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.


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.


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.

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!


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!


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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