Archive for the ‘Self sufficiency’ Category

Making the best of Blackcurrants

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I love the summer.  Well if you can call this summer!  Though June was lovely even up here on the top of the fells in Cumbria!

Why do I love it – it is because you see all your work come to fruition. 

Today I have been picking blackcurrants and redcurrants. The bushes are heavy with berries this year.  I wanted to do something different with the fruit – I still have jam from last year.  So this year I have decided to make blackcurrant liqueur – Cassis.  It is lovely in the bottom of a glass topped up with sparkling white wine, Cava, Prosecco or if you are celebrating champagne!

It is so easy to make –

Crush the currents and fill a jar 3/4 full.  Add 150gms of sugar for each pint of liquid that the jar holds.  Fill the jar (leave a gap at the top as the liquid expands) with gin.  Let it stand until all the sugar is dissolved (I will  keep mine until Christmas). Strain the liquid through muslin and pour the juice into a bottle. Simple!

It makes for good Xmas presents or just enjoy it yourself as a treat.  It is really yummy and we convince ourselves that it goes towards one of our five a day!

How wonderful to have the time to do these things – just think I would have been sitting in commuter traffic  or still at the office at this time (20.30) if I was still living my old life!

Recycling, Freegle, Freecycle and new friends!

Monday, July 19th, 2010

We have been enthusiastic users of our local Freegle Group for a couple of years (previously Freecycle).  For the uninitiated it is a way of reducing landfill, giving old stuff new homes and getting free things.  It works on so many levels..!

We first used it to offer  old laminate flooring and underlay when we replaced our kitchen floor – most of it was perfectly usable at was found grateful homes as insulation and flooring for a shed.  This weekend an old beanbag chair was collected by a family who happen to be running a business at our old place of work.  Brougham Hall, where we ran the Old Smokehouse, has a number of small units including the Crafty Monkeys Pottery Studio.  Tim and Michelle ran their ceramics for a while at Wetheriggs Pottery, further south of Penrith but are now up and running at Brougham Hall – a tumble-down stately home under renovation – where children are particularly welcome to create their own masterpieces from clay – “paint a pot, throw a pot!”

Never count your chickens before they hatch!

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Well another interesting year with the chickens.  Last year we had only five chicks and they all turned out to be cockrels!  This year is not turning out to be very much better.  We have had four batches of eggs with a broody hen on each.  The first one – Madame la Pomme  just hatched one chick – Puffin.

Mme La Pomme and her chick - Puffin.

Mme La Pomme and her chick - Puffin.

The second hen – Cornflake – hatched one chick and then proceeded to trample all over it.  Georgina rescued the poor little thing and hand fed it for a few hours and then gave it back to its Mother – who proceeded to trample all over it again.  In desperation we popped it under the wing of our third hen  – Mrs Noah who was sitting and she – although somewhat surprised by having a chick appear so quickly when she had only been sitting a few days began to look after it.  The inevitable happened of course – having got a chick she waited for a couple of days and as none of the others hatched she got off them and let them go cold.  Still a bird in the hand is worth two in the egg we say!  This one is called Shirley.

Wait for me mama!

Wait for me mama!

Lastly we had Precious who was sitting on six eggs.  I was so hopeful and watched her everyday – taking her off the eggs for 10 minutes and letting her wander around.  Finally the day came and the eggs started to hatch.  On the Saturday morning she had four chicks with one egg still cracking – I didn’t know where the other egg had gone.

We had a food smoking course that day so I was busy and didnt tell George as it was going to be a surprise.  Finally we would have a hen with a ‘string’ of little chicks running behind her.  But Oh, when I went to see her at the end of the day three of the chicks had died and the fourth was about to die.  Only one remained – Lucky!  I was devestated and took the little chicks and buried htem in out ‘Pet garden’.  Lucky has been renamed Tatoe – due to her love of potatoes!

Precious with Tatoe in the ark.

Precious with Tatoe in the ark.

So this year we have three hens all with one chick each!  However  I am pretty sure now that Puffin is a hen and I am so hoping that the other two will turn out to be hens as well. 

Little tatoe!

Little tatoe!

Madame La Pomme has abandoned Puffin and has gone broody again so I have been to a friends and got six eggs from her hen house.  She has Black Rocks, Wyndots and Light Sussex.  Four of the eggs are a beautiful dark chocolate colour. 

Nougat - always looking for an opportunity. "Could it be that you hiding my lunch?"

Nougat - always looking for an opportunity. "Could it be that you hiding my lunch?"

As always I have my fingers crossed.  Will keep you posted.

I am the Big daddy!

I am the Big daddy!

Andy of course it terribly proud of them all!

Fruit of our labour!

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

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Remember how hard we worked at Easter ploughing a furrow and preparing the ground for our raspberry plants?

Wild raspberries growing nearby

Wild raspberries growing nearby

Well having nurtured them all summer – watering and feeding them and trying to protect them from the Shap weather (!) they are finally bearing fruit.  Not many as yet – as this is the first year.  Also they were  present from our lovely neighbour Alexand she bought us three varieties – which all bear fruit at different times of the season.  Some early and some later in the year.

 

Molly and I with our first raspberry!

Molly and I with our first raspberry!

Also with the raspberries we transplanted two gooseberry bushes and two blackcurrant bushes and a redcurrant bush.  These are growing well but no fruit yet.

Raspberries with leeks planted in between!

Raspberries with leeks planted in between!

In addition we were also given a few leeks to bring on so I popped them in the ground – in between the raspberries and right at the end where I had about a square metre I planted some seed potatoes and a parsnip!!!   I am new to this and just thought I would have a little fun and see what happens.

Potatoes and parsnip doing very well – very exciting!

Keeping Chickens!

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

One of the great benefits of downshifting and leading a quiet and simple life is the time and space to keep chickens.

We inherited a rooster and a number of chickens with the house and have been addicted to them ever since. We now have a rooster – Andy and 7 hens – all named and all very much pets.  They are –

  • Mrs Noah – the Matriarch who is in charge of the hen ark
  • Hettie – the cheeky and best loved little brown hen
  • Precious – Hettie’s daughter – and don’t you just know it!
  • Gloria – born on the ‘Gorious 12th’ (August)
  • Madame La Pom – She hatched from a blue egg – given to us by  a neighbour and has a fluffy ‘pom-pom’ head
  • Cornflake – A Buff Orpington and Branflake’s best friend. Stately, beautiful and as thick as poo!
  • Branflake – A Buff Orpington and Cornflake’s best friend – and like Cornflake in every way.
Peep-Po!

Peep-Po!

We haven’t been all that successful with our breeding programme.  In 2007 we didn’t hatch any chicks at all.  In 2008 we hatched 5 chicks and they were all roosters. 

This year Madame La Pom was sitting on 6 eggs and hatched one chick – Puffin – who is now 3 weeks old and doing well. Branflake has been sitting on 6 eggs (has broken two) and was 3 days overdue when one chick hatched – yesterday.  Named ‘Burley’ it looks to be doing well and I am so hoping she will hatch another couple – but one is better than nothing.  Finally we have Mrs Noah sitting on 6 eggs and she should hatch around the 23/24th.  Cant wait.

Hettie with Precious and Gloria

Hettie with Precious and Gloria

Here is hoping that they are not all roosters again.

Getting the plough out for raspberries!

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Another great day out of the rat race.  This time I was out in the garden with a couple of helpers – Alexandra and Dale – to help.  I had been given a load of raspberry canes by our lovely neighbour – Alex – for my birthday in the autumn and have been nurturing them until the ground was ready for planting.

We had cheated a little by asking our friend Alan if he would pop a plough on the back of one of his old tractors and plough me a couple of furrows for the veg and fruit.  This he did but the ground then needed to be dug over, all the weeds and roots removed and fed with compost.

And so the work began…

Back breaking work - but a beautiful sunny day.

Back breaking work - but a beautiful sunny day.

The great thing about downshifting is that if you get it right it does give you more time – the holy grail of course – but if you work at it – with a little discipline you can get the work life balance right.  Of course this is work of sorts – we grow the raspberries to make jam for breakfast  for our B&B guests.  We also give  jars away as gifts and George is thinking about making rhubarb and raspberry jam this year! (notice the absence of George in any of our photos!)

Still at it!

Still at it!

Interesting that this is of course work but in the old days this sort of thing had to be done at the weekend when all you wanted to do was recover from a hard week in the office.  Now we  have got off the treadmill – it is just a part of the day – and a joy.  Hard work – yes certainly – but 3 hours later the planting began and it all seemed worth while!

Nougat is there to help

Nougat is there to help

I am not sure that I have planted then sufficiently apart – but they all seem to be trying hard to sprout!

Molly - playing forman!

Molly - playing foreman!

We will keep you posted with the progress and of course the jam and wine making.

I love this life in the slow lane!