Friday, 27 March 2020

Back to basics

Well!  Who knew we would be in this situation for my next blog post?  Not us that's for sure.
I hope everyone is coping with their various situations right now.  Personally, I am home with the kids and we are almost at the end of week 2 of isolation.  I chose to pull them out of school a week before they closed and have home schooled and worked from home since then.  We are adapting, coping, winning - all of those things.  Overall this is actually a very positive experience for us all, obviously not what is going on in the outside world though.  
Ste is still going in to work with being in food production, keeping the shelves full in the farm shop for the great British public.  Over the last couple of weeks, he has been going to the supermarket as and when needed, however late this week we made the decision to stop that too.  We got the last few bits and pieces (given that's all you can get in the supermarkets now, not a bit of toilet roll to be seen!) and we now have what we need to see us through a good few weeks and anything we don't have we will do without assuming we cannot get a delivery slot.
With that said, I think it's time people started thinking about getting back to basics, in my view.  Here on the smallholding, we are already quite good with that, we cook everything from scratch, grow a lot, try to reduce waste and use leftover etc.  One thing that seems to be on the up is forging; it has seen a huge spike in interest since this outbreak.  Again, it is something we already do but with a light touch I would say.  That brings me to the pictures below.  I believe this plant to be called Jack by the hedge.  It grows here in the UK from March through to September according to my research.  When the stem is crushed it has a mild smell of garlic, which is great!  We love garlic.  The whole plant is edible and can be used raw or cooked.  I would like to make some pesto but I don't have the ingredients needed so I think it'll be fresh pasta.  I have a recipe for nettle pasta so maybe I'll add some of this or replace it with this completely?  A job for the weekend?  I really enjoy making pasta and at the moment, it looks like the only way we will have any once we use what we have in.

Other plants that are ready to use and have been all year round if I'm honest, are some herbs.  Here we have a bay tree in the middle, two sage plants on the left and a common mint on the right.  If you grow mint, it makes sense to grow it in a pot as it is (supposed to be) very invasive.  I haven't seen this myself as I managed to kill some once!  Oh and at the back are 2 blueberry bushes that I am keeping in the greenhouse as I think it will mean they will come on earlier than if they were outside.  We always run the risk of frost killing them off outside, we lost one that way last year.

Another job for this weekend, or even today actually, is taking some cuttings from the Elderberry trees we have here as I would like to get a couple growing on the river bank, along with other wild food.  We use a lot of elder flowers for drinks, adding to food and for Spring/Summer kitchen vase decoration.  We then use berries for making syrup to drink as a tonic to get through the winter.  Recently too, we learnt that chickens eat them which is a big thing for us.  We are wanting to grow as much of out own animal feed as we can.  That's something else we are learning from this whole situation right now, animal feed is harder to come by (even just from not being allowed to go out to buy it) but it is also going up in cost and we are trying to reduce costs.  We would like to be much more self reliant for animal feed.
I saw the below book on a group on Facebook the other week and checked ebay to find it available for £2 odd delivered, so I grabbed that bargain there and then.  I'm looking forward to having some down time and looking though it over the weekend.

Sticking with the war time thoughts, which is pretty much how I am feeling right now, here's a pretty picture that always fills me happiness is the sight we see opening the egg box area of the chicken coop.

One more thing I have started doing again thanks to the situation that is ongoing, is dehydrating things.  I started with apples as we had some that were past their nice point for eating fresh.  The other option would be to freeze them as stewed apple.

Finally I can't leave without giving you an updated picture of Rodney doing what he does when I am in the greenhouse sowing seeds and potting on.


  1. Hi there. Glad for the update and good to hear you are coping well in these strange and difficult times.

  2. I thought you were going to forge stuff not forage, he he.

  3. Hey chic, yes who would have thought but such a great post. You always inspire me to think a little more before I start typing my ramblings. Always amazed at how you manage your work, now at home, and life balance getting sooo much done. Love the blueberry tip and I think I'll put three of mine in the conservatory to look after them. Never heard of Jack by the Hedge before but sounds really interesting and love to see how you get on with it. The book looks fab, you know that is my sort of thing, too, which Facebook page if you don't mind me asking, and hoping to do a post myself to share some of what I've been cooking up in the kitchen during these strange times. Stay safe chic and we'll get though this.xx

    1. Hi Lou! So kind x the facebook page was one of the homesteading ones, I forget which as I am a member of so many. I don't follow people now (I unfollowed everyone rather than unfriend-ing) and just see group info that I have chosen as I've an interest in. There's loads of preserving, homesteading and so on. As I use them over the next few weeks, I can invite you to them and then you choose not to accept the invitation if it's not one for you xx

  4. Hi Tracy, yes it is Jack by the hedge. Can use in a salad and does have a galicky taste. I pick it up every so often when walking Missy. You don't just need pine nuts to make pesto. You can use walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts - each nut gives a slightly different flavour. You can also swap the oils about too. The Victory cookbook is a good one too - have had it for sometime. You can also bottle the apples as a puree or apple slices in syrup. These can be processed by the hot water bath method - you do not necessarily need a pressure canner for this. Also saves space in the freezer for other items. If you like making pasta, you could always harvest nettle leaves and chop them and either add oil or water in ice cube trays and then freeze to add "nettles" to your home made during the winter months. You can also dry them, make a liquid manure/feed with them for the garden (having a patch of nettles in the garden also invites beneficial insects into the garden as well. In this country the "country way" was to eat fresh nettles (poor man's spinach) in the spring to detox the system after winter months being fed heavily salted/cured meats. You can also make nettle wine and nettle beer. Elderflowers, do not forget to dry them as you can make wine during later months of the year from dried flowers, as well as cordial. You can also make Elderflower curd, elderflower Turkish Delight, Elderflower and Gooseberry Jam as well as Elderflower Liqueur. (by the way it is Pattypan) am using OH's internet link at the moment as have been having some computer issus). Take care and keep up the good work. Tricia x

    1. Hi Tricia - I thought it was you :) Always so many thoughtful comments and I love reading your replies, thank you! I hope you are doing ok and managing through this time. I'd read about using other nuts too. Turkish delight is interesting as my Mum (Mam) loves that. xx

  5. Lovely to hear how you are doing....and arent you doing well!
    I too have read the Victory cookbook and really enjoyed it.

    Look after yourself and your family and stay safe XXX

    1. Ahh how lovely, thanks Lisa, hope you are keeping well. I love reading through the old time cook books - very inspiring xx


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