FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Easy Peasy Homebrew Hard Cider

This method is so cheap easy that I cannot tell you why it took me 27 years to start making my own cider!!
It requires no skill, no special equipment and no sterilisation and you can be drinking your own amazing homebrew cider in as little as 3 weeks.

You will need:

5L water bottle
4.5L Apple Juice
1 balloon
some teabags
a sachet of cider yeast

The beauty of this method is that since everything you are using is sealed in a sterile package, there is no need to clean or sterilise anything.

The bottle of water we are interested in only for the container itself, so pour out all of the water (it is better if you don't waste it, fill up the kettle or put it to use, just don't drink it directly from the bottle as we want it sterile!)

The apple juice MUST be 100% apple juice, not apple juice drink. It is ok if it is from concentrate, just check that it is 100% juice and nothing else, anything with an additive/preservative in it will likely kill the yeast and stop you making any cider. At the time of writing this post the cheapest apple juice was either 55p per litre Sainsbury's basics, or 88p per 1.5L at Lidls.

Pour the apple juice in to the 5L container, leaving a few inches at the top of the bottle to accommodate any frothing/foaming caused by the yeast later.
At this stage add the magic ingredient, a cup of VERY strong tea (use 4 or 5 teabags, no milk)
This is the easiest way to get tannin in to the mixture.

Add the yeast last, in theory you could use half the packet but I always tip a full one in just to be sure as they are not expensive.

Stretch the balloon over the neck of the bottle as a makeshift airlock to keep contaminants out whilst still allowing the gasses to expand and the rest is just a waiting game

After around 3 weeks the cider should have cleared up nicely and you will be left with a delicious flat cider similar to scrumpy. I prefer my cider fizzy, so at the 3 week mark I pour the cider in to individual bottles, add a spoon of sugar to each and cap them off for another week. if the C02 produced by the yeast cannot escape it's container then the bottle will become pressurised and the drink will become carbonated, i.e Fizzy :)

At that stage you can put it in the fridge to chill and enjoy a great home made cider which depending on which yeast you've used should finish out around 3-4% ABV. If you wanted to turn a great cider in to an amazing cider, then try adding a full jar of honey when you put the strong tea in, this will give the yeast more sugar to feed off and will finish the cider off at around 6-7% ABV



Monday, 22 February 2016

Permaculture Design Course

I spent this weekend sat in front of an amazing old wood burning stove on the first installment of my Permaculture Design Course, 72 hours of learning spread over 6 months that will give me my Permaculture design qualification.
The course is run from the One Love Foundation on a farm in Essex and is lead by Permaculture tutor Graham Burnett. In addition to writing, illustrating and self publishing a number of books, Graham is an experienced permaculture practioner, designer and teacher. He holds the Diploma in Permaculture Design (Dip Perm Des). Graham is a member of the Permaculture Association’s Designers Register, and has run Permaculture Introductory courses, full design courses and specialist courses on vegan-organic gardening and compost toilet building amongst many others. In short,  Graham knows his stuff!
The other learners on the permaculture course come from a wide variety of backgrounds and there is definitely a rich mix of ideas and existing skills within the group. The subject material is delivered in an engaging manner using a variety of visual aides and tools, with both theory and practical work and demonstrations. Despite the massive amount of permaculture knowledge being transferred it never feels like too much to handle and there is always time for any questions people want to ask.
I won't disclose the price of the course, but at the time of writing it is around half the cost of a Full Permaculture Design Course anywhere else, and the people running it are amongst the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met. As I had hoped, the course is filling in the missing pieces in my existing permaculture knowledge.
If you have been thinking about taking a Permaculture Design Course In Essex, or taking a PDC in general, then I thoroughly recommend booking a course through Graham's company
As always with my reviews I have absolutely no affiliation to the course and the people running it other than being a satisfied customer.

Friday, 19 February 2016

5 things I want my kids to know when they grow up

This weeks Five on Friday is 5 things I want my kids to know when they grow up:

1) It's OK to be different.
I want them to know that there is nothing more enriching and satisfying in life than being yourself. Being the true 'you'. It's easy in today's society to mimic other people - what their interests are, how they dress, what music they listen to, what food they eat etc, because it's everywhere we look - in magazines, social media, the TV. it's so easy to be influenced. I want my kids to be so comfortable in their own skin that they can be unequivocally them. Listen to the music that makes their soul sing,(even if it is 50 years old), wear the clothes that make them smile (even if it doesn't match), cut their hair that way, do this hobby or that hobby, even if nobody else is doing it, but because it's what they WANT to do. Different is interesting. Different is GOOD!

2) You will never stop learning.
I want my kids to know that they will never be too old/too smart/too long in the tooth to stop learning. Whether that's life lessons or knowledge. I want them to have an almost unquenchable thirst for educating themselves. They can do this through books if they're a book worm, or through life experience. Whether you're 6 or 60, the world holds answers to any question you can imagine.

3) Embrace your wanderlust and RUN WITH IT!
I want my kids to know that when they get that feeling of wanderlust stirring in the pit of their stomach and their toes start to tingle, that they should go and explore and make memories. Want to go explore the woods? Go. Want to dip your toes in the sea? Do it. Want to hike in Norway? Get your boots. Because life is too short to not do it. Years can pass in the blink of an eye, so don't let them go without memories.

4) Everyone makes mistakes.
I want my kids to know that it's OK if things don't go how you thought they might. It's not failing - it's learning from your experiences. Stay humble and appreciative of your opportunities and the next one will be even better than the last.

5) Do what makes you HAPPY!
Life is far too short to put up with anything that is not lighting the fire in your tummy. Find a way to do what makes you truly happy every day and you will have the best experiences. Put your own happiness first and take care of yourself. Eat good food, practice yoga, take care of your body AND your mind. Be mindful of the here and now. Be grateful and thankful.

Love, Mumma-Wolf x


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The 5 Year Plan

That's it. We've had it. We've had enough!

As of now we're starting a 5 year plan to withdraw from the rat race and leave the 9-5 world behind.

That gives us 5 years to save up for the property/pay off existing debts and learn the skills we are going to need.

By this time we will be living on a plot of land which we are aiming to be 5-10 acres, mortgage free and only need to make enough money to live and eat. At the moment the two businesses we run would provide us with enough money for food/bills so our farm would then only need to break even, anything above that would be a bonus.

We'll be looking for all the advice we can get from all of the amazing friends we have made in blogland, 

Watch this space, things are going to start moving pretty quickly from here on in as we race to get our selves ready mentally and physically before we dive headlong in to our dream life


Friday, 12 February 2016

Five on Friday - Embroidery and Patches


So today's post I thought we would share with you a few of our favourite pictures from one of the businesses we run, our embroidery company Thor's Threads 

 First up is the patch for the White Wolf Brotherhood Motorcycle Club, which I happen to be the President of. Carly actually drew this design up herself years ago when the club was first founded, and I was voted in as President a year or so ago when the previous President stepped down.

Our Second patch I couldn't choose between two of our goddess patches so I thought I'd share them both, they celebrate the miracle of life, fertility and the feminine aspect and I think they're some of the most beautiful patches we do.

Next is the patch for Bitches Cauldron MCC, the only all female club in Essex, we are really proud to have supplied this club and are close friends with the girls, Permission to share their patch online was granted to us by their President.

The fourth patch is one we did that was a custom design sent to us by a client that he gave us permission to continue selling to others after his order, We love the phrase on this one and it is one of our favourites. 

Last up is a small patch that we did a batch of for a really cool company that does Hand-made viking crafts using Wood, deer antler, leather and steel and does carved goods, you can find them over at Fornleidh Viking Crafts

If you want to see some more examples of what we get up to with Thor's Threads you can find us at  or

Short and sweet this week as we've had a lot going on, more on that later ;)


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Pancakes and Punch ups

Pancake day came and went, I preferred a savoury one this year, consisting of smoked bacon, cheese, soured cream and a dash of maple syrup:

Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom Nom

The Littluns absolutely loved the pancakes, Little Logan couldn't get enough of the lemon juice! Poor Baby Aurora has got Hand foot and Mouth at the moment and despite having an awful rash/blisters on her face and hands she still manages to be such a cheery little soul bless her! Adults rarely get hand foot and mouth, and Logan shows no sign of having it so he probably carried it home from nursery immune.

My two greatest acheivements in life enjoying their pancakes :)
Last week one of the staff down at the nursery pulled Carly aside to say "Logan was caught hitting another boy and when the teacher told him not to do that because it wasn't nice he said":

"My Daddy said I'm allowed to hit people back if they hit me first"

Since the they "didn't see" the child hitting him first they only told Logan off over it and felt compelled to tell us they thought he was too rowdy. When we spoke to Logan about it he told us that the boys at nursery always hit him and no one helps him, so we informed the nursery that he had said to us he keeps getting hit and we told them they need to keep a better eye on him and do something about it.

Today when Carly went to pick Logan up from nursery he had a red mark on his face and told her that "a boy hit him in the garden" and when Carly confronted the girl that was supposed to be looking after him she "didn't see anything happen" and she "was with him the whole time". So the invisible boy must have done it. I am absolutely furious about it at the moment, if circumstances were different we would home school him because I feel that the system just doesn't work.

I know boys will be boys but I don't expect my son to be hit on a regular basis when I am entrusting him in to the care of others. If the problem persists and the nursery doesn't resolve the issue I will be on the rampage BIG TIME.

I'll end this somewhat ranty post with a picture of my beautiful boy, who could punch a face like this? 


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Essex Seed Potato Day Reminder

A local event but it is not a bad reminder for those that need to get their seed potatoes in.

I went to the Seed Potato day a few of years ago and it is a great place to pick up potatoes, onions and organic fertiliser from your local community.

It is run by South East Essex Organic Gardeners, full details HERE

From memory last time I went I picked up some Blue Danube, Rocket and Rooster potatoes, unfortunately I never got to see how they did as I gave up the allotment plot that they were planted in before they were ready to harvest due to the birth of my son, but I do hope the next plot holder enjoyed them!

I'm not sure if I'll grow potatoes this year, space is at a bit of a premium for us but maybe I'll give growing them in a bin a go.

What are your potato plans for 2016?


Monday, 8 February 2016

And they said it couldn't be done...

I was wondering if it was possible to make butter from milk rather than cream. Everything I read online indicates that it must be cream and can't be done with milk, and that the only way is to get raw cows milk straight from the cow so to speak, skim the cream off the top and go through the process with the cream. Since I rarely listen to what I'm told I convinced myself that it would be possible to use the unhomogenised gold top to make butter, so when Fast-Momma picked a bottle up reduced it was fate that I'd get to experiment and see what would happen.

So I poured out a couple of amazing creamy cups of tea to give the milk space to shake about and began the process.

Shake Shake Shake Shake

it does take a little bit more time than double cream, granted, but after 15-20 minutes of shaking I started to see that familiar "scrambled egg" form in the bottle. sieve the solids out, press out the remaining buttermilk and sit in the fridge to set it if you prefer it hard, hey presto you have butter.

Admittedly you don't get very much butter from a small botle of gold top, but if you can pick it up cheap enough or you desperately need butter and can't make it to the shops, then gold top milk can get you out of a bind. The bonus of this is that the milk left behind is still perfectly acceptable for a cuppa or to make scrambled egg so there is absolutely no waste

So there you have it, milk in to butter. 

The person saying it can't be done should not interrupt the person doing it....

Friday, 5 February 2016

Five On Friday

I though that as it is my first ever Five on Friday I would do a 5 things about us post:

1) Who are we?
Rich and Carly, Little Logan and Baby Aurora:

2) Where are we? 
Sunny old Southend-on-Sea

3) What have we been up to this week?
We went to see Wicked at the theatre for Carly's Birthday

4) What are we looking forward to this month?
Picking up our very first flock of Quail! 

5) Why do we blog?
We bake, we make, we build, we brew, we sew, we grow and we love it. We also love reading posts by other people that do/love the same. This blog is our little corner of the interwebs where we get to express ourselves and keep in touch with some amazing people that we might otherwise have never known. 


Wicked Wednesday

Wednesday was Fast-Momma's birthday, and I had managed to convince her that I didn't have the day off and was going to work. I even got my work clothes out the night before and got up at 5.40am when my alarm went off!

But little did Fast-Momma know that Fast-Daddy had a surprise adventure in stall for her!

First up was Breakfast in bed to set the brithday girl up for a long day; Blueberry bagels, coconut yoghurt with granola, pineapple, strawberry, melon apple and kiwi

Then we had to get on the train from Essex to London, at this point I still haven't disclosed where we're actually going, 
On the train in to London!

And after a bit of a walk around in the city, we ended up outside La Scala, the italian restaurant that I had booked us for lunch :)

For Starters the Birthday girl had bruschetta With chopped vine Tomatoes, Basil and extra virgin Olive Oil and I chose the Beef Carpaccio with Rocket, Parmesan and Lemon Marmalade.

On to the mains, we both chose pizza and the portion sizes were absolutely humongous! 

My only disappointment came when I asked for a cider and was given a SODA!

After this we had another walk through the city of London and had to walk past the gates of Buckingham Palace to get to where we were going

Ornate Gates!

The Birthday girl outside Buckingham Palace

Guards at the palace
Then as we rounded a corner, a giant sign gave the game away about our final destination, London's Apollo Victoria Theatre:

Tickets courtesy of the wonderful mother in law

Wicked! It was an amazing performance, the cast was on point, the set was magical and we had an awesome evening, I'd even go to see it again it was so good.

Defying Gravity
 Then we made our way home on the train, had a chinese takeaway for dinner and drank home brew cider. A day of unusual indulgence for us, but its not every day that you turn 25 is it?


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Making Butter at Home

Making Butter is probably one to the simplest things you can do at home and yet so many people don't know how to do it. It doesn't require any special ingredients or equipment and doesn't take a great deal of time either.

All you need is some double cream and a container. I happened to stumble across some double cream that was reduced, which is better still.

Put your double cream in to a container....and shake it.

That's it.

That's all there is to it, you just shake it.

Depending on how energetic you are will affect the time, but within 10 minutes you ought to notice that you have a solid yellow lump (butter) and some white liquid (buttermilk), the butter will look something like scrambled egg to start with, that is completely normal.
drain off the buttermilk and keep it, and if you don't have a butter press then squeeze the last bit of butter milk out of the butter using a large wooden spoon or spatula.

And there you have it, delicious home made butter! 
Perfect on a bit of home baked bread.

Fast-Momma used up the buttermilk that was left over to make some amazing spelt pancakes topped with maple pecan and apple, yum!


Monday, 1 February 2016

Sourdough Saga and the Holy Grail Loaf

One of my aspirations for 2016 was to master baking,  specifically bread. With absolutely zero experience I probably should have started with something easy, or even learnt how to use our breadmaking machine, but being my usual stubborn self I decided that if I could nail baking with Sourdough then everything else would be easy. Since New Years Eve I have been baking a Sourdough Bread loaf each week

For my Sourdough starter I used the method from the Dick Strawbridge's "Bread" book (imminent post on this book)

My first attempt was using wholemeal flour, the resulting loaf was very heavy and dense and the crust was a bit overbaked making it all but bulletproof. Not good for anything other than toast really:

Wholemeal Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 1 - basically a bread flavoured rock
Wholemeal Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 1 - basically a bread flavoured rock
My Second attempt with wholemeal flour came out slightly better but I still didn't feel that it was a great loaf, just OK, and I'm not one to settle for OK:

Wholemeal Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 2
Wholemeal Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 2

My third attempt saw me ditch the wholemeal flour in favour of Strong White flour, although my starter still had some wholemeal in it, the third loaf was quite frankly the best bread I have ever tasted in my life, the holy grail of sourdough bread, if I ever manage to replicate it I'd be very surprised! The texture and flavour were nothing short of perfect

 Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 3 the Holy Grail Loaf
Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 3 the Holy Grail Loaf

Needless to say the Holy Grail loaf didn't last very long so I found myself trying to make another, Loaf number 4 was a nice loaf, but just wasn't quite as good as the HG loaf, I think it may have been slightly under baked as I was trying to get the crust "just right" and knocked 5 mins off the time I had been using, next time I know better!

Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 4, good but not perfect

Sourdough Bread Loaf no. 4, good but not perfect
Sourdough bread is a bit involved as it requires a little prior planning and really needs to be started 24 hours before you want it, assuming you already have a sourdough starter. If not it can take anything from 1 week to several weeks to establish a decent sourdough starter, which is probably what puts most people off baking it. What I like about it is that if I want to bake a loaf I don't have to go down to the shops to get yeast as the starter harnesses the natural yeast found in the air so all I need is flour and water to bake the most amazing bread, with a amazing complex flavour unique to my kitchen, the white air packed as bread in the supermarkets just cannot compete with the texture, let alone the flavour! Now that I feel I've got the hang of sourdough I'm planning to try out some different types of bread, I absolutely love baking now, particularly kneading which I find quite therapeutic.

The advantage of all this baking is that I've been able to have some fantastic home made bread for breakfast, I can definitely recommend Sourdough toast and goats cheese, drizzled with honey :)



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