Thursday, 8 December 2011

Santa Claus is coming....

Well, I'm definately not a professional and I'm nowhere near completing a masterpiece comprising of an idealic riverside cottage with gardens to boot. But I do like cross stitching and I can do a few basic designs.

I absolutely love receiving homemade cards, and this year Amy and I have decided we will distribute them amongst those we know who will appreciate the time and effort we have put in to creating them.

The following designs are just a sample of what we have produced. I'm not going to post a photo of all of the designs because I know some of the receipients are going to read this very blog post...



We've filled a box full of threads and designs so that is something to keep us busy in the new year when it's raining hard and we can't get in to the garden as much as we would like to.

I've got a busy day tomorrow. I have to go to university to submit my Econometrics coursework, and then I am going to do a spot of Christmas shopping so that I can finally tick Amy completly off the list. I need to get a shift on with my own wrapping too so I must buy some wrapping paper. However, saying that our bedroom has resembled Santa's workshop recently. I've been writing the cards and the labels and Amy has been wrapping the presents and tying the ribbon. It's been so much fun, I absolutely love this time of year. So after the submitting and the shopping, I then move on to socialising when I meet some work colleagues for a get together as a substitute for the lack of our Christmas party.

I've also got some things to do in the kitchen as well. I've got onions to pickle and cakes to bake.

'tis the season to be jolly...

Martin

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Those winter nights..

Have you ever been in a rush in the morning only to go outside and feel your heart sink and your brain spin out of control at what is in front of you? These winter nights are really catching up with us now, and I've already had to reach for the ice scraper in the last couple of weeks.

Christmas is nearly upon us, and tomorrow is the first Sunday in advent.

Although, we haven't been posting much recently due to commitments such as University coursework, we are still living 'our good life' and it is definately good enough for us, but we are sorry we haven't been able to share it with you.

We are going to try and tell you about some of our festive happenings over the next few weeks. We are going to be visiting some of the most beautiful and fascinating Churches in Warwickshire as we look forward to our festive celebrations, and we will also be visiting many other fascinating places too. We'll try and give you a bit of an insight in to the Frankfurt market in Birmingham city centre, and we'll let you know about our trip to London on the 19th.

If that's not enough, I am looking forward to making cranberry sauce for the first time, so that will definately give me something to get excited about. I also want to show you the delicious home made Christmas cakes that we will be distributing to our nearest and dearest in a couple of weeks from now. The cakes have been maturing for 2 months now, and on the 20th we intend to ice them ready for handing out. We've been taking some advice from the lovely Nigella and there are a few different ways we are going to try and decorate them.

We've also been very crafty this year. We've abandoned the Tesco Christmas Card multipacks in favour of a needle and thread and we'll reveal the results very soon..

Before I sign off for now, I just want to show you a picture of one of these winter nights. It was taken at Ragley Hall in Arrow, Warwickshire....



We visited the Ragley sailing club at Ragley lake for it's last ever meeting. A club that Amy's grandpa has been a member of for more than half a century. It's a shame to see that they are being turned away by the estate, in favour of cash generating ventures.

Thanks for reading,

Martin

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Time to say hello...

Following on from our last post a whole month has passed. We are both very busy at the moment, but I think that after reading some of the kind comments you have left over the last week it is only fair to give you a bit of an update.

After taking Barbara the cockerel back to the farm she came from, we returned with a gorgeous white pekin as her replacement. We were a bit unconventional this time in the naming process so please give a warm welcome to...



This photo was taking the day she arrived, she now has a much bigger comb and is laying at occasional intervals. Oh, her name by the way is Barbara 2, or Barbara Deux, Or Barbaratu.

It varies every morning when we go to feed her, and depending on how naughty she has been too.

The first day she arrived we filled that green tray with straw, sand, soil, leaves etc to give Margot and Mrs.Weaver something else to focus on other than Barbaratu. The fun lasted two minutes, and then they were pinning poor old babs down to the floor and jumping on her back etc.

The bullying lasted about 48 hours, but the pecking order is definately established now, and they all look so cute cuddled up together inside the eglu on these cold, dark winter nights.


I will see if I can fit a vegetable update in tomorrow or later this week.

It looks like we have a lot of catching up to do with everybody else's blogs too.

Thanks for reading!

Martin and Amy

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Time to say goodbye..


So the day came, and went. Barbara the cock-a-doodle-doodling cockerel has gone back to the breeder. The breeder breeds absolutely first class and show winning birds, and she said that he was a pretty perfect example of a Light Sussex cockerel. She had mentioned that she might rehome him with friends but she seemed pretty keen on keeping him for herself.

Margot and Mrs.Weaver were a bit miffed and upset at the relocation of their boyfriend. But they seem quite content now, making gentle cooing and clucking noises.

Thanks again Barbara! Go scratch some dirt!

Martin and Amy

Monday, 19 September 2011

Free Food is Fantastic

This is the picture of a the park where I have played and played and played ever since I was a very small child...

It is just down the path from my grandparent's house...

 Notice anything?




That's right a very established crab apple tree. One of two on the park. You may notice that there is a pool of fermenting apples already littering the floor. Why should so much FOOD go to waste? People walk past these FREE APPLES every day. Surely there is no need to waste ALL of them....



So after picking half  of a plastic carrier bag full of these crab apples, about 2kg, this is what the kitchen sink looked like...


I wanted to making something nice and tasty from these apples. Crab apples are known for being sour and pretty unapealing when raw. But when cooked and with the addition of a little sugar, the juice is lovely. But is wasn't juice I was making today (well not primarily). I was going to take my first plunge in to the world of jelly making....


With a very nice looking, clear, perfectly set and most importantly delicious jelly, I was very pleased!

I've made endless amounts of jam before but I've never endeavoured to commit to a jelly. I think it's the fact that you have to strain it over night, do this and do that. Oh well. I looked at buying a jelly strainer and could not believe how expensive they were for such a simple and flimsy object, but with a little bit of searching and imagination I made my own. I got an old, clean bathroom towel and using some elastic bands attached it to a microwave stand. It worked a treat, I just wish I took a picture to show you how it worked.I put all of the boiled pulp in to the towel stand to drain the juice from, then I left it for 8 hours to drain. It said in the recipe to leave it over night, but I started it off early morning so made the jelly in the early evening.

Once you had the juice, it was a very similar method to jam making which I am familiar with.

The jelly is very sweet so I would proably use less sugar next time, but it is still very tasty.

Making the most of free food which is available in public places, the side of a road or anywhere else for that matter is a brilliant thing to do. Not only are you pleased with the fact that you are eating delicious, homemade food, but you are also happy it cost you no more than a bag of sugar.

Have a good day!

Martin

P.S I will definately be making jelly again, such fun and highly reccomended. Off to bake some more bread now!!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Loaf at first sight!

Well, I'm not sure if it looks more like a football with a puncture or a work of art.

I hadn't made bread by hand for absolutely ages. In fact I never thought I was ever any good at it full stop. However I decided I would have another go yesterday to get me in the mood for Friday's baking session. (Which I will blog about over the weekend.)

From the moment I started making the dough I knew this was going to be a top loaf. After the dough had been left in the airing cupboard for 40 minutes, it had risen like my other doughs had never risen before. It was so big, so smooth. I was so excited and half an hour later..

Drumroll please....


Delicious!

I'm making another loaf tomorrow. I had made this loaf for Amy for when she got back from work, but when my family saw it, they asked me to bake them one too.

Don't you just love that scent that wafts through the house when bread is baking in the oven. If you don't know what I am talking about then you really need to bake some bread!

Heavinly!

Have a good weekend!!!
Martin

Friday, 16 September 2011

You're not supposed to that!!

Ever since the 3 Bantam hens have arrived, we have been filled with nothing but laughter watching them being so innocently charming and delightfully clumsy at times.

However, nothing could have prepared us for the laugh we have had over the last few days.

You must watch the video below to understand why...

Turn your volume right up because I was only using a mobile phone to record it..














So it turns out Barbara is actually more like Barbarian! We've heard crowing for the last couple of days but were convinced that it was coming from somewhere else. But today she, I mean he, was caught red handed.

We phoned up the breeder who we bought them from, and explained the situation and she said she would happily have him back. So tomorrow we are taking Barbara back 'home'. She has a great place to live with the breeder, large open fields with plenty of places to scratch, play with friends and cock-a-doodle-doo to her/his hearts content.

We will miss you Barbara. It's been an honour to have you with us these last 2 months! But we're not quite ready for a cockerel yet, not with neighbours in the proximity anyway.

Martin and Amy

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The price of currants..

I'm going to tell you a secret. We are making Christmas cakes this year as presents for some of our family.

My Grandma always used to grace us each year with a delicious Christmas fruit cake, delightfully iced and topped with festive decorations. However for several years she stopped making them, but I dug out her old cookbook last year and we made one together which was really enjoyable.

This year we are making the rich fruit cakes as presents. I love the idea of homemade delights at Christmas, and I know people will appreciate them more than a box of Thornton's chocolates or a bottle of lower end red wine.

So again, it was time to dig out Grandma's cook book. It is one of those proper, proper cook books. There are stains on the pages, some pages have come loose from the bind, the edges are cellotaped up, there are handwritten notes on certain pages, and at the back are years worth of shopping lists safely preserved. I can't stand it when people have cookbooks on shelves that have never been opened and the pages are clean and new, and they still have that new book smell. What is the point?

My Grandma got this book when she was 21. So over 50 years later, it is still purposefully being used by the next generation.



So we are to make four cakes. (For whom shall not be mentioned, because we know that some of the potential receivers do read this blog.)


We multiplied the ingredients for one cake by four, and this was the shopping list we set off with.

1.8kg Currants
1kg Raisins
1.8kg Sultanas
680g Mixed Peel
340g Glace Cherries
340g Shelled Almonds
1.2kg Margarine
1.2kg Caster Sugar
24 Eggs
1.4kg Flour
1 Jar of Mixed Spice
4 Unwaxed Lemons

Well, we won't have to buy all of those eggs, but we are a few short so I will have to pop in to a local farm shop to make up the numbers that we (or they the chickens) cannot provide for.

First stop was Tesco. I've recently enjoyed shopping in Tescos, because they have had lots of reduced stationary, and I love buying stationary, however I didn't love their home baking section as much, they had no Raisins, no currants, well in fact all they did have off our list was Sultanas, Flour, Caster Sugar, Lemons and Almonds. Oh well. Onwards to Morrisons.

We piled the trolley with the Morrisons value raisins and then we went to pick the currants up, and we almost died of a heart attack at the cost of them. Where as the raisins and currants cost about £1 per kg, the CHEAPEST currants were priced at £3 per kg. So working on a budget, we bought one pack of currants and and extra 1/2kg bag of both raisins and sultanas, costing us much less in the end.

We have a baking session set asside for Friday afternoon. The cakes need to bake for just shy of 5 hours, so we need to be sure we are going to be in to monitor their progress in the oven.

We will let you know how our afternoon goes, and we might even treat you to some more pictures of the cook book.

Have a great day,

Martin


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Autumn

Well, with the night's coming in earlier and earlier as each day goes by and the air begins to turn colder and colder it means only one thing. Autumn has arrived.

Where we live I had the best childhood ever when it came to Autumn. The park which is only 50 metres walk from our house has many established Horse Chesnut 'Conker' trees dotted around the edges, so around this time I always remember going with my Grandma and brother down to the park to fill up a few Tesco's bags full of Conkers and then I would take them home and pierce each one and load them on to strings ready to take to school to abolish my friend's conkers with.

Great fun indeed.

With the change of season comes the need to update the look of the blog.

So here's our Autumn profile picture which was taken by my brother, who wants to be a photographer...



 He does a great job every time, and he is responsible for tweaking all the graphics on this blog.

I have a few Autumny posts lined up for the rest of this week and then we proceed rather directly on to.. ahem.... Christmas posts. But don't worry there will be plenty of more immediate things to blog about too.

I've had a great morning starting to catch up with some of my favourite blogs, don't forget you check them out on the right hand side of this blog. Each one is definately worth a read.

Have a great day, and thanks for visiting us. Your support is amazing, thankyou.

Martin

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A month of fun and things..

Well, it's been exactly one month since we last posted about that delicious green pepper.

Amy is back studying again now and I go back to Uni on the 3rd October. Despite not blogging, we've been keeping up with 'Our good life' and the tomatoes just keep coming, the apples are almost ready for eating, the runner beans won't stop running and we're enjoying gluts of delicious produce aswell as sharing it with friends and family too.

Today brought a momentous occasion. Despite having the Bantam girls for several months now, until today we have been eggless. But only moments ago came the groundbreaking discovery...


It's very small but very perfectly formed. We think it Barbara, but we can't be sure yet. We'll be watching carefully these next few days to see who is making all those right signs.

Anyway, you might be wondering what else we have been up too. Well we've started a radical health plan, we are visiting the gym daily, and we've made radical changes to our eating habits which have been conducted with immediate effect.

We're making big plans for next year already, including upscaling our operation to cover a wider range of all things good. We are far from where we want to be in the long term, but these little strides make it seem like a realistic aim to have.

Well, we hope to blog more frequently this month. We've missed reading your blogs, but it's been nice to have a break. Dare I say it, but with Christmas now only around the corner we are already starting to buy, make and think of presents and puddings ready for the big day.

Thanks for reading the blog, we won't abandon you again!

Martin and Amy

Friday, 12 August 2011

Green Pepper!

We have successfuly grown our first pepper of the year.



It's been sat dangling off the pepper plant for a while now and it was finally a good size and didn't seem to be getting any bigger. We snipped the pepper off the plant and cut it into small pieces to skewer on to some kebabs we were making for a barbeque. With some chicken pieces, fresh tomatoes and onion, the kebabs were absolutely delicious.

This is the first ever pepper I have grown, so to grow it and enjoy it with Amy was really nice. I've grown lots of chilli peppers before, but never had much luck with actual peppers. There are about 6 more peppers in the pipeline so fingers crossed they will be just as tasty.

Have a great weekend.

Martin

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Final Call

There's only three days to go until the entry deadline for our contest.

The contest should take you a few minutes to complete and you will have the chance to win a £20 vegetable growing hamper!

You can read this post here to find out all about how to enter.

Good Luck

Martin and Amy

Endless amounts..


Does it ever feel like some things are just endless?

We were only cheering with delight at the emergence of these tiny courgettes a few months ago and now the amounts are just.. endless.

I've been trying to hack down and dig out the weeds at the garden share but the amounts are just absolutely endless.

The tomatoes keep coming and are thankfully, endless.

We've been trying to catch up read everybody's blogs this afternoon. We've missed a few days of reading and the posts are just endless.

You get the idea. If you don't keep on top of things quickly and efficiently you can get the feeling of things becoming endless, but that doesn't mean they are any less enjoyable or unwanted, it means it just takes you a little longer longer to get to that place you want to be.

I've took some time this afternoon to plant out some very late leeks and some cabbage plants. We've planted them in the garden at home instead of the garden share. We were probably being over ambitious trying to get the garden share up and running straight away. It is definately going to need some time sorting bits out and restoring the paths and raised beds. We will definately be ready come March when the plot will really begin to take shape.

We are sorry that we have lacked a bit with blog posting in the last week or so, but we have been glued to our television screens watching the unbelievable scenes that were the UK riots. How can anybody support or not condemn such lawlessness and criminality.

We fully intend to be back to blog writing tomorrow, and I believe Amy might even write her first post in months if you are lucky.

Have an enjoyable evening and keep safe.

Martin

Monday, 8 August 2011

Delicious..

I love watching cooking programmes.

But it occured to me the other day that I never ever get around to making anything that I see on the programmes.

However, something that we saw Jamie Oliver make a few weeks ago really tickled our fancy and this is our attempt at it..



Yes, it is a glorified sandwich, but it was delicious. We bought the foccacia bread from Marks and Spencers, and slipped it in the oven for 8 minutes. I prepared the salad for inside whilst it was in the oven. We simply used a round lettuce, some slicing tomatoes and some mozarella. All of it was cut in to slices ready to go in to the bread. When the bread was out of the oven we sliced it in half, it's trickier to cut foccacia than you think. Then we drizzled some olive oil onto the bread as an authentic Italian substitute for butter and then layered the salami in to place. Then the lettuce, followed by the tomatoes and finally the mozarella. It's a massive sandwich, and looks great on a wooden chopping board which can be used for serving. This could feed 4 people, or two really hungry people. It's definately the tastiest sandwich we've ever made. In fact, we've made it twice since.

I think a lot of inspiration  for my cooking comes from what I have seen on a telly, mixed with what I have seen my grandparents and parents cook. If all celebrity dishes taste this good then it won't be the last thing I cook off a TV programme.

So, who are your favourite celebrity chefs? I find it really interested how people can despise one chef and love another who in turn another person despises. My favourites are Hugh FW, Jamie Oliver, Heston and good old Nigella.

Leave a quick comment if you have time to let us know who your favourite celebrity chefs are!

Enjoy the rest of your day!

Martin

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Cabbage Patch Kids

You wouldn't know the trouble we've had trying to find some cabbage plants this late in the season. We wanted to get something in the ground at the garden share plot. We've tried numerous local garden centres and all of them proved fruitless. It seems that garden centres think the vegetable growing season ends when the final strawberries ripen. All those grow your own banners have been taken down, the vegetable plants have gone.

We were lucky to find a single pack of cabbage plants and a single pot of leek plants on a shelf by some limp and lifeless strawberry and chilli plants. We felt quite lucky to get these as they were just what we were looking for. 



They were a bit pricy though, but what do you expect from a fancy garden centre in an affluent shopping village..

Having all of that space just to simply over winter at the garden share would be a real waste. We've been up there a few days this week to clear all of the raised beds, and cover the two side beds for over the winter. The middle bed has been dug over and is ready for the cabbage and leek plants as well as some late salad.
I was hoping that we'd have some more brassica plants  but some wretched caterpillars have eaten the lot, and there is nothing worth saving which is a real shame. We were lucky to have a few to plant at home, but that is it.

Next year it is really important that we plan properly, we will have 3 spaces to plant up, and ideally we don't want to spend a penny on seedlings and plants because we haven't planned properly. If we use saved seeds and the ones we already have then it will be much more cost effective all round.

I hope you enjoy the remainder of your weekend and a good week is in store for you! The football season has just started again., which excites us both (well one of us more than the other), let's hope for some good weather for the first few matches. We shall see...

Martin and Amy

Friday, 5 August 2011

Beautiful..

Today saw the harvest of the first ripe tomato. This is from a variety simply called 'Orange Cherry'.



Hopefully this is the first of many, a whole vine were ripening in the sun this afternoon...

It was sweet and delicious! It was only small but we had half each. Not quite enough for tea.

Talking of meals though, we have had plenty of food from our own garden to eat. We had an entirely self produced curry (minus the sauce) the other day. We also had cottage pie with home grown new potatoes, spinach and runner beans. Sunday Lunch was completed with the daily harvest too!

Enjoy the weekend!

Martin

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Autumn August and the Alphabet

Well, a belated welcome to August. What has the weather been like? It's absolutely piping hot, very muggy and until today there has been absolute drought.

The water butts have been empty, and I've had to sinfully use a hosepipe to water the veggies. Thank goodness for today's drizzle of rain, first of all it will save me some time watering the plants and secondly those butts will fill back up and secure us a few weeks worth of useage.

I was reading another blog called The Compost Bin. They are doing an Alphabet August, where each of their blog posts must start with the next letter in the alphabet. Obviously we start today with A.



I wanted to write a post about the misconsception that people have regards Autumn and August. I have to admit then when I was younger, my friends and I all believed that August was the start of Autumn. Ok, the first two graphemes A and U are the same, but that is where it ends in reality. Everywhere you look you can still see summer. The fruit is still ripening, the sun is shining and the school holiday's have just begun for youngsters across the country. The leaves aren't turning brown just yet, and although the night's are beginning to draw in slightly, we can still be out in the garden until about 9pm.

We need not fear quite just yet about those long winter evenings, although we should be planning or have planned for them. We bought some winter brassica seedlings today to put in to our new garden share plot, we should have some fresh vegetables in early February through to April whilst the main growing season crops are yet to begin to grow.

On the other hand it is understandable why people think August is the beginning of Autumn. Next month we will be embraced with Christmas goods beginning to fill the shops. I know that the stock room at the place where I work already has 2012 calendars, seasonal chocolate selections, cards and gift wrap waiting to find their way on to the shelves. Many people will see September as the beginning of the indulgence in to the winter season, and we've only just enjoyed June and July's sun, so logically August is Autumn.


Christmas already..? seems like only yesterday we celebrated Christmas in Disneyland.

I feel that this misconception regards when our seasons begin and end is down to globalised firms who shove our faces with Christmas in September and Easter in January. No wonder we're all out of sync.

I don't know about you, but I recon the best people to ask about the seasons are gardeners. We know when to plant, protect, sow and grow in order to make sure we have full bellies all year round.

Tomorrow's post will start with the letter B!

Martin

Monday, 1 August 2011

Too good an opportunity...

Well, I presume most of you have heard of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. He's the crazy celebrity chef, slash grow your owner who campaigned for us all to eat free range meat. Got it?

Well, another one of his campaigns was called Landshare. A relatively straight forward campaign where people with spare land allow potential growers to work it and grow and produce their own food. We have visited the Landshare website sparingly since it started out, however a couple of months ago it appeared that somebody in our area had land to share.

More research and contact lead to us discovering that in fact an individual didn't have land to share. The icon on the map was actually an organisation called 'Transistion Stratford' who were trying to regenerate Stratford Upon Avon. They run not a landshare but a garden share scheme. We would have been keen on a plot in Stratford, but after talking to some of the people involved they let me know of a potential plot in Alcester, and only ten minutes walk away too.

So on Friday evening we visited the house for the first time, and  weinstantly fell in love with the garden that we could potentially get to grow some veg in. The garden is centred around 3 long raised beds, so all we needed to do was clear the area.

Well, after falling in love with the potential of the plot, the agreement was signed up, and I started the clear up process today!

Here is the classic 'Before' picture...



Hopefully this time next week we can show you some 'After' pictures. We are going to be using the raised bed in the middle to grow spring cabbage, leeks and some other brassicas, and some hardy salads too. The raised beds on the right and left will be covered with some old carpet ready for next year's main growing season.

It's not in a massive state, it's just overgrown with weeds, most will pull out easily...



Not only does the garden have 3 assembled raised beds, but it also has compost bins, sheds, an outside toilet, electric hook up, a tap. All which we will be able to use. Here are the compost bins...



Not only is it a great place to grow veg, but there are also chickens. They are not the house owner's chickens they belong to the next door neighbour, because ironically they are having problems with introductions. The great news for us is that the house owner said we could keep some hens their too. It's definately something that we can discuss further. Here are the current two resident hens...



Our minds are brimming with ideas. There is so much potential with this area of land, and we are greatful to the house owner and the team at Transistion Stratford for making this all work.

We'll be posting some more about the plot over the next week and beyond. We'll also take a look inside the beehive this week via another... video!

Before, we go we'd like to thank everybody who has entered the contest already! Thank you, and keep them coming for those of you who haven't entered yet. There are some great prizes to be had!

Thanks for reading our blog. We really appreciate it.

Martin and Amy x

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Contest

How would you like to win yourself a vegetable growing pack worth £20 by entering our prize giveaway.

Over the last month we have published 14 clues which join together in numerical order (1-14) and make a sentence.

No matter how bizzare it might seem, just say what you see.

On to the prizes...

1stThe first prize will be an 'Our Good Life' vegetable growing hamper worth well over £20. It will include useful tools, seeds and invaluable equipment. It will be sent by first class recorded delivery.

2nd
Second prize will be three packets of seeds.

How to enter
It is so simple to enter. All you have to do is solve the simple puzzle, the puzzle is based on the story of the Dragonfly Maze at Bourton on the Water. It took us about half an hour to get out of the maze, but you won't have to naviagate around a maze in our contest. At regular intervals we released a clue to help you solve the puzzle. Each post had 1 picture in it, and if you think logically about what the picture shows then you will be able to determine a word that will fit in to the sentence. There are 14 clues. You can view all of the clues by scrolling through the blog, or click the CONTEST tag at the bottom of this post or on the right sidebar.

Let's just remind ourselves of the scenario..

Scenario
A long, long time a go an old weaver lived in the mill at Bourton on the Water. You could say she was a peasant, but she had something that was the envy of the rich. The golden dragonfly which she wore around her neck. The golden dragonfly was stolen one day when the weaver had left home to collect a loaf of bread and it has been kept in the round house by the evil goblin ever since. There is high security in the round house, so you will need to crack the code to locate the golden dragonfly. It won't be easy!

Simply write down what each picture shows to reveal a sentence.

Then just email it to me by 15th August to stand a chance of winning the prize!

Any questions then please feel free to ask.

One entry per person.

Email your entry to blythm@aston.ac.uk

Good Luck!

Martin

Introductions

You never know which way it is going to go when introducing chickens. When I had the girls at home. I had 6 at one point. When I introduced Geraldine to Lesley and Carly, Geraldine displaced the other two as top chook and made best friends with the previous ruler of the roost Carly almost instantaneously.

When I added a 6th chicken to the group, it was hell. Emile was attacked and attacked and had to be sectioned off from the others. She was eventually rehomed, missing lots of her feathers, which was a real shame.

When I had the bantams and just the two large fowl before the bantams went to my aunty in Lincolnshire, they got on like a house on fire. All five of them. People say don't mix large fowl and bantams, but why not?

We took the decision to let all five of our current girls free range at the same time today, and it all went off without a hitch..



There was the odd bit of get off my grass from the big girls, but in general both flocks kept well clear of each other and when they came together for some corn there wasn't any trouble at all.

Always be cautious when mixing new hens together, it can go either way, but this was a massive success!

Have a great day!

Big news tomorrow evening!!

Martin

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Prize Giveaway - Fourteenth Clue

Well it's the moment you've all bee waiting for...

The final clue!

Details on how to complete your entry to win the £20 vegetable gardening hamper will be posted tomorrow..


Enjoy the rest of your evening!

Martin

Grab your popcorn..

I love going up the narrow path to the beehive, it's discreetly tucked behind the shed, and can't be seen from anywhere in the garden. If you know where to look you can see it from the bridge which the main road goes over. I don't feel a threat from vandalism or anything like that because it looks like a pile of old boxes on the side of a slope.

I didn't don the whole outfit yesterday afternoon, I did that in the week. But sometimes I just like going up the path to take a look at the bees flying in and out of the beehive.

I've gone video crazy these last few days, and there is another one to follow tomorrow too.

You can just about make out the flighty bees as they come home...

I appologise in advance for the 'WHAT!' in the middle. Amy was shouting me from down the garden because Barbara thought it would be nice to eat the freshly sown grass seed.

Grab your popcorn now and sit back...


Have a good weekend.

I realise that this weeks post has been mainly chickens, and now bees. How about some fantastic, exciting and amazing vegetable news on Monday? Definately stay tuned!!

Martin

Friday, 29 July 2011

Prize Giveaway - Thirteenth Clue

The end is in sight! Have you worked out the puzzle yet??


Have a good weekend!

Martin

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Who is it?

It's about time I went out in the garden and showed the girls what the roasting tin looks like. Not the bantams of course, they should be laying in 4-6 weeks time. But either Lesley and Geraldine are getting by on a joy ride...

One of them is not laying, but the thing is we can't tell which one. The egg is always nestled in the nesting box at 7am when we go to fill up their feed and water and collect the eggs.. I mean EGG! This has been going on for a few MONTHS now! They are only just over 18 months old, they should still have some kick in them. I know that they say that the chooks peak before 18 months, but I've had many hens before who have been laying in their 3rd and 4th year of freedom.

On the other hand, whoever is laying is very reliable. Every morning she graces us with a perfectly shaped egg which is equally perfect when it comes to taste.

Having the bantams might increase egg production by some degree, but bantams are quite seasonal layers and lay nowhere near the quantities of a hybrid bred purely for laying eggs.

We have a few options. Wait and hope that the other girl picks up her laying habit again, or maybe buy some more hens?

So one of these beauties is getting a rather easy ride. They were definately making the most of the sunshine this afternoon...



I like the later idea, but will need to discuss it with Amy first...

Have a great day!

Martin

Monday, 25 July 2011

Prize Giveaway - Eleventh Clue

Bon chance!

Enjoy the sun!
Martin

100

Since this blog started out in April we have now made a stagerring 100 posts. Don't ask us how, but we have quickly reached such a great milestone. We have already broke the record number of visitiors to our blog in a month in July and we still have just under a week left.

It is so suitable that the 100th post is a celebration of the harvests we have had from our own garden.

We are having home made lasagne for tea and to accompany it we have some of our delicious home grown potatoes, two lovely courgettes. We also have some broad beans and mange tout waiting for tomorrow's dinner.

How exciting.

We have really enjoyed the journey on our blog so far and we can't wait to write the next 100 posts too.

Enjoy the delightful sun. May this be the start of a great week.

Martin

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Fascination

A strange thing indeed.

It always amazes me that despite allowing chickens to have the run of the garden, which you think would be heaven for them. I mean, compost heaps, plentiful grass, weeds and worms to eat. Can't be too bad for a bird can it?

But still, you can't please them and they always seem fascinated to know what's going on inside... Inside the house that is!



If you leave the door open they will be straight in, pecking at the doormat, the curtains and the carpet.

I had the door open this morning, and low and behold something jumped on the sofa. First of all I thought it was the dog, turns out it was ... Barbara!

I wish I had the camera handy. She was quite happily perched on the sofa, and she didn't want to get off either.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Time

Where the heck does it go? I've been working most of this week so I have not had much time to blog, so I am writing a few posts up now to keep me going over the weekend. I have not had anywhere near enough time to read the blogs I follow, I will be catching up with these from Monday. This weekend is such a busy one, my brother's birthday is tomorrow and we are having a family barbeque, so that should be fun anyway.

In the veg garden, everything is going pretty well. Apart from the fact I knocked a big terrocotta pot full of lettuce leaf seelings over when I caught naughty Margot eating all the tops on the carrots, everything else is good.

This week we will be eating so much homegrown produce. There are broad beans, mange tout, lettuce, raddish, courgettes and...


POTATOES!

Our first decent batch out of the filled up compost bags. Most of them are a good size fornew potatoes, there are a few mini potatoes and a few silly potatoes where the potato is no bigger than a drawing pin.

I can't wait to show Amy when she gets home. I had been leaving and resisting temptation to pull up these potatoes earlier, but the leaves had died back and were starting to go yello and the flowers had fell off over a week ago.

These should be delicious. I fancy a a few of them just plain with some butter and a sprig of mint, and then I think the others are destined to accompany a quiche.

I promise I will catch up with the blogs I follow next week, looks like a lot of reading.

Have a superb weekend!

Martin

Prize Giveaway - Tenth Clue

We're almost there regards the clue.. not long to go now!
Hopefully this paving stone will help you...


Remember that famous saying, say what you see?

Martin

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Prize Giveaway - Ninth Clue

Looking back at number 3, may just be the answer for thee...

Comprende?

Good Luck!

Martin

Monday, 18 July 2011

Introducing the Bantam Babes!

Ever since Amy asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year there was only one thing I really wanted. More chickens. Either Lesley or Geraldine are not laying, we don't know which one, but we are down to one egg per day, therefore an increase in egg production is imporant.

We wanted to get something a bit more unusual than a few more hybrids and after much contemplation we decided that Bantams were certainly a good move.

We thought three would be a good number to have. They will have plenty of room in the eglu, they should lay well during the summer, and having three then if one goes broody we still have two lovely playful chooks about whilst the other potentially sits on some fertile eggs.




Well, let me introduce them then. Does anybody know where we got the names from?

On the left is Margot, she is an absolutely gorgeous blue partridge brahma. Seeing as we had already decided on the names we thought that the posh character's name should be attributed to the rare breed amongst them.

In the middle is, Mrs.Weaver, a black Pekin bantam. Mrs.Weaver was Margot's posh neighbour in the T.V series, one of our favourite moments from the Good life is when Barbara throws an egg at Mrs.Weaver on her first day living in the avenue...

On the right is... Barbara, a lovely light sussex. I always fancied some large fowl light sussex but seeing as we had decided on bantams it was great there is a bantam version of this beautiful breed. Seeing as light sussex are a bit more common than the other two breeds and are a bit more sturdy too, Barbara was a good choice of name.

We thought that Tom was too masculine for a hen's name, and we already have 'Geraldine' so we ruled out Jerry because they are too similar.

They are all point of lay. Margot and Mrs.W are about 16 weeks old and Barbara is a couple of weeks older. It might be a few more weeks before we get any eggs, but I'd rather have young healthy stock than one year old or older layers.

The lady we got them from was fantastic and highly commendable. Her whole set up was truly inspiring and her Buff Orpingtons were really world class. National winners in poultry shows. If anybody in and around the Midlands wants any chickens then let me know and I will pass her details on to you.

We will keep you updated with their progress. They have settled in well today and they have been free ranging this afternoon. They may be posh chickens but they still found the compost heap pretty quickly..

Have an absolutely fantastic day!

Martin


Sunday, 17 July 2011

Happy Birthday!

I know it's not until October but...


The latest members of the our-good-life family have now joined us.

More to follow...

Martin

Friday, 15 July 2011

Sealed Pot Challenge - The only way is UP

Today's post is on the subject of that sealed pot again...

This snippet from Disney Pixar's amazing film UP really sums up the whole sealed pot principle. It also demonstrates how difficult it is to not dip in to it.

This clip in general just about perfectly sums up the journey through life, but keep your eyes open for the pot!


If you haven't seen the whole movie, then it is definately worth a watch.

Don't worry, tomorrow's blogpost will be more vegetable growing focussed! Including some really, really exciting news too!

Have a great day!

Martin

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Prize Giveaway - Eigth Clue

This is probably the hardest one...



...Good Luck!!

Martin

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sealed Pot Challenge

Do you have a sealed pot?

We do....

We have two in fact, one for each of us. Amy had hers bought for a birthday present by her godmother, and I was so envious of the idea and concept that Amy bought me my own, and it looks just like the one above. It is a ceramic pot with a whole to put coins or notes in. You can't get them out unless you smash the pot so it is less tempting to take a few quid out here and there. I often empty the contents of my wallet's coin pouch in here to lessen the weight.

Thanks to the wonderful SFT, I have found out that many other bloggers have a similar sealed pot. So, a whole group of us have determined a date to smash our pots to pieces. The date set is the 3rd December. Would you like to join us?

The great thing about the 3rd December is that it is just in time for Christmas and when your nearest and dearest ask you what you want for Christmas just tell them you want a nice, fancy, new sealed pot.

We hope our savings can go towards a nice treat. Maybe towards a holiday or something we really need.

Check out SFT's blog by clicking here to read more about the sealed pot challenge.

The next context clue will be revealed tomorrow.

Thanks for stopping by!

Martin

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Hatton Village

We spent an afternoon at Hatton farming world and village on Tuesday. We both hadn't been since we were children and with our seperate families. It was going to be interesting to see what we thought of this Warwickshire tourist attraction now that we are 4ft taller than the last time we went.

The farm village is seperate to the shopping village. The shopping village had a nice garden centre and some pleasant designer shops. The garden centre had loads of great things there and they sold chickens too. I can't believe how much garden centres charge for chickens, at £35 a time I certainly won't be buying any of their stock. All of my chickens I have ever owned only cost between £5 and £10 each!

The farm village was really good fun with lots of livestock about the place.

We decided that if we ever had a smallholding we would need to find out what breed of sheep these were because they were just gorgeous...


They were very wooly, and looked like they carried their fair share of meat too!

They used to have a really nice meadow with pigs roaming around, but this has been downgraded to a cheesy attraction called 'Pig Palace' which was basically a big, blue gazebo with some cardboard cut out pigs dressed as gaurds. I don't understand why tourist attractions feel they have to lower their standards to be more appealing. It is a real turn off. Any way this Gloucestershire Old Spot seemed to be enjoying himself....


We released our inner children when it got to the funfair and games part of the farm village. This skelter slide was real fun. I love getting in to those old potato sacks and whizzing down the tube. We did question our safety though because the whole thing was swaying with the wind, when you are high up and rocking it is not a great sign.

Amy was glad to be back on the ground. She made me retake her photo because she didn't like the first one I took. So here it is anyway... (Edit - She has been whining all night so I've had to change it to the 'articficial version)




They had one of those 'Gold Mine' attractions where you get a pan and sieve through the water and find little nuggets of metal which they call 'Gold'. Whilst pondering around the attraction I found my own little golden nugget...



I wanted to take this girl home, she was so friendly and inquisitive and only too happy to be picked up. Shame, we didn't take a bag big enough to smuggle her out through the gift shop!

We would reccomend this place for anyone passing. Especially if the weather is nice. We had a bit of rain, so the tractor ride was a welcome relief from the downpour. But because of the rain we had to forego the chance to navigate our way through the impressive Maize Maze. Maybe next time.

Have a fabulous weekend! You deserve it!

Martin

Friday, 8 July 2011

Unbelievable

I put some chilli pepper seeds in four small pots about two months ago. They were cheap seeds, and unsurprisingly they didn't germinate. However, I transfered them over to the greenhouse when I got it and still nothing emerged.

To my utter amazement, they germinated a couple of days ago!



 I can't believe it. I had wrote them off, but for some reason I hadn't thrown the soil back on the compost heap. We are already growing 'Cayenne' and 'Fillius Blue' so we won't be short of chillies, but we are now going to be growing these too. The thing is, I can't even remember what variety they are so I will have to post pictures if they eventually grow and bear fruits. They were an ornamental type with a mix of orange, yellow and red chillies.

I think that by the time they are ready to develop fruits it will be too cold to have them outside, so they may go on the window ledge, but the mini greenhouse might still be warm enough. We shall have to see. Well, I'll have to buy a digital themometer..

Have a great day,

Martin

Prize Giveaway - Sixth Clue


These might have something to do with the discarded chest..

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Jubilance of July

July. Probably the best month for being a veg gardener. All of your hard work during the previous months have lead up to this point. Over there the tomatoes are doing well, over there the potatoes are almost ready, over there the courgettes continue to come, over there the lettuces get bigger, over there the pak choi has bolted. Everything seems to be doing well (there is always one exception, stupid pak choi!!), and there is little maintenance to carry out.

In fact, it is very nice to pour a glass of homemade lemonade, sit back and look at what we have done. We have turned an old fenced off chicken run into a small producing plot, with plans to make it even better next year! (Hopefully)

We have enjoyed a few completly home grown meals. We used the saveable pak choi leaves in a stir fry last night, with some courgette, spinach, mange tout and some very hot chilli peppers. It was delicious. We've had a nice salad, and a vegetable fritatta, with some courgettes and mange tout in an omelette. It's been great.

We are just waiting on a few other things to mature and then there will be plenty more meals like that to come.

I said there was no maintenance on the plot. Well that is a lie. There are jobs to do, but there is nothing major really. If you afford yourself fifteen minutes a day then it is easy to keep on top of things. Although everything is going well, we need to be vigilant. At any moment, we could see blight overtake the tomatoes and potatoes, cabbage fly wip out the cabbages etc. If we keep a good look out for these things then we will definately be in a good place. Picking the odd weed from between the rows of veg is not particularly stenuous on our small plot.

Yesterday I spent a little while doing some of the simple jobs.

I've given the sunflowers and sweetcorn some support. The sweetcorn are planted in a triangle to aid pollination, but they were all leaning in to the centre and it looked a bit of a mess. So some bamboo canes have been added and I've loosely tied the sweetcorn to them.



 The sunflowers are not in the sunniest spot in the garden, so they have decided to start leaning towards the sun, although they would benefit from a bit more sun, they are not in the world's worst position so these were staked back too. My Grandma and Grandad gave me the seeds for the sunflowers so I gave them three plants in return and these are now planted too..

Since the pak choi plan went bottom side up, there is a bit more space at the end of the plot furthest away from the shed. We have had our cabbage growing in pots in the greenhouse ready for transportation when some more space becomes available. I planted out three of the cabbage plants we planted a few months ago. They are in a good spot by the damson tree.


There is still time to sow some more salad leaves and lettuce so I did that to give us some late summer salad greens. We will definately appreciate them come late August and early September.

We are really looking forward to the sweet peppers we are growing in the mini greenhouse. I placed them more centrally in the greenhouse as they seem to be growing well. The middle of the top shelf in the greenhouse is the highest point.



 I have always had fantastic luck with chilli peppers but not so much with sweet peppers. We have 4 sweet pepper plants and 5 chilli pepper plants this year, so hopefully there will be plenty of peppers of different shapes, colours and sizes over the next couple of months.

The flowers are going wild in those hanging baskets too..



I had to pick out a few dead heads, but nothing major. I am really pleased with these!

We are both really enjoying reading everybody's blogs and seeing what you are picking from your own gardens, allotments, window containers, greenhouses, polytunnels, smallholdings and farms. It is amazing that all of us bloggers have different sized growing area.  From Rachel with her small city balcony to  Mo and Steve and of course Sue with her much larger site. It is superb to see how we all grow things, both similarly and differently.

Have a great day, don't forget to check out some of the other blogs on the right hand side toolbar, and see what everybody else is doing this wonderful summer's day.

Martin

Prize Giveaway - Fourth and Fifth Clue

Fourth clue

The fourth clue might have something to do with the Goblin's favourite childhood story. Not that he has many emotions left of course!

The cat was sat __ ___ mat.

Fifth Clue

The following picture was crammed in to a discarded chest...

...what could it mean?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Pak (of rubbish) Choi

I am really dissapointed with our pak choi.

It has bolted...



Some of you may not be surprised to hear this as you are a lot wiser than me, but if I knew that they were so sensitive I wouldn't have consumed our valuable growing space with 2 whole rows of this crop. I wish I had grown more lettuce instead!

I have now read that they are extemly sensitive to a real mix of weather conditions. So with the the days of drought followed by periods of sogging wetness, the pak choi did not approve and decided to run to flower.

I was really looking forward to a good crop of this. The good news is that we can still eat the leaves despite it bolting so a nice homegrown stirfry is on the cards tonight. Courgette, pak choi leaves, spinach, mange tout, maybe one of the fillius blue chillies to liven it up a bit. Delicieux!

We are both really enjoying our really healthy home grown meals.

Have a great day!

Martin

Prize Giveaway - Third Clue

You may have to to tilt your head for this one...


Good luck!

Martin and Amy x

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Raddish

I've never really had much luck with raddish. It always looks promising, but the root never seems to swell to a decent size. This year we are growing raddish in a plastic trough. We divided it into three sections and sprinkled some seed in each section at two week intervals. So we should have 6 weeks worth of raddishes.

The first lot of seeds are now a congregation of bushy leaves with the smallest pin head roots, seeing as this variety is supposed to mature in 21 days, it is almost 6 weeks now and nothing. Do I have a raddish curse? The third sowing are only 2 weeks old so are at the most basic stage of forming. However, the second sowing seem to be as far ahead if not further head than the first sowing, they have caught up nicely and really are beginning to overtake.

When inspecting them earlier today I spotted this thing..



A RADDISH!!

I couldn't believe it. I remember that even when I had the allotment I had little luck with raddishes, so to have one worth eating is a real bonus.

Amy loves raddish so this went down a treat.!! She could quite easily eat a whole bag full if they were in front of her, I always thought it was very strange because(..cough!) I don't really like raddish. But then again the feelings are reversed regards Beetroot!

We had a few more smaller raddishes, some salad leaves we have grown in a tub, some mange tout which we gently boiled, a few more small courgettes and some young spinach. With a freshly laid boiled egg, we had a nice homegrown salad yesterday night.



Delicious!
Enjoy the rest of your day!

Martin

P.S Don't forget that the first ever Our-Good-Life prize giveaway started yesterday. Work out the clues on the blog as they appear and you could win a gardening hamper worth over £20. You have to be in it to win it.
Click here for more details