Thursday, 28 July 2016

Young hen eggs, new life and redcurrant cordial (and menu plan 4)

My blog seems to have had it knickers in a knot with pictures and postings, user error I’m sure, so apologies if you see things twice!  I think I have it fixed now though.  Just in time for this, my 100th blog post!
Of our many chickens, I have 2, a cockerel and a hen that are a special breed to me, Lakenvelder.  I think they’re stunning looking in black, white and red and always draw my attention.  They were 22 weeks old on 23rd July which is the age the book’s say they start to lay, or thereabouts.  Well can you believe that my lovely little hen laid her first small egg on 23rd July!  Good for her!  Once she’s in full swing we will maybe pop a few in the incubator to see if they’re fertile.  I think one more batch this year will probably do us.  We have our second lot of home bred eggs hatching at the moment.  We popped them in the incubator with some eggs (Jersey Giant breed) that we bought from the auction we attended.  We have 5 hatched so far from 20, 4 of our own and 1 auction egg.
Each year we will be hatching a lot of our own birds for laying, eating and selling on.  I know Dawn over on Doing It For Ourselves has had her last lot in the incubator this year, so it’s interesting to see when people stop for the year along with why.  I love the variety in everyone’s blogs that I follow and I learn so much, it really has helped us starting out on this journey and will continue to do so I’m sure.
In kitchen news, Steven is getting into this smallholding lark including the grow your own and make your own.  He’s made redcurrant cordial to sit alongside the blackcurrant cordial he made and my elderflower cordial.  We didn’t have any nice looking bottles for the occasion as it was all rather spontaneous, so they went in sterilised plastic/glass bottles.  I will get some glass ones for items we’re wanting to preserve to keep through winter and into the new year (you have no idea the joy that I feel when I say that, I love being able to “cook for the future”).
The elderflower and blackcurrant cordial are nearly finished and I plan to make jam from the remaining blackcurrants and raspberry vodka from the flush of raspberries that seem to have arrived since the last picking.
I’ve done the usual menu plan over on the blog's menu plan page that I’m going to try and start using.  So Menu plan 4 for week 31 is out there now.  I’m also going to start a recipe page for recipes that I’ve found I liked and used our harvest well.  I’m not sure if the best format is an additional page or just to include them as part of the blog.  We’ll see.
Red currant cordial, yum
My cockerel

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Onion racks & reduced grocery budget!

It’s a new pay month for us (July’s pay paying for August’s food etc).  I’ve reduced our grocery budget for the month to £250.  That covers the next 4.5 weeks.  I’ve done this as at the moment we’re getting as much food for free as we will this year, so I’m making sure I make the most of it.  Let’s see if I can make it work. 
Therefore in this week’s delivery I’ve ordered milk, cream and cheese, but no veg other than kohl rabi to try.  We’ve never had it nor cooked with it and it’s supposed to be easy to grow and something I can plant now.  That’s arriving Wednesday as usual so more to follow.
This weekend we had my parents over for a BBQ on Saturday afternoon.  It was lovely, the weather was just right for us all.  They helped with some jobs around the place before settling down to homecooked food.  We managed to get quite a lot of weeding done in the veg garden with them and I very much appreciate their help.  The menu I did was on this week’s menu plan and it went down really well.  Homemade coleslaw is amazing, I will never buy shop made again!!  Here’s a picture of the redcurrant and red onion relish I made.  First time making relish too and I’m mightily impressed with how easy it is.
Full of goodness and has a whopping great kick (which you can tone down next time!)


The kids were invited to the neighbours to play with their kids giving Steven and I some time to potter and do jobs.  We started with topping the field (taking the nettles and docks down) and to do this we used the unconventional method of the ride on lawnmower that is more suited to Wimbledon style lawns!  It rose to the occasion marvellously and we now have a topped field which is ready to tidy up and rest for a few weeks before the horses go back on it.  He was a brave man going through those nettles in shorts!
 
Jack is loving life!


A troublesome set of nettles
Took care of them!

As you can see, Jack had a lovely time just playing in the field and been had a go at driving the lawnmower (or tractor as he refers to it).  He took to it with surprising ease and no doubt will be doing it himself in years to come.

Onions ready for rain to wash them off before being stored indoors.
Steven also made some onion racks/holders for the ones he planted not long after we moved in.  These are outside to hang them on whilst they wash off and dry out for a day or two.  Then they will be transferred to the barn for plaiting and storage.  I’m really pleased with them, they’re actually huge but mild.


I also made some soup with tortellini and used up more broad beans and peas, this time including purple podded peas too.  Don’t they look so pretty?  They almost remind me of a caterpillar in their perfect pod.  I’ll be growing more of these in 2017.



Perfectly formed
Gorgeous colour

The puppies enjoying their breakfast together followed by a play on the lawn.  I call them puppies but they’re just turned 1 now so moving on rapidly!!  Rodney is the rougher haired and Buster the tan smooth hair.  Gorgeous boys.  
Buster (bottom) and Rodney (top)

Buster
We also discovered we have a grape vine.  How I didn’t know is beyond me.  I guess I don’t come to this end of the garden very often.  The grapes are miniscule so whether we’ll get a crop I don’t know, but something to look in to all the same.
Grape vine
I found a wild apple tree which looks as fit and healthy as they come, so I’ve added that to the list of items I plan to use up once they’re ready.  It’s right opposite a bramble (blackberry) bush, so it’s almost nature shouting at me to make bramble and apple pie!  An Autumnal joy.  I think that’s enough of my ramblings for today.  PS what happened to the beginning of the week?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A day out for me!


Today’s post was scheduled to post itself as I have managed to get a day off work in return for the travel I did for them back in June where I lost my weekend and Father’s day.  So me and the family have gone out for the day to spend time as just us, no distractions.  Bliss!

This week I have sown some late carrots into the spare veg bed.  This was full of cabbages and cauliflower for the last few weeks but as they have been harvested now, I looked up what else I can plant and have started with the carrots.  I’ve also bought some spinach and spring cabbage to sow in the next few days.

I’ve decided to get the seeds organised into those clear packets stored in a file to start preparing for next year.  I have been useless at labelling everything so far, so the plan is over winter (or whenever) I am going to write up lots of labels in advance leaving room for date sown so they can be picked up and used quickly, instead of having to take ages writing all the names on with soil covered hands.  Also I am completing a list of what to sow when and making sure I work out successional sowing.  The reason being is this year I seemed to have loads of cauliflowers ready together, literally on the same day, so I think 2 week intervals will be more appropriate.  I’ll include a plan showing which beds will end up with what in them, following the advice on how to rotate your crops, now that we have the space.

I’ll keep my notes in there on what I’ve learnt ‘by month’, from mistakes, successes  and observations from this year.  So for example, the asparagus harvest was amazing this year, but it took me by surprise as it literally would shoot up inches in a day and need picking.  I wasn’t quick enough to get all of it and didn’t realise there was a date when you last harvest it (or there abouts).  Supposedly “Don’t harvest asparagus after the longest day in June and no more than 8 weeks from 1st harvest” so these are all loose rules that I will bear in mind and see what works out for me.  We’re a good 2 weeks behind the south of England for example, so when they say their strawberries are ready, mine are 2 weeks behind that and so on.  I’ll record first and last frosts, when the rhubarb comes through, how to force it and when to do so.  My mind is full of ideas and this file will be a great place to keep them and to take with me to the greenhouse.  The file I’ve used is from work and happens to be green too!  Very veg like :D.  Maybe I could keep the recipes in there too that we’ve liked for each veg/fruit.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Midsummer murders – the case of the missing beehives….

OK so the title is a bit dramatic but it’s Friday, so I’m allowed.  On Wednesday night I was laid in bed reading when I heard a vehicle go past.  Now I think I’ve said before but we live at the end of a lane with no through road; the road ends at our house.  There is a bridleway and field access beyond us, but no one should be taking vehicles down other than the farmers and unless there’s something wrong with their flock/herds, they won’t be down there at 10:45pm at night.  There are beehives outside one of the fields so I wondered if the beekeeper was tending to them, maybe the bees are quieter on a night?  The van reversed a few times as I could hear the reverse beeps you get with larger vehicles and then after no more than 2 minutes sped off in a fashion that only someone up to no good does!  Either way, I went to sleep and thought no more of it other than to record the time it happened on my phone.  Then yesterday morning I opened my gates to find a HGV had got stuck outside our house, yes, the house at the end of the lane with nowhere to go!  How he didn’t see that from 200 yards back I don’t know.  It only took the farmer and the driver 45 minutes to get him out luckily.
Once I was up and about, I enquired if the farmer or beekeeper had been up there on the previous night and they hadn’t, so my mind wanders as to what the van was up to.  It had a big wooden box on the back which looked like 2 beehives, so I shall see if it turns out that any went missing or not.  The farmer checked the tyre tracks and they only went as far as the beehives.  I don’t think the mystery driver was lost as you simply wouldn’t have gone that far if you were lost, given that it’s a good way down a bridleway which has no resemblance to a road.
Last week the farmer was burgled and it was only when I was chatting with the neighbour that I realised I’d heard the burglars when I was locking up as I had commented to Steven that they were working late that night.  Of course the farmers weren’t working late, it was the burglars!  These are just a couple of examples of the strange happenings we have here.  You’d think, moving to a hamlet, we’d have less goings on that anyone. 
The other ‘weird but probably nothing’ happenings are the animals that seem to have died in unexplained deaths (fox, pheasant & rabbit).  2 on our land and 1 on the bridleway.  I won’t go into details but we have no idea how they died and there’s no poisoning around that we know of (I asked the land owner).
So all in all I feel like I am starting feel like a character out of a murder mystery drama set on a smallholding.  If nothing else, it makes me chuckle at how my mind works!  I feel as safe as houses at home though, so it isn’t something that worries me.
Have a lovely weekend everyone.  I’ll update on Sunday or Monday with what we’ve done. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

2016 harvest so far

Normally on a Wednesday I would get a veg box delivery.  I haven’t ordered one for this week, for the simple reason, we have lots of our own to use!  It may be short lived, time will tell, but for now, we’re supplied for the next week with enough produce to keep us going.  I’m really pleased with this.  It led me on to think that later in the year, or next year, I will probably look back and wonder what we’ve managed to make from our home grown products so I thought I’d make a list showing what this Spring and Summer has offered us in the way of fresh veg, preserves, cordials and so on.  Here we go:
2 large kilner jars of strawberry jam.  I think this simple jam is actually my favourite.
Elderflower, rhubarb and gooseberry jam, 4 jars.
Raspberry Jam, 3 jars
Rhubarb and ginger, 5 jars
Elderflower cordial 2 litres
Blackcurrant cordial apx 350ml
Gooseberries, Rhubarb, Blackcurrants, Red currants, White currants by the bucketful along with more strawberries and raspberries.  There’s still more ripening now!
This week, we had our first tomatoes with our tea too!  So tomatoes are on the list now.
Fresh veg
Asparagus, Purple and green broccoli, Cauliflower, Broad beans, Peas (red pods and greed pods), Onions, Leeks, Lettuce, Radish.  The list is still increasing.
Really, looking at this little lot, we’ve done well so far.  My mind goes in to over time with excitable thoughts!  I’m learning each week and next year will continue to learn.  For example labelling everything – I intended to do it then either forgot to move the labels in my excitement of pricking out and potting on, especially once things went outside.  I need to figure out the best way to organise the greenhouse as it’s all a bit messy which I don’t like.  I like tidy but I’m not a natural by any means!  Also thinking about an easier method for getting the rain water to the greenhouse and veg plot as it’s a long trek when you need 50+ watering cans full!  Rain water hose pipe or sprinkler springs to mind.  Could we harvest the water from the stream that runs along one edge of the orchard.  I’m thinking about how and when to heat the greenhouse and if it’s worth it.  A polytunnel would be great but isn’t an option in this year’s budget at present.
I’m starting to give thought to 2017 veg plans but before that I’m going to be making lists of what else I can sow now to see us into (and maybe even through) Winter.  I’m going to bottle the next lot of raspberries in some vodka, along with blackberries & elderberries when they arrive too, just a few small bottles to try at Christmas. If they’re nice then we will use them for gifts to select people.
So as you can see, lots going on in my head and my 2 week break can’t come round quick enough as  I have 101 things I want to get done!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Menu Plan 3


Seen as though I am listing out everything we’ve grown from scratch on tomorrow's blog, today I thought I would post the menu plan for Wednesday to Tuesday.  It’s looking like this:

Wednesday - Spinach and feta stuffed chicken with jacket potato, broad bean mint and barley salad

Thursday - Chorizo & broad bean risotto as didn’t have last week

Friday - Hearty Pasta Soup with homemade crusty bread followed by broad bean and herb potato cakes with salad if any space left!

Saturday - Lunch - Broad bean and pea soup.

Afternoon - BBQ @ ours for family.  Thoughts are:

Sausages with homemade redcurrant relish.

Marinated chicken pieces with homemade coleslaw.

Roasted pepper and chorizo orzo salad

New potatoes and sundried tomato salad.

Salad using radishes and tomatoes.

Homemade lemonade.

Homemade sun dried tomato bread.

Mam’s bringing the desert and the wine!

Sunday - Cauliflower soup with left overs from BBQ.

To do:  Make loaf of bread for Mon/Tues, make quiche/flapjacks/cake & soup.

Monday – Ham & Broad bean quiche with salad and new potatoes

Tuesday – Omelette or jacket potato (kids eat out on Tues)
Time to print this off and stick it on the fridge!

I do have the usual Friday delivery coming from Tesco as I had no milk with not having a veg box delivery so I needed that plus the other usual items including ingredients to make the above.  The Friday delivery is working out great.  The time is perfect (in between 4 and 5), so I’ve just got home, get the shopping away before I start thinking about any other jobs, then plenty of time to make tea and enjoy the evening.  This is the last delivery of the month as it is a new budget from Monday. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Ducks, eggs and magpies.

This is the only duckling we kept from this year’s hatch.  A lady bought the rest of them for her Granddad to keep him company on his allotment.  We can’t leave any eggs in the duck house  with the mother now as the magpies are in there daily and we keep finding eaten ducks egg shells scattered around the farm.  In fact, they were sat outside our bedroom window this morning and I’m pretty sure I could hear them laughing at us!
So we’re taking the eggs in and I’m baking with them or my daughter is having them with soldiers as she prefers the larger yolk of the duck egg.  They make the best cakes.  We may keep one more batch to put in the incubator when the lot that are in there hatch on the 26th July (they are the Jersey Giant ones we bought from the auction plus a few of our hens to make maximum use of them).
The duckling is as big as the adult ducks now and is no longer a duckling.  He will be used a table bird.  My daughter (holding him) knows he will end up as a meal or more for our family and both children are fine with this.  They know the huge importance of ensuring all of our animals have a happy, healthy life and enjoy every minute they have with us.  It means when we come to eat their meat, instead of buying it at Tesco, we can be sure that we know where our meat comes from and that it’s as organic as possible, which is an important part for us, of running a small holding.
I’m making some red onion and redcurrant relish which I think would taste lovely with duck meat.  We’re going to try the relish at the weekend with some sausages on the BBQ, yum.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Fences

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Jake, one of the ponies decided to hop out of his field and into another one which he shouldn’t be in, so we discussed putting a fence up when finances allowed.  Then on Friday, next door's cows broke into the field.  It was only a matter of time.  The main problem with them doing this is firstly, my horses were in there and I have no idea how would mingle.  My horses are girls and the cows are forever mounting each other which my girls wouldn't take kindly too.  The second problem is I don't have lots of land (compared to the farmer) so cows churning up my field is not on the acceptable list.  The farmer is our neighbour and he was lovely about it.  Certainly nothing more he could have done other than fix the fence and hope it doesn't happen again.  He offered to move the cows if it does happen again but let's hope it doesn't come to that. 
We have specific savings that we allocate to jobs like this and we’ve now saved up enough to get cracking with this mini fence project.  It won’t be a super quick job as we need to fit it in around working full time and the usual running of the smallholding.  That said, Steven started on the smaller section of fence on Sunday and all in all it took him only 2 hours to remove the broken stock fencing that was there and replace it with a lovely new post and rail fence.  The plan now is to continue this fence along to the edge of the field, then save up again to do the next section.  We’ll leave the cows and the ponies to dictate which section that will be during the next drama!
I’m really pleased and proud of this job, I think he’s done a cracking job.
Here’s a quick photo to show the ponies making the most of being in their stables after their tiresome antics in the field!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Today's harvest

Oh wow this is what it's all about. Today we harvested all sorts from the veg plot. I haven't ordered a veg box for this week as we don't need one!!! How fabulous is that.  Hopefully we can get to do this for most of the year eventually.
Today we picked broccoli, cauliflower, mountains of broad beans, peas, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries, onions, leeks, cabbage.  There's loads more out there to harvest too so I will blanch and freeze what we don't use immediately. We do need more milk though as the delivery scheme sent the wrong amount this week! Thankfully we had long life milk in the pantry which I make sure we always have in so meals continued ticking over as expected.
We made cordial from a few of the blackcurrants. If it's nice we will keep the recipe for next year and make more and bottle it for long term use.
Any tried and tested recipes for currants, cabbage and cauliflower would be appreciated. Happy Sunday everyone.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Happy 6 month Anniversary to us


A comment on one of my posts a week or two ago from Frugal in Essex said she hoped that our lives at the smallholding were everything we hoped they would be.  Combined with something my husband said the other day, and having lived in our house 6 months to the day, I thought it would be a good time to reflect.


It's an easy post really.
I have never in my life been more fulfilled, content and happier than I am right now, living in our dream house, on our dream smallholding with my amazing family.  I can honestly say that every day something makes me smile, even if it’s for a split second....  Walking back towards the house from the field looking at how cosy and welcoming it looks or locking the geese away on a night, seeing the plants grow from the seeds I nervously planted, riding out with my daughter on our ‘own’ bridle ways, standing with my husband amongst the hens discussing the next venture, watching my son run around the garden chasing his football and stopping to chat with the geese, warming the children’s clothes on the Aga, looking at the hundred-year-old beams in the kitchen wondering who else looked at them or sat on the window seat in Spring watching the horses graze, I truly, truly appreciate every single one of these moments. 
Yes the kids bicker, yes I lose my temper (wish I didn’t), yes I feel rushed sometimes, yes there are days when I am totally unorganised and none of the ideas I hoped to achieve seem within reach, but even with any of those things, you couldn’t get a more content person that me right now. 


Right now, being forever.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Mid week thoughts


I’ve noticed the daylight hours are getting ever so slightly shorter.  I go outside at 10pm every night and some nights it had been as bright as it was at noon.  However now, by the time I come back in it is would definitely be described as dusk.  The light is fading and the shadows are becoming darker.  It reminded me that we need to get the security lights up before the winter nights arrive as you can’t see your hand in front of your face by 5pm in the depths of winter.  Not conducive to locking up the animals, even by torch light.

With this in mind I’ve been thinking ahead to my two week break I am having in August.  I plan on doing all sorts of things, from pottering, fixing fences (Ste, not me), getting some birds ready for the table, buying new stock, tidying rooms that haven’t been organised since we moved in, planning for winter crops and 2017 veg schedule, thinking about when and how to get pigs in 2017 and planning a little Halloween party for October this year, but most importantly having 24/7 access to do whatever we want, when we want, as a family.  I’m also tentatively thinking about doing some form of exercise each day during that period.  This may not transpire ;)

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Second veg box delivery must equal the next menu plan

The veg box this week contains:
New potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, bunched turnips, spinach, broad beans, lettuce.
 
In addition to the Farm Box (slightly different to last week) I ordered 4 lots of milk.  I didn’t get the raw milk or the cream this time as I’d ordered it before we’d had the first delivery and I wasn’t sure if we’d like it or not. (I’m impatient like that).  I will however be ordering the cream again.  It was delicious.  Occasionally I will order the raw milk but it’s a lot more expensive so will be a treat when I do.
This week’s box cost £10, the milk is £1.79 each and the delivery is £2.40.
Total £19.56
 
The menu plan for the new veg box is:
Wednesday - Chicken, leek and plum pie with new potatoes, bunched turnips and carrots.
To do:  Make loaf of bread
Thursday - Lasagne with garlic & tomato flatbread and veg box lettuce & tomatoes
Friday - Hearty Pasta Soup with homemade crusty bread
Broad bean and herb potato cakes with salad
To do:  Make loaf of bread for weekend
Saturday - Spinach and feta stuffed chicken with jacket potato, broad bean mint and barley salad
Saturday extras - Make quiche/flapjacks/meringue or cake & sweet potato soup.
Sunday - Broad bean and Lancashire cheese tart (made on Saturday)
Beef in gravy steak pie with new potatoes, carrots, turnips & broad beans.
To do:  Make loaf of bread for Mon/Tues
Monday - Chorizo & broad bean risotto
To do:  Make a loaf of bread for Mam for the morning
Tuesday - Omelettes for Ste and I with whatever fillings are available (kids eat at Grandparents on a Tues).
Tesco is coming on Friday as normal and bringing with it the ingredients I need to make the recipes for the coming week plus the weekly usuals.  This came to £40.30 when I checked out, which is bang on budget.
Grocery spends for Menu Plan 2 (week 29 of the year) are £59.86.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Operation Paddock Perfection and Raspberry Jam!


Last night I made raspberry jam and goodness me it was delicious.  I used the full 800g to make it and it yielded 4 medium jars.  I couldn’t get over the colour of it, such a deep, strong red colour.  It reminded me of Christmas and the lovely colours of holly berries.  The jam is going in the pantry with the remainder of the jams, to keep for the rest of the year.  No more buying jam!

Operation Paddock Perfection is now underway & started last night too.  When Sonic took ill on Sunday, I had a panic that he was poisoned.  He wasn’t but the thought is there and when I discussed it with the vet, she advised me to check for Sycamore trees and fence them off or removed them.  We identified 3 small trees in reach of the paddock and as we don’t have a lot of paddock space anyway, fencing them off wasn’t an option so Steven started taking them down.  We have stacked the felled branches into a corner of the woods that I will cordon off once we’re finished removing them from the paddock. 

The point of Operation Paddock Perfection is to muck out, weed, feed and rest the small paddock but do it all in 2/3 weeks!  I have mucked the field out so there are no more poos in there.  Steven has topped the nettles, and I’m going to take the thistles out.  Last night I noticed a few docks in there along with the odd big stone or 2 which need to come out.  We’re due some rain later in the week so I plan on getting the grass seed down that I’ve just purchased, in time for the rain to soak it in.  Then once the final trees are down, we will let the paddock rest for another 2 weeks and hopefully the seed will have established enough to allow the small ponies on for an hour or 2 a day.  I shall report back with updates as this is the trial run before doing the bigger field.  They’re both small enough to do by hand.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Weekend roundup

On Friday after work I made a broad bean, spinach and feta pie using filo pastry. I'm afraid it wasn't very nice though. It lacked something. I also made a cauliflower soup which was nice and will see us through in the freezer for a while. The tesco delivery arrived on time and was swiftly put away.
Saturday I rode out in lydia, my horse. If ever there are any problems or my brain feels full, a ride out fixes most things! I tried to get a few things done in the veg plot but for rained off so I spent the afternoon baking cakes and strawberry shortbread ready for the guests on the night. We had family drop round at 2pm on saturday so we caught up with them and got ready for the evening out.
We went for a meal at our local pub on the night with my Uncle and his wife who are visiting is from Bedford. Mam and Dad joined and we had some great good then back to our house for pudding and a few drinks. It went down really well so I am pleased.
Oh also on saturday, Buddy, the labrador stole a whole loaf of fresh bread! Swine.
Today has been up and down as Sonic, my smallest pony took ill on me. He has had colic which basically is a term for all forms of tummy aches in horses and ponies. I had to call the vet out as he was in a lot of pain so she's given him a shot of buscopan to relax his inside which were hurting him plus some bute which is horse pain killer. I'll be up late tonight to check on him as the injection lasts 8 hours which takes me to midnight when I need to make sure he's still ok.
However in good news today we harvested 800g of raspberries which I am also going to turn into jam. We use a lot of jam in the winter so I'd like to make sure we're well stocked up. There are blackcurrants and red too so I need to figure out what to do with them. The strawberries for the cake and shortbread I made were sooo sweet. I love eating them straight from the ground.
I've taken a photo of my largest beefsteak tomato! I can't wait to eat this one! Started him growing on 14th February! Also Ryan the house goose with his hens behind him and out strawberry haul.
Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend.

Friday, 8 July 2016

The dream is becoming the reality with each week that passes (including menu plan!)


I’ve been working on the menu plans now I am full steam ahead with the veg box and Tesco decision.  I will normally update this post type on a Thursday, but this week it’s Friday seen as though we’re just getting going.   Veg is delivered on a Wednesday, each week.  Items delivered will be seasonal and I’m working a menu plan based on the delivery contents instead of shopping to the menu plan. 

Wednesday veg box cost £26.27 and contained:

Veg box (£13.50) contents:  Milk, cheese, cream, salad bag, tomatoes, plums, oranges, bananas, sweet peppers, new potatoes, onions, broad beans, carrots.

In addition to the Standard Box I bought:

1 x RAW MILK 1ltr (Emma's Dairy) £1.50

1 x SEMI-SKIMMED MILK 2ltr (Emma's Dairy) £1.79

1 x SKIMMED MILK 2ltr (Emma's Dairy) £1.79

1 x CREAM - DOUBLE 500ml Acorn £2.02

1 x RED LEICESTER CHEESE (Lye Cross Farm) 245gm £3.27

Plus delivery of £2.40.

The menu plan to use these lovely items is as follows:

Wednesday - Slow cooker beef with veg patch and veg box veg and mashed potato. Leftovers – make pie and freeze/use mash in potato cakes.

Thursday - 12 egg frittata with bacon tomato & cheese, potato cake, salad (veg box) and veg patch radish with salad cheese.  Leftovers – Lunch on Friday/after work snacks

Friday – Veg plot cauliflower cheese soup followed by veg box broad bean, Feta & Spinach Pie with veg box salad

Saturday - Bacon & Egg buns/Sausage buns, meal out (not takeaway and once in a blue moon!) with visiting family on night but home for pudding of strawberry shortcake with extra thick double cream.  Saturday extras - Make quiche/flapjacks/meringue/shortcake & sweet potato soup.

Sunday - Diced beef in gravy, veg patch peas if any, veg patch cauliflower, broccoli & cabbage with veg box carrots & new potatoes.  Use onions in gravy.  Strawberry shortcake if any left or strawberries with meringue (made Saturday) and cream.

Monday - Shakshuka with sausages served on plain flatbread or with pittas (never made this before, looks yum).

Tuesday - Slow cooker chicken curry with rice and naan

 

The plums will be eaten fresh and also used in a chicken, leek and plum pie for the freezer/coming meal.  The cheese, milk and cream will be used in some of the above meals, breakfast and in general everyday use.
In addition to the veg box, every Friday I will get my Tesco delivery of fresh items that The Organic Pantry don’t sell.  Each week I need food to cover the weekend’s guests that drop in (bacon, cakes to be made etc), my daughter’s packed lunch items for the coming week (son doesn’t have them), the weekly basics and top ups of items that have ran out such as flour, treacle, toilet roll etc.  Today’s Tesco shop includes:

6 small pork pies - £2

Deodorant £1.5

1kg Jam sugar * 2 £4.16

Sweet potatoes 5 –

Apple juice cartons * 2 packs £1.6 (check as coming up as £1.95)

Rolls * 12 £1

2.5kg potatoes £2

Oats 1kg £0.75

220g Cherry tomatoes £1.50

600ml dbl cream £1.5

30 pack shreadded wheat £2.18

Bananas £0.80

Bubble bath (Christmas hampers) £1 each * 2

Shortcrust pastry £1.50 (Yes, I know).

8 pack Blue ribands £1.69

Lunchbox malt loaf singles £1.35

Mixed fresh peppers £0.85

Mushrooms £0.90

Tuna 4 pack * 2 £4.98

Choco snaps * 3 for offer £3 check this too

More bananas £0.90

Mild cheddar stick £1

Baking butter £0.85

Carrots (horses) £0.45

Squeezy yoghurts * 2 pack £2

 

This allows me to put together 5 packed lunches for Grace, afterschool snacks (pork pies, yoghurts), breakfasts for all of us for the week, soup basics and some quiches for my lunch/teas.

If you’ve managed to get to the end of this post without falling asleep, I salute you.  I would like to say, to avoid any comments that may question it.  Yes the veg box scheme and milk is more expensive than going to Aldi or Tesco.  Yes I could save more money buying the same items in there.  No I don’t want to do that.  However we do have a budget and we stick to it.  We want to be able to eat locally and seasonally whilst supporting as many local businesses as possible.  This helps us and does my part for them too.  Ideally we want to be self-sufficient but know that we can’t be entirely due to our lifestyle of having to work (for now).  This is a big learning curve for us here on our smallholding and we are embracing every minute of it.  Happy Friday everyone :) xx

PS some pics of how things are coming along.  I will post about them in another post but I don't like non picture posts, especially on a Friday!

This is the muck heap I threw the old supermarket potatoes in that were destined for the bin/compost otherwise and they're growing!!

Eating or cooking?  No idea.

More apples, eating or cooking I don't know.

Plums?

More plums?


Definitely plums!
A redcurrant bush hiding at the back of the orchard which seems to be thriving well on its own!
Our first harvested onion :) We also had potatoes but they went too quick to get a photo.



Aren't they growing?  Adorable!

I was being spied on by the neighbouring cows when letting the ducks out this morning.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Veg Box delivery scheme and an announcement


My veg box arrived from The Organic Pantry and I am very pleased.  When I arrived home there was a note through the letter box to say the location of the box.  It was extremely well packed with much love and attention and the milk was in a thick brown padded back and still very cold when I got home.  I may get a cooler for the milk to go in should they ever deliver early on a morning and it be a hot day.  Also might be better somewhere waterproof but I will see.  It had been placed in the best possible place and I was really pleased.  There’s lots of different box options but I am going to try and get seasonal, UK grown so watch this space for the weekly updates.

The plan is every Wednesday order a veg box for the following week.  This will contain veg to top up what we’re growing ourselves.  (Ideally over the next years, we won’t need to order anything and will live solely off what we’ve grown for the bulk of the year.)  The ‘Farm’ veg box is £10 and contains no fruit.  I’m still undecided what to do re the fruit, as a lot of it is imported to the veg box scheme so do I buy it from Tesco as it’s imported there too, or from The Organic Pantry and support their business?  Soon enough our own apples will be ready though it doesn’t look like we’re getting any plums this year.

The Organic Pantry also deliver milk, cream, cheese, butter and meat from a local farm (to them).  As Steven’s a butcher we won’t be getting their meat and soon enough we will have more chickens ready for the table too.  The milk, cream, cheese and maybe butter we are getting though.  So all in I think the veg box will be a maximum of £30 a week (that’s me erring on the side of caution).  Some weeks it’ll be £20 or less as we won’t need everything each week.
In addition to the veg box, I have ordered the ‘delivery saver’ from Tesco so I can have them come weekly at a time to suit me, which is 4pm on a Friday.  I have a list of items that we use weekly but their minimum order is £40.  So I’ve decided anything under £40 I will top up with food items to stock up on (tinned beans, toilet roll, long life milk, sugar), any stocking fillers that I will use in the hampers I will be making for Christmas (bubble bath, face mits, smellies) and in doing this, keeps the cost of Christmas down too.

Therefore new grocery budget is £300 per month for 2 adults, 2 children.

£40 week to Tesco equal £160 on normal month.

£30 week to Organic Pantry equals £120 on normal month.

Leaving £20 for miscellaneous.  Sounds easy on paper.

 

I would also like to make an announcement.  No more McDonalds or takeaways for us on the smallholding.  I can hear my husband laughing at me now.  I am determined though.  We’re going to make this work.
***starting to regret saying that, Tracy scrambles away to plan for Friday nights when she just CBA to cook***
Packaged fantastically

Super excited! 

My daughter and friend on a hack with me

First raspberries

This is seriously tasty jam


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Fences, cooking and veg box delivery


This morning I was pleasantly pleased when I got up to do the animals as the ponies were still in the paddock I had left them in.  Sounds normal right?  Well one of the ponies jumped out of the paddock the other week and I worried he would get caught up in the stock fencing, so it’s on my mind every time they use the small paddock.  I set about letting the ducks, geese and hens out.  Everything was fine so I headed in the house and got on with my morning jobs.  At 7:25 just before we were due to leave for work, I dashed out to put a pile of hay in the paddock so they had something to keep them occupied whilst I was at work.  The field is sparse.  Anyway, I noticed a pony poo in a place where ponies shouldn’t be.  Turns out Jake had snapped the electric fence (this one isn’t on and they’ve never been interested before, plus we don’t have another battery for it) and gone for a wander round before retuning himself 'present and correct' in the paddock!  Dashing around I brought the 2 ponies in so they are now sulking in the stables until I get chance to fix it.  They won’t be going out any more in that paddock when I am not there.  We have plans to put a new fence up but finances and timing is against us.  Steven is working double shifts effectively for the next 2 weeks and being a butcher, this is physically draining, so he has nothing left in his when he gets home and it’s not fair to ask him to start putting fences up when he’s in pain after work.  He’s taking a few days off at the end of July so hopefully it’ll get done then.  I’m going to use the time in between now and then to overseed the paddock and get the grass up so I don’t have to supplement it with hay.  We managed to leave the house at 7:40, which given what happened, wasn’t bad going!      

I’ve still been working on my grocery / menu plans.  Steven’s asked if we can put a loaf of bread on every night, or every other night, as what we don’t eat, the hens will.  So last night I put a wholemeal loaf on and we had fresh bread toasted this morning with the strawberry jam that I made.  It was lovely.  I made a couple of mistakes with the jam which I will remember for next time and avoid.  It only made 2 family size jars though and that was 1kg of strawberries.  I will pick more this weekend and see what else I can make.  We have family over on Saturday night so I plan on making strawberry shortbread with extra thick cream – a recipe from Caroline on The House Hoarder.  It went down well with her builders so I think it’ll go down well here too!

Tonight I am making rhubarb and gooseberry jam, something we haven’t tried before.  I also desperately need to harvest the cauliflowers and turn some into cauliflower and cheese soup and blanch the rest and freeze. 

We are due our first veg box delivery today which I am ridiculously excited over, so I will take some photos and let you know how impressed I was (or wasn’t) with it in tomorrow’s post and will also update more on the grocery shopping thoughts I have been having.

Finished product - strawberry jam, only gets 8/10 from me though!

The toad that pops out to see me when I am locking up on a night.

My 2 Lakendvelder's and Jake, looking innocent!

Geese playing follow the leader when I let them out this morning.

Last night's small loaf from the breadmaker.  I don't make by hand as can't find the time so this is the next best thing.