general anaesthetic.

 He's undergone numerous tests and scans to see whether the casue can be identified.   On Monday, the scans showed that it wasn't a tumour, and it wasn't scirrocis.   He was on antibiotics to see if there was an infection causing the problem.

He was happy to see us on Sunday, but not at all happy to see us on Monday - maybe he was feeling better and was having a sulk.   Yesterday he was very pleased to see us, very purry, rolling around for us to stroke him.  He looked well - apart from having a drip attached to one paw,  and having an enormous saggy other paw.

Over the last 2 days, he's responded well.  Today the Vet said that they have pencilled in Friday as a date to operate on his poor foot. 

We're so relieved.

Displacement and replacement

We had to phone the vet this morning, to see what the situation was with Wash.  While we were waiting for the appointed time, I busied myself with displacement - or, rather, re-placement - activities.

It's taken me hours and hours to get some semblance of order in the kitchen and living room (living room was the dumping ground),  and to try not to just relocate the mess to the guest bedroom.

The tree should be arriving today, so I also had to clear a space for that.

My flat screen laptop fell off its stand on to the floor. 

I looked at it in horror.

The screen was still on.  I picked it up, placed it back on its stand, and tried a few programs.  I'm doing y backups at the moment, just in case.   Luckily it seems to have fallen flat on its back, rather than on the front or on an edge. I daren't turn it off and on again yet.


I bought another electric desk, to use as a kitchen table.  It was very inexpensive, even with the cost of a private courier to collect and deliver it.

While we waited for it to arrive, we discussed options.

My ideal was to take the bamboo worktop - bought this time last year as a temporary thing, but extremely lovely - and put it on top of the desk. It didn't have to be now, it could wait until we re-did the kitchen. (We've been going to re-do the kitchen since 2013, but I haven't found one I want yet.  And I haven't looked for about a year).  The desk could be dismantled and stored in the summerhouse, or the shed. .Or it could stay mantled in the summer house. 

It was likely that the new desk wouldn't be able to take the weight of the worktop (and the rest of the stuff), but my sewing desk upstairs can take 150kg so a swapsy was a possibility.

When the desk arrived, it was quite a neat little thing, much less industrial than its upstairs brother.  We speculated about the weight of the worktop.     We had a piece left, so we weighed it, and calculated that the full worktop is 57kg.  The new desk can cope with 100kg, so we decided that was probably OK.

We discussed whether to do something, or to leave it until later.

We decided we'd do something.  The something was going to involve some lifting and shunting,  so I called upon my DB2 to see if he could help.  He came over almost straightaway, we'd only got as far as emptying the units that currently lived under the worktop.

For the next few hours there was a humongous amount of activity.  Taking the worktop off,  fixing it to the desk.  Moving the two Units. Both were from Ikea, but from completely different ranges. One has sliding doors in a sort of pink colour, the other has drawers.units in a very high gloss cream colour.  (Bought at different times, for different purposes, and to try out different Ikea kitchen styles. Each was hidden under our worktop, so it was never a problem). 

With the new arrangement there is only space for one unit, so one unit had to go. The one that stayed could either live under the desk, looking like a pedestal  or (in the case of the sliding door cupboard)  we could try wall mounting it.   We tried the Ikea sliding door cabinet first.  Luckily, it was a wall unit which we had mounted on tall legs on the floor.  It actually looked good in both places.  Lots of photographs and discussions,  and the decision was made.

The pics came down, the nails were removed, the light fitting had to be moved a bit. Wall unit up, table in place.

It it's always been that way.

The table can now be moved and used as a proper table.  It can be lowered for small children, raised for sewing or a bar,  it can be pitched at the perfect height when we are dealing with a half pig.

It's great.

The rest of the house looks like a bomb has hit it.  Operation clear-up had to wait, as it was Vet time.

Sunday, 13 December 2015


Panto yesterday, local show, great as always.

Got home, no Wash.

Found him, huddled under radiator.  Smelt awful. Lifted him up to check he was OK and discovered that he had a broken leg. Hit by a car.

Emergency vet at t11.30pm.

He also has jaundice, so they can't x ray or operate until they know what's causing it.  If it's liver damage, he won't be well enough to operate anyway.

Blood tests today.

Saw him again  at 5pm today. He looks brighter, despite being on a drip, mainly because he's on happy meds.  He was pleased to see us, tried to get up but failed.

We'll know more tomorrow lunchtime.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Slip up

I'm battered and rather bruised, and I'm lucky.

The young chickens have taken to making a racket at about 7 in the morning.  Each day one of us gets up, looks out of the window, can't see anything, goes downstairs, unlocks the back door, pads down to the Run, and checks that everything is OK.  (It is. however, the dog a few doors down is usually barking, so we think we are having a foxy visitor each morning).

Yesterday it was my turn.  barefoot, I managed to slip on the carpeted stairs. Worse, somehow I managed to get my ring caught on a balustrade. The weight of the rest of me was pulling on my finger, and I was unable to move myself to use my feet to stop.

I thought about calling for DH, but I realised that was pointless. By the time he'd woken up enough to realise there was a problem,  had got up, and got to me, and freed me,  my finger would be broken. Or the balustrade. Or both.  My shoulder was hurting from being pulled in two directions, and I tried in vain to get one foot up somewhere to give me leverage.   I did it in the end.

The chickens were OK. When I got back in, I inspected my finger and realised that I needed to take action to get my rings off, before they had to be cut off.  I put my hand under the cold tap and soaped.  My engagement ring came off, but my wedding ring was stuck.

I remembered something about dental floss and removing rings.  I googled.  I searched the bathroom cabinet until I found the floss. I tried, it hurt more than I imagined, I gave up. I soaked my hand.

I googled again.  Elastic band.  Found band. Tried it. Fail.

Elastic.  I couldn't get this to work n my own, so I had to ask DH for help.  We argued (of course).  We tried it.  Nearly.  I soaked my hand and we tried again. DH used tweezers to try and get the end of the elastic under the ring. It HURT.   A LOT.  We pulled the elastic.  It was very painful.  The ring moved a smidge. And a smidge more.  Enough for me to soak my hand, re-soap, and then I got it off.

All day I felt like I was in a cartoon,  my bulbous finger was pulsating and looked horrendous.

Today it looks better.  But it's still too big for the rings.

And I have some rather impressive bruises. All over the place.

Nothing broken, though.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Christmas cards

My machine and I are getting on at the moment.  When she's working well, she really is lovely.

I had a break for some time, I couldn't make myself do anything on it.  Then the software arrived, so I did some reorganisation in preparation for using that,  and then I decided to bite the bullet and do some christmassy stitching for some special cards.  

There was a problem with the software which set me back a bit.  Janome responded immediately and emailed me a fix, and I was back up and running.  

It's been a busy few days.

The kitchen looks like it's been hit by a craft bomb.  There were card blanks and enveloped everywhere. Piles of stitched designs.  Piles of fabric.  Packets of bought cards (bought in the sales last year) for people I want to send a card to, but don't want to hand make one.   A neat pile of printed address labels.   Printed card-insides, and sliced off remnants where I've trimmed them to fit. Pritt Sticks in various states of decay.   Several rolls of double sided stucky tape. Scissors.  Reels of thread.  Rolls of felt.  It was horrendous.

Today I wrote, addressed, and stamped all my non-made cards.  Then I started working through the made designs, and matched the design with the intended recipient.    Then I started on some very individual designs, and while they were printing, I attempted to clear the decks.

The kitchen now looks better.... but the hallway is a bit of a disaster zone.

I had licked-and-sticked a number before I thought about taking photos. Oh well. 

I've still got some very detailed designs to do, so I hope I can keep the motivation for another few days.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Gorgeous Girls

So, we had a spate of the Litlees sleeping out on the Verandah.

This isn't as bad as it sounds... the Verandah is a platform that I got DH to construct, just outside the door of the orange cube.  It was designed to help Lotti (who had a deformed foot) get into the Cube more easily.  She could wait on the Verandah until there was an opportunity, then rush in.

After we lost Lotti, we left the Verandah in place because the girls really liked it;  sunbathing on it during summer days, and sometimes sleeping on it during hot summer nights.

Anyway, it's not summer and, although I'm sure the litlees aren't getting cold, I'm pretty sure they were sleeping on the verandah because Poppy and/or Gloria wouldn't let them in to the Cube.

We decided to give them more choice. We connected the purple cube to the main run, so we have two cubes open. For the first night, I forced the older girls, Gloria and Poppy, to sleep in the purple cube and let the litlees sleep in the orange cube.

The next night they organised themselves.  Poppy was in the purple cube,  Gloria was in the orange cube with the littlees (although Gloria was in the nest box).

The third night, Poppy and Gloria were in the purple cube.

Then Fleur laid her first, dark brown, egg.  (I did the egg dance, in my dressing gown, in the rain)

Then all of them were in the orange cube (Poppy and Gloria in the nestbox).

And it's been that way since.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Procrastination and avoidance.

I don't send many Christmas cards. Most of those I do send, I make.  This year, I thought I'd whip something up on the embroidery machine.

I've purchased a number of suitable designs over the last few months. I was running out of reasons not to knuckle down and make some.    I bought more designs.

I catalogued my designs.

I printed out some of the pictures.

I did some stuff with installing fonts.  I did all my fonts.  I created PDF files of images of the fonts.  I printed the catalogue.  I bound it.   I bought more fonts.

I thought about making applique christmas trees, I have lots of fabric.  I searched for designs. I bought designs. I catalogued designs.

I just haven't been able to make myself make anything.

In the shower this morning, as I had my three thousandth bright idea for christmas cards,  I thought about why I've been avoiding it.   Is it that I don't want to make embroidery cards?  Or make cards at all?  Or send cards?    

Am I bored with embroidery?

I don't think so.

I think I'm suffering from the embroidery equivalent of Analysis Paralysis.

I'm a little overwhelmed at the array of things I want to make.  I'm ovewhelmed with the possibilites of fabric (even if I just use felt, I've got so many colours), and thread.  And the colour of the card for the cards.

So, I'm going to just pick a couple of designs, and make them and see how they come out.  Doesn't matter which one (or two). 

Any will do.

Just pick one.

I'm now wrtiting this blog post.   I think writing it down will make me do it.


I will.

Really. I will.

I'll just make a quick cup of tea.  And put some bread on.  And get mutton joint out of the freezer in the shed.  And take the apple baskets back to the shed while I am at it.  And check for eggs / give the chooks their afternoon corn.  And top up the bird feeder while I am in the garden........

Monday, 16 November 2015

Integration continues

I decided to let the Babies decide fore themselves where they wanted to sleep.

I went out at dusk, to find that negotiations were still ongoing.

The Babies had obviously decided they wanted to go in with the Oldies, Poppy and Gloria.  As soon as I opened the kitchen door I could hear the commotion, which I interpreted - correctly - as youngsters being chased down the ladder.

By time I arrived on the scene, Fleur (the Marans) was trying again;  Fay (the flightiest bird I've ever encoutnered, was screeching;  Sasha (the Appenzeller) was running into the other cue, up the ladder, and calling for her sisters to join her.

I htought for a moment, and then shut the door to the big girls run. This trapped Faye and Fleur inside, giving them no choice about where to go to bed.  (They wanted to sleep in this Cube, they were going to have to do this at some point, might as well be now).  I then tried to encorage Sasha out of her run, but she just kept running up and down the ladder.  In the end, I opened the nest box door and this was enough to make her exit the run; I opened the other run door and she ran in.

I could see that Poppy was not happy.  I tried to intervene, but I could see I was making things worse. They needed to sort it out for themselves, and there were 3 newbies vs 2 oldies, so it wasn't like the Milly days.  I left them to it.

A bit later, when it was properly dark, I went out with a torch to check that everyone had got in OK.

They had.

Tomorrow, I'll move their feeder into the main run.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Accidentally enforced integration

Bad chicken mummy!

For a few weeks now, if we go out during the day we've been shutting Littlees and Oldies into the walk in run together. If we're out for more than a few minutes, I also put out 3 peck-a-blocks (the Oldies can only commandeer 2 at once), and some cabbage or similar.

Today, I did just that.

I had forgotten how early dusk falls.  DH and I went out. When we left the place, it was already dusk...and I realised that the poor chooks would have been stuck in the Oldies run.  We wondered whether they would have tried to get into the Cube, or whether they would have just roosted on one of the many perches, or the veranda.  We decided that if they had roosted somewhere, we'd relocate them to their own Cube.

As soon as we got home I grabbed a torch and rushed outside.

The 3 Littlees were in the Cube, occupying the prime position with their heads out of the door.  I didn't check in the back and side as I didn't want to disturb them all, but I would guess that Gloria was in one of the nest boxes (she usually is while she's moulting) and that Poppy was in the other.

I guess being 3 of them against 2,  it wasn't too difficult....although it might have been a long struggle. I hope poor Poppy wasn't too overwhelmed.

I guess we'll have to decide tomorrow whether to go back to normal, or whether to push ahead with the integration, now that this has accidental progress has happened.

I'm not sure which route we'll take yet.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Good LIfe week

I'm feeling a little virtuous (which upion rereading I think should really say "smug". Sorry). - it's been a bit of a "Good Life" week, albeit with the help of some of our best gadgets.

Buttermaking on Monday.  Thermomix.

The table birds were killed on Monday, and on Wednesday DH dressed them. We put the smallest to one side to cook that day, and the rest were jointed (and deboned), and put in the freezer.  I made chicken stock from the carcasses, using the recently purchased Ipot (electric pressure cooker).

 On Friday, we collected our half pig.  The lady who breeds them is only doing one litter a year now, as her sow is getting on a bit. We took this into account when deciding how to butcher it. We decided not to have large joints. Instead we cut  some small belly joints (which were deboned, to make them suitable for more recipes),  loin for bacon,  some small hams,  LOTS of diced pork,  minced pork, some shoulder set aside for pork pies, and an enormous quantity of meat for sausages.

We had to put the old freezer on to cope with everything!

I made lard, lots of lovely, snow-white, lard.  I made stock with the pork bones (Ipot).  

There were more, but we had to test them
This morning DH put some of the pork into cure, to make some small hams and some bacon.   He also made a mountain of sausages, which are spread out between the fridge and the freezers at the moment.   He had some sausage-meat leftover,  and fancied making sausage rolls.

We didn't have any puff pastry in the freezer, so I suggested looking for a Thermomix recipe for quick-puff-pastry recipe.  He found one in the standard Thermy cookbook,  and whipped up a batch in a jiffy - mainly thanks to the drawer full of frozen butter.  He'll be on Bake Off next!

He also made some trotter stock, which he'll use in pork pies tomorrow.

Food wise, we had roast chicken for dinner on Wednesday (thank you to Delia for her Fast Roast Chicken recipe).  We had risotto on Thursday, made with some of the leftover chicken and some of the stock. The rest of the cooked chicken has been bagged and frozen, for future risottos.

Last night,  I made chinese style spare ribs, also in the Ipot,  for dinner.  I used some home pressed apple juice, our own garlic, and one of  DH's Habanero chillis, in the recipe.    The remainder of the ribs are in a bag in the freezer for later use.

Arancini, waiting to be fried
Tonight we're having the sausage rolls, plus deep fried arancini (leftover risotto, well seasoned,which are flour/egg/breadcrumbed which are then deep fried. (Our own eggs and breadcrumbs).

It'll be served with dipping sauce (leftover from last night's spare ribs),  and home made Hummus. I even made the tahini for the hummus, by blitzing sesame seeds in Thermy.   The texture of the hummus is fine,  I need to work on my flavouring.

The apples are still sitting in crates waiting to be dealt with. I've been eating them all week and hardly made a dent in one crate.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Yet more cards

 October and November is very busy, birthday-wise,  for our families.

Somehow I managed to not photograph all the cards.

Monday, 9 November 2015

The cats are in control

I'm waiting to vacuum thevliving room and to wash the floor.

Washburn is lounging around on the sheepskin rug, looking very comfortable and cute.  If I start the vacuum cleaner, he'll run off in a panic.

So what do I do?

Find some other bit of housework to do until he's left of his own accord.

He has me wrapped around his soft little paw.

Moving on.

A major move for the Littlees yesterday.  Late afternoon, I moved their Cube and run, so that it was almost next to the Big Girls' one.  It was a bit of a faff, I had to trim the Eleagnea (sp?) to get it through the gap. The Littlees were starting to get stressed as dusk fell and they couldn't find their home.

Fleur found it, and went up the stairs calling the other two.  They weren't so clever.  I put a torch in the nest box, and then went and shooed them round.  They found it in the end.

The next step is to turn it round a bit and connect it to the walk in run.  That means the way in and out will be through the walk in run, and I think its a bit too soon for that.    I am routinely shutting them all in the walk in run when we go out, though... as long as I know we'll be back before chooky bed time.


And today, the Dinner Chicks were dispatched.   All 8 of them in one go.   We had only 1 female, so we couldn't introduce her to the rest of the flock on her own (for a long time we thought we had 2 females, and if this had been the case, we would probably have  kept them).  Because the boys were getting sexually mature, she was going to have to be part of the first group to be dispatched anyway. We've been really lucky that the boys hadn't already started bothering her.

The boys were already big and we if we kept them much longer they'd only be pacing up and down eyeing up the hens in Henry's harem.   It was better all round to dispatch them all.

I always feel sad about it, but I know (and remind myself) that these birds have had a really good free range life. At 24.5 weeks old, they've lived at least 16 weeks longer than commercial fast-growing chickens, and 6-10 weeks longer than most equivalent birds.  If we didn't do what we do, then they wouldn't have been hatched at all... and the gorgeous parent birds in the harem wouldn't be kept, either. 

Friday, 30 October 2015


H's final piece of embroidery,  a cat mask for his little sister

We both had hysterics at the pose.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Ta Daa

Clever boy. Did all the thread changes etc himself.

Clever boy!

All the grandchildren are lovely, and have skills in different areas.  I ike spending time with each and very one of them.

This post, however, is about one in particular:  My (step)daughter's middle child..

He's 9 years old, and loves to learn how things work.  He likes to say back to you what he thinks you've said to him, so he can make sure he has got it right.  He's both technically minded, and artistic.

He likes coming to stay with us, and is always full of enthusiasm for anything and everything.  He loves trying my sewing machine and embroidery machine - it appeals to both his technically minded side and is creative side.

Often children are mildly interested in something, but it's a momentary thing rather than a real thirst.  I don't mind that, I just adapt how much or how little detail I go in to.

Since he last visited, I've got a new embroidery machine.  He watched me thread it, and from then on, he was able to thread it himself.  He listened when I explained the buttons and options, and he's now operating it himself.  He picks out the threads to use, and checks with me.

We started with some simple pencil toppers...
To see whether he was really understanding what he was doing, I asked him why we had to wait until the final outline stitch before putting the back on. He looked at the partially stitched design, screwed his eyes up and thought for a moment,  and then said "because we wouldn't be able to get the pencil in".

I love that.  It makes the effort worthwhile!

And now he's making a Werewolf mask. I'd bought  the design thinking it was a quick 10 minute mask, but it's actually horrendously detailed.  He's sticking with it though, and is completely in charge of making it. It's over 60,000 stitches, and the stitch time (not counting the time it takes to do all the thread changes) is over 90 minutes.   He's about a third through at the mo.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Thief in the night

Izzy suffers from epilepsy.

She's on medication for it, and we have to try and give it to her at exactly the right time.  For a couple of years now she has been on 2 tablet, twice a day, 12 hours apart.  We usuallly do this at 10am and 10pm.  She has other tablets as well, and she always gets rewarded with some cat treats afterwards.

Recently the frequency of fits has increased, and we've now had to up her dosage. Looking at the pattern, and after discussion with the Vet,  we've had to change her to 3 times a day.  To get these evenly spaced out has been quite difficult.  We tried 8am, 4pm, 12am.    This has meant we're staying up much later than we're used to, and we're having trouble getting up in the morning. [DH is retired and I work from home]

We had a great idea. We'd take Izzy's morning tablets (and treats) upstairs when we went to bed, and then we could give them to her first thing, without having to get up, go downstairs, and fart about.  We put them in an egg cup on DH's nightstand.

The first night I drifted off to sleep and woke when I heard a little crinkle.  Immediately I knew what it was.  It was Izzy treading on the headache tablets that DH keeps on his night stand. 

Sure enough, Izzy was helping herself to the treats in the egg cup.  Not the tablets, of course, just the treats.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Once upon a time

I made some finger puppets for DGDs. I can't find a post with them in, so here they are:
Little Red Riding Hood, Grandma, and Wolf

Beauty and the Beast

Sleeping Beaity, wicked fairy, Prince

Witch,  Gretel, Hansel
 I also added some hair bits

Sunday, 18 October 2015


Found a suitably chocolatey design for my chocaholic daughter-in-law's birthday card.

I'm not sure that it's really the sort of chocolate that she loves, but it made me smile. Hopefully it'll make her smile too.
 I've embroidered directly on to felt, which doesn't pucker as much as ordinary fabric.  I also included a satin stitch frame in the design,  as this gives  a neat edge to trim back to for a tidy finish.   I used tearaway stabiliser and used double sideed tape round the edges and in an X across the middle to stick it to the card.

I printed and trimmed an A4 landscape insert (which I didn't photograph, sorry) which has stars on one side and a personal message on the other. That was lightly glued down the fold and pressed in. It gives a much better finish to the overall card.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Over it

Gloria snapped out of being broody.

After her dustbathing session with Poppy the other day, she went back on to the nestbox.  I went out with some pasta, called her (and the others), and she came running.   After the pasta, she didn't go back on the nest box.

She is now very interested in the incomers, and chases them whenever their paths cross.   She doesn't go out of her way to find them to terrorise them, although I am watching out for that.

At the moment, the littlees keep out of her way.  As soon as Gloria and Poppy vacate their run, the littlees run in. 

The two groups are sleeping separately, and I have no immediate plans to force integration.  I can see that, if I do, Fleur (cuckoo marans) will get the brunt of it.  The other two are nimble, light, and sprightly, and can fly up and out of trouble.  She can't.

I have removed the fencing that separated their two pens though.  I'd had the "gate" open for a while anyway. I left the fence up as a potential barrier for the littlees. However, I can see that they might get cornered on it, so I've moved it right out of the way.

Step by step. No rush.


It's been several weeks since I've been down to see the chooks on the allotment.  DH has been going, I've been working.

I went down today to muck out.  It was lovely to be greeted by a sea of chickeny faces waiting to be let out for a munch on the grass.  Henry looks great, but many of the girls are moulting and are in varying stages of oven-readiness.  The two oldest hens,  Siouxsie Sioux and Not Norman (Norman's sisters) are over 6 years old now and are starting to show signs of their age;  I'm wondering if they will live through the winter. 

The biggest changes were in the Dinner Chick pen.   As I feared, we have only 1 girl, and so we have to take action sooner rather than later.   The cuckoo marans boy is stunning;  the Araucana is covered in lemon feathers;  the Wyandotte boy has blossomed into a really handsome chap;  and the remaining 4 boys look like small Henrys.

They are 21 weeks old now, and I think we'll have to do a cull before we get any problems. 

I really dislike this part.

There are too many to cull in one go, so we have to make some decisions.  It's probably best to leave the dominant male until the end - otherwise we'll create a vacancy and it'll cause the remaining boys to fight.  The araucana isn't going to get to a sensible table size anyway, so he might as well be part of the first group.  We have only 1 girl, so it's probably best that she goes.  And I guess 2 of Henry's sons. That';; be 4 gone and 4 remaining. 

Just need to organise it now. 

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Sew slow

I'm working at the moment and it doesn't leave much time for anything else.

I did eventually complete a banner for a Texan friend's new baby.

I'm waaay behind on my making.
Gloria took time off from her broodiness to have a dustbath. Poppy was ecstatic.   They aren't bosom buddies, but Poppy has definitely been lonely while Gloria has been occupied.  I'd often dfind Poppy sitting next to Gloria's nest box.    My heart  smiled when I saw them having a joint dust bath today.

I couldn't get to the camera in time to capture the moment...but I did snap them together.
After this, Gloria charged at the Littlees for a while.   She ignores them completely when she is on the nest and they are right in front of her, so it was a bit of a shock for them all.

I was really hoping that Gloria would snap out the broodiness, but she settled back on the nest again.

Untl I went outside with some pasta.

She was off that nest and down the garden, like a hen being chased.

I had to separate Poppy and Gloria from the Littlees while the pasta was around.  There are NO manners where pasta is concerned.

Fleur, the Marans, timidly ate some from my hand, running away with a strand in her beak each time.   Sasha, the Appenzeller,  and Fay, the Fayoumi, would not come and take any from me, although they did attempt to mug Fleur each time.

When it was over, Gloria went back to the nest.

But Poppy crouched for me!  Maybe she's thinking about coming back into lay.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Should I be embarrassed?

We have a couple of bird feeders outside our kitchen, and we get lots of birds visiting.   Lately, we've had quite a few birds (or the same bird over and over) taking off from one of the feeders and flying into the kitchen french window.

In the last couple of days. we've also had a bird fly into the house by mistake, when the french window has been open.   The first time the birdie flew into the living room, landed on the living room window ledge, and I opened the window and it flew out.  Today, the bird landed on top of the kitchen cupboards. Then it flew across the kitchen, and landed on top of the cupboards on the other side.

Wash, our ginger cat,  sat in the middle of the floor to watch the show.

I decided to go and do something else, in the hope that the bird would fly out of the kitchen. I came back some minutes later, and the bird flew across the kitchen, covered in....fluff.  The cupboards on that side of the kitchen reach almost to the ceiling.  Not enough of a gap to get my arm in to clean,  but a big enough gap (obviously) for all sorts of old spider webs, dust and fluff to settle.  Until a little birdy comes along and fluffs it all up.

The poor bird had trouble flying, it was so weighted down by the fluff it had picked up.  I considered trying to help, but every time I went towards it, it flew away.

I opened both french windows, put a coat on (it's bloody bold with the doors open) and left the room.

Later, I couldn't hear any more fluttering and I assumed that the bird had found it's way out.

I was wrong.

It flew in front of me in the living room, and landed on the curtain rail.  Then the curtain rail at the opposite end of the room.  Then it hit the window.  Then it started to try and get out of the window, but just keep hitting it.

By this time, I'd reached the window, and managed to get the key and unlocked it. I then had to scoosh the poor little thing out, trying not to give it a heart attack.  It fell out of the window, just as Wash jumped up on the window sill to "help".

It's been sitting in the shrub for some time now.  I'm assuming it's a bit disorientated, but I guess it's best left to sort things out itself. It seems to have managed to remove the great clog of detritus, so I guess that's something.
I guess I should be embarrassed at the obvious state of the top of my cupboards.

Friday, 2 October 2015


I was spreading my time between making finger puppets for DTGDs (twins) and measuring out and mixing ingredients for several Christmas puddings.  I kept hearing a sound which, at first, I thought was a baby crying,  and then I realised it was a cat growling.  I ran outside.

Washburn was having a face-off with the most enormous cat I've ever seen.

DH was already in the garden, and had accidentally interrupted the stand-off, which had started on the shed roof.   I left the house and walked round to the park,  following the sound.  And then I found them,

Two cats,  sitting, facing each other,  gato a gato.

Wash v Enormous B&W cat
It went on for a looong time.  Eventually, the enormous cat turned away a little.  Then, imperceptibly,  a bit more.  Eventually, he was sideways on.   

The creeping movement continued.  After some time, he had his back to Wash.  Then he started to walk away.  Not running,  he walked in very, very, slow motion.

 He climbed up on to a hump of earth, and sat, facing Wash.

Wash started to move.  He turned around, and had the same, slow motion walking, as he moved away.  He stopped and marked the territory, then continued, and then climbed on a pile of sandbags. He was higher than the other cat.

I suspect it was a respectful draw, with Wash having a slight edge as he hgad been the last cat standing.

Both cats turned and looked at me.

I crept away.

Much later, I went to check for dead bodies.  There were none.

Wash was asleep on the chair in the summerhouse.  He purred when I stroked him.  I realised that, in his mind, he is the Giant.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Patience of a Broody Hen

Gloria continues to be broody.  She is glued to her chosen spot, getting up once a day to eat, drink and poo. It doesn't seem to matter what happens in the area around her, or the area immediately in front of her, she concentrates only on her taslk of brooding.

I often pop some corn (or a tomato, bit of cucumber, whatever) in the nestbox with her, so she can eat while brooding. She seems to appreciate this.

Poppy sometimes tries to steal the stuff, and Gloria doesn't do much - if anything - to stop it.  This is most unlike her, and is just a feature of the single-mindedness of the task in claw.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I've now progressed to opening the dividing netting (between Poppy/Gloria and the Littles) each morning, and leaving it open all day.  I can see that Poppy isn't happy. She asserts herself every so often, but I think that 3 newbies in one go is a bit too much for her.  Now she has access to the newbies area, she comes as close as she can to the house, presumably for our company. I've also seen her sitting next to Gloria's nestbox.

The Litlees love the extra area.  They especially love the covered run, and seem to spend a lot of time in there, rooking around on the ground, or sitting around on the many perches.  They haven't noticed Gloria sitting in the nest box. Or, if they have, they are blissfully unaware that she's only letting them get away with it because she has a more important task to manage.

Littlees unaware of Gloria (in the egg shaped nestbox)
I'm hoping she snaps out of it soon.  If she doesn't, I think I'll have to keep them separate until she does, so that she and Poppy can manage them together.

Saturday, 26 September 2015


We went to visit DS2, his lovely partner, and the DTGDs (darling twin granddaughters) yesterday, first time we've seen them in their new home.  Lovely house, lovely area.

A couple of quick presents.  Firstly, a leopard mask (and matching hair grip) for one, made with plush fabric
And for the other, who's not keen on masks and hair hrips, a moustache shaped pencil topper.  I didn't get to take a photo of that though. :-(

No fly zone

Poppy, followed by the two littlees, continues to fly over the netting.  It's extra extra tall netting, but it doesn't stop her.

I'd set my machine up to sew (rather than embroider) so I could hem my jeans, so, before I went through the palaver of of switching it back to embroidery, I whipped up some no-fly bunting.

I'd bought lots of variations of ripstop fabric, some months ago,  to do this . I selected plain black and a birdy pattern.  I cut some strips,  turned the strips into squares, the squares into triangles,  and then sewed them into some apron tape.

It was a bit of a quick and dirty, but it's good enough to test the principle.

It actually looks quite sweet.