The best cookies so far

Yesterday afternoon I made another batch of cookies. This time I split the mix in two again and did half with chopped nuts and currants and the other half with glace, morello, cherries.

These are my favourite so far. I liked the nuts and currants more than the chocolate chip and chocolate chip and nuts but even more than those I liked the morello cherries. The cherries gave a lovely flavour to the cookies.

The latest batch of cookies

The right half of the wire has the currant and nut ones and the left half of the wire has the morello cherries. I said to my husband that they were a bit rustic looking and he said that adds to the charm of them. It really doesn’t matter if they are evenly sized and shaped.

The cherry ones don’t look much different to the fruit and nut but it’s easier to tell them apart when close up.

Two types of cookies

I put them in the box alternating two of each type so that when we eat them we each take one of each type. They are cherry at the top of the photo and fruit and nut at the bottom.

I promise this will be my last cookie post but I was just so pleased with the flavour of these that I had to do just one more post. My husband remarked that I hadn’t got far with working through my Jamie Oliver cook book and I said that it was because I couldn’t move away from the cookies. He then said that the cookies are nothing like the ones in the book anyway!

I don’t think that matters. What it has done for me is to give me an easy recipe that I can make over and again putting my own twist on it each time. I have never much liked baking but would be happy to make these cookies any time.

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There is still colour in the garden

Despite a few frosty mornings there are still quite a few late flowers in the garden. The frosts have been light and only on the cabin roof rather than ground frosts and none of the plants seem to have been affected so far.

Anemones are still in flower and still have buds

Yellow poppies are still flowering

There is still a splash of colour from the campanula on our drive

Further down the drive it’s still in bud

The garden looks autumnal but still has lots of splashes of colour.

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Bedtime routines

Now that the clocks have gone back I am giving the girls their bedtime corn at the earlier time of four o’clock and they are all in the chicken shed by five o’clock.

last night I was surprised that Apricot had a dust bath just before going in to bed. It seemed a bit late and I was sure the dust would be rather cool.

Apricot has a dust bath before bedtime

She is shedding feathers despite me having just picked them all up a few minutes earlier

It may be all the loose feathers prompting her dust bath.

Just at that moment she stood up and shook off the dust

Emerald now perches closer to the chicken shed before bedtime

Emerald always used to perch on the high branch perch at the end of the run after the bedtime corn. Her habit has changed as the weather has got colder and it has got dark earlier. She now perches here every evening.

I think it’s because it’s closer to the shed and she can go in quickly when she is ready. Emerald is always the first to go in followed by Speckles. Freckles is always the last in.

It is funny how their habits change slightly as winter draws near.

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Moulting and egg laying or the lack of

All the girls are still moulting in differing amounts. To my amazement Speckles and Emerald are still dropping a few feathers. They seem to have been dropping feathers for such a long time this year. They both stopped laying after the first week in June and moulted quickly to start with but have continued dropping a couple of feathers each a day.

Apricot laid two eggs in the first four days of September and hasn’t laid since. Seramas are supposed to moult a few feathers at a time all year round but Apricot has had quite a heavy moult. She has had a mass of pin feathers on her head and has been dropping long wing and tail feathers.

Freckles has always been the best layer of the little girls and throughout October she has continued to lay every other day. Dandelion and Cinnamon laid until the end of September and have each laid two eggs during this last week.

Dandelion’s first egg was in the chicken shed first thing in the morning and was unbroken but her second egg was also in the chicken shed in the morning and was, once more, thin shelled and broken. I have resumed the mash at weekends with crushed egg shells but she hasn’t laid one since so I don’t know if it will help her.

This morning Apricot had a loose wing feather sticking out on each side. I went to get my camera and by the time I returned one feather had dropped out. I took a photo just before the other feather dropped out.

Apricot with a loose wing feather

She still has pins on her head but they are opening now into fluffy little feathers.

In the afternoon all the little girls gathered together in the small shelter. It’s the first time I have seen them all in there and I went for my camera once more. When I returned Speckles had joined them. It’s the first time I have seen five girls in a shelter.

Speckles and the little girls gather in the small shelter

Freckles and Apricot are snoozing

It was lovely to see them all gathered in here. When we first came up with the shelter idea I wasn’t sure if the girls would use them so I am pleased that they seem to like them. I think the shelters will be really useful in the winter during cold or windy weather.

The ladder and high, branch, perches remain the little girls’ favourite spots but recently they have discovered all the little, lower, perches too.

I have deepened up the shavings in the chicken shed as it’s got colder and it has been good to see the girls snuggling up together apart from Freckles but even she is perching closer to the door now.

In other news I have been checking and clearing any mouse evidence from under the little coop nest boxes every morning. The droppings have fallen from six to eight to only three or four over the last couple of nights. This is the opposite of what I would have expected with colder nights.

I now wonder if there had been two mice and perhaps one has demised leaving one lone mouse. There were so few droppings that I originally thought that there was only one mouse anyway but it’s odd that the droppings have reduced to such a small number. To be honest even from one lone mouse I would expect more evidence but I have thoroughly searched and that seems to be the only evidence.

I am not complaining though as the less evidence of a mouse the better. It will only be another two or three weeks before I can remove the food bowls over night and then there will be nothing to attract them in.

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Happy Halloween

I have never been into doing anything for Halloween. I do however always buy some sweets so that if any children knock on the door, trick or treating, I have them ready to give out.

Last year no children knocked on the door and we gave the sweets to our grandchildren on their next visit to us so this year I have chosen chocolates. This means if no children knock on our door we can eat them as desserts after lunch. We don’t like sweets but do like chocolate!

Halloween Chocolates

Halloween windows

Right on cue our windows had the ghostly look this morning as if ready for Halloween and that is as much Halloween as there will be in our house! Happy Halloween to my readers.

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Vintage crockery

On Sunday we did an afternoon tea on our vintage crockery for a birthday party. We have one wedding booked for next year already and another wedding that want to book us but they wanted to come and see one of our teas before confirming.

We invited them to come and take at look at Sunday’s tea. I also set our table for two so they could get a feel for how it will look. Of course you have to imagine sandwiches on the sandwich plates and cakes and scones on the cake stand.

Vintage table setting for two

We have mostly three tier cake stands but the two tier one fitted the photo better so I removed the three tier one. It’s only to get an idea of the look. When a wedding table is set up it does look really pretty.

I think our visitors were impressed and we sent them home with a sample plate of sandwiches and of cakes and scones for their lunch.

Our other wedding booking have already visited us to look at an earlier tea and we haven’t yet had anyone visit who hasn’t gone ahead and booked us. I think when it comes to a wedding people (quite rightly) want to see what they will be getting.

We haven’t yet had anyone who hasn’t been impressed with our tea and our crockery. Vintage crockery seems to be more fashionable than ever at the moment and we do more afternoon teas every year than the year before. I think it was one of our best ideas.

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Snuggling up together

When I checked on the girls at bedtime the night before last I was surprised to find them all snuggled up together apart from Freckles. Last night they were in the same positions again. I think this may be the new routine going into colder nights.

All the girls are together except of course Freckles

Freckles is in her own spot as usual

I love to see them all snuggled up together

I think as long as Emerald gets her favourite corner spot she isn’t bothered what the rest of them do and Speckles is happy to have any of the little girls beside her. It is rather sweet to see them all so close together.

My husband said that Dandelion doesn’t look like a chicken and I said that she looks like a pompom with a tail. They are a cute bunch!

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A pair of water butts

For some time I have been frustrated that a corner of the chicken shed has been damp at  floor level after we have had a lot of rain. My husband recently put a wooden overhang on the chicken shed roof to try to take the rain away but we realised that part of the problem was that the concrete in that corner was staying wet and the damp was soaking through the wood from the bottom of the chicken shed.

Because of the fence to the side and behind the shed, it doesn’t get any sun to dry it out. The last thing we want is damp inside the sheds or for the wood to rot.

We have guttering on both the chicken shed and the big shed and had thought that pointing it away from the sheds would take the water away but instead the water was puddling and both sheds had a damp corner. My husband suddenly had a light bulb moment and realised that what we needed were some water butts.

The large expanse of both shed roofs were sending all that volume of rain water towards the sheds. We researched the best price for slimline water butts and found that Wickes had the cheapest and they also came with stands. We bought two and my husband set about installing them.

The back of the chicken shed

I have this wire round both the sides and the back of the chicken shed to protect it from anything trying to chew at the wood. We have never seen any sign of attempted chewing but it’s better to be on the safe side and we check the back of the shed regularly. Its this corner that was getting damp.

The new water butts

I took this photo from the corner in the previous photo so it’s looking in the other direction.

The nearest water butt is the for the chicken shed and the other one is for the big shed. With hind sight we wish we had thought of doing this before but hind sight is always a wonderful thing!

We are hoping that this will solve the problem as it should stop a lot of water standing around the sheds. We will check the butts after rainfall and make sure we empty them, away from the sheds regularly, and they will give us another water source for watering the garden in the summer.

Since my husband extended the chicken shed roof it has already dried out on the previously damp corner and the water butts should help alleviate the problem after heavy rainfall. We just need the next rainfall to test it out. We feel sure that it will solve the problem.

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Getting the veg plot ready for winter

The only thing left on our veg plot was the courgette plants. They still each had five or six tiny courgettes but they hadn’t grown in the last few weeks so we decided that they were finished.

Everything else was already finished but we had left the plants in as we knew that as soon as we removed them the cats would move in and use the veg plot as their toilet.

It was time to clear the plot. My husband removed the spent plants and lightly raked the plot.

In the afternoon we went to our local woods and collected twigs. As luck would have it a tree was down and there were lots of twigs laying around it. We collected quite a haul.

We have collected twigs and started to plant the veg plot

The completed veg plot

Last year was the first year that we tried this and it worked quite well. It keeps the cats off and we think it looks okay, sort of rustic, and better than being just empty. It will stay like this now until the spring.

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More cookies

I never usually do much baking but since I adapted Jamie Oliver’s apple crumble cookies to my own version I have really got into trying them with different fillings.

I took my eldest son, Steve, some cookies with raisins for his birthday. They are my current favourites.

Today I decided to try chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chip and peanut cookies. I liked the chocolate chip and peanut best out of these two.

Chocolate chip and peanut cookies

Next I am going to try cherry cookies and peanuts and raisin cookies, I also quite like the idea of peanuts, raisins and chocolate chip together.  I am going to keep trying different versions until I find the ones I like best.

If anyone wants to give them a try this is my adapted recipe:

Ingredients

100g raisins

200g self raising flour

100g butter

100g golden caster sugar

1 large egg

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c. Line two trays with grease proof paper rubbed with oil.

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl and grate the butter straight from the fridge into it and then rub it in as if making a crumble or pastry. I prefer to do it this way as it’s quick and easy and there is no need to soften the butter. This was a tip I picked up in my youth while making large quantities of pastry for a pub kitchen.

Mix in the egg. Add in the filling. When doing two different fillings I split the mix in half at the egg stage and add  50g of each filling to each half.

Divide the mixture into 24 bits (12 bits of each if using two fillings). Roll into balls and press down lightly into 4cm rounds, lining them up 12 to each tray. The mixture is quite sticky and rings need to be removed for this. I flour my fingers to press them down and the bits look really small but the cookies spread when in the oven.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

I love that these cookies need few ingredients and are simple to make and quick to cook but can also be adapted to any filling you like. Just switch the raisins for anything you fancy.

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