Friday, 21 July 2017

Slow Cooked Mutton

Earlier in the year we had a ewe killed. 
The price for cull ewes was rubbish at the time and in all my years of keeping sheep I'd never tried mutton and I quite fancied giving it a try. Mutton is a popular meat all round the world, just in the UK we seem to think that sheep should only be eaten as lamb. 

The ewe was three years old, fairly big and as you'd expect, had a good layer of fat on her. Mutton has a well placed reputation for being fatty, all this means is you need to be careful in how you cook it. 
Talking to friend we decided to make a rub for the meat and cook it long, slow and low. Making the rub in the recipe above (my mate had to come over as I didn't have many of the ingredients!), we then covered the meat, scored the fat and set it in a low oven (160) uncovered for a little while then covered with some water in the tray until the fat started to come out. 
After an hour or so I lifted it up onto a rack on the tray to continue cooking (still covered), this bit is essential because I wanted the fat to cook out of the meat. 

The joint was in the oven for a little under five hours and was cooked to perfection (if I do say myself). I did brown it off a bit at the end by cooking with no cover. 

as you can see the half inch layer of fat in the bottom of the pan shows that this is the right way to cook it! 
The meat just fell off the bone.
I served it chopped up on some rice with steamed french beans (french beans with everything at the moment!), it was beautiful. So tender and so full of flavour. 

Who else likes to eat mutton? 

How do you cook the big joints?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Another Preppers Paradise - Farm To Sit Out The End Of The World?

I've no intentions of ever moving from this place but sometimes I stumble on an interesting property and just have to share it with you guys.
What about this for another Preppers Paradise
I say it's a little harder to get to than the last one, as this one has a causeway you can cross at low tide. but from the Orkney Islands! 

It also comes with 40 acres of land and although not in what I'd call "prime" growing area, I'm sure you could support your own family on an area like this, with sheep or goats as a main meat source as well.
It has a range of out buildings and some breath taking views as well as a seal colony!
I'd imagine to make it work you'd need to make the farm earn it's keep but also have something you could do from home (writting, workshop work, etc) that would pay in the quiet times, I'd imagine (although I might be wrong) that jobs might be hard to come by out there.

Certainly an interesting property and not badly priced with offers over £300K, maybe someones dream property, I know my wife would hate it! 

What do you think? 
Your type of property? 
Too remote?
Somewhere to watch out the end of the world?

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Shepherdesses

The most common question I'm asked is how do I fit so much in when I've got the kids full time?
Simple, they do it with me when they can.
Last night I got the sheep in to check them over. It's proper fly strike weather and the sheep were twitching enough to get me worried. 
Turns out they were absolutely fine, not a maggot in sight but it pays to be careful in this weather. 
The girls weren't going to stay inside, not when there's chance of a ride on the quad bike (the boy was napping and mum was home).
My younger daughter won't leave the bike if she can help it, she comes for the round up and beeps the horn whilst my eldest mans the pen and helps me funnel them in.  
waiting for another go on the bike
We always go for a ride after we've finished, just a quick blast round the field with one child shouting faster and the other saying to slow down!  

Not sure how old they should be before I get them their own motor bikes! I know I was always a little crazy on them! 

Who else can remember being a kid and going on the back or front of a motor bike or quad? I certainly can! 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

First Ripe Tomato

 Each year I'm always desperate to see when I'll get my first ripe tomato. 
This year it's a rather small one and grown outside, but it's a ripe tomato no less!
It was even smaller when I split it into three, but it saved arguments with my little ones! 
Hopefully many more to come now! 

Who else has had their first tomato?

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Harvesting Soup Peas & Lots More

The garden is constantly producing lots of produce now, I've just set to harvesting my big batch of soup peas and trying to make sure I keep on top of everything else. 
Here's another video showing what's happening in the garden. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Five Year Old Forager

 This bit of fennel melted my heart the other day.

The girls have the job of collecting the eggs every afternoon now. 

The hens are out of sight of the kitchen but they go off together, without me, and take some kitchen scraps salad leaves with them. I think it's nice to give them a bit of responsibility and it makes them feel like big girls (they're 3 and 5), the 3 year old even goes by herself sometimes. 

They always come back with a big smile and tell em how many eggs there are.
On Wednesday my eldest came up and asked what we where having for tea, when I asked why she said "because I've found some wild food Daddy, it might be nice with tea". 

She'd found some self set fennel down in the orchard, identified it and brought it back for me, she hadn't eaten any because she knows she's not allowed to eat things without showing me first when we're out and about. 

I was so proud of her, to me that was far better than reading a good school report. 

We each had a sprig on our new potatoes for tea that night and she sat there quite proudly as we ate it.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Mum's Open Garden

This Sunday (the 16th) and next (the 25th) my mother is opening her amazing garden to the public for the first time! 



If you're local to the area (south Shropshire) make sure you pop in and have a look. I'l be there next Sunday to help out so make sure you say hello! 
It's an absolutely breathtaking garden and all the money goes to a great cause. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

I Thought You Were Self Sufficient?

I had to smile as the Morrisons van pulled up the other night. 
I was half way through butchering three chickens when he rocked up, I kept out of sight - more because I didn't want to put the shopping away than anything else.
But it's funny how our own personnel shopping supply is still at very extremes of the spectrum. 
I grow and harvest fruits, vegetables and butcher much of our own meat but yet we're still very reliant on this yellow van that rolls up each week. 
I try to buy things from other places, our flour is all organic and comes from Shipton Mill, the rest of our meat comes from Rick our local butcher and yet there still seems to be many things we buy each week. 
Year round fresh fruit is one, certainly at this time of year - I'm working on this with plans to plant more berries to help bridge the gap, but I still love fresh apples all year round. 
Snacks are another, mainly for the children, I'm trying on this one as well but I tend to bake a lot less this time of year. 
Some staples and tinned products, again I'm working on this, producing a summer surplus that I can preserve and use year round - this area needs a lot of work! 
Milk and dairy are our other major expense, each week we get through 20 pints of milk, a large block of cheese, butter, etc. I "make" our own yogurt from Easiyo but otherwise I have no intention of changing the way we get dairy yet. A milking cow or goat would be a lot of work and more commitment than I'm willing to give! 
Then there's cleaning products and toilet paper and neither of these I'm willing to give up just yet!

What about you? 

How far are you willing to go in the name of self sufficiency? 


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Dig It Up, Plant Again

Here is a good example of that:
This bed has produced around 35 kohlrabi so far but as I harvested the last one last week it was time to get it producing again. 

I pulled up  the plastic, scattered some blood, fish and bone powder, a bit more compost and raked it over. 
Then I got my Earthway seeder out and drilled five rows of carrots (two times on each row to make it nice and thick) over the 30 inch bed. That's another 50ft of carrots to harvest in a few months time. 
Hopefully the plastic will have killed off lots of the weed seed that was near the surface and because I haven't turned the soil it should have brought any more to the surface. There will be weed pressure but it should be minimal now and by the time the crop grows it, planted close together like this it should form a canopy to keep other weeds suppressed. 
I should say that I also heavily watered this bed before I planted the carrots as it had been weeks without rain and the surface was very dry.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Damaged Stile

I've mentioned before that we've got a footpath that runs across the top of our fields. 
This doesn't cause me much concern for most of the time, I've had a few incidents with dog walkers dogs attacking chickens but on the whole it been fine, people shut gates and most are respectful of the country code. 
Yesterday a walker came up to the house and said they'd found the plywood that slides up and down to make it easier for dogs to go through down the field broken in half. It's not a thin bit of ply (5/8") so it would have taken some force to break. 

I was quite annoyed by this, for starters if my sheep had been in there then the lambs could have escaped, luckily they weren't. But mainly because some one went out of their way to damage it. 

For now I've screwed it shut and left a note explaining why it's shut and when I get chance I'll have to make another sliding gate for it. Part of me doesn't want to bother but then there are a few elderly walkers that will struggle lifting their dogs over. If I do repair it and it gets damaged again then the walkers will have to just use the stile and lift their dogs over. 

Do many stiles around where you live have access for dogs? 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Some Seed Saving Already

I sowed some peas I'd not grown before far too thinly in the spring. I could see it wasn't going to make enough for much more than a meal so I decided to let them all dry and save the seed to grow a much larger amount next time. 
So on Thursday we collected all the dry pods and cut the rest of the bush down to leave somewhere to dry. the best place I could think of was my van sat in full sun! It did a great job, dried them out completely in two days (just need to pod them now). 
I'm in two minds with this seed. I might sow this new batch for a late crop of peas as it would be nice to have some podding peas as I'm sure we'll be fed up of beans in a few months! Risky but the seed has cost nothing! 
I also got the girls on another seed saving project for me - saving grass seed. I gave them a sweet tin and they collected loads for me, this should help patch any bare bits of soil we've got or thicken out thin bits. Certainly saves buying any and they were really proud of how much they collected. 

Who else has already started to collect their seeds for next year?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

This Weeks Veg Box

As you know I've been doing a few veg boxes lately and using my friends as guinea pigs. 
Here's one I made up at the start of the week.
It contains:-
One bunch of Di choggai beets (and a white beet "Albino" to try)
Two little gem lettuces 
The last red kohlrabi 
Red cabbage red acre
300g of French beans (filet type, minidor yellow bean)
Yellow courgettes
A small bunch of pruvian black mint
Large bunch of red Russian kale

What do you think? 
Do you like the selection?
What would you pay?

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Growing Twice As Much From The Same Area

I love getting as much out of my garden as I possibly can and although it is fairly large as vegetable gardens go I still try to increase my production. 
This year many of my beds are already on their second crop, by double cropping like this I can probably get around 50 crops out of the 32 beds in my main garden, some crops on the other hand need to be in a for a long time and I have some I'm growing out for seed and that takes much longer.
Yesterday was a great example of this, I'd finished harvesting my first bed of kohlrabi and straight away I amended the soil and sowed five rows of carrots in it's place. 
Here's a video of me talking about how I'm trying to get more from some of my beds by double or even triple cropping them in a season.

Normal yearly crop rotation rules have to go out of the window when you do this though. 

Do you get more than one crop from your veg beds?

What fast growing crop do you love?


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Attended A Talk By Charles Dowding

I do check my local gardening clubs speakers list sometimes to see if there'd be anything I'd be interested in (although I'm not a member). 
I saw earlier in the year that Charles Dowding was doing a talk on gardening myths and misconceptions (he has a book of the same title), and as I'd long been a fan of his and owned one of his books I decided to attend. He is best know for his work on promoting the "No Dig" method of gardening. 
The village hall was packed out - I think they had over 140 in attendance and he didn't disappoint. He's certainly a well practised speaker and delivered an interesting and witty talk about trying to avoid some of the misguided wisdom that we sometimes inadvertently follow.

I was quite pleased as many of the things he mentioned I already do, although maybe not to the level he does (the no dig is an example of this as for the area I garden it's hard to find enough compost and organic matter to cover all the beds with 3 inches). 

I was also pleased to hear that he puts nettle roots into his compost and doesn't suffer from nettles popping up everywhere, something my mother always tells me off about if she's round when I do it! He also talked about the pointlessness of netting melons, ho you can compost blighted tomato leaves, and using fleece to protect crops, not hardening off as he plants out. 

It was a really enjoyable talk and I recommend anyone that gets the chance to go and see one of his talks, he also has a great YouTube channel here as well with some really informative videos on there. I like any gardener that tries to break the norm and generally make our lives a little bit easier and he's certainly one of those!


Who have you seen as a really interesting garden speaker?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Gracies Backyard - Questions Answered

I was very impressed with Richard Perkins yesterday, after I posted my review/thoughts on the film of his farm he sent a fair bit of time and answered my questions in a very thorough way. I decided that I would post it here so that anyone who had the same questions about interns working on his farm could see his response. 


"Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your interest and support. These are important and complex questions, but I can speak to them a little here as it comes out naturally….


I have made videos about the numbers/ human-hours of our farm in the past, which you can see on Youtube. Current rates of production represent 4 full time positions. The farm pays 4 full time wages. We are heavily focused on edu work, as there are very few places like this where people can immerse themselves in scaling up permaculture to the farm, in a supportive learning environment with time, space and support to design their own properties and all the back end business planning to get started on the right foot. This is evidenced to me in that our Internship program, running right now, was quadruple booked this year. People are seeking longer term mentorship and practical experience in regenerative ag and don’t have many options, certainly here in Europe. We always have a bigger core team than needed to allow the space for deep learning to evolve for people, and judging by what some folks get up to leaving here, I see it’s going very well. We want to have a lot of fun together, as well as work hard and efficiently. We’ve become a bit of a springboard/ ‘reality check’ for folks just about to leap into making a career in regenerative enterprise, and this place/ context/ environment excels in that (the general consensus of folks here). For context, I’ve been engaged in intensive education for a long time and whilst I could, I wouldn’t just move to Sweden to farm poultry and grow veg. I’m interested in the whole we are creating here, which is what (in some ways) I wish I could have found on my learning journey.

Now, we do a bunch more than we would if we were just 4 peop’s working the farm, because we can. If it was the case of just employees, we might not have pigs, would not have cows, wouldn’t do things like plant hops, make free youtube videos, collect data, write books to try help more people,etc, etc. We are trying to use the additional brains and skills to share the benefits with as many as we can in a skilful manner. One example (as we make excess capital from trainings, books, consulting, etc) that we are doing soon is nutrient testing eggs and poultry against other products on the market. Whilst this obviously benefits us from a marketing perspective (if the results are good!), it’s not exactly cheap that many could afford it, but I see many will benefit from this when we publish that. We feel it’s the responsibility of any ‘demonstration’ site to actually demonstrate, hence we put so much care and effort into sharing openly and transparently.

I am currently planning on changing my business considerably next year, bringing in a few of the key people who have been with us multiple years (and demonstrated the drive and capacity to manage such systems) as partners in the business, and strive to grow the farm without increasing the size. Stacking out to the max. I think we’re at 50% production in most enterprises currently, and yet already this season we’re already well over the figures presented in older videos. For example, I see we could double Layers, double broilers and double the No-Dig Mkt Gardens production with no increase in size. I’m now curious how far we can push ecosystem processes in a healthy way. Scaling up is very feasible with few people if we shave off some of the distractions that we do for the benefit of the learning context of the farm. For example, I think I will invest in a new sheep flock and lose the cows to make this a more useful enterprise. I might lose the pigs altogether to allow the other half of the farm we don’t really use to regenerate into silvopasture. Other than that we’d be rotating through Broilers/ Hens/ Sheep and then spending most of the day in the Mkt Gardens together, sharing the bookkeeping/accounting/deliveries. We’d all have 3-4 months off (paid) and those 6 winter months would be 2-3 hrs work for whoever’s ‘on’. For context, 10,000 broilers in 6 months gives 4 Swedish salaries, the enterprise investments were all paid off in yr 1. Our Mkt Gardens are planned at 36Eur/m2 net, but I think this year with the change of plan and focus on restaurants we’re kicking 50. I think it could be running at 70 with a couple of caterpillar tunnels for growing on transplants. We could already sell double the eggs tomorrow. People need to see it working, they need to see the figures and need to feel the possibilities and really understand the back-end that makes it all work. The numbers here are really good by any standards, and so I think it’s models worth pushing further and continuing to share openly. ( I’ll be documenting this on our Youtube channel throughout the rest of the season, including summarising the season, finances, etc) Everything we deal with here is all process based, context based, it takes months of carefully targeted support (in my experience) to lay the foundations to really start people off on their entrepreneurial journeys. It’s also why we run such long-term trainings (both internships and our Core-Team). We don’t pay our Core-Team as they are on a long term intensive education program of a nature you can’t just go out and find easily. A LOT of thought and care goes into all aspects what we are doing here, people side included. Our interns pay a chunk, but in context of the timeframe, hours with me and whats on offer here, you realise its very good value when you see it’s cheaper than the cost of backpacking here. We’re having an awesome time, and with this longer time, learning can go very deep from design/ business planning to deep personal development. Short trainings cannot address that stuff effectively, if even at all. Short trainings are much more profitable and require little in the way of responsibility, engagement, people skills, etc, and hence most trainings are short term. We are specifically looking to support more people into farming full time, and hence our choices. The online training we are developing has a very long waiting list already, with feedback that people are really wanting longer term process based learning and mentorship. Looking around there’s not much out there and yet there’s huge demand. I highly recommend Joel Salatins Fields Of Farmers as a book for anyone considering running projects or farms and working with people.

To be honest, I actually want to spend my days farming. I come to all this a bit the opposite way to many. I ran a much more lucrative business designing/ teaching for many years, as I had no costs/ responsibilities. I actually like to graft hard and work with ecosystem processes in a system I craft and steer, so for me I’m choosing to farm for my living and meet my educational objectives by supporting others to get going too. We do make money from books/ trainings/ consults, etc, but it’s like 30%. I’m dedicated to farming smart and taking it further because I’m passionate and energised for that. No-one farms to make excess money, let’s face it; we do this because we’re super passionate about the lifestyle we design for ourselves, the learning, the joyfulness and meaning in all we do.


It is rather a wild myth to think that any labour is free. When you have 30 people using tools/ equipment things degenerate 50 times faster than you working alone with your own gear. What I’d expect from a Swedish wage employee is well above the bar of most. To be honest I’ve had half a dozen folks come through that I’d consider employing. I don’t say that to be harsh, I’m being realistic. I can’t help feeling like I’ve grown up in a generation where a large % of folks lack tangible manual skills, physical strength and endurance, mental clarity, drive and commitment, embodied responsibility and the ability to communicate skilfully. Running a Market Garden is one thing, and complicated enough for many. In our setting, the skill base/ knowledge needed to be a useful employee is quite a lot wider, but then we’re not exactly a ‘normal’ farm. In a place like this, with many hands around, costs really adds up, and it would probably shock folks who don’t do this themselves. We only serve the very finest grass fed meats, pastured that and fully organic/ beyond organic/ biodynamic food. We eat better here than in any place I’ve visited, and living in Sweden that stuff ain’t cheap. This summer I will spend 2000 Eur on butter alone in 5 months! I think it’s too easy to say ‘free labour’ and I’m aware most people who say that do not run farm production businesses or have much experience hosting large groups for extended time periods over many years. Just saying. Many things are faster with people, like mulching all the trees, but actually, most things are very much slower when you have too many. I service egg mobiles alone in 21 mins. During the internship it takes 5 people 45 mins in the beginning. I’m just pointing out that many hands make many responsibilities, and its way more complex than that….

What makes farm-scale permaculture different to permaculture (in my mind) is that we suddenly have economy and regulation to deal with. That’s why some of the idealism has to be dropped in favour of pragmatism. We’re competing in a globalised market place with cheap oil, out of site slave labour, and local agribiz often running on free ag school student labour. If someone is not farming for a living then they’re not really in a clear position to speak to how farms should be run, are they? Luckily, people speak and people lacking integrity ’cull’ themselves, i.e., abusive characters/ places get flagged and highlighted to some degree, and within the professional networks I move within I think a lot of people know whats happening, who/where to recommend or not, etc.

We really do need places like this, because the learning happening here is not stuff you can get in ag school (speaking from my own direct/ other ag school students that come here experience). You can’t get in in short courses, so where to go? You could get it as an employee somewhere like this, where we take a lot of time in learning, but for every such job there must be thousands wanting this learning and experience. If we want a new generation of innovative farmers getting going soon, there’s really no time to mess about. It’s obviously all down to context, which looks different for all of us. We must use our strengths, gifts and talents to step up and contribute in whatever way we can be of benefit, if we decide we want to play a part in the picture.

On another note, reading your blog I saw one of your readers comments, and just want to be clear that I make no financial gain whatsoever from the film. If you do your research you see the funds pay for Olivier and his colleagues work and physical goods. I believe it’s true to say that in his other films there has been some kind of financial arrangements with the other party, but I wanted to openly share another side of the farm to people and do not need to be paid for that.

I guess I waffled on quite a while now. It’s a big topic, and a very important one. Thanks to detailed record keeping here I have much to share on these questions, which is a big part of what we do with the interns here. But in short, our farm is moving towards shared enterprise management/ responsibility/ profit (bringing in equal decision makers as opposed to me having employees). It’s a big step/risk on my part, but I see the opportunity created for incredible folks I love will be life-changing and powerful, and help to take this all to another level in terms of what is possible in small-scale regenerative ag.

Thank you for your engagement and passion to understand these complex yet vital contextual points. I very much look forward to continuing to meet more and more fine folks from around the world who are getting powered up and starting out on this fruitful and rewarding pathway…"



My reply to this was:


"Hi Richard,
Just came back and read your comments. Thank you for replying and being so open about what you do.
I hadn’t got round to going back on my own blog but I was going to say to Dawn that the money was to fund the film making and all that enta
ils. And like I said I was very impressed with the film and don’t regret my small investment in getting it made.
I feel you’ve answered my question very well, it was never about not having somewhere like Ridgedale that was a training farm as well as a working one, it was more asking if it was still viable without the interns. I 100% think that places like yours need to exist, and you’ve justified what you do and the whys of pay very well, do I agree with the pay issue for long term interns? No, but I can see why you do it and you are investing back into areas that would be a benefit to many rather than the few. And I commend you if you are looking at partnerships and profit shares in the future.
I really liked how the film didn’t skirt around this issue and it’s a subject you’ve obviously given a lot of thought and consideration about.
My use of the term “free labour “ was rather lazy, and as a carpenter who’d rather work alone than have the customer “help” me I understand that free labour isn’t always the case. I’m also not in any way criticising the way you keep your interns, to be honest if I was younger (or had less children) it’s certainly something I would consider, your food always looks amazing and they all seem to be very happy and like a family unit. I also place a high value on any learning that I can gain so I can see why you are getting over subscribed.
I also have to confess to being a little obsessed with your videos on YouTube and have to say there’s not many I haven’t watched and I really appreciate them, between you and Curtis Stone that’s all I have time to watch at the moment.
I grew up on a conventional farm where the words “get a real job instead” were used to me, and any farm less than 200 acres wasn’t seen as profitable. But I’ve still maintained my passion for wanting to be a small food producer in a community that wants it, your farm is showing it’s possible, slowly I’m taking steps to get there and I’ve even signed myself up for mentoring at a CSA near to me so I can begin to set up my own very small scale one here.
Could I use your comments here in my next blog post (or to update that one) to show your answers to the questions? I think that’s much better than leaving it open ended.
Thanks again for taking the time to reply, I can see how busy you are!"




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