Growing Chickpeas in the UK & Ireland

Growing Chickpeas

It might come as a surprise to know that #chickpeas can be grown in #Ireland or #UK. When we planted them we had no idea, if they would grow, what they would look like. We purchased a packet of organic chickpeas to make some homemade #hummus. We had some left over and soaked them in water for an hour and then planted them out into a seed tray with compost in late February and then some more in early March. They all germinated and we then planted them out, some in the greenhouse and the rest in the polytunnel. They were planted in very fertile soil, kept moist but not over watered and are growing in moderate temperatures.  They are thriving in the glasshouse were temperatures seldom exceed 15ºC.  Unlike other peas and beans they don’t climb and cling, so you will need to stake them and loosely tie them to the stakes. 

They produced a small white flower several weeks ago and have are now podding. It’s another food we can grow and another step closer to the dream of being self sufficient. Part of the fun of #growing your own food, is in the joy of knowing it’s by your own hands, knowing that it is #organic, been produced locally and doesn’t have to travel hundreds sometimes thousands of miles to be on your table. It’s also exciting to grow new and exotic things, and tend to a living plant, nurture it to maturity and take pleasure in the joy of eating it.

 

Chickpea Plants

Chickpea Plants

Chickpea Flowers

Chickpea Flowers

Chickpea Pods

Chickpea Pods

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Poultry & other Animals Feeds – We are what we eat

We keep a small clutch of hens, just over half a dozen, for eggs.  They are a variety of breeds, from Bard Rock, Marley, Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red and rescued battery hens.  I think their breed is a hybrid Rhode Island Red X.  They are old breeds and pets more than anything.  It’s lovely to see and hear them forage in the garden.  We keep them in a small enclosure, with nest box and roost ark, with open mesh caged space that can be wheeled around on new grass everyday.  When it was sold to us we were told it could house 10 hens, we had 6 at the time and we felt that they still didn’t have enough space, so we doubled the outdoor caged area.  Their food is given to them in a suspended feeder, and we tacked a small tray onto the inside of the mesh to feed them crushed egg shells to help them with their calcium intake.
For drinking water we have two 1 litre bottles hung up inside the run, with poultry drinkers (chicken nipples), we laugh at that, but that’s what they are.  These ingenious little devices allow the hens to get a clean drink of water, that isn’t contaminated by their often dirty beaks, and the pecking on the nipple, helps reduce the instance of them pecking each other.  These can happen if they are confined in a tiny space, unlike our run which is spacious and has difference areas.  It makes it convenient to add apple cider vinegar or silver water to help maintain their good health.  We were so impressed by them, we imported a limited stock to sell on, we also make a Silver Water Generator.  Silver is a great natural antibiotic.
We let them out to roam the garden whenever possible, when avian flu bans are not in place. 🙁
I can’t tell you the shock and horror we felt when we discovered that the layers pellets we got recently contained 20% GMO and two additives to turn the yolks yellow. We had also been feeding them wheat, but it wasn’t labelled, so we had no idea if it was GMO or not. It has forced us to take action and source guaranteed organic feed. Delighted to find a good fit, a family run, organic grower and supplier in Kilkenny #RobinsGlen https://robinsglen.ie of organic poultry and other animal feeds.
Robin's Glen - Organic Produce
With expansion of understanding in terms of health, the negative effects of GMO and chemical additives and their contribution to leaky guy syndrome, food intolerances and allergies, inflammatory conditions, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type II Diabetes, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Diverticulitis and general fatigue and Depression etc.  Non organic feeds may contain Glyphosate a herbicide routinely sprayed on some food crops.  Currently in Ireland, growers don’t have to declare what chemicals have been used, when growing.  So if in doubt leave it out of the trolleys.  We are what we eat.

We have been giving the new feed, these past few days and the hens are delighted with it.  We chose the most popular product, their Whole Organic Poultry Mix.  It contains mixed grains, peas.

Poultry-mix-whole-with-rolled-Pea-300x300

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Elderflower Fizz (Non-Alcoholic)

Elderflower fizz (Non-alcoholic)
elderflower, or white flower from the elder tree
 
Elderflower fizz has a subtle floral essence, is sweet tasting refreshing effervescent drink with a tang of lemon. It is simple to make and is ready to drink in a few weeks. The recipe can easily be adapted to make a champagne with the same ingredients with the addition of one ingredient champagne yeast. We will post this separately.
 
*** For the recipe to work, it is critical that the flowers be gathered on a dry sunny day, as these conditions are necessary to preserve the wild yeast that is present on the flowers. ***
 
1 gallon (4.5 litres) water
Rind of 1 lemon & juice
1.5 lbs (700g) raw organic sugar
2 tbsps (30ml) white wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar can be used)
12 head of elderflowers
 
1. Bring the water to the boil. Pour into a sterilised container, add sugar, stirring until dissolved.
 
2. When cool, add the juice and rind of the lemon, vinegar and elderflowers. Cover with several layers of muslin clothe and leave for 24 hours.
 
3. Pour through a sporage bag or muslin clothe into strong glass bottles. Stir out of direct sunlight, at room temperate for two weeks.
 
Don’t be tempted to check for gas formation as this tends to spoil the end result.
Small amounts of alcohol may be present in a soft drink, but the alcohol content must be less than 0.5% of the total volume. if the drink is to be considered non-alcoholic. This will be slightly alcoholic and by definition a non-alcoholic soft drink. Consider this most soft drinks are slightly alcoholic including coca-cola and pepsi, because of fermentation of the sugars.  Effervescent usually means it has dissolved gas or a reaction chemically within the drink forms gas.  As few soft drinks today are fermented, most are artificially gassed through carbonation.  In the fermentation process sugar is digested by yeast and a one of the by products of this process is carbon dioxide.  Few manufactures want their products to continue fermenting, as this would affect its shelf life, risk the product exploding and exceed mandated alcohol content. When you are depending on natural yeast, it can be hit and miss.  You might not get any, get a large amount, or very active yeast and this can affect results.  If stored will continue to ferment and generate more alcohol and gas, therefore it should be consumed after it has sat for two weeks.  If you don’t there is a risk of the bottle exploding.
Thanks to Dave Clarke for this explanation and his experience.
“No need to add yeast you have natural yeasts in the flowers and the sugar feeds the yeast to produce alcohol and the by product is carbon dioxide bubbles (fizz). The citric acid in the lemon juice and the acetic acid in the vinegar helps the fermentation along ad stop nasty bacteria from spoiling the product. The longer the natural fermentation lasts the more pressure you will get in the bottles along with a higher alcohol content and it is advised to release the pressure every couple of days to minimise the chance of them exploding. I make mine in a pressure barrel. If you don’t want alcohol in it you need to reduce the sugar by at least half and drink it within the fortnight suggested in the text to produce it or alternatively store it in a fridge, as the cold will stop the fermentation.”
 
 
 
 
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The Joys of Footing Turf

The hedgerows are awash with colour and fragrance. At this time of year the flowering of the elder is a pleasant reminder of the time ahead to be spent working on the bog. The turf has been cut and now it just needs a couple of weeks to dry out, ready to be footed (stacked in piles) to lift it off the ground to help it dry. It’s become an annual event that is eagerly anticipated. Working on the bog is a meditation to us. Whilst there, you can forget about the troubles in your life and in the world and be in the moment. The other people who share the bog are friendly and helpful, offering each other assistance in footing, bagging and getting the turf home. People bring food and drink with them and sometimes gather together, sharing food and stories, enjoying the fine weather.  People of all ages come to the bog and from many different professions and walks of life.  It’s nice to see families coming together, sharing labour and time spent working as a unit.
 
Burning turf is a very economical way to heat your home. Costing around 1Euro per yard. The average row being 80 yards. 3 – 6 rows are usually sufficient to supply most homes.
 
Bog owners, form the turf using two main methods, which both result in several strings of long continuous sausages being laid on the ground.
 
One method uses a hopper, which is filled by digging down several feet into the bog using a digger, where the turf mould as it called is darkest and when dried burns best. The hopper is filled and then pulled along by a tractor with a device that forms the sausages and lays them out on top of the cleared bog. The other method is almost identical except, the process is continuous, the tractor pulls a machine behind, which puts a probe down into the bog, which is depth set and this probe feeds the dark turf mould to a former which lays the turf sausages out on the ground.
Rows of turf, drying, ready to be footed.
 
Turf is essentially dead and decaying plant matter, that is compressed, dried out and burnt as fuel. It forms continuously when new plant matter, grows and old plant matter dies. An average bog can grow a depth of around 2″ every year. So it could be fair to say that turf is a renewable resource.
 
Traditionally there were two different types of turf used in homes. Black and then brown turf. Black was used for cooking and heating as it generated good heat, whereas brown turf, was used traditionally in some parts to keep a fire smouldering throughout the day, when little heat was required and no cooking was being done.
 
Some bog owners will offer both types but most only cut of form black turf.
 
Once footed the turf takes up to 6 weeks to dry out sufficiently before it is ready to be taken home. Like any fuel, it needs to be sheltered from the elements, to help it dry further. Turf that is left for up to a year in dry storage, burns very well.
Footings or stoops of turf, drying before being taken home
Finding a bog owner who cuts and sells rows isn’t difficult.  Many advertise at agricultural fairs and events, and in local publications or talk to someone in your locality who burns and uses turf.
 
The smell is unique and not unpleasant. In fact for me it brings back happy memories of holidaying in Rossnowlagh, County Donegal.
 
Growing up in a County where not many bogs are suitable for turf cutting, the tradition was alien to me. There is not much skill required as the modern machinery does away with cutting the turf by hand. If you physically able to stack the turf in small stacks and carry bags or wheel a wheel barrow then you are capable.  Boots or wellington’s are a must and wellingtons are preferable to boots as the acidic soil in the bog tends to cause the glue and stitching to come undone.  Something to kneel on such as a bag with clothe inside is useful.  Rubberised gloves, such as those used in construction.  A suitable hat/cap to protect you from the sun and clothing for all weather types, c’mon folks it is Ireland, remember.  And don’t forget the packed lunch.
Sadly the tradition of turf cutting is under threat, if you would like to learn more. Visit the TCCA
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How to make lilac wine

Lilac Flowers

I have always loved the smell of lilac, especially of a Summer’s evening, when the temperature has cooled and there is a bit of humidity in the air, the fragrance is uplifting.

This is again a first for us, if the wine captures the essence of the fragrance, it should make a lovely wine.

Pot of lilac flowers

  • Ingredients:
  • 3.5 quarts/3.5 kilograms lilac flowers, fresh
  • 2.5 lb/1.5kg raw organic sugar
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • 1.2 US gallons/4.5 litres water
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient & yeast
  • Sterilising agent: peracetic acid, Milton, or silver colloidal water
    A small amount of distilled water to fill the airlock.Equipment:
    Any bucket size above 5 litre, in food grade plastic
    Siphon
    Stirring rod
    4.5 litre/1 gallon demijohn
    Air lock & Bung
    Travel/Luggage scale
    Nylon straining (sporage) bag or muslin cloth

Bring the water to the boil.  Switch off the heat.  Add the lilac flowers to a fermenting bucket and add the hot water.  Leave the sealed bucket to stew for 2 days.  Sterlise a demijohn, airlock bubbler and bung.  Rince out the demijohn and equipment well to remove the sterilising agent.  Add the sugar, yeast and citric acid to the demijohn.  Strain the flowers through a muslin clothe and funnel in the demijohn and top the level up with water if needed to the level shown in the picture below.

 

 

Add a airlock value and keep beside a fire or in a warm place for 3 – 6 months, depending on your preference for sweet or dry wine.

Label your carboy with the name of the wine and date it was made.  Fit a temperature sticker to the carboy.  Within 24 hours, the yeast should start converting the sugar into alcohol and in the process produce gas.  The airlock is to allow gas to escape and no contaminants to enter the sterile solution, as the airlock is filled with distilled water.  Remember to put a cap on the top of the airlock bubbler, this prevents airborne bacteria or yeast floating down into the bubbler.  The yeast kills all other micro-organism to maintain a sterile environment.

The colour was not what we expected.  It reminds me of rosehip syrup.

 

How to Make Parsnip Wine

Parsnip wine we have been told is one of the nicest wines the homebrewer can make.  Again we are relying on the following book for the recipe.

Front cover book 130 new winemaking recipes

We had plenty of good sized parsnips left over.  We left them in the ground to keep them fresh until we were ready to use them.  Despite our best efforts, and I mean parsnip for dinner many, many evening in a row, we still had loads over.  The raised bed they were in needed to be cleared for this years growing, in any case.Peeled and chopped parsnip

The parsnip was washed to remove any dirt before peeling and chopping.  Chop the parsnip into small pieces like shown in the picture.  A travel scale is a handy tool for measuring the weight of large quantities of fruit/flowers/roots/leaves and can picked up in most discount shops for around €3/£2.  Add your parsnip to a large saucepan or pot, with 11 litres of water and bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 40 minutes.  Check the parsnip regularly as you do not want the parsnip to go to mush, boil them to tender.  Remove from the heat.  Allow to cool for several hours until tepid or it is safe to pour.  Strain through a muslin clothe/sporage bag.  Add the strained juice to another 11 litres of cold water already in a fermenting bucket.  Add the sugar and stir.  Pour into a pot and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes.

Boiling the parsnip

You may need to split the liquid between two pots as we had to do.  Cool to about 22°C/72°F, or add yeast and nutrient, pectin enzyme (this helps to clarify the wine) and then pour back into a sterilised fermenting bucket, cover with a muslin clothe or lid and keep beside a fire for at least a week.

Parsnip wine in fermenting bucket

 

Racking parsnip wine from bucket into carboy

Racking parsnip wine into carboy

After the week, rack (siphon from one container to another, leaving the sediment at the bottom) it into a carboy and add a airlock value and keep beside a fire or in a warm place for 3 – 12 months, depending on your preference for sweet or dry wine.

 

 

 

 

Label your carboy with the name of the wine and date it was made.  Fit a temperature sticker to the carboy.  Within a couple of minutes to 24 hours, the yeast should start converting the sugar into alcohol and in the process produce gas.  The airlock is to allow gas to escape and no contaminants to enter the sterile solution.  The yeast kills all other micro-organism to maintain a sterile environment.

 

Rack (siphon) off into a sterilised brewing bucket after 6 weeks to help clear sediment and clarify the wine.  Pour back into the washed carboy and then again after three months, repeat the process of racking off, before bottling.

Our tip: Once you are happy with the finished taste, specific gravity, alcohol content.  Then add a 1/2 beaker of silver colloidal water to the brew to stop/slow down fermentation.  Stir in and bottle as normal.

Ingredients:
7kgs/15lbs Parsnip
5kgs/11lbs Raw Organic Sugar
4 tbsp Citric Acid
1 & 1/2  tsp Yeast & Nutrient
Pectinol/Pektolase (Pectin Enzyme) – Consult manufacturers recommendations
1/2 cup of silver water
Sterilising agent: peracetic acid, Milton, or silver colloidal water
A small amount of distilled water to fill the airlock.

Equipment:
27 litre/7.5 Gallon (UK) Brewing bucket
Siphon
Stirring rod
27 litre/6 Gallon Carboy
Air lock & Bung
Travel/Luggage scale
Nylon straining (sporage) bag or muslin cloth

All brewing equipment and the winemaking book are available from Mullingar Homebrew – mullingarhomebrew.ie (Coming Soon) – Until the website is launched you can contact Brendan: +353 (0) 86 8127 305

Fitted Airlock

Airlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not levelAirlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not level in the airlock.

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

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Making Rhubarb Wine

Making wine is simple, it requires very little equipment to get going and you can make delicious home grown or foraged wines.

Front cover book 130 new winemaking recipes

There is a glut of rhubarb in the garden at present and every year we wonder what to do with it.  There are only so many rhubarb tarts you can eat!  So last year we tried the rhubarb wine and it was very pleasant.  Problem solved.

Sunday 15th May 2016 was a fantastic day to gather the rhubarb and sit outside chopping it up.  10 kilos is required for a final volume of around 23 litres

bucket of chopped rhubarbChop the rhubarb into small pieces like shown in the picture.  A travel scale is a handy tool for measuring the weight of fruit and can picked up in most discount shops for around €3/£2. The rhubarb is washed to remove any dirt before chopping.  The water is filled to 22 litres of cold well water.

bucket filled to 21 litres

Then lid it and keep indoors for the next three day.  Twice daily, stir the rhubarb to help infuse the juices of the rhubarb.  After three days.

The rhubarb after 3 days

Strain off the rhubarb and pour the juice into a sterlised 23 litre carboy, adding 6kg of raw organic sugar, stir well add 1 & 1/2 teaspoon of yeast and nutrient and 4 teaspoons of citric acid.  Stir the sugar until dissolved.  Fill to the level indicated in the picture below, add additional water if required.

Straining the rhubarb juice into carboy

Next fit an airlock to the carboy and place beside a heat source, such as a range, open fire, for the next three months, so the brew can ferment at at average of 22°C/72°F, avoid allowing the wine to go below 22°C/72°F or above 27°C/80°F . Label your carboy with the name of the wine and date it was made.  Fit a temperature sticker to the carboy.  Within a couple of minutes to 24 hours, the yeast should start converting the sugar into alcohol and in the process produce gas.  The airlock is to allow gas to escape and no contaminants to enter the sterile solution.  The yeast kills all other micro-organism to maintain a sterile environment.  Remember to place the cap on the airlock, as shown in the picture below, in this case it is red.

Carboy with rhubarb juice, sugar, yeast and citric acid added. Now fitted with airlock

Rack (siphon) off into a sterilised brewing bucket after 6 weeks to help clear sediment and clarify the wine.  Pour back into the washed carboy and then again after three months, repeat the process of racking off, before bottling.

Our tip: Once you are happy with the finished taste, specific gravity, alcohol content.  Then add a 1/2 beaker of silver colloidal water to the brew to stop/slow down fermentation.  Stir in and bottle as normal.

Ingredients:
10kgs/22lbs Rhubarb
6kgs/13lbs Raw Organic Sugar
4 tsp Citric Acid
1 & 1/2  tsp Yeast & Nutrient
1/2 cup of silver water
Sterilising agent: peracetic acid, Milton, or silver colloidal water
A small amount of distilled water to fill the airlock.

 

Equipment:
27 litre/7.5 Gallon (UK) Brewing bucket
Siphon
Stirring rod
27 litre/6 Gallon Carboy
Air lock & Bung
Travel/Luggage scale
Nylon straining bag or muslin cloth

All brewing equipment and the winemaking book are available from Mullingar Homebrew – mullingarhomebrew.ie (Coming Soon) – Until the website is launched you can contact Brendan: +353 (0) 86 8127 305

Fitted Airlock

Airlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not levelAirlock just fitted to carboy, notice that the water is not level in the airlock.

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

Airlock, water now level after a few minutes

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Blueberry, Lemon & Honey Milk Kefir Smoothie

Looking for a delicious & healthy desert. Try this one, it’s yummy.

Can be made as a smoothie, frozen ice-cream or frozen pops.

Blueberry, Lemon & Honey Milk Kefir Smoothie

Blueberry, Lemon & Honey Milk Kefir Smoothie

Recipe:

Take 250 mls of milk kefir, add 8 – 10 organic blueberries/bilberries or faughans and generous tablespoon of organic honey and the zest of an organic lemon.

Blend and serve as a smoothie.

Or alternatively freeze as iced lollies.

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Making Milk Kefir – Step by Step Guide (Pictures)

Milk kefir is a balanced pro-biotic unlike most probiotic products sold in supermarkets and health food stores, as it contains not only the beneficial bacteria, but also the yeast.  Not including the beneficial yeast in a probiotic is only half the solution, as it leaves a vacum in your intestinal eco-system for non-beneficial yeast to occupy and cause bad health.  The bacteria and yeast in kefir live symbiotically and produce nutrients to help sustain one another.

In milk kefir, the yeast and bacteria, feed off the lactose sugar contained within the milk, so by end of the fermentation process such of the lactose that can cause intolerances are digested.

Starting with a tablespoon of milk kefir.  Add the kefir grains to a clean sterile fermentation jar, about a 1/2 litre jar.  Top up with organic milk, or raw unpasteurised/non-homogenised milk preferably.

Milk kefir grains in a straining tub

We use organic milk as pictured below.

kefir grains in fermentation jar and carton organic milk

Once topped up with milk, leave on a kitchen counter top, out of direct sunlight to ferment.  Shake twice daily until fermented and the milk thickens and the kefir may float to the top.  When straining no metal must be used.  A solution we found, was to take an disused plastic pot and drill 3mm in the bottle to act like a sieve.  Using plastic is not a first preference, as plastic contains BPA, however it tends not to leech BPA so long as the plastic is not heated, so it’s grand to use in this case.

Strain off the milk yoghurt every 24 – 36 hours depending on how well it ferments and fill into a large fermentation pot, like above and leave out for a further 24 hours to fully ferment.

Or you can pot into small yoghurt ports like below.

small milk kefir yogurt pots

Then refrigerate, and it should keep for 2 – 4 weeks.  Return the strained kefir grains to the a freshly washed jar and top up with fresh milk to continue the process for again.  Sometimes we pour the yoghurt into a large pot for use when making the Oatmeal Porridge Bread as a substitute for natural yoghurt.

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Improving Fuel Efficiency: HHO Devices – Fact or Fiction?

Looking to cut fuel costs?  Read on

Car fuel gauge showing low fuel

What is HHO?
By running an electrical current through distilled water (dH2O), the hydrogen and water split, creating hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen is then carried to the carburettor and is combusted along with the normal air flow. An small amount of salt (electrolyte) in the form of Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) is added to the water to aid current flow as distilled water is a poor conductor of electricity.

Hydrogen isn’t that dangerous?
Not really, most of these devices monitor and control the current and prevent a run away reaction. Small amounts of hydrogen are produced, but sufficient enough to improve fuel economy.

What type of engines can these devices be fitted to?
They are suitable for both petrol and diesel engines and are most easily fitted to older cars. The most challenging aspect of using these devices especially on newer engines is tweaking the oxygen sensors to reduce the oxygen intake.

What kind of improvement in efficiency can be expected?
Users claim they have reduced their fuel consumption by up to 30%

Have you or someone you know fitted one of these devices?
Not yet, however a trusted friend has fitted several of these devices, to a stationary engine and generator, a number of pre 1990 jeeps and classic car.

He maintains he is getting close to the 30% improvement in fuel efficiency.

Why aren’t more people using these devices?
People perhaps have concerns when they hear the device produces hydrogen. Flashbacks to history classes with thoughts of the Zeppelin come to mind. The airship in the early 20th century that exploded in flames causing the death of many people.

There are also concerns about the admissibility of engines fitted with these devices for National Car Test/Ministry of Transport and Department of Transport vehicle tests. We can’t be certain, but we can see no reason why the device would affect emissions and in fact if anything it would reduce carbon emissions. This is a question best directed to the seller and/or your national or local car test centre or department or ministry.

Would you fit one of these devices yourself?
Yes we have plans to purchase one and fit it to a stationary engine we will connect to the off-grid electrical generator later in the year.

Are they expensive, these HHO devices?
No, they generally retail from upwards of 150E/100GBP.

Would you recommend any particular site to purchase them from?
No without having purchased and tested one, we couldn’t recommend any particular site.

However my friend purchased all of his from HHO Plus (a Portuguese company specialising in making and selling them) and was happy with the quality and service of the product and company.

Are they easy to fit?
They are relatively easy to fit to stationary and older type transport engines.  Best advice is to get the assistance of a good mechanic when fitting it.

Happy and cheaper motoring.