Outside space in February, including seeds, chickens and eggs

Look what we found growing in the muck pile, perfectly polished mushrooms.  They are still there, I don’t trust myself to identify mushrooms, but I do appreciate them and one day, who knows, Ste may try them 😉

 Where there is muck there is money?  We we gifted a gesture of cash for some muck we bagged up for the allotments recently, isn’t that great?  Maybe we can make an income from it as we look to set up our own little farm business in the coming months.

 The muck has been getting used in the veg plot to feed or mulch the beds before we covered them.  It’s hard work, but very worth it.  Hopefully this will keep the weeds down as well as prep the beds for when we are ready to fill them.  It’ll be end May, early June here for most things as last year we learnt the hard way when we had a frost on May 27th and we lost a load of plants.


One thing we want to get sorted pretty soon, maybe on a March goal is the rain water collection and how to then use it.  We think we will get a motorised pump to help distribute the water from the tanks to wherever it needs to be.  At the bottom of the veg plot, on the other side of the fence is the compost heap we are trying to put together.  It’s coming along really well with green and brown items.  According to Charles Dowding, it should be ready in 8 months or so once full.  I have no idea how long it’ll take to fill, it’s a big size container!
It is the furthest bed here that we are using it for.  The other beds look like this mess as the storms that are passing through keep ripping the fronts off them.  I’m going to turn one in to a hot bed and sow some carrots and parsnips in them this weekend – how controversial using muck for roots 😉
Wandering away from the muck heaps takes you around to the greenhouse where I’ve been sowing seeds since Valentine’s Day.  The leeks took a while to show but they are there!  I’ve a couple of varieties to try.  This was my workstation at the time!

 The salad, kale, tomatoes etc are coming along well.  Some of these will be pricked out and moved on this weekend, which hopefully won’t shock them.
 Giant sunflowers!!
 Thrilled to see the wild garlic Ste bought me for my birthday (best present EVER)  taking hold.  We have NEVER had it before, so I hope it likes living there. 
I rescued some snowdrops from a near death experience at the muck heap too, not sure where they will go yet.
Taking a step outside the greenhouse is a view to stop and enjoy.  It’s not all been rain.
Then we have the latest additions!  I have such a soft spot for ducks and I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to get these 4, 3 girls and a boy of the Aylesbury.  We’ve already been getting lots of beautiful eggs from them which we have popped 19 in to the incubator in an effort to start breeding them as we would like to become a supplier in the area, which there isn’t many of.  Another income opportunity hopefully.  
We’ve been getting plenty of chicken eggs too and have lots of lovely people asking to buy them from us each week.

The geese on the other hand aren’t laying yet and they won’t even use the blinking pond we re did for them! I have no idea what’s going on there, they prefer to drink the stagnant water that gathers in the drain pipes and things laying around the place!
Staying on the poultry theme, the meat birds have just been processed and my god are they big.  I’m really pleased with this lot, which will see us through the next 10 weeks for sure.  We have a plan with meat birds, I’ll come back to that again in another blog post.
The other meat we produced in 2019 was the lamb, which I took the last lot out of the freezer the other night.  Hell’s bells I didn’t realise there was so much left.  So I am now frantically cooking this lot, to refreeze in cooked form and get it put back in the freezzer in an orderly fashion.  Again, it’ll be on the foody post in the coming days and weeks.
Here’s my kitchen window view keeping an eye on the weather.  We’ve had some spectacular colours!
Something else that has been going on is the tup arriving.  He joined us on the 16th Feb and will stay with us a few weeks.  Hoping to have lambs the first week or 2 in to July, but it could be 3 weeks after that, depending on if he catches them or not.  I think they are all pleased to be inside at the moment on dry straw with nice hay.  It’s certainly better than being on the wet muddy fields with the storms blowing a hooey around you.
 Here he is, we called him Arthur.  He’s very sweet and his black ears are forever twitching in opposite directions.  He’s not that tall compared to the last tup, but he’s chunkier.  Let’s see what happens 🙂

Finally, Annie is still underwhelmed by everything and is still sneaking a nap in places she really shouldn’t. 

 Have a lovely weekend all.  We have a very busy schedule Friday through to Sunday so we will catch up with another post next week.

Rhubarb, a birthday, bathroom and Annie :)

I am really noticing the change in daylight hours this last week. Que the panic moment where Spring is upon us and I don’t feel ready. In anticipation of this, we’re getting a nice, early starting with the seed sowing again this year. Inevitably there will be some losses but it has served me well for the last 2 years since we started on this journey.

We have now sown most varieties of tomatoes, peppers and chillis, aubergine, leeks, peas, lettuce and cucumbers.  The peas went into guttering and have been placed in the greenhouse, for when they are ready to plant out, maybe April time.  They will just slide straight into a trench from the guttering, suffering little disturbance and making life easier for me.

I’ve sown SO many tomatoes this year.  A few reasons, one as my harvest was poor last year, also to find out which varieties suit our weather here in the North East from which I will save seed and use next year.  I plan on making and preserving enough tomato sauces (be it pasta, ketchup, bottled etc) to last a family until the next tomato season and I also will sell some, be it plants to grow on, or tomatoes to eat.

Some of the tomatoes from last weekend are flying up – for those which are leggy, I will replant up to their leaves as tomatoes are happy to do this.

Below the broad bean expermiment is underway.  The Aquadulce are coming through ahead of the Bunyard’s exhibition.

Finally sweet peas are doing well (ignore the label, it’s not what is sown).  I’m really looking forward to a great display of sweet peas this year, they are lovely plants and the bees love them too.

I invested in some capiliary matting to hopefully help with the watering of all the seedlings as that is a very time consuming job once we’re underway.  Anything to make life easier!

The rhubarb that I put the black bin on is not showing at all, but this little plant here took off last year and it is looking like it will this year too!  Look at it, no forcing and it’s away already.  The growing season is here!
In doing all of the seeds, I am spending a lot of time in the potting shed and Annie has been joining me now she is allowed out.  She is turning into such a lovely dog.

Unfortunately, the fox has paid us another visit.  The 3rd now.  We have Vorwerk chickens that free range completely, meaning they sleep where they want to.  Inevitably that meant they were easy pickings and 4 of the 6 went last night.  The 2 hens that remain are now in with the other chickens and locked away on a night.

One of the reasons I am not managing to post so much is the amount we have going on at the moment.  Here’s one of our current projects.  The family bathroom.  It is one of the more dated rooms in the house so we have decided to get on with it rather than wait until the Autumn, which was the first plan.  Unfortunately, the walls and ceiling all need replacing, but at least it should be a job that we only do once.

I’m lucky Ste just gets on with it – this is how we take old baths out in this house.

I’m sure it’ll be worth it!
It’s Grace’s birthday on Wednesday, she will be 11.  This is her 3rd birthday in the house and for each one we have thrown her a little tea party.  She had a friend over, family came and we enjoyed a nice few hours together.  Look at the cake my Mam made for her – simply delicious!  Grace is a lucky girl.
I really am trying to make sure we all slow down a bit here as January has gone by in the blink of an eye and it’s a bit worrying!  We get up at 5 and don’t stop until we go to bed around 10.  Being busy is great, but not at the expense of time going by too quickly.  I’m going to see what we can do to slow the days down a bit! 

Footprints in the snow and Saturday soup

The snow always tells a story. It tells me that we have lots of night time visitors as these (rat?) prints weren’t there when I locked up at 9:30. Ste will have to get out with his gun (and try to not nod off whilst waiting), which is his favourite past time!

Today we moved the geese, as every night since the fox came, they have been squatting in the sheep stable. The sheep are coming indoors for January and February, so the ever indispensable mesh covered greenhouse frame, which housed the Ross Cobbs (meat birds) until recently, was set up ready for the geese tonight. When changing the bedding over, we found broody gooses eggs so we’ve moved them.

Every animal is getting additional feed at the moment, the sheep are having hay morning and night as there’s no grass for them. One of the horses decided she fancied some too this morning, which was cute!

I tidied the pantry out yesterday as it was becoming our dumping ground for the Christmas chocolate and food gifts we received. I had been moaning to Ste about the spice jars in there as there was a few and I kept knocking them off. An hour later he walked back in with this:

I was very impressed and pleased. How kind.
Something I need to get back in to is cooking all of our meals. We’ve been lucky enough to be invited out by friends and family through December, which has taken its toll on the hips and how we feel. We are feeling the need for clean eating, if you know what I mean? Starting off with Saturday soup! Today is pea and bacon from bbcgoodfood and it was delicious.
Chop an onion and soften, add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a spoonful of my souper mix and fry for a minute. Add 3/4 bag frozen peas (this was around 750g) and 750ml stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins whilst you grill some bacon.

I blended mine immediately with a stick blender then served. Add bacon bits on to the top if you’re a fan, I am and it was amazing. Highly recommended.

In other thoughts, I buy Grow Your Own magazine as one of the treats to myself (some may laugh!) and they send seeds with every issue. I recently received some cauliflower seeds, all year round variety, which I decided to sow today. A bit early maybe, but what the hell.
I also purchased onion seeds from Real Seed which means I can keep some for saving the seed at the end of the season. It’s a very reasonably priced website that has a lot of heritage seeds which I love. These are the onion seeds I got delivered which were also sown.

They went into the Vitopod as onion seeds won’t germinate in cold soil. 4 trays, 1 for each variety. The cauliflower seeds went into an unheated propagator, however after testing it,  I have put the kerosene heater on in the shed, just to keep the edge off. It will be interesting to see how cold it gets in there. All learning for us still and I love that!

The heater is on a flat stone just to be safe and I’ve checked it a few times until I am confident it’s safe.
Finally, here is Buster and Annie this morning after breakfast having a relaxing time together. Rodney watches over them but never lays with them, so far!

Today I made a list for our 2018 plans using my new notebook which was a lovely surprise from Louise. I love it!!

Brining the leg of pork and winter fun 

When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging).  I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices.  We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.

Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze!  This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).

It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.

As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.

Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!

No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.

Getting back on it

I’ve been looking forward to today, for many reasons. The madness has died down, I am off work and can enjoy my family and home life and we have another addition!
I woke up at 5 to the alarm as Ste was going to work and headed downstairs to let the dogs out for their morning ritual. Except today we have one more, meet Annie.

Our 8 week old bullmastiff. We picked her up late last night from a very reputable breeder and drove the 2+ hours home. She was a bit out of sorts due to inoculations and the car journey, however she had lots of cuddles and soon settled in to her new home on our Smallholding.

Back to this morning, after I’d sorted the dogs out, I got ready and took a moment to look out of the bedroom window. It was pitch black still but the moon was out, lighting up the field to the left. We had a frost again, giving everything a lovely shimmer. To the right, I can see the farm next to us in darkness apart from one soft glowing light, presumable where the farmer was working feeding his cattle. I always appreciate where we live, I love life here, it’s just been so hectic lately that I haven’t had enough time to stop and smell the coffee. This much needed time off is sorting that out.
The potting shed I told you about before, well it’s pretty much finished now.  Just the electrics to go in for the vitopod (propagator) that I got for my birthday. I’m going to set some onion seed away as soon as possible. My only worry is that it’s still so cold on a night and it can only increase the temperature 12c higher than what is outside.

Jack was lucky enough to get a ‘diy’ birdbox for Christmas which he has put together himself and asked if I would like it for my shed exterior. Who wouldn’t?!

The plant pots have all been moved from the greenhouse to the potting shed now so I am starting to get organised. I have my seeds to sort out as I’ve acquired too many. I will do an inventory of them and try to keep it up to date.
For now though, I’m going to get organised in the house as Christmas has been amazing but  has taken its toll! Also, we’ve been slacking on the self sufficiency front and we are fully concious of that so I tend to get back to basics and get our lives back with it starting now. Plan, plan, plan!!
All the ross cobs have now been processed, so we’re stocked up with chicken again. That and the pork will see us through to the spring when we’re getting the next round of ross cobs, pigs and hopefully lambs. We won’t over winter any ross cobs again. Learning from this year is to stock up in the summer. Freezers are your friend!!