Thursday, 31 August 2017

September is here

What a beautiful start to September. The weather has been glorious here in north east England. It was chilly until about 8:30/9 and then warmed up. It was lovely to see the sun each time I looked out and to feel it on my back when I stole an out outside at lunch time.

The weekend is here, the soup is on for tomorrow's lunch. This is the first time I've made tomato soup so I hope it turns out well.


As it's getting cooler on a night, I am going to start closing up the polytunnel doors and windows when I lock the animals up. Eventually the doors will remain closed again except to let some air through but not yet.

This weekend we have the usual smallholding jobs to do: clean the animals out, hoe the veg beds (notice the hoe instead of weed!), harvest anything that's ready, preserve what we can, start the next project and in the house I need to cook and bake for the week ahead plus the usual chores.

We've got family visiting as usual so we'll take breaks to spend time with them as and when they arrive. 

I wanted to share with you something my daughter drew...


She was with me when I was drawing up the plan of the veg area but she didn't comment. It's obviously sticking with her which pleases me.


I can't figure out how to rotate the photos on my phone. Finally I though I'd share with you a tired but cheeky pony. Since being in the field for the summer he's looking unkept but he's happy! 


Have a great weekend and enjoy every moment. I'm off for a glass of vino and to relax for the evening. After making pizzas and walking the dogs that is.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Sick of the sight of cabbage

I noticed yesterday that it's now dark when we get up at 5:15, something that's happened whilst we've been off. The nights too are lengthening. It's dark well before 9 now so we're locking up earlier. It does mean that we're getting chance to go to bed earlier some nights though. The nights are cooler now too but the days are staying warm with some decent sunlight. 

However it's also the time of year where there's a steady pace of all fruit and veg. Now I didn't think I'd complain but when you mix up your brassica planting and end up with a shed load of cabbages only, you can very easily get sick of the sight of them! 

Tonight I blanched and froze 20 individual bags of cabbage all ready for when they're needed. It'll be a while before I use them as I never want to see a white cabbage again! I have the feeling I'll be saying that about the plums soon! 


Plum wine started tonight, I'll share more on that in my Monday preserving post.

In the mean time, our 3 wellsummer hens seem to have started a little club of their own as the 3 of them have started going to bed in another empty coop all on their own. Funny girls.


I also wanted to mention that I'm really pleased with the service from the aga cook shop online.  I bought some chefs pads a few months ago and when they disintegrated after their first wash, they replaced them with a different set that I asked for. So I'm now the proud owner of 2 new dog themes chef pads and a happy customer.


Monday, 28 August 2017

End of the summer holidays

Rodney is like my shadow. He follows me round, lays near me and watches me work. I'll miss him and Buster when I go back to work tomorrow. As I did my evening chores he was sat in his favourite place in front of the Aga watching me. I had to snap a photo of him as it reminded me of the Aga cartoons that you see. All it needed was a pair of wellies.


We've had a lovely last day off together as a family. We went to pick some more blackberries but unfortunately they've turned over and are no good now. I'm not sure if any more will come on those bushes.

However, we did see some elderberries that finally ripened and it reminded us that we need to bottle last years elderberry wine. Steven did that whilst I made tea.


We'll keep the elderberry wine for a couple of years as that's when it's supposed to be best. The other is this years rhubarb wine and that will be drank on Fridays and Saturdays now we're back to work. No alcohol during the week. 

Now a job we wanted to do asap was to prune the plum trees as you're supposed to do them but the end of august. We were cutting it fine. Now these trees haven't been pruned for quite some time, so there was a bit to do which we'll do this year and next. The good news is the tree was laden with plums.


Ste got the loppers and set to work.


Now.... what to do with 3 million plums. This is only half of them!!


I'll let you know what I decide to do but pleased shout up with any ideas and proven recipes!

So back to it now, Monday night preserves will start next week. This week I've managed to menu plan, shop to the plan which wasn't a lot as we've got so much produce of our own (yey), prepare tea in advance for a couple of nights and get the clothes and lunches ready for the week. 

Alarm set for 5:15 as normal. I'm going to struggle to sleep tonight, always do the night before the start of a new week but here we are.

I hope you've all had a lovely bank holiday. 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Making the most of our summer holidays

I wanted to post daily whilst on my summer holidays (time off, not actually away anywhere) but life doesn't always link in with what we plan.  We have had a lovely few days since I last posted.  We've had family days out, picnics, fun, sea, sand, dogs, friends and then at home, more weeding, fixing, cooking, baking, animals and general playing.

This bed took a lot of fixing, actually it was pretty much all replaced.  We decided to do it properly and buy new boards, then putting the yellow pipes in place which will allow me to put the mesh, fleece or net over them once we start again.  The intention is to do this for all of the beds and eventually we will get cages around the fruit too.
 
I weeded it and then Ste took over.

 
He did his thing and this is the end result.

 
Although some things haven't worked this growing year, others have.  This squash has doubled in size since I started my holidays.  These photos were taken a week apart.

 
I spotted some courgettes that had gone unnoticed, so they will be going into a chutney maybe.  Any others ideas welcome.
 

This golden zucchini has been a staple of our summer - they are delicious.

 
I harvested the tomatoes which are ripening thick and fast now.  I'll be doing something with these tomorrow when my son has his friend over for the afternoon.  I'll need to be close to them but not in the same room, so a cooking afternoon it is.

 
The piquant peppers are a funny old shape, but are starting to turn in colour.  A slight red tinge on the top there.
 
 
We have also managed to cure and dry our bacon.  It's tiny but it's ours.  The pigs were so lean that we ended up with bacon medallions, but my word were they tasty.  They also didn't shrink when we cooked them. 

 
We went to Whitby which is just over an hour from our place.  We took the kids and a friend of Grace's, plus the dogs.  Buster laid in my footwell in what looked like a very awkward position but he obviously liked it.  Rodney was sat with the kids, very proudly too.
 
 
 
In Whitby, I treat myself to 4 new mugs, one of which has an allotment theme to it which made me smile.  Perfect.

 
There is a Millbry Hill, agricultural store, near Whitby so I popped in and bought the little pony a fly rug as the flies are awful here and he's been plagued by them.  He looks a bit scary with that and a fly mask on, but it's worth it until the season is over.
 
 
I've been making lots and lots of home made food and really got my mojo back there.  I'm enjoying it so much.  Bramble and apple crumble....delicious.
 

The onions have dried out nicely and are ready to hang.  I practiced plaiting on the ones I lifted in the Spring/early summer.

 
I'm pleased with how they turned out.
 
 
I also harvested a giant swede!

 
And plenty of other things.


We've had scotch pancakes for breakfast along with our own bacon and bread.  What treats!

 
Its our last day of the holidays for Ste and I tomorrow and the kids are back to school on Friday here.  So back to it.  I'm feeling organised though, everything is done that I wanted to be done in time to go back.  I've a list to get through tomorrow, including picking more brambles !
 
 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Day 5 - getting there and another home grown meal

I wrote a full days blog post and it didn't save. Frustrating isn't the word! I'll sum it up in pictures instead.

I'm on target with the weeding. On target means I am trying to get round every bed whilst I am off to make life easier for when I return to work.


I sowed some seeds which might be too late but worth a try. Peas, dwarf beans (after talking with Louise today, we both were saying how poor these had been) , Raab broccoli, autumn giant cauliflower,all year round lettuce and radishes. Oh and some Swiss chard which might be to over winter in the polytunnel. Grace helped and we had a lovely hour together in the greenhouse just sowing seeds and chatting. 


I weeded another couple of beds and got some late swede down. Even if we harvest them small it'll be something.

Ste is off work with me from tomorrow so we'll hopefully get twice as much done.

To get him set off on the right foot I made a home raised meal from pork medallions in a glaze (honey, balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary and a drop of oil) with garden veg and it was amazing. Very proud.


The wind is getting up here tonight, it sounds wild so I hope we have a peaceful night. 

I meant to say, the Aga is back on, Ste managed to fix it after the part arrived and I couldn't be happier. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Day 4 - Christmas potato seed planting and rumtopf

Day 4 of my holidays has seen a beautifully sunny day here in the North East of England.  It's still breezy though but this year has been.  I've never known it be so windy for so long in the past but then I suppose I've  not been growing fruit and veg or looking after so many animals before, that the wind impacts?
I've still been getting the kids up at a decent time as mine seem to suffer if they have late mornings and inevitably later nights as they can't sleep.  The kids helped me by feeding and watering the chickens and then collecting the eggs.  What a haul from the last couple of days!

 
The kids spent the next couple of hours playing and I started off the Bachelors Jam or Rumtopf as it is referred to.  Growing up I'd remember an earthenware jar that was in my parents house but I didn't know what it was for.  Then when I started blogging and read Patty Pan's blog about Rumtopf and I realised what it was for.
 My Mam kindly gave me the pot when I said I was going to make some.

I added 500g blackberries from our haul last night (which was over 3kg!) along with 250g sugar and left it for an hour before adding a litre of brandy as this is what was given to me by my lovely Mam at the same time as the Rumtopf jar.

I was supposed to make a crumble at the same time but the clock was ticking and I was itching to get out in the veg plot so I left that for later and put the brambles back in the fridge to keep a few more hours. 
The bed I'd tasked myself with today was the fire pit bed.  The previous owner had burnt allsorts in it and I'm forever finding nail, hinges and the like.  I added manure to the soil along with blood, fish and bone and hoped for the best.  Well the cabbages did marvellously and I'd put off harvesting them until my 2 weeks break.
It was a mammoth task.
They were dug out and the area cleared of weeds which was back breaking but very worth it. The Christmas potato order has just arrived so I set about putting them in.  I ordered 15 tubers from crocus - 5 each of Charlotte, Duke of York and Pentalin Javelin.  These were the only ones I could find as the other online stores I either missed or didn't sell any.
I planted them all 30cm apart and 60cm between rows as there was plenty of space to do so.  Here they are with their beds now looking like something from Halloween (picture taken from the opposite end of the bed than the earlier one).

 Here's the bed once I finished with it.
 
I then tidied up another bed which wasn't too bad thankfully and sowed some quick crop salad leaves and radish in a space that's appeared there, where the first early potatoes came out.

I tested out a panoramic view, so this photo is slightly distorted but you get the idea. 
 
Soon it was time for tea and I decided to cook one of the hams we've had in the brine.  It's been in since Sunday so over a week which is a bit too long but after cooking it, it was perfect!  I'll post the recipe another time.  All of the hams will be cooked and sliced for the freezer.
 
We finished the day off with a walk to forage some bullaces (wild plums).  Someone has already raided our spot but there is a tree most people haven't found yet, and that was full though it did require some acrobatics.  They are in the fridge now.


 
Ste also finished the stock fencing he wanted to get done.  This will deter the chickens from scratching the area where we use as a dumping ground for weeds, branches that are no good for anything, leaves etc etc.  It'll keep the animals safe and the rubbish separate.  It means he can move on to the next part ultimately giving the poultry more space. 
 
The kids got their craft items done, the dogs are happy and I'm enjoying my time off.  All in all, a great family day together.