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.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Christmas Pudding (Revised Recipe)

I posted my traditional Christmas pud recipe a year or two ago, but I've slightly revised a few of the ingredients. I rather like Nigella's recipe, so I've added some prunes to the mix, so it really can be called a plum pudding, but I can't be paying twenty odd quid for the Pedro Ximenes sherry, so I will stick with my mix of any sweetish sherry that's in the cupboard, and some  dark flavourful beer for the liquid part.

And speaking of beer, I seem to have struck up something of a passing relationship with my local brewery here in Gloucester, called, naturally enough, Gloucester Brewery. They have kindly allowed me to pick up an occasional bag of their spent brewery grains which my cows pigs and chickens absolutely love, and whilst I'm doing that, I get to pop in and have a look around their newly revamped shop on Gloucester Quays. It's in one of the many wonderful old buildings on the quay, and has been done up very sensitively and in keeping with the old vaults. It must have cost quite a bit, and the work has been going on for some time now, but the end result is really good. I generally take them in a few of my free range eggs in return for the spent grains, which I hope they like. So today finding myself in need of the aforementioned dark full flavoured beer, I bought a bottle of this Dockside Dark
with (it says on the label) "coffee chocolate and subtle sweetness". It's just perfect for Christmas pudding, so I might make an extra one for the guys down there as a small thank you. Mind you, I'm not sure how pleased they'll be - although I love it, I know that traditional Christmas pudding isn't everyone's thing. Still it's the thought that counts!

About a pound/450 grams of mixed dried fruit, about half currants and the rest sultanas and finely chopped ready to eat prunes.
Zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
half a teaspoon of cinnamon and nutmeg
6 ounces/150 grams of dark brown muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon of black treacle
a glug of rum or brandy
4 ounces/100 grams fresh white breadcrumbs
2 ounces/50 gr ground almonds
3 ounces75 gr plain flour
6 ounces/100 gr shredded suet
Around half a pint/250ml of sweetish sherry and dark beer such as Dockside Dark 50:50 mix
3 eggs
1 medium cooking apple such as Bramley, grated, I never bother peeling but you can if you like.

Soak the dried fruits in the sherry and beer mix overnight or longer. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.Everyone in the family should get to have a stir, and make a wish.
 Add your family heirloom charms or coins cleaned with an overnight vinegar soak. Turn into a large pudding basin or two smaller ones.. Cover and steam for at least six hours. Allow to cool and store until Christmas day when you will need to steam again for a couple of hours. Or if you're pushed for hob space on the day just use the microwave to reheat for  a couple of minutes or so when you're ready.


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