Our philosophy is, make what you can, grow what you can, and control what goes into your food - be 'in touch with your food'; make 'food from Scratch', it's easier than you think and it's enjoyable.
Understanding your food will also help you to be a better cook.
We home cook as much as we can, my wife bakes and shares in all of our endeavours - we don't have a small holding - we are not retired, we both hold down very stressful full time jobs, but the satisfaction we get from creating produce helps with our stress levels.
In this website I hope to encourage you to start thinking about the food you eat, how it is produced, what makes it so tasty, why is it so good? Then take that extra step and think - could I do this myself?
Another reason for the website is, I hope to share the joy and wonder we experience by just doing more for ourselves and not relying on the supermarket for everything. All it needs is a little planning and commitment and who knows where it could lead – I sell a lot of produce to work colleagues and call it part of my retirement plan.
I am not a self-sufficiency 'Guru', but someone who recognises we could go a long way to do more for ourselves. You don't need kits or specialist equipment, though they can help, you don't need to be retired to do it, just be a 'Weekend Artisan'.
Throughout the website I will offer recipes for cooking food, cheeses, curing bacon, Sausages, home baking but also information on how to grow food and tips on keeping Hens and Bees, making Wine and Beer and suggestions on lifestyle changes that can make a difference.
What you need is planning – you don't always need a lot of equipment – you just need to be organised and know what you are doing.
For example, our weekends, dependant on factors such as weather and commitments, consist of me going to the allotment in the morning, then I might pop over to see my Bees, on the way back – if we need to make cheese or sausages, I will call into the shops and purchase any raw materials I need. Meanwhile, Jan, my wife, will have gone shopping for our usual weekly shop and would then be looking to clean out the chicken koop. The afternoon can then be spent making cheese or sausage, we also spend time prepping vegetables for the freezer etc. baking and/or cooking our evening meal and so on.
Sunday can be similar dependant on what needs to be done and on what input the cheese or Saturday produce needs, if any. Thanks to freezing and maturing times, the production line does not need to take over your life; we still manage to have a social life and by 5 or 6 o'clock, if we are not going out anywhere we can settle down to a relaxing evening watching TV or reading.
I hear you saying "you don't have children", that's true, ours have grown up, but having children just means you have to be more flexible, or not as ambitious, or buy more freezers and do bulk production, you could even include the children in doing the work.
It's just a small step to do this journey, you know those times when you sit thinking nothing on the TV, what can I do? Well make some cheese, or sausages, etc. or Ice lollies/Ice-cream with the kids, it's just a way of thinking.
Timings – this is allied to planning, different things need different timings, and this is why you have to plan.
For example, Cheese takes anything from one hour to three hours to make, then, dependant on if it's soft or hard cheese you are making, a couple of days standing draining or in a press, the cheese can then be set aside to mature with very little input until you wrap to sell or you wrap to store in your fridge prior to eating. Imagine the feeling of pride we get when we have guests and bring out a cheese board with five or six different cheeses (sometimes more) and they are all delicious homemade examples of famous cheeses. See the cheese page.
Fruit and Vegetables have seasons (obviously) so timing is quite important for these. As your experience grows, you will be able to sow seeds, set plants and harvest at the appropriate times, then store your produce appropriately to help support you throughout the year. See the growing page
Sausages can be made at any time and take about two to three hours, but once frozen into packs of appropriately numbered links, you will then have enough sausages to last you for a month or two. Therefore, one afternoon invested in making sausages per month is quite sufficient. Bacon is similar, it just takes planning – check out the home curing page.
Ice-cream, the time spent making this, is dependent on the system you use and therefore can be variable. We have a well-know household brand name food mixer which has different attachments, therefore both our sausages and ice-cream are made using this machine along with using it for our normal mixing for baking etc. Hence, once the fruit comes from the garden and is prepared – twenty minutes and we have a tub of ice-cream, or fruit from the freezer makes almost instant Ice Cream.
The Chickens are ten minutes a day – you let them out on a morning, feed and water them, collect the eggs and put them to bed on an evening; at least a couple of times a week we let them out into our back garden to explore and forage for an hour or two, especially when we are cleaning out the Koop. Cleaning the Koop takes up to an hour and of course the droppings are good for the compost bin. I have to say, the Chucks are my wife's domain and as far as she is concerned – a "Chicken is for life, not just for Christmas", we don't eat our chucks, but there is nothing to stop you from doing so. They can become quite tame though and this would make it difficult to kill them.
Keeping Bees can be quite demanding, but again, most of the work is seasonal; Spring is swarming time so trying to avert loosing swarms is fun, then, throughout the year you have to take off Honey from the hives, spin, filter and jar the Honey, but more of that later; it does however needs to be recognised, it is an on-going demand and may not be for everyone. I would suggest you find a beekeeper and go along to his hives first before investing in bee keeping equipment, not everyone can work with a full hive of bees. The making of Wines and Beers can be managed in the same way as cheese you can make your drink in a half day, then, leave it to mature.
By now, I hope you are starting to see how this works and recognising that with organisation, you too could do more. If this is so, then all the better; it may be that the things I do you don't want to do, or you may recognise that you would not want to commit your time in the same way we do, that's also fine. You may already have hobbies such as fishing or hunting which bring in food and this book may just make you think about them in a different way; that's also good. You may even want to go further and develop into animal husbandry or small holding, in which case there are some excellent books out there to support you in achieving your goals. Whatever you decide to do, be it smoking food, making or curing food or growing food, do something for yourself and or your family even if it's just making Butter, I promise you will enjoy it and we will try to help you do that.