We are Tracy & Steven and along with our 2 children we moved to the countryside in the North East of England in 2016. On our smallholding we strive for a more self reliant life by growing our own food, raising our own meat, cooking, preserving & foraging all whilst working full time.
Saturday, 30 December 2017
Footprints in the snow and Saturday soup
Today we moved the geese, as every night since the fox came, they have been squatting in the sheep stable. The sheep are coming indoors for January and February, so the ever indispensable mesh covered greenhouse frame, which housed the Ross Cobbs (meat birds) until recently, was set up ready for the geese tonight. When changing the bedding over, we found broody gooses eggs so we’ve moved them.
Every animal is getting additional feed at the moment, the sheep are having hay morning and night as there’s no grass for them. One of the horses decided she fancied some too this morning, which was cute!
I tidied the pantry out yesterday as it was becoming our dumping ground for the Christmas chocolate and food gifts we received. I had been moaning to Ste about the spice jars in there as there was a few and I kept knocking them off. An hour later he walked back in with this:
I was very impressed and pleased. How kind.
Something I need to get back in to is cooking all of our meals. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited out by friends and family through December, which has taken its toll on the hips and how we feel. We are feeling the need for clean eating, if you know what I mean? Starting off with Saturday soup! Today is pea and bacon from bbcgoodfood and it was delicious.
Chop an onion and soften, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a spoonful of my souper mix and fry for a minute. Add 3/4 bag frozen peas (this was around 750g) and 750ml stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins whilst you grill some bacon.
I blended mine immediately with a stick blender then served. Add bacon bits on to the top if you’re a fan, I am and it was amazing. Highly recommended.
In other thoughts, I buy Grow Your Own magazine as one of the treats to myself (some may laugh!) and they send seeds with every issue. I recently received some cauliflower seeds, all year round variety, which I decided to sow today. A bit early maybe, but what the hell.
I also purchased onion seeds from Real Seed which means I can keep some for saving the seed at the end of the season. It’s a very reasonably priced website that has a lot of heritage seeds which I love. These are the onion seeds I got delivered which were also sown.
They went into the Vitopod as onion seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. 4 trays, 1 for each variety. The cauliflower seeds went into an unheated propagator, however after testing it, I have put the kerosene heater on in the shed, just to keep the edge off. It will be interesting to see how cold it gets in there. All learning for us still and I love that!
The heater is on a flat stone just to be safe and I’ve checked it a few times until I am confident it’s safe.
Finally, here is Buster and Annie this morning after breakfast having a relaxing time together. Rodney watches over them but never lays with them, so far!
Today I made a list for our 2018 plans using my new notebook which was a lovely surprise from Louise. I love it!!
Friday, 29 December 2017
Brining the leg of pork and winter fun
When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging). I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices. We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.
Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze! This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).
It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.
As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.
Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!
No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.
Thursday, 28 December 2017
Getting back on it
I woke up at 5 to the alarm as Ste was going to work and headed downstairs to let the dogs out for their morning ritual. Except today we have one more, meet Annie.
Our 8 week old bullmastiff. We picked her up late last night from a very reputable breeder and drove the 2+ hours home. She was a bit out of sorts due to inoculations and the car journey, however she had lots of cuddles and soon settled in to her new home on our Smallholding.
Back to this morning, after I’d sorted the dogs out, I got ready and took a moment to look out of the bedroom window. It was pitch black still but the moon was out, lighting up the field to the left. We had a frost again, giving everything a lovely shimmer. To the right, I can see the farm next to us in darkness apart from one soft glowing light, presumable where the farmer was working feeding his cattle. I always appreciate where we live, I love life here, it’s just been so hectic lately that I haven’t had enough time to stop and smell the coffee. This much needed time off is sorting that out.
The potting shed I told you about before, well it’s pretty much finished now. Just the electrics to go in for the vitopod (propagator) that I got for my birthday. I’m going to set some onion seed away as soon as possible. My only worry is that it’s still so cold on a night and it can only increase the temperature 12c higher than what is outside.
Jack was lucky enough to get a ‘diy’ birdbox for Christmas which he has put together himself and asked if I would like it for my shed exterior. Who wouldn’t?!
The plant pots have all been moved from the greenhouse to the potting shed now so I am starting to get organised. I have my seeds to sort out as I’ve acquired too many. I will do an inventory of them and try to keep it up to date.
For now though, I’m going to get organised in the house as Christmas has been amazing but has taken its toll! Also, we’ve been slacking on the self sufficiency front and we are fully concious of that so I tend to get back to basics and get our lives back with it starting now. Plan, plan, plan!!
All the ross cobs have now been processed, so we’re stocked up with chicken again. That and the pork will see us through to the spring when we’re getting the next round of ross cobs, pigs and hopefully lambs. We won’t over winter any ross cobs again. Learning from this year is to stock up in the summer. Freezers are your friend!!
Friday, 15 December 2017
New life - in December
He lambs from December onwards as they show their sheep and in order for them to be a decent size, they have the lambs now. Bit chilly if you ask me but they seem to thrive.
We arrived to happy faces as always. A lovely couple who we have very similar interests with. We stood having a 2 minute catch up when David turned round and said “great timing, this ewe has just started lambing”!
Off we went with them and moved her to a pen on her own. This was her 2nd lot of lambs and according to their scans she was having twins.
David grabbed a bucket, washed his hands and told Ste to do the same. Ste looked shocked but did as he was told. 2 minutes later he was elbow deep and helping out. David delivered the first one and Ste delivered the second.
It never ceases to amaze me how amazing nature is. I managed to get it on video.
So we’re getting ready for our little lambs come April, fingers crossed we’ll get some!
Some people won't want to watch this, so don't. For those who are interested, please enjoy! Ste delivering his first ever lamb.
David told us about a couple of things to get in for when we lamb, iodine which I have and something else which I can’t remember the name of. You squirt it into the lambs mouth within a few hours of birth? Any ideas?
Finally - I just wanted to say thank you for sticking with me whilst life is busy. I'm not posting as much as normal, but that will pass once December is through.
Sunday, 10 December 2017
What’s your plan b?
I rang up BoilerJuice which is where we place our orders through and they informed me there’s no oil for delivery in the north east of England at the moment. Not just where I am, but the north and north east! Apparently there’s a problem with the ships docking due to bad weather conditions. Now I don’t know where they dock, but we’ve not had any conditions that we haven’t seen before. The lady on the phone told me it was unprecedented. It all sounds a bit off to me, but it didn’t change the fact that we had no oil.
I went out and switched the main supply from the tank off and then the AGA. Boy that’s sad to do. Luckily I had a day off work on Friday so I set about getting the wood burner going ready for the kids coming in and checked the electric oven was working (we never use it except at Christmas!). It was. However I have never used the emersion heater for the water (normally ran off oil) so I had to guess as to how to switch it on. Not hard, you press the button, but when you don’t know if it’s the right button, it’s a bit tense! These are all costs I wouldn’t normally endure and I do think overall will be more expensive that the oil would cost me to provide the same service.
Anyway, we have log upon logs so I know we could stay warm, but the coal was low. This wasn’t like me, I am normally super organised and typically this series of events was going from bad to worse! Ste managed to source some coal on Saturday fairly quickly.
So we still have no oil, but are stocked up on coal. We’ve dug out the oil filled radiators and put them on in the kids bedrooms as the house is truly bitter, we’re at -5 here tonight. I kids you not that I am sleeping in a hat my nana knit me! The next problem is, the electricity is going off for 6 hours this week, it’s making me wonder what we’d do next if the cooker and emersion were to be out of action for a while. Would you be prepared for the worst? I know I didn’t feel it, but I’m going to make sure we’re ready for the next time.
We actually don’t have snow here today, I think we’re the only place in the country! These are a couple of days old now. The landscape is changing so much as we move deeper into winter.
Monday, 27 November 2017
Monday Night Preserves - Christmas Mincemeat
I make no apology that Christmas preserving is going to be top of the list for the next few posts. It's so exciting and with it only being our second Christmas here, we're still developing new ways and traditions.
Yesterday was Stir Up Sunday and we made our Christmas Pudding which I posted about but I also made the sweet mincemeat, again something that I haven't made before. It smelt amazing! I can't believe how easy it was to make. Thank you to Lou for spurring me on to do it, just by being her.
Last year I treat myself to Mary B's Christmas recipe book, worth every penny I have to say and this is the recipe I followed.
I used dark rum as I had it in the pantry and wouldn't use it for anything else, so in it went.
I used fresh cranberries opposed to dry as stated in the recipe, which after a couple of frantic messages with Lou, I decided to follow the recipe regardless and just leave it in the simmering oven for a bit longer, to cook them through.
I'm very pleased with the outcome, 4 good sized jars. We'll be making mince pies with this soon, so I hope it tastes nice.
Christmas is coming and I intend to enjoy every minute!
Sunday, 26 November 2017
A weekend in pictures
We have had the best weekend. We're starting with the Christmas decorations which we love! This is our 2nd Christmas on the smallholding and we're making more of our own decorations as well as the ones we already have. The kids have been busy stuffing orange slices with cloves and helping me with the Christmas pudding on Stir up Sunday, which many people already do each year, and I hope is going to be a tradition for us too.
Stir up Sunday is an old tradition which I think is lovely. It's the last Sunday before Advent Sunday apparently. We're not overly religious but I do like this. We all took a turn at stirring the mixture of which we had a good giggle to when I insisted we took photos for the blog.
Tomorrow I'm going to share the mincemeat recipe with you as part of Monday night preserves. I still owe a recipe for stock powder but that can follow at any point. I hope you've all had a fabulous weekend.
Last few days in April
Welcome to the last few days in April. Here in the NE of England it continues to be changeable weather, raining again as I type this, and ...