My little family and our new ways

Since we moved to the smallholding, life has changed.  We had a vision of the lifestyle we thought it would be.  A lot of that has come true which is simply amazing.  What we didn’t realise, is how we would change as people, nurturing our new way or life, our values, what’s truly important and what really just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  We’ve been through some ups and downs as we figure this out, but it’s always worked out.  We have a strong family bond and the smallholding is developing that even further. 
So I thought I would share a couple of things that made me smile recently.
Ste made crispy cakes with rolo chocolates to finish them off.  I’m told the kids helped too 😉  They’ve been taken each day as packed lunch treats.
He’s also started making Sunday lunch for us.  I’m seriously jealous of how well these Yorkshire puddings turned out!!  He’s got a job for life there.

Ste and I collected nettles from the paddock recently and I made nettle soup!  This too is a first and despite my brain thinking otherwise, it was actually ok.  True, I wouldn’t choose it over butternut squash soup, but given its health benefits, I’ll happily eat it seasonally. 

It had a slight tinge of leek and potato – the recipe was from River Cottage website.

I moved on to nettle tea as I’ve read some excellent things about it’s medicinal values.  Only a small batch to start with.  I washed the nettles, boiled then simmered them for a few minutes and strained through a muslin cloth to get rid of the residue.
 It was very palatable!  I was shocked actually.  This is something I will turn back to, maybe drying nettles to allow for all year round availability.  Or can you use nettles any time of the year for tea? 
Grace is also finding her green fingers.  She has a natural curiosity with seeds and plants and enjoys sorting through the seed tray.  She asked me only just this morning if the rhubarb was ok as there’s a ‘big green thing’ growing in it.  I smiled and told her “hopefully”…after all, we’re all learning, so only time will tell! She’s sown some seeds for me too.
Jack likes to take his bike everywhere he goes on the smallholding.  Here he is, a dab hand at carrying a chicken feeder on his handle bars and taking it to get refilled at the feed station.

 Once the animals are fed, he collects the eggs, using any bucket he can lay his hands on to do so.  This one being an empty horse supplement bucket that Jill uses who keeps her horse with us.  It’s a job he can do himself and I like the sense of achievement he gets from it.  Looks like he does too?

So even though some days are hard, most days bring a huge happiness to us all.  Steven and I both work full time as well as run the smallholding, so we like to make sure we step back and smell the roses every now and then, and enjoy what we’ve built up and how our lives are changing.  It’s truly amazing and I welcome every minute of it.

A productive and wet weekend

The weekend forecast had one word – wet.  We decided to make the most of the rain and go to the cinema!  We rarely do this as a family, so we took the kids to see one of the kids films that is out and then went for some tea at a near by “diner”.  A treat that was enjoyed by all.  Given that it was going to be raining or snowing for pretty much all of the weekend, I hadn’t expected to get many outdoor jobs done.  However we managed to get a lot more done than originally thought.
Ste made me a potting bench, a counter top one so I can move it around as needed.  As usual, he used wood that we had to hand and in this instance, kept a part of the house alive using an old fireplace.  It’s perfect and does the exact job I need.  So I set about to use it.  I had lots of seedlings that were getting leggy, so I pricked them out and replanted them as deep as possible, so they grow nice and strong again, like they did last year.  It is huge, the reason it looks small here is I had my glove in my hand which got caught by the camera.

Below I have kale and spinach in the left hand tray – spinach hasn’t germinated yet, if at all.  Kale shot up so I won’t sow these 2 together again.  Then aubergine and beef tomatoes in the bag.  They’re next to my indoor peas which I sowed at the same time as the ones in the greenhouse (which are just starting to germinate so a week or 2 behind these).  The tray to the right is tomatoes, different varieties and 2 or 3 of each.
I made a bold move this weekend and binned the weaker seedlings and only kept a few strong ones of each.  I felt like I was doing something wrong throwing seedlings out!

I made a start on the plastic bottles that we had saved (Ste uses them for water in his gym) and am keeping them to use as mini greenhouses/cloches for when plants are put out or maybe for direct sowings to help germinate.  I’ve cut the bottom off so canes can be put through the hole in the lid, to support the bottle from flying away.

I sowed some sprouts and some flower seeds (sweet pea, cosmos) as I’d like to do my bit for the decline in bees and welcome them to my garden.  Not the wasps though, they can b****r off 😉 
A few more broad beans went in. These are the dwarf variety “Sutton” whereas the others are “Jubilee Hysor” left over from last year.  The Sutton does not need support so I will bear that in mind when planting out and just plant in blocks instead of rows.

 My bare root comfrey arrived.  I ordered 5 from ebay and to be honest when they turned up, I wondered what on earth they were!  However after a quick chat with Dawn and an email from the seller, I filled a container with damp compost, placed the roots in and covered with a touch more compost then wet newspaper.  I’ll see where to roots grow from then plant them up when the weather warms a bit.

 Speaking of warming things up.  I was like a kid in a toy shop when Ste bought me this beauty for Christmas.  Now I know some people aren’t fond of paraffin heaters but let’s give it a try.  It was recommended by UK here we grow on one of their You Tube videos.  I got it up and running and it had it’s first night on last night.  I’m pleased to say it kept the greenhouse at 6.3C.  I also got the heat bench up and running thanks to Ste, who rewired things so there is now power in the greenhouse! 
The bench heated wire works, so I will be starting to use that over the next couple of weeks.  Between the paraffin heater and the heated bench, the seedlings should do pretty well.  Just as well, as we’re running out of window sills in the house !

One thing I was really excited about was the piquant seeds Dawn sent me when she offered them on her blog.  The seeds originally came from Dani on Eco Footprint South Africa and I shall be offering mine when they are ready too.  I think it’s a lovely way of keeping this little pepper family going.

I have decided to try and get some batch cooking done on a weekend to start giving myself an easier life for week days.  This is my first attempt and scones in a long time.  These have blackberries in from the summer.  The blackberries were past their best when we picked them, so I froze them for use over the winter in puds and things.  They turned out really well so I buttered them and froze them individually for lunches.
After a weekend out in the cold and wet (and by gum it was both), Ste and I succumbed to a sore throat each.  Grace had a bunged up nose, but she hadn’t been out in the elements, so I think it’s a bit of a cold virus too.  I made Ste and I a Hot Toddy each using the following recipe from the internet:
Hot Toddy
1 shot whisky
1 tsp honey (I had 2)
2 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
off the boil hot water
slice lemon
lemon juice to taste
It was lovely actually and I felt fine this morning.
After lots of family time on Saturday afternoon, we watched another film last night.  Pirates of the carribean – you can see Jack with his telescope!  It was lovely to have the chill out time together.
The dogs enjoyed it too. 
I’ve lots more to write, but that’s enough for today – I’ll update you with other goings on shortly.
Happy Monday 🙂

A day off work for Ste means a new cold frame for us all!

Not just 1, but 2!
You may have guessed from the last post or 2, Ste had a couple of holidays to use so took 2 days off.  After putting the new gate up at the weekend, he kept up the pace by working on the new veg garden that we’re putting in.  I say we as he builds it, I’ll grow in it.
We have the 3 raised beds that he made and filled with muck already this year. 

With more of the same wood, which we bought specifically for this job to keep things looking nice, he’s made another bed which will become The Pumpkin Patch for 2017 (I always wanted one from reading about them in books as a kid!)

Taken from the other angle.
 However not only did he make another veg bed, he also made a start on some cold frames.
Not just one, but two!
 

He actually finished them but I don’t have a photo of the cold frames woodwork finished as it was dark when I went to see them after work.
We need to source some glass/plastic for the top of them but have been told to be careful as certain corrugated plastic removes much needed rays from the sun that the plants need to grow? 
Either way – we’re really getting ready for the 2017 and beyond self sufficient veg challenge!

An improvement – new gate

Ste’s been busy as usual.
Our outside space was pretty open plan when we moved in.  That’s because the previous owners had never owned an animal on it in their 27 years of living on it.  It was a larger farm when they owned it too, it was split and sold off (subsequently making them millionaires, so I am guessing they knew that on day 1).  Anyway, I digress.
So when we moved in, to keep animals where they are supposed to be, we started putting fences up and where we needed gates, we used temporary measures. 

We acquired a gate from my Dad who had no use for it and we agreed it would be ideally placed at the side of our barn separating certain animals who don’t get on. 
Ste set about digging a hole for the post we’d attach it to, as we don’t want to be drilling holes in the barn.
Below is the view down to the goose shed (behind the greenhouse) and on to the back of the barn, where the pallet is.
Ste got the gate up in no time and it looks great.  He put a small trellace against the greenhouse to hide the gap.  I wonder if I could grow sweet peas up this in a container, that would look pretty wouldn’t it?  Although I bet the hens would eat it!

Finished product.

Polytunnel success

This weekend we were very busy with family joining us on Saturday evening and friends on Sunday.  We had to fit in all of the usual jobs plus put the polytunnel up too.  So Saturday we set to work.  I did the usual horses and house jobs then joined Ste with the polytunnel.  He started putting the frame together in the barn.  The weather wasn’t very kind on Saturday but he soldiered on.  I was asked to hold this, lift that and straighten the other.  In no time at all we had the frame up.

 
 

Buddy helped out where he could making sure he checked the bucket’s didn’t have anything worth eating in them and having the odd drink or 2.

Ryan supervised the whole situation.

Day 2 saw the cover go on.  This is where it started to get tricky.  It was very tight and I can see the zips ripping in no time.  We managed it though and as it has a 12 month guarantee I’ll be sure to keep that in case I need to get a new one.

Then being amazing, Ste knocked up a couple of raised beds and attached them to the frame that’s there (this is how we put the PT up, this is not what’s in the manual).  The weight of that wood will not let that frame go anywhere.  We also dug a trench around the polytunnel and buried the cover in it. 

He then laid the slabs we had stored and they dictated the width of the path.  Lots of rotted muck went in and it was finished. 

All in all I am really pleased.  I think it looks great and it’s ready to provide us some food in the coming year.

In between holding and lifting, I sowed some seeds, clipped off some of the strawberries that I’d taken from runners and forgotten about and gave some of the veg plot a tidy up, giving the chickens their treats too.

I also finally got my potatoes chitting.