Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Egging

Did you get the pun?

Well, despite me admitting to not being bothered about the hype and build up to the big event today I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing scenes from the Royal Wedding this morning and throughout the afternoon.

Being the Royal Wedding, it was only fair that we gave our own Princesses some Royal treatment.

What more does a chicken want than half of a cabbage?

The girls went free-ranging for a while, and we had to chase away one of the neighbourhood cats who was eyeing up and waiting to pounce on Lesley and Geraldine. Both Amy and I chased it right out of the garden, hopefully it won't come back any time soon!!

Lesley got a bit fed up with the papparazzi style treatment of a Princess.

 Whilst, walking up to the eglu this afternoon I could not resist taking a picture of the growing leaves on all of the plants and trees. The Bramley apple tree is looking great again. The crop last year was extremly large, fingers crossed for the same again this year.

Amy checks for eggs....

I am sorry that I did not post yesterday but Amy had the small matter of her driving test and I am really glad to say she passed!!

Have a really pleasant evening to top off this wonderful day!


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

All things Chicken!

Hi all,
I have needed to buy a new shade for our eglu for a while now, and when I saw this gorgeous blue colour in the Omlet sale at half price I couldn't resist! The old green shade was looking worn and I think this new blue shade really brightens the garden up and looks great against the green eglu! I think our girls deserved a treat for all their hard work!
Have a nice day!

Royal Lunch

This Friday sees the highly and eagerly anticipated wedding of the world's most famous Aston Villa fan wed..Kate Middleton.
Although, I have not been too bothered by all of the hype leading up to this Friday's ceremony, I think that if you are going to celebrate it then you should celebrate it properly and patriotically.

Today we have been busy in the Kitchen making some light snacks with of a hearty British origin.

We had some sausagemeat in the fridge... So what better to make than homemade Lincolnshire Sausage Rolls.

I am not ashamed to use pre-made puff pastry. Pastry is so easy to make, but to make it well is another thing. If you can get a long to a good supermarket then it will be ready for you to take home and roll. No cleaning up afterwards either which is a massive advantage.

Amy is today's hand model because she has pretty hands.

1 x egg
Pre made puff Pastry (or make your own, entirely up to you.)
450g Lincolnshire Sausagemeat (available from all good butchers)
1tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Take the ready made puff pastry and place on a clean surface. Either use a rolling pin or your clean hands to evenly spread out the pastry. It should be about 3mm thick when fully rolled.

Take a sharp knife and cut the rolled out pastry in half.

Split the sausagemeat in to two roughly equal parts. Put each sausage meat in the centre of the pastry halves. Use your fingers to mould the sausagemeat so that it looks like a long sausage down the centre of the pastry. Don't forget, if you don't have sausagemeat you can use regular sausages and just place them in the middle of the pastry.

They look gross at this point.

 Fold over the pastry and use your fingers to press the edges together.

Place on a baking tray and then quickly make the egg wash by cracking an egg into a glass, adding a tbsp of water and mixing together until all one colour. Then get a baster/brush and dip into the egg wash and then coat the whole sausage roll with the egg wash.

Make sure you give the 'crack' (where the pastry overlaps) several coating to avoid the whole sausage roll falling apart. You can cut the sausage roll before or after cooking, we did it before because cutting Puff Pastry can make lots of mess. Place in the hot oven.

The sausage rolls should take between 30-35 minutes to cook depending on the thickness of the sausage roll. It's probably worth checking every 5 minutes or so from the 20th minute. The last thing you want is for them to burn!

When the pastry is golden brown, remove from the oven.

Leave to cool for 15 minutes if they are for later, or eat straight away if you prefer. The sausage rolls can be frozen too which is a bonus, if refrigerated  the sausage rolls should last for 3 days anyway.

These turned out miraculously and we have eaten half of them already. I suggest serving hot with a dollop of ketchup on the side.

More patriotic recipes to follow tomorrow.

Enjoy your evening, not sure if this is the last blog post of the day though....


Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Wow! What a fantastic Easter Monday yesterday was! The weather was glorious once again so that called for one thing and one thing only... gardening!

Yesterday, we managed to sow some cabbage seeds, beetroot, some more mange tout, runner beans and we also started a second bag of potatoes which is quite exciting. Our garden is now resembling a garden centre/farm shop with seedlings and plants scattered about the place including on top of an old rabbit hutch!!

The highlight of my day was planting out on an old wheelbarrow which was in the front garden when we moved here. We added some good well rotted compost to the bottom, before adding some fresh, drier compost on the top. We had 10 Strawberry plants that needed potting up. Like I mentioned, there is a house on our daily walk that has plants outside for people to take and make a donation if they like. I have found it hard to resist taking plants every time I go by. I took the majority of the strawberry plants last time I went past and I was pleased to see that she had restocked with more today. I love kind people like this and therefore I always make a donation just about in line with the price I would have paid at a garden centre. I have also taken a few Tomato plants and another courgette plant today. I really do like kind people, and the idea of an 'honesty box' makes me very happy.

So that was 10 plants planted out of their pots in to larger accomodation. They look a bit like Cheryl Cole's hair at the moment; weak, limp, lifeless.. but hopefully they'll establish themselves well in the next few days. Amy did most of the work and I am nagging her to get on here again to tell you about all her new ideas. Including a post about what be bought on ebay for £20 yesterday.. And why I've had to visit Banbury twice in a week..

Have a very happy Tuesday evening.. well what's left it anyway!!!


We like frogs because they eat..

...SLUGS. And nobody likes SLUGS.

I'm not a big fan of putting down any chemicals to keep away slugs and snails, especially when we have other pets such as dogs and chickens who would most probably like the idea of scoffing a nice blue pellet.

At the allotment I had a wildlife pond which was full of slugs and now I really need to create something here too. The old slug is the gardener's enemy. Just as your plants start to look nice and pretty you come down one morning to see a gaping hole in the foliage and a big slimey trail along the soil, down the pot, across the path, over the grass, along the decking, up the wall... and yes.. they've got away!

Putting salt on them is effective but cruel and you actually have to find the slug in order to sprinkle it over them. I find that the only time slugs come out is when you are not around. I think they hide in the bush until you go back in to the house, and then as soon as they hear the back door close they re-emerge to eat your prize marrow and ruby red strawberries.

You can do the old beer trap thing.. but that is a waste of good beer! The Pumpkin needs that doesn't it?! What? I need that!! Not the pumpkin or slugs! What came over me there?

Therefore the best thing to do is get some slimy frogs. An awesome line up of frogs and chickens is a frightful thought for the slugs.

If you are a slug in my garden... here is your eviction notice!! Leave immediately or stay at your peril.

More to follow over the next few weeks....


Monday, 25 April 2011

The Taste Test

Remember those pickled eggs I made the other day?

These ones.....

Well they have been left over the weekend and today was the time to taste them...

I was crossing my fingers in order to present Amy with her first taste of pickled failure. But guess what... they were absolutely devine.

I do love pickled eggs, ever since I had one in Great Yarmouth whilst on holiday with my grandparents, uncle and brother. It has been ever so tempting to have one every time I visit the chip shop, but since the work with the Battery Hen Welfare Trust I have been much more cautious when eating products containing eggs and chicken meat. Having a glut of pickled eggs from our own hens and pickled by ourselves will be great. Will have another one later when I have a turkey sandwich made from yesterday's left overs!

Have a wonderful day..

Ooops.. better put some bread on if I want a sandwich..


Peeking Potatoes

Hello everyone.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter and you are now making the most of you Bank Holiday Monday!

We have really had some great weather in the last week or so, but it has been balanced by a monsoon like thunderstorm on Saturday evening. It was rather odd. The smell of barbeques were lingering in your nostrils, the suns was shining on your face and then BANG! Thunder and rain, within moments there was about an inch of water on the roads! At least it saved me from watering the veggies.

The vegetable plants have been coming on at the rate of knots since the middle of last week. We've had to cover the potatoes we are growing in bags a couple of times and I noticed this morning that they are starting to peek through again.

We got some Strawberry plants last week from somebody who had them outside their garden and just wanted a donation to cover the compost and pots. We took 4 strawberry plants and they already have flowers on them which is amazing. I wasn't expecting that so quickly. I did also notice that Marks and Spencers aswell as Waitrose are now selling British Strawberries. Summer must be on it's way for sure.

I was really surprised at how well the mange tout is doing, it won't be long until they will need some supporting canes. Elsewhere, the courgette plants are massive. They won't stop growing and I did not remember how much water they needed! Blimey, talk about thirsty plants!

Amy made me laugh a little earlier, she asked if the courgette plants had grown since we bought them. If you remember the pictures of our weedy courgette plants a few weeks ago and you take a look at them now then you can really really see the difference. Outstanding progress!

The one dissapointment we have had is the sweetcorn, it hasn't even germinated yet. I'll give it a bit longer but I feel this is a lesson learnt from buying cheap seeds... I thought that the runner bean bushes had also flumped but I am glad to say that in the last day or two I have had 2 germinate and the plants are already about 1.5 inches tall.

Our good life is really taking off at the moment, and we are both interested in adding some insects to the whole project. Amy really wants a wormery.. I have been looking at making them myself from storage boxes but Amy is very keen to get a can of worms or similar. I am perfectly happy for her to get one because the composter we have at the moment takes a while to cycle from kitchen waste to fertile compost, hopefully the little worms will hurry along and we can also get a nice liquid feed for the vegetable plants too.
Although I am interested in the worms, I am interested in adding another type of insect. The type that go buzz and make nice yellow liquid to spread on my toast. Watch this space... *very excited*


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Homemade Burgers

I said I wouldn't. But I have!

I wasn't going to make another post today as I didn't want to bore anybody but.. Amy is at work and I needed to make something for tea. Looking at a pretty bare fridge, I turned to the freezer. A few things looked interesting but then I found some frozen minced meat and that got me thinking...

I looked back in the fridge.. hmmmm.... onions, carrots, bread rolls.... BURGERS!

We have just finished eating them but I will gladly share my step by step process with you.

3/4 of a large brown onion (1/2 diced) (1/4 for garnish)
500g British Beef Minced meat
1 carrot peel (thinly sliced to match the size of the diced onions)
50g flour
2 tbsp water

1) Add the minced meat to the bowl and 'prod' so that there are no large clumps and the mince is fine.
2) Add the diced onion and the thinly sliced carrot. Mix again.
3) Cover the meat, onion and carrot with the 50g of flour and add the 2tbsp of water. Mix again so the mixture binds together. Please note that the concoction of flower and water replaces the traditional need for egg and breadcrumbs in the burger recipe.
4) The ingredients stated should be enough to make 4 large burger or 6 smaller burgers. In this case I made 4. Use your hand to create 4 equally sized balls with the mixture. Then use the palm of your hand to flatten the burger into a traditional 'patty' shape.
5) Put on the grill or in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Make sure you watch the burgers around the twenty minute mark as they can go from perfect to overcooked very quickly. Slice a nice wholemeal bun and butter if necessary. Then add some salad, relish or ketchup and enjoy.

These were the best burgers I have made to date. Third time lucky I think they call it. Let me know if you use any of my recipes and tell me how they turn out. These are all my own original recipes which are heavily based on spontaneity and improvisastion.

Amy was pleased anyway, so it's always good to score extra brownie points. Talking of brownies... That's just given me an idea!


Potting, Planting and Pickling

Three of the most glorious and rewarding things to do on a lovely sunny afternoon.

Because we have been collecting all the seeds in the Daily Mail promotion we realised we had a lot of sewing to do. Some of the varieties such as the brassica seeds can wait for now but we were keen to get the tomato seeds planted so that we get a good tomato harvest. When we grew tomatoes last year our dog ate the lot the minute we had our back turned, you will see a picture of our greedy dog later when we get to the pickling section!

This was today's make shift potting table. You can see the pots with the tomato seeds in at the front and there are some strawberry plants at the back. Amy had to get a pink watering can too to feel the part.

Tomatoes are very easy to grow from seed and they are very easy to grow in small spaces as long as they get enough nutrition and water. No excuses for not growing your own in my opinion. I remember going to my grandparent's houses when I was younger and seeing the tomatoes they were growing. Home grown tomatoes are irresistible and are also like pringles. Once you've had one you will proably eat the lot.

At the back of the picture you can just make out the old chicken area, this is now mainly inhabited by weeds but I do have some good plans for this area in the coming weeks and months so watch this space!

The third 'p' of the day, pickling is always good fun and it is easy too. I absolutely love pickles. My favourite though has to be... Pickled Eggs! When you have two chickens laying daily you soon build up a mass of eggs. Sometime's you have just too many for you and the rest of your family so a good way of storing them is to pickle them.

20 medium sized Free Range eggs
1litre Pickling Vinegar (available from all good supermarkets)

To make the pickled eggs I hard boiled 20 eggs for 15 minutes before allowing them to cool in cold water (in the pan). Then when the eggs are cool just simply peel off all of the shells and you will have the eggs nice and ready. Take a sterilized kilner jar or any other air tight jar and add the eggs. A large kilner jar should comfortably accomodate 20 medium sized eggs or 15 large ones. Then pour over the pickling vinegar. You probably won't use the whole litre so you could make a medium sized jar of pickled onions or alliums with any that is left over.When the pickling vinegar covers the eggs up to the rim you then need to seal/close the jar and store them in a dark place. I normally leave the eggs for 2 days to 'mature' a bit but you can eat them after a couple of hours if you can't wait. The eggs should store for at least a month. If they last that long of course! Right who's making the chips?

Remember that I mentioned the greedy dog earlier who ate all the tomatoes? Well when I went to take a picture of the pickled eggs she could't resist a good look. Here is Jess showing off her pickled eggs...

Enjoy the rest of your day. Looks like it is going to be a pleasant evening.


Nice afternoon for sunbathing..

... if you are a chicken!

Updating our profile photo..

Yesterday we both took a rather nice stroll in the woods in the company of my brother who was embarking on a Photography project based on Fairy Tales and characters.

He took a rather nice picture of us in the woods that we have decided to use as our profile picture!

The weather was lovely yesterday the perfect weather for walking anyway. It's also lovely and sunny today, we've been very busy potting, planting and pickling again today. More follow to later...


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Paper Prom Dress


This is my first post on our new blog.
This self sufficiency thing is really catching on to me. We thought it would be appropriate to share my A-Level Design and Technology project with you. The task was to create a bespoke, eyecatching piece of clothing for somebody to wear. I created a dress completly made from recycled PAPER for somebody to wear to an event such as last night of the proms.

Here are some pictures




The bottom half is made from folded newspaper is stapled to the top half which is made from the pages of old music books which nicely ties in with the theme of last night of the proms.

I have also added the floral features made from scrap tissue paper. The flowers featured are poppies and daffodils. The poppy is a symbol of peace and remembrance whereas the daffodil shows new life and is generally a pretty flower.

We made bread today too and the chickens have been free ranging today too. I'll try and write another post soon if I can remember the login details this time.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chicken Poo Sunday..

Despite currently being 'chickenless' (the coined adjective for those who are without chickens), one of my old eglu's a green mk1 is currently in residence at Amy's Dad's house. When we got rid of the chickens last at home last year due to unforseen circumstances it was only right to carry on chicken keeping on a smaller scale elsewhere.

We were solely looking after the chooks over the last week when Amy's Dad went on holiday so it was a great chance to give them a proper muck out and give the eglu a good clean. Don't you just love the smell of chicken poo in your nostrils? You just can't beat that feeling..

I don't think these chooks have free-ranged since the day we got them just under a year ago so Sunday was a great day for them. A newly renovated property complete with new logs and an abundance of straw and three hours of free ranging in a very big garden, and the wonderful opportunity for them to dustbathe in the lovely flower beds... typical!
I think the next picture would be really suited to a caption competition... what is she doing in those flower beds?

Geraldine and Lesley are the names of our two chickens. I used to have two gingernut's called Lesley and Geraldine so it was only apt to name these two after those that went before them. Geraldine is a bit bigger than Lesley and has a lot more white plummage around the rear.  However, Lesley is definately the one that prefers to be handled...

So here is the lovely Lesley..
and here is Cristiano Geraldino.. aka Geraldine...

Both hens loved free ranging and we removed all their winter covers this weekend so they can optimal sunlight and hopefully reach optimum egg laying production. They are laying two a day as it is so I have plenty of eggs. I managed to get some kilner jars rather cheaply from IKEA last week so I will perhaps have a go at pickling some of them later.

I will keep you updated.

I have also noticed that Amy hasn't made a single post on here yet so I will be nagging her to do so later. She has just finished making a prom dress solely from paper so that is rather interesting.

Must nag..


Afternoon Delight

Wow, what a marvelously, sunny Tuesday afternoon!

What better to hydrate yourself than some home made lemonade?

6 x Unwaxed lemons
240g Sugar
1 litre cold Water

Add the cold water to the pan and turn on the hob.
Meanwhile, take one lemon and grate the zest. Keep the zest to one side for later. Chop the lemon in chunks and add to the water. Take the remaining lemons and slice them in a variety of ways to get different sized chunks of lemon. Add all the chunks to the water and leave the lemons and water to simmer for 10 minutes. Once the lemonade comes to the boil allow to boil for approximately one minuted before removing from the hob. The lemonade needs to be put in to a jug for serving. Pour the lemonade through a sieve bit by bit. Remember you will have to squeeze the remaining juice out of the lemons. Use a wooden spoon to squeeze those final droplets out. The contents left in the sieve should be pulp like and can then be added to the compost heap. When the lemonade is all in the jug, allow to cool in the fridge for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove the lemonade and add the grated zest from earlier. Mix well and then serve cold. To serve fill the glass half way with the lemonade and top up the glass with cold still water.

This is my own improvised recipe and it works a treat every time. You can of course add more or less sugar to your own taste. Also, remember it is important to use unwaxed lemons. Most lemons in large supermarkets these days are in fact waxed and the last thing you want is wax in your mouth when you are trying to enjoy a refreshing beverage on a warm day.

Enjoy the sunshine, we are going to be planting some tomato seeds tomorrow.


Finding the time of day..

Last Friday (8th) we went to a garden centre for the first time in months. I try not to go in to garden centres because I know that I will always spend far too much money than I should have done.
Last Friday was no different. We went to Stratford Garden Centre near Clifford Chambers. I had told myself that this year I would probably not be growing anything at all, but this trip really got me motivated. Seeing the hundreds and thousands of packets of seeds and the lovely green foliage from the potted vegetable plants.
Due to the lack of space I was going to carefully pick the varieties of vegetables we would grow. I was really intrigued to find that there is now a variety of runner bean which can be grown in a small bush rather than a long vine up a bamboo stick. I will be really interested to see how these turn out. We really like all types of beans and peas so Amy was also keen to try out mange tout. I had never grown mange tout when I had the allotment,  I always tended to prefer dwarf French beans and runners as well as a few garden peas of course. Yum! If you bought two packets of seeds you got a free pack of mixed lettuce leaf seeds so that was good too.
My most favourite thing to grow is potatoes! I love growing potatoes! I had grown rows upon rows on the allotment but now we are going to have a go at growing them in bags. It makes me laugh that people buy special ‘potato growing bags’ for £15 or somewhere around that mark. I just use the compost bag itself. Roll it down, pierce some holes for drainage and then just top up the bag with the compost you emptied out of it every time the plant surfaces. Perfect.
Amy’s favourite vegetables are courgettes, and I know these are very productive crops to grow. We are going to grow them in a tubtrug of all things which is quite comical but I think it will be very effective. We bought two courgette plants as they looked very healthy and were well established, they were also a good price so it is very hard to resist them of course.
Finally, Amy fancied a go at sweetcorn. In a garden with minimal space, I think that anything that is thin and goes straight up is quite a good thing to grow.
I really meant to blog about this earlier in the week, all of the seeds have been planted and the potatoes have started to poke their head and the mange tout and salad have germinated. The courgette plants are growing at a speed of knots too!
We are very caught up in this whole self sufficient thing now. I am really glad that Amy is enjoying it as much as I am.
With all those free seeds from the Daily Mail give away I think we’ll need to start production planning in the near future to ensure the most efficient use of our resources.
I hope you had a great weekend.

P.S Nothing better on a sunny Sunday afternoon than the smell of chicken poo in your nostrils.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Daily Mail Seeds Offer

Just a belated heads up to say that you can still collect FREE VEG SEEDS with the Daily Mail until the 21st April.

They have been running the offer since last Saturday starting with a free packet of Mr.Fothergill's carrot seeds. All you have to do is buy the paper and take the coupon to a Tesco or WHSmith's store to redeem it.

I have been collecting these and it is definately a worthwhile thing to do. The paper costs 50p during the week but the seeds alone cost over £1.49 a packet! You also get a paper to read and when you have read it then you can compost the lot or use it as a liner for your chicken coop or eglu!

If you want some additionnal information then check out the following link..

Just need to find the time to pot up the seeds at the weekend!

Let's all pray for sun..



An introduction to urban sustainability.

Wow! A couple of years ago I used to blog religiously about my self sufficicent dream and the small steps I was taking to get there. But things change! I no longer have chickens at home, I no longer have my beehive, I no longer have my allotment and I no longer have quail. But I did meet the girl of my dreams, so I understandably got a little side tracked. I also came out the other end of the education system with an A* in Business, A in Economics and B in English Language, and hey presto I am now studying at Aston University for a DEGREE! Blimey, time realy does fly.

I was going to rejuvinate my old blog, but when I went to find it I discovered that vox had in fact closed down and my memories which I captured in my blog had been lost forever. So I am back here on blogspot where it all started about 6 years ago...I think they call it google blogger or something like that in this day and age.

I would just like to introduce my other half for those who previously followed me. This is..Amy.

Amy is still studying for her A-Levels and is currently pondering which route to take regards to university or not to university. We met at a Fireworks display just over 3 years ago and we have been togther for 2 and a half years!! Amy was not really into chickens and vegetables other than the concoction of the two on a plate come Sunday evening. I was dedicating more time to Amy and Education that the self sufficiency stuff went out the window, and I needed to save the money to things like drive and insure a car, a rather costly excercise in today's world!

Amy has never blogged before and she has never ever grown anything other than her nails before now. But I'm buckling her seatbelt for the rollercoaster ride that comes with being a green bean.

 From today everything changes. We will both have access to the blog and you will see both of us posting from time to time either individually or as a pair. This blog will track the progress of our small scale urban adventure in to being green and enjoying a not quite self sufficient, but more sustainable lifestyle.

Please come back to see us soon!!