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?

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Legumes For Self-Sufficiency

If you were having to grow enough to feed yourself then I think one of the most important crops would be legumes. There are certainly others that are just as important, but these would be pretty high up the list.

Start them young - few jobs make me happier than sowing beans with little people!
Basically you can always find either peas or beans that will grow well in your climate and location. Some are better for drought, some over winter providing cover, some crop early, some are great in pots and containers, some good for storage, some good for fresh use, etc.

They are also a plant that provides a reliable and predictable harvest. Very important when working out the quantities that you'd need to feed you and your family. They also require less in the way of inputs than some other crops.

Sunday 5 May 2019

Meat Rabbits

So this is something I've been giving a lot of thought to over the last few years. 

I almost did it a few years ago before we rented the land next door. But then came the sheep and our meat supply was sorted. Although it only happened once a year.

Since selling them I've been thinking about ways to replace that.

Saturday 4 May 2019

8 Types of Pea Growing This Year (so far)

I think my love of legumes has got out of hand. I had a count up and I realised I've so far got 8 types of pea growing so far this year. To be honest it should have been ten but the first one didn't come up (mice).

The one set of peas that failed was just a standard podding type called Onward.

Friday 3 May 2019

Early May Update

As usual this is a really busy time of year. Seeds to sow, plants to put out and veg to maintain and grow.

I love this time of year, so much to remember to do but it really sets the pace for the rest of the year, hopefully ours will be full of goodies.

The kids have been a great help with all this. Not helping all the time but really entertaining themselves and letting me get on with things.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

5 Tips to Enjoying Being a Stay At Home Dad

I was reading a thread on Facebook the other day where a lady was saying her husband was a Stay At Home Dad (SAHD) and often felt alienated at toddler groups and ignored on the school run and people said to her that she was heartless for going back to work and he's not a real man because he's at home with the kids.

Well my experience of it has been completely different! I've enjoyed nearly all of it (there have been some dark times as well though - mainly involving poo...).

So I thought I'd write a post to any potential Stay At Home Dad's out there on how to make the most of it.

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