Saturday, 31 August 2013

Late summer in the garden

Welcome to Lisa via Bloglovin - glad to have you reading.

Apart from my leeks which are tiddly to say the least, everything else is at long last, in the process of harvesting.

The new bit of garden by the garage wall (west facing) has done very well. The tomatillo's are dropping off by themselves so I will need to check those daily. The Bambino tomatoes are ripening daily and are lovely and sweet.

The beans are now producing well. I am growing 3 different climbing French bean and one runner.

There are 8 tomatoes in pots out the back, some of which are further along than others.
The larger tomatoes are Fantasio.

The aubergine I got off B. has produced a few fruits. Despite it looking on its last legs, it does get fed!
The cucumber is the worst I have grown but is now producing some fruits - tough skinned though so won't be growing these again.
Here is raised (on legs) bed 4 with its newly sown lettuces. Four rows, sown one week apart, from right to left. Furthest left has only just been sown so is not yet peeping through.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Out and about...

Welcome to two new followers,  via Bloglovin - Lyn Wymer and here Stuart Venebles. Glad to have you reading!

We have had a couple of busy 'walking' days. Firstly we visiting some open gardens - walking the entire route - 3 1/2 miles plus walking around each garden. Another day, we made it to Wolferton Scarecrow event - another 1 1/4 miles. Felt more than it was due to the heat.

I forgot to take the camera for the gardens visit but did remember for the Wolferton Scarecrow do.  Here just a few pictures of the ones we could actually get close enough to!

 The one below (except for the man's head behind) was the best in our view although some thought God and his dog a little creepy. The dog was just constructed from scraps of wool felt pushed together until it resembled a dog - amazing!

Ya boo sucks to the incinerator problems caused by Norfolk County Council trying to impose its will over those folks living to the West.
Cosmetic surgery - er no!!
This chap stood at the now defunct Royal railway station which was also open.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Scrumping isn't what it used to be when we were children.  For a start, we can no longer climb trees!

Coming back from a walk the other day, we noticed a disused orchard full of ready and developing apples and blackberries. Now it is one thing to pick fruit from the countryside, it is entirely another to go scrumping (aka entering property that may or may not still be owned to pick fruit).

Some call it stealing, but as a child, climbing over a garden wall or fence was a dare. Dare you do it and risk being caught! That was the fun of it. We didn't consider it stealing and as a child, we never entered anyone's back garden, only the overgrown gardens of long ago forgotten properties.

This orchard seemed one of those. Although it is near a huge house, we know that the house has a fully productive and well used orchard, so believe this one wasn't in use or indeed owned by anyone.

Anyhow, despite it being quite a warm and muggy morning, we donned long sleeves and trousers, packed bags and containers into a rucksack, along with some secateurs and waterproof coats and off we went. Access into this orchard was via a stream bed, which luckily for us, was relatively dry. The tree we were after was less than 30 feet away but boy, was it surrounded by its own armed forces!

We cut two sturdy branches to make beating sticks and ploughed our way in. Despite being dressed for protection, I am afraid the 6 foot high nettles and 10 foot or so high brambles eventually got the better of us. I had bravely sent DB up front :) and could hear him ouching as he went.

Thick trails of goose grass and biting insects began the second tier of defence. By now we were boiling hot and decided it was not such a good idea after all. See, as children, absolutely nothing would have deterred us!

After half an hour or so (we really needed machete's) we managed to get to some brambles. These were huge, not the normal medium sized ones we generally pick. No, these were the size that are similar to pick your own. They just fell off. Here they are after being rinsed in vinegar water to get the bugs out, on a tray waiting to go in the freezer.
We had managed to pick and freeze 1lb 9oz - so not too bad.

Onto the apples. After several diversions to avoid the forest of bramble plants, we eventually managed to reach the apple tree. One hour in and we were finally there - hooray. Short lived happiness though as they were almost too high. Eventually, with a final determined push (and yelp) from DB, he reached a few. After nearly and hour and a quarter, we had had enough and trod wearily along the paths we had created. We only managed to get a couple of pounds of apples but they taste lovely. No idea what variety they are.
After a bath and scrub down, we had a cup of tea and decided not to bother again. I know where there are wild apples and pears to gather more easily, so we shall do that.

Unfortunately, DB came out in hives that had nothing to do with nettles and spent the rest of the day very uncomfortable. No matter how much you love someone, there comes a point when either they say no or you say it for them. The relief on his face was palpable!

That's another thing about getting older, no matter what your brain tells you, you can still do, invariably you can't. Thank goodness we didn't try to climb any trees is all I can say. Ah well.

Once home we decided to have some of them to eat. Using the weight of 2 eggs as a basis for a small Victoria sandwich cake (weight of 2 eggs, same of S. R. Flour, same of margarine and 2 tablespoons less of some sugar) a sponge was made. Then one of the apples was peeled, cored and grated into the mix. This was put into a lightly greased dish and some frozen brambles pushed into it.
It was then baked until done. I should have cooked it at a slightly lower temperature as it caught around its edges. Still, half between us with some custard was lovely.
We finished it off another day.

Compared to harvesting in the wild, doing so at home is far less traumatic. Here are a few things
recently harvested from the garden (we don't have a greenhouse as such).
Back left are the first few large tomatoes, Fantasio. Front left are the tomatillo's - the paler ones are those that dropped off by themselves so guess the plant is trying to tell me something - never had that happen before. On the right are 3 different beans. One runner and two climbing French, one of which Cobra, was courtesy of my win from Compostwoman!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Some late summer colour

Welcome to my new followers Frugally Challenged and Nanny Anny.

My garden flowers mainly in late winter, early spring, early and mid summer. As much as I try to plant things for autumn and early winter, they just don't survive.

A lot of the front and back garden is now green. Some of the greenery is quite lush and will bring some even later colour into the garden as I always prune things when finished and some of them flower again about 8 weeks later.

Herewith some pictures:

The first two are coloured varieties of sneezeweed or orange/yellow helenium

 A pink flox with white centre
The first if late flower on my self sown buddleia from last year
A coneflower of some type  - we have several varieties of coneflower
A self sown sunflower about 3 feet tall with just this one flower.
Forgotten the name of this but it has now been cut down twice and re-flowered each time!
One of a few gladioli. I never lift them and they usually come back each year.
Japanese Anemone, a bit of a thug as it is now trying to take over my front gravel path so will need to be sorted out!
Monkshood - several of these in two different colours, but these haven't flowered as well as their paler cousins.
I'm hoping to start some tubs of winter flowers some time next month. I'll post about those when I do it.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Moving On...

Get yourself a cup of tea or coffee, you might need it, as this is a bit of a rant!

It is amazing how much the death of someone close to you makes those around you, think about their own lives.

That side of things hasn't changed much for us, as at the moment, we have both done everything we can to ensure our executor/s don't get overwhelmed by it all when the time comes. We have both done our wills, still find the money to pay into life insurance and have paid upfront for our funerals - not cheap, but we both felt it necessary. Have you any idea how much it actually costs to get buried or cremated?

We also keep getting rid of 'stuff', the bane of everyone's lives it would seem. If you have been unlucky enough to lose parents and deal with their estate, home and all its contents, twice, you will know what I mean!

We learnt from DB's father who had just paid upfront for their funerals, only a few days before he died. I doubt he really knew he would die unexpectedly only a few days later but who knows. Such foresight saved us both a tremendous amount of hassle and decision making when not in a fit mind to be able to do it! He had also sorted out his everyday bill finance holder and left money in it, for unforeseen circumstances!

B. had been retired (early) just 2 years when she died, almost to the week! The three of us liked to discuss our finances in a reasonable amount of detail - not actual but rather ball parks amounts.  Savings, whether small, medium or large would be moved around regularly to ensure the best interest rates applied. She like us, had made sure her pension plans were in place as best they could be and had even topped hers up. The fact she didn't live to claim it, is neither here nor there when you think about it. That is just bad luck and bad luck happens to us all at times.

Other people we know, are going down the opposite route, of living and spending for today, not saving for their retirement, nor having life insurance etc. Their thinking is "what's the point".

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and as this is my blog I shall give mine but you are free to think and act otherwise. DO NOT BE SO SHORT SIGHTED!

You many not be in a position to afford life insurance or pay into a pension plan, either at work or as an individual. You may believe that should you last that long, the Government will take care of you. Have you seen how much the basic weekly pension is? Some people have just that amount to live on, could you really do it? Do you want to risk it? I would urge you to think long and hard about it.

Reading blogs, it is obvious that some are in that situation but are still living within their means through judicial planning, scrimping and still managing to save. It can be done. They are not the people I am referring to. It is those who live an exorbitant/wasteful life style and seem to think they will be able to still do so later in life!

At the very least, make sure you have paid, if at all able to, enough National Insurance to get your full or almost full, government pension entitlement. It is no good believing the pension and benefit system will still be up and running. The former maybe, the latter, probably not. Governments are struggling to cope with their ageing populations. On top of that are the unemployed, the sick, disabled and in some cases, the just plain lazy.

Have you been watching the programme about being on the dole in 1949 - a right eye opener for some, a complete change of life and attitude for some, and no change at all for others. Same old same old. I thought it interesting that getting any money at all depended on whether or what you had paid in. No paying in, no getting out.  Partial paying in, partial paying out! There was very little top up from anywhere else. Now, wouldn't that be a right eye opener to some in our society. Perhaps that is how we should go now, who knows.

Yeah I know, it is okay for us, we are retired, talking a load of clap trap. Really, really!! DB was lucky to have a job that paid a pension (and didn't lose it as so many did in recent years). Living on only that pension amount per month was a real struggle. We had to live on exactly the same amount for 5 years, after he first retired. When all essential bills were paid, we needed to go on war rations, simply to be able to feed our family. See our war diary at the top. Yes, we could have got a top up from the government, particularly as I was too ill to work but we chose not to. Silly us, fancy not wanting to be a burden to those worse off than ourselves and yes, there were and still are, plenty of those.

Now, he has reached the right age to also get his government pension. Now and only now, are we actually able to live reasonably well, but probably not so in the eyes of others. Provided we are careful, on food and bills, but in particular heating. The Government says you are in fuel poverty if you need to use more than 10% of your total income on fuel, keeping the main room at 21C and the rest of the house at 18C (not sure if they mean all day/all day and night, or not!)

This last autumn, winter and early spring, other than the front room, where the wood burner is, the rest of our house was only at 14C for half an hour in the morning and occasionally the evening. Other than that, it was whatever the temperature fell down to, depending on the temperature outdoors. That is primarily the only way for us to not be fuel poor. Yes, we could have the whole house warm but as we are not in the whole house, all the time, what is the point. Lowering bills as much as possible also helps. Our use of electricity and oil has greatly reduced. Our food bill is being maintained as much as possible in the current constant increases in food. We manage to treat ourselves to a small snack when out on our weekly walks. That really is a treat we look forward to. Neither of us smokes and we rarely drink.

The Government consider electricity to be the main fuel poverty deciding factor but oil, well that isn't even mentioned and that is what we have. With the rise in both electricity and oil charges every year, let alone the rising cost of wood, it isn't difficult to see why people struggle.

I feel pyjama's and dressing gown mode arriving in the next couple of months:)

Not one of us in reasonable health now, knows when we will die. Most of us will probably make it to proper old age and get our pensions or proportional pensions, if we have paid into them. I cannot imagine the shock to you if for whatever reason, you haven't and hope the Government will bail you out. Some of us like B., will not make it, but at least her contributions helped others.

I would urge everyone where possible, to at least think about it long and hard, to see if there is any way at all, to help yourselves now, so you can prepare for and enjoy your old age. Should DB die before me, being the one with the pensions, I would probably have to sell and move but will cross that bridge if it arises!

Waiting until you arrive at the old age station might want you to throw yourself in front of the life train! That my friends, would be very, very sad.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The 'joys' or otherwise, of growing older...

First of all, welcome to two new followers via bloglovin - MrsMom and Carol Flood

As a human being, it seems difficult, if not impossible, to live in the moment. When young, we wish we were older. In a job we loathe we wish we could find something else. When pregnant we can't wait to see the baby, then all of a sudden, they are grown, left home and making their own way in the world.

We seem at times to be chasing our own shadow, wanting or hoping for more, or less, depending on where we are at any given moment along our time line. Whilst the great 'everyone' says we should try and live in the moment, savour every moment, it seems an elusive action.

One of the joys of growing older, that I have found 'is just letting it all hang out', quite literally sometimes. I dress for comfort first and foremost. One of my walking buddies commented yesterday when they saw me in a dress for the first time, 'Good heavens, you actually have arms and legs"!

I sometimes hang out the washing/put out the bins in my nightie and dressing gown - as does my neighbour. If I have a bath late afternoon, or early evening, I will usually get into my nightie rather than re-dress. Should anyone call (very rare in the evening) they ask if I am ill!

I used to be a housekeeping goddess when we were first married. If DB left the room, cushions would be plumped up, stuff gathered up - irritating him, yet he didn't say anything for fear of upsetting me. I was over-safety conscious and he would often find himself locked out after making the mistake of going outside to get something, put the bins out etc. It took ages for me to stop doing this and only did so after he finally said something. Ah, ain't love grand!

Now, the housework is done less often and we are both fine with that. We are as happy in our skins and with each other as we can be. Often, we collapse in heaps of giggles when one of us gets up and can't quite straighten up initially or something keeps clicking as we walk  - I'm laughing as I write this, can you tell? Mind you, laughing more is great but not always so for your underwear - shush!!

I am lucky in that DB (and DS. come to that) have always been the kind of chaps who eat what is put in front of them. Sometimes, when we were both working and were shattered, it would just be a jam sandwich. The only question either of them would ask would be "Lovely, what flavour?" We are still here to tell the tale.

We have lived in the same place now for just over 27 years, a joy after moving about continually when first married. We don't have a huge amount of friends/acquaintances,  but are happy with those we do have, even though, each year, their numbers dwindle - a downside of growing older.

Slowly but surely we are more aware that our bodies are changing with age. We can't do what we used to even though our brains tell us otherwise. We are happy with that but that doesn't mean we won't go screaming and kicking into the future should the need arise.

One of these days, I might just get around to dying my hair purple:)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

More bits and bobs

When we went to see DS. and FDiL., at the weekend, DS. handed me a wrapped present. I looked quizzically at him and he said "Your belated birthday present, the other 2 will come in a few weeks time".

Anyway, here I am, modelling the present that has arrived - a Kath Kidson apron:
I needed a new apron so they must have be telepathic as I hadn't mentioned anything. Then we were handed a gift off both of them from their trip to Paris:

Some little French biscuits with some sort of filling - we are treating ourselves to 5 each per day!

Finally, over on Elaine's blog, she had shown how to make some vegetable stock cubes are are kept in the freezer. We have made the mixture but haven't tried it yet but it does look and smell lovely: here

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Bits and bobs

We are slowly getting back into the swing of everyday life things.

First thing was to make some bread. I have had to throw away the two loaf tins I normally use as their lining was coming off and sticking to the bread. That is a bit naughty as we got them in the sale for £8 each, when normally they would be £16. Both of us thought they would have lasted longer than they did.

Anyhow, not to be outdone by shoddy workmanship, and after the bread was made and I needed tins, I rummaged in the back of a cupboard and found my original two. These were bought second hand in a yard sale.

They are slightly shorter but deeper than the others and the amount of bread I make didn't quite fit in so I also made 4 baps with the remainder.

Here they are on their second prove, soon to be covered with a tea towel:
Fresh out of the oven. They have had sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds added, plus oat bran and wheat germ:
Whilst I was initially making the bread, DB was wrapped up against the pouring rain, harvesting our small crop of beetroot as it was beginning to go to seed. I donned plastic gloves and peeled all of them for DB to make a triple batch of Indian Beetroot Soup to freeze for winter.

Just starting:
And finished:
It will now be frozen into 3 x 2 man portions. The rest of the cooked beetroot was put into a jar with flavoured vinegar to have over the next few days.

Once that little lot was over, I cut DB's hair as it was too long and making his shirt collars grubby! After cutting J's hair at the weekend and cutting 3 strips 1/2 a size too short (the rest at normal length actually blended in), I then managed to cut DB's hair too short at the back.

Bless him, he looks like he is about to go off to school. Luckily for me, he doesn't really care as he says, if he can't see it, it doesn't bother him.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Some other bits of garden

This rose, Wedding Anniversary, was given to us by the owners of a rented house we stayed in many years ago - it was our wedding anniversary, so a very nice gift from them. It sends out individual, large roses first, then after they are pruned off, it then sets these nice, but smaller, candelabra flowers.
This plant,, which I can't remember the name of, originally used to be just one plant in the front gravel garden. I divided it up last year and brought 3 bits into the back and planted them in front of the fence trained apple trees. Wrong place as it happens so shall move them again later in the year.

Their leaves get munched on terribly (probably ear wigs) but these flowers are highly attractive to the bees, hover-flies and some butterflies. On the second picture, you can see a bee just beginning to take off!

Remember the wormery that was bought this Spring? I tried adding the second compartment of it once the first was full, but the worms didn't move up into it for some reason. We took out the full bit and sieved it carefully 3 times, using smaller and smaller holed sieves, to remove the worms. I would estimate that half of them have either died or escaped. After sieving on the finest setting, we came across oodles of baby worms so that was a bonus and worth the effort. However, the larger ones seemed most put out so were quickly put into a bucket of soil until we had finished.

We filled it back up, to a depth of around 2 inches, with some of the original worm compost, some garden compost, bought in compost, shredded paper and some lettuce leaves. They dived down very quickly into it so hopefully will be alright.

We think a lot of rain had gotten into it as the compost was very wet and the liquid drawer was full. DB chucked it all away before I could tell him not to. My fault, he is not a gardener and I just asked him to drain it and he did! :(

Anyway, after I had sulked for a while and he had wisely gone into the garage, he came up with the beginnings of a roof for winter. It just needs its top and should work a treat.
It is attached to one side of a log store (still got to buy some in yet) and is hinged so it can be held up whilst I feed or remove compost etc. Apparently we need to wrap it in bubble wrap for winter (or hessian) to keep the cold out but not all the air. We shall just wrap it up to but not including the side of the top and leave the new top to protect that. It will also have a thick layer of shredded paper inside to give them some more protection.

Within a week, DB has fashioned a lid out of spare bits of an outdoor table, brought back form DS. and FDiL. Here it is, finished and back in place, with a hook to hold the lid up when required. Ah, ain't love grand!

Friday, 16 August 2013

How remiss...

First of all, welcome to Melissa Cushing via Bloglovin.

Naughty old me, memory must be going or else I have been wrapped up in other things. I suddenly realised I had not given for 2 whole months! Tut tut.

I was asked the other day why I mention giving on my blog. My first response was, well why not. It is my blog and I can mention what I like within lawful reason. Anyway, it had me thinking and I realised it is because I can. Regardless of how much or how little money can be spared each month, living off a pension, there is always someone worse off than ourselves. It most certainly is not to appear a little Miss Goody Two Shoes, far from it.

I think one of the reasons and probably the main one, apart from the above ability to be able to give, is that I might mention charities you may not have heard of, both local, national and international. If anyone is struck by any of them and wishes to give as well, they can do so.

So, a double give this month - gulp!

The first is Tapping House Hospice. As you read recently, my dear friend B. passed away 17 days after being diagnosed with cancer. Her funeral was on Wednesday 14th August. There was not a single hospice bed available in our local area for her to be admitted to, so she died in hospital. Good as they may be, I gather the last few days were not the easiest, due to the ward being very busy, which is a crying shame.

Tapping House already has a hospice in Norfolk, but in a village near King's Lynn, called Hillington, they are planing to build a new place. It is too late for B. but not for others, and none of us know whether we will be in such a position ourselves. Here is a link to their new development

I had to email them to find out how to write a cheque rather than donate on line. Cheques to be made payable to The Norfolk Hospice.

The second charity is Water Aid, whose web link is here

We are so lucky in this country, as are most of the developed world, to have good quality, clean drinking water (yet people still choose to buy bottled water - which is their right but I'm never sure why they are doing it). It is not getting any cheaper. Whilst our bills continue to rise, we will still have clean water to drink. I just cannot imagine a small child heading off with their sibling/s, often walking for miles to bring back a very heavy container/s of water, which may or may not be of dubious quality.

However, clean drinking water is not just the issue, sanitation is another. Yes, if for some reason we have water cut off, we grumble about the inconvenience of having to go without flushing or using another source of water to do so, and horror of horrors, not being able to wash or clean our hands afterwards. Many, many people never have such a luxury. Can't feed your baby and have somehow managed to get some powdered milk? Which is worse, your child dying of starvation because you don't have the milk, or poisoning them making up a formula in filthy bottles with contaminated water!
Cheques can be made out to WaterAid.

So there you have them, my two charities I'm giving to this month to try and catch up. Take them or leave them, it is entirely up to you!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Crich Wartime Experience

We went to see DS. & FDiL. last weekend to visit said place - as well as ooh and aah over the lovely engagement ring!

Both FDiL. and I had organised things for a picnic lunch and Saturday dawned bright and breezy. The temperature was just right. S. and M. had their first ride on a tram. It was unfortunately one of the oldest and noisiest. Other than a whimper at the beginning, M. settled down reasonably well, helped along by masses of cuddles for them both from everyone on on the bottom tier of the tram!
Having ridden to the top, we got off halfway down to walk along the Woodland Walk, a beautiful area. Troll coming to great you at the bridge.
The woodland library.
Once back at the bottom, we watch the parade drive by but were in the wrong place to get good photographs so just wandered around the bottom, looking at all the wartime clothing and items.

 A spiv and his good lady being interview by the police!
 Outside the Red Lion public house
We enjoyed our picnic and both girls were good in not asking for food - they know better. Bothered by a couple of wasps but after being swatted, we were left mainly in peace. Arrived home very tired and had chips for a late tea before going to bed early.