Monday 31 August 2020

Eggs, eggs...ohhhh and cabbages

Happy Monday evening blogging peeps.
I've been mulling over....I think those of us that grow our own (and in many walks in life really) can sometimes be a little hard on ourselves, always looking for improvement or thinking about our "failures".  One thing I've learnt is that every year there will be something that doesn't go right, which is why it is all the more important to concentrate on those things that go right.  
For example I am loving that I have a years worth of cabbages right now!  I just wasn't prepared for them haha.
We have some exciting news here on the smallholding, my Mother's day hens have started laying!  We think we have 6 females and 1 male which is great luck.  My lovely little family bought them for me bac in March as they lay blue/green eggs and I have always wanted hens that lay those colour eggs.  Soon enough, breakfast will be 2 dippy (soft boiled) eggs with soldiers a few times a week, if not daily ;) Right now the eggs are still small until they are used to laying.  The hens are probably still wondering what's happened to them at the moment.

I have to tell you, we have a huge influx of eggs right now as it seems many of those who bought from us during the lockdown period have stopped buying.  That's ok though as we have decided to reduce our brown laying hens for over wintering, so are selling those on.  We will still be able to supply our regulars who were pre lockdown and still have plenty for ourselves which I must admit, is a bit of a novelty for me as we never had any eggs for the house at one point.  Make hay whilst the sun shines.
We have duck, quail (above) and chicken eggs coming in thick and fast.  I actually have more than I expected or knew what to do with (given they were supposed to be sold).  So this week is egg and cabbage week as I have both in abundance.  The lovely Tricia from Tarragon and Thyme has sent me some preserving information on cabbages which I am looking forward to reading either tonight or tomorrow night.  
Grace found this nest of eggs when we were doing tea time chores earlier, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry!  You can see one or 2 have been eaten or stood on.
Did you know you can freeze eggs?  I am going to get that done tonight which will see a dozen processed.   I've also made up a few freezer bags of a quiche custard base (4 large eggs, 1 cup whole milk or half and half cream and milk and 1 cup of grated cheese) which I can then just defrost and pop in to a pastry lined quiche dish with some left over ham and tomatoes etc.  Nice and easy, so I hope it works.
Now I have to put this photo in to show you the mammoth task I have with these cabbages!  I have 30 or so of these which is fantastic but also a task in itself.  I'm undecided as to whether having them all come at once is a good thing to get it out of the way or a bad thing in that it'll take half a day to get them done.
I've a couple of different varieties, all of which we managed to mature before the cabbage white butterfly struck.  Very grateful for that as I've seen people losing whole crops to them.  If you grow a lot it can be too costly to buy netting to cover everything properly, which should help prevent attacks.
My kale have been amazing and I hope they don't die off too quickly, these have just been struck by the cabbage white and subsequent caterpillars which is inevitable.  Every year I am amazed at how many caterpillars there are on any given plant.

Again, celebrating the successes here's a basket of veg that I am getting on a weekend right now.  I am so thrilled and once I get my head in to gear we should be "shopping" from our own garden all year round.  Maybe next year is the year we rely solely on ourselves for veg? Who knows.

It's going to be a strange week here, Jack (age 10) is back to school and I am back on to work, but still working from home.  Grace goes back next week and they both have set times for drop off and collection, which of course are right over working hours so I sense a bit of a juggling act for a few days until we settle in to things.  I hope you are all well and enjoying life to whatever degree you can.  I'll be back in a few days with another update.  Take care, Tracy.

Monday 17 August 2020


Hi everyone :)

I have some exciting news to share with you all and I need your support pretty please!

I have started a blog dedicated to meal planning and my kitchen tasks, you know all the things you do "round the kitchen table" including grocery budgets, shopping lists, savings and so on.

I would love for you to join me over on the other blog for meal plans, recipes and more household related posts.  I 100% will still cover some items on this blog, I just didn't want it turning in to a food/household only blog instead of a smallholding blog.  I am passionate about both!

Here it is in all of it's glory.

I also have a Facebook page, a facebook group which is more chatty and an Instagram account which I would also love your support on if you are in to social media.

Ohhh and look what I grew :D

Friday 14 August 2020

Look at these big birds

Some time ago, maybe 20 weeks now (I'm thinking in chicken dates here), we were given some eggs.  The guy giving them too us wasn't sure if they were fertile or even if they were, may be too old to hatch.  He said if they hatched they'd do us well.
Fast forward 20 or so weeks and we have a bunch of happy, healthy & huge young Brahma hens and 2 cockerels.  
We gave one cockerel back to the guy who gave us them as typically he didn't get a cockerel in his hatch.  That suited us well though, as we didn't want 2 cockerels in the same place and he would be too big for our other birds!

They really are pretty birds and a feature of the smallholding that we didn't plan, I'm really pleased.  They make my veg plot come alive.  The area they are in has turned to just hard ground now, so we need to feed them additional greens.  
Their coop will be too small soon! We will move them to an area bigger and with grass again and then the area they have been in will be great growing ground after they have been manuring it for me.  In the mean time, they are more than happy where they are :)

Have a lovely weekend everyone, we have a busy one planned here.  Lots of work in the veg plot but also continuing with the renovation of part of the farmhouse.  We will have a new bedroom and en-suite soon enough!! (Said with fingers and toes crossed!)

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Weekly Meal Plan - August 3rd, 2020

How exciting! My first actual meal planning post.  Pull up a chair 😊
I've been meal planning on and off for years.  I have found certain things either drive you to meal plan or allow you to "ease off the accelerator" and wing it a little more.  When I've had my winging it times, I know from personal experience that we suffer the consequences.  Our costs go up, meals become less healthy and Steven and I become more grumpy!  
Therefore I hope that this blog, along with it's Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages will ensure our winging it days become less and less, helping you along the way too.  
Having said that (!!!) I am only human and on the days when the inevitable happens, I'll share the outcomes of that too.
There's so many fantastic YouTube channels out there, many of which I use for inspiration.  As I create content for this social media channel I will share my own videos too, though it will most likely be via our smallholding channel
Ok friends, I'll stop wittering on now.  August 3rd week's meal plan on my new frugal whiteboard that I LOVE looks like this:  
Monday - Meatloaf with Potatoes, roasted courgette and tomatoes
Tuesday – Left over chicken salad with dressing & crusty bread (ended up as chicken korma as it was a cold day and we needed something hot to warm us up)
Wednesday – Taco bar - slow cooker taco meat
Thursday – Steak fajita bowls
Friday - Chicken korma, boiled rice, naan and mint yoghurt - (After swapping with Tuesday, it will be the humble jacket potatoes with choice of filling instead).
Saturday - BBQ - Ste cooks on a Saturday and ironically never knows what he will do until the day!
Sunday –   Roast chicken dinner with Yorkshire puddings and home grown veg 
Every week we have a soup of the week (SOTW) and this week is traditional pea and ham using a smoked gammon joint in the Slow Cooker Crockpot.  The recipe is here.
As I can, I'll come back and update with recipe details and photos of how the meals turned out so keep checking back on these "older" posts.
BBW Meatloaf

Here we can see I am perfectly relaxed whilst Steven gets on with the BBQ.  Mum's need a day off too ;)

Slow Cooker / Crockpot BBQ Meatloaf

My recipe for BBQ Meatloaf is adapted from and I have to be honest with you, this was the first time I have ever eaten, let alone cooked meatloaf.  As a 39 year old woman, don't be shocked and give up on me just yet at this revelation.


  • 1 lb minced (ground) beef
  • 1 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chopped veggies (I used onions, courgette, and bell peppers)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • BBQ sauce


Mix all ingredients together by hand. Take your time with this and be sure everything is combined well.
Form into a loaf shape.
If preparing ahead for the freezer, place in a freezer bag and freeze until the night before you are ready to use them. Thaw in fridge overnight.
Place meatloaf in slow cooker and spread barbecue sauce over the top.
Cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for up to 8 hours. Careful not to burn. It'll still taste nice if you do...I'm not telling you how I know that ;)
I served ours with buttered potatoes and roasted courgette and tomatoes.  Delish!

Slow Cooker / Crockpot pea and ham soup

I urge you to try this slow cooker, crockpot recipe.  If you like your pea and ham soup, this recipe is for you.  It tastes even better when it is cold outside, that's a promise ;)  I made this in between getting the kids up and doing the animals early one morning.  I was so pleased it took next to no time to put together!.


  • Small smoked gammon joint.
  • 2 peeled potatoes, cubed.
  • 2 large white onions, chopped.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 1kg frozen garden peas.
  • Water


Put the garlic, onions, peas, raw potato and gammon in to the Slow Cooker.  Put the potatoes and gammon in first, unlike me as you can see below!  Don't forget to remove the protective layer off the gammon, saves you doing it at the end and burning yourself.
Pour in enough water to cover the gammon 1/2 way - more if you like thinner, less if you prefer a thicker soup.
Cook on high setting for 4 hours or low for 8.
Remove the gammon and trim off any fat before shredding with two forks.
Blitz the soup into the consistency you prefer and put the shredded gammon back in, combine.
Season to taste serve in a soup bowl with a little of the shredded gammon to garnish.
To make a less healthier version, add cream at blending and a little cream to drizzle before adding the gammon garnish but the truth be told, I really don't think it needs it.
This recipe freezes well, I use plastic containers and label them with a marker.  They stack well in the freezer.

Hello and welcome! Can you meal plan your way to financial freedom?

Hi lovely people.  
I've got the kettle on.  Come and have a seat at my farmhouse kitchen table and get a warm next to the Aga whilst I introduce myself and my family.
I'm Tracy, wife to Steven and mother to Grace (13) and Jack (10). Both Steven and I work full time and run a smallholding which is our beautiful family home too.  We are born and raised in the North East of England and have lived here on the smallholding since January 2016 and love absolutely everything about it.  We are also lucky enough to have extended family who live close by and (covid/lockdown allowing) we see frequently.

As I'm sure is the same for you, we are always busy with something or other.  If we are not dashing around to school, work or days out with the kids, we are firmly planted on the smallholding (pun intended) raising our livestock and growing our own food.  Oh not to mention doing everything else that us humans do, cooking, cleaning, washing.....this is making me tired just typing!  
In my years of experience, one thing I have learnt for us to be successful is that life needs organising. By successful I don't mean anything other than have a smooth running of this place, food on the table and a comfortable home with happy and healthy inhabitants.  Being organised also doesn't mean take the fun out of things or running an inflexible military operation.  It does mean we have to be organised or things slip and don't get done, which can have negative outcomes depending on what it is.  Not having matching socks doesn't matter as much as having no food prepped/available for the evening meal, which may lead to eating out ruining our budget etc etc.  Forgetting to feed the animals is not acceptable where as forgetting to write 'bleach' on the shopping list is.  You see where I'm coming from?
As we move in to 2021 we will be making our usual plans and dreams for the coming year, one of which is already decided upon.  That leads me to this new blog.  Meal planning our way to financial freedom.  Crazy woman?  Bear with me.
Steve and I don't want to work for someone else for the rest of our working lives.  Many people don't.  Why do we have to work?  To bring in an income.  Why?  We have chosen a lifestyle choice and to have a mortgage.  To pay the mortgage we need to work and continue to earn at least one of our wages just to settle the bills every month.  So why doesn't one of us quit and the other just work?  Well then what would we do if hard times hit, we would have no plan b.  Right now, we have a plan b, one of us goes down, the other steps up and we adapt.
However ideally, we don't want to be tied to that for the remainder of our mortgage term.  
Without dwelling too much and boring you all senseless, we have given ourselves 10 years to pay our 27 year mortgage off.  There's that crazy word again.  
Well we don't HAVE to, we WANT to. Financial freedom in one respect.  Security in another?  There's many varying reasons as to why people would want to pay their mortgage off early.  Maybe you can relate this, maybe it's not a mortgage for you, maybe you want to save money for one reason or another, or simply you just need to figure out how to meet your current mortgage/rent demands.  One thing is for sure, times are really hard for many right now.
In the 4 years or so we have lived here, one thing we have managed to do, which is helping us save towards overpaying the mortgage, is reduce our grocery budget significantly.  From around £600 a month (I'm aware this is spending stupid money from not being organised, buying on a whim and eating out!) to what I think is a reasonable £300 a month.  The only way I have found to do this is planning.  Meal planning, freezer planning and planning your grocery shop.  Meal planning can be reverse planning, which I'll talk about in another post or standard planning (ie planning ahead).  Without sitting down and planning my family's meals out, I wouldn't be able to have a grocery budget of £300.  I refer to this sitting down time as one of my "Kitchen Tasks".  So this blog isn't just (or even mostly) about paying the mortgage off, it's about what we are doing with the grocery and grocery related bills to reduce them and to use those savings to over pay on the mortgage.
Other people will want to reduce their grocery budget for another reason or maybe you don't want to reduce your budget, maybe you struggle with meal ideas and would like to start planning.  Thinking of ideas to cook each day or for the freezer can be overwhelming.
Maybe my blog can help.  What you can expect in the coming posts is to join me at our Farmhouse Kitchen Table and I'll share how I manage all of these activities and my other Kitchen Tasks!  Including weekly menu plans, shopping lists, grocery hauls and related budgets.  Get insight in to our lives and follow our journey to financial freedom with regular updates on everything  I hope you find some useful or inspiring information here and even if not, I'd love for your support as we take on this next chapter in our lives.  Transparent, real life going on here!  Now, final comment for today, remember I said I live on a smallholding (homestead)?  My Aga is my favourite part of the kitchen and in the spirit of the transparency I mentioned, here's me working around a poorly duck at my Aga.

Isn't she beautiful :)
Please leave me a comment below if you're new here (everyone is, it's a new blog!) as I would love to get to know you.  
Bye for now, Tracy x

Thursday 6 August 2020

Moving house....not for us ;) but why have we had to move our ducks?

You will see on our recent YouTube video that our ducks are now in our paddock area.  They were being bullied over food by the laying hens would you believe?  Now if you watch the video, excuse the accent, I hate how I sound sometimes :)  Also I think I sound a little arrogant in places which is definitely not meant to be the case :) as I hope you guys would know.

Anyway, the ducks and hens.  They all got along famously when food wasn't involved but the poor ducks were too polite for their own good and despite being 3 or 4 times the weight of our brown hens, they didn't get goaded in to fighting over food and we were having to make allowances for how to feed them.
Round here we need things to run smoothly and efficiently, so this wasn't an option.  We can't have the ducks not getting enough food and we don't have spare time to stand round and hand feed them (every day at least ;) )     

Naturally, Rodney helped.

So Steven set about with his pallets, hammer and nails, found some roofing that you are sometimes lucky enough to have lying around on a smallholding and made them a lovely duck house that will most definitely stand the test of time! 

Whilst we worked on this, the ducks were still in the orchard (where they lived with the chickens) but we soon moved them in to the paddock once their house was ready.

In the paddock there is an area which naturally dips and collects water so we have added a pond liner to it and filled it up with rain water.  If you don't know already, ducks make everything filthy in no time!  The pond is no exception.  The good thing with this is (the theory anyway) that we can empty and refill it by tipping the liner out.  It's not very deep at all.  We will let you know!

Rodney and Buster thought it was great fun!

We would like the ducks to stay in the paddock area.  We don't want them getting any ideas about swimming off down the river! They have plenty of space, water and food here but I'm sure we'd still lose them given the chance.  So the next project, before we moved the ducks in actually, was to chicken wire the bottom of the post and rail fence that runs round the paddock.  We worked together and the weather was kind to us; it didn't take too long and another  good job done.

The ducks were soon investigating their new home and seemed to give it the bill of approval (sorry, couldn't resist!!)

Life moves on here, exciting times and a growing flock. I can't wait to see the egg results when these ducks are all laying, imagine all the things I can make with soooo many duck eggs.  They are my complete favourite animal.

Eat, Drink and be Merry - but now what?

In the words of the old adage "eat, drink and be merry", we can safely say we have done that during our time off the paid job.  As...