Friday 27 February 2015

Bacon and egg

Lunch today. I normally have a sandwich. However, one of the duck eggs I collected in the morning had a soft shell. I decided to use it up, along with a bit of our Tamworth bacon and some mushrooms which would not have made it to the end of the day.

Homing chickens

One of our surplus cream legbar cockerels was rehoused a couple of days ago, along with a cream legbar hen. They had not been moved far. Their new home was a chicken run Liz, who has the neighbouring allotment, had set up. Alas, they did not stay for long and headed home to our allotment after just one night. They had hopped onto their new henhouse and then hopped over the hedge back into our plot. I think Liz feels a bit put out by their rejection of their new owner but these two homing birds are to be returned shortly to their new home. Liz and her husband Bob are to move the chicken run and install a Berlin Wall style fence to keep the chickens at bay.

The offending cockerel is pictured above. The hen is pictured below.

Roast pork

I found a pork leg joint from our Tamworth pig in the freezer recently. It seemed a shame not to thaw and roast it. The crackling is fantastic. Roast artichokes were a great finishing touch.


The increasing number of eggs from our hens encouraged us to have an omelette the other evening for dinner. An easy way to use up 8 eggs, though they were small ones, produced by a hen that has just started laying.

Bacon and artichoke soup

Loads of artichokes still to use up. Time is running out. They are still in the ground and in about 6 weeks the tubers will start growing. So I dug some up recently and made them into soup, adding into it some of our Tamworth bacon and a few other vegetables that were not expected to last much longer. End result - not bad.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

A hidden nest of eggs

When I opened up the henhouses this morning, I spotted a hen heading off for the hedge behind where we used to store the hay bales. I decided to check it and and discovered a nest there with 13 eggs in it. Most were small green eggs, suggesting one of the newly matured cream legbar hens hatched last summer has started laying and has opted to do so outside the henhouses. There was one brown egg and a number of full size green eggs. So clearly this is a popular laying spot for various members of the flock. All the eggs were brought back to the kitchen. As we are not sure how long they have been there, we are going to use them in an omelette tonight, cracking each into a cup to check it is okay.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Pinkie's growing waistline

Pinkie, our golden guernsey goat is clearly showing signs of being pregnant. Her waistline is growing and is so extended that I cannot get the strap of her coat around her. She has however still got three months to go before she is due.

Getting Marley Hill allotment into shape

Dad's allotment at Marley Hill had suffered from an excess of brambles and weeds. David has taken on the job of clearing them out and has made great progress. It effectively means the growing area of the allotment has increased by about 40%. The plan is to put potatoes into the recently cleared ground to help break up the soil.

And then there were 5

The ducks really are back in laying mode. Yesterday we had 5 eggs - 4 beige and one green. Today we had 5 eggs again - 3 beige and 2 green. This suggests 6 are laying. In the two and a half years we have kept ducks, the most eggs we have ever had previously in one day was 4. So we are breaking records - and eggs - now.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Egg news

Another of the ducks we hatched last year has started laying. So on Wednesday we had 4 duck eggs laid. And on the same day, I found one of the barnvelder hens we hatched in the summer laying a brown egg in one of the goat houses. Egg production is therefore well up on where we were last year. Now we need to start planning to bring the incubators back into use so that we can continue to replenish the flock. It is likely we will start with quail eggs. These however we will need to buy.

Drying out the goat

Pinkie, our golden guernsey goat, is now nearly two months pregnant and is showing! Since November her milk yield has been dropping but we are now beginning to dry her out. This week we switched from a daily milking to once every two days. Shortly we will drop the frequency further. She is currently eating well (as she always does!) and is munching her way through lots of hay.

Sadly, we have to report that Geraldine, our black goat, is not pregnant. She was mated last month but earlier this month she came back into heat. We have decided not to try to get her or Georgina, her daughter, mated until the autumn. Our hands are likely to be full in the summer when we deal with Pinkie's kids.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Marrow stuffed with bacon

We still have lots of marrows to use up so for dinner recently (for 3 days in a row!) we had stuffed marrow. The stuffing was made from bacon, breadcrumbs, onions, tomatoes, egg and a bit of seasoning. To keep it moist we added a bit of our pork fat.

Marrows hollowed out ready for stuffing.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for eating.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Sweet mince pies

There's nothing like a good search through cupboards to find forgotten ingredients that could be made into something delicious. We discovered a jar of our homemade sweet mince recently. The resulting pies were lovely!

Red vegetable soup

We had a rather large quantity of vegetables recently that needed to be used up or otherwise they would be making an appearance on a compost heap. In particular we had some marrows that were softening a bit and, if left to their own devices, would rapidly liquify. Time to make vegetable soup. We also had some left over roasted beetroot and tomatoes. They helped to turn the soup red. And from the allotment we have a glut of Jerusalem artichokes. We had so much veg to go in that we made the soup in one of our big preserving pans. We had thought of freezing some of it but in the end, we consumed all of it. It did mean we had to have vegetable soup for four days in a row. By day 4, I felt meals were becoming a bit repetitive! We shall definitely make use of the freezer when such large quantities are made in future.

Friday 13 February 2015

3 duck eggs

Yesterday I reported that 2 of our ducks had laid. Well, today we are even further ahead of where we expected to be. 3 duck eggs were waiting for me when I opened up the duck run this morning.

A dozen eggs

Egg production is going rather well at the moment. Today, we had 10 eggs from our hens and 2 from our ducks. We think most of the birds that are laying were those we hatched in the late spring and summer. Fortunately we have a pancake day cafe next week in Marley Hill Community Centre so lots of eggs should get used up. We may also use some in ice cream making.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Busy bees

We may be in the middle of winter but today was a sunny and warm day. The bees were therefore out in force.  All 6 hives on the allotment were busy. We need to do a check on the hives we have in Whickham but hopefully all will survive the winter.

Green duck egg

Last month I reported that one, possibly two, of our younger ducks, hatched in the summer, had started laying. It seems we now have a third. Today a slightly green egg was in the duck run when I arrived on the allotment this morning. I put it next to one of the other duck eggs laid recently for the above photo as the green colouring is very pale. It is likely that it is the young aylesbury that laid it.

Monday 9 February 2015

Chitting potatoes

Preparations are underway for the spring and that means we have to start chitting the potatoes. We have three varieties: pink fur apple (a salad potato), Albert Bartlet Rooster (red skinned but good for baking) and King Edwards. They were laid out in seed trays on Saturday. We need to get the ground ready for planting. Potatoes do better in well rotted manure, of which we have lots, courtesy of our goats and chickens!

An allotment sunset

Just thought it would be good to show you this picture. I snapped it on Saturday evening after milking Pinkie. It was taken from our allotment. One of the best sunsets I have seen from our village of Sunniside in quite some time.

Friday 6 February 2015

How to make game pie

All the game meat we cooked recently was put to good use, to make 4 game pies. The pastry was hot water crust, made using our own pig fat.

The filling consisted of roast venison and boiled rabbit, pheasant and squirrel meat. Also included was raw pigeon breasts and from our Tamworth pig, 4 rashers of bacon and some sausage meat. The point about game pie is that whatever is available at any particular time is used. Therefore the recipe is not fixed.

To the filling we added a generous glass of our homemade elderberry wine, a small jar of our hedgerow jelly (but any fruit jelly would do) and a teaspoon of ground allspice.

Put the pastry into the baking tins and add the filling. Put the pastry lids on and seal the edge of the pies. Cut a small hole in the middle of the lid and glaze the pies. Put them into a preheated over at 200C for half an hour and then 180C for a further 90 minutes.

Whilst the pies are baking, we boiled up a pig's trotter in game stock to make gelatine. In the absence of trotters, you can buy gelatine from a supermarket. Take the pies out of the over and leave them to start cooling. Put a funnel in to hole in the lid and then gradually pour in the gelatinous stock when it has cooled but before it has set. You will be surprised at just how much gelatine the pies will absorb. Leave them to cool further so that the gelatine can set.

The results were great. We had lots of filling left over after making the pies. This was made into soup, using the leftover gelatinous stock. All the bones have been dried out in the oven and will be use to make bonemeal. Nothing wasted.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Jam tarts

We have lots of old jams to use up. Some of them were made 5 years ago. Since we have put an end to the purchase of biscuits, jam tarts are now filling the void. These ones were made over the weekend. One set of tarts in particular is quite interesting. In 2011, we made a series of videos on wartime cooking. One of them was about how to make mock orange marmalade. There were very few oranges about in the Second World War in Britain so making orange marmalade was a bit of a challenge. We made it with apple jelly, grated carrots (to give the impression of shredded orange) and orange flavouring. We still had one of the jars to use up so, as well as having it on my toast in the morning, it was added to our jam tarts. The other tarts had gooseberry and rhubarb jam and cherry jelly.


We are experiencing very cold weather at recently. The pond was frozen over, much to the disgust of the ducks but as the muddy ground had frozen hard, the goats were happy.

We have had to deal with frozen up doors on henhouses and the greenhouse. It is warmer today, however, and the ground is returning to mud though we are expecting another freeze overnight tonight.

Pig fat

We used the last of our pig fat recently to make the hot water crust pastry for the game pies we've been eating recently. However, once we stripped the meat off the pig trotter and leg knuckle that we boiled up for gelatine, we found a reasonable amount of fat left behind. We rendered this is the usual way - simmering the fat off in a pan of water. We ended with considerably more fat that we expected. Our fat supply has now been replenished!

Sunday 1 February 2015

Making gelatine from pig trotters

We needed to make gelatine for our game pies and opted to use a pig trotter and a leg knuckle as the source. We have lots of pig trotters in the freezer and making gelatine was one of the reasons for holding on to them.

The game stock we made recently was put into a pan and the trotter and knuckle were added. They were brought up to the boil and then simmered for a couple of hours. It was then allowed to cool but before it set we poured some of it into the already cooked game pies. We have some left which will be used to make game soup. This will also allow us to use the left over pie filling, of which we have lots.

The bones will be dried off and used to make bone meal. We are going to have a go at making potted meats with the pork we stripped from the trotter and knuckle.

The gelatine is pictured above in the bowl with the 4 game pies we made.