Saturday, 30 November 2013
Pan haggerty is one of my favourites and is simple to make but, sadly, is a meal I don't often have. So, in an attempt to break with that tradition, we had pan haggerty last night. To make it, slice some potatoes and boil them. Then, in a deep pan, put in a layer of the boiled potatoes, then one of chopped onion and then a bit of grated cheese. Keep putting in layers until all the ingredients are used. Put on a low heat for about half an hour. Cover the pan whilst cooking. this helps to cook the onions and stops the ingredients drying out.
The potatoes and onions were locally produced. Alas, we had to buy the cheese as we are not yet into milk production.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Our most recent check on our hives, earlier this month, led us to believe that two of them had died. One of them was dismantled and put away. The other was left to be dealt with later. Another warm, sunny day today brought the bees out. And I spotted that the hive we thought was dead was, well, very much alive. It has been an odd hive as it had a queen that was laying only drone eggs. A colony only producing drone brood is under a death sentence so its apparent death earlier this month was not unexpected. Today I saw workers flying in and out of the hive. It could be that the previous queen was killed off by the hive in time to replace her with a new queen or it could be that the existing queen has sorted herself out and has started laying correctly. We will inspect the hive soon so we should be able to get a better picture of what's happening.
On Sunday we held another of our community cafes at Marley Hill Community Centre. We call it the Allotment Cafe and we encourage people to bring in their produce which they can swap with our preserves, eggs, honey and so on, as well as have a meal in the cafe itself. We try to use as many locally produced ingredients as possible so it is often the case that what people swap with us finds its way into the meals we provide. Sunday turned out to be a good day for swapping. By the end of the day we had trays of apples, a fresh trout, a bag of blackberries and lots of parsley. We had to turn down the offer of Jerusalem artichokes. We already have an embarrassingly large quantity of them. And today we were given a large bag of apples from the back garden of a house just up our street. We can never have enough apples. We use huge quantities of them in making chutneys and jellies.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
Monday, 25 November 2013
We have had a rotten week with the ducks. Last week, the older group of ducks suddenly decided to stop using their duckhouse in the evening. That meant they would be out on the allotment overnight and vulnerable to foxes. No matter what we did, we couldn't get the ducks to reoccupy their house. Sure enough, next morning two of the ducks had gone and a day later another went as well. Our second group of ducks, which we hatched in the spring, had stopped using their duckhouse over two months ago. They spend nights on the pond and for six weeks they survived the foxes until, last month, two of them fell prey to them. At that point we put another 6 duck eggs into the incubator. And then, last week, there was a terrible accident and the incubator was knicked off its stand. 4 of the eggs were smashed. It was all the more frustrating as the 28 day incubation period had only 5 days to go.
Yesterday however the remaining two eggs hatched. Last week we put another 6 eggs into the incubator rather than wait until today, after the more recent hatchings, to start them off. Hopefully there will be more ducklings just before Christmas.
And finally, the two groups of ducks on the allotment have now merged to form one. This is almost certainly because the dominant drake in the older group was one of the birds caught by the foxes. Previously he chased away the younger birds. Now the younger drake is filling the gap. A united group of 5 now spends night times on the pond, giving some protection from foxes, and we have succeeded in netting the pond each night, helping to keep the foxes at bay.
My latest video, how to make pumpkin jam. As pumpkins have no pectin, I used appled to set the jam. Use equal weight of apple and pumpkin and sugar used should equal the total weight combined of apple and pumpkin. Add a bit of water after the pumpkin and apple has gone into the preserving pan, enough to stop any burning whilst the fruit heats up and boils. Then add the sugar and boil until the setting point is reached.
We still have three very large pumpkins to use up so watch out for our forthcoming videos on bread, pies, chutney and pancakes and anything else you can think of.
Monday, 18 November 2013
We did a check on the hives over the weekend and fed them with sugar syrup. Alas, two of the colonies had died though frankly this was expected. One was a swarm from June and it was always weak. The other was an established colony. In the summer we found it contained only drone brood. That was effectively a death sentence for the colony. We are now down to 8 hives but have hopes of expanding further next year.
Saturday, 16 November 2013
I had been planning to use up some vegetables in a curry recently so I made this curry the other evening. We are having the rest tonight. It was a useful way of making good use of vegetables that were not going to survive for much longer. My confession is that the sauce was made from ingredients we did not produce ourselves. In an effort to use up all the surplus stocks of food in our cupboards that were accummulated during our rat race years when we bought our food from the supermarkets, I found a jar of curry paste. I added a few spoons of it to the vegetables along with the milk of two coconuts. These were part of a gift from Jimmy the greengrocer who was in the BBC programme I did in September on self-sufficiency. At the filming of the BBQ I hosted, he turned up with 2 boxes of tropical fruit. The coconut milk was a good addition to the curry (thickened with some supermarket purchased cornflour). The hens polished off the flesh which was a bit past its best.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
This morning I decided to remove the wire netting that had been keeping the hens and ducks off a bed on the allotment. The bed had been used for rhubarb, horseradish and runner beans. We are continuing to dig up horseradish roots but there was no longer any need to keep the poultry off the bed. Within moments of removing the wire netting, there was a group of duks and hens sifting through the leaves and soil. It was a great magnet for them. They even abandoned their pellets and wheat to search for bugs instead.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
I have a large quantity of honeycomb that went through the honey press in the summer and early autumn sitting in a large honey bucket. I also have a reasonable amount of bits of honeycomb we have collected whilst managing the hives over the past couple of years. The reason I mention this is because of a meeting I attended this evening of Haxham Beekeepers' Association. The speaker tonight gave a demonstration of candle making. We are planning to make beeswax candles so this was a useful meeting. I also learnt that I may be able to make mead from the honeycomb - or rather from the honey that is in it. Basically, I need to wash the comb in water before we put it into our wax extractor. The water should be drained off and this is what we can ferment to make mead.. I need to do some more research on the details of what is required but I am hoping to try out a recipe in the next couple of weeks.
This seems at first to be a bizarre combination - elderberry and runner bean wine. We saw the recipe in our ancient Boots the Chemist wine making book and thought we'd give it a go. Our freezer is full of runner beans and we still have lots of them on the allotment which will be a bit too stringy by now to eat ourselves (though the goats like them). So an experiment in bizarre wine making was not going to eat into our food supply.
The recipe is the same as the one we used to make the elderberry wine last week except, for obvious reasons, the addition of a half kilo of chopped runner beans to every kilo of elderberries. They should be boiled and simmered in the preserving pan with the elderberries and then strained before the juice is added to sugar and yeast. Apparently, the runner beans give the elderberry wine more body and makes it smoother. I'll tell you what I think of it in a few months' time when it's been bottled and we start drinking it.
Meanwhile, the hens got the elderberry and runner bean pulp. Waste nothing!
Sunday, 10 November 2013
The mild autumn we are experiencing means that the bees are still active and leaving the hives to forage. Fortunately, there are flowers there for them to use for nectar and pollen. Ivy is the last of the flower crops of the year and it looks like it is doing well. The above photo is not the best in the world. I took it with my blackberry whilst precariously balanced on the top of our hay stack the other day. There is actually a bee in the photo! What I found was that the ivy had lots of bees all over it.
Though I say it is a mild autumn, we did experience quite a sharp frost this morning. My toes felt it at 11.30am today after taking part in the Remembrance Day parade in Whickham!
We are experiencing a low yield of eggs from our hens at the moment. Part of this can be explained by the onslaught of shorter days, some of it to moulting. But the rest of the apparent low yield was explained the other day when I found 9 eggs in a nest in the hedge. And then I found 2 duck eggs under the hedge. A bit of a bumper day for eggs!
We are now well into our wine making session. Our latest from the Chateau Sunniside stable is elderberry wine. The two demijons above were set away earlier this week but we topped them up yesterday. We found the recipe in an old wine making book from Boots the Chemist. Boots used to be one of the biggest suppliers of equipment and ingredients for making homemade wine. I think they abandoned this activity years ago so their books are, I guess, possible collectors' items. The one we are using was printed in 1973 and has belonged to David for 40 years. He got it as a wine-brewing teenager!
I have converted the measurements into metric from imperial to make more sense of them. Add 1kg elderberries stripped from their stalks to a preserving pan and simmer in 4.5 litres of water for 20 min. Strain onto 1 kg sugar and 2 tsp of citric acid crystals. Then add 200ml red grape concentrate and a couple of tsp on yeast/nutrient. We left all this to stand overnight and then added them to the demijons.
We'll let you know how we get on but I can report they are fermenting well.
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
That's all our cucumbers now used up - and our gerkins and courgettes. I chopped them all up, added a very large chopped onion and added them to some boiling spiced, sweetened vinegar. Leave them to simmer for about 5 minutes and then add to hot sterilised jars.
Monday, 4 November 2013
Last week a friend who goes shooting dropped off a couple of teal ducks for us (in exchange for a cake and a jar of lemon curd). Yesterday I plucked and gutted them and we had them roasted. It was an interesting recipe. I stuffed them with stewed apple and basted them in red whine vinegar with 25g of melted butter, half a teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper. The birds were roasted for half an hour.
We have them on a slice of fried bread with runner beans and fried potatoes. An enjoyable combination.
Self-sufficiency is not just about food. We need to consider other goods we need as well. Soap is one of them and our produce can be used by soap makers to make bars of soap. One of the stall holders at one of the markets where I sell my jams and honey is a soap maker and we are now in the process of swapping our produce. I recently gave her some Tamworth pig fat and she is curing the soap made from it now. On Saturday she gave me the four bars of soap which included some of my honey. There will be more soap coming my way soon (made from the pig fat) and in her direction will be herbs and honeycomb. This is all part of the trading system I want to encourage people to develop.
Friday, 1 November 2013
The egg yield from our hens is minimal at the moment and part of the cause of this is that a number of them are moulting heavily. In the photo above is Houdini, one of our maran copper blacks. In September she came 2nd in a local allotment show hen competition. It was good timing. Had the competition been a month later she would have been in the middle of her moult. You can see on her neck the stubs of the new feathers growing through. She is like that all over her body though it is less obvious as she still has a covering of feathers that hides the new growth. The hen houses are filled with feathers each morning. Whilst they moult, they put their energy into growing new feathers rather than into egg production.
The goats have arrived, we enter the jam making competition at the Bowes Agricultural Show, the tomatoes are picked, the elderberries are made into jelly and the runner beans are pickled. It's September and it's our second month when we buy no food from the supermarkets.