Sunday, 10 December 2017

December Snow

HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Opener.
HenSafe Automatic Chicken Coop Opener. Robust, Rugged, Reliable.


Brrr....snow on the ground. If you need something reliable to open your chicken coop each morning, and to shut it at night, then HenSafe is your answer. This morning we woke up to freezing weather and lots of the white stuff but, as ever, we trusted our HenSafe to let our hens out - although, to be fair, they weren't that keen until we had cleared them a snow-free patch! 
To find out more about HenSafe, visit the website: www.HenSafe.net
or our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HenSafe/



Learnings:
  • Choose HenSafe. Robust, Rugged, Reliable.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Polytunnel Repairs


Polytunnel Repair. The HenSafe Smallholding.
Autumn into winter. This morning was spent sorting out the polytunnel and mending holes before winter winds take hold and destroy the cover. The hole in this picture was actually made by a small rabbit which got stuck in the tunnel and ate his way out! It’s important to make sure the cover is clean and dry, inside and out, on the spot where you are sticking the repair tape, so try and pick a sunny day if possible to wash and dry each bit of damage. I like to stick tape on the outside first, then go inside and reinforce it.

Learnings:
  • Give your polytunnel its annual MOT before winter sets in.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Crab Apple Jelly Recipe


Crab Apple Jelly. The HenSafe Smallholding.
September is the season for crab apples. What better way to use them than to make a crystal clear pink jelly, perfect with lamb dishes and also with cheese. Crab apples are high in pectin so you don’t need to add any, and ordinary granulated sugar will do. The recipe I use is so easy, here it is:
Ingredients:
4lb crab apples – washed and dried
2 pints of water – just to cover the apples in a large pan
Sugar at the rate of 1lb per pint of juice (see method)


Method:
Bring the pan to a boil and simmer until the apples have cooked to a pulp and the liquid has reduced by a quarter to a third. This will take around 40 to 60 minutes. Strain the fruit in a jelly bag over a basin – be patient and do not squeeze the bag or you will have cloudy jelly! While this is dripping away, pop a couple of plates you’re your freezer to test setting point later.
Measure the juice and put back into the cleaned pan with 1lb of sugar per pint of juice. Heat the mixture slowly until the sugar melts, stirring all the time. Once the sugar has melted, bring it to the boil and simmer until setting point is reached. Depending on how dry your fruit was to start with and how much water has evaporated, this could take 10-30 minutes.
While this is happening, put your oven on low and heat up your clean jam jars.
When things start to thicken, grab a plate from the freezer and drop a teaspoonful of jelly onto it. When setting point is reached, a skin will form over the top after a minute which will crinkle when you push your finger into it. If there’s no crinkle, keep boiling away for another 5 minutes before testing again. I prefer this method to using a thermometer, but if you have one then setting point should be reached at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit or 105 degrees Celsius (but I would still also test on a plate!).
Now turn your heat off and let things rest for 10 minutes or so and bring the jars out of the oven. Pour the jelly into the jars with the aid of a jug and a large funnel and pop the lids on while hot. I don’t use waxed discs and have never had a problem. Wipe the jars down and label them when cold and then store in a cool, dark cupboard.


Learnings:
  • An apron is essential. And keep a wiping cloth handy.
  • A shop bought straining set is worth getting hold of.
  • Hot jelly will scald – be careful!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs



Oxford Sandy and Black Pigs on the HenSafe smallholding

Our pigs this year have come from David Norman at The Ansty Herd in Dorset. Beautiful, good natured pigs that eat well. We’re feeding them sow breeder nuts rather than commercial food which will put too much fat on them.  

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Lambs



Lambs on the HenSafe smallholding

Six sleepy lambs. We raised the floor of their shelter this year so if it rains they'll stay out of the puddles. This after last year’s mad rebuild during the pouring rain to lift them out of water. The joys of living on clay!
The upturned pot is one of two – easier on the back to sit down to bottle feed.




Learnings:

  • Planning ahead and learning from experience – always works.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow Cricklade



Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
Fritillaria Meleagris at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
The stunning annual display of Fritillaria Meleagris at North Meadow NNR is at its peak. It seems like you can walk forever around the meadow with the purple haze spreading across the horizon. We are so lucky to have the meadow here – one of the finest examples of a lowland hay meadow in Europe, holding the largest natural population of snakeshead fritillaries in the UK. The Meadow is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is also protected as a Special Area of Conservation. It has been managed by the Cricklade Manorial Court as Lammas Land for hundreds of years and is now under Environmental Stewardship Scheme. 
Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
Snakeshead Fritillaries at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.

Lammas tenure is a fascinating part of our history. The landowner – usually the Lord of the Manor – divides the land into “lots” and the hay rights are sold to local farmers who harvest the hay in their allotment. After the harvest the meadow then becomes common pasture and certain commoners are entitled to graze the entire meadow.

At our own North Meadow some of the original boundary stones for the lots are still visible.
Boundary Stone at North Meadow NNR, Cricklade.
Boundary Stone at North Meadow, Cricklade.

Learnings:

  • Lammas day is 12th August when commoner grazing rights begin.
  • Grazing ceases at around Candlemas, at the beginning of February, when the meadow is laid up for hay.