Now, this post was supposed to go out with yesterdays blog, but as with computers, it said NO halfway through and so we decided to have another go today. Computers eh? Last year one of our mutual bloggers  put out a post where she had bought a Paper Log Briquette Maker. We were quite intriqued by this concept and so asked her where to buy one. Of course you can get these on line but last week we were wandering around our local thrift store and it was like a double take…. there it was waving at us, buy me ! Anyway, once home we started to rip the newspapers apart, soak them thoroughly and proceed to make briquettes. OH, I do like new gadgets !

The paper soaking.

Go on, give it a good squeeze.

Ta Da !

The start of our self sustainable fuel. They may not be perfect yet but we are adapting our technique, maybe shredding the paper so that it’s alot finer. We are also considering getting a shredder (run from our sustainable energy) so that we can use shredded willow leaves and bark from our willow wood which is being increased seasonally.

By the end of the day I had made about 40 logs, and it wasn’t a very long day at that. They are stacked up in the workshop to dry thoroughly, although a few were placed near to the range to dry quickly so that we could try them out and see if they were successful. They were.

We hope you all have a very Happy Samhain from ‘The Willows’.


Whilst sitting here on a Sunday afternoon listening to ‘The Kinks’,I think it puts things onto perspective on living the alternative lifestyle. It’s also strange that  a certain time of year can bring a flurry of activity. As we grow most of our food and all of a sudden you have a glut of produce, don’t have a freezer, so what are you to do with it all ? PRESERVE it !

Over the past few weeks I think that we have made a massive leap forward with our preserving and if we want to continue eating over the winter months then we have to preserve our food.

Last year we preserved our cherry tomatoes and they were very successful ( we actually opened one of our last jars yesterday and they were perfect for pizza topping) and so decided to preserve more this season, but as there were so many green toms this year ( due to a poor summer !) E found a recipe for ‘Green Tomato Chutney’ and when I walked into the kitchen (after working on ‘Bertie’ our VW campervan) all I could smell was a sweet and sour sauce. We’ve now decided to use all of our chutney as a sauce for chinese stir frys ( it tastes just the same!) and doesn’t have all of the chemicals used in commercial preserving.

And so now here are the 2 recipes to preserve a glut of cherry tomatoes. Enjoy.

First prick the cherry tomatoes with a cocktail stick and place a layer in a clean jar, sprinkle a little salt and sugar, some sliced garlic ( and a few basil leaves if desired). Layer some more tomatoes, salt etc until you have filled the jar and place the jar onto a cardboard lined baking tray, placing the jar lid on top of the jar but don’t screw the lid shut.

Place the jar(s) into a cool oven for about an hour ( our Stanley range ) or until liquid is bubbling out of the tomatoes. When the liquid has almost covered the tomatoes, remove the jars from the oven and immediately screw the lids closed and leave to cool. Store in a cool, dark place.


Makes 7-8 230 ml/8 fl oz jars

3  1/4 lb green tomatoes

1lb 2oz onions

1/2 tsp salt

3 1/2 oz  dried dates (we didn’t bother )

18 fl oz vinegar

10 1/2 oz sugar

1 tblsp mustard

1/2 tblsp curry powder

1/2 tblsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tblsp cumin

1/2 tblsp ground ginger


Wash tomatoes,peel the onoin and roughly chop both. Salt them and leave to stand overnight.

The next day, drain off the liquid, stone and finally chop the dates. Mix them with the vinegar, sugar and tomato and onoin mixture, and bring to the boil.

Simmer, without a lid for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the mustard and spices after 45 mins. Boil over a high heat for 5 mins to thicken. Immediately fill the jars with the mixture, seal tightly and stand upside down for 5 mins. Store in a cool, dark place.


Hello everyone, yes, this is our one year blog and we can’t really believe it ourselves !

We really hope that you’ve found all of the information helpful and maybe slightly entertaining. As we’ve said before, all we wanted to do was to show that it’s possible to build your own wooden house and live a sustainable life, growing your own food, preserving that food for the winter months and most importantly make your own wine from your garden produce. It’s just about the whole package of ‘The Willows’.

For us it always has to be about moving on. One problem that I found myself was that once the kitchen was completed, I had nowhere to make and repair things, so I had to do it all outside and this is never easy because of all the rain. It was also very difficult if I had to fix the jeep on the driveway in the rain ( well I never actually fixed the jeep in the kitchen anyway!), so the best thing to do was to build a workshop/garage. This would also give me a place to work and start making my own kilowatt turbine over the winter months.

Once I’d hired a digger for the week to put in the foundation stone it was time to start building. The base measures 18′ wide,24′ long.

Frame up, all levelled and the panels going on.

This is the concrete base in the middle to bear the weight of vehicles ( all mixed in a wheelbarrow by hand !) The windows on the left came from a house down the lane that was being renovated. We rescued 5 windows in all, as they would’ve just been smashed up and burnt ! Why? They are perfect windows.

I decided to alternate corrugated iron sheets with clear-plex on the roof as this will give as much natural light as possible, because we don’t have electricity to burn !

Well, what do you expect? It may be raining but this is ‘The Willows’, let’s have a barbi.

The finished product ! These doors were also salvaged from the same house down the lane. There are 4 doors, joined in pairs to fold back, and above the doors, 2 boards are on hinges to fold inwards to give an entrance of nine feet. The doors will be painted a nice dark green soon.

I would like to take this opportunity and give  congratulations to the retirement of my work boots. They have been loyal, hardworking and always turned up for work! I’d like to wish them all the best in their future hobby of horticulture, as they are going to become geranium pots.( Recycling !)