Friday, 3 July 2015

Wooly Arrivals

Sheep
Our Flock on the Move
We have long discussed the possibility of getting sheep on our little patch but never really set ourselves a date for getting them. Well the decision was made for us rather abruptly. A friend of ours had bought, on the spur of the moment, a group of twenty sheep at a lamb sale. He had gone for some other sheep but when this group came in at the end, no one was interested so he put in a bid and won them. He then decided that he had no use for them. He sold ten and then offered us the remaining ten. We accepted and the gang arrived.
Sheep
Our Friendly Flock Leader
He was unsure what their breed was, he only knew they'd been used for ground clearing. I hit the web and local agricultural shows and have determined that they are Shetland Sheep They are slightly smaller than your normal sheep, they are known as Primitive Sheep. Apparently the knitwear known as Fair Isle originated in the Shetland Isles and is traditionally made from Shetland wool!
They are relatively easy to care for, look after themselves well, can survive on not the greatest quality food and are pretty capable when it comes to lambing. But then I suppose if you're designed to survive on Shetland you have to learn to just get stuck in and get on with it!
This has all been great news to us, our randomly obtained sheep have turned out to be a great starter sheep! However, I do not condone getting sheep without some research into the best breed for them!
The sheep joined our Angora goat, Mindi in her field. At first she was unsure of these woolly interlopers and came over to make certain we understood entirely that there was, in her opinion, not enough room for them in her field. And they smelled. She was equally unhappy when they investigated her house, a couple got a butt in the, well, butt!
Sheep and Goats
Best of Friends
The next morning there was definite racism in the field. The sheep had squished themselves at the very bottom of the field, which borders our neighbours sheep, and the goat was squished against the fence at the very top of the field. After the introduction of a bucket of feed however they were best friends.
They are now best friends and the sheep look to Mindi like she's Big Momma. Should we go through the gate like the lady says or should we run around all over the place and make her flap like a chicken?
The main reason of getting sheep on the land was weed control, an addition to our goat. But we will also be looking to breed with them later in the year. So watch this space for lambs! We will mainly just sell on the lambs and/or any older ones that we no longer want/need. But we will also be looking into the possibility of having them butchered and prepared for our own freezer. But that will depend on if the numbers add up!



Thursday, 2 July 2015

So Hot!

The weather has suddenly turned toasty hot here! Ridiculously so! I know it's probably nothing compared to what some people get but for a windy hill in Central Scotland it's crazy hot!
Our Malamute isn't enjoying it at all. He only gets a few weeks a year like this but he doesn't look forward to them. Nowhere is cool enough. With the door open its not cool enough. With the fan on its not cool enough.
I put ice cubes in his water bowl to try and help out but it's no good! A friend of our used to get the paddling pool out for his Mal but Apache won't go anywhere near anything water related!

Some of us are enjoying the nice hot weather though!

All this hot weather means lots of watering needed and our hose doesn't fit on the tap,which is upside down anyway, so it's watering cans at the ready!

 

Monday, 29 June 2015

Frugal Spreadables and Kids Activity

So, I am always looking for ways to save cash, eat more healthily and teach the kids something fun/useful/life changing. If I can do one thing and achieve all three then, even better.

We are a family of 'almost butter' users, you know the stuff, 'spreadable' butter it is usually called. Not quite margarine, not quite butter. And don't get me wrong it's handy stuff to have, it's spreadable (just like it says on the tin), no sitting butter pats by the kettle or cup of tea trying to melt if just enough to be spreadable but usually ending up with having to drizzle it over your bread! Or the other extreme, just going for it, and attempting to spread the yellow 'cement' and ending with a perfect square of crust and a ball of breadcrumbs and butter stuck to the knife.

That being said there are a multitude of ingredients in these spreads that are not deadly, but I'm guessing we can live without and may even benefit from being without. So an opportunity to step away from them for a time can only be good, in my opinion.

My attempt was also to see if making your own butter was cheaper than buying the same at the supermarket. You can see if I managed at the bottom of my post where I'll give a basic breakdown of my costs. We'll see if I can beat the supermarket!

Whilst out doing a top up shop at our local supermarket (bet you can't guess which one!) I spotted three tubs of their own brand double cream, reduced. The prices were different, no idea why, but averaged at 91p each (I'll round up in all calculations, keep it fair).

I snapped them up as I had been looking for cream since watching a kids show with my eldest where they explained how butter was made and I had wanted to do same at home, let her actually see the process.

In terms of ridding ourselves of 'nasties' this method does of course still contain whatever they put in the cream, and it doesn't tell you any ingredients, just that it may contain milk. But, unless I nip over the road to the dairy I can't get pure cream..... hmmmmm....

This has to be one of the easiest things you can do at home. It's a little time consuming but the simplicity makes up for that! I'd recommend a stand mixer if your using as much cream as I am. With less you could probably whisk by hand or the jar method below.

Pour all of your cream into the mixer and, using the balloon whisk, get beating. Firstly the cream will get soft peaked, then stiff peaked. This is when you'd normally stop beating but keep going. The cream will then start to breakdown into the butter and the buttermilk. It will look a little like scrambled egg floating in milk. Yum! This is when you stop.

With a sieve over a large bowl pour the whole lot into the sieve and allow the buttermilk to drain.

Once it stops dripping place the butter back into the cleaned mixer bowl and beat again. More buttermilk will appear. Drain this off as before. I repeated this about three times until barely any buttermilk remained.

Next you need to clean your butter. Place your butter blob into a clean bowl and cover with cold water. Squeeze the butter with your hands. The water will go cloudy. Drain the water and recover with fresh cold water. Repeat this until the water stays clear.

Your butter is now ready to be shaped into blocks, or however you wish to store it. If you have butter pats then use them, if not, like me, just use your hands. I split my butter into three equalish sized blobs and gave them a bit of a squeeze over the sink before shaping, just to ensure I'd got any excess water out. They can then be wrapped in greaseproof paper and frozen or used straightaway.

Butter in Jar
Get spreading and enjoying!

If you want to salt your butter, then you will need about 1/4 tsp of salt per 110g of butter. To salt the butter spread it out on a sheet of greaseproof and sprinkle over the salt. Roll up and place in a bowl, give it a good squishing with your hands to distribute the salt evenly.

I do salt my butter and there are two reasons people choose to. One is taste and the other is that the salt will help the butter last longer. I salt mine for both reasons but sometimes leaving a block unsalted is great for when there is baking to be done!

Your butter is now made and ready to be enjoyed! Remember to retain that buttermilk, there are many uses for it. It can be frozen but remember if you do it will separate so will need to be whipped again after defrosting before you use it!

But the question on everyone's lips is.... was it worth it? And my short answer is ..... Yes!

Here's my breakdown, I hope I got the Maths right!

Butter

Total cost of cream: £2.82

Weight of butter made: 860g

Cost of my butter: 33p per 100g

Comparison Prices

Asda own brand, Salted: 34p per 100g

Lurpak, Salted: 68p per 100g

So I beat Asda own brand by 1p per 100g but was significantly cheaper than the branded. But I also got 700ml of buttermilk from my cream. Now I only found one company that sells its buttermilk in millilitres rather than grams, so for ease I used them to determine how much my buttermilk would've cost to buy.

Buttermilk

Buttermilk at 18p per 100ml: £1.26

Direct Cost Comparison

My butter and buttermilk cost: £2.82

Equivalent amount of Asda own butter and buttermilk: £4.18

Equivalent amount of Lurpak butter and buttermilk: £7.11

Not a bad saving regardless of the company or brand. So I think this experiment has been a big success! But to top it off, as I mentioned above this was also a great learning experience for my 4 year old. By placing a small amount of cream into a jar, screwing on the lid tightly and letting her shake like crazy, she was able to make her own butter. Then she could get stuck right in with the cleaning, squeezing her butter clean. After we'd finished we immediately had to make two rounds of toast to try it out! She loved the whole thing!

Let me know if you take up the butter challenge! Let me know how it goes!

 

 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

I've Got Worms

*BACKDATED from August 2014*
And I got them through the post!
I have been thinking about getting a wormery for a while. My mum had one years ago and it was amazingly useful and her vegetables certainly appreciated it!
For those not familiar with the idea of a wormery I shall attempt to explain. It is basically a large plastic bin with some worms in it. You add your kitchen scraps and garden clippings in at the top and the worms break it all down turning it into compost and a liquid fertiliser. Job done!

Ok, so, the original plan was to get my mums old one but after inspection it was a little worse for wear so, as a late birthday present she bought me a new one! Hurray! Well, she gave me some money and told me to order what I needed!

I searched various locations to purchase but kept coming back to "The Original Wormery" company. They were the makers of my mums one, so I knew what I was buying and they certainly seemed to know their stuff.

They offer a wide range of sizes and shapes depending on what you are after, how many people in your house. There is even one for dog poop! I considered this but as this can't be used on vegetables it isn't the best use of my money. But if you have a dog and a passion for flowers then this is definitely a possibility.

So after much reviewing of their products I settled on "The Original Wormery". It seemed to cover our needs the best. You get the Wormery itself, the worms, some lime mix and full instructions.

Waiting for it to arrive seemed like it took forever, sitting by the window. Waiting. Waiting.

While we are waiting I'll tell you more about the Wormery. The worms themselves are not your common earthworms, like the kind you find in the garden. They are called Tiger Worms. There are various varieties that would work in a Wormery but the Tiger Worm is chosen because of their ability to adapt to a variety of conditions. They also have a good composting rate, which is obviously a big plus!

And they are all pretty and stripey! Pretty for a worm anyway!

 

 

When it arrived it came literally as is! Just with some cellophane wrapped around it! Postman must've been scratching his head over this one!

(Use film trailer deep voice) The item came with everything pictured here!

Set up was very basic, even I managed it! I had to insert a plastic 'platform' into the base. This allows the liquid fertiliser to drain through and keeps your worms up and out of it. It was just a case of sliding it in! The tap at the front needed screwing in. And that was as technical as building it got!

Next was to set up the worms. Again, very simple. Placed a sheet of paper on the platform and emptied them, and their bedding (soil) into a pile in the middle of it. Next a handful or two of kitchen scraps on top. That's it! Wormery set up!

It is nessecary to leave the worms to it for about 6-8 weeks, only adding one handful of kitchen scraps per week. After that the colony is established and you can add your scraps as and when!

This Wormery can be kept indoors as it is pong protected but we just don't have the space inside so it is outside the kitchen door. I propped it up on some bricks to make draining the liquid off easier. You can buy a specific base but this does just fine! It is not as wobbly as it looks, I promise!

I am hoping that I can successfully get them through the winter, that's the biggest issue with starting them so late in the year. I am hoping they will be well snuggled in by then with plenty wormy compost!

 

*I am not getting anything for discussing Original Wormery stuff, these are just my own opinions and recommendations!*