Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Common Spotted Orchid

Found these lovely Common Spotted Orchids refreshed by the rain on a walk at Westonbirt Arboretum today. Really pretty little plant and native to the UK. Westonbirt is a fantastic place to visit, especially with the new Treetop Walkway. Great for a family day out - and there's masses of space to find a quiet spot too.
Common Spotted Orchid by HenSafe
Common Spotted Orchid

Monday, 23 May 2016

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Emergency Lamb Shelter Alterations


Rain, rain and more rain... Shutting the lambs up for the night yesterday we discovered that the shelter was far too damp for them to lie down on overnight. Building an emergency raised floor was the only way, with thick posts laid flat, a sheet of plywood across the top and heaps of straw for bedding and warmth. Only trouble was we discovered the problem once it was dark, so it ended up not being the easiest of jobs – and it was still raining... This was them before the rain!
Image: Lamb Shelter on the HenSafe Smallholding


Learnings:
* Shelter inspections are best done in the daylight, i.e. without a head torch.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

New Home for the Lambs

Image: lamb shelter at the HenSafe smallholding


Time to move them to a small pen in the field, still with their shelter insulated. Very inquisitive, they are keen on testing out the grass as well as enjoying their creep. We shut them into their shelter every night by pulling a pallet across the front and securing it with a bungee. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Raising Lambs


Lambs 2 weeks old on the HenSafe smallholding
Lambs at 2 weeks old

Today we collected this year’s lambs! They had but a 5 minute journey to get here and within 20 minutes of settling them in we had help from our “smaller” neighbours with their first bottle feed, after permission from mum and dad of course.
The weather here is unseasonably cold at night (and forecast to be cold both day and night next week) so we have surrounded their shelter with extra bales of straw for insulation and covered it with a tarpaulin for waterproofing. The pallet slides across to secure them overnight and the whole thing faces away from the prevailing wind.
Today they’ve been enjoying the sunshine though, and we’ve been enjoying their antics, which is the upside. They are around 2 weeks old on average and will need 5 bottle feeds a day for the first few days, reducing to 4 in a week or so. We now appear to be taking bookings for bottle feeding!
Lambs on the HenSafe smallholding
The lambs exploring their new home
Which brings me on to the question of why we do this in the first place.
Some of our friends have said things like “how could you do it, raise them as pets, bottle feed them and then kill them to eat…don’t you get attached to them?” Well, yes, in their early days it could be easy to get attached without trying very hard at all! They are very cute but, and it’s a big but, they are not pets. We do this so we know where our meat is coming from, how it’s been raised, and we give the animals as good a life as we possibly can while they are with us. The commitment of raising them through the summer is one we enjoy. Yes, it is hard to take them on their Final Journey but at this stage it’s a long way off and we can prepare for it.
I remember vividly the first time we took our finished pigs to the abattoir… a farmer was waiting in line with his small trailer. He must have sensed my emotions when he gently said to me, “Is this the first time you’ve done this?”, “Yes” I replied. “It does get easier you know, second time around” he reassured me.
 
Learnings:

Be prepared for April showers, wind, snow and hail.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sloe Gin Recipe



Sloe Gin Recipe from the HenSafe Smallholding

With preparations for Christmas, thoughts are turning to those lovely bottles of sloe-gin-to-be that are maturing in our store cupboard. Although some recipes dictate waiting for 6 months to a year before decanting, we always do ours before Christmas – and it’s so delicious I thought I would share how we make it.

Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, which is the thorny shrubby bush you find next to fields and footpaths. Some say it’s best to pick fruit after the first frost as this breaks down the skin and pulp ready for the sugar and alcohol to act, but we usually pick ours in September provided the fruits are large and plump enough.

Start with a few bottles of the basic cheap gin you can get in most supermarkets and have a couple of large empty preserving jars to hand.

Fill a jar 2/3rds full of washed sloes (don’t bother to prick them it’s a waste of time) then fill with sugar till it covers the sloes. You’ll need about half the weight of sugar to sloes but it’s best to have it sweeter if in doubt. Then fill with gin to the top and put the lid on tight. Invert the jar a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles and top up with gin again. Carry on with this ratio of sloes/sugar/gin until you run out.

Then all you need to do is stand the jars/bottles in a cool, dark place and invert them a couple of times each day in the first couple of weeks to help the sugar dissolve. You can leave it for 3 to 12 months; it’s entirely up to you. We’ve been slack and left ours on the sloes for a year and it hasn’t made any perceptible difference.

Anyway, when it tastes sweet and syrupy, strain it through muslin into a fresh bottle. If you get an odd bottle which is not as sweet then just mix it all together in a large pan and then decant it into bottles.Then you’re ready to try sloe sherry: put the ginny sloes into half a bottle of medium sherry and leave it for 6 months! Or try Vodka…

Merry Christmas!



Learnings:

  • Keep an eye out for your potential sloe crop and make sure you get there before anybody else does.
  • Decanting is a sticky process so have everything to hand and wear a wipeable apron if possible.
  • Don’t drink it all at once…