Sorry that it has been so long since our last update. We thought winter would be the quiet season where we would get more time to do things like update the blog, but it was busier than expected. This blog has some of the highlights. The videos are especially for our three year old nephew Matty, so they may not interest everyone!
At the beginning of winter we used the last of our apples to make our first batch of completely home grown, home pressed and home brewed organic cider with help from Frankie and Luke, which went late into the night and had to be finished under the light of head-torches. Thanks guys! The brew was ready just in time for Christmas. It is fairly dry, very quaffable and packs quite an alcoholic punch.
It was a mild winter, which was lucky as it was our first experience of trying to heat our house and water with wood alone. We haven’t yet managed to build our log store so all our wood is in a huge pile in the shed that needs rebuilding, with the most seasoned stuff being at the bottom of the pile, making it difficult to get to. That combined with our wood not really being seasoned enough as it needs another summer to dry as well as all the chopping and chainsawing of logs involved, means that it has been a lot of work keeping ourselves warm. We learnt that burning green wood means it is difficult to get the range cooker up to temperature and has also clogged it with soot much quicker so we have already had to clean it twice. It is all totally worth it, but we’re looking forward to next year when we have seasoned wood and an organised log store! Here is are a short video of Jules chopping a log for Matty:
Winter is, of course, the time to cut down trees, clear brambles and lay hedges. We discovered that our orchard field is actually bigger than we had realised and even uncovered 4 four apple trees that had been swamped with sloes and brambles.
As part of our winter clearing, We felled our own Christmas tree!
It was the best Christmas tree we’ve ever had. Although it was actually only the top third of the tree we felled. We also made some decorations with the off cuts.
With help from some of our friends, we cleared the area around the “well”, which is more of a spring really that we are going to turn into a pond for ducks and geese. This became more urgent when our fellow smallholder, Mandy from Glyn Elwyn offered to give us a breeding pair of geese called George & Gill. Here is a before and after picture (the trailer was where the recycled plastic goose house now stands).
We acquired a new Australorp cockerel from a lovely lady through Freecycle. We have called him JD and we were happy that the transition of alpha male from the old cockerel to JD was pretty smooth. The chickens suffered a few sniffles and sneezes over the coldest months of the year and they stopped laying eggs altogether. In spring we hope to start breeding Light Sussex and Australorp chickens for meat in earnest.
Another addition to the Penybanc menagerie is a Gloucester Old Spot piglet who we have called “Chanchita”. She was number 13 of the litter and so had little chance of surviving as (although sows usually have 14 teets) her mum only has 12 working teets as she has two blind ones. Again, this was a lovely donation to us from Mandy at Glyn Elwyn who has been an amazing source of tips and advice, including even teaching us to give injections.
Chanchita has already at least tripled in size and has discovered how to climb up onto the straw bale enclosure we made her in the kitchen. She even jumps down and plays with Dusk and generally gets under our feet.
And just a few days ago we took delivery of a compact tractor and some implements, which we got from a dealer in Somerset. We’re hoping that this will allow us to use our time more efficiently and do some serious planting of things like fodder crops on a larger scale, which will take us another step closer to self-sufficiency. This video is quite long as we heard Matty is likely to watch it over and over again:
Next week we’re slaughtering one of our Oxford Sandy and Black pigs. We’re going to attempt making ham, bacon and prosciutto for the first time. Eeek! Spring is just around the corner and it very much feels like the quiet before the storm as everything will start growing like mad. So we better get back to it – byeeee!