Posted by: hencorner | March 9, 2015

Do our children know all about the birds and the bees?

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’*
Stroking Madge cropped*Maimonides
What with our wonderful morning in The Holmewood School, a Teacher Training session with the Heathland Learning Trust, and a nursery class visiting last week we have had a great start to the year encouraging staff and students to explore a taste of country life and discover where their food comes from. The new National Curriculum for Primary Schools requires children to understand the life cycle of both birds and insects, and as we are able to bring engaging sessions on both chickens and bees we are finding more and more schools are interested in our support. We have therefore decided to formalise our schools programme and have introduced ourselves to all the local primary schools with a special offer for Easter.
‘Sara uses her extensive experience and immediate, engaging delivery to offer sessions that inspire and delight. Children see the new National Curriculum brought to life as they discover first hand where their food comes from, explore lifecycles, discover the secret lives of birds and insects, learn about habitats and much more.‘*
There are so many ways that we can support schools, be it for Science, Special Topics, working with children who have Special Needs or generally enriching the school day. We can plan a personal programme that complements the curriculum for each key stage.
‘Sara’s sparkling and memorable workshops will enrich your curriculum and open the minds of pupils and teachers alike.’*
*Chris Spruce, Executive Headteacher, Heathland Whitefriars Federation

FFF Skylar

Coming up at the Corner

If you’d like to visit us here in London, we have courses running right throughout the year.  Families, Feathers and Fun is the next session coming up with a Spring Discount of £15 off each place, kindly promoted by Country Living Magazine, and we are planning sausage making, family pizza, pasta courses and many more over coming months. Would you like to be amongst the first to bake in our new kitchen?

Other News:

  • We have made the most of some sunny days and have taken to the garden; the raised beds have compost, trees are pruned and the lawn is mowed
  • Our final course before the building works was a delight last weekend ending up with four families talking chickens over tea and cake
  • Lots of our new courses are open for bookings here

Jobs for this week:

  • Roll up my sleeves and get baking for the local Tangent Club afternoon tea
  • Pack up the old kitchen and set up a temporary one in the back room; microwave, kettle and toaster…
  • Jet wash the patio until it sparkles

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | February 26, 2015

Is your milk Fairtrade this Fortnight?

Milking cow‘Get off your horse and drink your milk.‘*
 *John Wayne
It must have been over ten years ago when we profiled Fairtrade Fortnight at our church with a breakfast feast of homemade breads to accompany the Fairtrade selection of jam, chocolate, coffee, tea, sugar, etc. It tasted good and we felt good.

Then a friend asked me if our milk was fair trade and my response was a confused ‘You can’t buy fair trade milk, can you?’ my friend encouraged me to look into it and this conversation was probably the spark that began the ethos that we now try to live by at Hen Corner.

Whilst it is a very good thing to be supporting farmers in developing countries as they try to earn a living wage and we benefit from food that we just can’t grow here, it’s really important to look into the issues that our own farmers face here in the UK as well. I’ve written about this before, but sadly, it’s being reported, again, that the supermarkets are demanding lower prices per litre and pushing many farmers out of business. Farmers Weekly expressed concerns last month that we could lose 1,000 British Dairy Farms in the next 12 months based on the current numbers of herds being sold at auction as farmers sadly throw the towel in. So why this problem? To explain it simply, most of us buy milk on a regular basis and supermarkets are determined to keep this staple purchase as low as possible enticing us into their stores to spend more of our hard-earned pennies on their other stock. Those of us are who are choosing to pay a little bit more for organic milk allow some farmers to care for their herds in the best possible way and the extra income often helps the business stay afloat.

Sugar SnapBritain is an island, we used to be able to produce food for ourselves from our own green land, OK it wasn’t great during the war and you had to be creative with your ration book, but if we continue to import food that we can produce here, simply to satisfy our love of strawberries at Christmas and asparagus for New Year, we become less self-sufficient and more reliant on other nations to feed our growing population. Remember the sugar snap peas from Kenya that perished in its areoplane due to the Icelandic Ash Cloud in 2010? If anything is easy to grow here in England, it’s peas and beans (see mine, left!) This great article by Rosie Boycott, written at the time, sums up similar concerns, but things don’t seem to be changing. A recent report revealed by the National Farmers Union states that, at current rates, just 53% of the nation’s food needs will be met by produce from UK farms in the next 25 years. This concerns me very much. Do we as consumers understand the risks for our future, it’s food provision and it’s financial independence? We have power in our pound, can put our money where our mouth is, and ensure that our children understand the decisions that we are making.

So how do we respond to this? Well for us as a family, we try to produce as much food as possible from home; this helps us understand and value the hard work that goes into farming, appreciate seasonal food and save up to £1,200 a year. Then we try to buy as much food as we can from British organic farmers, via Abel and Cole and choose Fairtrade products, where possible, when buying imported foods. To help you, our friends at Country Living Magazine have outlined the milk situation and are naming the supermarkets that cover the cost of milk production, let’s do what we can to reverse this trend.

Maybe it’s time to ask Andy, again, if we can have a milking goat here at Hen Corner?

FFF Skylar

Coming up at the Corner

If you’d like to visit us here in London, we have courses running right throughout the year.  Families, Feathers and Fun are the next sessions coming up, kindly promoted by Country Living Magazine, and we are planning sausage making, family pizza, pasta courses and many more over coming months. Would you like to be amongst the first to bake in our new kitchen?

Other News:

  • We took the family to Chatsworth during Half Term and loved the free range chickens in the farmyard – we’ve got our eye on a few new breeds to try hatching soon
  • Our weaker colony of bees seems to have grown stronger over recent weeks and I’ve made up 20 new frames for the Beehaus, ready for a spring cleaning ‘Shook Swarm’ next month
  • West London Mum published this lovely article about us in Local Spotlight

Jobs for this week:

  • Approach local schools offering to bring chickens into the classroom for Easter sessions
  • Dress the raised beds with compost for warmth and nutrition
  • Start chitting some potatoes, ready to plant next month

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | February 16, 2015

Take Two: Another Home Brew

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”*

*Benjamin FranklinIMG_2271

Yesterday afternoon as I sprayed our fruit trees with a winter wash, as natural insect control, I looked at the forlorn bare branches and wondered what this season would hold for them. We have apples, pears, peaches and plums, figs, grapes, almonds, berries and currants; all capable of producing fantastic harvests if the weather is for them and the pests, including the naughty squirrels, are kind.

Since we’ve been producing our own food, I have been so much more aware of the weather and can look back and explain the fortunes of our harvests by the sun, rain and wind that they were blessed with.

2013 was the late summer, it didn’t really start until July, and many apple farmers experienced a famine due to the cold wet spring that significantly reduced the pollination rates. Our harvest was quite good that year as the bees only had a few metres to fly to reach our heritage trees and risked the raindrops for the rewards of nectar and pollen.

2014 was the warmest year on record with our bees swarming in April as though it were June, we had loads of apples but unfortunately they ripened and fell whilst we were on holiday in August leaving us with none for Cider Sunday in September. You know, I do think they should bring National Apple Day forward from 21st October, especially in our warmer cities!

Fortunately, our annual event went ahead with friends and family bringing contributions that we could crush and press but as we had nothing to bring to the party we sent the fermenting juice home with those who had brought in apples by the crate. As usual, we were left with bags of pulp which were destined to make Apple and Chilli Jelly, but on this occasion we decided to try our hand to a recipe for Apple Wine that would use the leftovers from the first home-brew to create another. We filled our largest drum with the apple leftovers topping it up with water to draw out the final juices and flavours, then after a week we strained the liquor and added chopped raisins, lemon juice, sugar, yeast and a cup of tea (for the tannin). This was left to ferment under an airlock for several months; in fact we didn’t get round to bottling it until after Christmas. But the result? My goodness, this stuff is great! Comparable to a fine dessert wine, it is rich and sweet and complements both cheeses and all kinds of delectable treats, it was wonderful to drink some, with pudding, as we celebrated Andy’s birthday this weekend with lunch in the conservatory warmed by the early spring sunshine. Will we make it again? Oh yes, two home brews from one stash of apples – absolutely!

FFF Skylar

Coming up at the Corner

If you’d like to visit us here in London, we have courses running right throughout the year with three places left on Saturday 28th February for Families, Feathers and Fun. March then welcomes the builders to create a fantastic new kitchen that will facilitate a wide range of sessions exploring artisan cooking skills and we are back outside with the chickens in April, kindly promoted by Country Living Magazine.

Other News:

Jobs for this week:

  • Prepare the full schedule for our building works; our new food courses will be starting as soon as it’s finished
  • Plan some Half Term fun for our family, hopefully checking out some other kitchen gardens!
  • Make up some more brood frames for our honey bees so that we can change them next month as a part of a swarm and disease management programme

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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