Friday 29 July 2016

Reusing grass cuttings

Church Green Whickham July 16

Planting Up Whickham is a group of volunteers who took on the task of maintaining flower beds and public open spaces in Whickham Village after the decision by Gateshead Council to stop paying for the service. The group recently had a maintenance day on Church Green though I was not able to attend. I was however phoned after the event and asked if I was interested in the dumpy bag of grass cuttings for my animals. I agreed to collect the bag but found 3 of them (one of which was full of weeds) when I got there. It was something of a struggle to get them into the land rover but I managed it. The aim is to dispose of the waste in as sustainable a way as possible. I put all the grass cuttings in one of our goat sheds as bedding. The dumpy bag full of weeds was emptied for the ducks and hens to sort through and eat.

Following the recent request to me to clear the thistles from the side entrance to Whickham's Chase Park, it seems I have accidentally picked up the role of the person responsible for the sustainable disposal of garden waste.

grass cuttings in sacks July 16

duck in goat house July 16

grass cuttings in goat house July 16

ducks and grass cuttings July 16

New hens

new hens July 16 (1)

As we are not allowed any more to keep cockerels, we have to buy fertile eggs, chicks or, as we did recently, point-of-lay hens. We bought 14 from Durham Hens: 6 rhode rocs, 6 ginger nut rangers and 2 light sussexes. They have all settled in and we are awaiting full egg production.

new hens July 16 (2)

new hens July 16 (3)

Late swarms

late swarm July 16 1

We recently had a swarm form up on our hedge. It was quite small but I captured it and put it into a spare hive. To my surprise, later the same day, another, even smaller, swarm formed up on exactly the same part of the hedge. It was unlikely that a swarm of that size would have the critical mass to survive. We came to the conclusion that the 2nd swarm should be added to the first. Assuming both swarms had queens, they would have to fight it out between themselves. All this happened 2 weeks ago. The merged hive is still alive. We will give it a full inspection shortly.

hives July 16

The merged colony is housed in the left hive.

Admitting defeat

bonfire July 16

Hawthorn branches are fed to the goats nearly every day. The goats eat the leaves and some of the twigs. I extract from what is felt any sticks that can be used for firewood. But what is left just keeps on building up. I was hoping to shred it all to create a mulch which can be used on vegetable beds or in the duck run but this was just not able to happen. I had to admit defeat and burnt the twigs and thin sticks. I felt it was something of a defeat but the heap had to be brought under control and disposed of or else it would take over the allotment.

Blackcurrant and apple jelly

Blackcurrant and apple jelly July 16 1

I still had half a bucket of blackcurrants to use up and they weren't in the best of shape. Many were still attached to stalks and leaves. Turning them into jam would require picking through all the blackcurrants to remove the debris at a time when the berries were becoming too overripe to handle. The solution was to turn them into jelly. I also had a bag of apples that urgently needed using up. They went into the jelly as well.

So, roughly equal quantities of blackcurrants and chopped apples went into the jam pan. Apples cores and peel were included. Enough water to half fill the pan was added, everything was brought to the boil and then simmered for a couple of hours. The liquid was then strained off, measured and put back into the jam pan. When it came back to the boil, 1kg of sugar was added for each litre of liquid. Bring back to the boil, test for the setting point (dollop of liquid on a saucer and if it sets, you are ready) and then add to hot sterilised jars.

This jelly has a nice tangy taste. Great on toast for breakfast or used with smoked cheese.

Blackcurrant and apple jelly Jul;y 16 2

More cheese making

cheese making July 16 2

We are very much back into the swing of cheese making so that we can keep control of the flood of milk from Pinkie. We make a hard cheese and then a ricotta from the whey. Our problem now is what to do with all the whey - some goes into the mash for the poultry, some goes into baking.

cheese making July 16 1

goat cheese July 16

The ricotta has to be used within a few days of being made or frozen. We are running out of freezer space! And there are only so many cheesecakes and flans we can make and eat!

Ashes to ashes

ash branches July 16 1

I am in London for a few days so David is looking after everything back home. As a helping hand, I have left a large pile of ash branches for him to feed to the goats today. Ash leaves are one of the goats' favourite foods. The branches came from one of the trees in the Whinnies charity garden (I rent our 2 big allotments from them) and they were happy for me to chop back the branches of a tree which is casting a shadow over some of their greenhouses. There are loads more trees and hedges there needing cutting back so we have a secure supply of goat food into the autumn!

Growing kids

Billy kid July 16 (1)

The two kids are now growing at quite a rate. They are being fed entirely on leaves and branches from the hedgerows, though they are still suckling. They are thriving on this natural diet. Spotless, the billy, is bigger than his sister Spot. His horns are more developed as well. He is also more confident than Spot so he is happy to be petted and fussed.

Billy kid July 16 (2)

Thursday 28 July 2016


firewood July 16 (3)

We feed branches to the goats. They get 2-3 wheelbarrow loads a day. This means we don't have to buy feed for them, saving us lots of money and cutting down on food miles. People on our allotment site are happy for me to cut their hawthorn hedges as it saves them the job and also means they don't have to have bonfires.

Once the goats have eaten the leaves and twigs, I am left with firewood. We have loads of it! It is all being stored up for future use. At the moment, we have still not had the wood-fired boiler we promised ourselves installed at our house.

firewood July 16 (2)

Ducklings on the move

ducklings July 16

We have had another disappointing hatch rate from the most recent batch of duck eggs. 10 went into the incubator but only 2 hatched. The ducklings are now 11 days old so I have now moved them to the chick house in the allotment. They have settled in well. They will be released to join the flock in a couple of weeks when they are big enough to fend for themselves.

duckling run July 16

Making blackcurrant vodka

Blackcurrant vodka July 16

Today I used a bit more of our glut of blackcurrants. This time they were used to make blackcurrant vodka. This fruit liqueur will be ready in about four months' time to consume.

How to make goat ricotta cheesecake

This is the recipe for the blackcurrant cheesecake I made earlier this week.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Goat cheese and onion flan

goat cheese and onion flan July 16

I made this goat cheese and onion yesterday (one of two) when I also made the blackcurrant cheesecake. I was able to finish one of the blocks of goat cheese we made last year though we still have 4 to use up! The flan will be lunch and dinner for the next couple of days.


omelette July 16

Despite our hens not laying many eggs at the moment, we still have frozen egg stored in our freezers. We defrosted one tub on Sunday. Dinner that evening was an omelette. A tiny amount of space was therefore freed up in the freezers, all of which are full. We are going to need lots of freezer in the autumn.

Another egg record

quail eggs July 16

We had 24 quail eggs this morning, another record. What a pity our hens are on a go-slow at the moment. We are struggling to keep up with our own needs and those of our customers.

More blackcurrant recipes - cheesecake

blackcurrant cheesecake July 16

We are gradually getting through the bucket of blackcurrants. Previously we had made jam and ice cream. Yesterday I made cheesecake. It meant I could use some of our glut of ricotta cheese. Ingredients were:

  • 500g ricotta cheese
  • 300g blackcurrants
  • 5 tbs of runny honey (this was from last year's rather small honey crop)
  • 4 eggs
  • a bowl of foam from the jam pan from when we had the blackcurrant and rhubarb jam
  • about 2 large mugs of cream
All the ingredients were mixed together. I then lined a flan dish with shortcrust pastry and added in the filling. It was then baked for nearly an hour at 180C and then 160C for 15 minutes.

Monday 25 July 2016

Video - how to make blackcurrant and rhubarb jam

A surplus of rhubarb and blackcurrants was recently put to good use!

Sunday 24 July 2016

More ice cream

blackcurrant and chocolate ice cream July 16

We are continuing to get lots of cream from Pinkie's milk. Today we used some of it to make 2 flavours of ice cream - blackcurrant and chocolate. It has been very hot today so the ice cream helped cool us down this evening.

A bucket of blackcurrants

blackcurrants July 16

One of the neighbouring allotment holders invited me onto his plot a few days ago to pick the blackcurrants. He had lots of surplus fruit so I filled a bucket with them. So watch out for forthcoming posts on using blackcurrants in making ice cream, cheese cake, fruit liqueur and jam.

Friday 22 July 2016

Moving the quail chicks

We recently moved the quail chicks to the quail house. All the birds were ringed before the move so that we know which year they hatched.

How to make a goat cheese and quail egg salad

We have lots of quail eggs and we still have goat cheese made last year to use up. So I made a salad. The unusual ingredient was blackberry vinegar in which I marinated the cheese.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Cream cheese

cream cheese July 16

I've been making cheese today. We had let some of the goats milk separate by itself. The result was a creamy curd which we are using as cream cheese. 4 tubs of it has gone into the freezer but will eventually be used for flan fillings.

Another egg stash

eggs July 16

Our neighbouring allotment holder passed on to us recently these eggs she found on her plot. One of our cream legbars had found a hole in the fence and was making useof it to build up a stash of eggs in a hidden corner. As we have no idea when the eggs were laid, we can't sell them. We will consume them ourselves. In the meantime, we've blocked up the hole.

Nanny goat in labour

This was filmed in May. Geraldine, one of our 3 goats, had gone into labour. This video looks at a few of the signs to look for when a nanny is close to giving birth.

Sadly, we lost Geraldine before she was able to have her babies.

More cheese

goat cheese making July 16 (5)

Most of Pinkie's milk is used to make cheese. One is a hard cheese and the other is ricotta, made from the leftover whey. We are now on a regular cheese-making cycle but the freezers are beginning to fill up. It is likely that we will wax the hard cheese from now on rather than freeze it.

goat cheese making July 16 (4)

Pickled onions

pickled onions July 16

The first onions of the year were small so we pickled them over the weekend. It will be a couple of weeks yet before we can start eating them.

Fennel vodka

fennel vodka July 16

This is a bit of an experiment. We had some fresh fennel to use up so we put it into a jar with 100g of sugar and 70cl of vodka. It will stand for 3 months and will then be bottled (and drunk).

Using buttermilk to make elderflower drop scones

The buttermilk left over from making butter from Pinkie's milk has been put to good use making batter for drop scones. The elderflower is a month late this year so I added some of the blossom to the batter.

Lettuce soup

potato and lettuce soup July 16

We had some lettuces that needed using up and some potatoes that were rather old and sprouting. I combined them together to make soup. It turned out better than I expected!

Tuesday 19 July 2016

How to make rhubarb jelly

This is a good recipe for using up waste. Most of the apple used was core and peel (the flesh was used to make apple chutney). The rhubarb consisted more of peeled skins and the hard bottoms of stems though to ensure it had rhubarb flavour, the longer stems were added as well (though they were older and more stringy and therefore less attractive for pies and jams.

The jelly was tested out on some elderflower drop scones. I've filmed the video on how to make them but it is waiting to be edited. Watch this space.

Strawberries and cream

strawberries and cream July 16

I had these gorgeous strawberries recently, given to me by one of the neighbouring allotment holders. The cream was from Pinkie's milk. A lovely dessert.

Fresh trout

Trout July 16

These two fresh trout were recently given to us by an angling friend of our. They've now been gutted and for the time being they are in the freezer. I'm planning to smoke them. I owe my friend 2 jars of homemade jam.

Getting bigger

Goat and mineral lick July 16

The 2 goat kids are developing well. They are eating lots of leaves though they continue to suckle. They also using the mineral lick, a sign that they are less dependent on mum Georgina. They are also growing rapidly. I picked up Spotless, the billy, yesterday when he managed to get himself stuck in the duck run. I estimate he was between 15 and 20 kg. He is also bigger than his sister spot. By the autumn, when he is due for slaughter, he will be a good size.

Goat kids July 16 4

Goat kids July 16 3

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Fried potato and goat cheese

fried potato and goat cheese June 16 (2)

We are now back into cheese making in a big way, thanks to the 3.5 litres of milk a day Pinkie is producing. With so much cheese to use up, some of it found its way into this fry up - left over mashed potato and ricotta cheese. Made a nice lunch.

fried potato and goat cheese June 16 (1)

Moving the chicks

chicks July 16 (2)

The Rhode Island Red chicks that hatched on the May bank holiday were moved to the allotment recently where we kept them for a few days in a chick run where they could acclimatise to being outdoors. After a few days they were released from the run to integrate with the flock. They stay together as a group but otherwise have quickly learnt where the food is and are fitting in well.

chicks July 16 (1)

chicks July 16 (3)