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HF ISSUE 1 P1 COVER

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GOOD FOOD | GREAT HEALTH | FRESH LIFESTYLE !

GRAB A SLICE OF THE GOOD LIFE!

APRIL 2008 | £3.25

WIN A

NE-PW AGE

£360

100 E MAGAZIN

EGLU FROM OMLET

CITY CHICKS! HOW TO KEEP POULTRY IN YOUR BACK GARDEN

SEXY SPUDS PREPARING FOR A BUMPER CROP STARTS RIGHT NOW

URBAN PIGGIES HAVE YOU ROOM FOR TROTTERS?

GREAT BUTTER

GETTING HOT

RARE REVIVAL

Make it in a plastic milk bottle!

Fitting a wood burning stove

Adam Henson’s farm

ISSUE ONE APRIL 2008 £3.25


HF 20PP P2-3

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CONTENTS

In the April issue... 04 WELCOME TO HOME FARMER MAGAZINE! What this new publication is all about.

28 ONCE I CAUGHT A FISH ALIVE... The very best seafood comes from British waters.

64 POULTRY PARASITES Diana Sutton delves in to the murky world of worms, ticks and mites.

06 NEWS Chickens to the cost of living and news for growers.

32 TALKING POINT: EVERYONE’S DREAM? What does it mean to be self-sufficient?

66 HOME FARMER INVESTIGATES Changes in how we buy from the farmer.

10 READER’S QUESTIONS We answer your queries from getting a smallholding to elephant man bread.

34 SCRUMMY SCONES You’ve made your butter – now use the buttermilk to make scones.

70 PRODUCTS We look at some must have products.

14 STARTING WITH TOMATOES Kicking off the new season by sowing our favourite red fruit.

38 PORK PIES The simple, basic, easiest pork pie that anyone can make and no one will refuse.

Cover Story 16

17

SPUDS-U-LIKE

40 SUBSCRIBE Don’t miss a single issue – subscribe!

Cover Story 72

73

COTSWOLD FARM PARK

INTERVIEW WITH

Adam Henson When he is not filming around the country for BBC television’s Countryfile programme, Adam Henson runs the Cotswold Farm Park, which pioneers rare breed conservation, as well as running the 650-hectare Bemborough Farm tenancy near Cheltenham THE TELEPHONE RANG and a voice I knew well for the last few years said. “I’m on the way to the airport, so I can talk for a minute.” Adam Henson is a busy man, but then he always was. His farm and tourist attraction in Gloucestershire keep him on his toes. Established in 1971, the Cotswold Farm Park can be aptly described as a pageant of history on four legs! The farm has a serious agenda: the preservation of rare breed livestock. On display is an unrivalled collection of rare breeds of British farm animals including sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, horses, poultry and waterfowl.

The Cotswolds owes its name to sheep, Roman sheep. It is said that the Romans came to Britain for our seafood and left us with politics, roads and sheep. The Cot is a small sheep enclosure and there were many thousands to be found on the ‘Wolds’ - the rolling hills of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, long before there were any such things as counties or even England. All of our monastic abbeys and most of the manors and churches were built on the wealth brought to this country by sheep, which is why the Cotswold sheep was

THE FARM HAS A SERIOUS AGENDA: THE PRESERVATION OF RARE BREED LIVESTOCK

referred to as having a “Golden Fleece”. Even our laws were decreed on a woolsack! Home Farmer readers and those interested in finding out more about keeping livestock can use their visit to the Cotswold Farm Park as an introduction to the variety of breeds available. The farm aims to help people learn about seasonal farming life, with lambing taking place in front of the public from mid March to mid April, followed by milking demonstrations and shearing from the end of May to the beginning of July.

First Early potatoes need to be in the ground by mid March – traditionally St Patrick’s day...

Getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day important. ‘First Earlies’ need a round YOU HAVE TO believe this. There is 12 to 15 weeks, depending on where nothing – NOTHING – more exciting you are in the country. ‘Second Earlies’ than digging up your potatoes, taking need 17 to 20 weeks and ‘Maincrop’ them to the kitchen, washing, boiling need 20 to 25 weeks. and eating them. Anyone Skin quality is also an who has not experienced important factor in the this is missing out on THE GOLDEN distinction between one of the greatest joys RULE IS TO STICK maincrop and earlies. You of life. You do not need a field to grow potatoes. TO WHAT IT SAYS could dig up a maincrop potato in July and get a Of course, the more ON THE PACKET crop of small potatoes space you have the that would have a decent better, but in truth you AND THAT WAY (ish) flavour but would can grow a week’s worth YOU WILL NOT BE have a skin that was of potatoes in as much chewy. Alternatively you space as you can stand DISAPPOINTED could leave a ‘First Early’ in – especially if you use in the ground to get a container on a patio. bigger tubers, but they would fall apart The potato, brought back from the much more easily in the pan. South Americas in Elizabethan times, You don’t want a baking potato the has been worth much more to the size of a conker, and it clearly takes country than the many tonnes of gold longer to make a big potato than a small that came over in the same ships. The one. The golden rule is to stick to what original tubers bear little relation to it says on the packet and that way you the ones we grow these days, but the will not be disappointed. plants have been grown in much the same way for 300 years.

HOW TO GROW POTATOES

THE SOIL Preparation of the soil is important. It must be like a sponge, full of well-rotted organic matter. Potatoes need a lot of water, but apart from emergencies this water must come from the soil itself. Incorporate as much organic matter as you can some weeks before planting – even during the previous winter. THE POTATOES Do not save potatoes from last year. They very quickly gather viral problems. Similarly you should not simply plant potatoes from the supermarket. You can get new ‘seed’ potatoes for around 2050 pence each and they will guarantee the very best results. From each potato you will get around £2-£3’s worth of potatoes, probably even more. CHITTING This is what the potato does for itself. If you leave them in a light, airy space enzymes will start to convert the starch to sugar. As soon as this life giving substance hits the dormant buds (known as eyes) they will burst into life. Victorians used to think that the shoots produced from chitting gave the plants a head start. This is not

TWO TYPES OF SPUD There are basically two types of potato, waxy and floury. Floury potatoes are used for mashing and frying or roasting. Waxy potatoes are used wherever the texture of the flesh needs to remain intact; for salad potatoes, boiling and making dishes such as rosti.

A SCIENCE LESSON A waxy potato has very strong cell walls made of cellulose that tend to stay intact during cooking. A floury potato has weaker cell walls that burst open easily. Once the cell walls break the escaping steam within the cell causes an explosion of starch. When fried this fluffy starch becomes crispy. So floury for roast potatoes, waxy for salads and boiled.

EARLY OR LATE – STICK TO WHAT IT SAYS ON THE PACKET! The time needed for the plant to produce a reasonable crop is

The main UK potato varieties can be graded according to their waxiness

Early or late? FIRST EARLY VARIETIES: Maris Peer, Home Guard, Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin, Rocket, Pink Fir Apple

How waxy is your potato ? 90% WAXY Nadine, Pink Fir Apple

75% WAXY Cara Marfona Home Guard Sharp’s Express

60% WAXY Estima Wilja Saxon Nicola Charlotte

60% FLOURY Maris Peer Maris Piper Romano Desire

75% FLOURY King Edward Sante

SECOND EARLY VARIETIES: Kestrel,Wilja, Estima, Osprey, Nadine

90% FLOURY Golden Wonder

46 READY, STEADY, GROW! Do you need a polytunnel? We look into the details.

22 PLANNING A PRODUCTIVE GARDEN Getting organized when it comes to planning a new garden is important.

Cover Story 26 HOME DAIRY How to make butter in a milk bottle!

50 BEGINNER’S BEES What you need to make a start.

Diana tells us how you really can make excellent tasting butter in your own kitchen in a very short period of time The way butter has been made for SOME PEOPLE MAY ask the question: centuries is by using a butter churn, a should we be eating butter in this lidded container with a handle in the health conscious society? lid. The cream is placed in the Isn’t it bad for us? Well too much of container and the lid fitted tightly. The most things can be bad for anyone. But handle is turned and the eaten in moderation cream is churned: the fat butter is better for you separates from the liquid than hydrogenated fat MAKING YOUR and butter is the result. spreads and tastes better In the past butter than margarine. It is OWN MEANS churns have been made also good to know what THAT YOU ARE IN out of wood and glass, but goes into the foods we are consuming and TOTAL CONTROL are often made out of metal or plastic these making your own means OF WHAT days. There is an easier that you are in total way that doesn’t require a control of what you and YOU AND YOUR butter churn but uses an your family eats. FAMILY EATS everyday object that most Making butter in households have or can your kitchen is a very get hold of easily. easy process and is great fun to do with I was amazed at the ‘magic’ trick my children. They love seeing, feeling and husband performed for me one day, hearing the changes as the fat in the ‘Watch this,’ he said. After a few cream solidifies and becomes butter. minutes of shaking what I thought was a When I have made it with adult friends, bottle of milk up and down, he stopped, they also are amazed at the ‘magical’ cut the plastic open and poured appearance of the butter. So how do some liquid in a bowl you do it?

76 YOUR PLOT Mike Woolnough gives us a glimpse of the Good Life on a series of allotments.

Cover Story 54 THE HEN HOUSE DIARY Keeping chickens can be great fun says Janice Houghton-Wallace.

Cover Story

Cover Story 27

Make your own butter YOU WILL NEED E 2 litre plastic milk bottle (rinsed with cold water). E 500ml carton double cream E Salt to taste (a level teaspoon) E Small dish to store your butter in E Colander METHOD 1. Pour cream into milk bottle, secure lid. 2. Shake bottle vigorously till the cream separates, you will hear a thud sound as the fat binds together. 3. Open the lid and pour the butter milk into a jug. 4. Cut round the middle of the bottle and scoop out the butter into a colander. 5. Under a slow stream of cold water chop into the butter rinsing all the time. 6. Salt to taste and mix gently away from water and place in dish.

Get a child to churn the butter – they love it!

Pour off the buttermilk and use it for making scones!

Cut the bottle open to get at the butter.

then scooped out the rest of its contents. ‘There, taste that, its butter.’ He was right, it tasted just like the butter I had bought the previous day to make a cake, the unsalted type. It appeared to be very easy, so I thought I would have a go and this is what I did...

MAKING BUTTER I bought a 500ml carton of double cream and I had an empty two litre plastic bottle. Pour the carton of cream into the bottle, put the lid back on the bottle securely and shake it up and down as fast and as vigorously as you can, it is good exercise! Keep the shaking going till you hear the cream separate; this sounds like a heavy thud in the bottle and a splashing sound of the separated liquid. Then take off the lid and pour the liquid into a jug. This is buttermilk and can be used in other recipes, like making scones (See page 34 in this issue). Cut round the widest part of the bottle and scoop out the solid mass that is left. It looked like butter and smelt like it too. Would it taste like it? Not bad, but not quite right. What else did I need to do? I put the butter into a colander and rinsed it under a slow stream of cold water, chopping into the butter to get rid of the rest of the buttermilk. The more you can get rid of, the better the butter tastes and also it will keep longer. The water you rinse it with must be a gentle stream as anything stronger will cause the butter to be forced through the holes in the colander. And of course it has to be COLD! When the butter is rinsed well a little salt may be added, gently mixed into the butter with a chopping action. Rinse again, drain well, and then put it onto a cold plate or chopping board. If you prefer your butter un-salted then it can be put straight into a container and covered and stored in the fridge. This will keep for 5-7 days, but if you add a level teaspoon of salt and mix well into

The creamy butter should be in a mass at the bottom.

Wash away remaining buttermilk with COLD water.

80 RABBIT’S BACK The best meat in the world – we should eat more of it. 84 LOCAL HEROES We look at Rick Stein’s Food Hero – Lords of Middleton.

58 THE URBAN PIG Linda McDonald-Brown gives some invaluable advice for the pig about town.

MAKE YOUR OWN!

Better Butter

72 INTERVIEW WITH Adam Henson, BBC's Countryfile presenter who also runs the Cotswold Farm Park.

MAINCROP VARIETIES: Admiral, Cara, Eden, Maris Piper, King Edward, varieties.

16 GETTING READY FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY New potatoes in the summer? You need to start now!

26

42 DIGGING THE DIRT Jayne Neville helps us with soil fertility and how to improve it.

86 GREEN HEAT Joe Jacobs looks into the feasibility of installing a wood burning stove. 91 NEXT MONTH What is coming up in Issue 2. 92 WILD FOOD First in an occasional series on collecting food from the wild.

Cover Story You can form your butter with Scotch Hands.

The butter is now ready for salting if you prefer.

the butter this will keep for longer. I find storing my butter in ramekin dishes is the best as I can take one out to use each day. Homemade butter is very firm and needs to be kept at room temperature for spreading, just take it out of the fridge on the morning it is needed. It may be softened by creaming and a teaspoon of olive or sunflower oil can be added to soften and make it easier to spread. This butter makes the best tasting shortbread and cakes, once again use at room temperature otherwise it is very difficult to cream even using an electric mixer.

You can use it straight from the fridge for frying, sautéing or sweating vegetables for curries or soups. The flavour of the finished butter may be enhanced if you add a teaspoon of crème fraiche to the cream at the beginning of the process. This isn’t necessary, but I find it lightens the taste of the finished product. More salt may be added if you prefer. Experimenting is the best way to achieve a finished butter that appeals to you and your family the most. So why not have a go? Just follow the simple steps to making your own delicious butter. Friends and family will be most impressed. E

96 COFFEE BREAK PAGES A Prize crossword, a joke and the chance to win a £360 Eglu chicken home. 98 CLASSIFIEDS If you have something to sell... fill in the form.


HF ISSUE 1 P4-5 WELCOME

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WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

Welcome to Hom e www.homefarmer.co.uk

Never before was a magazine so needed to help people with the ordinary, everyday things in life!

PUBLISHED BY

The Good Life Press Ltd., PO BOX 536, Preston, PR2 9ZY Tel: 01772 652 693 Email: info@thegoodlifepress.co.uk EDITORIAL TEAM Publishers: Ruth Tott and Paul Melnyczuk Tel: 01772 652 693 Editors: Diana Sutton & Paul Peacock Tel: 0161 346 4084 Circulation: Mike McLening Tel: 01726 882 028 Subscriptions: Paul Melnyczuk Tel: 01772 652 693 Email: subs@thegoodlifepress.co.uk DESIGNED BY

Tel: 01689 857043 Email: chrischarles@ntlworld.com ADVERTISING BY E4 MEDIA MANAGEMENT Advertising Manager: Bob Handley Tel: 01354 691331 PRINTED BY Woodford Litho Tel: 01376 534500 DISTRIBUTION BY Comag Specialist Tel: 01985 433800

HOME FARMER IS COPYRIGHT OF THE GOOD LIFE PRESS LTD

There are series on keeping hens, THERE IS A huge social change in the bees, pigs, sheep and goats as well as UK. If we are to believe the press, growing vegetables and flowers. And we around five million people want to live a aim to show you how to make the staples simple, more self sufficient, make-itwe have all become used to buying at yourself life. The problem is that many the supermarket. In this issue you learn believe country living involves owning how to make butter in a plastic milk ‘Rose Cottage’ and having a few acres bottle, next month we look at how to and wearing green wellies and driving a make the tastiest, Range Rover. Well that’s healthiest bacon. OK for some, but we at Throughout the year Home Farmer reckon that IN SHORT, IF we shall look at all kinds you can start right where YOU EAT IT, YOU of projects, from rooftop you are. water systems, fitting a In our pages you will CAN GROW IT wooden stove, building an find a lot about food. We AND COOK IT, outdoor brick oven and a go from plot to plate in a few yards, not a few AND WE AIM TO polytunnel to home electrics, local fuel, spring thousand miles. We SHOW HOW water, field maintenance, feature classic dishes – buying a house and how did they become YOU HOW converting a hovel! classic without coming You will find a lot of from someone’s farm or information, recipes, how to’s, comments field? We specialize in making your and people on our website, own: butter, bacon, bread, cheese, ham, www.homefarmer.co.uk and this is the sausages. We feature the very best that quickest way of getting in touch with us. this land of ours has to offer and show Your letters may appear in the magazine, you how to grow it, catch it, farm it, buy but all the letters will certainly appear it and cook it. on the website. You will also find the Home Farmer is for the countryside cottage, inner-city flat, the self-sufficient answers to our competitions, and eventually there will be special offers semi and the DIY detached. In short, if and links to our advertisers. you eat it, you can grow it and cook it, and we aim to show you how. There is a lot in Home Farmer about NEWS AND animal welfare. We believe that while the INVESTIGATIONS animal is alive it deserves the very best There are many important changes care we can give, and once it’s dead it affecting our lives today. One is the way becomes food – deserving no less care. that the rising price of oil is driving up The transition from one to the other the prices of our basic food. At one time should be without pain and full of all our food came from near the towns compassion. and cities that bought it. Today you are


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m e Farmer magazine... more likely to get your staples from New Zealand, Brazil or India. A favourite supplier of salads for many supermarkets is Africa. This is all well and good for the supermarket, but as the cost of oil continues to make transport more and more expensive, so the cost of our food increases too. The further away our food is grown, the more expensive it will become. Countries we once thought of as third world in Asia and South America are now out-competing the UK for the supply of many foods and consequently the prices go up and up. Whenever you hear of British farmers selling their goods it is invariably in the context of this world market. The great prize is to export your produce because, after all, ours is the best in the world. Isn’t it? At Home Farmer we believe that selfsufficiency is best defined as taking responsibility for what you eat and how you live. So you will find we take the world market and the way we currently feed ourselves very seriously.

LIGHT HEARTED If we are famous for anything in the UK it is for having a great sense of humour. Even if the news is awful and the world seems bleak, we will always have a chuckle about it. Home Farmer will never be a difficult read, even the unpleasant bits. And there are some unpleasant bits! There are lots of people out there selling chickens and chicken houses that forget to tell you how to dispatch your animal in case it becomes so ill it would be cruel to keep it, or even for food. Living in the real world is not always that pleasant, and you will find yourself doing some seriously horrid things – especially if you want to keep larger animals, or breed from

them. Try spending an hour using an artificial insemination kit on a pig, breaking three vials over you and praying you get it right yourself next time!

YOUR MAGAZINE Home Farmer is a resource for all of us, and as such we really value your letters. Tell us about your experiences, your recipes, (lots please!), your photos, your husbandry problems, animal welfare, or just your reminiscences. One of the important principles behind Home Farmer is that knowledge is important, so your tips might just be vital for someone else out there facing just the same problems.

SOMETHING TO SELL? Take advantage of our free personal ad page. If you have a pig ark, a chicken hut, a feeder, a cold frame or even just a spade to sell, fill in the form and we’ll do the rest.

REFERENCE Home Farmer is not just a throwaway magazine. We hope you will keep them for future

reference and will, over the months and years, build up quite a library of crafts, foods and projects.

FINALLY We hope you will enjoy Home Farmer. We’re not slick, we’re not flashy at all – just ordinary. That’s how we like it – and it’s how we like our recipes. But this doesn’t mean that what we make isn’t the very best food there can be. Just wait for the recipe for pork, sundried tomatoes and chicken pie! Best Wishes, DIANA SUTTON & PAUL PEACOCK EDITORS


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NEWS

HUGH FEARNLEY – WHITTINGSTALL’S ESTATE BIRDS POOR FACE LESS FOOD AS GRAIN PRICES HIT HIGH The Financial Times reported that record grain prices are placing a “heavy financial burden” on developing countries, forcing a decline in food consumption, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned.The world’s poor countries will have to pay 35 per cent more for their cereal imports - taking the total cost to a record $33.1bn - in the year to July 2008, even as their food purchases decline by 2 per cent. Food consumption per capita will suffer a slight drop. The FAO said,“With world demand showing little sign of abating, international prices of most cereals remain high, and some are still on the increase, while reserves are heading for yet another decline from their already low levels.” This trend is likely to continue as the world’s emerging superpowers, China and India, are able to compete as buyers in a world market – driving up prices.

A Kent family is becoming popular amongst celebrity chefs in need of poultry housing for use on television shows. Hugh’s Chicken Run shocked audiences when it was screened on Channel 4 last month to show the truth about breeding broiler hens for meat. Cindy and Robert Pellett, of Forsham Cottage Arks, Ashford, were asked to provide chicken runs for families in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s hometown of Axminster who were learning the facts about chicken. Viewers watched these ordinary people rear their own chickens on an allotment before slaughtering them for meat. The West Country chef had teamed up with Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay on The Big Food Fight series - a hard-hitting drive to change UK attitudes to food. Mrs Pellett said:“We promote

aging the headstrong boss to start stocking local produce. Despite tense scenes between Ramsay and the restaurant owner, entrepreneur Nigel Nieddu, it was agreed that the exclusive establishment would start rearing its own birds. Forsham Cottage Arks supplied a poultry house and chicken run for the show.

SWEET the kind side of chicken breeding. We believe in animal welfare and our housing is built accordingly.” Last summer the Pellets were approached by the team behind Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to help out with a show screened in December.The famously foulmouthed chef undertook arguably his greatest challenge yet, to turn around the fortunes of The Granary in Hampshire by encour-

“We built the whole run for them and put the house in it. Someone else supplied the chickens,” said Mrs. Pellett. “Gordon’s a lovely, lovely guy. He kissed me on the cheek to say thank you. He’s really sweet – I just think he’s very honest.” E More on the Pellett family and Hugh’s estate chickens will be featured in next month’s Home Farmer.


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NEWS

PRINCE CONVINCES NHS CHIEF EXECS TO SERVE ‘HEALTHY SEASONAL, LOCAL AND ORGANIC’ HOSPITAL FOOD COMPOSTING’S WINNING FORMULA Garden Organic, the UK’s leading organic growing charity based in the Midlands, has been recognised by The Composting Association for its winning formula that encourages home composting in Britain. Garden Organic has been training and supporting volunteers for over five years and now has a dedicated group of over 500 from across the country spreading the composting message in their communities.This year alone Garden Organic’s volunteer composting champions have dedicated over 4,000 hours to the cause. This amazing success has been partly due to the charity’s approach to working in partnership, having worked hard to build relationships with eight different local authorities in England and Wales in order to develop the programme in different regions. Dr Harriet Marshall, Garden Organic’s Sustainable Waste Management Officer said:“Composting is easy, fun and free to do, and a great way to help the environment while encouraging your garden and house plants to blossom. Our Master Composter scheme is an innovative way to spread the message and ensure people continue to compost in the long term.Working at a local level is at the heart of the scheme and gaining the support of local authorities has been an integral part of this and key to our success.” Garden Organic’s work has also recently received endorsement from MP Joan Ruddock, Parliamentary Under Secretary responsible for Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste:“Composting waste at home is playing an increasingly important role in managing our waste sustainably,” the MP commented. “Community organisations and charities such as Garden Organic are doing a great job in raising awareness and encouraging more and more people to compost at home.” Anyone can become a Master Composter, even those that are composting beginners, and all it takes is a few hours of training and the commitment to spend some time enthusing about compost, encouraging people in the local community to have a go.

Senior NHS figures from Scotland, Northern England, the South West, Wales, London and the South East met at a seminar attended by HRH Prince Charles to discuss hospital food and its importance with regard to the twin issues of the environment and human health. With climate change being an urgent priority and obesity costing the NHS a huge proportion of its annual budget, the Prince vividly highlighted the manifold benefits of using local, organic, seasonal fresh produce. Patients benefit from plentiful fruit and veg bought in season at prices the NHS can afford, British farmers benefit, food miles are reduced and waste and subsequent greenhouse gases are minimized. Prince Charles challenged NHS hospital trust chief executives to improve the quality of hospital food, emphasizing: “We are what we eat... we go into hospital to get well, so what we eat must help, not hinder that process.” The Prince urged the attendees to regroup in six months time to report progress. The prince quoted the recent government strategy unit report on food which stated, “The benefits to the UK of a healthier diet – in terms of health and well-being, national output and a lower burden on public services – are compelling. Studies have estimated that foodrelated ill health cost the

NHS £6 billion in 2002 (9 per cent of its budget).” The seminar, organised by the Soil Association and Sustain, at the Royal Brompton hospital, South London was rounded off with a meal of seasonal, local and organic food that was also on the menu that day for patients at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said: “It was an extraordinarily positive seminar with widespread determination across the board to change menus at UK hospitals for the better”. Rosie Blackburn of Sustain, project officer for the alliance for better food and farming, said: “The main perceived barrier to improving menus is invariably cost, yet when we talk to NHS catering managers we explain that there are many things they can do with their food to make it more sustainable, healthier and tastier without necessarily exceeding their current budget.”

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NEWS

MILD WINTER KEEPS HEDGEHOGS AWAKE

DEFRA REFUSES TO FUND VITAL BEE RESEARCH At a recent meeting with representatives of the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), to discuss the serious threat currently confronting honey bees, Lord Rooker, Minister of State for Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare, while not denying that bee health is seriously at risk said, in a Lords debate on 27th November 2007, there was “no way in which the government could find additional money to put into bee research." Tim Lovett, Chairman of the BBKA, said: “Despite his statement in the Lords, Lord Rooker has rejected the modest proposal the BBKA put to him to provide up to £8 million over five years to carry out the necessary programme of research. Over this same period bees will contribute

more than £800 million to the economy. “This is unacceptably complacent of the Government. Beekeeping pays its way.Through pollination bees annually contribute £165 million to the agricultural output yet the Government currently puts a paltry £200,000 into bee health research.“

There was however agreement on the vital importance of honey bees to the environment, again through pollination of seeds and fruits for wildlife and enhancement of species diversity. Mr Lovett continued, “This refusal must be viewed against the many £100 millions of compensation paid out by DEFRA in recent months for Foot and Mouth, Avian Flu, Blue Tongue, Bovine TB and payments to Hill Farmers. “Again, DEFRA has been alerted to, and has recognized a potential disaster but chooses to take no action to avert it. “The British Beekeepers Association has alerted the government and we want action. BBKA will launch a campaign to make sure this action happens.”

Hedgehog hospitals and charities around the country are seeing an influx of rescue animals who have failed to hibernate due to the mildness of the winter. The BBC reported that Beryl Steadman, who runs a hospital in her converted garage in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, has seen a steady flow of admissions.The animals should be tucked up in a pile of leaves or in the hedge, asleep in some warm spot.The same story is repeated around the country. Some are suggesting this is yet more evidence of global warming.Whatever the cause, if you find a hedgehog awake in your garden it is likely to run out of food. For further help there is a list of helpers available at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/ or call 01584 890801.


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NEWS ANIMAL RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS ANGRY AT TESCO’S £1.99 CHICKENS When they sold their chickens at £1.99 the Daily Mail reported that Tesco has come under fire from animal rights campaigners for lowering the price. It represented a reduction of a third of its standard price. Groups argue that this cut made it harder for people to take the ‘humane’ option when buying chicken. A spokesman for the supermarket said,“No one should feel guilty for buying a chicken just because it is good value. The only reduction we make is in the price not the welfare.” An RSPCA spokesman said:“The consumer has the clout to change supermarket policy and we strongly encourage shoppers to buy higher welfare chicken and not be tempted by the discount.” Meanwhile a new survey reveals low levels of poultry welfare,A Governmentfunded study by Bristol University has revealed that one in four battery-reared chickens has difficulty walking. At 40 days old, 27.6 per cent of the broilers showed “poor locomotion” with 3.3 per cent almost unable to walk. Dr.Toby Knowles, the author of the report, said:“The welfare implications of this study are profound. Worldwide approximately 20 billion broilers are reared within similar husbandry systems that are biased towards economics of production and detrimental to poultry welfare.”

WEAR THE TREE RIBBON Feed The Children is looking for retail partners to help its new ‘Saplings’ project, which educates children to protect this vital natural resource. Selling tree ribbons for just £1 each means the money raised will go towards new saplings being planted by children and education to reinforce their importance, ultimately benefiting us all. “Some 80% of rural Africans depend on wood for fuel, but in some parts of Africa trees are becoming scarce due to nomadic habits and pressures of growth,” says Brian Main, chief executive of Feed The Children.“Our Saplings project not only educates children in these areas on the importance of trees for their future but gives them trees to look after and cultivate, underlining the message to the whole community.” To fund the project the charity wants help in selling the new Saplings ribbon, which is green (for

leaves) and brown (for roots), so people can visibly show their support. “By wearing the ribbon, people are bound to ask what it is for and this gives the wearer the opportunity to explain the Saplings project and its importance leading to greater awareness and recruitment to the campaign,” adds Brian.“As trees are a global resource, it also helps the global environment and therefore is helpful for all of us.” Typically, a child will be given two saplings – either a fruit tree or one with medicinal properties and another, fast growing tree for cutting for firewood. Fruit trees include mango and tangerine, whilst trees with medicinal use can be neem or jatropha.The children learn through songs and poems and take home a simple and powerful message: if you cut down a tree, plant two more!

The Feed The Children project provides saplings, tools, fertiliser and a visit from a training officer. The ultimate benefit of the tree can give triple benefits – fruit to supplement nutrition, wood for fuel and horticultural skills to build confidence. E For more information contact Feed The Children on 0118 932 0095 or visit www.feedthechildren.org.uk

HOME PRODUCED FOOD MORE EXPENSIVE The Office for National Statistics reported that production inflation (also known as Factory Gate inflation) rose to its highest level in 16 years at the end of 2007. Home produced food inflation was at 36%, mainly due to high wheat prices. Last year bread rose by 7.5% and other home produced food, milk, cheese, eggs and butter rose by 15%.

Meanwhile the Telegraph Business pages report that vulnerable regions of the world face the risk of famine over the next three years as rising energy costs spill over into a food crunch, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs forecasts that oil will be priced at $105 a barrel by the end of 2008. In recent

years the cost of energy and food have become intrinsically linked. The Telegraph put it nicely – “Peak Oil” is morphing into “Peak Food.”

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READERS’ QUESTIONS YOUR QUESTIONS... The Home Farmer team will answer your questions on a range of topics from buying a farm to making bread. So if you have a problem that you need help with write to: Home Farmer Magazine The Good Life Press Ltd PO Box 536 Preston PR2 9ZY Or email: Editorial@homefarmer. co.uk You will find some of your questions highlighted on the Home Farmer website: www.homefarmer.co.uk

Q

CHEESE CLOTHS

DEAR HOME FARMER I am keen to make my own cheese, but do not know where to buy cheese cloths from. Can you enlighten me? Also, what is the best way of sterilizing them?

Below: A beekeeping class learning the ropes

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We buy all ours from a little homebrew shop. They are widely used for

filtering beer and wines and you can always get them there.You can also look online at somewhere like Moorlands (www.cheesemaking.co.uk) or Ascott at (www.ascottdairy.co.uk). All we do is to boil a kettle and pour the hot water over the cloth in a bowl. I leave this to cool while I am starting the cheese. By the time I am ready for it the water is quite cool.

Q

BEEKEEPING QUERIES

DEAR HOME FARMER We are moving house and our new home has a very large garden. We would like to keep bees in the garden – how can we start? Firstly, buy Home Farmer! We have a monthly beginning beekeeping feature.There are also a couple of books out there to read, Starting with bees by Peter Gordon, Teach Yourself Beekeeping by Adrian and Claire Waring, and Keeping Bees by Paul Peacock. Get yourself along to your local beekeeping association and become a member – that way you also get insurance and a lot of help, cheap supplies and tons of advice. Your bees will not hurt anyone unless they are bothered.Try to put the bees towards the centre of the garden and put a hedge or fence around them.This way the bees are forced up high and no one will be able to see them – and need not know they are there.

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READERS’ QUESTIONS

Alternatively you can buy or collect fertile eggs and put them in an incubator. If it is not a motorised one the eggs need to be turned regularly.As they hatch the chicks need to be moved to their next home, normally a cardboard box with a heater. You can get lots of information from your feed supplier, smallholder groups and organisations such as The Poultry Club of Great Britain (www.poultryclub.org).

Q

RAISING CHICKS

Q

DEAR HOME FARMER We have kept chickens for many months and would now like to raise some chicks – what is the best way to start? Certainly the very best way to start is to wait for a hen to go broody.As long as you have a cockerel you will find her sitting on more or less fertile eggs. The incubation period starts when the bird begins to sit, so the chicks hatch more or less together. Once the chicks are out they need segregating from the other hens and are kept warm with a lamp – unless it is a very warm summer’s fortnight. The chicks should be able to move freely under the lamp, if they congregate closely then they are too cold, conversely they will get as far away from the lamp as possible. The lamp is raised or lowered accordingly. They are fed on chick mash – baby food bought from feed suppliers.There should be plenty of water available too. The mother hen will look after the chicks for about 8 weeks and should be fed and kept in a separate pen.

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RAISING BREAD!

DEAR HOME FARMER How do I stop my bread looking like the Elephant man when it has been cooked?

Below: More permanent beds for people with bad backs!

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Sometimes bread can fall all over the place when it is cooked.The main

reason is the fact that it has been proven for too long. Only prove until it has doubled in size, and no more.You should always knead in the same direction so the protein can line up in strands. Always make sure that your container is not too small for the dough once it has proven. If you knead your dough inside a bowl, if you have a small amount, then this will help maintain an even temperature in the dough, and consequently an even proving. However, if you have a large amount of dough it will be difficult to do this.

Q

BACK PROBLEMS

DEAR HOME FARMER We have a large area of lawn that we wish to dig up and grow vegetables. However

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READERS’ QUESTIONS both my husband and I have back problems and would like to find a tool that would make this easier. Can you help? The very best advice I can give you is to get someone to do it for you, but I suppose money is at a premium, so there are a number of alternatives. First of all you might consider making raised beds.This will stop you from having to dig at all. I made some by laying old carpet on the lawn and then putting railway sleepers around the carpet to a depth of two feet (60cm). On this I put a layer, about a hand’s depth, of fresh manure and topped it up with soil.The manure rotted over the year and killed any plants trying to get through the carpet, and I only grew shallow rooted plants in the first year – lettuce and other salads. It was late summer when I started and by the following March the bed was very fertile and the manure was all-well rotted. An alternative, light weight raised bed system is Link-a-bord, which is made from plastic and snaps together very easily. Another way is to slice off the turf – you can hire a turf cutter if you like and then rotorvate the soil underneath. Something like a Mantis Tiller is very easy to use and is very light, but boy it packs a punch!

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Again, if you did this in late summer and then cover with carpets etc, the patch would be in good shape by spring. Grass is hungry, so you will need to feed your new vegetable plot with plenty of well-rotted manure.

Q

INCREASE BEES

DEAR HOME FARMER With all the talk about the numbers of bees being in decline, how would you increase the numbers of bumblebees in the garden? First of all, although bumblebees are also under threat, it is honeybees that are under serious decline worldwide.There are a number of problems that are causing stress on honeybee numbers including Varroa infestations. However, to answer your question fully – let’s look at bumblebees first. You can start by growing flowers from late winter until late summer and into autumn. Quite literally they cannot live without flowers. Make sure that your gardens are not places where strong chemicals, insecticides and the like, poison the bees. Keep the garden fit for wildlife. This means having a source of water and not being over zealous when it comes to cleaning up. You

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can buy bumblebee nest boxes, designed to help bees over winter as well as encouraging new colonies. Honey bees are a different problem.Thankfully the numbers of people interested in becoming beekeepers is increasing.This isn’t the problem. More rather it is the ever growing disease threats to bee colonies, not only in this country – but around the world. Beekeepers are looking to the government to increase funding, but it is an uphill struggle. If you feel strongly about this, get involved with your local beekeepers association and have a look at membership of the BBKA.

Q

WATER LOGGED

DEAR HOME FARMER I have a very large garden that is really a part of a large field. It is at the bottom of a large hill and in recent months it has become waterlogged. I dug a ditch at the lowest point and still it hasn’t drained the water away. What can I do? If you think carefully where the water is coming from, this will help you in deciding where to dig your drainage ditch. On the whole the water is coming into your garden from the higher points of the hill, and no matter how hard you try, if you take the water away at the bottom there is nothing to stop the water from entering your garden in the first place! So many people make this mistake. Let us suggest you have a large hill and half of it is waterlogged – usually the bottom half. You drain the bottom by putting a ditch at the highest point of the wetness – half way up the hill.Then water coming from the top of the hill will not be able to drain into your garden – it will trickle away along your drainage pipes and out into the stream or drains – depending on where you cut it. You need to cut your drains and lay a decent set of drainage pipes, at a good slope, so the water actually drains away instead of simply filling the ditch and overflowing back onto the field. So in short you need to cut a drain at the highest point of the garden, and drain the water away before it gets into your land.

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READERS’ QUESTIONS Now, you can always recognize poorly drained soil because it has a propensity to grow sedges.These look like thin, strong, dark green knitting needles.A bit like grass, that grows in dark clumps, and is more or less inedible.

Q

LIVING ON THE LAND

DEAR HOME FARMER Help me! I need to move from this city centre (Birmingham) housing estate! I’d love to buy a plot of land and live in a caravan, just me and my animals! How can this be done? It sounds wonderful doesn’t it? You can buy agricultural land, at an ever increasing price, and you can buy a smallholding, at an ever increasing price, or you can buy a farm! If you are like me then the dream home in the country is likely to remain just that – a dream. You can buy land and put a caravan on it – or indeed a tent. You will only be allowed to stay on this land for so long, the planning department will eventually come

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along and try to shift you off.You can apply for planning permission to stay on your land, or indeed to build a home on it. It is a long and arduous process and you will need some serious help. Next month we hope to hear from the experts at New Landowner, and in one of their articles they will touch on the planning process. Living with legal letters and being only a temporary resident is not for everyone. I for one couldn’t cope with the stress of it all. Maybe renting is the answer for you.There are plenty of inexpensive homes to rent near you in Birmingham – particularly if you are prepared to live over the border in Wales. Get yourself onto the mailing list of every estate agent in the area and keep on looking. Renting is possibly the best bet for someone on a budget – especially with the housing market being so volatile at the moment.

Q

REDUCING TAX

DEAR HOME FARMER We are buying a smallholding with outbuildings and the cost is over

the 3% Stamp Duty level. Can we buy the out buildings as one purchase and the house as another, and thus halve our tax? Nice try! For those of you that don’t know, stamp duty is the tax you pay when you buy a house. Less than £125,000 isn’t taxed. Between £125,001 and £250.000 it is 1%, between 250,000 and 500,000 it is 3% and so on.This is a lot of money – the stamp duty on £300,000 is £9,000! Phew! The problem comes when trying to get round this is that at the Land Registry the outbuildings are linked to the home they serve.Trying to alter this will bring the Tax Man knocking on your door.Your solicitor, or licensed conveyancer, will ask the vendor to sign a Land Transaction Return form, which has all the information on it. It is a detailed form that has to be sent to the Inland Revenue. If your house costs £250,000 the duty is £2500, but if it is £250,001 then the duty will be three times this. It seems that it is always the same – the Tax Man wins!

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YOUR QUESTIONS... The Home Farmer team will answer your questions on a range of topics from buying a farm to making bread. So if you have a problem that you need help with write to: Home Farmer Magazine The Good Life Press Ltd PO Box 536 Preston PR2 9ZY Or email: Editorial@homefarmer. co.uk You will find some of your questions highlighted on the Home Farmer website: www.homefarmer.co.uk

Below:There are plenty of cottages to rent if you look closely

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GROW IT

Terrific Toms! It’s time to start off your tomatoes – probably the easiest and most productive crop in the garden THERE IS NOTHING more gratifying than cutting into that first tomato that you have grown yourself. If you think of summertime it simply has to include tomatoes. But there are more reasons for growing a lot of them than ever. Of course you can buy cheap toms flown in from wherever. Of course these tomatoes are polluting the planet – thousands of ‘tomato miles’ with their associated CO2, non-organic growing methods, and perhaps more importantly the changing of agriculture in Third World countries so that we might eat tomatoes. But more than all these reasons, tomatoes grown in your own garden, non-polluting tomatoes, cheap and cheerful tomatoes, taste great!

bottom out, around 30cm across. You push them in the soil, fill with compost and plant your tomato inside. I also use them for cucumbers.

START SOWING NOW On average, if you have an unheated greenhouse or polytunnel, mid-March to early April is the best time to start sowing your tomatoes. Late April in Scotland. Use good quality compost and sow you plants either in modules, seed trays or little pots. I use those foam plastic drinks cups where I place two or three seeds per pot, pricking out the weakest plants once they have a couple of leaves on them and can judge which one is best to keep. Place the trays or pots in a heated propagator (20oC/68F) and germination should take about a week. Once the young plants have reached a handbreadth height, they can be moved to a sunny spot for a week or so to acclimatise them to their final growing place. During this acclimatising stage you should raise the plants high off the ground if it is going to be cold, and perhaps cover them with fleece.

GROW BAGS Once the plants are big enough to handle – usually from mid May, you can plant them into their growing point. For me this has tended to be grow-bags because I haven’t had enough space to produce more than six plants. However, if you have a tunnel or large greenhouse, put them in a rich bed – straight in the ground. You can also use ring culture pots. These are pots with the

The benefit is that you just water inside the pot and don’t increase the humidity of the greenhouse / polytunnel by pouring water will nilly around the soil. The plants should be 40cm apart, and supported right from day one. I use garden canes – big ones firmed deep in the compost. I have also used a series of strings from the top of the greenhouse, but find them to be too harsh when the plant gets heavy.


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15 plant will grow like a bush, increasing the humidity in the greenhouse. Keep supporting the plants as they grow by loosely tying them to the cane or support. You will have to decide how many trusses you want from your plants. Three per plant gives bigger tomatoes but you will not get maximum yield. Four or five is the norm, but you can get as many as seven or eight if you have room to grow such a tall plant. The way to control the number of trusses is to pinch out the topmost growing point.

HARVESTING Water the plants well, keeping the soil slightly moist – but do not over water. Too much water at this stage can promote fungal infections. After a few weeks you will be amazed by the first truss. This is a flowering branch – and once you see this, get watering and feeding. If the weather is hot, water carefully every day – don’t splash it about! Twice a week add some tomato feed to the watering. This can be bought stuff or home made – comfrey leaves soaked in water make a really smelly, potent brew.

SIDE SHOOTS The plant will produce shoots – branches that come from the leaf nodes of the main vine. Cut these out – mostly because the

Ripening of tomatoes is controlled by a gaseous plant hormone – ethylene. This gas is given off by ripe fruit and triggers the ripening process. This is why you sometimes see a ripe banana hanging inside a greenhouse. Of course, late August to late September is the major harvest time for tomatoes. You just can’t eat them all! But there is nothing better than to bottle or chutney or dry them. This way your crop will last the whole year through.

MAKING TOMATO BASE – FOR SOUPS, ALMOST ANYTHING REALLY This recipe came from George W. Carver who wrote it in 1918 – and it’s a brilliant way of keeping them. To be used in soups, stews, and may

me diluted for sauce. Put in an earthen stew-pan as many sound, ripe tomatoes as desired; cook slowly until the skins come off easily; strain through a sieve, pressing gently with a wooden spoon; throw away the first water that passes through the sieve. Return the rest to the stew-pan adding a dessert spoon of mixed spices to each pound of tomatoes; salt to taste. Cook slowly until it becomes very thick. If to be kept only a short time, put in wide-mouthed bottles - stand the bottles in a kettle of water like any other preserve; boil for 15 minutes; cool, cover, and set in a cool, dark place. It may be put boiling-hot into sterilized glass jars, and sealed the same as any fruit jar. In this way it will keep indefinitely. E

Disease and Pests E They suffer from blight – so watch out for black spots on leaves. If, once a month, you spray with a copper fungicide such as Bordeaux mixture, you should be fine. Do it on a cold day to keep the humidity down. E Keep the watering even. Gaps, followed by lots of water to compensate, causes blossom end rot – such an annoying pain. E The only other major problem is whitefly, which you can deter by growing marigolds. Keep the area well ventilated in the day, warm at night – don’t forget to close the doors.


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SPUDS-U-LIKE First Early potatoes need to be in the ground by mid March – traditionally St Patrick’s day...

Getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day important. ‘First Earlies’ need a round YOU HAVE TO believe this. There is 12 to 15 weeks, depending on where nothing – NOTHING – more exciting you are in the country. ‘Second Earlies’ than digging up your potatoes, taking need 17 to 20 weeks and ‘Maincrop’ them to the kitchen, washing, boiling need 20 to 25 weeks. and eating them. Anyone Skin quality is also an who has not experienced important factor in the this is missing out on THE GOLDEN distinction between one of the greatest joys RULE IS TO STICK maincrop and earlies. You of life. You do not need a field to grow potatoes. TO WHAT IT SAYS could dig up a maincrop potato in July and get a Of course, the more ON THE PACKET crop of small potatoes space you have the better, but in truth you AND THAT WAY that would have a decent (ish) flavour but would can grow a week’s worth YOU WILL NOT BE have a skin that was of potatoes in as much space as you can stand DISAPPOINTED chewy. Alternatively you could leave a ‘First Early’ in – especially if you use in the ground to get a container on a patio. bigger tubers, but they would fall apart The potato, brought back from the much more easily in the pan. South Americas in Elizabethan times, You don’t want a baking potato the has been worth much more to the size of a conker, and it clearly takes country than the many tonnes of gold longer to make a big potato than a small that came over in the same ships. The one. The golden rule is to stick to what original tubers bear little relation to it says on the packet and that way you the ones we grow these days, but the will not be disappointed. plants have been grown in much the same way for 300 years.

TWO TYPES OF SPUD There are basically two types of potato, waxy and floury. Floury potatoes are used for mashing and frying or roasting. Waxy potatoes are used wherever the texture of the flesh needs to remain intact; for salad potatoes, boiling and making dishes such as rosti.

A SCIENCE LESSON A waxy potato has very strong cell walls made of cellulose that tend to stay intact during cooking. A floury potato has weaker cell walls that burst open easily. Once the cell walls break the escaping steam within the cell causes an explosion of starch. When fried this fluffy starch becomes crispy. So floury for roast potatoes, waxy for salads and boiled.

EARLY OR LATE – STICK TO WHAT IT SAYS ON THE PACKET! The time needed for the plant to produce a reasonable crop is

The main UK potato varieties can be graded according to their waxiness

How waxy is your potato ? 90% WAXY Nadine, Pink Fir Apple

75% WAXY Cara Marfona Home Guard Sharp’s Express

60% WAXY Estima Wilja Saxon Nicola Charlotte

60% FLOURY Maris Peer Maris Piper Romano Desire

75% FLOURY King Edward Sante

90% FLOURY Golden Wonder


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HOW TO GROW POTATOES THE SOIL Preparation of the soil is important. It must be like a sponge, full of well-rotted organic matter. Potatoes need a lot of water, but apart from emergencies this water must come from the soil itself. Incorporate as much organic matter as you can some weeks before planting – even during the previous winter. THE POTATOES Do not save potatoes from last year. They very quickly gather viral problems. Similarly you should not simply plant potatoes from the supermarket. You can get new ‘seed’ potatoes for around 2050 pence each and they will guarantee the very best results. From each potato you will get around £2-£3’s worth of potatoes, probably even more. CHITTING This is what the potato does for itself. If you leave them in a light, airy space enzymes will start to convert the starch to sugar. As soon as this life giving substance hits the dormant buds (known as eyes) they will burst into life. Victorians used to think that the shoots produced from chitting gave the plants a head start. This is not

Early or late? FIRST EARLY VARIETIES: Maris Peer, Home Guard,Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin, Rocket, Pink Fir Apple SECOND EARLY VARIETIES: Kestrel,Wilja, Estima, Osprey, Nadine MAINCROP VARIETIES: Admiral, Cara, Eden, Maris Piper, King Edward, varieties.


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SPUDS-U-LIKE always so. Recent research has shown that chitted maincrop varieties might have storage problems later. The truth is that un-chitted potatoes will go through the same process under the ground anyway.

PLANTING

You can grow potatoes in bags of compost. Put a black lining inside a plastic shopping bag so no light can penetrate. Loosely fill with compost and puncture the bag for drainage. Insert the tuber into the bag and wait for growth. When the vine appears out of the bag tie the neck to keep out the light. This will need watering weekly.

digging a hole and lining it with straw, piling your potatoes inside, covering with more straw and then soil to seal.

DISEASES Potatoes get more diseases than almost anything else in the garden.

METHOD 1 THE TRENCH Dig a trench 1 spade deep by around 10m long. Simply lay your potatoes, eyes METHOD 4 – A PILE OF TYRES Start with two tyres and fill a liner with uppermost, in the trench and cover. compost. Water weekly, but in high Earlies should be spaced 45cm (18in) summer you might need to water every apart, Maincrop 75cm (2ft 6in) apart. Maincrop rows should be 75cm (2ft 6in) other day. As the plant grows add more compost and when apart and Earlies rows needed another tyre to should be slightly a maximum of four. narrower. POTATOES As the plants grow EXPOSED TO they will soon appear out POTATO CARE of the soil and at the Potatoes need plenty of LIGHT BECOME roots tubers will form. water and should be GREEN AND These tubers frequently kept moist but very appear at the surface. drained while they CONSEQUENTLY well Use a draw hoe to pull are growing. Potatoes CONTAIN A HIGH that are grown in soil earth up around the stems so that the tubers not need LEVEL OF ALKENES should remain snug under the watering unless there is surface. Potatoes exposed a real drought. In the to light become green and consequently summer they will set flowers and contain a high level of alkenes, which eventually fruit. These should be will at best give you a tummy upset – at removed if at all possible. Since the soil worst make you quite ill. has been well fed before planting, no extra feeding should be needed. METHOD 2 STRAW Non dig gardeners can grow potatoes on the surface. Make a ring of straw and HARVESTING place a seed tuber in the centre. Cover Remove the vine of only one plant and with straw and douse with water. As the use a fork, digging away from the vine, potato grows cover it with straw and a and lift the tubers out of the ground. layer of compost. Continue to add straw When you have the majority of them, and compost until the potato is well dig deeper to remove all the tubers, no established, around two feet high. matter how small. They must not be Continue to add compost around the allowed to grow next year; otherwise outside of the plant until it becomes disease will build up in the soil. impractical because of the foliage. This Potatoes can be left in the ground – system will need careful watering. there should be no need to lift them all unless you need the soil space for a new METHOD 3 – A PLASTIC BAG crop. They can be stored in airy dark This works best with Earlies. conditions. You can clamp them by

BLIGHT Caused by a fungus and appears on warm days following rain. When you see black splodges on the leaves, dig them up and spray the remainder with organic copper based fungicide. It is best avoided by giving the plants plenty of aeration; not having rows and plants close together. There is nothing worse than lifting tubers only to see them fall apart in your hands – a black mess! There are two forms of blight, Phytophthora infestans is late blight – spores infect the leaves and quickly the whole thing is black and soupy. A dark black ring on the leaves is the first sign. As soon as you see this – cut out the vines and lift the crop. Do not compost anything – burn the vines. Then you need to keep the potatoes dry and not touching anything. Hopefully there will be no infection, if you’re quick.

Dig a trench and do not place seed potatoes too close together.

Line the tyres with a bag and fill with earth before planting your tubers.

Having placed your potatoes, cover with another later of straw and then sprinkle earth over to stop it blowing away.

LATE BLIGHT Comes on warm days after rain. You can cause the right conditions by inappropriate watering – never wet the leaves! EARLY BLIGHT Caused by Alternaria solani., rarely produces loss in the crop. You get the rings, early in the summer around June. Late blight occurs about six weeks later. You can combat blight by spraying with fungicide, but they do not provide a complete coverage. Blight resistant varieties, such as Carla, are good too. By far the best method is to keep the vines dry and do not allow them to grow into a tight mass where local humidity can build up.


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SPUDS-U-LIKE SCAB Looks like little brown scabs on the tuber. Has no real effect on the crop and is simply peeled away. EELWORMS Microscopic worms that turn you crop into a nasty soup. Reduces yield and really can only be tacked organically by good rotation. WIREWORM The lava of the click beetle that lives on grass. Your crops are only really at risk if they are grown on new plots that were recently grass – so don’t bother for at least a year following clearing. COLORADO BEETLE A rare infestation that must be reported to the police. It is a rare infestation, but increasing as winters have warmed up in recent years. A heavy infestation will completely destroy your crop.

Colorado beetle is a rare but voracious notifiable pest.

CROP ROTATION It is best if you do not grow potatoes on the same piece of land for four years, this gives nature a chance to remove any diseases. The well-manured land is ideal for growing other crops. Spuds are called a clean crop because they leave the land relatively weed free and still quite fertile. Plants to follow potatoes include brassicas (cabbages, cauliflowers etc) and carrots.

POLYTUNNEL TRICK – NEW POTATOES FOR CHRISTMAS DINNER Potato tubers need a period of cool to trick them into thinking they have gone

through a winter, so in mid august put some into a fridge. Do not put them in the freezer – this will damage them. Keep them cool for a couple of weeks. Plant them in pots of rich compost – large pots, or in a grow bag or directly in the soil. The plants should show after a month and over the following weeks your potatoes will develop – it takes around 12 weeks to get potatoes. While the plant is growing, keep them well watered. Make sure the compost is also well drained. As the vines yellow, cut them out to avoid any diseases. The tunnel does not have to be very warm, no extra heat is needed.

seeded. This is continued until the end – where a row or soil is dragged over the last lot of exposed potatoes. It is remarkable how quickly a tenth of an acre is covered – much quicker than it took to spread the muck on the plot earlier in the autumn! E

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Growing potatoes on a field scale can be an excellent way of not only being self sufficient in potatoes yourself, but will give you enough to feed pigs and other stock. Chickens like a few potatoes, boiled up and mashed, but not too often. It brightens their diet. In the old days potatoes would be mixed with locally caught freshwater fish – often eels caught in a sack filled with bated straw. The fish would be boiled whole and then ground and mixed with the potato. This was an excellent way of getting cheap protein for the hens. (Though the eggs would be tainted with a slight fishy smell – something we still experience today with battery hens being fed on a mix including fishmeal.) An allotment sized plot is ideal for most purposes, and I have used the rotovator to ‘soften up’ a row of soil with my son dropping seed potatoes behind at the rate of one every metre. Then, as the next row is cut up with the rotorvator he covers the exposed potatoes with a rake before the next row is

COMPETITION: CAN YOU BEAT THE ONE TONNE TARGET? The record for potato production is 1 tonne from six seed potatoes.This was set in the 1970’s and Home Farmer have teamed up with Victoriana Garden Nurseries to see if you can beat the record. There is a very specific way of growing such a large amount of potatoes from just six sets and as you will imagine the variety is important. Pentland Crown can produce a tonne of potatoes from just six, but you have to plant them very far apart and stick to some basic rules which will come with the potatoes. OFFER DETAILS Usual Price £9.90, offer price £7.92 (+£3.95 carriage), kit includes six spuds, fertiliser and guidance. SAVE 20%! Ordering is simple, via the website at www.victoriananursery.co.uk or by telephone on 01233 740529. Just remember to quote HF331. OFFER ENDS 30/4/2008


HF ISSUE 1 ADS

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HF ISSUE 1 P22-25 PLANNING

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GARDEN PLANNING

Productive gardens Productive gardens are more than just a few beds and a big lawn. It takes a lot of planning and careful thought. This month we look at three important topics: companion planting, green manures and the old enemy – weeds! TAKE YOUR PARTNERS Companion planting mimics nature by growing crop plants side by side with companions, so instead of having row after row of crops vulnerable to attack by pests, they are hidden or disguised by the leaves and aromas of other plants, like marigolds, borage and mint. The idea is that the presence of the companion actually helps the growth of your crop. Sometimes the companion is not valuable in the kitchen, as with the wallflower or the daisy. Other times you might have two crop plants growing together, like carrots and onions or chives. The many real benefits to be had from companion planting, that are not yet fully explained by science, include reduced attention from pests, increased growth and in some cases such as tomato and parsley, increased flavour.

Crop

Does well with...

Does badly with...

Alliums (Garlic – onions)

Carrots, turnips

Watch out for taint on beans

Brassicas

Marigolds, rosemary

Onions

Beans

Almost anything

Onions, garlic

Carrot

Onions, peas

Lettuce

Carrot, strawberry

Peas

Almost anything

Onions, garlic

Potatoes

Marigolds, beans

Tomatoes (same family)

Strawberries

Beans, lettuce

All alliums

Tomatoes

Parsley, marigolds

Potatoes

Turnips, swede etc

Alliums, marigolds


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23 PUSH AND PULL

DIVERSITY – COPY NATURE

Researchers at the Rothamstead Over time nature crams the greatest Research Station came up with the variety of plants into the smallest area. In concept of push and pull. Grow certain the garden we tend to do the opposite, plants that release chemicals to deter with beds and even whole fields filled pest insects. These are the push. Plants, with just one type of plant. If all there is that divert pests away from your crops beneath a flying insect is a plot full of by attracting them to the cabbages it is likely to companion make up the land on its desired food. pull. The pull can also However, if there are all COMPANION involve attracting kinds of colours and crops beneficial insects too! there is a much greater PLANTING that the insect will MIMICS NATURE chance land on something other THE PUSH than your precious crop, MARIGOLDS: Marigolds BY GROWING will probably fly a give off a certain odour CROP PLANTS SIDE and little further on which insects can detect where there from hundreds of metres BY SIDE WITH are easier away. Plant them very COMPANIONS pickings. thickly throughout vegetable plots. French marigolds also have roots that deter nematode attack, so planting them in the potato patch is a must. MINTS: Aphids and cabbage white butterflies hate the smell of mint. Mints will grow like mad and soon take over the whole garden, so grow them in pots. RUE: This plant deters weevils. Grow as a garden border or scatter rue leaf clippings in an infested area. Be careful: Rue causes a rash for some people, so wear gloves. SWEET BASIL: This herb is a must for any garden. Grow among vegetables to repel aphids, mites, and mosquitoes. It is good in the greenhouse too, especially near peppers and tomatoes.

THE PULL Plants that have gone to seed are in the business of attracting all kinds of insects, and they can be used as trap plants. Chinese cabbages that have gone to seed seem to attract aphids away from other cabbages. Borage attracts honeybees, thus is beneficial for the setting of fruit. Mustard is possibly the best of the pull plants because its aroma attracts all kinds of insects. You can simply dig the mustard in like a green manure, covering it first with a layer of compost to stop the pest insects escaping. Asters attract bees and spiders love them. Angelica and morning glory provide a home for lacewings and ladybirds – both are excellent aphid hunters. In a way, companion planting is garden ecology at work. The more we study our plots and get to know the likes and dislikes of the plants we grow, the better we will be at working out which plants do well, which insects are beneficial and which are simply pests.

This is the simple basis for having a great diversity of plants and crops in the garden. It also goes for lessening the problems due to slugs and snails. If your lettuces are surrounded by marigolds and you have some ‘sacrificial’ hostas at the end of the row then you are far less likely to have your lettuces ravaged.

SWINGS AND ROUNDABOUTS There are many combinations of plants that are beneficial, but there are a few that are downright dangerous. Garlic, for example, often taints the flavour of peas and beans and some cabbages.


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GARDEN PLANNING dug-in, at which point they will die and rot quickly. If your soil is heavy, try tares, which is actually a bean, Vicia sativa. This plant will grow a little higher than clover, but will also dig-in quite easily. But make sure you dig it in before it GREEN MANURES flowers, to stop the plant producing Green manures are plants whose main beans (although these job in the garden is to are edible!). provide solely for the Both of these plants soil. They fall into GREEN fix nitrogen from the several groups: those for MANURES ARE atmosphere. composting, those for digging-in and those CLASSIFIED that fix nitrogen directly SPRING ACCORDING from the atmosphere. Lupin and mustard are They can also be both good plants to grow TO THE used to suppress weeds in the spring. They come SEASON THEY when the soil is being up quickly and form a left bare for a long ground-covering crop ARE USED period, perhaps over the that can be dug-in easily. winter. This has the dual Bitter lupin, Lupinus purpose of keeping the soil nutrients angustifolius, should be sown like locked in such a way that the rain carrots, a couple of centimetres deep, cannot so easily leach them out, as well and a couple of centimetres apart. as out-growing weeds. Mustard, Sinapis alba, needs to be Of course, many green manures broadcast like clover and, again, dug-in attract pollinating insects to the garden before flowering. – there’s no end to their usefulness and, just in case you were wondering, you CLEVER COMFREY can eat some of them too! Henry Doubleday in Victorian times Green manures are classified started working on this plant as a crop, according to the season they are used. before which it was known as knitbone, and used to help fix fractures. However, it’s so rich in nutrients that it can be AUTUMN composted easily to create a nitrate-rich Green manures can be planted straight mixture, ideal for tomatoes and most after digging so they will germinate other jobs around the garden. before all the warmth has left the soil. Comfrey tea is a simple infusion of In the spring, a month before planting comfrey leaves, stuffed into an old begins, the crop is simply dug in and pillowcase and allowed to soak in water. allowed to rot, releasing the vital The rich, horrid-smelling, black ooze nutrients and improving the sponginess that results makes wonderful organic of the soil. feed, a perfect boost all over the plot! Varieties for autumn sowing include Mostly, comfrey comes as plants that red clover, Trifolium pratense. should be planted at a distance of ‘Broadcast’ the seed, evenly throw them around a metre apart. It grows rapidly around the soil, at a rate of a handful and can be harvested once the flowers per square metre. They will grow to a start to appear. Simply cut it with shears height of 40cm and can be mown and to a height of about 20cm above the put on the compost heap. From late soil. It’ll keep re-growing right through January to mid-February they can be to October/November, when it switches off for the winter. Once comfrey goes dormant for its first winter, cover with a good mulch of well-rotted manure or compost, and wait for spring. In its second year it should grow furiously, providing three or four cuts during the season.

Marigold roots kill off certain nematodes, and so plants such as carrots who suffer from nematode attack will do better when grown amongst them.

ORGANIC WEEDING

Clover makes a great green manure

You don’t have to blast your land with poisonous chemicals to keep it weed free. Regardless of what you do to the soil, Nature still has a way of taking advantage of the resources available out there. But there are some ways of beating the rush.

Lupins are good at fixing nitrogen into the soil


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25 THE COVER UP A favourite trick, of allotment holders particularly, is to cover the ground with old carpet or anything to keep the sunlight out. It has a number of drawbacks. Firstly, the land is out of production while you cover up. Secondly, underneath the cover you will find a lot of slugs and snails. You change the natural balance of the soil and this will have implications when you finally take the cover off. Finally, when you do take the cover away you will see a lot of weeds explode into life. It won’t do away with weeding, it just postpones it for a while. Knotweed is a tricky one to shift – it grows everywhere

Comfrey is the all time best liquid manure maker

HOE, HOE, HOE! Japanese knotweed is one of those weeds that you must, by law, do something about. Continual digging out is the only organic answer. If you try to cover any of these plants they will simply grow along until they appear at the surface, or push themselves through anything, even concrete! If you don’t keep Japanese knotweed at bay the council will eventually come along and ANNUAL WEEDS spray it with glyphosate and charge you for doing ARE EASILY so. And, likely as not, the weed will appear again in a DEALT WITH. couple of weeks anyway.

Annual weeds are easily dealt with. Simply hoe up the seedlings as they appear. You will be left with dead and dying plant parts in the soil, and it’ll never look like a billiard table, but annual weeds won’t return. Once you have hoed them in, lay a mulch of compost or bark – making it at least a hands-depth to cover the hoed plants.

UNDER-SOW

Weeds grow where there is space for them. Plant your own ‘weeds’ around your growing SIMPLY HOE crops. Lettuce, nasturtium, marigolds – MARE’S TAIL UP THE any of these can be Equisetum is one of the SEEDLINGS AS usefully grown as a salad most elegant of all plants. crop to fill the spaces on They break off if you pull THEY APPEAR the plot. Or try some them and the roots do the green manure, clover for same. The roots are very example, which can be simply dug in long and can go from the topsoil all the when your crop has been removed. way down to bedrock. Mare’s tail will never be cleared by digging out the roots alone because you will find this an HARD FACED WEEDS impossible task. Nettles grow where animals urinate or A combination of clearing and on soils rich in nitrate. The roots and digging over many seasons will keep rhizomes run under the soil and if you them at bay. One tip – don’t cut them clear the surface they will appear with an expensive tool. The stems are somewhere. But if you continue to cut impregnated with silica and your knife them down and add lime to the soil will be blunted. E where they appear, after a year or so they will have more or less been cleared. Ground elder is a perennial creeping plant, otherwise known as Goutweed, or Bishop’s weed because bishops used often to suffer from gout. It spreads around 30 feet and the roots form a web in shallow soil. It is easily dug up, but if even the tiniest piece is left behind it will come back, even more vigorous next time. Constant digging out will take a couple of years to remove the plant completely.

Next Month Next month we will be looking at planning your site on paper and extolling the virtues of the potager.

COUCH GRASS, BINDWEED AND KNOTWEED These plants have to be dug out. They will all reproduce like mad and grow from small pieces of shoot or root.

Nettles are weeds that are good to eat


HF ISSUE 1 P26-27 BUTTER

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MAKE YOUR OWN!

Better Butter Diana tells us how you really can make excellent tasting butter in your own kitchen in a very short period of time The way butter has been made for SOME PEOPLE MAY ask the question: centuries is by using a butter churn, a should we be eating butter in this lidded container with a handle in the health conscious society? lid. The cream is placed in the Isn’t it bad for us? Well too much of container and the lid fitted tightly. The most things can be bad for anyone. But handle is turned and the eaten in moderation cream is churned: the fat butter is better for you separates from the liquid than hydrogenated fat MAKING YOUR and butter is the result. spreads and tastes better In the past butter than margarine. It is OWN MEANS churns have been made also good to know what THAT YOU ARE IN out of wood and glass, but goes into the foods we are consuming and TOTAL CONTROL are often made out of metal or plastic these making your own means OF WHAT days. There is an easier that you are in total control of what you and YOU AND YOUR way that doesn’t require a butter churn but uses an your family eats. FAMILY EATS everyday object that most Making butter in households have or can your kitchen is a very easy process and is great fun to do with get hold of easily. I was amazed at the ‘magic’ trick my children. They love seeing, feeling and husband performed for me one day, hearing the changes as the fat in the ‘Watch this,’ he said. After a few cream solidifies and becomes butter. When I have made it with adult friends, minutes of shaking what I thought was a bottle of milk up and down, he stopped, they also are amazed at the ‘magical’ cut the plastic open and poured appearance of the butter. So how do some liquid in a bowl you do it?

Make your own butter YOU WILL NEED E 2 litre plastic milk bottle (rinsed with cold water). E 500ml carton double cream E Salt to taste (a level teaspoon) E Small dish to store your butter in E Colander METHOD 1. Pour cream into milk bottle, secure lid. 2. Shake bottle vigorously till the cream separates, you will hear a thud sound as the fat binds together. 3. Open the lid and pour the butter milk into a jug. 4. Cut round the middle of the bottle and scoop out the butter into a colander. 5. Under a slow stream of cold water chop into the butter rinsing all the time. 6. Salt to taste and mix gently away from water and place in dish.


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27

Get a child to churn the butter – they love it!

Pour off the buttermilk and use it for making scones!

Cut the bottle open to get at the butter.

The creamy butter should be in a mass at the bottom.

Wash away remaining buttermilk with COLD water.

You can form your butter with Scotch Hands.

The butter is now ready for salting if you prefer.

the butter this will keep for longer. I find storing my butter in ramekin dishes is the best as I can take one out to use each day. Homemade butter is very firm and needs to be kept at room temperature for spreading, just take it out of the fridge on the morning it is needed. It may be softened by creaming and a teaspoon of olive or sunflower oil can be added to soften and make it easier to spread. This butter makes the best tasting shortbread and cakes, once again use at room temperature otherwise it is very difficult to cream even using an electric mixer.

You can use it straight from the fridge for frying, sautéing or sweating vegetables for curries or soups. The flavour of the finished butter may be enhanced if you add a teaspoon of crème fraiche to the cream at the beginning of the process. This isn’t necessary, but I find it lightens the taste of the finished product. More salt may be added if you prefer. Experimenting is the best way to achieve a finished butter that appeals to you and your family the most. So why not have a go? Just follow the simple steps to making your own delicious butter. Friends and family will be most impressed. E

then scooped out the rest of its contents. ‘There, taste that, its butter.’ He was right, it tasted just like the butter I had bought the previous day to make a cake, the unsalted type. It appeared to be very easy, so I thought I would have a go and this is what I did...

MAKING BUTTER I bought a 500ml carton of double cream and I had an empty two litre plastic bottle. Pour the carton of cream into the bottle, put the lid back on the bottle securely and shake it up and down as fast and as vigorously as you can, it is good exercise! Keep the shaking going till you hear the cream separate; this sounds like a heavy thud in the bottle and a splashing sound of the separated liquid. Then take off the lid and pour the liquid into a jug. This is buttermilk and can be used in other recipes, like making scones (See page 34 in this issue). Cut round the widest part of the bottle and scoop out the solid mass that is left. It looked like butter and smelt like it too. Would it taste like it? Not bad, but not quite right. What else did I need to do? I put the butter into a colander and rinsed it under a slow stream of cold water, chopping into the butter to get rid of the rest of the buttermilk. The more you can get rid of, the better the butter tastes and also it will keep longer. The water you rinse it with must be a gentle stream as anything stronger will cause the butter to be forced through the holes in the colander. And of course it has to be COLD! When the butter is rinsed well a little salt may be added, gently mixed into the butter with a chopping action. Rinse again, drain well, and then put it onto a cold plate or chopping board. If you prefer your butter un-salted then it can be put straight into a container and covered and stored in the fridge. This will keep for 5-7 days, but if you add a level teaspoon of salt and mix well into


HF ISSUE 1 P28-31 SEA

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SEA FISHING

Once I caught a fish alive... Why do we miss out the greatest resource these islands have to offer? With a little effort you could live free… on fish! THE COASTS OF the UK are a fantastic resource. It is so productive that everyone in the UK could live off its bounty – and the stocks would still be safe. Instead we spend our time turning our noses up at the very best fish there is to be had in the world. So – you go to Spain and eat pilchards. (Oh what lovely pilchards they are too!) They come from Devon. You go to Italy and buy the most expensive Frito Misto there is – if only I could describe the complete joy of eating Frito Misto! – well the herring and the squid and the whitebait all came from British waters. If you pay a fortune for vongole in some Venetian restaurant then the cockles came from Morecambe Bay, and Eric Morecambe watched with a sea gull on his head as the cocklers braved cold and tides to scratch them out of the sand. I could go on, and on, but you will probably get bored. The point is that while all the rest of the world simply loves our seafood, we stand by and turn our noses up. Shame on us!

SAFE Please be safe on the shore. Beaches are dangerous places, and the world’s largest producer of cockles is also the most deadly. Make sure you are safe.

GET SORTED If you are thinking about any sort of self sufficiency then a trip to the sea side should be at least a monthly occurrence. All you need is a little knowledge, a rod of almost any old sort will bag you some herring, a net for shrimping and a little imagination when it comes to molluscs.

STARTING WITH MACKEREL At almost any time of year you can start catching mackerel. You catch them on feathers – which are shiny looking lures that you buy from the bait shop. They can have up to six hooks on them. You simply cast them out and then slowly pull them in. On most casts you will catch fish. You stand on a rock at the beach and spend the whole day (or night) casting in the fresh air.

A MILLION THINGS TO DO WITH A HERRING “You shall have a fishy on a little dishy” is testament to how the herring boats in the north east of England fed the population. One of the basic skills of the kitchen used to be gutting and filleting. People imagine this to be a messy job, but it really doesn’t have to be. There are many ways of doing this and I find my method to work well. 1. Cut the dorsal fin from the fish’s back with a pair of scissors. 2. First remove the heads behind the gills and also the tail. You need a very sharp, stout knife for this. 3. On the belly of the fish, insert the knife into what would have been the fish’s bottom, with the blade facing outwards. Draw the knife all the way up the belly dividing the fish into two. Repeat the manoeuvre opening up the tail end. 4. Because the head and tail have already been removed, the gut will fall out of the fish, especially if encouraged to do so with the thumb. Wash the inside under the cold tap. 5. To fillet the fish, cut along its back until you feel the backbone.


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29 and fish. Empty the whitebait into your frying basket and carefully plunge into extremely hot oil until golden brown. Serve all the fish together with a green salad and tartar sauce. Lovely! Finally, try cooled, grilled herring and garlic salad. Grill the fillets and when cool flake the meat into a dish, adding grated garlic and a dash of olive oil. Mash with a fork and season with pepper.

KILLING FISH

Continue to draw the knife to one side of the backbone, paring away the flesh, leaving the bones behind. You will get the odd bone left in the fillet but these can easily be removed with a pair of tweezers. Repeat the process for the other half of the fish. 6. Once you have your fillets there are millions of recipes for them. You can roll them up, pierce them with a cocktail stick and soak in spiced peppered vinegar, when they are called roll mops. Coat them in seasoned oatmeal and lightly fry them in butter. 7. Finely grater garlic over the fillets that have been brushed with a little olive oil and grill for three minutes.

HERRING FRITO MISTO This is nothing more than a plate of fried fish and should have herring fillets as a major constituent. Include also, sardines, whitebait and a good quality cod or haddock cut into generously sized cubes. Simply fry the fish individually and drain onto a kitchen towel. The whitebait can be fried by the handful. Place them in a plastic bag with a good tablespoon of seasoned flour. Close the neck of the bag and lightly shake to incorporate the flour

Keep a priest. This is basically a club – it delivers the last rights, although this isn’t why it’s called a priest (I’m saving that one for a competition sometime.) BEFORE you take the fish off the hook hit it sharply on the head twice with the priest. This will kill the fish and end its agony.

BIGGER FISH TO FRY The coast is full of brilliant fish from cod to eel. There are lots of ways to catch them, and the very best way of finding out is by going fishing for herring and then chatting to the others that are there. Try fishing off a pier for dogfish – great fun and you do get lots of rock salmon. Soles and flatfish galore are in season all year round, and if you want a real experience try a boat trip fishing off a wreck. The

skipper will hire you any kit you need and will even gut the fish for you. You don’t have to salt white fish – these should stay fresh in a bit of ice until you get home and then you can freeze them.

ALIVE, ALIVE O’ Cockles live in large areas of mud flats, on the sides of estuaries, and on open sandy areas of the inter-tidal zone. They feed in shallow water and bury themselves under the surface when the tide goes out which makes them relatively easy to rake up. If you are going to do this however, watch out for fast incoming tides and quicksand and get as much information as you can about the area. If you go to Morecambe you will find gangs of people who are working their patch. Explain to them that you are only scratching a bag full for personal use. You will find friendly banter. Boil the cockles for a couple of minutes and then work out the flesh into a jar of vinegar. An hour’s work will provide you with pizza toppings and the very best steak and kidney pie additives for a couple of months. Mussels are found on jetties and piers and attached to rocks. All you have to do is pull them off, but check first about the sewage status of the beach. They will keep fresh in a bit of ice –


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SEA FISHING

Mussels Marinière This dish can be adapted, replacing mussels with anything available.The sauce tastes like concentrated seaside, and whereas we use wine in this recipe, you could go mad and use brandy. INGREDIENTS An onion, large and finely chopped 30g butter Garlic, 2-3 cloves, finely crushed 15g flour Half a bottle of white wine 300ml double cream 800g mussels Chopped parsley PREPARING THE SAUCE 1. First melt the butter in a steep sided pan and sweat off the onions and garlic until they are translucent, after which you sprinkle the flour into the butter mix to thicken. Stir well to avoid lumps, and continue to cook for another three minutes. 2. Slowly add the wine, stirring all the time. Continue to stir until the sauce is beginning to thicken. 3. Add the mussels to the sauce, and shake the pan well to settle the contents. Immediately cover with a lid and turn up the heat; the wine is now steaming the mussels, and this should take between 12 and 15 minutes to complete. Check the dish and stir every few minutes, replacing the lid each time. 4. When all the shells are open, turn down the heat and slowly add the cream, stirring and allowing the sauce to thicken. Finally season and add a generous amount of parsley. Serve with freshly baked bread.

one of those insulated picnic boxes RULES FOR MOLLUSCS with a couple of frozen bars inside is To begin with there are some rules about sufficient. preparing molluscs for eating. When you Razor clams burrow vertically into the collect them they should be eaten as soon sand and leave breathing holes at the tops as possible. Any open shells should be of their tunnels. You can see their indendiscarded if, once tapped on the table, tations in the sand at low tide. All you they remain so. Some molluscs hold have to do is pour a handful of salt on the themselves to rocks with strands of hole and in a few seconds the clam will protein called beards, which should be come flying out. You can boil or steam pulled away to stop them spoiling the them first – which also dish. Scrub the shells in kills them and then treat running water. the meat like scallop. Once cooked, any shell ONCE COOKED, that remains closed should Limpets are brilliant, cooked in wine and garlic, be discarded. ANY SHELL they make a delicious THAT REMAINS COLLECTING sauce. It’s a bit like eating the ocean. You need to EDIBLE CRABS CLOSED take only the live ones. To AND SHRIMPS SHOULD BE find out which you have Almost everyone has loaded to watch carefully and a crab line with pieces of DISCARDED wear boots. At low tide bacon and pulled out a pour seawater over them prickly little green beast, and they will start to no more than a few inches loosen. If it doesn’t move then leave it. across and holding on for dear life with Alternatively, when the tide is in, give it a one of its claws, only to see it skittle tap and it should tighten up to the rock. across the sand and back into the sea. If the animal moves, kick it off the rock There are two crabs found on our with your good boots. shores which are worth collecting for Cook them quickly. Boiled first, remove food, all the rest are either too small or them from their shells then add them to too full of toxins because they prefer to your dish instead of other molluscs. eat near waste pipes. The edible crab is usually as big as a small dinner plate and has a red, sandy body with black tips to SEAWEED the claws, and the spider crab looks pretty Please don’t eat seaweed. Use spinach much like a large alien spider. instead. The shorelines have three types Edible crabs are usually collected by of seaweed, red, brown and green. They putting a little bait in a netted box into are becoming rarer and unless you are an which the crab can climb, but cannot expert in recognising individual species escape. The traps are quite cheap to buy you might just take something special. and if you have a boat to drop the net on The common Laverbread, otherwise known as Porphora that was so traditional the bottom of around twenty feet of water, you will be able to catch a crab a day for in Wales is now so rare it generally has to your dinner. be imported from Japan.


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31 You can hunt both edible and spider crabs at low tide by lifting stones near the shoreline. They will not resist being collected, and are quite safe to pick up from the back. Spider crabs congregate in large numbers at low tide in the winter in the southern counties of England, and are packed with good meat. All crustaceans should, wherever possible, be narcotised before killing. This is done by placing them in the freezer for at least two hours. They can then be plunged into boiling water where they will feel no pain and death will be instant. Shrimping can still be done on all our shores where pollution levels are within safe limits. The basic tool is a push net, so called because you push it along. It is wide and sturdy in the shape of a ‘D’. The net is pushed along the floor of the sea at a depth of a foot or so and after a short while enough shrimps for a mouthful are easily collected; an afternoon’s work is enough for enough shrimps to make a curry. But you also catch other marine creatures from shore crabs to small fish.

sole and sand eel. The eel can be thrown back, but the Dover sole should be killed and eaten – poached with a slice of lemon. There are few better seashore picnics than freshly boiled shrimps. Use a large pan of boiling seawater and toss the shrimps in so they are killed outright. Peel and eat! Fantastic.

LOBSTERS AND MORE

POTTED SHRIMP Easy! Boil your shrimps and drain. Push them into a ramekin and force as many as you can into the pot. Melt some butter and add a big pinch of salt and some pepper and fill the pot with hot seasoned butter. Finish with a pinch of cayenne. If you go a little further out and sweep the beach with the water at waist height you are likely to collect Dover

Lobster pots are supposed to be controlled. Around the coast there are many that catch lobsters to sell them on the black market. But if you have a few pots (actually better called creels made from string) for personal use no one will bother you. A creel might cost £20 but will last for a long time. If you beach comb you find them washed up very frequently. Simply sink them with a float and wait a few days. Now our native lobsters are the best in the world – around twice the size you get from those Canadian ones! Langoustines are trawled for – which is a bit like hoovering the sea, but if you have a boat you can drag a net a couple of hundred yards out and get a bucket full – especially in late spring. E


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TALKING POINT Recent surveys say that anywhere between five and twenty-five percent of the country are looking to be self-sufficient. But what does that mean in a world of credit cards and supermarkets? Paul Peacock tells all – well nearly all!

Everyone’s dream? I’D LIKE TO tell you, right from the start, about Diana’s and my journey toward self-sufficiency. First of all I don’t think there is such a thing as self-sufficiency. People are only ever successful when they allow others to help them. Instead of self-sufficiency we think you should actually use the words selfresponsibility. Anyway, back to us. We lived and worked in inner city Manchester. Diana was a schoolteacher, I was a minister, and then a teacher too. The impact of other people’s problems, especially of problems in the Inner-City was considerable and following a bout of illness I went to see my doctor. Dr. Fenton was a swearer. “Bloody Hell Paul”, we were old mates and he called me Paul – I called

Above: Diana planning some blackberry wine! A decent sized allotment can mean you don’t ever buy another vegetable – well, almost!

him Dr. Fenton, “Your blood pressure would kill a horse.” It was 210/145. He gave me a prescription. Dr. Fenton was the king of trick prescriptions. The chemist said he could fulfil the first item – blood pressure tablets, but not the second which was not in any of the books supplied by the NHS. He showed me the prescription. Staryl 15mg once a day. And in big letters… GET AN ALLOTMENT! And that was that. I got an allotment

and never looked back. Hens and bees followed, and then I found, in a dusty old bookshop, a book by John Seymour called The Fat of the Land. From that moment on we were determined to find our acre of paradise. We are still looking. The process started eleven years ago and we’re still looking – but there are good reasons.

NOT A FARMER There is no money in farming! You can’t just live out there and not pay for stuff. For a start there are mortgage payments to be made, there are rates, food, clothes, car … things to pay for, and you can’t live in the countryside, grow and rear all your own food and at the same time work in an office or factory


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33 or classroom or church! So we decided to be able to earn anywhere. It took ten years to be able to do enough writing to make it possible to live anywhere in the country. When you take away my childhood, that is one third of my working life so far! The world has changes in that time. A small cottage with four acres cost around £75,000 when we started looking. The same one now costs £325,000. Sickening! It’s all right having enough writing to stay alive and pay the bills – but how can you raise a deposit big enough to afford a mortgage big enough to run the space programme? Ugh!

THERE IS ALWAYS THE ALLOTMENT! You have to face the unpleasant truth that if you are as poor as a church mouse, you don’t have a big house to sell in the centre of London and you

haven’t won the Lottery, the likelihood of getting that acre of paradise is frighteningly slim. But the point is that self-reliance is about taking responsibility for your own life on this planet. We can still do this, even though the dream of country sunsets with crows croaking above winter red treetops might never be fulfilled. There are stages of selfreliance that we can achieve still here in the inner-city! An amazing man, D.S. Savage, wrote an equally amazing book – the Cottager’s Companion. It contains the best plan for self-reliance I have yet seen, based on just 1,000 square metres. (I know, he used yards, and he didn’t write it like this, but bear with me.) And this is just about a quarter of an acre. – pretty much a big garden, or an average garden and an allotment! Bring it on!

VEGETABLES Half the land is set aside for vegetables. Every veg you can think of is in the plan – from Jerusalem artichoke to runner beans and is enough to feed a family of four. In the spaces you can grow enough salad crops to keep a couple of donkeys happy all year. Another 250 square metres was set aside for hens, each of which will produce a small mountain of manure for composting as well as eggs and meat. You can easily keep 20 hens in this space – but you would do well to move them around to keep parasites at bay. The rest is taken up with compost, space for a couple of goats – which some people tell me produce milk that is quite acceptable in tea, but I remain unconvinced, and some bees – and you will be amazed how useful they are! Derek Savage died aged 90 last November. He had a mountainous reputation in the field of literature, but he lived simply in his cottage according to the principles of the Cottager’s Companion, even though he did get told off for including a chapter on making tobacco!

SIMPLE In the pages of Home Farmer you will find lots of examples of the kind of life typified by Derek Savage or John Seymour. The point is that they lived simply, and this is possibly the crux to the whole self-sufficiency thing. Above all it is simple living, and when you look at it like that luxuries such as a cottage in the country doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, if we are to avoid ecological disaster, simple living seems to me to be the only way people can survive an uncertain future. E

Your say... So do you agree? Or disagree? Have something to say or add? Home Farmer would love to hear your opinions. WRITE TO: The Editors, Home Farmer Magazine, The Good Life Press Ltd., PO Box 536, Preston, PR2 9ZY. OR EMAIL: Editor@homefarmer.co.uk A demonstration of the Good Life in Manchester centre.

NEXT MONTH’S TALKING POINT: Can you kill an animal for food?


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IN THE KITCHEN

Scones for Tea! An English tea time without scones. Unthinkable! Most people enjoy eating a scone. Home-made ones almost straight from the oven are the best, whether they are sweet or savoury SCONES ARE A traditional addition to our afternoon tea and for me a lovely way to rest after a hard day’s shopping or sightseeing is to visit an oldfashioned tea shop and eat scones and drink plenty of tea. I remember as a young girl on holiday with my family in Gloucester, visiting a small teashop in Tewkesbury. We had afternoon tea , I had plain scones with blackcurrant jam and they were delicious. Two years ago I took my children to see if it was still there and yes it was still open. Not the same tiny old lady serving us, but the tea was still very enjoyable, I was saddened to think what damage was caused by the recent floods and hope to go back soon. My Mum was famous for her scones and when she worked in the catering business, feeding managers of a large clothing firm, she would bake them once a week as a dessert. Thursday became known through the chain of factories as Millie’s scone day and managers from all over would come and lunch at her branch. Scones are one of the easiest treats to make and homemade taste much better than shop bought ones, even though a local baker makes a very delicious fruited scone. It’s the taste as they just begin to cool and the butter or cream melts down the sides. There is nothing quite like it. There are many recipes for scones, some are sweet and fruited, some plain and my favourite are made with cheese and are very savoury. They are best eaten fresh on the day they are baked, but may be re-heated in the oven for 10 minutes the next day.


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Basic scone

Serve with cream and jam of your choice or just some The following recipe is the classic butter. Delicious. plain scone, usually served with Instead of using preserves and cream. lemon juice in the recipe, INGREDIENTS which helps 450g self-raising flour the dough 1 level teaspoon salt to rise, 1 tablespoon golden caster sugar buttermilk 55g butter chopped into small pieces gives an 1 tablespoon lemon juice excellent 400ml milk result. This can be purchased This recipe uses lemon juice in order to from the shops acidify the milk. (Sometimes it curdles it or home-made, see a little) This makes the scone light, acting butter making in this on the bicarb in the baking powder. issue. If you have milk that is just beginning to sour, rather METHOD than throwing it down the 1. Pre-heat oven to IF YOU HAVE drain, use it to make 220oC/425oF/gas7. scones. The taste and 2. Sift flour and salt MILK THAT texture is wonderful. together in a IS JUST Fruited scones are very mixing bowl and popular and can also be stir in sugar. BEGINNING served with cream and jam 3. Add butter and rub TO SOUR, USE or just butter. Most dried lightly into the fruit can be used to flavour flour with IT TO MAKE the scone. The following fingertips until it SCONES recipes are my family’s looks like fine favourites. breadcrumbs. 4. Add the lemon juice to the milk and stir vigorously. The milk should begin to thicken slightly. 5. Mix this into the flour with a fork using light, quick strokes. This should form a soft, pliable dough. If it is too sticky the mixture will spread and the scones will be a funny shape, but it must be soft as the dough will rise better and make a lighter scone. 6. Bring the dough together by kneading lightly. 7. Roll out on a floured surface. The dough needs to be about 2.5cm/1in. thick. Using either a fluted or plain cookie cutter, press straight down into the dough without twisting the cutter, (if you twist your scone it won’t rise as much). Each time you make another shape dip your cutter into a little flour, this will make removing the cutter easier. 8. This quantity should make about twelve scones. Place each scone on a lightly oiled baking tray and brush the tops of them with a little milk. 9. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes till they are golden brown in colour. If you are eating them straight away allow 10 minutes cooling time as they are impossible to slice in half if they are too hot. If required they will keep warm and soft wrapped in a teatowel for an hour or so.

Rich Sultana scones INGREDIENTS 250g self raising flour 1 /2 teaspoon salt 55g butter, chopped 60g sultanas 1 egg 180ml milk or buttermilk 25g golden caster sugar


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IN THE KITCHEN METHOD 1. Preheat oven to 225oC/425oF/gas7. 2. Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl, add sugar and stir. 3. Rub in butter and stir in fruit. 4. Whisk egg into milk and add to flour mixture, stir in quickly. 5. Bring mixture together to form a soft dough. 6. Roll out as and finish as in last recipe and bake for 15-20 minutes till golden brown. Apricots were my Auntie Dot’s favourite fruit and she used to use them in a rock bun recipe, which was really good to eat with a cup of tea. This scone is equally appetising and a change from the usual ones.

I used to fight for the last one of these). I think these are best eaten with just a little best butter, home-made of course.

Two Cherry scones INGREDIENTS 250g self-raising flour 1 /2 teaspoon salt 55g butter cut into pieces 40g glace cherries, rinsed and halved 15g dried cherries 20g sugar 1egg 180ml milk or buttermilk

METHOD

Apricot and Raisin scones INGREDIENTS 250g self-raising flour 55g butter cut into pieces 1 /2 teaspoon salt 40g chopped apricots (the ready to eat ones) 25g raisins 20g sugar 1 egg 180ml milk or buttermilk

METHOD As above in sultana scones, replacing sultanas with apricots and raisins. The next recipe is my favourite dessert scone and is perfect for cherry lovers (both my brother Trevor and

As above Scones don’t have to be sweet! Savoury ones are just as easy to make and are a tasty alternative to bread served with soup. I tend to eat these at lunchtime or take them on picnics instead of lots of sandwiches. Savoury scones are traditionally formed in a round shape and cut into sections after baking, the dough is not rolled out and the shapes made with a cutter as with sweet scones. If you prefer to bake them individually then by all means do so - it doesn’t make any difference to the flavour. The baking time may need shortening because the scone will be smaller. Sweet scones may also be kept as a round if preferred, but once again, alter the cooking time

accordingly. Longer cooking of the round is necessary due to its larger size.

Herb scones INGREDIENTS 250g self-raising flour 1 level teaspoon salt Black pepper to taste 1 level teaspoon mixed dried herbs 55g butter 1 egg 180ml milk or buttermilk

METHOD 1. Preheat oven as before and sift flour and salt in a bowl. 2. Stir in herbs and pepper then mix well. 3. Rub in butter and add milk and egg mix. 4. Gently work in with your hands till the dough is formed and place in a round shape on an oiled baking tray. 5. Press down carefully to flatten the round and brush top with a little milk. Bake in the oven for about 20 25 minutes till golden in colour. 6. Allow to cool for a few minutes then cut the round into eight equally sized pieces. Cheese scones have to be my all time favourite scone recipe and always go down well with home-made vegetable soup. I find this recipe doesn’t need any added butter as there is enough fat in the cheese to give the same rich taste.

Helpful tips Even though they are very simple to make, a few helpful tips will ensure success every time. 1 The dough must be soft, but not too sticky. 2 Handle the mixture as little as possible as the dough becomes heavy the more it is handled. 3 Whisking the egg into the milk with a fork helps to aerate the scones. 4 Bake them straightaway as any delay can cause a heavier scone. 5 Always preheat your oven; scones need to bake at a high temperature to rise sufficiently. 6 Cool slightly before eating as they taste their best hot, but not ‘mouth burning’ hot.


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Cheese scones INGREDIENTS 250g self-raising flour 1 level teaspoon salt Black pepper 1 /2 teaspoon dry mustard 70g mature cheddar, grated 1 egg 180ml milk or buttermilk

METHOD These are made in the same way as the herb scones, except stir in the cheese instead of the herbs, but don’t add all of it; keep some to sprinkle on the top before baking. These are best served hot with butter dripping out of them. I also toast any leftovers the day after and they taste just as good. I have put cheddar in this recipe, but any strong flavoured cheese would do. An alternative to just cheese is to add chopped, crispy bacon and 40g grated, smoked cheese. Other interesting ingredients to add to your scone recipes are: E 30g chopped sun-dried tomatoes E 25g chopped black olives E 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

E 1 level teaspoon paprika, pepper and some chopped chorizo sausage

I usually make my scones with white flour, but brown or wholemeal can be an alternative. If you use only wholemeal, add a little more milk to the

mixture and be prepared for the finished scone to be heavier in texture. A combination of white and wholemeal flours works well and the finished product has a light texture. Having a go at the different combinations is the best idea. You will soon find which one you prefer. E


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FIRST STEP PORK PIE

Shopping List

I bought the fo llowing: 500g minced p pork £1.28 rime 350g belly po rk £1.05 445g shoulder £1.71 500g pastry 8 3p

Fat Man in the Kitchen The first step pork pie will lead to you never eating a bought one again THIS IS A recipe for a pork pie. Now I know you will call me a cheat – everything is bought – but you have to start somewhere and there are plenty of us who have never ever made a pork pie. Now here is a promise: this pie will knock your socks off. It is the simplest you can possibly make and uses bought pastry.

The cost of this pie – which will feed a whole family – full so they can’t eat any more – is just under a fiver. Now I know that to buy a pork pie in the shops – even the cheapest shops, is around three times this. It weighs 1.8kg and is cheaper than the cheap pies that you will never eat again.

Fact Sure! You can buy pies for the same price – but not with these prime ingredients! Also – this pie is a lot healthier for you because it has a quarter of the salt, none of the preservatives and none of the saltpetre. It also has half the fat! This is a luxury pork pie, and they cost a fortune in the shops!


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39 STEP ONE: SHOPPING See List

STEP TWO: BLAST THE BELLY PORK Belly pork is rich in fat and has great skin. Put it in the food processor and whizz it into a paste. This adds great flavour. The fat, skin and meat will form a light paste.

STEP THREE: CHOP THE SHOULDER Cut the shoulder into large chunks so you get a variation in texture in the finished pie.

The belly pork once whizzed in the processor.

Chop the shoulder into large chunks.

All combined with added seasoning.

After rolling your pastry, add the meat mixture.

STEP FOUR: COMBINE EVERYTHING Put all the meat into the same bowl ready for seasoning. Mix well so all the seasoning is completely even. Bought pies have 3% salt – for a pie of this type it has eight teaspoons of salt and an amount of saltpetre. I add 3 LEVEL teaspoons – 15g. This is around about 1% salt. You can also add a half teaspoon of pepper, maybe some mustard, mace, other herbs. Start simple – just add salt.

STEP FIVE: ROLL OUT THE PASTRY Roll out 80% of your pastry and put into a baking tin. I use silicone trays because they don’t need greasing. If you use a proper tin, grease it first. Fill the cavity with your meat mixture and press down. Fill to the very brim and force it down with your hands.

STEP SIX: ROLL OUT THE LID Put your lid on and crimp it in place with a fork all around. Put some steam holes in the lid and you can wash with an egg if you like. Tidy the edges with a knife. The neater the better.

STEP SEVEN: HEAT THROUGH Cook in an oven for 90 minutes at 175oC or Gas 3. To test if the meat is cooked carefully place a knife into the meat and leave a few seconds. If the knife is clean when it is removed the pie is ready. If there are some streaks on the knife then give it another 15 minutes.

your own pastry. The above recipe uses short crust, but traditionally pork pies are made from hot water crust pastry.

Hot water crust 170g (6oz) Flour 170ml (6fl oz) Water 85g (3oz) Lard Pinch Salt (In other words equal amounts of fat and flour, half as much water.) 1. Put the flour into a bowl and add the salt – mix well. 2. Put the water and lard in a pan and bring to the boil. 3. Pour the mixture into the flour and mix rapidly with a wooden spoon. 4. Use the pastry while it is warm.

You can pull hot water crust pastry around a jam jar and make individual pies that look rustic but is a huge individual portion.

Crimp the lid onto the pie with a fork.

When this is cool you can see it is jellied, and can be used in all sorts of dishes – including your pie. Simply pour the hot liquid carefully through the steam hole and allow it to cool completely. E

THE JELLY TRICK You will find this pie is perfect – your family will go nuts for it. Just allow it to cool completely before cutting it open – the liquid normally jellifies naturally. If not – catch it! It’s gorgeous. Once you have made this one you will want to experiment. Try making

Well you could try gelatine, but the real way is to buy pigs trotters, cover two of them in a pan big enough to fit them and then simmer for two hours. You can add a little water if it begins to dry. After two hours sieve the feet and bones out of the liquid and then reduce on the heat by half.

Next month Next month the fat man in the kitchen looks at the world famous pork, sundried tomato and chicken pies – plus a few other things!


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ENRICHING YOUR SOIL

Digging the Dirt

Jayne Neville looks at your soil and how to enrich it IF YOU THOUGHT soil was just soil, A CLOSER LOOK then think again (and if you think of it TOPSOIL as ‘dirt’, then shame on you!). The soil The top layer of your garden soil is in your garden is the basic raw ingresimply the soil surface otherwise dient for successfully referred to as topsoil; growing all your plants, this is actually just the and is not simply the first of three layers: THE IDEAL SOIL topsoil, subsoil and the place where the roots of your plants are IS EASY TO DIG, parent matter layer. The anchored - it holds all depth of each of these the water and nutrients DRAINS WELL BUT layers will vary from area they need in order to be to area – even from HAS ENOUGH able to flourish. garden to garden, if soil BODY TO RETAIN improvements have been The ideal soil is easy to dig, drains well but NUTRIENTS AND made to the soil in one has enough body to and not in the other. MOISTURE retain nutrients and The topsoil is the layer moisture – in fact everyto which we can make thing a growing plant needs. It provides big improvements, by adding lots of the ideal habitat for useful organisms organic matter – and we will be such as earthworms, fungi, beetles and looking more closely at this later. good bacteria. Very few people are lucky enough to SUBSOIL have perfect soil in their gardens. The This is lighter in colour than topsoil good news: there is a lot that can be because it contains no humus and is done to improve soil making it much almost devoid of nutrients. It is because more easy to manage and to turn it into of this that we gardeners always the ideal growing medium for a wide concentrate on building up the topsoil variety of vegetables. The effort involved thickness by adding organic matter – in getting your soil ready for cultivation the thicker the layer of topsoil, the less is time well spent, paving the way for likely the plants roots will come into bumper crops in years to come. contact with the subsoil where there is

Do the squeeze test Take a small piece of soil and squeeze it in your hand. Clay sticks and forms a ball which stays. Sand falls apart and doesn’t fall at all. A good soil is somewhere between the two.


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43 very little in the way of food. The subsoil affects the water-holding capacity of the soil too, but again, this can be affected somewhat by bulking up the topsoil. BEDROCK The final layer is simply the bedrock or natural rocky layer, which is normally buried so deep that it shouldn’t really affect you at all, unless your garden is on a steep hill, when this layer will be nearer the surface, the two upper layers being much thinner. Again, this situation can be overcome to some extent by adding lots of organic material to the topsoil.

SOIL TYPES In your garden you will probably have one of the following the following soil types: silt, clay, sand, chalk or peat. Heavy soils which are difficult to work are normally made up of a large proportion of clay, lighter soils which contain lots of sand are easy to dig but leach out both moisture and nutrients quickly. Knowing which sort you have will tell you how best to cultivate it. To find out, grab a handful of soil and squeeze it in your hand. The small particles which make up clay soil will stick together in a ball and feel smooth, sand is the opposite, consisting of larger particles which feel slightly gritty and fall through your fingers instead of holding together. Silt has a silkier feel and will stick together slightly when squeezed but not so much as clay. As soils go, this is one of the best but silt does have a tendency to pack down, drain badly and become cold. Peat is easy to recognise by its dark brown colour and springy texture. It is naturally rich in decomposed organic matter but is usually acid so will need lime adding. Chalk is pale looking containing lots of stones. Its large particles make it extremely free draining and prone to leaching out nutrients. It is very alkaline. All soils will benefit from a regular fix of organic matter being dug into it at regular intervals. This will improve the structure of sandy soils by bulking it up and helping it to hold in moisture and nutrients more efficiently. Clay soil can be improved if some grit is added along with the organic matter to assist with drainage.

PH TESTING Why would you want to know what the pH reading of your soil is and is it important? The lime content in your soil will cause it to be either ‘acid’ or ‘alkaline’. The amount of lime in the soil can determine what plants will grow best and will have a bearing on its fertility. A simple soil testing kit which you can buy at a garden centre will tell you how much lime you have in your soil. The kit


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ENRICHING YOUR SOIL added. Continue to dig a heavy soil – the more air you incorporate the better. A healthy soil should contain the following components: NITRATES This is needed for the growth of shoots and leaves and is a very important plant food. Plants grown in nitrogen deficient soil will be stunted and have yellowing leaves. Well-rotted manure is an excellent source of adding nitrogen to the soil and so is well-rotted compost. A quick fix during the growing season is to use an organic liquid feed such as seaweed, but is a short term remedy only. will test the pH level which measures acidity. The ideal level is pH 6.5, but anywhere between 6.2 and 6.8 is the range for successful vegetable growing. In general, a soil with a very high pH (too alkaline) locks up the essential trace elements that a plant needs for healthy growth. One with a low pH (less than 6.0) can cause essential nutrients to be lost completely, making the soil unbalanced. Sandy soils are likely to have a low pH and chalk soils a high pH. You can add lime to your soil if it is too acid (ground limestone is the best type to use being slow release and containing magnesium). A soil that is excessively limey should have large doses of compost and manure applied over time to lower the pH.

IMPROVING YOUR SOIL AERATION A good soil has plenty of air in it, and this is improved by digging – especially a heavy soil which has lime and grit

PHOSPHATES This is important as it encourages root growth. Stunted plants are a tell-tale sign of a deficiency; adding bonemeal is a good way of increasing the phosphorous levels. POTASSIUM (POTASH) This is needed for the production of flowers and fruit. Stunted growth, small flowers and tiny inferior fruit point to potassium deficiency. The situation can be improved by dressing the soil with rock potash which remains in the soil for a long time.

ADDITIONAL SOIL BENEFITS Other major elements needed in the soil are magnesium, calcium and sulphur, all of which can be found in soils in which regular applications of compost or manure are added. Trace elements, iron, zinc and copper, manganese, boron and molybdenum

are needed in very small quantities but are still necessary for plant growth. The good news is that all trace elements are present in compost and animal manure - commonly horse or cow. If you keep chickens, their manure can also be used but it is very strong indeed and shouldn’t be used on its own. It is extremely high in nitrogen and is best used on the compost heap as an activator. Seaweed meal carries all the trace elements and can also be dug in as a soil improver. A useful by-product from your wood burner or bonfire – wood ash is a good source of potash and can be sprinkled around your crops in the spring or added to the compost heap. The very best ways to add fertility and improve the overall condition of your soil are by digging in manure or compost. As we have seen, these add nutrients and will greatly improve drainage or water retention. Both must be well-rotted, or they will actually rob the soil of nutrients, particularly


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Don’t go stripping the beach – seaweed is available in bags.

nitrogen as part of their decomposition process. The best time to incorporate organic matter is in the autumn (on heavy soil) or in early spring (on light soil) before planting your vegetables. Try to spread it around liberally before digging it in deeply and evenly into the soil. Lots of organic matter especially at lower depths will help to retain useful amounts of moisture even in hot, dry spells. Alternatively the manure or compost can be spread thickly on the surface around the plants during the growing season as a mulch which will both suppress weeds then break down into the soil, carrying the nutrients with it. Bear in mind that some vegetables don’t like newly manured or composted soil, for example garlic and carrots – but others, like potatoes, simply can’t get enough of it! Don’t worry if you haven’t a ready supply of animal manure or compost (but I’d recommend you set up a couple of compost bins as soon as possible to start making your own, ready for this time next year). There are other alternatives that will improve the soil condition and add nutrients – not in such high quantities as farmyard manure and compost, but still very worthwhile additions to your soil. Seaweed works as an effective soil conditioner, binding the particles of soil today so improving its structure. It is a good source of trace elements and contains varying quantities of the major nutrients. Spent mushroom compost is excellent stuff if you can get hold of it. Commercial mushroom growers make it up using a combination of some or all of the following: horse manure, composted straw, peat and chalk. Because of the chalk element, it is slightly alkaline so this should be borne in mind if you have an already limey soil. It contains good levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and all the trace elements. Rockdust is a product made from an old quarry and adds minerals to the garden – many people get excellent results from this simple material. E

A couple of don’ts Try not to walk on your soil – it compacts the structure and spreads disease on your boots. Don’t rely on comfrey as your only form of manure – the nutrients it provides have come from your own soil! But it does make excellent liquid tomato feed.


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POLYTUNNELS

Ready, Steady, Grow!

Do you need a polytunnel? Jayne Neville, author of The Polytunnel Companion, takes us through the basics to show us what we can do right now WHY A POLYTUNNEL OVER A GREENHOUSE? Greenhouses have been the mainstay for growing undercover along with cold frames for a long time. The main benefits of polytunnels include getting a bigger area for growing over glass because they are much cheaper. They are much cheaper to run and repair and the shape of a polytunnel makes growing a larger quantity of crops easier.

DO THEY BLOW AWAY? No. Does your greenhouse blow away? A modern greenhouse is not that much heavier than a polytunnel. Commercial polytunnels are huge and professional growers cannot afford to see them blowing down the valley. If you live in very exposed places you can buy special bars to anchor the tunnel even more than normal.

HOW LONG DO THEY LAST? The higher gauge polythene now lasts

from anything between four and ten years. Our readers have said that their skins seem to last for around seven years, but these are older tunnels and manufacture has improved since then. The cost of recovering a tunnel is around £100, some more, some less, depending on size. You can improve the life of your tunnel by making sure the skin is taught, you have adequate heat conducting tape and keeping it free from algal growth.

ARE THERE PLANNING IMPLICATIONS? Not unless you are planning to cover a whole field with polythene, or you live in a conservation area. You are not governed by planning restrictions in an ordinary garden. Some allotment societies allow polytunnels, others don’t, and these rules are usually set between the Local Authority and the Society.

There are few planning restrictions unless you want to cover the whole countryside with polytunnels.

HOW DO I REPAIR THE POLYTHENE? If you tear the polythene then it is easily repaired using special adhesive repair tape. Do not be tempted to use anything other than the specific tape sold for the purpose. Carpet tape rots the plastic and looks awful; Sellotape doesn’t stick properly and falls apart. Untreated tears will just get worse once the wind has a chance to move it about, so don’t think of the tear as extra ventilation – it doesn’t work.


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47 THINKING TIME Right now is a great time to have a think about what’s worked for you over the past year, and just as importantly what didn’t. Maybe you have a greenhouse, maybe nothing – but how are you going to change your gardening with a polytunnel installed? If there was something you wish you had grown that you think you need a tunnel for – have a good think and plan it through. Of course you can grow two hundredweight of tomatoes – but can you use them all? Plan to do something about it now. Pretty soon the time will be short once all the sowing and growing begins in earnest again.

EXTEND THE GROWING SEASON You can grow all sorts of quick maturing vegetables such as pak choi, radishes, and salad rocket in the tunnel for harvesting in early spring if you set them over the winter. The point of a big tunnel is that they extend your growing season. You may have over-wintering crops in place too. Things such as hardy lettuce, corn salad, winter varieties of radish, Swiss chard, chicory, endive and spinach will keep your polytunnel productive. Even crops that would normally survive outside can also be grown in the tunnel if you have the space; the advantage being you can harvest in relative comfort even on

frosty days. Kale varieties can be grown as a cut-and-come-again vegetable for use as baby leaves in salads or can be left to reach maturity. The larger leaves

are ideal for use in stir-fries or can be steamed or lightly boiled. Strawberry plants can be planted up in the polytunnel beds. The runners

How do you put them together? The frame is set first – then the doors, then the polythene is stretched into position. The whole process is complete when the plastic is taught – nothing to flap about in the wind. Basically it is a three stage process. Firstly you fix the anchors in the ground.The

hoops are attached to the anchors and then finally the skin is stretched over the hoops.There are some minor things to do to make the tunnel last longer.These include using anti hot-spot tape to the hoops and making sure the skin is taught. The skin is buried into a trench on

either side of the tunnel and doors are fixed to the ends of the tunnel. It is not a simple project, but well within the reach of the average gardener. If you are stuck, or unable to build the tunnel, you can pay a few quid and get your company to build it for you.


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they produce freely each year can be used as replacement stock and replanted. Harvesting early strawberries from the polytunnel is one of the highlights of the growing season for many gardeners, as crops can be produced as much as a month earlier than those grown outside. The birds don’t get them either!

POLYTUNNEL MAINTENANCE Your polytunnel is about to embark on a busy and hopefully productive growing year, and will no doubt need a bit of routine maintenance to keep it in shape. Let’s start with the structure itself. The polythene will definitely need a thorough clean inside and out. This is a job for a rainy day as the outside surface of the tunnel will already be wet and all you need is a long-handled mop or soft broom to remove the algae and dirt. Otherwise use a hosepipe to wet the surface before you wash it down. If the cover is particular dirty, dunk the mop in warm, soapy water that should soon shift the grime. Don’t be too harsh though, especially if the cover is an old one. A stepladder is essential for reaching the polythene along the ridge – otherwise you’ll end up with an unattractive dirty stripe running along the roof of your tunnel! (Please don’t fall off!) Cleaning the inside cover is a lot more pleasant, but it is a good idea to

clean the polythene with a disinfectant such as Citrox. Dairy farmers might like to know (and anyone else for that matter) that udder wash is ideal for cleaning inside the tunnel. It is basically Milton (and

when I think of a way of passing a low voltage current through a bucket of salt water – I’ll show you how to make it for 2p a gallon... Paul) Good hygiene will reduce the chances of pests and diseases next year. Once both sides are completely clean, you are ready to mend any rips or tears in the sheeting. Special polytunnel repair tape can be purchased from the polytunnel manufacturers, and it’s a good idea to always have a roll at the ready for emergency repairs throughout the year. Needless to say, dry weather is essential to carry out repairs on the cover. The adhesive on the repair tape is extremely sticky so try to get the position right first time! Small puncture holes are easily fixed; larger rips and tears are trickier, and really a twoperson job – one to hold the damaged polythene in place whilst the other applies the repair tape. Wear and tear on older polytunnel covers usually occurs around the doorframes where the sheet is pulled tight and tensioned. Repairing this is slightly more tricky than a straight patch-up elsewhere on the cover, but a timely repair job now before the winter gales set in could postpone buying a replacement cover for yet another year! One part of the tunnel subjected to wear and tear on a regular basis are the doors themselves, whatever form they take. Regular maintenance will keep


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49 them in good order. The simple roll-up blind doors are usually held in place by wires running vertically down both sides. These wires can be re-tensioned and the closure catches tightened so that in high winds the doors won’t flap about. Wooden hinged doors too will need checking and strengthening to ensure they can stand the rigours of winter. Most important is that they stay firmly closed when required.

INSIDE THE POLYTUNNEL First of all, give the soil a thorough de-weed, clearing up any debris and plant remains from the previous crop. Weeds and old plant matter can harbour all kinds of pests and keeping your polytunnel weed-free all year round should be your aim. Dig over any soil which isn’t going to be used over the winter to tidy it and break up the surface. A bit of organic compost or well-rotted manure can be incorporated to beef up the soil – intensive polytunnel production in the heat of summer can make it thin and dry, and depletes it of essential nutrients. Adding organic matter will help it retain moisture and add nutrients for next year’s crops. Any seed trays, pots, benches and staging should also be given a clean using one of the above disinfectants. If they aren’t going to be used for some time, then put any trays and pots away in the shed. Snails in particular like to spend the winter hidden

away, ready to emerge and feast on your young plants in spring. Don’t allow it to happen!

HEATING The average polytunnel is around three times the volume of the commongarden greenhouse, and this produces a number of problems if you want heat for tender plants, exotic fruits or growing seedlings. One of the factors involved, especially if you are using the polytunnel to grow food, is the cost of heating the whole tunnel. You can buy all sorts of heaters, fan assisted electrical ones, oil fired convector types, overhead ones, long radiator piped ones. They come in all shapes and sizes and are usually powered to match the size of your tunnel. Expect to pay between £100 £300 for good heaters, depending on size. If you are not in a smokeless zone, a good second hand wood burner is ideal, partly because you can brew up on it!

BUT POWER COMES IN OTHER FORMS… SUNLIGHT The major heat source for tunnels has to be sunlight, which will increase the air temperature, even on the coldest of days. On average the wintertime difference between inside and outside your polytunnel is six degrees. Often

this is even greater. The temperature dramatically plummets at night, so some kind of heat sink – a storage heater will prove a real benefit. A good deep path, at least 30cm (12 inches) made from coarse stones and topped with paving slabs if necessary, will collect heat to be radiated back into the greenhouse at night. Moving tender plants and seedlings to the path in the evening will protect them from plummeting temperatures. It will remain a degree or so warmer near the path than anywhere else in the tunnel. HOT BED This method of heating soil is over 250 years old, and has found its way into the language. The horticultural hotbed is a trench dug to at least 75cm (2ft 6 inches), and is at least 60cm (2ft) wide and the length of the bed you want to use. (A lot of digging!) The bottom of the bed is then filled with fresh cow manure to a depth of at least 30cm (1ft). The rest of the hole is filled with good quality soil. As the manure rots down it generates heat that warms the soil. In the spring the bed can be dug out and the soil put onto the rest of the plot, allowing another hotbed the following year. Some Victorian systems had pipes going through the hotbed carrying the heat away to the rest of the greenhouse. E


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BEE KEEPING

Keeping Bees Beekeeping is becoming more popular, though bee populations are under threat. Each month Paul Peacock will take you step by step to becoming a beekeeper – one of the most ancient and peaceful occupations on the planet There are many reasons for keeping ARE BEES FOR YOU? bees, not least that beekeepers tend to The following are the prerequisites for live a long time, they appear to be free keeping bees of your own. You do not from stress (most of the time) they avoid have to have your own bees to start some of the ailments of with, the numerous old age (so they will tell beekeeping associations THE TRUTH IS you) and most have lots of hives for you definitely have an learn on and this THAT BEEKEEPING to uncommon undershould be your first call IS ONE OF THE standing of the seasons to introduce yourself to and nature in general. the hobby. GENTLEST Around the country OCCUPATIONS, there are beekeepers’ SKILLS associations starting You need a cool head, an WITH THE ODD courses, both practical eye for detail and a and theory that help STING THROWN IN willingness to learn – prospective beekeepers almost invariably you immerse themselves in will find beekeepers to the wonderful apine world. Keeping be a humble lot, approachable and bees is truly one of those pastimes understanding. This is because the bee’s that can change your life – if it is for way of life rubs off on the beekeeper. I you! There may be one in a hundred have never found a group of people that find it difficult to come to terms anywhere with a better understanding with forty thousand little stingers that ‘everyone has to start learning buzzing with imagined fury. The truth somewhere’. Don’t think because you is that beekeeping is one of the don’t understand the hive you cannot gentlest occupations, with the odd keep bees. If you can carry a box you sting thrown in. can have a beehive.

Confession Notice the heavy gloves – I’m not the only one that doesn’t like being stung! I hate bee stings! So I cover up. I wear a wolly under my beesuit and a pair of gloves under my gauntlets, and a pair of rubber gloves on top. Sometimes I wear a cap under the hood to keep then stinging my head. I look like an idiot, I get hot and other people call me a softie. I don’t care! I just ask them if they would like to play rugby against me and get on with inspecting my hives! The morale: don’t let fear stop you from keeping bees!


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51 TIME A hive needs an hour a week – more at harvest, less in the winter. You will also spend an evening at the bee club learning the ropes. Bees are calming – there is no better way of overcoming the rush of the modern world, and you will find yourself increasingly retiring to the apiary, just to watch the bees leaving and joining the hive.

EQUIPMENT The initial prerequisites are a bee suit, or at least a veil to protect the face, some beekeeping gauntlets or gardening gloves, a hive tool and a smoker. Secondary equipment ranges from a good set of elastic bands to keep clothes tucked and keep bees out, a bee brush, or a feather for removing bees from your bee suit, and a good bucket to store the bits of waste from your hive inspection.

SPACE A beehive is small – easily fitted into a garden. You do need somewhere to put your equipment. For every hive you have you need another spare – just in case you have a swarm or need to repair something. In all you need a corner of a shed for every hive. You also need to become a member of a local bee society – this gives you some insurance and a whole load of help. So if the above has not scared you to death, beekeeping is for you!

WHAT’S IN A NAME? The scientific name for the honeybee is Apis, which is translated as ‘healer’ and even though there are many stings in a hive, beekeepers frequently live long and healthy lives. It is thought that bee venom has some curative action against arthritis. It is statistically true that arthritis

Get together with other beekeepers – the best way to learn.

is less prevalent in old beekeepers. Bees are healthy for many other reasons: Local honey, that is honey made from bees in your area, immunizes you to pollen produced in the spring and summer, cutting down the response of your immune system. Consequently it does help with bad hay fever. Honey has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Honey is the best soother of sore throats there is. Honey is now being used to heal ulcerated skin. Honey contains

an equal mixture of fructose and glucose. Glucose is an ideal sugar to take because it can be used by diabetics and is easily converted directly to glycogen. Propolis is bee glue that has amazing antiseptic properties. It is collected

Opening your own hive for the first time is an exciting process


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BEE KEEPING from plants and concentrated to allow the bees to glue up any gaps in the hive. They have been known to cocoon animals that have wandered into the hive and stop them from rotting and infecting the colony. Propolis is collected and used as a tincture in alcohol.

BEST FOR THE GARDEN The value of honeybee pollination of crops to the nation amounts to many millions of pounds. On average an allotment site with a beehive on site gets 30% more fruit and pollination is much better for all crops including peas and beans. Bees are really clever in the way they work together to gather the nectar and pollen from plants. They have a ‘chat’ in the hive and decide which source of nectar they will work first! Of course, you get a crop from all the plants in the district – bees travel up to two miles and visit many thousands of flowers to make a spoonful of honey! And you can get a lot of wax from a hive to polish your furniture, wax your clothes, make candles or even sell to companies to sell back to beekeepers.

YOUR FIRST BEES You might not buy bees straight away. You will be amazed that a bag full of insects costs the best part of a hundred quid! But during the life of your queen you will likely get a lot more products from your bees to make it worthwhile. A garden is the perfect place for a beehive. If you can put bees near a hedge that forces their flight upwards then your neighbours will never have any contact with them and no one will even know they are there. In the height of summer there may be around 50,000 bees in the hive and you will

look at them weekly, causing a few thousand of them to fly around near the hive. Make sure they are free from any interference from people who think it is a good idea to throw bricks and push hives over.

More than anything – talk to your neighbours, let them know what you are doing. A jar of honey will go down a treat. When I told my neighbours, their daughter threatened to leave home – so my bees are behind a factory, near a railway line and completely cut off from any human interference. As likely as not it will be late spring to early summer when you decide to get your bees – get help with everything. Siting your hives, building the frames and introducing the bees as

Next Month Next month we will delve more deeply into the hive and how it works.

Information For details of your local group contact The British Bee Keepers Association www.bbka.org.uk A new book, Keeping Bees by Paul Peacock, published by, Octopus Books will be out this year.


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To come...

Over the months we will take you through everything you need, but you cannot learn to keep bees with the instructions in one hand and a smoker in the other.You need experience and help – the kind of help you can only get from experienced beekeepers.

well as looking at them, feeding them where necessary and treating them for diseases like varroa. Bees come in a box called a nucleus. Inside you will find four frames of bees, honey, eggs, developing grubs and a queen. The queen is usually colour coded so you can work out how old she is, and some people clip the wings of the queen to stop her flying off in a swarm. The frames are simply placed in their new home, the brood box of your hive. A brood box has room for between ten to twelve frames depending on the make and you introduce the nucleus frames to the centre of the box. The worker bees will quickly ‘draw out’ the blank frames to make honeycomb and the queen will lay eggs in them. Twenty two days later your new eggs will emerge and the numbers of bees will build up. The first thing you need to do for your bees is feed them with sugar syrup – a mixture of equal parts of sugar and water, and you will find all kinds of recipes as the months go by. Then – well, you’re a beekeeper! E


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KEEPING CHICKENS Keeping chickens can be great fun but think of what is entailed says Janice Houghton-Wallace

The Hen House Diary I HAVE BEEN around poultry now for as planning regulations and neighmore years than I care to remember – bours. One of the most important points is whether you are allowed to trailing behind my grandfather and keep poultry on your premises. On watching him with his precious many new developments, even if the Rhode Island Red x Light Sussex houses have spacious chickens as well as large gardens, there can helping my mother ON MANY NEW be a condition in the with her Plymouth Rocks and Christmas DEVELOPMENTS, contract that does not allow livestock to be turkeys. I was THERE CAN BE A kept. Any form of fortunate enough to poultry is looked upon grow up on a mixed CONDITION IN as livestock by the local farm with lots of THE CONTRACT authorities. This poultry and as a small on the child I cuddled THAT DOES NOT condition property is usually chickens instead of ALLOW LIVESTOCK inserted to prevent any dolls. It was a long disturbance to and time before I realised TO BE KEPT possible disputes that noughts and between neighbours crosses was an actual over noises and game, since it was how you identified hatching eggs that had been turned in the incubator – having marked them X on one side and O on the other! On the farm we had several flocks of free-range birds, although of course, they weren’t called free-range then. Their accommodation was in the form of ‘Nightarcs’ (poultry houses on wheels) or Nissan huts and the birds roamed the orchards throughout the day, producing lots of eggs that were sold in the local market. Although poultry keeping methods have changed over time, you really don’t need acres of room to enjoy the pleasure of your own poultry, along with their freshly laid eggs. The birds need overnight housing where they can be safe from predators, some green space in which to exercise, scratch for insects and graze, a nutritional diet formulated for the species, plenty of clean drinking water and protection from any harassment.

NEIGHBOURS NEED TO BE WON OVER However, before you consider buying some birds for the back garden, these days there are also other considerations to be taken into account, such

concern over perceived rodent trouble. Older properties do not usually have such conditions in the contractual details but any impact on neighbours should always be thought through. The last thing you want is to have someone complain to the local authority about the chickens next door, so to prevent this happening, find out if you are allowed to keep chickens, if you need any form of planning permission and whether your neighbours would have any objection to you keeping poultry. Direct personal contact with the people living around you is certainly the best way forward and the way to win them over. People like to feel involved but don’t like being taken for granted. Tell them your plans, why you want to keep chickens, what breed they will be, whether you intend to keep a cockerel or not and see what they say. Hopefully they will be just as excited and interested in the poultry as you and if they have children you might possibly sway their views by suggesting the children can come round to help out and collect the eggs from time to time. Unfortunately, cockerels can get a bad name in built up areas. I think their crowing is a wonderful sound but then I have been used to hearing it for so many years that it doesn’t affect me at all. On the other hand, if I visit friends in a city I just cannot sleep for the noise of traffic throughout the night, so obviously, what we are not used to can affect us, for a while anyway. Cockerels are handsome chaps that strut around, protect their females and crow their importance but you do not need one for hens to supply eggs. A cockerel is only required if you intend


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Every month Janice Houghton-Wallace will bring us, step by step, into the wonderful world of keeping chickens, for an old hand with ruffled feathers or newbies who need to learn.There’s always something new to find out!


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KEEPING CHICKENS

to breed with your birds, when they become essential for the fertility of the eggs. Pullets are young female chickens up to and including their first season of laying eggs. They mature and start to lay eggs when around 18 or 19 weeks old, although some pure breeds can take a little longer before laying. The eggs will be slightly smaller in this first season than in the second when they are then called hens.

A LONG TERM COMMITMENT Looking after your hens takes 365 days a year, so thought has to be given as to who would look after them if you wanted to go on holiday, or even a weekend break. Poultry need to be let out, fed, watered, put away at night and locked up but just as

importantly, checked on to see if they are alright every day. A responsible friend or neighbour who is willing to look after them properly should be cherished but it could take time to find the right person. You should expect to return the kindness or offer some payment so you can count on their services again. No species of poultry should be left unattended whilst you are away. The birds would suffer and it is actually against the law. If other animals live on the premises care will be needed when introducing chickens. Dogs that are unfamiliar with chickens could destroy them in seconds and that would bring heartache. House and pen the birds securely so that any other animals get used to seeing the birds but cannot reach them. In time they may be able to mingle but never leave the chickens out unattended until you are quite sure that everyone gets on. Having cleared any possible obstacles to keeping poultry, the next step is to decide on which breed you would like to keep and the housing that would be suitable. E


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VISIT OUR OWN WEBSITE

Try us and buy us online www.homefarmer.co.uk You can find HOME FARMER magazine on the website at www.homefarmer.co.uk where you can access the latest blogs, recipes, tips and information - and if you would like to contribute – just email the editor!

The Kitchen Table More than just cakes and bread, but cheese, pies, fish, your recipes, jams, preserves – in fact if you can make it yourself it will be there!

Getting Started If you are a first timer – or even just thinking about it – these pages will be packed with useful information. Tips, hints and contacts for everything from beekeeping to deep sea fishing!

The Editor’s Blog Well that’s Diana and me sounding off, most of the time, with all the expletives deleted!

Plus... ...the usual links, subscriptions and more – so if you are on line, come along and say hello!

RESERVE YOUR COPY AT YOUR NEWSAGENT!

E Don’t miss out, just ask your newsagent to place a regular order for you. Once set up, your copy of HOME FARMER will be held for you to collect and will save you having to search the newsstand. E Some newsagents may even offer home delivery so just ask them about this service as well. E Don’t miss an issue. Simply complete the form to the right and take to your local newsagent. E To be sure of future copies of HOME FARMER, fill in your details and hand this form to your newsagent

Please reserve/deliver* a copy of HOME FARMER on a regular basis, commencing with the ............................................................ issue *delete as appropriate

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57


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KEEPING PIGS

Pigs in your Garden? Linda McDonald-Brown gives some invaluable advice for the pig about town keep a pig in a Londoner’s backyard SO, YOU’VE GOT your chickens, you’ve either. Times, as we all know, have got your vegetable patch, and now your changed since then, we are much more thoughts are turning to how pleasant it animal welfare would be to raise a conscious and certainly couple of pigs for the WITH A LITTLE Defra and various other freezer! Just one bodies would find it problem, you live in the THOUGHT, hard to accept a middle of suburbia and CONSIDERATION concrete backyard as a you’re doubtful as to suitable home for a whether Mrs. tripleAND RESEARCH, couple of pigs. This barreled name living KEEPING YOUR OWN said, the area you need next door, would take to keep pigs in is kindly to two grunting PIGS FOR THE surprisingly small, pigs snuffling around 6 metres by your garden, while she FREEZER COULD metres or is having an al fresco EASILY BECOME A 6if you are luncheon party. still Well the good news REALITY is, keeping pigs in your back garden is possible, and the extra effort that is required when keeping pigs in a more urban environment is a small price to pay for the absolutely delicious pork you will get back. Even celebrities like Gordon Ramsey have tried their hand at raising pigs in their back garden, though in his case, it was for the “F Word” and the meat was destined for one of his London restaurants. Even so, he showed viewers it was possible to be living in an urban environment and successfully raise two weaners in the back garden. So, with a little thought, consideration and research, keeping your own pigs for the freezer could easily become a reality.

WHERE AND HOW Up to the second world war, most, if not all rural families had a pig which they bred from, thereby ensuring a never ending supply of pork and it was not unusual to

working in feet, 20 by 20 feet would hold two weaners comfortably, until they were ready for the abattoir. It obviously goes without saying though, the more land you have for your pigs the better, the more natural an environment you are giving them. And of course the less damage they will do to your garden.


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59 Where do you begin? The first suggestion I would give to any perspective pig keeper, whether you live on a farm with 100 acres or in a terraced house with a large garden, is go on a pig course. If you don’t go on a course, handle pigs and learn about them, how are you going to know when things go wrong until it is too late? Courses are run up and down the country, so there is sure to be one near you. The best place to start looking is the internet. Type in “pig courses” and you will be amazed at how many come up. Ask at your nearest Agricultural College. Even if you don’t relish the idea of keeping

pigs yourself, but would be interested in spending a day with them then a pig course is definitely for you.

They then send you forms which you complete and return, and more often than not, the Holding Number is with you within a couple of weeks or so. This is usually not the case in a suburban BEFORE YOU BUY area. Before issuing you with a number, Once you have been on a pig course, Animal Health will look very closely at all loved every minute of it and can’t wait to the issues that would come with keeping get started, stop! pigs, to reassure themselves that the Before you go rushing over to your animals are not going to be a nuisance or nearest pig breeder there are a few suffer in anyway. important things you have to address Its more than likely Environmental first. In the UK, before anyone can keep Health will get involved pigs you have to apply and check out for for a Holding Number. BEFORE ISSUING themselves where the If you live in a rural pigs are going to be area, this is quite a YOU WITH A kept. If all this sounds simple task, you ring up NUMBER, ANIMAL daunting, its not, Defra’s Animal Health however you always have office, go to the Defra HEALTH WILL to be conscious of the website for LOOK VERY fact that you are contact bringing a farm animal numbers. CLOSELY AT ALL into an urban or semiTHE ISSUES THAT urban environment, you have to be WOULD COME WITH therefore prepared for any question that might be KEEPING PIGS thrown at you when applying for a holding number. Once you have it, then as long as the pigs aren’t a nuisance to your neighbours, you should be quite safe from complaints from neighbours who just don’t like the idea of having a pig on the same road as them.

THINK HARD You need to honestly appraise your house, garden and surrounding environment. You may have the largest garden in your street, but if the only way to it is through your front room, then keeping pigs is not for you at the moment. It’s one thing carrying two cute 8 week old weaners past the TV and stereo but in a few months two rather large pigs with minds of their own is quite a different matter. You will understand why it is vital that you have good access to your garden preferably with a large gate to back a trailer into.


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KEEPING PIGS GRUB Agricultural merchants are a bit thin on the ground in a city or town, so you may have to go quite a few miles before you can find someone who supplies real pig food. If you have the space, a large garage or workshop, then it’s worth thinking about ordering a large amount and having it delivered. A tonne of food may sound a lot but in fact it is usually 40 bags which should feed your weaners up to the time you will be thinking about sending them off. Buying like this will save you money, but be aware that the suppliers could charge you for delivery, so ask before you commit yourself. Sourcing a vet that is used to pigs should also be seriously considered. Vets that have experience with pigs are difficult enough in a rural area, in an urban setting it will be practically impossible to find one. Find one before you need one.

NEXT DOOR Neighbours are often the sticking point when it comes to keeping pigs in a suburban area. If you already have a dodgy relationship with them, then keeping pigs will kill off any hope of getting along in the future. However if you have a good relationship, then

A hungry pig will find a way out!

Meet Pearl, an Oxford Sandy and Black.

whatever you do, don’t lose that. Invite them around BEFORE you get pigs. Explain to them what pig keeping will entail and more importantly whether it will affect them. Tell them that of course you will see them right with pork, sausages etc when the pigs eventually go. Above all, don’t dismiss their concerns, if you do and something arises at a later date, your previously friendly neighbour might turn out to be a thorn in your side.

Having the time to keep the pig pen and surrounding garden tidy is also very important. Remember windows will overlook the garden, so do you really want your neighbours looking down on plastic bags, bailer twine etc strewn around the place. You need to look at your lifestyle as well. It is no good if you go away 2 days out of every five, pigs need to be fed twice a day and fresh water given twice a day. So if you are unable to feed them everyday, you have to have in place a reliable person to check them and look after them. If they start to get hungry, that is when they start to look

POO AND FENCES Fencing, shelter and disposal of the pig poo all need to be looked at.


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Pig facts... E A sow can give birth to between 8 to 12 piglets per litter and have more than one litter a year. E The gestation period for a sow is three times three: 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. E Newborn piglets are just over a kilo in weight. E Pigs have a highly developed sense of smell – almost as good as dogs. E They are very clean animals and will not mess in their sleeping area.They prefer not to be muddy, but use it as a sunblock. E Of all domestic animals, pigs are thought to be the most intelligent. E By 15 weeks a pig has usually grown to be 60Kg E A young female pig is called a gilt and does not become a sow until her second litter. E Pigs are not greedy – they will only eat what they want and do not overeat. E Pigs were first domesticated about 9000 years ago. E Every part of a pig can be eaten or used – except the squeak – which h is used for break lining. E The largest concentration of pig farms anywhere in the world was industrial Manchester.The farms closed for economic reasons. E Pigs make friends and can solve problems – especially when it comes to getting past electric fences. E Pigs can be moody, they have their off days too. E They are creatures of habit and can tell if you are five minutes late feeding them.

incredibly heavy once wet and a strong for ways of escaping and once they wind will soon have straw blowing about learn of a way out, you will have a all over the place including your neighterrible job keeping them in. bours manicured lawn. Whichever Chicken fencing won’t keep them in. shelter you choose and I have even seen Out of all the farm animals, pigs I think two kune kunes kept quite happily in a are the ones that need that little bit of large dog kennel, ask yourself, can my extra thought when it comes to fencing. neighbours see it and what is it going to I would say at the very least you will look like in few weeks need stock proof time? If the answer to fencing between OUT OF ALL THE the first question is yes sturdy wooden posts. then choose a shelter To be on the safe side, FARM ANIMALS, will stay looking I would also PIGS I THINK ARE that reasonable. recommend a strand of electric fencing THE ONES THAT inside the pen and THE DEED NEED THAT approximately 9 You need to think inches off the ground. about when the time LITTLE BIT OF If your pigs escape comes to have them EXTRA THOUGHT slaughtered. you are liable, so it is in your best interest It may seem WHEN IT COMES to stop them escaping ridiculous thinking so TO FENCING into next door’s prize far ahead, but if you roses. if you have don’t think about it never done fencing before, now is not now, you could find yourself having real the time to try. Look in the Yellow Pages problems trying to source a local and for peace of mind, hire a fencing abattoir or trailer to take them to the contractor. abattoir. Chances are you won’t have a trailer of your own. Unless you know of a friend who will loan you a trailer, this HOME could prove to be a bit of a stumbling Shelter with ventilation is a must for your pigs, not only against the cold, wet block. There are not many hire companies that have trailers they are and wind, but just as importantly the willing to hire out for animals, so do strong rays of the sun. One tree in the your research sooner rather than later. corner just won’t do. The usual form of It might be a good idea to join a local shelter are pig arks, they are built to smallholders group. withstand whatever a pig throws at You may be miles and miles away them, easy to move and if you choose from their headquarters, but if you join, one with green sheets for the roof, they you will come into contact with people blend in with their surroundings far who do have a trailer and you may be easier than an ark with a silver roof. able hire one from them and of course Another form and certainly cheaper you will get lots of free advice. Do you option are straw bales placed on top of know where your nearest abattoir is and one another to form a shelter that is do they kill pigs? Not all of them do! open at one end but they can become


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KEEPING PIGS

IN MONEY TERMS, YOU WILL HAVE APPROXIMATELY A THOUSAND POUNDS WORTH OF PORK FROM YOUR TWO PIGS


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63 being escape artists, remember the All of these things need to be looked Tamworth Two! Berkshires tend to be at before you buy your pigs but once popular with urban pig keepers as they you have done your research and are have a pleasant satisfied that you temperament and are have covered all angles and your ONCE YOUR WEANERS reasonably small, although the Berkshire pigs will be well ARE HAPPILY in my experience does cared for in an area that doesn’t deprive SNUFFLING AROUND take longer to reach a suitable slaughter them of space and YOUR GARDEN, weight which is around shelter, then you are ready to buy. YOU NEED TO APPLY 65 kilos, so you could end up keeping them An ideal time for FOR A HERD for that much longer. beginners, whether To buy an 8 week old rural or not is to buy NUMBER WITHIN 5 pedigree registered weaners in late spring. You then have DAYS OF RECEIVING weaner destined for the freezer, you are looking the whole summer YOUR PIGS at around £40-£55 with hopefully dry depending on the breed weather to care for and also where you live. You should them before sending them off to be certainly go and see before you buy. You killed early autumn. may be talking to the nicest breeder on If you live in an urban area, the type the phone in the world, but unless you of breed you choose is critical for stress go and meet the pigs, how do you know free management. Take a look at the what condition they are in? The weaners British Pig Association’s website should come to you wormed and healthy (www.britishpigs.org.uk), not only can and preferably with a bag of food which you read up on the breeds, but you will will enable you to gradually change over also be able to source breeders. Some their food to food that you intend to use. breeds such as the Oxford Sandy and Black grow very large, some breeds such The movement form that has to accompany any pig on a trip will be filled are the Tamworth are notorious for

in by the breeder and a copy of the form should by sent by yourself to your nearest Trading Standards within three days of the pigs arriving at your property. Once your weaners are happily snuffling around your garden, you need to apply for a Herd Number within 5 days of receiving your pigs. The usual course of action is to contact your Animal Licensing department at your local County Council, giving them your holding number and any other relevant information they ask for and hopefully within a week or so you will receive the Herd Number. This herd number identifies the pigs as yours and it is this number that goes on the ear tag when you eventually take them to slaughter. If after reading this, you don’t think it is worth all the bother, think again, not only do you get back the most superior pork that you will ever taste, but in money terms, you will have approximately a thousand pounds worth of pork from your two pigs if you compare it with supermarket prices. Finally if the thought of taking your two lovely friendly pigs off to slaughter fills you with dread, don’t name them. If they don’t have names, its surprising how much easier it is to load them up for their final trip. E


HF ISSUE 1 P64-65 POULTRY

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KEEPING CHICKENS Looking after poultry can sometimes be a messy business. Diana Sutton delves in to the murky world of worms, ticks and mites

Poultry parasites EVERYONE WANTS THEIR birds to be in perfect health. Well that’s what I thought until I got my first ever chickens. I inherited a run from a man on some allotments. There were dead bodies everywhere, rotting carcasses and skeletons, and a complete mess in the hen house. Food was spilled all over and there was evidence of rats everywhere. It took a long time to sort out, I can tell you. But then, whenever the hens got sick it was hard not to blame the previous occupant. The problem is that hens do get sick. Quite frequently! No matter how hard you try to keep things under control there is always something ready to come to the fore, so constant vigilance is important.

GOOD HEALTH It is important to be positive, so rather than start with what can go wrong, perhaps we should look at a healthy hen. Good birds should have a bright eye, good even coloured and red comb, dry and clear nostrils, a bright full shiny coat of feathers with no real gaps – except during moult, plumpness and their bottoms should be clean. Their behaviour should be alert, they should look ‘perky’ and alive, ever noticing thing, quietly clucking. They should be either feeding, scratching the earth, cleaning themselves, mating, avoiding mating and generally busy. Suspect birds stand in the same spot for a long time.

EXTERNAL PROBLEMS If your birds have missing feathers this can be due to stress. Are there too many birds, are they bothered regularly by predators or children, are there enough perches, do you have enough nest boxes? Are there too many cockerels – especially if you have broken feathers on the hen’s backs? If you got some pristine hens and put them on completely pristine soil, with no problems at all, then pretty soon there will be problems with parasites. Goodness knows where they come from! The poultry louse is flat and yellowish and is found where the hen is warmest – usually under the tail and

will kill the bird eventually, and draw around the bottom. They lay clusters of blood for food. They cause the bird to eggs at the feather base and they make become listless and lose appetite. the bird scratch. They are highly All these mites and evolved and do not kill lice can be dealt with their hosts, but they are not pleasant for the ALL THESE MITES quite easily with a monthly dusting of lice animal. AND LICE CAN BE powder. The same ingreI have never experidients also come in spray enced de-pluming louse DEALT WITH form. Hold the bird firmly – which does exactly QUITE EASILY – preferably on its back, what you would expect by irritating the bird so WITH A MONTHLY and rub the powder into all the crannies – much it pulls its own DUSTING OF LICE especially at the bottom, feathers out. This is a under the tail, under the summertime problem. POWDER wings and in the neck. I The feather mite – or wear rubber gloves and a the northern fowl mite mask. These mites have a very short seems to be transferred by sparrows. They live all over the bird – especially lifecycle, so they can get a hold quickly if you haven’t treated your birds. at the bottom and in the neck. They


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DREADED RED MITE Red mite lives in the chicken house – mostly on perches but in any crack or crevice. They hate light so will shy away in the daytime, but come out at night to climb onto the chicken’s legs and feeds on the blood of the bird. Untreated birds will be killed by red mite. Fortunately a good spray is available from feed shops and pet stores. You need to spray everything and repeat it monthly as a routine, but fortnightly when you are getting rid of an infes-

tation. If you see red mites they are up in the land the hens are on, and it easily dealt with using the thumb, but is a good idea to move your birds from if they are there on the perch they one pasture to the next to give the will be elsewhere too! Red mite has a land a rest. ten day life cycle, so you need to There is much to be said for destroy it quickly and frequently. keeping hens healthy and happy – The other pest we because in this way have seen in some their own immunity OTHER old birds given to us deals with most of the are scaly leg mite. worm problems. Most INFESTATIONS OR These make raised internal parasites of STRESS CAN AFFECT poultry are based in crusty scales on the legs. It burrows the gut, and so are THE HENS’ under the slow not passed on to IMMUNITY AND growing scales on humans. the legs and drives Other infestations CAUSE THEM TO the birds mad with or stress can affect the BECOME MORE irritation. One hens’ immunity and treatment for this is cause them to become SUSCEPTIBLE TO to immerse the leg in more susceptible to INTERNAL PARASITES internal parasites. On alcohol. I have used meths but surgical the whole you treat a spirit is better because it isn’t flock by adding worming powder – poisonous. special preparations available from If you can’t get your chicken to put feed stores, to the hens’ feed. You can it’s leg in a cup of alcohol for five spot a bird that needs worming by its minutes, then bathe it in running listlessness, it is frequently off its food, liquid using cotton wool. Do this every will stand still and shiver and seem to week. Dunk legs once a week. stare into space. I have not used natural remedies for worming birds – strong garlic preparaMOVE THEM AROUND tions etc, because I don’t fancy the Internal parasites, or worms (though they are not all worms as such, and are idea of garlic flavoured eggs. On the whole they have been kept under nothing to do with any earthworms wraps by good flock management. E they scratch out of the ground) build


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HOME FARMER INVESTIGATES

ASK THE QUESTION:

” ? l a c o l t i “is The way we interact with farmers and food producers is changing – not always for the better When the first Farmers’ Markets appeared in the 1980s they were completely novel. Previously farmers did not have the ability to sell their produce directly because they were geared up only for traditional outlets, butchers, greengrocers etc. And this was fine because most of us shopped in local individual shops. Where there were four million shops in this country, the vast majority of our food is sold by only five.

THE EGG MAN – THE WAY IT USED TO BE The egg man, who had a market stall in Manchester when I was a child, was open every Wednesday and Saturday and he sold his own

eggs, butter, cheese and chicken. He also had a Reliant Robin three wheeler (a bit like Del-boy) from which he would deliver produce on Friday nights. He sold cabbage and spuds, onions and various other bits and pieces when they were in season. What none of us knew at the time was that he wasn’t a farmer at all, he had a series of allotments, not a farm. His cream and milk, from which he made butter and cheese, came from a farming friend and goodness knows where he made it. At the time he made that rough cheddar that we called cooking cheese. You don’t see


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67 Left:Voted the ‘Best Market in the UK’, Bury municipal market is a model for many. Here you can buy the world famous Lancashire Black Pudding made from grain and pig’s blood. But you can also find Lancashire Cheese stalls, producers of pork and beef, fish – from salmon to shellfish, sausages and wonderful, wonderful, tubs of cockles caught on Morecambe beach, boiled and soaked in seasoned vinegar.

the very field where animal ate. This is even more important when it comes to game – especially rabbits. A simple chat with one of the three or four butchers will procure a brace of rabbits shot the day before, and if you are lucky you can have a chat with the man that shot it

FARMERS MARKETS

His way of life went with him. For a cooking cheese so much now – but it start you cannot kill animals for food in made fantastic cheese on toast! the way he did. Regulations for The eggs were free range and were a consumption of any product such as few pennies cheaper than you could cheese or butter are buy from the shops, but strictly controlled and they were really fresh. you would have to The chickens came in THERE IS A LOT undertake a lot of work two types. Boilers and just to be on the right roasters. They were OF EVIDENCE side of the law – making decapitated and THAT SHOWS the whole enterprise too plucked and had their expensive. vents open, but were THE SMALLER The numbers of un-cleaned. You had to markets where people can do that yourself. Many’s THE VENUE THE buy food have drastically the time you would BETTER THE reduced. At one time clean them out to find MARKET each town and city would an egg in there – which have a dozen or more was great fun. The market sites but the roasters were three pressure to use land productively has month old meat birds reared for the meant they have often been centralized, purpose, the boilers had done two the former venues turned over to years’ worth of laying and quite tough housing or supermarkets or some other they were too. ratable pastime. Travel to town centre The egg man died some years ago. markets is on the whole more troublesome than visiting the local supermarket.

BURY MARKET

Why? Why can’t every town have a market as good and local as this one?

What is important about Bury Market is that you can find local farmers able to sell their own produce on a daily basis. Everything is local, fresh and traceable – you can in some cases find

In city centres around the country green welled shoppers could buy their produce from grateful farmers who simply could not meet demand. There are still local farmers’ markets that have continued this and you can get a lot of locally produced, low food mile produce. But the rules have changed. Firstly, other types of market and the sheer weight of competition. Where there was only one market for a community there are frequently five or six. In Manchester (where I live) there was only one market in the old town, and this served a population of over a million. The same population now has the choice of ten! But choice has not kept pace with locality. An unscientific survey at my local market had the following stalls. Two meat farmers – selling burgers and sausage rolls, a make up and cosmetics stall, a cheese stall – a farmer with 92 cattle in Lancashire making nothing but specialist cheese, two flower stalls, a sweet stall, a bread seller and a chap selling home brewed cider – and that’s it! Graham, from Mrs Kirkhams, the cheese stall, said, “At one time you had to be up, ready and selling by 8 o’clock in the morning, there were so many people wanting to buy. Now it doesn’t matter – there are too many markets now. They were the good days.” Graham’s cheese is brilliant – well aged Lancashire that people wouldn’t expect to find. Lancashire cheese for many comes in little plastic packets – not this! The extra markets brought markets nearer to people but the number of producers haven’t always kept pace. The best advice for anyone who wants to buy is to get out there and find the best one that is as close to you as possible. There is a lot of evidence that shows the smaller the venue the better the market, those serving small towns being much better than those serving large cities.


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HOME FARMER INVESTIGATES THE BOX SCHEME

again as are any plastic punnets. Most of her customers came from word of Box schemes became very popular a mouth and the local paper did a piece dozen years ago. People start them as a on her last year which helped. way of making their small plots pay, and Finding a veg box scheme is not as it can be hard work. Jayne Neville, who easy as you think – writes for Home Farmer, neither is setting one up. runs a box scheme that You have to build up a provides weekly ...GET OUT client base and this is vegetables to around done best by pointing 30 customers in THERE AND out that your produce is Lincolnshire. She grows FIND THE BEST fresh and organic. everything herself but Organic status doesn’t by the end of the year MARKET AS come all that cheap, and she begins to run out of CLOSE TO YOU this is where the things like potatoes and Wholesome Food onions, and then she AS POSSIBLE Association comes in. It is buys in – from the an easier route, in farmer next door. financial terms, to She chooses what goes into the boxes, then she can use up organic accreditation. everything ready that week - it would be an absolute nightmare if people SUPERMARKETS could pick and choose. It is not the intention of Home Farmer Deliveries are on Thursday and to attack supermarkets just because Friday; she only covers a 15 mile radius they are big. There are some interesting from her house - so it’s very local. She things happening in some supermarkets grows, picks, packs and delivers all the – especially when it comes to buying boxes herself. All delivered in her some local products. You can see trusty little Escort van. The pictures of the farmers that produce boxes themselves are old certain products. Some sausage makers wooden fruit/veg boxes are making inroads to the refrigerated bought from a local veg shelves and some locally grown veg is packing station & are available in some stores. One big re-used again and success is with Black Pudding, which is

never going to be a hugely industrial manufacturing process, even if the blood that makes most of them comes in pelleted form from Holland. Every shopper needs to ask questions – where did this come from? … Do you have a local alternative?..or perhaps more importantly, Oh! I’ll go and buy it from my local Farmers’ Market! One wonders why the large supermarkets do not have a Farmers’ Market on their car parks – or better still inside their stores. E

Conclusion We at Home Farmer believe that buying fresh, wholesome food directly from the farm should be commonplace. The fewer steps from plot to plate the better for everyone.The way we interact with farmers and their produce is under threat by an ever-growing number of people and organisations trying to get a slice of the market. Always ask the question: is it local?


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The next issue will be May, published early April. For details of features and special advertisement rates please contact Bob Handley on:

0845 226 0477 or e-mail: Robert@efour.co.uk


HF ISSUE 1 P70-71 PRODUCTS

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PRODUCTS

GO PEAT FREE WITH WESTLAND EARTH USEFUL PRODUCTS Each month we bring you a selection of products that come to our attention. Sometimes they will be special offers, but every time they will be really useful.

The launch of Westland Earth Matters Compost, which is 100% Peat Free, means that a major manufacturer of peat products has, at last, an alternative. Why go peat free? Well the material is collected from rapidly disappearing ecosystems. Having removed much of the UK supply, companies have turned their attention to central Europe – some of the last boglands left. Earth Matters Peat Free Multi-Purpose Compost contains 100% renewable resources and the

unique West+ ingredient.The essential difference. When focusing on CO2 emissions, Earth Matters is lighter than conventional peat free composts, reducing energy requirements during transportation and with the raw material being locally sourced this reduces mileage to and from the plant. West+ is a unique ingredient made from natural wood fibre taken from trees grown in forests managed in accordance with the FSC

scheme. It has also been added to West+ Advanced Composts for All Plants, making the contents 50% lighter. 2008 has also seen the introduction of West+ Advanced Water Saving Compost and West+ Advanced Ericaceous Plant Compost. Consumers can learn more about the benefits of West+ on the small screen as Westland has invested £2 million to further educate consumers throughout Britain and Ireland about the benefits of using peat alternatives. E For further information please visit www.gardenhealth.com or telephone 028 8772 7500.

EARTHWAY PRECISION GARDEN SEEDER Everyone knows that you put a seed in the earth and it grows! Simple? Well it isn’t all that simple. A drill, which is a line in the earth rather than a hole in the ground, is easy to make on a small allotment, but imagine repeating this time and again over a length of fifty yards – it is not only time consuming, but back breaking. Going from the small garden scale to the small holding scale takes a lot more time and a lot more effort than you first might imagine. A friend of mine thought it was a bit of a cheat for him to use a machine like this when he could still do it by hand. But his seeding took him days on end – time he could have spent elsewhere, more profitably. He soon smiled when he saved himself the best part of a week. Plant a variety of vegetable and flower seeds with one continuous

operation of opening the soil, planting the seed, covering, and marking the next row. Precision depth gauge and adjustable row marker for even row spacing, Includes 6 standard seed plates. Corn, Radishes, leeks, asparagus, spinach, carrots, lettuce, turnips, cabbage, endive, onions, tomatoes, beans, small peas, standard peas, beets, okra, and swiss chard.This is at a special offer price of £109.99 To complete your set of seed plates you can buy an additional pack Rudabaga, small lettuce, kale, cabbage broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, mustard, cucumbers, popcorn and lima beans.

E READER OFFER Save £5 when you buy this set at the same time as the Earthway Precision Seeder from Ascott Smallholding Supplies. www.ascott.biz or Tel: 0845 130 6285.


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PRODUCTS

LIFELONG STOCK POTS

HELPFUL LEAF SACK Leaf mould is made by rotting leaves in wire cages – where the air can get to them.This process takes a long time because there is no temperature control.You gather the leaves one autumn and use them the following summer. These brilliant sacks make the

process easier.You simply fill them up and forget them! The following year you have perfect leaf compost. They are quite cheap – compared to foraging around for a wire cage – £2.00 each or 3 for £5.00.

E You can buy them from Victoriana: www.victoriana nursery.co.uk Telephone 01233 740529

NEMATODES AND POTATOES Branston Ltd, one of the country’s leading potato suppliers, is helping their growers discover just how good Nemaslug is at controlling slugs. Slugs are a serious and potentially very costly problem for potato growers, so Branston is keen to find an effective solution. Following successful field trials in 2006, Branston encouraged a number of their growers to use Nemaslug during 2007.The initial target was to treat 100 hectares with Nemaslug, but due to the wet and humid season demand increased to over 450 hectares.

“Nemaslug works well in the places that pellets can’t reach,” says Dr.Andy Barker of Branston.“As nematodes are a ‘marine organism’ we remind growers to only apply when it’s raining so that the nematodes can be washed down from the surface into the soil profile.” “We’re keen to encourage the use of Nemaslug, either as a continuous programme or in conjunction with other modes of control as part of our Integrated Crop Management strategy (ICM),” continues Andy.“As Branston supplies Tesco and follows the Nature���s Choice guidelines, reducing the number of slug pellets used is very attractive. Using environmentally friendly controls, such as Nemaslug, can help towards a greener environment and a more sustainable approach to slug control.”

E Nemaslug products are available from Green Gardener: www.greengardener.co.uk

Offering quality and value for money.They have a reinforced lip providing strength and unbreakable welded, staycool watertight handles.They can be used on any cooking surface including induction with their stainless steel sandwich base. Comes with a 10 year guarantee.The body is made from 0.8mm gauge stainless steel. Superb pan ideal for so many jobs from making your jam to boiling your ham. READER OFFER 7ltr £65.49 Home Farmer Readers can buy this for £60.00 11ltr £82.95 Home Farmer Readers can buy this for £75.00 Both plus £7.25 Postage and Packing Visit: www.crocksand pots.co.uk or phone 0208 144 5517.

THE HENCHMAN 175 BARROW TRAILER Every allotment society in the country should get one of these! Its 175-litre capacity is perfect for moving all sorts of materials around the plots, from manure to topsoil, and is so well balanced that anyone can pull it along. It’s not cheap but will last a long time and if you have any kind of serious work to do this is for you. Brilliant! E Available from Henchman, Tel: 01635 299847, £279.00 inc.VAT & delivery

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COTSWOLD FARM PARK

INTERVIEW WITH

Adam Henson When he is not filming around the country for BBC television’s Countryfile programme, Adam Henson runs the Cotswold Farm Park, which pioneers rare breed conservation, as well as running the 650-hectare Bemborough Farm tenancy near Cheltenham THE TELEPHONE RANG and a voice I knew well for the last few years said. “I’m on the way to the airport, so I can talk for a minute.” Adam Henson is a busy man, but then he always was. His farm and tourist attraction in Gloucestershire keep him on his toes. Established in 1971, the Cotswold Farm Park can be aptly described as a pageant of history on four legs! The farm has a serious agenda: the preservation of rare breed livestock. On display is an unrivalled collection of rare breeds of British farm animals including sheep, cattle, pigs, goats, horses, poultry and waterfowl.

The Cotswolds owes its name to sheep, Roman sheep. It is said that the Romans came to Britain for our seafood and left us with politics, roads and sheep. The Cot is a small sheep enclosure and there were many thousands to be found on the ‘Wolds’ - the rolling hills of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, long before there were any such things as counties or even England. All of our monastic abbeys and most of the manors and churches were built on the wealth brought to this country by sheep, which is why the Cotswold sheep was

referred to as having a “Golden Fleece”. Even our laws were decreed on a woolsack! Home Farmer readers and those interested in finding out more about keeping livestock can use their visit to the Cotswold Farm Park as an introduction to the variety of breeds available. The farm aims to help people learn about seasonal farming life, with lambing taking place in front of the public from mid March to mid April, followed by milking demonstrations and shearing from the end of May to the beginning of July.


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THE FARM HAS A SERIOUS AGENDA: THE PRESERVATION OF RARE BREED LIVESTOCK


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COTSWOLD FARM PARK

Groups have the opportunity to learn and interact; meeting new-born lambs, bottle feeding goat kids, helping roll fleeces and handling wool during shearing. These opportunities are not as detailed as specific animal husbandry courses, but make for an excellent first experience. Described as a “very good egg” by Alex James of Blur fame, this epithet can be applied to the whole staff, they are happy to answer your questions – and there is plenty to look at.

They are beautiful dark mahogany colour with a white stripe on the back, down the hindquarters (including the tail), and along the belly. The Gloucester undoubtedly owed its early popularity to the quality of its milk and is famous for its Double Gloucester cheese. Single Gloucester is made from a mix of skimmed and whole milk, Double Gloucester is made from whole milk. Gloucester cattle are described as being almost extinct, but they are generally easy care animals.

CATTLE

PIGS

Asking Adam what breed of cattle he would recommend for a new smallholder, he suggested Gloucester Cattle.

Where pigs are concerned Adam, of course, recommends the Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, a favourite no doubt

because he has a soft spot for his local breeds. They are large white pigs with black markings and lop ears; a dual purpose breed which is hardy, useful for grazing and well able to forage, with excellent mothering qualities. Also worth considering is the Kune Kune pig. These small New Zealand pigs have a dumpy build and come in a range of colours including cream, ginger, brown, black and spotted. They have a placid, friendly nature, thrive on human company and love having their tummies tickled. Pigs farrow all year round and the Farm Park always has piglets exploring the walkways, which visitors can meet and certainly get to know their habits, likes and dislikes.


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75 the affluence and welllocality. The being of the Gloucester Old Spot PIGS FARROW ALL population. at one side of the YEAR ROUND AND Rare breed conserCotswolds and the vation is a way of Oxford Sandy and VISITORS CAN MEET preserving part of our Black at the other. AND CERTAINLY GET living heritage; Not many miles protecting the diversity apart but very TO KNOW THEIR and variation found in distinctive differences between the HABITS, LIKES AND our old breeds and keeping our options breeds. The Old DISLIKES open for a changing Spot (GOS) being agricultural scene in developed more for the future. There is now political recogsmall farm rearing was known as the nition of the importance of traditional Orchard Pig, because it was frequently breeds in the UK livestock industry and turned out on orchards to clear up the rare breeds are now being used in dropped apples. The Sandy and Black organic farming systems and conser(OSB) was known as the Forest Pig, vation grazing schemes. allowed to run free in woodland and forage for its own food. The hair and colouring of the OSB making it ideal FLOODING for forest life. Gloucestershire has been in the news over the last year because of flooding of towns like Tewkesbury. Fortunately the SHEEP Farm Park is high on the Cotswold Hills All sheep are suited to smallholdings, and some of the roads leading to the although some need more care and farm have been flooded only for a short attention than others. Adam recomtime. Moreover they have their own mends the Soay sheep, the most primitive form of domestic sheep in the spring fed water supply, a great help when much of the locality was facing world and ancestors of all modern sheep breeds. Isolated on the islands of water shortages due to the flooding. E Soay and Hirta, off the west coast of Scotland, they have remained unchanged since the Stone Age. They are similar to the mouflon seen wild in Corsica, Sardinia and Cyprus. When the Romans came to this country they disregarded the natural sheep and brought their own. But Soays are very hardy, shed their wool naturally and FINDING COTSWOLD FARM PARK survive in the harshest of conditions. Classified as “at risk” on the Rare FROM STOW ON THE WOLD Breeds Survival Trust watch list, every Take the B4077 Tewkesbury road for flock of Soay’s are important to the 5 miles, turn left at the Farm Park sign agricultural life of the country. on the crossroads with the Broadway Roaming around there are a number to Bourton on the Water road. of hens, and you can get close to their houses and ask questions about their FROM BOURTON ON THE WATER care. The Romans realised that the Take the Naunton road off the A429. Britons kept poultry for fighting and Continue straight over crossroads, you will see plenty of old fighting following signs to the Farm Park on breeds at the farm – though they won’t the left hand side. be fighting! You will see Old English Game as well as more modern breeds FROM TEWKESBURY such as Light Sussex and even some Take the B4077 Stow-on-the-Wold American Rhodies! road through Ford and turn right at the Ever since humans first began to use Farm Park sign on the crossroads with and domesticate wild animals, they the Broadway to Bourton on the have been changing those animals by Water road. selection to suit their needs. At the beginning early farmers probably FROM CHELTENHAM selected for friendly temperament and Take the A40 Oxford road.Turn left ease of handling, but later they onto the A436 for Stow-on-the-Wold developed strains for specific purposes. at Andoversford.After approximately Different communities, geographical 5 miles turn left onto the B4068 and and climatic conditions all have 4 miles later left again at the different requirements, and these are crossroads, following signs to the constantly changing with changes in Farm Park on the left hand side.

Directions

The management of pigs in Britain is a very ancient craft. Originally fed on acorns and beechnuts, the pig is recognized as the agent for the movement of the oak through these islands. The food security a pig brought to a household led to the development of a number of breeds, one or two per county. The history of mankind is closely linked with the pig, and at the farm you will get a feeling for the excitement and affection people can have for these animals. There are more rare breed pigs in the UK than ever and anyone interested in keeping pigs would do no better than find out the breeds that were traditionally kept in their own


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Why is the “Good Life” s Mike Woolnough gives us a glimpse of the Good Life, not on a farm, but a series of allotments and a whole lot of fun IT HAS NEVER been one of my ambitions to stick a hypodermic needle into the chest of a large and angry rooster which is being held on the dining room table at 6am by an apprehensive wife, or to stick my arm up the rear end of a goat a la James Herriot. However, we achieved the first of these within a few months of our start into the odyssey of near self-sufficiency, and I have an ominous feeling that the latter is looming on the horizon! Actually, it was never our ambition to follow in the footsteps of John Seymour the self-sufficiency guru either, in fact I had never even heard of him until we were a year down the path, but it seems that we are well on our way. It came about as a result of our getting more and more disillusioned

Luckily Ipswich is well served with about where our food comes from, and plots, and there is a large field around followed three years of being two hundred metres from our house. vegetarians. We were very unhappy Having never previously grown anything about the way huge numbers of animals are raised and needlessly slaughtered. It edible other than a few tomato plants in a grow-bag on the patio, we dived in started with mad cow disease and the with both feet. In our first full year we lunacy of feeding meat to herbivorous grew something like sixty varieties of animals, then there was swine fever soft fruit and vegetables, which when I supposedly started by a corned beef look back on it is really sandwich, and the final quite remarkable. We had crunch came when foot our share of disasters – and mouth hit whilst we IT CAME the carrot fly ruined our were holidaying in the ABOUT AS A crop (and are still doing Lake District. My understanding is that FMD is RESULT OF OUR so) we had wireworm in the potatoes, and some rarely fatal to the animal, GETTING MORE strange maggot ate the but affects its milk yield turnips – but we had our afterwards, and so AND MORE triumphs too. For millions of animals are DISILLUSIONED instance we ate the most destroyed for purely gorgeous strawberries commercial reasons. that smelled so good they Then we heard drove you mad with disquieting things about anticipation carrying them home. how our fruit and veg is grown – The allotment was soon followed by extensive use of pesticides, raw human two Light Sussex hens in the garden for sewage used as irrigation, and the fact egg production. We then very quickly that much of it is not as fresh as we decided that we were prepared to eat imagined. meat that we had raised ourselves So we got ourselves an allotment.


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” such hard work? ethically, and so Hagrid joined our flock sight of our aims and become chicken fanciers rather than producers of our and set about annoying the neighbours own food. Numbers were reduced and destroying our garden in the process. Numerous chicks followed with dramatically, and we now keep a small the aid of a borrowed incubator, and we flock for eggs and hatch a few every now became obsessed with chickens – at one and then for meat production. A fourth plot followed when the one stage owning flocks of all the colours of next to us became vacant, and so we the Sussex breed, as well as bantam now had four allotments in a block versions of several. The chickens had totalling a quarter acre, been moved to a series and the foundations of of runs built on the our own smallholding. allotments as Sue had WE GROW We enjoyed 35 pounds of grown tired of living in a autumn raspberries in chicken run. MOUNTAINS the first year from Yes, you did read that OF FOOD AT inherited canes on this correctly – the allotment fourth plot, which really had now become plural. TIMES, BUT made it worthwhile. We One plot wasn’t enough NONE OF IT have actually reached the for our growing range of stage now where we get poultry and expanding GETS WASTED so tired of raspberries crops. Two plots at the that we don’t bother back of ours became picking the last of the vacant and we took them over. One we planted as an orchard with crop but leave it for the birds to enjoy. We were growing things in quite a large variety of fruit trees, and the prodigious quantities – freezing twenty other was half covered with chicken five pounds of broad beans for instance runs. At one stage we had nearly a – and beginning to feel a little uncomhundred chickens, and we realised that fortable about it. Not only was ethical things had got out of hand. We had lost

food beginning to hit the headlines, but also green issues, food miles….and rising fuel costs. We decided that we would prefer to eat seasonally if at all possible, and not run two crammed-full freezers. We felt that the only way to do this was to eat seasonally, and to do this we needed to extend the growing season. To achieve this we felt that we needed a polytunnel, and so began a year’s search for a frame that we could afford on our very limited budget. The first one we bought was a twenty footer covered in net, which we got from the free-ads for seventy five pounds. We decided that we would keep this as a cage for our brassicas and peas, as our allotments are plagued with pigeons the size of vultures that have an appetite to match. We eventually found a forty two foot heavy duty frame on E-Bay, again for seventy five pounds, and a few weeks later we had dug out the trenches, built the frame and fitted a beautiful new cover. This was in late summer last year, so we haven’t had a chance to evaluate it yet, but already we have a lot growing (first early spuds planted in January for instance) and it is far ahead of anything outdoors. We are also trying to extend our diet by growing such things as sweet potatoes and melons. There was an added bonus when we bought the frame. The vendor asked us if we wanted some old iron bars. When I saw them I immediately jumped at the offer and loaded them onto my trailer very quickly – we had acquired ourselves a lovely old thirty foot fruit cage frame! Whilst the search for a tunnel was taking its course we also turned our attention in other directions. We were tiring of eating chicken as there are only so many different ways that you can cook and present one, after all. A nice joint of pork seemed very appealing, and so we began to pester the local council for permission to keep a couple of pigs on the allotment. They weren’t very willing. They still aren’t very willing, but we haven’t given up. In the meantime the field secretary suggested that we ask for goats, something that we hadn’t considered. To our amazement permission was given, and the prospect of milk, cheese, yoghourt, and ice cream loomed large on the horizon, not to mention red meat if any kids born turn out to be billies. A large pen and house were hastily constructed, and we set out to find some goats. We soon discovered that this was not going to be an easy task as the goat-keeping fraternity were


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LIVING THE GOOD LIFE dead set against us keeping them on allotments. Eventually however, we found two lovely Golden Guernsey girls, mother and daughter, and Gertie and Rosie joined us on the allotments. We had more fun and games finding a mate for them, but last November they paid a visit to Baylham Rare Breeds Farm where they were introduced to Peter, their Billy. As this issue goes to press we are expecting a double happy event in the near future, and suspect that our lives will soon get much more complicated. As for the pigs, well we’ve started pestering the council again, as we’ve proved that the goats aren’t a problem. We have an ally to our cause now as Gertie and Rosie have been featured on BBC Radio Suffolk, who will be returning after the girls have kidded. As you can see from the photo, both girls

still have their horns, and we will not be dehorning the kids. We are not prepared to put them through the pain and danger to life of having them removed – all part of our ethical ethos. If I occasionally get a horn in a part of my anatomy that I would rather not, well so be it. We grow mountains of food at times, but none of it gets wasted – it either feeds us or our family, the chickens, the goats – or goes into the compost to feed the soil.

CHALLENGE The goats are undoubtedly the biggest challenge that we have taken on to date. Pigs would only be with us for about six months of the year, as they would then go to slaughter and leave us some time for an occasional holiday. We also believe that they do not require the

high level of care and attention that milking goats need. We know that we now face twice daily visits to feed and milk 24/7 and 365 days a year. We also have to come to terms with sending Billy the kid to slaughter, if one is born, after raising it for six months. We will see how we get on this year, and make a decision then as to their long term future. In addition to all of these activities we still find time to make most of our own bread and biscuits and the odd drop of wine. I missed the sloe berry crop last year, but still hanker after producing our own sloe gin. Maybe this year I will find the time and be able to afford the necessary gin at the same time. So, as you can see, our desire to eat fresh food that has been ethically produced


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79 has led us completely by accident to the verge of having our own miniature farm, in the midst of one of the biggest council estates in Europe. We aren’t suggesting that you, the

reader, attempt anything on our scale, but you should be able to at least produce some of your own ethical food. Believe us, the flavour of it will beat anything that you can buy – a cob of sweetcorn picked off the plant and eaten raw there and then has to be tasted to be believed! It’s not easy, and

Link You can link to Mike’s Website through www.homefarmer.co.uk Where you will be able to listen to his Radio Suffolk Interview.

we work harder than we have ever worked in our lives, but for us it is worth it. We couldn’t do it if I worked full time or had a mortgage or rent to pay, but we have managed to combine it with working a couple of days a week, and looking for clothes in charity shops has added an interesting new dimension to our crowded lives, and we cycle wherever possible as we can’t afford the petrol. Oh... and to refer back to the first paragraph, why was I sticking a needle into a resentful rooster? We made the classic beginners mistake and bought some new chickens and put them straight in with our existing stock, and of course they brought in an infection that the older birds had never encountered and so they all became very sick. We had to give them all antibiotic injections morning and night for ten days……but that’s another story for another time. E


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FAST FOOD

Reviving Rabbit In the 1950’s the government introduced myxomatosis to eradicate rabbits everywhere: and so ended the best meal in the world – rabbit pie! Our relationship with rabbits goes back at least three thousand years BC. ‘Spain’ is a translation of ancient Phoenician and means the ‘land of the rabbit’. The Romans aided their spread to most of Europe as a food resource and the animal’s movement around the world was completed by sailors, who set breeding colonies wherever they went to

Moonraker This has absolutely nothing to do with James Bond. It is a title for a poacher, a rabbit poacher at that, who takes his bag and throws it into the village pond to avoid being caught with half a dozen bunnies.They would then ‘rake the moon’ to dredge their catch under cover of darkness.

maintain an easy supply of food. Rabbits are not true rodents and have scrupulous habits of cleanliness. They live exclusively on green plants and will not forage among litter or pollution. Of course, they are cute and people keep them as pets, hence our squeamishness RABBIT MEAT IS about eating what has POSSIBLY THE been for many centuries the salvation of the BEST BEST YOU nation’s poor. Quite why CAN GET EVEN in rabbit stew is not our protein. national dish, instead of THOUGH IT Wild bacon and eggs or a DOESN’T COME rabbit is Sunday roast, is a mystery. IN BIG STEAKS the most organic They are now meat you becoming a pest again in can eat because it has the countryside, and have almost been dispatched completely recovered their numbers following the humanely - no long journeys to myxomatosis of the 1950s. They are the abattoir, no chemical pumped diets, excellent eating, not gamey at all and, no fear, no stress. Rabbit meat is more importantly, it is healthy meat possibly the best you can get even low in fat, low in cholesterol, and high


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81 though it doesn’t come in big steaks. Another excellent, if political, reason for eating rabbit is to keep the control of its numbers away from the Government. Deliberately infecting them was a complete disgrace,

and subsequent attempts to gas them were simply cruel because it was such an inefficient method; those on the periphery of the burrow were only half gassed and had long, painful deaths. In France, and to a lesser extent in the UK, people farm rabbits. There are a number of companies whose aim is to collect live animals from strategic points and transport these on for slaughter. These are caged animals that are processed centrally. The farm-bred animal is a much more robust beast than its wild cousin. These animals are killed by the stun and bleed method – perhaps less desirable to shooting where the animal is feeding one second and the next it is dead.

BUYING RABBIT You may be able to buy rabbit from your local butcher, although I tried what seemed like every one in my locality, without success - so you might need to order it, and they will skin and quarter the animal for you. Some butchers sell rabbit off the bone, which allows for greater versatility and less waste.

COOKING RABBIT Many recipes ask you to soak the rabbit in water before you start. This is because of a misunderstanding about the supposed gameness of the meat yes it is classed as game, but it is not strong flavoured like hare or pheasant. There is no real need to soak it at all, but you can marinade it to infuse other subtle flavours. Rabbit is low in fat, more so at the hindquarters than the shoulders, although even here it is The much less fatty traditional than chicken. It way to hang a is therefore best rabbit – slit behind cooked in a liquid to the tendon and push maintain its texture one leg through

RABBIT RECIPES

Rabbit Casserole in White Wine INGREDIENTS 50g (2oz) butter 1 onion, diced 75g (30z) streaky bacon, rindless and chopped 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 rabbits, jointed 300ml (1 pint) white wine 300ml (1 pint) chicken stock METHOD Fry the onions and garlic gently in the butter, until pale brown. Remove the fried onions and garlic and seal the rabbit joints in the remainder of the butter, to which a little oil has been added. Once the meat is seared, remove to an ovenproof dish and add the fried onions. (Some recipes call for the meat to be dusted with flour for this step). Add the wine and stock to the frying pan to incorporate all the fat and flavours and then pour this over the rabbit in the pot. Cook in an oven, pre-heated to 160°C (325°F, gas 3) for an hour or until the meat is tender. Check for seasoning and if you wish, thicken the sauce with a roux.

Rabbit duke INGREDIENTS Two rabbits, quartered 1 large onion, thinly sliced 2 tomatoes, sliced 50g (20z) Cheddar cheese, grated Salt and pepper METHOD Place the rabbit joints in a well-buttered dish. Slice an onion very thinly and place on top with two sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle on salt and pepper, then sprinkle grated cheese and a large knob of butter. Bake for about one hour in a moderate oven at 180°C (350°F, gas 4) or until tender.


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RABBIT RECIPES

Italian rabbit INGREDIENTS 2 rabbits, quartered 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 large onions, finely sliced 50ml (9fl oz) white wine 1 can of passata (small can, 500ml) 1 tsp thyme 2 bay leaves 1 tsp sweet basil, chopped (You can miss this if you don’t like basil) Olive oil for frying METHOD Brown the garlic and onions in a large frying pan and add the rabbit to sear. Add wine to the onions and boil, then add the passata and herbs. Cook for 30 minutes on a simmering heat, check seasoning; serve with your favourite pasta.

Beer Marinated Rabbit INGREDIENTS For the marinade: 500ml (17fl oz) Pale Ale 2 shallots, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped Pinch of cayenne pepper 1 tbsp honey

2 rabbits quartered (or you can use 1 kg/2lb diced rabbit meat) Oil for frying METHOD Mix all the marinade ingredients and place into a sealable container, along with the rabbit meat. Keep in the fridge for 24 hours. Discard the marinade and fry the meat in a little oil until tender. Serve with salad, pitta bread and dips.You could skewer the meat with various vegetables and barbeque as an alternative.

Roast rabbit INGREDIENTS 2 rabbits, quartered 6-12 rashers bacon Various cubed roasting vegetables potatoes, turnip, parsnip, carrot Oil for roasting METHOD Rabbit needs to be kept moist when roasting. Place your peeled, cubed and washed vegetables in your roasting tin and sprinkle with salt. Cover with oil and cook for 30 minutes. Cover the rabbits with bacon to seal them during the roasting.Then add your two quartered rabbits and baste with liquid from the tin. Cover with foil. Cook for a further 90 minutes at 180°C (350°F, gas 4) or until the meat is tender.

and not become dry. You can barbecue or grill rabbit, but frequently baste it or liberally brush with oil. For the same reason, microwaving rabbit is quite difficult and not really recommended.

Warning Home Farmer will always bring you the facts – especially when it comes to what might be called the unpleasant aspects of making your owns food – killing and cleaning animals for instance.You might decide that you do not wish to read the following... bein

GETTING AND KILLING There are really only two ways of killing a rabbit. One of those methods is with a free bullet (preferably a .22 from a rifle) although the most powerful airguns will do a good job as long as you have a head shot. Shooting the animal is within the law and is specified as being ‘in the field’ which exempts it from having to be stunned because the bullet stuns and kills at the same instance. This doesn’t literally have to be in a field, but should be in a position where the bullet will exit only into soil, without injuring any other animal or person. The animal’s neck should be sliced through to cut the jugular veins as soon as possible, within less than a few seconds, to allow it to bleed. Animals caught by the common use of mist netting, using ferrets, can still be killed by neck dislocation. It is important that any dogs are trained only to drive the rabbits into nets, and not to attack them. This would be illegal under the hunting with dogs legislation.


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RABBIT RECIPES

Rabbit pie INGREDIENTS 2 boned rabbits 1 onion, sliced finely 2 large carrots, sliced fairly thinly 1 tsp sage or thyme, whichever you prefer Stock to just cover the pan bottom Handful of peas, to add at end For white sauce 25g (1oz) butter 25g (1 oz) flour 150ml (1/2 pint) milk – salt and pepper Short crust pastry to cover

Make a roux in a separate saucepan and gently add warm milk, stirring constantly to make a white sauce. Season as necessary.Add some of the simmering stock to dilute. Place ingredients in a pie dish, add the peas and pour the sauce mixture over the meat. Stir gently together to incorporate everything. Cover with short crust pastry and wash with beaten egg. Cook in an oven at 190°C (375°F, gas 5) for 30 minutes or until the pastry is cooked.

Diana’s White sauce Jugged Rabbit The back legs are held in one hand and the head cupped in the other, in a backwards position so that the fingers are near the ears. Holding tightly, the animal is stretched by pulling with both hands until the neck breaks. This is exactly the same as for a chicken. The knee can be used if the length of the rabbit makes it difficult to easily extend the arm. The rabbit should then be bled immediately by severing the neck. On farm killing of rabbits should be done by electrical stunning and slicing the neck as soon as possible afterwards. The usual American method of killing rabbits involves holding the animal by the back legs and hitting it sharply on the back of the head with a heavy club. It is difficult to assess if this is allowed under UK law. In all cases, the target animal should be checked to ensure it is dead before moving on to the next stage. The death of shot animals should always be confirmed by: E Absence of rhythmic, respiratory movements E Absence of eye protection reflex (corneal reflex) or ‘blink’ E A fixed, glazed expression in the eyes E Loss of colour in mucous membranes (becoming mottled and pale without refill after pressure is applied)

If you are lamping (shining a lamp into a rabbit’s eyes at night so they freeze before shooting them), you must observe strict discipline to avoid injury to each other. Only shoot a certain number of animals, each time firing in the same direction and being in no doubt of the land beyond the shot. As quickly as possible after shooting, once all the guns are confirmed as safe and out of use, each animal should be checked to ensure it is dead. E

Warm the milk and in another pan melt the butter and sprinkle in the flour. Stir to combine and put over a very low heat. Slowly add the milk whisking all the time until it is all combined. Turn the heat up slightly, bringing to the boil, stirring all the time. Cook out the flour for 2 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.

METHOD Saute the onion and carrot in a little oil and add rabbit to colour.Add stock to just cover the ingredients and herbs; cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes, checking if tender.

INGREDIENTS 3 rabbits, quartered 2 onions, sliced 3 rashers bacon, chopped 600ml (2 pints) cider Pinch of ground garlic clove Herbs (bay, parsley, mint) in a bag Salt and pepper Flour METHOD Fry the bacon and onion in a little butter. Flour the rabbit pieces and fry in the juices until seared. Combine all the ingredients in an ovenproof dish and cook at 160°C (325°F, gas 3) for two hours, checking occasionally on seasoning and liquid level.


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HOME FARMER HEROES The town of Middleton once had forty two butchers. Forty of them have gone to the wall. Lords of Middleton is special and is the first of our Local Heroes

Local Hero QUEEN VICTORIA STILL had a long time to go when Lords of Middleton was started by Fred Lord over a hundred years ago. There are some special reasons why it is still there after all those years – when so many others have simply disappeared.

The big question: why did all those butchers close for good? Surely there are still as many people who eat meat around? The overriding factor when you talk to butchers is the way people have changed in the way they buy meat. Instead of having a trusted butcher – they all go to the supermarket. In order to compete butchers competed on price. The problem with that is the butcher made less

Contact

per sale and still was not able to compete with the huge supermarket marketing machine. There are some food losers. Try and buy rabbit, tripe, pig’s feet, cow heel and sheep’s trotters. You could have got any of these easily once. You’ll have to go a long way to find them now! Even Lords cannot get sheep’s trotters! Lords decided to compete on quality and service instead of price. It’s a gamble, but people are still prepared to pay a premium for good well butchered meat. It is a policy that has won them some powerful friends. Rick Stein OBE is the first TV chef everyone thinks of when it comes to seafood. But with his BBC series Food Heroes, Rick has shown that he’s equally passionate about the best of British produce whatever its provenance. Rick featured Lords of Middleton as one of his Food Heroes. Gino D’Acampo caught the cooking bug from his grandfather (a head chef in Naples) and entered the Luigi de Medici Catering College at the age of 15, where each summer he was sent to different kitchens across Europe to gain experience. He has now forged a successful career in TV and featured Lords of Middleton in his ITV series Chef vs. Britain. Clarissa Dickson-Wright rode into fame in the sidecar of Jennifer Paterson’s motorcycle in the BBC series Two Fat Ladies and she was often seen as the slightly saner sidekick. However, she is also one of only two women in England to have become a guild butcher. She featured Lords of Middleton in her book Sunday Roast. Lords sell the best quality Scotch Premier Beef and is hung for 28 days. It is traceable right back to the farm it was reared on. But perhaps the most impressive of all is that they sell the Queen’s venison. All the venison is supplied by Scotch Premier and comes from the Balmoral Estate. So how it can get better than that? E

NOMINATE YOUR LOCAL HERO

You can buy from Lords by visiting: www.lordsofmiddleton.co.uk

Write in and tell us about your food hero. It doesn't have to be a butcher.

18 Old Hall Street Middleton, Manchester M24 1AN

Home Farmer The Good Life Press Ltd PO Box 536, Preston, PR2 9ZY. Or email: editor@homefarmer.co.uk

Telephone Orders: 0161 643 4160


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WOOD BURNING STOVES

Green Heat – introduction to wood burning stoves


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With fuel prices soaring, many people are thinking about burning wood. Joe Jacobs looks into the feasibility of installing a wood burning stove

IT IS A fact that open fires are incredibly inefficient, it is possible that they actually do more to cool a house than to heat it. Whilst I admit that sitting with the cat and a good book in front of a warm fire seems like a very nice idea, if you consider the burning process you will soon realise that it is in energy terms a disaster. The problem with open fires is multi faceted, firstly they do not allow complete combustion of the fuel, secondly they allow between 80 and 90% of the heat to go straight up out of the chimney and lastly, they draw up to 20 cubic metres of air per Open fires are very inefficient minute in order to sustain them. It’s ways to heat your home. this last point that arguably has the greatest impact on the overall heating of your house. If the fire is drawing warm air directly out of your degree by conduction. As the temperate house, that warm air is chimney will inevitably be closed obviously being replaced by cold air down to a small modern flue, little from outside the house. The fire heat is lost to the sky. might appear to be heating a room In conventional chimneys, a great but in some circumdeal of soot and stances it could well creosote is formed as a be helping to cool the SIMPLY SPEAKING by-product of entire house. combustion. The The answer to these A WOOD BURNING inability of an open problems, and a very chimney to heat up STOVE WILL attractive one at that, sufficiently, allows PROVIDE A FAR is to fit a wood rising unburnt gases to burning or multi fuel condense on the GREATER HEAT stove. Wood burning cooler upper chimney OUTPUT THAN stoves are widely walls. Burning wood quoted as being 80% that is wet or unseaAN OPEN FIRE efficient (by which we soned, and therefore mean converting fuel has a higher moisture to heat energy). The cast iron content, leads to a general mucking structure warms up and retains a up of the chimney. As a fire gets great deal of heat around the fire going, it needs to evaporate much of leading to more efficient combustion. the excess moisture in the fuel prior Heat is transferred to the nearby to achieving an optimum burning surroundings mostly by convection temperature. In the case of an open and radiation but also to a limited fire, there is nothing confining the

fire to help with the initial heat build up; it follows that with damp or green wood there is a prolonged start and heat up period when unburnt gases and moisture will condense in the chimney due to incomplete combustion. These problems and the residues they create inevitably contribute to chimney fires. During the combustion process, a wood burner allows the stove and flue to heat up quickly and airflow can be regulated to allow the optimum for the given quantity of fuel. Simply speaking a wood burning stove will provide a far greater heat output than an open fire, with a significantly reduced fuel consumption. If a wood burner is adjusted to reduce the quantity of air needed for combustion, it does then unfortunately become a fairly inefficient device. There is some environmental benefit of using a wood burning stove as opposed to an open fire although we shan’t get into the minutia of


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WOOD BURNING STOVES the pro’s and cons here. Complete combustion simply equals reduced pollution. Wood can be a renewable energy source if trees are planted to replace the ones used; unfortunately it is doubtful that this is happening on a holistic scale. Before considering installation of a wood burner, the necessary building regulations need to be considered. If you are a competent person it is possible to carry out the work yourself and have the installation signed off by an inspector. What you have to realistically consider is that in most cases a flue liner will need to be fitted. Climbing on rooves is a dangerous business that requires skill and equipment, not to mention scaffolding. I have personally re-roofed 6 buildings and thoroughly recommend that you stay off. There is a governing body known as HETAS that presides over registered installers of solid fuel and wood burning equipment. You can however

Stoves are made from heavy metal.

save large amounts of money by sourcing the components yourself.

weather to complement the output from a ground source heat pump. Without the back boiler, this room would only need a burner rated at CHOOSING A STOVE Select your stove based on the size of between three and four kilowatts. I have seen quite small wood room and whether or not you want it burners that are offered to heat hot water. with the option of water Broadly speaking, a heating. From back boiler on a stove I HAVE SEEN experience I would say is a great asset but QUITE SMALL that the smaller units can reduce the immediate heat WOOD BURNERS would struggle to provide a supply of hot output of the stove by THAT ARE water whilst keeping a as much as half. To heated. Insulate case my point, I have OFFERED WITH room more, heat less is sound a 9 kW stove fitted THE OPTION OF advice for any new that heats a room of When some 20m! Normally WATER HEATING installation. considering a new stove a stove of this size you should also decide would be overkill but whether you just want a pure wood in this instance the heat is taken burner or a multi fuel device that will away by 28mm copper plumbing. The allow the burning of coal and coke as stove heats domestic water and well. The difference is largely in the supplies 4 medium sized radiators. grate arrangement that allows This wood and solid fuel burning improved airflow and the removal of appliance is only used in colder ash; difference is also reflected in the price. Since wood is not always available whereas solid fuel may be, a multi fuel stove is in my opinion, a better bet. Some stoves are also now available with remote control gizmo’s that allow electronic control of the airflow into the stove and hence the burn rate. Wood stoves are not complicated and I would suggest that remote control systems and suchlike are not necessary, what they present is something else to eventually go wrong and be charged for. The best stoves undoubtedly come from Scandinavia. Based solely on the number of years designing and building this type of stove, the Scandinavian manufacturers are the experts. Jotul stoves have long been regarded as some of the best although these days there are plenty of appliances both available and manufactured in this country. Wood burners as a source of heat for cooking are a


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89 different issue. There are plenty of manufactures of solid fuel cookers but unless bought secondhand, they are not cheap. I have a solid fuel/ wood burning Rayburn that will cook and heat hot water. It cost ninety quid off eBay. I installed it as a measure of redundancy against power cuts in our remote area. For the inexperienced user, it is not easy to cook on or in and requires plenty of time to get it up to temperature. If it ever gets slung out, I would be temped to save up and buy a Bosky stove which although similar in principle, appears to have a far greater degree of control over the burning and cooking process.

FITTING The first part of fitting a new stove is the assessment of the chimney or existing flue system. Every stove needs a specific diameter of flue for it to function as intended. An existing flue might not satisfy the requirements of a new stove although you could select a new stove in accordance with an old flue. It is a simple job to line a chimney with a flexible stainless steel flue liner; these products are commercially available off the roll cut to your required length. Liners are available in two classes, class I is suitable for fires, class 2 is only suitable for gas appliances. I know this because when I bought my property it had the wrong liner fitted in it. Liners intended for

Working on a roof is a job for professionals.

wood or solid fuel fires have a smooth interior to prevent residue build up. Flues can also be lined in rigid stainless steel flue sections or clay liners. Retro fitting clay liners

is a full building job involving cutting access holes into the chimney. The top of the flue liner is fastened to the top of the chimney stack with a collar to prevent it slipping down the chimney, the pot is cemented back on top of this collar. At the bottom of the flue liner, the general arrangement is to have a reducing fitting that connects the flue liner to the cosmetically pleasing stove pipe. The reduction in diameter is as recommended for the particular stove, usually either one or two inches. The stove pipe will have an access panel in it that can be removed to allow chimney sweeping. Other necessary fittings include support brackets to hold the stove pipe in place above the stove. The stove pipe usually ascends from the stove up into the chimney where it joins the reducing collar, out of sight. It is usual to put a closure board or plate around the pipe to seal off the rest of the chimney. In sealed flue systems, the net worth of this


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WOOD BURNING STOVES closure is both cosmetic and practical, it stops the regular showers of muck and dust from up what in my case is a very large chimney breast. It can also stop the ingress of fumes into the room in the event of a flue pipe rupture. Stoves are extremely heavy, awkward and difficult to move. They need to be situated on a solid base from where they will not move during their useful life. Bear in mind that if your stove has a back boiler, you will need to ensure that there is sufficient room for you to make the pipe connections at the side or rear of the appliance. If clearances are tight, plumb sections of pipe to the stove, position the stove and then plumb onward from the pipe sections. Obviously it goes without saying that a stove or flue system should not be situated anywhere near combustible material such as timber. In some old chimneys, the floor timbers did protrude into the masonry around the chimney and over time, they have been burnt to worrying degrees in many cases. Ensure that the hot surfaces are outside of the prescribed minimum distances for installation near stud or timber work. It is worth mentioning that a stove does need a hearth if one is not already fitted. Again, there are prescribed facts, figures and requirements for the fitting of a hearth. I bought a marble one and it looks very nice too.

MAINTENANCE Just like any other heating appliance, stoves need maintenance. From time to time, the glass may crack and you will have to order some more and replace it. Joints may

your chimney swept on loosen and fire cement an annual basis, I occasionally needs IT IS WORTH assume this would also replacing, a very easy apply to flues and wood but slightly messy job. MENTIONING burning stoves. Rope seals on doors THAT A STOVE are not difficult to replace but over time FUEL DOES NEED A they become frayed is an ecologically HEARTH IF ONE Wood and damaged. Worn friendly fuel source if seals ruin the airflow IS NOT ALREADY managed correctly and distribution through it is also a comfort to FITTED the stove and lead to know that it can be inefficiency of the used efficiently if not device. It is regarded as a necessity on piled high on glowing open fires. I some insurance policies that you get would thoroughly recommend to anyone the idea of investing in a wood burning or multi fuel stove. As a primary heat source, wood burning is maybe an emotive issue but as a secondary heat source it should be highly regarded in any house. Those few times that the power does go off you could be the only one in your locality with a warm house and with the addition of a kettle sitting on top of the stove, you can even have a hot cup of tea. E You can get more information and find a local installer from HETAS.

Further information HETAS Ltd Orchard Business Centre Stoke Orchard, Gloucestershire GL52 7RZ Tel: 0845 2233033 Website: www.hetas.co.uk


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NEXT MONTH

In next month’s packed Home Farmer magazine Hugh’s Gals We check up on the hens on the housing estate started by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Reap a Golden Harvest Jayne Neville takes us step by step into growing sweetcorn

NEXT ISSUE OU APRIL 4T T H

Elderflower Champers Forget Pimms, Elderflower champaign is the one and only drink for summertime, and our recipe is quite simply the best – well we think so!

Dig up the Track

We look at how rotovators make the job easier.

Build a Brick Oven Five Breads Like Jamie Oliver’s From ciabatta to naan – with everything We build an oven in the garden, and look at how to bake and cook in time honoured fashion.

You Shall Have a Fishy Fish is still on the menu as we look at British Trout – how to fish for it, whether it’s worth it and above all – how to cook it.

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else between. There is nothing better than the smell of your own bread!

Ultra Low Salt Bacon At last bacon is healthy! – the best flavour, the lowest salt and the cheapest price. You will never want to buy bacon ever again!

Plus... Features on food, farming, buying property, looking after your land, keeping poultry, pigs and a whole lot more...


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WILD FOOD

Wild about Food There are so many plants and animals we used to eat that we no longer care for, most of them in the wild, all of them common and easy to recognize THERE ARE SO many dandelions in the UK, and there is a special reason for its widespread status. We used to grow them in our gardens, in neat little rows, so we could eat the young leaves in salads, cut them up to make tea, dry and powder the root to treat gout and kidney stones as well as urinary infections and, sometimes, high blood pressure. It was used as a pickme-up during the hungry gap before the new food appeared in the spring and it was dried and cured to stuff into a million clay pipes for old men to smoke when they couldn’t afford tobacco. These days you can buy weedkillers with dandelions on the box – how times have changed!

BEFORE YOU GO! Just because it’s wild, it doesn’t mean it is

free. There is always a cost associated with collecting food from the wild, and although this is not financial, it is just as vital. Treat nature with respect, leave some for the other animals using the land and use all that you take. Practice frugality and remember that what you have taken has to be put back somehow. We do not live in a world where the food comes from somewhere by magic – you don’t get ‘owt for nowt! Don’t be wasteful and share what you cannot use, recycling what is left. If you take everything, all the fish, all the rabbits, all the wild garlic, there will be none for next season, and you will only waste the excess anyway. If you take only what you actually need, then the numbers will naturally recover and wild

Write in... From time to time we will run a feature on wild food. We would love to publish your favourite wild food recipes, so please write or email them in!


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works and a polluted canal will not be safe to eat. If in doubt at all, don’t eat. food will remain plentiful. Preserving wild fruits and plants of all kinds in beers, wines and ciders; salting wild vegetables and fish, smoking meats and making preserved sausages are all ways of extending the way we use and enjoy wild food. Only collect the best. Leave the mouldy, the moth eaten, the browned and bruised and collect only the very best. But take only what you need. Be sure of the purity of the environment from which you take your food. A pigeon found dead under a railway bridge in the city, near a chemical

WILD HEDGEROW PLANTS AND GARDEN WEEDS If you are worried about allergy problems with a member of this group, then the

Medication If you are on medication, be sure about what you eat from the wild does not interfere with your drugs. Also be aware if you suffer from allergic responses – sometimes (quite rarely) a response can be found. If you are pregnant, be sure what you take from the wild is safe.

more it smells, the more likely the chances are for allergy problems. If in doubt, don’t eat. Make sure you do not collect plants of any kind from any place where they might have been sprayed or contaminated by pollution. Industrial, inner-city, watercourses are packed with edible plants, but these specimens are most likely to have high concentrations of heavy metals, dioxins, toxins from sewage plants and can even contain high concentrations of human hormones, particularly oestrogen.

DON’T BE PUT OFF! Don’t let the idea that you might be killed by poison put you off! Get to know one or two plants and one or two places and keep to these – then experiment slowly. You are not going to have to source all your food from the wild.


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WILD FOOD Raspberry and blackberry picking are a good place to start. But then there are others!

WILD GARLIC A walk by the river is suddenly overtaken by the aroma of garlic. The culprit is a small lily shaped plant that has few leaves and little spiky white flowers. You can be sure that the plant is wild garlic (and not a poisonous lily), or Ransomes, by crushing it up in your hand. It smells strongly of garlic. You can us this plant just like garlic, except you use it all; roots, bulb, leaves, stem and flower. Simply chop it up and add to stews or even use it in salads. The very best omelet in the world is made from chopped Ransomes and fried for a few seconds just before the beaten egg is thrown in.

HORSERADISH Horseradish is eaten with beef. Stronger than mustard and full of sulphurous compounds common to these plants, this baby will blow your head off! The leaves and stems, which are thick and floppy, taste less hot than the root. Scrub and peel the root and grate with a fine grater (watch your fingers!) Then you can make the sauce by adding hot milk and corn flour or simply cream or crème fraiche.

WILD FENNEL

NETTLE

This is an escapee from gardens that crops up all over the place and is taking over many habitats. The leaves and bulb can be used, although it is most usually grown for the bulb. You will find that the wild type is disappointing when it comes to the bulb, the root takes over and it is fibrous and harsh. However, it can be used to some extent in a purée mixed with mayonnaise. You can make a camp fire and put the fennel leaves on top of this. The resulting smoke is brilliant to cook in, imparting an interesting burnt flavour. You can also put it in your hot smoker and burn the leaves in a small piece of foil.

Nettles grow on land that is rich in nitrates – especially where animals have urinated. Cooked, nettles are a little like spinach and should be used in a similar fashion. Of course, when you consider the kind of soil they like, they should be thoroughly washed before cooking. You need to remember that they do not sting when they have been cooked, they don’t taste like the sting, they taste like earthy spinach. They take on the flavour of the other components fairly easily – themselves having an earthy taste that you either love or hate. They are not unpleasant

CHIVES Chives are brilliant cut and come again plants. You grow them in the garden, but when you find a wild stand – often an escapee from gardens, it’s fantastic. The round leaves are full of juice and flavour that just a few are needed for an excellent onion piquancy.

A COUPLE OF WEEDS Ground elder was introduced over 2000 years ago when it was grown for food. You boil the leaves like any other veg and they fall down like spinach. It tastes a bit ‘gardeny’. You can use the young leaves in salads, but don’t eat too many – they have oxalic acid in them like rhubarb. But a wild salad is made better for one or two leaves. Japanese knotweed is a Victorian import and was grown because the flowers are really unusual and pretty. Another plant with a high oxalic acid content, but you can cook and eat it just like ground elder. You can mix it with nettle to make an interesting soup. Only eat it once a month because of the oxalic acid, but don’t worry about eating it.

Dandelions

Horseradish

Fennel

Fried Salmon with fennel INGREDIENTS 1 salmon fillet per person 500g fennel leaves 25g butter 4 crushed garlic cloves of a handful of chopped Ransoms 1 sliced lemon METHOD 1. Get your frying pan very hot and add a little oil (Not olive) 2. Finely chop all the plant ingredients. 3. Season the fish ( Heavy on the pepper) and place it skin down in the pan. 4. Sprinkle the top of the salmon with the plant mix. 5. Watch the fish cook from the bottom up and when cooked halfway turn them over. Of course the plants will now be in the bottom of the pan. 6. Turn off the heat and allow the rest of the cooking to take place in the residual heat.


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95 simply boiled, but are much better in a soup, stew or made into a complex vegetable dish of more than one ingredient.

NETTLE SOUP Nettle soup is really any old soup with nettles. Here is one we make regularly. INGREDIENTS 300g nettle leaves 300g potatoes, peeled, cubed to 1cm and parboiled 1 onion finely chopped 2 garlic cloves 1 tsp oil 500ml stock 2 tablespoons cream

Chives

Japanese Knotweed

METHOD METHOD 1. This should be cooked in the pan in 1. Simply sweat your onions and garlic in which your steak or fish has been the oil and add the nettles and cooked, unwashed. potatoes. Continue to stir and cook so 2. Chop your shallots finely and fry in a all the potatoes are covered with garlic little oil, mixing with the juices from and onion. You can add a liberal knob the steak. of butter at this point if you wish. 3. Once the shallots are just beginning 2. Transfer to a saucepan containing to caramelize, add your cress and the stock and bring to the boil and allow to wilt. then immediately simmer on a low 4. Finally add your cream and stir in light until the continually until hot. potatoes are tender. 5. Serve with a good 3. You choose whether sprinkling of freshly YOU CAN BUY to blend. If you do, milled black pepper. stir in the cream on BAGS OF CRESS, serving and eat with crusty bread. WATERCRESS BUT HOW

WATERCRESS

MUCH BETTER TO GET YOUR OWN SUPPLY?

Fast flowing beds, fed by chalk rich streams in Southern England are one of the best places to find wild watercress. Any clean river is a good place to find it. The point is that cress is fairly susceptible to pollution and where it can be found it is usually fine to eat. You can buy bags of cress, but how much better to get your own fresh supply? It is wonderful in soups and you would go a long way to get a better accompaniment to fish? You can grow your own cress in damp soil – it must remain wet, but doesn’t need flowing water. Wet some compost and sprinkle the seed evenly out. A box a metre square will give you enough for a long supply. You can stir-fry watercress. It combines well with ginger, bean sprouts, lemon grass and pak choi. It also makes a wonderful savoury garnish.

CRÈME CRESS INGREDIENTS 3 shallots 2 handfuls of fresh watercress 200ml cream Plenty of black pepper

SOUP

INGREDIENTS 1 large potato 1kg watercress (large stalks removed) 1 large onion 1 carrot (or any other root vegetable) 1 litre vegetable stock 50ml cream METHOD 1. Peel the vegetables and dice into small cubes. Remove the largest stalks from the watercress. 2. Sweat the chopped onion in a little oil and add the vegetables (not the cress) Cook for 5 minutes. 3. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are tender. 4. Add the cress and cook for a further 5 minutes. 5. Blend with a hand blender and stir in the cream. Season to taste.

SPRING FLOWERS Pretty soon the elder will be in flower. This is a magical plant that is said to transport you to fairyland if you fall asleep under its branches. The flowers are milky white and aromatic. Consequently they make a

Nettle

brilliant drink and a super fried snack. Don’t collect all the flowers since there will be no berries for elder flower wine later in the year!

ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE INGREDIENTS 10 Elderflower heads The juice of 3 Lemons 4 litres of boiling water 750g sugar METHOD 1. Put elder flower heads and lemons in a bucket and pour on the boiling water. Only pick white heads, the creamy ones will become berries, and taste a little bitter. Leave to soak for 24 hours, covered with a tea towel. Strain through a muslin and add sugar and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and pour into two 2 litre screw-top lemonade bottles. 2. Leave the tops slightly loose for a couple of weeks to allow gas to escape. Keep for 2 to 3 months before drinking. Serve cool on a hot summer evening. E


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TAKE A BREAK

Crossword time! Across 2. Food for the garden. (7) 7. Milk with no butter. (10) 8. Sunflower, Rape and Popeye’s girlfriend. (3) 9. Not a pop group - a place of slaughter. (8) 11. The fattest cut of pork. (5) 12. A town for cleaning little John. (6) 13. The queen cannot get in. (8) 18. Homer Simpson’s bread (3) 20. Not salt, not Paul. (9) 21. Enzyme for clotting. (6) 22. Herring no more. (6) 23. Loaf, garden, cheese, house. (7)

Down 1. Salt pork. (5) 3. An egg dish for a chicken house. (5) 4. The cheese that came from Huntingdonshire. (7) 5. On your marks, get ready, cheese! (7) 6. Bee glue. (8) 7. Tomatoes as well as potatoes get this. (6) 10. Converts one form of energy into another. (10) 14. Tiny blood sucking miteson legs. (7) 15. Fine cloth for straining. (6) 16. C is for starting wine and stopping colds. (7) 17. There’s no truth in soapmaking. (3) 19. It’s called Urtica because it ‘urts! (6)

? w o n K u o y Did

ecame b r e k as coo 50.s The G r in the 18 a popul ecame b r e k coo lectric e 1890.s e e h T th ar in popul n ome i c t ’ n d GA di 0.s The A e late 192 h t until as food w frequently d e n rst tin but it The fi le in 1814 hat ate it! t b availa he people t killed

Did you K now?

Turkeys ,h came to eresies, hops and England 1520 in the s beer all ame yea r. The Ro m for our ans invaded En oysters gland Butter u sed to b e sold b y the ya Linen w rd as bleac urine a h e d with nd sour milk Tenterh o linen to oks were there to hold a wall s o bleach in the s the cloth cou the un ld


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Herbal Tea If you replace one or two of your coffees with a herbal tea – especially a home grown herbal tea, you will find them health giving, calming and restorative. More than that, the reduced coffee in your diet will be very beneficial. If you replace one cup of coffee with a glass of water and two more with a herbal tea – which in reality is very dilute anyway, your body will have to deal with fewer toxins and will be better hydrated. Most herbs can be used as tea, some refresh, others relax and still more simply taste wonderful. Simply start with a couple of leaves of any of the following and a spoonful of honey – perhaps a twist of lemon. Don’t forget the golden rule – if you are on medication or pregnant, see your doctor first! Try combination teas, rose petal and blackberry leaf. Experiment and enjoy! E E E E E E E E E E E E E

PLANT – Part used CELERY – Seeds or leaf CHAMOMILE – Flowers and leaves DANDELION – Young leaves, bruised root ELDERFLOWER – Flower heads FENNEL – Seed and leaf LEMON BALM – Leaf MARIGOLD – Flower MINT – Leaf NETTLE – Leaf ROSEMARY – Leaf ROSE PETAL – Petal SAGE – Leaf

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An Introduction to Keeping Sheep

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Your Brick Oven

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# PAPERBACK # 208 PAGES # COLOUR AND B/W PHOTOGRAPHS / ILLUSTRATIONS # £12.99

# PAPERBACK # 84 PAGES # PLENTY OF PHOTOGRAPHS PLUS DIAGRAMS # £10.99

This highly acclaimed book is an excellent introduction for anyone starting with sheep. It is full of detailed information and solid, sensible advice complemented by descriptive line drawings and colour plates of the breeds. The contents include buying, housing, care of the breeding flock, veterinary advice and a useful shepherd’s calendar.

Illustrated guide to Poultry BY CAROL EKARIUS # PAPERBACK # 278 PAGES # SPECIALLY COMMISSIONED COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS # £17.99

More than 128 birds strut their stuff across the pages in this definitive book which includes a brief history of each breed, detailed descriptions of identifying characteristics and colourful photography that celebrates the birds’ quirky personalities and charming good looks.

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A Step by step guide that takes you through the stages of building an oven, from choosing the site to firing up for your first bake enabling you to build a wood-fired oven in your own back garden, without huge expense, giving you an exciting new way to cook outdoors. The book provides plans, photographs as well as recipes.

The Smoking and Curing Book

BY JANICE HOUGHTONWALLACE # HARDBACK # 160 PAGES # B/W & COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS & ILLUSTRATIONS # £20.00

This beautifully presented and highly acclaimed book puts the Heritage turkey back where it belongs and covers its illustrious history, the breeds, housing, equipment, breeding, feeding, development, ailments, legislation, sales and marketing, processing, despatching for the table, exhibition birds and turkeys as pets.

How to Butcher Livestock and Game

BY PAUL PEACOCK

BY PAUL PEACOCK

# PAPERBACK # 152 PAGES # PLENTY OF PHOTOGRAPHS & ILLUSTRATIONS # £12.99

# PAPERBACK # 160 PAGES # PLENTY OF PHOTOGRAPHS & ILLUSTRATIONS # £12.99

Using the same witty style which made The Sausage Book such an entertaining read, Paul Peacock provides easy to follow step-by-step guides to the smoking and curing of meat, poultry, game, fish and cheese. Whether you plan to build a smoker to process your own produce or simply wish to smoke a few kippers and a little bacon in the family kitchen, The Smoking and Curing Book will be your ideal companion. With the inclusion of many recipes for both cures and brines and an impressive resource section, it will have you producing your own prize hams and rollmop herrings in no time.

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Not Just for Christmas

Book/DVD title(s): .................................. ..............................................................

Butchering has been on the decline as the High Street butcher has made way for the estate agent and the betting shop. Yet it is a skill on which we depend and its true worth will be appreciated only when it has entirely disappeared. Paul explains, in plain English and with the use of illustrations, the processes involved in butchering beef, lamb, pig, rabbit, chicken, game and fish. He is clear that the animal deserves to be treated with respect both when alive and dead and is clear on the rules relating to the home slaughter of animals and guides the reader through all the relevant legislation.

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A Guide to Traditional Pig Keeping BY CAROL HARRIS # HARDBACK # 202 PAGES # B/W & COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHS AND ILLUSTRATIONS # £20.00

Whether the reader wants to keep pigs for profit or pleasure this comprehensive book includes all aspects of traditional pig keeping including choosing the right breed, housing, feeding, stockmanship, ailments, breeding, showing, pigs as pets, sales and marketing, butchering and processing.

Hannah Hauxwell – An Extraordinary Life # DVD # OVER 248 MINUTES # DOUBLE DISC SET # £19.99

Hannah Hauxwell won our hearts when she appeared in a documentary on Yorkshire Television. Her battle to survive alone on an isolated farm with no electricity or running water – and in abject poverty – made her the nation’s most unlikely celebrity. This double disc DVD contains all 3 award winning documentaries – Too Long a Winter, A Winter Too Many and An Innocent Abroad.

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By Internet. Visit our book website: www.farmingbooksandvideos.com


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