Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ice cream and things.

Once again we found ourselves with a glut of eggs, I had intended trying to freeze them and although there is plenty of information on the internet on methods I like to know someone who has done it so that idea got put on hold and I made more ice cream instead. Just as I was at the crucial stage a lady from Dublin turned up to buy some eggs, she was surprised at how easy it is to make. So again I will give out a recipe.
7oz double cream.
14oz Milk.
4oz of castor sugar.
4 lg egg yolks.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
Beat the egg and sugar together.
Heat the milk cream and vanilla but don't allow to boil. Pour the milk/ cream over the beaten eggs and whisk well. Return to the saucepan and stiring all the time heat until the mixture starts to thicken. Whisk well again and pour into your container, place in the freezer. After a couple of hours remove from freezer, give it another whisk to disperse any ice crystals, then freeze. It will be ready in six hours. It is a recipe that you can adapt according to your taste, I cut down on the milk and make up the quantity with cream. You can also use yoghurt if you prefer. It is so easy and bares no resemblance to the stuff sold in shops that calls it's self ice-cream. A great way to use up eggs, and of course the whites get made into meringues.

We are pleased with the veg garden. We have pulled the first carrots and they have grown well, no sign of carrots root fly that everyone said we would get. Our potatoes have done very well with no sign of blight and no spraying either. We grow Sarpo Mira, and they truly are blight resistant, this is the second year that we have grown them. This year has been a very bad one for blight so it was a good test.

Our la Bresse continue to do well, they also are a bird with attitude, they are also very friendly birds and not the least bit aggressive even when they are being given a hard time by the Light Sussex, the La Bresse just walk or fly away from trouble.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The ducklings

We are glad we left the two remaining eggs in with the duck as one of them hatched, so out of the twelve eggs that she had sat on so patiently she hatched eleven keeping our average hatch to over 90%. She is a very proud mum but not the lest bit aggressive towards us or even the other ducks who all came to investigate the new comers thought the wire, somehow one of the drakes managed to get in with her today and was very protective towards them. however we are taking no chances with him so he has been removed.

Much earlier in the year we made three living igloos for the hens and ducks, I thought it would give them a bit of interest plus shelter for them in the runs. These have worked and grown very well, the light Sussex spend a lot of time in theirs, we have one in one of the duck runs and they also make use of it. We moved the run of our twelve week old growers today and included one of the igloos in the run, they lost no time in making it theirs. I will make a couple more either this winter or early spring for a couple more of the runs. I have also made several water proof feeders for the hens, all that is needed is the large water bottles, 5lt size, in the side I cut a three sided window, leaving the top piece attached to act as cover to the entrance, this is held in place by a peice of string, these bottles come with a handle at the top so they are easy to attach to a post or the side of the house, no more spoilt food and the wild birds have not come near. Cost? Ten minutes work with a pair of scissors.

The garden is now looking organised, our last helper did a wonderful job weeding and we showed her how to make a raised bed. She had come to us to learn about organic growing although she had no experience she was a quick and willing learner, she has a group of friends in Spain that would like to grow organic veg for sale, all of their jobs are under threat and she was on a fact finding working holiday. If they are all as hard working and enthestic as she is we feel sure they will succeed. It is amazing how much more work gets done with just one extra pair of hands, the fruit bushes are now protected from weed take over, and hopefully with more raised beds to come and letting the ducks free range the veg plot we might stand a chance against the slugs next year. We have planted some perpetual spinach in the new bed hopefully to take us through the winter. It will soon be time to get the bare earth covered, we have already received our first seed catalogue and it's time to order the onion sets, a reminder that the year is getting on.

The blackberries are ripening in the hedgerows so it's time to go on a foraging trip, and it will soon be time to look for mushrooms.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Nearly a disaster.

We had duck eggs due to hatch on the 3rd of August, nothing happened, we waited and added a few extra days on to the expected date to allow for the fact that mum had left the nest several times during the thirty five days, once over night. Day forty eight arrived and I was concerned that the duck would just continue sitting and either die or lose too much condition and muscle tone to be able to survive the coming months, so it was decided that the eggs would have to be removed and examined to see what had gone wrong, and the duck removed into the paddock. With leather gloves , ducks are fiercely protective of their eggs, Simon removed one egg taking it towards the compost heap whilst breaking open the shell, fortunately he had done this carefully as inside was a live duckling clearly due to hatch. Duckling was quickly placed in the incubator with a hot water bottle while the temperature came up. From the word go Sinbad was very vocal and clearly wanted to live, by the evening he had had his first drink of water and was relating to us. The next morning he had his first meal of mashed egg, every time he heard our voices he would call to us.
During the course of that day the remaining eggs started to hatch. The following day we returned Sinbad to it's mum and siblings. We are not too sure how many she has, but at least ten, at the last time of looking there were still two eggs unhatched but we will give then another day, just in case.
As to why these eggs took forty eight days to hatch will remain a mystery to us, but from now on we will always assume that the mother does know if her eggs are going to hatch or not.
During the course of this saga I had a question answered, do poultry mothers help their chicks out of the shell? Well yes, they do, well this duck did, one of the last eggs had pipped and the flap kept closing down onto the emerging duckling, mum held back the flap so the duckling could escape, it was a wonderful thing to see.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Summer fruit

Trying to live in a sustainable way is not income dependent. It is always nice when you can give a gift of something that you have produced at home and be rewarded with unexpected exchange. This week we had lunch with some friends, we took them a couple doz eggs which they were delighted with and then presented us with ten small jam jars. I am always short of small jars, we never buy anything in jars so I find myself running short from time to time, we normally would take a jar of jam or preserve if visiting friends, but always forget to ask if they will return them when the contents have been consumed. These jars came as a real blessing as I had almost run out with the last lot of lemon curd I had made.

Two days later we visited another friend, again taking her eggs, this time the exchange was three pounds of Blackcurrants. This is now five pounds of jam which we will use over the winter months to flavour our Yoghurt. This particular friend has the most wonderful Permaculture garden, when she bought her cottage just eight years ago all that she had was three acres of boggy ground with daub and no top soil. Over the last eight years she has, single handedly turned this most unlikely piece of ground into the most perfect oasis. She grows all her own food using true Permaculture methods, apples and plums abound as do all the soft fruits, her veg thrive. She is truly in touch with the earth.

She also has an excellent blog which is well worth looking at.


In this day and age people are going to have to rethink their values, many people are now unemployed and crops are failing world wide. Food is set to become a luxury, for some people, even in the UK this is already happening. For many years the peasant life has been ridiculed, yet this at the end of the day is the only true sustainable life style. A land owning peasantry is the only basis for a civilised society. Working together as communities is the only way the human race can survive in the long term. You make something you give it as a gift, in turn the recipient will give you something, there is no need for money as exchange. Just good will and intent.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Stinging Nettles.

Many people spend a lot of time trying to have an immaculate garden, every weed has to be removed, not a blade of grass is allowed to be out of place.
We have a very different approach to our garden, yes we do like the veg beds to be relatively free of weeds, less places for the slugs to hide, but when it comes to things like stinging nettles or even a certain amount of ragwort we leave it to grow.
Ragwort is the host plant for Syllabub Moth although we haven't seen any around we still leave a certain amount of ragwort growing in the hope that a moth will arrive.
Stinging nettles are to us the gardeners friend. Young tips can be eaten like Spinach. Fermented they make a fine foliar feed, cut they are good in the compost heap, adding organic matter to it, they are also wonderful as an aphid control for both roses and broad beans again fermented. Hover fly larva eat a certain amount of aphids as do ladybirds, but not that many, you would need a whole swarm of lady birds to clear just one plant. Stinging nettles are also the host plant of the Tortoiseshell butterfly and we have been rewarded with a seething mass of black caterpillars which are growing daily, if the wonderful weather we are having at the moment continues in a few days time we should see the sparkling jewels of the chrysalis hanging from the skeletons of the nettles . We also leave some thistles in the hope that a Red Admiral will arrive but no luck so far.

The veg continue to provide food for us twice daily, and the tomatoes are just ripening. It is a case of just going into the garden and selecting the days crop and then deciding what we will make with it. Today it was ratatouille.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Egg glut

Again we have a glut of eggs, now the incubator has been put away until next year the hens have decided to work overtime, even the ducks have started laying again. Most of our friends or neighbours have hens and the one friend who doesn't lives too far away to just pop some over, so once again I have been busy making lemon curd. We have a Spanish helper staying at the moment and she had her first taste yesterday, she loved it, there is nothing like it in Spain but as she has asked for the recipe I suspect her friends will be introduced to this preserve, her father has an organic olive farm but also grows lemons so she will have her own organic supply of lemons, lucky her!
Next on the list is making more Ice-cream, again she had never tasted real Ice- cream but loved it, this is one thing I will show her how to make as it's not too easy to just give the recipe, you have to get the feel of the cream as it is heating.

The keyhole garden that was made by our previous helper is the 'Garden of Abundance', it is less than two months since it was finished but already is proving to be an ideal way of gardening. The pumpkins are doing so well, too well really and I have had to stop them, the cabbages love it and are twice the size of the ones in the ground, I say cabbages, I'm not too sure what they are, I had planted them in seed trays but then forgot to mark the trays, so they could be cauliflower or broccoli or just cabbages, but whatever, they will get eaten. I also planted two types of spinach and chard, again they love the conditions, carrots are looking good and are probably too high off the ground to be affected by carrot root fly , even a late sowing of swede is looking promising. The real bonus is the lack of slugs! Now I know that these little blighter's can climb, but so far they have not discovered the keyhole garden, the only damage done was by our cats, and cats being cats had to leave their mark, well it was something new!

I decided to try something different this week with rabbit meat, it is not the weather for stews or curry's so, inspired by River cottage I thought I would try Bunny Burgers. I used the meat from the rabbit back with a couple of small belly of pork rashers, one slice of bread made into crumbs, onion, sage and parsley, a dash of Lea and Perrins salt and pepper, I put the whole lot through the mincer and moulded into burger shapes on a well floured board, they didn't need any further binding as the onion was so moist, gently fried for about five minutes aside, they were good, and we will be making them again.

I had wanted to increase our strawberries plants, we have sufficient for eating but not for jam making, however I didn't want to forfeit any ground space in the tunnel, we could grow them out side, but I suspect that the slugs would get more than us , so suspended strawberries troughs seemed the way to go. We managed to get an odd length of drainage pipe from the local builders merchant very cheaply, it had been left over from a job. This got suspended from the cross bars in the tunnel by luggage straps, we incorporated a leaky hose in the trough for irrigation, the parent plants have been producing a mass of suckers so these got potted up and are now transplanted into the troughs, the result is double the amount of plants that we had, and no ground space taken up. One of the plants has even started blooming, all I have to remember is to keep the plants fed as there is only about five inches of soil. Again by planting off the ground there will be no slug damage and it will make for easier picking.
I don't just plant edibles in the tunnel, I plant several types flowers to encourage pollinating insects, also Thyme and Oregano as they bloom well and the insects love them, also, herbs grown under cover have a far more intense flavour.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The one that got away.

No matter how close an eye you keep on the courgettes there's always one that gets away, overnight it seems you end up with a marrow. many people like marrow, I don't, but I do like marrow and ginger jam. It's not the easiest of jams to make but when it turns out right it is lovely, with very subtle flavours.

I was given this recipe many years ago and it has never let me down, all it involves is preparing the marrow, with the lemon peel and ginger the day before you are going to cook it. Just chop up your ingredients, place in a large bowl and cover with half of the sugar. Next day bring to the boil and add the rest of the sugar plus the juice of the lemons. Keep stirring until the marrow is a golden colour, by this time the jam will be nearly at setting point, Boil vigorously, until you feel it thicken , remove from the heat immediately, it's very easy for this jam to crystallise,pour into your hot jars and seal. We always use root ginger, and we are quite heavy handed with it, but we both love ginger.

The sweet peas continue to give us wonderful perfume and cut flowers for the house, I will have to plant even more of them next year.