Wednesday, 28 September 2011

S is for Scrumpy!

I adore scrumpy and traditional cloudy cider, but it’s not that easy to find Oop North, so I often have to make do with bottled fizzy ciders, which aren’t the same. However, yesterday I found a lady on Freecycle offering loads of cooking apples, so following on from our embryonic wine-making career, I asked George if he thought we could make some cider. I phoned the brewshop and found we could hire a fruit press, so I asked the lady for some of her apples, we collected them and we were off!
We got four carrier bags of apples, and I started washing and cutting them, while George manned the scary drill/chopper bucket and the fruit press.

We’ve got half the juice pressed, and will do the rest tomorrow morning. The apple juice is divine though not the usual colour, and a lovely accompaniment to dinner. Now I can’t wait to try our Derbyshire Scrumpy, though the apples are from over the Stockport border. Thankyou so much, Lorraine, for your generosity. If it turns out ok, we’ll bring you a bottle! I do love Freecycle, especially when it gives us free food.
And another food freebie - George has found watercress growing locally, so I made a panful of watercress soup - a drizzle of cream on the top, and we had a perfect starter, plus two packs in the freezer.
                                                           Goyt Valley Watercress Soup

Saturday, 17 September 2011

R is for Ruby....

...our Greyhound, who we adopted from Tia Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue in Yorkshire, three years ago, as we had a dog-sized hole in our lives. She was about five years old and had been taken to the rescue when her owner had gone into hospital, arriving with her mum and four sisters. We asked for a quiet, gentle dog who would be good with our grandchildren and not pull on the lead, and as we walked her up the lane, we knew she was the one for us. Many Greyhounds have had rubbish lives before they end up in a rescue, and it is so rewarding to give them a chance to enjoy life. We don't know a lot about Ruby's previous life, except that she lived in a concrete kennel and may have been run on the un-registered flapping tracks, but we took her home and she settled in as if she had always lived with us. 
Ruby - The first day, looking a little unsure of herself
Many people think Greyhounds and Lurchers are too big, or will need too much exercise, but they are happy with two normal half hour walks a day, and if they can be let off to run in a big garden or secure field sometimes, that is even better. It is a wonderful sight to see a Greyhound running at full speed.
Ruby running on the beach
They will then flop in their bed or on a sofa for hours, and can squeeze up to make space if you need them to. They are usually sweet, funny and gentle dogs and they really love people. If Ruby passes a door as it is opened, she will always try to go in, as she just wants a bit of a stroke - and maybe a dog treat, if it's one of her 'special friends'. These dogs are such lovely pets. They are well worth adopting, and wherever you live, there will be a Greyhound and Lurcher shelter near you. We have just raised money at our garage sale for Lurcher SOS, a shelter based in the south east, which re-homes dogs across the country.
Ruby doing what she does best!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Q is for Queen

Sorry if this is controversial, but Q is for Queen, because yes, I really like her!
 This may seem odd to some people, but I have a lot of respect for the Queen and some of the royal family, especially Princess Anne and the two princes, William and Harry, and I did love the royal wedding. The Queen and her OH, even if he is bolshy, have always worked like trojans and there is no doubt that they bring loads of visitors to Britain. I think we should keep the status quo, with the monarch as a figurehead, as it does us no harm and the pomp and circumstance occasions are watched with envy, particularly from America (and lots of us like them too). However, I'm really not keen on Charles being king! Nuff said and please don't get angry!!

Being the age I am, I also rather like the music of another Queen, especially the twiddly guitar stuff of Brian May, though I never appreciated it until the last few years!
I can't believe I just put this on my blog!!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

P & O - No, nothing to do with Cruising!

I'm doing O & P backwards, as P has caused O!

P is for Polly & Abbie's Garage Sale, as mentioned on earlier posts. The fundraising sale took place on Saturday, after frenzied activity in the kitchen, making preserves and baking cakes and dog treats. The Lurcher SOS sponsor woolly lurcher, Myrtle was on hand to open the sale and promote the jams.
After all the weathermen's threats of heavy rain and cold, we had a wonderful day, chatting to lots of lovely neighbours and local people.
We sold and sold to our hearts' content, until every single pot of jam and chutney, including raiding the pantry for jars we'd stashed away for ourselves, every single cake or piece thereof and nearly every dog treat was gone. Yet still more people came to buy, who were disappointed to find the edibles gone, so we took orders for more jam and scones to be made in the next week or so. Ruby spent most of  the time lying in her bed and being made a fuss of, but it was obviously much too tiring for a princess Greyhound!
The total raised on the day was an amazing £270, which stunned us both, and with the extra things we still have to make, it should eventually total around £300. Thankyou so much, New Mills people, you are all fantastic and very generous, and hopefully we can do something similar again next year, because we loved the social side of it. I know the money will help Polly and Abbie to get well and find loving homes very soon.

O is for Ouch! and Osteoarthritis, as I am now reaping the rewards of running up and down our front steps for cake and dog treats! My knee has swollen up in a big hard lump, so it's off to the doctor tomorrow, and I will have to rest for a while and hope this darned damp weather changes! I do hate the effects of ageing, but then, who doesn't!!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

N is for Nice House in France!

Well, actually, amazing house with everything we would love, in Brittany. I can't believe it, but I opened my groomers' magazine and saw this beautiful house staring back at me, with a working grooming salon, a huge barn, various outhouses, 7 acres of land and a gite! I looked for it on Google, thinking it would be gone, but no, there it was looking fabulous and still for sale, at about the same price as our house would go for - but with so much more. It is horrendous, as I keep looking at it, and thinking how perfect it would be for us, but there is no way we could go now, mainly because of family, but also because of the price added to the cost of moving, plus we have just got new businesses. The businesses are the least concern, as we could move them anywhere really, but the other two factors are the deal-breakers. If anything makes me want to scream long and loud, this is it!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Delicious Damsons

We have already made damson and orange jam and damson chutney, and I thought that would be it for this year. However, a really nice, anonymous person left loads of the truly scrumptious little fruits in the playground near us, with carrier bags and a note, inviting people to help themselves. George saw them when taking Ruby for a walk and brought some home.

I felt, never having made it before, and with a sister living near the damson-growing area of Cumbria, where this dish is a speciality, that I had to make a Damson Cobbler, so put the words into Google and up popped pages of links. The one that caught my eye belonged to Rick Stein, who George and I love, so that had to be the one! It is from his Food Heroes book, and is very easy to make. One note for anyone who wants to make it - if you can't buy buttermilk, or don't want to buy a larger quantity than you need, use the same amount of natural yogurt - it works brilliantly.
As for the finished dish - WOW!!!! It is the most delicious, tastebud-tingling pud I can ever remember eating, and the crunchiness of the almond-topped 'scones' is lovely. It is also very pretty, with the deep crimson juice bubbling through the topping. Now I need more damsons - in fact I may have to get a tree!

And a big thank you to the generous soul who left the damsons in Hague Bar playground.

Monday, 5 September 2011

M is for Motherhood

I have loved being a mother from the first milli-second, adoring my two babies, then as they grew, toddlers, little girls, teenagers and now grown women, leading their own lives. They know I will always be here for them, just as my mum was for me, though there was a hiccup when I hit forty and lost the plot for a while, and I hope they have forgiven me for that. My mum would always be there when I got home from school, and would help with homework when necessary, especially English and French, which she loved. I have inherited my love of flower gardening and baking from my mum, as well as my love of language.

M for Motherhood came to me tonight, as my elder daughter Emma is due to send her little boy, Oliver to school tomorrow, so she is going through the bittersweet emotions of letting go of the youngest, seeing him grow up and wondering and waiting until it's time to go and collect him again. She, like us, has recently got chickens, and Emma is going to feel like the proverbial broody hen, wanting to protect her babies and keep them under her wing, yet having the courage to let them fly. We'll be thinking of you tomorrow, Emma, and you know where we are if you need a shoulder and a hug.
Oh boy, it seems like five minutes ago!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

George's Homemade Wine

Today we opened the first bottle of George's homemade wine and it's really nice! We got some demijohns from Freegle in order to make some fruit wines, but when we went to the brew shop for the rest of the stuff we needed, we were persuaded to try a wine kit. The idea was that as we wanted to make elderberry wine, and they wouldn't be ready for a few weeks, we could do the kit wine while we waited, as it's so quick. So we got a Pinot Grigio kit and tonight we had it with our dinner. It looks and tastes good, and works out at about £2 a bottle - can't beat that this side of the English Channel. So here it is, and next I think we'll be trying a nice little Rioja!

And it just happens that all but one of the bottles has a Pinot Grigio label on!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Chucks, Eggs and Freegle Jam

Dottie and Flo, our chucks, are so content, free-ranging in the garden most of the day, and today they found a patch of dry soil where George had removed an Acer, and hey presto - instant dustbath! They spent ages rolling about in it, and half the time Dottie was rolling over the top of Flo, but she didn't seem to mind. They also found a new edible treat - fresh corn on the cob, and they absolutely loved it.
I love the Freegle/ Freecycle ethos, and since we joined the local groups, we have offered and received several very different items. This week I saw a listing offering as many plums as you want to pick, so emails were swapped, and off George went to pick plums. I weighed them when he came back, and we had about 7kgs!! Thank you so much, Collette, we have given some to my daughter Emma for jamming, made eleven jars of jam ourselves for the garage sale, and still have plenty left for freezing as crumble/pie filling for the winter.
I have also gorged on them, as they are one of my favourite fruits, and my baby plum tree, which Emma bought for my birthday last year, sadly died in the spring, covered in little fruitlets. The tiny fruits hanging on the dead branches somehow made it seem worse - all that promise to never be fulfilled.  

The ex-bats have been laying eggs since the day after we got them home - well, three of them have, and I bought a fab Egg Skelter to display their lovely eggs. Love it!
We decided to call the four ex-bats after George's and my grandmothers, as we think old-fashioned names suit chickens. So they are Beatrice the baldy one, Doris the most feathered one, Harriet, the pecked one, and Mabel the palest one.

We have had to separate Harriet, as she was being pecked by all three of the others and was bleeding, so she is in a rabbit house we borrowed from Emma, which now opens into a dog crate - her run. She is so nervous, but is getting better day by day. Understandably, she isn't laying, as I think she uses all her energy to cope with the stress of her new life, but she isn't running into her house as much as she did at the start. She is sited between the Eglu run and the coop, so she can see and get used to all the other chickens. As Dottie and Flo are free a lot of the time, Harriet has face to face encounters with them many times a day, and she and Flo have started facing up to each other through the wire mesh and jumping in the air, presumably beginning to sort out the pecking order.