Sunday 30 June 2013

The slurping mum-piggy

Milk is coming regularly into the kitchen, not huge amounts, just four to five litres per day.

Since I am not used to this daily harvest, the milk can stack up in the fridge. For example: three days x 4 jars = 12 jars =  12 litres of milk. Seven days x four jars = 28 jars = 28 litres.

But at three days the raw milk starts going into its second stage, the third being the natural separation of the curds and whey. Milk will make itself into cheese, but by adding starters and rennet we keep the milk going in the direction we want it to go in to make the cheese we want to make, rather than letting the milk do what it wants to do. Anyway, at day three the milk is going into its second stage, which I actually prefer to the more blander tasting first stage, but  the second stage milk Lester refers to as 'going off' which means going 'sour', which I think does not do justice to the tastiness of the milk at this stage. However, it is the first stage milk which I use in the kitchen for cooking with, but have used the second stage, and even the third stage, for using as the liquid component of our bread. 

I am a busy girl, and am often not as attentive as I should be to the traffic jam of bottles building up in the fridge, so frequently we have a mix of first, second and third stage milk sitting in the fridge waiting to be sorted out. 

Not to worry:
- can have another go at making cheese. Opened our first cheddar today, made just four weeks ago. Room for improvement. Lester gave the remainder of his morsel to Bools. Have been trawling the Internet for helpful hints about making hard cheese, so will continue on with this project. I ate my morsel though, didn't think it too bad, just a tad on the dry side, that's all. Think it will do well as a cooking cheese.

- can make goats milk cheese, which is becoming a firm favourite of ours, so I have got that right.

- can water down the later stage milk and cook it with brown macaroni. This will go towards feeding the dogs and the chicks, thus reducing their food bills. 

- can use the whey from the third stage milk to water the house plants. 

- can use the curds from the third stage milk to give to the chicks. 

- can use second and third stage milk to give to the hens and cockerels. Put into a bowl, they regard it as a real treat, sipping it delicately and with much relish.

- can wander out to mum piggy and pour a jar of second stage milk into her water bowl. I did this yesterday. First she dipped her nose into the milk. Hesitated. Took a lick. Wandered off, savouring the milk in her mouth as she did so. Mused on the taste. Wandered back to the bowl for another try out. Took a mouthful. Then another. Wandered off again, as if disinterested, leaving half the milk untouched. 

   Later on, I went out to see if she had drunk it all, but half remained. She saw me having a look. Did a charge towards me, chortling as she came, dove her nose into the last of the milk, and with an almighty slurp, emptied the bowl. She looked up at me, and told me that it was jolly good, and could she have some more. It was as if she had left that last bit of milk so she could show me that if we needed her to help out with the backlog of milk , then she would be willing to do so. The hens tell me this as well. They are all very appreciative of this new food, as indeed are we. 

Been a sleepy day here today. Apparently we have a heatwave on the way. Have started watering the veg patch already, which seems silly after all the rain we have had, but I guess that the river has taken the underground water off to the sea, as is the nature of things, leaving us to have to use tap water to keep the veggies watered. Will sort out some sort of irrigation system when we have more funds, but meanwhile, tap water it is. 

Have just put the courgette seeds in. Crikey, but everything is way behind this year, like my attempts at keeping the milk from getting stacked up in the fridge!

Hope you have a good week.

Blessings to you.

Reviewing my thoughts about weeding....

In my garden: Once upon a time there were 'weeds' and then there were 'proper plants'. There was a distinct boundary. Weeds came out, the rest stayed put. Gardening was reasonably orderly, well, as orderly as my garden was ever likely to be, 'orderly jumble' then. But that was before I came to five hectares in France. 

Five hectares is a lot of land when one does not have proper implements to work the land with. Not to worry, we have managed. The land around the house is normally kept under control with a lawnmower, the fields are taken care of by the animals, and last year I achieved a reasonable amount of tidiness by learning to use the scythe on the bits which were too hard going for the mower. 

Then the wetness of 2013 arrived. It was not possible to use the mower, and not much scything was done. Everything, therefore, got went into a mad riot of growth. And crikey, what an utterly lovely jumble we are now surrounded in. Flowers in profusion, grasses almost shoulder high, all wild, nothing planned, just as nature intended. 

Which is just as well, because I think that it has saved our bees. When we bought the hive and swarm, I wanted to also purchase a block of sugar to put into the hive to help the little beings along while they established a larder in their new domain, but the man said no, that it would not be necessary, so I didn't. Then the weeks and weeks of wet and cold weather arrived, with occasional gaps of sun and warmth which enabled the bees to get out and about to forage, so it could be seen that they were struggling on.

And now the weather is more settled, and wow, we are surrounded by a wilderness of wild flowers of all types because we were not able to cut that grass, which has resulted in the bees having plenty of food right on their doorstep. 

So, out in the veg patch, and weeding the rows of newly sprouting veggies. Was pulling everything up which was not a vegetable. Ah, but then some bees started working on a little patch of flowering weeds which I was just about to pull up. So now, I not only have to weed the veggie seedlings, I also have to weed the weeds. What I mean is, that I have to be selective about what I allow to grow in close proximity to the seedlings so that their life is not squashed out of them by the more vigorous wild plants, but then I thin out the non flowering weeds, leaving the wild flowers to flourish. 

I wanted my veg patch to be nice and tidy, with neat rows or organised veggies. That is not now going to happen. The veg patch is also going to become a riotous jumble as well. Ah well, the bees need their flowers, and actually, it all looks very pretty, providing one removes oneself from thinking that everything needs to be controlled and tidy. 

And it would seem that this requirement to leave everything alone, so that the bees can  have plenty of flowers to forage on, is giving me a different perspective on gardening. Instead of trying to control nature, I am enjoying the passion of nature. 

Message to self: When bringing a watering can into the house so that it can be filled with waste water from the sink, do remember to check that there are no occupants already in that watering can. Should there be an unnoticed occupant, then one might be receiving of a fright when one is filling up the watering can.

Message to self: Do not keep getting into a fret about the state of the hands and fingernails. You must say goodbye to pristine hands. You are, after all, becoming a smallholder, and as such, must accept that you are not ever going to keep as 'immaculate' as you once were.

Of course all this jumble will have to be cut down eventually so that a new jumble can grow next year, but for now, the bees and us enjoy. It is the simple things that give the most pleasure, that is what we are coming to understand.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Butter? Well a dob....

Well, we are supposed to be getting lots of cream out of the milk which we get from Elise, only we aren't. 
We thought that it might be the problem of the cream separator bit of kit, which we purchased recently from the Ukraine, but it isn't.
Apparently, the best cream sits in the last dribbles of milk from the emptying udder
and since Lester is only managing to get a quart of milk from her at the moment, 
and that is the first milk out of the udder,
then Bonny, her calf, is getting the cream, and the majority of the milk.

Now that's alright,
after all, we are new to the art of harvesting milk from a cow, and we are not yet set up in terms of proper milking facilities, seeing as how Bonny arrived unexpectedly, so we were not prepped to start milking.
A quart, therefore, is enough to be going on with per day.
But it is an expensive quart, because food has to be traded for that harvest of milk.
What I mean is, that Elise has to be given a bucket of grain to divert her attention away from what Lester is doing with her udders.
And she eats fast, does Elise, too fast for Lester to get much more than a litre of milk from her. 

Now the goats give us two litres of milk per day, and they are nowhere near as expensive to feed. So, what to do.....
We think that we shall have to separate Bonny away from from her mum soon, 
that we urgently need to sort out proper milking equipment,
as in milking machine to speed things up at the udder,
and a proper feeding trough to which Elise can be haltered. 
But Lester has a milking stool (see last blog), which is start.

So in the kitchen, the cream separator is not really an item I have found of much use,
although might be if we were getting up to two gallons of milk at each milking,
and what I have done, is spoon off the small layer of cream which drifts up to the top of the milk during the course of a couple of days, and this I did this morning...
And I played... voila! nobbo of beurre!!!

Well, it's a start, 
and we had DIY bread, with DIY goats cheese with DIY butter sandwiched in between.

Message to self: do not randomly scatter salt into food straight from the tub, but remember to put the salt crystals into the palm of your hand first. This will help you judge exactly the right amount of salt, and stop the 'hit or miss' effect that upending the tub of salt over the food tends to produce. You got away with it this time, because you were able to wash the extra salt out of the newly made butter, but to be careful in the future. 

Tuesday 25 June 2013

More kit

It is in the manner of running a farm of any size that one needs lots of equipment, both on the land, and in the kitchen. This is a drain on our resources,especially when the house  and dependencies still need money spent on them.

Often our heads are fuddled about where next to make a spend, and we make endless conversations about what to do, but then sometimes the decision is made for us, and we find ourselves making a purchase hardly without thought,
which happened the other day:

Cute, hey!
...and introducing our new milking stool, upon which Lester can perch when milking Elise, Blackie and Ice Cream.

Meanwhile, the weather has settled down, the weather forecast says sun all the way, which is good.

However, we are weeks and weeks behind with outside work, and instead of feeling  frustrated because we can't do any farm work, we are not swamped by everything which needs doing.The tasks are still April based. We have a lot of work to do. Methinks that this year, instead of being ten steps behind ourselves, we shall be thirty. Ah well, not to worry, everyone who works with the land will be feeling the same.  
It has been a hell of a year so far.

Monday 17 June 2013

A foggy head

I am concussed,
not much, 
just a little,
enough to give me the feeling of what it is like to suffer from concussion,
which is a new experience to have.

Twenty four hours after the sheep jumped into me,
that is what it took for the after effects to hit.
So what I have done today, 
is not much. 

But I did do some scything,
and I did make my first DIY hay bale,
only one though because it started raining.
And I did clean out the poo from the sheep paddock,
and I did glue some sheet music together,
and I did ....
actually nothing much else.

Except went with the flow of having a very mild concussed head,
which is different to having a stroke,
because then one feels all sort of detached from one's self.
Being a little concussed just made me feel spaced out really,
a mildish headache, not much,
and mental faculties which were a bit odd,
so I sort of sat back within myself,
and 'watched' me being concussed.
And that, my friend, was the learning curve I had today.

But....when the goat took a flying leap out of her pen this morning,
I stepped to one side,
and let her escape. 
Tomorrow, I might stop her,
today I thought better of it.

Orange alert again, this time for storms and hail. 

Saturday 15 June 2013

Not to worry, I'm still standing

I took a flyer today, 
one sheep plus one pallet collided with my person.
It could have been worse,
each shin could have gone into two separate parts, 
but they stayed joined.
Which is good.

And this was after yesterday,
when another sheep bounced against my chest,
and sent me flying sideways.
Not to worry, everything still worked afterwards.

In truth, I am a bit fed up with flying sheep,
who do not appreciate that they need to be wormed and bot fly protected,
instead take on their flightiest diva behaviour,
and barge with force into whatever and whoever is in the way,
with some force will they do this.

That was yesterday, when a nice vet lady visited.
Lester and her remained unbarged into,
it was only me that got the full force of a sheep 
who did not appreciate being stuck into with a needle.

Today, this happened:

...sheep shearing time.
One would think that the sheep would appreciate the removal of their winter coats,
but no,
all were in a grump,
possibly because this was the second day cooped up in the paddock.
It was the last sheep.
She was the one who leapt as high as my head,
and sent me flying backwards with a thump,
together with the pallet I was holding to act as a gate.
All fell on me.
But the good news is that the ground was soft,
which is a good thing,
because I only went down with a half a goodly thump.

I should be getting on with this....

..which is the Labartere milk production treadmill,
(cows milk on the left, goats milk on the right)
but I feel curiously weak.
I would take a nap,
but every time I shut my eyes
I 'see' the picture of a sheep jumping into me.
Not to worry,
it will pass.

We have spent the last two days trying to catch sheep, 
trying to catch goats,
trying to catch the calf.
We are sort of all animalled out.
We think we might have an early night
and start again in the morning.

Two of the geese banging on the doors of the Half Barn,
saying that it is supper time.

The rest waiting patiently...

.... please note that we still have Ducky,
he has obviously not gone into the pot yet,
although is still raging with the desire to procreate,
and any one of the geese  will do to practice on,
he thinks.

Thursday 13 June 2013

A little cheddar

Things weren't going too well,
only in the pot should have been tidy curds,
but they weren't.

So, what to do, give it to the dogs, pigs, and chickens,
or carry on and see what happened,
thinking that perhaps I would benefit from the experience in the future.
Which is what I did.
Which is always what I do when I am in a fix,
carry on and hope for the best.

So I ladled,

...and drained, and pressed....

..and pressed some more...

...and eventually, this is what I arrived at...

My first farmhouse cheddar!

Heaven only knows what it tastes like,
but nibbles from around the edges say it does not taste awful,
so I think that it will taste of its own self.

Will have to wait for at least a month before we have another nibble.

I like cheese making.
I like the way the milk behaves when things are added to it,
which reminds me that it is a living organism,
which will arrive at a certain state of being,
depending upon what the hell I am doing with it.

One bowl of sliced red and green peppers,
bought on offer at the supermarket...

...made one jar and one ziplock bag of dried peppers.
The jar on the right is dried celery.

There is something satisfying about building a store cupboard,
and now I have a little cheddar cheese which may or may not go mouldy ,
which may or may not taste horrid,
but at least I had a go.
And I have a little supply of dehydrated veggies, 
and these I managed to get right, I think.

I did have a little supply of dehydrated bananas, kiwis and apples,
but we ate them,
well, they were yummy, so I got them right.

The gang saying hi, 
but not Boolie because he has his nose in chicken poo.

This was taken a couple of days ago.
Yesterday we were at 29, 
today we are not.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

And all it too was a drop of sunshine.....

And bursting forth from the ground have come the seeds which were planted at the beginning of April:


...and here is the veg patch two months later:


Ah but now things have started happening.
and all it took was a drop of sunshine.

We have basked at 29 degrees C today.

It was lovely.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Singing in the rain

Just a bit of a mad moment. Was scything some grass for our animals.
I think the rain must have finally seeped into my brain cells.

It has been raining a lot here during the last five months,
and Home Field is flooded again, 
which means the animals have to graze over the lane in Station Field
or else they are kept indoors,
either way we have to supplement their grazing.
So I scythe grass, 
which is good for my waistline and build firm upper arm muscles,
but in the rain,
one does get soaked.

Sometimes this does not make me happy,
but sometimes a sort of nut and bolt comes undone in my head,
and I feel enthusiastic about mucking about in the rain.

Sunday 9 June 2013

My curds have sunk....

....they should, but now, be visible,
and ready to be firmly poked.
They are not. 
Upon investigation with my finger,
it feels like they are in an untidy lump at the bottom.

So, what to do.

My other curds have done well, 
nice and firm,
easy to handle,
and where they should be,
on top.

But not this time.

It looks like the Cheddar Cheese Project may be having a blip.


Two little piggies:

Three little piggies:

Four little piggies:

Five little piggies:

Saturday 8 June 2013

Orange, it is Orange again!

So there we were, two days ago, in the sun...
the Home Field had finally dried up after the last flooding a couple of weeks ago, 
and all the animals, 
cow and calf, 
sheep and lambs,
goats and goatlings,
geese and goslings,
all went out on the field for the day. 
Just as well, because the grazing on Side Field is minimal now, 
after all, they have been solidly grazing it for a couple of weeks.

We had a phone call last night:
sheep to be sheared this afternoon providing it did not rain.
It did.
And what a surprise,
We are under Orange alert for flooding again. 
Crikey but it goes on and on this year,
It is not usual,
It is not normal,
That is what all the locals are saying.

We had to go and rescue Bonny and her mum Elise from the rain.
They are delicate creatures, cows. 
At least ours are.

Bonny has the unfortunate habit of going on strike in mid stride.
Down she goes, flattening herself on the ground
including her head and neck. 
She will not budge.
We have to physically haul her to her feet,
meanwhile she is pushing herself down into the ground.
She did this as we tried to rescue her from the rain,
shame that her moment of going on strike
coincided with Lester trying to her out of the hedge.
Both he and she got muddy and wet.
Not to worry,
we got her and her mum into the barn eventually.

Bonny was shivering,
I grabbed a towel from the clean pile of laundry,
and we rubbed her down.
And then Elise virtually did a moo-growl at us.
Most intimidating it was.
With her head lowered, and speaking in that tone of voice,
we thought she was going to charge us.

Lester said that perhaps I should use a different towel next time.
Lester said that red is not a good colour to flash in front of cows.
I said that the towel was terracotta.
Lester said that it was as near to the colour red as made no difference.

Goats milking twice a day giving two litres of milk.
Cow milking once a day, giving one litre and a bit.

That is a lot of milk coming into the kitchen.

Not to worry, 
am going to have a go at making a cheddar cheese tomorrow.
Also have a dish of cream,
so perhaps butter?

Friday 7 June 2013

One litre.....

This is our first litre of cow's milk.
It came from Elise.
Bonny, her calf, was put in the small stall beside her, 
although Elise does not agree with the separation, 
because she has been complaining all night. 

After milking the goats last night,
Lester said that he thought we ought to start milking Elise.
I did not.
I was tired.
But we did.

Without rope or halter, 
Lester encouraged Elise to stand long enough to be milked.
The bucket of grain helped.
I was impressed by his calmness and persistency,
his lack of tension.
I just waited to be kicked.

It is nice to be constantly surprised by one's partner.

Monday 3 June 2013

Coming and going....

Well the Adour paid a visit to our doorstep again, but did not come as close as it last time. And the amazing thing was, that within two hours the mass of water had disappeared as if a plug had been pulled out. One minute there was water, the next minute, none. Actually, that is not quite right so may I rephrase and say, one minute the water was there, but after I had had my nap, it had gone!

Almost had a calf and then not, as well. Yesterday morning she was up and having a suckle from mum, then the next minute she was in a heap with her head laying at an odd angle, which previously on other animals has signalled that they have given up and are getting ready to pass over. This was worrying. So Lester rushed off to the vets, and I just faffed. Didn't know what to do, so just sat down on the straw beside her, put her head on my lap, and just stroked her. Elise came over to have a look to see what I was up to, did a gentle blow of air in my face as if to say "She is in your hands", and then wandered off again. 

So I sat there for a while, then went indoors and had a look on the internet for any helpful hints, then thought I would give her a half pint of goats milk because internet forums had been saying that that is what one should do if the calf looks hungry, and since I don't think she was getting any milk from mum, this is what I thought I ought to do. 

And by crikey it is hard to know what to do for animals, but one can only do one's best, so I did just that. She was up on her feet by the time I returned, trying to get something from mum but not managing to, so I showed her the bottle, she took it down in one hit, skipped about, then danced over to mum, gave her udder a jolly good shove, which seemed to produce a result sufficient to make her deny the second half of the bottle I offered her. 

She probably would have been alright if I had not intervened, but she was definitely perkier after that little bit of help from the bottle. 

Today she is out in the Sheep paddock with mum and two little goatlings, romping around, being a youngster with the two young goatlings. 

The tomatoes have died, half the potato crop looks dire, and everything else is not coming  up. This is when one could give up, but after all the work we have done, we must keep going. So off down to Tarbes I went this afternoon, and purchased more tomato plants, some peppers, aubergines, parsley, basil, coriander, and two peanut plants. We should have had all this in seed pots, which would have saved us the money I spent today, but we didn't because the weather has not let us. We shall not be beaten. We shall have no plums because the weather has demolished the crop, but the apples stayed put, and no apricots either. Not to worry, the kiwis are starting to open out their flowers, and there are still bees flying from the bee hive, (we thought we had lost them due to the bad weather of the last six weeks), so perhaps the bees will help pollinate those kiwis so we get a crop from them. 


................her name is Bonny.

She went on strike this evening. Must have run her legs off because she refused to get up so we could get her back into the barn for the night. Elise went alright. She knew that she had munchings waiting for her, but Bonny was not going to move. 

It is worrying when she does that. Automatically one thinks that she is sick. Lester managed to get her to move, but she was reluctant. Not to worry. We have managed Day Three of having our surprise calf, and she has managed three days of having us give her mum a helping hand.