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Archive for November, 2008

double argh!

Posted by --- on Wednesday 26 November, 2008

The freezer has decided to work again after defrosting all of the food. I went to start cooking it all and it was solid again which is worse because you cannot eat food that has been frozen and then defrosted! It’s all got to go in the bin and the freezer is worse than broken – it’s unreliable.

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Posted by --- on Tuesday 25 November, 2008

The freezer has broken and it was full of food. All the vegetables I’d been blanching and freezing, a couple of joints of meat, lots of minced beef a few ready meals, a couple of frozen homemade meals to name a few. I’ve posted on freecyle in the hopes that someone can get back to me with another but in the meantime I need to do something will all this food. It’s too late to start now but tomorrow I will cook it into meals and put it into the fridge. We have an old chest freezer that is full of dog food and a few bits and peices. I’ll empty that if I have to and store our food.

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K ill

Posted by --- on Monday 24 November, 2008


DSK is off school! This might seem a small thing to blog about but it’s the first day off he’s had since he was “in yellow class” as he puts it(or year one for the rest of us) and he’s now in his final year (6) at primary school. He must feel ill! I took his temp last night which was 102, he complained of a headache, sore throat, tummy ache and his eyes hurt. He wasn’t complaining of a stiff neck, had no rash nor was he photophobic (light sensitive) which might indicate meningitis. I gave him 500mg paracetamol followed by a honey drink to help with the sore throat and compensate for the paracetamol and asked him to remove the extra clothing he was wearing because he felt cold. It was a battle to get him to have the paracetamol. When his stubborn side kicks in he’s a real pain. Afterwards, he was taking his own temperature so that he could see the effect of his treatment. My reasoning was that if he could see his temperature coming down as well as feeling the pain go away, it wouldn’t be so much of a battle for the next tablet – it didn’t work. I’ve no need to be concerned that we’ll go over the maximum dosage of 2g per day (4 tablets) he flatly refused the first 1g and had to be cajoled, bribed and threatened!
Ok, I threw in some scientific stuff here about fevers, homeostasis, negative feedback and the lipid nature of cells but decided to delete it. I’m sure if you really want to read about that type of stuff, you can look it up on the internet, get a book from the library or email me for some of my old homework!

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ginger beer

Posted by --- on Wednesday 19 November, 2008

I@ve read about ginger beer today. I’ve not really come across it but decided it sounded very interesting so now have a batch on the go. Not sure it will work coz I had the water in the fridge so probably too cold  we’ll see. I used this method taken from the self sufficientish forum:

Sterilise a glass jar with a lid.
Wash a piece of root ginger about the size of your thumb leaving on outer skin.
Chop it into tiny pieces and put it in the jar. – or grate it as I did
Add cool boiled water and a couple of teaspoons of sugar.
Leave in a warm place and after about a week you will see bubbles as the natural yeasts in the ginger root start to ferment the sugar. The mix should have a nice ginger smell. If it smells unpleasant, you have cultured unwanted bugs and you will need to start again.
Add a little sugar every day for the next week and when the mix is fermenting vigorously, strain to remove the pieces of ginger. The liquid is now your starter for making the first batch of ginger beer. I did not divide the plant the first time but for each subsequent batch I divided the plant as described in previous recipes.

but afterwards found  this one:

“Artisanal Home Soda Fermentation

So let’s get down to making lacto-fermented soda–the real thing. The first step is simply to realize that it is very easy. The minimum equipment is a glass fermentation vessel and the minimum ingredients are sugar, water and the culture. Mix them together and fermentation happens. To make it really delicious, though, some pointers are in order.

Step 1: Bring approximately 50 percent of your water to a boil and dissolve 1.5 cups of sugar in it for each gallon of soda you plan to make. If you are boiling roots in the water (see below), remove them before adding sugar. The sweet, somewhat viscous liquid you have now is called “syrup.”

Step 2: Pour the syrup and the remaining water into your fermentation vessel. I like to use the scalding hot syrup to sterilize my vessel, but be careful not to pour it in too fast or it could crack. The resulting diluted syrup is still too hot for the culture. You can either wait, or cool the syrup first by letting the pot sit in a sinkful of cold water before adding it to the vessel.

Step 3: Add any other flavorings, such as lemon juice (see below) to the diluted syrup.

Step 4: Making sure the syrup has cooled to body temperature, add about a cupful of culture for each gallon of water. You could add less culture, but the more you add, the greater the head start your beneficial bacteria have over any opportunistic invaders, such as alcohol-producing yeasts.

Step 5: Cover the vessel (it need not be completely airtight, but it can be) and let it ferment. Fermentation rate is highly variable. If you like a sweeter soda, four or five days might be sufficient. If you want to ferment out most of the sugar, allow at least 10 days. Some additives such as mint and honey tend to inhibit bacteria and drastically slow fermentation.

Step 6: Time to bottle! Brewing supply stores carry siphon tubes to siphon the soda directly from carboy to bottle, but if you are fermenting in a jar you can simply pour it into bottles or scoop it in with a glass measuring cup. You must have some way to seal the bottles, either with a bottle capper or stoppered bottles (both available at brewing supply stores). Do not bottle the thick layer of sediment at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.

Step 7: Carbonation. The soda continues to ferment in the bottles, giving off carbon dioxide gas. Since the bottles are sealed, the gas has nowhere to go. In stays in the bottle and makes the soda fizzy. Depending on how fast it is fermenting, 2-5 days is usually enough time to create the optimum level of carbonation. You can always open a bottle and check.

Step 8: Stopping fermentation. Now we have a problem, because if the soda continues to ferment the bottles will foam over or spray when opened. The bottles might even explode if left out long enough. So when carbonation is sufficient, it is time to stop fermentation by putting the bottles in the refrigerator. Not enough room? A cold basement will work too, slowing down fermentation but not quite stopping it. Usually soda will keep just fine in the basement for a month or more.

Step 9: Drink it! Lacto-fermented soda is an excellent thirst quencher and contains beneficial lactic acid, vitamins, enzymes and beneficial lactobacilli that can inhabit your gut, where they protect you against pathogenic bacteria and yeast.

Sidebar Articles

Lacto-fermented sodas can be made commercially on a small scale. Illustrated here are two examples from Down Under. Phoenix Ginger Beer from New Zealand (left) is brewed from water, honey, ginger, lemon juice and yeast. Bundaberg Ginger Beer from Australia (right) is brewed from water, sugar, ginger and yeast but contains “food acid” and “preservatives.” The Phoenix Ginger Beer wins the taste test and proves that quality soft drinks can be made on a commercial scale.


The Vessel: A one- or two-gallon glass jar is fine, but if you want to make larger quantities you’ll need a glass carboy, readily available at brewing supply stores for under $20. The five-gallon size works best. For a few cents you can also purchase a water lock, which bubbles merrily away as your soda ferments. All utensils should be clean, but antiseptic cleanliness is unnecessary. Usually we rinse the vessel a few times with water and sterilize it with the hot syrup for next batch.

Other Equipment: You will need bottles with good stoppers–a strong, tight cork, a beer bottle top, or a stopper held down with a wire. These are available at brewing stores and also at places like the Container Store. You will also need a funnel or siphon for transfering the soda from the vessel into bottles.

The Water: Do not use chlorinated tap water, as this will inhibit fermentation. Most filtered or bottled water works fine. If you must use straight tap water, boil it to evaporate off the chlorine.

The Sugar: We have gotten good results with sucanat, rice malt, maple sugar, jaggery, honey, and apple cider. The flavor from rapadura or molasses is too strong for most people. Honey is delicious but is best used as a flavoring rather than the main sugar source, because apparently honey inhibits bacterial growth. Even at half strength, honey soda can take months to finish. You can use fruit juice, but for some reason commercial canned fruit juice, even organic brands, produce noxious results. Fresh-pressed apple cider produces delicious soda, although it will probably be slightly alcoholic (1-2%) due to natural yeasts on the apples. Remember that most of the sugar will be converted into lactic acid in the fermentation process. Use about 1.5 cups of sugar per gallon of water.

The Culture: You can use a bottle of soda from the last batch as culture, or you can make your own from scratch. Dice fresh ginger root into tiny cubes and put a tablespoon of it into a mason jar 3/4 full of water, along with 2 teaspoons white sugar. Add another 2 teaspoons each sugar and ginger every day for a week, at which time it should become bubbly with a pleasant odor. If it gets moldy, dump it and start over. Even a small amount of culture will start a batch of soda going, but it’s best to use at least a cup per gallon so that these beneficial lactobacilli can dominate before less desirable microorganisms have a chance.

Flavorings: The water used to dissolve the sugar need not be just water! You can use any herbal decoction to make soda with the flavor or medicinal qualities you are seeking. For example, to make ginger beer, boil sliced ginger root in the water, about one thumb’s-length per gallon of soda, for twenty minutes. Peppermint, spearmint, or other mint can also be used to flavor soda. Put the mint in boiling water, turn off the heat immediately, cover and steep. Lemon juice is a good addition to almost any soda flavor and seems to help preserve the syrup before fermentation gets going. Use approximately two lemons per gallon of soda, depending on juiciness. One of the favorite beverages in colonial America was root beer. Any roots can go into root beer, but the essential ones for flavor are sassafras and sarsaparilla. Sassafras in particular lends a pungent aroma and beautiful reddish color to soda, and is readily available throughout the Eastern US. Common medicinal roots like burdock, chicory, dandelion, and so forth tend to impart a strong mediciney “herbal” flavor to the soda. It’s the sassafras or sarsaparilla that make people say “Yum!””

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eggs are in!

Posted by --- on Wednesday 19 November, 2008

Eggs arrived yesterday and were put in to incubate tonight. Not sure about incubator. Temp varies a lot. At bottom of egg level temp is 93 and at the top of egg level (they are on their side with a max/min thermometer lyiing on the top) the temp is 96

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rosehip not medium

Posted by --- on Monday 17 November, 2008

I transfered the rosehip must from the bucket to a demijohn tonight via a nylon seive as per the recipe. According to Mr Berry, it should be a medium wine – which I like – an SG reading results in the specific gravity being 0.990 or very dry – which I don’t like. I added 30g of sugar (no idea why; seemed like a good idea at the time) and repeated the SG reading with the same results.

Still continuing to try to revive the nettle wine, I have added more nettle wine must to the starter bottle. I had to relieve the pressure in the starter bottle over the weekend as it looked almost ready to burst. When the bottle is almost full and still fermenting, I will add it to the must and see what happens. It is still fermenting but very slowly.

The mead, marrow and youngs kit are all going at a steady pace now. The peach is still going bananas!

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Winemaking day

Posted by --- on Thursday 13 November, 2008

I had every intention of making my mead today then getting out in the garden. When I got up it was drizzling, this became heavier and now it is tipping it down. So today has been a wine day. I washed and sterilised all the demijohns and a bucket for continually dropping equipment in. I started by making the mead which is now in a demijohn outside cooling down.

I’ve transferred the marrow into two demijohns. I read in Mr Berry’s book that if you need to top it up, you use a syrup of the same strength as that added to the original must so I’ve added a pint with 6oz (170g) of sugar added to each demijohn.

The peach was transferred to a demijohn which just leaves the prune and the rosehip (yuk!). I have taken reading from all the wine I’ve got going and put the results in a table:





marrow wine 1



Decanted from bucket to demijohn. topped up with 1 pt syrup ( 6oz sugar dissolved in 1 pt warm water).

marrow wine 2



topped up with 1 pt syrup ( 6oz sugar dissolved in 1 pt warm water)

peach wine



Decanted from bucket to demijohn. Fermenting quickly

youngs wine



fermenting quickly still





appears to have stopped


Rice & Raisin 1

Rice & Raisin 2

Rice & Raisin 3

Royal Elderberry

1.66 started in 2006, stopped over 12 months ago, left in shed. will  put in warm spot or add restart yeast.

It’s quite fun doing this but remember to sterilise everything in between taking readings or you might transfer bacteria around and spoil all of your wines.

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Nothing much to report but a report on everything

Posted by --- on Wednesday 12 November, 2008

Changed the time!
Its not Thursday it’s still Wednesday for me, although it is 10 to 2 in the morning) so I’ve altered the time this was published.

Not much happening today. I spent a lot of it looking at finances and realising that we have none! It’s not helped by DFS not going to work – off again today because he “can’t be arsed with working for them lot”. In the meantime, Christmas is only a few weeks away and we haven’t even got a card – the kids want laptops which is impossible. Once I’d stopped panicking and getting upset, I tried to look for a solution instead of concentrating on the problem and I’ve decided there isn’t a reasonable solution. Become single again so I can make a claim, win the lottery, get DFS to go to work, get the miracle job that fits around school and pays decent money, tell all the finance companies that DFS made arrangements with (he has HP on 4 vehicles… don’t ask) that we’ve changed our mind. I think I’ll go back to crying.

DDJ had yet another school trip. This time she went to the Beatles museum and had a great day. I also sorted out which high school they will be going to. I can’t pick one but to be fair, I haven’t put any effort into choosing as I did for DSL. What’s the point? I spent ages looking at schools for him, we decided this was the best, he was bullied throughout and hated it. He wouldn’t move schools just in case the next one was worse except he’d lose his best friend too. He never did very well at school, he just went and got his head down but put no effort in and came aways with minimal grades. Both the kids want to go to this one and I think if they are happy, they should learn better. DSL continues to spent all of his days in bed. One day this week he didn’t get out of bed until after 6pm! Most days average between 3 and 4 pm. It’s really getting beyond a joke. When he is awake, he is playing a game either on his pc, his xbox or his ps3. What a life eh? He will be upset in a minute when I disconnect the internet – by the way, if anyone can advise me about a program that I can install to restrict users on a BT Home hub version 1.0, I’d be very grateful. I’ve rang BT and they tell me there is nothing I can do.


On the winemaking front, not much is happening. I’ve got 4 demijohns sterilising on the cooker ready to make mead and transfer some of the buckets of wine into. I’m sure the rosehip is turning to vinegar, it tastes awful. I’ll leave it and see. The youngs kit is bubbling away like crazy. I’ve videoed it and will add it to my list of things I want to add here. As to the rest,  I’m stirring whatever needs stirring and leaving whatever doesn’t.

Tonight is night 3 for Lexie sleeping in the porch. So far she hasn’t messed in there so that’s one step the right way. I thought I’d emptied it but she managed to destroy a new boxed catflap that I overlooked on the first night and the last night she managed to get a feather duster that was hanging up 7′ up the wall. I’ve no idea how. Now it is completely empty so I’ll see how that goes. I’m ashamed to admit, I still haven’t taken her for a walk.

I’m 40 on Friday. Whenever I think about it I feel sick. Why won’t time stand still?

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Garden clearing for the chickens.

Posted by --- on Tuesday 11 November, 2008

Today I’ve spent most of the day clearing the garden and planning how to adapt the playhouse into a chicken coop. The area the chickens will be in is about 6m x 2m (17′ x 6′); 2m x 1.2m (6’x4′) of this will be the coop. It has taken a while to come up with a plan for the coop. I want to be able to access all areas easily for cleaning but I want to make it more difficult for the rats to have access too. The shed we used before was lifted off the ground by about 15cm. The rats chewed through the floor and when we dismantled the rotten shed we found extensive tunneling covering about 7 meters long, this doesn’t include where they go off under the slabs.

My idea for inside the new coop is something along the lines of this:

coop_floor1 My apologies. The picture is very small. Basically the house already has a door which will be at the back. The right side will be against the neighbours fence, the left side, which has a window, against the existing path facing north-east. I will make a communal nestbox as seen in this week’s country smallholding magazine on the back below and existing window. This will have one opening for the birds to access from inside. There will be a perch running across the 2m front with plastic trays for catching droppings. I want to make a side sliding opening for the birds on the front which is also another idea taken from the magazine.

The whole house will be on legs about 50cm off the ground. I will mesh the sides and the back with chicken wire so that the birds will have access to underneath the coop for dustbaths etc. My problem is how to make it easy to clean out. As it the door is only around 1m high, it will be difficult to go into the coop. I want to somehow make a panel open but with appropriate perch space and nest box, that only leaves one feasable side which is the front. I think I will need to cut out a large panel so that I can make the front drop down for easy cleaning. I am open for suggestions as, to be honest, I am struggling a bit here.

Outside, we will be cutting down the silverbirch which is right in the middle of the proposed run. It’s with a little emotion as this tree is the same age as the twins. There is another in the front garden. Leaving the one in the run creates lots of problems related to roofing the run etc so the best solution is to take it out. We will cut it to around 1.2m and attach another peice of wood to form a T shape. This will then have food for the chickens suspended from it.

Today, all I’ve managed to do is:

  • clear the existing site
  • FIll in all the rat excavations
  • level where the coop will go
  • lift the existing path that will overlap the chicken area (easier said than done!)
  • place slabs where the legs will sit
  • follow DFS around clearing stuff he puts in piles (nope, he hasn’t been to work today or yesterday)
  • Make a garden fire and begin burning the old shed (so I stink of fire)
  • make the legs for the base
  • attach the legs and supportwork
  • woodtreat the legs
  • attach some chicken wire to back

It doesn’t seem much when you write a list but it’s taken all of my day and I’m tired now. I would like to be able to regrass the area before I put birds on it. I’ve read somewhere that a mix of ryegrass and clover is good but can’t find it in small amounts. Also, as with getting eggs or chicks, I think it’s the wrong time of year.  I have emailed several people about welsummer eggs but only one person has answered favourably. In fact I emailed a few on ebay that have either recently sold eggs or are selling them now. I want to be able to collect them if I can to reduce any breakages. One person did not seem impressed and replied in capitals that it was postage only. It makes you then wonder why they don’t want anyone to see where the eggs originate, or is that me and my suspicious mind? Anyway, I’ve now got a supplier whom I am eager to use mainly because of the nice email and am on the hunt for grass seed.

Last night I cleared the greenhouse which had turned into a storage area again. I want to use the space underneath my bench as a brooding area/growing area for chicks to grow before going outside.  I managed to find the old brood lamp which needs a bulb and ordered one of these incubators on sunday. I thought the seller may have emailed to say thanks for the order with info about dispatching but as with most people on there now, I suppose I’ll hear nothing and be watching for a parcel for a week.

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Lexie is banished!

Posted by --- on Tuesday 11 November, 2008

We’re having an experiment.  We have built a small porch on the back of our house. It is only the width of a door and about 2m long. Last night I emptied it of everything and that is where Lexie slept. DFS was up before me but I don’t think she’d messed in there and she couldn’t chew anything as there was nothing to chew! It’s not idea but we’re running out of ideas.

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