Saturday, 15 November 2014

The last day of a hen's life

Next week I will be running a new course for the first time all about the last day of a hens life. There are many folk I have met who manage hens or chickens (hens provide eggs and chickens primarily provide meat). Very few of them are willing to carry out the slaughter of their animal to eat it even though they eat meat. Fair enough as it is a skill and requires a certain engagement with death. We first learnt about poultry slaughter with fellow farmer Phil and professional butcher Ron to help them with Xmas orders. That involved dozens every day for a few days. The process consequently became embedded and confidence grew. Since then we have managed our flock of hens so that those getting too old for egg production are slaughtered for meat consumption. It feels like a completion of a cycle and a satisfaction that the animal will not simply become fox or rat food in a hedge. Every part is used or recycled. Feathers have been used for jewellery, liver for pate, heart in gravy, inedible bits into the compost toilet for long decomposition, bones burnt to become ash for fruit trees. Most are boiled until tender. Sometimes we breed cockerals so those under six months can be roasted. We are currently coming to the end of one big cycle as many of our hens are over four years old. We have bought a new flock of chicks to rear, now four weeks old. I plan to run this course on a regular basis giving the experience of hen slaughter to anyone needing to learn this valuable skill. Let me know if you want to arrange a session as they can be one to one tuition.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Was Pythagoras the first to explain Fair Shares?

Today I learnt about how Pythagoras explained the principle of Fair Shares over 2500 years ago. See the photos explaining the Pythagoras Cup which I encountered on my amazing trip to Samos Island, Greece, where Pythagoras was born. I will definitely be including this in teaching permaculture which includes three ethics - People Care, Earth Care and Fair Shares. I spend a good chunk of time on ethics in my permaculture course because I think it is so important and helps to set permaculture apart from other design disciplines. Permaculture has ethics. Fair Shares is a difficult one to teach but it basically comes down to limiting your consumption to make sure you and others each have your fair share of the limited resources available. And as we live on a finite planet then of course the resources are limited. The Cup works by allowing you to fill it to a certain level and you can enjoy its contents but should you overfill your cup and be greedy then the magic syphon kicks in and drains your cup completely. So please stick to your fair share of the natural resources available.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Permaculture Design Certificate Course starts in September 2014

The next permaculture course I am running will start early September. This time as an experiment I will be trying Fridays and Saturdays but the rest is the same i.e. a total of twelve days over three months, partially at Alington House in Durham and partially at our smallholding Abundant Earth. Let me know if you are interested by emailing me at

Abundant Earth
Worker's Coop

Monday, 21 April 2014

Eggs are Amazing

There is a very good reason as to why we give eggs at Easter, which is of course always the first Sunday after the first full moon after Spring Equinox. As we hit Spring Equinox the eggs laid by hens increase rapidly and of course all the wild birds are nesting and laying too. We now start to have an abundance of eggs. We have three Silkies sitting on eggs for chick rearing right now so hopefully we will be able to increase our flock and replace those that are getting on a bit.

Eggs are amazing. There are so many recipes for them. Of course the obvious fried, scrambled, poached n boiled but then there is a crazy number of things to make when you separate them or mix them with other ingredients...mayonnaise, meringue, pancakes, yorkshire pudding, custard and mousse. Over the years I am learning to make more and more of these items.

Here is a simple egg custard recipe...
Whisk 4 egg yolks and 45g of castor sugar, sift in 20g of plain flour and whisk more. Heat 350ml of milk to boiling then pour it onto the egg mix. Whisk constantly and bring back to the boil.

We of course also love blowing eggs and painting them and now I think we have just seen the Easter bunny so it's time to hunt for chocolate eggs in the woods with the kids.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Permaculture Design Course starts Feb 28th

I am currently taking bookings for my next Permaculture Design Certificate Course which starts on Feb 28th. This time it is 12 Fridays finishing in early May. There are already a few bookings and ideas forming for the design projects including working on Bearpark Community Woodland project and designing the ideal business location for Fruitful Durham. There is still an option to do the course at a reduced fee on our time exchange scheme. You can enquire about our course via our website

I have also recently taken on 7 new apprentices on the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. Most of which are taking the Independent route but with extra input and a time exchange arrangement. Another new thing that I am looking forward to implementing as energy input into our smallholding is so valuable. Folk can start the two year Diploma once they have completed the 12 day certificate course.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Horseradish Sauce

I have loved Horseradish Sauce for years and was quite taken by the plant when I first met it some years ago.

It usually grows wild near streams and ditch edges. It likes free draining soil though and the fertility that the river brings. It looks to the untrained eye a bit like a Dock but get your eye in and you'll see the differences.

It propagates easily by root division and so now I have a few plants and generate a few more each year. I have one plant which I refer to as the mother plant from which I harvest sides roots leaving the main plant untouched. Other plants I harvest completely every two or three years.

At this time of year the leaves have died away. I dig roots up with a spade then wash them and wash them and weigh them.

Then based on that weight i will buy the main extra ingredient which is creme fraiche. There are lots of recipes out there involving double cream but I haven't found them to work well. The creme fraiche alternative I picked up from one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's books. It works and I have stuck by it ever since.

I like to have it ready for xmas. Its a good present for those I know that love the heat, sweat n tears it generates. I once made Beth break into a fever when she had some. This is medicine!

So here is the recipe from Hugh...

100g Horseradish Roots
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon English mustard
A pinch of sugar
125g Creme Fraiche
A pinch of salt n pepper

Grating the roots should be done OUTSIDE and at ARMS LENGTH and position yourself UP WIND. Alternatively do it indoors and really close to your face and experience the most mind blowing facial streaming of tears n snot ever. You'll never have a cold again! I find just mixing the ingredients together enough for tear generation.

So once grated then add the vinegar and mustard and pinch of sugar. Mix it (at arms length) then add the Creme Fraiche and salt n pepper and mix again and again and get a hanky!

Jar it up.

Now most recipes state use it within a few days. I think this is some health n safety madness because you have added cream or creme fraiche. I have found this keeps for months as long as its in a fridge.


My favourite addition is organic beef from Burnlaw.

OMG! Amazing.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Parsnip time

From seed harvested last Sept and sown in May. Now is the time to roast some parsnips.