Friday, 9 October 2015

What do you do........?

What do you do when the frozen peas you have just bought are left out in the open air instead of being put in the freezer?
You put them in the dehydrator toute suite.
The reason why they were not put into the freezer?
Because I was too distracted by the Rayburn Project, which was jumbled up in my head with the thought of playing with the French / English Irish band that evening.
In fact I was quite useless all day.

What do you do when you realise you have nothing to wear that did not bear witness to farm life?
I raided my stash of material and made myself a new skirt, which did not have any dribbles, splashes, rips, or other general spoilage from living life on a farm scattered all over its surface.
I am now on a mission to get more new clothes made,
for some reason I do not seem to be able to allow myself to buy clothing which is made commercially, apart from underwear and even then I will have a go at making certain private garments at some point in the future.
I do not know why I have this need to wear only what I make,
I suppose it is just me being me....
What do you do when you see a radiator on the wall in your home,
the very same wall which once was part of a ruin of a building?
You sort of do a silly dance, and sort of do a bit of yelling in the air,
that is what you do if you are me.

What do you do when you want you are going to a rehearsal of a band which is making you feel nervous and unsettled?
You do some baking, that is what you do, in the hopes that by providing a tasty nibble for all to eat,  that all will be put into a good humour  before one even starts playing.
Well, anyway, that seemed like a good plan to me,
shame that Dotty (our young calf) decided not to come in from the field,
and that Lester then had to chase her round and round that field,
which is quite a big field,
and makes him quite out of puff,
which was not a good thing if he was going to need to be able to play his violin, mandolin, and banjo, with a super duper skill which would impress the other band members later on that evening.
No, this was not good....
so Blue (one of the rottweiller girls) and me to the rescue, with Blue running alongside Dotty,
which Dotty did not like,
because Dotty believes that there is nothing in the world except herself,
the same as all young beings of the world believe,
until something happens which makes them realise that the world does not revolve only around themselves.
This, then, is what Dotty needs to learn.
She did not learn that lesson entirely this time, but was made more aware of greater forces, such as allowing Lester to get a rope on her so she could be taken into the cow barn to be with her mum, that if she did not let this happen then a big black thing of an animal would chase her round and round until she decided that Lester was the better option to take.
I, meanwhile, stood and watched, ready to call in Blue when Dotty chose her option.
Back at the oven......with Dotty now quite happily cosied up with mum Bonny....
what to do if the quiche you are baking to impress others with has now gone past its best,
 and has now got a sort of blackened perimeter because you have been busy somewhere else?
Well, you look at the singed pastry, do a couple of seconds of panic, then go get the expensive cheese you have just bought from out of the fridge, then grate this expensive cheese over the top of the quiche in the hopes that it will cover up the burnt bits, that is what you would do if you were me.
Then you put the quiche back into the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese, the theory being that the cheese would act as an icing over the blackened pastry.
It sort of worked.
The quiche was well received that evening.
And so what do you do when you reach the hour of midnight, and the rehearsal is now at an end,
and everyone is smiling at you, and asking if you are coming again next week,
and you feel so well received by everyone,
that you are almost speechless,
what do you do?
You sort of go into a sort of daze, that is what you would do if you were me,
and thank everyone,
with a smile on one's face a mile wide.
And so Lester and me drove home in the early hours of the morning,
taking it slowly,
not because of the amount of traffic on the roads,
but because of the possibility  of bumping into deer, wild boar, badgers, and anything else which roams at night.
We were both smiling.
It had been a good evening.
And we are going again next week,
because we have been asked to do so.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

SSSSHhhhhhh..... the Rayburn Project might be happening!!!

Just to say, very quietly, that all the parts for the plumbing in of the wood burning Rayburn stove have all been purchased.

Just to say, and whispering this to you...... if all goes well we might be having heating this winter. Yes. Heating. Seven years without any heating. How will I cope with not feeling frozzled with cold. And what shall I do with all my thermal underthings!

Ah, but let us not presume that the Rayburn will be working this winter, and just to say, for now....that the radiators are now fixed to the walls (two in the music room, two in the half barn), that an expedition down to the local DIY depot seems to have provided most of the parts needed to get the water from the Rayburn to them. We have discounted plumbing the Rayburn into the hot water system because 1) We could not find anyone local to us who could do the work. 2)  If we have found someone then they would have probably been too expensive for our budget. 3) We realised that to have hot water and radiators running off the Rayburn at the same time would probably have meant having to run the Rayburn at full burn for a lot of the time.

But, hey! Wow! The Rayburn Project might just be on the move!

As for me, I seem to be ten steps behind myself at the moment. The hallway is now finished, apart from being painted, so I can move freely between the back and front kitchens. But no, I seem not to be able to 'move freely'. not because there is anything wrong with me other than the normal aches and pains signalling the approach of winter, but I don't seem to be able to concentrate on any one thing for longer that five minutes. It will pass. I am probably distracted because of the Rayburn Project work going on around me, plus I have been sorting out my catalogue of photographs which I have been accumulating since 2008, which is when we first came to France, so lots of memories of the past few years have been coming to the surface of my mind.

Oh, and perhaps the fact that we have been invited to a rehearsal of an French / English Irish band  tomorrow night is also distracting me and making me feel mildly panicky. Two of the band members are due to leave next year, so they need to find more musicians. Wow! They are a good band. Crikey but I feel nervous. Lester has played in Irish bands for years, so it is nothing new for him, but me.... strooth....anyway, I shall be taking my piano accordion along, and then it is up to the band members as to whether or not I am good enough. I am not fussed either way, but I would like Lester to play in a band again as I think it would do him good and give him something to do other than cope with running a smallholding.

I shall do my best. I started playing the accordion just before my 67th birthday, and at age 68 I think it is an achievement to have even thought about learning to play a new instrument ( I have been a pianist for years) let alone manage to keep up with Lester when he rollicking his way through the Irish jigs, reels, polkas, and anything else he has a mind to play. But I still can't help feeling nervous about playing with eight other people! At least when playing with Lester I can yell at him to slow down!

Otherwise, everything else is ticking along, apart from anything to do with me in the kitchens. The milk in the fridge is needing my attention....there should be enough to make a soft cheese if I get to it before it clabbers (when the milk separates into curds and whey), but if I don't then the dogs and pigs will thoroughly  enjoy slurping up the mixture. Porridge for breakfast tomorrow because there is no bread for toast because I have not made any. All canning projects are at stop, and have been for several days now, ever since work started on the hallway. But I have started sewing again, and am in the middle of making a winter skirt for myself, and I am getting the photos sorted out, and tomorrow I shall walk from the front kitchen to the back kitchen determined to get the food production line going again.

Or perhaps this effort will have to wait until Friday because I am sure that the thought of attending the rehearsal with the band in the evening will distract me so much that I shall drift about from here to there and back again without actually getting anything done!

Off to have a practice on the accordion, so bye for now.


Friday, 2 October 2015

Dotty, Flora, but.....goats? Never! But then......

We used to keep goats, but then we didn't. The reason? Because the behaviour of the goats stretched Lester's patience beyond a point where he could no longer cope with them.
 All the other animals 'fit' here so are part of the team.
Yes, they do have their 'off' days, but we do as well.

But those goats!!!! They were never on anyone's team except their own individual ones.
It was the fighting for dominance which was worst, which made being around them not a good experience. 'Never again', Lester said, ' we are never going to keep goats again!'
That was at the beginning of the year.
But I felt that we were not done with goats, but did kept quiet about saying so.
I thought that if we had a couple of young goats, and then trained them up to our ways of doing things, that perhaps we would not have so much trouble with them.
That the goats that we had were all mature animals, set in their ways so less willing to be part of our team, that if they were trained from very young that they would fit in more here.
We have two calves. They will have to be separated from Bonny and Lissie soon otherwise there is no point in keeping cows because the calves will be milking their mum's udders dry, leaving no milk for us. At the moment Lester is milking Lissie, but only getting a couple of litres of milk from her per day. While this keeps us going in the kitchen, this is not enough to make cheese or butter with.
Last time we had a calf, we had the goats as well, so the goats kept the calf company during the day, sleeping in a pen beside his mum at night.
He has tried to put the older calf out in the side field for the day, but it was not a good feeling seeing her run around by herself, so she is now staying with the others for the day.
Which is why Lester muttered something about having a go at keeping goats again.
Just two, plus of course a male, which makes three.
I think that perhaps this will happen.
- we shall have goat milk again which means I can make goat cheese
- they will keep the fields clear of thistles, and eat the brambles away from the fences
- they will keep any future calves company when they have to spend time away from their mums
Next year, then, .....perhaps......

Meanwhile Lester has ploughed up a section of veg plot number 1 which had succumbed to a heavy load of weeds........he hopes to plough it so we can put some green manure in, such as mustard or clover, which will grow over winter to be then ploughed back into the earth next spring.
Veg plot number 2 will be ploughed up by the two adult Tamworth pigs once the self sown butternut squashes have been harvested.
Not done much myself out in the veg plots, as things have got busy indoors, notably the break down of the food preservation conveyor belt, the problem being that we are tiling the middle hallway, which is the space in between the back kitchen and the front kitchen,
this is what has broken the production line!
The meat I got out of the freezer and was supposed to be canning, hasn't been...
(I mentioned this in the last blog)

but it did get to being roasted, but then it went into the fridge, and then day by day  it went into our tummies, thus providing us with our meals for the week, which was a blessing because otherwise it would have been cheese sandwiches all week.
As I have said, the food production line is at a halt.
So no canning jars of pork from these two pieces of meat!
As for the bacon I started,

...this had a thick layer of fat, like the bacon I made a couple of weeks ago. Although the cure went right through all of the meat, I did think that there was too much fat on each slice of bacon, so this time I have taken the thickest parts of the fat off. That will be turned into lard.

So this is the piece of meat, and I used the same cure as I did last time, which was 500grams of salt, 500grams of brown sugar, 25 grams of black peppercorns, and a few bay leaves. But this time I ground the peppercorns and bay leaves in my spice mill before adding them to the salt and sugar. It is likely that I shall stay with this recipe in the future, because the last lot of bacon I made with the recipe turned out wonderfully well.
And the smell of peppercorns, bay leaf, sugar and, but it was nice.
This is the last day of the cure now, so the meat will be washed tomorrow and then left to sit in the fridge for five days before I slice it into rashers which will then be frozen.
I suppose bits of the production line are still operational!
At the beginning of the week I was given some bags of rhubarb...

out of which I have canned eight jars, with some left to make a crumble. Didn't want to put them into the freezer because I am supposed to be getting the freezers emptied out, and at least now they are canned they are also cooked.
I have also just about managed to get all of the tomatoes stored now, mostly through dehydrating them. I should have also had at least five canned jars of crushed tomatoes for the larder, but alack and alas, I was tardy with getting this done even though I had prepped the tomato juice ready for canning. But the stop light was on this part of the food production line, so the pigs ate the juice (cooked with pasta) instead.

....Bonny waiting for her calf to be led out of the barn by Lester....

Dotty on the left, and Flora on the right, both getting ready to chase the chicken out of the field, but waiting until I disappear, because standing beside me as I take this photo are the two big black dogs which they are most reluctant to have anything to do with.
I have managed to be reasonably productive these last few days, although not as productive as I normally am. This will continue until the end of next week, or until I can walk through the middle kitchen to get to the back kitchen.  To have to go out through the half barn doors, and then walk across the courtyard to get into the back door when it is dry and sunny is alright, but when it is raining and I have three dogs trailing behind me who are all damp and muddy, well, it is a bit wearing on the nerves. Not to worry, it is only for a few days more and then the production line can be up to full speed again.
Went down to Tarbes today to get the radiators for the Rayburn Wood Stove looks possible that we might be having that working this winter.
Bye for now,