Saturday, 21 March 2015

More March madness in Charente!! #RPBP chicks, nettles and baytrees!

It's the weekend and for some of us the spring sunshine is tempting us to step outside and visit our gardens which are often barren looking after the harshness of winter. As you look at your garden wondering where to start and what to do this summer you might want to visit our story from the summer of 2013 for some inspiration and frugal ideas on what to plant, eat and enjoy this year.
Here's a sneak preview of March in Charente.
Happy gardening,
Sarah Jane :)

Extract from Our Frugal Summer in Charente
Chapter 2

March arrived with a flurry of activity in the garden, and our early planted onions and garlic were already breaking the ground, much to the dismay of our French neighbours who still fear the frosts. In the garden, we added to their garden horrors by pruning back, quite harshly by some people’s standards. But then people who do not know Nigel will not know what he is like when he handles a pair of loppers he is renowned for getting carried away. This fact can be confirmed by our friends Tim and Nicky after they let him loose on a hedge once!
Bay tree pruning commences
Behind the bread oven when we arrived there was a huge, but dead looking bay tree. We love bay leaves, and Nigel insists on using them when he cooks his signature dish, spaghetti bolognaise. He should have been the cook here in France as he at least has some professional experience to draw on, whereas I make it up as I go along. We had already, last October, taken off a lot of the top and side branches of the bay tree, but decided to leave it at that as winter was approaching. It was not until our initial cull had commenced that we noticed that all of the houses on our side of the street had a bay tree in the garden. They all looked dead, but no one else was pruning. Were we making a mistake here? Undeterred we continued. However, now we are into spring, and the supposedly dead trees have taken off again and ours was causing cracks in the bread oven wall. The ivy that had crept up the narrow bay tree truck had infiltrated the stone wall behind the tree removing its soft sand mortar. As we carefully removed the ivy, we realised it was not enough and that we needed to cut the bay tree back further.
We did not want to waste any of the bay leaves so the branches were cut off and put near the back door so that we could pick every leaf off ready to store for future use. The branches would be stored in the barn to season as next year’s firewood. How do you even store bay leaves? Fortunately, the issue of how to store bay leaves is a popular subject and was featured in one of the questions and answer pages of the gardening magazines. Therefore, the plan was to ‘pick the leaves off and lay them to dry in a warm, airy room’. As I read this my eyes rolled as thoughts of ‘where in this building site of a home can I find somewhere to do that, we have thousands of leaves here’. Even if I gave bundles of bay leaves away there were too many unless I could devise a drying system. We decided to keep some fresh in clip top plastic boxes for immediate use, and they kept fresh for three months.
Homemade table
In the meantime, Jaime and I decided to construct a makeshift drying table from an old wooden door placed on piles of bricks in her bedroom. Voila! All we needed to do then was layer it with newspapers and leaves. It was like doing a big green jigsaw puzzle, but with no picture. The aim was to cover the newspaper. When the leaves were dry, approximately two weeks later, we placed them into air-tight plastic food containers for storage and later use. Problem solved we would have bay leaves for every meal!
I started planting out my courgettes, egg-plants (aubergines,) cabbage and cauliflower seedlings which I started off in Jaime’s bedroom. The cucumbers, also propagated indoors, and some of my herbs are upgraded to larger pots as they are still too fragile to be planted out. However, some of the more hardy herbs like my Italian parsley and rosemary are big enough to be transplanted into the stony area set aside for herbs near to the back door. This would enable easy access from the kitchen or our al-fresco bread oven when we were cooking.
Also in March we acquired our five, two-week-old chickens, after being assured by the French lady at the vide grenier where we bought them that they would be laying eggs by July. For now, they had to live indoors as they were very small, and the chicken wire enclosure that Nigel had started would not stop them from escaping or protect them from being attacked by foxes.
Four of the five chicks, named after the Spice Girls
The chickens take up residence in Jaime’s bedroom alongside her rabbit Rosie. I know how this sounds but our house was a building site, and it was the safest place for them. Various defences were erected in the doorways and around trailing wires, etc. Nigel and Jaime made temporary perches for them to sit on both in a large cardboard box enclosure and in the corner of the room for when they were free roaming. It was a bit messy at times and copious amounts of newspapers from friends and neighbours were employed to prevent soiling of our oak floorboards.  Even so we knew that the boards would need to be sanded before varnishing when the renovation work was complete. My worry was the smell whereas Jaime was more concerned about her One Direction posters which the chickens liked to peck at!
For the remainder of the March story and more funny, useful and innovative cooking and gardening stories get your copy of Our Frugal Summer in Charente, it makes an ideal Easter gift!
Paperback only £3.99
Ebook only £1.98
Take a look at a recent review:
5.0 out of 5 stars So, Me!19 Mar. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Our frugal summer in Charente: An Expat's Kitchen Garden Journal (Sarah Jane's Travel Memoir Series Book 3) (Kindle Edition)
This is a really charming journal type story of a family, in a year, living 'The Good Life'. When I say that, I mean like the 70's TV show not the high life. Much of the time it sounds like a lot of hard work, but incredibly satisfying when things go right.
The book is also stuffed with recipes, gardening advice, storage tips and how to make the most out of everything you find or have grown.
Follow the family on their brave adventure being as self-sufficient as possible. For someone who doesn't like courgettes, I've learnt a crafty trick with what to do with them. Courgette Wine and Marrow Rum! Yes! There really is a good use for everything.
It's also a very personal story of the family itself and how they worked together and the funny incidents they encountered.
A great little read to get you away from this bustling world of traffic and supermarkets.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Author Sarah Jane Butfield meets The Black Rose at Rukia Publishing #RPBP

Hello everyone,

One of the most amazing parts of my work at Rukia Publishing in helping other authors to promote themselves and their work is to take part in the author interviews. Maybe it's my inherent nosey nature, but I love to find out why, what, where and how they operate in the world of writing and self-publishing.
This week I was honoured to chat to the woman behind The Black Rose, author of The Yugoslavian. If you missed the meet the author feature why not follow the link below and take a look. 
Have a great week,
Sarah Jane

The Black Rose Biography
The Black Rose is an author, photographer, and painter. Born in Chicago, she currently residing in New York with the love her life, her Hokkaido Dog, Kuma. She began writing at the age of seven and dabbled until she woke up one day and simply had to write a novel. She has two 5-Star reviewed novels, both with sequels on the way.
She categorizes her writing very simply - interpersonal relationships: people's feelings, thoughts, emotions, and the intimacies between two people that truly love each other despite the circumstances surrounding them. “I write about love, honor, and doing the right thing, even when it seems disadvantageous, even when it's not the popular path to take.” She sees her writing as a gift from God, and appreciates and learns from her stories.
Her passion for writing stemmed from her immense love for art, which began drawing at age five and moved into oil painting by age eight. Her love for photography soon followed and she spends hours photographing, filming, and laying out her book covers. She produces her book trailers and will soon produce short films, all of which will be available on in the Photography and Filmography sections. Also under development on is “PrivĂ© with The Black Rose” to showcase behind-the-scenes insights to her writing, novels, photography, and filmmaking.

To read more click here

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Approx 1100 miles, in under 6 weeks Start date: 1st May 2016 #RPBP

smile emoticon

Hello everyone!

My husband, and loyal supporter of my writing career is embarking on a personal challenge of his own to raise money for two charities very close to our hearts. Please take a look and if possible pledge just £1. If a small percentage of our Facebook, Twitter and social media friends pledged £1 we would easily meet the target. If you can't pledge then please share or tweet for us.
Thank you 
Sarah Jane & Nigel

Lands End to John O'Groats Walk

Approx 1100 miles, in under 6 weeks

Start date: 1st May 2016

Project aim

I'm need funding for equipment for the challenge of walking from one end of the UK to the other end. I hope to raise funds for two charities below.
Macmillan Nurses
This challenge is over a year away because I need time for training and of course getting the money together for equipment.
I chose Macmillan Nurses as one of the charities because 6 years ago I lost my mother to cancer. She was cared for by the nurses until she passed away. They all do a tremendous job.
Help for Hero's was chosen because most of my family have served in the Armed Forces. The charity does an amazing job looking after the welfare of soldiers and their families when they need it the most.
I am a fit person who loves a challenge. In the past, I have competed in half marathons and 10 kilometre runs. A passion of mine is walking and taking pictures. I aim to do the walk in under 6 weeks. I will be carrying a rucksack with all my equipment including my accommodation being my tent. I will wild camp where ever possible. The food I will take will be hydrogenated meals in bags, more food will be purchased on route.
This is not an easy challenge it's roughly 1100 miles in total. To make it in under 6 weeks I would need to complete a marathon every day. So it is vital I get decent, reliable equipment. The main items I am wanting help to get is:
Sleeping bag
Walking shoes
On my journey, I will be writing a blog for people to follow my adventure. I will also have a tracking system in place for pledgers to follow my every move across the UK.
Once home, I will put together my stories of my journey into a paperback book, with, hopefully some stunning pictures. My wife is a self-published author, so she has the time and skill to get the book out as soon as practical.
Here is the link to my wife's website where you can see the books she has already published:
I will set up a sponsorship page most probably  later during the year for people to sponsor me.
Right now, I need the funding for this project to get off the ground. So if you would like your name in a signed book, please pledge away...

Monday, 2 March 2015

New Release!! Do you aspire to be an author? Then this is a must-read #RPBP

The What, Why, Where, When, Who & How Book Promotion Series

The Accidental Author is book 1 in this new series of book marketing and promotion e-books based on the experiences of travel memoir author Sarah Jane Butfield. The Accidental Author introduces the author and this series of self-help e-books for new or aspiring self-published authors. The introduction starts with how and why Sarah Jane came to write and self-publish Glass Half Full: Our Australian Adventure. Find out how an aspiring author aims to be discovered while learning on the job how to write, publish and launch a new career in writing. “A must read for any aspiring author or readers interested in the life of a self-published author. Sarah Jane’s never give up approach to life and anything she turns her hand to is beyond admirable.”


In this series, Sarah Jane will share tips and methods for using social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, as well as ideas, hints and tips on blogging and author websites. She will look at how networking and growing a mailing list is an essential part of planning for the future, and how making your books available to readers via aggregators worldwide for a variety of e-reader devices can be achieved as your knowledge grows, and with limited financial investment. Other topics relevant to new authors include the use of Amazon pre-order, the use of low cost paid advertising and much more.

Authors & Readers Get your copy of  The Accidental Author by Sarah Jane Butfield