Friday, 17 November 2017

What Would You Waste Less If Times Were Hard?

Of course none of it is really waste!

But when you grow your own and cook most of your meals from scratch it can certainly create some waste! Below are two buckets of "waste" that I created between Sunday and Wednesday! 

This all gets added to the compost pile and in time will really help to improve my soil. 
Because I grow so much veg I can be a little more wasteful with some of the veg, for example we eat a lot of Swiss Chard at this time of year (two times a week) but I never use the stems! We've got so much growing, it just doesn't seen worth it. 

 In the buckets above there are the leaves and peelings from cleriac, carrots, beets, chard, courgette (last one), shallots, onions and gone over apples.

If times were hard, very little of those buckets would be heading to the compost pile. Everything would be used, veg would be scrubbed before being peeled, leaves would be saved and I'd make lots of stock each time. This is potentially something I should be doing away, but there are only so many hours in the day.

The cooked peeling would then be strained, the stock saved for human consumption and the cooked peelings would be given to the chickens or other livestock. Although not with the current laws of course!

So if times were much harder what would you waste less of?

What potential food source do you throw away?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Three Home Butchered Chickens

We had an absolutely mad weekend where we didn't seem to stop! 

We went out on Friday night with friends (this is almost becoming a habit), the girls had multiple ballet performances on Saturday and Sunday, we had a bonfire party to attend and I need to get some work done in the extension as my plasterer is coming this week.
Another job I managed to squeeze in was to butcher three chickens. I had hoped to do more but it started to rain and I was set up outside.

It was only when doing a few birds I realised how I need to be set up much better with a logical work flow. As it was I ended u p walking around a lot because I slaughtered them in a different place to where I plucked and butchered them.

I think I might create a dedicated little area for doing this job. Somewhere that's easy to hose down and keep clean but also has places to hang chickens as they drain, separate chopping boards for different jobs and a much larger boiler for hot plucking them. A cover as well encase it rains might be handy!

I did try the wet plucking method and it was a revelation! The feather came off so much easier and it cuts the job in half, I'm still tempted to make a chicken plucker though, either a wizzbang type one or one that goes on a drill - thanks everyone for the links last time! Just a shame the fingers are so expensive to build one myself. 

I also vacuum packed the birds using a vacuum packer I brought myself last week. Not the easiest thing to use on your own and it took a few attempts to get he seals right but I think I might have been cutting the bags a little small and making it harder for myself. A bit of practice will help as well I'm sure! I'll do a post on this gadget soon!

Anyway, two good sized birds for the freezer (2.1kg and 1.9kg) and one for tea last night. Made an incredible roast and it'll make another nice tea tonight, with the carcass for stock.

I think this will become a regular way that I provide meat for our family, I just need to get more efficient/skilled and have an area dedicated to it.

Does anyone have a good set up for processing at home?

Or do you follow anyone that does? 

I'd be interested in seeing some more set ups before I design my own. Thanks!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Microwave Porridge

This is a collaborative post.

Being self-sufficient is tough and I'm not ashamed to take all the help I can get. I cook virtually everything from scratch and with young children, sometimes they just need something quick. And that's where a microwave comes in.

Ours is a fairly low budget model and I’d love to upgrade to something better, these Panasonic Combination Microwaves would be ideal. Something to think about when I’m fitting out our new kitchen in the extension as I want to only fit quality items that won’t need replacing every five minutes.

The main thing I use my microwave for, besides heating up milk for my children (they drink 26 pints a week!) is to cook porridge in the mornings.

Now it’s colder the children want either porridge or toast for breakfast, and as I normally bake rolls most days (far less waste), porridge seems to happen more and more.

It’s painfully simple to make it in the microwave, that’s why mine never sees a saucepan.

One part rolled oats, one part water and one part milk, mixed together then cooked on full for 3 minutes, stirred and then cooked again for a further 3 minutes.  This length of time is to cook for my three kids and me so adjust if it’s just for one of you, if you cook too much you could always try my leftover porridge cake!  

Also a tip for the top – porridge gets bigger as it cooks and boils up, you’ll soon learn that a larger dish is your friend when cooking porridge, unless you like cleaning out the microwave.

But cooking it is easy, trying to get my kids to decide on a topping is the hard bit!

Our choices are either homemade jam (raspberry or damson are a favourite on porridge here and homemade is the only option!), brown sugar (one of my favourites), golden syrup or honey (only my eldest does this as the rest of us hate it), we also add a few 'yeah yeahs' (raisins to you and me) just to alter the texture a bit as we eat it.

If my mum is over then she always brings over a pot of stewed damsons that she keeps in the freezer, tastes amazing and far less sugar than any of the others!
Old picture but I love it! Pink porridge from grandma! 

So do you have a microwave?

What do you use it for mainly?

What’s your favourite Porridge topping? And please, no one say salt or it’ll make me feel ill…

Friday, 10 November 2017

How To Make A Quinoa Thresher

So my friends who grew the Quinoa last year and wrote about it to share on here have upgraded how they've threshed their grain. Gone is the child labour and in it's place is some home made technology - my favorite kind! 
They've kindly written me another blog post on processing this years harvest and hopefully I'll get to borrow their thresher to use on my own quinoa which is still hanging up in the extension! 

Last year we threshed our quinoa the old fashioned way with sticks on a tarp which was great fun but felt it was very energy intensive and we didn’t get as much of the grain as possible.  This year, after some research I decided the simplest (and cheapest) option was a home-made flail powered be a cordless drill. 
I already had the drill and some chain left over from another project, the rest I bought from Wickes for about £5.
I had an old black plastic bin with holes in the bottom (that I never got around to throwing away) that we used to grow potatoes in at our previous house. We had such a tiny garden! I used it to hold the quinoa for threshing.  I sat the bin on top of a fine garden riddle and put it all in a plastic trug to catch all the grain. 

The quinoa has been hanging up in the garage to dry off as much as possible. 

I found the most successful way to thresh was to strip as much of the seed heads off the stalks and into the bin and discard the stalks into a compost pile.
Once the pile of seed heads is 4-5 inches deep I begin flailing.  
I started off at a slow speed setting for the first bit and once the heads have been bashed about a bit I switched to the fastest speed whilst covering the bin with a feed sack (I lost the lid years ago!). At this point there was a lot of dust. The seed heads got pulverised and most of the grain was knocked out of the seed heads and I was left with light, fluffy and hopefully empty seed heads.  

I checked to ensure most of the seed had been removed 

 and then tipped the contents of the bin into the riddle 

If there was grain left  I went back to the flail with the drill on the slow setting for another gentle thresh.
Once the grain has been riddled it all ends up in the trug with some of the chaff ready for winnowing / cleaning.  You can see in the photos that the seed is actually pretty clean and almost no stalks or leaves got through the process – it will be interesting to weigh it before and after cleaning.

Parts List
Round bin or bucket
Fine garden riddle (optional but makes life easier)
Garden trug / another bucket to store threshed grains in
M10 Threaded Bar x 1
M10 nuts x 8
M10 Washers x 4
Chain (long enough to reach from centre of bin to side) x 2
Flail Assembly
1.       Cut two lengths of chain to enable them to reach the side of the bin from the centre when spinning.
2.       Thread two nuts up the treaded bar followed by 1 of the washers
3.       Slide the chain against the washer followed by another washer and then 2 more nuts
4.       Tighten the nuts so they lock tightly against each other and clamp the chain tightly to prevent it moving.

5.       Repeat the process with the other piece of chain ensuring it is 180 degrees aligned with the first (to keep the flail balanced when spinning) 

Thank you Spence! What I love about this is that this is written by the other half of the couple that wrote the last last one on growing the quinoa - a real family concern! 

I also like the fact that he seems certain that his yield will be more due to a better threshing method, less grain will be left in the heads and chucked int he compost. they're going to borrow my seed cleaner and see what they come out with and I'll do the same with mine. I should be able to work out what I can grow per square foot to see if it really is worth growing as a self sufficiency staple. 

So let me know what you think! I'm sure you'll all agree that was a great blog post. 

How would you thresh a grain like this?

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Meat Birds At 10 Weeks Old

Really hard to get a good picture of these birds but you can see the growth they've had in just ten weeks

I think I'll be processing a good amount of these at the weekend as they seem to have reached a good size now.

I think for now I'll just be dry plucking by hand as I have very little equipment to help me, unless anyone else has any advice? 
I have been looking at the pluckers you can add to the end of a drill and using a hot water bath before hand. And by hot water bath I mean camping stove and a saucepan...

Depending on how processing goes I can see no reason why I won't be doing more birds like this next year!

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