Wednesday 31 August 2016

Illegal To Feed Chickens Kitchen Scraps

Yesterday I wrote a post about keeping chickens near the house and one of the advantages I listed was being able to easily feed your chickens scraps from the kitchen, but I also stated that this activity is illegal in the UK. 
This seemed to surprise quite few commentators so I thought I'd look into it more and see if what I said was actually right (I have been wrong before!).
A Chicken picture from last year that I love! 
There are quite a few links on the internet about it but the rules are quite clear here in the UK, anything that enters a domestic or commercial kitchen can't then be fed to chickens.

You could argue a case if your a vegan family but the rules are in place to prevent the risk of cross contamination with high levels of animal proteins (although chickens are omnivores) and to reduce the risk of salmonella.

So the rules state that vegetables, like a glut of courgettes, can be taken from the veg garden straight to the chicken pen, but if they go to the kitchen first then they can only go on the compost heap, as your kitchen is an unregulated space.

What do you think to these rules?

Potentially sensible when applied to commercial farms with sheds that house 10,000 birds, but not appropriate to the average domestic chicken keeper? Or a good rule to help control what chickens are fed.

I'm fairly sure I don't need to put my opinion on here as most of you will know where I stand on this.

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Pros and Cons Of A Chicken Pen Near The House

This weekend my dad and I have been carrying on with the extension and one job that needed doing was to move the chickens by the house. In doing this it gives us much better access to the garden to and to move building materials around. 

Moving the coop
This got me thinking about the pros and cons of having the chickens next to the house. I've had chickens living there in one form or another for the past 4 and a half years. It was located about 15ft from the house and was big size, easily accommodating 20 or so chickens. 

Pros -
Easy to feed your chickens kitchen scraps (if you did that, I don't of course as it's illegal in the UK..)
Easy to keep an eye on the hens - more likely to spot/hear problems 
Less likely predator attack - as the predator is much less likely to go so near to the house.
Easy to collect the eggs - I have been known to run out and grab an egg half way through baking a cake. 
Quicker to feed and check water - well it's less far to walk anyway! 
Easier to enjoy their company! 

Noise - chickens even without a cockerel are noisy creatures. I personally like the noise they make but some people don't.
Smell - there is a little bit of smell that goes with a large flock of birds, but cleaned out regularly it's not too much of an issue.
Flies - this year this has been a major issue, we've had loads of lies in the house and we're sure it's from the chicken pen. 
Not on fresh ground - in  a fixed pen like we had by the house you can't move your hens around to give them fresh grass, although they had loads of weeds as a constant supply of greens. 

Chickens on new grass

 What do you think - anything you'd add to the list?
Do you keep your chickens near to the house?

Saturday 27 August 2016

Extension Progress - Brickwork Up To Damp

So we managed to get a little bit further with the extension this week. Dill, my bricklayer, came for a few days and managed to get the brickwork up to Damp course and start laying some slabs on our patio.
Dill - the bricklayer
 The first day we spent a few hours making sure we'd accurately set it out. To help keep costs low I made sure that all the materials he needed were close to hand and I'd already made the "goal posts" that bricklayers use for setting out buildings. 
Goal posts for setting out the footings and blocks close by

Brickwork up
Now I've got the task of getting the drainage in place before filling the internal with the right layers of stone, insulation and then concrete. That means lots of work before he comes back! 

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Germany Stockpilling

Sol sent me a link yesterday about Germany recommendation to stockpile food and to be honest I hadn't been at my computer much so I would have missed it otherwise.

There are some news articles from the BBC here and the Independent here.

In short  the German Government has advised it's citizens to stockpile food and water for the first time since the Cold War.

This has resulted in what the Germans call "Hamsterkaeufe"  or panic buying. Shelves in some supermarkets have been stripped bare in a few hours with Germans trying to get enough food for the recommended 10 days and water for the recommended 5 days in case of terror attacks.

Another wake up call to keep household essentials in stock, if you lived week to week with your food then a simple news item like this could leave you without food for that week without anything even happening.

Do you have what the German Government is recommending in your store?

What would be the thing you'd have to rush out and buy?

Monday 22 August 2016

Chilli's Ripening - Recipes Please!

I have a good selection of chilli peppers ripening at the moment. I think I planted about 10 different varieties with different degrees hotness so I'm looking forward to trying them all out, maybe I'll get some friends to play a chilli roulette! 

One thing I have been loving this year is a hot sauce to add to stirfrys, chips, pizzas and anything else that takes a sauce. By adding some once it's cooked it means that the children (and wife) can have it quite mild and I can ramp up the heat a bit more.

What I'm really after is a good recipe that I can preserve my harvest with, I want a good shelf life - and I don't mind canning it. I'm already planning on sweet pickling some like I have done in previous years but doing each jar with a mixture of different chillies in it this time.

What's your favourite chilli preserve recipe?

Saturday 20 August 2016

Checking The Sheep In the Rain

After weeks and weeks of sunshine I don't even mind checking the sheep in the rain this morning!

I'm getting very low on grass so I was secretly hoping for rain to make it grow again.

I don't think any Brit can complain about the summer this year, it's been great so far! 
How has the summer been where you are?

Friday 19 August 2016

Growing Cut Flowers

I normally have a simple rule in my garden - if you can't eat it, I don't grow it.

A nice bunch of non edible flowers
This year I've made an exception, my mum kept on to me to let her plant some flowers for the girls to pick. She haggled with me to give her half one of my 10ft by 4ft foot beds to grow some flowers in. 
So my mum and the girls planted up this bed back in May (and I planted the other half to carrots), all I've done is to keep it watered and pull up a few weeds. 
We've been rewarded with so many flowers, I've been picking a good bunch every week for the house as well as picking bunches to give friends that we've visited. 
The girls also love going out and watering their little patch as well as picking some flowers to give to their mum. 
I hate to admit it but this has been one of my favourite things in the garden this year. It makes my plot look more beautiful and you're constantly rewarded for months with flowers to bring into the house.

Without doubt I'm going to dedicate a whole bed to growing cut flowers next year (although I am increasing the number of beds that I'll be growing in anyway!). 

Do you grow flowers to cut to the house? 
Which are your favourite flowers for this?

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Dad Combining

Mum sent me this amazing picture of my dad combining from yesterday evening. 
I thought it was such a great picture I had to share it with you all. 
I can remember many times going to see dad on an evening like this and bringing him some sandwiches, jumping on without him stopping.  

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Daddies Helpers

We've moved the baby boy out of our room. 
With my wife going back to work soon we wanted him to get settled in his own room first and hopefully get him sleeping a little better. 
Of course to do this we both thought it was best to cover the princess pink paint on walls, otherwise he'd get moved in and we'd never get round to painting it. 

Once we'd painted the walls it was time to move his cot, both girls were very keen to help me do this as it meant taking it apart and putting it back together again. They both stayed with me, holding bolts and passing me my impact driver and screwdriver when I needed them. They loved doing up the bolts with the impact driver. My eldest needed no instruction and went straight to it! 
My middle one kept taking about when I could take her to work and she could come and help me because she's a carpenter, so sweet! 
Great to have such keen little helpers - I need to make the most of it while it lasts!

Sunday 14 August 2016

Chicks Hatched

Three new chicks to add to our flock!
This hen almost got her neck pulled the other night as I'm fairly sure she killed the first two chicks that hatched and then I had to dispatch a third that had a bad leg, luckily three more have hatched and seem healthy so the hen lives on, I won;t let her hatch eggs again though.

I certainly don't hatch enough chicks to be self sufficient in chickens but it is a great thing to do for the children, they love going to see them and watching them. Maybe when I have more time I'll start hatching and breeding chickens a bit more, it's something I'd like to do and I think it could be a good paying hobby, but at the moment I've got far too much going on. 

Who else has been hatching eggs this year?

Saturday 13 August 2016

Patio Progress - Concrete Steps

This has been a labour of love over the last three weeks! Blood, sweat and the whole of my little finger nail (which got ripped off on a piece of reinforcing bar) have gone into these steps! 

With the patio being so large I decided that having a nice, wide flight of stairs would really set it off. There was a few ways I could have made them; timber was out of the question as I wanted something maintenance free and to last a long time (it's very wet here and they'd rot in ten years or so). 
That left me with either using blocks or concrete, the blocks would be more expensive and I'm not great at laying them (so I'd get my brick layer to do it. The concrete on the other is something I could do myself but it does involve a lot of work (and I mean a lot!).
First step form work
Not one to be deterred by a bit of work I went for the concrete option. I have built full flights of stairs like this where you pour all the concrete for the steps in one go (have a look here) but I decided that as I was mixing the concrete in a small mixer by hand I'd do one step at a time, doing it this way means I can use the same timber to form each step as well so it save money. 
I join each step by leaving some reinforcing wire between each step to tie into the one above. Each step is also vibrated to remove the air from the concrete using an industrial vibrator (no rude jokes please!) 

These pictures show the process, there was a bout 6 to 8 mixes full of concrete in each step! I tended to move and set up the shuttering/form work one night, then mix and pour the concrete the next and strip it the night after that. 

Pouring the concrete in for the first step

Removing the shuttering/form work 

Second step form work in. Stone fills in behind and is compacted down. 

third step - note teh bars in the back to tie in the next step

Another step - I did this one when we poured the footings for the extension as I ordered enough concrete to do it - seemed daft to mix it if we were having some delivered.  

Nearly there! 

Steps finished!
I was surprised how much work were in these stairs, even though I knew there would be. I guess mixing concrete after eight at night after doing a ten hour day on a building site is going to make me a bit more tired as well! 
Still it feels great to have them done. They'll get clad in the same stone that the patio will be with a handrail down the sides. 

What do you think? 

Ever made steps like this?

Friday 12 August 2016

Building A Simple Rocket Stove

On Monday night a friend and I decided to experiment with building a really simple rocket stove as we both have ideas to incorporate one into an pizza/bread oven at some point. 
We've both read about rocket stoves, but until you build one and use it you never really cement the knowledge in place.
This one was a simple chimney made out of dry laid bricks. Under the fire was a piece of steel channel so that the air draws under the fire and then through the fuel, creating the rocket affect. 
Channel under the fire
When were first lit the fire we could see that the flames were much higher than our cooking point, meaning that it wasn't at its most efficient, by raising it up another couple of course of bricks it meant the gases were getting burnt as well

Raised up and air control limited so it has to pull the air from under the fire, creating the rocket affect. 

We managed to boil a large kettle of water in no time at all using very little fuel, just a handful of sticks and cardboard really.

Doing this simple experiment  taught us a few things and gave us some things to think about when we're designing our real outdoor cooking areas. Control of fuel and airflow are essential, as is the height of your cooking area. 
A rocket stove would be a great addition to an outdoor cooking area and they don;t take much building, even laid dry like this it would be a useful cooking tool and great in a no power situation (only use outside though!) as it would take less than five minutes to put together.

Who else has made and used a rocket stove? 
Any ideas for improvements?

Thursday 11 August 2016

Different Ways Of Growing Tomatoes

Looking through those old magazines I got lent the other day I came across this article about growing tomatoes in different ways. When looking at this article remember that it was published in 1983 (not sure if I'm breaking copyright but I'm only showing it because it's a great article). 

It details many methods that I think people think are quite new; the grafting of tomatoes, straw bale gardening method and hydroponics. 
Reading some books published lately you could be fooled into thinking that they invented some of these methods, especially the straw bale gardening which I have read a whole book on in the last few months and the guy pretty much claims it as a method he invented, whereas I can see that it was being used much earlier than that. 
What do you think to this old article?
What have you seen lately that has been packaged as something new but is really just an old idea with some new packaging?

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Making A Concrete Plant Pot

I've been doing a lot of concreting lately (I'll show you some more of what I've been up to later) so I thought I'd have a mess around with some left over concrete. 
So with some underground pipe, a bit of plywood and half a Vimto bottle (I do love Vimto so much) I knocked up a very simple shutter to pour some concrete into.

Now because all the sides are straight I knew I'd have a bit of difficulty getting it out of the shutter, basically I made it to be cut out afterwards, much quicker for me and as this was only an experiment it didn't matter. 

The pot poured. Shuttering is basically making things in reverse, so here you see the future base of the pot.

And here's the finished pot. I am only messing around and experimenting at his point but I am tempted to make some big planters for my new patio as I find terracotta doesn't last and other big pots are so expensive. I like the modern look of the concrete on the edges, and although I know this isn't to everyone's taste I think it could look quite cool if you had a collection of pots in a group with some striking plants in them. 
I'm planing on making some big square planters on wheels to act as a barrier to the stairs on the patio that can be moved out of the way, as well as some big pots to plant up some acers and other ornamentals in.
What would you make out of concrete? 

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Eden Channel Four - Episode Four

I'm surprise that this is the last episode until the Autumn, I thought channel four might try and keep everyone's interest stronger by having more episodes running over a longer time.

Resources and Rations
Another interesting one though, I like that they've shown everything with very little hidden from the camera. When they killed the baron sheep they showed the whole thing and when they pulled the dead sheep from the bog and pulled out the fetus as well, even going on to show the fetus's skin being used as a water bottle cover. Much as we can criticise some aspects of how they're running things I have to admire how little they're wasting, the haggis was a great example of this.

I do think that the gardener, Rachael, isn't getting enough help. She seems to be working really hard and there is very little shown of others helping her, the whole thing pretty much hinges on whether that garden is enough of a success for them to last the winter out.

There is still underlying tones of bullying going on between the men and the women that I don't like. Tara was pushed out this episode I get the feeling it was mainly by Tom. But I mean what can I say about the massage tent, it was obliviously bothering some people, I think if I was there I think it would be bothering me as well, but it was better to have her do something rather than nothing. I don't think how things were done were right at all, there is certainly some bitchiness going on there, the young age of some of the group (twenties) really shows through in situations like that.

Unfortunately the community shelter seems to be flagging already, with some people not wanting to pitch in as they have their own shelters being built. I feel that some of the lads see this as more of a survival of the fittest rather than building a community to help carry each other.

There is always the possibility of derailing shows like this with a sour relationship. I felt that the hunter, Glen, has been quite immature and trying to be an "alpha" male in the fact that he was really friendly with the shepherdess until he found out she wasn't interested in him and would then barely speak to him.

My wife and I were talking and saying how it seems odd that they haven't put any couples into Eden, having some strong relationships already there could have set a good example to others, and maybe some maturity as well.

One person who comes out well at the end of each episode is Raphael the carpenter. He's older than most of the group at 55 and I think this really shows through. He's calm and collected, doesn't bitch and listens when other want to talk, he works hard as well. He certainly my favourite at the moment and not just because he's a carpenter!

So what did you think of this weeks episode?

How would you stop the in fighting in the group?

Monday 8 August 2016

My Self Built Camper Van Gone

A few weeks ago the camper van I built 10 years ago was sold. 
I built it from a an old St John's Ambulance, it only had 8000 miles on the clock and had been stored in a hanger it's whole life. Dad and I went to pick it up and the idea was already forming in my mind as we drove down there. 
Before - St John Ambulance
 I got it back and gutted it and then set about converting it into a camper with the idea to take my wife (then girlfriend) around Europe in it the following summer. 
The inside of the van to be ripped out
If people are interested I have some pictures of the conversion as well, let just say that a lot of hours went into that conversion, I'd work all day then get home and start again on the van. I was living at my parents at the time and had a little workshop there which I could park outside to get the work done. My wife made all the curtains and cushion covers as well, which we fitted on a test run down to her place. The one and only time it broke down (although I managed to fix it on the Gloucester bypass!).
Nestled in between some much bigger campers
When we left I had tested very little, I pretty much downed tools, picked up my wife and set off for France. We had only booked a ferry in and a ferry out, everything else was left up to chance!
Pitched up in France the first night - everything worked! 
Everything in the van worked as it should though, with very few teething troubles, we had running water, electric, lights and a gas cooker and a good sized sofa that turned into a double bed at night. 
The van outside Colditz castle
Easy to set up camp


Big enough for my wife to cook in! 
For the next 6 weeks we travelled over 4000 miles, camped on 19 campsites and drove across 8 countries, a year later we drive all the way to Poland as well. Everywhere we went people would stop and ask about the camper and want to look inside, I remember crossing the boarder into Germany from Poland and all the boarder guards wanted to do was look around the van and ask questions about how it was made! 

It was a great way to travel and suited our life at that point in time. Fast forward ten years, we now have a life that is far harder to pack up, with three kids, a big veg garden and more stock than you can shake a stick at, the camper was something that wasn't really going to get used anymore, my sister was last to use it a few years ago.

Better to sell it and let someone else have some adventures in it. Hopefully it'll be driving round for a long time yet! 

What do you think to the van? 

Where would you drive to?
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