Thursday, 25 May 2017

Sharing a bath

I hoik Gloria off the nest once a day, as I haven't seen her coming out of her own accord. 

Sasha had been complaining about something, non stop, for about twenty minutes.  My neighbour was working from home, so I eventually went out to see what she was complaining about (Sasha, not the neighbour).

I couldn't see anything.  I couldn't see Poppy, so I assumed Poppy must be in the nest box with Gloria and that Sasha wanted to lay.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch Sasha.  I gave up. It's too hot to be chasing chooks.

I went back to mulling over my sewing pattern, and Sasha started again.    This time she was sitting n the floor in the run, and she shut up and ran away when I arrived.     I heard some chicken purring,  which is such a lovely sound.

It came from a make-shift dustbath located under one of the Cubes. Poppy and |Gloria were having a happy and contented communal dustbath.  Both girls were purring, and I watched them from a distance so I didn't disturb them.

I tried to work out how old they are. I checked my spreadsheet, and found that the are 5 now!    I perused the spreadsheet looking at all the hens over all the years. 

Our oldest girl, Siouxsie Sioux, is now 8. She still lays occasionally, and she doesn't look her age.   Next are  Norah and Batty, who are now 6.  Then we have Henry and  four of the Harem Girls (who are all from the same hatch, but have various mums) who are 5.   Camilla, Big Bird, and three Harem girls, all five of them Henry's offspring,  are 3. And finally Barbara (daughter of Nora) and a gorgeous Harem girl are now 1 year old. Barbara is the spitting image of Roobarb, who was one of then hens who died in the fox attack

With so many hens of the same age (5), I guess we're going to end up losing a few fairly close together at some point. Hopefully not too soon.

By the way, Sasha has been shut in the Cooler (one of the wooden nest boxes) again.  I'm thinking of changing her name to Hilts*. I've set a timer so I don't forget about her..

(*Steve McQueen's character in The Great Escape)



Gloria went broody about a week ago. 

I was a little surprised. Poppy (her sister) is usually the one to go broody first, and Poppy had been showing i'm-thinking-about-going-broody symptoms.  Instead, it's Gloria clamped to the next box.

I'm well aware of the suggestions for "breaking" a broody. Early in my chicken keeping life, I even tried a few of them with varying degrees of success (and failure).   Eventually I accepted that going broody was just something that some hens need to do, and so now we let them get on with it.    We had even considered letting either Poppy or Gloria raise some chicks this year, but we've decided to have a year off chicks.

The downside is the disruption it causes the others in the flock when their favoured egg laying spot is occupied.

No, that's not really true. The downside is the disruption caused when one or two of the remaining flock decide to get very vocal in expressing their annoyance about the nest box hogging.  They complain, loudly and persistently about it.  It's a darned nuisance, and complegtely unnecessary.  We have ample nest boxes: 2 Cubes,  and 2 extra wooden nestboxes.

Sasha and Fay (our Appenzeller and Fayoumi)  start getting very gobby, very early in the morning.      We've been shutting the Cube door at night so that the sounds are muffled, otherwise they just get up and start being gobby in the run.

We've tried letting them out in the run early.  The gobbiness continues, unmuffled.

We've tried letting them out in to the garden.  The gobbiness continues,  even closer to our neighbours.

I've had some success with getting up at stupid o'clock,  hoiking the offending chook(s) out of the back of the Cube and then shutting them in the little wooden nest boxes.  They can't get the height in there to get the volume.   When I do it, I set an alarm for 30 minutes (I don't like to keep them shut in there for too long), so I have to get up again to let them out. 

It does mean that I have to get myself out of bed though, and some mornings.... well, I fail.  I don't sleep through the noise,  I just struggle to get myself up.

As the nights get warmer, and people start sleeping with  their windows open,  I can't take option of lying in bed trying to ignore it option.

I love Sasa, and I love Faye.  They are tiny, funny, silly, chooks. 

At 5.30/6.00 in the morning,  they aren't so lovely.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Small person

My cousin and his lovely wife went away for a week to celebrate a significant birthday.  We looked after their daughter (T), who is 9.  

An interesting week followed.   School, or at least, school rules have changed quite a bit since I was T's age.  I had a pass to enter school grounds, the gate was not unlocked until 8.17,  and was open until 8.40.  I needed adaily pass to permit me to collect my charge at the end of the day,  and her mother and I had visited the school previously so this could all be recorded. .  Homework had to be downloaded from the school's extranet site.   The stuff T was allowed - and not allowed - to take in in her bag was very strict.

I made a spreadsheet to tell me what time to drop her off, what I had to make sure was in her bag for each day,  what time to collect her,  and what after school activities I had to take her to.

It worked well.

I was surprised at the school dress code.  They are uniformed, which is good.  What I wasn't too happy about is that the Girls have to wear skirts in the winter, and summer dresses in the summer/. They are not allowed to wear trousers, unless on religious grounds.  I really think this stinks.   Firstly,  why should girls have to wear skirts/dresses?  Why can't they wear trousers if they want to?   And secondly,  that just makes the girls who wear trousers on religious grounds stand out.   That's not right either.

Still, she's not my daughter, it's not my school, so I didn't say anything.

Getting up in time to be showered before making sure T was up was a shock to the system.  We knew the traffic was going to be bad (major roadworks) but we weren't sure how bad.  Day 1, we arrived and had to sit in the car for 5 minutes before walking to the school gate (there is no parking at the school), and then we still had to wait for the gate to be opened.  Day 2, we left 5 minutes later. Day 3 we intended to leave 5 minutes later still but accidentally left even later...we weren't late but we were later than we liked.     Day 4 and Day 5, we timed it perfectly.

I have no idea how her parents manage with all the after school activities.  We didn't even do them all! Her mum said we didn't have to do any of them, but we did take her to her swimming lesson one day,  and to her horseriding on another.

On the plus side,  my daily step count has been amazing.  And don't my poor feet know it!    I should have taken advantage of it,  but I didn't.. I just stuffed choccy biccies.   Next time, I'll make sure I have healthy snacks ready for me.

I made her a couple of bits while she was here.  Firstly, a little cross-body bag to hold her phone. It has a little zippered purse bit too.

Another day, when she had the sniffles,  I made her a matching zippered tissue pouch to match (but I failed to take a picture).

Finally, I made her a test pair of leggings.  They were OK, but not quite right - so we'll make another pair another time.

She's already invited herself to stay for part of half term, and I'm really pleased that she has.

Thursday, 11 May 2017


We are so very late doing our first preventative spray of the coops for this year.

Things have been a bit up and down, and it's just got pushed back and back and back.  I decided at the weekend that today (Thursday) would be The Day, unless it was raining.

It didn't rain.  I donned my shower cap (to protect me from drip shilst spraying the inside of the shed roof). It took about 2 and a half hours, and the weather was kind to us.  The shed and the two coops were complely emptied, and checked for signs of red mite.  None, thank goodness.

I used the knapsack sprayer to spray everything with Poultry Shield.   While that was drying, I sprayed the nest boxes, and the bits of the Cube, and the roosting bars.  The poo trays were all cleaned and disinfected,  and the drinkers were sterilised too.  

It was non stop.

By the time I'd done my spraying,  and rinsed and refilled the drinkers,  two of the coops were dry enough to be Stalosaned.  WHile I left that to make sure there wasn't any unseen liquid anywhere,  I put the brushes into a bucket with some Milton.      The Stalosan stayed dry,  so I then Diatomed the corners, the crevices,  and all over the place.   Finally,  I put Aubiose in the poo trays and in the nest boxes (along with a bit more Diatom).   By the time that was done, the shed was dry enough, so more Stalosan,  then Diatom.   The nestboxes went back in (Stalosan and Diatomed),  and then the poo trays.  Then Aubiose.

Last year I bought a couple of powder shakers from Flyte So Fancy, and these worked really well for the Satlosan and Diatom.  I've tried numerous things over the years, and these have worked out the best.

When all was done, we hung up new fly papers in the shed.

I was covered in stuff, but I'm so happy its done.

Just the Garden Girls coops to do now.  Sunday.  Weather permitting.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

I've been trying sort myself out and give myself a bit of a kick to get moving instead of mo[ing.

I bit the bullet, and adapted the Blueprint (A1)  I'd made at my recent sewing retreat to make myself a top with a gathered neckline (instead of a bust dart).  I made it in a stretch fabric and, even  so,  I put the original waist and shoulder darts in.

My dart sewing was spot on,  I was really proud.  Unfortunately, I made a couple of silly errors, and I put it down and left it a day or so before I came back to it and attempted to salvage it.

It came out OK, definitely wearable. Bit baggy - or "tunic style" as I am callinh it - but that was to be expected as I didn't adjust the sizing.  The front , back and sleeve were stuck on to Tailor's Card (along with a fabric sample)  for posterity, and clearly labelled as "A2"

I immediately started working on another adaptation, this time removing the waist darts but to leave everything else the same. I then cut out fabric for a second version,  and waited a day to start construction.   I used the same fabric as the first so I could compare and contrast the fit,  without having different fabric potentially blurring things.

I used my coverstitch machine, and it did a grand job of the hems and the sleeves. 

It also came out well enough to be wearable, so I taped the pieces to card and labelled them as A3.

Of course I'll need to trace them off if I want to use them again,  but that's OK.  If I find a fit I really love I'll make a card template.

My next foray will be another adaptation. This time (probably) a sort of peasant-blouse-style neckline.  I'll use a less stretchy fabric, so I'll probably need to use the A2 version of the bodice and maybe just not sew the darts.  It depends how much ease there will be.

I might wait a day or two.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


We had the funeral yesterday.  It went really well (for the type of event it was).

I designed and printed the Orders of Service,  and was really pleased with them.  I had a high quality card cover, with printing and photos on the front and the back. The front had a recent photo, one that my Aunt actually liked.

 The back had a photo from when she was about 21.

 The middle was 120gsm paper, and contained the last photo taken of my Aunt, when she was smiking and happy and healthy, taken just a few days before she died. 
 Thank goodness for having a long-arm stapler.  The end result looked professional, and better than many I'd seen.

My Darling Aunt's surviving brothers and their wives came, and many of the cousins came too.  Lots of My Darling Aunt's friends were there.

We had Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah, possibly my Aunt's all-time favourite song,  as the "going in" music.

My brother did the introduction;   we all sang Abide With Me (which seems to be our family's choice of funeral hymn), and then he handed over to me.

I'd practiced the Eulogy, out loud, many times.  Deep breath. 

It was a long Eulogy, about 15 minutes. Lots of stories and snippets about my Aunt, lots of quotes from people, lots about what she thought about others as well as what they thought about her.   It went well, got a couple of chuckles and some smiles,  as well as many tears. 

I think she would have liked it, and I'm sure she would have appreciated it being delivered by someone who knew her so well.

Those who contributed appreciated that I'd included their words.

We had two minutes quiet time for people to privately remember my Aunt,  and then a Goodbye from my brother - no curtain around the coffin, so people could go and say goodby to my Aunt if they wanted to.

We had Elvis singing The Wonder of You as people said their goodbyes to her.

Afterwards,  a lovely wake.

Just the inquest to go now.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Treading water

I'm treading water, waiting for the funeral I guess. 
I can't believe its only been a week since my last blog entry, it feels like...well...months  actually.   This week has passed in slow motion.

We looked after my cousin's daughter for a couple of days last week. Full on days,  she was lovely.  She's at the age where we can have proper conversations with her, and where she wants to do things.

Then I went to help my cousin pick out some clothes for my Aunt to be cremated in. My Aunt was very particular, and we wanted her to look her best, even though it's not an open coffin.    After a bit of hesitancy, we found the perfect ensemble, and we were both instantly agreed on it.

We deided to take the opportunity to clear most of her clothes out of the wardrobe, and I packed them in to my car to take them to a charity shop or a jumble sale.  It took me a while to decide where to take them and, in the meantime,  the car smells lovely - of her washing powder.

I started to write the Eulogy.  I started by making some notes of my own thoughts, and then grouping them.  Then I made a flow,   and I fleshed out the words.   I spoke to people to say that we were writing the Eulogy, and to give them some time to think.

I fleshed out my words, and eventually read it out loud (in my living room, on my own).    The first time I tried to read my draft, I couldn't get through it.    Several times later, and I could.

Talking to people was lovely, and very draining.  Each time I added in a new story or snippet,  I had to read it out loud over and over to be able to get through it without crying.

It took several days to get through it all.

We had dinner with my cousin and his family on Easter Sunday.  A tough time for them, as their normal Easter tradition revolved around them walking over to my Aunt's house. This was the first big occasion that she wasn't going to be there.   It was a lovely evening.     The kids went out briefly,  asn we took the opportunity for me to read the Eulogy to my cousin and his wife,  and we made the final tweaks.

It's ready now.  I just need to keep reading it out loud, so that I can get through it.  If I can't get through it when I'm on my own, I'll never be able to get through it on the day.

We had my DCD (darling cousin's daughter) again for 2 days this week,  so the clothes are still in my car.  I'll take them to the charity today.

I'm looking forward to the funeral, to seeing my extended family,  to  celebrating my lovely Aunt.  It's like this thing, looming, waiting. It feels like everythign has stopped until this thing is out of the way. 

It feels like we can't get on with the business of learning how to carry on, until the funeral is done.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

And following on...

My lovely MIL is now in hospital, and DH has travelled to see her and his sister.  MIL has Dementia, and this means that the two children may have to invoke their Power of Attorney.  I may write more about this when it's over. 

On the bright side,  the Avian Flu restrictions are being lifted today: the hens can finally go out.  DH mowed thegrass at home before left,  and he also cut the grass outside the allotment.  

The Garden Girls won't be let out until this afternoon.  They haven't felt grass under their feet or tasted grass in their beaks since December last year,   and they will probably try and gorge on it.  

Last night, once the Girls had gone to bed, I started to peg out netting.  I didn't wamt to do it during the day because the Girls would see, and they would know that Something was Going On.  They would get overexcited, and trouble would ensue.

Pegging out netting in the dark isn't that difficult, even without a torch. .   What is difficult, is unrolling netting. SOmething happens with the spikes.  They get caught. It's hard to undo, even when it's daylight.    There was a lot of muttering and a bit of swearing going on in the garden at night.   I managed to put one roll up,  but the second and third rolls are currently abandoned on the ground.    I've decided I'm going to print labels and number each post, as that  would help a bit.  Not in the dark, really,  but at least I'd know what the order of the poles should be when trying to unravel them.

Roll on this afternoon!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Where to start?

It's been a horrible few weeks.

My Darling Aunt was admitted to hospital, for stents and then a pacemaker.  During her spell in hospital, I visited every day. She was her usual happy self, eating well,  making us all laugh.

 After the pacemaker, she was a bit quiet. Not surprising. She'd been through a lot for the previous week or so.  She was discharged the day after the pacemekaer was fitted.

The day after that, she had deteriorated, and we took her to A&E.  She was readmitted to hospital.

It's too soon (it's too painful) to relay what happened over the course of the next 3 days.

She died, unexpectedly, on the Sunday.  Her son and I got to the hospital in time to see her.  The hole she has left in my life, and the life of many others in our family,  is huge.  She was the glue that held our straggly and disparate family together, she was the only person who kept in touch with everyone.   She was such a vibrant, vivacious woman, full of life, full of joy.  She should not have died, and there will be an inquest.

In the meantime, my FIL died.  His death was, in contrast, a relief.  He'd been very ill for a very long time,  and the dying process was long and horribly drawn out.  We'd been waiting (and wishing) for his death for several weeks.   DH had to make several overnight trips in the space of a couple of weeks before the final death and then in the week that followed.

The last couple of weeks has all been about daily hospital visits, dying, deaths, and funerals.  FIL's funeral is now out of the way,   and DA's will be in a couple of weeks.

I've done nothing productive. I have missed acknowledging birthdays (sorry especially to my friend Sandra), I have failed to organise some friend things that I was meant to arrange.

Normal service will be resumed when possible. 

Monday, 27 March 2017


Our Allotmenteers have been under cover since the beginning of December.

You may remember that we hastily erected some Heras fencing,  covered the top and sides with netting, and then covered that with a tarpaulin.  This meant that the Allotmenteers had a reasonable sized area in which to range,  whilst still being protected from wild birds.    The tarpaulin was huge and, for it's size, relatively inexpensive.  We knew it wouldn't last that long in the harsh winter weather, but it would do.

The Restrictions continued and, unsurprisingly,  the tarpaulin started to show some signs of wear.  Wear and, literally, tear.    It held.  When the Restrictions were extended again,  we looked at whether we could rearrange things and their area. 

We decided on a course of action, and did some preparation over the last week.   Then, yesterday,  after strong winds, DH discovered that the enormous-and-relatively cheap tarpaulin now had some huge tears in it, and needed replacing.

The forecast for today was warm, dry, sunny.  So, we arrived at the allotment at about 10am.   We set to work.   At 3.30pm, we'd had enough.   The area has been extended, adding a huge extra area under netting.    DH turned some of the Heras panels on end to make A frames, to give more of an angle for the 'roof'.   Everywhere was netted.  Coops were rearranged to fit.

We opened up the new, netted, area as soon as possible so that the  Girls and Henry were out of the way of all the other activity.  They were so  excited to be "out".   They haven't been out in direct sunlight properly since December.   (They have natural light coming through the sides, but the roof has been covered in a blue tarp meaning they haven't really seen the sky).

With the tarp off temporarily,  today meant that the ground was warm.  The netting cast a lovely dappled shade, and (apart from the lack of grass) the whole area was relatively pleasant.  The Girls took advantage of the warm ground,  and dust bathing parties popped up all over the place.

A little later on, a favourite spot was established, and Henry decided to dust bathe.  His Girls took it in turns to share the bath with him, and at one point there were  6 of them crowded in to one spot.   This is him where some of the Girls were swapping over....

We didn't get the new, clear, tarp back on befire we had to leave,  but everything else was finished.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Going bananas

I learned a lesson today.

I got mugged.

Never, ever, walk into the chicken run with a banana.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Mad Veg Woman

Since lockdown started, I've been spending a small fortune on green vegetables for the Girls.

We see the Allotmenteers every two days (we alternate with Other Chap), and we take down four, five, six vegetables each time.   Usually it's from the limited range from our local CoOp (so caluliflower, white cabbage or swede). Sometimes its from a bigger supermarket (as CoOp but also Savoy cabbage, spring greens, red cabbage).

Our Garden Girls get 2 (sometimes 3) items every 2 days, and that's to make sure they waste as little as possible.

We drill holes in the vegetables, put string in, and then hang them up.  This means the Girls get their greens, but take a bit longer to do so.  It helps alleviate boredom that way,  as well as being good for them.

3 cabbages, a white cabbage, and a cauli.

The ladies in the local CoOp have never asked me what I do with the mountain of vegetables that I buy every 2 days.  I think they probably assume I'm making soup. Or something.

If I'm shopping at my supermarket of choice I use a hand scanner and scan everything as I go.

If I'm using a competitor, I don't have that option.   At the larger supermarkets, I do find the assistants tend to Look at me.  Some ask.  Most don't.  I've started to use the self checkout at the end, just to avoid the Look.  

When I first tried to do self checkout, I had problems with the vegetables that needed weighing.  You have to select the vegetable from a drill down menu on the screen.  I was choosing them on screen before I put them on the scale, and it took me a couple of goes (each time requiring a reset by an assistant) before I realised they needed to be on the scale before I told the machine what they were.     It also occurred to me, after going through the menu to find "white cabbage" for the fifth cabbage,  that I could just put all the white cabbages on the scale at once.   That's what I do now.

Last week I stopped at the enormous supermarket near my Chiropracter.  It was Wednesday I think (and I need to remember).    They had *loads* of vegetables, all dramatically reduced.  Well, reduced from about £1 each to somewhere between 49p and 69p.  It soon adds up).

I filled my little trolley with cauliflowers, spring greens, white cabbage, savoy cabbage.   I made sure that I didn't take all of them (although I was tempted!),  I took plenty that were "on the turn", and I left plenty for others who might need them.I still  had enough to cover me for 2 Allotment visits.

I'm assuming that they must be the vegetables that were left over from the weekend.  I might try going to some of the big supermarkets near me midweek to see if that's a  common thing.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Pain in the Neck

I've had back and neck pain for longer than I can remember.   It's mostly intermittent now, but every so often I hace a flare up. Over the years I've tried all sorts of gizmos to try and help.  
I've had backstretchers that look like a curved abacus. A imilar laddery neck stretcher.

Some years ago I bought a newer type of back device, called a FlexiBak. This really helped.  Unlike the abacus thing,  each individual piece moves independently,  and the exercises were simple rocking ones.  The improvement I see when I use it is much greater than the small amount of input it takes.

The only downside is that I have to lie on the floor to use it, and often I just couldn't be bothered to get all the way down there and all the way back up again.

I do still use it when I'm in pain, though.

What actually works is regular visits to see my Chiro,  fso that problems can be tackled before they get serious,  and massages in between.

Sometimes though, I still get neck problems - usually if I've been working in one position for a long time,  or I've been overdoing it on my tablet, or if I have a migraine attack.    During one such occurrence a few months ago,  I came across something oon Kickstarter called a C Rest. 

Because I was in pain at the time, and I was desperately trying to massage my neck to release the pressure,  I could see how the C-Rest might help me.  I particularly liked the idea that it could be used while I was sitting in a chair,  and so I backed it.

It arrived today.

I'm not sure about it.  I've had a quick go (I even lay on the floor to try it),  and I'm not sure.
I'm going to try it again later.  And I'll take it to my next Chiro appointment (not for another 5 weeks!) to see what my Chiro thinks about it.

We'll see.

How do they do that?

My chooks love yoghurt.  Natural, live yoghurt.

They don't get it very often. In harsh weather, I might mix some into their warm pellet porridge; if an individual is looking under the weatherm they might get a bit;  sometimes I use it to dispense Flubenvet, that sort of thing.

I'd had a  rare yoghurt-making fail yesterday morning.  I'd ended up with something of a "drinking yoghurt" consistency,  and there was far too much of it for me to drink.    I poured some into small plastuc "coop cups" and put it out for the chooks.   They all dived in.

When I went out later to give them their afternoon corn,  I was amazed to see that the coop cups were completely clean. 

 How did they do that?

I don't just mean they'd eaten it all,  I mean the cups were clean. Like they'd been licked out.  Chooks don't lick.

They have beaks.  They can only peck at stuff.  With liquidy stuff, they stick their beaks in, grab some between the upper and lower beak.

It's like trying to pick up yoghurt with chopsticks

And yet.... the cups were clean.

How did they do that?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Mothers Day cards

It seems like absolutely ages since I made anything.  It is absolutely ages.

My machine was fine, didn't even need a service.  I'd got some fluff caught in the tension discs, and now she's working perfectly again.   

I made a couple of bits for the DGDs' birthdays, A cute sheepy pencil topper for S,  a bunny pencil topper for G.   I made some treat bags for them (again, a sheep and a rabbit), but I had a minor glitch with the sheep... the treat wouldn't fit in.  So I decided to turn them into cards instead.  I had everything wrapped and in the parcel before I realised I hadn't taken a picture.

I've also made cards for our mums for Mothers Day at the weekend.  

I made the Westie one first, it looks deceptively simple.  It's a really clever design.  I decided to try a variegated thread for the first time, and used it for the lettering.  It's OK, buy not as impactful as I was hoping.

 It was harder to pick a design for my lovely mum in law, but in the end I chose something quite colourful.   At the last minute, I decided to try another new variegated thread for the lettering.   I really like the effect, and I wish I'd used that on the Westie in my Mum's card.     I'll definitely be using it again.

The machine worked beautifully, and making these cards reminded me why I like her so much.

Friday, 10 February 2017


We have several large "bankers boxes" of 'memorabilia' in the loft.  

The other day when I was up there lookin gofr the sewing machine box (to send it off for service), I had to move one of them. The cardboard cut-out handle couldn't take the weight, and the box ripped.     Moving the contents to another bankers box would only result in a repeat performance,  so I bought some different sized boxes to try.

I've bought some small, sturdy, lidded boxes.  Size A re A4 footprint,  size B are A4+half again.  I also bought some "transfer boxes", which turned out to be more flimsy than I expected.  So, I shoved a load of them in the loft hatch, and then last night I went to start separating the memorabilia.

The box burst completely when I removed it from the shelf, so I had to try and do it while I was up there.

I used a size A box to house "cards".  Cards to me from Geoff, to Geoff from me,  and some cards from other people.  I didn't dwell on them - I can dwell another time, when I review that particular box,

I put letters (like letters from the step children) into a transfer box.  I stopped myself from reading them.  Again, I can read them when I review that particular box next time.

I put photos into another transfer box. I tried to flick through them as I put them in, putting some to one side to bring downstairs to make sure I had a scanned copy (some of them are 36 years old).   Two transfer boxes fit precisely into a Size A,  3 into a Size B. 

The "other memorabilia" was put in a pile. I need to see what sort of stuff it is, so I can decided how to handle it.   Some bits - like my step daughters school reports - I put to one side to give to her. 

A small amount of stuff was thrown away.  

After about an hour, I couldn't take the cold anymore, so I gave up.  I scanned the photos, and sent electronic copies to the relevant people.   I also had some photos where I am going to give the subjects the actual photo and just keep the electronic versions for myself.  These were mostly pics of the children from the various holidays we had,  but I also found some of my parents' long-deceased dogs.





I'm going to go and finish that particular box now, wonder what else I'll find?

At some point in the not too distant future, I will do the same with the other memorabilia boxes.  Not just now though.

Thursday, 9 February 2017


The Garden Girls are getting fractious.

I'm not surprised, t They've been on lockdown for two months now.

At the beginning, there was some squabbling and bad tempered pecking.  After about a week, things settled down and they stopped screeching to be let out.   We keep the run supplied with plenty of hanging treats:  at least 2 green vegetables, a swede,  3 peckablocks.   The run  is is F shaped, and has (technically) enough floor space for goodness knows how many hens.   It has long shelf perches at different heights,  plus a wooden garden chair and two nestboxes, which together give them plenty of opportunity for getting - and keeping - out of each others way.

We also have both Cubes open and accessible, plus the two aforementioned nestboxes, so that if there are you're-not-coming-in-here problems, they have plenty of choice of where to sleep.

Last week, the comb on  Fleur (my young Cuckoo Marans) returned to its gorgeous vivid red, and she started to lay. Not every day, but she was laying nonetheless.   Over the last couple of days I've seen the combs start to redden on the others and, along with it, we've started to have some unsettled behaviours.

There's been a lot more...whingeing.    We've had some hen-crowing.  We've had squawking, as Poppy chases the two smallest girls.    Today, they have been vocal almost non stop.

Spring is in the air,  and the Girls are feeling the pressure of being confined.

I've tried explaining to them how lucky they are. How light and airy their run is,  how much space they have each. How lucky they are to have on-tap cabbage, cauliflower, swede and peckablocks.   I've told them about otherhens, shut in sheds, or in hastily contructed pens.

They don't care.  They want out. And they don't care who knows it.

Lockdown continues until 28th February - and there is no guarantee that the restrictions will be lifted then.

DEFRA has agreed some respite for free range birds (who will otherwise lose their free range status), in certain areas, with very strict conditions.    This will, I expect, be misinterpreted by hobby keepers, not least because there are huge numbers of  areas classed as "high risk", hundreds of miles away from the outbreaks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


....get on with some sewing.

I've done nothing since the beginning of January.

I thought that, without my embroidery machine, I'd get on wth sewing some clothes...but no. No inspiration.  It's ridiculous.

I have a top cut out, ready to overlock. It's been waiting since just before Christmas. 

I have an almst finished top on my mannequin, waiting to be hemmed. 

I've got my abandoned duvet cover folded up and put on the side.  

I've got the pieces for a skirt cut out, but I wanted to wait until I'd made some leggings to wear underneath.  I bought some crushed velvet to make another skirt, also waiting for leggings.  And I can't/won't make the leggings until I've made my final trouser pattern. The last one was so close, but not quite right/

I just have no enthusiasm for it.

I thought that it would come back of its own accord.    It didn't.

I thought last week's my long-awaited trip to the fabric shop on the way home from my parents would inspire me to get started.  It hasn't.

So, yesterday,  I ceared the kitchen table.... and set it up for fabric-ing.  It's covered in cuting mats.  I retrieved my notions (bit and pieces you need for sewing) from  their pre-Christmas-clearance-strorage -place (a box under my bed), and put them on the table.

It's ready.  It's waiting. Will it call me in to action?


I was having one of those weeks. You know the sort. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong.  I broke this, I dropped that.  The shop servicing my machine didn't.  The washing machine failed.

Of course the washing machine didn't really fail,  I did.  I went in to empty it, and saw that it was full of suds.  Like in the cartoons.   The machine wouldn't (or couldn't) drain, and I couldn't get the door open.   I got a bowl and, being an old hand at this sort of thing, some newspaper and old towels,  and opened up the bottom drain hose.  I drained the little water in the machine, checked the filter, and found nothing.

I put the machine on rinse, to try and get some water in.  Then I drained it. I couldn't hear the pump. The water was exiting the drum, but the pump wasn't working.  On the plus side,  I was able to pop open the door.   I emptied the suds out by jug, until I realised that I was putting a jug already half full of suds back in the machine.    I used my hands instead.

When I'd cleared out most of it,  I tried the partial rinse and drain again.   I got the manual, I'd already done what it said as the first thing to check (filter).  It's next suggestion was a kink in the hose.   This seemed highly unlikely - there is a shelf above the machine and there isn't any way that anything could get there to kink the hose.  My guess was that the pipes were so full of suds that the machine couldn't do anything, and that the best thing would be to wait a few hours for the suds to pop.

Still, I though I should check.I'd hate to wait a few hours and then find there was a kinky hose after all.

I heaved out the machine.  There was no kink, but there was a load of stuff behind there.  I hoiked it out, by balancing on top of the machine and stretching my arm so much that I though I  would pop it from its socket.  Then I got a broom handle.  Then I got the vaccuum cleaner, which works quite well for picking up large objects and holding them until I can retriev them from the brush.  Small objects -not so much. I'm sure I didn't want them anyway.

I left the machine to sort itself out.

Several hours later, I tried again with my rinse program, stop, drain..and this time the pump kicked in to action.    After a couple of goes,  there was no longer any suds in the drum.

I put the machine on - empty - on a quick wash cycle, with nothing else. .   There were an alarming number of suds,  presumably recalled from drum,  so I was pleased that I'd given it a run through with nothing in.

And then it was OK.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Birthdays and stuff

I've been away for a couple of days, visting my parents.  It's my Mum's birthday,  so my brothers stayed at a nearby B&B.  Our respective partners weren't able to come, each for a different reason.

We had a family tea on Sunday, and it was lovely for us to be together.  A pleasant evening, and then back to our usual B&B.  We saw them the next morning,  then DB1 had to depart.   DB2 and I tool mum and dad for a lovely homestyle lunch, and then we collected a new combi oven for them, which mum had just bought. Her previous, and rather ancient, one had given up the ghost a few days beforehand.

The afternoon was more chatting,  and for 'tea' we had some Christmas Cake which I'd taken with me. I had thought about trying to pass it off as a birthday cake, but that would have been disingenuous/

We had booked a second night at the B&B, and so it was another relaxed evening. We popped along the following morning, and finally left at about 1.30 to start our journey home. 

We were coming home the long way, so that we could go via Swansea. My brother came fabric shopping with me, even buying some with the intention of doing a few home makes himself.     We took a while, and it was rush hour when we left.   We might as well have stayed in the shop for longer. Or gone somewhere to eat.

We stopped at some services. Quick wee.  It was almost deserted.   Pick up a sandwich and some crisps in M&S, and get a Costa Coffee.  How long could that take?

DB went off to get the coffees while I paid for the food.  The Costa in the entrance was just closing, so he had to go to the main one.  I joined him.  There was a short queue in front of us.  I don't know how it can take quite so long to deal with so few customers.   There were two baristas, and I wondered if there was a hidden camera somewhere.   There was one person after us in the queue, then no one..  We paid for our order and joined the queue waiting for the coffees to be made.  

The Baristas worked hard to avoid catching the last man's eye.   Thet walked up and down fetching things, and neither of them had the customer service skill to look at him and say'sorry about the wait Sir, I'll be with you as soon as I can'.   The chap was getting a bit fed up (I was getting fed up on his behalf).   I could see that he wanted to walk off...but there was no where else to go.

Eventually, we got our coffees.  Our 5 minutes (which we had expected to be about 15 really, allowing for queing) was over 40 minutes.

Monday, 23 January 2017


Some time ago (September 2015) I bought an Instant Pot.  I was a member of a very active Thermomix group, which often started buying crazes.   One of those crazes was the Instant Pot, and the new DUO 7 in one had just come out.   I delayed a long time, mainly because I already had a good quality stovetop pressure cooker (which actually cost more than the Ipot) and I couldn't really justify the purchase to myself.

In the end, and in the face of an irresistable Costco offer,  I jumped in.  I felt really sheepish when I brought the box in from the car.

Luckily, Ivan was and is a success.    I sold my stovetop pressure cooker, which partially funded the purchase

Not only is he a fab pressure cooker,  but he is also a good slow cooker.  I had no previous experience of slow cookers, so I can't say he is better than any other slow cooker. Except that I can brown stuff in Ivan, which I don't think you can do in most slow cookers.

I also use him to make yoghurt, at least once a week.  I used to use a saucepan and a flask.  Ivan is a bit more convenient, and I don't tend to forget about a batch of yoghurt when he's sitting on my worktop with "Yogt" on his display. Not that I've ever left a flask of yoghurt in the airing cupboard (cough, cough).

I don't use all his functions: I don't use his rice cooker functionality - I have no problems cooking rice, and a saucepan is just as easy.  I don't tend to use him as a non-pressure steamer, as I find a saucepan and steamer just as easy and no more/less washing up.

I've tried lots of recipes that I probably wouldn't have tried in my stovetop. That's because I keep getting recipes in my news feeds.  Lots of delicious asian recipes with pork;   pressure cooker cheesecakes;   lots of slow cooker recipes for stews (where I previously would have used long slow cooking in the oven).  

I've also used him to make hard boiled eggs (or firmish boiled eggs for scotch eggs) and, genuinely, they are easier to peel when done that way.   I wouldn't use him to pressure cook boiled eggs for instant consumption - it seems a lot quicker (and less washing up) to just use a saucecepan.

He's in use many times a week,  and he's actually overtaken Thermy as my most-used item. I had to get a spare bowl for him, as I often use him for multiple things in a day.

I bought an Ivan for my mum. When I was a child, my mum was an early adopter of pressure cooking. She had one of those tall Prestige pressure cookers.  She physically wouldn't be able to use a stovetop pressure cooker now, but I thought she might find an Ivan helpful.   To my surprise,  she loves him and seems to use him a lot!

I see they've now bought out a bigger version.  I won't be upgrading,  the current size is fine for the two of us.  It'd be fine for four of us really.

I see also that they've rought out a SousVide option for him.  We already have a similar device, from something DH backed on Kickstarter a few years ago,  so I can't see us switching.  

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Gentle soul

Fleur, my Cuckoo Marans, is a very gentle soul.

She arrived a tthe age of about 6 weeks old, 18 months ago along with Fay the Fayoumi,  as replacements for a bird that turned out to be a boy.  She grew to be quite a large bird,  at least as large as Poppy and Gloria (my Welsh Blacks).

She didn't - and doesn't -  really understand the whole pecking order thing.  The three youngsters obviously had their order sorted out from a young age.  When we introduced them to the Big Girls, Poppy and Gloria were great advocates of the Pecking Order,  and would Peck at every opporunity.  The pecks seemed to bounce off Fleur, she almost didn't notice them.

Fleur mixed in both flocks.    Poppy and Gloria didn't want her in their flock,  but Fleur attempted to join them anyway, ignoring the hail of pecks.

Everything was fine, until they moulted last Autumn.  Suddenly I noticed that Fleur was frightened of Sasha (the tiny Appenzeller).   Even now, when they are all fullu feathered, I can see it. I Whenever Sasha comes anywhere near Fleur, Fleur runs (and Sasha chases).    I think Sasha must have had a bit of a go at Fleur when Fleur was in an oven ready state, and I susepct it was a bit of a shock.   Now I suspect their behaviour is habit.

With the Big Girls,  Fleur will stop whatever she is doing, and turn her head away.   For example,  Fleur can be happily attepting to eat fromt he swinging cauliflower.  If Poppy or Gloria turn up,  Fleur stops eating, and turns away.  She doesn't leave,  she just turns away, and stands still.  Poppy/Gloria then has their fill of the cauliflower and move off.  As soon as the coast is clear,  Fleur turns back and starts eating.

DH recently repaired the camera in the Run and today I watched them for a while.  Same behaviour.

Makes me a little sad. She's such a gentle soul.

I don't have any recent pics of her - here's one from when she was very very younf (no comb or wattles!)

Friday, 20 January 2017

Winter sun

Another fabulous day.  Bitterly cold - I don't like being cold - but lots of sunshine.    The garden is covered in a thick frost, even now at 10am, and it's sparkling everywhere.

We have a concrete mixer in the garden (we really must move that, it's rusting away poor thing), and there is steam rising from it as the rost is melting and the water is evaporating.  The grass looks like it's covered in little diamonds, as the frost turns to droplets, and the droplets refract the sunlight.

The Girls aren't overly happy.  I made them some pellet porridge today, which they loved.   I spent some time in the Run with them yesterday. I took some raisins out with me (they haven't had raisins before) to reward them for letting me pick them up and stroke them.  I wanted to give each Girl a once over, to make sure everything is still OK.  It is.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Suck it up

It's been a week for things breaking or going wrong.

This monring I put Raymondo, our robot vacuum cleaner, to work in the bedroom.  He spun round a few times, and then gave out  his oh-oh sound and stopped.  Usually when he's in trouble, he speaks a helpful error message, for example "Please clean Roomba's brushes".

Today, there was  no message at all.

I cleaned all the brushes anyway, and took the front castor out to clean that too.  When I popped it back in, it wasn't rolling correctly, and it looks like the plastic holder has broken. I'm guessing that's the trouble.

At least it's easy enough to buy a replacement part. It hasn't always been the case.

He's 8 years old now, and very battle scarred.
When we first bought Raymondo, he was top of the range.  Accessories (like brushes and filters) were hard to get  and spares were impossible and had to be imported from the US.   Accessibility to these things improved as robot vacuums became more common.

He's had 2 replacememnt batteries (the newest one was a lot more efficient), and  we also replaced the brush head module which (apparently) effectively upgraded him. His ability to clean, already excellent, became outstanding. 

He used to be our main vacuum cleaner (up until I bought my first stick Dyson), and he was set on a timer to clean the downstairs while we were out.  I retired him for a while, the Dyson was so easy to use.  I found that Raymondo cleaned under the bed with less hassle than when I did it, so I brought him back into service, and he now lives upstairs. .  He does a fab job on both the solid floors and the carpet.    We no longer have him set on a timer - our ailing cat spends much time asleep on the landing, and she hates Raymondo.  We don't want to disturb her, so Raymond is set to work manually.  He's  also parked in a cubby hole, and he's not able to get himself in and out, so the auto thing isn't possible.

His main duty is our bedroom and the landing.  Izzy (the aforementioned ailing cat) is nto able to groom herself properly, and sheds an incredible amount of fur.   It gets everywhere, despite daily brushing by us. Raymondo does this beautifully.

Actually, I might move Raymondo and base plate into our bedroom.  I could then put him back on automatic daily duties.  Why didn't I think of that before?  That has the added bonus of freeing up the cubby hole/

Hopefully the new castor will arrive quickly.

And hopefully it'll solve the problem.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Stocking up

I dropped my air rifle on to the hard floor atthe gun club, and I've broken the stock.   Not a little break.  A big break, the stock is in several pieces.

Unfixable. Silly, expensive, mistake.

Fortunately, it's possible to buy a replacement stock, and DH will be able to fit it.

And fortunately I have enough left in my "unexpected expenditure" pot to cover it.  (I hadn't really expected to use up the pot quite this early in the year, but I guess that's the nature of such things).  

Monday, 16 January 2017


I've been having some problems with my embroidery machine.    A myriad of birthdays this month, and the machine has been playing up.  Since the beginning of the month I've been working through all the usual known causes and, in the end, I just couldn't fix it.

I contacted Janome to see about sending her off for a service.  No problem, except I have to organise and pay for the sending courier.  That came to a horrendous some of money - more than the cost of the service, in fact - so that was a no-no.  It would have been cheaper for me to drive to Stockport,  deliver the machine, stay overnight, and drive home again.

There is a Janome approved engineer relatively close to me, so I phoned them on Friday and took my machine in today.    She's going to be away for a while - ten days probably - which is something of a shame.  I Pollyanna'd myself by concentrating on the fact that I was glad I'd taken her in - , if I hadn't, she wouldn't be useable anyway.

Everyone this month is getting shop bought cards,  and it means I won't be able to make the little rabbit pouch for DGD4's present. (She got a Rabbit from her parents for Christmas. I've bought her a little necklace, and I was going to make a rabbit shaped pouch to wrap it in. Never mind). I'm glad because.... it's less work for me.

In the meantime, I might try and do some clothes sewing.  I'm not quite in the mood, but I'm getting there.
And maybe I'll be glad my embroidery machine went away, because it'll make me concentrate on clothes.  Maybe.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Oh, Vienna

We were watching Rick Stein's series about weekends away.    The ones on Berlin and Vienna  were particularly interesting as - many years ago now - we holidayed a lot in Germany and Austria.  Rumpsteak mit Zwiebeln (steak with specially cooked onions) was a particular favourite of mine, although I had forgotten all about it until the programme.

When we saw the part about Gulasch and Spätzle,we decided we'd have to try making both.  The Gulasch was easy (although the method Rick used on the programme was different to the method given on the programme website).

Pic from DaringGourmet blog. Our spatzle were mych mor irregular
Google helped us with finding an authentic Spätzle recipe.    I liked this lady's recipe, mainly because of her writing style and her pics.  Just scroll past the info about her home town.

I meant to halve the quantities for the Spätzle.  This went well until I stopped concentrating, and ended up adding a full amount of milk.  I then had to go back and add in the dry ingredients again, and we could see that we were going to have a lot of noodles.

I watched a video of someone using a board and knife to make the Spätzle.  I also saw someone using something which looked suspiciously like a potato ricer.   We don't have one of those, we were planning to use the colander method, as Rick had done in the programme.  Then  I remembered we had a mouli in the cupboard, and that seemed to be ideal. We had the right sized holes, and the winder would be much easier than trying to scrape dough through the bottom of a colander.  Result!

Or not.  The mouli was a complete failure.

The colander method was painful, but it worked.  We boiled all the noodles,  using only about a third of them, heated in butter,  to serve with the Gulasch.  Both were lovely.

The remainder was divided into one portion for the fridge and one portion for the freezer.   

Pic from DaringGourmet's blog post for Kasespatzle
The next day, we had Käsespätzle which is spaztzle, caramelised onions and cheese, layered and baked in the oven.   Because we'd liked her Spatzle recipe, we followed the same lady's  recipe for Käsespätzle

Another winner!

The third lot, currently in the  freezer, we intend to cook until crispy.  No idea what we'll serve them with,

Definitely delicious, and we'll definitely make again.   I will probably buy a ricer to make them, but I'll wait until we're actually going to make them before I purchase.

I might see if I can find a recipe for the Steak mit Zwiebeln.  It must be 25 years since I've eaten it.


Complete loss of creative mojo, so no sewing or embroidery since before Christmas.   Many looming birthdays forced me to create some card designs,  which my machine refused to sew withour birdnesting. I am sick of rehooping and redoing as I work through all the possible causes and fixes.

Rethread machine.
Use different thread.
Rethread bobbin.
Clean the bobbin race
Clean under the bobbin race.
Change bobbin.
New needle.
Different design.
Change the bobbin race
Different stabilisers (tearaway, cutaway, vinyl, filmoplast)
Different hoops
Go in to the "here be dragons" part of the machine to get out any bits of thread
Clean the threading route with dental floss
Try adjusting the (automatic) tension
Threading according to the manual (with presser foot down)
Threading according to popular wisdom (presser foot  up)

It took me several days to get through it all - I got fed up quite easily, and suffered from CBA (can't be a**ed - ahem - bothered).     I think it's a tension problem, and I may have to just take it in to get it serviced.  I'm going to try using a different thread stand, but I've had enough of today.

I keep looking at the fabric I cut out to make a wrap top, but I'm just not in the mood.   I've got anearly-finished top on my dressform, waiting for me to finish the sleeves and hem,  I just have no enthusiasm for it (despite getting a feeling of pride when I walk past it).    I've got stacks of knit fabric to have a go at making some leggings,  and I've got a pile of funky fabrics to make some lovely skirts to wear over the leggings.   

I just can't get interested enough to even get started. Maybe it's the weather?

I'm going to have to go and buy some birthday cards, as I'm nearly out of time.