Thursday 28 December 2023

Pumpkin and chilly chutney


Our last pumpkin of the year needed to be used up so a few days ago I made it into chutney. I added chillies to give it quite a kick. The video has the recipe.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Roast venison


A leg of venison came our way recently, courtesy of our friend Steve. We marinated it in red wine, cider vinegar, herbs and onion. Needless to say it made a very pleasant dinner with plenty of leftovers to keep us going this week.

High flying sheep


You may have heard of flying pigs, but what about flying sheep!? This sheep - one of this year's lambs - managed to get onto the hay bales on the farm. It was quite at home there!

Friday 15 December 2023

Ant and Dec at Whickham Library's Christmas fair


Our two young billy goats, Ant and Dec, paid a visit to the Christmas fair at Whickham Library on Saturday morning. They were somewhat unconvincingly disguised as reindeer. We had them in a pen outside the building and they got quite a bit of attention from passers-by. A donation box collected money for the Library. Alas, we had to leave early as the rain was getting heavier. I handed the collection box over to the fair organisers but sadly I didn't find out how much Ant and Dec had raised,

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Pumpkin and vegetable soup


We still have some pumpkins left over from Halloween so recently I made pumpkin and vegetable soup. The stock was water in which we had previously boiled potatoes, thereby helping us to cut down further on waste. A pleasant result though we probably made too much. Four days in a row of pumpkin soup for dinner was possibly a bit much!

Peppers stuffed with ricotta


We have a glut of ricotta cheese, made from our goat's milk. Recently, a neighbouring allotment holder gave us a bag of peppers. We stuffed them with ricotta. It was an ideal combination and helped us make a small inroad into our mountain of ricotta.

Friday 17 November 2023

Lord Woolton pie


Lord Woolton, the wartime food minister, gave his name to a vegetable pie that contained no rationed foods other than a bit of fat for the pastry (and some versions use mashed potato rather than pastry). We had lots of vegetables needing to be used, plus some pumpkin, so making a Woolton pie was the logical thing todo. It did us for three days.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Rain proofing the quail house


Our quail house is currently being used to house a hen and her 14 chicks. The problem with the quail house however was that there were no solid walls. It was, in effect, a frame with netting (but a solid roof). It meant that the wind could blow straight through the quail house, bringing with it lots of rain. The problem has now been fixed. We have covered 2 sides with conservatory roofing panels which were rescued some time ago from a demolition job. They work perfectly. Nice dry cage with happy chicks (and mother hen).

Eating nettles


The mild and wet weather this autumn has resulted in the trees being late in losing their leaves and many weeds that would normally be dead by now are still alive. This is especially the case with nettles. We have an abundance of them and fortunately Florence is happy to eat them.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Eating us out of house and home


We had some bales of hay left over from last year. They weren't in the best of shape. Partly wet and rotting at the edges, We decided to use them to build a temporary shelter in the middle paddock where we have our nanny goats and Hebridean sheep. Building it took only a few minutes. The roof was a metal panel from a dismantled shed, weighed down by a pallet. 

The sheep and goats started eating it immediately! They picked out the good hay and left the poor quality stuff. The shelter lasted all of an afternoon.

Will the goats eat leeks?


One of our neighbouring allotment holders asked us if the goats eat leeks. The photo above gives the answer! So quite a pile of leek outer skins and leaves (the useful bits went for human consumption) were put into the allotment for Florence and her as yet unnamed baby to eat. Had we been milking her, we wouldn't have allowed her anywhere near the leeks as they could taint her milk.

Friday 3 November 2023

Florence back to normal


I'm pleased to report that Florence has made a full recovery after her visit to the vet recently. Her foot had developed an abscess which the vet drained and cleaned. Her foot was bandaged up but I've now removed the bandages and she is walking without a limp. Good news!

Monday 30 October 2023

More rain heading our way


Storm Babet is behind us, thankfully but there is another heavy storm forecast for Thursday. The stream that came from nowhere to flow down field 2 has gone (the picture above was taken when it was reduced to a trickle) but I can foresee its return later this week. The ground is saturated and cannot take any more rainwater which will simply flow across the land looking for a way to escape. We will of course be ready for the rain when it comes but we could do without it!

Saturday 28 October 2023

New cockerel


We were given this cockerel recently. He actually started out earlier this year as an egg laid by one of our hens. The egg went with a batch of others to a community garden where a broody hen was ready to sit on them. The cockerel is a cross between a Buff Orpington and a ginger nut ranger (which is itself a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Light Sussex. In the new year he will be separated from the main flock along with the gingernut ranger hens for breeding. It will be interesting to see what colouring the chicks take.

In the meantime, he is happily settled down with the rest of the flock.

Video - new goats


Yesterday we took delivery of a couple of Boer goats. They were surplus to requirements at another farm. They arrived yesterday morning - one adult nanny and one 3 month old kid. They aren't related so we can breed them. They are used to being handled and are very friendly. They've also settled in well.

Wild duck breast casserole


Our friend Kevin gave us 2 wild ducks recently which had been bagged on a shoot. Kevin and I regularly exchange goods - I gave him 4 sacks of chicken and goat manure for his allotment in the most recent swap. The breasts were removed from the birds and then made into this rather pleasant casserole.

Friday 27 October 2023

Video - Florence's foot


Florence, one of our main breeding nanny goats, had been limping for a week but just as we were about to take her to the vet, she seemed to be recovering. Last week, the limp suddenly got worse. So on Monday we took her to the vet. The problem was identified - a small twig, only about one centimetre long had become embedded in her front left hoof causing an abscess. The vet removed the offending twig, drained the abscess and cleaned up her foot. She now has a bright red bandage which will be removed sometime this weekend.

The video above recorded her visit to the vet and the work done to clean up her foot.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Mountain climbing sheep and goats


We have rolled another large round bale of hay into the paddock where we keep the goats and the Hebridean sheep. As you can see they are using the bale to show off their mountain climbing skills!

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Farm flood


I have not experienced rain before like we had at the end of last week. As the video above shows, we had a flood on the farm but as quickly as the torrential water arrived, it stopped! No lasting damage.

Saturday 21 October 2023

Bringing the stove back into operation


We are now well into autumn so recently we dusted down the stove and brought it back into use. We've got plenty of fuel to get us through to the spring next year. As you can see, the cat loves it!

Running out of hedge trimmings


Two of our goats - Dolly and Janey - have been kept in a separate paddock on our Farside allotment for the past 5 months. They were put thee to clear the paddock of vegetation and to be fed the hawthorn  trimmings from nearby hedges. We are now approaching a point where those sources are exhausted. We still have comfrey growing in the allotment but that won't last for much longer. Therefore the two girls may be heading back to the farm soon.

Battling Babet


Yesterday we were fighting a losing battle against Storm Babet, I got to the farm and found a river running through the middle of field 2, then through the paddock with the nannies and Hebrideans and then along the lane. Fortunately this morning, the river had been replaced with a small trickle.

Duck for dinner


We got a couple of wild duck in a swap with a friend earlier this week. We've removed the breasts and will be having them for dinner tonight. 

Saturday 14 October 2023

Suckling the life out of her


Florence, one of our Saanen nanny goats, had 3 babies in July. Goats normally produced 1 or 2 kids so 3 in one go is unusual, though not rare (she had 3 last year as well!) She has very strong mothering instincts so she adopted another 2 kids as well. So with 5 mouths to feed, we intervened right from the strat and bottle fed the babies. One didn't take to the bottle and remained reliant on Florence for milk. The others took strongly to the bottle but continued to suckle from mum.

It was obvious that despite our intervention the kids were suckling the life out of her so we decided to separate Florence. She is now on our Nearside allotment with the kid that never took to the bottle. We felt that taking away all her kids would cause her too much stress. The aim is to keep her on the Nearside until she has fully recovered and put the weight back on. So she will be there probably until the start of the winter.

In the 2 weeks she has been there, her condition has improved. He coat is starting to grow again and she is starting to put on weight. Next year we will give her a year off from breeding and milking.

Hazel harvest


It looks like there is a good hazel crop this year. I've been out twice over the past week to collect as many of the nuts as possible. The recent windy weather has brought more nuts scattered on the woodland floor. The challenge is to pick them before the mice and grey squirrels eat them! So far it's 50:50. Plenty of opened shells but plenty of untouched nuts as well.

Rabbit and pigeon casserole


A search through one of our four freezers uncovered a rabbit and some pigeon breasts that had been there for some time! We turned them into a casserole. Note the liberal use of tomatoes from the glut last month.

Spring in the autumn


We have been getting lots of plants flowering in the autumn: clover (above) and nettles, dandelions and willowherb (see below). What is odd is that there plants flower in the spring, not the autumn. I am putting this now to the recent run of warm weather. Even my honey bees have been out in force. The danger is that these plants will put in lots of their energy and nutrition into flowers that will die off before they are able to produce seeds over the coming weeks as we move towards the winter. That could mean fewer flowers next spring.

Thursday 12 October 2023

Last chicks of the year


Our last hen chicks of the year hatched over the weekend. There were 16 eggs in the incubator, 15 hatched and 14 survived. The chicks have now been adopted by a broody hen and they have all been moved to bigger accommodation. The incubator has now been freed up for a batch of quail eggs.

The hay crop that nearly didn't happen


The wet summer ruined our first attempt to gather in a hay crop. We had to wait until early September to have the hay cut and baled. This year the hay has gone into the big round bales which way about a quarter ton each. We rolled one into the nannies' paddock and they got through much of it in a single day! Let's hope we have enough to get through the autumn and winter.

Sunday 1 October 2023

2 new ducks


2 new ducks to add to our flock. We were given them by a friend on Friday from her farm where they were surplus to requirement. The drake in particular is a lovely green colour.

Everyone piles in to help


On Friday, it was a case of everyone piling in to help. My friend Steve agreed to take surplus kune pigs from Bill Quay Community Farm. We borrowed a trailer from the farm of our friend Janet and used my pick up to tow it. The pigs were collected (escapees were kept to a minimum and were later rounded up!) and transported to a paddock on my farm which Steve "rents" - the payment is in meat.

The issue here for those wanting to be self-sufficient is that you can't do everything in isolation. Work with others who have similar ambitions to produce your own food and live as sustainably as possible, as we did on Friday.

Friday 29 September 2023

Use your surplus production - tomato crop


We had a big quantity of tomatoes to use up. So, we have now turned them into a sauce to use on pasta. We made so much that we put three-quarters of it into one of our freezers - not that we've got much freezer space.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Bacon flan

This was the flan we made for the Bowes Agricultural Show and was one of our prize winners. It was also lunch for me recently. The recipe helped us to use up lots of our ricotta cheese and eggs. The bacon alas was not produced by us. We bought it from a friend when she had a stall at the recent farmers' market at Sunniside Club. The pickle was made from cucumbers we got in a swap with another friend. We still have 2 flans still to eat but they are in the freezer and can stay there for a few weeks yet.

Friday 15 September 2023

What to do with a gigantic cabbage


What on earth should we do with this enormous cabbage? We will pickle some of it but the rest is set for the freezer. It's not the ideal solution as we will be sending two rams for slaughter this autumn and we need the freezer space for them.

Pork curry


We have a glut of tomatoes which we added to some chopped pork cheek which was leftover from making the pork pie for the Bowes Show. We also had some leftover leeks. A search of the pantry produced a jar of curry sauce. So for 3 evenings in a row, we have had pork curry! Fortunately it is now finished!

Sunday 10 September 2023

A great day at the Bowes Show


Yesterday (Saturday 9th September) we headed to the Bowes Agricultural Show. It is the show we do every year and we enter the baking and preserve making competitions. This year we had 16 entries. Last year was a bit disappointing, winning just a small number of 2nds and 3rds. The disappointment however was put behind us and we were hopeful of getting a first prize. We ended up with 4 firsts, 4 seconds and 2 thirds. Our best result yet at the Bowes Show.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Getting the fuel ready


We still have lots of Christmas trees to chop up ready for the coming winter when they will be burnt on our woodfired stove to heat the house. They are very dry now but we have made a start by stripping off the twigs and branches. Once that is done, we will chop up the trunks and put them into our log shed.

Making hay while the sun shines


After the washout of the summer, in which it rained nearly every day in July and August, we are now experiencing something of a heatwave. We have, according to the weather forecast, 7 days of dry weather. At last! We have been able to get in Martin, who cut and baled the hay last year, to do the same again this week. He was on the hayfield today turning the hay. Job should be done by the weekend. I can relax! A big weight off my shoulders as we will have a good supply of hay for the winter.

Getting ready for the Bowes Agricultural Show

We will be going to the Bowes Agricultural Show on Saturday so this week we are busy preparing our entries for the various competitions. Today I am boiling up pork cheek and heart and the meat will then go into a pork pie. Also today, I will be bottling 3 different fruit liqueurs and making raspberry jam.

New stile


We have, at last, built the new stile where the public path across our farm crosses from field 2 to field 3. Having installed livestock fencing around the whole of field 2, the location of the stile was the only gap left in the perimeter of the field. Not any more. As soon as the stile was completed, we moved all our texel sheep onto field 2. It's 5 acres so there is plenty of space for the animals. Field 1 is to be left fallow at least until next year, now that we have taken off the sheep. They have been there for 3 years so field 1 can do with a bit of time to recover.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Pickling cucumbers


I was given some cucumbers recently by my friends Heather and Neil. Once I had my fill of cucumber sandwiches, I turned what was left into a pickle. I sweetened the vinegar and I added mustard seeds, celery seeds and a splash of turmeric. Two chopped onions were included. 4 jars were made. It will be left for a week to mature. If you make this yourself, sprinkle the chopped cucumbers and onions with salt and leave it to stand overnight. Rinse off the salt before adding the vinegar.

Friday 1 September 2023

Stuck in the fence


This little bad boy was repeatedly getting his head caught in the livestock fencing around the nannies paddock. Last year we lined the livestock fencing with chicken wire to avoid this happening but this little critter found the recently developed holes in it and we kept having to help him out. We have now lined the livestock fencing with a further layer of chicken wire. Problem solved - for now!

Thursday 31 August 2023

Sunniside Leek Show


I popped into the leek show at Sunniside Social Club earlier this week. Various people asked me why I hadn't put in any entries myself. Alas, I haven't grown show leeks before (we have grown ordinary leeks for eating). Perhaps next year I will have a go. Nevertheless, well done to everyone who took part in the competition.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

The egg glut


This is annoying! At this time of year the hens are producing fewer eggs. Temperatures are starting to drop and the days are getting shorter. Winter is approaching and the hens are responding accordingly. And then we find a clutch of eggs (the 3rd in the past few weeks) which we can't sell as we don't know how old they are. These clutches mean we have a large number of eggs to use up. Fortunately, the Bowes Show is approaching and we will be using lots of the eggs to make flans, cakes etc which will go into the various competitions that are held.

Monday 28 August 2023

How to make creamy tomato soup


One of my fellow allotment holders gave me a load of tomatoes recently. I made them into a creamy soup using the milk, whey and cream from our goats. This video walks you through the recipe I used.

Wednesday 23 August 2023

From waste into food


One of our mantras is that waste should be treated as a resource. This was certainly the case recently when someone had their apple tree pruned and they gave us all the branches (plus 3 sacks of apples). The goats loved the branches - and the Hebridean sheep joined in as well.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Bowes Show schedule


The schedule for the Bowes Agricultural Show arrived recently. Now is the time to start preparations for the show, which we have been attending since 2011. I will be entering the jam, pies, bread, scone, chutney, flan, egg and fruit liqueur competitions. The big competition is the pie making contest. A few years ago I won first for my game pie and it also won me best industrial exhibit in the show, meaning I had a trophy for a year. Alas, I've not even won a certificate since then. I have plans however to a pie that will hopefully put me back on top. More about that closer to the show!

Monday 21 August 2023

Alternative poultry feed


Rowan berries are ripe and abundant at the moment so we have been picking bucket loads of them to feed to the chickens and ducks as an alternative to the more costly layers pellets and wheat. We get through half a bucketful each day. We haven't eliminated pellets and wheat completely, we've simply reduced the amount we put in their feed. Hawberries will be ripening soon so we will be picking them as well.