Tuesday 28 February 2017

Pancake Day

Although it's getting late in the evening but I've still got a full stomach from eating so many pancakes! 
We don't have them very often, but they are lovely, I ate three and a half and was quite surprised when my eldest wasn't far behind me, put away two and a half and asked for more!
Not a pancake! Soft and fluffy steamed buns with beef in hoisin sauce inside.

I was also really impressed with myself for the tea we ate. I did steamed Dim Sum beef buns (using some slow cooked beef from the other day) with Hoisin sauce and a salad. I'm going to blow my own trumpet here and say that they were amazing! It's a Jamie Oliver recipe (his is pork though) that can be found here - give it a go, makes an incredible meal! 

Back to the pancakes though - what do you have on yours? 

I like sugar and lemon on mine, but golden syrup does just win it for me! 

Monday 27 February 2017

First Ever Trip To The Cinema

A few weeks ago I mentioned in passing to my eldest how i'd like to go see the Lego Batman Movie and would she like to go with me. Then kind of forgot about it until I came in from working outside on Friday and she was systematically watching anything Lego or Batman related on the box that she was allowed to watch.
Needless to say she was very excited about going to the cinema, so much so that there was no way I could leave her younger sister behind!
So the three of us went on Sunday afternoon, unfortunately our local town wasn't showing it so we had to head off to a small city near us (just a big town really). They didn't stop talking the whole way there, I had to play eye-spy and count the car colours, as well as some other games we invented, to keep them entertained. 
When we got there I was quite surprised at how much it cost for the three of us to buy tickets (shows how often I go) but the man did let the girls have a little pot of pick and mix each for free, which really made their day.

The funniest bit was when we were walking to find our seats, I opened the door to our screen and the loud noise of the adverts came straight at us. 
My younger daughter just pulled back and said, 
"I don't want to go in!" 
And all I thought was,
"This has cost the best part of 30 quid, you're going in!"
But I knelt down by her to let her take her time and she was soon brave enough to walk in there. She sat on my knee through the whole film and would whisper questions in my ear. 
My eldest just sat there with a huge grin on her face, telling me how much she loved it if I asked how she was.

They were both as good as gold through the whole thing, sat still and enjoyed the whole film. The film itself was really funny, I'd say not quite as good as the first Lego movie but still really entertaining. A good first film for the girls to have gone and seen. 

I'm not sure what the first film I saw at the cinema was but the first one I can really remember was going to see Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, which I became a little obsessed with, later worn out the VHS and can still recount the film word for word to this day - a weird skill with not many real life applications! It was at the old Tenbury Regal cinema, a beautiful art-deco building full of character.

I remember some teenagers trying to push in line whilst we were waiting and dad being the only one in the whole queue to tell them to go to the back, when he did everyone cheered! 

So I was wondering, what was your first film you saw or can remember seeing at the cinema? 

Or what was the first film you took your children to see (if you have any)?

Sunday 26 February 2017

Peas & Beans

The gardening year is just starting for me (although it never really ends), Saturday I had the day to myself and managed to plant a few seeds and a few trees, I also could see some signs of life around the garden.
Softneck garlic just coming up

Hardneck garlic has been up for the whole winter but is just starting to grow again. 
I did plant lots of legumes, broad beans (that I should have planted before now) and two types of peas, one mange tout and one pea for drying as a bit of an experiment in growing staples. 

Seed planted in root trainers, laid out before I push them in.

I also sowed some Jerusalem artichokes as mine don't seem to have made it over winter.
One thing I made sure was that I covered these seeds over and set a few mouse traps, I can't seem to get on top of the mice this year and I know if I left them exposed then by morning there wouldn't be a pea or a bean left! This is the main reason I don't grow anything like this direct in the ground. 
My tomatoes and peppers are going in this week (the girls are so excited about sowing them), most years I put them in far too early so I've been trying to hold off this year! 

Who else has started planting? Or am I way behind everyone else?

Saturday 25 February 2017

My Seed Problem

The other day Tricky posted about his seed problem and listed all the seeds he had.
Well this week my seed order turned up and I was really excited to see them all laid out. 
I've tried to put my money where my mouth is this year and I've bought all non-hybrid, open pollinated varieties (except one variety of sweet pepper I thought my daughter would like and a few F1's from previous years - sweetcorn & a couple of types squash). 
I've also tried to buy the vast majority of my seed from The Real Seed Catalogue. I've mentioned them before on this blog and I know many of you already buy seed from them, I just feel that their ethos matches (or betters!) mine and I want to grow seeds that are produced in this country rather than China or Thailand and are adapted to a climate similar to mine. 
I did get a nice selection from the seed swap earlier in the month as well and of course I've bought seeds from a few other places as well, I always see a variety that I like the look of or there are some things I want to plant in bulk. Carrots and beets that I can never grow enough of, so I use a couple of wholesale sellers that sell bigger packs of seeds (Kings and Moles seeds are both quite good for this). 

I do think I've probably gone a little bit over board but I know I'll end up planting most of them. I seem to have a lot of squashes and dwarf french beans, both great veg to grow and eat, but hopefully I'll start selling a few veg this year and I want to keep experimenting with growing staples that produce large amounts of the calories that we need. 

As well as this I have the rest of my seeds organised into 12 separate boxes that I group by either family or how I plant them. 

I'll put up my planting plan next week if anyone would like to see it - I have at least 30 beds to organise and I think it might even be more than that by the time I'm finished setting up this year! 

I don't have many vices but this is certainly one of them! 

Who else buys or collects far too many seeds?

Thursday 23 February 2017

Storm Damage

As I was just going out to feed the chickens this morning my wife said that a branch had fell on to the neighbours old stables/cowsheds. It seemed to have broke some slates and smashed some ridge tiles. 
What we could see from our drive
I popped round to tell them but as soon as I got into their drive I could see it was a bit more serious that than! 

A huge pine tree had come down and smashed across their drive into their courtyard. smashing a wall and damaging the side of the stable in the process. 

Tree was rotten in the bottom and broke clean off.

It must be over 60ft tall 

This is where it hit the stable

Smashed in the court yard

Damage to the roof
Luckily no one was hurt and also it was lucky that it hadn't come down in a different direction, Slightly more to the right and it would have hit their house, to the left it would have got hung in a Giant Wellingtonia and would have caused more damage.

They also had four cars stuck on their drive that we managed to get out behind the tree.

Made for quite an eventful morning! 

Sunday 19 February 2017

Extension Progress - Floor In

After wasting a weekend being ill last week I managed to have a good go on the extension this weekend. 
I'd ripped up the temporary flooring a couple of weekends ago (some ply I'd bought cheap) and the upstairs was ready for having the chipboard put down. An easy enough job - but not very kind on your knees! I glue all the joints and I glue the boards down to the joist as well as using screws to hold them down, I hate hearing squeaking floorboards so I go with a full belt and braces approach. 
I've still left the hatch in the floor, which will be filled in as the upstairs gets finished, this means that I can now build the walls and get the whole bathroom ready before we knock through into the old bathroom. 
I also pulled in the chimney liner with the help of a friend. This is a bit of a mess around as I need to insulate it before the scaffold comes down. Trouble is I don't want to build out the fireplace yet (as it'll wreck our dinning room) so I can't terminate the flue where it is to finish. Instead I've wedged non flammable/combustible around the flue where I've broken out the chimney higher up. Then when I come to make the bottom section of the fire place I'll be able to insulate the last bit from inside. 

The down side to this was I didn't have enough insulation to finish insulating the flue, I was gutted, it's hard to work out what you'll need anyway as the dark depths of a chimney are unknown in size, I was about a bag short which I'll pick up in the week, just annoying not to finish the job I started!

Because the two counties where we live/the wife works have had different half terms, my wife is off next week doing all my jobs (school run etc) and I'll be working on the extension as well as a few little jobs for customers. 
This means I have a huge list of jobs to get through including, nogging out the floor and ceiling joist, finish the flue, install loft hatch, plasterboard the ceiling up upstairs, stud walls up for the bathroom/wardrobes/cupboards and plasterboard them one side. 
Should be a busy week hopefully! 

Wednesday 15 February 2017

Shoe Rack In The Porch

I've never really finished the porch. I built it, and we just started using it. One day last year I did the floor (which I might do another post on as I'm quite pleased with it) and then I put up a few hooks and we just started using it like a normal room. 
Loves being like daddy!
Shoes are always a nightmare in this house and I wanted more storage for them. So many pairs of feet and each one has multiple pairs of shoes, boots and wellies! I also wanted a shelf for the eggs to go on instead of having them placed in the dinning room all the time. 

I let her screw in the screws. She was quite rapid! 
 So one afternoon my middle child and I set about putting up some shelves. I machined the wood the night before (she's too small to manage the planner unfortunately) so all we had to do was mark it all out and, drill the holes and screw it all together. The wood was some I had saved from being burnt on a big job about 10 years ago!
Finished shelves - I really wish this was all the shoes!
She loved it! She's very much a girl that needs to be kept busy and doesn't like doing nothing, so a job like this was ideal. she laughed the whole time I let her use the drill, switched the hoover on and off for me, passed me everything I needed, hammered in rawl plugs, she was a great little helper really.

Little girl proud of her work! 
She was so proud to show everyone when they got home and I'm pleased to have more shoes up off the floor and organised!

Any tips for storing hundreds of shoes?

Monday 13 February 2017

Bout Of Man Flu

I wasn't feeling great on Thursday, not just because a crack in the car windscreen cost us £180, a lovely unforeseen cost. 
£180 crack
Luckily my mum had come over and helped me with the children but I certainly wasn't myself. On Friday I managed to get the eldest to school and the other two to playschool whilst I stood, watched them play and felt terrible, I then spent the rest of the day and night in bed. Saturday I was up for some of it but still felt terrible and yesterday I started to feel a little better but did nothing all day.

Luckily I'm feeling pretty good this morning, still full of cold but nothing that's going to stop me doing things. 

Good job as the children have got half term and I've got lots of play dates arranged to keep them (and me) entertained. 
I think the worst bit of being ill for me is the guilt of all that wasted time, I had big plans for this weekend just gone, I was going to put the proper floor down in the upstairs of the extension and sort out the chimney, but that didn't happen. 
Instead I watched films read some books and felt sorry for myself. 
Here's to a better week. I'm looking forward to doing some fun things with the kids (I normally work half term but my wife's school has a different one this year so I'll be work next week while she does the school run) and having a few productive evenings. 

Anyone else got anything fun planned for half term?

Wednesday 8 February 2017

More Veg Beds

While the boy sleeps I try to get some jobs done. A little two hour window sometimes exists, and i make sure I hit the ground running. 
Lately the main job has been to convert what was my young tree nursery back into veg garden.
This has been quite an undertaking. The perennial weeds certainly took hold around my trees, growing organically it wasn't a concern for the trees but it's taken some time to get the roots out for veg production again. Nettle have a fair root system on them when they get going! 

I think I've pulled out most of them though, I put some straw on each bed, divide them up with paving slabs and then put plastic on the top to stop nutrients washing away and anything growing until I want it to! Before i plant them properly I'll add some well rotted manure and other amendments depending on the crop.

I've still got a few beds to lay extra paths around and alter the size of further up the garden, but I feel that I'm getting there now. Not having the jungle of young trees at the bottom of the garden is already making it look tidier and hopefully I'll be able to start tackling the soft fruit garden as the weeds start growing again. 

With these at the bottom of the garden it should give me thirty 10ft by 30" beds. enough to do some serious growing, increase our self sufficiency and hopefully sell some surplus.

Who else has let an area go too far with weeds then regretted it as you try to get it back into production again?

Tuesday 7 February 2017

The Guild Of Oca Breeders

If you read this blog then you'll know that I love experimenting with new crops. Every year I grow something new or different to try. 

For a few years now I've been growing Oca or New Zealand Yam and I've fallen in love with them a little bit. They taste great, don't suffer from disease, but have unpredictable yields. 

I think the best way I can sum up why I love them is their potential as a future food crop. 

I'm a sucker for carbohydrates and largely live on potatoes and wheat (bread, pasta), oats (breakfast) with a bit of rice thrown in! But in my quest for self sufficiency/reliance I'm always looking for new sources of carbohydrates that I could grow. 
Some yams sprouting ready to plant (this picture is from 2016)
One of the keys to self sufficiency is to grow a wide range of crops that could support you. Having a wide range of crops gives you a safety net, if one crop fails you have many more to feed you. 

As it stands the Oca isn't it, if you were banking on these tubers producing then there is a lot of years you'd end up going hungry. 

This is because they only start to produce tubers when the day length reaches 12 hours or less, and in the UK that means that the weather can have serious implications to yields and early killing frost, like we had this year, means the difference between two builders buckets full (2015 harvest) compared to just a handful (2016 harvest).

After my disappointing harvest last year I got looking on the internet to see what could be done to increase my yields, when I stumbled upon the Guild of Oca Breeders. This is a plant breeding club that is trying to develop a crop that isn't so day length sensitive and will perform much better in the northern hemisphere.

They are doing this by a process called recurrent mass selection, growing thousands of genetically diverse seedlings where the best are then selected and regrown for further testing. 

The exciting thing about this is that the potato was also adapted in a similar way. 

Another great thing is that all the genetic material is kept in the public domain under the Open Source Seed Initiative (something very important to me).

There are different levels of membership,  I've signed up as an "experimenter" So I'm setting aside a few garden beds to grow this crop and I'll be expected to perform certain tests (destructive harvests where the same named varieties are dug up at different times to compare yields). There are other levels of membership where you can sign up as a supporter and receive a selection of named varieties to grow in your garden or levels for more experienced gardeners involving cross pollination or raising seedlings. 

I'm excited about trying to developed a crop in my garden that could one day have an impact on what we eat. I'm also excited about using the collective knowledge of the guild to improve my growing, I love using opportunities like this to further my skills as a gardener.

If you're interested then click here to see what The Guild Of Oca Breeders is all about.

Who else grows Oca? 

And who else has had really variable yields?

Sunday 5 February 2017

An Argument With James Wong Via Facebook!

 Following James Wong on Facebook I sometimes comment on what he writes or shares, and even though he is quite famous he quite often writes back.
Doesn't mean he's right though...

Good to know that I've got a couple of friends who've got my back as well! 

What do you think?

Is eating in season, growing your own or buying local a good solution to helping combat future food shortages? 

Saturday 4 February 2017

Seed Swap Herefordshire 2017

Another great seed swap today in Hereford.
I really look forward to this day every year, I'm a bit addicted to seeds and I love seeing all the different sorts there. I also met up with a couple of friends who love gardening and then after a quick car picnic with Kirsty we went and watched another really interesting talk by Adam Alexander about being a seed detective. I think the stories behind seeds are fascinating and this man collects such wonderful tales as well as the seeds, I could listen for hours. 
He also talked a bit about how he was in Syria before the war collecting seeds and he's now breeding these varieties out to save the seed and sending them to Syrian refugees around the world so they can grow crops they are familiar with. Without his efforts some of these varieties could have been lost forever.

The other great thing for me was meeting lots of like minded people. I got talking to all the helpers/organisers of the event and I've put my name forward to become involved in the future. I'm pretty passionate about seed saving so it'll be great to be involved in a group and have their collective knowledge to pull on. As well as this I'll be trying to grow more for the seed swap in future years, and hopefully getting better at it!

Who else has been to a seed swap lately?

What plant do you always save your own seed from?

Thursday 2 February 2017

Boy Vs Girls

Being a father of two girls and a baby boy makes you realise how different they are.

Our children are brought up in house where we don't enforce gender stereotypes. Having two girls first really brought this home to me, I want my girls to believe they can do what ever they want regardless of what sex they are.
In their day to day life they see traditional roles reversed in our household, my wife is the bread winner whereas I'm the homemaker. 
It made me chuckle the other day when an uncle of my wife's was talking about our extension and said to my eldest "I bet mummy is looking forward to her new kitchen" She just looked at him deadpan and said "And Daddy". I'm the one they see spending more time in there, cooking tea most nights so why would the kitchen be for mummy? 
But with nature vs nurture the nature sure does come out. 
The girls have had a wide selection of both boys and girls toys and have played with them all, but their play is different, the girls seem to have a natural maternal instinct built in, they love to nurse and care for things. 
One year they ask for dinosaurs at Christmas and loved playing with them, but these poor dinosaurs go to tea parties, picnics and sleep overs. The boy has a dinosaur and makes it raw as he hits us repeatedly with it! 
The girls have always had toy cars, for them it's to take people places to have little talking adventures, that's what I call it where they make a little dialog for each person and they have adventures (getting married, rounding up pretend sheep, etc). The boy pushes his noisy police car round the loop of our house over and over, smashing into the skirting board and my feet, laughing if he gets me. 
Then there's the smashing, he loves the smashing! Basically anything that can make a noise gets a smash or a bash, and if I react then it gets hit some more. I can really see where the word boisterous comes from! 

I know he's only just over a year old but the differences have already amazed me. He is still loving and caring, he likes giving out big slobbery kisses and hugs, but he's never still for long and often just jumps on the girls so they'll wrestle with him! 

What is your experience between girls and boys growing up? 

Do you think they're just built differently or is it the way we bring them up (knowingly or unknowingly)?
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