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Today I welcome Janie to this space (make sure you stop over and get a free copy of her wonderful Egg Project book)!
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Hey everyone, I’m Janie from Hedgecombers.comI’m a food blogger & self sufficient wannabe that lives on 30 acres in south west England.
How long have you been backyard farming?
I grew up on my family’s smallholding and from a very young age was used to getting my hands dirty. If there was ever a pig to gut or a chicken to pluck I was always front of the queue to help!
I traveled overseas for a few years in my early 20’s and after a relationship break up, finally moved back to the farm in my early 30’s. I’m 40 next month (Eek!) and as I can’t have children - I get my maternal kick from my critters.
What got you started?
I swore off meat for 8 years as a teenager when I discovered how mass produced livestock was reared and treated. I remember being repulsed at the way large scale ‘farmers’ treated the entire journey of their animals, and wanted no part of it.
Moving back to the farm meant I could take full responsibility for the meat I ate, by rearing my own. My dad passed away in January of this year, so I have taken on his role of growing our veggies too.
What does your backyard farm look like?
The farmhouse I grew up in is just beautiful. The oldest part of it is 12th century and it is drenched in history. How I wish those walls could talk!
My parents converted the original stone farm buildings into rental cottages, and Jonny & I live in one of those. The buildings are surrounded by 30 acres of our own land, so it is quiet and private even though we live in a touristy area.
We have a really old orchard next to the farmhouse with cooking & cider apples and my parents planted another one around 25 years ago with sweet desert apples. They also dug a lake with an island which is where my ducks live. We have a large allotment area for us and another for the tenants and each cottage has a plot in a giant poly tunnel. We have a smaller (much tattier one!) for the family – if you ever need me, I’ll be in there!
Where is it?
We are on the south coast of Cornwall, so we get the warmest weather the UK can offer, although we do of course get a lot of rain! Our winters are mild, only occasionally do we get any snow and it (sadly) rarely settles.
What has been your biggest success and biggest mistake?
Biggest success, boy I’m not sure I’ve had one. OK, well I was an acupuncturist for 10 years and gave it up when my Dad first became ill. I had trouble dealing with other people’s problems and felt that I had lost my empathy. I also hated the 50 mile drive I was doing 3 or 4 times a week, so I closed the business down and took on a couple of jobs in local shops. I buckled down and cleared my debts (which I am hugely proud of!) and have since been working to turn my blog into a business.
Although I am as poor as a church mouse, I have the absolute BEST lifestyle in the world! My day is my own. I spend time with the animals, in the kitchen creating, cooking and photographing recipes, weeding, planting or harvesting in the poly tunnel. So long as I can pay the household bills every month I really don’t need much else. Sure it’d be nice to splash out on a new lens for my camera or not have to worry when the car needs some work doing, but any stress caused by lack of funds is instantly negated by looking out of a window!
So the long winded answer to your question is, my biggest success lies in accepting I need very little more than the land can give me.
As for the mistakes, I’ve made SO many and unfortunately when you make a mistake with an animal it can ultimately have pretty sad consequences.
I guess my biggest mistake was initially keeping the ducks in pens overnight. Not only is clearing ducks pens out a nightmare (think constantly wet, muddy & very poopy), they are so much safer now. If they see/sense/smell a fox they get onto the water or island and are immediately safe. I no longer clip their wings, so if they need to fly away from danger they can.
I still lose a couple every year because it seems the only way a new or young bird learns the danger of a fox is for them to see another bird getting killed.
What plans do you have for the future?
Where do I start! I’ve just written a book with the help of my readers and am so in love with the process I’ve already started on the next one!
We planted a nuttery this year and I can’t wait till we start picking our own nuts. Jonny has cleaned and set up Dad’s old bee hives so we are hoping to attract a couple of swarms soon.
We’ve recently been given an industrial meat grinder & sausage stuffer so will be having a go at making our own sausages, oh and we’re importing a pressure canner from the US. I am so ridiculously excited to start canning! It’s not done much here in the UK, and I can’t understand why. I love the idea of storing food long term without needing the three giant chest freezers we currently have!
If anyone would like a free copy of Project Egg, an egg busting cookbook filled with recipes that use 3 or more eggs, visit this link to download your copy. You’ll even find a recipe from the lovely Gretchen in it!