Thursday 29 March 2018

What Are They Up To Now ?

If our neighbours overlooked us or passer by's could see that is what they would have been asking yesterday 
 A project with an IBC tank, Martin went and picked up a couple of them yesterday, we needed one for water over in the calves field.
 The other was was dismantled down with the help of Sol and Tess
 The metal surround cage had to be cut down
 With the angle grinder to a specific size
 Once the base was separate it was all taking shape
 Next the tank had to be marked and cut apart
 Some one was in the naughty corner, once the base was cut off the tank Tess was in it like a shot trying to lick it out, 
It contained food grade almond oil before and she ended up covered in it. 
It was all given a scrub out with hot soapy water over in the veg area away from Tess.
So what's it all for ?
This all being put together to make up an Aquaponics system that we hope to introduce Brown Trout and Crayfish, a lovely addition to our table.
Aquaponics basically is you have a holding tank for your fish the water is pumped up into a grow bed filled with gravel were you grow plants in a soil less system the plants take there nutrients from the water cleaning it before its returned to the fish as clean water. Giving you a system to raise fish and vegetables for the table.
The next stage  is to add the pipe work we are popping into town today to pick it up, I am also waiting for a delivery of the expanding clay pebbles and the pump.
The system is going to set up in the poly tunnel, if it works well we can add another system to it.
 I have dabbled with small aquaponic systems over the years and done a lot of reading up and collecting information, before we moved here we both went to see a set up in Weston Super Mare and that is what really sparked an interest in it.
here is a  video of a very small system I put together before we moved here.
I am looking forward to getting it all running now 👩


Sunday 25 March 2018

Moving House The Bees Not Me

Today was the perfect day for moving bees, 
early spring means the hive isn't at full occupancy,
Warm sunshine, blue sky and no wind. 
The bees were active
 we have been preparing for this job since Autumn, and waiting for everything to be just right and have the time to the job without rushing. 
Today was that day, 
The old top bar hive the bees were in, is in a poor state and falling apart, making checking on the bees a stressful job as you never knew if the hive was just going to collapse on you.
But its not a straight forward job of just moving them into a new hive, we needed to move them from a top bar hive into a national hive with frames.
Top bar hive is just that all you provide is the top bars and the bees make the comb hanging off those bars to fill the space of the hive 
 This photo I took a few years ago shows new comb being built on a top bar 
This photo shows some of the frames from a national hive, neither one is interchangeable with the other.
The job had to be done and I spent a lot of time trawling the internet trying to find some info on how to do it and just kept drawing a blank.
Then one night I had an idea well it was 3am in the morning I sketched it out to show Martin.
 What if we cut bits of galvanised mesh fixed them to the top of the frames
 and bent the bottoms out to hang the comb from, as you can see from the photos that is exactly what we did.
And waited patiently until everything was right for the big move

It took several hours as I had to go through each bar of comb, finding the ones with brood on, cutting the comb to fit the frame
 Any cut off bits with honey stores on have been left for the bees to clean up
 The new frames with brood pollen and honey had to go into the new hive in the same order they came out of the old one
 Now its just fingers crossed the queen is in the new hive, and everyone settles down and like there new home.

 The new hive is sitting next to the old hive to encourage stragglers and those out foraging to come into the new hive.
In a few days I will check the hive there should be evidence of comb building and repair I will take some photos then as today I was trying to get them moved quickly so didn't take photos of the comb in the new frames. 
It was a big sigh of relief to get this job ticked off the list.
We are looking to buy in some new colonies this year to occupy some empty hives and build up the apiary.  
This colony has been with us for many years. 
you can keep up to date with lots more going on through
Kev and Dawn's facebook group 

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Re-Loading Freezers

After managing to empty and clean down the big freezer its didnt stay empty for long.
There is another local Water Buffalo who we have got to know and she had a 30month steer going to slaughter, we bought half a carcass from them.
 It was hung for 21 days
 before heading off to the butcher , who did all the cuts packaging and labels.
 We have lots of joints,
 lots of mince
 lots of steaks
 and packs of stewing meat, we got the butcher to do packs for meals for two, no point in having massive joints and having to re package it all, the cuts are the same as beef cuts. We had steak the day we collected it, very enjoyable meal, we have used some of the mince for meatballs and chili, Sunday we had a roast and the meat that was left over I have thinly sliced for sandwiches.
 Buffalo meat is low in calories, low in cholesterol, higher in protein than beef, tastes just like a high end quality beef.
A welcomed addition to our diet. 
A the same time we were doing a couple of the weather goats.
 one came in at 11kg and the other at 15kg.
 Martin butchered them to suit our needs
 smaller than previous years but very lean.
 lots of dinners and I do prefer goat to lamb, similar in taste but leaner. We do home slaughter meat for ourselves.
We use a Captive bolt stun gun
Its a very quick process, the skins have been salted and gone in the other freezer ready to tan when we have some time. We have a freezer we keep for skins, fleeces, bones and chickens and cockerels that we use in the fox trap. 
we had another goshawk attack this time one of our chickens,

The latest snow days, saw us racking off wine.
 This was the wine I made last year from our home own grapes
 I am not a wine drinker, Martin tried some of it and declared it suitable for cooking with.
We are not yet ready to start our own winery, it will go well with all those up and coming casseroles.


Thursday 15 March 2018

Filling Time During The Freeze

Over the last cold spell the one that brought everything to a stand still, we had a session of going through the freezers and doing a bit of re organising.
 All the bags of fruit from last summer were pulled out
 Cranberry sauce was made
 Redcurrant Jelly was made
 The other fruit, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blackberries, Blueberries and Tayberries were mixed up and canned.
 Some of it is being eaten with waffles homemade yogurt and some of our honey for breakfast.
 Some of the strawberries went into muffins.
 There was a bag of roasted veg that go turned into soup
 Some cookie dough chocolate chips were added and cookies made.

 I got out my old stove top pressure cooker 
and did us some lamb shanks with mixed veg,
While surfing the internet for a recipe I kept seeing recipes for electric pressure cookers and some one had mentioned one in a group that Kev from  English Homestead 
and me run together on facebook.
So  had to look into these 

  and bought one.
It has a lot more facility's than the old stove top ones and I dont have to be around to watch it, it also has a timer so I can set it get on with my day and it will start up and cook dinner. 
First out of the pot, Rice Pudding
12 mins and ready to eat.
 Then it was the turn of an Indian meal, Butter Chicken with Cumin Spiced Potatoes, we both enjoy Indian food but its a bit of trek to have a decent one, cooking it at home can take ages with lots of stages This was produced in under and hour and it tasted just like the real thing.
 Then it was a Moroccan Meal, Goat Stew with Chickpeas and Rice again under an hour, the recipe was for a lamb stew but I substituted lamb for goat. It was really really tasty.
I am impressed with the ease of use.
The group that we run on Facebook is 
Its a new group and is for everyone from window box growers to farmers covering all topics including self sufficiency, cooking, growing, livestock, general on topic chat.