Scaling dizzy heights

The Vyne, National Trust, Hampshire  - scene of our big tree climb

The Vyne, National Trust, Hampshire – scene of our big tree climb

As quickly as it was organised, the day came for Primrose and I to complete our biggest country challenge yet.  You know, the one I’ve been dreading……no.1 of all the National Trust’s 50 things project - Climb a tree.  With this year’s summer of 50 Things already upon us and with so many events and adventures to go on in London and South East, it seemed fitting that we should start at the very beginning with no 1. Continue reading

Midsummer magic

A little midsummer rose magic

Perfect for Thumbelina!

With midsummer here at last, I’ve been wondering if we have been touched by a bit of that good old midsummer magic of late.  Don’t worry we weren’t last seen dancing naked at dawn around a stone circle or joining a load of druids on a pilgrimage to mark the summer solstice.  (Although, Jerry swears he was on the 18:23 from Waterloo with Druid Arthur Uther Pendragon on Friday night).  No, nothing all ‘Glasto’ drastic as that.  However, trundling along the parish boundaries in an ancient village church tradition to bless the fields and the beauty of our little patch of countryside, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps  Jerry and I had gone native, dear Reader.  In a month or two, it will be the anniversary of our first year here and it is difficult to imagine us anywhere else these days. Continue reading

Ticking off the list

The Vyne, National Trust, Hampshire - surrounded by magical woodland

The Vyne, National Trust, Hampshire – surrounded by magical woodland

Having had a tricky few weeks with the lambs and a broody chicken to boot, we decided that we all needed a bit of a treat and some time to enjoy outdoorsy adventures (not smallholding related ones at least) a bit further afield.  With a half term full of rain and cabin fever setting in……thank goodness for Primrose and her love of lists.  You’ll see why in a mo, dear Reader!

Last year, Primrose, Poppy and I spent a whole summer gallivanting round all sorts of fabulous National Trust properties and places around London and the South East in order to tick off our 50 Things list.  You may remember that our adventures were featured on NT London and South East’s blog.  Ooh the things we got up to!  A summer of den building, pond dipping, camping out under the stairs……..all thanks to this magical list!  I was going to say that the list is endless but it is a very manageable 50 things – all very good fun and definitely a must for the summer holidays, come rain or shine!  To celebrate the launch of the first #50Things weekend of this year’s season, we were very kindly invited to come along to one of our favourite NT places, The Vyne for an afternoon of bug hunting and cake.  Who could resist such an invitation, I ask you dear Reader? Continue reading

Raising orphans

No82 having a good nosh - our only ewe.

No82 having a good nosh – our only ewe.  She has a lovely tattoo of 82 on her side, hence the natty name!

Dear Reader, I do apologise for the break in transmission.  I’ll be honest, I have been putting off writing this post as the past two weeks have had some serious ups and bottomless downs unfortunately and my birthday in between.  We are all exhausted here at Margot and Jerry HQ.  Raising orphan lambs is no picnic.  Not only is there relentless bottle feeding and checking to be done but lambs (as I was told by so many farmers) have a desire to snuff it lurking around every corner and ours have certainly tried to prove that fact.

When we started out, we had a tiny scrawny black faced lamb (our Suffolk cross dubbed Blackie….I know original isn’t it?!) that was struggling to bottle feed and it took us a week or so to get him sucking as well as to cure his awful bowels.  Poor chap was in a dreadful state but perked up with round the clock care and gentle persuasion.  He now follows us all like a little puppy and is most put out when you don’t stop to pat him on your way to filling up the feed trough. Continue reading

And then there were three more….

Flowers for church on Easter Day

Flowers for church on Easter Day

Easter has departed for another year, leaving behind the most obscene amount of chocolate that I have ever seen.  Spoilt rotten by so many, Primrose and Poppy seem to have a chocolate Everest stashed in the cupboard.  CUE the serious choc-induced madness at church on Easter Day, resulting in Poppy screaming most of the way through the first few hymns and then half of the sermon.  With disapproving glances from some villagers, I made a point of praying for a large gin and tonic when the vicar asked us to call to mind any matters private and personal that could be offered up during the prayers.  Perhaps I should remember to put a hip flask in my handbag for such occasions…?

Still spring in the village is a fantastic sight to behold and everywhere we look there are signs of rejuvenation all around.  Wild garlic in the hedgerows, the crazy cawing of rooks and their babies can be overheard in the trees all around us and we even spied some baby deer from afar up near the woods.  With so many baby animals about, several trips have been made to the local lambing sheds to see the sheep equivalent of a maternity unit.  Truly marvellous to behold. Continue reading

Episodes in cooking on a camping stove- Part 2

Let there be light - my sparkly new Garden Trading lights.

Let there be light!  My sparkly new French farmhouse style lights from Garden Trading.

 

Episode 2

I left you last week, dear Reader, with a half finished kitchen and a long list of camping stove menus.  Things could only get better from that point on….or so I thought.  However, when darkness fell upon the house (for the second time) as our builders drilled a hole through our electrics, I wondered how I would manage in the glow of camping stove gas and candlelight.  With one wall (new plaster, paint and all) smashed into to find the possible errant screw, the builders prompted left saying that there was nothing they could do until the electrician could come back in 2 days time.  Not ideal.  Being of the non-confrontational sort, I smiled and said with a slightly jumpy giggle “You can’t leave me like this with 2 small children.”  “Well it’s not like we are leaving you with dangerous electrics – the trip switch will just pop loudly if anything else blows”, was the answer.  Reassuring, dear Reader.  In the light (no pun intended, believe me) of our newest drama, I set off to our local farm shop café in search of sustenance, warmth and illumination for the girls.  To be honest, I was determined to find a meal for Primrose and Poppy that wasn’t something along the beans, lentils, chickpeas, chicken, stew or anything cooked on the camping stove front as moaning had reached fever pitch.  We arrived in the hopes of finding a homemade steak and ale pie, only to find that they had stopped serving food ten minutes before we arrived.  Disaster.  With a VERY disgruntled Primrose who reprimanded me for not knowing the opening times of the café off by heart, we returned to cook….yes you guessed it…more chicken.  Chicken, chicken, chicken…..if we eat any more of it, I shall consider taking up residence in the hen house permanently. Continue reading

Episodes in cooking on a camping stove

Lesson 1: make sure you have plenty of camping stove gas

Lesson 1: make sure you have plenty of camping stove gas

Episode 1

Dear Reader, this post is brought to you by a Margot covered in dust and cooking on a camping stove.  Do not be fooled.  I am NOT camping ( Jerry is still trying to find a glamping site that meets all the family’s criteria.  Primrose refuses to wee outdoors and a compost loo counts as en plein air as far as she is concerned)!  But you may wonder why a camping stove is gracing my kitchen table, dear Reader?  Have we suffered yet another power cut?  Have I decided that I can no longer bear to wrestle with the hob that only works if you hit the temperature dial a few times before turning it on?  Well….I can report that currently the village is not suffering from its reputation as a blackout black spot so you can cross power cut off the list of explanations.  We are renovating our kitchen.  Cue a wailing Margot, Primrose constantly moaning about the fact that she can’t have a roast or any fish cakes, Poppy trying to make more noise than the builders and a thankful Jerry who seems to be rather busy at work all of a sudden.  I imagine that the office has never seemed such a place of sanctuary to him!

Monday last week heralded the first day without the beloved heart of our home.  Since we moved to the countryside, we seem to spend ever increasing amounts of time in the kitchen, like they do in The Archers.  Not bottle feeding lambs as yet but we have nursed the odd pigeon and a hedgehog back to health in the warmth of the crematorium-style oven.  With the smoke alarm constantly our background music, it’s where Jerry and I spend our weekends and the majority of our serious drinking time (tea, gin, wine….mostly gin and wine).  My days are spent ‘working’ away on various scribbled bits at the kitchen table too.  You might say, dear Reader, that the kitchen is the place we can be found in if you were to let yourself into our home.  So our hub is the first room we thought to tackle, having survived our first 8 months of rural life.  To help you picture the scene, our kitchen ofday 1 old was a shocker.  Not to look at (on the whole) but to work in.  1 set of electric hobs with only 2 functioning plates, 1 cooker (from the late 70s) that cremates all, despite being set on low temp and kitchen wall cabinets which almost meet the worktop thus preventing use of kettle, toaster or chopping board.  Green gin palace tiles all over the walls, reminiscent of a Victorian pub loo.  A leaky sink that saw me one Sunday in the not too distant past, covered in muck from an exploding u-bend….  I say no more.  At that point, it was me or the kitchen.

With that in mind, I welcomed the team of builders with open arms to fit me a kitchen I could make marmalade in, dry herbs from the ceiling and leave wet clothes draped on the range.  Jerry persuaded them to fit an affordable kitchen instead.  All began well and soon the kitchen was a mere shell of its former self.  Imagine my delight too when the builders uncovered a hidden window behind a bank of wall cabinets.  We had been able to see the window from the outside but it had been blocked up years ago.  The light that burst through into the usually dark and low beamed kitchen was incredible!  A wonderful end to Day 1 in Margot’s kitchen.

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

From this point onwards, my impatience set in and I am now DESPERATE to get my kitchen back, hounding the builders at every turn as to what is going to happen next.  Thankfully, a week in and they haven’t started to despise me quite yet but Stu, the foreman, tends to open the back door with caution each morning, wondering what I will ask him to do next.  On the camping stove front, I have so far managed a catalogue of fairly respectable meals to take us through our first week of kitchen revamp:

  • Sausages and lentils (As I presented this one, Poppy asked me in rather harsh tones, where her ‘bakened’ beans were.  Sausages only go with ‘bakened’ beans and not rabbit droppings apparently)
  • Spaghetti Bolognese (cheat – as I had already made the sauce and frozen it)
  • Risotto con il pollo (sounds more impressive in Italian….)
  • Eggs a la every which way
  • a LOT of chicken based meals
  • oh and some scallops and bacon with balsamic vinegar (fish man took pity on me and sold them at a knockdown price from the back of his fish van), in a desperate bid to cheer Jerry and me up on Friday night when the thought of more chicken was too much to bear.

To be honest, dear Reader, the rate I am going with the stove, I’m thinking of hosting a new dinner party craze – 3 courses from the camping stove.  Could be a winner!  I was even thinking of my own camping stove cookbook – Culinary Tales from Margot’s Stove.  It’s not ALL beans you know..

candles

Many cups of ‘white with 2 sugars’ later, the kitchen is making good progress.  I have even played agony aunt to Miles, the plasterer, as he negotiated a tricky break up with his long distance girlfriend.  Thank goodness I haven’t lost my sense of humour entirely – Thurs night, the builders managed to drive a screw through the electrics, leaving the whole of the ground floor in darkness.  When I protested, I was asked if I had candles as the electrician was on another job and couldn’t come back until the following week.  This hiccup was only made worse by digging out the bottle of cherished 6 o’clock gin, only to find that it was nearly empty.  Darkness for an evening or two, I can live with.  Gin, my dear Reader, I cannot!

Still….you’ll have to be patient and wait for Episode 2 where camping stove cookery starts trending on Twitter and Margot’s half finished kitchen becomes the set of a new and exciting foray into foodie television.  I’ll just leave you with a sneaky peak……

Cabinets going in...progress indeed but STILL so far to go.

Cabinets going in…progress indeed but STILL so far to go.