3BT – we like stripes, starting again, fake thrills

1. The colourful fat stripes of his socks and my cardigan on the white airer.

2. I tidied the greenhouse on Thursday, moved the winter ground cover from the chicken run on Friday and tidied the space between the enclosed run & the rest of the garden today. Small changes but they make the garden feel more manageable again.

3. The strange glee derived from rushing around a virtual village, searching for pretend Easter, um, I mean “Noblegarden” eggs with complete strangers. The hunt is as ferocious and good natured as if they were real chocolate eggs in a garden. I’m more than happy to wait around for people to give me temporary bunny ears.

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!

Not finished yet, waggle welcome, blown out

1. The last flashes of summer – a slowly ripening chilli, a sweet pea flower curving up to the light, the scent of the brushed basil in the porch.

2. I wish I had a tail to wag too, then we could run around in wagging unison when he comes home from the office. Instead, she gets to do the waggledy running in circles thing and get a hug.

3. The constant roar is like an unrelenting sea – the gales force winds buffeting through the near naked trees. Then when we turn the light off to go to sleep, it suddenly stops. For two, three minutes, the world is silent.

After the chicken run, stepping stone, repeating, evening walk, giveaway smell

1. I sneak back into bed and facing each other, we hold hands inbetween our chests. The dog snuggles her nose into the inverted v-shaped space between our arms.

2. I half open my eyes when I feel the cat step off me. I see her use the sleeping dog as a stepping stone to get to her dad. After she’s settled down on the other side of the bed, Lily finally reacts, looking first at the cat then at me. “Yes, I saw it,” I whisper.

3. I finally meet one of our neighbours for the first time. We chat chickens and growing things. A dog bark in the distance calls me away but just before I go, I think to introduce myself. As I walk away, I hear him repeating my name to himself as a memory aid.

4. We – Lily, John & I – take an evening walk in Thackley Woods. The world is still, the only sounds bird call & distant whinnying and over Baildon’s hills, the sunset is a hazy red.

5. The cat has been sleeping in the washing again. When she jumps on my knee, she smells line-fresh.

Crack, a pretty coincidence, accomplishment

1. The sharp snap as I break the twigs.

2. The arrangement of the washing on the line looks deliberately composed. The duck-egg blue of the bath towels, the washed out mid-blue of the dog ones and the soft turquoise & cream of the tea towels all coordinate while standing out against the leafy green backdrop.

3. A productive day and completing a goal – a meal made entirely from stuff from our garden.

Goal #1 “make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown myself” – DONE!

This was my dinner this evening – courgette frittata with side salad – and it was made entirely using things from our garden (with the exception of the wild garlic pods – some were from our garden, others from further into the woods).

– courgette (although I only used one in the end – could have used a bit more for flavour though)
– new potatoes
pickled wild garlic pods (not in picture)
– eggs (from yesterday, needed beating better hence the egg white bits)
– basil (grown from seed this year) & oregano (had for a few years)
– salad leaves (lollo rosso)
– chives
– and, ok ok, a little oil for frying the courgettes – a small cheat ;)

It could have used a bit of salt & pepper for flavour but other than that, was pretty damn good!

And that’s another goal ticked off my list.