Thursday, April 30, 2009

I Need a New Hosepipe

I don't know how I do it - somehow I seem to get through countless garden hoses. For some reason they either suddenly spring leaks everywhere, or I manage to inadvertently damage them. I did have one hose that sprung one leak which I thought was OK, until it then sprung more and more, until there were so many leaks it became unusable. The one I had been using up until recently, I managed to accidentally cut right through it with a hedge trimmer while cutting back some shrubs! I should explain that we leave it out to make it easier to re-fill the chickens' and the goats' water.

So now in the absence of a hose I have been trekking back and to with buckets to make sure that the chickens and goats have enough water. This nearly doubles the amount of time I take in the morning. And then there is watering the veg plot - I am a bit concerned about whether my seedlings are getting enough water as I am relying on filling up a watering can, and it takes absolutely ages.

So I have added a garden hose to my list of items I need to buy for the garden, which seems to be growing by the week! I had better make sure that I get a good deal!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review of Living the Country Lifestyle All-in-One for Dummies

Living the Country Lifestyle All-in-one for Dummies is actually six books in one; it comprises "Country Kitchen Skills", "Traditional Crafts", "Edible Gardening", "Getting Outdoors", "Raising Farm Animals" and "Natural Health". The first thing to say about this book is that it is huge - both in physical size (over 650 pages) and scope.

Country Kitchen Skills contains useful recipes, but more importantly for those of us looking to be more self-sufficient, it includes detailed information on canning, preserving, drying, pickling and otherwise extending the life of various foods. All highly valuable information for dealing with the excess harvest.

The Traditional Crafts section includes an introduction to spinning, knitting, hand-sewing and patchwork and quilting. It also includes candle making which is something I really want to have a go at later in the year. Many books of this type really only give you minimal information so you really have to go and buy a more specialized book to actually try it out, but this includes sufficient detail to actually put the ideas into practice.

The Edible Gardening section does not provide detailed advice on growing individual crops, but provides good more general advice. It includes a look at growing vegetables, growing herbs and growing fruit and nuts.

The section on Getting Outdoors camping and survival skills (including a chapter on freshwater fish). An interesting addition is the chapter on outdoor games with children and other outdoor activities you can do as a family.

The Raising Farm Animals section provides a bit of a whistlestop tour of caring for the most common farm animals including choosing your animals and general advice on animal care. It does also include quite a detailed chapter on bee-keeping.

Natural Health includes a look at healing foods and tells you how to make your own herbal teas, tinctures, oils and elixirs. This includes creams, massage oils and aromatherapy baths. Included in this section is a comprehensive A-Z guide of common herbs.

There are many books of this type that focus on providing lavish colour photography of a rural lifestyle, rather placing presentation over content. This is certainly not one of those books. In fact there are no colour photographs and the presentation is basic, but effective. The content is vast and generally comprehensive. For people looking to improve their knowledge of country crafts, self-sufficiency and related subjects I would certainly recommend Living the Country Lifestyle All-in-one for Dummies.

Rating: 4.5/5

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Leek Experiment

In the past I have always sown my leeks directly into the ground and generally had a reasonably decent crop. However, a problem I do find is that because the young leeks are so thin and spindly, they can very quickly get swamped by weeds. And where I try to make sure that they are kept weed free, I tend to find that it is extremely easy to pull them up by mistake.

This year I thought I would try starting them off in a seed tray in the greenhouse to avoid this problem. I am impressed that they seem to be doing very well. The only problem is that I am not quite sure what to do next. They are getting too big to keep in the seed tray, but too small to plant out. I am wondering whether if I should transplant into larger pots before then finally planting out when they are bigger.

Any suggestions anyone?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Our Goats are Vandals!

The other day I went outside to find our two goats roaming freely around our garden! Fortunately the veg plot is fenced off so they couldn't trample all over that!

Further investigation found that they had somehow completely trashed the fence to their pen!! One of the goats, Lilly, is particularly mischievous and likes modify her surroundings wherever possible.

So, some hasty repairs called for. The only way I could see to fix it was to try and secure a new post to the concrete floor with some brackets. Except that my drill is not very good at drilling into concrete - I don't think that blue smoke coming out of the drill is a good sign somehow!

After lots frustration and four-lettered profanity, I finally managed to fix a new post in place. It's not great as it's still a bit wobbly, but seems to hold up to the goats at the moment. I need to try and think of a way to steady it a bit.

At the moment the goats live mainly in a concrete floored pen - which the vet says is much better for their feet when the weather is cold and damp. During the Spring and Summer we also put them out on the grass penned in by an electric fence. Later in the year we hope to fence off an area of our plot to make a paddock area for them. This will be quite a major task as there are bushes to take down and in particular a Laburnum tree which is poisonous. A job for the Summer I think!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

No Book Review Today

I should be posting a book review today, but I have not had chance to have a good look at the book I have lined up to review. So instead I will be posting the review of Living the Country Lifestyle All-in-one for Dummies on Saturday 25th April instead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Address Plaques, Mailboxes and More

It has struck me recently that we are fortunate to have a regular postman where we live otherwise I don't think we would receive any post! This is because our homemade name plaque on our front gate has not lasted well in the weather and is now barely legible. If you are in a similar position you might want to pay a visit to Mailbox and Beyond who supply home and garden decor including such things as mailboxes, address plaques, bird feeders, garden hose holders, door knockers and more. They also supply a wide range of Whitehall products. In fact we could actually do with a door knocker as well - I don't know how many callers we have missed because they can't make themselves heard! Probably missing out on some egg sales as a result!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Nests Recipe

Being as it is Easter I thought I should post a seasonal recipe. This is adapted from Usborne Farmyard Tales Children's Cookbook.

225g (8oz) milk or plain chocolate
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
50g (2oz) margarine/butter
100g (4oz) corn flakes
Muliticoloured sugar coated little chocolate eggs

Cake cases

1. Grease the tin with a little butter/margarine.
2. Break the chocolate into a large pan. Add the syrup and margarine/butter. Heat the pan gently, stirring the mixture all of the time.
3. When the chocolate has melted, add the corn flakes and stir them well. Make sure that they are coated all over with chocolate.
4. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases.
5. When the mixture has started to cool place the eggs dotted over the top.
6. Place the tin in a refrigerator for about 2 hours to set.

If you would like to submit a recipe to be featured on a Smallholder's Diary (with a link to your blog/website if you want one) then why not send it to me via the "Contact Me" button on the sidebar.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Glorious Garlic

Garlic is one of my favourite flavourings. Just the smell of it makes my taste buds tingle! It has also been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and, like many other traditional remedies, these properties are being re-discovered today. Research has in fact shown it to contain a natural antiboitic and antioxidant. There is also some evidence that it can assist in managing cholesteral levels.

Garlic is extremely easy to grow. You can buy garlic bulbs from garden centres that have been treated to guarantee that they are virus free (the virus only harms the garlic, not us), but I have had just as good results with ordinary garlic bulbs bought from the supermarket or market stall. Traditionally, garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year in Winter and harvested on the longest day in Summer. However, I have tended to plant mine in early Spring (i.e. March here in the UK) and achieved good results. All you do is separate the bulb into its individual cloves and plant them individually, upright and about an inch (25 mm) under the surface. Plant the cloves about 4 inches (100 mm) apart. Rows should be about 18 inches (450 mm) apart. Once the leaves have gone brown and withered back you know that they are ready for harvesting. Once harvested, if you keep the bulbs in a cool, dry place they should keep for a few months. You could also keep a couple of bulbs back for planting the following year.

The uses for garlic are numerous - chopped/crushed, fried in oil/olive oil and added to stir-fries, curries and pasta dishes, are just a few examples. Or you can roast several whole cloves in olive oil for about 15 minutes (turning half way through cooking) and add to salads - don't allow them to burn though otherwise they taste bitter. If you are feeling particularly brave, you could crush a garlic clove and add it raw to roasted vegetables and pasta - but be warned, the taste of raw garlic is quite powerful!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Review of A Slice of Organic Life by Sheherazade Goldsmith

The idea behind A Slice of Organic Life is that many of us want to live a more sustainable life without necessarily trying to become completely self-sufficient. As such this book is designed so you can dip in and out of and take from it what you want according to your interests. With this in mind the book is divided into three sections according to your particular circumstances; Part 1 - "No Need for a Garden", Part 2 - "Roof Terrace, Patio or Tiny Garden" and Part 3 - "Garden, Allotment or Field".

Part 1 of the book covers things that are open to all of us and includes such diverse topics as shopping ethically, reducing travel, drying herbs and foraging for mushrooms. Part 2 starts making use of the outside space, so includes growing an apple tree in a pot, planting vegetables in a "square foot" garden and making compost. Part 3 broadens out the outside activities to include growing vegetables, keeping poultry, keeping goats and keeping bees.

The photographs in the book gloriously illustrate each chapter and add to the feel of the book. The book contains a great deal of useful information with some topics, such as keeping chickens and goats, are covered in a surprising level of detail. The scope of the book is huge so it is perhaps inevitable that some topics are just skimmed over, although the lack of amount of detail on some core subjects, such as growing vegetables, is a little disappointing.

The layout of the book makes sense in respect of having the three sections, although within these sections it jumps from one only partially related subject to another (e.g. within Part 1, Bake Bread is followed by Use Natural Nappies, which is then followed by Forage for Wild Greens), which can be a little disconcerting.

Overall, A Slice of Organic Life provides a great introduction to living a more sustainable life which is well written and plenty of food for thought.

Rating 4/5