Friday, June 22, 2012

Wine and cordial

The Elderflower cordial is now made, I ended up doing two batches as the first one smelt so delicious, I would have made even more but we have a shortage of bottles, we seldom drink and neither do our friends so the bottles I did manage to round up have contained various things. Vinegar, cod liver oil and olive oil bottles have been recycled, cleaning out the cod liver oil was very hard, I had no idea that the smell would linger so long and the oil just clings to the bottle. Probably the reason it's so good for you. We picked enough flowers to make some Elderflower champagne as well, that is happily bubbling away in a demi john, it's something that I have never made before , no doubt I will find out if the recipe works or not. I don't have the proper bottles but I do have push in corks, I hope these will work OK and we don't end up with exploding champagne.They have always worked for our ginger beer so we are hopeful.

The veg garden is looking after it's self, well except when the rabbits make a break for freedom, even the slugs are being kind to us at the moment. The flower garden is looking good and the roses are great although they have been battered a little by the wind. It's lovely to be able to pick flowers for the house, knowing they have not been transported half way across the world.

The key hole garden is now fully planted, pumpkins, carrots, spinach , chard and some type of cabbage that I had forgotten were in trays waiting to be planted out, time will tell what they are and how well things do in this type of garden.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

From the hedgerows

All around us the hedgerows are white, full of Elderberry blossom. If you pick the right tree it smells like muscatel, heavenly. Yesterday we went gathering blossoms to make Elderflower cordial and Elderflower champagne. It takes little to turn these blossoms into a lovely drink, water, flower heads, sugar, lemons and citric acid for the cordial. In a weeks time the cordial will be ready and in a month, hopefully the champagne.

The keyhole garden is now completed, thanks to our last helper, he did a wonderful job even though the weather was not the best. So far only pumpkins have been planted in it, given to us by a friend with a permaculture garden, later today I will plant more carrots, spinach and chard, it will be interesting to see how well everything does in it.
I have had to make a further planting of runner beans thanks to the young rabbits, there is one male who seems to spend all his time working out how to get out of the run, on his last escape he ate the runner beans, fortunately it is early enough in the season to replant. I can see that he will be the first one for the pot, even though he is the prettiest.

As we look at the veg garden it is hard to remember what it looked like just eleven months ago. It was just a field. Since last Sept we have found something to eat in it every day and now it is looking like a well established veg garden. We have planted around three hundred trees and bushes, hoping that in time they will create micro climates. The young fruit tress have even managed to set some fruit, although it will probably be a couple of years before I can bottle any surplice, but even the fig tree has two fruits on it. We will however have plenty of veg.

The two cockerels that were slaughtered last weekend weighed in at 3lb 11oz not the biggest, but the one that we have eaten was full of flavour and in fact gave us a good return, roast for three on Sunday, a pie on Monday and enough, with added mushrooms for another four person pie, nothing got wasted. The other one is in the freezer.

We have some La Bresse chicks coming on, it will be interesting to see if they live up to expectations. They are the untidiest chicks we have reared, they kick up their litter covering the water drinker, the same with their food, even though both drinker and feeder are suspended they still manage to fill both with the milled straw. We also have duck sitting, plus a broody hen, she is on duck eggs, hopefully some ducklings will hatch.

It is again a lovely sunny day, so I must get out there and get the seeds planted.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Earthquakes and floods

This has been a very strange week, there was an earthquake of the coast of Mayo, 4 on the Richter scale, then we had a months rain in one day, 4 inches fell over night and the rivers have burst their banks.
There is also a pod of Killer whales off the coast of Donegal which has caused much excitement. The earthquake has been blamed on the oil extraction just of the coast of Mayo, I have no doubt that this is true, and no doubt this will be something we can all look forward to if the fracking goes ahead. From floods to summer all in a day and a half, today has been very warm and dry.

We have a super helper with us at present, from Australia and he worth his weight in gold. He has done an enormous amount of strimming for us, moved rocks and is now constructing a Keyhole garden for me. The more I think about the idea of this type of garden the more I like it,the base has proved a good way to get rid of the builders rubble, this will give good drainage, having the compost pit built into it also has several advantages, it will rot down in situ, in doing so it should heat up and create a type of hot bed, being built to waist height means no more bending over, and the diameter is two m which means you can reach the middle from all sides, it should also make the spotting of slugs easier. So thanks Matthew, we will miss you when you leave.

The garden is now being very productive with our first potatoes ready, lots of broad beans, peas and strawberries, spinach and chard, there is always something to eat, this includes chickens. We have two cockerels who are giving the other birds a very hard time so the time has come for them to become dinner, they aren't the largest of the birds that we have done for the table but I don't like to see the others being bullied, so one for tomorrows meal and one in the freezer.

The duck who we had hoped would sit on a clutch decided not to, however one of the others has now decided that she will, we have no idea how many eggs are under her, she does not wish to be disturbed so we will have to wait and see.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pleasures of gardens

The garden is now looking fairly established that includes the flower garden. I love to see flowers, I also like to have them in the house, I also think all flowers should be perfumed and most of what we have planted is. I have since we moved been buying flowers, mainly lilly's for the scent, waiting for our own garden to blossom, and now the roses are in bloom, with a few wild ox-eye daisy's and some cow parsley they look so much nicer than anything I've bought.

Most of our poultry is broody, we have one hen sitting on duck eggs and three more hens who would also like to be sitting, they have to be turfed out of their houses every day.
Even the ducks are wanting to sit and are now swearing every-time their eggs are collected. One duck however seems quite determined, she has taking to climbing over a dividing fence into the Orpington's run, she then climbs up the ramp, into their house and lays her egg in their nest. She looks so comical, perched on top of the fence trying to get her balance. Seeing as she is so determined to sit, tomorrow we will give her a cat cage, pop some duck eggs into it and see if she will stay there. We can't let her take over the Orpington's house, neither can she sit in the duck house so we will see if she considers the cat cage suitable accommodation .

Friday, June 1, 2012


As expected our last hatch took place over three days, we ended up with just 70% hatch which is OK but not as good as we had hoped, the chicks are all doing well and eating a lot.

We now have some time before the next hatching, this time ducks, we have some eggs under a broody hen and ten in the incubator, hopefully it will all go according to plan.

In the tunnel we have harvested the first of the over wintered onions so that is one less thing that we have to buy, about half of them bolted so they will be no good for storing but as we use a lot of onions it doesn't really matter, as I clear the bed other things take their place, I have planted some more lettuce and I have a few more French beans looking for somewhere to go. We will have the first of our new potatoes over the week end and that will free up another bed.

I have decided to experiment a bit with the strawberries, they are now putting out runners, so we have bought a length of 6'' drainage pipe, this has been cut in half length ways and is now hanging in the tunnel, the idea is to grow strawberries in the pipe. It should make harvesting of them easier and also keep them free of slugs.
Yesterday was a damp day and when Simon went out to lock up the rabbits and hens he found the slugs eating their way through the celery, he killed over three hundred of them in about twenty minutes. They are mainly the small keel slugs and boy can they do damage.

We have a friends female rabbit with us at the moment, she has come to be mated by Peter rabbit, she is totally different from our rabbits in both temperament and behaviour, bad tempered and unlike ours she does not wish to eat the grass, and there was I hoping she would earn her keep by grass cutting for me.