Oh! look wildlife!

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : News | Posted on 21-10-2011

As you probably know we have moved out into the country. Our previous house was on the outskirts of Nottingham and it was a little devoid of critters and wildlife. That is very much not the case in the country. We have a bunch of chickens behind the house and a whole flock of them just across the road with geese and ponies to boot.
With that said I would like to introduce ‘Skinny Phoenix’ our garden pheasant, who seems to wonder across our garden in the morning and return in the afternoon.

Self Sufficient Livings Skinny Phoenix

Self Sufficient Livings Skinny Phoenix

One day I will follow him, and when I find out where he goes, I will let you know. I just know its a magic pheasant party!

Detective Jason signing out

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Our new house!

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : News | Posted on 15-10-2011

Great news! we have the key to the new house ‘Bacchus’! So our little adventure in self sufficiency can soon begin.

After a few rough measurements and a little flexing of my artistic talent, I have made a little info graphic for you.

Self Sufficient living plan

The plan of our new home 'Bacchus'

The house is a bungalow built in the 70s, we suspect it has very good insulation as every time we have been there the house has been quite warm, even after standing with no heating on overnight. We will monitor how well it retains its heat over the winter and make any changes should we need to.

We are looking to install a PV system on the roof which has a large south facing pitch, hopefully shade and space willing it should be a 4 KW system. This will have to be a contractor installed system as any home built solar panels, especially mine, probably wouldn’t pass the tests required to qualify for the feed-in tariff.

The first job for us will be to remove the largest tree in the centre of the garden, which is taking up far too much room, and one tree on the far left of the trees lining the road. This is all depending on the council of course.

The patio will also be one of our first primary targets. It’s very large and for us it would function a lot better as a vegetable plot. In fact the whole side of this part of the land will be dedicated to growing food, With the rest being utilized for chickens, apple, plum and pear trees and various other projects.

We will also be giving the chickens upgrades. The coop that has served us so well will be replaced with a larger Omlet Cube and obviously we shall be adding new chickens. All a quick win as far as self sufficiency is concerned.
Note : We have always used Omlet Coops because of the fox proofing they offer, our girl’s safety is top of the list!

Our new chicken coop

Hopefully we will be able to get the land levelled, as it’s quite undulating, and the overgrown sections cleared before the weather turns too cold. Time to sharpen my tools!

Stay tuned to see how we get on.

Jason and Elly + Bump

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How to store your root vegetables

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Guide | Posted on 05-10-2011

If you are like us you may have a glut of root crops and tummy’s to small to eat all of it before it rots.  So what do you do with them before they all go off?  Well you don’t have to use them all, you just need to store them.

The answer is build a min root cellar using a wooden barrel.

Mini Root Cellar

First dig a dip in the ground next to a wall and build up rocks so that the barrel can rest at a 45 degree angle with the lid facing outwards. Fill the space behind the barrel with earth, and cover with straw. Cover with a further layer of earth being careful not to cover the opening or get dirt in the barrel. Once covered fill with your various root crops, pack out with straw and secure a wooden board over the covered opening.

Using this mini cellar you should be able to keep your harvest a lot longer.

 

 

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So many tomatoes! Time to start cooking.

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Cooking, Self Sufficient Living : Guide | Posted on 26-09-2011

Lots of tomatoes... Time to start cooking

As your can see we have a slight glut of tomatoes. So in celebration of tomato pasta for dinner tonight, here is the recipe for it.

What you need

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • fresh chillies
  • 10 large tomatoes (or so!)
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Bunch of basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

What to do and how to do it.

  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden.
  • Cut and stir in the tomatoes. I like to leave the skins on but you can easily peel them if you pop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes.
  • Cut some fresh chillies and add balsamic vinegar
  • Bring to a simmer and cook slowly for 40 minutes.
  • Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper. This can be left chunky or blended in a food processor for a smooth sauce.
  • Serve spooned over cooked pasta with Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy.

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The biggest egg ever!?

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Keeping Chickens, Self Sufficient Living : News | Posted on 26-09-2011

Our biggest egg

I'm sure this is the equivalent of laying a basket ball or something for a human.

OK maybe not the biggest egg ever but for sure the biggest that any of our girls have ever produced (Normal egg on the right). I wonder what the world record is?
I’m sure her bottom is very sore after this one.

Have your girls produced a bigger one? let us know.

 

Jason and Elly

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Great news we are moving!

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : News | Posted on 22-09-2011

Elly and I have recently had our eye on a new house which is a little more out in the country, something where we can have a few more adventures in self sufficiency. Great news, it turns out that we have now purchased it!
The new house has a much bigger plot than our current one, which will give us a lot more room for growing vegetables, extending the chicken family and apart from milk and meat we could live off what we grow (Well we will see if we can).
It’s a great opportunity for myself and Elly to attempt to live almost completely self sufficiently and feed ourselves off the land.

Of course we will keep you posted on all of our experiments at our new home.

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Using water butts and watering tips

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Guide | Posted on 16-09-2011

Store water to cut you water usage

Demand for water in our homes is a third higher in the summer than in the winter largely because we are watering our plants. In fact up to 70% of the water demand on a summers evening is due to gardeners watering their plants. The amount of water we pour onto our gardens is only going to continue to increase. For these reasons we should try to use less water in our gardens and to it in the most efficient way we can.

One of the best things anyone who is looking for a more self sufficient living can do is to store rainwater. You will need some extra room to position a water butt so that you can use it to water plants and to top up water features etc during dry spells.

Water butts are widely available in various sizes and shapes usually in the recycled plastic or wood. Many local authorities will offer them at discount prices to encourage people to use them. A butt can be connected to a downpipe with a simple diverter kit which also prevents the butt from overflowing.

If you have any extra space you can even connect a second to the first one and install others to catch the rain from sheds or flat roofs.

How to use a water butt and watering tips.

Place your water butt on strong platform, so that you can fit a watering can easily under the tap bottom. Remember that it will weigh many times more when filled.

Put a lid on the butt to make it childproof and minimise evaporation.

Water your plants at the coolest time of day and direct the water at the roots. Watering during the hottest part of the day can mean up to 90% of the water evaporates, wasting what you collected.

Put a layer of mulch or bark chips or gravel around the plants to slow down evaporation from the soil.

Use large containers so the water is not evaporated quickly.

 

Stuff you will need

Sankey 100-Litre Slim Space-Saver Water Butt

Sankey Water Diverter Kit (Black, 0.5 Metres)

Sankey Slim Water Butt Sand (Black)

As ever let us know how you get on.

Jason and Elly

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Tips to improve your homes efficiency

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Guide | Posted on 09-09-2011

Here are a few tips that will help you improve your homes efficiency.

If you have shutters on your home, make sure you not only shut them at night and during bad weather. But also that you make sure that your shutters are insulated.

Make and hang your own curtains that include a thermal lining.

Makes sure that your cavity walls are insulated. A lot of councils in the UK will help you do this or a very reasonable price. We had our roof insulation and cavity walls done for a ‘cheep as chips’ fifty pounds!

Re-use your ‘grey’ water for watering the garden and flushing the toilet. Make sure that there is nothing harmful in the water before using it on your precious plants.

Insulate your loft with 18 inch of mineral wool. Again your local council will be able to help with this.

Board out your ceiling with aluminium back plasterboard or expanded foam.

Install a solar water heating system to supplement your hot water system. This is very cost effective if your supply is electric only.

While these tips are not necessarily of the self sufficiency ilke, it is very important that you have an efficient home to star with.

Do you have any extra tips? If so let us know and we will add it to our list.

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Growing tomatoes is a great place to start.

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Guide | Posted on 08-09-2011

Growing tomatoes  is a great place to start your quest for self sufficient living. A wide variety of tomatoes can be grown in pots, hangers and containers so the world is your oyster, it just depends upon your taste. For me I like to grow the yellow cherry tomatoes (the bush varieties) , I think the plant smells amazing and they taste so so nice! With these you should get a healthy crop even from a balcony with a hanging basket or two.

To start with you will need a little spot with full sun or a few hours of sun in the morning. Tomatoes can be grown in as little as four hours of sunlight but they don’t particularly like hot afternoon sun or windy weather. If you do live in a windy spot the smaller variety tomatoes are better.

If you are growing them on a balcony then I recommend that you create some sort of barrier to stop them dropping their contents onto the people below. Not everyone will appreciate being struck down by flying tomatoes!

We like to raise our tomatoes from seeds, they only need a little warmth and water to sprout into life. Use a seed raising mix or a good quality potting mix, the results seem pretty much same, so I would use the potting mix and save a few pennies.

Any small container can be used for sprouting and it should be about 10 cm deep, remember to punch some holes in the bottom for drainage.

Fill up the container with your potting mix and add water, ensure that there are no dry bits of soil. Don’t pat the soil to make it firm, the seedlings will need the soil to be loose to help them gain a foot hold.

Sprinkle your seeds onto the soil and agitate it a little. Next pop a clear plastic pot, cup or plastic bag over your seeds to create a mini green house. This will help keep them moist and warm, perfect conditions for them to sprout.

Put your babies to be on a sunny window sill and wait…

After about one week you will start to see some action. Leave them in their mini greenhouses for another few days.

During the second week remove the seedlings from their greenhouse and introduce them to the world.

2 Pk Hanging Tomato Planter Also, Veg, peppers, Flowers. For hanging variety tomatoes

 

If you find that your seedlings are growing too tall and spindly, it means they may not have enough light. If this happens you will need to move them elsewhere to a sunnier location.
If you don’t have a better location you can use reflective paper to reflect back more light. Simple plain paper can also be used if you want to do things in a little more sustainable fashion.

Once your seedlings have reached their fourth leaf they are ready to be replanted. Replant on a cool afternoon and not during the high heat of midday.

Fill your container about half full and take your seedlings out of their seeding pots. Don’t shake the soil from the roots, it’s best to keep as much of it as you can. Fill the pot whilst holding the plant, cover the roots and up to the first set of leaves. Plant two or three into the same container, tomatoes love company.

Next water the container thoroughly and place in a warm location away from direct sunlight. Leave them there for a day or so, just while the plant is in recovery.

On the second day move the plant to your selected warm and sunny position, make sure it’s not too windy.

From here on you should test the soil daily. It should be moist and not damp.

Never over fertilise your tomatoes if in doubt air on the side of caution, Less is best. use liquid fish emulsion and liquid seaweed for fertiliser. Fertilise your tomatoes once every fortnight, do not forget when they are flowering as they will need the extra nutrients.

Remember to train your plant by tying it to a stake, you don’t want it to buckle under the strain of the fruit. Don’t over tighten it should be just enough to hold the stem in place.

Finally…
Pick off some flowers here and there and you will get nice large fruit.

Pick your tomatoes when they are just starting to turn red. This is when they are at their most tasty.

Enjoy.

 

Why stop at tomatoes, growing your own food is easy! Try growing something else but do let us know how it went.

Elly and Jason

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I want to be more self sufficient

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Posted by Jason Pullen | Posted in Self Sufficient Living : Guide | Posted on 06-09-2011

You don’t need to have a vast sprawling area of land to live a more self sufficient lifestyle, we have a very modest house with a small ish plot but we make it work well for us.  OK if you live in a flat then you are not going to be able to live off what you produce, but you can certainly cut costs and reduce the amount of waste and products that you buy.

Here are a few quick hits that will help you if you don’t have a garden:

  • Grow salad leaves in a window box.
  • Grow pots of herbs inside.
  • Bake your own bread.
  • Save energy. Turn that stat down a couple of degrees! and the TV off standby.
  • Don’t use disposable nappies.
  • Recycle as much as you can.
  • Forage (There are so many berries just waiting for you.)
  • Grow chillies in a pot (Only the hot ones for me!)

If you have a tiny garden, try some of the following:

  • Grow pots of tomatoes.
  • Collect water for use in your garden.
  • Make your own compost
  • Plant some blueberry bushes

So you have a large garden or allotment. Try these tips.

  • Keep some chickens (don’t let the roam onto your vegetable patch!)
  • Grow your own vegetables.
  • Preserve Fruit
  • Grow some raspberries
  • Make your own jams
  • Keep some honey bees.
  • Create a small herb garden

 

There are many many other ways that efficiencies and health improving measures can be made,  we will go into these and the above tips in more detail in the following posts.

 

What do you grow in your garden or balcony? Let us know we would love to hear!

 

Jason and Elly

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