Monday 25 September 2017

Preparing for winter - outside space 

This winter we are expecting company in the form of a tup or ram as they're called. A boy sheep is coming to visit our girl sheep! He is an Oxford Down pure breed and when we get him here, I'll post a photo. In the mean time the girls aren't leaving him much grass, so we're giving them a top up of hay each day but without over feeding as we've been warned about over-weight sheep struggling to either get pregnant or to lamb successfully. I don't want to lose any of my girls from something we can prevent, so I'll be keeping a close eye on them. 

Hopefully he'll be here from November so we hope for April lambs. Of course what we expect to happen doesn't usually follow the textbook, so we'll take what we can and as long as they're healthy, that suits me. 

Once the tup comes they'll be moved onto the little paddock for a week or so as we've left that grow a bit but again, not too much of the lush green stuff or they'll have dicky stomachs. 

We are adding a frame on to our spare stable which is going to be their winter space and then convert it to allow the girls a pen each when it comes to lambing. 

We have also taken delivery of the autumn hay, 6 big round bales.This is for 2 horses, a pony and 3 sheep, I don't know how long it'll last now the sheep are involved as my old calculations were for equines only!! Ste is rather pleased as he managed to lift the bale on top of another to stack them. He used nothing but pallets and bags of shavings to help him!

As the days shorten and the night gets cooler, we're adding a bit more bedding to the poultry to use it for warmth opposed to it just being for cleaning out.

The field is becoming boggy again due to the amount of rain we've had and the horses are starting to turn it into a mess. It's time to think about getting it ready for winter. It'll need a rest and from some time in October / November when the day time temperature drops below 6C, there will be no more grass growth. I am sacrificing part of the field to allow some turn out but the rest of it will be rested. Once it gets too bad, then the field will be closed up and the horses allowed to free range round the car park area but as they've not done that before, I don't know how it'll work.

For now I am tying them up outside the barn to get them used to spending time there. The things we have to do.

The chicken and duck area is very muddy due to the rain too, so we're having to give some thought as to what we can do there as it's a high traffic area for humans and I've already fell over when moving a wheelbarrow through it.

In the veg garden, those areas that can be covered up will be and we're starting to clear the spaces that are finished with. Manure is being put into the beds to keep them topped up  and we're continuing to repair as we go along.

We'll continue to prepare for winter here, inside the house as well as outside and I'll keep you posted as to how we're getting on.

Monday night preserves - sweet chilli sauce

I remember Dawn posting about a sweet chilli sauce she makes so I checked in with her and she gave me a link. Thanks Dawn.

As it's the season for chilli and I'm lucky enough to be getting lots, I picked the mild ones and made the recipe at the suggested quantity, to be sure we liked it.

I can't believe how easy it is. I definitely won't be buying sweet chilli sauce again.

It's almost a 'throw it all in' recipe. Starting off with 2 chillis (deseeded), 3 cloves garlic, white vinegar, sugar and water in the food processor. 

I blitzed it a fair bit as my daughter loves sweet chilli sauce but not chunks of chillis. This was then poured into a pan.

Put into a high heat and when bubbling moved over to the simmering plate for 3-5 minutes.

I mixed a tbsp cornstarch with double the quantity of water and threw that in. Bubbled for another minute and then left to cool. 

I was literally jumping for joy as it can't have taken more than 10 minutes in total and I now have a new recipe under my belt that is delicious and will be staying with us as a family go to. It's great when we can share things like this on our blogs and other benefit. Keep it up Dawn, we're all learning!

I've sourced a recipe to use up some more runner beans for next week's preserves, which will hopefully keep well beyond winter. 

Sunday 24 September 2017

Mini polytunnels and seed sowing

I can't quite believe it's Sunday night even though we've packed a fair bit into the 2 days.

I'm starting to plant out the seedlings that I sowed last month. This weekend I put the cauliflower and Savoy cabbage in, put collars on them all and covered some with the 2 mini polytunnels that I bought. They aren't actual polytunnel material but I think they'll keep the the heat in all the same.

I cleared the area and raked in a few handfuls of fish, boood and bone before stomping the ground down where they were to be planted. Cabbages and cauliflower like to be in firm ground and and tredded in. The Savoy cabbages are 22 inches apart and the cauliflower were 30 I think.

You can see the the collars in both photos. They stop cabbage root fly apparently, so on they went.

The below photo shows the yellow tube Steven has started putting over the beds. As he fixes the beds, he's adding the tubing which will be a slow job but I'm sure he'll have it done before the Spring. 

Today I've sown more seeds as I like to sow more when things go into the ground. I put in some All Year Round cauliflower, Valdor winter lettuce, All Year Round lettuce, boltardy beetroot and some Raab 60 day broccoli. Most of these things will be grown under some form of protection be it the greenhouse, polytunnel or fleeces and cloches. I also put the Cape Gooseberry plant into the polytunnel ready to over winter in there. 

So many more things going on which I'll share this week when I get the photos.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Autumn planting

I have just placed an order for autumn planting garlic, onions and shallots. I've never grown shallots before. 

The garlic is hardneck Carcassonne Wight which I can plant straight away from September and crops from May.  Also I bought softneck Garlic Provence Wight. I will plant these garlic cloves from September onwards too. Apparently once lifted, will keep until January so I look forward to that.

RHS describes the difference between hardneck and softneck varieties.

  • Flower stalks appear readily
  • Fewer, larger cloves covered with a looser tunic are produced
  • It is considered to have stronger and more interesting flavour
  • It is best gathered when the foliage has changed colour
  • It stores only until mid-winter

Softneck garlic (Allium sativum) generally produces smaller, more tightly-packet cloves;

  • Does not produce flower stalks unless stressed
  • It is best harvested when the foliage starts going over
  • It has better storage qualities than hardneck varieties
  • If autumn planted it will keep until mid- to late-winter
  • If planted in early spring softneck varieties it can be stored until mid-spring
The autumn onions are: Shakespeare - for steeping in sauces and giving casseroles a real kick. British bred, autumn planting brown skinned variety that produces high yields of good sized bulbs with excellent skin formation that means it shows good storage potential well into the winter months. Red Cross which over winters well and stores for up to three months. 

Finally the shallots are: golden gourmet which are 20 bulbs. I've never grown them before so any tips welcome. 

We had a really cold snap the other night which saw the outside temp drop to 3.5c which was a shock. This weekend I'll bring in the plants that don't tolerate cold well including the lemon tree, cape gooseberry and the young fig tree just as it's in a pot. The horses had their rain sheets on as we've had lots of wet weather and foggy mornings are making an appearance again.

Monday 18 September 2017

Monday night preserves - rosehip syrup, cucumber and onion pickle and free tomatoes

Tonight has been a mix of lots of different things which wasn't my intention, but you know how things go. There's so many things in season at the moment, I can't stick to one thing.

At the weekend we foraged for rosehips which I wanted to turn into rosehip syrup as I've read good things about its health benefits. The most commonly talked about benefit is that the hip is loaded with vitamin c. It was hugely popular during the Second World War when the whole berries were added to jams, jellies and casseroles. The syrup was taken as a tonic to ward off winter ailments. My Mam has fond memories of foraging with her dad after getting the local bus and walking some distance to pick the bright red jewels.

Although it's not proven to ward off these winter nasties, there's more belief that they can reduce aching joints.  Something we could all do with in the winter!

I followed Pam's recipe which calls for 500g of picked over, rinsed rosehips. I popped them in the food processor on the chopping blade as she states they need to be minced. 

Then add the minced hips to 800ml boiling water, boil for a few seconds or so (mine was most likely a minute or 2 by the time I realised!) and then and bring off the heat to sit for 15 mins.

Scald a jelly bag and drip the hips and juice through, leaving them for an hour.

Whilst they were resting I thought I'd take a photo of the Aga at work. 

The aga really does come into its own in autumn and winter. Only last night did I put the chicken bones in with some (raw) veg that my Mam kindly chopped up for me after Sunday lunch. I left it in for 24 hours in the simmering oven. Sounds extreme but it produces the nicest stock ever. To be fair I've only ever tasted mine, so the bar may not be set very high!! Above, the stock is in the cream cast iron pan waiting to be strained and frozen.

After an hour, I brought another 800ml of water to the boil and added the pulp from the jelly bag and repeated the quick boil then drip process. This time I will leave it to drip overnight. I've stored the first lot of juice in an air tight tub in the fridge in the mean time.

The second lot of juice will be added to the first in a pan with 650g sugar. Pam says there should be around 1 litre of juice in total to add to the sugar. Then warm it through, boiling and stirring for 3 mins to dissolve the sugar and then bottle into sterilised bottles. Water bath if wanting to keep for longer than 4 months in the fridge. I'll be taking a daily dose from tomorrow so I will keep you posted!

I was gifted 1.5kg of tomatoes tonight by my lovely neighbours parents. So I made it up to 2kg and washed the tomatoes, chopped them in half and put them cut side up in the roasting tin with some bashed up cloves of garlic. They were sprinkled with sugar and seasoned then olive oil drizzled over before roasting for an hour. This has to be my favourite flavour of summer.

I pushed the roasted tomatoes and garlic through a sieve and puréed them so everything except the seeds went through the sieve.

After it cooled it went into a used butter tub and labelled with the couples name who gifted me them. How kind!

Finally I started prepping a fridge pickle as Louise calls them. Using the food processor again, I had 1kg of cucumbers and 3 small onions sliced in seconds. 

I put them into a bowl with 250g sugar, 1 tbsp salt and 200ml cider vinegar. They'll soak overnight and I'll update this post tomorrow to show the next stage. I can't wait for these to be ready!

I hope you're finding my preserving posts interesting or possibly even useful. I am really enjoying doing them each week.

Sunday 17 September 2017

Fun at the country fair

Saturday started something like this.

We spent time together early morning getting the kids models ready for the country show we were going to. Our first time we've ever been to one was last year when we came 3rd in the pumpkin class.

This year we went into the same class and look what happened!!

We were so pleased! We then went on to get 2nd place for the below items too which we are over the moon about.

The kids models came 3rd and highly commended which is simply great as they did them in their own.

Then today I made a Sunday roast for our family and grandparents.  All home grown except the broccoli which is a very satisfying feeling. 

So just a quick update for today as it's late and I'm ready to put my feet up for an hour before bed! H

Monday 11 September 2017

Monday night preserves - chillis

Tonight saw myself and my daughter Grace sat at the kitchen table for two very different reasons. She has come down with a rotten blocked up nose and tonight has a cough that's hurting her chest. Whilst I started the preserving, she sat with her head over a bowl of hot water that I'd added a good few drops of eucalyptus oil. It helped somewhat but she still looks like Rudolf and is feeling sorry for herself.

It's ironic that I was preserving chillis which can make your eyes and nose run more than any cold does! Tonight's recipes are super quick and easy which were just what I needed as I had also pencilled in weeding the veg plot. 

Starting with chilli oil I washed about 16 or so chillis and dried them off. I put them into 2 sterilised jars with a teaspoon of black peppercorns. I heated up 1 litre of olive oil to 40C and then poured it over the chillis.

Turns out I only needed 1 jar so it all got tipped into 1. Looks pretty. I'll leave it 2 weeks then decant into small clip top bottles for the Christmas hampers.

I am probably going to freezer the chillis after the 2 weeks and use them in cooking maybe? Any ideas?

The next quick preserve I did was to freeze the chillis. Apparently they hold their heat very well but maybe not their shape however as they'll go on pizza or pasta dishes, it doesn't matter. I also froze some runner beans as they're coming thick and fast. I didn't blanch them as I've read people doing it successfully without blanching. 

Instead of open freezing them I just threw them all in the bag and I'll keep scrunching it up when they're freezing so it'll be easy to use them as needed.

Finally I put 3 trays of chillis in the dehydrator. Apparently you only need to pierce the skins a few times and let them dry out so let's see. Once they're dry they should keep for a good while and some people even use them to decorate the kitchen at Christmas!

Sunday 10 September 2017

Being ruthless

September lends itself to thoughts of the next season growing. As the days grow cooler and shorter, my thoughts turn to the greenhouse and polytunnel and how we can keep things going in there for as long as possible. Hopefully some items will go right through to next year. In all honesty, I am not as prepared as I had visioned I would be back in the New Year when I was planning for 2017. The year seems to have flown by and sometimes the days are just getting away from me. 

What am I doing about that then. Firstly, it's time to sort the greenhouse out. Any tomato plants that were questionable have gone. All the yellow leaves on the other plants stripped and any leaves below the fruit taken off too. In some instances, the fruit is all that is left and it's being left to ripen and then the plant will go.


The chilli and pepper plants have had a tidy out, dead leaves removed and those that seemed to need it have gone into the bigger pots now the tomatoes have freed up some space. The temperature here went down to 10c last night which isn't ideal for peppers or chillis from what I've read. 

I've got the seedlings doing well and they are in the back of the greenhouse which gets closed up after an hour or so of airing.

The piquant peppers Dawn sent me at Christmas have come up lovely and are starting to colour up. I picked my first along with lots of different varieties.

Grace turned part of the barn in to an art studio  whilst Ste was making a new fence and I was in the greenhouse.

We finally got round to turning the temporary fence in front of the polytunnel into a picket fence . To buy ready made was very expensive so Ste bought the wood and cut it himself. I'm really pleased with how it looks. We're getting there with this area. More to do but one day at a time.

This fence separates the growing area and keeps the chickens out. After a hard days graft I'm pleased with the outcome. We took our onions into hang and had a home grown tea. All in all, a great weekend.

week 17 w/c 22 April Just photos :)

April 22, 2024 - Week 17