Friday, 29 November 2013

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

November in the Chicken Coop

This month our hens have been....

... not laying. That's right, not one single egg all month. It started with the moulting which should cause them to have a short break (making feathers and eggs is hard work on a hen) but we're coming to the conclusion that the shorter days and the cold weather might be influencing things as well. They seem otherwise healthy and we didn't get any eggs this time last year either.

Some breeds of chicken will lay pretty much all year round, but unfortunately ours don't fall into that category and are quite likely to take a break over the winter months. Last week we bought supermarket eggs for the first time in ten months, it was a sad day.

Red Lions lining up on our egg rack once more...

... moulting. Frogs turn now to shed her feathers. She's decided to go for the "all-in-one" method of moulting and consequently looked freshly plucked for a couple of weeks. She timed this really badly as the cold weather really kicked in and she spent a lot of time hiding in the coop shivering. We felt very sorry for her, but not sorry enough to do this. They've all now finished and are ready for winter with very soft, thick, coats of feathers.

... sleeping. The clocks have gone back and that means we see a lot less of our flock. By the time we get home from work its pitch black, they've already tucked themselves up for the night and happily snooze through until the rather late sunrise the following day (today it was 7.49am). On a plus note they're not waking us up at 5.30am!

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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

We enjoy watching the birds out the window so it will be no surprise to find out we have two bird feeders. Every so often they need fully dismantling and cleaning. Its a quick job once you have done it a couple of times so I thought I would show you how easy it is to do (this one is a 15 inch Droll Yankee feeder - like this one).

Step 1: Realise your feeder needs cleaning. If the seed is growing that is a pretty good clue.

Step 2: Shake out any loose seed.

Step 3: Remove the lid. Slide the lid to the end of the wire loops and gently unhook the wire loops from the holes on the tube.

Step 4: Take a screwdriver (PZ1 for the technically minded amongst you, a small + head for everyone else) and undo the bolt. Be careful not to drop the nut into the remaining seed.

Step 5: lift the feeding holes off the tube.

On this feeder removing the bottom feeding holes also releases the base - the peg below the hole that stops it spinning pins the bottom in place.

Step 6: Carefully remove the bottom and shake out the remaining seeds.

You should now have a pile of bits:

And a pot of dirty seed:

Step 7: Wash up the parts (unclogging the drainage holes in the bottom), leave to dry and then reverse the instructions.

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

November in the Garden - Preparing for Winter

It is the time of year when, as a commuter, I need to get up 5 minutes earlier. Winter is firing its first warning shots and the car needs a light frost scraping before I can use it. We have only had a couple but its a cue to get the tender plants inside before a true frost arrives and prepare for the coming cold. We shut up our conservatory for the winter so it makes and excellent place to overwinter plants - too cold to enjoy dinner in but not sub zero. There is almost no harvest this month (just a few undersized beetroot) but here are a few photos to keep you updated with the garden:

One re-stacked wood pile, all ready for grabbing a quick bundle of logs in the cold and dark.

Our bay standard may have survived a mild winter but we would rather not risk it.

And keeping it company - one aloe...

... and a small fuschia

The cold isn't deterring the nasturtiums. 

This is how most of the vegetable garden looks now.

Baby beetroot. Hardly worth cooking some of them!

Have any of you tried growing beetroot with any success? I think mine may have been overcrowded a little by the cabbages this year.

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Honey Glazed Gammon

There is something warming about a roast gammon joint that makes it ideal for a special occasion in winter. Roast gammon needs little more introduction! This post has been scheduled for some time on but as that is now mothballed I felt it should be pulled to here. Sorry for the white balance on some of the photos - my photography has improved significantly in the past year!

Just a quick warning - this recipe needs to marinate for 24 hours.


  • 1 medium gammon joint (approx 2kg)
  • 1 1/2 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or stick equivalent)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/3 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp mace (or 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp port

for the glaze:

  • 3 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • some more cloves (mostly to decorate)
Crush all the spices coarsely and bring to a paste with the honey and port. Smear over the gammon and leave it in the fridge overnight to soak in the flavour.
Fit the joint in a tightly fitting pan and cover in the minimum amount of water possible (you don't want to wash the marinade back out). Simmer for about 25 minutes per 500g (or nearer 20 min / lb if you prefer) until the internal temperature is over 70 degrees Celsius (160 F). Rinse off the remains of the marinade with a small quantity of fresh boiling water. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius (430 F) Let the meat sit briefly and drain. At this stage you will have a warm lump of slightly grey meat. Not hugely appetising but it will improve, honest! Remove any string / net and score through the fat. Move the meat into a roasting tin and glaze it with the honey and paprika before studding it with the cloves. Roast for about 20 minutes until the fat has a golden glaze. Leave to rest before carving.
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Friday, 15 November 2013

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Garden Blogger Blooms Day - November

Everything in the garden is starting to look a little sorry for itself at the moment. Anything left from the flowers that have flourished in previous months are looking dog-eared and windswept, the grass is overly long and the weeds are taking over.

There is one exception, the star of this time of year. The beautiful cyclamen:

Linking in with May Dreams Gardens for GBBD again this month.
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Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Paperwhite Experiment Part 1: A Cunning Plan?

Last year we had some paperwhites (white narcissus) in bloom for Christmas. I was a little upset to discover that the general wisdom seems to be that the best thing to do with the bulbs, once they have finished flowering, is to bin them! This upset me so I planted the bulbs in a quiet shady corner of the garden once the frosts had passed thinking I would try and convince them to come back to life this winter.

Having done a bit of reading I decided to try and force them through an artificial dormant period in the hope of tricking them. Once the foliage died back (some time around July) I lifted the bulbs and set them to dry in a cool place. At the start of September I tucked the bulbs in the back of the fridge to attempt to simulate a bit of winter. This weekend (start of November) I have pulled them out and planted them again.

It is typical to plant paperwhites in an almost exclusively grit based compost but I have given mine a gritty compost mix - hopefully giving them enough nutrients to develop the bulbs again for next year. I shall keep you posted on what happens! Has anyone else tried forcing bulbs a second time and have any thoughts?

Gritty Compost

Broken crocks in the bottom to help with drainage

Fresh out the fridge

Ready for watering and sitting on a window still

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Photo Friday - The Writer

This a photo of our lovely friend Chloe sat writing notes. She writes a blog over at - do go check her out. Not only does she write brilliant stories but Jenny guest featured recently and I am scheduled to appear on the 19th November as part of a series of stories, based around the signs of the zodiac.

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Summer Knits: 7. Giving It Some Body

We've recently taken our third and final weeks break for this year and that means more knitting! Joe took the opportunity to crack on with the toddlers cardigan he's been working on. He's now finished the shoulders, separated off the sleeves and is working his way down the body. It's really starting to take shape now.

Meanwhile my cardigan now looks like this:

Finished, blocked, ends tucked in and being worn. I'm really pleased with it (*does a little happy dance*). I have to admit though, that I've yet to sew on any buttons because I'm being very indecisive over which buttons to use. That doesn't stop me wearing it though.

While it's not the most complicated pattern I've followed, it's certainly the finest wool I've ever used (3ply). I've only used 254g of the 500g I bought (ebay bargain!) which leaves me wondering what to do with the rest. First though, there are plenty of smaller projects in the pipeline...

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Sunday, 3 November 2013

Port and Orange Cranberry Sauce

I was a fan of shop brought cranberry sauce as a child. It must have been something about the sweetness. In my teenage years I started to hanker for more from a sauce. The strangely flavoured blob of very sweet and slightly bitter sauce did not seem to deserve the space it occupied on my plate of Christmas dinner! Fortunately fresh cranberries have become more readily available in this country (frozen ones too) so in recent years I have been able to enjoy home made cranberry sauce packed full of flavour and not bulked out with too much sugar. This recipe is one that started at home with my parents and I have developed over the past few years - I don't think I could do Christmas without it now!


  • 300g Cranberries
  • 1 shard of cinnamon
  • 1 blade of mace (or a good grating of nutmeg)
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 6 tbsp Port
  • Pinch of salt
  • Sugar to taste
Place all the ingredients (except the sugar) into a pan and simmer gently for 20 minutes. The berries should have split open and partially stewed by this point. Add the sugar - I usually use about 6 - 8 tbsp of granulated but just keep adding and tasting until you are stood over a hot pan of cranberry sauce going 'mmmm'. At this stage you can let it cool and reheat when required. I tend to make mine a few days before and sit it in the fridge (with the cinnamon still submerged).

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Friday, 1 November 2013