Wednesday 30 August 2017

Making pea stock

pea stock Aug 17

We harvested our pea crop last week. The peas have gone into the freezer but the pods themselves have been boiled up to make pea stock so that they weren't wasted. I'll be making pea soup later this week.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Gooseberry vodka

gooseberry vodka Aug 17

Two years ago I made a jar of gooseberry vodka but only this weekend did I get round to sampling it. It has a lovely golden colour and an equally lovely taste. Worth the wait.

More plums

plums Aug 17 2

We took delivery of even more plums yesterday after we left the Glendale Show. On the way back home we called at a friend's house in Blyth were we picked up about 20kg of fruit. The clock is now ticking on the plums we got over the past few days. They don't keep long so they will be made into jam, chutney, ketchup and some will be frozen.

Roast lamb

roast lamb Aug 17

We had the first joint from our recently received lamb roasted on Sunday. Beautiful texture and taste. The joint was quite large so it did for yesterday's dinner as well and there is still meat left on the bone. It looks like I'll be having roast lamb sandwiches for lunch.

Monday 28 August 2017

Glendale Show

Glendale Show Aug 17 (1)

We headed up to Wooler in North Northumberland today for the Glendale Agricultural Show. We were keen to see the goat competition but it was over by the time we got there - our arrival was delayed by an accident on the A697. We did not enter any of the industrial competitions but we did have a look at the entries. And we had quite a long chat with the people from Blue House Goats. A useful exchange of information.

Glendale Show Aug 17 (4)

Glendale Show Aug 17 (7)

Glendale Show Aug 17 (11)

Sunday 27 August 2017

Stuffed marrow

marrow stuffed with ricotta Aug 17

This was dinner last night: marrow stuffed with ricotta cheese. The ricotta was made last year from Pinkie's milk and has been in the freezer ever since. Thyme, sage, breadcrumbs and a few chopped onions and tomatoes were included.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Plum picking

plums Aug 17

A friend of mine has a plum tree in her garden in Newcastle but she is about to head off on holiday and therefore unable to use the fruit. I was therefore invited to pick the plums which I did yesterday. I paid for 2 sacks of them with 3 jars of preserves.

The lamb arrives

lamb Aug 17

Yesterday we took delivery of our lamb from the abattoir, fully butchered. It has all gone into the 4th freezer other than one joint which we will be having this weekend.

Friday 25 August 2017

Quail egg salad

quail egg salad and pigeon meatloaf Aug 17

This was our fully self-sufficient dinner last night: quail egg salad with pigeon meatloaf. As well as quail eggs (of which we have a glut) and pigeon meatloaf (we have a glut of pigeon breasts), I included cherry tomatoes, lettuce, a horseradish leaf, a white cucumber, mange tout and a dollop of apple chutney. Not bad.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Pea crop

peas Aug 17

We have harvested our pea crop. Lots of lovely sweet-tasting peas that have now gone into the freezer. We have kept most of the pods and will boil them up shortly for stock for pea soup.

Another pregnant goat?

Pregnant goat Aug 17

I wrote recently about discovering that Georgina is pregnant. Now it looks like Spot is as well. Her pregnancy is even more surprising. There was no billy around when she gave birth at the end of April. She has been suckling since then. Snow, Georgina's billy kid is the only possible father so he must have done her as soon as he was sexually mature. I would have thought suckling would have suppressed coming into heat but that doesn't appear to be the case this time. So, assuming one or both are pregnant (and we haven't spectacularly misread the signs), we will have kids over the autumn and winter.

Monday 21 August 2017

Two more hives

new bee colonies Aug 17 4

Last Thursday we bought two more honey bee colonies and in the dead of night we moved them onto our site. The person from whom we bought them wanted his hives back so we had to take the frames out of his and move them into two of our own empty (and suitably cleaned) hives. What we expected to be a simple exercise was anything but. We were both badly stung, despite wearing bee suits. I think I have about 40-50 stings. We did however finish the task and it looks as though the two colonies have settled down.

Pigeon meatloaf

Pigeon meatloaf Aug 17

I still had lots of the pigeon sausage meat left over from making burgers so I turned it all into a loaf and baked it in the oven at 180C for 45 minute. It went well with roast parsnips and potatoes.

Sunday 20 August 2017

Pigeon burgers

pigeon burgers Aug 17 (1)

Another summer glut is pigeons. We get sackfuls of them in trades with a friend who goes shooting. The breast meat is the only part of the bird that is worth eating though we keep the feathers for eventual use in making quilts. The meat is frozen either a whole breasts or minced. Yesterday I invented my own recipe for pigeon burgers:

  • 500g minced pigeon breast meat
  • a medium onion grated
  • a medium apple grated
  • a glass of our homemade beer
  • half a small jar of hedgerow jelly
  • 3 tablespoons of fruit puree
  • salt and pepper to taste
The different ingredients help to balance the gamey taste of the pigeons though I think in future I will double up the quantity of meat. Otherwise, I was quite pleased with the results.

It's National Burger Day on Thursday so this is one of my contributions to the celebration of burgers.

pigeon burgers Aug 17 (2)

Cherry and apple puree

apple and cherry puree Aug 17

I recently made some cherry, rhubarb and apple jam. The waste products from this were cherry pulp and apple cores and skins. I boiled them all together and then pressed the resulting pulp through a sieve to create this puree. I am about to experiment with making some fritters (the puree will be mixed with egg and ricotta cheese). Any puree still left over will be mixed with ricotta to make fruit cheese flans.

My waistline will probably not like this!

Trading for apples

Hop Garden High Spen Aug 17 (1)

The Hop Garden in High Spen is a community run allotment in which residents can have a go at gardening and can pick the fruit and vegetables for themselves. I have visited it a number of times before and on Friday I made a return visit in response to a call by the organisers to help shift the abundance of windfall apples they have. In return I took up a stack of quail eggs and a load of rhubarb. I have both is excessive abundance at home! A suitable swap was made.

Hop Garden High Spen Aug 17 (3)

Hop Garden High Spen Aug 17 (2)

Friday 18 August 2017

Lambs to the slaughter

lambs Aug 17 4

My friends Jo and Richard keep a few sheep and recently made an offer to me: would I take three lambs to the abattoir in return for one of them? The prospect of a good supply of fresh lamb was too good to ignore so my land rover was driven to their house early yesterday morning and I took them down to the abattoir in Spenneymoor, Co Durham. We should get the meat back soon. We have had to bring into operation another freezer. Watch out for lots of posts soon about lamb burgers, roast lamb and lamb sausages.

lambs Aug 17 3

More willowherb

willowherb Aug 17

I had feared that, as we are feeding a wheelbarrow load of willowherb to the goats twice a day, we would have exhausted the supply by now. We haven't! We have to walk further to pick it but the supply seems endless. That's good news for the goats as they love the stuff.

Thursday 17 August 2017

Clean quailhouse

quailhouse Aug 17

The quailhouse is cleaned out every three months or so. It had its latest clean on Monday. Quail droppings quickly become dry and dusty. The muck has gone into the manure bin which is now full. Anyone in the Sunniside area is welcome to take some natural fertiliser for their garden.

Apple branches for the goats

apple branches for goats Aug 17 (2)

A friend chopped down a couple of apple trees in his garden over the weekend. He let me have all the branches. A bit of a feast for the goats. After the leaves and bark were eaten, the branches were chopped for firewood. No waste!

apple branches for goats Aug 17 (1)

Sunday 13 August 2017

Lots of logs

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (17)

The recent work to clear the pile of branches on the Whinnies resulted in lots of firewood which is now being stored to dry out. All we need is a heating system that uses them as fuel. Getting that done is still on the to-do list.

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (19)

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (24)

Is Georgina pregnant?

pregnant goat Aug 17

There is a possibility that Georgina, mother or grandmother of all our goats except for Pinkie, may be pregnant again and possibly even due in the next three weeks. She has been getting bigger for some time and I am no longer able to put that down to her being "gassy"! The father can only be Spotless who died in April, a couple of weeks after Georgina gave birth. If events turn out as we now expect, we clearly made a mistake leaving Spotless to roam freely with the nannies when they are due to give birth. I much prefer to give the nannies time to recover from a pregnancy. Fortunately, Georgina is in excellent condition. Watch this space for more news.

Rained off at Swalwell

Swalwell Fayre Aug 17 5

We set up our stall selling preserves at the Swalwell Community Fayre yesterday, just in time for the rain. Alas, the wet conditions were not helpful for jam sales but the two goats we took - Pinkie and Snow - proved to be popular with visitors as we sheltered under trees.

Swalwell Fayre Aug 17 3

Creating space

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (1)

On the Whinnies Community Garden, in the bottom end of one of the old allotments, was a huge pile of sticks, branches and tree trunks. It was a bit of a hindrance to get into our Farside allotment. Over the past week, I have been helping the volunteers to shred branches and chop logs. The end result is a large new space that can be used by the volunteers in the future, a heap of mulch and better access to our allotment.

Photos before (above) and after (below).

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (21)

And a few action shots:

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (9)

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (2)

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (16)

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (12)

shredding branches on Whinnies Aug 17 (3)

Friday 11 August 2017

Rhubarb, apple and cherry jam

Rhubarb, apple and cherry jam Aug 17 (1)

Our huge surplus of rhubarb and cherries is being put to good use this morning. I am making rhubarb, apple and cherry jam. The cherries have been boiled and strained (life is too short to stone each one individually). The resulting liquid (1.25 litres) was added to the jam pan along with 2kg of chopped rhubarb and 2kg of chopped apples.

Boil the whole lot until everything is pulped and then add 4kg of sugar. Bring to setting point and them put it into hot, sterlised jars.

Rhubarb, apple and cherry jam Aug 17 (2)

Thursday 10 August 2017

First duck egg in ages

duck egg Aug 17

Our ducks stopped laying a couple of months ago. I have no idea why. The birds are healthy and in good condition. They eat well. But we are getting no eggs. That is until today. One egg from one of our young birds was waiting for collection this morning. Hopefully the others will follow her lead.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Hay delivery

hay Aug 17

Over the past couple of days we have been given a good quantity of hay. It won't be enough to get us to spring next year but it should get us a good way through the winter, helping us to avoid buying in feed for the goats. We will continue to make hay through the rest of the summer to ensure we have enough to keep us going until we start feeding the goats branches and leaves again in April.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Making smoothies

smoothie Aug 17

I had a go at making a smoothie today from ricotta cheese (made from our goats milk), fruit pulp, fruit jelly and milk. I'm rather pleased with the results. It was also a good way to use up ingredients that had been in the freezer for a year.

Repairing the henhouse

repairing the henhouse Aug 17

Our main henhouse is built entirely from reused waste materials, mainly old doors. A heavy hailstorm recently damaged the roofing panels and since then rain has leaked into the henhouse and turned the floor to mud. We recently were given some old roofing panels from a demolished conservatory and over the weekend, we used them to rebuild the henhouse roof. Hopefully, the hens will be a bit drier now.

Hive check

bee hive Aug 17

We did another check on our four hives yesterday. All are in good order and are growing to fill the spare frames. There is a great deal of brood so the queens are active. Each hive got through a bucket of sugar syrup over the past week so each hive was fed again.

Sunday 6 August 2017

August production figures

I've just been adding up our egg and preserve production figures from August:

  • 427 hen eggs
  • 592 quail eggs
  • 4 jars orange marmalade
  • 12 jars rhubarb and orange jam
  • 29 jars lemon curd
  • 4 jars blackcurrant jam
  • 24 jars lemon marmalade
  • 10 jars rhubarb chutney
  • 10 jars rhubarb and gooseberry jam
  • 14 jars rhubarb and redcurrant jam
  • 6 jars redcurrant jelly
  • 7 jars cherry and gooseberry jam
  • 6 jars apple chutney
  • 12 jars apple, redcurrant and gooseberry jam
That will keep us going for a while!

Rhubarb swap

rhubarb Aug 17 (1)

A friend had some surplus rhubarb and asked me if I wanted to trade it. I took 3 jars of jam and a jar of lemon curd to his allotment where I discovered just how much he had. We filled the boot of our Polo. It will all be frozen in the short term as we don't have enough jars to turn it all into jam. This does however create a problem with freezer storage space. We are trying to get through older contents to make room for this summer's produce. This one rhubarb crop will fill all this space - and we have the rhubarb on our Farside allotment still to pick.

rhubarb Aug 17 (2)