Thursday 9 June 2016

More canning, ginger, and new plants....

We ventured out yesterday to go shopping,
our last shopping trip being nearly two weeks ago.
It is not something we like doing,
but we needed loo roll
and the lack of any in our store cupboard was something we could not ignore.

But a divertion....
we could not help but be seduced into the nearby Gamm Verre,
a store which sells gardening and food stuff,
and on sale were some tomato plants,
and since our tomato plants are all of an inch high,
we thought we ought to help our veg plot by buying a few plants.
Aubergines were bought too,
(seed packet lost in Lester's seed filing system)
and a couple of peppers and chilli plants.
It was a good shop.
Very satisfying.

In the misty murk of this pot are two small pork hocks,
recently raided from the freezers,
and on their way to being canned.
They gave us lunch,
and two jars, which are now in the canner as I write this.
I also have a bowl of gelatinous goop which I am going to have a go at dehydrating.
I have an urge to try and get some DIY stock preserved.
I could freeze the stock, but I don't want to put anything else into the freezers at the moment.
Apparently I put the goop on to dehydrator sheets,
how it does not roll of the sheets and dribble all over the place
is something I will soon find out.
I think a potential mess is going to happen.
Not to worry, trial and error,......

Forgot to mention that I canned five more jars up a couple of days ago,
not sure what the meat mixture was because the labels had got rubbed off.
Not to worry,
the meat looked alright except one piece which did not look quite as it should,
so that went to the dogs and the chicks.
I am on a roll with canning at the moment.
But I shall not be canning cherries.
I think I see ripe ones, and then I don't see them again.
 The birds.
Last year I put twine round the branches to deter the birds and we got a harvest.
This year I forgot, so am paying the price.
Plus, we are still in a dither about pruning,
and all the fruit trees are taking advantage of our leniency towards lopping their branches,
and putting on too much growth
rather than concentrating on making fruit.
One of the tasks this year..
to be bold and cut.

While out shopping I bought a small heap of ginger roots,

 the intention being to dehydrate them so I can make tea infusions.
It was bit of a story prepping them to go into the dehydrator,
and I inadvertently trimmed several finger nails
as I skinned, then grated / sliced the roots.
I had a sunny hour out in the veg plots gathering some more chamomile flowers,
so they went into the dehydrator as well.
The chamomile is a wild herb here,
what I mean is, that we don't say where it has to grow,
just let it do its own thing,
which it did joyously this year.

But Lester is back to drinking tea and coffee as per usual,
because he has exhausted all the spearmint leaves I dehydrated for winter supplies.
He does not feel inclined to try nettle tea.
I don't blame him.
It is work in progress at the moment to get the taste right.
I am hoping to coax him in to trying the ginger infusion.
Ginger and nettle mix?
Trial and error......

Off to band practice tonight,
and a gig on Saturday,
well not so much as a 'gig',
rather a play along as one hundred and fifty sheep are sheared.
I am hoping that I might be able to 'borrow' a fleece.
Our fleeces are all brown this year,
and the sheep to be sheared are white ones.
It would be handy to have a bit of contrast.
I am not sure if Lester will agree.
He thinks I have too many of our own fleeces to use up anyway.
Might have to do a bit of coaxing.
Still not bought my loom,
but I have a rising urge to put the order in.

And off I must go,
bye for now,

Wednesday 8 June 2016

One donated goose egg, and the milk udders run dry.

I did stop wearing my thermals,
then they went back on again,
then they came off,
then they went back on,
...and so on.
I shall get out of them sometime this year,
the weather will settle down,
of that I am sure.
Been out scything in the Far Field,
but only for a short burst of grass cutting,
just enough to feed the rabbits.
Three are already in the freezer,
sixteen left to go.
They were sexually rampant during the winter.
It must have been the cold weather.
No eggs indoors,
but needed to make a custard,
banana and custard being my intended dessert for lunch.
A search around the barns and courtyard produced not one single egg.
But then tiptoeing across the courtyard came Blue.
Now I am not sure if she intended to give me the goose egg
she had in her mouth,
or whether it was because I was blocking the front door
so she couldn't sneak it back to her bed.
A bed check this morning came up with one full toilet roll,
( ' borrowed' from the bathroom )
and two of Lester's socks,
( which he had left on the floor anyway
and all she had done was tidied them up )
also a small bone but that had been given to her.

So, Blue is tiptoeing across the courtyard,
I am in her way,
she knows that she is not supposed to go on egg raids,
but she does anyway...
'What to do about the goose egg in my mouth'
is written all over face.
'Best to get Her to think that I was bringing it to her,
might get me out of trouble if I do that....
I am going to gently drop in at her feet,
then she will think me a good girl
and not a naughty one.'
That is what is written on her face.
One egg,
dropped from the full standing height of one rottweiller,
.... it is surprising that it remained intact.
Blue was thanked for the donation of the egg.
She doesn't like her photo being taken though,
thinks that me waving a black object (the camera)
 in front of her nose is the same as me
waving a broom at her when I am cross with her.
'How were the bananas and custard' you might ask.
Didn't happen.
Cracked the egg open and it had a slight pong,
which might have been from the egg shell,
which was mucky,
but I didn't want to risk wasting the milk to make the custard
if the egg was off.
Boolie liked it though.
He is getting a lot of titbits now,
and is thoroughly spoilt.
His tumour still grows,
and now his back legs are not working quite as they used to.
But he remains cheerful,
which is the main thing.
On the subject of milk...
the once full fridge of milk..... full no more..
and Lester will not have to be doing this twice a day...

...for a few months at least,
because the cows have now finished with giving us milk.
So they go on stand down as they wait for their calves to be born,
after which off we shall go again,
with making cheese, butter, yoghurt, etc.
Meanwhile I can stand down with making the dairy produce.
The pigs are 'standing down' as well.
The sow has just been in season,
and the boar was not the slightest bit interested.
The cows and me will start moving again once the calves arrive later on this year,
but the pigs look like they are standing down for good.
This is not good.
I keep having words with them,
about why they need to get their butts into gear and start producing some young'uns.
They don't seem to be taking notice of me.
Didn't have to wear thermals today....
just saying.
Bye for now,

Saturday 4 June 2016

Goodness me, the sun has turned us into planks!

Swiftly the chill winds stopped blowing,
the rain went somewhere else,
leaving the sun to shine its warmth down on us.
Now one would have thought that finally we should rejoice,
and we are / did,
it is just that the sudden burst of good weather threw our bodies into shock,
and we both became as stiff as planks,
Lester, out in Veg Plot 2,
rescuing the potatoes which were fast becoming strangled with weeds,
and getting them earthed up toute suite,
well he could hardly stand up,
knealing down for a couple of hours having convinced his body,
that this should be his 'normal' posture from now on,
and wouldn't let him get up again.
As for me,
I was doing my indoor things,
and getting stiffer by the minute.
I suppose it was the sudden change in temperatures that did it.
Today we are at least able to move better.
A walk round the farm,
and Lester was working out how many pots of jam
 we should be able to make with the fruit he expects to harvest this year.
In a good year,
when I am functioning in the kitchen better than I was last year,
(well we were under renovation for most of the year,
which kept me in a tizz for most of the time)
I would make about sixty pots of jam.
Now that sounds quite a lot,
but we do like our DIY bread and DIY jam for breakfast,
and for snacks.
Back in the UK we would have lots of nibbles in the larder,
like bars of chocolate, packets of biscuits and crisps,
and all the other things which seem to fall into the
shopping basket when supermarket shopping,
with one's husband.
But then we came to France,
and started on the long journey towards feeding ourselves.
Chocolate bars and packets of biscuits and crisps do not grow on trees,
but fruit to make jam does,
and over time we have grown to love and enjoy our more simple way of eating,
especially bread / toast with a slathering of jam.
I am not saying that it was easy,
and in the beginning we did have patches of having withdrawal symptoms
from the rubbish that we had been eating in our old life,
so we did have supermarket raids,
and we did fill our shopping basket with 'naughties',
but that is happening less and less.
And when we do indulge ourselves we tend to have stomach problems afterwards.
It would seem that we have become sensitized to the contents of that type of food,
possibly the chemical contents,
which would not allow us to go back to our old ways of eating,
which is a good thing.
Cadbury's Fruit and Nut chocolate bars?
Sadly, no.
But we do have the occasional jar of Nutella,
just for now you understand,
just until the fruit harvest comes in
and we get DIY jam back on the shelves of our larder.
Speaking of which,
(the larder)
I am sorry to say that the once filled shelves are empty,
except for the jars waiting to be filled again.
How did this....

....become this......

....Easy! We have eaten it all!
But to be fair to myself,
I did lose my food storing momentum towards the end of last year,
2015 having been a tiring year because of the work we had done to the house.
But it is as it is,
so soon those jars will be filled up again.
Meanwhile, yes I am ashamed to say this,
we are eating bread and jam,
but supermarket jam.
But we have not bought any Nutella for a while,
and we are definitely not buying any chocolate bars or crips, etc.
except for a packet of Snickers last Sunday,
when we needed our sugar levels kept up
because we had a gig with the band.
Bread and jam would have given us sticky hands
as we played our instruments!
Bye for now,

Wednesday 1 June 2016

The wind, milking down, and horrid eggs.....

A mild moan is coming along..........
 because I would really like to start wearing my summer clothes
before I have to start wearing winter clothes again.
It is still cold here.
There is a horrid chilly wind blowing nearly all the time.
We don't normally have much wind.
It is normally quite warm.
 In previous years I would have been wearing summer clothes for several weeks,
and I definitely would not be wearing thermals.
But I am.
I know the weather is beyond my control,
so I should be grateful that it is not snowing,
that we are not down in the minus degrees,
that we are not suffering flood nor hurricane (at the moment),
and yet I still feel niggled at this continuing chilliness.
It is just that I think that on June 1st, which is today,
that I should not still be in thermals.
Soon we shall not have any milk coming from Lissie as she starts drying up
in readiness for her new calf.
At the moment she is giving us just under two litres a day,
and I have noticed the milk is less rich in cream so does not make much butter.
Today I had to take the first of the stored butter from the freezer,
but think that I shall have to hunt for some cake recipes which do not require so much butter,
possibly some sweet yeast breads.
I don't want to go back to the soft margarine I once used.
I often thought what a marvellous product it was because it never went mouldy.
Well it wouldn't, would it,
because recently I found out that it is made of made of plasticky stuff.
And I don't really want to use shop bought butter because I know too much about the commercial dairy industry.
So we need to use our stored butter sparingly,
and making super duper cakes with it gobbles up the butter fast,
so I need to rethink what cake recipes I use.
I have had to recently buy in eggs again,
because either the hens have gone off laying,
or the hungry magpies have been eating them,
or the dogs have been making successful  'egg search' raids
but we have only one egg left in the fridge.
'Bio' eggs are the ones I bought.
They were more expensive, but at least I thought I was getting good value.
They are rubbish.
I make my own custard:
0.5 litres of milk, two egg yolks,
and some Maizelina (quantity varies)
The yolks have to be separated from the white of the egg.
So I break open the egg, put it into my hand,
and through my slight open fingers the egg white will go,
hopefully leaving the yolk still intact in my hands.
Our eggs are gloopy,
the white refusing to come away from the yolk,
unless I fidget my fingers to coax the separation,
and even then it comes away in a sticky gelatinous mass.
Not so the 'Bio' eggs.
Their whites, what there is of it, just moves through my fingers
as if they are made of water.
Thin liquid, that is what they are.
I shall not mention the colour of the yolks.
I am becoming ever more disappointed in the state of commercial food,
whether it be labelled 'Bio' or not,
and feel relieved that we are able to produce our own food,
and that it is as organic as we can make it,
although it could never be 100%,
because of the food supplements and innoculations which our animals have to have.
But at least it is better than what we would be eating if we didn't do as we are doing.
It is still windy outside.
Just saying.
So I spent the morning up the ladder and down on the floor,
carrying on with painting the spare room.
After a poor night of sleep, I felt more inclined to search out my bed,
but felt that I ought to fight the urge.
I had to use my timers though,
those treasures of time keeping, for when I feel slothful but need to do things.
I find that setting myself a limit to how long I am doing a task,
tends to keep my momentum moving forward.
I think this is because there is a definite start and stop,
the period in between being the allotted time to do the task.
And when that task seems too much,
then all I have to do is have a look to see how long I need to keep going for.
Most times it works.
The  timers were originally bought to help me stop burning food,
but soon they were used to help me stop burning myself up.
Lester braved the howling wind this morning
and attacked the thistles growing in the Main Field.
After we had a blitz on them last year
there are not so many of them now,
but they still need to be kept in check.
He was going to stay outside longer but the wind got to him,
so he came indoors and attacked the numerous cobwebs instead.
I don't know why the cobwebs are so many.
I think the local spider population must be appreciating
all the work that was done on the house last year.
I think they like the newly painted d├ęcor.
Lunch today was a hock from the last pig we slaughtered.
I am gradually working my way through the freezers,
but need to get a move on with getting the meat into canning jars,
so that room can be made for the two Tamworth adult pigs.
Unfortunately they do not look like they are going to reproduce again,
and they are expensive to keep,
so in to the freezers they are going to have to go.
It is a task that will no doubt be put off several times.

As for Boolie, our Springer Spaniel, and the tumour on his ear.....
Well, he is still as frisky as ever, is in no pain although the tumour is growing,
so he is still with us.
I value the days he is able to keep company with me,
because I know that soon they will end.
Meanwhile, a few hours later,
and the wind it is still blowing,
and now it is drizzling with rain again.
So it is a good thing that I kept my thermals on today.
Perhaps tomorrow will be a better weather day.
Perhaps tomorrow I shall be able to sit outside,
and get a roasting.
 If not,
then at least we have a roof over our heads,
and we are away from the rain and the wind,
and I can wear thermals for another day.
Bye for now,