Back to basics

Well!  Who knew we would be in this situation for my next blog post?  Not us that’s for sure.
I hope everyone is coping with their various situations right now.  Personally, I am home with the kids and we are almost at the end of week 2 of isolation.  I chose to pull them out of school a week before they closed and have home schooled and worked from home since then.  We are adapting, coping, winning – all of those things.  Overall this is actually a very positive experience for us all, obviously not what is going on in the outside world though.  
Ste is still going in to work with being in food production, keeping the shelves full in the farm shop for the great British public.  Over the last couple of weeks, he has been going to the supermarket as and when needed, however late this week we made the decision to stop that too.  We got the last few bits and pieces (given that’s all you can get in the supermarkets now, not a bit of toilet roll to be seen!) and we now have what we need to see us through a good few weeks and anything we don’t have we will do without assuming we cannot get a delivery slot.
With that said, I think it’s time people started thinking about getting back to basics, in my view.  Here on the smallholding, we are already quite good with that, we cook everything from scratch, grow a lot, try to reduce waste and use leftover etc.  One thing that seems to be on the up is forging; it has seen a huge spike in interest since this outbreak.  Again, it is something we already do but with a light touch I would say.  That brings me to the pictures below.  I believe this plant to be called Jack by the hedge.  It grows here in the UK from March through to September according to my research.  When the stem is crushed it has a mild smell of garlic, which is great!  We love garlic.  The whole plant is edible and can be used raw or cooked.  I would like to make some pesto but I don’t have the ingredients needed so I think it’ll be fresh pasta.  I have a recipe for nettle pasta so maybe I’ll add some of this or replace it with this completely?  A job for the weekend?  I really enjoy making pasta and at the moment, it looks like the only way we will have any once we use what we have in.

Other plants that are ready to use and have been all year round if I’m honest, are some herbs.  Here we have a bay tree in the middle, two sage plants on the left and a common mint on the right.  If you grow mint, it makes sense to grow it in a pot as it is (supposed to be) very invasive.  I haven’t seen this myself as I managed to kill some once!  Oh and at the back are 2 blueberry bushes that I am keeping in the greenhouse as I think it will mean they will come on earlier than if they were outside.  We always run the risk of frost killing them off outside, we lost one that way last year.

Another job for this weekend, or even today actually, is taking some cuttings from the Elderberry trees we have here as I would like to get a couple growing on the river bank, along with other wild food.  We use a lot of elder flowers for drinks, adding to food and for Spring/Summer kitchen vase decoration.  We then use berries for making syrup to drink as a tonic to get through the winter.  Recently too, we learnt that chickens eat them which is a big thing for us.  We are wanting to grow as much of out own animal feed as we can.  That’s something else we are learning from this whole situation right now, animal feed is harder to come by (even just from not being allowed to go out to buy it) but it is also going up in cost and we are trying to reduce costs.  We would like to be much more self reliant for animal feed.
I saw the below book on a group on Facebook the other week and checked ebay to find it available for £2 odd delivered, so I grabbed that bargain there and then.  I’m looking forward to having some down time and looking though it over the weekend.

Sticking with the war time thoughts, which is pretty much how I am feeling right now, here’s a pretty picture that always fills me happiness is the sight we see opening the egg box area of the chicken coop.

One more thing I have started doing again thanks to the situation that is ongoing, is dehydrating things.  I started with apples as we had some that were past their nice point for eating fresh.  The other option would be to freeze them as stewed apple.

Finally I can’t leave without giving you an updated picture of Rodney doing what he does when I am in the greenhouse sowing seeds and potting on.

Herbs and tomato flowers

I have made some progress with starting our little kerb garden, but of course nothing like what I originally thought.  I ordered the following herbs from Victoriana Nurseries and instead of planting them into the ground, I’ve potted them on into larger pots until we decide where we want to put them permanently. 

# 1 x Angelica Plant
# 1 x Bay Plant
# 1 x Chamomile Plant
# 1 x Chive Plant
# 1 x Curry Plant
# 1 x Feverfew Plant
# 1 x Lemon Balm Plant
# 1 x Mint Plant – Moroccan Mint
# 1 x Oregano Plant
# 1 x Rosemary Plant – Common Rosemary
# 1 x Thyme Plant – Common Thyme

# 1 x Horseradish Plant Available from approximately late April 2017
# 1 x Hyssop Plant – Blue  Available from approximately May 2017
# 1 x Lovage Plant  Available from approximately late April 2017
# 1 x Marjoram Plant Available from approximately May 2017
# 1 x Lemon Grass ‘East Indian’ Plant Available from approximately May 2017

This is the bay plant which I’ve taken one branch from to see if I can grow it on into a tree.  I have plenty of time to offer.

This is the tea plant which is coming on well now it is in a bigger pot.
 
I think it was Dawn who introduced me to this website, so thank you.
A lot of the herbs double up as medicinal and not just culinary.  That’s what I love about the VN as on their website they give you ideas as to what to use the herbs for.  For example Angelica grows best along riverbanks, which is perfect for me as I’m beginning a new project to transform our riverbank.  This herb is supposed to be good “As a ‘bath oil’ for aching muscles and rheumatism” which is what drew me to it.  Working and running the smallholding, both Ste and I have plenty of aching muscles!!  Also it can be used in pot pourri which I’m hoping to make as part of the Christmas hampers.
Image from google
As I use them, I’ll be sure to do posts to show if they are worthwhile or not.
Mid April and I have flowers on my tomatoes (Garden Pearl) variety and also the Brandywine.  These were sown at the end of January and brought on in the house.  I’ll be doing the same next year too.
I’ll start feeding them with tomato feed as I think that’s what you need to do once the flowers form, or is that just when the fruit starts?  I’ll have to check.