Thursday, 31 December 2009

Last day of the year

Almost time to reflect on what I’ve managed to do in the last 12 months, but not quite!
Today has been a nice dry day so I decided to have a bit of a tidy up in the garden and a good weed of all my raised beds, its looking decidedly better for a mornings hard work.
I’ve also been sorting out some of my other gifts. I got loads of camping equipment ready for my week’s extreme survival in June. Going on this course is my brothers and mine bit of extravagance, where we will spend a week in Northern Scotland being trained by an ex-Royal Marine Commando with a minimum of kit. We’ve done things like this before but not for a week, hopefully we will both carry on to do the next course after that as well.
The kit list isn’t massive but I want it all to be good quality stuff as the OS map of the area we’ll be camping in only has two houses on the whole map, so no chance to buy any more!
Claire brought me an excellent self inflating mattress that’s tiny when deflated, her Nan brought me a compass, and from my mum and my brother I got a small dry bag (to keep a camera and phone out of the wet in), a mossey head net, small screw shut bottles for salt, pepper & cooking oil and a Spork (I’ve always wanted a Spork – not a fork and not a spoon! The best of both worlds!)Claire and I both got to try some homemade yoghurt today by using the kit my best mate had brought us for Christmas. I don’t think I left it to set long enough as it is quite runny but tastes really good (had it on my muesli for breakfast), next time I’ll make sure I leave it a bit longer. With this kit you don’t use milk but bags of powder you have to buy, it works out slightly cheaper than yogurt and its meant to be better for your digestion (which I have plenty of problems with).

Wednesday, 30 December 2009


Not Christmas – Me!
We've been surrounded by so many family and friends and I’ve had so many good gifts this year, I’m really pleased! But I’m also pleased to be at home for one night, we’ve been driving constantly to see said family and friends since the night before Christmas Eve and this will be the first night in our own bed (I’m looking forward to it now!). Still it was worth it and after New Years Eve things should go back to normal.Christmas day was lovely, we spent it at my mum and dads on the farm and there was still snow on the ground. Claire and I went for a lovely walk down to the river (so she could take pictures with the camera I brought her) with a very lame dog (Milly is dads dog, and she caught her paw when jumping out of a tractor two days before, but we think she’s faking it as she keeps holding the wrong leg up).I’ve got so many new things to play with/read/watch that I’m not sure what to do first. Mum and Claire both got me books on wild mushrooms (so if I kill myself it’s their fault) as well as lots of seeds and other goodies. I also got a big Victorian style glass bell cloche (something I’ve been hinting at, this should look really good in the garden). As well as this I was given a wood turning course, cookery books, camping stuff, DVDs and clothes but I’ll talk about some of those in another post or I will make people think I’m really spoilt!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Nearly Christmas

It’s been great having loads of time off, although I’m not sure I’ve been making the most of it – I think I’ve slowed down!

Last week I picked up my mum and dad from the airport after their trip to New Zealand and then worked on the farm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It was nice having them back (they also brought me a couple of hunting books back, hunting in New Zealand looks good).
I did a couple of jobs for mum in the house (jobs I’ve putting off for years, like putting skirting on around 6 heating pipes) and also a bit of farming. Although Dad has no sheep on the farm since I left he’s now letting the land to another farmer to over winter his sheep. The trouble is we have to check them and as our fences aren’t very good we have to keep moving the electric fence to stop them getting out. Still this job kept me entertained for a day. Whilst I was wrapping up the wire I was next to a little woodland and I noticed some Jew’s Ear Fungus (One of the only ones I can remember from the fungal foray I went on earlier in the year). I was pleased I could identify it and its also a fungus you can pick all year round, all the fallen wood was covered in it. I think if I learn an edible fungus a year I'll be doing quite well (maybe wise to learn about the ones I can't eat as well!).

After Christmas I plan to go back there and gather a load of these mushroom to add to stews and to dry to make mushroom powder for stews etc, if I do I’ll post it on this blog. Not sure what they'll be like, they feel like rubber!

Monday, 7 December 2009


Things are very very wet at the moment. I've been working on the farm part time but this week I'm off to visit my sister in Manchester so I've decided to spend the rest of it at home.
Today was a bit of a write off as it rained all day. I have ordered the timber to build my garden shed (one shed is not enough for me!) and finished insulating the walls in my workshop, but I didn't nothing outside. I wanted to move my two useless big black compost bins so I can make some bins with old pallets that will actually produce compost, but with the rain I decided against it.
I did give the chickens a wad of straw to try and soak up the mud in their pen (didn't do much good but they like scratching around in it).

Monday, 30 November 2009

Big changes

Well I've gone from having no time at all to having all the time in the world. Work has laid me off - not that i'm disappointed, I was getting to the end of my tether anyway, but it's always annoying when its not you that made the desion.
Claire has said to me not to look too hard before christmas for more work (I get paid till the end of December anyway) as she's worried if I find anything then I'll have to work over the holiday period.
I dont think she should worry too much as there isn't a fat lot of work about anyway, got a few things lined up for the new year if it comes to it, in the mean time I'm a kept man (although I'm trying to spend as much time as possible finishing my shed & helping dad on the farm).
On the bright side I'd forgotten what it felt like to have free time and cook tea for my wife.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Courgettes in November

I can't believe how mild the weather has been, I've still got courgettes in the veg patch and roses in the boarders! Not thats I've seen them much as I haven't got back before 7 during the week but I've had a great weekend.Mum and dad both came round yesterday. Dad to give me a hand putting the roof on my shed, and mum to tidy up a few areas in the garden.
In all it was really productive, we got most of the roof on (I finished it off today) and it looks great - its got me keen to finish the inside of my shed and get making things again.
Mum worked wonders in the garden and cleared two areas that I've been "storing" rubbish. We did uncover a hedgehog at one stage but we built it another little house with dried grass and roof tiles so I hope it will be alright.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Green Tomato chutney time again

With it being such a mild autumn ~I've left the tomatoes longer this year. Last weekend I went to pick them and had over 7lb of green toms plus loads of red ones!

This year we thought we'd try to make enough to last us the whole year, we used the same recipe as last year but on a larger scale. I did feel sorry for Claire though as after spending two hours pealing tomatoes her hands looked like that of a ninety year old!

We did get to use one of our wedding presents which was a nice big copper bottomed saucepan to make it in (although I did burn quite a bit to the bottom) it took ages for it to reduce down and the mixture was still a bit runny.
All we've got to do now is wait for it to mature...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Fungal foray

Been so busy this week that I haven't had chance to write my blog. Work has been killing me, haven't got home before 7.30 and I leave the house a little after 6.00!

Last weekend was good though, very much in the countryside. Saturday was spent doing a few jobs in the garden then driving over to mum and dads farm for a spot of shooting. I went pigeon shooting for starters but they didn't have to be scared as I didn't even see a pigeon let alone shoot one!

Afterwards my brother and I went lamping for rabbits, he drove and I shot, managed to get a good few for the pot and lessen the numbers a little. (I had planned to make rabbit stew in the week but in the end I never had chance as I got back too late each night so they got wasted, I was a bit gutted about that)

Sunday was spent with my brother, we went up to some woods just south of Iron Bridge for the fungal foray we had booked. There was 28 of us on the course (which was too many), we all met up in the green woods centre and then headed for the trees in search of any mushrooms we could find.
After being told how to pick mushrooms safely and what to remember about where we found them, we were quite amazed with how many were about considering how dry it has been. straight away me and Dave found some edible ones (although the slugs had been there first) and soon everyone was coming up with more and more.

After a dinner of mushroom soup we then went to some different woods to find some truffles! My brother was like a little truffling pig and found about five before anyone else had found any! unfortunately the instructor didn't tell us until we'd found them that this type could not be eaten so we were all a little disappointed.

The day was really good and we went home with enough mushrooms to make a nice meal and a little bit more knowledge on what to look for without killing ourselves.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Planting Garlic on a Sunny Afternoon

Had a wonderful lazy sunday where we went for a nice long walk to the next village across from ours and then, once we'd failed to find a good picnic spot, we ended up having our lunch in the garden!Afterwards I planted the four different types of garlic in where the potatoes had been eariler in the year, with a little blood, fish and bone added in for good measure.
Being the good husband that I am I also cooked a nice roast dinner. The whole meal could be traced. The Potatoes I brought from the farm shop, the runner beans, carrots and shallots were from the garden and the lamb (which was lovely) was from my fathers farm. I felt quite please with that and tonights tea was all the leftovers fried up with some extra shallots and courgettes so although not as glamourus as yesterdays dinner but still tasty and local.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Squash it...

I had to go to work this morning which is always a bit of a blow, but I was looking forward to a nice afternoon in the garden. All was going well until the heavens opened and I had to run back inside!
I did manage to pick two more vegetable spaghetti squashes but we're still not sure what to do with the first one! Going to leave them to mature first as I don't want them tasting like the first squash we had last year!
Also prepared the ground for the four different types of garlic that I brought last weekend at Malvern show but the rain stopped me planting them!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Drying French Beans

My french beans had definatly come to an end a few weeks ago, so I just left the last few pods on the plant to die off and dry in the weather we've been having lately.

Tonight I had half an hour in the garden before it got dark so I managed to pull all the beans off the plant and empty the pods into a seed tray. These I'll leave in the shed until they're dry and then store them in a kilner jar.

I hope I can use any sort of french bean for drying! Does anyone have any information?

Monday, 28 September 2009

Malvern Autumn Show

Our twice yearly pilgrimage to Malvern show was this weekend.
The show was great. My favourite was, as always, the giant vegetables. Although these weren’t as big as last year they are still impressive and all the other vegetables categories were also impressive- I think I’ll have to look into trying to enter next something next year!
As for buying things I was very well behaved and only brought four different sorts of garlic which I will be putting in the ground as soon as I manage to get home in the light. I also brought some multiplier shallots (not sure if they are perennial or annular as the man selling them was a little confusing) which you’re supposed to pick little shallots off as it grows.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Damson Vodka

With the leftover damsons (the ones that couldn’t fit in the saucepan!) I’ve decided to make a vodka liqueur. I half filled a kilner jar with damsons then added 3oz of caster sugar.
Then I filled the jar to the top with a litre of vodka, sealed it, shook it and I’ll now leave it in a dark cupboard for as long as I can bare to wait (shaking it when I remember to help it mix).

Damson Jam

Last weekend we made some damson jam.
I managed to leave work early for the first time in ages so I drove over to mum and dad’s farm to pick some fruit.
As well as picking up a massive bag of russet apples I also managed to come back with two huge bags of damsons. I love eating these raw but one of my favourite childhood memories is eating rich damson jam (that’s as solid as rock) on hot cross buns, so I thought it was about time I dug out the old recipe book and made some.

I could get just about 2.5Kg of fruit in two saucepans and stewed it down, before I read in the instructions that I’m to try and remove as many pips as possible. This turned out to be a massive task and I think I spent the best part of an hour using every appliance in the kitchen to try to find an easy way of removing them, in the end I used a potato masher to try and push the flesh through a colander and picked out any pips that may have escaped (I'm still putting a disclaimer on the jar though!).

I then weighed the mixture again and added an equal quantity of sugar and boiled it until setting point was reached (where it wrinkles when placed on a cold plate and you push your finger through it).I had some jars warming in the oven and a plastic funnel (can believe I don’t normally use a funnel!) to help get as much as possible in the jar.
In the end we made 11½ jars and if I do say so myself it tastes pretty good!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Red Mite Hell

Well the red mites on the chickens just dont seem to go away.
All through the summer I've been having trouble keeping these vampire bugs under control and no matter how many times I clean out the house, put powder down and dust the chickens, they keep coming back. I do seem to be on top of them a bit more now, the chickens are looking healthy besides all the trouble and they're laying really well - We've started to sell a few again which is nice.

Other than that its been a lovely weekend, I didnt have to work saturday so managed to do a few jobs round the house and in the garden and had my brother round for a BBQ. Afterwards we watched the channel 4 series "Alone in the Wild" which is amazing and it's started me off looking at doing more survial courses in the future.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Trimming my Bush

I had to work this weekend which kind of knackered my plans about going to the Ludlow food festival but we did manage to get there just before it closed, then stayed out in the pubs around town with some friends. It was also my little sisters last weekend before she goes off to uni in the big bad city.
Coming back home I forgot to borrow mums hedge trimmer again (for the 10th time) so I decided that I should invest in one. Its not great but its done a good job and it'll be alright for what I want to do with it (no good for my tree surgeon brother) and the garden looks so much tidier for it.
The super yeast keeps bubbling away and when we're sat having dinner in the dinning room we can hear it pop pop popping away. I think this will be a good gift to take with me when I go and visit my sister at Manchester uni.
The garden seems to be doing alright despite the neglect its had the last couple of months, I've just got far too many tomatoes to use up. I think tomato soup is on the cards for one night in the week...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No its super yeast!

Started my super yeast kit yesterday to make 20% alcohol. The kit is fairly straight forward although it says to fit an airlock straight away and when I've done this in the the past its always bubbled over. It hasn't yet but I've put a tray under it just in case.

I also brought a set of "Kilner" type bottles to store it in as it's only meant to take three weeks to brew and its not really the type of thing where you drink a bottle in one sitting! They also look pretty cool and I thought I could flavour each bottle differently, so far my ideas have ranged from herbs like mint and rosemary to herbal tablets and Vimto! any ideas will be greatly received.
Work today wasn't the usual inner city mess that I normally have. Instead of going to the centre of Birmingham I got sent to a warehouse in deepest Dudley to move the bathroom pods for the project I a foreman on. I sent the one wagon off and another one just didn't turn up!

We got bored of waiting and saw that there was a canal and decide to go for a walk. Turns out there is a massive nature reserve right by where we were, in the end we walked for well over an hour and picked a massive bag of blackberries (after Steve had worked with me all last week he had decided that jam making sounded like good fun - I start to rub off on people!).
Also managed to get home before 7.30 so picked some runner beans (this is a big achievement for me as so far they've produced none and none last year) and also picked off about 200 caterpillars from my brassicas!