Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Memories of Baileys, and an all DIY lunch.



All home produced, not a glamorous meal that's for sure, but simple, and took me twenty minutes from start to finish:
Eggs from our hens, potatoes (from our 2017 potato harvest and stored in canning jars), beetroot ( from our 2017 harvest, pickled and stored in canning jars) raw chard from our Veg Plot One, yoghurt (made last night from the milk of our cows) topped with jam (from our 2017 fruit harvest), and a glass of milk from the morning milking of our cows.
Good food, with no additives apart from what was in the Heinz Ketchup Lester squirted over his potatoes! No ketchup for me, but instead a good drizzle of cider vinegar to which I am addicted.  I often will have a swig from the bottle when in the vicinity of the fridge. I used to swig Baileys in the same  way, never would I decant into a glass, but instead enjoyed partaking of a slurp directly from the bottle. 

And it came into my mind that I had mentioned my Baileys habit in previous blogs, so I had a search through and found this video I made. It was on the subject of milking the goats for the first time, and how the experience drove me to needing a sip of Baileys. 
This was January 31st 2013


We gave up on keeping goats, preferring the more placid nature of the cows, 
and I don't have Baileys any more. Cider Apple Vinegar is not the same! It's my birthday coming up soon, so perhaps I might treat myself to a bottle!

And that's me done for the day, as I have three gallons of milk waiting to be made into a cheese, and it is late afternoon, and the cheese will take five hours, so that means I shall be late to bed. 
This is the first cheese I made this season....



...... and it looks a right hodge podge of a cheese, mostly because I cooked it at the wrong temperature, put too much rennet in it, and took too long to go through the various stages in the cheese making process  All that has gone on since my last cheese making sessions early last year has pushed my cheese making skills somewhere into a back of my mind, so this cheese was the waker upper. I have made four cheese since and they do look a lot better.

No knit and natter group for me tomorrow as I am playing the organ for a pre Easter church service.
I am feeling the draft of not having those precious two hours of female companionship already!

Bye for now
Vx

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Knit, natter, milk, etc....

My parking space between 2pm and 4pm on a Thursday afternoon, and a very precious time it is too because all I do is sit and knit or crochet with other like minded ladies, and chat about all things relevant in our lives, including smutty, serious, funny, sad, and happy sharings.


This shop is called Nostalgic, and is in the high street of the nearby town of Plaisance.
I do not have a hunt among its many bric a brac pieces, nor amongst the large rail of vintage clothes on offer, because I am on a budget, but the choice is extensive, and it is well worth a visit if you are in this area of SW France and have the time. During the summer you could even spend a tranquil few moments having a cup of coffee out on the back patio of the shop.


We sit in the back part of the shop, which is a small and cosy space so therefore very friendly.
Very little craft work is done. We don't concentrate much. Just chat. Laugh. Unwind/
It is the Thursday afternoon Knit and Natter group.
It is a joy to belong to.
........


All has been well with the sheep but an unfortunate incident last week left the flock minus one of its lambs and with an expectant ewe badly mauled. We are now minus one of our dogs, who was the perpetrator of the mischief.


With the grazing on the main fields being so abysmal this year we have had to let the sheep out onto the side paths and far field to graze. Normally we would have seen the start of the Spring push of green growth by now, but it is not so this year. It has been too cold. Most unusual for SW France. The fields are now all grazed down, and it is fortunate that we bought in a lot of bales of hay in advance of the 2017 / 18 winter to feed the cows with.

A neighboring farmer stopped by this afternoon, and we have given him Milly, our youngest cow.


It is not the right time of year to sell large animals, and we need to reduce the number of cows we have because of Lester's online work load, and we want her to go to a good home anyway. This is not  for sentimental reasons, but with Lester now working we can afford to choose where she goes rather than being forced to sell her to earn money from her. 
It is a fine line when it comes to looking after animals for the food table. Fortunately we can choose where Milly is to live, even if the farmer can't afford to pay us. We are also giving him two bales of hay to help him get through to Spring. 

So we are now down to two cows again, and both giving us milk, bless them. I had to gentle Lissie down this morning. I stood at her head and made a fuss of her. She is in heat and did not much enjoy having Lester milk her, so was continually protesting. He does not have time in the mornings to put up with frisky cows as he has to be online at 9am. 
Bonny is also milking out and has the hugest udder which takes over thirty minutes to empty. She stands quietly. She will be in season over the next few days, then she will be fidgety too, but by then Lissie should have calmed down. It does not help that most days they are still indoors because of the rain, and they are getting bored. The feet of cows really mess up the surface of field which is soaking wet which is why they have to stay indoors. A chewed up muddy field will not grow a full head of grass when warmer weather does eventually arrive.

We have priced up a portable milking machine so I could take over the milking if Lester is unable to do it. They cost 1,700 euros. So we shall continue with hand milking.

---and the cows on a rare sunny day....


....and a long view of the lower boundaries of our farm, with the early morning sun catching on the Pyrenees mountains. It is the first time since we have been here that I have had such a clear view of the mountains. It was a magical sunrise.


And now I must say bye for now. I need to unwrap a cheese I made yesterday which has just come out of the press. On first inspection it looks alright, even though I made an error in the temperature I processed the cheese at. I forgive myself though. A lot has gone on since I last made a cheese, and a few nibbles of the curds that did not stick to the wheel suggest that it will be OK to eat. 

Vx

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Picking up the pace......

For the last five months, since my sudden hospital visit, small holding life has slipped sideways away from me. This has not been with intent, but life forces interfering, and disrupting, the pattern of our farm life.

Now I had not realised that this had happened until recently, when I found myself adrift and without much purpose. Between my hospital experience and the end of the year I had plenty to occupy me, such as getting over the shock of the unexpected hospital stay, and the Christmas choir concerts I was involved with. I had no time, or energy, to look after the farm, Lester was busy with getting used to the work, and routine, of his online work with the UK although he was still managing the animals. We did harvest seven sheep (mutton) for the freezer, but that was about all we did. My larder was full from the canning, dehydrating, and freezing of the previous months of harvesting, which was good, but no more was being added. The supplies were not being maintained. It was winter. It did not matter.

All the Veg Plot plantings of various brassicas, leeks, onions, chard, cabbage, beetroot, and kohl rabi did survive though, but they had been planted during September, before my health faltered. The weather looked after them through the winter, with plenty of rain to keep them watered, and all have grown well. This is the first time we have grown vegetables through the winter, and we shall do so again. The only downside is having to go outside and harvest the vegetables when the weather is cold, wet, and/ or frosty. We did have vegetable supplies. Not as much as I had intended, but at least we had a supply of homegrown produce.

All the seeds I had planted indoors and outside before I went into hospital died through neglect during my recovery time, and the project of growing seeds in the Half Barn never got started, the place intended for this project being taken up the sprawl of my fabric stash.



You can see the seed trays on the table. These are the remains of the Winter Seed Project, which never happened. 

Not to worry, I did not fret and fuss and laze away January and February, because I rediscovered my love of crochet and spent many happy hours making myself various things. I also picked up my patchwork again, and found that through the difficulties of the last few months I seem to have become more creative. The house is starting to reflect this new burst of creativity. It is finally starting to feel like home after having spent the last ten years as 'Work in Progress'. Such is life when living in a renovation project. 

But although the house is starting to look like a home, all that creativity will not contribute to future food stores for us. I think it is best I start clearing off that table and start resurrecting the Seed Planting Project, and also start work on getting some replenishment to the DIY food larder supplies. Making a start by getting some of the dried beans rehydrated and canned tonight. Overnight soaking first, then canning tomorrow. As for the seeds.....my head is totally disengaged from the subject of seeds at the moment, so I need to refresh it by looking at last year's planting files. It would also help if I cleared off the table so I can put the seed trays on it when they are planted. 

All it all, it has been an odd six months, with the weather being awful for most of the time. The sun has come out. Our spirits are lifting. Onwards............

.... we now have five cows.....two calves (one male, one female). Sharing the mum's milk with the calves, and four litres coming into the house daily, the rest going into the tummies of the calves.  Made 4 litres (approx 1 gallon) of yoghurt yesterday.  Getting the cheese making equipment out. Bought 50lbs of  flat weight training weights from Amazon, which arrived today so I can have a 'proper' cheese press instead of using bags of flour and sugar and/or cans of beans to press the whey out of the cheese. I have also started clearing out the back kitchen to make way for the Cheese Making Project. I feel the need to be more organized, which is something I am not naturally inclined to be. 

It is has been a lovely day here today. I spent the afternoon at the Knit and Natter group I have recently joined. Just a group of women, sometimes knitting, crocheting, sewing, but mostly having a chat about things, all sitting in the environment of a small village shop selling vintage products. Offloading life's'cares, sharing the positives, having time out. Lovely!

Thankyou for sharing time with me,
may your path ahead be smooth,
bye for now,

Vx