Cheesy panic stations!

I sabotaged my own business this week. 🙁

Just for those who may not know my alter-ego – ann of slate-ware – it is this business I am talking about – not the novel writing,

So there I am looking at the google adwords – you know those that appear beside the main body of searches and in the faintly (and getting fainter) pink block across the top.You probably know that all these ads are paid per click – so each time you click on one of these, the business who placed the ad pays google some money. Sounds vague – well this is because the business owner has to put a bid on how much they want to pay for their ad to be displayed when a range of specific keywords are put in by the potential customer. And it is vague. You are given ‘guidance’ like – “the average bid for page 1 is 15p” – meaning that you need to be bidding something in that region to get your ad on the first page.

Now, for certain items like slate plates and slate place cards my products naturally (organically) appear on the first page of the seach results. Fot these I do not usually advertise as well. However, some of my products do not appear on the first page, like slate clocks and slate cheeseboards, and for these I do.

So, I put in the search box one of my paid-for keywords, ‘slate cheeseboards’ – and expected to see my ad appear. It was not there! I tried another – still no ad. I checked that I had not had my limit already spent that day (You can set your own limit for how much you want to spend – but that can quickly get used up at this time of the year and I often have to increase it in November) however, it hadn’t all been used. What was going on?

Exploring my ad campaign, I found that google were now suggesting that this keyword would need an average bid of 49p for the ad to appear on the first page. Call me a miser if you like, but 49p a click !!! At that rate I’d have to put the price of the cheeseboards up, and that would never do!

Better by far, I thought, to get onto the first page naturally – but despite having one of the widest ranges of slate cheeseboards available on the Internet, my slate cheeseboards did not show until page 3 – which I am sure you will agree, is further than most people tend to go to look for items.

My webmaster advised that if I wanted that particular term to show up I should have it in my item names (they mostly said cheese board or cheeseboard) and to put them into a separate group – not just within Tableware.

I then spent hours doing this – adding the plural – setting up the new category, finessing the categories the cheeseboards appeared in to reallocate them and then, feeling please with myself, I tried a search.


All the results that appeared only led to an ‘error’ page for my website!

What do you do if the product you were looking for only gives you an error page – ….yep you just click it off.  Every single one of my dozen cheeseboards now led to an error page!

I had successfully sabotaged my own business! And at the most important time of the year!!  Which is pretty cheesy!!

Hot! Cold! Could I remember the exact words for each to put them all back? What of my bid for organic first page ranking? Panic, hair pulling  – you get the picture.

An URGENT message to my webmaster and a lot of holding my breath and crossing my fingers and the answer came back – maybe it can be sorted out!

***                        ****                           ******                     ********                *********

Fast forward a few days and my wonderful webmaster has almost sorted it all out – the links that have been developing all over the Internet over the past five years since I started my slate-ware business, once again lead the customer back to the correct page!

And everything is apple-pie again 🙂

Have you ever tried to improve something but got yourself into a worse predicament than when you started? Does the ‘mind’ of the Internet lose you along the way? Do share and make me feel a little better 😉


For FWT cheerleaders – same as last week – so close! Just  a pound and a half to go!


Chick News & Nature Notes for April


Late again, I know (supposed to post this at the end of each month) – so here we go! Lichen with fruiting bodies Can’t resist starting with this out-of-this-world alien-like lichen in full fruiting body form! Wonderful. Please click on the picture to appreciate it in full size!

Next up is those pretty and delicate flowers of this season , the second year in a row where they have been prolific in the hedges around here – I give you the violets!


As pretty as these are, everyone knows a violet when they see one, but what about a hairy woodrush. Large patches of these have appeared , not only in the orchard, but also on a damp area of the front lawn. Small, delicate and interesting in shape.

Hairy WoodRush


Spotted in amongst the daffodils – a hen pheasant. She went on to lay a clutch of eggs amongst the daffodil stalks in the orchard, not too clever in an area where a labradoodle roams. She’s moved on to a wooded area nearby now

Hen phesant amongst daffodils

And, I know it’s not wild, but above these daffodils is the magnolia, casting its beautiful light.

A quick catch-up on the goat kids.. oh yes — they are still feeding ….

Cute or What?

Our Light Sussex Cockerel

And here’s the chicks’ Daddy (well of some of the chicks now hatched) handsome fellow, isn’t he?


some of the chicks in the brooder








And here’s some of the chicks, a total of 31 only this year – lots were not fertile at all.

So great to share some of the nature notes from around our little corner of Cornwall and our smallholding. And so great to share the wonderful Free Draw to Win a Kindle or one of four other prizes including an AnnMade slate cheeseboard and ecopies of my three novels. If you’ve already entered (if not – why not – it only takes a sign-up to this blog) please share the good news and let all your friends and family know so they can enter too.  And good luck to you all – a lucky five people out of just one thousand must win something but there’s only 269 places left as I write, so hurry.

Do you like taking photographs of nature – what was your favourite picture of? I love to hear all your comments.


And breathe…

Just taking the chance to breathe.
The last few weeks have been quite manic in this household and with the business. You see, selling on the internet means a lot of packaging and posting at this time of year, and I am not complaining, was even quite concerned in October and early November as sales were very slow getting going.

Those of you who have come to this blog via know that I make and sell slate-ware. All sorts of items made from slate.

I got into working with slate in a rather roundabout way. Our lovely 16th century house had a thatched roof. A roof that we had totally replaced twice in the, then, twenty two years we had been here, and the second time using the more expensive and usually more durable water reed, hoping for at least 25 years from it. Alas, it was rotting on the roof in twelve and we applied to be able to change the roof back to slate. Yes, back to slate. I had evidence that the house was only thatched in 1954, so, though the house was now listed, it wasn’t an original feature. What is more as I did more research it turned out that this was exactly the problem. The angle so the roof had not been altered to be right for thatch which needs a steeper roof for the rain to drip from end to end of the reed and thence off on to the ground, rather than having a chance to soak in bringing all the problems with it that we were encountering.

Thatch on a shallow pitch roof gets wet and stays wet, moss and lichens grow, insects take up residence, birds scratch at it to get the insects, more wet gets into, the broken bits of reed break down, seeds start to grow in it. We had reed, grass and a tree trying to grow on the roof.

Eventually we were given permission to get it returned to slate and then had to find a suitable slate for the job. This was a task that I was set and took myself off to a slate supplier to look at different slates and try to find something that would look good on an old property, something that also matched the lighter grey slate slabs that surround the front of the house and form the path to the front door, slate which I suspected to be local.
Eventually I found a slate I liked, colour was a good match and the variation in the slates meant that even when new there was an irregularity to it, giving a aged feel to the results.
However, along the way I handles and looked at lots of types of slate, I asked the slate merchant how slates were cut to form the straight edge on one side and the broken edge on the other and was shown a hand-held slate guillotine. The tool on the far right in this photo:
I was hooked. I loved this material and began to think of items I could make from it to start a small business. I had recently taken an early retirement from teaching (in an inner-city comprehensive) and was looking for an enterprise.

I began making items in slate and items in fabric, adding repoussed aluminium work later and started by selling at craft markets. I had already thought of the name annmade, but thought that every Ann would have thought of it and there wouldn’t be a decent web-address going (and indeed there are a lot of annmades out there – but most had added their specialism into their name, like annmadeart, annmadecards etc) – so to my delight I found available and snaffled it immediately as at that time I was doing many things, not just slate.

I am lucky to have two sons whose business is making wonderful websites, (and now much more) and after a while they found time to create a website for me and began to take off.
With many innovations and experimentations I created the annmade range of slate plates and slate cheeseboards. I asked an environmental health officer to test my resulting product and the results were very good.

I was already selling to hotels and restaurants when I had a call from a TV company making The Great British Menu. It was all hush, hush, as ordering the 120 Quattro slate plates (my smallest size plates) would have given away the results of the finals, but that was how my slate plates first made their way on to TV. The following year they made lots of appearances in the different heats as chef after chef used them to display starters, desserts and even a fish course.

Last year I had another call, this time from Channel 4, the TV company had a request, from chef Richard Corrigan, for 7 of my Standard-pro slate plates for his new programme, Cookery School, where they appeared twice when it was screened this spring.

Annmade slate plates and cheeseboards have found themselves sent as far as Chicago and Connecticut in the USA, and Adelaide in Australia, and in hotels from the furthest reaches of the Highlands to The Berkley in London as well as to hundreds of individuals all over the UK and Europe.

So, breathe……

…… and get ready for the Christmas rush on the home front…. Only eleven for Christmas day this year .. but I have the cake made (Same recipe as used for My Nephews wedding cake * see blog) – maturing in the freezer (if not yet iced) , mince pies made and frozen, pickles in the pantry (except the red-cabbage – need to do that) … oh but .. not got the decorations up yet … nor made the door wreath … or finished the shopping … oh oh …


One day….

Just over two weeks ago I performed a first – the first time I trimmed our goats’ hooves. Usually this is a job for the husband but he was away and the job needed doing. With my father on hand to advise (he has had plenty of experience at this task but at 85 finds goat wrestling a little difficult) we set to.

Luring the six nannies (or does as they seem to call these Boer goats) out of their field and into a pair of connected goat houses was easier than I had expected, even if it did present a funny picture as I ran ahead rattling a small white bucket, quarter full of sugar-beet pellets and calling, ‘come on then’ followed by galloping goats, ears all a-flapping, until I dived in through one door, ducked through the connecting door between the houses and led them right through (to where I had placed a trough of cut-up veg to stop them in their tracks) then I slipped out through the other pen gate and round to close the connecting door between the houses. I was exhausted but we had only just started!

One by one we brought the goats out to the stand. Now these goats are smaller than the ones we were used to and I took a small wooden stool to sit on so that I didn’t have to kneel on the damp concrete. With my legs stuck out under the goat I tipped a goat foot up and started working, paring away the outer hoof and then the inner, carefully so as not to go too far. When it came to Peggy, the oldest and heaviest, she decided to fold up her legs and sit her whole weight on my legs! And as for the youngest, Nougat, no way was she going to be led anywhere… I had to pick her up and carry her out! Not only did this process take me nearly three hours start to finish but the hard wooden stool left my rear-end bruised for days!!

Today, prior to their sharing their field with the Billy (or buck as they call the male Boer goats) we did the whole process again, but with the husband doing the honours trimming the hooves and me just doing the herding, catching and fussing (to keep them peaceful) while he worked. Six females and one male goat done in a hour and a half!

Just as well because (after a good hot shower to de-goatify myself) I had an appointment to take a selection of new slate based products to a shop in a local market town, to see if they wished to stock these items. This is a shop that specialises in things grown or made in Cornwall so I had made some of my usual designs (salt and pepper pinch-pots, tea-light stand, heart-shaped coasters and hang-ups) but used reclaimed Delabole slate to base them on. Delabole, for those of you outside Cornwall, is a famous slate quarry on the north Cornish coast producing a beautiful soft-grey slate (colour not hardness). However, as it ages and the weather affects it, as lichens grow on it and the sun bleaches, it mutates to the most delicate shades of colours, with browns and gold from traces of iron pyrites, shiny sparkles of mica and silica and the original soft grey all intermingled. Of course to find this you have to scrape and rub off all the grime, and not every reclaimed slate responds the same, but it is well worth it when you find the pretty ones.

This evening I finished off and packaged up thirty Cornish slate fridge magnets that I have been making on and off over the weekend, then chaired a WI committee meeting, ‘cooked’ twenty slate cheeseboards and olive-oil conditioned them and wrote this blog….



Enjoyed this blog? Please share :)