Friday 29 September 2017

Video - our new bee colonies

This video takes a look at the new bee colonies we got this summer to replace those that died out over the winter.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Video - cutting back the hawthorn hedges

The hawthorn hedges around our allotment site have not been cut in 20 years so they are a bit on the tall side. We've been chopping them back to make them more manageable and to provide food for the goats.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Video: surplus food for the Comfrey Project

Last month I took along some surplus produce to the Comfrey Project in Bensham, Gateshead. The Project helps refugees and residents on low incomes to access quality, healthy food.

Visiting the Northumberland Cheese Company

Northumberland Cheese Company Sept 17 (29)

This morning we visited the Northumberland Cheese Company and came away with ideas for cheesemaking with our goats milk. I particularly liked the idea of smoking cheeses - one of my plans still on the to-do list is to convert an old filing cabinet into a smokery. I need to get that sorted soon.

Northumberland Cheese Company Sept 17 (16)

Northumberland Cheese Company Sept 17 (13)

Monday 25 September 2017

Video: how to make pea soup

This recipe allowed me to use up lots of old vegetables and herbs. The stock was made from the pea pods, giving them an extra lease of life before they headed for the compost bin.

Hen and chicks doing well

hen with chicks Sept 17 (1)

The 8 chicks that hatched on Saturday, and their mother, are doing well. They have all bonded and are happily settled down in the quail house.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Caterpillar-covered cabbages

caterpillar-eaten cabbages Sept 17 2

The cabbages in a couple of raised beds in the Whinnies Community Garden were covered with caterpillars. Christine, the garden's organiser, asked me if I wanted them for the animals. The result was a caterpillar feast for the chickens and ducks and a cabbage feast for the goats.

caterpillar-eaten cabbages Sept 17 3

caterpillar-eaten cabbages Sept 17 4

goats eating cabbages Sept 17

Video: how to make fish pie

I posted recently about making a fish pie. This is the video I made about my recipe.

Vegetable curry

vegetable curry Sept 17

This is what we had for dinner last night and tonight: a vegetable curry. We have lots of vegetables but the curry sauce was a bit of a cheat - it was from a jar of cheap supermarket curry sauce. And we cheated with the sprouts! My Dad passed away earlier this year and we got the contents of his freezer (and the freezer itself!) He had lots of bags of sprouts from the supermarket. They need using up but they aren't the best quality.

Final chicks of the year

chicks Sept 17 1

The eggs that we gave to the broody hen three weeks ago hatched today, as did the ones we put in the incubator. The three chicks under the hen, along with the mother hen herself, have been moved to the quail house where they are better protected from predators. We have also given the 5 incubator chicks to the hen as well. She adopted them immediately. Mother and babies are all doing well.

chicks Sept 17 2

Popular Pinkie at Chase Park

Chase Park Fair Sept 17 3

Whickham's Chase Park was officially re-opened today after its £1 million refurbishment, paid for by the Heritage Lottery Find and the Big Lottery Fund. I brought along Pinkie, one of my goats, who is always a hit with people of all ages. She certainly was today. I think she must have been in more photos than anything else in the park today.

Chase Park Fair Sept 17 1

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Picking sweet chestnuts

sweet chestnuts Sept 17 (4)

I was in London yesterday and used the opportunity to pick some sweet chestnuts in Crystal Palace Park. They are quite bulky because of the spikey casings on them and heavy gardening gloves are needed to handle them. One large bag produced two large bowls of chestnuts. I will be using them over the next few weeks in various recipes. Watch this space.

sweet chestnuts Sept 17 (1)

sweet chestnuts Sept 17 (3)

Video - quail egg salad

We set ourselves the task of making a meal that contained only ingredients we had produced ourselves or had bartered for. So here is the result - a quail egg salad.

Monday 18 September 2017

More marrows

marrows Sept 17 2

Another 3 marrows were left outside our gate recently. It looks like more marrow chutney will need to be made (and more curries, more stuffed marrows etc).

Saturday 16 September 2017

The plum production line no. 2: plum wine

plum puree strained Sept 17

Having boiled up a sack of plums, we put the pulp through a jelly bag to get a liquid which we are now using to make wine. We have 4 demijons brewing away. It will be a few months yet before they are ready to be bottled.

plum juice Sept 17

plum wine Sept 17

Friday 15 September 2017

The plum production line no. 1 - plum jam

plum jam Sept 17 (2)

We swapped jam for a large amount of plums recently. Sackloads of them! They don't last so most were stoned and then frozen. That left us with one sack to deal with. By then the plums were very ripe and had to be processed. I boiled them all up and then put the pulp through a jelly bag. The resulting liquid is for wine making but the left over pulp was pressed through a sieve to collect a puree. The pulp left over from that had a bit of water added and was reboiled for a couple of hours. This was to extract the maximum pectin from the stones. Following this the pulp was put through a sieve a second time, creating a watery puree high in pectin.

Two litres of this was used to boil up 4 kg of plums from the freezer. 6kg of sugar were added and the result was 21 jars of plum jam.

plum jam Sept 17 (3)

Watch out over the next few weeks for posts on making plum wine, plum ketchup and plum chutney.

Pea soup

pea pod stock Sept 17

We harvested all our peas recently. The pods were boiled up for stock (see photo above) which was then used to make pea soup. It wasn't the green colour we expected but we were quite happy with the results nonetheless.

pea soup Sept 17

Lamb chops

lamb chop Sept 17

We got a reasonable number of chops from the lamb we got in a recent swap so we had a couple grilled for dinner recently. They went especially well with some of our redcurrant jelly.

Thursday 14 September 2017

Fish pie

fish stock Sept 17

We had a couple of trout baked recently (we got the fish last year in a food swap and they have been in the freezer ever since.) The leftover fish was used to make a fish pie. The bones, heads and skins were made into stock which was used to make the white sauce in the pie. We added lots of quail eggs to the pie. We still have a glut which means quail eggs pop up in all sorts of meals.

fish pie Sept 17 (1)

fish pie Sept 17 (2)

Cauliflower cheese

cauliflower cheese Sept 17 1

We rescued some bolted cauliflowers a few days ago and they made an excellent cauliflower cheese. We had it with fried potatoes and an omelette. Most people would have thrown the cauliflowers on the compost heap. We got a meal out of ours.

cauliflower cheese Sept 17 2

Picking the rest of the rhubarb

picking rhubarb Sept 17 1

We picked the last of our rhubarb crop earlier this week. My brother Andrew took all of it as we have more than we will ever need in our freezers. I'm not sure what Andrew will use it for but I suspect there will be plenty of jam and pie making to come.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Video: Glendale Show

Just edited - our video of our visit to the Glendale Show in August.

Honey Swap

honey Sept 17

We have no honey this year as we lost our colonies over the winter. We now have 6 hives with new colonies so will hopefully be taking honey off them next year. In the meantime, I did a swap for four half pound jars of honey with a friend. He got one of our lamb joints in return.

Not as pregnant as we thought

Pregnant goats Sept 17

Last month we thought that our goats Georgina had Spot were pregnant. The belief was that Georgina had been mated by our then billy, Spotless, shortly after giving birth. Spot on the other hand we believed had conceived in July when Snow, born to Georgina at the start of April, had matured enough to do the deed. Had our theory about Georgina been accurate, we would now have kids. The allotted dates have now come and gone and there is no pitter-patter of tiny hooves. Both Georgina and Spot look pear-shaped so we still think they are pregnant, but we are looking at the end of the year as being the more likely date for the arrivals.

A gift of marrows

Marrows Sept 17

I found these two marrows left outside my gate earlier this week. A gift from another allotment holder. Jam will be on its way to him shortly. We often have the marrows stuffed and then baked in the oven but now that we have a glut of chillies, I will probably make them into a hot marrow chutney, industrial strength!

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Blackberry and ricotta cheese flan

blackberry and ricotta cheese flan Sept 17

This was my breakfast today - blackberry and ricotta cheese flan. I made it for the Bowes Show on Saturday but now we need to use it up, hence the reason I had some for breakfast. There is still some left. I suspect I will be having it for breakfast again tomorrow.

The ricotta was made last year from our goats milk but we had so much that we are running out of ideas on how to use it.

Bowes Show photos

Bowes Show September 2017

A full set of photos of our trip to the Bowes Show can be seen above. Video to follow soon.

An okay performance at the Bowes Show

Bowes Show Sept 17 (14)

Saturday took us to the Bowes Agricultural Show. We have gone every year since 2012 and we have always entered the eggs, baking and preserve-making competitions. We have always come away with some winnings but this time we managed only a third for lemon curd, a third for chutney and a 4th for jam other than raspberry. But it was the fun of taking part that counts!

Despite the occasional bursts of rain, a good time was had by all.

Bowes Show Sept 17 (13)

Bowes Show Sept 17 (12)

Thursday 7 September 2017

Nasturtium seeds

nasturtiums Sept 17 (2)

This year we have made more of an effort to use our home garden space for growing foods. Outside our front door we now grow nasturtiums in pots. All parts of the nasturtium plants can be eaten but I am especially keen on the seeds which are now in abundance. They have a lovely peppery flavour. I've been using them recently in salads. They go well with our glut of quail eggs.

Wednesday 6 September 2017

How to make pigeon burgers

I filmed this last month: how to make pigeon burgers. Pigeon meat has a very gamey taste so we add a few extra ingredients to take the edge off it: fruit puree, glass of bitter, hedgerow jelly, apple and onion.

Swapping at the Hop Garden

This summer we have been doing more surplus produce swaps than ever before. In this video I swapped quail eggs and rhubarb for apples at the Hop Garden in High Spen, Gateshead.

Dealing with the lambs

Last month I took a friend's lambs to the abattoir and as "payment" she gave me one of them. This is the video I filmed from the afternoon we rounded them up to the day we roasted one of the joints.

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Collecting fruit surpluses

produce surplus at Comfrey Project Sept 17 (2)

On Sunday I collected more surplus fruit from local residents who would otherwise have put most of this bounty into the waste disposal system. It's appalling to think of all this fresh, wonderful food being dumped. I therefore put quite a bit of effort into encouraging people to swap surpluses for my preserves.

The problem I have had recently is that we have had more plums given to us that we can possibly use ourselves, even taking into account all the jam we make for own use and for swapping. On the other hand, the vast amount of apples I have received don't need to be traded on. Instead they can be stored for later use by ourselves and the goats.

Anyway, to shift the surplus plums I donated them to the Comfrey Project, a charity in Bensham, Gateshead, which helps low income families and refugees access affordable food. As part of the donation, I also gave them a box of apples, a load of rhubarb from my allotment and about 6-7 kg of runner beans given to me by one of the allotments on the Whinnies Community Garden. They had more than they could handle.

As a society we need to avoid waste but we also need to set up systems that ensure garden produce surpluses go into the food chain rather than the waste disposal system.

The goat demolition squad

wrecked henhouse Sept 17

The kids are in the habit of jumping from one henhouse roof to another. It was only a matter of time before they managed to demolish one of them. This henhouse will be rebuilt shortly. We are going to make some heavy duty stands out of pallets for the goats. They will have different heights but hopefully it will give them an alternative to wrecking the henhouses.

Broody hen

broody hen sept 17

This hen went broody over 2 weeks ago. We tried to get her to kick the habit but two weeks later she was still insisting on returning every morning to the same nest box, in a small henhouse we now use for the goats, and spending the rest of the day there until I returned her to the henhouse each evening. I didn't really want to buy hatching eggs at this time of year but as the need by her to brood some eggs was so strong, we decided to give her some. So last week we headed down to Durham Hens and got a dozen eggs. Six have gone to the broody hen and six are in an incubator. Eggs are due to hatch on 21st September.

Monday 4 September 2017

More and more apples

apples Sept 17 1

The apple crop is very large this year and we are receiving lots of fruit given to us in exchange for preserves. Most days I find someone has left bags of windfall apples outside our gate. Yesterday, I went down to Whickham to go to a couple of houses where the residents had picked the apples and plums from trees in their back gardens. We will have plenty of apples for more preserve making and for fodder for the goats through the winter. Were we not doing this, it is highly likely the fruit would have been taken to the local tip.

apples Sept 17 2

Sunday 3 September 2017

Clearing my debts with firewood

firewood Sept 17

A friend has provided us with a huge stock of pigeons this year and we have been giving him jam as payment. However, we felt we were not paying enough so we have handed over a couple of barrow loads of firewood. Some of it came from the branches we have chopped off the hedgerows at the Whinnies, where the hawthorn has got out of control in recent years and is more tree that hedge. The rest of the wood was given to us by a friend who removes waste from people's homes. One of his customers had just had new decking installed so there was a pile of off cuts. Better to burn them for the heat than to put them into a landfill.

Jam sale at the Whinnies

jam sale at Whinnies Sept 17

We had another jam sale at the Whinnies Community Garden yesterday. A modest turnover but sadly no food swaps. We had to make do with selling jam for cash! We will be setting the date for the next sale shortly.

Dried nettles

dried nettles Sept 17

We are well on our way to having enough fodder for the goats to get us through the winter and into spring when the leaves start growing again on trees and hedgerows. Much of this is due to someone giving us spare hay from her stables but we are continuing to add to it nettles we have picked and dried. The goats love them and they grow in abundance. For the first time we hope to avoid having to buy in any goat feed. Progress at last!