I am a country girl and always have been. I’ve dipped my toes into many different locations: city, suburbia and the sticks. I was raised in the middle of nowhere, literally. (We were one of four cottages situated along a mile-long dirt track, a couple of miles from the nearest shop and surrounded on all sides by fields and cows. Idyllic apart from the odd run-in with a bullock and a runaway hay bale… yes, really!) Went to university and lived several subsequent years in Clifton (a whirlwind of socialising offset by frugality), and then spent my early married days living on the outskirts of Bristol in a suburban cul-de-sac. Since child #1 was born in 2003 I have lived in no less than 8 different houses and have become very adept at turning wherever I lay my metaphorical hat into my home.
All different locations have pros and cons to them, in the city there is lots to do but there was always noise and traffic, in the suburbs there is great amenities particularly for young families but at times I felt like I was living in a goldfish bowl and in the countryside it is for the most part peaceful and calm but daily necessities are often a car journey away.
We moved, hopefully for the final time or at the very least the foreseeable future, to a beautiful little village nearly two years ago. Our home, a replacement farmhouse, was built in the 1960s and is in need of some major TLC, we are currently averaging the renovation of a room a year, and have just received approval to build an extension, (blended family + three bedrooms + one bathroom = early morning chaos), so there is lots to be done and very little time in which to do it. But, I am once again surrounded by fields and cattle, have views of a forest on the horizon, a village pond complete with ducks 50 yards up the road, a stunning lake a cycle ride away and a great village pub within walking distance. I have to admit I really do feel at home and the most at peace I’ve ever been in terms of location, location, location. Interestingly it is also the only home I have ever resided in where I have ever felt real fear or intrusion ( we were burgled six months after moving in, I returned home to discover it alone… A very unpleasant and upsetting time which luckily has become more of a distant memory now). Yet even with that, there is nowhere in the world I would rather be.
When we moved in I made a vow to myself to become the Barbara Good of our family and to live off the land where I could. I wanted to live sustainably. I spent hours lovingly tending to the veggie patch that was knee deep in weeds; finding and foraging amongst the undergrowth rhubarb, rosemary, chives and strawberries. I planted a blueberry bush, trimmed back the brambles from the blackberries ready for their appearance in the coming months and decided in my infinite wisdom that what we were lacking in this quest for sustainability was chickens!!
Enter Ivy, Christina, Mo and Craig (never again will I allow teenagers to name our pets!):
I love our chickens, they are amusing to watch, cuddly to hold and provide us with delicious eggs every day, ideal for feeding half a dozen for dinner. But to every decision is a consequence, to every ying there is a yang… Wait, where is that pesky pecking chicken headed?
Get. Out. Of. The. Strawberries!!!
Yes, that’s right. The chickens have eaten my vegetable patch. They’ve eaten the strawberries and the blueberries, every last sustainable bite… In fact, they have eaten the entire back garden!
Can you see the desecrated garden in the background? The lack of green green grass? The giant mud and dust bath they have created? We long since fenced off the vegetable patch, turns out chickens can jump and fly much higher than I realised! Here is Ivy calling by at the kitchen window to say hello, several times they have peered through the cat flap in the back door and even ventured over the threshold into the utility room… Our chickens most definitely rule the roost! But they do produce the most delicious yellow-yoked eggs and I’m sure this is due to their free-range, country living. So one of the jobs on the list for the summer months is to gradually fence off sections of the garden and to re-sow the garden. Although right now I believe I am providing Mr HDD a service, at least he doesn’t need to venture into the back garden with the lawn mower, that’s a gift surely? 🙂
Let me share with you a delicious recipe I made from some home-grown produce from my parent’s garden, who are still residing in my childhood home, of course I used our cheeky chicken’s eggs, natch!
For the Lemon Courgette Cake
- 200g grated courgette
- 150g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 200g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
For the (optional) Frosting
- 250g cream cheese/Philadelphia
- 200g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 160c. Grease and line a loaf tin.
- In one bowl beat together the courgette, sugar, egg and oil.
- In a second bowl sift together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder before stirring in the cinnamon and lemon zest.
- Stir the bowl of dry ingredients into the courgette mixture, add the lemon juice (this loaf can be as tangy and lemony as you desire) and stir together until just blended.
- Pour the cake mixture into the loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. Until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Cool the cake for at least 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
- Smother with the topping of your choice, in this case lemon cream cheese frosting and flecks of lemon zest, ( Just combine the frosting ingredients, adding more icing sugar if the frosting is too runny). Alternatively you could add a drizzle of lemony glace icing or even present the cake naked and near healthy!
I’m pretty sure that a slice of this constitutes one of your five a day? 😉
And I’ll keep you posted on the veggie/fruit patch. I am naively kidding myself that one day soon a blueberry or a strawberry will appear… If only I can nab it before the pilfering poultry!!
Tentatively and for the first time linking up with #HomeEtc
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