Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bean failure

We grow runner beans every year and normally get a good crop. We grow broad beans most years and normally get a reasonable crop. This year, we have attempted to grow both. And both have been a disaster. The runner beans did not sprout. The broad beans seemed fine but after flowering they started to die back. We aren't sure what is the cause.

The broad beans were in planter bags in the back garden but we are going to pull them out and use the bags for a late potato crop.

Talking of which, on the main allotment, the hens have broken into one the the potato beds and eaten most of the leaves from the potato plants. Tomorrow we are going to have to put a cage over them to protect them.

Ducklings discover the pond

I moved our latest batch of ducklings to the allotment on Monday. They have settled in but do not stray far from the duck enclosure in which we lock all the ducks each evening to keep them away from the foxes. They have however discovered the pond next to the enclosure and have made good use of it.

Meanwhile, the eggs I placed under a brooding hen are due to hatch shortly. I checked the eggs tonight and could hear chirping coming from one of them. Fingers crossed that we'll have a successful hatching, unlike last year when our attempt to brood eggs under a hen rather than in an incubator was a total failure.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Sausages and strawberries

On Friday we took delivery of our latest Tamworth pig from the slaughterhouse. We asked that some of the sausage meat be made into sausages and last night we tested them by having them for dinner! Not unexpectedly, they get a thumbs up from us. The potatoes came as part of a swap from another allotment holder. His new potatoes are well ahead of our. The peas sadly were a product from the freezer and initially came from a supermarket, not from the garden.

For dessert, we had strawberries pick fresh from the planters on the patio. The ice cream, sadly (again) was from the supermarket and therefore was the end result of an industrial production system. However, all is not lost. Tonight we will be looking at a golden guernsey milking goat that is for sale. According to the owner, she produces 3 litres of milk a day. (Our two existing goats are pygmies so cannot be used for milk production.) That will leave us awash with milk so we will be looking for lots of ways to use it up. Goats milk ice cream is something we are actively considering making.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Moving into the quail house

Hooray! At last, the quail house was finally ready to occupy today. The hutch that has housed the 5 outside birds went into the back of the land rover, along with the new hutch made from an old cupboard, for the very short trip to the allotment.

The group of 9 birds that had been kept in an indoor cage went into a carrying box. The cage is to remain back at the house and is likely to be used as a brooder box for newly hatched chicks. The two hutches will provide cover and a hideaway for the quail in the quail house.

The birds settled down very quickly into their new accommodation. The two males have not been fighting and most birds spent much of the afternoon dust bathing.

We wondered whether or not the move will affect egg production but, having returned this evening and collected 8 eggs, it seems they are continuing to produce. I will go back shortly to close down the henhouses for the night and will collect any final eggs at that point. As this is a totally enclosed aviary, there will be no need to close up the hutches to protect the birds from predators. The quail will be free to roam around the aviary or go into the hutches throughout the night.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Toad on the allotment

One of the unfortunate side effects of keeping poultry is that the frogs and toads have disappeared from the allotment. Or so we thought. Tonight when I was closing up the henhouses and netting the duck run, I spotted this toad hopping about beside the pond. I hope for its sake it has wandered off the allotment before the birds are allowed out tomorrow. Chickens in particular can be vicious killers.

Rendering fat

We urgently needed space in our various freezers so we have taken out all the bags of lemon skins (we used the lemons initially to make lemon curd) and pig fat. The fat is now being rendered so that we can renew our supply of lard. The fat was mainly bacon rind and the fatty bits of pork joints from our Tamworth pigs. It has all been chopped up and added to a couple of pans with a bit of water over the bottom. Gradually the fat has been liquifying in the heat. Every 15 minutes or so, the fat is drained into a bowl.

Rendering fat in the domestic kitchen is a dying skill. We had to go back to books and government advice leaflets from the war years to work out how to do it.

Swapping ducklings for mackerel

News got out that I had hatched some ducklings late last month and I had an offer for two of them. So today they went to their new home at the New Sands Allotments in Swalwell. We took part payment in cash but the person buying the ducklings is also going to provide us some fresh mackerel. He goes sea fishing and often has a surplus after a fishing trip. I said we would definitely be interested in having some.

Gooseberry sauce is great to have with mackerel so I must dust down the recipe books and make some. After all, we have lots of gooseberries still to pick on the allotment.