Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Saucepan Boiled Fruit Cake

This recipe used to be a family favourite when the kids were all young. It’s a soft, moist fruit cake that can easily be adapted to become a celebration cake with the addition of treacle, alcohol, cherries etc. Another plus is that it does keep well if wrapped in foil or cling film.  I have the inclination to give it a go again.

Ingredients:

  • 12oz of dried fruit
  • 4oz margarine or butter
  • 1/4 pint of water
  • 4oz caster, granulated or brown sugar
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp mixed spice if you like it

Method:

Add the water, sugar, fruit and fat to a saucepan and bring to the boil stirring to keep from sticking. As soon as the mixture reaches boiling point turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. At this point the mixture will be evenly mixed and the fruit plump and juicy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Stir occasionally to stop skin forming on top or cover with cling film or greaseproof paper. When cool gradually add the beaten eggs, flour and baking powder, folding in and making sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour and a half. It does help to line the cake tin with greaseproof paper or as I do, wipe the tin round with margarine and shake flour so that the inside is coated evenly. At this point you could sprinkle with granulated sugar, decorate with almond slices or put a few candied peel slices on top. This cake also takes well to decorating with icing. All in all, a good all round stand by. My sort of cake.

Stardust


The subject of Adam’s ashes has reared it’s head again and I am no nearer to deciding what to do about it. Up until today the blue box containing all that remains of my beautiful boy has been sitting in the living room underneath his photograph. However, I am aware that I am not the only person with an interest in what becomes of them. He has three children and their two respective mothers, two brothers and a father, all of whom have genuine rights when it comes to making a decision about this difficult problem. I am his mother, This was his home, Where he is now is virtually the same place where he was set down when I brought him home from the maternity ward in a little blue carry cot. I don’t think I am ready to let him go yet. I still haven’t come to terms with the way he died  and I think that that is the crux of the problem.

Stardust

Fourteen billion years ago the whole thing was begun.
Time itself came into being, the clock began to run.
And in the crucible of space, all there is, was born.
The building blocks of all we know from some galactic storm.
Collapsing stars formed elements, the elements combined
To form the substance of it all, the earth, the trees, mankind!
So look into the midnight sky, creation on parade. . .
For what you see in starlight is the stuff from which we’re made.
For we are in the universe, The universe in us.
The two are indivisible. A thing most beauteous.
So hear the song of nature. The song that all things sing.
For we are truly stardust, everyone and everything.

By John Marsh © May 2015

 

My Family And Other Animals

“Like a gentle, enthusiastic and understanding Noah, she has steered her vessel full of strange progeny through the stormy seas of life with great skill, always faced with the possibility of mutiny, always surrounded by the dangerous shoals of overdraft and extravagance, never being sure that her navigation would be approved by the crew, but certain that she would be blamed for anything that went wrong. That she survived the voyage is a miracle, but survive it she did, and, moreover, with her reason more or less intact. As my brother rightly points out, we can be proud of the way we have brought her up; she is a credit to us.”

A quote from My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

Kind words written by a son about his mother. I would like to think that my children could think of me in this way. It does seem to illustrate the rewarding journey that I have travelled to date with my wonderfully unique children. Never a dull moment during the ups and downs, adventures, heartaches and proud moments that have been my life up to now. Also, just like the Durrells, we have had a menagerie of various animals along the way. I was introduced to these stories when I was studying English Literature for GCE but feel I have appreciated them more since growing up and having my own family.

I hope that I have been able to be what I always dreamed of being when I was a girl. A good mother. Even when I was quite young I wanted children. I used to gather the children from our small post war street of prefabs and ‘mother’ them. I led small rag tag groups, which included my own little sister, five years younger than me, on various adventures amazingly surviving canals, disused coal mines, railway lines and bridges and water filled marlholes all of which were the norm around where we lived. We were happy with a milk bottle of water and jam sandwiches prepared by me which we would have half way through our adventure usually sat in a grass lined dip over the bank when I would teach them about wild flowers and other such gems. When I was twelve I was presented with a little brother and was able to practice with a real baby. I can remember running home from senior school to be with him.  I was twenty three, however, before I had the first of my own three lovely boys and that was the start of my life as a Mother. My raison d’etre.

 

Eglu – 13 years on.

The Eglu was the start of a big adventure for me as I ended up with fifty chickens, all bantams, and fifteen ducks, calls and runners. This adventure came to a crashing halt when my son was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. I don’t regret a single minute spent caring for Adam and In fact feel very privileged to have spent that time with him and honoured to have been able to help him through, what was for him, a horrendous time. My new chicken venture is to help me through my grief after losing him in February 2016. Life will never be the same for us without him. However, he left me with three wonderful grandchildren, and they are a lasting legacy for which I am truly grateful. They love the chickens and the Eglu is really safe for them to use.

Today I received a refurbishment kit for the Eglu from Omlet. My Eglu was number seventeen off the production line when Omlet, the company, was born. It was delivered by their own chicken bedecked van and assembled in the garden in August 2004. It came with three large fowl, Araucana, which are blue egg layers. The students who designed and produced the chicken house have come a long way since then. I have bought plastic replacements for the originally wooden perching bars, a new green shade and an all weather transparent full cover for the bad weather to come. Other than that, thirteen years later, it is as good as new.

Well, I am a little disappointed as the replacement perches didn’t fit. They looked lovely too. Strong and easy to clean but just not the right size. However the Eglu is back together and looking safe and warm with the two new covers. The five new chickens look happy. They are all small breeds so have plenty of room and I feel confident that they will be warm and dry this winter.

Night Scented Stock – Matthiola longipetala

I love these wild looking flowers and they bring back good memories for me because my Mom always used to sprinkle a packet of Night Scented Stock along the strip of garden under my bedroom window in the prefab when I was growing up. The prefabs had really large windows with two side opening ones and of course being a prefab the window was very close to the ground. No upstairs for us. When they were in flower the scent rising up when you opened the window was amazing and I can still recall it now. I can’t wait to go into the garden on a warm summer night and breathe in that perfume and remember, 30th March, a little early, I know, but I have sprinkled a bit of this seed here and there in sheltered spots around the garden.

Sow directly where they are to flower. Position plants around seating areas and along paths in the garden so their scent can be enjoyed in the evenings.  A sunny situation should be chosen making sure that drainage is good. Wait until the weather warms a little before sowing. Sow thinly, Water the soil regularly, especially in dry periods. Light spring frosts will not harm the plants.

Polygonum Baldschuanicum – Russian Vine

Yesterday Sean an Deb brought along a mile-a-minute vine that they had picked up for a pound. It had been reduced from £6.99 but there are a few green shoots showing so maybe it will turn out to be a bargain. I have planted it in the side garden where the two big trees used to be but shall keep a close eye on it  as it can be as naughty as Ivy in it’s destructive habits. I plan to cut it back severely each Spring. Update – Well it definitely turned out to be a bargain. It has grown into a beautiful healthy plant and at present, November, it is covered in delicate white flowers and has draped itself along the side fence for every passer by to enjoy. My big plan is to take some cuttings and start some new plants next year. I didn’t realise before what an attractive plant it is.

Russian Vine is grown for its flower-laced vines and as it is a fast growing plant it is grown as cover for unsightly fences and other garden structures. However, it has the capacity to become invasive by spreading beyond its intended limits. The white flowers are decorative and provide nectar and pollen for bees. wiki

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam – 20th February 2017

I find it hard to accept that a whole year has passed since I lost Adam. I miss him more than ever. He should still be here with his family. I know that if he could he would be telling us all to enjoy life. He used to say “Life is great” but it will never be the same for us without him. This weekend has been very difficult.  Adam died on Saturday 20th February 2016 and I’m sure that in spite of how difficult life was for him at that time he would still have chosen to live. Love you and miss you my lovely boy.