Wednesday 23 August 2023

Making Plans

Monday 21st August

Monday started with a beautiful sunrise.  I was looking for my headphones to take on my morning run (I'm really wanting to get fitter and shed some pounds).  I'd left the headphones on the field gate post of the field after taking a barrow of muck out the night before.  Thankfully it hadn't rained overnight, so they hadn't got wet and still worked.  If I hadn't left them there, I wouldn't have captured the sunrise as my run is to the West.


When I was out I noticed plums, or bullaces, brambles and rosehips all ripe for the picking.  I have also seen plenty of Rowan berries when driving around too, something I read about using in one of my favourite books "Hovel in the Hills".  I also didn't get to making the pate last week, so I am doing that today.  Only it turned out to be lambs liver, not chicken but that's' fine as plenty of recipes out there for lambs.  I'm pulling a Smallholding recipe book together, over time, to when I get one I prefer I shall add it to that.

As always, I have many plans for my time off and there won't be enough time to do them all.  

Sunday 20 August 2023

A beautiful weekend - hanging garlic, sowing seeds and stores

Saturday and Sunday, 19th and 20th August 

Saturday morning saw Rodney and I spend some time in the shed, getting some winter seeds sown in the hope to add plenty to the Winter Pantry.  I'll sow more than needed and any that come good are a bonus!  

I got an order from Real Seeds who I love.  I'm going to sow some things direct and some in trays.

Saturday afternoon was spent running around.  We had a trip to Durham Hens and talked to the chap about new stock, ideally Rhode Island Red dual purpose birds.  He's going to call us on his next hatch.  

Then we headed over to pick up some scaffolding boards from the chap who get them from and collected 10.  This meant Steven could get on with Stores.  He really amazes me at how quickly he gets these things done.

Whist he was busy doing things that he didn't need me for, I got round to plaiting and hanging the garlic.  It's looking beautiful.  I'm already thinking about where to plant next year's crop, which will be planted this year.  I'm not sure how long the garlic here will last us, hopefully until the Wild Garlic appears in the Spring.


Checking in on Stores progress and being a pair of hands when needed, I grabbed a photo showing the first board being laid.  Steven sanded them down and was a covered in dust.  Thankfully he was sensible enough to wear a mask!



It's all coming together beautifully.  Next up will be the shelves.

Thursday 17 August 2023

Slowly but surely with Stores

Wednesday 16th August


Despite the intense desire to procrastinate with regards to painting of Stores (it's only the top half after all!), Steven and I teamed up and painted the ceiling and the top half of the walls where the cupboards had been.  The bottom section will be hidden so we're saving paint and not completing that ;) 


It will need another coat which should be fairly quick as the painful part is done.  If you've never painted breeze blocks before, it is a royal pain in the @$$ due to the unevenness of it and the holes in the block. 

Today, Thursday, we will do the last coat and then I think Steven is able to start building the frame for the sink and shelves/workbench.

After painting, we went to check the wasp situation and thankfully, after getting rid of the last few with a fire in the bin, it seems the problem is resolved so I am looking forward to getting out there and harvesting some potatoes as it is looking like blight may be hitting.  To be honest, I'm amazed we've missed it so far with the crazy weather we've had.

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Wasps, Lard, Pigeons & Stores

Tuesday 15th August

Another working day for Steven and I, meaning we have only the evenings to get on with things.  Steven is incredibly busy at work at the moment, with more and more being piled on him.  I do think it is time to pull a plan together to move him to working from the smallholding.  One to mull over.


When we were tidying up the hedges and trees at the weekend, we came across what we assumed must be a wasps nest.  Turns out there's two!  Well, two places the little critters are going in and out of anyway.  A vegetable bed and an old drum.  Their presence meant I couldn't safely tend to the vegetable garden as they were savage creatures and very unhappy to have us around their home.

After 2 failed redneck style extermination attempts and multiple stings later, we paid an exterminator to come in and do his thing.

Later on the same evening, we went out only to discover there were still wasps flying around.  I think they were on their way out though as they weren't as fast or nasty but still too many, so we reverted back to our original method and set a fire in the problem bin.

Free food - pigeons

Steven and Grace had a successful shooting session for the farmer on Sunday.  They brought home a little over 20 birds for processing.  So last night, Steven and I set about plucking them and taking the breasts off as that's really the only bit worth using.  The remainder went out to the fox as a distraction from the chickens, which it has been pestering.  Below is the set up.  Nice and simple and now we have around 40-45 strips in the freezer which will be perfect on the griddle after a long days work, or to go in game pie in the winter.

Picture perfect

In the below photo, I had to stop what I was doing to get it.  The sheep are enjoying a break from the rain and in the distance you can just make out the pigs.  It's lovely to see the pigs from the kitchen window.  

Pigs and lard

Speaking of pigs, Steven recently brought some leaf fat home.  This is the fat from around the kidneys which is supposed to be in the shape of a leaf.  It's the best fat you can get in terms of quality for baking and frying.  Back fat is another good fat but isn't as white and has a slight porky aroma.
After a few hours in the slow cooker, the fat renders in to a beautiful liquid which you strain and bottle.  Once dry it is an amazing white like below.  Unfortunately, it does make things slippery and on lifting the slow cooker out of the casing to wash it, I launched it across the room obliterating it!


Stores progress

Steven and I have also made a start on Stores.  Here he is securing the ceiling boards which were previously held up by the kitchen cabinets.  We need to paint this room again before he can make the frames for the scaffy boards and sink.  The idea is to continue the bar theme in to Stores and then move everything from the pantry in the house that isn't food, out to stores.  All canned items will now be stored in the pantry (which is another project!)

Lastly for this post, I wanted to share the mushrooms we have growing in the garden.  I assume they're field mushrooms but I don't know and I worry about poisoning us!

Rain, Yoghurt and Pate

Monday 14th August

It has rained heavily for most of the day.  There was a brief break just after lunch, which was good as my son had an hour out with a friend.  I think we can safely say everything has been watered!

After the success of the veg plot weeding, I have 2 things on my list for the start of this week.  Yoghurt and pate.  Monday morning, before work I was up nice and early.  Once I'd got my exercise out of the way and had checked on the greenhouse, I set about making the yoghurt in the Instant Pot.  It was my first time and I couldn't believe how easy it was.  Too easy as after 10 hours incubating, it hadn't set so I added another 2 hours, also in vain.  I now had sour milk.  

I'm going to try again with some Greek Yoghurt as the starter for the next batch.  The original one I had may have expired.  Watch this space.

The pate recipe I have found looks super simple and I have all of the ingredients so I hope to get to that mid week.  The book I found it in was a couple of quid from ebay.  It's a lovely book, recommended to me on Instagram.

Monday 14 August 2023

Country Shows and Hard Graft

A productive weekend - 13th and 14th August 

On Friday evening, I sat down with a glass of wine in the knowledge that I'd won the War on Weeds.  It may be temporary and there may be more wars to come, but I had managed it.  Here's a little glimpse of how the weeds had taken over the pathways, as well as the beds.


I concentrated on the beds as they contain food - the weeds would slow down the growth of the plants and that means less food for us.  So I had to prioritise.  The pathways were unsightly but as the weed seeds would spread from them, they were tackled too.  I've a video here closing the week out.

That freed us up on Saturday to be able to attend a Countryside show.  It was only a 20 minute drive from us.  £20 entry gave you access all day if you wanted, but as it wasn't huge and the rain started, we made a getaway after a few hours of enjoying the offerings.

We took little Rodney too - he had a fantastic time.


You can see the rain making its way over in the photos.  A moody sky but an enjoyable few hours.

Back home and there was a tonne of work waiting for us.  We have recently purchased a new multi purpose hedge trimmer come chainsaw, come brush cutter machine.  It's petrol powered and needs a strong hand behind it.  Thankfully Steven was on the job and we worked together, with me on clean up duty, to tidy up the hedges and trees.  It looks so much neater and pleasing to be around.

We did have a few teething problems with it, which I will contact the company about however for the most part, it's a great tool to add to the collection.

After a lot of work, I took the opportunity to have a sit down and cuddle with Annie.  That face!

Friday 11 August 2023

Light at the end of the Weedy Tunnel

A beautiful week

We have had spectacular sun rises this week.  It's so nice to have typical summer weather instead of the downpours of July and early August.  I had to dash outside to capture this one early one morning.

The evenings this week have been taken up by the War on Weeds.  I'm taking it methodically, a bed and associated pathway at a time.  I've had help for some of it which has been fabulous.  This week, everyone has their designated areas of work on the smallholding so it's not as if everyone else has been sat with their feet up, so I appreciate the help where I can get it.

From each bed that I am waging war with the weeds on, I have been trying to harvest food at the same time.  We have to get something from it all, right?  Above is the before photo on the bean bed and below shows the beans I picked for a mid week supper.


I'm actually REALLY enjoying it.


Wednesday 9 August 2023

An evening of Nettles, Weeds and a Chicken Loss

Tuesday, 8th August

Another day of the paid job followed by a busy evening outside.  Whilst I set about gathering some veg for tea, Steven used a pair of jump leads he has just bought to get the ride on started.  It needs a new battery but this was good enough for what he had planned.  Cheaper too!

The beetroot (Detroit Dark Red) was absolutely fantastic.  I made a sausage tray bake, one of my favourite meals which can be adapted at any time of the year to what's in season. 

The job for the evening on my plate was weeding another 2 beds, pathways etc to complete the Veg Garden as we call it.  

Here you can see pictures 1 and 2 showing the before and after for the Winter beetroot bed.  At the back of it, there's space for more seeds which will be spinach and radish I think.  However when I went to get my seed packets, I realised I needed more time than I had so I cracked on and weeded bed 3 which you can see here.  This one has the bush tomatoes, leeks, tomatillos and coriander in it that is flowering.  I will sow something else there.  Maybe flowers as no veg grows that well in the shaded corner.


Sadly, during the course of the night, we noticed a hen wasn't well.  Grace brought her to the veg garden where she kept her comfortable until she sadly passed away a short time later.


Steven worked tirelessly on the nettles that run alongside the car park area, meaning you can actually see through the fence as in this photo, which I took half way through his task.  When I went to see how he was getting on, I noticed the hazelnuts are coming on nicely.

Should you be interested, the night is also documented on  YouTube.

week 17 w/c 22 April Just photos :)

April 22, 2024 - Week 17