Thursday 7 December 2023

Curved Fireplace

So last week I was working on some apartments and in the one we had to inspect the loft, in it there was this fireplace. 

Now I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I love it. Even with little the electric stove in there. 

I put it on social media and loved all the different responses. It's fair to say it's a bit marmite (you either love it or hate it). But with social media things are lost pretty quickly. Having it on here means it's searchable and maybe it'll help someone one day looking for a different style or doing a college report (if you are doing a college report in the future feel free to use this picture). 

So what do you think? Not what you expect to find in a 5th floor apartment. 

Do you like it? 

Or Loath it?

Tuesday 5 December 2023

Carved Bread Board - Woodcarving Raised Letters

 I love doing some carving projects, and I love sharing them almost as much as doing them.

This is a bread board for an upcoming magazine article in Woodcarving magazine. I wanted to make a bread board, but do it a little different to the norm, and have the lettering raised rather than sunk in. this is harder to do, but gives the board a really unique look. 

Sunday 3 December 2023

GREAT Achocha Relish/Pickle

I have found an incredible way to use up these achocha fruits.

 A few weeks back I posted about trying to make achocha jam. Which was tasty but still not quite what we were after when trying to find something t do with them (and had a weird consistency). 

Friday 1 December 2023

English Country Life

If you're on social media enough you make some good friends along the way (this blog is a perfect example of that. 

Two friends I have made are Hugh and Fiona, who run the YouTube channel English Country Life (almost as good as my own channel). Hugh and I chat frequently, you can even spot one of my baskets in some of their videos

They've just opened an online shop selling quality smallholder equipment from UK firms and I thought it deserved a share. They have a great range of poultry equipment as well as other tools and electric fencing, they're a lovely friendly couple who so happily share their knowledge with others, I hope the shop gets the support it deserves!

Go have a look and say Kev sent you! 

Wednesday 29 November 2023

How I Make My Compost And Grain Scoops

 Sometimes people are surprised that I don't make everything individually. But to make any money (and honestly I'm not making much) everything has to be made in batches. I tend to normally stick to batches of 8, 10 or 12 for things like my trays or baskets, but smaller items, like my scoops get made in in bigger quantities. 

Last week I made 34 more wooden scoops, and then needed to make some more of my folded galvanised still ones. 

This meant a trip over to my Dad's farm and the use of the metal working equipment there. 

Sunday 26 November 2023

Saving Seeds I Won't Grow

 I know, random title to a blog post. But that's exactly what I've done here. 

These seeds are from a squash I harvested this year. It was a self set hybrid, of which I'm not sure of the parents.

Saturday 25 November 2023

Making a Garden Tote From An Old One.

 My mum has the most amazing garden shed (it should be, we built it for her!), and it's filled with the most amazing items she's collected over the years. 

One thing that always catches my eye is this little tote.

I decided that it would be a fun project to make a reproduction one. 

Wednesday 22 November 2023

First Craft Fair - Was it Worth It?

This weekend just gone I did a craft fair. It wasn't far away, just a mile or so up the road at a local private school. 

Growing up I always swore I'd never do a craft fair, having attended so many with my mum selling dried flowers in my childhood. They were a great experience but I could always see it was an unpredictable way to earn a living. 


Monday 20 November 2023

Hand Carving A Sign For An Apiary

I made my friend a sign for her 40th the other day. She's just got into bee keeping and it going to get a couple of hives. 

I wasn't really sure what to get her so I decided I'd make her a sign for her future apiary. 

I enjoy letter carving, it's quite simple and looks great when it's done. 

I thought I'd make a video but do this one a little differently, just me carving with no talking. It's at 3x speed (so in total it took me an hour), with just the noise of my tools working (and the heater in the background). A different pace for my videos, but hopefully some will enjoy it, it's a bit like ASMR if you like that sort of thing. 

 My friend was pleased with the sign (and I had spelt it correctly thankfully). If you watch the video I'd love it if you left a comment on there (stupidly I set it to release at 4.30 this morning (Sunday) instead of afternoon and now I think I'm being penalized for the mistake). 

Anyone want a sign carving?

Saturday 18 November 2023

Making A Temporary Path - No More Muddy Feet!

I don't have much of a commute to work each day, normally it's just a stroll form the house to the workshop. But that stroll is quite muddy this time of year. 

It's a silly thing but it gets me down a little bit, I tread mud into the workshop and into the house. But the other day I got given a god number of slabs, and I had some sharp sand and stone that was past it's best for proper building projects - Time for a temporary path! 

 Of course if you're going to do a job like this then it's always handy to have a bit of machinery to help - the digger and dumper sure do make the job faster.

It's a quick job but I'm already enjoying my walk to work a lot more! 

Watch the video above and let me know what you think. Hopefully it's a really fun one. 

Anyone else done a temporary job lately that makes them smile every time they use it? 

Thursday 16 November 2023

Garden Club Talks Mixed With A Spot Of Pole Dancing...

Mad start first few days to the start of the week, two garden club talks. One on the Monday then one on Tuesday, I got home after 11 both nights! I'm writing this on Wednesday evening and I'm really tired!

Both were great fun though. 

The first was at a village just outside Bromsgrove, and as I pulled up the village hall I could see all the lights on, even though I was really early. I parked up the truck, got some of my gear and walked up to the hall. I then stood looking through the doorway in shock...

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Carving Letters - Instructional Video

Back in the summer I got asked by a spoon carver via Instagram to carve them a sign for when they do craft fairs. 

I agreed to do it, but as usual struggled to find the time, but the week before last was wet and horrible so I decided to treat myself to a nice little carving job in my warm workshop. 

Photo credit - Mark Robson

I decided I should film it as well. 

Sunday 12 November 2023

Compost & Grain Scoops Made By ME!

 I was reading the other day that YouTube is the second most used search engine. So I decided that as well as my usual videos looking at making things and doing stuff on the homestead, I should also have some videos showing my different ranges of products. 

My scoops are a product I'm really proud of. I love building something that I know will last. IT's also nice that I use dad's workshop as well as my own to make them, the joining of skill is really nice. 

I put a short video together (in my mum's very pretty garden shed) showing off the three main sizes I make, but I also have a large scoop (which is one I like but might be too big for many) and a dustpan available currently. 

Let me know what you think. What would you build out of folded metal and wood?

Friday 10 November 2023

Future Plans - A Years Food Self-Sufficiency

Something I've been wanting to do for a long long time is to try to see if I could survive just eating what I've grown here in a year. 

A question I'm often asked at talks is "just how self-sufficient are you?" And it's one where I probably give a different answer every time. The honest answer is "Not as much as I'd like". Life always gets in the way, running around after the kids, scouts, swimming, having to earn enough money to pay for everything. We do well in some areas though, our fruit is always good for example, but some years are far better than others. 

Self sufficiency has been my obsession for as long as I can remember. I often recount the story of my wife and mine first holiday together (at the tender age of just 20) to Cornwall for the week. I took with me John Seymour's Guide Of Self-Sufficiency and read it cover to cover. Twice. I had my own veg garden on the family farm and frequently used to do all sorts of semi mad food quests, tapping trees for wine, or fighting squirrels for walnuts. 

It's probably the way my mind works but I have to focus on something for it to work. Then it gets a lot of my energy (there's a fair bit to go round), I do have a habit of spreading myself quite thin. Having goals often helps me. 

So I've set myself a couple of semi long term goals, the first is for the aim for the garden next year, which will come in a later post. And the second is to try and have a year living on what I can grow or produce.

 I'm not sure whether this starts autumn next year or the year after. It will depend on a few things and how much I can get done towards some of the infrastructure I'd need to have in. 

I've had years here where I think I've produced the vast majority of the veg we've eaten, but I've always lacked in the carb department, and protein even when the going has been good. I've always thought I could provide for us should I have to. But it would involve more area under cultivation, strips of grains and other crops on a larger scale, potatoes and beans. 

So I'd need to make a few changes and get a few things into motion in the run up. Get some four legged stock back on the smallholding and ramp things back up a bit more to where I had them when I was a full time stay at home dad. Of course there is never enough hours in the day. But if my belly depended on it then maybe it could be a good driving factor. 

I'd also need to set myself some rules to work by. And for that I think I need some help from people that read my blog (I want to do a post on this soon). Things like would trades be allowed and to what extent, and where I could harvest food from, would foraging be allowed, what staples would I be allowed in (salt for a start)? I'm already sure I won't be able to produce the animal feed I'd need yet (let alone store it), but buying in animals just to consume should be allowed. 

It should make for a fun challenge. My wife has already said that her and the children are not taking part (hard with a diabetic as well to be fair - need to grow lots of hypo treatments), but also I tend to have more time during the day to indulge in this sort of stupidity, especially if I could cut back a little on my actual work (doubt I would though).

So let me know what you think? 

Would it be something you'd be interesting in trying? How would you go about planning it?

Do you think it could make for interesting blog posts and videos?

Think I'd tackle it okay? 

A friend I spoke to about it said I should just get myself to 20 stone before I start and then I'd be fine...

Wednesday 8 November 2023

Always Repairing Something! Chicken Coop This time...

 The Other day I moved the little broody coop we rear chicks in and the floor of the sleeping compartment fell out of it! 

Not what I wanted to happen. Especially as it was not long before we were planning to head off for the weekend. And that sleeping compartment keeps a mother hen and her chicks safe from predators at night. 

So I stopped what I was doing and set about fixing it. I didn't want to loose any more chicks to predator. This pen is worth investing some time in, like all wooden infrastructure on a smallholding or homestead, it takes a bit of time every year to keep it all running. 

This isn't the first time I've repaired this coop in the 15 years or so since I built it. I doubt it'll be the last either! Luckily it was a fairly simple fix and didn't take too long. 

I'm trying to make filming things something I do, hopefully this video is interesting to some people. Let me know what you think in the comments. 

Monday 6 November 2023

Diabetic Milestones

We all have milestones come up in life, somehow diabetes seems to throw a few at us that we hadn't really thought about.

The week before last we finished filling our first sharps bin. I say "we" but it was our daughter's doing obviously. 

That bin is full of the needles she used every day, on average 4 to 7 needles, and the empty cylinders of insulin, the fast acting she takes before she has carbs and the long acting she has once a day at night. 

That bin represents a lot of learning in our little family. We've learnt that having diabetes complicates everything. That getting her levels right one day doesn't mean they're been anywhere near the next. It sometimes feels that the change in the direction of the wind can alter her levels. We learnt not to get hung up on the odd bad day and to look at the bigger picture. 

That bin has some moments in there, highs and lows. It has the needles where I begged and pleaded for her to inject herself, it has the first needle where she did it, and where I ran around the house and screamed with joy when she made it happen. That needle represented her taking charge of her diabetes. 

It represents all we've learnt about food and how we've all changed our diet slightly as a family to make everything seem normal. How a slightly more diabetic friendly diet has made me feel slightly better without realising anything wasn't right. We learnt that our diet was pretty good before, that our children understand food more than a lot of adults. 

It has moments in there that shows how close her siblings are with her, whether that's her younger sister working out her carbs for tea and prepping her needles as she gets something else ready. Or whether it the moment where I was doing the food shop with her younger brother and he put back the breaded ham I'd picked up and replaced it with some that wasn't and just looked at me and said "less carbs". I had to hide a tear from the little man who often seems wise beyond his years and already a better understanding of diabetes than most. 

It hides the late night wake ups for hypo treatments, or the alarm buzzing for a hyper and the need for insulin. Or how the other night we both sat chatting at 2 in the morning because her sensor wasn't working right, knowing we'd both be tired the next day. It hides all the sweets she's had to eat even when she wasn't feeling like it because she's gone low. It hides the glucose tablets and little sugary shots she'd taken, the cartons of apple juice drunk in the middle of the night or at in the morning. 

It hides the fact she went shaky before her alarm beeped, or that my phone tells me she's going low on the bus on the way home and I have to trust she'll sort it out on her own. 

It hides the calls to the hospital because we can't figure something out, or the high of coming away from a check up feeling like we're doing okay, the doctor giving his approval, even if her alarm did buzz 4 times during the appointment...

It hides a few tears, both from me and her mum, and maybe from our daughter, but she's always stoic, I've not seen her shed many.

I remember when she was first diagnosed, I read a forum of parents chatting about their children with diabetes. On there one mother said how she cried every single day for her son and the normal life he'd lost, and I just thought No Way am I going to be like that, it wouldn't be fair on her or on us. I was determined as far as we could we'd own this problem as a family, we're always stronger together. 

I so proud of the way my daughter has stepped up to this problem and how she's handled it. Starting a new school, adapting, and just getting on with life. 

One sharps bin down, many, many, more to go.

So F-you diabetes. You won't get us down. 

Saturday 4 November 2023

Sweet Achocha Jam - The Weirdest Jam I've ever made!

So I grow a lot of weird and wonderful fruit and veggies, trying out different ones each year. 

One that we keep growing is achocha. Now I'm not saying I plant it every year, it's just the plant that keeps coming back!

Thursday 2 November 2023

Weekend In Wales With Friends

This weekend just gone we managed to get away to Mum and Dad's place in Wales. Now the place is a bit bigger (since we redid the roof last year) we could take another family with us! 

Our friends have four children and with our three it makes for a fun full house!

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Eggs For A Diabetic Breakfast

In our journey with diabetes we've been looking more and more at our diet. 

I think we eat fairly well. We have a well rounded diet that provides all the stuff we need to live active lives. 

But since my daughter has been wearing a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) we can certainly see where spikes occur. 

One was right after breakfast. It was a "traditional" western breakfast of sugary cereal with some fruit juice (normally apple). 

A friend suggest we tried egg on toast. She still needs the carbs but they are slower burning from the (homemade) toast than cereal would be and with the protein from the egg should keep her full until breakfast. 

We did a week of it and noticed that although you still get a spike (that's just eating any carbs and the insulin having to catch up) it was way less, often keeping her in target for the whole morning.  

It was so good I thought I'd change my breakfast and try it as well. No more 10 O'clock slump! 

Then the other two wanted to try it and suddenly we didn't have enough eggs! 

So we went and got some POL hens (Point Of Lay) that will hopefully lay all through winter. I was hoping 5 would be enough but the oy is insisting on two eggs every morning....

The video above is a fun little journey out with my boy to buy the hens and getting them set up in their new home. I also talk a little about diabetes on there and about the blood sugar spikes. It's amazing how much it makes me think about what we're all eating. We've made some very easy switches and I'm sure it's benefiting us all. 

Squash instead of potato for some evening meals

Brown rice instead of white (way more taste and texture to it)

Wholegrain Pasta (tastes just the same)

Adding some Emmer Flour to our morning loaf (nowhere near a wholemeal loaf but still rises really well and tastes great. 

Careful with the mixing of some foods - carbs and fats are a nightmare (pizza is a nightmare that sends her levels into a random plain)

With these little changes I seem to have lost a little weight (Hopefully don't have much to loose, but it's been quite noticeable around my stomach) and felt fuller longer. That said I've also band myself from buying any of the "rubbish" I normally eat. I still have to buy sweet for my daughter but tell her to hide them in her room! 

Makes me think that for next year I might plan a "diabetic friendly" garden with the foods we've found to work best for her levels, although everyone is different. Lots of protein and veggies. We were wrongly told that some foods would be "free" and not need insulin, like carrots as a snack, but so far we've found that they make her levels shoot up without the injection. 

#### Please remember before commenting that Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes are completely different things. She's not eating her way out of this one, her pancreas just doesn't work like it's supposed to anymore. A completely low carb or carb free diet doesn't work for Type one sufferers, nor would it be good for a young growing body like hers. ####

Hope you enjoy the video!

What food makes you "slump" a few hours later?

Saturday 28 October 2023

A 10th Birthday

 I know I keep saying it, but it never fails to amaze me how fast their childhood is slipping by! 

It doesn't seem five minutes since I was announcing that the Middlest was born, now all of a sudden she's in double digits. 

She certainly wants to be grown up! We often joke she's already a teenager (her temperament is a little too similar to my own), she is the first one to offer to help, does jobs around the house without being asked, works hard when she needs to. She's funny, smart, caring and thoughtful. Honestly everyone who knows her loves her. 

Thursday 26 October 2023

Always Baking...

 The children only need the slightest nudge to do some baking.

Tuesday night was the perfect example of this. I had a urge to eat an apple pie, and not being too short of apples decided to see if one of the children would be up for making me one. 

The Middlest leapt at the opportunity and set to work making some pastry. 

The Eldest came in then and looked a little disappointed that she hadn't got in on the act, so I suggested she make some bread from scratch. 

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Rodent Proofing The Apple Store

If you read this blog I don't need to tell you that I love storing my apples for as long as possible. As I mentioned in my last post, it saves us so much money and I hate seeing food waste anyway. 

But last year (and the year before) we had a bit of an issue with the apples stored in the shed. The mice got into them! 

Sunday 22 October 2023

Why Grow So Many Of The Same Variety?

 So there is a question I get asked at my talks more than any other - Why do I have so many varieties?

I use it! Or try to at least...

Friday 20 October 2023

Split Octagonal Handle - Article In F&C

 A while back I got asked by my woodworking magazine editor if I fancied doing an article on making a different door handle. 

I have a weird aversion to making or fitting handles. I'm not sure why, I just don't like them very much. So I saw this as a good challenge. 

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Hefting Chickens

 The term hefting normally refers to sheep. In some highland sheep you can buy them "hefted" where they already know their range and boundaries, taught by the older sheep in the flock. It stops them wondering too far on common land. 

I use the term with chickens, rightly or wrongly, to mean they know where to roost at night. Something they often have to be trained to do. 

It's a fairly simple process, where you keep the chickens in a coop for pen for a few days. They'll then see this as their home and go back there at night. 

Sunday 15 October 2023

Cucamelon - Love IT Or HATE It?

Or Fruit really...

I have given my talk on unusual fruit and veg many dozens of times now, often people have only heard of a few of the edibles in the first talk, there's a bit of what I call "suburban foraging" in there as well so people sometimes already have things growing without realising they can eat it. But if they have tried growing something it's often the cutely named Cucamelon - and often I get heckled for it! 

This spindly little vine is also called the Mexican Sour Gherkin or the Mouse Melon, I think giving it a cute name has certainly helped people try it out. 

The main reason I get called out for saying this is a great think to try is people seem to think it has a tough skin. Each fruit will grow to the size of a grape then it doesn't get any bigger, it just gets tougher! They need to be picked really regularly to be a good edible crop. 

We've been growing them (and saving the seed from them) since 2014 and they've very much become a garden staple in our household. The children insist I grow them every year and love when they come into baring. I've also made pickles with them.

A few plants will give you something tasty to snack on while you're working in the garden. They take up very little room as well, just growing happily amongst your other plants. i tend to grow them in the polytunnel or greenhouse, but have had really successful crops outside as well (although they then crop a little later). This year they've been late to come into fruit, but then I did plant them really late. 

I put a short little video together to show what I think of these great little fruits. Give it a watch and let me know what you think. 

Have you grown cucamelons? Do you think they're worth growing?

Friday 13 October 2023

Apple Day

 Every year our village has an Apple Day. The last time we went was in 2013 just before our Middlest was born! I'm not sure why we haven't gone since, there's always something that gets in the way, our weekends can be a bit manic at times. 

It was nice as my brother came over with his two children, they all get on so well it was a lovely day together. 

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Garden Club Talks About Produce

I enjoyed a giving great last night at a little village called May Hill in Gloucestershire. 

It's the second time I've talked here and it's a great little club. 

One thing I have heard quite a few times about my talks is that is that I'm one of the few that is giving them about growing produce and what to do with it (in our area anyway). A man told me tonight how nice it was not to have a talk about flowers for a change (I had just given my talk on preserving the harvest). 

The man had a great story about how his dad used to store food down the well to keep it cool, but how a few times a year, even though it's 500ft above sea level, the Severn Bore would affect the pressure in the well and knock the bucket over!

I have talks about unusual fruit and Veg, about preserving and one about growing fruit for as much of the year as possible. I had a couple more talks booked last week for next year and already have some booked for 2025, it's already looking like quite a good number. 

If you're Herefordshire, Worcestershire or Gloucestershire make sure you book me in! 

What do you think, would you have me speak at your club?

Sunday 8 October 2023

Building The Ultimate POSH Potting Bench

 A friend asked me to build his mum a potting bench. He is a another carpenter like me, but is absolutely snowed under with work at the moment. 

I thought it very much fitted with my "brand" and decided with would make a great magazine article. I also decided to film it. 

Friday 6 October 2023

Woodworking Crafts Article- Gooseberry Scoop & Getting Told I'm too Expensive...

So this month sees another article in a woodworking magazine. This is a particular favourite of mine - it's my gooseberry scoop! 

I made this back when the berries were still on the bushes and summer had some promise to it. It was something I really enjoyed making. 

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Scouts This week - Archery & Morse Code

 The start of the week always seems set up to kill us with how much we have to do. Especially with my eldest who has scouts (Monday night), and helped with Beavers (Monday night) and went to Cubs (Tuesday night) this week! Pretty full on start. 

Beavers was great where we got to try a little bit of archery. It's nice to see how the activity centre worker got them to listen, very practised patter that worked great. I always feel I learn a little bit from them. 

Monday 2 October 2023

Last Of The Rhubarb

Our eldest was keen to make a crumble for tea yesterday and was keen to see if we still had some rhubarb growing we could use. 

The usual advice is not to pick it too late as it weakens plant. But we have three huge plants and haven't taken any this year, so it won't do it any harm. It was starting to die back anyway. 

Saturday 30 September 2023

Carving A Wooden Trivet - Pierced Design

The other day I saw my wife struggling with a hot pan and laying out two trivets to keep the big roasting dish off the table. 

I decided it was a perfect project to make a new trivet. I loved making one a few years ago and it was the perfect magazine article for Woodcarving Magazine. I spoke to my editor and said about different design, making it in a different way. 

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Cover Star - Again! Wood Carving Magazine Front Cover

I've managed to make it to the front cover of a magazine again! It's the second time I've been on the front of Woodcarving magazine! 
My wife took the picture of me sat in front of my workbench a while back. 

My articles make up the first 21 pages of this issue. 

Monday 25 September 2023

Knot Club

With our eldest starting school it has thrown my day out of kilter a little bit. 

She gets the bus to high school at 8.05 and the other two can't get into school until 8.35 (more like 8.40 when they eventually open the gates). So we have a bit of time to kill. 

The scout hut is right next door to the school and being a leader I have access. So we have been sneaking in there most mornings...

Saturday 23 September 2023

Tech Colleges Wrecking Trades?

I love my trade, I love what it has done for me. When I started I was told it won't make me rich but if I'm good at it I'll never be out of work, and that has proved to be so true over the last 20 plus years. But I'm worried for the next generation. There seem to be courses that are almost designed to put people off and steer them away from learning a trade. Keeping them in college rather than being on site learning actual skills.
This video is a bit of a rant, and I'm sorry for that, but felt I wanted to put my opinion out there about it.

 Let me know what you think on the subject? Have we drifted too far from what it should be? 

Should people who have never been in the trade be the ones setting the syllabus for our trade colleges?

Thursday 21 September 2023

The Great Worcester Maise Maze

I've seen maise mazes advertised, but I've never been to one. I always assumed they might be a bit pants. But Tuesday night I went with the Cub Scouts and I have to admit I thought it was pretty awesome. 

The cubs absolutely loved it. As scouts we had the whole place to ourselves as they opened especially for us (one of our leaders worked there over summer). The children all tore off like crazy to try and find all the stamps for their cards. The whole evening was filled listening to their laughter and shouts. Perfect way for them to burn off some energy. 

Tuesday 19 September 2023

New Season Of Garden Club Talks

Last week saw the new "season" of garden club talks for me. I had two talks, about an hour from home, one on the Tuesday and one on the Friday. 

I always get really fired up before the talks and really enjoyed both of them.

At the one talk a lady came over with some Achocha's from seed I'd given her the year before at a talk I had given. I tend to give out packets of seeds rather than a business card, I find it's something people will keep a little longer and probably think of my business when they're planting them. 

Sunday 17 September 2023

How To Dehydrate Blueberries

 Food waste guilt. 

I'm not sure we all suffer with it, but I sure do! One of my good friends does as well. That's why when she messaged me "Want any blueberries - I've been given some and they're starting to go squishy," I knew to say no. 

The house was too hot for preserving (it was in this last heat wave), and I was busy. Last thing I wanted was some fruit I had to deal with straight away.

So I replied with a thanks but no thanks message. 

She turned up anyway. Ready to pass the food waste guilt over to me! 

Friday 15 September 2023

Summer Pruning Apple Trees

Last week I finished the annual summer prune of all my cordon apple trees. 

This time I decided to film the process and hopefully share my wisdom on the subject. My main wisdom is just to make sure you try pruning them! Not pruning them is worse, and mistakes don't take that long to grow out! 

 Watch the video and let me know what you think. 

Do you have much trained fruit growing?

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Make Sure Your Apples Are Ripe!

I have a lot of apples here (some 70 varieties) and only a few are ready this early in the season. Yet on social media I see plenty of people harvesting all they have. Sometimes we need to have a bit more patience to make sure we get the best from our own harvests, picking them when they're ripe and tasty.
This was a little video a few weeks ago, about checking to make sure the apples you're picking are ripe. 

For example, the Worcester apple above is what is classed as an early apple and it's only just ready! 

What's your favourite early apple?

Monday 11 September 2023

Don't Use Holiday Mode On Etsy

Etsy has been the main way I've earnt my living for some time now. My business has been slow to build but it fits well around the children, I have a built and designed a good range of products and put a lot of effort into what I do. 

But each year we'd go away and I'd put my shop on holiday mode, which was great as there is no hassle, but it would mean a big gap in my sales. I decided to try a different method this time and have had great success. 

Let me know how you deal with time away if you run your own business

Saturday 9 September 2023

Highschool Starts

It seems the different milestones of life keep clicking by. 

The children have gone back to school, only this time our eldest has gone off to secondary school.

It suddenly feel very different. With Primary school you're really involved, invited in for different things, it somehow feels you have to be a part of it. Secondary school it feels like you're sending your child off into the world, the school doesn't want you, just your child. 

The first day I drove her to a friend's house in the town and all the children from her class that had chosen this school walked into together. She went in smiling.

When I came to pick her up that evening, I met another mum who was waiting for her son. She said that they had to lock the door to stop her son getting back in the car! So I felt like my daughter was winning that day!

She came out smiling that day as well. She had a slight issue with one teacher and her phone. She has to have it out to monitor her blood glucose levels for her diabetes unfortunately. All teachers were meant to be informed but her tutor came over and asked her to put it away. She said she was a little upset but didn't argue, then she watched this teacher read her emails, look up at her, then come back over and tell her it was fine to check her levels whenever she wanted!

But it was today (as I write this it's Friday) that it all sinks in. We were sat on the bench, I'd left the other two in the truck, so just her and I were sat their waiting for the bus. We chatted and to me she just seemed instantly more grown up. The bus rolled up and she gets in on her own, I'm not going with her, I'm not speaking to the driver or checking everything is okay. She gets on and sits down and I watch her go off down the village. 

That afternoon she comes walking back up the road to meet us. A smile on her face, a whole series of experiences of her own, ones we sit and talk about if she chooses to share them. 

She makes me proud and happy every day. 

Thursday 7 September 2023

"Old Buildings Are The Best" - A Phrase I Hate

Ah, but old buildings were the best...
We hear it all the time and so often that we get fooled into believing it's true. 

Don't get me wrong, some were great, but some are truly terrible. And we only NORMALLY kept the good ones. 

This one is not one of those. 

Tuesday 5 September 2023

More Harvest Basket Pictures I've Been Sent!

I've been loving it lately as I've been sent so many pictures of my baskets in use! It's been so great to receive feedback like this. 

I hope readers of the blog don't mind me sharing them all on here!

I'm hoping that lots of pictures on my blog of them will help people searching for harvest baskets on google and likewise. 

I also just love seeing the bounty of summer that everyone is harvesting at the moment! 

Sunday 3 September 2023

"Surprise" Chicks

I've titled this "Surprise" Chicks, but rarely am I surprised by the chickens these days. I had a few hens broody in the the one coop, in  a place tricky to get to, so I kind of knew they might be sat on some eggs. 

So when I heard a chirp the other morning I knew that our flock would be getting a little bigger. The three hens had fought and sat on each other for a few weeks and managed to hatch out 6 chicks. These are pure bred Indian game as the eggs were white (our hens that aren't Indian Game lay brown eggs), so it will be interesting to see what birds we get from them.

Thursday 31 August 2023

Cooking Focaccia With Fire - Bread In The Pizza Oven

On Bank Holiday we had a bit of an easy day and decided to lots of cooking and baking. We decided to have some friends over as well to have pizza from the earth oven. 

I set our Middlest to lighting the fire and getting it going. She was very proud of it, only asking me to help her push it back into the main part of the oven. she maintained it all afternoon as well, stoking it often. 

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Children On Holiday Without Screens

 Well almost - we had a TV...

Our Children have tablets, but they only get to use them for a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday at home, we've always felt that was enough. Our eldest now has to have a phone for her diabetes and would have had one for high school anyway. She's been good with it though, (I'm easily the worst for too long on my phone) and only uses it really to check her blood sugar levels and to take lots of photos (most of these in this post are hers - used with her permission). 

For our holiday we decided that the tablets would stay at home. We've never had any entertainment for them in the car either other than the occasional audio book we can all listen to together (I hate to see kids watching a TV on the headrest of the seat in front, cut off from conversation). 

I think it's served us well over the years. They learn to be bored and entertain themselves and each other. 

Sunday 27 August 2023

Holiday In Norway - Of Fiords And Trolls

 So this is going to be a bit of a photo dump of a holiday post. I might do a few more posts later on of different things we did. 

It was a dream holiday by all accounts. We hired a car (which gave us lots of freedom), we rented a cabin (with a hot tub), we took some trips, made some up ourselves, had some very rainy days, under packed for the weather. 

It was an expensive trip for us, but we worked out it actually worked out far less than some of our friends spend on an all inclusive holiday to the sun. 

The ferry to Rosendale

Friday 25 August 2023

Thoughts on Children Travelling

So I have mixed views about travelling these days. Part of me thinks that we shouldn't travel much, due to the ecological costs of it all. Then I think for how little we do, ours is a drop in a very big ocean. I probably don't even drive 3000 miles a year anymore. 

I do think about travel when I was younger and how it helped form me and made me realise what was important in life. 

I can remember coming back from travelling for 3 months when I was 19 and I overheard my uncle talking to my dad a few weeks later, "He went a boy, but he's come back a man." I smiled as I walked quietly away from that one. I had come back with direction, sure in what I wanted in life. 

The three months were incredible, I went coast-to-coast across America with a friend (via Greyhound bus), then went to New Zealand and Australia on my own for a few months. Suddenly I was very far away from my support network and had to work everything out for myself. Admittedly they were very easy countries to travel, but I was only 19, just into becoming an apprentice. I hitchhiked, didn't always book in advance and realised that being calm and going with the flow sometimes just worked. Something I showed my wife years later when we travelled around Europe in a converted ambulance with nothing booked other than two ferries. 

I went on holiday with my parents only until about 14, I then looked after the farm instead, having someone good with the stock was important to dad. I also think I used to drive dad mad that my head would be in a book every time we'd stop on holiday anyway, its something we sometimes talk about, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about leaving one of my children behind at that age. It was a different time though and I'm fairly sure I was happy to have the house to myself (my cousin would stay at night).  But I can remember travelling to France and Luxemburg and I remember that feeling of being in a different country, walking to get bread, everything that little bit different. 

Wednesday 23 August 2023

An Emergency On Holiday - CPR

Before I share the good parts of the holiday I wanted to write down a story from our time away that isn't really very positive. I write things up here, sometimes to share, sometimes as my own form of therapy, and sometimes as a record. 

This is more to get it out of my head and on to the page. It took a bit of decompressing afterwards, in fact it still does. 

I'm a firm believer that no one remembers mediocre times, you remember the good and the bad. It forms you. And this is one of those that I'm sure I'll always remember, but not because it was a happy holiday memory. 

Our holiday was self catering, thankfully - I should add as, restaurants are few and far between and for 5 of us to eat out it would break the bank each time. Even shopping in the supermarket was expensive, although I always think it's a bit of an adventure shopping in a foreign land, looking at the different food and through it their culture. 

On this particular day we drove up to the nearest supermarket to our cabin. It was brand new with a huge parking lot, we parked along the side and walked in. 

My Middlest and I were having a little falling out (her too stroppy, me too hot headed), so as we walked in my wife went off with the other two while we had a chat. Just as we started to talk I heard a bang from behind us. I lifted my head and turned to see what had happened. 

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Harvest Baskets In Use

 I got tagged in a Twitter post the other day (if we can still call it twitter) with some of my baskets in use. I had a customer buy four baskets all at once, which really made my day, then to be sent pictures of them being used made it again! 

Such a lovely picture of one of my baskets

The Twitter use @CotonBuzz (Or Coton Loves Pollinators) gave me permission to share the photos on here, saying how much they liked washing the veg out before they brought it up to the house. 

I love this picture of a basket filled and one in the distance

Sometimes the bit I miss about not doing much "regular" carpentry work anymore is that I don't get to see people enjoy what I make, but lately it's bene great with people sending in pictures or tagging me in social media. I feel really lucky that I can enjoy making these items and people enjoy using them! 

Saturday 19 August 2023

Taking A Diabetic On A Plane & A Spot Of Trouble...

 I'm writing this post purely as I wish I'd read something that would have put my mind at ease before we flew to Norway.

Both my wife and I were a little worried about taking our eldest through airport security, and all the other bits that go with going to a foreign country where you're not sure where you'd get replacements for anything you need. It had been 12 years since either of us had been on a plane so we were a little rusty anyway. 

We were told to take double what we needed, plus a bit. So we had extra insulin, both sorts, enough needles to last her a month and four Libre 2 sensors, she was due a change the day after we got there anyway. As well as sugar tablets and sugary drinks and spare Nova pens should they break (we've had one break since we've started on this diabetes journey so although they're said to be reliable, it's worth having). 

None of this should go in the hold and the Libre sensors can't go through the scanners which your bags normally go through. 

We spoke to the hospital a couple of months before the trip and they sent us through a letter to show airport security and talked us through everything we would need. 

I have to admit that I was worrying about the whole thing, not having stuff scanned at the airport seemed like a bit step. But when we got there they were as friendly as anything. the lady dealing with us looked at the yellow boxes the sensors come in and says "Ah a Libre 2 sensor," and then took them from me "My friend over there wears one!" She pointed to her colleague who waved back to us. 

I mentioned that I was worried about all this and she reassured me that they deal with it hundreds of times a day and to them it's perfectly routine. The only thing they questioned was the little carton of apple juice my daughter favours to control her lows, but they scanned this, said it was on the letter so was fine. 

I had worried about nothing! 

Then, breathing a sigh of relief, I was just about to collect my stuff and the airport security guard put his hand up for me to stop. 

He then pulled out a folding knife from a side pocket of my bag. My heart sunk and I realised that I had chucked one in there for the scout camp a few weeks back. Now I did panic. Had I wrecked the holiday before we'd even stepped on a plane?

I had a nervous wait for the police to come and speak to me. I sent my wife and very worried looking children away to get some breakfast, while I paced about. 

Luckily the police were very understanding once I spoke to them. I had to watch a short video about knife crime and was then let go on my way once they had taken my details. Apparently it happens about 5 times a day, making Gatwick the knife crime capital of the UK. 

I felt like such a fool, I'd been concentrating so much a about the diabetes that I hadn't checked my own bag properly! What an idiot! 

So don't worry about taking a diabetic on a plane - but make sure you check your bag properly! 

Anyone else had any experiences like this? Don't tell me I'm the only one! 

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