Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Today should be a really happy day. Its Himself's birthday and our second wedding anniversary - we decided to get married on his birthday in the belief that he would remember to get an anniversary card - it hasn't worked, but there you go :-) (I'm still waiting for last years birthday card too........

Anyway my son and his fiance had to go for a scan today - they had had one last week, pretty sure the grandbaby-to-be is a girl, but last week when they went for a scan, they were told the little one was too scrunched up for them to do all the checks that they wanted to do, so today was re booked.

Now they have been told she has a serious heart defect, the left side of her heart isn't developing properly and to be truthful from the info we have all been reading since about, its looking a bit bleak. The hospital have booked them to see a specialist on friday at another hospital, so we should know more then.....god love them.

And to top it all, Himself is ready to walk our of his job - its getting worse by the day and he's really had enough. And bless him, in the middle of all the news about the baby, when he is ready to explode and walk out, he says he needs to stay, as my son may have to take time off work and he (Himself) knows that there will be bills that need paying.........

I feel like crying, for the little one, for my son and his fiance, and for my dearest darling husband, who's blood pressure is so high, but wants to do the 'right thing'.....

I hope we have better news on Friday....

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Cheap Meat??

The BBC are running an item this morning about sheep, cattle, pig and bee stealing.

See the video report here.

BBC - Search results for sheep stealing

The pig farmer in the report is near to where we live and the details had been in our local paper the week before last. It really saddens me to see that we are getting to the point where we are going out and stealing food, or stealing animals for meat to make a quick profit somewhere.

The other issue which worries me even more though, is if these animals are being stolen to go into the UK food chain, either as fresh meat or to be incorporated into meat products, under what circumstances are they being slaughtered and stored? Are the meat carcasses being stored properly, at the right temperatures, in clean conditions?

I made what I felt was a mistake I learned from some years ago, one which I have never repeated. I bought some meat from a van at a car boot sale. It was supposed to be pork. It looked like pork, but when I cooked it later that day, it had a funny smell and was a strange colour. It went straight in the bin, we had egg and chips for dinner and I had paid hard earned money for heaven knows what.

Now I am not saying that all mobile butchers at car boots and markets are vending unfit meat - far from it, at one of my local regular car boots there is a very reputable butchers that sell there and have been doing so for at least 10 years that I know of. But it does concern me that if I was on a low income or looking to grab a bargain, I might again be tempted to go for what seems like cheap meat and in actual fact its either not cheap because its ends up being thrown away (as did my strange pork) or more worryingly might actually be unhealthy or contaminated in some way.

The last item in the video really did make me sad. It looked at bee hives which had been stolen, 18 of them. The bee population is already in decline for reasons we are not totally sure about, to steal hives and some of them were breeding hives is awful. Without bees we cant survive, no pollination equals no food.

How sad must that bee keeper be feeling? I spoke to Malcolm my bee keeping friend this morning abut it and he was really angry. He has been looking after 10 hives over the winter, 7 of them for other people. Out of 10 hives only 2 have made it through to the spring and even then the numbers of bees are dramatically down for what he would normally expect to see at this time of year.

I can only sympathise with the farmers and the bee keepers and hope that this stealing stops, for all our sakes.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Old friends - New Uses

In the short time we were at home this weekend I changed 2 old friends into items more fitting for their aged status.

My old towelling dressing gown became about a years supply of dishcloths.

My old sweatshirt became a lovely supply of polishing cloths.

The lovely thing about this is that 1. I have re-used 2 items for some other purpose rather than just throwing them in the bin or sending them to the charity shop and 2. When I have finished with them after cleaning or polishing, as they are both made of 100% cotton, they can go into the compost bin to rot down. As I use only natural products for washing and polishing, I don't have any worries about unsafe chemicals getting into the compost and affecting my fruit and vegetables later on.

I also spent the morning polishing my welsh dresser - much, much overdue. I make my own beeswax polish and it was very theraputic bringing the shine back to the pine. Plus there was the added benefit of the beeswax and lavender polish wafted through the whole house, beautiful ! I am very lucky that I have a good friend who is a beekeeper and I am able to get beewax and honey straight from him. Thank you Malcolm x

The polish is in the jar at the front of the photo of my cleaning materials.

The recipe for the Beeswax Polish that I make is:-

2 oz (55g) beeswax - grated up or sliced
1/2 pt (280ml) pure turpentine - must be pure turps, not turps substitute
about 1/4 0z (7g) of essential oil - I use lavender, but lemon works just as well

The first think to be aware of with this recipe is that turpentine is flammable, very flammable, so be aware of this fact and if you haven't made polish before I would suggest that you have a damp tea towel to hand just in case of emergencies.

I use a saucepan as a bain marie, a quarter filled with water.

Using the wide mouthed jar - the one I use originally held salsa I think - I place the grated or sliced beeswax in the jar and carefully add the turps.

Then I place the jar into the water and gently heat it. Whilst the water is heating, stir the mix to held the beeswax melt.

When the beeswax has totally melted, turn off the heat and add the essential oil and mix thoroughly.

Leave to cool down - I usually leave the jar in the saucepan until the water has cooled right down, to prevent the possibility of scalding myself when lifting the jar out.

Once the polish has completely cooled, screw on the lid.

This polish is not a very hard one, but once applied and buffed up well with a soft cloth, really brings out a shine to any furniture.

I wouldn't suggest using it on a wooden floor as it may be too slippery to safely walk on. Oh, and I also keep separate utensils for making polish or any other cleaning things not ones I would use with food.

This is the cleanest my dresser has looked in ages !

Saturday, 18 April 2009


I feel sad and somehow ashamed tonight. Himself and I managed to escape from site for about 18 hours so we came home - hurrah.

Himself who has had one hell of a shitty week, has got a swollen ankle and had understandable positioned himself in his comfy chair, remote control in hand to catch up with the TV which he hasn't seen all week and decided that he would like an Indian take away for tea.

No problem, the Indian is only about 3 minutes walk away, so, leaving him to watch the sports results I nipped up the road. I know that our Indian is always busy at this time on a Saturday, so I was quite prepared to sit up a corner with an old newspaper and catch up with whatever has been happening locally this month.

The Take-away has just been converted into a restaurant as well and they have made a lovely job of it - nice tables, high backed Mackintosh style leather look chairs and nice candle holders and flower arrangements on each table.

After I had placed my order, I settled myself up a corner and started to read the paper when in came two women, one a little younger than my self and the other apparently her mother. They gave their take away order and sat at the next table to me. The one my age immediately pulled the opposite chair around and sat with her sandaled feet on it whilst proceeding to cough every few minutes, without putting her hand to her mouth. They talked loudly about her mothers up and coming operation (nice) and still the daughter carried on coughing all over the table that she was sat at, her feet still on the chair that somebody else would be sitting at later.

Then, in strolled three teenagers, two boys and a girl, all complaining loudly that their meal should be ready by now and that the service was 'f'ing shit' The manager went through to the kitchen to hurry their order up, whilst the one young fella stood laughing, telling his mate to look out for him in the local paper next week as he had just been done for driving a car without a licence or insurance. He sounded almost proud of himself.

I'm not perfect in anyway shape or form, believe me I'm not, but I came out of the Indian saddened, ashamed and embarrassed of not just the young man who thought he was so clever and would have his mates see the results of his capers splashed across the newspapers, but of a woman almost my age, and her mother, who did not have the good manners to see that putting dusty feet on a restaurant chair, or coughing all over a table were the actions of a person who did not care at all about anybody who came into the restaurant and sat or ate at that table later.

I came back home ready to sell up and move to a desert island. Maybe its me I don't know, but I do look at life lately and think that many people are getting less friendly and more aggressive, less caring, more selfish and just plain ruder.

Maybe it is me, I don't know anymore......

Then to make matters worse, the Indian forgot to include my order and I had to go back again..........

Friday, 3 April 2009

Digging For Victory

The wartime Dig for Victory campaign is just as appropriate now as it was during the Second World War. I have always grown some of the food that we eat. The varieties and the quantities have changed as my life has changed, but the urge, the need to be able to provide something fresh, untouched by chemicals and produced only a few feet away from my kitchen has always been strong and in recent years has grown stronger and stronger.

I have always wanted to be able to have an acre of land to play with - room for livestock, room to grow some of their feed and room to expand the varieties and types of food and vegetables that could be produced for us to eat.

But as the years have passed and my dream remains unfulfilled, I have to get to grips with the fact that I have to make the best of the space that I have. I cant tell you how much growing room I do have - I need to measure up properly and then I can establish a more realistic growing plan than the adhoc one that I have used for the past couple of years. With inter cropping in the flower beds I probably have more room that I think I have.

Chickens I really do want to have, but the difficulty is that with me and Himself working away from home so much, most of the care would fall onto my son who lives at home with us, and whilst he is keen to go ahead, Himself is holding fire a little longer. I'll keep working on it.........:-)

Over the past couple of years I have already planted in the garden 3 apple trees, 2 pear trees, a plum tree and a cherry tree. We also have raspberries, strawberries, a red gooseberry, a red currant, a blackcurrant, 3 blue berries, a blackberry, 2 grapevines, 3 rhubarb and a kiwi fruit. The pears, kiwi and cherry have not yet fruited, but all the others have. We have had lovely fresh fruit and the surpluses have been made into jams and pie mixes.

Vegetables grown so far over the past few years have included early potatoes, peas, runner beans, french beans, onions, beetroot, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, spring onions, radishes, garlic, sweetcorn, swede, broccoli and cabbage - although none of these bar for the beetroot and cooking onions have been adequate to see us through to the next growing year.

So this year is planned as a year of change and improvements to what, how and the amounts that we are growing, however the added difficulties that being away from home for work I do see as a problem, but I think part of that is me being a little negative because I want to be at home....not out on the road or stuck in a hotel when I would rather be in the greenhouse !

So this weekend as we are going home (hurrah!) I want to take some photos of the growing areas (deepbeds) and work out my planting schedule for this year. I'll try and draw out the plant in a readable format and post it on the blog early next week.

Many of my veggie plants are already in the greenhouse, being watered or drowned depending on amount of time that number two son has when he goes down with the watering can. Other veggies are being lovingly tended down here on site by me - the subcontractors think it is hilarious that there are trays of seeds sitting outside their canteen and that up in Himself's office on the window sill, is my propagator complete with seed trays. I have caught Himself twice this week already, lifting the lids to peek inside and see if the little green shoots have broken the compost yet. He makes me smile when he is caught, He always tries to make out he is checking if the tray needs more water.....I know he is really quite excited and cant wait to see what comes up first.

So, with a bit of luck, we should be home about 8.00 tonight (traffic depending) and by 8.10, complete with a cuppa I shall be inspecting the greenhouse. Bliss, sheer bliss.

Remember, Dig for Victory - your own personal food victory ! It is just as important now, if not more important, as we wander through these uncertain times of financial difficulties, job losses and peak oil issues. The more that we as individuals can do for our selves, the more in control of our own food productions and destinies we become.

Have a good weekend, and if you can, get out in the fresh air and plant something, even if its just a pot of herbs for the window sill.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Insect bites

Despite having been on antihistamines for the past 24 hours, my extra boob and elbow are still red hot and itchy and have spread further. Himself (ex paramedic ) has drawn a bright blue line across my arm ( I refused to let him draw on my boobs!) to measure if the swelling expands any more (I do hope that it wasn't a permanent marker that he used......)

I keep trying to convince him that this is 'normal' for me, but the suspicious look he gave me sort of made me think he didn't believe me.....

It did make me stop and think though. If something so tiny that I couldn't even see it with the naked eye, can pack such a punch, then what the hell could the thing do if it was our size for heavens sake? Doesn't bear thinking about does it.

Off to have a nap. And hope my thin blue line hasn't increased when I wake up as I have been promised a trip to casualty if it has......oh joy......

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

I have 3 Breasts !!

Well, that what it looks like now that the insect bite I acquired yesterday has spread and spread - my cleavage is no more !

Also have a bite on my arm which now goes from my elbow almost to my fingers and my whole arm is throbbing....I should know better, I have this everytime I get bitten and the pharmacist last year advised me to make sure I always have antihistamine tablets with me, which of course I didn't yesterday ! If I had a brain I'd be dangerous! Duh.

Am off to make a bicarb poultice to take the sting and the itch away, then I'm off to the chemist. I wont show him both bites though, only the one on my arm, don't want to scar the poor man for life !

Water Part One

Living in the motorhome and having only a small kitchen and bathroom, means that our daily water use is quite low compared with the amount used in a normal house. Also having to carry it in bottles from a standpipe as we are doing at present means that you become quite aware of how much water you using because I have to go back and re fill the bottle if we run out instead of just turning on a tap and watching the washing up bowl or kettle fill up. Or the toilet flush.

The motorhome does have an on board watertank and water heater, but the water heater packed up last September and we punctured the hose leading from the tank to the heater trying to repair the problem our selves s until we can get the vehicle to the repairers which is back home, all hot water for washing, showering and cooking has to be boiled.

Showering currently consists of using a camping shower bag – basically a heavy duty plastic bag with a small length of hose and a mini shower head on the end. It’s not at all like showering at home, but we do get wet enough to get clean and that’s the main thing. We might be living a slightly itinerant lifestyle, but it does not mean that we don’t have personal standards!

Because the motorhome sink is quite tiny, I had to find a small washing up bowl to use. This proved tricky as the depth of the sink isn’t very deep and I wanted to be able to leave the bowl in the sink when not in use and still be able to replace the slot in work top piece. I eventually found a plastic cake box which fits perfectly. I use about 4 pints of water when I wash up – not much compared with using a standard bowl back home or using a dishwasher, but its effective.

I tend to put the washing up water down the toilet rather than the sink. One of the reasons for this is that the motorhome has a holding tank for waste grey water, and although the drain tap is left open when we are on site and any waste water drains into an external waste water tank, which is emptied daily, the onboard tank gas a gap between the bottom of the tank and the drain tap of about 1 ½ inches. This means that there is always a residue of water left in the tank even if it appears empty. If grey water is left in there, it soon starts to smell and this percolates back up the pipes into the sink, washbasin or shower. To keep all the plugholes and the grey water as fresh as possible in the onboard tank, I flush lemon juice and a kettle full of boiling water down each of the plugholes each day when I am here – Himself tends to forget when he’s on his own !

The toilet is a cassette type. This means that all the waste matter goes into another tank and a liquid is added which helps to break down the waste and should keep the contents from smelling too much. Some motorhomes and caravans have another tank which fresh water is added to for flushing the toilet, but ours doesn’t, so we keep a bottle of clean water in the bathroom and flush as necessary. I do have very serious concerns about the chemical liquid which is added to make the toilet waste break down. It is formaldehyde based and is bright blue in colour. It is one of the few chemicals which we use in our day to day activities and I keep trying to find a more environmentally friendly liquid, but the couple of herbal replacements which are on the market don’t seem to be as efficient and are more expensive. I have experimented with a couple of home made alternatives, but as yet haven’t been as successful as I want to be. If you have a ‘recipe’ for a chemical toilet replacement, please, please let me know !!

The average UK home uses about 150 litres of clean water per day. Living this way we currently use less than 15 litres most days – about 10%. However this doesn’t take into account machine washing which is done at home at weekends, but I always use a full load, wash at low temperature and use home made laundry soaps and natural conditioners which allows me to use the grey water for the garden or green house. If I need to do any hand washing whilst we are away, I have a large lidded tub in which I put the water, clothes and laundry soap and I stick the tub in the boot of the car when I go shopping. The movement of the car agitates the clothes a bit like the washing machine would, so when I come to actually wash the clothes, some of the hard work has already been done for me and it is just a case of a quick dunk, rinse and hang up to to drip dry (Himself is far better at wringing clothes out than I am, he has bigger stronger hands), and again the used water goes to flush the toilet.

Having to fetch and carry the water that you need on a day to day basis really does focus your mind on ways to reduce the need for the physical activity of fetching it – water is heavy. That in itself focuses me to find ways to reduce our overall use of what is such a precious commodity.