Friday, 21 July 2017

The Mayor meets Pinkie

Pinkie meets the Mayor of Gateshead July 17 1

The Mayor of Gateshead, Cllr Pauline Dillon, officially opened the Whinnies Community Garden summer fair on Sunday. Two of our allotments are on the site and we help look after the garden. As our goats live there, they too were starring guests at the fair. Pinkie got to meet Cllr Dillon. I'm pleased to report that the two got on well!

Whinnies summer fair July 17

We also had a table selling preserves. Yet again, there was a run on lemon curd. It was also an opportunity to show off 5 chicks that had hatched in the incubator a couple of days before.

Blaydon Burn Food Fest

Transition Town West Gateshead food fest July 17 (7)

On Saturday I was at the food festival run by Transition Towns West Gateshead at Blaydon Burn Farm where I had a table selling my preserves and eggs (see photo above). It was a successful day. I was cleared out of eggs, lemon curd, chutney and various jams. It meant I have been occupied this week making more preserves!

Picking redcurrants

redcurrants July 17 2

We have a fruitcage on our livestock allotment and in it we have a large number of redcurrant shrubs. Alas, the goats broke into it earlier this week. We caught them in time so there wasn't too much damage. We did, however, pick all the redcurrants, even though they were not all ripe. It was a good move. A day later, the goats broke in again and stripped bare the shrubs in the fruitcage. The shrubs will be dug up and transplanted to our Farside allotment where we already have a large number of soft fruit shrubs.

The redcurrants were spread on trays at home and left on window sills to ripen before being used to make jelly and jam.

redcurrants July 17 1

Monday, 17 July 2017

My kitchen last week

orange marmalade Jul 17 (1)

Last week we had three days of preserves making. We had two fairs over the weekend to supply and another one this coming Saturday.

Above: orange marmalade waiting to reach setting point.

orange marmalade Jul 17 (3)

Orange marmalade after reaching the setting point.

rhubarb Jul 17 (2)

Rhubarb used to make orange and rhubarb jam.

Making lemon marmalade and blackcurrant jam.

blackcurrant jam July 17 (1)

Testing blackcurrant jam for the setting point.

lemon curd July 17

Lemon curd

preserves Jul 17

The full results of the hard work.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Pigeon casserole

pigeon casserole Jul 17

We had pigeon casserole for dinner recently. The pigeon breasts were cooked in our own homemade beer. The courgettes were homegrown as well.

Ash branches

ash branches July 17 (1)

A large branch had fallen from an ash tree overhanging a local road. Someone had dragged the branch onto the grass verge which is where I spotted it. It filled the land rover and was a good feed for the goats.

goats eating ash July 17 2

goats eating ash July 17 4

More pigeon breasts

pigeon breasts Jul 17

We took delivery of another sack of pigeons over the weekend. The feathers have now been plucked and the breast meat has gone into the freezer. We are still planning to turn some into sausages and burgers.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

goose egg scrambled

goose egg scrambled Jul 17 2

A few weeks ago, we swapped a dozen quail eggs for one laid by a goose. I got round to using it today. It was rather nice scrambled for breakfast.

goose egg scrambled Jul 17 1


bee swarm July 17

On Thursday morning we took delivery of our new bees. To my amazement, when I returned in the afternoon, I found a swarm on the hedge.

swarm box July 17

I was able to capture the swarm in a swarm box and then rehouse it in a spare hive.

bee hives Jul 17 2

When we first agreed to buy the bees, one hive and one nuc were on offer. Ian and Sue, from whom we were buying the bees, decided to split the hive as it was rather large. The expectation therefore was that we were getting three colonies for the price of two. We have ended up with four instead. Not bad!


On Sunday I visited the Woodfest at Chopwell Woods, hosted by the Land of Oak and Iron, to get some ideas for woodland products and to consider gaining new skills.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Rhubarb ready for picking

rhubarb July 17

We have a good rhubarb crop on our Farside allotment, ready for picking. Much of it will be made into rhubarb chutney but soft fruits are beginning to ripen and it looks like there will be lots of redcurrants so watch out for rhubarb and redcurrant jam. We've got 3 fairs in the next 10 days so there will be lots of preserve making in the coming week.

New bee colonies

bee hives July 17

After the embarrassing loss of our bees over winter, yesterday we took delivery of our new colonies: one nuc and two smaller colonies made by splitting a hive that have queen cells (one colony therefore had an existing queen and one had queen cells). The hives were installed in the morning on the bee stand next to the greenhouse.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Three billies

billy kids July 17

Whinnie, the little billy goat we have been raising by hand, seems to be integrating well with the other goats in our little herd. I found him snugged up this evening with the two other billy kids in one of the sheds. We currently lock him into a shed on his own through the night to protect him from foxes and from the initial bullying he got from Pinkie (who now seems much less concerned about him). We will shortly let him wander free on the allotment with the other goats, now that he is able to fend for himself and has befriended the others.

Silver birch

silver birch for goat feed July 17 (1)

When I arrived at the Whinnies this morning, tree surgeons were cutting down a silver birch in a local garden. They were happy for me to take away the branches. I now have enough food for the goats for the next three days!

silver birch for goat feed July 17 (3)

silver birch for goat feed July 17 (4)

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

More wood pigeons

wood pigeons June 17

We have now had three deliveries of wood pigeons, shot by a friend on local farmland. The feathers have been saved for use in the future. The breast meat has been frozen. I'm planning to make burgers, more sausages and pies.

Mugged by a gang of chickens and goats

feeding the baby goat June 17 1

David had the job of bottle feeding Whinnie recently. The task also included spoon feeding him some mash made of bran and oats soaked in milk. The chickens quickly realised what was happening. It looked like a mugging that was quickly joined by the goats. Whinnie was at least partly fed but the chickens enjoyed the mash, most of which was spilled on the ground. At least it wasn't wasted.

Back to beekeeping

hives June 17 3

Over the winter our beehives died out. It was both embarrassing and frustrating. This year we have no honey other than a small store from last year. We are now about to turn a corner. Last week we took some hive parts to a village in Northumberland where we are buying a nuc and two split hives. The original plan was to buy a nuc and a full hive but in the case of the latter, when it was inspected by the owners, it was found to have queen cells in it. The split was to prevent swarming but gives us two smaller hives for the price of one. All three colonies will grow to fill hives. We take deliver of the colonies on Thursday morning.

hives June 17 2

Cabbages for the goats

cabbages for the goats July 17 2

Someone left a pile of overgrown and bolted cabbages outside our gate yesterday. An excellent meal for the goats with the chickens joining in. This sort of exchange goes on constantly on the Whinnies allotments. A constant flow of garden waste reaches our gate while people can help themselves to our never ending supply of chicken and goat manure.

cabbages for the goats July 17 1

Friday, 30 June 2017

Asleep on the job

goat in wheelbarrow June 17

I couldn't resist the temptation to take this photo last week. This is one of the billy kids occupying our wheelbarrow. They are growing rapidly!

Toad out of a hole

toad June 17

We are always keen to live in harmony with the natural world so I was pleased to see this toad hopping about the path outside out allotment recently. There are a number of small ponds on the Whinnies Community Garden so we have a good number of amphibians on the site. They're good for eating bugs!

Making hay

hay making June 17

Last week we started making hay. We had had a long run of dry, sunny weather so we are intent on putting it to good use. For us, hay making is a gradual process. We pick a couple of sacks of grass and leaves each day and leave them on a patch on the allotment to dry out. It is then added to the store so that it can be used over winter for the goats.

Alas, this week we have had constant rain!

Testing the stove

stove June 17 (2)

About 3 years ago I spotted an old iron stove in a junk shop. I bought it with the intention of using it in a workshed which we are still to build. I stored it in a corner of the greenhouse and largely forgot about it. The ever increasing piles of kindling and firewood, from the branches I feed to the goats, encouraged me to test out the stove last week. We set it away on the allotment one evening and sat enjoying it with a few beers. All we need to do now is build the workshed!

sitting on allotment June 17

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Emmanuel College Fair

Emmanuel College fair June 17

We took our two newest ducklings to the Emmanuel College fair earlier this month. They were very useful in attracting people to our table where we were selling our preserves. If I had charged people to hold them and have their photos taken with them, I would have doubled my takings!

ducklings June 17

Dark brown hatching eggs

eggs June 17

We bought these hatching eggs recently. Note the very dark brown colour of three of them. They are wellsummer eggs and I'm hoping any hens that hatch from them will lay eggs of the same colour. They will be a great addition to the range of different coloured eggs produced by our flock.

Milk and solids

Whinnie goat baby June 17 1

Whinnie, the goat kid we are raising by hand, has a strong appetite for milk but we have not yet got him onto eating solids. He is however starting to chew on various items, both edible and inedible. We are trying to spoon feed him bran and oats mixed in milk with varying degrees of success. Hopefully soon he will start eating leaves.

Moving the chicks and ducklings

We moved the chicks and ducklings from our back garden to the allotment yesterday. I'm pleased to say they have all settled in well.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Apple, rhubarb and ginger jam

preserves making June 17

Another attempt to reduce the quantity of food in the freezers was made last week when we used 4 kg of last year's rhubarb to make rhubarb, apple and ginger jam (and a rhubarb crumble). 18 jars were made. Alas, the apples and ginger were not grown by us. We had to buy them.

Ripening cherries

cherries June 17 (1)

I checked on the wild cherry crop last week. It was ripening but was not quite ready for picking. I will revisit it today. Stand by for cherry pie, cakes and jams.

Turning the fruit cage into a maternity ward

clearing the fruit cage June 17

Our fruit cage was heavily overgrown with nettles recently. I spent an afternoon clearing them out - the goats had quite a snack on them. The soft fruit crop in the cage is not yet ready for picking but the main reason for clearing the nettles was to allow it to be used as a maternity ward for hens with chicks. Three hens are now in there with their chicks. When they are bigger, they will be released into the flock.

chicks June 17 (3)

We are using big pots as temporary henhouses.

chicks June 17 (1)

Brooding hens

brooding hen June 17

More of our hens than ever before have gone broody this year. I try not to break them of the habit so I put them in a safe place where they can't be disturbed. Sometimes they insist on brooding where eggs are laid. We've had one hen brooding her eggs in an old oil drum next to the compost bin. We have another currently brooding under the shed. Fortunately, the one above was happy to be moved into a spare henhouse. Her eggs are due to hatch in two weeks.

Kells Lane Fair

Kells Lane Fair June 17 (11)

For the 4th year running we attended the Kells Lane Fair in Low Fell, Gateshead, to sell our eggs and jams. This time we took Whinnie, the baby goat we are hand raising. He was a smash hit with people visiting the fair. I had no problem getting volunteers to look after him through the day!

Kells Lane Fair June 17 (10)