Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Tag Archive: family

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.

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.

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.

Viola Sororia Freckles

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Quite unlike any other variety, Viola Sororia Freckles bears violet, speckled flowers from spring through to summer. The blooms are carried above neat clumps of heart shaped foliage. This Violet will self-seed freely. Perfect for growing in containers or rockeries.

These tough little plants will seed themselves anywhere. They’re  strong like Adam was strong and they will be growing all over the garden along with lots of other Violas next year and every year in memory of my brave boy.

 

Christmas Rose – Helleborus Niger

On Thursday this week I shall be going to the local Lidl store to buy some of these beautiful plants. At six for £7.99 I shall be a happy lady. I have kept back some tête-à-tête so I shall pot them up together. This will be another reminder of Adam as this combination of plants grew along under his bedroom window at the house on the hill. When they were at their best I would take him a photo and the twins would often just pick them as toddlers do and take them in to him. I asked for White Hellebore to be included in Adams funeral flowers and they looked lovely.

Christmas roses have a deep growing root system so the roots should be planted downward rather than spread out below the soil surface and the crown of the plant should be an inch below the soil surface. Apply a layer of mulch around the plant. Every spring remove old, tattered foliage and feed the plants with a balanced water soluble fertiliser. Commonly known as hellebores the Eurasian genus Helleborus consists of approximately 20 species of herbaceous or evergreen perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae. The scientific name Helleborus derives from the Greek.

Update November 2017 – These plants, Helleborus Niger, have paid me back over and over since I bought them as they flowered from November to May. They retain their interest throughout the year. Now its November again and once again their snow white flowers are peeping through to brighten up the Winter days. They are tough little plants with delicate flowers. I have two large containers full of them and one plant in the side garden. I love them and may invest in some coloured varieties this year. As we are expecting some very cold weather I have mulched around them with some compost and sprinkled in a little growmore.

Black Eyed Susan – Rudbeckia

Another welcome gift from my daughter-in-law Deb. Three large healthy roots of this lovely hardy perennial. Deb is a gardener with her own successful company www.daisy-chain-gardens.co.uk. Thank you Deb.

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Charming, daisy-like flowers with prominent, cone-shaped, blackish-brown centres appear in abundance from August to October. This beautiful ‘black-eyed Susan’ is an excellent choice for the middle of a late summer border and it associates particularly well with ornamental grasses. It is a particularly free-flowering variety, that is best planted in bold drifts in a sunny or partially shady site that doesn’t dry out over summer. Information and picture from crocus.com.

Ready for Season 2011 – Sean 40 Today

We have started to think about the new season. I know it is too early yet to sow seeds and I am determined to be patient. First thing on the agenda is to get the seed potatoes and start them chitting in egg boxes on the window ledge. I am sticking to earlies only again this year and planting them all in bags. My favourites from last season were Vivaldi, grown from potatoes bought from Sainsburys and Sharps Express, bought as seed potatoes from Focus. I am just growing those again this season. The second task is to get the parsnip seeds in in February if we have a fine dry day.

I intend to have another go at onions from seed as I have good seed left. Last years were not too good and got neck rot and went soggy before we could harvest them. I am not sure what I did wrong but will have another go.  I have Onion Ishikura, Ailsa Craig and a Sweet Spanish Onion. My instructions say sow very thinly in February under cloches or March to April out in the open. Ishikuri are salad onions and are meant to be harvested as spring onions, when they are about six inches high and pencil thick.  Ailsa Craig and the Spanish Onion are mild cooking onions which stay in the ground longer and are harvested when they have formed a large bulb. I have just read that the Ailsa Craig are known as Winter Onions and so should have been sown in the winter ready to grow on and harvest the following Autumn.Because of Christmas, very bad weather and flu I haven’t been to the allotments for a few weeks so I am looking forward to my first visit of the year. I am sure there will be lots of tidying up to do but hopefully a few nice surprises too.

Happy Birthday Sean. 40 today!!!!!!!!!