Now the end is in sight! All the tin is on and it has had one coat of bitumen paint. I will do a second coat once we have finished everything else. Windows and door are in and have been painted with Sandtex grey undercoat and pillerbox red gloss. I needed to do 2 coats of gloss to get the colour right and the door inside and side window still need coat number 2. Working outside in an English summer has given me limited opportunities to get out there with my brush. This is what it looks like now.

We used the spare window section with the bottle glass in the top of the door. The main of the door was made from buying a new door and cutting it down. I didn’t want a 50/50 stable door as I wanted guests to be able to peg open the top section and still sit inside out of any wind. Very pleased with the result! Just need to fit the hook to hold the door open once the scaffold had been moved. The green tin has only just been fixed under the door so it has not been painted yet.




Inside we have finished all the wood panels and fixed fireboard around the corner where the burner will be. Collecting this tomorrow, so very excited! We are using the Typhon from Glastonbury Burners and it has a really cool oven set over the fire.


We have some very old, heavy and thick patio slabs here, reclaimed from a villager which will make the base for the fire to sit on. They will need a clean up with some brick acid but should be durable enough for any heavy handed guests. The new fire will sit to the left of the door.


The drop down table under the side window is almost finished. It is made from some old dining table spare sections and will be painted a pebble colour. I am also making some open shelving for the opposite wall from some old Hamlet pine dresser tops which will have the same paint finish. The mattress came today but for now it is being stored in the house to stop me being tempted to have a lie down. All the wall and roof wood now needs to be coated with a clear matt varnish.

Next update should show the bed built and fire fitted so for now let me leave you with the beautiful stained glass window on a wet August day in Somerset.




Just a quick update. We have achieved quite a bit in the last two weeks.

All tin is now on! My next job is to get the paint on, when we get a dry and breeze free day.

hut all tin on.jpg

We insulated the roof and sides with 4 rolls we had left over from other jobs. Here is the photo, before it gets covered up.

hut insulation 2

By spreading the word I had a tip off that some floorboards had been dumped for burning. I got permission to salvage them and spent 2 hours on a bonfire site dragging out the best ones and knocking out all the old nails. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure they would be any good as they had been ripped out quite brutally and it could have been an afternoon tidying up firewood! I filled our car with the planks, thanks to the Freelander rear window, and crossed my fingers we would have enough. This is the result and I am so pleased. They now need a sand and varnish.

After the floor, work started on lining the ceiling with tongue and groove. We are buying this new and to give you an idea of amounts, 100 meters did approx 3/4 of the ceiling! Now the ceiling is finished the walls will get the same treatment.

hut ceiling 2

My original plan was to paint this but now seeing it I am considering leaving it as the wood is so beautiful and light.

I have revamped two old cider half barrels and planted them with dwarf bamboo. These will be sited with the hut and once the plants spread out more they shouldn’t need much attention.

The windows and door will be next and I am off shopping for the woodburner, my kinda shopping xxx




Mr M gets angry!

Well the EU referendum is stirring things up here in Somerset. We have yet to receive our letter from the Government, but a couple of days ago we had a missive in the post from Will Straw aka Britain Stronger in Europe. This part of the campaign seems to be aimed at business owners. Lots of economic guesstimations being put forward as facts.

For those who are interested, Mr M channelled his inner Ed Reardon and this is the reply we have sent back to Mr Straw.

Will Straw-1

Will Straw-2

Yes we know in the scheme of things it will have little if no effect, but boy does it make us feel better!

Building our Shepherd’s Hut Part 1

This is one of our current projects. We talked about it for ages and looked at lots of options. Should we by a kit? or buy one second hand? Prices vary so much and we had a good idea of what we wanted. So we have done our own thing!

The first thing we were sure about was getting the wheels/chassis right. Lots of huts have metal wheels way to small for the job. We also wanted to utilise the skills we have so as my Dad is very handy with large, farming type mechanics…. anything with wheels and lots of metal…. we sourced a Dyson trailer hiding in a barn. We think our trailer is circa 1930’s. Lots of these were built for the MOD, then used by farmers for hay and straw haulage.  This is what it looked like when we dragged it out! You can see the tide-marks on the tyres where it was sunken into the ground.dyson trailer

My Dad was a total star with this and spent around 2 months, replacing and repairing the trailer. Some new metal work, red oxide paint,two replacement tyres and lots of wood.

So now with a wooden base fitted we brought it over to our house and waited for our local builder Phil who is fabulous with wood. I went to a local hut builder and bought all their spare tin sheets, the seconds that they can’t use. We also sourced some wooden windows from Somerset Reclamation Yard at Ston Easton. These were surprisingly hard to get as most people have upvc now. I had to send Andy in head first under some stairs to reach them. Worth it as we have one pane with a bottle glass swirl. We also have an old stained glass window, left over from an auction lot a few years ago which we are using over the bed end of the build.

The frame work went up over Easter and then the roof timbers were added. Now we can see the space we have to work with and it all becomes very real!

A waterproof membrane has been added and we now have just finished the tin on the two long sides and the roof! We have decided to go with wrapping the tin around the corners, rather than using edging strips. As soon as the wind dies down I will be painting it all black too. The wood work will be painted red to match the wheels centres.

Although we are calling this a Shepherd’s Hut it really is more like a Showman’s Wagon. We intend to build a storage locker underneath, between the two axles. What we have learned is that there really is no right or wrong way to build. All huts would have been made using whatever the farmer had access to or just lying around. Our build will be a mix of new and old, using up our and other peoples left overs where we can.

Next to source are floorboards and an old chest of drawers/sideboard. I need some deep drawers to build in under the double bed.

The plan is this hut will be one of two, this being the double and the second we build will have two adult bunks. Both will be fitted with a wood burning stove.

Any ideas for naming the hut? Please let me know.


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The one where I won £10,000 (part2)

Dave Johnston - Author

In Part 1 here, I described the breakdown of the £10,000 prize that I won.  Here, I’m going to tell you how we spent it all! ….

On the dawn of my 33rd birthday, Helen and I boarded a train from Sheffield to London.  We should have been excited, but to be honest we were a bit nervous.  (a) We weren’t used to being wined and dined in luxury; (b) We felt a bit embarrassed about the idea; (c) We still kinda thought it was a wind-up.

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Featured Image -- 412

The one where I won £10,000 (part1)

Fab post in 2 parts enjoy🙂

Dave Johnston - Author


“Yes hello, is now a good time for you?”

“Ermmmm ….”

“It’s just that, you may have won a prize.  Do you remember entering a Campbell Grey competition?”

“Ermmmm ….”

“Ah, maybe I’ve got the wrong number, it’s a hotel chain?”

“I once stayed at One Aldwych in London, are you something to do with that?”

“Yes!  That’s the one.  Well, I’m pleased to inform you that out of 15,000 applicants, yours was the lucky name drawn out of the hat.”

“Oh, OK, that’s pretty cool.”

“Now, do you remember what the prize was?”

“I’m sorry, I genuinely can’t.  Was it a voucher?”

“Well, slightly better than that.  I mean, the prize’s value is £10,000 ……..”

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Little Kitchen Cookery School

This is a find for my local readers. I was lucky to win an evening course with The Little Kitchen Cookery School back in May 2015. The school is at 153 Wick Road, Brislington, Bristol BS4 4HH.

I went on one of their increasingly popular Street Food evening courses, which costs £40 and runs from 7.30- 9.30 pm.I did the Moroccan night and this is what we cooked- Turkey and courgette kofta, taboon flatbread, jewelled salad and tahini dressing.

Madeleine and Claire have a passion for cooking and teaching that is really apparent in these small, friendly classes. You feel like you are cooking around a friends house. They also run some great sessions for children. I am seriously tempted by the upcoming Scotch Egg Masterclass

The flatbread is now a regular on our home menu.


If you fancy learning something new and don’t want to commit to evening classes, book yourself into The Little Kitchen Cookery School and don’t forget to let me know what you cook!

Waitrose Cookery School

Back in October I was very lucky to get an invitation to an exclusive Steve’s Leaves cookery event at Waitrose Cookery School King’s Cross, London.

It was a bit of a trek for me but luckily the course didn’t start until 10.30 am so I could travel up and back in one day. This did mean getting the first National Express coach from Bath at silly o’clock in the morning. I am fairly sure of the 20 of us that attended I was the furthest travelled.

Waitrose have 3 schools, King’s Cross and Finchley Road in London and Salisbury school in Wiltshire. Please, please, please can we have one in Bath or Bristol?

The first thing I want to tell you is that they have the most amazing coffee machine! Fresh and piping hot we were able to grab as much caffeine as we needed throughout the day and after my early start that was a fair amount.

We had two chefs demonstrating and supervising us as we made Compressed Watermelon, Padron Peppers & Almonds as a starter.

Then mains was a Warm Salad of Confit Duck with crispy fried egg and puy lentil dressing. Followed by dessert of Poached Pear and Almond Tart.

We started poaching the pears, using a cartouche. This was the first time I had done it like this. Then we made our starter where I discovered pomegranate molasses. We stopped to eat this and out came the wine, for a glass or two.

Then we went back to work on our main course and finished the tart. With these in the oven we sat down to a very leisurely lunch, with more wine. I wrapped my tart to take home and was one of the first to go at 3 pm. We also had a goody bag with bags of salad and a great cookbook.salad

The chef’s were great and very enthusiastic. I finally learned how to poach eggs properly (and then coat them in breadcrumbs and deep fry). This did lead to one very “waitrose” moment when my hand went up as I announced “We don’t keep a deep fryer, can I use a wok?”

My favourite tip was the best way to dress a salad of great leaves is just a tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice, with a good amount of sea salt flakes.

I really was impressed by the way that Waitrose wasn’t pushing it’s own products. Looking at the courses on offer they are good value too. At £50 for a two hour evening course, you are also getting your evening meal and a drink. If you are in London, well you have to eat, why not learn something new too?

Leith’s School of Food and Wine

So now it is the end of December and I have not blogged for a year. Shame on me!

Back in July I was really lucky to win a competition that was run by The Food Standards Agency and Chicken Tonight. My prize was a weeks course at Leiths which I did earlier this month. So I travelled to London on a packed train (thank you Bath Christmas markets) and stayed in a guest house 10 mins walk from the school.

The course I attended was Key Cooking Skills – Part 1 and according to the brochure is ” is ideal for those who are new to cooking or have limited experience and want learn the fundamental skills for cooking success.”

My official cooking education consists of 2 years at secondary school, when we still called it “cookery” and 4 part day sessions at at various events, which I will tell you about in another post. Everything else I have learned through either watching my Mum or trying myself. I do cook a lot at home and really wanted to improve my skills in the kitchen. This course really helped me to cook the things I already do, but so much better.


My first impression of the school was how many students there were. There were 2 week long courses running with 40 students on each. That’s a lot of people to check in and send to the right place! Leiths have got this very well organised and we were all ready to learn by 9.30 am. We had half the day, all 40 of us in the demonstration room and the other half working on the kitchens, where we were then split into groups of 8 per chef. Lunch was either the food that had been demo’d or what we had cooked ourselves.

This is how the week panned out:

Monday morning demo we were shown how the make proper stocks, soup, cooking with eggs (custard, scrambled and omelettes), rich shortcrust pastry and lining a flan case, baking blind then filling to make a quiche.

Monday afternoon kitchen we made our own pastry case and cooked it blind, then learned knife skills and practised by making crudites and hummus to dip them in. We also chopped our leeks ready for the flan.

Tuesday morning kitchen we sweated our leeks using a cartouche, then finished off our Leek and Gruyere tart.

leek tart

We then made an orange and passion fruit jelly and more knife skills with segmenting oranges.

Next we made a BLT salad with soft boiled eggs and eat it for our lunch.

BLT salad

Tuesday afternoon demo was roasts and accompaniments, vegetables, sauces,timings and carving.

Wednesday we did fish and this was the best day for me. The morning demo was prep and cooking whole fish and flat fish. We learned how to cook whole mackerel with gooseberry sauce, fillet and cook lemon sole and steam sea bass with garlic and ginger. Then we had a demo on breadmaking.

Wednesday afternoon we were back in the kitchen and made our own rosemary focaccia, filleted and cooked a lemon sole with a lime and parsley crust and crushed new potatoes. This was followed by our jellies and oranges from Tuesday.

sole cooked

Thursday morning kitchen so we roasted pork, with apple sauce, roast potatoes and green beans. Our apple sauce went pink as the class before us had made a blackberry sauce and that had stained the wooden spoons! We learned how to cook, then chill the beans and refresh for serving. For dessert we made a peach and raspberry crumble with thick vanilla custard.

Thursday demo was tricky to stay awake as we were all stuffed from a massive lunch. We covered using egg whites in meringues, pavlova and chocolate mousse. Then we were shown scones and cookies. Finally pasta sauces.

Friday morning demo was a buffet, including a rare beef,beetroot and horseradish salad, smoked chicken and noodle salad, green bean and cherry tomato salad, grilled goats cheese and warm lentil salad, sweet dill slaw, herbed couscous and a roast salmon with orange and ginger. Deserts were Chocolate roulade and Treacle tart.

Friday afternoon, with lots of exchanging of e-mails and numbers, we made chocolate brownies and a fab rare thai beef salad. We were presented with our course certificates and a Leiths spatula.


We had our own Leiths How To Cook book, which we were encourage to scribble notes in throughout the week and got to keep our Leiths apron.

I learned so many things on this course and I made the beef stock for our Christmas dinner gravy and the gooseberry sauce to go with our goose. I have also made focaccia bread at home, the chocolate brownies and been practising my knife skills. I am confident I can handle any fish and cook it perfectly. I was also really pleased we were cooking on gas and the ovens/hobs were the same as mine at home. We used lots of ginger which is something I will be trying to continue and I am warning you now Leiths, I will be back!

I loved the whole experience and would recommend this for anyone with an interest in food/cooking. It would make a wonderful present for a big birthday or anniversary.  I would like to thank Sheila Benjamin at Food Standards Agency for organising everything and everyone at Leiths Cookery School


MuLondon WordPress Giveaway: Win Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser

Mulondon's Blog

MuLondon’s deliciously fragranced, cruelty-free and vegan Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser has been chosen as the winner of the 20th anniversary Viva! Award.

Celebrate & Win: Follow MuLondon on WordPress and reblog & like this post for your chance to win a jar of this yummy spread for your skin. One winner will be chosen at random. Open to international entries, ends Wednesday the 25th of March 2015, midnight UK time. Good luck!

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MuLondon's deliciously fragranced, cruelty-free and vegan Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser has been chosen as the winner of the 20th anniversary Viva! Award. MuLondon’s deliciously fragranced, cruelty-free and vegan Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser has been chosen as…

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