Monday, 31 October 2016
For the past couple of years we have rented a derelict allotment from the Whinnies but not yet got round to using it. The plot is large but has not been used for decades. The hawthorn hedge along one side is around 6 metres tall. We took it on because we initially wanted it for the goats. Our plan then changed and we kept the goats on the main allotment. We now have a plan for this other site (we call it the Far Allotment). We are going to remove our soft fruit plants from the main allotment where they are losing the war of attrition with the goats and transplant them to the used site.
I've already started cutting back the hedge but the ground needs to be dug over to remove the weeds. Lots to do. The photos were taken about a month ago. You can see the scale of the job.
Okay, we were late in checking the hives. I admit that. But we have no honey crop. And other beekeepers we have spoken to say the same. This is very disappointing and has set back some of our plans. We also found that one of our hives has been destroyed by wasps.
We have in storage, from previous years, the squeezed honeycomb. We need to get our wax extractor into action. Another job for the autumn.
Photo above: David gets ready for the hive inspection, helped by Spotless.
In the summer I took on the task of getting the hedges on the Whinnies Community Garden under control. They are traditional hawthorn hedges and had not been managed for years, possibly decades. You can seen in the photo above how two of the hedges had formed a tunnel.
And this is the hedges as they were a couple of weeks ago. Brought back down to size. The leaves have been eaten by the goats and the branches will be chopped soon for firewood.
David retired from the world of paid employment last week and to celebrate, on Sunday, we got one of the joints out of the freezer from our last pig. A rather nice roast pork dinner followed, with red cabbage, roast potatoes and crab apple jelly. All produced by us or swapped with people who produced them.
We have an ever increasing pile of logs in the allotment, left by the goats after they've feasted on the leaves. I snip off the twigs and sticks to use as kindling but we are just starting to chop up the logs. It is a huge job but the logs are seriously getting in the way of some building work we are planning (a new shed and henhouse). The logs have to be chopped before the building can begin. It's one of the big jobs for the autumn.
The Whinnies Community Garden (we rent our allotment from them) has a shrubbery that has been smothered by brambles so they asked me if I could cut them back (and use them as goat food). I was happy to oblige. I was surprised at just how extensive the bramble infestation was. So I've made a start on chopping them back. The clock is ticking on this however. The brambles are still in leaf but they will be gone soon, at which point they are no longer any use as fodder.
The photo above was taken before the clearance work started. Below, some of the brambles have been cleared. Bottom: goat dinner time.
Saturday, 29 October 2016
The two kids born this year, our first successful goat births, were originally bred for meat. However, we decided to keep Spot, the nanny kid, to replace Geraldine, our goat that died in labour in May. We have now decided to keep the billy Spotless. We have 3 freezers packed full of food, including lots of meat, so were he to be slaughtered, we'd have nowhere to store him. Secondly, we had always planned to keep a billy, though not one related to any of the others we have. Thirdly, the real reason. He is a lovely animal, very friendly and we have simply grown very attached to him. Okay, so this is sentimental, illogical decision-making by us. It would certainly have been the case that had Geraldine survived and given birth, some kids would have been sent for slaughter, even if it would have meant buying a new freezer. But we weren't in that position. We will have to change some of the arrangements on the plot where we keep the animals. We will need to build him a separate paddock where he can be kept when the other goats are in heat. We are also looking to buy a young Saanen nanny as a mate for him. His father is a Saanen and he has the appearance of a Saanen (he looks nothing like his mother). Saanens are a milking breed so if we build up a small milking herd, he will be part of it.
Friday, 28 October 2016
We rent our allotment from a community garden at the Whinnies in Sunniside. Last week we gave them a hand to clear some beds and build a raised bed. I already help look after the extensive hedges on the site (the returned favour for me is that the branches can be used by us as goat feed and firewood). I'm looking forward to future volunteer days.
We have been collecting in the apples from various trees in the area. Lots are bruised but that's not a problem for us as they are used for goat feed. Across the winter, apples will be their main feed. The apples in the photo above came from the back garden of a bungalow in Marley Hill. She was quite happy for me to go in and take them away.
Thursday, 27 October 2016
The pheasants and the partridge that we got recently have been plucked and gutted and are now in the freezer. We now have a considerable stock of meat which will take us most of the year ahead to use up. That has influenced a decision we have recently taken but more about that in a later post.
We are squeezing what we can from foraged feed sources for our goats. The leaves may be disappearing from the trees and hedges but haw trees are covered in berries which the goats love. They eat the stones as well. You can hear them crunching them. The hawberries should last into November. After that we will be feeding the goats mainly apples, ivy and privet.
Monday, 24 October 2016
Our ever increasing supply of ricotta cheese has forced us to scour the recipe books looking for ways to use it up. We discovered we can use ricotta to make ice cream. So we gave it a go and were rather pleased with the results. The first attempt was a simple vanilla ice cream. Then we got a bit more daring. We have pickled raspberries left over from making raspberry gin. Normally we would put them into sweet mincemeat. We can now report that they work well in ricotta ice cream as well!
Sunday, 23 October 2016
We got this box of pears and crab apples in a swap recently. It cost us a few jars of preserves. The crab apples will be boiled to make jelly. The pears will be preserved in red wine we made a couple of years ago. I've not preserved fruit in wine before so this will be a first for me.
The old bike shed we have previously used as a goat shed was in serious need of repair. We are also desperate for the storage space, especially for the animal feed. David did the repair work, ably assisted by Spotless, out billy. Coming up soon will be the building of a new, large shed with an external, covered work area and a big new henhouse to replace all our smaller ones.
Sunday, 16 October 2016
I've been doing some more historical cooking recently. Pottage was a medieval dish, a bit of a cross between a stew and soup. The meat I used in it was game left over from the game pies I made last month for the Bowes Show.
Once made, I took the pottage to a local history event where I was doing the catering for the day. My cooking got the thumbs up from the Mayor of Gateshead.
Monday, 10 October 2016
Sunday, 9 October 2016
I am a member of a group of volunteers called Planting Up Whickham, set up to take over the maintenance of public flower beds and green areas Gateshead Council has stopped caring for in Whickham village. At the last meeting I agreed to do some work on the shrubbery behind the library, which was somewhat out of control. I did the work this afternoon and filled the land rover with branches and leaves. The goats had quite a feast! For the first time in a couple of years, the sign for the car park became visible! Before and after photos above and below.
Friday, 7 October 2016
As part of our efforts to free up freezer space, I took out 3 bags of lemon skins (we save them rather than throw them out) and boiled them up today. They are currently straining and will be made into marmalade tomorrow. We will be doing more checks on the freezers over the next couple of weeks to use up whatever we can. I know there are bags of soft fruit in one of the freezers which can be made into jam. It will be interesting to see what else we have waiting to be used.
I've been making yet more ricotta cheese today from our goats milk. We add the cheese to whatever we can, just to use it up. We are however looking at ricotta ice cream recipes. The drawback is that we urgently need to create space in the freezers as the billy goat kid will be going for slaughter soon. Adding ice cream to the freezers doesn't help!
The Whinnies Community Garden, next to our allotment, has a large amount of bamboo that is growing out of control. I fed some to the goats as an experiment. They loved it. As a result, the Whinnies are letting me take as much bamboo as I can chop down. The goats then eat the leaves and the canes are returned to the Whinnies to be used at a later date in the garden. Everyone benefits!
As we step up our plans to be more sustainable, we are now looking at how to build a compost toilet on our main allotment, where we keep the animals. This book, "Compost Toilets, a practical DIY guide" by Dave Darby arrived in the post today. Lots of interesting reading and plans to draw up ahead of me!