Thursday 26 December 2013

No omelette

We escaped having omelette and roasties for Christmas lunch after I had a last minute forage in the freezer and pulled out a leg of lamb. This was mid afternoon on Christmas Eve. So, how to cook it.....

- I could put it straight into my American canner which is also a pressure cooker, which is a method I often use for cooking meat straight from the freezer without having to defrost it first. Four litres of water, one frozen joint of meat, one hour later, and done. Leave pressure cooker to come down off pressure for half an hour, meat out of cooker, drop of oil on top of meat, pop into hot oven so that the surface can crisp up. Two hours to get a roast dinner on the table, so this is an excellent way when I have either forgotten to get the meat out of the freezer to defrost, or I decide on a roast dinner at the last minute.

The only trouble with this method is that the meat is cooked in itself, so does not have time to absorb any other flavourings to help it along, so any flavouring for the meal has to come from outside of the meat.

- Pot roast, now that does put flavourings into the meat. So what I did with the leg of lamb this time, was put it straight from the freezer into my big pot, covered it with water, a few stock cubes, carrots, bay leaves, and onions, simmered it until I remembered to switch it off later on in the evening, left it to stand overnight, got it out in the morning, and wow, but it was so tender. So into the oven to get a roasted top, but not so much that it dried out. I also put foil around the lower leg meat, which has a tendency to get like leather if this is not done.

Because the meat had been slow cooked and then left overnight to cool down, the meat did not fall apart when Himself sliced into it, which it normally does if I use the fast track pressure cooking method. 

It was a bit touch and go as to whether Himself would get the plucking of the feathers done in time for Christmas lunch, after a family pow wow yesterday took the decision to start getting the cockerel numbers down. Cockerels in full action are a trial to any hens, and several of our hens had been driven to hiding away in corners to get away from the single boys. The grey Orpington, the white, and Orpy Junior, these cockerels each have their own groups of hens, and they work well together. But it is the solo boys, of which there had been six, these were the problem, charging at any hen they saw in a screeching  whirlwind of feathers and claws, to then take that hen whether she wanted taking or not. Cockerel rape, that is what was happening. It is not nice to hear, or to see. Our girls need looking after, so the six are to go. 

For reasons best known to himself, Lester decided to get another one done yesterday, despite Christmas lunch being on the way. And it was with a mild sense of the macarbre that I started dishing dinner up on plates laid at one end of the kitchen table, with Himself gutting the cockerel at the other end.

We might have had goose for dinner though. Our two rottweiller girls were recently caught with one of our geese in their mouths. Not one goose each. No, it was both girls hanging on, side by side, to the neck of one goose. They were told off, big time. The goose lives on.

But the Tamworth big girl pig does not. A family pow wow at the beginning of the year decided that should she not have had a litter by the end of the year, then she would have to go into the freezer. She has. But we had to buy a new freezer to put her in.

It was a fast and painless death. She was not caught by her legs and held aloft, so that her throat could be cut, so that her blood could flow into a bucket, so that blood sausage could be made. That would have meant megga distress for both her and us. Anyway, she was far to big for that. Stretched out she was two metres long, and weighed around 300 -350 kgs. To have even tried to get hold of her legs would have meant having to have more man help, because what you do if you want the blood for sausage is rope all four legs individually, one or two men per leg. Then you hoist the hind legs up so the pig is at full stretch. Then the throat is cut. How do we know that this is done? Because a friend had his pig slaughtered by a professional butcher and that is how the professionals do it. But we don't. 

She danced across the paddock towards us, put her nose joyfully into her food, the humane killer was put to her forehead, and she was gone in a second. The blood vessel in her neck was then opened quickly, and her blood flowed freely into the ground, to give life to the ground, and she stayed on the ground until this was all done. And then up on to the tractor, to be quietly, and almost reverently, taken back to the courtyard. 

Five days later, and all was in the freezer. One day for phase one, which was the end of life and preparation for being taken into the kitchen. It was a long day. Day two, the second phase, was trying to get her into the kitchen, but we had to divide her up into portions because she was so heavy. Even then Lester had trouble carrying in even the smallest of the pieces, which was one of her back legs. As for half of her actual body lengthwise, well, the wheelbarrow, Lester, and me, somehow managed but only just. It was a struggle.Then the division into 'smaller' pieces. It was a long day. Day three, and the third phase. Still the main body to go, with bacon pieces, and chops, one chop weighing in at 1.5 kgs.  As I say, she was a big girl. Another long day.  Day four, still phase three. And bits and pieces being sorted out. Big bucket of meat in the fridge waiting for mincing. Tried to use my table top mincer, but it was too low powered. So out to buy a semi pro mincer. Too tired to try it out.  Day five, still phase three.... It took five minutes to put a very big and very full bucket of meat through the mincer. Several hours later, and all done. Three types of sausage meat made either into patties or bagged as was, but no sausages, preferring the patties instead. 

All in all it was a five day job which seemed to go on forever. But never did we forget that this was our pig raised on our smallholding. And now we have three freezers full of the harvest of our livestock, with still some more harvesting to be done. We are still reducing the numbers of sheep, so that the fields are not so pressurized. This has to be done otherwise we risk the health and well being of all the animals here. 


Have just taken the dogs out for pee and poo. It was raining and very windy. There was something quite wild and earthy walking across the fields,  in the half light,  in my wellies and dressing gown with my umbrella held aloft. 

Christmas lunch, in the end, and despite having a cockerel prepped for the freezer while the food was being put on the plates, was lovely. The lamb almost melted in the mouth. 

Hope you had a good Christmas meal as well,.......
Love and blessings

Tuesday 24 December 2013

A veggie Christmas?

So I asked Lester, "What meat would you like to have on Christmas Day? You can have pork, rabbit, chicken, lamb, mutton, or goat."
He said, "I don't fancy any meat, just some roast potatoes will do, and an omelette".
So has Lester turned veggie all of a sudden. No. It is just that we have been full on with other things, most of which include reducing of the numbers of our animals, either through failing health, infertility, or by selection. Since it does not seem to be appropriate to go into exactly what has been eating up our time and has made us go off meat for the time being, I shall leave that for after Christmas. When we have been working with the insides of our animals we do go through a couple of days of no meat eating. It is just unfortunate that Christmas has parked itself where it has. Oh you could say that we could have left the meat task to after Christmas, but no we couldn't, because we have just had the most glorious weather for the last month, so we had to take the opportunity to do what we needed to do before the weather closed down on us.

However, last night we did go to a Christmas party at a friend's house, whereupon Christmas music was played live. It was fun, although home to bed by 11pm. No late nighters any more. Cow to milk. Animals to feed. But at least for a few hours we were immersed in the festive spirit, with Christmas tree glittering, lights twinkling, and wine flowing.

But we do have wine here. And we do have a lovely branch of holly complete with loads of bright red berries, and we have a teensy weensy pile of presents, two in total, sent from the UK by Denise over at Much Malarkey Manor (see side bar), who thought that we should not escape the pleasure of opening Chrissie prezzies. (Sorry D. The third prezzie was opened up and eaten by himself on his birthday a few days ago because there had been no time to make him a birthday cake). So we have a smidgeon of Christmas, albeit tiny.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.

And I hope that the time between Christmas and the start of the new year is filled with reflections about what you have achieved, that you let go of what you didn't manage to get done, and that you allow yourself to feel optimistic for the coming year.

Am off to make himself a cup of tea and toast, and myself also the same. Then off outside to enjoy our animals and whatever else the day brings.


Thursday 19 December 2013

A bit of heat

So we need to cut wood,
not for this year though,
because this year we do not need wood,
because we have no fire.

Actually, that's not quite true,
because we still have the  wood burner in the sitting room,
only the sitting room
is no longer
a sitting room, 
although once it was.....

...although it was only temporary,
 while we were still camping out, 
but only at night,
commuting from the house
to the caravans.
to sleep.

But now has come the time
to do things to the lounge,
which means
that the fire
is not used,
unless it is by Hubs,
having a warm up, between chipping away
at the walls,
and what a surprise!
Because beneath the old lime mortar,
where we thought would be nonsense,
there are river stones.

Lots of work to do then.
the rottweiller girls have discovered,
albeit for only a little while,
the joys of having heat.

it will be next winter
before they can
snooze for hours and hours
and get toasty warm.
The same for us.

And is something called Christmas hovering around?
Haven't a clue what the date is,
but it is Thursday,
this we know,
because the bin men came two days ago.
And the shortest day arrives soon.
Winter seems to be galloping along at a brisk pace.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Oh the joys of scything......

Been out scything grass in the lower field. 
I do this every morning. 
Five hundred swipes of the scythe I do, 
more or less,
because I need to fill the wheelbarrow
three times,
so that the pigs can have their breakfast.

They like the grass. 
It has made their poo a happier colour,
and they like raking around,
picking out the best bits,
to eat first. 
They tell us they like doing this,
because their tails wag,
and they do little snortles
as they munch.

And I like scything,
because it gets me outside at dawn,
which is something I would not do,
because it can be cold,
and the fingers and toes
can get frosty,
almost to frostbite,
well, perhaps not quite that,
but nearly.

And I like scything,
because it exercises my back,
and I get to drink in
lungfuls of cold air,
which sometimes hurts my chest,
it is so cold,
it does clear out the bronchials.

Am off outside in a mo,
just to wish you a happy Sunday,
and say,
well done. 

Tuesday 10 December 2013

On being a GoFor

So while some of us were messing about digging holes in the veg plot, others of the Labartere Team were doing other things.....

So what, you may ask, was happening here! 

Well I was sitting doing my knitting, which is my usual occupation when being required to act as the one and only GoFor for Hubs when he is doing DIY renovation things, which he is now becoming confident about doing. At one time he could hardly aim a hammer in the appropriate direction, but he is now coming along very well with doing manly DIY things, although has not quite managed to do anything about the Rayburn cooking range which is still parked up in the hallway, but he is frequently researching what he has to do to get it installed, and I remain optimistic that we will be roasty and toasty next winter.

Project for the day:

....the Middle Barn, getting the new goat pens finished. 

So why was I doing knitting when DIY work was going on? Because I find the role of a GoFor very tiring, in that I am required to stand around, looking interested, feeling bored, trying not to get frustrated about the time that is being wasted waiting for Hubs to be requiring of my help when I have a long list of other things I need to be doing. Therefore, to me, it is sensible to utilise the 'hanging around not doing anything' time by sitting nearby to rest and knit until it is necessary to spring into action and help my man. 

The cheese was not made, the cream remains in its bowl so no butter been made, the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit it, lunch was yesterday's leftovers, but I did manage to get a few more rows of Lester's jumper knitted, and it was nice to think that the goats will be shifted over into their new pens soon, so that Bonny and Lissie, our two cows, can have a bigger space to rest in. All in all, a productive day. 

Hope you had a productive day as well......

Friday 29 November 2013

The owld dooor.........

..... and here be ye owlde door,
'tis a door which has seen much life,
as can be clearly seen....

And this door is well ventilated,
so fresh air
can easily blow
through the house,
thus ensuring a healthy living
for all inside....

But now is the time of the cold,
so all those inside
need for the fresh flow of air
to be stopped.

Et voila!

Take one old caravan curtain,
unpick it, rip it, stitch it back up.
Sew strips of old duvet cover up top.
Take one broom.
Put DIY curtain on broom.
Get one chair.
Stand on chair.
Heave heavily laden broom upwards.
Curtain falls off broom.
Oh ******
Lester is now called.
Stands on chair.
Broom now reloaded with curtain.
Broom wedged in place,
for a few seconds.
Broom wedged back up,
string tied to one end.

Et Voila!!!!

An owlde curtain,
held up by an owlde broom,
covering an owlde door,
in an owdle hoose.

And thus it is that
we carry on


Thursday 28 November 2013

No stiffo!

Looking at the side field, frost heavy on the ground, where is she, the goat who did a naughty last night, is she a stiffo?

Nooooo! Here she is, all feet pointing downwards, and in motion.

....but she was shivering! So I had a talk with her, and said that perhaps she should be more willing to go with the flow when Lester fetches her in from the field at night. I said that it was not worth being cold to the bone, which she obviously was, as her shivers were quite something to behold. But the sun was up, and it turned out to be a cheerfully sunny day, so soon she would have got warmer and forgotten about her cold night, but hopefully kept a modicum of memory in her head to stop her from doing another naughty tonight.

I hope yesterday went well for you, and that today goes even better. 


Wednesday 27 November 2013

Howlings, freezings, and it's not so bad....

There's nothing quite like being suddenly woken up in the middle of the night by two rottweiller girls, with very loud voices, howling as if all hell had been let loose.   

Why did they make such a din? 
Was it because they wanted to go outside for wees and poos? No. Standing outside in minus 3 temperatures with hardly anything on, watching the girls watching me to see what the hell I was doing outside in the dark, in the cold, and then the girls turning round and going back to bed because they were getting chilled, leaving me outside to get cross at them. The most smallest of tiddles would have been worth being woken up for, and might have spared me some angst. To have them look at me as if I was daft to have got them out of their warm beds was not pleasing to my humour.
Was it because they had had a nightmare? Do dogs dream? Well they do, because their eyes twitch, and their noses move about, as do their legs, and they do little woofs, not great big howls. So, no, not a dream.
Was it because they were being put into a fright by something or other? No, because they are developing 'I am big and fierce and not afraid' barks, these often being done just before they turn and run off in the opposite direction to the offending frightener, and have never stopped first to have a howl.

Why was it, then, that both of them punched out these hellish howls? 
Easy really. Because they could!

Just off to see if we have a stiffo goat in the side field. With the main field still being blocked by water, all the gang have to graze out in the side field. No probs. Except that Blackie, one of our goats, has been going through a ' being awkward' stage and will not come in at night, unless she is allowed to come through the field gate free of all encumbrances, such as being put on a lead, so that she can eat here, eat there, have a little jaunt around the place, and then finally, when she is ready, allow herself to be shooed into the pen with the other goats. 

So last night, she was offered the choice, several times, to come onto the rope or be left in the field. Her awkwardness persisted. She was left in the field overnight.

It was the coldest night here so far. She must have shivered. Perhaps her needing to be awkward will have disappeared away. Perhaps.

But for all of the winters we have experienced so far, we are less cold than what we have been. We could put the electric fires on of course, but there is a lack of effort on our parts to so do, and instead, we continue to pile on the layers of clothing. I will think of myself as being cold when all the layers are done. So far, it is socks, thermal longjohns, wincyette petticoat, thick corduroy skirt, thermal vest, another thermal vest, a t-shirt, a sleeveless top, a fleece jumper, a knitted cardi, a crocheted blanket, and sometimes a crocheted hat. Oh, and a pinafore somewhere in that lot. 

And I think of you experiencing much colder weather, and snow, and think to myself that it is not so bad here, and count my blessings. It is easy to get down in the dumps when the body feels chilled. But we are managing better than in previous winters, and will hardly be able to cope, I think, when the Rayburn stove goes in for next winter. 

So why not get the stove in for this winter? Because work from the UK, via the internet, has come in for Lester so he is occupied at his computer, and I am busy with my writing and website re-development on my computer. It is hard juggling the time needed to work on the house, work on the computers, and work on the farm. But then there are many of you who are also having to make this juggle, and it helps me to be patient my juggling knowing that you are also having to do a fair bit of juggling yourselves. It is always nice to know that one is not the only one. 

But I delay. Grass needs scything for the pigs (which will be easy this morning because the grass will be frozen stiff), dogs needs getting out (so they can have a romp), Lester needs someone to hover around him while he freezes his fingers, and probably everything else, as he milks Lissie, (just to help him stay cheerful), and I need to have a word with Blackie about it being unwise to carry on in such an unhelpful manner. Hopefully she will not be lying on her back with her legs pointing skywards and frozen stiff.

I hope you have a really lovely day.

Saturday 23 November 2013

Splashing about (again)

And the Muscovy boys studying the geese...

...ooopps, sorry, wrong photo (taken January 2013)

..... here are the geese, splashing away merrily,
(taken November 2013).
We don't normally have lakes.
We have had quite a few this year.

And one of the Muscovy boys having a paddle,

..... shepherded by Boolie, 

And I said to the Muscovy Boys,
"You are supposed to swim,
you have webbed feet,
you are ducks"

But they didn't listen,
and soon trundled back to the Tall Barn,
to find a patch of hay,
to have a sleep.

And the Adour, 
busy doing its job
of getting water away from the land.

I would not want to live anywhere else.

Friday 22 November 2013

Dropping everything

It had to be done.....

...a drop of sun, 
and all four of us crammed on to the front step,
me to do my knitting,
instead of doing stuff in the kitchen,
the dogs taking time off,
instead of cleaning up the drippings on to the floor,
which always happens
when I am cooking,
and all of us turning our faces towards the sun
for a wee roasting,
before we go back to work 
in the kitchen,
and the sun goes back behind the clouds.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

The sun came out today,
And we roasted for a while,
Then the weather did a sharp turn,
and the air became scented with the sharp chill
of nearby mountains which were being snowed on,
But not here, in the distance,

And the chattering of the sparrows,
which are my favourite birds,
and who are doing well here,
because of the leavings of our animals.
The chattering about the doings of the day,
that is what I heard
as I stood beside the big bay hedge,
waiting for Lester
to bring Bonny
in from the field.

We are giving the sheep hay now,
so no more maize when they come in at night.
Twinny almost did a left turn,
it being quite clearly a thought that was in her head,
that if she did a sharp turn right,
that she might be able to sneak into the goat's pen,
to eat their maize, 
only she would have been disappointed,
because they are having hay as well now. 
Sheep are not silly or daft,
they just don't think like we do.

So lots of hoorays today,
and another one,
because we soaked some sun up today!
Did you manage to get a drop of sun today as well?

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Lissie and Mazzy done

So no, Lissie, our Jersey cow, was obviously not in calf as she attempted to have a go at Lester and the goats in her neediness to be sorted out. So artificial insemination man called in again for a second attempt. But she is still giving us milk, bless her, and we remain observant of this when eating the produce she gives us via her milk. Lester, meanwhile, continues to have his patience stretched with her, but has only had one mucky foot in the bucket, and two kicked over buckets over during the last week. 

The temperatures are starting to zoom down but we still have not put any fires on, and the Rayburn continues to reside in the hallway, but not to worry, we have a couple of electric fires if we get too cold, and we do keep the bathroom warm so we can at least have one warm space in the house. It has been known for us to linger longer than is necessary when going to the loo, this being particularly relevant to Lester, who has started taking his electronic book thingy in with him so he can read while he goes to the loo and warms up all at the same time. 

And Mazzy, one of the rottweiller girls, has just been spayed. Did not like having this done, but after due consideration, we decided that there were enough dogs needing homes already and that we did not want to add to that population. Plus, we think but are not certain, that Boolie managed a quick one when no one was looking and that Maz was in pup, but only just. Action was necessary. To have a dog the size of a rottweiller romping around in manic spaniel mode would not have made for an easy dog to have around. Nevertheless it still caught at our hearts as we left her with the vet. She is home again, and Blue goes in for her op next week. Being a responsible animal owner is not easy sometimes. 

But the little piggies are happier. The rain it has fallen and they are muddied up to their armpits. Not to worry, it has been quite mild for the time of year and they did have a temporary shelter by way of a little tin hut, but we were starting to be uneasy about their accommodation as they grew bigger and the rain kept falling and the temperatures started going downwards. Thinking about those little piggies trying to sleep in their hut, probably with their faces and their little bums getting soaked by the cold wetness, was starting to unsettle us. We could never put them into the freezer knowing that the days of their life were spent in such uncomfortableness. Into action we went. A day in the mud with the little piggies messing about around us, and a proper shelter was done. A bale of hay was put inside it, the little piggies getting in the way all the time. We tiptoed out just before we went to bed and had a looksee with a torch. And there they were, two little heads peeking up from a mound of straw. We slept well that night, and subsequently, knowing that all the animals are now warmly tucked up.

And we shall have a warmer winter now we have ceilings throughout the cottage and all the windows have proper windows in them. And I have bought several Rayburn recipe books  which will keep me going until we get the Rayburn installed, which is likely not to be for this winter, but it does not matter, because we shall have a warmer winter than we did last winter, when builders were to and fro so the doors were open for much of the day, and we still did not have a proper window in the kitchen, just a plank of wood, and we still did not have ceilings in half of the house. The previous winter to that, the builders were doing the first phase of the ceilings, so doors were again open for much of the time. The previous winter to that one, we were still commuting between house and caravan, the one before that we were living in caravans and our computer office was the ex pig/chicken hut which is now the geese's bedroom, we just borrowed it in between. 

So we are piling on the thermals but still have a couple of layers as yet to put on. And 'thankyou' to the Universe for getting the French to get the river beach cleared away when they did, because a week after they finished we went under yellow alert as the river levels rose. If the beach had been left, pretty though it was, the water would have come on to the land, and those little piggies would have been swimming around in river water rather than sloshing through mud! 

Must get on with other things now. Keep warm everyone! Unless your seasons are opposite to us, in which case, stay cool!


Sunday 10 November 2013

Chipping away

Lester, bless him, bought me these... I could start doing this...

So here is the lounge,
and the big patch you see
is the start of the new project,
and that is to get all the old lime render
off the walls.
I fear it is going to take quite some time.

We hoped that we had decent stone walls,
but it looks like we don't.
And I don't know how the walls have stood,
being made of bits of stones and tiles,
how they have stood, 
I ask myself,
for over two hundred years.

Anyway, this is how far I got last night.
At least I had started.
Lots of chipping away to do,
so best to do an hour or so per day,
don't have time to do more,
don't want to do more,
because of the number of times
I missed the head of the chisel
with the mallet,
and hit my thumb.

Not to worry,
found some thick work gloves,
which seemed to stop the sting
when I inadvertently hit myself,
which was not often
as I got better with my aim.

It took me an hour to from the first photo,
to this one. 
Ah well, at least we have started the lounge,
which is good. 
I should also build up some good arm muscles,
Little steps get the job done!
Hope you have a good Sunday,

Wednesday 6 November 2013

A new addition

'Twas a wet windy day yesterday,
with tons of rain falling,
which sent the river up high,
so just as well the removal of the beach was finished 
otherwise we might have joined in
with the river.

Not to worry,
still dry,
so stop worrying Vera,
the weather conditions at the start of the year
were unusual.
Everyone says so.
And no water came into the house,
or into the animal pens,
therefore to put aside these worrisome thought,
that perhaps
we might
float away.

And then the phone rang.
Ah, a man wanting instructions,
which he followed,
and so he came:

.... and unloaded,
and puffed and pulled his way across the mud: fetch up at the front door,
with Lester,
who was helping,
by puffing and shoving.

..... and then into  the house....

.... to be then parked up....

....with the other big parcel,
which is the first parcel's sister parcel,
because they are to be joined together,

....and a peak inside the first parcel,
to check that all was well,

.... and Lester having a fiddle with the right hand side..

.... and Lester having a fiddle with the left hand side..

.... all of which combines to make this bit of kit: brand new Rayburn wood burning stove!

Now the panic of having to read instructions,
about what holes to make in the ceiling,
and roof,
of how to join up all the pipes,
some to go to the boiler,
some to go to a couple of radiators,
some to go upwards to the sky,
and must build a cement plinth,
so that the cooker can sit higher,
and its great to have it here,
we no longer have to be worried about where it was,
as it travelled the length of France,
from England,
and it was worth the money,
because now the cutting of wood
is providing good exercise,
and a reason to go buy 
a man sized chain saw,
which can hardly be lifted,
because it is so heavy,
but not to worry,
muscles will build,
mmmmm, lovely,
but not mine though,
I can touch the chainsaw,
but must not use it,
under instructions from Lester,
who at this moment is perusing,
and worrying,
and complaining,
and swearing,
about the task of installing the Rayburn,
because he has decided to do it himself,
and well done Lester,
because life should be a learning curve,
and with your efforts,
and my Mum's contribution,
I have a Rayburn woodburning stove
upon which I can lean by chilly botty,
when the weather is cold!