Saturday 29 March 2014

'I've got me a tracky' he said......


It has been long discussed, and long awaited,
and it has come.

....and it is doing the job, slow to be sure, but it is working.
Which is more that what can be said for my new Panasonic Lumix FZ200 camera,
because as you can see,
the photos are really, really naff.
It must be me.
The photos are fantastic when uploaded onto my PC.
All I have done so far is point and shoot.
Wow! Ace! And I haven't investigated what else it can do.
But the photos are not uploading properly onto the blog.
Anyone have any ideas?
Lester is out ploughing,
I am mowing with my new gadget...

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you,
it is indeed a little hand lawn mower.
I was going to get a lightweight Flymo,
but was persuaded to buy otherwise by customer comments on Amazon.
What with wrestling with the bellows of my accordion,
and pushing my new bit of kit,
my arms and chest muscles should improve.
So where am I mowing?
I am going to try and take control of my 'front garden',
which was sort of under control three years ago,
but has not been since,
mostly because I have been diverted elsewhere on the land,
in the veg plot mostly.
But now Lester has his tracky and he is Veg Plot Head Honcho.
I have the time,
to do battle out front.
But what I should be doing at the moment instead of chatting with you
is shifting my temporary kitchen to back where it was before it got where it is now.
Doesn't make sense?
It will do in time!
But hey! We are on the way to getting the Rayburn installed,
and we have a new cooker coming for the summer months.
It might be,
that sometime this year, or next year perhaps,
oh but anyway,
we are on our way with getting the kitchen sorted out.
I have to get everything out of the kitchen
and set up a temporary kitchen in the food storage area.
This is the seventh time I have shifted my 'kitchen'
in the last six years.
Here is the one of the 'kitchens'
it is in the 'dining room'.
...and another,
this is in the gazebo,
which was our second 'kitchen'
....and here is the one I am emptying out.
(please excuse the stripped pig on the table)

.... what will I do with myself when I finally have a 'proper' kitchen!

And the last three photos were taken by a cheapo camera!
Hope you all have a lovely weekend.

Monday 24 March 2014

Goats! Waxing! Bollards! Wetness!


- does anyone know why our goat milk is tasting alright, and does not have that horrid goaty smell and taste which everyone says that goat's milk has, and that we had experienced in the first litre of milk we got from Blackie few weeks ago, but which has since disappeared completely. And Billy is still with the girls because we have not got round to building him his own living quarters. Nevertheless, the goatyness has gone.
- and just in case you make goat cheese.... if you make a pot of milk in which the starter and rennet have been put, and are then waiting the twelve or so hours for the mixture to turn into cheese....should you have done all this, and all at the correct temperature, then it would be a good idea to remove the pot from the stove should you then, at the same time, be wanting to cook bread in the oven below, which requires a raising of the temperatures in the oven, the heat of which will then permeate all through the cooker unit, and then on up into any pots you have on top of the stove, thus raising up the temperature of any contents within those pots. According to implicit instructions in my cheese making book, 'Do not let the temperature of the pot exceed 72F'. Ah.

It was in the middle of the night when I remembered this instruction. Too late to save the cheese. But what I have made is yoghurt. One gallon. But the bread cooked real good!

So just a helpful hint: remove pot from stove if making cheese, just in case you go into cooking mode and inadvertently push the milk past the correct temperature for setting the cheese.


And on the subject of cheese making, does anyone else have a problem with spattering cheese wax all over the place when covering a cheese with wax. (Wax helps to keep the cheese mold free while it is maturing) I seem to get in ever such a mess when I do this. Anyone have helpful hints about how to stop the wax from getting everywhere.


It was in the night, when we were still sleeping out in the courtyard in caravans, that Lester had a dream. "I had a dream that I was running a band and that it was called The Bollards". Ho, ho, ho, we so laughed at such a thing, that we were not playing any music at all because we were busy trying to get a roof over our heads and anyway I played classical and Lester played Irish and never the twain would meet as far as both of us were concerned, and oh so anyway, my keyboard was packed away somewhere and Lester's fiddle had been burnt on the fire because it had become broken and anyway he was never going to play music ever again.

Ah. Never presume. There are four of us. We are The Bollards. John, (72), Kathy (70), me (nearly 67), and Lester (45). We play Irish (sort of). The Bollards are two weeks old.

We have keyboard (me, fairly skilled), piano accordion ( me but still a novice), fiddle (Lester, excellent), mandolin (Lester, excellent), guitar (Lester, goodish), penny whistle (John ), squeeze box (John), mouth organ (John,), bodhrum drum (Kathy, who plays the drum in her own unique way), and two tambourines (Kathy and me. We have not got the tambourines yet, they are in the post. Yes I know that tambourines with ribbons that fly around as they are waved hither and thither while being played are not exactly connected with Irish music, but I thought that it would look good to do a couple of tunes with them).We all sing, and can hold a tune.

First rehearsal this week. First gig booking June 9th (half an hour, five songs). No pressure then! We are waiting for groupies, would you like to be one?


And with much joy the rain arrived yesterday. First rainfall for over three weeks. Ground all dried to a hardness in that time. Need the ground to be softer so that it can be ploughed up by the new little tractor (when it arrives). Everything exploded into colour yesterday. Just a drop of rain, and wow, spring has truly arrived. Grass now getting a move on in the fields so we can stop supplementing the animal feed, bees out and about in the newly opened blossoms everywhere so we might get honey this year. A drop of rain, and everything is thrusting itself into life. The force of nature is a wonder to behold.

And so off to practice with the piano accordion. Can do five chords (via buttons) on the left hand, and am getting better with running up and down the keys on the right. The only problem, and it is a major one, is that I tend to become so concentrated on what my left and right hand are doing that I forget to push the bellows in and out, so I am either left with a half hearted breathy sound or silence. No air means no sound on an accordion.

Hope you have a great week...


 PS. Does anyone know how to make a sourdough starter? And after that, a sourdough bread? 

Tuesday 11 March 2014

It's come!

The piano accordion has arrived, and I can lift it up out of its box (just), and it does sit (awkwardly) on my bosoms as I thought it would, but somehow I managed to get a tune out it, but only with my right hand, not my left which has to push buttons, the effort of pushing the bellows in and out while playing the keyboard part taking sufficient energy to leave me breathless after a few minutes.

Lester's mandolin arrived in the same package, and he knows how to play it, so was jigging away for the rest of the day. To make music is great fun. We think we might get a band together eventually, of like minded souls who like to make music. Perhaps. I have got to learn how to use two hands at the same time as pumping the air in and out. It may take a while.

That was yesterday.

Today has been a ' where the hell has our energy gone' day. Both of us. Zonked out. By mid day we were back in bed. Two hours we slept. And we are still zonked out. Perhaps it has been the shock to our systems of having had several days of 20 C sunshine. Or perhaps we might have picked up a Chinese bug (our instruments came from China by way of the UK so perhaps the makers of the instruments might have had a cough or cold, etc) Whatever, nothing much happening with us today.

But we have just a ride out to get some grain, and we did visit a local chateau (not a posh one, just a very lived in pile of stones) and the owners keep Nubian goats. "And so", we said to each other, " that is what the udder of a milking goat looks like!" Which is nothing like the pimples of udders that our girls have. We are now rethinking goats......

But Blackie has been milked today, although Billy Goat is still in residence with the girls so the pigs will have to have the milk, which they will slurp up with much enjoyment. And the reason why Blackie had to be milked was that her kid was found dead this morning. Not only that, but it had been half eaten by rats. Quelle horreur!! We were not surprised that her youngster had died though because it was very weak when it was born. As for the rats.... crikey but that is an ongoing battle.

Hopefully Lester and me will find our energies for tomorrow, meanwhile I think the best thing to do is go do some practising of the piano accordion, which should just about keep me going until bed time!

Oh, and I am not doing any seeds this year. In fact I have handed all veggie production over to Lester, and with relief too. And I am soooo looking forward to a time when the infrastructure of the smallholding is in place so all we have to do is get on with the running of it. Patience, Vera, patience! Anyway, there I was the other day, on the internet, making a list of seeds to buy for the coming growing season, but instead of pushing the shopping basket button, I deleted the lot. Our mini tractor has still not arrived, the veg plot needs its fencing finished, and then it needs ploughing and rotovating, and I think a better idea this year is to go and buy ready made plants from the shop. We plan to buy a polytunnel from the UK (by post) this autumn, and we are thinking that we also need another polytunnel for hay and straw. I think that this year we must concentrate on getting everything ready for proper seed sowing and planting next year. In effect, I think we need to be more organised!

But we have bought potatoes and wild flower seeds! At least something will be going into the veg plot this year!


Sunday 9 March 2014


It has been necessary to expose the knees,
and a portion of the legs below the knees,
but not above.
The reason?
A whoppingly warm and sunny day,
and Lester putting forth the suggestion,
as I went off to play the piano for a local church service,
that perhaps it would be a good idea,
when I returned home,
to get on with doing the fencing,
I, in my 'clean going-out' gear,
thought 'not',
that it would be a good idea to do nothing,
it being Sunday,
and therefore a day of rest.
And a little goat was born in the sunshine,
out in the field,
and a little chick,
one of three hatchlings,
was stood upon and done onto death
by the feet of his mum,
and gently roasted in the sunshine,
until we had the time to pick it up,
and take it down the woods,
for other beings to eat,
and Lissie did a 'Look at me I've got horns'
as she play fought with Billy Goat,
out in the field,
in the sunshine.
And my knees, but not my thighs, saw the light of day,
the first time this year,
as I sat and did my knitting,
in my shorties,
in between helping Lester
do the fencing.
Hope your week ahead is a good one.

Friday 7 March 2014

Reprieve, and roasting away.

Billy Boy is reprieved, this was decided after a mid morning family pow-wow. The goats need sorting out. We have eleven, including the littl'uns. This is too many. But if Billy Boy stays with the girls, then we shall be having more littl'uns by the end of the year. Two options for him: to get him his own pen built, or to slaughter him and put him in the freezer. We have dithered over what to do for several weeks, but had decided that the second option was the only one we could take. 

This saddened us, because he is a handsome goat, is not too bad with the weeing on himself, is good natured, and has grown up here so we know him. He fits in, as far as goats can fit in anywhere.

So it was 'do the deed day' this morning. Only we couldn't do it. There were too many reasons as to why he should stay, the most important one being that if we bought a male goat in from anywhere else, that he might not be such a nice goat as Billy Boy is. So, the pressure is on to build an outdoor enclosure for BB so he can be kept away from the girls. This should untaint the milk when we get round to milking the goats again, and help us to manage which of the girls has goatlings in the future. Meanwhile we castrated the two young male goatlings because they were already trying to mate with their mum and everyone else. It was either that, or slaughter them. But they have not had a life yet, so we could not do that either. So, those little males and Billy Boy are reprieved, with the little boys probably being slaughtered in October when they are nearly full grown, but not before.

And Yes! We are going to keep the goats, but reduce the numbers, probably down to three. The reason for keeping goats is to give us meat for the freezer. Lissie, and eventually Bonny, are going to provide sufficient milk for us, but it is possible that we shall look into selling the milk should the time come when we need financial input. We are both self employed now, and it could be that next year we shall need to look at several options for earning enough to pay the bills. It is lucky that we do have lots of options. It will be interesting to see which option works for us.

So today we have roasted. Temperatures now up around 20C, and looking to stay that way for a week or two. Time to get outside and get jobs done. The task today was to get the fencing wire put on some of the posts which have been recently put in by a local farmer. And I said to the small white cockerel as he passed on by to have a look at what we were doing, I said to him, "No raiding of the veg plot for you this year", this cockerel having been hatched a year ago, and who grew up fed almost entirely by raids on the veg plot. He is a fat boy. He would be. He ate a huge amount of tomatoes last year, and no matter what we did, he would always find a way into the veg plot. Not this year! This year we shall barricade the veg plot!

Re: Camera. I do now own a swanky camera but have problems with getting the right battery connecting lead. Not to worry. Should soon be sorted. Looking forward to then posting up some photos of what we have been up to since the beginning of the year.

Re: Piano accordion: it is in the post.

Re: my little bit of roasted skin. It is only pink, so I am not sunburnt.

Re: the little boy goatlings who have just been de-balled. They are not happy, but everyone else is. We think that the shenanigans that those two boys were getting up to was what was causing so many problems with the herd in general of late.

Re: the horning in the buttock. Lester suffered no bruising after Lissie made known to him her unhappiness about his late milking of her. I think this unreasonable of her because he was only half an hour late!

Re: smallholding life. Today was a good 'smallholding day'.

Hope your day went well as well.......


Wednesday 5 March 2014

It was a better day today

Yesterday was 'one of those days', with me getting irritable with the dogs because they kept padding around me, sensing my frame of mind, wanting to get outside to see what was going on but not allowed because of the open front gate (they do have a tendency to go visiting our neighbours down the lane), raiding (or trying to raid) the kitchen, forever prowling, forever up to hidden mischief. So I ended up having a shout at them.

Lester, meanwhile, was outside getting the animals fed, and in the rain..... again. But as well as having to get hay from a newly opened hay bail, which takes time because the hay ion the outside of the bale is tightly wound and he has to keep scratching away at it to get handfuls from it. Eventually he will get towards the middle of the bale, at which point the bale will possibly do a total collapse and open itself wide open, which is great if the weather is dry, but not so great if heavy rain is falling because then the hay gets wet. Unless it is covered up. But he can't get any hay off the bale if it is covered up, so what he has to do is uncover it, which then can get him into a fusty mood because he and the hay are both getting wet. Bless him. His farmer boy self can go into quite an unfarmery mood at such times, and yesterday morning was no exception.

And then the goats had to be got out of their pen in the middle barn because Paul from down the lane was coming to help Lester get electric light put up in the tall barn and the middle barn, which was a much needed job because Lester is getting fed up with trying to feed the goats in the dark, there not being any windows yet in the middle barn, so unless the barn doors are open, there is no light to see by. He did try opening up the doors the other day so that the goats could have daylight, but big winds blew one of the doors off its hinges. He was not best pleased, thinking that the door might have become damaged, but fortunately it hadn't, and I had just amount of muscle in my arms to help him get the door back onto its hinges.

The goats are getting fed up with being indoors, so are the two cows, so are the sheep, but either it is raining and blowing a gale, or the field entrance to the big field are flooded. But it is our policy this year to keep the animals off the fields January to March, so that the fields can have a rest, and because the hefty feet of the animals damage the grass too much. Lissie and Bonny are the worst trampers on the grass, the sheep are the next, and then the goats, whose dainty feet do not do too much damage. They also tend not to prance, gallop about, and kick up their heels, as do the cows and the sheep. However, when the goats are put out by themselves everyone else gets upset, as is what happened yesterday.

So, 'get the goats out' was the job to be done, because of the electrical work which was requiring the use of ladders. It was quite possible that should Paul or Lester be up the ladder, that either a goat would try to get up the ladder with them, or knock the ladder over in one of their barging arguments, leaving P or L hanging in mid air (if they could get a grip), or flat on their backs (not something which is to encouraged when the goats are charging about doing battle with each other).

As I have said, it was raining, but the goats had to be got into the side field. But they could not be taken to the side field via the normal route, which was past Bonny and Lissie because would have taken huge umbrage about having to stay indoors while the goats went out. So, it was out the back way, which involved quite a trek. Trying to take the goats out to the field via a route which was unfamiliar to them took forever. Lester's patience had worn thin by the time he had got four  of the eleven goats out, each one on ropes, each one pulling this way and that way, with none being compliant and walking by his side.

Job done. Paul arrived, and the two men started working on the electrics. Early afternoon, and Lester flung himself into the house with the news that the roof of the middle barn was leaking, that the beams in two places were getting soaked. So, another job to be done by him, but, "At least the river hasn't flooded the fields again, so at least you don't have to clean debris away from the fencing wire again", I said, in an effort to be bright and cheerful, you know, 'look on the bright side'. It was not well received.

The  rain it kept coming, but the lights on the barn were done. Time to get the goats back in. It was nearly dark. The drive was one huge pond of mud and water. The goats did not want to have to walk through the muck. Lester had to literally tow each one of them on a rope to get them back into the dryness of their pen. Those little horrors were not appreciative of the efforts being made on their behalf. There was loud mutterings by Lester about getting rid of the goats. There were loud mutterings from the goats about doing something they didn't want to do.

So I went off to choir practice, to play the piano for the choir rather than singing, because they have had no pianist for some months, and I had been sort of cajoled into taking over the role of accompanist, which I enjoy, and I might get out of playing for the actual concerts because I might not be good enough, and that is alright by me, because I am quite happy to be on the side lines and let another more accomplished pianist take over from me. They can have the glory, I get to have the fun of the rehearsals and don't get the pressure of having to play at the concerts.

I arrived home to find Lester in 'give up' mood. So I switched the electric blanket on, and we went to bed.

And today arrived, and we could hear the rain again on the velux windows in the roof, which was enough to give us the grumps before we ever got out of bed, because it was going to be another 'outside in the rain' day.

And then the sun came out. And in the air was a feeling that it was all done, that winter had become spent of energy and had finished with all its rages. It was as if a line had been drawn between the winter and spring, and that winter was now the other side of that line.

Nevertheless, Lester and me, well, we were feeling tired by  the pressures of farm life, which are much better than having the pressures of holding down office jobs and living a 'modern' way of life as  in the 'old' days of our UK lifestyle though. But, we were feeling tired and flat. So late morning Lester said, "Let's go out to lunch. We need time out." So for about forty five minutes we went our separate ways, me to put twenty one eggs into the freezer and do other kitchen work, Lester to find thirty nine eggs from a hidden egg stash, and do other farm work. He came back into the kitchen just before mid day with a purposeful stride, to announce in a loud and authoritative voice, "I am going to cook dinner, let's not go out, we can't give up". And I said " The money that we save from having lunch out will buy us a fruit tree", and I was relieved not to go and eat someone else's food especially the meat. (They don't 'do' vegetarian in the eateries around here).

So Lester opened a jar of DIY potatoes and revamped yesterdays lamb casserole.  Then off to our local supermarket to remind ourselves about why we don't like shopping in supermarkets, the last time of doing so being three weeks ago. But we did have a coffee and a bun, which in a way celebrated the feeling that winter was now behind that line.

I hope that winter has also started leaving you, wherever you may be in the northern hemispheres. I know that us homesteading folk are getting quite tired of doing battle with the weather this year.

And my piano accordion is now on its way, together with a mandolin for Lester. The river is high, but not overflowing. Lester has changed his mind again about keeping goats, and thinks that we shall continue with them. And today the sun shone, and no matter what the weather now does, winter is behind us, in my heart I know that this is so.


PS. And Lissie has just horned Lester in the buttocks, but he said "not to worry and that it was the best £300 he has ever spent". (£300 was how much she cost, although it was really £150 because she was in calf but no one knew, so we got two cows for the price of one)

PPS. Lester has finished milking with no further injury to himself by Lissie, and has now just 'rescued' a hen who died during the night in the hen hut. She was an old girl, and died a natural death. He had to use the hoe to get her out of the hut and her body has now been donated to the animals of the night. She didn't mind. Her soul is now in chicken heaven.  He has just also rescued a hen from the goat pen. It is miracle that she has managed to survive that experience, so she lives on...........

Monday 3 March 2014

My tummy and me, and the wind doth blow....

My tummy used to have a robustness,
back in the days when we lived in the UK,
enjoying loads of different types of foods,
most of which we shouldn't have eaten,
but, nevertheless, we did.
chocolate and mint ice cream,
one tub
divided between two.
Or crisps,
or Cadbury's Dairy Milk choccie,
oh, just loads of nibbles in general.
And Sunday breakfasts:
eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, fried tomato, etc....
oh what a delight.
And sometimes breakfast in town on a Saturday too,
always followed by a visit to the bakers,
there to buy cream buns, etc....
And my tummy did not seem to mind too much.
Milky coffee in the afternoons,
eating out frequently,
takeaways in the evenings,
non stop eating at the weekends,
oh what a feast of food we enjoyed.
And then we came to France,
and a right little tub I was,
looking very plump,
and jolly,
with a cast iron stomach, I think,
because it never seemed to mind what I put into it.
And here we are on our first day here....
.... and Lester, cutting the grass in the courtyard with a breadknife because the strimmer was still packed and our removal men had to get to and fro the barns to unpack our stuff.
Lester, too, was a tad on the chubby side, bless him, but very huggable.

But now my tummy is no longer happy.
If I put something into in which is not quite right,
it rebels.
If I eat too much of the 'wrong' thing,
it rebels.
If I fill myself with choccie, ice cream, etc....
it rebels.
And I have become an advocate of bicarbonate of soda,
which can bring up the most eruptious wind,
to give the most loudest and longest of burps imaginable.
So what has changed, that my tummy does not allow my food indulgences?
1. Living on a tight budget.
2. Living in France, because they don't 'do' fast food, not in our area anyway.
3. Having our main meal at mid-day, the same as the French do, which stops snacking during the day, eating a main meal too late in the day, then snacking until bed time.
4. Not visiting food shops very often because we have a larder.
5. Not eating out, because we like our own food, and not other people's.
And all this is because we run a smallholding and so eat a lot of our own food.
But the downside is that my tummy has got so used to 'proper' food,
that it no longer can tolerate anything else.
In other words,
it throws a sicko,
and hence the bicarbonate of soda.
So be warned my friend,
that if you want to run a smallholding
and want to feed yourself,
and want to live off the land,
and want to live healthily,
then you had best enjoy your indulgencies of food now,
because once you go down the route of self sufficiency,
then neither you or your tummy
will ever be the same again.
And the wind?
Oh, just that we have had gusts of wind
that fair knocked us off our feet,
plus the rain, and hail,
and doing smallholding in such weather 
is not good,
so all one can do,
is smile,
or try to!
Now where is the comfort food,
the choccie, ice cream, etc...
Ah, but no, we have none..
Oh well, a raid on the jars of dehydrated apples and figs then,
or perhaps a slice of chicken pie (one of our cockerels, pressure cooked then roasted)
or a slice of tart (made from our own eggs, milk, and cherries(canned from last year) )
or an omelette (our own milk, eggs, and cheese)
or a slice of homemade cake (our own eggs, yoghurt, dried fruit),
or just a slice of toast (DIY bread (our own eggs and buttermilk), our own butter and jam)
Simple food, but do-able,
because if we can,
you can.