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Monday, 26 September 2011

Life kinda catches up.

Finally, a post!  (I should warn you at this point, this is a LONG post).
The last week and a bit seems to have flown by.  Autumn has officially started (my favourite season)  I've had good luck, I found out earlier this evening that I've won the talented Lemonade Kitty's givaway for a knitted pumpkin, I will have to 'add' the face.  I will post more when it arrives and I've 'made a face' :o)  I've been busy (what's new?) jam making - more later, and Hubby and I finally got around to making a hedgehog house for the garden..
But first, thank you for your good wishes for my birthday - yes, I know I'd been quiet about it but George the Lad (the rascal) let the cat out of the bag!  So to update you, dear Hubby got me my lovely Panasonic Lumix camera and gorgeous red roses :o)  With some of the money I received I have booked and started evening classes to 'Improve my digital photography' and I also bought a new copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 8, so hopefully there should be an improvement in my photos over the coming weeks!  (WHEN I learn what to do with Photoshop of course.)   And I purchased the wood for the hoggy house project. 

I found a couple of Autumnal bargain for 75p
Approx 6" diameter and 5" high

A scary wooden cat 15" high £3.  I really like it.

I've kinda thrown together a quick Autumn table vignette....

I intend to add a little 'something' to put in the pumpkin.
The leaf dishes were found earlier this year for a song, as was the 'acorn' plate at the far end of the table.

The table runner was made and embroidered entirely by my Nan, I can remember it well throughout my childhood.
Such lovely Autumnal colours.
The centrepiece was my Aunt's.  It's made by Capo di Monte, I can remember her having it - and it was such a treasure to her, it has since grown on me.  At the time I just couldn't bear the thought of it going to a charity shop when she died, and so re-homed it.
Close up the fruit is so realistic.
o - o - o
Now, the hoggy house.  Each evening I have three and sometimes four little prickly visitors to my garden, they come for all the free food they can eat!  With Autumn here, the little fellows will be thinking about finding somewhere to bed down for their Winter hibernation.  With this in mind I wanted to offer them a nice warm cosy home.  We looked at different plans that are available and decided to 'go our own way' a little, but use the basic principals.  I don't have progress photos, but I do have photos of the finished article.  I have often used and in fact own my own power tools, but the delights of the compressed air nail gun was a first for me on this project!
The dimensions are 24" wide x 20" deep x  12" high (front) 10" high (back).
The rear view showing the air vent cover.
Internal view.  The internal tunnel is to prevent dogs, foxes or cats from reaching the sleeping hoggy.  The 'bedroom' area is base lined with cardboard and newspaper, then I have half filled it with nice fresh hay.  I will collect a couple of carrier bags of fallen leaves to pile nearby so that if I get a resident they can complete the nest to their own design :o)  The roof is covered firstly with a layer of bubble wrap for a little extra insulation and then totally with pond liner for a waterproof finish.  I then reinforced the corners with black duct tape.   As you can see it is completely removable so that I can clean it out twice a year.
It is made from untreated pine, and the outside only is painted with a water based, pet friendly wood preservative.  I have positioned it on bricks to raise it off the soil at the back of the greenhouse, so that the left hand side (North) is protected by a fence and a small log pile - that I had to disturb and rebuilt, along with it's resident frog who hopped off safely behind the greenhouse.  The back of the hoggy house is to the East, and again the greenhouse will protect it from the cold Easterly winds.
The 'house' in position.  As you can see I have split up and re-built the log piles.  To the left I added a large broken terracotta plant pot so that the frog still has a safe home.  I also intend to add to the log pile and maybe cover the roof with some more for added protection against the cold weather. Here's the view from the path edge.
I then 'baited' the pathway to the house with dried mealworms, a hoggy favourite, and a few sunflower hearts with crushed peanuts to encourage investigation by my visitors.  At this point my little helper Sid came along to investigate too and add her seal of approval!
I also added a couple of thin sticks in front of the doorway to confirm it has been entered.
At the time of writing this post (1.10am) I am happy to confirm there has been a visitor who has entered the house to investigate!  Let's just hope they like what they see.
The total cost of this sturdy hoggy house was £15.  I'm delighted by this, as they cost anything from £30 to a maximum of £59.  I now have it in mind to make another slightly smaller one....

o - o - o

And finally (you'll be pleased to hear!)

I love fresh figs, and as they are only available seasonally I cherish each one!  I found some beauties on offer the other day, so sweet and delicious that I decided to make some Fig Jam.  After browsing my cookery books and checking on Google I found a recipe here I thought looked very tasty.
So I purchased a full tray of them and proceeded (with a few tweaks) as follows.

Recipe for Fig Jam

1 lb of  fresh figs
3/4 cup of preserving sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
1/8 cup of red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Chop the figs and add all the ingredients into a preserving pan, stir and leave to macerate for 1/2 an hour.
Then heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until 'jam temperature*' is reached.
Once the mixture has started to simmer, heat your clean jam jars at 110 deg. C to sterilised them.  Just before you are ready to 'jar' the mixture place the clean metal lids into a container of boiling water for a few minutes. 
When your mixture has reached temperature, turn off the heat and carefully using a stick blender break down the fig mixture to required consistency (please don't be tempted to blend before the mixture is ready, I found out on my second lot that the mixture turns into a boiling, spurting nightmare!)
Carefully add the mixture to the pre-heated jam jars.  Remove the lids from the water, dry with a clean cloth and seal the jars immediately.

The jam has a wonderful depth of flavour, and the ground cloves add a delicious warmth.
From the two and a half pounds of figs that found their way into the pan (well, I mean you have to test them don't you?) I made three and a half pounds of delicious jam :o)

*(From Wikipedia) When the mixture reaches a temperature of 104 °C (219 °F),[citation needed] the acid and the pectin in the fruit react with the sugar, and the jam will set on cooling. However, most cooks work by trial and error, bringing the mixture to a "fast rolling boil", watching to see if the seething mass changes texture, and dropping small samples on a plate to see if they run or set.[16]

Thank you for sticking with such a LONG post.  Hope you all have a great week - try the jam, you won't be disappointed ;o)

Best wishes

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Hoggie blog :o)

Last Saturday the West Midland Hedgehog Rescue held their open day to raise funding for their worthy cause.  I had collected together a few things and baked some hedgehog biscuits to help with the fundraising.  I totally forgot to take some photos of the biscuits :o(  But because I felt SO guilty I've made a batch today from my Oat Dreams recipe*...

I bagged them up in cellophane and added a tag.  They looked like this:

And the tags I made, with a description of the contents on the back.

Over 150 folk attended, and a fabulous £700 was raised.  Hopefully, that will go some way to helping the costs for the coming over-wintering under sized and sick hogs.

I did manage to get a couple of decent pictures - here they are.

This little soul is under treatment in the 'Hosprickle'

and this little sweetie had been hand reared, it was one of the lucky hedgehogs that were taken for release by some of the carers that day, five in all were released.

There was also some other creatures/reptiles there.  A python, a tarantula (ugh), a giant centipede (shudder) and a bearded dragon.  As I'm truly not 'fond' of tarantulas and giant centipedes I didn't even go and have a peep at them - I wanted to sleep that night!

I had never seen such a mountain of cakes!  I think most folk that attended brought some with them.  They went down very well with a very welcome cuppa. 
I was lucky enough to guess the weight of the tea bread - but again I was a naughty blogger and forgot the photos :o(  It tasted lovely though :o)

I've been having a busy but enjoyable week so far.  OH is on holiday, but after discussion we decided not to go away anywhere.  So we've been going out visiting places.  One of the places we've been to is Shrewsbury. We had a good bumble about there, but I forgot the camera :o(  We've been walking down the lanes looking out for hedgerow food.  Founds LOADS of sloes and I've got my first sloe gin already working away!  I've made delicious damson jam from my friends loaded tree, yellow bullace jam from our favourite lane and lemon curd - just because!  A neighbour had given me a huge red cabbage that's now destined for braising and freezing :o)

*Oat Dreams Recipe

4ozs very soft butter
2ozs caster sugar
4ozs SR flour
2ozs porridge oats

Oven 180 deg C

Beat the softened butter and caster sugar together until creamy white.  Add the flour and oats, stir in until amalgamated.  Roll into small balls and flatten slightly.  Place on a non-stick baking sheet leaving space to spread between.  Bake for approx 10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool an a rack, and store in an airtight container.  Makes approx 20 biscuits.
(I also add a teaspoon of vanilla extract as I always have plenty in the larder!)

Today - well no plans so far, but I'm sure we'll come up with something ;o)

Hope you are all having a great week too!

Best wishes


Wednesday, 7 September 2011


I promised a nature/wildlife post, so here it is!
A bit of a mixture so bear with me please....

The Tiggywinkles are still visiting the free food station each night - they have to build up their fat reserves ready for the winter hibernation.  I've tried putting out different cat foods as a supplement but the little blighters just won't eat it :o)  They're fussier than Sid!
Here's another couple of photos of my little visitors.
This is a this years hoglet, the one I'm most concerned about.  I hope that he 'fills out' enough to survive hibernation.  If he doesn't put enough weight soon on I'll have to capture him and get him to the rescue centre, where they'll feed him up until he's at a weight to survive the winter.
Oops!  Already engaged...reverse!
It's rather wet out here tonight..

We are lucky enough to live only 4 miles away from Cannock Chase
of course I've been wildlife spotting there :o)
A (doe) Fallow Deer
And another doe.

And much more difficult to creep up on - the Bucks
They were quite a distance away from me.
There are also a herds of Muntjac deer, and herds of  Roe deer.  The Muntjac are hard to spot as they are so small!  Isn't the heather gorgeous?  I don't think I've ever seen it better.

Here's a close up of a thistle - just trying all sorts of shots, I've a lot to learn.
We found these two beauties less than a mile from home, hidden away down a green lane
A pair of alpacas (lying down), I couldn't get any closer as they were in a field right next to the house.  I took the photo from the bottom of the drive, not the best I know just an unusual sight around here!

Here's a Painted Lady sunning herself

And finally, my two favourite shots...

The bandstand in Bridgnorth park dripping in blooms,
and finally

Acorn and Ladybird on an ancient Oak.

Hope you liked some of them :o)

See you soon

Best wishes

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A few more finds.

Hello all, hope everyone is enjoying a great weekend.

I've had a few finds over the last couple of weeks which I'd like to share with you.
(As usual click to expand pictures)

First of all, I spotted this pair of vases - with a difference!

modern ones, but a bargain price of £2.50
They're approx 6" at their widest.  Love that they can be hung up too :o)
On my way out I happened to spot something a bit special I'd missed, something I have quite a few sets of but have not mentioned before.
A set of 8 place card holders, and of all things turkeys!
They're really heavy metal ones, and they were just £4.  Standing just about 1.5" high.
I can just imagine them set out for our Christmas meal - okay sorry, I know I shouldn't mention that word yet.

On another visit I spotted these lovley, small cobalt glass bottles - just the thing for home made Vanilla Extract gifts
Just about 3.5" high - the patterned one was 50p, the other two were 25p each.

Remember my last visit to David Austin Roses?  I told you what beautiful cups and saucers our tea was served in, and I didn't take a photo - well, I found this sweet soap dish, exactly the same make and pattern - well it had a rose on, I HAD to have it!
Yes, that's right 75p :o)
When I had paid for these, I stopped chatting to a friend - one of the volunteers came up to me and asked if I'd be interested in this flow blue sauce tureen for 50p!
Such a pretty design and knop...why was it on;y 50p?
A small chip and hairline crack means it was bound for the skip (dumpster).
She knows I love blue and white, so asked if I wanted it - of course I have found it a home :o)
Strange the pattern is 'ERIC' though :o)
C.W.S. stands for the Co operative Wholesale Society.

Yesterday I popped in (as usual!) and spotted this golf ball paperweight, 3" diameter,
just 50p.  It had to come home with me too!

Just before I close for now I'll give you a quick update on the hedgehogs -
I'm still feeding them every night, I don't always see them, but I know they've eaten here.
The West Midland Hedgehog Rescue centre who took poor Charlie is having an open day next Saturday 10th September. I have made some greetings cards for them to sell and collected a few things hedgehog related along the way to help boost their funds..
I'm also going to make some biscuits (cookies) for them to sell.  Just hoping that the seller in Germany will get the hedgehog cookie cutter to me in time!  If not they are going to be very plain.

I'll post again during the week with a 'wildlife' update and maybe a few pictures too - I'm having a whale of a time with this new camera!  (Panasonic Lumix)

I'll close now, wishing you all a good week.

Best wishes