Wednesday 30 December 2020

Carved Mirror Frame

I know I'm in danger of blowing my own trumpet a bit too much on here, but I wanted to show you all the mirror I had made for my wife.

My wife can be tricky to buy for so I'm always trying to think of something I can either make for her or buy. I've also been trying to learn to carve lately, something I've always wanted to do, and I thought it might be an ideal time to make my wife something small and complete a little carved project.

It's only simple, carved on lime wood (from a tree that once grew in the grounds of Hereford Cathedral) and the design itself isn't mine but part of the online course I'm doing, but I enjoyed making it and my wife is pleased with it. 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Homemade Mask

One of my favourite presents this year was from my eldest (8) daughter. 

She's still mad on sewing (in fact on making anything really!) so I think she enjoyed making this with her mum! 

 She knew I'd like the material she had chosen (I'm forever the biggest geek you'll ever meet)! 

I can't believe she's going to be 9 in a few weeks, it's gone so fast! Trying to decide what to get her for her birthday is so tricky so close after Christmas as she never asks for much. I'm tempted to make a tool box for her as I think she'd like that. 

Sunday 27 December 2020

Pirate Treasure Chest!

Our children never ask for much, normally their requests for presents are quite random (last year one was a treasure map). This year the boy asked for a  treasure chest, we searched online but didn't really like (or could afford) anything we saw, so time for me to contribute to Christmas (my wife does so much!). 

We decided that it would be ideal if it could double up as a toy box, but I might have got a little carried away with the dimensions as it's a proper treasure chest size! 

Saturday 26 December 2020

Merry Christmas!

 Sorry I've been terrible with keeping up with the blog lately! It's been a busy time despite not being able to travel around, I've been trying to keep up with Etsy orders, making a few Christmas presents and trying to make sure we comply with the Poultry lock down! 

We had a lovely Christmas day and the children feel at a perfect age for it, with them now being 4, 7 & 8, the magic is certainly there. They were super all day and my wife cooked an amazing Christmas lunch (using one of our ducks and one of our Indian Game Cockerels) which I then had to try to sleep off in the afternoon! 

This is just a quick note to say thank you for still reading my blog and that it means a great deal to me to still have people commenting, it sometimes feels that blogs have died off lately so nice that I still can write things here and have them read by like minded people. 

This next week I'll show you what I've made for presents (and my daughter made me) as well as my new design for a simple folding duck coop and an article I wrote for a preserving magazine. 

Merry Christmas everyone! Although I know it's not been a normal Christmas I hope it's been an enjoyable one!  

Tuesday 15 December 2020

Chicken Lockdown Mini Cull

###This post contains photos of dead animals and meat prep###

With the Avian Flu lock down yesterday we decided at the weekend to thin our flocks a little bit with a few birds that were going off to go to freezer camp. 

The girls have their favourites! No way were these going to the freezer!

We had two cockerels (Legbar and a Maran) from a small hatch we did in the summer, leaving us with two layers and two silkies from that hatch. And three ducks - all drakes - to leave us with what is a breeding trio from two sources so next year any that hatch should be unrelated. 

Monday 7 December 2020

Kitchen Island

One of my regular customers contacted me the other day about some work they wanted doing - they needed an island unit for their kitchen. 

They had already chosen some granite for the top and needed a base. We discussed their requirements then I priced it and made it to their specifications. As it was painted I made it using tulip wood (which takes a finish brilliantly), with good quality ply for the shelves. 


This was it ready to go, finished woodwork in my workshop. 

Really pleased with how this turned out. I also shortened their kitchen table as well (altering the frame and the top). The unit seems to work well in the room. 

As well as my Etsy products I also have another commission I've been working on which I'm really keen to share with you all soon!

Who else could do with a unit like this in their kitchen?

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Christmas Presents For Gardeners

I thought I'd use my blog for a bit of shameless self promotion and show a few of my products I've got for sale on Etsy at the moment. 

My potting trays have been really popular and come in a few different sizes.


And the same with my seed boxes. 

There are some other items in my shop and I can make things to order when it's not quite so busy! 

All these items are made by me, not shipped in from somewhere else and "personalised". I also put a free packet of seeds (bagged up by my children) in with every purchase! 

Thanks for looking! 

Sunday 29 November 2020

Christmas Pudding Steaming

Today is the first time this season having both fires running. 

So I've escaped upstairs away from the heat! 

 My wife has been making the Christmas puddings with my daughters - normally she does this with friends but that's not possible this year. 

Great to steam them for a few hours without using any electric and heating the house up in the bargain! 

Friday 20 November 2020

Light Or Dark Meat?

With modern supermarket birds or even some of the hybrids you can breed yourself for meat there isn't always that much difference between the light and dark meat on the bird. 

The same isn't true with our Indian Game birds - look at the difference in colour! 

Tuesday 17 November 2020

After School Light

 I'm loving the hour of light after school pick up at the moment. 

My eldest and me have been heading outside to do a little green woodwork. 

She's been working on shaving down some legs to make a raised chopping block while I've been roughing out a very rough scoop out of some pear.

She seems to really enjoy it and it's lovely to just chat as we make wood shavings together. 

Monday 16 November 2020

End of an Era - No More mini Beds!

Well that's it - no more cot beds in the house. End of an era!

My youngest (4) is finally out of his cot bed into a cabin bed I've made him. He's super excited and already made a den under there. His room is tiny so it's a great way to gain a bit of space.

 I made the bed out of pine so it didn't cost too much. I've also used some fixing that can be easily taken apart alongside some loose mortice and tenons (domino joinery).

I had a high sleeper growing up and loved it so I hope he does as well.  

Saturday 14 November 2020

Meat Bird Crosses - 5 weeks (ish)

 Growth is way slower on my Indian Game x Colombian Plymouth Rock meat birds when compared to Ross Cobbs but they are such different animals.

Also although growth is slower, at 5 weeks they're only half way through their second bag of feed - Cobbs would be on the 5th by now.

And just a picture of on of my Indian Game cockerels - they're just built like units! I love this breed. These pen is pure breeds and I'm hopfull to get some really good birds from them next year. 

What meat crosses would you like to try? 

Thursday 12 November 2020

An 8 Year Old Sewing Curtains

 My eldest (8) spent the weekend making her curtains. Her mum pinned them for her but she did all the sewing on the machine. She's as pleased as punch with them!

We asked her last night what she would like for Christmas and all she could come up with was some empty bobbins!
Face with tears of joy

Saturday 7 November 2020

5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel

So full disclosure, I was given this book to review by Leigh Tate. We sometimes email each other about different things so I would class her as a blogging friend, but I only agreed to review it if I could be completely honest. I had planned to buy the book anyway as I had enjoyed the first. 

I'll start by saying that this is certainly a sequel. I'd recommend you either read the first book first or at least follow her blog or have read some of her other books. 

I went for a long time of reading pretty much every gardening, homesteading, smallholding, alternative living book out there but I got completely fed up with how-to guides or books preaching about how I should be doing something. I loved Leigh's first book because it wasn't one of those, and her second book follows on in the same way. 

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Lime Wood

Doing a small commission for the local cathedral, need a small amount of light coloured wood that will take a bit of detail and know this lime will be perfect when planned up.

 When I got it months ago the saw mill told be it grew on the cathedral grounds, cut down 20 years ago.

I like that it's come full circle even if it is only going to be a tiny bit used.

Saturday 31 October 2020

Low Rent Kids

I'm sure the expensive phase of children is get to start but at the moment they seem very easy to keep happy. 

 We're lucky as our three play together as a pack all the time, very rarely to they leave one out of any games unless they want to - our eldest will take herself off to do some sewing now and again. 

The half term has been filled with hours of playdough, painting and making potions outside (which i tend to find months later when they smell far from their best!). 

the other day I had a little fire on the patio and they spent two hours feeding it and poking it (all face painted up as well), simple pleasures! 

What low effort thing did you enjoy as a child?

Sunday 25 October 2020

Kev The King!

So after going to the same playgroup for 6 years and helping to run it for 4, I've finally left as my youngest started school. It's mixed emotions as I've loved it but life moves on and children grow too fast! It was a tie each week but then I was lucky to run it with some of my best friends and each week we'd laugh and joke as we got everything ready and stay for ages afterwards just chatting as the kids played. I have no negative memories of this experience that I can think of.

My lovely friends put on a beautiful lunch for me on Friday, as well as a lovely card of messages from the mums and dads that normally go (in a pre covid world). And one wrote me this incredibly brilliant and witty poem:-

Kev the king of Colwall!


Friday 23 October 2020

Black Country Museum - Socially Distanced Family Day Out

 It's fair to say we haven't had that many days out this year. We're lucky to live in such a beautiful place it doesn't feel like a huge need of ours. 

But with parties being a firm no at the moment we wanted to celebrate our middle child's birthday in some way. 

All the days out at the moment have to be booked in advance, so we drew up a short list and tried to pick something we thought wouldn't be too affected by the new rules. 

I booked some tickets for the Black Country Museum, a place I've never visited but have driven past hundreds of times when I used to work up that way. Think I was more excited than the kids to be honest! 

Monday 19 October 2020

Drawknife With the Children

We haven't yet moved on to our next project since making the shave horse, but I have found my drawknife and decided it would be a good tool they could use safely. 

We went into our coppice and picked a willow to take a branch from. Quite nice as the girls helped plant these trees five years ago

Saturday 17 October 2020

Lego Birthday Cake (okay maybe megablocks...)

 Okay, if you squint your eyes you can see it for what it is, although I'd say it's more Megablocks than Lego - for our middle child's 7th birthday! Where does time go?

Six years have past since my infamous "Philippa" pig cake (Peppa's pigs drug addled cousin who had fell on hard times) and it still gets brought up at every birthday...

Thursday 15 October 2020

The Man Who made things Out Of Trees

 I think I might be a little late to the party with this book, but the last few weeks I've been working my way through it. 

This is a book that is, pretty obviously, going to appeal to me. The premise is that Robert Penn has an Ash tree cut down than tries to use as much of the timber as he can to make as many things as he can from it. 

The author writes brilliantly and his affection for trees, wood and things of beauty is apparent from the first page. 

I love his zero waste approach to this tree and how he gets so many things from it. At the end of the book there is a list of all the items and it's impressive. I also like how rather than trying to make the things himself he seeks out the true master crafts people to make them for him, while he witnesses the work. Each comes with it's own story and memory then and I love how the items he collects aren't just for decoration - they are to be used. Something I think we should do more in this country, beautiful items enrich our lives and using them daily gives a reason to own them. 

From a carpenters point of view it's great to learn more about ash and it's uses, a wood I have only used a few times, other than in tools handles.  I did use ash many years ago to make some legs on a stool on a pole lathe, something I'd love to do again when we get round to building a pole lathe here (there's a link to a blog post on the course I took here)

I love this book for it's simple promotion of craft in so many different forms and the fact that we have just a few of some of these traditional and very specific trades left in the world (fletcher, wheelwright, etc) and how they need to be looked after as much as any historic building or monument.

If you enjoy craft and wood then you'll enjoy this book. 

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Horse Chestnut Soap? Part One...

 The weekend was wet and windy, it finally cleared up on Sunday afternoon so I took the kids out to hunt for conkers and to blow off some steam. 

The tree in a field near us had none on them so we went to a friends to see what we could find.  

Sunday 4 October 2020

Making A Shave Horse With My Daughter

 I have an axe head I bought a while back that still needs a handle. I've looked at buying one online to match but can't find anything that I think will fit or that I like. So I want to make my own. Now I have plenty of tools that I can make one with but I know from experience that a shave horse is the easiest way to hold and work it. 

Now I have made a couple over the years (one for my brother and one for myself) but I sold mine when I had nowhere to store it after we moved here. I've decided that even if I just chuck a sheet over it it'll be worth having it outside. I also had a few lengths of less than straight 4x2 so this seemed a good use of them. 

Friday 2 October 2020

Wood Chipped

 I forgot to post this the other day about dealing with the oak branches that fell from one of our big trees. 

My brother came back with his big chipper to deal with all the brash. 

I know we could have burnt it but decided that this was a better use as we get the wood chip to use around the place instead. 

Monday 28 September 2020

Wild Camping With My Girls

 For a long time I've been keen to take the girls camping, but something always comes up or gets in the way. That's why I was pleased when a mate mentioned that for his daughters birthday he'd like the girls and me to go "wild" camping with them. 

So no tents. My eldest has been camping before (admittedly in different circumstances as was a huge scout camp!) but not like this, and my younger daughter is yet to sleep outside (bad dad I know). They were both super excited about it though. 

Friday 25 September 2020

Meat Crosses Hatch

This year we've been plagued by bad hatch rates, I've kept changing my methods but I think having posted eggs really doesn't help things. 

These chicks are from our own eggs, with a Indian Game cockerel over some Colombian Plymouth Rock hens. 

What a difference in hatch rate!

Sunday 20 September 2020

Simple Food Is Best

Really simple dinner of pasta and tomato sauce.
We picked from the garden about 35 fresh tomatoes of different sizes, shapes and colours, a clove of garlic, medium onion and a huge handful of basil along with some bought in chorizo used more as seasoning than anything else.

 Tasted amazing and shows with a few good ingredients it's sometimes all you need.

And of course I had my two chefs with me. My eldest help chop the tomatoes and stir the dish, while my younger daughter made biscuits for pudding. Lovely to spend time in the kitchen like that, laughing and joking. 

Friday 18 September 2020

Saving Cucumber Seeds (Fermenting!)

 So it's the time of year where my mind really turns to making sure I have enough seed of everything. This year should have hot home to so many people that buying seeds from a shop isn't always guaranteed or possible, I was pleased that my seed saving obsession meant I had jars of tried and tested seed ready to go.


The video above shows how I save the seeds from my cucumbers. I got sent these seed from America via a twitter friend, so it would be really great to keep this strain going. We have grown lots of different cucumbers over the years, and this one seems to hit the sweet spot for us. It's prolific, perfect for eating fresh, perfect for pickling and crops over a long time.

So who else ferments their cucumber (and tomato) seeds for storage? 

What's your favourite type of cucumber to grow?

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Youngest Started School

 So that's it - all three of my babies are at school now! 

6 years of being a stay at home dad have come to an end! Blink and you miss it!

Monday 14 September 2020

Like Father Like Daughter

 After tea we tend to watch a program on TV to calm the kids down before bed. It's normally nature related and lately we've been watching the original series of River Cottage. 

The kids have loved it and I've heard some full belly laughs from them as they take it all in (the bit where he sunbaths in the polytunnel, chases the rabbits off his land or ties the string to his toe to protect his pigs) 

I've loved watching them again but it's been great to share them with my children. And when I walked down stairs the other day my daughter was reading my old copy of the River Cottage Cookbook, she stayed there for at least half an hour flicking through the pages. 

What was your favourite episode? 

Saturday 12 September 2020

Planting Grains To Raise Seed Stock

 So I have a friend who is interested in this small scale grain raising like I am - I know I was as surprised as anyone! 

so he sent me a few grains to get going in my plot here, ones I could over winter. 

Thursday 10 September 2020

An 8 Year Old's Lunch

 I know I've posted before about the kids packed lunch, but now they're getting older they pack their own and it's interesting seeing their choices. 

Normally they have school dinners but due to the school figuring out how to handle social distancing and stuff the eldest is having to take a packed lunch for a few week - I swear she was more excited about this than going back to school. 

It should be noted that the beaker is used like Tupperware as we can never find any lids for anything else. 

She packed herself a huge chunk of focaccia and then a little tiny jam jar that contained oil and balsamic to dip in it (what have we done here! Lol!), then to go with that she went and picked herself some cherry tomatoes, cucamelons, achocha and cucumber. For her desert she got some homemade blueberry cake from the freezer, four damzines (a damson plum cross) and a discovery apple. 

Apparently her one friend said to her "Your lunch is very healthy" to which she replied "Well I just pick what's ready really! 

Then the second day by the time I'd come downstairs all three children were in the polytunnel raiding it for tomatoes to take as snacks during the day! 

So glad the kids love their food as much as my wife and me!  

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Knife Skills

I know I've often posted about the little ones using tools safely but I just had to share my 4 year old boy cutting up this cucumber for lunch. 

He hah such concentration on his face as he did it. 
"Wow, you're pretty good with that knife, did Jamie Oliver teach you to use it?"
He looked up and shrugged his shoulders 
"Nah, my sister taught me"  

Sunday 6 September 2020

Hulless Oats

 I foolishly said on a previous post that threshing the grain wasn't the issue - Well it turns out I was wrong there as well. 

My hulless oats have been causing me trouble as well. 

Friday 4 September 2020

Eating Bantams...

 In the last post I talk about processing a few of our Indian game hens for meat. One was a bantam and a respectable 1.3kg.

But as they say the proof is in the eating - so on Sunday we had a little roast chicken for tea. 

Thursday 3 September 2020

Processing Purebreed Chickens - Indian Game

The children and I processed three of our chickens the other day. These were the purebreed Indian game cockerels - two full sized birds and one bantam. 

I decided it made sense to do it after some canning so the hot water from the water bath could be used to scald the chicken for plucking. 

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Gloster Bounty

 "Gloster Bounty" (deliberate spelling mistake apparently) broad bean.

These are from 20 beans I sowed in the polytunnel -semi isolated for my own seed use, they should hopefully be pure. Looking forward to trying them next year! 20 is about the minimum to keep enough genetic diversity in the crop - I got them from the heritage seed library and asked nicely for an extra packet for this purpose.

Always amazes me how many you can get from just 20 seeds. Who else is saving bean seed at the moment?

Monday 31 August 2020

Dehulling Machine Needed!

 I've grown a small amount of Emmer wheat with the hope of planting more of it next year, or potentially as a crop to over winter.

Its proving difficult to hull though. This isn't threshing - this is the act of removing the grain from it's protect hull - something that is a lot more suborn on these "less developed" grains.

Does anyone know of any open source plants to build a dehuller? Or seen a method that works well by hand. I'd rather not use heat as want all the seed to still be viable.

Currently thinking I'll get an old hand grinder and create rubber plates for the seed to rub through, which should take the hulls off. Although I'm open to suggestions!

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