Saturday 28 November 2015

Rottweiler Light

I changed the light on the front of the house this week. I wanted to do it before I got the tiles on the porch roof as it'l be hard to get to afterwards (but not impossible).
Halogen lights are notoriously unreliable, with bulbs popping if you so much as look at them. They're also pretty aggressive to look at, hence why my friend calls them "Rottweiler lights".

 I though it was time to splash out on a LED one, not only will it be more reliable it will also use far less energy. The old halogen one was 500W and the new LED is only 30W and nearly as bright, it should also, fingers crossed, never need a bulb changing. The one I bought was £35 from Screwfix so it remains to be seen if this is very good quality or not.
A simple and low cost bit of security for the front of the house and it helps us find the way to the front door when we get home in the dark. 
Anyone else using this type of security light outside their house? Any brands you recommend? I need to fit a few more of these around the house and buildings to make the winter nights a bit easier.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Chilli Apple Chutney & Raspberry Jam

It's been a couple of very wet days here and to make matters worse the little one has been under the weather. Nothing serious but she's been a bit clingy and not wanting to go outside as much as normal. So while she's napped I've started to do a bit more preserving of this years harvest. 
The first thing I did was to make some jam, just 7 jars but it's a start. These was using some raspberries I'd picked earlier in the year and some of the left over cooking apples from canning the other day. Jam making is so simple and we eat much more of it than we used to! In fact we were down to just one jar left! See previous posts on raspberry jam here and here.

Then the next thing I made was some chilli and apple chutney. 
Although I froze a load of chillies I still had some on the plants that I didn't know what to do with and I fancied something spicy to make cheese sandwiches a bit more interesting over the winter. 
I need to let this mature for a month before I try it, so please don't copy the recipe yet but I'm going to write it here incase it's any good and then I'll be able to copy it at a later date.
600g chopped onions
1 kg chopped apples,
300ml of malt vinegar (I think cider vinegar would be better but I had none!)
12 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of turmeric
2 teapoons of ground ginger
275g demerara sugar
Chillies - I used a few Sotch Bonnet, half a dozen cayennes, one Aji Crystal (really hot), and about eight cherry bombs.
Rasins - You can add these if you like but I hate them in chutney so never do!
I then cooked the onions until soft, added the apples and garlic and did the same before adding everything else and cooking until I could see the bottom of the pan when I pulled the spoon through.
Pour into sterilised jars and keep for a month before eating. I made five jars.
when I tried a bit the hotness was a growing sensation! Not too hot but it builds over time. Really looking forward to trying this when it's matured!
Anyone else made any chilli preserves lately?

Tuesday 24 November 2015

A Quote About Legacy

Read this and it struck a cord with me:

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. 

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” 

Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

Sunday 22 November 2015

Back In The Modern World

So by Friday night we were back in the modern world, We had a flushing toilet and central heating, two things we'd gone without for quite some time. Neither massively bothered me but it is much better for all my ladies that live with me. 
Still lots to do and lots of materials needed
My cousin, Ian, came round on Thursday to fit the boiler and the new toilet (this was in exchange for some work I did for him last year on his house). The toilet broke about 4 months ago (maybe more) so we've been flushing it with a bucket ever since, I hate plumbing jobs so kept putting it off. The toilet was so old I knew if I took it apart it wouldn't go back together again without leaking so I bought a replacement. I think the new toilet with all the bits came to around £50, I can't believe how little water it uses, much more efficient that the old one.
The heating was on as I got home on Friday night (I'd been working at my brothers but more on that in another post) and the house felt completely different as I walked in. The wood burner only heats so much of the house, the bathroom and bedrooms didn't benefit much from it at all so it was good to get rid of the damp feeling up there. To make matters even better it froze outside that night so we really felt the affects of it! 
My wife is much happier now we can get the house warm ready in time for baby number three arrival and the midwife might think that our house is more suitable than before! 
I've still got lots of work to do yet but slowly the list is getting ticked off! 

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Apple Picking

Apple picking is good fun when you've got the right help. 

These pictures just make me smile. 
When I was up the tree she kept saying "careful daddy". What a helpful little two year old (if I can stop her eating them!)! 

Saturday 14 November 2015

Am I Cruel To My Pregnant Wife?

I've been told that I'm cruel to my wife whenever she's pregnant and looking at the evidence I'm inclined to agree! 
 The first pregnancy (nearly four years ago. I made my wife move house when she was 8 months pregnant, three days before Christmas. She gave birth two weeks later to our first daughter, I still hear about that one. 

 The second pregancy I ripped out the living room as her maternity leave started, re plastered, laid an oak floor and fitted a new fire place.
 To be fair it nearly killed me but we were finished two weeks before our second daughter was born. 

This time I've destroyed the patio, started and not yet finished the porch and now ripped out the old boiler and replaced every radiator in the house. My cousin, Ian, has been here today helping me replace all the radiators ready for the new boiler which didn't turn up yesterday (don't use plumbnation if you want something to turn up on time). 

Ian Fitting a new radiator upstairs
Tomorrow we're digging through the floor, under where the boiler used to be to allow access for pipes. So should be nice and quite for the wife to relax and  enjoy her pregnancy...
I'm not cruel just not very good at timing!
Hopefully the porch, heating and first section of the patio should be finished before baby number three turns up! 

Friday 13 November 2015

First Time Canning

 I've been on about trying canning for a long time and since Kirsty (from Rural Retreat Restoration)  has learnt how to do it I thought she'd be the perfect person to teach me. Yesterday was a wet and miserable afternoon, so perfect to meet up with a friend and spend it preserving fruit in good company. 
In them morning I'd picked a good amount of cooking apples out of one of the fields I rent, Howgate Wonder, and bought them round to Kirsty's house. 
We then set to work pealing, coring and chopping them up. The first batch was for apple pie filling (although more likely to be crumble for me) with an American  recipe off the internet, it was quite sweet! 
 Kirsty set to it like she'd been canning all here life and we soon had some jars canned. Unfortunately a few of my Kilner lids kinked so we had to redo a couple of them, but we had space in the pan for the next batch so it wan't the end of the world. It seems the Ball brand are slightly better quality.
The children were being brilliant and quite happy just playing with the apple. 

 We made 13 jars of the pie filling and then made a batch of apples in a light syrup, just five jars this time but I imagine it would be great ladled over custard! 
We were pleased with our afternoons work and although we maybe didn't make as much as some of the amounts I see on some American blogs, we did have four children to deal with as well! 
I think I might be addicted now and want to can more! Anyone know the best place to by the mason jars in the UK? They seem expensive everywhere I look over here and I'd like to buy a good quantity of them, as well as a pressure canner at some point as well! 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

More Mud!

Sunday was mental. My dad and brother came over, it was a long hard day, we were all covered in mud in the end, but we got a lot done! Cables and pipes all safely under ground and lots of things ready for the future as well. We also had the right equipment which makes a big difference. 
More patio going. This time for a man hole as well, ready for the extension. 

This is 90cm deep. Pretty nifty! 

Robocut - the machine that made things a bit easier. A radio controlled trencher. An amazing bit of kit! 

Ducting, and a water pipe as a spare

Laying ducting for cables ready for the telegraph pole to be moved later in the year. 

The patio..

The way to the chickens is a bit muddier than it was!

Some of the garden! 

View from the upstairs window! 
More to come this weekend on this project! Wellies only! 

Sunday 8 November 2015

Making More Mud

Now the wall is nearing completion it's time to crack on with the back of the house so we can get the boiler in. 
 Unfortunately this means digging up more of the patio to put in a proper retaining wall. I'm doing this a stage at a time though as we only need to do the first section to get the pipes in for the boiler.
The boiler is going between the two pillars on the wall.

 Unfortunately the day we chose to do this it rained all day, both my dad and I were soaked through and were both ravenous by the lunch time, I think we were burning calories just trying to stay sanding up in the mud!

As usual we ended up concreting the footings in the dark, but I was pleased with the results in the light the next morning. 
Tomorrow we're doing more digging, again regardless of the weather, to lay all the pipes and cables that we need. I have a feeling it's going to be a long, wet & muddy day! 

Thursday 5 November 2015

Buying Garlic To Plant

I try not to buy too much in the way of seeds and other sundries for the garden if I can help it at the moment. I prefer to swap or save if I can but I always end up buying a few things and and sometimes it's good to introduce new lines to what I'm growing.
Suttons had an email offer the other day of their autumn planting garlic and shallots set, reduced from £25 to £10. 
I bought it on a whim, which is unusual for me, but when it turned up I wasn't disappointed. There was three lots of garlic, one bag had two bulbs in and the other two had three bulbs, then the two types of shallots weighed in at 500g each. A good amount of alliums to plant! 
I managed to get the garlic planted today and hopefully I'll get the shallots in tomorrow. With those three new types of garlic and my own saved from this year (as well as the elephant garlic) I'm going to have a couple of beds full (with the shallots as well) and that's before I've planted any onions in the spring! 
We do love garlic though and I think we'll always use what ever we grow, just as we grow more we might smell a little more...

Tuesday 3 November 2015

A Day Out At Croome Court

My wife had a rubbish week with the girls over half term. As the youngest was poorly all week she couldn't meet up with her friends or go anywhere really. So on Sunday we decided to go out for the day.
Tricky to see when the little one is holding her map on my shoulders! 
First of all we went for an amazing carvery and filled our bellies to brusting point. I asked for a doggy bag for the girls meat they'd left, I think foolishly they thought the meat would be for a dog, little do they know that became last nights curry! 
We then went over to Croome Court, which isn't far away from us and undergoing some massive restorations at the moment. The girls love having a map and trying to find their way around, they also got their faces painted so really they were butterflies for most of the afternoon! 
I didn't take many pictures as it was such a grey and overcast day but I was impressed by the oak bridge, I'd love to make something like this! 

Look at the size of that tusk tennon! 

Even spotted some sea buckthorn by the playground. Nothing liek being able to spot unusual food sources when you're out! 
A great day out, and a nice way to learn more about our local area. The girls had a great day and just loved being able to run about (the play area was great as well!)!

Sunday 1 November 2015

Busy Half Term & Trying To Get Heating Ready

Autumn has come all of a sudden this year, the leaves seem to have fallen off the trees in the last couple of days. 
I've had a busy half term, working on a job in the local town and trying to mop up a few projects here (sorry no posts). I've still got lots to do before winter properly sets in. With such a busy summer my I've probably only got just enough firewood in store, but as I've been helping my brother some evenings he's promised me that we won't go short as he has about five years worth stored up - a good job because at the moment that's our only source of heat! 
Last year I posted about our boiler and whether we should repair or replace. Luckily it lasted the mild winter out but now I don't really want to risk turning it on again and even if it works I doubt it could heat the house much if it turned cold. The plan now is to fit a new external oil boiler, but I'm going to fit it about 8m from the house and duct all the pipe work in. 
This means lots of digging &lots of muddy mess! 
The new boiler will go down where the wall steps, that way when the patio is built up you should really see it and any noise or smells are away from the house

So hopefully over the next week we're (dad and me) going to dig up the patio (or what's left of it) and run heating pipes to the new boiler site. We're also moving the oil tank and running in new pipe work to that as well. and an armoured electric cable. I'm also going to install a couple of empty ducts so we can pull in extra cables if we need to. I have plans to install a generator down there and put a change over with in the house at some point so having the ability to install extra wires or pipework will be handy. 
Our heating system is just a regular heating system and I've no plans to change that at the moment, this means that pipework in the house stays the same and it also gives us the ability to install solar in the future should we ever want or afford to. 
So hopefully by the middle of this month(ish) we should have some proper central heating installed and hopefully that will be before it gets too cold! Lots to do before I start working full time again next year! 
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