Monday, 21 August 2017
Last Thursday we bought two more honey bee colonies and in the dead of night we moved them onto our site. The person from whom we bought them wanted his hives back so we had to take the frames out of his and move them into two of our own empty (and suitably cleaned) hives. What we expected to be a simple exercise was anything but. We were both badly stung, despite wearing bee suits. I think I have about 40-50 stings. We did however finish the task and it looks as though the two colonies have settled down.
Sunday, 20 August 2017
Another summer glut is pigeons. We get sackfuls of them in trades with a friend who goes shooting. The breast meat is the only part of the bird that is worth eating though we keep the feathers for eventual use in making quilts. The meat is frozen either a whole breasts or minced. Yesterday I invented my own recipe for pigeon burgers:
- 500g minced pigeon breast meat
- a medium onion grated
- a medium apple grated
- a glass of our homemade beer
- half a small jar of hedgerow jelly
- 3 tablespoons of fruit puree
- salt and pepper to taste
The different ingredients help to balance the gamey taste of the pigeons though I think in future I will double up the quantity of meat. Otherwise, I was quite pleased with the results.
I recently made some cherry, rhubarb and apple jam. The waste products from this were cherry pulp and apple cores and skins. I boiled them all together and then pressed the resulting pulp through a sieve to create this puree. I am about to experiment with making some fritters (the puree will be mixed with egg and ricotta cheese). Any puree still left over will be mixed with ricotta to make fruit cheese flans.
My waistline will probably not like this!
The Hop Garden in High Spen is a community run allotment in which residents can have a go at gardening and can pick the fruit and vegetables for themselves. I have visited it a number of times before and on Friday I made a return visit in response to a call by the organisers to help shift the abundance of windfall apples they have. In return I took up a stack of quail eggs and a load of rhubarb. I have both is excessive abundance at home! A suitable swap was made.
Friday, 18 August 2017
My friends Jo and Richard keep a few sheep and recently made an offer to me: would I take three lambs to the abattoir in return for one of them? The prospect of a good supply of fresh lamb was too good to ignore so my land rover was driven to their house early yesterday morning and I took them down to the abattoir in Spenneymoor, Co Durham. We should get the meat back soon. We have had to bring into operation another freezer. Watch out for lots of posts soon about lamb burgers, roast lamb and lamb sausages.
I had feared that, as we are feeding a wheelbarrow load of willowherb to the goats twice a day, we would have exhausted the supply by now. We haven't! We have to walk further to pick it but the supply seems endless. That's good news for the goats as they love the stuff.
Thursday, 17 August 2017
The quailhouse is cleaned out every three months or so. It had its latest clean on Monday. Quail droppings quickly become dry and dusty. The muck has gone into the manure bin which is now full. Anyone in the Sunniside area is welcome to take some natural fertiliser for their garden.
Sunday, 13 August 2017
There is a possibility that Georgina, mother or grandmother of all our goats except for Pinkie, may be pregnant again and possibly even due in the next three weeks. She has been getting bigger for some time and I am no longer able to put that down to her being "gassy"! The father can only be Spotless who died in April, a couple of weeks after Georgina gave birth. If events turn out as we now expect, we clearly made a mistake leaving Spotless to roam freely with the nannies when they are due to give birth. I much prefer to give the nannies time to recover from a pregnancy. Fortunately, Georgina is in excellent condition. Watch this space for more news.
We set up our stall selling preserves at the Swalwell Community Fayre yesterday, just in time for the rain. Alas, the wet conditions were not helpful for jam sales but the two goats we took - Pinkie and Snow - proved to be popular with visitors as we sheltered under trees.
On the Whinnies Community Garden, in the bottom end of one of the old allotments, was a huge pile of sticks, branches and tree trunks. It was a bit of a hindrance to get into our Farside allotment. Over the past week, I have been helping the volunteers to shred branches and chop logs. The end result is a large new space that can be used by the volunteers in the future, a heap of mulch and better access to our allotment.
Photos before (above) and after (below).
And a few action shots:
Friday, 11 August 2017
Our huge surplus of rhubarb and cherries is being put to good use this morning. I am making rhubarb, apple and cherry jam. The cherries have been boiled and strained (life is too short to stone each one individually). The resulting liquid (1.25 litres) was added to the jam pan along with 2kg of chopped rhubarb and 2kg of chopped apples.
Boil the whole lot until everything is pulped and then add 4kg of sugar. Bring to setting point and them put it into hot, sterlised jars.
Thursday, 10 August 2017
Our ducks stopped laying a couple of months ago. I have no idea why. The birds are healthy and in good condition. They eat well. But we are getting no eggs. That is until today. One egg from one of our young birds was waiting for collection this morning. Hopefully the others will follow her lead.
Wednesday, 9 August 2017
Over the past couple of days we have been given a good quantity of hay. It won't be enough to get us to spring next year but it should get us a good way through the winter, helping us to avoid buying in feed for the goats. We will continue to make hay through the rest of the summer to ensure we have enough to keep us going until we start feeding the goats branches and leaves again in April.
Tuesday, 8 August 2017
Our main henhouse is built entirely from reused waste materials, mainly old doors. A heavy hailstorm recently damaged the roofing panels and since then rain has leaked into the henhouse and turned the floor to mud. We recently were given some old roofing panels from a demolished conservatory and over the weekend, we used them to rebuild the henhouse roof. Hopefully, the hens will be a bit drier now.
We did another check on our four hives yesterday. All are in good order and are growing to fill the spare frames. There is a great deal of brood so the queens are active. Each hive got through a bucket of sugar syrup over the past week so each hive was fed again.
Sunday, 6 August 2017
I've just been adding up our egg and preserve production figures from August:
- 427 hen eggs
- 592 quail eggs
- 4 jars orange marmalade
- 12 jars rhubarb and orange jam
- 29 jars lemon curd
- 4 jars blackcurrant jam
- 24 jars lemon marmalade
- 10 jars rhubarb chutney
- 10 jars rhubarb and gooseberry jam
- 14 jars rhubarb and redcurrant jam
- 6 jars redcurrant jelly
- 7 jars cherry and gooseberry jam
- 6 jars apple chutney
- 12 jars apple, redcurrant and gooseberry jam
That will keep us going for a while!
A friend had some surplus rhubarb and asked me if I wanted to trade it. I took 3 jars of jam and a jar of lemon curd to his allotment where I discovered just how much he had. We filled the boot of our Polo. It will all be frozen in the short term as we don't have enough jars to turn it all into jam. This does however create a problem with freezer storage space. We are trying to get through older contents to make room for this summer's produce. This one rhubarb crop will fill all this space - and we have the rhubarb on our Farside allotment still to pick.
Saturday, 5 August 2017
Friday, 4 August 2017
Coal has been chosen as the new mascot for the Whinnies Community Garden and she will be appearing at events there over the summer and autumn. We are still getting her used to being on a lead and having people around. She is getting used to being walked around the garden and is becoming very friendly, especially if people have food with them!
When I was doing the lock-up a couple of nights ago, I saw this toad hopping past the henhouse. I'm all for having wildlife like this on the allotment as toads eat bugs, slugs and snails (as do the chickens and ducks as well). Let's hope this toad survived the chickens the next day.
The process of building up a stock of winter fodder for the goats is underway. We have been making hay but we are now drying a large bundle of nettles each day to add to the fodder. We hang the bundle in the goat house (suitably partitioned off from the goats). It takes about 4 days for the nettles to dry out. Hopefully we can build up enough of a stock of fodder over the summer to avoid having to buy in feed over the winter.
Thursday, 3 August 2017
We picked more wild raspberries earlier this week. This time they went into making 16 jars of raspberry, rhubarb and apple jam. The rhubarb had been sitting in the freezer since last year and we need the space. The apples provided the pectin.
We have had a good broad bean crop this year. We have harvested 9kg of beans which are now in the freezer. The goats and chickens liked the empty pods.
Beans are full of protein, minerals and carbohydrates so they are one of our most important crops. As well as using them as a vegetable side dish in main meals, we will also be using them to make veggie burgers and sausages. Watch this space!