Thursday, 26 July 2012

Chicken time

We had been talking about getting a few hens.  It all started when the eggs from the shops were rubbish, they smelled distinctly off.  The eggs from the next shop were the same, and the next.., and the next!  A domestic "discussion" then erupted when my OH wanted me to drive 7 miles away to buy some direct from the farm that his mum used to buy her eggs from (perfect mother-in laws!)  As this was not about to happen every week he decided a few hens would be just the thing, scratching gently around the back garden.

Now normally I would jump for joy and say "yeah, more animals!" but I don't very often eat eggs and I knew it would be me left cleaning them out etc.  Also going away from home becomes hard when you are asking the neighbour  "could you feed the cat while we are away?  Great, thanks, .............oh and the rabbits, and the hens, it's really easy, no work involved, not much, no really...."

So we did say no.  Then yes, then no, then yes.  We got a shed for nothing off Gumtree which sat in bits for a year, propped against the fence.  Then a burst of activity! Great!  Even better, I was away and missed the hard work.  How nice to come home and find it up and just needing painted.  My brother had given us a very good American book called Living With Chickens, over there they all seem to use sheds to house even a few chickens, which made more sense to me.  They give you far more ventilation, you can stand up in it and, given the price of purpose made coops, more space for the money.

My OH lined the inside with plywood to give some insulation and make it easier to clean, then built a run around two sides of the shed.

Hard at work

The inside getting lined

The pop-hole at the bottom is for ducks, the inside is raised so that there is space underneath for ducks or for storing the bedding.

Chook house on top and storage/duck house below
It did cost around us £200 for the materials but to buy something this size would be at least double that.  It should survive for many years as it is super duper solid!  I think he builds with nuclear war in mind.

The nesting box got moved about, he put them far too high up so they got put attached to the outside instead which has been fine, everything else has been working well.  The window props open for ventilation and I clean the poops every day, it only takes a minute and it keeps the coop always smelling fresh.

Time to buy some chickens!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Herbs for health and beauty, back garden style

I was leafing through some of my books on natural bodycare, and looking at the plants and flowers that are commonly used.  I realised that I have a lot of them in my garden, and thought that I would list them, just to see how impressive my list is!

Aloe vera (in the house)
Calendula officinalis  (Marigold)
Clary sage
Equisetum arvense  (Horsetail)
Evening primrose
Flax / linseed
Galium aparine  (Cleavers, Sticky willy)
Globe artichoke
Jasminum officinale
Lady's mantle
Lemon balm
Pelargonium graveolens
Red clover
Strawberry, wild

and very locally live Scots pines, Meadowsweet, Rose hips, Wild Honeysuckle, Tormentil, Blaeberries and lots more.  Not bad for suburbia!!

I use quite a few of these plants in my soaps, most especially the calendula petals, the nettles, rose petals.  Parsley gives a great green colour in soap, then the jasmine flowers get collected, so do the elder flowers.  I would like to get a Burdock plant this year, to make homemade dandelion and burdock juice, scrummy!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Winter brings the birds into the garden

Spot the birdy.

We get lots of chaffinches, tits, sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, robins, a couple of big, fat doves and some that I am never sure what they are -yellowhammers?  Last winter there was a sparrowhawk, checking out the smallerbirds.

I should really sit huddled in the garden to get a video but it was -10, so the bedroom window won.

Old photos from the first year

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Apple Wine

We still have a couple of buckets of apples in the shed. They were not particularly tasty apples, a bit tart, which is disappointing considering that we had to wait a couple of years to get more than two on the tree. The three fruit trees that are outside our back door were planted before we bought the house so I don't know all the varieties, the one on the right is the apple, the middle tree is a Victoria plum and the left hand tree I think is a pear tree but it has never produced any fruit.

Today's recipe is APPLE WINE.

Take 6 lb. of good apples, remove any bruised areas.
Clean them, grate them, (compost) bin the cores.
Soak the grated apples in 1 gallon of water for 24 hours, stirring occasionally, then crush the pulp with your hands and strain, muslin is best. An old, clean pair of tights would do the job. The juice really needs strained again to get the juice nice and clear, use a jelly bag or use your imagination!
The juice now needs heating, bring it to the boiling point then let it simmer for 5 minutes. Measure out 4 lb. of sugar into a brewing barrel and add the hot apple juice, stir well to dissolve the sugar. Then add 1 lb. of raisins, cut up into pieces. Once the mix is cool enough (blood temperature) you can add the yeast. Cover and ferment for 14 days, after which strain and bottle.

A proper wine yeast is the best if you have a home brew shop handy, or you can get it online. I haven't used "The Home Brew Shop" but they stock loads of equipment and the prices look reasonable. They also have recipes and information on the site.

Get brewing, you'll never look back! Healthy, cheap drinks that can serve with pride!!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bold plans

The snow is away, the weather feels warmer, do I chance it? The gardening bug is back, the shiver down the spine, the excitment of.........what to grow? what to plant where?

Okay, so the snow will likely come back and even the polytunnel couldn't ripen tomatoes last summer, but I am always filled with naive optimism at the slightest bit of sunshine. The plan so far is to fill the garden with as much food as possible, given that food prices are going higher and higher. Maybe an acre or two of bio-fuels, I could cover the roofs, maybe vertical growing? think of the wall space!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! no, no, no, a swig of homemade ginger beer and ....calm down.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse, basil again in the polytunnel (soak the leaves in olive oil, makes the oil gorgeous), beans in tubs in the secret garden, put all the roses together in the (only) sunny patch.

Also more herbs and medicinal plants for my soap making. I had a thornapple pop up all on its own in the polytunnel last year, I might throw some more seeds around the garden, not for herbal soapmaking purposes, would that poison you or just send you tripping?

Lets all wish for a perfect growing season, long and fruitful and worthy of all the hard work we put in!