Friday, 31 December 2010

Christmas Dinner

Well I'm quite pleased with myself. Yesterday was the end to a good gardening year, we had a group of friends over for a late Christmas dinner and all the veg were homegrown. We had potatoes, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, carrots, swede and leeks, I felt quite smug at what we'd achieved and how good it all tasted (with some good cooking from my wife). The turkey was from a friend of my fathers so it was quite an accountable dinner.
On a less positive note my allotment is constantly under a couple of inches of water and the carrots have started to float to the surface (I wish I dug them up sooner and clamped them).
Here's to next year where I aim to be self sufficient in veg (and maybe I can talk Claire into having a couple of turkeys on the garden!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

No fun for the chickens

Well without wanting to say what everyone else is saying but I'm fed up with the snow, its cost me a weeks work and my chickens are pretty much too frightened to leave the coops. At least the garden look nice!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A little bonus

I had a little bonus this week in the form of 3 brace of pheasants from the couple who I've been working for. They host the shoot dinners (a posh meal after the "guns" have been shooting all morning) and get as many pheasants as they like, these were shot Monday.
Mind you I almost didn't get any as they had been left out overnight and the next morning there was half as many (and a fat fox somewhere)!
Today I've plucked and dressed two of the birds and cut the breast and leg meat off the other four. The whole pheasants are in the oven at the moment, surrounded by vegetables dug out of a slowly defrosting allotment, should be a cheap and rich dinner!

Sunday, 14 November 2010


As I've already said, this year is the first year that our Medlar tree has had a good amount of fruit on it.
Last week I decided that the fruit was "bletted" enough (rotten) so I picked the whole crop. We decided that we have made enough jam lately to last us into next year (and then a bit) so chutney was to be made instead.
Looking on the Internet I came across Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe for a spicy chutney using the Medlars (in fact there weren't too many other recipes that I could find). His recipe called for the use of the left over pulp from making Medlar Jelly. This was going to be a long process.
  • Monday night I stewed the Medlars and set them to strain overnight through a jelly bag.
  • Tuesday night I made the jelly with the juice (only a tiny jar full - it better taste good!)
  • Wednesday night I made the spicy chutney using the pulp from the jelly (the house still smells) but by 11.15 it still wasn't thick enough!
  • Thursday night I put the chutney back on the stove, thickened it and put it into jars.
A long process so I hope it tastes good once it matures. Out of the pan it nearly took my head off with its spiciness! I've a feeling it might be more like a cook-in-sauce!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Drying Chilli Peppers - Fail

Well our lovely string of chilli peppers turned from a dark green to red and then to mouldy. Never mind, I will have to try something different next year!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Chicken Run

Well our 10 (not so) little chicks and mum have gotten a little bit too big for the arc that they were hatched in, so last weekend I fenced off a large area of the garden and wired up half of the old shed for a coop.
We moved them in on Friday night, after clipping their wings , and they love it! Running round scratching in the leaves and grass while the mother hen clucks away. Trouble is it looks good now but by the end of the week I'm sure it will be like a mud bath! Never mind, its a more natural way for them to live and they should be big enough to eat by January so we should have grass back in the spring, unless we hatched another batch...
The sad thing is, at six weeks if these were Ross Cobs then they would be killing weight now and end up as the cheap chicken in the supermarkets! Mine have got another couple of months yet, to grow at the speed that nature intended them to. It's ridiculous that they still allow chickens to be reared so fat and so fast.

Drying Chilli Peppers

It's the time of year again to dry the chili peppers that we haven't used.
This year I've decided not drag out the food dryer and instead I've just strung them from the ceiling in the kitchen. Hopefully they won't go moldy and since I strung them up on Monday night the rest of them have started to turn slowly red.

Sunday, 24 October 2010


I love apples, I eat two everyday of my life.
I know this goes against my seasonal eating but I have a packed lunch and I need my fruit. I eat English apples for as long as possible and then grudgingly make the switch. But I love this time as year as I get the crisp lovely apples for free, just a few hours spent picking them, which is a treat in itself!
My parents farm isn't great for eating apples, although I have planted many different trees over the last 5 or 6 years they are only just becoming useful, so our store mainly contains cooking apples.
The three on the picture above are my three favourites, Warner King, Scot Bridget and the good old Bramleys Seedling.
The Warner King doesn't keep over a month but is very early to be ready and I think tastes better cooked than any other apple.
The Scot Bridget is duel purpose (although its skin is quite tough), we've managed to keep them till May and it always has a huge crop no matter on the year.
The Bramleys Seedling comes from three trees down the bottom of the old orchard we've got loads of them and they store quite well, also good for a baked apple.

My mother and I have both wrapped up our apples in their paper jackets for storage, so now its just a case of thinking of enough recipes to cook them in.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Bright Eyes

On Friday night my wife was out on the town living it up. On the other hand I was being driven round fields in the dark with a .410 stuck out of the window. I know where I'm happier!
Lamping rabbits is a great way to bag some free meat and to try and keep their numbers in check. My father and I didn't have to spend long doing it before I had four good sized rabbits suitable for the pot (it then started to rain so we went back to the warm). I gutted them that night and then butchered them in the morning turning them into bags of fat less meat (about enough for 4 good meals).
My wife was less than excited about the prospect of eating rabbit so I thought I'd cure her by serving up some hot rabbit rolls instead of bacon - a risky move that could have gone wrong as nothing to hid the meat as anything else! I chose the best bits of meat from each rabbit (the saddle across the back) and rubbed them in olive oil, an Oxo and a little pepper and then fried them quickly. Served in fresh french stick with some salad out of the garden my wife could only say how lovely it was - Good job, I intend to fill the freezer with the furry little critters....
Rabbit stew, rabbit curry, rabbit burgers, rabbit and white wine (more ideas please)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pickled Cauliflower

I think Cauliflowers are like buses - they all come at once. Last weekend we had three very fine looking specimens waiting to be harvested. Rather than let the slugs eat them we decided to pick the lot.
I was already on a preserving rampage with jam and chutney under my belt (not literally that would be messy) so I decided it was best to cook the one for lunch and to pickle the remaining two. It is a know fact around our house that my wife is rather keen on pickled veg and will eat a whole jar in one sitting if allowed! I'm not so keen and struggle to eat a few pieces with a bag of crisps!
To pickle them I consulted a large number of my preserving books and then did my own thing (heavily influenced by said books).
  • First wash and cut the cauliflower in bit sized pieces
  • Then leave it in a brine to draw the moisture out for 24 hours(the brine was 100g of salt to 1 litre of water)
  • Sterilise the kilner jar and fill with the vegetable
  • Pour over the vinegar making sure it is all covered
  • Seal and leave for a few weeks before eating
I'm even considering hiding this from my wife as she might eat the lot when I'm not in and make herself ill!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Red Tomato and Chilli Chutney (and Sloe jam)

I've been preserving things again this weekend. I started off with a wild Friday night making chutney (I know how to live!), although I might have dozed off and burnt the pan a little (a lot). I pretty much used the green tomato recipe but used ripe tomatoes, one big Cayenne pepper, a teaspoon of coriander seeds and a table spoon of fennel seeds. It only made three jars (so I wont be giving any away) but it smelt nice - I've just got to wait for two months to let it mature before I can try it.I spent Saturday shooting, well I say shooting but I mean carrying my gun around, as I shot nothing, very disappointing. I did pick lots of apples and over 2kg of sloes (I've never seen so many) so my trip wasn't completely pointless.
On Sunday night I made some of these sloes in jam (there is only so much gin you can drink). Sloe and apple jam is something I've not tried before and reading a recipe on the Internet it says to use
1 kg of apples,
500g of sloes,
1.5 kg of sugar
by the time I stewed the fruit and pushed it slowly through a sieve I had a lot less mixture so I only added the same weight of sugar. The resulting jam I'm unconvinced about, its sweet but has the same dry taste of cranberries, I'll have to have it on something nice to judge it properly (its a great colour though).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Squashes and Apple Pancakes

Another very full weekend.
Yesterday was Malvern Autumn Show and we made our twice yearly trip. It was a great day and we managed not to spend too much, although we did buy a wormery (I've wanted one for ages) and 5 different types of garlic to try - This year I plan to grow it at home and the allotment and see which soil type it does best in.
Today I've spent quite a while down the allotment, I've started to harvest the squashes as the leaves have started to die on some of the plants and they've hardened up nicely. I also started to knock in the fence posts for our next allotment although I had to keep tapping the end of the sledge hammer as the head was threatening to fly off!
The chicks are growing up fast and becoming less cute by the day. Its funny how annoyed Claire now get when people question us for having chickens to eat, saying its cruel or they don't know how we do it, when we both see it as natural and how we'd prefer to get our meat. It's really nice that we both have the same values where food is concerned.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Allotment Open Day

Another busy weekend. Yesterday was our first ever open day for the allotments and Felix Dennis (the owner of FHM) was meant to come down to open it officially but couldn't make it due to illness (he gave the land for the allotment to be built on).
I managed to talk my mum into coming up and helping me weed the plot before people started to look round, so the plot was looking quite tidy. The day was really nice with Claire's family coming up as well, there was a little veg stall and a raffle as well as a guess the seed competition which I was gutted I didn't win (I'll never know which I got wrong!).

Yesterday evening I also managed to pick a massive bucket full of hazel nuts off of our single tree, not sure what I'm going to do with them but its a shame to leave them (any ideas?).
The chicken and her little brood of chicks are doing well, the chicks are so fast now its almost impossible to catch them. Its great fun watching the mother fuss over them and break food up so they can eat it, although she is quite rough when she scrats at the grass and knocks an unsuspecting chick flying!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Teenage Mother

Well our Teenage Mother of a broody hen has hatched out her random assortment of eggs and so far there are 10 bundles of fluff of all different colours keeping their mother busy. There are still a couple of eggs left which seem to have chicks in, but if they haven't hatched by the morning then it will be a total of 10 out of 16 hatched. Not too bad for her first time sitting on eggs.
I'm now a bit worried about what we're going to do with our new chickens when they grow up. I've planned where they're going to go in the garden (they're going to have the area under the hazel tree and some of the old garden shed to live in). The boys will be fattened up for the freezer, the ladies will have a longer future I think...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Plum Weekend

We've had a great bank holiday weekend. To start with My wife had her best friend and her daughter over (which I took to mean two extra pairs of hands). We managed to get loads done from car booting to digging the rest of the potatoes off the allotment and picking a huge bag full of french and runner beans (as well as filling our mouths with raspberries as we worked).
In the afternoon we decided to make plum jam. On Friday I had picked a big bag of Victoria plums from the farm after I finished work and brought them home with me, the only trouble was I think the bag was too big and we ended up making 21 jars of jam! I would have preferred to have used yellow egg plums but they were over (I managed to put 6 bags in the freezer last week), the jam tasted good and had a bit of a tart taste like a plum jam should. To make it we used 5.1 KG of stoned plums and the same of sugar (this looked like a lot of sugar!).

To round the weekend off we went to Pershore Plum day, this was much bigger than I thought it would be and spread over the whole town. We brought a few bits and bobs like plum cheese and black pudding as well as having some lovely plum cider, I also brought a book on the history of Evesham orchards and learn how there is a cider making circle in the next village to ours. Might have to see if I can join...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Trying To Rotovate

This weekend I had planned to rotovate the new half of our allotment, and today I managed to get down there for about 4 hours and achieved the grand total of nothing. The rotovater just bounced off the top and I ended up just leaving lines across the top. I think I'm going to have to admit defeat and get the man in with the tractor to do it the first time. I'm a bit gutted though as I got myself all worked up to do it.
We did manage to dig up one row of potatoes today and have trug completely full with them (I think if it had rained earlier we would have had more). Also we've been on a freezing mission - I picked a large bag of yellow egg plums and froze all of those and tonight Claire has been blanching beans by the hundred weight to put in the freezer (as well as cooking a Sunday roast with more vegetables than I can count (well five but it doesn't sound as impressive)).
I also brought another fig tree at a car boot, it has the biggest leaves I have ever seen on one and it's about half the price you'd pay in a nursery. I'm not sure what it is about trying to grow an exotic fruit that is notoriously difficult to grow but I'm determined to have some of my own figs at some point even if I have to have 10 trees!

What to do with a Broody Hen...

Normally I get quite annoyed by my hens going broody but this week I decided not to keep chucking her off the nest or put ice cubes under her. Instead I've been given 16 quite random eggs ranging in colour and size to hatch out.
The eggs were given to me from a nice couple who have a smallholding just down the road from my fathers farm, I'd never met them before but my dad sells them corn and straw for their animals. When I picked the eggs up they showed me the possible ex-owners of the eggs and the two possible cockerels who could be the fathers (one large barnavelda and a small buff arpington bantam). The hens ranged from welshsummers, light sussex, rhode island red and a large number of crosses (big and small), I'm pretty sure if this hen manages to hatch out these eggs then anything could turn up!
My worries are that I've put too many eggs under her (16 - anyone know if this is too many), the hen is very young (not even a year old - teenage pregnancy!) and she is a hybrid and although she is being a good mother now (and very vicious with it) will her broodiness last 21 days and how will she behave when they hatch?

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Extreme Survival

At the beginning of June, I spent a week in Scottish highlands on an extreme survival course with my brother and a group of 6 other like minded strangers and three instructors.
We had to first hike into an area to camp, carrying all we needed for the week long course. When we arrived (we were knackered) we then had to make camp, constructing an area for a fire as well as enough shelters for the 8 of us.
We manged to just get up the frame of shelters big enough for purpose and the realisation that collecting enough water and making it safe to drink was going to be a major part of this course as the nearest stream was half a mile away over some quite rough terrain. Before we could settle we were taken down the side of the wood for our first lesson - game preparation - deer. We all had a go at jointing and skinning the animal and it was much the same as a rabbit but on a bigger scale.
The next four days were great, we managed to get our shelter pretty much water proof (with one minor disaster), we learnt more game preparation including squirrel, we learnt about making signal fires and how to fire a flare (very good fun), we also had quite few lessons on map reading and navigation. Also the water situation was one of the key things we all learnt - you must have water on the boil all the time or suddenly you've run out and that's when a situation can become dangerous.
The week was simply great fun. I learnt loads as well as spending plenty of quality time with my little brother doing what we both enjoy. I'd never been to Scotland before but the landscape was amazing and it seemed so empty of people (one of the reasons I enjoyed my naked wash at the stream a little bit more). We also made some great friends, people who I hope we will keep in touch with and go camping with again, so we can learn bushcraft from each other and have good company while we do it.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

On a rainy summer afternoon...

Well I've been neglectful of my blog the last few months but I've been extra busy (not sure anyone reads it anyhow!).
I'm going to do a few posts with what I've been up to (Survival course, allotment, etc) but at the moment I'm sat in the house looking at the rain on an August afternoon. Last week we went on holiday to Tunisia and had a great week doing things like ridding camels and seeing how they grow dates on palm trees. We even did a trip down to the Sahara Desert and although I don't think I'll go back to Tunisia (bit too much of a beach holiday destination for me) I definitely want to go back to the desert, there's something about it...
We got back on Wednesday and after unpacking I popped down to the allotment and came back with well over a bucket full of veg to be dished out to friends and family. Not sure what we're going to do with all the french and runner beans - good job we've brought a bigger freezer!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

New Chickens!

I came back home with 5 new little egg laying machines in the back of the car, these were in the form of 5 point of lay pullets. We purchased 3 Speckledy and 2 Blue Rangers (all hybrids), although they all look very dark in colour, a little like 5 chicken Ninjas.

We clipped their wings straight away (Claire is getting over her fear of birds as I'm forcing her to! she had to do the cutting of the feathers without stabbing me everytime they move) and let them play in the pen for a bit before I caught them and put them to bed. This is the down side to having a raised coop, although they should get used to it fairly soon and put themselves to bed.

I think at the weekend I'm going to make a few things in the pen to keep them entertained as I don't want any problems with feather pecking or boredom (although my others were fine).

Monday, 3 May 2010

What a difference a drop of rain makes

Now we can't even walk across the allotment. It's gone from rock hard soil to the stickiest mud in the world, when Claire walked across the plot she was 6 inches taller by the time she got to the other side! The ground just holds water, I'm sure it will be better once I've added some muck and soil improver but the gooseberry bush I planted last weekend has sunk! Everything else is look quite good though and the broad beans are running away!
We managed to get all the posts in and some grass seed down on the paths but it was just too sticky to do anything else. Back at home I planted my sweetcorn in toilet tubes, I plan to grow loads with my squashes so there should be some left over for our new chicken (I didn't want to make too much noise about it but our old chickens have gone to a "better" place to make way for some that will lay eggs. we have 5 POL being picked up tomorrow).
In preparation for the summer on the allotment I've brought an old ball bearing lawn mower to mow the paths (£10) as well as starting to collect tools at car boots (also brought a drip watering system for £4 today to water the greenhouse at home, I love car boots!).

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Starting on the allotment

Well I've finally made a start on the allotment! Yesterday mum came round and gave me a hand to mark out the paths and the different beds for crop rotation, the fruit area and an area for a shed and compost bins (all marked with blue string).
Although its been rotovated twice the soil it still like concrete and takes a lot of digging, no good for sowing seeds directly into the ground just yet! We did manage to plant a few things though.
A nice long 15ft row of raspberries went in (pinched from mums garden), along with rhubarb, a gooseberry bush and some comfrey. Today we also managed to put in the broad beans I'd been growing in pots and net them over to protect them from pigeons and rabbits. The main trouble, besides the rock hard soil, is the lack of water on site, I've been taking a large drum of water every time I go down but it doesn't go very far!

I've also put in four raised beds, these are quick fix pallet collars that I've stained up, but they look nice and they will help me grow root crops until I get the soil sorted out (then they can be used to grow asparagus next year). My plan to get parsnips and carrots in now is to import some soil (there's some nice soil at the farm) and mix it with a little compost along with fish, blood and bone. At least then I'll have some for Christmas dinner!

Next weekend I'm thinking about fencing the whole plot with rabbit wire as everyone else seems to be doing it and there seems to be a lot of wildlife.