September always seems to be busy; back from holidays and into harvest time with honey to extract and cider to make, then all kinds of pickles and preserves to make as winter treats.
Our London Harvest…
As the weather has been so warm and mild this year, we lost most of our apples as they dropped and rotted whilst we were on holiday. Fortunately, friends and family brought bags and boxes with them to Cider Sunday ensuring we had enough for several gallons of cider and sufficient post-pressed apple pulp to try out a new wine recipe. The mild weather has been good for the bees and even after taking off 50lbs of honey, they are still filling up their super frames with nectar, probably from the late flowering ivy. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to eat this honey as it’s contaminated with a thymol treatment that we’re using to kill the varroa mites that seem to have thrived especially well this year. It’s a good feeling to have all the honey safely in jars and a 5 gallon demi-john of wine bubbling away.
As usual, September allows us to invite others to join in our preserving with our Pick and Pickle course; this year we were fully booked so we ran a second date the following week – over 100 jars of jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys were made and have been squirreled away for Christmas…
Thank you to Sunny Day Photography for some of these pictures.
This time last year we were feeding the unpressable apples to our pigs, not in our garden but in the vicarage garden down the road. We had bought a half-share in a beautiful Saddleback sow who was reared with her sister, by our friend Jono, from little weaners until the pair were six month porkers ready for sausages. It was a delight watching the girls slowly grow from cuddly piglets that you could hold in your arms to big large animals that enjoyed sunbathing in the sty and chomping down treats. Eating animals that we rear ourselves, be it cockerels that hatch at Hen Corner or pigs like these, is always a sobering reminder of where our meat comes from. It’s so easy to enjoy a restaurant meal or pick out a bargain from the butchers counter in the supermarket but, unless stated, it’s likely that the meat has come from intensively reared animals. Factory farming is the term currently used for manufacturing meat by growing as many animals as possible in the space available. Often this means overcrowding, survival of the fittest, squashed in sheds, deprived of fresh air and more than not fed routine antibiotics to reduce infections that would be so prevalent in these overcrowded conditions. When we eat our own animals, we can be sure that they’ve had the happiest, healthiest, lives and when we shop for meat, choosing organic and free range meat is better for us and better for the animals. I’ve recently signed the Pig Pledge which is looking to show the true costs of cheap meat from animal factories in order to inspire people to make better food choices that enable local, healthy and fair farming systems – for people, animals and the planet. Find out more here. If you are in London on Saturday 11th October, you can visit this year’s pigs and chickens at the vicarage as Jono and I are running sessions as part of the Ealing Community Fayre.
I’m not sure when it’s really acceptable to start talking about Christmas, but we all know that being prepared always makes for more enjoyable celebrations…
As I’ve said, we have already been busy making cider, wine, preserves and pickles ready for the festive season, but we’ve also got a couple of events coming up that we’d like to invite you to join in with:
Stir Up Sunday – This special course on 23rd November enables you to make your own Christmas Pudding whilst enjoying mulled wine, mince pies and some Christmas crafts.
Cinderella – ‘Oh yes, I am!’ This year I’m fulfilling a dream and am playing a part in a local pantomime on 13th & 14th December, tickets are available here and we’d love you to join us along with your family and friends (£5 adults, £3 concessions).
This year we have had courses right throughout 2014 giving everyone the opportunity for ‘A little bit of country life in London’. The next sessions coming up are Family Feathers and Fun! on 8th November and Stir Up Sunday on 23rd November.
Why not come and join us? We have also planned all of our courses for next year, so whether you want to try something new or treat someone to a wonderful gift, have a look and book in early!
Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2
By Pam Corbin
Written by the legendary Pam the Jam, this book opens up a whole world of opportunities for preserving home-grown, or foraged, produce and creating wonderful foodie gifts and treats.
This book is available with many of our other favourites books from the Hen Corner Shop!
- We took a couple of hens to the Cultivate London Open Day and had a stall selling preserves, eggs, cards and bunting
- A recent chicken keeping course was for the Unicorn Theatre who have borrowed a couple of hens from our friends at Omlet especially to star in a new children’s production ‘How Nigeria Became: A story, and a spear that didn’t work’
- Sunny Day Photography have visited a few times and have this wonderful Hen Corner gallery of pictures
Jobs for next week:
- Bake some cookies for the local Beavers groups that are visiting Hen Corner
- Practise my lines (and song!) for the pantomime
- Sort out my entries for the National Honey Show
Join us on the Journey!