Recipe: Wild Cherry Jam by Peter and Heather Runacres

Another Cherry Recipe here from Mum and Dad – using wild cherries!


  • 4 lb cherries
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 3 1/2 lbs sugar


  1. stone the cherries.
  2. crack some stones and remove the kernels.
  3. Put cherries, kernels & lemon juice in a pan and simmer until soft.
  4. Add the sugar, stir until dissolved and boil rapidly until setting point is reached.
  5. Pot in sterilised jars and cover as normal with wax discs and jar lids.

N.B. As cherries are lacking in pectin, this jam will only give a light set but ideal for add to puddings or hot crusty bread of a morning.

Tip:  If don’t like stoning beforehand – we boiled, then left to get cold over night, gloves on and squashed cherries next morning, then after boiling rapidly stones floated to surface for removal.

By Heather and Peter Runacres.

Recipe: How to make Cherry Brandy by Peter Runacres

This is a more unusual recipe for an alcoholic beverage. A great and easy recipe and a bit different to the norm. You could make in batches for drinking later once its matured. This piece is by Peter Runacres, my dad. Dad has years of brewing experience including the usual elderflower champagne and sloe gin but also other concoctions such as banana wine and plum vodka!
Picture Below: Fathers Wine Making Antics…
  • Cherries (as many handfuls as you fancy and can fit)
  • Sugar
  • Liquor of Choice. Note – You can use almost anything, I have used Pimms this year to experiment! Brandy is always a winner and so is Rum (but use dark sugar with Rum).
  • Fill a large jar ( which has a tight fitting top) with Cherries – washed, pricked all over or scored.
  • Add 2 dessert spoons of sugar N.B some prefer Caster, I like Demerara.
  • Get your liquor of choice. Then pour the liqour into the jar to cover fruit.
  • Leave the jar in a cool, dark place.
  • Shake the jar mixture every week to mix the sugar in, then leave till Christmas – if you can wait that long!

By Peter Runacres

The Good Life In Practice – I reckon this would make grand and great presents at Christmas time for friends and family, plus it does not need any fancy equipment.

What do you think of Dads recipes? Do comment and let us know how you get on and your other ideas? Sloe Gin is always a winner too!

Katy, The Good Life In Practice x

Guest Blog: Pete and Becky’s Smallholding

Good Morning! So we have not had a guest blog post for a few weeks as Summer has been so busy here! However, we have a great new guest blog here for you! Pete and Becky tell us about how they started up in Smallholding and all about their pygmy goats:

“When I was asked to write a blog by Katy, it took me a while to think about where to start! It has been such an exciting adventure living on a smallholding, I love to talk and there are so many stories/ events to talk about! The first question people usually ask is how we got into living with so many animals and our smallholding, the truth is it gradually grew and grew without us even knowing! We bought our first house back in 2007, we both have always liked animals, Pete had reptiles and I worked with horses. We moved in with our 2 pet rabbits (Delia and Geraldine) and soon became really interested in chickens, the thought we would know where our eggs were coming from and also be able to share our home with such wonderful, interesting creatures! We soon headed off to a farm in Surrey to collect our first hens, 2 hybirds Kim and Aggie! We turned up very excited, we didn’t realise ITV happened to be at the farm filming a piece about people from urban areas keeping chickens, we were soon miked up and I stood nervously gripping hold of a chicken very awkwardly ( I had never held a chicken before!) whilst the man interviewed us. I remember the horror when we saw the article on the news a few weeks later; with a full shot of my company car at the time, full of shavings, chicken feed and chickens!

We absolutely loved chicken keeping and soon realised this is what we wanted to do. Our garden was soon full with more chickens and our first pair of pygmy goats Harold and Lou. We were very lucky as an opportunity came up where we could move to a bungalow with a lot more land, the bungalow and land needed a lot of work but it was a fantastic opportunity for us to follow our passion.

After 4 years of hard work renovating the house, building fences, aviaries, brooders and stables we feel like we are getting somewhere; but it is a never ending job! After keeping lots of different breeds of chickens- large fowl, rare breeds and bantams we decided which breeds were best for us and our set up and now keep a wide selection of bantams, all being millefluer or laced in colour. Our herd of pygmy goats have expanded too! We have 5 billy goats and a herd of female pygmys that we breed from. A few years ago we discovered the pygmy goat club and were so happy to find other goat enthusiasts.  We started showing the goats last year; we were very nervous when we started; we thought it was something we were going to love or hate and we are very pleased to say we absolutely love it! And have met some wonderful people. We also have Indian runner ducks and pigs and hatch ducklings throughout spring and summer each year.

We are very excited about the future of Pete and Becky’s Smallholding. Each year it is growing and growing. Currently we still support our smallholding by having other jobs but our dream for the future is to be able to make it our living. We would also love to expand our poultry with more breeds of bantams and grow our herd of pygmy goats further. I would still love to grow fruit and vegetables in order to make us more self-sufficient ( sadly I have no luck at all with growing food in the past- Pete made me amazing raised beds out of old scaffolding, unfortunately our turkeys liked them too and one afternoon ate all the strawberries!)  We have found running our smallholding has both good times and bad; and many lessons we have learnt the hard way but we could never change what we do. There is nothing we enjoy more than sitting down in an evening with a glass of cider watching the goats relaxing, chewing their cud before the sun goes down; this makes everything worthwhile.”

If you would like to hear more tales from Pete and Becky’s Smallholding head over to

Guest Blog: Emma Hill ‘Proper Bread and Recipe’

So another great guest blog here from my good friend Emmal Hill. She is a Pastry Chef and today she writes about her passion for hand made proper bread and includes a great recipe to get you started!

Hello Katy’s followers! I’ve not done any guest blog posts before so it’s a real pleasure to be writing here and especially about one of my passions…

I’m Emma, and I’ve been working with Katy in Switzerland over the past few months. Before leaving for the sometimes snowy, sometimes sunny, sometimes rainy mountains of Switzerland, I worked in a bakery. And before that, I trained as a pastry chef. I do plenty of baking in my spare time at home and I particularly enjoy exploring bread recipes. Sourdoughs, enriched doughs, simple doughs with a little embellishment… but all proper breads. Because there’s a difference between the bread you find in the supermarket and the bread you bake at home or find at an artisan bakery. As people interested in smallholding, you’ll appreciate that the processes that our industrially-produced foods are subject to tend towards the unnatural. Bread is no exception. For those who’ve never tried making a loaf at home, there are 4 basic ingredients; flour, water, yeast and salt. If you’re on a health kick, you can leave the salt out. And if you’re being really traditional, you can use a sourdough starter, a mix of flour and water nurtured to develop bacteria that can leaven bread, instead of cultivated yeast. Proper bread needs plenty of time to develop and rise (prove), normally at least 3 hours, but sourdough breads and others that use small amounts of yeast can take around 18 hours or even longer before being ready to bake.

4 ingredients and plenty of time; and that’s it!

In comparison, the processed loaves that you find in the supermarket are some sort of mutant relation to the humble 4-ingredient loaf. Look at the ingredients label (if there is one; loaves baked on site don’t always carry them) and I’m betting you’ll see more than 4 ingredients. The additives included in these breads are there to make the mixing and proving processes faster, to make the loaf seem fresher for longer and to give a lighter, fluffier loaf than is really natural. E numbers abound in the forms of preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners, antioxidants, improvers, bleaching agents and colourings. And although the loaf stays usable for days on end, the texture and flavour aren’t a patch on that of a proper loaf. Once you start making your own bread at home or buying from a proper bakery using artisan methods, you’ll begin to notice the difference. Bread that has been allowed to develop and ferment for a long period, rather than being forced to rise quickly, has a much less cotton-wool-like texture and an enhanced flavour. And it’s better for you. Not only does it not contain all the peculiar-sounding additives, but its firmer texture and crust, with a little more chewing, mean that the bread gets broken down more in your mouth than in your stomach, which makes it easier to digest. I could waffle on for a long time about proper bread to try to convert you, but the real test is to try some for yourself. Seek out a local artisan baker (it may take a little detective work in some areas but they’re on the rise again… no pun intended) or try the recipe below for a basic white loaf. This is a simple recipe but, I have to admit, my instructions are a bit meaty. Please don’t be intimidated by this; the instructions are long because I’ve tried to include as many useful tips as possible. My attempts at bread making before I went to catering college were pretty poor because I didn’t know all the little technical bits behind a great loaf that I do now and I’m a full believer that, if you know the reasons behind why you’re doing things, you’ll understand the entire baking process better. Hopefully, passing on my knowledge to you will ensure you make a great loaf every time.”

Basic white bread recipe

Ingredients (Makes 1 large loaf)

500g strong white bread flour

10g salt

10g fresh yeast or 1 sachet fast action yeast

350g tepid water


  1. Preheat your oven to 220°C (425°F or gas mark 7). Place a baking tray in the oven to preheat and place a tray with a lip in the very bottom of the oven (you’re preheating a baking tray because, when the bread hits it on entering the oven, this extra heat will help it rise. This is called oven spring. The tray in the bottom of the oven is for water or ice, put in right at the start of baking, which helps stop the crust developing too fast, giving a lighter loaf and a better crust)
  2. Cover a baking tray (with no lip, or a tray turned upside-down) with greaseproof paper; you need to be able to slide the paper off the tray easily (your bread will prove on this tray before being slid onto the hot tray in the oven)
  3. Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and make sure the salt is well mixed into the flour (large concentrations of salt can inhibit yeast activity so you don’t want to dump your yeast straight onto a great clump of salt)
  4. If you’re using fresh yeast, rub it into the dry mix using your fingertips. If using fast action yeast, add it to the tepid water, whisk it in and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes to turn foamy
  5. Add the liquid to the dry mix and stir everything to bring the dough together, then turn out onto an unfloured worktop (flouring it will only add more flour to the dough and make the end loaf more dense) and knead until smooth and elastic. This can take 10 to 15 minutes, maybe even longer, but it’s important to get the dough to the elastic stage if you want a soft loaf. To know when it’s ready, you should be able to stretch a small piece of dough into a “window pane” (a thin, translucent sheet) without it breaking. Also, once you’re dough stops sticking to your hands and your unfloured worktop, this is a good indication that it’s ready
  6. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, place in a lightly-floured bowl, cover lightly with oiled cling film or a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to double in size (around 1 hour but sometimes longer). Double in size is the important bit, not the time
  7. Lightly flour your worktop and turn the dough out. Use your knuckles to push the air out, then form the dough into a ball by pulling the outer bits of the dough into the centre, then placing it seam-side down on the worktop and rolling to tighten up the ball
  8. Once you have a smooth ball on one side and a seam on the other, place it onto the tray covered with greaseproof paper. Cover it lightly again with greased cling film or a damp cloth and leave in a warm place to double in size again
  9. Get a glass of cold water or some ice cubes ready to hand
  10. Use a sharp knife to slash the top of your loaf in a creative fashion (slashing the loaf ensures that it tears where you want it to rather than ending up with an ugly tear somewhere random). Moving as quickly as you can to keep as much heat in your oven as possible, slide the loaf and greaseproof paper onto the preheated baking tray and throw the water or ice into the tray on the bottom of the oven, then shut the door!
  11. Bake for around 25 to 30 minutes. Your loaf should be golden brown all over and give out a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing and enjoying!

For more information on proper bread and recipe ideas, there are lots of great books, but here are some of my personal favourites:

Dough, Richard Bertinet, Kyle Books, 2005 (5 basic doughs transformed into many different breads. This is a great book for beginners at breadmaking)

Crust, Richard Bertinet, Kyle Books, 2012 (the recipes in this book are a bit more advanced and for more confident bread makers)

The Handmade Loaf, Dan Lepard, Mitchell Beazley, 2004 (this has a mix of basic and advanced recipes, but it’s as much a good source of ideas as anything else) (this is a campaign based in Britain to try and get more proper bread into our breadbins. Have a gander if you’d like to know more of what goes into your average shop-bought loaf)

Emmas Pastry and Bread blog is

Guest Bloggers: Flockable Lasses

Here is the story of ‘Flockable Lasses’ and how they set up their website and adventures after being part of Farmers Apprentice which was televised last year. I hope you enjoy reading their story and take a look at their website to see more of their sheep farming and about farmers apprentice:

Annabelle and Sophie are two young sheep enthusiasts, who met during the ‘Farmers Apprentice’, a filmed competition ran by the Farmers Weekly Magazine. From then on they became friends with a shared goal to change the face of the UK sheep industry and educate and attract others to the world of sheep farming.  With this in mind, Flockable Lasses was born. By branding themselves the girls have created a following on Twitter (@FlockableLasses), and their website where they feature written blogs and #EweTube videos of their sheepy experiences.

Whilst competing in the farmers apprentice competition, the two girls realised how similar they were and just clicked. They were pushed out of their comfort zones, tested and judged over five days, having to complete an array of farm related challenges. Annabelle and Sophie loved every minute of it and would do it all again if they could. With such positive feedback from the judges the two girls felt like they achieved so much during the competition and left with boosted confidence and an enthused spring in their step to pursue their joint dream.

The two girls found the competition to be truly life changing and since then they have set up their website which has brought about huge interest and opportunities for them; including financial investors, press articles, on farm professional filming, butchery lessons and most importantly a whole new set of contacts offering invaluable advice and opportunities also. The future is very bright for Annabelle and Sophie with a lot of exciting prospects in the pipeline.

The successfulness of their website has made the pair even more determined to achieve their BIG goals and aspirations. Eventually they want to run a sheep farm, utilising every part of the sheep. Producing the animals; butchering and selling the produce themselves. Annabelle and Sophie just established their site in November 2012, so they are aware they have a long way to go before reaching their dreams, however they are truly dedicated and determined young ladies.

The Adventures of a Pastry Chef: Podge the Cat!

Emma Hill a volunteer at Our Chalet (where I work) made a wonderful cake for my birthday a while go and I had to share this picture and link!

Emma is a pastry chef and has a blog on all things baking and cake! Here is the link to her blog and the cake recipe which was to be Mr Podge the Cats face!

Guest Blog: Danielle Adger (East Essex Smallholders Group)

A great guest blog here from Danielle Adger from Essex telling us about all the ins and out of spinning your very own wool!

Katy very kindly guest blogged for me for East Essex Smallholders Group, so I promised to return the post! It may have taken a few months but finally I find myself sitting indoors on a freezing cold day, keeping my eye on Pearl our bottle fed lamb and playing Mum when she is hungry. A little about me, I live on the family smallholding with my Mum, Dad, Brother and Husband. We have always kept horses and poultry, but in 2005 we decided to get our first sheep and the rest is now history. We now have a variety of chickens, from laying girls, to our 6 six pens of pure breed chickens. We have turkeys, pea fowl, a rhea, geese, ducks, horses, Dexters and pigs. We butcher and process all of our own meat and make bacon, hams, sausages, salami, chorizo and pancetta. We have a hot and cold smoker, as well a generous vegetable plot. We generally live the good life and are very proud of what we have achieved.

We have kept sheep at Furzedown for 7 years now. Year after year, shearing time has arrived and gone. Each year we say and do the same thing, “We really must” and “why don’t we” then our fleeces get wrapped up in a nice new tarpaulin and packed away with the very best of intentions. They then get moved around a few times from one barn to another until we finally dispose of them, but not this year!

It all started when I organised an afternoon for the East Essex Smallholders Group  with “The Spinning Lady” Celia Gwynn who explained how spinning had evolved over the years, from hand spinning wool, to using drop spindles and then to the more modern spinning wheel. She then taught us how to spin with a drop spindle. I now know why they are called drop spindles; because you spend so much time dropping them on the floor! I was hooked, I really enjoyed spinning with the spindle and spent many a morning before work, catching a quick ten minutes spinning wool. It was a great hand conditioner, as I was spinning raw unwashed fleece. It made my hands so soft. My technique improved and I was actually managing to get some fairly decent yarn.

Then my friend told me of an Ashford Traditional Wheel she had seen for sale on the River Cottage website for the bargain price of £100! I couldn’t believe my luck but there was one catch; it was in Poole, Dorset! However my Nan and I set off on a road trip and 8 hours later we arrived home with the fabulous new piece of equipment. Typical me no patience, I had to have a go! With the help of YouTube and my Mum, we managed to get it spinning. Although it was hard and clutch control was very difficult. I managed to keep the wheel spinning, one way to wind the wool onto the bobbin, rather than winding it off. Finally I was spinning wool, I was so pleased. My enthusiasm had rubbed off on my friend Michaela and we both decided we wanted to learn more. So we joined the Mid Essex Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. They have helped us so much, from teaching us how to card the wool, spinning technique and how we can naturally dye the yarn. We are both so inspired to do more! One catch I need to give up work, so I have more time to enjoy my wool.

It’s a lengthy process: First of all the sheep are sheared normally at the beginning of May. Once the fleece is off you need to trim any clumps of debris from the fleece. They normally get a little dirty around the rear end.You then need to wash the fleece. Goodness me have I been in trouble, sinks full of fleece washing, wool around the plug hole! I now wash fleece outside in my horses tack room, with an urn. I find by washing it three or four times, you can break down the lanolin. However you have to be careful not to agitate the wool with any soap, as this can cause the wool to felt. Then you have to dry the fleece. I have found putting it on a gentle spin in a pillow case in the washing machine gets the bulk of the water out of it. I am, however banned from drying the wool on the towel rail above the bathroom radiator as my Dad went to grab the towel to dry his face to have a face full of wool!

Once the wool is dried you need to card it. This is a process of trying to detangle the wool, to make it easier to spin. You can use hand carders however I am lucky enough to now have a drum carder (thanks to my wonderful husband!) which makes life much easier. This process helps to try and remove the debris that sheep can pick up. Straw! Lots of bits of it in a fleece, I spend a lot of time picking bits out of the drum carder as it makes my life a lot easier when I start spinning. Then you can start spinning. You spin the wheel one way when you are spinning a single length of wool, and then the opposite way when you two ply the yarn.  It takes a lot of practice to spin the wheel slowly in the same direction and at the same time drafting the wool, pinching and gliding to turn it into a yarn. It’s a bit like patting you head and rubbing your belly. It takes practice.

Once you have spun two full bobbins you put them on a Lazy Kate. This enables the bobbins to freely move whilst you spin the two yarns together. You have to put just enough twist but not too much! Once you have done this you put the yarn on a Niddy Noddy, which allows you to make a big lop of wool, it’s much easier to handle, you then you wash the wool and hang it to dry weighted. Once this is all done you are ready to turn the yarn into a wonderful creation. I still have a lot to learn, but hopefully time and practice will help. The next thing on my list to learn how to knit. I feel such a sense of achievement using our fleeces and turning it into something we can use.