Friday, 30 September 2016


The Girls love scrambled eggs.   They rarely get them. but at this time of year it can be a good idea to give them a bit of a protein boost.    

I don't give them raw egg. Anyone who has accidentally broken an egg in a chicken coop will know the frenzy this causes, as the chooks fight to gobble it up.   We don't want our Girls to ever associate the inside of the egg with a whole egg - egg eating ensues, and that's a nightmare to stop.

We had a few oldish eggs, and plenty of new ones so the old ones weren't going to get used up.  I made some scrambled eggs (nothing else added, nothing at all),  let it cool, and then gave it to the garden girls. They loved it, so I made a bit more and took it down to the allotmenteers as a treat for them. . 

 let Henry have first dibs. Normally he has a close look at any  offering, then calls his Ladies to come and eat.  He had a bit of egg himself today,  and then a bit more, and then a bit more.  Then he remembered his manners, and called the Ladies. They also got some overripe tomatoes from the greenhouse,  so they've had a good day.

The Dinner Chicks also had some scrambled egg, but weren't too sure about it.  They also ignored the lettuce I'd harvested specially for them.

They are approaching 18 weeks now, 18 weeks on Monday, in fact. The Boys are crowing properly now.  They aren't really at an ideal weight yet, but they are getting to an age when sex is likely to be a problem soon.   I spent some time considering options this morning. We have the room to divide their pen,  and we have an ancient rickety coop that the Boys could inhabit.   Problem is, the boys will most likely just keep pacing up and down (anxious to get to the Girls) and so won't really put on weight.

One of the two Girls is a mottled brown chook,  daughter of either Norah or Batty.  I'm getting a bit attached, which isn't good.  We've only got 4 Dinners in total this year, 2 for us and 2 for Other Chap, keeping 2 of them (you can't introduce a lone bird, it's very cruel as they will be picked on incessantly by everyone else) doesn't make much sense.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


How very British, a post that starts with the weather.

Today is a bit November.  It's grey and dull outside, and it's a grey and dull inside.  The heavens have opened, and November is pouring.  Cold, hard, relentless rain.  Not the sort that spoils summer, it's the sort that really means business.   Winter coat weather.  Hibernation weather.

I don't mind cold weather too much, I actually like bright cold days.  I don't mind wet summer weather. I don't mind being out in the rain on a summers day.

Not so keen on this wet and cold weather though. 

There's something about it. It gets right inside me.  It's too me.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Roccbox continued

So the next day, we fired it up on a low heat, to season it.

Later in the day I made pizza dough,  I used the recipe in the Roccbox user manual, which was going to produce far too much dough and was very wet.  Still, I believe in starting with the manufactures recommendations,  so if anything goes wrong I know it wasn't something I'd introduced.

I usually make enough dough for 4 pizzas. It has one rise, then is divided in to two and rises again. One piece goes in the freezer, and the other half makes one ENORMOUS rectangular pizza, and we teach take half and top it how we like.   The Roccbox oven bed is fairly small, so we were going to have to go for 2 individual pizzas.  It would still be quicker: our oven takes about 45 minutes to heat up and t thoroughly heat the pizza stone,  and then it takes 7 minutes to cook the pizza.   Roccbox should take 20 minutes to heat up, and then about 90 seconds each for 2 pizzas.

Having said that, I couldn't quite bring myself to follow their instructions.  They only allowed one rise, but had used dried active yeast (not fast yeast) so it really needed two.   I gave it two rises.

Roccbox was fired up, and got to temperature - 300 degrees - in about 20 minutes.  Big Tick.

There were no instructions on the technicalities of moving dough around.  I know from previous experience that sometimes the dough sticks, and we usually put the rolled out dough on to the paddle before topping it.
However, they didn't seem to do that in the pics, so we did the pizza toppings before attempting to move the dough.   I deliberately used only a small amount of passata and a little cheese, as I could see the superthin dough was going to be a challenge to move.

It didn't end well for the first one, despite flouring the worktop and putting cornmeal on the peel.

By now, it was dark outside.  Doesn't it get dark early and quickly now?.  Roccbox was on the table in front of the summerhouse, so we had all the lights on so we could see the oven.

For the second one, I went mad with the flour on the worktop, and we managed to get the whole thing on to the peel and then in to the oven.   It only takes 90 seconds to cook, and I completely forgot that I needed to turn it in that time.

It came out charred on one side, and not properly cooked on the other - but that was totally my fault.

It was, however,  rather tasty.   I wish I'd taken some pictures.

I've watched some (non Roccbox) videos on handling pizza dough, and I was pleased to see that I'd actually got it right - including where I was patching holes rather than trying to squeeze them together.
Next time I'll use a similar recipe to the Roccbox supplied one,  but (a) I'll halve the quantity,  and (b) I'll follow my normal method of proving - all the dough together for the first rise, then cut it into individual pizza sizes, and let the pieces rise again.  Any that I'm not using immediately can go in the freezer.

We had to wait for Roccbox to cool down a bit to put it away - it can't be left outside.   We're going to put it on a heavy duty trolley to enable us to move it in and out easily.  We'll need that because we have pizza at least once a week. We also use (or used to use) our oven and pizza stone to make naan bread, pita bread,  flat breads, and garlic breads... and I'm going to try using Roccbox for that.

At the moment we have to carry it outside to use it. It's doable, but I'll be really glad when the trolley arrives.

I was lucky that I saw it when an earlybird backer price was available, and this coincided with me having the funds to pay for it.  Now that I've used it, I have to say that I'd buy it at the full price (assuming I had the money available)

I'll try and take some pics next time.

Roccbox arrival

A long time ago now, I decided to back something called "Roccbox".  

At the time we were eating a lot of home made pizza. My attempts to make authentic pizza improved.  I made a proper dough (both with and wothout semolina flour); I used a large pizza stone in my domestic oven, with the oven turned up as high as it would go (about 250 degrees fan, for about 45 minutes to heat the stone thoroughly) to get as close as possible to creating a "wood fired" pizza taste and texture. We invested in pizza peels so we could get thepizza in and out of the raging hot oven.   It worked reasonably well, and was much better than pizza cooked on a baking tray.

I realised that the next step was to get a better pizza oven.  We toyed with the idea of building a pizza oven in our garden.   We just didn't really want to give over that much space to it (nd I wasn't sure that I'd really have the inclination to light it each time).     Then "portable" pizza ovens came on the market.  They were OK, but they were horrendously expensive (for what they were).

And then one day I found Roccbox, which was looking for backing.   I signed up for it,  and then I committed to buying one.   Early backers got a bargain price,  and it really did seem like a good idea.

It was a mini pizza oven that could run on wood firing or gas!  Was it going to be the bext of both wrolds, or the worst of both worlds? 

Time passed. As is often the case with these things, the delivery time slipped.  Fortunaely, we've backed a few things and are well used to the types of delays that occur.  We've learned to add 3, 6, 12 months on to the original ETA when looking at whether we want to back something.

Eventually, it was imminent.

Then the container landed.

Then it was despatched.

And then it was here!

Mine is lime green, this is a stock photo

The big box arrived, we unpacked it,  and sat and looked at it on our kitchen worktop.   SH went to get a bottle of gas for it (we decided we'd start with the gas and see how that went).   We had other commitments that evening, so couldn't do anything. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Sad week

It's been a sad week.

My friend's mum died, and one of my Uncles died.

I used one of Designs by Juju's  Mehndi Butterflies,  changed the colouring to black and silver (with a tiny splash of colour on the body), to make Sympathy cards.

3rd time lucky

I've not been in the mood for for making things at all for a while.

I eventually managed to get myself off my b*m, and made a bumbag  for one of my granddaughters.   I took care to read the instructions very carefully. I measured twice, cut once. Spent a lot of time (and not-cheap) fabrics,  only to find that the darned instructions were wrong. They had the height and width of the fabric pieces the wrong way round.

It wouldn't have mattered if I'd been using plain fabric, or random patterned fabric.  But I was using sheep, inside and outside.  My sheep ended up sideways.

It wasn't too bad on the outside, but the inside sheep just didn't look right.  DH said it didn't matter, and it didn't really.  But it bugged me.

So I made a second one.

It started well.  I cut the pieces correctly,  I starched the lining pieces.  And  I also embroidered her name on the inside!

I took care centreing up the front fabric.  The inside piece, with the name on, looked lovely.    All was going well, until  I made the mistake of leaving the machine unattended while it sewed the back pocket on.

Somehow the back pocket went squiffy, meaning not only did it go up at ana angle, but the bottom wasn't sewn on correctly.

So, I cut out the pieces for a 3rd one.  Once again, I pressed and starched.  I embroidered the name on.  This time I did not leave the machine.  Sadly I'd run out of shocking pink zips, so we had to go for a boring pink instead.

 The sheep on the inside were the correct way up
 And I'd even managed to find a sheep charm for the zip.

Hope she likes it.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A sad Goodbye to NotNorman

NotNorman, one of our two remaining oldest hens, died.

She was one of 4 offspring from our vicious cockerel (Captain Flint) and his two wives (Willow and Buffy).

I went down to the allotment to see to them today.  I did a headcount as I let them out to graze, and I noticed immediately that Siouxsie was there but not her sister.

Siouxsie and NotNorman  are (were) 7 years old, so in some respects I wasn't surprised.  I looked in all the coops so I could say goodbye and take the body away.   She wasn't in any of the coops.

I then started looking round the allotment,  and then I looked around again more carefully. Under things, behind things.  I couldn't find her body anywhere.  I checked outside, where they graze.  Nothing.

I finished my tasks, locked up, and decided to walk round the edge of the allotment, along the electric fenceline, to see if I could find her, or signs od her   Eventually, I came upon a small, neat, pile of feathers.


A pile of feathers
A few steps on, another pile.

She must have escaped somehow - or a single-kill predator had got in somehow. It wasn't a fox, they'd all be dead if that had happened.   It could be an owl, or a hawk, or maybe even a mink.  I guess an owl or a hawk is more likely, as that would explain how they got over the electric fence.

I waslked along a different path, and then I found the remains of her carcass.

At least I know for certain that she'd dead.   And at least it wasn't an indiscriminate fox attack.

Poor girl, I hope she didn't suffer.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Proud grandma

My granddaughter completed the dress!

He rmum sent me a pic of G, working at their kitchen table doing the hem.   And later, a pic of G wearing the completed dress.

It's lovely.  I'm so happy that I was able to give her the help and guidance she needed,  and the tools,  to do it.  I hope she goes on to make her second dress (fabric already provided) so she can cement her knowledge.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Animal training

It never ceases to amaze me how well our animals train us.

The cats sit by the french window in the kitchen and, without thinking about it,  we get up to let them out.  They sit by the food bowls, and we stop what we are doing to feed them.   Izzy jumps on the bed in the middle of the night and meows for a stroke, she gets it.   Wash comes in to the living room and stands by my chair, I obediently put out my legs so he can jump up.

And so it goes on.

And then there is being not quite fully asleep, so that we are (usually) woken if Izzy is having a fit, or if Wash is involved in a fight, or if the chooks are disturbed.

Izzy  had one in the night. Unusually, it was upstairs.  Thank goodness we'd put down solid flooring recently.  The floor needed cleaning anyway, and cleaning it at stupid-o'clock during the night meant it didn't have to be done during the day.