Sunday, 13 December 2009


Which about sums up my Funny Farm blog, actually...! (see Wellie wet herself laughing?) and may I be the first to wish "A Very Merry Christmas" to each and every one of you Flakes, both at home, and abroad, who enjoy reading about our new life Down On The Funny Farm.

If it wasn't for you lot reading this, I prolly wouldn't bother, but you've been kind enough to goad me on, and some of you even think I should write a book! Are you MAD girl?! Just where on the planet would I find the time? I am quite tempted though! It'd have to be a publication of my Funny Farm Blog I'm afraid. Would that do?

The Queen has her Christmas Message (and I was rather saddened that she didn't make reference to the rather lovely homemade Cape Goosegog & Passionfruit Jam I gave Charles & Camilla - but no matter....), and my own Christmas Message to all of you Flakes reading this, is "Have you thought about getting out more?"

Incidentally - I notice that either side of Flakey, the snowmen spell NO. This is misrepresentation at it's highest level, because if you were able to look at the wider picture: their two mates on the left say "Let It" and "S", and their other mate on the right says "W".
Just in case Santa neglected to bring you a Jigsaw Puzzle for Christmas, I'll leave you to work that one out for yourselves. Doh!

Now then! All I can tell you from the photo below (without bursting into floods of tears, I hasten to add) is that the contents of my kitchen are still residing in the Laundry and The Guest Room, on account of the fact that the new units and worktops were supposed to be 'done and dusted' the week before Christmas.

Yes - very well-spotted Children: No change there then!

You know what it's like when you feel like jumping up and down in a big muddy puddle, screaming your head off with clenched fists, and you don't care WHO sees you?
Well it's nothing like that.

Actually, I've been incredibly grown up and well behaved about it, which has driven Trousers and the cat completely nuts over Christmas, but it'll be all the more gorgeous for me at the start of Twenty Ten: a hugely exciting new chapter that I'm treating myself to! Twenty Ten, I mean......

Now will you just look at how creative Wellie has been in the sitting room? I've been 'collecting' realistic silk foliage'n'stuff whenever I see it at our local garden centre, because you can use it in the house 12 months of the year, in some arrangement or other, and then come Yuletide, it comes into its' own over a hot mantle, looking as fresh as a daisy until it's time to 'dismantle' (clever Wellie, and I wonder if that's where the saying arose?!) and tuck back into vases around the home once again.

(Sorry about all the rosettes in the cabinet, but we haven't found a better home for them yet since we moved, she lied)

As a child, I spent many a weekend and school holidays with my paternal grandparents, and this glass-fronted cabinet contained a Treasure Trove of Silver teapots, glasses, jugs, picture frames, teaspoons and trinkets. I simply adored it, and finally, when my mother got custody of it, she kept its' contents, and let me buy the cabinet off her (I know, don't even go there!) I'm having such fun now, creating my own Treasure Trove: my 'knock me over with a feather' 1st & 2nd Rosettes for local veg shows, my Thank You Letter from Clarence House for 'The Jam'.... and who only knows what will happen to add to it this coming year. Isn't it exciting?

But I've got to leave you now. I'm in the last throws of making a Roman Blind for the kitchen.
Have YOU ever made a Roman Blind Boys'n'Girls?
No. Unfortunately, Wellie hasn't either.......!

Bless you for being here.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Festively Trying!

Personally, If I'd of known, with it being Christmas an' all....I'd of taken my sox off.. But you just can't trust a bloke with Swine Flu to take a photo of your girlfriend that she'd like. Obviously....

But just how far away can you get from your partner when they've got 'Swine Flu' and you're trying desperately to be someone that they love?
Not only has Trousers had 'Man Flu', children, but we're positively convinced that he's had 'Man Swine Flu' this last week.... I've not seen him this poorly for Ages, and just in case his bosses are reading this: Ben, this is entirely your fault, and I suspect that your girlfriend was entirely right with her diagnosis my friend, and I don't thank you for one minute for giving it to him, so see me after class, thank you. X

Although, to be perfectly honest, Trousers and I are not only arguing as to who gave what to whom now, because I looked after a kiddie-winkie who had a snuffly...... But No. Definitely. Your workmates Trousers!!

Anyway.... when Trousers took himself off up the stairs to Bedfordshire this weekend, I've managed to 'tweak' a few Christmas Decorations that might make him smile in the morning (don't hold your breath though..... I won't!)

And I got SO magnificently 'Told Off' for going up the ladder and putting this little half tree up after Trousers had retired gracefully to bed .........

Because I could have fallen off the ladder, and he would never have known until the morning.
Well 'Woopie Doo' - how do you think I get the rest of your life/dinner sorted when you're not here then? DOH?
Anyway, kids, I bought this Half-Christmas-Tree about 20 years ago, and I thought it was so brilliant that you could just hang it on a wall - because in those days I lived in a flat, and no room to have a proper tree in a full-sized room. But now, I just love my Half-Trees (and they're starting to sell them again - so thank goodness I kept them, AND my flared trousers, kipper ties and bell-bottoms?!)
And now this week, I've been trying to make good use of the oranges for decorations, so I bought some green ribbon at 20p a metre, and I've been making tree decorations. To be perfectly honest, I've made so many now, that I'm beginning to lose the will to live.....

Which is why I kind of distracted myself with this little decorative kitchen project above the Rayburn, and it doesn't do itself justice photographically unfortunately......

BUT! I am so excited (see Wellie Jump Up & Down) because not this coming week, but the week after, I am allegedly to have my new kitchen units installed, and NEVER in a month of Sundays did I ever think that this would happen before Christmas, so that's a HUGELY lovely surprise for me.....
Which does mean, that when our very good friends, The Piglets, and Paulie's Bestest Friend "In The World", come for New Year that I have no excuse in the universe for not cooking a lovely dinner, because I'll have some worktops for a change!)....
Thank you for being here.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

A Very Private Reunion.....

Trousers and Jim haven't seen each other for 'donkeys years'.
So. It was really lovely for the two of them to meet up again and renew their friendship after very nearly a decade.

To be perfectly honest, I'm only just recovering. The Stitch in my side is STILL aching?!
I'm not sure just how much fun you're allowed to have in your life. But if I died tomorrow, I promise you, I'd laughed my sox off, and gone to heaven this weekend, with brass knobs on.
No. I think all three of us did?!
It was Gorgeous, with a captial G.

The Boys just wet themselves laughing, and just blamed anything else on the sheep.
(See Wellie shrug her shoulders, roll her eyes, and hold her nose....)

Which is why I should just put my pen down now, because, to be perfectly honest, there is nothing more to say.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Frills, Thrills & Festive Fruits

With four full weeks until Christmas, and only marginally more until New Years' Eve, I thought it was about time I blew the dust and cobwebs off my sewing machine, and finally got around to making the new tablecloth for The Dining Hall! Little do you think, at the time, that your parents would give you a Singer Sewing Machine for something as special as your 18th Birthday, but then again, I never quite expected a Gary Rhodes Cookbook for my 40th either.
Don't think I'm ungrateful - both have been extremely useful over the years!!

Trousers and I are spending our first Christmas here at The Funny Farm alone with our cat, kind of like 'The Calm Before The Storm', you could say, as our very good friends, The Piglets, and Paul's Bestest Friend...In The World....are all coming to stay over New Year. And I do love making our home look cosy and festive, whether it's the dining table, the mantle, the front door, the tree - or the cat....

I am so looking forward to foraging in the woods over the next few weeks for sticks and twigs and berries and cones. What a magical time this is!

Those of you who occasionally pay any attention to any of my witterings, I recently visited Prince Charles' beautiful gardens at Highgrove. As a little gift for His Royal Highness, I took a pot of my exclusive Cape Gooseberry Jam. Anyway.......

I was on my way out of the farm gate the other morning, and, something inside me, whispered that there was a letter from The Royal Household in my postbox. Trusting my own instincts these days, I unceremonially stuck my hand into the rusty red box, and pulled out the contents. To my sheer delight (see Wellie dance round her truck with the letter in the air before shutting the gate) I was not wrong. But I surprised myself by placing it on the front passenger seat, and drove off with it UNOPENED.

I know, I know..... the suspense was killing me too?!

Every time I stopped the truck at a junction or a set of lights, I casually turned the pristine envelope to face me, and admired the postmark: Buckingham Palace......
"Ah!... Indeed....Who IS Queen Today?" I said to myself with a giggle.

Unfortunately, the contents of the letter was marked as Private & Confidential, so you will have to accept my word that Prince Charles was very appreciative of my homemade Physalis & Passionfruit Jam. However, it made no mention of whether The Prince simply adored the jam, thought it moderately tasty, or has been confined to bed with a dicky tummy ever since.
Although the very select few who have very much had the priv.priv.....honour, have loved it!

I'm not silly enough to presume that Charles is reading my blog, but, if you are Sir, it blew my frock up to receive your letter of thanks, and I'm going to frame it in The Downstairs Loo. X
(See Wellie curtsey).

Now then - there's a bit of a Wellie Workshop moment going on Down at The Funny Farm between now and Christmas. And, if like me, you're going to make Citrus Fruit & Clove Pomanders, they'll need to dry out in a warm dark place for 3 weeks, so I've started ours' this afternoon.
It takes 'the patience of a saint' to make them, and believe me, I'm going to need it, as I've got between Nought and Thirty to make, depending on when this particular Saint throws in the festive towel!

You can make any pattern you like with the cloves, and I'll be putting pretty ribbon on some of them when they've dried, whilst others will just nestle amongst dried squashes, church candles, nuts and evergreen foliage.

Once again, thank you for watching, and see you next time!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

New Horizons and Old Friends

You see, not having lived here at this time of year before now, Trousers and I are discovering that a lot of the landscapes down on The Funny Farm, have been a visual mystery to us. Until now - So how exciting is that?!

With the recent bad weather, the little produce that we've got growing, isn't doing too badly. I've had to re-stake the Purple Sprouting Broccoli that took a collective tumble, as did the Mangetout trellis, but largely, the green and purple Brussel Sprouts are still sturdy and shyly productive (I think we may get a mouthful or two to feel sufficiently festive about yet?!)

But the Calabrese, Cauliflowers, Savoy Cabbage and Curly Kale plants are slow. Not that I mind, because I'd like something productive from the kitchen garden to fill 'the hungry gap' early next year.

And, I tell you wot..... Trousers is 'Cock-A-Hoop' about the Japanese Overwintering Onions and the Garlic that I've planted - they're doing incredibly well. I could take a smug Bow or Curtsey, but I suspect that it's less to do with my growing skills, and more to do with the amount of manure that was ferried from the huge pile over t'other side of The Funny Farmyard. Mind you, having said that, I WAS the person that ferried it, and I swear that my arms are much, much longer than when we first moved in.

And if I didn't have quite enough to do already, a girl comes back from a relaxing holiday in the sun, gets all the washing and ironing done, the house back to some kind of normality, reintroduces herself to the cat, which took 'some time' (!), mows the lawn, rakes the leaves, fills the freezers with every conceivable yumminess, makes jam and jelly out of anything and everything that moves, and there's more Apples to pick?!! Is there NO peace for the wicked??!

Now then. You see this Birdie Nut Feeder? Unfortunately, so did Cyril Squirrel, who, for the second time this week, has removed the base, emptied the contents, and has today, spent the remainder of the afternoon digging nut-sized holes in our back lawn.

I have completely no idea why I'm so shocked, because it is far from the first time that this has happened in my life. But I suppose it's because I was talking on the phone to Trousers' Bestest Mate.....In The World..... and watched him do it right before my very eyes.
At which point, Jim reliably informed me, that Squirrel is very edible, which I knew already (smart-@rse Wellie), and if anyone out there would like to email me your best Cyril Recipe, I shall be shopping for accompanying ingredients within the next fortnight, in readiness for the boys' Reunion Dinner!

The Crab Apples are a beautiful gold colour, but have suffered a fair bit with Scab. I've not grown Crab Apples myself before, but next Autumn, when I'm more organised, and can make more effective use of my time, I shall be78888888888888888888887777777777. I'd like to apologise for that - and please don't think that you've just had one glass too many! My gardening cat, BC, has just walked across the keyboard, to add her own entry to The Funny Farm Blog today (just wanting to introduce herself I guess?!)......... Where was I? Oh yes, next year I'll experiment a bit with the Crab Apples in the name of preserving all that is bountiful.

Round about this time of year, the occasional visit to a wonderful 'snuggle' of interesting and unusual craft, gift and deli shops, about half an hours' drive from us, is guaranteed to put a smile on Wellie's face, especially when she comes back with armfuls of Ornamental Gourds, in preparation for decorating our home for the festive season. I got soaked to the skin selecting these, as they were part of a huge pile outside, and the heavens opened just as I got there. It's my own fault, because I took my time selecting the nicest, most interesting ones.....But hey! when you find such quality for only 10 pence each, a bl@@dy good soaking never did me any harm before now...

So the next thing to do with them is to dry them out very thoroughly - which is where the residual heat of the Rayburn comes in handy. And if I wanted to make them last even longer, I could coat them in varnish. I can assure you that I won't be doing that, because, to be perfectly honest, that excites me about as much as watching paint dry?
I would just like to take this opportunity of personally welcoming Jim & Tracey as new readers of our Blog. Kiss Kiss you two. XX
And Thank You to everyone else who follows our nutty Blog. As always, you are most welcome, and we love your company.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

This Autumnal Weekend...

Down on The Funny Farm this week, all looks 'sweetness and light' in The Pretty Garden at the front, because the autumn sunshine is just incredibly lovely, making everything appear to be a bed of roses. Not So! my friends! There's a tremendous amount of hard work to be done at this time of year - and if I'm not mistaken, Trousers and I have been working our proverbial SOX off this weekend. And let me just put your minds at rest here? This front lawn does look rather lush, but don't be fooled - it largely consists of very healthy green moss, reminding us, allegedly, that the grass is not always greener on the other side!

Whereas the grass on the back lawn, is now virtually moss and weed free, given that Wellie has spent a good deal of the summer tending to it. Next year, it has to take a huge amount of 'wear and tear', so I can begin to strengthen it then and keep it healthier.

As you can see, and we are more than aware (!), there's more digging to be done, to complete the new Kitchen Garden design in the back garden - and we're getting there slowly but surely.

Today is Sunday Children, and Trousers desperately wants to return to work tomorrow, in order to have a well-earned rest?! This photo below might suggest to you that it's 'a bit of a mess', but you should have seen it before. It sported 'cut-off conifer trunks' from where there was a Leylandii Hedge previously, and Trousers has singlehandedly reclaimed it over the last two days for a very very special purpose.

Those of you who know us of old, might fondly remember Wellie's Grown-Up Girls' Greenhouse.
So.... Round of Applause please, because we've brought her with us to The Funny Farm, and this is her noo home, right here, next to The Nectarine Greenhouse (which also houses The Peach, and The Grapevine). Actually, it also now houses Wellie's Gardening Cat, since I made her a little bed in there today, but that's only for when she's not inside asleep on the sofa, or on my head, obviously.....
I must talk to Trousers about this 'arse about face' posting up of photos - because yet again, it's like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted?

Here we have some Jelly being made Kiddie Winkies..... I wonder what it could be?
Ooh! It's Grape!

The small pippy black ones weighed in at 2 kilos. Rightly or wrongly, I composted the rest.
Anyhow. We've had a fantastic week, the three of us, in all sorts of directions, and we wish you all very much the same for the week ahead.
And thank you, if you've come here specially to read this.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I See No Sheeps!

There's nothing quite like a good read on holiday, don't ya think?... Trouble is, I'd read it before, and knew how it ended... ! but the characters in Joy Larkcom's book did hold my attention just long enough to keep me sat still, which is normally an impossibility for me down on the funny farm, because I'm always such a busy little bee. And besides, this was supposed to be a relaxing holiday, and I didn't fancy watching Trousers tear his hair out for the full 10 days!

We got some fabulous exercise (don't make your own story up children!) walking for miles and miles along this beach a couple of times every day.

Which we completely destroyed, twice a day, by going out for lunch and dinner!
This next photo was taken from a restaurant called 'Tides', in Holetown, just up the beach from our hotel. Aptly named, as the waves crash into the rocks just below your table, as the tide comes in. No-one got too wet (on the outside) whilst we dined there, although it must be said that Trousers and I got incredibly wet on the inside, on account of their very fine cocktails...
Can you believe that a glass of Pinot Grigio cost approximately £7.50 in Barbados? Yes, I said 'a glass'... but all the wine has to be imported, so I guess it's understandable. Mount Gay Rum, however, is made on the island, and we found it to be very very delicious.... Hic!

And no - Wellie didn't catch these fish with her bare hands! In fact, if truth be known, she didn't catch them at all. A man on the beach did, but I thought I'd like to show my cat a photo of what she was missing out on by staying at home!

And last, but by no means least, this photo was taken on the evening of my birthday, at a restaurant called 'The Cliff', which is allegedly fourth best restaurant in the world now. Trousers booked it months ago, as a surprise, and Boy! what a truly stunning experience - one that will stay in my memory forever and ever.

Luckily, I had a surprise of my own for Trousers that night (now I won't tell you again children!).
Namely, a very posh dress, which I kid you not, I found in a Charity Shop for ten quid. So I sewed a bit of lace on it, gave it a halter-neck strap, and hey presto, it looked a million dollars, and certainly turned a few heads, I can tell you.....
All in all, we had a great holiday, and are settling back nice and snuggly into The Funny Farm with our adorable cat, BC, who thankfully, has not stopped purring since we got back.
So now, time to put the pinny back on! The black grapes are ready to be harvested and turned into Grape Jelly, the last of the Raspberries need picking. The Borlotti Beans are just about ready, cauldrons of soup are needing to be made, there's a huge mountain of ironing, and there's digging to be done!
Now - Has anyone seen Trousers?!
Thank you for Listening, and we'll be back again soon.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Who's Queen?

I'm not sure about you - but when garden design, or 'what veg to put where' is on my mind, I do my best thinking when I'm free to wander around aimlessly with a steaming cup of tea, a mug of coffee strong enough to stand a spoon in, or my personal favourite, an ice cold goblet of Pinot Grigio. And naturally, exactly what I am holding, is largely dependant on what time of day it is...
And how much thought is needed!

Having made endless horticultural and culinary mistakes over the years, I'm rather keen to learn by them this time around, and so, having moved to The Funny Farm mid-April, Trousers and I have very much sacrificed 2009's produce in order to get things right for 2010 (ish). And I've taken myself back to The Drawing Board, where I first started to culinarilly 'crawl', before I learned to horticulturally 'hop'. It has kind of 'pinched me' back into the reality of sowing, growing and harvesting in tune with The Seasons - because I now have enough space to do that effectively.

It's a cracking good time now to get a bit of research under the belt me thinks!

The front of The Farmhouse is beginning to look superbly Autumnal now, and leaf-fall is imminent, meaning hopefully, that Trousers will build a LeafMouldBin for me for my birthday?!

I need to spend more time in the front garden next year, but sooner than that, on return from our holiday, I need to drastically cut back the very overgrown shrubberies.

I spent a whole day last week tending to the lawns at the front, because they've been very badly neglected over the last 5 years, and it's only TLC that will ever bring them back to their true glory (see Wellie with her underpants on the outside of her skirt again?!)

And I love a challenge - because to see the lawns in the front garden, or the grass paths in the kitchen garden at the back, looking luscious and green, will 'show off' the riot of rambling roses in June, and just about 'anything' that I've been clever enough to grow in our back garden......

Talking of Riots & Ramblings.... can you believe just how disorganised my draughty dutch greenhouse is still? If it weren't for the fact that the rose bush growing just inside the door was actually of Exhibition quality, and may win me a potential First Prize in my local village show next year, it would have met it's maker way back in April. It couldn't be more in my way if it tried? But the scent from it in full bloom was magnificent today again.

Trousers has promised to re-erect The Big Girls' Greenhouse that we brought from The Cottage before Christmas, so that I can grow my Tommies, Peppers, Chillies & Aubergines in it next year, rather than clutter up the Kitchen Conservatory (which is now bereft of the aforementioned), and has become the most enjoyable of sun rooms to have a sunny & sheltered brekkie in every morning.

Last week I showed you the pristine pallets that Trousers managed to snaffle for me for my noo Compost Bins. Well this is kind of why? At the very bottom of this compost heap is about 4ft high x 6ft wide of upturned turves - which will be the most beautiful Loam in a while - but on top of that is a cornucopia of kitchen and garden waste, and when The Big Girls Greenhouse is built, I'll need a new, more accessible site, which we plan to site near the Hawthorn Tree, and so this one can rest in peace for at least a year, or get periodically mixed with the new bins, and well-rotted farmyard manure, for a bit of heat-generating 'kick up the backside' !

There's just one question on my lips as far as The Orchard goes:

WHAT Windfalls?

But, being the kind of gal that flies by the seat of her pants, it's share and share alike, and actually I'm pretty cool about it, because after I've helped myself to what fruit I want from the trees, I get to go in there and just collect the sheep droppings for soaking in a 'liquid tea' in a waterbutt, to make the most nutritious liquid feed for all of my little garden darlings for next year.

There's probably many a woman amongst you that would rather go shopping than pick up Sheep droppings - but not me!

Double Negatives work beautifully for me, and so: Wellie's none happier than not going shopping.

A Double Positive also works: A Windfall is personally collected, and turned into Liquid Gold for the future.

And I can't believe that my parents brought me up so superbly, and that I've actually completely forgotten my manners!

Unfortunately, because one is not allowed to record the guided tour, I cannot show you photographic evidence, but I had the HUGE priv, priv, honour to be escorted round Highgrove Gardens on Wednesday, as part of the Biodynamic Group that I've been associated with since meeting Rachie. And every single garden just completely 'blew me away', with its' presence, its' magic, aura and individuality. I began to appreciate the book on Hostas that Diana Grenfall had so kindly signed and given Trousers for me, having now learned that Prince Charles had the National Collection of Hostas. Everything really began to fit into place, but on an everyday and totally unpretentious level.
His gardens were BEAUTIFUL, and every bit as I had anticipated them to be.
And in anticipation of a heartfelt 'Thank You', I spent quality time at home the day before, perfecting a very individual jam, with some home-grown qualities, that I thought Charles might appreciate. Unfortunately, the Cape Gooseberries don't swagger the same pectin qualities of the bog-standard Goosegogs, and so I spent much of the night trying to get the sodding jam to set, she said politely through gritted teeth (!)
However, with the encouragement of a little Lemon Juice, and a multitude of tastings, to make sure I'd not damaged the flavour, I did finally hit the success button, so got a few precious hours sleep beforehand. And I do hope that Charles and Camilla will put it on their toast at least once! or, failing that, will give me The Thumbs Up and ask me to supply them with that jam all year round, which I would gladly do, given that it's so exclusive as not to be available in the shops.
Or I'll get a Royal Letter, written by his Secretary, to tell me that it was so very kind of me to think of them, at which point, I think I'll just pick up my very black cat, and cuddle her in front of the woodburning fire, get Trousers to play the Violin (which he's never played before) and watch a Chick Flick or two, knowing that it was Royal Politeness for 'Get Out More Luv?'
Thank you for being here.
You are always really really welcome.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Want Something Done?.....

... Ask a Busy Person! And I am STILL knee-deep in preserving the bountiful harvest from our new Funny Farm Kitchen Garden. Which is making me kind of nervous for next year, because I've really not grown much this year, in comparison to what I'm used to growing, and we don't have 5 freezers anymore?!.... So where exactly am I going to find the time in 2010 to preserve all the extra produce that I'm proposing to grow?! Well, first off, I'm going to have to get a bit more 'cute', and plan to grow Early, Mid-Season, and Late varieties of our favourite fruit and veg, so that we can use more of it really really fresh from the garden, spreading the harvest, and only preserving the excess (yeah, right!)

But I have also had 'speaks' with chefs from one or two select local pubs and restaurants, who have expressed a genuine interest for my excess produce, which was nice.

So, in the photo above, I've harvested two ounces of fresh basil leaves, and blitzed them with fresh parmesan, garlic, Xtra Virgin Olive Oil and Pinenuts, for our very delicious Pesto, and I've portioned it up into 'dollops' for the freezer, for later use.

I've been told by 'Next Door', that I should be superbly proud of these Peppers, which, actually, I am..... and I've made a really rich Lamb Mince mixture to fill these with, to squirrel away into the freezer.

Talking of Peppers and squirreling..... with some of the rest of the bountiful harvest, I've halved them, (peppers, not squirrels) smeared the inner flesh with the remaining basil pesto, layed a few of my home-blushed oven-dried Roma tomatoes inside, and they are 'open-freezing' as we speak. When fully frozen, I'll pack them into freezer bags, exclude the air (neat trick with a plastic drinking straw!) They will be brought back to life over the winter months with the aid of grilled goats cheese, and/or some rather gorgeous sweet'n'sour borlotti beans from my 'Squirrel Dresser' store-cupboard, which is in the hall (dark and cool environment).

Below - just how much does Trousers love me? A whole load of scrummy pristine wooden pallets to make new Compost Bins - that's how much!! Thank you Darling..... Mmwwaa!

And here is my 'Squirrel Dresser' in the Hall:

I've been a bit more adventurous this year, in the variety of preserving recipes and methods. I reckon that once you actually own jars, of whatever description, the world is bound to be your oyster, and to this end, I have my very favourite client now saving all of the baby-food jars in order to feed my addiction.
And, actually, the smaller quantity Baby Food Jars, I think, will serve a very useful purpose over the next year or two, given that I'm game to try out a multitude of new recipes, for different culinary experiences.
Below, I have picked proper native hedgerow rosehips, with a view to trying out some Rosehip Syrup, Rosehip Jelly, Rosehip This, and Rosehip That. If I've got a small Baby Jar of it and it tastes positively disgusting, I've not got 'a shed load' of disgusting goo to get rid of.
Then again, if it's gorgeous....!

As you can see, Wellie never misses an opportunity. What was once a boring old black splashback to a cooker for one person, becomes an everyday blackboard reminder to one of the busiest peoples that Trousers (allegedly) 'knows and loves'.
Thank you for your lovely comments on our new blog updates.
We are thrilled that you are thrilled.
Take Care till next time,

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Part II September 2009

Welcome to Part II of Down on the Funny Farm September Update.

See Wellie completely Arse About Face dig new beds for flowers, herbs and Raspberries. Mind you, I'm quite pleased actually, because I've inadvertently lost a stone and a half somewhere along the line in the last four months, which'll be great for my Birthday Holiday Bikini, no?!

These beds I've taken personal responsibility for clearing and digging, because they're full of stones.
I have the patience of a Saint. Trousers doesn't. Say no more! And I have stuff I want to plant before we go away, so I need the beds ready now, not in the Spring.

Trousers has already dug over the entire new Fruit Garden which will be ready to cultivate next Spring (which took 7 hours and he couldn't walk for two days). Mind you, I ferried the FYM back and forth from way over the other side of the farm for the same amount of time to fill said double-dug trenches...... (and couldn't even get out of bed, let alone 'stand' the following morning - pathetic....) and so today, Trousers took a well-earned rest with the Sunday papers, in the privacy of his own back yard.

As far as the design for our new Potager goes, I've tried to keep things very simples, but eminently workable. The mistake I made in our last Potager, was that in the winter months, if it wasn't all planted up with vegetables, it looked like a very bare Allotment, and given that it's right outside your kitchen door, and you're looking at it every single day of the year, that can be a very unattractive view for nearly 6 months of the year.
So once again, I've put my 'Student Hat' on, and gone back to the drawing board.
Honestly. Never be ashamed of making mistakes. I'm not. Every time I make a mistake, I learn something new.

Okay. The photo below shows the start of what will major for my Herb Garden. But probably 'tickled' with other decorative seasonal additions like Bulls Blood Beetroot, Spring Onions, Edible Flowers, Salad Crops etc. I've identified since mid-April exactly how the sun affects this area of my new garden, so I am armed with its possibilities.
And time will tell as to when I come close to 'getting it right' - especially with the addition of a few evergreens and seasonal bedding plants.

And below, this is a sneak preview of potentially the new Fruit Garden.
Nothing is set in stone yet, but I plan to have the Asparagus Bed along the fence (all 24 crowns with about 3 or 4 different varieties, cropping at different times) with protective netting between them and The Girls in the field (the sheep).
I've put a tremendous amount of thought and planning into the very little that I have shown you a glimpse of here, and daily there's much much more, but I keep it to myself in order not to scare Trousers too much!

And naturally, there's a complete 'shed load' of preserving going on at the minute too.
Here we have 'PlumBeena', which is like Ribeena, but Plum (on the right), and on the left we have a yummy Chinese kind of spicy Plum Sauce.
Today I've bottled Home Sunblushed Oven Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil, and I am knee-deep in Tomatoes, Sweet Red Peppers and Chillies. This week Children, I are MOSTLY preserving!
Have a great week, and hopefully see you next.

Back at The Funny Farm in September

After selling our cottage, with an intended move to France, (which had to be shelved for now), we have finally finally settled into The Funny Farm completely. It is absolutely brilliant here, and my very Black Gardening Cat has got over the trauma of being unceremoniously 'shoved' into a plastic Cat Carrier Basket on the day of our move, and has become an exquisitely loving little black panther, that neither Trousers nor I recognise from the semi-feral beauty that we once allowed into our lives nearly a decade ago... A fantastic transformation of happiness in her that is so truly inspiring.

I must now apologise.......With it being such a long time since Trousers and I last 'blogged', we'd forgotten that our pictures come up here 'in reverse order' (!) and so you'll just have to 'go with the flow' peeples?!

I've never grown Grapes before, so - armed with the knowledge from the Farmer's Son that these ones tend to end up 'small and pippy', I've completely 'winged it' and tried to thin out the bunches a bit. And then I read somewhere that you should never touch the grapes with your hands. Well. Too Late Too Late my friends, I'd already gone and done that? But nonetheless, I shall take great pride in sampling them, however small and pippy they are. I can always try and improve on 'small and pippy' for next year, eh?!

In the same greenhouse, I've also been fortunate enough to take custody of a mature Peach Tree and a ditto of Nectarine. I was underwhelmed earlier in the year to find that we had NIL Peaches, and the only Nectarine just 'fell off' in my hand before it was ripe or edible!
Wellie was well and truly Gutted actually children.....

Anyhow - we've had a crackin' year with the Winter Squashes in my book (given that we moved mid spring and the veg garden wasn't here?!) So, even though I'm patting myself on the back, I feel that it's praise suitably well-deserved, because without having moved that mountain of well-rotted manure from the other end of the farm, I can assure you, you wouldn't be now looking at these little beauties at all!

But I did manage to start my tomato plants off in The Little Girl's Greenhouse back at The Cottage, and with a bit of TLC in the warmth of the new North-East facing conservatory (much lighter that the old one) they did fantastically well, and have probably been the best Tommies I've ever grown. Seriously. But I did sow them on the day that was forecast Biodynamically as being the best day to sow Tomatoes, so I'm well chuffed.

Talking of Well Chuffed.... Trousers does, no? Our friend Piggie gave me some Marshmallow Strawberry runners a while back, and we built a raised 'table top' strawberry planter to facilitate easier picking and less bovver from slugs'n'snails, and this little harvest was an evening's picking.

So I promptly took Bob Flowerdew's advice, and stuck them in a Kilner Jar with a litre of White Rum, put it in a dark place, and shook the jar every day for a couple of months! and I shall probably go completely Bonkers and make some Strawberry Rum Leather Chewy Sweeties from the pulp extracted from the alcohol when I'm ready to strain it. It's a toss-up between that and Strawberry Rum & Redcurrant Jam. Ooh! what am I like?!
Trousers has got more photos to show you in our continued progress on The Funny Farm, so it's worth popping back in a while to check it out if you're interested.
In the meantime, thank you for watching.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Sorry... AWOL!

Completely 'Absent Without Leave' - and I DO beg your pardon, but I have been up to my proverbial armpits, as you may, or may not imagine.

There's Good News, and there's Bad News; and it kind of goes Good/Bad, Good/Bad, Good/Bad.

Get my drift?

The fantastically good news is that our friends The Piglets came to stay last weekend and we all had a complete ball, they loved the place, we never stopped laughing, we went to our local village produce show, the village fete, where both boys won a coconut each (!) (and got drowned into the beer tent, thankfully!) and next day we went with Mad As A Box Of Spanners Rachie and her gorgeous Fiance and The Piggies to a fantastically enjoyable Hog Roast in aid of The Alzheimers Society, which is close to the heart of this village, and our lovely Egg Lady.

Village Life is so rich still in this community, and whilst the majority of those taking part are more shall we say 'elderly' than Trousers and I (!!), it is our pleasure to be a part of their village, and we look forward to whatever it may bring.

The bad news, is that Mrs. Piglet had our camera in her handbag when they returned home, and I had her ballpoint pen. It's difficult to say at this juncture..... but I'm betting that maybe I'm more miffed than she is. May I send you the postage darling for it's return soonest?!

I've had a lovely time ferrying well-rotted manure from the yard to my new Ornamental Kitchen Garden, and not ONCE have I slipped into the Slurry Pit whilst Trousers has been at work (phew! - careful footwork there by Wellie children!!)

And the weeds, oh, the weeds! It's a good job you can't see my Onion Bed? Actually, in all honesty, I can't see my Onion Bed! but in amongst the perpetual showers today (with my waterproofs on) I attempted to weed the best looking onions to maybe salvage just SOMETHING useable for the kitchen.... (boo hoo, boo hoo)

Unfortunately Scarey55 my darling, I've abandoned the Jermor Shallots, as quite frankly, they're Cr@p (did you find the same?!)

However, I planted some of Hazel at the Hill's Runner Bean Seeds, and they're doing okay darling, and my cat is enjoying the shade/rain-cover that the wigwams provide her in her noo garden!

All of my immature figs got picked off by birds, as did the ruddy peaches, the immature Stella Cherries (all two of them) got knocked off when it fell over in the wind, BUT! I have two sour Morello Cherries and one Nectarine to my name still - how lucky am I children?!

I can also report from Down on The Funny Farm, that the slugs and snails and greenfly are playing complete havoc with my Aubergines. Next year, Wellie is declaring war.

The Tomatoes, Peppers and Cape Gooseberries, Chillies and Grapes are kind of top banana right now, as are the fresh herbs - so I mustn't grumble, eh?!

I can't begin to describe to you the sheer excitement I feel at being on the cusp of designing and creating my ultimate Kitchen Garden. With all the mistakes that I've foolishly made at The Cottage, I'm giving extra time and thought to it this time around.

My plans encompass every aspect of creating a garden that's pretty AND productive, all year round. A tall order, obviously, but well worth the time spent in the planning.

So, I'll see you next time I'm here.
Thank you so very much for watching.....

Monday, 25 May 2009

Wellie..... Versus.....?

Blackbird! This Gooseberry variety is evidently 'Pax', and the most accessible to The Blackbird, and he's been watching me all morning plant some Red Onions Seedlings, and because I've noticed a few more stray 'fallen' fruits below the bush, I'm inclined to think that he's responsible. Although the books do say that birds are less interested in Gooseberries.... But, given that it's the smallest and thornless, and I've painstakingly 'thinned' the fruits to 3" apart, like Bob Flowerdew advises, I'm taking no prisoners this year in my noo Kitchen Garden!

This is the bed where the pectin-rich gooseberry, another gooseberry, the blackcurrants, the worcesterberry and the redcurrants are. And given that this bed, whilst a tad 'shady' was the bed more free of weeds than any of the others - needs definitely must - I chose to home all of my pot-rooted shallots and newly bought onion seedlings into here, just to get them finally planted, or suffer the consequences of no crop at all.
Whatever crop I get, will be something that I've not had to buy in the supermarket, even if it's not up to my usual standard, am I bovvered? No, I'm not.
And just to show you how very unorganised we are still since our move to The Funny Farm..... This is the lovely view from our sitting room window?
Thanks Trousers - that's very artistic?!

But Hey! With last week being the Radio 2 Week of 'Love Where You Live' Campaign, I couldn't possibly bring you my Funny Farm Blog Update, without sharing with you just why I 'Love Where We Live'....

Wellie's Grass Cutter in the foreground, and Mother Nature's Grass Cutter in the Background.
No further words necessary on that score.
So! Trousers has been working his SOX off, and Wellie has been trying to get the Kitchen Garden up and running - and it is very slowly taking shape peoples.
I'm determined that Trousers and I will get a good crop of most things this year, and then plan 'Big Stylie' over the winter, for a complete Kitchen Garden Makeover through to next Spring.
When hopefully, you'll be able to see a definite improvement.
As always, thank you for listening...
And see you very soon?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Rain Stopped Play.......

Unlike Wimbledon this year, down on The Funny Farm, rain stopped play - so Wellie continued playing indoors, with potting the tommies into their final buckets where they're growing on nicely in the conservatory. The one nearest you by the kitchen door, is one of many 'Roma' Plum Tomato bush-types, hence the conical wire support for it to scramble untidily over without making a nuisance of itself and getting on my nerves later in the summer. The fruits will be halved and slowly sunblush-dried in the Rayburn, and preserved in olive oil for use over the winter months, in salads, casseroles and pasta dishes, when buying of supermarket tomatoes is a complete waste of time and money in taste-terms.

Do you think the cordon tomatoes growing up the metal spirals have grown since you were last here? I do! And the Winter Squash plants have grown SO much, they're using the tomato plants to attach their tendrils to as they rocket skywards - and there are signs of flowers coming. The varieties are 'Sweet Dumpling', 'Butternut', 'Uchikiki Kuri' and 'Turks Turban', and I think I rather overdid it on the 'Sweet Dumpling' front, as more seeds seemed to germinate than I remember planting, so of course they all got potted on rather than thrown away (as ya do!)

And here below, is my work in progress project: The Kitchen Garden.

I've defined the shape of the grass paths, and managed to get some Roundup Concentrate sprayed onto the triangular 'beds' in the tiniest window of opportunity when it WASN'T actually raining or blowing a gale for about five minutes last week!
And in the background, you can see the topiary box balls that we dug up before we moved. I'm desperate for them to survive, as they'd prolly be worth a few hundred in the shops? When the weather stops, I need to empty a bag of John Innes No.3 into each of their trugs, as Trousers did his best to remove them with a good rootball, but they had other ideas apparently. And it'll help to absorb the moisture I'm going to need to give them all summer-long to give them a fighting chance of survival.

Mmm.... Fresh Strawberries! all 'runners' potted on into bigger pots this last week so they won't dry out as quick and, hopefully, their roots will start to enjoy the nutrients in the new compost, and boost the fruit-swell. The strawberry plants in the draughty dutch greenhouse are streets ahead of these now, and I better give them a high potash liquid feed this week. I'm not sure how the self-sown Chervil herb seedlings in the same troughs will like it, but hey ho!

And before Rain Stopped Play - this is what I'd mostly been doing? Way back in the spring, I'd planted my shallots into small pots and six-cell trays to begin rooting, so I've been desperate to finally get them into the ground. The rest will have to wait now until tomorrow, when I hope the weather will be a little kinder to me.
Mind you - the inclement weather has meant that I've been forced to unpack a few more cardboard boxes, finding my funky RHS Ankle Wellie Boots in the process - so if it doesn't stop raining, at least my feet will be dry!
And in readiness of our friends, The Piglets, I've been dyeing bedspreads, sewing valances and generally making up The Boudoire in The Guest Wing...!
But we're settling into The Funny Farm really well now, and so is The Cat. X