Friday 28 October 2016

Thinking of next year (again)

I haven't been on everyone's blogs for a day or two but I will catch up this weekend and am looking forward to it. 
This week has gone by quickly, looking back.  My mind has been wandering into next year again thinking of the things I'd like to get done on the smallholding.  There's the easy sounding, but more than likely a pain in the butt jobs of putting automatic drinkers into the fields and stables, maybe even the poultry and the preparing for the pigs. 
Starting the incubator in February, we need to get our table bird stocks up and have decided on a specific breed to cross with our big cockerel to hopefully produce some nice big birds. 
I'm hoping to have a poly tunnel by April time frame and that means agreeing on the area it is going to live but we think we've decided.  Preparing the ground for the poly tunnel won't be an overnight task (if we put it where I think we will). 
We hope to really get to grips with heading in the right direction for being self sufficient in veg at least.  Eating seasonally will be on my mind all year.
If we don't manage to this year, next year we need to put some sort of hard standing at the field gate entrance as it has turned to a quagmire already.  There's more fencing to go up for the horses and stock fencing to keep the sheep in.  There's gates to make to keep the ducks and geese separate (the geese beat the ducks up sometimes) instead of the pallets we have resting there at the moment.
Inside the house, I'd like to get the kids bedrooms done as my daughter at least, will be too old to enjoy the kids side of it in a year or two when she turns towards the dreaded teenage years.
Hopefully next year something will present itself in offering us more land too.  I'll work on that by inviting all of the neighbours round at Christmas and cracking open the mulled wine!
These are my rambling thoughts for the day, not a great post for you guys as readers, for which I apologise, but useful for me.  At least you all can keep tabs on my progress ;)
Have a lovely weekend all.
This is the goose shed!  The sheep are inspecting it....

See the difference?  The horses are on the left side and this is only after a couple of days.  The right side is resting.

The hard standing would need to be on both sides of the gate I think

Thursday 27 October 2016

My night

Today I have felt off, having gone to bed with a niggle of a headache that was still there when I woke up. I felt quite short tempered all morning which isn't normally me. So when I got home, I got in with jobs thay I knew being in a bad mood is good for. Cleaning! The kitchen got an overhaul and I started to feel better. I then took the puppies out for a lovely long walk. Despite it being a really blustery afternoon, we had a lovely walk out. The dogs found fox holes and something large has been wandering through the previously 3 foot high grass. I then put the ponies in the field for an hour, put the potatoes in the Aga for jackets, went back out and mucked the ponies stables out. Steven and I caught Barbara,  one of out sheep and checked her feet as she's developed a limp. There wasn't anything obviousl so I iodined them and she was free to go. She seemed easier on it just 30 mins after so whether the iodine worked I don't know. Fingers crossed she's fully ok tomorrow. Once the ponies were mucked out, I fed the chickens and got the geese their tea. In between this, Steven had to go for an appointment and we had tea when he got back. After tea I went back out to finish the horses and Ste went to his boxercise class (rather him than me). I collected the eggs and noticed there was a chicken egg in the duck house. I think they're trying to confuse me.
I'm all finished until the morning now, in the house in my own which is very strange. The kids are at grandparents tonight so I am having a shower and washing my hair before I have to work 8 to 10. I do my evening work from home and it's not hard, so I won't complain.
In the photo with the chickens. Can you spot the odd one put?  Our cockrel isn't supposed to be in here! Cheeky.

Sunday 23 October 2016

Onions and garlic and the weekend

Where's the weekend gone? I know people say that every weekend but this one has left me feeling like I really need another day to get my stuff together.  We have got lots done so it's not wasted of course.
We planted onions and garlic, I just make a note of their names. We tidied up some of the veg plot, still lots more to tidy and dig over.  I'm hoping to get my hands on a tiller to reduce the physical burden of turning all of the beds over.
I've sectioned off part of the field to put the horses in. We're calling it the sacrifice paddock as we're sacrificing it to the mud bath that it'll become. The horses are living in their stables now and just having the odd hour out in the field but we're riding them 4 times a week to keep them entertained.
I did ask the farmer next door if he'd rent or sell us a bit of his hundreds of acres but in what seems to be true farmer style, he said no. Of course the seed is planted  now and time will hopefully work in our favour but I'm not complaining if it doesn't.  I wouldn't swap what we have for   the world.
It's been a strange weekend weather wise, we've had lots of rain which has kept the temperature up. It's not as cold as I expected it to be. The wood burner has been on though.
We've had the eggs from the chickens that have just started laying. They were rather small ha but the kids enjoyed them.
Here's the view from my stairs window. The trees are all changing colour. Lovely to see. Hope everyone has had a lovely weekend. Back to work for us tomorrow. Looks like a very early start for us. Up at 4.45 but I'm just not tired yet (despite getting up early).

Thursday 20 October 2016

Using the Aga

More often than not you can fine Steven's overalls drying on the Aga, keeping warm for him putting on the next morning to go to work. I can't dry everything on here as we have too much but it is very handy. Nothing better than warm overalls to put on when it is a chilly morning going to work at 5.30am!

My son has just made me smile. He went outside to collect a bag for Steven as he's stripping the wallpaper in the dining room and needed an empty feed bag to put the rubbish in. He didn't put any boots on to go out and his socks were soaked when he got back in, he took his socks off and put them on the Aga to dry. Of course he should have just worn boots! However the fact that the Aga is an integral part of our every day lives after just 9 months here make me feel all warm and cosy inside.

Elderberry wine

A big part of what I wanted to achieve and sustain when we moved here was to start to incorporate living off the land into our lives. Steven has been busy pressing apples for cider and I'll update on that shortly, however the other day I finally got round to getting the Elderberry wine ready. By ready I mean sat in a demi John fermenting. So after gathering the elderberries last week, I weighed 2 kilo and gave them a bit of a press with a masher then popped them in a sterilised bucket with some water as per Hugh FW's recipe and left them a few days. Then I made a sugar syrup and added orange and lemon juice and zest, yeast and got it all ready for the demi John.  So now it is busy fermenting away making us the most glorious (I'm keeping positive) wine. Apparently if you can, you should wait 5 years. Can't see that happening. We'll make it each year and then there will be a continuous supply. Having said that I rarely drink lately, so it'll probably come out at Christmas etc. Not this one though! Happy Friday everyone. 

Pantry special

Pantry special!! Some time last month I started harping on about the pantry.  After much deliberation, I decided to go with plastic containers for my pantry over Kilner Jars.  Firstly, my children help with a lot in the kitchen (my kids are 9 and 6 for those who don’t know) and glass, kids and an extremely hardwearing farmhouse tiled floor are not a great combination.  Secondly, the Kilner jars were just too expensive to even make a start on.  We do already have a few Kilner jars but I think I would like to use these for the homebrew alcohol that we’re trying out.  They look very pretty lined up and the colours of the fruit in the alcohol do them justice.  I researched online for the plastic tuppawear type boxes, yes I am that sad, and settled on Tesco’s Klipfresh.  I have 'free' next day delivery with Tesco so they were ordered and turned up as expected, plonked in the greenhouse by our kind postman.
Now, they aren’t cheap either.  I do however manage to easy my conscience with that knowing that they are an investment (I can hear my husband’s comments in my head as I type this).  I think they are an investment anyway.  Remember my comment about flies a few weeks ago?  Well these containers keep their contents fly and bug free (think weevels in flour) and moisture free too.  If items that are decanted have a specific cooking time, I will take a photo of the instructions but to be fair, I don’t tend to follow packet instructions when using the Aga.
Here’s what the pantry looked like, unedited, on the day that I ordered the containers. 
I spent a long time, with the help of my daughter, sorting the pantry out so that it now looks like this.
Anything that was open in terms of cereal, flour, sugars etc, were decanted into a container of suitable size and a label on to remind us what it was.  If an item was not open, it was stored with other like items for when it was needed.  I did notice the self-raising flour was coming to its use by date and given that we now have a freezer with lots of space in it, it would be criminal not to bake some cakes and freeze them sliced ready for unexpected guests and packed lunches, wouldn’t it now? So that's on the cards for the weekend.
Overall I am rather pleased with how it turned out.

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Veg box scheme

I haven't posted for a while about the veg box scheme that I signed up to a while ago. Probably as they are doing so well at it that I've just taken it for granted. Of course I shouldn't.  So when this little freebie turned up just for being me, I was proud as punch. It's really good quality and I have already used it on tonight's carrots from the veg box. I'm making cottage pie for tea as I type. The weather is a bit cool and rainy so it feels like a comfort food night.
I can't recommend Riverford highly enough for their produce and service. They are fabulous. I'll be sad to leave them when we are self sufficient 😉.  In the mean time they are plugging the gap nicely.
I've managed to do something to my thumb joint. The ball of my hand so to speak. Not sure what but I can get hold and pull anything without a shooting pain. Paracetamol and ibuprofen isn't taking it off and it's been a few weeks now so I may need to pop to the docs.
The Vorwerk chickens have started laying,  bless their socks.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Central heating

Our sources of heat for the house come from the Aga which is oil fired, the stoves which are multi fuel (coal and wood) and our central heating. We haven't had this on yet. Well I tell a lie, we put it on and then felt far too hot and sweaty when we came in from doing the daily jobs. We aren't a family who sit down when we get home from a days work or school,  we get out and do 'jobs', have a warming hearty meal and then take a hot shower after locking up. We rarely sit down before 8pm and find that this keeps us warm for free, so to speak. The stoves have been on, mostly on weekends when we do make time to sit and relax together but we certainly aren't needing them daily just yet and as for the heating, I think November will be well and truly here before that word is uttered again.

I must say however that I won't be scrimping when it is needed. I am a strong believer that a family needs good food in their tummies and warmth round their bodies. Sometimes that's putting a jumper on and sometimes that's having the heating on all day. You can't be happy and healthy if you're cold and hungry. In my opinion anyway :-). I'll keep you posted as to when we feel the nip and put it on. It's good for me to have it as a record too I think. After all, we've only been here 10 months. We don't have last year for comparison just yet.

Sunday 16 October 2016

Autumn on the smallholding

This weekend has felt very Autumnal.  It’s been a mixture of lots of lovely things.  The changing colour of the trees, the leaves that have appeared underfoot when we’re out walking, the apples that are readily falling and being used in the cooking, the homegrown squash that I roasted and we ate, the dip in temperature on a night yet the days that are still creeping up to 17 and 18C and I finally got round to making a Sunday lunch and doing some baking again. 
I made some chocolate, ginger and oat cookies from my new favourite person, Mary Berry.  Between her, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Pam Corbin, I think I have a year’s worth of recipes to keep us going.  The cookies are really nice and I got 21 out of her recipe.  It claims you will make 24, but we don’t eat biscuits that are so small in this house ;).  They took 11 minutes on the bottom rung of the Aga (just for my future reference).
I’ve also made a start on the Elderberry wine.  I did wonder if I was too late but we found a bountiful supply that were still young and fresh so as a family, we picked them and brought them home to make a start.  I also made a Elderberry Winter Tonic which I’ve read about in a few places.  It’s now sat in my fridge waiting for the cold season to start.  I only used 2 cupfuls of Elderberries which yielded around 400ml of tonic.  I’m giving my Mam some to try and help her through the winter as she has a hernia and suffers terribly with what she can and can’t eat, hopefully she can have this without side effects and it’ll help keep her immune systems up.
Of course to go along with the homemade wine, Steven needed to try homemade cider, so he and our lovely neighbour borrowed a cider press and got to work pressing buckets of our apples from the orchard and the neighbours too.  They managed to make 15 litres which is gurgling away in the pantry.
We’ve managed to get rid of quite a lot of muck this weekend and in return bagged ourselves a large carrier full of different breads which are all now in the new freezer ready for when we run out of have unexpected guests that need feeding.
I’m off to bed shortly, not necessarily ready for going back to work tomorrow, but certainly feeling blessed from the weekend. The dogs look like they are quite content too.

Sunday 9 October 2016

Sheep move and a bit of sad news

After more hard work from Steven we moved the sheep to their next grazing spot which has lots of grass and trees for them to chomp down on. Of course only time will tell if it's secure enough for them as they are quite the escape artists. They do come back for the buckets if food we offer them though so at least we have a plan b if we see them running up the lane!
I also bagged a load of cooking and eating apples today which I am really pleased with. I made a tester stewed apple which was lovely so I think I will do a big pot and then freeze individually but also save some whole apples to see how long they will last.
We were lucky enough to be invited to Sunday lunch today so I haven't had to make our own which was nice.  However that was the softener to the hard task of dispatching a duck. It was in pain and had something wrong with her that we couldn't put right.
Remember I mentioned were moving in to the time of the year where we need to be on top of the muck heap and keep it as low as possible? Well thanks to freecycle we now have a few regulars who come and make a big dent in it literally! I'm also nearly ready to fill the rest of my beds with it too. I didn't get in the veg plot today but there's not too much left to do so I will try and plan it in this week.
Also I've moved the dogs' beds back in to the kitchen in front of the Aga. They've been living in the utility on a night through the summer but Buddy is looking so thin (his condition) so I feel they are better where the Aga is for him to sit in front of if he prefers. The puppies will no doubt lay on the kitchen seats instead. Cheeky.

Saturday 8 October 2016

Autumn in the veg plot

Here are today's updates from the veg plot. You can see the pumpkin patch took a hit when the temperature dropped on Monday (to 4C) so I've harvested all the squash etc and was really pleased. Also we had our first sweetcorn and I was so pleased with them. Well done Ste! He grew those.  
The rest of the pics are of the veg plot as they are today. I'm working my way through them and an really pleased with today's progress. 

Thursday 6 October 2016

Alive and kicking

Me that is 😀. Everything is ticking over at the moment which is great as I have been on a workshop all last week which threw me completely in my routine. So this week I am playing catch up. We're out for a night over the weekend so that throws a spanner in the works too however we'll work around it I am sure.
This weekend I desperately need to get into the veg plot. The pak choi and spinach thay I sowed direct hasn't germinated I don't think so I will try again, maybe in the greenhouse and grow it in there as the temperatures are dropping each day.
The sheep are doing great and Ryan the goose and his chickens have taken to them. The other geese keep their distance which probably suits all parties!
We have been busy outside when time allowed and we've fitted a new gate with a plan to get another one done this weekend. This will allow the sheep to be moved to another area where there is plenty to grass to sustain them for going in to winter.
The horses are all in on a night now and will be until spring. So that brings muck heap management back to the forefront of my mind as we have limited space. I'll use a bit of the older rotted muck at the weekend for the veg beds but there is more than we need so I give it away on freecycle. People come and fill their trailers and we get people who come back for more so hopefully that will continue.  We have a plan b of where to out it bit we dont want to use more land for muck if we don't have to.
We're back into autumnal food, the slow cooker is making more appearances these days and once I have more ideas of what to cook in it, I'll be doing it daily. I only want one pot meals that we can literally serve us directly with no extras needed so it limits us a bit more.

Eat, Drink and be Merry - but now what?

In the words of the old adage "eat, drink and be merry", we can safely say we have done that during our time off the paid job.  As...