Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Plums galore

The plum crop on our tree on our main allotment is an improvement on what we got last year, and indeed the year before. I picked a bucketful this morning and my plan was to make plum, apple and marrow jam. Sadly, when I went to pick apples from the tree on the land we started renting last year, I found only enough to fill a quarter of the bucket. A miserable crop like this leaves us with a problem. We need apples to make chutneys, sweet mince and to set jams and jellies. We need them by the sackful. We were able to get a few extra from one of the neighbouring allotment holders but we are now actively seeking new sources of apples in the area. We will explore some old orchards near out village and put out an appeal to gardeners to swap their apples for our preserves.

The abundance of plums however is greater than we planned. Tonight I got a message from a local resident offering 14kg of plums for honey and chutneys. We have checked recipe books and have found a number of recipes that will help us to use up the plum glut. I'll be posting here about them as and when we try them out.

Dinner tonight

The original plan for dinner tonight was to make vegetable soup but to add some of the goat milk to it after blending it. The plan did not quite materialise. Instead, it became a bacon and vegetable soup with no added milk. I found some panchetta in the fridge that had gone past its use by date (okay, the confession is that it came from a supermarket, not from one of our Tamworth pigs but we have not yet tried to smoke any of our bacon). Rather than waste the bacon, I added it to the soup (after checking it was still okay to eat). We opted not to add milk as the soup was clearly going to last for more than one day and the milk could go off. We may add some tomorrow or Thursday if we still have some left by then.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Scratched udders

We had 2 litres of milk from Pinkie tonight. She was however not happy about having her udders touched. She kicked out a few times. I think the problem is that her udders have a number of scratched on them. My conclusion is that they were caused by the pile of hawthorn branches we fed to them. The goats love to browse the leaves and leave behind skeleton branches. Tonight, at 10pm after attending a meeting of our local history society, with torch in hand I removed the branches from the goat paddock. We have a good supply of hawthorn from the other allotment holders who are gradually trimming their hedges. From tomorrow, I will tie any hawthorn into bundles and hang them from the fence so the goats can browse on them without having them on the ground. Other branches, such as the ash in the photo above, can still go into the goat paddock. They don't have thorns capable of shredding udders. Meanwhile, the aforementioned ash branches were stripped bare. The goats are eating much more greenery, and much less of the bought food at the moment. That of course makes me very happy! And it cuts down on food miles and carbon footprints.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Pinkie update

Pinkie yesterday spent most of her time in one corner of the allotment (where there was a large amount of food - hedge trimmings provided by the other allotment holders) but I was concerned that she was a bit too nervous to stray from there. I had visions of her being out in the rain during the night so I checked on her at midnight and found she was in one of the goat houses. This morning there was a bit of bullying from Geraldine, the older of the two nannies we got last year. She got chased a couple of times around the paddock. We expected this sort of behaviour. Indeed, there was less bullying than I expected and Georgina, the other nanny (and daughter of Geraldine) has shown no interest at all in helping her mother bully the new arrival.

I made sure today that there were plenty of branches on which they can browse. As with Geraldine and Georgina, Pinkie rather likes ash, brambles, hawthorn and elder. The three were happy to eat together when there was plenty of food on the go. Branches were stripped bare in little time.

Tonight's milking session passed without any spillages. We ended up with 1.8 litres. And my milking technique is getting a bit faster.

Whickham Flower Show

When I am not wearing my self-sufficiency hat, I am wearing my local councillor hat. I am the councillor for Sunniside, the village where I live, and the southern part of Whickham, the town down the road from Sunniside, on Gateshead Council. Alas, that restricts me (morally) when it comes to entering our local flower show. One of the sponsors of the Whickham Flower Show is Gateshead Council and were I to enter the competitions and win, it would look decidedly dodgy that the local councillor has won competitions put on by Gateshead Council. Nevertheless, I did visit the show on Saturday and took a stack of photos and video. The video is not yet edited but here are some of my photos. You can see more on this link.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Pinkie has arrived

It was an early start this morning. We arrived at Rising Star Farm in North Tyneside at 7.30am to collect Pinke, our first milking goat. She is 4 years old golden guernsey and produces 2-3 litres of milk a day. We had her back to our goat paddock by 8.30am where she is to live with our two existing (and non-milking) goats Geraldine and Georgina.

Our fear all along was that our two existing goats would be aggressive towards Pinkie. It turned out that whilst there has been a bit of bullying, they have all settled down though Pinkie is sticking largely to one corner of the paddock.

Tonight, we milked Pinkie for the first time at our paddock. We had previously practiced milking her at the Rising Sun Farm. We got a great deal of milk from her but sadly, we lost quite a bit when Pinkie managed to kick over the jug into which we were milking her. In the end, we got 1.35 litres.

Immediately after milking her we brought the milk home and filtered it through a sieve lined with kitchen paper. We used the whole of it to make a rice pudding.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Purple cauliflower

We got this cauliflower in an exchange on Sunday last week at our cafe. It cost two boxes of eggs and a jar of jam (we also got a sack of rhubarb in the exchange). I had heard about purple cauliflowers but never seen one. We used it tonight to make cauliflower cheese.

We also had half a stuffed marrow from last night and a surplus of the stuffing which was looking for a home. With the latter, we added some suet and baked it. The marrow was reheated. The final result was stuffed marrow with side dishes of cauliflower cheese and stuffing. It was not the most inspiring of meals but it beat the crap out of some of these supermarket ready-made meals!