Friday 20 December 2019

Working the new land

getting rid of weeds Dec 19

We have now started work on preparing the small holding for next year. We took the land rover down there yesterday loaded with manure and garden waste. We also took the old pond liner. We are planning to put in ponds on the small holding but the reason for this liner was to use it to kill grass and weeds. It is too tattered and brittle to use for building ponds. Instead, it was laid out on the ground where the potatoes will be planted to kill the grass and weeds. We also used a tarpaulin, some dumpy bags and feed sacks in which the manure was brought to the site. We had already removed some branches from trees in the hedge and these were used to weight down the liner etc. We need more as the area we will be using for growing potatoes will be much bigger. Our plan is to grow potatoes for ourselves and as a cash crop. After all, we now have lots of land to be able to grow crops for sale.

In late winter the liner and sacks will be removed and we will run the rotovator over the land and add the manure we brought down (there's lots more to come!)

Yesterday we also measured out the area we will be using for the first goat and pig paddocks. The aim is to get the pigs in early spring, once the worst of the winter weather is behind us.

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia November 2019

This is the November edition of Self-Sufficient in Suburbia. We secured our winter fuel supply; sadly we lost one of our goat kids despite the best efforts of the vet; we had exceptionally heavy rain which was even a problem for our ducks; we started work on the small holding but DEFRA rules had to be obeyed and we ended the month with even more mud.

Friday 13 December 2019

Converting waste into resources

This video was filmed in October. Much of our activities that month centred on converting waste into resources. For example, we swapped jam for people's empty jam jars, grapefruit skins were made into marmalade, a barrowload of mint destined for the compost heap was made into mint jelly and windfall leaves were swept up and fed to the goats. Meanwhile, I explain why we have stopped using tea bags (they are full of plastic fibres) and we officially became owners of a small holding near our house in Sunniside.

Saturday 30 November 2019


Frozen allotment Nov 19 (4)

We had our coldest night of the season last night (and it look like it will be worse tonight). It took sometime to thaw out padlocks (in my hands) and break the ice that was stopping henhouse doors from opening! It will be interesting to see how things are tomorrow morning but at least the animals have a hard surface to walk on, a pleasant change from the mud of the past month.

Frozen allotment Nov 19 (3)

Frozen allotment Nov 19 (2)

Frozen allotment Nov 19 (1)

Planting willow

planting willow Nov 19

A friend gave us about 30 willow stalks earlier this month. There are some gaps in the hedge on the south side of the small holding so we planted them there. The ground close to some of the gaps is quite wet at the moment due to the recent heavy rains but in future, the willow will be useful for soaking up the excess water. The exercise conjured up thoughts of basket making in the future. It could be a useful skill to learn!

Video: Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - September

Another slightly late video but this one is from September - we head to the Bowes Show and unexpectedly won  some prizes, more jam is made and the quail house floor needs cementing.

Friday 22 November 2019

Video: Self-Sufficient in Suburbia - August

This is a bit late as I've been so busy recently but here is the August video edition of Self-Sufficient in Suburbia. We start the month with the birth of a new baby goat, and spend much of the rest of the month making preserves!

Sunday 17 November 2019

Taking the goats to the small holding

goats on small holding Nov 19 (3)

For the first time we took some of the goats to the small holding this afternoon. Two of the billies, Snow and Perky, were walked down the Tanfield bridlepath. When we got onto our land, we let them wander as they pleased. They spent most of their time eating grass but they did follow us around the whole field as we checked out the hedges!

Thursday 14 November 2019

The regulation of muck heaps

compost heap Nov 19

Things are starting to happen on our new small holding. We have now set up a compost and manure heap. We took a load of garden waste and goat muck in the land rover to the site. The location of the heap had to be carefully considered. There are DEFRA regulations on this matter - we can't just bung the heap anywhere. It has to be over 10 metres from a water course (we have a stream running down one side of our land) and over 50 metres from a bore hole or well (we have neither).

We found a suitable location. Our plan now is to move most of the material from the big compost heap on our Farside allotment to the small holding. That's going to take quite a few journeys.

More mucky ducks

ducks in bath Nov 19

I brought back another two of our ducks tonight. Both were a bit muddy but not as much as the one we brought back over the weekend. One was looking a bit under the weather. Once both had finished in the bath, they had perked up, had a good preen and are both back in the box ready to return to the allotment tomorrow.

When the chips are down

woodchip in goathouse Nov 19

A local gardening business donated a lorry load of wood chippings to the Whinnies Community Garden last week. It was far more that they needed so they told me I could take as much as I wanted. I put five barrowloads into the goat house. This has worked rather well.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

What to do with all those pumpkins: feed the goats

goats eating pumpkin Nov 19

One of the gardeners in the Whinnies grew lots of pumpkins for Halloween. He had a number left over at the start of November so he swapped them with me for a few barrow of manure. One of them was a bit bruised so it got fed to the goats. They loved it! The issue now is what to do with all the other pumpkins. Watch out for soup, pie, curry, chutney recipes heading this way!

Monday 11 November 2019

Farewell Danny

goat kids at vet Nov 19 (2)

Last week was a setback for us - and especially for the goats. Sadly, we lost Danny, the little black kid who we hand raised earlier this year. Somehow, a bit of rhododendron had got into a batch of privet we fed them. It is very toxic and the smaller kids were clearly affected by it. On Monday last week, we took Danny and Sandy to the vet. It was an emergency trip in at 11pm. Sandy did not appear to be too badly affected so she was not given any medication. Danny however was clearly unwell and quite distressed. The vet did her best and gave her medication. She calmed down a bit.

On Tuesday, Gertie was under the weather in the morning but by the evening she seemed to be better. Even Danny was heating a bit. Wednesday morning however saw both Gertie and Danny vomiting. I decided to monitor them until the afternoon when it was obvious another trip to the vet was needed.

goat kids at vet Nov 19 (5)

Our main concern was Danny but both were given medication by the vet. Back home Gertie seemed well enough to go back to the paddock with the other nannies. Danny however we kept at home. She had a bad night and in the morning it was clear we were losing her. I made the difficult decision to take her back to the vet to put her to sleep. She died on my lap on the way in.

It was a very upsetting experience but the good news is that Gertie and Sandy are fully recovered.

Dirty Drake

Drake in bath Nov 19 (1)

A few days ago I spotted that one of our drakes was looking very muddy and not very happy. Ducks and drakes usually keep their feathers in good order. They preen themselves constantly and secrete a saliva from their bills that waterproofs the feathers and keeps the bird in good health. The drake in question was probably overwhelmed by the amount of mud we have due to the exceptionally heavy rain recently.

I brought him back home and cleaned him in the bath. He particularly liked the shower! We managed to get rid of the mud and we have been keeping him in the cage in the back garden for a few days so that he can thoroughly preen himself and get his feathers back into good shape. This needs to be done before he is back in the mud on the allotment. He is now in good shape and tomorrow he goes back home.

Drake in bath Nov 19 (2)

Friday 1 November 2019

Ash leaves

Ash leaves Oct 19

I spotted lots of ash leaves on the ground on the edge of Dunston recently. The leaves were still green so I raked up a dumpy bag full of them and fed them to the goats. They loved them!

Duck breast dinner

Duck breast dinner Oct 19

We had been given some wild ducks recently by a friend who goes shooting. We will pay for them with jars of jam and honey. A couple of days ago we grilled a couple of duck breasts. They went well with pepper sauce, potatoes and peas.


Firewood Nov 19 (1)

We had a large pile of logs and branches that had been chopped from trees and hedges over a year ago. Some were from storm-damaged trees. This afternoon we brought the chainsaw into use. The branches and logs have now been chopped into firewood though some of the thicker ones will need to be split. Now we know we won't be cold this winter!

Firewood Nov 19 (2)

Friday 25 October 2019

Eating the hedge

Whinnies hedge Oct 19

We recently cut back the hedge around the Whinnies Community Garden car park. This wasn't just a trim, it was a major cutback with the height of the hedge halved.

goats eating branches Oct 19

Everything chopped back was fed to the goats over a 10 day period. They ate the leaves, twigs and bark.

wheelbarrow of sticks Oct 19

We now have a large pile of sticks, twigs and branches. Our big task now is to extract everything of value. In effect, much of what is recoverable in fuel, though not for our stove at home. The sticks will be fuel instead for the outdoor oven. We have been given permission to use one belonging to a friend. The sticks we are saving now will be dried for a year so when we get round to using the oven, which hopefully will be soon, we will be using fuel we saved last year.

So watch this space and see how we get on with baking outdoors. Meanwhile, I had to stop cutting the branches this afternoon. The rain had arrived!

Thursday 24 October 2019

Our first crop from the smallholding

On the smallholding Oct 19

We were down on the smallholding this afternoon to collect some dried cut grass. This was our first crop. The goats enjoyed it!

goat eating hay Oct 19

Tuesday 22 October 2019

New land

We are now the proud owners of 2.5 acres of agricultural land near to where we live. We have lots of plans and will be starting work on them shortly. We want the site to be wildlife friendly so there will be hedgehog boxes, ponds, bat nesting boxes and so on installed. The hedgehogs and amphibians will eat the bugs so there is an economic return for us with less damage to crops.

The video above was filmed last week and in it I explain some of the plans for the site.

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Blackberry, apple and rhubarb jam

blackberry, apple and rhubarb jam Sept 19 (1)

Yesterday I had recently picked blackberries and a sack of rhubarb to use up. Time for more jam making.

blackberry, apple and rhubarb jam Sept 19 (2)

So, I combined 1kg each of blackberries, rhubarb and chopped apples, boiled them up and made them into jam (3kg of sugar included as well).

blackberry, apple and rhubarb jam Sept 19 (3)

The result - 15 jars of jam. With summer and autumn crops now coming in, much of this jam will be swapped.

Monday 23 September 2019

Apple pomace

apple pomace Sept 19

The Hop Garden at High Spen were pressing apples recently. The resulting pulp, or pomace, was bought by us (at the cost of a couple of jars of jam) to feed to the goats. They loved it! Goat breakfast for three days!

Sunday 22 September 2019

Video: Bowes Show

Last week we won prizes for scones and bread at the Bowes Agricultural Show. This is the video I shot of the show, and my prize winners - and losers!

Sunday 15 September 2019

Photos of the Bowes Show

Bowes Show Sept 19

Yesterday, we did much better than expected at the Bowes Agricultural Show, winning firsts for bread making and our fruit and cheese scones. I've taken lots of photos of the show which can be seen on the link above.

Friday 13 September 2019

Ready for the Bowes Show

loaves and scones Sept 19

Tomorrow is the Bowes Agricultural Show. We visit it every year and enter the industrial competitions with our pies and preserves. We are now ready for it: blackberry flan, loaf of bread, apple pie, scones, eggs, cherry vodka, gooseberry chutney, lemon curd and strawberry and gooseberry jam are now all ready.

Roast pork

pork joint Sept 19

We had this pork joint last week. It was from the half pig we got last year so using it up created a modest amount of badly needed freezer space. Leftovers were made into a curry, along with some pigeon breast meat. The fat was rendered. Nothing wasted!

Monday 2 September 2019

Homity and pigeon pies

homity and pigeon pies Sept 19

I spent a bit of time today making 2 homity and one pigeon pies, using wartime recipes. They are heading to Sunniside History Society tomorrow where I will also be running a wartime quiz. I'm rather looking forward to this.

Saturday 31 August 2019

Honey sell-out

Honey for sale Aug 19

The honey we put through the honey press on Thursday and into jars yesterday was a big hit at the Whinnies Community Garden today. We sold about three quarters of it! We are aiming to take the honey off at least one more hive this coming week.

We have lots of pressed honeycomb waiting to be processed. It's time we learn to extra the wax and make candles. Watch out for this new project in the coming weeks.

Friday 30 August 2019

Bean loaf

bean loaf July 2019 (1)

This was actually a meal from a few weeks ago but the photos were forgotten until I discovered them on a memory card. We still have lots of broad beans in the freezer from last year so I made some into a bean loaf. It went well with a tomato and onion sauce.

bean loaf July 2019 (2)

More jam making

gooseberry, plum and apple jam Aug 19 (1)

We are still using up plums from last year which have been stored in one of our freezers. I added them to the last of this year's gooseberry crop and the first of our apples. Result: a rather nice jam!

Honey crop

honey press Aug 19

On Wednesday I took the honey crop off one of our hives. Yesterday we put it through the honey press. This morning I will be putting the honey into jars. Hopefully we will have some for sale tomorrow.

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Goat operation

Goat with horns removed Aug 19

We had to take Perky to the vet yesterday. When he was two weeks old, he had his horn roots burnt off by the vet but it wasn't entirely successful. A couple of shards of horn kept growing. One of them was about 15cm long and had become dislodged. The trip to the vet was to have them both removed and the stumps cauterised.

The operation was over in less than ten minutes. He was revived immediately and a couple of minutes later was eating a lettuce we got in the neighbouring shop. He was back at the goat paddock within half an hour and behaving as if nothing had happened.

Friday 16 August 2019

Hedgehog on patrol

hedgehog Aug 19

I encountered this hedgehog patrolling around the Whinnies recently when I went over to do the lock up. We don't get many of them on our plot but I love having them around as they eat lots of bugs that would otherwise eat lots of my cabbages. So, when we get the new land, I will be making it very hedgehog friendly. There will be hedgehog burrows for hibernation and crops for them which will attract slugs and snails which they will be welcome to eat!

Friday 9 August 2019

Broadly speaking, the beans are now gone

Shelling broad beans Aug 19

The broad bean crop has now been harvested. This is one of the more important crops for us as the beans have a good level of protein. This means we can have beans as an alternative to meat, thereby cutting down our meat consumption. We're not going vegetarian but we need to recognise that meat production is more resource intensive and takes up more land than growing the equivalent arable crops.

The beans are now in the freezer though some will be used tonight in a curry.

Sunday 4 August 2019

We have called her Jolene

On Friday, Spot, one of our nanny goats, gave birth to a baby girl. She is quite feisty and enjoys exploring. We have named her Jolene. We had four of our goats in the holding pen on our farside allotment but we have brought them back to the livestock allotment so they can get used to the new arrival. Jolene has been accepted by the other goats as part of the herd.

Loose ends delay land purchase

Our plans to buy agricultural land near Sunniside, the village where we live, are moving forward at a grindingly low pace. We visited our solicitor last week to sort out come of the issues but we are still some distance from closing this matter.

Update from July

Another month has gone by. This video was filmed last week, towards the end of July and gives a flavour of where we are with our self-sufficiency project. As usual, jam making was underway, gluts of quail eggs were being turned into salads, hawthorn hedges were trimmed to feed the goats, the bees continue to do well, the broad bean crop was picked, the second crop of rhubarb was ready for picking and the hens fell in love with their new roosting perch.

Saturday 3 August 2019

Giving a swarm away

We have had so many swarms this year that we have run out of hive bits and space to house any more. We have this swarm to a friend. We  have gone from 4 to 15 hives this year because of all the swarming.

Friday 2 August 2019

Sawn horn and another swarm

We had to saw off part of the horn stub of Snow, one of our billy goats, as it had coiled round was cutting into his head. Meanwhile, Spot was leaving us guessing as to when she will give birth. And yet another honey bee swarm appears on the allotment.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Gooseberry chutney

gooseberry chutney Jul 19

We have just about got through our glut of gooseberries (just one bowl left to use up). A good quantity was used recently to make gooseberry chutney. This one is good with smoked food, especially fish. As it happens, we have some trout in one of our freezers from last year. Time to get out our mini smoker me thinks.

Keep using the quail eggs

quail egg salad Jul 19

I suspect we will soon be fed up with eating quail egg salads but at the moment that is the most effective way to use up the huge glut we have.

Using the last of the strawberries

strawberry and apple jam Aug 19 (2)

The final strawberries we picked recently were not going to last much longer. I turned them into strawberry and apple jam today. Equal weight of each, brought to the boil, simmered until the fruit had turned to pulp and then same weigh of sugar as fruit.

strawberry and apple jam Aug 19 (3)

First marrow of the season

stuffed marrow Jul 19

We had our first marrow of the season recently. Admittedly, it wasn't grown by us but was given to us by a friend. We had it stuffed with ricotta cheese made from our goats milk and baked. Very pleasant!

Wednesday 31 July 2019

Coming home to roost

chickens on new roosting perch July 19

We have added a new, large roosting perch to our large hen house. The chickens love it! There was no space left on it tonight for the chickens going to roost late.

Strawberry and gooseberry jam

gooseberry and strawberry jam July 19 (1)

Both the strawberry and gooseberry crops are now in. They make a good combination in jam with the sweetness of strawberries balancing the tartness of the gooseberries. The latter provide the pectin necessary for the jam to set. I made these jars a few days ago. I still have strawberries and gooseberries left to use up however, so I'm not free of the jam-making duties of the kitchen yet.

gooseberry and strawberry jam July 19 (2)

Tuesday 30 July 2019

Goat cheese flans

goat cheese flans July 19

These two flans were the result of a decision to use up some of the ricotta goat cheese we have frozen in large quantities. We are also trying to be a bit more organised with our meals so we can make steady progress with using up the huge stocks of food we have in the four freezers we have. We will have to eat our way to victory in this battle!

Monday 29 July 2019

Gooseberry crumble

gooseberry crumble Jul 19

We have gathered in our gooseberry crop. We have an awful lot of them! Some have gone into making crumble. I felt quite decadent having it for breakfast this morning!