New ducks, Sloe Gin & Autumn colours πŸ˜€

Monday: Back to the day job, on my rounds this morning I noticed how well everything had been looked after while we were away, chickens and geese in the front had been cleaned out, everything looks happy and healthy. Made some bread today, but used a different yeast which did not work as well as the fast yeast so I will be going back to that, it’s still edible just didn’t rise as well as it usually does. Put out some Butternut Squash for sale in the little shed along with the recipe for the soup I put on here. Sometimes when people encounter a veg they have never had before they won’t buy it because they don’t know what to do with it and so I find printing off a recipe encourages them to try it, especially one that I have tried and tested. I have ordered some broad bean seeds but they have not arrived yet, last year I decided not to grow Winter veg but come Spring I really regretted that decision so I am on the ball this year, the cabbages and leeks I planted a couple of weeks back are coming on nicely and the poly tunnel is full of kale/cauliflower (both of which I could have planted outside, I just didn’t have the room at the time) carrots, peas, spinach, hopefully I can pick these throughout the Winter months. Also in the tunnel are the sweet potato, there is a lot of foliage and I have not been tempted to have a look under the soil yet to see what, if anything is there, you are supposed to leave them in the ground for as long as possible and fleece them over once the frosts come, but as we haven’t had any frost yet and the leaves are beginning to die back, I reckon it will soon be time to dig them up. Sweet potato are incredibly good for you full of vitamin C, thiamin, potassium and manganese, and if you have never tried them I would definitely recommend you do, one of my favourites ways is as a baked potato with cream cheese and spring onion topping, delicious. Chicken casserole for tea, I am trying not to use salt at all so plenty of herbs etc for flavouring. 

Tuesday: Dark morning and raining, tipping it down, when I went out to do the rounds it was only light rain, by the time I got to the geese at the back it was tipping down and I had to come back in and change my coat for something more waterproof. The chickens in the orchard were no where to be seen, all hiding indoors reluctant to venture outside even for breakfast. I can’t say as I blame them really, I was going to go out and do a bit in the garden today but as I had already got wet once I decided against it, I have few things to order, some straw from a local farmer, some powder for the chickens as the lot I ordered never arrived, they didn’t take payment so that’s good, look through the seed catalogues and decide what to grow next year, any suggestions (legal πŸ˜‰) welcome. Made some jars of mincemeat with Shelley ready for mince pie season πŸ˜€ Gammon for tea with cheese and potato pie and runner beans, pan fried apples for pudding, as I have some of the eating apples to use up. 

If you are inclined, now is the time to make your Sloe Gin, it will give plenty of time for the nectar to develop, I have still go 2 bottles from last years batch and 2 bottles of Sloe Whisky we will have to open them and have a tasting session, I still made more today it makes great presents for Christmas, last year I made Rumtopf as well although I forgot to do it this year for some reason. It’s so easy to do as are all fruit liqueurs, vodka is a great base for all fruits, blackberry, raspberry even strawberry, and obviously cherries in brandy is a great one although I have not tried it yet. Just fill a bottle or jar half full of your chosen fruit, add two teaspoons of caster sugar and top up with your chosen alcohol, put the lid on, shake and leave for around two months giving it a shake occasionally or lay it down and turn occasionally, open at Christmas and impress your friends and family. The longer you leave it the better the flavour, just the tonic after a cold/blustery/wet late afternoon walk with the dog. 

Thoughts of Christmas then took over the day and I sorted out the Christmas pudding recipe and started thinking about presents, not bought ones but made ones, we started doing this a few years back and I have done all sorts from Meat & Veg packs to Chutneys & Jams, Home made liqueurs, oils, herbs, I even did individual movie packs for each family one year, old movies tailored to their interests along with popcorn, pick n mix, hot chocolates etc it was fun to do, in return we receive, shortbread, fudge, homemade liqueurs, bottled goods, preserves of all kinds, home made candles etc, its great fun and very satisfying to give and receive presents that have had such a lot of thought and effort put into them. 

Went to feed the cat later in the evening, and saw rats in the stable block! 

Wednesday: morning routine included filling the rat bait boxes up, damn things and we have something in the wall on the other side of the house now as well 😝

What a cufuffle, found some point of lay ducks on a site but couldn’t remember my password, round robin game of resetting password via e-mail link that wouldn’t work properly, took me about an hour to finally get the message sent! Waiting to hear back now. Spent quite a bit of time messaging and securing 20 point of lay ducks to be picked up Early Sat morning, very excited, not sure if I will be keeping all of them or selling some on yet, will have to wait and see, however I do need to organise accommodation for them so logistics has taken up the rest of the morning and obviously I won’t need to incubate eggs now. Cleaned out the ducks and tried to organise the area for when the new ducks come, came to the conclusion that I worry too much, ducks make the biggest mess you’ve ever seen not matter what you do. However I did order some rubber sheeting to put down where they feed in order to reduce the mud. 

Thursday: dry found another quail dead this morning, something def not right but no idea what, may have to bring them inside, at this rate I will have no eggs to hatch and as fertility is low at this time of year I am reluctant to try, this may be the end of the quail eggs. My original birds lasted about 5 years with no problems at all. The Diatomaceous Earth finally arrived, although I re ordered from a different company, I made a dust bath up with wood ash and soil plus the DE and sprinkled it in the nesting boxes. It is supposed to help with mites, lice etc even worm if they ingest it with food. I am not convinced it is the amazing product they say but it is useful for dust bathing so any other side use is beneficial. Did some hoeing in the cabbage and leek bed, made a mental note that the Oca have grown well and will need harvesting after the first frosts, then watered the plants in the poly tunnel. 

Friday: dry sunny day, but monthly paperwork beckons and so that’s what I have done today, I have to keep on top of it or it drives me mad, fills my head with the nagging thought that it’s still there and waiting, once it’s done I can think clearly againπŸ˜€ in the evening we went over to friends to pick up half a cow for the freezer, they rear it at their smallholding and then we share half the costs and get an enormous amount of beef for the freezer, lucky timing as we had practically used up the last one, we are also picking up two lambs for the freezer tomorrow we shall be well stocked for the winter. 

Sat: 5.30am start, hubby is off to Warminster to collect the 20 ducks, we can’t both go because he needs to be there by 8am and I will need to let the birds out as daylight breaks so I will stay behind and do the feeding etc. I made bread before the sun even came up then got on with the feed routine and moved the old ducks to the paddock at the back and got the duck pen ready for the new arrivals. They happily settled in, glad to be out of their crates after an hour and a half journey, fingers crossed they lay some eggs sooner rather than later. The rest of the day was spent on the log splitter and going to collect the two lambs for the freezer, lamb chops for tea with a good slice of home made bread. I feel that we are ready for whatever winter throws at us now, freezers full of meat, veg and fruit, and a log pile, bring it on, but not too harsh lol.

I have noticed, over the last few days, the array of beautiful colours on the trees, they are quite stunning when the evening sun shines on them. Did you know that the Autumn colour of leaves are their natural colour, so red and orange, it’s just that the chlorophyll they produce turns them green and covers up the other colours 😬

Sunday: What a beautiful Autumn day πŸ˜€ we got various jobs done, did the feed routine, the new ducks laid 1 egg lol hopefully more will follow soon. On sat eve we moved what was left of the chickens for sale into the laying flock and Sunday morning John cleaned out the pen they were in. We discovered how the rat was getting in there and have blocked up the hole so that shouldn’t happen again. I dug up the sweet potatoes in the poly tunnel and harvested about 5 good tubers but that was it πŸ˜– The ground was quite hard and dry which may have hampered growing so after clearing the ground I put a few loads of well rotted manure on top and will leave that to overwinter. I also picked a good selection (albeit small amount) of veg ready for dinner later. Then I decided to have a look at the compost area, I pulled back the tarp and found a good collection of potatoes, so dinner was complete πŸ˜€ Normally if you get potato plants growing in the heap, it’s all tops but this time I actually found tubers. Meanwhile John did some wood cutting and we split the logs, the pile is growing bigger and bigger. We also got the tractor out and moved the shepherds hut right into the corner of the paddock, mainly so that it is easier to herd them in at night, I normally end up chasing them round and round it if I do it ( and swearing a lot) whereas John manages to get them in no trouble. Later in the afternoon I went to have a look at some hens I had sold earlier in the year, the customer wanted me to give them a check over before winter just to make sure they were ok. They are some very lucky hens living a 5* life I can tell you, we came away with a mixed box of beautiful rosy apples and freshly made cake, can’t get better than that πŸ˜€

The clocks change next week, can’t say I am looking forward to that, for half the year John is responsible for shutting the birds away at night time but as the nights get darker earlier it will be up to me to do that as well, good job we moved the goose shepherds hut otherwise I would be swearing all winter long 😝

Home reared (by our friends) roast beef for dinner together with home grown everything including sweet potato mash and toffee apple crumble made by Shelley 😁

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