News, news and more news!

I am finally starting to catch back up with myself after a crazy few weeks, hence radio silence on here.  Firstly, Monday nights HAVE been a little different as I said in my last post and at the end of this post are a few of the videos we’ve done showing some of Grandma’s war time recipe.  Tonight (Friday) we will have a look through the books to pick one for this coming Monday, which I think will be savoury this time.  I’m trying to plan it in ahead of time as last week’s was rushed.  We would love for you to join our YouTube subscriber list as we are hoping to build a decent channel in the coming months and years too allow people can share in our experiences, learn from and hopefully enjoy.  
Anyway, enough of that.  There’s so many other things going on right now!  Firstly the gardens are growing GREAT guns – it’s been fantastic.  We’ve enough lettuce to feed an army!  The tomatoes are starting to grow but not yet ripen.
Beetroot is doing very well.  I’m sowing more for Autumn harvests.
 
The kale is growing really well and I’ve a couple of different varieties I am trying this year.  We are dehydrating most of it, then grinding it in to a powder to add to stews, smoothies, soups and so on.  Apparently kale is one of the healthiest greens you can have.  I intend to sow more to see us through winter and the hunger gap.  I’ll pop a couple in pots too, for reasons I shall share with you in just a moment.
Above are outdoor tomatoes, one of the lettuce rows, leeks and further away brassicas. 

 The space in the bed below are where the garlic were that are in the photo below that, freshly harvested and left to dry in the polytunnel.

 We have SO many cherries this year, it’s amazing.  This was a 15 minute picking session this morning, the colour on them is so vibrant.
Strawberries are pants this year.  They are throwing off runners which I have on my to do list to peg down and get some to use as replacement plants next year.  again I’d like a few in pots.  My Elderberry cuttings have taken, so I have 2 elderberry babies growing!!  I noticed a blackcurrant (had my first harvest!) is rooting one of it’s branches in to the ground so I shall snip that off and pop the roots in to a pot, again.  I’m also wanting to take cuttings from a willow tree we have and some roses, neither of which I’ve done before.  Saying that – I’d not done any of the previous before either so all will be well. 
The greenhouse and polytunnel are both tidy and maintained right now, as is the bottom veg plot (paddock plot).  The potatoes in the paddock plot look fab and I can’t wait to harvest some.  The top plots are suffering though, weeds are coming through this and fast and it feels like the asparagus is growing quicker than I can harvest it!  We’ve weeds galore on the car park which isn’t good when you have people coming to judge your house? 
Now why would we want people to come and judge your house?  Because we are FOR SALE!!!  What? Why? You are SO happy there I hear you say?  We are truly happy here and in love with the place.  Always will be!
However the opportunity has arisen to sell and buy a farm 10 minutes drive from us with 16.5 acres and plenty of outbuildings.  It comes with the opportunity to make income from it and combined with other things, means we could reduce our mortgage significantly, to the point where we could pay it off in 5 years or less.  As we stand here today, that wouldn’t happen and to pay it off early living here means very tight, thrifty living combined with extra harsh savings for at least 10 years.  We can totally do that, but if we can get this other place, we won’t need to. 
It is a very practical move if we do it.  We’d be moving from a big farmhouse to a bungalow, losing character and space.  Some may ask why would you consider that and to be honest, we’re going through all of these feelings ourselves.  Do we need the space inside?  Does financial freedom mean more than character and a homely home?  You can make any house a home, right?  We shall see, ours is for sale.  It may not even get a viewing (we haven’t after 1 week!) so it might not even be an option.  
For those who are interested, our house now and gates.  we’ve just under 4 acres in total.

The bungalow and its entrance we are considering. 

Another thing we have had going on is my health!  So I have finally had a diagnosis from the NHS and I cannot complain one bit, they have been fantastic!!  The good news is the illness I’ve experienced this year hasn’t been anything sinister such as cancer, I had the official all clear earlier this week.  I do however have a disease called sarcoidosis which I can totally deal with and manage, especially with the help and support of my nearest and dearest (friends as well as family there, thank you Lou xx).  Although it’s spoken of as a rare disease, it’s interesting to see how many people have it when you open up a conversation about it!
So it is Friday early evening now, I’ve worked all day and had a very productive day.  For the first time in ages I had no meetings (purposefully) and got through everything I need to in order to know where I stand on Monday.  Before work, the washing machine has been cleaned out with bicarb of soda and white vinegar on a hot wash as the clothes started to smell musty for some reason?  Over tonight and the weekend, I hope to make a rhubarb relish or something with the cherries and gooseberries I have just picked.  I’ll get more kale dehydrated and a few beetroot cooked.  Pork chops for our evening meal, with home grown veg.  Steven is making tea tomorrow, so if I get a soup made tonight for lunch tomorrow, I won’t have to do any cooking at all, meaning I can spend more time in the veg plot and working through the usual jobs list.  I’m going to do a youtube video on the plots too all being well.  Including the weeds!  No fake idealism here!  Speaking of which, here’s the links to some of the war time recipes ones I’ve done with the kids.  Take care.

Some of what’s growing and a suspicion

It’s funny as when I started sowing the seeds early in 2017, I couldn’t imagine them germinating.  Then when they germinated I couldn’t imagine them being decent size seedlings and then when I moved them to their final resting place I couldn’t imagine them filling the planting distance!  Well they grew, and filled it plus more….I did try, but I’ve planted some things too close again!
 
In the polytunnel we have a beef tomato plant to compare to growth with one in the greenhouse.  There was no noticeable difference.  There’s swiss chard, spinach and tomatillos in the below picture, all which I would recommend growing the polytunnel again.

 
The cucumbers don’t seem to be thriving in there.  The watermelon has done very well in the pot it has been in the greenhouse, so now there is a space, I’ve planted it in the polytunnel.

 
The last of the kale which did marvellously in here.  I’ve taken the rest out as the outside kale plants have caught up now.  Again, kale to get an early harvest is worth doing in the polytunnel.
I’ve put a couple of pepper plants that were later than the others in where to kale was and marigolds are blooming on the edges now.

 
My goodness the courgette and patty pans are leafing up quickly.

 
Oh der, I don’t even like cabbage as much as this would suggest I do!  Truth be told, I labelled them up wrong and thought these were caulis…..go on, have a laugh at my expense, I am!  Looks like a freeing session and coleslaw making is on the cards this weekend.  They’ve grown without any fuss though.  Durham early variety – I like no fuss plants!
 
 
A little idea I had for some of the many pumpkin seeds I had was to grow the smaller fruiting ones in containers and grow up instead of across.  These guys are coming on great due to the rain we’ve had no doubt, so this weekend they’ll be getting tied up so they don’t snap under their own weight.
 
 
 
The runner beans are also no fuss.  These are scarlet emperor variety and so pretty!  I’ve some preserving recipes waiting for these guys!  The nasturtiums are doing their job as they are covered in black flies.

Another bush that is coming on by the day is this cape gooseberry – literally growing by the day.  It might even need to go in the ground this year and not next like I was planning.

 
Another plant I couldn’t imagine taking up much room when I planted them as tiny green, flimsy leaves were the sweetcorn.  Well they sure like this soil as once they took hold, they shot up!
 
They’re in with some pumpkins which are just thugs.  They at sprawling wherever they want without a care in the world.  I love it!

Controversially I am growing tomatoes and potatoes in the same bed.  Now this goes against some recommendations but on a website I use for a lot of research, it said to grow them together for a number of reasons, so I am trying it outside.  I’ve taken up the second early potatoes which I am really pleased with and will definitely use next year (British Queen) and I’ve planted tomatoes (and peppers) in their place. 

There is still one row of spuds to come up and the back section is sunflowers and more tomatoes with catch crop of spinach in there.

 
The sunflowers are reaching amazing heights – I’m in for sizing guide – I’m 5’6 (and a half 😉 )

 
Considering how many tomato plants I have, I’m not getting anywhere near the amount in the greenhouse that I thought I would.  Disappointing results here so far.  I’ve had a couple of kilos but I have loads of plants!  Still the best thing you will taste though.
 
 
 
Now something that isn’t doing too well.  My broad beans have done dreadfully this year.  At first I thought it was just one of those things and maybe the new beds with rotted muck in were too rich for them.  Then I noticed other beds doing it but again, they’d had muck added at some point.  I’ve made this picture larger so you can look above the nasturtiums and see the curl on the leaf.  The beans are all knarled and shrivelled too.  I asked about and the consensus was weed killer which I said it can’t be as we don’t use it.
 
The my sunflowers, which were reaching for the skies with bright yellow blooms, started to die.  One down right died overnight.  Weird I thought, definitely something wrong with the soil.  I was gutted.  Steven not so much as after last years broad bean harvest he didn’t want to see another one again :D.

 
The leaves have done the same as the broad beans, shrivelled and died after being 100% healthy.
Hmm….I walked round my plots and started to wonder.  Is it possible that we’ve had drift from the farmer’s pesticide?  Last year I got caught out when they sprayed and it knocked me so ill that I needed to go to bed.  Are my sunflowers and beans suffering the same fate?  Does anyone know what else it could be?
Black fly for the beans, would they make the leaves curl?
 
The peas that I have sown in the same soil are sprouting up and the farmer won’t be spraying now I don’t think (harvest),so hopefully we will have some late peas too.
 
I’ve lots more to share, but I’ll do that another day.  Happy Friday!

Food cost of raising chicks and hens.

2017 is going to be our start in trying to get things to pay for themselves and see what income, if any, we can generate from the smallholding.  We’ve lots of thoughts as many people who have done this, will have had over the years.  Ultimately the main goal is to feed and sustain ourselves from the smallholding.  Part of that may also be financial but it isn’t the main focus.  Self sufficiency is the focus with a side order of thoughts on making an income.  Clear as mud?
So to do this we need ideas and records.  Lots of records!  I don’t mean LP’s, I mean the kind I should have kept last year but didn’t manage to 100%.  So we’re off with a flying start when I report in with this.
We started a little experiment when out chicks hatched in December.  It took 14 chicks 39 days to get through a 20kg bag of chuck crumb.  The bag was £7.50.  That means the cost per day was 0.19p so it was slightly over 1p to feed each chick per day.  We will weigh one tonight to see what weight it got up to over the same period.
I’ll run the exercise again in the summer to compare a summer hatch to a winter hatch and then we know if it’s worth it or not.
Here they are trying to make an escape:
The cockerels will either sell or go in the freezer.  There’s 7 cockerels and 7 hens.
In addition our remaining 46 poultry (including 4 geese and 4 ducks in that total), got through a 25kg bag of layers pellets plus almost 2 20kg bags of corn in 6/7 days.  This is around £20 worth of food in a week!  The corn was fairly expensive this time round, however as we will get it from the farmer most of the time, it’ll be a lot cheaper then.
Eggs sales have made us £25 in 10 days, so I’d say at the moment, they are just covering themselves!  Of course it is winter and we’re lucky to be getting eggs at all, however we got 15 eggs yesterday, and the previous days haven’t been too shabby so as long as we can keep up the egg sales and they feed themselves then that’s ok.  However we need to be mindful of these figures going forward.  I haven’t taken into account bedding  or time and effort. 
They will potentially bring some pennies in if we sell a trio of the chicks, and some geese and ducklings when they hatch some out, plus there’s always our rare breeds.  So watch this space. 
Of course the eggs are feeding us too, so that isn’t a bill I need to pay the grocery shop for.  Little things…

Such a geek

For Christmas I received a wireless weather centre from Ste.  I love it. 


There is an outside section which is attached to a high point in between my vegetable plot and the greenhouse, which is the section of land I want to know most about. 

This transmits data at intervals (mine is set to 30 mins) to a touchscreen device that I have in the kitchen. 
I can then attach the computer to the touchscreen device and either view it on the computer or download it to a spread sheet and check a whole range of different things, some of which I know about and others I have no idea what it is.

This morning before work, I downloaded the data which is from Boxing Day until today and (here’s the geeky bit) I found some interesting results. 

My computer screen

Over the days, the wind mostly blows from the North/North East, with only once from the West when it was warmer.

The coldest it’s been outside is -2.6C and the warmest is 16.8C on Boxing Day!  It was super mild though, I remember having to disrobe when doing the jobs.
It tells me what the dew point is, which I remember reading about once in how it related to veg and growing – I’ve since forgotten so will research it again.
I can set an alert on it to warn me if the temperature drops below a certain amount, meaning I will have to cloche/fleece the seedlings when I get them in the ground.
Inside the kitchen the temperature has ranged from 19.3 to 26.1 which is when I’ve been having a good cooking session.  The Aga is always on so that room is always warm.  Heart of the house :).
I can find out all about relative and Absolute pressure – no idea about this one?!
Wind gusts last night were recorded but only at 30mph which I was shocked about as it woke me up 3 times and was SO loud.
Also we’ve had 16ml of rain since I switched it on back in December.
I do love things like this and will happily sit looking at the data for a good hour or so, probably terribly sad, but that’s me :D.
I also got a tiller for Christmas – aren’t I a very lucky girl!?

Growing update

I must have the world’s easiest to look after pumpkin/squash.  It’s growing and I’m just watching from the sidelines.  I did put some straw underneath in an effort to stop it rotting.  If it’s as big as I think it is going to be then I might enter it into a country show as I’d love to do that. 
Here are 2 other pumpkin /quash plants that I am growing.  The pumpkin is tiny but so cute!  Can you say that about a veg?  The other squash is trying to rival my big one and is growing well.
We also have some borlotti beans growing.  I’ve never had these before but apparently they dry well ready for winter stews so I will do that.
I was given a courgette by a lovely lady that I sell eggs to.  It’s huge and will be added to a lot of meals probably in grated form as it’s not one of my favourite vegetables (yet!) but that maybe as I’ve had lots of supermarket courgettes up to now.
This weekend, we have family visiting but no other plans so I will get into the plot and turn over a few beds and get some winter seeds down.  The Grow your own magazine I signed up for (thanks to Louise’s blog Welsh Dreams Now Reality) have 2 packets of seeds with their latest issue.  Land cress and spring onion, so both are being sown this weekend.
I rarely get a picture of all 3 dogs together but as I looked out of the kitchen window the other night, here they were all mulling their thoughts over together so I managed to get a quick photo before the puppies found something else to run off and investigate.