I’ve just been doing my online grocery shop. We didn’t have a delivery lasy week as we were trying to use up some of the stuff we still have. You can soon build up a surplus if you order the minimum amount each week. We have, for instance, five peppers, which is more than enough for the coming week. That’s what happens when you order automatically each week and don’t plan your menus properly.
I noticed something new on the ASDA site today – plant-based coleslaw. Now, I know I’m not well up on modern terminology, but plant-based coleslaw”? It’s made, as I recall, from cabbage and carrots and mayonnaise. There are probably more complicated versions, but when I can be bothered to make it, that’s how I do it. Cabbage and carrot make up 95% of the recipe. I use spring onions, apples and sultanas depending on what is to hand. They, last time I looked, were all plants or from plants. You could eat it with bacon and there would still be enough plants in there to justify the description “plant-based”.
As with so many modern expressions, they are using it to cover something else up. In this case, I presume they have taken the eggs out but calling it “vegan” doesn’t portray a particularly cheery image. And “we are happy to use small foreign children as slave labour but don’t want to be cruel to British chickens” doesn’t quite have the right tone either.
So, as ever, we bend the language to the point of being inaccurate, and almost meaningless, in the pursuit of marketing. And marketing, as we all know, is not much different to lying, apart from a better defined career path. If you lie outside the marketing industry you may well become Prime Minister, as we have seen recently, but there are no guarantees.
For the featured photo I have used a picture of plant-based wheat.
Yes, I finally cracked. After checking our food supplies yesterday, and seeing we were deficient in fresh vegetables, we decided to go out and look for the things we needed.
Did we actually need to do it? Probably not. Is it panic-buying? I don’t know.
However, we haven’t exactly been out stripping shelves in the last few weeks and, as Julia exercises indoors, we have been taking isolation seriously. I, of course, take my exercise by walking from TV to kettle, and back. I think we can allow ourselves a shopping trip.
We drove past ALDI on the way to the vegetable shop and noted that they had a security man on the door but no queue. We parked there and, while Julia went round the corner, clutching a list of vegetables, I went into ALDI. I felt like a child at Christmas.
There was just so much stuff in display, including bread, milk, long-life milk and eggs. What a difference two weeks makes. A fortnight ago it wouldn’t have meant anything. It would merely have been what you expected. Today, I could feel tears at the back of my eyes. Briefly. I’m not normally an emotional man, but the sight of all that sliced bread had a powerful effect on me.
If that happens after a couple of weeks, I wonder what I’d have done after six years of wartime rationing. I’d probably have made a proposal of marriage to a sliced wholemeal loaf.
I did the shopping for a whole week, seeing as it was there. I also bought a few extra bits, including an extra bag of potatoes, two litres of long-life milk, and a bag of pasta as a bit extra. I can rationalise it as protecting us from other people and their panic buying, though it’s also, to be honest, panic buying in its own right.
I’m not sure whether to feel happy or guilty. This feeling was reinforced when a flurry of snow hit us in the car park.
I’ll give you a quote from it: ‘To all the people in this great city of ours in Derby, if you have gone out and panic bought like a lot of you have and stacked up your houses with unnecessary items you don’t normally buy or you have bought in more food than you need, then you need to take a good look at yourself.’
I can, with my hand on my heart, tell you that haven’t thrown a single scrap of food away in the last three weeks.
In a week or two I will be making Woolton Pie. If I can get flour it will have a crust. If not, it will have to have a mashed potato top.
Clivia – a family heirloom
The end photograph is our clivia. I’ve always called it a Natal Lily, but it might not be, as it looks like a different cultivar. We have had it for about 30 years, since my mother passed it on to Julia. Two days ago we managed to knock it over, so it’s looking a bit worse for wear.
In the 30 years we have passed several on, having grown them from root division. It needs to be under cover, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely plant, and would look good in the garden. You can grow agapanthus, red hot pokers and mesambryanthemums outside in the UK – it’s a shame we can’t grow clivia. The garden next door used to have a fine show of agapanthus, but the last owner buried them under their new drive.
I’m going to have to up my work rate after what I said in the last post. This is therefore going to be the first of two posts today.
We have not had a good time at Sainsbury’s at Arnold recently. Twice before Christmas we went in and ordered Beef Baguettes. The first time we tried, we were told there there were no baguettes. I pointed out that they had a shop full of baguettes. It seems that they aren’t allowed to use them.
The second time it was a lack of beef that interfered with the plan. We had festive toasties instead, which allegedly contained turkey and stuffing, but tasted of cotton wool and ketchup.
When we found that the place was crowded at 11.30 I nearly didn’t bother stopping, but I’d promised Julia a day out, which, in my view, means that she doesn’t have to make breakfast.
The cafe was full, many of the tables for four being monopolised by a solitary coffin dodger who was on first name terms with the staff. Say what you like about quality of a service (and I will cover that fully in a later paragraph) , they know how to treat the elderly and I may well move in when I’m a few years older.
Tea – note the cup for a milk jug
i got a table for two while Julia ordered the food. It needed clearing and wiping down. So did many of the others. A member of kitchen staff emerged at one point, cleared the pots off one table, left the crumbs and went back into the kitchen, never to be seen again.
One lady went as far as to get the table wiping equipment from the staff and wipe her own table down, also wiping the table for a lady in a wheelchair. To be fair, we are supposed to take our own pots away, and it must add more work when people are too lazy, or too arrogant, to clear the table after eating. On the other hand the staff should keep the place clean – I’m paying enough and should have a clean place to eat.
When Julia arrived with the tea I noted the milk was in a coffee cup, rather than a receptacle designed for pouring milk. Again, we paid enough for them to provide a small jug.
It’s just minor details, but it’s annoying that people can’t get the simple things right. For an echo of these thoughts seethis post, though I note there are one or two typos in it – sorry for that.
The food arrived quite quickly, and a member of staff took it on a tour of the cafe before finding us, so we were never in danger of burning our mouths.
Big Breakfast – Sainsbury’s, Arnold
The breakfast report –
Portion size – good
Sausages – excellent and herby
Hash Browns – crispy and delicious
Beans – average, after all opening a can and heating beans is not a skilled job
Mushroom – excellent
Toast – average, another unskilled job that is difficult to do badly
Eggs – borderline – a hint of snottiness to the white means they were slightly undercooked
Bacon – this could take some time. There is a division of opinion on whether bacon should be crispy or pink and juicy. I favour pink and juicy myself but if the cook does it crispy I’ll eat that too. However, I’m not aware that there is a school of thought that says bacon should be cooked until hard, tied in a knot and basted with grease before being dumped on the plate. If there is such a school of thought I can recommend the cook at Sainbury’s in Arnold.
The bacon actually looks quite nice in the photo. But trust me, it wasn’t. And it was salty too.
So, despite the lack of cleanliness, mediocre efficiency and patchy breakfast, how was it?
Pretty good, to be honest. The good bits of the breakfast were very good, the staff are always friendly and cheerful, even if they do get behind with the cleaning and, judgingh by the way they get on with their regular ancient customers, they are providing a valuable community service.
I suspect the staff are great and the management is poor.
Would I recommend it despite my sarcasm and criticism?
Yes, though its constant failings with cleaning and detail are a bit wearing. On a good day it’s probably the best local breakfast, but the good days are, at the moment, in a minority.
I started reading the book and was instantly taken back to my days producing hatching eggs. Though I’d worked part-time while I was at school, I’d only reared chicks and worked in a hatchery. When I started full time they found me a job on a breeding farm run by a manager who had started working with poultry in the 1930s and had been a lecturer at agricultural college.
While the book taught me about eggs I was drifting back in a parallel world where I was a teenager again, being taught the same things for the first time. I was surprised by how it all came back.
There was also a lot in the book that I didn’t know, which was interesting and wide-ranging, but also possibly one of the faults – in a few places I felt it did get a bit lecturing. It didn’t stop the flow of reading, or detract much from the enjoyment, but it did jar slightly.
Despite this it was easy reading, so I was educated, informed and entertained at the same time and could, if time had allowed, have read it all in one sitting.
I’m happy to recommend it to bird watchers and general readers, with just one proviso – it’s very good, but it doesn’t strike me as the sort of book I could love. There’s just something a little cold in the tone. But that could just be me – don’t let it put you off.
On the grounds of good taste I’m not going to go into detail about what happened at hospital this afternoon.
The facilities are good, the staff were cheerful and I was only away from home for 45 minutes (we can see the hospital from our house so travel doesn’t take long). Despite this I’m not very happy with the experience.
It’s hard to feel satisfaction when you go in for tests and come out without having the tests done.
The NHS did not cover itself in glory today.
However, my day was better than the man who was waiting with me. He was under the misapprehension that they were going to put the camera down his throat.
Today’s photographs are just a few selected from thousands…
We collected the eggs today, not that there were many, as we’ve sent most of the hens to market and it’s the wrong time of year. (Of course, from a chicken’s point of view, it’s always the wrong time of year to go to market).
In fact there were two eggs, and being from bantams, they were both small. One was much smaller than the other. On Monday I weighed three of these eggs and they weighed just over 90 grams, which isn’t much more than one decent egg. In fact I used all three of them in place of the one required for the Grantham Gingerbread.
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This put me in mind of a limerick, (which I altered to match the circumstances).
We hatched seven chicks from fifteen eggs and, although I’m very pleased with the seven chicks that hatched, I’m not very happy about the overall result.
Of the eight that didn’t hatch, three (the two brown eggs and one bantam egg) were infertile. The brown egg layers are all old birds, which might be a factor, but they share a cockerel with the hen that laid the green eggs (all three of them hatched) and were collected clean and fresh so I had expected better.
The other five were all bantam eggs and come from just one hen. The infertile egg may well have been caused by the fact we had to store the eggs for two weeks to get enough to hatch. I should have marked that laying dates on the eggs so I could check the correlation with hatchability.
The ones that didn’t hatch were a mixture of mid to late term fatalities and were rather black inside.
Looking at all the possible causes I think we can ignore temperature, humidity, power failure and poor turning as they are all taken care of automatically (though I will test the temperature next time I set it up to check the accuracy of the built-in thermometer). They are on a good ration so I’m going to ignore poor nutrition for now.
That leaves inbreeding, poor ventilation, diseased or infected eggs and lethal genes.
I know what a lethal gene is, but I haven’t a clue how it would show itself.
I can’t vouch for ventilation – I will probably ventilate more in the next attempt and see what happens.
However, as the weight loss from evaporation was what we expected I’m assuming that humidity and ventilation were about right.
In truth, I can’t remember the parentage of the breeding stock, as they were passed on to us without much detail. The bird that laid and hatched the clutches of 11 and 8 on top of the coop is a half sister to the bird that laid these eggs but the “half” may make a difference.
That leaves diseased/infected eggs, which was my fear from the beginning. Our nest boxes aren’t brilliant so there is often dirt on the shells, which can allow germs into the egg via pores in the shell. That, plus the length of time we had to keep the eggs, is probably the cause.
I’m going to do some calculations now and see what I can do to improve.
I haven’t done a lot with the eggs, because I thought it was probably better to leave them alone and not be always fiddling. It’s better to leave the lid on, as this preserves the heat and humidity.
Does that sound plausible?
In truth I just didn’t get on with it because I had other things to do. That’s the story of my life – “other things to do”. That’s on my list of things to do – improve my time management.
Fortunately when I weighed them and checked the weight loss they are just about on target. The blue eggs are spot on – weighing 153 g against a target of 152.9 g. The Polish eggs are out by 0.2 g per egg, which isn’t significant. The brown ones are a bit out – 2 g per egg. However, they are bigger and they are from older birds so the shells will be more porous and the expected loss will be higher as a consequence. We will just have to see what happens. In an ideal world we wouldn’t mix such a diverse selection, but they needed to go in when they did to hatch on a Wednesday when we could see them.
That’s the trouble with keeping a small number of birds, you end up keeping the eggs until you have enough and as they age the hatchability declines. I just checked the exact figures – keep them for 7 days and you are OK, after that they start to decline both in terms of hatchability and the health of the chicks you hatch.
It also says (which was something I once knew, but had forgotten) that they will take a little longer to hatch.
Ready to hatch – I hope!
I am now hoping my calculations are right, because if they don’t hatch on Wednesday my life won’t be worth living.
We should have candled them by now too, but I didn’t get on with ordering the right light and I don’t have a powerful enough torch to do the job. Candling is shining a light through the egg to see if it has a developing embryo inside. For now it will have to remain a mystery.
The turning gear is now removed and the humidity turned up to 65% (as you need to keep the egg membranes moist to help the chick get out of the egg).
We had the second class from new College in today and I decided to open an egg up to show them a bit of science. As you can imagine from the featured image, I got a shock when I cracked it open.
I’ve seen eggs with meat and blood spots before but I’ve never actually seen one with so much blood in it. I assume that as the egg was having its thick albumen layer added the bird must have bled from the oviduct. It’s definitely not started incubating, because there are no blood vessels. Whatever the reason, it caused a bit of a stir, rather like a satanic conjuring trick.
It’s been wet today but despite that we’ve seen off a lot of jobs, and the flowers in the garden are starting to look great.
The students helped us catch the Polish bantams, which have been at liberty since Monday, so that was good, as although two of the birds were happy enough to go back, one put up more determined resistance. As we are down to three we don’t want to lose another, particularly as there had been a cat eyeing them up yesterday.
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We have some more information and photos up on the Individual Pages, the cow is repainted, the pigsaw’s tail is made (but not yet attached), I’ve been making signs for Open Farm Sunday, and we have two TV companies wanting to visit us (on the same day!). It will all come to nothing, I’m sure, but in any event, as a man with “a good face for radio” I’m not likely to be needed.
Number 1 son offered to make lunch, and without thinking I said “Yes please.”
He’s in his 20s, he’s been away for 3 years, he hasn’t starved to death, it was beans on toast. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, first of all, he decided to add scrambled eggs. Second, without telling me what he was doing, he left the eggs on the stove and went to do something else. The first I knew about it was when the smoke started to catch in my throat.
Strange I thought, burning food doesn’t usually – then I was grasped by another coughing fit.
Our traditional egg dish for breakfast and brunch type meals can best be described as a form of scrambled eggs in which the eggs are bashed about a bit and things like vegetables and bacon are mixed in.
In this case he added onion and chilli. I may have mentioned last week that he is a in a chilli phase. Much the same as I am in a milk drinking phase.
When you burn chilli it appears to produce a throat grasping acrid smoke that makes your eyes water.
The thing about child rearing is that you have to encourage them, even when it means eating burnt eggs with too much chilli in them.
The erst of the day, quite frankly, was an anticlimax after that, so that’s where I’ll end – a smoky kitchen, tears in my eyes, a rasp in my throat and a deep-seated desire to see him finish his Masters, get a job and bugger off before he destroys my kitchen or my taste buds.