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!!

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?

Catching up with December’s antics.

I was just reading Dawn’s blog to catch up when I glanced at her sidebar and noticed it said 6 days since my last post.  That has gone scarily quick.  As much as I love December and the Christmas build up, there is a lot to do on top of the usual. 

The elves have been busy keeping an eye in the kids.  No matter how I moved them round, this photo still looked pretty rude and it wasn’t meant to!  Sorry about that, though I did get a giggle.

We’ve found another hay supplier.  I didn’t need one, but whilst helping a friend in need at the weekend, we got chatting and he is local and does small bales for £3 a bale which is average for here.  The hay was nice and dry, no mould and not too sweet, so will be good for the horses and sheep when they get their extra.  Grace also made a new friend.  The innocent trust between a puppy and a child made my heart melt. 

Steven made a new friend.  What a corker of a boy!

Buster is adamant there is something in the walls.  I can’t hear anything and I hope it isn’t mice or worse.  No suggestion other than Buster refusing to move, looking transfixed at it.

For those who have heard about the bird flu preventative requirements, we’ve done our bit to follow DEFRA’s guidelines on avian flu and housed ours in the barn with the horses.  Grace is the only one who can easily get in and out to their feeders, she’s a big help. 
They hens do decide to roost anywhere but where we want them too mind you.  At least it’s all in the barn.  I can’t wait to get them back out again.
We have managed to hatch 13 chicks, ready for next year’s laying hens.  Sadly we lost 1.  I am going to also raise some more of my rare breeds.  The chicks are inside and were hatched on Thursday 8th December meaning they will be at point of lay on 11th May.  This years last hatch which were July 2nd are now at point of lay but aren’t laying.  I presume given the time of year, they don’t want to!  We’re still getting a lot of eggs though from out main hens so that’s great. 
 

 I’ve also bought the sheep a mineral lick as the grass is obviously not growing.  Plus I have acquired a new chest freezer (new to us) for FREE but I insisted our friend take some petrol money for dropping it off.



Moving week! 4 sleeps to go….

Happy Monday!

Moving week is here finally!

This week sees the work start with solicitors and vendors again.  We’re waiting to hear where we will be collecting the keys from and if everything is going smoothly with solicitors/lenders, so fingers crossed there.

All being well we should get the keys just after lunch on Friday and be making a cup of tea by 3pm!  Having said that, with the amount of things we have to shift, I don’t think there will be time for tea!

Hopefully we will have everything moved in by Friday night, Saturday lunch time at the latest, all depending what time we get the keys and make it to the farm.

Saturday and Sunday will see lots of visitors of family and friends combined with trying to put fences up for the puppies (our older dog won’t wander off) and making the hen house safe.  Hopefully our girls should be back with us shortly after moving in. 

We plan on getting a few fertilised eggs when they become available, a few chickens and some geese.  We will then continue to breed them through the year.  The boys will mostly become Sunday lunch and the girls will be kept mostly as layers.

Pigs and possibly sheep will follow and again we are hoping if we give them a good life, they will give us a good freezer stock.

All animals and “plants” that we bring in will be for a purpose.  By that, I mean they will need to feed us or help support feeding us.  The horses however are an exception!  They are purely for our pleasure :D.  We have 4 coming with us.  Not all are ours but we are lucky enough to have a friend bring hers too.

The horses stables are arriving on Tuesday as is their bedding and the hay is coming on the Thursday.  I can’t stop myself getting excited but until everything is completed on Friday, I need to keep a lid on it!

1 week and 2 sleeps!

Time is flying round now and thankful we are for that too!  I normally hate wishing my life away but Friday 15th January cannot come quick enough!

I have made a couple of little splurges cash wise.  We are lucky enough (some would not agree it was lucky!) to have inherited an Aga with the farmhouse.  It is a 2 oven, special edition one which I posted about here.  Therefore in anticipation of this, I have treat myself to an Aga gauntlet and some bake-o-glide.  The research I have done shows that both of these items are must have, lifelong companions when you have an Aga. 

Also my husband has bought an Aga toaster for the kitchen which is like a wire tennis racket that the toast goes inside and you ‘grill’ it on the hot plates.  According to Agaliving, there is no cooked breakfast or toast quite like an Aga one.  I shall keep you posted on whther or not I agree!

 
This week we have been moving items from my vacant Uncle’s house where we are currently staying, to my parents’ house.  We are going to make the final move from there as it makes more sense to have everything in one place.  They have kindly let us store lots and lots of things at their house whilst we’ve been waiting. 

The van is booked for moving day and we’re waiting to hear where we will collect the keys from.  No doubt we will be sat ready to go from 9am and the reality is it will be nearer 3pm before we get the keys!

I’ve also been in touch with the company who are delivering our stables and they are on track for delivery the Tuesday after we move in, as is the bedding for the horses.  The hay and straw has been requested for delivery but I am waiting to hear back from the farmer to see if he can deliver that week.  Once we move in and get to know the neighbours, we intend to see if there is a supplier from the immediate area but for now I have found someone who is recommended but slightly out of the area.

My brain is full of ideas that I can’t wait to put in to practice.  One idea that I’ve tried with intermittent success is menu planning, which I am in the process of doing.  I need to stock our new pantry up, over time, and this will begin with the first food shop.  I am getting it delivered to help myself but weekly shops after the initial one, will be done at Aldi.  All menu plans and shopping, including prices will be recorded. 

For the remainder of the ideas, I hope we don’t fall in to the trap of trying too much at once, but we’re just so excited!