Monday, 31 December 2012

After a miserable year of weather, time for the Christmas presents

We are on the final day of 2012, a year I do not want to repeat. The weather has knocked back so many of our plans and wrecked many of our crops. The bees produced only a minimal amount of honey. The wild apples and sloes never appeared. But it's not all been bad news. We have expanded the number of hens we have. The ducks arrived in September. In October we bought our first pig, a Tamworth.

Our poultry and pig ventures bring me to my Christmas presents. I hate the idea of people buying presents for others that are not needed or not wanted. TV advertising in the run up to Christmas is packed full of commercials for rubbish for people to buy who can't think of what to get others. I always insist on people getting me practical presents that I need. So this year I got B&Q vouchers, oven gloves, an apron, a sausage making machine, an incubator and a heater for the chicks once they have hatched.

We have a freezer full of sausage meat so we'll be having a go at sausage-making shortly. We have a reasonable amount of game as well so we'll have a go at making game sausages as well.

The plan for the incubator is to use it for quail and duck eggs. There may be some turkeys as well. However, we are looking for a supply of rare breed hen eggs to help with efforts to protect breeds that could disappear.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Fruit Liqueurs

fruit liqueurs Dec 12

These are the fruit liqueurs I bottled up this evening - 7 full and 5 half bottles. All but 2 were initially made last year and left to brew. I don't normally let them stand for so long before bottling them. The normal time is 3 months but somehow they were left on the shelf whilst I did other things.

Just to reassure you, we will not be consuming all the bottles over the Christmas period. This collection should last us for the whole of the coming year, even with some being consumed by friends who drink more than me or given as presents. My weekly tipple is one glass on a Saturday evening and a glass of wine with the Saturday and Sunday dinners. (A bit more when on holiday or in London.) Everything in moderation.

The collection of liqueurs includes raspberry gin, raspberry vodka, blackberry vodka, plum vodka, blackberry and apple gin and blackberry gin. The pickled fruit has been saved and I'm looking for Georgian trifle recipes in which the fruit can be used.

More trade

game Dec 12 2

I have previously mentioned the importance of trading or swapping in the world of self-sufficiency. The rabbit and 2 pheasants above, plus a further pheasant delivered to us a couple of weeks ago, cost us a joint of pork from our tamworth pig. The pheasants will form part of our Christmas dinner.

Egg production has picked up slightly but as I've been away for a couple of weeks, we have a bit of an egg mountain. So trade in eggs has picked up. This morning, I swapped a dozen eggs for a large bag of onions and leeks. A dozen eggs is about to head over to another allotmenteer's house and a further dozen will be going shortly to a friend in exchange for a bag of kale.

Finally, it's 21st December. Happy Winter Solstice. From tomorrow the days will be getting longer, though it will be ages before we notice the difference. I posted something about this on Facebook earlier today and someone posted a comment that as of tomorrow, we will have 14 minutes more daylight this coming week. That will make all the difference up here in the North East of England!

Sean's Allotment Garden

My friend Sean Cameron, who was producer of the Horticultural Channel (we had a series of 6 programmes on a Sky satellite channel in 2011), is launching a new allotment series on YouTube in January.

Sean's allotment is in South East London and I was last there in October. We also filmed a few of the programmes for the Horticultural Channel there as well.

I'll be posting up Sean's videos in the New Year but the above is the trailer for the series.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Snow fall and baffled hens

We had a modest amount of snow overnight, about 2cm. When I let the hens out each morning, they normally charge out of the henhouses and head towards the top of the chicken run where I feed them. Today however, they stepped out and looked around in a state of confusion. Some of them stayed in the henhouse for a few minutes before bucking up the courage to walk out into the alien landscape. Others wandered around looking at things suspiciously. Once they realised the snow was not a threat to them, they shrugged it off, ate their wheat and pellets and headed off for a day in the snow. Meanwhile, the ducks were loving it.