FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Giveaway! Dick Strawbridge - Breads

We somehow managed to pick up two of this book so one of our lucky readers can scoop a free copy!
Leave a comment with your favourite type of bread and on Friday 24/06/16 a name will be drawn from the hat to decide the winner :)

The book itself is well written and packed with recipes for making flavorsome sourdough, yeast, quick and unleavened loaves to enjoy on every occasion. There are plenty of photos and detailed step-by-step instructions so whether you are just starting out or a seasoned veteran you are sure to find something you like in this book. The method in this book is the one I used to make our Sourdough starter, from which we made The Holy Grail of sourdough loaves and it also contains some excellent recipes for making other artisan breads.

Coincidentally, we bumped in to Dick Strawbridge a while back in a local restaurant, we were introduced to him by the owner of the restaurant and ended up having a chat and a photo with him. He is a true gentleman, real nice guy and easy to get along with and I cannot recommend his books highly enough.

So again if you'd like to win a copy of the book leave a comment with your favourite type of bread and you will be in with a very good chance of winning the random draw on Friday :)

Good Luck

Monday, 20 June 2016

Best Laid Plans....

Don't worry about what could go wrong, instead start thinking about what could go right!

If you've been reading the blog for a while you may remember our 5 Year Plan, for me to quit my job and move to a simpler life, living off the land away from the rat race.

Well, we got the house valued to see where we stood and to start planning things out for the next 5 years. It turns out that we have had a stroke of luck, we bought our house for a reasonable price, have totally renovated it over the last year and the market has gone up so it has left us with a lot more equity in the house than what we had previously thought. We thought "Awesome! we'll definitely be able to make our dreams a reality by the end of the 5 years!"

Then it dawned on us, why wait? if we have more equity now than what we thought we would in 5 years then why not sell up now and give ourselves a 5 year head start? So that is exactly what we're doing, we are putting the house up for sale, going to view land in Spain and beginning what promises to be an epic adventure, we hope you stick around for the exciting times ahead!

Thursday, 16 June 2016


The sight of Foxglove can steal your heart, but this beauty could just as easily stop it....

Digitalis Purpurea, Commonly known as foxglove, is a beautiful killer. The scientific name means "finger-like" and refers to the ease with which a flower of Digitalis Purpurea can be fitted over a human fingertip. We grow it in a memorial planter for my grandmother because I have memories as a child of her pointing out foxglove to me over in the grounds the local cricket club, where we often used to walk. 

We also grow it because it is a fond favourite of the bees and it provides them with a bounty of nectar, but that is not all this plant is capable of. Due to the presence of the cardiac glycoside digitoxin, the leaves, flowers and seeds of this plant are all poisonous to humans and some animals and can be fatal if ingested. Symptoms of Digitalis poisoning include a low pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, and uncoordinated contractions of different parts of the heart, leading to cardiac arrest and finally death. 
It does have the potential to heal as much as harm though, the active compounds are extracted from digitalis and used medicinally to regulate the heart rate, at precisely the right dosage,Digitalis toxin can cause the heart to beat more strongly. However, digitoxin and digoxin are known to have steep dose-response curves, i.e., minuscule increases in the dosage of these drugs can make the difference between an ineffective dose and a fatal one.

Wise words of warning from our resident expert standing beside our Apricot Foxglove, demonstrating exactly how it gets his name by sticking his finger in the flower!

 Some people find it bizarre that I teach the children about poisons and seem to think it is strange! I can't think of anything more downright stupid than NOT telling the children about plants in our garden that could potentially harm them? Surely it would be folly to tell the children about all the things they CAN eat in the garden without warning them about the ones they CAN'T?

Love to hear your thoughts on this subject, there are so many potentially lethal plants in peoples gardens, it's worrying that most people don't know about them!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Cure for Hayfever: Part Two

Yesterday we shared the Guest Post : Cure for Hayfever written by the lovely Sue from The Holistic Hen and today I am pleased to be able to give you Part Two:

Organically raised quail, obtaining therapeutic grade eggs to treat allergy and illness

In the first part of this piece I traced the domestication and symbolism of the quail back to ancient history and also looked at my own first attempts to raise them organically. If you have just landed on this page and wish to go back to the start of the post then the link is here.


It is now well documented that it was in the 1960s, when a rather tentative but brave volte-face away from the chemical love affair of the World War era began. This happened amongst private individuals, at the 'coal-face', where therapy by quail eggs began to make great strides in what has become known as 'alternative' medicine. Dr J.C. Truffier, who in his article; Approche therapeutique de la maladie allergique par ingestion d'oeufs de caille, La Clinique, 1978, 22, 2-4, (link at the end of this post)  first gathered together a body of practical research, which had been carried out in the field by several individual French breeders of coturnix quail. One of them, Mr. R. Cordonnier, had progressively rid his wife of asthma, and chronic multiple allergies, including dust, feathers and  dog hair, furthermore after curing her he had then gone on successfully to treat one of his employees. Another breeder, a Mr.  R. Albert, had treated many of his friends also successfully for asthma and it was noted, despite the time-frame  and  degree of severity of the individual condition. Dr. Truffier continues in the article to document his own and subsequent peer research.

It was on the strength of these 'lay' results, witnessed in 1967 by Dr Truffier, that he commenced his own clinical trials of quail eggs, the following year. He chose a panel of clinicians and an initial group of 800 patients suffering from a variety of conditions. For what he refers to as 'moral reasons', these latter were chosen from those with no option for treatment on the conventional routes. The conditions included; hay fever, rhinitis, spasmodic or convulsive cough, allergic conjunctivitis, prurigo nodularis, eczema, psoriasis, peptic ulcers and scalp allergies (these were treated with 'quail egg shampoo'). Later into the trials a further selection of patients were treated to include conditions, which were treatable under allopathy, such as asthma, certain squelae or chronic complication of hepatitis, migraine due to allergy and malnutrition.


Charles Jobey frontispiece from La Chasse et la TableIn his book of  verse and prose 'La Chasse et la Table' published in Paris in 1864, Charles Jobey  wrote that the quail belonged to the highest aristocracy of the feathered world:-

 '...elle a les plus beaux quartiers de noblesse parmi les gallinacés. La caille a de droit ses entrées dans tous les hôtels du faubourg Saint-Germain; elle daigne honorer de sa présence ceux des Champs- Elysées ou de la Chaussée d'Antin.

However as Prosper Montagné, the French chef and author, born one year after this book was published,  pointed out in his own culinary work,  Larousse Gastronomique published  in 1930:

..and this is true in so far as the wild quail is concerned but applies much less in the case of the quail bred for food.' 

free-ranging organically raised quailAlthough the Ancient Egyptians had prized both the medicinal and culinary virtues of the quail and both eggs and meat had been included for centuries in the medical vademecum of the Japanese and Chinese, the birds they had written of, were wild. It was certainly the case by the 1960s that decades of industrial agriculture had completely changed the quail's diet, their levels of stress and  health. I was interested to note that Dr Truffier specifically mentioned in his article that the quail eggs he had used had come from a breeder whose quail were a mix of the wild and domesticated quail. In the 1960's these former could still be found in abundance in the Normandie countryside. In fact I'm happy to say our local organic dairy farm has them on its lands, even though my hunting neighbours swear they haven't seen them for decades and I'm keeping very quiet on the subject.


Many people prefer to take quail eggs raw and thus get the benefit of the maximum amount of active ingredient within the white of the egg, i.e. what in 1960 was identified as the human trypsin inhibitor (ovomucoid). From what I have read however, there is no huge loss, ovomucoid is not significantly denatured, if the egg is only soft boiled for a short time and also if the egg is not newly-laid. Other  ovoinhibitors and glycoproteins were identified in later studies but these too do not seem to be at risk from 'soft-boiling'. Andy didn't fancy eating raw egg, not because he thought it would be dangerous in any way but just because he didn't want to. In the end if the eggs had not worked for him as quickly as they did he would have consumed them raw.

organically raised quail eggs
In Dr Truffier's experiments, he used raw eggs and for his original patients, with conditions such as hay fever etc., followed a protocol similar to the one we used by default. This consists of; six eggs per day for nine days, a lay off of nine days, then nine days more and if necessary nine days lay off and six more days of eggs. For his later patients, those with asthma, etc., he started them gradually with four eggs a day for the first three days, five eggs for the following three and six eggs for the final three days. In our case Andy just took the eggs for a week or so in total as we only had a few of our own young quail laying and we just ate all the eggs available. Thus consuming approximately eight eggs per day. In effect this initial treatment of eggs was enough to rid Andy of his allergies. Our present quail have a natural cycle of laying a clutch of around eighteen to twenty eggs and then they stop. In recent years due I believe to a change in environment, i.e. a more permanently set up greenhouse area, they have begun also to make defined nests and go broody.

Organically raised quail egg salad
The eggs Dr Truffier gave to his patients were given on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, as a medicine, ours were eaten on an empty stomach but as our lunch. At that time, we were eating a small breakfast but for some years now we have changed to a full English breakfast eaten later in the day. If we were to do this now, then I would probably consider eating them first thing on waking as a preprandial snack.

Even though, I haven't been able to keep quail every year since 2000, due to the ravages of attacks from rats, from a nearby small broiler operation, now dismantled, Andy has never again suffered from hay fever nor eczema. The sceptics amongst you could imagine that the change of air to the seaside, the calm of rural France and our return to the land away from full-time and stressful employment, could have had something to do with his condition. We, however have always found that stress is something that tends to break out in the holidays and believed that we were actually doing something very stressful in coming here. We had both given up our careers and a steady  income, sold a property, moved house and from Andy's point of view were now living in a country where he couldn't speak more than  a few words of the language. To top it all, the garden and the farm lane outside the front door were both partly hedged with privet!


With ever increasing allergy problems and respiratory conditions caused by pollution and food products, quail eggs have finally made it to the biotech industry and there are already products on the market containing dried organic quail egg. The paucity of information on the internet from seemingly an honourable mention in Ancient Egypt and Greece and a rumour from somewhere around 12th century Japan, has been much amended and added to over the last decade. According to recent uploads, apparently since Dr Truffier's first experiments, a new discovery on the virtues both nutritive and curative of the quail egg has appeared every few years since 1968.

Illustration of game from Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management

I will make an analogy with the hare, beloved of the Victorians for a roast dinner but never successfully raised by them or since in caged captivity. Despite this defeat, the hare was certainly partially replicated in the 19th century in the form of the Belgian Hare, an amiable beautiful creature but still in reality, a rabbit. Mrs Beeton, the doyenne of English cookery and who wrote the ultimate and iconic Book of Household Management, at the age of 21 in 1859, has often been pilloried for her labour intensive food preparation. To this day, in an era of microwaves and ready-meals, people will quote the erroneous 'first catch your hare...' as an example of how foolish it all is. I would conversely suggest that this misquotation goes to the heart and true nature of good food and cookery and ultimately good health and medicine. Preparing and raising quality food isn't easy but it is a great deal more challenging and satisfying than opening a packet.

organically raised golden quail chicks hatching

In conclusion I would say the quail egg is a nutritional powerhouse even just judging by the chick which emerges but unless you are very, very lucky to find an organically raised one and furthermore if you want to do as we did and stop sneezing and/or scratching, then first, hatch your quail.

Bantam and quail chick
It you have enjoyed this blog and found it interesting then please think about subscribing, sharing it and/or commenting. Please also feel free to ask questions.

All the very best,

Cannot thank Sue enough for gifting us these amazing articles, Please be sure to head over to the Holistic Hen and follow her blog for some other great insights in organic poultry

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Cure for Hayfever?

Today I have a real treat for you, Sue from The Holistic Hen has very kindly agreed to doing a guest post for us!

Sue was born on a farm in the UK with 3,000+ hens and 300 turkeys and now lives in France with 30+ hens & cockerels plus pigeons and quail and really knows her stuff. Over to Sue:

Quail eggs, history, medicine and the pure pleasure of raising quail organically

We have a lot to be thankful for from our quail. It was the Spring of 2000 when we came to live here permanently in the wilds of coastal Western France and my greatest fear was that our then embryo forest garden, with its riot of flowering plants, trees and shrubs would make Summer unbearable for Andy. We already knew that privet (Ligustrum Ovalifolium) pollen was one of the key triggers for his hay fever and also the 'false' Acacia or Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). Ironically, this latter, the flowers of which would make his eyes swell up even when he was entrenched inside the house, is an anti-spasmodic and in particularly used for inflammation of the eye!

Organic quail egg sushi
Japanese Coturnix quail eggs now we eat them for pleasure...a simple snack....

Organic quail eggs for breakfast

....a hearty breakfast...

....a substantial lunch or supper dish

Organically raise quail egg salad


The first ever quail I came across were in school and in the play Anthony and Cleopatra, I remember writing an essay on Shakespeare's clues to the doomed nature of the romance using as one of my supporting quotations:
'........; and his quails ever
Beat mine, inhooped, at odds.'
Proving that like chickens, quail were taken out of the wild, in this case by the Romans, to fight rather than for the culinary and/or medicinal value of their eggs or meat. Similarly, I remember seeing the quail appearing as a letter of the alphabet, if we can all it such, in Egyptian hieroglyphics. It's my conceit that the quail chick symbol should warrant a more comprehensive explanation than that of just a mere letter, over which, despite the Rosetta stone, there still seems much to debate.

Isis in the tomb of Seti I Valley of the Kings
Here the character/symbol of the quail chick, above left of the winged figure of Isis, is used in a mural in the tomb of Seti I in the Valley of the Kings. Although in the rubric depicted here, the quail chick may have a purely linguistic use, it is interesting that the image is that of the Osiris ritual. Iris, her wings outstretched preparing to seek the scattered body of her dead husband and in one version of the story, restore him back to life. In many cultures, Hindu, Russian, Chinese.., the quail was seen as a harbinger of Spring and thus also associated with a  symbolic return to life or reincarnation. The Bible also has an account of the saviour of the Israelites by consuming a flock of quail but with a proviso as laid out below.

It is interesting that the ancient Greeks certainly knew of the quail's seemingly magical ability to cheat death and survive on foods toxic to humans. Now referred to as coturnism or rhabdomyolysis (a form of acute renal injury), this is a condition suffered by hunters who eat migrating quail, the flesh of which can be toxic. The reasons for this is complex and as yet unsolved, in particular because only two of the three main migratory quail routes have 'poisonous' quail. To further complicate things, one route has them in Spring and the other in Autumn! Some researchers believe that it is the quail's consumption of  poisonous seeds, plants or insects, which make them toxic, others believe it is down to flight stress and/or a combination of these factors. There is also the hypothesis that the patient's own genetic make-up is involved and in particular a mutation which inhibits the sufferer from ridding his system of the ingested poison, making the condition akin to favism. I will put a link to an article at the end of Part Two that explores this interesting avenue into the ways of 'poisonous birds'.

My husband after organic quail egg treatment for hayfever
Similar to the fantail dove, the quail was also associated with love and romance, with a caged quail being given as a love token, the symbol of an imprisoned soul. So it was with much love and effort on everyone's part that we set about to return the Spring and Summer to Andy from several decades of misery and sneezing.


It was in the very hot Summer of 1976 that Andy first started with hay fever and it was some time later that he started working with a mineral oil and developed eczema. Although we started out to deal with the former, the fact that we got rid of the latter too was an incredible bonus. It may seem to some that it was only in Victorian and Edwardian England and through the radio manifestations of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson that people used to refer to 'pea soupers', or industrial heavy yellow smog. However, even when Andy was walking to school in the mid 60s, he had to wear a scarf about his mouth and around his throat to stop himself from choking on the toxic fumes. This was in the Industrial Midlands, at that time still the UK's centre of heavy industry and manufacturing. My guess is a combination of pollution and pollen had triggered this condition and our mission was to get rid of it. I'd read about quail eggs in the university library back in the UK and had started to look into ancient Japanese and Chinese medicine. I had read that in the 12th Century a Japanese Emperor with advanced TB had been cured by eating quail and knew that if I wanted organic quail I would have to raise them myself.

A home-made organic quail tractor
There wasn't a great deal of information to be found at this stage but I just went on the premiss that the more you allowed the bird to feed naturally the better. In these early days and within the confines of a predator safe area, I tried to let them have as much freedom as possible. Above is the quail tractor we devised to move around the garden. I bought my first quail from a traditional French country market, which has local small producers but I later found it better to visit people in their own home and see how the birds were raised. I must say it was not a pleasant experience, people seemed to have no compunction to fit the greatest amount of quail into the smallest possible cage. The only quail I ever found outside were in a small shed, on a concrete pad with one side open to the elements and covered with small gauge chicken wire. In the worst possible cases I came across, quail were crated in industrial wire cages stacked up on top of each other with artificial light and with the birds in such poor shape, their backs clawed by males and pecked by distressed and stressed-out females. At one home I found quail attacked and fatally injured within these cages, the owner obviously thought nothing of it. I actually felt so bad I bought some, hoping to get them back to health, needless to say they were too far gone. One thing that struck me was, that whatever the final outcome with regards to Andy's cure, just being able to see our quail coming out with a hop, skip and a jump into the open air and/or seeing them demolish a lettuce was a joy in itself. Once we had the greenhouses constructed and the possibility to use my neighbour's meadow for free-ranging afternoons, things were even better.

Free-ranging organic quailWe must have succeeded in our quest to raise quail to lay therapeutic-grade eggs, maybe it was the food, the lack of stress or a combination of both. For it only took a couple of dozen eggs, eaten lightly boiled and Andy was hay fever and eczema free and has been so since 2000. To show how new and interesting this all was back then, we were actually featured in a Japanese alternative living magazine. At the time I was told and had read, that it wasn't even certain what element in the quail egg was responsible. This for the some 34 cures of specific diseases and conditions, my friend the Japanese journalist identified when she researched around the piece she wrote on our quail. I am now aware that this was not the case but rather that a comprehensive body of research had dropped under the radar.

Up Next in Part Two: Sue chronicles the fieldwork and  clinical trials of quail eggs in the 1960s, her own success with the treatment of eczema and hay fever, including how and how many and her changing quail set-up to breed the 'wild' back into her quail. 

Massive Thank You to Sue for gifting us this content, I think it is an amazing article and it has really got me thinking about how we will create our own organic pasture raised quail system when we move on to our land. I will post up the next installment soon

Monday, 13 June 2016

Permaculture Design Course

This weekend marked the completion of my Permaculture Design Course

Completion of the Full Permaculture Design course provides recognition as a Permaculture Design graduate, and enables me to go on to study for the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design. I fully Intend to pursue my Permaculture Diploma once we move on to our farm because it is something I am passionate about and want to teach others on our land.

As I have mentioned previously I was tutored on my PDC by Graham Burnett of Spiralseed. I would highly recommend booking a course through Spiralseed if you have an interest in Permaculture, I'm definitely going to continue with them when I do my Diploma.

In the mean time I will be studying as much as I can, researching and designing for our future project, as well as doing consultation work on projects for others.

Exciting times ahead!

Friday, 10 June 2016

FAST FIVE: Guest Appearances

This week for Fast Five I'll spend 5 minutes talking about some visitors we've had.

I don't often speak about the stuff that goes on in my life relating to the Motorcycle Club that I am the President of, but recently we've had some cool people visit us at the clubhouse so I thought I'd share some of the photos etc with you guys 'n' gals.

Some of you may remember that when we were at the Pagan Picnic we bumped in to the guys from the band Slim Pickings

Here's a couple of videos of them in action:

It's funny because we came across the band online a few weeks before that, we all LOVE their music and noticed that they were local to us, and at the time I told the lads I'd get them to come down the clubhouse (having no idea how I was going to actually fulfil this promise since I'd never met them).

But it was obviously meant to happen, when we bumped in to them at the Picnic I invited them to swing by our clubhouse for a party and we ended up arranging for them to do just that, here's  a few shots of us in full flow at the party last Saturday:

Drinking some mighty fine Dalwhinnie 15yr old whisky

We all had an absolute blast with the guys from Slim Pickings, you couldn't hope to meet nicer people.

As if that wasn't enough, we also had another outstanding guest do us the honour of visiting this week!

Only the World Champion! Kaye Crisp...The Baby Faced Assassin... at just 16 years old she is already Celtic, Southern, British, European and World Thai Boxing champion!

Kaye's father was a friend of a friend so I extended an invitation to them both to come and celebrate her recent victory at the clubhouse with us and we all ended up having a fantastic night, they are so down to earth and just fantastic people...

...Although Kaye is very fussy about her tea so was forced to whip our resident tea boy in to shape! 

And before she left she signed the bar:

And a quick look at Kaye in action at a training session:

Kaye will be fighting in her hometown of Southend on the 16th of July to try her hand at boxing with the boys, some of the guys from the club are hoping to go to show her some support

Hope you all have an amazing weekend


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Fast Foodie

We had been sitting on a ton of leeks we grew last year that needed using up and had run out of inspiration with what we were going to do with them. Luckily Kirsty at Rural Restorarion did a blog post that mentioned leek and potato soup that was perfect timing for us.

 Since a picture paints a thousands words, lets take a look at what we've been up to

Since Carly is a pretty amazing cook (in fact she's pretty and amazing in general) the soup was delicious. Not one to sit around doing nothing, she somehow managed to whip up some pasties ...

...and a Rhubarb crumble...

...AND a skull shaped red jelly. It didn't quite come out how it should have, but the kids didn't mind that he looked like he'd been in a fight!



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