Quiche can be a beautiful thing

There has been a certain mystique in my mind around making quiche and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps because it seemed a little complicated or possibly because I believed my mother who always said it was easier to buy one than make it from scratch.

The finished quiche
The finished quiche

Now that I’ve successfully completed my first attempt I think it’s safe to say that buying one is definitely easier, possibly cheaper and certainly less messy! Despite all that it was great fun and fairly quick to make, especially when using ready-made pastry from that nice Mr Sainsbury.

This was loosely based on a recipe for Quiche Lorraine from the Hairy Bikers pie book but the only changes were to increase some quantities as I thought I needed more than they suggested. As usual I was wrong and the recipe was right so I have some mixture left in the fridge will have to be the basis of a new experiment tomorrow.

The results for my quiche can be seen in the photographs – although the spare pastry was used to make some extra mini quiches and they didn’t last long enough to get their picture taken!

Very impressive looking and extremely tasty. I had planned to keep this for lunch tomorrow but I had to be sure it was properly cooked and tasted okay first…


Only a small test slice gone
Only a small test slice gone

Tasty leeks leave me wanting more

After finally giving up on the forlorn hope that there might be some further growth, I started to dig up the remaining leeks from the last raised veg bed at the weekend. As can be seen below, I brought in about 6 leeks of varying sizes but they were hardly the most impressive haul especially after cleaning them up a bit!

Less than impressive leeks but still very edible

However, despite the fact they were not particularly impressive to look at, they were extremely tasty for the evening meal when added to the home-made pasta sauce along with some ham and mushrooms. Perhaps the flavour was enhanced by the amount of time taken to grow them?

Overall I think the leeks were worthwhile but given that I grew them seed first planted around the end of February it’s taken quite some time to get anything from them. As I have read elsewhere, in future there needs to be careful planning when allocating space for these because they are in the ground for some time. As I noted in an earlier blog post, even by August they weren’t particularly impressive and some were starting to flower but maybe I was expecting too much especially given the weather this year!

My approach this year involved interspersing the leeks with carrots in a single raised bed and this made good use of the space. However  I will need to plan the timing for planting out a little better in future to get more out of the space and more organised succession sowing may give better results with the carrots in particular.

There are only about 8 small leeks left now and if I’m totally honest most of those bear a closer resemblance to spring onions than leeks but I’ll still make sure I enjoy them once I think of a recipe to use them in!



What happened to November?

I’m not sure how it has happened but after a quick check of the calendar I found that it’s been around 6 weeks since the last blog update. I know that in general not much is growing at this time of year and so there wouldn’t be much progress to report but even by my (generally low) standards this is a bit poor!

I think it must be time to address that deficiency with a general update…


It’s nice to note that almost  everything that has died down in the garden has not done so as a result of my amateur efforts!

After a promising start the runner beans faded out but I like to think that was mostly a consequence of  the very wet weather we had about that time. The leeks which had looked so promising have just not lived up to my optimistic expectations. There is no danger of them winning any competitions but they are still perfectly edible of course (except where the chickens have had a go at them)

On the whole the potatoes, carrots and garlic were fairly successful but the broccoli seedlings I was given ended up mostly being chicken food – at least they seemed to enjoy it!

Perhaps the main disappointment has been the onions which were grown using  sets I ordered from Marshalls. Although they did grow a little the final results don’t look anything like I had expected. I’ve not grown onions before so perhaps I was being unrealistic and maybe next time I’ll try growing them from seed but  use another supplier like Thompson & Morgan instead.


Chickens still happy after 6 months
Chickens still happy after 6 months

The 3 chickens have scarified the furthest section of lawn to within an inch of it’s life but that was only to be expected. One benefit of the recent heavy rain has been that we needed to move the chicken run to the other end of the lawn which has had the effect of limiting any further damage in the original location.

We don’t know what to expect through the winter months but so far we are still getting fairly regular egg laying from them. An occasional 2 egg day is slightly more frequent now perhaps but we careful not to apportion any blame so I won’t name and shame the offender.

The most noticeable difference for me is that I only see the chickens at weekends now – from Monday to Thursday I head off to work in the dark and get back home in the dark. It’s only briefly on a Friday when I can leave work a little earlier and obviously over the weekend that I get to see them in daylight.

Smallholding property hunt

There have been a couple of occasions when we have experienced the minor disappointment of finding what looked to be a suitable property but because we haven’t sold yet we have been unable to take things further. On the bright side though, there have also been a couple of properties which had offers accepted but which have now come back on the market so there’s always hope.

There is a general feeling that the Tyne Valley or North Pennines will probably be the eventual destination but nothing can be finalised until we get a buyer for our property (and have an offer accepted for somewhere too!). We’d like to think that we’re not too bothered at this stage but I’m sure that when the time comes we’ll be just as picky as anyone else would be.

Future plans

Any planning for life on the smallholding will necessarily be guided by the property we finally manage to buy but we are managing to devote some time to general ideas so that at least we feel like we’re making progress.

Having had back garden chickens for some time we will certainly increase the numbers over time and maybe even go for meat birds as well as layers. We got our existing 3  hybrids from Durham Hens and we’re very happy with them but there are many other places like Heydon Bridge Hens, Teviotdale Farm etc if we fancy trying something different.

As far as the other likely livestock we will try, I think that one of early contenders would have to be pigs  – probably Tamworths to start with as I’ve already been for a very entertaining day at Yearle Tamworths near Wooler.  There are generally some weaners available  at most times of the year so we can hopefully plan things to suit our other workload.

I’m still not quite so certain about having cows or goats but in time it would be interesting to work with something for dairy produce. Personally I would favour goats but that’s mainly because I’ve always thought of cows as big scary beasts but also because I have occasionally had some goat meat from The Goat Company and its fantastic when done in a slow cooker.

Perhaps we may chose a few Shetland cattle then they wouldn’t seem so threatening as they are smaller and  they are still very hardy so I might feel a little differently.

There are also loose plans about providing some sort of holiday accommodation but this would depend on the options available on the property we eventually buy. Many  places we have seen have a barn or outbuildings which could be converted but I wouldn’t rule out the idea of a couple of Tents, Yurts or Tipis if there were no other options. I’m very impressed by the set up at Wild Northumbrian but haven’t yet had a chance to try them out – I think I’ll wait until spring now though!

Patience is a virtue

In the meantime we have to recognise that this is not the best financial climate (or time of year) to be selling property. We can only be patient, keep watching the property websites and handle an occasional viewing of our own property.

With so much to take on board and so many mistakes we are likely to make along the way, I’m more than happy to make the most of this time for planning and learning.

Do you have any top tips for novice smallholders that you can share?