3BT – not exactly graceful, real moments, my favourite dessert

1. There is just about nothing funnier than watching a chicken run directly at you.

2. There is, understandably, so much faked emotion in the drama studio that it makes real emotion – split-your-face grins, bursts of laughter exploding out of usually too-cool people, and coy smiles hiding swollen pride after compliments – seem all the more precious.

3. Chocolate melt in the middle puddings. The heavy, wet sponge is almost black, which contrasts beautifully with a splash of cream.

11 Goals for 2011: progress update

At the start of the year, I set myself 11 (+ another 5 subgoals) goals for the year. We’ve third of the way through the year now so I thought it was time for an update.

1. Increase the food output from our garden and make a meal only using stuff I’ve grown/foraged/caught/killed which can be cooked off-grid

I’m writing this during a tea break from working in the garden. We haven’t eaten anything we’ve grown this year yet but I’ve been busy busy busy out there. Our salad has been a bit slow off the mark this year but we should have our first lettuces this month, as well as maybe our first potatoes near the end of the month. We planted a lot of fruit trees and bushes at the start of the year too – six apple, two pear, a cherry tree, four blackcurrant bushes, two redcurrant bushes, two raspberry bushes, twelve strawberry runners, three honeyberry bushes, a cranberry bush and a loganberry bush. We also planted about six jostaberry canes but only one of them seems to have taken — all the other bushes & trees are growing well though.

The chickens are doing well – I spent a lot of time defrosting their water at the start of the year but not had to do too much of that lately ;) Two out of the three second batch of girls started laying in January and Buff, the fancy pure bred one, started eventually in March so (present broodiness aside) they’re all productive now. In March, when Buff started laying, they cranked out a massive 200 eggs between them. April has been a little slow – at only 180 eggs in total – because Ginger is broody. Only 180 eggs….! We’ve had on average of 5.43 eggs a day since the start of the year, rising to 6.45 eggs a day in March. We have give a lot away ;)

Foraging has been a little slower than I would have thought – we’ve eaten plenty of wild garlic but little else. I am getting better at identifying early Spring stuff – just not picking it and eating it ;)

2. Learn how to successfully take and propagate cuttings from every applicable type of perennial plant/shrub in the house/garden

Nothing has really been ready for this year – but I will start experimenting with some of the bigger herb bushes soon.

3. Create my own font – possibly of my handwriting

Not done anything on this yet.

4. Make a piece of furniture for the house (woodworking)

I have not done this yet but I have made a lot of things for the garden from wood – which is movement in the right direction. As I said at the end of last year, my goals were/are supposed to be putting me on a journey – this goal was supposed to get me making things, anything from wood, with the hope that my skills will improve gradually to the point where I’m confident to build something for the house out of nice, purpose bought (or nicer-than-normal salvaged) wood. I’m certainly making progress along that path so yay!

5. Make an entire outfit (to include conquering sewing patterns)

Spent January frantically crocheting a blanket but have done very little sewing/yarn crafty stuff for the last couple of months. Need to get back to it!

6. Go fishing in the North Sea

Not organised this yet. Am crap.

7. Learn how to screenprint

Yays! I’ve done this one! It was a lot of fun and we’ve been back for our Factory4 induction & a second screenprinting session since. Hopefully we’ll go back again in a few weeks.

8. Buy no more than 12 items of clothing across the year

This a Really Good Life challenge – and it’s going really well. I haven’t bought a single item of clothing or any accessories from either my exceptions list or from my quota in 2012. It’s actually been a lot easier than I thought – I do have “am bored of my clothes!” sulks but they pass surprisingly quickly.

I’ve also encouraged some other people to do the same challenge – which is great :)

9. Finish a developed piece of fiction writing

Not *really* done anything for this, aside from a short scene I developed with the kids from class as part of a performance at a youth theatre festival in February.

10. Specific food makery and/or eatery:

a) Bake at least once a week
I haven’t been as regular at baking as I’d like but if I include stuff like pizza dough as well as breads & biscuits, it probably is nearly once a week on average. We struggle with bread in the winter as we keep the house cooler than yeast-exciting temperature so hopefully we’ll bake more regularly over the spring/summer/autumn period.

b) Grow a sourdough starter and make bread from it
We’ve kinda done this – we got sourdough starters when we went on a bread making course with the Handmade Bakery in March — we’ve kept them alive and baked from them since. We didn’t actually grow them from scratch (they were started in Russia in the 1970s and River Cottage in 2005) but we’re cultivating them and using them. So yeah!

c) Make a hard cheese
Not done anything cheesy so far this year. Well, not cheese-making cheesy. Those in earshot of many of my jokes would contest the “done anything cheesy” assertion.

d) Try ten vegetables (or veggie wild foods) that I’ve not tried before
As I said above, I’ve not done much foraging this year but I did try wild sorrel earlier in the year and I’m growing three things I’ve not tasted before (rapini/broccoli raab, marigolds-for-salad-leaves and achocha!) so that’ll hopefully up my total. Oh, and I had pea shoots (which aren’t too exciting but were new to me) as part of my starter when we went to Salvo’s a few weeks ago.

e) Build a cold smoking cabinet, try cold smoking more stuff & try hot smoking too
I’m really keen to build another smoking cabinet and have been on the look out for furniture to adapt or wood to build a cabinet from scratch. Not spotted anything suitable yet but I’m hoping to get hold of some old kitchen cupboard doors soon, which should work. Can’t wait to make more smoked cheese!

11. Participate more in the real world – engage more with our local community and meet some internet people in real life
I so nearly met an internet person but then got sick. *shakes fist at culinary establishment that caused food poisoning* Boo.

Have mostly hidden inside/in our private garden for the last few months so not really done anything locally.

Not particularly local community related but at least away from my computer – I’ve been still doing dramatic things at Bingley Little Theatre – I made my debut as a stage-manager on the kids’ production of “The Would-Be Gentleman” in April. (I shadowed as a ASM & SM on a production earlier in the year too – didn’t really do much but learnt a lot.) We also went to the aforementioned youth theatre festival in York – two days of dramatic funness.


One goal (and one sub-goal) done, six (and two) in progress, and four (and two) still to do. On track!

10 goals for 2010 – end of year round-up

So at the start of 2010, I set myself 10 goals:

  • 1. To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself.
  • 2. To travel to a place on my “top ten places to go before I die” list.
  • 3. Finish writing my second novel.
  • 4. Learn how to make sausages – wet English style ones and cured ones too.
  • 5. Spend at least a day fishing out on the North Sea.
  • 6. Finally finish learning how to drive.
  • 7. Make a full outfit’s worth of clothing for myself – including spinning any wool used.
  • 8. Learn how to program and make a mini-game/application using Ruby.
  • 9. Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill.
  • 10. Participate more in the real world – plan/run a real life green event or scheme.

I achieved just two of them. TWO!

I am, understandably, a bit disappointed with that but as I mentioned throughout the year, the goals were supposed to put me on a journey rather than being the destination.

The two goals I did achieve (“To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself” and “Learn how to make sausages”) were part of my overall desire to adopt a more simple, DIY life and I think that’s going wonderfully in the right direction. The making an outfit goal was part of that – and while I didn’t meet that goal, I did learn to spin wool, I experimented with dyeing yarn too and I also made some attempts at sewing clothes. The fishing goal was a failure due to procrastination and disorganisation – it’s on the list for next year and by-huff-or-by-puff, it’s going to happen.

The last two (“Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill” and “Participate more in the real world”) were in an effort to get me out from behind my computer and/or off the sofa. With Lily’s arrival in March, we started walking in “our” woods every day and most weekends (one or both days) see us heading further afield for strolls. That’s a good thing. I didn’t realise what a small-talk-instigator dogs are either – I think we know considerably more people (and their dogs) than if we’d gone out wandering in the woods on our own. Another good thing. Also, while it’s not green-related, I get out and meet people regularly through my work & play at Bingley Little Theatre – this year I’ve helped with two productions and summer showcase, as well as helping teach two classes a week. A frickin’ ace thing.

I have less-than-almost-ever interest in learning to drive. I’m not scared or anything, there just doesn’t seem a lot of point to it. Occasionally I think it would be useful if I could drive somewhere instead of having to enlist John but I don’t have enough sustained motivation to start learning again – and finding the time/money is another issue. I’ve also rethought my position on my travel goal – as I wrote in my November goal update, the way we’d have to do it feels too much like consumerism, to much to have and not to be. So I’m not bothered that I haven’t achieved that either.

The novel thing and the Ruby thing are probably my biggest disappointments – nothing other than procrastination/excitement about other things stopping me there really. A revised version of the novel one will be on my goal list for 2011. The Ruby one probably won’t be – but that’s not to say I don’t want to learn — I think I will love programming when I get into it – I just need to find a new book/teaching method first.

So that’s it for 2010. The goal achievements were worth the disappointments. The rest of my life was similar – had some awesome wins, had some dark spots, some new starts and left some things behind.

Team Peach expanded (Lily-dog and the chicken tribe) but sadly contracted too (we lost Carbon). I’ve eaten a helluva lot of good food, read many many good books (highlights: lots of stuff from the first half of the 20th Century including ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson, ‘Good Evening Mrs Craven and other stories’ by Mollie Panter Downes and ‘The Death of Grass’ by John Christopher), learned a lot of new stuff and laughed loads.

As That Tommy Hall would say, 2010, you’ve been a year.

Four beautiful things to end a frustrating day

1. Six are huddled together on the perches and the seventh in the nest box she’s still not outgrown. They cluck softly as I peek in to check they’re all in bed. Turn out the light. You’re letting the cold in. Go away, I’m trying to sleep here.

2. We spend a lot of time together, a LOT. But quality time is still a rare treat.

3. She’s so excited to see him that she doesn’t know which way to run so she runs every way at once.

4. Sat on my shoulder, his fur is so soft and warm against my ear. I wonder how I can convince the other cat to sit on the other side and be another purring earmuff.

Relief, fishing for chickens, the pleasure of warmth and sugar

1. To wake up and find that after all that noise, there is no storm damage to the garden. Or rather, the only damage is both minor and desirable.

2. We drive out to see our chicken man. The views are different but as equally as stunning as they were on the balmy June evening of our last visit. He, and his lovely old dog, take us around the different sheds and we pick four girls to bring home – two pure breeds and two black rocks. He catches them with a strong fisherman’s net: “the best thing I ever bought”, he tells us.

3. A well timed cup of sweet tea.

Chicken chatter, carnival-less, lookalike

My fake definition for the word “waddy” was the winning entry on Word Imperfect the other day. Yay!

1. The chickens always chatter when I go down to see them. I imagine them like excited children, desperate for attention and to tell me about their day.

2. We stand on the undulating green lawn in the sun. It’s the first time we’ve been to that park when it’s just a park and not a carnival ground, and it’s strange to see it so quiet and empty. I mentally draw in the stages and the food tents, and think about walking up the hill to buy some sugar cane.

3. There is a painting for sale on eBay which looks exactly like Lily – not in appearance but in expression. I point it out to John and we look at Lily to compare – she’s sat in the exact same position, pulling the exact same expression. We laugh.