The size of a Partridge……………

Seven years ago today was supposed to be the happiest day of our lives. Six months earlier in May we had the most amazing Wedding Day, a wonderful Church Service followed by a party that’s still talked about today, when the Welsh came to Leicestershire and the bar takings were better than Christmas.

So when I found out I was pregnant with a honeymoon baby family and friends were all ecstatic and we all wished my February due date would come quicker, well it did…… At 25 weeks and 3 days pregnant I was admitted to hospital in horrendous pain, I had HELLP syndrome. Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet levels. My organs were basically packing up and my condition was deteriorating rapidly.

It was decided that our baby must be delivered. A Paediatrician from the Special Care Baby Unit came to speak to us, I remember little of that conversation other than the words, ‘ the baby has a 50 / 50 chance of survival’. Delivery was under general anaesthetic, my husband came in when I woke, and said, we have a little girl, and I asked him to get her Christened.

She was Christened Betrys Rose in the early hours of the morning while I was still on the operating table. I was wheeled over on my bed to see her afterwards, she was so tiny, 1lb 9oz to be precise, her skin was almost translucent but everything was there, every tiny finger and ever tiny toe was present.

A ventilator was tied in place using the tiniest little knitted hat you have ever seen. The days that followed are hazy for me, I remember waking and hearing my husband asking a nurse,  why I was sleeping so much. I realise now how harrowing that time was for him and my family.

On day two a nurse and doctor came into my high dependency room to inform us they had done some scans and discovered Betrys had suffered a brain bleed, they explained the scale and that it was a Grade 2, it was possible it could resolve itself or possibly not. My husband and I handled these pieces of news very differently, where he would always cling onto those words ‘it might resolve’ I could never get away from ‘but possibly not’.

I recovered fairly quickly and started expressing milk for Betrys after four days, it was tough, very tough, I had little milk but I knew that I really wanted to do something to help her, and the amount she was taking through her tube was minuscule so I decided to put my all into it.

The notes in the book in the picture are my expressing times, written out for me by my Mother to remind me as my brain at that time was 99% mush. There were lots of warm flannels involved if I managed to get one tube full of milk, which I think was 30ml we cracked open a bottle of Shloer in celebration!

Betrys’s condition deteriorated, and to be honest at two weeks old she was probably worse than when she was born, she was ventilator dependant, had chronic lung disease, her blood sugars were everywhere, required many blood transfusions, she had a PDA parent ductus arteriosus a heart problem which is common in Premature Babies that was preventing her from progressing.

Every day I would be there for the doctors morning ward round to listen to their plan, for many weeks it was very bleak, her weight gain was poor, she had numerous suspected infections, her tube dislodged causing that terrifying moment when those numbers on the screen go down and down as her oxygen saturation’s plummeted,  the alarms of the machines still haunt me today.

It was decided to take her to Alder Hey to try to rectify her heart problem, we were so scared she wouldn’t make the journey, she did, but on arrival the consultants decided her condition was too poor to survive the operation and they would not take the risk. We asked the doctors and Consultants,‘what happens now?’,  it was explained there was little more that could be done, they would continue her care and she had to just grow her way out of it and to hope she remained infection free in the process.

Everyday we went to see her, my husband had to go back to work but would be there before and after, I would change her nappy, feed her through her tube, talk, read and sing to her.

It was hard, I had never had a baby before, I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I loved her and I had to will her to live. My life was in the hospital and expressing, everything else was on hold.  I shut myself off from the outside world, when I went home I wouldn’t answer the door or my phone, I wouldn’t go to a shop or anywhere I thought I might see somebody I knew.

I felt I had let everybody down, this baby was so wanted by so many people and I couldn’t carry her. I speak to my best friend who lives 150 miles away on the phone at least three times a week but I couldn’t even speak to her. She came to visit after a few weeks, we still laugh today that when explaining how small Betrys was she compared her to the size of a plucked and dressed Partridge!

The week before Christmas I couldn’t do it anymore, I never ever give up on anything,  but I got up that morning and said to my husband, I just can’t do it today. Betrys had been really poorly that week and it had taken everything out of me, so he went in on his own. I was shocked and elated to receive a phonecall mid morning to say she was doing really well and from then on she did turn a corner.

At 114 days she came home, weighing 6lb 6oz and oxygen free. It was wonderful but terrifying having her home. I was strict on visitors, everybody had to wash their hands, my husband actually developed an obsession with plastering his hands in alcohol gel, I ended up having to hide it in the cleaning cupboard, I knew he would never find it there!  We had Groceries delivered and walks in the pram just around the block where nobody could breath on her!

We have been so lucky that she received such incredible care from our NHS and all the staff in SCBU Glan Clwyd we will forever be in their debt.

I decided to give up my job and devoted my life to her development. She now has minimal long term problems, her brain bleed resolved itself and she is doing very well at school.
Today she becomes a big seven year old girl, she’s dancing obsessed, she’s feisty, she pickles my brain daily but we are immensely proud of her and we know her fight is probably why she is here with us now.

The whole experience changed me, I used to plan everything in great advance, I lived by schedules, I really don’t now.  This experience showed me you really can’t. So, Happy Birthday to our miracle girl, our Betty long legs, who is now, well…..much bigger than a Partridge!

14BA4210-E04C-497F-BA88-6378BB5BF362

Pumpkins and Politics……………….

School is out this week and I for one am over the moon! Don’t get me wrong my children go to a wonderful village school where everybody knows each other, they have great friends and teachers, but for me it’s the desperately boring routine! Preparing lunch boxes in the evenings, and putting out clothes for the next morning. Getting all of us out of the door by 8.30(ishhhh) each morning, frankly I find it so tedious, day in day out, so when the holidays come around I celebrate too!
We are making the most of our free range time and joined the country in the new craze and hit the fields at the weekend for some pumpkin picking.
It’s the first year we have been and it was great, the children loved it.
I wasn’t sure I agreed with yet another ‘experience’ to keep up, but after listening to Radio 4’s Farming today programme at the beginning of the week it made me think otherwise. They were reporting from a farm that grows thousands of pumpkins for Halloween pick your own, you could clearly hear the sound of hundreds of people getting outdoors in the fresh air, connecting with the growers and  learning where their food comes from. This teamed with the diversification opportunities that it enables I concluded it could only be a good thing.
Halloween was never really a ‘thing’ in the UK when I was a child, and living on a farm in the middle of nowhere meant the closest we got to trick or treaters was a visiting stray cat, so I have really enjoyed all the activities involved this year too.

I admittedly moan about the monotony of the school term but I do understand that whatever our children wish to do with their futures their education is so important.
Reading this week about the the changing times ahead, Agriculture is most definitely going to see modifications to tackle climate control that will require careful management planning.
Last week the FUW and the NFU for the first time joined for a briefing in Cardiff to tackle the government on their new ‘Public Money for Public Goods Proposal’. The Unions joint paper ‘A Welsh Way Forward’ highlights for me just how many people any new policies will affect in rural communities. It also made me consider the fact that we are going to need knowledgeable and passionate new blood for positions in such Unions in the future.

So for this week for us there will be no schedule, and no clock watching and we will enjoy our week off…..then back to it next week, aiming to get out of the door for 8.30ishhhhhhhh!

3C5A725E-A3C2-4880-A3EA-7750D1351C36.jpeg

Step Away from the Dishwasher

FFC5879A-6EB5-4BAE-BCC8-F46BD451E0C2

This week we saw #worldmentalhealthawareness day and I read lots of posts some very sad, in particular the 52 pairs of wellies all lined up by the DPJ Foundation to represent every Agricultural workers that has taken their own lives in the last year.

Day to day I’m usually pretty upbeat, I’m a do-er, I get the job done. I joke about my chaotic life.  

Ultimately I love it, I love it that every day is different, the variety.

But managing family life, work, a business, a marriage, friendships, looking half presentable, it does feel like a juggling act and I’m starting to realise that sometimes I just have to put those juggling balls down and take a step back!

Two things are really my sanity,  firstly this fluffy little pictured hound. He gives me a reason to get out for a walk, a reason to have some quiet time, some peace.

Secondly my writing, my posts, my blogging, I love it.

I love writing about the things that matter to me. So thank you for humouring me with your follows, likes and comments! 

I’m realising it’s ok to take a break, leave the 3rd dishwasher of the day, the three peaks of washing, the mounting emails.

Finding time to take a break will make me a better Wife, Mother, Friend and a happier person.

.

.

.

.

.

#mentalhealthawareness

#takeabreak

#lookafteryourself

#thirtyminsofmetime

Cooking with Cheaper Cuts: Moroccan Lamb

Local Lamb …..

So if you have followed me for very long you will know I’m passionate about Local Foods.

I often get the question, well isn’t it more expensive to shop at the Butchers or a having a local Vegetable Box delivered? I usually reply, it depends what you do with it!

I was also quite sad to hear on a Farming Programme recently that some Farmers don’t feel like they can afford to buy the meat they are producing and opt to purchase cheaper imported meat for their own tables.

So I have decided to write a few posts on recipes and rather than opting for the more popular cuts to go for something a little bit cheaper and show what can be done with it!

So I will start with Lamb, the picture above is taken from the BBC Good Food Page and highlights the cheaper cuts, they have a great range of recipes and I have adapted this Moroccan Lamb from one of theirs.

Moroccan Lamb
500g diced Lamb Shoulder from my local Butchers @dmorrisbutchers Denbigh. I got them to cut it into bite size pieces.
Half a large Aubergine
Half a large Courgette
Two tins of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons Paprika
3 teaspoons of Cinnamon
Salt & Pepper
Handful of Coriander chopped save a sprinkling to garnish

Brown the lamb in a frying pan with no oil, add the spices and keep on the heat for 1 minute, add the Courgette and Aubergine and chopped tomatoes, and stir in the coriander, season with the salt an pepper and leave to simmer for 30-40 minutes, and it’s done!

I worked out the approximate cost at £7.85 for 5 good adult portions = £1.57 per portion.
My children would have half to 3/4 of an adult portion.

I Served with Couscous & Rice which is relatively cheap.
My foodie pictures are exceptionally rubbish but it was really delicious!
The meat was so tender, it was quick, so easy, healthy, supporting local businesses and using welsh lamb 👌
_____________________________
#farmingfortnight #welshlamb #lovelamb #goodfood #healthyfood @hccmpw #recipe #supper #shoplocal #lovelivelocal #bbcgoodfood #lamb #rurallife #

D9565772-394C-48BA-8831-5C89125F238F

 

Cooking with Cheaper Cuts: Texas Barbecue Brisket

So I’m continuing with my recipes using cheaper cuts of meat.

If you didn’t see my last post on Moroccan Lamb firstly take a look because it’s delicious but secondly just to recap, I strongly believe that by opting for cheaper cuts, we can make delicious meals from really good quality meat at a fraction of the price.

So yesterday we had friends over for a Barbecue, and I wanted something that was a bit different to the Traditional Burgers and Sausages.

The picture above is again taken from the BBC Good Food Page as is the recipe. The picture shows the cheaper cuts of Beef and this recipe uses Beef Brisket.

Now the original BBC Good Food recipe said to use 5kg of Beef, I about had a fit when actually I saw that much on the Butchers block! 😳, so I used just over 3kg.

3kg Beef Brisket from our Butchers @danielmorrisbutchers
500ml Beef Stock

For the BBQ Sauce;
1tbsp of Rapeseed Oil
1 small onion finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
500ml of Passata
100ml Worcestershire Sauce
75ml Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1tbsp Malt Vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp crushed chilli flakes
1 tsp Tabasco Sauce
1 tsp dried thyme

For the rub;
2 tbsp chilli powder (I used mild)
2 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp each of Paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground black pepper and caster sugar.
1 Bay leaf crushed.

So I made the Barbecue Sauce by frying the onions and garlic lightly until soft, then added all of the other sauce ingredients and simmered for five minutes. Then put it all in the blender and whizzed until smooth.

Then I made the rub and covered the brisket with it.
I placed the Beef stock in the bottom of a deep roasting tin and added half of the Barbecue Sauce to it. I then put the beef on top of it and then covered tightly with foil.
I cooked slowly at a low heat, 150 degrees C for 4 hours and 30 mins.
Then took out and finished off on the Barbecue, about 20 minutes on each side. I think this would work really well in the slow cooker too.
This made 10 really good portions. I worked the cost out at £2.48/head for all of the ingredients you need.
I sliced thinly and served with wraps and Greek Salad, spinach and homemade Coleslaw.

454376D3-01A5-4091-AEF6-8FCF54F8B9CC

Cooking with Cheaper Cuts: Pork Steaks

So I haven’t done one of these for a while..but just to recap if you are a new follower.

I think it’s important that everybody can enjoy good quality meat, I have been saddened to hear even Farmers don’t believe they can afford the food they are producing, to me this is madness.

So I try to share some recipes of how to utilise cheaper cuts, those that you might not usually pick up.

Head to your local Butchers, have a chat and discover these brilliant cheaper cuts that are high welfare, full of flavour and wonderful quality.

So tonight we had Pork Steaks. I think Pork is often underrated and overlooked but Pork Steaks can be the perfect alternative to a joint of meat for your Sunday Roast.

So I kept it really simple today, I cooked the steaks in the oven for around 15 minutes at 200 degrees, then I poured over them the Juice of a large lemon, sprinkled over some rosemary, salt and black pepper and popped them back into the oven (turned down to 170/180) for another 20 or so minutes then checked to see if they were just starting to brown, cooked through but still juicy if not leave for another 5 minutes before checking again.

These were quite big, thick steaks so obviously cooking times will vary.

I served with potatoes from the garden roasted & some courgette, onion and chard that a pan fried lightly with some garlic and apple cider vinegar.

It’s a bit difficult with this one to work out how much it cost as some of the Vegetables and potatoes were from our garden, however I would say an adults portion was around £2.00 and a child’s was about £1.00.

It really was a super quick alternative to the traditional Sunday Roasting Joint.

Pig Image credit to BBC Good Food .
(My food photography is useless please don’t ‘rate my plate!’ It tasted wonderful believe me!)
______________________________
#cookingwithcheapercuts #pork #qualitymeats #qualityfood #shoplocal #seasonalproduce #shoplocal #localfood #eatwell #careaboutwhatyoueat #backbritishfarming #eatseasonal

55398816-B83B-41A2-BCAE-4E405229C351.png

 

A Cucumber with Potential!

I have been in the recovery position since our Village Show on Saturday. It was positively exhausting but a brilliant day.

This picture of the big girl in the Farmers Race is how I felt going into it, I have been Secretary for the last three years but it’s the first year I have done lots more of the organising and there was an element of ‘winging it’ involved!

However the entries were good, including the sheep section despite movement rules which always makes it difficult.  Another local show is the Thursday before and basically the fact that if they come to the Show they can’t sell the next week.

It is bound to reduce entries, Farms are Businesses  and if they have stock to sell it’s going to come first however despite this thankfully the turnout was good.

The Cattle also had a nice few entries in the Dairy and Beef Sections. As well as a selection of fancy Bantams and a hen totally outnumbered with her week old chicks.

We had to make a decision back in July to cancel the ever popular Horse Section due to outbreaks of Equine Flu in the area, disappointing for many but all being well they will be back next year.

The fancy dress was fabulous, anything beginning with ‘N’ , a handful of Noddy’s, Nigella Lawson, a Nest and a couple of Newsreaders to name a few!

It’s was all finished off with a game of rounders, I watched as by that time running was far too energetic for me! All topped off with a couple of gins in the pub.

Most of the Committee give their time for free, the meetings throughout the year, setting up the week before, on the day and now onto the taking down some may ask why?

But when you see all the people enjoying the day, discussing entries and the random text messages they have received about potential show winning Cucumbers!  

The community coming together enjoying the sunshine and an ice cream it makes it all worth it.

Now onto next year’s planning! C94F6889-16F1-49B9-9360-815513FF8E9A.jpeg

Shows’ over…..

The trailers were being loaded, the stands were being dismantled, the performers were singing their last sets and the caravans were hitched up and weaving their way home to various parts of the Country.

As we enjoyed our final Ice cream  we reflected on our week at The Royal Welsh Show and what a blooming fantastic, scorcher of a week it has been.

When people ask me what our holiday plans are and I reply by saying, ‘four nights at The Royal Welsh Show’ I get mixed responses. Some think we are bonkers, why would you go to a Show for your holiday?

Whilst others just get it.

What ‘it’ is is impossible to explain unless you have been part of the full experience yourself. 

For me it starts when those members badges hit the doormat, I know it’s not long to wait. I start making plans, what to take, what to wear, what bottle of alcoholic  beverage shall I treat myself to!

The children start getting excited, and along with a couple of die hard show fans they hit the playground promo hard!

By the Sunday evening most of the ‘weeklongers’ are set up and the atmosphere is buzzing. Cattle are in the stalls, sheep are penned, people are catching up with those they may not have seen for the last twelve months.

Well dressed Ladies and Gentlemen are pouring into the Showground for the Sunday Service, Moliant y Maes that marks the start of the Show.

On Monday morning some are up at the crack of dawn to act as judges or officials, or to put the final touches to their potential prize winners. Whilst others who it may be said have ‘peaked too soon’ nurse the first of the week’s hangovers.

As the week goes on we see the very best in all areas crowned Champions, from cheese and chocolate eclairs to floral art and fine Welsh Ponies.

Sheep of every breed and teams of cattle are strutting around the rings,   their proud owners waiting in anticipation for that nod, that slap of the back or the judges meaningful walk towards them to exchange a red rosette for the handshake of all handshakes.

Countryside skills, shearing, traditions and ‘ways of life’ are all displayed for the public to understand, learn about and appreciate.

There’s Shops shops shops,  full to bursting with beautiful welsh brands, clothing, accessories, mouth watering foods and of course the biggest selection of scaled down machinery for all those enthusiastic carpet farmers.

The entertainment runs well into the evening, whilst some prefer the Grand stand and main ring offerings, others enjoy the many bars and meeting points around the Showground, neighbouring campsite or the pubs in Builth Wells that are well prepared for the sea of people that head there for the week’s  celebrations.

Lots of exhibitors form  their own social settings by the side of their stock, with plenty of chat and singing that could be mistaken for any reputable Welsh choir.

I could go on, but I think you probably get the idea, it’s not just a Show, it’s so much more than a Show. It’s a celebration of Countrylife, it’s a celebration of Farming and it’s a celebration of the Industries Future.

So all being well, we will be back next year, for an extra special week when Clwyd will be the feature County and I for one cannot wait!

DBAF8422-C2AE-4765-BE21-20DA3F04F0E0.jpeg

Farmher

82D489E0-30FF-4A96-971E-30AC548DD3D2.jpegIt was a day full of Pate, Bison, super posh Tents and a slightly hair raising bus trip through the Welsh Countryside on  the Farming Connect Women in Agriculture Tour.

It took the form of six Bus Tours full to the brim of Farming Ladies  all visiting very special Businesses and Diversification Projects.

What a brilliant opportunity it was to learn how Businesses had started, the highs, the lows and viewing the ultimate end result.

My tour started at Patchwork Foods with the fantastic Margaret.  Well how could you not be inspired, she has a wealth of experience and advice and the thing I really took away from this visit was to always say YES to opportunities I am given, I might just pull them off!

With Pate sample in hand as an early morning snack we hopped back on the bus and headed to Rhug Estate Organic Farm near Corwen.

Gareth was our very brave Tour Guide and after a quick cuppa and delicious Bacon Cob we boarded the Trailer for a Farm Tour. There’s so much going on at Rhug, from Free Range Chickens to Bison and Deer, all farmed Organically, some of which is sold in their Farm Shop, Restaurant, Takeaway and the UKs  first ever Farm Drive Thru .

Gareth explained how they start by identifying what the end Consumer wants for example by speaking to Chefs who regularly visit the Estate,  then work backwards and produce what is required in a sustainable way.  It’s a simple concept but one that as Farmers we must remember in order to stay focused on producing what the customer really wants. 

Following a quick jaunt around the  wonderful Farm Shop, we were ushered back onto the bus to head to our last project, Pant y March Glamping.

I’m not going to lie, the bus journey here was a slightly bum bumping experience, however my gosh it was worth it, what magnificent views, just breathtaking.

The two canvas Lodges were fabulous, this is Camping on another level, although to be fair if you’ve spent a week at The Royal Welsh Show in a Trailer Tent with no electric,  two under 6 year olds, also seven months pregnant  then anything else is always going to be luxurious. However these really were the ‘Bees Knees’ of the Camping World and I could have stayed there all day….but that wasn’t to be, our sights were set on sunny Aberystwyth.

Oh how I adore Aberystwyth! I spent three years and thousands of pounds here, I’m slightly biased  but I honestly can’t think of a better place to spend your student loan!

But no time for a cheeky Apple Sourz in Pier Pressure today! We were straight into The Marine Hotel to join all the other Ladies, (I’m guessing around 250 )for a spot of Afternoon Tea. We had a superb talk from the Ladies of the She Sheers Film, if you haven’t seen it then you must.

It’s around 15 years since I was studying Agriculture and in both College and University the girls were seriously outnumbered, but times have changed and more and more girls are taking the opportunity to study and learn, to work along side the chaps producing our fantastic UK food, starting, managing, and running Rural Businesses and doing a blooming fantastic job of championing Women in Agriculture!