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!