Thursday, 28 March 2013

Sourdough Bread

Making a sourdough has been on my to-do list for a while and I finally got round to it this week.
I like the idea of fermented bread as its a healthier option on the gut.
We don't buy any bread ever, so I make bread at least five days a week. It has become more of a treat then a staple food. Once its out of the oven, a loaf or batch of buns doesn't survive long in our house.
We stopped packing sandwiches or bread in lunches for playschool and school. They never eat them, so it just was a waste although it was hard to move away from societies norms. We pack slices of meat and cheese instead which they do enjoy and the occasional bun or ginger bread man as a treat along with fruit, yogurt, raisins and a drink.

Back to the bread! I made a sourdough starter last week. This involves put flour, water and our own honey into a bowl, mixing till its like a thick pancake mix. I then cover it with a breathable clean cloth and put it up over the warm range.

I stirred it everyday and by day 4-5 it started to small like stale beer and the whey or liquid separated on the surface. I know it was ready!

I stirred it again and took out half of the starter into a large baking bowl. I put more water and flour to refill or feed the original starter and put it into the fridge. It will need to be feed every two weeks or so to stay active with yeast.

I then added more water and flour into the baking bowl and left it overnight in the warm kitchen. This dough is known as the starter sponge.

By the morning, as you can see it was very elastic and spongy. To this and added butter, olive oil, honey, sea salt and strong flour.

I don't measure ingredient when making bread as I make so much of it that I can tell by the dough if it needs more of something. So I have no idea how much of anything I used.

 Here I divided the dough into two loaves and left them till the evening (5-6hrs) to rise. They did most of the rising in the oven.
Very tasty!

I spent much of today bottling four gallons of ginger beer. It was so good that I was drinking it while I bottled. Very promising as these things usually improve with age.

Oh, the best news of all this week is that the blue cards are back for the department for the cow and calf. So next week I will be booking him in to the butcher for the following Monday.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

March Planning

As with this time of year ,there is much planning for the coming season.

It is very cold at the moment, so the veg garden is a few weeks behind. We have had frost every night, so no growth in the garden. We had most of the spring work done by Feb. Always best to stay ahead of the weeds and the work. Otherwise it can be off putting as it builds up. The poly tunnel is doing better. I had planted one side of it for spring last November. I put in onions, brood beans and peas. I had then manured heavily the other side. That is now planted with three varieties and beans, many varieties of tomatoes, four varieties of peas, courgettes and pumpkins. As we save much of our own seed, we use mainly heirloom varieties. In the propagators I have three trays of sweet corn and some peppers.
The outside beds were covered last October with fresh manure. That has broke down well since and we have dug it in. This acts like a mulch preventing weeds growing and protecting the bed underneath during the winter. It heats up the soil as it breaks down. We noticed a large increase of worm population as we dug it over in spring. Always a positive sign.

We completed our orchard last week. We leveled and fenced a paddock about a third of an acre and planted a dozen fruit trees. We had planted twenty fruit tree over the past two years, but these are planted all over the place mainly along fence lines. We then spread grass seed. We hope to move the bees and chickens into this area. I am feed up of chicken poo on my front door step!

We lost one hive during the winter,  it requeened late due to failed mating flights due to weather. Its bee number were too low to pull through even with all the extra feeding. Then a mouse took up residence to finish the few remaining bees. This would only happen in a week colony that can't defend themselves. That leaves us with two hives left. I have been feeding them for the last six weeks as spring time puts pressure on them. The queen starts to lay and the winter bees start to die off. Their need for food increases massively with the brood and a failing number of foragers, but with this weather they would not be able to forage.
I plan on putting extra brood boxes on each hive and split them in May. But with everything with bees, it will depend on the weather.
We have a fr bull calf who the boys named 'rex'. He is nearly six months now. The cow and calf were herd tested a few weeks ago. When his blue card (passport) comes back from the department, he will going into the freezer. And I can't wait. Calves are so cute when they are born but bull calves quickly grow up to be a pain. Just thinking of the meat helps me tolerate him. He will charge me when he is in the field. I need a stick with me any time I handle him. The kids aren't let near him.
He is eating as much as the cow now, and we really feel that. He is taking so much milk that we have occasionally had to get milk from our neighbours that milk a jersey also. So his time is up. The fact that he has been on milk for the six months should mean that he has enough meat on him to hang for a few weeks. The last calf we sent to our butcher (6mth jersey bull) he was able to hang him for 4weeks. Yum!
We purchased the calf from a dairy at a month old. He will be killed at our local butcher, a few miles away.
We still have a sheep in the freezer, but we will be glad to add veal and later pork and bacon.

We are half way through completing a cow yard and pig run. I'm very excited about this. This means that when its finished and with the calf gone, we will be buying in three weaner pigs to fatten during the summer. I am excited about this as its been two years since we have had pigs. We will be feeding the surplus milk, whey, veg waste, restaurant food waste and rolled oats.
We know lots of people with restaurants that have asked us to take away their food bins as it costs them money to have them collected. Win win for all.
I have 24 eggs in the incubator at the moment. They are due to hatch on the 3rd of April. A friend of my uncle give them to us. He said that they are black rocks and Sussex. The fox took a few hens over the winter and we are down to six at the moment. Not nearly enough for our needs, but I have resisted buying eggs in the shop. I would be nice to see a broody hen with her chicks in the orchard next year.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Toddlers Sleep Bag & Apron

Our little girl is out growing her old sleep bag and I needed another one during laundry rotation, so I started one last night.
 I took a pinafore dress that she has as a template and just made it much longer!
I had lovely kids fabric for another project that I never got around to starting. And I found in the back of the hot-press a  mattress protector and a fleece. They were never used but have been in the hot-press for a few years. As good an excuse as any to cut them up.
So last night I made a template and cut out the pattern. The boys loved the pattern so much so that they wanted one also, so I cut out the starting of an an apron for them.
I find once I start something I generally finish it, so the fact that they were cut and ready to go I knew that I'd get them done. Otherwise that fabric could sit in its box for another few months.

It being Sunday and the weather been miserable, we had a house day which give me plenty of time to get started after dinner. I don't know really how long they took to make as with kids, I sit down and start, an audience forms, then offers of help! Then the urgent damages for a drink, toilet paper, kisses etc. So it took much of the evening.
But I also managed to start a sourdough starter and a ciabatta bigga for tomorrow.

So I cut up the mattress protector as inner padding and the fleece as the internal shell. So its very warm and cuddly soft. She'll love it!
I machine the three layers together and then added the zip. I fixed up around the neck/arm area and then sewed it together. The thickness of it was a challenge for my little sewing machine but she pulled through.

After that I tidied up the hems on the apron and added the red strings. Very quick and easy in comparison

I took photos but my iphone has decided to retire. I think I'll be phone shopping tomorrow! After I eat the ciabatta of course..

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Toddler Dress

This is a dress that I made for my little girl. There were just three parts to cut out for the pattern. The back is simple with three buttons. It was a very straight forward pattern but I would not have been able for anything complicated. It would only put me off trying again for life. 
I choose a size pattern of 2-3yrs, so she will get plenty of use of it during the summer.
It took me about 4hrs from start to finish.

This is my little girl showing off her new dress. I was very pleased with my first attempt. I just hope she doesn't outgrow it too quickly. The great thing about kids clothes is how brave you can be when choosing the fabric. The more bold and funky the pattern the better.

Next project that I'm starting tonight, well, I'll cut out the pattern for a start is a toddler sleep bag . Fingers crossed for how it will turn out.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Homemade lce-cream

I make my own ice-cream from all the extra cream that we find ourselves with. It is so straight forward that I thought I would share the recipe. My aunt give me the basic recipe but I have adjusted it over time as I find the original recipe too sweet.

Original Recipe
1 tin of condensed milk
500ml cream
4 eggs with yolk and white separated
125g castor sugar
Flavorings ie. vanilla, berry fruits, crushed choc bars

Adjusted Recipe
1 tin of condensed milk
1 litre cream
6 eggs with yolk and white separated
Vanilla extract

I made the adjusted recipe today and it produced about 3litres of ice-cream. It uses up plenty if excess eggs and cream. Its is very rich, light and fluffy but not sickly sweet. Our kids love it and one batch should last us about two weeks.

I take out three bowls and one cream, egg white and yolk into the separate bowls. I whisk them till light and fluffy. I added the vanilla extract to the yolk. I take my ice-cream bowl from our freezer.
This ice-cream bowl is frozen solid, I put on the lid attachment and pour in my ingredients through the hole in its lid. It beats it lightly while freezing it. It takes about 20mins to be ready. By then it is a soft ice-cream. I scope it out into individual pots and into the freezer ready for use.
I have this ice-cream maker about three years, but only recently found it and put it to use. Before this I would mix all three ingredients together and pour straight into pots for the freezer. The ice-cream  maker allows it to hold its lightness while freezing. It really is yum!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Our jersey cow

This is our jersey cow, which our 4yr old son has named 'alley'. She is the third jersey cow that we have owed. We bought her from a dairy last year. She was a cull cow, so would have been sent to the factory. She is ten yrs old, quiet old for a dairy cow. She was been culled due to her age, and with that age the ligaments in her bag(udder) are gone loose. You can see from the photo that her bag hangs low, low being belong the hock. This for her is due to age and from being a high producer, it puts extra strain on her bag. When the bag 'drops' like this, it is more prone to getting damaged from being stood on etc.
She was priced according to her bag and age, so we couldn't pass on her.
The great benefit of getting an older cow, is that usually they are so quiet and know their job very well. Alley is so quite and lovely to handle that it makes milking a pleasure.

This photo shows her after I have hand milked her. I usually get about 7litres twice a day. We use about 5litres a day in the house as drinking/cooking milk. We soak rolled oats every day with the warm milk to make a porridge for the hens, which they love and it had resulted in higher egg production. We also leave out a bowl of milk for our two dogs and one cat. The rest of the milk I bring into the house and skim the cream or sometimes if I don't mind all the washing up involved I might put it through the cream separator. I save the cream for making ice cream and to have pouring cream for coffee and cooking. I used to make butter, but until I find an easier way, I'm just buying it in the shop.
This is my milking bucket after the mornings milking, lots of froth and cream. And a soft cheese straining, great when salted with herbs added. Yum!


So i have been trying my hand at wine making since last October, and beer and stout since the New Year. It has been successful if alcohol content is your end goal. It certainly will get you drunk, very drunk! But unfortunately I need more than just alcohol %, taste would be a help.
I have come to the realization that just because I had a bumper crop of beetroot, it doesn't justify making a wine out of them. Beetroot wine taste, well, like beetroot. Crab apple wine, that tasted like cider, a strong cider, but very drinkable and no hangover, Yippee!
So this season I intend to try my hand at many more recipes. I have made batches of ginger beer, that was very successful and didn't last long. The beer is already drank, all 5 gallons of it! and I have another 5 gallons of stout maturing in the bottle. And 4 gallons of ginger beer using a different recipe in the fermenting bucket. I will bottle that off next week when I gather more bottles. And put in a lager into the fermenting bin when that is freed up. But it pays to let them mature, as the taste improves so much.