Thursday 26 February 2015

On wetness, ......

Oh 'tis raining here. And away up in the mountains the avalanches are happening. Put the two together ........and we are in flood time. 

Oh yesssss!!!!! The lakes are back, ...... the geese have the time of their lives, the sheep are moaning about being either stuck in their paddock or across the lane on the side field which is very low on grass and 'why do we have to keep eating hay?' they loudly complain, while the cows stand calm but bored in the barn, but the pigs remain unaffected in that all that has happened for them is that their pens are now a muddy swamp instead of the normal mud bath. 

We try not to let our nerves get stretched. We try not to keep watching the water levels. We really do try not to keep measuring the distance the water is away from the house. So we went out today and bought two interior oak doors for the house. Seemed like the best thing to do was to get away from it all for a few hours. Seemed to work. It is raining again at the moment. It is late evening. We shall sleep, but with an awareness that the nearby river is having a struggle to get all the water away. 

But the backdoor is proving such a boon to keeping the wet away from the house, and for that we are pleased. Lester can look after the cows without getting soaked, and I can get the dogs in and out of the house without them dragging muddiness all over the floors. And there are no flies or mosquitoes to bite us to pieces, we are not being baked senseless by a ruthlessly hot sun, neither is the wind howling a gale and threatening to blow the roof off, so all in all, it is good that we all we have at the moment is a drop of rain! There is always a silver lining if one searches hard enough for it!

As for us, Lester is busy looking after the animals and getting continually soaked while doing so, and I have been doing a lot of work on the Labartere website. Apart from that, all is well, and we do not mind the rain, well, not much, and keeping that thought firmly fixed in my mind to deaden the thought that tomorrow we might be paddling out of the courtyard gates because the water has kept rising, I go off to join Lester in bed. 


Wednesday 18 February 2015

Mutton fat......what shall I make with it........ ,

I never cook joints of meat with direct heat, as in roasting in the oven, although I do roast off small cuts like belly of pork. Instead, I always cook the joint first, either in the pressure cooker, or in a pot of water which has seasonings and vegetables added to it. So what I do is this...

- Day One: Joint got out of the freezer. Left to unthaw for a day. (If short of time I will put it straight into the pressure cooker still frozen. The only downside to this is that the meat does not have seasonings merge into it.) 
- Day Two: Joint put in big pot of water, together with bay leaves, onions, celery, carrots, and maybe a stock cube or two. Brought to the boil, then simmered for as long as it takes for me to remember that I have a pot cooking away on the stove. This could take a couple of hours, or more, depending on how forgetful I am. Eventually pot taken off stove, and the contents left overnight to cool down.
- Day Three: Now this is when I find out what state of being the meat is in as I fish about in the now cold liquid. If I have remembered to take the pot off the stove after a couple of hours or so, then the meat will still be intact, with the bone still in. I drain it, then into the oven for a few minutes to roast off it goes. If I have been forgetful about taking the pot off the heat, then the meat will have fallen off the bones, although will most likely still be in a big chunk. Not to worry, can still use it as a roast. If the meat has broken up into small pieces? Oh, that's easy. Can use it is a stir fry, or braised, or minced, but we shall not be having a roast that day. 

The pot roast liquid can end up as:....
- if I am feeling super duper efficient I might put it into canning jars, to be used later as stock for soups.
- or I might put it into the freezer, again to be used later as stock.
However, none of the above are likely because I have a habit of forgetting about the pot of liquid once the meat is taken out of it, and it has been known to sit around the kitchen for a further day or so, or even longer sometimes, thereby putting the liquid into a 'not quite as fresh as it ought to be' therefore making it unsuitable for canning or freezing.
So what normally happens is this.....
- if the meat is chicken, sheep, or rabbit, then the liquid is put into the pig food pot where it joins with all the cooking water of the day, plus various vegetables and pasta,  to produce  breakfast for the pigs for the morrow.
- if the meat is pork, then it is mixed up with the dog food. Nothing is wasted. 

Always there is a layer of fat upon the liquid of the pot roast, (see photo at start of post) which I mostly disregard, so it stays with the liquid wherever it's destination. However..........a recent browse on the internet had brought to my attention a rather interesting idea to I skimmed off the fat, then melted it down in a saucepan over a low heat. Once melted, I put it through a sieve, and this is what I got........

........ doesn't it look just yummy? Like white chocolate? All velvety and mouth wateringly seductive?
But....what is this? Are you declining my offer of eating such a treat? Oh well, I must stop teasing you and own up to what is in these pots.....

Face cream! Yes,.......face cream!!!!! 

So what I did was:......
- melt the tallow (which is the sheep fat which was floating on the surface of the now cold pot roast has to be fat from a lamb or sheep....apparently pork fat won't do)
- when cool enough to handle, but before the liquid solidified, I put it into jars via a muslin lined sieve, I then added some olive oil, not much, just a bit, then some drops of lavender oil. And hey presto!! Face cream.....

How cool is that! But,  "does it work", I hear you say. Actually, surprisingly, it does. But I don't slather it on, just dip the tip of my finger in the 'ointment', which is enough to cover the skin of my face. 

However, and this might be the only thing which might put you off, is that the lavender oil seems not to have been able to completely conquer the vague aroma of animal fat, not that it is unpleasant, but it might be off putting to someone not used to farm life and the harvesting of one's own meat. 

So, I shall not be making a fortune out of this latest smallholding experiment of mine by selling it on to the public as a beauty product. I shall have to keep it all to myself! 

In love and light


Tuesday 17 February 2015

It works!

The door between the back kitchen and middle barn is finished, and has been for the last week or so, but the weather has been super duper warm and sunny so the door has not been used. But now it has rained. And it has been used. And by crikey, but wasn't it worth the money it has cost us because to go through the door......into the middle barn....

...... along the passageway beside the two animal pens / storage areas.....

....and to arrive right by Lissie and Bonnie (our 2 cows) in the tall barn..... is a grand experience...
...means we can go to and fro with mucky shoes and feet,
and by the time we reach the kitchen all muckiness has been removed by the straw underfoot.

While the floor of my front kitchen was not, and will probably never be, spotless, it sure was a whole lot cleaner than if we had been trampling in and out of the front door. Of course the use of the back door only applies when Builder Jim is not here, because when he is here then the front door, and indeed all doors except the back door, are open, which means that the dogs have been in and out all this week, and it has been raining, and my floors are back to their usual state of muckiness. Not to worry, at the weekend we stayed snugly indoors, used the back door, and so everywhere stayed mud free. For the first time since we have been here (nearly seven years) we felt like we had a proper home. It was a lovely feeling. We don't mind mud, but it is nice for it to be a  bit of a distance away from where we are living.

And the holes in the wall have been patched up, both inside and out. 
We shall have to replace the render on the outside wall at some point,
but at least it is hole-free for the time being.

Well, we are getting through this winter at quite a pace.
It has been very cold, but now it has warmed up, which is a relief.
It is nice to see everyone sunning themselves out in the fields.
I, myself, would most surely have stretched out on my sunbed, if I had one,
and even Lester mentioned that he would have done the same,
Oh to feel that sun seeping into the bones.
Sheep, lambs, pigs, piglets, cows, dogs, hens, geese, Lester and Vera,
all of us drinking that warmth in. 
But we are in the wet season now, so the sun is sparodic,
not to worry, at least it is warmer, and spring is just starting to tiptoe in.

Feeling quite content with life,
and hope you are feeling the same.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Two hands, waving they were, .........

Two hands waving at me,
coming through the wall they were,
the wall which is the wall of the house,
which is supposed to be solid?


So anyway, 
beyond this door in the kitchen is the next room to be done,

It is a dusty environment at the moment
but Builder Jim has got most of the old rendering off the walls now...

...... and the cupboard in its 'before' time

....and now in its 'halfway there' time
(the lintel is rotten by the way and comes out today)

.....only the old sink and shower area left to do,....

....and all was going well.

I was sat at my spinning wheel in the courtyard,
happily feeling zoned out in the sunshine,
when from behind me came a crashing down of something,
"You alright?" I called,
"Yeah" responded Builder Jim, cheerily.
Moments later and "Helloooooo", he called,
and round I turned, 
and there he was,
only it was only his hands I saw,
the rest of him was the other side of the wall.

(you might have to enlarge the photo below for the full effect)



New windows?
Just holes in the sink area of the wall where stones had fallen out,
and to bless the little birds who constantly chip away,
first at the rendering,
and then underneath the rendering to very 'glue' holding the stones in the wall together,
so that all falls down eventually,

Not to worry,
Our builder is fixing it.

We might have some more 'surprises' today as he starts removing rotten lintels from over the sink and cupboard areas. 
We may, or may not, have some more stones tumbling down.

Not to worry,
the sun is shining,
there was no frost this morning so it is not quite so cold,
all the snow has gone,
and everything is drying up.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Extra rations for all.........

This is not smallholding weather, just saying, not complaining, just saying. 
So need to give everyone a boost of extra rations....
a few more handfuls of grain for the chickens and geese, ......

an extra pot of food for Max, mum pig, and piglets...
(plus an extra back scratch for Max)

 ...... extra hay going in to the sheep....

(somewhere in amongst that lot are ten lambs)

...... extra feed bought in for the cows .....

...... extra nibbles (crisps, choco bars) for Lester...

One jar Nutella + 1 banana + toast = extra rations for me!

Oh we do have 'proper' smallholding food to eat,
but sometimes there is a need to have comfort food.
I fear that the Nutella will not last long now it is opened.
But this is only the second pot I have bought here,
and given that it is even too cold for our builder to work,
I think that we can forgive ourselves for straying from our chosen path of self sufficiency,
just until it gets a little warmer!


Wednesday 4 February 2015

You know it's cold indoors when........

Time to get up and get the dogs out for their early morning pees & poos.
Opened the front door....

Rotweiller girls looked, went back to bed.
Boolie looked, did a quick tiddle up the flower pot, hurried back indoors.
I looked, thought 'Crikey, how did that happen'.
......and daylight half an hour later.....

And the geese confused at the white stuff,
their world not being how they left it when they went to bed last night.

..... chatting to each other about what the hell was going on...

....and the rottweiller girls, unsure ......

..... but soon romping ......

..... and the back field and our neighbour's house.....

You know its cold indoors when the olive oil starts to solidify.


Sunday 1 February 2015

The stamping of the foot, and the following of the lamb.....

I hope I do not give the impression that I am a super duper coper of life. Many times do I fall flat down in a puddle of despair, there to wallow until I get fed up with being so miserable, and then I get myself out of the puddle or someone is sent to me by the Universe to do the job of lifting me up for me.

I didn't sleep well last night, the problem I think being the ton of dates I had gobbled down just before I went to bed, which was a sorry thing to do because it made my tummy moan at me, oh dear, which caused an upwelling of stomach acid such that I was woken up from a deep sleep with a great startlement thinking that I was drowning, which is what happens when one's throat and mouth becomes full of stomach stuff, which also invades the wind pipes.

Message to self: it is not advisable to be disrepectful to your digestive system, especially if you are almost going to be going to bed. That it is better to avoid the temptations being waved under your nose by your husband, who has a much more robust digestive system which can tolerate things being put into it which your own innards can't. So better to save the nibbles on offer, and get them eaten for breakfast rather than supper. This applies to chocolate as well.

But not to worry, a glass of bicarb did the trick and kept things down in my tum, but only after a couple of huge burps of wind, up and down. However, it might have been the dates, or the bicarb, or a combination of both, but I was to and fro the loo for the rest of the night as my internal water works went in to high operational mode. So, not much sleep did I get, which has left me cruddy this morning, only I didn't know I was cruddy, but the cruddiness came to the surface after Lester went into 'instructions to be given' mode, upon which, and you might be as surprised as I was, my left knee did rise up as high as it would go, after which it slammed the foot at the end of it down on the ground with much force. Yes, dear friend, I stamped my foot! It was a grand stamping as well, not just a little foot tap, but a proper, real, stamp. And then I found my mouth opening, like a child's, and yelling 'I don't want to be told what to do........'

Well, crikey, even I was surprised at myself, as was Lester, who did a runner ( as most men would), slamming the door behind him, because he was also in cruddy mode, but hadn't realised it until I stamped my foot at him, which then ignited his cruddiness. And there we were, two people in high crud mode, which was not good seeing as how we are under enough stress as it is, what with the ongoing thing about the Rayburn and our sharply declining finances because we are paying someone else to move the renovation of the house along because Lester and me are smallholders not renovators and to do both is drilling our energies into the ground which is a shame because we have come a long way and so anyway it was totally useless to waste our limited energy by cruddy squabbling so I went through the door and said "sorry I stamped" and he said "*&90rqe0qew9r8 oh things" and I said some more and he said........

"You need a day off"......

And I realised that I was tired after my lack of sleep, and so I am going to let him cook lunch because he needs to take charge of the domestics sometimes, And he did. He lifted me up. Sometimes, just sometimes, one needs to stop.

The Rayburn Project: we think we might get a plumber in. One has been contacted.

The Dining Room: we got that cleared out, and Lester unfixed Ron's shower.....

January 2009

Installed by dearest Ron (of Ron and Val), this shower gave us hot water for several years.
The sink:
This was already in place when we arrived. It drained through through the wall and outside somewhere. But it quickly got blocked up when Lester dropped an apricot pip into the plug hole, which we never were able to remove. Not to worry. I used a bowl to do the washing up in, the shower hose from the boiler giving me the necessary hot water. Any over spill of water in the sink itself was scooped out, but there was always some water left in the blocked drain hole. 
The shower facilities:
Ah, now, this was a bit basic.....
Obviously we were unable to climb into the sink itself,
so we used an old plastic box to stand in while we hand held the shower to sluice ourselves down.
It was quite an experience, seeing as how we had no ceiling, nor any roof,
so showering was always a completely open air job. 
Lester was very bold and showered even when it was cold, but me? 
Well I preferred to use a flannel and a bowl of water over in the caravan,
which is where we were living at that time. 

January 2009: Ron and Lester.
We had just been blown to pieces by a hurricane, and Ron and Val had driven down from the Charente, picking up another caravan along the way to give us extra accommodation. 
Words can never repay the amount of help they gave us during those early years.

January 2015
The roof is on and so are the ceilings. But this is the last photo of the boiler. It is no more, although its bits and pieces have been kept because it did not seem quite right to throw them out onto the rubbish heap. 

This cupboard......

and this old smoke hole are going to be areas up for earnest discussion between myself and my other half, as we both have opposite views as to what to do with them. 
I shall try not to stamp my foot again.  

There is nothing quite like having a little lamb think you are its mum, even for a few moments.....and thus it was that in the beginning of this day we decided to let the sheep out onto the side field, just so they could stretch their legs after a couple of days indoors. Most went across the lane into the field alright, but a couple of mums stayed behind in the barn. At 8.30 this morning you would have found me walking across the sheep paddock with a little lamb glued to my shin, his mum and sibling having already gone ahead. 

It is not a good think to pick up a lamb because they can do things out of their other end which would then drive the dogs nuts when you tried to get back into the courtyard after the lamb is back with mum.It is not a good thing to pick up a lamb because the cuddlesome factor is dreadfully high, and you just want to hug the lamb to pieces and never put it down. It is not a good thing to pick up lambs because a mum sheep can reject her lamb if it smells of you and not her.

So I put this little lamb quickly down after I had carried it across the mud at the sheep barn entrance, (lambs don't 'do' mud) hoping it would scamper after his mum. He didn't. He stayed with me, his allegiance now transferred to the shape of my lower half. His mum is plump and round. Does this mean that I have the same plumpness and roundness as she does? She is black with a light tan rear end, and I was wearing a navy blue and brown check skirt, so perhaps that is what confused him. Anyway, that little lamb glued himself so close to me that I could have gone anywhere and he would have followed. I felt very powerful, responsible, soppily emotional, and oh so wanted to pick him up and give him the biggest of cuddles. But I didn't. I was a good girl and honoured his right to be seen as a species different to me, and therefore deserving of my respect. In other words I did not want to give in to soppy emotions which could damage his relationship with his mum. Aw, but he was the cutest thing!!!!!

The river did not flood this time, although there is heavy surface water on our main field, which always happens at this time of the year, and which our geese love. It is becoming urgent that we get the pig paddocks sorted out though. Mum pig stayed indoors today. I guess she is fed up with the mud, and that, for a pig, is unusual. 

Anyway, I must close off for the day, so bye for now,