Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Drinks for Christmas

I've been quite busy brewing alcohol for the Christmas period. We have a batch of beer, 20 litres of red wine and 5 litres of liquor. Ok so all of this is not just for Christmas, but it will be nice to have a range of drinks. We have six different flavours of liquor;

Cherry brandy, Mint, Chocolate, Irish cream, Orange  and coconut.

The liquor was all made from a kit which I would definately recommend, it's called 'absolutely pure spirit base kit' and it's made by 'Alcotec'. It makes 5 litres of  20% pure spirit base . I think it works out at about £1 for a litre or something like that and then you can buy flavourings to add or just have it as half proof vodka.

I buy my brewing supplies from 'Brewgenie' who have a great online shop and they have always delivered things very quickly with no problems.

* the other excellent kits for liquors that I have used before are called 'Prohibition' and they do an excellent Cherry brandy one.

** I havn't ever tried making liquors without a kit and I think it would be tough to create something that is 20% and very clear without distilling and making spirits proper???

Fencing the place

This post should have come earlier, never mind. This is one of those jobs that we very nearly paid someone to do, I'm so pleased that we didnt now. Everyone we spoke to about it would give us a look or we would hear a sharp intake of breath as they frowned about the idea of us doing the sheep fencing ourselves.

We knew i t had to be done or we couldnt really grow anything up here. The sheep have grazed this space now for hundreds of years, I don't know how long but I guess since at least when this place was built (about 270 years ago). In some ways I was quite sad to fence and interrupt the space that used to very naturally continue up into the higher hills, with sheep just roaming as they pleased.

The soil here, or lack of it does make jobs like this quite challenging, but after 3-4 hours I had all 33 posts in the ground and after another days work all 250 foot or so of the fencing was done. We now have an extra 200 feet or so of ground that could in theory grow soft fruit, if we can dump enough soil and muck there that is!

Horse muck for Christmas!

Well I'm sure lots of people wouldn't be very pleased to get a big fat pile of horse crap for Christmas! I am so so happy about it. I'm not sure Ruth is quite as pleased as me ....but she is pleased... and its her Dad that sorted it.

It's all about what the muck will grow aint it? Imagine what our Christmas present will turn into next year :) Have managed to move just a dozen barrows of muck so far and the muck is staring back at me ..."laughing"  well at least with a funny look on its very brown horrible face, as if to say...."Is that all you got?"

Have dug out some of our old raspberry canes from our old place in the valley and they look quite happy in the muck I must say. Oh yeah not sure if I blogged about fencing this place? That was quite a job but will now allow lots of stuff to be planted without the sheep munching the lot.

Shed rage

Shed rage, we've all had it...well maybe not ...but if you have had it I don't need to say anymore. Anyway we didnt have a shed. We needed a shed bad. Didn't want to buy one of these crappy skinny wood things, decided to make one from reclaimed bits n bobs. Got the base done, very strong and then then Wife Ruth found someone who had a shed that had no base that was going spare.

This is quite boring really isnt it? Sheds. Anyway to cut to the chase...got two half rotten sheds that needed lots of care and attention before they could go onto base.... the whole thing ended up taking about 6 days work, I now really really love those cheap crappy sheds, all nice,watertight and light and maybe not so crap....they do go up quickly those cheap things and they keep the rain out without patching and covering and sticking, and pathcing and sticking and covering and fixing and HITTING!!!!

We have a shed now.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The moving of the hens

Of course... how could I forget ...the moving of the hens...

Yes the trailer was too small...no no sorry I should say the hen house was too big. The hen house was too big despite the fact that I built it myself and measured it knowing that one day it would have to go in that small trailer..... I wasnt too pleased...why did I just measure straight across the trailer ignoring the fact that there are solid  metal strips running around the edge...????

Anyway the hens survived, the best moment was when the automatic opener started to open with them in the trailer!!! (the dark plastic bag wasnt covering the light sensor enough!!!)....

The hens are happy now and have lots more space and we have now extended their origional area into the area where the fruit trees are, so they are munching lots of slugs and pest and keeping things down around the fruit trees which is a bonus.  * Garlic and cider vineger once each month in their water seems to be keeping them well.

* did I mention the red mites??? Prob best to forget all that , they are fine now :)

First home brew here

Our first brewing up here: Damson wine x 10 litres / White wine x 30 bottles and ale x 30 bottles.
 I'm drinking the Ale as I write and its pretty good, especially considering it would be better to have left it for a few more weeks to improve. Heres the recipe for this easy to make ale:

Ale For All

900g Malt extract / 50g Golding hops / 350g Sugar / 8 litres water / Beer yeast / 50g Castor sugar (for priming)

Place all but a handfull of the hops in a large pan, add 1.2 litres of water and squeeze the hops in your hand until they are thoroughly wet. Place a cover on the pan and boil vigorously for 15 mins.

Meanwhile pour 575ml of warm water into a brewing bin and stir into it the malt extract and sugar. A trace of malt may be left in the jar and disolved in a cup of tepid water. The yeast should then be added t this thin malt solution to become activated. Cover and leave it until required.

strain the hop water into the brewing bin,. add another 1.2 litres of water to the hops and boil them for a further 15 minutes. Again, strain the liquid into the bin, add another 1.2 litres of water to the hops and boil again for a final 15 minues. Strain the liquid into the brewing bin and discard the hops.

Top up the bin with cold water to the 9 litre mark and when the temperature of the wort has fallen to 21 c pitch the activated yeast. Cover the bin for 24 hours then skim off the dirty froth. Stir the wort well, cover and leave for another 24 hours. Skim off the newfroth and add the handfull of hops saved from the outset. Wet them thoroughly in the wort, replace the cover and leave for three days, pressing the hops below the surface twice each day.

Siphen the clearing beer into a jar, fit an airlock and leave in a cool place for three days while the beer clears and throws a fairly heavy sediment.  Rack the now just hazy beer into a clean jar , stir in the castor sugar  and as soon as it is dissolved siphon the beer into sterilised bottles. Fill each one leaving a gap off 2" from the top and tightly crimp on new sterilised crown caps. Leave the bottles in a warm place for one week and then move them to a cooler place for a further two weeks. The beer is ready to drink. Serve cool and take care not to disturb sediment when pouring.

* I kept the hops and threw them onto one of our raised beds, its meant to be good as an improver
* Theres more recipes on my website: www.thegreenphoenix.co.uk (Self sufficiency page)

Well thats that then, I'm off to enjoy some more off this ale :)

P.s. only had a pic of wine, need to add one of the boiling hops really

Too busy to blog

Too busy doing the things the blog is about to actually blog. Have been at new place for three months and it's been hectic every day. Getting ready for Winter, spring and next Winter all in one go really!

Lots of firewood to get sorted, getting used to been off grid and trying to import enough muck and leaves and pretty much anything to make sure we have some soil to grow in next year.

Had a good crop off Damson tree, a fair few apples and other bits of fruit. The key this year to growing good Tomatoes and sweet corn seems to have been "neglect them lots". Hardly watered crops in Polytunnel or did anything to pamper them and had 15k+ of red toms plus about 15k of green! Sweet corn was good, a dozen or so very large cobs.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Setting up new vegetable plot (again)

For the third time in five years I'm setting up a new veg plot, its really is too much work to keep doing this! The first site out of these three was an allotment plot and hadnt been worked for over 10 years , we had to clear loads of glass, metal and junk in some places 2 feet deep in the ground. The Second plot where we are now had 0" of soil so we had to trailer in top soil and muck and start from scratch. Both I these sites we built up to been pretty productive and healthy and then we leave them!!!

I shouldt really complain but its very tiring...very excited about our new place, moving house in just four weeks and will be off-grid and with lots more space to grow, including a polytunnel. Our hens are going to be very happy too (I hope) loads more space and loads more to munch on....:)

It is a bit challenging at the new place though as its up in the hills rather than in the valley so a fair bit cooler and with some interesting weather up there.

Horse Muck and Newts

Got loads of fantastic horse muck off our next door neighbour today, really well rotted stuff... Found a nice little newt in the pile so had to return it. It was a Smooth newt if your interested. Too late now if you didnt want to know.Am going to sort through every last scrap of muck and remove every bit of root that I can see....it is well rotted though so its not like picking through a big old pile of crap....

Monday, 13 June 2011

Loads of Lettuce and sneaky nettles...

Our lettuce has been doing well but so have the nettles....the nettles are creeping as they do up through lots of our beds as the field next to us is full of them. Have started now to brushcut a strip along our boundary to try and keep the buggers back! Thats the trouble with bringing muck in as we did a couple of years ago...loads of unknown possible weeds :( 

I cant wear gloves for gardening especially weeding, it just doesnt work out, but man when youve pulled out the 50th nettle those hands start to tingle......that combined with the red ants...nice

Early Potato world

Harvested our early potatoes today, considering the strange growing season so far with lots of extremes I'm very pleased to have harvested 24 1/2 Kilos of nice clean spuds from one raised bed of 10 feet x 3feet :)

We don't have any second earlies this year so I hope our mains do as well as these earlies...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Chafer and Beans

Had a Garden Chafer or something similar eating my Broad beans today, after getting i.d. on the bug I returned it to the beans! Just thought I should let him/her have a little munch.....if I find theres 10 of the buggers tomorrow it might be a different story...:)

With this lot of Broad beans I'm testing out the idea of nipping out the tops of Bean plants early on to prevent Blackfly...I don't like extra jobs if they dont actually do anything but its difficult to tell which ones actually work and which don't unless you've tried doing it and not doing it loads of times....... Have nipped out half of our beans and left the others, will see what happens. Ok so its not fully scientific but if one whole row gets Blackfly all over it that must be pretty conclusive?!

P.s. have always nipped out Beans over the last 5 years and have only had one outbreak of Blackfly....but what does that say?? It does seem that getting them in early (in the previous autum) is the best plan for stopping pests though , my Beans even survived last winters -15 spells!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Sustainable living page

Thought I should mention, our website has a sustainable living section, some good recipes and stuff + links to some cool stuff...

Selling stuff at the local market

Brilliant, have just had a good day of selling stuff at the local market! We recently joined a co-op in Machynlleth called "Fresh & Local", basically means you don't have to get involved/risk buying a stall, shelving, getting insurance etc and some of your profit goes into running the whole thing. Theres a rota for manning the stall or you can opt out and give an extra percentage of your profit.

Tried out selling a few bags of lettuce leaf and Spinch last week and they sold so tried a bunch more this week and all but one bag sold, so thats a really good extra thing we can sell each week until the season ends. Mostly selling herbs and bits n bobs of vegetabled like Tomato plants, Spinich plants n stuff like that. Hope to start selling a few boxes of eggs pretty soon.

Home made plant feed

Comfrey & Nettle plant feed
Comfrey has high levels of potash and makes an excellent fertiliser for tomato, pepper, cucumber and potato plants.

Nettles contain lots of Magnesium, Iron, Nitrogen and Sulphur and make a good all round feed. Try to use younger nettles if possible, but its not a big deal if you cant.

Take care is you have close neighbours as its smell is very strong!  Pick a couple of large handfuls  of both nettle and Comfrey leaves and  place them in a container with enough water to cover the leaves.

Cover and let this brew for three or four  weeks in cool weather or two  weeks in hot weather. (Give it a good stir from time to time and you may need to squish the leaves back under the water as well)

Then squeeze the leaves to extract as much juice as possible Strain and dilute 1 part Comfrey tea to 10 parts water.

Use as a foliar feed and soil drench around the plants.

Comfrey leaves can also be chopped up and simply used as a mulch around any plants that require a high potash fertiliser.

* I used to make a seperate nettle soup for other plants, but these days I just add a whole bunch of nettles to the Comfrey mix and seem to get a better general feed mix. Various books have different dilution rates for Comfrey and Nettles, some say 1/20, some say undiluted. It varies quite a lot depending on how long you leave it, potency of given plant, what your feeding etc etc ... I 've never had any plants die on me :)

** These days I usually chop up the leaves with shears, maybe this speeds up the process or allows more of the goodness to release into the soup?

Tan-y-bryn fields vegetable plot

Welcome to our blog

Hi, welcome to our new blog...thought it might be nice to record some of the stuff that we do and which things work and which things don't. :) Our experiment is to try and produce 70%+ of our own food and stuff, quite a tall order really but its fun (most of the time) having a go.

Currently we produce about 1/3 of our vegetables, a small percentage of our fruit, all of our own alcohol, jams, bread, chutney and those kind of things. Since last year we have become self sufficient in fire wood, which is fantastic! Nearly forget our hens, how could I forget Peter, Paul and Hilda?

Scott, Ruth & Chenoa x