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......