Goodbye November, hello Jack Frost!

Can you believe November has been and gone? I can’t. December is a busy ole’ month here, I’m sure it is for you too. It’s actually my 40th birthday coming up and I’ve been so lucky to have been gifted a Mulberry bush. It’s in my greenhouse where I hope it stays safe over the winter. Any tips welcome? I know Tricia from Tarragon and Thyme said she lost hers, I hope the same doesn’t happen to this one. I love the idea of it growing with me, something to look back on and say I received it for my 40th, I’m soft like that!

This one is from Victoriana nurseries – I’ll keep you posted on how it fairs.

This weekend saw our first proper frost of the Autumn. It was beautiful, the air was so still and calming. It was a great start to the day until I went to check on the quail and found we’d lost yet another to predators. The perils of smallholding life, a constant battle to protect your young from predators, be it quail or cabbages! We won’t be beaten!

As is customary, we went to check on the animal’s water and the field water had frozen over. As is also customary, Jack enjoyed breaking it up to ensure the sheep could get a drink.

We had a little check on the mint that we moved to the garden in a big pot and it seems to be doing very well. I’m wanting to start making my own mint tea and dehydrating some. I’m not sure it’s the best time of year to do it, or if it even matters for mint. I’ll do a bit of research and give it a go.

Steven is working alternate Saturday’s now, so we are settling in to that new routine. He’s home mid afternoon so it’s not too bad although it obviously means he has less time for jobs around the smallholding. Not an issue at this time of the year and who knows what next year will bring, so we will watch this space! It does mean the kids and I are doing more together on the Saturday which I love. This weekend we made some paperchains and homemade Christmas decorations. Never too early in our house.

Annie was a little underwhelmed by it all and slept through 😉

So, goodbye November, it was a short one! Here’s to mince pies and bailey’s coffee December. Take care everyone!

Bank holiday plans.

Our surrounding farms are in full swing.  They have their cattle out in the fields, who were obviously really interested in something, so much so they lined up in a semi-circle for it.
The currant bushes are laden!  I am really excited as I can’t wait to make those delicious cordials again that we made last year.  I’ll be stocking up on them this year though, to preserve rather than use right away.
We’ve been eating asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli a few times a week.  So far we’ve had it whole and in stir fries and it’s delicious.  I’ve got a load of PSB in for 2018 as it’s a lovely crop to have and fills the gap when waiting for the next years crops and finishing the last of the leeks and so on.  It takes almost a full year to harvest, so it’s in a separate bed near the fruit trees.  Time will tell if it’s any good there.

This coming weekend is a bank holiday and we’re spending some of it with friends and the rest of it in the veg plots and paddocks.  The pigs will hopefully be moving to their new accommodation on Sunday.  We’re out Saturday otherwise we’d do it before and if they escape, we need to be on site for it.  We’ll be home Sunday and Monday as normal, so that seems sensible.
In the veg areas I want to get some more plants out but I’m hesitant after this week’s frosts.  I also need to get a lot of things potted on and some more sown to ensure successional sowing.  I’ll give the ones that are out already a feed and some pellets for the slugs (no hedgehogs can get in, it’s rabbit proofed for those who worry).
I’ll be checking on the fruit and nut trees that we have recently planted but I won’t need to water them as we’ve had rain, snow and sleet in parts.  Shot lived but enough to water them.
The main crop potatoes are showing through so I will earth them up and cover them in the ongoing battle with the chickens.
I am also going to try and get something done with the field that I flattened.  I used my fiesta, as in my car.  I asked the farmers, tried to pay people and looked online.  No one could help, so I used my initiative.  I knocked myself sick going backwards and forwards, but the job’s done.  Now I need to get the grass seed sown.  Obviously the ground is flat and hard, so I need to get my thinking cap on.  I have basic tools only!
I’ve been weeding as often as I can, to try and stay on top of it so they don’t take a hold.  The weeds get thrown onto the pile of ‘scrap but useful’ items we keep behind the barn and the chickens see to it.  They love scratching round in them.
A busy weekend planned.  It’s all too much for Rodney and Buster.

Christmas preparations and home raised meat for the table

I’m still chasing my tail but my head is just above water and I’m happy as Larry.  Whoever he is.

So this weekend started off with a frost on Saturday morning.  It always makes me want to stop and get a photo as frost makes everything look so pretty.

The frost mean the sheep had a bucket of hay between them which they happily munched on. 

My Mum came over and had some of my homemade jam (the few that didn’t turn mouldy!) with a wholemeal breadbun.  She sadly has a, let’s say condition for ease, where she is restricted on what she can eat.  So homemade jam is one she can have, which makes us both happy.  It is her 67th birthday today (20th), Happy Birthday Mum xxx. (I am a day late with actually publishing this post!)

I noticed my garlic and onions are starting to come through, you can just spy them in this bed poking through the soil.  The Purple Sprouting Broccoli is also in the same bed which I planted as an experiment to tell me if it’s worth doing on a bigger scale for this year.

I finally got round to making some fudge.  I’ve never made it before and followed a recipe from bbcgoodfood for white chocolate fudge.  Now I don’t like fudge myself, but Jack loves this one.  I am going to try and get another flavour made and hand them out as Christmas gifts to people when they visit or as they leave after Christmas dinner.

Yesterday I put a ham in the slow cooker and we had some for tea with pasta and a garlic sauce.  It was really nice and different to what we’ve been having, so a refreshing change.  Now I confess, I always say to myself I must do something with the stock that’s left.  Then I don’t and I wash it away, so last night, I sent Dawn a message and she told me to freeze it on ice cube trays for use another time, so I have done just that.  Why I haven’t done that before, I don’t know.  Thanks Dawn.  We got loads of lovely shredded ham off it.

I’ve been wrapping gifts as often as I can.  I’m using brown paper and decorating with my own items.  I love this look.

Here is a rare photo of me and the 2 girls.  I don’t often post about the horses specifically but they offer the smallholding bountiful amounts of super manure (I was going to use a double S there but I restrained) which in turn feeds the land, which feeds us.  So they have earned the right to a photo 😉  They can be my sanity at times when I feel like I could scream.

Finally to the Christmas meat, please do not scroll down if you’re offended by the sight of birds being prepared for the table.  As you will know by now, this is our lifestyle that we’re aiming towards, so I make no apologies for it, but will always give you fair warning if there are photos as I understand that we’re not all the same.
On Sunday we dispatched a goose and a duck ready for Christmas Day.  We did 2 chickens in the summer and they were a pain to pluck, so we hung them up after dispatch, covered their heads to keep things tidy and plucked them hanging from the small barn roof.  It made the job a lot easier, though it still took a long time.  I can totally understand why hand plucked birds cost so much and doing it makes you realise even more about respecting the process and the end result.  We’re doing both birds for Christmas lunch.  The goose will be done in the Aga as per Mary Berry’s instructions and I need to look up how long to cook the duck for – I have an alternate oven which I may use for that, as I will need space in the roasting over for the veggies.

Both kids helped with plucking of the goose, they soon got bored to be fair, but I am pleased they were involved.  I do try my hardest to ensure they respect the animals and are not squeamish about being able to provide for themselves. I am really pleased with the end result.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!  How about for you?

Contentment and homemade propagators

As I was driving home today I would normally be feeling sorry for myself having had a long day at work and then having to do more work this evening. However then I spotted 2 deer on the farm lane thay runs along to our smallholding and I stopped and watched them for a good 5 minutes. They were more than happy to allow me to stay there. It was lovely. So no I am not going to sit and think how I don’t like Tuesday’s. I am just going to think how much I love living where we do.
Last night we had a frost and I hope my little seedlings pulled through. They are in the greenhouse and it wasn’t a particularly hard frost but even so I am worried they were caught by it.
So in an attempt to make a free hearing system I have bagged up some horse manure which we have in abundance and placed them under the shelf where the seedlings are. Now horse manure gets to some temperature so my plan is to use this heat to put the seed trays on as a kind of free propagator. I think it’s a great idea! 🙂

Frosty morning

I was a few minutes late for work this morning as I simply had to stop and take in the beautiful scene. Again, we feel so lucky to be here.

The logs are now in situ and will stay there until they are ready to be used. The next one has been picked for felling and will be done soon.
In the mean time Steven ‘s job of the week is to make a new tack/storage room in the barn next to the stables. He is starting that tomorrow after buying the wood needed to do it tonight. I think it is going to be a busy weekend!
PS the fence is done!