Christmas preparations and home raised meat for the table

I’m still chasing my tail but my head is just above water and I’m happy as Larry.  Whoever he is.

So this weekend started off with a frost on Saturday morning.  It always makes me want to stop and get a photo as frost makes everything look so pretty.

The frost mean the sheep had a bucket of hay between them which they happily munched on. 

My Mum came over and had some of my homemade jam (the few that didn’t turn mouldy!) with a wholemeal breadbun.  She sadly has a, let’s say condition for ease, where she is restricted on what she can eat.  So homemade jam is one she can have, which makes us both happy.  It is her 67th birthday today (20th), Happy Birthday Mum xxx. (I am a day late with actually publishing this post!)

I noticed my garlic and onions are starting to come through, you can just spy them in this bed poking through the soil.  The Purple Sprouting Broccoli is also in the same bed which I planted as an experiment to tell me if it’s worth doing on a bigger scale for this year.

I finally got round to making some fudge.  I’ve never made it before and followed a recipe from bbcgoodfood for white chocolate fudge.  Now I don’t like fudge myself, but Jack loves this one.  I am going to try and get another flavour made and hand them out as Christmas gifts to people when they visit or as they leave after Christmas dinner.

Yesterday I put a ham in the slow cooker and we had some for tea with pasta and a garlic sauce.  It was really nice and different to what we’ve been having, so a refreshing change.  Now I confess, I always say to myself I must do something with the stock that’s left.  Then I don’t and I wash it away, so last night, I sent Dawn a message and she told me to freeze it on ice cube trays for use another time, so I have done just that.  Why I haven’t done that before, I don’t know.  Thanks Dawn.  We got loads of lovely shredded ham off it.

I’ve been wrapping gifts as often as I can.  I’m using brown paper and decorating with my own items.  I love this look.

Here is a rare photo of me and the 2 girls.  I don’t often post about the horses specifically but they offer the smallholding bountiful amounts of super manure (I was going to use a double S there but I restrained) which in turn feeds the land, which feeds us.  So they have earned the right to a photo 😉  They can be my sanity at times when I feel like I could scream.

Finally to the Christmas meat, please do not scroll down if you’re offended by the sight of birds being prepared for the table.  As you will know by now, this is our lifestyle that we’re aiming towards, so I make no apologies for it, but will always give you fair warning if there are photos as I understand that we’re not all the same.
On Sunday we dispatched a goose and a duck ready for Christmas Day.  We did 2 chickens in the summer and they were a pain to pluck, so we hung them up after dispatch, covered their heads to keep things tidy and plucked them hanging from the small barn roof.  It made the job a lot easier, though it still took a long time.  I can totally understand why hand plucked birds cost so much and doing it makes you realise even more about respecting the process and the end result.  We’re doing both birds for Christmas lunch.  The goose will be done in the Aga as per Mary Berry’s instructions and I need to look up how long to cook the duck for – I have an alternate oven which I may use for that, as I will need space in the roasting over for the veggies.

Both kids helped with plucking of the goose, they soon got bored to be fair, but I am pleased they were involved.  I do try my hardest to ensure they respect the animals and are not squeamish about being able to provide for themselves. I am really pleased with the end result.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!  How about for you?

Quick pre weekend update – dining room progress

I think the fact that it is a full working week next week is giving me a false sense of security as I normally have some time off before Christmas but due to the way it’s fallen this year, on a weekend, I keep getting a slight shiver of panic that I need to be all done by a week today and have no time off before hand.  So this weekend I will be getting the gifts wrapped and set to one side. 

We’re in the middle of getting the dining room finished in time for Christmas.  We didn’t want to do any inside jobs in the Summer so left it until Autumn but with one thing and another it’s only getting finished now.  The plasterer completed the walls last week and my lovely Dad helped out by painting it this week.  Normally Ste does everything but December is a crazy busy month in the butchers and we just weren’t going to fit it in, so we asked for help.  It looks great, just a plain colour – such a bright sunny room.  Somehow we managed to get a roll end of carpet and arrange for fitting for tomorrow.  Don’t ask me how but it involved lots of traipsing round and the air was blue by the end.  The guy is fitting it at some point tomorrow, then tomorrow night will be spent getting the tree up in there, the table and chairs in for the big day, the mantle decorated and start to dress the table for Christmas.

My Mam is giving us her dinner service, some of which was her Mam’s, so we will be using that for Christmas which is just lovely.  It will then be stored in the empty display cabinet that we have. 

Sunday will see the goose and duck being prepared and a trial of the frozen red cabbage.  Along with a million and one other things that I need to list out and put in order of what to do first.

Sorry no photos today but expect photo overload after the weekend 🙂

December birthday and raspberry vodka

Sounds like a good combination right 🙂

It was my birthday yesterday and also my long day at work, however it was great fun.  I heard from people I’ve not spoken to for a while, saw my family, was lucky to receive gifts and got to taste my raspberry vodka which we started off in summer.  Oh man, it was lovely.  I’ve been having a few drinks through December to celebrate and feel festive with friends when they visit etc and now I have this, we’re taking a bottle next door with us to celebrate Christmas Day Night with our lovely neighbours.  It’ll be the perfect end to the day when I get to chill after a hectic day no doubt.

So in true Tracy style, I was given a greenhouse heater and 2 huge propagators and a thermometer for min/max and current temperatures from Steven, along with some long socks, a bottle of Baileys and other items.  How lucky am I?

I also got a personalised notebook which I just love, that I am going to use to record all of next years info around eggs, veg seeds sown, grown and harvested (weights etc, thanks Dawn!).  My lovely parents got me a new coat to do my smallholding jobs in Winter, for which this weather is far too warm to wear it yet, so I am wanting a bit more winter weather please.  I got a Bake Off apron and £60 cash which has been spent on something for the smallholding that I will do another post on.
Hugely exciting too – the farmer has confirmed the litter of piglets which we’re getting ours from is due 2nd Feb so we will take them once they are ready.  In between now and then, I need to learn all about caring for them (already done a lot) and Steven is going to get their shelter/ark sorted.
Later in the year we are hoping to get goats too but that pending what Mother goat delivers in the Spring.  More on that once it’s firmed up.
Ooh and Christmas is still firmly underway, home made cards have been made and the kids put SO much effort in to them.  They were gratefully received which I was super happy about.  We didn’t manage to do all the cards as homemade, I didn’t realise how long they will take.  That’s ok though.
Did you know, apparently, Boxing Day is the time to sow onion seeds traditionally.  Don’t ask me who’s traditions or in what country, but that’s what I was told! 
Plans for the weekend?  I’m going to put some winter lettuce in my propagators this weekend.  We also need to get the Christmas meat sorted – a goose and duck from the smallholding will be dispatched this weekend.  They have had a wonderful life and this is what they were raised for.  We know what they have eaten and have been with them from cradle to grave.  Next year I am hoping for all home raised and grown produce as the main Christmas lunch.  There are a million and one other things on the list, which I’ll post as I get round to them,  In the mean time I leave you with how my work place was decorated for me! 
Where I work – a lovely lady always makes us feel special.

Well Neville and Nancy elf have been up to mischief.  The kids found them on top of a cabinet in the room, then under a blanket to get warm and this morning it looks like they had helped themselves to a cuppa during the night!  The sheer cheek 😉

Neville and Nancy Elf.

We’re flying through December already.  The daily tasks are coming thick and fast and we haven’t had time to do them all as that’s what life is like, right?  So we have the ones we haven’t still stuck on the fridge ready to do when the weather and moment calls for it.

Tonight however the star said to “Celebrate Christmas past” so we set about looking at photos from when the kids were young and laughing at how much we have all changed over the years, seeing those who are no longer with us and remembering them fondly, both animal and human.

The reverse advent box has the following items in:  corned beef tin, cannellini beans, baked beans, bottle of orange and dried pasta (I’m slightly concerned that you need to cook this so it may be substituted depending where it ends up).  I’m looking forward to taking this to somewhere/someone in need. 

In smallholding news, the sheep (and geese and hens) have got the hang of the new galvanised trough.  Bottoms up.  Well, it is nearly Christmas.

Mr mole is still giving us mole hills but he hasn’t moved away from the area yet, so were still ok.

At the weekend, Ste and I slept well.  Why?  Because we shovelled 37 barrows of muck into the newly built veg bed.  Plus I did another 7 into the other veg area.  Of course Ste did the filling, I just wheeled!  So really I shouldn’t be aching as much, but I am!

before
after

It was very frosty here this morning meaning the tap we use to fill the animal water was frozen, as was the one on the house wall (this one didn’t freeze previously). 

Tonight is very cold again, so I’ve made sure all of the buckets are full to the brim and a spare bucket is full ready for topping up any that need it in the morning.  The horses drink during the night, so it will be them that need it.  The poultry I can do from the house if I have to.  It’s a nice feeling knowing we’re getting everything ready for the weather to come.  I feel prepared.



Can you spot the ducks?
 

+

The big Christmas reveal (big if you are aged 9 and 6!) and a couple of pests

What was behind the door at 7pm last night? 
A quick excited hug before tentatively opening the door.  Expectant faces all round.

Someone had lit the Christmas (bay) tree lights…who was that?  It wasn’t you and it wasn’t me?
Oh, it’s so exciting.  What’s this?  A parcel in brown paper and tied with string.  It says Special Delivery.

Back in the warmth to look inside.
The excitement couldn’t be contained.
It was Neville the Elf!  He’s brought Nancy along with him, his Elf mate.
They even brought a gift to remember the first Christmas on the smallholding.  It’s a hessian bag with names on it.  One for Grace and one for Jack.
Time to sit back and relax, taking in the magic of Christmas.

Day 2 star:

 
 In smallholding news…..
 We have pests.  Rats and moles. 
The rats need to go.  Easier said than done, especially living next to water. 
The mole hills are going to be added to the vegetable beds.  As long as they stay at the orchard, we’re ok.  If they move to the field, that will cause problems.  Hooves and holes mean a vets bill when they get stuck in the mid gallop.