Backgarden Chickens and Other News from the Lost Corner

I have just picked up a book called ‘Backgarden Chickens and Other Poultry’ – you know, ’cause we’re livin’ the high life in this Lost Corner of Middleshire.

After studying the environment as part of my Open University degree I have become very interested in being more self-sufficient and having a less wasteful lifestyle. We’re planning to move again and will have a larger garden, so chickens might be a option. If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will rightly consider the fact that we’re moving house again as slightly bonkers. Well, yes, I admit to the slightly – largely, in fact – bonkers nature of my life. But I’m doing great, thanks for asking. As part of this less wasteful lifestyle, I’ve also gone slightly nuts over crochet, though none of my projects are finished yet. But I found myself drooling over a crocheted jacket the other day.

Pssst! If I usually give you a Christmas present, you now know what to expect. Groovy 😉

Maybe I’ll post photographs when my projects are complete. Maybe I won’t. Ah, the delights of being a housewife-cum-mature <ahem> student – [aside: the other day the Eyebrow Threading Lady told me I looked great for a woman in her 40s. I am not in my 40s. Eyebrow (what’s left of it – she seemed to think I no longer wanted any) raised in irony.]

Anyway, we have been renting for the past two years and have finally made the decision to buy, although this time we shan’t be moving to a whole new area. Because, you know, when you’ve done that three times in two years the novelty wears off. This will be our fifth home since we married in 2010. But I’m so excited because at last I will be able to put pictures on the wall and redecorate when I want to and sledgehammer holes in the wall should the whim take me! Maybe not that, but hurrah! We have a second viewing of a gorgeous, slightly run-down Edwardian semi and I am beyond thrilled.

In other news – my son, who has autism and is now taller than me, still lets me know on a daily basis where my flaws lie. He’s very matter-of-fact about it. Sheldon Cooper eat your heart out. I’d just like to know when the writers of Big Bang Theory met my boy, because they do such a good job in recreating his mannerisms and concrete thinking. Still, you have to smile…

And in yet more news, my father-in-law is home from hospital for the nth time this year (which is good) and is with my mother-in-law in a nearby care home. It is a lovely care home with warm and friendly staff. We do our best to visit daily and to ensure their needs and desires are met. Yesterday I was ill and stayed in bed all day (I’m fine now, thanks). As a result, Frank took on the role of mummy and daddy and didn’t get to visit his parents. I visited earlier today and took my MIL out for two hours, looking round the shops, which she loves. On my return, I went to write in the notebook which she uses to remember things (she has dementia so this is her way of trying to keep track). My heart sank when I saw the entry for yesterday. It followed lines and lines of ‘when can we go home?’ ‘NEED to go home!’ etc.

“8.25pm Frank did not come

It said, underlined. And then, on the next page, I saw this:


It is hard when you know that you have done all that you could, for months on end, for someone, and they still conclude that you’ve been ‘cruel’ (it’s not the first time that word has been used). Still, I guess that’s part and parcel of being elderly. They have become so focused on their own little world that the fact that other people might have other concerns, or things to deal with, gets lost. Also, I take comfort in the fact that five minutes after this was written, it will have been forgotten. Such is dementia. I tore it out because I didn’t want to leave it there, with my sweet little note about having been out shopping coming after. It just didn’t seem right, somehow.

If you know someone who is caring for a relative with dementia, please pray for them. It is not an easy road to travel, both for the sufferer (who cannot understand why people are treating them differently and conclude it must be for nefarious reasons) and for the family, who have to balance taking control, but still treating their relatives with respect and dignity. Some days, this is a very difficult task! Frank spent two hours trying to explain, gently, the reasons they can’t go home, two days ago. He has done this now more times than I can count.

I was praying about the situation earlier and ended up saying, “But God, it’s like banging my head against a brick wall!”

And God said, “So this is all about you, right?”

I laughed, forgot about myself, and prayed in earnest for the needs of my in-laws.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

“I didn’t need a hug, Jamie, I needed a fiver.” (The Independent)

I think what Jack Monroe says is spot on, but I don’t think that articles such as this – Breadline Britain – which was from The Guardian (who you would think should know better) have done anything to help negate the notion that cooking from scratch is ‘more expensive’. I was so frustrated by this article, and by comments from friends about how processed food is ‘always cheaper’, that I began my own budget cooking blog, Easy Cooking on a Budget to help people learn to cook simple, inexpensive, nutritious family recipes.

Jamie Oliver is right that people can be ignorant and don’t know how to cook, but he should never have added to the ‘all poor people are stupid and lazy’ myth. That was uncalled for. I’ve been on the receiving end of people’s prejudice when I was a benefit claimant and single mother. It ain’t pretty. An inability to know how to cook is something that affects many, many people, from various income brackets. Having said all that – cooking is not hard. I learned some things from my mother when I was a teenager, and when I was in very restricted financial circumstances I borrowed cookery books from the library to learn how to cook.

I think what Jack Monroe says is spot on, but I don’t think that articles such as this – Breadline Britain – which was from The Guardian (who you would think should know better) have done anything to help negate the notion that cooking from scratch is ‘more expensive’. I was so frustrated by this article, and by […]

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What can you do to help? Buy someone #22mealsforacoffee (That’s 22 meals for the price of a £3 coffee…)

I have been a foodbank volunteer in two different places, but when I found out there was no foodbank in our current town, I decided to investigate setting one up. It would be fantastic experience for me alongside my degree in International Development, Environment and Mathematics, and would (hopefully) meet a need in what is, in some areas, quite a deprived town. We’ll see how that goes and I’ll blog about my experiences.


Meanwhile, I have a lot of studying to do as I am coming to the end of my module so not much blogging will occur over the next few weeks. Chinese agriculture and manufacturing are the order of the day for me. TTFN folks 🙂

Jack Monroe

While typing my previous post, I had a bit of a brainwave.
And I wonder if I can get something going here, with almost 10,000 Twitter followers, 5,000 Facebook fans, 2,000 Facebook friends, 3,000 email subscribers…
I wonder if…
If, instead of spending £3 on a coffee today, tomorrow, this week, you could do this instead.
Go to your nearest supermarket, and buy the following: (I’ve priced mine at Sainsburys, but other major supermarkets are similarly priced):
2 tins of baked beans – 22p each
1 jar of fish paste – 32p
1 can of sardines – 55p
1 tin of chopped tomatoes – 31p
1 tin of carrots – 20p
1 loaf of bread – 50p
1 jar of jam – 29p
1 bag of pasta – 39p
TOTAL: £3.00
And go and put it in a carrier bag and take it straight to your local food bank, or…

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Slow-Cooker Potato and Lentil Soup

Take a peek at my other blog 🙂

Easy Cooking on a Budget

What do you do if you have a spouse with toothache, a bag of potatoes and fresh coriander that needs to be used up?

Answer: You make soup.

What do you do if you think you won’t have much time or energy in the evening with which to make dinner?

Answer: microwave a ready-meal No, no! You use your slow cooker.

A thick soup like this warms you up on the coldest of winter days, and is also good as a light-but-filling summer dinner. With the potatoes for carbohydrate, lentils for protein and virtually zero fat it is good for those of us who need to watch our weight too. Time to prepare: about 10 minutes max.


You will need:

1kg potatoes, washed and chopped into chunks £1.90/2.5kg

1 onion, chopped 17p/each

150g red lentils £2/2kg

1 tablespoon fresh coriander 80p/31g

2 vegetable stock cubes 15p/100g

Approx. 2l…

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Don’t blame poverty for your child’s obesity.

Well said, Ms Monroe! Being a parent is the most important job in the world. You do the best for your child because you do the best for your child.

I would like to see household management, budgeting and basic cooking skills taught in schools, alongside relationship and social skills.

Well said, Ms Monroe! Being a parent is the most important job in the world. You do the best for your child because you do the best for your child. I would like to see household management, budgeting and basic cooking skills taught in schools, alongside relationship and social skills.

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Thrifty Pays Off

I am feeling absurdly excited over a purchase of… (wait for it)





















… wool.


Wool. Yes. When I spent several years incapacitated as a teenager, I discovered the genteel art of crochet. For some unknown reason, learning to knit always seemed a hassle too far, but crochet, with all its varied stitches and applications, did not. Perverse, I know. I have not crocheted for years. The last time was just before my second child was born, when I made her some dainty little shoes (which have since been lost).


So I have just bought me some luvverly yarn and I can’t figure out why but it’s cheered me up no end. Perhaps I am metamorphosing into that creature known as The Perfect Housewife.


Yeah. But no. Stop laughing.


Frank and I married nearly three years ago, and were given John Lewis gift vouchers as part of our wedding gift. We bought a few things on our honeymoon, which we have made good use of, and had £40-worth left. John Lewis is good quality, but very expensive. We didn’t want to spend the vouchers just for the sake of it. Today, those vouchers paid for most of the wool (and it also qualified for free delivery). Thus a wedding gift will be used to bless our new home in the form of a multicoloured throw. This has – bizarrely – really made me glad. Summat to do with ‘restoring the years the locusts have eaten’.  I am so thankful for being able to take pleasure in simple things. And I am thankful that being thrifty, and not spending those vouchers on something just for the sake of it, has paid off! I’m reminded of Philippians 4:8… who knew that applied to crochet? (I think I hear God chuckling).

Oatmeal Cream



New Blog

Check out my new blog Cooking on a Budget

I have begun to chronicle healthy, inexpensive ways to feed a family without relying on processed food. These recipes are designed to be very simple (with plenty of explanation) and cost per person is included. I will soon introduce step-by-step photographs. Come on over! 😀

Free Stuff! Free Stuff!

Ever since I was poorly as a teenager and found reading too tiring, I have listened to audiobooks. Nowadays, audiobooks help me kill the boredom of housework, and help my autistic-wakeful brain to settle and sleep at night. Unlike my wakeful son, I don’t have autism, but I certainly have some traits – a brain that won’t switch off is one of them. When I was a child I would read with a torch under the bedclothes for hours and hours. Brain seems to have a faulty off-switch. Anyway, while my hubby is snoring away, I’m still awake. And it’s not stress that does it, because it’s always the same. So I put my little earphones in and drift off to the soothing tones emitted by my Mp3.

I have a subscription to, but I have recently discovered a brilliant site called LibriVox, where you can download audiobooks absolutely free!

The reason they’re free is because the book is over 90 years old and thus no longer under copyright. Also, they’re read by volunteers, so the quality is variable. However, many are wonderful. I have enjoyed Wuthering Heights, A Little Princess and Agnes Grey so far. I am currently reliving my childhood by downloading Heidi.

Frugality Reality

Frank’s last day is next Thursday, though he is hopeful another department may use his services in future. But there’s nothing definite. So, frugal living is the order of the day – and menu planning is even more important than it has been before. FlyLady is also big on menu planning.


Have you ever wondered how to make your own stock, and make the most of a carcass? If so, read on.


I buy as many fairly-traded products as possible, although fair trade cotton is hugely expensive, so second-hand clothes plug the gap. I also like ethically-reared meat, where possible. So, after my family of five has devoured a roasted free-range chicken, one is left with a few scraps of meat and a carcass. I pull as much meat as I can off the bird, to be fed to ravenous children, and into my large stockpot I soften half an onion. I then add the chicken carcass, onion skins, vegetable peelings (whatever is to hand – these are not essential), a bouquet garni (mixed herbs will do) and top it up with water until the bird is covered. I like to add a level teaspoon of herbamare and leave it to simmer for a few hours. I then strain the liquid through a colander into a bowl.


Et voila!


Several litres of chicken stock that can be used to make a stew or frozen for future use.