The Tidying of Loose Ends

I like tidying up projects, finishing them and putting them aside. I dislike things dragging on and bothering me for ages. I tend to wave visitors off briskly, wish them well and shut the door briskly.

Anyway. The allotment is now cleared, sorted, email sent to the committee saying goodbye, so that’s that. Loose thread duly snipped.

My young chinchilla rex buck, Silver, decided today was a good day to pull a muscle in a back leg, so he’s now on cage-rest until the weekend, along with an anti-inflammatory painkiller from the vet, and I’ve warned him (sternly) that if he’s not better by then, he’ll be a mitten in the near future. So there. I gave him a carrot as well and, I have to admit, he doesn’t look particularly impressed by the threats.

The other bunnies are all fine, though Jezebel is getting fairly fed up with only getting the scraps of carrot she can steal from her 10 ravening babies, who can form a feeding frenzy  that would scare a school of sharks. It’s quite unnerving to watch this mass of writhing white fluff engulf an innocent carrot and only a few shreds emerge, later….They’ll be weaned at the beginning of next week, however, so she only has to put up with things a few more days.

On other fronts, I’ve now achieved the ticking-off of all the little boxes on the gun club probationer skills-to-learn list and passed the written exam, so by the end of the month I should be a full member of the club and can start on the next phase of the project – the FAC and SGC paperwork.

It’s a curious quirk (one of oh-so-many in UK gun law) that for the Shotgun Certificate I have to provide one referee who is a respectable, clean-living professional type, and yet for the Firearms Certificate, I just need two random people of no particular qualifications (though ‘of good character’) who’ve known me more than 2 years. Applying for both certificates together, I need the respectable professional and one random other. Bizarre.

I’m off to the city tomorrow for an outing with an old friend. We happen to have birthdays only a few days apart, share the same twisted sense of humour and met at uni many years ago, so we’re going to admire the special effects (and maybe the odd male torso) in Of Gods and Men, have a nice lunch, set the world to rights and I’ll ask her to be one of my FAC references. Why not? She’s of good standing in the community, etc, and has known me nearly eighteen years – and if the SHTF and she has to bug out of the city, I know which doorstep she’ll land on, so it’s in her interests to make sure I’m pleased to see her.

As she herself remarked when I asked her to be my referee for the gun club membership application!

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And that’s that for the year…

It’s officially not Christmas anymore. Phew. Back to ordinary living.

Well, not really. My daughter’s still here, my brother’s coming up at the weekend for a visit, there’s a heap of presents to work through – I love it when people give me novels I haven’t read yet! – and there’s a few activities still to unfold. I organised a clay pigeon shooting lesson for my daughter and I  – a mother/daughter activity session – so that’ll be a fun end to her holiday, just before she heads back to Glasgow and gets her nose back to the uni grindstone. I’m looking forward to it, too! There’s also the Amazon tokens to spend – and a contribution to the gun fund from my mother as a present, so that’s good too.

We’ve nearly finished clearing the allotment, with just some equipment to come home now; posts, wire, netting, hoops and so forth. I’ll see if I can pressgang my brother into helping with that – we sank the posts pretty well! Hopefully the ground won’t be too frozen – we’ve had a few sharp frosts but that’s all, to date. I was even out tonight with the dogs, just before midnight, without a coat – which shows how mild the weather is. It’s freezing, yes, but only just.

So, as one year draws to a close and another is poised to start, it’s time to review what we’ve learned, what grew well – and what flopped spectacularly, like the sprouts. We’ve harvested about three meals of sprouts, they just never grew for us this year. Last year they were the size of ping-pong balls and we scoffed them from November to March! Ah well, that’s gardening. This year the onions have been excellent, we’re still only half-way through the stored onions. The roots haven’t been bad, though I’d’ve liked them bigger. Courgettes – a show stopper. We still have jars of pickled courgettes in the cupboards, along with pickled beetroot and beet relish.

Next year we’ll be seeing how much we can grow in the garden – more deep beds to build and fill, though the bunnies are producing plenty of excellent compost material for that purpose! They, too, have been one of this year’s star projects, and hopefully next year they’ll continue to be as prolific.

I want to do more vertical gardening to maximise the available space – simple things like stacked tyres for potatoes, to get a bigger harvest in the space, and close-planting roots under the beans and peas, for example. If I get round to it, we have an old window with glass and I’d like to put together a hot bed to go under it, to lengthen the growing season.

The fruit cage needs to be assembled. It’s not doing any good lying in a stack waiting to be put together, and the blackbirds had too many of our raspberries this autumn!

It’s coming up on time to order next spring’s seeds, so I’d better go make a list.

Hope everyone had a peaceful, happy midwinter celebration!

 

Yet Another Boring Catch-up Post….

One of the things that does amuse me about being a survivalist is that you spend your time thinking about and mitigating risks that would make life exciting, as a result of which life largely just ticks quietly along. Nothing earthshattering has occurred, mutant zombies have failed to overrun the country, Ebola hasn’t quite managed to make it out of Africa (yet) and the economy is largely staggering from quiet crisis to quieter whimpering crisis in the usual manner. We have winter tyres on the cars so there isn’t even the minor excitement of a bit of wheel-spin on a frosty road to give us an adrenalin rush.

If I was feeling tin-foily, I might try to connect some dots with the revelations that the US infrastructure’s computing systems has been infiltrated by some nasty malware of suspected Russian origin, a comment made last year (I think) about the US regarding an attack on their computing systems as an act of war, the simmering civil war (with alleged Russian stirring) in the Ukraine, the price of oil, the fact that the US mid-term elections have left them with a Democrat president and a solidly Republican Houses of Congress and the odd snippet I once heard somewhere that the US president has almost no power except during times of war, when he gets a lot of powers handed to him.

If I’m going to go down that line of speculation, however, I shall end up with a spade in my hand marking out the spot to put in a bomb shelter in the garden, so instead I’ve spent the day, rather more usefully, mucking out the bunnies, sexing Jezebel’s 9 youngsters and splitting them up into boys and girls in different cages, weaning Delilah’s 6 fat fluffy kits, making sure Trudy has everything she needs for her litter (due tonight) and putting Jezebel back in with Samson to ensure we get another litter along in due course.

We’re still quietly pulling produce off the allotment and stashing it in the freezer; this week we’ve lifted most of the leeks and frozen them in batches ready to use, as we have with several more pounds of carrots and parsnips. There’s lots more carrots and parsnips to come yet, though I may declare a war on slugs soon if I find many more neatly hollowed-out swedes. The jerusalem artichokes, for reasons they haven’t chosen to share with the world, have decided to flower just as they’re dying back for the winter. Something to do with the unusually mild, warm weather, perhaps? Who knows. Once they’ve finished, I’ll dig ’em up and store them, anyway.

The allotment committee have decided that they’re going to put the rents up for the plots next year, so adding another increment to our incentive to bring vegetable production back home and out of anyone else’s control or (hopefully!) reach.

After the layoff….

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front for the past month or so but everyone’s entitled to go dormant from time to time. There’s been plenty going on at home, I just haven’t been talking about it!

For a start, the rabbit population is fluctuating nicely. I’ve just traded two of my Rex does up to Orkney in exchange for some money and a chinchilla rex buck (a new bloodline and a lovely colour!), and some investigation into rabbit colour genetics suggests that if I cross him with Trudy, my ermine doe, I should get entirely chinchilla youngsters. I’m keeping one of my own black does and I’ll cross her back to her dad, Tigger, (rabbits don’t give a hoot about incest) to tap back into the harliequin genes.

I have four rabbits running about the shed floor at the moment waiting to go over to the west coast, I’m taking them up to Inverness to hand them over at Halloween. There’s something vaguely wrong about Halloween bunnies, somehow…..

Delilah’s nursing 6 fat babies by Tigger, 3 of whom are albino and 3 are agouti with patchy-coloured tummies, which is interesting but largely irrelevant as they’ll still be perfectly edible. I’ve just weaned Jezebel’s latest 9 and they’re looking good; Delilah’s previous litter need to start heading into the freezer in the next couple of days as we’ve nearly eaten the last litter. They were delicious. In any case, having 37 rabbits is ridiculous and heavy on the feed front, so the scales will be coming out and anyone up to weight will be exiting their brief but happy, well-fed lives shortly thereafter.

We’ve decided to give up the allotment for various reasons; it’s 5 miles away (time and diesel) and the gates are left open too often, the committee are too keen to invite Joe Public in to look around and explore and they’ve even managed to get the place onto the TV. It’s practically a tourist attraction. This is not secure.

We’ve been rearranging the garden at home to free up more space for growing veg here, where it’s behind walls and gates and right outside the back door for convenience. I shall feel happier having the food under my eye and being able to nip out between rain-showers (or sleet, or snow, or whatever) to grab whatever’s wanted for dinner.

The courgettes have finally come to the end of their season, having been astoundingly prolific, and I’ve added them to the compost, as with the runner beans, which were pretty useless on the allotment but have been good at home. Strawberries are now over and any remaining fruit that forms probably won’t ripen anyway. The brassicas on the allotment are gradually disappearing down the hungry rabbit and chicken gullets, but the parsnips, swedes and carrots are keeping us fed like kings. The root parsley is something of a disappointment as it’s not formed decent big roots, just little bland-flavoured knobs the size of my thumb. We’re eating them anyway, of course.

The jerusalem artichokes on the plot are the size of triffids but now largely horizontal, thanks to the last couple of gales. Still, they’re green and growing so we’re leaving them alone – it’ll all go down into the roots and we’ll dig ’em up in due course.

The shooting is progressing nicely – the members of the club are very generous, friendly, knowledgable and willing to teach an ignorant newcomer so I go along on Sundays and people invite me to have 5 or 10 shots with their rifles, don’t charge me for the ammo and offer advice and tips! I’m thoroughly enjoying the company and the new sport, and learning new skills is always good.

Holidays…. The Aftermath

Taking a week off to go relax in the Orkneys was a great idea. The weather was fantastic (teeshirt weather! Hardly any wind! Glorious blue skies! It ain’t always so nice up there…) and we all had a lovely time, explored new places, marvelled at the ingenious and industrious lives our Neolithic and Bronze Age ancestors must have led to leave such monuments behind (the Rings of Brodgar and Stenness, Skara Brae, the Broch of Gurness, Maes Howe, the Tombs of the Eagles and of the Otters) and, incidentally, took good note of the very wide range of natural resources available.

I may have an unusual family, I’ll admit, but we’d hardly been there ten minutes before my mother was exclaiming at the various wild plants that could be foraged from the roadsides. My sister and brother-in-law had had a couple of days up there ahead of our arrival and had pinned down what times the local seal checked out the salmon tanks just off ‘our’ beach, and we all put our heads together identifying wild plants we hadn’t met before.

Anyway, the holiday was great, we all relaxed and enjoyed ourselves, breathed lots of fresh sea air, admired craftwork, bought souvenirs and went beach-combing together.

When we got back, however, my first stop was out in the rabbit shed to check out the babies. The lights didn’t work.

In itself, not a problem. I walked over to the boiler shed at the end of the line of four sheds (rabbits in no.3) and flipped the circuit breaker back to ‘on’ again. Hey presto, lights.

Unfortunately, the lights and power in the shed are all controlled by that one circuit breaker so the freezers had been off, too. I lifted the lid, poked a flabby, soft package of venison and confirmed that it was a home disaster.

Two freezers, all defrosted. All my lovely home-slaughtered bunny meat, the dog food, the skins waiting for tanning, all the veg from the allotment we’d frozen, meat, eggs….. we had to throw the whole lot out. Sunday, the day after we’d come home, we spent mostly binning stuff, or throwing it on the compost and, with the skins, hurriedly mixing up an alum-and-salt solution and submerging them in the hope of salvaging something.

It’s just as well we have one freezer on the house electrical circuits and also dry and pickle produce, or it could have been even worse! It’s a blow, yes, but it’s not a major calamity.

Some sleuthing, texts to my daughter (she’d gone down to London on the Friday morning) and chatting to neighbours established that the village had had a brown-out on Tuesday morning. That’s enough to flip the trip in the shed – for some reason it seems unusually sensitive to power fluctuations, even though the house circuits just shrug them off. Michelle, being young and lacking life-experience, noted the lights were off but didn’t think about the freezers or go check the trip switch (or even email/text me and say anything about it!) Oh well – now she has the life-experience for the next time it happens….

We also had to pick up the dogs from kennels, the other car from the park-and-ride where Michelle had left it when she flew to London, Michelle herself coming back from London, muck out the bunnies and the chickens, work through the collected mail…. Sunday was a loooong day.

Monday we did a walk-round in the garden, I went and looked after someone’s dogs (they’ve gone on holiday) and the secretary of the gun club phoned to tell me my application to join had been approved and please could I send my subs to him! This is great news as I’d started to wonder what had happened – do I have a secret police record I know nothing of? Had they lost my application? Had my referees told them I was unfit to be trusted with a firecracker? Anyway, this is a big step forward in the quest towards gaining a firearms certificate, as I can now attend the club and my sponsor will provide some instruction and intros to others. In about 6 months time I will, hopefully, be applying for my FAC and can then buy a rifle of my own to practice with instead of being reliant on good-natured people at the range loaning me theirs for a few shots here and there!

[For those outside the UK – when I say ‘secret police record’ I don’t mean a record with the secret police, I mean a secret record with the ordinary police. As far as I know, we haven’t fallen so far as secret police – and the way British civil servants leave data and computers all over commuter trains, I don’t think they could keep secret records if they tried!]

Tuesday we managed to get back to the allotment and started fighting the weeds off again. We did bring home 3.75kg of courgettes (some big enough to call marrows!), a pound of carrots, a day’s food for the rabbits, some strawberries, a meal’s worth of calebrese (the last of this year’s crop) and nearly 5kg of cabbages. So, when we got home, we made 4lbs of beet relish (the beetroot in the garden have turned into cannonballs instead of golfballs!), I’ve started a saurkraut culture, we brined 3lbs of marrows and some of the cabbage for more chutney and pickled cabbage, and feasted on home-grown produce again. I boiled up the carrots and mashed them, they’re the first item back in the freezer, the first step back to re-establishing our food stocks.

In the evening I also pulled the rabbit skins out of the tanning mixture and peeled the inner membrane off the skins, then refreshed the pickle and dumped them back in again. There may be a little fur-slip but on the whole I’m cautiously encouraged I might be able to salvage something of them.

Today has been another allotment and cooking day, with about 6lbs of marrow chutney cooling on the side at the moment and another couple of pounds of mashed carrots chilling in the fridge ready to freeze. We’ve pulled up the last of the peas and composted them, pulled up the calabrese plants and fed them to the chickens, and the rabbits are all comatose in their cages surrounded by weeds and greens. We almost feel caught-up again!

I’m going to put another page up in the next few days with all the recipes on it for future reference.

Catching up…

After the initial day of ‘oh good, rain, the ground needed it’ we didn’t get dry weather again until yesterday! Talk about over-doing things….

Anyway, in that time the bunnies have produced their litters – Delilah seems to have 9 in the nest, having rejected my offered nestbox, and whenever I open the door of her cage she streaks off into the distance and has to be caught and carried back after I’ve cleaned out, refilled hayrack or whatever. The kits are fat and healthy so she must be looking after them, even if she apparently wants to put yards between herself and that nest!

Trudy has had 7, 4 pink and 3 black – Tigger, the rex buck who fathered Trudy’s litter, is a Harlequin so I’m waiting with great interest to see what colour the kits turn out in the end. Trudy, being an albino, carries a recessive gene that means she doesn’t show any colour – it doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the genes for colours and patterns, just that they don’t show. It’s possible Tigger carries one albino gene that doesn’t show up, in which case the pink kits may turn out white, but then again, he may not have an albino gene to hand on, in which case the pink kits might turn out pale-coloured, depending on what genes Trudy’s tossed into the mix. I can hardly wait to find out! The black ones are very glossy little black sausages so she may have a black gene lurking under her albino surface…. watch this space! Rabbit genetics are an interesting field of study but I’m still only dibbling my toes in the subject.

After all the rain and wind, we got to the allotment yesterday expecting havoc but found relatively little damage. The formerly upstanding artichokes have developed a lean to the south-east after 4 days of non-stop strong north-westerlies and some of the runner beans had blown down (but have now been stood up again). The courgettes had enjoyed our absence and produced nearly 1.5kg of courgettes to prove it, so there’s another 5 jars of that courgette pickle in the cupboard now. We had some with dinner last night and it’s very pleasant indeed – tangy, but not too much so.

We also pulled and ate the first of the carrots from the allotment yesterday – delicious and very satisfying, and lots more yet to come!

The last of the white onions have been brought home and are drying in the boiler shed, so in a few days we’ll weigh them all and see how we did.

We’ve pretty much reached the time of year when we start thinking of mulching the beds as we clear them, and since the tall peas seem to have reached the end of the line, we’ll be clearing the tops into the compost, digging the roots in and then piling 6 inches of rabbit-cage cleanings on top for the winter in the next few days. By spring the worms will have hauled most of it down and improved the soil enormously for us.

Courgette Relish

I’ve been wanting to try out a recipe a friend passed on to me on a self-sufficiency/self-reliance forum a while back and today we had enough courgettes and other ingredients to do it.

Put 500g courgettes, thinly sliced, and three small onions, also thinly sliced, in a bowl of cold water with 3 tablespoons of cooking salt (the non-iodised sort) as a brine mix. Leave for 1 hour.

While that’s sitting, put 500ml of cider vinegar in a pan with 140g caster sugar, 1 small tin sweetcorn (ours was with added peppers), 1 teaspoon of mustard powder, 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and 3 thinly-sliced garlic cloves. Bring the mix gently to the boil and allow to simmer for 3 minutes, ensuring all the sugar and spices are dissolved, then set aside to cool.

After an hour, drain the courgettes and onions, pat dry gently with kitchen paper to avoid diluting the pickling liquid, then add to the pan and stir until everything’s thoroughly mixed and coated in the fluid. Bottle and leave to cool completely before putting in the fridge; it should keep at least 3 weeks.

Courgette Relish

Courgette Relish

Yesterday my vacuum packer/sealer finally arrived – a sordid saga of couriers losing parcels in transit – so to familiarise myself with the controls I vacuum packed some dog-biscuits, ready for when the whippets go into kennels in a few weeks (we’re away on holiday for a week, so the dogs get to go stay in a pet hotel and be adored by fresh humans).

It’

The vacuum sealer.

The vacuum sealer.

It’s not the biggest and most sophisticated gadget in the world, but it does a very satisfactory job of turning a handful of dog kibble into this:-

Vacuum-packed dog biscuits.

Vacuum-packed dog biscuits.

Having tried it out with dog food, I then packed some hiking meals (dried eggs, dried mushrooms, dried onion, dried potato – just add water and stir for instant food on the trail!), some hot chocolate powder (one-portion servings for hiking drinks) and tried out the bag-seal-only function on the latest 500g of peas going into the freezer.

It all works.

And Back to Real Life…

We’re now into pea-picking with an abundance of fresh peas every few days – we’re bringing home about 1.5kg – 2.5kg every couple of days. Admittedly, there’s a fair bit of that weight that’s pods, not peas but, even allowing for that, we’ve put over 3kg of peas into the freezer in the past week.

Calabrese is just starting to head up nicely on the allotment, taking over from the summer purple sprouting broccoli as that goes over in the garden. The chickens and rabbits are loving the uprooted brassica plants! Cauliflower in the garden are also now over (and we’ve frozen a couple of kg): on the allotment they’re looking healthy but not yet forming heads.

The red onions are now all lifted and drying, the whites are starting to come home.

We’ve been eating our own courgettes this week and the plants are flowering well, so the supply should keep up for a while yet. Tomatoes are still coming in steadily from the plants in the conservatory, though the harvest this year isn’t a patch on the super crop last year. Last year we were growing grafted plants and next year we’ll go back to them – hopefully that’ll bring back our bumper harvests!

Beetroot are coming in nicely from the garden and looking good for later on the allotment, too. At the moment we’re just eating them as they come but hopefully we’ll start freezing and pickling soon.

We singled the swedes today and it looks very promising – we should have enough swedes to be self-sufficient for the year. The bunnies and chooks pounced on the thinnings, too!

The buckwheat has been a major disappointment; it never really got past the white clover and though some of it flowered, the rest just didn’t do anything. I’m clearing it all in sections for rabbit food, so it’s not wasted, and I’ll try again next year without the clover. Perhaps I need a less vigorous cover-crop! We’re also having trouble finding the main carrot, parsnip and root parsley sowings through their clover cover, though once ferreted out the plants look healthy, and we’re putting a heck of a lot of clover top-growth into the compost bins so the compost should be good! I will be on the lookout for a less thorough cover-crop for next year’s sowings, anyway.

I’m awaiting delivery of a vacuum packer/sealer that will assist in our long-term storage plans, and I’m also about to order a canning pressure cooker from the States (why do we have to import them from the States? Why aren’t they available here??) which will also widen our preservation horizons. Further updates as and when these tools arrive!

Our new freezer is installed in the shed and purring quietly away to itself, so we’re in the process of clearing the freezers in the house and defrosting them, then one will be put up for sale, one will stay in the kitchen for stuff we want kept handy indoors, and the third small one is now outside ready to be dedicated to dog-food and (once I start slaughtering young bunnies) ferret food.

The bunnies are doing well; Jezebel’s bunch have just opened their eyes so it won’t be long before their poor mum has to fight her way into the food dish at breakfast time! It does look as if she has nine, though the little devils are still being a bit elusive in the nest and lurking under the surface. Delilah is due next week and Trudy a few day after that, so this weekend will be nest-box-building time again!

My application to join the local gun club is ticking along through the process and I’m hoping that soon I’ll be learning new skills and, eventually, will have the ability and the opportunity to add some larger game to the menu; geese and deer spring to mind. That will be a good way down the road, though – I need about 6 months with the gun club as a member before I can apply for my FAC (Firearms Certificate) and then a while longer proving my safety and reliability (not to mention building accuracy and skill) at the gun club, punching holes in paper targets, before I can apply to have my licence ‘opened’ and be allowed to shoot anywhere but on the firing range.

I would like any politicians reading this to realise that it’s the proposed air-rifle licensing legislation that’s pushed me into applying for an FAC! If I have to spend the money getting a secure cabinet, doing the paperwork and jumping through the official hoops to get an air-rifle licence, I might as well expand my shooting interests from the (previously) cheap option of an air-rifle into the (hitherto) more expensive realms of rifle and shotgun ownership. If they hadn’t started mithering about the air-rifle requirements, I might never have got round to the paperwork for the FAC and SGC, though I have previously shot both rifle and shotgun (on private land, under instruction from the fully licensed owner!) and enjoyed them both.

So there, politicos!

 

Pickled Shallots and More Rabbits.

I meant to post an update on the shallots on Sunday after I’d pickled them but life overtook me and the day turned unexpectedly busy, so it’s here now instead.

shallots skinned and back in brine

shallots skinned and back in brine

The shallots were drained of brine on Saturday morning, skinned, then submerged in a fresh brine solution.

Shallots weighed down with a plate to keep them submerged in brine

Shallots weighed down with a plate to keep them submerged in brine

On Sunday morning, the brine was drained off, the shallots were packed into Kilner jars, with the overflow from my 2 big 1.5L jars going into an old pickled-onion jar, and then the jars were filled up with fresh pickling vinegar.

Pickled shallots - the final stage!

Pickled shallots – the final stage!

They’re now in the cupboard, maturing, and should be ready to eat in 3 months or so. If you’re wondering about the different colours of the jars, the two big ones are filled with white vinegar and the middle one is in malt vinegar – it’ll be interesting to taste the difference in due course.

Another kg of peas came home this morning, were podded and are now in the freezer, so that’s good. The courgettes are in flower with baby courgettes just starting to swell nicely, so we’re looking forward to those soon, too.

Also on the preserving front, I’ve ordered some sodium silicate and when it arrives, we’ll be diluting it in water to make waterglass, in which we intend to preserve some eggs before the hens go off their lay for the autumn moult and then their winter rest. We could run an electric light to their house to keep them laying but we rather feel that, given how hard they work the rest of the year, they’re entitled to a rest for a month or two in the winter, so we prefer to let them go off lay for the winter. They’ll come back into lay in the spring again, but that gives us a gap in egg production. My grandmother used to preserve eggs in waterglass (sodium silicate solution) during WWII, so my mother suggested that we go back to this tried and trusted method of her childhood to add to the pickled, dried and frozen eggs we already have in the stores.

I went into the rabbit shed late last night, while the dogs were having their last-thing-before-bed potter around their run, and Jezebel was bustling about her cage with mouthuls of fur, so I wasn’t surprised to see a nice, tidy little nest full of wriggling babies this morning. I haven’t counted thoroughly but a brief glance over the surface of the heap suggests she had at least 8, which is a very good first litter, and right on the dot of schedule, too. Jezebel looks quite confident about what to do so I gave her a sow-thistle as a reward and left her to it.

 

2014 Shallot Harvest

We’ve finished lifting the shallots and weighed them now, so I can record the final figures for the crop.

Here’s the large armful this evening as I was stacking them up to start processing them:

2014 shallot harvest, stacked on the freezer.

2014 shallot harvest, stacked on the freezer.

Once topped and tailed, we weighed them as we dropped them into a preserving pan: 2,740g or just over 6lbs. They’re still in their skins at the moment – they’ll be skinned tomorrow morning, after a night in brine.

In the pan, ready to brine.

In the pan, ready to brine.

The brine we’re using is 2 oz salt in 1 pint water per 1 lb of shallots, which is a pretty standard brining strength for pickles. Having stirred the salt into the water until it dissolved, we poured it over the shallots, just floating them, and then put a plate on top to hold the shallots under the surface for the night.

Expect a brief update tomorrow when they’ve been skinned and put back into brine for another 24 hours!

Also today we’ve frozen our first peas from this year – up to today we haven’t picked enough at a time to freeze, just enough for immediate eating, but today we brought home enough to freeze a couple of servings (family-size servings) and we’ve also frozen a couple of servings of cauliflower from the garden. There will be another heavy picking of peas in a day or two, and there are another 3 or 4 cauliflowers coming ready so they’ll go in the freezer, too.

All good!