Wednesday, 31 August 2016
Bank holiday Monday saw the Glendale Show take place near Wooler, Northumberland. For the second year running we attended though we didn't enter any of the competitions. We were especially interested in the goat show. Alas, we were not in a position to enter any of our animals.
A selection of photos from the show can be seen above.
On Sunday we went to the Green Beans market at Whitley Bay Metro Station. One of the tables was for surplus food swapping and we took along some jams, quail eggs and 2 bottles of goats milk. The milk was not for human consumption as we aren't yet allowed to sell or swap it for people to consume. Instead, it was for a swap with a soap maker who wanted some to use in her soap. We got a jar of bath salts in return. I haven't yet had a chance to have a relaxing bath but perhaps sometime soon, I will have that indulgence.
We were also able to trade for cake, herbs, beetroot, carrots and tee towels!
We are continuing to use most of Pinkie's milk to make ricotta cheese but most is then frozen, We find it quite versatile in cooking for both sweet and savoury dishes. The problem however is that we urgently need to free up freezer space for when the billy kid goes for slaughter. Filling the freezers with cheese doesn't help!
One of our neighbouring allotment holders had a glut of marrows recently so he left them outside his gate for anyone to take. After a day there were still some left so I too them all and returned the compliment by giving him a jar of jam and a jar of marmalade.
Friday, 26 August 2016
The community garden at the Whinnies in Sunniside (we rent our allotment from them) has what is effectively a tunnel of 2 hedgerows of hawthorn, some of which is 4-5 metres high. It hasn't been cut back for as long as people can remember. In this unmanaged state, the trees are blocking light to allotments and gardens. So I have come to an agreement that I will gradually cut down the branches and reduce the height of the hedge down to under 2 metres. The advantage for the community garden is that it will save them hundreds of pounds as they won't need to get a contractor. The advantage for me is a good supply of food for the goats and firewood. Everyone is happy!
I've made a start though it waits to be seen if I get through the job before the autumn sets in. Once the leaves are gone, what's left to do waits until next year (and bird nesting could delay completion further).
Thursday, 25 August 2016
As part of my contribution to Planting Up Whickham, 2 years ago I cleared this corner of the car park behind Whickham Library of the feral ash trees and shrubs that had taken over and were partly blocking the neighbouring path. After 2 years, the vegetation had returned. Over the weekend, I returned to cut it back again. I spotted other areas around the edge of the car park that need doing. I'll be back! In the meantime, my goats enjoyed the ash leaves.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Our mountain of quail eggs keeps growing. We are getting 18-20 eggs a day at the moment but we don't have much of a market for them. So, to make inroads into the mountain, and to use up some eggs left from June, I made a quail egg salad. It included potatoes, chives and 3 rashers of bacon from the last pig we bought a couple of years ago. As 60 eggs went into it, I have enough for lunches for at least a couple of days.
Monday, 22 August 2016
We have gluts of ricotta cheese and duck eggs (the latter caused by the discovery of a stash of eggs recently hidden by the ducks on the allotment). So I invented a recipe to use up some of this surplus. Glut pudding consists of the cheese and eggs along with breadcrumbs, 3 small jars of hedgerow jelly (made last year but it hadn't set properly), redcurrant puree made from the pulp left over from making redcurrant jelly and some raspberries picked in gin - the by-product of making fruit liqueurs.
The ingredients were mixed together, put into baking tins and then baked at 180C for 30-45 minutes.
I was rather pleased with the outcome. Effectively all the ingredients were either gluts or by-products of other recipes.
The glut of summer vegetables continues. On Saturday we made a small inroad into the pile of marrows we got in a recent food swap. We made marrow soup. We did a search through the freezers for other ingredients and found a bag of cabbage and one of sprout leaves. We were happy to use them up to create a bit more space in the freezers. I also added some curry powder and marmite to the ingredients. The stock was made a couple of weeks ago from boiled up broad bean pods.
Saturday, 20 August 2016
I received a message from Planting Up Whickham yesterday to ask me if I would pick up a dumpy bag of weeds they had just cleared from Duckpool Lane. So I went down, filled the land rover and took it up to our livestock allotment. The ducks and hens spent the evening sifting their way through it looking for bugs. Today, the ducks turned the heap into a comfortable bed until the rain arrived and they headed for cover. Recycling at its best!
Friday, 19 August 2016
This was lunch yesterday. The bread was homemade and the ingredients included whey from cheese-making and cream from our goats milk. Sadly we had to buy the flour! The bacon was from the pig we bought a couple of years ago. The butter was made from cream from our goats milk. And the lettuce was from a neighbouring allotment as part of a swap. So quite close to being fully self-sufficient except for the flour.
The two ducklings that hatched in the spring were moved recently to a small run on the allotment. They have since been released to join the flock. The 2 keep closely together and have had a few scraps with one hen in particular. Nevertheless, they are both doing well and have learnt quickly where the food is.
My goats' favourite food is ash leaves. There are lots of ash trees around, often next to public paths on housing estates. The council no longer prunes them due to lack of money so I have been giving a helping hand and have chopped off low branches so they don't whack people in the face when walking past. The branches do, of course, make excellent free food for Pinkie, Georgina, Spot and Spotless.
BBC Radio Newcastle interviewed my at my house and allotment on Monday about self-sufficiency and living the good life. It was broadcast on Wednesday and you can hear it on this link. The interview starts 12 minutes into the programme.
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
Sunday, 14 August 2016
We were invited to bring some of our animals to the Family Funday in Chase Park, Whickham. The event was held yesterday and the organisers were keen that I bring a goat. That meant applying to DEFRA for a special permit to move one of the goats off the allotment. We took Pinkie as she is very people friendly and has no horns so can't cause any injuries.
Pinkie proved to be a big hit and is now the star of lots of people's photos.
We went along to the Hop Garden in High Spen, a few km from where we live, on Friday evening. The community group that runs the allotment was having a pizza evening and they were using their outdoor oven to cook the food. We took along 15 boxes of quail eggs to do swaps and got in return rhubarb, gooseberries and redcurrants and (to be picked up later this week) a red cabbage. We have, of course, a glut of quail eggs at the moment so we were happy to exchange them.
We also had a look at the oven. We have plans to build one ourselves. We have even started gathering the fuel for it from the hawthorn branches we food to the goats.
Friday, 12 August 2016
I made some blackcurrant and apple jelly recently and as a result had a bowl of pulp left after straining off the liquid. Most people throw out the pulp but not me! I added a little water to it to moisten it and then pressed it through a sieve. The resulting puree is then heated in a pan, sugar is added (1kg for every litre of puree) and once it has reached its setting point, it is put into hot sterilised jars.
I got 5 jars of seedless jam from what was in effect a waste product.
The abundance of food in the hedgerows for the goats continues. We are in the happy position of not having to buy in any feed for the goats. We feed them entirely on hawthorn, ash, nettles, elder, willowherb and indeed any leaves we can get for them.They are thriving on them. Long may this continue!
Crawcrook is a village about 6km from where we live and on Saturday it paid host to its annual fayre. I went along though not as a stall holder. I was looking for producers who could potentially be interested in swaps for our surplus food. I found a couple of soap makers and had long chats with them. Other soap makers I've met use honey, honeycomb and goats milk in their soap. I'm looking for all sorts of makers to swap their goods so the conversations I had on Saturday gave me lots of food for thought.
We grow runner beans every year and we always end up with far more than we need. The inevitable result is that they build up in the freezer or in storage jars (we salt them to preserve them). We are trying to grow a few less this year but we are also having a go at growing French beans. Nothing will be ready for another month but when the crops come in, I'll be looking for some interesting runner bean recipes.
Thursday, 11 August 2016
The broad beans on our Marley Hill allotment have produced their first crop which we have now picked. The beans have been frozen but we boiled up the pods to make a vegetable stock. Nothing therefore wasted. The stock is now in one of our freezers and we are thinking of using it to make paella. Sadly we don't grow rice but we do have some trout we got in a swap. We are thinking of smoking it and some of it could then go into the paella. Watch this space.
Lots of redcurrants so we've been picking them recently. We got a bucket of them and there may be more on the way - we hope to do a swap with a local community garden soon for their surplus soft fruit. Jams, jellies, liqueurs will be made shortly.