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.

Monday 5 March 2018

Sausage Making

This is a rather late follow on post from the Pig Butchery Weekend I posted a couple of weeks ago. 
 As we were split into two groups on the Sunday the second group went and finished the butchery while a few of us set about getting ready for sausage making.
We minced up all the pork we'd trimmed off the animal and the shoulders we'd cut up as well. There was a fair bit.
 We then measured it out and added it to the first rusk and seasoning pack. The first one was easy, 4kg of meat, packet of rusk and water, ready to go.
 The second batch took a bit more thinking about, as we had a packet of plain rusk and had to work out the seasoning quantities and the water. Should have been simple but for some reason we were all scratching our heads at one point!
 The other guys came in at lunch time and we started making sausages. The skins were natural casings and had been soaking all morning, but one lot of them was quite hard to tread on the pipe of the sausage stuffer.
 Alan made it look easy and did the magic twist and tying of the fat sausages as well!
 We all got a good share of sausages and mine went into the freezer as soon as I got home.
They didn't stay there for long though! Looking forward to making some with my own animals one day, great way to use up lesser cuts of meat.

Anyone else make their own sausages?

Saturday 3 March 2018

Forcing The Children To Build Shelters In the Snow

If you live in the UK I don't have to tell you it's been cold.

It's quite an unusual storm, a mixture of cold strong winds that are blowing in a different direction from what is normal and snow. The snow is far dryer than normal as well (if that makes sense) and is blowing everywhere. I have areas with no snow on the ground at all and some drifts higher than me (6ft).

We're not used to this type of weather anymore and things like keeping the wood burner going and the heating on have been a priority. The new unfinished extension that we've knocked through to has been chilly as there was quite a few drafts for the wind to blow through. I spent a good half hour with some expanding foam to fix that problem!

The children were quite happy inside, watching films, making crafts and baking cakes but I decided it was the perfect weather to take them outside for a light bit of survival training! I'm a mean dad, but want to try to teach them some things they might remember.
First of all we talked about where they could find natural shelter or things that they might not have thought about. They both suggested sleeping in the animal housing or finding somewhere under the trees. We also talked about which way the wind was blowing and how to tell.

For the first shelter we took out a tarp, rope and paracord. We're short on suitable trees here  (they're busy growing) so we decided upon a few gate posts to build it around.
 Certainly not the best shelter in the world and I could have done with some way to peg it down better. It did show them how easy it is to build one and what a difference it makes getting out of the wind. It also took a bit of teamwork as the wind was gusty so needed us all to hold it as we built it.
 We talked about holding the back down with snow if we had no other option to stop the wind. Some pegs would have been a good idea to keep the lines and the tarp lower. It wasn't the ideal shape for the conditions either, a normal small tent shape would have been better, but my younger daughter was cold so we just tried to build it quickly.
 My younger daughter then went in as she was too cold (it was blinking cold), but I suggested to my eldest that we should build a snow shelter, (with much pretending about polar bears chasing us) it was a great fun little exercise.
This girl is such a trooper, nothing phases her. 
 We made our way down to the bigger field where the drifts were higher (6ft). She struggled through the deep snow but didn't give up.
We then set to digging ourselves a cave in the deep snow - keeping a watchful eye out for polar bears the whole time ;-). We brought her little proper shovel, one for digging trenches - children's ones don't last five minutes with my kids, and dug as deep as we could.
quite happy out of the wind! 
 We tried it a few times until it was deep enough for her to get completely out of the driving snow and wind.
Our snow cave

My eldest getting out of the wind and the elements in the cave she helped to dig. 
 A great way to spend a few hours with my children in some harsh elements we don't get to practice in very often. My eldest really impressed me with the snow cave, she didn't give up digging or walking and didn't make a fuss, asked sensible questions and enjoyed the whole thing, she's got some real determination there!  I also taught her the trick for warming your hands up in your armpits, which is something I watched on a program somewhere and it really works!

Also no polar bears got us either, which is always good!

How's everyone else in the UK dealing with the snow? Anyone else forcing their kids to learn stuff in these conditions?

Whats the weather like elsewhere in the world?

Thursday 1 March 2018

Get Home Car Kit For My Wife

The wife makes a fuss about carrying extra stuff in the car because I'm paranoid. But if she's gotta go to work she's going to be prepared!

Not sure what else I should pack for her, but in there she's got 
Good sleeping bag, 
Folding shovel, 
Snow chains, 
24 hour ration pack, 
Flashing beacon, 
First aid kit, 
Head torch and normal torch, 
Extra socks
Good coat and bag. 

After posting this on Facebook, I'm going to add a phone charger and maybe some jump leads, extra chocolate, a small knife, matches and a few candles. A battery pack for her phone would be a good idea as well. 

I also need to check there's a hooking eye for towing and buy a tow rope for my truck (ratchet straps would do at a push but not ideal)

What else would you add to this car kit?
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