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 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.



Friday, 29 May 2020

A new way of life - a peaceful day

I simply love the days when everything feels peaceful.  
Today is one of those days, where you can sot back and relax.
Given everything that's happening in the world right now, and what we have all endured over the last few months, I bet everyone has gone through a few conversations, or range of emotions and feelings that you didn't anticipate you would have in this lifetime...or maybe we did?



Our days have varied so much and with one thing and another we've had to react differently to certain things that are out of our control and in some cases, we have to just accept that we can't control things.  However all of that is leaving me feel very peaceful.  Right now anyway, ask me in a day ;)
Early this morning, Friday, whilst most people were still in bed, Steven and I woke up and went straight outside to let the animals out, feed and water them and do a check of everything.  It was such a beautiful morning.  Rodney came with us as always.  We then managed to get an exercise session done whilst it is still cool.  Neither of us would want to after work, especially as it is meant to be SO hot today (hot for the North East of England anyway!)
I also managed to get a few jobs done in the veg plot, starting with weeding the onion bed which I swear was weed free a couple of days ago!  It's all done now and things are looking very healthy in there.  A couple of onions decided they wanted to go to seed though, so I snapped off the hard seed shoot that was forming in the hope that they change their minds.  We need all the food we can get after all.

Once the bed was weeded and watered, which took 20 minutes or so, I went in to the greenhouse.  Incidentally, I don't normally water onions but I noticed the soil was dry quite far down when I was weeding and as we aren't due any rain for days or more, the heat that we are due may make them bolt, so I gave them a good water.
In the greenhouse, I sowed 4 different beans, 1 purple climber, 2 drawf (green and yellow) and soy.  I'll sow some more in 2/3 weeks which I will maybe put in the polytunnel for as late cropping as we can.  I don't have more soy though, so I hope this lot work and we can save some seed from them.  They are now watered and outside enjoying the heat of the sun and hopefully considering germinating pretty quickly.  I'm generally always amazed at how quickly beans germinate.  I also have some pinto beans in the greenhouse which I have now moved out to the cold frame to harden off.  These will be kept for the winter pantry and also to grow next year. I'm going to try and save as much seed as I can this year.  

Does anyone know if growing lots of beans near each other will cause me issues with seed saving?  


Rodney stayed with me whilst I was weeding, perfect start to the day for both of us.  My favourite time of day.


I harvested a small amount of kale too.  We have more kale plants than any family would ever need, however I plan on preserving enough to last a year for the house.  Kale is also very good for chickens which is one of the reasons I have grown so much, after all, we have a lot of chickens!  Our pigs too have it, but not the sheep right now as they are due to lamb and I am hesitant to change their diet before lambing in case it's toxic for the unborn lambs.  Call me Mrs Cautious if you like, but we only have a small number of ewes (4) and each lamb is vital to the success of the smallholding.

After a lovely, peaceful start to the day I have work to complete.  Working from home now means the commute is ideal ;) I shall update you with the weekends antics next week.  In the mean time I've been having lots of fun in the kitchen, as always!  Trying a variety of bread items in our weekly menu plan.  Below are the naan breads I made from a recipe on bbc.co.uk/food - they were great!  I rolled them pretty thin to cook quickly and we preferred them that way.  They are not authentic naans which I believe use yoghurt (tell me if I am wrong?) but for us, they are perfect and my new go to for naan type breads.  I'll pop the recipe on my recipes page.  All new recipes go out on the Friday night that I have used them.



Another quick, almost cheat meal that I have done a couple of times are these pin wheels. They are great for a light lunch for me and the kids during the week or I can add a huge salad and do it for the 4 of us on a weekend lunch time.  Disclaimer - I use shop bought puff pastry for these :P !  I bought 3 puff pastry in the Aldi shop on the 25th, so I will do these every other week to use them us during the 6 week challenge.  The recipe is here if anyone wants a bash. 

It's been hot, hot, hot here lately, during the days at least.  Rodney often finds shade where he can.
The pigs are given water every day and we often make them a water hole which they take a little interest in, but not as much as we hoped! 
Grace gets the hose pipe over in to the pig pen and sits and has cuddles with them whilst the water fills up.  It takes a while as the pressure there is not great. 

Did I tell you the electricity had a planned outage for 6 hours?  Well, as we don't yet have a generator, what else could we do except pop the quail on the Aga on a towel to hopefully regulate the heat?  I hope they hatch still! They are due Monday I think. 


That's me for a few days, stay safe everyone :)





Perfect pinwheels - recipe

Perfect Pinwheels

Link to YouTube video on how I make these is at the bottom of the page.
Makes 11 or so wheels, depends how thickly you cut them.
Vary the ingredients to what you have on hand.

Ingredients:
1 pack shop bought puff pastry
Tomato puree or bbq sauce
Whatever fillings you want - I mostly use:
ham, cheese, sweetcorn

Method:
Roll out the pastry on the parchment paper it comes in.
Spread tomato puree or bbq sauce over it
Add your chosen ingredients
Roll the pastry to make a swiss roll look
Cut in to 11 os ro slices (like you would cut a swiss roll cake mmmm)
Place on the parchment paper on a baking sheet
Bake in the oven for 10/15 mins on medium to high heat. 
As always with my recipes, keep checking them.
Enjoy :)




Nourishing Naan bread - recipe

Nourishing Naan bread
Makes 6 ish (depending what size you roll them out) 
I served them with mint leaves stirred in to natural yoghurt and a tsp of sugar.  Very refreshing.

Ingredients:
250g plain flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
120ml milk
2 tbsp oil
Butter/coriander/garlic to grill

Method:
Sift your flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in to a bowl.
In a separate jug, mix the milk and oil together.
Slowly add to dough and combine, I do this in my stand mixer.
Knead for 5-8 minutes.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl and leave it for 15 mins or so.  It doesn't rise but seems to soften.
Divide in to balls and roll out into circles, teardrops, whatever shape they turn out to be.
I then oiled with melted butter and sprinkled coriander on them, garlic would work well too.
Cook in the oven or under the grill for 5 minutes or so, keep checking them as I did mine in the Aga so the grill might burn quickly.
Enjoy :) 


 




Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Bank holidays always throw me, even in lockdown & the next challenge!

With Steven starting a new job this year, combined with lockdown, I don't know what day of the week it is sometimes.  Every day is organised and planned but I still couldn't tell you the date or the day without looking some weeks!  This Monday was a Bank Holiday and Steven would normally be at home, however the new job doesn't work like that so he took the Friday off with me and then was at work Monday.  Needless to say, with me having time off and Ste not being here, I still didn't know what day it was!  So when I started with a migraine on Monday which lasted all night through to Tuesday morning, it has taken me until today to come round and feel somewhat normal again.  I think today has been Wednesday, right?  We have other things going on with family and health which I won't go in to here, so it's already been a right old week.  
I did manage to go shopping Monday (maybe that's why I got a migraine!) and got our first supermarket shop in 4 weeks, so that's all put away and the menu plan for the week is finally done too.  Better late than never.  It's all a bit backside first right now, I mean when isn't it?  Mostly menu plans "should" be done by looking at what you have in and making meals from there.  Well we have started a different challenge which left me doing things in a round about way this time.
The challenge is not to go back to the supermarket for 6 weeks!  As you may know, we have a monthly grocery budget of £300.  This is regardless of whether it is a 4 or 5 week month.  An average of £75 a week.  Now for us, that's actually way more than we should be spending right now.  Bearing in mind we grow a lot of our own things, so we should see this reduce over the next few months as the garden starts to pay for itself.  
We've also had another curve ball thrown in that we are taking a hit on our income as a result of the virus.  Presently this should be for 4 months, June 1st until the end of September, so it is massively important that we keep our outgoings down.
Having said that we do still have milk delivered and buy a top up veg box weekly.  We will continue to support these local businesses unless something drastically changes, or when we start growing everything we need.  We're not there yet but are working on it.
So straight in to it.  Every week I am making bread, treats, soups, scones, pies and quiches/fritatas.  These are for lunches, main meals, snacks and the freezer.  9 times out of 10 the pies are using left overs as I don't tend to make pie fillings specifically for pies for us (though I do sell some which I made specifically for customers), with the exception of corned beef and potato.  I also hardboil any eggs which are not sold or for incubating.  At the moment this is quail only as ALL of the hens eggs are selling, much to my disappointment ;) sometimes I find a cracked one which I get to use!  The quiches and fritatas are using whatever we have in abundance such as the kale and asparagus.  Scones vary from week to week and bread is something we no longer consider a throw away item as we may have done in the past.  It's amazing how making your own makes you value everything so much more.
I spent £147.62 on Monday and our next veg box is coming on Saturday which will be £11.  I'll let you know once the milk man invoices us as we changed the order this week.
I planned on making bone broth/stock once every 6 weeks when I planned the challenge, however when I made some in my 6 litre slow cooker, it only yielded 2 litres.  Now I used 3 carcasses, so I am wondering if it'll be quite concentrated and maybe I can eek 500ml out to 750 for example.  I can just season more if needed.
A few other points to note - I'll be making ALL of our own bread products, we have NO pork left in the freezer and have made the decision to not buy any joints or chops, only sausages and bacon, until we have our own later this year or early next year.  We have joints of beef which we will dice and mince once we run out of those.  WE have also ran out of whole chickens.  Again, we will not be buying chicken, we will wait until our meat birds are ready in around 8 weeks or so!  We do however have the luxury of thigh/drumstick, carcass and wings of one bird a week.  As you will know if you read our blog, my parents buy an organic whole bird each week as it's not much difference in cost for 2 breasts which is what they started to get (from the farm shop).  They take the breasts and give us the rest which they don't like.  So the only chicken we will have during this challenge is that.

It's really exciting, I think setting challenges keeps you focused and energised.  Well it does for us at least!  I did a bit of a YouTube video on it which would be great if you could watch and subscribe to.  Eventually we hope the channel will be enjoyed by many, you have to start somewhere right?
















Stay safe everyone.