FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

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Monday, 28 September 2015

Sharpen Scissors - Quick Fix


Both of our businesses involve spending a large amount of time cutting fabric, and dull scissors are pretty much the bane of my life.

As some of you are probably well aware, A really quick way to get them making clean cuts once they start to lose their edge is to fold a sheet of tinfoil so it is several layers thick and cut the foil with the scissors and they'll be cutting like new again in no time. Try it out on an old pair of kitchen scissors and you won't be disappointed.


Another way to do it is to cut sandpaper folded so its rough both sides, but that is a much more abrasive method that shouldn't be necessary unless the scissors are totally blunt.

If you want REALLY sharp scissors then you can also sharpen them on the unglazed ring on an upturned ceramic mug, but that isn't quite as easy to do, and not everyone needs their scissors that sharp.

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Our Quail Tale: Building the Coop

Many thanks to the guys at P2S for getting me hooked on this idea!

Our intention was to start off with half a dozen quail as our first venture into keeping livestock/poultry, then possibly expand the flock and get a few chickens too once we were comfortable with it.

We really loved the idea of being able to get fresh eggs every day, and know that they are not pumped full of chemicals and hormones. It is also a great way to get the kids involved with responsibilities like filling up their water/food, collecting eggs etc, a real hands on learning experience to teach them to value and respect animals and appreciate what work goes in to the food on our plates.

As with all things, I wanted to try and do this on a shoestring budget. We are planning on getting the Quails after winter so that gives me a fair amount of time to put a coop together. I have absolutely zero experience or skill with DIY so if I can do it then any brummy idiot can. The only tools I have used is a saw, drill and staple gun, so nothing fancy or difficult.

I got all of the timber for free as they were offcuts/scrap from the lumber yard at work, the hinges for the doors were stripped off an old door that was being thrown out and the screws I already had knocking about in the shed. the only thing I have actually paid for was the wire mesh, and to be honest I could probably have wombled that too if I had been patient and kept an eye on the skips, or tapped up a plasterer to see if he had some left over. Rather than use chicken wire which is too flimsy, or weld mesh that is too expensive I have opted to go for EML (plasterers metal lath) as it can be picked up for a fraction of the price of any alternative.

I started off with a basic frame, I didn't put supports at the ends as the legs will eventually be screwed through the ends to give strength there.



I am planning to do a double hutch type design, the top level will have a cage floor that the muck can fall through on to a tray, and the bottom level will have a solid WBP ply base. The plan is that we will start off half a dozen "pet" quails in the top for eggs, and then if we need to quarantine and for any reason, or to clean/maintain the coop then at least we can make use of the bottom deck. Also since it will have a solid floor if we decide to breed them for meat also then we can use that level for this purpose.



The footprint of the coop is roughly 4ft by 2ft and headroom is about 18 inches per level. I made up the two frames, screwed the OSB roofs on both and put the ply bottom in to the other, then stapled the mesh onto the sides etc.



Next the legs are screwed on to pull the whole thing together. I still need to staple the mesh on front and back and finish the doors off. Once it's finished we're hoping to paint the whole thing and get the kids involved, maybe make potato stamps to put eggs and chick designs on the frame.



So far the whole thing has cost me about £8 so needless to say I'm happy with the budget on this project. The most difficult thing is trying to find the time to get outside and finish it off, with two kids under the age of 3, 2 businesses and a full time job, time is my most precious commodity.
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Bargain buy: Camping Cook Set

We picked this up last week since we noticed it was on clearance, I think it was at Asda



For the bargain sum of three pounds, its a little camping cook set. So lets see what three hundred english pennies bought us:



Comes in its own little stuff sack to keep it all together which is a bonus




It all nestles neatly together







So we've got a a saucepan with lid, a frying pan, 2 small plastic bowls, a collapsible ladle and a small spoon, plus a small scrubbing pad for cleaning. It's all pretty lightweight but without feeling flimsy, really looking forward to getting out and testing this set when I get chance, for £3 I think its a cracking bit of kit


Has anyone else picked up any end of season bargains this year?
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Monday, 14 September 2015

Food Storage: Dehydrating

So this week at Fast-SoS HQ we have finally given in and decided to dip our toe in the water by buying a dehydrator. We picked up a basic Babz brand Dehydrator for around £25 delivered. The dehydrator has 5 tiers for drying using a Flow-Drying system to slowly extract moisture & preserve food, and also unlike most cheap models it features a handy adjustable thermostat, which allows you to control the drying process (35-70°C)

To test it out we loaded the dehydrator up with the reduced fried we picked up from Sainsburys in the previous blog post, we sliced a few oranges, a banana and a punnet of plums. To prep the plums you just have to slice in half, remove the stone and then 'break the back' by turning inside out slightly to increase the surface area for drying.







We ran ours for about 24 hours at 60'c, the oranges were done but the banana and plums needed a little more time, but that wasn't a problem as you can remove individual shelves and leave the ones that require a bit more drying.
The end product was possibly the most intense natural flavours we have ever tasted, particularly the banana which tasted so much better than any dried banana we've ever known. The orange slices look so cool too, like little stained glass windows, and the plums were so tangy, like natures version of tangtastics! Little Logan absolutely loved the dried fruits, the moment he put one in his mouth he said "oooo delicious!" and already thinks of the dried oranges as a "treat", and it is far better for him than the chocolate or sugar drenched "treats" that most children are fed these days. 




But why use a dehydrator for food storage? here are our top 10 reasons for dehydrating food:

  • First off its easy, like ridiculously easy, you just put the produce in the dehydrator and leave it for as long as it takes, occasionally rotating the tiers so you get an even drying throughout.
  • It's also a great way to store fresh produce that would normally not keep well. For instance many dried fruits will keep for years. Removing the moisture from food provides a longer shelf life than any other form of food preservation.
  • From fruits and vegetables to meats and even applesauce, almost anything can be dehydrated, although some food items are more suited to canning.
  • Prep time is really quick as in most cases you only have to slice the food before tossing it in the dehydrator.
  • The end product takes up much less space dried that it did before dehydrating, and also weighs less.
  • The dehydration process really intensifies flavours, since you are removing all the water but not the nutrients and sugars, it really concentrates the flavours of foods.
  • Dehydrated foods don't lose their nutritional value and maintain water soluble vitamins and minerals
  • Never again will you have to throw away fresh herbs as you can just dehydrate the leftovers to use later.
  • Dehydrating is cheap, most dehydrators draw very little power at all so cost next to nothing to run, so don't worry about leaving them running over night
  • It is one of the most resilient ways to store food, as unlike a freezer full of produce, a pantry full of dried goods will not deteriorate if the power goes out or the freezer unit fails.


 If anyone has any tips, tricks or tales concerning food dehydrating then please feel free to comment :) 

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Friday, 11 September 2015

Reduced Food: Sainsburys Haul

For those that don't know, if you go in to most big supermarkets an hour or so before closing there will be products that are near their best before date, reduced to a fraction of their full price. Now most people will turn their nose up at these items, but if you are eating it the same day, have space in the freezer or own a dehydrator you can pick up some delicious food for real bargain prices.

Well, Well, Well, I popped in to Sainsburys on the way home from work, I only intended to pick up a pack of sewing needles but couldn't resist when I was greeted by a sea of yellow stickers in the fresh section! 



The items in the photo were all picked up on one trip to Sainsburys at about 4.45pm on a Thursday evening, but we regularly get these type of reduced deals from our local Morrisons and Asda too so its always worth a look.

Here's what we picked up:

3 x 2pk Whole Sweetcorn on the cob: was £1.00 , reduced to £0.24
1 bag potatoes was £1.60 , reduced to £0.39
1 bunch of spring onions was £0.45 , reduced to £0.09
1 x 2pk Red cos lettuce was £1.00 , reduced to £0.24
1 punnet English Plums was £1.25 , reduced to £0.29
1 pack tender stem broccoli was £1.85 , reduced to £0.44
1 pack Rhubarb was £2.00 , reduced to £0.49
1 pack sweet pointed peppers was £1.70 , reduced to £0.44
1 bag oranges was £1.50 , reduced to £0.49
1 bag mixed baby peppers was £1.65 , reduced to £0.39

So the total for all these items should have been £16.00, and the total we actually paid for it was only £3.98, less than a quarter, more than 75% saving! Some of the items are organic or taste the difference range too! And their is nothing wrong with any of it, it is just nearing its best before date (which are only vague guide lines anyway but we'll cover that another time). Also since this trip was fairly early in the day, these items would have been further reduced if I had been there later!

I didn't even pick up everything that was on offer as I was on the motorcycle and had to fit it into my backpack, but it goes to show you can feed your family for a fraction of the retail price if you get creative and store foods efficiently. I hope this inspires more people to hit the supermarkets in the golden hour before closing, usually 7 o'clock is the best time to get reduced stock as it is on final reduction and can often be picked up for pennies. There is no shame in it, and if you don't but these reduced items they will likely be thrown away so it is an environmentally sound practice as well as a money saver.

We ate the grapes after dinner with the kids who absolutely loved them :)

The one thing I try to do is not take everything that's reduced, if you leave some behind then someone that maybe needs it more than you will have the opportunity to get some too. Thanks for reading, Happy Hunting!
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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Todays Farmer's Market Haul

Thursday again already?! That means it's Farmer's Market day. Off we trotted, Logan with his little red basket in hand, and me with my shopping list.



I got a hell of a lot of stuff today, and just out of curiosity, I weighed most things when I got home so could see just how much I managed to get for my money. I spent £18 in total. Here's the list:

- 1.5kg vine tomatoes
- 1 celeriac
- 1.2kg Williams Pears
- 435g baby potatoes
- 300g baby onions
- 800g Rhubarb
- 5 x Braeburn apples
- 1 green pepper
- 4 mixed peppers
- 5 bananas
- 2 bunches spring onions
- 1 punnet mixed grapes
- 2 small punnets blackberries
- 400g plums
- 1 carrot
- 2 lemons
- 4 figs
- 1 red onion
- 1 aubergine
- 1.3kg cypress potatoes
- 370g medjool dates
- 390g mushrooms


Yes, that's a lot. Especially when it's written down! I can't believe it was only £18!! Obviously we are not going to eat that amount of fruit and veg in a week, but I have a few recipes to make and freeze, or make a preserve this week. I'll outline those in another post. 

Logan had fun again today and was looking forward to going to the 'farming market' as he calls it. He did get us told off though as he kept trying to bite all of the veggies and fruit. Although it was  a bit cheeky, I was very proud that he recognised this wonderful produces as yummy food and food that he wanted to eat! I don't think the market stall man saw it that way though...!

Last week I made my mixed berry and damson jam which seemed to set a bit too hard. Perhaps I over-boiled, or I think more than likely the problem was because I used jam sugar, and should have just used normal sugar. I also made my favourite rhubarb and vanilla jam yesterday from the rhubarb I bought at the market last week.


I'm so glad I decided to get myself a maslin pan this year. I've used it to make 3 different jams already, and have a chutney to make this week to. It's a great size, easy to clean and makes perfect preserves quickly.

That's all for now. I hope you've managed to get to your local market this week!









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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Frugal Food: Scones with Jam and Cream!

"Scones are wonderfully British, delicious, and so simple even a five-year-old could make them. Get baking!"


This week we tried our hand at home made scones, from one of Jamie Oliver's older cook books that we picked up from a charity shop for a fraction of what it would have been to buy originally. We love Jamie's recipes as they are very much a hands-on, get stuck in affair and don't tend to worry too much about it looking perfect at the end. Afterall, you want them to look rustic and handmade, if you wanted them to all look boring and the same you could by them at the supermarket, where they would have half the character and half of the flavour!
Our scones came out looking amazing, tasting great and once we topped them off with some cream and home made berry and damson jam they were hands down the best scones we've ever tasted, they are dead simple to make so no matter what your ability at baking we thoroughly recommend you give it a go and make a batch yourself, you won't be disappointed. 

They were so good we had them again the next day with our home made rhubard and vanilla jam
Full credit for the recipe to Jamie Oliver:


Ingredients
Makes 16 to 20 scones

150 g dried fruit, such as sour cherries, raisins, sultanas, chopped sour apricots, blueberries, or a mixture
orange juice, for soaking
150 g cold unsalted butter
500 g self-raising flour, plus a little extra for dusting
2 level teaspoons baking powder
2 heaped teaspoons golden caster sugar
sea salt
2 large free-range eggs
4 tablespoons milk, plus a little extra for brushing
Optional:
Jersey clotted cream, good-quality jam or lemon curd, to serve

Method
Scones are wonderfully British, delicious, and so simple even a five-year-old could make them. There's a magic hour just after they come out of the oven when they are so heavenly I just can't imagine why anyone would prefer store-bought scones. Just remember that the less you touch the dough, the shorter and crumblier your scones will be.
Put the dried fruit into a bowl and pour over just enough orange juice to cover. Ideally, leave it for a couple of hours. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. First and foremost, brilliant scones are about having the confidence to do as little as possible, so do what I say and they'll be really great; and the second and third time you make them you'll get the dough into a solid mass even quicker, even better.
Put your butter, flour, baking powder, sugar and a good pinch of sea salt into a mixing bowl and use your thumbs and forefingers to break up the butter and rub it into the flour so you get little cornflake – sized pieces. Make a well in the middle of the dough, add the eggs and milk, and stir it up with a spatula. Drain your soaked fruit and add that to the mixture. Add a tiny splash of milk if needed, until you have a soft, dry dough. Move it around as little as possible to get it looking like a scruffy mass – at this point, you're done. Sprinkle over some flour, cover the bowl with cling film and pop it into the fridge for 15 minutes.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it's about 2 to 3cm thick. With a 6cm round cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out circles from the dough and place them upside down on a baking sheet – they will rise better that way (so they say). Re-roll any offcuts to use up the dough. Brush the top of each scone with the extra milk or some melted butter and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until risen and golden. At that point, take them out of the oven and leave them to cool down a little. Serve with clotted cream and a little jam or lemon curd.
PS: A great little tip if you don't want to bake a whole batch is to freeze the scones after you've cut them out. That way, you can come home from work, pop the little rounds of frozen dough into the oven and cook them at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 for 25 minutes, or until golden and lovely.



Nutritional Information Amount per serving:
  • Calories21911%
  • Carbs32.1g
    12%
  • Sugar8.6g10%
  • Fat9.1g13%
  • Saturates4.9g25%
  • Protein4.2g9%

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Bank Holiday Breakdown

What Bank Holiday would be complete without a minor complication or two?
this time around, our gremlin Friday night was a broken shock absorber on the bike:

August was fraught with mechanical failure so We're glad it's over!
Never seen anything like it and can't begin to understand how it happened as there was no impact or pothole etc than can be blamed. Luckily I had a set of Hagon shocks that I took off my last bike before I sold it, pure luck that they actually fit this bike and don't look out of place, so at least this mishap was sorted quickly and for zero cost.

Saturday Carly and the kids went out swimming with Nanny whilst me and Grandad fitted a new back door. We're doing the kitchen up at the moment, and as with everything on a budget it is taking longer than what it should and it seems that everywhere we look there is something that needs to be finished. Our old door was a draughty timber one that was falling apart, unfit for purpose and certainly not secure. The replacement we picked up from a local reclaim yard and is a UPVC double glazed, multi point locking door that we picked up for less than £50 even though it is in almost perfect condition! not only is it an investment in the security of the house, but hopefully since it is double glazed and insulated it should help keep the bills down through the winter too.

Sunday we were round at the inlaws for Sunday dinner and took a big bag of runner beans from the garden which were absolutely delicious

And finally Monday was an absolute washout, so what better way to hide away from the rain than to have a day of baking and lazing around in PJ's, Logan absolutely loves helping mommy in the kitchen :)

This time our master craftsmen were baking shortbread with a hint of lemon


I have a bit of a soft spot for baked goods, particularly biscuits, and these ones we so good that they didn't last very long


We hope you all had a great weekend, Thanks for reading :)


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Etsy

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