Monday, April 30, 2007

A bit of a break.....

Gosh, it's been a while! How are you all, have you missed me?!!! I've been having a wee break from blogland, last week was a bit of a crap week and sometimes you just feel that the computer can completely take over your life, don't you think?
Just a quick post tonight to say hello, lots to report on this week so I'll be back tomorrow with all the news. Thanks to Tash over at Vintage Pretty for giving me a Thinking Blogger award, I'll post about that tomorrow. I'm also doing a scrummy swap with Marie over at Marie Chantal, more about that later in the week.
Lots of exciting goings on in the world of nature too, but you'll just have to come back again to hear about it all......
See you all tomorrow.
L x

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Spring showers

At last some rain has arrived in our neck of the woods, in the form of spring showers, little bursts of really heavy rain, on and off all morning. It always amazes me the weather and peoples reaction to it. We have a spell of beautiful Spring sunshine, perfectly timed with the Easter holidays, but we still manage to complain, everyone talking about how dry the ground is, having to water spring plants and the like, and how they wished it would rain! Why is it that sometimes we are never a happy nation?

Anyway, amidst the glorious sunshine of last weekend we managed to have our first BBQ's, both Saturday and Sunday night, sitting outside enjoying the last of the days rays, how fab is that for mid April?

I also got stuck into the seed planting in a big way, probably a little bit late, but still early enough not to be too worried that I'll be harvesting my peas in September! I got the pasting table set up and had a little production line going, while dancing away to a digital radio station we've just discovered, Life, they play lots of oldies mixed in with some new stuff. Gregg and I spent the whole weekend saying to each other "ooh listen to this one, I haven't heard that in ages......." boogy, boogy, boogy!

It was actually mostly flower seeds that I was planting, 17 varieties in all, so no excuses for empty beds this year! The last of the veggie seeds will be planted tomorrow hopefully, if I get my finger out of my (slightly bruised) bottom and get all my work finished today, nothing like a deadline to get you going and the thought of a day off spent in the garden!

Photos are of the quickly filling up greenhouse and some Rocket that has germinated already.

On the chicken front, the duck came off the nest yesterday so no ducklings from her I'm afraid. Bit of a shame but I had my doubts after we'd disturbed her, I'd rather she was safe than foxy loxys supper though. Plenty of time yet for little ducklings though, we have to live and learn from our mistakes!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Falling from grace

Well, the chickens had a good old laugh at me this morning! I'd let them out and was changing their water, we're lucky enough to have not one but two burns (streams!) running through our property, both of which border the chicken run. I was on my way round to fill up a bucket of water from the burn when one minute I was striding along, the next I was flat on my arse, caked in mud! I swear it was a chicken poo that I slid on. Little b*ggers. It's my own fault, I have been blessed with rather long legs, which means that I never walk anywhere slowly as I have quite a long stride, anyone walking alongside me tends to trot rather than walk. Maybe I should slow down, they do say "less haste, more speed" or is it the other way round?

Anyway, my rather cold and caked in mud bottom is slowly recovering and my jeans are in the wash. I have a feeling it's going to be one of those days.

Here's a picture of our French Cuckoo Maran sitting on a clutch of 10 eggs, they should hopefully hatch around the 6th or 7th of May, although she did decide to come off them for a little while yesterday, hopefully no damage has been done.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Crafty swapperoony!

I had planned to post about other things today but when the posty arrived with a rather large parcel for moi I just had to tell you all about it!
You'll recall from previous posts that I have a cyber twin, Rach, over at Oh the glamour...... From being days appart in age to lots of other things that we're both experiencing in life, it's just way too freaky how similar our lives actually are, but I won't go into all of that. We met at the Country Living Fair, I'm not sure if there was a crack of lighting outside the hall when we clapped eyes on each other, but I'm pretty sure a firm friendship has been found.
Last week Rach suggested that we do a little crafty swap, and true to her word a huge parcel arrived today, here's what was in it..........
beautiful hand dipped candles......

really groovy knicker discs........

a huge selection of gorgeous handmade cards......

and a fab covered notebook .

All handmade by the lovely Rach herself and available to buy in her on-line shop. What better way to start a boring old Tuesday! So all that's left for me to say is a HUGE THANK YOU to Rach, your parcel from me will be winging it's way over to you this week!

On the home front, Mrs. Duck decided to sit on her 12 eggs on Sunday so when we went to shut everybody in she was sat tightly guarding her nest. We put an old wooden fruit crate over the top of her with a large stone on top, thankfully she managed to survive the night out on her own. After getting lots of advice from the Practical Poultry Forum, we were advised not to leave her outside as a fox would stop at nothing to have her for a snack. So last night we managed to lift her off the nest, move her beautiful blue eggs and most of the nesting into a little coop for her to stay in. We're not sure whether this will work but we can only try. She has been out in the little run this morning making lots of noise, having a bath and some food. I had to coax her back into the coop where she has now returned to sitting on the eggs. I am a bit concerned that she is coming off the eggs for too long, up to two hours at a time, but I'm sure she knows what she's doing. We've got the whole summer ahead of us to try and hatch ducklings and I'd rather try doing it the natural way this time round.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Nature notes

Today has been one of those days that makes me realise just how much I love living in the countryside. It was such a glorious morning, sun shining, not a breath of wind and the birds twittering away. I took Chrissie out for her usual early morning walk, along the burnside, up the farm road. I've noticed over the last couple of days that the fish are visible again up at the little bridge, I spend hours in the summer just watching them dart about in the pool under the bridge. There are little dippers darting around from stones to banking, just a flash of white breast as they disappear, and yellow pied wagtails bobbing about too.

I often hear woodpeckers both pecking away in the surrounding trees and making the distinctive chitting noise that is their call. As I was wondering back along to the cottage this morning I could hear a real birdie ding-dong going on in the trees, I thought as soon as I get close it'll fly away. But to my amazement here were two beautiful Great Spotted woodpeckers flitting about in the tree up above me, totally unaware of me and an audience of finches, blue tits, coal tits and others spectating! Wether it was a male and a female flirting or two males fighting over a tree I'm not sure but it was certainly entertaining!

Living the life we lead now constantly takes me back to my childhood, I was a real little nature boffin, always out pottering in the garden, bringing in poorly birds and animals to try and nurse them back to health. I was always in my element when we had pet lambs to feed, I often got up in the morning to find a lamb in the bottom oven of the Rayburn thawing out! Today I went back to being about eight years old again, I had come across a drying up puddle of tadpoles, a writhing mass of black jelly about to bake in the sun. So I returned with my bucket to rescue the tadpoles, putting some into our neighbours pond and some into my makeshift pond, a big blue plastic trug with rocks in the bottom and some pond weed will be gathered tomorrow for them to feed on. Fingers crossed they all turn into little frogs, but they'll need to stay out of the way of the chickens as they have a bit of a liking for fresh frog! Why is it that a supposedly grown up 30 year old can turn into a child for the day so easily? hmmmm......

I'm also going to let you into a little secret I have with my ducks, although I don't think they know that I know...............

One of the female apricot call ducks has gone off and made herself a little nest just up from the ford at the bottom of our garden. As of tonight there are 9 eggs in the nest and she has started to line it with feathers! It's close enough to the water so she can go and wet her feathers to keep the eggs moist while incubating them. The only problem is we don't want to leave her out overnight or she'll end up fox fodder. So, the plan is, once she starts to sit on them we will try moving her and the nest into our little broody coop, but to be honest I'm really not sure if she'll like us disturbing her and it may well put her off. If this is the case we've got a couple of broody hens waiting in the wings to take over, one of the French Cuckoo Marans and a Blue Laced Wyandotte. Hatching little duckings would be superb so watch this space........

I ended the evening planting some more seeds in the greenhouse, lettuce and rocket into some old guttering that we found behind the stables, another one of Sarah Ravens ideas!

Ooh, we also had our first customer today, a lovely lady who lives up the road from us on the next estate, she came and bought two dozen eggs! I managed to contain my excitement and refrained from asking if I could take a photo of her for on the blog, I am thankful for having a little bit of sanity every now and then.......................

L xx

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Easter Weekend

Easter has come and gone in a bit of a whirl wind in our house this weekend, but a very enjoyable one! From the first visitors arriving on Friday morning until yesterday afternoon, the kettle was working overtime! It was lovely to see all our friends and family over the weekend, so thank you all for taking the time to come and visit.

Hasn't the weather just been superb, I can't remember the last Spring we had that has been this glorious, and by all means it's to last for the rest of the week, fingers crossed! We've even had to start watering the pots!

We managed to get a few things done outside, Gregg and Allan felled a tree on Friday morning, don't boys just love playing with chain saws and making lots of noise!

In between visitors I managed to get this made.....

........I have been looking forward to this moment for sooooooooooooooo long! This time last year we started off with 5 chickens, a cockerel and 2 geese. We now have a bit of a menagerie, producing loads of eggs and hopefully some little chicks soon. We have a couple of broody chooks so we're planning on setting them on some eggs this weekend, very exciting, as our attempts last year were a bit late in the day and didn't produce anything. We also have more interesting news on the poultry front but I'll keep that for tomorrow.

At last I have passed the "planning" stage of the veggie garden and have progressed to the "just get on with it" stage! I got my first lot of potatoes in yesterday, early Duke of Yorks, and planted sweetpea seeds, varieties "Matucana" and "Painted Lady". I also got a tub of basil seeds planted so that'll be interesting to see how they come along. Only about another 20 packets of seeds to go now..............

Hope you all enjoyed your Easter break too.

L x

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The wild flower garden

As you all know, when we moved up here to what we now refer to as "the shack", it was a bit of a tip. Certain parts of the house needed gutting as the smell of dogs and other nasties was pretty horrendous. The outside of the cottage was just as bad, if not worse. The garden had been left unattanded for probably 6 weeks or more in the height of the summer, this left us to tackle a rather rampant wilderness as well as getting the inside of the cottage livable - not a task for the feint hearted! Dealing with 7 ft high nettles and dockings meant that Gregg would go armed with strimmer into areas of the garden and not be seen for a few hours!

We battled on enjoying the fact that we were very clearly stamping our mark onto our little piece of the Perthshire countryside but soon realised that an acre of land is not something that you turn around in a few months (timescales have never been my strong point!)! I had a huge list of jobs to be done over that first summer, we're still knocking them off the list! Our neighbours continually comment on how we've imporved the place so much but we only feel as if we've scratched the surface!

I have always been a keen gardener, very much influenced by my grandmother, she had me weeding at a very early age! Both her and my grandfather were and still are great gardeners, but more about that in another post. It's only really now that I feel as if I'm getting to grips with the scale of our garden and that for once I seem to be organised in my seed planting! I sat last night and planned the veggie plot and read up on each vegetable that I'm intending to grow this year, at last I felt as if I was actually doing what I came here to do.
Gregg and I also got discussing another area of the garden last night, the wild flower garden. I shouted up to him to do a search for a company called Scotia Seeds. Diane at our local Organic Hut had recommended them to me last summer when I was talking to her about growing wild flowers. They are based not far from us and produce native wild flowers to Scotland. It has always been a dream of mine to grow a wild flower garden and at last we are ready to plant some seeds and see where it goes...........

We are planning on sowing the wet meadow mix along the burnside,

the woodland mix on the banking over the burn,

and the short mix around the edge of the paddock.

So we'll have hopefully have turned an area that looked like this......

into something a bit more eyecatching and appealing to nature.

I read this post today and felt truely heartened to see that there are others out there who understand exactly how I feel, sadly, there are so many people out there that just don't get it.........

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Beautiful days

Spring is well and truly here, isn't the weather just fab? We had such a lovely weekend just pottering around in the garden, life is good. I spent a good part of the weekend tidying in the garden, the greenhouse got blitzed, it still had the remains of christmas wreath making lying around in it! I had so many pots with lilies and dahlias from last summer starting to show signs of life so I repotted them in fresh compost, fingers crossed they bloom this year.

Gregg was getting on with the edging down the drive so hopefully we will soon be able to get some gravel delivered and get sowing some grass seed, at last we will have a presentable front garden instead of a mud bath!
We also headed up to Glenshee Pottery, Diana was opening on Sunday for the season. As usual the place was looking lovely, full of all her gorgeous pottery and lots of other finds. Hopefully the good weather will be bringing the tourists north and she'll have a busy start to the season. If you are up this way do pop in, you'll get a cuppa and some home made shortbread, they are open 7 days a week from 10am - 5pm, just off the A93.
Today, I popped down to the village to post a couple of parcels, I enjoy going to the post office as I generally always bump into someone I know. The service is dreadfully slow but I would be really sad if it was one of the rural post offices that is likely to be shut down. It is always busy, has a great selection of cards and has recently opened up a small gallery through the back. I presume this is another way for the post master to make a living from it so lets hope it works. Is this happening to your rural post office - is it likely to be closed?
I also popped into our fab hardware store, they have everything and anything, a real Aladins cave of goodies, shops like these are sadly few and far between nowadays so we are very lucky still to have one in the village. I went in looking for seed potatoes, red onion sets and a little tin of red paint. They didn't have any red onion sets but had the other two things I was looking for - I'll show you what the red paint was for in my next post hopefully!
I came home all excited and desperate to know what to do with the seed potatoes, I bought early Duke of Yorks I think, I should have paid more attention! So, I made myself a big mug of coffee, took myself out onto the bench in the sun and read my two favourite books at the moment, Sarah Ravens "The Great Vegetable Plot" and "A Greener Life" by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott. I think between the two books I should be well prepared for what lies ahead in the veggie plot over the next few months. I really am looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into it all and writing about our progress.
Well it's far too nice a day to be stuck inside on the computer so I'm off outside to sit and do some work - hope you are all enjoying the great weather too.

L x

For Robin........

Robin, as requested, here's the recipe for the sponge and butter cream icing from my previous post..................

Victoria Sandwich Cake

175g butter or marg. softened
175g caster sugar
3 medium eggs beaten
175g self-raising flour, sifted
Grease and base line two 18cm sandwich tins.
Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
Fold in half the flour, using a large metal spoon or a plastic spatula, then fold in the remainder.
Divide the mixture between the two tins and level off the surface with a palette knife.
Bake in the centre of the oven at 190 degrees C (375 degrees F) or gas mark 5 for about 20 minutes. The cakes should be well risen, golden on top and spring back when lightly pressed in the centre.
Loosen the edges with a knife and leave in the tins for about 5 minutes.
Turn them out of the tin, remove the lining paper and place on a wire rack to cool.

Putting it all together.

For the buttercream icing put 75g of soft unsalted butter in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Gradually add 175g of seived icing sugar, a few drops of vanilla essence, a splash of milk and the tiniest little drop of red food colouring. Beat well until nice and smooth.

I used some home made strawberry jam to sandwich the two sponges together or alternatively you could use rasp jam too. Then spread the butter cream icing over the top of the cake. I used mini eggs dotted around the cake but frosted violas would also look very pretty.