Wednesday 30 December 2020

Pregnant Edna


I mentioned last week that we were hoping the 4 ewes were pregnant. I took these photos of Edna, the oldest ewe, in the past couple of days and she is starting to show her size. Jo, from whom we got the ewes, told us that Edna normally gives birth early but is a good mum. She has calculated that we will need to start checking for lambs on 16th January. It is the earliest possible date based on Rex, the ram, going in with the girls on 24th August. Busy times ahead (hopefully)!

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Instant pond - just add water

All our poultry are confined to runs at the moment. DEFRA have ordered all poultry must be kept caged for the time being until the recent outbreaks of bird flu are behind us. The ruling applies to all poultry in England. We had been planning to dismantle our duckling run but fortunately we did not get round to doing so. It has been brought back into use as a run for the 7 call ducks. We have had lots of rain recently so the ground is rather muddy. The call ducks were starting to get muddy so we added this large bowl previously used as a water trough for the goats. We had to build a rampart at one side to give the ducks access. They are, however, loving the pond.


Pregnant sheep?


Our 4 ewes have been with the ram since the end of August. We have no definitive proof they are pregnant but they are looking bigger around the waste. Perhaps it's down to the woolen coats or eating too much grass. But perhaps the ram has had his way with them. Fingers crossed!

This is the first time we have kept sheep so lambing will be a new experience for us. The first births won't be before late January. So at least a month to go.

Sunday 13 December 2020

Poultry confined to barracks

Tomorrow all poultry in England has to be caged until further notice to tackle outbreaks of avian flu. All our chickens and ducks are now confined to barracks. They won't like it but it's a legal requirement. This photo was taken during our ducks' final hour of freedom.

Goodbye Houdini


I'm saddened to report that Houdini, our oldest hen, passed away a few days ago. She was over 9 years old and was in the first batch of hens we bought, back in 2011. She served us well and passed away in her sleep. We think she died simply of old age.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Poultry lockdown

 I spent a good part of today working out how to create enclosures for our ducks and chickens. From 14th December, new restrictions come into force which will require all poultry to go into their own version of lockdown to counter recent outbreaks of avian flu. While the rules are in place, the birds will have to be caged. So far we have drawn up plans to move young birds to the quailhouse. Two sets of birds will go into two greenhouses. Some chickens will be moved into our fruitcage and a big new henhouse will have to be built from some old garage doors.

Saturday 5 December 2020

Christmas beer

My Christmas booze is now sorted. This weekend I've made 7 bottles of hawberry and honey beer and 5 of raspberry and honey beer. The honey was washed off the squeezed honeycomb a couple of weeks ago. We still have lots of this honey water to use up. I'm working on recipes and ideas now!

Tuesday 24 November 2020

First frost of the autumn

The days are now getting really short. Yesterday we had the first frost of the autumn. Not a severe one, but noticeable. 

Wednesday 18 November 2020

Cleaning the honeycomb

We have stored in large buckets in previous years the pressed honeycomb in the expectation that at some point we will get round to extracting the beeswax. We are a step closer that doing that but first we have washed the honeycomb in water which we have put into large pans. We will be using this honey water for brewing (and there was a great deal more honey washed out of the honeycomb than we expected).

Venison and pigeon casserole

We still have lots of pigeon breasts to use up so we combined some with venison from the deer carcass we took to the  game butcher recently to make a rather pleasant casserole.

Friday 13 November 2020

Honey sale

 I've spent the past couple of days sorting the honey from 2 hives. Tomorrow the honey will be on sale at the pop up shop at the Whinnies Community Garden. I will be there to help with the socially distanced crowd control!

Sunday 8 November 2020

New sheep paddock

 The new paddock for the sheep is finished! It's about 4 times the size of their previous paddock. We moved them into it on Friday and they are loving it - especially the grass. Next job is to build the lambing shed.

Saturday 31 October 2020

Self-isolation ended

I have been goat sitting for a couple of weeks. A friend tested positive for covid and he owns a couple of goats. As he had to self-isolate, I was recruited to look after the goats. That came to an end today and I'm pleased to report my friend is in good health, as are the goats. 


I don't know what variety of beans these are. They were grown by a friend and he let me pick the rest of the crop. They looked like runner beans when in the pods on the plans. When removed from the pods they look like butter beans. Anyway, the beans I picked are all now in the freezer.

Thursday 29 October 2020

Apple jam donation

15 jars of apple jam made tonight. They will be part of a batch of 100 jars of jam I'm making to go into Christmas food parcels which Gateshead Council will be delivering to vulnerable households.


Wednesday 28 October 2020

2 tonnes of apples

My recent appeal via Facebook to local residents to swap their surplus apples grown in their back gardens for our homemade jams continues to bring in large quantities of fruit. We should easily get through the winter with what we now have. Indeed, the problem is now a shortage of storage space!

We are continuing to collect apples but what we are getting in now is used largely for charitable purposes. We've made lots of preserves which we have donated to a fairshare scheme. I gave a sack of top quality apples to go into packed lunches for children. And I have an order for 100 jars of jam which I will donate to a hub which is providing food parcels to vulnerable households. I will be making the jam over the next couple of days.

In the meantime, if anyone local has some unwanted bread trays, please pass them on to me. They are ideal for storing apples.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Green tomato chutney


The last of the tomato crop is now picked. Most of the late ones were green. Time to make green tomato chutney. This pan produced 11 large jars.

Leftover cabbage and potato peel soup


I hate waste. So, faced with some leftover cabbage and some potato peelings, what was the best way to put them to good use. Answer: make them into soup.

Blackberry and apple gin

 The last of the blackberries have been picked We did not quite have enough to make blackberry gin so we compromised and made up the difference with some apple. It will be ready for drinking in 3 months.



We were given 4 rabbits by a friend who goes shooting. We have skinned and gutted them and put them in the freezer where they will remain until I make game pies later this year.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Relying on the Rhode Island reds


October is the time of the year when the hens' productivity drops to scarcely anything. Typically we get 2 or 3 eggs a day though we broke all records last week when there were 6 eggs on a single day! It is our Rhode Island Reds we should be thanking for producing eggs. We have 3 adult hens and they often outperform the other 35 or so hens. We have been aware for some time that this breed is very productive so we have put a great deal of effort into raising chicks. We have about 12 though we don't know the proportion of hens to cockerels yet.

Duck in the bath


The recent heavy rain has meant we are dealing, yet again, with lots of mud. While most of the time this is not a problem for the ducks, occasionally they get so overwhelmed that they are unable to clean themselves. And when that happens, they probably won't survive. So recently we found one of our ducks covered in mud. We brought her back to the house and put her in the bath where we showered her (ducks love that!) and washed off the mud. A meal of wheat followed before we returned her to the livestock plot.

We are planning to move some of the ducks to our main field where we will set up a duck run. They will therefore be on grass and the aim is to let them eat it to clear plots for planting with vegetables. Once they have cleared a plot, we will move the run (which is made from the frame of a polytunnel) to another site and we start the whole process again.

The hay has arrived

We were unable this year to make our own hay crop. We had aimed to have a contractor in to cut the hay and bale it but it just didn't happen. Next year our plan is to have our own equipment so we don't have to rely on the vagaries of an outside contractor. In the meantime, we have bought in 3 large round bales of hay to get us through to early spring. The sheep rather like it!

Friday 2 October 2020

The Importance of Carbon Offsetting

 I occasionally take guest posts from others where I broadly support the views they are putting forward. Below, the post wassent to me by John Hannen of Mediaworks. 

The Importance of Carbon Offsetting

One rising issue that the UK face is how to tackle climate change. As our populations and economies grow, the environment is feeling the strain of our increased energy needs. This means we all need to look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and quickly.

For some, choosing to reduce the amount of plastic we use, recycle more, or even turning down the thermostat in our home by one degree, the journey towards a greener way of living has already begun.

Despite this, more is needed to be done. Last year the UK government announced plans to achieve ‘Net Zero’ status by the year 2050[1], a target which aims to stop the UK from contributing to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, public awareness on how this will be achieved is still lacking. In fact, a recent report from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau found that just 38 per cent of us are aware we’ll need to change the way our home is heated if we’re to achieve this goal.[2]

The reality is, until the day comes where we are entirely carbon neutral, creating a carbon footprint is unavoidable. From heating our homes and offices, to driving our cars or even making a cup of tea, it’s inevitable that we can’t always live up to the green standards we’d like to.

However, for those wanting to find ways to avoid being accountable for some of these inescapable emissions, there is a solution – Carbon Offsetting. Here, we look through the benefits and how it can lead to a greener life.

Defining Carbon Offsetting

For the emissions that can’t be prevented, carbon offsetting provides an alternative to this. A process in which people compensate their emissions by funding projects that provide sustainable development in communities around the world. These projects offer an equivalent reduction in emissions to those you create; either counteracting or absorbing carbon dioxide and bringing balance to the environment.

For many big brands, this strategy has already been adopted. The likes of EasyJet[3], Shell[4] and Gucci[5], all now use Carbon Offsetting to help improve the environmental impact of their businesses. 

The Importance of Carbon Offsetting

When emissions can’t be avoided, carbon offsetting allows for people to make a positive contribution to the environment.

These causes have also received huge funding, helping to improve the economic, social and health situation to whole communities. With people at the heart of Carbon Offsetting, as well as ecosystems, it allows us to begin future proofing for a cleaner, greener world. 

Why choose to Carbon Off-set my Emissions?

All of us have a shared responsibility to lower carbon emissions for the future. For the likes of homeowners, this means being given the chance to balance their carbon footprint. For the environmentally conscious and those looking to reduce their impact on the climate, Carbon Offsetting gives them the tools to make a difference. Whilst it shouldn’t be used as a stand-alone approach and is best used as part of a wider carbon reduction strategy, it will help people reduce their impact on the environment. Additional changes that individuals make in order to lower the impact they have on the environment is by switching from gas to Liquefied Petroleum Gas LPG.

Off-setting the carbon emissions I can’t control?

From helping some of the poorest households in West Africa to access eco-friendly cooking equipment, to supplying clean hydroelectric power to the local grid in rural China, there are a diverse number of benefits to carbon offsetting. One example is the Kariba REDD+ Forest Protection project in Zimbabwe, Africa. Since its launch in 2011, it’s avoided more than 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere and has prevented deforestation in an area of nearly 750,000 hectares.

Although carbon offsetting isn’t the only answer, it can play a part in the bigger solution. Many individuals and companies are already doing much to reduce their carbon footprint but choosing carbon offsetting is another step in the right direction, by supporting worthy sustainability projects that deliver quantifiable greenhouse gas reductions.

Dash for the last weeds of the season


We are putting in a last dash to get pick the weeds on our Farside plot before they die off for the autumn. Weeds may be  pests to other people but to us, most can be used as food for our goats. They love them!

Leak proof!



I occasionally get sent products to test and then write about on this blog. This is the latest, the ION8 leakproof bottle. Regular readers will probably know I hate waste and single use bottles are a particular focus of my hate of appallingly bad use of resources. I am a very liberally minded person but if I were dictator for a day, near the top of my to-do list would be to ban the production and sale of single use plastic bottles, especially those used in the sale of bottled water. (I never understand why anyone would want to buy bottled water when you can get it from a tap for nothing!)

Anyway, when I was asked to test out the ION8 I decided to give it a go. We have tested it to near destruction on our smallholding and despite that, it continues to live up to its billing as leakproof. Despite our best efforts to put it through its paces, it is just about indestructible. So this is far away from the throw away society I dislike so much and which is so damaging to our environment.

So, stop buying bottled water and use tap water instead. And as the ION8 has survived the hard work of being used on our smallholding, it will survive just about anywhere else. Fill it with tap water and enjoy!

Thursday 1 October 2020

It's getting colder

 We are now past the autumn equinox. Days are now shorter than nights and the temperature has dropped. So it is time to start using again our supply of logs and branches to fuel our woodfired stove to heat the house. The problem is Pushka our cat very quickly seized the best place to enjoy the heat!

Stuffed marrow


I found some ricotta cheese in one of our freezers recently, made from some of our goats milk. I therefore mixed the cheese with breadcrumbs and chopped onions and then filled a marrow with it before baking it. A very pleasant meal.

Wednesday 30 September 2020

Lean to chick shelter

We have had lots of rain recently and this inevitably leads to lots of mud as the poultry churns up the ground so readily. In the chick run we have come up with a simple solution to keep the birds and the ground dry. We have made a lean to shelter from two transparent plastic roofing sheets. They work very effectively.


Tuesday 29 September 2020

The goats' breakfast

Over the past couple of weeks we have collected nearly a tonne of apples and pears grown in people's gardens locally. What we collected was surplus to requirements and most would have ended up in the garden waste bins if we hadn't collected them. We have started to feed the most bashed and damaged apples to the goats as they won't last long. The rest will go into storage over the winter to be used as goat food. Thanks to everyone who swapped their fruit for our preserves and in some cases simply gave us their fruit. It will all be used in a sustainable way. Nothing wasted!


Friday 25 September 2020

Starting to harvest the potatoes

This year we planted our biggest potato crop yet. We were able to do this because we now have in our possession our main field. We also took the decision to turn half our drive into a potato patch using a stockpile of potato bags we have used on and off for years. So, this time we have much more space for potato growing. We have planted a number of varieties. The first to be picked is pink fur apple potatoes, a salad variety. Most are still in the potato bags (the PFA were grown on the drive) but we have sampled them and they are great!

Once we have sorted the storage of the half tonne of apples we've gathered from local residents for goat fodder over winter, we shall get the whole of the potato crop harvested.

Wednesday 23 September 2020

Soggy day

 The weather today has been awful. It has rained nearly all day. Sadly, tomorrow is predicted for the same. This puts on hold some of the jobs that I have planned, particularly potato picking and blackberry gathering.

Roast venison

 We have had another of the joints from the deer that was butchered last month. This is our second venison dinner this month. Excellent quality meat.

Orf virus

 Last week I spotted scabs on the lip of Sooty, one of our goat kids. I had seen nothing like this before so I looked up possible causes. We are pretty certain he has orf virus. This causes mouth ulcers and scabs. We decided to isolate him so we have moved him to the secure paddock on the Farside plot. As goats are social animals, we put his sister Sweep in the paddock with him. The two are very close and Sooty would not have coped well without company.

He is making a good recovery. When I checked him today, there were fewer scabby lumps. He and Sweep however will remain in the paddock away from the other animals until he is fully recovered.

Monday 14 September 2020

Venison and pigeon soup

This soup was made from venison stock added to pigeon soup (which was made in such a huge quantity that we couldn't face another day of it, hence the reason for putting it in the freezer.) Combining the two meant we could free up freezer space and produce a different flavour of soup. It did us for two days' main meals.

Sunday 13 September 2020

Lots of apples

On Friday I posted on local Facebook sites that we wanted to swap our homemade preserves for people's surplus apples and pears. We explained that we needed them for fodder for the goats over the winter but we would also use some to make more preserves. The result was very encouraging: people with more apples and pears than they knew what to do with from trees in their gardens got in touch and I've spent much of the weekend visiting people to collect the surplus fruit. The Land Rover is now full! People were very happy to let us have the apples and pears just to avoid the waste.

We are still collecting surplus fruit - indeed tomorrow I will be making more calls. We also have more apples to collect from the tree on our Farside plot. We have 6 sacks already but there are still some apples on the tree. We will now sort the fruit and use up the bashed ones in preserve making. The rest will go into storage for the winter for the goats.

Tuesday 8 September 2020

A good apple crop


It looks like we are heading for a good apple crop this year. We've started to collect the apples from the large tree on our Farside plot. 5 sacks collected yesterday and lots still more to come. Most will be used over winter as feed for the goats but there will be ample opportunities to make pies and preserves.

How to make rowan and gooseberry jelly


We had a big gooseberry crop this year, enough to allow us to experiment with creating new recipes for preserves. We have lots of rowan (mountain ash) growing near us. They produce bright red berries which are packed full of pectin, so any preserves set well. They have a bitter taste so I decided to combine them with gooseberries to make a jelly. The result was better than I expected. The video takes you through how I made it.

Monday 7 September 2020



A couple of weeks ago we came across an injured deer near our smallholding. She had got caught up in a barbed wire fence next to a public footpath. She was still alive but there was a deep slash across her stomach. It was clear she wasn't going to survive. We removed her from the fence and made her as comfortable as we could. Phone calls to wildlife charities to get someone out to put her to sleep turned out to be unnecessary. She died an hour later.

We took the carcass home rather than leaving it to rot next to where people walk their dogs. We found a game butcher in Acomb near Hexham and booked them to butcher the carcass though we had to gut her first. We got the meat back last week, most of which has gone into one of our freezers. We passed a venison joint on to the friend who pointed us to the game butcher.

Expect us to post about venison dinners, game pies and game sausages over the coming months.