Friday, 22 March 2019

Making Presents

Presents are always something I struggle with. I'm terrible really. I leave everything to the last minute and then can never come up with a good idea in time. 


With my wife's birthday approaching I decided to do an idea I'd had for ages.

For the first time in what seems like a long while I was going to make her a present!

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Unfinished Plumbing

### This is a Collaborative post ####


We live in an unfinished house and I fear it may be like that for sometime... 
Nice place for a bath...

The cobbler’s children go barefoot and all that…

I’m not too bothered about it (although my wife might think otherwise), and I am slowly working my way through the list of jobs. Although the list does tend to get longer rather than shorter.

Monday, 18 March 2019

New Workshop Roof

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the workshop roof has been leaking for weeks now and has been slowly driving me mad.


It only seems to drip when I'm stood under it, and then it only hits my neck! But seriously it needed sorting before something bad happened and water got into the wiring or wrecked my tools.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

False Spring

The warm spell of weather we had a few weeks ago lured everyone into a thinking that spring had arrived, but it seems we're a long way from it yet with the weather we've been having this week. 



But I love this time of year and all the prep that goes into the spring that's just around the corner. Everything is just getting ready to burst!

Thursday, 7 March 2019

World Book Day

Today is world book day and there has become a tradition across schools where the children dress as their favourite character or person from a book they love. 

I think our girls saw this as a challenge. No one would be guessing who they were! They decided who they were going to be with no input from us! We might have gone with people a little more mainstream. 

Monday, 4 March 2019

Young Crafter

If you read this blog then no doubt you'll have worked put that we're a practical family. 

Both side of the family are practical, On my side my father is a farmer and an agriculture engineer, my mother was a flower arranger but is also trained in soft furnishings and does many other crafts, my sister designs fabric and wallpaper for a living and my brother is a tree surgeon. 
On my wife's side her father is a mechanic, her mother and grandmother are both amazing knitters and her brother is a car sprayer. 

So it's no wonder that our children seem drawn to anything practical or craft based. 


Sewing is certainly one that has grabbed my eldest daughter attention. She is fascinated by it. She loves anyone spending time with her showing her how to make something and picks up the skills really quickly. If any clothes break or tear she is the first to say she'll fix it!

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Garden Tool Organisation

The weather has been amazing this week so I've been spending as much time outside as possible. 

I've even managed to dry some washing on the line!

My workshop and carpentry tools are pretty well organised. I know where everything is in my workshop, other than a pencil or tape measure which I can never find when I put them down! Everything has it's place and has somewhere to go where it's protected from damage. In this way I can also see if something is missing.

Cut to the garden and it's a different story. My garden tools haven't exactly been looked after over the years. When the weeds are running wild its hard to even find where I've left them at times! Although it pains me to admit that...


Monday, 25 February 2019

Oak Floor In Manchester

What a busy weekend! 


I'm sure as many of you know I don't like to leave the village unless I have to (managed 6 weeks without leaving it last year at one point).

But sometimes I do - mainly for family. I visit my parents farm quite often, but I'm not so great at going to see my sister who lives in Manchester. She's great at seeing us and spending time with the kids and I'm terrible at going back up there. It is a three hour drive though but I still feel guilty.

With her partner, they've just bought a house and are in the process of doing it up. One area that's having a complete overhaul is the living room, and one thing they really want is an oak floor to set it off.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Not Renting Land Anymore And Where Are The Sheep...

Something I've been putting off writing is how last year, towards the end of the summer, I sold the sheep.

Removing gates and other bits from the rented field

I've been feeling guilty about not blogging about it but also I've not been sure what to write.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Sunny Walk To School

I took this photo on the way to school.

 I take this same photo quite often, the light just seems right as we walk our fast pace to school, the children marching in size order, trying to be first to get to the puddles to jump in, or smash if they're frozen. 

We don't walk to school often enough though, hopefully as my youngest gets older we'll do it more. I love it to clear my head and hear the children talk about things we might not otherwise. 

On a Thursday morning I look after my friends sons as well, the boys had great fun running back home, finding foot prints of different animals and pretending to eat worms. It's lovely seeing two little best friends interact like that. 

I'm truly blessed to live in such a wonderful place and share it with my family and friends. 

Anyhow, enough of the soppy post. 

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

The Hedge magazine - Issue 10

Loved seeing my article on seed saving in the latest issue of the Hedge magazine. Such a beautiful little magazine to be a little part of.



Saturday, 9 February 2019

Apple Trees For Sale

I've got lots of interesting apple trees that I grafted a few years ago to sell.
All grown free from pesticides or any chemicals on a north facing slope so when they get given a bit of love they should romp away!

£12 each plus postage UK Only. Postage will be between £12 - £25 depending on number of trees. I will heavily prune trees for postage, but I always recommend this before planting anyway to give the roots chance to catch up.

Discounts available if having 10 or more trees.

Varieiteis:

Pixie - Small apple but huge flavour - great late eater keep till Janurary

Spartan - Red Skin, white flesh, juicy apple good for making juice. Mid season

George Cave -very early apple - eaten off the tree is lovely. Won't keep.

Orleans Rennit - Said to be one of the nicest tasting apples ever - late season but doesn't keep more than a few weeks.

Annie Elizabeth - Old cooking apple, keeps its shape when cooked - purple blossom when flowering. Sweet - no sugar needed when cooking. Oct - Apr

Sunset - Good alternative to Cox - much easier to grow and still very tasty.

American Mother - Great eater - mid season apple. Great for exposed sites as blossom slightly frost tolerant - I find it a reliable cropper.

Claygate Pearmain - popular Victorian eating apple - late season apple -

Tydemans late orange - great keeper, still good in April - best easten from storage, nice sharp apple.

Blenham orange - vigorous tree - dual purpose, cooker and eater, very popular tree.

Winston - used to be known as Winters king - Eating apple that keeps well,

Brownlees russet - great russeted eating apple.


Happy to answer any questions on here or you can email me through the contact page and I'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Floor To Ceiling Storage

Storage is always an issue with us. We never seem to have enough. 


It's got a whole lot worse since having children. The picture above shows just their craft supplies - one of their favourite activities.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Seed Swap Herefordshire 2019

Yesterday saw another seed swap in the Courtyard in Hereford. 

It was great fun as usual.


This year was a little different for me as I was doing the talk that the seed swap puts on. Each year they put a speaker on to attract more people and to provide some extra interest for those attending, so I was really shocked when they asked me to do it.

I also took my eldest daughter with me
 She had been so excited to come a long and what it was and be a part of it. She was super well behaved all day, really helpful and polite, just a pleasure to have with me.

I did a talk on unusual fruit and vegetables, which is one I've done for a few garden clubs now. It was really well received and people laughed in the right places and I had lots of questions at the end! I've already had a few emails contacting me about it and a booking for another talk in November this year.


I also managed to get a good haul of seeds to try and grow (and a few to give to a few friends that couldn't get there). I'm really pleased to get lots of different tomatoes to try, something I always love growing. Also some seeds for the plant "bath asparagus" which should be fun to try and get growing as another unusual edible.

The seed swap group has also started selling potatoes for the first time. This was great and it's looking like something we'll carry on with in the future. This is great news for me as I picked up four different types of potatoes to try.

I love a good seed swap and I'm lucky to be a part of this one. Trouble is I'm all fired up for growing now and it still feels too early. Maybe get some Chillies in this week...

Anyone else been to a seed swap this year?

Have you started planting anything yet?

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Herefordshire Seed Swap This Weekend!!!

This weekend is the big seed swap in Hereford at the courtyard.


This is a great event and even if you haven't got anything to swap we won't mind! We ask for nothing in return but would love it if it encouraged anyone to save some seeds and bring them back for next year.


I'm doing the talk this year (so a little nervious) but I'm looking forward to it and looking forward to meeting lots of like minded people. Make sure you come and say hello if you're about Hereford on Saturday. Be great to see you.

Monday, 28 January 2019

How To Stop A Fussy Eater - Taste Testing!

This turned out to be so much more fun than I thought it would be. 


I had the idea for blind taste testing when we opened a can of prunes in syrup the other day. Two of the children wouldn't try them just because of how they looked.

So not wanting my children to think like that, I decided to do something fun to prove them wrong.

A Blind taste test!

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Self Reliance Goals For 2019

I quite like having a set of goals to work towards each year. They don't have to be things to do, just stuff to work towards or maintain. Normally hugely optimistic, this year hugely late as well.

Community

I made community a big focus of last year but I think my aim this year should just be to continue what I've been doing. Anymore and it might become too much like a burden. That said I'd like to maybe start a gardening club at the school or at least be involved in one there, I'd love for the pupils to have a crop of veg ready to sell at the school fayre.


Family And Friends

I want to have the TV and phone turned off more. I don't watch huge amounts of TV anymore but I am very aware that it's very easy for me to turn the TV on when the kids get home and whilst I do some jobs they are sat like vegetables in front of the goggle box.

To prevent this I'd like to do more activities after school. Not ones where they go to a club but stuff we can do here, together. In the summer it's easy, they come out and help in the garden or the orchard, but colder months are more difficult. Just the other night we spent the night bagging seed for the seed swap. They helped me for hours, to the point that they moaned when they went to bed because they hadn't watched any TV that evening! I'd be happy if this happened every evening to be honest!

Time away from here is something I need to improve on as well. Last year I think I only spent three nights total away from the homestead! I'd be happy with this but my wife deserves time away where we can all recharge our batteries and possibly breath in some sea air.

I also want to have more friends round to eat here. I grew up in a busy house where there was often other people for dinner and food shared, loud meals filled with laughter are simple the best. With the bigger kitchen it's so much easier to entertain people and it would be great to have people round just for regular meals. It would be great for the kids to see this as normal, amazing for improving their table manners (I've turned into my dad when it comes to manners, constant nagging at the table!) and how they interact with adults as well.


Building Projects

Ah well this is still a long list!

Finish the kitchen for starters, it's almost there. Just some painting left to do, as well as skirting and architrave! I also need to make up some doors for the floor to ceiling storage unit I've built in the old dinning room.

Then crack on with the shower room before tackling the next big bit - the pantry, utility and downstairs loo.

This is the last part of downstiars to be renovated, so will involve knocking in doorways, ripping plaster off walls and taking up floors. Hopefully I'll be able to seal it all away from the rest of the house and work on it that way, only opening up when things are nearly finished. Stupidly excited about the fact we're going to have a pantry, always been a weird dream of mine to have something like that where I live.


Off Grid

I feel I did well with our [low budget] off grid progress last year, but it's hard to do some bigger things (like solar, a well etc) without spending huge amounts of money, which we don't have!

I want to keep my budget small (free stuff only really) for this and see what I can do. I'd love to create an outdoor oven, one that could be used in the summer and one that could be used to cook bread. Although I like the look of pizza ovens they do use a lot of fuel to heat up, so I want to see if there is more efficient designs involving rocket type stoves that I could make.

Having this outdoor area combined with somewhere I could do butchery would be really handy, maybe with a large boiling pot I could scald the chickens before plucking them.

I'd also like to improve our water storage and usage, not sure what or how I'll do it though, but I'd like to use more rainwater on the garden if possible and work out how much I actually use in the summer.


Work

As little away from here as possible! I want as much as my work as possible to be based here or at the furthest the village and surrounding areas.

I also need to see the writing and some of the other things I do as work. I'm terrible for thinking anything that doesn't have something I can see and hold at the end of the day isn't work! I guess it's in part to the way I was brought up, but also because I've always done practical jobs!


Garden and trees

The garden I had in 2017 was great from production point of view. I'd love to get back to that stage where I'm happy to walk someone round it! I'd like to grow a similar amount of veg but experiment with some grains or pseudo-grains to try growing staples and animal feeds. I need to increase the number of calories I produce here.

I want to take the seed saving more seriously. In 2017 I did a great job of saving seed but last year everything went to pot. It's a great feeling having a number of plants saved but it doesn't take very long to undo all that hard work. I want to work on having a number of plants that I save the seed from year on year for different purposes. I love saving for the seed swap and I want to start giving back to the heritage seed library, with ambitions of becoming a seed guardian at some point, so I need to prove my worth first!

Get some more fruit trees and bushes in the ground. We all love fruit here so it would be great to produce more, ideally a new soft fruit area where I could get in and pick it all would be great.


Infrastructure
So many jobs need finishing off. I need to hang gates, fix the roof on my workshop and clear my yard. The main one is just to keep the place looking a bit tidier though. It does look messy and it shouldn't really.

I'd also like to apply for permission to build a garage where an old tin shack is.. This would provide some more undercover space and be a great area where I could try my hand at learning some mechanic skills to renovate something, maybe with the kids if they show interest, or I force them...

More undercover growing would be great but not sure time or budget will allow that one!


Livestock

I'd like to make my chickens more self sustaining. Rather than buying in meat birds as day olds, I'd love to have a flock here that I could breed meat birds from, whether from a cross or pure bred. Then I wouldn't have to do batches and they could forage for food more.

I'd also like to have some reliable broody hens that I could trust to hatch out for me rather than using a incubator and heat lamp/pad.

Also resist taking on anything else!


Self

I want to really increase the amount of writing I do. Its something I really enjoy and find therapeutic. Hopefully I'll write a lot more for Country Smallholding magazine this year, but I'd also love to write more on the blog as well as to start writing a book - the idea has been buzzing round my head for years now!

Aikido has been great over the last 9 months or so, I'd love to keep up with this as something I enjoy. It's very hard to think of anything else when practicing and it's good for fitness and increases confidence a little with self defence. IT's also highly social with a weekly visit to the pub afterwards and a good chat surrounded by friends.

Walking is also some thing I want to keep doing, we've been on some nice ones with the family and I'd love to combine this more with learning about nature and what's around us, foraging when we can and just enjoying being outside, taking my eldest "proper" camping (no tent) would be great as well.



So that's some aims for this year. Nothing hugely specific this year but lots of things to work towards. I'm sure there are many more I'll think of when I hit the publish button!

If you've set yourself a ambition this year what is it and what are you doing to work towards it?

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Making Pasta After School

 I'm very aware that the time between school and dinner can be a tough time, and one that can be easily wasted.
Nothing is easier for me than letting the kids come home, putting on the TV, letting them fill their faces with snacks and act like vegetables whilst I get jobs done, like the washing or cooking dinner.


I don't like it like that though, I want my children to remember doing things with me. I'm very lucky to be able to pick them up each day and don't want to waste that time with them.

But in the winter months it can be harder to think of things to do together. They do love helping with making tea though.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Freezer Full Of Chicken

The picture below is the culmination of a lot of time and work! 


All the meat chickens are now safely processed and in the freezer (this is only a third of it).

Monday, 14 January 2019

Goodbye Front Lawn?

I've shared this on other forms of social media over the weekend and it's been interesting seeing the different comments from the other platforms.

I really dislike my scrappy front lawn. I never mow the grass so it always looks a right mess. I've already put raised beds on the one half (this is the other half) where I grow some crops over the summer. 


I'm now thinking I'd like to grow a small patch of cereal in this area.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Three Today!

Three years seem to have gone in the blink of an eye! 

Sorting seeds with daddy

It doesn't seem like five minutes since this little man was born

Monday, 7 January 2019

Quick Kitchen Tour

Short video of our new kitchen I've been building from scratch over the last few months. 

Not quite finished but it's nearly there. 


Can't quite see how we coped with the old tiny one now!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

New Year

Well 2019 hasn't started off as well as we would have liked. My wife's mother tripped and fell on new years day and broke her hip. She went to have surgery and they decided to replace it rather than repair it. So quite a dramatic start to the year, but she's all good and on the road to recovery.

We also have a funeral to go to tomorrow for a previous neighbour who we used to live next to before we moved here. Such a a shame as she was such a lovely person and has had a long battle with cancer.

Funny when I think back, she was my first ever proper neighbour, growing up our nearest was a full field away, and she was a great neighbour and became a good friend.

She'd happily look after everything when we went away and was always so friendly and nice. I have many happy and funny memories of her, one springs to mind when a rat had got into her kitchen and we were both trying to get it out! Neither of us wanted to open the cupboards and it kept going from one to the other.

Such a shame that she lost the fight.

Other than all that the time between Christmas and new year has past like a blur, lots of family and friends, lots of fun times and getting some jobs done.

I've lots of aims and ambitions for 2019, a long list! I'm going to do my regular self reliance goals post in the next couple of days! It's going to be an optimistic list I think!
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