Category Archives: Permaculture

Chicken Update – 7 weeks later!

We are about 7 weeks into our chickens and it is going really well.  I think eggs are more expensive (with all the additional costs of keeping chickens) but I’ll do a proper reckoning when we have a better estimate on how quickly we go through bedding.  But we are enjoying having them so much and our compost production system is now getting to levels which might meet as much as 1/3 of our needs.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a gardener with a veg plot is in want of more compost.

So here is episode 6 of Tales from Westwick all about chickens.

Green, Frugal, Sustainable Round Up

What have we done this week to live sustainably!

1. Some of our neighbours came round to have another look at using our orchard to site their beehive.  They kindly brought us a box of 6 eggs from their rare breed Derbyshire Red Cap hens!  Huge thank you all round. Then, later in the week, when we went to pick up some pig feed our pig mentors also gave us eggs from their Light Sussex Hens.  We eat a lot of eggs so this was all very welcome! Since moving here we have been given lots of eggs from local smallholders and I’m looking forward to having our own flock so we can reciprocate.

2. Sock Mending – the sock mending saga continues I am now down from 13 outstanding pairs to 7 pairs. I’d have done more but I got waylaid by successful patching some jeans for the first time.  I won’t talk about that too much as I have a whole exciting How To! blog post planned.

3. A free bottle of wine! – some lovely friends of ours are moving to London and they don’t have time to drink all their homemade wine before they leave and they don’t want to take it with them… So we are the lucky new owners of a bottle of elderberry wine from last Autumn.

4. A few months ago our neighbours (with a chain saw) trimmed our ornamental Cherry Tree to within an inch of its life.  I asked them to leave the cuttings with us and earlier this week I spent one hour (of many), stripping the long straight branches into bean poles, cutting some of the bigger bits into kindling and shredding the thinnest branches into mulch for our fruit bushes.  This is part of my work to reduce what we bring on to and take off the property and trying to close the cycle of waste, my new saying… Nothing Green is Waste!

5. Filling the cake tin – I made a big pile of cinnamon sugar and thumb print biscuits for the cake tin.  We haven’t bought any cakes or sweets from the mini-tescos all week.

As well as all the other things we have already blogged about with the compost, the charity shop finds and using up leftovers.

Mostly above we have been given things rather than done things to live sustainably.  Part of sustainable living is great community.  This week we have really benefited from our community which means that in the next few weeks it is on us to find ways to support our neighbours, be generous and give back to others.  The wonderful cycle of living side by side with people.

A Frugal, Green and Self-Sufficiency Round Up

How have we been Green, Frugal and Self-Sufficient this week?

1. Wellies* for R – a kind lady advertised a pair of wellies size 18-24 months on freecycle (and other assorted bits – but it was the wellies that caught my eye!) She was pregnant and about 5 days off her due date.  How that feels in a hot June is very fresh in my memory so I took over some of my homemade Black Forest Brownies as a thank you present for the wellies.

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

Wellington Boots for little Dinosaurs

(*Wellies is a UK slang term for waterproof rubber boots, that is because in the UK such boots are called Wellington Boots.)

2. Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly – I’ll do a proper write up of this later.  But inspired by Dawn of Doing it For Ourselves making Elderflower Jelly and the birds having eaten most of our Gooseberries, I decided to make up a Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly recipe. That saved me a job of topping and tailing as well.  Doesn’t it look fabulous!

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

Gooseberry and Elderflower Jelly

3. Birthday Bunting – I finished making bunting to decorate the house for R’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  It is re-useable (I’m going to keep adding to it each year until it is a huge family joke) and has no packaging and it looks bright and silly.  Perfect!

4. Comfrey – we don’t have any in our garden, but it is the best of all the Green Manures and a staple of permaculture nutrient design.  Luckily my Father Out-Law has a huge amount with pretty blue/pink flowers.  As always I only have to ask for a cutting or a bit of root and he is back with a spade and a pot before I know it, generously dividing some up for me.  That saved me from buying some seed/plug plants from a garden centre. We also took our tetrapaks over to put in their kerbside recycling scheme (they are on a different scheme to us and we can’t recycling tetrapaks easily) and I went home with some spare jam jars – which came in handy for 2 above.

5. Straw from the Pig Pen – The straw we get for our pigs is a waste product from a local farm.  After it has been used as pig bedding it goes in the hot composter and the cold composter as important dry, woody material. I am so pleased we get two uses out of something which would otherwise go to waste.

 

The Good Things

Elizabeth from the Margot and Barbara blog (I can’t tell how you much I *love* that title!) has suggested people write happy posts, about The Good Things.

I wholeheartedly support the idea of recording The Good Things and so here is my first post, as unlikely as it seems…

1. Weeding the Vegetable Patch

"I think you'll find those are *my* weeds."

“I think you’ll find those are *my* weeds.”

Why, on Earth, would this be a good thing?

Well I can tell you it wasn’t always a good thing and there are still aspects of it I don’t like – namely all that bending over. But this is the first time I’ve had a vegetable patch next to a pig pen.  It is a revelation! I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to pull up a handful of weeds and casually toss them into the pen only to have the pigs race for the fresh greens as if they were the most delicious treat.  Listening to them grunt and snuffle their way through the pile of weeds is so satisfying.  Composting weeds is all well and good but having the animals get such enjoyment out of eating them is great and makes me feel closer to fulfilling my Permaculture principles – Maximum yield, minimum cost and effort.

The Good Things

Use it or Lose it Recipe – Breadcrumbs

Shelling peas in the sun.

Shelling peas in the sun.

Today had its ups and downs (R took a little bit of a tumble, nothing serious but a bit of a shock and a sore bump for an already cross, teething baby). But there was a moment in the sunshine when I felt very happy and at peace.  I’d just picked our first pea harvest; mangetout are the yellow ones and Dwarf Early Peas the green ones.  I sat and shelled them by the veg patch so that I could toss the pea pods into the pig pen.  Pigs love things like that but they can’t eat food scraps that have been in a kitchen because of cross contamination.  So I made sure I shelled the peas in the sun, by the veg patch and the hedgerow while the pigs wuffled in the background.  It was lovely.

I’ve decided to make Use it or Lose it Recipes a regular feature on the blog.  I talked a little bit about food waste in the first Use it or Lose it Post.

We make our bread in a bread machine and whilst we use most of it up, there is often a crust or two leftover.  I save them up and then blitz them in the food processor for breadcrumbs.  Then I freeze them.  Breadcrumbs last ages in the freezer and if the bread is sufficiently stale they don’t seem to freeze together in one clump – this means you can take out one portion at a time and leave the rest of the bag in the freezer.

This recipe is for using up stale bread. There are lots of ways of using up stale bread as it happens and I’m sure I’ll come back to this particular type of leftover in the future. As a child my Dad made the most amazing stuffing for Sunday lunch.  He experimented with all sorts of flavours and herbs from the garden but my favourites were the sweetcorn stuffing and his mushroom stuffing.  The other day I was thinking about the huge bad of breadcrumbs sitting in the freezer and remembering the stuffing of my childhood.  I realised that stuffing doesn’t have to be relegated to a Sunday lunch side dish but would make a great lunchtime dish – especially as a good finger food for fat little baby hands. At the same time someone posted a recipe up on a baby-led weaning group on facebook which was basically stuffing and with a bit of tweaking from me I think I’ve got something just right.

So this is my Lunchtime Special Stuffing – good for using up stale breadcrumbs AND wilted veg from the fridge.  Doesn’t that sound appetising? I’m sure Nigella Lawson would describe it as the mouth-crunchingly-perfect miniature beads of bread with juicy sweet carrots and sunshine-jewelled sweetcorn kernels.

Tasty lunchtime meal.

Tasty lunchtime meal.

This should serve 2 adults and 2 children for lunch with a salad/fruit.  It makes great picnic food for going out and about as well.

Ingredients

230g of shredded or finely chopped vegetables/herbs (I used carrots, sweetcorn, fresh basil and fresh parsley)

30g grated cheese (e.g. cheddar)

2 big handfuls of  breadcrumbs

2 medium eggs beaten

tablespoon butter

2 and 1/2 tsp of mixed dried herbs/spices

(I used 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp marjoram, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika but use what you have – this is supposed to be a recipe about using things up – not buying lots more things)

Bowl of ingredients ready for mixin'

Bowl of ingredients ready for mixin’

Method

Preheat the oven to 190c/180fan/Gas Mark.

Mix all the above ingredients together until well combined.  Then either shape into individual patties or press into an oven dish. Personally I usually press it into an oven dish.  Sometimes I have the time to make ultra-cute baby sized portions of things, but this mixture is fiddly and messy and easier to put in a dish.

If you do make one big oven dish then dot the butter over the top.

 

Dotting with butter

Dotting with butter

Bake for about 25 mins until golden brown on top.

If you used an oven dish then now is the time to cut it into slices, otherwise just serve with fruit and salad.

 

My Other Shed is made of Wood

I really think that getting back into my gardening groove has helped our luck.  After yesterday’s extravaganza of planting, today I worked out a whole list of plants I can plant now to fill the gap in the brassica section (and bought some seeds to fulfil my plan), I planted 3 large pots of parsley, 1 pot of clary sage and 1 large tray of kohl rabi.  I’m starting everything in pots so I can better protect them from the evil slugs.

So the good news is that we met some lovely people today who might… might want to keep a beehive in our orchard!  This is very exciting news.  It might come to nothing but it would be so exciting to have some bees buzzing around pollinating all our vegetables. I also found a spare packet of basil seeds that I forgot about!

"Two Sheds" Josh.

“Two Sheds” Josh.

When we first moved here the house came with a shed.  But it was far too small for our needs.  Keeping pigs and planning to keep hens comes with a need to store equipment, straw and feed.  Then we have all the garden tools you would expect from people who have a huge garden and vegetable patch.  So fairly early on this year we bought a new and bigger shed to which we transferred all most of our gardening equipment and the broken chest freezer (thanks Freecycle!) we use for storing pig feed.

But I was determined to keep the old one, it was the green thing to do after all. The new-old shed was in good working order, just a little small, and I knew we would outgrow the new shed very quickly.  We keep 2-3 bales of straw around at a time and I really wanted somewhere to put all that straw – somewhere that was not our verandah.  Verandah’s are for lounging on with cool minty drinks, not for storing straw, kindling and other bittes and oddses (ours is a work in progress!)

After successfully scavenging free concrete slabs for the base of the new-old shed, Josh was fired up to get it up as quickly as possible.  In a relatively short space of time he’d finished putting the shed up and filled it with the bales.

I feel like we have made incredible progress on our Tinyholding in just the last 6 months and having the pig hutch, the new-new shed (with water and electrics) and the new-old shed all up and working contributes a lot to that.  We are not DIY naturals but Josh in particular is getting really good and picking up new skills all the time.

Looking down the garden now I can just see the end of the new-old shed begging for a bit of bunting to cheer it up!

In other news I went up a ladder and had a good squeeze of our Parma Ham which is drying the verandah.  This is the first time I’ve dared do it (I still haven’t opened it up for a sneaky peak).  To my delight it was really solid and hard with no soft or spongy sections (which I’m assuming would imply it was rotten).  We only have about 1 month to go before eating it!

A Huge List of Things – Part 1

Make Do and Mend Year has written a blog post called “Taking Stock” which is one of the assignments on her blogging course.  It sounded like fun and I could do with some writing practice myself so I’m giving it a go.

I’ve split it into multiple parts though as it was a very long list!

Sock in progress.

Sock in progress.

Making : I have two main projects on the go at the moment.  Socks for Josh and bunting for R’s birthday. I love the speed of sewing but it requires some set up and I don’t always have a clear stretch of time to get stuck in. Bunting I can sort of do bits here and that (especially the cutting out) but my first love is knitting, portable, easy to pick up and put down and no minute of waiting at the doctors or for a bus is ever wasted.
Cooking : It’s Josh’s turn to cook dinner tonight not me but I know we are having a vegetable tortilla.  Since we have guests coming tomorrow though, I’ll be cranking up the bread machine and getting a loaf ready.  Our standard loaf is 50% strong white flour and 50% wholemeal spelt flour and it is very tasty!
Drinking : Diet coke – my main vice.  Terrible stuff and (I’m sure) horrible for the environment.  Something I am still working on.
Reading: I always have a million and one books on the go but the main thing I’m currently reading is “The Wizard Hunters” by Martha Wells.  It is part of a huge box I got from a friend when they were downsizing their book collection and it’s taken me ages to get round to reading it but it is good solid fantasy with a slight steampunk twist  and several interesting and well-drawn female characters. Just my sort of thing.
Wanting: Chickens!  We are in the planning stages for getting chickens.  First working out how big a coop to build, then sourcing the materials and building it, then buying a hen house and finally a feeder, food, water thingy and actual chickens.  We are still a way off getting them but we almost have a plan!
Looking: For some replacement Courgette plants – the slugs have done for ours and the garden centre has sold out.
Playing: We recently bought two new board games (we have a huge collection of board games and role-playing games) Race for the Galaxy and Ghost Stories.  We have been playing them a lot!  Definitely getting our money’s worth.
Deciding: How high the fences for the chicken coop should be and whether we need a lid on it.

Wishing: Death to slugs.  They are decimating the garden, I lost two most cucumbers to the little monsters this morning.  My slug traps are doing well in the veg patch but poorly up with the courgettes and it is hurting.

Garden is coming on (just ignore the weeds).

Garden is coming on (just ignore the weeds).

Much of my current garden news is above – mostly am in full blown war against the slugs. My perennial enemy.  They have now decimated 4 cucumbers, 2 courgettes, 2 squashes, all the chillis, one entire salad crop and one purslane crop.  I hates them precious.

Currently I’m deploying my standard beer traps, but the weather has been so wet and mild for so long I bet this is going to be bumper slug year.  So I’m reading this article with great interest especially the bit about Indian Runner Ducks!