Sunday 31 January 2016

January greenery

greenery in January 16 (1)

The unseasonably warm weather seems to be encouraging very early plant growth. When I was out and about recently I spotted new leaves on trees and dandelions not just growing but flowering.I'm hoping to pick some of the dandelions and other weeds for the poultry and goats.

greenery in January 16 (2)

Pond damage

pond damaged Jan 16

We have just gone through a strong gale. There has been no damage to anything except the pond. The liner in once corner has been blown over and torn. We will need to decide whether or not it will be replaced or repaired (the latter is my favoured option). The ducks however are completely unphased by the damage. They continue to use the pond.

Privet eating goats

goats Jan 16 2

There seems to be a difference of opinion among goat keepers on the internet about allowing animals to eat privet. Some say it is poisonous. Others say they have fed their goats privet for years and their animals have proceeded to thrive. I fed privet to my goats last year. Apart from ivy, it was the only greenery available. My goats had no side effects. They liked the leaves. I've started chopping back branches of privet to feed to them again. I don't give them too much but, as with last year, they happily eat what they are given.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Land Rover at the of the Rainbow

rainbow Jan 16 (1)

On Friday, the last Land Rover Defender rolled off the production line. And by coincidence, as I stepped out of the house, I spotted a rainbow that seemed to end at my Defender.  And on the allotment, we had a rainbow over us. The weather has been throwing lots at us recently. For the past 2 days we've had a gale (called Gertrude). But the amount of rain has been reduced and the mud is not so bad now. The ground surface is slowly hardening up. That makes the animals happier.

rainbow Jan 16 (4)

Friday 22 January 2016

Paving the goat house

goat house Jan 16

Some of our recycled paving stones found their way into the new goat house. The recent rain had turned the floor to mud so the paving is now keeping the goats dry. They seemed to like it.

goats Jan 16 1

Thursday 21 January 2016


paving stones Jan 16 (2)

A local landscape gardener offered me some paving stones from a garden on which he was working. The client had told him just to get rid of them in a skip. Since they were all in fine shape, they were good for reusing. I agreed to take all of them. We have already used some in our new goat house and the rest will be used for paths.

paving stones Jan 16 (1)

Signs of a nanny goat in heat

When you know what to look for, the signs of a nanny in heat are quite obvious. So I made this video about Pinkie, demonstrating what to look for when a nanny is ready for mating.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Pinkie back from meeting her billy

One Monday, Pinkie came into heat. She was the last of our 3 goats to be mated. We took her to the billy on Monday and collected her again this morning. She seemed quite happy. so hopefully, there will be kids in June.

We had hoped to mate her with a pedigree Golden Guernsey billy but the farm we use requires animals to be tested for CAE. I got the vets out in early December and blood samples were taken. And then I waited and waited and waited for the results to come back. I spoke the the vets on a number of occasions and  wast told each time they would try to find out what happened. When Pinkie came into heat on Monday, we could not risk leaving her to come into heat in three weeks' time. So she went to the billy that serviced Geraldine and Georgina. I was hoping to have pedigree kids from Pinkie this year as I want one to put into goat shows. So one of the plans for this year has already been knocked on the head.

Today I had an apology from the vets who told me there was a technology meltdown which meant emails hadn't gone out. I'm in discussion with them about the bill.

Frozen in

ducks and ice Jan 16 4

After an incredibly wet December, this month we were hit by a cold snap that froze the ground, the pond and the duck run. The netting over the pond and run could not be separated from the frozen mud so for 3 days, the ducks had to remain in the run. I fed them through the netting. Fortunately, yesterday I was able to release them. Warmer weather meant the mud was back.

ducks and ice Jan 16 3

ducks and ice Jan 16 1

Quail egg and goats cheese flan

goat cheese and quail egg flan Jan 16 1

I still have quail eggs to use up from last year. They keep for a long time because of the thick membrane under the shell. Meanwhile, sitting in the fridge was a large quantity of a goat cheese that had not quite worked properly. I therefore invented a recipe to make flans using both the quail eggs and the goat cheese, plus some beaten duck egg from the freezer.

goat cheese and quail egg flan Jan 16 2

The end result turned out better than I expected. This was fortunate as I made enough flans to provide us with meals for 4 days!

Thursday 14 January 2016

Chicken and vegetable soup

chicken and veg soup Jan 16

We had some of the chicken casserole still to use up on Tuesday but there wasn't enough to feed both of us. So a bit of cookery magic was applied to turn it into meals for two for the following 2 days. A chopped a few potatoes and added them to the casserole along with a couple of stock cubes and water. The end result was a rather nice chicken and vegetable soup.

Duck egg sponge trifle

trifle Jan 16 1

A couple of years ago I made some sponge cakes using duck eggs, a couple of which went into one of the freezers. 2 years later and we decided it was time to use one of them up to help liberate freezer space. So we made a trifle. We still have sacks of apples to get through so stewed apple was also included in the trifle. The custard, of course, was made using our goats milk.

trifle Jan 16 2

Chicken casserole

chicken casserole Jan 16

The meat from the last 2 cockerels we slaughtered came out of the freezer recently and was made into a casserole. We added quite a generous amount of rosemary. Vegetables added included parsnips and carrots. Cooked separately was potato mashed with celeriac. A tasty meal.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Goose toad-in-the-hole

goose toad in the hole Dec 15

This post is a bit late but that's better than never! After Christmas, we stripped the roast goose. The meat was used in a variety of ways but this was the most interesting: toad-in-the-hole but instead of sausages, we used the goose meat. It worked rather well.

Monday 11 January 2016

Free to a good home

exchequer leghorn cockerel Jan 16 1

The last batch of chicks we hatched in 2015 (they hatched at the start of August) are close to being fully mature. 3 of the chicks are hens. The one cockerel is an exchequer leghorn. Normally we slaughter the cockerels for meat but, as this one is a rare breed, we are looking for a new home for him. He is free to anyone wanting a cockerel who can provide him with a good home.

exchequer leghorn cockerel Jan 16 2

Sunday 10 January 2016

Another goat mating

goats nanny and billy Jan 16

Georgina, the youngest of our goats, was due to come into heat 10 days ago. It didn't happen. But yesterday she started to show the signs, lots of bleating and tail up (but not wagging). She was also taking an interest in Pinkie. So today, with the signs still showing, we took her to Field Farm where we took Geraldine in December. We have left her there with a billy for 2 days. Hopefully, the visit will result in a late spring birth.

Thursday 7 January 2016

Early arrival of quail eggs

quail eggs Jan 16

On Christmas Day I found a quail egg in the quailhouse. The quail had stopped laying in late October and we are not expecting any eggs from them until March. But one of them has started again and every day except one since then, a quail eggs has been waiting for collection each morning. We are having unusual warm weather for this time of year and I'm wondering if that is what has caused this one bird to start laying so early.

Crowded in the goat house

goat hens duck Jan 16

I took this photo this morning after I had finished a couple of hours' work. We have had absurd quantities of rain recently so Pinkie is staying in her goat house. Today her home was invaded by a large number of our chickens and one of our ducks as they sought comfortable and dry places to spend the day. Pinkie is very tolerant!

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - email newsletter January 2016

The latest edition of our email newsletter is now available on this link. We outline our plans for 2016 and take a look back to how we prepared our self-sufficient Christmas dinner.

Windfall apples

windfall apples Dec 15 (3)

There is an old orchard in a housing estate in Whickham, the town down the road from Sunniside where we live. No one seems to pick the apples, of which there are always plenty. I hadn't picked any myself until last month when I drove past and saw the ground covered with apples. My assumption was that most would be at best bruised if not turning to mush. But when I returned to have a closed look, I found many were in good shape and many of the bruised ones were not too far gone. The latter could be used for fodder for the goats (they love apples) and the good ones could be used for cooking and making reserves.

It took me less than half an hour to fill 4 sacks and there were still lots to gather. I may return soon to get what's left.

It is remarkable however that this fantastic resource is being left by everyone to rot.

windfall apples Dec 15 (2)

windfall apples Dec 15 (1)

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Moulting hen

moulting hen Dec 15 (2)

Last month one of my hens went through the biggest moult I've seen from any of our chickens. For two weeks she walked around almost naked. Fortunately, she is now growing a fine coat of feathers.

moulting hen Dec 15 (1)

Tuesday 5 January 2016

Sampling the cheese

goats cheese Dec 15

We made hampers for relatives for Christmas presents and we included in each a wedge of the hard cheese we have been making from our goats milk.The photo shows one of the bigger blocks of cheese we made. It's got a strong taste but is quite crumbly. We've had no feedback from the family so far on what they think of it.

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - Christmas edition

This is our latest edition of Self-Sufficient in Suburbia, showing what we did at Christmas and how we made our self-sufficient Christmas feast.

Christmas dinner: sweet mince cheesecake

sweet mince cheesecake Dec 15

Dessert - it was not quite part of our Christmas feast. After the starter and main course on Christmas Day, we decided we'd had enough to eat. So we made the dessert, sweet mince cheesecake, a couple of days later. The base was made from ginger biscuits and the filling was made from our ricotta cheese. The sweet mince was from a batch I made in the early autumn. I used a whole jar of it - a thick layer over the base with the cheese filling on top. We added in a couple of eggs to the cheese but were a bit worried it may not set when baked. The eggs had been beaten and frozen in the summer when we had a glut of them. As we are now getting very few eggs (and what we get are sold to our customers), we are starting to use up our stocks from the freezer. It looked a bit gloopy but it turned out to be okay. We put the cheesecake in the oven at 180C for an hour.

There will come a point soon when the milk supply will dry up. Pinkie, our milking goat is down to about 0.75 litres of milk a day and we will dry her out soon. So the ricotta cheese supply will temporarily end until the summer when we start milking her again, assuming we are able to get her mated which, at the moment, is still on the to-do list.