Monday 29 January 2018

Seed Swap Next Saturday

A couple of weekends ago the seed swap group I'm a part of had a meet up to sort and bag seeds. Unfortunately I was feeling under the weather and didn't want to pass on my germs so I had to miss it. 
 So on Friday I forced my children into helping me sort and bag up seeds.
We got a lot done, but I've still got more to do. We had french beans to pod and lots of packets to write up and fill.
We managed to do two types of peas, chives, tomatoes, french beans and Korean mint plus a few others. Over a hundred packets so far! I want to get at least double that ready by Saturday! I also need to fire up my seed cleaner to clean up some Heritage lettuce seed I grew. 

If you're around Hereford on Saturday I strongly recommend you pop by the Courtyard and come to the swap, even if you have nothing to bring with you, we won't mind!
It opens at 10.00am and runs until 2.00pm with a talk at 11.30 by Chris Collins who is doing a talk on Urban Organics, he is a former Blue peter gardener and Chelsea medal winner - should be good!

Saturday 27 January 2018

Lamb Stock/Bone Broth

Last night my good friend Kirsty (From rural retreat restoration) came over and we spent the evening canning lamb stock. 
I'd set a number of bones that had been taking up freezer space in a large saucepan along with some carrots and shallots to simmer for a good few hours.
 Then when Kristy turned up we strained it and sterilised the canning jars. Carefully filling them as far as the book said, we used half pints because it's going to be a fairly strong tasting stock.
 Then after messing around with the electric hob and it not getting to temperature we used my little camping stove that did it in no time!
 Then under 10 lb of pressure for 25 minutes they were ready to start cooling down.
Only one can didn't seal so not too bad.
We're determined to practice more with this canner as it hasn't been used to the fullest yet! I've got lots of chicken carcasses in the freezer so I think a more useful chicken stock next week.

What would you do with the lamb stock?

I'm thinking of a broth with pearl barley and chunks of fresh granary bread!

Sunday 21 January 2018


For one night a year our village turns truly pagan! 
These are pictures from last weekend as I've not been 100% this week and the kids and wife have been the same (full of cold and sore throats). 

The wassail was really quite eventful though. 

Lets just say that health and safety got left at the door. In fact it might not have even seen the door...
 There must have been three hundred people meeting in the village centre and then walking down to the community orchards with flaming torches. The guy giving the speech at the start even set his hat on fire! There were Morris dancers as well as entertainment to start with as well.
To see the flaming torches stretched out for half a mile and lighting the whole way was impressive. In the past I should imagine it was really something to look forward to.
We banished the evil spirits and secured a good harvest for this year, they used fireworks instead of shotguns to get he bad spirits out of the trees. Unfortunately they let them off about 5ft away from my friends and me and made 10 children cry - nevermind!

It was certainly an eventful evening and great fun to meet up with my friends in the village. This has real potential as the kids get older where we might be able to have more than one drink! We'll certainly be going again, but I'll be a bit more alert when the fireworks are being lit!

Do you Wassail where you are?

Thursday 18 January 2018

Destroying The Kitchen

My little man has started going to nursery for a few half days (well nine until two).
He's desperate to spend more time with other children, he's such a social animal! And this will give me a few valuable hours a week on my own that I can push on with the extension. 
All happy on his first day! He was so excited! Wouldn't even say goodbye! 
 So the first day I spent running some errands and painting the doors in the extension as well as setting myself up for day two - The ceiling!
I hate artex, but that's not the reason for this coming down. Unfortunately I need to remove it to run pipes and wires through to the extension so I can finish the bathroom before I knock through.
I'd sent some samples off to be tested and they came back clear for asbestos so I knew I could do it all myself.
I removed loads of stuff from the kitchen (and had a good sort out at the time) and then sheeted everything up.

I was against the clock from the start on this job. I knew I had to be finished and pick the kids up by two. I had a great plan of cutting between the joists and just pulling sections out with little mess.
Unfortunately when I started someone had already added another layer of plasterboard to the ceiling and glued it to the first.
 This meant things were going to to get messy! I just had to rip it down and get on with it and hope I could clean it up before the kids came home.
 By the time two o'clock came I was ready to pick up the kids, but only just! Two ceilings worth of rubbish and the previous trades men liked eating chocolate, leaving behind all their off cuts and not cleaning between the joists! There was a lot of rubbish up there and two washes to get it out of my hair!
I cooked tea in there last night and it wasn't too bad, I need to get the hoover up into the hard to reach places and give it another good cleaning. I also keep finding bits I've missed, it's amazing how far it travels!

Hopefully my electrician will come on Friday to get some lights upstairs in the extension.

What's the most messy job you've ever done in your house whilst still living there?

Monday 15 January 2018

My Eldest Turns 6!

Another birthday!

Can't believe it was six years ago that she came into our life and we were suddenly parents!

Our eldest is so calm, caring and thoughtful. She will stick at a task until it's done, even at six I can tell she's going to be a hard worker. Her sense of humour is pretty wicked and she's far braver than people realise. She a total girly girl at times painting her nails and wearing dresses, but will happily get her hands dirty, plucking chickens, planting seeds, helping with the sheep. 

My Friend likened her to James bond. She'd come in covered in mud, wearing overalls then with one swipe of a zip she's wearing a beautiful dress! 
For a her birthday she just asked for a pair of sunglasses, she never wants much bless her!
We also made her a den building kit, with a sleeping bag, camo net, ground sheet and some bungee cords. I'm sure she's going to have hours of fun building dens on the homestead! I'm also going to take both girls camping this year, even if it's just in our fields. 

We had to build a den in the sitting room tonight! Apparently bad guys were coming and they needed to hide!

Sunday 14 January 2018

A Trick With Handsaws

Thank you all for the lovely comments you left on the library, it's a job I'm really pleased with and that's a good job as I'll be going to that school with my children until 2028!

Okay this is probably teaching some of you to suck eggs, but then who doesn't love eggs?
As a carpenter I was taught to keep at least four hand saws in my van. That way everything is sharper longer. As one saw becomes blunt it moves down the line.
First one is for best, clean wood and not sheet material (play has lots of crap in it).

Second one is for cutting slightly rougher stuff, plywood, anything that may have been on the floor.

Third one is for rougher wood or where there's a chance you could hit a nail or scuff it on the concrete.

Fourth saw is pretty much useless, so much so that you're not sure if you're using it the wrong way up or not. You keep this one to lend to people, especially the bricklayers or scaffolders who will wreck anything with a half decent edge on it in moments!

Labels with the month you started using it so it's easy to work out which is the oldest.

This will work with other edge tools, it's always worth keen something really sharp for best work!

Friday 12 January 2018

Two Years Old Today

I can't believe its been two years since my wife and I delivered my youngest on the bathroom floor.
My smallest partner in crime has grown into quite the character, he keeps his older sisters on their toes, has a wickedly mischievous sense of humour that makes everyone laugh and is so loving and affectionate. 
ot sure where the last two years has gone, but they sure have been fun! 

Tuesday 9 January 2018

New School Library

So a few months ago I got an email asking about a reading chair in the forest school area. I volunteered my services to build it, I thought that'll be fun! Somewhere along the line the new school library became my baby instead! 
The village has had it's school in temporary accommodation for the last three years, and although it's been fine it's not the best for the children and tricky for them at times (too hot in summer for one). 
So over the last year there has been a new school being built with much excitement from everyone who has children there. 
The Head Mistress was keen for the new school to have an amazing library but with usual budget restrictions (tight) that a school normally has. We decided to go with some Ikea shelving (low cost and look nice) and then build a few items to make it truly unique to the school. Some reading pods were decided upon, a corner bench and a feature tree on the back wall with leaves to hold the names of people that have donated toward the school. 
I was given a fair bit of creative freedom with how all this was to be made! 
My eldest helping unload all the wood from the truck. 

MDF was used, cheap - ish and takes a good finish. 

Pentagon shape for the reading pod

Checking the size was right

Working out the depth of the pods - they match the Ikea shelves. 

Dry fit to check it all fits. 

Starting drawing the tree. this took me ages to draw! I'm no artist! I used 12mm ply. 

The bottom of the tree - branches to come from the top.
I decided two trees would be better in the corner and fill the room better

The top branches of the trees. I ended up cutting these with a jigsaw instead of a router and it took quite a while! 

First pod assembled and trimmed out ready for painting. 

Ikea shelves together, testing the pods out for fit! 

Starting to paint the two pods and the corner bench. Two coats of undercoat and three coats of top coat! Took a fair time to do but got a good finish! 

Top branches added to the trees. 

Final coat of paint on the units. The purple colour matches the feature walls in the school. 

Everything in place - ready for books now! 

I decide to add in the books as a surprise for the head mistress - makes the library look finished! 

Leaves added to the trees. I cut 92 from a sheet of 6mm ply! 

Library all finished - just waiting for children

Great space for the kids. 
I'm really pleased with how it all looks at the end. I was so worried about the trees - not something I normally make!

I'm also pleased that my daughters and son will get to see it everyday when they're at school and know their dad made it. It was lovely yesterday morning when I saw the head mistress and she just said "I know this is unprofessional but..." and then gave me a huge hug! So I guess she was pleased!

It's incredible that our children get to benefit from a new school and I love that I was allowed to be a small part of it, I feel it's such a privilege! I have utter respect for the head Mistress who has poured her heart and soul into making sure this is a success.

My daughter came home from her first day there and was buzzing with excitement, when I asked her how everything was she'd just answer "Amazing" each time!

Thursday 4 January 2018

George's Marvellous Medicine

I was dealing with a very teary little boy yesterday morning, and it took me about an hour to even get him dressed! So I took some time to snuggle up in bed with all three kids and read some more of George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. 

All three are totally transfixed by it, and my daughters kept laughing at his descriptions of the mean old grandma in the book. My eldest was even keen to have it read to her instead of telly time. 

I'd read somewhere that he makes a master story teller out of all of us, and I certainly feel that's true.

You can't help but do funny voices and get caught up in the moment, my voice was hoarse afterwards!

Such a fun book to read aloud! One of the thing I was so excited about when we decided to start a family was that I was going to have children to read to and make fall in love with books like I have.
What's your favourite book to read out loud to children?

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Self Reliance Goals For 2018

I'm going to keep on the same theme here and write down some goals for 2018, not just self sufficiency ones though, ones for me!

I'm quite involved with my community here and I want to see that continuing. For the last year I've been helping to run the village playgroup and really enjoy this. One of my friends that I do this with is leaving, so two of us are going to carry it on. I think it's really important for a village to have a fun and friendly playgroup, it's how I've made many friends,  although I have to admit it's not a role I ever saw myself in!
I'm hoping to start to do a few things for my daughters school as well, I'm keen to start some sort of gardening club but not sure how things like this will work.

Children and Family
I spend a lot of time with the kids but sometimes it really feels like a roundabout of pickups and drop offs and when I get home I tend to be cooking or doing something. I want to try and set a little time each week to do something together after school, maybe doing more outdoor cooking, foraging and learning about all the wild edibles under our feet or something along that line. I'm going to dramatically reduce my phone usage around them as well.
I've also loved the few evenings and weekends my wife and I have had together without children over this last year. I want to make sure that we get a few of those in the next 12 months, time together without distractions is really important.

Building Projects
Not even sure I need to write this one down as you can probably all guess what it is.
I want to finish the extension. I am determined that we'll be eating Christmas dinner in our new kitchen next year. I'm going to have a couple of mornings a week without children as my youngest is starting nursery so I'm hoping this will give me the time I need to get it done. It's a huge project and hangs above my head the whole time. There's so much of our saving invested in it and we still can't use it!
I want to get upstairs usable and knock through, the kitchen sorted as well as the pantry and utility room.
Once it's finished I can then concentrate on other things, there is still some patio and slabbing that needs doing outside as well. I'd also love to build a butchery area that I can easily hose down, but after the extension...

Off Grid
I'd love for us to be more off grid. I'm very aware that as it stands we're very dependant on everything either coming in via the wires or the pipes.
Our budget won't stretch to moving much towards an off grid lifestyle at the moment. Things like solar panels are way out of our budget whilst we're still building the extension.
But there are a few things that I can look at doing that won't cost too much.
One is water storage, I'd like to store more water here, both drinkable and for the garden and animals. If our budget will stretch to it or I find any containers at the right price then this is something I'll be thinking about.
A compost toilet is something I talk about every year and never get round to. Even if it's just one I can use in the summer it would be a start! A bucket and a screen would do for a start!
Cooking - I'd love a few extra off grid cooking options here, maybe a simple brick oven outside, a proper wood burning one inside when I do the extension or a permanent rocket stove on the patio. I really want to work on this area in the summer.

I want to make sure that I put the building work here as my main priority, last year I put off working here as I had the offer of other carpentry work. In hindsight I should have turned it down and cracked on with the extension.
I also want to push more with the blog and with doing talks at garden clubs and WI's, other forms of income are something that I'm really keen to explore.

Well I always have big plans for the garden, but not so much this year.
To be honest I was going to increase it massively, up to about half an acre of veg, but I've decided that I need to finish the house first, the garden can just stay the same size. I am going to start a new soft fruit area and plant a few more perennial edibles, hopefully transforming the front garden from somewhere that doesn't get mown to somewhere that grows a bit off veg and herbs.
I am going to get the edges under control this year though, not sure how I'm going to do it yet but I'll figure something out!

I've reduced the flock of sheep to 25 as I think my land will cope with it better. Hopefully lambing will be as good as 2017!
The laying chickens will stay at the same number (around 20) and I'm planning on doing a few batches of 25-30 meat chickens throughout the year. I may even try and hatch a batch of quails this winter if I get chance.
I'd also like to start a small flock of pure breed chickens to sell fertile eggs from and to learn how to be better at selecting certain traits with animals. Currently I'm thinking of a meat bird so I wouldn't have to buy in day old chicks in the future. I also think Silkies would be great for the kids and the birds seem to sell well as well as being great broody birds. This might get put on hold until 2019 though!
Oh and pigs, the girls talk about nothing other than getting pigs! So maybe I can put them off for another year, maybe I can't!

I think I have a good level of strength and fitness just from what living this type of lifestyle entails. But I'd like to work more on making my back stronger, as I have started to feel it a bit as I've got a little older, maybe walking more around this beautiful area that I live.
My daughters school has just moved ever so slightly closer and although we'd have to walk over fields it's something I'd like to do when its dry or frozen. I do worry it would be like something out of an Enid Blyton novel and I'd end up buying the kids a donkey to take them instead...
I also want to keep reading what interests me and develop and practice my skills with anything related to homesteading, smallholding, prepping, gardening, farming, bushcraft, camping, self reliance and self sufficiency!

So that's some of my aims and ambitions for 2018, not sure how far I'll get with them but better to aim high!

Make sure you share with me some of your aims for 2018, I love to read what you're up to and which direction you're going.

Monday 1 January 2018

Happy New Year!

A little late in the day but I'd still like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!
We've only just got back as we managed to grab a couple of days away at the seaside with some friends and their children. 
It was great fun and a lovely chilled out way to see in the new year. I almost certainly didn't fall asleep before the bells chimed...
2017 was  great year for us as a family and here on the homestead and I'm looking forward to 2018, every year brings something new and new challenges to contend with.
I've drawn up a huge list of goals for 2018 and I'll post them tomorrow! As always I'm going to be ambitious! 

Happy New Year everyone, I hope it brings you all you desire (so long as you work for it!)! 
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