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  • Pricing my preserves..

    As you know, I use recycled jars and lids where possible and safe, but this means my jars are all different shapes and sizes making pricing them difficult.

    After lots of trial and error I have worked out how to fairly cost my preserves, using the finished weight to guide me.

    Therefore the following guide shows how I get to the prices I do! Remember the jars are weighed once full.

    Up to 390g= XS £3

    400g-490g= S £4

    500g-590g= M £5

    600g-790g= L £6

    800g-990g= XL £7

    1kg and over XXL £8

    I will also be adding taster pots which will be £2 each.

    Free local Delivery/postage on orders over £20

  • What a month!!

    Before I start, I just want to say that I am as devastated as the rest of the world by the actions of the Russian Dictator ( I will not use his name, he doesn’t deserve that privilege) against Ukraine and its people who have showed more loyalty, bravery and compassion than any country I have ever known. This war is illegal, immoral and indefensible. However I want to try and keep my website free of politics and full of hope so I will make no further mention of it.

    🙏

    I cant believe its nearly a month since my last blog post!! I’ve been so aware that I needed to write but I honestly have not had time: how on earth did I ever fit a full time job into the equation? Mind you, my bungalow is much cleaner than its ever been, we now rarely order take-aways, and my marmalade game has never been so strong!! Oh and we rescued another dog (bear) and we’ve fought a battle with Storm Eunice at the allotment (and lost!) I’m now officially retired from nursing and deciding what do with myself for the next 10 years until we can both properly retire. My mental health has been so much better, although reducing my meds at night because I was all like ‘ I don’t need them anymore’ wasn’t my brightest idea (you’d think id know better eh?) but I’m glad I gave it a go; it made me realise that I need my meds, even without the stressors and triggers of nursing..

    So, where do I start? Marmalade? Seems as good a place as any. As you know, I bought loads of organic citrus fruits from Spain which then gave me a deadline: preserve before they go off! So 14 bags of sugar later, I now have seven varieties! Rene’s favourite is the bitter sweet lemon marmalade with thick bits of rind, he likes the bitterness against the sweet tangy lemon. My favourite is the Spiced Rum marmalade although its only my second batch I will sell as I couldn’t taste the rum in the first batch. Most recipes talk about a ‘glug’ of alcohol after the cooking is done, mine was poured in haha! Both the Scotch Whisky and the Spiced Rum varieties had more added than I should have done, hence why they are a smoother set. ( I also use less sugar than is traditionally used which also makes for a softer set) Anyway, 55 jars later (mixed sizes) and I’m all out of citrus, and glad to put the preserving pan away for a bit!! The biggest challenge for me has been the bloody labels!! Having decided to do them myself using a printer (more professional looking I reckon) I set about buying the labels and using templates to write in. Simple you’d think? No. No it wasn’t/isn’t. It is absolutely doing my head in now and until I get it sorted, I cant sell them!! Today. Today is the day I will beat this…

    Thinking chronologically, the next thing to happen was the storm. Obviously we have had storms before, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve had to rebuild and repair the greenhouse ( we initially collected it in 2013 for our Sheffield allotment) but its the worse storm we’ve had since moving to Donny and it caused a lot of damage at the allotment here. Being clever bastards though, we had siliconed the glass into the frames after loosing and replacing glass panels at a rate of two per season, and thank god we did! As you can see from the photos, only one pane smashed, the rest were left hanging precariously waiting to drop and decapitate whoever was walking past (be that animal or human) at any minute. This did not help my anxiety/drama queen tendencies I can tell you, especially as it was clearly a two man job to sort it, so I had to leave it be until Rene was free. Anyway, I’m glad to report zero decapitations, the bugger is now in pieces as the frame was so bent and damaged that we had to agree to retire the whole thing. RIP greenhouse, you served us well and will never be forgotten..

    It’s a solid wood door and v heavy!
    Didn’t need that fence anyway..

    Not only did it murder my greenhouse, the storm wiped out our fencing and ripped the door of my polytunnel. Not having much cash to spare ( given the whole no pay thing) we decided to reuse what we already had lying about the allotment, to try and repair the fencing and other than buying some chicken wire, we managed exactly that! Very proud allotmenteer I can tell you! Rene re hung the door for me and we were sorted again. Luckily we didn’t have any damage at home, probably as last year’s storms did that!!

    Where once there was a greenhouse…
    New chicken wire fence, try blowing that down!

    The next part of this blog is a bit of a warning to anyone else who like me, takes antidepressant and anti psychotic medications. Now having been a psychiatric nurse for over 30 years, one may assume that one listens too, and heeds one’s own advice and suggestions yes? Well I’m afraid one would be wrong! Like the numpty I am, I fell for the whole ‘I’m so well, everything is fabulous and I clearly don’t need such high doses of meds anymore’ thing. Of course I didn’t listen to my long suffering husband’s thoughts on this, as what the fook does he know? I’m the ‘expert’ after all… What. A. Twat. Anyway without going into details, it turns out that I DO need meds after all! Just a tiny reduction in my Quetiapine left me really quite elated and restless. I sliced the end of my finger off ( accidentally, I was peeling a tiny bit of ginger; I didn’t start self harming I promise!) went flying down a grassy embankment in the rain and mud trying to run down it (FFS I’m 53 not 13!) I stopped sleeping and found myself drinking way too much wine, to name just a few of the reckless things I was doing again! Needless to say, I’m back on my prescribed dose now, will I ever learn?

    And finally… We rescued a new doggo!!! Now we were very clear that we wanted to rescue/rehome a dog, something I believe very strongly in, but whatever fur baby joined us would have to put up with our mad home and lifestyle. Not that working and having cats should be an issue: we are quite capable of managing both situations as we have for the last 14 years, but alas, our UK based rescues were unable to help us (or let us help them should i say) Its such a shame that cases are no longer looked at case by case as we have had lots of experience with dogs and cats living together and as long as dogs are properly exercised twice a day, they will just sleep! If they get a bit destructive that’s ok: we can train them out of that! We did have some preferences which made it harder: no terriers and no greyhounds as their chase instinct is just too strong unless they are puppies and bought up with cats, but otherwise we were pretty open to any age or breed! We even tried direct rehoming but found the people we were dealing with wanted cash more than they cared for their poor animals, so this was ruled out as well. Its funny how things happen though, I saw a photo of a beautiful dog on one of my Facebook pages and contacted the woman who had rescued him, only to find he was in Romania but was soon to be driven to the UK. I sent her a message saying we were interested ( he had been described as being good with other dogs and cats) along with many others apparently, and we were chosen to go and meet him. Fast forward 4 days and I found myself driving to Bolton to meet and take him if I was happy. (Rene was working and was happy with me making the decision) Needless to say, I fell in love and ended up with a six stone dog on the back seat of my Yaris! Thankfully he has settled in brilliantly!! Riley (our 10 year old Springer/collie cross) is accepting of him (I’m sure hell grow to love him eventually) two of the cats love him and one retreated to the top of the wardrobe although she is now slowly being more friendly!! He has very strong guarding instincts but he’s a gentle giant!! He is a Mioritic Shepherd, bred to herd live stock in the Romanian mountains and we are totally head over heels in love with him.

    On the van taking him to his new life with us in the UK!
    Guarding like a boss!
    He makes Riley look tiny!

    Right, I’ve just realised that I have written a bloody novel today, not a blog post so I will leave it there for now!! As soon as I’ve finished these bastard labels, my marmalades will be available to buy from my Numonday shop so watch this space and please try some!

    Shimmy aka The Dark Lord Eyeballing Ruffi!
  • Valentine’s Day 2022

    I’m sure you are probably thinking this post will be a loved up soppy one full of Valentine’s photos of my hubby and I eating our favourite food raising a glass for the camera? Well you’d be wrong. February the 14th has always been a little different for our family as it was my dad’s birthday. William L Stead born 14.02.1948. My poppa bear from the 16.03.1969 when he became a dad for the first time to little old me! There were another three more to come over the next 5 years and he was made to be a father. For most of my life Valentine’s day was a double celebration filled with giant cards (Remember them? They were huge, padded and came in a box!) The double celebrations stopped though, when sadly ‘Bill’ lost his battle with mesothelioma on the 14th November 2002 aged only 54, a year before he could have retired from nursing. He never made retirement despite planning for it with our mum Pam. He never got to draw his pension, he never got to meet his last granddaughter or his first great grand daughter and I miss him so much it actually physically hurts.

    People talk about time being a healer, which of course it is to a degree: the wailing, ugly snotty crying and thoughts of ending it all to be with him do pass, but the aching sadness gets worse year after year. I miss his advice, his words of wisdom. I miss his brutal honesty even though it had made me cry in the past. I miss his voice, his sense of humour, the way he never really took himself seriously, I miss his embarrassing dress sense on his days off ( he always said that if he has to wear a suit and shave for work, he was going to smell bad and grow a beard when he was off work!) His Hawaiian shirts in the middle of winter and his socks with scandals in the summer (I’m not even going to mention the wig or ‘toupe’ as he preferred) were mortifying for us four kids and his long suffering wife, as was his insistence on holding our hands in public which at 15 was frankly devastating!! He still had so much he wanted to do in his life, so much more to give, to see, to feel and to experience but the Universe clearly had different plans for this beautiful man, and as I fast approach the age he was when he died, it all feels so scary and wrong.

    So as you can probably guess, for the last 19 years Valentine’s Day has been bitter sweet. Sweet because I’m lucky enough to have a life partner/husband but bitter because our Poppa Bear isn’t with us anymore.

    Bill Stead 1948-2002

    Anyway, enough of my sad ramblings. The point I actually wanted to make about this year’s Valentines day, was that it is also the day my contract with the NHS was terminated. Its funny as this has been a very long time coming, but after months of it being a vague thing that was going to happen but wasn’t happening ( if you work in the NHS you’ll know how slowly the cogs turn) I asked the Universe and my dad to speed things up so that I can move on with my new life as an ex nurse. Imagine my surprise when the very next day I received a letter telling me that the 14th February 2022 was going to be my ‘Freedom Day’. Now if that wasn’t a sign from my pops that he has still got my back, then I don’t know what is!

    So, here I am! Naomi the ex mental health nurse! I’ve never been so scared and so excited! Other than washing up in a pub when I was 16, nursing is all I’ve ever done. I know dad will be smiling in approval: he knew how stressful the job can be and its about a billion times worse now than when he was in the job! Mental health nurses are now just risk assessors. The culture of care, compassion and time for patients has all but gone now and I simply don’t want to be a part of it anymore. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know I had already cancelled my NMC registration, but ending my employment was the next big step and now its done!

    In true Pickard’s Preserves style, I spent my Freedom Day making the most beautiful organic Blood Orange and Whisky marmalade and sowing my first seeds for the growing season ahead. It seemed a fitting tribute given there will be no retirement party, no fuddle, no speeches or carriage clocks for me, instead I have quietly slipped out of the back door without anyone really noticing. Ceremoniously sowing my first seeds on this momentous and slightly sad day, gave me hope. Hope for my new future as an ex nurse!

  • Scotch whiskey and blood orange marmalade!

    A photographic step by step guide! Available to buy soon..

  • Oranges and Lemons..

    So after last year’s preserving efforts (I didn’t know I would later be selling them when I made the majority of them) I decided to keep a better record of the other bits n bobs that are needed for jam and chutney making: namely sugar, vinegars, various spices as well as the beloved oranges and lemons, of which I cannot take any credit for as they are always imported and I was unable to afford to buy organic citrus fruit which has always seemed a shame when the rest of my fruit and veg ARE organic.

    Being more mindful about these extra bits has seen me notice just how much money I do spend! Obviously it was always in dribs and drabs: a few bottles of red wine vinegar here, a couple of bags of dark brown sugar there, and always bought specifically for a batch of something. So this year I knew I needed to keep a better handle on what I am buying, where I’m buying it from and the quality of the ingredients. I started to do some research around buying organic and/or Fairtrade ingredients and whilst they are more expensive, they are generally kinder and better for you!

    This is when i came across the Crowd Farming guys and Buy Wholefoods On Line. I signed up to both and put my orders in. The https://www.buywholefoodsonline.co.uk/ order arrived first and I’m thrilled with it! I’ve always bought my mustard powder from Amazon before, but not any more! They offer free delivery and are ethical employers. They also do a huge bag of organic dates which are now waiting patiently in my cupboard for when the rhubarb is ready for harvesting! If you haven’t tasted my Date and Rhubarb chutney yet then you are in for a delicious treat, especially if like me, you love a cheeseboard: it really is the BEST chutney for this!

    Next up is the really exciting bit: buying my lemons and oranges direct from farmers in Europe! The boxes of citrus loveliness are driven rather than flown, and are organic, un waxed, freshly picked and every penny goes straight to the farmers! I immediately loved this idea, being a grower of organic fruit myself. So I put my (first) order in which consisted of a 10kgs box of organic lemons from Spain, a 11kgs box of blood oranges (remember them? Hardly see them anymore..) which are a little more bitter and perfect for marmalade, and a pre order of 12 kgs of organic oranges due to be delivered at the end of April (when my rhubarb will be in full swing and I’ll be making loads of my best selling Rhubarb and Orange marmalade! Honestly, I am beyond excited about having organic fresh citrus fruits, something I’ve never had before! Now I know how sad that sounds but it is actually true! Below is a photo of the gorgeous lemons that were delivered to my door on Monday! A few of them have already been used in my first ever batch of Lemon Marmalade! For the first time I actually filmed myself making it: whether I ever actually release these little videos is another matter entirely as I hate seeing myself on camera and I sound bloody awful haha! We will see…

    Finally I wanted to add that after a lot of research, I have decided to stick with Whitworth’s sugars! My reasons for this are as follows:

    • They are based less than 15 miles away from me in Wakefield.
    • They are an ethical brand who work fairly with their farmers
    • Their packaging is recyclable
    • They are ethical employers using a Co-Operative model
    • They do the best jam sugars!

  • Allotment visit today!

    Riley and I have has a lovely productive day at the plot! the weather has been perfect for gardening and i even stripped down to a tee shirt today which is unusual for February!

    The plan today was to plant some garlic and prep another bed.I forgot to buy any seed garlic so I’ve used some cloves that i had in the kitchen, which always seem to work just as well! garlic needs good drainage above everything else, and the frost is what splits the bulbs into cloves. We eat loads of the stuff; i it’s in pretty much everything we cook and home grown is so much stronger than shop bought.

    Next up was to make a new ‘no dig’ bed reusing an old pallet collar that i dug up! The good thing with this method when you have as much grass as we do, is that you just plonk the bed on top! Its soooo easy to do but can become expensive if you’re using shop bought compost and manure. Today’s bed started with cardboard that i doubled up. Then i chucked a bag of goats poo and hay on top of the cardboard, the hay will help with drainage as well (see photos) i then used an organic mix of compost and manure that has been dried and ground up, but you can use leaves and sticks followed by manure. Next up was my own compost but you can use a few bags of shop bought, and the lovely soil i always collect from my (many) molehills! Then to protect the soil i checked what was left of a bag of garden friendly wood chip. This is the fourth no dig bed ive made and its true that it DOES suppress the weeds, give it a go its so easy!

    After a lot of weeding and general clearing, a catch up with my allotment neighbour and a lunch break i cleared another bed of the worlds smallest sprouts (fail) and added chicken manure pellets and my own compost. I’m thinking of giving up on brassicas altogether this growing year, they always seem to feed the white fly and slugs more than us! We will see..

    Rather than leave the soil open to the elements i covered the bed with a bag of four year old leaf mould after finding a bin bag full of the stuff that we collected from our Sheffield plot! Not done that before but it seems like the right thing to do and i use my instincts more and more with gardening, so… 🤞🤞🤞

    With Riley pestering me to go home for his tea, we packed up and went home. not before noticing the rhubarb is poking through my mulch! Excited much!

  • Mixed Emotions, End of an Era..

    Yesterday was a tough day for me. After 8 months of thinking about it, I finally cancelled my nursing registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). This has been without doubt the hardest decision I’ve ever made, and the impact of it is huge.

    You see i started my nurse training many years ago at the end of the 80’s at only 18 years of age. I had already worked as a nursing auxiliary ( as they were then called) for six months, but on a Surgical Orthopaedic Ward in a back street hospital in Newcastle under Lyme. My short time working there was what made me decide to do mental health nursing as the ward was terrible and the Ward Sister was a typical old school, married to the job, probably a virgin, really quite hateful nurse who despised me from the off. Her strict and stiff demeanour was the exact opposite of me: I was friendly, happy and keen to make the patients smile through what was a pretty awful time for them.

    You’d usually find me bouncing around the ward singing daft songs with the patients, or making them laugh by doing silly dances in time to their bleeping drips and monitors. Sister Brassington (I know!) hated this and regularly chastised me for being ‘inappropriate’ or ‘unprofessional’ , something I’m sure any of my colleagues over the proceeding 30 years will testify is my normal behaviour, I’ve never really changed! Even when I was a ward manager, keeping staff and patients happy and laughing was a priority.

    When I was accepted to complete my nurse training in Manchester Sheffield or Birmingham ( I chose Sheffield because at that time that was where the best alternative music scene was, clearly I had researched the different areas extensively!) Sister Brassington laughed her ratty little head off, telling me she knew I would ‘end up being a psych as that was where all the delinquent nurses were.’ (She wasn’t wrong to be fair) I had to continue biting my now bleeding lip(s) until the bitch had given me a reference, but boy did I let rip once everything was set up in Sheffield and it was my last day on R.E.B Ward!

    My last day arrived eventually. I made sure the ward was packed with staff and relatives and that Sister B was present before loudly telling her that ‘all the patients and staff hate you, you are so evil to everyone’. ( This was true, even the patients used to pass notes slagging her off to each other from their beds) It actually took a few seconds for her to register what I had said: the deathly silence and tumble weed blowing through the ward probably helped mind! To my amazement she didn’t say a word but just walked away.

    That was the last time I ever saw Sister B. As they say, what goes around comes around, and I can only hope she thought twice about the regular public bollockings she gave her poor nursing staff on a daily basis, after finding herself on the receiving end instead!

    Fast forward 34 years to the present day. (Well back to yesterday I should say.) I cried a LOT and got angry about how and why I am leaving the ONLY job I have ever done, and a job that I have always loved, but it is what it is, and my reasons can wait for another day and another blog. The bottom line is that it is done. I am officially no longer a nurse.

    I’m scared shitless and so skint ( didn’t think at 52 id be back to counting the pennies) but I’m free! FREE!! FREEDOM!!!

    Goodbye nursing, you’ve been a blast but its now time for a change and I CANT WAIT!!

    Until next time peeps…

    My mate Darryl and I as student nurses circa 1988
  • Freezer Find!

    So today i decided to have a clear out at home, starting with the kitchen. Now it is impossible for me not to do at least 8 things at the same time, so whilst clearing one of my cupboards and realising that the fondue set I’ve had forever is unlikely to ever be used, i decided i needed to start emptying and sorting my freezer. (Obviously) This then led to me finding a bag of frozen blackberries and a bag of rhubarb, so obviously i needed to turn this IMMEDIATELY into jam.

    So, with cupboards open, fondue sets and plates all over my floor and the freezer starting to defrost itself i made jam! Its delicious as it happens: rhubarb, blackberry and vanilla jam, made with only those ingredients and a bag of jam sugar. Who’d have thought id be making jam from my own fruit in the middle of Winter!

    So now i need to know how to open an online shop. The next three hours were spent painstakingly adding each item to an inventory, whilst sheepishly looking at the mess in the kitchen and wondering why i started the job in the first place. Fast forward three hours. I press the delete instead of save button and the lot disappears!! FFS. After dismissing the idea of packing it all in and lobbing my jam at the wall, i gave up with the online shop and went back to the kitchen. FML.

    I have now completed my ‘clear out’ by moving stuff to the attic. Its a start i suppose!

    Here’s a few photos of my jam making in progress. Luckily i had enough small jars left, which reminds me: i must add a post to my page asking for my customers to save theirs for me to use later in the year..

    Oh yes, I’ve also found an online course about using WordPress: how to build my website and monetise my blog! Well initially, how to actually write a blog as I’m not sure my rambling on here counts?

    Right, time to add a few photos and sign out, seeing as my hoover is out but not in use, there’s a half cooked meal on the stove and my dog is staring at me in an angry way as ive washed his bedding and forgotten to dry it..

    Adios for now

  • No sleep, again!

    No sleep, again!

    I’m full of cold and feeling very sorry for myself today, after a second rubbish night made up of coughing, sneezing, blocked and runny nose (at the same time, how?) and a very irritated husband who bless him, has just rung from work to see how i am. 🆘 The good news is that its not ‘rona. That’s where the good news stops mind.

    Man flu aside, im feeling anxious and frustrated today; trying to leave my NHS nurse job is proving to be very difficult, probably as i am applying for ill health retirement after finally accepting that my mental health is just too fragile now to keep going in the field of mental health nursing. However what wont come as a surprise to anyone these days, is just how long winded and burocratic the process is- forms, more forms, forms to order forms etc etc and then having to rely on doctors and managers to sign said forms, something that proved too difficult for the Occupational Health doctor 🙄Of course i understand how busy everyone is but a signature?? Really?

    So, being physically unwell and feeling mentally a bit shit today means I’m going to try and be kind to myself. This is never my first instinct but its something I’m working on, this whole self care thing and today is one of those days. Sadly i do still need to get some food shopping and walk Riley, but my seed sorting plans will just have to wait, as will sorting through my jars and labels etc ready for my first preserving efforts of 2022, probably in a few weeks judging by how well my rhubarb is doing!

    On a positive note though, i managed to clear and start prepping the polytunnel yesterday whilst Rene joyfully burned stuff 🤦‍♀️🤣 and my two little ’no dig’ beds are also ready for planting in, come the Spring! A quick tidy up of the rhubarb patch before mulching it with well rotted manure, saw me done in, covered in my own snot, head banging but happy! 😆

    So for now, i will bid you farewell, leaving you with a few photos from the allotment taken yesterday. 💚

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