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!!

Duck disruption!

Part of running a smallholding is thinking on your feet and not always knowing what’s coming next, but then to quickly adapt to it when the time calls for it.
We found this duckling (she’s big but young) hiding away after being pestered by the male older duck.  He’d taken a liking to her and was extremely rough.  As her wings cover her back, it hadn’t been obvious that he’d hurt her quite as much as he had.
We gathered her up and assessed how bad she was.  To be fair, it looks painful but she was ok in herself.
On looking at her back, we noticed how amazing her colourings are.  They’re really coming through.
We bathed it quickly in cooled boiled water which we always have in the barn for such an occasion.  She let us do it and hid in my coat nice and relaxed.
Grace noticed another one had been hurt too, so we whipped that one out and they stayed in the barn for the day, recovering in the horses hay and straw.  Sadly the second one has a poorly eye where he’s caught her and it’s still poorly but slowly getting better.
The ducklings have all been moved to another location now, a large pathway where they can eat the weeds for me!  The will remain their until they are ready for the freezer, so it is only temporary. 
***You may wonder why we move them if they are going to be killed anyway.  As many of my readers know, the most important thing for us is that the animals are happy and have a healthy life and then we dispatch them in the quickest, humanist way possible.***
Grace, like a lot of kids, wants to be a vet when she leave education and she enjoys looking after the animals in the good and the bad times.  Here she is holding one of the ducks she rescued.
We also took the time to take the eggs from under the goose and make them up a new bed.  It was the right choice as the eggs were foul and Mother Goose needs to recover now, she’s been sat a long time and has lost a lot of weight.

We’re locking up around 9.15 each night now, once it’s getting dark and everything has gone to bed.  The morning’s are lovely and light which makes running a smallholding and working that bit easier.  One day, hopefully soon, only 1of us will have to go out to work and 1 can stay at home to run the smallholding.  That’s the plan anyway 🙂

Recipe books and geese

First on the list is using my abundance of recipe books. I love them. However I am terrible for finding something online, normally BBC good food and just having the recipe on my phone. What a waste of books and the money that went into buying them. So I am going to combine both methods. Tonight I had chicken out of the freezer and an abundance of leeks in the veg plot to get through which I feel hugely pleased about. So Mary Berry’s chicken with leek, potatoes and thyme seemed perfect. I had left over green veg from the other night. I was sceptical tasting it during cooking but it turned out lovely. A very nice recipe that can be cooked ahead. Please msg me if you would like the recipe.
 
 

 Remember Ryan the goose? Well turns out he should be called Rhianna or whatever the female equivalent of Ryan would be. Our male goose confirmed it yesterday.

One of our other female geese has been acting strange again which means she is either poorly or laying eggs again. Turns out she had stashed 3 eggs in the shed.
This mild winter is playing havoc with things. The geese think it’s Spring and there buds on the trees which normally wouldn’t be up yet. We’re due to go below freezing again tonight having said that.  Stay warm 🙂

A little chicken and goose update

When Steven called in to the neighbouring farmer to buy some corn he enquired as to when the new additions we’re supposed to be getting from him will be ready to leave and his reply was they should be ready soon.  I think a farmer’s “soon” is as noncommittal as my “maybe” to the kids!  Anyway we should be getting them at some point in September!  We’re really looking forward to it.  It really feels like we’re starting to build up good foundations to really run our home as a smallholding.  I’m a bit conscious that we’re getting them later than I hoped – by that I mean we’re moving into Autumn, darker nights and if things go wrong, less daylight hours to fix it (or find them if they get out 😉 ) but we will manage and enjoy it.
3 of my bought in hens have recently started to lay eggs now they’re old enough.  The next lot will start to lay early October, so not too long to wait. The breed of chicken is called Vorwerk and are classed as a rarer breed than most. They are really pretty and the 7 of them have free ranged with Ryan, our house goose, since we have had them. So given that they free range across the whole smallholding, it will be interesting to see where they lay their eggs!  We have 4 hens and 3 cockerels in that group, all of which are getting on fairly well though I suspect at least 1, may 2 cockerels will have to go.  They won’t make good table birds, so they will probably be sold.  They make me laugh every day with their antics.  It’s so lovely to have them wandering around the place doing what they wish.  Of course Mr fox may take advantage of it one day and we’re know there are foxes around as we’ve seen them, I just hope the 8 geese we have is enough to keep him at bay. 

The last lot of this year’s birds were born in July so their point of lay is early December for those which are girls.  Any boys from that group will be leaving us before then, to start the stocking of our 2017 freezer.
Now to the ‘would you believe it’ part.  We were under the impression that geese only lay their eggs in the Spring.  So when one of our females started behaving particularly evilly (is that a word?!) I wasn’t overly impressed with her, until I saw what she was guarding.  An egg!  Well, 2 in fact.  I have taken them off her as I don’t want her sitting on them at the moment as she will need to up her body weight for winter, not lose it.  Also the goslings will have a better chance of survival if they arrive in spring instead.  More eggs! 😀