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Friday, 22 April 2011

Happy Easter, Grass and a little update for you all!

Happy Easter Everyone!!

Well it’s Good Friday at around 8am and I’m sat in my garden in glories sunshine already!!!

So with coffee in hand I shall give you a bit of an pdate as to where we are with the garden.

A few months ago we had the boiler moved which meant a trench had to be dug across the garden for the oil hose. It’s been a huge, brown, dry lump cutting through nice green grass ever since. But no more! Spen has been hard at work removing said lumpage! It is now nice and flat!


And we plan to sow some grass seed over it this weekend. There are a few other patches we want to fill in as well. To sow the seed though we needed to sort out somewhere for the lavender bantams. They have been enjoying free reign in the garden (excluding the vegetable plot after last time) for the last couple of weeks. So we’ve made them a temporary area next to the other girls, touch wood so far they all seem happy with the new living arrangements!


So anyhow we have gone for Tesco Grass Seed, mainly because there was a good offer on it. IN the past I’ve always gone and got grass seed from WIlkinsons, but Tescos’s had a great offer of two boxes for £6.00 so we’ll wait and see for the results in the coming weeks, but it seemed very cost effective.


And finally I would like to wish you all a very happy easter, I do hope you enjoy the sunshine, and spend time with those nearest and dearest to you, speaking of which the in-laws are due over today for lunch so I best get cracking on baking! And for all of you that have booked the 3 days off work next week to make it a staggering 11 days holiday for 3 days entitlement used – well done you lucky so and so’s!!

All the Best!
Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

I’m sure this is meant to be for eating out of, not sitting on top of, but our table bird doesn’t seem to care!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Mining Bees

Would you believe it, we have Mining Bees! I have to admit, I had never heard of them!

We first noticed them a couple of days ago, there were loads of them swarming around our front hedge, then we noticed the little holes inbetween the cracks of our garden path.


I originally thought they were wasps so got straight on to the local pest control. He advised me that they were in fact Mining Bees, that they were not aggresive and would dissapear in about 4-5 weeks.



Phew! Now I know that they won't attack me, i say any bee is welcome in my garden!

http://www.bumblebee.org/OTHERbees.htm














Mel
Twitter:
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Grass Seed

What a week of amazing weather we are having!

I luckily chose this week to have off work (YAY for me!) and had lots of jobs planned. One of those was to grass seed an area of our garden for my two little boys to play on. Because both our front & back gardens are literally just mud covered in broken clay pots & glass from the previous tenant, my boys have had no where really to play outside without me constantly saying "watch the glass, watch this, watch that, put your shoes on"!!


So we began clearing the area, roughly about 80 square metres, firstly raking the top to clear any pots, large stones etc. I then let my other half loose with the "toy"... The Rotavator! Luckily we have very soft, sandy soil so the rotavator whipped through the area in no time. I followed behind, picking up any large bits that it chucked out and finally started to level it.



Once the whole area had been levelled, patted down by my amazing dance moves (hey, you might as well make it fun!) we could sow the seeds. We chose Westland Garden health, Surestart multi-purpose lawn seed, which we bought from a local garden centre for around £20 for coverage of 120m sq. Now, it's supposed to be hard wearing which is needed for my boys!
It also states that we should see the grass appear from 5 days onwards and have a great looking lawn in just 10 days! So lets see if it does!!!
We spread this over the area, raked it lightly and then gave it a bloody good water.


It took us best part of the day, which is fine in this weather, though I am a little burnt (oops!) and thankfully, my mum took the boys out for the day otherwise I think it may have taken us a lot longer and I would have been an even brighter shade of red!!

Mel
Twitter:
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Thursday, 14 April 2011

...To Plan a wedding

Or is it??


Well I will be able to tell you as I am in the process of planning mine!
My other half proposed to me on my 30th birthday last yr after 10yrs of being together! (Took his time eh??)

I have literally just started to look into it and OMG there is sooo much to think about! From the date to the evening entertainment!

I'm sure I'll have lots of fun doing it, but it does seem rather daunting at the min.

My gorgeous girl, Claire gave me a wedding file yesterday to start filling with ideas...so far I have only one thing determined...She's gonna be my Maid of Honour!

I have also just subscribed to a craft magazine as I want to do alot of the creative bits (invites, placecards etc) myself so keep an eye out for my blog on all of those!

Claire also gave my a book called The DIY Wedding Manual, How to create your perfect day without a celebrity budget (Yep I wanna know how to do that, definately!)



I will also be taking all advice and info from my married friends and of course my mum. I'm sure I'll be delegating a few bits to them too!

So watch this space.... Honestly Its Easy to Plan Your Pefect Wedding!!!!!

Mel
Twitter:
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Hot Cross Buns - the Banbury Living Way!

Great recipe for Hot Cross Buns in the free magazine Banbury Living which I picked up from the Flying Baguette today!


Some great Articles and a lot of vouchers for various retailers such as John Nicolls are also in there! Well worth picking up if you see it in your area!

All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Wiggly Wigglers on Slugs!

Had a lovely email this morning from Wiggly Wigglers about Slugs! Some great advice so thought we would share it. Please find links to all of their pages, websites, facebook, blogs and what not at the bottom of the post as well – we think they are great and thoroughly recoomend anyone who is looking into Wormeries to visit them to find out more !!

Feeling a little Sluggish?

We all know the trouble with slugs... They get completely out of control in a jiffy and can destroy your crops overnight... In fact last year those pesky pests ate the first lot of sunflowers we planted for birdseed!
In your garden it really is best to avoid old style blue slug pellets. They use chemicals and if the slugs are then eaten by other birds and animals this can cause problems further down the food chain, apart from which if you want organic veggies of course they are a No No! So what are the alternatives? Well, you could spend your nights collecting them outside with a torch but this method is certainly not "The Good Life - made Easy....) Although your birds and your hens may well enjoy the treat... You could go for barriers - Slug Gone is great because it provides a barrier that irritates the slug's foot, and how about SlugX - this was voted best tray in a Daily Telegraph trial - and they will die drinking beer (!) which can't be all bad... BUT our favourite and the one that all the organic farmers use that works fantastically well is Nemaslug which you can water on and will sort those pesky pests out for a good six weeks, and is perfectly safe for children, pets, wildlife and bees.

How does Nemaslug (Nematodes) work?

1: You water your Nematodes onto the soil and they seek out the slugs down in the soil.
2: The Nematodes kill the Slugs and become adults inside the dead slugs
3: A new generation of Nematodes are produced.
4: The new Nematodes are released as the pest decays in the soil
SORTED.

Why is it good?

1: Unique, works underground where 95% of slugs are found.
2: Long lasting control (six weeks)
3: Really economical - it protects plants for a few pence a day.
4: It even protects vulnerable potato varieties, germinating seeds and young seedlings.
and even better The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh says it is fab and they are an Official Endorser.
5: Nemaslug works at 5 degrees (pellets require 7 degrees)
6: Works really well in wet weather which can be a problem with other methods.
7: Large slug species can be controlled when Nemaslug is applied early.
8: Can be used safely on food crops.
and lastly it's Safe for children, pets, wildlife, and bees... Nice!

We have two pack sizes - the small is perfect for a garden and the larger one is designed for an allotment. You can order individually or we do a programme which will save money and protect your garden for the whole season. The soil is warm enough now so order now before they get to work on your hostas and lettuces....


So as I said we think they are brilliant - fantastic website, top notch advice please go and visit their pages!

http://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk
http://www.heathergorringe.com
http://wigglywigglers.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/heathergorringe

All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Bit of a Chicken update for you!

Our latest batch of Chickens in the incubator have hatched!


We are particularly excited about his batch due to the fact that some of them are from our very own Pekin Lavender Bantams which I’m sure you’ve heard us talk about previously! Here’s a little video of the new arrivals!



I’m hoping the a couple of the gold laced chicks are girls, because our gold laced cockerel ‘pickle’ is a stunner and would make a great dad for next season!

Things are starting to grow in the raised beds as well, the radish seedlings have broken through the surface, as Mel said in her previous blog it’s such an exciting time of the year!


Everything breaking through and fresh growth. Of course the weather last weekend helped the spirits – such a shame it’s turned colder now, I’ve got my flip flops out and everything!

Until next time,

All the Best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

Monday, 11 April 2011

Veg Seeds & Sunflower Challenge!

Finally the first seedlings have made an appearance..with avengence!

How exciting! So far our tomatoes, cabbage and chilli seeds are coming through, and all the seeds that my other half of Honestly Its Easy, Claire gave us too are doing brilliantly!

It wont be long before I'm re-potting them ready to transplant into our raised beds!

I love this time of year, everything starts a fresh, you know that summer is arriving and very soon, home grown veg will be on my dinner plate!

Fab!

I've also managed to get my two little boys into the first part of the growing season, I've challenged them to a Sunflower Growing competition!!

They filled our old toilet roll inners with some compost, popped in some sunflower seeds and gave them some water. They are both excited and eager to be the "winner", and so far we've heard alot of "mine's gonna be bigger than yours"!!!!

I'll keep you updated as to who is currently in the lead...Anyone want to put a wager on it???

Mel
Twitter
@Tikobear
@Honestlyitseasy

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sunday Roast & Strawberry Cheescake!

We had my "soon to be" In-Laws over today, their first visit to our new house since we'd moved in, so we wanted to make it special!
The house was blitzed top to bottom yesterday, everything cleaned and polished, even the chickens got a scrub down!

We had a lovely day watching the pheasants in the field at the bottom of the garden and enjoyed seeing the kids running around in the sun, something that doesn't happen often enough in this country!!

My gorgeous other half cooked his impressive roast - A huge joint of Aberdeen Angus with all the trimmings inc. onion sauce & even pigs in blankets!! Yum! I was even asked to make my homemade onion gravy!!!
We finished off with a huge helping of my... (ok, my mums) Strawberry cheesecake which went down well with everyone!

I was super proud of myself as I'm not the domestic kitchen goddess, my other half is a much better cook than me, but I must say, the cheesecake was a hit and so was my onion gravy!!!!!!!

Overall our day has been uber pleasant!!

Mel

Twitter:
@honestlyitseasy
@Tikobear

P.S. And if you want my receipes for the onion gravy & cheesecake, here they are:

Onion Gravy

1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 Large Red Onion - Halved & finely chopped
1 Large White Onion - Halved & finely chopped
2 Cloves Garlic - chopped
3-4 Sage Leaves - chopped
400ml Beef Stock - Homemade or out the jar!!
Salt & Pepper

In a large frying pan, add the butter and oil and heat gently, once hot add the onion and fry for around 10 minutes until soft, add the garlic & sage and fry for another 5 minutes.

Now add the stock, turn up the heat and let it bubble away for around 20 minutes and not a minute before!!

Right at the last minute add salt & pepper to taste.

If the gravy seems a little "dry" just add some more water until you get the right consistency for you - Its all personal taste!

Thats it!! Now you can either use the gravy as is, or I like to blend mine up.

I find it is best to make this before anything else, even the day before. It can even be frozen. Perfect!

Strawberry Cheesecake

8 Digestive Biscuits
2oz Butter
1/2 pt double cream
3/4 cup Icing Sugar
8oz Light Philadelphia/Cream Cheese
Vanilla Essence
500g Strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Put the butter in a pan on a gentle heat, while this is melting pop the 8 digestive biscuits into a bag and take out any frustration on them! Crush them up until all crumbly. Add to the butter and mix well.
Pop this into the bottom of the pan/bowl you will be using and squash down, making sure its level, ready for the next layer. Pop in the fridge to set while doing the next step.

Now whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks,
Then mix togwether the cream cheese, icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence. Fold into the cream.
Add to the pan/bowl again making your second layer to the cake.

Pop in the fridge for 2-3hrs.

Decorate with a few of the strawberries, leaving most for the coulis to be drizzled on top.

Heat the water, sugar & strawberries in a pan until bubbling. Once all the strawberries are super soft and mushy, transfer the mixture into a blender and blend until it makes a sauce.
Some people at this point like to strain this through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of the strawberry seeds, I didn't bother!

Once this has cooled, dish up your cheesecake and pour over some coulis! Mmmmm absolutely beautiful!!!!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Toad in the Hole

In celebration of the sunshine arriving here is a last winter/comfort food recipe for you all!

Yorkshire Pudding – Toad In the Hole

Sift 125g (4oz) plainf lour and ½ tsp salt into a bowl. Mix in 150ml (1/4 pint) milk, then add 2 medium eggs, beaten, and season with pepper. Beat until smooth, then whisk in another 150ml (1/4 pint) milk. Poor a layer of vegetable oil into your tin you will be using and put it in a pre- heated oven 220 C (200 fan oven) for 5 minutes or until the fat is smoking.

Whilst the oil is heating in the oven, brown your sausages in a frying pan.

Pour the batter into the tin of hot oil, add your sausages. Bake for 15-20 minutes until well risen, golden and crisp.


Things are progressing nicely in the garden – spen mowed the grass in the back garden yesterday – it’s amazing what a difference it makes. The home made out of recycled windows greenhouse is slowly being filled. Tomato seedlings are doing well, as are the chillies! Such a great time of year – everything greening up and sprouting new growth, you’ve got to love it! Right now I’m off to enjoy sunshine with friends, yippee!! Have a great weekend everyone, enjoy the sunshine!


All the Best!

Claire

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup

We’ve also got chicks hatching out in the incubator this weekend – our very own lavender pekin bantams , very exciting – will post more about those tomorrow, they are pipping as I type!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Oh for the love of chickens!!!

After carefully plotting out my raised beds and actually sowing some seeds (as you will have read previously hopefully) I was devastated when my partner text me when I was at work the other day saying the chickens had escaped out of the coop and had been scratching around in the beds. I honestly thought they would have demolished the lot. But I am pleased to report not all is lost! When I went out to collect the eggs today (I’m off work at the moment) I have green shoots appearing in the raised beds! So there are at least some seeds left in the beds! Hoorah!!! Not all is lost!

We’ve just started to sell our chicken eggs at the garden gate as well, We already have 2 or 3 regular customers but we are hoping signs on the back gate and front gate will encourage a few more!!

Also listed a few of our bantam lavender pekin fertile eggs on ebay – will let you know how we get on selling them!

We’ve got an incubator full of eggs due this weekend – chicks – ahoy!!

All the best!

Claire
Xx

Twitter:
@CropredyChicken
@Honestlyitseasy
@steelsyrockitup