Tuesday, 18 April 2017

"Teach me before you die"

 Hello All
Welcome to Steve on the follower bar and Bloglovin
We are still waiting fro our poddy lambs. EGD who lives with us has asked if we can keep a couple of the girls and put them to the ram next year. "I want learn how to lamb and you can teach me before you die!" she said cheerfully Now I know that 71 isn't young, but really! On reflection I AM passing on all sorts of things to EGD while she lives with us. Her partner (who is a tree surgeon and gardener) is always asking questions and showing a keen interest in all that we do too. Hope for the future eh?!

The hens are finally in the orchard, the goathouse has being cleaned in preparation for the lambs arriving.(There are two hens with their chicks ensconced in there, but in a couple of weeks time we will put them in a separate run within the orchard to gradually introduce them to the rest of the girls.) So "Hurrah"! I thought, I can finally plant out some of the veggie plants that are waiting in the cold frame and greenhouse. I couldn't  wait to get the cabbages, broad beans and peas in. I stood back admired my handiwork and retired for a well earned scotch and to watch a film that EGD and her fella had bought.
 Has anyone seen " I Daniel Blake"?  EGD and I shed a tear on a couple of occasions and felt upset and frustrated in turns. I have accompanied many people to the job centre over the years and my experience has been mostly positive with regard to the people that work there, even though the system that they work within can be flawed. I did shout at the screen a couple of time (like I do) and though I can't say that I actually enjoyed the film, it was definitely worth watching.

Anyway back to the garden... the next morning I went out to see to the hens and admire the veg plot to find that we had been visited by ...rabbits! I was seriously p***d off and wished that I still smoked!
So all plans that David had for the weekend were shelved while he firmed up the fencing to the orchard that is between the paddock and the veg garden, as on inspection the little fluffy creatures had gnawed through the paddock fencing to hoppity skippity through the orchard and into the self service salad bar.
Yesterday I replanted with some plants that I had put aside for a community allotment group that has been set up. Is that really selfish of me ?
We saw two of "our" swallows this weekend. They swooped and dived overhead, happy to see each other after their long journey. David had only swept the goathouse walls and beams the day before, so we are only just ready for them.
All for now
love Gillx

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Update on our Cockerel

Morning Fellow Bloggers!
Thought I would update you on HughTwo. Here he is looking good. You can just see his aluminium splint?
 Here he is looking for all the world as though he is king of the Roost, which indeed he is. We are delighted with his progress and though he is still limping quite badly his foot, which was turning, in is now straighter than it was. He is such a gentle boy (though extremely randy!) and never shows any aggression to animals or humans. If the girls squabble he runs up to them and stands between them. I think he must have gone on a course about diffusing difficult situations! He is (supposed to be) a Lavender Orpington.We are fond of Orpington cockerels because of their natures. HughTwo is so named because he is so like our Buff Orpington Cockerel Hugh, who was an absolute sweetie.
 We have decided to leave the splint on for at least another fortnight. Fingers crossed he will have no lasting problems.
The sun is shining today and I am off to do a spot more posting for the Civic Society and the Canal Society.
I mentioned the blossom yesterday, here is a picture of one of the front garden damsons.

 I have just found this picture of Hugh the buff Orpington. Here he is sitting with one of his many wives. This shows his gentle nature. Can you see the baby between them? We have no idea why it is that colour unless Hugh was cuckolded by ?!
All for now

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

I make a stupid mistake

Hello All
Welcome Zuria Amber on Bloglovin, good to see you here.
It's been a busy couple of weeks, mostly with the Civic Society, a seperate pressure group that I am secretary to and the gardens (of course)
Last Sunday most of the family came round for tea, plus a woman (and her husband) who sees our house as her second home and arrives with her scissors to cut anybody's hair that needs it. (line up everyone)   Youngest daughter with her son and daughter  set to to clean the goat house floor, which was covered in over three months worth of chicken s*** as we have been deep littering them .The chickens should really be back in their house in the orchard, but when David set about deep cleansing and fumigating this he found that a couple of shelves and a couple of laying boxes needed replacing. While this is being sorted the hens are still living in the goat house and free-ranging over the vegetable plots that I am desperate to start planting up. We are probably only a couple of weeks from getting our orphan lambs so the goat house also now needs a deep clean. We will need to be careful how we do this as four hens have hunkered down on eggs in various spots in the goat house and we expect chicks from this weekend and over the next two weeks. It looks like we might have a perfect Easter picture with chicks and lambs if all works out to plan (yeah right).
When the dream team had finished mucking out they leant the front of the old goat byres against the end byre. As I needed to access this to pick some eggs I moved one of the byre fronts against the water tap and then forgot it. An hour later ED found our beautiful cockerel Hugh-two, under the (very heavy) byre door. When she extracted him from this he clearly couldn't walk and on investigation it seemed he had broken his leg at his "elbow". I felt dreadful, what a stupid mistake to make.What to do? David cut a piece of angled aluminium, bent it into the shape of Hugh-two's elbow while YD duct taped it to his leg. We then put him into a large rabbit hutch to rest overnight. I hardly slept worrying about what I would find in the morning as it was possible that the splint wouldn't work and/or that he also had internal injuries.
The next morning I opened the rabbit hutch and Hugh-two flew past me squawking loudly. He limped over to the nearest hen and proceeded to do what cockerels are paid for!! Grant you he fell over afterwards, but his pecker was definitely up! We are watching him carefully and so far he is eating well, managing to dust bath rather inelegantly, limping all over his kingdom and bonking for England!
This weekend we are off for the first weekends' sea fishing of the year. So we are Cornwall bound on friday afternoon, while YD and EGD take over, wondering what catastrophes will happen while we are away. A good friend of mine is coming with us this time and she and I  hope to hit the charity shops etc while David is at sea, while taking the opportunity for a good gossip, which we seem to have little time for recently.
Will close for now as I have to post some newsletters and flyers and I'm already a day later than I promised.
Back soon with more bits and pieces of random stuff
Love Gillx
PS Isn't the blossom spectacular this year?


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sad News

Morning All
 I was going to answer the comments from my last post and do a more upbeat one this time. However sadness at the news from London yesterday, coupled with my ambivalent feelings about the lauding of someone who was responsible for so many deaths in Ireland have now been compounded by the news of the death of the husband of one of the sweetest bloggers.
I am sure that those who follow the Weaver of Grass, and there are many, are as upset as I and are thinking of her and sending virtual hugs.
love Gillx

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Us selfish smallholders

Hi Everybody.
I'm sat here making my daily list of things that must be done today, those that I will do if I have time, phone calls and emails to that I must make, what we are having for dinner tonight and how many will be here for that and adding to the shopping list for when I go to the shops next ( I shop approx. twice a week)
I do this each day as I am not organised by nature and it helps me to use my time well (and I do love a good list!)
I lead a pretty busy life and realise that I can come over as smug because of this. I think smugness is something smallholders lean towards. "Look at us aren't we good?.. saving the planet, living a good life, cooking good food, not eating junk and generally being more interesting and better than some!
 This is the life we chose (which isn't for everybody thank goodness as there isn't enough land to go round!) and because it is a way of life it can be all consuming and can make us SELFISH!!. What do we do for others? Do we find time to look outside our "rural idyll" at those who are frailer, struggling, in need? I suppose I mean in a proactive face-to-face way. For example, giving to charity shops, while absolutely necessary for those charities, is still a rather passive way to help and let's face it is a way of getting rid of stuff you don't need (which is hardly philanthropic) so I don't think it counts! While taking half an hour to call on (or phone) a lonely neighbour, helping out at a local luncheon club, delivering leaflets for a local cause or maybe walking a dog for someone temporarily incapacitated is giving of your most valuable asset.. time and takes you out of yourself for a little while.
So there is my thought for the day... not that you asked for it!
Goodness what a random post.
PS Welcome to Pauline Williams on the follower bar and Kathy on Bloglovin. Good to see you here x

Monday, 13 March 2017

Good Morning Sunshine!!!

Doesn't it make you feel better? Coda thinks so too! (rubbish pic)
This weekend has been dry and mostly sunny.With great help from H. who is EGD's boyfriend, David has taken down an old damson tree that was quite rotten. This tree had grown between three outbuildings and supported a tree house covered with ivy. As the house, tree and even the ivy was crumbling it had to go. Once this was dispatched (a BIG job) and onto a big bonfire, apart from the good wood for logs, the rest of the family arrived and did a great job cleaning up. There was a huge amount of well rotted leaf mould which was a bonus.
Here they are. Note that the girls are cleaning and the boys are watching!
That was Sunday, when all the family and the occasional friend (yesterday it was EGD's friends and their baby)come for a roast dinner. On Friday David and H. attacked the wisteria on the front and side of the house. It was good to have the help of a young man who is happy to scramble up a high ladder. David is extremely good at pruning wisteria for flower and was able to teach H. who is a tree surgeon this skill. Here is ( a very small part) of the pruned  plant.
And the bonus bye-product of the pruning... weaving material!
Some of these are 20 foot long and I hope to make a couple of log baskets with them, with fresh cut willow as stakers.
I looked in the pond last week and saw a large lump of frogspawn. Hurrah! I looked again on Saturday and there was none and the water was disturbed. Our neighbours saw a heron on the chicken hut that that overlooks the pond. Would a heron eat frogspawn?
Yesterday I looked again and there were at least eight frogs having an orgy, so I will find some sort of netting to put over the pond and we will hope to keep any frogspawn.
I have been tidying up my followers list as there were several bloggers that seem to have disappeared. I'm quite sad at the loss of some of these bloggers who have just fallen out of blogland. I often wonder what happened to them, don't you?  I've asked my family to close my blog with a quick explanation if something awful happens to me. Is this morbid?!
Well I started off all happy about the sunshine and have ended up on a negative! So to move this on, the damson is in bud and with all the bulbs and catkins in flower there seems to be plenty of forage for the bees which have flying with gusto over the last few days.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Skills courses and Frogspawn anyone?

Hello  All!!
Well! A whole month since I posted! So many reasons I won't bore you with, suffice to say I'm back to the blog and will try to be more frequent from now on. I realise that I use this blog as a sort of diary and when I  don't keep it up to date I have nothing to refer to when trying to remember something. (gets more difficult with age)
I have some new followers but am struggling to work out who, so will say Welcome and hopefully name you in my next post.
So far the winter has been really mild. The winter door curtains have hardly been used and we have seen the bees flying several times. I'm pleased to say that we have seen live bees from every hive so far.
When my friend J. from Cornwall came to stay a couple of weeks ago we cleared out the pond that is in the orchard/chicken run (while the chickens were ensconced in the barn. It looks awful and bare with absolutely no sign of life. Several people i know have frogspawn, but not us. I do hope we haven't messed with it too much and killed the frogs. Anybody else waiting for frogspawn?
I have invested in "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" by Amy Dacyczyn. Oh my goodness, she makes me look like a spendthrift! You have to convert it from American to English as with Carla Emery but there are some good ideas and you are never too old to learn.
My Eldest granddaughter and I organised a basketmaking course at the village hall  for a few friends last saturday. We had such fun and each of us made a basket. We are now off to cut some fresh willow from the paddock and hope to make baskets for fruit and vegetable gathering this summer. My old baskets (which I always use) have finally broken and it will be good to replace them for free. EGD thinks she might make some small low sided ones to put the preserves in that she makes and gives as presents each Christmas. Great idea.
The success of the "course/get together" has inspired us to host a few more, so we have invited a friend to teach us felt-making and I have been asked to do a make-do-and-mend day and thought we could also do a "things to make with and old tea shirt "day. Goodness knows when we will find time!
Talking of make-do-and-mend, has anyone been on the site of that name on facebook?(with attached blog) It's a great site with ideas from all over, with a big emphasis on the environment and repurposing. It is good to see so many young people on the site. Us old fogeys can't keep going for ever and the need to consume less is now critical.
Earlier this year I was quite unwell and had another period of nauseusness. I found my usual sweet drinks weren't helping so cut out the sugar (I usually take two heaped spoonfuls in each cup!) Once I felt well again I decided to stop taking sugar in my tea altogether, reckoning that as I drink approx. 10 mugs of tea a day I was consuming over half a pound of sugar daily, which is pure junk really.  Six weeks on and I still hate this sugarless tea! I really can't get used to it and found giving up smoking easier!, but will persevere as I am determined not to revert.
While not exactly bringing us up to date at least I've broken my duck and got back to blogging. So I'll sign off and wish you all ...
love from Gill

Monday, 30 January 2017

The bacon cure recipe and prisoner hens

  Hello All
Firstly here is the recipe and method for the home cured bacon (courtesy of Cro)
Mix 2 parts sea salt to 1 part brown sugar some crushed black pepper and a good pinch of dried herbs.
 Day 1. Rub this mix all over your pork joint and place in a shallow dish (reserving a little of the mixture).
Day 2 Pour off any liquid and rub in remaining mixture.
 Day 4 wash off the salt mix , pat dry and wrap in muslin. hang in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.
I left the rind on for the curing  and removed it for cooking as it was very hard.
I used a piece of belly pork from half a pig I bought from a friend, but see no reason why you couldn't buy  a piece from the butcher to have a go.  Good Luck if you give it a go.

The chickens are still "cooped up"( I suppose that is the origin of the expression) I have put duct tape over the words"Free Range" on the sign by the road, but am sure that few people understand why. The news reports by Defra, the newspapers and the TV have been dire and sketchy at best.. How many people know (or care)  that we have had more cases of Bird Flu in the country? I wonder what we are suppose to do after 28th February, the date set in the new year for keeping the birds in. We have had four more cases since then but no notification of extending the deadline.
Anyway, I thought I would share the plight of my girls, and goodness knows they are better off than many. The goat house (which hasn't housed a goat since Annie died 4 years ago) is now given over to them. Three breeding doe rabbits now share the house, but we have had to cancel the piglets we ordered and the early cade lambs.
Here is the door to the house, The top is usually open, but the girls can easily jump out when it is. Our major concern is that the swallows arrive in April/May and use this entrance to come and go from the nests they build in the eaves here every year.
At the entrance is a tray, usually used to stand plant pots in, which has a sheet of carpet in the bottom and Jeyes Fluid diluted at the rate of 20 to 1 with water. The container and brush at the side is for cleaning boots etc if necessary.
I'm really chuffed that Jeyes Fluid is approved for footbaths etc for Avian Flu as it is so easily available. I bought 1 litre for £5.45 at Lidl last week.. bargain!
I have turned the small hutches, usually used for young chicks or kits into laying places, stapling black material over the netting an gaps between hutches to encourage the hens to lay in clean bedding.

 Towards the rear of this picture is an large hutch. I am using this as a vermin-proof place to keep some stores. ...Apples, marrows, pumpkins and onions in particular. I'm a little worried that the number of chickens will be increasing the temperature around the veg and they will not keep as well, so I have started to use this particular store. As you can see they birds are eating some soft apples here
 Here we look towards the door. You will notice that we have perspect roofing, which means that we are getting eggs now ( with some artificial light from 5 until 7) While I am complaining on behalf of the birds, the set up actually helps me as there is both electricity and water in the goathouse, meaning I can do all I need to do for their comfort in one place.
      The "bushes " you can see against the wall is a bamboo that I have tied up there to dry and was going to process into canes before the Avian Flu overtook us.                                                                                                                                                  
If this post has done nothing else it will have heartened those who thought THEIR smallholdings were untidy !!!
Back soon

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Hurrah for Harry Potter

Hello All.
Just starting to feel better after back-to-back lurgys!  While I'm getting a new post together with the bacon solution recipe and some bird flu update, here is a post I wrote before Christmas and never posted
There is an awful lot of literary snobbery about the Harry Potter books. I understand that they are not "classics" nor "worthy" and I know of many people who say they are trash and they wouldn't deign to read them.(mmm how can they know they are trash?)
Some years ago my grandson J. aged 7 (who has Asperger's) who could read exceptionally well (ever since a fantastic teacher found a way to make him sit still long enough to teach him the rudiments of reading  - thank you Mr Collinson!) would often stay with me overnight. I would read to him each night even though he read as well as I, as it calmed him and was part of a lifetime ritual. He liked books on Mythology, space stories and dinosaurs  and some other random stuff. I was always on the look out for something to read to him, or for him to read.
One particular weekend I was watching the news and saw a line of boys and girls queuing outside a book shop. They were waiting to buy book two of a series and were SO excited they were jumping up and down. What really caught my eye were the numbers of boys in the queue and I wondered what phenomenon had captured their interest. It was Harry Potter Book two (I hadn't heard of book one) Sometime in the next week we went to the library and borrowed Book One. I read the first chapter to J. and he then took the book off me and began reading. He read for hours and hours until he had finished it. Needless to say I set off to buy Book Two which he took away and read likewise. These book he read and re-read for the next year, while he waited for the next book to be released. One night when he was staying with me I said. "If you like Harry Potter I think you will like The Hobbit. I read the first chapter and he again took the book off me and read through the night until he had finished it. The next time he stayed I gave him the Lord of the Rings (my mother's favourite books, which we replaced each year for her as she wore each copy out!) He was in heaven, but had to be restricted to his reading times with these books obviously. He would walk around with one of the books under his arm (he still does this age 24) so that he could lose himself (and not have to interact with people either!).
I'm not sure that I would have thought to introduce J. to Tolkien so early without Harry Potter prompting me to do so.
I know of so many parents who say the HP has awakened an interest in reading in their child which can only be for the good and we all have to start somewhere,
So Hurrah for Harry Potter!
Back soon

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Home cured bacon - The Results!

Hello All
This morning EGD and myself were getting ready to brave the grey damp weather to watch YGD compete in a (not very) local show. She was competing in the Dressage and Jumping. We thought we ought to have a little something inside us to keep us warm and decided on egg on toast until we remembered THE BACON. Only a day early, so off I trotted to the outhouse to bring the joint in.
We discussed how to have it and decided that simple was best so we had it fried and in a sandwich.
Here is the joint  after a few slices cut off

And here is is fried and crispy
Oh MY! it was Delicious!!!!!
Thank you Cro for the recipe and the method, we will be doing it again most definitely.
Back soon

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Making Bacon and Jaffa cakes

As mentioned in my last post. .......
Here is the half pig I bought from a friend. She had it slaughtered and would usually have it butchered too, but as the abattoir was busy with Christmas they could only cut the pigs into six.
 Here is my half, cut into three.

There was quite a lot of fat on it, but we are okay with that as it adds to the flavour and makes it more succulent and it looks like pork used to look. It didn't take me too long to cut it into joints and chops, which I froze apart from a good size leg joint that I chilled to roast on Christmas day and a piece of belly pork that I determined I would home cure for bacon  in the manner that Cro a blogger in France does.
Below is a (not very good) picture of the belly joint in the salt  I left the rind on for the process, though Cro tells me it is likely to be tough when finished, so I will remove it when curing is finished.This is coarse sea salt mixed with brown sugar ( I used demerara) black pepper and herbs. The second day I poured off the liquid that had gathered and put more (reserved) salt mix over the joint. I turned this again over the next four days, when I washed off the salt, patted the joint dry and hung in an airy outbuilding wrapped in muslin. It will be ready on the 9th January. I believe at this stage you could smoke it if you had the facility, but I shall try it unsmoked first. 
Just had a peek and it is looking and smelling good so far. Can't wait!!!

                                                                                                                                                                      And so to Jaffa Cakes....
The Jelly -- A few hours before (or the day before) you are due to bake, make a jelly (from jelly cubes) with 150mls hot water instead of 400ml and pour into a shallow tray and refrigerate
The cake bases -- Make a fatless sponge with 1oz sugar, 1 oz flour and 1 egg (beat egg and sugar together until light and fluffy and carefully stir in the flour) Grease  shallow patty tin tray. Put a large spoonful of mix into each patty tin and cook until very lightly browned and firm. This mix made 4 dozen little cake bases.
The chocolate -- melt chocolate (we used a mix of dark and milk choc) in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. When melted, take off heat and allow to cool.
While the chocolate is cooling cut rounds of jelly to rest in top of the sponge. We used the top of a salt pot (this also serves well to cut holes in doughnut dough!)

When the chocolate has cooled sufficiently (you will need to test this on any rubbish sponges you might have) so that the jelly does not melt immediately, spoon over each cake and smooth over.. Voila!!!

Look pretty good don't they? They cost very little too.
Hope these work for you, they are certainly easier and more like the real thing than those made on the GBBO.
Back soon

Monday, 2 January 2017

A good start to the year

Happy New Year Dear Bloggy friends.
David and I have had the lurgy since Boxing day, but are now on the mend. David always suffers more than I do as he has such a weak chest for various reasons.
The chickens are still going stir crazy from being kept in because of the Avian Flu thing. I am still seeing hens and geese out in the fields as I drive along and wonder if they know that currently they are required by law to keep them in. On the plus side....
 THE CHICKENS ARE COMING BACK INTO LAY. Hurrah!. So the signs are out alongside the Honey and Kindling signs, so hopefully we shall earn some money to pay the butcher for doing the deed with the sheep that go tomorrow.
Had a great Christmas up until the lurgy struck. 18 for Christmas lunch and some lovely, thoughtful  and  useful presents. One of the best was a card from my godson and his sons for a days work from each. Brilliant! I have already got lots of ideas where some brawn will be very helpful. The children bought us some cider apple trees and a four wheeled barrow thingy which I have used already to ferry animal food about, bags of munchings for the chicken house floor and a bag of potatoes and carrots from the barn to the house. This morning I have put some bags of kindling in it to ferry to the gate for sale. David bought me an electric wax capping knife which I am excited to use and I bought him a new bee tunic as his is full of holes (not good!) Lots more presents given and received but won't bore you any further apart from to mention EGD's home made hampers. One of the items she made was Jaffa cakes, which were FANTASTIC and very easy to do (not at all like the rubbish efforts in the Great British Bake Off). I shall put the recipe in my next post.
All for now, as I'm feeling a lot better and am anxious to get outside while the sun shines.
A very warm 2017 welcome to Louise Pope, Rozie Hassan, Lias, Jennifer marie and Mary Lee Williams on Bloglovin and Rita Caudwell, Sandra Graham and Maude on the Google side bar.
Back soon with the Jaffa cake recipe and the low down on how I am attempting to home cure some bacon a la the "Cro method".