Keeping Chickens

I think I’ve mentioned it before about me being retired, anyway one of my plans to keep me busy after a longish career in the military and law enforcement was an allotment, and on every self-respecting plot I believe chickens should play a part!  Not everyone’s cup of tea as they can get a bit smelly but since creating my own flock, I can’t imagine being without a few of the little cluckers!

We had our allotment a year before we toyed with the idea of chickens as we wanted to know if we could accommodate them and having not really kept birds before, we didn’t want to go in blind.  Whilst we were talking and musing the idea of keeping hens, a young lad took the tenancy of one of the plots at the site who knew his stuff as he had had a plot before and kept all manner of animals.  He stated keeping chickens wasn’t particularly a hard thing to do, however they do need attending to on a daily basis.  So, you cannot keep them if you’re planning on a fortnight away in Spain every year, unless you have someone to feed and water them.  Now, this wasn’t a problem as we did have a couple of people on other plots who would look after them if we went away for a few days, but seeing as my new chicken guru was planning on getting another flock at this site, we could help each other.

So, the seed was set and we quickly acquired 4 white Silkies, not a conventional breed for eggs as they only lay about 120 eggs a year, which isn’t great, but it was a start.  Within a couple of days, one died and we learnt our first lesson in chicken care, that lesson was a condition called ‘Eggbound’.  This is when, for whatever reason, the egg gets blocked on the chickens plumbing and is fatal if not treated.  We know the signs now, but back then we didn’t see it coming and the problem may have come from whoever sold us the hen.  I’ll touch on this later.  We got our heads around these little cheeky birds and as we were warned, “you’ll become addicted”, we started to create our flock.  Our plan was to have a variety of breeds, nicer looking hens instead of your bog standard chicken used by mass producing farms for eggs.  We wanted different colours and temperaments, and after nearly two years now, we have definitely achieved the difference in characters.  Our ‘run’ has gradually growth from a small 3m x 2m wooden fenced off area to 2 huge runs using Heras fencing and 3 hen houses, housing 6 Silkies, 16 different varieties of hens and 2 cockerels.

I think from here, I’m best of explaining our chicken venture in headed paragraphs and the ways we have tackled our venture into chicken keeping:

Security

Like I’ve already stated, the surround of our chicken runs are fenced off by a metal lightweight creation called ‘HERAS’ fencing.  These are 3.5m sections of alloy fences used mainly by contractors and utility companies when making temporary enclosures, they’re usually held together by bolted clips and huge rubber feet that weight a ton, but we have pressed the end poles into the ground and used the blot clips to hold them together.  We had to by a purpose built doorway for one of the runs as we didn’t know better but we bastardised a door for the other run.  We have covered both rooves with mesh; this was a conscious decision with initially no reason.  After watching countless videos on YouTube, generally if there’s a fox problem in the area you fix some sort of roof to stop them climbing into the run and killing your flock.  But, even though we live semi-rural there isn’t a fox problem and the only aerial threat is maybe a possible Sparrowhawk fancying its chances with a small Silkie.  But then after being subjected to a few Avian flu scares having a roof stops any carries of the disease from getting into the flock.  Some of the old timers told us to dig mesh in around the perimeter fences about a foot down, this was also to stop foxes digging in or any chickens digging out.  I can quite honestly state that none of our birds have ever tried to dig their way out.  Time is probably better spent looking for any nooks and crannies they can squeeze out of in the fencing or at any joins in the structure, because if there’s a small chink in the armour, they’ll find it and break out and eat your veg. 

We lock our birds away with padlocks on both doors, this is to prevent rats, the two legged variety.  Our area is generally OK but there has been break in’s in other sites and birds have been stolen.  As for the four legged variety, you can’t stop them, I’ll explain later.

Varieties

Because we were going to treat our hens a bit like pets, we wanted to variate the breeds as so we would get a few different characters, colours etc.  There was the option of ‘adopting’ ex battery hens, which is a great thing to do, and if we were just using for eggs and meat we may have gone down that route.  However, we decided to spend money and mix a few breeds.  Of course, when researching we did look for the breeds that gave a good egg yield, this is because we planned to sell the eggs to pay for feed etc, but tried to get a diverse flock.  I can’t remember in which order we acquired our birds, but we managed to collect the following:

2 x Sussex

2 x Rhode Rocks

2 x Goldliners

3 x Haze

2 x Marran

3 x Vorwerk

6 x Silkie

2 x Black Tail

2 x Cockerels (1 x Vorwerk and 1 x marran/legbarr)

These are all housed in two big runs with plenty of space and nesting boxes. 

Feed

Like I stated before, we sell the eggs but not for any profit, the money goes on feed and bedding.  When we started the feed was quite cheap and we had enough money spare made in the summer months to make up for the shortage of eggs and money in the darker months, but the price of feed has now gone sky high.  The bloke at the feed store cannot explain why, Ukraine, fuel prices or whatever, I just know it’s nearly twice the price.

We feed them all the same feed, layers pellets, these are bran looking pellets that apparently have all they need for good laying and general wellbeing.  We have a drum of corn mix for winter to give them some extra calories to keep warm.  They also get veg from the allotment too, cabbage, turnips tops and their favourite sprout stalks.  This is straight from the ground and been nowhere near the house.  We NEVER EVER give them scraps from the kitchen because this is illegal apparently, so we don’t…… never…..ever!!  But speaking to some old timers, apparently chickens will eat absolutely anything, even chicken.  But we don’t do that, ever!!

Diseases and Health

We bought a book so we would be able to diagnose and treat diseases or pinpoint any illnesses the bird would get.  Now there are a mountain of lurgies they can get and this book told us what to do and what not to do to prevent absolutely everything, but to be honest, if you did all these preventive measures you wouldn’t have a life outside your run and would be stressed to bits.  The only problems we’ve had have been Egg-bound and White Lice, seriously that’s all in two years (I’ll have jinxed the flock now). 

Egg-bound is as far as I can see is very hard to prevent, it’s when an egg gets stuck up the chicken’s back passage and causes death eventually if not treated.  Apparently, obesity and bad diet is the main cause.  The symptoms are lethargic birds who appear drunk and disorientated, and off their food.  We’ve had one case and didn’t get to the bird in time so sadly it died.  Some of the other plot owners have noticed the condition in a hen and apparently Vaseline finger insert does the trick, like I’ve said, not had to carry this out yet!  I’ve thought about this condition and after reading a couple of books, it can happen if the birds stools are hard and prevent passage of the egg.  So, I know when I give our birds raw veg from the allotment their faeces are quite loose so it would appear this helps prevent egg-bound.  Don’t quote me on this as I’m not a vet, but all’s well so far!

White lice looks like white scales on the bird’s feet and legs.  We’ve had a few cases but an application of Vaseline or Swarfega to affected areas and it usually goes away in a week or so.  Apparently the petrol based lubricant prevents the lice breathing and they die and bob’s your uncle.

One of the things I would mention, if they get a whiff of blood from another hen, they’re relentless picking at scabs and affected area.  Story for you, one day we were at the allotment and noticed one of the Sussex had a fairly big injury to the back of its neck.  I mean there was a flap of skin about an inch square and it revealed the neck bone it was so deep.  We applied some Stockholm wax (which smells like burnt wood) and anti -peck spray and put her back into circulation.  However, because our cockerel is a randy bastard and a very rough lover, he kept pulling at any healing that may have occurred and we were basically peeing in to the wind with this course of treatment.  We tried to isolate her from the flock but overnight she managed to get back into the general population, God knows how as the ‘hospital section’ id cordoned off was like Alcatraz.  It appeared she was prepared to take the hit on her neck for some cockerel lovin!  For weeks we persevered but no luck, the injury was not healing.

To be honest they are funny little buggers, I mean, we’ve had 3 fatalities, one of our original Silkies was egg bound.  The second was a strange situation; we had a call from a friend stating they’d found a Vorwerk wandering the streets of a pit village the other side of the county.  We jumped into the van and went to pick it up.  It was a flighty thing but hard to tell how old it was, we got it back to the flock and left it to settle in.  It struggled initially like all hens do to fit in, but it settled down with only the cockerel giving it a hard time.  It ate, drank and seemed to be settled then one morning I noticed it wasn’t with the rest of the flock, on closer inspection I found it curled up in the sand tyre unfortunately had passed away.  We can only deduce it had frozen to death through the night.  You see we have deployed a trail cam (NORRIS) in the run to see what the birds get up to on an evening, we know they roost beneath the hen house on two perches, swapping places throughout the night to keep warm and keep watch.  It would appear the Vorwerk wasn’t in with the perching crowd and this particular night was below freezing, so it had nothing to swap heat with and so more than likely passed away in the night with the cold.  The other hen, no idea, it wasn’t egg bound or appeared ill.  Can only imagine it was something that was quick and none violent.  But, apparently 3 deaths in 2 years isn’t too bad so we’re doing something right. 

Rats

Listen, unless you have a lead lined massive run with a solid floor which is welded to the floor, you will never stop Rats!!  Their whole existence evolves around food and where they can get their next meal.  If you suspend the feed containers in the air so they can’t jump, the chickens can’t reach.  The rats will eat through anything plastic which contains the feed and any food left by your birds will be easy pickings for rats.  If you dig wire in the floor around the perimeter they will gnaw through it.  They climb absolutely anything and if you leave the smallest of holes in your run, they’ll find it and will tell their mates.  They breed like rabbits so if you see one, you can guarantee it’s got 10 siblings not far behind it.  To be honest, having an allotment and keeping chickens isn’t all eggs and Aubergines, pests need dealing with and the best way we have at our site is to give the little buggers a .22 lead injection.  You can catch them in humane traps but as soon as you release them, they find their way back, unless you drop them off in Bradford.  If you use kill traps, you risk catching and killing wild birds or God forbid, one of your own hens.

Weather

I’ve heard of chicken keepers heating their hen houses and other ways of trying to keep their birds warm.  I’ve done some reading and they have their own ways of keeping warm.  Like I’ve stated before they huddle up on their perches and pass on heat.  I’ve seen people making jumpers and clothing for their hens, absolutely stupid and animal cruelty.  Mine have been subjected to minus temperatures here in the NE and are fit and well.  If we know the temp is going to drop overnight we give them some extra corn mix to keep them warm. 

The heat, all I can suggest is shade and lots of water.  I think when it comes down to it, they prefer cold to heat.  Please do not put clothing on your birds, apart from it doing more harm than good, they also look stupid!

Bird Flu

Unless you have hundreds of hens I wouldn’t even think about it.  And in the words of an RSPCA officer who I recently spoke to, small amount of hens will never contract the disease.  In fact, this officer also disclosed it only really affects larger birds like geese and wildfowl, after mixing with infected birds in the wild.  And to go even one step further, I’ve seen farmers state that avian flu is a con made up to use as weapon to scare and put prices up, not my words!  I know my birds have displayed symptoms, sneezing, snotty etc and all I’ve done is stick some white wine vinegar in their daily water and bobs your uncle, cured!

Eggs

Of course different breeds give different amounts of eggs.  They even give a variety of colours and sizes.  Things that effect egg production is stress, weather, diet and probably a few other things I’ve not experienced yet.  Basically, they do what they want and when they want and unless they’re looking a bit under the weather, let them crack on.  I’ve found dull weather makes them sulky and they don’t lay or cold weather but sunny doesn’t really affect them.  Give them grit if they need it and protein (which should be in the layers pellets anyway).  A decent diet and a good run with at least 1m square each they will be fine.

Cockerels

We’ve got two, one Vorwerk who is a very handsome chap.  He’s got a calm temperament and is no bother at all.  The other is a Legbarr/Maran cross and he’s an absolute terror.  He likes to sneak up on you and dig his spurs in your calf.  Both birds look after their hens and stop them from squabbling and both like to keep their girls happy on the bedroom front…if you know what I mean?!  We have also given some some eggs from both runs to a friend who incubated them with a 100% success rate, creating a new flock for our friend of very nice looking birds, the Vorwerk/ Silkie crosses are particularly good looking birds.  The only problem is the noise they make, our council state they don’t encourage the keeping of cockerels but as long as they don’t cause a noise nuisance they’re OK.  Personally, I think they’re worth it even if just to keep the runs in order.

In summary, this is just from our experience and advice readers to do whatever works for them.  I’m not an expert and if anyone is starting fresh I’d advice consult experts!

Another Bimble Up Binsey!!

The first thing people probably think about when someone mentions ‘Binsey’ is the little hill in the north of the lakes, and to be fair, compared to the rest of the fells in the Lakes district, it is a small fella.  However, after climbing it a couple of times before the views from the top are quite impressive. 

We were on our annual trip to a well-known lodge site north of Bassenthwaite and we wanted to introduce our new Springer puppy to the fells without absolutely beasting her.  We had taken Alfie, our older ESS, up Hallin Fell when we had bought him years ago so we thought it fitting to take Charlie up there as her first wainwright too, we managed that on the first day and it took approx. 1 hour.  So on the third day we walked from the lodge door and headed towards Binsey.

Now, all the books say a puppy should only complete 5 minutes walk for every month of its life until adulthood.  I’m no expert as such, but if anyone has owned an ESS, or any working spaniel for that matter, you will know that half an hour walk for a 6 month old ESS will be as effective as a fart in a hurricane.  I think these experts who write these books are generalising and mostly referring to either little handbag dogs or very big dogs who have to watch weight stress on their bones. 

So, back to Binsey, the lodge site we were staying is literally across the A591 so we on the morning we had picked to have a look up we throw some cold weather kit on at the lodge and set off out of the site.  We crossed the road and through a gate up a farm track.  The weather gods had graced us with a decent frost the night before and the sun was shining that morning.  In fact the sky was crystal clear which is a treat lakeside, plus this was a week day and the fell appeared to be ‘people free’.  The farm track was a straight approach to the base of the fell stretching east to west, passing through a couple of gates until the ground starts to accent. 

The las time we tried this route, the ground was so frozen and icy it was virtually impossible to walk up the well-trodden path so we abandoned the walk and set up camp in the lodge site bar.  But this time the frost had covered the grass and heather but the ground was softish and was ‘grippable’. 

The accent wasn’t tasking and we were at the top in no time at all.  Both the dogs taking the route in their stride and it’s a joy watching both ESS’s working the heather, running up and down the ghyll and generally running constantly until we reached the top.  I have pondered the idea of fitting a pedometer to Alfie in the past but I can guarantee I’d be replacing it every outing as the amount of scurrying about the dogs do I would lose any attachment down the nearest rabbit hole or off the top of some crag somewhere.  I can imagine my dogs will probably complete 5 times more millage than me and the missus, virtually unbreakable. 

The route up was rewarded with one of the best views in the area.  Like I said, the day was clear and the rest of the Lakeland hills, and thus provides a good spot to look out at the Northern and North Western Fells of the Lake District, as well as the coastal plain and, across the Solway FirthScotlandSnaefell on the Isle of Man.  

Some kind souls over the years have built and maintained circular wind breakers out of the tons of stones laying at the summit.  But today it was redundant with only a breath of chilly air greeting us at the top.  We noticed on the way up that a cloud inversion had formed over Bassenthwaite, stretching down towards Keswick and had created quite a spectacle.  So the phones were out at the top and photo opportunities were plenty.  Both dogs were enjoying the sheep free summit which is quite a flat plateau covered in heather.  We were also surprised to see 3 or 4 Christmas trees complete with baubles stood proudly in the heather.  Fell walkers have a canny sense of humour sometimes!

Someone who lost her sense of humour whilst taking pics of the afore mentioned tree was the missus, the temperature was dropping and making handling mobile phones hard, Mrs. Hiker dropped her phone which did land safely on its back on the frosty grass, however the frosty grass was on a slight incline and as Charlie the ESS puppy saw Mrs. H bend down to retrieve the phone, she kicked it down the slope and with its smooth back it set off on its 10 metre journey before coming to rest in some heather, luckily just before a steeper way down which may not have ended well.

Phones retrieved safely and gloves back on hands we set off back down as the clouds were starting to collect in the north and snow was forecast.  We descended the same way we came up for haste and it turned out to be a good call as  when we stepped off the fell through the first gate into the approach field the first flakes of snow hit us and the once cloud free summit was now shrouded in a thick grey hat. 

I do hate to preach as we’re all grown-ups but being able to read the weather before it happens is essential in the hills, we read the weather well that day and both safe and well.  I know Binsey is tiny compared to the likes of Skiddaw and Blencathra, but calling out MR isn’t on my ‘to do’ list on any fell we visit.

We had a few hours out with some very good pics taken.  Charlie’s second Lakeland fell and she took it in her stride.   Small fell with great views!!

Langoustine and Tomato Tagliatelle!

The allotment is knocking out some great produce at the moment, especially tomatoes. So I thought I’d try a Marcus Wareing recipe. Langoustine from our local fish monger, well I say local, 7ish miles away, can you believe we live on the east coast of Durham and there’s one fish monger of I know. Anyway I digress, tomatoes, shallots, basil, chili and garlic from our allotment. Tell ya what, it was bluming gorgeous!

Chop a good handful of cherry (sized) tomatoes in half.

Chop up a couple cloves of garlic.

Chop a chilli into small pieces, leave in seeds if you want a bit of heat.

Chop a shallot up into small bits.

Finely slice 2 Basil leaves.

Ok, drop a couple of nests of Tagliatelle into boiling water. Fry the garlic and shallots in a frying pan with a splash olive oil. After a couple of minutes put in the tomatoes for a few minutes while you cook your Langoustines separately. Add the cooked Langoustine, then the basil and chilli. When Tagliatelle is al-dente, drain off water and add to the sauce. Mix in the pasta and serve.

Homegrown Roasted Tomato Soup

It’s started – the polytunnel is producing fruit. As usual, we planted too many tomato plants. We got Shirley’s, Beef, Money Makers, the purple cherry etc. However, Mrs Hiker isn’t a big lover of them so we have a couple of months of lots of tomatoes. So, I have come up with a basic recipe for a soup. Here goes:

Ingredients:

A good handful of assorted tomatoes.

A glug of olive oil

Sea salt, ground pepper, mixed dried herbs

A vegetable stock pot

You’ll probably see I’ve thrown a green pepper and a courgette in for good measure too

All I do is get a roasting pan and pour some olive oil on the bottom. Chop the tomatoes etc in half and space out evenly. Season with the salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Whack in the oven for half hour on 180°c. Boil 500ml of water and make the stock. Once fruit is roasted blitz with the stock. Jobs a good ‘un!

Serve with rosemary focaccia which I’m sure I’ve blogged before!

Homegrown Cabbage Soup

One of our first harvests has been cabbage this year at our allotment. But, due to their size pulling one means we have to come up with a good few recipes to make the most of the whole head. Some of the outer leaves get thrown in the chicken cree and they enjoy them enormously.  As well as using a good few leaves for our Sunday Dinner I searched for a decent cabbage soup online.  Ingredients:

2 small onions
Garlic
2 chicken stock pots
Large cabbage (not white)
Tin chopped tomatoes
Tsp cinnamon
2 Tsp ground cummin
2 tsp ground corridor
Tsp tomato puree
Salt and pepper

Sweat down onion and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil while you chop the cabbage. Add cabbage to reduce for 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes, puree and spices along with the 2 stock pots in a litre of water and summer for 20-30 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

I reckon this would be spot on for all cabbages apart from white cabbage.  Hope you enjoy  it, and…apparently its good for you digestion!👍

Home Smoked Mackerel

I’ve got a mate, well I’ve got a few, who like to go fishing, in particular sea fishing and he text me other day asking if I wanted a few Mackerel as he’d had a good session out on the pier and had a few spare.  Snapped his hand off and he brought 3 decent sized fish over much to the dismay of Mrs Hiker who does not like fish, apart from fish and chips but she always complains about the smell…even when they don’t smell!

 

I put them straight in the freezer before Mrs. Hiker came home from work so she couldn’t complain.  She found them a few days later but couldn’t complain as they were frozen and smell free. 

A few days went passed and what I was looking for was a day of good weather, this was because I was wanting to smoke at least one of the fish and my smoker is at the allotment.  Now, I have usually looked at weather Apps in the past when I wanted to know the weather…obviously.  In fact, I might do a weather App blog one day as I do use them quite a bit.  

Anyway I digress, I checked the weather App that’s been pretty much spot on over the Virus period and decided the day after I would get a bit of fair weather.  So I had to cure the fish before I smoked it, now I use a very basic cure recipe and have done for some time.  Basically, I use half salt and half brown sugar and just a few turns of cracked black pepper into the mix.  I put the cure mix into a click lock plastic box and with the fish and give it a good shake, making sure the fish has a good covering.  Pop the lot into the fridge overnight to draw the moisture out.

 

Back to the cure mixture, like I said I’ve used this mix for a few years and not had any problems.  I have an old war buddy who lives in Japan who owns a curing and smoking business and I ran the mix passed him and he said it’s basically the same as his mix, apart from he uses some expensive sugar which smells like treacle, but apart from that, basic is best.

 

Next morning I retrieve the box from the fridge and open.  The mixture should have set firm with the moisture from the fish and the fish should be a little more rigid than when you put it in.  Wash the fish thoroughly to get all the salty mix off as much as you can.  Wrap the fish up in a bit of tin foil and Bob’s your uncle.   

Like I said, my smoker is at the allotment so I packed up the fish and some Jack Daniel’s smoking chips that I was just about to use the last of.  I’ve had a bag for some time and were still kicking out some great smoke.  I took, what I call my Bushcraft bag, and me and the dog walked to the allotment.   

My smoker is a very basic contraption.  I think I bought it from Aldi years ago, it’s one that is also a pizza oven and BBQ.  It’s bent to buggery with over use and from having roaring fires in it in the winter, but with a bit of brute force the doors can still be closed to keep in the smoke.  I set a small fire away in the smoker to get a good pile of embers going for me to sprinkle my smoking chips on.  I also threw a couple of apple wood split logs on for extra flavour.  I did a few odd jobs about the plot until the wood burns to nice silver and red embers then I sprinkled the rest of the bag of chips onto the smouldering pile.  I placed the fish onto the upper tray in the smoker and closed the chimney and the doors at the front of the smoker.  Almost immediately I could smell the chips smouldering away and hopefully smoke getting into the knucks and crannies of the Mackerel.   

After about ten minutes I struggled to open the vent on the smoker, I told you it’s bent to bits, and I could see the fish turning a lovely brown tint.  I left it a few more minutes and then open all the vents.  Oh the smell, the smell!!! The plot was full of a mixture of smoked mackerel and the apple wood, shame I couldn’t capture for smell a-vision!    

I carefully picked the fish of the rack and placed it into some fresh tinfoil.  By this time the dog was going crackers with the smell, he was almost humping me trying to get at the fish. 

I did a couple more jobs just so the rest of the embers were out and I didn’t miss one and burn the site down, the rest of the plot holders wouldn’t appreciate me cooking all their veggies in one go! 

Back at home I striped the fish away from the bone and skin, which was easy as it was nicely hot smoked and the flakes of flesh were dropping off.  Now I didn’t weigh the fish at the start so couldn’t really say how much meat I got off but it was a good old mug full.  I put the fish into my food processor and added about ¾ of a pot of Crème Fraiche and a squeeze of lemon and blitzed it, purposely leaving some flakes of meat visible for texture.  No seasoning need as the curing process does slightly season the fish.   

I pinched a half pound jar out of Mrs. Hiker’s preserve store and scooped it in.  To give you an idea of how much it makes, it covered 6 slices of bread spread thickly.  I cannot tell you how long it lasts for as I’ve usually eaten it all within the week…easily!    

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Scarpa Boot Cleaning!

After an odd couple of years which you may have noticed I’ve not managed to blog as much as I should, not just Covid but other personal issues, health etc I’m doing a quick blog just to try and get back into the swing of things.   

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about walking kit, or gear as some like to call it, so I thought a nice simple but none the less essential bit of advice of how I do things, doesn’t mean to say it’s the right way but after over 3 decades I’ve picked up a few things along the way. 

Boots! Or more accurately, our (me and the missus have the same boot make/model) Scarpa Terra GTX boots.  In previous blogs I’ve explained that I’m not a kit guru, I find a bit of walking kit and if it work’s I stick with it.  For crying out loud my base layer, a bog-standard Lowe Alpine short sleeve I‘ve had since 1995 and still use it when out and about.  I used to use Karrimor KSB boot for most of the 90’s but when the old boots gave up the ghost, I found the replacement update didn’t suit my feet, not because they’re a bad make, just didn’t suit me.  I tried a pair of Meindl’s which were a nice boot, but again didn’t suit my feet so after a few miles tried a pair of Scarpa’s after the missus had chosen a pair when I got the Meindl’s.   

I know exactly what I like about them, the leather is soft but durable.  They’re light and fit around my feet perfectly.  They’re made from a really soft leather; I’ve heard it called Buck leather or something but it is still hard wearing.  The only thing is they do need to be taken care of to get the maximum wear from them.  So, with that in mind for anyone out there I would like to pass on how I take care of ‘our’ boots, I say ‘our’ as the missus doesn’t even know where I keep the cleaning kit.

 

The first thing I do takes place on the last walk we do before cleaning, I find a stream or long wet grass and clean any dirt off.  Get home and the day after, or ASAP, take the laces out and get them over the sink and using an old plastic bristled pan scrubber I clean off any excess dirt.  I DON’T scrub them within an inch of their lives, the bristles are just useful for getting in the knucks and crannies.  Then while the boots are still damp, I squirt a grape size blob of NikWax leather cleaner onto a soft bristled boot brush.  Massage the cleaner with the brush all over the boot, into the tongue area and the stitching.  I then let the cleaner dry on the boot before putting the laces back in.  At this point some of the cleaner will have collected in the lace loops which the plastic part of the lace will push out, I just rub the little chunk into the leather. 

It isn’t a kick in the arse off the instructions on the NikWax tube but it works well for us, and unless you spend your next route trapsing through cow fields and farm yards, that clean should last about 4 or 5 walks without having to clean again.   

I have walking buddies who never clean their boots and I just don’t get it, they are replacing the boots every 3 to 4 years and complain after a year when the water starts to seep in!? 

Guys I’m not sponsored by these manufacturer’s and don’t sell for them, it’s just my opinion! 

Bubble and Sqeak!

Like most families, we always cook far too much veg for Sunday dinner.

What I do is put all the veg we don’t use into a saucepan and mash it up with some salt and pepper. Then I use a square food press to portion up. Then just pop into the freezer and use as and when.

To heat up I fry in some oil to get a bit of colour and crisp the edges up a bit, then pop into oven on 200°c for about 15 minutes.