Getting back on it

I’ve been looking forward to today, for many reasons. The madness has died down, I am off work and can enjoy my family and home life and we have another addition!
I woke up at 5 to the alarm as Ste was going to work and headed downstairs to let the dogs out for their morning ritual. Except today we have one more, meet Annie.

Our 8 week old bullmastiff. We picked her up late last night from a very reputable breeder and drove the 2+ hours home. She was a bit out of sorts due to inoculations and the car journey, however she had lots of cuddles and soon settled in to her new home on our Smallholding.

Back to this morning, after I’d sorted the dogs out, I got ready and took a moment to look out of the bedroom window. It was pitch black still but the moon was out, lighting up the field to the left. We had a frost again, giving everything a lovely shimmer. To the right, I can see the farm next to us in darkness apart from one soft glowing light, presumable where the farmer was working feeding his cattle. I always appreciate where we live, I love life here, it’s just been so hectic lately that I haven’t had enough time to stop and smell the coffee. This much needed time off is sorting that out.
The potting shed I told you about before, well it’s pretty much finished now.  Just the electrics to go in for the vitopod (propagator) that I got for my birthday. I’m going to set some onion seed away as soon as possible. My only worry is that it’s still so cold on a night and it can only increase the temperature 12c higher than what is outside.

Jack was lucky enough to get a ‘diy’ birdbox for Christmas which he has put together himself and asked if I would like it for my shed exterior. Who wouldn’t?!

The plant pots have all been moved from the greenhouse to the potting shed now so I am starting to get organised. I have my seeds to sort out as I’ve acquired too many. I will do an inventory of them and try to keep it up to date.
For now though, I’m going to get organised in the house as Christmas has been amazing but  has taken its toll! Also, we’ve been slacking on the self sufficiency front and we are fully concious of that so I tend to get back to basics and get our lives back with it starting now. Plan, plan, plan!!
All the ross cobs have now been processed, so we’re stocked up with chicken again. That and the pork will see us through to the spring when we’re getting the next round of ross cobs, pigs and hopefully lambs. We won’t over winter any ross cobs again. Learning from this year is to stock up in the summer. Freezers are your friend!!

Baking for my family – chocolate courgette cake and new machines!

I’ve decided to start doing a weekly baking session to as one thing I always used to dream of before we moved here is cooking and baking for the family. I started off well but it dwindled the busier we got. I always cook from scratch and I’m trying to fill the freezer with good, honest food but that doesn’t seem to be baking these days. Unlike me, the kids can eat sweet stuff still without it affecting them on the waistline within 0.02 seconds of eating it. So last night saw me making the seasonal cake Courgette Chocolate Cake.
Ingredients.
120g softened butter
120ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
4tbsp cocoa powder
450g courgettes, grated
1tsp vanilla extract
Method
Line a baking tin, mine is apx 20x20cm. Ovens to be heated to Gas 5/190c.
Grate your courgettes, peeling first.
Beat butter, oil and sugars until fluffy.
Beat in the pre beaten eggs and milk.
Sift the fry ingredients and fold in. Stir in the courgettes and vanilla.
Tip into tin and bake for 30/40 mins. I have a 2 oven AGA so I put it on the bottom shelf with the cold shelf above it and it took about 45 mins for mine.
It came out lovely and is very moist (I hate that word!).  The kids have eaten it and have no idea there’s courgettes in there. Ste likes it too but his work friend wasn’t too keen (not sweet enough but he’s a sweet toothed guy!).
All in all this is a lovey easy cake using ingredients I had in the house and veg plot. Perfect for a family as it produces a large amount however you’d be able to freeze too. Definitely one I will be doing again. 
We’ve also been getting in some new gadgets, the first one we’ve tried is a vac pack machine. Tonight we cooked a ham and tried out the meat slicer we bought some time ago. It worked a treat and the vac pack machine did too. I’m really pleased with them both. The only thing is the vac pack sucks all the juice out of the item and can affect a seal if there’s too much. I guess things need to be partially froze to avoid that? 

First hatch of 2017

We started the incubator with 15 duck eggs in a few weeks ago.  The ducklings are due tomorrow and we were worried if any would arrive due to the power cut last week.  I am pleased to report these little ones were not put off by any power cut and so far we have 7 ducklings all out and looking fine.  These will all be table birds unless their weight and sex tells us otherwise.  We have a runner duck who produces a lot of eggs and she is crossed with an Aylesbury and Appleyard (they all live together) so I’m not sure what size bird they will make.  If they are female and too light, we’ll keep them for eggs only.  It will all be part of the experiment.  We’re after some heavier female ducks at some point this year.

On their way to the brooder in the barn.  Thse guys are dry and fluffy, so it’s time to go.
Soft and cute 😉

On Friday we’re going to set the incubator away again with goose eggs.  They are supposed to be harder to incubate and we’ll only fit a few in.  Again, these will be raised for the table.
Once they’re out, I plan on incubating the rare breeds we have if there’s any demand for them…I also like to see them round the place – they won’t be table birds.
We’ve gone from wishing Spring would hurry up, to full steam ahead in a blink of an eye.  It’s light enough to do jobs before 6am here now and light until after 6pm.  It makes smallholding life so much easier, especially when we work too. 
I have the early rhubarb that is ready to be picked which is a very special occasion, I love rhubarb!  The asparagus follows that and then broad beans and peas.  Hopefully lots of salad items in between too.  How lovely.
The piglets are doing fabulously, one is growing slightly quicker than the other so we’re supervising feeds.  They’re 5 weeks old today.

Slightly blurry as they wouldn’t pose for me!

To those who are on Facebook and commented (in my defense I feel 😉 ) that they will become boisterous quickly….1 week on and they are already charging around bashing in to me at feeding time.  LOL.  Super adorable still though.

Brief chilly spot

By gosh it’s been chillier morning than it has been for a while.  Not cold, but still a shock to the system.  It’s due to warm up again though so I am not dwelling on it or making any changes!
Last night I was supposed to ride out but when it started raining I quickly changed my plans to allow me to get into the field and start over seeding it.  It needs to be done when the ground is wet.  Basically I am trying to improve the health of our grazing land as we don’t have a lot versus how much some horses have so as I’ve said before I need to take good care of it.  Combined with the daily task of taking out the muck, over seeding, weed pulling and fertilising all play their part.  So do sheep apparently.  Can you see where this is going?  Tonight we popped over to our neighbour across the fields to see what ewes with lambs they have in the hope that we can come to an agreement to take 2 off his hands.  Sheep are good for walking the grass seed in to the ground to help it root in and they also have other health benefits to horses and grazing land.  I’m being sensible and not asking for 6 or 10 and starting small with 2.  After all, another farmer friend reminded us the other day – that’s how you do it, start small.  I’ll update more tomorrow.
The poorly duck is doing a lot better, she’s able to keep up with her friends when they’re waddling around now so hopefully after a week of restricting their access, we will be able to let them out on Saturday.  I’ll just keep a close eye on the geese so that they don’t make a bee line for her again.  I think they see her as the weakest link now.
Our latest acquired duck, called Richard, has settled in just fine.  He is huge for 3 weeks old, however as he’s an Aylesbury breed, I’m not surprised given that they are a heavy bird.  He reminds me so much of Ryan when he was born and rejected by evil mother goose.   I don’t have a photo of him yet but in the mean time, here’s Grace with our home grown cockerel youngster.  He’s huge and so gentle so far, unlike the previous ones.  He’s called Little Red.
Speaking off beelines, Jack my son (6) was stung 5 times by some angry wasps last night.  3 times on his head and 2 on his hand.  The kids were playing near an apple tree, no doubt disturbing the apples and from the screams Jack made you’d think something horrendous had happened, which is what it felt like to him poor soul.  I was in the field so came running as fast as possible and when I got to him the bl**dy thing was still in his hair trying to sting him.  I got rid of it but it kept coming back!! So I ran with him to the barn as it would not let up and I kid you not, it followed us and started at him again.  Steven came to see what was going on as he’d had his earphones in working out, and the wasp turned on him and stung him on the face.  I whisked the kids inside and left Ste to deal with it.   I have never experienced anything like it.  It was in attack mode!  Grace said there were 3 on his head when he got stung and thankfully that was it as I’d hate to think there was a swarm after seeing how brutal they are. 
We will get some wasp powder or such like and if there is a nest, get it dealt with.  I know wasps help pollinate but they have overstayed their welcome after doing that.

A mixed up day.

Today was a strange old day. I took my daughter to an appointment at the hospital (nothing to worry about) and collected Buddy’s tablets on the way back as the old vets is over by the hospital which is now a 30 minute drive away so always best to combine to 2. Then I worked the rest of the day. Once that was done the kids and I took the younger dogs for a nice walk out. I got a bit carried away with the pictures, so I thought I’d share them with you. We then came home to find out we’d been sent a request to look after someone’s duck. Well to keep it actually. For some reason they thought a single duck would make a good house pet and now, 2 weeks on, we have it. It’s 3 weeks old and I’m not even convinced it’s a duck at this stage. We shall see.
The poorly duck of ours has gone back in with her family and isn’t any worse, but she isn’t better either. She’s still laying, eating and drinking though. We did however lose a chick this morning. It was one that we aren’t surprised about. It wasn’t 100% when it was born. Sad indeed but it does happen.
Enjoy the photos 🙂
Brambles growing outside my gate
No idea what the flowers are but they are pretty
These are the sloe bushes I found.  Still green but there’s lots.
Full view of sloe bush
I believe these are mustard seeds
Rosehip?  They’re quite big and oval ish shaped up to now 
there was a hare sat minding it’s own business in the distance
just us and the fields.
For as far as the eye can see
These are my Buff Orpington girls and Henry.