Wednesday 28 March 2012

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia Jan/Feb programme

This is the latest programme I produced for the Horticultural Channel about becoming self-sufficient. It covers January and February.

Saturday 17 March 2012

How to make apple pie

We are gradually using up our stock of apples we picked wild last August. So, time to make an apple pie. This is a very basic recipe but fun to try.

Friday 16 March 2012

Something fishy on the allotment

Last year we dug a pond on the alotment. The plan is to let it become a haven for frogs, toads and newts as they will eat lots of bugs and pests that would otherwise munch their way through my crops. We also want the pond to be a water source for the bees (I've seen plenty of them gathering water from the edge of the pond recently). Within weeks of filling the pond last year, we saw frogs in it.

A couple of weeks ago I caught some movement in the pond in the corner of my eye. It looked like a fish. I assumed what I had seen was a newt. I now think I was wrong. Today I saw a fish in the pond - I had a good view of it, not just a glimpse. Quite how it got there is difficult to say. We certainly didn't put it in. There is no stream feeding the pond that could bring fish to it. No one else has access to it. What we think has happened is that there may have been some fish eggs on some pond plants we added last year. Last summer a friend gave us some pond weed from his garden pond which is brimming with goldfish.

Now that we have fish in it, we may look at adding fish we can eat. As yet, we know very little about keeping fish for food so we will have to look into this further. We may also need to create a second pond. I suspect fish will eat frog spawn so a smaller, separate pond for the amphibians would be useful.

Bathing - hen style

Our hens have adopted a corner of ground under the hen house as a dust bath. They all use it and as a result, they have hollowed out the ground and created something of a basin. Dust baths are good for their feathers and skin. If you are planning to keep hens, make sure they have some sheltered ground they can turn into an en suite.

I let them out this afternoon to wander around the allotment whilst I dug up the rest of our crop of Jerusalem artichokes. At one point I was mobbed by them as they joined in digging up the ground to get to any grubs and worms they could find. They had a great time though it doubled the length of time I planned to spend there.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

The bees are buzzing

We are experiencing another mild, dry end to winter and start to spring. Indeed, the whole of our winter has been mild. Early blossom covers some trees and green shoots of growth are bursting through the ground. So, having just been to the allotment, I spotted that my bees are very active at the moment. All 3 hives are busy. The bees are bringing in lots of pollen. That's good news as pollen is used to feed brood. That means the queen in each hive has survived the winter and is laying. I can't wait to get our first honey!

Alas, the story is not so good up in Bill Quay Community Farm in Gateshead where I am one of the volunteer beekeepers. We paid a visit on Saturday. Two of the hives were doing very well. Unfortunately the third was dead. We opened up the hive and there was a cluster of dead bees. To some extent, we weren't surprised. The hive had been a weak one. It's still disappointing however.

Friday 9 March 2012

How to make an egg and bacon flan

Lots of eggs now being laid by our hens - a fifth hen started laying a few days ago. So we have lots of eggs to use up. As you can see in this video, I've been using some of them to make egg and bacon flans.

Monday 5 March 2012

Steaming and freezing cabbage

Our cabbage crop last year wasn't brilliant but we have swapped eggs for other people's allotment produce recently so we've restocked our supply of cabbage. I steamed it (that way less of the nutritional content is lost) and froze it.

Giving grit to the hens

One of our hens laid a deformed egg recently. This is is:

deformed egg Feb 12 1

The cause was a lack of grit in their diet. We had been giving grit to out hens but ran out for a couple of days. It seems that calcium deficiency can therefore have rapid effects. Grit doesn't just supply hens with calcium. The grit contains hard, indigestable oyster shells which held to grind up the food in a hen's digestive system.

So if you are keeping hens, make sure they have lots of grit.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Keeping the hens healthy

We are continuing to learn about how to keep hens healthy. One way to keep them in a good condition is to put a tonic into their drinking water. The tonic we use is apple cider vinegar, 10ml for every litre. I filmed the above video last month.