Foraging, Harvesting and Preserving our own Produce | The Homestead Diary [2]

It's been a busy couple of weeks laying the ground work for what's to come. We've made the decision on what our big next step is going to be.....but I'm not telling you anything just yet! There's still a little way to go and we need to prep a few more bits before we start sharing the good news with you all, but I PROMISE it's cool. Like, really cool.

I feel like everyday I'm learning something new and at the same time feel like I'm doing the same task everyday too. Collect the chickens, knead the bread, water the plants....there are certain elements of this lifestyle that are really tedious, and then in spurts there will be new work - make a crumble, plant potatoes,  fix the shed. It's a constant workload to juggle but to sit at the end of the day and actually see the fruits of your labour is incredibly rewarding. 

We got so much done this last week! Our front garden has two lawn areas and one of them we've converted into a mini-allotment plot. We had potatoes and onions in there over summer so it was time to pull them up and plant the next load in. Our potatoes really suffered in the heat and we've only got new-potato sized ones but they are still delicious and have worked really well mashed or boiled. I thought for sure our onions would have all but dried out but when I pulled them up I was surprised to find little shallots! They are so sweet you can eat them straight out of the ground. I will definitely be doing more next year. 

We let a bag of potatoes bought from a local farm go to seed recently (not on purpose unfortunately, they just turned quickly and we forgot to throw them), so we've planted those in as our next seed potatoes. Self-sustainability is really important to us and it would be great to eventually eradicate the need to buy seeds. Apparently you have to be fairly careful with seeding your own potatoes because if you have any disease in the crop then you just keep spreading it so we'll see what happens when we come to harvest these spuds in November/December. A handful of pumpkin plants have gone in too though I suspect we are too late into the season - I got the plants reduced from a local discount store so I'm not overly sure they are excellent quality as it is. These things are trial and error though and you don't know if you don't try so let's see what happens...

I tried my hand at my own elderberry cordial this week! I am so so proud of myself for this. Every year I tell myself I'm going to harvest elderberries and every year, without fail, I miss it. I was ready this time though and gathered enough to make both a cordial and a crumble! Lee made the crumble (and didn't take any pictures because he never thinks about these things), but the cordial was a hit! Super easy to make and I wrote the recipe down for you all too which you can find here. A word of caution though - drink it within 3 days if you're not going to add a preserving powder like citric acid. We left ours for the week and the heat caused it to ferment. It was beautifully alcoholic but the pressure in the glass jar got a little scary some days! I would hate for it to have exploded and left a sticky glass mess everywhere!

Foraging has been huge for us this week. We've been out almost every other day to collect berries and herbs that we've seen growing in local areas and I've started following a few local foragers on social media too to get a little help in the foraging items I don't spot so easily. I would love to make foraging a regular part of our life throughout all the seasons - there is so much that can be gathered here in Derby! So far we've gathered raspberries, blackberries, wheat, elderflower, elderberries and nettles but I know of places where you can get cherries, wild garlic and roseships too! Free food is always a winner!

I'm really excited to have a play with this wheat! We gathered it from a local farmers field after they'd harvested (all leftover and pressed down - totally legal before anyone asks!), and learning how to separate the wheat from the chaff has been loads of fun. Basically you stick it in a bag, smash it repeatedly against a hard surface, and tip out onto a large plate. Once tipped, pick up sections in your hand and let it drop down - the wind blows the chaff away as it's super light and the seed falls straight down back into the bowl. As it gets towards the end of the chaff I pour it between two bowls and the remainder all just falls away. You're left with pure seed. I haven't quite worked out what I'm doing with it yet, but my hope is to try to make some flour. I haven't researched whether I need to do anything with the wheat seed before I grind it, but that's a job for this week, and luckily wheat lasts quite a while so I have time. Isn't it exciting how many things there are to learn!

Our biggest thing is the garden. We've chopped back trees and are clearing ground for runs and pens and vegetable patches. We have 1/4 acre total and we want to make as much use of it as possible by growing and rearing as many plants, vegetables and fruits as we can! The winter is going to be a long season of preparations so that next Spring we can hit the ground running with a full garden of produce. It's going to be a lot of work, but we're pulling up our socks, sliding our feet into wellies and doing it. I can't wait to see what happens!

Until next time...


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