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.