Thursday, 16 September 2010

Brewing and bottles and stickiness

This was my kitchen table this morning, full of remnants of doings from the previous evening. 

re: Figs. Hubs has been picking figs. Loads of them. The previous years some of them have been jammed,  and a goodly portion donated to the compost heap, recycled but not through our tummies. This year I have a fridge, bought almost on a whim by Hubs a couple of weeks ago, but which has proved the hugest of blessings ever since its arrival. It is now full of figs. 

In total I have made about sixty pots of assorted types of jam. Approximately one pot per week until next years harvest plus some for use in cooking. A lot of those pots contain fig jam. But I am figged out. So what to do with the trays of figs still resident in the fridge. "Where's my wine making equipment" Hubs said yesterday morning. Ah so that's what's going to happen to those figs!

But that was in the morning. I hoped, as in the manner of Hubs and I think all men, that once the idea had been aired that it would just drift away with the breeze. It didn't. It locked in. 

Now normally I have to find stuff which is needed. Hubs expects me to have automatic knowledge as to where everything is, including the screwdriver he had only a moment ago and has put down somewhere but he can't remember where, the same with the watering cans which I hardly ever use but he does several times a day, and so on. Bless. Anyway, I kind of knew the possible location of the brewing gear - in a couple of plastic bags shoved away in a corner of what will be the larder room, only I didn't say. Just kept quiet. Hoping that, as I say, that the idea would drift away. 

Now it might appear to you that I am being hard on my would-be Homebrewer Hubs. But in the UK he was a blasted nuisance with his wine making, which he didn't do very often, but when he did it was always with a such a fuss, and the wine jars put in the most inconvenient places that they were an irritation. I do sound a bit grumpy about this don't I! Oh well, that was back in our old life, when we didn't really have the space or the  right mindset for lots of things including homebrewing. But: smallholding life does incorporate homebrewing, or at least that is what John Seymour (an excellent author on how to do smallholding life) says.

And so another portion of stickiness was added to the overall stickiness of ourselves and the kitchen, and that was the process brewing fig wine, two jars bubbling away at the moment, with a huge pot of figs on the stove waiting to be cooked. Wish he would get a move on with that pot, though, as there is queue of food, like a chunk of recycled lamb from the freezer to be pot roasted, and some courgettes waiting to be souped and then frozen for winter use, that are requiring of that pot.

So that is why there is a wine jar on the table. And infront of the wine jar you can see a plate which looks like it has string on it, plus a couple of ball-like objects. This is wool ready to be knitted with. Haven't mentioned anything about the Spinning Project, but over the summer I have learnt to spin wool from the fleece sheared from our sheep in June. And behind the wine jar is an upturned stool draped with a skein of yarn which has been washed and dried, and is ready to be rolled into a ball ready to knit or crochet with. And that produces another tad of stickiness, although more pleasant than sugar associated stickiness, and that is the stickiness of the lanolin oil present in the fleece, which covers my hands with a sheen of grease, and my clothes as well if given half a chance, when I am spinning the wool. Lanolin is a delight on the skin though, and is very softening.

I brought the lambs back from Sarah's place yesterday morning. It was time to do so. Time to take up the responsibility of learning how to look after them. Two things we could have done: Have them here in the Courtyard so that they become a part of our home life such that they imprint behaviours from their life living so close to us. Or put them out in the Sheep Barn, where they would not have this imprintedness happening, such that they would stay true to what they are meant to be. This would mean leaving them alone for stretches of time during the day but not at night when the flock would be in the same barn, but not actually in phsysical touching distance. What I mean is: Have them here in the Courtyard where they would be frequently picked up and cuddled, probably play with the chickens and dogs,  and possibly start coming into the house, - in other words they would become pets.

And in front of the wine jar is the feeding bottle for the lambs. For the last couple of days I have been learning how to feed our two lambs, the making of their milk always ending up with another portion of stickiness either on the work surface in the kitchen because I have dribbled the milk whilst making the milk and filling the bottle, or tipped the bottle over whilst trying to get the teat onto the bottle. Then there is the testing of the milk to see if it is the right temperature which adds another trickle of stickiness over the back of my hand.

And then out to the Sheep Barn to feed the two of them, because that is where we have decided to house them in the hope that they will naturally engage with being sheepy sheep rather that sheep-pets, I sit on a stool, hold the bottle and receive more stickiness as the lambs feed, one of them normally nuzzling and trying to suck my hands while the other one feeds. We have only one bottle unfortunately, the problem being that the special lamb teats are so narrow that they will only fit small screw-top bottles, which we can't find. The bottle we do have was donated by the receptionist at the Vets, but she wouldn't give me two. Nor would she give me another teat as she only had one left. But we manage.

Did you know that lambs have teeth? Well they do because I have been nibbled. And did you know that they 'break wind'? And that the aroma can be quite rich? Or that they snore, or rather 'zizz' because they are only little. Or that they delight in nuzzling bare skin? Or that tufts of hair start growing on the naked skin of their ears making them look like they are reversing the process of being bald? Or that their 'doings' seems to stick to anything that the squelch comes into contact with, and that as it dries it leaves a glorious bright orangey-yellow stain? And did  you know that if a lamb doesn't have a sheep-mother, that a lick around by the family dog particularly in the area of the poo-hole can solve the problem of the gunge which can accumulate around that orifice and which does not seem to wash off with a flannel and water? And that one should not pick up and cuddle lambs because this humanises them, but one can always sit with one's back against the hay bale or barn wall, on the floor, at their level, and they will come and have a sniff at your face and you can sniff at theirs and so you and them will be bonding but not on your terms but on theirs.
Just passing on these titbits of info just in case  you should find yourself in a similar position, of being a temporary parent to young sheep.

By the way, when they came back from Sarah's place we put them in the field with their mum who came running towards them with great joy, but then head butted them and walked away. It was a sad moment. While they sounded like her babies, they didn't smell like them and so she said "No, I don't want to look after them", thus producing another raft of lessons to be learnt for us. Not to worry. We are managing.

Also, and this is a hugely long blog but there is lots to write about, one of the eggs hatched in the Chicken Hut, but the chick was evicted by its mum. Crikey, but we do not seem to be having much luck with mums and their babies! Anyway, chick now in situ in the office, beside Hubs, and has been joined by two more, Hubs having decided not to risk their mum chucking them out of the nest again, so he has removed them from their mum as soon as they have been hatched. Will write more about this, but the lambs are imprinting me as their main parent, and the chicks are imprinting Hubs as their main parent. Who'd have thought, three years ago, that we would be feeding milk to lambs and water and feed to chicks. Crikey, but if one keeps taking up opportunities which come along, it is amazing what experiences one will have subsequently!

Back to the table: The candle holder beside the wine jar doesn't really produce a stickiness as such, but I light a candle  and send a thought up to the Universe for help when I am feeling like I am slithering backwards. It is lit often of late. Sugary stickiness sticks you to things, but lighting a candle and asking for help unsticks me from that backward slide and starts me moving forward again. Passing that on to you in case you  are having a 'backward slide' moment.

Better sign off, and if you stayed with until this point, then well done and blessings to you! And off I go to try to reduce the stickiness from my kitchen!


Anonymous said...

Hello there Vera,
Glad to hear that the lambs are doing so well. I think you made the right, though more difficult, decision, to house them in the barn.
When pushed for time (almost always) I just slice or chop courgettes, then fry lightly in butter or oil, and when cold pack in portions and freeze. When you need them they can be used for soup or pasta sauce or 'a la grecque'.
Hubs wine making has reminded me of when I filled the airing cupboard with pink foaming sludge when making strawberry wine!
I very much like your candle idea, I should try it really, as I could do with a bit of help at present.
Best Wishes,

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Great post with loads of interesting bits and pieces. Glad that the lambs and Mum sound as if they have full recoveed, even if they don't behave like Mum and kids any more. Fig wine, interesting, I have to say I have not gone beyond making fig jam. I thought about chutney but it takes too long:-) My patience is not that good. LOL Diane

Vera said...

Hi Ondine: Thanks for idea about how to prep courgettes for the freezer. Will have a go to see if I can reduce the pile. As for putting wine in the airing cupboard: I also had a 'bursting' experience when I was having a go at making ginger wine. The recipe said ' make sure the lid is firmly screwed onto the bottle while the wine fermets. This I did. But not tight enough, because the next morning, when showing some would-be house purchasers around, with a flourish I opened the airing cupboard to show them the cavernous delights of such cupboard only to have our nasal passages assaulted by ripening ginger. The contents of the bottle had burst the bottle open, and there was froth and foam over the entire cupboard, just like your pink foaming sludge!
As for the candle: I am sorry that you are feeling a bit down, but I always find that if I light the candle and ask the Universe for help, from the heart, then I always feel better. Hope it works for you, and will ask the Universe, on your behalf, to back you up.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I sent a comment earlier but it appears to have gone AWOL!!!

I said this was an interesting post with lots of information in it. So glad that Mum and lambs are doing well despite the fact they are not acting like Mum and kids anymore!!

Fig wine, interesting..... I have got no further than fig jam though I did look at fig chutney. Trouble is I have no patience for the time it takes to make chutney LOL. Diane

Vera said...

Hi Diane: You arrived twice, but glad that you got through to post a comment. I agree about chutney, plus we still have some pots left in the cupboard from last year which I keep forgetting about. Jam is OK. Wade our way through all the pots eventually, but chutney is a now and again munch so gets forgotten about. Made some courgette and ginger chutney this year which was fab, but can't be bothered to make any more. Oh and by the way, I tried to leave a comment on your blog today about your garden and its produce, but it wouldn't be accepted for some reason. So may I leave a comment here and say 'Wonderful produce, and envy your stoicism in regards to keeping going with the veg plot right through September only we seem to have drizzled away with the interest in ours.

Anonymous said...

Hello Vera,
I meant to say how fab your wool looks, it's crying out for an Arran knitting pattern.
Thanks so much for the kind thoughts.

Vera said...

I think so too, Ondine! But I am only able to make small balls of wool at the moment, the limitations of using a drop spindle to spin the yarn from the sheep fleece making it difficult to produce any quantity of yarn at speed. Will upgrade to a spinning wheel when funds permit, meanwhile I keep building a stock pile of yarn and will knit or crochet these up in due course. Being creative is good therapy for stilling a busy mind, and drop spindling has been a great calmer for me over the summer.

Roz said...

At least anything that can't go in a jar or in the fridge can be pig bound - wonderful recycling vehicles aren't they!! hope you are enjoying your Tamworth project as much as we are enjoying our fellas x

Ken Devine said...

Hi Vera
It's incredible what you are doing. If it was me, one single candle holder would not suffice. Did I read it right, you have only just recently bought a fridge? Have you done without one all the time you've been there?

I've learned something about sheep now thanks to you.

Vera said...

Roz:Absolutely right about the capacity of the pigs to recycle almost everything. The chickens are also great recyclers, so the compost heap is now suffering from starvation! Still besotted with the piggies, and everyone else here, including Hubs.

Ken: Hi and welcome back. Hope your time in France was productive, and wishing you well in regards to having to get back to the routine of life in the UK. We have had a fridge, but it was a camping fridge set up in the caravan, so was tiny and virtually useless in the hot weather. With relief it is now put into permament retirement!

Anonymous said...

Hey there Vera,
Hope you are keeping well
All the best

Vera said...

Hi Ondine. I am well, but have had no words in my head with which to create a blog entry! Sometime ideas flow through, sometimes they don't. Might be to do with how tired my head feels, and it has felt tired of late. But lovely to hear from you, and hope you are also keeping well. Vx

Roz said...

Are you ok Vera? or just silly busy? Missing your updates xxx