Saturday 31 December 2022

Review Of My 2022!

This post is a quick look back at the year. I'm sure I've missed loads, but I just went back and looked at a few of the pictures and my thoughts on a few key subjects. 

Children And Family

I mean if you read this blog it should be fairly obvious that I try to put the family first (hopefully it is). They all seem to be growing up so fast, but I'm so happy I get to spend so much time with them and I love the people they've become. 

They all have such strong personalities, get on well and don't fight very often. I try to teach them that they're a pack and need to look out for each other and they make me proud in that respect. 

Friday 30 December 2022

My Christmas Presents!

I know it's very crass to talk about what gifts you got, but I thought I'd share how perfect some of these were!  

Lots of seeds and lots for microgreens which I can grow now! 

Wednesday 28 December 2022

Christmas 2022!

 We had a great Christmas and hope you all did as well! 

A few busy days but we managed to have a nice quiet one today, reading, playing games, making crafts, watching TV. Just what was needed! 

Saturday 24 December 2022

T'was The Night Before Christmas...

The stockings are hung by the fire, the children have had "The Night Before Christmas" read to them snuggled up together and are now tucked up in bed. 

Tonight we went round to our friends for a walk round the village (the village decorate 24 houses with numbers for advent in their windows) and then we had fish and chips for tea. A nice easy tradition we have fallen into for Christmas eve! 

Excitement levels weren't too bad tonight, but they were very keen to get to bed! 

Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you have a good one!

Friday 23 December 2022

This Months Magazine Articles

Having all three magazines I write for land not too far apart is always nice. Reminds me of some projects I did a while ago.  

This months magazine articles projects made and written by myself are -
@woodworkingcrafts 78 - Small router table
@woodcarvingmagazine 191 - Larping chest/Bible box
@woodturning__magazine 377 - Christmas baubles

There is also another woodturning article for the magazine that came out in the month that woodworking crafts and woodcarving have off (they're every two months)

Thursday 22 December 2022

Making A Special Visit...

I got a email the other day from the children's old nursery.  It's been a few years since the youngest left, but we were always close with them (and tried to help when I could). The email was asking for the help of a man, a rather large man with a white beard...

After I got over the fact that I was potentially big and old enough to fill his shoes, I agreed! 

It was only a quick visit, long enough to sit down in nursery and give out some presents. A lovely moment though. I came back afterwards into the nursery, without the costume, and had a good catch up with them all as well as they tidied away after their Christmas party. It was always such a good nursery which put play and happiness first rather than making it a mini school (the reason we liked it). Part of me really misses the kids being that age, shame my wife won't let me have any more! 

Anyone else dressed as the "big man" lately?

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Firewood Gives You Freedom - Cooking & Heating

With the cold snap gone it's worth evaluating what went well and what didn't. 

I like to also think what would happen if the power got switched off and water pipes froze? Remember that help often takes a long time to come from some service providers (they've been "fixing" a leaking gas main down our road for over a year now...). Maybe would be left without heat, as it is many are worried about the cost of their heating and having it on less as a result. 

When I put in our wood fired range it did feel like a bit of an extravagance. It was a lot of money at the time and created a huge amount of work with the fireplace alterations. 

Saturday 17 December 2022

Last Chance To Order For Christmas (hopefully)

So, Christmas is fast approaching, so time for my last bit of shameless self promotion!

When you're a small maker/producer, the increased buying around Christmas makes a huge difference to over all yearly sales. 

Obviously this year has been harder due to postal strikes, but I've been using the same courier my dad uses, who has a regular pick-up slot booked every day, and they're still saying stuff will get there for Christmas. 

Friday 16 December 2022

Cold Snap

Today I realised just how much of a frost pocket/dip we live in. I drove to the local town, just 4 miles away, over the hill, for a swim and it was 7 degrees above (44 Fahrenheit) when I left the pool at 10 at night. 

As I drove over the hill I could watch the temperature plummet as I got nearer home, until It reached -5 degrees C in out driveway (23 Fahrenheit). 

And then on our land we have areas that are even colder.  Doing the water for the chickens this morning it was actually painful on my fingers by the time I'd done the rounds. 

It's interesting seeing which bits still have snow on the ground and which bits are untouched by the sun, it clearly shows our micro climates and it's probably information I should do more with! 

Both fires are burning away inside though, so we're toasty warm, while I sit and plan out next years (or they year afters) firewood. 

Who else lives in a frost pocket?

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Old Fashioned Toolboxes For Sale

It's been a couple of years since I've had these in stock, but I was really keen to make and sell them again and manged to get a batch done in time for Christmas (just).

I think a "classic" wooden tool box takes some beating. They look great in a potting shed or greenhouse, handy enough to hold what you need. In fact they're cheap enough to have multiples with different tasks separated up into different toolboxes. 

Monday 12 December 2022

New Zealand Yam Harvest - Oca

I know I've talked before on my love of this unusual tuber. It's starchy, tasty, easy to grow. So what's not to love?

Well I think the main reason it's not taken off is due to the unpredictable harvests. Sometimes you can harvest bucket fulls from half a dozen plants and sometime you might just get a handful. 

Friday 9 December 2022

Pickled Beets

 For some reason I can't remember the last time I pickled beets. 

Which is really odd as we probably eat over a jar a week. Whenever we have them with a meal we all eat loads and often have to open a second jar. 

So with plenty of beetroot in the garden I decided to harvest some (about 3 weeks ago) and make some pickled beetroot. I used an American recipe from my canning handbook that came with my pressure canner. 

This involved boiling the beets up to peel them (so so easy to do, don't peel beets if you can help it with a peeler - this way the skins just slip off).  

Then slicing them and boiling them in the pickle mixture for 5 minutes. Then fill the jars with beets and the pickling mixture (with 1/2" head space) and process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. 

The mixture is simple. 

7lb of beets

4 cups vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

(onions if you want - we didn't)

I did double the mixture and ended up with about 16 jars. 
We left it for three weeks to infuse and it tried them just the other night. We ate a jar easily in one sitting so full approval from everyone! Must make more now!

Who else loves their pickled beets. 

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Our Pottery Is Back

This week we got our pottery back from our day in the summer (which I didn't get round to posting about so I'll do a post about it soon!). 

We did the same thing last year and all enjoyed it. It's fair to sya the children all had a bit of a flair for it, must be all the time with playdough! 

It was lovely unwrapping it together and seeing everything with the glaze on and how they have been finished. 

We made all these things to be used though, and the children were using their cups straight away! 
Such a fun thing to do as a family - far better than a day at a theme park!

Monday 5 December 2022

Shepherd's Crook

The boy has been cast as a shepherd in the school play (typecast I tell ya!).

For his costume he needed a crook. His friends all had foam ones, but no way was I going to buy something for it. 

Instead he took a real crook in, one I have used many times. He was really pleased with it, even though I told him not to catch any of his friends with it!

He said that when he got to school all his friends flocked (see what I did there...) around him to have a look! 

 Who remembers their plays from primary school?

Saturday 3 December 2022

November Garden Walk About

I'm going to try and do a "walk about" video once a month. I enjoy looking back at the ones I did in 2017 and think it would be a nice record of what we grow each year. 

Obviously it's November (well December now), so not the most exciting garden month, but still a bit going on.

As soon as the Christmas rush is over I can concentrate on some other jobs, like laying some hedging, pruning the apple trees, coppicing the hybrid willow, getting other veg beds ready to plant up. I also have a tree to rip out and replace. 

 But I like how even when you don't think you've done much there is still progress. the polytunnel is going to look really good come early spring I think! 

How much is everyone else managing to do in their garden this time of year?

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Small Scale Production - Medium Harvest Baskets

I took a picture on Tuesday that I thought really showed some of the small scale production I do. 

This is all the wooden parts for making 12 baskets. Each basket has 9 bits (so 108 total) and they have to be oiled individually to make sure they're properly coated. Making things in batches like this keeps things moving, but can be a little boring! I listen to a good book in my headphones or a podcast. 

The baskets will get assembled tomorrow before being listed to hopefully get sold (some are already pre ordered) before I move on to the next thing to batch out and make. Making in batches like this keeps the quality high and I become surprisingly efficient with movements to do each job. 

When you have to make a number of items do you prefer to batch out the jobs? Or spread it out to prevent it from becoming monotonous?

Monday 28 November 2022

Christmas Gift Ideas For Gardeners

I sometimes need to do a bit of shameless self promotion and this is one of those times! I made a short (3 minute) video showing some of the products I make here in my little workshop at the foot of the Malverns. 

I love that I get to make this stuff. I try to build everything as well as I can, use the right materials and have items that will last many years. 

Sunday 27 November 2022

Fitting Worktops

I feel very lucky that in my life I often blur the lines between work and pleasure. On the whole I enjoy what I do.

It never stretches as far fitting kitchens though! Not because it's particularly hard, more because nothing ever goes right. I dread to think how many kitchens I've fitted over the years, some very grand, some not, but I'm fairly sure I have never fitted one where everything was supplied correctly, except the two I build from scratch (our own and my brothers). 

Friday 25 November 2022

Horses In The Polytunnel Until Spring

No, not that type of horse! 

Pure Carpentry horses here (and a peening pony). I hate seeing them outside in the rain but don't have enough space in my already packed out workshop to store them. Instead I thought I'd overwinter them in the tunnel. 

In the picture I have my Spoon mule, a peening pony (for my scythe blades) and a shave horse (used in a number of videos and articles), I also put my old sawhorse in there as well. 

I plan to get the other half of the tunnel cleared out in the next week or so. Then I have some oak beams I want to dry off before I build a little lean-to over the boiler. They've been sat out for so long if I don't do something with them soon I never will. I figure the polytunnel will be a nice place to work over winter for a few jobs anyway. 

Anyone else use their polytunnel/hoop house for other purposes?


Wednesday 23 November 2022

Stressed Rocket/Arugula

This weekend, the Boy and I planted out the last of the plug plants I started a at the tail end of summer. 

The Rocket (arugula across the pond) looked particularly stressed. The red leaves in the tray are a sure giveaway. I tried to plant them one seed per module but you know what it's like. Never quite works out like that! 

Monday 21 November 2022

Young Wood Turner - Only 6 Years Old!

 I've had my youngest on the lathe a few times to make a few different items, but normally I'm holding the tool with his hands under mine. Guiding where he cuts. 

This time I set him up on his beer crate he uses for carving and got him going so he was in full control of the tool. 

Saturday 19 November 2022

Old Fashioned Pastry Crimper

A while back, when we were on holiday in Wales, I saw an old pastry crimper in a manor house. 

When I saw it I wondered how they made that fine crimped wheel and decided I had to make one myself to see how it was done. 

 In the end I made two, as the first was such hard work. The second was easy though! Watch the video to find out more and to see how I did it. 

Let me know what you think! Have you ever made anything like this before? How do you think they made it in the past?

Friday 18 November 2022

Winter Salad Garden

 Winter salads bed growing slowly in the greenhouse. Pak choi, lambs lettuce, spring onions, rockets, might be all in a bit late (although have a bit of growth behind them), but we'll see how they do.

I've also put some in the polytunnel as well. Even if they don't do well this winter they should romp away come early spring (if I can keep the slugs off them until then).

How is everyone doing with winter greens?

Wednesday 16 November 2022

Scouting Family

 It was nice to attend Remembrance Sunday all together. It was also a good opportunity to get a picture of us all looking quite smart together. 

The kids are so proud to be scouts and all love it. My Middlest held the flag for the cubs. All the Beaver scouts from our group stood perfectly for the service, which is amazing as some of them are only just 6 years old, and it's great to all be there, the village always has such a good turn out. 

Monday 14 November 2022

Electric Daisies

I watched an old video back the other day and I thought to myself it was quite static and a little stilted. It was on one of my favourite unusual edibles to grow though - the Electric Daisy! 

 It's such a fun one to grow and feed people as they walk around my garden. It's also in my first unusual fruit and veg talk and saved until the last slide!

So I thought I'd redo the video on it and try to inject a bit more of my personality into it (hope that doesn't put you off too much). 

Give it a watch and let me know what you think! It's such a fun plant, numbs your mouth and makes it tingle! 

Have you ever grown them?

Friday 11 November 2022

Chicken Tunnel! My Most Random Build Yet?

Avian flu lockdown is a right pain, the chickens are certainly missing their outside time. 

So I used some of my row protection from the garden to create chicken tunnels to give them extra space. An extra 46ft of run in fact! It's great. 

Watch the video below to see my most random build in ages! 

Let me know what you think! The chickens love it! 

Wednesday 9 November 2022

A Few Unusual Alliums

 I know there are lots of pros and cons when it comes to social media (especially with all that's been going on lately), but I like to think I have a lovely group of friends on there that I chat to (important when you work alone), and share ideas and interests. 

One online friend sent me some unusual alliums for me to plant. He knows I do talks on unusual edibles and enjoy growing them,  so it was really kind of him. 

Monday 7 November 2022

Best Use For Waste Sawdust?

 I like to think there's no real "waste" in my job. I make sure I build things fairly effeciently with the materials I have.

I end up with offcuts, but these are perfect for staring the fire. Some weeks I can produce two or three bins full of offcuts like this, I collect them through the year and we use them all through the colder months. 

Metal, from screws, mesh and other bits, I collect up and it gets taken to the scrap man for recycling. 

The other one is sawdust. 

Sunday 6 November 2022

Canning Windfall Apples

I really hate seeing food waste on the ground, especially when so much effort and years of growth has gone into it. 

We've currently got loads of windfall apples under our trees. Each day I'm throwing some to the chickens, our apple racks are nearly full and we've got lots of dried apple. 

I decided that I would harvest some more and can them for super easy puddings throughout the year! We all love a crumble or a pie and with canned apple it's so easy, just open them up and use them, no need to defrost anything or wait for it to rehydrate. 

Friday 4 November 2022

Crap Taxidermy

 We went to visit my sister and her partner last week because they've had twins! It was a lovely day and we all fell in love with the new additions to the family. 

As they live near Manchester we decided to break up the drive home with a stop to a museum in Stoke. It was quite odd in some respects, and completely empty, like we'd hired the whole place to ourselves. There was some beautiful things in there and some serious levels of craftsmanship.

There was also a good few bits of crap taxidermy.

These three were the best:- 

This squirrel was bringing new meaning to the term limp wristed. He also struggled to tie his shoelaces...

Wednesday 2 November 2022

Carved Tool Box For Nine Year Old Daughter's Birthday

I shared this on social media the other day but never got round to writing a blog post.  

A few weeks back it was my Middlest's birthday. Nine years old! (who can believe it! Some have followed this blog for that long!)

She is such a character and always knows her own mind, is smart, funny and capable. She's good company and fun to be around. 

She wrote a little list of things she'd like for her birthday. None of them major but the top item was there...

Monday 31 October 2022

Young Woodworker!

When my boy comes into the workshop with a gleam in his eye I know he has an idea to make something. 

 Yesterday it was a tractor. 

Sunday 30 October 2022

No MiLK TODAY - A Channel You Really Have To Watch!

Hugh from English Country Life recommended a channel to me the other day and I have to say I'm completely hooked. 

 It's about a guy who is going to try to be self sufficient for a year just living on what he can produce on his smallholding. He's allowing himself tap water and salt, not much (although I can't completely get why he is having salt!)! 

Saturday 29 October 2022

October Walkabout!

Another Video!  This time it's a simple video walking around our homestead. 

I try to show what we've been up to in the garden, orchard, coppice and other areas. Also show the growth on the hedge we planted a couple of years ago. 

Let me know if you watch it and if you like this style of video. 

What would you like to see videos on?

Thursday 27 October 2022

My Articles In Magazines This Month

 I thought I'd try to be better at self promotion (don't snigger at that back), so here is my magazine articles this month. 

In Woodcarving magazine I make a carved magic wand, with a lattice handle. 

In Woodturning magazine I make a little honey dipper, a good project to do with small offcuts. 

In Woodworking Crafts I show how I make my harvest baskets. 

Today I've been making another project for a future article and have many more in the pipeline. I'm really looking forward to seeing my carved wooden chest in print!

Tuesday 25 October 2022

LEAKING For 20 YEARS!!! Repairing a floor.

 I had a message the other day from a friend who I work with quite often asking if I'd help with a job. And a picture of a very damp looking chipboard floor. 

As the Etsy stuff hasn't been selling at it's usual level lately (I'm guessing Government turmoil and cost of living are hammering my sales) I agreed to it. 

It was pretty bad! We stripped back the lino to expose the chipboard. The floor was on top of a concrete slab, a layer of plastic then 2 inches of polystyrene insulation, then chipboard then a layer of lino. 

Sunday 23 October 2022

Mistakes In the Polytunnel (again)!!!

Well, it's my third season in there and I'm still making the same mistakes! 

The biggest one being just how much I try to squeeze in there! 

Saturday 22 October 2022

Achocha - Vegetable Hedgehog?

I give lots of talks on to garden clubs on different subject. One of my favourites to give is about Unusual Fruit and Vegetables, I love that there is so much out there you can eat that people just haven't heard about. 

My first talk on unusual fruit and veg (I have three now) is one I must have given at least 50 times. I love giving it and it's become very much an act I do. I know it's a good talk and I receive lots of brilliant feedback about it.  

Thursday 20 October 2022

Sycamore Rolling Pin

Searching through my woodpile the other day I found a knotty blank of sycamore. 

My first thought was just to cut it up, get it on the fire and right it off. 

But I'd been speaking to a very good woodturner about skew chisels and I decided that I should use this as a perfect bit of practice to keep my skills sharp.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Are Nasturtiums The Best Companion Plant?

We all grow companion plants, either by accident or by design. I think that by having a good selection of plants you give your garden the best possible chance of thriving. 

So inside my kitchen garden I squeeze in as many plants as I can, making sure that even though some aren't a food crop they have another purpose (like French marigolds around my tomatoes).

Monday 17 October 2022

Pizza Night (Cooked In Our Earth Oven)

So with my middle daughter turning nine at the weekend, she had a little party and a few friends over for a sleepover. 

 Part of me was dreading it (these girls sure do like to talk) but they were so well behaved it was very easy. 

For tea she had asked for pizza in the pizza oven. So me and the Boy fired it up around 2.30 to get it hot enough to cook 8 pizzas on. 

Saturday 15 October 2022

Another Birthday Cake...

 The years seem to slip past. My Middlest turns nine. I can hardly believe it. 

She wanted to bake her own birthday cake this year. So she baked the three cakes I needed and I decorated them when she was out. 

It's not my finest work, but it's also no Peppa Pig...

Thursday 13 October 2022

How to Grow Apples Free From disease!

The most common question I get asked at the garden club talks I give are about how to get apple trees to produce fruit with less scab and disease. My answer is one of just trying to create an environment where everything can thrive. a polyculture of different species working together. Is all my fruit perfect? No! But so much of it is and that makes it easy to store naturally.

I'll also be the first to admit that this year has been a bit easier as the dry weather has helped produced some good fruit.

What's your favourite way to produce good apples and fruit? Any secrets?

Wednesday 12 October 2022

How To Build A ToolBox With Simple Tools

On Twitter I asked people what they'd like to see in a video and a few said a toolbox, but using just a few tools rather than my usual array of every tool going (I'm certainly guilty of that, but it is my job!). 

So last week I made up a toolbox using just a few hand tools and a cordless drill and filmed the process. 

Monday 10 October 2022

Natural Apple Storage Tips!

If you've followed this blog for a while you'll no doubt know that I'm slightly obsessed with apples. I'm not quite University challenge level, but I do like to think of them as a subject I know a fair bit about. 
I also love this time of year, harvesting them from trees I planted is just a dream. It's also lovely as I get to harvest them with my children who are also obsessed with fruit (but more about eating it!).

A question I get asked a lot is about apple storage and how I get my apples to keep for so long. Especially when I tell people I can get them to store until June some years. 

Saturday 8 October 2022

Red (?) Cabbage

"Daddy, Why is it called red cabbage when it's purple?"

"Good question son, good question..."

Answers on a postcard please! 


Thursday 6 October 2022

Pears With Everything

We have a number of pear trees dotted around the place, but this year only one tree, a conference pear, has cropped heavy. 

But then there are enough pears on there to be more than we can eat fresh. So I've been cooking them in any way I can think of. 

We've had pear and apple crumble (which is amazing) and a new one was to have the pears drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar then roasted. These were incredibly sweet and tasty and one I'll be doing again- it even earnt a "bake-off" style handshake from my middlest child. 

What's your favourite way to have pears?

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Teaching My Daughter To Fix A Puncture

SO, I'm always looking to teach the kids stuff - even if it's a subject I don't know too much about! 

I think it must be over 20 years since I fixed a puncture in a bike tyre!  

But my eldest daughter was dead keen to fix it with me, so I showed her how to take the wheels off, disconnect the brakes and get the tube out. 

Sunday 2 October 2022

New Additions (hens) & Egg Rolls

 A friend of dads has a big chicken farm and they sometimes offer us birds when they have their cull to replace with younger birds. These were from a free ranged chicken farm and are very lively and healthy birds! 

We've increased our flock by 6 birds, and I know these will lay better than our Indian Game over winter, which hardly lay at all when the nights draw in. 

Friday 30 September 2022

What's The Best Chicken Feeder?

I've kept chickens for pretty much my whole life (a few years without when my wife and I bought our first house, but I soon built a chicken pen there as well!) and finding the right chicken feeder has been a surprisingly big deal in that time. 

Why is it such a big deal?

Thursday 29 September 2022

Comfort Food

 As the nights pull rapidly in I crave comfort food. I'm always a little sad to see summer go and would happily hold onto it for a lot longer yet. But I see the fact I can happily cook the food I'm really good at as a small consolation prise. 

First one this week was shepherds pie. 
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