Tuesday 31 May 2016

Sent to Marley Hill

beans and onions May 16 (2)

While I was chopping the firewood today, David took the runner and French beans and the onions from the greenhouse to our vegetable allotment at Marley Hill to plant. It was a bigger job than expected as 6 wigwams for the beans had to be set up. Nevertheless, by the end of the afternoon, the job was done.

beans and onions May 16 (1)


firewood May 16

We have lots of branches to chop up from last year. They started out as food for the goats who ate the leaves, twigs and bark. I spent today chopping them up (or some of them as I still have lots left to do). They will be used as firewood when we have replaced our old gas boiler. Many of the thin twigs are being kept as we have a small, portable stove that is powered by sticks. They would be regarded as a waste of time for a boiler but are ideal for the stove.

Monday 30 May 2016

Sausage and mash

sausage and mash

Dinner last night was another attempt to reduce the contents of the freezers to make way for goat meat later this year. We found some sausages from the last pig we bought.You can't beat bangers and mash, with home grown cabbage (the last of last year's crop we grew in bags on our patio in the back garden) and homemade apple jelly. Sadly, we cheated with the potatoes. Our own supply has run out. They came instead from a supermarket.

Another successful market

Ryton Hirings May 16 (2)

I did my second market of the year on Saturday, this time at the Ryton Hirings. Takings were double what they were when I was last there 2 years ago! Preserves were the better seller this time though if I had honey for sale, my takings would have been even larger!

As usual I took some young birds with me - a duckling and 5 chicks. They are always a great draw to get people to visit my stall.

Ryton Hirings May 16 (3)

Clearing the weeds at Marley Hill

Marley Hill allotment May 16 1

Good progress has been made by David on our small allotment at Marley Hill, where we grow our vegetables, to clear the weeds and prepare the ground for planting. The runner beans and onions are ready in the greenhouse for transplanting today. The broad beans and peas I planted a could of weeks ago are sprouting and doing well. No sign yet of the potatoes coming through.

Marley Hill allotment May 16 2

Hatching eggs

eggs in nest box May 16

One of our gold top hens became broody on Saturday so yesterday I went to Durham Hens to buy some hatching eggs. As we are no longer allowed to keep cockerels on our site, producing our own fertile eggs is no longer possible. I bought 6 Lakenvelder eggs. This is a breed I've not kept before.

Brooding mother and eggs are doing well.

broody hen May 16

Thursday 26 May 2016

Our first market of the year

Whickham Fayre stall May 16 1

On Saturday we went to our first market of the year, the May Fayre at Whickham Chase Park. We took our quail chicks which got a great deal of attention. We were cleared out of our chutney, lemon curd, duck and hen eggs and honey (not that we had much honey, only 4 tubs from the poor harvest we had last year). Our next market is Ryton Hirings this Saturday.

Whickham Fayre stall May 16 2

Lots of blossom

blossom May 16 2

This spring the blossom has been out in force, far more than usual. Trees have been smothered in it. I'm not complaining. My bees love it. Hopefully the blossom has been providing a good supply of nectar. I checked the hives a couple of weeks ago and it looks like we will get at least a modest crop of honey this year.

blossom May 16 1

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Moving Georgina in with Pinkie

goats May 16 (7)

The loss of Geraldine on Monday has allowed us to let Pinkie and Geraldine mix together. Geraldine had been a bit of a bully towards Pinkie and as she and her daughter Georgina are armed with horns, Pinkie was always likely to come off the worst. Georgina however was never bothered by Pinkie. So the two are now free to roam the allotment. They seem to have settled down together.

Georgina is due to give birth on 7-11 June. Pinkie is the week after. We are keeping a very close eye on both and we will be watching them 24/7 from 6th onwards. We want no repeats of Monday.

goats May 16 (9)

goats May 16 (11)

Monday 23 May 2016

Oranges and lemons

lemon curd May 16

We obviously don't grow oranges and lemons but we do sometimes buy them and make them into marmalade and curd when we have markets coming up. So last week we made 16 jars of orange marmalade, 12 of lemon marmalade and 12 of lemon curd. We've got more markets coming up so I'm back to more preserve making this week.

lemon marmalade May 16

orange marmalade May 16

We have lost Geraldine

Geraldine the goat May 16 (1)

Sad news. Geraldine, our black goat, went into labour this morning. She died before she was able to give birth. I was obviously very upset and as a result we are a bit worried about the other two goats, both of which are pregnant and due in 2-3 weeks' time. Last year we had big problems with Pinkie and she ended up having a caesarian though the 2 kids were dead. For Georgina and Pinkie this time we are taking no chances. Whether or not there appear to be problems, we will have the vet there when they go into labour.

The photo above was taken this morning. The labour seemed to be going to plan and the photo was taken a couple of hours before she died. The photo below was taken yesterday when she was feeding on hawthorn branches.

Geraldine the goat May 16 (3)

Thursday 19 May 2016

Drying nettles

drying nettles May 16

We have lots of nettles on the allotment at the moment and I am gradually pulling them up. They don't go onto the compost heap. Instead, I'm laying them out on the roof of one of the goat houses to dry out in the current minor heatwave. They will then be used for feed for the goats.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Repairing the henhouses

henhouse repairs May 16 (2)

Our henhouses have been well used over the past 4 years and recently they needed significant refurbishment and repair. So we spent a day replacing floors and repairing walls. Job now done except for a couple of doors that need replacing.

henhouse repairs May 16 (1)

Green shoots in the greenhouse

greenhouse Apr 16 (1)

greenhouse Apr 16 (2)

Last month we cleared out the greenhouse. Trays planted with a variety of tomato, cucumber, French bean and runner bean seeds. We also have lots of onion sets planted in chopped up cardboard toilet roll holders. A month on and the greenhouse is now full of green shoots. Over the coming weeks, the seedlings will be planted out in our vegetable allotment at Marley Hill and in the polytunnel we will set up in our back garden.

greenhouse May 16 2

greenhouse May 16 1

More hidden eggs

eggs May 16

I regularly find hidden stashes of hen eggs on the allotment but it is unusual to find one as large as this one. There were 20 eggs and I found them under an old draw from a cupboard that is due to be used for building materials. As we don't know when they were laid, we can't sell them. We will consume them ourselves though they will be individually checked before being used.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

New chick house

chick house May 16

Last week we bought second hand a hen house and the above chicken run. The latter is ideal for chicks whilst they grow. We now have in it the lone duckling that hatched a week ago, a lone chick that hatched 2 weeks ago and 4 chicks we bought last week. In about 3 weeks they will be released into the flock.

14 quail chicks

quail chicks May 16 (1)

We put 20 quail eggs into one of the incubators towards the end of April. 14 have hatched. The chicks are now in the brooder box and will go to the quail house in about 6 weeks. By then we will have a good idea which are males and which are females. We are not looking to keep the males. They will either be rehoused or slaughtered for food (we have someone interested in buying the slaughtered birds).

May update - the video

I filmed this yesterday. Our latest update from the world of self-sufficiency.

Monday 16 May 2016

Pork chops

pork chop May 16

Still in one of our freezers was a couple of pork chops from the last pig we bought. As we are systematically consuming the contents of the freezers to make way for goat meat later this year, we had the pork chops for dinner last night. Sadly I seem to have run out of apple jelly to go with them.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Blackcurrant vodka

blackcurrant vodka May 16 1

I bottled up more of the fruit liqueurs I made last year. The blackcurrant vodka was especially enjoyable.

Beef steak and chips

beef steak May 16

A search through the freezer recently led to the discovery of a couple of beef steaks. We got them about 18 months ago in a swap with a local farm. They went well with oven baked homemade chips!

Working on our veg allotment

Marley Hill allotment May 16 1

We have a very small allotment in Marley Hill. We use if for growing vegetables, an activity not suitable to our main allotment where our goats and poultry eat anything that attempts to grow. We did some work at Marley Hill on Sunday, mainly weeding and getting beds ready. We also planted broad beans ((a variety called Express) and peas (Rondo).

Marley Hill allotment May 16 2

potatoes chitting May 16

Our potatoes are still chitting in our shed in Marley Hill. They will be planted soon though we need to take some rotted manure from the manure bin on our main allotment to dig into the ground. We have, of course, a ready supply of poultry and goat manure.

Don't put all your eggs in the same pot

poached duck eggs May 16

My routine in the morning before breakfast is to let out the poultry, feed the animals and collect the duck eggs (they are laid in the early morning) and the quail eggs (they are laid the evening before). On Sunday morning I put all 9 of the duck eggs and 14 quail eggs into a pot to take home and them dropped it as I closed the allotment gate. All but two quail eggs were cracked. I fed them to the chickens. Two duck eggs were completely written off. Back home I found 4 of the remaining eggs were damaged. We each had 2 fresh poached eggs for breakfast.

A not-so-broody hen

brooding hen May 16

On Saturday, it appeared that one of our golden top hens had gone broody. Some eggs had been laid in one of the goat houses and she spent the day sitting on them. I had to put her in one of the hen houses in the evening. On Sunday morning she went back to the same spot. I decided it was time to get her some hatching eggs. As we aren't allowed to keep cockerels, we had to go to Durham Hens to get half a dozen eggs. Whilst there we also bought 4 barnvelder chicks to go with the chick and duckling we hatched recently.

Back on the allotment I moved the broody hen to the chick house and gave her the eggs to sit on them. A few hours later we found that she had completely ignored them. The eggs were gathered up again and went into one of our small incubators.

We are waiting for the next hen to go broody now.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Medieval cooking - trout stuffed with lovage

I am making some videos of medieval food. This one was mentioned in the previous post - trout stuffed with lovage. A very simple recipe, it uses what was available to many medieval households: fresh trout from a local stream, lovage from the herb garden and butter that would have been made from your own supply of milk (though in this instance we have run out of our own butter so it came instead from a 21st century supermarket!)

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Grilled trout stuffed with lovage

grilled trout and lovage May 16

Dinner last night was grilled trout stuffed with lovage. We got the trout in a food swap last year. The lovage was from our herb garden. A nice bit of pan haggerty to go with it.

Monday 9 May 2016

Put out to grass

Pinkie eating grass May 16 (3)

There is a great crop of grass and dandelions at the moment so I'm making full use of it. Each day I pick a sackful for the goats and poultry. As you can see, Pinkie makes a meal of it.

More quail egg and goat cheese flans

Goat cheese and quail egg flan May 16 (1)

I had lots of hen eggs to use up. They were laid at the end of March and therefore weren't going to last much longer. I also had a stash of quail eggs to use up, as well as lots of goat cheese made late last year. So I made 4 flans. This used up 36 hen and 36 quail eggs. We had one of the flans for dinner tonight. I think I should have added more cheese. It has a strong taste but in the flans it was only just noticeable.

Goat cheese and quail egg flan May 16 (3)

Goat cheese and quail egg flan May 16 (4)

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Pork omelette

pork omelette May 16

We had an omelette for dinner tonight. Added into it was leftover meat from the pork belly joint from Sunday. I also picked some lovage from the herb garden. An enjoyable combination.

A chick and a duckling

chick and duckling May 16 (1)

9 ducks eggs went into the incubator last month, or so we thought. On Tuesday last week, nearly a week early, one of the eggs hatched. What emerged was a chick rather than a duckling. Somehow a hen egg had got mixed up with a duck. The lone chick went into the brooder box. Yesterday one of the duck eggs hatched. Sadly, nothing came of the others. The duckling is now with the chick in the brooder. They seem to be getting on well.

Roast belly pork

Roast Pork May 16 (2)

Roast Pork May 16 (1)

We still have lots of pork joints in one of our freezers from the last pig we bought in 2014. As we will need the space in the autumn, we are progressively using the contents. On Sunday we had a roast belly pork joint. Very pleasant. I will be rendering the fat off the joint shortly. Nothing wasted.

Monday 2 May 2016

Hawthorn snacks for the goats

hawthorn Apr 16

The hawthorn is in leaf earlier than usual this year, thanks to the mild winter, though the cold snap last week didn't help. The goats love hawthorn leaves so I took the sheers to one of the hedges on the allotment site and chopped back twigs that have grown in the past year. The goats eat leaves and woody tissue so made quick work of this snack. Soon we will be chopping back large branches for them. They will eat the leaves, twigs and bark. What's left will be chopped up, dried for a couple of years and then used as firewood.