Thursday, 6 August 2020

Moving house....not for us ;) but why have we had to move our ducks?

You will see on our recent YouTube video that our ducks are now in our paddock area.  They were being bullied over food by the laying hens would you believe?  Now if you watch the video, excuse the accent, I hate how I sound sometimes :)  Also I think I sound a little arrogant in places which is definitely not meant to be the case :) as I hope you guys would know.


Anyway, the ducks and hens.  They all got along famously when food wasn't involved but the poor ducks were too polite for their own good and despite being 3 or 4 times the weight of our brown hens, they didn't get goaded in to fighting over food and we were having to make allowances for how to feed them.
Round here we need things to run smoothly and efficiently, so this wasn't an option.  We can't have the ducks not getting enough food and we don't have spare time to stand round and hand feed them (every day at least ;) )     

 
Naturally, Rodney helped.
 

So Steven set about with his pallets, hammer and nails, found some roofing that you are sometimes lucky enough to have lying around on a smallholding and made them a lovely duck house that will most definitely stand the test of time! 
 

Whilst we worked on this, the ducks were still in the orchard (where they lived with the chickens) but we soon moved them in to the paddock once their house was ready.


In the paddock there is an area which naturally dips and collects water so we have added a pond liner to it and filled it up with rain water.  If you don't know already, ducks make everything filthy in no time!  The pond is no exception.  The good thing with this is (the theory anyway) that we can empty and refill it by tipping the liner out.  It's not very deep at all.  We will let you know!




Rodney and Buster thought it was great fun!


We would like the ducks to stay in the paddock area.  We don't want them getting any ideas about swimming off down the river! They have plenty of space, water and food here but I'm sure we'd still lose them given the chance.  So the next project, before we moved the ducks in actually, was to chicken wire the bottom of the post and rail fence that runs round the paddock.  We worked together and the weather was kind to us; it didn't take too long and another  good job done.


The ducks were soon investigating their new home and seemed to give it the bill of approval (sorry, couldn't resist!!)


Life moves on here, exciting times and a growing flock. I can't wait to see the egg results when these ducks are all laying, imagine all the things I can make with soooo many duck eggs.  They are my complete favourite animal.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Recipe - Slow Cooker - pea and ham soup

This is SUCH a delicious soup, please try it once if never again!  In the slow cooker too, double win.

Ingredients

  • Small smoked gammon joint.
  • 2 peeled potatoes.
  • 2 large white onions.
  • 3 cloves garlic.
  • 1kg frozen garden peas.
  • Water

Instructions

Put the garlic, onions, peas, raw potato and gammon in to the Slow Cooker.  Put the potatoes and gammon in first, unlike me!
Pour in enough water to cover the gammon 1/2 way - more if you like thinner, less if you prefer a thicker soup.
Cook on high setting for 4 hours or low for 8.
Remove the gammon and trim off any fat before shredding with two forks.
Blitz the soup into the consistency you prefer and put the shredded gammon back in, combine.
Season to taste serve in a soup bowl with a little of the shredded gammon to garnish.

To make a less healthier version, add cream at blending and a little cream to drizzle before adding the gammon garnish but the truth be told, I really don't think it needs it.







Monday, 3 August 2020

Riverbank arrangements / shortest For Sale ever

No, we haven't moved to the riverbank 😂
We have though, taken the house off the market.  We are no longer for sale.  In a nutshell, it just wasn't the right thing to do for us, at this time of our lives and with what we are fortunate enough to already have.  The reasons we moved to this small smallholding and the offerings it gives us, haven't changed.  Our requirements haven't changed one bit.  They are still all around moving to a more (not total) self sufficient, self reliant and enjoyable lifestyle.  
Our knowledge and experience has grown vastly and we got a little carried away with ideas that yes would work, but just were not worth losing our family home for, to move to a place and leave our hearts behind in this home.  Whilst the option is ours, we shall be staying here.  Instead of looking to move to more land whilst working full time for local and corporate companies, we are now (and always were to be fair) continuing to develop what we have here, making our family's mark on the house, making the most of the land, raising livestock and loving life.  So onwards we go!  That takes us to the riverbank.  
Can you believe we have been sat on 0.6 acres (yes, ALLLL THAT) of land on the riverbank and have done nothing with it since we lived here except plant a couple of trees.  That said, we did have to fence it off to stop the horses going for a swim and to prevent the cattle from the neighbouring field crossing the river to eat our grass during the dry months.  You can see the fence on the left and the river (our of shot) on the right.


So we (the royal we) set to and strimmed 80% of it.  20% we won't talk about as it involves a broken strimmer and naughty words.
Below is the before and after.  Not to detract from the cracking job Steven did, but isn't the sky amazing on the after shot?


For completeness, here's a shot from the other way :) to which the horses wanted part of the action.



Next up, fencing was needed to stop the sheep rolling in to the river.  If anyone's would, it'd be ours.  Funnily enough, this stage too included a lot more choice words and I knew it was a day to not voice my opinion but to smile, nod and pass the (insert tool name).  Fencing round here has always been wooden circular posts and either stock fencing which we use tensioners on or post and rail.  Depends what it's to keep in or out.  The ground is very stony and putting posts in can be an ordeal.  However the river bank, not surprisingly, was fairly soft.  Knowing this would be too good to be true, we waited for the inevitable problem to show its face.  And I'm a positive person, so that shows you what fencing can be like!
Said problem arose when we tried to use Clipex fence posts, which we felt very much like we were proper farmers for using.  Sod being like proper farmers, who have proper machines.  Now I know Ste can work like a machine but even he threw down the towel after the first afternoon of trying to use the sodding fence posts, finally retiring to the kitchen and a Jack Daniels mumbling some more of those words I cannot type.
We don't have machines here, almost everything is manual, almost.
Next day, Ste set about after a night of "thinking about it" and he took Jack, our youngest with him as I remembered I had some really important tasks to do.....
I dared venture down to check on them/fish Ste out of the river later that day and low and behold, what was complete?


A whole brand new fence, the full length of the river bank, made to last the test of time!  OK so a few wooden posts were used which we risk needing to be replaced if they rot, should the river rise, but we (again, royal) are happy to do that as and when needed!  Doesn't it look amazing?


OK so why is it even needed? 0.6 acres of land?  To rotate and graze our sheep on and yey, we have them on it now!!  Of course they chose to stand in the 20% but that fits in around here.  They have safely been on a couple of weeks now.  It's a whole other story about how we got them on there and secured them in, which funnily enough included yet more of those funny words ;)




Life is an adventure here and we wouldn't change it for the world :)
(PS Grace is helping me with editing and posting now, she does this to learn what it's like to work a few hours (she's paid) and to help me out, so these posts may appear during the working day for me which is when she might be helping)

Friday, 31 July 2020

Recipe - Slow Cooker BBQ Meatloaf


BBQ Meatloaf (adapted from largefamilytable.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs minced (ground) beef
  • 1 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped veggies (I used onions, courgette, and bell peppers)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • BBQ sauce

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together by hand. Take your time with this and be sure everything is combined well.

Form into a loaf shape.

If preparing ahead for the freezer, place in a freezer bag and freeze until the night before you are ready to use them. Thaw in fridge overnight.

Place meatloaf in slow cooker and spread barbecue sauce over the top.

Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for up to 8 hours.  Careful not to burn.  It'll still taste nice if you do ;)

Enjoy!










Friday, 3 July 2020

News, news and more news!

I am finally starting to catch back up with myself after a crazy few weeks, hence radio silence on here.  Firstly, Monday nights HAVE been a little different as I said in my last post and at the end of this post are a few of the videos we've done showing some of Grandma's war time recipe.  Tonight (Friday) we will have a look through the books to pick one for this coming Monday, which I think will be savoury this time.  I'm trying to plan it in ahead of time as last week's was rushed.  We would love for you to join our YouTube subscriber list as we are hoping to build a decent channel in the coming months and years too allow people can share in our experiences, learn from and hopefully enjoy.  
Anyway, enough of that.  There's so many other things going on right now!  Firstly the gardens are growing GREAT guns - it's been fantastic.  We've enough lettuce to feed an army!  The tomatoes are starting to grow but not yet ripen.
Beetroot is doing very well.  I'm sowing more for Autumn harvests.
 
The kale is growing really well and I've a couple of different varieties I am trying this year.  We are dehydrating most of it, then grinding it in to a powder to add to stews, smoothies, soups and so on.  Apparently kale is one of the healthiest greens you can have.  I intend to sow more to see us through winter and the hunger gap.  I'll pop a couple in pots too, for reasons I shall share with you in just a moment.
Above are outdoor tomatoes, one of the lettuce rows, leeks and further away brassicas. 
 The space in the bed below are where the garlic were that are in the photo below that, freshly harvested and left to dry in the polytunnel.

 We have SO many cherries this year, it's amazing.  This was a 15 minute picking session this morning, the colour on them is so vibrant.
Strawberries are pants this year.  They are throwing off runners which I have on my to do list to peg down and get some to use as replacement plants next year.  again I'd like a few in pots.  My Elderberry cuttings have taken, so I have 2 elderberry babies growing!!  I noticed a blackcurrant (had my first harvest!) is rooting one of it's branches in to the ground so I shall snip that off and pop the roots in to a pot, again.  I'm also wanting to take cuttings from a willow tree we have and some roses, neither of which I've done before.  Saying that - I'd not done any of the previous before either so all will be well. 
The greenhouse and polytunnel are both tidy and maintained right now, as is the bottom veg plot (paddock plot).  The potatoes in the paddock plot look fab and I can't wait to harvest some.  The top plots are suffering though, weeds are coming through this and fast and it feels like the asparagus is growing quicker than I can harvest it!  We've weeds galore on the car park which isn't good when you have people coming to judge your house? 
Now why would we want people to come and judge your house?  Because we are FOR SALE!!!  What? Why? You are SO happy there I hear you say?  We are truly happy here and in love with the place.  Always will be!
However the opportunity has arisen to sell and buy a farm 10 minutes drive from us with 16.5 acres and plenty of outbuildings.  It comes with the opportunity to make income from it and combined with other things, means we could reduce our mortgage significantly, to the point where we could pay it off in 5 years or less.  As we stand here today, that wouldn't happen and to pay it off early living here means very tight, thrifty living combined with extra harsh savings for at least 10 years.  We can totally do that, but if we can get this other place, we won't need to. 
It is a very practical move if we do it.  We'd be moving from a big farmhouse to a bungalow, losing character and space.  Some may ask why would you consider that and to be honest, we're going through all of these feelings ourselves.  Do we need the space inside?  Does financial freedom mean more than character and a homely home?  You can make any house a home, right?  We shall see, ours is for sale.  It may not even get a viewing (we haven't after 1 week!) so it might not even be an option.  
For those who are interested, our house now and gates.  we've just under 4 acres in total.

The bungalow and its entrance we are considering. 


Another thing we have had going on is my health!  So I have finally had a diagnosis from the NHS and I cannot complain one bit, they have been fantastic!!  The good news is the illness I've experienced this year hasn't been anything sinister such as cancer, I had the official all clear earlier this week.  I do however have a disease called sarcoidosis which I can totally deal with and manage, especially with the help and support of my nearest and dearest (friends as well as family there, thank you Lou xx).  Although it's spoken of as a rare disease, it's interesting to see how many people have it when you open up a conversation about it!
So it is Friday early evening now, I've worked all day and had a very productive day.  For the first time in ages I had no meetings (purposefully) and got through everything I need to in order to know where I stand on Monday.  Before work, the washing machine has been cleaned out with bicarb of soda and white vinegar on a hot wash as the clothes started to smell musty for some reason?  Over tonight and the weekend, I hope to make a rhubarb relish or something with the cherries and gooseberries I have just picked.  I'll get more kale dehydrated and a few beetroot cooked.  Pork chops for our evening meal, with home grown veg.  Steven is making tea tomorrow, so if I get a soup made tonight for lunch tomorrow, I won't have to do any cooking at all, meaning I can spend more time in the veg plot and working through the usual jobs list.  I'm going to do a youtube video on the plots too all being well.  Including the weeds!  No fake idealism here!  Speaking of which, here's the links to some of the war time recipes ones I've done with the kids.  Take care.






Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Monday nights are going to be a little different round here.

This week's menu plan is up and running and you can access it here.  
Before I wrote it, I tidied out the smaller kitchen freezer last night as it's becoming bare (which is a good thing as you can get organised).  I have a good amount of mince beef in there and some chicken pieces for the meat to keep us going.  
I've taken out a mince and onion pie filling to use the pastry I have in the fridge from this weekend's quiche.  Also I have taken out what I think is fishcakes filling! Time will tell.  Also an English muffin that Ste can have with his breakfast.  Every now and again it's worth taking a good few things out of the freezer otherwise it ends up full of items you don't use.
The veg box was great this week, as always and I've included it's contents in the menu plan page.  I'm starting to get in to a routine with the new way of life now.  
On a Friday morning the milkman brings our milk - 6 pints of semi, 1 pint of whole and 2 litres of cream (only size he has and freezes, goes in to loads of recipes).  


Also on a Friday we get the chicken pieces from my Mam's chicken that she doesn't use, as well as the carcass.  That goes in the freezer in a bag purely for carcasses as I've decided to start making batch amounts of stock every 6 weeks, to coincide with supermarket shopping, as I don't always have the right things in to make the stock.  The pieces go in bags too, ready to use in bulk when we have enough.   I make a loaf of bread or buns on a Friday night for Saturday morning and/or lunch time.
The veg box comes on a Saturday, the shop's last drop off I think, which is around 5:30 to 6pm.  As sad as this may sound, every week I get excited by its arrival! Not as excited as eating our own produce though!
Before that though, first thing on a Saturday after opening up is to make another loaf of bread for my parents, plus some scones which we have either for a snack or with lunch and again to share with my parents.  
We also give them veg from the garden in exchange for the chicken (not that they ever ask, it's just nice to work like that).  Saturday sees me making quiche or soup for lunch which I am trying to double up on to have some spare in the freezer.  I do it early on the morning to make sure I have plenty of time outside during the day.  Saturday suppers are still work in progress, I wonder if taking something out of the freezer is best on a Saturday.  As the veg box arrives 5:30 onwards, I tend to plan the following weeks menu plan early evening on a Saturday so I could do that whilst making supper I guess.  We shall see.
Anyway - to the point of the post.  Here is out latest YouTube video, where Grace and I explain what we are going to start doing on Monday nights from now on.  
Those who have been here a while will remember I used to do Monday night preserves, which I shall be picking up again on a different day, but for now, Monday nights are dedicated to recreating Grandma's wartime recipes.  I have 2 of her handwritten books, which I am busy working my way through, deciphering some of the words and deciding what we can recreate over the coming weeks and months.  I will update my blog from next week to reflect what we have done too.  I do hope this is something people can relate to and can enjoy watching our family recreate these special recipes.  
For now, I'm off to take a look around the veg plot - early June is such a busy time!
Stay safe everyone.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Life is too short not to open the tin of pineapple

Did you think I had lost my mind?  I said this sentence on Friday night, when my daughter asked me if she could open a big tin of pineapple to have 1 slice out of it on her homemade pizza.  
I looked at her and fighting back my tears, I realised I would normally say "No Grace, not a chance are you wasting a tin when it won't get eaten, just for one slice".  
I smiled at her, put my arms around her and said "Of course you can, life is too short not to open the tin of pineapple".  
Giving her a big cuddle, I took a minute to hold her closer than I normally would on an opportunistic hug in the kitchen.  
I'd just had a call to tell me my Nana had died 10 minutes beforehand. 
Some people will get this, others won't, but sadly one thing we all understand is losing a loved one.  
My Nana and I had a very special relationship.  One I'm not sure she had with anyone else.  We enjoyed a lot of the same things, she would ask me about my cooking and how I managed to get my bread so white, she taught me to knit and to make corned beef pinaculty.
Family meant everything to her.  She loved to tell anyone who would listed about different tales from all of our life times.  It's only recently she started telling me how much she loved us all.  I knew she did but it wasn't something we necessarily verbalised.  She knew she was failing and so did I, we all did.  
So no, I wasn't surprised when I got the call, but my heart broke and it is now slowly healing but in the knowledge that I will never see her again.
My post on Friday talked about a calm feeling that had taken hold of me that day.  Make of that what you will.  Maybe I knew it was coming.  
I am taking time out as I need to, to remember her, little things and the waves of tears are already becoming less as less as I work on turning these feelings in to remembering the happy times.
So for today, this is my post.  
Life continues, meals are being made, weeds are being pulled and the kids are still giving me grief and I will update you all soon.

Stay safe, Tracy x


PS - the pineapple was eaten.