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mrsyardbroom

mrsyardbroom
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Member since: 20.05.2006

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    • Border Collie / Pet / Animal / 60 Readings / 58 Ratings
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      22.05.2013 09:02
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      A wonderful breed of dog that brings so many rewards

      When you mention a border collie most people think of sheepdogs and it's true that the first collies I handled were working dogs on a farm. I loved them and fell in love with the breed. They were all individuals and each had their own little quirks but I found them to be easy to train in some respects and difficult in others. Now that I have my own border collie I notice the same traits.

      Sasha is a wonderful dog. She's friendly and willing to work at any time of night or day. She gets on well with other dogs and is endlessly patient with our collie cross puppy. She's very easy to train if you want her learn something new. She works well in rally obedience and is a fast and able agility dog. She'll dance if you want her to dance and she'll willingly learn new tricks. Most of all she's a loyal and loving companion. Like a lot of collies she likes a good lean and will spending some time leaning on you during the day or evening. This is something not often mentioned in border collie reviews but they all do it.

      Now for the more challenging side of border collies. Their breeding is such that they have a slightly obsessive nature. If a border collie gets fixated on something you will have the devil's own job to distract the dog and it can lead to annoying or even dangerous habits. As an example a border collie may learn that it's fun to chase a lightbeam. They do it a few times and before you know it the dog is spending more and more time looking for lightbeams. Anything that reflects will catch the dog's attention and if you aren't careful it can turn into an obsession. It's something you have to be aware of in the breed and nip in the bud. However, this can also be a useful training tool.

      If you buy a toy that your dog loves you can use it to train the dog. You will need to keep the toy in a safe place and only bring it out now and again to keep you dog hooked. If you have a typical border collie you'll soon find that the dog becomes a bit obsessive about the toy. Give the toy a name and make sure your dog knows the name and responds. Now if you want to call your dog away from something distracting you will only need to use the toy to bring him or her back.

      Most people say that you have to work a border collie and this is true for a lot of dogs of their breed. If you want a happy dog make sure that it has something to do. Sasha carries things round the house for me and will help out at any time of day. She also does rally obedience and goes to regular classes with other dogs. She'll enter her fist ever rally competition in September this year. However, her main occupation is agility. She goes to training classes and we go to agility shows and compete on a regular basis. I have some agility equipment at home so that we can practice during the week. If you do agility with a dog it's important not to overdo it. It's a great activity for dogs but it also puts a lot of stress on their bodies.

      If you want a collie but you don't think you want to take up any formal activities you can always work the dog at home. How about teaching the dog some tricks or teaching it to dance. Sasha loves to dance in the privacy of our living room and she doesn't mind that I look like a baby elephant with two left feet. Another thing you can teach your collie is to herd a gym ball. This is quite a good sheep replacement and it will keep you both occupied for a while. There is a sport called Treibball where dogs have to herd gym balls and put them into a goal. If you Google it you'll find lots of information.

      Occasionally you may find a border collie that has absolutely no inclination to work and is happy to be a pet. Sometimes farmers give away collies that have failed their sheepdog exams. If they don't have that work ethic they won't be much help on a farm. I've known two such collies. One found a good home as a pet and the other one lived on the farm in our village and spent his life plodding round after the children. He never did a day's work in all his fifteen years.

      Another thing you may find with border collies is that they can be noisy. Some of them are quite vocal and if they don't have enough to occupy them they will let you know.

      Just one other thing. Border collies have very expressive faces. When they're happy or pleased to see you they may smile. The lips are drawn back to show the teeth but this is in no way a sign of aggression. The whole body seems to sink and go waggy, the ears are laid back and to me the dog looks quite soppy. Unfortunately some people have rehomed their dogs or even asked for them to be put down after mistaking the lovely collie smile for an aggressive face.

      Collies come in all shapes and sizes and colours. They can be less than 17 inches at the shoulder or more than 22 inches. The dogs tend to be a bit heavier than the bitches but most border collies have a fairly light build compared to dogs like retrievers. A healthy border collie can live to fifteen years or more so if you take on a puppy you will need to be able to provide care, companionship and work for many years to come.

      Please think carefully before you take on this breed. If you have children they must be taught to respect the dog. Collies are easily wound up and when they get into an excitable state they can start snapping at the air! It isn't aggressive but if the dog catches a child or an adult they can do a lot of damage with those teeth. This can also be true with any breed and it's always wise to stop children from annoying a dog or getting it over excited.

      Collies can be hard work but for me they are totally rewarding in every way. All they want to do is to please you and I all I want to do is to make them happy.

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      • Potatoes / Plant / 42 Readings / 41 Ratings
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        21.05.2013 16:09
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        A good reliable crop for the vegetable garden

        I've been growing potatoes for a long time now and I always put a few seed potatoes in the allotment whatever the weather. I first started growing my own when I was in my mid twenties and I haven't looked back since. There's no doubt about it, a freshly dug potato tastes nothing like the things you buy in a plastic bag in Tesco.

        As a child and as a young woman I used to pick potatoes on various farms. I was brought up in Surrey and although it wasn't ideal potato country because the soil can be a bit sandy, there were still some farmers who grew them commercially. When I moved to Cornwall a lot of the farmers were growing potatoes as an additional crop. I used to go potato picking every summer, sometimes picking potatoes off the harvester as they were dug and sometimes driving the tractor. The sun always seemed to be shining and there was always a motley gang of workers who entertained everyone all day long with their cheerful banter.

        We never bought potatoes. Sometimes the farmer would give each of us a bag to take home and sometimes I would go gleaning. After the harvester had been through there were always lots of small potatoes left on the ground to pick up. These were the sweetest, loveliest potatoes and the skins literally fell off them. I used to lightly boil them and serve them up dripping with butter. They were delicious.

        Nowadays I always grow a few rows of new "teddies" and second earlies in the garden. There are so many varieties to choose from it would be impossible to say which one is best. Aran Pilot, Pentland Dell, Rocket, Charlotte, these are all good ones. If you go into a garden centre you may be able to pick up a guide to the seed potatoes they're selling. They should at least describe the seed potatoes so that you know what to expect. One second early potato that I really liked and cropped very heavily was called Lady Balfour. I grew it a couple of years ago but I haven't been able to buy the seed since. The potatoes were very large and there was a very high yield.

        It isn't always worth growing maincrop potatoes. They need a lot of room and I never seem to get a very high yield. Some good varieties though are Maris Piper, Desiree and King Edward.

        If you want to have a go at growing your own you will need to dig the ground thoroughly in February or March. The seed ptoatoes will need to be chitted for a few weeks so that a bit of a shoot is showing. The traditional planting day is Good Friday. Don't dig in any fresh manure. Potatoes don't like it. I give plenty of room between the rows, at least 18 inches and about 15 inches between plants. I put the tubers in about 6 inches deep and cover them up so that you can see a bit of a ridge all along the row. When they start to come through you need to earth them up. Just pull some earth over them and do this two or three times. I use a general purpose organic fertiliser sprinkled on the ground to give them a helping hand with nutrients. I usually harvest the first potatoes sometime in June. I gently scrape a bit of earth away to see if the "teddies" are ready to dig. If you've got some fair sized tubers then get them up while the price is still high in the shops. Only dig enough for one day. They are so delicious freshly dug that you won't want them hanging around for days on end. Make sure you get all of the tubers out of the ground.

        Some people grow potatoes in buckets or sacks. I tried it once but I couldn't seem to give them enough water and I didn't get a very good crop. If you go for this method I would look for some reviews of potato growing kits to see what other people say and then choose the one that others have found successful.

        All things considered I would always grow a few potatoes in the vegetable garden. They are a reliable crop and when everything else is being munched by slugs and snails your spuds will still be growing and will still give you a good crop. You can boil them, roast them, or cook them in their jackets. You can mash them or make them into chips or wedges. You can mix the mash with egg and flour and mould them into balls to fry. You can top all sorts of things with mash such as minced meat, vegetables or fish. You can put cheese on top or mince up some onion to make onion potato. There are whole books written about potatoes. They are a staple food in the British diet and long may they reign.

        Good luck with your crop.

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        • Breville VKJ385 / Kettle / 41 Readings / 41 Ratings
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          20.05.2013 09:10
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          A quick boiling kettle that is well worth the money.

          We bought this kettle about 18 months ago when our old one packed up and I haven't been disappointed with it. I never like buying new kettles because you have to keep boiling them to get rid of the stink before you can have a decent cup of tea. This kettle was no exception and it took a little while before it was fully useable. I left the lid open to try and get rid of that "new kettle stink" and after a week or so it was OK.

          The kettle itself looks quite smart and is finished in polished stainless steel. I would have preferred to have a choice of colours but you can't be too fussy or you'd never choose anything. It's easy to clean but like all kettles if you leave it too long you'll have a job to polish it up again. The element inside is hidden away so that makes cleaning a bit easier.

          This is a 3kw kettle and it starts to boil very quickly. It's especially quick if you only put enough water in for one or two cups of tea. The full capacity is 1.5 litres and would make about five to seven cups of tea. If you forget to put any water in the kettle it will switch off automatically. The lid is easy to open and the kettle is easy to fill. The water level window is behind the handle and this is a bit difficult to see, however I just open the lid and judge how much water I need without bothering to look at windows or indicators.

          The on switch is underneath the handle and it lights up with a blue neon light when you switch it on. This makes it easy to see and for an old lady it's a bonus as you tend to look for the light to come on and you don't wander away and then wonder while the kettle isn't boiling.

          The kettle has a non-slip, 360° rotational base for left and right-handed usage and there is cord storage facility. I don't really know anyone who winds the kettle cord up tidily so that they don't clutter the worktop. I just hope my husband doesn't read this as it's something he hasn't thought of doing....yet.

          I love this kettle but it loses a star because of the position of the water level indicator. If I had to choose another kettle I'd go for the same one. Breville seems to be a good reliable make and I'd recommend it.

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            19.05.2013 09:16
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            This ball has uses you may not have thought about

            The day came when I started to wonder what else I could do with my dogs apart from things like agility and flyball and obedience so I had a browse around and came up with a brilliant new sport called Treibball.

            Treibball originated in Germany and the object is for the dogs to herd gym balls into a goal. It looked great fun for the dog and Ideal for herding breeds. In the video I watched, the dog had eight gym balls and it had to separate each one from the "herd" and put it in a goal. The dog was brilliant and it looked just as if it could be herding sheep.

            I went straight out and bought the Argos value gym ball. The ball came with it's own foot pump and this was a bit of a flimsy affair, however, the whole package was so cheap that I wasn't too fussy. The pump did the job and inflated the ball with a bit of hard footwork.

            I was a bit worried that when the dogs saw it they would pounce on it and burst it straight away but luckily they didn't. The ball is actually quite sturdy and when it's inflated it measures 55cm across so it would be quite hard for a dog to sink its teeth into it. My border collie was the most interested and after a fair amount of persistent training she learned to go around the back of the ball (what I call the outrun), and then to sit and wait for the next command which is to, "Push." She will push the ball towards me for quite long way. We haven't got a goal for her to put the ball in but it's just a bit of fun for us.

            I only use one gym ball but if you wanted to take up the sport of treibball you would need eight balls for the dogs to herd. You can use a shepherd's crook to direct the ball towards the goal once it comes near you but you wouldn't use it to put the ball in the goal. That's the dog's job.

            I bought the gym ball nearly two years ago now and I've used it for treibball on rough grass quite a lot. It stays inflated for a long time but you do have to pump it up every so often. Bear in mind that I'm not putting any weight on the ball so it may needing more pumping up if you use it for exercise.

            If you buy this gym ball for exercise and you get fed up with it, you now have an alternative use for it. If you don't have a dog perhaps you can give it to someone who does. My dogs find it great fun and completely different to the other activities we do such as agility and rally obedience.

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              18.05.2013 08:59
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              A very good mousetrap for one or two mice

              A few years ago a neighbour moved out and took her menagerie of ducks, chickens, goats and horses with her but she left behind the mice and rats. We got those.

              First it was the mice. Deprived of their daily feed of corn and their comfy beds of hay they looked for somewhere safe to lay their heads. It had to be nice and warm, with plenty of food and no cats. We fitted the bill perfectly and into the house they came. Their droppings went everywhere and it was disgusting. Invasion mice had begun and I had to go to war against them.

              First of all I cleaned like a mad woman and the cleaning cupboard was stuffed with disinfectants and antibacterials. The house has never been so clean. I also threw away all the food that had been chewed, but then I had to face the problem of getting rid of the mice.

              I don't like killing things and the little grey mice were just as entitled to a life as we were so I had to find a humane way of trapping the mice. That was when I bought the humane mousetrap. The first night I set it up and baited it with the traditional cheese. It was quite easy and straightforward to use. You baited the trap, the mouse took the bait and activated the door. The poor little thing was then trapped inside a small plastic space.

              We couldn't sleep. I worried about the mice. What if the trapped mouse died of fright. I'd feel terrible. I know it's daft but I can't help it. After a while I just had to get up and find out if we'd caught a mouse and oh heaven help us we had. It was there in the end of the mousetrap, quivering with fright as the light snapped on. Now what on earth should I do?

              For those who are infested with mice, if you catch them and put them outside they'll come back in the house again. You have to take them a good long way away. I once saw someone take a mouse to end of her long garden and let it go. The mouse promptly scampered all the way back to the house where the dog pounced on it and killed it. No, there was no option. I had to get dressed and deal with the mouse. I took it down to our piece of land which is down a dark and muddy lane. The dog was puzzled but not keen on an extra walk so I left him behind.

              That was one mouse down. Now for the rest. The next morning we had caught another mouse so down the lane it went as well. I hoped they'd be very happy. After several nights of dancing attendance on small furries I was starting to get quite tired with the lack of sleep and the neighbours were talking. It seemed that no matter how many mice I caught there were always ten more to take their place. In theory mice can breed every 25 days and it wouldn't need many breeding females to replace the ones I was evicting. Mice can also do considerable damage. They not only leave droppings everywhere but they urinate as well. They will eat anything they find and they'll chew through everything including electric cables. You can't eat the food that they've chewed and you wouldn't want to. We had to do something.

              I could have gone out and bought ten more of the mousetraps but I wasn't sure this would address the problem. In the end I tackled it in a different way. I literally sealed everything edible into mouseproof containers and waited for the mice to leave. It worked. Within a few days the mice were clearly disgruntled at finding themselves deprived of their free lunch so they packed their bags and left. We haven't seen one since.

              I would say that the mousetrap worked very well and did exactly what it was supposed to do. It would be ideal if you just had the odd mouse to deal with. We had an infestation and using one trap really wasn't effective.

              If you want to get rid of mice the humane way you are better off sealing up their food source.

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              • petplanet.co.uk / Online Shop / 44 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                16.05.2013 08:52
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                A very good firm to deal with

                Petplanet has been established for about 14 years and currently boasts over a million registered members. It's one of the biggest online pet retailers in the UK. I've been shopping with them for several years now and it's the first site I go to if I want to look for anything for my dogs.

                One of the best features is the number of customer reviews on the products. When you shop online you do miss being able to see and handle the product and I find that honest customer reviews are very helpful. If I'm looking for something that my dog can't chew for instance, a quick look at the reviews will always enable me to see if the product is going to be suitable or not. These reviews have saved me a lot of time and money.

                Petplanet sells a huge range of goods for dogs, cats and all small animals, and fish. Some of these products are Petplanet's own range and I've found them to be good quality and good value. They also have a price promise that offers to credit the difference in price to your credit card if you can find the same product cheaper and despatched just as fast as Petplanet.

                I have bought a lot of dog products from Petplanet and all of them have been delivered very quickly. Some of the dog food was delivered the next day. When I wanted a special soft cone for my dog to wear after surgery I was able to get this delivered by express delivery the following day. There was an extra charge for the service but I was willing to pay that. I had every confidence that the cone would arrive on time and it did.

                The only problem I have ever had with this company was when they delivered my dog food to another address in our village and I had to go and pick it up. Petplanet gave me a sincere apology and a £5 voucher to use against my next purchase.

                WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM PETPLANET?
                Free delivery if you spend £39 or more with delivery from Monday to Friday 8.30am - 5.30pm excluding Public Holidays. Items are dispatched within two days. There is also an express service.

                The Petplanet price promise so that you get the best possible price on products.

                A very good refund policy which means that you can get your money back on anything faulty. They also say, "In the event of a customer purchasing an item from PetPlanet.co.uk mistakenly and through no fault of PetPlanet.co.uk, we will be pleased to replace or refund the item provided that the original item is returned to PetPlanet.co.uk unused and in saleable condition."

                Petplanet accepts all the main credit and debit cards and because the payment service is outsourced they don't keep your card details.

                I have a lot of faith in Petplanet to do get the orders right and to get them dispatched quickly and efficiently. However, they are a huge company and no-one can be 100% accurate all of the time so after such a lengthy and positive shopping experience with them I would forgive them if they ever got my order wrong.

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                  15.05.2013 07:30
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                  Versatile pet bedding that's ideal for any animal needing a soft bed

                  A few weeks ago we bought a little puppy, a spaniel collie cross. I'd already been puppy shopping and had bought loads of things to make sure that she settled in well and had everything she needed. The journey to pick her up was quite a long way away and took over an hour to drive there so she needed to be comfortable on the way home. I bought the vetbed to put in her pet carrier and I was delighted to feel how soft it was.

                  The vetbed is lovely and fluffy and has a pile about one inch thick. There is a green waterproof backing which is designed so that if the animal should do a little wee wee it will go straight through the bedding and leave a dry surface but without soaking right through. This is ideal for a small puppy travelling in the car for the first time.

                  One of the best things about the vetbed is that it feels so warm and comforting. It has very good heat retention properties and this is important for a little animal that has just been taken from the litter. They are used to feeling the warmth of their litter mates and can quickly feel the cold.

                  The bedding is hypoallergenic and is excellent for sensitive animals. It's very tough as well and is easy to wash and dry. The bedding I used was washed by hand but I put it into the washing machine for rinsing and spinning. It dried in no time. If you want to you can wash it in the machine at high temperatures and it can be washed as many times as you like.

                  I use the vetbed in the dog crate now that the puppy is a bit older and bigger. When she's tired and grizzly but won't settle down I pop her in the crate on her vetbed for ten minutes and it isn't long before she's getting her much needed puppy sleep.

                  I'd thoroughly recommend vetbed for any animal that needs something soft, warm and comfortable to sleep on and is easy to wash and waterproof and hygenic.

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                  • Cookworks Breadmaker / Bread Maker / 49 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                    14.05.2013 08:48
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                    Fun to try but I got fed up with it after a few weeks

                    The blurb for this breadmaker told me to wake up to the delicious aromas of freshly baked bread and the idea of this was too hard to resist. We were in Argos so on impulse we came home with the Cookworks breadmaker.

                    For once I actually read the instructions. I wanted to bake some wholemeal bread and so I set to work. If you follow the recipe and the instructions it is quite an easy thing to use. I made the largest size of loaf which was 1.5kg. It takes quite a long time as the dough still needs to prove. The fast bake time is 100 minutes so you won't get a loaf of bread in a hurry.

                    When I'd put the ingredients in the machine and it started the kneading process it did tend to move around on the worktop a bit. I had to make sure I'd put it towards the back of the worktop otherwise it would have been in danger of falling off. Once all the kneading and proving was done the breadmaker started to cook the bread and it did smell delicious. Like all new appliances you tend to keep checking to make sure everything is OK. We couldn't wait to taste the bread.

                    At last the bread was ready and we had our first taste of home made bread. To be honest it was rubbish. The bread was too crusty and it was heavy. The texture was too close for a good bread. I did persevere with the breadmaker for some time but I never achieved the perfect loaf.

                    The machine itself was easy to use and it gives a beep when you switch it on to let you know that the power is on. There is an LCD screen and controls on the top of the breadmaker and providing you read the instructions you should find it quite straightforward. There are 12 programmes including: white bread, french bread, whole-wheat, quick bread, sweet bread and dough and there are three different crust settings. You are supposed to be able to make jam and cakes in the breadmaker but I didn't try this. Once you've made your bread the cleaning process is very easy. It really didn't take long to clean up and put it away.

                    After a few weeks I stopped making bread in the breadmaker and eventually I gave it away to someone who needed a gluten free diet. Apparently making your own gluten free bread and cakes is much cheaper than buying it so this is a consideration.

                    For me it was an interesting experience but I wouldn't recommend the breadmaker as a way of life. I can make my own bread and although this is hard work and you need strong arms for the kneading process the results are far better than you'd get from a machine. The secret is all in the kneading and following a recipe exactly. It's also about the love and care you put into it and I'm not sure if any machine can replicate this.

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                  • Apex Featheredge Garden Shed / Shed / 37 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                    13.05.2013 07:53
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                    A good little shed for small gardens.

                    Several years ago my mother in law asked if there was anything I'd really like but couldn't afford to buy and I said I'd love a little garden shed. To my delight and astonishment she told me go and choose the shed and she would pay for it. I chose the Apex shed from B & Q and I've never regretted my choice.

                    The shed measures 6' x 4' and I had it delivered. The land that I wanted to put it on was a little way away so my husband and myself carried the sections down to the plot one by one. Then we tried to erect it. I think a couple of more competent people would have put the shed up in about 20 minutes but whenever I work with my husband we turn into Laurel and Hardy and we might as well be the latest comedy act.

                    Suffice to say that it did take us all morning to put the shed up but when we'd done it we were very pleased with the result. We put some paving slabs down on the ground first for the bearers to rest on so that the shed wasn't sitting on bare earth. Once the shed was built I put up some shelves and hooks and moved my gardening tools and dog stuff inside. The shed had plenty of headroom for my husband and he is 6 foot tall.

                    Several years later the shed is still standing and is still in daily use. I have stored so much in it from gardening tools to dog agility equipment. Over the years we have replaced the roofing felt and the shed has been painted a few times. We also had to replace the window as it got damaged but the basic structure is still there.

                    The shed has sheltered me from the worst of the weather and also sheltered my dogs in sudden hailstorms. It's my little haven and I wouldn't be without it. It's still quite sturdy in spite of us living in an area where there are high winds and in spite of it being sited in a damp corner.

                    It is still available from B and Q but this type is now dip treated and has a ten year anti rot guarantee. It is made from softwood. There is a base included and you can buy the shed with or without a window. If I was buying a shed again I would probably go for the model without the window. You wouldn't want to use the shed as a workshop or be in there with the door closed as it's too small.

                    You can pay a lot of money for garden sheds of this size but if you don't have a lot to spend then I would certainly recommend this one. It definitely needs two people to erect it but even if you aren't experienced it can be done.

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                      12.05.2013 08:15
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                      A good day out and a chance to ride on a narrow gauge railway

                      In spite of living in Cornwall we don't always get to see all the attractions but one day we decided to go to Launceston and have a go on the little steam railway.

                      It was great fun. You could sit in open carriages or closed carriages and we tried out both. Neither of us felt very safe in the open carriage but I'm sure people don't fall out!

                      The railway takes you on a five mile round trip along the old North Cornwall Railway and it goes from Launceston, through the Kensey Valley and into Newmills. The round trip takes about 40 minutes. Although the ride isn't very far the scenery is beautiful and the little loco goes slowly enough for you to really appreciate the countryside. You can get off the train at Newmills and go for a walk along the trails before catching a later train back to Launceston

                      The locomotives that we saw were from Wales and had been used in the mining and quarrying industries. The railway is narrow gauge and so you won't see the big steam haul locomotives that were used on passenger railways. Nevertheless these smaller locos have had a an active working life and they have been painstakingly preserved and restored.

                      Launceston Station is fascinating and you can have a look round the engineering museum and the railway workshop. There is also a shop selling gifts and an excellent bookshop. We picked up a pile of old steam railway magazines for a couple of pounds and they gave a us good read for months.

                      We had our lunch in the cafe but here we were disappointed. The food was expensive and not very good and to be honest you're better off with a sandwich and a cup of tea and cake. If you fancy a treat you can have a Cornish cream tea.

                      Tickets are "Day Rovers" so you can travel on the the trains as often as you like. The trains run every hour and this gives you a good opportunity to get off at Newmills and explore and then come back later.
                      You can take dogs so that a walk would definitely be on the agenda for them. If your dog is a bit nervous or sensitive though, a steam railway may not be a good place to go. It can be noisy and frightening for them.

                      We didn't get off the train but we did see the riverside farm park. This has indoor and outdoor games for children. The Launceston Steam Railway leaflet says, "The park is not owned by the railway company so there is a small charge - but we heartily recommend a visit."

                      We really enjoyed our day out and would recommend it. I think it would be lovely for families with children as there is an opportunity to give them something to do other than sitting in a railway carriage.

                      All the details of fares and train times are given on the Launceston Steam Railway website. It is best to check the website before planning a visit as they aren't open every day outside of the peak holiday season. Also note they don't open on Saturdays during the peak season as this is the changeover day when everyone is either coming on holiday or going home.

                      Thank you for reading this review. If you decide to visit I hope you have a splendid time.

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                      11.05.2013 08:27
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                      A delicious liqueur at a great price

                      Irish Meadow is a blend of cream, white wine and Irish whiskey and is very similar to Baileys but about half the price. I bought two bottles of Irish Meadow from Tesco at Christmas although I was a bit dubious about the quality as it seemed so cheap. I don't normally drink very much at all so buying a cream liqueur was a real treat for me and buying two bottles was positively indulgent.

                      I opened the first bottle on Christmas Eve and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of Irish Meadow. To my untrained palette it tasted quite like Baileys. It was thick and creamy and quite sweet. I would say it wasn't quite as thick as Baileys but for a cheapo cream liqueur it was an excellent copy.

                      I did manage to drink a whole bottle during the Christmas week but when it came to opening the second bottle I faltered. To be honest the sweetness of the liqueur was becoming a bit sickly even for my taste and I have a sweet tooth.

                      One thing I did appreciate about Irish Meadow was that the alcohol content was a bit lower than Baileys. The label says that it contains 14.5% alcohol whereas Baileys has 17% alcohol by volume.

                      There is no unit or calorie information on the bottle but once opened you are supposed to keep this liqueur refrigerated. I failed to read this on the label and so I kept the first bottle with the rest of the Christmas drink in the living room with the heating going full blast. It was my husband who read the label on the empty bottle and pointed out that I should have put it in the fridge. It didn't do me any harm and I don't think I would have wanted to drink it chilled. This is a consideration though if you're buying this at Christmas or party times and your fridge is stuffed full.

                      I could only find one size of bottle for Irish Meadow and that was the 70cl size. It could be handy if there was a half size if you want to keep it in the fridge but I haven't seen one yet.

                      I didn't try this liqueur in coffee but if I buy it again at Christmas I probably will as other people say it's delicious. You could also drink it on ice but for me it's best on it's own in a small glass or two.

                      To sum up then this is a great buy. At the time of writing it costs £4.54 from Tesco and is well worth it if you want a treat.

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                      10.05.2013 08:49
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                      Seems sturdy but needs a sheltered garden

                      Are you thinking of getting a greenhouse but don't have the room or the money for a full sized one? This Gardman mini greenhouse could offer a solution. I decided to buy two so that I could site them against a sunny wall. Unfortunately it wasn't a good choice.

                      When the greenhouses arrived they seemed OK for the money but the metal poles weren't as substantial as I'd hoped. The plastic covering was quite thick and the zips were good and sturdy. I thought I'd try putting one against the wall to see how I got on before unpacking the second one.

                      It was very easy to erect. The metal frame just pushed together and the cover was easy to put in place. I sited the greenhouse against the wall and within a day it had blown down. Undaunted I rerected the structure. The metal poles had come apart and the plastic had torn in places. I pushed the poles together and repaired the plastic with strong clear tape and tried again. This time I tied it in place against the wall but once again the greenhouse blew down. By now the plastic was even more badly damaged and I was forced to admit that it had been a stupid idea to put up something plastic in the first place. I still had the second greenhouse so I sold it to a friend. The friend knew all about the whole sorry story of my greenhouse but she had a much more sheltered garden than ours and she thought it would surely survive there. Once again there was disappointment however. The greenhouse lasted a few weeks in it's more sheltered spot but it simply couldn't withstand the Cornish winds.

                      I would say that if you live in a place that doesn't normally get high winds and you have a nice sheltered spot then this type of greenhouse could be ideal. If it is at all windy where you live I would give this one a miss and go for something more substantial.

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                      • Burns Lamb & Brown Rice / Dog Food / 37 Readings / 35 Ratings
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                        09.05.2013 08:51
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                        A good quality dog food for dogs with sensitive tummies

                        First of all and just to clear up any confusion, Burns have recently renamed their lamb and brown rice kibble. It is now sold as Burns Original Lamb and Rice.

                        I know a lot of people like to feed their dogs raw meat these days but as I eat very little meat myself I find this difficult to handle. I tend to feed mostly kibble now but there is such a huge selection to choose from that it's hard to know what to feed.

                        I changed to Burns because my both my collie and my older retriever cross had a slightly sensitive stomachs. Sometimes they'd both get tummy upsets and their stools weren't quite right so the food they were eating clearly wasn't suiting them I had a look at the various dog foods and found that Burns describes the Lamb and Rice as, "Suitable for sensitive dogs, Ideal for dogs prone to digestive upset or intestinal distress." I decided to give it a try.

                        I started by mixing a little of the Burns in with the dogs' previous food and increased the amount a little each day. Soon they were happy eating the Lamb and Rice and they seemed to love it. I was so pleased that their sensitive tummies seemed a lot better and the stools were perfect.

                        My older dog has since passed away but I still feed my border collie on Burns Lamb and Rice. I do include some vegetables in with the kibble and she also has some biscuit and dog treats. At other times I also include a little kibble with a higher protein content. We have had no tummy problems and everyone says what a lovely shiny coat she has. If there is just one criticism I would make of this food it's that there is too much cereal included and this can tend to make a dog fat. I feed less than the recommended amount, especially given that Sasha has other foods as well.

                        Burns Lamb and Rice is a low protein food and this may not be suitable for working dogs or sporting dogs. Sasha competes at agility but I've found that higher protein foods tend to send her bouncing off the walls and she can get a bit hysterical. Nevertheless, at the times when she is training harder and competing I do include a higher protein food to bring the overall protein level up to around 22%.

                        The ingredients listed are:-

                        Brown Rice (58%), Lamb Meal (24%), Oats, Peas, Sunflower Oil, Seaweed, Vitamins & Minerals.

                        The Analysis is:-

                        Crude Protein 18.5%
                        Crude Oil 7.5%
                        Crude Fibre 2.5%
                        Crude Ash 8.0%
                        Moisture 8.0%
                        Copper 19mg/kg
                        Sodium 0.19%
                        Calcium 2.17%
                        Phosphorus 1.17%
                        Magnesium 0.13%
                        Potassium 0.31%
                        Chloride 0.20%
                        Sulphur 0.20%
                        Essential Fatty Acid 3.20%

                        Nutritional Additives:

                        Vitamin A 25,000 iu/kg, Vitamin D3 2,000 iu/Kg, Vitamin E 100 iu/Kg, Calcium Iodate Anhydrous 1.5mg/kg, Cupric Sulphate Pentahydrate 55mg/kg, Sodium Selenite 0.6 mg/kg, Ferrous Sulphate Monohydrate 160mg/kg, Manganous Sulphate Monohydrate 100mg/kg, Zinc Sulphate Monohydrate 130mg/kg

                        Burns Original Lamb and Rice comes in 2kg, 7.5kg and 15kg bags. It generally works out a lot cheaper to buy the biggest bag but if you have a small dog a smaller bag would be more appropriate. The approximate costs are:-
                        2kg £7 to £9
                        7.5kg £25
                        15kg £46

                        If you want to change your dog's food I would suggest that you buy the smallest bag and mix it in gradually.

                        Finally the best way to find out if you're feeding the right food is to look at your dog. If he has bright eyes, a shining coat and plenty of energy then you are doing something right.

                        This food loses a star from me because of the very high cereal content but other than that I'd recommend it for dogs with sensitive tummies.

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                          08.05.2013 07:46
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                          A good quality multifunction office machine

                          This won't be a technical review as I haven't done any test pages and timings and I don't have enough technical knowledge to write an in depth technical review. It's written purely from a home consumer point of view but I hope it will be helpful.

                          I bought this multifunction machine a few years ago and I haven't been disappointed with it. I've used it on a regular basis for printing, copying and scanning but I've never had the patience to work out how to use it as a fax machine.

                          The best function for me is the ease of photocopying documents. You can use it just like an office photocopier. It is literally as easy as putting the document on the platen and pressing a button. You can copy in black and white or in colour.

                          The Pixma 830mp offers two paper feeders, one from a tray underneath and one at the back of the machine. Switching between the two is easy. It also has a 35 page automatic document feeder so that you can leave it to process quite large documents.

                          I have never set up the fax side of the machine but in theory I should be able to fax directly from the computer. I did start to do this once but failed due to lack of patience and understanding.

                          Using the MP830 as a printer is easy and you can print in colour or black and white and on one side of the page or on both sides. The print quality is excellent. If you want to print photos you can use your memory card or there is a pict bridge. I just connect to my pc and print out the photos. The quality of the printing is excellent with a good colour balance. The scanning function is also simple to use and produces good quality images. The printing speed is fast as well.

                          Setting up the mp830 is easy and you can have the machine installed and running without too much frustration. It is quite a bulky printer and it's quite heavy and I wouldn't recommend it if you're short of space. You may need to get at the back of the machine for unjamming or just to use one of the sheet feeders.

                          I keep a copy of the very detailed user manual on my laptop but I find the Pixma mp830 quite intuitive to use. There is an LCD screen on the front which has all the menus and functions and you can just flip through it until you find the settings you want. It can be confusing at first but if you refer to the manual you should be able to work out how to use most of the functions in a relatively short space of time.

                          Now for the running costs. There are five separate ink cartridges, cyan, magenta and yellow, plus two black cartridges. One of these is a dye-based black for photos and the other is a pigment-based black for text. If you buy Canon original cartridges they will cost you an arm and a leg. A full set is likely to cost £50 to £60. They last a long time but even so it is overly expensive. I buy my ink from ebay. The cartridges are refills. They're fully chipped and I can get the full set for around £10. I've never had a problem with this but maybe I've been lucky.

                          I would highly recommend the Canon Pixma mp830. I'm giving four stars because the speed and print quality is so good and I love the photocopier and scanning. It loses a star because the bulkiness of the machine is a down side for me and I haven't been able to set it up for use as a fax.

                          Please note: If you want a detailed technical specification you will be able to find this on the Canon website. I haven't reproduced it here as it is very lengthy and very detailed and I don't understand half of it.

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                            07.05.2013 09:43
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                            A great puppy brush at a good price

                            Before we brought our puppy home I bought lots of puppy stuff but the one thing that I still needed was a puppy brush. I asked in a local pet shop and they told me I was being silly. If the puppy didn't have a matted coat it didn't need a brush and I would just frighten it by brushing! What a strange view.

                            Jilly was only seven and a half weeks old when we collected her but the breeder's vet had advised that some of the puppies had to go because of the strain on the mother. She's a springer spaniel collie cross and at this tender age her coat was very soft and short and didn't need "grooming." However, it does puppies the world of good to be introduced to a brush at an early age.

                            I bought the puppy brush in Pets and Home and Jilly loved it from the first. The brush has a wooden base and lovely soft bristles that are just right for little puppies. It's a handy size as well. It isn't meant as an anti tangle device but rather to give the coat a nice brush without being at all harsh. Far from being frightened of the brush Jilly found it soothing and has enjoyed grooming ever since.

                            When brushing a very young puppy you need to show them the brush first so that they can see what you have in your hand. They will bite it to find out what it is and to feel it. Don't tell the puppy off! Take the brush from the puppy's mouth and very gently brush across the back using soft even strokes. Always go with the lie of the coat. The Pets at Home brush is so nice and soft that your puppy will enjoy it.

                            I'm so pleased I went with my instincts and started brushing Jilly when she was still so small. A puppy brush is a worthwhile investment and at £3 it won't break the bank.

                            Here are the dimensions of the product taken from the Pets at Home website:
                            Approximate Dimensions (Packaged):

                            H22 x W9 x D2cm.

                            Approximate Dimensions (Product):

                            H16.5 x W5 x D2cm.

                            Approximate Product Weight (for Delivery charge calculation): 69.5gm.

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