Thursday 25 July 2013

Fishing about in the pot

Following on from the blog of yesterday, well it was me who had to fish about in the big stock pot for bits and pieces of pig's head because Lester was busy working on his computer. 

All I can say is that fishing for bits of pig was not the best of activities on a hot and humid day, when the windows have to be open so the air pressure inside the house can be equalized to that outside, which then allows for wafts of meaty aroma to drift out into the outside world, broadcasting to all flies nearby that there is something happening which might be of interest to them in the Labartere kitchen, which is why I had to keep a fly swat handy, which is why I was fishing about, then swatting, then fishing, then swatting, etc.........

A goodly portion of meat was rescued from the juices, as were other things. It was the tooth that happened to appear on the ladle that almost did me in, so I got plugged into my ipod and carried on with the task with the music of Queen blaring in my ears. I have often used Queen to carry me through situations which are a tad on the demanding side. Today, the need was quite great. 

Anyway, one pot of meat in the fridge, including the tongue which I left until last. There is also one large of 'don't know what that is' and that is for the dogs. The skull was taken out into the courtyard and thwacked hard. Bits of it shattered everywhere, and provided munches for the chickens, chicks, and dogs. The geese were interested but decided against enlarging their diet beyond grass and roots, but stood and moaned at me about my lack of thought in regards to their culinary needs. 

So now what to do with the meat. I could make it into a 'head cheese', which is not an actual cheddar type of cheese, but rather chunks of meat glued together with gelatine. Really don't think I could eat that. A search on YouTube was no help, neither was a search on the Internet. Am going to have to invent a recipe. Got some salad onions from the supermarket and going to mince them with the meat, then going to add some black pepper, salt, herbs and garlic, then into small canning jars, into the canner, and hey presto, hopefully some delicious substance will  materialize in the jars. 

Uno problemo. Still need the gelatine. Can get it from a pig's foot, but these have already been recycled, so am boiling down the stock to see if gelatine will magically appear, but if not, then I am currently melting down some pig fat to make lard, so will use that to top up the jars prior to canning. 

Overall, this was not my most happiest of tasks. Putting my hands in a big pot of warm liquid, searching for meaty bits whilst being buzzed by flies, with the dogs avidly drooling at my feet, well, it was not my best moment. Not to worry, job is now done, and 'good' meat and 'duggy bits' are all separated. Tomorrow is canning day. 

It is also cheese making day because Elise upted our milk rations and gave us 2 1/2 litres of milk this evening. So off to bed, another early start in the morning. 

Wednesday 24 July 2013

At the cold water tap, a thought....

So I was out by the cold water tap in the courtyard, sloshing about with the hose, scrubbing away at the pig's head, getting all the bits of singed hair washed off. 
And I had a thought. Crikey, I never thought I would be doing this in my life.

I looked at the head, now devoid of its body,and I felt a reverence for this head, for this task, for this once upon a time pig. And I had a moment of wonder, at how surprising life can be if one does but take a chance when the opportunity to change course comes along. Not to make a plan which is fixed, but to make a plan which then can be adapted to changing circumstances. With the hens, chicks, dogs, and geese all interested in what I was doing with a body-less head, I reflected about my life as it was, and how it is now. 

The pigs head is now cooked. Will be investigating the contents of the pot that it is in tomorrow. Fishing about for 'good' bits of meat is a job which I hope Lester will do, after which I shall concoct something or other and put into canning jars to save for future use. 

This day has been a busy one, but only in patches.  The heat is bringing us to our knees,
or rather, into the need for frequent sleeps, so jobs are being crammed into the dawn and dusk hours, when it is cooler. In between we try and stay awake, but it is difficult because every time we sit down we nod off.

Ah well, c'est la vie!

Monday 22 July 2013

Catch ups

The chickens have found a new dustbath. Unfortunately it happens to be the opened bag of old cement which was waiting to be taken down to the dump. The bag has now been put away out of their sight.  We were not fussed with having to deal with solidified hens. 

Bonny, our calf, has decided to be difficult at night. Wanting to come in at five, and not being able to until her mum is brought in from the other field at seven, she has taken it upon herself to be difficult, which means not allowing us to put her on a rope to lead her back to the Tall Barn. Round the field we chased her the other night until the heat got to us and we abandoned the task, leaving her to stand at the gate with a puzzled look in her eye. Trying to catch animals in this heat is a monstrous task. 

Elise, her mum, has an armful of fresh grass in the morning to help ease her into the awareness that she is going to be milked shortly. First thing, at 6 am, you can find me out in the field scything away. A few days ago I overslept, and Lester had to go straight into milking. But no. Elise would not let him. Backed away from the offered grain bucket. Was in a thorough sulk. Trying to milk a cow who does not let you anywhere near her udder and is in a thorough mood is a project which needs to be abandoned quite quickly. This lasted through the evening milking as well, which also did not happen. It was good for Bonny though because she got two full feeds of milk. The next morning I cut the grass. Graciously she allowed herself to be milked, so back to normal then.

Guzzy, Maz, and Blue took themselves off on a jolly down to our river beach when I was busy in the veg plot. Heard Gussy barking away in the distance, knew they were up to mischief. Do not want the rottweiller girls to get used to going off by themselves, so went and got them. They are now indoors when I am working outside. 

I have a whistle. It is a penny whistle. I have decided to have a go at learning to play it....oops, it is nearly 6 am, so have to go cut some grass for Elise....will carry this on later on..... is now 10.30 pm, and went the day well. Elise milked out alright as did the goats. All gave us in total just over a gallon of milk. Have just received several packets of various types of cheese cultures from the USA. Made a soft goats cheese with Flora Danica-Mesiphillic starter culture yesterday. It is yummy, much better than my efforts with apple cider vinegar. Also made a quart (1 litre) of yoghurt with ABY3 Probiotic Yoghurt culture, and I put that in the dehydrator to set. Four hours later, and that turned out yummy as well. So, having another go at cheddar tomorrow. 

Cut the path to the river which was overgrown with brambles and nettles. Having to plough my way through that lot to get to the river beach was becoming quite unpleasant. Only got a couple of horrid bites but the huge horse fly that buzzed me didn't manage to get a sip of my blood, mainly because I aborted the mission as soon as it started harassing me, but I had cut the path anyway, and it was time for lunch, and it was very hot, and I was cooking quite nicely. 

Veg plot doing alright. Not as good as fellow bloggers, but good enough for us. We have a long growing season, so should be able to achieve a reasonable size harvest this year. Have already pressure canned several jars of new potatoes, next will be the beetroots, soon will be the beans. Gradually we are building a larder. Have not planted lettuce because they bolt in the heat, as do the radish. But the tomatoes are coming along, but apparently need Epsom salts to help them with their  magnesium deficiency, as can be seen by their lower yellowing leaves. Have got two nice green peppers, (not picked), and several hot peppers (which I don't know what to do with), tinsy little aubergine fruits (don't know what to do with them either), and loads of carrots (still in ground). 

Re the larder: Now have several jars of dehydrated mushrooms (on offer at the supermarket), courgettes (on offer), apples, bananas (nearly all eaten), peppers (on offer), celery (not such a success but being used). Now feel experienced enough with the dehydrator to tackle our coming harvests.
Have also pressure canned several jars of various meat based meals, which have turned out quite tasty. 
This has been year of learning how to build a proper food larder, and my Excalibur dehydrator and All American Pressure Canner are now 'can't do withouts'.This smallholding life requires tons of work, but in equal measure gives tons of pleasure. And now I am going to flop into bed. 5am will be arriving shortly!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Who let the chicks out!

What chicks?
The ones in the cages,
being kept safe from local predators,
by being penned up. 

It became not a good idea over time,
as the chicks grew from fluffy bundles,
into scraggy feathered half grown chicks,
who would patrol up and down
along the length of the wire mesh doors,
up and down,
up and down,
making us feel guilty every time we passed by their runs.

Oh they were fed well enough,
although they would have argued that they weren't,
but they began disregarding all of the food,
and chose to become picky,
perhaps because they could,
perhaps because they knew of our guilt.
But we were keeping them 'safe',
at the cost of their quality of life.

And so the day came when it became too much for us,
and the cage doors were left open,
and the chicks were set free.
Better that they have one day of being free,
of being a proper little chicken,
of being who they are meant to be,
better to have that and then go own the throat of a predator,
than to stay 'safe' in, what to them, is a prison,
for days on end.

One was sent to its end by Blue,
One was sent to its end by Boolie,
Two went by natural causes,
and we are left with fourteen.

Blue and Bools are not predators as such,
they are just dogs,
not wanting to share their bones,
a quick snap being sufficient to end the life of little ones,
little ones who only wanted to share the bones.
However, the cat, magpies and crows,
well, they seem not to want to partake of chick flesh,
at the moment.

And so it was me who let the chicks out,
as I say,
better to have a life well lived, 
even if that life is not very long,
than to stay 'safe' 
in the confines of a 'cage' cell.

Saturday 13 July 2013

Oh glorious,glorious, mess

It was all the fault of this:

....bought a while ago, it is a jam making pot, and still virgin.

2.5 kgs came off our apricot trees,
a low yield for sure,
but it is better than nothing.

5 kgs of apricots and peaches,
this is what I purchased in our local market.
It was not a happy day though,
could not remember hardly one word of French,
felt like a right dozo,
but tried not to be cross with myself, 
it was, 
after all,
a spankingly hot day,
during which one's head prefers not to be active.

7.5 kgs of mixed apricots and peaches,
de-pipped and cut up,
and oh what a sticky mess that made,
not to worry though,
nice pile of fruit to jam,
so all into the big jamming pot.

All was going well,
stuff gathered, 14 jars prepped, jam simmering,
jam setting,
hot jars brought over from the kitchen,
jars being filled,
oopps, all jars filled,
pan still filled with jam.

Lester to the rescue,
went hunting for more jam jars,
urgently washed and warmed them,
over to me to fill them,
but I was busy with trying to get the jars sealed,
and dammit, 
the elastic bands were rotted,
kept breaking, 
jars not sealing.
Oh bother.

Quick hunt in the cupboard,
found some spare elastic bands,

Lester piling the jam jars beside me,
filling them, 
hot jam all around.

Working fast.
Jar knocked over,
which was full of hot jam,
which drizzled happily 
all over the place. 

Not to worry,
carry on,
mop up later,
'"Lets get these jars sealed".

25 jars in total we made.

And this is the most glorious of messes
which I have ever made!

Below is my contribution to our end of season choir party...
DIY chevre soft cheese,
cheese biscuits made with DIY cow and goat cheddar.

Just to say, that I don't always get into a mess,
when I am doing things in the kitchen,
to be quite honest,
I seem to be able to drift into a state of messiness,
quite, quite, easily!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Bonny, naughty Bonny.

Bonny is doing naughty cow.
It is a nuisance that she is thus so.
Time is burnt up, you see, by her efforts
not to be a sweet little thing.

It is hot, hot, hot, here. 
Must be around the forties in the Courtyard,
everywhere else, low thirties. 
Time outside is limited if one does not become cooked,
there is enough moisture in the air,
the humidity being very high,
to simmer us quite, quite, quickly.
We do not have enough time, therefore,
to chase a little cow hither and thither.

So here was the plan:
Separate her completely from her mum,
leading her to fro on a rope,
which would stop the romps all about the place,
and milk her mum twice a day.

Went well on Bonny's part,
oh she complained for chunks of the day,
but not too much.
Did not go well for Elise though,
who was most upset,
and got herself all in a lather,
so much so, that she got into a hell of a mood,
so that when Lester came to milk her,
having decided to do this twice a day from here on,
it was impossible to do.

The heat has brought every single type of insect out,
small ones, medium ones, big ones,
and most bite.

To defend herself, 
Elise swishes her tail.
If one is sitting near the udder hoping to milk,
one is likely to be flicked in the face in the face,
and swatted,
as what happened to Lester last night.

To defend herself,
Elise chucks her head up and down,
making her fidget.
It is therefore difficult to keep bucket and udder in line,
as what happened to Lester last night.

To defend herself,
Elise kicks and stamps her hind legs.
Buckets get stepped in to,
kicked over,
as what happened to Lester last night.

Elise was already upset,
by the flies and heat,
not to mention her drum tight udder, which,
she thought,
should be going to her calf,
and nowhere else,
most certainly not in a bucket,
and so she grew difficult.
This is what Lester found out last night.

Project Evening Milk thus became aborted.
To release the milk,
Bonny was put back with her mum,
but taken out again when the udder was empty
and the little tummy was full.
Perhaps tonight it will go better.

Lester had already had a day of it,
been at his computer all day,
earning us the income 
so we can keep building the house and farm
into a smallholding and retreat.
Yesterday was not a good day for him.

So continuing to merrily swelter in this heatwave,
the soggy wetness of those weeks of rain,
all forgotten.

Saying bye for now,

Monday 8 July 2013

Oooh, that was a bit scary!

Our bees have been buzzing, so it looks like they are surviving.
Kept forgetting to give them some more 'upstairs' space,
but finally did last night.
(The 'upstairs' space is for food (honey) storage.)

So what you do is:
1) Prepare their new storage box (a 'super')
2) Leave it somewhere prominent to remind one's self that it needs putting on the hive.
3) Keep shifting the super about the place because it keeps getting in the way.
4) Find the beekeeping kit. Takes a while. Kept forgetting to have a hunt for it.
5) Make a firm intent as to day and time to get the super on, as bees heavily foraging the mallow. 
6) Put the kit on. 
7) Light the smoking implement, several times.
8) With smoker in hand, approach the hive.
9) Make a retreat because have forgotten the super.
10) Try and think of something else to do other than this task,which is far more urgent. This is called avoidance. 
Can't think of anything else which is need of our urgent attention other than this task, 
so carry on.
11) Approach the hive carrying the super and all other equipment.
12) Put the super down beside the hive.
13) Feel all of a quiver because the bees suddenly look huge.
14) Press on with task. 
15) Relight the smoking implement which has gone out. 
6) Aim the smoke in the general direction of the hive. 
Not to worry if a puff of wind blows it in the opposite direction. 
Try again.
16) Lift lid of hive off, or try to. Bees now know they have visitors. 
17) Lid off. Oh strooth, bees inside the feeder box. 
18) Quick, put new super and top lid back on. 
20) Evacuate position.
19) Have a rethink. Super should be beneath the feeder box.
20) Strooth. Thought the job was finished. 
21) Make a return to hive. 
22) Wave smoker about (supposed to calm bees down)
23) Take lid off hive, take super off, take feed box off.
24) Panic. The hive is full to the brim with bees. 
25) Don't have time to be pleased that the swarm is surviving, as now have oodles of nervous energy, so super, feeder box, and lid back on, evacuate tout suite because bees now getting irritated. 
26) Back in house, beekeeping kit off, hive tools put away. Promise to have another look at the hive at the beginning of August, which seems a nice long way away at the moment.

Oooh, but it was a scary moment when we saw zillions of bees rather than the few we expected, but it looks like the Bee Project is happening.

It is 6 am, and I am off to cut some grass to give to Elise before she has her grain and is milked, in the hopes that she will stand still for longer when being milked.
(My thanks to a fellow blogger who gave us the idea to do this)

Thursday 4 July 2013


I put some cow's milk out on the work surface this morning, thinking I would have a go at canning it, so that we have a supply of milk when Elise dries up. I had researched how to do this on the Internet, so I thought I would have a go. 

The morning trotted on. The milk was left out, to remind me to get to it when I have a spare moment. That moment arrived. Opened the jars. Blimey, flipping milk was moving into its second stage, heading towards its sour state, which is mid way between fresh and separated into curds and whey. Strooth, but this milk is only two days old. The goats milk does not move into its second stage for at least three to four days, so what the heck was happening to the milk that it should shift so fast, this was my dilemma as I looked at the jars. 

So..... Internet search, and crikey, but that milk is actually 'clabbering'! Store bought milk won't do that, it will just go yucky and must be put down the sink, but raw milk, well, apparently, ....

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist, she says this:

"Grass fed cows have natural lactobacillus acidolpholus bacteria in the milk. This is what causes souring. Warm the milk to 100 degrees for 8 hours and you have yoghurt. Real milk, fresh from a happy, healthy, pastured cow that has soured has not gone bad. It has clabbered, which means that good bacteria have simply consumed a good portion of the milk sugar (Lactose), thereby giving the milk a more yogurt-like smell and taste."

Wow! So that's the lesson for today. Don't get cross because the Elise's milk runs into the second stage so quickly, but be glad of it because it means that the lactose, which Lester and I are intolerant to, is getting eaten all up, thus rendering it a healthier food source for us. 

Not only that, but the third stage, which is separation into curds and whey, well that is stupendously healthy as well. 

Was thinking that perhaps having a cow was becoming a bit of a drain on us. Elise is not milking out very well, perhaps because we are sharing the calf with her. She has been moody of late, refusing to come out of her stall in the mornings, and then getting into a thorough temper because her mates, the goats, get to go out into the field before she does, because Lester refuses to argue with her, and leaves her to sulk. Not sure why she has taken to being so moody. She reared up in front of Lester this morning when he went in to milk her. He said that it was not one of his best moments. She would pack quite a punch if she landed on him. 

So off to sort the milk out. Might let Mum Pig have the milk which was destined for the canner, just as a treat. Have some fresh milk on the stove, slowly dehydrating, and hopefully on its way to becoming evaporated milk. Oops, have forgotten to stir it, as per Internet instructions, otherwise it might get a burnt taste. Ah well, not to worry, shall donate it to Mum Pig as well. 

I have some milk in a jar warming outside in the sun, which should have separated by now. This is being donated to the hens, to say thankyou for the eggs they have laid in the past, and to perhaps encourage them to think about laying eggs in more findable places because we have not had hardly any eggs for several weeks. They are either laying them out and about, or they have decided to put themselves on summer vacation. Hopefully the clabbered milk might make them get back to work.

And I am going to try making a smoothie. Apparently you can use the clabbering milk for making one of these, so I am going to have a go. 

Gosh, but life is flipping interesting, especially with the aid of the Internet! 

PS. Just remembered that you need a blender to make a smoothie and that I can't find the rubber seal of mine so have had to order another one so smoothie is no go today but might be on another day when the seal arrives. 

PPS. Was in no-go with cooking today when all cooking ideas were somewhere else and  not in my head. The hour was getting on. Urgent to get some food sorted. Was thinking about popping into the supermarket for ham and baquettes. Lester said why not open one of the canned jars. Did that. Took twenty minutes to serve up the meal. Wow! We have fast food on site! Inside the jar? Minced goat in tomato sauce. Tasted exactly the same as how it did before it went into the canner. Am well impressed with canning. Am also well impressed with the taste of goat. It is delish!

Saying bye for now.......

Tuesday 2 July 2013

"She will give us her life...."

We have a goat, she is young, not born here, but purchased when we first bought our other goats. 

She has never fitted in here. She has attitude with a big 'A'. She jumps the five foot high goat enclosure fencing with ease so is always escaping. She looks at us with dislike, as if we were nuisances to her rather than being her carers. I look at her the same as she looks at me. We do not bond.

At goat milking time, that is when she irritates me the most. We are milking two goats. A bucket of maize is put down for each goat, as an incentive for them to stand still while they allow their milk to be taken, and also as a reward for being good girls. 

I am of the opinion that only the milking goats should be receiving of this treat, and that no other goats should be allowed to partake of it. This is not a problem with the youngsters because they are not living with their mums at the moment, but it is a problem with the other goat because she keeps on barging her head into the bucket, pushing the goat being milked to one side. So I stand at the head of the milking goat to protect the bucket from being raided, and push aside this unfriendly goat, who is to be the next to go into the freezer, because we have found that her breed of goat is not a milking goat, therefore we cannot keep her.

When Lester milks the goats on his own, he often lets this goat have her way. I say that she does not deserve any treats, because she is not being milked. I say that he should stand firm, and not let her barge in like she does. 

I say that she does not give us anything.

"But she deserves a treat because she will give us her life." is what Lester said this morning.

....which put me into a silence of thought. It is likely that I shall now make sure that she gets spoilt for however long she is with us. In my impatience towards her attitude and ways, I was forgetting to be respectful of her life, which can happen when one is dealing with animals on a day to day basis, the work of looking after them pushing to one side the respect one should always keep for that animal.