Friday, 21 July 2017
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!
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.
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!
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.
Monday, 17 July 2017
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 after reaching the setting point.
Rhubarb used to make orange and rhubarb jam.
Making lemon marmalade and blackcurrant jam.
Testing blackcurrant jam for the setting point.
The full results of the hard work.
Thursday, 13 July 2017
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
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.
I was able to capture the swarm in a swarm box and then rehouse it in a spare hive.
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!
Friday, 7 July 2017
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.
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
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.
Tuesday, 4 July 2017
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.
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.
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.