Monday: Again already!Good job we took the afternoon off yesterday as it rained, a lot and it’s still soggy this morning. John is mostly at home this week give or take a couple of little jobs to fit in. The new chickens will arrive Wednesday so still need to finish everything off in their hut and get the paddock ship shape, Jack has been in there trimming off the grass and this morning I have moved him into the stable as it’s supposed to be quite muggy and he may appreciate a break from the flies which have been dreadful lately. There are some long areas of grass that need cutting, (ooops we just had a power cut for about 30 seconds, happens a lot after rain up here) and some nettles need a bit of a strimming round the apple tree and the electric netting needs to go up and then we will be ready for 100 new chickens, just hope the customers are as keen as they have been when we didn’t have any eggs! The veg has sold out this morning so I will be picking like crazy to restock, sometimes it sits there for a few days then all of a sudden it’s gone. Sold quickly over the weekend so it’s out and do some picking after feeding, runner beans, dwarf beans, tomatoes, banana squash, courgettes, shed is now restocked with fresh goodies. The runners are getting to the time of the year when they are coming thick as fast in fact I read something that just about sums it up ‘they keep growing until the picker is exhausted’ yep that’s about right lol, they also get a lot thicker at the end of the season so apart from making some chutney I wondered what else I could do with them and that’s when I learnt something new. Apparently it’s peculiarly British to eat them as a pod, in the green as it were, Europe and America eat the beans inside and not the pod so with the older beans I am doing the same as with the yang yang and butter beans and drying them for use during the Winter, fabulous as nobody wants to eat tough stringy beans and I don’t want to waste them. I also made a batch of runner bean chutney, it’s just finishing off as I write this and tastes delicious, just right for our Christmas feast 😀 Late afternoon we got the electric netting up and all is just about ready.
Tuesday: I have Mia today so I get everything done early, I also gathered up some hazelnuts and cleaned out the goose hut. Then back indoors to sort out the pile of tomatoes that is growing bigger, I decided on soup today as the weather is a bit damp it will be nice for lunch. I kind of follow a recipe in terms of looking to see what kind of ingredients go in from a number of different ones but mostly make it up as I go along and that includes weights. In this one it was one large onion cos that’s what I have left, a large punnet of tomatoes as those are the ones I have sorted, a small bunch of fresh basil leaves, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, salt, pepper, a sprinkle of celery seed, four small carrots, a splash of balsamic vinegar, a squirt of tomato paste and a pinch of sugar. Generally speaking a stock would go in but I don’t have any vegetable stock cubes nor any of my own stock made, I need to make a few jars of soup stock really, I made some a few years ago and it’s an ideal easy go to when you need it. Basically it is a blend of veg and herbs whizzed up in the food processor and you can keep it in the fridge for up to 6 months, it is a recipe from the River Cottage preserving book and it’s much better than stock cubes, especially if you have grown your own, contents include, celeriac, leeks, carrots, garlic, parsley, coriander, fennel, sun dried tomatoes and salt but you can put whatever you like in there in all honesty or leave out something you don’t like or haven’t got. There is quite a lot of salt in the recipe in order to stabilise it but you could always leave the salt out and freeze it in portions and add salt to taste when you use it, you could probably freeze it in portions in a bun tin, which would be about the right amount you would need, and then bag up the frozen portions to use whenever.
Gosh it’s a foul evening out there, definitely a storm brewing up judging by the clouds and the wind, still at least there should be plenty of nuts to pick up in the morning 😀
Watching Bake Off makes me wanna bake biscuits only trouble is it would take John only half them time to eat them as it would to make them 😂😂
Wednesday: I have Mia again today so I get everything done outdoors as early as possible, John has the whole day at the farm today and the new hens are arriving later so that’s extra hands to get stuff done. I set him to work on cutting the hedge down the front driveway, he always insisted on doing it when the hedge was bare, and it wasn’t until someone knowledgable agreed with me that it should be done in September that he agreed to do it, well it’s looking good just a bit of tidying up to be done tomorrow. Mum came over and emptied out all the soil and separated the bulbs from the flower boxes at the main gate, we are putting new fencing and a new gate up so we will also have new boxes and it will all look very smart. Meanwhile indoors I made bread and later on some biscuits and entertained Mia who is just starting to toddle finally 😀 We did go outside and picked some of the cooking apples, Mia found it very funny when they fell off the tree narrowly missing me 😂
Went shopping in the evening mainly to get the ingredients for my Christmas mincemeat which I will make over the next few days hopefully, I need to buy dried fruit but I will be using our own apples and nuts in the mixture, I didn’t get the cherries in order to make my own glacés this year, maybe next year.
Thursday: Swept up the cuttings from Johns hedge cutting, well I pushed them under the hedge to rot down and feed the hedge I figured that was better than burning them and they are a nightmare to shred. Went out for a fruit smoothie with Josh and Shelley and a mooch round Burford. When I got back I gave the feed room a sweep out then noticed that the door could do with a coat of wood preserver to get it through the winter so I found a tub of green and gave it a once over. On the way back from collecting eggs later I gave it another coat, should see it through 😀
Picked some elderberries late afternoon and set about making Pontack sauce, I’ve made it before and it’s a great sauce to add to dishes in the winter to get extra vitamin c, I also chopped up and mixed together all the ingredients for my Christmas mincemeat. If you have never made your own before I urge you to give it a go, it’s very easy and it tastes so much better than the shop bought stuff, I have been making mine for years and can’t stand the commercially made jars of it nor the mince pies they sell with it in. Find a recipe and be creative with the ingredients, as long as you have the dried fruit quantities in there you can swap and change the other ingredients to your liking, swap in some amaretto or a liqueur you like for instead of brandy, nuts you prefer, it’s your mincemeat add the flavours you like, my sister is making pear and walnut this year can’t wait to taste that 😀
Pontack sauce Makes 1 x 350ml bottle
500ml cider vinegar
200g shallots, sliced
4 allspice berries
1 blade of mace
1 tbsp black peppercorns
15g root ginger bruised
Place elderberries in dish with vinegar put in very low oven for 4-6 hrs or overnight. Remove strain through seive, crush berries to obtain max juice. Put juice in a pan with sliced shallots, spices and ginger. Bring back to boil and cook for 20-25 mins until slightly reduced. Remove from heat and strain. Return to pan and bring back to boil then boil for 5 mins. Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal. Store in a dark cupboard and enjoy.
Friday: Likely to rain a lot today apparently! Did the morning rounds and then a quick trip to town to get my bloods done and book in for my flu jab. When I got back I decided to finish off the pontac sauce and make the mincemeat as it has been soaking overnight, the mincemeat smells amazing and the pontac sauce is done and ready for vit c boosts over winter. You could add sugar to it and make it a sweet sauce but I tend to use it to depend flavours in stews and gravies.
Had some heavy downpours already ☔️ but not complaining in light of what the rest of the world is going through at the moment.
I made some apple flapjack, most of it stuck together well but some of it was crumbly so I have bagged that up for the freezer and labeled it for crumble topping, I reckon it will do the job nicely. Sam and Mia popped over and bought me a bag of windfall pears they are quite firm so I have put them to store in the apple rack for now, love it when I get given freebie food and will be looking up recipes to use them.
Very excited as my Ancestry DNA package arrived today for me to spit into 😜 and return, hopefully I can find out a bit more about what parts of the world my forebearers came from.
Saturday: Dry start to the day and John did the feeding this morning while I cleaned out the bantam chicks in the back, they have got to the ‘gorky’ stage where there feathers look too small for their bodies 😜 but they are all still alive which is the main thing. John then went on to cut the other smaller hedge, but it wasn’t done last year so is a bit of a mission this year, first he had to move some old fence rails we were given from next door which he is aiming to cut up later today. I did a bit of picking, there is not much left now, the courgettes are getting smaller, the runner beans are getting tougher and thicker, and there are a lot less tomatoes than before. I also cleared up the area around the compost heap as it was spreading further and further outwards and there will be a lot to go on it in the next few weeks as we begin to pull up spent veg plants. Did some cleaning then popped off to get some bits of feed for the rabbits, dogs and cats, treated the dogs to some ‘postman leg’ bones, the big beef bones, that should keep them entertained for a while.
Rain set in during the afternoon making jobs outside a bit more difficult a kind of on/off /on again time.
My sister bought me some more pears 😀 and I am hoping to get some more apples so I dug out my fruit press and gave it a clean, it’s been in the shed with spiders and stuff, we didn’t have any apples last year so it was idle. I have had to order a straining bag as I can’t find mine anywhere and while I was looking I discovered I already had a decent sized scratter that I had forgotten about whoop whoop, apple and pear juice coming up, I shall be pasteurising it before bottling so it stores longer, I was going to freeze it but I will be running out of space in there before long. I almost forgot I had the equipment, how bad is that, it’s because it’s in a shed I don’t have to go in very often, maybe I need to clean the shed out and have all my various bits of usefulness in one place!
We had ‘the great escape’ tonight 🐰 The rabbits decided it was time for a bit of freedom, their floor in their run is nearly all caged over bar one small bit, they have been digging there for a while but I assumed (stupidly) that they wouldn’t dig out……wrong! John went to put the hens to bed and something ran past him, a rabbit, then he spotted the others out in the paddock, he comes to get me to help round them up, easier said than done. While he was busy chasing one of them all over the big paddock (should have got a video but didn’t really have time) I was putting a net over the hole to stop them escaping once we had rounded them all up. We managed to get them all back in and cover up the escape route but you know as well as I do how quickly rabbits get their shizzle on and so I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of them ends up, up the duff, there are so many wild rabbits out there and I certainly saw one or two little white tails bobbing around. Picture all this then add into the mix the cat who probably thought all his suppers had come at once as he was quickly on the scene and in close proximity to said bunnies, luckily we were quicker than him thank goodness and order has now been restored.
Sunday: Another dry start, set to work with the usual jobs then I went onto give the rabbit pens a proper clear out and get them prepped for the colder nights ahead, plus block up any holes 😜 Then I did the same with the quail house, I had some heavy duty plastic so used it to cover the ridge and down one side of the hut to stop any rain and provide a buffer from the winds they should be nice and cosy and most importantly dry. After that I got on with bashing the walnut tree to bring down any almost ready nuts which then needed to be washed and dried and put in a tray to dry off, I have trays of nuts, buckets of apples, baskets of pears, the kitchen is starting to get full lol. Meanwhile John cleaned out the hens at the back and then cut up the fence rails, I think they are all done now thank goodness.
Had the afternoon off so popped out to make a couple of visits, when we came back we decided it was cold enough and wet enough to light the Rayburn and stave off any chills or damp, hopefully it won’t turn into the full time job just yet, evenings only.