Not to state the obvious but snow, in March? 

I have taken a bit of a blogging break without meaning to. We’re not taking a break from the smallholding life though, I’ve just not been reporting as much.

We’re so over this snow now! I hope everyone is safe and warm? Our living room fire has been on every night, earning its keep. Winter is when we work through the stores we’ve made at other times in the year.  The logs are doing us proud and although we’re getting low on coal, there’s enough. We have however, gone through the oil a lot quicker than expected.  The order for the next lot has been postponed by the oil company due to the snow, so we’ve knocked heating the water off and are using the emersion (electric) for now. The heating is off too but we have the AGA and wood burners that are toasty in their respective rooms and getting plenty of appreciation!  Also the emergency oil filled radiators are helping keeping the kids room’s warm whilst we wait for the delivery.

  

Due to the weather and the fact it’s winter, we’ve been working our way through the food stores we have. There’s still a bunch of meat to get through in the freezer but the pantry is starting to look a little sparse. I’m going to do a big shop of items we’ll need to see us through to the growing season’s harvest and will get that delivered this coming week. The egg production is on the increase but we’ve lost a total of 15 chickens recently, mostly to the fox, so we won’t see the increase we expected to.

I started some tomato and pepper seeds off a few weeks ago, but as expected they haven’t all made it through this cold spell. As soon as it starts to warm up, I’ll get more sown and just hope it’s not too late to get a long crop.

The peas, cauliflowers, winter hardy lettuce and leeks are coming on well as are the broad beans and sweet peas.

The preserving jam sugar from last year was starting to go hard and I knew I had 1.5kg of blackcurrants in the freezer so I started some jam off this morn using PattyPans recipes for seedless jam.

I did 10 small jars, 2 500ml jars and some left over to use now.  The small ones are for the Christmas hampers to go with the Seville orange marmalade.

Our internet connection is dreadful here lately, so I can’t post the final picture but trust me, they look fab!  I hope it doesn’t set too hard as I was concerned there’s too much preserving sugar as the fruit didn’t yield loads of liquid.  We’ll see.  If not – I can figure out another use for it.

Avian Flu Silver lining and odds and sods

Like all poultry keepers, I’m sick of this avian flu for one reason or another.  I do not want to get into politics as we all have our own views on it.  However, one thing I think most of us smallholders, self sufficient and self reliant folks have in common, is the ability to make the best from a bad situation.
Although the poultry is stuck inside, they do have light, food, water and warm beds so their lives could be worse.  However for us, the food bill to feed them seems high.  Now I don’t have last year’s costs to compare this too, however my gut feeling is that it’s high and although the wild birds are no longer taking their share, I reckon the barn mice and rats are! 
We’ve known for a while about hanging your poultry feeders off the ground to deter rats and other critters, but we’ve never got round to it.  So Steven has designed a hanging feeder which we are trialling in the barn.  We have put the same amount of food in on day 1 and then day 2.  Day 1 seeing the feeder on the floor and day 2 hanging up. 

I’ll report back on how well they have done.
Once we move them back outside, we’ll hang the feeders from the trees.  Now where the birds will go when they’re outside is another discussion.  Having the over winter in the barn has opened our minds to where we will house them in 2017 as other animals come along.  I’ll do more on that another day too.
So the silver linings being that we’re trialling a new way of feeding them that we’ve not done before and we’re giving thought to the best place for the hens in 2017. 
I’ve also been making mango chutney which Dawn posted about a week or 2 ago and I’ve wanted to do it since.  It’s a lovely recipe which you can find here.  I am really pleased that the food year is already off and running.  Who says preserving is only for the summer?

I’ll be using it in a sausage recipe on Sunday when I put a spread on for my daughters 10th birthday.
The seeds are making their way up into the daylight.  It always amazes me that these dormant seeds suddenly sprout life.  The first ones of the year are extra special.

I couldn’t finish without showing you this.  On a morning, the youngest dogs come with me to the barn to run off their energy.  So when they were quiet, my senses went on high alert and I found them both happily chewing on undesirable things!  Nothing poisonous, but I’ll spare you the details.  No wonder they were quiet.

Lovely lady

Tricia, aka PattyPan who has the blog http://tarragonnthyme.blogspot.co.uk is a lovely lady who sent me a book on preserving following my post on losing all of my jams (here).  She didn’t want me to give up after the set back and very kindly offered to send me this book:
 


I don’t know how to rotate 🙂
It arrived yesterday and I immediately set to work looking through it planning my next move.
It was inscribed with a personal note which made me smile.  So thoughtful.
Thank you Tricia, blogland can be a truly wonderful place, meeting like minded people and generating new ideas. 

Also – I am in the middle of update my blogs that I read on my sidebar, so I will be sure to make sure everyone I enjoy reading is on there soon.  🙂