Tuesday, 30 June 2015
Making bonemeal is the last part of the process of using just about everything from a chicken we have slaughtered for meat. By this point the bones have already been used to make stock. They are then put on a baking tray and left in the oven to be heated a number of times. There's no need to put the oven on specially to bake them. Just leave them on a tray on the floor of the oven whilst baking other food. The bones should become brittle at which point they can be pulverised using a pestel and mortar.
Friday, 26 June 2015
We are now well into the preserves making season though much of what we have been using has come from the freezer - we need the space! I've just finished making hedgerow and apple jam, from pulp left from making jelly last year. We also had soft fruit pulp and some whole soft fruit, all of which has been made into jam and jelly. In the photo above, the contents of the pan eventually became mint jelly. We have a huge glut of mint on the small allotment which is trying to take over. I regularly rip out as much as I can but it keeps growing back!
Lots of people have been asking me how Pinkie is doing. As you can see from the photo above, taken earlier this week, she has made a full recovery from her emergency caesarean. The wound has healed and she is eating well. She is mainly on grass and leaves, as are Geraldine and Georgina. She is giving us 2-2.5 litres of milk a day. If she stays in a good state, she will be mated again in the autumn.
The 7 chicks living in the fruit cage with a mother hen were recently released into the flock. They are now on their own as the mother is no longer interested in them. The chicks have however integrated well with the flock. They quickly learnt where the food is and where the best roosting places are.
This is our first serious attempt at making a hard cheese rather than simply experimenting with a random amount of curds wrapped in a cheese cloth in the cheese press. The top is a hit rough but otherwise it has come out okay. We have now given it a thin coating of lard and it will mature for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Meanwhile, we've had our first meeting with environmental health about selling our goats cheese. We want to apply to do so but there will be various hurdles to overcome before we can put our cheese, butter and milk on the market. The meeting however was useful. Whilst I don't expect us to be setting up shop this year, next year is a real possibility.
Thursday, 25 June 2015
The difficult swarm I collected last week appears to have settled well into its new hive. It has already consumed a bucket of sugar syrup and is currently draining a second one which I placed on the hive on Sunday. The not so good news is that one of the other swarms hives is not doing so well. We thought at first the swarm had abandoned the hive but we found one frame covered in bees when we inspected it. Nevertheless, we will need to keep an eye on it. If it appears to have lost its queen, we will merge it with another hive.
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
When I feed branches to our goats, it is not just the leaves and twigs they eat. They often strip the bark and eat that as well. They are particularly enjoying haw tree bark, which is useful as we have a very good supply of haw branches from the local hedgerows which are in need of maintenance.
Saturday, 20 June 2015
We have more whey from cheese making than we care to think about. We use it in soups. We put it in the mash for the poultry. We use it to make scones. Now I've started using it in bread-making. I made 5 loaves on Thursday. And I was very pleased with the results. The texture of the bread is soft but unlike that awful rubbish commercially produced bread, it holds together when being spread.
This was breakfast recently. Homemade bread, containing our goats whey, spread with our own butter made from Pinkie's milk, with homemade jam. A self-sufficient breakfast - well nearly. The flour in the bread and sugar in the jam were bought from the supermarket. There is also a pinch of salt in the bread - we've not quite mastered the skill of producing our own salt! Otherwise, it is self-sufficient.
Thursday, 18 June 2015
For the past few days, one of the other allotment holders has left a pile of branches chopped from local hedges outside my gate. This is free food for my goats. Plot holders avoid the need to dispose of the branches (normally on a bonfire) and I am able to feed my animals food they love. And once the goats have finished with them, the branches are chopped up and stored, eventually to be used as firewood. Someone else's waste is my resource.
Pinkie rather likes eating raw, fresh nettles. Geraldine and Georgina on the other hand, eat them dried. Quite how Pinkie is unaffected by stinging nettles is something I can't answer. When dried, their sting is gone. And dried nettles will make good winter fodder for the goats. Whether or not we can get enough stored for winter is another matter. Pinkie found two of the bunches I made up recently hanging from the trellis. She ate both. Next time I'll need to hang them to dry out of her reach.
Tuesday, 16 June 2015
Monday, 15 June 2015
I dealt with a difficult honey bee swarm this afternoon. It had formed up under my hedge at the base of a hawthorn and a fence post. This was not going to be an easy job of shaking it into a box. I got myself kitted up and scooped as many bees as I could into the swarm box. There are still lots of bees outside the box and when I last checked on them, at about 8pm, they were still bunched up together on the trunk, not willingly heading for the entrance to the box. I hope I caught the queen. I'll get a better idea at 10pm when I hope to put the swarm into a new hive.
Hot off the cooker is this gooseberry and blackcurrant jelly. The gooseberries and blackcurrants were in the freezer, the end of last year's crop. As this year's gooseberries are now ready for picking, using last year's produce was something of a priority. As the soft fruit had been frozen, some of the pectin would have been lost so I added fresh cooking apples to ensure it set.
In roughly equal quantities by weight, the apple (we used peel and cores but not the flesh which we are using to make another jam), gooseberries and blackcurrants were put into a jam pan with enough water to just about cover the fruit. If you are using fresh soft fruit, you will not need to add the apple. Heat applied and brought to the boil. The pan is simmered for 2 hours and the pulp is then strained.
The juice was then measured and reboiled. Add a kilo of sugar for every litre of liquid once the boiling point is reach and keep on a rolling boil until the setting point is reached (put a dollop on a saucer, let it cool and if it forms a skin it is ready.)
This is quite a tangy, sharp jelly.
Don't throw away the pulp. Press it through a sieve and use the pulp to make a fruit cheese. Add a small amount of water to the pulp, reboil it and add a kilo of sugar to each litre. Keep on a rolling boil til setting point is reach. Careful - the pulp boils like lava!
Some of the buttermilk left over from yesterday's butter making was used to make scones, both cheese and plain.
This was one of the cheese scones - note the white goats butter on them.
This was tea break this morning. Scone with our own cream and homemade jam. Delicious!
Sunday, 14 June 2015
I'm trying to get on to a regular cycle of cheese and butter making to ensure there is not a build up of milk which ends up drowning us! So today, among many other jobs, I've been making butter. The side product of this is buttermilk.
The buttermilk will shortly find its way into scones and a rice pudding.
Friday, 12 June 2015
I suspect we will be having lots of soup over coming months. We need to use up the whey from the cheese making and using it in soup is the easiest way to drain the whey lake. We also have lots of lovage in the herb garden so whey, lovage, potatoes and onion have been combined to make soup.
Other possible uses for whey will be in making scones and baking bread. We also put it in the mash for the poultry, to boost their calcium.
As the quail eggs have been hatching recently, the 3 surviving birds from the last batch of eggs in May to be hatched have had to be moved to make way for the new chicks. I moved them last night to the quail aviary.
I have ringed the 3 birds so that we will be able to differentiate them from those hatched last year once they are fully grown. I was a bit nervous about the move as last year, I saw how vicious the males could be to each other. Would the colony accept new arrivals?
I had nothing to fear. This morning when I fed them I found there had been no fights. All the birds were quite settled.
The quail eggs started hatching on Wednesday. I am a bit disappointed with the hatch rate - 13 out of 28. We are wondering if this has been caused by too few males. In our quail aviary we have 11 females and 2 males. We possibly need a 3rd male. Nevertheless, all 13 hatchlings are doing well, unlike last month when only 3 survived.
We had a go at making our first hard cheese over the past few days. It was all very experimental and we did not use the cheese press in the way it was supposed to be used. I was after all just tinkering but 5 litres of milk were used. The curds were packed into a cheese cloth and I simply tightened the screws on the press to compress it. I added nothing to it. The result was okay, for an experiment. It will be interesting to see what happens if we let it mature. After today however, we will make cheese properly by putting the curds in a mould.
Meanwhile we have had to turn another 5 litres of milk into cottage cheese today. I will add a bit of salt and some chives to it shortly.
There is a community orchard near my house in Sunniside which I helped set up three years ago. It has about 40 trees on it. The grass around the trees is not cut by the council (Gateshead Council owns the site) and as you can see from the photo, there is plenty of it. I am hoping to arrange an action day so that volunteers can cut the grass, at least around the base of the trees. In the meantime, I am going to the orchard every day to pick a sack of grass for the goats. This is free food which addresses the problem of how to ensure as much as possible of the resources I use are produced sustainably and locally. It's all very well to produce our own milk and eggs, but if the fodder for the livestock has to be bought and brought in from afar, our underlying principles are partly undermined. The trick now is to harvest and store this wild fodder crop for use during the lean months of winter and early spring.
Wednesday, 10 June 2015
Over the past couple of weeks we have put in a big effort to clear the weeds from our allotment at Marley Hill. The onion bed in particular needed a great deal of work. Progress has been made. Alas, still lots to do. On the plus side, the poultry and goats loved the weeds. Pinkie in particular enjoyed the weeds.
The goats are eating very little of the dry food we buy from the animal feed supplier. Instead, they are eating lots of grass and leaves I pick for them. That's not all. The hawthorn hedges around the allotment site are growing rather well. I've offered to cut them back gradually. The goats eat the leaves and twigs and often eat the bark from the larger branches. And when they have finished with them, the branches are chopped up for firewood.
So, lots of fresh, free food for the goats. We are used to them eating thistles and hawthorn, despite the prickles and thorns. Pinkie however has added fresh nettles to her diet. I have dried nettles for them before but this is the first time I've seen Pinkie eat them fresh. The sting seems to have no effect.
Tuesday, 9 June 2015
We don't grow olives. Sadly, our climate in the North East of England is not quite warm enough! If we want olives (and we do rather like them) we have to buy them. It's a small hole in our self-sufficient lifestyle. However, the olives come in tubs that are great storage containers for beaten eggs. In the spring we have a massive surplus of eggs. Some will end up being pickled but we have started freezing them. An olive tub holds 5 beaten duck eggs. Through the winter when our hens are far less productive, we will be able to continue to enjoy omelettes, scrambled eggs and so on.
Monday, 8 June 2015
Yesterday I went to the goat show at Bill Quay Community Farm. I didn't take any of my goats, I simply went along to see what could be expected at a show and chat to other goat owners. I came away hooked. Next year, assuming we can breed any of our goats, I will be entering them in the show.