Friday 19 December 2014

Dearest Smeggy......

Just wanted to share with you this: that I have a cooker now working. No, not the Rayburn, but the SMEG which has stood in the hallway, still in its cardboard box, for months. Now it is working. It has lots of rings, several ovens, is cream, clean, and sparkly. It will not stay that way for long, not once I start using it.

But first I have to read the instructions, and overcome my terror of it. I know I am being silly, but ............ Apparently two ovens are fan assisted, but you can have half a fan, bottom fan, all fan, etc..... All I want is to switch the SMEG on, not have to worry about what bit of the fan to have on as well.

It would seem that I am being ungrateful for this step forward in the saga of me getting a 'proper' kitchen, and please believe me when I say that I am as pleased as anything to have a decent cooker to cook with. The old calor gas one has been slowly failing, with only three of the four rings working and even they do not work to their full capacity, making the cooking of food a slow and arduous job. I have, on occasion, felt like flinging the thing out of the door.

But now it is me and SMEGgy, learning how to get along with each other, our first engagement being cheese on toast this evening. And oh what a treat is to have a grill, and one that lights up too!

Now, the reason why I chose Smeggy was because it has sufficient gas rings to cook various things at the same the pot of dog food, the pot of pig food, the kettle, our dinner, the pressure cooker, etc...... It also has two ovens ( I did not know about the third until just a few minutes ago, and I did not know they were fan assisted either until just now) which will be handy when I cook for guests. But more that anything, the SMEG chose me, just like the kitchen kept on about wanting green floor tiles.

So what happened was this: I liked a friend's cooker, and saw the same cooker in a local electrical shop, but could not justify the expense of buying it at the time. Months passed, and still the cooker stayed on display. Then on one particular day I had an urge to go and have a proper look at it, thinking that soon it would become old stock and perhaps even become out of stock. So I took at look at it, and was dismayed to find that the quality of the cooker was not very good, and then my feet started walking down the rows of other cookers on display, and then they suddenly stopped in front of the SMEG, and without any proper look at it, quite clearly 'This is the one' came into my head. So we bought it, but without not really knowing exactly what the cooker could do.

Not to worry, I shall start exploring its potential tomorrow, I have to, because the old cooker has now been sent to its eternal rest, bless it.

And Lissie is with calf, being a week overdue, but Bonny was done again by the nice AI (artificial insemination) man.We have dispatched two male piglets, one more go go. It is still mild here but damp. It is surprising just how much mud can be made just by it being damp.

And I have got a proper cooker! Wahooooo!

So am off to read the instruction manual, and then have a trot around YouTube to see if anyone has posted anything up about the SMEG which might help me understand how to use it.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

The piglets, and more bacon.....

And another slab of pork turned into DIY bacon,

It might not look like the shop bought bacon,
but it tastes far better.
The meat was wet brined for five days
(salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves)
then firmed up in the freezer so I could cut it into slices.
It is the best bacon I have made so far,
and had inspired me to have a go at making ham.

Today we start on the long task of getting the male piglets into the freezer.
We have tried to keep them separated,
but piglets being piglets,
well, we did not win that battle.

But since we were going to 'do' them in January,
we are only a month early,
and they have had a gloriously mucky time out in the paddocks,
so we feel that they have had a good life,
albeit a not very long one.

Upon observation of the rear end of the males yesterday,
I noticed that the bottom of  the testicles,
which are clearly visible on a pig,
not underneath and hidden
but slap bang on the lower part of their rear end,
that the testicles on one of the male piglets
was filling up. 
This is not good.
It means that he is becoming sexually active.

I also noticed that the little minny on one of the girls piglets
was looking pert. 
It means that she is also moving into sexual maturity.

And another thing:
The voices of all the piglets have broken,
like teenage boys do when they reach a certain age,
from high pitch to low pitch,
that is what has happened to all the pigs, except one,
but even then the normal ear splitting squeal of that one has deepened.
The loss of the squeal is a good thing though,
it was driving Lester nuts as he prepared their food trays,
but now they grunt, which is much better,
although does signify the advancing maturity of them all.

So yesterday we decided that, come rain or shine,
we would start the slaughtering of the males.
And then we have the four goats to do.
And a sheep or two.
It is now the time of the meat harvest,
which is the emotionally hardest of all the various harvests we have here.
But it has to be done.
It is the cycle of life.

That's all for today, folks.
The day is moving on and we have lots to do.
Hope you have a good day,
and sending blessings to you all.


Friday 12 December 2014

The bed kept calling me back to itself today.....

My bed kept calling me back to itself today,
twice it did so,
and twice I answered its call.
Anyway, it was a lot warmer in bed,
what with the electric blanket being switched on,
so I was roasty and toasty and snug.
But on the whole it was day of not a lot happening,
except that we had a family pow wow about the kitchen units,
with Himself deciding that he was going to make them himself,
then deciding he wasn't going to,
then deciding he was.
So nothing much happened today,
even lunch was recycled five day old soup.
First day: carrot, stock cubes, DIY cream, sweetcorn, and celery.
Second day: to the leftovers of the previous day was added a tin of tomatoes, some DIY lardons,
more stock cubes, and the rest of the sweetcorn.
Third day: to the leftovers was added the remainder lunch, which was potatoes cooked in farm milk, added to which was lots of garlic, the remainder of  a Heinz tomato ketchup bottle and a jar of DIY tomato soup.
Fourth day: remainder added to DIY pork meatloaf (from the freezer), together with a slice of DIY pig's head rillard (also from freezer) to form a rather tasty mush, which was added to rice.
Fifth day: remainder fried up again, eggs added to make egg fried rice and leftover soupy pork mush.
It was very yummy.
The soup is now all gone,
and I miss having the pot of soup on the go,
carrying it forward from one day to the next.
It made a fast lunch,
and I could slide all manner of things from the pantry into it.
Tomorrow I shall start another one off,
and I must also rescue the slab of belly of pork which has been soaking in brine all week.
And now the trees are dropping their leaves
we can see the snow capped Pyrenees mountains in the distance:
Saying bye for now,

Thursday 11 December 2014

Getting into the zone with a piglet.....

"Stand there, and guard the fence",
this was the instruction hurled at me by Lester,
as he rushed off to get his tools from the house.
So there I stood,
with three mucky piglet boys milling about at my feet,
with all of us sharing the joys of paddling about in mud,
it now starting to rain again,
and me without a coat,
and the wind starting to lift the hem of my skirt,
I can't say that I felt in the most joyful states of mind.
But on guard I had to be.
So what was I guarding?
The hole in the fence,
or to be more precise,
the hole UNDER the fence,
made by these same boys,
thus giving them a possible escape route from their paddock,
back to the mum sow and the little sowletts.
It would seem that the darned electric wire did not have enough welly
to zap those boys enough to convince them to stay put.
Good job we arrived when we did,
otherwise they would have bust through again.
But I must say that trying to keep three boy pigs,
who were not yet full grown by a long way,
yet had the strength to give me quite a barge if they had a mind to,
well.....I must say that I did feel a teensy bit of panic,
mostly to do with not wanting to find myself flat on my face,
in the mud,
and the wet,
and oh strooth, 'hurry up Lester',
that is what was on my mind.
So I stooped down and rubbed the backs of one of the boarlings,
and then played along his spine with my fingernails.
And then I gave him a tickle behind his ears.
And he stood dead still,
no movement,
well at least one of the lads was stopped from making a dive under the fence,
that is what I thought as I continued giving him my attention.
And then his rump collapsed.
And then all of him collapsed sideways,
totally in the zone,
that is what he was.
Ah, but no!
Quick as a flash that little ****** recovered,
seemingly re-energised by my attentions,
and he jack knifed himself towards the fence,
under it he went,
by now squealing with full force,
because he was receiving mild zaps from two strands of electric fencing,
plus I was trying to grab hold of his plump, solid little body
but could find nothing to hold on to,
so could feel him slipping away from me,
and oh so here was Lester walking towards me,
trying hard to contain his irritation
because I was not able to keep the boarlings in the paddock,
even though I did my best,
and it was raining harder,
and we were getting wetter,
so, quite simply,
we gave up,
and let the other two boys back in with the others.
And the kitchen is needing our attention because our builder friend will be back soon,
and things need to be done before he does.
And the pig paddocks must be sorted out because the boys are growing,
and we don't want them getting on board the females,
and we are feeling that we are sort of going round in circles,
but not to worry,
I am sure everything will sort itself out.
At least the dishwasher is back in place,
at least the place is not festooned with piles of washing up waiting to be done,
and we are going to plank the bottom of the fences,
which will stop those little hooligans from going under the wire,
and I had a very happy hour late afternoon today,
out in the big field,
digging up some of the newly growing thistle plants,
which are starting to make quite a population of themselves here,
interspersing this activity,
with breaking up some of the numerous cow pats
donated on to the pasture by Bonny and Lissie,
who may or may not be expecting calves,
but we shall know shortly.
There are a lot of joys to be had,
that is what I thought as I wheeled the wheelbarrow back home in the dusk,
with the dogs bouncing around me,
and Lester walking towards me in the half light.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Frolicking pigs, chatty geese, and kitchen tiles

Here are the geese stopping by, yabbering away at us through the window,
telling us to "Hurry up,'s time for supper"
And oh what a mess they make of the window
because they sort of dribble as they peck at the glass,
leaving  spitty streaks all over the it. 

And the rottweiller girls, having a late afternoon romp,

They have turned out to be the best natured dogs I have ever owned,
with a tendency to bark at anything which is benign and irrelevant,
and stay silent when they should be barking.
Anyone arriving at the gates are viewed as possible playmates,
and are greeted with much love and affection.
Guard dogs they are not.

And our floor tiles, which are not quite the colour they look in the photo.
And today I walked over them for the first time.
I cannot tell you what a treat it was to walk across the kitchen floor,
without having to watch where I put my feet, 
in case I tripped on the tarpaulins underfoot.

Did you know that pigs can romp?
And throw their hind legs up in the air like a frolicking cow?
And be so joyful that they bounce?
And then be so thankful that they come across and say 'thankyou'?
Well they do,
because this is what mum pig did today when we let her out of her pen,
and into the veg plot / pig paddock. 
The electrics are still not working,
but we needed to give her and her piglets some room to move,
so out they went. 
It was an all round joyful occasion.

And tonight's moon,
on the rise.
It is a clear night, so it will be cold.
Not to worry, the duvet  is still working, 
and tonight, should I feel the urge to go to the loo
I can walk through the house to the bathroom,
instead of having to go outside because the kitchen is blocked off,
the only way into the house being through the front door.

Bye for now,


Monday 8 December 2014

Sunday lunch!

It was a lovely day yesterday, with warm sunshine and blue skies, 
but with a sharp wind which prevented any layers of clothing being taken off, 
just my thick cardigan, the rest stayed put. 

Even so, myself would have preferred a day spent not too far from my bed, 
but the piglets had tunnelled under the fencing wire out in the paddocks
 and were now all together again, 
which was a delight for them, 
but not for us. 
Having observed the males starting to practice procreation methods on each other, 
it was not going to take them long to realise that they were practicing on the wrong sex.
Time was short.
We have already experienced an 'accident' happening,
when we were slow in separating male and female piglets.
Nature is a driving force,
that is what we have already learnt.

Since separation is the only method of birth control in the piglet world,
we had to get the fence sorted out.
It is a strong fence, but we had not had time to get the electric wire up,
so that is what we spent the day doing.
Not many hours did we have though,
because once we have done our farm chores, we only have about four hours to do other work.
So no time to cook, or eat, a proper lunch,
just cheese sandwiches, apples, and slices of cake.
No time to put the kettle on either,
so all was washed down with cold water.

It is surprising how tiring it was being outside all day.
We were finished with all farm chores by 5.30 pm 
and were had a late lunch, 
(just a bowl of soup)
Too tired to do anything sensible after that,
we browsed the internet on our respective PC's
(we don't have TV),
by 8.30 pm we were in bed.

I seemed to have solved the duvet problem,
(all seasons duvet, and the two halves kept slipping apart)
I  'borrowed' some of the fleece fabric I had bought to make new dog blankets with,
and anchored the duvet to the bed by using the material as an over blanket.
A warm night's sleep, that is what we have just had,
which is good,
because we have not finished the fencing yet,
and it is raining,
and the job has to be done,
because of the sexual urges of the male piglets,
not forgetting that there is also a kitchen waiting to be worked on as well,
so outside with our rain macs on,
that is where you will find us today!

And Boolie pretending that he does not know that there is a plate of food at the same height as his mouth!


Saturday 6 December 2014

Sniffling, and we hit minus one!

Well the thermals are piling on now....
minus one tonight,
and the flipping new goose down quilt is being a bit of a rascal.
What it should be doing is keeping us nice and warm at night.
What it actually does is the opposite....
it is two quilts in one....a thin summer one and a thicker winter one,
to be used individually,
or not,
depending on the time of the year and the temperatures inside and out.
Minus one outside tonight, nearly the same inside,
there being no heating on indoors,
because we don't put any on.
Oh we have electric fires,
but do not seem to be able to make ourselves switch the things on.
And the wood burning Rayburn is still work in progress.......
but........the floor tiles are done.
OK, so they don't heat the place up,
but they do warm us up inside because now we can get on with getting the Rayburn sorted out.

But the darned quilt.....
what happens is that the summer and winter parts refuse to become a whole.
What I mean is, that the two quilts do not like being buttoned together to make a whole, 
preferring to be apart, that is what they want to be,
which means that they slide off each other,
like a couple who do not want to breathe the same air.
It makes the bed cold.
Or hot,
Depending on which part of the quilt / quilts we are under.
Not to worry,
spring soon be here, just got to get through a bit of chillyness,
and as long as I keep my big toes warm.
(they can go nearly purple in the cold and get chilblain itches so socks and boots on all the time now, except in bed, when my other half takes over the foot warming duties, bless him)
and keep my scarf wrapped round and round my neck,
then the cold is do-able.
We are, after all, living in a house rather than a tent and gazebo,
which is how we spent our first winter here. 
It is, I think, that experience which has hardened us up in regards to the cold.
However, and I do not want to keep banging on about it,
but that new duvet set was supposed to ensure us a warm night's sleep.
It isn't, and so I have developed the sniffles, perhaps a cold, or might be the dust in the house.
Either way, I have a feeling of vague unwellness upon me,
not sufficient to take me to my bed,
but enough to remove all energy and motivation from myself. 
So we had lunch out today.
It was nice to sit in a tidy space,
and eat other food,
and be warm.
Tomorrow is supposed to be chilly, but dry,
so instructions issued from Lester for tomorrow are:
- we need to get the pig paddocks sorted out again.

A week ago........

Lester had managed to separate the girls from the boys,
his plan of making gates and walkways to move the pigs about having now seemed to work:

Boys in one paddock, mum and trainee sows in the other.

And then we became diverted onto the house to get the kitchen floor tiles laid,
so the paddock fencing was not electrified, and the pigs knew this, and broke through the separating fence, and now Mum and all are together again. But the boys are getting frisky,
and have been seen to already practice their reproduction techniques on the girls,
which is not good at all, so out we must go tomorrow, to separate the pigs again and get the fence fixed.  We could do with a lollopy day tomorrow,
but not to worry, it will be nice to be out in the fresh air, which might convince my cold that it doesn't exist.
Meanwhile, we feel ten steps behind ourselves, but also ten steps ahead, and all at the same time!

And little Ditsy being caught, yet again, raiding the pig food buckets....

.... and Lissie just about ready for bed.....

..... and Bonny almost asleep on her feet.....

.... and the mists rolling in over the fields....

.... and so signing off from down here in SW France....

Sending blessings to you, 
and wherever you are in the World,
 hoping that your duvet is working efficiently for you.