A few weeks ago, we got a bit of a shock. Neil is self employed, but for two years, he has had one major client, who has bought up most of his time, and there was no reason to suppose that would change.
At the beginning of September, this man's younger son went to senior school - an expensive private school which, rather than requiring of his mother a long haul school run as had his prep school, provided a bus, which picked him up, along with his older brother, and thus has freed up Mama - as she put it after the event - to go back to working with the sheep.
Without warning, our income disappeared. The usual Sunday evening phonecall, which would have confirmed three to four days of well paid work, asked to book him only for the week of half term - to cover for their holiday.
Insult to injury. They obviously knew that was what they would do. They were so selfish, that just in case - just in case - Neil should prove so dishonourable as to take a hike when they mentioned their plans, despite the fact that he has never never let them down and has been nothing but open and honest - just in case, they decided to let another family suffer terribly, and give us not one minute's notice.
Since then, we have been selling what we can, surviving on nothing, and making hard decisions about our lives. And to stop us from starving completely, Neil has been out taxi driving. Last night until 3am and then today again from 7am.
So the girls and I had a day of doing .. well everything, and it was always going to be a busy day, anyway!
While they got up and fed chickens, I quickly put the sloes picked yesterday to soak - for sloe wine, which I think I am right in saying, is not so much a table wine, as a remedy, one of the many traditionally made from hedgerow fruits - the girls picked blackberries today, so the blackberry vinegar (our cough remedy) will be brewing soon.
Next, Boo and I set off to the landlord's travelling chickens - this is a job we have as a trade, it lowers our rent - and Neil does it normally, but we had planned that it would be 'my' job, so I am just getting used to it - today was the first time I'd done it without Neil's help.
After the chickens come the goats - I milk in this awful position because my back refuses to use the stool - it's on my list to build a milking stand, to put this situation to rights. Sadly my list is very long. H took this photo and I have to say I am more than a little concerned about the perfect tonal resonance between my hair and that goat's bottom!
We came home and loaded tack up, and for the first time in far too long, went out for a ride, all three of us together. Not far, it has to be said, since poor old Arch has been lounging round in his dressing gown for weeks and is all blubber and puff. But at least we got out.
Home again to clear up, make lunch, put together supper, chiefly from the contents of the garden with a little help from Lidl. Using up apples, so an apple and sultana crumble added to the bounty.
After supper, the girls and I pitched into some tomato bottling Yes, this is bottling, not canning, oh my American chums, straight out of the Rayburn Cookbook, as more than likely carried out by our own dear Miss Marple. Whole, unskinned tomatoes, placed in the oven for an hour and half, before topping up and sealing.
I must admit, I did actually revert to some techniques from the Ball Blue Book - for example I did add lemon juice, as I understand that modern tomato varieties are sweeter than old fashioned varieties - and therefore may just miss out on being acidic enough for non pressure canning.
And so finally to bed. Been a long day. Still many garden and kitchen jobs waiting to be done. But we made a start!
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