Sunday 31 July 2016

Extension Progress - Footings Dug!

Major milestone today, my dad and I dug the footings for the extension. It's been a long time leading up to this, with work on the patio, boiler and drainage all having to happen first.  

A picture of our future kitchen! 
It took us the morning to get them dug out and I'm so happy that it's done now. 
I've booked the building inspector to come round on Tuesday and hopefully we'll pour the concrete on Wednesday.
I do think we've dug them a little deep, but I'd rather that than too shallow and for the sake of a little extra concrete it's not the end of the world. I can't wait to get this project moving upwards! 

Saturday 30 July 2016

Patio Progress - Stone Down

Stone down, pipes hidden! 
This feels like a major milestone for the patio, it's looked a mess for a long time so it's nice to have moved forward with it. Dad's helped me every step of the way with this, he's my expert digger driver and he's always pushing me to get more done in a day, he'll think nothing of starting to concrete something at nine at night!
Here's what's gone on in the last week or so with the patio, most of it over last weekend ( I also had my brother help me one night to get the stone down, I'd be lost without my family on jobs like this!)
Before picture - it's looked like this since November last year! 
Pipe work and ducting to the boiler
Drainage pipe in to pick up from the extension

Levelling the ground before adding the top layer of stone

Grading off

Adding some concrete against the retaining wall for extra strenght

Concrete added to the edges 

Weed membrane down then stone added to the top 

As usual we had a little bit of digger trouble! Track tensioner broke, not a difficult fix luckily!  

Stone then scalpings added and wackered down  to give us a firm base to lay the slabs on

Another view of how far we've got with the patio

We can only get half of the patio in at the moment as the extension needs to go in before we can do the other half, but at least this way we can get somewhere to eat outside again, we've really missed out outside meal times! 
What do you think to our progress so far? What type of slabs or finish would you go for up on our patio?

Friday 29 July 2016

Children Picking Veg For Dinner

Although I've not been able to get into the garden as much as I would like lately I have been enjoying seeing the girls in the garden picking stuff for tea.
Our back garden is like a building site at the moment, it'll look much better next year! 
 These are pictures from Monday when they went to pick the veg for a tea, My wife said she's not had to pod a single bean yet, they love sitting there and podding them all and then eating them a little while later once cooked. 
So proud of their pickings. 
They did make me laugh last night when my wife had to do an extra vegetable with tea, because while she was picking some herbs they were pulling up carrots on their own! I love the fact they know which were carrots just by looking at their leaves (they're only two and four). 
Carrots harvested by themselves! 

My eldest was also making me proud the other night when we were at my brothers and she was naming all the herbs and strawberry plants on his patio. 
It's amazing how much they know already! 
Don't let these girls into your garden if you want any veggies left! 

Thursday 28 July 2016

Eden Channel Four - Episode Two

I'm continuing to enjoy this new series by Channel four, the second episode was really interesting. If you don't watch it then I wouldn't bother reading the rest of this post!

I always enjoy seeing social dynamics develop and there has been some strong characters coming out of the woodwork.

The first one of these is Anton, the 40 year old survival trained guy. he's clearly not comfortable living with the group and I have a feeling that he thought it was going to be a much more "survival" affair and I think this is partly why he's gone off to live in the woods. I can't help but like the fellow for striking out on his own but then I wonder how much he's contributing to the group, like working in the garden to provide food. If he wants to continue to take a ration then I hope that the house building is in his own time not the 6 hour working day they agreed on, that said I think the group should be more accepting of his ideas and allow him some material to build it.

Tom is the other very strong character that's emerged so far. He's a natural leader in some ways that he does business, like organising everyone for work each day, but then he also seems very bitchy, with whispers of what people are up to and who's not pulling their weight. He's also seems to have it in for Anton and I get he feeling that if it's not what he want then he'll whine and moan about it.

Stephen the chef seems like a top guy, keeping everyone happy with great food, but then I felt that he inflamed the situation with Anton with how he approached him in the wood. I do think that this guy is going to be a key player through the whole thing though.

I still think that construction has taken too much priority over food. The garden and stock should be the important thing to start with, not building a steam lodge or a tepee. it would only take the pigs a night time of feasting to ruin all their gardening and hard work which could cut the whole thing short.

I was also disappointed with the junk food delivery by boat. The last thing I want to watch is Big Brother or the programme to go anywhere near it.

One thing I've been mulling over in my mind about the whole experiment is peoples places in Eden and how that would work. I think how would I place myself in there, as a carpenter that would be my role but I know I'd want to be in the garden and with the stock just as much. Do the people with the "important" trades get an opportunity to do other things or are they pigeon holed into their trade and have to run that area of Eden?

What did you think of the second episode?

What would your role be in Eden?

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Amazon Drone Delivery A Bad Idea

Now I'm no Luddite, but I heard about this new drone delivery system from Amazon that is stepping up it's testing after being given approval from the UK Government. 
Under the new rules they no longer need line of sight contact with their drones 

Sometimes my minds boggles at why anyone can think an idea is a good one, this is one of those times.

First of all who would this benefit if it worked? Only impatient consumers who can't wait for a next day delivery and the shareholders at Amazon.

There is also a small few in very isolated areas that could benefit from these deliveries as well (I imagine in the outback in Australia or similar if they had the range).

And for the negative - it would take away jobs, delivery drivers would be massively impacted by this.

 There would be increased noise and it would make our air space much more dangerous. Not only that but it would be only a matter of time before one of these fell out of the sky and killed someone. 

I would imagine that it would have an affect on wildlife as well if there was hundreds of these things bussing around the skies.

Then there's the privacy issue as everything it sees in the air through it's cameras would be recorded and I have no doubt that data would be sold to the highest bidder.

And the theft issue, if someone with an unscrupulous background saw one of these flying above them, it would be easy to chase it, watch where it lands and steal the package, there is even talk of them being hacked in the sky and flown away. 

What is your opinion on these?
I'm not saying I encourage it but it they were knocked out of the sky I don't think I would see it as a bad thing! 

Monday 25 July 2016

Seven Years Married

Seven years ago today I married the most amazing woman I've ever met. 
 Our wedding day was the most perfect day ever. We had a marque on my parents farm and had perfect weather even though it had been raining for weeks before hand ad were joined by all our friends and family. 

It seems mad that so much time has passed already, seven years seemed to have flown by, in fact the 14 we've been together seemed to have! 
Now it's mad to imagine our life then and how different it was before children, this place and how much free time we used to have.
I know I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. 
Thank you to my wife for putting up with me for all those years! I love her more everyday.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Changing A Tap & A Wet T-Shirt

The tap in the picture below has bugged me for the last four and a half years. 
This is because previously it was upside down, nothing would connect properly and hose pipes would kink. 
Of course it's easy to put a job like that off. I've had the washer on the shelf for three of those years but never got round to it. So Friday night I had a spare half hour and decided to tackle it. 

I lay down on the kitchen and contorted myself into a weird shape with an outstretched arm to get to the stop tap under the kitchen units. I then shouted my wife to come and put the tap on and tell me when the water was off.

I should be able to tell which way is on and off fairly easily (righty tighty - lefty loosy and all that) but whether it was the angle my body was at or something else I turned it the wrong way. This (although she denies it) coupled with my wife's dry sense of humour meant that as I turned the tap the wrong way, my wife also turned the kitchen tap off, making me think I'd turned the water off. 

She then said nothing as I went outside with some spanners and took the tap off the wall. 
I got blinking soaked and couldn't figure out why the water was still coming out! I thought it was just what was left in the pipes to start with. I then had to get back under the kitchen units to actually turn off the tap once I figured this out (the other way this time!). Before going back outside and changing the tap for a new one and adding a washer to turn it the right way round.

Good job it was a hot day! 

Something I should have done years ago as it only took about half an hour! 

Who else has a job they've put off for ages? 
Who else's partner has got them into trouble like that?

Saturday 23 July 2016

Supernanny In Our House...

Loved all the comments yesterday, I'm glad I'm not alone in my thinking!

As we've been talking a lot about the upbringing and behaviour of children this week I though I'd share this little gem with you. 

Sol Shared a link yesterday about supernanny US, with some pretty flaky parenting, and it made me remember the UK  episode below.

What I really like about this episode is that it is filmed in our old house! 

Don't worry it doesn't involve us though - this all took place the year before we moved into that village. Within a few days of us being there a neighbour dropped off a DVD of the episode and told us to watch it. It was funny to see our house in such a different setting and to look up at the ceiling and see the dents made by the children as they through their tantrums. Also just look at the colour of the walls, first thing we did was paint the kitchen!

We certainly picked up some hints from watching supernanny in the past, I have to admit to really liking the woman, although it must be a last resort to have your troubles put onto TV. 

What do you think, are you a fan of supernanny? 

Has anything ever been filmed in your house?

Friday 22 July 2016

Off Grid Parents?

Now, without wanting to jump on any band wagons (although I know I am), I read about this family and couldn't help but write about it to see what others think. 
In short they're a family of four that practice what they call "off grid parenting". Some of what she mentions in the video is just normal parenting anyway but some is pretty far to the left.

They have two children, one is a child of five who still breast feeds, no bed times for either or times to wake up and they don't believe in medicines or vaccines of any sort other than lemon juice for a cold or breast milk for an eye infection. They say that in terms of parenting and rules that they don't really have any. 

All this I can live with, each to their own and all that, even if I disagree with some of it (anyone that thinks breast feeding at that age is natural wants to look in the natural world and see how many animals are still breast feeding that far into life, especially when they have a younger sibling).

And I do think that what they've done is to be controversial to get media coverage (and coverage from blogs as well I guess - but I know I'm reacting to something that has been created to make me react so it's alright - if that makes sense.)

All this is their own choice so i think fair play to them in some respect, and I know that they're getting a certain amount of social media backlash which I think every family would want to avoid and they may be regretting their decision to go public with all of this at this moment but there is one thing that is really bugging me about it and it could be the reason they've suddenly appeared in the media - they're asking for money to start up their self sufficient life in Costa Rica from total strangers read their funding page here, although you do get an ebook in return for your donation, once it's been written. 

They want £100,000 to start their life over there to become self sufficient. 

So would you going to donate or do you think that the money should be earnt from the sweat off their brow to live the way they want to?

What do you think? 

Thursday 21 July 2016

You're Not A Beautiful And Unique Snowflake

I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments on the blog yesterday and it kept making me think of a quote from one of my favourite books- 

“You are not special. You're not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We're all part of the same compost heap. We're all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”

If you've never read the book or watched the film I strongly advise you to. 
It is graphically violent (so be warned!) but it's so much more than that, there are lines in the book that have stayed with me since I've read them. 
It looks at our society, consumerism and a rejection of being spoon fed a life that is defined by what car you drive, and instead going out and changing things for ourselves. I'm not going to spoil it if you haven't watched it but I'll leave with one more quote from the book - 

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need.” 

Who else loves this book and film? Do you think it's a good social commentary?

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Bringing Up A Nation Of Mommas' Boys?

I was reading a blog the other day that was about what they were calling the "snowflake generation" (If you follow my Facebook page you might have already seen the link). In short it's about some young adults that are still acting like children and the one wanting to be called "princess" as that's what her daddy called her!

It really struck a cord with me and made me think that when some parents think they're helping their kids by making their lives easier, they are in fact making it harder in the long run. I can spot them a mile off with the age my children are now, I call them helicopter parents as they're constantly hovering around their children, making sure they're alright and not having any bumps or falls.

At work today I heard a perfect example of the results of this type of parenting with the plasterer's apprentice at work. The day before he was off ill and got his mother to phone in sick for him.

None of us could believe this and the plasterer even said to her that she doesn't work for him and next time only the lad is to ring in. Now he's only 16 so I guess you could let him off, but he's working on building sites with lots of men doing physical work and, I think, should act like a man as well. Hopefully it'll be a steep learning curve that he'll keep up with as he's a nice lad. The mother who thought she was helping him out only really gave a group of builders ammunition to take the micky out of him.

What do you think? Is there a soft generation coming up into the world of work right now?

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Eden - Channel Four

I've been intrigued by a programme channel four have been advertising for a while now. 
It's called Eden and it sets 23 adults into the wilds of Scotland to start again. 
They have a good selection for tools, plenty of food to start with, a large number of seedlings, seeds and fruit plants, and lots of stock.
After watching the first episode I came away feeling like I always do with programmes of this sort, I wish they sent some proper adults with a proper work ethic. 
A lot of it can be down to editing but they don't look the most organised group, goats running through the camp eating what they want, not getting the garden sorted straight away, building a sweat lodge instead of concentrating on better shelter for the group, the list goes on. There's also been early romances and lots of lovey dovey stuff that could make things more awkward at a later date if things go sour, again many of them are acting like children which is annoying the older ones in the group. 
I still think it's going to make for some interesting watching and I enjoyed the first episode. 

Who else has watched it or is planning to? 

What did you think?

Monday 18 July 2016

Pooped After A Busy Weekend

We've had one of those weekend where we haven't seemed to stop.  
We've seen family and friends, had pizzas at my brothers, done half a days work, been to the village fete, a christening and met up with family.
I've not got time to write a proper post so I'll just leave you a picture of my youngest looking like he's from an indie band from the 90's! 

Sunday 17 July 2016

My Brother's Pizza Oven

If you've read this blog for any length of time you'll know that I come from a practical family. 

My brother has been putting this into practice lately and his latest creation is his beautiful pizza oven!
I'm really impressed with it, he's put so much effort into not only building it but the research side of things as well. 

We've been over three times for pizza now and each time they've been the best tasting pizzas we've ever had. They take a couple of minutes to cook once the pizza is going, with crispy bases and perfectly cooked toppings. You do have to keep your eye on it mind as they burn quickly and there is a bit of technique that's needed to get them in and out cleanly rather than pushing them back into the fire. 

They love making pizza
The girls get really excited about making their own pizzas and then watching them cook. In fact so do I! As well as pizza we've also knocked up batches of garlic butter and made lovely garlic bread and Dave cooked a batch of new potatoes in there as well (possibly the best tasting potatoes I've ever eaten).
Cooking away
All this outdoor cooking has really got me thinking about our outdoor cooking area and what I'd like there once the patio is built. I have to admit that after using my brother's that a pizza oven is pretty high on the list now! 
What would you have in your ideal outdoor cooking area? Who else would like a pizza oven like my brothers?

Saturday 16 July 2016

To Be Calm

A friend posted this little snippet on Facebook yesterday. 
I don't know the book it came from but reading it made a lot of sense. 

Friday 15 July 2016

Patio Progress - Under Patio Storage

So on the post I put on Wednesday night I mentioned that I was installing some storage under the patio that I'm building. 
The idea behind this was that the patio was going to be raised no matter what (the garden is on a north facing slope) so it's a good way to add storage space without another structure in the garden.
By adding the ribs to the wall it adds a lot of strength anyway and I wanted a flight of steps down the middle so it wasn't much more work to increase the foundation size to allow for my under patio storage idea. 
It has created me some work though. 
The tops of these storage areas are going to be reinforced concrete, I can only work on the one at the moment as I have to leave the blockwork for the other down to give e access to the garden at the moment.
Last Saturday I managed to put up the form work (shuttering) for the slab on the right hand storage bay. It's only about 6ft wide by 3ft deep but it should still provide a useful area (I'm thinking kids toys at the moment).

I cheated a bit with the shuttering and used blocks to support it, with timber supports just under the OSB sheeting that I could knock out when the concrete has gone off (this is very important as they're is a lot of weight in concrete). I also used sash clamps to fix it to the block work as if I had screwed it to the blocks the chances are it would have pulled that single block off the wall. I did wrap my clamps in bags to save concrete getting on them (I'm sure that there was a god of carpentry angry at me somewhere!). 

When we started to pour the concrete some friends turned up - just at the right time (for us anyway) so it helped to get the concrete into the form work. We managed to get the tractor and mixer right up to where we were working as well, so with the addition of a little bit of tin sheeting it meant that we didn't have to use a wheel barrow! 

Dad forgot about a trench we'd dug earlier in the year. 

Concrete poured

Looking good, I roughed up the surface to provide a key to the slabs that will be laid on top
Form work removed, self supporting concrete roof/shelf.

Next job is to start shuttering the steps up to the patio and then to fill in the top (our pipework from last November is still exposed at the moment) with stone and slab it. 

A lot of work for my silly ideas - but it'll be worth it in the end! What do you think?

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Outside Progress - Patio

I've been doing my usual of taking on so much work that things here fall to the wayside, but we have managed to do some things lately. 
One thing I managed to organise a few months ago that I haven't posted about was to get the retaining wall in for the patio.
The old wall was crumbling and inadequate and for my plans I want to build something that's going to last and cause me as little maintenance as possible. So I got in my trusty bricklayer, Dill, and he came for a day and put up all the blockwork you see in the picture below. 
I was impressed with how much he managed to lay (as most of those blocks are laid flat), I had made sure that I had put all the blocks ready for him and the sand, cement and mixer were as close as they could be (good tips for keeping costs down when having work down). 
The "ribs" coming out of the wall above serve two purposes; firstly they add strength (pretty important) to hold the soil back, secondly they allow me to break up the front in sections. The middle part is going to be a wide set of steps to make going up and down to the garden easy and then a section either side will be storage under the patio (more on that on Friday's post). 
Hopefully this should make a great outdoor eating place, I have plans for a BBQ and hopefully some form of outside oven and/or smoker. 
What would you have in your ideal outdoor eating space?

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Wet Gateway Sorted

Not high on the priority list but dad came round last night to use the digger to move some more soil and stone (stuff we hadn't quite finished on the weekend). I put the girls to bed with my wife and when I got down to him he'd started stoning the one gate way.
I haven't got a "before" picture, but the ruts had got so bad that we couldn't get dads truck through and the muddy water was breeding flies. 
It only took him about an hour, some hardcore and stone but it should make things easier going between fields easier for years to come. I sometimes set up a pen for the sheep here as well so it''ll make it much better for that as well. 
Another infrastructure job done on the homestead.
Who else has sorted out any gateways or has some that desperately need doing?

Monday 11 July 2016

Sheep Roundup

My wife often thinks I'm mad. and she told me so when I was rounding the sheep up at 9 o'clock last night after I'd spent the day working with my dad concreting and moving lots and lots of stone. 
I had a couple of lame ewes and wanted to quickly treat them. Rather than having to get up really early in the morning I thought I'd do it as soon as dad left, but we did our usual and only finished after eight, having put in a really good long day. 
Sometimes I'm glad to go back to work as my days are usually so much shorter than what I end up doing on the weekend! Who else ends up doing more on the weekend to try to fit in all those extra jobs?

Sunday 10 July 2016

First Tomato Of The Season!

 The first tomato is ripe in the greenhouse! 
It's a Bolivian Orange Cherry, grown from seed that I got from the Herefordshire seed swap. 
As for how it tastes - I think I better let the girls have this first one! 
Who else has tomatoes ready?

Saturday 9 July 2016

If You Were A Carpenter...

I stumbled apon this on the internet somewhere and it made me laugh so i thought I'd share it.
I've no idea how old this is but you've gotta love a bit of Norm Abrams. 
Which profession rocks your world?

Friday 8 July 2016


So my wife and I live in a house that has quite a bit of clutter. We have a lot of stuff, not all of it useful stuff.
I guess we're both hoarders really, but after having a week away and not missing much of our stuff she's decided that it's time to try to reduce the number of things in our house. 
I started to do this in my workshop last year, but then I lost interest and didn't get very far with it. 

But today my wife has found 91 items to throw out or give to charity. that's 91 items we don't have to tidy up, clean around or put away! I certainly hope she carries on with this.

She's set up an instagram account to keep track of what we're getting rid of. You can follow it here and she's using the hashtag #englishhomestead

Do you need to declutter or have you already done it? got any tips and tricks to share to make this process as painless as possible. 

Thursday 7 July 2016

Two Broken Preserving Jars

I've always looked at buying glass preserving jars as a long term investment, that's why I was disapointed on Monday when two of them seemed to break in the same place.
I was doing some baking and we keep a few items in La Parfait flip top jars. One after the other they both broke a small section of glass by the metal bit that opens the jars. The one put glass fragments into the food item so I had to chuck the whole jar full away. 

Two wasted jars now.
I was wondering if this is a common occurrence or just a defect that I happened to have with two jars? We've got well over a dozen of these jars and it's the first time it's happened. 

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Stay At Home Dad Again - Taster!

My wife had to go back into work for a day yesterday to meet her new class and to make their transition as easy as possible. 
It's the first time I've had all three of them for the whole day, and the longest Alistair has gone without his mummy (or her milk)!
It went brilliantly, I've really missed it and can't wait to get back to doing it again in September. 
We went to playgroup, Baked bread, cookies and cake, it was great fun and all the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Alistair was a star and only cried once all day, his sisters shower him with attention when they're around him and his eyes light up as soon as he sees them, it also makes my job easier! 

So I'm back to work today (locally working on a big hotel extension) but I'm counting down the days until I'm back of with them, but feeling rather selfish as I do as it's also counting down until my wife goes back to work full time! 

Monday 4 July 2016

Garlic Harvest

When I came back off holiday I saw the neighbours (who'd been looking after the place) then went round all the stock and then went into the garden. 
Everything has been growing like crazy and I could see a hundred jobs to do. 
One that needed doing straight away was harvesting the garlic. It's smaller and earlier than I'd like but it was badly affected by rust and I think it had stopped it growing. Looking at my crop it should have been harvested a week a go as some of the skin around it has started to go bad and soft. 
Batch one
I pulled it up and laid the three types into three apple different crates I made earlier in the year (I copied these ones here). I left the garlic out in the sun yesterday to dry off. 

Batch two

Batch three

Really pleased with these crates although I think I'll make some mesh bottomed ones for drying garlic and onions next year rather than the slats. 
I certainly haven't harvested it at it's optimum so I hope it will all keep. If it starts going bad I'll look into different ways of storing or preserving it, I'm tempted to pickle some anyway.  I'm sure it will dry up nice and I'm worrying about nothing. I still have my elephant garlic to harvest as that's not ready yet. 

Next year I'll plant it further apart so that the air can circulate around it more, one thing I really need to start doing is giving plants more space, there is no greater false economy than planting things too close together and getting smaller plants as a result. 

Has anyone else harvested their garlic yet? Anyone else suffer with rust on their alliums and have a good organic cure for it?
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