11 Goals for 2011: progress update

At the start of the year, I set myself 11 (+ another 5 subgoals) goals for the year. We’ve third of the way through the year now so I thought it was time for an update.

1. Increase the food output from our garden and make a meal only using stuff I’ve grown/foraged/caught/killed which can be cooked off-grid

I’m writing this during a tea break from working in the garden. We haven’t eaten anything we’ve grown this year yet but I’ve been busy busy busy out there. Our salad has been a bit slow off the mark this year but we should have our first lettuces this month, as well as maybe our first potatoes near the end of the month. We planted a lot of fruit trees and bushes at the start of the year too – six apple, two pear, a cherry tree, four blackcurrant bushes, two redcurrant bushes, two raspberry bushes, twelve strawberry runners, three honeyberry bushes, a cranberry bush and a loganberry bush. We also planted about six jostaberry canes but only one of them seems to have taken — all the other bushes & trees are growing well though.

The chickens are doing well – I spent a lot of time defrosting their water at the start of the year but not had to do too much of that lately ;) Two out of the three second batch of girls started laying in January and Buff, the fancy pure bred one, started eventually in March so (present broodiness aside) they’re all productive now. In March, when Buff started laying, they cranked out a massive 200 eggs between them. April has been a little slow – at only 180 eggs in total – because Ginger is broody. Only 180 eggs….! We’ve had on average of 5.43 eggs a day since the start of the year, rising to 6.45 eggs a day in March. We have give a lot away ;)

Foraging has been a little slower than I would have thought – we’ve eaten plenty of wild garlic but little else. I am getting better at identifying early Spring stuff – just not picking it and eating it ;)

2. Learn how to successfully take and propagate cuttings from every applicable type of perennial plant/shrub in the house/garden

Nothing has really been ready for this year – but I will start experimenting with some of the bigger herb bushes soon.

3. Create my own font – possibly of my handwriting

Not done anything on this yet.

4. Make a piece of furniture for the house (woodworking)

I have not done this yet but I have made a lot of things for the garden from wood – which is movement in the right direction. As I said at the end of last year, my goals were/are supposed to be putting me on a journey – this goal was supposed to get me making things, anything from wood, with the hope that my skills will improve gradually to the point where I’m confident to build something for the house out of nice, purpose bought (or nicer-than-normal salvaged) wood. I’m certainly making progress along that path so yay!

5. Make an entire outfit (to include conquering sewing patterns)

Spent January frantically crocheting a blanket but have done very little sewing/yarn crafty stuff for the last couple of months. Need to get back to it!

6. Go fishing in the North Sea

Not organised this yet. Am crap.

7. Learn how to screenprint

Yays! I’ve done this one! It was a lot of fun and we’ve been back for our Factory4 induction & a second screenprinting session since. Hopefully we’ll go back again in a few weeks.

8. Buy no more than 12 items of clothing across the year

This a Really Good Life challenge – and it’s going really well. I haven’t bought a single item of clothing or any accessories from either my exceptions list or from my quota in 2012. It’s actually been a lot easier than I thought – I do have “am bored of my clothes!” sulks but they pass surprisingly quickly.

I’ve also encouraged some other people to do the same challenge – which is great :)

9. Finish a developed piece of fiction writing

Not *really* done anything for this, aside from a short scene I developed with the kids from class as part of a performance at a youth theatre festival in February.

10. Specific food makery and/or eatery:

a) Bake at least once a week
I haven’t been as regular at baking as I’d like but if I include stuff like pizza dough as well as breads & biscuits, it probably is nearly once a week on average. We struggle with bread in the winter as we keep the house cooler than yeast-exciting temperature so hopefully we’ll bake more regularly over the spring/summer/autumn period.

b) Grow a sourdough starter and make bread from it
We’ve kinda done this – we got sourdough starters when we went on a bread making course with the Handmade Bakery in March — we’ve kept them alive and baked from them since. We didn’t actually grow them from scratch (they were started in Russia in the 1970s and River Cottage in 2005) but we’re cultivating them and using them. So yeah!

c) Make a hard cheese
Not done anything cheesy so far this year. Well, not cheese-making cheesy. Those in earshot of many of my jokes would contest the “done anything cheesy” assertion.

d) Try ten vegetables (or veggie wild foods) that I’ve not tried before
As I said above, I’ve not done much foraging this year but I did try wild sorrel earlier in the year and I’m growing three things I’ve not tasted before (rapini/broccoli raab, marigolds-for-salad-leaves and achocha!) so that’ll hopefully up my total. Oh, and I had pea shoots (which aren’t too exciting but were new to me) as part of my starter when we went to Salvo’s a few weeks ago.

e) Build a cold smoking cabinet, try cold smoking more stuff & try hot smoking too
I’m really keen to build another smoking cabinet and have been on the look out for furniture to adapt or wood to build a cabinet from scratch. Not spotted anything suitable yet but I’m hoping to get hold of some old kitchen cupboard doors soon, which should work. Can’t wait to make more smoked cheese!

11. Participate more in the real world – engage more with our local community and meet some internet people in real life
I so nearly met an internet person but then got sick. *shakes fist at culinary establishment that caused food poisoning* Boo.

Have mostly hidden inside/in our private garden for the last few months so not really done anything locally.

Not particularly local community related but at least away from my computer – I’ve been still doing dramatic things at Bingley Little Theatre – I made my debut as a stage-manager on the kids’ production of “The Would-Be Gentleman” in April. (I shadowed as a ASM & SM on a production earlier in the year too – didn’t really do much but learnt a lot.) We also went to the aforementioned youth theatre festival in York – two days of dramatic funness.


One goal (and one sub-goal) done, six (and two) in progress, and four (and two) still to do. On track!

Who gets fed first

Following on from Lily’s idea of the Team Peach hierarchy, here’s this evening’s feeding order.

1. Chickens (on way back from dog walk)
2. Plants in greenhouse (ditto)
3. Lily
4. Boron (Carla wasn’t around)
5. Ginger beer plant
6. Rye sourdough starter
7. Wheat flour sourdough starter
8. Us

Early morning, perfect results, good dog good dog

1. I get up to let the chickens into the run then sneak back to bed, curling around the dog who has taken my place while I was away. Outside, it felt earlier than it is – soft sunlight, a dawn-like chill – but the bedroom is toasty warm.

2. The bread’s even brown crust glistens as it slips out of the pan without hesitation. Later, the scones are as equally uniform in gorgeous colour. A good baking day.

3. I remember I’ve got her bone in my pocket and initiate a game of fetch. She doesn’t really know how to play Fetch but with coaching, she’s gets it and grins in anticipation before each round. Suddenly, she hears a distant bark and gets self-conscious as if she thinks Fetch is not respectable doggie behaviour.

3BT – embarrassing, nearly there, alchemy

1. We stop at the park on the way home – the park that looks like a stereotypical village green, next to a church, with a cricket pitch in the middle – and run around with Lily. Despite her initial excitement, she tires quickly and we sit down next to her. She immediately gets up, walks to the other side of the path and sits down again. We laugh, imagining her saying “Ugh! Muuum! Daaad! Don’t sit near me and embarrass me in front of the other springers!”.

2. Rain stops play in the garden so we retreat inside. We unpack some books – some of the last boxes to be unpacked since the move. With each box we empty, we free up a little more space, feel a little more settled.

3. The magical transformation when the flour and butter are completely rubbed together. The light powder and sticky solid become almost grainy.

3BT – soft & even, play time, the new recipe

1. Her freshly clipped coat feels like velvet.

2. We worry – as we always do – that the play is bordering on fighting but the woman assures us that it is definitely play. The dogs bounce around together amongst the oak trees as we talk about them behind their backs.

3. The slow-rise bread – 22 hours in the making – comes out of the oven too late to eat with dinner so we have it as dessert instead. Its golden dome is perfectly cracked, its centre spongy & bubbled.

Flatbread with honey & sesame oil

I wanted to make some flatbreads to go with our lamb tagine this evening but all the recipes called for plain flour & yeast and I couldn’t find any of the latter in our over-stuffed cupboard. I kept the yeast-activating honey from the recipes I found though and aside from that just improvised.

They turned out ace – sweet and tasty in their own right but the taste didn’t overpower or clash with the flavour of the tagine.

Recipe for flatbreads with honey & sesame oil

(I don’t really measure/weigh stuff so quantities are estimates)

  • About 150g of self-raising flour (since I had some of that)
  • 1tablespoon ish of olive oil
  • 1teaspoon ish of honey
  • A tiny bit (maybe half a teaspoon) of sesame oil
  • Some water
  • Toasted sesame seeds (completely optional topping)

Preheat the oven to about gas mark 5.

Put the flour in a mixing bowl and add the honey & the oils. Mix together (but it won’t mix that well because it’s pretty dry).

Gradually add water, mixing all the time until you get a well mixed stiff (ie, not sloppy) dough. Knead it a bit.

Divide dough into pieces – four for (my) hand-size breads, six for smaller ones. Roll them in your hands to make a ball then squish them out flat on a dusted board/counter. Squish them out further with your palm until they’re, I don’t know, just under 1cm? in height. Throw some toasted sesame seeds on the top if you want to use them.

Lightly grease up a baking tray with olive oil, or if you’re an excitable sort, a little sesame oil. Plop the breads on the tray and put the trays in the oven, top shelf, for about, I don’t know, I’m really not good at this numbers business, 15 minutes? – until they’re cooked but no more lightly brown on the bottom and slightly browning on the top. Leave to stand for a minute then serve immediately or as immediately as you can manage if you’re anything like us.