Sunday, 27 April 2014

Two Years

Remember this? The Building Team's 'Last Supper'
Wow! Can't quite believe it is 2 years since we abandoned the caravan and moved in to this house. The house was technically not quite finished and was certainly not fully furnished, but we had bade farewell to our main man, Ace Builder, Brother in Law and All Round Hero, 'Sparks' with a 'Last Supper' on the 25th April 2012 (our first proper meal 'indoors') determined not to move in till we had ticked a couple more boxes; taking delivery of our mattress, mainly! However, at supper on the 26th with just the two of us we decided that we did not really want to go back to the caravan to sleep so we brought the duvet in and made up the king sized bed using 2 single bed mattresses. We were in.

Crystallized Ginger
We were already thrilled to have achieved so much in terms of serious DIY and buildering, way more than any of us (except Sparks) thought we'd ever be capable of. We had basically gutted the inside of the house and built a new, warm, efficient, dry lined and floor-insulated house inside the old shell. Sparks tends to just go for it; he's seen a mate on one of his building contractor jobs doing it so he gets the tools and says "How hard can it be?". His brain just works to that kind of clear, hard logic - this plumbing manifold is just a question of running pipes to all the taps and sinks and showers and getting a hot feed to every radiator and a return... what's the problem? If he hits any snags he has always got those same mates at the end of a phone to check - the plumber was called, rather unsettlingly "Jimmy the Leak", subject of many a funny story over wine in the evening.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam
With the house pretty much 'there' and Spring 2012 accelerating towards us we could head outside and start to think about the garden and the smallholding parts of the project which had all been parked up while we played with Kango hammers, 'Spit' (nail) guns and Qualpex pipes. The rest, as they say, is history and has been well covered in this blog week by week. We have tamed the worst of the brambles and nettles, improved the pastures, created a nice lawn and erected good stock fencing. We have created the 'allotment' (vegetable area) and the orchard, erected a poly-tunnel and have dug, lined and planted our big dream-pond, 10 m by 6 m. We have created some raised beds for the 'pretty' stuff.

Stella cherry producing big masses of blossom.
We have started with the livestock - we have a nice established flock of chickens (11 hens and 2 roosters) and have bred some. We have a good trio of geese who produced goslings last year and (one of them is) currently sitting on eggs. We have successfully fattened up 2 batches of lambs (3 in 2012, 5 in 2013) and we and family and friends have thoroughly enjoyed the delicious meat. We have 2 guinea fowl, mainly for fun but we do hope they will breed and produce us some nice edible children. We have a series of rabbits and produced plenty of baby bunnies last year both for the freezer and for sale as living pets. One of these, Goldie, is currently pregnant, due to 'pop' over the next couple of days. In 2014 we are starting into honey bees and pigs.

When one pie is not enough, 2 sausage pies cooked in
stereo, one with added leek, one with caramelized black
pudding and apple. 
We are also well settled down now and have made a good few friends locally, with near neighbours and further afield, all of whom have been very generous with their advice and help. This is the kind of place where you'd never be accepted as a local unless your family had lived here for a hundred years but we think the locals have decided we are tolerable and 'mainly harmless'. Possibly a bit eccentric with our Guinea Fowl strolling in the lane and our tendency to sit out front on sunny days sipping coffee in  full view of the passing cars (gasp!) but so far no-one has come up the drive with pitchforks and flaming torches.

Hazel nut tree recovers well from goose damage.
We have, of course, also learned a lot both in terms of new skills and abilities and about our new home and adopted area. Liz particularly has enjoyed having time to get a bit adventurous in the cookery department especially as she has such easy access to the freshest, most delicious ingredients, our own lamb suet for example, for the crusts of pies and fruit, veg and mushrooms from yards away rather than always the supermarket imports. Most recently she has used the new season rhubarb to make rhubarb and ginger jam where, finding that the recipe needed crystallized ginger which she could not buy she decided to have a go and made her own. The crystalized ginger is definitely the most firey and flavoursome we have ever experienced. The resulting jam is also superb.

I love the apple at this stage - buds still closed and dark pink.
So, there you have it. 2 years of  our story in a nut shell. You are welcome, of course to read back through those 2 years on here just by clicking on the months in the menu. We will be celebrating the anniversary with Sparks, getting the old builder team back together and eating the same main course as we did back on that 25th April. Happy Anniversary.


Mr Silverwood said...

Two years already, my god, the time really has flown, enjoy the dinner and we will have to try the jam next time we are up (was nearly there today but ended up in Dublin instead)

Anne Wilson said...

What is life all about without crystallised ginger? I would love to know how Liz did hers, I have never succeeded, but Super Value, JewC, is that how you spell it? and Pascal, the veg shop in Castlerea all sell it, although in packets, Pascal did have it loose until this year. There is also a great shop in Sligo who sell it by the quarter from a large jar, and it is cheap from them. Yum, mouth watering now, time to find my packet.

Matt Care said...

This is the jars of ginger with syrup, Anne. I think you must be talking about dried product (packets and selling "loose"). My Mum always had a jar in when we were kids - we used to sneak teaspoons of the syrup into our hot chocolate. One more teaspoon full won't hurt - she'll never notice. The trouble was we stole so many Mum ended up with a jar of shriveled, dried up chunks of ginger at the bottom of the jar.