Friday, 28 June 2013

Bright eyes, shining like fire!

This blog is inspired by several conversations we’ve had about keeping rabbits for food. Also by an excellent post in a new found blog where their most recent post talks about the reality of self sufficient living and how so many give it up. I was going to keep ranting off this blog but I have a feeling it will become one, so apologies! Those of you who know me will probably expect nothing less!

Western society is becoming increasing detached from the realities of food production. Be it super farms in East Anglia or poultry factories across the world. Although this has be highlighted and made fashionable by TV at the moment (Not that that is a bad thing, the seeds of interest were sown for us by the likes of River Cottage and Jimmy’s Farm) but as the life on pig row guys talk about, this lifestyle has become a bit of a fashion statement rather than a actual lifestyle choice. For me personified by the sort of person who; eats in a”green” cafe on a Friday lunchtime, feeds their kids organic yoghurt  and grows some “toms” in the garden but drives around in a 4x4, shops at the big blue and white supermarket and works for BP,  who then will lecture you about how it’s cruel to keep animals for  meat. I’m not going to rant too much (the other blog is for that!) and I don’t want to repeat what the other guys have already put in their blog, so go on over to it to see what they think. However when it actually comes to the nitty gritty of producing your own food everything else gets in the way. I think that we (Western society) need to get back to the reality of food production, crops, dairy and meat. Even if you don’t do it, we should make ourselves much more aware of what goes into it. I'm also not saying we are perfect. It's just something to think about. We give it a lot of thought and try our hardest.


Rabbits. We keep them to eat. Yes baby bunnies are cute. It’s great fun to watch them hopping around on the grass in their run (A revelation over here!) and it’s really good to watch them grow up, sex them, make them new runs and so on. But ultimately they are destined for the table.

Day old


To us this is a thousand times better than buying a cellophane wrapped chicken from the supermarket. Even the free range labelled ones don’t get as much space and interaction as we give our livestock. 

Our philosophy is to give them as comfortable a life as we can whilst they are alive. There are no additives in their food and they are moved every other day on to fresh grass. Lots of handling and cuddles to make the end as stress free as possible.
Saying hello

As far as dispatch is concerned, no stuffing into wagons to drive miles and miles to be killed in a factory line style operation. A nice cuddle to the house, keep them calm and kill as quickly and painlessly as possible. (I use neck dislocation which is regarded as the most humane). Afterwards we use as much of the animal as possible with only the head,  gall bladder and reproductive organs going in the bin.

As I see it I’ve killed that animal so I can eat it so to not use as much as possible is a waste of a life. Many would argue that being a veggie is better morally. But I’m not one, so I need my meat to come from somewhere. We do buy some meat from the supermarket as we're not fully up and running yet. We are very lucky here that the supermarkets sell very local beef and even give the address of the farm on the counter, how many English supermarket butchers can tell you the field that cow grew up in? The abattoirs are all in the region as well. Other than the beef we are hoping to be pretty much completely self sufficient in meat by this time next year. Goats are on the way this summer for milk and the babies will again be for the table. This means that, yes, we have to deal with the killing bit. Perhaps if more people were involved, or at least aware,  because not everyone has time and space, in the rearing and dispatching of the meat on their table then the respect afforded to livestock would be higher.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Wine box planters and Nasturtiums

Time to wax lyrical about two of our favourite things. Nasturtiums  and wine! We love nasturtiums. They are a great plant to have on any vegetable patch, windowsill or just generally around the garden. Every bit of them is edible, leaves, flowers and seeds, which make great alternative peppery capers. They are also a fantastic companion plant for pretty much all other veg. They repel a whole load of different pests from brassicas and cucurbits and attract hoverflies who eat aphids. We have them dotted all around our veg and fruit this year and in the last couple of weeks they’ve been popping up out of the soil.

Wine here is great value. You can pick up really quite drinkable wine in large quantities for not a lot of money. It’s not going to win prizes but it beats two for £5 at the evil that is the blue and white supermarket in Britain. However, the large plastic barrels they come in won’t fit in the recycling bins. Not sure if this is an original idea but here’s how we turned the boxes into planters for nasturtiums.

First the fun bit. Empty the wine boxes. 

Doing this in one go is optional!

Then, cut of the top. I used a Stanley knife so you may want to get a grown up to help you. 

No need to be too neat it all adds to the effect (That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it and anyway slugs and snails hate sharp edges so it’s also protection!)

Rinse them out and drill holes in the bottom. If you needed a grown up for the last step, you will also need one here!

Fill with soil/compost. Sow your seeds.

Sit back and let them grow. Then enjoy, the colours, better veg and more interesting salads. But, please remember what the great philosopher Homer (Simpson) once said. “You don’t make friends with salad”.

Getting there.

Please note the result of a broken strimmer around the planters! 

The "art" shot!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Wine bottle herb spiral

 The idea for a herb spiral is quite simple. Creating a raised circular area for your herbs artificially adds different habitats to your growing area.The raised shape allows the water to drain well creating the different dampness areas in the spiral and the position of everything relative to the sun and each other creates different shade conditions. Low down on the north side is wet and shaded high up on the south side dry and sunny. The idea for using wine bottles to create the shape came from two places. The nice lady up the road who uses them to line her paths and the brilliant book by Dick and James Strawbridge  Practical Self Sufficiency.
Add caption

 Arrange bottles in the shape you want.

Place cardboard down as a biodegradable mulch to suppress weed growth.
 Fill shape with soil/compost We dug ours out from the pig enclosure. Ready manured!! If you have money, you could always buy it from the shops, of which there are many!
South side-Rosemary, Sage, Chamomile,Thyme

North-Tarragon, Wild Garlic, sorrel
 In there there is also some lemon balm, peppermint, flat and curly parsley and chives all in the "middle" areas

A month and a half on. Everything is coming along. The wild garlic has died back so we're waiting till next year to see if they're up to the winter temperatures. We've added pot marigolds, garlic and coriander (Which is still quite small so you can't see it here) Yet again parsley is not performing for us. It was the same in England. Parsley seems to be a bit of a blind spot in the Powell veg arsenal. Ideas on a postcard!!