Monday 29 May 2017

Knights And Princess Party

My daughter was having a knights and princesses party at school.

Charley knight was coming and they were having a birthday party for him. There was lots of build up and she was very excited about it, best of all we (my other two and me) could come along as well. My younger daughter was really excited to come in a princess dress as well. I said that I'd dress as a princess so we were all the same, but they told me I couldn't because I was a boy! 

Since having had two daughters I'm not a massive fan of gender stereotyping (and it's become more apparent to me how often it happens) and although the girls could go as knights, they all wanted to be princesses (I blame Disney for that one). 

So a friend and I hatched a plan. She'd go as the a knight and I'd go as a princess. This was certainly pushing me out of comfort zone. 

I'd never worn a dress before, let alone in public! 

I'd made the suggestion as a bit of a joke, but within an hour she sent me a picture to show she'd brought me a dress (XXL and it was only just big enough!) so there was no going back on it then! 
So I rocked up into the party in a princess dress, gloves and a wig. 
I got quiet a reception! 
It was all worth it just to see my eldest's face! She couldn't believe I'd done it and had the biggest grin ever. I have to admit to not keeping it on for the whole party, but it was such a hot day! 
I have a funny feeling we're (my friend the knight and another mum who'd dressed as a princess) going to be in the school news letter! 

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

May Garden Tour

Busy time in the garden at the moment.
Lots growing and lots to eat. 

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...

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