Monday 30 January 2017

Video: how to make shepherds pie

This is the video I made earlier this month of our recipe for shepherds pie. As well as using leftovers, we also used up a bit of our goat ricotta cheese mountain.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Plucked and gutted

pheasants Jan 17

We got another 2 pheasants recently in a food swap. The plan was to use them to make potted meat but I've rather run out of time to do it before the weekend as I need to go to London tomorrow. David is running things in my absence. The 2 birds were plucked and gutted this evening and have gone straight into the freezer. At some point after I am back from London, I will make the potted meat.

More apples

apples Jan 17 (2)

I discovered recently an apple tree in Swalwell, a couple of km from our house. It is on an embankment on Swalwell Bank and we spotted the ground around it carpeted with apples. I headed down there this afternoon and gathered about 25kg. The apples are not for human consumption. Instead, they are for the goats. They are a good addition to their diet and, just as importantly, they are free!

apples Jan 17 (1)

More hedge cutting

Marley Hill allotment Jan 17  (5)

We headed up to our Marley Hill allotment today in the bitter cold to chop back more of the hedge. We cut back enough to feed to the goats for the next week. Sadly, our land rover is off the road at the moment so the trimmings have to be moved to our livestock allotment in our Polo. We can get enough into it for one feed only.

Marley Hill allotment Jan 17  (7)

Meanwhile, as you can see, David has done a great job of digging over the Marley Hill allotment.

goats eating privet Jan17 2

Lamb stock

Lamb stock Jan 17 (1)

The bones from the lamb joint we had recently weren't wasted. They were boiled up to make stock which we used to make soup this evening. After making stock, the bones still have a use. They will be dried in the oven (they are left on a tray at the bottom) each time we have the oven on to bake something else. Once they are dried, they will be crushed to make bone meal.

Lamb stock Jan 17 (2)

Monday 23 January 2017

Pigeon sausages and toad-in-the-hole

toad in the hole with pigeon sausages Jan 17

I recently made some sausages from pigeon breasts. Last night we used them to make toad-in-the-hole. I was rather pleased with the results. However, I think I made the sausage meat too fine. In future, I will put the mincer on a coarser setting.

Shepherds pie

shepherds pie Jan 17 (1)

The leftovers from the lamb joint we had recently were put to good use in a shepherds pie. The meat was stripped from the bones and put through the mincer. Vegetables were added to the mince and cooked in a pan for about 20 minutes before being transferred to a baking tray. Mashed potato was mixed with some of our ricotta cheese and placed over the mince and vegetables. It was then baked in the oven at 180C for 45 minutes.

shepherds pie Jan 17 (2)

shepherds pie Jan 17 (3)

shepherds pie Jan 17 (4)

Rhubarb crumble

rhubarb crumble Jan 17

Our freezers are still full but we needed some space for some pheasants. So out came some rhubarb to create the required space. Following this, we had rhubarb crumble for pudding!

Quail egg salad

quail egg salad Jan 17

We still have lots of quail eggs from the autumn so 100 were used recently to make a salad. Also included was some leftover chicken meat from a recent roast. As usual, some potatoes were added. I've made a short video about making the salad but editing is still to be done.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Roast lamb

roast lamb Jan 17 (1)

We still have some lamb in the freezer from a food swap two years ago. It was time to use up one of the joints. Into the skin was rubbed a paste made of mustard powder, juniper berries and water. The skin was then stabbed a number of times and into the stab marks was inserted rosemary and cloves of garlic. The joint was then roasted (half hour for every 450g). A lovely end result.

There will be a video about this soon.

roast lamb Jan 17 (2)

roast lamb Jan 17 (3)

Chicken and vegetable soup

chicken and vegetable soup Jan 17

Nothing was wasted from the chicken we had recently. When it was slaughtered, the feathers were stored and will be used to make a quilt. The leftover meat was stripped from the bones and we used some to make chicken and vegetable soup. Some meat was also used in a salad with quail eggs. The bones were boiled up to make the stock for the soup. They will now be dried out and crushed to make bonemeal.

When the chips are down

duck run Jan 17 (1)

Damp weather recently has not been conducive to keeping our poultry confined to their runs, a current requirement of the emergency DEFRA regulations designed to tackle bird flu. So we have been adding wood chippings to the floor of the duck and chicken runs. These chippings are an important resource for us. They are the twigs etc snipped from the branches fed to the goats. The chippings, like the chopped up branches, were to be used as fuel for our wood-fired heating system, once we have it installed. Now I am scattering sack loads of the stuff to the ground to help give a firmer footing for the poultry and to keep them out of the mud.

duck run Jan 17 (3)

Duck eggs

duck egg Jan 17

Not only have our hens started laying, we have now started getting duck eggs again. Okay, it's not time to crack open a bottle of homemade elderflower champagne. Only one of our ducks has started laying. She is one of the two ducks that lives with the hens rather than in the duck run. She isn't laying every day but, nevertheless, an occasional egg is better than nothing.

Saturday 21 January 2017

Beer brewing

brewing beer Jan 17 (1)

Late last year I bought a beer brewing barrel and we are now testing it out on a home brew kit. Once we've acquired the beer making skills, we will have a go at making more. I am keen to have a go at making beers from blackberries and other wild berries. I am also keen to check out historic beer and ale recipes. Watch this space!

Found in the garage

gooseberry vodka Jan 17

We found 2 of these in the garage recently, hidden away on a shelf. They are jars of gooseberry vodka from 2015. Time for a small tipple.

Is she or isn't she?

goats Jan 17 7

Neither of our 2 adult nannies, Georgina and Pinkie, have come into heat. They should have done a number of times already this autumn/winter and we were starting to get concerned. And then a possible explanation came our way. Perhaps Spotless, our young billy who was born in June last year, was mare mature than we anticipated. Perhaps both had come into heat without showing the usual signs and Spotless had gone to work on them. Perhaps both are already pregnant. It isn't quite what we want for Georgina as she is his mother. We had however considered Spotless as a possible mate for Pinkie as they aren't related.

Our plan had been to take Pinkie to a farm in Northumberland to be mated with a golden guernsey billy but when we made inquiries about this, we found that there were significant bureaucratic hurdles in the way. The two farms that we had previously used for mating Georgina and Geraldine (who died last year) were not available. It turns out therefore that our decision to keep Spotless was the right one after all, assuming Pinkie and Georgina are pregnant. And given the slight pear-shape of Georgina, it is looking that kids are on the way (hopefully). We won't be able to say for certain however for a few weeks yet.

How to roast a lamb joint

We had a lamb joint we got in a food swap. In this video I show you how we roasted it.

The silver lining in the DEFRA cloud

The hens had stopped laying in October but 3 weeks after we moved them into the goat house because of the emergency DEFRA restrictions to tackle bird flu, they started laying.

Preparing the fruit allotment

We have been doing quite a bit of work to bring into use the derelict allotment at the Whinnies we call the Far Side (because it is on the far side of the site to our main allotment). The Far Side is to be used for growing fruit and the fruit bushes are being gradually removed from the main allotment. This video gives an update.


omelette Jan 17

Dinner tonight was an omelette. A month ago we were getting no eggs from our hens. Now we are getting 7-10 a day. So as well as being able to sell to our normal customers, we are able to indulge ourselves with the occasional omelette. This one used 6 eggs.

Our first jam sale of 2017

selling jam Jan 17

We had our first jam sale of the year this morning. It was a modest affair, a coffee morning for Lighting Up Whickham in Whickham Library. I sold my last jar of marmalade. It looks like I will have to bring the preserving pan out of winter hibernation.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Greenery for the goats

We want to be self-sufficient in feed for our livestock as well as food for ourselves. So we are constantly on the lookout for greenery to feed to the goats.

Poultry restrictions

In December DEFRA imposed emergency restrictions on poultry to tackle the outbreak of bird flu. This is how we responded.

Housing Spotless

In preparation for the nanny goats coming into heat, we have built a separate paddock for Spotless, the billy. We don't want him mating with his sister and mother. The nannies however have shown no signs yet of coming into heat.

Sunday 15 January 2017

More privet

Marley Hill allotment Jan 17 (3)

Our small allotment at Marley Hill, which we use for growing vegetables, has privet hedges on either side. We have deliberately not trimmed them through the year so that they can grow and provide us with a feed for the goats. I reckon it will take a couple of weeks to chop back the hedges. We work on them every 2nd day at the moment, chopping back branches and then filling the land rover. The branches are then taken down to our livestock allotment where they are fed to the goats. So far this winter we have managed to avoid buying in feed for the goats (other than sacks of pony carrots) and I am hoping to get to the spring without having to buy feed.

Marley Hill allotment Jan 17 (1)

goats eating privet Jan17

2 more pheasants

game Jan 17 2

I got to our allotment this morning to find 2 more pheasants had been left for us. We still have a pheasant and duck hanging up in the garage to pluck and gut. Our plan was to turn them into potted meat. I'd better get a move on and get that sorted.

Saturday 14 January 2017

Dust bath

chicken dust bath Jan 17 2

A gale earlier this week blew open the gate on the chicken run, letting the hens out. The whole of the country is under poultry restrictions because of the bird flu outbreak. All birds have to be confined to an enclosure to stop them mixing with wild birds. We think our hens had been out for only a few minutes before we discovered the great escape. We spent a few minutes rounding them up. It was interesting to note that many of the hens, on getting out, had gone straight to their favourite dust bathing spots. So in the hen house I put in a box full of earth and watched as the chickens rapidly dived in for a dust bath.

Meanwhile, we have made the gate more secure.

Extra bedding

goats get extra bedding Jan 17 (2)

Because of the Arctic air and we are experiencing at the moment, we've given the goats extra bedding. A friend found a casino in Newcastle, via a website that offers free surplus materials, that had sacks of shredded paper. She gave me 6 sacks which I've used for the goats. A good use for someone else's waste.

goats get extra bedding Jan 17 (1)

Snow on the allotment

snow on allotment Jan 17 (1)

We have had a run of relatively mild winters in recent years so snow is now unusual, and we when do get it, it is not in any significant quantity. In the early hours of Friday, we had about 2cm of snow. It's the first time the kids have experienced it. It's not expected to last. The Arctic air we've been getting for the past few days will be pushed aside by a warmer front from the Atlantic tomorrow. Then we should be rid of the white stuff.

snow on allotment Jan 17 (2)

snow on allotment Jan 17 (4)

And then there were 9

eggs Jan 17 2

The egg supply continues to improve. This morning one egg was waiting to be collected in the hen house when I opened it up. This afternoon there were another 8 (see photo above). We definitely have enough eggs for our small number of regular customers. We will have a table at a coffee morning in Whickham next Saturday to sell our jams. It looks like we will be selling eggs as well.

Creating a sustainable fuel supply

We want to produce our own fuel as well as food. We have a ready supply of firewood from the branches we food to the goats during the warmer months but at the moment we have nothing to burn it on.

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Another fox attack

Bad news. The fox returned last night and broke into the duck run again. It killed a drake which it left in the pond but fortunately the other 8 birds were unharmed. Presumably they were able to get onto the pond for protection. The bird we lost was the last of the originals we bought in 2012 when we first started keeping ducks.

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Chicken stock

chicken stock Jan 17

The bones from the roast chicken we had on Sunday have been turned into stock which will be used to make soup tomorrow. The bones will then be dried and ground up for bonemeal.

Monday 9 January 2017

Bad bee news

hive check Jan 17 2

This morning we went to Durham to buy fondant to feed to the bees. We were already down to five hives but I'm saddened to report that, after brief inspections while feeding the hives today, we found we were down to 3. I'm worried that we may not get through the winter with any living colonies.

More game

game Jan 17

We took delivery of more game on Sunday - a duck and a pheasant. This time, instead of freezing them, we are going to make them into potted meat. We will need to dust down the recipe books first - I've never made potted meats before.

Reducing my piles

firewood Jan 17

I have, at last, finished chopping up the final pile of branches on our livestock allotment. These are the branches that were fed to the goats during the months when the trees are in leaf. It's the first time in two years I've been on top of the job though there are now branches to chop on the fruit allotment. All I need to do now is get some quotes for replacing our heating system with a wood fired one.

Tonight's dinner

parsnip and potato crisps Jan 17

I thought I'd share with you tonight's dinner -at least pictorially. We started with homemade parsnip and potato crisps.

Roast chicken Jan 17

roast chicken dinner Jan 17

Followed by roast chicken. The chicken was one of the cockerels we slaughtered last March. The space in the freezer is needed.

plum crumble and custard Jan 17

For dessert, we had plum crumble. The plums were from 2015 and had been stored in syrup.

We have enough leftovers to tomorrow.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Bad news from DEFRA

The DEFRA restrictions on keeping poultry caged were meant to end today. Alas, they have been extended for another 7 weeks, to the end of February. Apparently there has been another avian flu outbreak on a farm, this time in Wales. The hens and ducks won't be happy. And we are going to have to look at putting down wood chippings or hay on the ground of the enclosures as it is getting rather muddy and churned up.

Strawberry plants

strawberry plants Jan 17

We have lots of strawberry plants in our back garden, some in tubs and others growing feral. As part of the reorganisation of our plots, all soft fruit is being moved to the fruit-growing allotment. The strawberries have now been dug up and moved to a new home on the latter allotment. The job was done today. There is a great deal of space so we will be buying lots of fruit plants shortly.

A sick goat

goat ill Jan 17 (5)

Our goat Georgina was ill yesterday. We took no chances and called out the vet who diagnosed her as having eaten something toxic. She was given anti-biotics and liquid paraffin. At 6pm she was still quite poorly, and vomiting quite badly while grinding her teeth. From then until 11pm I checked on her hourly by which time she appeared to have settled down and stopped vomiting. I decided it was safe to leave her overnight.

This morning she was much happier and fed well on carrots and apples but then seemed to have a bit of a relapse for a couple of hours. This afternoon she was on the mend again. She joined in the feast of privet and also had a few extra carrots.

I'm now waiting for the vet's bill to arrive!

goats Jan 17 4

Wednesday 4 January 2017


pies Jan 17

We still have homemade sweet mince left over from Christmas (it was actually made in 2015) and lots of boxes of apples. So, today, pie making was the main activity in the kitchen.