Friday 31 January 2020

Oh deer

deer hoof prints Jan 20 (1)

We spotted this hoof print in a bit of mud on the small holding. It belongs to a deer. I'm not surprised as I have occasionally seen deer in the area. It does raise the issue however of potential crop damage. Hopefully it will not be too significant.

Reusing timber

timber Jan 20

We have spent much of today recovering timber from a garden near to where we live. A friend of ours runs a gardening business and he had been called in to replace the fence. The quality of the timber was good and instead of disposing of it, we were offered the opportunity to take it. It will make excellent material for building pig arks and goat sheds. Great use for something that would otherwise be disposed of.

Two goat babies

goat kids Jan 20 (3)

Coal, one of our nanny goats, gave birth to two babies yesterday morning. Last year she rejected both her babies. She did exactly the same this time round. So we are the foster mother of a little boy and  little girl. They were named by others via Facebook Sooty (the boy) and Sweep (the girl). We brought them home last night to make feeding them easier at 4am and took them back to the goat paddock this morning so they can get used to being around other goats and build up a resistance to infection.

goat kids Jan 20 (2)

goat kids Jan 20 (1)

Sunday 26 January 2020

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia early January

The first half of January saw us stepping up our activities to prepare the new field for planting. Top soil and manure were shipped down to be spread on the land. We started planting the boundary edge. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen we made our first bacon.

Friday 24 January 2020

Bringing home the bacon

bacon joint Jan 20

We have had a go at making our first bacon. The bacon joint was from the half pig we got a year ago in an exchange for 2 goat kids. The joint was cured and then put through the bacon slicer we bought last year.

bacon Jan 20

bacon frying Jan 20 (1)

Of course, it would have been a shame not to have tried it.

bacon frying Jan 20 (2)

Result: excellent!

Fly tipped wood chip

wood chip flytipped Jan 20 (1)

I discovered this pile of fly tipped wood chip next to the car park of one of our local parks recently. As usual, my mind turned to how someone else's waste illegally and selfishly dumped on the local environment could be turned into a resource. I came up with a bright idea.

wood chip flytipped Jan 20 (2)

We bagged up about 15 sacks of wood chip and shipped it down to the small holding.

vehicle tracks Jan 20 (2)

We have a problem there with patches of damp ground in which the land rover wheels has caused deep gullies

vehicle tracks Jan 20 (1)

The wood chip was perfect for filling in the gullies. We haven't yet driven over it. That experiment is on the to-do list.

New veg bed

new veg bed Jan 20

We are continuing to move manure and top soil to the smallholding to create new vegetable beds. For the time being however, we are creating the new beds at the bottom of the field, rather than the top where we have already set up 4. The reason for this is to avoid taking the land rover over the grass which we have churned up in places, though we are taking action to repair this. The rain at the start of the month has created wet patches but they are starting to dry off. Nevertheless, we are leaving the top of the smallholding alone for a bit longer until the ground is dryer.

New goat shelter

Lean to goat shelter Jan 20

Coal, one of our nanny goats (she's the one with the back to us in the photo) is due to give birth shortly so we have built a temporary, lean-to shelter for her. The problem is all the goats rather like it and have moved into it. When I did the lock-up tonight, they were all sleeping in the new shelter together as one big huddle!

The shelter was made completely from reused materials (other than a few nails).

Turning waste peel into marmalade

We don't grow our own citrus fruit - we don't quite have the tropical temperatures needed here in the North East of England! When we do buy fruit however, we waste nothing. The peel is turned into marmalade.

Monday 20 January 2020

Review of 2019

This is my review of 2019. We started with goat births, then discovered some land for sale, leading eventually to our purchasing it for a small holding. Fuel for the house was gathered, pickles and jams made. It wasn't all good news. One of the goat babies born in March passed away in November. We had to pick ourselves up after this setback and keep moving forward.

Sunday 19 January 2020

Self-Sufficient in Suburbia December 2019

December 2019: an unexpected supply of logs was a boon for the goat as they love to eat the bark. Once they are finished stripping them, they will be chopped for firewood. Back in the kitchen more pickles are made but in the garage we discover a bag of sweet chestnuts that had been overlooked but were still usable.

Monday 13 January 2020


goats eating bamboo Jan 20

One of the neighbouring allotment holders chopped back the bamboo that was growing on his allotment recently. Ideal goat food! It's great to know I can convert someone's waste into a useful resource.

Pigeon casserole

pigeon casserole Jan 20

We have a glut of pigeon breasts in our freezers so we will be experimenting with different recipes to use them up. This was our first - pigeon casserole.

Sunday 12 January 2020

Hedge planting

hedge planting Jan 20 (1)

On one side of our small holding, the boundary is marked by a fence rather than a hedge. Our plan is to plant a traditional hedge containing a variety of native species, especially if they produce fruit or nuts. A hedge will help to increase shelter and create a habitat for wildlife. Last week we planted our first part of the hedge - two holly bushes that have sat pot bound in plant pots in our back garden. They don't produce fruit we can pick but at least we've made a start on planting the hedge. We only have another 200 metres to go!

hedge planting Jan 20 (3)

Top soil

top soil Jan 20 (2)

I wrote last month about how we had placed an old pond liner and an old tarpaulin on the ground in our new small holding. The aim was to kill off the grass and weeds underneath. Alas, we suffered from wind! The carefully laid liner and tarpaulin did not stay in place following strong wind. We have now come up with an alternative.

top soil Jan 20 (1)

The Whinnies Community Garden has 7 tonnes of top soil they no longer need. They are building a summer house and the top soil was removed so the foundations could be dug. The soil went into dumpy bags and was offered to the allotment holders on the site. Not many took up the offer. I then offered to take it though I warned that it would take some time to remove it all. Firstly it would have to be shoveled into sacks (thank goodness I never throw out plastic feed sacks), moved to the car park and then moved into the small holding (which thankfully is only a couple of minutes' drive away). To avoid overloading the land rover, we limit each trip to 14 sacks.

topsoil and manure Jan 20 (1)

The topsoil and chicken and goat manure are then spread on the ground as a blanket to kill the weeds and grass underneath. In a few weeks, we will run the rotovator over the same ground ready for planting.

We still have about 3 tonnes of topsoil to take over and we hope to complete this task over the next few days.

topsoil and manure Jan 20 (2)

Fish soup

fish stock  Jan 20

We didn't have turkey for Christmas dinner. Instead, we had trout we got in a food swap with a friend who goes fishing. The leftover bones and skins were boiled up to make fish stockwhich we then made into fish soup. We made so much that after the 3rd day in a row of fish soup for dinner we decided to freeze it, despite freezer space being something of a premium at the moment!

fish soup Jan 20 (1)

fish soup Jan 20 (2)

Monday 6 January 2020

Rationing the land rover

Our land rover is used sparingly. It is used as and when we need to use it and we aim to combine trips to ensure as little diesel as possible is used. This year we are introducing a rationing system based on mileage. We are aiming to keep mileage for the whole year to a maximum of 3000. That works out at 250 miles a month. We can carry forward any surplus mileage to following months but we won't carry over to another year. We will have to be even more focused on planning journeys and activities.

So, we start the year with a mileage of 159956. We have added 40 miles since then, all the result of moving soil and manure from the Whinnies to the small holding. I will aim to publish the figures monthly throughout the year.

Meanwhile, I have a bike I need to start using.

Sunday 5 January 2020

Eggciting start to the new year

eggs Jan 2020 1

Our hens stopped laying in October. In the world of self-sufficiency, we have got used to food being seasonal though I was surprised at how soon egg production stopped. So you can imaging our surprise and delight when we found a freshly laid egg in one of our henhouses on New Year's Day. And since then, the hen responsible had laid an egg every day except one.

eggs Jan 2020 2

We had searched the allotment thoroughly for hidden nests of eggs in October but found nothing. And then by chance I discovered 12 eggs under an old set of shelves which are waiting to be repurposed. We have no idea how long they have been there. We will test each one and try to get them used up quickly if they are a usable state.

Crazy paving

goats and paving Jan 2020

We went through a very wet period in November and early December. Rail fall was way over what we would normally expect. Our livestock allotment therefore became something of a mud bath. We have a paved area to help keep the goats out of the mud but we needed to extend it to give the animals greater protection. A supply of paving stones was at hand courtesy of the quail house. We had replace the paving stones there with a concrete floor to make it more vermin proof. So the removed paving stones have now been used to extend the existing paved area. It's not been tested yet. Since we laid them, we've had no rain!