Sunday 27 December 2015

Recovering From Christmas Excess

Starting to feel normal again after Christmas now. My stomach can't take another chocolate and I've put the rest of the turkey in the freezer to make curries with another day. We've got one Christmasey day left then its back to normal, working Tuesday to hopefully burn off some excess. 
I had a bit of time today organising my workshop and van ready for a busy start to next year, the baby could come at any time so keeping organised is key at the moment. 
 Today I had a walk out round the fields and it's so wet! The sheep are currently on vacation at my fathers farm and it's a good job as I think they'd sink. I left muddy foot prints across fresh grass, ditches are running like streams and the brook is almost across the road. Still we're much luckier than many across the country. 
I need to start putting some thought into where I'm going to lamb as the ewes have been tupped and are due in April sometime! 

I got some great presents over Christmas but who can tell me what these are:

And it you've already seen this question on facebook please don't answer! 

Friday 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas!!!!!

Merry Christmas everyone! 
I hope you've had a magical morning like we have!

Our two princesses
(just don't look at the mess of the garden in the background!)
I used to think being a child at Christmas was the most magical thing ever, but being a parent with young children tops it I think! 
Hope everyone has a great day and eats lots of turkey! 

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Small Batch Preserving

First off a quick apology to say sorry about my blog silence for the last week or so. I've been trying to get a job somewhere near finished before Christmas, I've been doing some late nights and I'm looking forward to having a bit of time off over Christmas. 

Last week I met up with Kirsty for one of my last play dates as a stay-at-home-dad. 
Before I went I emptied the freezer and grabbed all the berries taking up space. We decided to have another preserving day and see what we could make with four kids running around. 
 I think we did pretty well, we made red onion chutney, black currant jam, gooseberry jam and red currant jam. In total we made 32 jars and canned some in mason jars so it will last even longer. 
Divvying up at the end I felt really proud of food we'd created that will last for a long time. I'm really getting into the whole canning thing now and I'm looking forward to canning lots next year, I think a pressure canner will have to be on the cards at some point! 

Tuesday 15 December 2015

What To Watch Over Christmas?

With a forced slow down ahead of me (baby due 8th of January) I'm wondering what I'll watch. I've been doing a lot of late night lately (11 O'clock last night on a job in Malvern - I must be mad) and I do plan on taking some actual time off between Christmas and New Year (finishing the porch is time off right?) and when the baby comes. 
I don't watch huge amounts of TV but as I've posted before when I do I tend to lean more towards YouTube than what's on the actual TV, so I thought I'd share what I've watched over the last few months whilst I've been cooking tea in the evenings and then maybe you guys could give me some good ideas what to add to my playlist afterwards.

Jas Townsend And Son Inc - This channel is about 18th century cooking and I find it really interesting as they use many cooking methods and recipes. I particularly like how they cook with wood fired ovens and the different cooking vessels they use.

Colin Furze - This guy was paid by Sky to do what he'd do if there was an upcoming apocalypse. He built a bunker in his back garden. The videos are quite good fun, with rock music playing, good editing and he doesn't do things by half! They will make you smile!

American Homestead - I'll forgive them for sounding like my blog name because their videos are so good. Based in the Ozarks these guys are proper off grid homesteaders. They do them as episodes over the summer months and each one is really interesting and you can pick up many tips from them by watching. Their aquaphonic system is a really impressive set up. all the videos have a good level of humour in them as well, I'm surprised they haven't been picked up by a TV company yet as I've been watching them for two years.

The Market Gardener - I know I've mentioned these videos and his book on here before but I think they're so good I'll mention them again. this guy does organic gardening with a scientific approach. I hope this is the future of how our veg are grown but I doubt it will be.

Ray Mears - I don't need to say much more other than that really, this guy is a legend and I particularly like his series on how the wild west was won, seeing it from the view of all sides and hwo hard it was for them to survive.

Chicken Moat -This video has given me an idea that I might be doing next year if I ever find the time. It could be the solution to the messy edges around my veg garden!

Rich Hall - This is an American comic who does well over here. A few years ago he did a series of documentary on the way we Brits see America. The one about native Americans is particularly good and done in a style that I find really entertaining, serious with a very dry humour.

So what does everyone have to recommend to me? I had some great recommendations last time I asked about this so I look forward to hearing what you say.

Friday 11 December 2015

One Week Left...

I'm on the countdown at the moment, I've only got one week left of being a stay at home dad until my wife breaks up from work for her maternity leave. 
This means that I'll be going back to work full time until at least September next year.

So much less of this:
The girls enjoying the spoils of my jam making! 
 And more of this:
Although hopefully I won't look this grumpy all the time!
And this:

Some of the flooring I've been laying lately
So I've got a week of play dates, meeting friends and last minute things to do before I go back to work, and a list of things I should have done as well. To be honest I've been working all I can in any spare moment, so to reduce my night time working (11 most night this week) might not be a bad thing, but I know I'm going to miss spending so much time with the girls and being here so much. 

One thing I am planning on doing is to make more from home to sell on-line. 
So any ideas of wooden things to be made to order that you've struggled to find in the past, let me know. I'm trying to build a list of items I can make in the workshop to keep me at home more. 

Monday 7 December 2015

Buying Spices

Spices are an essential bit of the pantry and if you like to keep a good stock of food in the house then keeping a good stock of spices is pretty sensible as well. 
I was running low on a couple of spices I use quite a bit the other day and I was reluctant to buy them from the supermarket in tiny little pots at inflated prices, so I decided to have a look on line and see what the prices were if I wanted to buy a larger quantity. 
When looking I came across "The Spiceworks", based in one of our nearest cities, Hereford (about 30 minutes away). They had a great range and came out much cheaper than the supermarket, so I ordered a few things from them to try them out before I place a much larger order (to be honest I'll probably go into the store in person, I'm not one for shopping but a shop full of spices sounds too interesting to pass up!).
I ordered Cinnamon (which was £2.99 off eBay but only £1.76 direct from their site for 100g) and Ras El Hanout, which is a Moroccan spice mix I've been using a lot lately on meat. I love the taste of it rubbed into chicken, pork or lamb before cooking, it's got lots of different flavours in there with roses petals and lavender flowers, great way to make a normal meal taste a little different. 
The parcel turned up on Friday and it had to be the best smelling one I've ever received! te spices smell amazing and I can't wait to use them. 

What spices do you keep in your pantry/food store and what quantity do you keep? 
What couldn't you do without? Any you grow yourself? Any special mixes you keep for making meal times a bit more interesting?

Saturday 5 December 2015

Alliums - How Many To Plant?

My leeks are looking very proud and big this year, it's crop I seem to have nailed and I've been really pleased as I've started to dig them up. 
When I start to use a crop like this that's been growing for months I always start to wonder if I've grown enough. I have one 10ft by 4ft bed full of leeks but I'm sure if we ate them with more gusto it wouldn't last us until march. The onions in the shed are already running low but I knew I didn't have enough of those planted to last us out. 
In fact I think alliums are a really tricky one to grow the right amount. I currently have two complete beds taken up with next years crops, garlic and shallots, that's without having room for my onions or next years leeks. Out of 16 beds total in rotation that's a lot of space currently being dedicated to them. 
When I cook I tend to use them a lot, most meals I cook use an onions and garlic, probably three or four out of five meals, so over a year that means I'd need about 300 without allowing for spoilage, making preserves or large meals when friends or family come round. I know that shallots can bridge the gap a little bit and I need to be better at using them but due to how much longer they take to prepare I tend to use them only where a recipe calls for it. 
The other downside is the fact that they are a fairly low value crop and the taste isn't hugely different to what you'd get in the shops (although I know how I grew them). If you were short on space I'd suggest leaving out the common onion for more exotic crops, although they are strangely satisfying to grow. 
So how much space to delicate to the lowly allium in your veg garden? If you were going for self sufficiency how many do you think you'd need?

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Trees Down And Finding Time

I finished working at eleven last night, laying a large oak floor for a customer. So with a rare morning to myself I decided to do a few jobs around the homestead and have a walk around the fields to clear my head, something I haven't done for a little while in the light! 
Making a door this morning in the workshop as a bit of R&R - I'm a weird one. 
Of course this little walk resulted in more work! Two trees down, one on one of my new fences. There is another tree that looks like it's unsafe so I spoke to the neighbours about dropping it when the weather improves just so it's safe. It's only poplar so the wood is not of high value. Luckily neither tree are on land I own just rent but it will still need to be sorted out. 

Working again tonight so might be a bleary eyed in the morning but I've got so much work to do before Christmas I'm trying to fit it in wherever I can. Sorry if the blog is a little sporadic again!
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