After almost a year in the new house, we’ve more or less found out what’s in the garden.

We knew about the apple tree, but we didn’t know we had a plum tree as well. This was a pity because by the time we discovered it, the birds had eaten most of the plums!

We planted out about ten runner bean plants. Beloved wanted to grow some up the apple tree and the holly tree (I know, don’t ask. . . .) I chose the fence, and the dead tree in the sunny border. Those under the apple tree hardly fruited – too much shade. Those on the holly tree did OK, though a little awkward to pick.

Those on the fence did fairly well, but those on the dead tree did excellently. So I have about four bags of cut-up par-boiled runner beans in the freezer. This is not counting the ones we gave away to family and neighbours.

We’re still eating the beetroot leaves as salad, but the roots are very tiny still.

The cabbages were stupendous. At least, the snails and caterpillars thought so. I hope they enjoyed them. We certainly didn’t. We couldn’t see them for holes. Next year we’ll have to put them in a cage like the blueberries (good crop of those this year).

After that, we got busy sorting the house (and shed) so harvesting took a back seat. All we did was gather a couple of bags of apples and make two ice-cream tubs of apple puree. Then we did nothing at all about the apples until today.

In spite of snow and frost, we still have apples, although most are under the tree rather than on it.

Today, I peeled and cored a pan full of apples to puree in order to try the American delicacy of ‘Apple Butter’. I’m not yet entirely convinced that it’s anything more than a thick apple puree, but we shall see. I will transfer that to the slow cooker later tonight, along with a bit of sugar and cinnamon.

Meanwhile the skin and cores of the above-mentioned apples were covered with water and cooked to within an inch of their lives. Then all was bundled into one of those jelly sieves and left to drip. I now have four jars of rosy apple jelly. It looks lovely.

If the apple butter turns out OK I think I’ll make more and use the leftovers for apple jelly.

Still to come, from our country garden, are the leeks (looking reasonable) and the puny beetroot. Oh, and the kale.

Not enough to live on, but it all makes life very pleasant.

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We’ve been in the new house for 6 months now and – due to the continual flow of visitors – have actually got most of the unpacking done and the rooms organised.

Living in the country is such fun. Neighbours and friends keep coming round with things to eat, much to my Beloved’s joy. In the spring, our immediate neighbours brought us rhubarb. We didn’t have the heart to tell them we had discovered some of our own in the garden. We shall give them of our beans when they appear (we have about 10 plants dotted around the garden).

Other friends and neighbours have left cabbage, kale and onions on the doorstep, or called round with bags of potatoes and large a large marrow.

Compared to this generosity, our own garden produce seems a bit puny. We had enough cherry tomatoes to keep the latest batch of visitors fed. But we have only a small amount of kale and spinach, a few beetroot leaves that haven’t been ravaged by the caterpillars, some cabbage and broccoli leaves and a few windfall apples – oh, not to mention the 6 strawberries that the birds managed to miss (and a small bowl of blueberries because we protected those bushes from the birds).

And I made a couple of jars of jam from the gooseberry crop.

During the good, sunny days we have been walking, or have driven to more distant towns to see what’s there.

In spite of the large amount of fabric I have, it seems I have acquired a whole lot more. I don’t know how that happened <innocent whistle>

And we have a new batch of visitors coming the week after next. Honestly, I never knew things were so busy and hectic in the country. . . .

Finally we have a house of our own!

We discovered it before Christmas and were moved in by the end of January. Now it’s May and we’ve just about emptied all our boxes and acquired all the necessary furniture.

We have an old Victorian house with enough room for me to have a sewing room / craft room. I truly didn’t realise how much fabric and wool I have. I must get busy making things for the home! That is, if I can stop so many people visiting. Everyone wants to see the new house.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have enthused so much about the view (fields of sheep, old church, smattering of cottages, etc).

We also have a garden, which means I can let my inner ‘Country Lass’ out again. Currently the apple tree is in blossom. As are the strawberries. We planted broccoli, cabbage and spinach. The beetroot look a bit weedy, but the tomatoes are going strong. We just have to see if I can beat the slugs and snails. Thankfully slug pellets seem to work.

And we have a huge amount of rhubarb, so I need to get my recipes out and see how I can preserve some. Or maybe I’ll make rhubarb cordial.

I made some more ‘socks of joy’ (see earlier post) and graciously gave them to Mother for her birthday. I’m now making baby booties. No, there’s no baby up and coming – I just decided to do something small and quick to help the local Craft Club raise money for charity.

Last year I found a place where the wild garlic grows. And there are wild raspberries by the river.

I can’t wait to get back into country ways.

It has been many long years since I last wrote this blog.

Having spent too long in a little two-up two-down terraced house, Beloved and I slowly got rid of our excess ‘stuff’ after downsizing from the farm. Unfortunately, we also acquired new stuff, at an alarming rate. Naturally, this culminated in another house move. Back to the country! Yay! …and back to getting rid of stuff.

We found a lovely house to move to, but somebody bought it before we could make an offer, so we are currently renting. The rented house is large (4 bedrooms) but with a tiny garden (thus no shed space for my Beloved to keep his tools).

But we’re on the lookout for a house to buy and get to see around all kinds of properties in our search. Most have been too small for us, or too damp for us, or on the verge of collapse. Some have been glorious – but someone else got an offer in before we could. But our house will come!

Meanwhile, the important thing is that I’m a Country Lass again.

We’re in a little village surrounded by countryside. Occasionally we even come across a road so seldom used that grass is growing down the middle. The village has shops (enough for what we need) including a fabric/wool/craft shop, so I’m well catered for!

I sit here in front of the open fire, with a glass of wine and I can see the birds nesting on the chimney of the house over the road. I think they tried our chimney first, judging by the number of twigs that came tumbling down into the fireplace, but there’s a bird guard on top so they were finally persuaded to move to better premises.

We’re not quite in a place for roadkill here, but it’s only been 6 months and we’ve managed to get down to just ONE freezer so there’s hardly even room for a rabbit.

We’ve only been in the rental house for a month (we stayed with Mother for a while) and already I’m tired out. Before we could move all our stuff in, we had to paint the two bedrooms in the attic. Even though we painted them magnolia, they will still be known as ‘the red room’ and ‘the blue room’. Originally they were painted so dark (including the ceilings) that you couldn’t tell the lights were on!

There are boxes everywhere. And when I say ‘everywhere’ I mean it. Some are in the house, some are in storage in town – and some are with friends where we used to live! And yet more are in storage where we used to live. Oh, and some are still in Mother’s garage (she moved with us, but she found a house before we did).

You can bet that as soon as I get everything straight, the perfect house will come on the market and I’ll have to pack it all up again.

There’s a Craft Club in town that I go to. I knitted more socks and the ladies said I should enter them for the village show. It sounds like such an English thing to do, so perhaps I will. So far, I haven’t had time or opportunity to do anything else like jams – or even cakes – but that’s because for ages I had the Kenwood on the worktop but had no idea where the bowl was!

But I’ll soon be back into country living, just you wait and see.

Country Lass

I’m so excited – I just made my own butter!

If I had realised it was so easy, I would have done it before.

Of course, all this was sparked by the incredible rise in the price of butter lately. Once upon a time I could get it for 89p for 250g. Not any more. Now it’s £1.10 for the cheapest.

I learned you can make butter from double cream, but that seemed just as expensive. Then I had this brainwave (or something…) In the depths of our outdoor freezer, which is still heaving with venison and pheasant roadkill, lurked a couple of cartons of whipping cream. I bought them some time ago – at £1 for a 1 litre carton, it was too good a bargain to miss. But we don’t often use THAT much cream at a time, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with them.

So then I thought, “Butter!”

OK, so I know whipping cream isn’t exactly double cream, but it’s pretty thick so I thought it might work. I defrosted one carton.

When I came to pour out the defrosted cream, I couldn’t. It was VERY thick and yellowish, looking almost like butter already. I tasted it and it tasted fine (and I didn’t drop dead).

So out came the trusty Kenwood with its whisk attachment. I read on the Internet that you simply over-whisk the cream until it suddenly goes all sloppy. That sounded easy.

I did find something to cover the bowl was a good idea…some of the cream escaped, but I licked it up (it was on my arms, OK? And I was not going up to shower at this point!)

It was true! After about 6 or 7 minutes of whisking, the cream looked a bit like yellow cottage cheese – and then suddenly went all sloshy and looked like yellow cottage cheese floating in milk (buttermilk!!)

I strained the buttermilk into a bowl (gotta use that in one of my baking recipes) and tipped the butter back into the Kenwood bowl.

Using a spatula, I brought it all together in a more coherent lump. It looked very much like butter. My next job was to get all the buttermilk out.

This meant sloshing in COLD water from the tap (don’t want to melt the butter and tip it away) and kind of kneading the butter in the water with the spatula. Then tip the milky water away – and keep doing this until the water runs clear.

Then you keep squeezing it against the bowl with the spatula to get as much water out of it as you can (and you can now add salt if you wish – see later).

I do have a couple of those old-fashioned wooden paddle things for making blocks of butter but I’m only a novice dairy maid and the room was too warm.

In the end I shoved it into a plastic container (sadly for me, an old margarine container. Now nobody will believe I made it!!)

But it tastes VERY good. Creamy. Buttery. I made a spice cake for our friends coming round this evening so I had to test out a bit of cake with butter on to make sure they would like it. OK, I had two slices… yum!

My wonderful home-made butter

In case you have an urge to make your own butter, it seems that 500g cream makes 250g butter. My 1 litre carton of cream made 500g butter. If you wish to add salt, it’s half a teaspoon to 250g butter (I did a level teaspoon as I didn’t want to over-do it).

All that for £1. Cheap!

Go and grab any cheap cream (double or whipping) you can find and see how easy it is.

No, my subject heading is not a new expression of delight (although it has a little merit…) but an expression of what turned up in our old troughs!

When we moved from the farm, Beloved moved our stuff into storage at his workplace. Troughs that once held our edibles were abandoned “out back” and became overrun with weeds. Nettles, actually – which means that if I so wished I could get my own back and eat them. But one can only eat so many, and the gathering can be fraught with danger.

Due to lack of space, some troughs and containers were emptied and sold (sob!)

One day Beloved informed me that there were potatoes in several of the old buckets. We never planted them there, so I can only assume that soil from previous attempts at potatoes found a good home.

We watched the plants grow and wither – all ready for the crop. Amazingly, we got about 5 lbs of potatoes. This is more than we EVER got from those we deliberately planted. How annoying!

Not only that, but these spuds had the most amazingly creamy taste. And we don’t even know what kind they are (deep sob!)

So we are still reaping the benefits (or the potatoes) of growing our own, even though we didn’t do a thing this year!

It will be some while before we launch out into growing any more of our own food at the moment, the ‘garden’ being so small and covered in paving slabs. BUT – I have a tub of thyme and marjoram, a very small bay tree, and a quince tree (no quinces this year).

After winter is past, Beloved intends to rearrange the garden. Or, to be more precise, to change the position of the garden gate.

Then there will be space for a shed. Size is yet to be determined, although it can’t be too big or it will impede the rotary clothes dryer. Once that is done, though, we can start thinking of growing stuff again.

My thought was to have hanging baskets, at least for the strawberries. And if we can fit in one of the large troughs (which we still have) there will probably be space for a couple of cherry tomato plants and some spinach.

And I guess I’ll buy one of those large bag-like things (like a grow-bag but tall rather than wide) for growing potatoes in. When I’ve planted that, I’ll ignore it and see what happens.

You may have noticed a distinct lack of posts lately…or maybe not. You’ve probably given up reading by now. Sigh.

It was my intention to carry on with tales of the countryside as I played at being a farmer’s wife. But, we had to sell the farm and have moved into the middle of a town. Horrors!

But, as I’m still a country lass at heart, I’m going to carry on as best I can.

My Beloved is working hard to put shelves on every available space. The new house is a quarter of the size of the farm. And the farm had stables (lots of nice storage space). Car boot sales here we come. . . .

We have had to console ourselves by watching DVDs of “Tales from the Green Valley” and “Victorian Farm”.

Sadly, our ‘garden’ is about the size of a Victorian pig-sty. Oh well.

Something (or someone!!) ate all our strawberries. So all I have salvaged from the farm is a quince tree (doing very well in a dustbin until we have the garden sorted), a bay tree, and a pot of oregano and thyme.

Nearby, in the parking area, is a huge rosemary bush so I slip out and snip bits off it as I need it. One day I shall take cuttings.

Well, that’s my quick update. Hopefully more interesting stuff coming up later.

Country Lass

Hmm . . . it’s been a while since I tackled a post on this blog. To those who are hanging on my every word, sorry for the delay.

Since I last posted, I have managed to totally avoid the Cardigan of Doom because it is draped over my knitting machine in an artistic manner. Its sole purpose is to give the impression that I use my knitting machine. Actually, I do use my knitting machine. It’s just that after the disaster of the Cardigan of Doom, I’m reluctant to make anything with the glorious new wool I’ve acquired. I must beat this fear…….

But, in the meantime, I have knitted two scarves and three socks. This is not weird. I have sock number four on the needles.

Beloved and I recently joined his family for a weekend in the Yorkshire Moors. It’s a beautiful place, full of wild moorlands, steep roads and . . . sheep. We had a good time, and even had surprisingly good weather. Except, that is, for the moment we decided to have a picnic. We’d been threatening to have a picnic all weekend and somehow it didn’t quite work out. By the time we were on the way home, we felt cheated. We HAD to have our picnic.

To be fair, we did notice that the sky was a little overcast. Earlier, the sky had been black with rain; by lunchtime it was a dark grey and we decided that, since the weather was obviously brightening up, we would have our picnic.

We stopped our cars at a ‘viewpoint’ area that had a couple of benches overlooking a glorious view. True, the benches were a little damp from previous rain but everything seemed okay. We got out the plastic-backed picnic blanket and spread it over one bench for Beloved’s mum to sit on. We made cups of tea, cut the rolls and started to spread butter on them. The heavens opened.

We quickly shoved meat and cheese into the rolls and grabbed some tomatoes before they became totally submerged.

Brother-in-law and wife hunkered down under a tree. Silver birches are not entirely thick with leaves, so the two of them got just as wet as the rest of us – only they could pretend they were sheltering. Sister-in-law put up her brolly (yep, at least one of us came prepared) and Beloved’s mum put her coat over her head. Beloved and I got wet.

Personally, I was astonished to find that my sturdy bread roll absorbed an amazing amount of water in a very short time. Sloppy rolls are unpleasant, so I only ate half of it and threw the rest in the rubbish bag.

Ah well, it was a picnic to remember. And it was kinda funny (afterwards) when I think that it was the ONLY rain we encountered during the whole weekend.

Country Lass

Finally, they are finished!! My wonderful Socks of Joy are complete. I promised I’d give a picture, so here it is.

Socks of Joy!

Socks of Joy!

As you can see, the socks start and end in slightly different places, which annoys me. I tried so hard to begin knitting in the same place but one sock has a yellow toe and the other hasn’t.

I console myself with the thought that nobody will know unless I take off my shoes. But I love my socks anyway.

Remember, these are MY socks. I don’t care whose birthday is coming up, or how Easter-y the colours are. Nobody gets MY socks.

However, when it comes to the annoying cardigan (now dubbed the Cardigan of Doom) I don’t mind if anyone lays claim to it.

I originally imagined the Cardigan of Doom in shades of peach and white with the occasional bit of khaki (or is it brown) to add depth. But no matter how I contrived to twist the three coloured strands, it ended up looking mainly khaki with the odd streak of peach or white.

And it knitted too loose. I’m sure the writing on the cones said 3 strands equal double knitting yarn. But maybe that was for wool and doesn’t work with cotton. But it’s too late now. Here is a piccy of the Cardigan of Doom.

Cardigan of Doom

Cardigan of Doom

Needless to say, I have yet to attach the sleeves.

I’ve just started to knit the button band, which should be fairly quick as it only has 7 stitches. What worries me is that it looks very narrow. . . .

Of course, having finished the Socks of Joy, I am even less inclined to work on the Cardigan of Doom. I desperately want to start the next project but have challenged myself to finish the cardigan before I decide what to knit next.

There are several possibilities for the next project. More socks. OK, perhaps I should be a little more adventurous.

A dishcloth. Now, I do realise this is not particularly adventurous, but I need to knit one and have a ball of unexciting ‘ecru’ coloured cotton yarn somewhere in the craft room.

Or I could knit another hat like the one I knitted for my Niece. Or I could knit a scarf out of fancy yarn. Or I could decide on this year’s Christmas presents and start early. Hmmm.

But what I really want to knit is a sweater. For me. Is that selfish?

Country Lass

I haven’t written this for a while because we had ‘visitors’. First we had Mother and Dog.

Mother had a fall (she’s okay – she’ll survive!) and was a bit shaken, so she brought Dog and they stayed overnight.

Mother felt okay to go home the next day, but we continued looking after Dog until Mother felt a little stronger. Dog is somewhat bouncy and ricochets off the walls from time to time. (Okay, I admit to a slight exaggeration there . . . but not much)

Dog likes socks and feet . . . and especially socks with feet in them. Dog also likes tissues and footballs, but these are not such a problem.

My darling Beloved (said through gritted teeth) let the dog out of the kitchen while I was having a shower. The bathroom door wasn’t properly closed. Thankfully, Dog is small and not easily able to leap into the bath (though she has been known to do such a thing when Beloved is cross with her).

So I had to fight to get out of the bath, totally forgetting MY FEET!!  Aarghh! Dog immediately pounced upon my nice clean feet and proceeded to give them huge, slobbery licks. I tried to grab the towel. Dog thought I was playing and promptly grabbed part of it and started to pull. Then she remembered my feet again.

Have you ever tried to walk while a small dog is slurping at your feet? It’s verging on impossible.

I finally made it through to the bedroom. Dog was beside herself – my socks, Beloved’s socks, my feet, the bed – she didn’t know where to go first.

My dilemma was that she is not, definitely not, allowed up on the furniture. It’s something we’re trying to teach her. Dog leapt on the bed. Now, understand that this was a welcome respite for my feet. But how do I get her to understand that she can’t go on the furniture unless I need a break from her attacking my feet? Can’t be done!

I grabbed my socks. And tried to shove one slobbery foot into the first sock. Dog jumped from the bed, grabbed the end of the sock and pulled. I overbalanced. I put my foot on the floor. Dog slobbered.

Finally, Dog inexplicably ran off into the hallway. I quickly dressed and went for my shoes. My SHOE – singular. Where was my other shoe? “DOG!!!!!”

Sure enough, there was dog in the hallway, holding the shoe by the laces and banging it on the floor. I assured her it was very dead and she should drop it now. Eventually, she did. I put socked foot into shoe, pronto!

When I recounted the story to Mother she assured me she never had any problem. But, of course, she shuts Dog out of the bathroom and bedroom until she’s dressed and ready for the fight!

Thankfully, I had hidden the wonderful socks I am knitting for ME. It would not do for any of us to see them shredded by Dog.

Country Lass