Thursday 30 November 2017

Out with the old

old fire Nov 17

We have a simple rule in our house - we get the maximum we can from the equipment we have. Just because something is old doesn't mean it should be thrown out. We keep it going until it has broken down and is beyond repair. We have slightly relaxed that rule today. Our back boiler, gas fire and immersion heater must be nearly 40 years old. The fire and boiler have been repeatedly condemned by gas fitters on the grounds they don't conform to modern standards (though they still work). But, we have accumulated a huge amount of firewood - branches left over after the goats have eaten the leaves and twigs. I think 40 years means there has been a good use of the heating system so it is being taken out today.

A new combi boiler will be installed. Alas, that does mean we are not self-sufficient in fuel for heating. We did look at having a heating and hot water system entirely wood fuelled but we would have the problem in the summer of an over heated house. The combi boiler will in effect be a back up to the wood fired stove which will go into our front room (it will be installed next week). It will heat the entire house and the radiators will only need to be on for short periods.

old boiler Nov 17

The problem today is that this is the coldest day of the year and we are without heat!


frozen Nov 17 2

We are having our coldest day of the year today. The water butts were frozen this morning. The ground was frozen. We were frozen! The ducks however seemed to be happy.

poultry on frozen ground Nov 17

Mini jam sale

Whickham market Nov 17

There was a mini Christmas market at the switching on of the Christmas lights in Whickham on Tuesday so we had a stall selling our jams. Lemon curd turned out to be quite popular.

Pigeon and pheasant casserole

pigeon and pheasant casserole Nov 17

We made a small dent in the stockpile of pigeon breasts. We made some into a casserole, along with some pheasant meat. We got three rather enjoyable meals from this.

Not a disaster but....

strawberry ice cream Nov 17

Another attempt has been made to use up the older contents of the freezers. In doing so we found some strawberry ice cream made in 2015. We decided to use it up. Alas, it wasn't the best of ice creams. It was far too watery. If memory serves me correctly, we made it from our goats milk at a time when it had very little cream in it.

It didn't go to waste. We ate it anyway.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Moving the chicks

fruit cage repaired Nov 17 (1)

The hen that hatched 3 eggs in September and then raised them along with another 5 chicks hatched in the incubator has been a great success. However she and her brood had become too big for the quail house. I took the decision to move them to the fruit cage which needed considerable repairs. These were carried out on Sunday morning and we also moved in a small henhouse though bits of it dropped off while we relocated it, resulting in a repair job. Once completed, we moved in the hen and chicks. They are all doing well and are enjoying the extra space.

Thursday 23 November 2017

Privet eating goats

goats eating privet Nov 17

There is a privet hedge in the car park of the Whinnies allotment and out of the goodness of my heart (and the chance of a free meal for the goats) I started cutting back the hedge. The goats love it.

Meatballs again

meat balls Nov 17

We found another bag of pork burgers we made about 3 years ago in the freezer. They were remade into meatballs. Very pleasant in a tomato sauce.

Fry up!

fry up Nov 17

An occasional treat - you can't beat a fry up. Leftover mashed potato, an egg and some onions, all fried.

Friday 17 November 2017

Interesting bottles from Il Gusto

Star fish bottle Nov 17

I was sent this rather interesting glass bottle filled with amaretto by Il Gusto who have a couple of pop up shops in the Metrocentre in Gateshead and Eldon Square in Newcastle. I'm on the hunt for interesting shaped bottles for my fruit liqueurs, syrups and vinegars so this star is going to be useful. However, if you would like to pop in to the pop up shops, buy yourself various liqueurs in glass bottles shaped into stilettos, stars and gingerbread men and when you've drunk the contents, pass on the empty bottles to me! I often find people have left empty jam jars and bottles for me on my doorstep. This will give a new twist to my recycling and reusing activities!

You can if you wish take the bottle back to Il Gusto and pay to have it refilled. As I've been banging on for years about the need to avoid single use packaging, this fits the bill.

Making sauerkraut

making saurkraut Oct 17 (1)

We have used some of this huge cabbage to make sauerkraut. This is the first time we have made it and it is currently fermenting in a couple of kilner jars. We will let you know how it turns out.

making saurkraut Oct 17 (2)

saurkraut Nov 17

Elderberry wine

elderberry wine brewing Nov 17

We tried to make some elderberry jelly recently but it refused to set. Instead of trying to pump more pectin in, we decided to use it to make elderberry wine instead. It's brewing quite nicely in a demijon at the moment.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

First frosts

frost Nov 17 (2)

We have had our first frosts of the autumn. The roof of the main henhouse was frosted over recently and on one day, all the water bowls were frozen. Today has been the reverse. It's been so warm this morning that the bees were out in force.

Lamb toad-in-the-hole

lamb toad in the hole Nov 17

The leftovers from the lamb joint we had recently was put to good use. We made it into toad-in-the-hole. The vegetables with it were runner beans in a tomato sauce.

Eating Ivy

goats eating ivy Nov 17 1

We are into the time of year when greenery for the goats is in short supply. However, they do like ivy and there is a reasonable amount of it around. So we have started to feed them a barrow load a day, along with apples, carrots and hay. They seem to be quite happy with this menu.

goats eating ivy Nov 17 3

Ivy Nov 17 1

The chicks are growing

chicks Nov 17 2

The 8 chicks being raised by a mother hen in the quail house are all growing well. They are over 2 months old now and their adult plumage is developing well. We will keep them in the quail house for a couple of months yet and then release them into the flock.

Pregnant goats

pregnant goat Nov 17 2

After a false start in September it now looks like both Spot and Georgina are pregnant. Assuming I'm right, and I haven't repeated the same mistake in September when I thought they were both pregnant when they weren't, I reckon they are about 3 months in and therefore babies should be due in the early new year.

pregnant goat Nov 17 1

Thursday 9 November 2017

Roast lamb again

roast lamb and vegetables Nov 17

We had another joint from the lamb we acquired through a swap recently. Roasted with vegetables, the meat fell away from the bone. Very nice!

Meat balls

meatballs Nov 17

We found a pack of pork sausagemeat in one of our freezers from about 3 years ago, when we last bought a pig. As are still on a drive to use up the older contents of the freezer, we made  meatballs. They went with a rather nice tomato sauce. Sadly, the pasta was not homemade.

Monday 6 November 2017

Collecting the hay

goats and hay Nov 17 2

We returned to High Spen yesterday to collect the hay - 10 bale in total. We would have loved to have produced the hay ourselves but we have had some major distractions this year which made fulfilling all our plans impossible. So buying in the hay was a necessity. At least we can now rest assured that we have secured the goats' feed supply until the spring.

goats and hay Nov 17 1

Bonfire Night

bonfire Nov 17

We had a large pile of branches from which the goats had eaten the leaves and twigs. It had built up over the past couple of months and was now getting in the way. So, to mark Guy Fawkes Night, we had a bonfire of the branches which I am delighted to report are no longer getting in the way!

Friday 3 November 2017

Sausages at High Spen

The Hop Garden in High Spen had a not-Bonfire-Night event tonight which I attended. Lots of people there I know from my self-sufficiency activities. A local farm was running a barbeque selling pork sausages from their own rare breed pigs. I guess after the evening that they were even rarer pigs! I discovered the farmer was, like me, a goat keeper. She also had hay for sale. A useful purchase was made. We need to go back for the hay on Sunday as we had turned up in our little Polo which would barely hold half a bale, never mind the 9 we bought! The land rover will therefore not be having Sunday off.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

Elderberry vinegar

elderberry vinegar Oct 17

Last month I picked a late crop of elderberries with the intention of using them to make red champagne. What I got was not what I planned. I left the elderberries in the fermenting bucket for too long. I now have 4 bottles of a very pleasant elderberry vinegar. Perfect in salad dressings or pickling red cabbage.

Pickling the waste cucumbers

cucumbers Oct 17

I wrote recently about how someone had put lots of perfectly good greenhouse produce into the compost bin on the Whinnies Community Garden. Having rescued as much as I could, I've now pickled all the cucumbers in a sweet pickling vinegar which I make for pickling gherkins etc. I will let them mature for a few weeks before using them but they are looking rather good!

pickled cucumber Oct 17

Sweet mince

sweet mince Oct 17

A bit later than I planned but I've now made a significant quantity of sweet mince. This was the opportunity to use up old jams and marmalades as well as pickled soft fruit, left over from making fruit liqueurs. I will leave the jars to stand for a few weeks before using the sweet mince but we will be making plenty of pies over the winter.