Friday, 30 January 2009

The chicken run is built

Hooray the chicken run is now built. Just over 2 weeks until the chickens arrive, so plenty of time to get everything settled. We'll have to get some extra fencing and build a place for the chickens to run a bit - the list never ends...

Sadly the raised beds did not arrive today, but we did go and get some more compost and bark chips (the first of many uses of the trailer). I think we are all ready for the raised beds now - if not we could probably start a nursery!!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Seed Potatoes arrive

Today is one of those days that feels like the quiet before the storm.

Good news is that the seed potatoes arrived today - hooray! The other great bit of news is that the raised beds were despatched from the factory today. Of course this does mean that the next few days will be filled with a flurry of activity. Activities over the next few days will be:

- Build the chicken run.
- Build the raised beds (subject to delivery, of course)
- Fill raised beds with cardboard (that we've been collecting with all our deliveries) and compost.
- Buy in some more compost and bark chips. The bark chips will be used for the area in between the raised beds.
- SUNDAY 1st FEBRUARY TAKE POSESSION OF OUR PIECE OF LAND - yikes - quietly nervous about this one.

What can I say... watch this space.

ps. We are still enjoying our produce and stores of meat. I can't quite believe that neither of us have set foot in a supermarket since the 31st December, it really is amazing how quickly you get used to things. On the menu for the weekend is sausage, pheasant, chicken and veggies from the market - not bad at all!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Feeding guests

The chicken run arrived on Thursday (22nd Jan) - shock horror - how quick was that! Haven't had time to put togther yet, but the chickens only arrive in 3 weeks, should be plenty of time...

We've had a bit of a break as some friends stayed this weekend. It was great to be able to serve venison, bread, rolls and sausages (not all together of course and we did dish up some veg from the market) that had all been made by us. All good fun!

This week we'll be concentrating on:

- prep for getting the seed in the ground
- building chicken run
- pasta making
- and maybe venison sausages

No doubt this week will be a bit busier.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Yikes - how did that happen?

Today we ordered a chicken run - how on earth did that happen!

The day started with me to talking to a work colleauge and telling him what we were up to. He mentioned that they had just purchased a chicken run at a very reasonable price and gave me the suppliers details. We were only planning on introducing chickens in to the equation around March, hoping that it would good to have a source of eggs from our garden.
Looking at the chicken run and price it just seemed like too good a chance to miss.

We plan on getting 4 chickens, 1 Blubelle, 1 Speckeldy, 1 Goldline and 1 Sussex.

Luckily there is still some time as it will take a week or so for the chicken run to arrive, then we'll build it and make sure it's nice and secure and in a good spot for the chickens, and only then will we get the chickens.

The children are very excited about having chickens...and so are we!

Till later...

Monday, 19 January 2009


First and foremost a report back on the taste of the venison - FANTASTIC! We had our first taste of venison this evening in a delicious venison stew, and it was superb. Despite the nervous start to the meal everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and the kids want to have it for dinner again tomorrow - result!

We are making progress with our seed selection and have just placed the following order:

Early potatoes - 4kgs Foremost
2nd early Potatoes - 4kgs Kestrel
Main crop poatotes - 4kgs Rooster

We already have 2kg of Charlotte potatoes chitting

Autumn bliss raspberries - 3 canes

Broad beans - suttons 2 packs

Pikant shallots - 2 packs

Green globe artichokes - 1 pack

Early Nantes 2 - a XL pack
Nandor - 1 XL pack

Granada celery - 2 packs

Musselburgh - 1 pack
Apollo 1 pack

Cobham Marrow parsnips - 2 packs

Atlantic turnips - 1 pack

Solent Wight garlic - 2 bulbs

No doubt that should keep us busy once it arrives.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

What would we do without Internet?

Well the big butchering day arrived and at at 9am Saturday 17th Jan started skinning the deer carcass, wasn't quite sure how it was ever going to get done as it seemed like a monumental task. Once the carcass had been skinned I tuned in to the instructional video I found on Youtube and started butchering. Must say that once I started all apprehension was gone and it was a case of just getting on with job. 5 and a half hours later the freezer is stocked with every conceivable cut of venison; large roasts, small roasts, large steaks, small steaks, cubed meat for casseroles and stews and cubed meat that we'll use to make mince and sausages. The amount of meat from a 115lbs deer is quite simply incredible.
Really looking forward to our first venison dinner on Monday night!
The internet is such an incredible tool, we were just saying earlier today how it's so ingrained in every day life and the vasts tracts of information out there is truly staggering. Today would have been so much harder without it - so a big thank you to the internet and Youtube!

Right, now we really do have to get on with seed selection for crops. Time is marching on and soon we'll be having to plant all sorts of things. But first a very well earned glass of red wine, Cheers!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

First bags of flour!

Well, this is turning out to be quite an exciting week...

13th Jan a bunch of sample flour bags arrived and we got to test them to destruction. We figured that if we are going to be storing our flour we may as well make sure that it's not going to end up all over the place. We tested 4 different bags - what fun it was, made our choice and ordered 100 bags that we liked online that evening.

Today, 15th Jan, a parcel arrived containing the butchering equipment that we ordered earlier in the week. Have decided to just put that box to one side until Saturday morning for now. We have found an instructional video on Youtube (technology is wonderfule eh!) that gives some very useful tips on butchering a deer carcass. Sounds like Saturday is going to be a day filled with many steep learning curves - must say that we are all a bit apprehensive!
As an added treat the flour bags today arrived today meaning that this evenings fun has been milling our first batch of flour. This was the one piece of equipment that we decided needed to be electric and it looks like that was the right decision. This wonderful machine processed 6kg flour in less that 30 mins - result! Once again the whole family got involved and the children were fascinated to see wheat turned in to finely processed wholemeal flour. Can't wait to taste our first loaf of bread tomorrow morning made from the flour we all made.

Our next priority has to be selecting various types of seed and crop that we will be sowing in the coming weeks and months.

Talk very soon...

Monday, 12 January 2009

1 week on

Well, it's been a while since our first post - rest assured that a lot has been happening and there has been plenty of activity! We will make a conscious effort to update the blog more regularly though.

So what have we been up to...

4th January saw us roasting our first duck from the freezer supply, have to say that it was absolutely delicious. Our oldest son even wanted some duck on his school sandwich (what was left anyway).

8th January the mincer and sausage make arrived so we made our first batch of home made sausages. We followed a tried and tested recipe of 5lbs lean pork, 2.5lbs bork belly fat, 1 lbs dried rusk, 1.5lbs water and some spices. All of this produced 10lbs of sausages and it didn't half keep the family entertained for the evening, it was even surpisingly easy and fun.

9th January was a very early start (4:30am) to go deer stalking so that we could put some venison in to the freezer. The morning was spent muntjac stalking, a fantastic morning out in the country - but on the day the muntjac outsmarted the stalkers and we had lunch empty handed. The afternoon saw the luck change and we managed to bag a 115lbs red deer. Absolutely huge and will keep the family in venison for ages. There were some mixed feelings amongst the family as we struggled to find a suitable platform to hang the carcass up on in the evening. In the end we all agreed that it was necessary to deal with the gore in order to have it on our plate. The next big challenge will be the butchering - suspect that there will be plenty of reading and knife buying before then. We'll probably practice on the chinese water deer carcass that ended up being part of the deal. Ideally the deer carcasses should hang for a week or two so there is a bit of time yet.
On to things less gory the breadmaker also arrived on the 9th, meaning that we woke up to the smell of freshly baked bread on Saturday 10th - what a treat and happily looking forward to this in the future. 20kgs of wheat also arrived on the 9th - now we just need to milling machine to turn it in to flour.

10th January went pheasant shooting in Norfolk and it was -5 degrees. Needless to say we ended up empty handed as any bird with an ounce of common sense stayed tucked away. We did however go and collect the trailer and brought it home. This is the trailer that was meant to fit in to our garage - oops - bit of a measurement error as it does not fit at the moment. We are hoping that this will be resolved once the deer have been butchered. Otherwise we'll just have to find a parking space outside.
The highlight of the day was eating some of our home made sausages, they really were delicious and even required some oil in the pan to cook (how lean is that?).

11th January we managed to make a better stand for the deer carcasses using 2 long ladders and sokme sturdy planks. It really is amazing how much clearler the brain thinks when it is not exhausted!!

12th January and the wheat mill arrived - the box is quite big and we have decided to leave it unwrapped for a few days (not sure if we'll be able to). We are really looking forward to producing our own flour. To keep our fingers from tearing away at the wheat mill box we made some pasta this evening - we have learned that we need to up the quantity as it is a firm favourite with the whole family and we are even trying to freeze a batch to have some available for another day...will let you know how that works out.

So far we have managed to source all of our veg & fruit from the local market, even if we have had to vary the list. Today there were was no celery available and the apples looked like something from the 18th century (mind you they are very very tasty!). It's all about using what is available.

What we can report is that there is not too much TV watching going on - and that is definitley no bad thing looking at the TV listings. Main tasks for the next few days is to get some wheat milled and to start ordering seeds and plants that will need to planted soon, there really is not much time left... best get cracking.

Talk soon...

Saturday, 3 January 2009

So here is where the story starts

So the challenge for 2009 is to stay away from the big supermarkets as much as possible.
We will be sourcing all of our meat from a local farmer where we have seen the animals as they grow.
So far our meat supplies include 12 chickens, 6 ducks. There is also quite a lot of pheasant from this years shooting season.
A mincer and sausage maker is on order so hopefully our diet will be varied by some sausage and mince.

We are hoping to be self sufficient in fruit & veg, although this will take some time to build up. We have secured 3/4 acre of farm land and will also be using a big chunk of our back garden. The plan is to use half of the farm land for cereal crops (we'll give wheat a try this year). This is probably totally crazy - what what the hey!!
The immediate plan is to buy all of our fruit & veg from the local market.

There is so much to learn and so much to take in - I can imagine that most "non-working, awake hours" will be spent trying to find information.

Although it's only the 3rd January we have made quite a bit of progress already in the last 3 days:

- Lots of shopping (Earthway seed planter, 4 raised beds for garden, sausage and mince maker, breadmaker & 4 apple trees). The apple trees we have opted for are 2 Queen Cox and 2 Egremont Russet - all of them on the dwarf M9 root stock so hopefully they won't take up the whole garden.

- Made our own pasta for the first time with a hand cranked pasta machine. It is so easy to do and the taste is fantastic! Received the pasta maker as a Christmas present.

- Cleared out garage to make way for trailer that will be arriving in the next 2 weeks. I suspect that the trailer is going to become a very well used item in the near future.

- Built a bonfire in the back of the garden to help clear way for the raised beds.

- Rotivated the back garden area where the 4 raised beds will go.

- Brought back 16 bags of compost from the garden shop to start to fill the raised beds when they arrive. Also bought 12m X 2m of ground cover for areas in between raised beds.

Right, well that's probably enough for now about the start of this project. Who knows where it will go and how it will pan out...