On Friday morning my daughter came to visit. It's been several weeks since we had a chance to just hang out together, doing nothing in particular, but sharing our time and chatting all things family related.
She was enchanted by the five littlest ducklings, although not as much as I am besotted with my grandson number two, who at ten months old has developed a lovely personality and is now getting speedily mobile.
She went home with a food box filled with vegetables from the garden, chutney and sauces that I've been making and an organic butternut squash that came from a local shop. She hadn't cooked a whole butternut squash before so I gave her a recipe suggestion and a few hours later she sent me photo of the roasted squash filled with goat's cheese and pumpkins seeds, which she said was delicious.
In the afternoon I continued to plant out the perennials and shrubs given to us by Jane and to transplant young plants that I have raised from seed. I started to think about which plants to take cuttings from so that they have time to form root systems before winter stops their growth. It's such an easy way to propagate plants and every year I forget to spend the short amount of time it takes to take the cuttings. This year I will get around to doing it before it's too late.
Saturday morning was spent in the kitchen, my neighbours have kindly invited me to collect as many windfall apples as I'd like and I've taken them up on the offer and have been collecting a bucketful a day. So, I made apple sauce (to accompany pork) and froze apples to make crumbles from in the depths of winter. The kitchen smelled delicious.
I have had some poor nights of sleep this week and have become very tired, so Saturday evening by the time we had got the birds safely tucked away in their houses, I was ready to sit quietly for an hour before I went to bed.
On Sunday we were up and about bright and early and after doing the morning chores, I baked a lemon and poppy seed cake. We were going out for the day and I was very excited to be heading off to Carmarthenshire. Ten minutes before we were due to leave the Dirty Dozen made a bid for freedom and more than half of them escaped from their run. Mr J phoned me from the chicken field to request my help in rounding them up. Over excited chicks who are hell-bent on being outside their run are not the easiest to herd back into their confines, but with a bit of extra coaxing and a lot of bribery with armfuls of green leaves from the vegetable garden, we got them safely back into their run.
We hadn't got very far in the car before I fell asleep (which is why I am not driving at the moment - falling asleep at the wheel really wouldn't be too clever) and I woke up just as got the to sign that read 'Welcome to Carmarthenshire'.
We were headed to the smallholding of Annette and her partner. I 'met' Annette via Twitter and a few weeks ago she invited us (and several other smallholders who tweet) to visit their home for a barbecue. And what a lovely smallholding they have! 32 acres of Welsh hillside and a pretty house nestled into it with beautiful views across the valley.
The barbecues were lit and heated up while we all took a tour of the smallholding. Their flock of sheep in one field were lovely as was the dog Edwin who was very well behaved. They have eight chickens and a number of ducks free-ranging around the back garden.
We ate a feast of food (everyone brought something to share) including burgers, lamb chops, roast pork, rabbit, vegetable kebabs, salads followed by cake, brownies, Eton mess and New York cheesecake. It occurred to me that any gathering of smallholders was bound to have fabulous food and Mr J ate so well at lunchtime that he only had a few biscuits with cheese for supper.
Mid-afternoon we said goodbye to the new friends we'd made with promises of having another get together before too long. I was more than happy to offer to host the next one here on our small patch.
After a much wanted cup of tea, I headed out into the garden and pottered for a while, planting some herbs and moving some more of the huge pile of wood chippings from the front garden into the area that will be the food forest.
Once the birds were all in bed, we curled up on the sofa and switched off our brains for a while by watching television.
It has been a lovely weekend and I'm looking forward to getting to know the other smallholders better as time goes on. Today we are starting to make an improved run arrangement for the Dirty Dozen, but before we begin it must be time for a cuppa.
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