Saturday, 20 August 2016

Perhaps I should know

I spend a lot of time wondering why I don't know some basic information that I feel I should know. These aren't jaw dropping facts and figures that I don't know, they are some very simple basics that I need to find out about, but somehow along the way I haven't learnt them. My head is full of all sorts of (useful and useless) information, but now I am working on our smallholding, I need an additional set of knowledge. It occurs to me that if I spent less time wondering why I don't have this knowledge, I could actually spend that time looking up the answers! So here are some of the things that I don't know.

In the garden

What do wasps eat?

Do slugs eat caterpillars?

What are earwigs for?

How do the first few insects get to a new pond?

How do pea and bean weevils get to the garden?

Why do ducklings eat their own poop if they poop in a pond?

How do I tell if an apple is ripe while it's still on the tree?

Why do weed seeds grow more strongly than the seeds I've planted?

In the kitchen

How long can I store eggs in the freezer?

Is plastic really safe to store food in?

What is xanthan gum? (I use it so perhaps I should know what it is)

Why does my homemade gluten free bread look like fungus and taste not too dissimilar?

How do I clean the residue of 'stuff' from the ceramic top of the cooker?

How do I cook spinach and chard so that they don't taste so much like muddy water?

In the poultry field

Can I put one month old ducklings in with the two month olds?

What's the latest time of year that I can hatch chickens' eggs?

And so my questions go on and on. As the weather is due to be fairly unpleasant again tomorrow, I may just spend an hour or so looking up some of the answers!

On an entirely unrelated subject, but one I want to share anyway - I'm not a technophobe exactly, but I can get muddled now and then. There are so many ways to add bits and pieces to a blog or to put features that may or may not be of interest to readers that sometimes I feel frustrated and confused by it all. 

Anyway, after some trial and error I think I now have a widget gizmo thingy that will allow you to receive my blog straight to your inbox. If you are using a pc, you can find it in the right hand column just below the About Me section. If on a mobile phone, you'll need to go to the bottom of the page, click on 'view web version' and again you'll find it below the About Me section on the right. Eventually I might work out how to add the sign up section to the bottom of each blog, but until then, please feel free to sign up to receive my blog directly to your email.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Nice surprises

The sun has shone on our corner of the world for a few days now and it is lovely here. It's been too hot to do much heavy work, so I have pottered early mornings and then stayed inside with the windows and doors wide open during the hottest part of the day.

The dozen chicks that hatched three weeks ago are now spending all day outside in a run in the front garden, but I'm taking them back into their pen each evening. Having fresh air around them and grass under their feet seems to have brought them on in leaps and bounds.

Likewise the ducklings are outside each day, going back to their pen in the shelter of the stable each evening. They are almost off the heat now, but I'm being cautious (and probably over-protective) as they are our first ducklings.
Yesterday Mr J put together a set of shelves that we found on FreeCycle and we put them into the corner of the kitchen. These will house the homemade jam, pickles, sauces and wine that I don't have space for elsewhere in the kitchen. A new freezer is being delivered on Thursday which will give us plenty of space to store the vegetables that I am gathering from the garden together with bulk cooked meals that we can then defrost and use immediately when we are too tired or don't have time to cook a meal from scratch.

I have been finding some interesting shaped tomatoes in the greenhouse, three of these are an Italian variety of plum tomato and they have a distinctly square shape. I picked them while they were still quite small, smaller than a golf ball, because they were deep red and ripe and I'd rather eat a small tomato than let it go to waste.
We've been enjoying the borlotti beans again, they are very attractive on the plant and equally so when the beans are taken from the pod. It's a shame that they don't keep the colouring when they are cooked.
The four chicks that are now seven weeks old are starting to explore the chicken field in earnest. The are on the same side of the fence as Jack, Diesel, Little White and Big Red and although they mostly keep themselves to themselves the older chickens are bossy and have been letting them know who's in charge. They are still small enough to escape through the flexible fencing and a few times we have had to encourage them back into their allotted space, but it won't be too long before they are restricted to their side as they grow too large to squeeze through the fencing.
Most days I am gathering enough food for our supper and some for the freezer. The best way to harvest crops like beans and peas is to take little and often, so that the plants keep producing more and more. This trolley load of vegetables were roasted with garlic and the runner beans were sliced and frozen.
I had a plateful of the roasted vegetables and Mr J had some homemade meatloaf with his. The colourful selection was very pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.
When it was time to put the chicks and ducklings to bed last night, we gathered the twelve chicks and took them to their secure run in the stable. When we went to collect the ducklings we found that they had managed to climb the (rather steep) ramp up to the house that is attached to their outdoor run and they had put themselves to bed. Oh my little lovelies, I am so enamoured with these ducklings. They are growing so much each day that it is noticeable, but they still look like babies (which of course they are) and we are delighted with how well they seem to be doing despite us.

I am feeling very blessed at the moment and to celebrate, I'm going to make a cuppa!