Category Archives: home grown food

Sun, sun, sun

I’ve had this last week off work, which has been useful as me and mother have been able to split the night and morning lambing shifts between us. It has been nice weather all week but I had my first assignment to do which I handed in yesterday, it doesn’t feel like I have spent much time outdoors at all really. But the sun has made lambing nicer, no walking around in the pouring rain or sitting in the drizzle whilst deciding if a ewe needs help or not, or even just walking around in mud all the time.

The goat kids have had a busy week too; mothers two have been disbudded (which stops them growing horns) and all of the babies have started to come away from their mothers at night so as we can milk in the morning. After a bottle the babies go back in with their mums for the day. 

I have chosen names for mine; the darkest one (with least white on her head) is Belladonna, Bella for short, named after her father Knightshade and the other is Briony. Mother still hasn’t chosen names for hers so they are still being referred to as ‘straight’ and ‘curly’ as one of them has a slightly wavy coat. We weigh them again yesterday and they have all double in weight, mothers two are 5.2 and 5.3kg, Bella is 3.3kg and Briony is 3.8kg

The weather today has been really warm… almost hot even… and the garden is starting to grow as well now. The Lemon Balm is sending up new shoots and the self-sown garlic bed has lots of sprouts coming through and the Raab 60 that I sowed at the end of last week is up and doing well. Today I have sown some Musselburgh Leeks and some True and Tender Parsnips. The leeks have been sown in module seed trays and the parsnips have been sown into toilet roll inner tubes, one or tube, so as they can be sown out without disturbing the roots.

Lambs, potatos and studies

I have not meant to not post for a week, but it has been very busy here.   

The snow that fell last Thursday stayed around until the middle of this week, with more falling on Tuesday but not sticking.   

On Friday morning the snow was almost as deep as it got in the last lot of snow. And it was with, umm, say 5″ of snow on the ground that lambing started.   

Our sheep graze on the common land near to our house and we lamb outside and then bring ewes and lambs in as they are born. It is very interesting actually, lambing outside means that lambs are almost always born in daylight and mother has kept a note of where each ewe chooses to lamb for the last few years. Some of our original flock come from a sheep farmer whose land edges part of the common and ewes that were born on this farm seem to lamb as close to his land as they can get, normally under his hedge.   

We also now have some second generation ewes that we have breed, these ewes seem to go back to where they were born to lamb themselves. The older ewes also seem to have an order that they lamb in, possibly because of when their seasons are but it doesn’t change much from year to year.   

Our first ewe to lamb this year was Charlotte, whose a first timer. She is a Cotswold cross ewe, so is quite big, and noisy too. Not surprisingly really, as she had ring-womb and so was unable to deliver. After a while trying to deliver the lamb ourselves it was a nerve racking drive to the vets along icy roads.   

Charlottle with her lamb - 19th February 2010


It was bad news when we arrived, the lambs tongue was blue and dry and the lamb was mostly likely dead already. Our vet spent some time and delivered the little black ram lamb, who still had a heart beat! He was very weak and the nurse took him and put him on oxygen and bullied him back to life.   

The lamb was small, and showing signs of being premature. The vet checked for any other lambs and found a funny colour ‘water bag’ but no sign of another lamb. It is mostly likely extra strain and stress from the snow that has cause her to pick up some sort of infection and miscarry a lamb and go into labour early.   

The nurse bought the lamb back and we gave it to Charlottle who seemed pleased enough with it so long as she didn’t have to get up and was happy enough to carry on cleaning him.   

We bought them home and put them in a house together so as they could bond and we could make sure the lamb got extra top-up feeds as Charlotte didn’t have much milk. All seemed fine until Sunday night when mother went to give him his last feed and check of the night and found him dead. He had been doing so well and acting just like any other lamb until then too.   

On Tuesday morning we had our next lot of lambs, Cobweb and the Cotswold both lambed on their own. Cobweb, who normally has triplets and spends the whole summer losing lambs, had twins girls and the Cotswold also has a female lamb. All nice sized and doing well, although Cobweb is not at all happy about being brought in and isn’t sure how many lambs she has. Today they came out whilst I cleaned their house out for the first time, it was nice seeing the first of our lambs out on the green.  

The Cotswold out with her lamb - 27th February 2010


The Cobweb with her lambs - 27th February 2010


Yesterday also saw our the first of this years goat kids born.  

Lenka with her first kid a few minutes after it was born - 27th February 2010


My mothers British Tog, Lenka, had twin girls. These are Lenkas first kids and she is doing well with them.  

My mum got Lenka two years ago, she has very good breeding but before she came to us she had just been kept as a pet really. She was very over weight and was already possibly to old to become pregnant. It was a little disappointing when she didn’t kid last year but not really suprising given how over weight she was, and it just makes this years kids extra nice. 


Lenka cleaning up her second kid less than a minute after it was born. 

During the week my seed potato order arrived, also a package from the Potato Council containing loads of information about potato growing, recipes and two varieties of seed potato to try. There is also a massive wall chart to record the weather during the growing season and the final harvest weight. The info says to start earlys chitting on March 2nd, which happily is the right moon day for starting root vegetables off so I will start all my earlys chitting on that day. 

This weekend we have made big progress on the new goat house, and this evening we finished putting the first section of roof on. Yay! 

The other thing that has been keeping me busy this week is ‘course work’. I am a month through a three month intro course with the Open University. I am finding it hard going at the moment, partly because I am not studying what I really want to (but doing this course means I will do better at what I want to do, weather science) and because of all the other day-t0-day things that are going on.

Leek and potato soup

Although I love food I can be a very picky eater. I don’t like dry food very much, but I do like fattie greasy food or sauces on everything. And I have ‘favourite foods’ which I will quite happily eat at every meal for weeks until my next ‘favourite food’ comes along, at the moment this is crispy roast potatoes with homemade gravy, it can’t be any gravy either. Homemade gravy only, where we make it from scratch, if not it just isn’t right… Needless to say living with so many other people I don’t get to eat this every night but I would be more than happy too.Some foods I am more picky about than others; soup is one of these. If it isn’t homemade, I won’t eat it. It doesn’t matter whose home, or even if it is in a home, but I don’t like tinned, dried, or packaged in any way soup… Tinned tomato being the exception to this rule.  

Pan of soup, eight people have already had their dinner from this - 21st January 2010

Leek and potato soup is one of my favourites, it is just so warming and filling and a comfort food I guess. It is also easy to make in large amounts too.

Ingredients (for making a big pan full): 3 – 4 onions, peeled and chopped, 6 – 8 leeks, washed and cropped, 10 – 12 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped,  butter, vegetable stock, black pepper, marmite and/or soy sauce all to taste. Cream or milk optional.Method: Added the onions, leeks and butter along with black pepper to a large pan and cook until onions and leeks are soft. Add the potatoes, either part boiled first or I don’t normally bother, and add just enough water to cover what is in the pan. Bring to the boil and add vegetable stock, marmite and/or soy sauce to taste. Cook until everything is soft and mushy and the potato is starting to break up. Blend and place this mixture back in the pan on a low heat. This should be a thick mixture, be very careful of it bubbling as it gets very hot and really hurts of you get burnt by it, so add water to thin it down to how you would like it. Add cream or milk if you are going to and heat through. Done!

Allotment 18/01/2010 – The first visit of the year and a seed plan

On Thursday me and mother went to look allotment, which had started to defrost like everywhere else. The brook, or possibly drainage ditch, on the other side of the hedge was full to bursting with the amount of water that was following down the field, there was still a lot of ice that was laying unmelted on the ground so we left the van at the gate and walked onto the site and up to our plots, it wasn’t good news when we got there.  

The rabbits have had EVERYTHING, and I mean everything. They had ripped through the nets that were keeping them off and eaten it all to the ground, they really must have been starving. On the way back from the allotment we saw a lone rabbit out on the first part of green grass busily eating, it was so busy it didn’t even run away from us.

I am annoyed, but not as mad as I have been other times that they have eaten crops. I feel sorry for them really, the snow has been covering the ground for so long now and wildlife has probably been hit the hardest. We had a look around and they have even managed to get onto others plots who have rabbit fencing up so we are not the only ones and knowing how much some people have spent on rabbit fencing there are going to be some really mad people.

During the last of the cold weather I spent an evening going through my list of things to grow, my seed boxes and seed company websites. This is what it looks like;

To grow, along with current seeds I already have:

Potatoes – chosen

Peas – Half Pint, Bulmoral, Oasis, Juguar

Runner Beans –

Courgettes –

Squash – Bon Bon (open packet), Scallop (op)

Kale – Red Russian, Nero di Toscanna

Swede – Virtue (op)

Leeks – Musselburgh, Elefant

Carrots – Afghan Purple, Early Natues 5, Chantenay Red Cored 2, unmarked packet, Cosmic Purple, unmarked packet, Dragon, Flakkee, Janne du Doubs, Atomic Red

Beetroot – Burpees Golden, Chioggia, Detroit 2, Perfect 3, Pronto, Cylindra

French Beans –

Cauliflower – All the Year Round (op)

Parsnips –

Cabbage – Roodkap, Golden Acre Primo 2, Offenham 2, Durham Early, Greyhound, Wintergreen, January King

Broccoli/Purple Sprouting – Autumn Spear, Raab ’60 Days’, unmarked packet purple sprouting

Sprouts – Falstaff (red), Evesham Special Green

Garlic –

Onions – Spring

Sweetcorn – Incredible F1, Supersweet

Mustrooms – Agaricus, White Button, Chestnut Button

Real Seed Company shopping list:

Cosse Violette Purple pole bean, Boston squash, , Waltham Butternut, Striato d’Napoli courgette, Tender and True parsnip, Golden Sweet Yellow podded mange-tout pea, Temuco Quinoa

Thompson & Morgan shopping list:

Potatoes, Sun Bright runner bean.

There are somethings like sweetcorn and cauliflower that I had planned on getting special seeds of but I already have two boxes of seed so am going with what I have for this year. For runner beans and french beans I already have seed but I want to change to climbing beans as the dwarfs haven’t done well for the last few years. Parsnip seeds are also some that I have a packet of but it is already an open packet and everything I have read about parsnips say use fresh seeds, so they are on the shopping list. I will still of course try the open packet just in case as I can’t throw seeds away, it is just something that is completely against my nature.

The next plans to make are a) where am I going to put all this stuff, and b) how am I going to keep the rabbits of it!

New Year Resolutions

I have already written a long and wafferly post about my aims for 2010 and when I read it back all of it was there, with explanations of why I wanted to do each thing but the part that was missing was how I was going to know that I had done these things; perhaps that is why so many people fail to keep New Years resolutions because they know what they want to achieve but they have no why have knowing when they have achieved it.

So I am starting again, this time with less going into what is it I want to do but more going into how I know if I have done it or not. 

Visit the Eden Project – Last year I finally visited the Centre for Alternative Technology, the Eden Project is also on my list of places to visit so this shall be the year.

Make my own cheese cake – Cheese cake is my favourite so it really is silly that I have never made my own.

Cut down the amount of needless “stuff” I own and accumulate – I will carry on with the declutter already started and get better at not buying things on a whim. I will set up a wish list for birthdays and Christmas. I will use the library instead of buying books. I will continue using the Mooncup I have and give homemade shampoo a try again.

Grow more of my own food – I need to eat more leafy greens and the fresher they are the better for me they will be so I will make sure I grow more kale and look for some more recipes to use it in. By mid-April I will like to have the allotments plots ready for full use, and fill the space up with crops.

Stay in contact with friends – I know this is something I am very bad at, when I have time off work I like being at home doing my own thing and it often seems like to much effort to go out and visit people but I have some very good friends, who luckily understand I am a little odd and more of a loner than most other people my age, and I will make more of an effort to see them.

Well, that is all I have that I can pin down but it is enough to work on for now. I am just waiting for the snow to leave the ground and I shall be away! Either that or very busy catching up on all the work I’ve missed because of it.

Potato planning: A plan

During the wet weather this weekend I’ve sat down and gone through the potato seed catalogue and decided what I think is going to be best to grow next year. Potatoes are very much a staple food here, but even so I did go a little over board with my seed potato buying this year and, partly as a result of having too many to plant and them going out too late, we got a very poor harvest.

Next year I have decided to scale back on potatoes but still have a go. I’ve picked out one for each type; first early, second early, etc.

For the first early I am going to try Mimi again, even though we didn’t get a single one this year I would still like to give them another go. They are a dwarf variety and meant to do very well in tubes but the tubes I had didn’t seem to have enough drainage and so kept flooding and becoming waterlogged. Next year I am going to try growing all the potatoes in tyres on the allotment so this won’t be a problem, unless we geta LOT of rain.

For the second early I’ve chosen Charlottes, I know we like this variety and even though it is a salad potato when it is available in the shops we use it for all sorts. They also seem a reasonably popular variety so I hope this means that they do well.

For the early main I have picked Maris Piper, Rhys requested that we had one ‘Maris’ in the selection as he likes floury potatoes, so here we have it. Also as with Charlottes, it is a variety that we’ve heard of and indeed have had several sacks of this year alone so hopefully should do well. 

And finally, for the main I’ve chosen  Druid, which according to the catalogue has ‘huge yeilds’ and is ‘ideal for the organic grower’ because of its resistence. I don’t really think of us, or the way that we grow food at home, as organic growers but I suppose we do.

I’ve already started a bed on the allotment for potatoes, one of the new beds has been lined with cardboard then a layer of manure and now I am adding old tyres with more manure in ready for the spring.

Allotment 28/09/09 – From plot to plate

I’ve spent the afternoon at the allotment, weeding, tidying and digging over and manuring empty beds.

PICT0143I also did some harvesting, the last of the runner beans as the plants have some sort of rust on them which has halted new flower buds so they have now come up, beetroot and courgettes which seem to be picking up again.

There are a few changes happening at the allotment, our plots are right on the edge nearest the car park so we have very good access to our plots but not everyone has so we have agreed to give up the top two beds worth of our plots so as a track can be put through to the middle of the plot so as other people can have better access and be able to have things like manure delivered, in return we are getting almost one and a half plots extra at no extra cost. There is enough room for another ten beds on top of the four that we will be losing so a very good deal.

PICT0153When I got home from the allotment I turned some of the produce into a tastie snack. Garlic courgette with cous-cous and grated beetroot.

Method (just in case anyone is interested): slice the courgette  along with the garlic, I used half a bulbs worth off garlic but do like the taste. Add to a pan along with some butter, simmer until soft and then add the cous-cous and mix well. Grate the beetroot and mix that in too and all done.

The courgettes, garlic and beetroot were all home grown, the cous-cours and butter were not but the butter will be from next May.


Next years seed catalogues have started to arrive, including the potato one and even though our home grown potatoes were basically a waste of time and an even bigger waste of money this year, I am still planning on trying them again next year.

The difficulty is deciding what to grow, and being rational about it. Just from flicking through the catalogue I have found two collections or specials that I want, one of them being the Mimi that ended up growing really slowly and then got blight or drowned in grass so we didn’t get any at all of the verity.

And the ‘specials’ are on top of the first early, second early, early main and main verity that I feel I should grow, I have still not picked out verities but if I grow one from each then I can see which does best, sweet potato and pink fur apple.

I don’t want to grow to many, but I don’t want to grow to few… five Mimi tubers sounds far too few, but is twenty far too many? And I don’t know if to go for old verities like I did this year, or more modern ones that might do better. I like the idea of growing old verities but if they don’t do any thing then what is the point? Should I carry on trying to grow them in sacks or try them in the ground?

I think there is a lot of thinking, planning and reading to be done

Bank holiday monday

Yesterday was been spent as all bank holidays should be spent starting with a laying in, followed by a morning on the allotment, a trip out to the garden centre and to pick up a few supplies for dinner then home again to potter around with the goats and cook a roast in the Rayburn.

Me, mother, middle-younger-sister and Rhys spent over an hour on the allotment, mostly weeding. I found the leek seedlings that I put in and they are looking good. It is starting to feel very wintery outside and the courgettes seem to have slowed down, I’m not sure if that’s because they are not being picked often enough or because of the cold weather.

The trip to the garden centre was to pick up our first winter onion sets, they have only just got them in. We eat a lot of onions, at least a couple with most meals I would say, so like potatoes we just don’t have the room to grow all our own but over winter when there is nothing much else to go in it will be nice to have empty beds filled up with something so useful.

The goats got all the weeds from the allotment, almost the back of the van full, which they enjoyed. They do like thistles. And then the day was finished off with a roast dinner.

weekend list

PICT0191Well, I did very well on the list of weekend jobs for this weekend. With help of course.

brassica netting; ordered and waiting for delivery
plant leeks; not finished but started. 78 out so far
take already bagged manure to allotment; all bags now spread on the allotment and goat pen cleared and more bagged ready to go 
research growing strawberries from seed; I posted a question on the Gravevine Forum and got some helpful replies, I also found the packet and can sow them this autumn, or in the spring if it gets to late 
finish clearing site for new goat houses and start putting them up; site cleared and the first six panels are up! The goats were very happy with all the hawthorn we had to cut down when we cleared the area.