Tuesday 28 February 2017

Lamb chops

lamb chops Feb 17

We found these lamb chops in the freezer recently. It was a shame to let them use up valuable freezer space. They went well with roast potatoes and parsnips.

Toad in the hole

toad in the hole Feb 17

Yet again we did a search through of the freezers over the weekend to find something to eat and create space for the coming year's crops. We found some sausages from our last pig. A rather nice toad in the hole was the result.

Planting peas

planting peas Feb 17 (1)

We planted pea seeds over the weekend and have gone for a heritage variety - blauwschokker. They've gone into seed trays and chopped up toilet roll holders. With the greenhouse repaired, the peas were the first seeds to go into it.

planting peas Feb 17 (3)

Repairing the greenhouse

greenhouse repaired Feb 17

The greenhouse door in the autumn needed repairing so as a temporary measure we removed it, put the door from a retired shower unit against the gap and held in in place with a pallet. The approach of spring forced us to carry out the repair. Hooray! We can now get into the greenhouse. It is already filling up.

Signs of spring

haw leaves Feb 17

Signs of spring are early this year. I spotted leaves on the hawthorn hedges which I would normally have to wait until April to see. And over the weekend, I spotted a frog hopping into the small pond in the Whinnies Community Garden. I took a closer look and found lots of frog spawn in the pond. I like having lots of frogs around. They are great for eating bugs.

frog spawn Feb 17

Cheap fruit trees

new fruit trees Feb 17 (1)

Last week we discovered that Groundwork North East has lots of fruit trees being sold cheaply at their nursery at Lobley Hill, Gateshead, just down the road from us. On Saturday we paid them a visit and bought four apple and two plum trees for £18, ie £3 each. We often pay more than £20 for a tree. What a bargain! The trees are now planted on the far side allotment.

Setting up the new herb garden

herbs planted Feb 17

Our herb garden was previously on the allotment we use for livestock. We took the decision to move the garden to the far side allotment and I'm pleased to report that the herbs are starting to grow. We still have some to move (sage and lovage) and we have lots of seeds to plant as well. Jobs for the next few weeks.

Rhubarb transplanted

rhubarb shoots Feb 17

We have dug up all the rhubarb on our livestock allotment and in our back garden and moved it to the far side allotment. I'm pleased to say that all the transplanted roots have taken well to their new location and are growing new shoots.

It reminds me that I still have lots of rhubarb in one of our freezers. It will probably be made into jam.

Friday 24 February 2017

Seed sorting

seeds Feb 17

The days are getting longer, temperatures are rising, spring is approaching. Time to sort the seeds for planting. We have been too haphazard and unplanned with our seed planting in the past. This year we are being much more systematic and focused. Hopefully we will not be ending the year telling everyone that our vegetable-growing efforts fall behind our livestock and fruit-growing activities.

More firewood

firewood Feb 17 (1)

The Whinnies Community Garden have been replacing old fences recently. They ended up with a large pile of wood and told us we could take it all for firewood. That saved their having to have a bonfire. We have started moving it back to the gate into our livestock allotment. It will have to be chopped up but once we have the new wood-fired heating system installed at home, this wood will be the first fuel we will use on it.

firewood Feb 17 (2)

Shallots and garlic

shallots and garlic Feb 17

We have now started planting up our Far Side allotment. This is the first time it has been used for a number of decades and it is to be used mainly for fruit growing. However we are putting some vegetables on this site (our small allotment at Marley Hill will be our main vegetable growing site). We had already planted shallots and garlic and then realised we had lots more space to fill. So we bought more shallots (Mikor) and garlic (Cristo) on Wednesday and have already planted them.

Monday 20 February 2017

Roly poly pudding - this time it was edible!

roly poly pudding with marmalade Feb 17 (1)

We made another roly poly pudding tonight. This time we steered clear of the rosehip jam. Instead, we used an old jar of clementine marmalade that had partly crystalised. At last, a pudding that was edible!

roly poly pudding with marmalade Feb 17 (2)

Cottage pie

cottage pie Feb 17

The pork leftovers from last night's dinner were chopped up this evening and made into a cottage pie. Yesterday's leftover vegetables also went into it. The pie is big enough to keep us in meals until Wednesday.

Roly poly disaster

roly poly pudding with rosehip jam Feb 17 (1)

This roly poly pudding was made over the weekend so that some old jam could be used up. The rosehip jam was made about 8 years ago but somehow we just never got round to eating it. It was awful. The pudding had to be abandoned.

roly poly pudding with rosehip jam Feb 17 (2)

Roast pork again

roast pork dinner Feb 17

We had another roast pork dinner on Sunday. We found a pork leg joint in one of the freezers and using it up helps create a bit more space for this year's produce (a good excuse!)

Sunday 19 February 2017

Signs of spring

rose leaf buds Feb 17

The days are noticeably getting longer. On 21st December, the shortest day, I did the lock up of the animals at about 3.45pm. Now I am doing it about 6pm. And at the end of last week, I spotted greenery starting to burst from buds. The picture above is of rose leaves. I am hoping the hawthorn will be earlier than usual this year. We have lots of it to cut back but we can only start once it is in leaf so that it can be fed to the goats.

Wednesday 8 February 2017


pork fat Feb 17 (1)

We have rendered the fat from the pork joint we had on Sunday. The fat and leftover bits were put into water, brought to the boil and simmered. Once reduced down, the contents are put through a sieve. We then repeated the process a couple more times to make sure every bit of lard is extracted.

pork fat Feb 17 (2)

pork fat Feb 17 (3)

Beer brewing

beer brewing Feb 17

The beer kit we are trying out has been brewing in the barrel for nearly 14 days. We will be trying it out next week. This exercise at the moment is as much about learning new skills as it is about making beer.

Chitting potatoes

potatoes chitting Feb 17

It's that time of year again. A must do winter job is chitting the seed potatoes. We've got our laid out in seed trays in the garage. They are already sprouting. A bed is currently being prepared for planting out the potatoes in early spring.

Monday 6 February 2017

Rhubarb crumble

rhubarb crumble Feb 17

We still have lots of rhubarb in the freezer. Time to make rhubarb crumble. It made a great pudding last night.

Roast Pork

roast pork Feb 17

We last bought a pig over 2 years ago but we still have bits of it left in the freezer. Yesterday we decided to have a roast pork joint. It went rather well with the crab apple jelly we made last year.

roast pork dinner Feb 17

Pasta and bacon

pasta and bacon Feb 17

This was not entirely a self-sufficient meal - the pasta and parmesan cheese came from the supermarket. The bacon however came from the last pig we bought but has been in the freezer for a couple of years. The egg that was mixed with the pasta and bacon was laid by one of our hens.

Short legs

goats Feb 17

Spot and Spotless prefer to eat their first meal of the day from the trough in the milking stand. Spot however is quite small and her legs are too short for her to reach the food with all 4 feet on the stand, resulting in this rather amusing scene of her front legs dangling while her head reaches into the trough!

We think she is not going to grow any more and that her smaller size is not related to her being pregnant. We think there is some pygmy genes somewhere in her genetic background. Georgina, her mother is too big to be a pygmy but has pygmy colouring and marking.

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia Dec - Jan

This covers the past 2 months. We built a separate paddock for our billy goat, the chickens had to be moved to an enclosure because of emergency DEFRA rules, we secure a supply of sustainable fuel and lots of recipes are tried.

Quail egg salad

We still have a stash of quail eggs to use up despite using over 100 of them in this salad.