Eggs and citrus

Frosty mornings

Frosty mornings

Despite the cold nights and frosty mornings, all four of the hens have decided that they are going to lay (Lorna had a year off – June 2013 to June 2014 – but is fully back in the swing of things now despite being about five years old). This means that we have eggs. Lots of eggs. The newbies are laying pretty much every day and the other two every few days, so that’s about 20 eggs per week. We are genuinely delighted that they are all doing so well, having lost two of our flock late last summer, it’s good to know that the remaining oldies and the new girls are happy and healthy.

Happy hens this morning

Happy hens this morning

Having had a bit of an egg famine in recent months, I had got out of the habit of using them, but I’m remembering what to do with them now and trying out some new recipes. You can always find homes for eggs, but it really is good to be able to make use of them at home; and with so many available this does require some creative thinking. This is where reading other people’s blog posts can be particularly helpful. For example, I was delighted to come across Anne Wheaton’s post the other day about making Seville orange curd. I am not a fan of marmalade, but I really like citrus curds. They only store for a limited time, but Anne’s recipe is for a single small pot and uses one egg – perfect, and adaptable for other citrus fruits too. So, on Friday I made a pot, and as you can see we have already been tucking in:

I also returned to an old favourite – lemon cake with lemon icing. This recipe is from the first Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. It’s supposed to have poppy seeds in, but I don’t bother; and this time I made it with soft brown sugar because I realised once I’d started that I did not have enough caster sugar. It’s a marvellously light cake because you beat the egg whites and then fold them into the mixture right at the end just before baking. You don’t use the yolks, but I’m planning ice-cream for later in the week… a recipe that, coincidentally, requires exactly the number of yolks I have left over.

In addition, we had bacon and egg butties on Friday and waffles for breakfast this morning… even so, I think there are probably the same number of eggs on the eggskelter as when Mr Snail arrived home for the weekend. I see omelette in my future!

Lots of eggs

an eggskelter… in case you didn’t know what one is!

Bubbling over

A few weeks ago I went to visit the lovely Jo at Mill Cottage Soap, to buy supplies for my woolly wash balls. I came away with four different soaps: naked (no scents, just soap), orange and cinnamon (a glorious, rich scent, but not overpowering), mandarin and lemon (a zingy refresher) and bergamot and patchouli (requested by all you old hippies out there!).

Soap blocks curing prior to use

Soap blocks curing prior to use

Jo makes her soaps on a relatively small scale in her kitchen, so it really is a cottage industry. As a result she doesn’t always have all the varieties available, but I was still spoilt for choice. When I visited, some of her soaps were still ‘curing’ in big blocks… two of these were varieties that I was keen to have, so I returned home with slabs cut specially for me that I had to promise not to use for several weeks (not a problem with my busy life).

Orange and cinnamon woolly wash ball: 100g of soap in a felt coat

Orange and cinnamon woolly wash ball: 100g of soap in a felt coat

However, the naked soap and the orange and cinnamon were ready for immediate use and so those are the ones I have been experimenting with. By using only the soap that goes in the centre of the wash ball, the whole article becomes permeated with the appropriate scent and is perfect for immediate use. So far, all my trials with Jo’s soap have been with Blue Faced Leicester wool, and both the fibre and the soap are lovely to work with. To aid identification, I am colour coding the wash balls, so orange and cinnamon ones are being embellished with orange and yellow. I didn’t entirely think this through, because I’m not sure what I’m going to use for mandarin and lemon…perhaps yellow and red.

Now I just need to sort out my labels and some cellophane packaging and I will be ready to open my etsy shop!

Station Road Permaculture Garden

I spent the last weekend teaching an introductory course on permaculture. This is going to provide me with subject matter for a number of posts, but I thought that I would start by describing a project that we visited.

An abundance of vegetables in front of the house

In a tiny village in the Shropshire hills is a row of four former council houses and one of these was our destination on  Saturday afternoon. Station Road Permaculture Garden demonstrates what you can do when you only have a normal-sized house and garden (80 ft x 40 ft) but want to produce as much food as possible. The garden provides fruit and vegetables as well as eggs from chickens and ducks. It’s hard to describe the amazing range of produce that comes out of the garden, but it includes currants and apples, raspberries and strawberries, asparagus and artichokes, carrots and potatoes, tomatoes and beans… at total of about 20 types of vegetable and 23 types of fruit!

During our visit we were treated to home produced apple juice – pasteurised so that it will last for at least a couple of years – and scones with home-made jams. We were also invited to sample the soft fruits as we walked around the garden. My favourite was the red dessert gooseberry – I’m not usually a gooseberry fan, but these were so sweet and juicy that I’m certainly going to find a place for some in my garden.

Shower cubicle cloche

The garden is separated into different areas by means of fences and hedges, including a low damson hedge and a fence with raspberries towering over it. The tiny orchard area is where the chickens and ducks live; it contains a small pond and two compost bins (with squashes growing in them). In total there are three greenhouses – two conventional ones and one containing a peach tree and constructed out of three old doors. An interesting curved glass cloche turns out to be a salvaged corner shower cubicle and the old septic tank has been converted very simply into rainwater storage. The site shows the best of creative use of waste materials along with inspirational plants.

A lemon tree – outside for the summer

And, as well as all the productive areas, there is a lawn for the two young children to play on and where they have their swing and keep their guinea pigs. This isn’t simply a demonstration site: this is a family home. It has been created by someone who goes out to work and is not able to dedicate all his time to tending his garden. To me, this represents the reality of life for many people. It certainly inspired the participants on the course, proving that vast tracts of land and unlimited resources are not necessary to improve your quality of life, to manage to produce a significant amount of your own food and to make a real difference to your environment.

-oOOo-

Station Road Permaculture Garden is a Land Centre, one of a network of permaculture demonstration sites around the UK that you can arrange to visit to see permaculture work in action.

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