Thursday 24 December 2015

Just a quickie.....

Just to say:
That I wish all my blogging friends a lovely Christmas,
which is full of food and contentment,
...... that everyone stays in good humour,
even if stuffed full of food,
so much so that one's tummy feels stretched to the limit,
.......and good wine,
sufficient to bring a bloom to the cheeks,
and a tiny totter of the feet.
With all best wishes for a good festive season,
that is what I wanted to say.

Monday 21 December 2015

Rolling the hay, and the Pulley Maid

I am all out of puff,
and have a shakiness within the body which had to have some chocolate and a cup of coffee to be made well again.
What have I been doing?
Rolling hay bales about, that's what.
Not little knee sized bales,
but stonking big things, dropped off a few days ago by a local farmer friend,
and left out on the drive, but they needed to be got under cover because hay is like a dry sponge when there is the merest hint of wetness about, and will sop up that wetness, whether it comes from the ground or the sky, and soon become a rotting mess which none of the animals can eat.
with much heaving, cussing, smiles, jollity, yells, and with many "For crikey's sake, Vera, PUSH!!" from Lester,
we have got four of the five bales under cover.

The tractor was useless because the bales were too heavy for it to lift them,
its wheels kept skidding, it kept tearing the bindings of the bales,
and a couple of times it threatened to topple over.
I knew the feeling,
I, too, felt like toppling over several times,
and I knew when I had had enough because I started fantasizing about drinking a steaming mug of  sugary coffee loaded down with our cream, and having a nibble at a couple of chocolates 'borrowed' from out of a posh box of choccies which was supposed to be donated to a friend for Christmas.
And this was only after having help shift the first bale.

Another sunny day here, and the long stretch of warm weather continues.
The temperatures are averaging between 15C and 20C, and look set to continue for a while.
Meanwhile, back indoors.....
This is a Pulley Maid.
It arrived in the post yesterday,
and within an hour Lester had it fixed to the ceiling,
and voila.....
..... within a further hour I had brought the washing in from outside and gave the Pulley Maid a test
Now perhaps you would not like airing your clothes in the middle of the kitchen,
and I must admit to wondering if it was going to clutter the place up,
but no, it has not,
instead it has given the kitchen a farmhouse cosiness.
Our kitchen is coming along.
It has no matching units,
nor has it ever so long counter tops,
instead it is becoming a place all of its own self.
I still have lots of sorting out to do,
but I am at last getting a home which is not full of packing boxes and general muddle.
Coffee and choccies have done the trick,
so I must away and do something outside in the sunshine,
perhaps cut brambles,
cut down some hedging,
prep the herb garden for next year,
weed the veg plot,
um, well, no, that can all wait,
I am going to sit and spin,
or knit,
or just watch the chickens get up their normal mischief.
Bye for now,

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Sharing our spot on the planet.....

.....and here is our little homestead,
looking across to it from the woodland beside the river.
I was supposed to be gathering twigs and bits of branches,
requested by Lester to do so because we now have a fire to get lit every day,
so need kindling.
The Rayburn is doing well,
although the wood pile, which looked so very big a few weeks ago,
seems to be shrinking alarmingly fast.
Anyway, out in the sunshine I went, full of energy to go gather some bits of wood,
but I didn't because I was foolish enough to take my camera,
so I went sight seeing around our place instead.

---- and turning slightly left of my view of the house,
...... and slightly left again....

...and left again after having walked a little way towards the end of our property,
with the Pyrenees showing themselves a little bit.
And here is an odd thing...
although we have had weeks and weeks of sunshine, something is brewing up in the skies,
because there is a strange sort of cloud system starting to build up every day.
It is ominous in the stealth with which it is happening,
and I don't suppose many people are taking notice of it,
but something is definitely brewing,
of that I am sure.
I think that when this lovely weather finally breaks it is going to do so with a grand flourish of weatherly temper,
which most surely must match my temper as I continue to try and make cheese.
Oh sorry, got off topic there,
but just to say that me and cheese making are not happy bed fellows at the moment.
Meanwhile, back outside....
and on out into the side field to walk the dogs,
night is falling,
the mists gather,
it is magic,
makes me think of olden days,
of knight in armour and damsels in long pretty frocks,
waiting to be rescued,
or something....
Dog walk done,....
Bye for now,

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Still burning, and a hole is done with.

We are still burning our way through the huge pile of rotting wood,
several days ago the heap was almost as high as the wall and stretched the length of the wall as well.
The heap was began in 2008,
It is making a grand exit by way of the ongoing bonfire.
I am starting to get fascinated by the making of fire.
Yesterday I was too enthusiastic when trying to pick up a plank which I had not managed to throw right into the heart of the fire,
crikey but it was hot close in,
hot enough for me to back away tout suite as I felt my face starting to take on a glow.
Not to worry, I remain un- singed......just about.

The other side of the courtyard wall...
and another ongoing job is now finished......
and a big hole was dug and lined so we could eventually have a fish pond in the courtyard.
We thought that it would look pretty, and that it would be nice to sit and dangle our toes and fingers into the water on a hot summer day.
The pond was to be about the length and width of this caravan,
which is the one we used for cooking and eating in between 2009 and 2011...
Once the caravan was given away....that is when we hit upon the idea of making a pond, and the hole was dug and lined. And so it remained....neglected and unfinished.

But our thoughts changed about the pond as we realised that it would be a breeding ground for flying insects, and that no, we would not be able to sit beside the still water and dangle bits of ourselves into its calm depths because we would be bitten to pieces.
.....and so the Pond Project died a death,
and the hole became filled with tangles of old fencing wire.
It did not look very nice, but then the courtyard was always a mess anyway because of the amount of building work which was going on from time to time.
But now.....
...a flat, clear, space, and a determination to keep it clear, because I am now looking forward to planting out that space.
It will be so nice to come out of our front door and see flowers rather than piles of sand, bricks, wood and other stuff, because we are going to continue getting the place tidied up.
And I might even buy myself a sunbed next year so I can loll about in the sun when I have a few minutes to spare.
this gang  will soon be moving into their new accommodation:

No longer will they be sharing the courtyard with us,
because the Chicken / Geese Project is on the move, and I shall tell you how far we have got in another post.
Off to have a ride on my bike,
but not outside on the lanes where I might get chilled as I cycle,
no, I am going for a ride on my indoor bike,
which is a stationary bike so I shall not get into any mischief,
although I did fall off it a while ago,
not sure how I did that,
 but all of a sudden I found myself, still in the saddle and still with my feet on the pedals,
taking a topple sideways.
The bike came too.
But the dogs made a slurpy fuss of me as I lay winded on the floor,
waiting to see what injury I had done myself,
which was actually nil,
which was a surprise because the bike is quite high in the saddle.
Anyway, off I go.....
Bye for now,

Wednesday 2 December 2015

My chair, the wheel, pips, and Boolie's lump.

This is my chair.
It is normally parked by the front door so I can sit outside on the front doorstep and take in a few rays of sunshine when I get a few minutes break from indoor tasks.
But today my chair is not parked anywhere near the front door,
it is parked up here.....

......... out back, 
ready to be sat upon when the task of moment becomes too much for one's bod,
the task being to haul rotten lumps of wood from the decaying wood pile by the back gates,
plus sundry other bits of wood like rotting pallets, etc, left by recent renovation work, 
The sun is shining,
it is a good day to do such work.
It is also a good day to sit and have a rest when one gets out of puff,
which I must say, was done frequently. 

And of course one had to watch the fire in case it got out of hand.

Now the thought might have arisen in you mind as to why we were burning wood when we now have a wood burning stove to feed.
Well, the big wood pile was made up the wood which came from the house six years ago.
Instead of burning it at the time we kept it for when we got a stove installed.
It took much longer than we thought.
The wood therefore rotted.
We need the space where the wood pile sits,
plus it is a wonderful place for rats to inhabit so they need to be evicted,
but I don't think that chickens are going to agree with the removal of the wood,
because they use the heap to climb up on so they can hop over the wall into the courtyard when the gates are shut.
Not to worry, soon they shall be having another place to live because the Chicken Project is on the move, but I shall write about what is happening with this project another day.

....and Lester attending to the needs of Bonny and Lissie.

..... and later on that day he was fiddling about with the box on the cheese fridge,

setting the temperature because I had made this.....

...a Monterey Jack cheese.
It does not look all perfectly round and smooth like professionally made cheese does,
But it is DIY cheese, so therefore carries a distinctly artisanal look!
I think this might turn out quite a crumbly cheese though because the curds did not seem to knit together very well, hence the lumpy look. 
Not to worry,
It certainly smells cheesey,

........... and a glorious messiness as I slathered melted DIY lard all over the cheese wheel, then covered it with cheesecloth which was also soaked in melted lard.
I thought that I had too much lard in the freezer,
so did not make any more from the recent pig we slaughtered,
instead we donated the fat to the chickens and wild birds.
After seeing how much lard I used to cover this cheese,
I think I should have recycled that fat into lard.
Ah well, live and learn!

The wheel now covered. 
I hope that the fact that the cheesecloth was still damp before it was soaked in lard does not hurt the maturation process of the cheese,
still, as I say, 'live and learn'!

And the cheese now in the cheese fridge,
with bowls of water either side to help keep the humidity up to 90%

Now all we need to do is to purchase a small fan to keep the air circulating in the fridge, 
and whooppeee! The Cheese Project takes another step forward.

And other bit of messiness...

My three freezers are absolutely full to the brim,
and I had a cockerel to find space for,
and then I found a bag of blackberries I had picked last July,
which were destined to linger in the freezer forever  because of the pips which get between our teeth,
the picking out of these pips spoiling the eating of the fruit itself.
A thought popped up into my head.....
I do not drink enough water,
so why not cook the blackberries up to make a juice drink,
So I did.
To remove the pips I put the slush into a sieve,
which promptly blocked up,
so, oh bother, don't have the time to stir the slush around,
upended the sieve and put all into a bowl,
put a few spoonfuls of slush into a glass,
topped with water,
and down into my tummy it went.
I don't know why I can drink lots of water laced with juice, but not water on its own.
I used to buy supermarket juices to help solve this problem,
but don't any more because of the additives which get put into commercially produced fruit juice.
I do not even trust the Bio brands.
But I now have a DIY juice drink. 
As for the blackberry pips,
well they just slip on down and through my system just fine,
with no stopping to stick in the gaps between my teeth,
however,,,,,and may I be so bold as to share this with you
....... my food transit system seems to have perked up resulting in a very healthy and fulsome trip to the loo this morning.
Which is good.

Our Springer Spaniel.
He has a tumour on his ear.
It is an inoperable tumour.
The vet said so. 
He was a very kind vet and said that since Bools was fifteen years old it would be kinder not to put him through medical procedures which would possibly cause him more physical and mental suffering.
So we are letting nature take its course.
Bools himself is still full of spaniel spirit,
and is in no pain. 
But I feel pained inside as I watch that tumour growing,
and sometimes I want to get a vet to fix it,
but most times I have the strength to let things be.
Should he feel in pain,
then we shall act,
meanwhile we keep blessing the days that we still have him.
and try to be patient with the hurt we feel inside as we watch his time clock of life ticking away.


Monday 30 November 2015


Well the leaf drop has come and gone...

Good news for Max and Mum Pig,
and here is Max (right) chopping and dribbling at me,
but not in a cross way because his tail is swishing to and fro,
signalling his happiness at being let out.

'Let out' to where?

..... the middle of the three veg plots, their job now being to feed themselves, 
lose weight and fertilize the land while doing so,
and till the land for us as they do so.

Veg plot three has already been done by the previous batch of piglets,

the last one having just been put into the freezer.
She was a big pig.
Took all week to get processed.
No sausage, or ham, or any other somesuch delight,
just jointed, some minced, some shredded.
Not very inspiring,
but there was not time to do anything else,
and I am quite good at inventing different ways to serve up our meat so that it does not taste the same two days running. 

Anyway, our two adult pigs are now out and about in the veg plots,
and hopefully soon we shall be 'expecting' next year's batch of piglets,
and then I shall have a go at ham, etc, but not blood sausage, never that, never would we hang a pig up in the air by its hind legs and cut its throat so it can pump its blood into a bucket.
Ours see their last seconds out by lying on the ground,
with us standing by, keeping watch as they go.

Meanwhile, back indoors.....

....we had a 'messy' Sunday, Lester at one end of the kitchen table and me at the other.
The lilac terry towelling fabric on the left belonged to a pile of tea towels I was cutting up, ready to hem later on today. The fabric was bought a couple of  years ago, when the colour scheme for the house was different to how the house has now turned out. 
Not to worry, the fabric needed using up and we needed tea towels bigger than the handkerchief sized ones that are available commercially, which  only dry a plate and not megga sized pots.
 Farm kitchen tea towels is what I am making, and they are big. 

Shame about the colour, but hey ho....

So what is happening at the other end of the table?
This is what is happening...

(Please excuse fly swot. Lester is Chief Fly Swotman and always feels the need to have this most efficient fly killing tool to hand) all the other bits of man stuff are so he can do this:

..... which is wire up the little STC1000 temperature controller (on the right)
so that it monitors the interior of the fridge (see below)
switching on the fridge if too hot,
or switching on the heat pad if too cold,
thus stabilizing the interior temperature of the fridge to between 50 - 55 degrees F,
 which is the required temperature for maturing cheese.

Not the fridge on the left...this is full of milk waiting to be used,
it is the fridge on the right that the box of wires is going to be sat on,
and this fridge is.........THE CHEESE FRIDGE!

So....the Cheese Project is now on forward movement,
but not at the moment because that tray you can see is full of meat waiting to be processed,
because I have not yet as made any cheese!

But I am still making lots of soft cheese, yoghurt, and butter.
To date I have made
 just over 21.5 kgs of butter,
 which is all stored in the freezer apart from that which we have used. 
This might sound a lot of butter, but this has to last us until our cows are in their next milking season. Meanwhile I continue to make butter.... and cheese once I get going with the Cheese Project.

This was the start of the Cheese Project in 2013:

I got off to a rollicking good start, but failed to mature the cheese successfully because the only storage facility I had was the salad drawer..

.... which did not keep the right temperature for maturation of the cheese,
plus the fridge sat in a leak for a day or so which did not help, as can be seen from the floor beneath the fridge, plus there was a lot of dust from the ongoing house renovation  in the air which probably did not help to make healthy cheese either.

Plus the problem of pressing the cheese prior to maturation,
now I have a proper cheese press, but in 2013 this is all I had:

Oh well, trial and error leads to much learning experience!

As for the 2014 milk season....most of it went to feed  the pigs and piglets.
I did have any kitchen to work in, so no cheese, butter, or yoghurt was made.
But now I do have the right facilities, so no excuses now Vera, come on girl, that cheese fridge is waiting to be filled!

Saying bye for now, 
and leaving you with the last photo of our veg plot before a dusting of frost finished off the flowers:


Saturday 31 October 2015

Still anticipating......

Well the expected storm arrived at our doorstep then sort of wandered off again, so no winds did blow which means that we still have plenty of leaves left on the trees. So I continue to savour this most deliciously beautiful time of the year knowing that soon it we shall be indeed 'nude' of leaves.
Had a couple of late nights, and by 'late' I mean in bed at one in the morning, but by crikey it was worth the vaguely hungover feeling the next day. The first late night was brought about by a super band rehearsal which had me and Lester zinging with enthusiasm as we drove home through lanes which wove through darkened woodlands and fields. But no animals came our way to bump themselves into the car, which is is a stress that after a late band practice we have to stay very watchful as we drive home. And the other late night was last night when we were unexpectedly invited to a meal with our neighbours, which involved good food, lots of wine, and splendid company.
However, and this is going to cause me problems today, I only managed two hours sleep, after which I was woken up with a tune from band practice which would not leave my head. It was no good, the tune refused to budge, so I had to get up, switch the PC on, get  the Noteworthy app opened, and start to get the tune out of my head by writing it onscreen. With relief .....the tune has now been retired from my is a shame, though, that I am absolutely tired out!
Not to worry, I also got an order sorted out on Amazon so am now expecting lots of items to be delivered soon. One of the items is a temperature converter, which is hopefully going to change a newly purchased fridge into a cheese storage container. We were going to get a wine cooler, but they are dreadfully expensive, so we have opted for cheap fridge from our local supermarket, and that should arrive next Wednesday. Also, hopefully, the converter should also be on its way to us, after which we shall have to connect the fridge and converter together.
According to YouTube vids this should not be hard.
The cockerels have been crowing for some time, but the cows are still quiet, so I am off to help Lester rise up from the bed, which might be difficult as he did imbibe a drop or two of wine last night, but I need to get a cup of coffee into him otherwise he might fall asleep on the flanks of the cows as he milks them.
Hope you have a good weekend,
Bye for now,

Tuesday 27 October 2015

In anticipation of a good lot of leaf drop....

 I am in the habit of keeping an eye on Meteo, which is a weather forecasting website, so that I can put the washing out to dry, or not. Plus Lester needs to make sure the hay is covered if rain is on the way.

It has been a lovely slow run down into winter this year, and the trees have looked stunning as day by day they have  changes the colours of their leaves, but according to Meteo we shall have storms this evening. It does not take much to get those leaves off the trees, so I anticipate a more nude look to the landscape tomorrow morning.

But instead of feeling irritated at this nudeness which must surely mean that cold weather is not far away, I savoured the loveliness of those trees, drinking in the magnificence of the colours, and seeing not the end of another year but the start of a new one in a few months time.

It is an odd thing, but when I have been walking the dogs over our fields  at dusk for the last few days I have had the feeling that spring is in the air, which makes winter seem but a small blip of time to get through.

In pre-Rayburn days, would I have felt the same way at this time of year? Probably not. But for this winter we should be warm. It is surprising at how much more one can enjoy the changing seasons if one can have somewhere warm to retreat to when the air turns chilly.

And why is it that all our three dogs seem to have suddenly gained a madness? Is it because of the full moon, or because they sense the change in seasons, or has that hour of clock change unsettled them. Whatever. If they do not calm down they shall be put in separate areas so they can't keep winding each other, and me, up tomorrow.

1.2 kgs of butter I made from the cream of our milk yesterday, but most days it is under a kg. It is nice to be getting our own butter again and not have to buy it in from the supermarket. Not sure if my food processor is going to stand up to the strain of having to work so hard to turn the cream into butter although it is making heroic efforts to do the job for the moment. Still struggling to find a solution to storing hard cheese so not making any at the moment, but I am making soft cheese, and that is a success. But the paneer cheese, well I made a small amount of this cheese and put it into the curry I made for lunch after first cutting it into cubes. I liked it, but Lester's comment? "Well that's alright to have from time to time", which really means that he did not go much on the taste, or perhaps it was the texture which even I must admit was slightly chewy.

So, in other words, Lester does not like paneer, will eat it if he has to, but would prefer not to, but said in a diplomatic way so that I did not go into a huff after having made the effort to try a new cheese out. He has to be careful sometimes...... I can get tetchy after having spent time and effort at trying out something new for him to eat. Meanwhile, as I say, the problem of where to store hard cheese remains after the cupboard under the stairs was deemed not right for conversion into a cheese storage area due to the main electricity box also being in the cupboard.

Ah, Meteo was right.....there is a storm arriving so I had best close down....we don't want a lightning strike blowing our electrics out so we have to switch the internet off......

Saying bye for now before we act as a attractant for any stray lightning bolts......


Thursday 22 October 2015

The cow and the broom......

Out I charged, stopping only to do the straps of my sandals up
(wouldn't do to trip up just now)
out into the courtyard I dashed.
Ah, uno momento, perhaps the broom might come in handy,
ahha, it was still in its normal spot by the front door.
Feeling quite armed, onwards I dashed,
out into the back field where the veg plots and pigs are..
no, no sign...
turned round, now going up the side path towards the front drive....
one cow thundering towards me followed by one very irate husband.
Cows can look very big when they are in a mood, and can pull out of themselves bull ring type ways, like waving their horns and kicking their feet, and hunching their shoulders which makes them look twice as big.
Of course a cow lacks the aggression of a bull, but they still have a ton of attitude and weight, magnified in one's head when one sees such an animal galloping towards one.
At the last minute though, she turned towards the back entrance of the tall barn where the cow pens are housed, but carried on past the doorway to become stopped by the ditch where the future project chicken hut project is supposed to go.
Lester coos to her in the voice he used to get round me when I in a tetchy mood.
She ignores him, as indeed I do sometimes.
She picks up her pace,
into another charge she goes.
Head down, horns pointed in my direction, eyes fixed on mine..
Who will win?
Will she dominate me so that I stand to one side and let her go past me?
Because I have a big green garden broom in my hand,
'Hola' I yell as in the manner of trainee bull fighters,
putting the broom across the front of me
prepared to stand my ground.
It was too much for her,
and she did a quick sideways turn into the doorway of the barn.
One cow now indoors,
the others already in from the field.
Off to band practice now.
Will I manage to play some right notes tonight?
Maybe yes, maybe no,
but I shall have a go,
because that is what you would do if you were me...
jump in at the deep end and 'have a go!'
Bye for now,

Monday 19 October 2015

One happy chimney, two happy chimneys.....

One happy chimney........
......two happy chimneys.
The little one is not quite as happy as the taller one though.
Because the taller one is feeling nice and warm now,
partly because of the sun shining on it and making it sparkle when this photo was taken,
but mostly because it has lovely warm smokey heat coming up from its bottom end,
which is where the Rayburn is.
Yes, it is true! The Rayburn has finally been lit, and is now fulfilling the task for which it was bought, and that is to keep us warm, providing, of course, that it is kept fed with wood, but not tonight because the weather has turned very mild so the Rayburn has being given the night off.

First pot heating on the stove, but not a clue as to how to use the ovens. In fact I have not even looked inside them yet, but I did glance through the manual and I did search out my Rayburn cook books for when the time is right to venture forth into the land of Rayburn cooking.
Why have I been slow in investigating the cooking abilities of the Rayburn? Because, truthfully, although I hoped that the Rayburn would be working this winter I never really thought it would be.

And another eight jars of meat for the larder, all from two legs of pork.
As usual I slow cooked the meat first, then roasted it to firm it up, then into the canning jars after first making two dinners from it, plus it fed the dogs for three days and gave them bones to chew on.
Three of the jars contain the 'near to the bone' meat, which I minced first,
and the other five are full of sliced pork roast.
We have already had one of the jars for Sunday lunch, and although it was not quite as good as freshly roasted pork, it was quite acceptable as DIY fast food.
And another surprise harvest. which is from four self seeded squash plants. I did plant 'proper' squash seeds but they didn't produce anything at all, so we are going to keep some of these seeds for next year. And we are just starting to pull the leeks up, although they would be quite happy to spend another few weeks in the ground. But the trouble is that I tend to not want to go out into the veg plot to dig up or pick vegetables when it is cold, wet, and muddy, so it is best to get the produce harvested and stored. In the case of the leeks, I shall be dehydrating them. Apparently it is quite easy...just give them a good wash, cut off the greener leaves, then slice the stem. I shall dehydrate both the leaves and the stem but separately so I can grind the leaves down into powder to use as seasoning.
I was given a large tray of quince recently, so did research on the Internet and came up with the info that I should leave the quince to ripen indoors, upon which they would start scenting the kitchen with a delightfully sweet aroma which would tell me that it was time to process them. Hah! No aroma have they given off and most of them are now rotting. Ah well, saves me the job of having to get them into jars, and the pigs will love them of that I am sure.
We have also just been given a wheelbarrow full of late ripe and unripe tomatoes, but to the pigs they are going. I did momentarily think that I might do something with them so they could be stored in the larder,  but no, that thought was quickly pushed out of my head before it could take hold and give me another food project to do. I still have a lot of meat to get out of the freezers and canned because of the amount of space that is needed in the freezers if we are going to reduce the number of sheep we have, and plus we have one pig left who also needs to go into the freezer.
Apart from that, it has been lovely weather here for the last few days, and a walk round 'the estate' this afternoon with Lester and the dogs reminded me of how lucky we are to live here, thoughts which I tried to keep in my head as we went through a very tricky milking experience with Bonny and Lissie, our two cows.
What happened?
Well the cows are holding their milk up in their udders which makes milking them difficult and much reduces the milk yield. It is a bit disheartening when there is only a dribble of milk in the bottom of the bucket, but still lots in the udders. Of course they are right to want to save the milk for their calves, but we are a smallholding and everyone has to pull their weight, which means that we need at least half to three quarters of the milk to make the keeping of the cows worthwhile.
So..... a plan: milk the cows taking as much of the milk as they will allow us to have, then
 put the calves in with their mums for a quick slurp of milk which should encourage the cows to release the rest of their milk, then shoo the calves back to their own pen and milk the rest of the milk out. One of the calves is now almost weaned anyway, and the other should be in a couple of weeks, so they still get milk but not as much as when they were younger.
Well it worked, although it was a bit tricky putting the plan into action. Normally Lester would milk on his own and I would get on with doing other things, but tonight I was Lester's wingman, ready to leap into the pens to help him out if the cows got themselves into too much of a bad mood and messed about with him. They are big cows. They have big horns. There are bigger cows with bigger horns, but to us trainee smallholders our cows do look quite big and fearsome to us.
Off to bed now, got a busy day tomorrow..... two shoulders of pork to be cooked and canned, a tray full of leeks to prep for dehydrating, bread to be made, a Rayburn to be admired and cuddled up to should the weather suddenly get chilly, plus oodles of other things to do...some of which I shall manage to get done, others will just have to sit on the 'will do at some point in the future' list.
Bye for now

Thursday 15 October 2015

First shiver, first cheese, heat awaited.......

Finally got round to making some soft cheese, 
with the milk given so far from our cows going to the dogs, pigs, and cooking,
but no cheese, which I felt guilty about, but which was beyond my control.
OK, so......
I had already bought some cultures to make cheese with
so all I had to do was read the recipe, 
which seemed simple enough,
..... heat one gallon of milk to 86 C,
add 1/16 tsp of Mesophilic starter culture series 4001-4002,
then 1/8tsp rennet (vegetarian)
both purchased from The Cheesemaker company in America,
then a good gentle up and down stir of the milk,
lid on pot,
leave at room temperature (around 72 C) for 12 hours,
or if you were me...
until you remembered to have a look to see if the curds and whey had arrived.
Muslin into colander,
colander put over big pot,
curds and whey into colander,
and drained for several hours.

And this is what I got after I had added salt and herbs to the cheese....

.....quite a dish full of soft cheese, which is going to last us for a while,
so I need to find some recipes online to use this cheese up.
I was surprised at how much cheese just one gallon of milk made,
and will be definitely making the recipe again. 
I think I could add make this cheese sweeter by adding sugar, honey, or fruit,
so lots of experimenting ahead.....

And the first bit of shivering.
The over night temperatures have gone down,
although the day time temperatures are still holding good for the moment.
So, scarf (to keep my neck warm) and fleece top, but no thermals yet, that is what I am now wearing.
And trying not to get grumpy about the cold.


....... pipes! And attached to the Rayburn! 
Could this be the end to my early winter grumpiness about the cold?
Because today the fire will be lit in the Rayburn,
and the pipes will be tested for leaks,
and with any luck,
and all fingers crossed, 
it just be possible that we shall have heat this winter!
And do doubt there will be plenty of arguing between me and Lester as to who is going to be sitting in the chair beside the Rayburn!

Friday 9 October 2015

What do you do........?

What do you do when the frozen peas you have just bought are left out in the open air instead of being put in the freezer?
You put them in the dehydrator toute suite.
The reason why they were not put into the freezer?
Because I was too distracted by the Rayburn Project, which was jumbled up in my head with the thought of playing with the French / English Irish band that evening.
In fact I was quite useless all day.

What do you do when you realise you have nothing to wear that did not bear witness to farm life?
I raided my stash of material and made myself a new skirt, which did not have any dribbles, splashes, rips, or other general spoilage from living life on a farm scattered all over its surface.
I am now on a mission to get more new clothes made,
for some reason I do not seem to be able to allow myself to buy clothing which is made commercially, apart from underwear and even then I will have a go at making certain private garments at some point in the future.
I do not know why I have this need to wear only what I make,
I suppose it is just me being me....
What do you do when you see a radiator on the wall in your home,
the very same wall which once was part of a ruin of a building?
You sort of do a silly dance, and sort of do a bit of yelling in the air,
that is what you do if you are me.

What do you do when you want you are going to a rehearsal of a band which is making you feel nervous and unsettled?
You do some baking, that is what you do, in the hopes that by providing a tasty nibble for all to eat,  that all will be put into a good humour  before one even starts playing.
Well, anyway, that seemed like a good plan to me,
shame that Dotty (our young calf) decided not to come in from the field,
and that Lester then had to chase her round and round that field,
which is quite a big field,
and makes him quite out of puff,
which was not a good thing if he was going to need to be able to play his violin, mandolin, and banjo, with a super duper skill which would impress the other band members later on that evening.
No, this was not good....
so Blue (one of the rottweiller girls) and me to the rescue, with Blue running alongside Dotty,
which Dotty did not like,
because Dotty believes that there is nothing in the world except herself,
the same as all young beings of the world believe,
until something happens which makes them realise that the world does not revolve only around themselves.
This, then, is what Dotty needs to learn.
She did not learn that lesson entirely this time, but was made more aware of greater forces, such as allowing Lester to get a rope on her so she could be taken into the cow barn to be with her mum, that if she did not let this happen then a big black thing of an animal would chase her round and round until she decided that Lester was the better option to take.
I, meanwhile, stood and watched, ready to call in Blue when Dotty chose her option.
Back at the oven......with Dotty now quite happily cosied up with mum Bonny....
what to do if the quiche you are baking to impress others with has now gone past its best,
 and has now got a sort of blackened perimeter because you have been busy somewhere else?
Well, you look at the singed pastry, do a couple of seconds of panic, then go get the expensive cheese you have just bought from out of the fridge, then grate this expensive cheese over the top of the quiche in the hopes that it will cover up the burnt bits, that is what you would do if you were me.
Then you put the quiche back into the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese, the theory being that the cheese would act as an icing over the blackened pastry.
It sort of worked.
The quiche was well received that evening.
And so what do you do when you reach the hour of midnight, and the rehearsal is now at an end,
and everyone is smiling at you, and asking if you are coming again next week,
and you feel so well received by everyone,
that you are almost speechless,
what do you do?
You sort of go into a sort of daze, that is what you would do if you were me,
and thank everyone,
with a smile on one's face a mile wide.
And so Lester and me drove home in the early hours of the morning,
taking it slowly,
not because of the amount of traffic on the roads,
but because of the possibility  of bumping into deer, wild boar, badgers, and anything else which roams at night.
We were both smiling.
It had been a good evening.
And we are going again next week,
because we have been asked to do so.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

SSSSHhhhhhh..... the Rayburn Project might be happening!!!

Just to say, very quietly, that all the parts for the plumbing in of the wood burning Rayburn stove have all been purchased.

Just to say, and whispering this to you...... if all goes well we might be having heating this winter. Yes. Heating. Seven years without any heating. How will I cope with not feeling frozzled with cold. And what shall I do with all my thermal underthings!

Ah, but let us not presume that the Rayburn will be working this winter, and just to say, for now....that the radiators are now fixed to the walls (two in the music room, two in the half barn), that an expedition down to the local DIY depot seems to have provided most of the parts needed to get the water from the Rayburn to them. We have discounted plumbing the Rayburn into the hot water system because 1) We could not find anyone local to us who could do the work. 2)  If we have found someone then they would have probably been too expensive for our budget. 3) We realised that to have hot water and radiators running off the Rayburn at the same time would probably have meant having to run the Rayburn at full burn for a lot of the time.

But, hey! Wow! The Rayburn Project might just be on the move!

As for me, I seem to be ten steps behind myself at the moment. The hallway is now finished, apart from being painted, so I can move freely between the back and front kitchens. But no, I seem not to be able to 'move freely'. not because there is anything wrong with me other than the normal aches and pains signalling the approach of winter, but I don't seem to be able to concentrate on any one thing for longer that five minutes. It will pass. I am probably distracted because of the Rayburn Project work going on around me, plus I have been sorting out my catalogue of photographs which I have been accumulating since 2008, which is when we first came to France, so lots of memories of the past few years have been coming to the surface of my mind.

Oh, and perhaps the fact that we have been invited to a rehearsal of an French / English Irish band  tomorrow night is also distracting me and making me feel mildly panicky. Two of the band members are due to leave next year, so they need to find more musicians. Wow! They are a good band. Crikey but I feel nervous. Lester has played in Irish bands for years, so it is nothing new for him, but me.... strooth....anyway, I shall be taking my piano accordion along, and then it is up to the band members as to whether or not I am good enough. I am not fussed either way, but I would like Lester to play in a band again as I think it would do him good and give him something to do other than cope with running a smallholding.

I shall do my best. I started playing the accordion just before my 67th birthday, and at age 68 I think it is an achievement to have even thought about learning to play a new instrument ( I have been a pianist for years) let alone manage to keep up with Lester when he rollicking his way through the Irish jigs, reels, polkas, and anything else he has a mind to play. But I still can't help feeling nervous about playing with eight other people! At least when playing with Lester I can yell at him to slow down!

Otherwise, everything else is ticking along, apart from anything to do with me in the kitchens. The milk in the fridge is needing my attention....there should be enough to make a soft cheese if I get to it before it clabbers (when the milk separates into curds and whey), but if I don't then the dogs and pigs will thoroughly  enjoy slurping up the mixture. Porridge for breakfast tomorrow because there is no bread for toast because I have not made any. All canning projects are at stop, and have been for several days now, ever since work started on the hallway. But I have started sewing again, and am in the middle of making a winter skirt for myself, and I am getting the photos sorted out, and tomorrow I shall walk from the front kitchen to the back kitchen determined to get the food production line going again.

Or perhaps this effort will have to wait until Friday because I am sure that the thought of attending the rehearsal with the band in the evening will distract me so much that I shall drift about from here to there and back again without actually getting anything done!

Off to have a practice on the accordion, so bye for now.