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Monday, 28 February 2011

Left holding the babies...

The big 30 has arrived for Claire (well on Weds actually) and as one of her previous blog has said she's off galivanting with her partner in the camper - Lucky girl!!

Before she goes, she delivered 16 rather tiny, fluffy, feathered balls to my door, we have 12 table birds, 2 tiny little black chicks and 2 tiny little multicoloured birds, don't ask me what breed they are, I have no idea, well not until they have grown a bit more anyway!

Unfortunately I have to give them back at the end of the week and it's not as though they'll stay tiny forever, I have to man up and admit that they ain't all mine, and the six that are, will be on my dinner table in about 18 weeks!

Yep that's right, like I said 12 of them are table birds, which means we feed them as much as possible, get them nice and fat ready to make a dish out of them!

Now I know some people would be dead against this, but why buy a water injected chicken, thats probably lived in a tiny enclosure from tesco when you can raise your own, knowing exactly what kind of life they have led?
I tried it for the first time last year with two table birds, (conveniently called Sage and Onion), and OMG, amazing!
The meat tasted so different, more ....chickeny! Its hard to describe, just far yummier than any chicken I have bought from a shop!

Now just to name them......I'm thinking........Jalfrezi, kiev, balti...something along those lines!



Thursday, 24 February 2011

Time to start recycling........

My mum calls me her "little Eco Warrior",now I'm not sure I'd call myself that but I do try and do my bit.

Take growing your own veg, there are sooo many things you can recycle and reuse, take this for example:

I'm all for being frugal (though not quite the supermarket bin raider)
so, for the next few weeks, if loo rolls start going missing............
It wasn't me!


Twitter: @Tikobear

Part 1 Chicken Keeping - Beginners!

Which Hen’s are right for you?

Firstly you need to work out how much space you are going to need or want to give to your new little friends. Under the 2006 animal welfare act the minimum space is a square meter of run space for every chicken that you own, but of course the more space you give them the happier they are in my experience.

Secondly, how many eggs would you like. If the answer is just enough for your household then 3-4 chickens should be a sensible number, but if your planning on supplying friends and neighbours etc with eggs then obviously you’ll need more egg layers!

Nearly every breed of large poultry has been created in a smaller version, known as bantams. Bantams will eat less but will also lay smaller eggs. But they are a great option if you are just starting out or have a limited amount of space. That’s how we started out, a trio of Lavender pekins.

If your main priority is to get eggs every day, then I would suggest you go for a hybrid;

Black Star will lay approx 300+ per year
Bluebelle will lay approx 250+ per year
Speckled Star will lay approx 270+ per year
Sussex Star will lay approx 260+ per year

We’ve got 2 Black Stars, 1 Bluebelle and 1 Speckled Star amongst our flock. The Bluebelle appears to lay fantastic double yolkers!!

In our next Chicken instalment we’ll cover housing, but the above information will give you something to get started on thinking about!

All the best – thanks for reading!


This is our dearly departed Buju - He was a lavendar peking bantam cockerel, he is very missed! Although he has been replaced by our rather stunning Dark lavender Peking Cockerel called Keith! Pictures will be up soon!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cornwall, Chicks, Sowing and Bottling!

Ok so this time next week I’ll be 30!

Blimey! Where has the time gone! Anyhow as a special birthday treat Spen is taking me down to Cornwall. Can’t wait!

We are going to have a wander around Bodmin Moor before going onto our campsite called Mena. Spen found this campsite (I had been searching but nothing I could find was open at this time of year). It mentioned that there were chickens and pigs on the campsite and he knew that was the one for us! How well he knows me!

On the big day itself we are going to the Eden Project which I’m very excited about! Never been before – I’m sure I’ll be blogging about it on our return!

And we are going for dinner at Rick Stein's Café, the sample menu looks fab and I’m sure we will be very hungry after walking around the Eden Project all day!

But before all of that happens we have 8 eggs which should be hatching in the next few days in the incubator, Some Gold and Silver Sebrights and some silver Appenzeller’s. They look a bit like punk rockers – they will fit in perfectly with the rest of our mismatched backyard chooks!

A trio of Appenzeller chickens of the Spitzhauben type. The pair on the left are males, and a hen is on the right. Owned by Alice Wilkman of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

And we have some seed sowing to do and bottling of wine! Best get to it!

All the best!


PS that’s after we got to the Chipping Norton Social Media Club #5 (Blog Night) tonight., busy busy busy! That’s the way we like it!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Facebook and Jamie Oliver!

After a little bit of thought we have joined facebook! It’s such a great resource for information we just couldn’t resist!

Please come and add us up as a friend!

We are already chatting to people in various different groups on line and some of the blogs we’ve stumbled across are just fantastic! We’ll be posting a bit more about them soon and telling you which ones we think are the best to follow (as well as us of course!)

There’s also an interesting article in the Telegraph today;

Jamie Oliver is joining forces with Homebase to launch a range of grow-your-own seed, plants and outdoor cooking equipment. Who knows maybe a tv series is in the pipeline as well, this would open gardening and growing your own up to a massive audience who wouldn’t normally think about it. Fair play to the man – anything that brings more attention to growing your own at home is a good thing!

Anyway – enough from me – I’ve just finished my lunch break so best get on with some work!

All the best!


This is a picture of our frizzle cockerel called 'Herbert' I love him but Spen thinks he's a bit of a freak chicken!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Lemon Drizzle Cake

So we were busy yesterday morning, 18 cupcakes and 1 lemon drizzle cake all baked before 930am!

Here's the recipe for Lemon Drizzle Cake - simply gorgeous!

Lemon Drizzle Cake


6oz Self Raising flour
6oz caster sugar
6oz margarine
3 eggs (hopefully you’ve got some happy hens in the garden laying them for you!)
1 lemon (or 2 if you like it strong)
2 tablespoons of Icing sugar

Pre-Heat the oven to 180 degrees C

You'll need a 2lb loaf tin, makes it easier if you have a greaseproof liner, but you can always use the Jamie Oliver method of greaseproof paper lining, and run a sheet under the tap for a few seconds and then gently (the water makes it more fragile) line your tin with it.

It’s the same as a normal sponge mix, add the margarine to the caster sugar and mix thoroughly until you get a smooth pale yellow paste. I find that the longer you mix the caster sugar and margarine the better!

Gradually add the eggs and self raising flour to the mixture a bit at a time.
Grate some lemon rind and add to the mixture with the juice of half a lemon (save the other half for later).

Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, it will obviously vary for different ovens, for my fan assisted oven its usually between 25 and 35 minutes.
When it has cooled, but before you turn it out of the tin, poke some holes in the topof the cake with a skewer.

Heat up the other half of the lemon juice and dissolve two or three tablespoons of icing sugar in it.

Pour the liquid into the holes on top of the cake and let it soak through.

Ta-dah! Done! Lemmon Drizzle Cake! Enjoy!

I know whenever I make it the cake doesn’t last for long so make sure you treat yourself to a piece first!

Hope everyone's sunday is going well!

Next job for us is to sort out the seed box!

What to grow or not to grow is the question, actually the question is how much can we fit in or not fit in, a bit like Alys Fowler, we want our garden to be productive and beautiful!

Speak again soon!!!


Monday, 14 February 2011

Home Brew Anyone???

So time for some Home Brew!! Again this is the first time we have tried doing this so it really could go one of two ways – good or bad! Lol!

The one we have chosen is from Wilkinsons.

Its a Youngs Brew Chardonnay Style Wine Kit.

It should be ready in 3-4 weeks which will time beautifully with my 30th Birthday hopefully and it should make 6 bottles – more than enough for a birthday celebration (especially as Spen doesn’t drink wine because he’s allergic to it!)

The instructions that came along with this kit are pretty clear. It does say that a Thermometer and a Hydrometer are not required but optional, I do think I may purchase these before my next batch is started (dependant on how well this comes out of course!).

The wine was started on the 31st January and over a period of 7 to 20 days fermentation should be complete.

“Completion of fermentation is indicated when “bubbles” have stopped passing through the airlock. We recommend that you check the specific gravity with a hydrometer: a constant reading of 0.995 or below over two consecutive days will confirm that fermentation is complete”

So now we are just waiting for fermentation to be compelte and I’ll post another blog when it is.

This home brewing malarkey is quite exciting! Can’t wait to see what happens!!

Best love


PS also today we had 3 chicks hatch out under our broody hen Pat (shes a stunning Black Silkie) Check out the video here - we'll post some more info on the new additions in the next few days!!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Tom and Barbara????

Self suffiency, can it actually be done? Well in a sense a degree!

Myself and my partner have grown veggies successfully for the last few years, either in pots or small raised beds. We also shared an allotment last yr with a friend (not recommended if both you and the friend are strong willed!)

We care for 8 lovely hens and one very singful cockeral, who give us enough fresh eggs to feed my family of four and half my friends!

This year we have moved to a new house with massive front & back cleared gardens - a complete blank canvas! Awesome!

Now both of us are no way the expert gardener/grower etc, we use the method - trial and error! I don't have the time to be faffing about too much about things, I don't care if my veggies are beautiful, I just care that they are edible, fresh and practically free!

Now we just need to get started........

Mel x

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Silkie and day old chick

This is our first chick of 2011! It's a little silkie hatched roughly 12-15 hours ago - time not completely known because it was a natural hatch under mum.  How exciting!!!!!!

Mums still sat on another 4 eggs so we'll see what happens to them, but we have an incubator full as well at the moment so it will be chick city at our place for a few weeks!  yay!!!


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

hmmmm.... bread!

Ok so over the weekend we were attempting a little baking.  Now I’m not entirely sure if I should be ashamed of this or not but in the past I’ve always used the trusty bread machine I rescued from my parents house.  I do however find that sometimes this bread comes out very heavy.  So I thought I would try the hard way and bake a loaf by hand, all these problems on tv make it look so easy!

So I went for a granary loaf because although the seeds and stuff get stuck in your teeth it really is such a lovely taste – and great with Pate (which I had in the fridge from the local farm shop Wykham Park

All the ingredients when into the bowl just as the recipe said, started mixing it all up, transferred the mixture onto floured surface and started kneading.  My word it’s ALOT harder than it looks on the tv, the recipe said to knead for at least 10 mins – and by the end of the 10 minutes I was knackered! Who needs the gym when you can make bread.

Popped it back into the bowl and covered the top with a shower cap (hairy bikers tip!).  Now here is where I believe I made my fatal mistake on this first occasion, I didn’t put any moisture on the inside of the shower cap.  So when I put the bowlful of mixture into the airing cupboard to rise for the 1 ½ hours recommended it dried out. 

I thought the mixture looked a bit dry and dodgy to be honest but I put it on a tray ad baked it anyway.  Well after it had been baked I tried to bite into a piece and nearly broke my teeth!  Oh dear me – it had gone wrong!  The chickens really liked it though – I will try and make some more again this week – keep tuned for instalment 2 – it can only get better surely?!

All the best!


Thursday, 3 February 2011


This is my (Claire) introduction to our (Mel and I) new project.  Mel and I have known each other forever (quite literally), In the last few months both of us have reached the ‘30’ mark in our lives and although I’m only speaking for myself at the moment but I honestly believe there has to be more too life than this, the daily grind and all that. 

Mel has just moved to a house with a massive garden and so is working with pretty much a blank canvas and has a fiancée and two lovely children both boys.  And I live with my partner and have decided to stick with chickens rather than children and am starting my vegetable patches afresh because they didn’t quite work right last year due to rushing things!

We are both keen gardeners and chicken keepers but we are beginners on so many levels and this blog will be a journey through the trials and tribulations of being as self sufficient as possible.   We are going to be trying all sorts from growing vegetables, to chicken keeping, to homemade goodies, bread making, wine brewing and plenty more along the way!

So if you would like to join us please feel free, grab a spade and jump into the great vegetable patch of life!! According to us anyhow!!

Best Love!

Claire & Mel