The veg plot and friends
With the weather being so warm and dry, I'm having to water everything daily in! the greenhouse, polytunnel and outside plots. That in itself is a time consuming task so I've started roping the kids in the do their bit. Inevitably they get bored and start a water fight instead! Great fun though.
Each year on our little smallholding, we are aiming to improve the veg plot and make it work better for us. This year, we've decided to make a permanent fruit cage around the soft fruits. The birds are welcome to the wild fruits here, but not the raspberries, currants or gooseberries! We've acquired a huge green, heavy net which we have attached to the frame of some metal fencing that we have. It's work in progress as we're making it so that it won't go anywhere, meaning it's taking time to get right. I think it is looking great so far and will give me a fighting chance to get the fruits harvested.
Speaking of harvests, we've had a good harvest of strawberries and gooseberries which are now in the fridge to keep for a day or 2. I'm going to make strawberry jam as that is simply what has to be done with the first strawberries of the year! The potatoes are flowering nicely too.
I've managed to get some more seeds sown, only lettuce and purple kale. It's a bit late for the kale but it should be fine in the polytunnel and hopefully give us a late crop.
In the orchard there hardly any plums coming through this year, though the damsons seems to be doing well. The apples and pears are coming through fabulously and we also have 6 almonds!
On the Smallholding
Well as expected, the fox has been back and had more poultry. We have had some of the local game keepers round to give us some advice, so hopefully we can sort the problem. It's simply not sustainable as we will have nothing left by the end of the week at this rate. Down to 12 from 60 plus now.
The horses are still enjoying living out in the field whilst we have the good weather, though the grass is very low now. We are definitely going to rest half of the field, however it seems a bit pointless until we get some rain. We also managed to speak to our other friend, the farmer over the field, about spraying it as it's riddled with creeping buttercup and sadly, organic methods aren't going to work in this instance. He's happy to help us out when the time comes to spray.
We take the horse muck out of the field daily to try our best to look after the land we have. The more we look after it, the more rewards we will reap eventually. Look at the view I have when I walk out to do it on a morning....I will never tire of this.
The lambs are putting weight on by the minute and are only 12 weeks old but almost as big as their mothers. We are giving them the healthiest and happiest lives we can, which is what we are all about in time for the winter to come when we will start to reduce numbers. They are so pleased to have their wool off now this hot weather is here.
In the kitchen
I bottled the Elderflower cordial and oh my, it's good this year. The colour is perfect. It no longer looks like an animal sample!
We've been having freezer surprise a lot for tea. It genuinely has been a surprise as a lot of the labels have frozen and dropped off! I'm trying to make space in the freezer to allow this years harvests to re fill it.
I made Shakshuka (no idea what the right spelling is) for Supper on Sunday and I did flatbread as a side to have it with. I've never made them before and they turned out very well.
In the house
I've had so many things I wanted to update for this part of the blog. So we as a family are working on a new routine. I used to hate that word, thinking it was so restrictive. How wrong I was! It makes somewhere like this work. We can't run a smallholding without routine and standards, especially when we are working full time too.
My new idea came from a discussion I was having with Ste. We're aiming to move to a less technology dependant lifestyle Monday to Thursday. When I get home around 4pm, it's technology off and we all pile outside, getting on with one of the many jobs that we have to do. I work on my laptop on a night so once we come back in, I will catch up on emails, pictures and social media whilst I am getting set up and logging in. There's no technology for the kids at all Mon to Thurs. This is what happened when we agreed this....
It's so nice to see. The kids playing together (yes, the started fighting in the end but hey ho), Jack wanted to help cook and Grace was enjoying life. Technology is a habit in a lot of instances I think. It has a place in our lives, of course it does, but it isn't welcome to take over like it has been for me.
We've also agreed to do something on a Monday together. Jack decided he wanted to bake and Grace said a bike ride. Tonight Jack baked cheese scones, something he has asked to do regularly since we visited Beamish recently. I love it there! In the old farmhouse kitchen, they'd made scones, cut them up and were dishing them out. He loved them! Grace brought down a toy she'd got for her birthday in February and enjoyed 30 minutes putting it together.
BudgetsThis year we've seen a ridiculous increase in the council tax. I have no say in that sadly. Our oil consumption is down over the summer, thankfully. We do have a small say in that, making sure we bulk buy and be sensible with use. The one thing we should see a reduction soon is the groceries. We have a small budget each month, certainly compared to many people we know. I'm menu planning again, which I enjoy and working out where we can make savings. The money saved is planned for use elsewhere. There's a balance to be had between enjoying life and saving and each family is different. To achieve what we want to with the smallholding, we do need to rein in spending and luxuries more than some may do. I'll be giving this more priority and will update as we go.
For now, it's another working week for us and this one is a crazyt, busy one.