Sunday, 28 August 2016

Wild plum jam

I'm still on holiday which is why I am MIA and we're having a lovely time. I wanted to quickly share with you that the wild plums we found have made the most delicious jam. This is a large kilner jar which lasts our family of 4 a few weeks before its empty and I'll fill it back up with more yummy preserves. This one's going straight in the fridge and the other 2 that I made (I didn't want to make a lot as I have a bad experience with plum jam before, many moons ago) are going into stores for winter.
It's still very warm here though we've had a few days of torrential rain. Assuming we get some sun now, the rain was welcome as the fields were so dry.
Yesterday was Steven and my 11 year wedding anniversary. He took me out for a lovely meal at a pub called the george and dragon at Heighington which I would happily recommend. My parents looked after the kids and my uncle and aunty came over to see us all too. It was lovely to catch up and look what my parents bought for 'us' for our anniversary. The Aga baking and roasting trays I have been eying up. Spoilt rotten we were as they bought us some stag cushions too and a bottle of wine! It was like Christmas. We're very lucky.
Normal blog service will be resumed later this week, I hope everyone who reads this is well. 😊

Friday, 19 August 2016

Visiting friends and last of the rhubarb

This morning we drove to see a good friend at her livery yard where she keeps her horse. She's moved there since we moved into our smallholding and we've not got round to going to see them, so today was the day for that.
It was lovely to catch up and the kids made some new animals friends too!

When we got home the rain started, which is a relief. I think I'm the only person  pleased by the rain! The fields are gasping for it and the mineral dressing I've just put on the smallest paddock won't be worth it until it rains in. It's due to rain most of today and tomorrow then be sunny again next week, which is just perfect.
The kids and I walked the puppies out as usual and took our food for free book which we recently ordered. I was surprised that I couldn't find damsons in there but maybe I missed them. Here are ours in the orchard.
 
When we got back, Rodney was tired and wet so he decided to dry off and have a snooze next to the Aga.  There were some other berries that I couldn't identify either, so will Google when I get chance.  I didn't get a photo this time round but they are red berries with a yellow base, small and the leaves have 3 points larger but similar in style to the hawthorn (which has 5 points I think).
Given the wet weather, I decided to use up the last of the rhubarb that I picked and made rhubarb and vanilla jam. It is a huge success despite the expense of the vanilla. I will definitely make that each year.

Today is Ste's last day at work for the week. I bet he can't wait to finish. We're going to collect the wild plums tomorrow, assuming they're ready and a few windfall apples if any are there. They're not ready to twist off the tree just yet so I'll not remove them directly. We're off to a party tonight, a great way to start the holidays as a family of 4. I've loved my week off with the kids so far. I might even put a lottery ticket on to see if we can extend it permanently!
 
Kids ready to walk out and see what goodies we can identify
My rescue hens are producing extremely well.  This one looked more painful!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Bullace/wild plum and more apples!

The veg plot was postponed as today went by in a flash.  This morning I had more jobs to get done than I realised but I enjoyed the day and to top it off Steven stumbled across what I think is wild plum tree (aka bullace if I remember rightly?).  I was so excited when he showed me it.  It's half way along our lane (apx 1/2 a mile away) and on top of that, next to it is another apple tree.  Huge lovely looking cooking apples! 
Wild Plum?
I follow Pam Corbin (Pam the Jam from River Cottage's TV programmes) on twitter and told her we had rhubarb, gooseberries, plums and windfall apples and she said rhubarb and plum would be nice and then suggested I make pectin with the windfall apples.  Well I never knew you could do that, so that's taken it to another level in the preserving department.  I'll look up how to do that over the next day or 2.
Today I spent sorting the fields out, the daily task or removing the horses manure.  Then I took a look in our woods.  Its a small collection of trees, mostly Black Poplar I'm told, which is where we're planning on keeping the pigs next year if and when we get some.  We spent quite a bit of time with the horses this morning and both kids rode and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I've just got in at 6:45pm after being at a kids party with my son.  He had a lovely time and I bought a bottle of red on the way home, so win-win.
Smallest paddock view to woods
Field muck goes on floor of woods.  This area will eventually be for the pigs.
View through the woods.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

My time off

I cannot believe it is Wednesday evening already! If I was at work this week, it'd probably still be Monday morning! The old saying does say 'time flies when you're having fun'. I need to catch up on everyone's blogs and I will do that later tonight as we're off to Crook now to collect some equipment for Ste's gym and seen as though I don't need to go to bed early, I can stay up reading blogs
We've been a bit of a first aid place these last few days. An old hen of ours lost her balance somehow, I think the cockrel knocked her over. Then she couldn't get up and the whole flock attacked her. Thankfully we were fixing a fence in the coop at the time and Steven stopped it. We segregated her as I thought she wouldn't make the night, but she did, so she's back in with the flock now.
Also Ryan has a poorly leg or foot. He won't put it down. I've thoroughly inspected it and can't find anything obviously wrong.  We'll treat him like the duck when she went lame and hopefully it'll sort itself over the next few weeks.
The kids and I have been on some lovely lazy walks, had some brilliant rides out, had family over for tea, friends visiting and generally doing what we want when we want. The animals have all been spoilt and the veg plot is having the day spent on it tomorrow. A couple of the beds are ready to empty and either cover up or plant winter goods.
The farmers are very busy with their harvest buy not too busy to discuss our smallholdings latest addition. The 2 of them will be joining us in 2 weeks time, or there abouts. Once they're weaned. No doubt that's enough for everyone to guess what they are :) but if not. Pics soon!
I'm going to take lots of photos of the veg plot tomorrow along with the orchard. Fir now here's some close ups of the sloe bush and berries plus a few extras to keep the blog up to date. Hope everyone is having a lovely few days of sun like we are here.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Brief chilly spot

By gosh it’s been chillier morning than it has been for a while.  Not cold, but still a shock to the system.  It’s due to warm up again though so I am not dwelling on it or making any changes!
Last night I was supposed to ride out but when it started raining I quickly changed my plans to allow me to get into the field and start over seeding it.  It needs to be done when the ground is wet.  Basically I am trying to improve the health of our grazing land as we don’t have a lot versus how much some horses have so as I’ve said before I need to take good care of it.  Combined with the daily task of taking out the muck, over seeding, weed pulling and fertilising all play their part.  So do sheep apparently.  Can you see where this is going?  Tonight we popped over to our neighbour across the fields to see what ewes with lambs they have in the hope that we can come to an agreement to take 2 off his hands.  Sheep are good for walking the grass seed in to the ground to help it root in and they also have other health benefits to horses and grazing land.  I’m being sensible and not asking for 6 or 10 and starting small with 2.  After all, another farmer friend reminded us the other day – that’s how you do it, start small.  I’ll update more tomorrow.
The poorly duck is doing a lot better, she’s able to keep up with her friends when they’re waddling around now so hopefully after a week of restricting their access, we will be able to let them out on Saturday.  I’ll just keep a close eye on the geese so that they don’t make a bee line for her again.  I think they see her as the weakest link now.
Our latest acquired duck, called Richard, has settled in just fine.  He is huge for 3 weeks old, however as he’s an Aylesbury breed, I’m not surprised given that they are a heavy bird.  He reminds me so much of Ryan when he was born and rejected by evil mother goose.   I don't have a photo of him yet but in the mean time, here's Grace with our home grown cockerel youngster.  He's huge and so gentle so far, unlike the previous ones.  He's called Little Red.
Speaking off beelines, Jack my son (6) was stung 5 times by some angry wasps last night.  3 times on his head and 2 on his hand.  The kids were playing near an apple tree, no doubt disturbing the apples and from the screams Jack made you’d think something horrendous had happened, which is what it felt like to him poor soul.  I was in the field so came running as fast as possible and when I got to him the bl**dy thing was still in his hair trying to sting him.  I got rid of it but it kept coming back!! So I ran with him to the barn as it would not let up and I kid you not, it followed us and started at him again.  Steven came to see what was going on as he’d had his earphones in working out, and the wasp turned on him and stung him on the face.  I whisked the kids inside and left Ste to deal with it.   I have never experienced anything like it.  It was in attack mode!  Grace said there were 3 on his head when he got stung and thankfully that was it as I’d hate to think there was a swarm after seeing how brutal they are. 
We will get some wasp powder or such like and if there is a nest, get it dealt with.  I know wasps help pollinate but they have overstayed their welcome after doing that.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Fidget pie and helping those in need.


I’ve been looking for some recipes on the bbcgoodfood website as I find it really easy to navigate and the review are super helpful normally.  Last night I came across one called Fidget Pie. The title alone had me wanting to make it as I love anything with a name!  Ridiculous right?  So that’s down on the To Do lost for an occasion when a huge pie is called for!  That could be a Sunday gathering or Christmas get together, who knows.  I will buy the ingredients in and freeze them so that I have them ready to use.
Today I overheard a lady asking at our staff cafĂ© if her charity would be able to take the left overs once a week on a Wednesday.  She runs a group that make a 2 course meal for up to 100 people (started at 20!) once a week so they can have a decent meal.  The staff were so dismissive of her that my blood boiled.  I reacted without thinking and offered to help her by giving them eggs and chutneys on a weekly basis.  I’ll make a loaf of bread for them too occasionally and alternate with other items we have a lot of.  We always have eggs and she said it will make such a difference for them.  So although it was a knee jerk reaction, I’m pleased I did it.  Small acts of kindness made a world of difference, I hope.
The veg box from Riverford is coming today.  It’s the first one from them so it will no doubt be a good one, I find with the first ones they make sure they get everything right.  After that will be the test.  I have a ‘medium veg box with less roots’ coming, as we have the roots ourselves, 4*4 pints of milk, double cream and bananas.  Tesco are coming Friday as usual and I’m going to use the time to stock us as with doing so much preserving, we’re running low on items.  In fact, I actually used the last of the granulated sugar, which is unheard of!
I grew some Jersey Devil tomatoes which are getting bigger each day.  I wanted to grow them for the nonstandard shape and I was super excited to see my first one was ready, or so I thought!  Turns out it had blossom rot, so the chickens got to enjoy it.  I hope the rest don’t have it.  That reminds me, tonight I must check on the carrots and purple sprouting broccoli and see how they’re getting on, if at all!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Windfall chuntney with the first apples of the year


Tonight I’ve made ‘windfall apple chutney’ using the first lot of apples we collected from the ground.  The kids did all of the collecting and I’m very pleased with them.  It was a cheap chutney to make which is right up there on my priority list!  It says it doesn’t need to mature like the other chutney’s but I’ll leave some to.  Apparently it tastes best with a good cheddar and some homemade bread.  There’s that word again!  So that’s my plan, it’d be rude not to!  Here is the link if anyone is interested in making their own.  It’ll be the first of many recipes for me using the food for free which we have in the garden and surrounding areas.

Chutney bubbling away on the Aga
Steven was finishing the roof on his new gym room and instead of buying the pieces he needed we took a trip to a local farmer friend.  He had a mountain of wood in one of his side fields and said we could take what we wanted. 



 
So the roof of the new room in the barn is now on and complete.  I spotted a couple of panels that will do just nicely for either a duck/chicken run or to create a new muck heap (we try to keep it as neat and tidy as possible so we don’t have mounds out in the open given that we don’t have lots and lots of space) so we took them too.  He didn’t want any cash for it all (would have cost us a fortune to buy at a timber yard) but he did have an interest in hens.  So we’re going back in a few weeks with 3 laying hens in exchange for another couple of boards which he said we could take.  I love that we can buy thing without money changing hands.
There’s also a factory right near him that we can get some fence panels (they are extra-long pallet panels which look like fences to us) off him which we’re going to set aside for the pigs – a 2017 task but we’ll have them whilst they are there.

Monday, 8 August 2016

A mixed up day.

Today was a strange old day. I took my daughter to an appointment at the hospital (nothing to worry about) and collected Buddy's tablets on the way back as the old vets is over by the hospital which is now a 30 minute drive away so always best to combine to 2. Then I worked the rest of the day. Once that was done the kids and I took the younger dogs for a nice walk out. I got a bit carried away with the pictures, so I thought I'd share them with you. We then came home to find out we'd been sent a request to look after someone's duck. Well to keep it actually. For some reason they thought a single duck would make a good house pet and now, 2 weeks on, we have it. It's 3 weeks old and I'm not even convinced it's a duck at this stage. We shall see.
The poorly duck of ours has gone back in with her family and isn't any worse, but she isn't better either. She's still laying, eating and drinking though. We did however lose a chick this morning. It was one that we aren't surprised about. It wasn't 100% when it was born. Sad indeed but it does happen.
Enjoy the photos :)
Brambles growing outside my gate
No idea what the flowers are but they are pretty
These are the sloe bushes I found.  Still green but there's lots.
Full view of sloe bush
I believe these are mustard seeds
Rosehip?  They're quite big and oval ish shaped up to now 
there was a hare sat minding it's own business in the distance
just us and the fields.
For as far as the eye can see
These are my Buff Orpington girls and Henry. 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Picnics and harvests

Today we decided to walk to a local village along the Public Footpaths.  It's about a 40 minute walk and the sleepy village has the River Skerne running through it.  It's actually the river that runs along the bottom of our field.  There's a lovely green area next to the river and the railway line, so we took a picnic for lunch and enjoyed some family time relaxing by the river and eating some treats for lunch.  We thoroughly enjoyed it as did the dogs.  We could only take the 2 younger ones as Buddy can't go far these days.  It does make me laugh when I wonder what people will make of us, turning up in jodhpurs, gardening clothes and mucky faces from the morning's jobs.  They will soon find out if they speak to us they won't find a more down to earth family, but I do think our "work clothes" would stop a lot of people doing that :-)
 
My beautiful daughter and a tired Rodney
 
You can see that smile too, right?
Jack was mightily impressed that he found a sticker which he was sure would lead to treasure!

Rodney enjoying the walk
 When we got back it was time to get on with some more jobs.  Grace had rode both ponies on the morning and had put the jump back down to jump the dogs over them to have some fun whilst she was waiting for me.  There's a large tree and part of it had come down whilst we were out walking.  It was super windy, but I'm glad it didn't come down whilst she was riding!
 
I harvested lots of yummy food from the veg plot to have for Sunday lunch.

I couldn't resist taking this, such a pretty sight or am I cracking up?

Dwarf beans, lovely!

Purple podded peas and late picked broad beans
 Whilst tea was cooking, it was time to make sure Buddy got a walk out too.  He doesn't go on a lead now, ever.  It was part of what I wanted when we moved away from a main road.  He doesn't go far and isn't the fast dog that he used to be.  The lane in the background is literally outside our gates.  We're so lucky to be able to open the gates and let him have a wander.  Grace makes sure he's safe and I'm sure he keeps an eye on her too ;)  Both under my watch of course.

 
I always like to look for the silver lining and today's wind brought lots of windfall apples!  SO you can guess what recipes I am looking for tomorrow.  1 full bucket and 1 1/3 full.  I think they are all cookers.

 

Today's eggs haul

This is my first attempt at plaiting onions  Maybe they needed longer to dry out but I couldn't wait.
 
Last of the year's rhubarb
Oooh and 4 sleeps left until my last day, 5 until I'm waking up off work!