Monday 31 August 2015

Fat Baby Achocha

Lots and lots of veg is ready at the moment. We had a massive dinner last night with lots of veg from the garden but there's lots of unusual stuff coming ready now as well. 
These Fat Baby Achocha's are just ready now in the greenhouse (with more nearly ready outside). They're a weird veg covered in little spines, but they're soft to the touch.

When you eat them they taste a little like a cucumber and I've read that you can cook and use them like a green pepper, although I'm yet to try that. They grow really well, and although they've taken a little bit of time to start fruiting I think a bit of that is down to the year we're having. They grow much like a cucamelon with a thin climbing vine that spreads everywhere given half a chance. 
The girls seem to like them and my youngest, who is just getting good at stringing words together to make sentences said:  "Good... With biscuit." when she tried one. I think I'll keep it firmly in the savoury camp for now! 
Who else has eaten this unusual veg? Does anyone have any tips for using it?

Sunday 30 August 2015

Back From A Weeks Holiday

We got back from our weeks holiday to the south coast yesterday feeling relaxed and refreshed. The break certainly felt hard earnt and it was nice to have a break from the daily chores of keeping this place running and working over the summer, it was also great to spend lots of time together as a family. 
The weather, on the other hand, wasn't great, but we had a few days of sun (well one full day!) and quite a where rain could have stopped play if we let it! 
We had a very typical English holiday and it reminded my wife and I of ones from our own childhoods - even where the car broke and I had to fix it (we could both tell stories of this happening when we were kids), with swimming on rainy days, wind swept beaches, fish & chips. 

Hopefully over the next week or so things will get back to normal. I have a few days of work left and then my wife is back off to work and I'm off again with the girls. I should have a bit more time to update the blog more regularly (I've been so busy I know I've neglected it this month), read and comment on my favourite blogs, and spend a bit more time in the garden and on the homestead. I've got produce coming out of my ears and I need to get stuck into preserving it, lots of projects to build in the workshop (for customers and for me), lambs to get killed & butchered, a porch to finish, the list goes on!

Anyone else had a good old fashioned holiday this year?

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Reverend W Wilkes

We're starting to get some apples and other fruit ready in the orchard and cordons.
Mum brought over a big bag of discovery apples but a few cookers are ready as well. Warmers King is normally the first we eat but this year we've also got some Reverend W Wilkes from my line of cordons. 

IIt's a slightly acidic cooking apple that is ready to use when it's slightly premature.  This one lifted off the tree with only the slightest bit of weight behind it. Like all early apples it won't keep,  but I've got plenty for that purpose, having an apple ready at the same time as the blackberries has it's advantages.
Its a spur bearer and slow grower, so perfect for a cordon if you're limited on space.

What early cooking apples do you have growing?

Saturday 22 August 2015

Garden Wall Progress

Not a very interesting post I'm afraid but I'd thought I show how the wall is coming on. 
Dill, the brick layer, managed to get here a few days this week so he's managed to get on quite well. I've been trying to make sure he's got the bricks ready where he needs them and everything else is ready for him, this should help keep costs down and make the job a little faster. 
Hopefully this will be another job off the list fairly soon! 

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Moving Young Chickens & Clipping Wings

 On Sunday we finally got round to moving the young chickens that we hatched out earlier in the year into their bigger pen. I got the electric netting back out, moved the coop with the tractor and gave them a nice new area to peck and scratch in. 
Before moving them I clipped their wings in an effort to try to keep them in their new pen, I doubt it will work but I live in hope!
The girls loved helping move the chickens

Moving the hens
Clipping wings

Teh girls getting the coop ready for the chickens

Hens and young cockerels enjoying their new pen

Fly my pretties! 
Out of the six that hatched I think we've only got two hens and one maybe (I'm not quite sure about the light coloured one!). But that means a few meals in a few weeks time.
How has everyone else got on with hacthing and breeding chickens this year?

Sunday 16 August 2015

Garden Wall Footings

A few weeks ago dad came over to help me rip down the old wall and put footings in to rebuild it properly. It didn't take much pulling down, we literally just pulled it down by hand. Who ever built this wall one skin thick was a little silly!  

The wall was hiding the neighbours beautiful sheds

Loading the dumper

I think I managed to catch the moment the digger broke perfectly 

Space was tight and worse when wee had to use the bigger digger

We dug out what we could by machine then the rest had to be done by hand.

New footings in

Still need the shuttering to be removed
It was a long day on the Sunday but we managed to get most of the soil out, I then had a few (a lot) hours hand digging as it was all so near to the soil pipe from the house. I had to construct some shutters in a few places before we could concrete on the Wednesday night (the 5th), unfortunately as I was doing this I slipped with the saw and cut into my thumb. 
I needed stitches and I was worried I damaged my tendon so had a little visit to A&E. I helped the nurse hold the wound open and we watch my tendon go back and forth with no visible signs of damage except a slight nic in it, I was lucky. She stitched it up for me and I got back home about 5.30. 
Dad already had a load of concrete mixing so it was a case of wrapping it in some plastic and getting stuck in. Luckily my brother turned up to lend a hand - it was half ten by the time we finished and we were all dead by the end!
I've had most of the bricks come to build the wall and I've moved them with the tractor off the drive. The brick layer, Dill, comes tomorrow so I need to move some bricks today to get ready.
Slowly getting through the jobs!  

Friday 14 August 2015

Swinging Gates

The sheep have eaten the hedges bare on the field they're in, and they seem to have dried up (milk wise), so I decided it was time they moved.  The trouble was I had to hang four gates first. 
I'd been putting the job off as I've not hung many gates, but to be fair it went fairly easily. I had a little generator going and my electric drill to drill the holes, didn't take that long once I was set up, but it was tricky trying to line up the hinges and gates on my own. 
The only downside is the one gate is on the footpath so I'm not holding out much hope in it staying shut everyday, I just hope the sheep don't get out if it's left open (some hope!). 
I think I've got more swinging gates on my little smallholding than Dad's whole farm! 

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Elephant Garlic Harvest

Harvested my first elephant garlic harvest last night - by head torch! 
I'm really pleased with the size of the bulbs and can't wait to try it.

Ten good sized bulbs and a plant pot full of bulblets which I plan to plant as well. I think if you grow those it takes two years instead of one to grow to full size - I'll do some more research before I plant them! 
Anyone else growing elephant garlic?

Monday 10 August 2015

Children's Picture Wall

I'm not sure where I got the idea for this but I'd been thinking about it for a while.

The girls create a lot of art work at the moment and I was really worried I was being a little dismissive with it. I'd put it somewhere to dry and then the odd bit would get stuck to the fridge, sometimes we wouldn't see some they'd done again as it would get added to the stack of pictures they'd draw or paint each week. 
I want them to show off what they've created and to let them know that we think it's great as well. I think encouraging creativity is really important, so when they see their pictures on the wall hopefully they'll want to do more, it'll also help to improve their fine motor skills as well (really useful as they'll be helping me on the homestead!). The youngest already holds a pen properly! 
 The wall is really simple but it means that nine pieces of work can go on the wall at any one time, even wet pictures can go up there to dry and I can keep adding pictures on top of each other until I decide to take some down to store for looking at when I'm old and grey! 
It cost £21 for this and I'm really pleased with it. The girls were desperate to put up their pictures as soon as I go the clip boards up.

What do you think? Do you have anything similar in your house?

Sunday 9 August 2015

What A Week!

Sorry again about the blog, I've been meaning to update it all week but it been manic. I've also not had chance to comment on anyone else's sorry.
So from last Sunday I've (with a bit of help from my dad and brother):

Knocked down the unsafe garden wall,
Dug new footings (a post on that coming soon),
Worked 5 days for two customers,
Met a fellow blogger (Dawn from Doing It For Ourselves In Wales)
Concreted the wall footings,
Cut my thumb so bad it needed stitches,
Ordered 3000 bricks,
Made a Frame and Cover for a neighbours well (a couple of late nights on that project!),
Trimmed the hedges so the brick lorry can get up the drive (they were getting really bad),
Worked on my brothers house and helped him batten out two walls,
Treated the lambs for fly strike again,
Managed to maintain my normal routine of checking and feeding animals and watering veg.

Hopefully this next week will be a bit quieter but I doubt it!

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Weaning The Lambs

First off sorry I've been rubbish with the blog lately - I've been so busy it's unreal! I'll make it up to you I promise! 

The lambs are getting big now and it's time to think about having some for the freezer and selling a few. To make it easier on myself and the sheep I decided it was time to wean them and last week I moved them all on to a small field so they could eat it right back. The plan was for the lambs to go on a fresh patch and the ewes to go back onto the dry bit so they could "dry off". 
Separating them up
 It took ages to get them in as I had to drive them through a patch of fresh grass to get to the pen - they weren't very keen! Even with my three helpers I thought I might not manage it at one point.
I then drenched all the lambs (for worms) and separated them from the ewe.
My helpers on Friday evening
 I don;t think the ewes were too impressed to end up back in the bare field again but it won;t be long before they have fresh grass. The sheep didn't make as much fuss as I thought they would with weaning this year, I remember growing up there would always be one mother and lamb that would do anything to be together.
The ewes seemed quite pleased not to have lambs butting them for milk any more.
 Well when I checked them in the morning I discovered I spoke too soon. One lamb had found his way back and was looking rather pleased with himself, I did doubt myself and thought maybe we'd missed one when we were sorting them.
I was more than a little annoyed as the last thing I wanted was to get them in again. It had to wait until Sunday morning anyway as I had work to go to on the Saturday.
The lambs on their own for the first time. 
Sunday morning came and I made a new pen, rounded up the sheep on foot and then carried a 35kg lamb across the field on my shoulder, swearing the whole way (the girls weren't with me) to put him back with the other lambs. I then go back to the house for breakfast come outside again afterwards and see the lamb trotting across the field. I felt like shooting him! I managed to catch him then carry him across the field again, this time finding new swear words, as he decided to struggle the whole way and gave me a few bruises as thanks. This time I checked the fences and found where he'd got through, I guess I was lucky more hadn't gone with him!
By the way anyone who wants constant exercise try keeping sheep!
The bare field for the ewes to dry off on
Hopefully the ewes will dry off alright on this field and the lambs have already found their way to fresh grass in theirs and seem quite happy.
Does everyone else (who has or had sheep) wean their animals before they sell off the lambs?

Saturday 1 August 2015

Pantry Storage Door

Made a door this week for a friends pantry. They wanted more easily organised storage and liked the idea of my can rotator door, but don't want to keep so many cans.

 We sketched up a design with a can rotator on one side and adjustable shelves on the other. Construction was to be simply ply and Planed softwood as the door is going to be painted when it's finished. A key part of these doors is that they have to open outwards and have a fairly substantial fame or lining to fix to to take the weight. Heavy duty hinges are also a must. 

Construction in progress

Rebating the sides so it'll open without binding on the frame. 

Fitted door from the outside

Door fitted and open

Filled with some food! 
The cans on the right hand side dispense like the door I made, so you always use the oldest one first. The shelves on the left are fully adjustable to accommodate whatever you want to. 

They're going to paint the outside in blackboard paint to give a great area for children to draw on and the ply on the inside will probably be left bare.

Who else wants me to make them one of these doors? A great way to increase your storage space and to be better organised. 
I like to encourage everyone to store a little more food. 
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