Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A box of spuds, then sleep, blessed sleep.......

This is  a box of spuds (potatoes), kindly donated by a local farmer as extra to his needs. Each year he gives us his leftovers, and each year they are cooked up and given to the pigs. Well not this year they aren't. 
We didn't grow potatoes this year and are feeling the lack of not having any to store in jars. We could buy in potatoes from the supermarket, but the best ones are expensive. The grotty ones are cheaper but would not can very well. 

So,  Lester peeled some of the spuds while I carried on working on the surprise harvest of tomatoes we have had. Ripe ones today, cut up and cooked, to be canned when cooled down.

Potatoes peeled, into jars. 
Some canning recommendations say that it is best to boil the potatoes for ten minutes before canning them, but my experience says that the potatoes don't taste as good and also tend to break up during canning. So I put the potatoes into the jars uncooked, filling the jars with warm water debubling along the way, then 35 minutes at 10lbs pressure in my All American canner.

Ten jars now done.
 Ten meals waiting to be eaten. 
Fast food, this is what these jars mean to us.
No time for cooking? Open a jar, give it a quick sniff to see that the contents have not gone 'off', then potatoes sliced, into frypan with spoonful of DIY lard, sliced onion and other veg added, sprinkling of seasoning over all (Garam Masala is my favourite at the moment), cook up some eggs in another pan, or open a jar of canned meat (which I heat for twenty minutes just to be safe), 
and hey presto! DIY Fast Food!!! 

Lots more potatoes to do though. We have two boxes to prep and can. So whispering to you that perhaps I might be giving some to the pigs after all.

And the shelves in the back kitchen starting to fill up:
Top shelf left: jams, then canned meat. Top right: canned fruit.
Second shelf left: chutneys, canned potatoes, then canned green tomatoes, canned tomato soup thingy, then far left the dehydrated food which is waiting to be taken into the front kitchen. 
The lower two shelves are carrying bits and pieces of stuff at the moment, which will have to found a home because I anticipate all of these shelves will be filled, which will get us through next year and beyond if we are frugal and things happen which are beyond our control. 

The Chicken Hut Project:

Lester has got all the brambles cleared away and burnt. 
The chicken hut is going to be just in front of that tree. 
A long way to go, but little by little.....
He now has to fill some of the ditch with rubble to make a base for the hut. 
No shortage of rubble here....the builders have left plenty of that laying around.

This is the house side of the ditch. 
We think the chickens should do well once we have got this done, and at least we shall be able to control their 'laying of the eggs' habit. At the moment the rascals are laying out and about and we are getting fed up with buying eggs from the supermarket.

The Spinning Project: Making dyes.

Well my pot of shredded fig leaves produced a very pale yellow colour, so I put the leaves through my food processor to shred them even finer, which worked. The colour is now a darker shade of yellow, similar to the colour of pee. I am not sure that I like that colour, although it will dry lighter but will still carry the pee colour. I am late with collecting berries, but I might just about be able to pick some sloes from the blackthorn hedge in the back field, and I thought I would crush these and add them to the pot. Next year I shall definitely harvest the purple berries of the elder trees we have here, and shall look around for other possible dyes to make.

I think I shall halve the amount of dye in the pot, saving the light yellow colour,
then add any sloes I can find to the rest of the pot. At least that way I can get two colours of dye to play with. Oh, and then there is the onion skin dye. I have tried that already and it made a golden light brown colour when I added to some of my spun wool. 

Of course I could buy in dye, but I don't want to do that, not at the moment anyway.

The Pig Project:

Our two adult Tamworths are now bickering quite happily with each other, rather like a married couple who have been together a long time. No more friendly chatterings through the fence, it is now full on dominance from Max, the boar, with Mum Sow arguing back that she is the more dominant one. Hopefully we shall have piglets next year, all of whom will go into the freezer or be traded.

The Cow and Dairy Project:

The calf is now out on the side field for the day with the sheep, leaving Lissie, her mum, and Bonny, her aunt, to graze in the back field. We should be having complaints from both, but so far today it has been quiet. The calf is a month old and feeding on grass, but still needs access to a good quantity of milk, this she gets after Lester has milked Lissie morning and evening. I should be able to start making soft cheese soon, but not hard cheese for a while yet. We still need to sort out the cheese keeping facilities, with the under stairs cupboard now not on the agenda after a friend mentioned that the humidity required to keep cheese long term will not do well with the electric box which is also in that area. The rat holes which appeared in the cupboard have now been concreted over, but we don't want to have power cuts because of damp electric cables! 

So, that's it for now. I need to go out and help Lester with the rocks, then on to canning, canning, and more canning. 

We feel a bit fresher today. As in the manner of all homesteader / small holders our days are not divided into 'Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, with weekends off and several weeks of paid holidays per year'. No. We don't have this type of lifestyle at all because every day something needs to be done, so eventually the days start to roll seamlessly by, filled with work on the land, the animals, maintenance, and projects, all of which are outside. Indoors is just as busy. 

Eventually, though, the mind and body say 'enough', which is what happened yesterday afternoon to both me and Lester. Straight after lunch we did a crash, like trees toppling over, that is what it felt like, and into bed we went. Apart from evening chores, that was our state of being for the rest of the day.  But today we are back in the saddle, which is a good thing because a smallholding does not run itself. I just wish we could be more generous to ourselves when we do crash into hours of sleep. The vague sense of guilt does tend to sit in the background of our minds. 

The sun is shining today. 
Life is good.
Some say that this is about when the asteroid hits Earth, or something....
We don't pay much attention to such fear mongering,
life is very fragile anyway, 
so best to concentrate on the positive, let negative thoughts go,
and continue to try and do our best for this day. 

At my end, just before I pass over,  I would like to look back at my life and think
'I got good value out of the years of my life'.



ally said...

Just left a comment on your last post. Are you using mordants to fix your natural dyes? As previously mentioned they used wee wee of old! I used to order them on line. Mordants , that is.

Dawn McHugh said...

I was only thinking of canning some potatoes, I have a bucket of small ones and thought I would do those so a very timely post, it looks like your getting ready for a good hibernation I hope yo find a suitable place for your cheeses :-)

DUTA said...

The potatoes look nice in the jars. Worth the effort. It's such a versatile vegetable!
It can be boiled, fried, baked, roasted, steamed... I'm a true lover of potatoes.

Vera said...

ALLY, just read your comment on my last post, bless you, and have responded to it. I shall keep in mind the use of wee if I have a problem with mordants!

DAWN, potatoes do alright in the canner, but as I said in the post, I do not cook them first. Sometimes some starch from the potatoes appears in the jars once they are canned, but this does not spoil the contents, just makes the liquid look a bit cloudy. But potatoes done this way really do make for a fast DIY meal. I am looking forward to having time to sew, as I would think you are too!

DUTA, I love potatoes as well, and we eat them most days. As you say, they are a very versatile vegetable, plus I like to eat them as well!

Jean said...

You certainly pack a lot in to your days Vera. I suppose you just have to, in order to keep things on track, or close to the track anyway.
I'm not surprised that you had a little crash. Everyone has their limits and yours are sky high compared to most of the rest of us.

PioneerPreppy said...

I love those pictures of your place. I have always loved any and all European countryside since I was stationed in Germany years ago.

Interesting aboutt he dye. I may have to try it or at least suggest it. I am not the wool caretaker though once it is off the sheep anyway.

Lots of good work going on around your place!!!!!

Cro Magnon said...

One never gets bored with potatoes, but I wouldn't think of bottling them. I don't grow them; I simply trust M Leclerc to do that for me. I love Garam Masala too.

Vera said...

JEAN, I do seem to do a lot, although not as much as I would like to!

PIONEER PREPPY, ... I love the oldness of Europe, having lived for sixty years in the UK coming to France was like a step backwards in time, especially our area which is near to the Pyrenees, (Haute Pyrenees, region 65). We have been here for seven years, and I feel blessed that I have had this opportunity to learn so much about living off the land.

I suppose I am the 'wool caretaker' of our family. My husband looks after the sheep, and either hands me a bundle of fleeces after shearing for me to spin, or a carcass to take onwards into the freezers or process into canning jars. You have a good way with words PP.

CRO MAGNON, we bottle the potatoes so we can have DIY fast food! But this year our local Intermarche supermarket is providing our potato needs, apart from these donated potatoes, because we didn't grow potatoes this year and miss having not done so.

I buy Garam Masala online as can't find any local supermarkets which sell it. I am heading towards buying in a lot more spices over the internet because of the lack of choice here, although the local SuperU supermarket now has two types of curry powder, both of which are lacking in any taste at all!

Kerry said...

Love potatoes too, even though I've had a hard time finding my favourite - Desire - in the supermarkets here in France. I found it a really good all round spud. But then we found some Desire in the garden centre to grow ourselves, but because we dithered, when we went back to buy some, they had all gone. So we went for Rosabelle instead, which have turned out to be excellent and we will be growing more next year. Love watching your shelves fill up with all your goodies, its like having your own supermarket :)

Anonymous said...

Loving your work Vera. Sprinkle a little garam masala on your omelette as it cooks and your taste buds will thank you evermore!

Vera said...

KERRY, when we are fully stocked up it does feel like a mini supermarket, and gives us a sense of pride in what we are doing, making all the hard work worthwhile.

ANONYMOUS, thanks for the tip.......garam masala gets sprinkled on most of our food now, but not cakes or desserts, not yet anyway!