Archive | August 2016

A Hard Post To Write…..

My life has changed enormously since I started to write this blog four years ago when my daughters were just 12 and 14……they are 16 and 18 now and have turned into beautiful young ladies who we are very proud of.

Three years ago I lost one of my best friends to cancer and then two years ago my father-in-law passed away too.

After this I then had to give up my lovely four allotments in January 2015, due to family problems and our rescue dog, who turned out to be highly reactive and took up an awful lot of my time (and our money) to train.

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On top of this I have recently developed a lower back problem that is causing me a lot of pain when I bend.  I visited a physiotherepist and he said it is just ‘wear and tear’ and I should continue doing everything as normal, taking pain killers when I need to…..and this is what I have been doing.

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The last few years have really been hard for our family, though I have tried to put a smile on my face and carry on as normal…. but things are now settling down in the Thrift household and life is finally beginning to calm down again.

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Time to be honest:

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However recently I haven’t really felt myself, but I have struggled on regardless.  Quite often I have felt very drained of energy and tearful and I have been really struggling to sleep at night which doesn’t help.

Mr Thrift and I have come to the conclusion that either the last few years have finally caught up with me or it is simply that ‘time of life’ that all women my age go through….or a mix of both!  Either way I feel I need to sit back and relax a bit more and take some time out for myself, instead of my usual rushing around.

So for now I have decided to take a break from my blog for a few months (as it does take me quite a lot of time planning and writing it each week).

I really hope you don’t mind me making this decision, but hopefully it won’t be for too long.

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A quick update before I go:

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My kitchen garden continues to do well and I am harvesting fruit and vegetables every day in small amounts:

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This week I have taken up my onions and I have had a great crop….I am very pleased with them:

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My outdoor and indoor cucumbers are doing well too and we are picking them daily:

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My beetroot, kohl rabis and cabbages are just about ready to pick:

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And so too is my one and only butternut squash that I grew in a pot this year:

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And I am picking raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes and runner beans almost daily:

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The flowers are doing well around the garden as well, which is great for beneficial insects that pollinate the crops…… it also looks very pretty and I’m hoping to spend more time enjoying it all:

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And Finally…..Judy:

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Lots of you ask about Judy our rescue dog.  In October 2014 we brought her home from the RSPCA – we were fourth owners and she had a hugh amount of problems that became apparent two or three weeks later.  The poor dog was scared of everything, but unfortunately it all came out as barking and lunging.

She reacted to traffic, men, bikes, birds, prams, the TV, men in hats, walking sticks, litter pickers, any little noise in the house etc. etc. but the worst thing of all was her reaction to other dogs….which caused many dog owners to shout and yell at me when their dogs approached Judy (even though she was on a lead and muzzled).

The two photos below were taken on her first week home with us in Oct 2014:

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As you know we tried everything, kalm aid in her food, pheromone deffusers and collars and even doggie ‘prozac’ from the vets and nothing worked….until we found Steven Havers.

Steven trained me to deal with all of Judy’s insecurities and we will forever be in his debt as Judy has now turned into a wonderful dog, who we all love very much.

She hasn’t worn a muzzle for over a year now and over the last few months Judy has made lots of doggie friends and calmly socilises with them, sometimes in groups of ten or more dogs at a time.  She is now off-lead on the field in the park and nearly always comes back to me when I recall her……I am so proud of her and other dog walkers comment on how well she is doing nearly every day.

I am so glad we perservered and didn’t give up on her.

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Judy now

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Well that really is it for the moment.

In the meantime I want to say a big thank you for your continued support over the last four years and I really hope you understand my reasons for taking a break.

Thank you for reading my blog today…….I hope to be back in a few months time.

Look after yourselves and enjoy the rest of the summer.

XXX

Tomato Blight & A Cake Sale

My small garden is continuing to produce crops.

This week I have been picking cucumbers (both indoor and outdoor ones), raspberries, runner beans courgettes, patty pans and I dug up the rest of my early potatoes (marfona) and a few of my main crop potatoes (desiree):

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I also picked my first kohl rabi of the season – which my daughters love to eat raw, dipped in salad cream, hopefully there will be more soon:

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I have also continued to pick tomatoes from my greenhouse and chery tomatoes from my outdoor hanging baskets:

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However, I spotted the dreaded ‘blight’ on my outdoor tomatoes.  I grow a variety called ‘outdoor girl’ which usually give me a good crop each year before blight strikes, however this year they didn’t grow as quickly as usual due to a colder start in late Spring and so all the tomatoes were still green.

Tomato blight:

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“Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and apparently it is usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes – tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have a bit of protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly”

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For some strange reason, the tomatoes next to my shed and my cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets haven’t yet succumbed to the dreaded blight, though I am checking them daily, together with my greenhouse tomatoes:

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However the cherry tomatoes that are growing in pots, began to show blight symptoms a couple of days after blight was first spotted in my garden:

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What to do if you spot blight on your plants:

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“If you catch blight early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you have caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomato plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit (the tomatoes) as the spores survive in the seeds inside”

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My tomatoes are now on trays waiting to ripen….I always pick them off the plants when I first spot blight and this way I manage to save approx 75% of the tomatoes…provided blight is spotted early enough:

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I’ve been busy in the garden this week, summer pruning and cutting back overgrown plants.

I started with the pyracantha that was trying to escape over the fence into next doors garden.  The trunk was quite thick at the top so I had to ‘saw’ the top off.  Unfortunately I did lose most of the berries that would have ripened in autumn, but it needed to be done before it upset the neighbours:

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I then removed the sweet peas that were growing in a pot…they have given a wonderful display, but they sadly succumbed to mildew and were hardly producing any more flowers:

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 I also removed the sweet peas that were growing over the arch I made, again they gave a wonderful display but they also succumbed to mildew and had stopped producing flowers.

At the end of May I had also planted two pumpkin plants (that produce small pumpkins) alongside the sweet peas……these are growing nicely now and I made sure they tied onto the arch for support:

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I also gave my bay tree a summer prune and it smelt lovely as I was cutting the leaves.  It looks much neater now:

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One final job this week was to remove the lettuces that I tried to grow in guttering.  Unfortunately they didn’t do very well at all.  When I first planted them it was very wet and as they were so close to the fence…. I thought that they would stay really dry, however this was not the case and they were too wet and I suspect the roots began to rot.  This was followed by really hot weather and  the compost was really really dry even though I watered them every day.

So I removed the compost and drilled drainage holes along the guttering so the new compost wouldn’t become water logged in bad weather:

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I then thought about how I could keep the compost from drying out too much and came to the conclusion I should use water retaining granules…but I didn’t have any.  Then I remembered that in a gardening program once, Christine Walkden said she used old sponges that she cut up…..so this is what I did:

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I then mixed the sponge with compost and put it in the guttering……

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…..and then I sowed some more lettuce seed.

Unfortunately the local squirrel came along then and buried some monkey nuts in a couple of places, so I had to put some wire over the guttering too:

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I will let you know if this now works.

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This week in the home:

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This week has been a baking week.  My youngest daughter did a cake sale with her ‘NCS’ friends to raise money for ‘Wishes 4 kids’ and my eldest daughter and I helped by making some little cakes for her.  I also made a chcolate cake to raffle off and altogether they raised £120, which is incredible.

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However an hour after starting the sale they were beginning to run out of cakes and I quickly made some more.  I made 28 chocolate chip fairy cakes, 12 double chocolate muffins and a massive tray of cereal cakes and I defrosted some cheesy courgette scones from my freezer (which defrost quickly).  I somehow managed to deliver them all in the car within 65 minutes…..I didn’t know I could bake that quickly, but it helped that I knew the recipes off by heart.  Unfortunately when I got back home the kitchen was in a right mess with pots and bowls everywhere, but at least they raised some more money at the cake sale.

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This week I have also been doing my usual baking…

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And I also made some cheesy courgette scones which I froze for another time (though most of them went to the cake sale in the end):

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I also made some laundry liquid as I had run out (I still love making this as it is so cheap and I really can’t understand why I brought expensive powders for so long when laundry liquid is so cheap and easy to make):

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And finally I made some homemade burgers to freeze for another time and some to have for tea.  Homemade burgers are delicious as they actually taste of beef (I never think shop brought ones do).

They are so easy to make……I mix good quality lean mince beef with a couple of grated onions and a chopped garlic clove and I then mix in an egg to bind it altogether.

You can mix in any herbs and spices too if you want….a teaspoon of chilli powder makes them taste delicious too.

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I then take a handful and roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a burger shape (make sure your burgers aren’t too thick or they won’t cook evenly).  At this stage you can freeze the burgers between pieces of greaseproof paper for another time, or you can fry them until they are cooked.

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I served ours inside homemade rolls with salad, mayonaise and a slice of cheese.  I also added a side portion of sweet potato wedges and they were a real treat!

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Thank you for reading my blog today, I will be back next week as usual.

Have a great week.

XXX

A Summer Harvest & A Cheap Makeover

It’s nice to be back blogging after two weeks of decorating.  Unfortunately I started painting on the hottest week of the summer and I have got to say I struggled with the heat.   I wasn’t the only one to struggle with the heat, poor Judy didn’t know what to do with herself and most of the time she sat in front of a fan we constantly had on:

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Though we have had some cloudy days since, the ground was still dry and the rain we had on Tuesday this week was very welcome….though not enough to fill my water butts.

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In my garden over the last two weeks:

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I finished picking the last broad beans in my garden and the last peas and mangetout (though I let the mangetout grow a little bit too big, but I won’t waste them)…..

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….And I froze most of them to use another time:

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I chopped the old broad beans down to ground level, leaving the roots in the ground to rot down.  The nodules on the roots will provide the ground with extra nitrogen as they rot, which will benefit future crops:

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I then added some blood, fish and bone and gave the area a really, really good water and then added some home made compost to the area:

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Incidentally, I now make the compost in galvanised dustbins as I am very conscious that the compost I used to make at the allotment always seemed to attract rats (even though I was very very careful what I put onto the heap).  The galvanised dustbins don’t have any holes in the base and yet they still make wonderful compost as you can see below:

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I then sowed some more french bean seeds as I use a lot of these during the year and they are great to freeze.  I decided to put the seeds under bottles in the hope that they germinate pretty quickly as I am really a bit late sowing them – however, if we have a good Autumn with late frosts then I should get a good harvest.  The bottles will also give them some slug protection too.

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The french beans I sowed earlier in the year are giving me a harvest now and I am picking them often:

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And my runner bean harvest is just beginning:

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 I absolutely love this time of year when the flowers I have grown from seed are all in bloom….

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…..and my vegetable plants that I have also grown from seed are producing lovely fruits and vegetables daily e.g. my greenhouse cucumbers, greenhouse tomatoes, oudoor cherry tomatoes, courgettes and patty pans:

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I have also picked a few raspberries this week too:

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And the chives that I cut back after they flowered have once again grown and we are now picking them yet again for salads, together with nasturtium leaves and the pretty petals on the calendula flowers:

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“When I am in the garden amongst the fruit and vegetables that I am growing, I feel very privaledged to share this area with the wildlife that visit our small backgarden. 

Each day there is something new for me to see and I still feel excited when I spot something that will soon be ready to harvest……Nothing else gives me as much satifaction than growing and cooking with home grown produce”

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….This week I noticed that my blueberries are nearly ready and I also spotted some outdoor cucumbers growing:

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Extra jobs this week in the garden:

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I have continued dead heading every few days around the garden so the plants produce more flowers.

I have also removed some of the lower leaves on my tomato plants this week, so the tomatoes can now ripen better in the sun:

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And I also ‘summer’ pruned my apple and pear cordons. My trees are quite young so I’m not expecting any fruit for a while:

  Summer pruning of apple and pear cordons / fans and espallier trees,  restricts growth, whilst winter pruning encourages growth”

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A problem with my Busy Lizzies…

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I’m not sure if you remember, at the beginning of June I planted some Busy Lizzies around my bay tree.  To begin with they flowered well but the last few weeks I have noticed the leaves all began to fall off  the plants:

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After doing some research it seems they have suffered with an airbourne fungus that you can read about here.  So I destroyed all the plants and nipped to my local nursery and found they were selling off trays of twenty four bedding begonias for just £3….a fantastic bargain!

So I planted these around my bay tree and even had spares to dot around the garden too…..so I was very pleased:

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Over the last two weeks at home:

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About a month ago at a car boot sale I spotted some curtains with nice material to use around the house, so I brought them for £2.  It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered they were Marks and Spencer, fully lined and ‘weighted’ curtains (dated 1995) with a pelmet included and they were in excellent condition…. they weren’t even faded……they must have been really expensive when they were first purchased!

I quickly measured the curtains and found they would fit perfectly in our bedroom around our bay.  The curtains we already had were very cheap and they had been in the bedroom for fifteen years already and didn’t really fit properly.

So this is when we decided the bedroom needed a new lick of paint…..which I did on the hottest week of the year so far this summer!

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I attached a new curtain rail in front of the exisiting rail to hang the pelment up too.  But I then found the pelmet was too long so I set about altering it:

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With the bits of spare material, I made a matching pair of tiebacks…..and I am really proud of how it all looked in the end (it may not be everybodies cup of tea, but we like them):

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Our furniture in the bedroom is really old and nothing matches, but we will have to wait and save up for new furniture another day.  However we decided to make the best of what we do have:

I store al ot in our bedroom e.g. birthday and christmas presents, toilet rolls, photo,s etc. and so up until now we have used ugly plastic boxes and our daughters old toy box…..so I set to work to glam them up:

First I painted the toy box white and used an old wall paper off -cut to paste around the sides:

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And then I again used wall paper off-cuts to line the inside of the plastic boxes so the contents can’t be seen:

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And I was really pleased with the results.

The bedroom isn’t quite complete, but I’ll tell you about it next week.

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Finally (while my paints were still out),  I painted an old bedside table to finish off my daughter’s bedroom that I decorated last October.  I sanded it down and gave it three coats of paint and painted the ‘knobs’ black (using a tester pot) to match the furniture we brought for her last year for birthday/christmas.

Mr Thrift laughed at me as I used potatoes to paint the knobs so they were easy to handle and could dry without touching anything:

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I was very pleased with the result (the photo on the right is the chest of draws we brought last year and the photo on the left is the newly painted bedside cabinet):

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I must say, her bedroom looks like a showhouse bedroom now and I can’t quite believe I managed to do it so cheaply by decorating it myself, making the curtains and cushions and now by ‘up-cycling’ the bedside cabinet!….I’m very pleased and she loves it:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

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