Friday, 27 September 2013

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

I decided to make pumpkin soup from one of the larger pumpkins grown in the veg garden.
It was a large pumpkin so I made up a gallon of soup, some for now but most for the freezer.
I found the recipe in my favourite cookery book, Ballymaloe Cookery Course. I love this book so much that I bought several extra copies to be given as gifts for family. I followed the basic foundation of this recipe and then went a stray, with yummy results!

I went out to the garden and brought in the main ingredients; pumpkin, tomatoes and onion. I picked some herbs on route and cut a bulb of garlic from the plait hung over the range.


Large pumpkin
4-6 onions
2-3 cloves of garlic
500g fresh tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
Sprig of thyme

I scoped out the pumpkin seeds and put aside to save the seeds for next year.
Any waste was put into the pigs bucket. 

Using a spoon I removed all the flesh from the pumpkin and put into a large saucepan. 
The boys were delighted with the remaining pumpkin and proceeded to cut out his eyes and month. Mr.Pumpkin was later fed to the pigs.

I added the chopped onions and garlic to the saucepan. Then the sprig of thyme and a generous knob of butter.
I put on the lid and left on the range for an hour to soften. It would take much less on a hob. 

While that was cooking, I washed the fresh tomatoes and sliced them up and then added them into the saucepan.

I made up a litre of bought chicken stock and added that also.
Then I started to season, spoon of home produced honey, sea salt, cumin, mustard seed, pepper until it tasted just right.
I left it on the range for another hour to cook before taking it off and removing the sprig of thyme. I then liquidised the soup and tasted it again to adjust any seasoning needed.

We each had a bowl, yummy! And the rest is in the freezer.

Our freezer is getting quite full now, and a lamb and two pigs to be added shortly. We probably will run out of space!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The bees are busy in the orchard

All four hives are very busy foraging today. The hot weather has filled the orchard with a great buzz of bees. 

We planted an extra few fruit trees in the orchard over the weekend. We have a dozen planted there now. We cleaned out around the base of all the trees and spread manure to suppress the weeds and grass.

The birds have done a great deal of damage on the few remaining apples that survived the storm.

We moved the hen coop into the orchard  yesterday evening. I will move them a few feet every day, moving up and down on fresh grass. The young trees will benefit from the fertiliser and pest control. We would love to have them free range but Mr.Fox is always happy for an easy meal. They also do a lot of damage when free like scratching up flower/veg beds and pooping on our doorstep.


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Smallholding : Keeping Pigs

The pig can be a great addition to the smallholding.
They can be bought in during early summer to deal with any excesses that the holding will start to produce. For us June marks the time of excess. This excess should increase throughout the summer untill late
September or early October.

This four months of plenty is ideal for the smallholder that doesnt like waste. As it is this waste that will help produce your pork and bacon for the coming year.
I can hardly think of something so useful to the family that can be achieved in such a short period, just sixteen weeks.

Once the days start to shorten and cool, you know that the pigs will soon move to the freezer, as will ours at the end of the month.
One less job for the cold winter months. It is very easy feed young piglets, but as they grow so do their appetites. Ours currently take a great deal of feeding, waste from the holding supplemented with rolled oats. They do very well on surplus milk and whey, a great source of protein.

Pigs can be kept outdoor on 'grazing' or in a pigsty. We have chosen to keep ours in a concrete pigsty, as we have found them to be masters in escaping!

They are very easy to keep once you design and build an efficient pigsty. If done correctly, they will only need twice daily feeding and weekly washing down the toilet area.
They are very clean, as regards where they go to the toilet. They will choose a spot away from where they sleep and eat so as to keep those areas clean.

You can throw all waste garden material like lawn cuttings and waste vegetables into them and they will gladly turn it into manure for the compost heap.
During winter we empty out the compost heap onto the veg bed and as a result we have wonderful soil.
While I think that pigs are wonderful animals, I am also very aware that they would gladly knock me over. I would never allow the children or dogs into the pigsty as I have seen them eat a chicken and a magpie while alive on different occasions. The birds were helping themselves to the pigs dinner and the pigs helped themselves to the birds! Worrying! They really do have powerful jaws!
But damn they are tasty...salami..yum!

Friday, 20 September 2013

A walk in the garden...

The blackberries are ripe, if not a little overripe. The small birds are feasting on these early morning and on the sunflower heads.

I caught a photo of a bumble bee sheltering from the soft Irish drizzle.

The ivy is starting to come into flower. The last of the nectar flows for the year. I spotted a wasp visiting while I was hanging out the third load of laundry.

Our garden is full of butterfly's. Newly emerged, at least they can't eat the cabbages anymore. 

There is still a lot of seed for saving. I have saved a couple kgs of mixed flower seed so far. I give much of it away to friends , friends that I'm sure will make use of it.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Storm Damage

Today was a depressing day! At one point I cried! The storm that raged for the last couple of days seems to have passed. 
But it left scars!

It broke many tall plants like artichokes and sunflowers, it has removed nearly all the apples from the trees and it has tore the polytunnel. Depressing indeed!

But what was there to do but stay indoors and make apple pie and stewed apple, all destined for the freezer.

The polytunnel will not be such an easy fix. We live in a very wild and windy place and we have wondered if polytunnels are suitable at all for our site. 
We will look into the costings of recovering the polytunnel regularly (3-4 yrs ) compared to building a greenhouse along the veg garden wall and using more cold frames in the outdoor beds.

The bees waited out the storm comfortably in their sheltered apiary. I will need to check them during the week and see if they need more feeding.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Table Lamp Upcycle

Our little girl broke a third lamp so far this year.
I loved this particular lamp, it was lit in the evening in the kitchen. It give a warm cosy light that worked well with our traditional kitchen.
I was gutted when she broke another lamp, this lamp!

Hubby decided he would take some timber from the wood pile and fix up the lamp for me.
He cut a length of timber to size and sanded and oiled it down before drilling a hole through the middle.

A bit rustic and for sure a once off, but I was delighted. And our little girl will not be able to break it this time. 

And when visitors ask, I will be able to tell the story behind it!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Welcoming Winter

There is a feeling of  winter approaching already. The nights are getting cooler and growth in the garden has slowed down. The bees are starting to evict the drones and eagerly forage midday for any available pollens and necters.

Everything is slowing down, and that sounds wonderful to me!
The pigs are hopefully going to the deepfreeze next week. They have escaped twice now, once by jumping the wall when I didn't feed them quick enough and the second time was by breaking through their gate!

The war against weeds goes on pause till the spring, and much of the seasons produce is in jars in the larder or in the freezer. The boys are settled in school now which leaves the house quieter during the day.
We have started to light the range every night, the kitchen has become cosy and warm again.
As the nights close in quicker, we are doing less outdoor work. No more weeding till 10pm! I am now in bed by then. We are moving in to a restful period, a time for craft projects, reading and attending bee-meetings.

I do look forward to winter, I will enjoy the restful slower pace. A life lived following natures rhythm.

A new horse?

I meet up with my sister to go riding or kayaking on Wednesday mornings, depending on the weather. 
It is a nice break for a few hours away from the kids. The boys are in school and our girl stays with a neighbour.

It gives us a chance to catch up face to face and for me to spend some time with her horses. We always had horses but I sold mine before our girl was born. Two years later now and I think it might be time to get a horse again !
This is very exciting for me, a selfish commitment of time from me away from the home. And of Sundays being spent at shows next season. 

This is a sign of my life moving forward as our children grow! 
Does hubby realise what he has agreed to yet!?!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Our new arrivals - kittens

A night last week at 2 in the morning while asleep in bed, I heard a scratching coming from a bag beside our bed.
A mouse, no doubt!

The door to the cottage is left open in all weather. From the kids not closing the door behind them and to the frequent comings and goings of us as we do jobs about the place.
The nights have become cooler, a cue for the mice to decide to move indoors for the coming winter.

Since our small elderly dog wanted nothing to do with mouse in my bag, and hubby is afraid of mice, I was left to tying off the bag and putting it outside.
We decided that night we would get a couple of mousers. Cats of course!

Our last cat got hit by a car late last year. Our location really isn't ideal for them or their lifespan. But fingers crossed!

We got two little black and white kittens. A boy and girl who were rescued and hand reared. They are assumed to be eight weeks old, but they look younger to us. They are in poor condition and really could have done with some fresh jersey cream!

Our little girl loves the animals but the feeling isn't always returned ;-) Our wolfhound is sure she isn't a pony!

Monday, 9 September 2013

Onions, Apples & Cows

That last few days have been busy getting projects finished and jobs done. 
The onions are nicely dried out and plaited. Some are still out in the sheds but I will need to move them all indoors or they will rot from damp.

I have received an early variety of windfall apples from a neighbour. There keeping quality is very poor although they taste lovely. They are from a 100yr old apple tree. Although they are cookers, they are not so bitter and when stewed become very soft. I stewed a few litres for the freezer. By October I will have a large quantity of cookers to deal with!

Our cow is gone! She was collected yesterday, to be brought to the factory first thing this morning. A good life, a good death. 
We are seriously considering getting a Kerry cow as a replacement. We have made contact with a dairy farmer who breeds them. 
They seem ideal for us, although I have no experience of them and have never seen one in person either. He tells us they are much smaller than a jersey, eat less, produce 15litres + a day of milk, hardy and quiet. 
As our grazing is limited, it would be ideal to find a true cottage economy cow. 

On researching them I have learnt that they are the oldest breed of cattle in Europe. That their milk is similar to goats milk, it has smaller fat globules which make it ideal for infants, allergy suffers and the elderly. 

I am collecting tomatoes everyday in the tunnel. I wash, bag and freeze them. Our freezer is filling up nicely. The pigs are enjoying the treat of the fallen green and spoilt tomatoes that I give them. 

We had cleared out one side of the tunnel a few weeks back. Hubby then filled it up, barrow after barrow with old compost and manure.
I then planted our winter seeds, which have all sprouted and are doing well. 
We planted cabbages, winter lettuces, beetroot, leek and more that I can't think of.
We both were very proud of the quality of the compost. Once he dug down past the fresher manure, the compost was beautiful. Black, loose, soft and full of worms!

We will need to spend time over the winter to empty out the dung-stead completely. We are filling it quicker than we use it. 

I fixed the hens laying box. So we are back to collecting eggs everyday now. Many of the young pullets that hatched earlier in the year are starting to lay now. They should lay throughout winter while the hens will likely stop.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

No Milk - Saying Goodbye to a Friend

It has been five days since I milked MamaMoo. We already miss her generous milk!

She was drying herself off, only giving 3 litres a day on once a day milking. So I stopped milking her on Monday in preparation for her leaving us this Monday or Tuesday to go to the factory. She is an old and empty cow. She was bought as a cull cow and we knew that we would only be prolonging her life/usefulness another year or two. Although we had hoped to rear a replacement heifer from her.

I have learnt a lot from her, as have our children. She has set the standard very high for the next cow. Her temperament was/is amazing! The kids could milk her comfortably, I would never worry about a kick from her or a tail switch in the eye. The dogs would lie underneath her during milking, keeping an eye on the milk bucket. She would never ever go to the toilet during milking. That is truly a blessing after having a cow previous that would, and then flick it into my face with her tail. 
She will be missed and fondly remembered. 

So currently we are in a milk drought. I have found this week that I have gone to the village store everyday to buy milk, cream and eggs.
We never ever do this! I go shopping every week or two for dry goods. We are never stuck for fresh anything.  
We are getting very few eggs now as I need to repair the nest box. The eggs are falling out and breaking. The hens love to eat broken eggs!
Our shopping bills are more expensive now, everyone is eating more to make up for the milk, even the dogs and pigs.
The dogs were feed mainly on eggs and milk, but not now much to their dissatisfaction. They miss their daily walks back the field at milking time to bring in the cow. 

Another thing I miss is cream for my coffee. Tea doesn't taste as rich with store bought milk. I have no spare cream or milk for baking and cooking. My food doesn't taste as good! 

I realise how truly generous a milking cow is for the cottage economy. 

Our next cow has been narrowed down to either another jersey or a Kerry breed. 

There is a large jersey farm located about 35 miles from us that we can have the pick of. I am very comfortable with the jersey having had three already but I am interested in the Kerry also.
I met a friend from college recently that milks a Kerry and she give me the phone number to a Kerry dairy farm located in Kerry, some four hour drive away. These are machine milked twice daily.
I will ring the farmer for more information, as they are so rare, it is hard to get first hand information/experience about them.
They are a small black hardy cow generally with horns.

Should I go with what I know and trust or be brave try something new and endangered?

Friday, 6 September 2013

Lunch Box Fillers - Cheese Rolls

Now that two of our three children are in school, it was time for me to come up with alternatives for the standard school lunch box.
And cheese rolls are ideal for these. They can be made in larger batches and then frozen. Just remove from the freezer the night before, thawed by morning ready for the school bag.

One you have your basic white yeast dough ready, just roll out with a rolling pin.

Sprinkle with your favourite cheese.

Roll up like a swiss roll and cut into sections. Place in a flour lined baking tray and leave to rise for another 30 mins.
Bake for 20-25 mins at 200*c.

I prefer them with coarse sea salt sprinkled on top. Yummy and so handy to have in the freezer.