Sunday 31 August 2014

Little escapees

So I was off to pick some sloes, 

....turned round the corner of the house,
and look!

Six little piggies the wrong side of the fence......
So round they turned, but not too far,
because they needed to rethink the situation,
little piggies being unable to two things at once,
which is run and think,
so they do one thing at a time,
which is stop, think, then run.




Round the corner of Mum Pig's paddock,
down the side of Dad Pig's paddock,
through the hole they had dug under the wire in his paddock,

...... across his paddock,

...with no time to say hello to him,
as they raced to the gate between the two paddocks....

.... under the gate....

...and home, with relief, to Mum.

So the immediate project was to barricade them in with planks of wood, 
which Lester nailed at ground level.

And so it was that the day started, with Lester in a marginal grump because he does not 'do' mud because he was born and raised in South Africa which does not have much ongoing mud because of the quantity of hot days, unlike the UK where I was born and raised whereby the tendency to rain and make mud outweighs sunny dryness. It had rained here overnight. He was very muddy by the time he had done the planking. 

His mood went further into grumpiness when I interrupted him while he was sanding the beams in the kitchen, saying it was time to leave for a mid day BBQ up at Castelnau village. His mood took a quick upward turn, though, when a cup of punch was given to him by our mayor. I don't know what was in that punch but it sure packed a wallop. Being part of the community for a while was a grand experience for us, made us feel less like the foreigners we are. 

Meanwhile, the new Jacob ram is continuing to moan about not being with the girls. He is supposed to be kept away from them until we reduce the numbers of the flock by another four, the loss of winter grazing due to flooding making this a necessity. But Jakey Boy thinks he should be with the girls. He thinks he should start procreating, making new sheep, doing what nature has intended him to do. He is not a happy lad. We are starting to worry in case he loses condition because of stress because this is his fifth day of moaning........

It is six in the morning. I love being up at this time of the day, and feeling the hours of the day stretch ahead of me while everyone is still asleep. It is a lovely cosy feeling having all this sleeping life around me. Dawn is peeping in the distance, so I had better have a shower, make tea and toast, and get Lester up before Lissie starts yelling her head off about having a full udder. The boy calf is now in a small pen beside her at night, so we can share with the bounty of the morning milk, Lester taking the first litre or so and the calf having the rest, so he gets the cream which comes as the udder is milked out. Not to worry, we can wait for that cream. At least we now have raw milk coming into the kitchen. 

One of the bee hives is failing. I don't mind that it is doing so. It has given several swarms to the world, so has been a success in its own right. Managing the bees so they are part of the smallholding cycle of life is something we aren't doing at the moment, not through lack of interest but through lack of time. Not to worry. We shall get to being beekeepers eventually, and hopefully share a honey harvest with the bees. 

Ooops..... just heard a request from the dogs about wanting to go to the loo, so had best be on my way.

Hope you have a good Sunday, and bye for now, 


Monday 25 August 2014

The lost hawthorns, a newcomer, and milk.....

Continuing on with Wild Foodying.....
The Hawthorn Project, 
the gathering of the leaves and berries. 

..... it hasn't happened, because we did have hawthorns alongside a portion of our woodland, but now there is not. Was it the constant flooding from the river last winter, do hawthorns not like wet feet? Or is it the bully-boy tactics of the robust blackthorn bushes, which are romping away, growing much more of itself, thereby suffocating the hawthorns into non-existence. Anyway, I was quite disappointed that my foraging expedition turned out to be a failure.

However, there is one hawthorn left, and that is on the side of the veg plot, which Lester had earmarked to be dug up because he wanted to shift the fence line and it was in the way. Oh so now it has become protected and untouchable, because I am expecting great harvests in the future from that little bush.

But I did pick up on another Wild Foodying Project, and that is the harvesting of the blackthorn berries, sloes they are called. A search on the internet as to what to do with them came up with the info that they can be used very successfully to make sloe gin, which apparently is a super duper drink to have a Christmas. This does not appeal, so further searches came up with the info that jam and chutney can be made from the sloes, but only after they have had the frost on them. No use waiting for frost here because the birds would have had them away long before the cold spell arrives, so I shall pick them and keep them in the freezer until I have time to do something with them.

The acorns are now dropping off our numerous oak, so I did another internet search to see if they were harvestable for us, but no, I do not think so because of the many steps that has to be done to make them usable to eat. Therefore, they are to be harvested for the pigs, who fall over with delight whenever acorns are given to them.


10.30 this morning saw us on the road.
11.45 saw us back home again,
with the mission of the day being unsuccessful.
What were we up to?
Getting a boy for our girls,
in other words,
getting a ram for our ewes. 
Emailed directions concentrated on looking for a 'Virgin Mary' and a pigeonnier.
We saw plenty of 'Jesus on the Cross' statues,
but none of Virgin Mary, and defo no pigeonnier.
Still, it was a lovely drive....

Not to worry.
A phone call to the current owners of the ram remedied the situation,
and a second foray was successful.

2.30 this afternoon,
and I was holding on to a hot and sweaty ram,
who was sat in the back seat of the car.
He did not much like being there.
I was not much fussed about having to hang over the back of the front passengers seat,
having been instructed by Lester to "Hold onto him".
Good job I have strong fingers,
a result of hours of practice on the accordion and piano.
But I did feel queasy.
Going backwards was not something me or my tummy liked very much.
Anyway, he is home now,
but has to be kept away from his girls for a few weeks,
this he does not like either.
We have to put four ewes into the freezer before he can do his thing.
It is the way of life on a smallholding.


And we have milk coming into the kitchen,
Lester having milked a litre from Lissie,
who did not mind at all,
although the boy calf did not look too fussed about sharing his supper.

Tonight he is in with his half sister, Bonny,
because Lester is going to try milking Lissie tomorrow morning instead of the evening.
Yahay!!! Milk!!!!


Friday 22 August 2014

Planks, stiffness, concreting still.....

And we are trudging on with the cementing. No camp yesterday, just did house jobs in between filling the concrete mixer......and it was late afternoon when I started turning into a plank...... and I was made to move about as if I was an elderly lady,...... but then I do have a quantity of years behind me, so should not be so surprised when my body reminds me of them. 

..... but, nevertheless, we carried on with getting the kitchen floor done. Only one  section remains undone, which is work for today. Then it is the filling in of the joins tomorrow (Saturday), and then we are finished.  Hooray!!!  Sunday,  being the day of rest for some,  will not be for us, as we head out into the paddocks to get the fencing finished so that the piglets and their mum can get out onto grass.They need to stretch their legs, and the food bill is escalating now the piglets are eating grain, so they need to get onto grass so they can root around and dig holes, a past time which little piggies love. This will also reduce the cost of keeping them.  I have also earmarked Sunday as the day I am going to have a go at sourdough, as inspired by Horst (see his blog in the side bar). all I have to do is get my butt out of this chair, get dressed, and go start that cement mixer, fighting the inclination all the while to catch a nap, preferably back in bed. Lester is out and about getting the animals sorted out for the day, and I know that he is as tired as I am. He is building a handsome set of muscles, though, which are very much appreciated by myself. I am also firming up, and will have benefited from the concreting work once the planky stiffness goes away. All in all, this is a good lifestyle to get one fitter and trimmer, better than going down the gym or vegetating in front of the telly, although vegetating in bed is a very seductive thought at this precise moment.... I need to get going otherwise I shall remain fixed into this chair for the rest of the day, saying bye for now, and hope you have a good day. 



10.30 pm, and it is now the evening of the day. 

..... and despite being cross eyed with tiredness we got that cement mixer going, and the last portion of floor has been laid,
which means that the floor is done,
although the seams need to be filled in,
which is lighter work compared to the rest of the floor. 

We finished just in time to celebrate our efforts,
so it was off to our local winery to get five litres of red wine straight from the vats, 
which cost all of about £5,
and then off the to the local supermarket to buy chocolate among other things,
because we felt the need to pamper ourselves,
which we don't often do,
but then it is not often we concrete a floor!


Wednesday 20 August 2014

Camping out

.......I not have been 'camping out' in the accepted sense, as in rucksack, boots, tent, and sleeping bag, no, this was my camp site for the day of yesterday.....

.... attending as I was to the feeding of the cement mixer,
so that the kitchen floor chappe could be continued by Lester,
because one day soon I shall have a 'proper' kitchen,
and wahoooooo!!! what a grand day that will be. 
But for the time being, I manage,
most times with a smile on my face,
but sometimes with a grouch. 

Anyway, there I was, camping out again. To fill in the time between loading the cement mixer,and to stop myself from getting grotty, because I don't like hanging about doing nothing, I do things, providing I have a handy chair to sit upon because my legs don't like having to stand for too long. Low blood pressure, that's the problem, although I have just come across the info that hawthorn can help with this condition, because it is a 'heart herb' apparently. Since we have lots of hawthorn growing on the farm, I thought it would be a good wild foodying project to pick some leaves and dehydrate them so I can partake of their apparent excellent therapeutic properties during the winter. The berries also carry beneficial properties, but there was some discussion on the internet about whether or not the seeds were poisonous, so I am going to pick the berries, and then decide what to do with them later on. 

And this loop of internet searching also came up with the info that blackberry leaves are also super duper goodies for the body, so I am going to pick lots of them and get them dried as well. It would probably be best to pick the leaves of the hawthorn and blackberry during their lush spring growth but, no matter, now will do.

The tomato harvest has not happened this year, although we managed to save a bowlful, but they starting rotting too, so into the dehydrator they have gone.

.....together with some kale, which is another super duper producer of healthful properties, so the internet said.

Anyway, back to the Tuesday camp. By my chair I had my bag of knitting, which hardly ever gets touched, but I still have the need to always have some knitting handy, just in case I feel the need. And in front of my chair was the project of the day, which was to harvest the fennel seeds from these glorious tall plants......

..... so, three bowls.....

..... one for the seeds, one for the seed heads, and one for the seedless leavings. Cup of tea, bottle of water laced with cider vinegar, gloves to help my hands not complain too much about when messing about with the concrete mixer, and that was my camp. 

So for all the day long, except lunch time, I trotted to and fro with sand and cement, feeding the concrete mixer when it was made to be empty by Lester, and in between I sat and picked the seeds from off the seed heads of the fennel. voila! 

..... a bowl of fennel, which is something else I don't have to buy from the supermarket. I have always used some herbs and spices in cooking, but now we are providing much of our own food I am using more of them to offset the tendency towards 'sameness' in the taste of our food. To come across a grain of fennel in one's mouth during the eating of the DIY meal, and to feel that grain burst into its liquorice loveliness as it is crunched down on is such a delight. 

So the fennel will be added to the herb and spices store, and I shall go out and about and see what else I can 'borrow' from the wild after I have raided the hawthorn and blackberry shrubs. In my own small way I feel like a 'hunter gatherer' of olden times. 

Boy Calf has learnt what a delight it is to chase the sheep. The occupants of one of the bee hives are in trouble, we think, because they seem to be drunkenly lurching when going to and fro their hive, or it might be a ploy to confuse the ever present hornet attack. The hens have abandoned the tree and now roost along the benches outside the house. To hear them zizz and snore as I go to and fro between half barn and house at night (at the moment we can't go through the kitchen because of the wet floors so we have to go between half barn and house outside) makes me smile. Oh, and now I have wet snouts poking at me, telling me that the dogs need off I must go into my day...... voila!

.....more of the kitchen floor is finished. It is looking good. Concreting again today. It does feel like a bit of a plod sometimes, but our spirits are being lifted because we are having a go, and are making a reasonable job. It is not perfect, but it will do, proving that it is better to try and fail than never to have tried at all, because you might not fail, you might surprise yourself and discover that your fears did not do you justice, because you actually can do that which you thought you could not. 

Sending blessings to you.......


Sunday 17 August 2014

Oh, where is Lissie?..........

It was getting late, Lester having not caught up with the fact that the sun is now going down behind the nearby hills slightly earlier each day, so he is still is in his summer routine, which is bringing the animals in about 8-ish.
So, 8-ish it was, 
and he was in a hurry because night time was starting to drift about in the air.

But, where was Lissie? 
Normally she would be the first in the queue to come out of the field, 
with the sheep following closely on her heals,
but no, she was not there.....
..... because she has been a busy girl,
and sometime during the day,
this is what she had been up to.....

....two weeks early, but bonny as could be....

...and Lester giving Lissie a reward,
after which we walked slowly back across the field, 
with the calf walking close in beside me,
because Lissie had had a talk with her littl'un,
and said that it was alright for him to regard me as a pal.

Back home, and bedding down for the night.

They are staying in today,
so if you would like to pop along and say hi to our new calf,
then please do just that.
The calf is a boy, we think.

No cementing and no smallholding work done here yesterday,
because other things happened.
And it being Sunday today,
we are thinking about painting the ceiling of the Half Barn,
which has never been finished off.
I also need to go and rescue the courgettes, which are probably the size of a bus now,
harvest the seeds of the fennel, 
bring in the remains of the cabbages,
see if I can find the parsley amongst the rampant squash,
say 'sorry' to the beans because I can't get to them to pick them because of the rampant squash, and anyway, their support frame has now collapsed...

It is a lovely morning here,
and it is Sunday,
so I hope that your day is a good one,
that you rest up,
and recharge your batteries ready for the week ahead.


Saturday 16 August 2014

Pushing on........

Lester says that it should take about six days in total to finish getting the chappe down onto the kitchen floor. We are going at a stately pace. Two hours in the morning, then two hours late afternoon, with a meal and a nap in between, plus, of course, the usual farm work of animal husbandry, harvesting and storing, and anything else which comes along. 

Lester has had a fear about doing the floor, saying that it had to be level otherwise the tiles would be all up and down when they were laid. And how deep did the chappe need to be, that was also a very long ongoing discussion he frequently had with me. It was a relief when he made his decision, and made a start. 

Meanwhile, my job is to get buckets of sand from out on the front drive, and buckets of cement from inside the house. Lester carries a full bucket with ease because he has man muscles. I can't even lift it because I have lady muscles. But there is always a way to be found to do things which at first seem undo-able, so I do the transporting of the sand and cement by putting the full bucket of sand / cement into a wheelbarrow. Sorted! 

I have also acquired the skill of getting the contents of the bucket into the cement mixer, but not a full bucket because my arm muscles won't oblige, so what I do is shovel half of the contents of the bucket, bit by bit, into the mixer. Only occasionally do I miss. When the bucket is half full, then I can lift it and get the remainder of the contents into the mixer. I am not, however, allowed to put the water into the mix, although might be instructed to do so but only under supervision, never on my own.

I was also instructed requested to make  sure that the sand and cement right at the back of the cement mixer could be made to mix better. My best solution, via my female thought processes, was to use a long handled small pronged gardening fork. A quick dab, thrust, and poke, and the mix was mixed. However, this was not found to be an ongoing solution when the cement mixer ended up on its back with its legs in the air, there being an error in my dabbing, thrusting, and poking action which got the long handled small pronged gardening fork tangled up with rotating paddles of the cement mixer, which put the mixer into a tizz, and flat on its back it went. Not to worry. It was only three quarters full, so Lester managed to man-haul it back on to its feet. As for the long handled small pronged gardening fork, that, too, will live on, but only after the wound to its shaft has been mended. A piece of string should do the trick.

In the intervals between my loading task I prepped some garlic bulbs ready for the dehydrator, bought from the local market at one euro (80p)for one large head of garlic, so I bought ten. Did five. They are now dehydrated, as are the ten kg of apples at one euro per kg, also bought from the market. I scattered cinnamon and sugar over the apple slices. They will not last long though, as Lester is frequently doing a raid on them already. To fill the dehydrator up I also did some green peppers of our own. Dehydrating, canning, jamming and chutneying means that we never have a glut, and what is not processed goes out to the animals. I think of the amount of food we wasted in the UK, and am glad that we have changed our ways. 

Day One (Thursday)
Our first efforts. 

Day Two (Friday)
....and over the the other side of the kitchen.

Look at the angle between the left and right hand floor chappes,
how they do not run parallel, but widen.
This is not an optical illusion!
The room is not square, that's all!

Things I have learnt: 
- That when Lester says to wash the cement mixer out at the end of a session of work, then he means that it should be done NOW, and not after I have done a couple of more rows of knitting and made a cup of tea. It is the nature of sand and cement to go hard, and quite quickly so, this I have learnt.
- That prepping lots of garlic cloves can make the hands sting after a while, although the possibility of garlic juice and cement dust combining to add to the stinging effect must be taken into account. Anyways, probably best to do knitting in between loading the cement mixer and leave the prepping of garlic cloves to another time. Also, probably best to wear gloves as well, but not winter type gloves, just thin latex type ones.

It is the morning of Saturday, and still no calf has arrived. Lester is waiting for me, so I had best stop chatting with you and get on with the day.

It takes me five trips with the wheelbarrow to load the buckets of sand and cement per one cement mixer load. 
So: 5 trips x four loads per session = 20 trips. 
So: 5 trips x four loads per session x two daily sessions = 40 trips
So: 40 trips per day x 2 days of work = 80 trips

Estimated days to finish the kitchen: 6
So: 6 days x 40 trips = 240 trips 
So: 240 trips + 80 trips already done = 320 trips in total

Estimated trips to complete the chappe on all the floors in the house:
1800 trips.

I am off to make a cup of tea now. 
But I shall not fall over backwards like the cement mixer did,
no, I shall not,
no... it is alright to have a little lie down perhaps? 
Just to stretch the back.....
....and perhaps have a snooze....


Thursday 14 August 2014

In waiting......

Has Lissie had her calf yet? So far, no. But soon, yes. 

And I have purchased a shiny new pot for making cheese, the other one having suffered from my jam and chutney making activities and now has a burnt bottom. And I am going to be ordering all the cheese starters soon, and we need to sort out where we will keep the cheeses when they are maturing. This means the purchase of a tall larder fridge, hopefully a second hand one, although will probably have to be a new one. But I am not going to make cheese if I don't have anywhere to store it, and apparently there is a gadget you can buy which will convert the fridge into the right temperature to keep cheese in. Looking forward to seeing if I can get some decent cheese made this time. It was very hit or miss last time we were milking Lissie, mostly because of not having the right storage facilities. Some people buy wine coolers but they are expensive here, and are quite small anyway.
We might be milking two cows eventually. Which means lots of cheese to make. If it turns out alright we might sell some. Or not. I have a lot of practicing to do before we can do that. 

.....meanwhile she is expanding daily...

......meanwhile Bonny is heading towards being in calf as well, but only once we have registered her, and then we can get the AI man in to artificially inseminate her...

June 2014

August 2014

....she has grown a lot over the last two months, and needs to be a mum.

.....meanwhile, the ewes remain ramless, but hopefully we shall be buying a ram in about two weeks time. was nice not having to cope with having a lambing season this year, and it was nice that the girls had a rest. 

....meanwhile the day is getting on, and I need to get out and about. Lester hopes to start getting the chappe (scree I think) on to the kitchen floor. He is not looking forward to doing this job. We have spoken about getting someone in to help him but we are on a budget so we are going to have a go ourselves. I am supposed to be mixing the concrete and wheel barrowing it in to him. Since I can make cakes, I think I should be able to do it. After all, a cement mixer is only a very large food processor! 

Hope you have a nice day.....

Sunday 10 August 2014

A walk around the food shelves......

It is the season of plenty...
and, as with all veg plot people, we are harvesting,
and the shelves in the food storage / temporary kitchen are filling...

So, top left hand side of shelf: various jars of canned fruit, (cherries, yellow plums, greengages, and apricots) This is the first time I have canned fruit. So these jars are experimental ones. I am sure that the pigs will enjoy them should the contents taste horrid. Beneath these jars is the entire contents of my purchased food, the largest stash being the flour and sugar shelf. At one time I would have had cupboards full of bought-in food, but now we are managing to provide at least 75% of our own food, if not more.

..and moving along...the top shelf is our jam stash, and the next shelf down is the dehydrated stores. I am not very organised with this stock of food, forgetting to rehydrate it in advance of it being used, but I am going to try harder to be organised this year. In view is last year's jar of homegrown onions, and the green jar contains the first of this year's courgette harvest. 

As with most of you folk who are growing courgettes, the harvest is astonishing, this being the first year of 'proper' courgette growing. 

Not so lucky with the tomatoes though. The lack of continuous sunshine and the frequent storms has taken its toll on our tomato harvest. Not to worry, last year I learnt that green tomatoes are actually tasty in their own right, so I shall can up our harvest so it won't be wasted. These, though, are 'wasted' because I was too busy to get them processed, so to the pigs they will go. They will have to be cooked down into a mush though because the pigs don't like them very much.

But I have managed to get some of the courgettes processed, and these are just going into the dehydrator together with the last of the greengages....

...moving along the shelves, and this large white thing is a South African pumpkin, grown by Lester specifically, because he is from South Africa and growing them brings back memories. However, I do not have the foggiest idea as to what to do with this large piece of veg. Any ideas?

Oh dear..... this is our meat jar shelf, and it is very spartan....only six jars or meat, the rest have other things in them. But we do still have three freezers which are still about three quarters full of assorted types of meat, so I need to get a move on and get some more jars processed so I can space in those freezers for the meat harvest coming in towards the end of the year.

....and some dehydrated food stuffs (onions, courgettes, apples, lemon peel, mushrooms, beetroot, etc.....) As I have said, I am not very efficient with the rehydrating of these food items but I shall try to do better this year. The jars on the right are the remains of last year's harvest, being some chutneys and jar or two of fig jam.

More dehydrated stores: apples, spearmint, coriander seeds, etc. 

...and below that shelf is the the start of the canned potatoes. Fourteen Thirteen so far, one having been given away, and lots more to do. This is a staple fast food for us, and worth the time and effort to get those jars done.

So these are some of the food stored on our shelves. However, upon close examination of some of those wooden shelves, I noticed a slight bowing of the wood here and there. Now it might have been my imagination, but the thought of waking up in the middle of the night by the sound of all those jars crashing to the floor as those shelves collapsed filled me with dread, so off to the local DIY shop for the purchase of some more robust steel shelving, that is what we did yesterday afternoon. 

Today, it being Sunday, there came upon me such a tiredness that I thought it best to have a slow day. But Lester was in the mood to assemble the shelves, so I thought better of trying to persuade him that Sunday should be a day of rest, otherwise Project Shelves might be delayed by weeks, and I could not stand the thought of living in expectation of those shelves all those shelves, which you have just seen, had to be emptied.....and this became exposed.... huge oak beam, left over from when the roof was put on. We knew it was there, because this was a favourite mice and rat run, although the rats are not in residence at the moment, but only yesterday there was a deceased mouse laying by the freezer. One day all the rat and mice holes will be blocked up. I am not sure if it will be in my lifetime though! Not to worry, this rat and mouse problem is an inherited one because the house was left unoccupied for many years before we came here, allowing the rodent population to become firmly established. We are beating them back. 

Lester said that he would be using that beam in the lounge, and said that to leave it there until such time as it was needed. I said no, that it was not a good idea, because 1) it would remain a highway for mice and rats to get from one side of the room to the other unseen, and 2) that when the beam was needed every single item would have to be removed from the shelves so that the shelves could be moved so that the beam could be got at. 

So we pushed, and shoved, and slid that very heavy beam across the floor. It is now in the dining room....

...and it is protruding out across the doorway, inviting all to trip over it. Not to worry, I shall put a chair in front of it. It will be a squeeze to get through the doorway, but at least no one, (me actually) will not trip over the beam.

New shelves now in place, one more still to do.......the shelves are nice and tidy, but everywhere else isn't.....but the rat / mouse highway is no more...

....and in the middle of all this muddle, I managed to find a space on the cooker to get some lunch cooked. The big pot is green tomatoes being cooked up for the pigs, but I had to take the green tomato chutney off the stove because of lack of space. That still remains uncooked and has now become a project for tomorrow morning. 

But at least the dehydrated courgettes and greengages got done.....

....and they taste yummy. Dehydration heightens the taste of food, making it a good food to snack on. 

And now I am done with the day. The new shelves remain half empty because half way through this afternoon Sunday-itus got hold of me and I took myself and my old fragile sunbed out to the front garden, and snoozed, and watched the leaves of the trees, and the clouds up in the sky, and thought how lovely it was to be a smallholder who was standing down from 'doing' smallholding for a precious hour or so!

Hope you had a relaxed and happy Sunday, and hope you all have a good week....