Sunday 31 August 2014

Pinkie has arrived

It was an early start this morning. We arrived at Rising Star Farm in North Tyneside at 7.30am to collect Pinke, our first milking goat. She is 4 years old golden guernsey and produces 2-3 litres of milk a day. We had her back to our goat paddock by 8.30am where she is to live with our two existing (and non-milking) goats Geraldine and Georgina.

Our fear all along was that our two existing goats would be aggressive towards Pinkie. It turned out that whilst there has been a bit of bullying, they have all settled down though Pinkie is sticking largely to one corner of the paddock.

Tonight, we milked Pinkie for the first time at our paddock. We had previously practiced milking her at the Rising Sun Farm. We got a great deal of milk from her but sadly, we lost quite a bit when Pinkie managed to kick over the jug into which we were milking her. In the end, we got 1.35 litres.

Immediately after milking her we brought the milk home and filtered it through a sieve lined with kitchen paper. We used the whole of it to make a rice pudding.

Saturday 30 August 2014

Purple cauliflower

We got this cauliflower in an exchange on Sunday last week at our cafe. It cost two boxes of eggs and a jar of jam (we also got a sack of rhubarb in the exchange). I had heard about purple cauliflowers but never seen one. We used it tonight to make cauliflower cheese.

We also had half a stuffed marrow from last night and a surplus of the stuffing which was looking for a home. With the latter, we added some suet and baked it. The marrow was reheated. The final result was stuffed marrow with side dishes of cauliflower cheese and stuffing. It was not the most inspiring of meals but it beat the crap out of some of these supermarket ready-made meals!

Busy bees and a sack load of honeycomb

I tidied up the shed today so that I could create space to store the animal feed that I needed to move out of the toolshed we were using as an animal feed store (the tool shed has since gone into the goat paddock as an extra shelter). In the shed was some honeycomb from a dead bee colony. I put it into a large paper sack and a bucket to take it away to extract the honey and beeswax. Alas, the bucket was removed immediately but when I returned to collect the sack, I found it heaving with bees from our existing hives. They were robbing it bare. As it has been a warm, sunny day, the bees have been out in force after the two week cold spell we have suffered. It was only this evening, after sundown, when I was able to move the sack. We will process the honeycomb shortly.

Milking stand finished

This is the milking stand for the goats. David completed it today. And it's just in the nick of time. Tomorrow at 7am we head off to Rising Sun Farm in North Tyneside to pick up our first milking goat. We will bring her straight to our goat paddock where we will introduce her to our two existing (non-milking goats). It will be interesting to see their response.

In preparation for her arrival we have put the large plastic tool box back into the goat paddock. We used it as the first goat house last year before we put in a shed for the goats. Since then the toolbox has been used as a store for animal feed. However, the arrival of the new goat tomorrow could cause tensions so we decided that an additional shelter in the goat paddock would be useful. As you can see, our two existing goats have given it a thorough check.

Plum vodka

Tonight I bottled up another of the fruit liqueurs I made last year. This time it was plum vodka, the first time I have made it. And I have to say I'm rather pleased with the results. We got just over two bottles. The vodka pickled plums are likely to be used in desserts or will find their way into our sweet mince.

Friday 29 August 2014

Stuffed marrows

We have a large number of marrows from recent swaps. Most will be used to make chutneys but some will be used fresh. Tonight I used up a load of vegetables that had seen better days but which I did not want wasted to make a stuffing for a baked marrow. Ingredients included tomatoes, celery, sage, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs and a bit of oil, black pepper and salt. Cook in the oven for half an hour. I set the temperature at 180C but I think 200C would have been better.

A failed scotch egg experiment

I had a few hard boiled quail eggs left over from the pickling session earlier this week. Some went into salads but some were put aside to make into mini scotch eggs. We found 3 of our pork, apple and sage burgers in the freezer so we thawed them and used them as the casing of the scotch eggs. Alas, the results were not great. The casing split and was under cooked. In future, we need to bake them at a higher oven temperature (180C was the temperature tonight). And don't use burger meat. We think the breadcrumbs in the burger meat was part of the reason for their splitting. Instead, we will use our sausagemeat without any breadcrumbs added.

We live and learn. We also have lots of sausagemeat from our last pig so we will experiment again shortly.

Making bramble jelly

I picked half a bucket of blackberries this afternoon so that I could make one of my favourite preserves - bramble jelly. As blackberries contain little pectin, apples are needed to set the jelly. I have used the peel and cores from the apples I used to make the redcurrant, rhubarb and apple jam I made earlier this week. I also had a few small apples left from the sackful I brought back from Wales. They all went into the preserving pan as well. Two hours later, the blackberries and apples had pulped down and were put into a jelly bag to drain them. Tomorrow I will boil up the liquid to make the jelly. The pulp will be pressed through a sieve and the resulting fruit puree will be added to the sweet mince we will make shortly. What doesn't go through the sieve will go to the hens - they love the pips and seeds.

How to hatch eggs using a brooding hen

I filmed this video in July. We put 6 eggs into a henhouse with a brooding hen and three weeks later 3 of them hatched. We also had 8 eggs in an incubator and when they hatched, we gave them to the same hen to look after. We put the expanded family into the quailhouse to keep vermin and other hens away from them.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Redcurrant, rhubarb and apple jam

This is another creation from produce for which I traded recently. The redcurrants came from swaps at Whitley Bay, the rhubarb was brought into our community cafe on Sunday (we paid a box of eggs for it) and the apples came from my friend's garden in North Wales which we picked whilst on holiday earlier this month (they didn't want the apples and let me pick as many as we could carry back).

I used roughly equal quantities of redcurrants, rhubarb and apple which was boiled up in the preserving pan. I added only a small amount of water to start with, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan to stop the fruit from burning.

Once the contents had pulped, I added an amount of sugar equal to the weight of the contents. The pan was put on a rolling boil until the setting point was reached.

Because of the redcurrants and rhubarb, this is a slightly sharp jam.

Making blackcurrant gin

Among the trades I did last week at the swap event at Whitley Bay was a tub of blackcurrants (part of a swap for a jar of jam). The blackcurrants have now been put to good use. They are being used to make blackcurrant gin. They will be soaked in the gin for about 3 months after which the gin will be drained off and bottled. The gin-pickled fruit will then be pressed through a sieve and the resulting alcoholic fruit puree will be added at some point next year to the sweet mince that we make.

Quantities vary according to taste but when I make blackcurrant gin, I use 400g of berries, 200g of sugar and 70cl bottle of cheap, supermarket own brand gin.

Milking the goat

We went to North Tyneside this evening to go to a community farm where the goat we are buying currently lives. We were there to practice milking her. Pinkie is a golden guernsey and she currently produces 2-3 litres of milk a day. We were hoping to collect her this Saturday but there are no animal movements allowed from the farm until the end of Saturday as a new calf had been brought on to the farm (regulations about animal movements are lengthy and voluminous). When a new animal is brought onto a farm, there can be no animal movements out of it for five days.

Anyway, we had a go at milking her and after a spluttering start, I gradually got into the swing of it. The next challenge comes with working out what to do with all the milk. We won't be able to sell any of it or any milk products until we have been registered with environmental health and have carried out all their requirements. That may be some time off. We need to start looking now at how to make cheese, yoghurt and butter.

Greens for the chicks

I know some parents like to get their children started on eating greens at a young age, to avoid their developing fussy eating habits in later years. I apply the same rule to our month old chicks currently residing with adoptive mother Ginger in the Quailhouse. I try to ensure they get a handful of dandelion, dock and other green leaves each day. After all, they cost nothing and they have no food miles attached to them! We have not yet decided when to release the chicks from the quailhouse. They are still too young but as September looms, we will need to consider some target dates for letting them go free range and integrating them with our other hens. When that happens, they will be fed with the others and will be able to partake of the sack of green weeds I pick for them most days.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Quail egg salad

Whilst much of the large pile of boiled quail eggs this morning went into a pickling jar, some found their way into my lunch. Only the cheese was not locally produced (and when the new goat arrives, that problem will be solved). The onions on the plate were pickled in a sweet vinegar last year. They are still crisp and tasty 12 months later.

Pickling quail eggs

We had a very large number of quail eggs laid in June to use up. We couldn't sell or exchange them as they were too old. I tested a few of them however and they were fine. Time therefore to pickle them. That's them in the preserving pan I used to boil them. There were over 200 eggs in total.

Generally, quail eggs should be boiled for 2 minutes. With over 200 to shell, I spent a bit of time on this task. Watch out for the membrane under the shell. If you don't break open the membrane, you will be on for ages plucking bits of shell from each egg. Break through the membrane and it's like peeling a satsuma.

You will need 300ml of white wine vinegar and 150ml of white wine. Put them in the pan with a tsp each of mustard seeds, peppercorns, ground cloves, paprika and salt and 2 star anise. Boil the contents for 2 minutes.

I wanted to add some fresh ingredients from the allotment so into the storage jar with the eggs went a handful of shallots, 4 bay leaves, a stick of celery (chopped) and fennel seeds (still on the stalks). The fennel came straight from the herb garden - we have a good quantity of it growing there.

Finally, pour the spiced vinegar whilst still hot into the jar, covering all the contents.

We shall start eating the pickled eggs in about 10 days' time.

I did not pickle all the eggs I boiled. Some will be used in salads for lunches and some will be made into mini scotch eggs.

A brooding duck

A couple of days ago, I found a clutch of hen eggs hidden beside the greenhouse. Last night it was the turn of the ducks to have their secret stash of eggs discovered. I spotted our older aylesbury under the hedge during the afternoon and when I returned in the evening she was still there. It was typical of a brooding bird. Sure enough, when I moved her, I found 7 eggs.

They weren't all laid by her. She lays green eggs and the nest contained beige and green. The discovery explains why the number of duck eggs collected from the duck pen in recent mornings has been lower than we would expect.

Whilst we would love to experiment with letting a brooding duck hatch some eggs, her timing and the location of the nest were not helpful. The ducks are put in a pen in the evening to protect them from foxes but the nest was elsewhere. And at home we have 17 duck eggs in the incubator. This is the last batch of eggs (of all kinds) we are hatching this year. We don't need her hatching any more. She could however have a role as mother duck to any hatchlings. The question is, will she adopt them in 3 weeks when they are due to hatch or will she have lost interest in being a brooding mother duck? (Actually, some of the eggs in the incubator were laid by her so she would for some of them be the real rather than adoptive mother.)

We will take a decision once the eggs have hatched but if the aylesbury does become mother duck, it will be better for the ducklings that our having that role!

Monday 25 August 2014

Steampunk and jam

I had a stall at a market today to sell my jams and eggs. Except it wasn't any normal market. This was a "steampunk" event. I was invited by the organiser who knows me. Steampunk seems to be a gothic punk cross fertilisation with things Victorian. The result was that my stall at the event was the most conservative (with a small "c")!

Here were some of the other stalls:

And a couple of photos around the event (which was at the Summerhill Bowling Club in Newcastle:

Quite a fun afternoon!

Building the goat stand

This is David's handiwork today - he has built the milking stand for the goat. It's not finished yet but it will be completed shortly. It is quite sturdy. After all it needs to take the weight of a goat. We hope to pick up our new goat this coming Saturday. And then we will be drowning in milk!

David takes the stand!

More hidden eggs

We have a partial explanation as to why we have been getting relatively few eggs from our hens recently. The answer is in the photo above, taken this evening. I found these eggs whilst weeding next to the greenhouse. They were hidden behind a water butt. Nine eggs recovered.

Sunday 24 August 2014

The chicks are growing

The 11 chicks that hatched last month have grown rapidly, especially the three welsummers. Ginger, the adoptive mother hen is finding it more of a challenge as each day goes buy to be able to take all of her chicks under her wings. We are continuing however to keep her in the quail house. The chicks are still too small to be able to go free range. If we let them out at this stage they could still fall prey to vermin or other hens not happy with having someone else's chicks running around the place. Soon however we are going to have to move Ginger and her chicks out of the quailhouse to go free range. We are not sure exactly when that will be but it is likely to be in early to mid September.

Jam today

Our monthly community cafe at Marley Hill Community Centre was held today. We also ran a jam and egg stall as well. So whilst our customers were choosing their breakfast or lunch, they were also able to buy homemade jams, marmalade, jellies, eggs or honey. Our lemon curd was especially popular.

Tomorrow, the jams go to a market in Newcastle. The boxes are already packed and we had a few of our eggs left over which we will sell as well.

Vegetable soup

I made this vegetable soup on Friday. It was a big batch so it had to be made in one of our preserving pans. It contained cauliflower, turnip, leek and courgette. The stock was made earlier in the week from vegetables that were past their best. The quantity of soup was enough to last us to more than today (Sunday). We have been running our community cafe today and when the last customer left, we had some leftover pumpkin soup and some of our bacon, sausages and burgers, already cooked. None of this went to waste. Instead, we have added it all to the vegetable soup. The result is that we will be consuming vegetable, pumpkin, bacon and sausage soup for a few days to come!

Saturday 23 August 2014

How to make sage jelly

I filmed this in July but I've been a bit behind with my editing. So here is my video about how to make sage herbal jelly.

Friday 22 August 2014

Our next building project - a milking stand

One of my jobs today was to take the land rover to Jarrow and buy some specially cut timber. This is for our next building job - a milking stand for the new goat which we will buy in a week's time. We have been sent instructions for building a stand so it's not something we will make up as we go along. Watch this space - no doubt I will be giving updates on how our handiwork (actually more David's than mine) is coming along.

Making elderberry jelly

I found a couple of bags of elderberries in one of our freezers earlier this week. I picked them last year and had had plans for them which I never got round to carrying out. As so often happens with freezers, they got forgotten about. Having rediscovered them, I decided to make them into elderberry jelly, using some of the apples I brought back from our Welsh holiday to set it.

Roughly equal quantities of berries and chopped apples went into the preserving pan along with some water. They were boiled for about 2 hours, strained and the liquid was measured and boiled up with a kilo of sugar for every litre. Once the setting point is reach, it went into hot, sterilised jars. From the batch I made, I got 9 jars.

Food swap event - the video

This was the video we filmed on Sunday at the food swapping event at the Station Masters Garden at Whitley Bay Metro Station. By all accounts this was a successful event and as a result we have at least partly restocked our vegetable supply.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Taking stock: waste nothing!

Faced with a pile of vegetable peelings, shelled pea and bean pods and stems from bolted onions, what would you do? I hope the answer would be to turn them into vegetable stock. There is a great deal of nutritional content in this waste and it should be extracted rather than thrown away. So, yesterday, in our antique brass preserving pan, I put a pile of waste, added some bay leaves and boiled it all up. The result is a dark vegetable stock which tomorrow will be used to make soup.

I'm also looking for medieval pottage recipes and my guess is that they will contain stock as well. I have a talk to do on medieval foods in October to our local history society so I will be trying out a number of ancient recipes over the next few weeks. Of course, back in the medieval period, no food was ever wasted, sadly, unlike today when huge amounts are thrown away.

Food swapping at Whitley Bay

For some months now I have been working with the Green Branch of the Workers' Educational Association in Newcastle to set up a food swapping event. The aim is to encourage as much local food production as possible and give people the opportunity to swap their surpluses. The first such event went ahead on Sunday at the Station Masters Garden at Whitley Bay Metro Station and by all accounts was a success.

You don't turn up with a cash wallet. Instead, your "money" consists of food you have grown or produced. My wallet consisted on 2 boxes of jams and and a basket containing 15 dozen quail eggs. The eggs had gone within the first hour and we traded about two-thirds of our jam.

An exchange takes place - jam buys 3 pepper plants!

After an hour or so, we had "bought" quite a few vegetables, soft fruit, rhubarb, bread, cake, even other people's jam!

Back home and this was the final tally. There is probably going to be another event in September in Newcastle. I'll be there with my eggs and jam!

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Fry up

I don't often have a fry up but yesterday, circumstances forced my hand (okay, it's a good excuse!). This was my lunch yesterday. One of the duck eggs laid in the early morning had a damaged shell and some courgettes and tomatoes needed using up or otherwise they was be making an early visit to the compost bin. Waste not, want not!

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Forest fruit jelly

Rowan is out in force at the moment and there are also lots of rosehips. So I have invented "forest fruit jelly" to use them up. Into the mix went some windfall apples I collected recently.

I used roughly equal quantities of rowan, apple and rosehips and boiled them in the preserving pan.

The liquid was strained off, measured and reboiled.

1kg of sugar was added for each litre of liquid, brought back to the boil and then kept on a rolling boil until the setting point was reached.

The final product is a beautiful golden red jelly.

Liver and bacon casserole

The supply of vegetables has gone up in recent weeks as people swap their gluts with us for jam and eggs. We also had some liver in the freezer from one of our pigs and some old bacon which sadly was from a supermarket and therefore nowhere near the quality of the bacon from our Tamworths. Combining all to make a liver and bacon casserole was decided as the best way to get these various ingredients used.

A large pan of casserole was made. It will last us for another two days.

Monday 18 August 2014

Beef mince

A few weeks ago we swapped some of our Tamworth pork for some beef with a local farm that has a pedigree cattle herd. The beef is top quality and was something that was previously missing from our diet. The exchange has given us the opportunity to have beef again though it is something we consume only sparingly. Firstly, the exchange rate of beef is high - so we need to pay more pork to get beef. Secondly, even with ethically raised pedigree herds of the highest quality, there is still an impact on the environment of beef production that is worse than most other meat. So, beef will be consumed but only on rare occasions. That way we enjoy it more when we do have it.

Over the weekend, we got one of the packs of beef mince out of the freezer and after defrosting it, we added some chopped veg (mainly veg that was traded with other people for our jam). The enjoyable result is in the picture below.

Pizza at the High Spen Hop Garden

The Hop Garden is a community allotment in High Spen in Gateshead. Volunteers run it and I have got to know some of them over the past year through my efforts to build up a food swapping network. Yesterday they had a pizza evening, complete with pizzas made in front of their pizza oven. Locally grown ingredients were included.

We were invited so we headed over at 4pm. The Hop Garden is a great project and a valuable way of involving schools and residents in growing food. Hopefully others will be inspired to follow their lead.

Sunday 17 August 2014

Quail egg production goes back up

When we planned the building of the quailhouse, our research found a number of people saying that quails are more productive when kept in cages rather than larger aviaries of the sort we wanted to build. We decided to continue anyway. Our self-sufficiency lifestyle is not all just about maximum food production. It is also about how we produce food. We wanted our birds to have more room, be outdoors and have an earth floor for dust bathing. We would take a drop in egg production on the chin.

Sure enough, once the birds had been transferred into the quailhouse, production dropped from the normal 13 eggs a day (we have 13 quail hens so they were working at maximum capacity) to about 10. But on Friday and Saturday we were back to 13. Yesterday's eggs are in the photo above, along with some of our hen eggs. Admittedly we were down to 12 today but it does mean the birds are working close to capacity again whilst enjoying the benefits of being in better accommodation.

More hedge trimmings

We have had a steady supply of hedge trimmings from neighbouring allotments to feed to the goats. Yesterday however we were the ones supplying the trimmings, a huge quantity of them. We have a hedge in our front garden at home and it was time to trim it down (heavily). We filled the land rover with trimmings which I then took to the allotment to feed to the goats. I suspect they won't get through them all as there is simply too much but they have spent quite some time browing on them.


Whilst our onion crop was at best mediocre, the shallots, growing on the same bed, have done well. They were planted on Dad's allotment in the early spring and were harvested yesterday. I haven't pickled shallots before (I have pickled onions and they were fantastic!) but I may do so this time. We're also thinking about making a liver casserole (we have lots of offal from the pigs to use up) but are debating whether to use shallots or onions with it. The battle is not yet settled.....

Our last batch of eggs into the incubator

We have not been lucky with our duck hatchings this year. We hatched 5 Welsh Harlequins in the spring. Two were lost to the foxes. The other three have all turned out to be drakes. We hatched 7 eggs in the late spring. We sold two of the ducklings believing one was a duck and one a drake. Since then, I have seen both birds and have a awful feeling that both are drakes. Of the 5 we kept, the 3 khaki campbells are all drakes and at the moment we have no idea whether the aylesbury and the magpie are ducks or drakes. The photo above was taken yesterday of the 5 ducklings. They are not yet fully grown but give them another month they will be at full size and we may well know whether we have all drakes or one or two ducks as part of the batch.

In a bid to boost the number of ducks for laying next year, we have today put 17 duck eggs into the incubator. This will be the final batch of eggs to go into the incubator this year. Our plan is to move any resulting ducklings to the polytunnel to house them there until the end of the year when they will be big enough to go free range. We would normally dismantle the polytunnel in the winter but we will be saved that job. We will however have to secure it against winter storms and gales.

If all goes according to plan, any ducks will start laying in March, once spring arrives.

Turnip recipes needed

We are still doing lots of food swaps and recently took a delivery of a large box of turnips. So we are looking for turnip recipes. If anyone has an interesting one, please send it to me! One recipe I will do again is Lord Woolton pie. This was first invented in 1940 when meat was in short supply because of the difficulties caused to the British diet by being at war. Lord Woolton was the first Minister of Food and the Lord Woolton pie was invented in his name as a way of producing an appealing meat free meal. There are many variations but turnip was often a component part.

Planting potatoes

The broad beans we planted in potato bags a few months ago came to nothing so earlier this month we stripped them out and planted potatoes in their place. It these spuds come to anything, we will be harvesting them around Christmas time. They have already grown shoots that are breaking the surface so, fingers crossed, they will grow a decent crop.

Friday 15 August 2014

Radish and nettle curry

Whilst weeding our main allotment a few days ago, I was considering pulling out these nettles. I decided however to leave them where they are. They have a great deal of young, green growth on them, making them much more edible than older, more woody leaves and stems. At that point though, I had no specific plans for them until yesterday when I needed to address a modest radish glut. I searched out radish curry recipes having remembered seeing some last year. I found some that included spinach which we are not growing this year.

We have found that nettles can be an interesting substitute for nettles in some recipes. They both tend to reduce down when cooked. So I adapted the various recipes I found and came up with my own for radish and nettle curry.

Ingredients are about 400g of potatoes, 200g radishes, 2 onions, 6-7 small to medium tomatoes, the leaves from the radishes, a small bag of fresh nettle leaves, 6 fresh chillies, 4 cloves garlic, tablespoon of curry powder, half teaspoon each of cummin seeds and mustard seeds, pinch of turmeric and a teaspoon of honey (we used some very runny honey that we took off one of our hives last year).

Into a pan put some oil and heat it up. Add the dry ingredients, the garlic and honey and simmer them for 3-4 minutes. Chop and add all the other ingredients (no need to chop the nettle leaves), put the lid on the pan and simmer for 40 minutes, until the radishes and potatoes are soft. Stir often. Then serve with a naan bread.

Thursday 14 August 2014

Windfall apples

There is an apple tree overhanging the path at the side of Marley Hill Community Centre where I run the monthly community cafe. Every summer and early autumn, the apples fall onto the path. They are not allowed to go to waste. They get bashed when they hit the ground but can still be used as a pectin source for jam and jelly making. I gathered a bag of them yesterday. My plan is to pick some woodland berries and make a summer forest jelly. Unfortunately, it is now raining outside. The berry picking may have to wait.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Turning weeds into protein

There are plenty of weeds around at the moment and I am now in the habit of picking a sackful each day for the poultry. They love them. Even the quail eat them. The goats get some as well though they also get lots of hedge cuttings. This is a very efficient and free way to covert low value vegetation into useful protein.

Making pork stock

The bones from the chops we had on Sunday were put into a pan along with some pork bones from the freezer (we need the space in the freezer for the approaching glut of vegetables) and some bashed up leeks and other vegetables. Making stock does not necessarily mean using up the best veg. Instead, it is a useful way to use vegetables that are past their best.

The pan looks over-full but the leeks in particular reduce down to a fraction of their size. I left the pan to simmer for a couple of hours. Once strained, the bones were put to one side. They will be roasted a few times in the oven when we are baking and then ground up to make bone meal.

This is the stock after it was strained. I then added chopped vegetables and some pork to it. We also had a packet of chorizo sausages which, alas, were not produced by us (they came from a supermarket). They were chopped up and added as well. I also found a jar of our pickled tomatoes from last year. I added them all to the pan along with the spiced brine in which the tomatoes were pickled. Afterwards I decided this added too much salt. The stock had had no added salt at all whilst I made it and the brine was meant to make up for that. In effect I had overdone it. So we added more vegetables to counteract the salt. The result was that we had far more soup than planned and have been having it for dinner for the past three days. The last bowl was eaten tonight!

Tamworth pork chops

Apologies for the quality of the photo but I took only one of this meal and only realised it was out of focus after I had eaten the meal! Nevertheless, I wanted to include it as it is the first pork chop we have had from one of the Tamworth pigs we buy from Bill Quay Community Farm. When the pig went to the abattoir, we asked for chops to be included.

The chops were grilled with some of the apples we brought back from Wales. The rest of the vegetables were grown locally. Very nice!

Apples and pears

When it comes to picking free food, I don't miss an opportunity. Last week I was on holiday in North Wales, staying with friends in a town called Penmaenmawr. In their garden they had one pear and one apple tree. They said they were not planning to pick any of the fruit but said I could take what I wanted. I did! A bag of pears and a very large bag of apples went into the boot of my car for the journey home. I am looking for pear recipes as they won't last long. The apples will be eaten or used to make preserves.

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Slaley Show - the video

Filmed on Saturday at the Slaley Show, this video gives a taste of what the show is all about, as well as featuring some of our winnings in the jam, honey and fruit liqueur competitions.

Monday 11 August 2014

Slaley Show - more photos

Here are a few more photos from our visit to the Slaley Show on Saturday. The show has sheep, horse and dog sections and for kids, there was a pets competition. Whilst there is a focus on agricultural matters, this is a show those not into food production or rural pursuits would also enjoy.

More photos of the event can be viewed on this link.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Exchequer leghorn cockerel

I took this photo of an exchequer leghorn cockerel at the Slaley Show yesterday. We have an exchequer leghorn chick that was hatched as part of a bigger batch in May but it it too early to know whether it is a cockerel or hen. We are hoping for as many hens as possible as we need egg layers but this year we have had a predominance of males hatched from our chicken and duck eggs. If the chick in question turns out to be a male and grows into anything like the cockerel in the photo, however, we will keep him and probably use him as a show bird.

My winning entries

I entered 9 competitions in the industrial section of the Slaley Show yesterday. These are my 6 winning entries. Above - our honey. This was the first time we have entered a honey competition so the result was rather pleasing.

This was our raspberry gin, coming in first place for fruit liqueur. Again, we have not entered anything alcoholic before.

Rhubarb and blackcurrant won us first prize in the "any other jams" category.

Orange and lemon marmalade came in 2nd place in the marmalade section.

Our other 2nd place was for lemon curd.

And finally, 3rd place for rhubarb and ginger jam.

Winning at the Slaley Show

I've been on holiday in North Wales but got back on Friday. I was back in time for us to go to the Slaley Show in Northumberland yesterday. It was the first time we have been to this show and we had a successful day in the industrial competitions. We won first prizes for our honey, raspberry gin and rhubarb and blackcurrant jam, 2nd for our lemon curd and orange and lemon marmalade, and 3rd for rhubarb and ginger jam. I came away feeling rather pleased. Photos and video to follow over the next few days.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Recent swaps

The season for produce swapping is now well underway. This is a recent example. A couple of jars of jam bought me this bucket of turnips and 3 marrows as well as beetroot and radishes. I have some big swaps coming up this month and a swapping event to attend. But more about that on a later date.