Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The mattress, the trifid, the kitchen pow wow

Oh mattress, mattress, wherefore art though? Not here, that's for sure. Should have been. Is not. Which is a bit disappointing after the long wait for it to arrive, and the phone call yesterday to say that it would definitely be here today, making our hopes rise....at last no more sleeping on the settees, no more crooked backs, no more bits of us falling off the sofas as we try to turn over, whoopppeee and all that!!!!!!!! 

So it is now nine in the evening. Tonight we shall have to sleep on be the settees again. They are leather. Covering the seats and the back rests (because naked skin sticks to the leather horribly strongly) are patchwork covered duvets, which go up and over the back. It is hot. The duvets seem to generate even more hotness. It is not pleasant. Still, not to worry. If that mattress does not turn up tomorrow I shall complain. Trouble is, that this is the first time that I have ordered anything online from Amazon Fr. It would be no surprise to you to that Amazon Fr is in French because it is based in France. It might be, then, that I wait a few days more to see if the mattress gets here before I complain. 

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And so have a look at this trifid of a bread dough.....



...sorry that the photo is quite dark, but the light in the temporary kitchen is all done by light bulbs because there are only two tiny windows in the whole space, which is good because it makes for an ideal food storage area because there is hardly any natural light, but is not so good for being used as a kitchen and photo shoot area.

Anyway, this is another energetic bread dough, eager to get a move on out into the world. My bread doughs never used to do this. They used to fill the bowl and then stop after colliding with the enamel lid I use to keep the dust off the dough. But a few months ago I changed my method of making the dough, which was to put about a litre of warm water into the bowl, add two satchets of dried yeast, and two or three spoonfuls of sugar, then whisk the mixture, go and have a shower (I start the dough first thing in the morning otherwise it tends not to get made at all), return to the mixture and add a couple of spoonfuls of salt, and a dob of DIY butter, then enough flour to make a sticky lump. Then onto well floured top of freezer, and gradually keep working the dough until it is not too sticky and looks more like it should. Then leave until dough is risen. 

However, always this dough is awake. As soon as the flour is added it starts on the move, and I can feel it blossoming beneath my hands as I work on it, making it quite something to be involved with. My previous doughs never did this, but every bread I have made by the method I have just spoken about, always they have this energy for life, the outcome being loaves which are light in texture, never puddingy, nor yeasty tasting, and crumptious in taste.

I don't measure how much flour goes into the dough. I do not fuss about with the dough. But I think that the yeast loves getting into the water with the sugar, and starts romping along in partnership quite happily while I take my shower, leaving it time to prepare itself for the addition of the flour. Anyway, just passing on my experience of being able to make bread which is consistent, unlike my previous loaves every one of which was different, and not always a pleasure to eat. 

.....a few seconds after the previous photo:


Fortunately I had only just cleaned the surrounding surfaces of dust, otherwise the escaped dough would have had to go to the chickens.
I am sure they would have loved it!

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The Kitchen Project grumbles on. After a family pow wow yesterday morning, we decided that the Rayburn cooker has to go on the wall we were going to put it on before we built the plinth for it to stand on in the diagonally opposite corner, which was where it was originally going to go before we decided that we would make a swanky mock fireplace type environment which is the normal 'look' which is given to a Rayburn wood burning stove. Are you still with me? Well done, if you are! 

Anyway, we have come to our senses, and see no reason to put anything 'mock' in the kitchen, and because we now also have a SMEG cooker for spring and summer, we have decided not to put the two cookers together, which is what we were going to do, but to separate them because they will be used at different times of the year. So the concrete plinth has to come up, and I have had to rethink how I am going to use the space.

The Kitchen Project seems to be going on and on and on. But not to worry, I shall have a 'proper' kitchen eventually, and one which will look like a simple farm kitchen, and be all the better for it. 

So hey ho. Off to bed. The hens are now managing to get into the tree, which is good. We have not yet managed to get into our proper bed because the mattress has still not arrived. Ooops! Sorry! Forgot I had already mentioned our temporary sleeping arrangements!! 

Hope you are getting a good sleep. Hope bits of you do not fall out of whatever it is you are sleeping on. Hope tomorrow is a good day for us all. 

Vx

Monday, 28 July 2014

Gates Up, Absentees, Cooker Hefted, Plums, & 7


Wahoooooooo! The wall is finished, and the gates are up, and they shut and lock, which means that the dogs can be kept in, and we can rest easy with having to keep am eye on them all the time. Of course, one has to remember to actually remember to shut the gates, this being something which was not done last night due to us watching the antics of the hens trying to get up into the fig tree to roost after the removal of the chicken hut yesterday, upon which they used to jump before then getting up into the tree.  With no step up, they were finding it very hard, bless them. We tried not to laugh, really we did. But there was much flapping, crashing, moaning, and general confusion such that in the end we had to help them to get onto the branches. 

And then the gnats came out to feed on us, so indoors we hurried, the last check of the gates not being done. Ah, but the front gate was left open by an inch, and those rottweiller girls found that inch when they were let out into the courtyard this morning at dawn, making a quick exit while I was sorting out the chaos of my storage shelves. 

Message to self: Vera, you must really get some sort of filing system going in regards to what you actually have on those shelves. Organisation is a must if you want to keep filling those shelves with food, which then gets all into a jumble over time so that in the end you do not have the foggiest clue as to what food you have available to eat. 

Anyway, there I was, busy getting some order on those shelves, and I though that the dogs had gone a bit quiet, but then they do tend to be zomby-like when they wake up in the mornings, and the gates were shut so I didn't have to worry about them being out and about, ...... but then the quietness became suspect.....and I found them gone, the front gate being only left open by a fraction, but they had found it. I suspect that they must do a recce each morning to see the status of the gates: open or not, escape or no chance. 

So that was not a good start to the day. No good looking for them because they have long legs and gallop at a tremendous pace especially if they are doing a jolly romp out and about. Best to keep busy. 

Today I was supposed to be making jam with these plums.....


I have already pitted them and canned ten jars, but the rest is to go into jam. Three times I started to head towards the rolling boil, and three times I switched the heat off because I was not in the mood to mess about with hot jars, restless as I was because of the thought of those girls running loose. The plums remain not done. Hopefully I shall get my jamming mojo back tomorrow. 

Lester, though, kept busy. Time to do more work to the kitchen. Down came the small half walls he had built because we decided that we shall keep everything simple, and not put fancy stuff in which is really only cosmetic. We have now learnt that it is best to let the space tell us what it wants, rather than making the space into how we want it to look. Meanwhile the SMEG cooker had to be shifted out of the kitchen. Ummmmm, it is heavy, and we nearly got it stuck .........


..... but we wiggled it, pushed and shoved it, and got it through into the temporary kitchen area. It is now safely covered up with its cardboard box, face against the wall. I hope it was not upset by the manhandling we gave it.

But now the proper kitchen is empty, and it is all go to get the chappe (screed is the English word I think) onto the concrete floor. We don't know how to do that yet, so another learning curve is to be added to the many learning curves that we are currently involved with. 

The rotty girls made their return home late afternoon. But no, since they went AWOL before breakfast, and doggy breakfasts are between 6 and 8 in the morning, they shall not get fed until tomorrow morning. And no, they shall not be allowed indoors since they took it upon themselves to do a jolly romp without permission, then they can stay outside until we decide that they can come indoors and go to bed. We know from experience that they will be very, very tired, and will just want to eat and sleep. But no, they can sleep outside. Shame that it is raining. They don't like the rain. Not to worry, at least we don't have to be worried about their safety, or that they might be causing mischief and mayhem, or even worse, might cause an accident. 

And seven!!!!!!!! Seven little piglets are now with us, or rather, with Mum Pig out in her hut. They are all pink velvety lusciousness, with little ears, and little tails, and little legs, and little squeals, and oh so we would love to pick them up but know that they will squirm and wriggle and yell, so no, we cannot do that, but we can ooh and ahhh like most people do when looking at youngsters. And then there is Mum to cope with of course. She would really not like us to be involved with those littl'uns yet. So we can only get little peeks at those piglets. No photos, though, as it is too dark in their hut, and I would have to lean over at a difficult angle to do a photo shoot anyway, which would mean possibly colliding with the electric fencing wire, which is something I would prefer not to do, not to mention having Mum Pig scold me for interfering with her space. 

It is raining again at the moment. We have had a wet summer, which is OK because it means that we are not having to spend time watering the veg plot, which is being neglected at the moment because of needing to spend time with renovation work. But at least the grazing is holding up well for this time of year, and the animals are looking plump and healthy. Normally our fields would be dry and brown, but this year they are bright and green. 

Now....do we let the rotty girls indoors, or not. It is getting dark, so perhaps we shall relent, or not. Oh all right......give them another half an hour, then in they can come!

Vx




Sunday, 27 July 2014

No cockerels doth now crow, for all are gone, gone away......

It is true. For the first time in four years we have no cockerels. Where have they gone? Well, one died a few weeks ago from we know not what. That left some young boys and Big Grey, who was already in a gradual decline, not wanting to do much with anyone or anything, and that included wanting to crow. But the air was still punctured by the calls of the other cockerels, one in particular taking over the title of King of the girls. 

And then he disappeared. We think he was taken by something in the woods because a few days before Lester had charged down into the woodland after hearing some gurgled screams. It was King cockerel, looking like something had got him by the leg because he was walking with quite a limp. He obviously had not learnt his lesson. He must have continued on with his forages into the woodland and become a predator's food. 

But we still had a couple of young white cockerels. Or did. Because they are gone as well. Which left Big Grey. 

So we were doing our planning for the day, with me needing to do jamming, and Lester needing to start plastering the kitchen. And then another project took charge of the day, and that was to dismantle the 'temporary' chicken hut in the courtyard. 



July 2010, and the chicken hut is made out of two sheets of tin.
(We were living in the caravan in the background at the time)



This was Lester's first building project, and here he is making the run.
It was only supposed to be temporary solution to housing chickens. 
2012, and it was still standing strong....


2014.....
(Please excuse the smudge on these photos
Message to self: it is unwise to try and cut pips out of plums so you can make jam out of them at the same time as partaking in a photo shoot. Be sensible. Do one or the other, otherwise the outcome is going to a camera covered in stickiness, including the lens.)


Anyway, Lester starts to dismantle the old hut,


..... chains the hut to the tractor, and then sees Big Grey lying in a crumpled heap in the furthest corner, all stone cold dead, our last cockerel, gone, gone away at the same time as his home was dismantled. Perhaps he had an intuition that this was going to happen. Perhaps he did not like the thought of having to sleep in the fig tree,
which is where the girls are going to have to sleep tonight,
although most had been roosting on its branches already.


But the courtyard is starting to look tidier. And building a proper chicken hut is now up towards the top of our list of priorities. 

The hens are now up the tree, although I had to help some of them to get up onto the branches. They will get used to their new lodgings, although there were quite a few complaints this evening!
But, as I have said, most were already roosting up on the branches,
and only a couple were using the hut, including Big Grey.

Meanwhile, the jam did not get made,
because I sat out in the sun and did some spinning,
and had an afternoon nap,
and did some music practice,
and cut up some material to make Lester some underpants,
because he likes the ones which are roomy,
almost like wide shorts,
because he does not like being squeezed, he said.
It was a nice Sunday,
tinged around the edges with sadness about the demise of all our cockerels,
especially Big Grey. 

Hope you had a good Sunday,
and hope your week goes well.
Vx