We are in the midst of our summer break here. I've taken 2 weeks off work to catch up on the smallholding and start to prep for winter 2018. I also have some exciting news to share with you.
The veg plot and friends:
Taking the 2 weeks off work, before the August bank holiday every year, is proving to be a really good time to have off from a smallholding point of view. There's so many things to harvest and preserve. I spent the first few days weeding. After the prolonged dry weather, then the burst of rain, the weeds have been forcing their way through and bringing their friends. I managed to weed the potato bed, the squash bed, peas and beans, outdoor tomatoes and the roots beds. My daughter also helped put some hay (it was too dusty for the horses, perfect for the veg patch so didn't go to waste) under the squash to protect them from the wet soil.
This year the plum are non existent but last year was a super year and the branches were snapping from the trees, so we aren't surprised but it's a shame. The damsons are doing ok though and are almost ready. I've spotted a few wild plums along the lane so we will pick them this week and use them.
Apples on the other hand are doing AMAZINGLY well this year! This variety is Discovery, which we got from Kev over on An English Homestead and they are the nicest eaters ever, I was pleasantly surprised. Look at the size of them!
More apples on the back trellace as cordons from Kev, doing very well too but later varieties.
Outdoor tomatoes are loving the long, hot summer weather so far, though the muggy weather we have now is ripe for blight, so we are on blight watch daily. I can't recommend this variety highly enough, it's called "Outdoor Girl".
This is the second harvest we have had from these and there's another couple of the same again to come.
Every year we grow a pumpkin or large squash of some variety and this isn't huge yet, but we're pleased with it. There's a local county show we go to, for some fun competition where we will show this. We won first place last year!
This variety is called Sibley squash and I got the seeds from real seed. They are supposed to keep very well through winter, becoming noticeably sweeter after New Year apparently. The plants have been prolific this year.
The indoor tomatoes are doing beautifully. After a rubbish crop last year, where I didn't even get to bottle any, I'm pleased they are coming along nicely. I've never seen so many tomatoes on one vine as this variety. The variety if Ildi.
Next year we must do more against the cabbage white butterfly. This year seems to have been horrendous for them! To be double sure, I intend to grow the young plants undercover and then when I plant out, put them straight under enviromesh. It's not cheap but apparently is worth it.
Two of my favourite summer veg, broad beans and courgettes. Just as well as there's loads! Only 1 variety of courgette this year, I prefer the yellow and will stick with that each year now.
The kids have been brilliant during our time off and very helpful. I'll explain more in a moment, but here they are in my potting (or plotting as Jack calls it) shed enjoying some treats after a morning of hard graft.
The damsons I mentioned.
Old apple trees in the orchard, doing well this year.
On the smallholding:
We're getting the outside jobs done. Some nice and some not so nice. There's not only weeding to be done in the veg plot, but there's plenty around the smallholding too. Nettles are everywhere and boy are they stingers. The car park looks more like a field, so we've hand weeded part of it, with the rest to be done. We have trees to fell to give us Winter 2019 heat as they will need to season for a year or so. We're picking up 20 Ross Cobb day old chicks from our supplier tomorrow. They will be slow raised to a decent weight when they will go in the freezer for 2019 chicken. They are to be housed for the first few weeks in the poultry shed which is (hopefully) fox proof as we still have a fox issue.
Additionally we're picking up some Rhode Island Red day old chicks too, which will start off 2019 laying hens. Cockerels will go to the freezer too, bar 1.
With all this in mind, we needed a processing area for when the time comes. Ste has built this small shelter at the back of the smallholding for that purpose. It's great isn't it and will last for years at a small cost to us financially.
Ryan, our female goose as some of you may remember, has decided she wants to sit on her eggs again. The previous lot that were sat on this year didn't hatch, so I don't know if Neville, our gander, is performing or not.
In the kitchen:
The rhubarb vodka is ready, so I have decanted it into bottles and oh my it is nice.
We decided to sell our kitchen table even though I love it, as I wanted a bigger one. We were all set until we realised we already have the perfect size table in the dining room which we never use except at Christmas.With a lovely farmhouse tablecloth over it, it really suits the kitchen and is the perfect size for us.
So now we're reevaluating what to do with the other table and the space we've created in the dining room (which was a snug).
The kids have been baking, but I forgot to take photos as I was playing negotiator. Brownies, scones and millionaire shortbread! No diets in this house for now! The kids and Annie had plenty of cuddle time too!
She simply is the kindest natured dog with them. She is the perfect guard dog too, you won't get in the house without being barked at followed by a warm welcome if we tell her it's ok. Can't wish for a better dog.
I also made a tomato soup which turned out to be very bland. Unsure what to do, the next day I made "half the garden soup" from Hugh's River Cottage book and when it called for a kilo of toms and stock I decided to just use the tomato soup instead, plus a bit of my 'souper mix' from Pam Corbin's book and goodness me, it worked out well.
I've also been making slow cooker stews, pulled ham, pork and roasting chickens. A lot will be returned to the freezer once made ready to reheat as evening meals once we are back to work.
The next plan....
So now for the exciting part. The next plan. It's been forming for a year or so, but we've taken the time to formalise it whilst we have been off work. Starting now and until end of May 2019, we are stockpiling a years worth of long life or non perishable goods.
Come June 1st, we're embarking on living off one wage and saving the other. This will allow us to have a years worth of savings in the bank, which leads on to phase 2 of the plan, for another day.
From June 1st we will have an annual grocery budget that equates to £25 a week. This is only for the likes of milk, butter, flour, cheese, kids lunch items. Everything else, literally, will come from our 'stores' as we refer to it, the years worth of supplies we have stockpiled prior to June.
That means we also need to find an additional £1300 cash to have to hand from June 01st, which is the annual budget. Any income after June 01st is being saved. As we're stockpiling, our outgoings are already going to increase so we need to have this cash as additional to what we have now. Time to sell what we don't need and make money where we can.
It's all part of the lifestyle shift that we have bought in to and I can't wait to get started.