28th. January - 10th. February 2004
A couple of weeks with mixed fortunes. On Sunday I was stirred by commotion in the neighbours front garden. A young lad was struggling on the ground trying to get his Staffordshire dog away from one of my Black Rock chickens which he had literally savaged to death.
I rushed out and this scared the dog off the hen. The young lad, about 12 years old, was really shaken by the whole thing. It turned out that the dog was off the lead, ran up the side of our garden, got through the fence and snatched the hen; then ran into the front with it.
I thought the best thing was a lecture to the young man about keeping his dog on a lead and under control where there are houses and left it at that. I just hope he does learn from the experience. He offred to pay for the chicken, but I wouldn't do that.
This is the problem of being 'semi-rural'. We are in the fields so to speak but within walking distance of houses and on a footpath. Alas.
After my last entry, I found that the Landlord of the Golden Ball up the end of our Lane, slipped on the ice. He fell on his head and is in a critical condition at a London Hospital.
So, not much fun down the Lane in those two respects.
As it happens, Sunday was going to be the last day of letting the chickens out for a while and yesterday was 'big tidy up day' in readiness for Spring. Next weekend I shall sow the broad beans and make a bit more space for extra potatoes this year.
One problem is that I eat at the Cricket Club for about 70 days of Spring, summer and autumn ! But I can hack that !!! I grow amply sufficient for the freezer to be full for winter and chutney's etc. to be made.
I read that growing 'Summer Savoury' amongst the Beans is good for keeping blackfly away, so I'll try that. It is also good for cooking with the beans and a nice ingrediant of sausages I understand.
The stinging nettles are showing signs of leaping upwards. But I leave most of them. It shows the soil has good nitrogen and they're useful for fertiliser, insect repellant and other frugal goodies.
I finally had one letter too many from the Tax Office and yesterday went to see them. I took everything with me - no fiddles etc., and we sat for one hour sorting it out. It would appear that from them saying I owe them a four figure amount - they owe me !! So it shows that questioning and challenging does do some good. It's not a case of 'too many indians', as they all seem to be in different places.
I've made some good sales on eBay over the last two weeks. Some items have been my own, but others brought from the Boot Fairs over the past 3 Sundays.
I went to the Auction yesterday and made the bold decision of bidding up to £50 on 6 Cornishware storage jars - they went for £128 ! I missed out also on a Peugot 'pukka' Mountain Bike which went for £12..
I did however see a nice Old Price Kensington Egg Pot at a Charity Shop yesterday for £2.50. I'm popping down to buy it today, but that's for me !! Hope it's still there.
I found an old cycle mileomiter in the shed and attached it to my bike exactly one week ago today - I've done 48 miles ! I know it's accurate because I once measured the distance to town. I haven't done any extra trips, so since last October I reckon I've achieved (positive word !) 800 miles. So; Road Tax saving of £40, Insurance saving of £100 plus petrol (I would say treble that mileage because of 3 trips to Southamnpton by 'free' train) etc., I would guess at a figure of £350 saved thus far.
I don't know if I can afford the car back on the road til April now, so I may have to train / bike it to Canterbury for Cricket Pre-Season training in March - sobeit, no worries.
At least last weeks storm force winds have brought down a few more healthy fire wood branches and I've been busy picking these up from wherever I go. I managed (I measured it) a piece 16' long on my bicycle last week !! I didn't cycle on the road, I can assure you ! Just half a mile from up the Lane.
Besides conquering the World Rally Championship on the PC, my other big quest for the rest of February will be to 're-arrange' the two sheds outside the back door. This will mean precision engineering with a Sledge Hammer, Pick Axe and 16 cups of Coffee.
I've an eye for a wood turning Lathe on eBay at present and hope to further the scope on making Dowsing Pendulums. I've seen some quite attractive ones on the Internet of 2nd. mortgae proportions and reckon I could do better by half.
All that and the cricket season as well. I'm determined to have a bit more put aside for the winter this year. The present one has been a struggle !
14th - 28th January 2004
Well, if I had a brass monkey, it would have it thermals on today ! The snow has settles overnight and with a 20 mph wind, it's horrible.
The chickens don't like it much and for the first time, only about half of them were waiting for me at the gate this morning. As I write at 9.30am, they've all transferred to the Greenhouse and are basking in the warmth.
It's Gingers first sighting of snow and after sitting on the window sill for half an hour looking at it, he finally took the plunge. I reckon he is now in good stead for the fastest early morning cat pee on record !!
After much thought, I've changed my savings plan. I've taken all the 1p's, 2p's. 5p's and 10p's out of the jar and have moved it into a new Chicken Money Box. The theory is that this should bring more interest. That's in so far as the chicken is more interesting to look at than the jar was. There must be £7 in there now, maybe an idea to step up security around the property.
But, saying that, by August, this will hopefully pay for the petrol to the Lake District and back.
One thing which is nice during this weather is the opening of the home made jams, pickles, chutneys etc. It seems that every jar opened has a memory of summer and autumn. Someone gave us a pheasant this week and last night we sat down and ate it with various vegetables stored in the freezer and followed up with blackberry and apple crumble - an almost free meal and what a meal !
One thing I really must look into this year is non-freezer storing. It seems such a shame to have a freezer out in the shed using electricity 24/7 through most of the year. I feel an hours reading of John Seymours book of self sufficiency coming on.
Hopefully the cold snap will be short lived, the Rayburn fuel is getting low and I'm determined to get through winter on only 12 bags. I just use the 'coal' as a base, the rest of the fire is made up with wood from surrounding areas.
The old roof batons I obtained will certainly get me through winter, plus some of next as well. Good news last week was I had to clear the woodland of the Mill House ! It was a case of getting wood for my fires and getting paid for it. I like that kind of work !!
In fact, last week was a pretty good week work wise and some items was selling on ebay came to an end fetching more than I had hoped for. The Bank Clerk nearly passed out as I paid in cheques totalling a three figure amount (although cash would have been better !)..
I had one mad moment when I had accrued sufficient for an MOT and Road Tax. It was pretty tempting to pop down the Post Office and step back into that warm car. But I held fast. I must be cycling 50 miles a week and am very proud - many people thought I wouldn't get through this and make a 'tail down' and return to the car.
The only time I have missed it is when I could have moved something large. Certainly, one of my first jobs when I've the car back is to make a trip to the skip with various bits of bent bicycle etc.
It seems a lot of people are giving up on this country and moving to France either for retirement or starting up a smallholding. I think this is a great pity, but understanding when you see the price of rural properties now. Gone are the days of a cheap 5 acres in South Wales.
I fear we are losing much of our rural identity. Many people moving into these properties are well incomed commuters, but we must accept that every one has their own personal dream
If you are interested in France, pay a visit to the forum on aountrylife.com. It's a very active forum and much discussion on France and other countries.
Mind you, there are still bargains in remote Scotland if you fancy it.
I received an interesting email from a TV Production company asking if I knew any "very frugal people" who may be interested in appearing in 'Wife Swap'. So, there's a chance for fame and fortune for you !! If you're interested, send me an email and I'll pass the info on.
Only 7 weeks before I start again at cricket. Last year we had splendid March weather for pre-season training. It would be nice if it's the same this year, but I doubt this country can support two good Spring and Summers in a row. Either way, it'll be great to be back there again even though most of the cricketers will be over tanned from a winter in Oz, South Africa or simply somewhere else which was hot.
1st - 14th.January 2004
Yesterday was the 13th !! I had two main tasks for yesterday, one to do a mystery shop and second to visit Leo.
After cleaning chicken mess off my bike saddle I started off. There was a flood on a path next to Asda because the stream had overflowed with all the rain. There was a bollard sticking up and I thought this was in the middle of the cycle path / footpath, so I went right of it - I cycled with some artistic merit straight into the stream. Although soaked to above the knees I continued and, because wet, brought my Big Mac from the Drive-Thru, this caused a laugh ! I went round to the back of Ashford Market to eat it. My hat blew off and landed dead centre of a puddle made up of Cow dung !
Bending over to pick it up, the coffee spilt in my backpack ! I sat down and took my socks off and a chap, who obviously thought I was down on my luck, offered me a cigarette !
In the afternoon I had to ride Leo's bike back to his house. It had a puncture ! I changed the inner tube with a spare off mine, but this went down as well. I realised I hadn't checked why there was a puncture and there was a nail sticking through the tyre.
The strange thing is I laughed the whole way through it all, 'what have I come to' kept going through my mind. But life is life, we're where we are because of what we've done etc.,etc.
Work is thin on the ground at present but I have been able to offset some of this by selling a number of items on eBay. It would have been nice if these had been a bonus, but such is life and you accept that everything is a bonus. The sales of items left over from my recent PC purchase have at least paid for that.
In the garden I've managed to get out and dug some extra space for this year. I plan to grow more potato's than last year. They were a great success and tasted amazing but we only ate them for about 5 weeks. I shall try some sort of continuation system to avoid storing and have ample supply from May / June onwards.
The spouts were doing well, until the cunning chickens found they could get under the fence I put round. In only one day, more than half had gone ! It's strange because if I throw a sprout plant in their pen, or the leaves, they don't touch it.
Speaking of chickens, STILL no eggs ! I've cleaned the shed countless times, made it more cosy, bunged up a few holes etc. Seems they just need one to lay and the rest will follow suit.
With the exception of one, they are all looking very healthy, fully feathered and you'd have no idea they are the same chickens who came in virtually featherless last year.
Last weekend we had a family gathering at my sister Sarah's house in London which was good. Not everyone turned up, but it was good to see one and all, especially the kids. Not seeing them a lot, you notice them getting older more. In the boys rooms, gone are the pictures of cars on the wall, suitably replaced with pictures of 'ladies who are obviously feeling the heat and have had to de-robe themselves'. I guess it's all good healthy stuff and part of growing up. In a few years time they'll be parents with a mortgage and umpteen other overheads to contend with.
Apparently Sarah's boss often looks in at the site. So I'd just like to publicly thank him for the 12 biro's, 2 reams of A4 paper, 4 rolls of sellotape and a hole puncher (just joking !!).
Over the other side of the Lane work continues on renovating the Mill Cottage. Last year I got an email from a chap who's Mother used to live there. It's quite fascinating how you learn of these thing's. He also has a web site and taken to 'the country life'. The address is
What is worrying is the fact I haven't received any nasty letters from the Bank recently. This poses a few theories - 1). They've lost my address, 2). My account isn't registering on their PC's, 3). They think I'm dead and 4). They are really caring understanding people who just want to let me get on with it and spend all of their money for them.
It's very disconcerting this !
One useful present I got for Christmas was a Metal Detector. I don't see this as selling my soul to the devil with dowsing. I use dowsing nowadays mainly for food, planting and energy lines etc. It will be good to use the two in conjunction with each other. I can dowse to an area where they may be thing's and continue from there with the detector.
I'm quite looking forward to the weather being better as I'd like to hunt the field down the Lane which used to be an Army training camp during the two wars.
Maybe my fortune will come through this. Problem is, if it did - I wouldn't know how to handle it !
Please keep searching a link through the Ask Jeeves box below. I get 2p a hit for this and 200 hits is a bag of chicken food ! Thanks.
3rd - 17th. December 2003
Cold frosty nights and early mornings with windless sunny days. This has been the order for the past week. The garden appears to be loving it; under the carpets on the vegetable patch, the worms and creepy crawlies are on overtime and the sprouts are getting their flavour with the frosts.
Very pleasant indeed, even cyclings good, if you keep your ears and feet warm. I've come home from town a couple of times this week absolutely boiling.
Last week I went to the Kent Cricket Staff Meal at the Shepherd Neame Brewery. It was great seeing all the faces again albeit strange on a cold damp day. All these good friends of mine are usually seen in the heat of summer with tans !
Martin Saggers was there, fresh from his England Tour of Bangladesh - so good stories to listen to. Can't think of a better place to have Christmas Lunch ! Before we ate, we had a tour round the Brewery, but I think this put a few people off their food slightly. I can only describe the smell as somewhere between a strong Horlicks / Ovaltine and simmering hop. In fact, I understand that a few people pass out altogether when walking around - not helped by putting their heads into the top of a 50,000 gallon can to see what the smell of boiling hops is like !!
But, if there's a free meal at the end of it, I'll do anything !!
I've finally got all my old programmes re-installed on the new PC and it appears to be in good working order. Luckily I saved all my emails before the old one died and I have records of all those registration numbers you need for installation.
I did lose all my emails received for about a week early in the month though, so if I haven't replied to any send between about 26th.Nov - 5th.Dec - my apologies.
I can't believe I still haven't had one egg from the chickens. I look every day to no avail. Most have all their feathers back now, the shed is clean and fairly warm - so it's a mystery. I've never had such a long period without any. If there's anyone reading this who has some idea, or experiencing a similar problem, please let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As last year, there's a flurry of work pre-Christmas at the Mill House. This week it's cleaning all the downstairs windows inside and out. Sounds straightforward, but 18 windows, average of 16 panes in each one, times two....is 576 window panes ! Plus builders have been in yet again causing a lot of extra housework - it's all work !
Builders are also well into things at the Mill Cottage over the Lane. Authority has now been given to them to repair an exterior wall (Grade 11 listed Building) so that's started. They are also building a bridge accross the stream and a double garage down in the woods (I managed to persuade them to leave the Walnut Tree).
With all this work going on, it's like Oxford Street down here sometimes. Yesterday, there were 14 vehicles parked in the Lane. For only four houses, this was something else.
The constant noise of a Cement Mixer and other 'restoring' instruments are making it somewhat on the noisy side though. I shall be glad when it's all done, but hope it's not a Heavy Metal family moving in at the end of it !
I had the CT scan last week. Bit like being slid into a Tumble Drier a few times. At least it's done and I hope to get the results within the next week. Every time the phone goes though, I think it's them saying there's a Surgeon waiting, pack your pyjama's and get a taxi !!!
It'll be nice to get these migraines sorted out - too many and very depressing.
Many thanks to those who have ordered books and otheritems through my Amazon links. This is a great help, the
comission I get is a real bonus.Also to those who do an 'Ask Jeeves' search from the site.
No matter how small, every bit of 'extra' is greatlyappreciated - and needed !!
Sunday will be the shortest day of the year. After that it'sall coasting along to spring and summer.
Only 6 wks before I sow the Broad Beans.Soon goes - but mustn't rush time too much - we don't have a lot of it !!
18th.November - 3rd.December 2003
Don't worry, I'm still alive !!!! My PC finally came to a grinding halt the other day. I looked at the repair costs, looked at want I'd spent on it during the last year and decided a new one was the only 'sensible' thing. It's a lot more powerful, but does tend to make a bit of a racket. Tomorrow I shall cunningly devise a way of hiding it a bit.
There comes the occasional moment in this downshifting where you think 'what the hell have I done' ! (besides the obvious of money !). I had this thought the other day. I was cycling back from Leo's; it was throwing it down and the wind was that strong again where I had to peddle hard downhill ! I arrived back home absolutely soaked through.
But, five minutes before entering the house I was cursing the day I was born to, five minutes after I was sprawled out in the bath, cosy warm and feeling as if nothing had happened.
On the cycling, I can hand on heart say I haven't felt physically better for years.
There are thing's which become very apparent. I cycle about 50 miles a week. If I had a car, I'd be doing a 100 miles. You tend to not 'just pop out to...' so often and save the things you have to do for one grand tour.
Looking at it finacially; 100 miles is say £10 of petrol, then the savings on tax and insurance must mount to around £18 a week !!
The cricket season now seems a long, distant memory, but I still keep in contact by email with one or two people there (again, if I had the car, I'd be going up there once a week). Next Friday though is the Staff Christmas Meal - and - it's being held at the Shepherd Neame Brewery ! So it's a good job I'm not driving.
The only fear I have is that the day before, I have my CT Scan at the hospital (not bad after 20 month's of waiting). I'm not particulary worried about it. In some ways, I hope they do find something wrong. I'm getting about 4 migraines a week now and they do slow you down.
But, back to the point, apparently they may 'give me something', which I assume is a relaxing agent. So I'm just hoping I'll be able to go for the Lunch.
After 6 weeks, no egg's whatsoever. I know they aren't laying because on a couple of days I've looked at them every half an hour. 21 chickens !! I know they're moulting, but this is getting ridiculous !
The one good reminder of summer is all the vegetables we are eating; carrots, beetroot, beans, tomatoes plus of course all the chutney's.
The Quince Jam has been made. From the quince's we got, it made about 14 jars. So just enough to last me through til next November ! I can't describe how much I love it. I even have it on Ice Cream !!
For the first time in umpteen years we're not having 'a Cannon family' Christmas. Normally my 4 brother's, sister's attend with their kids and my Mum of course. This amounts to about 30. So this year Leo and myself will go to Southampton on Boxing Day and stay til the Wednesday (Southampton play Arsenal on the 29th !!). I hope to get tickets as the Christmas treat as the Charlton game is a "no" due to extra expenses of late.
Leo has already had a bit (or most !) of his present. With the 'no car' project of mine, it means he has to cycle as well ! I found a site (sterlinghouse.co.uk) and they have brand new bikes at £39 !! I ordered it in fear of it either not being good or not 'street cred' for Leo. He loves it and you wouldn't think it a lower end of the market bike atall. Proud of myself there - got a good deal.
With all the problems on the PC lately, I'm a little behind in my site renovation, so I hope to find a bit more time soon (but I don't think so !!!). I have however been reading up on other downshifting experiences and hope to extend those pages soon.
Finally, I have found a way of getting good deals at Boot Fairs. You go on a bike wearing your older Charity Shops clothes and
look poor. I've had no problem in bartering down to the bone on many an item since doing this.
Many thanks for those who have ordered items through myAmazon links and to those who do a little search through the Ask Jeeves search box (2p a time - I'm earning on average 38p a week now !! But 38p per week is £19.76 per year -
and that's almost 4 bags of Corn which will feed the chickensfor 5 weeks !!
4th - 18th. November 2003
I'm afraid to say my time with the 'well known Computer Retailer' came to an end after only 9 days.
A combination of lighting in the training room which gave me 5 migraines in the 9 days and the fact I found I had to work full time for 4 weeks (4 days of which were 60 miles away including one all-nighter) was enough. So, health wise, as I'm having my CT Scan on 11th. December, I felt it best not to take the risk.
So, out of a job !! As it happens I have 4 days decorating in the next two weeks plus about 5 days work over the Lane without the remaining 24 windows to paint.
Therefore I'm not over worried about the situation, but will still keep my eye's open for a little part-time 'proper job'.
I was very tempted the other day. I went to purchase a few bits to make good my second bike and they had a brand new Cycle there; gleaming Red / Blue' all the gears, etc., and reduced from £119 to £79 !! I nearly put 'my bits' back on the shelf 3 times before I forced myself to say 'No' !
I have had to buy a new hard drive for my PC (getting old and somewhat bogged down with a certain young man's PC Games !!) and the extra money would have been daft. Plus the coal's getting low, the chickens still aren't laying and the Water Bill arrived.
However, I made a pretty good job installing the hard-drive. I've done most up-grades, but not that before. So a saving of £30 for them to put it in. What I don't know about Primary, Secondary, Slave, Jumpers, Partition, NTFS and FAT 32 is no ones business now !! Mind you, this entry nearly wasn't made as I seemed to lose the programme on transfer and only found it again by chance !!
The garden is still giving us some work. On Sunday I dug up the last of the carrots and beetroots, also picked the last tomato's.
The 'payment' for the labour was Sunday Lunch - Squash Soup, Gammon with hot Beetroot and followed by Apple / Rhubarb Crumble. So all the work was worth it and a nice doze had by one and all.
I've also just picked some Quince's from the tree over the Lane, so next Sunday will be yet another Jam manufacturing day - my favourite !!
I really want to try some Medlar's. The fruit is just hanging on the tree, really ripe and ready. I've heard varying reports on this fine old English Fruit; some say it's sweet and tasty and others say it has a really bitter feel about it.
I think I'll just pick a few and give it a go.
If anyone has any good Medlar recipes, an email would be appreciated. Or leave it in the Forum.
I've covered most of the veggie patch with carpet. Our Winter Salad for cold Greenhouse seems to be growing OK. I haven't a clue 'what is which' etc., but they look like being big enough in two or three weeks. Good for a nice side salad with some home made Chutney I feel.
I shall let the chickens out soon. I have some plastic fencing, which looks amazingly similar to that used by Railtrack a few years ago, and will surround the Sprouts - and gate !
The chickens will think it's a treat, but they'll soon know I'm simply getting out of some weeding when I sit on the bench drinking my Coffee.
Mimi and Ginger are extremely busy wearing out the Sofa material by spending about 23 hours a day sleeping on it !
But they are also earning their keep by controlling the rat and mouse population. Ginger has the habit of leaving his in exactly the place where you tread when walking out of the kitchen to go upstairs (a good reason that, should anyone ever visit, they should wear slippers - which I know to my cost !!!). Mimi seems to enjoy eating her catches, so extra cost there with the Worming Tablets !!
This week brings about 2 Auctions; tomorrow the Poultry and on Friday, the Farmyard Dispersal. I shall go, but won't buy anything - just pose around trying to look as if I know something about it all.
I tend to leave wallet behind and just have a couple of pounds on me, although this doesn't always work because last time I brought 6 chickens for a pound !!
But, I shall be on Bike and I don't think I'd be highly respected by persons viewing 6 chickens being walked 4 miles on a lead !
Next time I write, it will be December - doesn't seem possible that only 6 weeks ago we were basking in sun, watching cricket and wearing shorts.
No doubt Christmas will bring us all the TV Commercials with those hidden 'you don't care if you don't spend less than £200' themes.
What I can't see is this; Most families have an arrangement like 'we'll spend £10 on each present' - so why not buy yourself something for £10 and have it 'as a thought' of Aunty Nora or whoever !
I can't harp on too much here though - bit like a reformed smoker isn't it !!
I have the 'T' Shirt - am I jealous - oh boy, I hope not !!!!