Tuesday 30 December 2014

Goatie beard

Geraldine, one of our goats, was snapped this morning wearing the hay bag around her neck. It looked like she had grown an incredibly large goatie beard! Her horns proved very effective at hooking onto the bag. The hay bag has since been moved to the other side of the fence where Pinkie, our Golden Guernsey, has access to it. She has no horns. Geraldine, and Georgina our 3rd goat, have a new hay bag - formerly a poultry pellets sack with a hole cut in it. Hopefully they won't end up wearing it!

Taking Pinkie to meet her new billy

We took Pinkie our milking goat to Northumberland last week to visit Merlin, the billy. Hopefully there will be kids born as a result by late May.

Friday 26 December 2014

Christmas leftovers

The two pheasants we had for dinner on Christmas day were stripped this evening. The bones were boiled up for stock (and will then be turned into bonemeal). The meat was added to some homemade tomato sauce and some herbs and then served up on some pasta. Rather nice.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Christmas dinner

No turkey for us today. Instead, we had a couple of pheasants casseroled for dinner. We got them in an exchange earlier this year.

Yesterday I also picked the first of our Jerusalem artichokes. We had them roasted with the pheasant. Along with the sprouts, it will mean we are about to enter the season of breaking wind!

Happy Christmas everyone!

More privet for the goats

Privet and brambles are the only greenery around at the moment I can feed to the goats. There is a large privet bush in the hedge around the allotment site car park and I have been gradually chopping off branches and feeding them to the goats. It's not quite of the abundance and quality of the ash branches I fed them in the late summer and early autumn (the goats love ash) but it does add a bit of fresh greenery to their diets and reduces the need to feed them bought, processed food.

What are you doing there?

I arrived at the allotment a couple of mornings ago to find Pinkie, our milking goat, had somehow squeezed through a hole in the fence into the goat paddock where our two other goats, Geraldine and Georgina, are housed. When we first got Pinkie, we put her in the paddock but because she was bullied by the other two. Therefore we moved her out of the paddock and simply let her roam around the allotment with the poultry. The allotment is more the size of a small field so there is plenty of room but we will transfer more crop growing to another plot we have.

The gap in the fence between the paddock and the allotment was created by Geraldine and Georgina attempting to headbutt Pinkie. We had planned to repair the gap to stop the two of them getting out but before Tuesday we didn't think it was big enough for any of them to get through. It has now been repaired. Pinkie's unexpected decision to get into the paddock is probably because she is coming back into heat. She took an interest in the other two earlier this month when she was last in heat. And Geraldine came into heat a day later and took an interest in Pinkie.

We have now found someone with a Golden Guernsey billy and we have arranged to take Pinkie up to him tomorrow. She is exhibiting clear signs today of being in heat. I've just filled in the paperwork needed for moving goats off the plot (yes - paperwork on Christmas Day) but we want to get an early start tomorrow. Hopefully it will lead to kids in the late spring.

Storm damage

I've been away in Barcelona recently, hence the limited number of posts recently (though on my travel blog, I've posted up lots of photos and articles, especially about food) and in my absence, the allotment was hit by a storm which blew the polytunnel into another plot. Fortunately David was home to deal with it. There wasn't much in the polytunnel except for a feral crop of nasturtiums which I was planning to pick and use as salad leaves and in soups. Once the polytunnel took flight, the poultry and Pinkie our milking goat stripped the crop bare in only a short time! The photo above is of the plot where the polytunnel previously stood. We will manure it shortly and get it ready for planting in the spring.

It wasn't all storms recently. We had one day last week when it was warm enough for the bees to be active and out of the hives foraging. Sadly, there aren't many flowers available at the moment.

Christmas hampers

Apart from a few exceptions, the Christmas presents we are giving to family and friends today have been made by us. We have given hampers containing jams, chutneys, fruit preserved in gin, biscuits, jellies and eggs. Sorry if this does not boost our GDP by spending money in shops but we think this makes for better presents!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Chicken and vegetable soup

We have some chicken leftover from the roast we had on Sunday so I stripped the carcass and boiled up the bones to make stock. This was then used to make chicken and vegetable soup. Most of the vegetables came from the stock itself. It seemed a shame to waste them. I also added in some potatoes and a small marrow that was not going to last much longer.

The resulting soup has provided us with main meals for three days. In keeping up with the no-waste approach to life, the bones are not being thrown out after making the stock. They will be roasted and then pulverized to make bone meal. Most of the feathers have been stored away. When we have enough we will use them to make a quilt.

Monday 22 December 2014

Roast chicken

It was the winter solstice last yesterday so to celebrate the end of the old solar year we slaughtered one of our surplus cockerels and roasted him for dinner. As you can see, we covered the bird with some of our Tamworth bacon. We also stuffed him with sage and onion stuffing, made from fresh sage picked straight from the herb garden.

This is how the bird looked just out of the oven. Roasting time was 20 minutes per 450g including weight of stuffing plus a further 20 minutes. Temperature was 200C.

The cockerel was a cream legbar which is a breed used for egg laying rather than for the table. It therefore did not have a great deal of meat on it. It was therefore more like the chickens eaten before the 1950s. Then mass produced chickens started to hit the supermarket shelves. The new breeds grow rapidly and put on huge amounts of meat in a lifespan of only about 6 weeks. The bird we ate yesterday was 6 months old. We have 4 more to use up, and 6 drakes.

Monday 8 December 2014

Is she or isn't he?

Our exchequer leghorn that hatched in May - is she a pullet or is he a cockerel? We had thought it was the latter. But he hasn't grown much of a tail and this morning we found a white egg in the henhouse where he roosts. Admittedly, two white leghorns are among the birds in the same henhouse but they gave up laying for the winter about 3 weeks ago. So, is he actually a she? At the moment we just don't know but the signs seem to be pointing to pullet rather than cockerel.

Goat cheese and Tamworth bacon flan

This is not to be recommended as part of a calorie controlled diet though given the calorie-burning hard graft needed as part of our self-sufficient lifestyle, the following recipe did not pile on the kilos. I had quite a bit of soft goats cheese and goats cream and some hen eggs to use up. So I decided to create these two flans. The filling was effectively a savoury custard which contained the above ingredients and onion and bacon as well. 30 minutes in the oven and they came out beautifully. I filmed a video of how to make them which will be edited shortly.

Sprout and goats whey soup

Leaves from sprout plants and goats whey. We had lots of it and they are waste by-products which should be used rather than thrown out. So I invented a new recipe - sprout and goats whey soup. The leaves normally are fed to the poultry but they are perfectly good as food for humans. I also used sprouts that were too small to consume as sprouts. They went into a pan with the goats whey, a vegetable stock cube, a heaped teaspoon of marmite and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer for half an hour. Blend before serving.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Stuffed marrow

We still have marrows to use up so we decided to have one stuffed recently. Usually we use sausage meat for stuffing marrows but this time decided to use some of the beef mince we got as part of a swap in the summer. Breadcrumbs and onions were added, as was a bit of grated cheese. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes at 180C.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Goat in a coat

Yesterday evening it was clear we were going to have an overnight frost. Time to try out the coat we bought for Pinkie, our milking goat. She was a bit jumpy when I put it on her but she settled down quickly. The picture above was taken this morning just before I took it off her. We bought the coat last week from an agricultural supplier. It cost £30, only £8 less than the whole of the money I spent this year on my own clothes! I don't rush out to buy the latest fashion which then gets thrown out weeks later when they have become embarrassingly unfashionable. I left behind that sort of consumerism years ago.

Our other two goats don't need coats. They can keep each other warm and they are a bit on the plump side so they have their own natural insulation.

How to pot roast a topside beef joint

We used one of the topside beef joints recently that we got as part of a swap for our Tamworth pork in the summer. We pot roasted it and it came our beautifully tender.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Apple jelly

We had a few bruised apples to use up, and some peel and cores left over from some baking recently. They weren't going to be wasted. I boiled them up to make jelly. Some are likely to be swapped for other people's produce and I have a lingering suspicion some may find their way into hampers which may be used as Christmas presents.

More cheese making

I've been making more cheese again. It is made in the simplest of ways. Milk was left to stand in a bowl for a couple of days. I was able to spoon off the cream for butter making. The milk itself had divided into curds and whey. The curds were put into cheese molds and left for a day to drain. The whey will be used to make soup. The cheese is soft and spreadable. I am now looking for recipes for cheese flans.

Friday 28 November 2014

Using scotch hands to make butter

We are continuing to make butter from our goats milk but we recently invested in a pair of scotch hands, wooden paddles used for squeezing out buttermilk and shaping blocks of butter. They were easier to use than I expected.

How to make Yorkshire pudding

We have lots of milk from our goat and eggs from our hens. Time to make Yorkshire pudding, which we had with the beef on Sunday.

Adding whey to the soup

We still had some of our beef and vegetable soup left over but a recent cheese making episode left us with some whey to use up. As an experiment I added it to the soup and reheated it. End result - a success.

CAE tests done

Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) is, I understand, quite a rare disease in goats in the UK. However it is a notifiable condition and goatkeepers are recommended to have their animals tested each year. The vet arrived yesterday afternoon to collect blood samples from each of our three animals. This was a job which turned out to be easier than I expected. The samples will be sent off to be tested.

One reason for doing this now is that I want to get the goats mated this winter and other goatkeepers will want to know that they are clear of the disease when their billies have their brief encounters with our nannies.

Thursday 27 November 2014

How to make quail scotch eggs - the video

I've now edited the video on how to make scotch eggs using quail eggs. We still have lots of quail eggs to use up so watch out for more quail eggs recipes in the near future.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Beef sandwich

We used some of the beef left over from Sunday to make sandwiches for lunch. Not just any old sandwiches! The bread was buttered with our own goats butter. The relish we added was made by us from our own horseradish and beetroot. Sadly, the bread was purchased from a supermarket. We must crack this problem of relying on bought in flour and bread.

Waste nothing! - beef and vegetable soup

On Sunday we pot boiled a top side joint of beef. The liquid left over was not going to be wasted. Last night I used it as stock to make soup. I simply added in some vegetables from the allotment. The result is a lovely broth that will provide us with our main meals for two days.

Beef toad in the hole

What to do with all that lovely beef left over from Sunday's dinner? And how can we reduce our egg mountain. The partial solution was to make beef toad int he hole. Instead of sausages, we used slices of beef from the joint. A very successful experiment!

Monday 24 November 2014

Goats milk porridge

Our milk surplus continues, courtesy of our goat Pinkie. So I made some porridge using the milk. Okay, the oats aren't grown by us so it's not a fully self-sufficient meal but it made a good start to the day.

Quail eggs on toast

Time is running out to use up the quail eggs we still have so we hard boiled some of them, chopped them up, added some tomatoes, pepper and mayonnaise and put them on toast. A simple meal but very tasty. But we still have lots of eggs to use up.

Jam roly poly pudding

This was pudding last night - jam roly poly. I made some marrow, plum and apple jam recently and half a jar of it went into this dessert. I'm pleased to say we still have half of it to eat up.

Pot boiled beef

In the summer we swapped some of our Tamworth pork for some beef with a local farm. Last night we pot boiled a top side joint: the joint was browned in some pork fat then we added in 3 cloves of garlic, some chopped onions and a sprig of fresh sage and one of thyme. To this we added a bottle of beer and topped up the pan with water to ensure the joint was three quarters covered with liquid. The lid went onto the pan and which was then brought to the boil and then simmered for 3 hours.

We also had Yorkshire puddings made from our eggs and goats milk. Sadly we are not able to produce our own flour so the plain flour used in the recipe came from the supermarket.

We used some of the liquid in which the joint was boiled to make the gravy - we simply added some cornflour (cornstarch for my American readers).

The end result was fantastic: beautiful tender meat and a lovely dinner. We still have a large amount of meat to use up and the rest of the liquid in which it was boiled. Looks like soup is on the menu tonight.

Saturday 22 November 2014

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia Spring 2014

This is a bit of a blast from the past but in spring I did not get round to editing all the video material we shot into a single programme. Yesterday I got round to pulling it all together. It focuses mainly on hatching hens, quails and ducks but we also rescue three feral honey bee colonies and do some food swapping at the High Spen Hop Garden.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Cream legbar cockerel

We have 7 cream legbar cockerels which we hatched in the spring and summer. We are keeping the one in the photo above. We have given him the name Long Tail. Not very original I know! Another cockerel is to go to a friend. Of the 7, only 3 are fully grown. Once the others have matured, they will either be found new homes or will end up on the dinner table.

Quail scotch eggs

We still have quite a few quail eggs still to use up, though our birds have stopped laying for the winter. Today I used some of them to make quail scotch eggs. The sausage meat came from our tamworth pig. I added some nutmeg, paprika and dried sage. Usually, I bake scotch eggs but this time I decided to deep fry them in some of the pig fat we rendered from recent joints. I was very pleased with the results.

Monday 17 November 2014

Making lemon curd and marmalade

We make lots of lemon curd and much of it is swapped with friends for their produce. A useful by-product of lemon curd is lemon marmalade. Our philosophy of zero waste means we have to find another use for anything that could otherwise be dumped in the bin. We freeze the lemon peel after taking off the zest and squeezing the juice for making the curd. When we have built up enough, the peel comes back out of the freezer and is boiled up.

Our latest batch of lemon marmalade was made at the end of last week. Sadly, we don't grow the lemons ourselves. We don't quite have the right climate here in the North East of England! We buy them from a wholesaler in Newcastle instead. The marmalade I made last week was thick cut rather than fine shred.

Cutting the hedge

Mick, on the neighbouring allotment to ours, said he was going to take the top metre off our dividing hedge. I suggested he simply leave the trimmings in the goat paddock. Most of what would be cut would be hawthorn which doesn't have a great deal of greenery on it. The goats however like to eat the twigs. There was also some ivy. Mick did the work yesterday, the goats are happily browsing and the branches that are left once they've finished will be chopped up and used as fuel. Nothing wasted.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Winter greens for the goats

Our search for fodder for our goats continues. There is a large amount of privet on the hedge next to the allotment site car park and it is very overgrown. Someone needs to manage and maintain it. I stepped forward to take on the task. The resulting food supply is being appreciated by our goats who can enjoy winter greens. They like privet and eat the leaves and twigs and nibble the bark off the branches.

It will take a couple of weeks to cut back the privet to supply the goats with a daily quantity of feed. Once the privet there has been cut down to size, I have found a privet hedge around a local bowling green that is desperate for some trimming and management. So everyone benefits. The bowling club has its hedge cut, the council saves money by not having to maintain the hedge themselves (not that any maintenance was taking place), the council doesn't need to pay to dispose of the trimmings, and my goats get well fed.

Moulting hens

Our older hens are going through a moult. Previously we have seen our hens moult in spring. Our younger birds are unaffected by those over two and a half years old seem to be happily losing their feathers and growing new ones. Houdini, one of our copper blacks, in the photos above and below, is our 2nd oldest hen and is over three and a half years old. We got her in October 2011. Like others of a similar age to her, the moult has been quite heavy. Hopefully she has fully grown her new feathers before the cold of winter sets in.

Mud, mud, glorious mud

We have had quite a bit of rain over the past couple of weeks. The result is that we are deep in mud. The ducks are loving it but the hens are not too happy. Nor is Pinkie, our golden guernsey goat, who shares the same land with our ducks and hens. Our two other goats have a separate paddock which is much drier.

Today, the weather has been dry and the mud has receded a bit. Sadly, tonight we are expecting more rain. At some point we are going to have to sort the paths on the allotment. The rivers of mud we have at the moment are not helpful.

Apple chutney

I had a number of apples that would not last much longer. So, a couple of days ago, I made them into chutney. 9 jars to be precise. This has left us with a large quantity of cores, peel and bashed apples to use up so tomorrow, I'll be using them to make spiced apple jelly.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Pinkie in heat

This photo was taken yesterday by my brother Andrew. My golden guernsey goat Pinkie is very friendly and affectionate and follows me around the allotment. She likes fuss and attention as well. It appears however that she is in heat. She is exhibiting the symptoms - rapid tail wagging, lots of bleating and pink, swollen vagina. We will have to move fast to get her mated.

Chicken soup

Sadly, I have to report that one of our 4-month-old cream legbar hen chicks was killed by a dog recently. She had managed to find her way out of the allotment and onto the path where she encountered her killer. As we have invested a great deal of time, effort and resources in our poultry, I was not going to let the bird go to waste. I took her home and plucked and gutted her.

I then boiled up the bird to make stock and when ready, the stock was strained and the carcass was stripped. The meat was chopped and went back in to the stock and some chopped potatoes and courgettes were added. Half an hour later and we had some rather nice chicken soup which was enough to provide wus with a mail meal for 2 days.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Hatching cream legbar chicks

I filmed this video in May but only edited it yesterday. So here's the catch up. We put 8 cream legbar chicken eggs into our incubator and before they were due to hatch, our area had a power failure. The incubator was without power for over two hours. We did not know if the eggs had survived and only found out when 7 chicks hatched.

Of the 7 chicks, 6 have survived though 2 of the hen chicks have been rehoused with our friend Johnnie, who gave us the eggs in the first place. Of the 4 we kept ourselves, annoyingly, 3 are cockerels, two of which are magnificent birds. We will keep one, the 2nd cockerel will go to a friend who is starting out on hen keeping (we will give her a hen as well) and the 3rd, which is smaller than the others, will be fattened up for the table.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

How to make goats milk butter - the video

I filmed this yesterday and have already used up all the butter I made!

Monday 10 November 2014

Toad in the hole again

We had toad in the hole a few weeks ago but decided yesterday to have it again. Our own eggs and milk went into the batter. Our own Tamworth pork sausages were used as well. Only the flour in the batter was bought from a shop.

Pasta carbonara

Another attempt to use up some of our surplus eggs was made on Saturday when we had pasta carbonara, made using a couple of small hen eggs which were laid a few weeks ago (and therefore needed using up) and some bacon from our Tamworth pig. Sadly, we are not in a position to grow the ingredients to make the pasta so that came from the supermarket instead. So was the cheese. At the moment we make soft cheeses from out goats milk. We have not yet made hard cheeses. That is still to come.

Bread and butter issues

Butter making continues, helping to make a small dent in the huge surplus of milk produced for us by our golden guernsey goat, Pinkie. Sadly, we have gone for a number of weeks recently in which we relied on commercially produced bread. This problem was addressed on Friday when I started bread-making again. To make the dough, instead of adding water to the flour and yeast, I added goats milk instead.

So, for the first time ever, we were able to have our own homemade bread, with our own homemade butter, and our own homemade cheese and jam.

Chillies in oil

Someone left a bag of fresh chillies for us hanging on our allotment gate. There was a pumpkin in the bag as well. No one has yet come forward to admit to their generosity though it is fair to say on our allotment site we often give each other surplus produce, preserves and eggs. Anyway, we decided that the best way to preserve the chillies was to put them in oil. This gives us the bonus of some chilly oil.

A surprise on opening the polytunnel

Everything that was in the polytunnel that needed to be cropped, had been cropped some weeks ago. I hadn't been into it since until I took a look inside over the weekend. I was rather surprised to find it full of thriving nasturtiums and nettles. This unexpected bonus will be used to make soups and salads over the next few weeks. Any nasturtium seeds will be pickled. They are quite peppery and make a good alternative to capers.

Bread and butter pudding

Waste nothing - it's one of the underlying principle by which we live our self-sufficient lives. So what to do when we are faced with a large amount of bread which needs to be used up? Normally we would turn it into breadcrumbs, of which we currently have a large quantity. So instead, we decided to make bread and butter pudding. This had the bonus of being able to use up some of our excess milk and eggs. The end result was very enjoyable and did us for 2 puddings over the weekend.

How to bottle rhubarb

In the past I have frozen rhubarb or made it into jam or chutney. In this video I show you how to bottle it instead.

Friday 7 November 2014

French fried toast and hawberry ketchup

When I was a kid, we often had French fried toast. Others may know it as eggie bread or egg fried bread. It is simply a slice of bread soaked in beaten egg and fried. I hadn't eaten it for years until yesterday. We have a number of duck eggs that need to be used up so I suggested French fried toast for dinner. As a child I loved tomato ketchup on my French fried toast. Last night, I had some of our hawberry ketchup. Lovely!

More cheesemaking

On Tuesday I put a day's supply of milk from Pinkie, our Golden Guernsey goat, into a bowl to allow the cream to rise to the top and be spooned off for butter making. Having taken off the cream, I decided to let the milk continue to stand as I thought I may get off even more. After a few hours I noticed the milk was starting to separate into curds and whey. I didn't get any more cream but I left the milk to continue separating and today there was a solid layer of curds. I spooned it off into a cheese mold this morning and left it to drain.

This is the result, a reasonably firm cheese but with a mild flavour. My plan tomorrow is to sprinkle salt crystals over it and role it in dried sage and chopped spring onions (I have some growing in the greenhouse). Watch out for an update soon.

Thursday 6 November 2014

A new layer?

We have 19 chicks that we hatched this year and some of the hens in this group are now old enough to start laying. Yesterday I found an egg in one of the henhouses that may have been laid by one of the cream legbar chicks. It is greener than the other green eggs laid by our columbines. It may be an egg from one of the chicks or one of the columbines may just have laid an egg greener than usual. It has a slightly lumpy shell, which I find sometimes with eggs laid by birds that have just started laying. You can see the egg on the left above. As a contrast I put the only other green eggs laid yesterday next to it. You can see the difference. Hopefully therefore one of the cream legbar chicks has matured and started to lay, though there was no sign of any eggs from her today.

Using the milking machine

The hand powered milking machine that arrived from the US last week was used for the first time over the weekend by David whilst I was away in London. I used it when I got back earlier this week. It works fine but I prefer hand milking, even though that requires filtering the milk.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Pickled onions done

Before leaving for London on Friday, I pickled the onions and shallots I peeled on Thursday. They had had salt sprinkled over them to draw out as much liquid from them as possible. The vinegar (I made a sweet, spiced vinegar for onions) replaces the liquid during the pickling. They should be ready for eating in about a month.

Thursday 30 October 2014

2nd go on butter making

Though I was a bit defeated on attempts to make butter on Tuesday from our goats milk, I decided to have a 2nd go at it today. The milk I used had been left to settle in a bowl and I found more cream on it which I spooned off into a jar. Last week when I did my first butter making, it took only 4 minutes of vigorous shaking of the jar to get the butter to form. Today it took half an hour but it was worth it in the end.

The milk, meanwhile, had already started to separate into curds and whey. I put the curds into a couple of cheese molds. End result - a modest amount of soft cheese. The whey will go into the hens' mash. The calcium in it will be good for their egg laying.

Pumpkin Pie

It's Halloween tomorrow so in recognition of it, we made pumpkin pie. We will make another one soon and video it. My guess is that it will have more interest to our American readers though using pumpkins on Halloween is something that is growing in popularity here in the UK as well. The pumpkin we used for the pie was not grown by us. Instead, it came as part of a produce swap with a local allotment society. We got 4 pumpkins  but have since traded two of them, used one and have one left.

Pickling my onions

The last of my small onions were peeled today ready for pickling. They are in a bowl at the moment, sprinkled with salt. Tomorrow morning, I'll rinse them and put them into jars with sweetened vinegar. This is one of my favourite pickles.

The milking machine arrives

We decided to invest in a milking machine for our goats. There were certain conditions any machine would have to fulfill - cheap, hand powered, easy to use, easy to clean. We found one on Amazon but had to import it from the USA. Dansha Farms manufactured it and it arrived this afternoon. We have not used it yet but David will have a go over the weekend (I will be in London so will miss the experience). We'll keep you posted on how it all goes.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

No butter today

Having made a small amount of butter over the weekend, I attempted to make some more today. The milk we got from the goat yesterday was left to stand in a bowl overnight to let the cream float to the top. When I started to spoon it off, I noticed it was rather thin. After what seemed a long period of time shaking the cream vigorously in a jar, none of it coagulated. I gave up. The fat content of this milk was simply too low. Our conclusion is that Pinkie's milk yield and fat content goes up when we feed her large quantities of greenery. At this time of year however it is in short supply. We will feed her some brambles as many are still in leaf. We are also on the outlook for privet and ivy which are evergreen to feed them over the winter. I may be using this greenery earlier than I expected.

Monday 27 October 2014

Making butter

As an experiment over the weekend I had a go at making butter from our goats milk. No elaborate equipment was used. Instead, the butter churn was a jam jar! I put some of Pinkie's milk in a bowl to allow the cream to rise to the top. This was spooned off into the jam jar. Once the lid was on I shook it vigorously for about 4 minutes and watched as the butter congealed.

I then put the butter on a wooden board and patted it with a wooden spatula to beat out any remaining liquid. It then went onto a saucer and left in the fridge.

I had some this morning spread on toast with some of our homemade lemon curd. Very nice! Notice how white the butter is.

Quail egg curry

Though the quails have now stopped laying until the spring, we still have a glut of quail eggs to use up. Si I decided to make a vegetable and quail egg curry recently. The eggs were boiled separately and then added to the pan once the vegetables were largely cooked. It was left to simmer for another 10 minutes. I will be making this again but will film it, showing how to make the curry sauce as well.

Fish soup

The bones, head and skin from the trout we had recently was not wasted. I boiled them up to make fish stock. A friend gave me a tub of anchovies recently so some went into the stock to make soup. I also added potatoes and onions. Once the soup was made, I added some of our goats milk and then blended it. Result - not bad.

Trout and chips

We did a swap recently - 3 sacks of hay with a friend for a freshly caught (and very large) trout. We cooked it in our fish kettle and had it with homemade chips. Alas, one bit of the meal was not from our own sources: the peas. They came from the supermarket, frozen, some time ago.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia Summer Edition

This is the summer edition of Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - we got out new milking goat, a hen hatched some chicks, I had a load of sage to use up, we helped organise a surplus food swap event and I won 6 prizes at the Slaley Show.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Moving the champagne

We are gradually preparing our garage for the arrival of our new wood-fired boiler. Since we have so much stuff in there, this is no simple job. We are about half way through the job. Stuck away at the back of the garage was the elderflower champagne. It was previously not very accessible and as a result, if got a bit forgotten about. Now that we had rediscovered it and put it in a more accessible position, we'll start drinking it. Sadly, as you can see, we have lots to get through.

Friday 17 October 2014

Clearing the council car park

Austerity in the UK means public services have had to be cut back. Cuts have been going on for six years, since the consumer debt fueled spending splurge of the last decade and the irresponsible borrowing by some and equally irresponsible lending by financial institutions led to the financial meltdown in 2008. The cuts have hit most areas of spending. One of them is the maintenance of flower beds and public spaces in our local community. As a result, a group of local residents has been formed to raise money for flower beds in Whickham village and to carry out the job of planting, cutting grass and maintaining beds. I was at the organising meeting on Wednesday and offered to clear the verges around St Mary's car park, behind the Whickham Library and the shops.

Little maintenance has been carried out on the verges in recent year. The result is that they are a bit of a mess. Feral trees (mainly ash) have sprouted all over the place. Brambles are spreading. Paths are beginning to disappear under weeds. Today, I started work at the top end of the car park and cleared the patch in the photos above - you can see the before and after shots.

Gateshead Council has a double win from my gardening activities. Not only do I clear the patch, the council does not need to dispose of the resulting waste. I packed it into my land rover and then took it to my allotment.

There I fed it to my goats who enjoyed the feast.

A hive of activity

The weather this week has been exceptionally warm for October. The result was that on the allotment this morning, the six hives we have there were very busy. We are still to do a final check on the hives for the year. That job is on a very long to-do list. We will then feed them and leave them for the winter.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Exchequer leghorn

This is the exchequer leghorn we hatched in May. In chicken terms it is in its later teenage years, on the margins of adulthood. As yet we don't know if it is a male or female. Most of the cockerels we have hatched this year will not be kept but we have decided that this one will stay even if it is a male. We want him/her as a show bird (and egg layer if it is a hen). In August we saw a mature exchequer leghorn cockerel at the Slaley show. He was a magnificent bird. If ours turns out anything like him, we'd be very pleased.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Cheese-making no. 2 - soft cheese

We started our 2nd cheese-making attempt on Sunday evening. 2.5 litres of milk into a pan along with 25g of starter liquid. The milk was heated to 22C and then a drip of rennet was added. The pan lid was put on and the pan and milk was left to stand for 18 hours.

Leave the pan to stand in a room of 21C. 18 hours later and the curd separates from the whey. Put the curds into cheese strainer for 1-2 days and then tip them out onto grease proof paper.

We are still learning about cheese-making but we were quite pleased with the results. We had soft cheese spread on bread for dinner tonight.

Monday 13 October 2014

Making animal fodder

One of the big challenges we will need to tackle is how to produce our own fodder for our animals instead of buying industrially produced feed. We feed the goats branches we chop from hedgerows and trees (where there is a need to manage them). The goats love the fresh leaves. This is fine whilst the trees are in leaf. What about the winter? Well, one thing we are trying is drying bundles of nettles and thistles for the goats. There are plenty of them around. The bundle in the picture above was put together on Sunday.

In the following picture you can see Pinkie, our new goat, trying out nettles we dried a few weeks ago.

We have collected some hay from the grassed area behind our local community centre after it was cut by the council but it is not the best of quality. So we have had to buy in hay - 2 of the huge round bales (we searched for a supply of the old fashioned rectangular bales but few farms now produce them). They are too big to get through the allotment gate so they are standing on the path outside. We will shortly build a barn and then break up the bales and transfer the hay into it.

Nevertheless, we need to step up our fodder production if we are to become fully self-sufficient.

Leftovers soup

We had some leftovers from our pork and vegetable stir fry last week. And in the freezer I found a bag of cooked bacon and sausages. We also continue to enjoy the benefits of a glut of courgettes. So, to use up some of the glut and leftovers, I made a large pan of pork and veg soup. The space created in the freezer as a result is especially welcome.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Sticking with mother

Ginger and her chicks have been free to wander around the allotment since they were removed from the protection of the quail aviary over a week ago. The chicks are now two and a half months old and I was expecting them by now to be making a break for independence from Ginger. Instead, they are still keeping close to her. Where she is on the allotment, all 10 chicks will be close by. It's the same at night in the henhouse.

Next year we will hatch more chicks in the incubator but we'll ensure they are adopted as quickly as possibly by surrogate hen mothers.

Rendering pork fat

The fat on the pork joint we used recently was not to be wasted. I rendered it by putting it into a baking tray, with some water and then heating it gently until the water had evaporated. Some of the fat liquifies and this can be strained off through a sieve. The process is repeated a number of times until there is virtually no fat left. It is stored in bowls in the fridge.

I searched the freezer before rendering the fat and found some bags of pork fat and bacon rind. They have been frozen awaiting the day they were to be rendered.

I'll be doing some baking soon, making traditional game and pork pies, so some of the fat will be used then.

Pork stir fry

We used part of one of our pork leg joints the other evening in a stir fry. It also gave me the chance to use up some of our glut of courgettes as well as cabbages, potatoes (parboiled first) and onions. I also had some spice mix I picked up in Morocco a few years ago and some of it was sprinkled in to give it a bit of a kick.

Here's the result:

Friday 10 October 2014

How to make radish curry

This was filmed a couple of months ago - I'm currently catching up with my video editing. We had a glut of radishes so were looking for unusual ways to use them up. Radish curry fitted the bill. There is a surprise ingredient - instead of spinach (we had none) we added nettle leaves.

How to make plum, apple and marrow jam

I filmed this last month when we had lots of plums but not so many apples. We have, of course, more marrows than we really need! Apples supply the pectin to set the jam and the marrow absorbs the taste of whatever it is cooked with.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Medieval talk

You may have noticed that there was an eight day gap in the posts I put on this blog. The cause of it was a talk I gave on Tuesday to Sunniside History Society. I had a great deal of work to do to get the presentation into shape - lots of photos to take, research to do, maps and plans to draw. I chose as my subject "The Good Food Guide to Medieval Sunniside" and it appeared to go down well with the people there.

The talk allowed me to combine my interest in history, food growing and photography. It also allowed me to go back to an era in our history when most people were genuinely self-sufficient. And whilst I am nearly self-sufficient in terms of the food we consume in our household, a study of the medieval period reminds me that when it comes to my livestock, we still have some way to go to be in a position in which we are genuinely living only off what we produce. Whilst I try to maximise the amount of locally produced fodder for our goats and poultry, we still have to make a monthly trip to Hexham to the animal feed supplier. We need to look seriously at how we can reduced and then end completely our reliance on manufactured animal feed.

One issue I covered in my talk was the importance of local woodland to medieval communities. Use of woodland was strictly controlled by the local lord of the manor, and for good reason. They were vital local resources for firewood, fodder, foraging and in some cases hunting. We use local woodland around Sunniside for fodder and foraging. Soon we will be using it for collecting firewood as well. Our old gas boiler at home is about to be replaced. When it is (within the next month) the gas supply to our house will be terminated. Our new biomass boiler will burn logs. We have been building up a supply of them on the allotment for over a year, knowing that at some point they would be needed. Nearly all are from the local hedgerows. We chop the branches off so that we can put them into our goat paddock where the goats eat the leaves. When they have finished with them, we chop up the branches.

Living like this has certainly brought home to me just how important local woodlands were to medieval people. Without them, people would simply freeze to death.

More rhubarb bottling

At last, all the rhubarb has now been preserved. Some went into the freezer, some into jam, some into chutney and quite a bit of it was bottled. I've filmed a video of the last batch I did so as soon as it is edited, I'll post it up here.

Homemade coleslaw

This was not an entirely self-sufficient meal. We found some fish fingers in the freezer which must have dated back to our pre-self-sufficient days. And the bread was bought as well. The coleslaw however was homemade and tasted great. It had quite a bit of beetroot in it, which helped to make inroads into the beetroot mountain we have from recent swaps. Much of the beetroot however is due to be picked or turned into a beetroot and horseradish relish.

Releasing Ginger and the chicks

Ginger, the surrogate mother to whom we gave some eggs in July to hatch when she went broody, had been living in the quail house with the chicks for two months. Recently, we decided the chicks were big enough not to need the protection from vermin the quail house afforded them. We also assumed the chicks would want to make a dash for independence from Ginger.

On Friday last week we removed her and the chicks from the quail house and out onto the allotment proper to be with all the other hens and ducks. As expected there were a few scuffles. Since then however, all the chicks have stayed close to her. She has taken over one of the hen houses and the chicks continue to huddle up to her at night and she spreads her wings to cover them, even though some are approaching her size.

This is the first time we have let a hen raise chicks. Previously all our chicks were hatched in incubators and grew up in their first 8 weeks without adult chickens around. They became independent quite quickly. I guess we are still learning.

How to pickle quail eggs

I filmed this in August when we had a glut of quail eggs. The birds are not laying many at the moment but when we have more eggs than we can eat, they can be pickled.

Our first attempt at milking a goat

This was filmed in late August so it's a bit late. This was my first attempt at milking Pinkie, our new goat, before we bought her.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Straws in the wind

I need bedding for the goats and by coincidence I discovered over the weekend an abandoned straw bale on one of the country lanes near Sunniside, where we live. It was one of those huge, round bales but it was damaged and one one side going moldy (the other side was fine). It had clearly been abandoned by a local farmer. I rescued as much of the good straw as I could and put it into my land rover. We've stopped buying wood shavings for the hen houses and use shredded paper instead. However, our shredder has inconveniently broken down and so, having run out of shredded paper, I used some of the straw today in one of the henhouses.

We don't buy or swap for the round bales as they are too big to handle and we are still looking for a source of hay and straw. Not many farms produce the old fashioned smaller square bales but I hope to contact one supplier tomorrow. In the meantime, the grass at Marley Hill Community Centre has been cut and I hope to collect some of it for fodder and bedding.

Being self-sufficient is not just about producing our own food, it's also about producing our own fodder for our animals. So the more hay we can produce ourselves, the less we have to buy in.


Earlier this year we did a swap with a local farm, some of our Tamworth pork for their top quality pedigree beef. As part of the exchange we got some beef mince. We rarely use beef as it is a very inefficient and unsustainable way to produce protein. For us it is a treat. Meanwhile, building up in our fridge was a great deal of milk from our goat, along with some of her cream and the ricotta cheese we made recently.

Along with some onions, carrots, courgettes and tomatoes from recent swaps, they all went into making this rather nice lasagne. The only commercially produced part was the pasta. We'll definitely be making this again.

Ducklings moved to the allotment

The two ducklings that hatched last month have now been moved to the allotment. We thought they would be young enough to adopt one of the older ducks as a mother but instead, they have kept themselves to themselves. They have however taken well to the allotment and quickly found the sources of food and water.

They have also discovered the pond in their wanderings and have used it quite extensively. We are housing them overnight in the spare duck house rather than in the netted duck run where all the other ducks spend the night. It is warmer and sheltered (obviously) but in a few weeks, when they are much bigger, we will aim to get them to adopt the duck run as their night time accommodation. With a bit of luck they will join up with one of the other groups of ducks.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

The cat got my tongue

In the pig's head we boiled up for pork stock recently we found the tongue still in it. After taking the head out of the pan, we removed the tongue and left it on a plate. The plan was to slice it up. Alas, our cat launched a well co-ordinated raid on the kitchen and stole the tongue. She ate well! She gave us a good licking. It speaks volumes......I think that's enough puns for tonight!

Pork stock

We bought another Tamworth pig last week which went straight to slaughter. This one was turned mainly into sausages and bacon but I asked for the bones as well. They arrived in a large bag and we put the bones immediately into our biggest pan to boil up for stock.

It was only after the pan had been boiled for a couple of hours and we took out the bones that we realised the head had gone into the pan as well! The stock is now frozen but will be used shortly.

On the bones was a reasonable amount of meat that could be picked off. We added it to some leftover vegetable soup which did us for a day's main meal.

Friday 26 September 2014

Rhubarb crumble

Our glut of rhubarb from a recent trade with a local allotment society has been made into jam and chutney. However, we also decided to have a rhubarb crumble. We still have a portion left to eat. We're having it for pudding tonight.

Thursday 25 September 2014

Collecting Pinkie - the video

A bit of video catch up for you. We filmed this video last month when we went to collect our first milking goat, Pinkie, and brought her back to the allotment.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Blog vote

My Self-Sufficient in Suburbia blog has been nominated for the Notcutts Loves Blogger awards in the self-sufficiency category. Notcutts is a gardening website. I need you to vote for me! Follow this link and get voting! 

Pickles and cheese

This was my lunch yesterday - pickles quail eggs, pickled onions, tomatoes and ricotta cheese. All produced from our own local sources. It wasn't the most spectacular of lunches but it was good enough.

Creating a new goat paddock

Our new goat, Pinkie, was bullied by our two other goats when we put her into the goat paddock when she arrived at the end of last month. This is quite normal and after a while, they would be expected to calm down. The problem however was that our two existing goats have horns, giving them an advantage in any scuffles. Pinkie, without horns, is also more vulnerable to being head butted simply because of the size of her udders. A cut on the milk sack last week, almost certainly from a horned head butt, pushed us to take the decision to separate her from the other two.

As a temporary measure, we have put her into a corner next to the goat paddock and quail house. We let her out to wander around when we are on the allotment and when she needs to be milked. We need, however, to build her a separate paddock and have chosen the area where most of the henhouses are sited. The henhouses will remain in place but the sage and soft fruit we have grown on that part of the allotment need to be moved. That's David in the photo above digging up our sage to move it to our herb garden.

Still to move are the gooseberry plants which will go to the derelict allotment we have taken on but not yet started using. Pinkie's paddock does not need a high fence. A metre high will do but we will need to put gaps in sufficient for the hens to get through. The fence is needed only along one side of the new paddock. The fence of the existing paddock forms one side of the new paddock and the remaining two sides are hedges. Pinkie will love the hedges - she adores hawberry in particular and we have lots of that. Work on creating the new paddock is on going.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Wingrove swap event

I attended another surplus produce swap event on Sunday, this time in Wingrove in Newcastle. I took a stack of eggs, a large box of courgettes and marrows (which came from the swap I did with the New Sands Allotments last week) and jars of jam. All the duck and hen eggs were swapped quickly. I shifted about boxes of quail eggs, 4 marrows and about half the jam. In return, I got lots of apples (we are always short of apples), plants, mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, empty egg boxes and jam jars (of which we have a dire shortage at the moment due to the preserves making season being in full force.)

The event came with live music. The musician was paid in produce. I gave him a marrow!

Our first attempt at cheese-making

As we are now awash with goats milk we made a serious attempt to drain some of our milk lake by making cheese on Sunday. We used 3.8 litres to make some ricotta cheese. The milk had to be heated to 90C and held at that temperature for about 25 minutes. 50ml of apple cider vinegar was added to cause the curds and whey. A slotted spoon was used to remove the curds to a colander lined with cheese cloth. It was strained for about an hour and then melted butter and a bit of salt was mixed in.

We are left with quite a bit of whey which we will add, for the time being, to our hens' mash to increase their calcium. We are however looking for recipes to use whey. Suggestions are welcome.

Monday 22 September 2014

Bottling rhubarb

We've been bottling rhubarb recently (and still have lots more to do). Start by chopping the rhubarb into 4cm long pieces and put them in a bowl. Make a syrup by bringing to the boil 500g of sugar in one litre of water. Leave to boil for about two minutes then pour hot over the rhubarb. Leave to stand overnight.

Strain off the syrup and put it into the preserving pan. Whilst waiting for the syrup to boil, pack the rhubarb into storage jars. Pour the boiling syrup over the rhubarb in the jars. Bring the level of the liquid to just short of the top of the jar. Close the lid. Put a tea towel in the bottom of a pan and put the jars on the towel (this theoretically stops the jars from shattering on the bot pan bottom - but see below). Fill the pan with water so that the jars are covered. Make sure the jars are not touching each other. Gradually heat the pan to 90C and keep it at that temperature for about 3 minutes. Then remove from heat.

This is an alternative to freezing and comes with a useful by-product: the syrup can later be used in desserts etc.

My bottling experience was not without its incidents. Despite having a tea towel in the bottom of the pan, one of my jars broke. It was a clean break around the base of the jar and I suspect it was a weakness with the jar rather than an error in how we used the equipment. Nevertheless, when I picked the jar up, it deposited its contents in the pan!

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tomato, courgette and bacon soup

We had a batch of tomatoes that were past their best. To put them to good use, I used them to make soup. Also going into it was a large courgette from the very large pile of large courgettes. There will come a point soon when we are sick of courgettes but we are not quite there yet. Other ingredients includes some beans, bacon bits and an onion. The stock was made recently from broad bean pods. After the contents were simmered, I added some of our goats milk.

Friday 19 September 2014

Bottling fruit liqueurs

This is a job that should have been done months ago - bottling our fruit liqueurs from last year. I haven't finished the job yet. Plenty more still to do but I needed the storage jars in which the fruit has been pickling for new liqueurs (I started off an new raspberry gin tonight). I also need 2 bottles for a friend who is getting married tomorrow. They will be our self-sufficiency wedding present.

Salting runner beans

We are not freezing our runner beans this year. Instead we are salting them. This ensures we have sufficient space in the freezers for other produce. The jars in the photo above were filled on Wednesday evening. By Thursday morning, the beans had shrunk and there was a good quantity of brine in the jars. I topped up the jars again but still had plenty of beans left over which went into three other jars.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Rhubarb and ginger jam

We have received as part of various swap deals a large amount of rhubarb. We have made some of it into rhubarb and ginger jam. I used apples to set it. We were fearing a few weeks ago that there would be a poor supply of apples. Most of the local trees I use have turned out to be poor this year, though one at Marley Hill is still producing in abundance. Anyway, the lifesaver came along last week. We got 6kg of apples from a local resident who was happy to exchange for a bottle of fruit liqueur.

We have plenty more rhubarb to use up so tonight I am bottling some of it and will also make rhubarb vodka.

A lazy day for the goats

When I saw my goats Georgina and Geraldine comfortably settled in the goat paddock with the chicks wandering around, I couldn't resist taking this photo. A lazy day for our bovines!

Another stash of eggs

Yet again, another recent fall in chicken egg production left me wondering if the hens were laying at a new secret location on the allotment. I stumbled on it by accident a couple of days ago. 21 eggs behind our pile of bamboo, expertly hidden and only discovered when I was on the other side of the fence looking for eggs there. I spotted them through the undergrowth and the fence. I reckon about 5 or 6 birds had laid them over a period of about 5 - 6 days. Alas, having discovered it, the hens immediately stopped using it. There has been an increase in eggs laid in the henhouses but I reckon they have already found a new location and are using it.

Don't waste your bean pods

As part of the big swap we did on Sunday, we got quite a stack of broad beans. When shelled, most people throw out the empty pods. Don't waste them! We boil ours up to make stock for soup making. We added in the trimmings from some runner beans as well. Waste nothing!

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Fruit puree

I've made some bramble jelly recently, plus a lesser quantity of plum jelly (using the last of the 14kg of plums for which we traded chutneys recently). Making jellies leaves us with a pulp which I am loath to waste. I therefore pressed it through a sieve to get a puree which will go into the sweet mince we will make shortly. In the meantime, I've frozen the puree. It won't stay in the freezer for long. We have a pig arriving next week and will need the space.

Only 2 ducklings

From the batch of 17 duck eggs we put in the incubator last month, only 2 hatched over the weekend. Tonight we cleaned out the incubator and I broke open some of the unhatched eggs. Half had ducklings in them. Sadly, I suspect the power failure we had on Friday, the day before they were due to hatch, killed them. We are considering whether or not to put some more eggs into the incubator. We need more laying birds but time is running out to hatch eggs and have birds mature enough to be raised outdoors on the allotment during the winter. However, if we get the timing right, we could have new birds that start laying in the early spring.

Monday 15 September 2014

Hay bag

We bought a couple of hay net bags recently and tried one out today. Instead of hay however we filled it with grass from the back garden. The goats seemed to be interested for a while but then gave up. I think they were unimpressed by the grass. I'll change it for hay in the morning.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Plum, blackberry and apple jam

This is a jam I invented on Friday: plum, blackberry and apple. I had a glut of plums that desperately needed to be used up and a small amount of blackberries to which I added a few more I found growing in the hedge beside the path leading to the allotment. The apples were added to provide pectin.

My recipe was 1.6kg plums, 1.4kg blackberries, 1kg apple. Peel, core and chop the apples. Stone and chop the plums. Ass all the fruit to the preserving pan with a small amount of water to stop it catching on. Bring to the boil and then simmer until all the fruit has pulped. Then add 4kg sugar (same weight as fruit), bring back to the boil and keep on a rolling boil until setting point is reached. Then add to hot, sterilised jars.

Another big swap

The New Sands Allotment Society in Swalwell (about 4km down the round from us) agreed to do a big food swap with us today. I headed down to the site at midday with a large box of jams and some duck eggs. These were used to buy a load of surplus vegetables (especially marrows and courgettes!) which filled our car. The exchange helps to secure our veg supply for the winter and give us lots of ingredients for our monthly community cafe at Marley Hill Community Centre (the next is on Sunday 28th September). We now have a race against time to get everything stored and preserved.

Roast veg and toad in the hole

Dinner tonight - we had toad in the hole again to use up some of the vast milk supply from Pinkie our goat. With it we had roast carrots, onions and beetroot and some sliced, fried courgettes. Very nice. We are too full to have pudding - we have some of the blackberry pie we put into the Bowes Show yesterday to use up. It will last until tomorrow.

Two firsts and a second

We did quite well at the Bowes Agricultural Show yesterday. We got first prize for lemon curd, first for bramble jelly and 2nd for orange and lemon marmalade. The lemon curd was the toughest competition as there were lots and lots of entries. That was the sweetest taste of success.

Last year we did not do so well in the Bowes Show. No first or second prizes. So yesterday was a good reversal of our misfortune. Alas, our bread, pies and scones won no prizes.

You can see my other photos of the Bowes Show on this link.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Near disaster in the oven

I started preparing for tomorrow's Bowes Show late this morning when I made the dough for the bread. I used milk from our goat rather than water. There was enough dough to make 4 loaves. They had been in the oven for 10 minutes when the power failed. This was not a case of our being cut off because of not paying the bill! No, this was a case of the whole area going through a 6 hour power outage. Two blackberry and apple pies were waiting to go into the oven as well.

The power company suggested the electricity would be back on in two hours. Having waited nearly 5 hours for the supply to resume, I took the loaves and pies down to Dad's bungalow. His area was not suffering from the power failure. The loaves went into his oven though I slightly miscalculated the timing and a couple of them got slightly burnt at one end. The other two were okay. One of them will go into the bread baking competition, one went into Dad's pantry, one will be sliced for tomorrow's picnic and the final one will come back home tomorrow. One of the pies will go into the pie baking competition, the other will form part of the picnic.

The pastry for the pies was made using our goats milk rather than water.

The incubator has its final batch of eggs in it at the moment. 17 duck eggs are due to hatch this weekend. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the power failure will not result in any losses but the power company could not have turned off the electricity at a worse time.

Friday 12 September 2014

Getting ready for the Bowes Agricultural Show

Tomorrow is the Bowes Show in southern County Durham. We first went to the show in 2012 and beginners luck helped us to win a couple of first prizes in the jam and eggs competition sections. Sadly, last year we did not do so well. No first prizes despite increasing the number of entries. I have scaled back the number we are entering this time but today we need to prepare them. So today we will bake bread, fruit and cheese scones, make a blackberry and apple pie, decide which eggs to take and sort the preserves that are going.

Wish us luck!

Cucumber and courgette relish

Another of the preserves I made yesterday was cucumber and courgette relish. This is a sweet preserve and one of my favourites. Remove the seeds and chop. Add some chopped onions (about one third the weight of the cucumber and courgettes).

The vinegar needs to be made as follows: 600ml white wine vinegar, 200g sugar, 40g mustard seeds, 1 tsp celery seeds, 1 tsp turmeric, half tsp ground mace, 1 tsp ground cloves. Bring the vinegar to the boil and leave on the boil for 2 minutes. Then add the cucumber etc and bring it back to the boil. Leave on a boil for only about 2 minutes then add to hot, sterilised jars.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Plum Chutney

The 14 kg of plums we got in a food swap last week are being put to good use. Yesterday I made plum chutney. One of the jars has gone to the couple who provided the plums as part payment.

This is the recipe:
3kg plums
2kg apples
1 kg onions
large ginger root grated
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbs mustard powder
2 tps salt
1 tsp powdered cloves
1 tsp cinnamon powder
900g sugar
1 tsp black peppercorns (ground)
600ml white wine vinegar

Chop the fruit and onions. Add all ingredients to the preserving pan. Bring to boil. Simmer for 2 hours. Put into hot, sterilised jars.

As simple as that!

Duck eggs up, hen eggs down, milk up

As we hurtle towards autumn, productivity of our livestock is moving in different directions. Hen egg numbers have gone down but duck egg numbers are up. We had a similar experience last year. The hens' laying activity declined through the summer. The ducks kept their numbers up until about November when they gave up completely until March.

Milk on the other hand is embarrassingly abundant. Tonight, Pinkie produced 3 litres. The fridge is now full of milk. We have taken to storing it temporarily in wine bottles. Fortunately the cheese making equipment arrived today. Alas, it came without the thermometer we need. Cheese making will therefore have to stay on hold for another day or so. Quite where we will put tomorrow's milk is still to be worked out.