Thursday, June 30, 2011


The Under Gardener has been harvesting the gooseberries.  And then, topping and tailing them.  The first lot he picked came in at around 4kg (after topping and tailing).  The second (a more modest effort) came it at 1.3kg.  I will be interested to see how much this lot weighs in at:

There will, however, be no cherries, other than the few we've eaten from the trees.  The blackbirds have been in and scoffed the lot.  Not the morellos, which are not yet close to ready. But all the sweet cherries ;-(

On the other hand, nothing, not even the snails, is eating the lettuces, radishes, carrots and chard.  Nothing except us. And very delicious they are too. And the baby broad beans, not yet prolific, are delicious. They will become prolific, I hope.  There are lots of pods filling up. The Under Gardener has also now harvested all  the onions from the allotment. We've been putting them in the freezer. I suppose I ought to keep some of the red ones back for using fresh.  The Under Gardener is rather partial to some chopped red onion in his summer salads!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Around the solstice

The Under Gardener has planted three small cucumber plants in the bed which has the watermelon plants in it.  And I have taken out one of the watermelon plants which was clearly not thriving, and have replaced it with a sweet melon seedling.

We are now eating carrot thinnings from the boxes we planted up first.  We are also eating chard thinnings, lettuce thinnings and small broccoli heads and full sized radishes.  The sweet cherries are now ripening fast (although there aren't very many of them, alas - all that blossom and then the fruit all blew off in the spring ;-(  ).  The raspberries have SUDDENLY begun to ripen. And the different coloured currants and the gooseberries are all ready for picking.

Sunday vegetables. Clicking on the picture should take you to the web album

We have had a first picking of peas from the allotment.

The flower garden continues to look lovely.  Ramshackle, but lovely :-)

We could really do with some rain.  It seems that parts of Sheffield had loads of rain on Saturday.  Didn't get to us, though.

The chickens have now been with us for 12 months and seem to be thriving.  One of them is off the lay and has been for ages - but she seems happy enough.  The Under Gardener has been threatening her with the stock pot, but she doesn't seem to believe his threats! But in the 12 months we've had 1115 eggs at a grand total of 43p per egg.  We're almost reaching the supermarket price per free range egg!!

Here is the kitchen garden plan as it stands today:

More belly pork

Last weekend, I was watching Saturday kitchen and one of the guest chefs cooked a piece of belly pork with a blueberry and chilli glaze and a feta salad.  On the Sunday, we went to the Nether Edge farmers' market and found a lovely piece of belly pork, which I bought and put aside for yesterday's Sunday roast.

I decided not to cook the belly pork according to the recipe, but put it with a chopped red onion and some chicken stock in a casserole with a lid and put it into a very low oven for a few hours.  While all that was going on, I made the blueberry glaze according to the recipe.  It didn't taste very chilli-like to me (and I am not a big fan of chilli - but this definitely needed rather more kick) so I added a healthy glug of sweet chilli sauce to beef it up a bit.

Then I took the pork belly and cut off the skin.  I glazed the meat with the blueberry glaze and then dumped the rest in with the stock and pork juices.  Then I put the skin back on top of the meat, turned the oven up to 170d and put the casserole back in the oven, minus its lid, for about 45 minutes or so, until the skin was very crackly indeed!

We had it with boiled new potatoes and not feta salad but baby vegetables from the garden.  It was extremely delicious!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's all Edward's fault

When I first came to Sheffield, intending to stay only for a year or so, I put in applications for a couple of library posts in various parts of England.  Given that I wasn't intending to stay in England there was nothing riding on the applications, but I was a bit surprised that I didn't get an interview for any of them, given that I easily met the selection criteria.  In the meantime, I had managed to get a clerical job at Sheffield Hallam University, working first in the HR department, and then in the Admissions Office.

I happened to mention this, one day in passing, to the head of the Admissions Department, herself a refugee librarian, and she suggested that I amble over to the relatively new and cutting edge Learning Centre and speak to Edward, one of its deputy directors, with whom she had been at University. She said that he was a wise and clever man who might be able to explain why I hadn't got any interviews and give me suggestions for improving my chances.  I was still, at that point, planning to return home eventually, but decided that I might was well come over and meet this person.

So I did.  And a few weeks later an application pack turned up on my desk in the Admissions Office, for a part time job in the Adsetts Centre.  I figured I might just as well apply for it.  It would be good practice.  So I did.  And much to my surprise, I got the job.  So I worked part time in the Admissions Office and part time in the Learning Centre for a year or so, before moving full time to the Learning Centre.  Where I still am. Some 12 or so years later.

In the meantime, the Director left and a new one came, very, very briefly.  Then a box of frogs took over and a hurricane of chaos overtook us.  Then the frogs disappeared and a new, uber-department was formed from several of the support departments, with a sane uber-head, and a certain level of calm reappeared.  Then Edward was appointed to what was effectively the position of Director of the Learning Centre (although that is not what he was called). And the building has grown and developed and been renovated, and our services have developed and changed, and our job descriptions have noticeably changed, and staff have come and gone. And sanity has more or less prevailed

And now Edward too has gone.  He retired on Friday. Lots of people came to his retirement do.  It was like watching a history of the Learning Centre walk through the doors!

So that's 4 directors I've seen out.  There's a new one coming in September.  I wonder if I'll outlast her as well!

But in the meantime, the fact that I seem to have been swallowed up by SHU is almost entirely Edward's fault.  I followed his advice on filling in library application forms absolutely to the letter.  And look at what happened!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Poorly sick

It is my habit on Sunday mornings to talk to my parents in Australia on Skype.  (See, I said people mostly talk to us on Skype and not the landline). This last Sunday we spoke as normal, and Tony said that he had had a slight sore throat and a deaf ear for a few days.  Interestingly, I had noted about ten minutes earlier that I had developed the very slightest of slight sore throats. Anyway, it didn't particularly inconvenience me and I paid little attention.  Tony's sore throat didn't seem to be inconveniencing him very much either - although he was finding the deafness extremely irritating.  Clever of him to infect me from the other side of the world, I thought.

I noticed yesterday that I had also developed a slight tickly cough.  Paid no attention.

Woke up at 03:45 this morning absolutely frozen, with a hacking and very painful cough, aching arms and legs and a definite sore throat :-(  The Builder said that I wasn't frozen at all but really rather hot.  I tried to speak.  Nothing :-(

Funnily enough, I haven't gone in to work today.  And Skype has come into its own as a means of communicating with The Builder even when I am sat right next to him :-D

You can tell that we don't get sick very often.  I found in the back of the bathroom cabinet some manuka honey cough sweets that Lindsey brought over in 2009 when I had what we assume was whooping cough. One bag hasn't even been opened.  The other has had about two sweets taken from it. They are six months out of date. They seem still to be working, though!

And Tony can hear again.  His GP syringed out his ears and lo - his hearing came back :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We obviously don't use our landline very much

We turned the SKY box on over the weekend and a message came up suggesting that we would have more interactivity if we connected the box to a phone line.  This came as something of a surprise.  As far as I was concerned, it *was* connected to a phone line.  I investigated further.  The SKY box was plugged in. All seemed OK.  Apart from the little matter that the phone line was absolutely dead.

Except that we still had the internet.  Odd.  But a cursory investigation showed that the phone line and the internet use different parts of the telephone signal.  That's why you have to have a splitter.  So not absolutely cut off from the outside world.

And come to think about it, almost nobody rings us on the landline anyway.  At least, not for personal calls. They Skype us, or send us text messages or even put messages on Facebook and Twitter.  Call centres in India use it and people trying to rort money out of The Builder use it, but that's about it.  We didn't really even know how long it had been out of action.  The Builder had had a phone call from India earlier in the week but the line could have gone down at any time after that. We didn't even know if it was a problem at our end, at BT's end or even in Tupton itself.

So we did nothing for a day or two.  We had internet. We had mobiles. We didn't care very much.  But then it crossed my mind that we pay for a full service and couldn't presently use it, so perhaps we ought to do something about it.  So I filled in an online form, ran a diagnostic check and lo - there was a problem at BT's end.  Which they had had fixed by the end of that day.  Have to say I was impressed with their problem fixing.

But we still haven't used the landline - except  that I rang home on it to check that it really was working.  Mostly if I want to talk to The Builder (when I am not there with him) I use Skype or his mobile!

Nether Edge Farmers' Market and Summer Fair

Sunday was the Nether Edge Farmers' Market, coupled with their summer fair.  It was held on Nether Edge Road, which is just round the corner from where Freyja lives.  Tabitha, Gareth and Cally were intending to go - after Cally had had her inoculations.  Funny medical practice that does inoculations on a Sunday at lunchtime!

It was a nice day.  The Builder and I didn't have anything very pressing to do.  So we decided to trundle into Sheffield and join them.

We didn't expect to see Freyja, close though it all was to her house.  Her Sunday afternoons are mostly devoted to Roller Derby so I assumed she'd be off skating somewhere.  And indeed, skating was amongst her plans.  But not until later, on this occasion.  So it was good to run across her and, briefly, Simon, as well.

The fair was very crowded.  People turned out in their droves to enjoy the sunshine and the yummy things on offer (chocolates, pies, cakes, nibbly lunchy things) and the farmers' market offerings (meat, bread, vegetables, fruit) and loads of craft temptations. There was croquet on the bowling green lawn. The bar was open. It was small, but lots of fun.  I have made a note of the September and December dates - though there are many options for the September Sunday (York food festival, Malvern Autumn show, Nether Edge farmers' market ...)  Definitely worth going, I'd say. We bought a lovely piece of pork belly for next Sunday. I'm going to try the blueberry glaze I saw on Saturday Kitchen

It was a good afternoon.  And we finished it by going home and having chicken schnitzels for tea, some nice wine and going to bed rather later than we had planned

In the meantime - Freyja has been busy 

I've just bought our plane tickets for Japan.  It is *extremely* scary the way money abandons me!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday, mid-June

Back in December, Stella and Tony gave me some purple podded pea seeds.  We didn't plant them up on the allotment with the other, less classy peas, but down on the edge of the bed the beans have gone in.  They've been growing quite sturdily, but not producing flowers.  But this morning we went down - and the flowers have started :-)

Pretty, aren't they

The beans aren't doing too badly either

And the flowers are looking lovely

There are nearly, nearly peas to pick (maybe tomorrow).  The lettuces and radishes are coming along.  There are baby tomatoes on the hanging tomato baskets. And the squashes, zucchinis and pumpkins appear to be recovering from their post-planting out sulk. They are finally producing green leaves.

So far, so good.  But we could do with some more rain

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Birthday burgers

It was, you may remember, Tabitha's birthday on Monday.  Yesterday was Cally's quarter birthday.  We couldn't all celebrate Tabitha's birthday on Monday because Freyja and Simon are doing a Boot Camp Japanese course on Monday evenings, and Gareth does a computer course. So we decided to celebrate on Cally's quarter birthday instead.

Woodseats has a plethora of reasonably cheap eating places so we decided that we'd investigate one of those, and went to a fairly new American style diner. Taffa and Gaz have been before and quite liked it.  I have to say that the diner itself is really rather nice.  And The Builder really enjoyed his pizza.  Can't say I enjoyed my burger much - I am not a big fan of processed, frozen burgers (even when they've been cooked!!).  The fries were nice, though.

But having said all that, the evening itself was lots of fun.  I left from work and cadged a lift to Woodseats with Bea and Steve, who happened to be heading that way at the time I was planning to go.  The Builder met Taffa, Cally and me at Nettleham Road, and then we made our way down to the main road where the diner is.  Gaz came from work.  Freyja came from Heeley (though quite what she was doing in Heeley is a mystery). Simon came from wherever he was on his bike.  We all had a very merry time.  We ate and drank and chatted. Cally was remarkably good - she smiled and churtled and wriggled.  It was all good.

We must suss out some of the other eating places around there.  But I'd go back to the American diner.  I'll just have pizza or something else next time!

But I am getting a wee bit old for going out to play on a school night.  Despite Marlo's best efforts I found it veryveryveryveryveryVERY difficult to get up this morning!!!

Birthday girls :-) (If you click on the photo it should take you through to the album)

Monday, June 13, 2011


That was a weekend of some really rather remarkable food.  And quite a lot of wine, now that I come to think about it.

We ambled off down to Warminster on Saturday afternoon for afternoon tea with Barb and to admire her really lovely courtyard garden.  We had scones and jam and cream and white wine and admired the garden (but were driven in by a really rather ferocious looking black cloud) and played with Polly the kitty and generally had a good time.

Barb's courtyard looking verdant and pretty

Then we relocated to The Swan in Stoford, where we had lovely food and more wine and slept in an ever-so-comfortable bed and woke early and watched the swans on the river and made a good breakfast and spoke to Stella and Tony on Skype and slid slowly and gently into Sunday

This was a really lovely avocado salad, everything was fresh and light

So we drove through the lovely rain into Salisbury and visited Waitrose and pottered slowly on to Nunton where we collected Gwen and drove on out to Braishfield for lunch in The Wheatsheaf, where we had more lovely food and more wine and a jolly good time.  The rain did not inconvenience us at all.  The Wheatsheaf has a roof!!

Ginger and elderflower jelly with summer berries; perfect for Sunday dessert

And then we took Gwen home and came on home ourselves - and drank more wine and The Builder watched the Grand Prix and I messed about on my laptop.

So it was a lovely peaceful weekend in which not very much happened

Except that Then Builder nearly had us on washing up duty at The Swan when it came time for us to pay so we could leave.  Persistently and wantonly he kept putting the wrong PIN for his card into the card reader, so that his card was blocked!  Fortunately, I had my wallet with me.  Somewhere.  In one of these bags.  Rummage, rummage, rummage.  Just as well that I found it.  I think that doing the dishes at The Swan might be a rather time consuming means of payment, especially on a Sunday!

And we were much too early in Salisbury for collecting Gwen so had to go for a drive around and were sucked into B&Q and oh-so-nearly bought a rotary washing line (until I remembered that B&Q quality is such that you might just as well take your pound coins and throw them in The Avon) and a hanging basket basket - until we realised that it had been put in the £4 shelf by mistake and was really nearer to £12.  Not spending £12 on a basket to hang outside!!

We were a bit worried when we went down for dinner on Saturday evening at The Swan, for the place was nearly empty.  Fortunately, by an hour later it wasn't empty at all.  And no such worries at The Wheatsheaf on Sunday. The place was already quite busy when we got there and was very nearly full to capacity when we left. This is all good. While I, of course, wish there always to be room for me, I also want both places to be Very Busy Indeed

It's Tabitha's birthday today.  She's positively ancient.  And it's Cally's quarter birthday tomorrow.  She's getting quite ancient too, now

Just as well Ian didn't see this - might have been difficult to steal it! But he definitely ought to have one

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A BBC Good Food magazine inspired weekend

I was reading the BBC Good Food magazine on the train going home on Thursday and there was a recipe for a lemon roasted chicken for Sunday lunch.  It wasn't Sunday.  And I didn't have a whole chicken kicking about.  But I did have some chicken pieces.  And I had some lemons.  So I read the recipe and pondered.

When I got home, I sliced a couple of lemons and put them in the bottom of a small roasting tray.  The recipe had called for tarragon, which I didn't have.  But I did have some fennel, so I finely diced that and added it, together with a small glass of white wine to the tray.  Then for good measure I very finely sliced a small onion and added that.  I put the chicken pieces in and drizzled a little soya sauce over the top, then covered everything with some foil and baked it in a moderate oven for around 45 minutes.  Then I drained the juices into a jug through a fine sieve and put the chicken pieces back into the oven for a bit to crisp up.  I thickened the lemon sauce with a very little rice flour, over a low heat.

The magazine had also had various recipes for bean type salads which I thought sound rather nice with lemon chicken. So I took some frozen soya beans and sweet corn, tinned butter and fresh broad beans and heated them through.  I added some fresh peas and some chopped watercress and stirred them all through with a little balsamic vinegar.  And we had the chicken pieces and bean salad with some boiled Jersey royals and the lemon sauce.  It was absolutely lovely.

The magazine also had loads of suggestions for burgers and other barbecue foods.  So on Friday I made what was effectively deconstructed Aussie burgers, not using the barbecue but my griddle.  I made the burgers myself and added ham, Jarlsberg cheese, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, yellow capsicum and lettuce and we had it layered on a plate, not with a bun but with fried Jersey royal chips and some more of the bean salad. Also delicious

A deconstructed Aussie burger on a plate

Early June

At the weekend we took the cabbage and broccoli seedlings that were growing in seed trays and divided them up and potted them on into proper little flower pots.  So far they seem to be doing ok.  While I was at it, I did the same to the tiny seaside daisy seedlings in another seed tray, although I potted them on in tiny clumps.  So far so good. Also, around 25 cauliflower seedlings have arrived in the post, from Thompson and Morgan.  The under Gardener has potted them on as well. In addition, he has planted out the 15 brussels sprouts seedlings that arrived a few weeks ago. There are still 25 cabbage plants yet to come.  I am not quite sure where we are going to put all these brassicas!!

Things are doing well up on the allotment.  The onions are looking wonderful and the broad bean and pea plants are beginning to set pods.  The fruit area is looking happy.  All we really need now is some decent rain! The weather people, however, are forecasting the possibility of frosts later this week :-S  It is, of course, not too late to start again should all the tender summer stuff be got by frost - but it is getting a bit late.  And it would be horribly expensive at this late stage !!

And the flower garden continues to flourish.

The allotment on Sunday morning

All being well, this should be a good crop of onions

The potatoes are coming on but could do with some rain

The new Bramley apple tree, looking happy

Broad beans, Lindsey?

Looking up the allotment

The chooks being very curious about what we are doing in the greenhouse

Can I come?  Can I? Can I? I wanna come too!!!

Looking towards the house from the patio

Chilli plant, strawberries, sage in pots and boxes

And another lovely, peaceful weekend

... which passed without incident and without very much to report.

We did a bit of gardening and a few, useful domestic things.

We went to the DIY store and bought a few useful things (As an aside, I was shocked, shocked, SHOCKED to discover that Focus is closing all its stores (think Mitre 10 in Australia).  Who would expect a chain of DIY stores to close down, even in these straitened times!!)

We ate and drank and ambled up to the allotment

And that was pretty much it.

And then I had to come back to work :-S  On a Monday ;-(  It was a horrible shock to the system.  And has put me a day ahead of myself all week.  I was quite convinced that today was Wednesday!!!

Tabitha and Cally came to meet me for lunch on Monday.  We went to the soup and sandwich place across the road (although they also do pizzas and, in summer, some lovely salads).  Cally is getting quite active.  She smiles and talks and tries to throw herself at you for cuddles.  She enjoyed watching the world go by as we sat outside to eat out lunch.  She was fascinated by the pigeons that kept going past. And quite astonishingly - she is now 12 weeks old.

When I first started at SHU I naturally got a staff card. That card ran away one day when I was on my way to work and had to be replaced.  We were also given blue proximity cards, which gave us electronic access to the staff only areas of the building.  Not long after I got my replacement card, it was decided to do away with the blue proximity cards and to issue staff with staff cards which themselves gave electronic access to the staff areas.  I have had that card now for years and years and years and years.  Recently it has been getting reluctant to let me into the staff areas.  Could be persuaded, but really didn't want to. This morning I had a proper look at it. It was getting all frayed around the edges.  The picture and writing were wearing off.  The pink colour was disappearing.  As a form of identification it was completely useless!  So I went to the SHUcard people and requested a new one.  Three minutes later, I had one, and the old one had been retired.  The new one is an excellent form of identification .  And it obdurately and resolutely refuses to let me into any of the staff areas of the building AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Oh - I meant to say ...

when I wrote up the blog yesterday.  And I forgot.

I am usually pretty good when it comes to Buy-one-get-one-free offers.  If I really only want one and can't see how I can store or preserve the second one, then I usually manage to restrain myself and only buy the one - to the occasional incredulity of checkout people.

On Sunday we went to the supermarket. Amongst the things I intended to buy was a bottle of something fizzy and wine-like.  But only one, for The Builder is not a keen imbiber of fizzy wine.  He'll have the occasional glass, but usually when there isn't anything better on offer.  So I was slightly tempted by the supermarket's offer on white and rose Spanish fizz, but not greatly so.  One bottle would do nicely.  But which colour to have?

While I was pondering, The Builder decided that probably I really did want two bottles.  I looked a bit surprised.  Then realised that one bottle cost £11.  The offer wasn't that I could have two for £11.  The offer was that I could have two for *£10*.  An offer too good to miss.  I bought a bottle of each colour!!!

I wonder if they were finding them hard to shift.  They weren't hard to drink, it must be said.

Poised ready for summer

We've had a busy few days in the garden

The Builder has planted out his runner bean seedlings, and my bean seeds.  And I have planted out 72 sweet corn, two yellow pumpkin, two blue pumpkin, four mixed zucchini and four watermelon seedlings, not to mention lots of salady stuff.  The greenhouse is beginning to empty, although I do need to sort out the various cabbage seedlings in seed trays.

We have planted six tomato plants in one greenhouse on the allotment, and five in the other. We don't know yet what sort of tomatoes they will produce - they were from a packet of mixed heirloom seeds.  We have also planted up 8 tumbling cherry tomato plants in hanging baskets and disported them around the garden.  Plus we've planted hanging fuchsias in two more hanging baskets and put them outside the back door.

Monday brought us a day of lovely, steady rain which has made the garden much, much happier. Things are growing beautifully.  The lack of rain has meant that we haven't done anywhere nearly as well for rhubarb as we usually do.  And a lot of the fruit was set back quite badly by that late frost and the unseasonal high winds we had a week or so ago. So perhaps not quite as good a fruit yield this year as we had been hoping.  But there are lots of gooseberries coming along, and the red currants are beginning to turn.  Oh - and I've had some strawberries from the new strawberry plants.  They are very, very, very sweet!!!!! (Might buy replacements next year and get less sweet ones!!)

The chickens have not laid as well during May as they had been previously.  One of the brown ones went very broody and mopey.  They have all been moulting.  Even so, we had 77 eggs during May at a cost of 10p per egg, giving us a grand total in not quite a year of 1059 eggs at a cost (totalling everything we have spent, including the set up costs) of 44p per egg.  The total cost per egg is coming down to a price that is ever so slightly less eye watering!!

And here is the plan of what is happening on the allotment and in the kitchen garden

Kitchen Garden


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

A lovely long weekend

We have just had a lovely four day weekend.  Monday was the Spring Bank Holiday.  Yesterday was one of those stray Tuesdays SHU hands out.  And it was a lovely, lazy four days in which we didn't really do anything very much and just drifted lazily through the days.

I'm trying to think exactly what we did do.  We went into town yesterday and did a few useful in-town sort of things, like going to the bank and visiting the market.  It rained on Monday and we didn't do much (apart from listen to the garden purring loudly!).  Come to that, we didn't do much on Sunday either.  Mostly we just pottered, and ate, and drank. Typical Sunday stuff - except that we had Sunday three times, more or less 

But that, alas, is the end of my May Monday's off. From next week I have to go back to a full five day week :-S  I fear it may come as something of a shock!!