Friday, 29 July 2016
Planting Up Whickham is a group of volunteers who took on the task of maintaining flower beds and public open spaces in Whickham Village after the decision by Gateshead Council to stop paying for the service. The group recently had a maintenance day on Church Green though I was not able to attend. I was however phoned after the event and asked if I was interested in the dumpy bag of grass cuttings for my animals. I agreed to collect the bag but found 3 of them (one of which was full of weeds) when I got there. It was something of a struggle to get them into the land rover but I managed it. The aim is to dispose of the waste in as sustainable a way as possible. I put all the grass cuttings in one of our goat sheds as bedding. The dumpy bag full of weeds was emptied for the ducks and hens to sort through and eat.
Following the recent request to me to clear the thistles from the side entrance to Whickham's Chase Park, it seems I have accidentally picked up the role of the person responsible for the sustainable disposal of garden waste.
As we are not allowed any more to keep cockerels, we have to buy fertile eggs, chicks or, as we did recently, point-of-lay hens. We bought 14 from Durham Hens: 6 rhode rocs, 6 ginger nut rangers and 2 light sussexes. They have all settled in and we are awaiting full egg production.
We recently had a swarm form up on our hedge. It was quite small but I captured it and put it into a spare hive. To my surprise, later the same day, another, even smaller, swarm formed up on exactly the same part of the hedge. It was unlikely that a swarm of that size would have the critical mass to survive. We came to the conclusion that the 2nd swarm should be added to the first. Assuming both swarms had queens, they would have to fight it out between themselves. All this happened 2 weeks ago. The merged hive is still alive. We will give it a full inspection shortly.
The merged colony is housed in the left hive.
Hawthorn branches are fed to the goats nearly every day. The goats eat the leaves and some of the twigs. I extract from what is felt any sticks that can be used for firewood. But what is left just keeps on building up. I was hoping to shred it all to create a mulch which can be used on vegetable beds or in the duck run but this was just not able to happen. I had to admit defeat and burnt the twigs and thin sticks. I felt it was something of a defeat but the heap had to be brought under control and disposed of or else it would take over the allotment.
I still had half a bucket of blackcurrants to use up and they weren't in the best of shape. Many were still attached to stalks and leaves. Turning them into jam would require picking through all the blackcurrants to remove the debris at a time when the berries were becoming too overripe to handle. The solution was to turn them into jelly. I also had a bag of apples that urgently needed using up. They went into the jelly as well.
So, roughly equal quantities of blackcurrants and chopped apples went into the jam pan. Apples cores and peel were included. Enough water to half fill the pan was added, everything was brought to the boil and then simmered for a couple of hours. The liquid was then strained off, measured and put back into the jam pan. When it came back to the boil, 1kg of sugar was added for each litre of liquid. Bring back to the boil, test for the setting point (dollop of liquid on a saucer and if it sets, you are ready) and then add to hot sterilised jars.
This jelly has a nice tangy taste. Great on toast for breakfast or used with smoked cheese.
We are very much back into the swing of cheese making so that we can keep control of the flood of milk from Pinkie. We make a hard cheese and then a ricotta from the whey. Our problem now is what to do with all the whey - some goes into the mash for the poultry, some goes into baking.
The ricotta has to be used within a few days of being made or frozen. We are running out of freezer space! And there are only so many cheesecakes and flans we can make and eat!
I am in London for a few days so David is looking after everything back home. As a helping hand, I have left a large pile of ash branches for him to feed to the goats today. Ash leaves are one of the goats' favourite foods. The branches came from one of the trees in the Whinnies charity garden (I rent our 2 big allotments from them) and they were happy for me to chop back the branches of a tree which is casting a shadow over some of their greenhouses. There are loads more trees and hedges there needing cutting back so we have a secure supply of goat food into the autumn!
The two kids are now growing at quite a rate. They are being fed entirely on leaves and branches from the hedgerows, though they are still suckling. They are thriving on this natural diet. Spotless, the billy, is bigger than his sister Spot. His horns are more developed as well. He is also more confident than Spot so he is happy to be petted and fussed.
Thursday, 28 July 2016
We feed branches to the goats. They get 2-3 wheelbarrow loads a day. This means we don't have to buy feed for them, saving us lots of money and cutting down on food miles. People on our allotment site are happy for me to cut their hawthorn hedges as it saves them the job and also means they don't have to have bonfires.
Once the goats have eaten the leaves and twigs, I am left with firewood. We have loads of it! It is all being stored up for future use. At the moment, we have still not had the wood-fired boiler we promised ourselves installed at our house.
We have had another disappointing hatch rate from the most recent batch of duck eggs. 10 went into the incubator but only 2 hatched. The ducklings are now 11 days old so I have now moved them to the chick house in the allotment. They have settled in well. They will be released to join the flock in a couple of weeks when they are big enough to fend for themselves.
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
I made this goat cheese and onion yesterday (one of two) when I also made the blackcurrant cheesecake. I was able to finish one of the blocks of goat cheese we made last year though we still have 4 to use up! The flan will be lunch and dinner for the next couple of days.
Despite our hens not laying many eggs at the moment, we still have frozen egg stored in our freezers. We defrosted one tub on Sunday. Dinner that evening was an omelette. A tiny amount of space was therefore freed up in the freezers, all of which are full. We are going to need lots of freezer in the autumn.
We are gradually getting through the bucket of blackcurrants. Previously we had made jam and ice cream. Yesterday I made cheesecake. It meant I could use some of our glut of ricotta cheese. Ingredients were:
- 500g ricotta cheese
- 300g blackcurrants
- 5 tbs of runny honey (this was from last year's rather small honey crop)
- 4 eggs
- a bowl of foam from the jam pan from when we had the blackcurrant and rhubarb jam
- about 2 large mugs of cream
All the ingredients were mixed together. I then lined a flan dish with shortcrust pastry and added in the filling. It was then baked for nearly an hour at 180C and then 160C for 15 minutes.
Monday, 25 July 2016
Sunday, 24 July 2016
One of the neighbouring allotment holders invited me onto his plot a few days ago to pick the blackcurrants. He had lots of surplus fruit so I filled a bucket with them. So watch out for forthcoming posts on using blackcurrants in making ice cream, cheese cake, fruit liqueur and jam.
Friday, 22 July 2016
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
Our neighbouring allotment holder passed on to us recently these eggs she found on her plot. One of our cream legbars had found a hole in the fence and was making useof it to build up a stash of eggs in a hidden corner. As we have no idea when the eggs were laid, we can't sell them. We will consume them ourselves. In the meantime, we've blocked up the hole.
Most of Pinkie's milk is used to make cheese. One is a hard cheese and the other is ricotta, made from the leftover whey. We are now on a regular cheese-making cycle but the freezers are beginning to fill up. It is likely that we will wax the hard cheese from now on rather than freeze it.
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
This is a good recipe for using up waste. Most of the apple used was core and peel (the flesh was used to make apple chutney). The rhubarb consisted more of peeled skins and the hard bottoms of stems though to ensure it had rhubarb flavour, the longer stems were added as well (though they were older and more stringy and therefore less attractive for pies and jams.
The jelly was tested out on some elderflower drop scones. I've filmed the video on how to make them but it is waiting to be edited. Watch this space.
The 2 goat kids are developing well. They are eating lots of leaves though they continue to suckle. They also using the mineral lick, a sign that they are less dependent on mum Georgina. They are also growing rapidly. I picked up Spotless, the billy, yesterday when he managed to get himself stuck in the duck run. I estimate he was between 15 and 20 kg. He is also bigger than his sister spot. By the autumn, when he is due for slaughter, he will be a good size.
Monday, 18 July 2016
Tuesday, 12 July 2016
We are now back into cheese making in a big way, thanks to the 3.5 litres of milk a day Pinkie is producing. With so much cheese to use up, some of it found its way into this fry up - left over mashed potato and ricotta cheese. Made a nice lunch.
The Rhode Island Red chicks that hatched on the May bank holiday were moved to the allotment recently where we kept them for a few days in a chick run where they could acclimatise to being outdoors. After a few days they were released from the run to integrate with the flock. They stay together as a group but otherwise have quickly learnt where the food is and are fitting in well.