Posted by: hencorner | May 25, 2016

Doing it for the kids…

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What a week we had! 300 children met our chickens on Monday, 22 pre-school children and their grown ups helped with the bee keeping on Tuesday and 60 children baked brilliant bread with me on Thursday!

Syon Schools DayWe were delighted to have been invited to the Syon Park Estate, belonging the Duke of Northumberland, to support an exciting Countryside Day for Schools organised by Countryside Learning. This was just one of many opportunities for schools to visit a country estate and for the children to learn about what is involved in the management of such an estate and to meet the people who work there.

School groups moved around activities, both inside the house and out in the grounds in classes of 30, the sessions varied from visits to the Confectioner’s Kitchen with jelly and ice cream demonstrations by a cook in period dress, through Game Keeping, Trout Fishing and Falconry. We were invited to bring a selection of our chickens and talk about the food produced on the estate over the last 600 years, beginning with the monastery orchard, the dairy herds of the 1600s, Capability Brown‘s Kitchen Garden (1750- 1800), 30+ Victorian glasshouses for home grown exotic fruits and the dairy herds, pigs and cereal crops managed by the land-girls during the war. Today the estate still has a mighty herd of beef cattle who were nodding in approval from across the field as I explained to the children the benefits of self sufficiency and local food through the years and it’s value and relevance today.

Every child had the opportunity to ‘Hug a Hen’ and our girls were very sociable, even after the 300th child!

If you would like to find out more about urban self sufficiency and cuddle a chicken, we have our next Family Feathers & Fun course in Half Term on Thursday 2nd June.

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Whilst we work with a variety of schools throughout the year, both in the classroom and here at Hen Corner, we always enjoy introducing younger children to our chickens, and this week they helped with bee keeping as well! Sara has spent 25 years working with children and young families through local community projects and chairing the advisory board of the LA Children’s Centres so watching young children fearlessly study a frame of live bees or bravely stroke a fluffy chicken is bringing together several of our passions as we facilitate learning through hands on experience.

This week a group of young families from a local nursery brought their children to Hen Corner for an afternoon of discovering where our food comes from. We looked at plants and trees, sowed herb seeds to take home, collected eggs and cuddled chickens and inspected the bees, which included spotting the queen and tasting our award winning honey. Our afternoon ended with cakes big and small and opportunities to buy honey, eggs and preserves.

If you have children who are fascinated by mini beasts and love the sweeter things in life, why not bring them to our special courses Bees for Children on Tuesday 30th August.

Fingers in the flourimg_4450Bread Library

Regular readers will be up to date with our baking journey and the new Micro Bakery. Over the last eight months, we’ve been proud to be baking organic real bread for our local community as part of the wider Real Bread Campaign. This last week was Real Bread Week and micro-bakers like ourselves were encouraged to take our skills into schools to train a new generation how to bake wonderful additive free bread by hand.

I approached our local primary school to offer a day of bread making and worked with the year 3 teachers to create a cross curriculum day that would include maths, literacy, science and their current topic of farming and where our food comes from. Every child and staff member made their own hand shape organic white boule which we baked in the school kitchen, all 66 loaves! They cooled on racks in the classroom ready to be packed up in paper bags to take home. See more pictures on the school website here.

‘Thank you so much for the bread making today.  It was amazing – I wish you could have seen pupils and parents leaving at the end of the day. Today will be a day that sticks with the children for many years.’ John Wright, Headteacher, St Paul’s CE Primary School

If you would like to help your children get their fingers in the flour, we have a fun, creative Half Term course next week, Pizza Together on Tuesday 31st May, which includes lunch and a glass of wine for the grown ups!

Coming up at the Corner…

As Summer approaches, we have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner.

We have a some exciting family courses over Half Term: Pizza Together (Tuesday 31st May) and Family, Feathers & Fun! (Thursday 2nd June).

Following that, we currently have spaces on Bread: Sweet & Savoury (8th June), Spoon Carving (11th June) and Scones and Jam (21st June).

Our new season of outdoor/animal courses are well under way with regular Full Day Bee Keeping and Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!

Other News:

  • Our Simply Sausages course was a great success with each guest creating two different flavours of sausage using local free range pork, next course Thursday 29th September
  • The bees are starting to store a nice stash of honey for us collecting nectar from a wide range of fantastic local forage
  • We had to say goodbye to one of our hens this week, she hatched from an egg that we won in a Twitter competition 5 years ago and sadly had an untreatable illness

Jobs for this week: 

 

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | May 11, 2016

Super, Super, Super…

Yesterday was a good day, OK it was sopping wet with so much rain that we had to postpone our Full Day Bee Keeping Course, but we had some super results in the garden and we’ve had super results in the kitchen this week as well.

When producing your own food, we become so reliant on the weather. For example, our pear trees gave the most fantastic display of blossom a few weeks ago, but as it was still quite cold then, I fear that the pollination rate may have been low. Our peaches, however, were pollinated nicely, but as it was still quite wet at the time, the tree has become infected with peach leaf curl. The chickens don’t seem to mind the weather, but the bees do…

If it’s too cold or wet, the bees are reluctant, rightly so, to leave the hive to forage for food, if it’s sunny and dry, they may go searching for pollen for the developing larvae (hatched from eggs but not metamorphosed into adult bees yet) but may not find nectar as the plants need the warmth to produce it. So if we’ve had a spell of nice weather, the queen is laying lots of eggs (up to 6,000 a day in summer) and the colony are preparing for growth and then it turns cold and wet, we could have a problem. First, the food could run out and the bees risk starvation, secondly, the colony starts to grow quickly with more mouths to feed and less food coming in. If the expanding colony starts to ‘grow out of’ the space in the hive, they may decide to split in two by rearing a new queen and encouraging the old queen to leave, with up to half of the adult bees, to find a new home of their own. This process is completely natural, yet when the leaving bees move out as a swarm it can seem quite scary to us humans. As bee keepers, if we inspect the hives, frame by frame during swarming season, we can try to anticipate what the bees are planning and can help them find a new home in a spare hive if need be, to prevent us losing them or distressing our neighbours. However, back to the weather, there are often times when we plan to inspect the bees and then decide not to open the hive due to cold or wet conditions. If the inspection gets delayed too long, we may miss crucial signs that indicate that they are planning to swarm and may end up trying to precariously collect thousands of precious food-producing insects from the highest point of a tree!

Yesterday was a prime example. I was planing a full inspection of both colonies as part of our Full Day Bee Keeping Course, yet decided to postpone the course due to the weather. I counted back the days to my last inspection and checked the forecast for optimum weather over the next couple of days. As it had been ten days since my last inspection and we’d had great weather over the weekend with reports of several swarms in the area, I was itchy to check inside. I waited for a break in the rain, spotted that they were flying happily and donned my bee suit. Good job too as one colony had completely filled up the brood box, the family home where brood is raised in a nest, and the queen had laid eggs on 9 of the 11 frames. There were no signs of them rearing a new queen to encourage a swarm, so I gave them extra space by putting a box of empty ‘super’ frames on top which they can use for storing honey. There is a wire grid on top of the brood box to exclude the queen from venturing up into the super box, this will keep the frames free from eggs and larvae and will be used simply for wonderful honey.

I’m thrilled to have supers on at this time of year, they weren’t needed until July last year, so if the weather cheers up, we should have a super honey harvest!

IMG_4274Super Stretchy…

We’ve been practising more recipes for our Cheese in a Day course and have had great fun making mozzarella. The technique is very different to those used for cheeses that drain in a cloth or are shaped in a mould. For mozzarella, you have to warm the curds in hot whey allowing them to reach melting point, then you stretch by hand several times until you get the desired consistency…

We have updated the planned recipes for our next course on Wednesday 29th June and will now be making:

  • Hand Stretched Mozzarella
  • Tangy Feta Cheese
  • Mould Ripened Camembert
  • Rosemary Water Biscuits (perfect with cheese!)
  • Honey & Whey Bread

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Super Spears…

One of our favourite crops that we grow here at Hen Corner is asparagus. Whilst it’s often the first vegetable ready to be collected from the garden we have to wait patiently knowing that they won’t peek their little heads out until at least April, but once the plants are awake for the new season, the super spears seem to grow before your very eyes and need harvesting almost every day. We cut our first crop on 23rd April and in just over two weeks have harvested nearly £35 worth of the regal beauties! We can keep collecting the asparagus until the end of June and then we leave it to fern allowing the plants several months to photosynthesise and renew their strength before winter comes around again.

I know what we’re having for tea tonight! Mmmm…

 

 

Coming up at the Corner…Now that Spring is firmly here, we have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner.

We have a some exciting family courses over Half Term: Pizza Together (Tuesday 31st May) and Family, Feathers & Fun! (Thursday 2nd June).

Following that, we currently have spaces on Spoon Carving (11th June), Cheese in a Day (29th June) and Bread: Sweet & Savoury (each month).

Our new season of outdoor/animal courses are well under way with regular Full Day Bee Keeping and Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!

 

Other News:

  • The chickens have laid us nearly £350 worth of eggs since January which we are delighted to sell through our Micro Bakery
  • We’ve enjoyed lovely visits from both local Girl Guides and Brownies
  • New stamps and labels have arrived for our new brand that will be launched soon with a shiny new website

Jobs for this week: 

  • Plant out the tomatoes so that they can reach for the sky
  • Help a new bee keeper with his first hive inspection
  • Teach 60 local children how to bake bread as part of Real Bread Week

 

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

Posted by: hencorner | April 20, 2016

One Spoon or Two?

Spatula & toolWe had been planning it since last August and finally the day came around for our first greenwood craft day at Hen Corner. It was great to work with guest tutor and good friend Thomas Bickerdike as he led the group through every aspect of spoon carving from tree to table…

It all began with my husband Andy asking for a course/experience in heritage crafts, woodland skills or green wood carving as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. I searched them out, found what looked like a good day out in the Cotswolds and promptly bought a gift voucher. One weekend, the following summer, Andy set off on a four hour trek to find the clearing in the woods where his day course was to be held. Full of enthusiasm, with a packed lunch to hand, he eyed up the tools, paid careful attention to the tutor and couldn’t wait to get his hands on the wood. When he eventually returned at the end of the day waving his freshly carved spoon, there was a sense of pride and achievement in what he had created along with a bit of backache from all the driving.

Rebecca with axeAndy had clearly loved the day albeit a shame that it was held so far away. Within a few weeks, we’d discovered that our bee keeping friend, Thomas, who is a joiner and cabinet maker by trade, had also been turning his hand to a bit of whittling and when he brought his creations over to show us, my first thought was ‘We can bring this to London!’.

We started planning and held our first Full Day Spoon Carving Course just a few weeks ago.

Only a small number of tickets were issued as this very hands on course needed lots of sharp equipment per person and careful supervision by the team.

After welcome refreshments of tea and buns, I told the Hen Corner story then handed over to Thomas for the health & safety briefing. Thomas took our guests through the range of tools that he had prepared in advance, starting with a hand axe to bring initial definition to the shape then several specific knives and blades to refine the detail of the spoon as it takes shape. Thomas had made a work station for each guest to use which allowed tools and wood to be positioned safely and comfortably at an ideal height for the axe work.

Axe on spatulaVery soon everyone was sculpting, watching the wood as it responded to the tools and slowly began to take shape. As the spoons became recognisable, the smaller hand tools came into their own with the curved blade of the crook knife scooping out wood from the centre of the spoon head to form a bowl.

We gathered around the table for a simple home made lunch then back to whittling in the sunshine. Fortunately, the free ranging hens kept a safe distance from the axes and delighted in foraging through all the fresh wood chips on the ground.

Ending with tea and cakes and a review of our time together, our guests went home with their hand carved spoon, a sense of pride and some new found friends.

We enjoyed it so much that we are planning another course on Saturday 11th June, more information and booking details can be found here.

Coming up at the Corner…Now that Spring is firmly here, we have regular courses, events, schools and corporate bookings here at Hen Corner.

We currently have spaces on Simply Sausages (12th May), Cheese in a Day (new date 29th June) and Bread: Sweet & Savoury (each month).

Our new season of outdoor/animal courses are well under way with regular Full Day Bee Keeping and Urban Hens – Keeping Chickens in London so if you’ve been thinking about trying something new, do get in quick!

 

Other News:

  • Our market stall at Brentford Market went well and we were delighted to see our friend and local blogger Chiswick Mum who featured us in this recent post
  • We’ve practised our new Cheese in a Day course to ensure that guests can make loads of recipes ready to take home on time
  • It was a delight to help with the teaching on the Ealing & District Bee Keepers Association beginners course recently, supporting a new brigade of bee keepers at the beginning of their journey

Jobs for this week: 

 

Have a good week yourself…Hen logo good

Join us on the Journey!

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