Friday, 17 November 2017

What Would You Waste Less If Times Were Hard?

Of course none of it is really waste!

But when you grow your own and cook most of your meals from scratch it can certainly create some waste! Below are two buckets of "waste" that I created between Sunday and Wednesday! 

This all gets added to the compost pile and in time will really help to improve my soil. 
Because I grow so much veg I can be a little more wasteful with some of the veg, for example we eat a lot of Swiss Chard at this time of year (two times a week) but I never use the stems! We've got so much growing, it just doesn't seen worth it. 

 In the buckets above there are the leaves and peelings from cleriac, carrots, beets, chard, courgette (last one), shallots, onions and gone over apples.

If times were hard, very little of those buckets would be heading to the compost pile. Everything would be used, veg would be scrubbed before being peeled, leaves would be saved and I'd make lots of stock each time. This is potentially something I should be doing away, but there are only so many hours in the day.

The cooked peeling would then be strained, the stock saved for human consumption and the cooked peelings would be given to the chickens or other livestock. Although not with the current laws of course!

So if times were much harder what would you waste less of?

What potential food source do you throw away?

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Three Home Butchered Chickens

We had an absolutely mad weekend where we didn't seem to stop! 

We went out on Friday night with friends (this is almost becoming a habit), the girls had multiple ballet performances on Saturday and Sunday, we had a bonfire party to attend and I need to get some work done in the extension as my plasterer is coming this week.
Another job I managed to squeeze in was to butcher three chickens. I had hoped to do more but it started to rain and I was set up outside.

It was only when doing a few birds I realised how I need to be set up much better with a logical work flow. As it was I ended u p walking around a lot because I slaughtered them in a different place to where I plucked and butchered them.

I think I might create a dedicated little area for doing this job. Somewhere that's easy to hose down and keep clean but also has places to hang chickens as they drain, separate chopping boards for different jobs and a much larger boiler for hot plucking them. A cover as well encase it rains might be handy!

I did try the wet plucking method and it was a revelation! The feather came off so much easier and it cuts the job in half, I'm still tempted to make a chicken plucker though, either a wizzbang type one or one that goes on a drill - thanks everyone for the links last time! Just a shame the fingers are so expensive to build one myself. 

I also vacuum packed the birds using a vacuum packer I brought myself last week. Not the easiest thing to use on your own and it took a few attempts to get he seals right but I think I might have been cutting the bags a little small and making it harder for myself. A bit of practice will help as well I'm sure! I'll do a post on this gadget soon!

Anyway, two good sized birds for the freezer (2.1kg and 1.9kg) and one for tea last night. Made an incredible roast and it'll make another nice tea tonight, with the carcass for stock.

I think this will become a regular way that I provide meat for our family, I just need to get more efficient/skilled and have an area dedicated to it.

Does anyone have a good set up for processing at home?

Or do you follow anyone that does? 

I'd be interested in seeing some more set ups before I design my own. Thanks!

Monday, 13 November 2017

Microwave Porridge

This is a collaborative post.

Being self-sufficient is tough and I'm not ashamed to take all the help I can get. I cook virtually everything from scratch and with young children, sometimes they just need something quick. And that's where a microwave comes in.

Ours is a fairly low budget model and I’d love to upgrade to something better, these Panasonic Combination Microwaves would be ideal. Something to think about when I’m fitting out our new kitchen in the extension as I want to only fit quality items that won’t need replacing every five minutes.

The main thing I use my microwave for, besides heating up milk for my children (they drink 26 pints a week!) is to cook porridge in the mornings.

Now it’s colder the children want either porridge or toast for breakfast, and as I normally bake rolls most days (far less waste), porridge seems to happen more and more.

It’s painfully simple to make it in the microwave, that’s why mine never sees a saucepan.

One part rolled oats, one part water and one part milk, mixed together then cooked on full for 3 minutes, stirred and then cooked again for a further 3 minutes.  This length of time is to cook for my three kids and me so adjust if it’s just for one of you, if you cook too much you could always try my leftover porridge cake!  

Also a tip for the top – porridge gets bigger as it cooks and boils up, you’ll soon learn that a larger dish is your friend when cooking porridge, unless you like cleaning out the microwave.

But cooking it is easy, trying to get my kids to decide on a topping is the hard bit!

Our choices are either homemade jam (raspberry or damson are a favourite on porridge here and homemade is the only option!), brown sugar (one of my favourites), golden syrup or honey (only my eldest does this as the rest of us hate it), we also add a few 'yeah yeahs' (raisins to you and me) just to alter the texture a bit as we eat it.

If my mum is over then she always brings over a pot of stewed damsons that she keeps in the freezer, tastes amazing and far less sugar than any of the others!
Old picture but I love it! Pink porridge from grandma! 

So do you have a microwave?

What do you use it for mainly?

What’s your favourite Porridge topping? And please, no one say salt or it’ll make me feel ill…

Friday, 10 November 2017

How To Make A Quinoa Thresher

So my friends who grew the Quinoa last year and wrote about it to share on here have upgraded how they've threshed their grain. Gone is the child labour and in it's place is some home made technology - my favorite kind! 
They've kindly written me another blog post on processing this years harvest and hopefully I'll get to borrow their thresher to use on my own quinoa which is still hanging up in the extension! 

Last year we threshed our quinoa the old fashioned way with sticks on a tarp which was great fun but felt it was very energy intensive and we didn’t get as much of the grain as possible.  This year, after some research I decided the simplest (and cheapest) option was a home-made flail powered be a cordless drill. 
I already had the drill and some chain left over from another project, the rest I bought from Wickes for about £5.
I had an old black plastic bin with holes in the bottom (that I never got around to throwing away) that we used to grow potatoes in at our previous house. We had such a tiny garden! I used it to hold the quinoa for threshing.  I sat the bin on top of a fine garden riddle and put it all in a plastic trug to catch all the grain. 

The quinoa has been hanging up in the garage to dry off as much as possible. 

I found the most successful way to thresh was to strip as much of the seed heads off the stalks and into the bin and discard the stalks into a compost pile.
Once the pile of seed heads is 4-5 inches deep I begin flailing.  
I started off at a slow speed setting for the first bit and once the heads have been bashed about a bit I switched to the fastest speed whilst covering the bin with a feed sack (I lost the lid years ago!). At this point there was a lot of dust. The seed heads got pulverised and most of the grain was knocked out of the seed heads and I was left with light, fluffy and hopefully empty seed heads.  

I checked to ensure most of the seed had been removed 

 and then tipped the contents of the bin into the riddle 

If there was grain left  I went back to the flail with the drill on the slow setting for another gentle thresh.
Once the grain has been riddled it all ends up in the trug with some of the chaff ready for winnowing / cleaning.  You can see in the photos that the seed is actually pretty clean and almost no stalks or leaves got through the process – it will be interesting to weigh it before and after cleaning.

Parts List
Round bin or bucket
Fine garden riddle (optional but makes life easier)
Garden trug / another bucket to store threshed grains in
M10 Threaded Bar x 1
M10 nuts x 8
M10 Washers x 4
Chain (long enough to reach from centre of bin to side) x 2
Flail Assembly
1.       Cut two lengths of chain to enable them to reach the side of the bin from the centre when spinning.
2.       Thread two nuts up the treaded bar followed by 1 of the washers
3.       Slide the chain against the washer followed by another washer and then 2 more nuts
4.       Tighten the nuts so they lock tightly against each other and clamp the chain tightly to prevent it moving.

5.       Repeat the process with the other piece of chain ensuring it is 180 degrees aligned with the first (to keep the flail balanced when spinning) 

Thank you Spence! What I love about this is that this is written by the other half of the couple that wrote the last last one on growing the quinoa - a real family concern! 

I also like the fact that he seems certain that his yield will be more due to a better threshing method, less grain will be left in the heads and chucked int he compost. they're going to borrow my seed cleaner and see what they come out with and I'll do the same with mine. I should be able to work out what I can grow per square foot to see if it really is worth growing as a self sufficiency staple. 

So let me know what you think! I'm sure you'll all agree that was a great blog post. 

How would you thresh a grain like this?

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Meat Birds At 10 Weeks Old

Really hard to get a good picture of these birds but you can see the growth they've had in just ten weeks

I think I'll be processing a good amount of these at the weekend as they seem to have reached a good size now.

I think for now I'll just be dry plucking by hand as I have very little equipment to help me, unless anyone else has any advice? 
I have been looking at the pluckers you can add to the end of a drill and using a hot water bath before hand. And by hot water bath I mean camping stove and a saucepan...

Depending on how processing goes I can see no reason why I won't be doing more birds like this next year!

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Mobile Barn?

The sheep have gone to the Tup and it makes me think about lambing next year
My biggest problem is having to lamb outside, or more importantly not having enough space to bring many animals in if I need to. I can use the shed that I have access to for a few months each year and I can build around four or five bonding pens in there. 

Ideally I'd like to build a proper barn, but that's off the cards for a while yet (fiances, planning & time to build it). The next thing I've considered is the standard mobile field shelter that you see around the countryside, timber clad and open fronted, stable style. 

I'm fairly sure I could build a timber one fairly cheaply, although timber cladding is expensive, but then whilst watching Justin Rhodes the other night I saw an even cheaper to build type of barn and one that looked solid. 
Something like this would be great to have a row of bonding pens in or once half the flock has lambed, keep the others in. I could build it with wheels, metal frame on the bottom, making it easy to move, even moving it once the season was over so that it was easy to muck out. 
I love the idea of this mobile type of infrastructure, it's great for many reasons but I love the idea of trying out different layouts to see what works best. 

What do you think? 

Would this type of barn works for you? 

Do you think it would blow away?

Monday, 6 November 2017

Windy Family Walk

Beautiful walk up the hill where no child made a fuss or moaned once.

 Oh no, wait, that was 6 years ago before we had children.
It didn't play out like that today! 
The boy wanted carrying most of the time, although if I picked him up he wanted to go down and vice versa. 
Constant moaning all the way up and down and two of the three children cried multiple times. Anyone would think it was a forced march!

This picture makes me laugh. It was so windy she thought she was going to get blown away

So hard to walk up the hill. Forced march...

Still, nice to do things as a family...

Friday, 3 November 2017


I've been having a vehicle dilemma lately. 
For the last 12 months or so we've been running an extra two vehicles. My wife has a car for her work and I've got a car to drive the kids about in and a van for my weekend and school holiday work. 
Trouble is this has meant having three cars, three to tax, three to break down etc.
The other thing is although I had a tow bar fitted to my van it still couldn't move many sheep in one go (just take some to the abattoir but no more).  
Dad came up with and found the solution. Sell the car and the van, buy a pickup. 

I know the pickup won't be ideal for work, and it'll cost more in fuel but I don't travel out of the village for anything much. But it means I can now run one vehicle and when I move my sheep I don't have to keep asking dad to help out. Three kids also fit easily into it! 

I've owned many vehicles over the years but this is my first 4x4 and it's already been handy! My brother and my dad have owned many over the years and the first time I drove on the road was in a Landrover (I was 11 with a trailer but that's a story for another time if you're interested...). 

I'll miss the van and the space for work but I think this might work for me.

It is quite big though...

Need to get a back and a roof rack now!

What do you think? Would you be happy with such a big vehicle?

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Rasing Children Without Rules

Bringing up children without rules seems to be a trend at the moment. 
What are your thoughts on this? I think mine would be fairly obvious....

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Building A Free Chicken Coop!

My pasture chicken coops are working our great, fresh grass each day, helps to keep the chickens healthy.
My chicken plans change day by day though. At the moment I'm thinking that as well as having my two regular egg laying pens (for sales and for ourselves) and one mobile pen for meat birds (doing a few batches throughout the year to keep us supplied in meat) I also want to set up some breeding birds, so I can sell fertile eggs and point of lay pullets from a breed we'll pick as a family. 
My new coop built for free
For this I want to create some permanent pens, maybe a short row of them, each with a coop and a pair of runs off each that can be seeded and rotated. The idea being to keep a breeding trio or four in each pen, keep blood lines pure and chickens happy. 
I've already got one coop spare:
Spare coop - not the easiest to move! Houses a 10 birds though! 
And my mobile coop that I built a few years ago has been converted into my chick brooder now:
Chicken coop converted into a chick brooder - It might gain a extension yet as I'd like to do 30 bird batches rather than 20 (day old chicks are cheaper if you buy over 25 birds).
 I've learnt a lot from building lots of chicken coops over the years (I've built some at mum and dad's farm in the past as well as one for our old house that got covered in red mites - so I left it there). 
But one thing never changes - they're not cheap to build; wood, cladding and roofing material is always expensive and adds up quickly no matter how small it is. 
So the other day when dad offered me one of these pallet boxes for free I jumped at the chance. In fact he's offered me 20 as he will only burn them otherwise (If you're Herefordshire or Shropshire based drop me a line and I'm sure you can have one or two of them).
Some of what he orders comes in on them but the courier he uses makes it too expensive for him to use for shipping things on in them and many people collect anyway (he's a machinery dealer). 
They're 32" square and about 2ft high. Not a massive coop but ideal for around 3 or 4 birds. 
I took one home and started working on it. Got my eldest practicing her hammer skills one night, knocking nails over, she loved that!

First thing I did was to remove one side. 
It would have been easier to just cut a door way in and build a removable roof but I wanted it easier to clean and get into. Being able to sweep or scrape the droppings out is much easier than having to scoop it up and out. 
I then did what I consider essential for any chicken coop - I lifted it up off the ground. 
I lifted this up around 16 inches, this does two things: Removes anywhere for rats and mice to hide under the coop and give the chickens somewhere to shelter out of the rain without having to go in. 
The kids were helping, honest...
I then made the front removable. As I'm trying to keep cost to a minimum I used a french cleat type system, a piece of wood cut on 45 degrees means it slots nicely back into place.
This picture below shows the stop add at the bottom (one at the top as well) to make sure the front won't push in. 
The boy to show scale
The door was just a bit of scrap ply, I did use two old hinges there as well, a scrap of wood as a catch. 

  I then added the top of the pallet as a roof, adding in a 100mm (4inch) piece of timber to give it a bit of fall. The two open diagonal sides were then meshed to prevent predators entering the coop but maintaining good ventilation. 
 I had some old clear sheet material up the field a friend dropped off for me years ago, I added this on top of the wood on the roof as a waterproof layer. 
Not pretty but practical, much like myself...

 A perch at the back and a divide just in from the door, means a dark nest area. I'd like to make some roll away nest boxes in the future, that could work well in here.
French cleat in action  - saves on ironmongery! 
Nest area
This coop can be easily moved with a sack truck so at the moment it's down in the orchard, to be the cockerels new house - he's feeling a little down after being denied access to his ladies. 
A pin for Pinterest if you're into that type of thing...
Normally I hate when someone says something is built for free because of all the stuff they've got kicking around! But this time it's a waste material (the pallet box) and loads of bits I've got kicking around, I'm sure most could come up with some of these materials - maybe a bit of skip diving! 
I now need to treat the woodwork, but it should last a few years easily

The great thing is that with my eldest and youngest we built this coop within about an hour or so, it's well ventilated, big enough for 3 to 4 good sized chickens, is high enough off the ground from pests but also provides a bit of shelter under it, has a perch, nest area and can be locked up at night to keep foxes and badgers out. All it cost me a handful of screws! 

I have a feeling I'll be building a few more of these if my plans for creating some breeding pens for chickens takes shape, if not it's always handy to have spare pens for sick birds or if some need separating due to bullying or hatching out too many chicks, etc! 

What do you think to the coop? 

Would you use it or do you prefer something a little more pleasing to the eye?

Friday, 27 October 2017

Roofing Farmer Style

Spent a day on my parents farm on Wednesday. 
A room I've been doing up for mum (over the last two years - don't ask! Time is not my friend!) has some issues with a leaking roof. 
Mum and dads place is old, in some places it's as old as 600 year but most is just 400 - it even has a priest hole. The roof is big, has many valleys and lots of detail. 

 Dad lifted me up to look at the leak using the 4wd forklift and a cage on the front. Feels pretty high when you're 8m in the air! 
Still theres some nice views up there! And I love looking at the house I grew up in from a different angle. 

Non of the fixes I did were brilliant, as unfortunately I couldn't see anywhere obvious where water was getting in. I did fix a slipped slate on the main roof and sealed up some of the render where I think the wet was blowing in during driving rain.
Although not what everyone would like to be doing it certainly beat doing it all off a ladder and was a fun day spent with my dad!  

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