Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parsnip Experiment Update 2

Well, it has been a few weeks now since I planted out my parsnip seeds that I sprouted on kitchen roll, so now seems like a good time to review progress. I planted out three rows and just two seedlings have come up! This is very disappointing. I think there are a couple of things that I did wrong.

  1. I did not water them enough. The first few weeks of Spring were unusually dry here and, although I did water the seeds, I think on reflection I should have watered them more just after I planted them out.
  2. I planted out the sprouted seed singly as I was confident that they would come up. I should have planted out several together to increase chances of success.
Last week I bought some more parsnip seeds and, although it is a bit on the late side for sowing parsnips, I sowed them directly into the rows. The soil is warm and moist now, so you never know!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making a Paddock

We have an area of our garden which is fairly neglected and we have never really been able to decide what to do with. We have finally decided that we will take down some of the bushes, put up better fencing and make a paddock for the goats. The theory is that the goats will keep the grass down, they will have more space and will be less likely to be bored and trash the space in which they are living like they do now. So hopefully everybody's happy!

We have made a tentative start and taken down some of the bushes and trees, which has made us realise just how big this area actually is! A particular side benefit of this is that we have made an early start on collecting wood for the winter.

One particular task we have is to take down the laburnum tree as this is poisonous to goats. Once we have taken this down and disposed of it we can start putting the goats in there with the electric fencing as an interim measure. The laburnum is currently in flower so I had better cut it down soon - once the flowers drop off I won't know which tree it is!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spiced Vegetables with Rice

Although I say it myself, I am quite good at looking in the refrigerator and cupboards to see what we have in, and then making up some recipe based on that. Usually they work, sometimes they don't! Here's I tried a couple of weeks ago. I'm afraid that quantities and timings are a bit vague as I didn't take much notice at the time. You can choose different vegetables - these are just what we had in at the time.


Mangetouts - a handful or so, topped and tailed
One Yellow Pepper - chopped
One Medium Onion - chopped
Passata - 4/5 tablespoons
Ground Cumin - 1 tsp
Ground Coriander - 1 tbsp
Olive oil for frying
A few cashew nuts

  1. Cook the rice according to the packet instructions
  2. Gently fry the onion in the olive oil.
  3. When the onion is softened add the pepper and the mangetout and cook for a few minutes until softened slightly
  4. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for a minute or so on a low heat.
  5. Add the passata, stir well and heat through
  6. Meanwhile brown the cashews slightly in a separate dry pan - do not burn!
  7. Add the rice and the cashews to the vegetable mixture. Stir well and heat through.

Give it a go and see what you think. If you have any suggestions for alternatives, then why not let me know.

Do you have any suggestions for recipes that you would like me to feature on a Smallholder's Diary. If so, then let me know via the Contact Me button in the sidebar.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review of Henkeeping by Jane Eastoe

For those of us looking to live a more self-sufficient life, then keeping chickens is always a good start. Before I started keeping chickens I always thought it would be very complicated, and many people are at first a little terrified at the prospect. Hen Keeping: Inspiration and Practical Advice for Would-be Smallholders is, as the title states, a very practical book. It covers all aspects of keeping chickens from introduction through to daily maintenance. There is quite an in-depth look at a number of breeds to help you choose which is the right breed for you. There is a particularly useful chapter on hen houses and runs which gives a good overview of what you need to consider. Keeping chickens is not all plain sailing of course and the chapter on problems that you might encounter, such as behaviour, health problems and predators, is extremely useful. One omission from the book is hatching your eggs and raising chicks.

Hen Keeping: Inspiration and Practical Advice for Would-be Smallholders is quite a basic book (there are no photographs and all illustrations are hand drawn) and at 96 pages is quite short. However, it does contain all the basic information that you need for looking after chickens. The writing is focused on practicalities, with just a few insights into the author's personal experiences of keeping chickens thrown in which adds to the readability. The book sets out to provide useful and practical advice and this is what it achieves very effectively.

Rating 4/5

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Leek Experiment - Part 2

Well, after a bit of deliberation I decided to re-pot some of the leeks that I sowed in a seed tray. After I had enough in the pots I left the remainder in the seed tray, just to see how they would do. Once they get large enough (about the thickness of the pencil) I will plant out. The usual method for planting out leeks is to make a hole for each leek (I use an old spade handle) about 6 inches dep and drop the leek into it. You then snip of the top of the leek so just a little pokes out of the top of the hole and then water well. Do not fill in the holes. This way you maximize the white part of the leek.

The other option is plant out in the same way you would any other plant and then push up earth around the base of each plant.

If my experiment works, then I should have a large crop this year. It would be even larger if I had more space in the veg plot!!