Wednesday 30 September 2015

Baking With Little Ones

There are few better things that you can do with a little one than baking.
In my experience they love it. The youngest was so proud of her cake and loved telling her mum that she'd helped with it.

Also a raspberry cake like this is a great way of using up some of the raspberries! 
Really easy recipe, just a standard sponge mix with 200g of raspberries added in at the end and a couple teaspoons of vanilla essence., tastes amazing though!  

Monday 28 September 2015

For The Love Of Baler Twine - A New Pen

I managed to get the tow bar fitted on my van last week, so hopefully I'll be selling some lambs soon! In the meantime I'm trying to find as much grass as I can for them. I got offered an extra 2 acres of grass last week but as they're digging some of it up in the next week or so (they're building a house) it won't be available until next year, so I'm trying to make sure we make the most of what we have.
The over grown pig pen - no pigs till next year though!
 One patch of land that's been underutilised is the pig pen that I fenced off. We didn't get any pigs this year so it's been sat there just growing grass, it's a good size, under the oak trees. So I've made a path out of gates, an off cut of wire and plenty of baler twine. 
The track between the fields - this little pass was planned so it can be an easy pen for the sheep

Make shift pass for the lambs to get in the pig pen 
Didn't take long for the lambs to find their way in! 
It gives them an extra bit of grass and keeps another area tidy, hopefully next year we'll get some pigs and they'll keep it tidy instead. 
Anyone else go mad with baler twine to block off areas? I'm not happy unless every gateway has at least a bit of baler twine on it!

Friday 25 September 2015

Juggling Fields

Still trying to juggle the grass we've got left. I've had to keep the lambs longer than I thought as I've had no means to get them to the abattoir or to market.
 So I've moved the lambs back to where the sheep were last month. Ideally I would have liked to leave it a little longer to let the grass grow back but they've got nothing left where they were. Trouble was I had to get the lambs through a field with the sheep in, I decided to shut them in the neighbours shed briefly and run the lambs past. It worked surprisingly well.
The lambs are better off near to the house as hopefully next week we can start to lessen their numbers, some killed for us and some sold at market. I managed to fit the tow bar on the van yesterday so there's no excuse now, just need a trailer!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Camera Troubles - What Compact Do You Have?

Sorry I've not been posting as much lately. I'm finding it really hard since my little compact camera died.
I've got three different ways of taking a  picture, either with my phone, which is rubbish quality (an Iphone wouldn't last five minutes with me), with my SLR, which is great quality but too big to keep on me at all times, or with my compact camera, which I normally keep in my pocket.
The compact camera has to put up with a lot of abuse, I take it everywhere with me, and I take around 500+ photo's a month (much to my families annoyance!) but a few weeks ago it gave up the ghost and went the same way as my previous one, the lens stopped coming out and it would bleep in defiance at me. 
I've gotten through two Panasonic Lumix cameras in the last six years or so but I still think they're a good camera for what they have to endure, they take good pictures with a wide(ish) lens and the batteries last a long time.
 I think I'll buy second-hand this time as I'm not bothered if I have the latest model or not, but I was wondering what other people used and how you rate them for the type of abuse I subject my things to?

Friday 18 September 2015

Porch Progress - Fascia, Felt And Batten

Progress with the porch has been slow to say the least. Taking on too much work over the summer and starting other jobs has meant that I've not had much time lately to tackle it . Luckily my mum has come for a few days to look after the children (and do a bit of weeding) whilst I try to get a bit further with my projects. 
 The last time I did a post about the porch it was when I put the timber work up for the roof. Since then Dill has finished the brickwork and I've added the fascia & barge board and sofit as well as felt and battening the roof to make it almost waterproof from the top (I still need to add the lead flashing against the wall). 
 I splashed out with the timber for the barge and fascia and brought rough sawn Accoya that I planned up. This wood is meant to be some of the most durable out there due to the way it's been treated and I have very little intention of redoing the timber work on this porch anytime soon! 
The detailing takes the time

Hopefully things should move a little faster now. next I need to get the windows ordered and tiles for the roof, fit a new front door, insulate the ceiling and clean up all the reclaimed quarry tiles I've got for the floor. 
Breaking something like this into little jobs is the best way in my head to make it seem manageable.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Could A Robot Take Your Job?

Bit of fun for a Wednesday, I saw this on the BBC Website and it has a search engine where it predicts if your job could be replaced by a robot in the next 20 years.
My job, a Carpenter Joiner, is fairly likely to be replaced by robots with an apparent 72% chance of it happening. Can't see them doing the kind of carpentry that I do but we'll wait and see! 

Click the link below and then tell me if you're going to be replaced!

What do you think, is more automation a good thing or does it just increase wealth into the rich?

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Disappointing Tomatoes This Year

My garden has suffered this year as my attention has been on other projects (and lots of them). But mostly it's done pretty well as I gave it the right amount of love at the right time. 
Not true in the greenhouse this year unfortunately. 
This years plants 
 They plants have limped along and there is a number of factors that are to blame (most could have been prevented by me).
  • The nettles behind the greenhouse have formed a screen blocking out a load of light. This has had a massive impact and reduced their growing by loads. - Next year I will keep on top of them (not literary) 
  • I didn't feed them enough, last year I fed the plants every other day, for months. This year I kept forgetting and haven't done it so often. -  I still think my homemade food is good, but I need to apply it more than I have.
  • My soil mix was good but I don't think the cheap B&Q compost was up to much this year. Anything planted with it hasn't done as well as last year.  - I need to find and stick to a more expensive brand of compost rather than just going for the cheapest and then being disappointed by the results.
  • This summer isn't as sunny as last year. - Not much I can do about that one! 

Last years a month earlier
How has everyone else done with tomatoes? Hope you've had a better harvest than me! 

Sunday 13 September 2015

The Hedgehog Fiasco

Now this little fiasco is nothing to do with the fact that the stuffed animal below is a badger. My eldest calls it Hedgehog and it is one of her most beloved toys. Many an evening has been spent looking for this little bugger before the girls will go to bed. 
His small size and subtle camouflage make him perfect at hiding in the messy jungle that is our living room. His frequent hiding places include toy handbags, pushchairs, behind cushions on the sofa , inside shoes. Anywhere to keep us guessing (and swearing) really. 
The one and only "Hedgehog" 
 His little tricks did go up a notch somewhat the day we got back from holiday. 
That night we put the girls to bed and had to say that Hedgehog was playing hide and seek and they could play to find him in the morning. That bought us a little more time. We came down and went through all our luggage, checked the car, anywhere we could think of. 
We both fell into the sofa and looked at each other. 
Hedgehog was gone.
On the way back from holiday we'd stopped at a big stately home for a picnic, it was the last time either of us could remember seeing him, he must have fell out of the car.
Now I'm not one to anthropomorphize stuffed objects but I did feel a little sorry for the furry little guy that night, lay in a field somewhere, but I also felt a little bit crap as a father knowing my little girl was going to be so upset the next day.
I hatched a plan. 
We brought Hedgehog from a National Trust property a year or so ago. That next morning I rang round a few local National Trust properties and found one that had a toy Hedgehog badger that matched Hedgehogs description. 
As soon as they opened I was off. Within an hour I was back with a much fluffier version of the toy we all loved. I even kept him in the footwell of the car and kicked him round a bit to dirty him up. 
I then loaded the washing machine and chucked Hedgehog The Second in with it. I called my daughter over to help me get the washing out. 
She found him. 
She looked at him, saying nothing.
Then looked at us.
Seconds ticked by.
She looked back at Hedgehog.
Had we been rumbled?
"Hedgehog got fat." She  finally said
"He's just fluffy from hiding in the washing machine" I said "Silly Hedgehog"
"Yeah, silly Hedgehog" replied my eldest. "Tonight I won't cuddle him, I'll sleep on him to make him thin again"
I slept contented that night that I'd been a good dad and kept my girl happy. 
The imposter 
The next day at work my wife text me.
" Just been presented with a skinny Hedgehog "Look mummy, he's all skinny again!" Don't know where she found him. Little £$%£!"

Guess we hadn't lost him after all.


Friday 11 September 2015

I Keep Trying To Organise

One thing I'm always short of is time, and nothing frustrates me more than wasting time looking for things. 
I keep my van fairly organised and I know where everything is when I'm working - a place for everything and everything in it's place. But at home things are a different matter at the moment. 
My workshop was getting full with timber left over from jobs, stuff too good to chuck away or cut up for firewood but then not needed at that moment. My workshop isn't huge so I'd end up tripping over stuff or having to work in one little area because of it and as I take on more and more workshop work it's becoming an issue.
My storage shed next door to the workshop was no better. It had building materials for the extension, feed for the chickens and lots of odds and sods. I decided the other night to clean it out. 
It took me a few hours and a good few bags of rubbish but I got there in the end. Then I got my brother to come over with some shelves (dad had brought a job lot) which I could then use as a timber store. 
The shelves are heavy duty (near the maximum of what we could lift) but they are perfect for storing timber on. I removed lots of the slats so the timber could breathe, one is 9ft long and one 8ft, perfect for the oak and joinery pine I've got for different jobs customers want.  I'm going to add some 4" pipe to store mouldings in and a section down the side for ply wood. 
The workshop also feels like a different place with lots of space to assemble things and move stuff about. 
What about you? Do you keep organised to make the most of your time or do you wish you were better at it?

Thursday 10 September 2015

Crap Wellies

I wear wellies a lot. 
And I mean A LOT.
Growing up I wore them so much that I had a lump on my foot (the same as my dad) so we both went to the doctor and he decided that it was just a massive callus on both of our feet! 
The callus is no longer there but I still wear them every day and lately I've been getting frustrated. 
They all seem crap.
 Cheap pairs don't last me long so I splashed out and brought some Argyll wellies. 
My verdict on these? 
Still crap. 
 They've lasted me six months and now they've split on the seams so I get a wet foot and the top is all pulling apart. 
 Another set I've had is a cheap pair.
 These split at the back from normal use (I can understand if I spiked them with something).
So I'm trying steel toe caped Dunlop wellies this time and see how they fair.
Who else wears them a lot and have you come up with a good make that will last through daily use?

Monday 7 September 2015

Abundance Of Fruit

Unfortunately it's not here but at my parents farm. I went for the first time in two months on Friday (I know I'm a bad son!) and the little orchard I planted years ago is doing brilliantly. Plenty of early fruit.

 My mum, the girls and me walked round eating different apples (discoveries and Worcesters) plums and greengages. I had to slow the girls down at one point or they'd get bad bellies!

 The early fruit seems to be doing the best in there this year although there is plenty of fruit for later in the season. I need to get the food drier out and start drying some again, and maybe think about attempting to can some! 
Has everyone else got a heavy crop of early apples?

Saturday 5 September 2015

Trying To Manage The Grass For The Sheep

I'm trying to manage what little grass we seem to have at the moment so we'll have some fresh grass to flush the ewes on when it comes time for tupping (that's not yet - I want to lamb late).

Two little helpers
(sorry about quality of my photos they're off my phone as my little camera has broken)
At the moment only the big field (about 6 acres) has any amount of fresh grass on. So rather than give them the whole lot I split it in half (where an old hedge used to be) using electric fencing. It's been a few years since I put any electric fencing up but I certainly hadn't forgotten how to do it. When I was at school in the autumn dad used to pick up my brother and I, we'd get changed in the school car park and then go move fencing in different fields that we rented. The girls enjoyed helping but I did make them walk along way - up and down with me each time they were pretty tired by the end. 
Then yesterday morning I got up early and got the sheep in, drenched them for worms and put them out on the fresh grass (all before the wife left for work at 7). A few are looking a little thin and have lost a bit of condition so I want to fatten them a little bit. I also need to be keeping a look out for a good tup for sale to run with my ladies soon. 

Happy sheep on new grass

Drench and gun

The old field was looking a bit bare

Settled in their new patch
Hopefully the two little fields I've just taken them off will recover enough now to have some fresh grass in a month or so. It's another juggling act and one where it will take a bit of learning. Each patch has different grass and conditions and it all grows back at different rates and is weather dependant so it'll take me a few years to learn how long each patch will last when the sheep move in and how long it takes to come back. 
Who else has to constantly juggle their stock into different fields to manage their grassland? Although it is more labour intensive it is a much better way to manage the land I have here and I'll get much more from the land in the long run because of it. 

Friday 4 September 2015

What Can You do To Help?

Completely off topic but it's all I could think about last night.
I'm not a hugely charitable man, I know that, but there are some things that make you stop and think. The refugee crisis from Syria is one of those things. 
I can't shake that picture of that little boy, who is the same age as my eldest girl (3), lying on the beach, face down in the sand, out of my head.
Nor should I. 
The father, a man like me but from another country, lost his other son (5) and his wife that day. I can't imagine what he's going through. He's lost everything, he hasn't even got friends and family around to support him as he grieves. 
To ignore what is happening to other human beings on this earth is terrible and I do feel a little helpless as to what I can do to help. There is a good article in the Independent about five practical ways you can help and I hope you join me in doing something, however small. 

Thursday 3 September 2015

Summer Of Work Finished

 Today my wife goes back to work so I'm back looking after these two little terrors! 
The summer has been stupidly busy with plenty of (paying) work and still lots for me to catch up on even now.  I've did my usual and took on far too much and things here have suffered a bit. The garden isn't looking as good as it should be, but I have kept on top of looking after the animals and other projects like the porch have just stood still. 
My weekends are booked for quite a while yet with more work, it's a viscous circle really as I need to work for the money to do the projects but because I'm working I can't do the projects themselves! I'm sure I'll catch up at some point.
Who else is struggling for time to do things?

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Fixing the Car When On Holiday

It had to happen whilst we were away, the car broke. Not seriously but the electronic boot catch stopped working, a bit annoying when you're on holiday and using the boot (trunk to the Americans) lots. Luckily it was just after I got all our luggage into the holiday house.

Now I've got no idea why this catch is electronic as the switch is just above the catch and a button would do the job just as well, but I guess a button has less chance of going wrong so a repair is less likely, or maybe I'm just being pessimistic. 

Boot stripped of covers
Googling the problem showed it to be a fairly common fault with two options an easy fix or a tricky one. I hoped for the first one and checked the fuses under the bonnet and in the boot. None had gone, this meant it was the harder fix. 
Switch at the bottom
I had to strip off all the covers to expose the switching mechanism. So I went and brought a set of screwdrivers and bits and set to work. I used a large flat head screwdriver to manually open the boot and then it didn't take me too long to have it all apart so I could see what the problem was. I think that the switch was pressing against the metal work of the boot and this caused it to stop working. So using my girls scissors I cut some plastic spacers out of a yoghurt pot and put them in before putting it all back together again. 
It worked fine then and we could get the pushchair out of the car when we wanted - a big deal when you're on holiday with two little ones! 
It's funny because the thought of taking the car to the garage to get it fixed didn't even cross my mind and I'm sure my wife didn't even think to suggest it! 
i guess I try to be as self reliant as possible on holiday as well as at home. (next time I'll take a few more tools with me though!)
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