Sunday, July 30, 2006

Vegetable shortages due to heatwave

The article showing that there will be vegetable shortages of peas, beans and broccoli are no surprise, but I would argue that there probably is a harvest but not to the standard expected by the supermarket giants. I guess, the price of peas will rise, the price of fuel costs will rise and thereby the price of food will rise. Yes, I too have shortages and plants that did not grow well, but not having all my plants in the same baskets means that there should be sufficient to be getting on with. I may grow more peas next year but they take up a lot of space in my garden and the produce is not that great, i.e. I need a lot of it to feed 5 people.
I am concerned that there were power shortages in London due to the heat and people using their air conditioning and if the trends continue, fuel will be a luxury. The less we are addicted to electricity, fuel and others for our supplies, the more chance we have to live within our means. The old addage ‘ everything in moderation’ seems to come to mind.
Ok, Noah was laughed at when he built his ark, mainly because he did not live near the sea......maybe starting a garden, even if it is in pots of those vegetables you feel are a necessity in your life, might make the crunch more bearable when costs go up.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I feel like a magician at times, seeing what the creams and products are that I have been buying over the last few years. I am horrified to look at the chemical ingredients we pile on our skin, on our clothes, in the environment and am looking at what changes I can make there. One of the easiest ones was the dishwashing powder. It is quite pricey in the shops and if you figure that most of it is lemon,bicarb of soda and salt, they must be making a packet ( pun intended). If I could find an alternative that is not boxed in a cardboard box and individually packaged then I would be saving all that packaging and probably also some money.

The recipe for dishwashing powder I found here was very easy to execute and I used the same oils that I had used for the citrus handcream. I found the borax a bit difficult to get hold of but it is available in the Uk via Baldwins. It is in a small container, first test batch and the results were lovely. The smell of citrus positively floating in the atmosphere. Decanting it with a spoon is a little hazardous so I am saving a plastic bottle from the washing powder and will be using that as it has a spout for easy pouring. I find it very satisfying to make these little changes. Nothing hard about that part of downshifting.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


As any child doing science knows, data get collected to prove a theory and to keep track of methods used to produce the end result. I have been keeping a garden diary for a while and decided today that what I also need to catalogue is the amount of produce my garden provides and what I actually do with it. Path to Freedom can produce 6 tons of food from their 1/10th acre holding and I just wondered how much potential there is in my garden. Its going to take some time to gather all this info. I bought a 5 year diary which will allow me to compare what is happening year to year.
The categories on entries are:

Eggs sometimes get exchanged like yesterday a dozen eggs got exchanged for 1lb raspberries. I am slowly gathering in what grows and seeing what we store. The menu is changing slightly to reflect what is available in the garden.

Today I meditated while picking beans. They are only visible when you slow down and concentrate very carefully on distinguishing the beans from the leaves.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

online homestead library

Trying to find some inspiration on line about homesteading and leading a plain and simple life, I came across an online library where you can download books on a variety of subjects. It is free although the site does send you a message asking to make a donation. I downloaded the book about possum living which was a great read. You need adobe to make it work and I guess if your connection is slow it might take a while. Why not go and have a look at the titles?

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Still searching although I have come up with 2 suppliers, one in the UK and the other abroad. Knutsford Wares have a variety of Leifheit jars that resemble Killner Jars and are compatible with the Ball products offered in the USA. I have managed to put a water canner together using a very large stock pot and a round rack from the microwave to put the jars on. This should allow me to can apples, nectarines and peaches, plums, tomatoes and chutney, jams etc. What I cannot do are green beans who require a pressure canner. These are not available over here although I have now researched that Lehmans provide a good selection and ship internationally. I have made the decision that this year will be water canning and when the budget stretches I will get a pressure canner. There are things that I will not be canning such as tomatoe sauce, based on the fact that the jar costs the equivalent of 20 tins of chopped tomatoes, I will however be making tomatoe chutney which is delicious with cheese, bread and cold meats. All this equipment needs an initial monetary investment and it can only be done in stages. Why would I want to can, I have explored that in earlier posts, I remember rows and rows of fruit and vegetable jars in some of the country homes I stayed at as a child and it really sounds simple to turn the produce from the garden into jars and jars of goodies that will last us through the winter and remind us of the summer days.

I spent some time today clearing the larder shelves to create exactly that, a working food storage area instead of just being a dumping ground for everything that cannot be placed anywhere else such as swimming trunks, flip flops, sleeping bags and a variety of rucksacks. There is a lot of space there now which will hopefully show rows of produce soon.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


The reduction in plastic containers is apparent already in the house. using soap has made me realise how much money I have spent on cosmetics and body care products and I have been investigating what alternatives are available.
A bar of soap goes a long way and the shower does in fact not look dirty at all. Soap is cheap and relatively easy to make yourself with a few ingredients. A few books I found helpful are as follows :
the fragrant pharmacy by Valerie Ann Worwood
Soothing soaps by Sandy Main
The soap maker by Janita Morris

All books have merits in their own way. Soothing soaps offers recipes for soaps with glycerine base that enable you to create your own soaps using garden herbs, flowers and natural ingredients. If you combine this with the aromatherapy information given by the Fragrant Pharmacy it should be possible to create your very own soaps with scents that appeal to you and benefit your body beautiful.
The soap-maker takes it a step further by creating exotic fragrances and bath sets using base lotions and fragrances that sound fantastic. Only drawback is that you might need to invest then in a range of oils that you are not going to be using a lot of.
Looking around the house I found I had about 8 bars of soap lying about that have not been touched in years so it will be a while before I have a go at making soap per se, but I also have a stack of 100% soap which can and will be used to make a variety of things with.

Valerie Ann Worwood gives you exact instructions and formulas for creating anything from baby talcum powder for nappy rash, to advice on foot baths, hand-creams and a powdered toothpaste. It makes fascinating reading. I had a go at making a hand-cream and bought some ingredients, mainly cocoa butter and almond oil, although the rest was available from previous experiments. I managed to create a hand-cream in half an hour which was quite set, and next time may need to reduce the amount of beeswax and increase the amount of almond oil. I added lime, lemon and sweet orange oils and it smells fruity. I put it on my hands last night before going to bed and it felt a little sticky but this morning my hands are very soft and feel great. I guess I have become used to the hand-cream in tubes. It needs perfecting in a sense but is perfectly usable as it is and if I really cannot stand it I simply melt it all down again in the double boiler and add more oil until I get the consistency that I want. It is not tested on animals, just myself which also makes me feel a lot better.

The fragrant pharmacy also provides a recipe to make a soap soup which I guess is the same as a bubble bath base which I will be trying next.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Going outside to pick an arrangement is one of the pleasures I afford myself these days. Getting up when the air is cool in the morning, filling my lungs with cool fresh country air, I walk sedately down the steps and survey the garden. The scents are different to the ones I experience in the evening, and the birds chatter away greeting the new day. Now that the heat of the day shows through, with the promise of another hot day, I walk carefully around the garden and pick some flowers and foliage to create a bouquet for the table. Buddlias, zinnias and lilies bring the table to life. The morning is spent making scones, laying the table with fresh linen, checking the china that has not been used for years. I reflect on the pleasure I have in anticipating company coming this afternoon, for tea, for a look around the garden, for a memory that will be shared. My DH's aunt and friend are in their eighties and the tea I am preparing reflects a time in their life when taking tea in the afternoon was an art, something to prepare for. The table is laid, the flowers share centrepiece with lemon cake, scones, raspberry jam and cream. A pot of tea, steams on the stove while we chat about old times, our life here and how much we love our new downshifted way of living. We both agree how lovely it is to take time, to appreciate time and I am reminded of how at the age of 80, time can seem a commodity that may end at any moment.......enjoying taking tea together and enjoying the abundance a garden can give you. Time flies, conversation abounded and the ladies left with a memory of time shared in a new garden. This company and peace could not have been experienced a few years ago, simply because we would have been too busy in our working lives to take tea, to prepare it , even to appreciate the flowers in the vase.
I wonder which life I find more peace in.....

Thursday, July 20, 2006


There has been a lack of pictures lately, as unfortunately my camera has had a hiccup, sorted now.

The tomatoes in the polytunnel promise to be lovely and lush, and will probably be a couple more weeks waiting. The smaller ones, varieties sungold and gardeners delight, are ripening and we can pick them every day. It really is a pleasure to see it all coming together and at the same time, a bit daunting to know what I am going to do with the bounty harvest. There are butternut squashes growing, giant pumpkins and the recent heat really has made the plants show up.

Canning has been on my mind, and I am still looking to find the equipment. I have some jars and thanks to Katie I am prepared with my towel in the stockpot. I reflected on what I should can and have decided this year to have a go at tomatoe sauce, green beans and apples. I am restricted to the amount on jars I have available and need to give some thought to what the family will actually eat.

In a dusty bookshop I discovered a small pocket book on canning which is interesting reading. It was printed in 1943 in the middle of World War II and is full of advice on what to do.

So making food stretch is our latest job. And that, I feel is why you are holding this book. Like thousands of others who have never before given a thought to the mysteries of preserving food at home, or who have specialised on a few luxuries as a hobby, you've rolled up your sleeves and are asking ' How do I Start'?

How does one start....
It takes just one step and hopefully I am going to give this a go soon. I have hesitated because actually I felt I could freeze quite a lot quickly but it has been pointed out to me that when the electricity goes, so does the freezer and all the produce and hard work could be wasted. This year I will attempt both then, and see where it takes me. The promise of a larder full of neatly labelled and full jars for winter may be tempting me. I like painting with flowers in my garden and harvest time will be different this year.

The little book is quite specific on food storage ( I had never thought about storing things in the attic apart from the usual junk but I guess during the winter, its dry and even temperature). I am amazed at how much produce our garden can actually produce and how little work is needed, apart from weeding, watering and checking the plants to get worthwhile results.

Of course its a job, but one you can look at every day, it gives you exercise, knowledge and a promise that when winter comes, you can read books, feet up near the log fire, home knitted socks, and a lovely supply of goodies in the larder.

I am prepared to give it a go now that I have managed to at least grow some things.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Its been announced and I well believe it, a heatwave coming our way, 37 degrees celcius, the hottest day in history in the UK. Any doubts about global warming, check out what is happening all around with the weather patterns. We are dry, lack of rain in the winter and now we have a heatywave coming along. It is being announced by the chickens who are also adapting by reducing egg production, an no, I am not introducing fans to get them to lay more. If its too hot for me to do anything worthwhile then it has to be too hot for them to lay eggs. My DS sportsday was cancelled 2 weeks ago because a sudden rainfall had made the ground too slippery and today it has been cancelled because it is too hot. They now reschedule it for am and not pm in an effort to get it to happen without children expiring from heat exhaustion. The salads are boulting so the chickens are getting the best of that but there is definitely some plant, animal and human distress going on about the change in temperature.

I am still considering changing the planting in my garden to a zone up if this is going to be a thing for the future and might need to put in some more planning to water conservation. I think it will need a 2 prone attack on this, plants that do not need as much water and tolerate a hotter climate and a grey water saving and water saving facility that enables us to irrigate the garden more that what we are doing at the moment. The ground is still damp underneath because we have been mulching it, but I believe we could do more to prepare for the future.

Gardening needs to be done before 10 am and after 6 pm as it is way too hot work outside. So it may be olives, lemons, lavender, rosemary, peaches and nectarines and less apples, beans and plums?

Changing weather patterns also may affect the way we work, we may introduce a siesta to miss the midday heat and work longer into the evening to make use of the cooler hours after the sun has gone down. That may not sound too bad........has its advantages too. Its all about adapting.

A small report I read but cannot link to is that there is also evidence that electricity demand is higher in the summer now as we all demand air counditioning and so there is no lull in the demand for energy. Solar power has to be a real attraction here and yet it is still very expensive.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Vegetable Juices

I am not a real fan of juicing, simply because it has never been introduced to my taste buds and requires a bit of work. Having a vegetable garden however gives me the opportunity to create juices from freshly picked veg, do the juicing and benefit from all the goodness very quickly. I have tried apple and pear before but todays juice was a bit of an interesting combination:

2 small beetroots
1 cucumber
2 apples

It yielded 1 pint of blood red juice which tasted refreshing and sweet. As I have another 5 cucumbers growing which will require eating soon, using them in juice is an alternative. I have no recipes available that pickle cucumbers or store them in any other way so if you have any suggestions please let me know. It is the height of summer here and apart from freezing beans and zucchini, the pumpkins are growing the size of grapefruits, tomatoes show promise of ripening. I keep wanting to go and pick berries but its either too hot or threathening to rain and I hear my grandma's voice saying
No don't pick soft fruit when it shows rain, as all the bugs climb inside.

Seems good advice and as the cats were hanging around the kitchen today I thought, not today.
I still see plenty of sunshine but I trust the cats, or else they are just lazing about because it is too hot. In that case, maybe it is too hot to pick fruit as well......

This morning instead I ventured out to the local farmers market which opened at 9.30 am and there was a queue of people outside. The rush to the vegetable stand was impressive ( you would think it was rationed, which it probably is), and the system they used to speed up service was novel When you enter you are given a number and a small piece of card on which the stall holders write down what you buy and then you pay at the exit. I think this is interesting because it will show them what on average sells quickly, what amount of money is spent on average visit, and also solves the waiting times at each booth.
I came away with some raspberries ( as I did not pick any as yet), some different types of bread, some cheese and a ready made cake for evaluation purposes. I love making cakes but as the chickens are on strike here due to the hot weather conditions, I bought one......this gives me the opportunity for quality control on cakes sold at farmers markets and the boys will appreciate some variety.

Weeding was also attempted in the shade and it goes a lot quicker when you plug yourself into an ipod and listen to podcasts......

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


How to get a glass vase clear and clean?
I received a lovely glass vase yesterday, which was a bit grubby, granted and so I thought I would have a go at making it clean and beautiful again. I started washing it with dishwashing liquid, which did not do much to shift the grubby scum at the bottom. Then I filled the vase with a layer of salt and vinegar to create an old fashioned acid base.....still not quite the desired result.
As a last resort I thought I would have a look at the dishwasing tablet here's what you do, as this really worked!

  • Fill vase with very warm water
  • Drop dishwashing tablet into the vase
  • Stir and rest
  • stir and wash with bottle brush

The result is a sparkling vase........OK the cost of the dishwashing tablet may be high considering but I have a lovely fresh looking vase.

On a different matter, clarity is what is missing with my digital camera at the moment...the batteries go way fast even the ones that I am recharging.....I may revisit the clarity vase subject again when I have a go at some more glass vases.

Oh the reason I wanted a clear vase in the first place was to display one of the great bloodred sunflowers that grow in the garden. Pix as soon as the camera's fixed...promise.

Monday, July 10, 2006


My DD moved house last week and sent out these lovely change of address cards, handmade, hand coloured with a lovely quote I thought I would share with you.


When I did a garbage audit, I noticed that many of the plastic containers that we bring into the house and end up not recyclable are the ones that contain shampoo, bodywash, handcream etc so I have been looking at making changes. Why do we not use soap? Soap used to be the norm some time ago. I have a few of those luxury soap bars that people have given me at Christmas time and now my last super luxurious bodywash is waning to its end, I have opened the soapbox and put it near the shower. I have used it and although it seems to leave my skin squeeky clean, I cannot see the difference as yet. I am contemplating making my own soap using natural ingredients and oils from the garden to suit our skintype. I am not sure whether the soap suds will leave more dirt around the shower etc, but will have to find that out in the future.

On a decluttering note....does it ever stop I wonder? I am still decluttering............

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Zucchini and French Beans - Freezing

The heat is bringing the plants on rather quickly and although I have no wish to stand there cooking away, I have frozen 1 lb of french beans and 1 lb zucchini/courgettes.
Just in case its useful to you:

French Beans

Wash, trim ends of and cut into bite sizes. Blanch for 3 mins in boiling water, cool quickly under cold tap, put in marked freezer containers and freeze. Cook as normal.


Cut and slice, blanch for 1 min, cool quickly under cold tap, put in marked freezer containers and freeze. To cook, fry in a small amount of butter.

I was hoping to go and pick some strawberries today but the heat is just too much to move in, hence working on the computer inside.

Caterpillar heaven

How does one deal with caterpillars when they eat your plants? Any ideas.
I am playing around with my computer software today in an effort to see whether my journalling is going to get on the net that way. We shall see.
Frustrating....cannot work this out.....

Monday, July 03, 2006

the 15 min renegotiating challenge

Having heard a post on moneyblogger podcast about the possibility of renegotiating your contract with providers and opportunity arose today. An advert leaflet came with the post ( mots post is opened next to the recycling bin as most of it goes in), stating that a discount of 6 months could be available if you took out this service on cable TV. We still have cable TV with that provider and fuelled by the ridiculous notion that maybe I should give that a go, I dialled the number and waited patiently to go through all available options until a mere mortal answered my call.

I have this leaflet that offers a discount, is it available to me?
No afraid not, its for new customers only?
Oh and what do you offer existing customers?
Not sure, can I take your details?

Long pause....... ( do not be tempted to sound eager...silence is nerve racking to customer services representatives...means you are actually thinking.)

Well, we could offer you a discount ofr 30% on your current package for 3 months. Is that OK?
OK, that sounds fine?

So that was not that hard after all and it has saved me about 1 months subscription. Note to of October is now in the diary to give it another go when the date gets around. Now what else could I negotiate on that is paid out automatically?

I do think you may need to do some homework to have alternative answers available, such as what competitors are offering to give them the idea that if they do not offer you anything, you have a choice to go elsewhere...which of course you do as the customer is king! Go girl, go get that discount, just think about how many hours you have to work if you don't have a go at the 15 mins phone call challenge.

To me, at minimum wage ( just in case), the saving equates to 3 hours of work each month for 3 months, so that was not bad for 15 mins. Now if of course you earn mega bucks then the phonecall and the saving might not be worth your while but then I guess you are not really interested in this blog either. Shame......


The chickens and plants obviously knew their stuff-----the temperature has been 30 plus which is unusual in my timezone and hence the plants and animals have suffered some distress about it. I also did not know that chickens do not drink hot water, it has to be cold which means that we need to change the water twice per day. Thanks to the waterbutts, we have sufficient water to water the plants. There are signs that gardeners around my area are going to experiment with moving plants one zone up, in a speculation that the climate is indeed warming up and I am considering planting some fruit trees on my southfacing wall that might otherwise not flourish. I might plant an apricot and nectarine to add to the variety already in place. As the temperature is also hot enough I might consider growing some tomatoes outside but in pots so they can be moved about a bit.

A garden diary will certainly help to monitor what is happening and I have a feeling that what is shifting. Some people are considering olive trees. If the climate here really is shifting then planting trees around the house might provide some welcome shade in years to come. The house we live in is made of stone and has one place in the lounge that stays cool whatever the season. Good in summer but requires some warming log fire in the winter. Water preservation and irrigation systems should also be worth considering.

So far we have installed two 200 litres water buts which fill up quite easily so we have installed an overflow system as well. There are 2 more places in which we could put water tanks and this will be the next step, funds permitting.

I wonder, whether you, reader have really considered the place you live in, what its assets are and what you can do to improve naturally what is around you?

Saturday, July 01, 2006


How do I know that.....I am looking at what is happening in the garden. the sprouting broccoli is sprouting far too early meaning they are stressed and want to get the flowering over and done with...they are 2 months early. Secondly, the chickens are not laying very much and I guess if they think it is too hot to lay an egg who can blame them. I wonder how they know though and what goes through a chicken's mind thinking....nah it will be far too hot need to keep that egg production down, if a chick should hatch in 21 days, there will be too much heat. We shall see, the rest of the gardedn is quietly hotting up and zucchine are sprouting out as well as cucumbers and tomatoes, lovely and green and ready in a few weeks I guess. It has been a hot and sticky day, not something I relish but is every one ever happy with the weather?
Tomorrow my DS 3 is maypole dancing. Country dancing with some school friends. Its a dying art which our countryside here likes to revive from time to time. I love the music, I love the energy and the history behind these pagan rituals that are incorporated in country practices.