My little family and our new ways

Since we moved to the smallholding, life has changed.  We had a vision of the lifestyle we thought it would be.  A lot of that has come true which is simply amazing.  What we didn’t realise, is how we would change as people, nurturing our new way or life, our values, what’s truly important and what really just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  We’ve been through some ups and downs as we figure this out, but it’s always worked out.  We have a strong family bond and the smallholding is developing that even further. 
So I thought I would share a couple of things that made me smile recently.
Ste made crispy cakes with rolo chocolates to finish them off.  I’m told the kids helped too 😉  They’ve been taken each day as packed lunch treats.
He’s also started making Sunday lunch for us.  I’m seriously jealous of how well these Yorkshire puddings turned out!!  He’s got a job for life there.

Ste and I collected nettles from the paddock recently and I made nettle soup!  This too is a first and despite my brain thinking otherwise, it was actually ok.  True, I wouldn’t choose it over butternut squash soup, but given its health benefits, I’ll happily eat it seasonally. 

It had a slight tinge of leek and potato – the recipe was from River Cottage website.

I moved on to nettle tea as I’ve read some excellent things about it’s medicinal values.  Only a small batch to start with.  I washed the nettles, boiled then simmered them for a few minutes and strained through a muslin cloth to get rid of the residue.
 It was very palatable!  I was shocked actually.  This is something I will turn back to, maybe drying nettles to allow for all year round availability.  Or can you use nettles any time of the year for tea? 
Grace is also finding her green fingers.  She has a natural curiosity with seeds and plants and enjoys sorting through the seed tray.  She asked me only just this morning if the rhubarb was ok as there’s a ‘big green thing’ growing in it.  I smiled and told her “hopefully”…after all, we’re all learning, so only time will tell! She’s sown some seeds for me too.
Jack likes to take his bike everywhere he goes on the smallholding.  Here he is, a dab hand at carrying a chicken feeder on his handle bars and taking it to get refilled at the feed station.

 Once the animals are fed, he collects the eggs, using any bucket he can lay his hands on to do so.  This one being an empty horse supplement bucket that Jill uses who keeps her horse with us.  It’s a job he can do himself and I like the sense of achievement he gets from it.  Looks like he does too?

So even though some days are hard, most days bring a huge happiness to us all.  Steven and I both work full time as well as run the smallholding, so we like to make sure we step back and smell the roses every now and then, and enjoy what we’ve built up and how our lives are changing.  It’s truly amazing and I welcome every minute of it.

Carrots hate me

I can only laugh.  This is the only carrot that is visible to the eye, from my 2016 harvest.  I have never ever been able to grow carrots.  They officially hate me.  I follow the instructions, I don’t put on manured ground yet still, 1 carrot.  It’s just as well I wasn’t relying on these to feed us!
My Nemesis

Let’s see how well I fair up in 2017 with the carrot saga!

It’s been a cold start to the day at minus 1.1C when I opened up this morning.  It’s stayed dry but hasn’t got too far above freezing all day.

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.

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!

Menu Plan 3

Seen as though I am listing out everything we’ve grown from scratch on tomorrow’s blog, today I thought I would post the menu plan for Wednesday to Tuesday.  It’s looking like this:

Wednesday – Spinach and feta stuffed chicken with jacket potato, broad bean mint and barley salad

Thursday – Chorizo & broad bean risotto as didn’t have last week

Friday – Hearty Pasta Soup with homemade crusty bread followed by broad bean and herb potato cakes with salad if any space left!

SaturdayLunch – Broad bean and pea soup.

Afternoon – BBQ @ ours for family.  Thoughts are:

Sausages with homemade redcurrant relish.

Marinated chicken pieces with homemade coleslaw.

Roasted pepper and chorizo orzo salad

New potatoes and sundried tomato salad.

Salad using radishes and tomatoes.

Homemade lemonade.

Homemade sun dried tomato bread.

Mam’s bringing the desert and the wine!

Sunday – Cauliflower soup with left overs from BBQ.

To do:  Make loaf of bread for Mon/Tues, make quiche/flapjacks/cake & soup.

Monday – Ham & Broad bean quiche with salad and new potatoes

Tuesday – Omelette or jacket potato (kids eat out on Tues)
Time to print this off and stick it on the fridge!

I do have the usual Friday delivery coming from Tesco as I had no milk with not having a veg box delivery so I needed that plus the other usual items including ingredients to make the above.  The Friday delivery is working out great.  The time is perfect (in between 4 and 5), so I’ve just got home, get the shopping away before I start thinking about any other jobs, then plenty of time to make tea and enjoy the evening.  This is the last delivery of the month as it is a new budget from Monday.