Saturday 28 May 2016

The Chicken Project count down......

Pushing on with getting the chickens and geese out of the courtyard now,
and into a home of their own.
It has taken a long time,
with lots of dithering about where we should put their lodgings.
After much discussion,
it was decided that some of the front garden would be sacrificed,
but I did not give in easily to this loss of space,
and did make quite a moan for a while.
Common sense prevailed though,
and so that section of garden has been fenced off in to an 'L' shape.. the bottom of the 'L' was a thick hedge covered in brambles...

..... and now that is cleared,

....and looking from the lane,
yesterday Lester put two fence posts in to block the gap where the hedge had been.
Now all we have to do is cement the poles in,
then put the wire up,
and then sort out the chicken house, and goose shelter,
and then we are rolling,
or rather, then we can have the courtyard back
so we can tidy it up.
The fencing of the rest of the garden was finished in January,

and that now gives a framework to that space.

No many flowers planted yet, 
but at least the space looks better than it did after the first stage of renovations,
back in 2008...
eight years on and we now have a garden....
Back indoors,
and the Lazy Susan hanging rack has now come in handy for drying herbs.
All the chamomile was dehydrated,
but there is also a lot of self seeded coriander plants.
It seemed a shame to plough them in to the ground,
even though they are still in flower and not yet set their seed,
so I pulled up a couple of plants,
and on to the Lazy Susan I put them.

The Rayburn is now having its summer rest,
but is coming in handy for putting jars of dried herbs for immediate use.
As for the rest of the kitchen,
I am gradually getting used to having a good sized kitchen,
and even though I haven't finished the curtains for the storage cupboards,
it still looks good.
I didn't want a modern looking kitchen,

and I think we have achieved that.
I wanted the kitchen to look as if it had always been part of the old house,
before the time of its partial collapse into a ruin.
All the old features were too damaged to save, such as the big old fireplace,
and the bread oven,
but at least we have kept the renovation simple.
Off to a BBQ tonight,
and tomorrow the band is playing for a picnic by the riverside in Riscle.
Shame that the weather is being tiresome,
with heavy air laden with moisture which sucks the breath out of the lungs,
and then rolling thunder storms to make sure that the moisture in the air stays put.
We are supposed to be walking down the High Street of Riscle tomorrow morning,
playing our instruments so the assembled villagers
can walk down to the river accompanied by music.
Trouble is rain and high winds are forecasted,
and to be quite honest with you,
I do not feel much enthusiasm for walking in the open air,
buffeted by winds, spat upon by rain drops,
trying to play an accordion,
meanwhile hoping I do not slip and fall over,
because the accordion tend to make me top heavy,
which means I can topple over easily.
I think, that on this occasion,
I shall be content to not be part of the band,
and join in with playing with them again once they are down by the river,
or indoors,
as I think a wet weather hall has been organised.
Hope you have a good weekend,
Bye for now,

Wednesday 25 May 2016

A neglected pot, and tackling Veg Plot 1

Sept 2015:
- one pot of sloes (blackthorn berries),
being stewed up to use as a dye for our homespun wool.
Please note the date.

May 2016.
Same pot, same sloes, but with water added,
because eight months on and the cooked sloes had become dehydrated.
So, for eight months, this pot had been languishing in the Back Kitchen,
always in full view,
never hidden away,
and waiting for Myself to get round to sieving the liquid,
and then storing it in a plastic container ready for when I start dyeing our wool.
There was hardly a day went past without me thinking
'I must do.....'
but I never did.
But now I have a bucket of slowly mouldering yarrow
that I spoke about in the last blog,
and that needs to be stewed in the pot,
so I need to get the sloe mix sorted out,
and I nearly have.
Hopefully the pot will have the yarrow in it tomorrow.

(Message to self: do remember to attend to the bacon in the fridge tomorrow as well.
It does not need another day in the dry salt bath. )
Today it was dry,
so off out into Veg Plot 1 to get it prepped for ploughing.
Noooooo! this is Veg Plot 2,
with Veg Plot 3 the other side of the line of poles.
And very tidy they look too,
now they are managed by Himself.
This is Veg Plot 1:

....and it needs sorting out.
It is not as 'wild' as the patch I spoke about in the last blog,
but now the kale and broccoli have seeded,
and the broad beans have been harvested,
the space needs to be cleared.
Meanwhile I have continued to harvest the chamomile,

five buckets I have picked, and there is still more to come.
I was going to hang it up on the racks above the Rayburn range cooker,
thinking that it would lend an arty farmhouse look to the kitchen,
but decided to dehydrate them instead.
An hour to pick the flower heads off,
and job done.
 ... and the broad bean harvest, which was a surprise,
as I gave up on the plants in December,
after chilly weather and sharp winds damaged the plants.
But they hung on,
and although overgrown with docks and grass,
they still managed to produce a small crop for us.
We shall do these beans again,
but try to give them better shelter against the weather.
The young pods were delicious,
and these mature ones I shall dry and use later.
Lissie is still giving us milk,
but I have stopped making cheese for this season.
I was a bit disappointed with myself because several of the stored cheese wheels 'blew',
which means they inflated,
not hugely,
just enough to plump up,
which means that they are not good for us to eat,
although the dogs, chickens, and pigs will joyously eat those spoilt wheels.
Also, I have found that cheese wax does not do well with our particular type of cheese,
I think this is because of the high cream content of the milk.
Anyway, I have had to revert back to wrapping the cheeses in muslin and lard.
Cheese is not hard to make,
but it can be precocious to store.
Not to worry,
I shall keep persevering,
because the cheese which does turn out alright is delicious.
Ah but it is getting late,
so I must away to my bed
Bye for now,

Friday 20 May 2016

Attempting to bring order........

I am all painted out.
I never used to mind decorating back in our UK days,
but here I find myself getting impatient and wanting to do other things.
But the room is getting done,
and it does look nice,
but for today I needed to be outside.
No rain today, nor chilly winds,

just sunshine.
So off outside I went,
with scythe in hand and dogs following on behind,
the project being to sort out this jungle....

....which used to look like this,
but now does not.
Because we moved on to the larger vegetable paddocks,
and left this one to go its own way,
which it most surely has.
And in amongst the jungle of rampant growth are several young fruit trees,
which need to be got to so they can be watered.
So instructions were given by Himself,
that if I had time, would I go and clear the space.
Of course I had time.
The sun was shining,
so ******* the paint brushes!
Instructions had also been given from Himself,
that the spearmint needed harvesting,
so perhaps to do that as well.
Lester used to be a tea drinker,
but a few days ago he became converted to herbal tea,
spearmint in particular,
and enthuses endlessly about what a great drink it is.
For myself, I find it too strong for my stomach,
but he has developed a passion equivalent to the passion he once had for red wine.
(He still does love red wine but it does not like him)
But the dehydrated store of spearmint (harvested 2014)  has now come to an end,
and now more needs to be cut and dried.
I am now on my way to doing just that.
I did find some spearmint....
.......not as much as there used to be because the stronger growing grass is threatening to overwhelm the mint,
but I did fill the dehydrator trays with leaves to dry,
except that Himself was already raiding those leaves so he could have his cup of spearmint tea.
Normally the incoming harvest, once prepped for storage,
is then put away until the winter.
I don't think that is going to be happening with this harvest.
I did try him on the other type of mint growing here,
but definitely not, he said, it has to be spearmint.
Journeying on through the tangle,
and I came across a patch of yarrow.
I already knew it was there, and had planned to use it as a plant dye.
To confirm that it could be used as a dye,
I did a quick internet search only to find that it is a superb herb as well,
and that it could also be used as a herbal tea.
With this thought held in my mind,
and thinking that Lester might be coaxed into converting to yarrow tea to slow down his rate of consumption with the spearmint,
I scythed through the patch of yarrow.
I hope it grows again, but this time I shall look after it.
I so wanted to dehydrate it, but the spearmint took up all the room in the dehydrator,
and since the stems were wilting badly I had to put aside my thoughts of using it as a herbal tea.
It is now chopped up and soaking in water ready to be cooked tomorrow,
the destiny of this particular harvest being to dye our spun wool yarn.
There is another patch of yarrow in the first vegetable paddock,
but I shall leave that to make more of itself,
and perhaps  'borrow' snippets to dehydrate for future herbal use.
Continuing on with the scything,
and I arrived at a large patch of fennel.

This could not be cut down and harvested yet, so I will have to work my way round it.

...and a patch of borage, unusually tall.
I shall try and work round that as well.
Borage is a herb as well, but I have as yet investigated its uses.
Meanwhile, the mallow is just about to burst into flower,
and we have left that to grow wherever it wants to,
which is everywhere.
Soon we shall be gloriously swamped with purple flowers as it launches into bloom.
Alack and alas though,
I missed the nettle harvest....

I wanted to dehydrate the leaves, but things (bad weather, painting, etc) got in the way,
and before I knew it the nettles were up and away and are now flowering.
Nettles have to be harvested before they reach knee height,
and these are nearly head height.
Apparently, once they get past knee height,
 the leaves get bitter but also have a chemical
(calcium something or other I think) which is not good for us.
They nettles could still be used as fertiliser, but we have not got round to making a brew of that horrendously smelly liquid yet this year.
We have lots of nettles around, and I shall be cutting most of them down to ground level soon.
Hopefully they will continue on with growing by sending up some new shoots,
and these I shall definitely harvest for use as a herbal medicine and herbal tea.
I might even be able to convert Lester to nettle tea!
Bye for now,

Saturday 7 May 2016

Is it me?

Is it I the only one who finds that painting with a paint roller to be the messiest business going.  Everything gets rained on by little splats of paint as I roll up and down the surface of the wall, so that it looks as if a mini snow storm has just visited.
And those little paint splatters find the tiniest bit of floor which is not covered by the dust sheet, the tiniest bit of skin which is not covered by the old clothes I am wearing for painting,
and I shall not mention the state of my hair.
So, with reluctance, it is time that I started painting the downstairs lounge / bedroom / therapy room, the reluctance made more so because it has been lovely weather and the urge to get outside and do outside things is flying through my veins, fuelled by the desire to warm my bones up.
How did last Sunday go?
Not going to say too much other than that we were parked up by the side of a road, so that a lot of the time the band felt like it was playing to passing traffic,
but the people in the cars did wave to us,
which was nice.
The sun shone a little bit, but was useless in its warmth because a chilly wind robbed it of its heat,
and so I slowly got chilled. Everyone else was alright because they moved about as they played, but I have to stay sitting down because the accordion is a heavy beast and if I stand up I am likely to topple over, especially if the ground is on an incline, and it was, not much of one, but enough to send me over backwards should a gust of wind decide to blow.
So I had to sit in one position.
The wind took much delight in sending its cold drafts of air into my bones.
And then there was the effort of keeping the music on the stand.
At one point Lester, with mandolin strapped across his chest and playing the violin meanwhile, also had one booted foot up on the music stand to stop it from blowing over.
All in all, it was a good day though,
and it was good to be out and about with our fellow musicians.
It was not the best we have played,
but it was a good exercise in being able to fit together as a team.
The band is going through changing times at the moment and needs such outings.
So although it was a good day, it gave me an inner chill which lasted for several days, which is why I had several irritable moments as I rollered those walls, breathing in the paint fumes, getting splashed with paint, hearing the chickens cooing outside the window. Their 'Oh this is lovely sun, and we are really warming up' chuckles between themselves not lending anything positive to my mood.
Of course I could have stopped the painting, but I had to start the job sometime, and I had promised myself to make the effort to get started......
This is the room....
This the wall I am working on today....
.... and I have temporarily retired the paint roller, and have found a serenity in using a paint brush.
I still get paint splots, but not many, and definitely do not get paint snow anymore.
So it takes longer to use the brush, but the payoff is my calmness of mind,
and that, for all of us living here, is a good thing.
Using the roller might be faster but my goodness me it puts me in a horrid mood,
when flashes of temper will suddenly shoot out from me,
which is not a good thing.
I do not think I am, by nature, a DIY person,
although DIY food is something which I enjoy doing,
and I love DIY crafts like sewing and knitting,
but anything related to DIY building stuff  is definitely not for me.
However, I shall continue on.....
With paint loaded into an old baked bean tin and paint brush in hand,
I shall be up the ladder again in a moment,
onwards, Vera, onwards.....!!!!
Bye for now,
One of the band members posted up some photos of last Sunday on FB:
The shearing of the sheep:
This is the man who also shears our sheep, but with electric clippers, not the hand ones he is using here.
The spinning of the wool:
.... and looking the exact opposite of how I look when I spin.
First of all, I do not wear a long blue frock and a blue hat,
and neither is the fleece I spin as clean as this lady's was.

The band:
Herve and Jacques wandering along the road playing bagpipes and drum.
The red building on the right is the bull ring.
Most villages have one.
And the rest of us:

Nellie, Jackie, me, and Lester.
 (and  a thankyou to Jackie for 'borrowing' her photos)
PS. Please excuse me not smiling in this photo, only I was busy concentrating on the music, hoping that the wind would not tip the music stand over, and thus forgot to smile!