Posted in around the homestead

The Chicken Tractor

I haven’t had any chickens since I moved to Mogilino five years ago.  At first it was because all my barns and outbuilding were filled to the brim with ‘stuff’. A lot of good ‘stuff’ I might add and as it looked like it may well be useful in the future I was loath to just throw it all out. Good thinking as it turned out as much has been recycled in many and various ways.

However, just as we were beginning to see the light – and the floors – new four legged friends started to arrive in the village looking for a place to stay. Sound familiar?? Well, the upshot of it is, instead of chickens my outbuilding are now filled with dogs. Not that I’m at all unhappy with this as I love the little (and not so little) critters, but with the price of eggs on the rise, and as pretty much all of our baked goods are made from scratch we go through a fair few eggs in a week, I’m thinking once again about adding chickens to the homestead.

So, chicken housing has been on my mind. Housing and ways to coral them. I would love them to have total run of the place but the afore-mentioned four-legged family members would, in all likely-hood, reduce their numbers in short order.

Some years ago I looked into the possibility of chicken tractors (an unappealing name if ever I heard one) and I like the idea of being able to move the chickens around to fresh ground daily thus reducing bugs, keeping greenery down and fertilizing the ground all in one fell swoop. I’m sure its not quite as easy as that but the project sounds worth while and I think it will be one we tackle soon.

The design below is probably the simplest I’ve seen. It is quick to make and easy to store when not in use. I think it would be perfect to have to hand for a broody hen, a rampant rooster that is awaiting a new home perhaps or a chicken that is off colour and needs some alone time away from the rest of the flock.

The addition of a tarp or similar would be essential here in Bulgaria. Less for rain but very necessary to keep the birds shaded.

Easy To Make and Move Chicken Tractor
Collapsible Chicken Tractor

 

This is a much sturdier option and provides more shelter and shade. However, I think it would still be easy enough to move around the plot single handedly and doesn’t require a master carpenter to build it

Movable Chicken House and Run
Chicken Tractor

 

This design sits somewhere between the two. It appears to be lightweight and fairly simple to construct but with a bit more body to it. The addition of tarps to provide shelter from inclement weather and shade from the sun would be essential.

Chiccken Tractor made from PVC pipe
Hooped Chicken Tractor

Something of merit in all these designs, I think, and all would be easy to customise to one’s individual requirements. Check out your barns, there’s probably the makings of a one-of-a-kind chicken tractor lurking out there somewhere!

 

Posted in From the Kitchen

Everything Elderflower

The frothy white blossoms of the elderflower are, for me, the big thumbs up that summer is on its way. Along with the first cut of grass I don’t think there is a smell more evocative of warm sunny days than the somewhat elusive, and definitely distinctive, scent of the elderflower. This year the blousey flower heads are in abundance around the lanes of Mogilino and today I collected yet another batch. Already, I have my blossoms and lemon slices resting in a pan of simple syrup and tomorrow the resulting elixir will be strained into sterilised bottles – hey presto!, it really is as easy as that to produce a batch of Elderflower Cordial. A failure simply isn’t possible!

Of course there are many lovely things you can add to your pantry that begin with those very same ingredients and  Elderflower Champagne is on my list for tomorrow. Well, it wont be on the shelves tomorrow. It takes a few days of bubbling away before that delicate and most refreshing of summery brews will be ready to quaff, and really, if I’m honest, there’s not much chance it will spend long in the pantry anyway…

But back to the cordial. Yes, it makes the most wonderful drink, diluted with still or sparkling water or a splashed into a glass of white wine or Prosecco. I also I love it as a warm drink in the winter when its medicinal properties help chase away an impending cold. But don’t overlook the many other inventive ways it can be used! Here are six of my favourites to get you started.

Thorncroft Wild Elder Flower Cordial will do very nicely if you didn’t get around to making a batch for yourself this year! Make a note to yourself to check back later in the year to harvest the elderberries that will appear late summer to early fall, depending on where in the world you live. I will have some lovely ideas for ways in which you can use those too.

Elderflower Marshmallows.

Homemade Elderflower Marshmallows
Elderflower Marshmallows

A far cry from sickly, over-sweet, store bought creations, these delightful little puffs of yumminess are the very epitome of summer. Here is a recipe from Country Living that you might like to try.

Elderflower Marshmallows

Elderflower Panna Cotta.

Homemade Elderflower Panna Cotta
Elderflower Panna Cotta

Light and delicate, creamy and wobbly, this Panna Cotta is a lovely way to end a special meal. The following recipe is from River Cottage where they suggest you serve it with a Gooseberry coulis. I have to admit, Elderflowers and Gooseberries are a match made in heaven.
Elderflower Pannacotta

Fruit and Flower Elderflower Jellies.

Don’t be hemmed in by this particular recipe’s choice of fruit and flower petals – just be sure your flowers are edible! Or if you prefer leave out the flowers entirely. The resulting jellies are so pretty they are almost too beautiful to eat.
Elderflower Fruit and Flower Jellies

Elderflower Ice Lollies.

Homemade Elderflower Ice lollies
Elderflower Ice lollies

When the heat is on what is more refreshing than that blast from our childhood past, the Ice Lolly?! Well, here,courtesy of The Greedy Vegan, we have a very grown up version of that old friend. The addition of blossoms, thin slices of lemon, berries or perhaps sprigs of mint jazz the lollies up a bit if you want them for a special occasion.

Elderflower Ice Lollies

Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet

Homemade Elderflower and Raspberry Sorbet
Elderflower and Raspberry Sorbet

A refreshing sorbet from Donna Hay that is a beautiful blushing pink in colour. Although it fairly screams ‘Summertime’, if you have raspberries in the freezer then it can be a very pleasant way to end a heavy winter meal.

Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet

Sambocade

Sambocade - A Medieval Cheesecake
Sambocade – A Medieval Cheesecake

Sambocade is a real treat from the past – a medieval elderflower cheesecake made with ricotta and cottage cheese (or other curd cheese). A very nice baked cheesecake that we must thank Nutmegs Seven for bringing to our attention.
Sambocade

Posted in around the homestead, Gardening

A Beautiful, Mess(y) Garden

A Bulgarian Garden
In the Garden

Is your veg plot well under way? It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the garden goes from dirt to rampant growth. Although there is huge satisfaction to be had from growing a fair portion of our food,there comes a time when we need a beautiful space to relax in.

Hunkering down by the wood stove during the winter months is, without a doubt, the best way to relax when winter winds are nipping at fingers and toes, but now the coin has flipped who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying the beautiful Bulgarian weather?

So, how about some projects that beautify your outside living areas and at the same time make use of all those sticks and stones and pruning bits and bobs that may have accumulated when you were spring cleaning the garden?

Sounds like a multi win situation to me!

Tanya at Lovely Greens has come up with a real winner – using raspberry canes to  create a wattle weave edging for your flower or herb beds.

wattleweaveTake a look at her video tutorial Wattle Weave Edging

 

 

 

gardenmarkers

 

 

If you’re looking for a quick and easy project to get you started, how about these charming twig plant markers, courtesy of the original domestic goddess, Martha Stewart.

I just hope your potato peeler has more oomph than mine…

Here is a tutorial for the plant markers

Perhaps your garden could use more of a statement piece (or if you have a lot of sticks and twigs you need to dispose of).

A Twig Arbor
A Twig Arbor

If so you should  head over to Better Homes and Gardens and check out how to construct this fabulous arbor with designer Bim Willow.

I hope this has inspired you to create some rustic beauties for your garden – and if it all goes to pot, stash the evidence in the barn and when the days turn chilly use it to fire up the petchka!


	
Posted in around the homestead, Gardening

Armchair gardening

winter-33917_1280Today, the garden is under cover and, just as a sprinkling of Christmas decorations can hide the scars of on going renovations in the house, this festive mantle lifts the garden out of the doldrums.

2014 was not a good year for gardening in Bulgaria. Not that I have so much cause to complain, in fact I was extremely lucky and was spared the devastation suffered by others in certain parts of the country.

Certainly, there was an abundance of rain and a few savage storms descended on our village, doing a fair bit of damage to the plants etc., but in the scheme of things I count myself as being very lucky. Not to mention it made me appreciate my modest successes of the previous summer even more!

The seemingly never-ending rain and abundance of weeds that followed was wearing, to say the least, and after clearing the veg patch and replanting a couple of times I pretty much gave it up as a bad job. As a result the harvest was very small. The early peas and beans gave a good showing and a small patch of beetroot battled the weeds bravely. The garlic came on well, producing enough to see me through winter and the onions, although small, have been tasty and many were the perfect size for pickling. Just when I thought that was all I would harvest a forgotten row of carrots pushed on through as did the patch of leeks…all was not lost!

The fruit was another story. Neither the apples and plums nor the quinces put on any show – well, there were a very few plums. However, the raspberries, although not abundant, certainly made up for in taste what was lacking in quantity. The strawberry plants that were planted in spring simply disappeared.

The area immediately to the rear of my house gets the sun for most of the day, becoming almost unbearably hot in the height of summer. However, years ago previous owners had many grape vines and even now a few descendants are valiantly hanging on, trying to regrow, so it seemed sensible to have a pergola built to support them and (hopefully) make for myself a pleasant, shady spot to work (or pretend to work) outside. This summer the vines grew away beautifully and although the early promise of a few grapes was dashed by a particularly fierce hail storm, the vines themselves hung on tenaciously and prospered. With a bit of luck this summer I will have my outdoor office with perhaps the added bonus of some fruit as well.

Although my 2014 garden was a far cry from the bountiful and beautiful fruit, flower and veg filled secret gardens nestled on the other side of my neighbour’s walls there is always hope that I will catch up to them this summer.