Saturday, 29 June 2013

The role of the homemakers

The role of the homemaker has fallen over the last few decades. 
It's social standing has been downgraded from a once important and honoured role which greatly influenced society, to a place where shame and embarrassment follow such a statement!

The pursuit of 'easy' has replaced craft, beauty, pride, homemade and comfort at home. There are now easy meals, easy flat pack furniture and easy childminding as they sit in front of the tv, game or tablet.
We now live where the tv is the most important feature of a room! And as a direct result social education of the youth, the most important form of all the educations has been lost, dwelling only now in oldest of the generations.

The answer to people's loneliness is to put the tv or radio on at all times to have background noise, and in some homes both! But that only distracts loneliness. People, community, family and neighbours are the true solution. 

Everything that is done outside the home is done for the betterment of the home and home life. From farming, to factory work, labour saving inventions, restaurants and even war. But if home life is gone then what use is any of it other than as a distraction.

Home life is the start of everything and the end, it's all we truly have. It is the foundation of society and culture. It shapes our youth and therefore shapes the  future of our society and culture. That is indeed power!

I believe that education with children should be based primarily at home. We send our eldest to our local school where he can build ties to his community but I do not expect it to be his only form of education. He needs to learn so much more than what can be learnt at school. From cooking and baking, how to milk a cow and weed the garden, a love for reading and self education, diy, value in people and community but to name a few. 

What do people do with all the time they have saved by not keeping a home, as it does indeed take time. Do they better themselves or others? 
They do not, life without a home is dull and wanting. They distract themselves with tv and media, holidays to escape to and dreams of living it all on retirement when they finally will have the time.
People are tired when coming home from working all day, so they sit in front of the tv in the evenings. It is in fact the highlight of their day!
Their day has been so dull that they feel the need to reward themselves. A six pack or a takeaway or both. Their is no joy for living.

A home is were you feel a belonging, to the building, the place and the people. It is were people gather for good food and beer and the door is always open and visitors are always welcome. 
It is lovingly made of human hands. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Rhubarb & Ginger Jam

I have received more rhubarb from neighbours! I am beginning to wonder why we are growing our own!
I find that elderly neighbours that still live in the traditional farmhouse with orchard and veg patch have so much spare fruit that they hate to see wasted but are not able to use/save it all. 

Either because they are not as young as they used to be, or mostly because the increasing yield of the orchard is too much for the decreasing family living there.
They love to see somebody make use of it, especially a young family with 'mouths to feed' than let it rot into the ground. 
And in return they get some jam, a bottle of wine later in the year, some tarts for the freezer or even a jar of our honey. 

So to make use of this additional rhubarb, I have stewed off half of it and put into the freezer, I also made some tarts and made a dozen jars of rhubarb and ginger jam.

The pigs are doing great! They have gained a great deal of weight and have become very friendly!
They eat a great deal and love the jersey milk. They would try and go through a wall for that milk!

While they eat a lot, they are working out cheap to feed. We get two 2 gallon buckets a day of waste restaurant food from hubby's friend. We give the pigs all waste veg material from the veg garden before it eventually makes it way to the dung heap. We also feed them a few kgs of rolled oats soaked in jersey milk. 

Several neighbours leave buckets of waste food at our gate once or twice a week for the pigs. We feed it, wash the buckets out and then return them to the neighbours backdoors later in the week!

The pig run, which is still not finished, should be this weekend. We have the foundations poured but we need to build the wall and hang the gate. The materials have been ordered for tomorrow,so hopefully it will be completed this weekend. I am eager to give the pigs more space and buy in another two weaners.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Foraging for mussels

I brought the kids foraging for mussels at the weekend. They had great fun and the lovely weather helped.
We picked more than I had thought!

I put them into a bucket of iced water overnight to let them filter feed, therefore cleaning themselves of sand etc.

I heated up a pot of butter and garlic leaves and then added the mussels. After 2-3 minutes they opened their shells and were ready to eat.

Note: I had checked before cooking the mussels that they were all closed and therefore still alive! Don't eat mussels that are open when uncooked!

Yummy! I have eaten at least thirty so far today and the pigs are loving munching at the empty shells.

Washing brewing yeast

I have started to reuse yeast from finished brews. It is so easy and of course its free. 
The best thing about it is that I always have yeast available when I decide to start a brew.

There is nothing more frustrating then being excited when somebody give you surplus of produce but then you realize that you have no yeast. I have used bread yeast when I was stuck, which worked fine!

Now you don't need to wash the yeast, but it is helpful, if you don't want to pass on flavours from the previous brew, although this can be a benefit.
If you don't wish to wash it just use a few cups of wort from the previous brew.

Or you can just top up the uncleaned demi-john or bucket with your new brew leaving the original wort at the bottom. This is ideal if putting on a similar brew.

How to wash brew yeast:

Add a few litres of water to the wort and let this settle for twenty mins.

Then pour off the water/fluid into a clean jar, leaving behind the sediment.

Leave the jar in the fridge for a week or until you need it.

Then pour off the excess fluid and use the sediment at the bottom as the yeast. 

There will be enough for several batches.
It will keep for a few months in the fridge. I have frozen some but have yet to try them.

I have 6 gallons of rhubarb wine on, one gallon of raspberry beer and in the next few days as the elderflower start to open I will be starting elderflower wine.

Our home-brew larder is starting to empty out as we have finished off the ginger beer, larger and yummy nettle beer. That leaves us stout and ale!

That will be a lot of bottles for cleaning this week!!
What are you brewing at the moment?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

June update

The polytunnel is bursting and competition for space is high. So for this year I'm winning against the weeds as they are at a disadvantage for space and light. The peas, brood beans and strawberries are cropping heavy and the courgettes, marrow and globe artichoke are almost there.

Outdoors things are much slower. The onions and garlic are doing well as are the carrots and parsnips. The cabbages are coming along slowly, the ones that survived the slugs, only to be attacked soon by the caterpillars. We also have leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, tomatoes, squashes, sweet corn, potatoes and salads.

The cow was in standing heat yesterday evening at milking so the AI man came again this morning! Hopefully third time lucky or we might have to rethink things!

I had made a hard cheese about six weeks ago and I attempted to age it. I took it out last night and declared that I was only to try it. Hubby had a laugh at me and suggested the pigs were hungry. It looked terrible with a probability of food provisioning. But it was a lovely strong crumbly hard cow cheese. And hubby loved it!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The kids made me smile!

Christopher had his last day of play school today. I went into collect him at noon and I received a collection of his work during the year, mainly paintings and art and craft work.
I had a little giggle when they showed me his drawing for 'home/family'.

The cow has an udder and all!  

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A bloody milking

Yesterday evening we attempted to bring the cow in for milking unsuccessfully. It was windy and raining heavily, maybe this was why she decided that she wasn't coming in.
Anyway, after a few attempts and a lot of running we called it a day!
So I brought her in this morning and gosh was she full!
One quarter milked blood. The milk from this quarter is coloured a pinker off colour instead of the usual lovely cream.
There was no heat or hardness in her bag or clots in the milk that would indicate mastitis.

With all the running around yesterday evening, not ideal for a milk cow, she bruised her bag and burst a blood capillary in that quarter. 
We will be milking that quarter to the pigs for the next few days and using the others for the house.

The cow was due to come into heat on Wednesday. There has been no sign of heat so fingers crossed that she took with that last AI straw. We would be expecting a calf then next March. A lovely time of year and a full two years since she would have last freshened. 

She is currently giving us 7-8 litres a day on a once a day milking and a year+ since freshening!
I am still hand milking, which is easy and quick when only milking that volume but when she freshens I will machine milk as I doubt my hands/wrists could cope with milking 25+ litres a day!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Saving seed

It is coming to that time of year again for saving seed for next year. I don't bother to save seed from everything but I most certainly do for the expensive seed varieties, especially since it is so easy.

I find that pumpkins, courgettes, cucumbers, brood beans and peas are so easy to save yet so expensive to purchase that it is very worthwhile.

At the moment we are saving seed from brood beans and peas. We leave a few plants to go over ripe and then harvest the pod when they are fairly old and ripe. We put these out over the warm plate on the range for several days before putting them away into sealed and labelled envelopes for next spring or this autumn.

Wild brown trout

As we live in a fishing district, we get plenty of offers of free fish that we never turn down.
So today we got a wild brown trout that friends caught last night.

The boys were delighted with the fish and the impressive set of razor sharp teeth.

We picked flat leaf parley and bay leaf from the veg garden and filled the stomach cavity with the herbs, some butter and seasoning.
Into the oven for 35 mins wrapped in foil.

The fish tasted wonderful, so fresh and firm with a strong flavour from the herbs and butter. Yum!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Smallholding: social skills

I think the most important skill to have or be prepared to learn when starting on the road to self-sufficiency or a smallholding is good social skills.

Social skills are much underrated and little discussed when it comes to farming, smallholding or even prepping. And yet I feel they are the most important factor on the successful outcome of the endeavour.

It is a skill that is almost lost in many places and especially in the youth. We focus a lot of energy on our kids to acquire as much as possible. It can only be a benefit.

I can only speak of my area and what I hear and see within it. I live in a tight rural community. I am from the area and have family here but I lived away for many years and only moved back three years ago. My husband is from the city centre where his family ran a shop.
I feel this gives me a foot on either side of the fence. I can see the point of view of both locals and 'blow in's.

Can I point out that we had 'city tinted glasses' on when we moved and that they only came off after a year or so.

These are some points that I have relearnt and now put to practise:

It is seen as rude to be shy.
Salute your neighbours and make small chat with them when you met them at the side of the road or pass them on the road or in the shop. Even if you think they don't know you, they do!

Call and visit your neighbours, especially if they are elderly. It is better to be too friendly than too distant. Don't be worrying about interrupting their busy lives.

Ask neighbours for help and be happy to give it. It is the biggest compliment to give or receive.

Funerals are a big thing here. You always attend them even if you barely knew them. Very rude not to as its a community gathering.

Young families instead of retirees are more valued and welcomed as they fuel the community. Their kids will go to the local schools and play local sport. The parents will work locally if possible and establish a tie to the area.
Where retirees are seen to compete against young couples for houses and outbid them and also contribute to ghost/holiday homes. These give nothing to a community but high property prices.

When people move in and keep to themselves, the locals consider them to have 'opted out' of community and then deem them odd.

While the truth might be very different. They could be lonely and isolated and longing for community. They simply don't have the skills to do so.
A good solutions to this would be to visit an elderly neighbour regularly and get them to teach the social norms of the area.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Making hive frames and double brooding

I have put on a triple brood box onto the hive yesterday.This is to give the bees plenty of room to store pollen and honey and for the queen to lay as much as is possible to build up the numbers for the honey flow next month and then make splits.

I intend to establish two other hives from this hive. So once I see laid queen cells, I will be removing the two extra brood boxes onto new stands to establish as a hive themselves.
They will rear up a queen themselves and build up strong hopefully for the winter. I won't in the future over winter nucs anymore, only full hives. Their chances of surviving are too low here with our climate.

I have been making up boxes and frames the last few evenings. So here is a 'how to' on frames.

Pull off the stripe on the top part of your frame.
Tap in the sides with slot on the inside.
Feed the foundation up the slot with the wired curled towards you.
Tap in the two end timbers with the wire coming through in the middle.
Tap back in the stripe that you pulled off before into its original place.
Use light tack nails to secure them in place.

Here is a photo of the mouse damage caused during the winter that wiped out the nuc. You can see how the mice ate through the frames and had made a bed of wax comb on the floor of the nuc box.

I have been cleaning up old frames and scraping off excess wax off them so they fit in the box. I will be using this wax for a batch of soap that I hope to make later today.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Bee update

The hive with the 'laying worker' problem seems to have righted itself!

I checked them today as the weather has been hot for the last 4-5days and they where flying well and busy bringing in pollen.
To my surprise, I found a good laying pattern three frames of capped brood and another three frames of eggs and larvae. All being laid with just one egg to a cell!

There are a few drone cells but I did not notice any drones in the hive, although no doubt they would be out flying looking for a virgin queen.

I assume that I do indeed have a queen although I could not find her. Maybe the bad winter and long cold spring effected her condition/health which influenced her lay pattern?

There were three empty queen cells also , so I will have to have regular inspections to avoid a swarm as I would prefer to split the hive.
I have my last bee meeting of the season this evening and I will order two more nucs. I don't expect to get them till the start of July. It will just be a matter of feeding them heavily to build them up to a full hive and hope they store enough to survive the winter.

My current enemy in the garden are the slugs and snails. There are many thousands. You can't walk anywhere without them being there!

They are a problem in the tunnel but not as bad. The heat and dryness is not suiting them. They have consumed numerous pumpkin, cucumber and courgette plants, so after milking in the late evening I go to the tunnel with a sharp scissors and 'remove' them!! Revenge!

The pigs are settling in well. All they do is eat and sleep!
And Mama Moo is loving all the good grass!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Arrival of the pigs!

We had intended to purchase four weaners, three for ourselves and one for my sister and her family.
We failed to locate that amount near us but we did buy two saddleback 5 mth old pigs that were located about an hours drive away.

We meet the very cheerful farmer at the side of a dirt road and he throw himself, his bike and his old dog into the small trailer we had brought.
We had the windows down and were entertained by singing and the occasional shout of directions. 'Swing left at the bush and follow the road!'
We were in fits of laughter in the car at the jokes and songs he was shouting, ahem singing !
The longer we drove, the more the roads disappeared into dirt lanes. Had the weather been worst we might have needed the four wheel drive.
 We finally got to a little old derelict cottage on a hill and we were told the pigs had being running free until this morning as he had locked them into the cottage earlier for us.

He brought us inside and opened up a door to an old bedroom and caught a pig by the back legs and dragged his outside to the trailer ( cue: background noise of pig squealing and farmer cursing ) and both men lifted him in. He went in again and brought out another.
We completed our paperwork for the herd register, paid up and received 'luck' money back.

The farmer, his bike and dog jumped back in and we give them a lift into the local town.

The pigs are not very friendly but hopefully when they settle in they will relax.
They are very very small for five months but hopefully (again) feeding will sort that out.
They have been living rough and wild and 'only fed every now and then a bit of potato skins'.

We will buy a couple more weaners if they become available locally.

We put them into an empty stable tonight and they enjoyed their first meal of barley and creamy milk.
Once they settle in a bit we will move them into the pig sty.

The boys have named them; shaggy and scooby-doo....but all I can see are salami !
Yum yum yum in my tummy!

Tell us about your pig adventures...or mouth watering salami recipes!