Friday, 21 April 2017

Pea Supports

Call me lazy but I lately I hate growing climbing plants. It's the extra effort of putting up the supports, tying them in and making sure they stay up. 
Trouble is there's lots of plants I want to grow that are not dwarf varieties. These two peas as are a good example, Bijou mange tout and a Latvian soup pea, both grow big and need good supports (seed bought form The Real Seed Catalogue) so a few sprigs of hazel weren't really going to cut it! 
I had a look a bout the place and found some lengths of concrete reinforcing bar about 8ft (2.4m) long. That was going to take some bending from the weight of a few peas! I had six lengths, perfect for two beds. 
Stood on one of my saw horses I knocked them in with a sledge hammer. I kept going until they were stood six feet out of the ground. 
Then with the aid of two young assistants I tied string every six inches up the bars (they held the string for me), I'm hoping this will prove strong enough for them, I've not grown climbing peas before, normally I stick to dwarf ones, so I've no idea how it will hold up.

What do you use for pea supports? 

How big do your climbing varieties get?

Do you think my supports will be strong enough or should I upgrade the string?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Vlog Episode 4 - Homestead Tour

It's been a while since I did a video and with so much going on at the moment I thought it might be good to walk you all around some of the homestead. 
This video is just filmed as it is, very little editing except where I ran out of memory as I was looking at my beetroots! 
Let me know what you think and what you'd like to see in the next one and I'll try to include it. 
Or let me know if you'd like a video on anything in particular.




Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Major Tractor Mistake

Well two actually!
The other day I jumped off the tractor and my rather jumpy handbrake sprang off as I hit the ground. Luckily I manged to jump back on before it picked up too much speed and stop it. Made my heart beat a bit faster though I can tell you! 
The second mistake is going to cost a bit more. I opened the window on the tractor to throw my dad a knife and then without thinking picked up the forks on the back.
  I realised my mistake a second too late and tried to drop the hydraulics but they're not very responsive, there was a loud POP and glass went everywhere. 
To say I was a bit miffed off is an understatement. Dad just said it could have been him and it was an easy mistake to make, I said I wish it was him that did it! Never mind, just tricky to stop the chickens from roosting in there at night until I get it fixed! 

Also thought I'd just put this picture in at the end of dad coming back from casting his eye over my sheep with the girls all holding hands. Made me smile.

Anyone else broke a window in a silly way? 

Come on tell me your stories and make me feel better! 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Lambing problems

I don't dare jinx it by saying things are going okay, but at the moment they don't seem too bad...
The lambs are coming steadily and seem healthy and happy, I've got one inside at the moment who is breathing funny but I've given some medicine and just waiting on that one. 

I have had a couple of tricky deliveries though. 
Both last night. 
One was breach and was coming out the wrong way. I spotted her just as the light was fading, one little hoof sticking out of her. I managed to trick her into a pen with some food before wrestling her to the ground, then I had to try to find the other leg inside her and pull the lamb out once I'd gotten both legs. Because the lamb is the worn way round once you start pull you need to be quick as it'll drown in there once the cord is broken. 
I've never had such a hard one to pull out before, he was huge. I had to put my foot on the ewe to get him out, poor thing. But once he was out I gave him a good rub and he seems fine. 


The second one was from some night time checks last night. I went out at 2am and could see a ewe had started lambing but looked unsettled. I couldn't get near her (a major disadvantage of lambing outside) so I decided to come back in two hours time and see if she'd had the lamb on her own. 

When I came out at 4 in the morning I was gutted to see her running about with just a head sticking out of her, looking all swollen. I thought it's dead for sure but I still need to get it out of her. 

Catching her was another story. I ran round for a bit but decided to get the quad bike out, I've no idea what the neighbours thought to me trying to round the sheep up at half four in the morning, I'm surprised the police didn't turn up in all honesty and do me for rustling!

After about fifteen minutes of her running round and the lambs head making a horrible noise as it slapped her legs as she ran I managed to catch her and pin her to the ground. The the difficult job of lambing her without letting her go! I managed to find a leg a little way back and pulled that and the head, two legs would have been better but the head had swollen and I thought there was no chance of getting that back inside her. Again it took some pulling out but when it came out I was really pleased to see it was still alive.


The ewe tried to bolt at the this point but I pinned her down and checked for any more lambs inside her. I pulled out the twin as well and left her to clean up the lambs as I put the quad bike away. 

By this time I was too fired up to go straight to bed so I thought I'd go and check on them and spray their bellies, it's a good job I did as the one lamb had got up, stumbled ten feet and fell down into the brook, holding it's head just above the water! I rushed in and got it out and then took them up into one of my bonding pens in the small shed I borrow for this month. Rubbed down with hay and making sure they had some milk I then went back to the house. 

It was 5.45 and I wasn't sure if it was worth going back to bed or not! 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Started Lambing

And so it begins! 
I was almost starting to doubt myself as lambing was taking so long to arrive! 
Yesterday I had two doubles, both sets of lambs were healthy and strong and had full bellies when I found them, so I was happy. 

The kids were pleased to see them as well! 

Second pair found on my walk round the sheep at 12 last night.
If it continues like this I'll be a happy man! 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Brioche Burger Bun Recipe

Okay so I thought it was about time I posted the recipe I used the other day when I made the brioche burger buns with my daughter, it's certainly BBQ weather at the moment and a homemade burger with some homemade buns goes down pretty well in the sunshine! 

This makes 48 buns so adjust for how many you want!

Thanks to Carl for this recipe.

It's made in two stages:

Stage one - Flying sponge

Water - 750g
Yeast - 38g
Flour - 500g

Mix this first bit up about an hour before you want to get started, this gets the yeast working. Leave it covered somewhere warm.


Stage two - Main Dough

Flour - 2125g
Salt - 50g
Sugar - 338g
Milk - 375g
Egg - 250g
Water - 125g

Stage Three -

Butter - 375g (diced up)

Add all the dry ingredients and mix together in a large bowl (very large bowl if you're doing the whole recipe above), then add in the flying sponge and the other wet ingredients and mix until it starts to pull together but bit form a dough.

At this stage add in the butter  then kneed until a clear dough is formed (it can take some work if you're doing the whole lot!)
.


Then leave it to rest for 45 minutes.

After the rest chop the dough into 90g (ish) bits and roll into round balls. Lay them out on a baking tray leaving a good space between them. 

weigh out the dough into 90g bits before rolling
If you're planning on freezing some dough then this is the point where I popped them into the freezer on a tray, then once frozen I put them into freezer bags and sealed for another day.
Into the freezer
The use an egg wash to cover the dough and sprinkle sesame seeds on top, covert the dough (but not so it's touching it) and leave to double in size (about an hour or so).
Ready for the next prooving then into the oven!
Then pop into a pre-heated oven at 220 degrees C for 12 - 15 minutes until cooked through - be careful though as I find an egg glaze catches easily. Cool on a wire rack.
Finished buns! Worth the effort! 
Then shove in your favourite beef burger dripping with cheese and bacon, giant grilled mushroom stuffed with feta cheese, fried halloumi with courgette, minted lamb burger or anything else that you fancy, make sure it's big enough that you struggle to get your jaws around it and fill your face when no one is watching!
Fill it up as much as you can! 
  Let me know what you think if you try it! 

Monday, 10 April 2017

Patio Progress - Footings Finished & Retaining Wall

Another busy weekend here. 
I had a phone call from my bricklaying friend, Dill, last week and he said he could come over and work if I had the footings ready. 
I mentioned this to dad and he sprang into action. He came over Friday night and we got them dug out, it didn't take too long and surprisingly we weren't doing it in the dark! 
Digging more footings along side the steps I built last year. 

Footings for the curved bit
 Then on Sunday my dad and my brother came over to give me a hand, we started mixing concrete and got all the footings poured by about two o'clock, I was pleased as it meant I had time to get ready for my bricklayer!
Pad for more under patio storage

Dave, my brother, digging another two foot as we had some concrete left! 

Footings done! 
 I then spent ages moving everything around, getting blocks in the right place, moving the mixer, getting sand out for him. 
Dill is a quick worker and he managed to get most of the retaining wall built. The new section includes two under patio storage cupboards and a curved section to try to soften the look of the whole thing! 
Under patio cupboards

Curved wall

Cupboards from above - I now need to create some shuttering to pour the slabs on top

The view at the back of the house, I think the patio goes nicely with it all. 
There's still loads to do, I need to shutter and pour the concrete for the patio storage, then the hardcore needs back filling against the retaining wall, stone added to the top and wackered down, loads of slabbing, then dwarf walls built with planters in them, cupboard doors to make, etc...

But in spite of that long list it really does feel like we're making serious progress and at least half of the patio should be finished by the end of next week, giving us somewhere outside to eat without worrying that our little boy is going to run off the edge learning to fly! 

What do you think?

Do you think the storage areas are a good idea or too much work for what I gain? 

Is the patio going to be too big (I think it'll be great for parties!)?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Season Extention

There's quite a bit of season extension going on in my garden at the moment! 
I'm trying everything to see if I can get some earlier crops, I've got hoops with net (for birds really), hoops with plastic, hoops with fleece and black plastic to warm the soil, I've been transplanting crops that I started in modules in the greenhouse as well to give me the best possible start outside. 

What do you do to get an earlier crop?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Purple Sprouting

There's not huge amounts to choose from at this time of year in the garden. 
I still have a few leeks left, lots of chard, nettles (hey their edible, they count!) and my love that is - purple sprouting.
Lets be honest, this is not an easy vegetable to grow. I've described it before as the "footballers wife" of the vegatble world.
It's high maintenance, a heavy feeder, in the plot a long time, every insect wants to eat it and every pigeon from miles around can see it and wants to land on it all winter. 
And every year I think it's not worth the effort, until I eat some. Truth be told, I just love the stuff, my one daughter even eats it raw straight out the garden, I'll often find her snacking off the plant! And there is so little else at the moment that I'd be really lost without it. 

So will I be growing it next year? 
Yep! 
And will it cause me so many problems that I think it's not worth it? 
You can bet on it! 
But come April next year I'm sure I'll feel the same as I do now! 

Who else loves purple sprouting? 

What veg do you grow that's loads of trouble and only worth it when you get to eat it?

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Excalibur Dehydrator

Well I've finally done it. I've upgraded our little dehydrating unit we bought from Poland when we were driving a camper van around Europe some 11 years ago. 
I've been on about buying one for over five years and followed countless eBay searches. My wife just told me to get one in the end and stop talking about it. 
So I got an all singing and dancing model - in Pink.

I've gone for the stainless model with a timer and bizarrely it was cheaper in pink than the black plastic model, so that's what I went for. In fact the colour has grown on me and I think it's kind of stylish! I still went for the plastic trays though as I'd read that people were struggling with the stainless ones with food sticking to them. 

So I expect to be dehydrating lots of food in the coming months, hopefully lots of berries to store to have on my overnight oats, amongst other things. 

What do you think? Was it a good investment?

What would you be dehydrating at the moment?

Monday, 3 April 2017

Guess What's Back...

A beautiful spring day to have the sheep back on the homestead. 
Dad brought them over yesterday with my brother.

They're bagging up and could start lambing any day now! 

Could be a tough few weeks ahead! 

Rest is for the weak anyway!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Row Cover Cloches

I've posted before about my chicken run row covers, my modular sized beds (10ft by 30") mean that I can make something for one bed and it will fit all of them.
The chickens have left the veg garden for the next few seasons and the chicken run turns into a row cover.
Full bed cloche 
I ordered some proper cloche cover off the internet and although it wasn't as cheap as builders plastic it should last a few years. Cutting it up to fit the cloches wasn't easy as it was pretty windy when I chose to do it. My three year old held the tape measure for me and we managed to cut them to size, it was amazing really, as without her help I wouldn't have been able to do it! 
Currently all the covers are held on with spring clamps (like the type that market stall owners use), this means if I want to ventilate then I can lift the plastic up and hold it in place with a clamp. 

I've got four cloches like this made up so I'm hoping it will extend my growing season for earlier and later crops as well as helping some that enjoy a little extra heat in the summer (tomatoes and peppers).
The one above has my early carrots (Paris Market) under it and I'll put one over my early potatoes, one over my beets and one over some salad.
I'm really looking forward to using these this year and seeing how they work out. 

Anyone else make their own crop protection to extend the season?

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Earthway Seeder Modification

So I decided with all the planting I'm doing here and how the area is growing every year it was time to invest in some sort of a seeder. 
The only one that people really recommend in my budget is the Earthway seeder (there are many other better ones but out of my price range for now).

I bought second hand, (around £40) but I had to buy the seed plates separately. Once they turned up I was desperate to try it. I got some old seed and ran through it, carrot and beet seed worked fine. Smaller seed not so much. 
Carrot seed being sown

 In fact small round seed was terrible, unusable in fact. 
I was a little gutted, the seed would get behind the plastic plate and the hopper and then grind to a paste which would cause the plate to move further away and more seed to get in there. 
I was disappointed as I had ideas of plating mustard and turnips with it for fast catch crops. 
A quick search of the internet came up with a few answers, most involved buying a few bits, I decided to see if I could fix it with just a few scrapes in the workshop.
Replacing the centre bolt
The first thing I did was to replace the centre bolt for a much longer one. This doesn't affect it when using plates normally but it gave me a way to secure a spreader plate to hold the seed plates tight against the hopper body

Gap down the side of the plate and the hopper (this is the carrot plate which it doesn't affect much but you get the idea)
 I then cut out a few rings out of 1/2" and 1/4 ply to go over the plastic "nut" that holds the plates in place (I cut it with a jigsaw) and a circle to go over the top of them with a centre hole in to go over the newly lengthened bolt. The outside diameter must obviously be less of a diameter than the seed holes on the plate!
The three ply parts cut ready. 
Gluing them up to make putting it on easier

The spreader plate in place doing it's job. 
 I then glued these up and left them to go off over night. 
Now when I want to seed small seed all I have to do is fit the plate then add my spreader, put the nut on and tighten up a bit. the seed goes round perfectly and because the pressure on the plate is so much nearer the edge nothing gets stuck behind it anymore, it holds flat to the hopper.
I will upgrade the nut with a wing nut welded to a washer once I get to my dads farm at the weekend and can borrow his welder for a few minutes, as that will remove the need for a spanner as well! 

What do you think?

Do you use a seeder? What one would you recommend?

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Starting Oca In The Greenhouse

If you've read my previous post you'll know I've joined the Guild Of Oca Breeders to try help (in a small way) to develop a new food crop that is viable in the northern hemisphere. 
Friday night I managed to get the ones they'd sent me planted. 
For the experiment I'm involved in they're meant to be started on the 21st of March but the weather wasn't favourable so a few days doesn't matter. The three types above are for the destructive harvest experiment. They're to be planted out and then one from each batch harvested and weighed on a set date, once a month starting in September and then yields can be compared to the length of day.

I also got sent the observer pack with 12 genetically different types of New Zealand yam they've grown before. I loved the variation of the tubers with some great shapes and colours. Each has it's own number so it's important to label them well encase any stock is wanted for future breeding or experiments. 

I've set a side what I think is quite a bit of space to grow these (four beds in fact) but compared to what some people are growing for the guild it's a very small amount!

Should be interesting to see how they all compare.

Who else is growing Oca this year?
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