Wednesday, 20 September 2017
I was in London yesterday and used the opportunity to pick some sweet chestnuts in Crystal Palace Park. They are quite bulky because of the spikey casings on them and heavy gardening gloves are needed to handle them. One large bag produced two large bowls of chestnuts. I will be using them over the next few weeks in various recipes. Watch this space.
Monday, 18 September 2017
Saturday, 16 September 2017
Friday, 15 September 2017
We swapped jam for a large amount of plums recently. Sackloads of them! They don't last so most were stoned and then frozen. That left us with one sack to deal with. By then the plums were very ripe and had to be processed. I boiled them all up and then put the pulp through a jelly bag. The resulting liquid is for wine making but the left over pulp was pressed through a sieve to collect a puree. The pulp left over from that had a bit of water added and was reboiled for a couple of hours. This was to extract the maximum pectin from the stones. Following this the pulp was put through a sieve a second time, creating a watery puree high in pectin.
Two litres of this was used to boil up 4 kg of plums from the freezer. 6kg of sugar were added and the result was 21 jars of plum jam.
Watch out over the next few weeks for posts on making plum wine, plum ketchup and plum chutney.
Thursday, 14 September 2017
We had a couple of trout baked recently (we got the fish last year in a food swap and they have been in the freezer ever since.) The leftover fish was used to make a fish pie. The bones, heads and skins were made into stock which was used to make the white sauce in the pie. We added lots of quail eggs to the pie. We still have a glut which means quail eggs pop up in all sorts of meals.
We picked the last of our rhubarb crop earlier this week. My brother Andrew took all of it as we have more than we will ever need in our freezers. I'm not sure what Andrew will use it for but I suspect there will be plenty of jam and pie making to come.
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
We have no honey this year as we lost our colonies over the winter. We now have 6 hives with new colonies so will hopefully be taking honey off them next year. In the meantime, I did a swap for four half pound jars of honey with a friend. He got one of our lamb joints in return.
Last month we thought that our goats Georgina had Spot were pregnant. The belief was that Georgina had been mated by our then billy, Spotless, shortly after giving birth. Spot on the other hand we believed had conceived in July when Snow, born to Georgina at the start of April, had matured enough to do the deed. Had our theory about Georgina been accurate, we would now have kids. The allotted dates have now come and gone and there is no pitter-patter of tiny hooves. Both Georgina and Spot look pear-shaped so we still think they are pregnant, but we are looking at the end of the year as being the more likely date for the arrivals.
I found these two marrows left outside my gate earlier this week. A gift from another allotment holder. Jam will be on its way to him shortly. We often have the marrows stuffed and then baked in the oven but now that we have a glut of chillies, I will probably make them into a hot marrow chutney, industrial strength!
Tuesday, 12 September 2017
This was my breakfast today - blackberry and ricotta cheese flan. I made it for the Bowes Show on Saturday but now we need to use it up, hence the reason I had some for breakfast. There is still some left. I suspect I will be having it for breakfast again tomorrow.
The ricotta was made last year from our goats milk but we had so much that we are running out of ideas on how to use it.
Saturday took us to the Bowes Agricultural Show. We have gone every year since 2012 and we have always entered the eggs, baking and preserve-making competitions. We have always come away with some winnings but this time we managed only a third for lemon curd, a third for chutney and a 4th for jam other than raspberry. But it was the fun of taking part that counts!
Despite the occasional bursts of rain, a good time was had by all.
Thursday, 7 September 2017
This year we have made more of an effort to use our home garden space for growing foods. Outside our front door we now grow nasturtiums in pots. All parts of the nasturtium plants can be eaten but I am especially keen on the seeds which are now in abundance. They have a lovely peppery flavour. I've been using them recently in salads. They go well with our glut of quail eggs.
Wednesday, 6 September 2017
Tuesday, 5 September 2017
On Sunday I collected more surplus fruit from local residents who would otherwise have put most of this bounty into the waste disposal system. It's appalling to think of all this fresh, wonderful food being dumped. I therefore put quite a bit of effort into encouraging people to swap surpluses for my preserves.
The problem I have had recently is that we have had more plums given to us that we can possibly use ourselves, even taking into account all the jam we make for own use and for swapping. On the other hand, the vast amount of apples I have received don't need to be traded on. Instead they can be stored for later use by ourselves and the goats.
Anyway, to shift the surplus plums I donated them to the Comfrey Project, a charity in Bensham, Gateshead, which helps low income families and refugees access affordable food. As part of the donation, I also gave them a box of apples, a load of rhubarb from my allotment and about 6-7 kg of runner beans given to me by one of the allotments on the Whinnies Community Garden. They had more than they could handle.
As a society we need to avoid waste but we also need to set up systems that ensure garden produce surpluses go into the food chain rather than the waste disposal system.
The kids are in the habit of jumping from one henhouse roof to another. It was only a matter of time before they managed to demolish one of them. This henhouse will be rebuilt shortly. We are going to make some heavy duty stands out of pallets for the goats. They will have different heights but hopefully it will give them an alternative to wrecking the henhouses.
This hen went broody over 2 weeks ago. We tried to get her to kick the habit but two weeks later she was still insisting on returning every morning to the same nest box, in a small henhouse we now use for the goats, and spending the rest of the day there until I returned her to the henhouse each evening. I didn't really want to buy hatching eggs at this time of year but as the need by her to brood some eggs was so strong, we decided to give her some. So last week we headed down to Durham Hens and got a dozen eggs. Six have gone to the broody hen and six are in an incubator. Eggs are due to hatch on 21st September.
Monday, 4 September 2017
The apple crop is very large this year and we are receiving lots of fruit given to us in exchange for preserves. Most days I find someone has left bags of windfall apples outside our gate. Yesterday, I went down to Whickham to go to a couple of houses where the residents had picked the apples and plums from trees in their back gardens. We will have plenty of apples for more preserve making and for fodder for the goats through the winter. Were we not doing this, it is highly likely the fruit would have been taken to the local tip.
Sunday, 3 September 2017
A friend has provided us with a huge stock of pigeons this year and we have been giving him jam as payment. However, we felt we were not paying enough so we have handed over a couple of barrow loads of firewood. Some of it came from the branches we have chopped off the hedgerows at the Whinnies, where the hawthorn has got out of control in recent years and is more tree that hedge. The rest of the wood was given to us by a friend who removes waste from people's homes. One of his customers had just had new decking installed so there was a pile of off cuts. Better to burn them for the heat than to put them into a landfill.
We are well on our way to having enough fodder for the goats to get us through the winter and into spring when the leaves start growing again on trees and hedgerows. Much of this is due to someone giving us spare hay from her stables but we are continuing to add to it nettles we have picked and dried. The goats love them and they grow in abundance. For the first time we hope to avoid having to buy in any goat feed. Progress at last!
Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Tuesday, 29 August 2017
We took delivery of even more plums yesterday after we left the Glendale Show. On the way back home we called at a friend's house in Blyth were we picked up about 20kg of fruit. The clock is now ticking on the plums we got over the past few days. They don't keep long so they will be made into jam, chutney, ketchup and some will be frozen.
We had the first joint from our recently received lamb roasted on Sunday. Beautiful texture and taste. The joint was quite large so it did for yesterday's dinner as well and there is still meat left on the bone. It looks like I'll be having roast lamb sandwiches for lunch.
Monday, 28 August 2017
We headed up to Wooler in North Northumberland today for the Glendale Agricultural Show. We were keen to see the goat competition but it was over by the time we got there - our arrival was delayed by an accident on the A697. We did not enter any of the industrial competitions but we did have a look at the entries. And we had quite a long chat with the people from Blue House Goats. A useful exchange of information.
Sunday, 27 August 2017
Saturday, 26 August 2017
A friend of mine has a plum tree in her garden in Newcastle but she is about to head off on holiday and therefore unable to use the fruit. I was therefore invited to pick the plums which I did yesterday. I paid for 2 sacks of them with 3 jars of preserves.
Friday, 25 August 2017
This was our fully self-sufficient dinner last night: quail egg salad with pigeon meatloaf. As well as quail eggs (of which we have a glut) and pigeon meatloaf (we have a glut of pigeon breasts), I included cherry tomatoes, lettuce, a horseradish leaf, a white cucumber, mange tout and a dollop of apple chutney. Not bad.
Thursday, 24 August 2017
I wrote recently about discovering that Georgina is pregnant. Now it looks like Spot is as well. Her pregnancy is even more surprising. There was no billy around when she gave birth at the end of April. She has been suckling since then. Snow, Georgina's billy kid is the only possible father so he must have done her as soon as he was sexually mature. I would have thought suckling would have suppressed coming into heat but that doesn't appear to be the case this time. So, assuming one or both are pregnant (and we haven't spectacularly misread the signs), we will have kids over the autumn and winter.
Monday, 21 August 2017
Last Thursday we bought two more honey bee colonies and in the dead of night we moved them onto our site. The person from whom we bought them wanted his hives back so we had to take the frames out of his and move them into two of our own empty (and suitably cleaned) hives. What we expected to be a simple exercise was anything but. We were both badly stung, despite wearing bee suits. I think I have about 40-50 stings. We did however finish the task and it looks as though the two colonies have settled down.