Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Fermented Wild Garlic

With so much wild garlic ready for picking at the start of the month I wanted to properly take advantage of it this year. 

I looked online and in a few books to see what else could be done with this wild harvest. One idea that really got me curious was to ferment it. I've been wanted to try more fermented stuff and as I have a talk on preserving later in the year I thought that might make a useful bit of the talk! 

Friday, 18 May 2018

Not A Sheep Shearer!

When you keep sheep they're always at the back of your mind. Its a feeling I'd liken to when I was at school and you always had homework due, there always seems like something to do!

This time of year is no exception. Even after a good lambing there are still no end of things to think about.

Monday, 14 May 2018

New Play Area For The Kids

The kids love being outside at this time of year.

Crafts outside - painting money boxes!

This is great for me as it means I can get on with jobs outside whilst they flit between playing and helping me. They love playing in their Wendy house and have spent many happy hours in there, selling ice creams and being "mums and dads". 

At Christmas their grandparents (my wife's side) brought them a climbing frame. It's huge! I had no idea where I was going to put it up. Ideally it wanted to be somewhere I wasn't going to have to mow around (as I have no lawn mower at the moment) and near enough to the patio so if we have a BBQ we can still keep an eye on them. 

Friday, 11 May 2018

Jakoti Hand Shears Review

There are certain bits of farming I love and certain bits I hate. Dagging sheep is firmly in the "hate" camp but it's also a fairly essential job to do when it's needed! 

Dagging is the job of trimming around the sheep's bum to remove the muck that accumulates there. 

For years I've struggled with this job, using traditional "Double Bow" type shears. They never cut much, blunt too easily, hurt my hands (and my hands are fairly tough) and won't get through dried muck so you end up pulling that off first. Trouble is until you see something else you carry on with the way you were taught.

There must be an easier way...

Monday, 7 May 2018

A Day At Blists Hill Victorian Town

We decided to treat the kids to a day out this Bank Holiday weekend that we knew both my wife and I would enjoy! We'd both been to Blists Hill museum in the past, long before we had kids, when my wife was checking it out for a school visit.

The sun was shining and we hoped we'd be in for a good day.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

How To Grow Squash To Save Seeds

Those that regularly read my blog will know that I'm somewhat in love with growing squash.
Some of last years winter squash harvest
Most years I grow huge numbers of the brilliant fruits and at least 10 varieties. I love the shapes and the colours, the different tastes and learning which ones grow and store well here. I've done this for many years now and have tried dozens of different squashes.

One thing I've yet to do is save the seed from them that would grow true. Squash are a very promiscuous veg and cross ridiculously easy with each other, with the numbers I was growing there was no way the seeds were going to stay pure by chance.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Capping Fence Posts

Ever since I put the fence posts in with my dad a few years ago he's been on at me to cap the tops of the larger telegraph poles that we used as gate and corner posts. 

I know he's right on this one, left they start to rot from the middle out as the preservative is near the outside of the post.

Around the same time I saved a load of lead from a roof I was repairing to do the job, but never got round to using it!

This weekend I finally managed to get the job done. Pretty simple and it didn't take long, I just cut out some circles of lead with snips, bashed it round the top of the posts and fixed it in place using a few copper nails.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Foraging A Meal

I always enjoy a simple bit of foraging food for a meal and I like teaching the children what they can look for.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

A Book On Firewood

Just finished reading this. What a beautiful and thoughtful book. A true joy to read.

And I'm feeling pretty good that most of my firewood is sorted! Just one more stillage to go.

Anyone else read this book?

Do you have a favourite book on a random subject that you recommend to others?

Friday, 20 April 2018

Edible Lupins

I'm really excited to grow these this year through Garden Organic's members experiments.

Apparently these sweet edible lupins (not to be confused with more bitter ones that can cause posioning) are a great source of nutrition and have around 30 - 40% protein as well as the essential amino acids.

They can be used dried or fresh but need to be cooked first.

Who else has grown or eaten these?

Do you like to try to grow "alternative" crops?

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Walking The school Run

Now things are starting to dry up we're going to try walking the school run down the footpaths when we can. The road by us is just not very safe for walking with little ones.

The boy is just old enough now so I don't have to carry him the whole way, although he's not as fast as the girls (he only has little legs). It's just under a mile each way and the only bit of tarmac we touch is to cross the road from school. 
It's great fun to do some plant spotting and have the girls ask me questions about what they see. Although today I was having to answer questions about pilewort...

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Breech Lamb Being Born In The Field

Bit of a long video but a lamb being born a few minutes ago. 

This was her second one and i was just too slow to get the camera out for the first! 

I decided to pull him out the last minute just because he was breech. I was worried if she didn't push him out with this round of contractions and the umbilical cord was broken he could easily drown or breath in fluid. If he was the right way round I would have probably just left her too it. 
I didn't approach her sooner as she was a bit flighty and I didn't want her to run off or to cause her unnecessary stress and affect the birth. 

You can skip to the good bit at 2.50 if you want and I can only apologise for how Herefordshire my accent is!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Composting Toilet Built From Scratch For £26!

This weekend I completed a project I've been thinking about for a long time! I finally built a composting toilet! 
 This is project I've been thinking about for years. This place is really lacking an outside loo and it makes it such a pain when I'm outside to have to come in and take my boots off. I really needed an old school brick outhouse but I haven't the time or the money to do it. So I looked at what I've got and what I could do with it.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Lamb By The Fire

One lamb hasn't fared so well in the weather last night and I don't hold out much hope.

Got him by the fire warming. My youngest thinks this is incredible and we're struggling to get him to leave the lambs side.

I'm annoyed at myself as I noticed him being a bit doppy last night but when I lifted him and saw he had a full belly I just assumed he was kind of "milk drunk" as he was lay next to his mum and still walking around when I put him back. Noticed this morning the ewe was over the other side of the field while he was still lay where he was at 3 this morning when I did my checks. The constant wet weather has made him go down hill fast. 

Fingers crossed a bit of a warm by the fire might help him. He hasn't got his head back so that's a positive.

*lamb update*
I'm afraid the lamb hasn't made it.
When I brought him in the house I knew his chances were slim. You develop a sixth sense of when something is going to survive or not but you always try no matter how rubbish the odds.

I could hear that rattle on his chest, the tell tale sign of pneumonia. I gave him the right antibiotics and plenty of warmth and comfort but unfortunately I just didn't catch it soon enough.
Now I have to make sure the ewe doesn't get mastitis, as sometimes twin lambs have a side they drink from so the other lamb will only be pulling from the one.
Never sure how much I should share on the blog. But it seems right to share the lows as well as the highs, to save looking at it through rose tinted glasses.
It does leave you feeling shitty no matter how often you deal with these types of things.

I can remember spending hours in the lamb shed trying to get sickly ones to drink or pull through when I was a child.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Movable Firewood Store

Firewood storage is still something I struggle with here. I can fill up our old tin shed with dry wood but it won't season in there as there's no air movement. The other lean-to part of the shed has been filled to the brim with wood to season but I still have lots to store. 

I have messed about filling up pallets before now with wood to season, using collars to make them stackable. This really didn't work as the air couldn't get to the wood and it made it sweat and then go mouldy. 

I needed a different approach. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

How To Make Char Cloth

Just lately my eldest daughter has shown a bit of interest in bush craft, this is a subject I love so I'm only too keen to show her all I know!

We've done a bit lately together with shelter building in the snow and other little bits and pieces, but she has asked about making fires, with rubbing sticks together and by using sparks.

So Yesterday I went for a short walk on my own, I grabbed some dry hay and straw as tinder and set off to find a sheltered spot. I made a nest with my tinder and started to make sparks with my ferro rod, nothing was taking, I needed some cotton or something finer to take the spark, good job my daughter wasn't there to see how unprepared I was!

So today I set about making some char cloth to make fire lighting a bit easier. Char cloth is fabric that has been burnt without oxygen and can be used for tinder, it is made using the same method as turning wood into charcoal. Below is the step by step as to how I did it.
The materials I needed, an old T shirt, a biscuit tin, a hammer and a screw. 

Monday, 2 April 2018

1000 Blog Posts!

So this is blog post number 1000! 

I can't quite believe it. 

It still amazes me that I've stuck at writing this blog for as long as I have, that I still love it and that people still read it! 

Some of you have been coming here for a long time and I really appreciate that, it's been great to share my growing family with you and to share them growing up, I hope they'll look back on it when they're older and remember the fun times as well.

It's taken me 6 years to write 1000 posts and a lot has changed in that time! Thank you for all the views, comments and emails over the years, your support has provided me with constant enthusiasm and energy to continue what I do and to try new things each year.

Thanks again everyone!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Children At Nursery

This is a collaborative post

Since my youngest has turned two I've signed him up to go to the same nursery as his sister for a couple of days a week. This lets me get some work done at home and around the homestead, I love having them with me but some jobs just aren't possible with a two year old!

I almost feel guilt for sending them but they absolutely love it. They're both social creatures and it really prepares them for starting school.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Ewe With Four Lambs

So looks like I'll be doing a spot of bottle feeding this week. Second ewe has lambed and unfortunatly had four! They've all survived so far but she's not going to have enough milk to feed them all. So I've bought some colostrum and powdered milk.
They've all had a feed tonight and got full bellies, I'll just have to keep my eye on them now.

Must be 18 years since I last reared a bottle fed lamb. Let's hope the next sheep has a single and I can adopt one over!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

And So It Begins!

First lambs born in the night. A good sized double, no assistance needed and two full bellies! Shame they found the muddiest patch of the Field next to the brook!

Prepare to be bored of sheep and lamb pictures over the next month! 

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Guess What's Back...

So yesterday I picked up the sheep from my fathers farm and transported them back to our smallholding. 

I'm down to 25 ewes now, but hopefully they're all in lamb and they're all proven mothers. I was worried I was going to get stuck getting them in the field, I'd borrowed a stock box from one of my dads friends and it would be embarrassing if I couldn't get it back to him. 

Luckily the truck proved it's worth and got it over the fields no problems, even with the rain the night before, it does make it easier to move sheep

We then had to move a few things around for the sheep, setting up troughs and a few other bits and bobs. The girls moved the one, but they did moan about it! 

Feeding time! 
The boy also showed how fearless he is of them and ended up down the bottom of the six acre field herding the whole flock back round to me on his own! He was so pleased to see his sheep back. when he saw them he held his hands wide and shouted "MY SHEEEEEEEPPPPPP!" with a huge grin on his face! A happy little two year old!

So today brings a day of fetching some more stuff back from dads, we even found a old hay rick in the orchard so I'm going to try and do that up to make it usable again as there still isn't much grass on the fields.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Curing Bacon

Curing bacon is one of those things I've always wanted to try but never got round to. 
After the pig butchery weekend I decided it was time to take some of that lovely Berkshire pig to the next level and make bacon! 
I chose three joints that I thought would make nice streaky and back bacon. 
 I made things a little harder for myself by making my own cure, I brought the salt, saltpeter and brown sugar to do the mix.

Unfortunately the book I have only has imperial measurements in and my brain wasn't working well that night so I was really struggling to work out how much cure I needed per lb of meat! I got there in the end but metric or cup measures are so much easier! Funny because I'll quite happily use feet and inches for measurements. 
 I made a salt brine to start with to clean the meat.
The Joints only floating in this for ten minutes then dried off on some chopping boards. 
I then got the salt cure ready and weighed out enough for each joint. 
The joints with the cure rubbed all over then get placed in a freezer bag in the fridge. I think it could have happily gone just in the shed to be honest as it was plenty cool enough when I did it. 
After five days these came out, got washed off and then got hung in the shed for a couple of weeks to let the cure penetrate further in.
I tried them with some trepidation.

 I'd always heard that home cured bacon was far too salty and horrible. Not this though! This was lovely, it certainly had a more meaty taste than we've had for a while and there is a fair amount of fat on it as well (as you can see in the picture!) but it fried up a treat!
So far we've eaten one and a half of the bacon joints. They've only been in the fridge for five days, whilst in the bags curing, and the rest of the time just hanging there with no refrigeration, well over a month old now from when they were butchered out of the pig.

We're so dependant on our fridges and freezers I find it amazing to have meat out like this and it still be completely edible after this time. No dates on this meat, just my senses to tell me if it's okay or not.

Skills like this are useful to learn for off grid living and food preservation is one of the key skills to self sufficiency. I think to read about it is fine but it's far better to put it into practice. I'll be doing this again even if I have to buy belly pork to do it with, I've also been reading about lamb bacon....

Anyone else cure their own meat?

Have any recipes you think I should try?

Friday, 23 March 2018

My Daughters Tooth

My eldest daughter lost her first tooth a few weeks back. Unfortunately it was when I was knocking through the extension so I didn't get to see it happen. On Tuesday she was making a fuss about her other tooth and asked me to help (although a little scared).

I decided to go old school on it and got her to thread a piece of string on to her top front tooth. She was understandably nervous, I made sure she shut the door herself though as I didn't want blaming if it hurt! 

As she shut the front door she stepped forward with it so it didn't work. The string was still slack.

"I've changed my mind dad, I don't want to do it like this"

And with that she walked away from me. 

Still attached to the door. 


Out comes her tooth.

Off she runs. It really shocked her!

She was so pleased to take it into school to show everyone and honestly it was one of the funniest parenting moments I've ever had! 

Do you remember loosing your teeth as a child? Any funny stories?

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Children Working - Moving Firewood

I'm also trying to be better with future fire wood and process it before I store it. That way it'll season better and I won't be left with huge rings of wood that harden and are far more difficult to split. 

So I've been out there a few hours at a time and when out there I've been dividing my time with half and hour on the chainsaw and half an hour on the maul splitting the wood I've just cut. I can cut far more than I can split though! 

So my plan has been to leave some of the splitting until the evenings when I've got the kids back from school or nursery. That way I can split the wood while they're either playing or helping and it's great to keep them outdoors on these nice evenings. 

 As it turns out they didn't want to play at all, they were so keen to help me it was lovely! As I was splitting the wood they were loading it onto the trailer, they worked as a team and helped each other, they didn't even moan once!

 They did the full load themselves, I couldn't quite believe it.
They loved ridding in the trailer as well, bouncing around! Something I have fond memories of as a child as well.

They then helped me unload it when we got back to the house and didn't stop until it was all in the shed. They then ran off and played outside whilst I cooked tea, making disgusting mixtures on the patio, great to see kids being kids. 

Great to have my little helpers with me today. The fact that a 2 year old, a 4 year old and a a 6 year old actually can help and saved me lots of time this evening is amazing. I'm lucky to have such helpful kids! Long may it last!

Monday, 19 March 2018

How Many Meals Are In A Whole Lamb?

I got asked on Facebook how many meals are in a lamb?
A tricky question to answer as everyone eats a different amount and it also depends on how you butcher it. I just butchered a whole lamb this afternoon while my little boy slept. I'm only an amateur so please be kind as to my cuts! 
Here are the joints and cuts I got from it:

Two legs of lamb. I've kept these whole but sometimes I will split them to make a leg and a chump joint. I'd say this would easily feed 8 people with probably some leftovers. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Preparing Wood For Next Winter

When you're a smallholder or homesteader you're always preparing for something. When one jobs finishes you have to think about the next one, or what you'll do the next year, that's the cycle of things with this lifestyle.
Our wood burner is on a lot less this time of year but I still need to think how I'm going to fuel it next year.

Now is the perfect time to start topping up our firewood levels, there's plenty of storm damaged wood on the ground and it needs cleaning up before the grass starts growing, otherwise it just grows rubbish and weeds around it.

I spent a few hours out there yesterday and got one area cleaned up but still need to do more today. I'm out of practice with a chainsaw though and I know I'll ache in the morning as it uses muscles I'm not used to using!

Feels good to do some proper smallholding jobs rather than working on the house - although I have so much to do in the house but that's not as critical as getting the fields ready for the sheep!

Who else is doing some smallholder maintenance and tidying up at the moment?

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

What Does One Years Food Supply Cost?

Well if you ever wondered what a years worth of food accually looked like then here's the picture for you:
Imagine from Costo 
Costo Wholesale in the USA are selling a years worth of food for $5,999 (about £4,300) containing 600 cans of food.
It looks like it has a great selection and budgets on 36,000 servings with 2,000 calories on average per day. Click on the link above and you can see what it contains, but everything from grains, freeze dried fruits and vegetables, dairy and more.

What do you think to kits like this?

I'm afraid it's out of my budget for now though and I think the shipping would kill it for me!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Storm Damage

During the snow storms I noticed a bit of storm damage in the one field I rent. 
 A poplar tree had fallen over. In fairness to the tree I'd been on about taking it down since the two  next to it fell over a few years ago. The first one is here and the second one is in a post here.
 Now although I do get the wood from this tree (I've asked the landlord and they've had so much storm damage in their garden that they've got enough firewood for years), there is also a fair bit of work that'll go into sorting this out.
I'm going to have to log and split all the wood. Good because we burn a lot of wood, but it's not he best firewood in the world, but you don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
 I'm also going to have to repair the fence.
I've already repaired this section of fence before in atypical farmers fashion but shoving a few hurdles in the holes. I think when I get the tree out it might have to be a more permanent fix with fence posts and wire!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

How To Make Dehydrated Soup Mix

My wife and I both love eating soup, it makes for a great lunch with a fresh roll or for a warming tea. 
 The other night I made a huge batch of squash soup for tea. Some of my squash have just started to go bad so it was time to use them up. In the end I made about 6 litres of soup and it was really tasty!

I have no real set recipe for soup, I tend to just make it up as I go alone with what I have to hand. This one contained half a Oregon Homestead Squash (about 4kg I'd guess), three large onions, 6 cloves of garlic, a couple of white beetroots (so as to not colour the soup), one massive carrot and enough water to cover the lot. I then left it cooking until everything was soft and tender.

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