Sunday, 30 October 2016

Some 'firsts'........

First butter made this season. That is now in the freezer. Experience has shown that butter that has been made, then frozen, seems to keep fresher than if used directly after it is made.

First buttermilk cake made, not yet eaten but looks good.

First cheese made this season.... but not looking good. Turned out half the size as normal, and took forever to set. Don't think I shall age this one. Either will let the wheel dry for a few days, cover it with olive oil and leave another few days, then see what it tastes like.  Either us, the dogs, or the pigs, will eat then eat it.

Bonny has had her calf. He is definitely a male, and has the attitude to prove it. Milly, Lissie's female calf, is showing girlish ways, prancing and flirting round the male calf, practising for when she is older and needs servicing.

Both cows are being milked in the evenings now, and are producing nearly eight litres of milk per session. This will reduce as the calves drink more during the day, and when this happens then the calves will be separated for one of the feeds. Already Milly is nibbling at grass, which is supplementing the milk she is still getting from Lissie. Milly might be staying with us, eventually to become our third milking cow. Now investigating milking machines and cream separators. Off to visit a small diary near us to get further info tomorrow.

The udders of the cows are astonishingly big this season, presumably because they are getting older. I am in awe of the size of them. I was a mum too, a long time ago. I have memories of being in a state of milk production.

The Chicken Project is coming along, with the wire now up on a section of the chicken run. It seems to have taken an age to get this project moving, but then we have been busy with doing other things.

The Poly Tunnel Project is also on the move, but more about that in a future blog. Just to say that we have stopped the dithering about whether we need one, or not, and if we do then what size to get. It was a relief to get this finally sorted.

The Rayburn wood burning stove is now lit, although only in the evenings. And the delight of having the vague smell of wood smoke hovering in the air, of feeling that magnificent warmth oozing into the bones and chasing away the slight damp in the air which you get when you live in an old farmhouse, of being able to festoon the Rayburn with washing to dry overnight, of hearing the singing sound which wood sometimes makes as it burns, of feeling the live energy which the living fire in the Rayburn brings to the house. Of not panicking over much when the pump refused to work when the Rayburn was first lit. Of hearing the alarming sound of boiling water whizzing up and down in the pipes, ending with a loud whoosh as it finally ended up in the over fill tank upstairs. Not to worry (actually I did!), Lester quickly damped the fire out, the water cooled, no more bubbling. Off came the pump. Wasn't working. This confirmed by our friend down the road. Off to Tarbes to buy another pump after first ringing a French plumber. New pump purchased, to be picked up in a couple of weeks time. Plumber arrived. Undid a little grey knob on front of pump. Stuck his screw driver into the hole. Twiddled screw driver. Said pump was working, and was not dead. Put knob back. Said to Lester that he was to put the pump back on to the Rayburn system and that he would come along the next afternoon to see what was happening when the Rayburn was running. Rayburn lit that night. Pump behaving. Must have got stuck during its summer sleep, as indeed we all do.

First bread made in the Rayburn. Just threw the bread mix into the mixer, gave it a whizz through, did not knock the bread back to give it a second rise so put it straight into the loaf tin,  into the Rayburn oven when risen, did not expect much of a result but wow!!!! That bread was delicious, best I have ever made. Now not fussed with using the SMEG oven. Now enchanted with the Rayburn oven, and will start experimenting with cooking other things in it.

First batch of Greek Yoghurt made with our milk. Lots of investigating now as to flavourings, and freezing possibly to make ice cream. This is something we may sell at a later date. I am researching wholesale containers, probably pretty glass ones, to put the yoghurt in. This is another interesting project.

Have sourced the 'shed' for the shop, and thankfully the source is in Plaisance, which is just along the road to us. All the other potential sources were a distance away, and now we do have not have the pulling power of the Mercedes to pick up one of these 'sheds' in our trailer, we must rely on it being delivered. Have not yet decided on what style of 'Shed' we are going to get as there is quite a good range to choose from, all expensive of course, but not to worry, we need it so it must be got. Lots to do before we get to the stage of getting the 'shed' up, so time yet to keep looking at the various styles.

First drive our in our new little white van. Love it. Lester says that it drives like a boat. I have not driven it yet, but will soon. It seems to exactly fit our characters, and to exactly fit our farming lifestyle.

It is a lovely morning here. Lester has just come in to give me this news. The birds are singing, and the sun is shining with such a force of heat that it is making things steam. The calves have been romping together out on the field, with Bonnie and Lissie chasing after them. The sheep are quietly grazing. The dogs are sitting beside me waiting for breakfast. I need to go and make a super duper fruit crumble because we are off to  lunch at a friend's house today, and I promised to do the dessert. It is a roast dinner, venison probably, so we thought a crumble would sit nicely for the dessert.

In anticipation of a happy and joyful Sunday, and hope yours will be / or was, the same.

Bye for now.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Last harvest of the year........

We now have seven ewes and one ram. A week ago we had fifteen ewes plus their lambs, and one ram. The difference in the numbers between then and now is because we have now put eight of this years lambs into the freezer. We did two a day, but spread the work over two days for each two sheep. It was tough going. Not our most favourite task to do, but it had to be done if we are to have enough grazing for everyone this winter. We were going to put ten in the freezers, but we ran out of steam with the effort of it all.

It is not that it is dreadfully hard work, but working with innards and things does tend to sit on the mind after a while, which is why our minds could only manage eight. But I like that we are sensitive to the task we are involved with, as it stops us from being hard hearted, and helps us feel respectful to the animal who we have come to know over the previous few months. All the lambs were nearly a year old, and would have lambs themselves next Spring, which is why it was urgent to get the flock numbers down now.

But the job is done and the freezers are full, so my task this winter is to get as much of the meat canned as possible. Finally, after eight years of working to get a functioning house and smallholding up and running, it would seem that we are starting to get into the rhythm of farm life. It is a priceless way of life, but perhaps not for the faint hearted, especially if you are also providing your own meat.

Short sleeved t-shirt on today as I went out and about scything here and there in the lovely warm sunshine. Then some spinning. Then some patchwork. And all outside. Some people have had their wood burning fires on in the evening, but our house seems to be holding its heat, and anyway, our training with coping with cold weather when we were living in a caravan when we first arrived here tends to encourage us keep putting on warm clothing before we get fires lit.

Last task of the year in regards to the animals is getting the two adult pigs dispatched. With no signs of piglets at all after over a year of them being together we cannot but presume that they have finished procreating, which is not good seeing as how they are the most expensive animals to keep here. We have to watch the budget. The pigs can't be thought of as pets. So, just waiting for inspiration as to what to do with them. Either way, this will be another one of those heart string pulls, especially for Lester, who is very bonded to his Tamworth pigs. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Off to visit Lester in the cow barn. He has started milking Lissie in the evenings although Milly is still with her mum all the time, so two to three litres per milking at the moment. I am too busy with getting the recent meat harvest processed so don't have time to make cheese, so this is enough milk for us for the time being.

Bye for now.

Friday, 14 October 2016

He? No 'She'.......

So what do you do when this little one arrives.....
...... just born, still damp, still dazed by the world.....
but it is a male calf, what do you do?
Well immediately your mind shifts gear, because he cannot be sold or kept here,
because we could never manage the energy of a bull in full rut.
It's enough to have a ram and a boar when they have testosterone streaming through them,
but a rampant full sized
So his eventual destiny is to provide us with beef.
But then 'he' changed his destiny himself,
because Lester must have misread the geography of his undercarriage,
this being brought to his attention when the calf squatted to go to wee.
A male calf would stand upright to wee.
A female calf will bend her back legs into a squat.
This he she did in front of Lester as he was ushering her out into the field with her mum.
So no beef for us next year, but a little female cow,
who may be sold on, or perhaps may stay here.
As I was watching her come into the barn yesterday,
the name 'Millicent' arrived in my head,
so 'Milly' it is.

And here she is trying to get up on all fours for the first time.
Lissie's udders were expanded beyond what we thought was good for them,
so Lester drew off a few litres of milk to take the pressure off.
Lester said that Milly was most intrigued.
Said that she was almost cross eyed with wonder about what the hell he was doing to the teats which she was previously drinking from!
Bye for now,

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Not doing, just dawdling......

So here is the front drive, looking quite tidy, apart from the heap of hay bales. The first heap is where the hut for selling our home grown produce is going to be. Lester will move the bales when we get nearer to the time of getting the hut assembled if they have not been used up meanwhile.

And here is the other side of the drive, with the rampant bay tree / shrub on the right, followed by general bits and pieces of hedge along the rest of the drive, including brambles, wild roses, and blackthorn, all of which looks very overgrown and untidy. Knowing that we need to get the place presentable if we are to hopefully be able to sell our veg next year, it has become my mission to get that hedge under control. At one time I was going to pull it up and plant flowering shrubs, but I have come to recognize what a silly idea that is, and that perhaps to cut the hedge down to half height, and trim in back to half width, might be a far more sensible option to take. And yesterday was to be the start of that project.
However.....well, it was not my fault, because for the last few days it has felt very much like Spring has arrived, which has encouraged the birds to sing at full voice, and encouraged a sense in me of needing to stop and enjoy this delightful weather while we still have it. I was also waiting for Lester to come back from the two year inspection of our old black Mercedes, and so this is what I was doing.....

.... at least I had sharpened my scythe even if I was not actually using it, and at least I was thinking about what I ought to be doing even if I wasn't doing it.
And then Lester arrived home with the news that the Merc was now to be no more, after it had horrendously failed the inspection. We had expected it. But now we urgently needed to find another car, but not from the UK as originally planned but locally. By the end of the day we had settled on a little two seater Renault Kango van, which had shelves in the back so we could take produce to the local market if we needed to. This is not something we want to do, but we have to keep our options open as to where we can sell our produce, and we thought the shelves would be very handy if we needed to do that. The van is much more appropriate for trainee market gardeners, rather than a tatty old beaten up Mercedes.
The van is very small, cosy, and cute. It will do.
Meanwhile, nothing much done here again today other than sorting out the paperwork for the van and then having a really super lunch to celebrate the outlay of yet another chunk of money! And then back home for a nap to recover from the nervous energy we have had as we endlessly discussed what the hell we were going to do about getting another car. Hopefully I shall be scything tomorrow.
Bye for now,

Saturday, 1 October 2016


So what do you do when you hear the pitter patter of rain on the velux windows overhead
when you are trying to wake up to start the day.
Well you acknowledge the joyful thought that perhaps today might be a good day to stay indoors and do some sewing, that is what you do.
So then what do you do when your dearly beloved husband lurches into the house a while later in a bit of a mood because the farmer man who we ordered hay and straw from decided to deliver it today, in the rain, and was not really paying much attention to where he was putting the bales.
Well you get dressed, put wellies and rain mack on, and go have a look at what is happening, that is what you do.

And look at this whopper of a tractor!

.... and Lester now taking charge of where the bales are to be put....

....and Lester tidying up the bales once the farmer man and his fancy blue tractor had left.
It was raining very hard by now.
The bales of straw and hay were getting a thorough soaking because there was no time to cover them with tarpaulins to keep them dry. Rain and hay / straw are not a good mixture, not unless  you want nicely rotted down manure in a few months time, which the animals would not appreciate either eating or sleeping on.
..and just so it does not feel left out, here is our little tractor, tucked up and nicely dry...

..... and the two rottweiller girls, who have just been told off for playing 'let's hunt for mice' in the hay bales beside them, which has become their favourite pastime now that they can no longer amuse themselves by herding the chickens and geese hither and thither.

Despite the gung ho attitude of the farmer man, this was the only bale which suffered any damage.

And it elegantly fell apart when Lester tried to shift it, but fortunately it was a straw bale,

so we scooped the loose straw up and put it into the sheep and cow barns.

I am sure that the sheep and cows will thoroughly enjoy their new bedding.
A few sunny days forecasted ahead, which should give the bales time to dry out after the soaking they had today.
And saying 'bye for now'.