The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Dehydrator update and The Waiting Room game


Photo: Herbacious border detail

Photo: Herbacious border detail

Our cheap and basic dehydrator continues to delight us. I’m reaping the rewards of dehydrating fruit and vegetables when they were on offer or marked down on the CFC. As all the chopping and preparation has been done prior to dehydrating a slow cooked meal can be prepared very quickly.

This week I had to go for blood tests. I think that the doctors in Newmarket might be suffering from blood testitus as the clinic is always packed and you have to arrive early to get in the queue. I wanted to make our slow cooked skirt of beef stew but time was of the essence. So all the vegetables that I used were dehydrated ones – mushrooms, Fenland celery, Chantenay carrots, onions and garlic. I store the dehydrated food in zip lock bags with the original weight and the dehydrated weight written on the outside. This makes the conversions really easy.

I’ve also found that putting all the dehydrated ingredients in a bowl and covering them with boiling water for a five minute soak before they go into the slow cooker seems to work well as they are already starting to plump up when they are added (including the water) to the slow cooker. I was able to prepare this meal in ten minutes. Switched the slow cooker to auto and shot into Newmarket.

In the hospital I grabbed the penultimate number and found an empty chair. Once the number cards are gone the blood test lady has her full quota for the afternoon. There lies the rub. People keep on arriving and being turned away. Some people get very angry and insist that it’s their right to have a blood test. No wonder the blood test lady looks harassed and stressed.

I sat reading my book Restless by William Boyd and playing my hospital waiting room game. If people come in twos or groups I have to guess which one is the patient. This is surprisingly difficult and challenging as everyone looks stressed. If I get one right I feel like Einstein. At Newmarket hospital there is an extra game within the game – who will make a fuss when they are asked to return the next day.

When I finally got home three hours later I was welcomed by the aroma of slow cooked beef stew. Perfect.

Now I am keen to try making beef jerky in the dehydrator. Watch this space!

  Leave a reply


  1. Pamela

    There are advantages and disadvantages to whatever system we have for blood and other testing. I’m very glad that I have a doctor’s surgery within a few minutes walk where if I need a bloodtest the GP does it there and then. Likewise I have also had an ECG and the most wonderful counsellor I could ever have wished for all on site. I’m sure they do all kinds of other things too that I don’t know anything about as I have never needed them. My mother does complain about having to go to a clinic which is a short drive away but has the benefit of very experienced staff doing providing each different service. I took my mother down for a blood test once, we didn’t wait long and as she was called in I stood up to get a magazine to read while I waited for her. I had barely sat down again before she reappeared. I assumed there must have been a problem but in fact it was all over! So pros and cons, I guess if you have to go regularly you get to know the system and how to work it to your advantage.

  2. lesley

    I love the idea of the dehydrator!!
    I usually slice & freeze mushrooms which I buy in bulk, but the dehydrated ones you buy in packets at the supermarket have lots more flavour!
    I know where you’re coming from with the blood test scenario! I have to go every month…but I’ve sussed it now…go 15 mins before the shut off time…on a Friday…they’ve got through all the patients by then and they’re looking for an early finish for the weekend…bingo!! it’s empty! x

  3. Pammie

    Hi Fiona and everyone,

    I have now brought a deyhdrater so I am ready to go although I suspect I shall use it more in the summer..
    Can I ask do you slice the veg very thin and do you just do this with a knife? And is the Kale just curly Kale please. Any recipes would be fab.

    Our bodies and health are so linked with our emotions I have noticed that with my IBS. And although I know this its still hard to change my reaction to things and people who push my buttons ..

    I hope you get things sorted soon

  4. Tamar@StarvingofftheLand

    Fiona — No matter the country or the illness, navigating the medical establishment is so very grim. I’m very sorry it’s taking so much of your time and attention. Bad enough to be sick!

    If you’re a William Boyd fan, and you haven’t read it already, you may find that A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA will keep you entertained on your long waits. It’s a favorite of mine.

  5. Danny Carey

    Dee – thanks for expressing your support. That is really appreciated.
    I totally understand and empathise with the sentiments expressed by Rachel and others on here. But, since Fiona was forced to retire from normal work on 14-July 2009, everything changed. Running an ad-free site at a cost of almost £100/mth is no longer an indulgent hobby. We loved to keep it ad-free for the past three years and, if we had a choice, we would have loved to keep it that way.
    But needs must . . .
    The good news is that there is a useful piece of software that we can install. It means that anybody who has registered, and who signs in when they visit this site, will not see any ads.
    I must check it out. No guarantees, but it may allay dissatisfaction.

  6. Danny !! Re the ads….carry on allowing them on…please. After following this delightful blog for quite some time I most definitely have gained a fair amount of trust in your and Fiona’s discernment ! Still, I trust my own discernment too and I choose to check out some ads and ignore others as I do in my every day life….go for it you two and do not be put off….

  7. Fiona, did I ever mention that dehydrated kale is amazing in soups and stews?

    It seems to have more flavor dimension than fresh kale. I don’t understand it.

  8. You must try kale chips in your dehydrator! remove large centre rib,discard. Tear the leaves into large pieces, massage lightly with a bit of olive oil, salt and lemon juice. The time will depend on your machine but they should look dark green and be crispy to the crunch!

  9. Barbara

    Is this one of the new polyclinics that is supposed to be an improvement on GP surgeries? It sounds appalling!
    Paula, no health system is perfect, but the NHS is better than an insurance based system. Everyone gets free care: there is no need to decide on the basis of cost whether or not to take a child to see the GP, no fear that losing a job means losing health care too, the threat of loss of health insurance isn’t a divorce weapon.
    I have seen good and bad practice in both countries, and prefer it here where care is largely determined by need, not by wallet.

  10. Rae Mond

    ah, blood tests. The joy. the unadulterated suffering.

    And as to Restless, am I alone in thinking that it went a bit awry at the end? I liked it, until the very end. It went on for too long after the interesting stopped.

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