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.