Friday, 30 September 2016
One of our bee hives sits on top of a set of bricks rather than a wooden stand. We simply had no wooden stands available when the bee hive was assembled. The bricks do a good job. Indeed, too good a job. Another bee colony moved in to the space between the bricks in June. While this block of flats for bees is interesting, it nevertheless presents us with a problem about what to do with the basement bees. The colony can't stay there, at least not permanently. I have a plan however. Earlier this year, I went on a course on how to make a skep in April. I have a half completed one at home and over the winter I will finish making it. In the spring I will cut away the comb and transfer the colony to the skep. Over the winter however I will build up the bricks around the colony. At the moment it is a bit exposed.
We had one duckling hatch in March. It was a disappointing hatch rate but the duckling grew up, living with a small number of chicks that hatched around the same time. As the duckling matured, it looked more and more like a khaki campbell drake. We assumed we would be slaughtering him later this year.
And then we found a small duck egg in the henhouse where he roosted with his family of chicks. So he was a she after all. Roast duck will be off the menu, boiled duck egg is back on!
We did a swap recently for a sack of pigeons. In the summer heat, the carcasses had to be dealt with immediately. The sack arrived at our house when I was away and as dealing with game had always been my job, I had to give David, who was looking after everything in my absence, a quick lecture over the phone on how to strip the breasts from the birds. He coped well.
The breasts went into the freezer but I will be using them to make game sausages soon.
We had a large quantity of plums acquired in a swap recently so today I've turned them all into chutney. 18 jars so far have been made from half the ingredients. There are two pans on the cooker now. I expect another 18 jars to be ready before I go to bed!
Thursday, 29 September 2016
The diet of our goats consists entirely of leaves and branches I gather from local hedgerows and verges. If not chopped up every day, the piles of branches left after the goats have fed rapidly build up. We have suffered from this problem recently so I've been spending the last few days working mainly on chopping the branches for firewood. Even the twigs and clippings from the branches are kept as these will be used as fuel for the small stove we have and for the outdoor oven we are planning to get.
I feel as though we have made progress but I am looking forward to getting the job of chopping up the branches finished.
Wednesday, 28 September 2016
The number of quail eggs produced each day has dropped from around 20 at the start of September to around 2 now. Nevertheless, we have lots of eggs laid during the summer to use up. I used 60 in a salad yesterday (we were still eating it today!) Alas, the salad included a few bits bought at a shop, including olives and mushrooms. I intend growing mushrooms but that is a project for next year. In the meantime, we still have lots of quail eggs to use up.
I cleaned one of the henhouses yesterday only to find that the billy kid decided to check it out. He was able to get through the flap at the front. He won't be able to do that for long. He is almost the size of his mother now and is continuing to grow.
It looks like there is a good apple crop this autumn. This is important for us. Apples are important in making preserves and as fodder for the goats. I'll be heading out soon to start picking, once we've created some storage space which, at the moment, is in short supply.
Each morning and evening I gather a large armful of willowherb from the Tanfield Railway bridalpath, a short walk from our house in Sunniside. The council no longer cuts the verges as there is simply no money for it so people seem to be happy that I am chopping back the weed that otherwise spreads like wild fire. Gathering the willowherb is also a useful way to spark off conversations about goat keeping and self-sufficiency with people out for a walk.
Sadly, now at the end of September, the willowherb is dying back. The goats love it but I reckon we have only one week, perhaps stretching to two weeks, to pick what is left before it dies off.
Tuesday, 27 September 2016
I was in Brighton last week for a conference so David was in charge of looking after the livestock. My first job on getting home was to visit the goats and chop a few more branches from the overgrown hawthorn hedges around the allotment site. Even though I had been away for only a few days, I noticed that 2 kids, especially the billy, had grown in my absence. The billy is close to being the same size as his mother Georgina. It won't be long before he's bigger and, sadly for him, ready to go for slaughter.
The last swap event of the year at the Green Beans Market at Whitley Bay Metro Station took place on Sunday. I had another event to go to but David went, taking a box of jams and quail eggs. He returned with herbs, kale and bath salts! Oh, and yet more runner beans!
We have lots of marrows and an embarrassingly large amount of ricotta cheese. Our usual response to such surpluses is to have marrows stuffed with ricotta and baked in the oven. Over the weekend, we kept the tradition going.
The pile of marrows hardly seems to have been dented however. I suspect we'll be making marrow chutney shortly.
My brother Andrew has moved house recently. He has been doing some work on his garden, removing paved areas to return the to growing space. The result is that he has bags of rubble, paving stones and bricks all needing a second life. They will find it on the allotment. We are going to replace the 6 small henhouses with one large one, which will be easier to clean. It will have a concrete floor and the rubble will be used as part of it. Alas, we can't start digging the foundations of the henhouse until the large and numerous piles of branches, from which the goats have eaten the leaves, have been chopped up for firewood. We are simply running out of space.
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
Our goat kids have had a great time jumping onto our carefully constructed piles of firewood. They have also had great fun jumping from one henhouse roof to another. Alas, they have managed to scatter the firewood but not before they used it as a stepping stone over the hence into a neighbour's garden. The wood piles have been moved, though keeping with tradition, the kids have managed to turn the new piles into playgrounds and have scattered them yet again. I think we are going to have to build a wood store.
Monday, 19 September 2016
The former Gateshead Council Central Nursery is now being used by the environmental charity Groundwork, though they need to be off the site in two years as the Council is selling it for executive housing. Nevertheless, Groundwork have offered the recently-established Tyneside Beekeepers Association a corner of unused land for use as a temporary apiary. So a group of us visited it recently to help clear it ready for use. We also provided the lunch - game pie and blackberry and ricotta flan left over from the Bowes Show.
Sunday, 18 September 2016
I've mentioned our recently made game pies in posts but here is the recipe. Into a pan put rabbit, pheasant and squirrels (or whatever other game you have other than pigeon) and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the meat is cooked.
Strip the meat and put into a large bowl. Add chopped pigeon breast. Mix in a jar of rowan jelly.
Line a pie tin with hot water crust pastry and put a layer of sausage meat in the bottom. We added boiled quail eggs and then covered it with the mixed game meat.
Bake in the over for one and a half hours, first at 200C for an hour and then at 160C. Then leave to cool and in a small hold in the top, pour in gelatin until the pie can absorb no more.
We did our first swap of the year for apples a few days ago. All these apples, plus 2 large bags of plums, paid for with 4 large jars of preserves. Any bashed apples are fed to the goats. If we get a sufficient supply, we will feed apples to the goats over the winter as well.
We had some pigs trotters in one of our freezers which we used recently to boil up to extract gelatin. We started with some stock we made from boiling up some game (pheasants, rabbit and squirrel). The trotters were placed in the stock, brought to the boil and then simmered for a couple of hours. A few pork bones were added as well.
Here is the resulting jelly:
Some of the gelatin was later reheated to liquify it and then poured into game pies.
One of these flans was used as an entry in the Bowes Show - blackberry and ricotta cheese. Sadly we got no prizes but we did enjoy eating it afterwards. We also took one to theTynesde Beekeepers' Apiary recently when members were gathered there to clear the site of weeds and undergrowth.
We had a number of vegetables to use up recently and we also needed some ready meals to be able to heat up easily as we have been very busy recently. All the vegetables found their way into a curry. Sadly, we cheated with the curry sauce. We bought that ready made in a jar. We later added a load of boiled quail eggs, left over from the picnic we had at the Bowes Show. Overall, the curry was used for dinner over 3 days.
Saturday, 17 September 2016
At the Bowes Show last week, I entered a game pie in the pie-making competition. Two pies were made using 1 rabbit, 2 pheasants, 2 squirrels, 4 pigeons and some sausagemeat. I made the gelatin from 4 pigs trotters. I also added one jar of rowan jelly. Sadly the pie didn't win any prizes but one of them was the centre piece of our picnic at the show.
It was the Bowes Agricultural Show last Saturday and as usual I spent most of Friday preparing for it. Alas we did not come up to the performance of previous years. We got no firsts this time. Instead, we got 2 seconds and 2 thirds. My proudest was the 3rd in the eggs category. There were about 15 entries in that section so beating most of them was something of a challenge!