Watermelon

Today’s harvest is a clutch of butternut squashes- these are harvested perhaps a little prematurely but I thought it may trigger the plants to set more fruit and there’s plenty more green ones on the vine. The squashes are a mixture of a named variety and some seed saved from a butternut from the Market and they seem to be performing as well as each other.
Excitingly, we’ve also just harvested our first water melon!!!! This one has been green and ‘hollow sounding’ for weeks, but I’ve been worried about harvesting too early. The results are very pleasing- the favour is deliciously sweet and fresh, I’m amazed that this fruited up here in the yorkshire hills🙂
Most of the seeds inside the melon are still a tan colour so it could perhaps have done with a few more days. The only problem now is that I let the squash and pumpkin vines swamp the melon vines, so I’m not sure if we’ll have more fruit, but here’s hoping and we’ll be trying harder next year. Overall, very happy.

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Using grass clippings to heat your home

Whilst looking at the different curing times of wood for firewood, I stumbled across the following barmy, but quite fascinating link: http://mb-soft.com/public3/globalzl.html
The web page describes how to build essentially a large wooden washing drum to heat your home. Its powdered by grass clippings, saw dust or just about any organic matter and can be self-built for around £150. A unit the size of an upright piano can apparently heat a 4 bed house. Its incredibly well thought out and detailed but certainly barmy and defiantly worth a read.
Today’s been spent cutting wood and mowing lawns. Now it’s time for tea, as always- from the polytunnel with plenty of courgette and starwberry’s.

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Wet, wind and turbines

Well July turned out to be quite a damp month and August has started the same way, which is making me very glad that we have the polytunnel. Tonights tea will be garden vegetable soup or risotto followed by strawberry’s and mint cream.
As I write this, I’m sat by the glass barn doors watching a kestral struggling to hover still in the afternoon breeze. Listening to the wind around the chimney just strengthens my interest in micro-generation. The UK government has just launched a generous energy buy-back scheme, called the Feed In Tarrif (FIT), for domestic energy producers. With our wind speeds and the governments 20year fixed FIT prices, a 10kw turbine would pay for itself in 4 years and then we’d be making 10k per annum for the following 16 years- with no electricity bills and with our livestock (and assuming no mortgage, a big assumption!), the small holding would be almost 100% self sufficient. And the price for this day dream? A measley 40k. Ouch. We’ll be courting slaesmen over the next month or so to see what finance options are avalble and to see if it’s feasible for us. It’s a bit of a pipe dream at this stage, but you never know what’s out there and there’s no harm in looking…

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The new ‘ancient’ arrivals

Here at the farm on the hill, we’ve just had a very exciting weekend with the delivery of our first ‘real’ livestock.  On Sunday we finally took delivery of 10 rare breed Soay sheep. very exciting!

Soay sheep are a rare breed, smaller than other domestic breeds and apparently much closer to the wild ‘mouflon’ sheep. Some have patterning but most are dark coated. Despite being quite small (which could be seen as an advantage for handling) they have some great attributes:

  1. They don’t need shearing as they naturally molt. However, the wool can be collected by ‘dagging’ if needed for spinning (we’ll also be trying this!).
  2. The meat is much leaner, richer, more ‘gamy’ than other breeds and apparently has some similarities with venison- we can’t wait to try it!
  3. The sheep are quite personable and very bright eyed.
  4. They’re rare and by keeping them, your doing your bit to keep the breed alive
  5. They’re horned- both males and females, and this also makes them an attractive breed.

So, we’ve taken delivery of 10 sheep: 4 breeding ewes, 3 ewe lambs, 1 older ram lamb (looks great and huge already), 1 smaller ram lamb (for the table, later in the year). They have around 7 acres to roam in and seem completely at home in their hill side home🙂

We’ll be breeding from these and of course eating the odd one, preferably at no younger than 2 years- although we might have to try the ram lamb this year out of curiosity…

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Cucumber glut

Well, we’ve been away for a week and in that time the polytunnel has turned into a veritable jungle. The amount of courgettes and cucumbers that have set is ashtonishing. I’ve put some gherkins onto pickle, which takes a good number of days. I’ll post the recipie in a few days.

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Courgette review

Well it’s that time of year. We’ve got to the stage where courgettes are being smuggled into every dish. They are delicious and we’re big fans of deep fried stuffed-courgette flowers, but we’ve discovered that not all courgettes are created equally.
This year we have only three plants, 2 ‘traditional’ types and a round type. The round type looks good, but the fruits don’t grow to a good size and the flesh is watey and no way near as rich as standard types. However, they are good with the flowers still attached and deep-fried whole. This round variety also has quite a rambling habit.
All in all, standard courgttes have far more flavour, are more prolific and grow larger. It’s good to try variation (we have over 12 tom varieties this year) but round cougettes are not one we’ll be growing again…

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Small scale silage making with lawn clippings

Here on the farm we’ve got a lot of paths/lawns to mow, which has the benefit of generating huge amounts of lawn clippings. We’re using these as quick as they come for mulching various veggies, making hay or just topping up the compost bin. However, this week we’re experimenting with making silage and you can to. To make silage on a small scale, you’ll need:
1 a lawn mower
2 a lawn
3 a dust bin
4 heavy duty plastic bags
5 time
So, after mowing the lawn, gather your clippings. Incidentially, it’s best to do this when the lawn is a little damp so there’s enough moisture for the curing process. Line the bin with one of the plastic bags and add the clippings- then climb on top and stamp down the vegetation into the bag. at this stage you want to push all the air out and tie-up the bag to keep out as much air as possible. Once tied, the grass will expand as the down-pressure is released and this will give the bag the impression of being vaccum packed. Now, it’s time to leave the bags until they’re needed in the winter.
The idea is that the grass begins to rot in anerobic conditions by bacteria, essentially pickling the grass and preserving the goodness until it’s needed, later in the year.

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