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?

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

The Chicken Of Tomorrow

When I shared some pictures of my indian game cockerels on twitter the other day we got talking about how they had been used in developing the modern meat birds. 

This lead us to talk bout "The Chicken Of Tomorrow" competition. Amazing to think that the development of a strain of chickens was a national effort in America and how they were worried at after the second world war people might not bother to eat chicken if birds with more meat couldn't be developed, switching back to just eating red meat. 

Incredible that the Ross Cobb birds we grow each year are descendant from these birds (the same type if birds tend to be called cornish crosses in America). But it also shows that by selling a hybrid like this the hatcheries make people dependant on buying from then. Much the same as the big seed companies have done with hybrid corns and grains. 

One reason why I've been interested in developing my own meat flock and trying different crosses with the indian game I have already. 

The video above is quite long but I watched it with my eldest and we both found it fascinating and a bit of food history that as people that produce our own meat should knwo about. 

Monday, 27 July 2020

A Good Place To Work

More and more I'm trying to work from home. Selling my homemade items on Etsy and taking on different commissions as well as bits of writing work and doing talks. But I still take on work that means I have to go somewhere else. 



Because of my working week and childcare always being the top priority it means that I can be quite selective about what I take on. 

One of my best friends manages a group of buildings and he often asks me to work with him. This is something I enjoy and it keeps my skills up to date when it comes to working on houses. They're a range of old properties but one is a huge old hotel (I'm sure I've mentioned working there before) split into flats. 



On a nice day this work was too good to turn down. We had to make a balcony child friendly. But what a setting! 



Quite a simple job, but one that looks really good when it's done.



My friend did laugh at me for my lunch though. As he grabbed his sandwiches I grabbed my little camping stove and reheated all my left over food from the night before - my daughters curry and all the extra bits! 



I love working from home, but doing some jobs like this a few miles away is pretty good as well! I'll be forever thankful that I fell into carpentry some 18 or so years ago. 

Where's a good place where you sometimes work?

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Indian Game

So I've not had very successful hatch rates when it comes to male and females this year. I was hoping to start a flock of indian game to bree from for meat. 

But I am pleased with the size of these cockerels! They look like muscle chickens! When I try to pick them up they're so wide it would be impossible one handed and they feel so strong! 
I have a feeling we will eat a few of these and just keep one or two for breeding and hopefully hatch out a few more before this year is out. 
Currently though my incubator is full of duck eggs and some more silkies to create breeding trios of those birds. Silkies seem very much on the other end of the spectrum but I'm really keen to have a small flock of them as well! 

What flock of chickens would you like to create or have? Would you rather keep dual purpose birds or have them for specific purposes (eggs, meat, broodiness)?

Thursday, 23 July 2020

12 quid doesn't buy you much anymore, but it does get you this...

I'm all about reducing my spending, especially on highly taxed items. 

Now I don't drink much anyway but I do enjoy a beer on a Friday night. A cold one or two really hits the spot. 

I've just got back into making beer kits. I understand that it's not really homebrew, but it kind-of is without buying expensive equipment. 


Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Indian Banquet

I've got to boast my daughter up, She's super proud of tea.

She cooked an Indian Banquet, obviously she couldn't deep fry stuff but she did all the prep! Samosas, bhajis, chapati and a chickpea curry! 

Such a lovely tea (and I get a good lunch box tomorrow!)

Monday, 20 July 2020

Bathroom

A follow on from a post in February, my brother and I went to finish the Bathroom.


A busy weekend of work. Unfortunately the first day was heavy rain and it really slowed work down. That and the wrong sized doors had been ordered (not my fault I might add). 

Sunday, 19 July 2020

What's your least favourite plant?

Yes you have a bit of a pretty flower, but I'm going to level with you Bindweed - you're a bit of a blinking nuisance. 



 Probably my least favourite plant in existence. What weed do you hate folks?

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Single Batch Canning Is For Me

Today I picked just enough baby cucumbers (a gerkin type) to fill one pint jar. 




Not enough to get out my huge saucepan, fill it up and start boiling about 16litres of water. Instead I got my tall, narrow saucepan out and did enough for one! I already had the vinegar mix ready so I managed to do it while we ate lunch.

Yes, it doesnt add much to our larder, but it will add up over time if I can keep doing this, slowly and steadily. 

Anyone else can one jar at a time? I think this is really going to work for me! 

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Bantam Cockerels - Butcher day

##### This post contains pictures of dead animals ######

This year we've been using the incubator lots, it's hardly been off over the last few months. Now that means we've got a fair few birds running around the place.


Unfortunately we've been a little unlucky with our hatch ratios - not the best rates, but also so many more cocks rather than hens. The first batch we ended up with 13 chickens and turns out that only two of them are hens - and bantams at that! 

Monday, 13 July 2020

Bread Seed Poppy

I've failed to grow these far more time than I've succeeded. 


This year I started them in the greenhouse, but covered them over with a board. seemed to be the key to my success. 

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Ducks Got Big!

I can't believe how fast these ducks have grown! They are huge! 


We moved them into a bigger pen the other day and it was far easier than moving chickens! The kids loved herding them as they waddled along (the ducks not the kids waddled).

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Cherries!

Few fruits I love more than properly ripe cherries 


But few things do I struggle growing more. 

We netted our trees but still struggle to get more than a few berries. Time to go to the professionals. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Love is...

I'm struggling to get my eldest daughter to read at the moment, puts up a huge fight everytime.


So to convince her, this afternoon I said I was doing a boring job (oiling a unit in the workshop) & needed some entertainment as my audio books weren't working.

No fuss & she seemed to enjoy it.

Anyone else have to deal with a reluctant reader? WE have a house full of books and she loves being read to, I just hope she gets past this hurdle.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Homegrown Tea & Carrot Top Pesto!

I'm know I'm preaching to the choir here but a fully homegrown lunch does feel pretty good!


I had a forage around the garden and decided if I could pull a meal together from what we have growing for the five of us. My wife and children love a salad type meal and I tried to make it as interesting as possible.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Elderflower Fritters

For tea last night I decided to have a decadent foraged pudding - elderflowers fritters. 


Now I know the main calories are from store bought ingredients but it's the elderflower that really makes them taste amazing!

Ingredients -
Elderflower heads - fresh picked.
oil for frying
100g of self raising flour,
2 tablespoons cornflour,
2 tablespoons caster sugar,
1 egg
175ml of sparkling water.

Mix all the ingredients for the batter together, heat the oil, dip the heads in the batter and fry!

Make sure you dust them with icing sugar when cooked and try not to eat any stems (they don't make good eating).

We all loved these and ate far too many! Might have to try it with meadowsweet later in the summer!

Monday, 15 June 2020

Best Time Of The Garden Year!!

I love this time of year when we start to pull more than just salad out of the garden! 


Creating meals with lots of fresh veg is always exciting, and I love that the garden is now starting to produce loads! Last nights tea contained two of my favourites, garlic scrapes and broad beans! I need to grow more of both next year.

Monday, 8 June 2020

Homeschooling 101 - Game Prep

#### This post contains pictures of dead animals #####

This morning's homeschooling got off with a bang, after I dispatched a rabbit that was a repeat offender in the garden.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Chive Flower Vinegar

As well as trying to buy good ingredients I'm always looking for ways to improve them. 


Chive flower vinegar seems the perfect way to do this, it really makes some boring white wine vinegar interesting.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Socially Distance

With the change to the lockdown rules we decided it was time to see my parents face to face again - at a safe distance. 


We've had lots of Zoom calls but it's not quite the same! So I mowed a patch in the bottom field, a circle big enough for us to all keep a safe distance!

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Extra Growing Space

I always struggle with the edges of my garden. This is where weeds encroach into the veg beds and I generally loose control!  


The side of my poly tunnel is going to be one of those areas. It's about 3ft to the rabbit fence I've put in.

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