Friday, 31 July 2009

Chick photos

These are the chicks which hatched from the eggs in the incubator on 1st July. There are four Light Sussex and a mystery guest, who is most welcome but we are not sure what it is yet!

The Light Sussex markings are not impressive at the moment - one has far too much black, one has very little and the other two are passable - but we'll have to wait and see what they look like when they get older. They are lovely little birds at the moment, and quite happy in this little pen. We have started to turn the light off during the day.

Here they all are having a drink together.

Quail on the loose....

There is one escapee in the greenhouse, so as soon as I saw it, I shut the door. It is in there somewhere amongst the bags of compost and empty plantpots, but it is safely in there. The other two are somewhere else entirely - I just don't know where. There are just too many places in the garden for them to hide so our chances of finding them before a local cat does are slim, to say the least. I have warned the neighbour to keep an eye in his garden as there is a quail-sized gap underneath the fence.

Gym club is over now for the summer - we had the last session this morning, and then I went to Tesco for a couple of things which I couldn't get on the Asda delivery due tomorrow. After that, I came home to collapse with a cup of tea and my feet up for an hour. All the gym clothes went in the wash and are dry already, and the trainers will need to be whitened again before September rolls around. We go back to gym around the 8th September, although life will be interesting then as the Head Coach is having an op on his shoulder on 13th August, so quite how fit he will be by September, we will have to wait and see. There are enough other helpers that we should manage, and now that I have made it to Coach, I could actually run a class with some of the Assistant Coaches.

The EFG and I have picked another batch of dwarf beans this afternoon and now the FH is topping and tailing them so that they can go in the freezer. These are yellowish, although they still taste good. I am currently cooking my supper and then I have yet another courgette cake recipe to try out. The girls HATE courgette as a vegetable, but it seems to go down OK in cake, so I am hoping to get a couple of batches of cakes and cookies in the freezer ready for packed lunches again.

Shoes are the bane of my life here with two girls who have H fitting shoes. I am dreading the trek around all the shoe shops which we are inevitably going to have to start soon to find them each a pair to go back to school in. I have found a new (to me) shop in Peterborough which I may have to try, although I really don't want to have to go all that way for shoes. Needs must sometimes though - they can't go barefoot!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

No Secret Recipes

I was ranting a while ago about "secret recipes" and my objection to them - cooking is a friendly thing to do and we should all share! Well, I found a blog today here which sums it all up so nicely that I thought I would share. I also added his sign to my sidebar!

Sleeping it off

Yes, I managed the coaching at gym yesterday morning, but then I slept for nearly two hours in the afternoon, and still managed to be asleep at the normal time at night. This morning I watched another DVD with the EFG, and then I have just been pottering around this afternoon - the girls are out playing with their friends, although they had to come in and play board games for a while when the heavens opened earlier. Much fun is being had out there now that the sun is shining. They'll be back at tea time!

One of our neightbours has some beautiful gold Sebright bantams - and they have managed to hatch four gorgeous little chicks off. I have just been to visit, and to offer a little advice as this is their very first hatching, and all is going very well. The chicks are just like tiny balls of black and gold fluff!

We made some cupcakes last night from Harry Eastwood's book - they are American Vanilla Cupcakes, with grated courgette and they are lovely! We made them in smaller than recommended cases, so we got about 30 of them, iced some this morning and put two packages in the freezer uniced. Well, they are so good that all the iced ones (12) are gone........and you wouldn't really know that they have any veggies in them at all, apart from the odd little sliver of courgette in the occasional cake. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

How does your garden grow?

Unfortunately, mine is a tad overgrown! The grass around the raised beds is going mad and badly needs strimming, the courgettes are in full swing, the runner beans are not running in the right direction and the lettuces have bolted. All because I have been unable to give it enough attention in the past couple of weeks due to our illnesses. The chickens are faring better - I must get some photos!

I decided on Monday evening that there was just no way that I was going to manage to be at gym for three hours a day all week so I rang and told the Head Coach that I would have to drop back to three alternate days - yesterday, tomorrow and Friday. Tomorrow I have to drive the motorhome to get there as the Volvo failed the MOT abysmally and is in the garage to get repaired and the FH needs my Astra tomorrow to pick up another couple of OAPs to take them with him to the weekly lunch meeting. They would never manage the steps up into the motorhome, so I get landed with that. I'm a little nervous about taking it out on my own, but if I have to do any reversing, I will station a child in the back window to tell me when to stop!!

I have been bad this month for buying books - another package arrived today from the Book People with Willie somebody's chocolate recipe book, three novels which were on offer fopr £6 the three, a vegetable growing handbook from the River Cottage series, and a pack of books: Low Cost Living, Proper Hen keeping, and a year in the veg garden. And, saving the best for last, Harry Eastwood's new book about getting veg into cakes - can't wait to try some! A way to use courgettes in fancy cupcakes has got to be good! I bought all of that lot for less than £25 so I was a happy reader today, browsing through that lot.

Rest was the order of the day this morning - I sat and watched a DVD with the EFG whilst the YFG was at gym - she still got to go as a friend took her for me as she was taking along her own daughter. We watched Inside Man with Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer - the EFG thought that Captain Von Trapp would have been "past it" by now, as she says, so we were impressed that he was still acting. This afternoon, I turned 9lbs of plums into jam - and although it hasn't set up terribly well, it does taste good, I am reliably informed. However, since the FH was super efficient and took a load of glass jars and bottles to the recycling two weeks ago, I had no jam jars at all for the bottling of the jam and have ended up using Kilner jars. They are the big ones, so each jar should last a couple of weeks!!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Ten years on

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the FH's heart transplant. We have come so far and done so much in the last ten years that we wanted to mark the day with a family lunch, and we raised a glass to the donor and their family - we can never forget their unselfish donation which gave us the gift. We have no idea of whom donated the heart, male or female, young or older, etc, but their family was probably thinking of them yesterday as we believe that they died on the 25th. The FH received the heart in the early hours of the 26th.

So, this morning, Pete the turkey was wrapped in tinfoil and began cooking at about 11am, whilst I dashed around the house, tidying up and getting veg prepared. Dad's partner brought some puddings, so that saved me some time, and the meal was served at about 1.45pm. Then we all sat around and watched a DVD of the highlights of their recent cruise - Cobh, Dublin, Greenland, Iceland and various parts of Norway. The scenery was superb!

I have been thinking about the chickens which we have and have had a look at the Rare Breeds register's website - glad to see that I am doing my bit to support the rare poultry - Buff Orpingtons, Buff Sussex and Light Sussex. However, I did wonder whether I could diversify into more of the rare breeds, even if I only keep a trio of a couple of them. The cockerels will be the challenge! Some of them are being sold as hatching eggs on ebay, so I may think about firing up the incubator again and raising some more. Quite fancy the Ixworth, for example.

The YFG and I are at gymnastics for a week of holiday club, 10 till 1 each day from Monday to Friday. It's going to be hard work, particularly since I am still not 100% yet, but I will just have to pace myself! The interesting part of the holiday club is that we have 26 or so children of all ages and abilities in the same class at the same time - boys and girls. There will be about 4 coaches each day, so we should be able to sort them into some sort of grouping on Monday and keep them in those working groups for the week. We also have the use of a trampoline for the week, which I think the kids will love, so that will be a little diversion.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Back again

Hi and sorry for the few days' absence. The family were away overnight last night, and they were quite concerned as to my being alone here for two whole days - I was relishing the thought and they were worried about what I would find to do with myself....they have no idea. I do have to say that I had the best night's sleep last night that I have had in ages; I think that as a mother, you feel that you don't sleep quite as deeply as you might as you are constantly on the alert for that "Mum!" shout which may happen in the night - the call to deal with a nosebleed or a tummyache. Knowing that I was alone here last night, I slept much more deeply than normal - and not having the FH in pain with his foot next to me must have helped, too!

Anyway, I filled yesterday with pottering about looking after the animals, cooking some meals for myself, picking and freezing the dwarf beans (and there were eight freezer bags full), finishing the ironing which has been glaring at me from its baskets for two weeks, and most satisfyingly, getting it all put away in the airing cupboard. Trouble is that I did another three loads of washing yesterday evening, ready to hang out today, so the ironing pile will soon be resurrected.

I also got a couple of new books in the post yesterday from Amazon - the River Cottage Preserves Handbook - well, I just had to have it, as GTM says that it is wonderful. I completely agree with her, now that I have had a good look through it, and the Pontack sauce does indeed sound amazing. Not sure where I will get the ingredients in this area, but I will be investigating the opportunities. The other package in the parcel was a recipe book for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which I am trying to see if it can help with my IBS which has been particularly troublesome since the swine flu - almost as if the virus has got lodged in there. The diet is quite similar in restrictions to the "original" days of the Slimming World plan, which I taught many years ago, so it is not that difficult. Well, I don't think that it is difficult, but I am already living with wheat and dairy exclusions, so to exclude sugar and carbs is not such a big thing - it means living on fruit, veg, meat, fish and honey, at the moment. The SCD does include a particular kind of yogurt which you make yourself to ferment longer, but I won't be trying that just yet as I haven't had any dairy products in over 14 years, so that might not help matters much. I think that I may make some veg soup today for lunch, if I can.

The tax return and tax credits form are no further forward, so I suppose I had better go and sort the critters out and get started on the day properly so that I can get to that later. I have treated myself to a bit of a lie in this morning!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Keeping at it

It is the only way to keep going - a little bit at a time. The last few days have disappeared in another blur of sleeping and eating, and not an awful lot else. I am still drained and lifeless, in many ways, and doing only the bare minimum.

The chicks which hatched from the Orpington eggs have now got to the fully feathered stage and so the mothers have been put back into the main flock. Two of the broods have been amalgamated so that there are now two pens of five chicks, instead of a five, a three and a pair. The mothers understandably squawked their protestations at being removed from their offspring last night, but all of them seem to have settled in again. The chicks are fine too, and huddle together at night for warmth and company. The incubator chicks which hatched on the 1st July are now beginning to get their feathers - and they are not all Light Sussex. One of them is definitely brown, and I am not sure what it is going to turn out to be - it may be a Buff Sussex, but I don't think so at the moment. Perhaps when it has more feathers, it will be clearer.

The baby rabbits born to Bubblegum on 1st July are also doing well. Six of the eight have survived and are thriving. They are very cute and get lots of cuddles!

The FH is taking the girls to Norwich on Thursday so that the EFG can attend a creative writing course at the university. They will be staying overnight in the motorhome on a campsite and then she will attend the second day, after which they will come home. Peace and uninterrupted thoughts for about 44 hours, I think. Such a shame that the time has had to be set aside to do my tax return and tax credits form.

We have been eating our own dwarf/French beans for a couple of days now, and they are very good - lovely straight pods which are very tender. There are a lot to pick, which I will have to do very soon, but for today I just gathered enough for supper. Plot to plate in 25 minutes, and less than 15 feet travelled too - can't be better than that. We also have courgettes, pumpkins, butternut squash and a kind of gourd flourishing in the garden, as well as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the greenhouse and tomatoes in the troughs. We need a bit more sun to ripen them, though, if You are listening up there, God. Speaking of God, our minister came knocking at the door yesterday to see how we were since we haven't been able to get to church for weeks. Since I was just napping, he didn't get invited in for a cuppa, which was bad of me, but I was in dire need of a sleep. It was very kind of him to call round, though.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Moving on

I've heard and thought about flu enough now, so I think it is time to talk about something else. Quite what, I don't know, as I haven't been anywhere or done much this week, but GTM has a thought-provoking poster over on her blog (see sidebar - A Life Full of Blessings) which raises a few ideas in my head.

The war years are not a time I lived through and I have no first hand knowledge of the fear, deprivation and hardship that people endured. But I am told that it was a time of great community spirit, of an "all in this together" attitude, and a "we'll get through this" mentality. Unfortunately, I think that the increase in prosperity since the war has meant the demise of such British spirit. We could look to this recession with the same attitude, and help one another along. There are a few who are doing something along those lines, but I see a lot of people keeping their eyes averted and concentrating on themselves. It is sad that we can't do things for one another in a more generous spirit. I am a firm believer of what comes around, goes around; if I give, I will receive when I am in need - and it hasn't let me down. Giving means that I believe that however little I have, I have enough, and I have something to spare. I do give - books to the school, outgrown/hardly worn clothes to the little girl around the corner, courgettes to the neighbours, bits and pieces to the charity shops - it nearly broke my heart to take a decent tv to the skip last week because none of the charity shops will accept electrical goods.

I have to say that the other thing about the war years and the forties and fifties, is that life seems to have been more simple - less technology, less distractions!!

Take this flu seriously

Friday already and I have been out of action most of the week. I posted on Tuesday that I was feeling OK-ish but I spoke too soon. I spent Wednesday in bed, a raging 40 degree temperature torturing me for about 5 hours until the combination of paracetamol, ibuprofen and forehead cooling strips eventually brought it down but it was extremely oppressive and I wasn't all there for some of the time - I remember having some very weird thoughts. Yesterday was a little better, but I spent most of the day in bed again, only getting up to cook some supper, wash up and then plod back to bed. Today I feel so washed out and tired that I have been down to sort the chickens out and have come back upstairs.

The weather today is thundery and the air is very close so that is not helping with the temperature control at all! I had listened to all the news about this being a "mild" illness in the majority of cases - and in terms of being life-threatening, I have not had it badly, I agree, but it is certainly not something I am going to bounce back from in a few days - and an older person might struggle more, I think.

The girls are doing OK - the EFG only went to school on Monday, and they have been very good at amusing themselves with a DVD festival, scrapbooking, their baby bunnies, and playing games on the computer and Nintendos. I feel guilty that they have had to occupy themselves for so long but there is simply nothing that I could or can do about it. The YFG had one evening playing with the little boy next door - outside, with the frisbee (not sure how that is spelled!!) but otherwise, they have only had their own company and I am pleased with the way that they are coping.

The five chicks have been moved this morning from their box in the lounge to a proper place in the shed where they have much more room. They were becoming a little too noisy to have in the lounge for too much longer - and they were getting smelly as well although I was cleaning them out daily. They appear to be enjoying the extra space, and I will check on them later to see how they are getting on.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Flu update

The YFG is getting better, but the flu has moved on to me, and to the EFG. The FH continues to evade it, but he is suffering with a sprained foot.......

I felt rough all day yesterday, generally tired and achy with a sore throat, but then it really came on after supper last night. I had the shivers and the fever, and went to bed fully clothed with lots of blankets and a hot water bottle at my feet. I woke up sometime in the early hours, drenched, and had to get up and take everything off. Now I have the chesty cough, and the fever comes and goes but it is nothing like it was last night.

The school is operating with very low numbers of staff and children, as apparently as many as 9 members of staff are off sick and the three KS2 classes which we have here are amalgamated into one for this week. My neighbour has shown me a notice they have sent home today to say that children should not return to school until the 8th day following the onset of symptoms - that notice should have gone out a couple of weeks ago; there are children who got over the main symptoms within 48 hours and were back in school, still contagious.

Dad has phoned this afternoon from Bergen to say that they are on their way home, so the boat will dock on Friday. They have had a good time.

Well, I am plodding on, as a patient as well as a nurse - the FH is in bed, resting his foot as it is agony to walk on, and the FGs are outside, sitting under the gazebo, chatting away. Fresh air can't hurt, so I am encouraging the odd outside interlude as there are only so many DVDs we can watch in one day. Saying that, they have done some scrapbooking this morning, and helped to clear the kitchen up from last night, so it is not all bad!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

NHS gets it together

The phone call last night came much earlier than anticipated - around 9pm, so I was able to dash off the 15 or so miles to the hospital and fetch the Tamiflu for her.

Having said that, I am not that impressed now that I have read the leaflet inside. The YFG is 10 next month, and weighs about 35kg, but the dose she has been given, according to said leaflet, is for a child weighing less than 15kg. How many 10 year olds weigh 2.5 stone? I am not going through the hell of the phone calls again to see why this has been prescribed, so I'll contact our own doctors on Monday. Hopefully she will have managed to take some by then; it says that it is best tolerated by the stomach if it is taken with food, but she is struggling to eat anything this morning, so we haven't been able to give her a dose yet. I don't want to add an upset stomach to her list of woes, so I am being a little cautious with it. I know I have to get a dose into her today, though, so I am wracking my brains to think of something to tempt her with in the food line.

On a positive note, she slept through the night until 6am, when a dream about things crashing in the universe woke her up. She has dozed again for a while until we got up at 8am. Now she is ensconced on the sofa, in command of the tv remote and cuddled under a duvet.

Thanks to GTM for her good wishes - much appreciated. I have cancelled the week ahead in terms of going places/appointments so that we can concentrate on getting better.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Swine flu

The first case to be treated with Tamiflu was reported in the YFG's school on Friday morning, and she and about eight others also have it now. We are still waiting to be able to get her the medication, and the NHS seems to be in chaos tonight.

I called the out-of-hours service this morning, was told that the doctor would call back within the hour and he did so. We had a chat, I described all the symptoms she is experiencing, and he told me to watch her today and call back tonight if she wasn't better. She has developed a very chesty cough now and is bringing up phlegm, and has a lot of aches and pains, so I rang back as instructed, at 6.30pm to be told that there is now a 6-7 hour wait for the doctor to call back to speak with you.

I asked what to do if I needed more urgent advice, and was told to go to A&E, but when I questioned the lady over that, as I believed that the advice was not to take a patient to the surgery or hospital, she said that she didn't really know what to say as it was changing hourly and they were overwhelmed with calls. She did say that if the YFG's breathing became distressed, I should call back and she would be re-prioritised. Mmmm - maybe, but if her breathing became distressed, I think I would be looking for an ambulance with some oxygen on board. I couldn't be angry with the woman on the phone as obviously this is just too much for them to deal with, but it is very frustrating. I now have to wait up till 12-1 am for this doctor to call. She did question me as to whether I wanted to do that, but as I said, if I wait until tomorrow, who knows when I might get to speak with someone??

Newsround on CBBC reported today that the first case of someone with SF dying who did not have an underlying medical condition has occurred in Basildon in Essex. When the YFG heard that, she became convinced that she is going to die. I told her that she will get better as she is healthy, and fit, but she wanted me to promise her that she is not going to die. It is heartbreaking. She feels so ill though, that she can't imagine feeling any worse. God bless her, please.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Results are in.....

The exam results from 21st June have arrived - and I passed! So I have now progressed from Assistant Coach to Coach......I can't quite believe it. Almost speechless. Almost!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Oh, my goodness!

We have been living here in this house for five years now, almost exactly, since we moved in June 04. Five years for us is a long time in one place, and now we have got itchy feet....We have long admired a particular house in a nearby town, and we know the couple who own it, as the FH spent some time working with the gentleman a few years back. And there I was, browsing on rightmove, the property website, being nosy about a neighbour's house, and then I saw that THAT house was up for sale, and I could probably afford it. I called the FH to come and look at the computer, he called the gentleman and had a chat over things like council tax banding, heating fuel and plumbing, and we have been to view it this morning. We like it. A lot.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The chick is still alive

The last chick that was helped to hatch yesterday is still with us, although perhaps not entirely healthy. Its feathers have not yet reached the "fluffy" stage, and only one eye is open, which is worrying. It is spending some time on its feet, plodding around the incubator. It will have to be moved to the brooder box by 5pm this afternoon to start eating and drinking so it has a couple of hours to go yet before it makes that big move.

We have had some torrential rainstorms here this lunchtime - the garden needs it, but I didn't really need the extra shower as I delivered a dozen eggs to school for the secretaries!

Made falafel for dinner last night with the YFG - we modified the recipe somewhat since it called for several ingredients we didn't have to hand: flat-leafed parsley, cumin and coriander. My mixture was also a bit dry so I put an egg in and made it a little too wet, so we added more flour! The missing kick from the cumin and coriander was replaced with some Worcestershire sauce - entirely un-authentic, but the EFG and FH said that they were good. We didn't have the traditional pittas to serve them in either, so the YFG made oven-baked wedges and a salad. A very cheap and cheerful tea.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Can we count?

You would be forgiven for thinking that we can't count here!

We can, but these baby rabbits are sneaky little creatures and they keep hiding under one another - there are actually EIGHT of them. They were all laying spread out this afternoon and I counted them as a matter of routine, and as I got to "four" I realised that there were four more, and oh, my gosh, that makes eight! This is Bubblegum's third litter, and she only raised two the second time, so I am wondering how she is going to manage eight. They all have full tummies this afternoon so she is feeding them well, but some are bigger than others so we just have to keep our fingers crossed that they all make it.

On the chick front, another started to hatch this afternoon, but the FH and YFG were afraid that it wasn't strong enough to break through the shell and so they "operated" on it. We have returned it to the incubator, where it is still breathing but not doing much else, so I am not holding out huge hopes for it.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Up to date news

There are now four chicks - and there are more kittens than I first saw so we have seven! Whether they will all live is another matter....

It has been another scorching day here in the Fens, with the promise tonight on the news that tomorrow may well be the hottest day of the year yet!

Chicks update

When I went to the loo at some time in the night, there was one chick, but by 7am there were three! I am desperate to take the lid off the incubator to see if there are any other eggs about to crack open but I am resisting temptation until tonight. There are 10 eggs in there, so I am hoping that there might be more later.

When we went to feed the rabbits this morning, Bubblegum was just giving birth.....she has had five kittens this morning. Since all these creatures have been born or hatched today, we will have no trouble remembering their birthday as my sister turns 35 today.

More later!