Monthly Archives: December 2011

Peg Loom

My father-in-law kindly made me this awesome peg loom for Christmas. (home made presents are the best. We did well this year, 2 Quilos, a boot rack and the loom!).

Last night I tried it out. To set up the warp, you thread string through the bottom of each peg, then weave what ever you like round the pegs. When you have filed the pegs you simply lift them out of the holes and push the weave down the string.
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I used up all of the slightly felted pieces of fleece that I had kicking around. Starting by pulling them out into long pieces (technically called roving). Then weaving them onto the pegs. Afterwards I washed it and slighted felted it. Then threaded fringes through. The loom works brilliantly ( thanks Trev!). Weaving is so quick! I am going to make some ‘bags for life’ next.

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Christmas Eve soup

On Christmas eve I never really fancy eating that much. I like to make a bit of room for the feast day, so we tend to stick to fruit and veg and lots of water. Today I have decided to make the most of the fresh veg we still have growing. Chard, leeks, Pac choi and some stored onions, I also have a couple I’d shop bought carrots to use up.

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Along with the goose heart and neck from our Christmas goose. 99% Sencemeadow produce. My mum has also provided me with some wonderful winter herbs from her garden. Thyme, bay and sage.

So here’s the method. Put on a Joni Mitchell CD, I find something like the greatest hit or Blue works best with this recipe, then roughly chop the heart, half the onion, half the chard, the carrots and a leek or two. Heat some olive oil, brown the onions and some of the winter herbs, add the heart and neck, brown. Deglaze the pan with some sherry, ( I am using marrow wine). Add a chicken stock cube and enough water to cover. Turn the hob low, cover and leave for between 30-90 mins.

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Strain liquid. Feed soft veg to the chickens and then put the heart and liquid back in the pan

If the meat on the neck is loose pull it off and then throw the bone away, if not leave the whole thing in. Finely chop all remaining veg, add to the stock 5-10 mins before serving. Taste and then play with the flavour. You can add more wAter if you want it thinner and pre cooked noodles I’d you want something more filling.


Venison part 2

I am smoking the venison today, using oak chips.

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I built a small fire inside an incinerator, and then place another bin with a hole in it inside it. I put the oak chips in the second bin, and hung the meat inside

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It’s now 2 days later and we gave eaten some of the venison cold. On reflection I would say the brine either needs a bit less salt or the joints needs to be soaked in fresh water before smoking. I think this is a great in-between method but I would also like to try slow cold smoking and then leaving it to air dry for a few months.


Christmas meat

Today we slaughtered the Christmas goose, as generations of our ancestors must have done. Historically goose was the meat eaten by most people, and turkey was only eaten by the very rich. I think this is because Geese are hardy grazers that basically fatten themselves. This was the second goose we despatched and it was very quick and stress free. Weirdly this one didn’t weight any more than the one we despatched a few months ago. 3.7 kg.


Venison in Brine

It snowed today. For the first time this Winter. Just a light dusting, but enough to let you know that it is December.

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Its been a very meaty day. We despatched two ducks and a chicken this morning. All have been very slow grown (8 months), and have achieved excellent weights.

On Thursday this week, I am going to a party at my brothers house, so I thought I’d try making some charcuterie. I have a large Fallow deer leg in the freezer (not road kill), which I have been wanting an excuse to use. I have read up various methods and have amalgamated them to produce my own version. I am going to brine it for three days and then cold oak smoke it for a day. I hope to take cold smoked slices to the party.

The brine recipe was as follows ( made up by me)
400g of salt
100g of brown sugar
2 litres of water
A large slug of cider
Hand fulls of juniper berries, cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and peppercorns.

The meat is very cold, I have pierced it all over. The brine is cooling now. I will marry the two later tonight.

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Incubating chickens eggs

It’s nearly Christmas, so me and some little elves I know are making some chickens. If I am totally honest the elves are doing all of the work, I just lent the equipment and supplied the fertile or ‘fur-tall’ (as the elves call it) eggs.

The elves borrowed the incubator about a week ago and have made a great job of setting up the eggs. 37.5 degrees for 21 days. Turning the eggs a few times a day.

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7 days have gone by so I went round to check on there progress. By shining a bright light under the eggs you can see what is developing.

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Success all 7 eggs are fur-tall. The elves rejoiced!

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December Dreaming (Stock take)

What a funny time of year it is. We get up and its dark, we come home and its dark. The days are cold and short. The trees are bare, the rivers freeze and everything natural seems to sleep. Winter is upon us, but compared to last year it has been soo mild. The animals seem pretty chipper, Mac and Flow are still sun bathing in  the middle of the day, and the drinking water has only frozen over a few times. Last year we had thick snow by now, so we are feeling lucky.

The darkness, and lack of outdoor living do bring my mood down a little. It seems so much more healthy to be outside all evening, turning the soil and tending the plants and animals. Something in our DNA longs for this. The winter forces us inside, and ultimately (sadly) in front of the idiots lantern. I  am knitting and spinning, but not as much as I would like. I have taken up swimming 3 times a week to keep my body fit and healthy and ready for the activity that it will no doubt have to be up for in the spring and summer. I am managing to swim a mile or so.work stress and swimming seem to be good for me, I am 1/2 stone lighter than in my summer skin.

The above and below points were both discussede last year.

I am writing to track a little of what has happened to our winter fruit and veg stocks. Amazingly we still have fresh salad. The leaves that Becs planted in the polytunnel, are living on. We have picked salad by torch-light for the past few nights. The leeks are fantastic, and we are eating 4-6 leeks a week. The onions didn’t store that well, but we still have plenty that have made it through the autumn. The cooking apples are fine, but the eating apples turned late November. The french beans have frozen fine, and are lasting but have lost a lot of their joi de vive through the freezing process, and I am wondering if I will do them again next year. We still have loads of raspberries.

I am still able to use our own pumpkins as well. So in terms of veg, we are still pretty much self sufficient. In terms of fruit, I am able to supplement our packed lunches with pots of raspberries and rhubarb, and cook baked apples stuffed with cinnamon and brown sugar in the evenings.  We have run out of roasted tomatoes sauce..This was really useful, and I will make loads more of this next year.Our shopping bills are still lowish.

We have meat coming out of our ears but some of this is due to the amazing roadkill find.  We are getting 2 – 3 eggs a day.

Christmas is coming very fast, my sloe gin maybe the only homemade present I have to give this year, which is a bit rubbish, but still….this way of  life is marathon, not a sprint….there is always next Christmas.