What a beautiful weekend

I know it’s a common thing to say, but this weekend just flew by.  We did have a busy one mind you, it was glorious weather! 
The greenhouse was difficult to keep cool and I actually lost some tomato seedlings which I’m gutted about.  They were in this heat in the propagator too, so even hotter.  I have lots more sown, but still sad when it happens.
It was a weekend of fencing again.  We have a stock fence that separates the small paddock and the field.  The field has a gate which is not linked to the small paddock and it’s become a mud bath over winter, so we’ve decided to put another gate in as an alternative route whilst that one recovers. 
Ste took part of the stock fence down, to make room for the gate.  A trip to Mole Valley (agricultural store) later and we had the wood necessary for the job.

In no time at all, Ste had dug the holes out, post crete’d in the posts and added the fence rails. 

 
We then had a chat about the stock fence which started to look tired and aged against the new post and rail section.  Our intention was to eventually replace the full thing, but not immediately.  This weekend’s task was to get the gate ready for use.
Of course, best laid plans were thrown to one side and we set about (we being Ste) and took up the stock fencing, keeping it for the pig area at a later date.  The field now looks amusing in that there is a gate in place, but an open space which you can just walk around.  We had another run to the agricultural store and got the rest of the wood needed to put a full fence up. 
 
I wasn’t sat on my haunches whilst Ste was busy with the fence.  I’ve planted up the rest of the trees in to the mini orchard and am really pleased with the results.  It’s still work in progress as there’s a lot of soft fruit to go in, but so far, so good.  We’ve the last 2 apple trees, a pear, 2 apricot, an almond and a rogue fig…the fig isn’t in the ground yet as I’m not sure what to do with him.
The grass area will eventually be removed and some replaced with culinary and medicinal herb beds.  That’s something I really want to learn a bit more about. 
 

Belated weekend antics

After the excitement of the pigs, I thought they needed their own post, so today’s post is to bring the blog up to date with the weekend’s fun and games.
Remember the sheep chasing the fighting cockerels?  Well, not 1, but 2 sheep managed to lock themselves in the outside toilet on Sunday.  I’ve not laughed so hard in a long time.
The chickens that hatched in December have now been moved to the meshed greenhouse to get them outside of the barn but keep them away from the big ones (they would be bullied.)  Eventually the girls will go in the main section and the boys will be dispatched for the freezer.  They will be small, so Ste will joint them and I’ll use in the slow cooker/curries and things like that.

We need to set our minds to the table birds we want this year, the Ross Cobbs.  They will be bought in at day olds.  We won’t be hatching any more laying hens this year but I will take a few orders of rare breeds for people to keep the pot topped up. 
The geese are starting to think about incubating their eggs so we hope for a few goslings to be running around the place in a month or 2.  I’m not sure what the sheep will make of that!

A bit blurry as this was mid “discussion” between the geese and sheep

Anyway, the weekend.
I sowed loads and loads of seeds and was in my element.  In went more cauliflower, cabbage, onions, beetroot, sunflowers, nasturtiums, swiss chard, courgettes, wild garlic, leeks, calabrese and tomatoes.  Lots of different varieties.
I was doing this in between lifting wheelbarrows with Ste who was shovelling the 4 tonne of soil we ordered.  He got 2 tonne moved yesterday into the beds which have the muck in them.  They’re ready for planting now, some will be empty a while yet though (pumpkins, squash and so on).
He was being watched with interest.

Whilst the birds were watching him, my daughter was watching something else.  She noticed a suspicious van drive by and park illegally along the bridleway.  So she did as she’s been told to and came to tell Ste and I who were shovelling yet more muck at the muck heap.  I swear, some days all we see is sh*t!
Anyway, she said it was open backed so Ste wondered if they were fly tipping which happens where we are being remote ish.  So he had a walk up to the van (maybe silly) and it was empty!  He took a photo of the reg and I sent it to the farmer who confirmed they shouldn’t be there.  The farmer could see them walking up the bridleway and went to have a polite word with them, and they left.  He messaged me to say they were hawkers, out with their dogs and are known to them for all the wrong reasons.
I must say, I’m glad they weren’t in the van when Ste went up and I’m also pleased I wasn’t out riding or walking the dogs as the hawkers dogs do tend to immobilise anything small and furry!
Who says county life is quiet?

Autumn on the smallholding

This weekend has felt very Autumnal.  It’s been a mixture of lots of lovely things.  The changing colour of the trees, the leaves that have appeared underfoot when we’re out walking, the apples that are readily falling and being used in the cooking, the homegrown squash that I roasted and we ate, the dip in temperature on a night yet the days that are still creeping up to 17 and 18C and I finally got round to making a Sunday lunch and doing some baking again. 
I made some chocolate, ginger and oat cookies from my new favourite person, Mary Berry.  Between her, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Pam Corbin, I think I have a year’s worth of recipes to keep us going.  The cookies are really nice and I got 21 out of her recipe.  It claims you will make 24, but we don’t eat biscuits that are so small in this house ;).  They took 11 minutes on the bottom rung of the Aga (just for my future reference).
I’ve also made a start on the Elderberry wine.  I did wonder if I was too late but we found a bountiful supply that were still young and fresh so as a family, we picked them and brought them home to make a start.  I also made a Elderberry Winter Tonic which I’ve read about in a few places.  It’s now sat in my fridge waiting for the cold season to start.  I only used 2 cupfuls of Elderberries which yielded around 400ml of tonic.  I’m giving my Mam some to try and help her through the winter as she has a hernia and suffers terribly with what she can and can’t eat, hopefully she can have this without side effects and it’ll help keep her immune systems up.
Of course to go along with the homemade wine, Steven needed to try homemade cider, so he and our lovely neighbour borrowed a cider press and got to work pressing buckets of our apples from the orchard and the neighbours too.  They managed to make 15 litres which is gurgling away in the pantry.
We’ve managed to get rid of quite a lot of muck this weekend and in return bagged ourselves a large carrier full of different breads which are all now in the new freezer ready for when we run out of have unexpected guests that need feeding.
I’m off to bed shortly, not necessarily ready for going back to work tomorrow, but certainly feeling blessed from the weekend. The dogs look like they are quite content too.

Looking forward to the weekend

This weekend is going to be a busy one, so tonight I am going to relax with the family after spending some time grooming my horse.  I don’t get to spend a long time with her since we’ve moved in, which sounds silly now she is at home.  My plan is to do some housework whilst waiting for the shopping to arrive, sometime between 4 & 5pm.  I need to get the washing on, dry a load on the Aga and sweep the kitchen, utility and boot room floors.  Tea will be simple for the kids, they get to pick what they want on a Friday.  They never want anything difficult so this isn’t a problem.  It’ll most likely be fish fingers for Jack and beans on toast with cheese grated over it for Grace.  I have Thai Green curry to make for Steven and I.  This will be out of a packet that you throw other ingredients in with and I’m not ashamed! J
Then once we’ve had tea, I’ll put the ponies in the field for the night and spend an hour with Lydia (my horse) and I might even take a glass of wine in there!  Once all the animal feeders are topped up and their waters checked, we can think about relaxing in front of the TV.  I’ll get a shower first as tomorrow morning we’re heading out to Thirsk Farmers Market Auction and I won’t have time to wash my hair before we go and it’s in dire need.  I can nip back outside at 10pm and lock up in my PJ’s and just hope nothing’s happened meaning that I need to get dirty.  If we get peckish later on I have a fried cauliflower recipe to try.

We plan on leaving around 7.30am tomorrow however before this I need to nip out and get some Elderflower heads from the bridle path outside the house.  We’ve found a tree that we pass daily so hopefully I can take a nice harvest from that.  According to research you need to pick the flowers before noon and when they’re not we.  Then I can get that started and hopefully we will be testing Elderflower cordial on Sunday with our Sunday roast.  I’ve read it’s good for hayfever and fever in general, so that will be interesting to see as it seems a bad year for hay fever.

The auctions we’re going to are new to us and I have no idea what to expect though I hope to come home with something new and untried before.  Maybe just hatching eggs rather than livestock at present though!  Then back home for the Saturday bacon and egg bun ritual we seem to have developed and on to do some cooking and baking for the coming week.  Ideally I really need to organise the pantry at some point, but we shall see.  Saturday evening we’re out at a friend’s house as she is throwing a fund raising party for Macmillan (summer lights) so we are heading along to support her in that and enjoy a drink or 2.

Sunday my friend and I are going on an extended hack out.  This means going onto roads, only for a short period, but it gives us the chance to enjoy hacking out further and longer.  We will be setting off at 8am to keep the risk of traffic down.  The road isn’t a busy one, but it’s one that boy racers like to see how fast they can drive along on occasion.  Hopefully they will all be in bed when we go on our little adventure.

Then Sunday afternoon will be a Sunday dinner using as much veg as we can from our veg plot and lots of jobs that need doing around the farm.  We’ve had nothing but rain for a few days, so here’s hoping we have a break from it for the weekend to give us time to do things.  It’s due from 1pm tomorrow afternoon for a few hours but supposedly the rest of the weekend will be dry.

In grocery news (how un-thrilling you may think, but it’s becoming a big deal in this household!) I have found a veg box scheme supplier who are delivering to us on Wednesday.  Now if their produce is nice and fresh, it provides an excellent top up to what we have produced, means we can support local businesses and focuses the mind on using those items that week in the menu plan.  It also, importantly, means we can eat seasonally which is a big deal for me and hopefully in time Steven and the kids.  The sell milk from a local dairy so we are trying that along with some of their raw milk which I hope we like. 

In between that I have Tesco delivering the items that they don’t sell, to keep up in stock and by doing this is focusses the mind on sticking to our already low budget, only buying what we need and reducing waste.  All things I need to practice at and really want to achieve.

Finally, as I’ve rambled on long enough, I have started to create lists and checklists meaning we all know what’s to do that day in the house.  The kids have to pick 2 a day to do and Steven and I can share the remaining jobs between us.  One of the checklists is for the meal plan to be written up for the coming week so that’s on me to do.  I’m on it!

Have a lovely weekend everyone.  I’m pleased to be back blogging as normal as I hate it when I am disrupted!  Inevitable at times.  Hopefully I will be back with picture to report on the auctions and Sunday’s cooking session.  On Monday we’re due our next batch of chicks which will hopefully become table birds for the most part.  If not, layers are fine too!  All large fowl so should hopefully be a good size.