Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Hubby.... Hunter Gatherer

Hubby is in his element. The locals came a-calling for him; farmers with a long history in this area who seem to have accepted The Archers as part of the landscape. They took Hubby out shooting again. I wasn't over optimistic, last year he'd borrowed the big farmer's gun and had broken it. The collective shooters mended it with tape, I can't help thinking that mending a gun with tape just doesn't sound safe but out here in the crunchy-side there seem to be a shortage of health and safety. No bad thing really.

I've decided that a shooting widow is worse than a golf widow: Hubby made me a golf widow quite early in our life together. The old saying, 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' seemed awfully relevant then so I learned to play golf too and all was well in the world until the kids came along. It was then that I feared I might be widowed once again but fortunately hubby was too poor/exhausted/distracted to play much. With golf, you know they'll be gone most of the day, wearing plaid trousers, white shoes and occasionally a visor. Come to think of it, male golf clothes are pretty effeminate....... But a shooting widow is far worse because.... well because they are out there, flailing about with guns and mud and unpredictable animals. If they survive the weapons there is also the chance that they might come home bearing treasures for the female cave dweller to prepare. That's me....yuk.

Don't get me wrong, I want to cook and eat pheasant, venison, duck, partridge or pigeon, I just don't like the idea of preparing it. If I prepared it I probably wouldn't eat it. Too posh to pluck? That's me....

For the first time ever Hubby came home proudly bearing two brace of pheasant. Two cocks (pretty much!) and two hens. Wow-wee. The children were fascinated, the cats more so......

It seemed such a shame to have killed such beautiful birds but there I am with the double standards again...... I don't want to prepare them, don't want them murdered, but I do want to eat them...

Hubby knew the deal, he was kind, he offered to prep his kill and the 8yo eagerly volunteered her services. The 6yo was less forthcoming, but as I left the kitchen to iron enough clothes for all the inhabitants of Paxos to be well dressed for a year, (why, oh why do I let it build up so....) the boy was donning his apron too.

Within twenty minutes the boy had retreated. He had a dodgy look on his face......

'That is yucky,' he said. 'And the cats are eating the guts.' He got back to the job of murdering small digitised clone warriors on the DS.

But back in the kitchen, by following The Shooting Times online video instruction, Hubby and the 8yo made a very nice job of the birds.

She's clearly in her element..... cheffy school here we come?

Thursday, 23 December 2010

UK Gardening News....

The pin-up returns......... yea Monty, we love you. Thank goodness you're back, I can watch on a Friday night without making snippy comments throughout the whole programme. Dear BBC my husband thanks you for peace in our house on a Friday night.......

Christmas Smells.... oh yes it does

Brother-in-law as angel ...........OK, not really.... if he looked this good dead, my sister might help him on his way!!!.....

The babies slept with me last night, I wanted peace they wanted warmth, hubby was away. Consequently I got up at 6am as I was jolly uncomfortable. How many arms and legs do two children have for heaven's sake?!

Coming downstairs I lit the fire and, feeling Christmassy, I made...... wait for it..... jam! I know it's not THAT Christmassy but the thing is, we had our Christmas Tesco delivery yesterday. We sledged across the lanes to retrieve it from the van driver who had managed to park up as near as possible. The same thing happened last year so we're fairy blase about this now. The new driver was most intrigued by our chilled attitude... oh I made a funny, chilled... never mind! Well, all the food turned up and when we finally got it home I started filling the freezer. However, the blackberries and peeled apple circles that I foraged in the summer and autumn were seriously getting in the way. Also I've a million empty jars cluttering up the dairy so I pulled out bags of fruit and lo and behold the new food fitted in beautifully.

Before the sproglets awoke this morning I made 13 jars of gorgeous Blackberry and Apple jam, loosely based on a recipe from The Cottage Smallholder, a font of all knowledge. My recipe probably has slightly more apple than blackberry because I took out more apple bags from the freezer. I sieved all pips out of the jam and it is really quite my best jam ever. It has a really good set, probably because of the quantity of apple.

Then, without rinsing the huge 19 litre stock pot, I made Beetroot Relish, a MUST with cold turkey. I made it with 6 packs of precooked beetroot, (what a cheat!) The vinegar smell was quite welcome, as by this time in the morning, the owner of the tree farm opposite had come with his son to remove our poo heap from outside the stables. The pong from the year-old manure was rather overpowering, still nothing like a bit of vinegar to clear the nostrils!!!

When the 6yo finally appeared from bed he had that cute bed-head look.

'Mum?' he said, holding his nose. (He can't abide weird smells.... (I fall into that category sometimes); make-up, perfume, vinegar, poo*, the auction house all offend him...)


'Will Santa bring me the things I asked for, the things I wrote on the note that we burned?'


'Not sure,' I said. 'Sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he brings you something even better, something you didn't even think of.'

His chin wobbled. 'If Santa brings me baby toys I will think that Santa sucks!'

Sucks! Sucks! Are we in England? Who says sucks? I don't say sucks..... often....... neither does hubby or the 8yo! AND they don't watch the Disney Channel.... that bloody Disney Channel needs cleaning up if you ask me!.... Oh, you didn't,..... well, just don't get me started! That Tracey Beaker stuff is awful too and what about that dreadful programme where kids play to get out of jail - what the heck is THAT about!!!??? .... OK, it's OK I'm breathing into a bag now....

Calm thoughts, calm thoughts............ It's a stunning day today, belting sunshine and the white white snow, we could be at a ski resort.... though rather less funds required. The children have refused to go sledging, just because I want to go down with them on my lap! No fun.

'Is it because I'm too fat?'

'No!' said the 8yo immediately. Good girl, I've trained her well - a fast positive response. Feeling better about myself already. Sod the diet in January.

'You're just very chubby.'

I'm heading Santa off at the pass..........................................


My brother in law is laid up at the moment: He came off his motorbike badly on the ice. I rather hope he decides not to ride again as he's the most brilliant person ever and we really rather like having him on the planet with us. The thought of him gazing down on us in a meringue dress with wings and a harp could put you off your Christmas dinner! Anyone with suggestions of how to keep him off the bike, which is sadly the most economical way to get to his central London job, will be most gratefully received. Apparently my suggestion that my sister and family move to Knightsbridge isn't actually that practical! Details, schmeetails!

*I do NOT smell of this substance....oh wait, except when barrowing from the muck heap, cleaning out the chickens and gardening... OK, maybe I do smell of poo.!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Larchingham Palace....

Well, this morning the smell has abated. (If you're unsure of what I am talking about, take a peek at yesterday's post, I'm too annoyed to repeat the story...) I presume the reason for the smell dilution is because we live in a sizeable, draughty house where the sash windows are just about to fall out. This creates a weather system inside the house and allows troublesome odors to dissipate quickly. No need for fancy air fresheners here! Humph!

Last night, after the smokehouse cleared and I escorted, out of the doors and windows, every bit of heat from the house that we'd accumulated since early November, I began to worry about the hubby: (You can never worry enough really. As an aside, all the people I know who worry a lot are slim...... I am fat!) Anyhoo, the snow was getting pretty bad and he'd borrowed my sledge car for the day, leaving us with Dizzy.

The stink from the damp fire was still revolting so I stomped out into the black and white and returned with my wheelbarrow. (I love my wheelbarrow.... roll on Spring.) With Kevlar fire gloves I weight-lifted the entire wrought-iron log basket, still smoking, into the wheelbarrow and raced it out the front door and out into Home Field. The offending logs and coal are now a part of the prep for next year's Bonfire Night Party.


Hubby finally made it home. Shaking, he said hello and immediately fixed himself a drink. Bad journey home; it's the last 10 miles that really scuppers us.

He was so traumatised he didn't even register the smoke damage, except to tell me that that particular chimney doesn't have a cowl. The chimney was probably blocked with snow and ice.

After a bath I almost smelled human. I sat with hubby in the kitchen, the children safely tucked up in beds and bedrooms that smelled like lapsang souchong tea,.... but I was warm by the log burner (that doesn't smoke) and I was very comfy too, till my arse, 'scuse the French, fell through the ancient new thrones fireside chairs we've treated ourselves to as a Wedding Anniversary present. Anyhow, it appears that one of the struts holding the springs in place had pinged off. Hubby - mender of the universe - soon had it fixed and my bottom was soon safely on my rightful throne....... just the one cheese scone with a slice of cold ham and a glass of wine beside me. See I'm cutting back already.

So, this morning we just smell vaguely like we live on a charcoal farm..... Delightful.

[If you receive this post as an email, click on the BLUE blog post title to go through to my blog site. Thank you for subscribing. Lou.]

Monday, 20 December 2010

Not Good. Bad end to a good day.

We had a great day today, sledging, art and craft, I even claimed back the playroom. It looked beautiful. Oh yes, good day. The snow really started to fall too, it looked wonderful.

The playroom looked so good I thought I'd evict the kids from the kitchen where their school desks have moved to; complete with glue, Plasticine, sellotape, paper, scissors, everything arty, plus Lego.....and then there's the glitter.... .... shudder!! I wanted my kitchen back..... to be kitchen-y.

I called Hubby;

'Come home now, the snow's really bad' I pleaded.

'I will leave soon, but I've got to finish this meeting,' he said. 'But my battery's almost out on my phone so I'm switching off now in case I need it desperately later.'

I lit the open fire for the sproglets in the playroom, using up a shake of the old coal from the derelict cottage, I stuck a Santa movie on the 'video machine' .... yes they really DO still exist and settled the kiddies down on the big old sofa.

Soon the smoke started and started and started and billowed and plumed and engulfed the room then the hall and then the hallway.

It was so bad I googled how to put out a wood fire before finally chucking a huge bucket of water on it.

The house smells awful. I want to cry and I can't even contact Hubby.

My throat is raw but the babies are fine I tucked them in the kitchen while the inferno stank my house out.

Sometimes life sucks.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

If you get the time.....

....please check out my new site, I'm selling pretty things.....  Maybe something might take your fancy one day...


Vultures and an Advent Calendar

There is snowy Christmas stuff surrounding the house (as usual.) It's got that we don't even discuss the white stuff anymore, it's just there. Even the chickens are resigned to the fact that the outlook will be fairly colourless for the foreseeable future, possibly till March..... Archie Archer is getting v naughty, every time I open his coop he pops out for a quick play in the snow. It has to be a quick play; as the cats have got their greeny eyes on him, they sit outside the coop licking their lips although that might have something to do with the fact that they too love spaghetti as much as Archie does ....or fake worms as I like to call them.

Archie Archer is now 6 weeks old and getting bigger by the day. We thought he was a Barnevelder beed, born from an egg kindly donated by our neighbour, but having read up on that breed, it appears that Barnevelder chicks are initially yellow.Archie Archer arrived out of his shell as black as coal: Therefore I strongly suspect that Archie is a vulture.

The children and I visited my parents last week on the south coast. Every evening at dinner we lit the table Advent Calendar - a very nice tradition. On arriving home I felt the need to make an Archers at the Larches Calendar. I was the designer and I commissioned hubby (bribed with a home cooked ham dinner,)  to create the design: Four holes drilled into and a robin's feet nailed onto a lichen adorned log. (NO, It was not a real robin....although to be truthful, I did have that option as the cats have caught two fat ones recently..... not very Christmassy, sorry!) Anyhow now I feel right proper holy every evening at dinner. The punch-up after dinner relating to who gets to blow the candles out has, so far, not drawn blood....... What is is about kids and candles?

Friday, 10 December 2010

What would you prefer?

I've been thinking, what would I prefer...... if I HAD to live somewhere forever, that was unbearably hot or unbearably cold... which would I choose.

I'm not talking Barbados-by-the-sea hot, that would be a no-brainer, no, I'm talking in-land hot or in-land cold. Also, I'm factoring in all sorts of disasters in the next 50 years (long life-line me!) So there could be resource issues like oil strikes, limited electricity etc, so no central heating or air conditioning on occasions...

Think about it.....

...I've chosen cold. I reckon I'd go stir-crazy in constant heat..and I could always wear my entire wardrobe and light a wood fire...

What would you choose?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Books, Books, Books..... Take a look at this, you sweet things,.... free books... yipee.... and this gives us all access to booky people's brains. Lovely, lovely internet....

Techna-what????? and screen wash.

It's so cold that Dizzy's squirters have frozen up and no matter what, I cannot unfreeze them! Sooooo, I've made up a lovely witches potion in a spray bottle. It works a treat. Here's the potion mixture; Quite a lot of full-on vodka, the remains of the cleaning fluid in the spray bottle and a tadge of water. Please note the vodka should be the main ingredient. Not my kinda cocktail btw, but super-dooper on the windscreen...

N.B. Don't blame me if you're pulled over and breathalised.... I know vodka's not supposed to smell on the breath but the cillit-bang might pong a bit!

Have you ever tried to get your blog listed on Technorati?..... gosh .......  H9HYE2N5BQYX is all I can say!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Gardening in Pictures

Easily Impressed from Shropshire....

Its boiling today..... by boiling, I mean that it's almost -3.

School run was pretty....blah,blah,blah; sheep, ice on trees, slippy road, ice fog in valley,..... although I did see a bird of prey take a rat from a farmyard. It crashed into a white hedge..and there was a great poof of frost and then they were gone, rat and bird. That was quite exciting... But c'mon, roll on Spring already.......... Whad'ya mean Winter's only just begun?,no,no, I want planting and strawberries and birds in the garden, other than robins, and fluffed up chickens, rather than the miserable looking molting sad ones I seem to have at the moment!

I cooked spaghetti for the chooks today. They're very Italian - loved it.

Then I saw something that made me really smile: Broad Beans. My broad Beans, some in pots some in the ground, are ignoring the weather, braving the ice age and popping their heads up at the meagre winter sun. How wonderful.

The onions too are toasty under the frosting.

And the leeks are delicious, seemingly unbothered by the cold. I made Leek, bacon and pork (leftover) pie the other day and it was deeee-lish.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Six Days....

Is it really only six days ago I was buried in my writing (and eating,) trying to complete the NaNo challenge?

I'm glad to say I've got back to a much healthier diet since my confinement in November. This morning I had a coffee and some very healthy brown, nutty bread with a smear of Marmite.....hopefully that will counteract the massive handful of Minstrels I also had. Come on!! I had Splenda in my tea.......

..........which I nearly spat out after listening to the hilarious gaffe on the Today Programme BBC Radio 4 this morning. (If sensitive to poor language, do not investigate further!) .... Poor Jim.


The past six days have been busy, we've managed to get Dizzy Discovery back after it broke down and the manifold gasket blew, (I've no idea what I've just said, but it cost us about £80!) We've been at the school play and been to a bowling birthday party. We've sledged. I've collected frozen eggs from all over the site which had expanded and cracked - very annoying as they are now in the compost bin. I've snuggled and kissed Archie Archer - who is as warm as toast with his mummy. Oh, and yesterday I did a fair bit of the Christmas shopping in a town called Hereford that was very quiet really, bearing in mind it's December. You can feel the recession biting, it's not just the cold. 


Boy has been sickly since last Friday. He managed to limp through his Christmas play at school where he was a chef, then stardom took its toll and he went all flu-y, with soaring temperatures. No projectile fluids I'm pleased to say, but the snotty-ometer was off the Richter scale. Still, after three days of wall-to-wall Star Wars and a lot of home-made chicken stock, he's back at school. Before you ask, no I didn't murder one of the girls to get the chicken stock, I used the carcass from the free-range turkey we ate for Thanksgiving when 'Cross the Pond came a-visiting.

The Archers have been decorating the house for Christmas. Across the road from us is a wonderful tree farm. I drove over in my normal car, (or as I like to call it - The Sledge) and picked out a good sized tree for the inner hall and one for the Hubby to take to the office. The owner very kindly offered to drop the trees over to the house in his Land Rover. I waved goodbye to him and then went nowhere - totally stuck in the snow! So boring.

For your info; the owner of the nursery gives really good driving instruction, much better than the hubby. He quite simply told me to put the car in first, (keeping the revs gentle so's not to cut out,) and then to remove my foot from the accelerator and brake pedals, allowing the car to drive itself, albeit slowly, up his slightly inclined drive and back out along the track, towards The Larches. Phew. My little heart races when I get stuck like that, does yours?

We're happy with the tree though.....


The whole country has been spookily cold these past few weeks, but last night must have been a SUPER-COLD night in Shropshire.

This morning Hubby took my car, laden with his Christmas tree, while we opted for Dizzy for school run. It took an age to defrost the cars. I hope Hubby's journey was uneventful, he goes in the opposite direction to us, up and over an ancient bridge on a thread of a road. He managed to pull a 360° the other day. He said it properly scared him and he doesn't really do scared. BMW may stand for Beat My Wheelie, then again it might not. (Whole different blog-post could be dedicated to what BMW stands for.. 'nuther day maybe..)

Anyhoo, our journey to school was awesome. The snow Queen had been busy overnight turning Shropshire into a Popsicle. The Common, usually so yellow and green with gorse and heather, was artificially white. The summit of Clee Hill at 533 metres above sea level was like something from Ice Station Zebra.... a Christmas movie your Dad would love!

The sky was its coldest blue, clear of cloud. A pheasant looked gaudy at the edge of the road, watching us pass he looked a bit like a dandy, over-dressed for such a simply coloured day. The sheep were perfectly dressed as snowballs.

As we drove along the hill road that drops down to sea level to Ludlow, it looked as if someone had filled the valley with squirty cream. Ice fog engulfed the land, only one lonely island remained, far in the distance towards Wales, the top of a forested  mountain.

We turned down into the fog and the blue sky was gone, replaced by sepia countryside, where only larch or red brick or the warm orange glow from a window pushed through into the picture postcard landscape.

And now I'm back home, a warm fire crackling quietly, cats asleep. Chickens fed and watered and me to finish cards and bake I think.

Keep warm.

(Pic of the radar at Clee Hill courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Websplash: Talli Rowland's The Hating Game

Can you help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME become a hit, and being ranked in the Kindle bestseller list at and Can you spread the word today? Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more. Coming soon in paperback. Keep up with the latest at

When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?



Reading List.... has recently posted about the BBC's 2003 quest to find the nation's best-loved novel. Below are all the results from number 1 to 100! Whether you like the list or detest it, it is an indication of the tastes of the UK in 2003 (or at least those readers that check out the BBC online or go to libraries!) Why not see how many you've read.

For Instructions:

• Copy this list.

• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.

• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

• Underline the ones you really want to read

Of the ones I can remember I have read :
1.The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon