Friday 29 May 2020

A new way of life - a peaceful day

I simply love the days when everything feels peaceful.  
Today is one of those days, where you can sot back and relax.
Given everything that's happening in the world right now, and what we have all endured over the last few months, I bet everyone has gone through a few conversations, or range of emotions and feelings that you didn't anticipate you would have in this lifetime...or maybe we did?



Our days have varied so much and with one thing and another we've had to react differently to certain things that are out of our control and in some cases, we have to just accept that we can't control things.  However all of that is leaving me feel very peaceful.  Right now anyway, ask me in a day ;)
Early this morning, Friday, whilst most people were still in bed, Steven and I woke up and went straight outside to let the animals out, feed and water them and do a check of everything.  It was such a beautiful morning.  Rodney came with us as always.  We then managed to get an exercise session done whilst it is still cool.  Neither of us would want to after work, especially as it is meant to be SO hot today (hot for the North East of England anyway!)
I also managed to get a few jobs done in the veg plot, starting with weeding the onion bed which I swear was weed free a couple of days ago!  It's all done now and things are looking very healthy in there.  A couple of onions decided they wanted to go to seed though, so I snapped off the hard seed shoot that was forming in the hope that they change their minds.  We need all the food we can get after all.

Once the bed was weeded and watered, which took 20 minutes or so, I went in to the greenhouse.  Incidentally, I don't normally water onions but I noticed the soil was dry quite far down when I was weeding and as we aren't due any rain for days or more, the heat that we are due may make them bolt, so I gave them a good water.
In the greenhouse, I sowed 4 different beans, 1 purple climber, 2 drawf (green and yellow) and soy.  I'll sow some more in 2/3 weeks which I will maybe put in the polytunnel for as late cropping as we can.  I don't have more soy though, so I hope this lot work and we can save some seed from them.  They are now watered and outside enjoying the heat of the sun and hopefully considering germinating pretty quickly.  I'm generally always amazed at how quickly beans germinate.  I also have some pinto beans in the greenhouse which I have now moved out to the cold frame to harden off.  These will be kept for the winter pantry and also to grow next year. I'm going to try and save as much seed as I can this year.  

Does anyone know if growing lots of beans near each other will cause me issues with seed saving?  


Rodney stayed with me whilst I was weeding, perfect start to the day for both of us.  My favourite time of day.


I harvested a small amount of kale too.  We have more kale plants than any family would ever need, however I plan on preserving enough to last a year for the house.  Kale is also very good for chickens which is one of the reasons I have grown so much, after all, we have a lot of chickens!  Our pigs too have it, but not the sheep right now as they are due to lamb and I am hesitant to change their diet before lambing in case it's toxic for the unborn lambs.  Call me Mrs Cautious if you like, but we only have a small number of ewes (4) and each lamb is vital to the success of the smallholding.

After a lovely, peaceful start to the day I have work to complete.  Working from home now means the commute is ideal ;) I shall update you with the weekends antics next week.  In the mean time I've been having lots of fun in the kitchen, as always!  Trying a variety of bread items in our weekly menu plan.  Below are the naan breads I made from a recipe on bbc.co.uk/food - they were great!  I rolled them pretty thin to cook quickly and we preferred them that way.  They are not authentic naans which I believe use yoghurt (tell me if I am wrong?) but for us, they are perfect and my new go to for naan type breads.  I'll pop the recipe on my recipes page.  All new recipes go out on the Friday night that I have used them.



Another quick, almost cheat meal that I have done a couple of times are these pin wheels. They are great for a light lunch for me and the kids during the week or I can add a huge salad and do it for the 4 of us on a weekend lunch time.  Disclaimer - I use shop bought puff pastry for these :P !  I bought 3 puff pastry in the Aldi shop on the 25th, so I will do these every other week to use them us during the 6 week challenge.  The recipe is here if anyone wants a bash. 

It's been hot, hot, hot here lately, during the days at least.  Rodney often finds shade where he can.
The pigs are given water every day and we often make them a water hole which they take a little interest in, but not as much as we hoped! 
Grace gets the hose pipe over in to the pig pen and sits and has cuddles with them whilst the water fills up.  It takes a while as the pressure there is not great. 

Did I tell you the electricity had a planned outage for 6 hours?  Well, as we don't yet have a generator, what else could we do except pop the quail on the Aga on a towel to hopefully regulate the heat?  I hope they hatch still! They are due Monday I think. 


That's me for a few days, stay safe everyone :)





Perfect pinwheels - recipe

Perfect Pinwheels

Link to YouTube video on how I make these is at the bottom of the page.
Makes 11 or so wheels, depends how thickly you cut them.
Vary the ingredients to what you have on hand.

Ingredients:
1 pack shop bought puff pastry
Tomato puree or bbq sauce
Whatever fillings you want - I mostly use:
ham, cheese, sweetcorn

Method:
Roll out the pastry on the parchment paper it comes in.
Spread tomato puree or bbq sauce over it
Add your chosen ingredients
Roll the pastry to make a swiss roll look
Cut in to 11 os ro slices (like you would cut a swiss roll cake mmmm)
Place on the parchment paper on a baking sheet
Bake in the oven for 10/15 mins on medium to high heat. 
As always with my recipes, keep checking them.
Enjoy :)




Nourishing Naan bread - recipe

Nourishing Naan bread
Makes 6 ish (depending what size you roll them out) 
I served them with mint leaves stirred in to natural yoghurt and a tsp of sugar.  Very refreshing.

Ingredients:
250g plain flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
120ml milk
2 tbsp oil
Butter/coriander/garlic to grill

Method:
Sift your flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in to a bowl.
In a separate jug, mix the milk and oil together.
Slowly add to dough and combine, I do this in my stand mixer.
Knead for 5-8 minutes.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl and leave it for 15 mins or so.  It doesn't rise but seems to soften.
Divide in to balls and roll out into circles, teardrops, whatever shape they turn out to be.
I then oiled with melted butter and sprinkled coriander on them, garlic would work well too.
Cook in the oven or under the grill for 5 minutes or so, keep checking them as I did mine in the Aga so the grill might burn quickly.
Enjoy :) 


 




Wednesday 27 May 2020

Bank holidays always throw me, even in lockdown & the next challenge!

With Steven starting a new job this year, combined with lockdown, I don't know what day of the week it is sometimes.  Every day is organised and planned but I still couldn't tell you the date or the day without looking some weeks!  This Monday was a Bank Holiday and Steven would normally be at home, however the new job doesn't work like that so he took the Friday off with me and then was at work Monday.  Needless to say, with me having time off and Ste not being here, I still didn't know what day it was!  So when I started with a migraine on Monday which lasted all night through to Tuesday morning, it has taken me until today to come round and feel somewhat normal again.  I think today has been Wednesday, right?  We have other things going on with family and health which I won't go in to here, so it's already been a right old week.  
I did manage to go shopping Monday (maybe that's why I got a migraine!) and got our first supermarket shop in 4 weeks, so that's all put away and the menu plan for the week is finally done too.  Better late than never.  It's all a bit backside first right now, I mean when isn't it?  Mostly menu plans "should" be done by looking at what you have in and making meals from there.  Well we have started a different challenge which left me doing things in a round about way this time.
The challenge is not to go back to the supermarket for 6 weeks!  As you may know, we have a monthly grocery budget of £300.  This is regardless of whether it is a 4 or 5 week month.  An average of £75 a week.  Now for us, that's actually way more than we should be spending right now.  Bearing in mind we grow a lot of our own things, so we should see this reduce over the next few months as the garden starts to pay for itself.  
We've also had another curve ball thrown in that we are taking a hit on our income as a result of the virus.  Presently this should be for 4 months, June 1st until the end of September, so it is massively important that we keep our outgoings down.
Having said that we do still have milk delivered and buy a top up veg box weekly.  We will continue to support these local businesses unless something drastically changes, or when we start growing everything we need.  We're not there yet but are working on it.
So straight in to it.  Every week I am making bread, treats, soups, scones, pies and quiches/fritatas.  These are for lunches, main meals, snacks and the freezer.  9 times out of 10 the pies are using left overs as I don't tend to make pie fillings specifically for pies for us (though I do sell some which I made specifically for customers), with the exception of corned beef and potato.  I also hardboil any eggs which are not sold or for incubating.  At the moment this is quail only as ALL of the hens eggs are selling, much to my disappointment ;) sometimes I find a cracked one which I get to use!  The quiches and fritatas are using whatever we have in abundance such as the kale and asparagus.  Scones vary from week to week and bread is something we no longer consider a throw away item as we may have done in the past.  It's amazing how making your own makes you value everything so much more.
I spent £147.62 on Monday and our next veg box is coming on Saturday which will be £11.  I'll let you know once the milk man invoices us as we changed the order this week.
I planned on making bone broth/stock once every 6 weeks when I planned the challenge, however when I made some in my 6 litre slow cooker, it only yielded 2 litres.  Now I used 3 carcasses, so I am wondering if it'll be quite concentrated and maybe I can eek 500ml out to 750 for example.  I can just season more if needed.
A few other points to note - I'll be making ALL of our own bread products, we have NO pork left in the freezer and have made the decision to not buy any joints or chops, only sausages and bacon, until we have our own later this year or early next year.  We have joints of beef which we will dice and mince once we run out of those.  WE have also ran out of whole chickens.  Again, we will not be buying chicken, we will wait until our meat birds are ready in around 8 weeks or so!  We do however have the luxury of thigh/drumstick, carcass and wings of one bird a week.  As you will know if you read our blog, my parents buy an organic whole bird each week as it's not much difference in cost for 2 breasts which is what they started to get (from the farm shop).  They take the breasts and give us the rest which they don't like.  So the only chicken we will have during this challenge is that.

It's really exciting, I think setting challenges keeps you focused and energised.  Well it does for us at least!  I did a bit of a YouTube video on it which would be great if you could watch and subscribe to.  Eventually we hope the channel will be enjoyed by many, you have to start somewhere right?
















Stay safe everyone.

Friday 22 May 2020

Perfect Pittas - recipe

Perfect Pittas

Makes 8 large pitta breads

Ingredients:
300ml warm water
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
500g strong bread flour 1 tbsp oil

Method:
You can pop the yeast and water in together for 5 minutes if you have time, then add the remainder of the ingredients.  
I tend to add all dry ingredients to my stand mixer.
Pop on the dough hook.
Add the water a bit at a time, sometimes 270 is enough, it depends on your flour.
Knead for 5 minutes.
Turn on to floured surface and cover with stnad mixer bowl for 1 hour.
Knock the air out of it after an hour.  
Divide in to 8 pieces.
Roll out fairly thinly and leave for 5 minutes covered, whilst you heat a flat tray in the oven.
Cook the pittas on the hot tray for 5-8 minutes.
Wrap in a tea towel to keep soft as you cook the remainder.
Once cool enough to handle, cut along the edge to make a pitta pocket.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday 19 May 2020

Can we be mortgage free?

Should you feel bad for enjoying the lockdown?  I don't think so.  It doesn't mean we don't feel for those who are suffering from it, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't be enjoying it where we can, learning from it and adapting or changing our ways.  It has given us plenty of time to think about things, even more than normal and some great foundations for the future are coming out.

Whilst making this week's scones, which were blueberry by the way and I say were as they are all gone already!  I'll pop the recipe up shortly.


Anyway, I was mulling over financial thoughts and it dawned on me that when we moved in here, 4 and a bit years ago, we never thought we could be in a position to consider paying our mortgage off early.  We were just so grateful to have one and be able to buy the smallholding.  Now, 4 years on, we are putting plans in place to become mortgage free in 10 years!  Yes, that is a VERY stretched target and it may be longer but today it's 3 times that amount.  Yes, really.  We always assumed we would have to work full time as we do now, not be able to be on the smallholding working and be stuck in the paid employment cycle until retirement.  

So what's changed?  Research, people, experience, lifestyle, finances.  We have adapted our lifestyle, which we always intended to do when we moved here.  The main areas are the grocery bill, owning cheaper to run vehicles, cancelling luxuries like cable/sky and having a strict entertainment budget.  
As I said before, being in lockdown we haven't spent anything on entertainment and we have missed it all over 0%!  Yes once the kids are back in school and I have to go back out every day, it might be nice to eat out every now and again or to take them to the trampoline park etc but this should be minimal cost. 
After all, who would not want to cook on an Aga in the kitchen with a poorly duck?
We have also created our own little beer garden, also known as a picnic table in the front garden which catches the evening sun.  
We can have the dogs running round, get to see the fabulous flowers come through along with the animals in the neighbouring field, and if we are lucky, get to see a baby deer run by.
Finally, one other thing I am working on personally right now is working towards less and less wine.  This sounds like I have an issue!  

Define issue haha.  
However drinking 1 or 2 bottles a week between us does not fit in with trying to reduce our outgoings so significantly to help pay off the mortgage, nor getting up early on the smallholding to tend to the animals that get up when it is light.  So I am on a challenge right now to only drink what we either make or what people gift us....so our address is.... ;)

We last went shopping at the supermarket at the end of April and won't be going again until 25th May.  Remember that we get milk delivered (20 pints a week) along with a weekly veg box (£11) which supplements our home grown items.  We plan to eek supermarket items out to be 6 week intervals then 8 and so on.  This time we have ran out of butter, honey, juice so far.  There is an argument for doing without certain things on a permanent basis, more on that another time.  
I cook all of our bread from scratch now, having got a great delivery of flour from amazon.


As we move in to late Spring and Summer, we will most likely (hopefully) have no need for the veg box.  We are already starting to see lots of salads, greens including this beautiful kale and hopefully won't be too long until we get our first courgette as look what we saw a day or 2 ago.


Here's the newly transplanted brassica bed, right after planting when the plants went in a mood at being moved.  Hopefully they will pick up, they usually get over it quite quickly.
On the smallholding we have now got most of the laying hens in one place as Ste moves on with his next project of changing where the pens are that they have, to ensure we cover some of the overgrown areas.  Some hens are more cheeky than others.


The pigs are thriving and the (newly sheared) sheep and cows are only a tad jealous of the pigs having hard feed :)


Grace is busy rescuing animals.  This duck drowned in the pond.  Yes, ducks can drown.  She has a poorly leg and couldn't get out.  We literally brought her back from the brink of death and Grace has done her usual and looked after it since then.


 Right, I better go and get on with some of these jobs I keep talking about.  These buckets won't fill themselves!

Please do take the time to comment and stop by, we read every comment and love to have you along for the journey.  Thank you.



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