Thursday, 6 April 2017

Fame At Last! - Home Farmer Magazine Article

I'm afraid I'm very pleased with myself this week. Having never been in print before (well there was that incident back in the sixties, but we'll draw a veil over that...) I find myself featured in this month's edition of Home Farmer magazine. Amazing! Well, me and my cow Rosie that is. The nice people at Home Farmer have kindly reprinted an extract from my blog back in 2014 when I first got Rosie, when I wrote about the trials and tribulations of learning how (and how not) to milk a cow. 

So I thought it would be a good idea to put up a few pictures of Rosie, who is still with me, and due to calve in about eight weeks time. She's been an absolutely lovely cow to have, and has put up with my often bumbling efforts to care for her with the kind of patience and stoicism that only a Jersey cow can. She has a very calm temperament  and endearing personality, and I always say she would come in and watch TV with us if we let her! 

Anyway it was great to be featured in a national monthly, even if it's a somewhat specialist readership, I feel quite proud that they thought my ramblings would be of interest to readers.  Home Farmer magazine is a great little publicaton  for people interested as the title suggests in smallholding, small farms, gardening, cooking, preserving, wildlife and other related subjects. It's presented in a down to earth no nonsense kind of way, with contributions from experts and amateurs alike (hence my inclusion!)
I was asked to produce some higher quality images for the piece so we went out with my trusty phone camera, and got loads of shots of the wall, the cows feet, my feet, cowpats, and sundry other stuff before we managed to get a couple of decent shots. Cows just won't stand still when you need them to! Here's one  of me in fits of laughter with Rosie's last calf  Daisy photobombing the shot at the back.

Home Farmer magazine can be purchased at good retailers or to see what's in this month's issue click here. That's me on page 42 by the way...

Monday, 27 February 2017

Storm Doris

We have, or rather had, an old disused milking parlour down at the end of the field. 
The roof was already off when we came here, and although I  have harboured thoughts of  restoring it, I was assured by everyone thatlooked at it that it ws beyond hope, and the recent storm Doris has finally  put paid to any such ideas. This is what remained after the storm
The makings of a nice brick path somewhere in the garden I think.
 There was though, the remains of three galvanised milking stanchions, which we have removed and will try to install in the poll barn
There was a bit of tree damage as well - this lovely apple tree has been more or less halved, it had way too much misteltoe on it's branches which I think may have contributed to the damage because of the weight. So some nice logs for the fire, some applewood sawdust for the smoker, and some tidying up to do.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Bird Flu

Since the announcement of incidents of the latest strain of Avian Influenza in the UK, Apha, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, have been issuing details of recommended ways in which poultry should be protected from contact with wild birds. For large commercial producers this isn't too much of an issue, as the birds tend to live in enormous hangar type buildings anyway, but for small poultry keepers like me, it's more difficult. I can't just conjure up a building to house my chickens, so we have had to be a bit inventive. So we have made an enclosure with some old Heras fencing, the type of thing normally seen on building sites, and covered the top with some polyester netting, again the type normally seen on scaffolding on building sites (because it's cheap and readily available)
Chickens however, are very quick to find any gap in your defences,and although i though we had everything covered, it wasn't long before they found this easy exit through some broken bits of fence
 and they were all out again. So I've patched it up, and hopefully all will be ok again for tomorrow. We will of course have to move this arrangement around the field at regular intervals to make sure the birds continue to have access to fresh grass.
We all fervently hope that this latest strain of bird fly will be short lived and we can go back to our normal free ranging as soon as possible, especially now that the birds are coming into full lay. I've even had a couple of goose eggs in the last few days!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Best Ever Chocolate Brownies Recipe

I've been promising to give this recipe to my friend Dawn for ages, but haven't got round to writing it down, so as we're doing the supper for the WI ladies tomorrow, I thought I might just as well write it down now then it's there for future reference and anyone else who might like it. I've tried lots of different recipes over the years, I used Nigel Slater's recipe for ages, and it's good, but now I prefer to use the whisking eggs and sugar method rather than the creaming method he goes for, Anyway  having tweaked and tested, this is the final edit. Until I change my mind again of course...

This makes a pretty substantial slab of brownie, it fills a 9 inch 23 cm tin, but you can cut the into teeny pieces if you want to stretch it round a crowd. Or you could use an oblong 12 x 9 inch tin and make it thinner, but you will need to cook it for a shorter time. And this is one of those recipes that depends substantially on the quality of the ingredients, so don't stint.

8 oz/ 230 gr dark chocolate
8 oz/230 gr butter
4 eggs
5 oz/180 gr caster sugar
5 oz/180 gr soft light brown sugar
6 oz/150gr,  milk and white chocolate chopped up or chocolate chips
3 oz /90 gr cocoa
3 oz/90 gr self raising flour

Melt the chocolate and butter together and allow to cool a bit.
Beat the eggs and sugars together until pale and light.
Pour the chocolate mix into the egg mix.
Sift the flour and cocoa onto the mixture and fold in.
Lastly fold in the chopped chocolate pieces and turn the mixture into an 9 inch 23cm square tin, lined with parchment.
Bake at gas 4 180 electric 160 fan for 30 - 40 minutes. Timing is the most important part of the process, it should be just soft  in the middle,but not liquid. It will firm up as it cools, If you cook it too long you'll just have a chocolate slab, and a heavy one at that! So keep an eye on it.

I don't put nuts in, but you can add chopped walnuts brazils or pecans if you like.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Gardening Without Backache -No Dig Gardening

I'm a huge fan of Charles Dowding's method of No Dig Gardening. There are loads of reasons why I'm so keen,  one of the main ones being my state of aged decrepitude which prevents me from doing as much digging as I used to be able to manage. But for the best explanation take a look at  any of Charles many books and articles on the subject. In a nutshell the idea is that you cover the ground that you have, whatever it's like, with a layer of compost and you plant into it. That's about it, and because it's such a simple idea, people tend to think it can't possibly work. Surely you have to dig, trench, rake,kill the weeds, and so on? Well no, what you should really be doing is to attempt to disturb the soil as little as possible,- digging just destroys the soil structure and chops up beneficial earthworms and other soil organisms. So not only do you not need to do it, you positively shouldn't do it.

When I moved here a year ago, we had no real garden to speak of, but lots and lots of lawn. So the first job was to fence off an area of the field to make a vegetable garden. I covered the areas to be planted with cardboard, to help kill the grass, and took delivery of a ten ton pile of compost courtesy of Severn Waste who make the compost from green waste. The compost is very reasonable in price, but unfortunately the delivery costs do add up. It all depends how far you are from your local green waste processor - check out your local depot.

All I had to do was move it to the appointed beds, which took a while I must admit. A few barrowloads every day soon made an impact.

The results have been amazing. Not everything did well, but most of what I planted did ok, considering it's the first year of a new garden. In an indifferent year for tomatoes we had tons, squashes and pumpkins grew like triffids, beans did less well, but salads and herbs were great.  The new asparagus bed is looking fine, although it's too new to harvest until next year, so we will see what next year's growth looks like in due course.

The main disappointment was my raspberry canes, most of which failed, so I will be filling in the gaps during the winter months with some new plants. Strawberrries and brassicas both grew well but were subject to caterpillar and bird attacks respectively so I will need to arrange protection for them for next year.

Anyway that was last year, and I have just availed myself of another ten tons of compost, this time for my new ornamental plantings. Luckily the very helpful lady at Severn Waste managed to find a delivery for me at a good price. So I took delivery of the ten tons on the appointed day courtesy of the lovely Louise, of Louise Ward Haulage based in Evesham, who has been operating her 18 ton tipper truck for nearly twenty years, and did an excellent job at a good price. I have a ready supply of cardboard from our warehouse, so I used it as a base, It's not really vital but it rots down readily and does help a bit to kill the weeds and grass. So it's back to barrowing for the next week or two. Before I get to do the good bit, the planting.


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