Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Preparing Wood For Next Winter

When you're a smallholder or homesteader you're always preparing for something. When one jobs finishes you have to think about the next one, or what you'll do the next year, that's the cycle of things with this lifestyle.
Our wood burner is on a lot less this time of year but I still need to think how I'm going to fuel it next year.

Now is the perfect time to start topping up our firewood levels, there's plenty of storm damaged wood on the ground and it needs cleaning up before the grass starts growing, otherwise it just grows rubbish and weeds around it.

I spent a few hours out there yesterday and got one area cleaned up but still need to do more today. I'm out of practice with a chainsaw though and I know I'll ache in the morning as it uses muscles I'm not used to using!

Feels good to do some proper smallholding jobs rather than working on the house - although I have so much to do in the house but that's not as critical as getting the fields ready for the sheep!

Who else is doing some smallholder maintenance and tidying up at the moment?

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

What Does One Years Food Supply Cost?

Well if you ever wondered what a years worth of food accually looked like then here's the picture for you:
Imagine from Costo 
Costo Wholesale in the USA are selling a years worth of food for $5,999 (about £4,300) containing 600 cans of food.
It looks like it has a great selection and budgets on 36,000 servings with 2,000 calories on average per day. Click on the link above and you can see what it contains, but everything from grains, freeze dried fruits and vegetables, dairy and more.

What do you think to kits like this?

I'm afraid it's out of my budget for now though and I think the shipping would kill it for me!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Storm Damage

During the snow storms I noticed a bit of storm damage in the one field I rent. 
 A poplar tree had fallen over. In fairness to the tree I'd been on about taking it down since the two  next to it fell over a few years ago. The first one is here and the second one is in a post here.
 Now although I do get the wood from this tree (I've asked the landlord and they've had so much storm damage in their garden that they've got enough firewood for years), there is also a fair bit of work that'll go into sorting this out.
I'm going to have to log and split all the wood. Good because we burn a lot of wood, but it's not he best firewood in the world, but you don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
 I'm also going to have to repair the fence.
I've already repaired this section of fence before in atypical farmers fashion but shoving a few hurdles in the holes. I think when I get the tree out it might have to be a more permanent fix with fence posts and wire!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

How To Make Dehydrated Soup Mix

My wife and I both love eating soup, it makes for a great lunch with a fresh roll or for a warming tea. 
 The other night I made a huge batch of squash soup for tea. Some of my squash have just started to go bad so it was time to use them up. In the end I made about 6 litres of soup and it was really tasty!

I have no real set recipe for soup, I tend to just make it up as I go alone with what I have to hand. This one contained half a Oregon Homestead Squash (about 4kg I'd guess), three large onions, 6 cloves of garlic, a couple of white beetroots (so as to not colour the soup), one massive carrot and enough water to cover the lot. I then left it cooking until everything was soft and tender.

I blitzed this soup to make it thick and smooth.

There was far too much for us to eat in one go so afterwards I got thinking about how to preserve it. I did think about canning it, but I had the kids running round at the time and thought using so much boiling water with a little one clinging to my leg wouldn't be a good idea. Also canning in the UK is still quite expensive due to the cost of the jars and the lids, also I haven't that many canning jars free at the moment.

Then I decided on dehydrating it, I thought it would be great to have our own dehydrated soup mix, kind of like a cup-a-soup, that could be used for easy lunches or for camping, they'd be great for my wife to take to work with her as well.
So once the soup had cooled I ladled it out onto the silicone type sheets I've got for my dehydrator. The dehydrator I use for this is my nine tray Excalibur but others will do the same but times and temperatures may have to be adjusted to suit.

Each sheet got three ladles full of soup, enough for a bowl full. This makes portioning it up later on a much easier job. I managed to fill 8 trays out of the nine that my dehydrator has (nith one had to be filled with tinned pineapple - rude not to!).
Getting it to the right level of dryness is always an art. I had read somewhere to dry it to a leather type consistency but I decided to go for the longer life option and dry it down so it was crisp and brittle. That means there's no moisture left in it and it's shelf life is greatly increased, it spent around 20 hours in the dehydrator at 57 degrees C to make sure it was completely dry, it could spend less time but this just worked with when I woke up! 
I then broke it into flakes ready for packaging, each sheet that had three ladles of soup makes up one portion.

I haven't broken it down into a powder for two reasons, with a larger surface area its more likely to loose quality and (the main reason) I don't have a food processor yet!

I'd imagine that having it as a powder would mean it would dissolve much faster though when making it up to eat so I might look at doing this in the future.
 I then set about packaging the soup mixes. I vac packed mine to make sure all the air was removed from the packaging. The next batch I do might be for longer life storage and if it is I might add a 50cc oxygen absorber as well, I'd imagine the shelf life would be many years if I did this.
8 portions of soup ready to be used when we want.
It it pointless storing it if you've never tried it so yesterday lunch time I decided to make up a bowl full of soup.
I broke it up even finer in the bag and poured it into the bowl. It became very apparent that I'd basically made up goldfish food flakes!
I then added enough boiling water to make a bowl full, stirred it and then microwaved it for an extra  minute to get it really hot. I covered it and let it rest for five minutes.

I was totally shocked when I ate it.

Even though there was a few lumps where the soup mix hadn't quite dissolved fully, it was thick like the original soup.

Tasting it was just like eating the original soup as well! I couldn't quite believe it, I thought that the taste would have changed somewhere along the line but it really hadn't.
So with very little effort I'd managed to turn 8 bowl fulls of soup into 8 tiny packets of dried mix that will last for years and take up very little space.

A great way to preserve a glut or in this case a great way to use up some veg that would have been wasted otherwise, as it was starting to turn. It's also great that it doesn't take up any space in the freezer and is good no matter what the power situation is during a storm or a blackout as it only takes a cup of hot water to bring it back to life.

Also a great option for anyone does a lot of camping (or preppers with bug out bags) as it's very light weight and takes up very little space but still contains something that's full of goodness and will help to fill you up as well as having a really long shelf life.

Have you dehydrated soups or any other meals ready to re hydrate later?

What method did you use? Any hints or tips that you can share would be great! And other recipe ideas would be amazing!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Sausage Making

This is a rather late follow on post from the Pig Butchery Weekend I posted a couple of weeks ago. 
 As we were split into two groups on the Sunday the second group went and finished the butchery while a few of us set about getting ready for sausage making.
We minced up all the pork we'd trimmed off the animal and the shoulders we'd cut up as well. There was a fair bit.
 We then measured it out and added it to the first rusk and seasoning pack. The first one was easy, 4kg of meat, packet of rusk and water, ready to go.
 The second batch took a bit more thinking about, as we had a packet of plain rusk and had to work out the seasoning quantities and the water. Should have been simple but for some reason we were all scratching our heads at one point!
 The other guys came in at lunch time and we started making sausages. The skins were natural casings and had been soaking all morning, but one lot of them was quite hard to tread on the pipe of the sausage stuffer.
 Alan made it look easy and did the magic twist and tying of the fat sausages as well!
 We all got a good share of sausages and mine went into the freezer as soon as I got home.
They didn't stay there for long though! Looking forward to making some with my own animals one day, great way to use up lesser cuts of meat.

Anyone else make their own sausages?
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