Tuesday 28 April 2020

April update - pigs, geese, chicks, ducklings and suprise eggs!

Happy week 6 of lockdown, or week 7 in our house.  The kids and I have been home for a week before everyone else and so far, so good.  Home schooling is up and down - I have learnt that some days we can close the book and start again tomorrow.  Adapting to the kids needs is the way forward for me.  I am working from home and my productivity is through the roof, I am so much more aligned to this lifestyle, though I am aware we are very fortunate to have the space we do, which makes it work.
I don't think I told you guys, we lost 2 geese this year.  We fear it could have been avoided, as seems to be the case with smallholding, you are ALWAYS learning.  The geese can be frustrating creatures and despite having clean water sources, will find stagnant pools that critters like rats use and we think the 2 we lost had been drinking from dirty water.  There is a disease you get from it which escapes me now, but their symptoms of lethargy, almost drunk behaviour linked in to this.  
Thankfully we identified the problem, removed it and these 2 (including Ryan who people will know we hatched ourself!) are seemingly fit and healthy.  I snapped these photos earlier this week to also show the amazing weather we have been having here lately.  We're actually hoping for rain!! 



The sneaky hens have been laying in a hidey-hole area.  I stumbled across them when I noticed the earth around them flattened and disturbed.  We thought they were going off lay for whatever reason, so finding them isn't only fun as it excites me every time, but a relief as we are reliant on eggs for extra income.  Very spoilt these girls are!


Grace, our daughter, wants to do photography as a hobby and uses her phone right now to get some amazing pics.  She sent this to me (she's 13) the other morning and I can't believe how good it is, so sweet!  The pigs are growing by the minute.  Due to the dry weather they aren't turning the ground over too quickly, which isn't a bad thing as they are to be here for another 9 months or so, so they need to make it last.  They have settled in very much so and are thriving on a balanced diet of pig pellets and items straight from the veg plot.


OK, so may be you think lockdown is getting to me when I show you this muck heap.  I love a nice muck heap!  When we visit Beamish museum, which is my favourite place on earth after home, I always go to see their muck heap where the horses are.  It's soooo neat and tidy and is in actual use, that I joke on to Steven saying I am recreating it with our own.  Ours stays like this for 5 minutes mind you.  We actually have 5 of these pens, or 6, can't remember, which during the winter are full in just over a week from the horses we have.  That's why selling muck, using it on our veg beds, storing it to rot etc are vital to us otherwise we would have huge muck piles which are unsightly, dangerous for heat, attract flies and would not look neat and tidy like this one!  It's a shame I don't have the same passion for my wardrobe...anyway, moving on.


Night times, or evening routines have adapted to the extended light and Spring in the air we have now.  Most nights we are finding ourselves outside until it gets dark, before locking the animals up for the night, having the dogs our for a last stretch of their legs and getting ourselves off to bed with a mug of hot milk or a small nightcap!  I was out the other night with Annie, the bullmastiff and looked up at the house and sky and it felt so cosy.


Rhubarb is abundant!  We have just harvested another huge amount (we have multiple plants so rest them in between harvests) and I wanted to share with you what we use the leaves for.  They are toxic so shouldn't be fed to animals or humans for that matter, however they are perfect for using as ground cover (instead of cardboard for example) to help prevent weeds coming through.  We popped these down the other night and when I get chance I will cover with muck to hopefully stop the weed take over which will be upon us any time soon.


Not only do we have rhubarb but the asparagus is coming quicker than I can pick it.  It's a daily race, turn your back and there's more.  Now drumroll.....I have never frozen asparagus before as I've never stayed on top of it.  I promised myself that this year nothing would go to waste, and that was before the pandemic!  So all of the asparagus in the photo below was frozen after a super quick blanch and cool.  Rather smug about that!!! Let's see if I keep it up.



I do love my little family, well obviously, but photos like this make me smile.  I was beavering away in the greenhouse and Grace walked in with Rodney, who quite happily stayed in her bucket for her.  We were laughing that this is the only kind of handbag and handbag dog you will get round here :) 


At the moment we have hatched our own brahma, rhode island red cross chicks and ducklings.  All for their meat, eggs or to sell depending on what everything turns in to. We have 15 Ross Cobb chicks too which are for the freezer and will hopefully be ready just as we run out of chicken from the last lot.  Can you spot the different below between the ducklings are the chicks?


We had out first BBQ the other night, which we love as we enjoy sitting and eating out, but it was FREEZING in the end!


It was my Dad's birthday on Monday and Steven made him this stunning piece to keep his paintbrushes in as he is a keen artist.  I made him a pie and the kids did a card.  We left them outside for them to pick up on their weekly collection of food (they come to us instead of supermarkets and it's all no contact with social distancing, and very hard on everyone but needs must)


Ste also made this amazing milk holder now we are getting the milk delivered again, don't you just love it!





Finally, though there's so many other things to write about, I need to crack on, here's a pic for cuteness factor as always :)


Take care everyone and thank you for reading!!

PS - sorry for typos, spelling mistakes and back to front sentences, but life is to short to have time to proof read every time ;)  

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Isolation picture update....pigs, ducklings, GYO, Easter - exciting updates!

Hello everyone! (Firstly sorry the text is so small, it won't accept changing to larger for some reason).
Well I am busier than ever, I don't know about everyone else?  I think a lot of people who are at home are struggling for things to do which I sympathise with greatly, I can imagine it driving them insane.  Here things are the opposite as I am working from home and the kids are being home schooled by me as Steven is still at work and will probably continue to be, given that its supplying food.  
I have been thinking about what to cover in this blog and as I've been undecided, it's taking too long to get out there, so I thought I would just show you in pictures and update you with each pic.  Who doesn't like pics after all!
I have to say, raising our own meat is so rewarding, health wise and financially!  This bird was over 2kg and has made 4 family meals for 4 hungry, chicken loving people.  The roast was Sunday, curry with shredded chicken Monday, chicken, leek and bacon pie tonight and then the carcass made stock which will make an abundance of other meals, so more than 4 really!  I do one chicken a week and every time, I can't get over it!  I am finding I am missing having raw portions to cook from and we could always joint them but then I find it a bit of a waste, my own enemy!  


I was in the veg plot, beavering away as you do, when I literally turned round and look what was staring back at me!  We don't normally get asparagus for another month I don't think, regardless I am thrilled and we had some for tea last night :D  It was DELICIOUS.


Something else we have started doing with great zest is selling eggs.  We have increased our poultry numbers significantly and now get around 40 eggs a day, which we sell.  The money we get from eggs is used to feed the poultry and the rest goes to our pot which we will use towards the 2020 goal of saving money for the whole paying your mortgage off project which we are kicking off next year.  Hugely exciting times!


Ooooh look, whilst in isolation I'm obviously needing to make 3 meals a day, which I did before really but it feels like I am doing more now.  We used to eat out once a week so maybe it's that?  Speaking of which, we've taken the decision to carry on the lockdown lifestyle once it is all over as we actually enjoy it and it suits our plans and dreams very well.  Silver lining?  Anyway, I was showing you the below picture which is a quiche I made from 4 eggs, 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cheese, spinach from the greenhouse and tomato.  It was SO nice.  I can't tell you how much I am enjoying cooking right now.


Below is the area we had pigs a couple of years ago (it's rested for 2 years since) and guess what?  WE HAVE PIGS again!! There's a pic futher on but the below pic is to show you the work we have been putting in to part of the area that we have agreed to grow more (yes, more) food in.  As it's had pigs on it, the ground shoud be great but there is a lot of grass, weeds and stones in it.  Rather than spend months trying to get it perfect, we have covered in thick mulch on the left, just out of this photo and shown below we have used weed suppressant.  Hope it works!  We have fruit bushes and potatoes in there for now.  I am planning on putting brassicas in to the mulch which is rotted horse muck as I researched and found out that anything leafy like cabbage, kale etc will do best in the muck this year.  If something needs to form, like a cauliflower head, that may not be too good.  Will try a couple though just so I know.  Really pleased with this area and now it's to keep it up and stay on top of it.


 Two of my favourite recent photos, after a hard day's work, we had a fire to burn through some items, which Ste being a man, loved.  I LOVE to see him stood, surveying his land and taking it all in (hopefully thinking what other jobs he can do).  The photo below that is when Grace came over to see us as by this point we were sat by the fire having a much earned drink.  She has so much love for her Dad and I love to see them having a good time together.  It makes all of the teenage tantrums easier to deal with.



We found this log which Ste has since kept to turn in to something, but look at this natural pattern.  Maybe by woodworm?  Fabulous to look at though.


Something else I have been doing is making scones every Friday or Saturday and leaving them, with a bunch of others things, out for my parents to collect.  Sadly it is no contact collection and along with a veg box from Ste's shop, is their only source of food right now, so it is essential to them.  We do miss them hugely.  Anyway, here's last week's scones, done in a muffin tray.  They were bacon, cheese and chive and were so nice.  They froze great and Ste had one for breakfast this morning.  I heated it up a little in the Aga and served with butter - yum!


Ooooh the veg box, look at this.  We stopped the veg box deliveries a while back, along with the milk.  A few reasons which I am not going to delve in to now but I just wanted to share how excited I was when I got this delivery on Saturday - it is amazing and we have used everything except a few parsnips.  I will maybe do them for tea tomorrow, or freeze?


I mentioned my parents collecting things with no contact.  It is their Wedding Anniversary today, 42 years, and this picture shows the card and gift we left outside for them to collect.  


Just because I can't do a post without showing the dogs, here's Rodney showing off his balancing skills and how he now likes to sit.  Annie and he have had a few disagreements lately and he tends to hang around higher up these days!  He also likes to sit and watch the pigs, how cute is that?



Ducklings!!! We have ducklings!  Am I allowed to be excited about something else!  We hatched our own and have more hatching now.  These are for eggs, meat, sales but regardless are my favourite animals!  Look at the one in the middle.


Here's the cake my Mam made for us for Easter - how lovely and thoughtful, left on our doorstep!


More cooking - just cheese and chive scones now but I love making these!


Whoop whoop, we managed to acquire some flour!!! I am making ALL of our own bread now and will continue to, so flour is key to us.  Also we came across a large bag of mince for £12 so this is now either eaten, cooked and in the freezer or in portions.




Finally a picture of what we're having in abundance and are selling too.  Rhubarb and eggs!  I'd love to hear your rhubarb recipes if you have any to share and I will link and share on one of my next posts.


That's it for now everyone, take good care of yourselves and stay home if you can.  

Snowdrops, Projects & the Moon! Week 4 - 22-28 Jan

The third week of the year saw yet more changes to the weather.  We have had a lot of rain this week and combined with the wind from the 2 s...