Saturday, 27 May 2017

Spring Harvests

Lots coming out of the garden already! Good if you like leafy greens at the moment! 
Lettuce Cancan, I've sold most fo these now. The bed will be claered this weekend then sowed with five rows of carrots. 
White seeded Samara, growing for seed and to sella few - these look lovely. 

A whole bed of spicy salad greens, I mmixed this myself but it seems to be a great mix. 

Beetroot bed - I transplanted these but they've taken so well. Three rows, with plants spaced at 4inches

First pull of beets

Di Choggia cut up ready for tea

Beeteroot tart 

A bed of radishes is ready now as well. Love the colours on these!

What are you having out the garden at the moment?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Monday, 22 May 2017

Bigger Compost Area!

So last week I showed you how I'd tidied up my compost and started a new bin full, but within a few days I had already half filled it, I also have the shed I used for the sheep to muck out and some wood chip from a few years ago that is breaking up nicely. 
I decide to add a few more bins to my collection for all this lovely compost material I'm going to have. 
Bit of a mess
The area around my bins (cleverly hidden in my last lot of photos...) is home to some slabs for the patio and an assortment of building materials. I had a bit of a tidy up and cleared a patch.

The girls giving me some advice. 

I rolled out weed membrane between the sets of bins as I wanted to keep this area really low maintenance. 
I then gathered up some pallets from around my little farm. As I've been doing so much building work I could find just enough to make what I wanted.
Three new bins on the left.
A few screws later I'd made three more large compost bins. Using the tractor I started two of them off with some manure and a layer of two year old wood chip that is almost broken down, I then added a layer of comfrey to act as an activator. 
Comfrey added as an activator 

I'm quite pleased with this new area considering all it cost was a handful of screws! I'll keep all my tubs of plant food I'm making (comfrey and nettle tea) in this area as well, it should work well as a composting area for me. 

I might now leave a gap wide enough for the tractor bucket and then build another bank of 3 or four compost bins and try to beg a load of manure from one of my fathers friends to compost further, ready to use for next year. 

What do you think to my rustic compost area? Do you have a set up similar to this?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Why We Don't Say The "F" Word In Our House

It is utterly banned in our house.

If someone else starts to utter it then I have to stop them in their tracks.

We do not say "Fussy eater", for us it's not a thing. 

My wife and I were talking about it just the other day and then she saw this clip of Gino D'acampo talking about the same thing and sent it to me.

My day is pretty much full of children telling me "I'm hungry" or "When can we eat?" "I want a snack", and to be honest I do give in and they have plenty of snack through the day, my children tend to be happier when they graze. 

But I'm a lot harder when it comes to meal times. 

Don't like what's on your plate? 

Don't eat it then.

If they miss a meal then it won't kill them. 

I will not cook something specially for my children. We all eat together each and every day and we all eat the same food, even my little boy who's 16 months old eats exactly what we have (I might cut up his meat for him though). I put a lot of time and effort into growing, preparing and cooking what we eat, but it's not a restaurant and they don't get to choose what they have. 

We don't ever call it being fussy or attach a label to it, we think that in doing so you give them justification. 

Now that's not saying we don't have our fair share of arguments or that they eat everything at every meal time. My younger daughter does sometimes put up a fight and objects but she'll normally eat something off her plate as she knows that she'll go without otherwise. My eldest daughter is no trouble and will eat almost as much as my wife and my son isn't far behind in all honesty. 

But these are the rules in our house. 

Don't like something, then leave it on the side of your plate, I'm not going to sit and pick out mushrooms or onions because they decided they don't like them that night. 

If they want a drink with their meal they have to ask before I've sat down, otherwise they wait until the end. 

No one starts pudding until everyone has finished their main course.

No one leaves the table until everyone has finished and then you have to ask. 

My dad was (is) obsessed with table manners when I was growing up and I fear it may have rubbed off on me. I hate when children run off and start playing when they've eaten what they like. Meal times should be a time for conversation and to see what everyone has been doing during the day, that and eating some good home cooked food! 

How are things done in your house? 

Do you (or did you) cook separately for your children?

Are table manners important to you?

Friday, 19 May 2017

Sorting Out My Compost Bins

A couple of years ago I knocked up some compost bins from recycled materials and although I've been chucking all my compostable material into them I've not been great with the area as a whole. Weeds (nettles) had run rampant and it hadn't been turned. I decided to get in there and sort it all out. 
First job was to remove anything growing, then to get in there and turn the compost into the next bin. I was impressed with what I found. The stuff was beautiful, lovely, black and crumbly. Not quite finished though so putting it into the next bin for at least twelve months is the right thing to do. 

She's helping apparently, on "chicken Guard" to stop the hens getting in the garden. 
I then covered the full bin with black plastic, the end that was added is just a pallet screwed to the bin!

Not wanting to wait too long to use some of that goodness I burnt a couple of holes in the top and planted a few winter squash in there (Oregon homestead sweetmeats - I'm really looking forward to trying these!) I've seen squash growing on compost heaps lots of times so I thought this might be a good way to squeeze in a few extra plants. 

It's still not quite frost free here (although I hope it is really) so I covered them with some make shift cloches, my wife had brought these umbrellas for a school project that didn't get used, I decided to use them in the garden straigth away, should give them a head start if nothing else. 

Since taking the picture below I've already half filled this bin. 

Looking at the two empty beds I decided to make a "wilting table" I got the idea from a Facebook group the other day (it was posted by Those Plant People) and straight away when I saw it I thought I could use one. 
Rather than build something purpose made I found some weld mesh and some lengths of timber and laid it on top of the two empty bins. 

The idea behind this is you wilt the weeds and dry out their roots before doing anything with them. I'm not sure how well this works but I'm going to give it a try. I think once they're bone dry they shouldn't come back to life in the compost but I'll do a few experiments before I start chucking it in there. 

I'm planning on getting a few pallets that I've got around the place and making up another bank of compost bins at the weekend. I can certainly fill them pretty quickly and I have the sheep shed to muck out soon. Last years muck is in a pile but I don't think there is much of it left as it seems to disappear, keeping it enclosed should mean I get to use more of it where it's needed! 

How much compost do you make?

How organised is your compost area?

Have you ever used a wilting table?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Pesto Swirls

 I was making some bread the other day when I noticed that I had half a jar of pest left over in the fridge. It got me thinking about what I could make with it.
In my mind I had an idea of a kind of savoury Chelsea bun. 

so with my apprentice baker we pulled the dough out into a flat rectangle and then spread the pesto on it, we then scattered pumpkin seeds and broke up a ball of mozzarella over the whole surface.
Then, just like you would with a Chelsea bun, we rolled it up and cut it into 12 equal segments, we laid these out on some baking parchment and i grated a bit of cheddar cheese on top.
I baked them at around 180 degrees for 20 minutes, until they were cooked through. 
A really easy bread to make that tastes great. 
I also love it because once it's made it's a great one to keep in the freezer, then when my wife is off to work she can takes a couple of these for her lunch, there's no need to make sandwiches.

What do you think?

Do you make up things that are easy for a packed lunch? 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Tomato Plants

My tomato plants are romping away in the greenhouse at the moment. Now is the time I need to start thinking about potting them on and getting them in their final positions.

I'm planning on having at least one bed outside again this year but covered with a mini poly tunnel to start with, next year I'd like to create a couple of beds in the front garden where's there's a bit of a micro climate, I think they'd do well there and if I created a few beds I could rotate some veggies that like it slightly hotter (grow food not lawns and all that).

I have got far too many tomato plants though so when I pricking them out I did pot a few into root trainers with the idea of selling them online later on. I've just added a couple of listings to my Etsy shop which contains two lots of four open pollinated tomato plants.

They are all heritage varieties:

Four varieties of non hybrid tomato:

Amish Paste - From the Amish Community in America, huge plum tomatoes, one slice can cover a piece of bread! Apple sized fruit, dense flesh.

Abraham Lincoln - Large, meaty, flavourful tomatoes, 

Harbinger - An old English variety, produces heavy yields of good flavoured medium size fruit. Tolerates cool weather well so good for outside growing.

Millefleur - Centiflor type tomato. Hundreds of flowers on each truss, produces hundreds of little yellow fruits. 

And the other listing has four other varieties of non hybrid tomatoes:

Abraham Lincoln - Large, meaty, flavourful tomatoes, 

Best Of All - Great Heirloom variety 

Jersey Sunrise - Heavy cropper, very sweet, great all rounder

Legend - Outdoor tomato with good blight resistance, slightly flatter shape than normal, and very few seeds. 

Hopefully this will give someone else the chance to grow some of these interesting varieties of tomatoes!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Sheep MOT

Sorry for not posting all week, both my wife, my eldest and I have been poorly this week. It's been a bit rubbish really but we're all better now and I'm playing catch up with all my jobs.

The first thing I wanted to do this weekend was to get the sheep in as a big new flock for the first time. I had seen that one sheep was scouring (got the runs) and with how warm it's been I was worried about fly strike. 
Luckily I caught it just in time (sometimes they can infest an animal in as little as a day) and the maggots had only just go to the skin and hadn't drawn blood, by tomorrow I would have to have spent a lot more time picking them off her. As it was I trimmed her wool, trimmed all the muck off and treated her locally for fly strike to stop them coming back (once a sheep has had some they do seem to come back tot he same sheep again and again)
I decided that as they were all to be moved to fresh pasture I was going to worm all the ewes, penned up tight it doesn't take long, but it easier if you have someone marking them for you when you're drenching (I didn't, won;t be long until the girls are old enough). 
I also inspected a few feet and had a look at the lambs. I'm really pleased with this years batch, all the lambs seem healthy and happy, nearly all are a good size and in good condition. 

The last sheep lambed yesterday in fact, keeping me guessing as by my dates the last one should have been no later than the 5th of May! 

I always feel better when I'm up to date on my jobs with the stock, I feel that other jobs can wait but their welfare is the most important. Normally I won't have breakfast until I've been round them in the morning. Even when I was ill in the week I still got up and checked them all as well as feeding them each night, with a runny tummy this isn't as easy as it sounds! 
I'll give some garden updates next, it's growing like crazy at the moment! 

Monday, 8 May 2017

Dehydrating Yakon

 On my never ending quest to dehydrate everything in sight after buying my new, pink, dehydrator last month I decided to quickly dehydrate he last of my yakon before it all went bad.
a rather goofy picture of me with some yakon
Last year was my first year growing this unusual tuber, and I wondered how it would do in storage, kept in my frost free shed it kept well over the whole winter and only in the middle of April did it start to rot from the broken ends or where it joined the main stem.
Dehydrating ti was simple, I pealed it, cut it into slices and laid them out on a tray, I think I dehydrated it on the vegetable setting for around 16 hours, so they're really dry and really chewy.

They taste like a sweetened parsnip when dry, I can't say that I'm a 100% fan but I'll happily eat one or two crisps when I pop the lid. The kids, on the other hand, go absolutely mad for them, wanting them as an after school snack when they get in from pick up, the great thing is that as sweet as they are they can't digest any of the sugar they contain so it won't send them loopy!

A good way to use this harvest up and something I'll certainly be doing again next year, in fact I'm going to plant extra with this in mind. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Comfrey As A Weed Barrier

I've posted before about dividing up comfrey and using root cuttings to make new plants and the other night I decided to make another huge number of plants with one purpose in mind. 
Plastic down to suppress weeds. 
The idea is to grow a 4ft strip of comfrey (boking 14) down the side of my garden to create a "weed barrier". The idea being that if these plants are established it'll leave far less room for other plants to take hold (like the nettles that are there now), I'll also under sow the plants with clover as a ground cover. 
98 root cuttings to make some more plants.
I'm not sure how well this idea will work but it seems like a good idea on the surface. It should stop the buttercups creeping their way back in and with the plastic cover this summer it should get rid of the nettles. 

On top of this I'll be growing a hugely beneficial plant right next to where I need it, I can use it as a mulch, a plant food or to go in the bottom of trenches to grow beans on top of. 
I wanted more comfrey plants and this seems like a good area to plant them.

What do you think? 

Will it work as a weed barrier?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Eating Mud

Not sure how much mud he ingested this afternoon but he still seems happy! 

The red suit has now been through the three children, although it's ready for the bin now, all the seams are falling apart - should just last him out! 

Happy as a pig in...

Sunday, 30 April 2017

That's Not A BBQ!!

When I barbecue I'm somewhat of a purist, I think it should be over hot charcoal (locally sourced of course), so the meat takes on the taste of the smoke. So the thought of buying a gas BBQ has never entered my mind. 
But this was an offer too good to turn down. 
A friend's parents had a gas BBQ that they hadn't used in a few years so they've lent it to us for the summer. 
Like I said I've never used a gas one so I'm a little dubious, but I am looking forward to being able to quickly cook outside without having to plan to light the BBQ half an hour or so before I need it, I'm thinking it'll give me a quick an easy outdoor cooking area for this year and keep me out of the kitchen in the (hopefully) hot summer. It also has a gas hob which I think would be good for stir fries with veggies straight out of the garden. 

What's your opinion on gas BBQ's? 

Do you own one and use it very much? 

Saturday, 29 April 2017

7 Tips For Lambing a Small Flock Outdoors

Things have gone well with the lambing this year so I thought I'd do a video show what I've done to try to organise myself and get things to run a little smoother. 
Let me know what you think!

Is there anything else you'd like me to do a video on?

Friday, 28 April 2017

Life And Death On The Homestead

If you've got more than a few animals then having some die is an enviable part of keeping them. 

I know I've posted before about involving the children in every aspect of what I do here and yesterday was no exception. 
The day before we'd had a triple born, the one wasn't going to be a very good lamb, it couldn't stand and faded pretty fast. I could have messed about with it and tried bottle feeding, but you get a feel for when these things will work or not. By the morning it was dead. 

When I picked my eldest up from school I mentioned this and both girls asked questions about what had happened. Then later when they came to help me feed the ewes they asked to see the dead lamb. I got it out from where I'd put it and laid it on the ground. They both studied it very hard for a few minutes before going off and playing in the trailer.

When we came back in they both told their mum, very matter of fact, that the lamb had died because the mother sheep had had three lambs and didn't have enough milk to feed all three. 

I was really pleased with how they dealt with the subject and how they reacted around the dead body of the lamb. I think children really pick up on the reactions of the people around them, around the animals I'm generally very calm, quiet and move softly (unless I'm trying to catch them) and the girls are the same, they make me really proud around the animals. 

They also know they're not people, far too many people anthropomorphise animals, the children can see that they don't have human emotions. A sheep loosing a lamb will forget about it very quickly, sometimes in a few hours, a sheep in a lot of pain lambing will evoke no emotion from a sheep sat next to it. 

They also know why we keep them and I tell them when we eat one that we've bred here, they seem to like to know where their food has come from even at their young age!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

John Seymour On Vegetarianism

"The vegetarians point out it is cruel to kill animals. The non-vegetarians point out that some factor has got to control the population-increase rate of every species: either predators (such as non-vegetarians), disease, or famine and of these predators are possibly the most humane."

"Vegetarianism seems to be almost wholly an urban, or big city, phenomenon, and is possibly due to people having been cut off from animals for so long that they tend to anthropomorphism. The humane non-vegetarian says (and I am one) that animals should be kept in the conditions most nearly approaching those for which they were evolved as possible, treated as humanely and subjected to no cruelties and indignities and, when their times comes, killed instantly and with no long journeys to far-away markets or abattoirs. This is perfectly possible on the self-supporting holding, and the animal need have no inkling that anything is going to happen to it."

John Seymour - The Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency 1976

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Dehydrating Rhubarb

Okay with my new dehydrator I've been looking for things to dry! 
I always have an abundance of rhubarb at this time of year (although I've managed to sell quiet a bit this year) and my wife isn't hugely keen on it. 
I decided to dry some and see if it's any good in my overnight oats that I've been eating. It's pointless to dry it if there's no use for it at the end. 
We picked a huge amount and set to cutting it up fairly evenly to put on the nine trays (I think I used eight as I cut the top layer a bit thick), my two assistants laid them out on the tray for me, it's funny watching them stealing bits of rhubarb and then having to spit them out - they took ages to learn that it's quite tart! 
I then set it to dry, I had no idea how long it would take so set the timer for 16 hours on the fruit temperature. I think in the end it was dry at around 13 hours. I don't mind if these go really hard as they're to be rehydrated before eating, not to be used as snacks like some dried fruit. 

It's comical how small this stuff gets after it's done - rhubarb is a lot of water! 

My eldest and me tried some in our oats yesterday morning (added in the night before) they had the texture of a currant as they weren't fully hydrated but with a sharp flavour, a really good and healthy addition to our breakfast with very little cost involved.

Have you ever dehydrated rhubarb? 

What use did you find for it?

Monday, 24 April 2017

Wow - What A Morning!

Today was the first day back at school after the Easter holidays. That means that my wife is back at work and I'm back looking after the children, whilst I've still got some ewes to lamb. 
So Sunday night I went out to check the sheep that weer still to lamb just before bed time. There was a ewe struggling to lamb so I managed, after much running around, to catch her and get her into a pen I'd made in the field. 

This ewe was not easy to lamb, it was a single and the size of a small Labrador, I really struggle to get him out but managed in the end (the difficulty lies in pulling the lamb out and hold the ewe down on your own). I then moved her off to the shed to a bonding pen and went to bed around 11.30.

My younger daughter then woke me up at 2.30 and I decided that whilst I was awake I might as well go and check them (I had considered not checking them that night as I have so few left to lamb). When I went out there one ewe had had a triple (no one want triples) and the lambs had wondered away from her as she was going a little crazy not being able to find them. I gathered them up and put them in the shed as well, then back to bed.

I had my alarm set for six but with three young children there is little need for an alarm in our house! I got up quickly (for me), I wanted to check on the lambs born the night before and do my other jobs. 

When I went to check on the expectant ewes there was one lambing - damn I thought (or maybe something stronger). I could do without that during the school run. I managed to pen her up (again with much running around) and I had a "bit of an inspection" unfortunately she wasn't far enough on with her lambing and her cervix hadn't opened up fully. So I then sorted out the sheep in the shed, did the green houses, uncovered certain garden crops, fed the chickens and then went inside to see my wife off and sort the kids out, make their lunch boxes, get forest school kit ready etc, give them breakfast, clean teeth and get them dress.

I managed all that done by eight o'clock (we normally leave by 8.30 to get there with plenty of time to spare) so I got the kids to get their wellies on and marched them all down the field. 

The girls were told to look after the boy and make sure he didn't wonder off whilst I set about lambing this ewe. 

The kids were utterly transfixed as I put my hand inside her and after much effort managed to pull out two live lambs in front of their very eyes, my younger daughter told me there and then that she wanted to be a farmer (and a carpenter)!

Then with time against me I managed to get the sheep and lambs up to the shed (as it was raining), round up the children, get them in the car, change out of my overalls (and then clothes when I realised it had soaked through) and drive them to school. The road was then blocked so we had to turn round and go a longer way to school. 

We got there just as the gate was closing, but to be honest in my mind what they saw and experienced in that hour this morning would be far better than what they'd see or do at school, so if they were late I wouldn't have been very bothered! 

With the eldest dropped at school, the middle one then got dropped off at preschool and the youngest and me then went to the community church in the village where I volunteer at a playgroup to get set up for the mornings session! 

In all it was quiet a full on morning! 

It's funny I've always said I want to give my children a similar childhood to my own and I think I was doing just that this morning! 

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Busy Two Weeks

The last two weeks have been pretty full on. 
The early part of last week I took two lambs and a sheep to the abattoir, I worked a few days for customers, we pushed really hard with the patio (post and pictures to follow), the veg garden is being well looked after and the lambs have been coming thick and fast.
I'm having a much better time of it than last year, I'm not sure what that's down to. The weather has been amazing, the sheep seem in better condition, I'm better prepared & organised and I seem to be having a fair bit of luck on my side at the moment. 

That doesn't mean it's been plain sailing. I'm having to lamb a fair few ewes, yesterday morning I even had to get my bricklayer to hold the ewe whilst I lambed here, not what he was expecting to do when he turned up! Some of the lambs are quite big that I'm having to lamb, it's an issue with feeding as I don't know if they're carrying a single or twins so the sheep have the same amount of food. 
Not sure any sheep likes to see these two items come out...

Unfortunately the Easter holidays are over now so I'll be back to full time childcare from tomorrow and I've still got nine sheep left to lamb. This could mean some very tired school runs and a grumpy daddy, but hopefully it shouldn't be too bad. 
I'm currently assessing the flock before I go to bed at 11 and deciding when to get up based on what I see. Normally I get up and walk round them around 3 o'clock in the morning but if I see any signs of lambing then it could be two walk rounds, an earlier one and a later one (2 and 4) and dealing with anything that happens. If they lamb in the night I tend to take them up to that little shed in the one rented field and put them in a bonding pen for the night (if I've got the space) before letting them out in the morning. 
Wish me luck with the nine that are left! 
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