Thursday 28 December 2017

Twiggy earth

earth and sticks Dec 17 (1)

The ground has been frozen today, putting a halt to a job that has been outstanding for some time. During the months when the trees are in leaf, we feed branches to the goats. People also bring us their hedge clippings. By the autumn, the twigs have built up on the ground and have got mixed up with mud and manure. The ground level has been raised by about 10cm and this is making it difficult to open the gate! So, a few days ago, I started to dig out the offending twigs and muck. It is a slow job and the resulting barrow loads of to waste need to be disposed of in a useful way.

On the far side of the Whinnies Garden our new apiary is sited and the ground level there has already been raised after piles of sticks and soil were added. It is the ideal site for the twiggy waste so I am gradually moving it there. 10 barrow loads have so far been transferred but because of the freezing weather, finishing the job will have to wait. I reckon there are about 20 barrow loads another to go.

earth and sticks Dec 17 (2)

Pregnant Pinkie?

Pinkie the goat Dec 17

I think Pinkie is pregnant. She is looking a bit pear shaped. She may not be as advanced as Georgina and Spot but hopefully, possibly in about 3 months, she will be having babies. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

The history of the Yule log

I filmed this video on Christmas eve, wearing both my historian's, and my self-sufficiency, hats. Living self-sufficiently has given me a better understanding on social history. Why people did things hundreds of years ago which now seem odd seem quite sensible to me now that I have experience of food growing, keeping the house warm by collecting our own fuel and cooking using only local ingredients.

In this living history video I explain the Viking origins of the Yule log. My thanks to my goats who also had cameo roles.

Monday 25 December 2017

Roast wild goose

wild goose and pigeon meat stuffing Dec 17 (2)

This was our Christmas dinner - roast wild goose with pigeon meat stuffing. When we last had a wild goose, we discovered it had very little fat on it, unlike the domesticated varieties. This time we added goose fat though we had to buy this rather than produce it ourselves (we need grazing land to keep geese so until we can crack that problem, we won't be keeping any.)

The final result was superb.

wild goose and pigeon meat stuffing Dec 17 (3)

wild goose and pigeon meat stuffing Dec 17 (4)

Pigeon meat stuffing

pigeon meat stuffing Dec 17

I came up with the idea of making pigeon meat into stuffing as a way of making a modest inroad into the glut we have in the freezer. This is my recipe:

  • 8 pigeon breasts, minced
  • equal volume of breadcrumbs
  • one onion chopped
  • fresh thyme and sage to taste
  • one small jar of hedgerow jelly
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • a sprinkling of cooking oil
Mix together and then shape into small balls or stuff into a bird for roasting.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Yule log

Yule log Dec 17 (1)

Today we made our own Yule log. This is the first time we have ever made one and we have the added bonus of being able to burn it on our own wood-fired stove. In old Viking tradition it was decorated with greenery - ivy and holly. The ashes will be scattered on the allotment where we grow our fruit and veg. The Festival of Yule, based around the the winter solstice, is meant to bring us prosperity and good health in the year ahead. We could do with it!

Yule log Dec 17 (2)

Tuesday 19 December 2017

Vegetable and bean broth

vegetable and bean broth Dec 17

We had a good crop of broad beans this year so we used some to make vegetable and bean broth recently. It also gave us an opportunity to use up some of our potatoes - we have 4 sacks of them in our garage. We ended up making a large pan of broth and ended up having it for dinner three days in a row.

Blackcurrant vodka

blackcurrant vodka Dec 17

Another forgotten kilner jar of fruit liqueur was discovered in our garage recently. So I have been enjoying the occasional glass of blackcurrant vodka drunk responsibly at the weekend. Very pleasant and nicely matured - it was made in 2014.

Monday 18 December 2017

Potato and onion soup

potato and onion soup Dec 17

This was a hot meal in a hurry: potato and onion soup. The potatoes used were small red-skinned Albert Bartlet roosters. The larger ones are good for baking so we will be keeping them for that. Alas, we bought the stock cubes that were used so we weren't being entirely self-sufficient.

Cold snap

goats in snow Dec 17 (3)

I appreciate that I have many followers in places far colder than my home area of the North East of England, especially in Canada and the USA. The cold snap we are experiencing here is, for us, something that we haven't had in the late autumn and the winter for some years. Somehow our winters have been getting warmer. Our climate has been more like a long autumn. Until now. We have woken up to frost an ice every morning for the week. We've even had a bit of snow. This may seem positively tropical to my friends in Canada but for us, we feel the conditions are rather arctic! Nevertheless, our slight sprinkling of snow did not stop the goats from stealing the chicken food!

goats in snow Dec 17 (2)

snow Dec 17

chickens in snow Dec 17

Sunday 17 December 2017

Lighting the fire

firewood and kindling

On Monday last week we brought back to our house our first wheelbarrow of firewood and kindling. Our stove was at last ready to use. Time to light our first fire. It has been pouring out lots of free, sustainable heat ever since. The central heating has barely been used. Our use of gas has dropped significantly! That makes me very happy!

wood fired stove Dec 17 3

Friday 8 December 2017

Quail egg and mackerel salad

quail egg and mackeral salad Dec 17

We still have lots of quail eggs to use up. I used 48 to make a salad yesterday along with some of our pink fur apple potatoes. We then cheated by using bought smoked mackerel. A good combination.

Lamb chops

lamb chops Dec 17

Another minor inroad was made into our meat mountain recently. Lamb chops grilled. Very pleasant!

Plum Vodka

plum vodka Dec 17

We were sorting though our garage recently and found various jars of fruit liqueur made in 2014 which were subsequently forgotten. Not now! This (now vintage) glass (see above photo) is plum vodka. After three years it still tastes good!

Busy bees

beehives Dec 17 2

Last week we had warm, dry weather. As a result, our bees were out in force. There isn't a great deal of foraging for them at the moment though the ivy is flowering. It probably means the bees are burning more calories than they are collecting in nectar. It's all change today. We are suffering from a cold spell. The ground is frozen and there is not a bee in sight.

beehives Dec 17 1

Game season underway

ducks Dec 17

The season for game shooting is clearly well underway. We know that because we found these two ducks left for us hanging on our allotment gate. They will be plucked and gutted shortly and will go into the freezer for the time being.

Emmanuel College Fair

Emmanuel College Fair Dec 17

On Saturday we did our last market of the year at Emmanuel College, a couple of kilometres down the road from where we will. It was relatively quiet this time but we picked up a few useful contacts. We have, however, 10 jars of unsold lemon curd which has a short shelf life. We will be looking for homes for them.

Wood-fired stove

wood fired stove Dec 17

Hooray, it's in. Our new wood-fired stove was finally installed this morning. It will pump out enough heat to keep most of the house warm so we won't need to use the gas-fired central heating very much. The fuel comes from the branches left over from feeding the goats. They eat the leaves, twigs and bark. We have been building up a stock of fuel for three years so we have a good supply.

I'm really looking forward to lighting our first fire. That will be in a couple of days once the plaster has dried out.