Brining the leg of pork and winter fun 

When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging).  I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices.  We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.

Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze!  This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).

It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.

As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.

Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!

No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.

A week off work

Sorry I missed Monday night preserving last night, normal service resumes Monday coming. There’s a few reasons for this. We’ve taken a week off with the kids this week as mine are off for two weeks at this time of year, due to the way the schools schedule the PD days. Also we’re out of sync as it’s been Jack’s 7th birthday and Steven has been in hospital. So a real mix of events!

My mum made a cake for jack. We celebrated over 2 days so I made one and she made the other. A lucky boy! He had a lovely day.
Ste managed to hurt his back, so much so he was taken to hospital in an ambulance on Sunday morning. I’m pleased to report that he is ok enough to be home and up and about now. He’s been instructed to rest, which isn’t in his vocabulary but he knows he has to. He’s got an MRI to go to and exercises etc to do. As he isn’t allowed to lift anything heavy, he should be taking next week off work too under doctors orders. I’ll keep you all posted.

Today we harvested our first courgette. Now it would have been our second but the slugs got the first one! We made an omelette with onion, courgette and cheese which was the best omelette I’ve ever had. We used goose egg which I really think makes all the difference. I much prefer goose egg over duck eggs.

The pigs are turning the parcel of land over that they live on, though it’s taking them longer than I expected it to. We’re going to start looking at feeding them more home grown veg and cooked potatoes as they’re costing a fortune in hard feed. It’s all learning. They are growing rapidly and must weigh around 50kg now at 16 weeks old.

On Saturday a local village held a dog show, a fun one. We went along to show support as it’s fund raising for the local community. The kids won a second prize for best under 18 handler. It was a nice couple of hours with some lovely well behaved dogs.
My first tomato is turning red! These are an outdoor variety called Garden Pearl I think. I’d need to double check.

We’ve got some funky shaped terracotta garden pots lying around the smallholding. Ste had a great idea of using them for some of the herbs, so I’ve started doing that here.

The Swiss chard in the polytunnel is doing amazingly. The peas and beans in the polytunnel are just not worth it, nor the potatoes if I’m honest. So next year I’ll do more kale, spinach and chard in there as the kale has been decimated outside by slugs. My strawberries are doing well in there but then they all got eaten in the by ants. It’s definitely ants as I’ve caught them in the act.

This is a patty pan which are all starting to swell up now.

I’m over the moon with the amount of bees we’ve got visiting our area on a daily basis. I managed to get a snap of this little guy, looking so pretty on the broad beans.

We’ve also emptied and refilled the duck pond as the IBC tanks are full. The pond takes a full tank and with the amount of rain we’ve had and are due, we thought it was the best time to get it done. Tomorrow it’s going to be windy but dry. I need to get out and do some weeding as it’s turning into a jungle out there!

First hatch of 2017

We started the incubator with 15 duck eggs in a few weeks ago.  The ducklings are due tomorrow and we were worried if any would arrive due to the power cut last week.  I am pleased to report these little ones were not put off by any power cut and so far we have 7 ducklings all out and looking fine.  These will all be table birds unless their weight and sex tells us otherwise.  We have a runner duck who produces a lot of eggs and she is crossed with an Aylesbury and Appleyard (they all live together) so I’m not sure what size bird they will make.  If they are female and too light, we’ll keep them for eggs only.  It will all be part of the experiment.  We’re after some heavier female ducks at some point this year.

On their way to the brooder in the barn.  Thse guys are dry and fluffy, so it’s time to go.
Soft and cute 😉

On Friday we’re going to set the incubator away again with goose eggs.  They are supposed to be harder to incubate and we’ll only fit a few in.  Again, these will be raised for the table.
Once they’re out, I plan on incubating the rare breeds we have if there’s any demand for them…I also like to see them round the place – they won’t be table birds.
We’ve gone from wishing Spring would hurry up, to full steam ahead in a blink of an eye.  It’s light enough to do jobs before 6am here now and light until after 6pm.  It makes smallholding life so much easier, especially when we work too. 
I have the early rhubarb that is ready to be picked which is a very special occasion, I love rhubarb!  The asparagus follows that and then broad beans and peas.  Hopefully lots of salad items in between too.  How lovely.
The piglets are doing fabulously, one is growing slightly quicker than the other so we’re supervising feeds.  They’re 5 weeks old today.

Slightly blurry as they wouldn’t pose for me!

To those who are on Facebook and commented (in my defense I feel 😉 ) that they will become boisterous quickly….1 week on and they are already charging around bashing in to me at feeding time.  LOL.  Super adorable still though.

The tale of the powercut

Last night, when I was hoping for a full night sleep due to being up with my son the previous night, my daughter came in at 1:30am to tell me she couldn’t get the bathroom light on so she didn’t dare go to the loo.  I said the bulb must have gone, so use mine.  She said that’s not working either.  In a part sleep, part awake state, I realised we were having a power cut.  No big deal right?  Wrong.  We have 15 duck eggs with 6 days left in the incubator that’s reliant on the power.  The piglets are under heat in the barn and the greenhouse bench is on to look after my tender seedlings. 
The saw me on the phone to the power company to find out what’s wrong.  It will be back on by 4:30 they say.  Feeling rather sad and acutely aware that we’re relying on someone to supply our energy, I sat and waited with Ste.  At 2:30 I had dozed off and he woke me to say it’s back on.  He checked the incubator and it had gone down to 25 for 37+. 
Please keep your fingers crossed that the ducklings make it.
The piglets were fine when I went out to feed, blearly eyed and with a stinking headache (unrelated to the night’s events) and I just hope the seeds/seedlings that are reliant on the heat were unaffected.  It wasn’t too cold last night, no where near freezing so may be a lucky escape.
It has started me thinking about producing our own energy though.
Incidentally, we would still be able to cool and heat the kitchen off the Aga, so that is a bonus.

Pigs!

The weekend finally has arrived when we reached an important milestone in our drive towards self sufficiency of meat and took on 2 piglets. 

They are large white cross landrace.  Large white are best known for bacon pigs according to the internet, but we shall be keeping these for 6 months and using them to fill our freezer with goodies that we hope to see us through 12 months.  I have no idea if 2 pigs will give us enough meat for a family of 4 for 12 months or not.  I will let you know in 18 months time!
We collected them at 9:30 on Saturday morning and of course used a method of transport most people wouldn’t….but that is us all over !

They settled in amazingly quickly considering they have never felt straw under their feet before and have only known their mother.  The farmer, a neighbour friend, was kind enough to lend us a heat lamp as they still need to be under heat for a few weeks yet.

They are from different litters (same father, I need to find the piggy term) but get on well.  Both similar sized, so there’s less chance of bullying.

They are very young so we’re feeding them their feed in milk at the moment and will eventually get them just on to the hard feed in a few days.  The milk is very good for them anyway though.
Grace named them – not me! Sunflower and buttercup.  They’re both girls and will live in the barn until the warmer weather comes, when they then have a job to do.  I need part of a paddock turning over as it’s riddled with nettles and weeds.  I hope they do a good job!
We plan on feeding them home grown veg to supplement their hard feed which is their primary feed source of course.
Ste said something that really stuck with me at the weekend.  Our smallholding is nearly complete.  How nice of a feeling is that?
‘Nearly’ as we have some other arrivals due soon 😉