Saturday, 10 December 2016

I have a safety warning!

Cooking Xmas Dinner should be interesting this year!  I have had my gas disconnected as there was a leak in one of the gas taps on the hob, and a notice is now taped on it warning that it is not to be used.  It is an old model Aga and that part is discontinued, the engineer also turned the electric off and left me with nothing basically, and no solution.  Well thanks for that.  I am now in talks with Aga about the useless lump of metal in my kitchen that they need to sort out one way or another as I cannot afford to buy another.   We turned the electric back on so I can use the ovens, that had a fault as well but it has probably been like that for years, along with the gas leak as the previous owner neglected everything in the house.  My son lent me a single portable induction hob, and I have a microwave so with a lot of planning and prep before hand I will manage.

As if life isn't challenging enough at the moment, I have decided to set myself a challenge and join in with Veganuary  I have been vegan in the past but went back to being vegetarian while trying to get my head around the whole gluten intolerance thing.  I'm looking forward to it......and dreading it in equal measures.  I love vegan food and most of my main meals are vegan, but will miss cooking up a quick omelette when I get home tired and hungry, and cheese and rice cakes are my go-to quick snack.  Eating out is going to be a nightmare, being vegetarian and gluten free is hard enough, I can hear chefs groaning from the kitchen when I explain my dietary needs.   Oh well I won't have any money to eat out in January anyway.  There are some who think I'm completely mad for doing this, but each to their own.  Have any of you taken part in any of the month long challenges,  Stoptober, giving up alcohol, giving up television/social media, buy nothing, daily drawing, doing something nice for a stranger?  There's lots of challenges out there.

My son is still staying with us (along with his dogs) while he recovers.  We are hoping he can get through Xmas without further dramas but his surgeon has said she is on call between Xmas and New Year so just to go into the hospital and see her if he has any concerns.  I don't seem to be able to get into the Xmas spirit at all, but I am like this most years.  There is far too much pressure on people to spend lots of money, have ridiculous amounts of food and have the 'perfect' family Xmas.  Just sharing a meal with our family is enough for me, all the rest is just optional.  What I am really looking forward to is the winter solstice, I am so fed up with dark evenings and can't wait to be able to get out into the garden after work.  I will be celebrating the return of the light by filling the house with candles, all very hygge.

Have a good week everyone,

Chickpea xx

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


First I would like to thank you for all your supportive comments on my last post and apologise for not replying.  It has been a rollercoaster of a week for the family as my son has been back into the hospital again for further surgery.  He is now staying with us again while he recovers, but he really has been through the mill and it is going to take a while before he is fit enough to do much.  The treatment he received was excellent, his surgeon came in first thing Saturday morning to operate on him, the nurses and doctors were very professional but the food and cleanliness of the hospital left much to be desired.  It has been privatised and the firm now responsible for catering and cleaning should be ashamed of themselves.  It has made me even more determined to fight privatisation of the NHS if this is what we can expect.  Overflowing clinical waste bins and out of date food.  Awful.  Thankfully he is here with us now and getting some home cooked food.

When people ask 'if you had one wish what would it be' I would wish for a cure for Crohns Disease, it is such an awful illness. He has been in and out of hospitals since he was 14, and I have to say we are both sick of the sight of the bloody place, but are very grateful for the NHS.  Anyway I'm rambling, and tired so I'm off to make a cuppa before sorting out the next lot of tablets to take up to him.

I hope you are all keeping well, health really is the most precious gift any of us could have.

Chickpea xx

Sunday, 27 November 2016


I'm feeling rather overwhelmed at the moment.  I have been looking at the whole, and it is just too much, way too much for me to deal with, even think about without getting stressed or depressed or freaked out or all of the above.  My expectations of my physical abilities are unrealistic, the time I have to do everything is limited, especially as the daylight hours are so short.  I have been trying to make things work that are just not workable.  As a consequence I feel stuck, both mentally and physically.  So although I can't just click my fingers and come up with solutions, what I can do is try to think of a way to make it all manageable and less overwhelming.

Bear with me here as I try to sort things out in my head by writing it down and breaking it down.  The areas that need to be sorted are

Home renovation
Vegetable garden
Social life.


We have been working on the basics, the drinking water is now safe, the boiler has been serviced, we have an electrician checking and sorting everything at the moment who will then issue a certificate. There are many faults and loose wires hanging out of uncovered sockets, not good when you have young grandchildren.   Most of the lights have been replaced with low energy fittings and bulbs and solar panels and battery will be fitted soon although we have to wait for the poles to the house to be upgraded. This will make us more self sufficient.  The stove has been serviced and will work more efficiently and we are looking into log burners and planting some willow for future fuel.

 I knew I would need to update the bathrooms, fill and paint walls and re carpet but it just hasn't felt like that will make it the house we want.  I have been going over and over it in my head and it just doesn't feel right.  A builder suggested getting in an architect, something we had not even considered.  He was a breath of fresh air, challenging us to throw out all of our preconceptions, climb out of the box and come at it in a totally different way.  The house just doesn't work, it is badly designed.  So instead of patching up and making do, we need to totally rethink the space.  The house came with planning permission and foundations for a two story extension so that was what we were trying to find the money to build.  He made us realise that by totally rearranging the space we already have we do not need to do this.  By moving walls and repurposing areas we will have the space we want.  I know....obvious really but sometimes you are just so stuck in your thinking you need someone else to point out the obvious.  He has advised us to take our time in deciding what we want from the house and how we actually use the space, all good advice. We have been so determined to 'get on with it' but as he said, that's when expensive mistakes happen and you wish you had done things differently.  We have to redo all the bathrooms, so that would be the ideal time to move walls and create more space for the bedrooms.  So we will now take our time to decide what we want.  I may paint some walls to make it feel fresh and clean in the mean time but we can live with the rest of it.  Phew, the pressure of trying to make something work that was never going to work is off.  There will be other pressures, finding the money to do this but at least I can now see a way forward.


This has been an absolute nightmare.  My dreams of a no dig garden have been scuppered by the previous owner using the veg patch to burn rubbish.  I have found glass, plastic, metal including bra wires!!, a battery and lots and lots of screws.  So I have been taking off the top layer of contaminated soil to be replaced with soil that I will be happy to grow our food in.  It is a very large vegetable garden, the same size as the whole of the garden in our last house so it has been overwhelming thinking of all the work that needs to be done to the totally overgrown mess.   I have decided I need to concentrate on one little thing at a time and block out the rest of it as it stresses me out.  So I have created one vegetable bed in a none contaminated part of the garden.  I laid cardboard and over the last few days have been wheelbarrowing compost and manure to cover it.  I will have a go at growing some garlic in a little part and leave the rest to settle ready for the spring.  I'm also going to get some compost into the poly to get a little area ready to plant some winter greens and lettuce.  Little areas, little steps and realistic expectations of my time and physical abilities is the way I can move forward without too much stress.


There are huge changes happening at work and I'm not very happy about the change in direction.  It will be a totally different way of working, instead of being out in the community I will be more office based and I'm not sure this will suit me.  The hours are also changing and will not fit in with home life in some ways.  Although I will not be getting home at 7 o'clock in the evening which is horrible in winter, it means I will have less time during the day for working on the garden etc.  I would love to get a dog and chickens but not sure how this will fit in with my new hours.  Decisions decisions......  I have been looking at giving a home to a retired greyhound but am worried about our cat and as they are sight dogs, that it would head off across the fields after a rabbit as we don't have an enclosed garden.  Any personal experiences from greyhound owners out there would be appreciated.


For all the above reasons I find myself working all the time and having no time for fun.  This has to change but how I'm not sure.  I started typing this a 5.30 this morning, trying to cram as much into my day as possible.  After a melt down yesterday I met up with a friend for a walk on the beach, listening to the waves crashing on the shore as dusk descended was just what I needed to feel better (well that and the hot chocolate and brownie from Swanpool cafe).  I need to build these times into my timetable.  Crafting  and cooking also lift my spirit so need to be included somewhere.   I was very excited to find red cabbage in my seasonal veg box so my first batch of braised red cabbage was made.  It's the little things that bring me joy.

Anyway, that's my life at the moment.   Don't get me wrong I am very grateful for all I have, I just have to manage my time so I can actually enjoy it. It is dark and cold but there is still beauty to be found.   I will keep  you updated on our progress on the house and garden, but don't expect it any time soon.

Chickpea xx

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Permaculture, Activity and Diet Courses

I have been on several courses lately and my brain is frazzled, it's like being back at Uni, trying to take it all in.  I think I lost the plot towards the end.  The Permaculture course was a personal choice, the others mandatory for work.   So what did I learn?  I have been doing 'permaculture' for many years without even knowing it.....well I am an old hippy at heart.  We  had a really enthusiastic tutor full of ideas and energy.  Putting his ideas into practice in his own home.  Compost toilet, rocket stove mass heater, all in his eco hut that he built himself.  I love all of that but there is no way in hell I would pursued the bearded one that we should have a compost toilet.  These things are all wonderful but both of you have to be on board.  He is keen on us having solar panels as they are pretty mainstream now, but as for some of the more way out things, it's not going to happen.  Having grown up on a farm his dad and himself look with amusement at my overgrown veg patch with cardboard scattered around, including in the neighbouring trees as it dries out and peels off.  ' Could do with putting a rotavator over that" they chorus. After growing things in a certain way for decades they do not get the whole 'no till' thinking, but I will persevere.   I do think the permaculture way of thinking is a really good way to approach things, we really need to step gently on the earth......literally.

The Encouraging People to be more Active course was a lot better than I thought it would be, having good tutors makes all the difference.  They were not your usual sporty types who run 50 miles a day and make the rest of us feel like sloths thank goodness.  It is about getting everyone to do something as it helps not only with physical well being but mental wellbeing.  I know I for one feel a lot better after going out for a walk, even if I have moaned and practically had to be dragged out.  I have actually started swimming in the outdoor pool in the evenings, it is painful to start off, it involves a lot of shrieking but once I'm in as long as I keep swimming it is wonderful.  Swimming under the stars and moon is bliss.  Anyway as far as I can remember, people aged between 19 and 64 need to do at least 150 mins exercise a week of moderate intensity, which could be 30 minutes a day for five days, OR 75 minutes vigorous intensive activity spread across the whole week.  Plus muscle strength exercise 2 days a week, which is why I'm swimming in the freezing cold weather!

As for healthy weight, well I already knew I was overweight, ( or too short for my weight) but after being weighed on a body composition analyser  found that my visceral fat level is healthy YESS!!!  I knew there was a thin person inside :)  Your visceral fat is very different from the squidgy fat you can squeeze on the outside.  It wraps itself around your organs and makes you prone to heart disease, diabetes etc.  It is a hidden fat that even if you are thin, can be lurking inside.  I eat healthy food, vegetarian and gluten free,  just much more than I burn off which may account for my results.

I am saddened by the news of Trump winning the election but can't say I'm surprised, after Brexit, nothing surprises me.  Michael Moore who predicted the win months ago warned that people who struggle to put food on the table and roofs over their heads are desperately looking for someone who says he will listen to them and fix everything.  Sadly they will be bitterly disappointed, a bit like the 350 million that was going to the NHS, yeh pigs might fly.  In my opinion he is a thoroughly nasty piece of work who shouldn't be in charge of a car park, let alone a country!

Anyway, enough lecturing! The next post will be on lighter subjects I promise :)  I will leave you with some photos from my week.

The deer spotted on a dawn walk, sadly we haven't seen them for days, I think they were scared off by the huge firework displays going on all around us.... and there was me thinking that living out in the country we would avoid all the fireworks!

Some photos taken at the fabulous Mount Pleasant Eco Park where the  Permaculture course was held, we had the delicious vegan roast for lunch accompanied by the owner on the decks playing reggae in the cafe.

Beautiful sunset, frosty morning and the venue for other training.

Chickpea xx

Monday, 24 October 2016

All things Autumn

We had some frost on the field one morning last week so I guess it's officially Autumn in Cornwall.  Sunday roasts are on the menu most weeks now, no getting away with a bbq outside so the bearded one has hung up his pinny for another year.  I have been fiddling with the lentil bake that gets trotted out regularly to go with the roast for us veggies in the family and so far this is my favourite version of it.  If I don't write it down somewhere I will forget what I actually put in it and it went down so well I'm thinking of making it for our Xmas dinner.  Nothing fancy but something all of us like (which is a flipping miracle in our family)  It is gluten and oat free so I can eat it, no mushrooms which youngest hates and no nuts which both of them hate.  As usual my cooking involves throwing in whatever I find and not measuring anything so these are rough measurements.  Adjust them to your own tastes, excuse the terrible photo, everyone was too hungry to wait for me to faff around with the camera.


A couple of cups of red lentils (very approx, )
2 small red onions
1 large sweet potato
1 sweet pointed pepper
handful of spinach
1/2 tsp of thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
2 - 3 oz Grated cheese

Cook the lentils in your usual way, drain well and set aside
Cook the sweet potato in the microwave and scrape out when cooled and set aside
Saute chopped onions and pepper until soft,
Add herbs, salt and pepper stir well and simmer for a further minute
Put the lentils and sweet potato into the pan with the onion and mix well
Add chopped spinach and cook until wilted.
Mix in the cheese.

Grease a loaf tin and pour the mixture in, smooth the top and place into a medium oven until heated right though and the top has browned slightly.

I actually made it in the morning and put it in the fridge ready to put in the oven with the rest of the roast in the evening.  Things that can be made ahead make life a lot easier!

It has been absolutely chucking it down here today, the cows are huddled against the hedges seeking shelter while the deer seem oblivious.  We needed something warming for our evening meal, as usual despite having lots of lovely cookery books I went online and found this Moroccan Chickpea Stew from The first mess   We had cavolo nero in the veg box so that went in as well, it made a lovely warming stew that certainly hit the spot.

I am still working on my shawl, I think I must be the worlds slowest knitter and could do with wearing it this winter not next!  I am o.k. with the shawl itself but it has a frilly bit to add to it which is looking pretty daunting so I may be asking for help from the knitters out there some time soon.  It is a Debbie Bliss pattern knitted in Fine Donegal from this book.  My wool is actually more of a green/blue than the photo shows, it reminds me of the winter seas.

Work continues slowly on the house  and we are working outside at weekends (don't you just hate getting home from work in the dark!)  We are waiting for the power company to upgrade the poles to the house before we can put up the solar panels, we are also in the process of replacing the light fittings with more efficient energy saving ones.  On the day we moved in, as it got dark we realised that most of the lights were not working, it seems that as they blew they were not replaced, we could barely see a thing!

 I was delighted to see several goldfinches in the garden this morning, they were occasionally seen at our old house tempted by niger seeds, but were pecking away at the grass here.  I have also been watching the mother deer with her youngster who are often in the next field.  The baby isn't completely weaned yet and I managed to get a photo of it feeding when it was in one of the more distant fields.  Not a great photo but you can just make them out.

I hope you have all had a great weekend.

Chickpea xx

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


Thank you for all your lovely comments on my last post, and sorry I have not replied, life is a bit hectic as usual.  I have had a busy but lovely long weekend, it is the Samba Bands 10th Anniversary so to celebrate members old and new gathered for an evening of fun and music.  Starting with playing Samba around a fire pit in the field, watched by a beautiful moon.  Then three members played their guitars and sang in beautiful harmony.  The evening ended with another member of the band on his 'decks' playing some 'funky' music that had us all throwing some shapes on the dance floor. (yes I have all the terminology)  Oh to be so musically talented, I would love to be able to strum a guitar and sing along.  I do love it when other people make a gathering special by sharing their musical abilities.  Unfortunately, the instruments in a Samba band are not really something to play solo and are very very loud.  Unless you have the whole band and somewhere with no neighbours it is not really something I could bring to a party on my own, banging on my little tam tunelessly would soon annoy all the other guests.  However the full Samba band playing together is a thing of joy and has everyone jigging around.  It was a wonderful night full of fun and friends,  my friend came all the way down from Norwich to attend.  She stayed with me (among the boxes I'm afraid) and we had a lovely few days catching up.  Lots of coffee and cake was consumed, we nosed around the charity shops in Falmouth and Truro and I even found a place that sold gluten free veggie pasties whoopee!! It is so lovely to have friends visit and I'll miss her.

I was  also delighted with another visiter, as you can see from the photos above we had a visit from this magnificent Stag.  Isn't he a beauty!  I first spotted him from the bedroom window, went into David Attenborough mode and crept down the field to get closer.  As you can see it didn't take him long to get wind of me as I balanced on a hedge trying not to fall onto the barbed wire.  I then crawled up behind a mound in the field thinking I could fool him, as I peeped over the top there he was staring straight at me, probably thinking what a plonker.  Just look at those antlers, he looks ready to protect his ladies from any interlopers.  Just to be near such a powerful creature was absolutely thrilling.  He didn't stay long after giving me the stare, and ushered his ladies off to safety.  I love living here so much, I wake everyday and think how lucky I am.

My craft room is coming together, I had the floor laid yesterday and I love it,  I can't wait to get everything set up and start a new sewing project. It's all very 'shabby chic' but this is exclusively my 'woman cave' so I can go mad and have whatever I want. This is the first room I hope to finish, It is the smallest and had the least to do, just a few holes to fill in.  I keep forgetting to take 'before' photos, but it had pink walls, a grubby pink carpet and a huge curtain pole and curtains in what is a very tiny box room.  The pole and curtains have come down and as we are not overlooked probably won't be replaced with anything.  I'll share some photos when it is finished, I now have to fit all of my many boxes of craft bits and pieces in here!

I hope life is good to you all

Chickpea xx

Monday, 10 October 2016

Annoying the Country Folk (Controversial post alert)

I knew moving back into the countryside would bring up very different issues than living in the city, one of which is hunting and the whole 'Countryside Alliance'    So when the local hunt sent a card to the  house addressed to the previous owner saying they would be hunting in our fields I rang them and pointed out that we now owned the property and would not be allowing hunting in any shape or form here. Evidently I was not believed and the very next morning someone came to the door asking for the previous owner while refusing to say who they were.  No doubt they will try to find the person who bought the rest of the fields to get permission to hunt all around us.  I found it all rather menacing as he told me on the phone that 'no doubt I would be seeing them sometime'.  Many years ago we rented a winter let on a farm, early one morning the hunt turned up and I had to rush out to rescue my two terrified cats as the hunters laughed making lewd comments about my 'pussies'.  All very unpleasant and not an experience I would want to repeat.   It is a subject that people feel very passionate about on both sides, I have had chickens killed by a fox, I didn't blame the fox who was doing what nature intended, I blamed myself for not keeping them secure.  It is awful when lambs are killed by foxes but I don't believe using dogs to hunt them is the answer.  None of my farming uncles and cousins have ever felt the need to don the scarlet.  It may not make me popular with some local landowners but I will not be welcoming them.

Of course there is the good side of living in the Countryside, someone from the local village knocked on the door asking if we could store his camper van in our barn - it's surprising how popular having a big barn can make you ;)  When he discovered we are new to the area he went out of his way to tell us all the goings on in the village and dropped by this morning with all sorts of info about activities including the W.I.  My only experience of the W.I. was when I worked in Sheltered Housing and the lovely ladies from the local W.I. would come around with all sorts of things for our residents.  My immediate thought was I'm far too young for the W.I., and it's all jam and Jerusalem, but realise that I may be doing them a disservice.  Are any of you members and what are your experiences?  Would they welcome a left wing, gobby atheist?

Our local town recently elected a Mock Mayor after throwing the real Mayor into prison.  He processed through the town, in and out of the shops while people threw sprouts at him.   I have no explanation......but I love weird goings on.

In the evening the history of Penryn was illuminated onto the towns buildings.  Luckily my friend who is a born and bred 'Rinner'  did a running commentary for me which included the fact that the towns people hid a very infamous lady pirate.

Life has been extremely busy but came to a halt of the weekend when I came down with a horrible cold and spent most of it sleeping.  I hope you are all keeping well, there seems to be a lot of things going around at the moment.

Chickpea xx