Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December Daily Post, Last One!

I've found this daily posting a bit of a trial. At the beginning of the month I envisaged a stately, sometimes humourous progression towards Christmas and beyond. But, as some dude said, life is what happens while you're making other plans.

On this, the last day of 2014, Nellybert looked after our grandchildren, collected a young friend from the airport and we're now settled down with a hot Jamesons and the Dallas Buyers Club. I'm writing this while Bert converts to subtitles. Texan accents!

Happy New Year to everyone who visits the garden. Here's hoping for lots of joy and fun for 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 30

Any day that begins with eating Zoe's delicious Yule log for breakfast is going to be a messy, chaotic, action-packed 16 hours. And of course this all takes place without me actually leaving the house apart from a 20 minute pop to the shop to stock up on bread and milk and all the things that were going cheap after Christmas.

Today's visitors were Martha, Evie and their parents and their two dogs, then Billy and his two year old twins, next Peter and six year old Curtis, then Gareth and two pre-schoolers and Mr & Mrs The Wee Manny who were, I believe, hoping for a quiet half-hour before returning to their house of four dogs and three under-fives. The Wee was wearing a new red and green top, a navy pointed knitted hat and looked exactly like a retired elf. In the later part of the day we had Hannah and her friend who stayed for supper. The Misses Martha and Evie are staying the night so it will be full on for Nellybert until tomorrow's dark evening. Sure what else would we be at?


Monday, December 29, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 29


I was a patient patient today and Cousin Margaret was a patient patient supporter. For today was the day of my follow up appointment after my eye infection crisis.

Rather than be late for my date with the doctor we ended up being more than an hour early so we had morning coffee and scones in the Europa Hotel. It was sweet to be sitting in the Piano Bar watching and looking out at Robinson's and the Crown Bar. Belfast looked beautiful today.  



The day had not started well. There had been a very tight frost during the night and on my way out the door this morning to feed the hens I slipped on ice and fell on the broad of my back. I was looking at the bright blue sky before I had time to tense up and that was a good thing. I must have been shaken up still when I went into the henhouse for the damn rooster saw my defences were down and attacked me. The weight of him as he flies into you! I'm sure he'll make a delicious and hearty broth some of these days.

But it could have been worse. Poor Cousin Raymond was helping his daughter move house and he slipped on ice while he was carrying a washing machine. The washing machine fell on top of him. Apparently he is OK, still helping with the flit.

The doctor at the Royal Victoria Hospital told me that the infection in my left eye lingers on and I'll need to take another four week course of steroid drops. It seems it was a herpes infection and that I was lucky it was caught it at an early stage. Better news is that I am now on the waiting list for the cataract operation on my right eye and, in the meantime, I can continue to drive.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

December Daily Post, Nos. 27 & 28

I'm afraid that Christmas has caught up with me at last. It crept up behind me and gave me such a wallop. The Banjos were here last night. Bert and Banjo Man went to a party and Jazzer, Ben and I ate and drank too much. And that is all I will say about that.

Tomorrow I am going to Belfast for an eye check up.

Friday, December 26, 2014

December Daily Post, Boxing Day



The Boxing Day feast went well. We were two men and two dogs short but still eleven round the table and four extra dogs.

My trifle was a triumph despite the rumour that it contained peas. Those were white currants! White currants, red currants, raspberries and strawberries - all from our summer garden.

I am so tired so that will be all for tonight.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

December Daily Post. Christmas Day



Christmas Day. We had the nicest day. I hope you all did too. This coming year will bring lots of changes. I look forward to them. If there is sadness too, we will bear it.

God bless you every one.

P.S, Downton Abbey a great load of toodle but Nellybert enjoyed it immensely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December Daily Post, Christmas Eve

A bit fraught, ever so slightly stressed. That is how I feel when I clean house. And it's usually how I feel on Christmas Eve. Not one sprout has been peeled. Some house has been cleaned. All the Christmas edibles have been purchased, some of the drinkables. The shops open again on Boxing Day so why do most people have a week's groceries in for one day?

All the presents are wrapped. We have a considerable pile under the tree. Bert asks,

Are any of these for me?

A few of them probably are even though he never buys presents.

Next year, if God spares us, Nellybert will be celebrating Christmas in Norfolk.

A Happy Christmas to all who visit Nelly's Garden.






Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 23

A lot achieved today. And about time. Early morning grocery shopping in the village. Everyone I encountered seemed very cheery and pleasant, no doubt because they weren't in town. I got chatting to a delivery man who was wheeling boxes and more boxes into the local supermarket. Crackers? Mince pies? Trifle sponges? No. Easter eggs! He said he could hardly believe it himself.

Why would anyone go to town to buy bread and Brussels sprouts? All the basic essentials can be found in the local shops and it is far less stressful to get the bulk of the Christmas food shop there. Of course there are always a few unobtainable items. In my case it was mascarpone cheese and proper dark chocolate.

I left the van at home for my jaunt to Ballymena. Went to the cinema to see Paddington with the girls and their parents. It was really enjoyable, even more so because the girls were there too. Martha was very scared of Nicole Kidman's character but Zoe persuaded her to be brave and I promised her that the wicked lady would have her comeuppance. Which she did to Martha's great glee.

After the movie I walked along the river path to Sainsburys, bought a small bagful of exotica and got the train home. I managed 17'000 steps today which isn't bad for Christmas time.

Spent the evening wrapping and receiving presents so not a bad day at all.

And I'm thankful for it. Thoughts cannot help straying to those whose lives are very difficult right now and to those who are facing bereavement. I'm also thinking of those Christmas shoppers killed and injured in Glasgow yesterday. If everyone we love and care about are with us during the Christmas period even if it is only by Skype or phone then we are lucky people.  For this year anyway.

Monday, December 22, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 22

So here we are, two days before Christmas and I find myself rather unprepared. No food shopping done and twelve for Boxing Day dinner plus their dogs, Rex, Gracie, Maya, Ziggy, Teaghan and Pip. How did this happen?

Before I go to sleep I must prepare a menu plan and a shopping list as I might be able to squeeze in a tiny bit of food shopping tomorrow and I must be properly prepared. I am also going to see Paddington, The Movie and will, with Bert, be hosting Music Night. How did this happen?

Preparations for Christmas? I bought Christmas presents today. Martha advised and assisted which was very helpful. Unfortunately she now thinks that this means the presents are from her. I persuaded her to accept a credit. Everything we bought today will be from Granny and Martha.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 21

Shortest day of the year. Yippee! Depth of winter on the turn.



Yesterday's day out was very enjoyable. Belfast very lively and sparkly, a wee bit Fleggy and, sad too say, there were more than a few folk settling down to sleep in doorways. It all seems a far cry from the olden days when the town died at night and only the security forces braved the mean streets. Back then homeless people would have been too frightened to sleep openly on the streets.

The ever-dwindling City Hall flag protest

Martha and Evie were here today and we fully intended that they should guest blog. As neither of them can write we decided to video blog and we made a very funny film with the iPad. There was ballet and everything. But we hit a snag, First of all, I was holding the iPad upside down so, until I find some way of editing it, a viewer must stand on his or her head. Then I couldn't find the connecting yoke that transfers stuff from the iPad to PC and it was too large for an email attachment so no guest blogging from Martha and Evie tonight.

To make up for it here is a rather poor picture of the girls standing in front of the tree that they trimmed all by themselves.


Preparations for Christmas? See above.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 20

As today is the day that Nellybert has the Big Christmas Outing I will post early in case I'm too tired later on. And by tired I mean toodled. And by toodled I mean strong drink taken.

Here's a thing. My last post might have given the impression that I do nothing but watch teevee so, to counter that impression, I'll tell about the book that is engrossing me. It is The Good Listener: Helen Bamber: A Life Against Cruelty by Neil Belton. It's an extraordinary story of a life and it is beautifully written. Recommended.

Looking forward to spending time with my darling grandchildren tomorrow. I may let Martha and Evie guest blog tomorrow.

Friday, December 19, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 19

I copped out yesterday with the photo grab from Instagram but I was so, so tired. Bert and I had been playing catch up with James Nesbitt and The Missing. We managed three episodes on Wednesday evening and last night, after having the girls, then visitors, then Bert having to help Clint with the turkeys (horrible job that he had been dreading, for Bert loved those turkeys) we managed the final two episodes. Of course that meant we missed the finale of The Fall so we caught up with that tonight.

What is it about Jamie Dornan anyway? I don't think he's that interesting looking at all. He is excellent in The Fall but I couldn't imagine liking him or anything. Especially as he is in that Fifty Shades thing which makes me feel cringey. I haven't read any of those and I'm not going to ever. Unless I find myself in a country where I don't speak the language and it's the only book in English available. Then I might read it. But I'd rather not.

We went to visit Bert's Aunt today and brought her a poinsettia. She is a traditional woman. Asked her for Christmas but she says she's not shifting.

That was my Christmas preparation for the day. We are going to Belfast tomorrow for a couple of Christmas drinks with friends. I'm hoping for a couple of glasses of chilled white wine. I haven't touched alcohol since my eyes went dodgy. They are not that great today. My prescription for Liquid Tears got messed up and I tipped this stuff into my sad een that was far too strong. It was like putting egg white in them. Then I topped it off with the eye ointment at bed time and it was three this afternoon before I could see properly again. At this stage I think it is the medication that is affecting my eyesight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 17

Darn it! This daily blogging is very wearying. I don't know how Ganching has managed to post every day during 2014. Only another two weeks to go Gan!

Nellybert are catching up on The Missing. We watched three episodes tonight so only two more to go. I'm so tired I am thinking of  recycling a post from 10 years ago. It seems I've been having issues with my pretend teeth  for more than a decade now.

And speaking of pretend teeth - we paid a little visit to a craftsman in Magherafelt today and, I'll say no more, but Bert must have heard me singing All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth....


Where's My Tooth?
(A Post From December 2004)
I am a part-time worker (since February) and I work shifts. A typical shift starts at three, ends at eleven, has an eight hour sleepover, then starts at half seven and finishes at half three. Mostly I work alone. Mostly I work weekends. The hostel is situated right on a very busy main road. The trick is, if working weekends, to get to sleep before the pubs get out. Last night I didn't manage to do this.
I tossed and I turned. My feet itched and my duvet felt as if it was full of bricks. Outside revellers screamed, shouted and fought. The clock inched nearer and nearer to getting up time. By 4.30am I was so scunnered I just got up.
The thing is I get agitated in the wee small hours. My itchy feet were the first symptom of a pernicious disease of the blood. It's true! I read it in Take A Break, after I read the article entitled 'Oh Look! Grandad has Chopped Granny Up In The Garden Shed' and before the one called 'My Evil Boyfriend Ate My Twin!'
Amazingly I got on rather well. Gave my organisation hours of free Nellyness. But there was one snag. I lost my tooth. Being so tired I couldn't even remember removing it. The obvious place would have been the bathroom but it wasn't there. I searched everywhere, and as Saturday morning is cleaning the staff quarters day, I was terribly afraid I'd hoovered it or otherwise disposed of it. Nasty piece of pink and whitish plastic that it is, it would still cost a hundred to replace, not to mention going about for days looking like Johnny Rotten. Not a good look for Nelly atall.
Thank you God & St Anthony and St Jude. I found it. In the bathroom bin. A close thing.
Now it is evening and me, my tooth, Bert and Zoe are going to the ol' homestead to visit Jean, Jonny and Matty and partake in an evening of music & song. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 16

I haven't spent time with Martha and Evie for over a week and I am missing them a lot. I spoke to them on the phone yesterday. Evie told me she had been playing a game with her dog.

What were you playing?
We were playing The Baby Jesus.

I will be seeing the girls on Thursday and a couple of days after that they are coming for a sleepover. Can't wait! I'm also hopeful that they are going to take me to see the Paddington movie.

I took the van out today. My first drive in over a week. The eyes were up to it.

Preparations for Christmas? I posted three presents. Two to Kerry and one to London. Hope they make it. And I wished the woman in the Post Office a very happy Christmas. I thoroughly cleaned the scullery. That's festive. It's where I'll be keeping All The Food.


Monday, December 15, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 15

Today we attended Aunt Sadie's funeral in Cargin Chapel. The proper name is the Sacred Heart Church but, like our own wee Tannaghmore Chapel, it is always called Cargin Chapel. It's an interesting site as the old chapel stands beside the new. The old chapel (built 1821) is a listed building and cannot be knocked down. Unfortunately it is in poor repair and cannot be used. The old chapel is where my mother and all her family worshipped when they were young.

It occurred to me today as I sat in the packed chapel that Sadie, who never left her home parish, would have been baptised in that old chapel, made her First Communion there and then her Confirmation. She married in Cargin, had her children baptised there and thus the cycle began again.

I remember Matty telling the story of the September day when war with Germany was declared. It was a Sunday and she and some of her sisters, one of whom might have been Sadie, were coming from Mass. The heavens opened bringing torrential rain, Matty said she had never experienced rain like it. Two elderly women came down their lane through this downpour and announced to the girls that war had been declared. Matty would have been 13, Sadie 15.

It was dry and not too cold in the graveyard today. The last two family funerals were bleak, cold days. I remember when Uncle Desmond was being buried looking at Matty, Sadie and the youngest Clare, standing arm-in-arm, stoic, brave, freezing at his graveside. Aunt Josephine was alive then but too infirm to attend the funeral. She died that same year and now all we have left is Clare.

Sadie's son told me this story of a conversation between his late father and a friend. His friend said,

Y'know Charlie, there's very few old people about the place these days.

And Charlie said,

There's still plenty of us around Pat. We're the old people now.

 Old Cargin Chapel




Sunday, December 14, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 14

What goes through the mind of  a person bent on destroying something that does not belong to them? Today we visited what remains of a horticultural unit where people with learning difficulties used to work. It had been broken into and entered on two occasions, vandalised and set on fire. The offices, potting sheds, glasshouses and equipment had all been destroyed. It was so sad to see it like that as the evidence of all the good work carried out was still visible. What remained were thousands of potted plants, abandoned and untended for more than a year. Amazingly, many of them were still just alive, in need of some serious TLC.

We were taken to the project by the former manager, a friend of ours, and we were able to take a van load of the plants home with us. It should be satisfying to bring them back to health. And it will please our friend who, with the trainees, had put so much effort into growing them. Years of work to build up the unit and grow the stock, a couple of hours to destroy it. Our friend said the culprit was only a boy. I wonder if he'll ever grow enough to feel shame for his actions?


Saturday, December 13, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 13

Four Sisters

For the day that is in it. One, passed today. Two and Three already gone. Just Four, the youngest of them, is with us still.

Friday, December 12, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 12


Eyes. Coming good.

Weather. Light dusting of snow.

Breakfast. Café Couture in Ballykeel.

Question. To Bert, “Should I bake something?”

Answer. From Bert, “Silly question, of course you should.”

Visitors. Young Rooney. Razza.

Walked. 21 minutes. Wore new jacket. Very cosy.

Baked. Steamed Syrup Pudding.

Supper. Toad-in-the-Hole.

Phone Call. London Sister.

Watched. The Departed. Late to the party I know. Lots of blood. Very good film.

General Mood. Happy.

Preparations for Christmas. Went outside and chose Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 11

I can see! At least, much, much better than before. The relief is immense. Eyes still aren't perfect and I'll be putting steroid drops and liquid tears in them for many weeks to come but thank God for medicine. I also have to put an ointment on them at night to keep them from drying out as I sleep. That brings blurred vision back but it's for a good cause and instead of reading at bedtime I listen to the radio. Radio 4 since you ask.

Preparations for Christmas? I bought myself a new rainproof jacket. Does that count?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Daily Post, No 10

This will be a short post as my vision is still very blurry. I'm glad I can make it because this morning it would not have been possible. Yesterday Bert and I had a long, long day in the Royal Victoria Hospital.* Thanks to everyone who commented to wish me well and thanks too to my family who have been very supportive.

Preparations for Christmas? What do you think? Not a lot.

*Where there were a great number of people far worse off than me.

Back when I took them for granted

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 9

I am writing this with great difficulty. My sight has worsened. I have just got back from the doctor and I am to see an eye specialist this afternoon. I am very frightened even though my GP says she sends at least two patients a month to this emergency clinic.

Preparations for Christmas? None. I'm even wondering if there will be a Christmas.

Monday, December 08, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 8

I am getting really fed up with this eye thing. The worst eye is, natch, sod's law etc., the one unaffected by cataract and I am actually visibly impaired in both eyes. I've been taking my sight for granted for years now, just thought all I had to do was pop on a pair of spectacles and I could see for miles.

I've just watched an episode of Homeland where I wasn't able to read any of Carrie's anguished expressions. Indeed, if it hadn't been for her shiny yellow hair I wouldn't even have known which one was Carrie. And I'd no idea who was being shot dead at any point. Bert was nearly as bad but at least he has one good eye to focus with.

This had better be improved tomorrow or I'm off to bother the doctor.

Walked for 40 minutes in icy rain. I wore waterproof trousers,wellies and a very silly hat. Was the warmest, dryest person out there.

Preparations for Christmas? Had a trial run of the steamed chocolate pudding. Very nice but would benefit from a bit of rum in the chocolate sauce. Martha enjoyed it. She had two portions.

I rarely write about serious stuff but I'm often reading it. I've just read this by Yvonne Watterson on racism. As always, with Yvonne, it's from the heart and so well worth reading.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 7

It's not that I'm not interested in fashion. I am. Very interested but only in an academic sense. I recognise many designers' work and I try to keep up with the big fashion shows. I usually have a rough idea of what's current and what's not.

So you've got that, Reader Mine? I am interested in fashion just not interested in wearing it. I was always A Vintage Queen anyway for that  was all I could afford. Now all I wear are warm clothes, comfortable clothes, what my eldest daughter refers to as farmer clothes.

So, credentials established, allow me to introduce the latest addition to my blog roll, Miss Naoise. She runs a fashion blog. It pleases me.

Today I went for a 40 minute walk and worked for an hour in the poly tunnel. I also made a very delicious supper of lasagne and a salad that consisted of,

A grated carrot from Lidls
A grated apple from Les
Half a grated clove of garlic, also from Les
A dressing made from olive oil and balsamic vinegar, both from Lidls...
And half a teaspoon of honey from Bert's Cross Bees

Preparations for Christmas? Good and bad news. The good news is That Bert, Hannah and I have decided on our Christmas Day dinner. The bad news is that I opened the Amazon parcel containing Martha's present (a book) and discovered that it is in French! Martha doesn't speak French and neither do I.  We'll have to learn.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 6

Today I -


  • Walked fast for 30 minutes.
  • Worked in the poly tunnel.
  • Cleaned house in a dilatory fashion.
  • Read The Guardian magazine.
  • Grocery shopped.
  • Received visitors, three of them dogs.
  • Applied drops to Bert's eye. He got the Sticky Eye Disease too. Karma for being grumpy and not listening to me about the towels.
  • Made a plain dinner with spuds.


Preparations for Christmas? Not a thing but Martha's present arrived from Amazon. And I may have thought about baking a Christmas cake.

Best part of the day? Overlapping visitors when two small boys met one delightful Jack Russell Terrier puppy.  No photographs as little boys and small dogs won't stay still for a second.

Howard can stay still. Sprollies not so much.

Friday, December 05, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 5

Almost better. Eyes still sticky but no pain and, best of all, my energy has returned. The van was in for repairs this afternoon so I walked to the village. It took me 26 minutes down the hill and 24 on the way back. I was ever so pleased with myself.

Preparations for Christmas? I went to Martha's Nativity Play and enjoyed it very much. I drove Martha's mum and little sister and got to sit beside the co-grandparents. Martha was a singing angel and played her part well. She looked divine in every sense of the word. I also managed to get Katkin's birthday card and present into the post. That's what the walk was about. A December birthday is part of Christmas too.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 4


I meet the eldest granddaughter from the school bus.

Guess what I did today in front of Daddy? 
Your Nativity Play? 
Yes!! 
Was it good? 
Yes. 
That's brilliant. Mummy and Evie and me will be seeing it tomorrow.

(Daddy had to go a day early as he is being a Wildling tomorrow.)

Bert is looking after Evie and you and I are going shopping. 
Oh good. Can we go to Sainsburys? 
No. We're going to the Spar like we did last week. 
But Sainsburys is much better than the Spar! There are far more things to buy and it's much bigger! 
That's why I want to go to the Spar. I don't have a lot of money today and if I go to Sainsburys I'll see lots of things I'd like and I won't be able to buy them. The Spar is a bit boring but it has all the things I need...

Lip trembles.

Oh Martha! You have to let Granny decide where she wants to shop. Here, if you stop crying and be a sensible girl I'll let you phone Hannah to let her know we're ready to pick up Ziggy.

(Occasionally I look after granddoggies as well as granddaughters)

I quickly dial the number and give her the phone. Then I swap a three year old car seat for a big girl's car seat. By the time I'm finished she is at Hannah's door taking charge of Ziggy. Her mood is well improved.

As we drive off I explain to her how I make decisions about where I'm going to shop. I mention Lidls.

Oh Granny, we could go to Lidls. It's not too far out of our way and...

Then I think. Lidls doesn't bombard me with choices. It has everything I need and it has wine. The Spar does not have wine.

OK. Let's go to Lidls.

She's delighted. She must really hate Cullybackey Spar.

We go round. First thing she gets me to buy is panini. I'm pleased that she ignores biscuits and confectionary. Then I'm strongarmed into buying two scoops of shelled almonds. At least they are healthy. I pick up my fruit and veg, my butter, my Earl Grey tea. There are toys. I leave her looking at them while I look for ginger. I return moments later and she has laid some packets on the floor and is gazing upon them intently. The packets come from a stand advertised as 'Princess Accessories' and they are,

  1. Plastic beads and bracelets
  2. Plastic tiaras
  3. Plastic high heeled shoes with ribbons

I ask her to return them to the stand in case someone steps on them. She complies like a good girl. Then she gazes into my face, Her eyes are beautiful, big and blue.

I really like the shoes Granny.
But Martha, I've already bought your Christmas present.
It doesn't have to be for Christmas Granny. It can be a replacement for the ones that Jess chewed. 
Martha. When I'm really old will you do my shopping for me?
Yes.
Will you take me everywhere I need to go?
Yes.

Her face is shining with delight and happiness. And it is not because she is looking forward to looking after me in my extreme old age, it is because she knows she is 'getting the shoes'. Then she chose the yellow ones and the pink ones for her sister.

I so adore being a Granny.

<><><><><>

Eye infection update? Getting better every day.

Preparations for Christmas? Looking forward to the Nativity Play tomorrow. Especially as I can now see.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 3

Today has not been a particularly good day even though my eyes appear to be making some improvement. I cried a lot and I'm sure the floods of salty tears did me an awful lot of good. And why the tears? Well. The viral infection is making me feel very emotional and I read Michael Morpurgo's War Horse. I howled.

My friend came round today with half a set of twins and I lent her A Christmas Carol. She wants to read it to all her twins and her big girl. I also gave her a spare copy of Girl of the Limberlost. That made me happy.

Bert is very grumpy which is normal for him when I'm feeling below par. Not helpful.

Preparations for Christmas? I lent my friend A Christmas Carol. That's it.


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 2

I have been applying the antibiotic eye drops for 24 hours now and my eyes are still sore, red and gungey. I read on Mumsnet (it came up in a Google search) that the drops only shorten the duration of the condition by one day. And - the Wee Manny was here today and he said he'd had it for two weeks! But he smokes so that cannot help. Mind you I'm sitting in a room with an open fire and burning turf and bits of tree bark so I might as well be smoking. Did I mention that I can't see so if there are typos in this post forgive me.

Preparations for Christmas? I bought a present (online) for Miss Martha. It's a start.

Monday, December 01, 2014

December Daily Post, No. 1

Things are not good at Nellybert's. I have a viral infection, achey bones, sneezy and the worst eye infection I have ever experienced.

I've achieved nothing today apart from watching The Cider House Rules and the latest episode of The Fall.

Preparations for Christmas? Absolutely nothing.

Hoping to be feeling more energetic (and entertaining) tomorrow.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday Woes

I notice that Ganching regularly posts on daily pluses and minuses so, as I have had a couple of days of minuses, I intend to borrow her idea at least once.

Minuses

Bert broke my whizz mop. For those that do not know a whizz mop is the best way ever of mopping floors. Unfortunately, to allow them to be sold for an affordable sum, they are not as robust as they might be, I had an amazingly robust mop and bucket once. The only way it could be broken would be for a truck to run over it, or to be stamped upon by an elephant. The downside was you'd need muscles like Popeye to operate it and it slopped water all over the place.

I was eating a nice bit of crusty toast and raspberry jam and my dental plate broke. I got a temporary repair made but I'll need a new one. The new one will cost me the price of 14 whizz mops.




I put my Omron GoSmart pedometer in the washing machine. Fortunately it was a quick 30°C setting. I'm attempting to dry it out but if it doesn't work and I need a replacement and I don't win one on eBay that's near enough the price of one whizz mop.

And I have an eye infection. 

Pluses

I also have gin!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Stable


Today I asked Bert where he had deposited the cardboard (for lasagne gardening) that was kindly donated by Ronnie Pet Shop Boy and he informed me it was in The Stable.


The Stable?


We have six sheds and at the last count fifteen names for them. The sheds are referred to something like this, 
  • The Woodshed
  • The Milk House
  • The Byre
  • The Cattle Shed
  • The Workshop
  • The Hen House
  • The Pig House
  • The Calf Shed
  • The Back Shed
  • The Potato Shed
  • The Turf Shed
  • The Silo
  • The Tractor Shed
  • The Tool Shed
  • Ian’s Shed
But The Stable? There hasn't been a horse about this place in more than sixty years. There might have been stables back in Master Kernohan's day but that was a long time ago. The place that Bert refers to as The Stable currently contains,

An ancient stack of turf, almost inaccessible as it has flung upon it a great amount of yellow drainage piping and...
  • An amount of railway sleepers.
  • Some coal, supplied by Frank McCooke.
  • A bit of a quad bike.
  • Some other bikes.
  • A few collapsed swallow's nests.
  • A great quantity of adult diapers.
  • A stove.
  • A quantity of Bann bricks.
  • Cardboard.
  • Various other treasure.
  • No horses.

Monday, November 24, 2014

In Which The Piano Is Rolled To The Shed

We never did get that piano tuned. There was no point anyway for I had nowhere to put it but the sun room and it was plonked far too close to the wood burning stove. Today Young Loveheart, Rod and Bert rolled it to the shed, the one I call a workshop and Bert calls the Pruta Shed even though the amount of pruta (potatoes) currently stored there only amounts to three baskets of Sarpo Mira. Miss Martha will not be pleased about the removal of the piano although she will still be able to bash away at it in the Pruta Shed.

I see from my previous blog entries that we've had the piano for three years. It was first mentioned in the following entry when I was enjoying a rare opportunity to have the house all to myself. It seems too that Bert still has the outstanding matter of that unfinished ranch fencing to consider. I'll mention it to him tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Home Alone

I'm home alone. Pearlie has gone to one of her regular respite placements so that means two whole weeks without a batallion of carers tramping in and out. And it is also two weeks without her constant griping and complaining. It is a chance for Bert and I to have a taste of what it must be like to live as a couple in privacy and peace. Eight whole weeks a year we get of this and I know that makes us very fortunate people.

As I said I'm home alone. Bert has gone off to Malin Head with a couple of friends. I hope they get reasonable weather and aren't blown off the Head. I've been left with the chickens, the dogs, the pigs and the cats - not too burdensome. Clint has been left with the cattle. I'm supposed to be watching and listening for one of the heifers 'looking away' but we're not holding out much hope. The beast has had numerous goes with A.I. and a good run with the bull and she just can't catch. Clint came in to talk about it. He knows Pearlie isn't here so I've got nobody to moan at me.

Huh! The only place that one will be looking away at is the abattoir. She's far too big a baste to be keeping as a pet.

I interpret this as a dig at the kune kunes but I do not react. He goes on.

Aye! It's the freezer for her, no question about it.

I'm sure he'd like me to get sentimental about her so he can come over all manly and practical and farmerish but I do not give him a chance. He goes on,

Did Bert ever get the bags sorted out for the butcher?

I concur that if he did, I have not been informed of it.

Huh! He's an easy-going boy waltzing off to Donegal in this weather and no worries about the butcher! And in November! Sure it's wild up there! He has little or no sense. I don't know what would take him up to Malin Head at this time of the year!

I remark that I thought the break would do him good and mention that we've got a piano.

Aye! I saw that. I don't know what you thought you needed that for. Huh! What with that oul squeaky clarinet and dinnilin' away on an oul out of tune piano that'll hardly do him much good. It would answer him a lot better to finish that ranch fencing he started.

I have to agree that Bert has a rather dilatory attitude to general chores.

Well! I'm away down to get my own livestock foddered and in before it's too dark to see.

I bid him goodnight.

When he is gone I say to the dogs for there is no one else to say it to,

Y'know – there are a lot of things that Bert is good at, that Clint is not.

And I smile a little smile to myself.

Friday, November 21, 2014

On Sisters

It is with a heavy heart that I pack my little case and head for County Leitrim to visit one of my multi-talented sisters. The reason? I've just read this. And there was no mention of me.

Sibling rivalry... it never dies.

I'm sure if she had racked her brains she'd have thought of something!

Most home-made wine in Cullybackey?
Best granny in the world?
Gets up 5 minutes earlier every day?
Awesome pastry?
GSOH?

Seriously though, I'm proud of them too.








Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weekend Plans

Today I planted tulip bulbs. My sister said, is it not too late, will they grow? And I replied, they will have a better chance in the garden than in my kitchen drawer.

I'm in a reflective mood and am trying to get my life back on track, starting with getting up times. Since Pearlie died I had drifted into being a slug-a-bed and, at this time of the year when daylight hours are short, it makes sense to get up before nine. I do what I always do, set my alarm 5 minutes earlier every day. The hens are pleased.

I have also decided to eat less biscuits and take a daily walk.

In December I plan to blog every day so that my loyal readers can share in my Christmas planning. Prepare to be very impressed.*

This weekend I will be getting on a bus and travelling to Enniskillen and will be accompanied by two young girls aged 3 and 5. At Enniskillen we will be met by Leitrim Sister who will take us to her lovely home among the rushes. The older of the two girls wasn't going to go as she informed her mother that,

Teacher doesn't allow us to take holidays in term-time.

We explained that weekends don't count. Bert is not too heart-broken to be left by himself for two whole days.






*Impressed at my lackadaisical attitude.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pottery, Porcelain & Glass

Bert has been forbidden to put anything in the attic.

If you want something taken up there, leave it by the stairs and I'll take it up.

Why? Because he just dumps things there willy-nilly on top of all the other stuff and I have to move it to get to the stuff I want. He's been storing outgrown children equipment such as buggies, stair gates and so on for we're hoping for more grandchildren some day. I've been digging out china, and pretty cushions and knick knacks that have been up there since Pearlie moved in with us. For my new room you see. The new room that I keep going on about.

You can be certain sure that Bert will not pay a blind bit of notice to my instructions that he keep out of the attic. He agrees with me, then does exactly as he pleases and I have to admit I do admire him for it.

Bringing out the china has awakened my interest in it and I found myself drawn to a vintage coffee set in a Ballymena charity shop. It looked in very good condition considering it must be close to a century old.


Royal Doulton Duveen 'Syren'

Sadly I could not afford it as it was priced at £395! There aren't as many bargains to be found in charity shops these days, not since the people who work there discovered eBay and the prices that some collectors are prepared to pay.

But I did have a happy find in Portglenone a few days later. I have a few bits and pieces of Poole Pottery Dorset Fruits. It's modern but I like it. I'd been poking about and was about to leave empty handed when the nice lady said,

Do you like these plates?

Four Poole Pottery, Dorset Fruits dinner plates, the apple pattern. How much did she want for them? Fifty pence each.

Now if I only have six adults and two children for Christmas there will be plates enough. Six apples, a pear and a bunch of grapes.






Friday, November 14, 2014

Starved


I was brought up in a family where breast feeding was the norm. I had been breast fed myself, I'd seen all my six brothers and sisters breast fed and it never occurred to me to do anything else.

Back when I had my children feeding one's child oneself was not the norm and midwives did not seem to encourage it. Nevertheless I persevered and it all went well for me. There were no problems, my little ones thrived and that thing called 'baby weight' melted away in no time.

As time passed I found out more about my own and Matty's early experiences. My mother let the odd thing drop and eventually it all became clear. She had a difficult breech birth with me and did not recover well. She felt isolated and unsure of how to deal with her first child. I was very underweight and she struggled with nursing. As her anxiety increased, she neglected to nourish herself and consequently I was starving at the breast. She told me that there were fierce District Nurses who called very often such was their concern for this baby that failed to thrive.

Then my Aunt Sarah visited. She had a son six months older than me. He was a giant baby, dark curls, the fattest chubby cheeks, a great lump of a well-fed infant. Aunt Sarah was horrified to see the scrawny thing that Matty had produced.

Give that child a bottle! Thicken it with Farex. Put sugar in it.

Matty did as her sister said and I started to thrive. Got chubby. But I never, ever forgot that early starving. All my life I have wanted more food. At times of anxiety I just want to eat and I especially want to eat starchy, sugary things. I must have adored those thickened, sweetened bottles of milk.

I've been thinking about this recently for I've gained weight. Again. I can't stop eating. And that cousin? The one who never knew hunger in his entire life? You should see him now. He's as lean as a whippet and a right handsome devil.

Monday, November 10, 2014

All Dogs Welcome

Nellybert likes to give a warm welcome to dogs and their owners, even when the number of four-legged visitors may seem excessive. Today we had just the five canine callers.

photo by Zoe Bowyer

Gracie and Maya brought their entire family with them. And stayed for dinner. Gracie likes to assist me in the kitchen when I'm cooking. Her job is to deal with spills. I am a careless cook and often drop morsels  and crumbs on the floor as I go.

As well as their family, they also brought....

photo by Hannah Bowyer

Ziggy! Today is Hannah's college day so Ziggy is sleeping over. He looks rather splendid in that picture does he not?

Sadly Ziggy missed Fly's visit. He and his master had called earlier in the day.


From this picture, taken by Miss Hannah a few weeks ago, you can tell how much Ziggy looks up to his good friend Fly.

And then there was Poppy. Eight weeks old and visiting Nellybert for the very first time.


A little Jack Russell terrier who wouldn't stay still for a second. She got on well with everyone, even the cats and she peed on the spare bed, my fault for putting her on it. I do hope we will be seeing lots more of her.


Two seconds after this snap there was puppy pee on the Ikea bedspread. Who cares!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Stack Garden


Bert generally does not tell me things. So I wasn't a bit surprised yesterday when a large truck containing stones arrived on the yard. As Bert thinks receiving a load of stones an important task accomplished it would therefore be deserving of a cup of tea. When he came into the kitchen I attempted to engage him in conversation.

What are the stones for?
Och!
No. Tell me what they're for.
Tssk!
Just tell me. Other husbands tell their wives things.
The back garden!

And off he stomped clutching his cup of tea in hand.

Did I ever mention that he's not really a morning person?

I pondered this information. The back garden? We have various areas around the house that could be described as garden but I wasn't sure which he meant. And why would he be needing stones for it? Gardens are my department too. I deserve to be consulted.

I broached the subject again the next time he came in for refreshments (thirty minutes later).

So, exactly where is this back garden you speak of? Back of where?
I didn't say back garden. I said stack garden.
Stack garden?
Yes. Every farm has a stack garden.
Where's ours?
Round the back. Where the pigs are.
Bert – In nearly thirty years I have never once heard you call any part of this place the stack garden. Have you just made that up?

I have to say here that the naming of places is something we argue about discuss often.

Bert went on to argue that this area, which I call the pig paddock, has always been referred to as the stack garden and that if I had been brought up on a farm, as I claim, then there would have been a stack garden.

And what would this stack garden be used for?
For stacks.
What kind of stacks?
Hay! Corn! Logs!
No. We had sheds for those and the hay was baled and stored in a hay shed.

He continued to insist that all farms had stack gardens and I argued that stack gardens were all in his head or else something only hill-billies know about.

Currently his names for fields are,

The Field Across The Road
The Meadow
The Corner Field
The Hall Field
The First Hill
The Second Hill
The Third Hill
The Big Hill

He claims not to remember the names of the six fields planted in trees apart from The Whinny Field. These fields are now known as The Trees. I pressed him on this and he managed to recall that two of them had been referred to as,

The Wee Field On The March With Gregg's
The Boag Field

Boag Field. Do you mean bog?
It rhymes with doag*. So what did you ones call a boag then?
We called it The Moss and cut turf in it. We didn't make a field out of it.
Youse were that grand out at Tannaghmore.
We were.

I'm certain sure that when I met Bert he didn't speak of doags, boags or stack gardens. And he used to (I think) tell me things so when the man from the quad bike shop pulled into the yard this morning I thought he wanted to buy a tree, or perhaps he was looking for directions. But no. Bert has bought a quad bike. And never said.

*doag - dog

Monday, November 03, 2014

Happy Birthday Evie!

That wasn't a bad weekend. We had a delightful night out with the Banjos, Jazzer cooked breakfast and Banjo Man finished the decorating. We had the Little Misses for a sleepover and that overlapped with the Banjos. Evie took a great shine to Jazzer and when I was leaving them home the next day referred to her as,

My best friend Jazzer that I like.

On Sunday morning Martha demonstrated her ballet skills on the newly varnished floor while I made a little film, I cannot share as I have temporarily mislaid the lead that connects iPad to PC. Nellybert filmed both girls prancing about for exactly one minute and fifty-seven seconds and when we left to rejoin our rapidly cooling cups of coffee Martha cried,

I need an audience!

She is going places for sure.

I also made a pleasant discovery. When Enid Blyton is writing about Brer Rabbit she can be quite entertaining.

Today was Miss Evie's third birthday. I suppose in a way it still is but, as  I understand she is currently tucked up in bed wearing new birthday jammies, that is it for her until her Big Four in 2015.


Happy Birthday Evie!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Going Out

Nellybert are going out with the Banjos tonight. For a meal. Jazzer phoned at lunch time and suggested it and, as always, my first impulse was to refuse.

Go out? To eat? I'd much rather stay home, wash down the bookshelves, clean the spice rack, bottle the elderberry, watch Last Tango in Halifax, bicker with Bert, eat toast, then go to bed with the iPad and a Sudoku puzzle.

But I gave myself a good mental shake and said,

Go out? To eat? We'd love to.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Changing Rooms



Bert and I have been busy bees this last few days. He is working on a wall unit for Young Rooney and is quite obsessed by it. Then, in the evenings, he spends an hour or so sanding down the wooden floor in what was previously Pearlie's room. It will return to what it was, my own sitting room. I'm looking forward to it. I will have an open fire, rugs and cushions. We can't have cushions in the sun room as it opens on to the yard and the dogs and Bert and the visitors carry all the dirt of the day in there. And for some reason all the cushions end up on the floor. Bert has just one left and it is covered in sawdust. My sitting room will be a haven of comfort and cleanliness. I told Bert so and he disputed it but he will see.

Meanwhile I've been cleaning and sorting. I have found my long lost passport and all my nicest cushion covers. I have went through my gigantic ironing pile and recycled at least half of it. That's one way to cut down on the ironing.

A young friend called today and I brought her in to see the progress and she was amazed at the amount of books on the shelves. She asked if I'd read them all and I had to admit that I hadn't. I told her that I started collecting books in the early seventies and that back then I used to put my name in them and the date I acquired them. I picked up an ancient Penguin and opened it to show, in my best juvenile handwriting, that it was named and dated 3/3/73. Over forty years on my shelves and still to be read.




Friday, October 24, 2014

The Country Girls

I have been to Belfast twice this week and I may go again tomorrow.  On Tuesday Bert and I went to Smithfield Market, then to the outskirts to collect some flagstones from a friend. We got a little bit lost on the way back but in a good way. Getting lost is just another way to see new places.

I went yesterday with Bert's cousin, the one formerly known as Pearlie's favourite niece. She had a medical appointment but, to make it more fun, we went up early to check out the vintage stores on Botanic Avenue and get a bite of lunch. I chose a cafe that specialised in Middle Eastern food and, I am sorry to say, we were served by a waitress who thought it amusing to mock favourite cousin's strong accent.
You're a wee country woman aren't you?

She then proceeded to speak in an accent that she thought approximated FC's. It was rather awkward. I expect we should have complained bitterly but then we country women aren't like that. Not nice wee women like FC and Nelly anyway. I took a dry tone with her and FC lightly remarked that she hadn't expected to be insulted. Our server realised that she had overstepped and was the soul of politeness and attentiveness thereafter. Despite it all I enjoyed the food (FC didn't) and I might go back.

I seriously considered leaving a complaint on the cafe's Facebook page this morning but decided against it. I liked everything about the place except the server's unprofessional attitude. McCooeys are hoors for slagging country folk. I'll be ready for her next time. If she's still there.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Family Meal

Nellybert have the decorators in. Well, to be honest, just the one decorator, Banjo Man, and he keeps breaking off to drink Guinness and play his banjo. I'm not complaining. He is doing a wonderful job and we're not even paying him. So the house is a bit upside down. It didn't help that I pulled all my wine out to do stuff with it and that Bert has been on lock down in his shed building a dog house for Jazzer's incontinent dog. Working man suppers had to be made (lots of meat and potatoes) and, consequently, I'm rather behind with household chores.



Today I'd planned a Family Meal. And I needed Bert to help me prepare. Bert, when he takes the notion, is a good focused cleaner. He likes to throw things out, he likes to lecture me on how my cleaning routines are haphazard and inefficient. He cleaned the scullery, threw lots of things out, spent at least 40 minutes in it. Meanwhile I haphazardly and inefficiently cleaned the rest of the house, baked a cake, made fifteen scones, a stack of sandwiches and mopped the scullery floor. That's teamwork.

London Sister is visiting. We also had Martha, Evie and their parents, Hannah Banana and three family dogs. Family Meals are great. They consist of a lot of different kinds of food, mismatched fancy china and a family.   Zoe brought terrible things from Ikea, herrings and Swedish blood sausage. Bert and Dave fell on them with glee. I tried not to look as I concentrated on my scone, piled high with Les' delicious damson jam and whipped double cream. The cake was a triumph. It was an apple sponge made with a combination of Les apples and Lidl apples. It actually fell apart when I was removing it from its dish (should have lined it) but I managed to piece it together and joined it at the seams with runny icing.

From now on Family Meals shall be the order of the day.

Afterwards the girls brushed their teeth and put on pyjamas all the better to be straight up the stairs and a bedtime story as soon as they got home. Then we took some photographs. I was in such a good mood that I even forgave London Sister for looking every bit as young as my children.




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shared Space

Eighteen demijohns of home made wine sitting on the kitchen island and one of hard cider which has started to ferment. Yippee! I have made an important list. Four demijohns needing racking and three needing bottled. 

I was hoping Bert would go out tonight so I could make a start on the wine and then clean the floors but he has chosen to stay at home to finish some decorating. How could I complain. This is going to be my own wee sitting room. Banjo Man is helping him. I am a very fortunate woman indeed. So far, I haven't had to lift a finger. It used to be a sitting room and we had just got it the way I wanted it when Pearlie needed to move in. This was something I wasn't expecting but I am sure it was at the back of Bert's mind all along.

I said to him the other day,

We're each going to have our own sitting room! 
Aye.
And we  already have our own bedrooms.
Aye.
We could have a bathroom each if we wanted.
Aye.
This marriage is going to last forever!




Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'd Rather (Not) Go Blind

For a while now I haven't been able to enjoy looking at the heavens. Even on the clearest night the stars would not stay still for me. When buzzards flew above this house, which they often do, I've not been able to see them as sharply as previously. Looking into the distance seemed to strain my eyes. Using binoculars did not help. I couldn't get them to focus. Maybe it was time to get stronger spectacles?

Yesterday while driving into town I thought my glasses were fogged over and, while stopped at traffic lights, cleaned them. I picked up Hannah and on the way home it felt as if my lens was dirty. I knew it wasn't. I closed my left eye and all was fogged, closed the right, could see clearly. Closed the left again and it was as if my lens was smeared with Vaseline. I made an appointment with my optician when I got home and saw her today. I have a well advanced cataract in my right eye. A year's wait for free treatment. I'm not sure what to do.

Only the other day I was thinking that the quality of recent photographs had deteriorated. No wonder! I've been using a half blind eye to focus them.

When I left the optician I felt so sorry for myself. Ten pounds heavier than I was, penniless, going blind, sore achey shoulders, getting old. I had to give myself a mental shake. Sure if I lived a hundred years ago there wouldn't even be any treatments, never mind free treatments! I have options. I spent the rest of the day rooting up sunflowers, preparing my garlic bed and chatting to the younger generation. And the younger generation told me that their grannies have all had cataract operations and are doing just fine.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Adventures In Cider Making


At primary school one of the stories in our Wide Range Readers was Johnny Appleseed. As I remember, Johnny was presented as a jolly hobo who wandered the length and breadth of America with bags of apple seeds which he planted everywhere for no reason other than benevolence. And this is how Johnny Appleseed is generally known. I never gave him another thought until I read The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan.

Pollan's work shows how people and domesticated plants have formed mutually beneficial relationships. His chosen plants are the apple – our desire for sweetness, the tulip – for its beauty, marijuana – which intoxicates us and the potato which nourishes us. Each of these plants has thrived through selective breeding and genetic engineering. It was a fascinating read which I'd recommend to anyone who takes pleasure in growing – anything!

The section I enjoyed the most was the one on our desire for sweetness and apples. Pollan had a lot to say about Johnny Appleseed or, to give him his true name, John Chapman. The tale I had from school was over simplified. John Chapman was a fascinating man. But he didn't just wander around the United States planting seeds willy-nilly. He planted nurseries of apple saplings and sold them to farmers. When a nursery was established he left it in the hands of a manager and moved on, planted another nursery and continued in this pattern. He made a decent living. Now an interesting fact about apples is that they don't grow true from seed. Indeed, if you were to take an apple and plant the several seeds that it contained, each seedling would be entirely different from the others. And most would be sour. Apple trees that produce sweet fruit may only be propagated by grafting. So the vast majority of John Chapman's trees would have produced sour fruit. So why did people buy them in such large numbers? Because sour apples are just what is needed to produce hard cider and applejack. Our reading book never mentioned that.

Which brings me to my own recent experiment. I've been wanting Bert to make a cider press for ages but he has yet to get round to it. So I was rather pleased when a friend sent me a link to a method of producing cider without using a press. I gathered my apples, a mixture of Bramleys, crabs and dessert apples. Mostly Bramleys as they are what I have at hand. They are not ideal for cider but it is just an experiment.

The recipe uses a juicer instead of a press and we happen to have a sturdy masticating juicer which makes it easier still.

Hard Cider From Whole Apples

What You’ll Need:
  • Apples, pears, or crab apples (to be mixed with sweet apples.)  About 15 lbs. of fruit gets us about a gallon of juice.  Must be fresh and organic.  Try to include some crab apples or tart apples with your sweet ones for a better, more balanced flavour.
  • A juicer. 
  • A chopping knife and cutting board.
  • A large sieve and a clean kitchen towel.
  • Demijohns, a funnel, a siphon hose, rubber bungs and airlocks.
  • Sugar
  • Swing-top bottles
Method:
  1. Wash your fruit well with plain water. 
  2. Cut your apples into quarters.  This is mostly just to check for bugs or other issues with the apples.  Discard or cut around any that have an infested core, and cut out major bruises. You don’t need to worry about coring or taking stems out– the juicer will do that for you.
  3. Start juicing!  As your juicer pitcher gets full, pour it through a funnel into a sterilized demijohn.
  4. Once you have juiced all of your fruit, taste the juice and add sugar.  At least a cup of sugar to a gallon of juice, more if you like sweet cider.  During the fermentation process, the yeast will eat the sugar (both the fructose from the fruit and the added sugar) and turn it into alcohol– so this step is both for flavour and alcohol level.  Those of you in the USA may not really need to add much sugar, as most of the apples there tend to be really sweet.  You can add more sugar later if the brew is turning out too dry or tart for your taste.
  5. Put a rubber stopper and an airlock on your demijohn, and let it sit for a week.
  6. Rack your cider– siphon it into another sterilized demijohn, leaving the yeasty sediment in the bottom of the first one, so you have a much cleaner cider in the new demijohn.  Taste it and see how it’s doing.  If it’s already tasting pretty dry, you can add some more sugar before you put the airlock back on.
  7. For a sweet cider, bottle after a week. Three weeks or more makes a drier end product. Fermenting it this long means that it won’t be very fizzy in the end– but you can also add a little sugar just before bottling to regain some carbonation.  The next step is to bottle your hard cider.  Use the siphon hose to fill swing-top bottles. The type of bottle is really important, since it lets out small amounts of the pressure that builds up, so you don’t burst any bottles.


For those of you in Northern Ireland all the specialist equipment needed can be purchased at Hillstown Farm Shop near Ahoghill (and Randalstown) or Nature's Way in Belfast.