Sunday 31 July 2022

Day 37: Jam, flowers and July Spending


I made more jam this week,  strawberry and blueberry.  I found some blueberries in the freezer from last year (I really must get a better system in place!!) and the strawberries were a Lidl bargain (at least they were local Scottish ones!)  They looked fab in the pan and smelled amazing!  

I'm definitely not an expert when it comes to jam but I have made a fair few jars in my time.  And I don't always get it right!  Look at this year's efforts as an example.  The strawberry/blueberry is in the middle (too runny), the blackcurrant is on the right (too thick) and the raspberry is on the left (perfect!) 😋 They all taste amazing despite their differing consistencies.  I could re do the ones that aren't quite right but that would be too much of a faff.  The runny one I can drizzle on pancakes/waffles and the thick blackcurrant one I could just spread on hot toast or use to make a hot soothing drink.  It's all good!

We finally tracked down an Old John rose 💖 They're difficult to buy!  My Lovely Mum bought one for me, my sister and one for herself.

It's a really vivid orangey pink colour 😊  I just need to decide where to plant it now.

I've also discovered another medicinal plant growing in my garden, a gorgeous yellow self seeded goldenrod.  It's another plant I can dry and use in a tea.  Like sage, it's also good for sore throats and colds (occupational hazard!!) so I'm thrilled at the discovery!  It's a perennial and spreads easily so I'll try to keep on top of it.  I'm loving the colour contrast with the Red Hot Poker crocosmia in front!

It's also the last day of July.  Sometimes I remember that this day was the day I got married and sometimes I don't.  It was a FB memory comment that reminded me this morning.  Really doesn't make me think anything other than 'Oh yeah I remember that day' now 😊

So, on to the end of the month totals with some of my more 'unusual' buys 😆

  • I spent £25 on some kombucha equipment (large Kilner jar and water filter jug)
  • I spent £60 on 3 raised beds for the allotment
  • I spent £66.44 on fuel for the car, first time since April
  • I spent £29.55 on jam equipment (lids, labels and jars)
  • I spent just under £60 on storage boxes for my new craft room
  • I also had to pay for my annual car tax £155 but that was already budgeted for back in January

Once all my usual costs and monthly bills were paid I've saved £871.88 this month.  That brings my savings up to £7335.39 😲  I'm really pleased with that, definitely still on target!

I go back to work in 2 weeks!  As always the Summer holidays fly by but I feel I've achieved a lot already. 

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Day 33: Catch up


My blueberries are finally ripening!  I moved the pots from the front garden to the back garden at the end of last season and they're not doing as well as previous years.

I dried some mint and sage from the garden to make teas in the Winter.  Sage tea is a good gargle for a sore throat.

I made more jam.  This one is Raspberry and Elderflower Gin jam 😋

I've been practising using my sourdough to make pancakes and waffles.

I also made blackcurrant jam, delicious on  pancakes!! 😋

I got a bargain organic chicken at Tesco!  Reduced from £16.34 to £6.55.  £16 for a chicken!!!!!  Who can afford that???  Even the £6.55 was expensive!

Also got some unwaxed lemons, useful for jam making!

And on the plot, it's raspberries and the nasturtiums that are doing well!!  Shame about the slow progress on my tomatoes.  I'm even wondering if it's worth growing my own tomatoes and using the polytunnel for other things next year.  One of my tomato plants only has 1 tomato and 2 of them are still at the flower stage.  They're all cooking varieties (Amish Paste, Roma and Aurora) not eating types and I'm wondering if that was a mistake.

The holiday is rushing by now and I'm starting to think about school already.  I said I would use the whole of July to not do any school stuff and I've stuck to it.  Once August starts I'll begin the build up to the new school year of 2022 - 2023 🤯

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Day 26: Kombucha


When I ordered my sourdough starter last month, I also ordered a kombucha kit.  This one HERE.  At £35 it felt like an extravagant purchase but I knew long term it would pay off as I would be making kombucha for a fraction of the cost of shop bought stuff.  Example HERE of 12 delicious ready to drink bottles for £35.  All you need is ordinary black tea, sugar and a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) plus a 3 litre brewing jar.

I successfully brewed my first batch (in the glass) and loved it!  So I then whizzed up some raspberries from the plot with some sugar (the yeast needs sugar and the end product is not sweet) and made some raspberry kombucha.  Basically put puree into the bottle and fill with the fermented tea.  I left it to do it's second ferment for 4 days.  Oh my goodness, it is the best kombucha I've ever had!!! 😋

You can strain out the seeds/pulp of the fruit puree to make an aesthetically good looking drink but I left them in.  It naturally settles on the bottom but I just gave it a gentle shake before pouring.  It's slightly fizzy but not too much and it's not at all sweet.  It has a slightly tangy acidic flavour that I love.

I now have 2 SCOBYs!  I have 1 in my second batch and 1 in a SCOBY 'hotel' 😂 I'm going to invest in a few more jars so I can have a wee production line going.

Although I followed the instructions that came with the kit I mostly used the advice in this video from You Brew Kombucha on YouTube  HERE  She gives a good description of what it is around 1min 8secs.  Some ridiculous claims have been made about the benefits of drinking kombucha but I like the taste and it's good for my digestive system.  You wouldn't drink loads of it as it does contain sugar and the probiotics in it help erm, 'speed up' the digestive process IFKWIM!! 😂

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Hot day tasks!


What do you do on the hottest day of the year? You make jam!! 🙄🤣 I had too much rhubarb from the garden and my freezer is already full of the stuff so I made jam.  Rhubarb and Vanilla Gin jam based on this recipe HERE  I used 600g of rhubarb and sugar as that's what I had.

I used the red ends (and froze the rest) so got a nice pinky colour.  Rhubarb jams and chutneys go a muddy colour if you use the green ends too.  It would still taste good though!

I finished the first pink sock!  Second one is already cast on and ribbing nearly finished 🧦 I've started watching Line of Duty (never seen it!) so I'm knitting and TV watching (on my laptop) in the evenings.

I had a huge bag of potatoes that needed to be used up so I peeled and boiled them.  I made a fish pie on Sunday and tattie scones yesterday with some of the leftovers.  Recipe in the recipe section above.

Once they were cooled I froze them.  They reheat beautifully esp in the toaster!!  And I still have some mashed potatoes that I'll probably freeze.

Making jam, boiling a huge pot of potatoes and knitting woolly socks aren't really hot day tasks but since it's too hot to actually safely be outside, I'm keeping busy in the cool North facing side of my house.

Stay hydrated everyone and share what you do when it's too hot! 😎

Sunday 17 July 2022

Day 23: Chatty catch up


I've been quiet on here for a couple of days but I've been keeping myself very busy and out of mischief! 😜  I've tried not to over do it on the plot so progress has been slow and steady.  I've actually dug out a bit more since this wee video.

When I'm not digging on the plot, I've been knitting.  After finishing the turquoise socks I knitted 3 more squares to use up the remaining yarn and add to my Sock Yarn Blanket.

I cast on a new pair of socks using some posh sock yarn I bought in 2006.  Yep, SIXTEEN years it's been lurking in a drawer.  It's Lucy Neatby hand dyed pure wool.  These socks will be toasty warm but I can't just chuck them in the washing machine like my others.  These will need to be hand washed 🙄 but they're a really beautiful vivid pink colour and so soft to touch.  I've been knitting them while watching some crime dramas and yep, I broke another needle!!  I'm on Season 2 of Happy Valley and also binge watched Sherwood, both on BBC iPlayer.  Both have some great British actors!

My sourdough starter is still alive and well.  I made another batch of pancakes with it 😋  My first attempt at kombucha (fermented sweet tea) was successful and I'm onto to my second attempt.  I think I'll save the details for a more detailed post.  

I do like the taste of it raw and unflavoured (in the glass) but I thought I'd try a second ferment with raspberries from the allotment.  I'll report back if it works and if it tastes good.

I visited my new(ish) B&M superstore with my new DIL, just to see what it was it like and to see if it had anything I would use.  I knew it had some food but as they were all well known big brands I'd have to do some research to compare prices.  However, I did spot my usual biodegradable teabags with 50% free!  My usual box of 160 costs £3.30 and the 50% free box with 240 cost me £3.75.  A normal 240 box costs £4.80 in Sainsbury's atm.  I'm well stocked up on teabags now! ☕  

I was actually looking for some lidded storage boxes for my new to me craft room unit.  And I found some!  The grey ones with the tags still on them.  This unit will (hopefully) hold all my crafting supplies in one place so I don't end up 'losing' stuff for 16 years in drawers!!  I've taken the black boxes down from my kitchen as I've re jigged the cupboards by getting rid of a lot of 'stuff' in them.  I'm simplifying how I cook and eat so I don't need to keep as much in my storecupboard. That's a work in progress but more on that later in the Summer!

I've ordered a few more storage boxes from The Range, similar in style to the bee one but all different colours to match the funky wallpaper colours!  I hope the idea in my head works out in real life!!! 🧠 You can see the stripped wall behind the unit so there's some progress in finishing that room too 😊

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Spot the difference!


This is what the plot looked like at lunchtime yesterday!  I think you'll see a difference.  It's a bit of a rest day today as I'm off to visit my sister who is at mum's house today  Not seen her for ages so it'll be good to get a catch up 😊

Tuesday 12 July 2022

Day 18: Sourdough


I mentioned last week that I'm venturing (again) into the world of sourdough.  There's a lot of evidence that people who have difficulty digesting grains (me!!) can eat sourdough products without issues.  I've tried in the past to make my own gluten free sourdough starter from scratch but it's definitely trickier when you use GF flour.  So I bought a GF dried starter.  It cost me £6.99, which is less than the actual cost of 2 GF sourdough loaves!!  

So I fed the starter with gf flour and filtered water for a week and to my surprise/delight it bubbled and fermented just like all the Youtube videos I've watched!  I used this recipe HERE and watched the video HERE  It's pretty straightforward but not a quick process!!  I just used Doves Farm GF plain flour.

I must confess I wasn't convinced after the first proving but I kept going and thankfully it all worked.  The finished loaf is crusty and chewy and tastes better than any commercial GF bread I've ever paid a small fortune for! 

Once it had cooled I sliced it into 10 slices and froze some.  As it has no additives/preservatives it won't last long before it goes hard.  It will make great toast and warmed up a bit for dipping in soup.  No idea why I wrote the18th on the bag though!! 😂

I've heard that as my starter keeps maturing and developing the yeasts it will get stronger.  I'll hopefully be able to refine the recipe each time until I bake the perfect bread 😋

I also made some sourdough pancakes using Lisa at Farmhouse on Boone's recipe HERE She has loads of sourdough recipes on her channel.  They were delicious!!  I halved her recipe as I didn't have a lot of starter and made 8 large pancakes.  They look more like Scotch pancakes (or drop pancakes) than the American style fluffy ones. I'll definitely be making these regularly as they're so easy and yummy with my Lovely Mum's blackcurrant jam.  I rolled them up to eat them! 😋

A teacher friend messaged me yesterday to share her watercolour painting of some bees and I showed her my sourdough starter.  She said how lovely it was that we have the luxury of time and the head space to do these things.  I totally agree 😊

Did I mention I've also started brewing some kombucha as well??  

Monday 11 July 2022

More plot progress!

 8.30am this morning

10.30am this morning

All those overgrown weeds were actually from between the paving slabs!  It's not perfect but all the seed heads were bagged and taken to the dump.  So of course we re filled the bags with the free compost!

And the compost will fill one of my new raised beds.  We were burst after a morning's work so that will happen tomorrow.  I'm going to sow some lettuce and carrots in there but eventually these 2 beds will be my strawberry beds.

Only the raspberry patch is left to clear then it will be a case of maintenance and harvesting (I hope!)

Sunday 10 July 2022

Day 16: It's hot out there!


We hit the plot early this morning as we knew it would be hot.  It was reading 29 degrees C on my car temperature gauge when we left to go home at 12pm!! 😱 Since I've stupidly pulled my back moving logs in my garage (don't ask! 🙄 ) my Lovely Mum did most of the heavy work.  My main job was watering and holding things!!  But look at the finished second bed now!  2 types of cabbages, 2 marrows and 2 types of  courgettes are happily planted up.  I took a quick photo then pulled the netting back over as there were lots of butterflies floating around! 🦋 I definitely don't want any 🐛 munching them!!

I finally finished the turquoise socks!! 🎉  They're not washed or blocked so look a bit mis-shapen but they're perfectly fine on.  Not really the weather for woolly socks 🧦 but it was good to get them finished and off the needles. 

Wednesday 6 July 2022

Day 12: It's all edible (almost)


I just can't stop myself!!  More bargain plants from Dobbies, these are half price herbs.  I bought 6 @ £1.49.  2 apple mints, 2 creeping thyme, 1 camomile (sadly they only had 1 left) and 1 creeping rosemary for my Lovely Mum.  They had rows and rows of them, all mixed up so I had to really hunt through them for what I knew I would use.  I drink mint tea and camomile tea so wanted them to dry the leaves and store over Winter.  I have spearmint in my garden so wanted a different one for the plot.  Thyme can be used on roast chicken and in mixed herbs (def going to have a go at drying my own mix this year.)

Here they are all planted up in my new herb bed!.  Hopefully they'll grow and spread a bit this summer then next year I'll split them and plant up even more.  One of the mint roots had grown right through the bottom of the pot.  It broke off so I've planted it too in the hope that it will take.  Everyone knows that if you leave even a tiny bit of mint root it keeps coming back so here's hoping!! 🤞

Of course I checked the food bargains too when I was there and got 5 unwaxed lemons for 18p!!  I'm going to zest and juice them, then freeze in ice cube trays.  The last time I scored unwaxed lemons was in my Lidl box.  I sliced and froze them then used them a week later to make elderflower cordial.

Recipe HERE  It makes 3 litres so you could easily half it.  You don't need to add the citric acid as long as you keep it in the fridge.  I do any way as I like to keep it cold.  The elderflowers actually came from my class garden at school!  I left plenty to become berries in the Autumn.

I'm venturing into the world of sourdough.  I've tried before to make a starter myself but making a gluten free one is tricky.  So I cheated and bought one from this wee company in Brighton  It comes in dried form and you add flour and water daily to activate it.  This is it on Day 5, all bubbly and ready to start using tomorrow 🍞 A standard GF sourdough loaf costs £3.50 so hopefully I'll be able to make my own better tasting for a fraction of that!  Plus you can make pizza bases, pancakes and more with a sourdough starter! 😋  Frugal gourmet stuff!

I was watching Lovely Greens on Youtube last night where Tanya was talking about seeds to plant in July.  Check it out HERE  I was so happy to see that I had many of the seeds she was recommending! (wee yellow packet is Swiss chard) Woohoo!!  More edible planting and therefore more food for me 😊

But this avocado was not edible 😠 One of the 2 pack that was labelled 'ripe and ready to eat.'  Nope, it was black all the way through.  And the other one was barely ripe and not deliciously creamy.  I was so disappointed especially as it was my treat item from my delivery.  Ah well, everything else above is edible or will be at some point 😋 

Tuesday 5 July 2022

Day 11: Rest


Today is a much needed rest day, just pottering round the house and my garden.  I noticed I have a lot of beautiful flowers in bloom and realised these were all my rescued plants or given to me for free.

They're all doing well!  Not everything survived but a good 75% made it!!

This one was taken a few weeks ago.  We call it my dad's rose, it's real name is In Loving Memory.  My Lovely Mum bought us all one 2 years ago.  It's more vivid in real life! There are a few more buds on the bush so I'll get more blooms soon.  Not a bargain one but a thoughtful gift 💗

Monday 4 July 2022

Day 10: Plot Progress


With the help of my Lovely Mum there is progress on the plot!!  The second square raised bed has now been cleared of all weeds and last season's abandoned overgrown leeks and onions.  It still needs digging over but will soon be ready for some plants.

The previously cleared bed now has 84 leek transplants (grown from seed by my Lovely Mum) and 2 rows of beetroot seeds.  At this late stage I might just get enough baby beets to pickle!

The weeds were bagged up (another 5 rubble sacks) and taken to our recycling centre.  After dumping them into the appropriate skip we filled up the empty sacks with the free compost that gets made from garden (and food) waste in my council's super duper hot compost system!  It's good stuff and did I mention that it's FREE?!!!

We took it back to the plot and promptly filled a new raised bed.  £20 from B&Q!!  (Verve Large Raised Bed Kit 0.96m)  Dead easy to put together!  Untreated wood but I'll probably stain the outside to help preserve it.  For £20 it's a great deal.  In fact I bought 2 more!! 😲😄

I wouldn't have made so much progress without help.  I'm still exhausted after doing even a wee bit of physical work so need to keep pacing myself.  It's a marathon not a sprint! 🏃