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!

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Preserving Is A Family Affair

As our children have got older we've had to start putting more food away to last us longer. 

Luckily they all love helping and the last few weeks there's been quite a few times with  us all sat round a table prepping a harvest to preserve it. 

Friday, 28 August 2020

Big Tomato

Nothing to see here, just a 800g tomato! 

 This is the biggest one I've grown (I normally don't bother with beefsteak ones) and just half of it filled our sandwiches for lunch! 

 Tasted amazing as well. 

What's the biggest you ever grew? 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Dried Tomatoes

 I was picking tomatoes with my eldest the other day. We picked a huge basket full and I was wondering what we were going to do with them.

She suggested that we dry them and then wouldn't take no as an answer.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Polytunnel Mistakes

 The polytunnel has been a place of absolute abundance for us this summer - but it's not been a place I'd be keen to show people round! It is full to bursting and a complete jungle, next year I'm already planning to do things a little differently in there! 

I did a short video showing you round and also showing you where I went wrong. 

Let me know what you think and please subscribe to my YouTube channel if you don't already! 

For some reason you need to view this in full screen rather than on the mobile app to watch the video. 

Friday, 21 August 2020

Recycled Shelves For Canning

Because I've been doing some canning I decided I needed a few more shelves for our produce and had just the space left in the pantry for some. Not huge but enough to really increase the storage a little bit and keep it organised. 

Luckily when I had just the right wood in mind for this project. 

This wood has had a few lives already - many years ago - when I lived on the family farm and worked in site management (briefly) I was working on a site where two carpenters had come up with a problem. They were cladding a communal stairwell and had worked out they were massively short of timber - the manager ordered a load more  and pretty much none of it was needed (they were rubbish carpenters).

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Pasture Pen Nest Box Upgrade

The bucket nest boxes I originally put in the Heras Panel Pasture Pens never really worked very well, They just weren;t quite big enough and could cause hens to break eggs. But because I used these pens more for grow outs it didn't matter too much and I changed the one I used for the layers into a bigger nest box like the one in this post. 

Currently I have all three of these pens with potential laying hens in. So it was time to upgrade the last two pens to have proper nest boxes, which can even stay in when raising meat birds in there as well. 

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Sudden Branch Drop

In the middle of last week (just before all these storms broke) I was in my workshop when I heard a massive crash and bang, I rushed outside and saw three very scared children running for the house. 

They had just been 20m away from this giant oak tree picking berries when a huge branch had suddenly dropped from the tree. Luckily far enough away from it to not get hurt but close enough to scare them! This sudden branch drop is quite common during times of drought with broad leaf trees. 

Friday, 14 August 2020

Own Meat Birds Get A Step Closer

 So with some really poor hatch rates from posted eggs I decided that it was time to buy a few hens so we could actually start to hatch out our own eggs. I already have some fine Indian Game cockerels to run with them. 

There is a Facebook group about rearing meat for the table and through that I got in contact with someone who had some young Indian Game pullets for sale. So I took a trip into deepest darkest Wales (via a small saw mill that had some specialist timber I was after) to buy some! 

Of course I ended up buying more than just this! 

He sold a trio of Plymouth Rock Hens, which when crossed with an Indian Game will produce a great meat bird (And this cross was used in the orginal Chicken Of Tomorrow competition so I have high hopes).

I also got 4 Indian Game POL pullets so I should be able to keep a pure flock of these going as well. But hopefully the Plymouth Rock hens will lay enough eggs in the next few weeks to get another batch in the incubator and replace our need to order in day old Ross Cobbs! 

There seems to be quite a few pens of chickens around at the moment! Anyone else can't help themselves when it comes to poultry?

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

String Bean

Well I figured out why this French bean is called Kentucky wonder... 


I wonder why anyone grows as it's so stringy... tastes good but not worth this effort when there's stringless ones about.

Friday, 7 August 2020

I Managed To Can Some Tomatoes!!

Managed to sneak enough tomatoes away from the kids to preserve some for winter! 

I know it's not huge amounts but I'm going on the little and often approach. This time I used my small pot and did one at a time while I was doing other jobs in and around the kitchen. My big saucepan takes so long to heat up I though this might be better - in fairness when I started I only planned to do one! 

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Wear A Mask?

There seems to be a lot of debate about wearing a mask at the moment. 

Now I'll be honest and say I only normally go shopping to buy food for animals (and I include the children in that description) and to buy wood, so I'm hardly a big high street shopper.

I'm not sure about the scientific information out there or who is right or wrong - I'm a carpenter and I hope brighter minds than mine are making the decisions (otherwise we're all screwed!). 

All I think is that at the moment that if I don't wear a mask then it might make someone fell uncomfortable, so I'll wear mine to make sure that doesn't happen. Luckily me eldest (with help from her mum) made me this mask to wear so I'm sorted. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

The Wonderful Achocha?

I've done my talk on unusual veg quite few times now ( a few dozen!), it's a really popular one and one I love doing. I just love talking about all these unusual foods that my kids think are normal yet people have never heard of. In fact I love it so much that I've put together a second talk on the subject and garden clubs seem keen to have me back with that one as well! 

One thing I do get a lot from it is often people telling me they've grown something from the list and didn't like. Normally it's Achochas or Cucamelons. 

Each time I have the same answer -

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Summer Harvests

There's certainly something about this time of year and the harvests that it brings. 

The kids are particularly in love with it and keep coming back with huge saucepans of tomatoes and cucumbers. 

I keep (mistakenly) thinking that we'll get to cook with them, but nope they'll eat one of these in a single sitting. The other day my wife had to talk the children out of eating tomatoes for breakfast! They have a habit of eating too much fruit and veg as it is, so to add it in for breakfast would be too much . 

So what's your favourite thing for a summer glut of tomatoes? just to eat them like we do or do you take it to another level?
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