Saturday 29 December 2018

Walking the goats

What did you do on Boxing Day? We took the goats for a walk! A good way to burn off all those extra calories>

Christmas dinner

We don't really do Christmas in our house. We have rejected the consumerism and consumption that this festival has become. Thought we don't do presents and decorations, we do have Christmas dinner and we always aim to have as much of it produced by ourselves as possible. Apart from the flour used in the Yorkshire puddings, everything else was produced by us, or swapped for by use. Roast pork, sprouts, beetroot, potatoes, parsnips, Yorkshire puddings. Lovely!

Fried kidney for breakfast

We had one kidney to use up from our half pig so I had it for breakfast, chopped and fried. I love kidney and it is quite some time since we had this welcome addition to our diet. Fried with leftovers - a fantastic breakfast.

Making pork stock

We are continuing to extract everything we can from the half pig we got last month. The bones left over from the pork chops were boiled up to make pork stock. Two tubs are now in the freezer ready for making into soup.

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Making marrow chutney

We had some marrows that urgently needed to be used up. The result was a marrow chutney. I added a large amount of ground black pepper to ensure the chutney has quite a kick. They will go to our last fair of the year on Wednesday 19th December.

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - November

This is the November edition of Self-Sufficient in Suburbia, a month dominated by the need to create space in the freezer for the half pig that was due to arrive. We also had lots of mud and lots of jam-making!

Friday 14 December 2018

Waste nothing

I often bang on about the need to avoid waste and to think of any food waste as a resource rather than something to be thrown away. Any water in which vegetables have been boiled should be kept for use as a stock. Such water often contains lots of the nutrients from the vegetables. In the video above I use the water in which I had boiled beans as stock for vegetable soup.

Thursday 13 December 2018

Beans and booze

On Monday I spent some time in the kitchen making a couple of bean loaves (see previous post) and two jars of fruit liqueur. The latter were made from plums and rhubarb that had been in the freezer. Thawing them had caused much of the liquid content to run out. The rhubarb and plums were then simmered to release more of the juices and then everything was added to brandy with a bit of sugar. Instead of the usual 3 months, I expect these to be ready in two weeks.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Bean loaf

bean loaf Dec 18 1

We still have lots of broad beans in the freezer from last year and in the cupboard we have jars of dried beans we bought years ago. Time to start using them up. I soaked the dried beans on Sunday and we also thawed a bag of the broad beans. They were then boiled together to soften them and then mashed. To this mix were added bread crumbs, garlic, onion, olive oil (made by a friend of a friend from her own olives - we swapped for a couple of bottles) and a half bottle of hawberry ketchup I made back in 2009 and which has been on the shelf of the fridge door ever since.

The mix then went into loaf tins and into the oven for an hour at 180C.

A good end result.

bean loaf Dec 18 2

Monday 10 December 2018

Sustainable fuel

The wood store at home was getting a bit low so the chainsaw came back into operation yesterday and we chopped up lots of branches which were chopped from hedges and trees last year. They have had lots of time to dry out so are ready for burning in our stove at home - this appliance heats the whole house. The branches were initially fed to the goats. They eat the leaves, bark and twigs. What's left is fuel.

We still have lots of branches to chop up so we have plenty of fuel to get us through the winter.

Sunday 9 December 2018

Whickham Library fair

Yesterday I had a table at the Whickham Volunteer Library Christmas fair. Preserves on sale. Alas, people were asking for honey. We have some but it has not yet gone into jars. I could have doubled my turnover if I had some available. One fair left before Christmas. I'll aim to have the honey ready.

Reindeer looking strangely like goats

On Thursday I took 2 of our goats to the Christmas tree lights switch on in Sunniside where they were cunningly disguised as reindeer. They overdosed on Christmas carrots!

Sunniside Christmas lights switch on Dec 18 (10)

Sunniside Christmas lights switch on Dec 18 (4)

Sunniside Christmas lights switch on Dec 18 (3)

Sunniside Christmas lights switch on Dec 18 (1)

Plum, apple and rhubarb jam

On Wednesday I was back in the kitchen again, making jam. The plums and rhubarb recently taken out of the freezer were added to some of our vast stock of apples to create a preserve. Notice how we are running out of sensible size jam jars!

Friday 7 December 2018

Swalwell Fair

I took my preserves to another market on Tuesday - at Swalwell's Holy Trinity Church. Lots of people were there but 90% were below the age of 10. Sales therefore were not significant but a few mums and dads took home jam!

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Pig fat

The person who got the other half of our pig chopped much of the fat off the chops and offered it to me. This fat is a great resource for cooking and soap making. It will need to be rendered but that is a straightforward task. So watch this space for some interesting soap videos in the near future.

Taking the goats to Lobley Hill

On Saturday I took two of the goats to Lobley Hill Community Centre at the invitation of Groundwork, the environmental charity that runs the building. There was a Christmas fair taking place. Sadly, the rain was a bit of a problem. Coal and Perky however ate their way through a bucket of carrots and a cabbage. And they made lots of friends as well!

The pork arrives

On Friday last week, our half pig arrived. After weeks of creating space in the freezers, there was room for the 4 large joints, a stack of bacon joints and a load of chops with space to spare.

Making rhubarb chutney

We have loads of rhubarb in the freezer but we needed the freezer space for the imminent arrival of the half pig. So, I took out 6kg and made half into chutney. The other half is to be made into jam.

Mud and Mead

Rotten weather and too much rain means we are suffering from mud. I had to put pallets on the floor of the goat house as an emergency measure to keep the goats off the flooded floor.

Meanwhile, the monthly meeting of Tyneside Beekeepers was held. The speaker was a mead maker.

Game soup

The leftovers from the pot roasted game we recently had made a rather good soup recently. Alas, we made so much that we were getting a bit fed up with game soup every night. Some of it has now gone into the freezer.

Friday 30 November 2018

The pork arrives

Pork Nov 18 (1)

Earlier this year we bought a half share in a pig. It cost us 2 goat kids. On Wednesday, the pig went to slaughter and today, the meat arrived. We now have lots of bacon joints, a huge pile of chops, 4 gigantic joints and one kidney. Everything has gone into the freezer but we will be turning our hand to making bacon soon. There is a thick layer of fat so we will be rendering this down. The person who took the other half of the pig has chopped most of the fat off their meat and will us have it. We will pick it up on Sunday (when we will also be having pork chops for dinner).

Thursday 29 November 2018

Emmanuel College Christmas Fair

On Saturday I sold lots of preserves but not many eggs at the Emmanuel College Christmas fair in Gateshead.

Getting ready for the Emmanuel College Christmas fair

Last Saturday I was due at the Emmanuel College Christmas fair to sell my preserves. So on Friday, much time was spent in the kitchen making jam to sell.

Pot roast in beer - the video

This is the video I shot last week of how I made the pot roast game (duck, pheasant and pigeon breasts) in beer. It was a very large quantity made so we are still consuming it!

Thursday 22 November 2018

Pot roast game in chicken stock and beer

pot roast game in chicken stock and beer Nov 18

This is my dinner for tonight: pot roast chicken, duck and pigeon breasts in chicken stock and beer. All these ingredients, except the beer came out of the freezer so that we can free up space for the arrival of half a pig later this month. The beer was brewed last year but wasn't a great success. It is not going to be wasted however and so we will be adding it to whatever recipes we can use it for.

Tuesday 13 November 2018

Opening the Sunniside Fair

I was invited to open the Sunniside Methodist Hall fair on Saturday. The chapel are keen to carry out renovation work of the hall and to make it more accessible as a community asset and venue for meetings for local groups and organisations. I was quite chuffed to be asked to perform the opening. The hall is next to the Whinnies Community Garden where we keep our animals.

Soup and jam

My video diary from last Friday - I spent the evening in the kitchen making jam and soup. The jam made was the plum and apple mentioned in the previous post. The soup was made to use up contents from one of the freezers. The cauliflower leaves used were 4 years old! We need to get into the habit of checking the contents of the freezer more regularly.

How to make plum and apple jam

The urgency to create space in our freezers has stepped up a gear so I defrosted 3kg of plums recently and added in 2kg of apples from our stockpile. It made a great jam. The quantity of apples and plums relative to each other can be varied but make sure there is sufficient plum juice in which to simmer the apples. Use the same weight of sugar as weight of fruit.

Friday 9 November 2018

Plum and apple jam

Plum and apple jam Nov 18 (1)

We still have lots of plums in the freezers so 3kg of them went into making plum and apple jam earlier this week. I added them to 2 kg of chopped apples, boiled them up together and simmered them so the apples could cook in the plum juice. 5kg of sugar was then added. End result: 18 jars of jam.

Plum and apple jam Nov 18 (2)

Thursday 8 November 2018

Bramble jelly

bramble jelly Nov 18

Blackberries that had been in the freezer for a couple of months were defrosted and made into bramble jelly. The leftover pulp is still waiting to be used. It will be pressed through a sieve and the resulting puree will be added to some apples to make a seedless blackberry and apple jam.

Creating freezer space

Our 4 freezers are full but we are due half a pig later this month and we need to create freezer space to store it. So, out of one of the freezers came fruit, beans and stock, all of which have to be converted quickly into preserves or meals.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Wood fired oven

Yesterday we went along to a bonfire night event in the Hop Garden in High Spen. It was an opportunity to see their wood fired oven in operation. I was able to ask about how it was built and from what, and what effort and time is needed to operate it. I can see building our own oven as our next big project in 2019.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Not quite the colour of marmalade I was after

Last week I spent quite some time in the kitchen waiting for the orange marmalade I was making to set. It took ages. The result is that it was a bit caramelised though the flavour is not affected.

Monday 22 October 2018

Conspiracy theories, thriving bees and a poorly goat

In Gateshead a bunch of conspiracy theorists are convinced that non-existent 5G technology allegedly installed in lampposts are exterminating all insects and small birds while causing mass nosebleeds, cancer and death. They allege that the 5G technology (which does not exist in Gateshead) has been installed as part of a secret deal between Labour run Gateshead Council and the Conservative government to test a weapon system on the people of the area. And for good measure they argue that the Council has set up a funeral business to cash in on the extra deaths they claim will result from the alleged 5G technology. As far as conspiracy theories goes, this one has to be there near the top.

However, the conspiracy theorists claim that all my bees have died! They even tried to make this part of their case against an injunction sought by the Council against one of their ring leaders who has intimidated and harassed councillors (myself included) and council staff in their campaign against 5G. So, to help them in their journey back to the real world, I filmed the video above which shows my bees thriving, even in the middle of October, a month not well known for ideal foraging for bees.

And while I have had quite a few abusive message from the conspiracy theorists, none of them have yet responded to this video. I wonder why.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to report that Sunny, the goat that appeared in the video, is back in excellent health.

Making plum ketchup

We had a large quantity of plum puree to use up so I turned them into ketchup last week. I will be doing a hot version of this shortly, using some of the chilies we have grown. Watch this space.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Self-sufficient in Suburbia September 2018

My latest video from the world of self-sufficiency, covering September when we were chicken sitting, jam making and goat keeping. I also won a trophy for my game pie at the Bowes Show.

Friday 5 October 2018

Moving the quail

The quail chicks we hatched recently had outgrown the brooder box. It was time to move them to the quailhouse.

Wednesday 3 October 2018

How to make game pie

In September I made a game pie which won first prize at the Bowes Show. This video shows you how I made it.

Making Game Soup

I took more game out of one of our freezers to create more space: two pheasants, a partridge and some pigeon breasts. The pheasants and partridge have been boiled up and have now been stripped of their meat. The next stage will be to make the soup. That's to be done later today.

Green leaves and chopped logs

The end of the summer heatwave brought some much needed rain. The result was a great deal of new weed growth. So last week I was able to feed the goats and poultry on fresh grass, nettles, dock and dandelion.

Meanwhile, we got the chainsaw working again, thanks to our friend Steve. Lots of firewood was chopped but we still have plenty more logs waiting to be cut.

No chainsaw massacre

Last week we planned to use the chainsaw to chop up some of the recently acquired logs for firewood. Alas, we had a problem with the chainsaw. Chopping activities were put off until the problem was sorted.

Making red champagne - stage 2

Making red champagne moved onto the second stage of the process last week when the fermenting juice was bottled and corked. It will stand for a couple of weeks before we can crack open a bottle. I miscalculated the amount of juice I had so the extra 800ml was added to some vodka and sugar to make elderberry and blackberry fruit liqueur.

Plum puree

Last week I eventually processed all the plums we got in a recent food swap. They were boiled up and the juice extracted to make a fruit drink. The pulp was then pressed through a sieve to make a puree which is, at the moment, waiting to be turned into ketchup.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Packing the trunk

On Monday we returned to the fallen tree in Sunniside, this time with a chain saw. The trunk was chopped up and taken to the Whinnies Community Garden where it will be made into garden furniture. The smaller branches were chopped up for firewood.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - August

This is my latest Self-Sufficient in Suburbia video, covering August 2018. The heatwave had ended but the crops were coming in. Quails were hatching and a new baby goat was born.

Monday 24 September 2018

Another fallen tree

Yesterday we headed into the estate in Sunniside where we had received reports of another fallen tree. There we found a rowan on its side. We removed the branches and took them back to the allotment. The goats were very appreciative of this additional feed.

More apples

On Friday, a friend in Whickham invited us to clear the windfall apples from our garden. Lots of fruit to make into preserves with lots left over for goat food.

Friday 21 September 2018

The benefits of storm damage

We experienced a strong gale on Wednesday. The result was a number of trees and branches blown to the ground. The opportunity for free food for the goats and free firewood for our house could not be missed. Our thanks to Gateshead Council workmen who let us take 2 trailer loads of branches - but as they pointed out, by letting us have them, it saved the council the need to spend resources on disposing of them!

Saturday 15 September 2018

Making red champagne stage 1

I have never before made red champagne but have always wanted to try it. So yesterday I picked elderberries and blackberries to using champagne making. There area number of steps to the process. Yesterday, I pressed the fruit to extract the juice which has now gone into a fermenting bucket with sugar and a small amount of vinegar where it will remain for a few days. During the coming week it will be bottled - fermentation will continue in the bottles, giving it a fizz when opened.

Even more plums

We are not going to be short of plums this year! We have swapped for sack loads of them. And on Wednesday I went to Whickham to get yet more of them. So far we've used plums to make jam and chutney. Coming up soon will be plum ketchup.

Making plum and apple jam

Yet more jams were made last week. On Monday it was the turn of plum and apple jam to come off the production line. 24 jars were made. It wasn't the only activity in the kitchen. We boiled up  load of beans to make into a bean loaf. And the game pie was sliced up to be given away to friends with whom we have done swaps.

Not making hay when the sun shines

We made the mistake of not making hay when the heatwave was hitting us in June and July. When I took a look at the hay meadow next to Sunniside recently, it was obvious that there was no longer anything that was worthy of being made into hay. Sadly, we had to buy in some bales.

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Bowes Show

We had 14 entries in the various competitions at the Bowes Show on Saturday. On Friday I spent most of the day preparing them: pies, flans, loaves, sweets and so on had to be made.

I have never won anything in the pie making section before but at the show, not only did I win the best pie competition, it was awarded best in produce. That meant a special rosette and a trophy which, sadly, I have to return next year.

Castrating the kids

Last Thursday we took the two billy kids born earlier this year to the vet for castrating. One of them is to go to a friend as a pet. The other has a future still to be decided. He was castrated so that if necessary he can be slaughtered at the end of the year - time enough to remove the taint to the taste of the meat.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Spare hawthorn

hawthorn Sept 18

Lots of useful things are left outside our gate for us. Recently, someone left a large hawthorn branch covered with leaves and berries. A useful meal for the goats.

goats eating hawthorn Sept 18

Chicken, leek and mushroom pie

chicken and mushroom pie Sept 18 (1)

This was dinner last night (and for tonight as well): chicken, leek and mushroom pie. The meat was from one of the chickens killed by a fox in March. We didn't want to waste it. The leeks were locally grown (by a friend!) but the mushrooms came from a supermarket. We haven't grown mushrooms for years, something I intend changing soon. I added some stock made from chicken and lamb bones (the lamb was the one I got last year). All-in-all a successful meal.

chicken and mushroom pie Sept 18 (3)

chicken and mushroom pie Sept 18 (4)

Plum chutney

plum chutney Sept 18 (1)

We urgently need to use up the plums we have picked recently so as I write, I can report that 3kg of them are currently being made into chutney. I am filming this so I'll post up the recipe with the video. It's about the simplest chutney recipe I've ever used.

Hen sitting rescue chickens

A friend of ours took delivery of 10 rescue chickens last week. Timing was not great as she was due to go on holiday this weekend, but the supply of rescue chickens was not within her control. The solution therefore is for us to hen sit the birds. All 10 have been moved to our allotment for the next three weeks. Apart from spending about half an hour on Saturday evening searching every hidden corner to find where they were roosting (we eventually found them all and moved them to the big henhouse) they have settled in well. They are also clearly recognizable for their lack of feathers. These will grow back but the state of them does raise questions about the cost to animals of the production of cheap, mass-produced food.

Monday 3 September 2018

Blackberry gin

blackberry gin Sept 18

Blackberries are abundant this year so we've started picking them. Their first use is in making blackberry gin. We need to wait 3 months before we can start drinking it, just in time for those dark winter evenings!

Beetroot soup

beetroot soup Aug 18

We dug up our first beetroot recently. They made a nice soup. There are plenty more waiting to be harvested. Beetroots are quite versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes. Watch this space.

Green tomato chutney

green tomato chutney Sept 18

My first cooking job of the day is now underway: green tomato chutney. My recipe is:

  • 1kg green tomatoes (and an few reds)
  • 500g apples
  • 500g onions
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 250g soft brown sugar
  • 300ml cider vinegar
The pan is simmering away now. Finished product expected in a couple of hours.

Sunday 2 September 2018

Picking the apple crop

There is a good apple crop this year and on Friday we started picking the apples at Watergate Park in Lobley Hill, just down the road from where we live. Most were crab apples but there were some eaters as well. There is such an abundance of the fruit this year that we will be making lots of preserves and giving them to the goats as fodder through the winter.

Friday 31 August 2018

Feeding the bees and cleaning the quail house

Yesterday we fed all of our hives after we found one of them in which most of the bees had died. This is the only hive from which we have taken honey this year and we assumed that there was still plenty of foraging for the bees. However it could be that the colony has starved, hence the reason we decided to feed all the hives.

Meanwhile, the quail house was cleared out in advance of the move of the quail chicks from the brooder box.

Baby steps around the allotment

Our new baby goat has emerged from the goathouse and is exploring the allotment.

Feeding the goats as the autumn approaches

We don't buy in food for the goats from the spring to the autumn as there is plenty for us to forage for them. However, though we are continuing to pick willowherb, it is now past its best and will probably last just another fortnight. The hawthorn is still abundant and will last at least until October and hopefully beyond. We are already planning the feed for the goats during the autumn and winter.

How to make strawberry jam

We had lots of strawberries this year and froze them in the summer when we picked them. We now urgently need the freezer pace so the strawberries have been thawed and made into jam. The recipe used was the basic and traditional one: strawberries simmered; juice of two lemons per kilo of strawberries added; when pulped, add one kilo of sugar for each kilo of fruit; bring back to the boil; keep on a rolling boil until the setting point is reached (ie a spoonful of jam sets on a saucer); then add to hot sterilised jars.

Tuesday 28 August 2018


acorns Aug 18

I noticed tonight that there is a reasonable quantity of acorns on the local oak trees. We may start gathering them soon as feed for Steve's three pigs (half of one of them is for us as payment for the two nanny goat kids he got from us).

The baby emerges

goat and baby Aug 18 (3)

Our new goat baby emerged from the goat house today. He's had quite an enjoyable time exploring the allotment and running around, closely watched by mum Georgina. We will, however, have to start milking her soon.

Stuffed marrow

marrow stuffed with ricotta Aug 18

We are continuing to sort through the contents of our various freezers to use up our supplies. I recently found a large tub of ricotta cheese we made a couple of years ago from our goat milk. Last night we had baked marrow stuffed with ricotta for dinner.

Sunday 26 August 2018

First kid of the season born

On Friday evening, Georgina gave birth to the first kid of the season, a billy. Both are doing well.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Testing the outdoor stove

We borrowed an outdoor, wood-fired stove from a friend recently and on Sunday we tried it out for the first time. I made a bean casserole. The stove was much easier to light and use than I expected. More use of this way of cooking will be made in the future.

Sunday 19 August 2018

Swalwell fair - video

I filmed this yesterday at the Swalwell community fair. The goats are the real stars, not me!

Fallen Oak

We are always on the outlook for leafy branches fallen from trees. They are great sources of feed for the goats. We spotted a large oak branch that had come down through the week near the bottom of Watergate Bank, a couple of km from where we live. It was too good an opportunity. There was so much that we ended up leaving half of it to collect on another day.

How to make fruits of the forest jelly

Last week I made fruits of the forest jelly - this is my recipe for using up the wild fruits that are abundant this time of year in the local woodland. Roughly speaking, it is made from cherries (which provide the liquid - though some water needs to be added as well), rosehips, rowan and apples. Boil them up and simmer until it all turns into a wet pulp, then strain. The resulting liquid should then be boiled. Add a kg of sugar for each litre of liquid. Once a dollop sets on a plate, add to hot, sterilised jars.

The 4 fruits I used are just examples. There are many others to use as well, especially blackberries, which are now ripening in abundance. However, I opted not to use them as we had plenty of ingredients. The blackberries will be appearing instead in bramble jelly, pies, fruit liqueurs, jam, crumbles, etc, etc, etc!

Saturday 18 August 2018

Recent preserves

redcurrant jelly Aug 18

As we had the Swalwell fair today, we have spent a bit of time this week making more preserves to sell. So I thought I'd post up a few pics of what we've been making. Above, redcurrant got the jelly. We got the redcurrants from the Hop Garden in High Spen. David and Sarah, who run the garden, asked people to pick the fruit as it was ready but they were on holiday. Rather than letting it go to waste, people were encourage to pick them.

lemon curd Aug 18

Lemon curd: always a good seller at the community fairs where we sell our wares.

fruits of the forest jelly Aug 18 (2)

Fruits of the forest jelly: a combination of cherries (late this year), rosehips, rowan and apples, all growing in local woodland. I've made a video about this preserve which will be posted shortly.

Gift of a greenhouse

A lady who recently moved into our village offered us the old greenhouse that was in her back garden. The only problem was dismantling it. We managed after a struggle to take it apart and move it to the Whinnies. It will be rebuilt over the winter once we have decided on the exact location and prepared the ground. In the meantime, I must take the lady a thank you gift of some homemade jams.

Shelling beans

shelled beans Aug 18 (2)

We were given 2 bucketfuls of french beans earlier this week. They were meant for the goats. While the pods were passed it, the beans inside were fine so we shelled them, kept the beans for ourselves and fed the pods to the goats. I will be making a bean casserole shortly.

shelled beans Aug 18 (1)

Swalwell fair

Swalwell fair Aug 18

The annual community fair in Swalwell was held today and we were there with 2 goats (Perky and Coal) and lots of preserves and eggs. It seemed relatively quiet but we did a brisk trade. We sold out of eggs, most of the lemon curd went and strawberry jam was popular as well.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia July 2018

Latest from the world of self-sufficiency: the heatwave continued through July, the pond was renovated and duck run rebuilt, honey bee swarms were collected and visits paid to local fairs and flower shows.

Sunday 5 August 2018

Cherry picking

We have a late cherry crop this year, probably caused by the late winter delaying the cherry blossom in the early spring. Through the week I picked a bucket of cherries. This is the latest I have ever picked cherries. We normally gather them in June and have to race to beat the wood pigeons to them.

Thursday 2 August 2018

Ducklings integrating well

Our ducklings had spent their first night on the allotment. They had settled in well. I'm hoping they will integrate well with the bigger group of ducks. Meanwhile, there seemed to be a brake in the heatwave. Rain had been falling for a couple of days. And finally - someone left a sack of marrows outside our gate. We still don't know who our benefactor was.

Perky and Coal in Whickham

Goats at St Marys Whickham Jul 18

We were invited recently by St Mary's Church to bring some goats to their flower show. Coal and Perky were chosen for this special outing. They were remarkably well behaved!

Monday 30 July 2018

Bean loaf

bean loaf and potatosalad Jul 18

The battle to recover storage space for our forthcoming crops meant we did another check through our four freezers recently. I found a bag of broad beans so I turned them into a bean loaf. I also had a load of quail eggs laid in May and June and potatoes from last year to use up. A salad was the result.

Adding the ducklings to the flock

The three ducklings hatched a few weeks ago were big enough to be moved to the allotment to join the other ducks there. I put them yesterday in the newly refurbished duck run and they took immediately to the refurbished pond.

More work on the duck run

Work continued on Friday on rebuilding the duck run. The wire netting was added to the posts and the gate was built.


wild raspberries Jul 18

We have had a good raspberry crop this year but while walking in the local meadow, I spotted lots of wild raspberries ripe for picking. I will be back soon to gather them. So far, most of the raspberries from the allotment have gone into the freezer. Jam making is to follow soon.

Friday 27 July 2018

Rebuilding the duck run

Our duck run needs replacing. The netting over the run is constantly being repaired and stitched up. The holes in it are a security risk as the foxes can get through. Rolling back the netting to let the ducks out in the morning and then rolling it back in the evening and placing bricks along the edge of the netting every evening is a pain.

So we have started rebuilding the run. It is much bigger, includes the pond and is being built around the existing run which will stay in use until the new run is completed, hopefully in the next few days.

Whinnies BBQ

The volunteers who help run the Whinnies Community Garden had a BBQ on Tuesday to celebrate the birthdays of two helpers. My job was to supply the pigeon and pork burgers. A good event enjoyed by all.

Thursday 26 July 2018

A bee swarm at the Hop Garden

David and Sarah, who run the Hop Garden in High Spen, Gateshead, contacted me last week to tell me there was a bee swarm next to their gate. So in the evening we popped up with our swarm box. We collected the swarm but had to leave the box overnight so that the remaining bees could find their way to it. It meant a return at 5am to collect the box. The swarm was then successfully added to a hive on our Farside plot.

Many thanks to David and Sarah for the tip off.

How to make gooseberry chutney

We've picked lots of gooseberries recently. We've made various types of jam with them but we've also made them into chutney. It has a tart edge to it and is good with smoked foods such as fish, meat or cheese.

Saturday 7 July 2018

Giving the quail chicks an adoptive mother

With 13 quail chicks having hatched, I decided to give them an adoptive mother. We took a quail hen we thought was broody from the quail house to the brooder box in the hope she would adopt the chicks. The problem was she was in no mood to adopt and she remained separate from the brood.

Gooseberries and quail chicks

Recently our gooseberry crop was ready to pick. We got most of them in but we are yet to pick the wild gooseberries near our allotment. On the same day, our quail chicks hatched.

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Making pigeon sausagemeat

We took delivery of more pigeons recently from a friend so we made them into sausagemeat. I added in a jar of orange sauce (it started off life as marmalade that failed to set), onions, breadcrumbs and some cayenne pepper.

Friday 22 June 2018

Still with rubbish

We are doing a gradual clear out of rubbish from our garden and allotments. On Monday I filled the land rover. Much of what we are getting rid of I am determined should be recycled. Annoyingly, when I arrived at the waste disposal site, the queue to get in was right down the street. I didn't have time to wait. The result was the rubbish sat in the land rover for two days. I'm pleased to report the land rover has now been emptied as on Wednesday I was able to get to the tip.

Avalanche of goat food

hawthorn tree felled June 18

Last night I started felling the hawthorn trees on the hedgeline on the Whinnies Farside on the section left untouched last year. I brought down two large trees and there was sufficient to feed the goats yesterday evening and for the whole of today.  This morning, I discovered one of the Whinnies allotment holders had trimmed much of his hawthorn hedge (it wasn't out of control like the Farside) and he had left the trimmings for the goats. And a few minutes ago, Mam phoned to tell me that she has two sacks of weeds (mainly goosegrass) from her back garden.

So we have something of an over-supply of goat food today!

Veggie burgers

veggie burgers June 18 (1)

Just a quick look at the veggie burgers we made recently. I was worried they would turn out rather bland but the addition of a bit of paprika, cayenne pepper and black pepper gave them a bit of a kick. We will be making more once the bean crops are in.

veggie burgers June 18 (2)

Thursday 21 June 2018

Releasing the chicks

Georgina, our boss goat, broke into the chick run on Sunday, damaging the door and resulting in the chicks and the mother hen getting out into the allotment. We have decided to let them continue to roam rather than convert the fruit cage into a large chick run. In the past we have had mixed results when letting mother hens and their chicks roam freely around the allotment. Sometimes there are no problems. Other times chicks can fall victim to predators such as rats. Hopefully this time they will be fine.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Quail egg and vegetable curry

quail egg curry June 18

Our quails are continuing to pump out more eggs than we can cope with so they are featuring in all sorts of meals. This is the quail egg and vegetable curry we made recently. It did for three meals so we were a bit curried-out by the end of it.

Monday 18 June 2018

Rendering lamb fat

rendering lamb fat June 18 1

The fat from the lamb joint we had recently was not going to be wasted. We also had some lamb skins, bones and lumps of fat in the freezer from previous meals. All of it went into the pan with some water to boil it and then simmer for a few hours to render the fat. Nothing wasted.

rendering lamb fat June 18 2

Sunday 17 June 2018

Lamb curry

lamb curry June 18

Some of the meat from one of the joints left over from our recent BBQ was put to use in this rather nice curry. Alas, the curry sauce itself was bought from our local corner shop but most of the vegetable ingredients were grown by us.

Saturday 16 June 2018

Wild gooseberries

Yesterday (Friday) I found that the goats had eaten their way through the whole branch brought down by Storm Hector on Thursday. When I was collecting more leaves for feed for the goats on a derelict allotment on the Whinnies, I discovered lots of gooseberries growing wild. I will be back soon to pick them.

Blown off branch

Storm Hector did less damage yesterday than we feared though one very large branch came off a hawthorn tree in another allotment at the Whinnies. Put it another way: this was a large meal for my goats!

Friday 15 June 2018

Preparing for Storm Hector

Storm Hector was due to hit us on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning. Some preparations were needed, not helped by my having to attend a meeting in Gateshead. Extra bricks were placed around the polytunnel to weigh it down. And extra food for the goats was picked. In the end, we had the gale, but very little rain.

Thursday 14 June 2018

The chick run

We have a hen with 10 chicks houses in a small henhouse. We have 3 other hens sitting on eggs. At some point soon we will need a good size chick run. We will be using the fruit cage for this so I made a start in preparing it for its new occupants. The nettles were stripped out (and fed to the goats) so that the netting can be checked. There's still much to do but we are aiming to have this job put to bed by early next week.

Wednesday 13 June 2018


willowherb June 18

Willowherb is a very common weed in the UK and has the added bonus of being one of the goats' favourite foods. It has now grown sufficiently to make it worthwhile picking it. The goats now get a full barrow load of it twice a day.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

5th swarm of the season

Yesterday we had the 5th honey bee swarm of the season. It formed up on the hedge on our animal allotment. It was relatively easy to catch.

Not logged on

On Sunday we attempted to chop up the privet logs and branches we cut from the hedges in the winter. Alas, the chainsaw was not being helpful. The blades on the chain need sharpening. The job has therefore been delayed again. I did however manage to cut down 2 hawthorn trees on our Farside allotment. The provided a full day's food for the goats.

Monday 11 June 2018

New chicks

We are not allowed to keep cockerels on our land so we have to buy hatching eggs when any of our hens go broody. This can be quite expensive (the eggs are £2 each) so when we have a whole batch of 12 eggs fail to hatch (4 of the eggs were destroyed in the nest box), we have to look at other ways to raise chicks that is more economical. When the eggs failed to hatch under a broody hen last week, we decided to buy her 10 chicks, average price £5.80 each. All 10 were adopted by the hen and they are all doing well.

We did recently get some hatching eggs in a swap but this is a limited source. The solution will be to find someone who we can supply hatching eggs closer to home for swaps rather than cash. In the meantime, we are giving any new broody hens (we had one yesterday) old eggs which will not be a loss if they are broken and when the incubation period is about to end, we will buy chicks and then give them to the hen, taking away the old eggs. It is not the cheapest of options but it avoids the large losses we have on buying hatching eggs.

chicks June 18 1

chicks June 18 2

Sunday 10 June 2018

How to make lamb stock

The bones from the lamb joints used in our recent BBQ, along with some lamb bones in the freezer, were boiled up to make stock. This is a simple process. Put the bones in a pan along with a couple of onions and a handful of fresh rosemary.We also added some leeks which urgently needed using up. Then cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of hour and then strain.

We will be making lamb soup later this coming week using the stock.

3rd swarm of the year

bee swarm June 18 1

On Wednesday we had our third swarm of the year. This one came from our Farside allotment which means that one of the hives there had swarmed twice in the last couple of weeks. The swarm was relatively easy to catch though it required a bit of gymnastics and balancing to get it. It had formed up in a tree but I was able to shake it off into the swarm box which David was holding above his head while standing on a chair! The swarm was rehoused on our livestock allotment.

bee swarm June 18 2

bee hives June 18 1

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Tyneside beekeepers apiary visit

Tyneside Beekeepers Association, of which we are members of the executive committee, has an apiary at the former Gateshead Central Nursery. A training day for new beekeepers was held on Saturday. I turned up, complete with camera, to record the event.

Another swarm

We recently had a second bee swarm. Unlike the first swarm which rehoused itself in a spare hive, this one was more trouble. It formed up at the top of our apple tree on our Farside allotment. I spent a merry time on the top of a chair with a long arm set of loppers to chop off the branch with the swarm on it. It fell onto a sheet on the ground and I put a cardboard box over it. When I came back half an hour later, I found quite a few bees in the box but a large cluster of bees still at the top of the apple tree. Yet more standing on chairs and use of loppers followed. The cluster dropped to the ground and I left them, thinking the queen was in the hive - the other bees would follow her inside.

Alas, that was not the case. Virtually the whole swarm was sitting on the front of the hive when I returned a couple of hours later. It was still there in the evening. I took the decision to intervene, swept the bees into a box and then tipped them into the hive. It seems I was wrong about the location of the queen. She must have been on the outside of the hive rather than inside.

The good news is that the colony is now well settled in the hive and is very busy.

Swapping two kids for half a pig

Last week we sold two of our goat kids, the two nannies. They aren't going far, just across the hedge into the next allotment where Steve and Vicky, the new allotment holders, have decided to start keeping goats. And the price to be paid (at the end of this year)?: half a pig. Steve and Vicky are also planning to keep pigs so this was an ideal opportunity for a great swap.

Friday 1 June 2018

Swapping for hatching eggs

Sadly we aren't allowed to keep cockerels. We had another 2 hens turn broody so we bought 6 hatching eggs from the Hop Garden where they do have cockerels. The cost of the eggs was 3 jars of chutney.

Northumberland County Show

On Monday we attended the Northumberland County Show. This was the first time we had been to the Show since it moved from Corbridge. A good time had by all. Lots of livestock to see. I need to give serious consideration to entering the jam making competitions next year.

Self-sufficient BBQ

BBQ pork and pigeon burgers May 18

We have four freezers full of food which we urgently need to use up before this year's crops start to roll in. So on Sunday, we had a family BBQ in the hope that we could shift some of our stocks of food. Our pork and pigeon burgers went down well, as did the three lamb joints. However, we have only scratched the surface. It looks like we will have to have lots more BBQs over the summer.

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Bee swarm houses itself

This is the dream scenario of beekeeping. We put a great deal of effort into checking for swarms from our hives. When one does form up, we put lots of effort into collecting it and then rehousing it into another hive. Wouldn't it be fantastic if a swarm rehoused itself in a spare hive.

That's exactly what happened on Sunday!

Monday 21 May 2018

Ladybirds galore

ladybirds May 18

There are lots of ladybirds on the meadow at Lotties Wood, next to the Whinnies where we keep our animals. Presumably they have hibernated over the winter and have recently emerged, ready to eat lots of aphids. They are much better than using pesticides!

A big hit with the students

We took 3 goats to Whickham School on Friday: Coal, Perky and Whinnie Too. This was part of a project on tackling mental health issues. 6th formers were seeing if petting animals makes people feel better. It seems it does! Hundreds of children came along and handled and fed the goats. and of course, hundreds of photos were taken by them.

Spot improves

Overnight on Tueday/Wednesday Spot's health improved. Through Wednesday she was eating, though not with her usual degree of enthusiasm. I can report however that she has now fully recovered and is making up for lost time by eating ever more amounts of grass and leaves.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Spot poorly

Spot, our 2 year old nanny, was ill on Tuesday evening. We gave her some cooking oil to try to settle her stomach but after she started vomiting, we called the vet who treated her at around 10pm. At midnight she was also looking a bit better. All this is covered in the video diary above. Also included as bits about making citrus jelly and using the incinerator.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Hop Garden

I visited the Hop Garden on Sunday for a plant swap event. I took quail and duck eggs to swap for herbs and tomatoes. Back home and I found another hen had gone broody.

Monday 14 May 2018

Hatching eggs

hatching eggs May 18

These are the hatching eggs I bought on Friday: 6 cream legbars (the green eggs) and 6 rhode island reds. Two hens are now sitting on them.

A second hen goes broody

A second of our hens has gone broody. On Friday we bought hatching eggs to give to one bird with another 6 set to go into an incubator which we have now given instead to the 2nd bird.

Hatching eggs

One of our hens had gone broody so on Friday we headed down to Durham hens to get some hatching eggs and 6 new hens to replenish our flock following losses to the local fox earlier this year.

Saturday 12 May 2018

Video - goat school and broody hen

On Thursday I was contacted by Whickham School, the secondary I attended back in the 70s and early 80s, to ask me if I would bring some goats to the school next week as part of a 6th form project to tackle mental health issues. The students want to look at how petting animals helps people's mental health. I have agreed to take 2 kids and an adult nanny next Friday.

Meanwhile, one of our chickens has gone broody.

Friday 11 May 2018

A wrecked henhouse

The goats managed to wreck one of our henhouses on Sunday. We replaced it with one of the unused sheds.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia March-April

Our latest video from the word of self-sufficiency, covering late March and April: 2 hives dead and 4 chickens lost to foxes but on the plus side, 5 baby goats growing rapidly.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Hay donation

hay May 18

Someone left a pile of hay for us outside our gate. It has now gone into the hay store. It will be a useful back up for our goats - if we can't get out to pick hawthorn, leaves and grass for them due to the weather, we have to provide them with an alternative.

Hawthorn for the goats

hawthorn May 18

One of the great points about May is that there are sufficient leaves on the hawthorn hedges to make it worthwhile to start trimming the hedges to feed the goats. I made a start last week. The large branches are not yet ready but within a couple of weeks we should be able to make a start on chopping them back as well.  This is of course great news for the goats (they love hawthorn) and for my bank account (no more buying hay and carrots for the goats).

goats eating hawthorn May 18 (2)