All posts by A Country Girl

About A Country Girl

Trying to eat, cook, live more healthily and sustainably

Busyness

I thought as I got older life would slow and I would have more time, maybe for grandchildren but if not for my garden and dogs. Pipe Dream! I seem to be busier than ever and I only work outside the home two days a week. Perhaps I just got slower or my expectations of myself are more. I definitely grow and do more in my vegetable garden but I do less in the borders and Nick cuts the grass these days.

 

I know that I still have too much ‘stuff’ in my home, despite decluttering with a vengeance since April this year and for at least six months of last year. Things mean dusting or moving to vacuum and taking care of like my mother’s and mother-in-law’s brasses.  They all make work and stress if you don’t get them cleaned. But how hard is it to let go of things? I find it really hard. I would say that between my daughter Charlotte and I and some of mums linens I have gifted to the various charity shops locally 30 large bin liners of clothes and linen and at least 6 large boxes of ornaments and books. I have given away one dinner service to a friends daughter and charity shopped another.  Charlotte has asked that we keep one for her that leaves two more. They are too beautiful to just give to the charity shop and in their time were very expensive but I don’t need them so why can’t I just get rid! Memories I suppose. Meanwhile my home looks like a jumble sale and I’m struggling to keep it neat and tidy.

Some chores I don’t want to let go of, like meal planning, cooking from scratch, running a tight budget still, even though we could probably slacken off this a little. I love walking my dogs twice a day, just ten minutes for Pippa then out again with Ruby.  I love planning my garden, growing my own food, keeping my vegetable plot in shape. I love bottling/canning my produce or freezing or jam and sauce making.

Some things I need to find time for like exercising, just 20 minutes a day to do a Joe Wicks routine or some strength exercises. I have a pile of sowing projects too but the evenings are for relaxing and the days are BUSY, BUSY, BUSY.

I don’t have the answer to this lack of time nor the guilt I feel when I am not busy!

I wish I did.

 

Best Friends

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This beautiful dog is one of my best friends, she has travelled with us to France, many times, through Spain and to Portugal, she has been with us through many of life’s trials and tribulations, she has seen our children become adults and has loved us all unconditionally for nearly 13 years. She just keeps on giving, always wagging her tail to greet us even if some days it’s more tricky to get up to the door to be there when we open it. Her favourite thing making it really hard to actually open the front door!

We discovered a year ago that a lump she had, which grew quite quickly, was cancerous and so at nearly 12 a decision was made to not have treatment, the operation to remove it would have been huge for a dog and it would probably have ruined her quality of life. We just let it be. We planned and took a six month sabbatical from work and went off to Portugal for the winter. We took our beloved Pippa and her daughter Ruby with us. We had the most wonderful time and spent every day with our animals, 24/7. Their health was not good while we were away, Ruby developed some intestinal problems which may or may not be colitis but for now that is calm and she is fine. Pippa, just got older, she has had some lady problems relating to her cancer but, she is still here, and every day is a blessing.  I think today she looks particularly good so I thought I would share a picture of my best friend. 💕

Home made Pesto

 

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Once you’ve tried it there’s no going back!

I got this recipe from Jami Boys at anoregoncottage.com and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. I freeze some over summer, it defrosts quite quickly and stays a beautiful colour.

In fact everything on Jami’s blog that I’ve tried so far has turned out to be very good. So hop on over there and try something new.

 

This is taken directly from her blog:-

 

AN OREGON COTTAGE’S “SECRET INGREDIENT” FRUGAL HOMEMADE PESTO

PREP TIME
30 m
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
30 m

Frugal (aka, cheap) homemade pesto with an alternative to expensive pine nuts that we like even better!
Author: Jami Boys
Recipe type: condiment
Yield: 1-1/4 cups
INGREDIENTS
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ c. sunflower seeds*
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
2-1/2 c. lightly packed basil leaves, washed and dried
1 Tb. lemon juice (for freezing to keep pesto a brighter green after opening)
¾ – 1c. olive oil (plus more if freezing)
DIRECTIONS

Pulse garlic in a food processor until minced. Add seeds, cheese, and salt. Pulse a few times to chop, and then add the basil and continue to process until most is chopped (it’s okay if not all is chopped – it will mince as the oil is added). Add lemon juice now, if using.
With the machine running, add the oil in a fine stream. Process until pesto is smooth. Adjust salt to taste, if needed (less will be needed if using salted sunflower seeds).
To store in the freezer, pour about ½ cup into freezer-safe containers, add a shallow layer of olive oil to cover the tops, attach lids, label with date and freeze. The frozen pesto keeps for about a year – if it lasts that long.
NOTES
*I use roasted sunflower seeds for the extra flavor, but raw seeds will work too.

De-cluttering 365

It’s  all the rage at the moment, or perhaps my friends and I have reached the glorious age of needing to simplify our lives. Whatever it is everyone’s doing it! The charity shops must be deluged!

Our daughter left home last summer to live with her boyfriend and I think Nick and I realised that we live in a house that is a bit on the big side for two people. We can manage everything quite well at the moment as I only work part time but we have a large garden too and eventually it will all be too much so I had read on Old World Garden Farms about their 365 Project where they were both going to get rid of one item each day, we can do this we thought and we have, quite successfully for exactly a year.

I have room in my kitchen drawers to be able to see things, my wardrobe is clearer, the wardrobes in Tom’s old room have been de-cluttered, I gave my 40+ year old school uniform to Diss Museum! Nick has thrown away broken tools sorted out and given our daughter a set so we have got a cleared shed and garage. We have sorted our clothes down to one wardrobe. It was going well until my dear old mum died and I felt obliged to bring everything home that no one else wanted! Saucepans, crockery, bed linen, ornaments, clothes, socks, CDs, LPs it seemed an unmanageable amount but slowly I have either replaced my quite tired things with mum’s, given things to friends, charity shop drop offs and here we are it was time to look at my shoes!!!

I had 50 boxed pairs of shoes in the top of my wardrobe all of them in excellent condition, some of them over 35 years old, one pair bought when I was 17! I don’t really buy shoes any more as I have occasion shoes galore and can usually find a pair for weddings, christenings, funerals and I have various height heeled black court shoes I can wear for work. Every three years or so I buy a new pair of flat black loafers as I wear them out. I buy flip flops yearly and the occasional pair of sandals.

This week I tackled the boxed shoes. I now have 38 boxes. Next week loose shoes! It’s hard but most of the boxed shoes from forty years ago don’t fit as my feet have broadened! Two children, a period of being overweight have all taken their toll on my feet and quite frankly I’m not going to be wearing many pairs of ‘car/bar’ shoes as my friend Mandy calls them, shoes only fit to walk from the car to the bar, any more! So here we are I am a tad ashamed at what I have thrown/given away not just the shoes but all the things I have thought I wanted/needed over the years. Such a dreadful waste of money and resources. If only I had my 56 year old head on 30 years ago!

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I’ve still got to deal with the four dinner services, two mine, one Nick’s mums and one my mum’s but that’s a story for another day!

Happy de-cluttering 😊

The Girls

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My hens are a joy, they are getting older now and don’t lay as regularly as they used to but we still get two or three eggs a day which is more than enough to still justify having these amazing birds in our garden. The feed is about £8 and a bag of mixed corn about £7 this lasts 6-8 weeks. They free range in our garden and on the field at the back which helps with the variety of food they eat and gives them plent of fresh green plants to nibble at. They are great at keeping the lawns down over winter and early spring! I clear their nest boxes daily and add fresh shredded paper, the coop needs to be cleaned out weekly in the spring summer months but over winter I leave them with a deeper layer of straw and shredded paper to help keep them warm, cleaning out every three to four weeks.

You have to watch out for frost bite if we have a really cold snap as their combs suffer. Vaseline seems to stop this, a bit dabbed on their combs soothes and prevents! They can also suffer mites, you will know when this is a problem and we powder ours over the warmer months to keep this problem at bay. They really aren’t much work and you don’t need a cockerel for hens to lay. They have a finite number of eggs, they will lay one a day unless they are having a moult, for the first year or so then they slow down. We don’t keep our hens for meat so they will have a home here until they naturally pass away. This our third lot of hens and I can thoroughly recommend keeping some if you are allowed where you live to do this and have the room.

They provide us with eggs, amusement as they are fascinating to watch, their ability to turn over and weed a piece of vegetable plot is amazing, they fertilise it at the same time! The manure from their coop gets rotted down and put on the garden, and they follow me around like the dogs, so funny.

They escape quite regularly to an elderly neighbours garden and they sit outside her patio door looking in, she says they are company, they also clear her garden a bit too. In return the eggs are something else! The colour is awesome and you just cannot beat fresh eggs on toast or crumpets, what a way to start the day.

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Starting Plants Indoors

This year I’ve had hard decisions to make with regard to what we would grow. I had been growing a bit of everything but finding we weren’t using some of the vegetables we grew, for example, too many leeks, so no leeks this year.  We use all of the tomatoes we grow, fresh, roasted with other vegetables and frozen, turned into pasta sauces and bottled, chutneys, salsas, they all get used even the skins which I dry, grind down and sprinkle on pasta dishes and soups for more flavour. We use the butternut squashes, pumpkins, courgettes, runner beans and French beans. I have decided to grow all of these along with beetroot, lettuces, onions, and some new cucumbers grown in pots on the patio, peppers and chillies. We grow early and main crop potatoes too.

The potatoes were chitted in egg trays from February through to the last week in March when we got them in the garden. We had covered the beds with black plastic a few weeks before to help warm up the soil.  I don’t dig, we have a layered garden, like lasagne, which we cover each Autumn with organic material and have been doing this for three years now. It has produced good results and we are nearly weed free!

I’ve started tomatoes, peppers and chillies indoors, as always, in February and I’ve now started beans, beetroot, onions and lettuce outside. Also the squash seeds are planted  in pots indoors.  The problem with the weather this year is that none of the tomatoes or peppers been hardened off yet and are still in my living room!

I am now starting to harden them off and hopefully will be able to get them in the greenhouse over the next couple of weeks, it’s still early but they need to be in the ground and my draughty greenhouse is not the place yet.

I will get them into my cold frames this week which are against the house in their own micro climate from there they will go into the greenhouse.

I’m no expert and am learning as I go along from some great resources which are out there if you want to start growing.  It doesn’t take too much of my time and once it’s all in the ground I spend between 15 and 30 minutes a day keeping everything watered and tidied. It’s all worth it, to eat food that you have grown is a constant wonder to me. When I cook those fresh vegetables in season and frozen vegetables over the winter or use a batch of frozen or canned/bottled sauce in a meal, which I try to always cook from scratch, I’m so pleased that I know exactly what went into it.

Get some dirt under your nails and grow your own!

 

About Me

My name is Julie, I’m a Norfolk girl born and bred, married to Nick for over thirty years with two grown up children. I work outside the home part time, but was lucky enough to be at home for the years before my children went to school. I am at my best when in my kitchen and garden, I love to grow our vegetables and then use them throughout the year to feed my family and our friends. I’m not keen on dusting, but I do it anyway!

We live in beautiful rural Norfolk, have two black Labradors, Pippa and Ruby, we enjoy walking and travelling in our Motorhome so we can take ‘the girls’ with us. I love to read but these days I find a lot of the time it’s about food!

We try to live and eat as healthily as we can and I believe that if everyone grows something they can eat, even a pot of herbs on a windowsill, we will all benefit.  I’m on a new journey here so I hope you will follow along. Who knows where it will go but it’s exciting to have a new challenge.