Summer holidays and exciting news!

We are in the midst of our summer break here. I’ve taken 2 weeks off work to catch up on the smallholding and start to prep for winter 2018.  I also have some exciting news to share with you.

The veg plot and friends:
Taking the 2 weeks off work, before the August bank holiday every year, is proving to be a really good time to have off from a smallholding point of view.  There’s so many things to harvest and preserve.  I spent the first few days weeding.  After the prolonged dry weather, then the burst of rain, the weeds have been forcing their way through and bringing their friends.  I managed to weed the potato bed, the squash bed, peas and beans, outdoor tomatoes and the roots beds.  My daughter also helped put some hay (it was too dusty for the horses, perfect for the veg patch so didn’t go to waste) under the squash to protect them from the wet soil.  

This year the plum are non existent but last year was a super year and the branches were snapping from the trees, so we aren’t surprised but it’s a shame.  The damsons are doing ok though and are almost ready.  I’ve spotted a few wild plums along the lane so we will pick them this week and use them.

Apples on the other hand are doing AMAZINGLY well this year!  This variety is Discovery, which we got from Kev over on An English Homestead and they are the nicest eaters ever, I was pleasantly surprised.  Look at the size of them!
More apples on the back trellace as cordons from Kev, doing very well too but later varieties.
 Outdoor tomatoes are loving the long, hot summer weather so far, though the muggy weather we have now is ripe for blight, so we are on blight watch daily.  I can’t recommend this variety highly enough, it’s called “Outdoor Girl”.
This is the second harvest we have had from these and there’s another couple of the same again to come.
 Every year we grow a pumpkin or large squash of some variety and this isn’t huge yet, but we’re pleased with it.  There’s a local county show we go to, for some fun competition where we will show this.  We won first place last year!
 This variety is called Sibley squash and I got the seeds from real seed.  They are supposed to keep very well through winter, becoming noticeably sweeter after New Year apparently.  The plants have been prolific this year.
 The indoor tomatoes are doing beautifully.  After a rubbish crop last year, where I didn’t even get to bottle any, I’m pleased they are coming along nicely.  I’ve never seen so many tomatoes on one vine as this variety.  The variety if Ildi.
Next year we must do more against the cabbage white butterfly.  This year seems to have been horrendous for them!  To be double sure, I intend to grow the young plants undercover and then when I plant out, put them straight under enviromesh.  It’s not cheap but apparently is worth it.
Two of my favourite summer veg, broad beans and courgettes.  Just as well as there’s loads!  Only 1 variety of courgette this year, I prefer the yellow and will stick with that each year now.   
 The kids have been brilliant during our time off and very helpful.  I’ll explain more in a moment, but here they are in my potting (or plotting as Jack calls it) shed enjoying some treats after a morning of hard graft.
 The damsons I mentioned.
 Old apple trees in the orchard, doing well this year.
On the smallholding:

We’re getting the outside jobs done.  Some nice and some not so nice.  There’s not only weeding to be done in the veg plot, but there’s plenty around the smallholding too.  Nettles are everywhere and boy are they stingers.  The car park looks more like a field, so we’ve hand weeded part of it, with the rest to be done.  We have trees to fell to give us Winter 2019 heat as they will need to season for a year or so.  We’re picking up 20 Ross Cobb day old chicks from our supplier tomorrow.  They will be slow raised to a decent weight when they will go in the freezer for 2019 chicken.  They are to be housed for the first few weeks in the poultry shed which is (hopefully) fox proof as we still have a fox issue.  
Additionally we’re picking up some Rhode Island Red day old chicks too, which will start off 2019 laying hens.  Cockerels will go to the freezer too, bar 1.
With all this in mind, we needed a processing area for when the time comes.  Ste has built this small shelter at the back of the smallholding for that purpose.  It’s great isn’t it and will last for years at a small cost to us financially.
Ryan, our female goose as some of you may remember, has decided she wants to sit on her eggs again.  The previous lot that were sat on this year didn’t hatch, so I don’t know if Neville, our gander, is performing or not.  

 Below is the small paddock.  The fenced, nettled area is where we ran the pigs on in 2017.  There is a small wooded area at the back and the rest of the paddock is currently laid to grass.  At the moment we need the grass for the sheep as the horses have the big field, but we just can’t decide what to do for the best with this area in the long run.  The pig area will be brilliant for growing in once it is clear, given the muck they produced.


In the kitchen:
The rhubarb vodka is ready, so I have decanted it into bottles and oh my it is nice.

We decided to sell our kitchen table even though I love it, as I wanted a bigger one.  We were all set until we realised we already have the perfect size table in the dining room which we never use except at Christmas. 

 With a lovely farmhouse tablecloth over it, it really suits the kitchen and is the perfect size for us.

So now we’re reevaluating what to do with the other table and the space we’ve created in the dining room (which was a snug).
The kids have been baking, but I forgot to take photos as I was playing negotiator.  Brownies, scones and millionaire shortbread!  No diets in this house for now!  The kids and Annie had plenty of cuddle time too!  

She simply is the kindest natured dog with them.  She is the perfect guard dog too, you won’t get in the house without being barked at followed by a warm welcome if we tell her it’s ok.  Can’t wish for a better dog.
I also made a tomato soup which turned out to be very bland.  Unsure what to do, the next day I made “half the garden soup” from Hugh’s River Cottage book and when it called for a kilo of toms and stock I decided to just use the tomato soup instead, plus a bit of my ‘souper mix’ from Pam Corbin’s book and goodness me, it worked out well.  
I’ve also been making slow cooker stews, pulled ham, pork and roasting chickens.  A lot will be returned to the freezer once made ready to reheat as evening meals once we are back to work.

The next plan….
So now for the exciting part.  The next plan.  It’s been forming for a year or so, but we’ve taken the time to formalise it whilst we have been off work.  Starting now and until end of May 2019, we are stockpiling a years worth of long life or non perishable goods. 
Come June 1st, we’re embarking on living off one wage and saving the other.  This will allow us to have a years worth of savings in the bank, which leads on to phase 2 of the plan, for another day.
From June 1st we will have an annual grocery budget that equates to £25 a week.  This is only for the likes of milk, butter, flour, cheese, kids lunch items.  Everything else, literally, will come from our ‘stores’ as we refer to it, the years worth of supplies we have stockpiled prior to June.
That means we also need to find an additional £1300 cash to have to hand from June 01st, which is the annual budget.  Any income after June 01st is being saved.  As we’re stockpiling, our outgoings are already going to increase so we need to have this cash as additional to what we have now.  Time to sell what we don’t need and make money where we can.
It’s all part of the lifestyle shift that we have bought in to and I can’t wait to get started.

My time off

I cannot believe it is Wednesday evening already! If I was at work this week, it’d probably still be Monday morning! The old saying does say ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. I need to catch up on everyone’s blogs and I will do that later tonight as we’re off to Crook now to collect some equipment for Ste’s gym and seen as though I don’t need to go to bed early, I can stay up reading blogs
We’ve been a bit of a first aid place these last few days. An old hen of ours lost her balance somehow, I think the cockrel knocked her over. Then she couldn’t get up and the whole flock attacked her. Thankfully we were fixing a fence in the coop at the time and Steven stopped it. We segregated her as I thought she wouldn’t make the night, but she did, so she’s back in with the flock now.
Also Ryan has a poorly leg or foot. He won’t put it down. I’ve thoroughly inspected it and can’t find anything obviously wrong.  We’ll treat him like the duck when she went lame and hopefully it’ll sort itself over the next few weeks.
The kids and I have been on some lovely lazy walks, had some brilliant rides out, had family over for tea, friends visiting and generally doing what we want when we want. The animals have all been spoilt and the veg plot is having the day spent on it tomorrow. A couple of the beds are ready to empty and either cover up or plant winter goods.
The farmers are very busy with their harvest buy not too busy to discuss our smallholdings latest addition. The 2 of them will be joining us in 2 weeks time, or there abouts. Once they’re weaned. No doubt that’s enough for everyone to guess what they are 🙂 but if not. Pics soon!
I’m going to take lots of photos of the veg plot tomorrow along with the orchard. Fir now here’s some close ups of the sloe bush and berries plus a few extras to keep the blog up to date. Hope everyone is having a lovely few days of sun like we are here.

Picnics and harvests

Today we decided to walk to a local village along the Public Footpaths.  It’s about a 40 minute walk and the sleepy village has the River Skerne running through it.  It’s actually the river that runs along the bottom of our field.  There’s a lovely green area next to the river and the railway line, so we took a picnic for lunch and enjoyed some family time relaxing by the river and eating some treats for lunch.  We thoroughly enjoyed it as did the dogs.  We could only take the 2 younger ones as Buddy can’t go far these days.  It does make me laugh when I wonder what people will make of us, turning up in jodhpurs, gardening clothes and mucky faces from the morning’s jobs.  They will soon find out if they speak to us they won’t find a more down to earth family, but I do think our “work clothes” would stop a lot of people doing that 🙂
 
My beautiful daughter and a tired Rodney
 
You can see that smile too, right?
Jack was mightily impressed that he found a sticker which he was sure would lead to treasure!

Rodney enjoying the walk

 When we got back it was time to get on with some more jobs.  Grace had rode both ponies on the morning and had put the jump back down to jump the dogs over them to have some fun whilst she was waiting for me.  There’s a large tree and part of it had come down whilst we were out walking.  It was super windy, but I’m glad it didn’t come down whilst she was riding!

 
I harvested lots of yummy food from the veg plot to have for Sunday lunch.

I couldn’t resist taking this, such a pretty sight or am I cracking up?

Dwarf beans, lovely!

Purple podded peas and late picked broad beans

 Whilst tea was cooking, it was time to make sure Buddy got a walk out too.  He doesn’t go on a lead now, ever.  It was part of what I wanted when we moved away from a main road.  He doesn’t go far and isn’t the fast dog that he used to be.  The lane in the background is literally outside our gates.  We’re so lucky to be able to open the gates and let him have a wander.  Grace makes sure he’s safe and I’m sure he keeps an eye on her too 😉  Both under my watch of course.

 
I always like to look for the silver lining and today’s wind brought lots of windfall apples!  SO you can guess what recipes I am looking for tomorrow.  1 full bucket and 1 1/3 full.  I think they are all cookers.

 

Today’s eggs haul

This is my first attempt at plaiting onions  Maybe they needed longer to dry out but I couldn’t wait.
 
Last of the year’s rhubarb

Oooh and 4 sleeps left until my last day, 5 until I’m waking up off work! 

2016 harvest so far

Normally on a Wednesday I would get a veg box delivery.  I haven’t ordered one for this week, for the simple reason, we have lots of our own to use!  It may be short lived, time will tell, but for now, we’re supplied for the next week with enough produce to keep us going.  I’m really pleased with this.  It led me on to think that later in the year, or next year, I will probably look back and wonder what we’ve managed to make from our home grown products so I thought I’d make a list showing what this Spring and Summer has offered us in the way of fresh veg, preserves, cordials and so on.  Here we go:
2 large kilner jars of strawberry jam.  I think this simple jam is actually my favourite.
Elderflower, rhubarb and gooseberry jam, 4 jars.
Raspberry Jam, 3 jars
Rhubarb and ginger, 5 jars
Elderflower cordial 2 litres
Blackcurrant cordial apx 350ml
Gooseberries, Rhubarb, Blackcurrants, Red currants, White currants by the bucketful along with more strawberries and raspberries.  There’s still more ripening now!
This week, we had our first tomatoes with our tea too!  So tomatoes are on the list now.
Fresh veg
Asparagus, Purple and green broccoli, Cauliflower, Broad beans, Peas (red pods and greed pods), Onions, Leeks, Lettuce, Radish.  The list is still increasing.
Really, looking at this little lot, we’ve done well so far.  My mind goes in to over time with excitable thoughts!  I’m learning each week and next year will continue to learn.  For example labelling everything – I intended to do it then either forgot to move the labels in my excitement of pricking out and potting on, especially once things went outside.  I need to figure out the best way to organise the greenhouse as it’s all a bit messy which I don’t like.  I like tidy but I’m not a natural by any means!  Also thinking about an easier method for getting the rain water to the greenhouse and veg plot as it’s a long trek when you need 50+ watering cans full!  Rain water hose pipe or sprinkler springs to mind.  Could we harvest the water from the stream that runs along one edge of the orchard.  I’m thinking about how and when to heat the greenhouse and if it’s worth it.  A polytunnel would be great but isn’t an option in this year’s budget at present.
I’m starting to give thought to 2017 veg plans but before that I’m going to be making lists of what else I can sow now to see us into (and maybe even through) Winter.  I’m going to bottle the next lot of raspberries in some vodka, along with blackberries & elderberries when they arrive too, just a few small bottles to try at Christmas. If they’re nice then we will use them for gifts to select people.
So as you can see, lots going on in my head and my 2 week break can’t come round quick enough as  I have 101 things I want to get done!

Today’s harvest

Oh wow this is what it’s all about. Today we harvested all sorts from the veg plot. I haven’t ordered a veg box for this week as we don’t need one!!! How fabulous is that.  Hopefully we can get to do this for most of the year eventually.
Today we picked broccoli, cauliflower, mountains of broad beans, peas, redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries, onions, leeks, cabbage.  There’s loads more out there to harvest too so I will blanch and freeze what we don’t use immediately. We do need more milk though as the delivery scheme sent the wrong amount this week! Thankfully we had long life milk in the pantry which I make sure we always have in so meals continued ticking over as expected.
We made cordial from a few of the blackcurrants. If it’s nice we will keep the recipe for next year and make more and bottle it for long term use.
Any tried and tested recipes for currants, cabbage and cauliflower would be appreciated. Happy Sunday everyone.