Monday, 16 September 2019

Apple Storage Rack

I made a load of fruit crates a while ago that stack together to store our apple harvest. 

These have been great in some ways. It gives a good airy store place and allows apples to sit for a long time. The downside is that because they stack you can only access the top tray. I wanted something a bit different, more like drawer unit. I'd seen many online but wanted something a bit bigger to fit the space I had.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Children Playing Bake Off

As a family there is a few programmes we watch together, one of these is The Great British Bake Off. The kids just love it and are always inspired by it. 

All of this year they've been playing "Play-dough Bake Off" at every opportunity. They get their play dough out, we set them a theme and then they get to it. My youngest will run round shouting "3 minutes left!" and the girls will panic to finish at the end - just like the program.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Old Newspaper

When I was ripping out the old kitchen I pulled out some old newspaper out of an old blocked off chimney.

One was from the Ledbury Evening News July 7th 1975 and advert from the classifieds:

I love the thought of going to get peas like this!

And the second was from The Sun and an advert for chief engineers on an Antarctic expedition.

 I think the readership of the Sun might have changed somewhat from those times! 

What old snippets of history have you found while working on a property?

Ideally I'd like to find a pot of gold...

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Brimfield Vintage Working Day 2019

After speaking to a family friend the other day about an item of machinery for one of my articles, he mentioned that it was their vintage working day this weekend.

Now we often go for a day out with Grandma (my mum) but not very often with Granddad (my dad) and I thought this would be perfect for him as well as he normally goes to it every year anyway. 

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Pantry Build Part 2 - Dividing Wall

So the pantry has progressed some more this week. 

The stud wall is in, so the utility and pantry are divided.

My youngest was so funny when I first did it, he wondered round to the one side, tilted his head a looked at it, then went to the other side and did the same. Then comes up to me and says "I hate it, I want it as one!". Difficult to please everyone!

Thursday, 29 August 2019


As you know if you read this blog regularly (or have spoken to me for more than a minute) I love to grow unusual food. 

I love growing something that isn't easily available in this country or easy to get hold of, something that might bring a new taste or experience. Sometimes they're a let down and other times they're incredible.

And I have to put Agretti in the latter category.

Monday, 26 August 2019

3 Types Of Damsons

Just a short post showing the three types of damsons I have on my trees in the orchard at the moment.

From left to right -  "Merryweather", "Langley Bullace" and "King of the Damsons"
I have three different types and all three trees have grown like crazy since I planted them about 6 years ago. 

This year I seem to have fruit on all three for the first time, not very much though so I doubt I'll be making any jam unless I get some from mum and dads farm in a few weeks.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Pantry Build - Part 1 - Rip Out

Now hand on heart I can honestly say I haven't finished all the other jobs in the house.There's a lot of painting to do, but everything else is pretty much there. Painting can be done on wet horrible days and with a few hours here and there

For seven years this was it for a kitchen, seems so tiny now. 

So as the weather is good and I'm at a point with my paying work where I can take a short break from it, I decided to look at making a start with the new pantry area

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Stone Fruit - What should I plant?

Although I look at each year and see where I can improve it's great to see things at certain points and think "there's something to add to my list!"

This year it's been like that with the stone fruit. We've just not had enough and I need to plant more!

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Family Days Out - St Fagan National Museum of History

I'm going to write this one up, but it's not a full review as the place is so big I don't even feel like we touched the surface of what it had to offer!

This turned out to be one of our wettest days out ever, but we still loved St Fagans National Museum of History.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Family Days Out - Centre For Alternative Technology

Yesterday we made a trip to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology. 

Testing out the solar panels and seeing how much difference some "clouds" could make. 
It's been somewhere I've want to visit for a long time now and I thought it would make a great day out for the family. We weren't disappointed. 

This is a very picture heavy post so be warned! 

Monday, 12 August 2019

Meadow Sweet Champagne/Sparkling Wine

This year I was a little bit gutted that I just didn't get round to making any elder flower champagne like I did last year. 

Meadow Sweet
But then a thought hit me as I was driving down the country lanes where we live. I wonder if I can make something with the amazing smelling Meadow Sweet that seems to be growing on every verge around here. 

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Car Games

Long car journeys with these crazy clowns are never boring.

 Stopped at a cherry farm on the side lf the road and ate our body weight in cherries then played lots of car games.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Japanese Wineberries

Japanese wineberrys are a relatively new joy I look forward to each year.

I didn't realise how much the kids look forward to them each year as well until today.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Friendly Soap Giveaway!

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

My first ever giveaway post!!

My wife an I were talking the other day and we realised it is over 7 years now since I have brought any shampoo. In this time I have just been using a bar of soap.

And just lately I've been using a bar that I've really fallen in love with.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Barley Wood Walled Garden

Last weekend my wife and I managed to have a few days together without the children!

It felt very odd at first but we soon got used to it! The first day was sweltering with high temperatures so we didn't feel like doing much. We were staying near Bath and had planned on visiting a lake but when we got there we couldn't see it for all the safety notices! So with a quick search on google I found a walled garden to go visit that was fairly near. 

Thursday, 25 July 2019

10 Year Anniversary

Who would have thought that anyone could put with me for this long?

Hats off to her I say!

I'm sure that I'm going to look back on the last ten years as some of the best of my life and my wife has been the perfect person to share them with. We've been married for ten years but together pretty much our whole adult lives.

There has been ups and downs but mainly it's been ups. We done everything we've set out to achieve, started a family, bought our forever home and smallholding and spent lots of time around our children as they start to grow up. Hopefully focusing on the things we think are important.

Here's to the next ten years!

Friday, 19 July 2019

Cabbage & Beetroot Sauerkraut

When we were at Hellens Garden festival last month we tried some amazing ferments made by a local firm. 

The two I liked best were the kimchi (hot and spicy) and a beetroot sauerkraut. What set this sauerkraut apart from others I'd tried was the addition of ginger and garlic. It just lifted the flavour so much!

So I decided it was time I had a go at making it. I loved our fermented wild garlic from a few years back so thought it would be good to get back into it.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Hay Making

AS we have no sheep this year we've had a surplus of grass to deal with.

In the past I've got contractors in to cut the grass and bale the hay, whilst I turn it to dry it. Then I could then do something with the hay.

This year I took a different approach as the contractor I used to use is no longer trading.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Emergency Garden Club Speaker!

The last few weeks have gone like a blur. ShireJam really took it out of me and it took a while to get back to normal.

The worst was that after using my voice quite heavily all weekend I really needed it Tuesday night. I should say that the kids were well behaved over that weekend - I wasn't shouting at the kids but you needed to be loud to be heard over all the children there!

I seem to be getting a few more talk bookings for gardening clubs lately which is great news for me. Because I'm quite new on the circuit if there is a cancellation with a speaker somewhere else I've been available to jump in and fill the slot.

Monday, 8 July 2019

ShireJam 2019 - Scouts

What a full on weekend we've just had.

My eldest daughter and I have been on our first scout camp with our local troop. I've been training up to be a Beaver leader for over a year now and it was time to get all the little ones under canvas as scouts for the first time.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Brushing Up On Bushcraft Skills

This week I've been asked to do a bit of unusual work. 

Carrying some willow for cooking sticks

I've been asked to teach a two hour bush craft lesson to a group of exchange students.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Bathroom Floor Finished

###This is a collaborative post###

I've finally got round to putting down the floor in the bathroom. 

It's amazing how used to the bare plywood we'd become.

To be honest I'd forgotten how much flooring changes a room! It now feels finished after waiting over 12 months! Why did I put it off so long?

In an ideal world we wouldn't have gone for for something more expensive than the end of roll vinyl flooring that we've ended buying from the discount bin, but it's all our budget would stretch to. We would have much rather gone for something like tiles or some high quality  Engineered Wood Flooring.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Mono Cropping Isn't Always A Bad Thing

Now my garden is a diverse place. And not just because it's full of weeds, but because I grow so many types of veg and crops.

The other day though at a talk I was giving some said that I was mono cropping because I tended to grow the same crop in each bed and don't mix. This is true, but generally they're surrounded by different plants in the beds next to them and the beds are only 10ft by 30". 

This did get me thinking though about how people in certain communities seem to make blanket assumptions about how we currently grow crops. The one that I hear a lot is about how mono cropping is a bad thing.

I have to admit that on the surface I completely agree, if we're surrounded by hundreds or thousands of acres of the same crop that is terrible for the local wildlife and it certainly lends itself to sprays and more modern agriculture, but it is a very efficient way of growing food using the current systems that we generally have. Critics don't always have the growing experience to back up their arguments.

I've often read that smaller patches of crops are better and intermixed with other things but there is certainly optimal sizes, as I'm finding out with my small scale grain growing this year. This will vary massively depending on what crop you're growing and how you plan to harvest it. A 10ft bed of beetroot is a good size to grow and harvest, whereas the same size of wheat means that it has to be hand harvested and processed.

As an example I had a huge tub of hull less barley growing on the patio for weeks and weeks. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was stripped by birds in a few minutes. I couldn't help but feel worried about my other little patches I have growing around the garden.

I contacted a grain breeder I follow on Instagram and asked how he deals with pests for these hull less types of grain on a small scale without using nets and other preventative methods. His reply was simple "Safety in numbers, these crops are surrounded by other grains so the predator pressure is spread".

I had issues with my wheat as well, my triple row destroyed in an evening by a hungry rabbit. But I know the same rules would apply here, you have to expect some losses and grow accordingly.

So, although I'm only building my seed bank this year it's already proving quite difficult but I'm hopeful I'll have something to show for it in the autumn (lots of nets needed!). If I do go on to grow some bigger patches of grain in the future I might have to think about what a viable amount would be to allow for losses and to make processing worthwhile, at the moment I doubt it would work in with my current garden bed system.

If you grow grain on a small scale what's the minimum you'd grow?

How do you protect it?

Friday, 21 June 2019

Fill A Jar & Cutting Down On Sugar

One thing no one warns you about with having children is all the "parent taxes" that you have to pay. 

Our school is particularly bad for this. Every few weeks there seems to be a non school uniform day with a charitable donation attached. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Bird Feeder For Sale - Is It Sustainable?

As many of you know I make and sell a few items on Etsy.

This has been great for me so far, a great to supplement my income and keep me working from home making items I enjoy making. 

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Cutest Fathers Day Note

My eldest daughter almost made me cry this morning with her lovely note she had written me.

It reads:

"You are the best daddy in the world.
You grow food for us to live.
You buy chickens for eggs and meat.
You helped me choose my glasses.
You help me learn lots of stuff.
If something is poisonous then you say.
You are a great Beaver Teacher.
You cook delicious food especially flapjack.
You are an amazing carpenter, you made the whole entire kitchen.
Lots and lots and lots of love..."

She is always so appreciative of everything and constantly tells us how lucky she is. We're so fortunate to have such lovely humble children.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Royal Three Counties Show 2019

So today I managed to go to a countryside show all by myself. It was BLISS!!!

I've had such a great day at the Three Counties Show. Being on my own meant I could talk to everyone without having a small person tugging at my sleeve, go where I wanted to, when I wanted to! Something I'll have to make sure I don't get used to!

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

What Age Should Children Forage For Food?

When you see the school's number flash up on the phone your heart always sinks. 

"What's happened? Are they all okay?"
 "Erm... It's one of your children, they've eaten something..."

Monday, 10 June 2019

Hellens Garden Festival 2019

We've had another great day at Hellens garden festival. 

It's become an annual trip for our family, we love it and really look forward to it. 

Friday, 7 June 2019

Fighting Slugs - Feed And Fortify

#### This is a collaborative post ####

Normally when I garden I keep a good equilibrium between my plot and nature but this year nature seems to be winning, and by some margin.

Rabbits keep sneaking in and eating from the ground, pigeons devour from above, but my biggest enemy this year is the slugs from below. They are without mercy and seem to have decided that I can have nothing left when I plant out certain crops. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Hellens Garden Festival 2019

It's getting close! It's nearly time for Hellens Garden Festival. 

This has become an annual tradition for us and we love attending every year. There is always so much for the kids to do and there's in such a lovely safe environment.

I'm doing another talk/workshop again this year though so it adds a little pressure!

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Zero Waste Shops

As a family we're always trying to reduce how much waste we produce, from using composting toilets to buying in bulk.

I am pleased that it seems to be getting slightly easier for other consumers to be able to do this without buying in the large bulk quantities that we do. Lately there have been a few plastic free - zero waste shops popping up around the country and we're now lucky enough to have one in our local city of Worcester.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Helpers In The workshop

I love that my work fits around the children and I love that they can sometimes see me making things for customers.

Little helper in the background
 Sometimes they like to come in and watch. The little man especially loves to come in and chat to me as I work.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Bleeding A Digger

Silly mistakes always cost time. 

Normally the sillier the mistake than the longer it takes to sort. Which is what happened today when the digger ran out of fuel.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Small Scale Grain

So my plans for growing some more calories on our smallholding has already hit some setbacks. I had planned to turn the front lawn over to growing some grains and started to grow some grains as plug plants in the green house but unfortunately the mice put pay to that idea. 

Sorting grain - hull less on the left and the ones with hulls on the right

They ate most of my wheat seed and all of the hull less oats that I had when I started them in cells in the greenhouse. I managed to get some hull less barley growing and enough wheat to make a triple row.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Modifying Tools

I was digging some holes with my graft the other day and it got me thinking about how I've altered many of the tools I use over the years. 

When you work with tools regularly you soon learn what works for you and what doesn't. The graft in the photo above is the perfect example of this. When I purchased the spade it had two wings either side to give your foot complete support as you dug. The trouble was when digging tight post holes these "wings" got in the way. I think I'd had the thing for less than a few hours before they got chopped off with the grinder. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Saving Legumes For HSL

I love being a member of the HSL as it gives me great access to seeds that I might not otherwise be able to get hold of. And if you've read much of this blog you'll know I'm slightly obsessed by seeds! It's also a great way to support these rare seeds to save them going extinct.

Each year you get to pick out six packets of seed from their list to try. The idea is that you get the seed to grow but with the aim of saving enough seed to send back so it can be looked after and sent out to it's members the following year. Keeping the seeds growing and in production is the best way of keeping them alive and away from becoming extinct.

Generally the numbers they send you are fine. Half a dozen tomato seeds is plenty to grow, taste and save the seed from, the same with a few dozen lettuce seeds. The only problems come when it comes to legumes.

Peas and french beans are easy to save the seeds from and there are lots of old varieties out there so they feature quite highly on HSL lists. The downside comes from how many they send you. I think this year I had 10 french bean seeds and 10 each of the two types of peas.

Now I completely understand why this is, it's rare seed and I should guess that a fair amount of the stuff sent out doesn't get saved and sent back to the HSL. But what it does mean is that for me legumes from them has become a two year project if I want to share the seed with friends and return any.

The first year will be to germinate and grow them on to produce plenty of beans or peas so that I can then grow a good amount of the following year. The following years crop can then be eaten and saved, distributed at our seed swap and sent back to the HSL, a great way of keeping these varieties out there!

Hopefully what we get from them will be worth it. the one dwarf french bean I've got from them has the following description "This black seeded French heirloom variety produces compact, bushy plants that display both drought and cold tolerance. Dark lilac flowers are followed by pencil pods; crisp and tasty when eaten whole and as podded green beans. When dried the beans have a lovely nutty flavour, and are particularly good for use in Mexican and Cuban recipes. Sow to harvest 85 days (approx.) "

This sounds just perfect for a veg for me, especially the bit about showing some cold and drought tolerance, just the type of thing that is needed on a system where you're trying to reduce inputs and get earlier harvests. I wonder how many seeds I'll get from my original 10?

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Left Overs Pasty & A Picnic!

I love left overs. Nothing gets me hungrier than thinking about frying up some bubble and squeak to have with some cold meat and pickles on a Monday night.

The other day though we had some chicken left over from a roast and a particularly bad bank holiday weekend where my two youngest children and I were pretty ill. We had planned to go for a walk as a family but it just never happened.

So instead I thought we'd go for an after school picnic when my wife got home from work. I decided that we'd need some thing pretty portable but I knew they'd all still need a hot meal inside them! A good old pasty was my thinking!

Simple pastry with flour, salt, lard, butter and water

This is where I also have to make a confession - I haven't made pastry since I left school so well over 20 years ago. But it was surprisingly easy (once I brought some lard). I made it at lunch time and let it rest until I could have at least one helper make the pasties.

The filling was the left over chicken with added potatoes, onions and carrots.

My eldest helped me make them and was far more optimistic than I was about how they'd turn out.

They were ready just as my wife got home, so I wrapped them in foil and a tea towel, packed up some plates, cups, cake and an empty bottle we could fill at a spring.

I did make everyone walk for a good mile once we'd parked up, but the views were more than worth it.

It was a fun tea time although not perfect as these things never are. My boy refused to eat them and someone (not going to name names) needed help to do a wild wee and peed all over my hand. I wouldn't have minded so much if I had finished my cake by then! The cake was a beautiful lemon cake my wife had made with the children the day before.

A lovely evening and a great picnic!

Friday, 10 May 2019


Growing up the tool below was used a lot on the farm.
It was used for chucking the silage to the sheep, as well as wads of hay and straw. With it's long handle it meant that they could be chucked quite far and dad would soon put what he needed in each pen with a quick swing of his arms.

He called it a pikel and until the other day I've never questioned that name! But apparently that is a really regional word to Shropshire, the county both he and I grew up in. 

So my question to you all is what would you call this tool?

And is there regional names for tools that you use that no one else has heard of?
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